§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [9th November], " That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word " That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:
this House declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which fails to effect a fairer distribution of the burden of maintaining the Unemployment Fund and will further increase the excessive charges upon the rates, reduces already inadequate scales of unemployment benefit, and imposes certain conditions for the receipt of such benefit which in many cases will be impossible to fulfil."—[Mr. Heyday.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I shall not take up much more of the time of the House in continuing the Debate from last night, but I desire to bring to the notice of the House the views of certain authorities concerning the financial situation. We hear from the Government in defence of the Bill the plea that there are exceptional difficulties in the way of meeting the financial requirements of the great mass of the people who are affected by unemployment. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) speaking last night reminded us that we were living in a world of realities. I desire to show that in this connection we are unfortunately confronted with a situation which is anything but real, in regard to the financial system upon which the defence of this Bill is based and the difficulty of meeting the requirements of these people. I wish to repeat some sentences of Professor Irving Fisher in an address at Geneva upon the question of unemployment. Speaking on 31st August—as reported in the " Financial News " of 1st September—he said, speaking of the evils of monetary instability:We have now seen the many evils flowing from the aberrations of money—social injustices, uncertainty, speculation, crises, depression, bankruptcies, unemployment, resentment, social nostrums, violence, and a dead economic loss to society.398 That situation was emphasised in a speech delivered in the Central Hall, Westminster, under the auspices, not of the Communist party but of the Loyalty League by Mr. Kitson, a well-known authority on finance. This is dated 23rd February, 1925, and is contained in a circular provided for Members of this House:The issue of money has now become a private monopoly and is controlled by about two dozen individuals. It is within the power of this group to paralyse our industries to bring the whole of our industrial system to a condition of complete stagnation, and whilst the Government have granted this terrible monopoly, they have exacted no responsibilities in return.4.0 p.m.
I say that, in the face of such ominous announcments, the Government and the House as a whole are confronted with an appalling situation. We have been guilty in the most criminal fashion concerning this matter, which is only one, though the most outstanding, feature of the conditions confronting the country today. Here we have a man like Professor Irving Fisher speaking at Geneva, that great centre at which we are led to believe, there are hopes for the world at large, pronouncing on this very question which involves directly the unemployment issue. He is driving home to the country that the whole of our national system of finance is nothing less than a swindle, and in words which have been employed, you have indeed something that certainly is approaching anarchy. We hear from hon. Members on the other side of the danger that there would be if there arose an intensification of the Communist movement in this country. They themselves utilised, at the last election, an issue that brought them great support because of their antagonism to such a development in our country, and I entirely support, as do the generality of us on this side, antagonism to anything of the kind. We want constitutionalism, but if we are going to have, under constitutionalism, so tremendous a charge of treachery to the interests of the nation at large by no more than two dozen people controlling the whole financial resources of our country and playing ducks and drakes with the poor, suffering masses of the people, there is something very wrong. Apart from any question of electioneering, there is a bar of justice at which every man and woman of us 399 must stand and give an account of our stewardship.
There is an unreality about the debates in this House pertaining to this matter, and I feel personally convinced, so far as I have been enabled to glimpse into the depths underlying this great national and international issue, that we are being played with, that we are not being handled fairly and squarely with regard to these matters. Every man and woman of us, and especially those who have held Government office, must know that these statements, which are made on such great authority, are pregnant with immense truths, and they are so luminous in their intensity that they seem to dazzle the eyes of our Statesmen themselves, who appear to be actually petrified and to find it impossible to move against this vicious force by which they are surrounded. I sympathise with any man or woman who is in the midst of such difficulties, but, whatever the difficulties may be, I submit that we have had it on the very highest authority that to gain his life a man must be prepared to lose it. Yet a man in office, who knows that these things are controlling the business and that there are powers which have not been grappled with, but which behind the throne are utilising those forces in this way for the degradation, the absolute destitution, of the masses of our people amid the great wealth which our country commands—such a man tells us that we can do nothing more than talk about a few shillings a week to give to young men and women and says, as he does here, that surely the parents will be able to do something to help them. As has already been well said by those who have moved in this matter and who have a specialised knowledge of the details of the Bill itself, those parents in very many cases are finding it a strenuous struggle to get existence for themselves and are not able to give the necessary uplift for those young men and women, who are finding the situation so overwhelming that they do not know what to make of themselves.
I am totally at a loss to understand how it comes about that two representatives of the Labour movement should have signed a document in favour of the most outstanding feature of the Bill, namely, this very serious reduction, this great invasion upon the needs of the people in 400 the home circle—that two Labour representatives should be brought into that, and that so little should be said in the country from the Labour side on that account. I say they are not playing true to the Labour interests. Whoever fails concerning the interests of the workers, there must be no failure on the part of those who make the ostensible claim that they specially represent the workers. I believe we shall have some defence of that, and I am not going to make any further allusion to it. Certainly the working classes are entitled to have it, and there is need not only for the Labour party, but for every man and woman in the House of Commons, to realise, as they rightly claim, that they are representatives of the working classes in many parts of the country. There are tens of thousands who voted for the Conservatives from their own standpoint, and, therefore, the claim is just and rightly put forward on behalf of those workers who obtained the representation of the Government party. I do not have a party ticket, and it is evident that a party ticket does not save us from playing ducks and drakes with the Labour party. I do not trouble about the ticket, but what I am concerned about is that every man and woman here has a duty not only to his constituents, but to the great truth that God has His purposes concerning mankind, that He has made provision for every man, woman, and child the wide world over, and it is man who is failing in his responsibility to meet those demands. I therefore call upon the Government and the House at once to face the situation in an entirely different fashion from that with which they have been facing it so far.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
Those of us on both sides of the House who listened to the Debate yesterday, must have felt that the Minister who introduced this Measure had a cold and chilly reception. It was very largely due, I think, to his own speech. I have not had as long an experience of this House as have many Members, but I do not remember a first-class Measure of this kind being introduced with such timidity as was this Measure yesterday. It was introduced in a most lugubrious speech by the Minister, who foreshadowed a desperate state of industrial inactivity, to which he saw no end, and then, I think, 401 seeing the Prime Minister out of the corner of his eye, he said a few words about hope, that being the chief commodity of the Tory party, but even after that he relapsed into his lugubrious manner, and fell back on a repeated request for prudence in this matter.
The real charge against the Government is not so much this Bill as something that lies behind the Bill. The importance of unemployment insurance depends upon the importance of the problem of unemployment. If unemployment is dealt with, unemployment insurance will become relatively unimportant. Our case against the Government is that they ought not, at this time of day, to be tinkering with a so-called permanent Measure of unemployment insurance, but that they ought to have been directing their energies to increasing the volume of available employment. That is the major problem, and it is that problem which the Government have quite deliberately ignored. Even in the matter of the provision of useful schemes of work by local authorities, the Government have come in heavy-footed to discourage those authorities from providing schemes. It is worth bringing to the notice of the House that three years ago, in 1924, something like £24,500,000 worth of work was put in hand by local authorities who were being aided by the State. As a result of the quite deliberate policy of this Government to enforce conditions on local authorities which made it impossible for them to carry on those schemes, during the 12 months ended last March the amount of work put in hand by local authorities under these schemes was £3,500,000, or one-seventh of what was done during the year 1924, and we had it stated in the House yesterday, in answer to a question, that all these schemes to-day are finding work for 25,000 men. That is the Government's direct contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem.
If the Government choose to say we must leave trade to take its course and improve of its own volition, I submit that there is a greater responsibility than ever resting upon them to care for the unemployed workers. If they will not lift their fingers to provide work, the greater their responsibility to provide for the needs of the workless men and women. Instead of tackling that question themselves, they 402 appointed the Blanesburgh Committee. I submit that the appointment of that Committee was a mistake. Its terms of reference were so restricted that the Committee itself had to protest against the limitation put upon its activities. The Committee saw what was the essential problem, and before coming to its own detailed proposals in the Report, it made two very explicit references to the question of the provision of work, which the Government have ignored and will no doubt continue to ignore. It stated:It would be unfortunate if pre-occupation with the task of ascertaining how best such unemployment can be insured against were to weaken any concerted effort to get rid of unemployment itself.Again it said:We are, however, of opinion that organised and unremitted effort to reduce the volume of unemployment should always be a leading feature of the industrial policy of the country.That is a very serious statement made by people who were asked to consider the minor problem of unemployment insurance. We were told yesterday by the Minister that the Blanesburgh Committee was appointed because of a lack of uniformity in the administration of unemployment insurance. That, if I may put it another way, was the excuse for the appointment; the reason for the appointment of the Committee was the Government's over-mastering motive of economy, and the Committee was set up for no other reason than to institute in this realm, as had already been done previously in other directions, the rule of economy.
Acting within these limitations enforced upon it by the Government, the Committee issued what was obviously a compromise document, which to-day has really no relation to the Bill. I do not believe that there is any member of the Blanesburgh Committee to-day, including the Chairman, who would take any responsibility for the parentage of the Bill which is now before the House, so great is the departure even from the restricted, and, as I think, in many respects, reactionary proposals of the Blanesburgh Committee. They were told, or it was suggested to them, that economy was to be the keynote. They sought economy; they recommended economy, and the Government, in introducing this Bill, out-Blanesburghed Blanesburgh in that respect by taking the worst features of the 403 Report and ignoring those for which something could be said. The Minister said that with one exception they adopt the main recommendations of the Committee. That is not accurate. There are two quite fundamental proposals in the Committee's Report which have been omitted from this Bill, and which destroy the Report if they are taken out of it. Those are the question of equal contributions and the question of training for unemployed workers. I tried to follow the Minister's case for not accepting equal contributions from the workers, the employers and the State. I have re-read his statement, and I still do not understand his case.
The Government have no right to come and talk about this deficit on the Unemployment Fund. They have helped to create it. In their Economy Bill, when they reduced, for the first time in the history of Unemployment Insurance, the State contributions, they directly increased the burden of the deficit, and by their inactivity in the matter of constructive proposals for the provision of work, they have again indirectly been responsible for the £22,000,000 deficit which now exists upon the Fund. It is really because of economy, and for no other reason, that equal contributions are being refused. The State has always been a minor part of Unemployment Insurance. It never has contributed as much as industry has contributed. It ought, in my view, to contribute far more than industry. To-day, it is the least important partner in this big scheme, and when the very modest proposal, the far too modest proposal, is made by the Blanesburgh Committee that they should at least contribute equally, the Government reject it, and by rejecting it forfeit the right to the loyalty of anybody who had anything whatever to do with the Blanesburgh Report. What is the real reason, or the alleged reason, for refusing to accept the proposal of equal contributions? Prudence. If hon. Members will read the last three columns of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, the word "prudence" comes like a refrain every two or three lines. Prudence! prudence!—prudence about what? Prudence as to whether the alleged improvement is going to continue. The Government have no faith in the industrial future. We have 404 had a rollicking speech from the Chancellor of the Exchequer informing us that trade was booming. We have had a little more temperate speech from the Prime Minister more recently, telling us that trade was not too bad. But the Government do not believe that trade is going to improve. Prudence says, "Oh, no, the state of trade is so serious, that although there may be signs of improvement, we dare not take any action on the assumption that it is going to improve."
It is just as well that you have an admission from the Government that they do not know, and have not the slightest idea whether the so-called improvement in trade is going to continue, and there is to be no final settlement of the question of contributions until improvement has continued. But in the very Bill which is to be a permanent Bill there is to be a final settlement of the question of benefits, in spite of the uncertainty of the future, in spite of the fact that you have seven years of depression behind you, in spite of the fact that the Government have no faith in the future, and that the situation may continue to be as bad as it bas been in the past. In spite of all that, with all the material resources of working people long since expended, with their trade union funds utterly exhausted, the Government can to-day finally fix a rate of benefits which is a scandal to a civilised country. It is the height of imprudence to-day to settle permanent benefits on this scale. At the same time, the Government, by refusing equality of contributions, are continuing to burden industry with the heavy contributions imposed by the Unemployment Insurance Act.
On the second point of departure in the Bill—and this is really fundamental—the question of training, nothing could be stronger than the words used by the Committee themselves, quoted by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) yesterday, and to which I wish to draw the attention again of the Minister, because I am convinced that Members of the Government have not read this Report. They have certainly not read the most important passages of which this is one. The Committee is referring to juvenile workers, and it says:It is at this age that industrial workers are made or marred, and we are convinced 405 of the necessity of providing them when out of work with suitable industrial instruction and training. This is the reason for our recommendation that no payments shall be made to juveniles at all unless they attend a suitable course of instruction, wherever such a course is available.The Committee goes on to say:We attach the greatest possible importance to this provision of facilities for training. We are aware that efforts have been and are being made by the Ministry in this direction. In our judgment, further provision is essential. Indeed, if we had not been recommending that useful training should be provided—if necessary, even out of any surplus in the Fund—some of us would not have agreed to reduce the existing scale of benefits for juveniles, and others would have insisted that juvenile benefit should be abolished altogether.In other words, if training had not been included, this Report would never have been adopted. That is what those words mean. The Committee goes on further:Training is scarcely less important in the case of young men and women from 18 to 21, and we earnestly desire that in their case also facilities for training will be available, or made available to the greatest possible extent.Those words are a very strong recommendation—an essential recommendation with regard to training. Those proposals are ignored. The right hon. Gentleman will rob the young worker of one shilling or eighteenpence every week, and will do nothing in return. If I understand what the Report proposes, it is, "We do reluctantly agree to reducing benefits but we are going to give something in place of that. We are going to give training to these unemployed workers." The right hon. Gentleman has robbed the unemployed juvenile worker and done nothing whatever on this vital matter. I want to draw the attention of the House to the case of these young persons in the chief depressed areas of the country. There is nothing more tragic to-day than to see the boys who have left school within the last two years, in the coalfields of this country. It is the most dreadful spectacle, this subtle demoralisation of enforced idleness with no opportunity before these boys living in areas where there is practically nothing for them at present, except the mines, and the community not lifting a finger to aid them. I should have thought that if the Government really wished to show their sincerity in dealing with this problem, they would at least have afforded indus- 406 trial instruction to all these girls and boys who to-day are eating their hearts out in idleness; that the Government would have put them under conditions that would have put some heart into them. Whatever the cost, the money would have been well spent. But they reject it on grounds of economy—I generally interpret all the actions of the Government by that motive. It is a most disastrous thing that for juvenile workers anyhow, training should not be made compulsory, and readily made available, for young men and young women.
Before coming to the question of benefits, I would like to put this question to the House. What is the object of an Unemployment Insurance scheme? I know what my own view, and what the view of my hon. Friends, is on this matter. We think it ought to be a scheme which would provide for all genuinely unemployed workers an adequate maintenance during the whole of the period of enforced unemployment. That is not, and never has been, what hon. Members on that side of the House or below the Gangway have held. The official view, I think, may be found in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Public Assistance Administration, called the Betterton Committee, from the name of the Chairman, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. Dealing with the Unemployment Insurance scheme, it says:Benefits under the scheme, like the cash benefits under the Health Insurance scheme, have not been designed to cover all the responsibilities of the unemployed person in all circumstances, but rather to supplement private effort in mitigating distress due to involuntary unemployment.That is an admission that the present rates of unemployment benefit are not maintenance rates. They are rates intended to supplement private effort, and nobody, I imagine, on the opposite side of the House is going to pretend that the present scales of benefit are at the maintenance level. If that be so, and it is so, as we know, then the Government's Bill becomes more iniquitous. To-day, people who are actually receiving unemployment benefit are in some cases, up and down the country, receiving additional Poor Law relief, and when it comes to those people who have exhausted, 407 or been denied, unemployment insurance benefit, there is a very large proportion of them to-day who are not being maintained out of private sources, but are being maintained out of public money, that is, at the expense of the Poor Rate. The last available figures show that in England and Wales alone, there were 106,000 insured persons not getting any unemployment benefit, who were being maintained by the boards of guardians, plus over a quarter of a million wives and dependants of such persons. That is a substantial proportion of the unemployed army. During the month to which those figures refer—May of this year—I do not know the figures for England and Wales—but for the whole of Great Britain and Northern Ireland there were 823,000 unemployed men, and 106,000 in England and Wales were getting no unemployment benefit at all. They were being left to the mercy of the boards of guardians. How does that affect the situation?
I have here a letter which refers to the situation in Sheffield. The amount of additional relief granted by the guardians to insured persons not in receipt of benefit from February, 1925, to the end of October of this year—rather more than two and a-half years—was £422,000. This is the Sheffield Board of Guardians alone. This is not one of the bodies, like Poplar and West Ham, but this is a perfectly respectable Tory board of guardians with an ex-Minister of the Crown as its chairman. It is not to be confused with the more fortunate city council in Sheffield, which has a Labour majority. This Tory body has had to spend in two and a-half years on insured persons alone £422,000. The period commenced with an additional expenditure at the rate of £965 per week, which advanced consistently until at the end of September, 1927, the weekly cost of relieving these cases was £4,270. That is how the unemployed are being maintained. When they exhaust their right to benefit, or the Minister exercises his discretion and refuses to give them further benefit, or even when they are still receiving it, they are being maintained out of the Poor Law. This unfortunate situation arises for the unemployed worker. The boards of guardians do not want the 408 unemployed man. They want to get rid of him. The Minister of Health wants to get rid of him.
Let me return to Sheffield again. Since the end of September this year there has been a reduction owing to a change in the guardians' policy, which has been brought about by a tightening up of administration; and the expenditure during the week ending 29th October was £3,717. Within the last month the guardians are saving at the expense of the unemployed £500 per week. How has this been done? It has been done by the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, the Minister of Health, who has been brow-beating boards of guardians all over the country, especially those too poor to stand up to him, and saying, "I refuse to give you permission for any further loans unless you either put up the rates or put down the rate of relief, or both"; and this Conservative board of guardians in Sheffield has this last half-year largely undone the effects of Labour administration in the City of Sheffield by increasing the poor rate by 8d. and at the same time has taken £500 per week out of the pockets of the unemployed.
This is a dreadful situation for the unemployed man. The right hon. Gentleman has not power to maintain the unemployed. At times he exercises his discretion in favour of benefit, but a large number of them he puts out upon the street, and drives them to the boards of guardians. The boards of guardians are then harassed and bullied by the Minister of Health in order to reduce their expenditure, and the wretched unemployed person has to pay the bill. Between the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health the unemployed to-day are between the devil and the deep sea—and the Ministers can choose their title. It is useless for this House to continue to ignore what is the real problem. Unemployment is a fact. You must not go on the assumption that if all the million unemployed workers were to try really hard they could get a job. That is perfectly ridiculous. Suppose all the million men got a job to-morrow morning. You would have a new army of a million unemployed. You would not have reduced the problem of unemployment by a single man. 409 I do not want to go into the economic proof of this, but I am convinced that the Minister knows perfectly well that unemployment is a fact, and that merely juggling into jobs men who are now out of work can only result in putting out of work an equivalent number of men. If that be so, then something must be done with this standing army. You must maintain them somehow. What are we doing to-day? First we had unemployment insurance, and their own personal savings. These were exhausted years ago. Whether they were personal savings or trade union savings they are expended. The unemployed then were driven to the Poor Law. It is not a crime to be unemployed. There is no stigma attaching to it. It is a misfortune, not a crime, and it seems to be absurd that people who are genuinely unemployed should be driven upon the Poor Law, not merely because of the stigma that attaches to it, but because you are transferring a burden which is more easily borne nationally than it is locally.
One-half the trouble in our manufacturing districts to-day is the size of the Poor Rate, and business men know perfectly well that it is far easier to bear a burden of £10,000,000 from the Exchequer than it is to push it on to the local rates. Therefore, that policy is wrong. If you are not going to provide for the unemployed adequately, either by insurance or the Poor Law—and you are not doing that adequately to-day—you still have to pay the price. You still have to foot the bill. You cannot escape it. It is true it does not appear in the right hon. Gentleman's Estimates, but the bill is there in bitterness, in deterioration, in disease, in worry, in human misery; and it is surely cheaper to have some system of honourable maintenance for the unemployed on a national basis without regard to the Poor Law. That is the situation. To-day we are not doing that, and the proposal in the Bill is to make the situation even worse. We are told that within the limits of what is available we must redistribute benefit in accordance with needs. Those words are a mockery. What is proposed? To put another shilling into the pockets of every unemployed family and to rob of more than that amount other unemployed workers. That is virtually the proposal, 410 and this attempt to deprive the unemployed of benefit has been done very cunningly by the establishment of a new large group for which there is no industrial justification whatever. The age of 18 was quite deliberately and consciously chosen as the age for full unemployment benefit following industrial tradition, following scores of industrial agreements between employers and trade unions as the age for the adult wage. I believe there is only one trade board in this country to-day that does not recognise 18 as the age for the adult wage. There was, therefore, a justification for making the benefit, if the contributions were the same, the same for all people over 18.
We have now this new class introduced. I think I am right in saying that the insured young men and women between the ages of 18 and 21 number something like 1,250,000. Many of them have domestic responsibilities and many are maintaining themselves in lodgings, and thousands of those who are doing that are to be subject to a reduction of unemployment benefit which brings it nearly down to half. The proposal is really incredible. The already small sums paid to boys and girls are also to be reduced. What is the position? We are assured that as regards men over 21 there are roughly 50 per cent. single and that the reduction of 1s. for the single men above 21 balances the additional payment in dependants' benefit. It means that with the present state of unemployment, roughly 270,000 families will be given the magnificent sum of 1s. per week and that other groups of insured workers will have to submit to very serious reduction in their benefit, amounting, I calculate, to something like £1,750,000 per year. That is a minimum figure. The man and wife, instead of receiving 23s., will receive 24s. That will not keep him from the Poor Law. It is insignificant in its importance. It means that the married man with two children instead of receiving 27s. will receive 28s. That is insignificant. But the reductions on the other side are very substantial and very serious. It means that at the present time far more people will be subject to a reduction of 7s. or 8s. than will actually receive this miserable addition of 1s. And that is called redistributing benefit in accordance with needs! 411 As a permanent scheme, this Bill is a farce. It is merely fantastic, and nobody in his heart believes it is a permanent scheme at all. The right hon. Gentleman does not believe it. As a temporary expedient the Bill is contemptible. If it is to be regarded as part of a wider policy dealing with the whole question of unemployment and the unemployed it is positively harmful. It is harmful because, as was pointed out yesterday, it is going to throw a greater burden upon local rates and therefore upon industry, and it is going to lead—and there is no getting away from it—to human demoralisation. That is unescapable. Therefore, the Bill is to be condemned. There should be provision of employment, and, failing that, a reasonable maintenance for the genuinely unemployed person. The Government have not really visualised the problem. I am not sure that they know what the problem is. Any measure that is a permanent measure ought to have done many things which this Bill ignores. It ought to have brought in all the people who are left outside unemployment insurance, and it ought to relieve industry, employers and workers, of at least part of the burden. That is perfectly reasonable and a very modest proposal. It ought to make the State's contribution more commensurate with the State's responsibility. Even if it did not put the whole charge on the State it would be reasonable to suggest that the State's contribution should be substantially increased; and, obviously, the benefits ought to be made sufficient to relieve the unemployed from the necessity of seeking the aid of the Poor Law. It ought to relieve the Poor Law system entirely of any part of the burden of unemployed workers. It ought to go even further than that. I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan) who referred to what I call the stagnant pools of labour which exist in some of our great industries such as mining, shipbuilding, the iron and steel trades, and so on. There are there a large number of people for whom there seems not the remotest prospect of work at the moment or in the immediate future who are going to be excluded ultimately from the benefits of this scheme. Something ought to be done to deal with this great problem of those stagnant pools of workers.
412 In order to deal with the present situation I would say that it is the business of the Government to reduce personnel in industry by demobilising both the young and the aged. Reduce your labour supply, concentrating in it the most effective section of your workers, that is to say, grown-up people. Take out of industry your young people and superannuate your elderly workers, who to-day feel compelled to hang on because there are no other resources for them. I think that is a reasonable series of proposals for dealing with this big problem. At the end of his speech yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour was fumbling about with fivepences. Fumbling with fivepences is not dealing with the problem. The matter is far more serious than that, and after this long spell of unemployment and the many different attempts at legislation, which have had to be repeatedly revised and adapted to the continuing state of unemployment, surely this is not the time to introduce anything in the nature of what may be called a final and permanent unemployment Bill. This Bill is utterly unworthy of this House, and I, and I think also my hon. Friends, intend to offer the most strenuous opposition to all its limited and restricted proposals, with the knowledge that in doing so we are acting far more truly in the national interest than are the people whose minds are given over completely to economy.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
What humbug and hypocrisy we on this side of the House have to listen to from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood).
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
He has had the audacity—I do not think I need necessarily use that word; those of us who remember him sitting on the Treasury Bench representing a Socialist Government would hardly apply that term, and I think I will say "cheek"—to tell the Government, first, that they are responsible for the large debt which the Unemployment Fund has accumulated, and second—and this is a two-edge weapon—that it is owing to their greater resource in economy that they have produced this Bill. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that if anybody is responsible for the accumulated debt on 413 the Unemployment Fund it is the party who sit behind him. The present Bill has been rendered necessary because of the general strike of a year ago. That is not a point of argument.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I agree with the doctrine that it is the business of an Opposition to oppose, but hon. Members ought to present an opposition to the Bill based on some real grounds, and not leave it open to any Member of this House to get up and show what complete humbug and complete hypocrisy underlie their motives and their speeches. I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on the Bill which he has presented to the House and on the clear and reasoned speech which he gave us yesterday. During the short time I have been in this House I have seen 13 unemployment Bills presented by five different Ministers of Labour, and none, I think, has been a more earnest and sincere attempt to try to deal with this great problem. I am not suggesting that the Measure meets all the objections of hon. Members—I have a great many of my own which I hope to deal with later—but taking the Bill as a whole I think it is a sincere attempt to deal with a situation which has got worse and worse since the first Unemployment Act of 1921, so that that Measure has had to be revised year by year to cope with a state of things which it was hoped would already have come to an end.
If hon. Members will carry their minds back to that date they will remember the situation. The Army was being demobilised and men had to be drafted back into employment. They will also remember that the country was in a very dangerous state at that time, and looking back over those years no one, I think, will criticise the introduction of an unemployment benefit to be paid to men during the interval between leaving the Army and getting back into civil employment. It is useless to engage in criticism over what has been done in past years, but many hon. Members believe, in the first place, that that Measure ought to have been temporary, and, secondly, that it should have been confined to the soldiers demobilised from the Army and not have dealt with civilians. But that is a personal criticism of the past, which will not 414 help us in dealing with the present Bill. I think the Minister has shown more courage than strategy in presenting a Bill based on the Blanesburgh Report which does not conform in every detail to that Report. It would have been much easier for him to have framed a Bill embodying all the recommendations of the Report, and to have presented it to the House as a Measure to give effect to the settled considerations of all the ladies and gentlemen who drew up that Report. He has taken the courageous line, and has chosen from the Report the items which he believes to be best for the country.
I think, however, that there are only one major and one minor recommendation in the Report which are not in the Bill. The first is the recommendation that the scale of contributions from all three parties to the insurance should be equal. I am quite sure that when my right hon. Friend replies to this Debate he will tell the House that he believes the scale of contributions should be equal in all three cases, but that financial considerations have necessitated delay in adopting that course. I disagree with the Bill in that respect. I think it ought to be settled here and now that the contributions from employers, employed and the State should be equal, each paying one-third of the total contribution. That is what is prescribed in the Blanesburgh Report, and it is most important, in my view, that this should be caried out. Previous estimates have been so much falsified that it is impossible to base a judgment upon the estimates which have been given either in the Report or in the White Paper, but if this Bill is to be final—of course, if it is not to be final, if there is to be another Bill in six months time, I understand the position—it ought to be laid down as a matter of principle that the employer should not pay more than the employed or the State. I am sure that when he considers the matter my right hon. Friend will agree with me. The other matter to which I wish to draw attention is that the Bill makes no mention of training facilities for the juvenile unemployed. It may not be possible to do anything at present, owing to the state of the fund, but I am perfectly certain that when there is sufficient money the Minister will take that matter into consideration. 415 In coming to the points in the Bill which I think are most important I would refer, first, to the reduction of the unemployment pay to juveniles. I think it is now a matter of comment throughout the whole country that this juvenile unemployment pay is one of the most disgraceful things. I think it is a standing disgrace that children—because after all they are nothing more than children—should have to go to Employment Exchanges in order to draw their unemployment pay. The Report suggests that the unemployment pay should be garbed in a fresh phrase and should be called "training allowance."
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
If the Noble Lady wishes to speak afterwards she can correct me. This Bill creates a new class for unemployed persons of 18 to 21, and I think the Minister is to be congratulated upon presenting a Bill which in this respect conforms entirely to the Blanesburgh Committee's recommendation in regard to the contributions from the employed. I think the Minister of Labour is to be congratulated upon having dealt in this way with workers between 18 and 21 years of age, because the less the younger element can be brought up to believe that they may be able to live either on unemployment pay or charity of some kind the better it will be for the moral feeling of the country. The first aim of the Minister by this Bill is to do away with the dole.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
The Government have always regarded extended benefit as being purely the charity of the State. 416 [Interruption.] Any hon. Member who thinks this matter over calmly will see that extended benefit was granted owing to the circumstances of the time, and it has since been continued. That is the reason why all the insurance schemes have got into debt and the workers are now living on the charity of the State. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] The Insurance Fund is in debt to the extent of some £22,000,000, and if that be not living on the charity of the State then I do not understand it at all. I would like to know of any other business which would be permitted to draw upon credit to that extent. I am aware that hon. Members opposite do not like to hear the plain economic facts, but it is the duty of the Minister of Labour to bring forward these hard economic facts, and I hope he will not take the slightest notice of all these interruptions and arguments which have been put forward by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The country will take notice, and the people will take notice of you; and you had better not insult the workers of the country.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
It is apparent that there are two great economic principles dividing the two sections of this House. One of them is a very important principle which has been taught by political economists for many years, and to-day it is quoted as being responsible for the great prosperity of a country some distance on the other side of the world.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
I really must ask hon. Members not to continue these interruptions. It will be much better if they will listen to the speaker and afterwards answer his arguments in debate.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
How can you expect us to sit here and listen to our class being insulted? Is there any reason in the hon. Member insulting us in this way, although he is a millionaire?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Hon. Members in all quarters of the House often have to listen to uncomplimentary remarks.
An HON. MEMBER
Is it out of order to put a question asking the hon. Member to what country he referred?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It would be in order if the hon. Member gave way, but it would be much better if hon. Members asked their questions later on in the Debate.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
If we go on increasing the benefits in the way which has been suggested by hon. Members opposite is it not perfectly obvious that when you get above a certain rate of benefit the men who are unemployed are not likely to make genuine efforts to get employment. Where does the money paid in unemployment benefit come from? One-third of it is provided by the Government and two-thirds by industry. Hon. Members must see at once that to continue taking vast sums of money out of industry in the shape of unemployment pay means that that money cannot be paid in the shape of higher wages. Ask any critic outside this country what he considers to be the most important thing that has prevented this country from having a trade revival during the last seven or eight years? Ask any American why we have not had a trade revival, and he will reply, "The reason is that you pay your men to keep out of work whilst in America we pay them higher wages in order to keep them at work and get a proper amount of work out of them." I am not suggesting that we should do away with unemployment insurance, and I agree with the Minister of Labour that you want proper unemployment insurance for genuinely unemployed people who are seeking work in the ordinary way. If an industry in one part of the country fails and the people have to be assisted to go from one part of the country to another that is practical business. On the other hand if you have a system whereby you are going to give anything in the shape of charity you are not only doing a great economic harm but you are demoralising the people who received that benefit.
I suggest that not only should unemployment insurance be tightened up and very strongly administered, but the Government should see that it is a pure insurance policy, and those who do not come in the proper category should not be allowed to receive unemployment benefit. It has been suggested that if these people do not receive unemployment benefits they will go on the rates. I agree that that course would hit some parts of the country very hardly. I want 418 a system under which the genuinely unemployed people will be able to receive the benefit without any suspicion of charity of any kind, but if you have the larger proportion of the contributions to the insurance fund coming from other sources than the unemployed men themselves; if nearly three-fourths of the contributions come from other sources than the men themselves then you must call it the charity of the State. I should like to see the man himself contribute enough of the money for this purpose in order that he may say, "At any rate that fund is mine."
I should like to refer for a moment to some of the speeches which have been made by some hon. Members opposite. I think it is bad enough to have to listen to the speeches made by hon. Members opposite on this subject, but there were two speeches made yesterday by hon. Members on this side of the House which will not help one iota in the direction of solving the problem before us. In looking at this problem most certainly it does not help the Government or the Minister of Labour if hon. Members on this side of the House make criticisms like those which were made by the hon. Member for Stockton (Captain Macmillan) who made some remarks yesterday which might easily have been made by an hon. Member sitting on the other side of the House. There may be one or two hon. Members on this side of the House who generally sit very near this spot who would look very much better on the other side of the House.
The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) went to the uttermost limit in order to prove his case when he said or inferred that owing to the reduction of benefit for young women many of them would be tempted to become prostitutes. I say that that is a disgraceful reflection for the hon. Member to make against young women, because it amounts to saying that they have to be paid in order to keep their virtue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] In dealing with these questions we should not approach them in such a sentimental fashion as we have done during the last few years, and it is time they were dealt with in a practical way. If any hon. Member looks up previous debates upon unemployment he will find that exactly the same arguments were used as those which we have heard to-day from hon. 419 Members opposite. We want take a statesmanlike view and adopt statesmanlike measures, and do all we can secure the future prosperity well-being of our country.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I commisserate with the Minister of Labour on his supporters in view of the speech we have just heard. I have heard a good many ill-informed speeches on this subject, but have never heard a more ill-informed one than that. I do not intend to follow the line of the hon. Member's speech, but I must make a correction. If the hon. Member will be good enough to read the evidence which was presented to the Blanesburgh Committee by Mr. Price, he will learn a good deal that he evidently does not know now about the working of the State scheme. He will find that the contributions pile up against those who are drawing extended benefit, and are held as minus contributions—that the Treasury is not out of pocket over the loan that it makes to the Fund, but that the Fund has to pay interest on the loan, and that it is just as good an investment for the Treasury as any other form of loan. Therefore, it is absurd to imagine that that kind of argument can be used as a reason for abolishing extended benefit.
The question which has to be faced is the question of a situation which no contributory scheme of insurance is capable of meeting. This question was brought directly before the Blanesburgh Committee by their very narrow reference, namely, to inquire to what extent, if any, the existing contributory insurance principle should be maintained in a permanent scheme. I want to refresh the memory of the House with regard to the condition of affairs when that Committee was appointed. It was a non-Parliamentary Committee. The Government selected persons who had had experience in trade union work, in the Poor Law, in local government, and business administration. It was the accident of a by-election that turned one of the members of the Committee into a Member of this House, and it is, perhaps, the misfortune of the Committee that I happen to be the only representative of the Committee in this House. I am not going to pretend to speak the mind of the whole Committee, and anything that I may say this 420 afternoon I wish to be clearly understood as representing my own personal impressions and my own personal views.
I want to say in the second place that this group which was brought together to consider this question met with divergent views as far apart as the poles, and the opening discussions demonstrated that the difficulty of bridging them appeared to be absolutely insurmountable under any conditions whatsoever. What happened was that we began to receive evidence—we began to get opinions as represented by three great organised forces. There was, first of all, the opinion represented by the Employers' Confederation; there was the opinion represented by the organised Poor Law authorities; and there was the opinion represented by the British Trades Union Congress and the Labour party. These three lines of opinion converged on one point. They did not agree about details as to how the problem was going to be met, but they all agreed about one thing, and that was that the primary pre-occupation of the State ought to be the question of unemployment—that the problem of unemployment overshadowed every other form of suggestion that could be put before the country.
Then another thing happened. When the Committee held its first meeting a great Press campaign was going on throughout the country. The speech that we heard just now reminded me of the headlines in the "Daily Mail" at that time, declaring that the people of this country were defrauding the Unemployment Insurance Fund, declaring that they were wasters and wastrels, declaring that they were work-shys, that there was work to be found and they would not take it, and that they were drawing these great sums of money undeservedly. What was the result? We raked the country to get some evidence brought before the Committee to justify that statement, and we could not get it. Even the Charity Organisation Society had to say that they regretted that they could not find the evidence. The vindication of the workers of this country as being genuinely unemployed was the first point established before the Committee.
We passed on to see what was really being done, and we found an absence of any really realiable data as to the extent of unemployment; we found that a 421 great deal was guess-work. Certain areas of unemployment could give exact returns; certain trades had machinery set up by which they could tell within a few hundreds exactly the condition of unemployment in their trades; but that was not the condition of the country. From the iron and steel trades it was possible to get, not merely a concise statement of the position with regard to unemployment, but a concise statement with regard to the number that they did employ and the numbers they are employing. It was also possible to get from them what I anticipate will be agreed to be an accurate estimate of the numbers they could employ in the future. What was their position? Their position was that, having that accurate information, they had to come before the Committee and say that theirs was a contracting trade, that in future there was no hope of maintaining the numbers that were at present employed in that trade.
Again, take the mining industry. There again we had accurate statistics of the numbers of persons in the mines, and evidence was given of the gradual reduction of those numbers; and again we had a forecast that in that great industry there was going to be a permanent and progressive reduction in the number of persons employed. On the other hand, we found that in certain industries there was a probability of a period of expansion until those industries reached a certain saturation point. The electrical industry was one of those. But, even if you take all those groups and add them together, you do not account for the total number of persons in this country who have to earn their living under the wages system. You have, as I have said, areas where statistical information is absolutely lacking; you have other areas where there is absolutely no knowledge as to the degree of overlapping—overlapping of benefits received from this, that, or the other source, whether from friendly societies or from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, or whether people are forced to go on to the Poor Law. As to how far those persons are the same persons, or how far they are distinct, no one knows in any exact or scientific way. That was the muddle with which we were faced.
Then we had another kind of muddle to face, and that was the piecemeal 422 methods by which the Government were endeavouring to explore this question. I say, in all charity, "they were endeavouring to explore this question"; other people may put it in a different way. Having come to the conclusion, after our first few meetings, that the problem of unemployment transcended every other problem, we made inquiries, and we had informal interviews with people who were dealing with a patch of the problem. We found that the Malcolm and Salvesen Committees were dealing with portions of it; we found that there was a Committee dealing with the question whether or not agricultural labourers should be put under the Act. Neither of these Committees was able to report in such terms as to enable us to act with a view to bringing these people inside the Act. We had to exclude the consideration of these questions because we had not received the evidence; some other Committee was receiving the evidence. We found that there were various Committees considering the problem of unemployment. The Central Committee on Women's Employment, the Oversea Settlement Committee, the Lord St. David's Committee, and numerous local authorities and Poor Law authorities were all making their contributions and suggestions, but no one was attempting to co-ordinate those contributions and suggestions, no one was trying to give us a picture of the problem and of the degree to which these various reports could be correlated or brought into any sort of general review of the whole position so that action could be taken.
We therefore felt compelled, although it was quite clearly outside the terms of our reference, to draw attention in the first instance to this chaotic condition of affairs. For example, with regard to the question of overlapping between unemployment benefit and Poor Law relief there was only one area in which we were able to ascertain exact statistics. That was the area of Liverpool, where the Poor Law authorities and the Employment Exchange authorities, working in areas which coincide, were able themselves to evolve a system of dual card-indexing which enabled them to know exactly what was happening in the area. As far as I know—I can be corrected if it is not so—that is the only administrative area in the country where such conditions really obtain.
423 The next point with which I would like to deal is in regard to the recommendations we made arising out of the survey of areas in order that we might get some kind of ascertainment of the actual situation. What are the chances of employment? We all know of our own knowledge that that is bad enough, but machinery needs to be set up by which this information can be tabulated in such a manner that it cannot be subjected to the kind of criticism to which the existing statistics can be subjected. We need, for each of the industries, a committee of employers and trade union officials co-operating with the Employment Exchange officials, in order that we may obtain for all industries what it is possible to obtain in connection with iron and steel and coal. We have not heard a word from the Minister on that subject, which we regard as a primary proposition.
We then had to pass on to the question of the principle which is to underlie any permanent scheme as long as that scheme has to be based upon a contributory principle. Here I want to say quite frankly that I think we have made an advance upon anything that has previously existed. I am not now speaking about the amounts available; that is a totally different point; I am speaking about the principle. I was very interested to hear, in the course of the speech of the Minister of Labour, that echo of a remark that I made in this House in 1924 with regard to the fire insurance principle. It shows that, although it takes time, the work of conversion may go slowly on. What is this fire insurance principle to which I referred in 1924? It is that—admitting for the moment that you are to have a contributory principle—having got the contributions into the common pool, you get from that pool compensation in relation to the damage suffered, and not in relation to the individual contributions put into the pool. That principle is the principle which is embodied in the recommendation of the Blanesburgh Committee, and, in my opinion, it is a decided advance over the existing "one in six" rule and 26 weeks' standard benefit. It does mean that it provides for the man who is in industry. Mark what I say. He is hardly ever likely to get out of benefit if he has now got his place in industry. But I want to say 424 most deliberately to this House that it does not provide one single bit of hope for the man who is not in industry to-day, and I differentiate most strongly between those two categories. I say that the man who is not in industry to-day cannot hope to benefit from the contributory scheme unless some previous action is taken, and that action will have to be Government action. It will be necessary, first of all, to organise work for that man, to enable him to get into an industry, to enable him to get his footing. What is the position with regard to that?
I want to go back to the juvenile class, 14 to 16, for a moment. I have hardly ever spoken in this House without referring to the question. I have felt so strongly as the result of having had to deal with young people who left school during and since the War period. We begged the House to let us bring these children inside the area of insurance, but we were not able to bring them into the Bill. These same children who never had a footing in industry and who would to-day at least have been insured, are now 17, 18 and 19 years of age. They are not qualified for benefit, they cannot get benefit and they could not get benefit under this Bill if it were passed into law, as they cannot qualify. They have no place in industry. That is the gravest wrong the community can do to these young people. I want to beg the House to face up to this question. You cannot get these young people into industry unless you set up a comprehensive, nation-wide system of training. You may call it advanced education; you may call it what you like. I do not care for a moment what you teach inside the training centres. You can teach them algebra, geography, dancing or singing. What you have to do is to bring them into a position where they will have occupation for the mind and proper physical exercise and care for the body. I know of no training scheme that I have approved that does not make part of the scheme a properly cooked mid-day meal. In connection with the women, it is part of their training. When they cook a dinner they eat it. In connection with the men's schemes, those that approve and whole-heartedly support are those that make a necessary part of the scheme a proper, well-cooked meal in the middle of the day. I want to urge the importance of this. It is not the point 425 of who is keeping the children, it is the point that these children are not being prepared for life in a civilised community in a manner in which we have a right to expect they should be prepared. I want to urge again with all the earnestness I possess, that you cannot do a greater wrong to this country and to our race than to allow generation after generation of school children to leave the schools helpless in the midst of this complicated industrial system of ours.
I have watched these children who are now 18, 19 and 20. They are still not insured persons; they are not getting a penny from the fund, and they are still not being brought within the ambit of the Unemployment Insurance system and the Employment Exchanges. What did the Labour Government do in connection with unemployment juvenile centres? They said they felt the urgency of this was so great at a time of distress that they undertook the 100 per cent. cost of the training centres borne an the central fund in distressed areas during that period. They also removed the embargo that had been placed upon the training of young women that they must undertake to go into domestic service and the term of "home training" was adopted in its place. There has been a steady reactionary underpinning of these advances since 1924, and we now again have the policy of slackening down the opening of new centres and the whole of the educational work at a time when the problem is not less but more acute than it was in 1924. I want to urge, therefore, that the matter transcends in importance the question of the actual amount of money that is paid, but let no one misunderstand me. I want to say deliberately that in the absence of any statement from the Minister with regard to this training, I think the Clause as it stands without that training behind it deserves every harsh word that has been said from these benches, and I will fight it to the very end because of the absence of provision for training.
I admit it will be more expensive than the shillings to be deducted; you have to face that—you have no right to charge these children and young men and women the contribution that is put into the Bill and deny them the option of the alternative which was proposed in all sincerity and unanimously proposed by the Blanes- 426 burgh Committee. Remember, when I say unanimously proposed, what that means. Employers were there, Poor Law representatives were there and social workers—who are not our school of social workers—were there. They were all unanimous in believing the country could not afford not to train these young people and could not afford not to give them occupation, could not afford not to conserve in this generation those valuable young lives upon which the whole future of the country is going to depend in the next 20 years.
Let me take another aspect of the matter. You have not merely this question of training in connection with giving them occupation while they are unemployed. You have to face this other problem and it cannot be faced by any contributory system of insurance. You have to face the problem of organising the resources of the country to put them into jobs after they are trained, after you have brought them through the school of training which will enable them to become more adaptable and keep them mentally and physically fit. Take the mining industry again. What is the situation in Northumberland? The last figures I had were that there will be a displacement of at least 20,000 people. It may be more by this time because more pits are closed down. Of the number of persons unemployed in Northumberland, who ought to have the preference in connection with any work that is going there? If anyone has to turn out, who should it be? Should it be the middle-aged man, should it be the man with 8, 10 or 12 years' industrial experience in the mines, or should it be the young man who has never had a chance to start in the mines? It is hard whoever has to turn out. It is a terrible problem. I believe if anyone has to turn out it is the young men and women and not the older men and women; these ought to have a chance of keeping in the trade in which they have given the best part of their lives. I believe the most sensible plan would be to reduce the pension age and help the older men to leave the trade and take their well-earned leisure because they have made their contribution to the common stock throughout the whole of their lives and they deserve from the community a rest for the later years of their lives free from financial anxiety. The young men and 427 women are in a different category and in my opinion the burden of changing their occupation must necessarily fall on them. You cannot leave it to them. They cannot do it. It has to be organised by the community. It has to be a communal responsibility. We were faced with these facts; some of these people came to the Committee thinking their task was merely to cut down benefit. We were faced with the burden of this intolerable condition of affairs and they came behind these recommendations—although outside the Terms of our Reference—they felt compelled to put them into the Report because they realised how futile any contributory system is to deal with a situation like that.
I think I may speak for the whole Committee when I say it would not be responsible for some Clauses in the Bill, it would not be responsible for the Bill itself if it is going to be put forward as a solution of the present difficulties. It was never meant to be anything of the kind. We were asked to consider what in the future, assuming that unemployment becomes normal and we get back to normal cycles of trade, could be regarded as a system that would assist unemployed persons during their periods of unemployment. That is a totally different proposition from attempting to deal with the present situation. I am astounded and amazed at the speech of the Minister of Labour—not for what he said. What he said was common knowledge. Everyone knows it. I am astounded at what he did not say. I beg the House to recognise that it is not my intention to make any apologies for the Blanesburgh Report.
I merely rose to put my point of view and to protest against the misuse of the Blanesburgh Report—attempting to make use of it to deal with a position with which it was never intended to deal. I shall join with my party in fighting the Bill Clause by Clause, going to the country and denouncing the attempts made to deal with a problem of such magnitude as unemployment and assuming that it could be dealt with by a contributory insurance system. I shall insist with my party on the maintenance of what we can now call the "fire insurance" principle that a man is not going to be chopped off unemployment because he has the misfortune to work in a trade 428 where unemployment is a common thing. There are men working in trades where unemployment is rare, and the 26 weeks' standard benefit and the one in six rule are all right for them. They are not all right for the man who is in a trade where he is needed, where he has to be on call but where he may have to stand by for a week or a month or even six weeks on account of circumstances over which the trade itself has no control and in order to deal with this casual side of labour, in order to make it as comprehensive and inclusive as possible of all those areas and all those industries whether they be steady trades and intermittent trades we believe this principle will give them the longest right to benefit and make them almost incapable of being outside the insurance realm. No one is more bitterly disappointed than I am at the attitude taken by the Government in regard to this question of unemployment. This Bill is a sub-section of a problem which has many sections. We are asked to deal with it now, and there has not been a word said about what the Government propose to do with the real problem of organising the resources of the country in order to reduce the number of unemployed.
§ Mr. HANNON
I am quite sure the House has listened with the greatest interest to the illuminating speech which we have just had from the hon. Lady, the Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield). It is extremely interesting to hear from her how the Blanesburgh Committee undertook are discharge of their investigations, and I think the House will agree that that Committee discharged their duties with great success and with due regard to every interest with which they were entrusted. I agree entirely with the hon. Lady opposite and with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) on the abounding importance to this House and to the country of the question of meeting the present day unemployment problem. But to come to this House and talk of solving the unemployment problem by some processes of reorganising the resources of the State, placing a further incubus upon the productive enterprises of the country, is the most hopeless suggestion that could be presented at this time. There is only one real, substantial, hopeful remedy that can be suggested for the solution of the unemployment problem in this country, 429 that is, the means whereby the people can be put back into profitable and productive work. That means, unfortunately, has not been adopted by my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench up to the present moment. One can only hope that as the process of proving the importance of protecting the industries of the workpeople of this country makes itself more manifest, at a later date, my right hon. Friends will receive wisdom and show courage in dealing with it in the way that they ought to have done long ago.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan) made a very interesting speech in this House yesterday. We were all delighted to hear my hon. and gallant Friend's speech, because he is always original, and he always makes a helpful and instructive contribution to Debate. I think my hon. and gallant Friend did not take sufficient trouble, if I may respectfully say so, before he made his speech to examine the actual work which has been accomplished by the Ministry of Labour in relation to this embarrassing question during the last three or four years. I am very sorry my hon. and gallant Friend is not in his place, because I would like to say these few words in his presence. He seemed to think the Ministry of Labour had given no serious thought to this question of unemployment insurance until a comparatively short time ago, that this Bill had been hurriedly prepared, that it did not all embrace the recommendations made by the Blanesburgh Committee, and, particularly, did not concern itself with what he called the subsidiary recommendations, and was far short of what the Bill ought to be. I think it is within the knowledge of many Members of this House that the Ministry of Labour have been giving continuous thought to this question of some form of permanent unemployment insurance for a very considerable period of time. They have exchanged views with employers' organisations, with the leaders of trades unions and have examined the problem from every point of view, with the object of reducing to some practical and working form a permanent scheme of unemployment insurance in the country. The whole system, jagged and chaotic and, from many points of view, objectionable, had to be reduced to some real working form, and the present Bill is, I think, a great tribute to the Minis- 430 ter that he and his staff have produced a Measure which will certainly bring unemployment insurance on to the Statute Book of this House as a permanent Measure to deal with this great question in future.
Somebody has suggested that no evidence was brought before the Blanesburgh Committee to prove that the distribution of uncovenanted benefit had been abused. It is quite true that evidence has not been produced, but the fact is within the knowledge of most of us that there has been a good deal of irregularity, and it is exceedingly difficult in the interests of the fund itself to prevent frequent misapplications of uncovenanted benefit in various parts of the country. The Report of the Blanesburgh Committee makes a certain number of recommendations. In paragraph 47, with regard to the question of unemployment itself, it says, first of all, there ought to be a closer relationship, a better understanding between employers and the Employment Exchanges. I submit that the employers of this country have, in face of the difficult time through which they have been passing, done their best to work with the Employment Exchanges and have given the officers in charge of the local Exchanges every assistance they possibly could. There may have been instances in which the vacancies available were not submitted by particular employers as regularly as ought to have been the case, and I hope that there may be substantial improvement wherever there has been a defect in that direction. But, speaking from my own knowledge and speaking for one important district in the country, I am perfectly certain the local employers' organisation do everything they possibly can to make the work of the Exchanges as efficient and as successful as possible.
The suggestion has been made that each industry should survey its own unemployment problem. The House knows that from time to time in the last seven or eight years, in the last six years, at all events, the question of each industry looking after the interests of its own unemployment has been discussed, examined, and thrashed out very fully, and the various schemes submitted have, after long and anxious thought, fallen through, But I think the suggestion 431 made in the Report of the Blanesburgh Committee that there should be some sort of employment committee set up in each trade to keep in touch with employers, trades unions and the Employment Exchanges would undoubtedly be of benefit to industry as a whole in keeping, as far as possible, all available avenues of employment open to those who desire to secure occupation. At the same time, we have had the suggestion of the hon. Lady opposite with regard to the training of young people in industry. One would imagine, hearing the hon. Lady's speech and other speeches delivered from the other side of the House, that the present administration had been doing nothing in the direction of encouraging juvenile training for employment in industry. As a matter of fact, the present Government and the present Minister of Labour have made very substantial advances in the direction of the practical training of juveniles for admission into industry. When you come to examine the actual recommendation of the Blanesburgh Committee you find that while the pious hope is expressed that something should be done, there is no suggestion of any kind as to how that work will be carried out, and there is no reference whatever to the enormous cost which would be imposed upon the country in its present difficult situation if any comprehensive scheme of that kind were to be adopted. What the Blanesburgh Report says on this subject in the first place is contained in Section (c) of paragraph 47. They put it quite mildly. One would imagine, from hearing the hon. Lady, the Member for Wallsend speak, that the whole of the Committee was raging with fury because something was not being done at once in this connection, whereas, in point of fact, the Committee dealt with it mildly and reasonably and with a good deal, no doubt, of conservative feeling for the immense burden that any comprehensive scheme would impose upon the country. This is what they say:We think also that in normal times many difficulties might be met by proper attention being given to the entry of young persons into industry. Some of us believe that in the long run it would be an economy if the school age of children were raised. Others of us subscribe to this view, if the change he confined to children showing capacity for education. We have all learned 432 with interest of the work of the juvenile advisory committees attached to many Employment Exchanges and of the centres where instruction is given to unemployed boys and girls.That is an acknowledgment of the actual work which has already been done.
§ Mr. HANNON
The hon. Gentleman has a peculiar way of attacking me every time I speak in this House. He knows without any sort of notice from me what I am going to say. I am now going to quote from paragraph 70. The excited way in which, if I may respectfully say so, the hon. Member for Wallsend presented the attitude of mind of the Blanesburgh Committee to this House is not borne out by the actual words in paragraph 70. After alluding to the importance of juvenile training they say:We attach the greatest possible importance to this provision of facilities for training. We are aware that efforts have been and are being made by the Ministry in this direction. In our judgment, further provision is essential.But they do not say from what sources the means for providing that further provision is to come. I do not think that hon. Members in this House realise the appalling condition in which industry stands in this country at the present moment. Every new charge, whether it is a direct charge, whether it is in the shape of a contribution by the State or a contribution from industry itself, comes back ultimately upon the productive enterprises of the nation. In the main, the whole of our taxable capacity rests upon the shoulders of productive enterprises in this country. Every time you load industry with a burden, great or small, you are adding to its difficulty of competing in the world markets. You are increasing its limitations of absorbing persons into work, and you are making the whole process of the reorganisation of industry impossible.
§ Mr. HANNON
I have never in my life interrupted the hon. Gentleman in this House. If I may say so, I maintain the greatest possible respect for him, and I have a profound admiration for his sincerity. But his sudden eruptions sometimes disturb the equanimity of those who 433 sit on the benches on this side. The Blanesburgh Committee also suggested the training of unemployed people for other occupations. I think the Ministry have certainly done as much as they possibly could have been expected to do in that direction. They have tried certain experimental schemes and, so far, I believe, the experiments have been a success.
The suggestions made this evening in speeches from the benches opposite, with regard to the training of adults, and particularly training for domestic service, have their obvious limitations. Someone, naturally, says, "Let us enlarge the number of centres at which training of this quality is being carried out." To make a centre successful depends upon getting the right type of person to attend, getting the necessary number to attend and then being able when the course of instruction is complete to place the persons who have had their training there in some kind of lucrative employment. The extension of the experiment would involve the Ministry in further commitments which would add to our burden of taxation without having the suggested compensatory results. All these proposals for extending the training either for juveniles or adults, commendable as they may be at any time, have the unfortunate drawback attached to them that they involve a further burden upon the taxpayers and rate-payers of this country. Every hon. Member of this House knows, and nobody knows better than hon. Members opposite who have to deal with the difficult problems of increased rating in their own muncipalities, how much increased taxation and increased rating is playing havoc with the restoration of our industrial life.
The Committee further recommend that special arrangements should be made to meet the requirements of growing industries. That is to say, that men who at the moment have not sufficient experience to enter a particular trade whose activities were expanding should have an opportunity at a reduced wage to acquire experience before going on what is known as the standard wage. Will hon. Members opposite who represent trade unions undertake that any process of that kind may be introduced with 434 their approval? I do not think they will, and certainly up to the present there has been no expression of approval from any trade union.
§ Mr. HANNON
I thought the hon. Member would feel his corns pinched a bit by a proposal of that kind. The Blanesburgh Committee has done admirable work and it deserves the gratitude of the country and the House for the Report which it produced, which finishes up with the expression of a desire, which is common to every one of us, of having permanent peace in industry. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stockton chaffed the Minister yesterday about legislation by Committee. I think that is right within certain limits, and, surely, if ever there was any kind of legislation by Committee which really should commend itself to this House it is the work of this particular Committee whose Report forms the basis of this Bill. My hon. and gallant Friend acknowledged the valuable work which has been accomplished by the Blanesburgh Committee, but I do not think he was quite fair to the Minister in suggesting that he and his colleagues in the Government were using from time to time the process of appointing Committees when they ought to take the direct responsibility of formulating definite constructive legislative proposals. No Government in this country in modern times has taken so frequently and so courageously upon its own shoulders the introduction of definite positive measures without reference to a Committee or a Royal Commission.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I was merely remarking that that is true, and that every bit of legislation has been more stupid than the one before.
§ Mr. HANNON
The hon. Member would form that view of the legislation of any assembly in the world. His attachment to classical ideals and models is one of his great qualities, and I believe he would find fault with any kind of Government with which we have been 435 acquainted since Governments were formed. Therefore, his criticism is only in keeping with his general view of Governments.
§ Mr. HANNON
I hope that the Home Secretary who is present and who has the confidence of every member of his party will take that statement as a very high compliment to the integrity and efficiency of the present Government. With regard to what the Blanesburgh Committee said as to the need of establishing industrial peace, they point out that the deficit on the unemployment fund in April, 1926, was £7,100,000 and the deficit in December was £21,000,000. This Bill has been criticised fore and aft by hon. Members opposite and we are having orations from the benches opposite, but I would like to ask how much hon. Members opposite are responsible for that increased deficit. They cannot charge us with framing a Bill limited in its benefits for those who come within its ambit by their contributions, when they themselves are responsible for placing the country in the position of making this Measure necessary, with this enormous deficit standing against the fund. It is an extraordinary state of things that the Opposition criticising this Bill, proclaiming that it is defective and denouncing it in the language of which they have such an abounding command, are themselves, really, through the organisations with which they are associated and through the movement to which they belong, responsible for the deplorable state in which the fund finds itself when the Minister has to deal with it by framing this Bill.
Everybody deplores unemployment and everybody ought to work with every pound of energy which they possess to solve this appalling problem, but you do not solve it by continually introducing unrest and disagreement into the body politic. You are not solving it by criticising a Measure of this kind, which aims at establishing as a permanent part of our social legislation a scheme whereby the unemployed will always be entitled to benefit as a right. One of the most attractive features of the Bill is that unemployment insurance becomes a right 436 and not an act of State charity. No more can one talk about the dole. Unemployment insurance benefit becomes the actual right of the contributor when he becomes unemployed, under the scheme of this Bill. That in itself is sufficient to justify a Measure which I am confident when it is clearly understood will have the full support of the whole of the working class population of this country.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I have been rather astonished to hear remarks against the character of the speeches of Labour Members. I have listened throughout the whole of this Debate, and I confess that I have never heard speeches so free from rhetoric and so avoiding any attempt at party abuse and so deliberately framed to try to solve the problem.
§ Mr. HARNEY
As regards the hon. Member who has just spoken, I would rather compliment him upon the urbanity of his speech and the absence of provocation. The Amendment before the House states thatthe Bill fails to effect a fairer distribution of the burden of maintaining the Unemployment Fund.I think the Bill is accurately described there. The Amendment further says that "the Bill will further increase the excessive charges upon the rates." I think that is true. It says that the Bill "reduces already inadequate scales of unemployment benefit." That is undoubted. It also says that the Bill imposes certain conditions for the receipt of such benefit which in many cases will be impossible to fulfil." I think that all of these are just criticisms. I agree that some Bill of the kind is necessary and I thought that it would be possible to vote for the Second Reading, with the reservation that if these defects were not cured in Committee I would vote against the Third Reading. After considering the matter, I have come to the conclusion that in order to remedy these defects there would have to be an increase of the State charge and that, therefore, if one voted for the Second Reading on the condition that these Amendments would be made in Committee one would be voting on a condition that could not possibly be fulfilled. In these circumstances. I am 437 opposed to the Bill entirely. Let new financial arrangements be made, but of the two it is far better that the existing law should continue than that it should be altered in the way proposed by this Bill.
I was very much interested in the speech delivered yesterday by the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton (Captain Macmillan) I agree with a remark he made that it is a pity that the Government, in dealing with this problem, did not make a real attempt comprehensibly to deal with it. This is the seventeenth Bill since the inception of unemployment insurance. It has been for six years in operation. We have had legal decisions on all points. We have had experience of the working of the schemes from day to day, and now the Government come forward with a Bill—I do not say this at all disrespectfully—which by any fair-minded person must be regarded as a superficial and inadequate attempt to deal with the problem. There is no hard thinking whatsoever behind this Bill, otherwise it would not have been brought forward. What is the function of national insurance? What was the idea with which it was started? It was suggested by the efforts of the trade unions, and the State was brought into it by a Poor Law report. The idea was that a system of insurance should be gradually developed which would replace the abominable and humiliating Poor Law, and which would give to this country a reserve of healthy and contented men who would not regard it as at all a degradation to be out of work in those periods of unemployment for which they were no more responsible than you or I. That was the intention. I know it has not approached that ideal.
What is the position to-day? The country is full of unemployment, and there is no use blinking the fact that the unemployed must be given work or must be maintained. No civilised country in the modern world can make any other proposition. To say that the workers, who are the real hands of the community, should bear unaided the miseries that come from lack of employment while their neighbours, who have shared in the good results of their work have sufficient and to spare, is a monstrous proposition. Starting with the proposition that they must be maintained, the real 438 question is from what source are they to be maintained? There is nothing in the empty declaration we have heard about the men bringing it on themselves. Are not the men entitled to strike if they have a grievance? Is it to be contended that one side for ever can say, "Take our terms or we will turn you out," and that the other side are not at liberty to say, "Give us what is fair or we will not come in." That is not fair. At the present time there are three sources from which the unemployed are assisted. You have your standard benefit, your extended benefit, and the overflow goes on the rates.
The first thing this Bill does is to close the avenue of extended benefit. Provided it substituted something else that is all right. Extended benefit was always an extra. It was illogical; it had no insurance justification whatever, and it made the receipt of benefit a matter of discretion instead of it being, as it should be, a matter of right. It is right that it should go, but it is not right it should go if those who are turned away from that avenue cannot find a refuge either in the enlargement of the standard benefit avenue or in some increased contribution from the State. It must not go, whatever may be its defects, if the result is to throw more people on the rates.
Looking at the Bill itself it is obvious that the standard avenue has been enlarged. Until this Bill you had the rule of one in six, and 26 weeks; which certainly prevented a great number of persons receiving standard benefit, and they had to go into extended benefit. That has gone. The only thing they are called upon to show is the payment of 30 contributions in two years. If I thought that this would be sufficient to cover them all I would say is, I am quite content. But I do not know. I take my information from those who are far better informed, and yesterday the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), who showed that he understood the whole of this system from A to Z, and who, notwithstanding the taunts which have been made against him from the other side of the House, gave us a most informative speech, said that in the working of the system the qualification required by 30 stamps would be such as to exclude hundreds of thousands from getting the new benefit. I want to see extended benefit go. I want to see the rates free. 439 I want to see benefits for the genuinely unemployed, whoever they are, given as a right under a standard operation of the Act.
Now comes the question, by what form of clause could that be done? Why 30 contributions? Why make the test of any number of contributions? That is not insurance at all. As the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) has said, you do not in any other form of insurance say, "How many premiums have you paid?" You say, "What is your loss?" You pay for your loss. You group all the premiums in an insurance scheme and those who come in say, "I take this risk; I may be paying all my life and get nothing, but I may pay for a day or for a year." They all contract to take that risk in order that the loss they suffer may be met. This is insurance not against being out of work because you are beyond the working age or because you are ill. This is insurance against being unemployed, and every person who is able to say, "I am genuinely unemployed" should be met on the ordinary plain principle of any insurance scheme and should be entitled to draw his benefit for every day he is unemployed, even if it is for five years. That is the system I would like to see.
The Minister of Labour yesterday was at pains to elaborate the difficulty of finding a definition for "genuinely seeking work." He said: "I have tried. I have cudgelled my brains, and others have tried. We give it up." I am glad they have. There is no definition they could frame which would not do harm to somebody. The question whether a man is genuinely looking for work or is genuinely unemployed is dependent on manifold circumstances, and it is as ridiculous to get a definition for that as it is for the word "reasonable." The Courts will never define what is reasonable, because they say that in that class of case it is dangerous to lay down rules in advance with a changing society and it is best to say what is reasonable and right. So it is here. Do not lay down your 30 contributions or any of these rigid tests at all. Lay down this, and this only—if the community in its corporate working capacity pays a certain number of annual contributions, the risk that they are contributing against is that any one of them who happens to be found 440 by the appropriate tribunal to be genuinely unemployed is entitled, without thanks to anybody, to draw his benefit. That is the simple way of doing it.
I have said that I for one will never be a party to any of those who are left out in the cold by a Bill like this being thrown on the rates. I go further than that. I say that it is the duty of any body of Ministers, who really try to deal with this question, not to see how many more the rates can carry, but to see how many they can take off the rates at the present time. To allow the unemployed burden to rest upon the rates is as unjust as it is unwise. It is unjust for several reasons. Why should areas like the one I have the honour to represent, South Shields, and other similar areas, have to bear this burden? Their only sin is that they happen to be the spot where the national workshop is placed. They only differ from the rest of the community in being at the very spot where the work is done, while the rest of the community gets the benefit. Why should they be specially mulcted because in bad times the people are unemployed?
I am sure the House will realise how grossly unfair it is that these very areas, which live upon the employment of the men and are weak when they are unemployed, should be called upon to bear this burden just when the back which has to bear it is weakened. The true way of dealing with unemployment is unquestionably to place it upon the broad shoulders of the nation where it could be spread, so to speak, throughout the muscular system and not placed on the vital spots, the heart and the liver; not placed on the vital and dangerous spots of our industrial life. I say it is also unwise. Every business man knows that everything you put on the rates is an addition to the costs. What you put on taxes comes out of profits. Of the three sources which have been used to finance unemployment, the rates is the one that at all events should be spared. When you have got that far you ask, what then is the Poor Law to do? The function of the Poor Law is not to relieve the unemployed, but to look after the unemployable. When a poor man or woman reaches the stage when they can be no longer regarded as one of the army of the workers 441 that preserve us in peace, just as the army of soldiers preserves us in war, when a man is outside the C3 class in the peace army, he is a case for the Poor Law, but the unemployed man should not be put to the humiliation of having to go to the Poor Law. He should be able to regard his days out of work just as proudly as he regards his days in work, and efforts should be made to provide State maintenance during that period.
Then comes the question, what are you going to do in the case of trade disputes with the men who are then unemployed? The present law is that, even if they are out because of a trade dispute and are not participating in the dispute, they receive their benefit. This Bill enlarges that. Another provision was brought in in 1924 to the effect that if they are out because of a breach of a national agreement, they get their benefit. Therefore, we have this, that of those out on a trade dispute one section is entitled to benefit and the other section is not. Why should the other section, which is not entitled to benefit, go upon the rates? There is no use blinking the fact that during the last strike many of the men had, to a large extent, to be subsidised by the guardians. The poor guardians have been hammered at from all quarters. The Minister of Health says, "Do not give very much," but the men's humanity says, "We must give." It seems, therefore, that we have to face the fact that strikers who have not money themselves must be subsidised by someone. Is it better that they should be subsidised out of the Insurance Fund than out of the rates? I have already pointed out that for the industry of the country the rates are the worst of the lot. I suggest that the true way of dealing with the question is to make a simple rule, "genuinely unemployed." A man who is lawfully out on strike is "genuinely unemployed." It is his right.
The other question about which I want to speak is this: What is the difference between geting it from the fund and getting it from the rates? Three-thirds, the whole, comes from the rates, but only two-thirds if you get it from the fund. But the Government says, "We will pay only a certain proportion of that money." There is an alteration which must be made in the Bill if it is to be acceptable at all. The 442 Committee recommended that the Government should pay one-third. The Government have not done so; they pay a penny less than the others. I would like to see it provided that the Government pay not one-third but one-half. I would like to see the Government pay the whole lot, were it not for—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite say "Hear, hear," without knowing what they are cheering. The community has to pay in any case, and what I am asking is whether it is better for the community to pay through the channel of the rates than through the channel of taxation. The money has to be paid anyhow. I would like to see the whole of the costs comes through the channel of taxation and none at all through the channel of rates, and I would favour non-contributory payments of benefits were it not for the fact that I believe that it would not be as good for the self-respect of the man. I would put as much as I could upon taxation and relieve the rates.
The effect of the Bill is this: The Committee recommended certain new contributions. What would be the effect if that recommendation were carried out? That the Government would pay a good deal more than it pays now. The Government says, "We refuse to relieve industry, both employers and employés, of £6,000,000 a year that we were recommended by the Commission to relieve industry of." The Committee said, "Relieve industry of that and take the burden on yourselves." They say, "We will not." Do you call that a very excellent thing? Is that a sort of wild statement that the taxpayer pays everything? It is far better, a thousand times better, to take money like this from the whole body of the community than to take it from the industries upon which the community lives.
There is a balance due to this fund of about 20 millions. I think that should be cancelled at once. One speaker has said repeatedly that extended benefit was challenged. That remark shows how little he knew about it. Extended benefit is benefit given to a man out of money that the Government has loaned, and the Government obtains repayment by an instalment in addition to the ordinary contribution. That money never should have been loaned. When the bad time came the proper thing to do was, that 443 the State donation should be continued and the taxpayer bear it, not industry. Secondly, it has been held that one-third would be a fair contribution by the Government. If they had paid one-third, as soon as the Act came into operation there would be a further 35 millions to the credit of the fund. Therefore, for the Government, with this £55,000,000 in mind, to ask for the wiping out of a loan that was made to the Insurance Fund, is certainly not justifiable.
The points I have made are not points that have been stressed in the Debate so far, but there were one or two brought forward to which I would like to add some observations. As regards the shilling that is taken from the single man and added to the payment of the man with dependants, if that stood alone, one might have no criticisms to offer. But there are reductions of other benefits, and the two changes cancel each other. In this time of stress, when every effort should be made not to take away but to give more, what is the justification for cutting down, relatively to contributions, the benefits that are paid now? Those who are between the ages of 18 and 21 are full grown. They are of the age of those who served in the Army, and of an age that has been adopted in all industrial agreements. They are adults in every sense of the word, living in lodgings or living on their own responsibility. These men and women are now to be told, "You will live on 10s. and 8s. respectively." What mockery! Did not someone say to-day, "Oh, it was sob stuff to speak of this driving women on the streets." Will it not? What other effect will it have? Young girls of 19, no longer beholden to their parents, when out of work, are now to get 8s., though hitherto they have had 15s. Is there no temptation there? No plea has been put forward by the Minister for this reduction—none whatever.
Clause 9 deals with special schemes. Special schemes were a feature of the original Act. They never had much opportunity, because they were brought to an end quickly on account of the general depression. The late Government, when the Bill was in Committee, brought in an Amendment striking them out altogether. On the Report stage I was 444 responsible for an Amendment which brought those special schemes back again. I ask the Minister of Labour whether, before the Committee stage of this Bill, he will consider what steps can be taken to reintroduce special schemes. A great deal can be said for them. I wish to indicate now that on the Committee stage I shall move an Amendment in some form to reintroduce this system. Let it be understood that in the present bad times I quite realise that it would perhaps be unfair to withdraw from the Act those industries that have a large inlet and a small outlet. The suggestion I make is that some method should be adopted whereby industries, if they choose, by contributing to the general scheme such a fund as would not lower the average, should be entitled to deal directly with their own men. It is a thing which many would desire. If I were a workman, I confess that it would be a great relief to me, if instead of waiting in the cold, in a queue, before an employment exchange, I knew I could go to the office where I worked and draw my benefit.
I am sorry to have detained the House so long but I feel very strongly upon this Bill and I think any reasonable-minded person, so far from joining in the kind of taunts that have been made by certain Members, will recognise that the Labour Members who are most concerned have attempted in this Debate to offer genuine suggestions for the true solution of the problem. Those who represent industrial areas, at all events, know that the throwing of the unemployed on the rates not only begets a sense of degradation in the minds of the men and women concerned, but is bringing to absolute ruin the shopkeepers in those areas. From my own constituency I have led two deputations to the Minister of Health, and we begged him almost on our knees to authorise us to raise further overdrafts. We cannot ask the people to pay more rates and we dare not, as we are human beings, ask the guardians to refuse relief to the class of persons who are driven to seek relief. [Laughter.] What is the joke? Does the hon. Member opposite who laughs accuse me of uttering false rhetoric? I speak from experience in my own constituency when I tell you that I would be ashamed of myself as a man if I insisted either upon 445 higher rates from struggling shopkeepers or on the refusal of sustenance to those who are suffering.
§ Mr. HILTON
I did not laugh at the hon. and learned Member. He should address his remarks in another direction.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I am sorry. That was the central problem put before the body of experts who were set to draft this Bill. They were asked to devise, at the seventeenth attempt, some real method of dealing with unemployment in this country—which must exist for some time—by sparing the rates. How have they dealt with it? So far from sparing the rates they have dealt with it by closing up one of the make-shift channels that was saving the rates. They have dealt with it by saying to 1,500,000 young men and women, or rather adult men and women between 18 and 21, "You will get 8s. and 10s. from us, and since body and soul cannot be kept together on those amounts, go to the guardians." We who live among these difficulties are asked to accept this view as a thoughtful contribution to the problem of national insurance. Speaking for myself, if I thought it possible—and I did at the beginning—to make Amendments in this Bill in Committee which would fill in the framework of this Measure in at all events a remedial way, I would have voted for the Second Reading and reserved my opinion for a later stage. But I find that cannot be done, and, as far as I am concerned, I throw my support and my vote wholeheartedly in favour of the Amendment.
§ Sir ASSHETON POWNALL
The occupants of this Bench do not as a general rule intervene in Debates concerning the Ministries to which they are attached, but in the course of a two-day Debate of this kind it is possible for one who has been three years at the Ministry of Labour, in the capacity of a Parliamentary Private Secretary to intervene, and I do so on this occasion although I speak entirely from the personal point of view. I do not propose to deal with the last speech further than to point out that the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) is most anxious that the State should take on the whole payment for the Unemployment Insurance Fund. That means that the State should shoulder the sums which are now being paid by the em- 446 ployers and the employed. I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member has looked into the total sum which would be involved annually if the State undertook this additional burden. It is only a little matter of £34,000,000 or £35,000,000 per year. That is a helpful contribution towards the Liberal economy campaign. I do not know if the hon. and learned Gentleman is a member of the "Shadow Cabinet" of the Liberal party. There have not been many Liberal speeches in this Debate, and I do not know whether he speaks for the party as a whole or not. If he does, he will find when the time comes it will be an extremely difficult matter to justify this extra £35,000,000 in relation to his party's campaign for economy.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I do not think the hon. Member followed my point. I did not ask that the taxpayers as a whole should shoulder any additional burden. I did say that it was far better that the burden of £35,000,000 should be spread over the whole of the taxpayers rather than concentrated on a group of taxpayers.
§ Sir A. POWNALL
It is difficult to see how any sum could be spread over the whole of the taxpayers unless it came on the National Treasury, and what I have indicated certainly was the inference which those on this side of the House drew from the hon. and learned Member's remarks—namely, that the £35,000,000 would be in addition to the £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 which already falls upon the State as the nation's contribution towards unemployment insurance. I do not however follow the hon. and learned Member's speech any further. In regard to this Bill, when I read that the Blanesburgh Committee had achieved a measure of unanimity in regard to many of the difficult questions involved, I had the hope that our discussions here might be confined to points wherein the Bill varied from the Report. I have sat for a good many hours listening to this Debate and I find that criticism has not been directed so much to the points where the Bill departs from the Report on the question of finance, with which my right hon. Friend the Minister dealt yesterday, as to the general question. The criticism has been a general criticism going over the whole field of unemployment insurance ever since that form of insurance was started. The criticisms made yester- 447 day were based almost entirely on very special points and on particular hard cases. I defy anybody to bring in a scheme dealing with some 12,000,000 insured persons and with disbursements of £46,000,000 to £48,000,000 per year without having occasional hard cases. You must either legislate for the great majority of the people or go out of your way to find hard cases. If you do the latter, you are almost sure not to be giving fair play to the great majority of the contributors who build up the fund. Listening to the speeches yesterday I came to the conclusion that while many of the cases mentioned where admittedly hard, yet the volume of hardship is infinitely less than one would have expected in a scheme of this kind.
I ask hon. Members opposite to bear in mind a very important point in regard to this Bill. We have all taken exception to the use of the word "dole." It is extended benefit—benefit paid in advance of contributions. If a fresh scheme is started those who have received benefit in advance of contributions will not have to refund the money which they have so received and to that extent only can it be called a "dole." But that word has been very much abused not only in this country but also in the United States, in Canada and elsewhere. I, for one, will welcome a system of insurance which will not allow of the use of that word as it has been used in the past to the detriment of this country overseas. When I was in Canada and the United States a few years ago, I found many people there were under the impression that we had one and a quarter million people—always the same people—always on the dole, and that the whole of the so-called "dole" came out of the National Exchequer.
§ Sir A. POWNALL
My impression is that that particular section of the Press is not Conservative, but we will not argue that point. What I say is that this extended benefit, necessary as it was when introduced, has done this country very considerable damage in the way I have described and I would like to see introduced a system which would not be open to mis-description on those lines. The provisions of the Bill in regard to 448 young people have been much criticised from the other side with regard to the diminution in benefit. It is to be remembered that they will also pay less and I think the extent to which the diminution in benefit acts as a deterrent to improvident marriages among young people, it is very wise social legislation. I can imagine many young people in the days of extended benefit saying, "Let us get married and if the worst comes to the worst we can always get these payments." Anyhow many cases on those lines have been reported in the newspapers and, human nature being what it is, that obviously will be the case. Hon. Members may say that it is extremely hard that we should make these marriages impossible in this way, but do they realise that separation allowances in the Army are only paid in respect of soldiers over the age of 26? We often hear that we as a party are keen on class legislation, but when I asked the War Office what was the age at which an officer became entitled to allowances in respect of a wife, I was informed that the officer must be over 30—not 26 as in the case of the private. That, in a sense, is class legislation but it is against the class which we are supposed to represent rather than in their favour. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) made what I think was a very unhappy remark yesterday. He gave a figure of hundreds of thousands of young girls who would, he said, be forced either into suicide or prostitution. The total number of young women between 18 and 21 who are in the insurance scheme is well under half a million. I am glad to say that employment in regard to them is better than elsewhere and I am told that the total number unemployed cannot exceed 30,000.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir A. POWNALL
I am dealing with the point made by the hon. Member for Dundee in regard to "hundreds of thousands." I see he is now in his place and I repeat that figures which I have obtained show that the total number under the insurance scheme between these ages is under half a million and of that number the unemployed do not ex- 449 ceed 6 per cent., or, in other words, the total is less than 30,000. I think it was a very unfortunate suggestion to make. I do not believe that in most of these cases there will be any hardship at all. As we know, in many cases the young people live with their parents. Furthermore, 12 or 15 years ago, the elder sisters of these girls would not have had the 6s. or 8s. these girls will have in future, but nothing at all, and is it suggested that hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of girls 15 years ago, the elder sisters of those to whom the hon. Member referred, were driven to either of these alternatives? I think a suggestion of that sort, coming from the Front Bench opposite, unless it can be supported with figures, should not have been made.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I think the hon. Member will not dispute that I did not say there were hundreds of thousands unemployed, but in peril of unemployment, and every one of them, of these ages, would be in peril of those alternatives.
§ Sir A. POWNALL
This is what the hon. Member said:It means hundreds of thousands of women knowing, after this Bill passes, that there is no prospect for them but, as the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) said, either suicide or prostitution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1927; col. 307, Vol. 210.]I wish now to deal with two points raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain MacMillan). He rather deplored the habit of referring questions to Committees, and seemed to think that Ministers ought to decide many of these difficult questions without the advice that Committees can undoubtedly give. Anyone who knows the work that falls on Ministers in these days, will realise that, however carefully Ministers and their Departments may scrutinise the schemes that come before them, it is an almost invaluable aid to them to have outside people of intelligence and experience, drawn, if possible, from all political parties, and from those who have no political predilections at all, who can do what the Blanesburgh Committee did, namely, consider for many months, sift evidence, and go into all these questions. It is one of the great advantages that we have in this country that we have so many of those who are public-spirited 450 and self-sacrificing enough to give assistance to the Government, such as has been given by the Blanesburgh Committee, and by many hundreds of local employment committees up and down the country. When my hon. and gallant Friend suggested that it was better that Ministers should act on their own convictions, I could not help remembering the criticism often directed at Ministers that they will not take the advice of committees which they have appointed to advise them, and I am very glad indeed that in this Bill at all events, with the exception of finance, the Committee's advice has been followed.
One further point with which my hon. and gallant Friend dealt was the possibility of wage group insurance. I quite admit that it opens up very interesting possibilities, but I ask those who advocate it to think what would happen in areas such as we have had in recent years, where unemployment has risen as high as 25 per cent., 30 per cent., and 35 per cent. My view with regard to unemployment insurance is very much the same as it is in regard to fire insurance, and it has been mentioned by my right hon. Friend and by the hon. Lady opposite. I believe you have to make your areas as wide as you can in order that the bad area may be helped out by the good area. No insurance company would consider insuring, say, Newcastle or any specific area as a whole against fire. They obviously try to spread their risks up and down the country and, if they get a chance, up and down the world, and, to my mind, to allow industries to run their own unemployment insurance is impracticable for that reason, because no industry could, in a time of bad trade, face the amount that would have to be paid by both employers and employed in order to make the scheme self-supporting at a time when the greatest demands were being made upon the particular industry.
We have had some 12 or 14 Insurance Bills in the last few years, and I hope most earnestly that, with the experience which we have gained in these years and with the invaluable Report of the Blanesburgh Committee, this may be the final Bill for many years to come. I know quite well that hon. Members opposite may not agree with me, but I ask them to remember that we have had an extraordinarily difficult task both as re- 451 gards legislation and administration, in dealing with unemployment insurance, and I ask them to remember also that this country of ours, in regard to this particular social experiment, has set an example. Not only Conservatives, but Liberals, who started it, and the Coalition, who carried it on, are responsible. It has been the work of all parties, a work of social legislation which I honestly believe, with all its faults, is an example to the whole world.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I would like at the outset to express my appreciation of the excellent analysis of the Bill that we had from the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney). I could not help feeling that if destructive criticism could be effective in this House, at the close of that speech the Minister would have taken the shattered remains of his Measure and scattered them to the winds, but notwithstanding the statement of a previous speaker that criticism is welcomed in this House, we know from experience that the majority on the other side will prevail, however stupid may be its proposals. The speech of the hon. and learned Member was very different from one that we had a little time earlier from the hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth). I am sorry if he is not present at the moment, but I am not sure that we should take him too seriously. He is a young man, scarcely beyond the age of those who are expected under this Bill to live on 10s. or 8s. a week, and perhaps age and experience may bring him more knowledge, but I could not suppress the feeling, when he referred to the speeches of my hon. Friends here as humbug and hypocrisy, that he would change his view if he, like them, had been brought face to face with the victims of the unemployment which we are discussing this afternoon.
A great deal has been said about the remarkable features of this Bill. To me, the most remarkable, the most prominent feature of it is that one of the strongest Capitalist Governments of our times should publicly and officially declare that under the competitive system we must be always prepared to carry an unemployed army of three-quarters of a million. Does the House, a House that is accustomed to the difficulties of busi- 452 ness, internal and international, a House that has to discuss these problems day after day, realise what a tremendous admission of incompetency that is to make, that a country which is fond of proclaiming its poverty, which is fond of stating that there are difficulties in the way of producing a sufficiency, should have to admit that we cannot arrange our industrial affairs in any other way than that three-quarters of a million of willing wealth-producers should be compelled to stand aside in a condition of semi-starvation because they cannot find an opportunity of exercising their skill and giving the country the benefit of their labour-power? Apparently, the great day of remembrance in the industrial history of the future will be that day when we bring down the number of the unemployed to 6 per cent. of the whole industrial army.
There seemed to be common agreement in the course of the Debate that this unemployed army would require to be fed, but I was struck by a statement made by one of the speakers on the other side this afternoon that there was justification in the earlier days of what is called this trade depression for paying unemployment benefit, but that it should have been confined to the people who served in the Army. One can easily appreciate the mentality from which such an opinion was expressed. You must feed the people who are threatened with starvation, for self-protection, but the feeding should have been confined to the men who could shoot. Why should you have extended it to the peaceful ones? Why should you try to placate the starving mob of people who had been brought up to believe in peace in industry, even when they were starving? People who were capable of making trouble should be treated quite differently. If that is not an incitement to the workers of this country to make themselves troublesome, I cannot understand what incitement is. It means that if they would be boisterous and revolutionary and make it uncomfortable for the people who are responsible for the system that keeps them oppressed, they would get consideration, but if they belonged to the patient section of the community, then why should this House trouble them with its serious consideration?
I said just now that it was common ground that these people ought to be fed, 453 but I think we approach this question from two distinct points of view. I think I may speak for all the Members on this side when I say that we believe the unemployed man is entitled to his full income during a period of unemployment. We justify that by pointing out that you have deprived him of all the means of earning the necessaries of life, that you have displaced him from the land and the machinery and all the means of production, and that you have allowed these to get into the hands of a small group of people, believing that that arrangement was best in the interests of the country; but that brought with it an obligation on the ruling class and on the owning class of this country, and the obligation was to see that, when the means of earning his living had been taken from this man and placed in the hands of others, when they failed to provide him with a means of earning his living, they were entitled to compensate him for the loss. That is not the view of the party on the other side of the House.
The hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan) has been flattered by frequent references to a speech he made yesterday. I want to do him the honour of referring to him also. He said that there had always to be a close relation between the scales of unemployment benefit and the wages paid in the country. Anyone who understands the economics of industry in the most elementary manner agrees with that; the same thing applies to the Poor Law. If there be in this Measure some things which Members, taking these things in themselves, cannot understand, they may be able to understand them when they bear in mind the view of the party opposite, that you must keep closely and constantly in your mind the relation between the scales of benefit and the wages paid to the employed worker. We are now living in a period when the tendency is to reduce wages. I do not think we can get from the Government to-day any assurance that the downward tendency has reached bedrock. Just as you have to remember the scale of benefit in connection with the scale of wages, you must watch this Government's legislation in relation to the wages paid in the workshops outside. It is necessary to be continually nibbling at the benefits of the unemployed in order to make it easier 454 to deal with the employed. They want a very wide margin between the income of the unemployed man and what the same man would get in the workshop. They try to justify that by saying that it is in the interests of the nation to force them into the workshop. They cannot maintain that argument, because there is not to-day, under the competitive system, room for all the people within the workshops. What they mean is that they want to force men into the workshop at a lower rate than the men at present in the workshop in order that the man with the higher wage may be forced out to get his lesson in the ranks of the unemployed.
Therefore, when they bring forward a scheme, for instance, which says that an unemployed man between 18 and 21 years of age is to exist on 10s. a week, we have to seek elsewhere than on the face of it for the reason for such a dastardly proposal. Not one of them can say that he can live on 10s. a week. Not one of them who smokes would say that he could provide himself with cigars and cigarettes on 10s. a week. No one would pretend that a man of 20 could exist on such an income. We must therefore look elsewhere for the meaning of the proposal. A man at 20 years of age, unmarried, can live on less than a married man with dependants. The object of this legislation is to force this young man, through a process of semi-starvation, to break through the rules of trade unionism and enter industry at a lower rate of wages than the married man in industry to-day. I hope my friends on this side of the House are not going to be led away by statements that there is not a class war in industry to-day. This class war penetrates. It is not a war that takes place in the streets. It is a war that penetrates every avenue and every pore of the industrial system. The party opposite is representative of the class which is oppressing the workers, and they are using their majority to put on the Statute Book legislation which will help the class they represent in dealing with the wages of the workers outside. Our general fundamental difference is that, in approaching this problem, they want to reduce the man to suit the industrial system; we want to reconstruct the industrial system to suit human nature. In other words, we want to make the 455 system the servant of the community instead of making the community the servant of the system.
A speaker on the other side pointed out yesterday the identical class interest you have in a question like this. He pointed out that when you have a million unemployed, they are not always the same unemployed. You have your ins and outs. I might point out to the last speaker that, in dealing with those thirty or forty thousand girls, who are being asked to live on 8s. a week when other women are paying 650 guineas for fur coats to cover themselves, it is not the same girls who have to go through the mill. If some of them are to be damaged goods, they are all to be damaged goods by the operation of the Tory Government. It is well that the Members on this side of the House should remember that the million unemployed are not a stationary army and that they should point out to the workers, who are in employment, that what the present army of unemployed are suffering will be the fate of the million now employed who are to be the victims to-morrow. They are all liable to be ins and outs, with comparatively small exceptions. I hope that they will realise that this problem of unemployment and the necessity for finding for it a practical and final solution is one that is of the very deepest interest to the entire working class.
You are having in this Measure to-day a practical demonstration of the hypocrisy of the "Peace in Industry" movement. Where is there to-day any peace? Is this Measure now before the House a contribution to peace? Are you going to ask the girl, 20 years of age, to whom you are going to give a vote next year to be peaceful in industry on 8s. a week? Are you going to ask the man of 20, who, if we were going through a period of international war, would have had two years' experience in the trenches of Europe on behalf of the nation, to believe that he is to get down on his knees and embrace the master class who offer him 10s. a week for maintenance? Why, if you could have peace in industry under those conditions, you would have a practical demonstration of the entire lack of spirit in the ranks of the working class. You are thinking of a people that do not exist in this country if you think 456 you can have "Peace in Industry" under those conditions. The people who made Britain what it is are not the people who would submit to the treatment meted out to the working class today and the people who will bring Britain out of its difficulties are not the people who will submit tamely to these hypocritical appeals, but will assert their manhood and their womanhood in demanding for the British people a decent standard of living.
The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) very effectively pointed out that it is one of the surprising features of this Measure that it should receive support from the industrialists and shopkeepers of this country. I must say that if I were a Conservative and not a Socialist I should still vote against the Measure. What do we hear from the other side of the House about the difficulties of industry? We hear that they are overburdened with heavy rates. Yet the object of this Bill is to push on to the shoulders of the ratepayers some hundreds of thousands of people who to-day are not on the ratepayers. Then you go to the ratepayers at election time and tell them the Socialists put up the rates and not the Tory Government. You tell them that in many districts where they have not even a Socialist representative. If I were an employer and a Conservative, I should object to the whole principle of this Measure. It is admitted that the whole people of this country are not engaged in industry, and that many of those who draw the largest incomes are not engaged in industry. I can remember industrialists on the Clyde repeatedly pointing out to me the difficulties placed in their path by the great financiers of the country. Why should these industrialists support a policy which allows the interest-drawing section of the community to escape and places the whole burden upon the very people who are oppressed by difficulties to-day? Why should the shipyard owner, the steel manufacturer, or the mineowner allow the interest-drawing section of the community to escape and allow the burden of maintaining the unemployed to be placed on the shipyards, the steelworks, and the mines. Is not that an obvious way of preventing these industries being placed on their feet? Surely, that is not the way to enable them to compete with 457 foreigners and get more orders. That is the very way to make costs higher, orders fewer, and to compel them to add more and more to the ranks of the unemployed.
The Minister could not suggest to the minds of the industrialists of this country one solid method by which the number of unemployed in this country could be reduced. He has done nothing during his period of office to solve this problem. He has sat down and taken it as something that has to be endured because it cannot be cured. He believes that some day trade will revive, but he does not know. He cannot give any reasons for the faith that is in him. He cannot tell us why trade should revive. He cannot tell us why we are in a period of depression. It would be as easy to prove we are in a period of boom in trade as to prove we are going through a period of depression. He believes there will be a revival because he hopes for a revival to take him out of his difficulties. He reminds me of a mentally defective man of my youth who always got a holiday in the midst of frost. If you met him at 12 o'clock at night in the midst of a downpour of rain, he was always quite certain there would be frost before morning. The same thing applies to the Government. They are quite satisfied in believing, without doing anything to justify the belief, that trade is going to improve. The only thing they have devised in reducing the number of unemployed is to strike them off the roll of those who get unemployment benefit. That is the only way! So you have the explanation of the 30 weeks' stamps. The object is to reduce the number of people who will be registered. It is the old idea that if you keep throwing them about enough from one to another they will eventually be lost. Throw them to the guardians, throw them to the dogs, or anywhere, and you will somehow lose them. I am sure there will be statistical justification and support for this in the Ministry of Labour.
Those of us who represent industrial areas know that there are lots of people who are out of employment in more than 17 or 18 months within a period of two years. Just think of it. Even people who are in employment—what happens to them? They come out and exhaust their benefit, and other people who are out get jobs and come back and work for three months, and then they are out again, but 458 they get no benefit when they are out, and they get another period of employment for two months and then they are thrown out again. They are not unemployed within the meaning of the Act and cease to be beneficiaries under the scheme of His Majesty's Government. That is the only contribution that this Government hope to make to a reduction in the number of registered unemployed. The whole idea is farcical. Any ordinary man would admit that the longer the person is unemployed and out of wages the greater is his need. But the Government proceed on the principle that if he is sufficiently long out of employment and therefore deeper and deeper into poverty, that is a justification for striking him out of the ranks of those who are to receive unemployment benefit. Indeed you are to punish a man for being unemployed under a Bill which aims at giving benefits to a person who is unemployed. The person who most needs your help is to be deprived of it.
Reference has been made to a remark which was made on this side of the House yesterday about the unfortunate temptation placed in the way of girls of 18 to 21 who have no means of livelihood except the income of 8s. a week. It has been said it is an insult to our young womanhood to say that they would sell their virtue if they did not get high wages. We know, of course, that there are many people who will sell their virtue no matter what their incomes are. We are all familiar with them. We on this side have as much respect for the girls who have been the victims of this as has any other section of the House. After all, they are the girls, in many cases, of men who sit on these benches. But you know that if you leave girls dependent on the pickings that they can get from the rich, from the class of men who can pay 600 guineas for a coat for a woman, you are placing their virtue in jeopardy. We all know that. What is the use of saying you do not? You are asking them to put their virtue against their lives. They cannot live on 8s. a week. They have nothing to sell but their virtue. You have robbed them of everything; you have left them with nothing else to sell and then you will say that these women, so noble, so pure, so excellent in character, will die rather than let their virtue go. You pay a tribute to them that I cannot pay to the class to which you belong.
459 Then we heard a lot of intellectual wanderings from the party opposite about the mobility of labour. If you could have more mobility of labour and if you could get more training for the young you would solve this problem. Where is the sense of that? In what are you going to train them? Where is the mobility to be? Are you going to send engineers to be miners, and miners to be engineers? Are you going to send unemployed painters to be joiners where there are already unemployed joiners? Are you going to train the young to be joiners, to be engineers, to be clothing manufacturers—to be what? I do not know of any industry in this country that is short of labour. I am told that even in greyhound racing—one of the few prosperous industries we have—there are no vacancies, and that you cannot, even with the influence of a Member of Parliament, get a situation in this highly-favoured industry. I do not see where there is any justification for the belief in the mobility of labour, the sending of South Wales miners to be shipbuilders on the Clyde, or sending unemployed shipbuilders at Glasgow to be miners in South Wales. I really cannot see anything in that except a sheer waste of time and an offence to the intelligence of the people who have to listen to it. It is true it might help the railway companies, for you might, by keeping your unemployed army floating up and down this country from day to day be able to take on a few more engine drivers and a few more porters, and in that way you might affect the quantity of unemployment.
Then, we are told if you could only have more emigration and only get rid of the workers this would be the best country in the world. The belief prevails that if you could take a million of the workers and ship them to Australia, you would have no unemployed. That is humbug, sheer nonsense. You are suffering from unemployment because you have not sufficient market for your goods, and the idea is that if you take a million of your customers and send them to Australia, the market would be better. If you take a million customers and send them to Australia, the unemployed to-morrow would be 1¼ million instead of a million. There must be some intelligent people on the other side who are advising the Government against attempting such an idiotic method of solving the problem.
460 There is only one way out of the difficulty, and you may tinker and play with it until you go to your grave and you will never solve it until you tackle it at its root. You have reached the stage at which your competitive system of distributing wealth has made it impossible for the majority of the people to buy things sufficiently rapidly to keep industries going; and the only way out of the difficulty—the one that you will be compelled to face to save Britain from going down to ruin—is to place in the hands of this great toiling multitude sufficient purchasing power to make them a market for the goods that could be produced in quantities beyond our estimation by the modern methods of production. That is the only way. The way is not by reducing wages. If you do that you weaken your market and add to the unemployed. Every time you increase wages you increase the demand for goods and for the production of goods and for the importation of goods. It is only when you get down to the national organisation of industry, to the national distribution of wealth, to the placing of Britain superior to the individual advantages to be gained to-day in the competitive system, that you will really have touched the problem. The problem of unemployment is the cancer working into the competitive system to-day, and unless you deal with that system while it can be cured by operation, that cancer of unemployment will bring Britain to its grave.
There are one or two points I would like to put to the Minister. In an endeavour to give stability to our unemployment insurance system the Blanesburgh Report offered a basis of equal contribution for the permanent scheme. They also suggested that the present deficit in the funds should be overtaken by temporary contributions of equal incidence. The Bill before the House accepts many of the recommendations of the Report, but in the matter of equal contributions it seems to depart from the spirit of compromise so admirably exemplified in the Blanesburgh Report. We know we are a long way from the 6 per cent. average of unemployment which was the basis of the Report. We know that the fund now is heavily in debt, but this fact was known to the Committee and they reached agreement in respect of the problems that were raised by this deficit. 461 I am not questioning that the Government justify the scale in the Bill. Let us assume that in failing to establish equal contributions the Government were overborne by necessity. This Bill lays down the scale of the Act of 1925 as amended by the Economy Act of 1926. As far as we know, the future alterations and adjustments may be covered by considerations of expediency rather than by any principle such as we now have a chance of establishing. The Blanesburgh Report recommended not only equal basic rates; they suggested also the expedient of reducing the debt by this temporary additional contribution. It may not be possible to go the whole way with them, but is it not possible in this Bill to recognise the principle of equal basic rates, and, if necessary, to make up the difference between these rates and the rates laid down in this Bill by additional temporary contributions, if necessary of varying amounts? I mean that of the workers' contribution of 7d. under this Bill 5d. might be recognised as the basic rate and 2d. as the temporary additional one. Of the employers' 8d., 5d. would be the basic rate and 3d. would be the temporary additional contribution.
That would not alter the finance of the Bill, and I submit that it would go a long way to establish, or rather to re-establish, the principle that was embodied in the Act of 1924 and is recommended by the Blanesburgh Report, but which now seems to be in danger of going the same way as many counsels of perfection have to go. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell me whether the Government accept the principle of equal contributions towards the reduction of the debt, and whether they contemplate adopting it when circumstances permit. I think it is fair to say, as was said, I think, by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) that a considerable portion of the present debt is really attributable to the fact that the Government's contribution was reduced under the Economy Act. I need not remind the House of the many cogent arguments in favour of equal contributions which were advanced by the Blanesburgh Report. Many of us welcome the unanimity of that Report. We were prepared to accept the recommendations made and the principles laid down unanimously by the Committee, and some of us are not 462 quite convinced that this Bill keeps as close to the recommendations and the spirit of the Report as it might. If the Government would give some indication of their future policy I think they would do a greater deal to allay the disappointment caused by this Bill where it departs from the Blanesburgh Report.
I think it is one of the great misfortunes of this Parliament that when we are discussing the work of, perhaps, the most important Department of all from the point of view of the mass of the people we get suggestions and proposals from Ministers which hardly do the Department justice. I was called away yesterday in the middle of the Minister's opening speech, but I spent a considerable time to-day reading and rereading that speech, and I find that except for a certain pompous gravity about nothing it leaves us just as innocent with regard to any proposals he may have—if he has any—for dealing with the problem of unemployment as we were before, and I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary, if he is to reply tonight, to add to that ebullition of unintelligible goodwill which he always gives us some definite explanation of the Bill as a whole. I shall vote against the Second Reading of the Bill first of all, apart from the question of any lack in the allowances which it gives to the unemployed, on the ground that I should think any Member of any party must be disgusted with a Government which, after three years of office with a stable majority during which they have not made a single proposal which has resulted in finding work for any number of men and women, still have no, solution of the problem and merely say "We will knock a shilling or two off the benefit of the young people and take a shilling off the benefit of the single men and add it to that of the married men."
They have ignored the fact that according to their scheme more than a million of our people must live permanently below the poverty line, and, judging by the statement of the Minister yesterday and the statements of many of his colleagues on public platforms, in the view of the Government these people can have no hope of ever again raising themselves to the status of decently paid, decently occupied, and self-respecting citizens. One need not label oneself 463 a Socialist or a Liberal or a Communist or a Conservative to begin to feel despair, as one of a body of 615 men and women appointed by the people of this country to try to solve the troubles and difficulties with which the country is faced, on being told by the Government—which, I am sure, claims to be as good as any other Government that could be got together with the Members of this House—that they propose to starve permanently a fluctuating million of our population.
When I was in my constituency on Tyneside shortly before the House met I went through several of the larger engineering works and other industrial establishments. In one large engineering place the night shift, when the shop was fully working, used to include 30 skilled and highly-trained fitters. Now four only are employed. Four fitters get work, and 26 are out on the streets without work. The reason which they gave me was perfectly understandable. During the War the science of making machinery was made so much more mathematically exact, the different parts of an engine are now turned out with so much more precision, that only four fitters are needed to do the work on that shift which 30 fitters were needed to do before the War. What holds good of that particular shift in that particular shop holds good throughout every shipbuilding, boilermaking and engineering shop in the country, quite apart from what is going on in other trades. That is a serious problem to be faced. To those of us who are Socialists it is always amazing to note that directly man finds a better way of doing anything, directly we discover how to make engines more perfect than they were before, 26 out of 30 men have to suffer unemployment and poverty—all because the world has discovered a way of becoming richer than it was before. I do not think there is any Member sitting on the opposite side of the House who can tell us of a single invention brought in which has not had the extraordinary effect of causing increased poverty amongst the masses of the people, although it has brought a great deal of wealth to a few people.
The proposals put forward in this Bill merely tinker with this great problem. Other speakers both from this side of 464 the House and the other side have dealt adequately with the moral side of these proposals, but I would suggest that not only are they wrong on the moral side, they are absolutely absurd from the business point of view, although I am not among the hon. Members who claim to be experts on industry and business. Everybody says we must do something for the unemployed. Hon. Members opposite vie with each other, in what I have no doubt are perfectly genuine statements, in saying they would like to find more work for the unemployed. At the same time, by these contributory systems, they deliberately set themselves out to handicap the chances of men to get employment, because they are placing the burdens of widows' pensions or unemployment insurance, not on the backs of the community as a whole, but on the backs of those who, they always declare, are least able to bear the burden. The largest employers of industry are not necessarily the wealthiest people. At one time in the history of this country, and not so long ago, the way to get rich was to get a large number of people to work directly for you, and then to abstract so much from the result of each one's labours, in that way increasing your own banking account. That system has now become obsolete. As a rule, those who employ directly large masses of labour are not the people who are reaping the richest gains from the undoubted wealth and prosperity of the country. The people who are reaping the richest fruit are those who in any Bill brought in are always carefully exempted from any payment at all for the very evils which they bring about.
A man who is making for himself an income of £1,000, £2,000, £3,000, £4,000 or £5,000 a year by directly running an industry and directly employing several hundred people has to pay, under all these contributory schemes, what amounts in total to a very large sum. Another man keeping a bucket shop somewhere in the centre of London and employing a couple of girl clerks robs the great middle class, the aged, widows, and country parsons by all manner of dubious transactions, and draws several thousand pounds out of his business—making, I have no doubt, a suitable contribution to his local Conservative Association. That man bears none of the burdens which the Government are continually imposing 465 upon industry through these contributory proposals. That is the first criticism I have to make of the principle of these proposals from the industrial point of view; but surely there is an even more damaging criticism which should be levelled against them from the benches opposite. Some few months ago I asked questions of the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health to find out how much had been spent in the town of Gateshead in unemployment relief paid through the Employment Exchange and in Poor Law relief through the board of guardians during a period of three years since the War. The total amount spent in that one small industrial town was a colossal sum of something between £2,000,000 and £2,500.000. I think it was a period of four years and not three. There is not a man, woman or child in that town who is any better permanently for all that money which has been expended, simply because the money has been spent on small doles which keep the people at the bare subsistence level, instead of having been expended in a big broad and courageous attempt to put the industries of the town and of the country on their feet.
If this country has spent in reconstruction only three-quarters of the amount it has spent on schemes of this nature we should have been in a very different position to-day. We have to face the real facts. However much lip service the Members of the present Government may pay to the desirability of doing away with unemployment, we all know that the last thing a Conservative Government want to do is to abolish unemployment. If the Government knew how to find work for every unemployed man and woman in this country they would not do it and I will tell the House why. The reason is that directly they found work for the unemployed, or provided them with adequate maintenance, there would be no unemployed labour; there would be no men standing in the streets outside the dock gates and the factories, and the consequence would be that engineers who are now working for 45s. per week and miners who are working for 35s. per week would not work for those wages directly the unemployed menace was removed. The wages of those men would go up and the profits of employers would diminish. As a matter of fact, unless you can keep 466 a large army of unemployed the profits of manufacturers will go altogether and Toryism and the British capitalistic system will fall to the ground. That is why the Government do not wish to remedy the unemployment problem, and even if they knew the way to do it they would never dream of carrying their plan into effect.
In my own constituency, before the War, between 2,000 and 2,500 were employed in the glass industry. Since the War that industry has been almost completely shut up. It is not a big industry in which any large merchant princes are interested, and consequently the Government have refused to help it. An application was made by this industry to the Safeguarding Committee of the Board of Trade. It is an industry declining for lack of capital, and it suffers because it is brought into unfair competition with very cheap and sweated labour abroad. Nevertheless the Safeguarding Committee refused to assist it. I do not say that the best way to save this industry is the one usually adopted by the Safeguarding Committee, but, if the Government were honest enough to say "We will protect that industry providing the price to the consumer is safeguarded and the wages of the worker are safeguarded," I should go into the Lobby with them at any time. As a matter of fact, the Government will not do anything but safeguard the profits of the employers. If the men and women thrown out of work in that industry were paid the proper trade union rate of wages, instead of the miserable pittance that they have been getting, that industry might have been kept going, and they would have been able to hold their own against foreign competition.
The result is that the same thing is occurring at Gateshead as in the whole country. You are pouring millions of money out in support of tinkering schemes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asks us to unite in a great campaign for economy and after that you find Ministers coming down to this House proposing every kind of tinkering and pettifogging way of wasting the money which is so badly needed to put the industries of the country on a proper footing. The whole of the business and moral side of the proposals contained in this Measure have been riddled. We 467 have proved clearly that our industries are over-capitalised and require to be reorganised on a different footing. As a matter of fact, the supporters of the Government, while professing economy on the platform, are engaged practising extravagance in the policy they have adopted.
Before giving this Measure a Second Reading, I think hon. Members should consider the effect it will have upon the unfortunate people who will come under its provisions. The Minister of Labour praised very highly the administration of the local Employment Exchanges and the local employment committees. I do not wish to criticise the action of any public servants who cannot reply, and I do not want to criticise any committee of voluntary workers who are giving their time to this work, but all those who have been dealing with these matters for some time know that both the employés of the Ministry of Labour and the voluntary committees take the advice of the Minister of Labour. Consequently, their decisions depend very largely upon the nature of the Circulars and Memoranda issued by the Ministry, and they are ruled by the general attitude which is taken up at Whitehall. Those of us who represent industrial towns know that we cannot visit our constituencies without being surrounded by men and women who exist in the most extreme state of poverty, and who have been robbed of their unemployment donation under the administration of the Minister of Labour. When I go down to my constituency I make a point of examining the conditions under which the people are living. I think it is a standing disgrace that on account of some pettyfogging circular issued by the Ministry of Labour people in that condition who are genuinely seeking employment are deprived of benefit. One hon. Member who spoke from the opposite side suggested that we ought to be more lenient when dealing with the men who fought in the Army. I have here a letter from a man in that position, who encloses his Mons and other medals. I know the man's home and the conditions under which he is living at the present time. He has been turned out of his home, and he cannot get any unemployment benefit, although he has tramped the boots off his feet looking for work. He has sent his 468 medals to me, and he says that the pawnshops will not take them. This man writes:I would hand these medals to Baldwin myself, but will you give them to him with my compliments, and tell him I think he will know what to do with them.I do not know what he means by that, but when I sit down I will hand them to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, who can present them to his Chief. I would suggest that they should be put into a frame, presented to the Carlton Club, and hung up there as a trophy of what Toryism did for the people who fought in the Great War.
§ Mr. SHORT
It is indeed a tragedy to be debating to-night the terms of a Bill which it has been generally admitted will do little to solve the difficulties and lessen the sufferings of the great mass of the people. It does not seem to be realised at the present moment that we have a permanent army of unemployed, and that the industries of our country are quite incapable of absorbing the great army of people we have to provide for. I have heard it said on more than one occasion that the present is an abnormal period. I have given much consideration to that aspect of the question, and I have reviewed with great care the condition of our basic industries. I am inclined to the opinion, and I see nothing to discourage me in my belief, that it is impossible for those who control industry to reorganise our industries upon a basis which will ensure the rapid absorption of the existing army of unemployed.
I have waited for some hon. Member on the other side of the House to get up and tell us in what manner it is proposed to solve this problem and to provide work far the unemployed. In no single speech which has been made by hon. Members opposite have I discovered any suggestion beyond that involved in the phrase "a revival of trade." When we consider the great basic industries we find, for example, that the coal-mining industry is quite incapable of employing all those who have hitherto been engaged in that industry, and there are over 200,000 miners thrown upon the streets at the present time who are never likely to be absorbed in that industry again. In the shipbuilding industry as a result of increased 469 mechanism and improved methods of production, we find similar conditions prevailing, and throughout all those industries there is a lack of ability to appreciate that something will have to be done, and some action taken far more profound and certain than the provisions which are embodied in this Bill.
It is a matter of regret to me that there appears to be no one sitting on the Benches opposite ready to reply to the very serious charges which have been levelled by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) and make some attempt to answer the fundamental issues which the right hon. Gentleman has raised. Therefore, we are thrown back upon a consideration of the provisions of the Bill which, if carried into effect, will do little to assist the unemployed, but much to aggravate the difficulties associated with the problem. First of all, I ask whether the provisions of this Measure will relieve the necessities and financial difficulties of our local authorities. The constituency which I represent is an industrial town and quite 95 per cent. of my constituents are industrial workers. During the past few years we have suffered very much from unemployment, and the poor rate in my district is the highest single item of expenditure among all the other items which make up the total rate paid by the citizens of Wednesbury. I see nothing in this Bill which will reduce that rate. And let me say that, as I look for relief for local authorities, I look also for relief for employers, the captains of industry. Whatever may be my opinions—and I hold strong opinions, which I express in this House—I frequently meet employers of labour in my constituency, and they are ever complaining of the growing burden of local rates, the growing burden of charges placed upon their industry as a result of legislation introduced into this House.
I see no relief in regard to rates so far as the employers are concerned, and if it be true, as they tell me, that they are severely handicapped, that their trade is languishing, that its revival is retarded because of this burden, local and incidental to their industry, I should have thought that a Tory Government would have exercised its intelligence and 470 devoted its machinery to the provision of means whereby this hardship could be relieved. It would appear that the policy embodied in the provisions of this Bill is in conformity with the general policy of the Government, for the Government have supported every movement to lower the standard of wages of the workers; and, just as they have moved in that direction, they are now moving in the direction of reducing the benefits of the unemployed who are governed by the provisions of the Bill. While I welcome the fact that this benefit will be given as a statutory right, and while the Minister is to be congratulated on having rid himself of his discretion, yet at the same time the abolition of extended benefit, despite the carry-over of six months, will throw thousands upon the rates of our localities. Our means are limited; the burden is already too great to be carried; and yet at this hour we are asked to pass a Bill which has such fearful consequences to the people whom we represent.
Much reference has been made to the creation of a new class, but, as has been rightly pointed out by previous speakers, no evidence which appeals to our intelligence has been laid before us to justify the inclusion of this new class. I shall not refer here to the morality of the question. In my own constituency I have made that clear, and I stand by what I have said. But it will have more than that effect. There will undoubtedly be a tendency for employers to supersede adult labour by the employment of young people, with corresponding evil effects in lowering the standard of wages and life of the people. I was interested in the statement made, I think, by the hon. Member for East Lewisham (Sir A. Pownall), one of the Parliamentary private secretaries of the Minister of Labour. He seemed to think that the parents would be able to keep these young people. I am told in my constituency that the weekly wages of certain workers following skilled occupations, or what are supposed to be skilled occupations, are 36s. for a 47-hour week. I think the value of £1 to-day, as compared with pre-War, is in the neighbourhood of 12s., and I would ask how those parents will be able to maintain themselves and also these young persons with benefits of 8s. or 10s., when the wage of the father is in the neighbourhood of 471 36s. a week. I can see them being driven to the Poor Law, with all its humiliation and its accompanying ravages.
The right hon. Gentleman congratulated himself upon the benefits provided. He gives with one hand and takes away with the other; but he takes more with the hand with which he takes away than he gives with the hand with which he gives. I think it is a most immoral proceeding. I believe it is based upon what is termed the balance of advantage, but the advantage is with him, despite the serious financial ravages already made upon the Fund by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the reduction had been one of, say, 1s., and if there had been any corresponding reduction in contributions, I will not say I would have supported it, but I should have had some encouragement. There is, however, no corresponding reduction in the contribution in this case. I should have thought, having regard to the state of industry, that the Ministry and its experts would have been able to reduce the entire contributions of employer and employed by at least one-half, and, with proper organisation, to give much larger benefits than provided in the Bill.
I want to say in addition a word or two about two other Clauses which have not up to now received much attention from the House. Clause 6, which governs the payment of benefit in cases of trade disputes, was referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney). I have always been interested in this question. Ever since I came into the House, I have engaged in many battles for the inclusion of appropriate words to safeguard the interests of men who are thrown out of employment during a strike or dispute though they are not involved, and, in conjunction with Sir Edward Carson, now Lord Carson, we have carried on a long fight. I am not, and never have been, satisfied with the words in the existing law, but the words proposed by the Minister of Labour in the Labour Government, if adopted in their entirety without alteration, would have gone a long way to solve this difficulty. We were defeated, but in the Committee we succeeded in getting a form of words included governing wage agreements, 472 which to some extent met one at any rate of the serious points involved. I see now that those words are to be excluded and others are to be put in which I venture to think worsen the position. I regard the Clause as it stands as reactionary and retrograde, and I hope that the Minister will seriously consider, during the Committee stage, various Amendments which will seek to improve the position in that respect. Then there is Clause 10, which empowers the Court of Referees, I presume, or other Court of Inquiry, to take evidence upon oath. In the first place I see nothing in the Clause which compels an employer to attend. The employer on occasion makes statements respecting the misconduct of the man whose benefit is disallowed, and he is not there to defend his statement. I see nothing to compel him to attend.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)
I think the hon. Member does not understand the meaning of this Clause. It has nothing to do with the ordinary employer or employé when a claim to benefit is being heard. It is the type of inquiry that is sometimes held under the Ministry of Labour, as similar inquiries are held under the Ministry of Health and other Ministries, to see whether a whole group of persons are properly insured or are in a trade just outside. For the purpose of that kind of inquiry the Ministry of Health have found it is a great convenience to be able to take evidence on oath, and it is merely putting the procedure under the Ministry of Labour on the same footing as that under the Ministry of Health. It has nothing to do with the hearing of an ordinary claim.
§ Mr. SHORT
That will be welcome news, but I think I was justified in misunderstanding the real meaning and purpose of the Clause. I should like to make some reference to the absence of a recommendation in respect of the waiting period. I was hoping that the Blanesburgh Committee would make some recommendations upon this matter, but I assume that they were oppressed with the opinions of the Actuary, and possibly other evidence placed before them. I should like to see the waiting period abolished entirely. That may be too big a proposition to put to the right hon. Gentleman. He may tell me that it involves too much, 473 but when we recall that in 1925 the waiting period was increased from three days to six and a large mass of insured persons who became unemployed lost half a week's benefit, and that he saved somewhere in the neighbourhood of £6,500,000 in one year, we are entitled to a reconsideration of the waiting period. Some reference was made to the fact that this was based upon trade union policy. There is little analogy between a trade union catering for a limited number of people and a compulsory State insurance scheme to which three parties are contributing.
But if the waiting period cannot be abolished I should like to see it reduced to three days, to see it operating for a whole 12 months and not for six weeks, and to see benefit, as in the case of the majority of trade unions, paid from the first day of unemployment. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) referred to this last night and suggested that the bridge should be increased from six to 12 weeks, but he whittled it down to eight. He had little confidence in his proposal and little confidence in himself. He was astonished to find that it would cost £500,000; £500,000 when we have saved £6,500,000 at one slap by increasing the waiting period from three to six days; £500,000 when the Chancellor of the Exchequer reduced the grants to the fund! It seems to me to be absurd, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider, when we reach the Committee stage, whether this waiting period cannot be abolished, or reduced, and if he cannot reduce it, whether he can let it stand for a full period of 12 months. I will oppose nothing for the benefit of the unemployed worker, no matter how small, but if we are going to do anything, let us be generous, let us be big. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have accepted the worst features of the administration of the past. Let him try to retrieve his position by being generous in this respect.
I had not intended to take part in the discussion, but since it seems I may do so now while trespassing on a minimum number of Members I will make one or two observations which will bear more appropriately on the Committee stage of the Bill. My first remark is one on which 474 I think I shall command the agreement of the whole House, and that is a rare thing in the case of a Bill such as this. Is it quite impossible to hope that by virtue of successive protests we may at long last some day get a Bill which is intelligible to people without having to refer back to half-a-dozen other measures to understand it? This type of legislation by reference, apart from the fact that it confuses the lay public, which in many cases has to operate such a Bill, imposes a tax on the patience and time of Members of Parliament which in the case of a Measure of this importance is little less than a public scandal. It practically involves a species of jigsaw puzzle in piecing together the various Acts before we can get even a bird's-eye view of the legislation, and the regulations, which also have to be consulted, so that I hope the Minister the next time he presents a Measure of this kind will try to impress upon his colleagues and subordinates in the Bill Office that at least the House of Commons has an interest in seeing that these Measures are brought before it in something like reasonable form.
As regards the criticism we have heard from the opposite side, and also from this side, I am tempted to say that if I thought this Bill represented the Government's contribution towards a solution of the unemployment problem I should be just as critical or severe, along different lines perhaps, as any of the hon. Members who have discussed it from the opposite side. But I do not think it is that at all. I think it occupies a much more modest position in the Government's programme. It merely sets out to regularise the Act of Parliament, or the series of Acts of Parliament which are disappearing, to make, I hope, a mere temporary provision, and in so far as it alters those Acts does so in many respects which are, I think, a positive advantage. If it were the Government's contribution to the unemployment problem, it would have some very severe critics on this side of the House, and I hope the Minister, when he comes to consider the programme in the next Gracious Speech from the Throne, will impress upon his colleagues that there are many on this side who hope for a much more general and generous treatment of the subject than could possibly be obtained within the 475 limits of the present Bill. Is it possible to compress within the limits of an Unemployment Insurance Bill the various things that are at present dealt with under Unemployment Insurance Bills? That is one of the questions I want the Government to consider in any legislation they may undertake next year. It seems to me that at present within unemployment insurance there are compressed various things which are, as chemists say, irreconcileable. I do not think that what used to be uncovenanted benefit or extended benefit, I do not think the problem of what the Blanesburgh Committee call the residuum of 3 per cent. who are practically unemployables, could ever be treated as an insurance problem. I think, from that point of view, the Blanesburgh Committee were approaching the subject from a wrong angle and that the Government have unfortunately found their vision deflected by that Report.
There is one instance that I would like to select as supporting that proposition. The Blanesburgh Committee have recommended that the existing exemption of something like 400,000 railway men under the Unemployment Insurance Act should be continued. They also recommend—and on the most slender grounds possible, because they do not give arguments in support of it—in order to maintain the status quo, that the existing exclusion of domestic service and agricultural labour should be continued, upon what grounds, in a scheme which purports to be an insurance scheme, I fail to understand. The proposition seems to be one so remote from all the principles of insurance that it defeats the average man to understand it. As the proposition is, you must only bring within the terms of your so-called insurance scheme those trades which are going to have the worst possible risk. If that be so, it is futile to talk about it as an insurance scheme at all. But if we are going to keep up the idea that it is an insurance scheme should not we take every step that lies within our power to bring within the ambit of it all those occupations in which the risks are low and the contributions of which, therefore, are likely to be of the greatest benefit and result in the largest fund for distribution among the area of the distressed peoples? For that 476 reason, I regret very much that the Government followed the recommendation of the Blanesburgh Committee in omitting from the scheme those trades which, at the present time, are comparatively prosperous and which are comparatively free from unemployment.
The second point that I want to make is that there are many features of the existing unemployment insurance administration which find no mention at all in either the Blanesburgh Committee's Report or in the Bill itself. One of them is a feature which especially concerns my constituency, and so I shall be very much obliged if the Minister can give me an explanation of whether any alteration is contemplated. I refer to the position of seasonal workers. What is going to be their position under this Bill? Their existing condition is an unfortunate one. In many cases they work for such comparatively short periods that it is practically impossible for them ever to draw any benefit at all. Under the Bill, I am advised that it is possible to contemplate that some of these unfortunate seasonal workers will have to continue paying contributions for something like four or five years before they even make the qualifying contributions to enable them to draw benefit at all. That seems to be the case of a class of the community, who not by reason of the fact that they do not desire to work but by reason of the fact that their work only crops up in the normal course of events at certain times of the year, such as, for instance, the straw plaiters of Luton. These people are contributing to a fund from which they can hope to realise but the very slightest benefits. I hope that the Minister, if he is going to reply, will tell me something about what it is proposed to do for the benefit of seasonal workers.
There is another matter, a comparatively small but not an unimportant one, about which I should like the Minister to tell us something. It would appear, and it has been illustrated in the course of this Debate, that the unemployment returns, as they are at present issued from the Ministry, do not inform the public in any way as to what the position of unemployment is. It is really of very little use to chalk up, week after week, that so many hundred thousand people are unemployed. That 477 tells the public nothing, and it certainly does not assist us towards any constructive solution of the problem. I would invite my right hon. Friend to consider whether he cannot split up these returns so that they may show us how many people have been out of work for under 21 days, how many have been out of work for 21 days and over, up to a period of, say, 13 weeks, and how many people have been out of work for a period in excess of 13 weeks. I think that in that simple way not only would he prevent a great deal of the alarm which the figures create in the public mind, but he would also be enabling us to inform ourselves more fully as to the nature of the problems which must be dealt with in any final Measure which is brought in on this subject. If the labour be not too great, I should like to see those figures still further sub-divided into the ages which are recognised in the Bill.
Finally, bearing on the thesis that I think some day we shall have to face—as my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan), said last night—there is going to remain with you, as the Blanesburgh Committee recognise, this residuum of something like 3 per cent. of unemployables who are not touched by the Bill at all. Are you going to permit the local rates to be raised by further throwing on to the local ratepayers all the burdens of maintaining these people? That position, I venture to say, is one which, if it occurred, would not be tolerated for a moment. The tragedy of it is, that the very areas which desire and need the utmost relief from rates are the areas which will be still further depressed, still less able to bear their part in any industrial revival that may shortly come upon us. I do not think that that problem can ever be met under this or any other Unemployment Insurance Bill if you maintain the insurance character because those people are not insurable risks. I hope the Minister will bear that in mind, and also, if he is going to reply, that he will correct the unfortunate impression that was borne on my mind by a remark which he is reported to have made yesterday. I had not the privilege of hearing him, and it may be that he has been misreported, but what he said was 478 that it was necessary to take steps to exclude the man who does not want to get work. He said:I should be the last to say these are a numerous class, but so far as they exist they are not in the insurance field, and the test of this is the payment of 30 contributions in the last two years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1927; col. 209, Vol. 210.]I do not think for one moment that either the Minister or anybody else in this House, or indeed in the Country, thinks that all the people who have been unable to find 30 contributions in two years are people who are not genuinely seeking work. If that qualification is to be inserted as the test of the genuineness in seeking work, I do not think it is a fair one to take, and I am sure it is one that the Minister never intended to be applied in that way.
§ Mr. RITSON
The Minister, in introducing the Bill yesterday, compared it to a fire insurance. I think the supporters of the Bill behind him who throw cold water on the scheme seem to be the fire brigade. There is a good deal of reason why hon. Members opposite should oppose this Bill, because, even before the Blanesburgh Report, as since, they promised the workers that the time had come when they were to be given every class of work that was necessary, and that the stigma of unemployment was to be removed from them. They promised that at the General Election. To-night, we find a Bill which is putting us into a worse position than that in which we were before. I will cite the position of Durham. What is the use of putting in Clause 5 in regard to the 30 contributions for a place like Durham? Only yesterday, the county council of Durham met, and one of the Conservative members moved that the report of the Chairman of the Finance Committee be sent to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Labour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Minister of Health, in order to try to impress upon them the tremendous burden that was being borne by Durham. When one finds a Conservative town council and many Conservatives in other councils pressing local Members of Parliament to urge the Government that this ought to be borne nationally it is a very healthy sign. That is the sort of Socialism that they have dropped into because of the needs of the hour.
479 In Durham, which has been taken under the auspices of Lord Beaverbrook and people of that kind, we find that in 1924 we had 172,000 men employed in the mines. Some 15 months later we had 47,000 thrown out, and I would ask hon. Members to remember that not one of these men, apart from the time when we had the subsidy which brought back 22,000, has had a day's work since, and cannot possibly hope to get one. How they are going to qualify under this Bill, heaven only knows. I wish the Minister would give us an idea. [HON. MEMBERS: "They never will."] Then, they will have to live on the rates. Last September, 50,000 miners in the County of Durham were unemployed. We constitute one-fifth of the great coalfield of this country, and we are bearing a burden out of all proportion. We have been told to-day that one of the things that hits us in Durham in the competitive markets of the world, with all our wonderful steam and gas coal and coke, with all its wonderful calorific value, is the high rates which rest upon the industry, which have to go into the ascertainment month by month. The strange thing is that this Government who gave us a Bill not long ago which made that position possible, is now by its action throwing the men off the unemployment fund on to the rates to such an extent which it is utterly impossible for us to move. This Government, of all Governments, have placed Durham in a worse position than ever before.
Take the question of boys. We cannot send the boy into a pit until he is 14 years of age. I wish we could not send him until he is 16. We have an arrangement with the owners that our own boys shall start first, but when a boy of 14 goes to the colliery office he finds that there is big competition, and when he becomes 15 he is told that the owner will not employ him because he can get a boy of 14 cheaper, according to scale. That boy is passed on until he is 17, 18, 19 or 20 years of age. Where can he go to work? He has not served his time to be an engineer or an artisan of any kind, and simply because he is living in a colliery area where he expects to get work as his father did, he stays around the colliery villages, an absolute wreck, without blood or bone. Where is he to go? The idea is to send him into the Army. It is said 480 that there is plenty of room in the Army and the Navy. I am surprised that this Government, who claim all the patriotism that there is to claim, should attempt to put boys of that class into the Army. I wish they could see the letters that we get from the fathers and mothers, begging us to get their boys out of the Army. One would expect the man who goes into the Army to protect his country would be full of soul and zeal, but if you force him under economic circumstances into the Army, do you think he is going to be a good soldier? He will be nothing of the kind. If only the Government knew the bitterness amongst young soldiers to-day who have been forced into the Army, they would take up a different attitude.
With regard to girls, we have heard sneers about charity. We have heard a good deal about the girls between the ages of 16 and 18, and 18 and 21. I had an experience last week in the district where I live. A young woman was offered 10s. a week to work in a theatre from 10.30 in the morning until 10.30 at night. She refused the job, and the manageress, who found she was a capable girl and had great experience, reported her to the Employment Exchange with the result that her benefit was stopped. I am a member of the local committees and I took the opportunity of pleading the case. This was a young woman of 29 years of age, without father or mother. I wish the Minister and some of his supporters would remember that. The hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Sir A. Pownall) spoke as if these girls all had homes.
§ Mr. RITSON
God help us if they had not! You would not be here. The hon. Member says, "Very often." This is the case of a girl who had no home. She was in lodgings. She is a respectable girl, who has been very careful in every way. The Employment Exchange officials suggested that she might get tips. Is there any hon. Member here who believes in tips? I know that many of them do not believe in giving tips. None of us believe in living on a precarious thing such as a tip. To do the Committee credit I must say that after putting forward the case of this girl of 29, who had been offered 10s. a week and had been struck off because she refused the job, they did her justice. As a father of a large family I know that if there is one 481 thing certain—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is, that they are a trouble to keep!"] They may be a trouble to keep, but I am very pleased to keep them so long as I have the money. I would rather have my own children, knowing that they are mine, than I would have all the wealth represented on the other side of the House and be doubtful about them. As the father of a family, I know that if there is a time when a girl takes a pride in herself, or ought to do, it is between the ages of 18 and 21. The girl of 18 wants to be as smart as possible in order to attract other things besides jobs. They have generally got their eye on someone. She likes to appear smart; and we are proud of our smart girls. I do not mean the flappers of the "Daily Mail" type, I mean the honest girls of the working class movement. They take some keeping; and if the Minister of Labour can tell me how I can keep a girl on 8s. a week I shall be glad if he will do so. It is impossible to ask anybody to keep a girl on such a sum. We have been told that her sister was not like her many years ago, but then her sister years ago did not cost half as much as she does now.
All the counties in the North have joined in appealing to the Minister to ease the burden on the rates. The Minister has carried out the law, perhaps more strictly than he should have done. We desire that he should not enforce the law quite so rigidly, for there is no doubt that the present policy is ruining the industry of the coalfields in Northumberland and Durham. Now we have this Bill, and we say that if you put it into operation with Clause 5 in it there will be thousands of men who will never qualify for benefit at all. It simply means that they will have to go to the boards of guardians, and that means that the money comes right back on to the ascertainment. Even if the coal industry were prosperous to-day it would come upon us through the ascertainment because it has to be taken from us before we get any division at all. We ask the Minister to strike out the provision with regard to the 30 contributions, and allow our men an opportunity of getting the benefit. A man of 45 years of age in our colliery districts has no chance now of getting employment; there are plenty of young men who are ready to take on the work. With regard to the guestion of genuinely seeking work, you ought to take into 482 account the circumstances under which the man is living, the geographical area in which he is, and pay some attention to the local knowledge of the local committee. There is no doubt that these men look for work from morning till night, go backwards and forwards in search of it, but there is no chance of his being started at another pit because we have an arrangement under which a man must be dismissed his colliery before strangers are found work.
What is the use of sending him to Sunderland into an engineering shop? He has never been an engineer. Roadmaking he may get, if there is any; but there is no chance of that now. The position is that there are thousands of miners whose only hope to-day is emigration. Hon. Members opposite are advising everybody's daughter to emigrate but their own, and everybody's son to emigrate but their own. I wish they could see some of the letters coming from people who have emigrated, because they were haunted by the cry that they were lazy, to Canada and Australia, warning our men not to go out. The policy of the Government seems to be that having got them to do all the work there was to do, all the fighting there was to do, then they must be sent out into the Colonies to do what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) has said, produce coal in better coalfields than our own which will come into our own market and compete with our own coal. You are doing no good by sending them abroad. If you cannot solve this problem by accepting the system we have always put forward, which hon. Members opposite have always ridiculed, at least give us an opportunity of giving our men a chance to work and not send them for ever to boards of guardians and live in a condition which will break their own manly independence. I hope the Bill will get the reception it deserves in the country, and that hon. Members will see the wickedness of its application and help to bring it down.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
In almost every speech that has been made during the course of this Debate I have been struck with the extraordinary concensus of opinion as to the inadequacy of this Bill from the point of view of some vast scheme which is to be all comprehensive and 483 which, as the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) has said, ought to be a scheme under which a national fund would provide benefit for every person who was not in work. We have heard similar arguments from the Labour benches, and we have heard from the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain MacMillan) a rather less extreme edition of the same sort of argument. What I have never heard from any quarter is any appreciation as to why the trade of the country is in the position of requiring this Bill. When the hon. and learned Member for South Shields was speaking, and drawing a distinction between the burden placed on the rates and the larger burdens placed upon the whole community, as he said, I could not help wondering where the money was coming from. In his speech on the Second Reading of this Bill the Minister of Labour gave us a short, concise and illuminating history of unemployment. He dealt with the initiation of unemployment legislation in 1911, and that Bill was one of the first Bills of first-class importance which was sent to a Committee upstairs and not kept on the Floor of this House. It was the first Bill upstairs which was reported in an OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings upstairs. I was on that committee, and what I noticed then was that the proposal for unemployment insurance followed, as a natural corollary, proposals which had been already carried for insurance against sickness. Unemployment was then regarded as a casual accident which might happen to anybody, but which would not last very long, and, therefore, the trade union scheme to which the Minister referred, was a good model to follow. We were merely spreading the liability and applying it to a few more trades, nothing like the number of trades to which this Bill applies today. It was always regarded that if anybody was out of work for 13 weeks, that period would at least see him into another job, if he had any great anxiety to get other work. That was generally true.
I regret very much that a certain amount of amusement was aroused among hon. Members opposite by the Minister of Labour when he said that he had studied very carefully, in connection with the future prospects of unemployment in 484 this country, whether there was anything which would be a real guide to him, anything which might be termed a normal period of unemployment, and that he had come to the conclusion that the figure 6 per cent. was as reasonable a figure as any other which could be applied to average unemployment. In that I do not see anything to cause amusement. The Minister said in his opening speech that when we came to the great post-War trade depression in this country in the winter of 1920–21, it knocked the bottom out of the existing unemployment insurance scheme. There was no question that we had entered then upon a period with regard to which any statistics as to alternate prosperity or depression, to which we had been accustomed for hundreds of years, had no application whatever. We have often been over the 1,250,000 mark. Sometimes we have gone above the 1,500,000 mark. Occasionally in this period of seven years we have dropped for a moment below the 1,000,000 mark. That great volume of unemployment is here as a permanent thing. Yet in this Debate I have not heard a single Member deal with the question why this Bill is wanted at all.
The Bill is wanted to deal with the existing state of affairs, and that existing state of affairs is no more the responsibility of the present Government than it is of any other Government, whether Tory or Liberal or Socialist. I think the system proposed in this Bill is a vast improvement on what existed under previous Acts, and that therefore the Bill merits the support of the House. In a very eloquent speech the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson), who knows the condition of the coal trade in Durham, stated that there are people there who have not an earthly chance, although they are normally employed in the coal trade, to qualify under this Bill for benefit. I absolutely agree with what he said. Yet how can anyone be surprised at such a state of affairs, when we allow the great steel industry of this country, on which we depended to a large extent for the prosperity of the country as a whole, to be in such a condition that, as the right hon. Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Horne) said, for the first five months of this year we were importing 50 per cent. more steel than we were exporting? In other words, we are importing steel the manufacture of which 485 in this country would find employment for 100,000 people for a year, and subsidiary employment in Durham as well as other places, and at least 80,000 colliers. Nobody asks, Why do we remain discussing a Bill of this kind? It seems to me that we are in the position of a dog with hydrophobia. We have water all round us, and for some reason we are disabled by some evil genius from taking the free gifts that are offered us.
The hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) advocated training schemes, and criticised the Bill because, although it is an Unemployment Insurance Bill, it does not deal with great schemes for the extension of the training of young people. Personally I think that would require another Bill. Be that as it may, if all the young people for whom the hon. Member pleaded were trained in some industry so that they could follow employment, where should we be? We would require a vast scheme, having in mind the number of young people, some of them now 19 years of age, who have left school and have never had a chance of getting a footing in industry anywhere. It would have to be a vast scheme. But suppose that we had it, it would not find a job for a single one of these young people. It would merely qualify an enormous number more of young people. They would be better qualified for employment than if left as they are, but the scheme would not give them a chance of earning their livelihood or free them from the risk of having to depend on an Unemployment Insurance scheme.
The only real cure for unemployment at the present time is to put our industries in a condition to employ our people. I might point to the fact which has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Wallsend, that there are industries in this country that are absorbing some of our unemployed and are employing more people now than they were last year. The motor industry is one of them. It found employment for 20,000 more people last year than the year before, and in the year that is coming it will do better still. The man who knows more about it than anyone else, Mr. Morris, attributed that great prosperity and that capacity for employing our people to a large degree to the Safeguarding of Industries Act. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees blamed 486 the Government for not dealing with the problem on a wider and more generous basis. He said that people who have been unemployed for two or three years and whose trade is gone are the real problem. What was his conclusion? That these people must be maintained on a national basis. I absolutely disagree with that conclusion. If the trades and industries of this country are going and gone, and if hon. Members tell us as the last word of wisdom that all the people who are thrown out of employment through no possible fault of their own—I admit that hon. Members opposite have not had the control of industry themselves and you cannot blame them—are to be maintained as suggested, I say I cannot imagine a policy more devoid of statesmanship and more hopeless.
Think what it means. Are they to be supported on a generous scale by the rates, a method which the hon. and learned Member for South Shields deprecates? I am quite alive to the fact that that is the one form by which you impose the greatest burden on many industries. Whether they are to be supported by the rates or are to be supported on a national basis, in the long run, when you have to deal with a huge problem, it does not much matter which, for you are going to kill the other industries which are finding employment. If all we can say is that the method of dealing with unemployment is that we should be much more generous, which means much more costly and throwing a greater and greater burden on the industries that remain, the sooner we adjourn this Session and go home and learn wisdom, the better. Are we to sit down and watch industry after industry die when there is not the slightest reason for it? We know that since the War we have had to meet an entirely fresh problem. We know that every country in the world—above all Europe, and even our own Dominions—is determined to manufacture for itself what it requires and to keep its own people employed. If we are to sit still and advocate nothing but a policy which will ensure, as the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) said, full wages of their trade for every person who is unemployed, we are simply committing national industrial suicide.
The hon. and gallant Member for Luton (Captain O'Connor) said he desired to bring everybody into the unemployment 487 scheme. He said that, looking at it from the point of view of an insurance scheme, it would be a most extraordinary principle to leave out the trades in which there was practically no risk and that all should be made to contribute so as to get a real insurance scheme. I ask the House to consider what that means. I remember that there was considerable discussion on the health insurance scheme about bringing in domestic servants. That proposal was justified on the ground that the scheme would not be watertight as an insurance scheme if they were not included. What it really meant was bringing in a great body of people who had been perfectly well looked after so far as health insurance was concerned, without any interference from the State—that is in the main and leaving out exceptional cases—and including their contributions in order to make a watertight scheme. If you were to bring in all the agricultural labourers, among whom hitherto there has been practically no unemployment, it would mean asking the agricultural labourer to pay a large contribution towards relieving abnormal unemployment in the coal and steel industries, in the wool industry and all the other great industries of the country, which for some reason—hon. Members will find it out for themselves—we are not able to put upon their feet. These industries the agricultural labourer has nothing whatever to do with, and this is in relation to an economic problem which the agricultural labourer knows nothing about and with which he is not concerned.
Are we to make the agricultural labourers pay weekly contributions out of the present increased but still utterly inadequate agricultural wages in order to help to find unemployment benefit for people in the coal and steel industries? I say it is not a justifiable proposal. It may be right from an insurance point of view to get as many people as possible to insure their property whether there is a risk or not, but when you are dealing with human beings engaged in different trades it is utterly unfair to bring in great industries in which there is a very small risk, on a level basis of contribution with other industries and to ask them to contribute towards those industries where there are very great risks. But I quite admit that the present state 488 of affairs in which you leave out the agricultural labourer causes grave reason, I will not say for alarm, but certainly for consideration. I have been impressed by the fact that although agriculture is said to be very depressed and although I know from personal observation that land over vast areas which was formerly arable has been put into grass, yet still there is practically no body of unemployed agricultural labour.
That seems to be a rather odd state of affairs, but I think I can throw a little light upon it. Agriculture is not an insured industry for unemployment. Only the other day in my own constituency I found a bitter feeling on the part of two or three farmers in the outlying districts where there was a need for agricultural labour and where they knew there were individual agricultural labourers expert at every branch of their trade who were no longer following it. These men had been offered employment as agricultural labourers and had refused. The agricultural labourer in that case said, "No, I am going to drive a motor char-a-banc all this summer." The man had been accustomed to driving a tractor and he was quite capable of the job he was about to undertake and he added, "Then in the winter I can go on the dole." That case which was brought to my notice is not an isolated case and agricultural labour, where it is unemployed, is to a very large extent becoming little more than casual labour in relation to industries which offer employment elsewhere and enable the men to get unemployment benefit. I admit that a problem of this kind requires a great deal of consideration from every point of view, but, broadly, I think it would be unfair, until agriculture is in a much worse condition than it is in now, to bring agricultural labour into the insurance scheme. I say, however, that it is open to grave abuse to leave out large blocks of labour when the people concerned can get employment in other industries which are quite easy to acquire and come into competition with the people already in those industries and can get insurance benefit and, while doing practically only six months' work in the year instead of twelve, get the same remuneration at the end of the twelve months.
Dealing with the Bill as it is I do not think it has received very fair treatment from some Members in all quarters of the House. After all, it follows the recom- 489 mendations of an expert Committee—not a party Committee—and a Committee which made a unanimous report. Except in regard to finance, concerning which the condition of things has changed since the report was made, the Bill carries out the main provisions of the Blanesburgh Committee's findings. Therefore, I think it is rather hard that we should be told in all quarters of the House that something vastly more costly ought to have been produced, and that this Bill ought to be rejected on Second Reading because it is not sufficiently expensive. I think the industries of the country are bearing far too heavy a burden already and that the best way out of our trouble is not to add to that burden but to try by sober and sensible finance as far as possible to limit the burden on industry.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I did not anticipate that I should have the privilege of following the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), and I am rather sorry it should be my fate to do so because I am not certain that I can convey to him the facts regarding the unemployment situation. I believe he has reached the point of realising that the nation is faced with a permanent unemployment problem which is a serious menace to its future, and to the future of the Empire. What he does not appear to realise is that the problem which is facing us is also facing the most prosperous nation known to Western civilisation. I propose to deal with the state of affairs in industrial America. I shall endeavour to show the hon. Member for Barnstaple that the problem is quite as serious in the United States as it is in this country. To speak of our industries being crippled because we have one million unemployed is not necessarily to state the case. I open by saying that I am not going to criticise the Bill, on the ground that it is no good whatever to my friends in Bristol. Unemployment is a social disease and, because it is a social disease, there is no good in asking the sufferers to bear the burden of that very serious illness. In my view, the administrative machine which has been set up in connection with unemployment insurance is unnecessarily expensive, because in a very large number of cases it is necessary for those in receipt of benefit to pay a subsequent visit to the guardians in order that their unemployment pay may be brought up to a reasonable level, with 490 the result that you have two machines existing when you need have only one. But my principal objection to this and to all other proposals for dealing with unemployment by means of so-called insurance is that they absolutely fail to face the facts.
I listened with very great care to the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney), and I am pleased to say that I agreed with the major part of his speech, but the conflict between him and the hon. Member for East Lewisham (Sir A. Pownall) does, I think, give the crux of the whole thing. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields says it is vitally important whether the cost of unemployment is borne nationally or whether it is borne locally. He says, and I would endeavour to say, that it is a fatal thing to put upon the hard-hit industries in the localities the cost not only of meeting unemployment through the rates, but also by means of the employers' contributions, and the hon. Member for East Lewisham, speaking, as I believe he is entitled to speak, not for the business men in the provinces, but for the aristocratic section of society, says it is far better that these business men in the provinces should bear these burdens rather than that he and his class should have an extra imposition upon their Income Tax.
§ Mr. BAKER
I agree, not in those words, but that is the exact position, and the lesson that I want to draw is that many a deluded business man throughout this country, and especially in the West of England, is supporting the Conservative party on the entirely false assumption that that party is serving his interests. The fact is that there is a definite conflict between the interests of the man who is anxious to save an increase in the Income Tax and the interests of the man who desires to carry on his industry by keeping the overhead charges at a reasonable figure. The party to which I belong stands for the view that the community has to bear the total cost of this problem, no matter how the burden may be distributed, and we say that the only fair basis on which it can be done is through the instrument of the Income Tax. As previous speakers have said, a man in an industry employ- 491 ing a large number of men and women is compelled to make an enormous contribution, with the result that his costs are extremely heavy, and many a man in the City of London is able with a very small staff to escape this burden of unemployment and at the same time make profits altogether out of proportion to those which can be obtained by ordinary productive industry.
The fact is that productive industry in this country is being conducted on an altogether wrong basis, because, I believe, the facts of the problem are not clearly appreciated. I do not want to say anything in a party spirit, but I believe that if hon. Members opposite really understood what they were up against, they would be ready, with my colleagues, to examine this question. I do not want to tell them that I know; all that I want to do is to endeavour to lay facts before them, in order that they may consider whether there is not a case for inquiry. If there is a country which is supposed to be fortunate at the present time it is the United States of America. My information is that the number of factory employés in the United States of America in 1923 was 8,778,156. In July, 1927, the number was 7,650,000, a decline of 13 per cent., and that decline was accompanied by an increase in output entirely attributed to improvements in machinery. Let us take another view of the same problem. The total output of American industry and agriculture combined increased between 1900 and 1925 from $18,000,000,000 to nearly $90,000,000,000, or five times, but the working population increased by only 50 per cent. The thing is not only true, taking a broad view of the United States, but taking particular industries. In the case of the railways, between 1923 and 1925 "Class I railroads" in the United States were able, by introducing machinery, to reduce their staff by 105,966 men, thus saving $16,000,000 on their wages bill, but handling the same amount of freight.
§ Sir B. PETO
Does the hon. Member think it desirable to employ an indefinite amount of manual labour to do what can be better done by machinery?
§ Mr. BAKER
I am merely stating the facts, and if the facts are accepted, I submit that there is a case for inquiry. The hon. Member referred to motors. It is 492 quite a commonplace to say that certain politicians would like to conduct the national business on the basis of taking in each other's washing. As I understand the hon. Gentleman, he would propose that we should successfully spend our time as a nation in making luxury motor cars, but even then he would not solve the problem. I suppose that in the United States the automobile industry has gone as far as that development will go in this country for very many years to come, and the productivity of each man employed has increased ten times in the 24 years since 1899. The figures that I want to give to the House are official figures supplied by the Department of Labour in the United States. In 1899 the cars produced were 3,723, or 1.66 per worker. I do not want to go through the whole list, but it shows a progressive increase right the way through, and in 1923 the number of cars produced was 3,890,134, or 16.11 per worker. A special machine for making pressed steel frames, operated by one man, produces 3,600 frames in a 10-hour day.
The position of coal, iron and steel in America is following exactly the same lines as are being followed here. The only thing is that owing to the difference in the conditions and the greater resort to machine production, things are likely to worsen at a more rapid rate in that direction. So far as glass is concerned, Mr. J. J. Davis, the Secretary of Labour in the United States, said in a speech during September, 1927:A single machine—not a single manufacturing plant—can turn out all the carboys the United States can use. Not long ago hundreds of skilled men were needed to blow these carboys. They got good wages, they maintained families and they were good consumers. Now a single machine has released these men to other pursuits.Illustrations of these developments in American industry could be quoted by dozens, and, if I might, I would appeal to the Minister of Labour to get someone to undertake an inquiry which I have not been able to trace in this country, namely, an inquiry into the increased productivity of labour. I believe if we could only have national industry in this country examined in order to ascertain how much human power over matter has been increased by the introduction of machinery, we should be amazed at the increased power which we have secured. But the difficulty is that as we introduce a 493 machine to economise in human labour, so we create a new problem. Not only do we create a large body of men and women, quite as good as ourselves, for whom no further opportunity of employment can ever be found under existing conditions, but at the same time we create a body of potential consumers who are unable to purchase our commodities, and so you increase the stagnation still further.
I believe that there is a case to be examined. If it were not for the fact that I know I must not speak for many more seconds, I would endeavour to develop the case further, but I want to conclude with an appeal that this shall not be regarded as merely a fight between the Government and ourselves and as a matter concerning this country alone. It is a matter of world-wide importance—an importance so great that it should transcend all political difficulties. The appeal I make is that, having regard to the seriousness of the problem and having regard to its importance, not only to the worker, but to the men who are endeavouring to conduct industry and to the whole of this community and to every community which has a western civilisation, the Government will see fit to call an all-party committee together, not of unimportant persons, but of front-rank people, in order that they may look into this thing, and see whether the problem is as I have stated, and, if so, whether a solution is beyond the wit of man.
§ Mr. SKELTON
At this very late hour of the Debate on the Second Reading, so far as I am concerned, I only desire to say one or two words. I do not at all intend to pursue the course adopted by more than one hon. Member who has utilised the Debate for discussion upon general subjects of economic interest which sometimes seemed to me to go rather far from the subject actually under discussion. I rise for two specific purposes: First of all, to urge the Government very strongly to pay heed to the expressions of opinion that have been made from all parts of the House, namely, that an absolutely essential corollary and sequel to the Bill now before the House is that there should be adequate training of juveniles unemployed. I do not propose to enter into the details of the Bill. For the main part they follow with one conspicuous exception the course of the Blanesburgh 494 Report, but the point that has been made more than once is, in my opinion, unanswerable, namely, that the Bill cannot be said, even if it otherwise followed the Blanesburgh Report word by word, truly to do so unless it is placed in the same surroundings in which the recommendations of the Committee were placed when they were made by the Committee. Although much might be said upon the very wide tract of country with which these surroundings deal, I venture to single out as one of the most important in this circumambient situation, the paint that there must be—all the more so on account of the provision that is going to be made for juveniles under the Bill, and I venture to urge the Government that it is the most important point of all—adequate training, first and foremost, for the juvenile unemployed.
Much has been said about that, but I will not labour the details of it. It is so obvious that anyone who has even the slightest knowledge either of life or unemployment, knows that a period of unemployment at the most critical years of life must have an effect—a permanent effect—upon the character and that, however unfortunate unemployment may be in later days, it cannot have exactly the same effect. Therefore, I do urge the Government to make plain before the Division is taken on this Bill, that their schemes for juvenile training are not in the course of being diminished, and that their intention is not merely to keep them at their present level, but honestly to carry out the fundamental ideals of which the Report speaks, so far as that part of it is concerned, namely, to increase and extend to a proper degree the facilities for the training of juveniles. I, for one, welcome what has already been done. I think much has been done, but I do not think that any adequate proportion of the juvenile unemployed population has yet had an opportunity of training, because—and these may be only rough figures—the figures are something like this. At any good time, that is, selecting the best times, there have not been more than some 7,000 juveniles under a short course of training, whereas the total juvenile unemployed population numbers more than 50,000. Even if these figures are only approximately correct—and I do not pretend that they are more—I venture to say the training of 7,000 out of 45,000 or 50,000 is not enough.
495 That is all I wish to say on that topic, and the one other topic on which I wish to speak—and I shall be equally brief—is this. In my judgment, the most interesting and valuable feature of the Debate was undoubtedly the speech of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan), and I say that for this reason. To anyone who has at all interested himself in the problem of the relations between poor relief and unemployment insurance, the suggestion which he made is at least something real and constructive, because it gives us an opportunity of escaping from the previously hopeless dilemma that the moment you take men off unemployment benefit—and any insurance scheme must have limits—there is nowhere that they can go for relief except to the financially overburdened parish. To my mind, the hon. Member made a suggestion which I am sure is pregnant and will be extremely fruitful in future. He suggested that you should divide these unfortunate people into three categories. Firstly, the ordinary subjects of parochial relief, people who are more or less proportionate in the parishes, people of old age and so on, and for them parish relief. Secondly, the ins and outs—people who are really still in industry—and for them the insurance scheme. Thirdly, while trade and employment remain in the bad condition in which they are to-day, there is the frank admission that there is a class whose hopes of returning to their own industry is very slight—a class so numerous that to thrust them on the parish would entirely crush the finances of an area so small as a parish, even an urban parish. Once you have identified that third class, there at least you have a category of persons whom it is not only right to finance but necessary to deal with through the State and not through local means. I venture to say that is a most pregnant and valuable idea, and I think it little merited, if I may say so, the attempted heresy hunt directed by a young Member on this side below the Gangway. In politics, as in religion, heresy hunts are very much out of place, and it seems here very clearly a case ofThe fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.The importance of the topic necessitates all minds which are capable of think- 496 ing, or anxious to think, bringing their contributions into the common pool, and I can imagine no subject less suited for a heresy hunt on the part of a very junior acolyte.
I venture to urge again two points. First, that the Government should make plain to us beyond all doubt that juvenile and other training is going to be fully considered, and secondly, that this Debate has witnessed one of the most fruitful and pregnant speeches recently delivered, in that it showed a way out of our dilemma and gave us some hope that the question of unemployment can be dealt with on wider lines in future.
§ Mr. THOMAS SHAW
May I call the attention of the Minister to the fact that this Bill has reached the limit of the patience of at least one Member of the House. It is impossible for any Member even to pretend to understand this Bill without a library of previous Acts and without many hours of study; and even when the library has been sought, the drafting of the Bill is such as to make it almost impossible to understand it, however one may desire to study it. Really, I think the patience of the House, as well as of myself, must be exhausted, by these continual Bills of reference, which make it almost impossible to understand what the law with regard to unemployed insurance is. I hope that the Minister will take steps which are quite open to him, in case he gets this Bill made an Act—and I fervently hope he will not—to publish a volume which will tell us what the law on the subject of unemployment insurance is. No man knows what it is. No man knows without a study of half-a-dozen Acts what it is, and it is time we knew in the House what this very important matter really boils down to.
May I turn to the two days' discussion which we have had on the Bill and refer first to the extraordinary speech made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth). I did not hear the whole of it, but in the little I did hear I think every sentence contained the statement that the Labour party were hypocrites, humbugs, and cheeky. May I suggest to the hon. Member for Thanet that I have heard the thing better done. I once visited the Zoological Gardens at Antwerp, and there was a magnificent green parrot 497 which one of my friends began to tease. He had evidently been trained by a British sailor because his vocabulary was much wider than the hon. Member's and his words were more pungent, and he spoke more quickly than the hon. Member. With that I leave the speech of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. SHAW
The Bill has received little or no downright support even from the Members of the Minister's own party, and it is quite evident that most Members are in the position of not understanding what it means. I am not saying that with any disrespect. I do not understand what it means, and the Minister has never tried to explain what it means. I am going to ask him or the Parliamentary Secretary kindly to tell us what it means and what it is intended to do, because none of us on this side have been able to find what it does. There has been very damaging criticism from the other side. The hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan) made a statement calling attention to an article in the "Times." I think this article said that one of the automatic results of the passing of this Bill would be that some 150,000 extra persons would be thrown on the local rates. We have a right to know whether that statement is correct or not. The hon. and gallant Member went further, and suggested that it was absolutely impossible to dream of working what is known as the 30 contributions Clause. I hope before I sit down to show that the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees was not speaking without his book, and it was a really serious criticism based on a study of the Bill and on the knowledge of the subject which we are discussing.
The hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) made an almost tearful appeal to the Minister to get going and to do something really big. I am tempted, as a politician with all the failings of a politician, who desires to make a party advantage, to deal with the pitiful failure of the Government even to attempt to do anything to solve the problem of unemployment. Not only have they not solved the problem, but they have deliberately given up the things that were being done to alleviate the problem. But that will come at a 498 future stage, and I will restrain myself from the temptation to deal with the matter now. During the first part of the Debate there was an almost parrot-like insistence on the fact that Labour Members must remember that this Bill is an unemployment insurance scheme. It reminded me of Poe's "Raven," which had one word, "Nevermore" and continually this was dripping, dripping: "Members on the other side must remember that this is an unemployment insurance scheme." Not one of them who kept reminding us ventured to tell us what scheme it was, how it would work, and what the Bill really meant. They warned us, all the more portentously as the speeches were empty of explanation, about the danger of not recognising that this was an unemployment insurance scheme.
I venture to suggest that if this be what is called an unemployment insurance scheme it is the worst that ever existed. It has no financial basis at all, no estimate of a solid character on which it is founded. No one can tell what the effects of it will be. To talk to us about having to consider it as an unemployment insurance scheme—well, really, we ought to be credited with a little more intelligence, or our critics themselves ought to possess a little bit more of the intelligence which they deny to us. There has been a total lack of clarity in the speeches which have been made on the Bill, and supposedly for the Bill. The House has a right to know the facts of the case, if the Minister knows them. We have not been refused them, but no effort has been made to give them. What will be the result if the Bill is passed into law? Will it throw 150,000 people out of benefit? We want plain and definite statements on those points. While the Minister was making his speech I listened almost in despair. Afterwards I read his speech, thinking I had missed the passages in which the explanation was given, but I will defy anybody who reads that speech to form any idea at all of what the Minister thinks will be the effect of the 30 weeks' contribution qualification and what he thinks will be done by Clause 12, which deals with the extension period. Nothing in his speech gave us the remotest idea of what the Minister's estimates are, or what his staff have told him, or on what he bases his assumption.
499 10.0 p.m.
Let me turn to what we do know of the Bill. First of all, let me state in a few words what the Labour party regard as two fundamental things to be attained by any unemployment Measure, two principles. We must examine every Bill first from this point of view: Will it give benefits to every genuine working man or woman who is unemployed, able to work, and willing to work? If a Bill does not do that we must oppose it. The second question we ask is: Will that benefit be such as to guarantee, at any rate, a minimum standard of decent living? If a Bill gives less than that we must oppose it. What will the present Bill do in these respects? I have had experience of preparing one of these Bills, but I was in a much more unfavourable position than the present Minister of Labour. He has two out of every three Members in this House behind him; I had two out of every three Members as potential enemies. I had to state to the House, and did tell the House quite frankly, when presenting my Bill, that it was a Measure which did not represent what I wanted, but all I thought I should get out of the House. But that Bill laid down steps towards this idea of benefit being paid to a genuinely unemployed person so long as he is unemployed, and an increase in the rate of benefit which would make his position easier. Those things we did get through the House—with many struggles; more would have been got through if we had been able to do it. We did get a little way on the lines I I have laid down—permanent benefit to genuine unemployed persons, and a rate of benefit not at any rate absolute starvation. What does this Bill do along those two broad lines? Let me say here that we must always treat finance as important, no one would be foolish enough to deny that; but to us there is something much more important than finance. That our people should be decent and self-respecting and not parasites on their parents or anybody else, that they should be able to get decent, plain food is of more account to us than any question of the addition of a few millions to the expenditure on benefits. We might as well be plain and outspoken about it. You can talk to us till you are blue in 500 the face, if I may use a slang phrase, about the cost, but we say that so long as there is money in the country no man or woman genuinely unemployed ought to go short of decent food. If the Minister of Labour wants to go to, perhaps, the most brilliant genius in the Cabinet, he might apply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor has laid his hand on every fund he could find, and he might lay his hand on the debt there is on the Insurance Fund and take that. He has taken all the money he can find, now let him take the debt. That would relieve our problem somewhat in the immediate future.
Speaking of the debt, and yielding to the temptation which party politicians are always prone to fall into, may I point out that the debt, at present £22,000,000, was only just over £4,000,000 when the Labour party were in office? If we had continued ruling the country for another five years as we ruled it during the nine months we were in office, the problem would be at an end. It is a strange and extraordinary thing that during the first nine months of 1924 wages went up and the number of people who had to go to the guardians went down, whereas both before 1924 and after it will be found that wages were going down and the number of people going to the guardians was rising. That is the way in which the very dreadful Socialist party ruined the country in 1924. I give these points because they may be of interest to the House; the figures of the Ministry of Labour will justify everything I have said.
We have a right to ask the Ministry to tell us plainly what the machinery of this Bill will do. I quite agree with the Minister that, in theory, it is infinitely better to have every benefit a statutory benefit and without any taint of the Poor Law about it. There is no question about that. But if you are going to attain that object by deliberately depriving hundreds of thousands of people of benefit, then obviously we cannot be a consenting party. Is it true or is it untrue that the Clauses dealing with the number of contributions entitling to benefit will be likely to throw very large numbers of people off the Unemployment Fund just at the time when they need the assistance of the Fund more than ever? If that be the case, merely changing 501 charitable payments to what are called statutory payments—which the people will not get, if I may present a paradox—is no good at all to us. After all these years of unemployment, when the little savings of working men and working women have become exhausted, any alteration ought to have been in the direction of giving them increased benefit and a better chance in life, instead of the Government wreaking its revenge on them for its failure to cure the problem by making their position infinitely worse. They are not responsible for that position. You may say the War is responsible or anything else, but one thing that is certain is that they are not responsible, and they are to be punished because the House of Commons has failed absolutely to get a remedy for the position of affairs in which we now find ourselves.
There is no question as to the position of the working people in this controversy. I know my own county of Lancashire as intimately as any man, and I have been in every town in that county over and over again. I know my own people and I love them as much as any man can do. They are decent, hard-working, self-respecting people and they are the best workers in the world in their industry. When I go home I find around me a picture among the people of constant privation, suffering and misery, and I wish to God that I had the power to make the men and women who talk so lightly about the dole live upon it, and then they would talk less about waste and doles and all that preposterous humbug one hears about the working classes of this country.
I want to know what the Minister of Labour estimates will be the result of Clause 12. Frankly, I admit that I do not understand the meaning of this Clause, and, if the Parliamentary Secretary in his reply will plainly state what is meant by Clause 12 and what its effect will be, I shall be very glad indeed. This Clause constitutes a tremendously important part of the Bill, but hon. Members will read the speech of the Minister of Labour in vain for a clear explanation of it. You may look over the explanations given on the front of the Bill or on the back, but you will find no explanation of the actual meaning of this involved Clause. I think we have a right to claim that we should know precisely what all these Clauses mean. We shall vote for 502 the Amendment, because we are not satisfied either with the proposal of the Bill or the principles on which it is based. I noticed that the Lord Chief Justice in making a speech last night used this, sentence:That type of economy which is closely akin to petty larceny.Let me turn to the benefits which are going to be paid. You take the ordinary Lancashire young man of 18. He is a fully grown man, generally earning as much as ever he will, and he is helping his parents who have raised him to the age of 18, and in doing so have pinched themselves all the time. In Lancashire, an ordinary family has a tremendous struggle to bring up the children, and, when they get to the age of 14, 15 or 16, it is understood that they begin to help to repay their parents for the sacrifices they have made on their behalf. Under these circumstances, what is now proposed in this Bill is a mean and despicable thing, and so far as I am concerned you will not get me into the Lobby to support any proposal which will make a boy of 18 sponge on his parents.
Hon. Members opposite seem to have been thinking in terms of rich families where a boy is just beginning his education. In the case of the boy of 18 in Lancashire he is a fully grown man, and not a dilettante dressed in Oxford bags enjoying himself at the University. You are now proposing to give a boy of 18 10s. a week. My first intention was to spend 10s. on foodstuffs and bring them to this House to let hon. Members see what the Bill actually proposes. I decided not to do so, because I did not want to be theatrical, but if any hon Member will purchase 10s. worth of goods to-morrow he will be able to see for himself what, he can purchase and this will give him some idea of the benefits which are being offered. Has not a working boy the desire to live comfortably and be amused like other people? Why should you try to starve these people? Are they responsible for the War or the aftermath of the War? Did you not tell them that after the War they would come back to a country "Fit for heroes to live in," and that the whole nation would join as brothers one with another to remove misery and distress? Have hon. Members forgotten all these things?
Then there are the girls to whom you are giving 8s. a week. I am not going to 503 try to find any more adjectives to fit this case, because they would be worse than those used by the green parrot to which I have referred. It is absolutely incomprehensible to me that anybody should have the unparalleled impudence to offer to a working-class girl of that age the sum of 8s. a week. The thing is absolutely monstrous, and it is no use mincing words about it. If you had said to the unemployed that, now that they had suffered for seven years, you would raise their benefit from 18s. to £1 a week; if you had said you would raise the youths' benefit to 15s. a week; if you had given general increases all round, I think it would have been just. But what you have done is so petty and miserable, and the way in which you have tried to explain your Bill—or not tried to explain it—has been so lacking in clarity and detail, that I am afraid I shall have to ask my friends to give it the reception that it deserves by voting solidly in the Lobby against the Second Reading.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) has made a comprehensive and characteristic attack upon the Government and the Bill. He seems to be attacking the Government because we have not put in this Bill some of the recommendations of the Blanesburgh Committee, and he attacks us with equal impartiality because we have put in, with one exception, the recommendations which are contained in the Report. Before I deal with the main and serious questions which have been raised in this Debate, there is just one thing that I might say with regard to the opening sentences of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I agree entirely with what he said about the inconvenience of legislation by reference. I agree that this Bill is full of it. His Bill of 1924 puzzled me, I am sure, quite as much as this Bill has puzzled him, and I do express the hope that it will be possible at no very distant date to get a consolidating Act consolidating these various Bills, which will be of advantage just as much to us as it is to him.
The hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) told us that she would not have signed the Report had she not relied upon some Clause being put in the 504 Bill which she fails to find there. If the hon. Member said that, of course I accept it without hesitation and without reserve. But I would point out that it is not open to us to speculate upon or to assess the motives which governed the other members of the Committee in signing this Report. This Report is presented to us as a unanimous Report, and as a unanimous Report we are entitled to regard it, and we do so regard it. With regard to the specific question to which the hon. Member referred in some detail, namely, the question of training, I must confess that, to my mind, at any rate, her speech in that regard contained no justification whatever for having signed the Report and now opposing the Bill, and I can only regret that she did not wait until she had had an explanation from us exactly as to what our attitude is upon this all-important question of training.
I think, if I may say so, that the Report must be a cause of legitimate satisfaction to those who are still in the House who were responsible for and who supported the original scheme of Unemployment Insurance in 1911. I was not, of course, in the House at that time, but I have made it my business to read the Debates of 1911, when this idea was new and when it was first presented to the House in that year. The House was then told that the whole idea and theory of Unemployment Insurance was hazardous, was dangerous, was mischievous. This Blanesburgh Report gives the answer. The answer given in the Report is that Unemployment Insurance has become a permanent part in our social system, and, further, that in all the evidence which the members of that Committee heard, there was no one who came forward and said that in his view this system should be scrapped and should come to an end.
The task of the Committee was to recommend what form of permanency that system, which began in 1911, should take. The Committee itself, and I think I shall be on common ground when I say this, was a Committee of exceptional competence. It was presided over by one of the most distinguished men in public life in this country at the present time. As the hon. Member for Wallsend said, they started with different ideas, some of them, no doubt, prejudging the question from one point of view or another, but 505 in the result they achieved unanimity after studying the question for more than a year. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Committee—and here, again, I think we are on common ground—for the trouble and care and the time they expended in their examination of this most important question. We have accepted, with one exception, all their main recommendations and we are glad to do so, and we believe that this Bill marks a real advance in the progress of unemployment insurance. At one time this Debate, though not for long, looked like developing into one of those debates on unemployment of which we have had so many in the last year or two; the right hon. Gentleman who just sat down asked me what the Bill was designed to do: it is designed to improve our system of insurance against unemployment, a system which has now been established for over 16 years.
A good deal of criticism has been offered in all parts of the House on the efforts which have been made to make it what is called actuarially sound. The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) deprecated academic demonstrations of financial stability. The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Miss Lawrence), said it is high time the Government did away with the idea of insurance. To my mind, those criticisms with regard to actuarial soundness need cause no surprise in the mind of anyone, nor indeed do I cavil at anything that has been said on that subject. I know hon. Members opposite are quite sincerely and frankly in favour of a non-contributory system. If you have a non-contributory system there is no need at all to consider whether the scheme is actuarially sound or not, because that question does not arise. But if you have a contributory scheme, actuarial soundness is absolutely essential in the interests of the contributors themselves. Therefore, having a contributory system, it is necessary to have actuarial soundness. We stand frankly for a contributory system, just as they stand for a non-contributory system, but it is desirable that the House should know exactly what hon. Members opposite mean when they say they stand for a non-contributory system. The evidence, of course, was presented by the hon. Member for West Nottingham, by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood), and Mr. Ernest Bevin 506 before the Blanesburgh Committee. They said:We believe that it would be more equitable for the burden to rest upon the Exchequer, and that all employés, in whatever industry or service, and of whatever grade, who become unemployed should receive State maintenance, subject, of course, to the fulfilment of reasonable conditions.A little further on, in paragraph 64 of the Memorandum which they presented, they state what they think those reasonable conditions are, and I think it is as well that the House should know. This is what they say:In particular we would urge the entire deletion of the condition 'making reasonable effort to find employment.' We regard it as the duty of the Exchanges to find work for unemployed persons. The onus of finding a job should not be placed upon the worker.If that means anything it means this, that a man has only to go to the Exchange and wait there with folded arms until some job is offered to him and until then he need do nothing. But, as I have said, we are in favour of a contributory system. In this respect we agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The words that I am about to quote I do not quote because I wish to charge him with inconsistency. Everybody has a right to alter his mind if he likes, but I quote them because the right hon. Gentleman has expressed in language so felicitous and so clear exactly my own views on the matter that I will venture to put them before the House. It is a book which I have read and with much of which I agree, written by the right hon. Gentleman just before the War. This is what he says:The one danger ahead is that we shall give them as a charity the services for which they cannot pay. That, indeed, would be the most terrible of blunders. That would be using national wealth and resources in order to keep these battalions in their present state. The social reformer—especially he who is working to supplant the present economic order by a human one—may give fervent thanks that the Insurance Act was in the main kept on a contributory basis.When, therefore, hon. Members opposite criticise us in respect of the provisions contained in this Bill, I confess their criticism leaves me quite cold, because I know perfectly well that they would object with equal vehemence to any Bill which is based on a contributory system at all.
507 One of the questions which has been canvassed in this Debate, which has now lasted two days, has been, of course, the undoubted fact that we have not precisely followed the Report, in the matter of the contributions of the employer, the employé and the State. The Report recommends that those contributions should be equal thirds, and such great importance do some hon. Members attach to that recommendation that they seem to think the dereliction from the Report in this matter is so grave that we are no longer entitled to rely upon the Report at all. They seem to regard this question of equal thirds as being something almost sacrosanct, and it is, as it were, regarded as a sort of fetish by those who criticise us. The Report says, in paragraph 60:Contributions in equal thirds are justified by the argument that, while the employers and workers should bear an equal share, the State should have a substantial financial stake in the Fund as a guarantee of prudent administration. Anything less than a share equal to that borne by the workers or the employers would not be a sufficient stake.Under this Bill, the State's contribution will be two-sevenths. Is it suggested that the administration is likely to be any less prudent because the contribution of the State is two-sevenths and not two-sixths? Under this Bill, by the operation of the Act of 1923 combined with the Act of 1925, when the deficiency period comes to an end the contribution of the State will be three-tenths. Is it to be supposed for a moment that if one-third is a guarantee of prudent administration, that if three-ninths is a sufficient guarantee, that three-tenths is not? I cannot help thinking that there is little or nothing in this point of adhering quite closely to the terms of the Report.
It has been pointed out that the reduction to five pence, five pence, five pence, as recommended in the Report, is not in any case a practicable proposition in the near future. Indeed, unless employment improves sufficiently to result in an early and marked decrease in the numbers of those receiving benefit, it may be a matter of three or four or five years before we can pay off the existing debt. To attempt to decide now in the light of present circumstances what shall be done three or five years hence, when the 508 position and circumstances may point to quite a different course, would be neither ordinary caution nor ordinary prudence. We preserve an open mind upon this point until we can sufficiently judge the proper course to take. That is the answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dover (Major Astor) who raised this exact point.
Another criticism that is made is that we have not provided in the Bill for an immediate reduction in existing contributions. The plain fact is that in the events which have happened, in the situation in which we find ourselves now, and with the present rate of unemployment, the contributions proposed in the Report would not provide the benefit which it recommends. In April last year the deficiency was £17,000,000; to-day it is just over £22,000,000. To justify us in dropping to the 5d., 5d., 5d., we should need a reduction in the unemployed register of something rather more than three hundred thousand persons. Nobody can say at the present time that that would be prudent administration. Figures were given yesterday by my right hon. Friend dealing with this question which I would venture to repeat. We have paid off debt since last March amounting to very nearly £3,000,000—£2,770,000. That is at the rate of about £4,000,000 a year. It must be remembered that the summer months are more favourable for this purpose than the winter months, but in any case it does not amount to more than £4,000,000 a year. The results, therefore, of reducing the contributions, as recommended in the Report, would have been twofold. First, the present debt would remain as it is. and, of course, we have to pay interest on it, and, in addition to that, we should be piling up another debt at the rate of £3,000,000 a year. If we had come to the House and suggested such a course we should have been attacked by the financial purists in all parts of the House, who would have poured scorn on such a financial proposal. I may point out that under the existing law, when the debt is paid off the contributions are automatically reduced to 6d. for employers, 6d. for employé and 5 1/7 d. for the State. I hope that makes it clear that it would have been impossible at this time to have accepted in full the financial recommendations of the Committee.
509 I come now to a subject which was dealt with by almost every speaker and by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I refer to the proposal to reduce the benefit of persons between the ages of 18 and 21 years of age. The Report of the Committee makes it clear, in the first place, that the actual rates recommended were a compromise between conflicting views. About that there is no doubt, and it makes it equally clear that on the question of the principle of differentiation there was, in the words of the Report, "in the minds of all" a "justification in principle." That is to say, there should be the principle of differentiation. It cannot be supposed that the Committee, consisting as it did of men of great experience, presided over as it was by a gentleman of the distinction of the Chairman, and containing, as it did, two specially experienced and humane women, would have made that recommendation without justification. What did the Committee do? Let me remind the House what it did. The Committee consulted those who were in the best position to give them advice on this matter. They consulted the local employment committee of every division in England. The local employment committees do not consist of amiable and detached theorists considering a painful and difficult subject from an easy and comfortable distance. The members of local employment committees, to whom I add my humble tribute to that which was paid them by my right hon. Friend yesterday, consists of men and women, employers and employed, who are brought face to face, day by day and week after week, with the most difficult and often painful subjects. So they, of all people, were people whose advice was rightly and properly taken. Let me, again reading from the Report, remind the House exactly what sort of procedure the Committee adopted. First of all, the Chairman, Lord Blanesburgh, wrote to the chairmen of the local employment committees asking them to call a conference of Chairman and Vice-Chairmen in each of the seven Employment Exchange divisionsfor the purpose of settling replies to the questions which will as nearly as possible reflect the collective views of the local Employment Committees in that Division.The communication goes on:In this way the Committee feels that it can obtain the considered conclusions of 510 the local employment committees with speed and certainty.The Blanesburgh Committee then appointed a sub-committee consisting of Mr. Hamilton, one other gentleman, and the hon. Member for Wallsend, and those three members of the Blanesburgh Committee actually drafted the questions which were put to these local employment committees. One of the questions asked was:If the retention of the present system is favoured, do you recommend any alteration in the rates of benefit of any class (men, women, boys, girls) of claimant?So the local employment committees were asked definitely and precisely whether they did or did not accept this principle of differentiation. The preponderating number of replies received was in favour of that system of differentiation which has been denounced in such scathing terms by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. It is a matter of interest—I looked it up while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking—that his own district, the north-western district, said:There should be a graded scale of benefit and contributions between the ages of 16 and 21.Similar replies were received from other districts. They were not unanimous, I agree, but the large majority of replies was in favour of this principle of differentiation.
§ Miss WILKINSON
May I ask for information? Those replies that were received from the districts, I understand, were not from these committees as a whole but from the chairmen and vice-chairmen?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
Oh, no, I think not. There was a conference of chairmen and vice-chairmen in each of the seven Employment Exchange divisionsfor the purpose of settling replies to the questions which would as nearly as possible reflect the collective views of the local employment committees.The Report also states:The divisional conferences duly took place after, in many cases, a special meeting of the local employment committee, and the answers passed at these conferences are set out.Having received these replies and having heard the evidence on the 26 days during which the Committee sat, the Committee made a unanimous recommendation, and 511 this is contained in the last paragraph but one of the Report, which says:We have considered it of the first importance so to frame our scheme that it is as free as possible from all injurious tendencies … The prior payment of 30 weekly contributions, the reduction in the rate of benefit of young persons … are expressly designed for this purpose.So the House will see that in the view of the Committee their recommendations, which included the reduction in the rate of benefit to young persons, are expressly designed for the purpose of freeing the scheme as far as possible from all injurious tendencies. I ask in all seriousness whether any Government of any complexion, having received that warning from the unanimous Report of such an important committee, could afford to ignore it? You have the evil tendencies described; you have the suggestion as to how these evil tendencies may at any rate be minimised, and I think this Government, or any Government, having received such a Report, would have failed in its elementary duty had it not put into the Bill such a recommendation as that.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
What is the evil tendency which 8s. a week will minimise? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I have a right to put a question.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I want to deal with the point which was made with great emphasis by the hon. Member for Wallsend and I want to say a word about the subject of training. There is no one who has had any close connection with the administration of unemployment insurance, or who has been brought into contact in any way whatever with the question of unemployment, who will not agree with everything that the hon. Member has said and with what has been said so often in this House, namely, that one of its saddest and gravest features is the effect of unemployment on young persons. The Blanesburgh Committee made the recommendation to which the hon. Member referred. The Malcolm Committee made a very similar recommendation not very long ago and the Salvesen Committee which had, I think, almost exactly the same terms of refer- 512 ence as the Malcolm Committee and which considered the question in Scotland, made an exactly similar report. The Malcolm Committee recommended the establishment of a permanent scheme of juvenile unemployment centres, and the Blanesburgh Committee, while acquiescing in this suggestion, desired that facilities for training should also be available for those between 18 and 21; but—here the hon. Member opposite will agree with me, because she has had experience of the office that I now hold—neither of those Committees worked out, or could be expected to work out, in detail, a scheme which would put that recommendation into operation, and it needs the closest consultation with the education authorities, with the local authorities, with employers and work-people in every district where it is proposed to put them into operation.
The present schemes of juvenile unemployment centres which we have got were, and are, on a strictly experimental basis. These recommendations propose something of a much more permanent character. The Malcolm Committee advised—and I referred to this when I last spoke in this House—that a National Advisory Council for Juvenile Unemployment should be set up, and that recommendation has been accepted. The constitution of the Committee has already been agreed, and its personnel, I hope, will be decided upon within a very short time. In accordance with the recommendations of the Malcolm Committee, this council will consist of representatives of employers and workers, of local education authorities, and of teachers. There are a number of matters connected with the problem of juvenile unemployment about which it will be of advantage to obtain the views of this Committee, but in the very forefront of these matters will be the working out of a practical scheme of centres or courses of instruction for juveniles who are out of employment. The preparation of such a scheme, believe me, is by no means free from difficulties, but we have every hope, with the assistance of this Committee, so constituted and so comprehensive, that we shall be able to establish a scheme and ensure its success. Until that be done, we have made arrangements for carrying on for another year the existing system of un- 513 employment centres, and so I think I may fairly claim that, so far as that recommendation of the Blanesburgh Report is concerned, we have accepted it, and we intend to do our utmost to carry it out. With regard to the persons from 18 to 21, in addition to the four centres for men, we have been providing for some time for young women a number of domestic training centres under the control of the Central Committee. These centres are now in operation and are being continued.
§ Mr BETTERTON
There are obviously—and this is perfectly clear to anybody who has had any experience of it—in some respects far greater difficulties in dealing with these older people than there is in dealing with the younger ones, because apart from the difficulty common to both that they are in and out of employment, with the result that the classes are often dislocated, there is the difficulty of knowing just that sort of instruction which is likely to be most useful to them. This is a matter, like the others, to which my right hon. Friend has given his closest and most earnest attention.
The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me asked me a question or two, and I am sorry that I shall not have time to answer them all. He asked me what are the effects of the transitional provisions in the Bill? They are not easy to understand, and, if the House wants me to give the best explanation I can, I hope hon. Members will bear with me. The effect of these transitional proposals is this, that where persons have a benefit year current at the time when the Bill comes into operation, in 1928, they will be entitled to be treated as satisfying the 30 contributions for the whole of that benefit year. Further, when they begin a benefit year at any time in the twelve months next after April, 1928, they will be entitled to be considered to have complied with the contribution rule during
§ that year also. The effect is that it will be possible for a person whose benefit year begins just before the beginning or the end to get benefit for the whole of that benefit year and for the whole of another benefit year or practically two years in all.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
This is important. There is a first class as well as a second class without stamps who go off in less than six months.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston asked me the effect of these transitional provisions, and I think I have explained them. It is a very complicated question. The broad effect is that persons who have a benefit year current or who may begin another benefit year next year will, provided they satisfy the contribution rule of 30 contributions in all or eight in the last two years, be entitled to two benefit years. I confidently commend this Bill to the House as a sound Measure of legislation. Beyond all doubt it does much for which hon. Members have been asking for a very long time past. The Report was drafted in a spirit of compromise, and I venture to express the hope that our deliberations in Committee may be carried on in the same spirit.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
In the one half-minute that remains I can tell the right hon. Gentleman this, that the estimates of 200,000 or 150,000 or 100,000 are exaggerations.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 296; Noes, 143.515
|Division No. 320.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Atkinson, C.||Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.|
|Albery, Irving James||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bennett, A. J.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Balniel, Lord||Berry, Sir George|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Betterton, Henry B.|
|Apsley, Lord||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Birchall, Major J. Dearman|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Blundell, F. N.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Boothby, R. J. G.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hammersley, S. S.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Harland, A.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N th'I'd., Hexham)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Harrison, G. J. C.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Buchan, John||Hartington, Marquess of||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Burman, J. B.||Hawke, John Anthony||Penny, Frederick George|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Perring, Sir William George|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Pilcher, G.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hills, Major John Waller||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hilton, Cecil||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Radford, E. A.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Holt, Capt. H. P.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Rye, F. G.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Salmon, Major l.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hurd, Percy A.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Cope, Major William||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Sandon, Lord|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Savery, S. S.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. McI.(Renfrew, W.)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeov11)||Lamb, J. Q.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Locker-Lampson, com. O. (Handsw'th)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Drewe, C.||Loder, J. de V.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Long, Major Eric||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Looker, Herbert William||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Ellis, R. G.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lumley, L. R.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Fermoy, Lord||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Fielden, E. B.||MacIntyre, I.||Tasker, R Inigo.|
|Finburgh, S.||McLean, Major A.||Thom, Lt -Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Macquisten, F. A.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Tinne, J. A.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Malone, Major P. B.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Margesson, Captain D.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Gates, Percy||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Waddington, R.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Merriman, F. B.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Grace, John||Meyer, Sir Frank||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Wells, S. R.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple-|
|Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)||Withers, John James||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)||Wolmer, Viscount||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)||Womersley, W. J||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)||Wood, B C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Winby, Colonel L. P.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).||Commander H. Eyres Monsell and Colonel Gibbs.|
|Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Harney, E. A.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Scurr, John|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Ammon, Charles George||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Simon, Rt. Hon. St. John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barnes, A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Batey, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smillie, Robert|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Briant, Frank||Kennedy, T.||Snell, Harry|
|Broad, F. A.||Kirkwood, D||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bromfield, William||Lansbury, George||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Bromley, J.||Lawrence, Susan||Stamford, T. W.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Lawson, John James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lee, F.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Buchanan, G.||Lindley, F. W.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lowth, T.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lunn, William||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cluse, W. S.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J.R.(Aberavon)||Taylor, R. A.|
|Connolly, M.||Mackinder, W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cove, W. G.||MacLaren, Andrew||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Day, Colonel Harry||March, S.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dennison, R.||Maxton, James||Varley, Frank B.|
|Duckworth, John||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Viant, S. P.|
|Duncan, C.||Montague, Frederick||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dunnico, H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murnin, H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Naylor, T. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Fenby, T. D.||Oliver, George Harold||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gardner, J. P.||Owen, Major G.||Westwood, J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Paling, W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gosling, Harry||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Potts, John S.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Riley, Ben||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Wright, W.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Hardie, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Hayes.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next, 14th November.—[Sir A. Steel-Maitland.]