HC Deb 23 November 1927 vol 210 cc1881-3

Considered in Committee—[Progress, 22nd November, 1927.]

[Captain FITZROY in the Chair.]


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I wish to call attention to the fact that the White Paper, for which we have asked, and the details of which ought to contain the figures to enable us to form an idea of what is to take place under this Bill, details essential for us if we are to consider really the Clauses of the Bill, is so imperfect and is drawn in such a way as to give us a set of hypotheses and no real basis of actual fact. To commence with, the details given are based on a method of collecting information which, if I might put it in a word, is a method of taking samples—taking a sample here and a sample there—classifying the results obtained from those samples and assuming that those samples clearly represent the general condition of affairs. If those samples are collected, without any attempt at all to select them, they will form some idea on which some vague opinion might be formed, but as a method of making actual calculations, obviously they are very imperfect indeed. If one were playing the game of poker, one might speculate on the results of information collected in this way, but we are not playing poker; we are playing with a very serious state of affairs in this country, and I suggest that this method is not quite sufficient to justify the Minister in proceeding with this Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman appears, according to the White Paper, to have based his case, not on the facts, but on the intervention of a kindly Providence which is going to give him certain results in 1929, and on the action of God he apparently bases his Bill, for there is nothing in any figures that exist to-day, according to this White Paper, that gives the slightest justification for any assumption which the Minister makes. Take paragraph (2), at the end of page 3, in which, by some mysterious process of reasoning, it is assumed—and the assumption evidently underlies the calculations on which the Bill is based— that if certain things had not happened, unemployment in mining would not have been above the average. If the Minister is asking the Committee really to accept an estimate that in the future, under this Bill, unemployment in mining is not likely to be higher than that of the average of general industry, then the right hon. Gentleman is asking us to believe something which is against all the probabilities and which even the poker player would not risk, because, if anything seems to be certain, it is that coal mining, instead of going better, is going from bad to worse. The peculiar circumstance in coal mining that a pit or an area stops for a very long time is just one of those cases in which the 30 contributions rule will be unable to be met by very large numbers of people. It is not like an industry such as the textile industry, in which a man may be out of work for three months, then get work for six months, then be out another month, and then work again for a month. In the mining industry, on the contrary, everything seems to prove that these men who are out of work are likely to be out for very long spells indeed, and nearly all of them are likely to fall under the guillotine of the 30 contributions rule.

Therefore, we cannot accept what is evidently intended to be implied in the White Paper, that it may be fairly assumed that when this Bill becomes law unemployment in coal mining will be about the average of that in other trades. We cannot accept this. It is neither scientific nor is it plain. There is nothing in the White Paper to show that this will be so, but merely a general statement that it may be so. It appears to me that the Minister in his Paper is flying his flag on a castle in Spain. Instead of giving us actual figures and saying that on these figures we can base a case, he asks us to base a case on figures which he thinks will exist in 1929. How can the Committee come to an understanding on the financial provisions of a Bill when the right hon. Gentleman says in his White Paper, in effect, that his calculations are based, not on what is existing but on what he thinks will exist in 1929? In paragraph (3) the Minister assumes that during the year ending April, 1930, the rate of unemployment should not exceed 8 per cent., and on that basis of 8 per cent. the Committee is asked to deal with Clauses of a Bill which have a very vital relation to the actual physical livelihood of very considerable masses of our people. Let me now make a rough calculation for the Committee. Let us assume 11,000,000 workers, with 1,100,000 unemployed; that is, roughly, the condition of affairs to-day, without going into fractions, and that is 10 per cent. of unemployment. The Minister is asking us to assume that 200,000 of those people will have found work before 1929, and that in addition he will have absorbed, roughly, I think, the 100,000 people who enter into industry every year in our country, and on that flimsy basis the Clauses of the Bill are drawn.

Whereupon, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod being come with a Message, the DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN left the Chair.

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.

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