Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £7,242,509, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Exchequer Contribution to the Unemployment Fund, Grants to Associations, Local Education Authorities and others under the Unemployment Insurance, Labour Exchanges, and other Acts; Expenses of the Industrial Court; Contribution towards the Expenses of the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations); Expenses of Training; and sundry services, including services arising out of the War."—[Note.—£4,375,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I beg to move to reduce the vote by £100.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour is not with us. We regret his absence. He would have preferred it to be otherwise and we should have been glad of his presence, because it would have denoted a welcome recovery. Moreover, we should have preferred that the right. hon. Gentleman had been present because we on these benches wish to expose to his face the hollow pretence of his policy. The Parliamentary Secretary will make a most efficient substitute and will, no doubt, make whatever representations he thinks fit to the appropriate quarters. The record of the Government in relation to unemployment is shameful. They have displayed a callous unconcern for the sufferings of the unemployed which has no parallel in the political history of this country. Even in the days of Queen Elizabeth they showed more concern for the poor. The Government are responsible, as I understand it, for the slow strangulation of the domestic happiness of thousands of working class families in this country.
1348 There are several counts in the indictment against the Government. The true state of affairs in respect of unemployment has not been disclosed, and we maintain that the position is much worse than the figures reveal. We have not the figures of the people who are out of work and unqualified for unemployment benefit. In the absence of accurate figures we on these benches are entitled to impeach the Government because of its refusal to lay before the country the actual state of affairs in respect of this matter. We know that there are many people, particularly young persons, who are not receiving unemployment benefit but who are, nevertheless, unemployed. We know that there are thousands of adult unemployed who have been struck off the live register because of a stupid regulation for which the Ministry is responsible. Generally speaking, it can be quite properly maintained that unemployment is much wider in its ramifications than the statistics furnished by the Ministry of Labour reveal. Instead of destroying the germ of unemployment, the Government have constantly and assiduously fostered it. For example, the Government are responsible for the conversion of the Seven hour day into the Eight hour day in the coalfields. When the Eight hour day Bill was before this House it was maintained by Government spokesmen—
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I respectfully submit that legislation can be used for the purpose of reference. I am merely furnishing an illustration, and I think you will see that I am not transgressing your ruling. When the Eight Hours Bill was before this House, the Government spokesmen, in apologising for the Measure, used two arguments. They said that it would increase employment in the mines and that increased production of coal was essential in the existing circumstances. Since then, two things have happened. In the first place, the increased production of coal has proved to be a menace to the miners of this country and, on the other hand, there has come a demand from the coalowners not for an increased production, but for restriction of output. There we have an illustration of a remedy devised by the 1349 Government proving an absolute failure, and one which is now forsaken by the coalowners.
It was maintained by the Government not long ago that the volume of unemployment in this country was increasing largely because of the industrial movement in 1926. To put it shortly, it was alleged that the general strike was responsible for a vast amount of unemployment. The assumption is, presumably, that there was no unemployment before the general strike; but the statistics furnished by the Ministry of Labour do not bear out that argument it was a mere pretext to shield the Government, but the theory is now happily Exploded. Over and above that, we have been promised brighter trade, and many right hon. and hon. Members opposite have displayed unbounded optimism. Hopes have been held out to the unemployed that brighter trade prospects would remove the serious menace and now, after so much optimism and so many hopes have been held out to the unemployed, the Government are so uncertain, that they are suggesting that industry should he revived by the promise of relief from rating burdens—we cannot discuss that proposition at this stage—and that is after the Government have maintained that trade was becoming better and better every day. Two years ago we were told that the unemployment problem would seriously diminish in the course of 12 months, that our major industries were showing signs of improvement. Now the Government come along and tell the country, by implication, that trade is so bad and unemployment such a profound problem that it becomes necessary to embark on another financial adventure. In respect of the position of trade, I would like to direct the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to certain observations that have been made by very prominent industrial magnates recently. Sir Alan Smith, who is, I understand, a supporter of the Government, at all events politically, stated only the other day, in regard to the promise of relief made by the Government, that:He did not think any pessimism that we had evinced would be unjustified when we considered the method in which the Government is now prepared to deal with the problem, which should have been tackled years ago.1350 That is a most severe condemnation of the policy of the Government. But it vindicates the policy of the Labour party. That statement appears to excite a smile on the faces of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Is it not true to say that the Labour party for years directed the attention to the need for fostering British industry by some measure of Government assistance? Sir Alan Smith now comes forward and tells the Government that what is now proposed by the Government should have been done many years ago. In that respect our policy is amply vindicated. But the fulfilment of these promises of relief, which is to lead to a revival of trade and presumably to diminish the volume of unemployment, is not to be forthcoming, we understand, for some considerable time; and we know that a very prominent coal owner, Sir David Llewellyn, speaking in respect of this matter said, referring to the coal trade:In its present position it cannot live for these 18 or 20 months before the rating relief scheme comes into effect. The difference between the 1913 railway rates, including tipping, weighing and dock charges, and those to-day, means 2s. 4d. a ton for South Wales coal. The increase is even greater in the case of coal which has to be taken longer distances for shipment. I think immediate relief at the rate of 2s. 6d. a ton should be granted on all export coal.That may appear to be slightly irrelevant to the issue now before the Committee, but I hope to show that it bears quite properly on the subject under review. Here we have prominent industrial magnates complaining that the promises now made by the Government are hopelessly inadequate, more particularly because they are mere promises and are not to be applied in the immediate future. That is the case of the Labour party in respect of this unemployment problem. Something must be done, and done immediately. Our contention is that the Government, far from seeking to devise a means of escape from this problem, has been plunging the country and the working classes into greater distress. The Government may claim that they have propounded one specific which, if properly applied, can remove unemployment in large measure. I refer to the Industrial Transference Board.
I note that this Board has been in existence for upwards of four months. I recall that when a Labour Government 1351 was in office for three months, right hon. Gentlemen opposite and those who were associated with them, displayed a fund of inquisitiveness in respect of the unemployment proposals of the then Government. We were called upon to deliver the goods because for three months we had been in office; the remedies had to be devised immediately, so we were informed. Not merely as regards the transfer of men from one district to another or from this to some other country, but the whole range of unemployment problems had to be tackled and removed. That was the demand made upon us by hon. Members opposite. This Board has been in operation, I am informed, for more than four months. What has it done? Has it found work for anyone? If so, where? And if work has been found, at what wages? My submission is that these are quite proper questions.
This Board is a most elusive mechanism. Where it is we cannot say. A report was sent to the Press, presumably by the Ministry of Labour, in the course of the week-end, informing all who cared to read that the Board was in Scotland. Presumably that report was submitted because of this day's Debate. Strangely enough, in the course of last week questions were asked of the Parliamentary Secretary in respect of the operations of the Industrial Transference Board. What did the hon. Gentleman then say? He stated that he could not say what the Board was doing; he could not say when the Board would report. In short, he appeared to wash his hands of the Board altogether, in that he divested himself of whatever responsibility that we thought in the circumstances fell upon his shoulders. Here I would like to remind the House that this proposal for transferring unemployed men from one part of the country to another, particularly in respect of miners, is by no means an innovation. In 1924 the matter came before the Mines Department and we discussed it. That was at a time when the problem was not as acute or pressing or arresting as it is to-day. But while there did not emerge from our discussions any definite piece of machinery for such a purpose, we did venture to suggest that the problem was likely to become more serious in the 1352 course of time, and would require to be tackled in a much bigger way than is suggested now by the Ministry of Labour.
In our judgment, assuming the Board is conducting its operations properly, it is not sufficient to transfer men from one district to another. In our judgment, facilities should be provided to transfer the families of the men, and to meet all the expenses likely to be entailed by such a transaction. As far as I gather, it is not the intention of the Board to make any such proposal, but at best, what can the Industrial Transference Board achieve? There are—and I do not desire to exaggerate figures—something like 250,000 miners out of work. Thousands of them are out of work because of the policy of His Majesty's Government. What has been done to meet the difficulty thus presented? They have established training centres. We on these benches offer no opposition to the establishment of such centres. To train men who appear to have become unemployable, to rescue them from social ostracism is, in our opinion, the proper thing to do. But in 12 months 221 men have been sent from South Wales to training centres. There are more than 50,000 miners unemployed in South Wales. There are many others unemployed in Cardiff and Swansea, and in other parts of South Wales. In the tin-plate trade, the steel trade and the like there is much unemployment, and here is a Government that labours so profusely, and eventually produces this futile, puny, meandering mouse in the form of a scheme which, in the course of 12 months, has succeeded in sending 221 men to training centres. As to what is to become of them when they are trained, we have yet to learn. As to whether they will receive proper employment, we desire information. As to whether they are to receive proper wages, information is also desired. As to whether they are to be transferred from this country to some part of the Dominions to compete with workers there, is another point upon which it is desirable that the Committee should be furnished with information.
I leave South Wales for the moment, and I go further North. The hon. Gentleman admits the abundance of unemployment in Glasgow. The whole of the industrial belt from Edinburgh to, Glasgow is seething with unemployment 1353 Recently pits have been closing down, through the new proposals of the coal-owners, the restriction of output, and the closing down of uneconomic pits, which are not uneconomic at all in the true sense of the word, with results that are well known. In Glasgow, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, there is a vast amount of unemployment. Yet 70 men have been accepted for training centres from Glasgow since the scheme was conceived, and of those 70 men so accepted, only 24 have been placed. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman thinks of an amazing feat of that kind. I submit that these facts—and I challenge the hon. Gentleman to dispute them—are the best proof of the incapacity of this Government in respect of the unemployment problem. I am precluded, as I understand, from propounding remedies this afternoon. I cannot refer to schemes which, if applied, might rescue the unemployed from their present state, and I submit that without legislation there is little prospect of relief. But I do venture to ask the House to make of this unemployment problem, if I may dare say so, a non-party one. It is wide enough, it is important enough, it is fundamental enough, and if all parties approach the problem with the sole desire to secure its removal, it is quite possible that even this Government might make a change in policy, as the result of which the problem might be properly tackled.
For example, the Government, might set up—as far as I can understand it, this does not postulate legislation—a Committee composed of Members from all quarters of the House to consider schemes for the relief of the unemployed, with a view to tackling the whole problem. Such scheme, if founded, might be submitted to the right hon. Gentleman's Department. The Government, I feel, in the circumstances, having regard to what measure of unity resulted, would be compelled to proceed judiciously to the tackling of the problem, and I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would make representations to the proper quarter on that head. In the ultimate, when this problem is boiled down, in existing circumstances it is found to be a problem not so much of finding work for the unemployed as of maintaining the unemployed. The hon. Gentleman has been responsible for the provision of certain unemployment relief schemes. I know there has 1354 been a constant diminution in those schemes. I have no desire to dwell at any length upon this matter, but I submit two figures which bear out my contention. In 1926, the number of men employed under the Ministry of Transport scheme coming under the head of unemployment relief amounted to 18,249. There was a higher figure in 1925, but in 1927, the last date for which figures are available, the number of men employed was 13,094—a considerable reduction. As far as unemployment grant schemes are concerned, there has been a reduction from 32,170 in September, 1925, to 19,351 in September, 1926, and to 11,931 in September, 1927.
That reveals a serious state of affairs. It means that the Government are not proceeding as rapidly as is desired with the reconstruction of roads, thus providing work for the unemployed, nor are they going to the assistance of distressed local authorities. On the contrary, the Government have discouraged the efforts of local authorities to provide relief schemes, and when demands have been made on them for such purposes the Government, in the name of policy—which we cannot discuss in terms of legislation this afternoon—have looked askance at the proposals put before them. Therefore, in the absence of the necessary work, as the Government cannot provide a scheme of land reclamation, as they cannot proceed with the reconstruction of our roadways, as the Government cannot, in short, undertake an extensive scheme of national spring-cleaning such as is essential in existing circumstances, then the unemployed must be maintained.
When we come to consider the question of maintenance we discover that the Government have adopted expedients even more severe and more harsh than those adopted in relation to the unemployment grant schemes or the Ministry of Transport schemes. Unemployment benefit has been reduced. All sorts of obstacles are put in the way of unemployed men obtaining relief. In my own constituency I find large numbers of single men in the shale-oil industry, who have been out of work for upwards of three years because of the depression in that industry, are precluded from qualifying at the Employment Exchanges and are told that they ought to leave 1355 the district, that they ought to emigrate and seek employment elsewhere. No facilities are provided, as I have ventured to point out in respect of the operations of the Industrial Transference Board. Some of these men are living on charity—some are living with their parents—and the hon. Gentleman's Department remains self-complacent and satisfied, having abandoned them to their fate. There are many gaps which will be filled in the course of the ensuing discussion. I leave that task to my Friends. The Government have produced a new problem—the problem of the derelict mining town and mining village. As to the cause of that problem I need not say anything beyond this—that, it is very largely bound up with their treatment of the mining problem. They have made decent citizens into social outcasts. They have steadily withheld public funds from the use of local authorities. They have deprived unemployed men and women of their financial rights.
My submission is that the Government who are responsible for this distress, the Government who are responsible for the continuance of the unemployment problem as we see it, ought themselves to be rendered unemployed. For that purpose I move the reduction in the salary of the right hon. Gentleman. If the Committee should see its way to support a proposal of that sort, and if the right hon. Gentleman's salary were reduced, we should expect him and his very capable substitute to resign. Thus a one very important prop would be drawn away from the structure which surrounds the present Government. It may be argued that we on this side should propound our proposals. This is not the occasion for so doing. We are not being asked to present the proposals of the Labour party. His Majesty's Government are in office. His Majesty's Government are responsible and it is His Majesty's Government who are now being impeached, and quite justly impeached, in the circumstances. Therefore, in the name of the unemployed for whom there is at present very little hope we ask the hon. Gentleman to make representations to the proper quarter so that the policy of the Government in respect of unemployment and unemployment relief can be immediately changed.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
The hon. Member who has just sat down has given us one of those clever speeches to which we were accustomed when he was previously a Member of this House. For my part, I should not for a moment seek to depreciate the force of the argument which he has put before the Committee, but I think he is labouring under a certain number of delusions, and I venture to take up a few moments in discussing some of the points which he has put before us. He made the complaint that the Labour party had been reproached, during the time they were in office, because in the space of three months to six months they had not produced a remedy for unemployment. For myself, I should have regarded that reproach against the Labour party and the Labour Government at that time as entirely unjustified, but for one fact—that they had sought the support of the country upon the ground that they alone had a specific remedy for unemployment. The truth is that nobody has a specific remedy for unemployment. We have to recognise to-day that this is a question which has puzzled all parties and upon which none of us is entitled to claim any great meed of credit. We are indeed faced by a situation which causes anxiety throughout the realm, and which, notwithstanding all the attention which has been devoted to it, remains one of paralysing difficulty. I, for myself, would be sorry for any person who got up in the country to-day to say he had found a remedy to settle all the questions by which we are faced.
Let us really get at the root of this matter. On what does employment depend? It depends on orders in our shops, and the possibility of obtaining those orders, in turn, depends upon our ability to offer to those who require our products prices which compare with the prices of our competitors. That is a problem which afflicts us more than any other country in the world, and for this reason. We do not make any real attempt to defend our home market, and, accordingly, when it comes to a question of a competition of prices this competition takes place not only in markets overseas, afflicting other people but in the home market, affecting our own people. The result is that at the present time not merely are we failing to obtain orders overseas but we are 1357 failing to obtain orders at home. I draw attention for a moment to one great industry of this country, to wit, the steel trade. We are importing at the present time 3,500,000 tons of steel in a year which we never used to do before. We used to be exporters of steel, instead of importers of steel. Everyone must realise that all that steel imported into this country means so much loss to the trade of those who make the steel. I do not wish to go into an argument upon the respective merits of Free Trade and Protection but I would ask my Socialist friends on the Benches opposite what would they, as a Socialist Government, do in the ease of an enormous importation of one of the most important products of this country, the import of which, in such a very large amount, denies employment to a vast multitude of our own people? I ask them, in all seriousness, what is the Socialist remedy for such a state of affairs? Are we to continue to import commodities which in their turn undoubtedly do a great injury to employment in this country—
§ The CHAIRMAN
It would be beyond the power of the Minister of Labour to carry out by administration and without legislation any remedy of the kind which the right hon. Gentleman is adumbrating.
§ Sir R. HORNE
May I suggest, Sir, that I have not proposed any remedy. I am only asking those who complain of the condition of employment in this country to look around and to say what is their proposal. In view of the circumstances which I have indicated, I suggest that when it comes to a question of unemployment, everybody must take into consideration the conditions under which our people are employed to-day. The truth is that the burdens which rest upon our industry at the present time are very much greater than those which rest upon our competitors in other countries in the Continent of Europe. If you take into account, for example, what you pay on those matters with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt last week, and other social services, it surely becomes apparent that it is very much more costly to produce a unit of product in this country than it is on the Continent of Europe. The result immediately is that a number of people in this country go out of employment, if you not only leave your own markets free to their products, 1358 but also find yourselves in difficulties in competing with the products of your competitors in other markets of the world. I do not suggest any remedy at all; I only venture to suggest to my hon. Friends on the opposite side that when they complain against the Ministry of Labour for not finding methods for dealing with a problem of that kind, something has got to be suggested which will get over the difficulties and, so far as I know, there is none.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I suggest that everything which adds to the cost of production in this country adds to the difficulty of our obtaining a market for our products, and accordingly must result in unemployment in this country, if we cannot compete at equal prices with those who are our rivals. It seems to me that that is a proposition which is self-evident, and I welcome any suggestion which anybody can make for the solution of that problem, because so long as these conditions exist, I venture to assert that there is no way of which I know of getting round it. You may say, "Reduce your costs." In what element are you going to reduce them? Are you going to bring down your wages to the level of the wages that are the rule at present in Belgium and Germany If your costs are not going to come down in wages, where are they going to come down, and in what way indeed are you going to resuscitate, for example, the steel trade of this country or what depends upon it, namely, the coal trade of this country, so long as you are competing on terms which allow your competitors to conduct their business at much lower costs than you yourself must maintain That is the problem which I put to the Labour party to-day, and I venture to suggest that, so long as they have not got an answer to that problem, they have no reason to reproach the Ministry of Labour, which has failed, as they think, to find a solution of this vast difficulty.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It seems to me quite impossible for hon. Members to answer the right hon. Gentleman's speech with- 1359 out making proposals that would involve legislation. This is the occasion for criticising the administration of the Ministry of Labour, but I think the right hon. Gentleman's speech most distinctly adumbrates legislation.
§ Sir R. HORNE
All that I can say is that these are the conditions which undoubtedly create unemployment, and I am entitled to point out, surely, the conditions which create the results which we all deplore. Now I turn to another element of the hon. Gentleman's speech. Be talked of the Industrial Transference Board, and he apparently expected that within a few minutes of that Board beginning its investigations something should result in this country which would enable employment to be offered to people who are at present without it. In my view, it is not an easy thing in this country to transfer large bodies of people from one part of the country to another, particularly as you must find, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, housing accommodation for their families as well as for the men themselves. I think it would indeed be asking too much if you were to suggest that, within the space of a week or two, a Board appointed for this purpose should find a method for providing housing accommodation for large numbers of people transferred from one part of the country to another.
I should like to say, with regard to the particular industry to which the hon. Member referred, namely, the coal in-industry, that there are, as it seems to me, certain respites which might prove to be of advantage. I know that he represents a coal-mining constituency, and, as it happens, I was brought up in one. I know the classes of people from which the mining industry has been very largely 1ecruited, and I venture to suggest to the Minister that there is a very large number of people in the coal mining industry who are skilled agricultural workers. Everyone who knows coal mining communities knows that a very large number of people have come in from agriculture to work in the mines because of the higher wages which have been offered. In my own particular district, I am aware of the fact that there was regularly a waiting list of agricultural workers who were desirous of entering the mines, and a very large 1360 number of people who to-day are classed as mine workers are people who previously had very great skill in all the occupations which go to make up farming.
If I might make the suggestion to the Ministry of Labour, I would propose that they should discover in the mining community the number of people who have acquaintance with agricultural work. As we all know, at the present time there is a shortage of people who are required upon the farms of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I am perfectly certain that it does not require any such question. It happens all over the country at the present time, in every district of England and in every district of Scotland, and the query which comes from the benches opposite shows that, while they may be taking very great interest in other forms of industry, they have a very short acquaintance with agriculture. I think very many opportunities might be discovered for men who at present are failing to get the opportunity of work in the mines, which they desire, to use their skill in the form of agriculture, either at home or abroad.
This leads me to the other question which the hon. Gentleman propounded. He asked whether this Industrial Transference Board had yet made any arrangements at all for the transference of people unemployed at home to places in the Dominions. I happen to have had some recent experience of a hat is going on in the Dominions. It is no good our suggesting at the present time—and I hope the Industrial Transference Board will not waste their time upon any schemes for the purpose—the transference of people en bloc from this country to any part of our Dominions of which I am aware, in order that they should obtain employment there. The truth is that, if you take countries, for example, like Australia and New Zealand, at the present time that they are themselves frightened by a certain amount of unemployment which exists in their towns. This at the moment has created so much apprehension that in New Zealand all adult immigration into that country has been stopped, and in most of the States of Australia they find themselves in so much difficulty with the the number of unemployed that they have at the present time that they are very unwilling to receive any more adult immigrants into their midst.
§ Sir R. HORNE
They have, but I am not allowed to enter upon that question; otherwise, I could give a complete explanation of that particular situation. On some more appropriate Debate, I will undoubtedly do so. What I wish to say is this, that I have no doubt for myself that this is a mere transitory phenomenon in these countries. As everyone knows, there are vast possibilities, both in Australia and in New Zealand, which will require enormously greater populations than they have today, but for the moment the distribution of labour in those countries is such as to create a great want in some parts and a glut of labour in others, and they are faced with exactly the same difficulty as we have here to-day, that they have no means of transferring the labouring population from the places where it is to the places where it is wanted. For the moment, therefore, they are faced with the same kind of problem as we have, and they are very unwilling that, for example, any suggestion on the part of the Industrial Transference Board should involve them in receiving a large number of labourers from this country.
But that condition will pass. You have only to realise what the situation is to know that in the future the opportunities in Australia, for example—as my right hon. Friend opposite knows, from his visit last year—are illimitable, as also they are in New Zealand. In Australia you have a country with a population of only 6,000,000 people, and when you look at it, what you find is this, that if it were populated per acre to the same degree as its nearest neighbour, which is Java, not all the people in the world would be sufficient to populate the Continent of Australia. That is the field which is available for British labour in the Antipodes, and there is no doubt at all that that country is not going to remain with 6,000,000 people. It is determined to be entirely British. It is looked upon with envy by the peoples of the East, who are assembled in enormous numbers in very small areas, and if we do not people Australia, somebody else will. That is inevitable.
§ Sir R. HORNE
If I were young enough, I should be very pleased to lead 1362 my hon. Friends there, but I say that at the moment it is quite hopeless to expect that you should transfer large masses of people from this country either to Australia, to New Zealand, or to Canada, and that you must wait for a scheme sufficiently well devised to make such migration a success. There is nothing which has so much militated against the success of emigration from this country as instances where people have been planted down in places not suitable to those particular migrants, and sometimes perhaps migrants not suitable to these places, with the result that you find numbers of letters in the Press at home deprecating the going of anybody at all either to Australia, New Zealand, or Canada. That is not a thing which anybody would wish, and at the moment, as it seems to me, Australia is taking exactly the right course in having set up a Development and Migration Commission, which is devoting the whole of its time to a discussion of the resources of Australia, to the question of where markets can be found for their products, and in the ultimate to the question of how many people they can receive in particular areas for the development of the country. In the end I believe that great success will be achieved upon those lines.
I venture to suggest that in these matters of unemployment there is one element in our situation which is particularly tragic. It is bad enough for many men who have learned trades and been in employment to find themselves to-day without an opportunity of working with their hands at the trades which they know, but it is worse still that boys emerging from school should have no opportunity even of learning a trade, because there is no employer who can offer them that chance. I suggest to the Ministry of Labour in this connection, as a mere matter of ordinary administration, requiring no legislation at all, that they should pay particular regard to the emigration of juvenile laibour to our Dominions. One notes that at the present time we are offering employment in this country to 500,000 more people than actually were employed before the War. I am not sure that this is generally realised, but once you realise it, you immediately ask why it is that we have this glut of unemployed people to-day. The answer is that there are far more 1363 women in employment to-day than before the War, and that we must expect that as a permanent condition. The second factor which has led to this glut of labour is that our population has not been emigrating to the Dominions to anything like the extent that it did before the War. We have only to look at the figures to see that we have been retaining far more of our population at home than we ever did in pre-War times.
The fact is, and we really must acknowledge it, however little we may wish to concede it, that there are more people in this country at the present time than we shall ever be able to find employment for. After all, we are a very small island, very constricted in space, and we are competing against enormous territories like the United States. We cannot sustain all the population that we have, and it is our bounden duty and responsibility to find chances for these people overseas. Where are the best chances? They are certainly among the people who talk their language, who have been brought up with their ideas, and who will exist under the British flag and maintain the same ideals for all time. As I understand it, it is our job, as Members of Parliament, to arrange the most suitable scheme by which these people may find overseas opportunities which we cannot give them at home. Following out that suggestion, and at the same time keeping in mind the limitations which exist with regard to the emigration of adult labour to our Dominions, I suggest to the Ministry of Labour that great, encouragement should be given to the emigration of juveniles from this country so that a certain proportion of them at least should have an opportunity of making careers for themselves overseas which, at present, they have no opportunity of doing at home. If some fresh arrangements upon these lines can be made, I am certain that we shall get rid of that tragic exhibition of youths going straight from school and hanging about the street corners, and never having an opportunity of using their faculties. It is our bounden duty to find opportunities for them, and I venture to commend that suggestion to the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
It is necessary to say a word or two on the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member 1364 for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) that one of the difficulties facing the nation in dealing with unemployment is the expenditure of the nation upon social services which means expenditure in rates and taxes. It is a suggestion which is frequently made from the other side, without any valid argument to justify it. I know that this is a subject of rather wide implication, but, as it has been mentioned, would like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the real facts in regard to national expenditure upon social services and in other ways. The question of national taxation and its effect upon industry must surely be viewed in relation to the total resources of the nation and the income of the nation; if we look at it from that point of view, we find that the central taxation of this country amounts to one-fifth of the national income, which is almost the proportion of taxation to national income in 1825. If we add that central taxation to the rates, that is to say, to £180,000,000, and add also the amount which goes in the form of investments in British enterprises out of income, and also all our foreign investments, we get a total of £1,446,000,000 out of a national income of £4,000,000,000. That means a balance of free expenditure of £2,554,000,000. In other words, an income for every man, woman, child and babe of £54 a year, or an average income per family of over £6 a week, after all national taxation, all local rates, all re-investments in industry, and all foreign investments have been taken out of that income. To say that the comparatively small amount of that national taxation which is spent on social services is the cause of unemployment, is an argument that we on this side are not prepared to accept.
There is a point which I would like to make in regard to agriculture, and especially the possibility of skilled agriculturists among the miners being got back to the fields of this country. That is a very admirable suggestion, and if it be true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the whole countryside is calling out for skilled labour, what a Government we have got not to use that fact in getting these men on to the fields! Surely we cannot find a stronger argument in favour of the ineffectiveness and futility of this Government than the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. I am not 1365 quite so sure about the jobs on the fields being available. It is largely a question of wages, of transport, and of efficiency in agricultural work. Some 3,000,000 fewer people are employed upon the land now than when I was born. That has been due to a large number of causes. Among them are the questions of management, transport charges, and so forth. If the Government really mean to deal with the question of re-populating the rural districts, I shall welcome anything that they may be prepared to offer, because I firmly believe that one of the great hopes of the future is to put science and efficiency into agriculture, and to make the fullest possible use that we can of our national resources. Among our competitors there is not a country which is less dependent upon her own agricultural resources than this country. The competitive power of Belgium and Germany is due to the fact that at the base of these countries there is an efficient and prosperous agriculture. The same thing applies to the Dominions. Until we can get back to prosperous agriculture in this country, we cannot have economic security. After all, we live upon the land finally, and upon the land and its proper fructification depends the safety of any nation, and particularly a nation such as ours, with its peculiar geographical conditions.
The question of sending people abroad, of de-populating this country and opening up prospects for our people in Australia, Canada, or some other Dominion, is a very involved and intricate one, and I am not going to take up the attitude that there is not a need for a sound migration policy. On the other hand, it is exceedingly unwise to talk about sending large numbers of our youths to the Dominions without making sure that they are wanted. I do not want the best type of our youths to go out of this country, leaving us the worst, but I am prepared to support some kind of policy which will take the material that is available for efficient training, and which will see that they are efficiently and properly trained, and sent out to do work that will give them prospects of security. They should not be just sent out, trained or untrained as the case may be, in order to find their own way. Why should it not be possible to hammer out an Empire policy and make arrangements with Australia and other parts of our 1366 Dominions, arid with our own Government, our own people, our own capital, make ourselves responsible definitely for schemes of development in the Colonies? If we are prepared to consider that, there might be something to be said for the policy of large central migration, but do not let us send people out half-trained to compete with people who are already there, already unemployed in the big cities. Let us make sure that we have somewhere to send them, and that they are of the type that will make good under very different circumstances from those which we have in a small restricted country such as this. I regard the question of agriculture as one of the most important to which the best brains of this country can be applied.
§ Mr. ROBERT HUDSON
We were told by the hon. Member who opened this Debate that his speech was to be regarded as an impeachment of the Government. Judging by the reception that the speech had among the Members of his own party, it was a very poor effort at impeaching the Government. I had always understood that, if you make a political speech in Scotland, you have to put an extraordinarily good case. The speech of the hon. Member cause me to doubt whether those stories which I have heard about the canniness of the Scottish electors are true. After all, what did he do? He trotted out all the old stories that we have heard in this House time and time again, stories that Members of his own party have abandoned long ago. The only really new point which he made was his criticism of the Industrial Transference Board and he proceeded to ask the Committee to disbelieve in the efforts of the Industrial Transference Board because, forsooth, the members of that Board had not published a report after four months of work. This House ought to be grateful to the members of the Board for sticking to their job and working hard to find alternative employment for the men they are appointed to look after, instead of wasting time writing a report to satisfy the curiosity of Members of this House. They would be very much better employed, and, if they did not report for another two or three months, I, for one, should not think that they had been wasting time. The hon. Member went on to sneer at the efforts of the Government 1367 with regard to training centres. He said only 70 men from the City of Glasgow had been sent to training centres.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. Member was apparently not listening with attention to what I said. I said that 70 men from Glasgow had been accepted, and 24 men had been actually placed.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. Member said that 70 men had been accepted for training at training centres. I took his words down.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
May I ask the hon. Member to be accurate? Seventy men had been accepted, but not sent. Only 24 had actually been placed. That means 24 had actually been sent to training centres.
§ Mr. HUDSON
That is possibly what the hon. Member meant, but what he said was that 70 had been accepted and 24 had been found places after they had been trained. I would like to know how many men have volunteered, and I would also like to know whether or not the members of the party opposite really believe in these training centers? Do they believe these training centres are a good thing?
§ Mr. HUDSON
What I want to know, and I think we are entitled to ask when hon. Members opposite are attacking the Government, is whether they are doing anything to help to persuade these men to offer themselves? Do they think it better for a man to remain unemployed for three or four or even five years in a particular locality than to take a job at a training centre to be trained in some other industry, with the prospect of getting a place in another part of the country where unemployment is less acute? Do they think it better that the man should be encouraged to stay where he is in the hope of getting maintenance for the rest of his life? That really is the problem. In many areas which I know officials have been sent from the Ministry to ask for volunteers to go for training to these training centres, with the prospect of getting jobs, and the response from the men concerned has been disappointingly small, and in many cases practically nil. The reproach which I make against the Labour party is that in many 1368 cases they have done nothing to try to help us to persuade these men to take advantage of the facilities.
It is exactly the same in the case of the juvenile unemployment centres, which are now under the charge of the Ministry of Labour. We continually hear from members of the party opposite that the whole country demands the raising of the school leaving age to 15. Attendance at juvenile unemployment centres, which could be set up in various parts of the country, and paid for largely out of the funds of the Ministry of Labour, would have the effect of increasing the school leaving age. If they go to those centres, children have the opportunity of being trained for a further period without interfering with their employment and without cost to their parents. What do we find? Do we find that mothers and fathers in the country are taking advantage of those centres? Do we find that the numbers are increasing? On the contrary, we find that the training centres which have been set up are coming to an end.
§ Mr. HUDSON
Yes, I will indeed, and, what is more, I will tell the hon. Member of the difficulties which I personally have come up against in trying to get one started in my own constituency on account of the fact that one has come to an end in a neighbouring constituency. In Workington, which is represented by a Member of the party opposite, the training centre has come to an end because the men and women of Workington would not continue to send their children to it. When in my own constituency I tried to get a centre set up, I was met with the argument that eight miles away a centre had been started and it had been found there was no demand for it. Therefore, we are entitled to ask hon. Members opposite whether they really believe what they say, and are they really anxious to see assistance given to unemployed men in this country? Do they really believe that men from 18 to 30 ought to be allowed to stay in a particular area all their lives rather than be trained and sent to other parts of the country?
The hon. Member who opened the Debate said we ought not to limit our 1369 efforts to men, but ought to deal also with their families. I agree, ultimately, but surely it is very much easier to deal with a single man than with a family? If there is a limited number of openings for men, it is better to choose single men of from 18 to 30 rather than married men, when there is no housing accommodation for married men. Are the party opposite doing anything to help us, anything to persuade the men? The last speaker talked about the difficulties of transferring miners back to agriculture and suggested that the Government ought to assist. How can you compel a man who has been a miner to go back to agriculture? Are you prepared to agree that we ought to compel these men of 18 to 30 to go to the training centres?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
Does the hon. Member suggest that they have yet been given the opportunity—I refer to those who are trained agriculturists?
§ Mr. HUDSON
I am talking of the principle. Are you to use compulsion or not? I can take you and show you hundreds of men who have been given the opportunity of going to training centres and have refused.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he has made quite a number of allegations and assertions unsupported by any figures, and I dispute the statement.
§ Mr. HUDSON
When the hon. Member has been in this Parliament as long as I have he will realise that I am not in the habit of making unsupported statements. Some members of his party have already had occasion to test that point; in particular, the right hon. Gentleman the leader of his party had an occasion when dealing with miners.
§ Mr. HUDSON
Yes, hundreds, who have been given the opportunity and have not gone. At present, I am trying to get them given the opportunity again, and in a few weeks' time I shall be able to tell the hon. Member whether any of them have accepted.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I am very sorry to have to interrupt again, but the point of the hon. Gentleman's remarks has to do with what I said in reference to the statement that there are miners who are expert agriculturists, who do not want this training, and who could be taken to the country which is calling out for them. I want to know whether those miners who are expertly trained agriculturists already have had an opportunity given to them by the Government?
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. Member asks why the Government do not take those cases in hand, and my answer to that is: "If we did give the people the offer, do you expect that we should get them to accept it?" Do you propose that we should compel men? Are we to select a particular miner who has had agricultural experience and go to him—
§ Mr. HUDSON
In innumerable eases we have made offers to these men to go voluntarily, and they have refused. We have not been assisted in any way in our efforts by Members of the party opposite, and, until we get that assistance, it ill becomes them to criticise us in our attempts.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
It is extremely fascinating to hear the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell) appealing to the Government to treat this question in a non-party spirit. The gentle and conciliatory tone of his own speech must have swept every trace of party feeling away from hon. Members. Dealing with the question as a whole, I think the seriousness of the problem confronting the Ministry of Labour lies not in the mere existence of more than a million unemployed, which, if it had occurred in the ordinary course of a trade cycle, might reasonably have been left to the natural recovery of trade, the Government leaning in the meantime, as every Government since the War 1371 has done, upon the great Liberal insurance scheme—I say that in order that I may get my own non-party point out—but the seriousness of the problem at the moment lies in the fact that these are the same men year after year. There are trades which, by the admission of everyone, have no prospect of immediately re-absorbing into their ranks those who are out of work, and there is a whole new generation growing up which has never yet known what the prospect of regular work means. In these circumstances, we are getting a real industrial degeneration. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) and some other hon. Members might say that economic pressure will settle the whole thing in the long run, but when things are on this scale we cannot really leave them to economic pressure. That may deal with a comparatively small unemployment situation, say, the collapse of a small trade, but not with the collapse, as it is in considerable measure, of so enormous an industry as coal mining.
When we are face to face with a problem on that scale it is quite useless to devote the whole of one's criticism to the failure of the Industrial Transference Board. After all, as its name implies, it is only a medium for transferring them, and one has to find work to which to transfer them; and even if the Board is backed up by training centres, there is the question of what they are to be trained for. I hope it is not contemplated that these men should be transferred, let us say, to Middlesbrough, where we already have our own problem, and would like to transfer some of our own people elsewhere. We were all very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) discourage to a certain extent the easy solution of transferring all these people overseas in large numbers, in flocks and in droves, as he said at the beginning of his speech. Very often hon. Members opposite seem fascinated by the mere name of a Dominion, and imagine that it must necessarily be able to absorb any possible number of men. At the end of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be fascinated by his Imperial subject, and he appeared to me to be suggesting once more that this was the 1372 only possible solution to the problem. In fact, one could not quite reconcile the beginning with the end of his speech. But the real use of the Industrial Transference Board must depend upon the answer to that question of where you are going to transfer the men, and, as nearly all the staple trades of the country are in the same position, the question is not an easy one to answer. The Industrial Transference Board would be a much more promising means of dealing with this problem if you had a situation in which, while some trades were rapidly going down hill, others were rising with equal rapidity. Although there are one or two trades that are in a promising position, there is no real prospect of getting these men transferred—there is no real prospect, for example, of transferring our unemployed miners into the motor trade.
Therefore, it does seem to me that, whether it be within the strict province of the Minister of Labour or not, the actual provision of work by the Government is, in the end, the only thing that can make the Industrial Transference Board a reasonable proposition. Its activities are bound to remain in the region of a few hundreds transferred at a time unless some definite inquiry is set on foot as to what are the possibilities in this country of creating productive, work. I believe that those possibilities have been very much under-estimated by the Minister of Labour and by the Government. I believe that a proper inquiry would reveal the fact that there is a tremendous scope for real work which would he a national investment, and which would be productive and for the well-being, of the country; work which would want doing if there were no unemployed in existence, but which wants doing much more in view of the fact that there are the men ready for work and that the work is ready for them. You have it in housing, you have it in roads, you have it in docks. There are municipal authorities only waiting and eager to provide this work and to absorb their unemployed. It is purely a matter for administration. If that kind of policy could be readily adopted, you would find the Industrial Transference Board doing work of an altogether different scope, and training centres would be working with new ideas and new prospects. Although it is a problem which may not be altogether within the power of the 1373 Minister of Labour to solve, I think that there is scope for a great deal more imagination and a great deal more boldness in the work of that Department which might lead to a considerable mitigation of this great and depressing problem.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
While we are discussing the question of unemployment this evening I hope that I shall not be thought out of order if I take this opportunity of thanking the Government for having brought forward a policy which I cannot help feeling will be of the utmost value to the unemployed of this country. I refer, of course, to the proposals set out in the Budget brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I represent a constituency in which there are a great number of miners and other workers engaged in the heavy industries. I cannot help feeling that, in the long run, those men will be enormously benefited by the proposals of the Budget.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that I must ask the Noble Lord not to pursue that point any further. It is a question which cannot be discussed on this occasion.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
It is not my intention to pursue that subject any further. I can quite understand the anxiety of hon. Members opposite that something should be done immediately to mitigate the terrible state of our distressed areas. There is no question that the condition of those areas is a national affair; in other words, it should not be a subject for charity. The condition of South Wales and the condition of Durham and Northumberland are essentially matters of national responsibility. It was a national policy which caused the condition of those areas. It was the national policy of the War which demanded coal and iron and which over-stimulated those industries and attracted vast numbers of workers to those industries. I am sorry to say that the national conscience and the national policy have left those men and those areas to wallow in the mire of unemployment, misery, debt, and general unhappiness. I hope that this evening the Minister who is representing the Government will be able to relieve the strong feeling which exists in the country that something 1374 ought to be done and to tell the Committee that the Government have succeeded in settling upon something which will be really effective in doing away with these stagnant pools of misery and unemployment.
I cannot help regretting that the Government have really never yet realised the great possibilities there are of improving the standards of living in this country by improving the standard of living of the workers in other countries. We could have minimised the fierceness of the competition from other countries if we had done something to improve the conditions of the workers abroad. The Government's refusal to ratify the Eight Hours Convention has been a very great injury to the workers of this country. I have no doubt whatever that the refusal of His Majesty's Government to ratify that Convention has had a very bad effect indeed. It is beyond question that if we were to ratify the Convention other industrial countries would do the same. I say that because I was not able to be present during the last Debate owing to a family bereavement, but I do not find in the Government's speech any allusion to that subject. They have now abandoned the argument that there is no guarantee that if we ratified the Convention other nations would do the same, because it is now quite clearly understood that all the industrial countries have signified their intention of ratifying the Convention if we would only do so.
In the recent Debate, which I think took place on 27th February, the Government's objections to ratification were narrowed down to what they considered to be the obstacles. They said that there were agreements in the railway industry and agreements in the engineering industry which could not be brought within the four corners of the Convention. I take it that the House of Commons was quite willing to allow the Government to go to Geneva and see whether the Convention could not be amended, so that those objections might be smoothed away by some modification of it. But it is quite another thing to throw the whole of the Convention into the melting pot, and I was surprised to see in Saturday's paper that the Government representative at Geneva, Mr. Wolfe, supported what I consider to be an extremely re- 1375 actionary and wrecking proposal. The Standing Joint Committee proposed that the whole of the Hours Convention should be an open question; that is to say, that any nation, however reactionary, might bring forward proposals, proposals which might be aimed at the wrecking of the Convention itself, provided that those proposals were within the principle of a 48-hour week. I was surprised to find that Mr. Wolfe, as representing the British Government, voted for that proposal, but he was left in a minority of two. The proposal was so reactionary that the Governments of Italy, Germany and France were all opposed to it. I was glad to see in this morning's paper that Mr. Wolfe had retreated from the position which he took up on Saturday, and that he had come in on the side of the majority. But what I do not agree with is that Mr. Wolfe then proceeded to move the adjournment of the question to a future date.
I think the House is entitled to know why Mr. Wolfe took that course. Why did he propose the adjournment? What was his object? There is really no reason why the question should be postponed. Everybody is agreed that the Convention should be ratified, if the small objections of the British Government could be smoothed away. It would be more in agreement with the declarations of the Prime Minister and the declarations of the Minister of Labour himself that they were anxious to ratify the Convention if Mr. Wolfe had adopted a more helpful attitude at Geneva. If my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour does find time in his speech this evening to allude to this question, I shall be very much obliged to him if he will explain why Mr. Wolfe acted in the way that he did.
§ Mr. C. EDWARDS
I do not want to take up much of the time of the Committee, but I do want to correct one or two statements with which I do not agree and which I think are not quite true. Those statements were made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. Hudson), who said that there were young men who refused to go to these training centres. But the hon Member did not tell the Committee why those young men refused to go. Perhaps there was some good reason why they did 1376 not go. A good many men would be only too willing to go to training centres or anywhere else if it would lead to employment. I do not believe that those men will not go; there must be something behind of which we have not yet heard. Then there was another statement that men were refusing to go to other parts of the country to work. I do not think that is true. Men are only too anxious to work. It is entirely against our experience.
§ Mr. R. HUDSON
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for one moment? I never said that the men were refusing to leave the towns and go to work in other parts of the country. I asked whether it was the policy of the party opposite to urge them to go.
§ Mr. HUDSON
They are certainly refusing to take advantage of the service afforded at training centres, which involves their leaving home.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
There must be some good reason for that. My experience is that men are only too anxious to get work. I do not know anything about the system at Whitehaven.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
My experience has been that the men are only too anxious to get work. Then the point was made that men who have been brought up in agriculture and are now in other jobs should be compelled to go back to agriculture. But if a man is doing well in his job, if he knows his job and is satisfied with it, I see no reason why he should be compelled to leave it. If the inducements of agriculture were good enough to cause him to go back of his own free will, all the better for everybody If these unemployed men are offered a job and they do not go to it, their unemployment pay is stopped. Let me say, at once that I am strongly in favour of training centres. Even if those centres merely turn a man into a sort of handy man, it is useful and that is a good thing, but, as a means of solving the problem of unemployment in the mining industry, I think there is 1377 very little hope for it. If a scheme meant getting only 50 men trained in the course of a year and absorbing them in other industries, I should support it. Anything that leads to employment is so much to the good. I am not saying a word against training centres, but I do not think anyone will claim that those centres can ever form a solution of the unemployment problem in the mining areas. I have not a word to say against emigration.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I support emigration if everything is right. Not long ago I received a report from an Australian about a special scheme being inaugurated in Australia for settling men on farms of 1,000 acres each. It seemed to me an excellent proposition, and I was very favourably impressed with it. I questioned this Australian gentleman about the scheme, which has the Australian Government behind it, and he told me that in Australia there was a stretch of country which would make one of the best wheat belts in the world if they could only get the men there. The Australian Government are doing everything they can in that particular part of the country to establish railways, roads and a water supply, and they are pressing forward with the scheme. I asked my Australian friend how many men the scheme would employ, and he told me that, under the most favourable conditions, the scheme would absorb about 120 men per month. That means that employment would be found for about 1,400 or 1,500 men per annum under the best conditions. Of course, you cannot develop railways and water supplies in a month.
I do not oppose such a scheme as that. On the contrary, I wish to encourage such schemes, but what I wish to point out is that here is a scheme being launched under the most favourable circumstances and upon an extensive scale, and yet it cannot possibly find employment for more than 1,500 men in the course of a year. I am not opposed to emigration or training centres, but, as for the Transference Board, I look upon it as the most hopeless and useless thing that was ever started. If you put a notice in the press in any mining district that ten men were 1378 wanted at a certain place, you would get almost a thousand men after those jobs; they do not need the assistance of a Transference Board because they will transfer themselves. The miners met the Prime Minister last week, and the right hon. Gentleman told them that they were the most conservative people in the world. Amongst the unemployed miners and even amongst the men who are working in the pits, there are thousands who would be very glad to go into any other industry if they could be assured of permanent employment.
§ Mr. R. HUDSON
Apparently the hon. Member thinks the statement I made on this point is untrue, but I can assure him that what I stated is quite true in my own particular area.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
What the hon. Member stated is quite opposite to my own experience. I look upon the Transference Board as useless, because the unemployed men are quite ready to go to any district where they can find employment. If we could only discuss this question of unemployment in the same way as we discussed the Prayer Book, without any party feeling, I am sure we should be able to find a solution. When we are discussing unemployment hon. Members on this side get up and blame the Government, and the Government defend themselves by putting the blame on Cook, and that is about the end of it. I think if hon. Members made up their minds to face this question in a proper spirit, we should be able to find a solution of the difficulty. Before we can settle this business, I think we shall have to consider some scheme of pensioning off the older men and giving the younger men a chance. I was told only yesterday of a man I used to know very well who was sent abroad, and came back last Saturday. He was sent out to a job when he was quite unfit for work. The whole system is wrong. What is required is a pension scheme of the kind I have mentioned on an extensive scale. That is the only cure, and we ought to have a system under which we can let the old men rest and the young men work. Of course you can keep your training centres going, and encourage emigration as much as you like, but I believe in work, and not in idleness.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY OF LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
I am sure the Committee will 1379 join with me in expressing regret at the circumstances which have prevented the Minister of Labour in taking part in the Debate this evening. I appreciate the references which have been made to my right hon. Friend by the hon. Member who initiated this Debate. I understand—in fact I had notice in the usual way before the Debate began to-day—that one of the principal subjects which hon. Members desire to raise, and on which they desire to have information, is the Transference Board, and I propose later on to say something about that subject. Before doing so, I propose, with the permission of the Committee, to say a word or two with regard to some of the actual figures contained in the Estimates. I am presenting Estimates for a very large amount—in spite of that fact, up to now not a single word has been said about the very large figures contained in those Estimates.
If hon. Members will look at the Estimates, they will find that the gross expenditure for the year is £16,625,000, of which by far the largest item is the State's contribution to the Unemployment Fund which amounts to no less than £12,244,000. The balance between these two sums is largely made up of the cost of administration of all the various services of the Ministry of Labour, which amounts to £3,850,000. The total cost of administration of the Unemployment Fund only, includes sums appearing on the Votes of other Government Departments and represents 11.5 per cent. of the income of the Fund. We have statutory authorisation to expend up to 12.5 of the fund for administration, but we have been able to carry out our duty for a lesser sum. The Estimate amounts, in round figures, to £11,600,000, and that represents a decrease on the year of just over £330,000. The main items of the decrease are represented, first of all, by a sum of £201,800, under the heading, Salaries and Staff. There is a decrease of £168,500 in the contribution to the Unemployment Fund, and £122,800 Appropriations-in-Aid. I think the Committee will be interested to know how this large decrease of £201,800 in the salaries of the staff is made up. It is not made up by any reduction in the scale, but it is due to the automatic reduction in the cost of living. Last year the salaries were based on an estimate 1380 of the cost of living figure at 72½, and this year they are based upon an estimate of 67½. That explains almost entirely this very considerable reduction under the item Salaries and Staff, and it is also partly due to the fact that we have some 1,000 fewer officials this year than we had last.
The main item of increase, on the other hand, is an increase of £188,000 under the heading of Umpire and Courts of Referees. This is in consequence of the passing of the Unemployment Insurance Act of last year, which abolished, as the Committee will remember, the distinction between standard and extended benefit, and, inasmuch as all claims in the future will be decided by the Courts of Referees and the Umpire, it follows that a good many more courts will have to be set up, and a good many more referees will have to be appointed. The other point about which I want to say a word is the additional sum which appears in the Estimates for Training. The additional sum which appears in the Estimates is £50,000, but as the Committee know, these Estimates are prepared many months before they are presented to the House, and, in pursuance of the policy which I am going to indicate in a moment, there is no doubt at all that this sum for training will he very considerably exceeded before the end of the financial year.
The main question, as I have said, and as has already been indicated in the Debate, on which hon. Members are desirous of knowing something, is that of the Industrial Transference Board. I have neither the right nor, indeed, the desire to complain that hon. Members should wish to know something about it at this stage, but at the same time I must point out—and here the hon. Member who initiated this discussion misunderstood me—that we have had as yet no Report from the Board itself—
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I am assured that we may expect that Report in a short time, by which I mean in a few weeks; and, therefore, it must be understood that anything that I say in reference to the work of the Transference Board must be considered in relation to the fact that, so far, we have not yet had any Report from the Board. It is perfectly natural and, if I may say so, perfectly right, that 1381 hon. Members, particularly those who represent constituencies containing areas which they sec are stricken and in danger of becoming derelict, where they see a basic industry in which often they themselves, their families, and their relatives have been engaged for generations, apparently crumbling away—it is right that they should be told all that the Government can tell them, and I am anxious to do that to-day. I trust, however, that from anything that I may say in the course of this discussion it will not be thought, and I do not think it will be thought, that I am unmindful of what that situation means to those who live in those areas, or that I am complacent in face of a situation which, as I know perfectly well, in certain districts and in certain areas, represents a real local tragedy. But I am also sure of this, that in some of those areas this spectre of unemployment can no longer be regarded as a fleeting or intermittent apparition, because in some of those areas, beyond all question, it has some of the characteristics of permanency; and it is that point, to which I am going to refer later, which makes this problem so difficult and so obstinate at the present time. What I want to do, if I can, is to present the picture to the Committee as I see it, without on the one hand for a moment minimising its seriousness, or, on the other, I hope, exaggerating its difficulties.
In the first place, I want to point out that a change is coming over this problem, a change which was at first almost imperceptible, but which now has assumed a definite and clear shape—a change which differentiates this problem and alters the aspect of it so as to present it in a different form from that which has confronted every Government since the War. Before proceeding to deal with that change, however, I want to say that I think that, both in this Chamber and often outside it, inferences are drawn from the weekly published figures which are misleading. Those figures, with rather depressing regularity, stand at about a million or thereabouts, and for comparative purposes, as indicating the aggregate movements in the employment world, they are very useful; but they are misleading if they are regarded as a true index to the general industrial activity of the country. To quote these figures, therefore, without explanation and without analysis, may give an exaggerated 1382 and, indeed, a wrong picture of the problem as a whole. But they have this further and, perhaps, even more serious defect, that to treat them thus obscures what is the real problem at the present time; and the real problem at the present time, as I see it, is how we are to deal with the concentration of unemployment in certain areas. It is not in any way, and I hope it will not be so taken, dismissing unemployment as negligible if I remind hon. Members that 10 per cent. of unemployment, even taking it at its face value, means 90 per cent. of employment; but what I want to point out is that, if that 10 per cent. were fairly and evenly distributed throughout the country and throughout all trades, the problem would, to say the least of it, be more manageable than it is at the present time. However, it is quite untrue, as it seems to me from the figures, to suggest that industry as a whole is failing more and more to provide a livelihood for the population of this country, and any such suggestion is falsified by the fact that, notwithstanding all the difficulties, industry has L[...]therto been able to absorb the annual increase of population.
I said a moment ago that a change had come over this problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not, I am sorry to say, in his place, but let me remind the Committee, for the purpose of comparison, what was his situation and what is the situation to-day, in order that may illustrate exactly what I mean. The right hon. Gentleman had, of course, an unrivalled experience of this matter. He was in high office in a time of prosperity during the War; he was Prime Minister during the most critical stage of the War; he was responsible for the government at the time of the post-War fictitious boom, and he was still Prime Minister at the time when the depression set in. His difficulty was a tremendous one, as is ours, but it was of a different kind. He had to face, in 1920 or 1921, the change from apparent prosperity to supreme depression which came suddenly, within a few months. He was face to face with the problem, therefore, of a tremendous change all at once from one situation to another, and the remedy, or, rather, the palliative, which he adopted did, I believe, great service and was of great value at the time. I have in mind 1383 particularly the right hon. Gentleman's policy in regard to the Unemployment Grants Committee.
Let us consider what the object of that policy was, and, indeed, what its effect was. The policy of the Unemployment Grants Committee was, apparently, based upon the theory that it would be a good thing, if possible, to enable a man to tide over the period of depression, in the hope that that depression, like previous depressions, would pass away, and that, when it had passed away, the man, being on the spot, who had been helped to tide over, would be ready to take up the job when the job again became available. The problem, however, is different now. The difficulty is that which I have already indicated, and to which I shall refer again. As the problem is different, so must the alleviation or palliative he different also, for, in truth, the old palliative has ceased to alleviate. That is brought out very clearly by the Report of the Unemployment Grants Committee, which administered this very Fund, as long ago as July, 1926, when they said that they thought that the scheme—that is to say, the unemployment scheme—which has been in operation for six consecutive winters, has, largely for that very reason, passed the period of its greatest utility, and, if pursued indefinitely to the same extent as in the past, it would be difficult to avoid subsidising work properly undertaken by the local authorities in the normal course of their business; and, in such case, little would be added to the sum total of work performed in the country.They went on to say that, if the scheme were continued, it would hinder rather than assist the relief of unemployment. I refer to that in order to show that we cannot, under the changed conditions, rely, at any rate to anything like the same extent, on the same measures of palliation which were relied upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs.
Another change has come over industry in this country which I think has a direct relation to what I have just been saying. For good or ill, a great movement has begun recommended by men of all parties, and by no one more vigorously than by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), a movement which was recommended as recently as last week by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh 1384 (Mr. W. Graham), when he said, speaking in the Budget Debate:Whatever we think of the industrial future of the country, amalgamation, rationalisation, larger scale production, all these are perfectly inevitable forces."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1928; col. 1144, Vol. 216.]I am not at all sure that I know what rationalisation means. I certainly regard it as a very barbarous word. But, speaking for myself as representing the Ministry of Labour, I have more than a suspicion that it is not going to make our problem any easier in any of the districts that are subjected to its operation. If this analysis of the unemployment position in broad terms—one must necessarily take a very broad view—is right, or even approximately right, no one who has examined it, as we have in the House for the last four or five years, can doubt that the acute social and economic difficulty with which the Government are face to face to-day is the position of the men in those areas and industries whose opportunities of employment, whether in that area or in that industry, are contracting. Reorganisation, which I suppose in the ultimate analysis means production by the most scientific methods of coal from the most economic pits, necessarily involves some displacement of labour. Even if the total market for English coal could be made to expand, it is on this hypothesis a wrong thing to restart pits which are below the proper economic margin, and if we are not going to restart the uneconomic pits, or blast furnaces or rolling mills, what can be done to aid the transfer of the people in those areas which are dependent on those industries and who are without a livelihood?
That seems to me to be the core of the problem with which we are faced to-day. That was really the question that emerged clearer and clearer during the whole of last winter. I refer to that, because last year was in many ways the most normal year we have had since the War. It was in order to secure that every possible facility within the influence of the Government was placed at the disposal of men desiring to transfer their labour to other areas and other trades, that the Government decided to set up the Industrial Transference Board. This, I think, will remove many of the misconceptions that have appeared in 1385 the course of this discussion. The Board was set up in January last and its members are the Chairman, Sir Warren Fisher, Sir John Cadman, and Sir David Shackleton. It was not set up, and it has never been so stated—here there is some misconception—to supersede other Government Departments. It was not set up in order create a new department. It was set up to work in close contact with existing Departments, and particularly with the Ministry of Labour. My right hon. Friend, before he was laid up, had kept in touch with the activities of the Board, and we know what is in their minds. We have not yet received a formal report, though we expect it in the course of two or three weeks. I know they have examined the information available in the various Government Departments, and they have consulted a large number of persons in London before they proceeded to visit the localities where the conditions are most difficult. In all those areas they have held discussions with representative bodies, or with individuals representing the miners, the mine-owners, and with other people who would be at all likely to afford them either information or help as to the conditions and prospects of the industry, and who they thought might suggest any remedy that might be in the mind of anyone in the locality, and which, in their view, might be able to help them. It will follow from this, that if there are any panaceas known to any of these interests, I have no doubt at all they will have been placed before the Board, and we shall hear all about that from the Board.
I can say from my own knowledge that in their consultations, both locally and here in London, the Board have addressed themselves to the existing arrangements likely to bear upon the transfer of labour and to ascertain, amongst other things, what are the harriers that hinder movement, what restrictions on movement exist, and what facilities can be afforded, or assistance given, financial or otherwise, to those who realise that they cannot get employment in their industry and desire to be moved elsewhere. Certain facilities exist already through the Employment Exchanges by means of advance of fares to workmen. The Board think that should be extended in various ways, particularly to aid men with families.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Do we understand that to mean transferring families from one part of the country to another, or only from this country to the Dominions?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I think it means from one part of this country to another, but, obviously, I could not dogmatise till I have seen the Report. I find this is one of the questions they have under their immediate consideration. We shall be prepared to consider favourably any proposals they may make on these lines. The Board are also giving special attention to the question of overseas settlement. This is necessarily a very important factor in relation to the conditions of our labour market.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
No. What it means is this. There are a multitude of arrangements and agreements dealing with migration. What I have no doubt the Board are considering is whether any of these arrangements can be improved, and whether they can make any useful suggestions which would get over or mitigate some of the difficulties which now stand in the way.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it not an undoubted fact that, although the Ministry are giving special attention to the question of transference during recent months, in fact the Ministry have spent £5,000 less on this purpose during 1928 than they did in 1927 in assisting the transfer of unemployed men from one part of the country to another?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I have not that figure in my mind. I can only repeat that any suggestion with regard to increased facilities that the Board may make will be most favourably considered by us.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I can also give this assurance, that if further money should be needed to carry out suggestions made by the Board which we accept, that money will be provided. Transfer is proceeding daily and it is a regular function of the employment market. But before I say any more upon this question of transfer and what the Government are 1387 prepared to do, I should like to see the Report.
I want at this stage to say a word about the measures the Government are taking to prevent the demoralisation of the unemployed and to assist them by training to fit themselves to seek a livelihood in new occupations. The hon. Member who has just sat down made a speech with which I entirely agree. Indeed, it is common knowledge amongst all who have considered the matter at all that one of the most painful features of unemployment is the demoralisation amongst young persons who are out of work, and have never had any, and as regards boys, our general policy—I am talking now not of adult training centres, but of juvenile unemployment centres—subject to co-operation with the education authorities, is to have centres in any area in which there are enough unemployed to make a centre desirable, or indeed practicable, and more particularly in the mining areas themselves. Apart from the mining areas, unemployment amongst juveniles at present is not very high. In pursuance of this policy large numbers of new centres have been set up in the mining areas. The number of centres at present in existence in the whole country is 100, which is over 20 more than it was a short time ago. The average daily attendance is 6,600, of which about 5,000 are boys and 1,600 girls, compared with 4,800 a year ago. The number of individual juveniles who attend at any time during the week is about 7,500, whereas a year ago it was under 5,000. With regard to the adult centres, that is, for young men of 19 and over, we have extended the training facilities which were set up in the first place at Wallsend and Birmingham and we have added two centres, one at Dudley and one at Bristol, where general handyman training is given, and the question of a centre for Scotland in addition to those to which I have referred is under immediate consideration.
It will be possible with those centres that are already in existence to train something like 4,000 men a year. In addition to those centres, we have the centres at Brandon and Claydon which will train something like 2,000 men a year, the greater proportion of whom will be trained for overseas. Therefore, in the 1388 centres that we already have, something like 6,000 men will be trained. It has already been indicated that the view of some hon. Members is that what we are doing is not enough. If there had been just one magic master-word, which would unlock this complicated machinery of unemployment and transfer, it cannot be doubted that the wealth of ingenious talent at the disposal of all previous Governments, to say nothing of the present Government would have discovered it long ago. The fact that it has not been discovered suggests that mere dramatic gestures will do nothing. But what progress is to be made will be done by unheroic, plodding effort, by accumulating small chances, by watching carefully for every opening and pushing it as wide as possible. That, to judge by their action, is the line on which the Board has been working. Serious as this problem is—and I do not wish for a moment to suggest that it is not serious—I feel bound again to remind the Committee that its seriousness is due mainly to the fact that the unemployment is concentrated in a small number of areas, where, unfortunately, avenues of employment in other trades are not available. Concentrated in this way—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Take the city of Glasgow, where the problem has been fearful for years past, does the hon. Gentleman suggest that there are not more than one or two trades in the city of Glasgow?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
No, I do not suggest that for a moment, but what I was saying was that, concentrated in this way, the problem is difficult. The most difficult feature of the whole of the present situation is that you have so many areas where, unlike the city of Glasgow, there is no alternative employment at all. I have in mind some of the valleys in South Wales, and so on. There is, of course, alternative employment at places like the city of Glasgow and on the Clyde.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the problem in these areas has been aggravated since 1926? Prior to 1926 the problem was more universal. It applied not particularly to mining areas, but throughout the country. Why, then, did not the Department with which he is associated find a solution before 1926?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I have already tried to explain to the hon. Gentleman that neither our Government nor did his Government have any solution that is universally applicable to a problem of this kind. I feel that the Committee will agree with me that national effort to effect this end must be made. The men themselves, realising the local situation, will, I am sure, evince the desire to move, and it must be our duty to give them every assistance that they may need. We are entitled at the same time to look for a whole-hearted response by employers, both large and small, and, indeed, by the, community as a whole, to an appeal to assist the efforts of the Government to find work in the more fortunately situated parts of the country, and generally to put no obstacle in the way of making the transfer policy effective. It will not be in order on these Estimates, as has already been pointed out in the course of this Debate, to make any reference to the proposals contained in the Budget speech, but perhaps I may be permitted, at any rate, to express the hone and the belief that these proposals will have effects which justify us in looking forward to such an improvement in industry generally, and particularly in the heavy industries, as will greatly improve the ability of employers to assist the transfer problem by absorbing those who are without employment in their own trade. My Noble Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) raised a point to which he asked me to make some reference. The proceedings at Geneva to which he referred only finished, think, yesterday, and the British Government's representative is on his way home. I have not even read the newspaper accounts to which he alluded, hut, obviously, as I am sure he will realise, it woulc1 be improper for me to say anything more upon this subject at present until I have seen the representative of the Government there.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Was he not acting on Government instructions? Was he acting on his own initiative?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a question before any other Member takes part in the 1390 Debate. I did not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, because he was quoting a set of figures, and I did not want to cause him to mix them up. He was quoting the number of youths who were unemployed, and for whom he was talking about making provision in his training centres. Was the hon. Gentleman merely referring to youths registered at the Employment Exchanges, or was he taking into consideration the number of young people who leave school at 14 years of age and for whom no employment is being found? Was he merely referring, in the figures that he gave, to the young persons between 16 and 18, or was he also taking into consideration those between the ages of 14 and 16?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I do not quite recall to what the hon. Gentleman refers. The figures that I quoted were the figures which would represent the total turnover, or the output of those various training centres, which come to about 6,000 a year.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. Towards the latter end of his speech, he quoted certain figures which I took to mean the number of young persons whose names were on the unemployment registers at the Employment Exchanges for whom certain arrangements might be made at training centres. What I would like to know definitely is, did those figures only relate to registered unemployed youths between the ages of 16 and 18, or were there added to those figures, the figures relating to children leaving school—the ages of 14 to 16?
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I have listened to very extraordinary speeches from the Government Benches. I am very sorry, indeed, that the Minister is not here. All of us must sympathise with a colleague who finds himself in that position, and particularly, also, we must sympathise with the Parliamentary Secretary, who, after all, must have had a very difficult and a worrying time during the last month or two. But when all the sympathy has been expended, may I call the hon. 1391 Gentleman's attention to the fact that he has not met, nor even attempted to meet, the case that was put up by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell)? The hon. Member for Linlithgow made certain very definite statements, which, if they be true, are a reflection upon the policy of the Government and on their administration. He said, for instance, that the unemployment figures do not disclose the true position. I venture to suggest that the hon. Gentleman might have attempted to refute that statement. I also assert without hesitation that the figures do not represent the true position, and that the Department knows perfectly well that they do not. There are thousands of people who do not appear in these figures but who are genuinely unemployed persons. Nobody knows how many. Only a census would tell us that. But the fact is, that the Government figures of, roughly, 1,000,000, certainly do not represent the total number of genuinely unemployed persons in this country. The hon. Gentleman also asserted that, instead of the Government trying to stop what was creating unemployment, they were helping it.
Not a word has fallen from the Parliamentary Secretary to prove that the Government have any policy at all for dealing with the root causes of unemployment. The whole speech is a practical admission that, as far as the Government are concerned, they are hopeless and helpless. It is not true that the Government did not say that they had a policy for unemployment. It is true that the Government before the Election issued a document in which they stated precisely that they had a positive remedy for unemployment, and immediately the Election was over the statement was taken out of the Government document because it had served its purpose. These are facts, and they are facts that the Government must face. The Government made a definite statement in their official publication that they had a positive remedy for unemployment, and they cannot run away and say, "Nobody has a remedy." Nobody ever said he had a remedy. The Government did say it, and obtained votes on the strength of the statement. Therefore, we are entitled to say to the Minister of Labour, What are you doing to carry out 1392 the statement that you made, that you had a positive remedy for unemployment? Where is your remedy? What have you done? What have been the results of your action? We now see the results. The results are there. The people are unemployed. Poverty is getting greater and greater. In some districts in the country the poverty is as bad as it is in parts of India. That is what the effect of it is.
No statement of platitudes of what may take place 20 years hence by migration to Australia will help the present people who are suffering. These people want help now, not 20 years hence. They do not want to hear fine words as to what the Transference Board may do in the future, or what may be expected when some miracle has happened. They want to know what they are going to do tomorrow. Is it going to provide a job at which they can earn a living? That is what they are asking for, and not vague statements when an Election is impending. The Government will find other statements when an Election is impending. It will not hesitate to find statements then. It will find them by the dozen, some correct and some incorrect. Are we to go on with the present method of doing nothing until the Government go out of office, because may I remind the hon. Gentleman that the very proposals of which he spoke in his last words are not to come into operation until this Government's term of office has ended? So that, evidently, we have to take it for granted that the Government have neither the capacity nor the intention of doing anything at the immediate moment to help or even attempt to try to solve this problem, which is bad enough in all conscience. We had a most lugubrious speech from the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) who appeared to think that, unless we can provide the Government with a remedy, we have no right to criticise. What a beautiful thing it is that the Government should spend four years of uselessness on this question, that for four years they have proved so incapable, and then the right hon. Member for Hillhead should say, "Unless you can tell us what to do, you have no right to complain." We are not here to do the job; the Government are here to do their job. The right hon. Member for Hillhead must 1393 have been talking through his hat when he said, "Unless you can tell us what to do, you have no need to grumble." Did ever anybody outside Bedlam hear an argument of that character put forward seriously?
The right hon. Gentleman further said, Upon what does employment depend? Then he gave us a series of sentences from an elementary treatise on economics, in order to show upon what employment depends. He said that employment depends upon getting orders and producing at prices which compete in the markets of the world. After giving us that sparkling example of wisdom, he went off and did not suggest how the Government were going to help us to get orders at prices which would compete in the markets of the world. He did, however, suggest that by increasing the price of steel we could manufacture things which we could sell more cheaply. That was the only suggestion which he made, and he made that in fear and trembling lest the eye of the Chairman should fall on him. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about our imports and exports. May I give him one example of the sort of things that is now preventing us from getting orders? According to the authority of a Lancashire manufacturer, the costs of dyeing and finishing certain goods in this country are so much heavier than the costs for similar work in America, that the difference is greater than the whole cost of weaving and spinning the material in this country.
Apparently, the Government think that if they can say that the Transference Board will begin to work within six months, or that two years hence certain taxes may begin to have an effect, that is sufficient for the unemployment problem. We are told that the miners might go into agricultural work. What proof is there that the country is crying out for thousands of agricultural workers? Does anyone know where such districts are to be found? If the Ministry of Labour know where agricultural labourers are wanted, it is not doing its duty unless it transfers the unemployed workers who could do that work to the job, or unless it tells the Committee, quite definitely, that the jobs have been offered to people who could do them but who will not accept them. The statement about agriculture calling out for men, 1394 and miners who could go out to do those jobs, must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. We must know where those vacant positions are and the men who have been offered the jobs before we can accept a general statement thrown into a Debate of this kind, apparently without rhyme or reason, and apparently without proof.
The right hon. Member for Hillhead said that to talk about block emigration to-day is to talk that which is not sound and that which is rather foolish. Out of the mouth of one of his own supporters the Minister has the statement that to dream of block emigration is to dream of that which is foolish. If we can accept the right hon. Gentleman as an authority, we can wipe great scale emigration off the map for the moment. We are dealing with living flesh and blood to-day, not next week, not next month, not next year. The people are asking for something to be done to-day, not next year or 20 years hence. They want something to be done for them to-day, or they want to know what they are to do if honest work at reasonable wages cannot be found for them. We are told that there are more working people in these islands than we can find work for. If that be the case, it is indeed a serious state of things to which we are drifting. With, admittedly, some of the finest workmen in the world, with a climate that lends itself to the absolute maximum expenditure of energy, these islands are in as good a condition to compete as any country in the world, if we are as efficient for it as other countries. Our workers are not at fault. That is proved by the fact that when our skilled workmen go abroad, there is great competition for them in the great Mecca of industrialism, America. The English skilled worker has never any difficulty in getting a job in America. The question is, which employer can get him. Therefore, it is not due to the lack of skill or capacity of our own workers. We have to find the cause at home.
Let me give an illustration of what takes place in agriculture. I think an illustration taken from agriculture may serve as an illustration for nearly every other trade. Wherever one goes in this country, even amongst the agricultural villages, one sees Danish products displayed in all the stores in village and in town. Why? Denmark has no advan- 1395 tage over this country. Her soil is no better than ours; her transport difficulties are very much greater than ours; her people certainly do not work for low wages. The Danes are a hardy, honest, clean, well-fed and well-educated people in every way, and equal to our own people. They are no better agriculturists than we are, but they have learned that the old system of every man working for himself is antiquated, that; it does not lead to the maximum of efficiency and that sensible co-operation will lead to prosperity, where the old fashioned individualistic method will lead to the very opposite of prosperity. Is not that, more or less, taking place in all our industries? Has not every committee that has examined the mining question found that the lack of success is due to lack of organisation, centralisation and co-operation?
What is the use of talking about sending our men abroad, unless we have tried our best at home, by the utmost efficiency of which we are capable, to maintain our own industries? To ask the Ministry of Labour to spread ideas of that sort is to ask in vain. Apparently, the Minister is simply sitting there and letting things go. If things go right, "God be praised!" if they do not go right, "God be praised! It is sent to us for our sins!" So far from any positive step being taken by the Ministry to alleviate the present condition of things there is no evidence of a single one. Wherever the Ministry have been able to make things worse for the unemployed, they have done it. They have made the position of the unemployed worse under the Unemployment Act. The Government have made the position of the millers worse by repealing an Act of Parliament and passing another. Wherever it was possible either by Act of Parliament or by administration to make the position worse it has been made worse, and when we look to where the position could have been made better, we find absolutely no response on the part of the Government.
The right hon. Member for Hillhead talked about the possibility of competing with other nations. Who has done more to prevent an understanding in Europe amongst the industrial nations to realise the Eight Hour Day than this 1396 Government? Who has done more to prevent that understanding than the Ministry of Labour? We have been guilty, not any other country, in preventing an understanding that would have put us in a far more favourable position as far as hours of labour are concerned than we are ever likely to be while this Government retain the reins of office. I have a perfect right to deal with these matters, quite apart from and above the question of the Transference Board. I listened to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary with a certain amount of astonishment. He gave us some very eloquent figures as to what lad been saved in certain ways of administration, bid he gave us no figures to show how he proposes to reduce the million of unemployed. It is a very significant fact that, since 1924, although the method of producing the figures has varied owing to the changes that have been made, there is one figure that has been constantly rising, and it has been prepared on the same basis all the time. I am speaking from memory and I am open to correction, but I think that the trade union unemployment rate is higher now than in 1924. Let me give the Parliamentary Secretary one or two details which I hope will awaken him from his complacency on this question. In 1924, wage rates went up £500,000 a week. Since then they have gone down consistently. The wage rates, with the exception of the beginning of 1925, have gone down consistently since 1924.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
Before the right hon. Gentleman makes this point, perhaps he will also give the rates of the cost of living.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman compare the cost of living in 1924 with the cost of living now?
§ Mr. SHAW
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to compare the cost of living at the beginning of 1924 with the cost of living at the end of 1924, when wages had gone up by £500,000 a week. If the hon. Member wants any further figures, will he look at the returns of the people who have been driven to the boards of guardians? He will find that the figures have gone up enormously. Let him look 1397 where he likes. Let him look at the level of wages, at the numbers of people driven to the boards of guardians, at the distressed areas, at anything that is a mark of real poverty, and he will find the position infinitely worse now than in 1924. Then he talks to us and says what will happen when the Transference Board gets to work. God knows when, God knows how, and God knows where they are going to take the men when they transfer them from one district to another. Where are the jobs to which the men are to be transferred If it were a fact that in some parts of the country there were openings for thousands of men, one could understand the delight which hon. Members on this side of the House would feel at the prospect of many of the people whom they see every day, and who are "licking thin," to use a Lancashire term, getting a job at reasonable wages. What is the use of pretending that this Transference Board is set a problem that is solvable by it? What is the use of giving even the finest men in the world a job which is impossible of being done? That is the position in regard to the Transference Board. Everybody wishes the best of good luck to the men engaged on that Board, and everybody recognises then ability, but what is the use of talking about the possibility of this Board being able to do tremendous things for the unemployed, when everybody knows that it is almost impossible to dream of such a result accruing from their work?
The Parliamentary Secretary talked about the fictitious boom of 1920. I do not know what he means by "the fictitious boom." All the looms in Lancashire were running and all the spindles were spinning, and although the cost of living was fairly high, everybody had work and got a good wage. What we are getting now is not a fictitious boom but fictitious prosperity. The only prosperity that we have in the country comes from the speeches of Members of the Government. There is no prosperity in this country to-day outside those speeches, and everybody knows it. If we could get a state of things in which every workman who wanted a job and every woman who wanted a job was working at decent wages, the Parliamentary Secretary might call it a fictitious boom or anything he likes, but I should be willing to exchange that condition of 1398 things for the present circumstances. We have the right to expect certain definite and precise things from the Ministry of Labour. For what purpose does the Ministry exist if it does riot exist to improve the conditions of the workers in this country? If it does exist for that purpose, what has it done during the last year in order to improve the conditions of the workers? Has it in any way helped to provide useful productive employment at decent wages for anyone? We ask for an answer. We have asked the question before and we have not got an answer. We know of no movements of large bodies of men and women who are being employed in good occupations at reasonable rates of wages through the efforts of the Ministry of Labour.
I have just been handed a copy of the figures showing the reduction in weekly wages in 1927. The figures show that the reduction was £358,600 a week. In 1924, when the vicious and impracticable Government, of the Labour party was in office, the rise in weekly wages was £500,000 a week. Now I ask, what has the Government done, what has the Ministry of Labour done, to show an example to other countries in the way of hours of labour and conditions of employment? We know their regrettable record at Geneva. We know how they have shuffled—no, perhaps a little stronger word would do. I would like to know whether the Ministers left London with the impression that Britain was ready to go forward? If they left London with that impression, what took place afterwards? If the Government lets people go away with the impression that difficulties have been removed, and then at once the difficulties are greater than ever, how does it expect other Governments to respect it? I say again that it is extremely doubtful whether our-record in industrial matters has ever stood lower on the Continent than it stands to-day. I am not stating that without some knowledge of the subject.
Then what has been done when workers are unemployed and they cannot get a job at their own occupation? What has been done in the past year to employ them on useful national work at wages? It is not correct to say that there is no useful national work waiting to be done. Does not everyone agree that in London itself there is the greatest possible need for better access to some 1399 of our docks, and that the authorities say that millions are lost every year through congestion? Would it not be possible to make some of those roads better, and would it not be better to pay wages for doing it than simply to let things slide and pay unemployment benefits for no work at all? What has been done by the Department to make the lot of the workers better, to give them physically and morally a better chance? Have the Government done anything to help the unemployed in that respect? Two little things they have done, and for them they are entitled to the fullest possible credit. They have tried to develop training centres both for juveniles and adults. But would it not have been better if, when they have trained men to do work, they found them the work for which they have trained them? Training is a very valuable thing, but what is the good of a man having engineering experience if he cannot get an engineering job? What a foolish thing it is to train men to do work of a certain type when there is work of that type that needs to be done in the national interest, and then to leave the work undone and the men idle!
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I ought to have said that our figures showed that of the men who had been trained at the training centres no less than 92 per cent. were found employment.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I am talking now of the training centres for adults. I have not got the figures with regard to juvenile unemployment except in the mining areas.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Will the hon. Gentleman give the actual number of men who have been found employment, instead of the percentages, which may mean anything?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
In Birmingham, 2,175; at Wallsend, 1,430; total, 3,607, or 99.6 per cent. Of the men placed in the Birmingham centre 93 per cent. were still 1400 in employment at the end of March, 1928. The corresponding figures for the other centres are not available.
§ Mr. SHAW
I am very glad to have one little ray of brightness and to find that the Ministry of Labour really has found work for someone. We were of the opinion, I must admit, that they had not found work for a single person, but that by their policy in regard to unemployment grants they had succeeded in stopping work that would have employed quite a considerable number of people. We really are entitled to ask the Government what they are doing to deal with the problem. We are entitled to know whether the Government has any policy whatever. If it has a policy, where is it, what is it and when are we to see it? Or have they not simply given up all idea of trying to deal palliatively with unemployment, pending a solution of the problem I can understand the Government saying quite frankly, "We have given up all idea of being able to do anything. We believe that the only thing to be done is just to leave matters to blind chance. Let things work them-selves out." I could understand that being stated openly; but a statement that if we wait long enough there is a silver lining to the cloud—such a statement as that we have had for four years, that trade is actually on the mend—is not worthy of the Government. It would be much more worthy to state bluntly that they were letting things slide and trusting to chance. Are they trusting to chance? Will they tell us? Or, if they have a constructive scheme, will they give it to us? They cannot expect people to be satisfied with a statement that when the Government's term of office has expired there will come into operation an Act which will relieve the difficulty. That is a poor way to get out of the trouble.
I say to hon. Members opposite that they are bound by the promise that they gave to the people that they had really a remedy for unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "What promise?"] The promise that was made in a document issued by the Conservative headquarters, in which it was stated specifically that the Unionist party had a positive remedy for unemployment. My right hon. Friend the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer produced the document for the Minister of Health, who also had challenged the statement. 1401 When the Minister of Health saw the document, he said, "Oh, that has been revised." That is to say, after the election it had been revised. If it is a fact that the document was issued in 1923, have the Unionist party lost the remedy since then? I pause for an answer. I must take it for granted that the Unionist party did say that they had this remedy. We now say to them, Where is it? What are you doing? In what way are you helping to make the country any better off, either by your administration or your law making? We say that there are tremendous responsibilities resting on the Government. Let me give one example, and unemployment is not represented by it. In the county of Lancashire are from 200,000 to 300,000 at work at the occupation of weaving. These people are not on the unemployment list at all, although often they are earning only three-quarters or half their normal wages. There may be one loom out of four stooped, or two out of four, and in very exceptional cases three out of four. The operatives, therefore, are drawing from one-quarter to one-half or three-quarters of their normal wages. They are not represented amongst the unemployed, but their sufferings are great all the same. I think we must insist on pressing this Amendment to a Division, as a protest against the ineffectiveness, the lack of initiative and the lack of good intention on the part of the Government, for if they had a good intention at any rate they would state it, and such a statement has not been vouchsafed to us.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I am sure we have all listened with extreme interest to the speech of the last speaker. I confess that I thought the criticism of the Government by the Mover of the Amendment was ineffective, but until I came into the House a short time ago I had no reason to suppose that the arts of Hyde Park were brought into this Chamber. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is reminiscent of nothing so much as Sunday morning at Hyde Park Corner. The right hon. Gentleman has poured forth a stream of criticisms of the Government. He has made statements, as to the Government's aims, which we all know to be entirely wrong. He has stated, for instance, that the Government at the last Election published a statement that they 1402 had a definite remedy for unemployment, and he paused for an answer. He wants to know whether that definite cure for unemployment has gone. I ant sure the right hon. Gentleman will not have to wait long for an answer, for my recollection is that in 1923, when the Conservative party appealed to the country to give them a chance of protecting our industry because they thought that that would be a solution of the unemployment problem, and the people of the country did not accept the enlightened view that members of our party presented, that remedy for unemployment was dropped out of the Conservative programme perfectly honestly and straightforwardly. I do not believe that any members of the Conservative party at the last Election ever went, as did members of the Labour party, and appealed to the electors with a promise that they had an effective and sure cure for unemployment. I am certain that no Conservative would be so dishonest, so foolish or so criminal as to tell people, at any rate intelligent people—it is the intelligent people who for the most part form Conservative audiences—that they had a positive cure for unemployment.
As the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) has explained, the problem of unemployment is not a problem which any party in this country can definitely lay hands on and cure. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out to hon. Members opposite, this problem is not to be cured by indulging in abuse of the other side or by saying like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) that the Government have only made the poor poorer and the rich richer, and have no effective means of dealing with the problem. During this Debate I have thought it rather strange that while we are discussing this great problem of unemployment we should not be allowed to make any mention of the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget. If there are any proposals, from any side, which are likely to have a lasting effect on industry I think those proposals are—
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
It rather ties one's hands in discussing unemployment if, when hon. Members opposite demand, 1403 "What have you done, and what are you going to do?" we are prevented from explaining what we believe to be a very efficient step in the right direction. What did the right hon. Member for Preston suggest as a cure? He said, "We are not here to do the job; it is your job." That is a very easy manner of getting out of the difficulty. I have only been in the House of Commons a very short time, but I have learned this, that in any Debate on employment or trade or Empire development very little constructive criticism comes from hon. Members opposite. I do not remember in the course of the speech of the right hon. Member for Preston a single constructive suggestion. He criticised the Government because they had done nothing. The Mover of the Amendment wanted to know why the Government's proposals for rating reform have been so long delayed. Hon. Members opposite need not ask the Government that question. They know the reason the Budget proposals have been delayed. They know the reason part of the reason at any rate, for the position in which we find ourselves to-day as regards unemployment is the action of Gentlemen on the benches opposite. Had the workers of this country not been misled, as they were in 1926, then instead of discussing the rating proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day, we should be seeing the fruits of those proposals. The right hon. Member for Preston spoke of reorganisation co-ordination, rationalisation and all sorts of "isms" and "ations" which sound very big, but really mean nothing unless you state exactly how you are going to define them in terms. The right; hon. Gentleman expects the people of this country to listen to these high-sounding words, and to draw their own conclusions as to the policy which he wishes these words to represent.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think it is well that I ought to intervene at this stage and point out to the Committee that we can only criticise the administration of the Department under the existing law. We cannot discuss issues of policy. I do not know how far it has gone on, but it ought to stop now.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
Perhaps I ought to have spoken earlier, and then I might have avoided falling under your jurisdiction. I must apologise, but I find it exceedingly difficult to know exactly what are the limits of this Debate. The right hon. Member for Preston would have us believe that the Government are doing nothing, and that Members on this side of the Committee have no appreciation of the problem. If one is to appreciate this problem in a way which will appeal to thinking people, and not merely to those to whom the right hon. Gentleman appeals, then one must have that elementary knowledge of economics which hon. Members opposite apparently lack. Hon. Members opposite are adepts at drawing attention to the distress, misery and poverty and all the other evil results of unemployment. Anybody can do that, but when it comes to understanding the causes of unemployment and attacking the problem at its root, they seem to be peculiarly barren of constructive suggestion. In order to approach the problem it is necessary to appreciate that unemployment is caused by bad trade. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh, but really one would imagine from listening to some of the speeches that that condition of affairs had been entirely overlooked by them. The Labour party talk about relief works, and about making the lot of the unemployed easier. If one comes to the conclusion that unemployment is caused by bad trade, and also that bad trade is caused by increased foreign competition, foreign competition against which our manufacturers find it increasingly difficult to compete—
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I thought just now from their reception of my statement that unemployment was caused by bad trade that hon. Members regarded this as such an accepted fact, that it was almost childish to mention it. But if they agree that unemployment is caused by bad trade and increased foreign competition, and the difficulty of our manufacturers in selling our goods in the markets of the world, then it follows that anything we do to increase the cost of production makes the task of the manufacturer harder. I suggest that although the policy of relief work is in 1405 many cases necessary as a palliative and in order to make the lot of the unemployed more tolerable, yet the cost of relief work, in the end, has to be borne by industry and is a practical hindrance to our competition in the markets of the world. I am pleased to think that the Government, instead of adopting the proposal of embarking on a comprehensive and gigantic scheme of relief work, are concentrating their attention more upon reducing the cost of production by attacking the rating problem. Hon. Members of the Labour party pay more attention to the problem of maintaining the unemployed in decent conditions than they do to the problem of unemployment itself. All their speeches on this problem show a tendency in that direction. One hears little about what can be done to help the British manufacturer, and when the Government bring forward any proposals for safeguarding with a view to increasing production in this country, they are received with the sneers of hon. Members opposite. I would remind the right hon. Member for Preston that while he is criticising and sneering at the Government for not making more progress in dealing with this problem, the right hon. Gentleman who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in his own Government said that the improvement in industry during the last seven years had been the most marvellous miracle in the history of the world. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that if unemployment was bad, we were apt to take too gloomy a view of it, that it was confined to three or four basic industries and that, had the tide of emigration maintained its pre-War level, in his opinion there would now be a shortage instead of a surplus of labour in this country. If that be a correct estimate of the situation, I think hon. Members opposite are deluding themselves when they think that they can get over the problem by abuse of the Government. Not only is unemployment caused by bad trade; it is also caused by over-population. We are not getting rid of the same proportion of the annual increase of our population as we were able to do before the War. Therefore, the Government ought to pay the greatest attention to schemes for encouraging and promoting migration.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must point out that this is not an occasion for dealing with schemes of that kind. This is merely an occasion for dealing with the work of the particular Department which is under discussion, namely, the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I was desirous of suggesting that the Minister of Labour should exercise his influence in the proper quarters to secure facilities for the training of intending migrants. A great deal could be done in that direction. In Bristol we have just set up a training establishment for intending migrants, and the difficulty which we are up against is the fact that it is largely dependent upon charity. I do not believe, it we are to tackle this unemployment problem in this particular direction—by encouraging and assisting migration—that we ought to rely upon charity. It is a work which ought to be undertaken by the Government. Hon. Members opposite, instead of criticising and abusing the Government for what they have not done, instead of drawing attention to the fact—of which we are fully aware—that there is unemployment, ought to put their heads together and try to assist the Government in dealing with the problem at its root by fostering trade. If they did so, we should be nearer to a considerable diminution in the total of our unemployed.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
The hon. Member who has just spoken has not been long in the House of Commons, and I am sorry to find that he has been disappointed since coming here. I imagine that he and others of his party in Bristol were elated when he was returned as a member of a party over 400 strong, and I have no doubt he thought he would help to solve this problem. Since corning here, however, I gather that the hon. Member has found that that very large party to which he is attached has no direct plan, no policy whatever for dealing with the situation. Now he turns to the Labour party and he expects a party of only 150 strong, sitting in Opposition, and with no authority, to have a remedy, and he blames that party for failing to solve a. problem which is the problem of his own Government.
§ Mr. CULVERWELL
I do not blame the Labour party for not solving the problem, but I do blame them for not admitting the difficulties of the Govern- 1407 ment and the efforts which they are making to solve it.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I was not criticising the hon. Member for blaming the Labour party. If he had a grudge against them, he ought to have been much more vigorous. He is plainly very unhappy about the position of his own Government, and I am very sorry for him, sorry that he has joined a party so incapable. This Motion is not intended to be aimed at the figures for the salaries of the staff, so I do not think it is necessary for me to spend any time discussing those sums. The Parliamentary Secretary, however, gave a clue to the defects of the Government, and submitted what I believe to be the real reason for the Government's failure to grapple with this problem of unemployment. He said that a very significant figure was that, while there was 10 per cent. of unemployment, there was 90 per cent. of employed persons. In a number of speeches in this House and outside, the Government seem to be excusing themselves by repeating that more people are employed in this country today than ever before, and that 90 per cent. are employed and only 10 per cent. unemployed. The Government are flattering themselves on the fact that out of every 10 workers nine are at work and one is idle. The Government do not view the problem rightly from that standpoint, because they forget that the 10 per cent. is an average over the whole country, and that, in the basic industries, unemployment is as high as 25 and 30 per cent. In the coal industry in my own part of the world there are three out of 10 coalminers for whom no work can be found. In the shipbuilding industry on the north-east coat and among the heavy industries, particularly in Glasgow, the percentage is over 30 per cent.
It is no use the Government riding off on those figures of 10 per cent. and 90 per cent. What do they propose to do with the 30 per cent. unemployed, for whom at present no prospect of employment is in sight? In South Wales we find that the coal industry, the tinplate industry and the iron industry, the three great industries of South Wales which have been more responsible for adding to the wealth of the nation than any other three industries, industries where men have earned good wages and 1408 employers large profits, are now decaying. Not only are they failing to extend with the increase of population, but they are actually losing ground, and the number of men employed is falling month by month. I do not know what the Government expect to do in the long run. They talk about the Transference Board and of further inquiry by the Ministry of Labour and then further consideration by this House. By that time the situation will have gone beyond any remedy. These people cannot hold out for ever; the local authorities in the coalfields are becoming bankrupt. Reference was made to the demoralisation of boys, but it is not only the demoralisation of boys but of whole families. Men without work at any time of life become demoralised, not only because there is no work for them, but because there is no income and no prospect of a livelihood. It is not only the men, but the wives and the children at home who suffer. If demoralisation through lack of employment was the natural thing, those on the other side of the House would have been demoralised long ago. Lack of manual work is not the cause of demoralisation, but lack of sustenance and of ordinary purchasing power.
I have heard one or two things this afternoon which caused me some disquietude. The Parliamentary Secretary scoffed at the term "rationalisation," and I am not quite sure that any of us in any part of the Committee view that term and what it contains in the right war. It is not rationalisation of industry of which I am afraid, but I am alarmed at the irrational methods by which those responsible for industry in this country carry out their obligations and at the lack of reason on the part of the Government in dealing with this problem. They talk about the transfer of people—when nobody knows, and where nobody knows. The Parliamentary Secretary was very disappointing. I expected to hear from him some prospect for the 50,000 people in the South Wales coalfield for whom there is no work, some prospect that they could be moved somewhere where work, homes and livelihood are available for them. Not a word. There were suggestions about taking them abroad. Where? From where is the money to come to take them abroad? The Govern- 1409 ment do not apparently appreciate that it costs more money to take families from South Wales or Durham to Australia and to establish them there than it would take to re-establish the industries of this country. You cannot expect to send a man to West Australia, where a home has to be built, the land cleared, the railways built and the roads made, at a cost of less than £2,000 or £3,000 a family. How is the money to be found? Australia has not got it. Is it not farcical to look forward to a solution on those lines? The Government of Western Australia, for instance, have only virgin land, no railways, roads or houses, and their State is coming to London to borrow millions of money to place at the disposal of the Western Australian State Bank to be spent in building houses for men now living in this country in order to start them on an agricultural career. £1,500 is the minimum sum required to start a family in Western Australia or anywhere else.
Here we have houses, roads and all the amenities of civilisation. It would not cost anything like the amount it will cost to transfer people to Australia; to enable them to earn a livelihood in their own country in the occupation in which they have been trained, or an occupation allied to it. The Government deserve a great deal of condemnation for deluding themselves, the House and the country by schemes which will not carry them anywhere and which, if they succeed in applying and taking abroad a few miserable thousand people out of the million unemployed, will only be a drop in the ocean, and will be nothing as compared with the real problem they have to solve. They can carry on their transfer schemes and migration schemes and send people abroad as much as they like, but they cannot solve this problem by sending people abroad and lending money from our country in that way. The industry with which I am concerned can be reorganised and made productive and a source of employment again for a tenth of the money that would be required to migrate men and their families abroad. That sum spent on a proper reconstruction of the mining industry at home would find employment for every one of the 200,000 miners idle. It is not in the production of coal, but in the application and utilisation of coal, in its distillation, 1410 and in the utilisation of the valuable by-products that can be obtained from it, that assistance is needed. Spend £100,000,000 on that reorganisation of the industry and there will be no unemployed population in the mining districts. There they are, they have their houses and their clubs, and it would be only a House of madmen that would dream of taking those men away from where the industry exists to somewhere where another industry is in this country or abroad.
The Government have pretended to play with this problem of unemployment, and they are still doing so. I do not know if they hope it will solve itself at some time. I feel satisfied that nothing can come from the coal industry except by deliberate, conscious, complete reorganisation. Action by individual coal-owners and attempts to save the industry district by district are doomed to failure, and are already breaking down. There is no solution that way. The only way is to deal with it on sound economic lines.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The Minister would not be allowed to reply to such questions even if they are put.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I am sorry. I thought the Secretary for Mines would be taking part in this Debate. We want to hear him because he is responsible for the industry.
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. This Debate was mainly directed to the work of the Transference Board. Included in the Estimate are sums of money to be provided for the transference of unemployed men from one part of the country to the other. The Parliamentary Secretary made it plain that the Ministry not only contemplated the transference of men within this country but to other parts of the world. Is it not in order to discuss the cost of sending men to the Colonies in relation to the work of the Transference Board?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I allowed the hon. Member to speak at some length on the subject of men leaving this country for the Colonies, but he was proceeding to discuss the administration of mines by the Mines Department, which does not come under this Vote.
§ Mr. MAXTON
As I understood him, his point was that the amount of money which was necessary for the transference of men to the Colonies would be sufficient to reconstruct the mining industry of this country. Surely he is entitled to discuss that?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Certainly, but he must not make a speech discussing the reorganisation of the mines.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I accept your ruling, but, as the Secretary for Mines was here, I thought he would speak. I would only like to say that I do not believe that anything that has been done to-day is going to help us. For what are these training centres training men? What is the use of training a man to do one kind of job while the job available for him is something else? Who can tell in South Wales what sort of jobs will be available for the unemployed there? Are they to be trained for engineering work? There is no work there for them. Are they being trained for carpentry? There is no employment for them in the building trade at all. Are they being trained as motor mechanics? There are no vacancies in that trade either, and it is no use wasting money and deceiving ourselves. The people outside who are looking to this House for relief are being deceived, and the Government come here, Department after Department, with set speeches and do not pay any attention to the Debate. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour came to-day with a speech which he practically read from beginning to end, a speech ready made, an official explanation to the Committee, and the matter is at an end till the next Debate is raised. I would like him and the Minister for Mines, who is responsible for an industry in which unemployment is perhaps more hopelessly fixed than in any other industry, to come down here and discuss with us what can be done, and not to put us off with these cheap pretences about transferring men from one part of the country to another.
The Parliamentary Secretary told us that some 7,000 boys were being trained in useful occupations, and that, when trained, employment would be found for them. I should like to hear to-night some idea, however general or vague it may be, as to where this employment is to be found. Have they any evidence 1412 that anywhere in this country, in any industry, there is a shortage of labour of any kind? Have they found that a vacancy has been advertised in any industry in any part of the country where there has been any difficulty in supplying that vacancy? Have they found, anywhere in this country, a place where a job has been available where 10 people have not been found ready to take it? I hope the Ministry of Labour will take heed of what has been said to-day. When we go back to the country, we shall certainly tell the people that the Tory Government have no plan to put before them—neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals for that matter—and that they are hopeless. We of the Labour party stand with solid, practical proposals, but because we are not the Government, all that we have to do is to point to the inadequacy of what the present Government are doing and to condemn them for their failure altogether to meet the situation.
§ Mr. SMEDLEY CROOKE
I am sorry I cannot follow the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), who has just said that the Tory party have no scheme. I am a Conservative, and I put up a scheme to the Ministry of Labour in 1926. I entirely agree with the hon. Member that the moral effect upon men who are continuously unemployed is deplorable. I represent a very poor industrial Division, in the City of Birmingham, and I spend all my time, when I am not in the House, among the people whom I represent. I know their conditions and their hardships, and it makes one feel that one must try and think out something which will help them. In 1926, I put up a scheme which I thought was original and would benefit those who are unemployed. I constantly met employers in my Division, who said to me that frequently they had a chance of giving a man perhaps a day's work or two or three days' work in a week, but that if they approached anyone who was unemployed and asked him to do a day's work for them, his reply was that he could not do it, because if he did he would lose his unemployment benefit.
Thinking this matter over and talking it over, I submitted a scheme to the Ministry of Labour, which I contend is something that is not often done in this House, and that is a constructive scheme. I had in my mind a part-time employ- 1413 ment scheme to get over the difficulty of men losing their unemployment benefit in that way, and I suggested that if a man found a job for one day a week and was paid, say, 9s. for that one day, he should be able to draw his unemployment benefit for the whole of the week, but that one-third of the amount he earned on the one day should be deducted from his unemployment benefit. I know it will be said that that cannot be done, but I maintain that it can be done. That man, instead of drawing 18s. for doing nothing in one week, if he worked one day would draw 18s., less one-third of the 9s. which he earned, namely, 3s. He would thus draw 15s. as unemployment benefit and 9s. as wages for one day's work. It would be far better for the man to have 24s. in pocket and one day's work in the week done, than to be walking about doing nothing all the week and drawing 18s. unemployment benefit.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, who, I regret, cannot be in his place on account of illness, thought something of the scheme and made arrangements for me to put it before the Blanesburgh Committee. I suppose that all of us know that the Blanesburgh Committee is made up of men and women who have had vast experience in the country and who know what they are doing and what they are talking about. In due time I attended the Blanesburgh Committee to explain my scheme, but meanwhile I had drawn up a very elaborate scale of wages varying from 6s. to 10s. a day and working it out how deductions would apply to one day's work, two days' work, or three days' work a week. It took me about 25 minutes to explain my scheme before the Blanesburgh Committee, and I was then informed by the Chairman, who was told by the learned clerk at his side, that what I had suggested as an original scheme was already in the regulations and was part of the administration. But no one on the Blanesburgh Committee knew of it, and I maintain that no employer knows of it, and certainly no workman who wants work knows anything about it.
My reason for taking part in this Debate to-day is to mention this particular scheme and to implore the Minister to let it be known throughout the country that employers can get men and women to do one, two or three days' 1414 work a week without losing unemployment benefit, but that, on the other hand, it will be a gain to them, not only in the way of their drawing some money sometimes, but of having the satisfaction of feeling that they have done some work. Some of the unemployed in my Division have been out of work for months and even years, and the moral effect of such a scheme would be great, apart from the saving to the finances of the country that it would bring about. May I suggest, to whoever is in charge in the absence of the Minister, that the Ministry should take note of this scheme, which may appear to be only a small thing, but if it were well known, I believe it would be a big thing and would absorb a great many of our unemployed in the country, with lasting benefit to themselves and to the finances of the country. I hope the Minister in charge, whoever he may be, will not turn this on one side because it comes from a Member of the Government's own party. I know that they listen to the criticisms from hon. Members opposite, but I hope that for once they will take note of the recommendations made by one of their own supporters, a back bencher, and do something in this matter, thus decreasing unemployment and aiding the finances of the country.
§ Mr. TINKER
The speech of the hon. Member for Deritend (Mr. Crooke) commends itself, I think, to the Committee. It certainly does to me, because it is a practical suggestion that might be well worth the consideration of the Ministry of Labour. In regard to the speech of the previous speaker from the Conservative Benches, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Mr. Culverwell), if the question had not been so serious, I should have wondered whether he was trying to pull our legs. I would like to tell the Committee of my own experience in this connection. During the Easter recess, I spent an afternoon on a rota committee. I was sent for, and I went down. There were four of us, and there were 50 cases to deal with. We divided them up into 25 each, and I should be very glad if other hon. Members of this House would serve on such a committee and realise through what hardships many of the unemployed are passing. The whole of the 25—and they were not all old men; most of them were young men—came before us with the tale that it 1415 was impossible to get work. We did the usual things, asking them if they had been to the various works, and we found that every one of them had fulfilled all the obligations, so that then we had to decide whether or not they should have extended benefit.
As I said to my colleague, "What can we do? These men cannot get work, they have to be kept, and it ought to come out of the Ministry of Labour money. We cannot send them to the guardians." Every one of them was given extended benefit, because, in my opinion, they all deserved it, and there was nothing else for them. We could not find them work, and, therefore, there was no other course open. I will give another instance. Close by where I live a new school is being built, and there have been 20 or 30 men standing there trying to get work. Men are eager to get work, but cannot get it, and that is why I say the position is so serious that the House of Commons ought to do all it can to try and alleviate the sufferings of these men who are out of work. I will go further, and say that all the resources of the State would be used for that end if I had the power to do it. I think it is the greatest problem that faces this country, and yet the Government are letting it drift and drift and are demoralising our people.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. TINKER
Reference has been made to migration; if that would help, it would be welcomed. The chief point with which I want to deal is connected with administration, and concerns the Court of Referees. A case like this has come under my notice. Two men were sent back one morning from the colliery for misconduct, and they signed on at the employment exchange. The officials objected, and it went before the Insurance Officer who knocked off this one day. The men appealed, and went before the Court of Referees and the Court non-suited the men for six weeks, although they had lost only one day and then continued with their work. An excellent summary of the Act has been issued, and I want to give credit to the officials of the Employment Exchange who sent it out; and from this I find that an insured contributor who loses his employment 1416 from misconduct, or voluntarily leaves his employment without just cause, is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefit for six weeks, or such shorter period as may be determined, from the date when he so lost or left his employment. These men only lost one day, and bad to lose two weeks unemployment benefit. I cannot understand it, and I want the Minister in charge to say whether the Court of Referees has power to give punishment beyond the day actually lost through misconduct.
§ Mr. KELLY
I had hoped that, even without the final Report of the Transference Board, the Minister would have been able to give us some information as to what the Board has been doing during the last three months, and some indication as to the direction in which they were looking for finding work for the unemployed. His explanation was a serious disappointment to every Member of the Committee. It would be wrong to allow the speech of the hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Culverwell) to pass without comment. I am sorry that he is not present. His reference to the fact that his impression of the speeches on this side of the Committee was that they were similar to the speeches delivered in Hyde Park, made me wonder to whom he is referring. I wondered if he was referring to the Minister of Transport, who has taken on his shoulders the work of addressing meetings in Hyde Park. There are other Members on that side of the House who spent a great deal of time last summer in addressing meetings in Hyde Park, and probably that accounts for the deterioration in their speeches. If that is what the hon. Gentleman referred to, I agree with him. He told us in a profound way that unemployment is caused by bad trade. I do not think that we required a by-election in West Bristol for someone to come to this Committee to tell us that unemployment is caused by bad trade. The only suggestion that he made was that certain proposals that he had heard during the last few days were warranted to help in the solution of this problem. He will have a sad disappointment. Had the Cabinet been serious in their determination to help industry, they could have done it in an entirely different way. We were told two or three times this afternoon that the sole desire of the Government is to take some of the burdens 1417 from industry. That is a figure of speech with the Government, because if they had desired to take a burden off industry, they could have taken off its shoulders the whole of the payments it has to make for unemployment insurance. Instead of easing industry from its burdens, they have actually increased them.
§ Mr. KELLY
I am sorry but unemployment insurance is dealt with here, and I thought I should be in order by a reference to that. It is difficult to prove that the Government are acting in good faith when dealing with unemployment and the burdens on industry. With regard to training centres, what training is being undertaken at the adult centres? What is being taught to the men? There must be in the mind of the Ministry some idea of where they think that these men are going to be placed; if they have no idea, it seems strange that they should be training them, unless it be to keep them employed as trainees rather than that they should be demoralised by walking about the streets with nothing to do. Surely that is not the purpose for which training centres were opened, and I would ask in what direction the Ministry look in order to find places for those being trained? May I ask, too, about the centres for the juveniles? At the present time, centres are set up for something like 6,000 juveniles, and I should like to know if any centre has been set up in Westmoreland or Cumberland. The hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. Hudson) said that he endeavoured to have a centre set up in his district, but that he was unable to have it because there is one eight miles away. The Minister told us that there was no objection, and no difficulty to the setting up—
§ Mr. R. HUDSON
I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not want to misrepresent me, but I said that I was having difficulty in getting a training centre for Whitehaven because I was told that a centre at Workington had failed, and therefore it was presumed that one was not wanted at Whitehaven. I did not say that one was refused to me, but that I 1418 was having difficulties in trying to get one.
§ Mr. KELLY
The hon. Member's statement that there was difficulty in persuading parents to send their children to the training centre goes by the board, seeing that his own application for a training centre has not been dealt with. He endeavoured to make it appear that the training centres, if they were brought into the area of Workington, would have no effect, because the people would make no use of them. He said that hundreds of men whom he knew had refused the training. I am not prepared without evidence to believe that there is any part of this country where there are hundreds of men who refused employment when it is offered to them, or would refuse training. I think it was one of those exaggerations that come from Members opposite in order to make it appear that the unemployed are people who would refuse work.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. Member must not misrepresent what I said. I definitely said that from my own knowledge the juvenile training centre at Workington failed because the parents did not send their children there. I said, as regards adult training centres for men of 18 to 31, that people had failed to volunteer in answer to the offers that were made for places at Wallsend. They were two distinct questions, and two distinct statements.
§ Mr. KELLY
I accept the hon. Member's statement that they were two statements; the Secretary or State for War applauds that, but I think the hon. Member will find that he is wrong when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. I took it down as the hon. Member said it. He stated that he knew of hundreds of men who had refused training.
§ Mr. KELLY
Then why does the hon. Member rise in his place to deny it? The only intention of making these statements is to make it appear that the unemployed are not prepared to take employment. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) that the cost of social 1419 services was one of the things that were preventing trade from reviving. I would have liked him to have told the Committee what is this cost which is keeping industry from reviving, and keeping us with such a great army of unemployed, and which is making it difficult for the Transference Board to deal with the problem. It is a favourite topic for chairmen of company meetings, when addressing their shareholders, to talk about this cost of the social services. I find that it works out at somewhere about 7s. per head of those who are engaged in industry, but the employers have taken from us in wages a great deal more than 7s. per head per week. I suggest that it is not the cost of the social services which is preventing the revival in industry, because if the whole cost were borne by the employers instead of, as at present, being largely borne by the wage-earners, even then it would not prevent a revival.
We have been told that in many cases miners are also skilled agricultural workers and that there is a shortage of farm workers. I wish those who tell us there is this great demand for farm workers, and that they cannot he found, would let us know in which parts of the country they are in such great demand. If that is really the state of affairs and the Ministry of Labour take no steps to provide the people for that work, then it is a condemnation of the m tinier in which the Ministry of Labour is conducted. That point was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead, who certainly speaks in the strain of big business every time he addresses the House, though I am afraid he does not help us towards a solution of the problems with which we are faced. He also made a reference to the sending of our young people to the Dominions. It is astonishing to find that there are some men prepared to talk lightheartedly of sending young people between the ages of 14 and 18 many thousands of miles from home; especially when the Ministry of Labour are making provision for the period 1930–33 when, they tell us, there will be a shortage of juvenile labour in this country. The right hon. Gentleman, who seems to have been impressed during his visit to the Dominions recently, tells us that one of the methods of solving the unemployment problem is to send our young people to the 1420 Dominions. I have opposed that idea for some years now, opposing it even when the Ministry of Labour were inclined to take it up some five or six years ago, and to send out these boys without proper supervision and without any opportunity for engaging in work that would be useful to them in the future, and I am still opposed to that method of dealing with the unemployed.
If the Transference Board are thinking of sending our young people abroad I think it was a bad day for this country when that Board was set up. I do not know whether the Government are inclined to give any assistance to industry in order to help it more speedily than the Transference Board arc likely to do. There is no indication that the Government are going to help industry to secure that better trade which has been spoken of by hon. Members opposite. Certainly no help is coming to industry during the next twelve months or eighteen months, even if it comes then. The lack of method in dealing with the unemployment problem is not creditable to a Government which has enjoyed so long a term of office, with a majority behind it which would have enabled it to do almost anything. I have wondered why there was any necessity for this Transference Board, but it has been set up, and I realise that I can deal only with its administration. With what object were the Employment Exchanges set up if it was not to find out where there was work for people and then to find the people to undertake that work? The creation of the Transference Board shows once again that the Employment Exchanges have not been allowed to undertake the work for which they were originally designed. Instead of spending so much time in trying to deprive people of benefit, the Government might make an endeavour to bring the unemployed into touch with any vacancies, and if there are no vacancies, then I hope the Government will cease from what I regard almost as a persecution of the unemployed in the endeavour to deprive them of benefits to which they are entitled.
To return, to the question of training centres, we ought to have some statement to-night as to the methods of training and the intentions of the Government. Is it their intention to give some training to the 60,000 unemployed engineers, to the more than 20,000 unemployed cotton workers, and to all the unemployed in the mining industry? 1421 Have the Government any intention of trying to persuade the Cornish tin mines to engage upon work that could give employment to many hundreds of men in that part of the country? I would like the Government to say, also, whether they are determined to proceed with the transfer of juveniles from one part of the country to another. They ought seriously to consider whether that would be a wise proceeding—to take young people from their homes and send them to hostels in another part of the country, and think they will be able to engage in work which will be useful to them and give them an adequate return. Personally, I have small hope of anything being done by this Government which will be of advantage to the industrial situation, because all that has happened since the Government came into power has accentuated the unemployment problem. I cannot look to them for any solution which will help us in our difficulties.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour caused me a good deal of disappointment. He spoke at the outset of the characteristics of the unemployment situation as being an excessive amount of unemployment in certain of the basic trades like steel, coal, engineering, cotton and textiles, with less unemployment in certain other trades having their centres rather more to the south. That is exactly what the Prime Minister put to us some time ago. The hon. Member said that although there was a high percentage in some trades it was lower than in others, and that the average was about 10 per cent., and that if that average of 10 per cent. were the average for all trades the unemployment problem would be of a manageable character. It certainly might be more manageable if we had only 10 per cent. in the coal trade or the steel trade, but to regard with a calm demeanour the existence of 10 per cent. of unemployed as a static condition is appalling. Contrasting that outlook with the meagre proposals put forward by the Government, one is filled with absolute consternation. When I was a young man we used to regard 2½per cent. of unemployed as not so bad; at 4 per cent. unemployment began to be talked about; at 6 per cent. it came to be regarded as a crisis. In those days such a volume of unemployment lasted 1422 only during the periods ordinarily associated with the rise and fall of trade; we got a figure of 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. for seven or eight months, perhaps, and then the figure fell once more. Now we have got to a situation in which a percentage of 10 per cent. is regarded as characteristic of modern industry.
When the hon. Member speaks about the "melancholy million," I would remind him that the number of unemployed has not been less than a million since 1920, and has at times been considerably higher. I think the Government were optimistic last year in basing their insurance Bill on a possible 6 per cent., because it seems to me that 10 per cent. is much more likely to be the permanent figure. In face of this situation the Government proposals are of the most meagre description. The terrible thing is that while 10 per cent. of unemployed may be a manageable figure from the Government point of view, that is to say, may be within the ambit of the various social services and insurance schemes, it is always sufficient to keep the whole mass of your population in the most grievous poverty. So long as there are 10 per cent. of unemployed it is almost impossible to get a rise in the standard of living among the remaining 90 per cent., because that 10 per cent. will keep all the rest down to very low standards, and even on the border-line of actual poverty, penury and want. That terrible situation calls for deeper remedies than have been indicated this afternoon by the Minister. The hon. Gentleman himself is not responsible; he is not a Cabinet Minister. He really ought to convey to the Cabinet that it has been expressed in this House that the Government proposals are too meagre entirely to meet; this terrible problem.
Take the question of the Transference Board. Here you have a question of 6,000 young persons being trained; but, when it comes to a question of adults, you have only a few hundreds. But, supposing you could train 5,000 or 6,000 persons perannum—and there is no machinery for training such a number—at that rate, it would take 250 years to deal with the present mass of unemployment so far as training is concerned. The whole thing is too preposterous. There is a constant and perpetual perfection of mechanical power going on in industry, 1423 of the most appalling character from the point of view of those who have to meet the economic consequences of a tremendous output of wealth so far as their employment is concerned. This has been proved in the United States of America, where there is a tremendous unemployment problem developing in spite of all that can be done by the artificial stimulation of consumption. Stimulate consumpton as they will, they cannot possibly keep pace with the tremendous powers of production. In the last census of the manufactures of the United States of America, in 1925, it was stated that output was 40 per cent. higher than in 1919, While the primary horse-power was 20 per cent, higher than in 1919 and 60 per cent. higher than in 1914. In our own country we have the same factor at work.
The census of our own production in Great Britain in 1924 shows that the net output per person was 15 per cent, higher than in 1907. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) talked about wages depending on production. Here is an official publication stating that our output per person per hour is 15 per cent. higher than in 1907, and it is pointed out that these facts were obscured by the wastes, as they call them, of unemployment and short-time working of machinery. Take the increase in horse-power. These are factors that the Ministry of Labour must take into consideration when they formulate plans for dealing with this problem. In certain industries, the horse-power in 1907 was 7,586,000, while in 1924, in the same industries, there was an increase of 13,860,000. If one includes undertakings like gas, electricity and docks, the figures are more startling. In 1907, the horse-power was 9,554,000 while, in 1924, the horse-power dealt with was 19,884,000. The horse-power per head of the persons employed increased from 1.8 per cent. in 1907 to 3.3 per cent. in 1924. These are a few of the potent factors that will render your small schemes of training and the little efforts of, your Transference Board futile and childish.
Then there is the question of overseas settlement. There is not a single hon. Member, I believe, in our party, who would for a single moment raise any demur whatever to finding for men whose 1424 labour has become superfluous reasonable and decent chances of livelihood in any of our white settled Dominions. There is no prejudice against it at all. We would help by all the means in our power. But we are not prepared to help the Government in the blind efforts they are adopting so far as emigration is concerned, because it is based upon the idea that the one thing to do is to get rid of these men, to shuffle them away, it does not matter where, so long as we get rid of them. That is not good enough, and it is not a fair handling of the situation. Curiously enough, in view of this Debate which was coming on, I receved by this morning's post a letter which was sent to me from Perth in Western Australia and it is dated the 2nd of April of this year. That is surely a very remarkable testimony to what I have been saying. Less than 28 days are required for bringing a letter from Western Australia to this country. It is a very remarkable testimony to the increased and marvellous powers which modern man possesses. The writer of this letter says:I enclose you herewith a cutting from the 'Australian Worker' regarding unemployment, which is all over Australia, and I think you ought to see the article which accompanies this.He goes on to say:Immigration must be stopped until a certain time when the present conditions show in a better light. It is not fair that people coming over from England week after week should be sent here only to be on the market of the unemployed. There are over 100,000 unemployed in Australia, and the number is still growing.That is a very remarkable position. What is the use of talking about migration to Australia when 100,000 men there are unemployed? There was a resolution passed by the unemployed in Perth, and I hope the Minister will take note of it because it is a serious matter. This Resolution says:That this meeting of the unemployed condemns the Government for failing to deal with the unemployed question, which is reaching a serious state, and demands to know why the Government says there is no work available when close on 50 men were picked up last Tuesday. We also deem it necessary to inform the British Colonial Secretary of the manner in which single men are being treated in Western Australia. These men have received loan passes which they have to pay, and the State Government ignores them in their preference or unionist policy, and they are being deprived of work by the Government.1425 If these men are being induced to go out on loan passes and are being precluded from work while this debt hangs over their heads, that is something to which you cannot expect the Labour movement in this country to agree. In the cutting from the "Australian Worker," for 14th March, the statement is made that the Premier of Western Australia said that his Government had spent £400,000 on relief work during the four months it had been in office. "And no doubt," the paper says, "it is perfectly true." What a picture of this El Dorado to which our men are being sent! What is the use of asking our men to settle in a land where the conditions are such that the town-bred Australian cannot face the rigours of bush life? It is a cruel and criminal shame to send men from this country to face the rigours.
I want now to deal with what the hon. Member for Hillhead has said. He asked what unemployment depended upon, and the answer he gave was that it depends upon markets. He went on to show that not only were we losing markets overseas but that we are losing them at home. But how on earth can we keep our home markets? The policy of the associations with which he is most closely connected has been a continual reduction of wages. They have reduced wages over seven years until the reduction amounts to £600,000,000 a year. These figures have been quoted more than once, and they will be quoted again, because they are a very effective answer to this argument about the home markets. You cannot maintain home markets while you deprive your home consumer of the wherewithal to pay. This reduction of wages is being pursued now. In the April issue of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," a very excellent publication, which is to the credit of the Department, it was pointed out that there was a reduction of wages in March, 1928, of £46,450, affecting 210,000 persons. That is equal to a reduction of £2,415,400 per annum. That is one of the contributing factors to the loss of the home markets which has been spoken about. But that is merely the March continuation of the process that started at the beginning of the year. For the first three months of the year, it is pointed out, there were reductions of wages affecting 971,000 persons, equalling £190,000 per week, or an annual reduction 1426 of £5,868,000. It is only fair to tell the whole story. Against that there was an increase of £12,150 in wage increases to certain persons; but, deducting the net increase from the net decrease, you find that, for the first three months of this year, there was a, decrease in the wages of working people equalling £5,237,200 per annum. That is one of the reasons why our home trade is bad and flagging. We never can have a prosperous home market under such conditions, and, if the Government cannot find some better methods, let them ask Mr. Henry Ford how to overcome their present difficulties.
I will now turn to the question of the transferring of unemployed labour. We were told by the Prime Minister that the unemployed men in South Wales and in the North might find some consolation from the fact that there was much more work in the South. But even in the South things are not so grand, and there is an unemployment problem there. I have been looking up the figures, and I find that in London alone there are 100,103 unemployed. In the South West, there are 16,690 unemployed, and in the Midlands 124,605, making a total in those three Employment Exchange areas of 285,407 men. What on earth is the use of talking of transferring men from the North to the South where conditions of that kind exist. If these proposals are seriously intended, then I say they are comic. There are 285,000 unemployed in those selected areas, and they are prosperous areas. It is no use arguing that the Government could not have done something for unemployment. As a matter of fact, they have discouraged the building trade by their vague proposals, and by the pledges and proposals that they have made.
The building trade might be made prolific for the absorption of thousands of unemployed workers. We are still surrounded with slums, and our housing problem is as acute to-day as it was at the end of the War. There are 90,812 men unemployed in the building trade. There are 11,000 carpenters unemployed, 5,000 bricklayers, 3,000 plasterers, and 2,800 plumbers as well as 30,000 building trade labourers, and no less than 11.3 per cent. of those employed in the building trade are drawing unemployment pay at a time when people are wanting houses 1427 and are living under conditions which are a disgrace to our modern civilisation. Instead of the Government encouraging those who desire to build more houses, they are doing all that they can to prevent them providing useful work for the unemployed. In the bricklaying trade 12.2 per cent. are unemployed, and this constitutes a. striking condemnation of the policy of the Government in dealing with the unemployed problem. If these pettifogging proposals are put forward as a solution of the unemployment difficulties, then the Government are putting before the country something which no reasonable elector can possibly accept, because the average elector will readily see the futility of such proposals.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
I listened very carefully to-night to the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, and I failed to find one suggestion that is going to alter the situation so far as the unemployed are concerned. If one went in detail through the proposals and items suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary including the work of the Transference Board, or any other item, they would find that they would not provide work for more than one hundred here and a thousand there at the outside. The tragedy of this situation is not merely that we have 1,000,000 people unemployed, but that we are accepting that figure as a permanent condition of our society. I observe that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was introducing his Budget, in looking forward to his commitments for years to come, he was taking the figure of 1,000,000 unemployed for granted. That is a condition of things which ought to make every one of us think very seriously about the position in which we find ourselves.
I am prepared to say that so long as you accept the capitalist system 1,000,000 unemployed will remain, and will be more inclined to grow than to decline. We are living at a time when every week and month, as a result of speeding-up processes, an increase in the use of machinery and processes of mass production being intensified, we are producing the goods to satisfy the needs of our people with a less number of workpeople and in a less number of hours, and sooner or later that means that you will have a pool of stagnant labour in every industry. 1428 The time is coming when we shall have to face that situation, and every industry must be compelled to find within itself employment for all the people who should be normally employed in that industry. If they cannot be employed eight hours, they must be employed seven hours or six hours if necessary. It may be asked: How can we compete with other countries under those circumstances? The fact of the matter is that every other country is suffering from similar conditions. Every other country has mass unemployment and mass production, and this applies in countries where you have a low standard of life as in Central Europe as well as in America where you have a higher standard, and in countries which occupy a middle position like our own. Every country, therefore, is going to have to face this question, and one of the charges that I make against the Ministry of Labour is that they have done nothing to face these economic problems, these unemployment problems, from the international point of view. I have asked the Ministry of Labour, the Mines Department, the Board of Trade, and other Departments what they have done, and are prepared to do, in the direction of trying to raise the standard of life for given sections of workers throughout the whole of Europe. That, however, is a problem which they will not touch, and yet it will have to be touched, and also the other question which I have raised, namely, that every industry, both in this country and in other countries, will have to employ the people who are normally engaged in that industry for as many hours in the week as may in the circumstances be necessary.
Another matter to which I want to refer, and which is allied to this one, is the question that was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). We cannot allow the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to pass unchallenged. I must say that, after hearing it, my respect for the intelligence of the big-business Britisher has been considerably reduced. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the fact that our population was increasing, and said that we could not employ an increasing population. I want to know why? He was implying that there were too many hands to be employed, but I would point out to the Committee that, 1429 if there are more hands to labour, there are more mouths to feed, more backs to be clothed, and more minds to be trained. That simply means that all that is required is organisation. We have the land at our disposal, which we are using, or not using, in a most wretched and shameful fashion. We have our unemployed labour, we have all the resources of our machinery, and we can certainly satisfy the needs of our community, both in an industrial and in any other capacity. If we cannot produce enough food, we could certainly produce far more goods with our machinery than we are producing to-day, and could easily buy with those goods anything that we want from overseas.
Why do we not do it? We do not do it by reason of the capitalist system under which we live. I notice that the Noble Lord opposite (Marquess of Titchfield) smiles, but the fact is that while, as has been pointed out from these benches several times this afternoon, the wages of the workers have been reduced, the profits of industry have been rising. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) pointed out that wages had been falling, the Parliamentary Secretary asked, was it not a fact that prices had fallen? That may be so, but, if prices have fallen for the worker, they have also fallen for the employer; and, in the last issue, or the last issue but one, of the "Economist," I find that during the first quarter of this year higher dividends were paid in British industry, taking all the returns that had come in on a few hundred commodities, than have been paid since the boom of 1919, 1920 and 1921. Taking, again, the Income Tax statistics, we find that the people who are assessed to Super-tax had a far bigger income last year than in any previous year; while we also find that the amount upon which Death Duties are levied is going up year by year.
All this proves that the money is being made. Our production is all right, or, at any rate, it is better than our distribution, and the chief thing that is wanted is the organisation whereby the production for which we as a community are responsible, and which we are actually giving out, shall be properly distributed. When hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches ask us to put before the House our proposals, it is in 1430 these directions that we point, and we say that here are the problems which must be dealt with before the unemployment problem can be solved; and, when they refuse to touch matters of that kind we certainly cannot allow them to say that we never make any proposals. There are the vital issues, and those issues will have to be faced sooner or later by some responsible Government in this country. Until that time comes, we can do very little more than touch the fringe of the unemployment question.
Before concluding, I should like to say just a word or two in direct reference to the Transference Board. The question has been raised time after time, Where are you going to transfer these men? Several speakers from these benches have shown the impossibility of transferring many men across the seas into our own Dominions. That is perfectly true. It is a question upon which I would not try to influence our young people. Any man or woman has as much right to stay in their own country as I or anyone else. I have no desire to live outside my own country, but there are people who do look forward to a life in another country; they have a certain amount of wanderlust, and desire to go abroad. In their case, and no doubt there are many of them, opportunities should be provided, but I think we shall be wandering very much astray if we expect that a large opening is going to be found in this direction.
I happened to be in Canada at the fall of the year two or three years ago, and I remember how in Regina, and also in Calgary and the other towns on the Wheat Belt, when the harvest was over, I saw men pouring into those cities by the thousand and ten thousand; every train was packed. They stood talking to one another, reading the newspapers, and discussing where they should go. They did not know where to go. They were following rumours, and, if they moved at all with a view to getting into any area where there was the possibility of employment, they had to spend £5 or £10 on a railway ticket. When I got over the Rockies to Vancouver, I saw them again coming over into British Columbia, and there were notices up and down the streets of Vancouver asking these men to move on. The men who had come over the Rockies from the Wheat 1431 Belt were asked to move on, and, if they did not, they would meet with short shrift in Vancouver. Until problems of that kind have been solved in Canada, and other problems peculiar to their own country, such as shortage of capital, which the capitalists of this country have not been too willing to lend to Australia and New Zealand—until those problems have been faced and tackled, there is not much hope from the point of view of emigration.
There is, however, one direction in which I think the Ministry of Labour could have done, and might do, some useful work with respect to the Transference Board. I refer to the question of afforestation. The question of agriculture has been raised, and I have dealt with the question of afforestation with the Minister of Labour by question and answer. It does not require legislation, because the Act is on the Statute Book now whereby a very large afforestation scheme might be established. The reason why this question is not taken up by private enterprise is just that one has to wait a considerable time to get a return on one's money—15, 20, 30 or 40 years, according to the kind of timber that is planted. At the present moment we are providing work for about 3,500 men in afforestation. We have had sufficient experience during the last eight years to show that, as a State, we can solve that problem and can find work for a considerable number of men. We have in this country about 3,000,000 acres of woodlands, of which only half are of much use. We are very much behind other countries. Germany, with her very big afforestation scheme, has 34,000,000 acres of woodland, and France has 26,000,000 acres. Here is a splendid opening for providing work for the un-employed. It trespasses on no other industry. We are making very fast for a world shortage of timber. The price of timber has doubled within the last few years. There is every prospect that the price will go higher and higher still and thus it is imperative that we produce more of our own timber. In this condition, where you have what is bound to be a paying industry, given a little space of time, you are faced with the fact that private enterprise has only been planting 12,000 acres a year during the last few years. During the four years 1432 of the War, 500,000 acres were denuded of their timber, and at the rate we are planting to-day by private enterprise, it will take 40 years to give you back the woodlands you denuded in those four years.
I asked the hon. Member for Monmouth, according to the latest survey, how many acres there were that could be planted, and he said 5,000,000. I asked him what it would cost to plant 200,000 acres a year and how many men it would employ. I worked it out, and purchasing, clearing, planting and establishing the land could be done for a matter of less than £9 per acre, so that it would cost less than £2,000,000 a year. That is a very important matter, and we should be providing work by that policy for 28,000 men. You have unemployed miners in Scotland, where there are plenty of deer forests. Is it the fact of the deer forests being in existence that keeps this policy back? You have unemployed miners and plenty of afforestable land in South Wales and in the Midlands. It is a beautiful and a healthy occupation, it infringes on no other industry, and it is a profitable concern. The Minister of Labour must not think that this is a matter that requires money that cannot be found by the Exchequer. It does not come in the ordinary revenue resources at all. It is a matter that belongs to the trading part of the Budget. It can be classed with the Post Office, and any money allocated to this work will pay for itself abundantly in years to come. It simply means that we have to wait 20 years for our return, but when it comes it is bound to come with abundance as the result of the shortage of timber that is going to be apparent before very long. I make this practical suggestion, if the Minister of Labour will press the matter upon the Government. The present programme for the Forestry Commissioners comes to an end next March. Now is the time to get to work. I believe, with the experience of the Forestry Commissioners, we can have, inside 12 months, a policy of planting 200,000 acres per year, whereby you will provide a very fine and healthy occupation for 28,000 men. I make that as a practical suggestion for the use of the Afforestation Board and I hope that it will receive very careful attention at the hands of the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The last speaker has made a very strong contribution to the problem of unemployment, but the difficulty I see is that our population is so urbanised, even the miners are so urbanised, that they are not readily prepared to take up these rural occupations. We should need to change fundamentally the system of education. The tendency of our educational system is to draw the children more and more into the town view of life. I think that is a great disaster. I wish we could have a semi-ruralised education. I know of one distinguished school which runs its own farms, and the boys grow all the food they eat except wheat and oats, and they are well fed. The minimum period of occupation for each boy is six hours a week in agricultural and horticultural occupations. I wish we could develop our educational system in such a way that all children, instead of being brought up in towns, were brought up under such a system where they would learn to love the land and to take a real, intelligent interest in agricultural and horticultural occupations. If you could do that, there would be no difficulty about migration or anything else in settling people on the land. The difficulty is that, if you have children brought up purely in the urban system of schooling, they will be reluctant to take up country occupations.
We want immediate remedies, without anything in the nature of legislation. There is a remedy lying to the hands of the Government in safeguarding the iron and steel industry, which they can do under the Safeguarding Act. I was talking the other day to the manager of Palmer's Shipbuilding Company, which built one of the largest ships in the shortest possible period of time, and he begged me to put it before the Government to get safeguarding for iron and steel as soon as possible, because the price of plates was high, owing to the fact that our steel works were only working to half their capacity, whereas if they were safeguarded they would be working to full capacity and the price would inevitably go down, and the price of foreign plates with it. With that we should be consuming more coal and giving occupation to a great many miners. There is an opportunity for the Ministry of Labour to bring pressure to bear upon the Government right away. 1434 This distinguished shipbuilder said he believed we could absorb most of the unemployed within a very few months. Why is that neglected? I know there are men, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), who are entirely sympathetic to that view, and I ask hon. Members opposite to join with us in bringing all the moral support and political pressure that they can to bear upon the Government to take up this vital challenge, which would do so much to solve the very grave problem of unemployment. Afforestation is undoubtedly of value, but we would need to get our population more trained—
§ Mr. MAXTON
Does the hon. and learned Member know any person in Argyllshire who has refused a job with the Forestry Commission?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
We are not doing nearly as much in afforestation in Argyllshire as I wish we were doing.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. and learned Member is making the point that we cannot get people to go on to the land until we have educated them. He knows that there is a queue of trained land people waiting for small holdings and for afforestation work—rural people who know the job but cannot get employment.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
We need far more people in our rural districts. The great misfortune that has made the difficulty is the abolition of the smallholder. The large farmer used to look to the smallholder for the necessary labour. A leading farmer told me that in his younger days his father's farm was surrounded by smallholders who used to come and work on the farm and borrow his father's ploughs and other implements. They were splendid workers, but gradually they were absorbed by other farms, with the result that now they had to work with imported and inferior labour. The real difficulty is to get the smallholders back again. I quite agree that not nearly enough has been done for the settlement of people on the land. I would be prepared to support any amount of Government expenditure for that purpose if it were accompanied, in the case of Argyllshire and the West Highlands, with proper means of transport, so that people could get their produce to market and receive their supplies. It is no use spending money on starting people on 1435 the land unless our transport system is properly conducted. One hon. Member spoke of the difficulty of getting miners to work as agricultural labourers, because, he said, you were at once reducing them to a. wage of 31s. 9d. a week. There is no doubt that agriculture has been carried on without any profit at all for the last 60 years and the agricultural labourer has been miserably paid. Then, when the Wages Board comes along and makes the larger payment so much land is going back to grass.
I can suggest a way of getting the agricultural labourer better paid and better remunerated, and it is this. No agricultural labourer should depend solely on his cash wage. That will never end in a system of working which will afford him an adequate means of subsistence. Every agricultural labourer should be provided with the proper means of growing his own supplies. Then the miner, who is a splendid worker, and a splendid worker on agricultural land, would be able to go and work for the farmer, if at the same time he were given a cottage. Mark you, the provision of cottages is an important thing in country districts. Just now cottages are as precious as gold. If the agricultural labourer, in addition to his cottage and his wage, had sufficient land on which to grow his own vegetables and had grass in order to keep a cow, was able to keep a couple of pigs, and was provided with accommodation for the purpose of keeping fowls to provide him with eggs, he would be able to grow practically his own food, and his wages would be more or less a sideline. I know farmers who have done this successfully. I remember one farmer who was extraordinarily successful, and he told me that that was the principle on which he worked. He said that every one of his men not only had his cottage but had sufficient grass for a cow if he cared to keep one. He said: "I gave them a couple of pigs to start with. My neighbours will not allow their men to keep pigs, because they help themselves to food. I keep the pigs for them, and they do not need to help themselves. I have a body of men that no other farmer in the county possesses. They never leave me. I have known a man desert his wife, but 1 have never known him desert his 1436 pigs. I have kept the same body of men for the last 20 years."
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
That was in Stirlingshire. That is what is necessary if you are going to solve the problem of farm wages and get the miners on to the land. You must realise that the agricultural worker must have an opportunity for leisure. He must not be compelled to work too long hours. He must have an opportunity of growing his own supplies. At the present moment, with the present system of merely a money wage, he has to go to the grocer and other shopkeepers and buy supplies and pay the profit not only of the producer but of the middleman and the retailer. If we could get some system among our agricultural workers where they could be crofters or smallholders on their own account, it would be possible, not only for the farmer to get efficient labour, but for a great mass of the labour at present engaged in the mines to be absorbed into agricultural work. The miner makes a splendid migrant. He is one of the finest workers we have. There are a number of miners in my constituency where, unfortunately, a mine had to close down owing to various troubles. Some of the miners approached me about two and a-half years ago, and I made an arrangement through the Migration Board of Australia whereby they all migrated to Western Australia and were given little farms. They were a community of 55. They are now extremely prosperous and writing home nominating their friends. They are all doing well. There should be more schemes of that kind. It is no use sending out single young men who break their hearts with homesickness. You have to migrate large communities. It. does not matter if you have your friends round about you. You will make a success of migration to these vast places where you have the British race, British rule and British law, and a British code of conduct, if you get people migrating with their friends, and you will build up a great community and solve to some extent the problem of this overcrowded little island of ours.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour must have been delighted to hear the 1437 speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), particularly when he suggested the success of migration schemes such as those he has taken part in. I would like to suggest both to the Minister of Labour and to the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire that it would have been better if the miners who migrated from the little village in Argyllshire had been placed upon small farms and small holdings in this country. We have plenty of land in our own country that wants colonising, and there are people in our own country who are willing to colonise that land if they can get the chance. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire took very great care to see to it that the people whom he assisted to migrate were the Labour voters in his constituency. He got them away so that they could not vote against him at the election.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Of course you did. You do the best you can for everybody, but in this case you also did the best you could for yourself. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that the Transference Board have not yet reported and that consequently he cannot go into the full details of the schemes that they might suggest to him. Let me put this to the Parliamentary Secretary. It seems to be rather late in the day for this Government to come in with schemes of training. I can remember when training schemes were inaugurated prior to the 1922 election. We had schemes where youngsters being sent to school were trained and received a small amount per week if they put in their attendances. That particular scheme failed because the Ministry itself was not taking full advantage of it. They were not putting forward really active and decent schemes for the, youths whom they were getting to attend schools. The thing fell through. I am speaking now of the period before 1922 when we had a slump in trade due to the depression in 1921. The schemes which may be inaugurated now will not be calculated to have any greater success than the pettifogging schemes that were in operation then unless something more definite is taken up and a more elaborate scheme is 1438 adopted that will hold out some prospect to those who are being trained. It is no use training people if you are not going to provide them with employment when the period of training has ended.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary point to any trade or industry in this country which is not already overstaffed, which has not already got its proportion of unemployed? I have here the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," and I am certain that the Parliamentary Secretary cannot quote in the entire list of trades and occupations in that "Gazette" any trade or occupation which has not its quota of unemployed, unless, perhaps, the banking profession. But you are not going to train individuals for the banking profession. In any case, the banking profession is not included in the list. There are no unemployed bankers. They are very busy just now, particularly in connection with the Budget. What is the Ministry going to do with the people who are trained under these training schemes? Are they being trained for occupations here, or for something similar to the scheme mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire when he spoke of the boys at school being engaged in agricultural and horticultural work? He stated that with six hours' work per week those boys grew sufficient agricultural produce to maintain them during the week. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will realise what can be done by putting people on the land, even boys, on the testimony of one of his own supporters, who, when the Division is taken upon this Vote, will in all probability vote against the Labour party in support of the Parliamentary Secretary for Labour.
What is the object of this training scheme? All the industries in this country are overstaffed, and there is no prospect of employment in any of them. If one individual gets employment, some other individual has lost a job. The only way in which during the last two of three months employment has been obtained in some industry has been due to the operation of the Contributory Pensions scheme. According to the figures submitted by the Parliamentary Secretary, 350,000 people over 65 years of age have received pensions and have been withdrawn from industry. Some of those people undoubtedly would have been in employment; others were not in receipt 1439 of wages or of unemployment benefit. Those 350,000 people have now been taken away from what may be called the competitive market for employment, but, even with that number removed from his list, the Parliamentary Secretary cannot show a very large diminution in the number of unemployed during the past month or two. In spite of all his claims for a reduction, in spite of the fact that 350,000 people, owing to the operation of the old age pensions scheme, are removed from the competitive labour market, the Parliamentary Secretary cannot put forward any really sound statement as to a decent diminution in the number of people unemployed.
We know quite well what is the attitude of the Government. It is only seven years ago since the present Secretary of State for the Colonies said that we in this country must look for something like 2,000,000 people permanently unemployed. The Minister of Labour, Members of the Government, editors of newspapers which support the Government, all are maintaining that this country is going to have a permanent unemployment list of at least 1,000,000 people, even during periods of prosperity. What it is to be when we are faced with periods of depression and industrial crisis, no one knows. We have to be content to look with equanimity at the prospect of 1,000,000 people being permanently unemployed in this country; no hope for them, little footling schemes of training, a few hundred people being taken into training schemes, suggestions that a few hundreds should migrate, with agreements entered into with the Dominions to take some of our surplus population.
When the migrants go, what will they find? Like one of my colleagues who has spoken in this Debate, I was in Canada and heard the expressions of manufacturers, farmers, editors of newspapers, and members of the various provincial Governments as to the outlook they had and the manner in which they looked upon the emigrants who went out there. Each and all of them maintain that the migrants who were going out from this country were the wrong type entirely. They said that the migrants who went from this country generally were the men or women who had been trained to industrial occupations, or trained to live in towns and to work in some occupation that could 1440 only be carried on in a town, and the consequence was that unemployment was rampant in the towns in Canada. I travelled from east to west and from west back again eastward, and found the same complaint in every part. From Quebec to Vancouver and from Vancouver back again to Quebec, I found the same statements being made and the same complaints being made, that the people who had migrated there went into the towns to become additional competitors with those who were already competing for the jobs occupied by other people.
The people Canada was looking for, the people who ought to go out, in the pioneering spirit, with the wander lust we hear so much about, were not going out and breaking up the land and taking their place in pioneer work and in the peopling of the great wastes. The people we were sending out were people who crowded the already overcrowded cities in Canada. A number of the people who went there went out, ostensibly, to go upon the land, but they grew tired of it and came back into the towns after a few months' work on the land. Are the Government going to lay it down as a condition upon those who are trained to be sent out to the Colonies, that they must remain on the land for some length of time, stipulated by the Dominion Government and by the British Government? Is to be laid down as a condition for being accepted as a suitable emigrant that the people must spend six months, 12 months or two years working upon the land of the Colony to which they go? Unless you are going to do something like that, the schemes of training for emigrants will he so much nonsense. The moment you begin laying down a scheme of that kind you will have the very objections urged against you that have been urged from the back benches of the Government to-night, about compulsion being necessary to make people conform to certain conditions.
There is only one solution to the unemployment problem. We have heard about the safeguarding of industries. Certain industries have already come under the safeguarding legislation, but we find unemployment continuing in some of the safeguarded industries.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Very much less, we are told. Then safeguarding is not a positive cure for unemployment.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
No, the iron and steel industry, because that would benefit the coal industry as well as the steel industry, and would reduce the price of steel for ships. I was referring to the benefit to all three together.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We are getting a long way from the administration of the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry of Labour cannot, by administrative act, extend safeguarding.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am afraid that both the hon. and learned Member and myself must be sorry that the Chairman has come back so soon. We shall not continue our discussion on safeguarding. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary what cure has he for unemployment? Has he any proposals? What is the use of the Minister coming forward with schemes of training, with proposals for the cutting down of benefits, and for transference boards to take workers from one part of the country to another? What is the use of these things unless the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary has in his mind some idea that he is going to solve or minimise the unemployment problem? If that is the purpose of his schemes why does the Parliamentary Secretary not bring them before the House? When he spoke earlier in the evening why did he not mention some of these schemes and give the House an opportunity of debating them, discussing the good points, suggesting better points if that were possible, and eliminating any of the bad or doubtful points from the schemes? Why leave the Committee in the dark? Why tell us that he cannot lay down the details of a scheme just now, but that some day, next month or the month following or it may be three months hence or six months hence, a Board will report and the Minister will then convey to the House the information in that report?
I consider that it is merely playing with the House and mocking the unemployed 1442 outside to come forward with any such proposal to-night. The Government tell the unemployed that they have a Board considering schemes which will have to be put into operation before the Government can try to transfer the workers from one part of the country to another so that they can take up occupation. Months must pass before these people are trained sufficiently to be fit for transfer. By that time it will be October, 1929—a date suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for some other schemes, when the present Government would probably be out of office and another Government in their place. Is the idea of the Parliamentary Secretary that with the remainder of his colleagues on the Front. Bench he intends to mark time until the General Election? Is all this talk so much camouflage, so much mocking of the individuals who require attention, the broken veterans of industry and those who find it impossible to obtain employment because of the competitive system that is so ably supported by the Parliamentary Secretary and his colleagues? Surely, something better can come from the Government Front Bench, having regard to the men of talent who occupy it now, with ample support behind and to the right of them.
Is it not possible for the Government to put into operation schemes of employment such as were suggested by the last speaker on this side of the Committee? There is the suggestion for putting miners upon the land. There is ample space in Scotland to provide thousands of small holdings for people who require them. I notice that the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) smiles. There is plenty of land in Scotland even to provide him with ample room for his wild chasings on his car, with no restrictions as to speed. Will the Parliamentary Secretary take into consideration an application for further grants in relief of unemployment? These grants were stopped by his colleagues in the present Government. There are methods by which new roads could be laid down and old roads repaired. These proposals have been scrapped by the Parliamentary Secretary's colleagues. Yet they would have given employment to thousands of people in this country. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister of Labour has protested. There 1443 is only one solution of unemployment. I notice that both the Ministers on the Front Bench raised their heads when I made that remark. The solution is not in the Tory party's programme. It is the application of Socialist principles to the system of production and distribution.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Would not that require legislation? Could the Minister carry that out by administration?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Certainly. No legislation would be required. It could be carried through on administrative principles. The Minister could carry it out; this House could carry it out. The local authorities outside could carry it into operation if they had the will. It is not necessary to pass any Bill. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should get rid of the Industrial Transference Board, that he should go back to the Cabinet and ask the Cabinet to consider more carefully than it has done hitherto the conditions of employment and industry in this country, the large number who are still recording their signatures at the Employment Exchanges, standing their in their million as an indication that the Government find it impossible to govern the country in a way that will provide the greatest happiness and benefit for the people. I ask him to advise his chief and colleagues to come before this House and tender their resignation, and to go to the country for a vote upon their conduct.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I am glad to see that the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Kingsley Griffith) is in his place, because, earlier in the evening, he put forward what are, I suppose, the official Liberal proposals for meeting the problem which once again has occupied our attention to-night. Those proposals are for the expenditure of very large sums of money upon such objects as roads and houses. Experience has shown that that method of expenditure of such funds as are available, is, in a very large degree, the cause of the unemployment crisis which at present faces us. That system of freezing capital resources, if I may so term it, instead of keeping them liquid undoubtedly adds to the trouble from which we suffer at the present time. It may be said that ultimately we get a return on our expenditure upon roads and houses. That is the case, but it is 1444 a method of investing our resources which is singularly ill adapted to meeting the situation arising after a European War which lasted for four years. During those four years, the capital resources which had been stored up for us—and I think we may credit the Liberal party of the 19th century very largely with the fact that they were so large—were poured out like water because of the fact that there was a European War. After a period like that when our capital resources were so terribly reduced, it seems folly to adopt a policy which freezes such capital resources as we have remaining. We want to use those capital resources for making the wheels of industry go round, instead of making more and more wheels. Roads and houses are the very worst form of expenditure inasmuch as any return we can get from those two forms of capital expenditure is a return which must be deferred for many, many years.
I turn to the main subject of the Debate. I think I have listened to at least 100 Debates on this subject in this Chamber during the last 10 years, but never yet have I heard anything put forward from any side that could possibly be of any use to us in meeting the crisis of unemployment which has now become almost chronic, and the reason surely is this—that the facts of the situation, if they are properly stated, render the man who states them, so unpopular that no member of any party, with the exception of my own party, has ever dared to put the facts before the House of Commons. What are the facts? They are these—that any nation has to make a choice in these matters. Either you must have a perfect liquidity in wage rates, so that wage rates rise and fall with demand and supply, or, on the other hand, if you decide that you must fix wages at certain levels, you must face the consequence, which is, undoubtedly, a greater or a lesser degree of unemployment. The business of every Government is to adjust the balance between the two extremes. If wage rates were absolutely liquid, and if they fell down and down with a falling demand and rose again with a rising demand you would have no unemployment whatever. If, on the contrary, you fix all wage rates at an excessive height, then you would have nothing but unemployment throughout the whole of your industry. The whole 1445 problem before Parliament and before any Government is always this; how to balance these two extremes in such a way as to cause the least possible distress to the members of your community.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon Member is not going to leave us at that point surely. I am interested in the theory which the hon. Member has laid down and on which, presumably, he is going to build an argument. I would like him, first, to give the argument on which he has built the theory.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
If the hon. Member will allow me, I am going to give examples. I must demur to his description of what I have said as being theory. I should term it fact. I will give him an example which is constantly before my notice. That is the case of the American section of the cotton-spinning trade. There, of course, we have an immense amount of unemployment and short time, and this state of affairs has been chronic with us ever since the collapse of the great boom after the War. What is the basic fact of the situation? It is simply that our spinners cannot sell American yarns at prices which compete with the prices of certain of the productions of foreign countries, and the reason they cannot compete is because their costs are higher than the costs in those foreign countries. I do not say for a moment that we must simply sit down in despair, and say that until our cotton operatives have their wages reduced to the very low level prevailing in Bombay or Japan, we can do nothing. That is not the case, inasmuch as our people are very much more skilful in all sections of the cotton-spinning trade than the people in any of the countries of our competitors. Therefore, it is possible for us always, at any rate under present conditions, to maintain a very much higher standard of living for our spinners, than it is possible to maintain where the spinners are less skilful and less experienced than in Lancashire. But there must be a proportion between the two.
The only way by which we can keep our cotton trade, and avoid continuous chronic unemployment in the American spinning section, is by maintaining our standard of living at a height which represents our greater skill and our greater facility for getting the capital necessary for the carrying 1446 on of the industry, as compared with the lesser skill and the greater difficulty in raising capital which prevails in the countries of our competitors. So that if, in the cotton industry, we were now to fix spinners' wages and cardroom wages at some figure considerably in excess of the figure which prevails at the present time, it follows, as night follows day, that we should lose still more of our markets for these yarns and still more of our people would be on short time or would be wholly without employment. I suggest that hon. Members opposite must really agree with that statement of facts.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Is the hon. Member contending that the difficulty in escaping competition arises solely from wages? Has it nothing to do with the overcapitalisation of the cotton industry?
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
So far as overcapitalisation, in the sense of excessive issues of preference and ordinary shares is concerned, that has nothing whatever to do with the cost of production. There are innumerable mills in Lancashire where over-capitalisation in that sense is not excessive but where the debenture charge is very excessive, indeed, and a debenture charge or any fixed charge on capital such as a debenture charge, has undoubtedly the natural effect of increasing the cost of production. A mill which can be valued safely at £50,000 and which is being capitalised, say, at £1,000,000 in ordinary shares and £1,000,000 in preference shares has no capital burden whatever in relation to the cost of production. That is a thing which seems to be little understood on the Benches opposite. Let us take another example.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am sorry to interrupt again, but this is a very interesting point. While I agree with what the hon. Member has said, I put this to him—that bankers' charges and the like which must arise quite frequently in existing circumstances in respect of the cotton industry in Lancashire, surely enter into the cost of production, and, therefore, I submit to him that wages are not entirely responsible for the difficulty in competition.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
Bankers' charges, in this trade and in all industries, are almost invariably secured upon debentures, and I have already pointed out that a debenture debt or any form of 1447 prior fixed charge is an addition to the cost of production, but no amount of over-capitalisation in the form of ordinary or preference shares makes the faintest difference to the cost of production. It only makes a difference to the unfortunate people who happen to own those shares. Let us take another example. At the present time, there is a good, deal of short time being worked in Northumberland and a very considerable number of men are out of work in that district. The reason is perfectly obvious. If the f.o.b. price at Blyth for best Northumberland steam coal is above 13s. 3d. to 13s. 6d. at the present time, it is impossible to sell those cargoes for export, inasmuch as our competitors abroad, particularly in Poland, are able to sell at prices actually below 13s. 6d. f.o.b. If any cargo at Blyth is quoted above that critical figure, then the order is lost and the production of the colliery suffers. There is a case in point, and a very sad one because, as the Committee is well aware, the standard wage of the Northumberland and Durham miners is at present at a figure which nobody in the country wishes to see continued, or at any rate more than a few weeks. It is so low that even agricultural labourers and other very lowly-paid people must feel a certain amount of sympathy for the miners there. But what good is it to fix that definite minimum wage rate at a higher figure than at present when, even at present, it is impossible to get orders for export from Blyth and the Tyne at prices which pay the bare cost of production and railway and other charges?
This is an even more pathetic case than that of the American section of the cotton-spinning trade of England. In Northumberland and Durham, low as is the standard of living of the miners, it is still higher than the economic situation of the industry will allow. I admit there are certain factors of a temporary nature involved, and that our most bitter competitors are actually subsidising coal exports by an amount of many shillings per ton. But do not let us go away with the idea that you can fix a definite minimum wage in any competitive industry without finding yourself up against the problem of unemployment. In addition, what would happen in the Northumberland and Durham coalfields supposing 1448 that wages could go down to any figure without any limit? In present circumstances, men would have the choice of working either for a starvation wage or of having no wage at all, and past experience in this country and abroad has shown that when men are confronted with that terrible choice, they usually accept starvation wages rather than go without wages at all. I admit that under modern conditions, and in a highly civilised country like ours, we cannot go on a pure economic basis of things in these matters. We must endeavour by one means or another to get some balance and adjustment between these two difficulties—the difficulties of having completely liquid wage rates and of having nine-tenths of the people unemployed. To my mind, the present Government is holding the balance with very considerable skill. There is no doubt, for instance, that their recent proposals are going to have a big effect in relieving some of the worst conditions of unemployment, not only in the cotton trade, but in the coal-mining industry, and in the iron and steel industry. Unless, in those proposals, there is some snag—if I may use the expression—that we have not appreciated so far, there is not the least doubt that this Government, more than their predecessors, have made a step forward in the direction of relief.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It would not be in order to discuss those proposals to-day, though it might be to-morrow.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I have said all I want to say on that point. There is one other point on this subject which, I think, is fully in order, and that is that the census recently conducted by the Ministry of Labour on this subject of unemployment figures, has been of extremely great value to all of us who have taken a keen interest in the matter. That census, of course, was only taken on what I may term assay values—small samples taken here and there—to endeavour to get a general idea of the contents of the mass. What is particularly striking in the figures published by the Ministry of Labour is that the actual deadweight of unemployment is not nearly as large as most of us had imagined, and that the number of people who are week by week, month by month and year by year, on unemployment pay, is a comparatively small figure when we 1449 compare it with the total figures published by the Ministry of Labour. That is extremely satisfactory, because we have to remember that the policy of Governments from 1910 onwards had always been a policy of producing unemployment and of pauperizing the people of the country. Up to the early years of this century we had kept strictly to the old principle laid down by the first Poor Law Commission, that in a civilised country people's necessities must in the long run be relieved at the public expense, but that having agreed that the necessities of the individuals must be relieved eventually at the public expense, we must always remember that the form in which relief is given must be such that no man will take that relief unless his necessities absolutely drive him to do so. In the early years of this century we departed directly from that, and we introduced the great policy of "9d. for 4d." We inculcated into the people of this country the idea that the sole duty of the citizen was to get more out of the country than he put into it—in fact, by more than 50 per cent. in the case of 9d. for 4d. It seems to me to be rather an extension—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the Minister is not responsible for that. This is the occasion to criticise the administration of the Minister of Labour.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I bow to your ruling, but am I not in order in pointing out some of the immense difficulties in which the Minister of Labour is labouring in this question?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not say that a very short historical résumé, not introducing any controversial matter, may not be in order, but I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member is, if I may use the expression, seeing how far he can go.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The lack of bias in the Chair is such that the occupant of the Chair is apt to regard as controversial things which the ordinary back bench Member regards as truisms or platitudes.
§ The CHAIRMAN
There are some things which the hon. Member may regard as platitudes which I can imagine hon. Members on my left would wish to refute, though he may regard them as truisms, and in the meantime the presumed 1450 sins of the Ministry of Labour will be completely forgotten in the discussion.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
All that I wanted to point out, subject to your consent, Mr. Hope, is that the Minister of Labour, in dealing with unemployment, has to deal with a situation which has been created—and deliberately created—under which we have had an attempt made over a period of years actually to degrade the character of our people by making out to the voters of this country that there is nothing of which to be ashamed in becoming a charge on their neighbours. I pointed to the figures of the census of the Ministry of Labour as showing that, in spite of all the attempts made, the people of this country, even now after 15 or 20 years of what I may call Lloyd-Georgeism, still have some degree of self-respect and some regard for their country and for their fellow-citizens.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), who has just sat down, is always interesting, though I am not sure that he is always convincing, and I propose to follow him in the criticism which he made upon my hon. Friend behind me, the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith). Unfortunately, I was not in the House when my hon. Friend spoke, but I gather that he made reference to schemes of road construction, and the hon. Member for Mossley, using the phrase "freezing capital resources," said that it is the very worst form in which those resources can be expended at a time when we are seeking new trade and new outlets for employment. That, I think, not unfairly represents his argument.
In the last three weeks, for my sins, and in another connection, it has been my business to study the history of European transport since the War, and this has been borne upon me, not as the result of any researches of my own, but as the result of many conferences which have been held in Europe since that date, that at the conclusion of the War the transport system of Europe was in chaos. It was exhausted, permanent ways, engines and rolling stock were in need of renovation, and not only rolling stock and railway material had to be provided, but actual routes had to be altered, new frontiers set up, and new commercial routes made; and until that was done, the commerce and trade of Europe could 1451 not be resumed. If that is true, surely it is also true that in this country, after three or four years of neglect, it was of the first importance that our road communications should be brought up-to-date and renovated. Secondly, having in view the fact that every indication shows that road transport in the long run is going to be cheaper and more efficient than railway transport, there was a most pressing need to extend the road system of transport in this country, not only because the actual construction of the roads gave employment at the time to large numbers of men—that was incidental—but also because those roads would in the future help industry in the very direction which the hon. Member himself sought to show was the prime necessity of industry.
That brings me to the second point put by the hon. Member. I anticipated in my own mind the question of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell), who, when the hon. Member for Mossley talked about costs of production, said he could not confine those costs to wages. I have heard, in many a Debate in this House, the argument used, particularly in regard to the coal industry and the steel industry, that one of the highest charges on industry is the charge of freights. I am not saying that road carriage is going to replace railways in regard to these industries, but I am going to say this to the hon. Member, that if transport charges in general can he reduced, that will he just as efficient a way of helping industry as by reducing the charge for wages. Therefore, if by the system of roads which we are trying to build—and there I have a complaint against the Government, which interrupted the work and held it up and made it less efficient than it would have been, not by accident but deliberately—if, by creating a better and more up-to-date system of road transport, we can help industry, I think we should be doing a great good.
A few minutes ago the hon. Member for Mossley was engaged in a task which nobody enjoys more than he does. He was telling home truths to hon. Members above the Gangway—[An HON MEMBER: "Half truths!"] If the hon. Member will allow me, I am trying to picture the frame of mind of the hon. Member for 1452 Mossley. He was telling home truths to hon. Members above the Gangway, and one of those home truths was this, or the implication was this, that they must be prepared to some extent to face the consequences of what he called having their wages liquid; in other words, that, a further raising of the level of wages will inevitably lead to more unemployment. Surely the corollary of that is that the maintenance of wages at the present rate must to some extent maintain the present unemployment. Is it not also fair to say that, if you are going to devote yourself, irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the matter, to maintaining the return made on the capital sunk in railways, you may also be maintaining unemployment, because the dividend that is paid on shares is just as much a charge as are the wages that are paid to the men?
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
I admit the correction. I know the distinction which the hon. Member makes, and it is a true distinction.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
If I may maintain this as a solo and not as a chorus just for a couple of minutes, the argument am trying to develop is that, whether or not it is a charge, if you are going to maintain, irrespective of the consequences, the level at which returns from the railways have been kept, you are going to incur the same risk as if you maintain wages at the same level. Therefore, in my view, the Government are largely to blame in this particular matter. The Ministry of Labour, having regard more particularly to the employment of people in this country, might have used its influence in the opposite direction with its colleagues in the Ministry, but the Government have interrupted this programme of roads, and to my mind, as we have been told so often that what is really wrong with the industrial situation of this country is that people cannot afford to buy our products, and that we must wait until the chaos resulting from the War has settled down, if that is true, surely the interim until that takes place could not have been 1453 better spent than by employing as much labour as possible and even freezing some little capital into that particularly solid form which later on will certainly help to make our trade more efficient and to lower the cost, of production. That seems to me to be the argument in answer to the hon. Member for Mossley.
I could not help thinking, when he spoke about the level of wages and the cost of production, that he was leaving out of consideration the example of that great country on the other side of the Atlantic, where, in spite not only of a high level of wages, but of a psychology among employers that leads them to desire and to pay high wages, it has been able to maintain its prosperity, and largely keep its people in employment. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have 4,000,000 unemployed!"] Yes, but nobody will contend that the story of prosperity in the United States has not been a more pleasing one than the story of prosperity in this country. I do not go further than that. That, I think, is the answer to the hon. Member. I am not going to follow the hon. Member who spoke last into those regions where you, sir, thought that it was wrong that he should wander, and speak of the tendency to pauperize our population in the last 20 years. We all agree that where we can induce people to seek work, we should encourage them.
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he will make inquiries whether, in some cases, it is not being made difficult for men to seek work. I have a case in mind, which occurred only a few weeks ago, of a sailor who was endeavouring to seek work, his occupation at sea having ceased. From the story which was told to me, it seems that it was made almost impossible for that man to do the right thing in order to get work, and at the same time to draw his unemployment benefit. This man gave me a detailed account of his efforts for five or six weeks to find work, and of the distances he travelled at his own expense; and at the end of it he was told quite brusquely that he was not genuinely seeking work, and he was deprived of his benefit. I applied to the Department, and simply got back a letter which repeated a letter which the man had had. I have another case occupying my attention, of a man who has been taken into a Poor Law institution. He 1454 is not allowed to go out to seek work, and I had a letter from him and his wife pressing me to approach the Minister of Labour. I should like an assurance that the Parliamentary Secretary is satisfied that in all cases Employment Exchanges are acting sympathetically towards those who are trying to find work.
This Debate has been rather unsatisfactory, because the information on which it should have been based has not been forthcoming. We do not know what the plans of the Government are, we do not even know what advice is going to be tendered to them by their Committee. I listened with great interest when the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) was speaking, because midway through his speech he said that there was only one cure for unemployment. Then be went elsewhere for a few minutes, and, coming back, told us again that there was only one cure for unemployment, just before you, Sir, pulled him up, and he said that it was to apply the principles of Socialism. I am entitled to say to hon. Members above the Gangway that when they ask Members opposite for facts and not theories, we are entitled to ask them what, really are the facts and not the theories of Socialism.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member is conscious of his own lapse. He has been until now admirably in Order. This is not the occasion for a Debate on Socialism or Protection, but of what the Minister of Labour can do or has not done.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
I accept, Sir, what you say. It is a matter of great regret to me that this is not an occasion for a Debate on Protection, or indeed on Socialism, but we shall be glad to hear, before the Debate closes, from the Parliamentary Secretary a little more information than he has been able to give us of what the Government intends and what the Committee has actually done on this specific question. I want to ask with regard to the work of the Transference Board, to what extent it has operated up to the present. Has it operated, for instance, in the Kent coalfields? Can we have some particulars as to whether, when that scheme was inaugurated, any success attended efforts to transfer miners to this district? Practical information of 1455 that kind will make this Debate worth while.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I would have liked to ask the Minister of Labour, if he, were here, a question about the conditions of employment in agriculture. The Ministry of Labour sent an interesting pamphlet to the employment exchanges dealing with the possibility of employing casual labour in agriculture. This pamphlet explains the new system for the period during which the unemployed can work a certain time in agricultural employment, when their own business is slack. In agricultural districts these pamphlets have been sent only to employment exchanges. Exchanges are few and far between, and I would like to ask him to send these pamphlets to post offices, where they can be more easily found and read. It is necessary to bring the pamphlets to the attention not only of the unemployed, but of agriculturists, farmers and smallholders, who might like to employ this casual labour. When these pamphlets are in the employment exchanges only, nobody reads them, but if they are in post offices they are read by an extended community. Very often, when business is slack, the unemployed go back to the country districts where they were born, and stay with their parents or relations, and they are far from an employment exchange, and the only means of seeing these pamphlets is in a post office.
There is a second question which I should like to ask him. An idea exists that miners are to be sent to the agricultural districts for instruction. In the past agriculturists have given this instruction to various people, and then have found they have to give them wages. It would be all very well if that had been understood in the first case, but in many instances it was only a year or two afterwards that they have found, as the result of legal action, that wages were due to these people. I would ask the Minister of Agriculture, if there is any scheme of sending miners to agricultural districts for instruction, to see that the farmers are informed beforehand that wages will be due to those men, according to the Wages Board's decision, or else to make up the balance out of Government funds. After the recent judgment, there probably will be great disinclination on the part 1456 of agriculturists to take people from the distressed areas for instruction. Several agricultural associations are very much worried by the recent decision of the Courts. I have been extremely brief and I would be glad if the Minister of Labour would give attention to these two points, in which agriculturists are very much interested.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am glad to have the opportunity of intervening at this stage, although the two hon. Members whose remarks I wish to deal with have both left the Chamber. All day I have listened very carefully to this Debate, having been out of the Chamber only for 20 minutes since it started, but I must say that I have not been encouraged or made happier by my stay in the House. The position we have reached in 1928 seems to be that the Government are quite satisfied to see a permanent load of 1,000,000 unemployed people in the country. All our policies, all our finance, all our future business schemes are to be based on the assumption that this load of 1,000,000 unemployed people will have to be borne by the nation in some way or another. That is a very distressing frame of mind. The Under-Secretary who, as all of us know, approaches his work with a very great deal of human kindliness, puts the best possible case that any Minister could put on what he must know perfectly well is a very bad business indeed. I am not at the moment asking him for panacea. I notice that in this House one always describes the general theories of one's political opponents as being a panacea. Conservatism is a panacea when a Socialist or a Liberal is talking, Liberalism is a panacea from the point of view of the Conservatives, and Socialism is only a panacea from the point of view of the Conservatives. Our own ideas are always a collection of constructive proposals.
The hon. Member who is representing the Minister of Labour to-night has unfolded to us the constructive proposals of Conservatism for dealing with a million unemployed, not for the abolition of this million unemployed, or for a reduction of their numbers, but for the handling of a million people who are now unemployed and who are going to be unemployed. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that what he had to say was a very miserable contribution indeed to 1457 the solution of the problem. For four months three distinguished gentlemen have been examining how far it is possible to transfer unemployed people in one part of the country to some other part of the country where unemployment is not so severe. Undoubtedly there are parts of the country where unemployment is not so serious as in other parts. Unemployment is not so severe in Kent as it is on the Clyde, it is not so severe in Worcestershire as in South Wales; but in every place there is some measure of unemployment, there is no place without its unemployed, and there is no industry without its margin of unemployment. Now we talk about transferring people from mines and other industries to agriculture, but already we cannot find employment for the people who are in agriculture. One hon. Member has asked us to send young men and young women for courses in agriculture. If the Minister of Agriculture were tackled, he would tell us that during the last year he has been spending money in training young folk in agricultural colleges, young folk from agricultural homes, from the homes of farm labourers and small farmers, but when they have finished their training and come away with their diplomas as expert dairymen or expert agriculturists there is not a place for them in agriculture. And yet we are asked to believe that if miners have a short course in agriculture work can be found for them. It is not true. It is humbugging this House and it is humbugging the country to suggest that there is employment available in any one industry in the present conditions.
Now I come to the theorising of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) and my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. Crawfurd). I do not know what they meant by the freezing of capital. They are both large capitalists—at least they are both interested in the operations of large capital. I have never had to manipulate much more than my monthly Parliamentary salary, and I work it pretty much on the Micawber principle. If there is 3d. balance—happiness; if there is 3d. deficit—misery. I have read the economic theories on which the hon. Member for Mossley based his speech. As a matter of fact, it was a great fellow- 1458 townsman of my own, Adam Smith, who first sent those theories revolving round the world, and I do not know of any greater disservice that was done to the human race than when Adam Smith wrote his "Wealth of Nations," because there are a number of people like the hon. Member for Mossley and the hon. Member for West Walthamstow who believe that Adam Smith, because he was a Glasgow man, uttered the last word of wisdom on economics when he wrote that book.
The theories propounded by the hon. Member for Mossley go a little further than Adam Smith. That is characteristic of my hon. Friend, if he will allow me to say so, because he always goes about an inch further than anybody else has ever gone in the particular theory he propounds. He makes this point, that wages must be completely liquid. The movement of wages has got to be like a liquid, it has got to respond to every displacement. Otherwise, we are bound to have unemployment. He says capital must be completely liquid. But is there not something else that must be completely liquid —the price? I would like him to realise that since the time of Adam Smith other people have written works on economics, one of them being Karl Marx. I suggest to him that he should take the trouble to study that monumental work known as "Das Kapital," written by Karl Marx, and he will then find out that this is the central problem of economics which is disturbing every Parliament in Europe to-day, which is disturbing every commercial section in the world, that is, the relationship of wages and prices—whether prices are to fix wages or wages are to fix prices? That is the central problem, and Karl Marx propounded the answer and Adam Smith did not. My hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), when he said that Socialism was the remedy, did not want to detain the Committee or to step beyond the bounds of order, but undoubtedly you have not merely got to free capital but you have got to free it in the right hands. The hon. Gentleman admitted that debenture share capital and debenture share interest—
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me? I never perpetrated the absurd error of talking about debenture shares.
§ Mr. MAXTON
But I gave my hon. Friend a present of that at the very outset. I admitted that I might very easily use some wrong technical term about the manipulation of capital. But he did admit that the debenture charges represented a factor in the cost of production. Will he admit also that land charges are a factor in the cost of production? Will he admit also that the Army and Navy charges are a factor in the cost of production? Will he admit that the whole retinue of monarchy, landlordism and all the great decorative elements we have in this country in one form or another, also constitute a charge on industry?
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
No, Sir. I will give the hon. Member this, that land charges are a charge on industry, but I cannot admit that our monarchical system is a charge on industry, inasmuch as the revenue produced is as great as the expenditure of maintaining the Monarchy.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Perhaps I could help the hon. Member out of his difficulty. These subjects do not come within the scope of the Ministry of Labour Vote.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not want to transgress the bounds of order, or, indeed to occupy time which is required by my hon. Friend on the Front Bench in which to close the Debate, but I do think that I am well within the bounds of order when I suggest that industry in this country ultimately carries a tremendous load of unproductive persons and unproductive families. Even if it could afford to carry that load during the 19th century when Britain was still doing well, it cannot afford to carry it now. All this expensive luxury, all these idle gentlemen and the Monarchy, are luxuries that a country that is up against it cannot afford.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Surely the Minister of Labour cannot do away with those things? He is not responsible for them.
§ Mr. HARDIE
On that point of Order. Is not the hon. Member in order in referring to the permanent unemployed?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I leave that point absolutely. I am sorry, but I was trying to round off a topic which was entered into by a prominent Conservative—
§ Mr. MAXTON
—by a modest contribution from a back-bench Socialist. I have probably strayed beyond the narrow limits of this Debate, and, therefore, I want to return and to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour why it is that in this last year, when he and his Department were supposed to be giving special attention to the transference of men from one part of the country to another, the amount spent on the transference of men from one part of the country to another by his Department has been reduced by a sum of £5,000, which is a reduction of 20 per cent. on the total amount expended? I want to know, also, in the year when he was supposed to be doing so much for the special training of young folk in juvenile unemployment centres, why the amount is merely the same as it was last year, and, further, why it is that the other contribution which he and his Department are supposed to have made during this last year for dealing with the unemployed men in their training as adults and as handy men—I am always suspicions of that phrase handy men—I want to ask him why it is, when he comes forward and boasts to us about what his Department is doing in the training of handy men, that the amount that has been spent on the training of handy men is almost exactly the amount by which they have reduced the amount that they were spending on the training of ex-service men?
So we may take it that, during 1928, the Ministry of Labour has done less in helping the local authorities to develop bigger works of public well-being, has done less for the transference of unemployed people from one part of the country to another, has done only the same amount in the training of adults, and has not taken care to see that the money they were spending in the training and education of juveniles has been decently and well spent. I would have 1461 liked to spend some considerable time in dealing with the question of the juvenile unemployment centres. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that I have special knowledge of the work going on in those centres. I make this challenge here, that the Ministry of Labour are not taking the trouble to see that the money they are spending on the education of these unemployed between the ages of 16 and 18 is being well and judiciously spent. They are quite careless and happy-go-lucky as to what happens to these young fellows and girls when they finish their courses of education, and they are not taking care to see that the education provided in these classes is of the best type that the educational knowledge in this country can provide for the children coming under the control of these educational centres; that it is not as good as it would be if they were the children of the better-off classes, instead of being the children of the unfortunate unemployed men. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, during this year, to make the closest and strictest investigation into the educational methods of the juvenile unemployment centres and, if the educational work there is not being decently and efficiently and well done, and done in the proper frame of spirit—in the spirit of education and not in the spirit of the policeman looking after some bad citizen who requires reforming—if it is not being done in that spirit, I ask him either to stop these classes altogether or to take the necessary steps to put them on a decent educational basis, that will redound to the credit of his Department, instead of to the disgrace of his Department.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I should like to say a word or two in reference to the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary that when the Transference Board made its Report, it was hoped that they would have the hearty cooperation of employers to assist them. That is an entirely optimistic point of view. In 1917, before the declaration of peace, the Labour party directed the attention of the Coalition Government to the necessity for planning for peace in a systematic and long-sighted way, and pointed out that the difficulties of peace would be as great as the difficulties which confronted the country in 1914. If ever there was a complete justification of the 1462 wisdom of the suggestion which we then made it is to be found in the statement made by the Minister of Health in his speech the other night in which he said:What we have to consider is the condition of the country in all the years that have elapsed since the War. It is in a condition of protracted and constantly disappointed expectation. Again and again we have tried to make ourselves believe that at last the long-anticipated boom was coming. Again and again we have had to admit that the signs which we believed we had seen flickered away, and once more we were back again in the trough."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1928; col. 1149, Vol. 216.]That has gone on for 10 years in this country where we have continued to live from hand to mouth. The same applies to training and migration and development schemes. In all these matters, we have just gone on a little way ahead, facing the situation in the hope that competitive individualism or capitalism could, within its own boundaries, get us out of the mess with which we were confronted after the War. I believe that under capitalism you have no real solution for unemployment. We said that before the War and we have said it since, and we profoundly believe that in this great industrialised country of ours we have reached a stage in our development when competitive individualism cannot function for the benefit of the community and a state of things under which capitalism is breaking down, because it cannot secure for the people any certainty of a decent standard of life. It is almost like a game of battledore and shuttlecock, or a kind of Box and Cox arangement. If we take the figures for January given in the Ministry of Labour Gazette, we find that 150,000 workers in January received an increase of £9,000, and in the same Labour Gazette you find that in the same month of January 245,000 workers received a decrease of wages amounting to £16,300. There is an increase of £9,000 for 150,000 people, which means greater purchasing power for them, but it is entirely negatived, from the standpoint of the total consuming power of the country, by those 245,000 persons who were forced down very much below that level, and the total consuming power of the people for that month was was thousands of pounds down.
That is the kind of thing that has been going on all the time, but with this terrible difference, that, every year it con- 1463 tinues, you have a progressive degradation of the savings of the people in certain groups of trades. We have now, in my own constituency, areas where the people have lost every penny that they had saved through long years when they were probably in more or less continuous employment. They have parted with such articles of furniture as had any saleable value, and not only they themselves, but their friends and relations also, have come down to the same point of destitution, so that we have a progressive degree of beggary and shabbiness of clothing. I myself, during this last week-end, saw families whom I met a month ago wearing the same clothes, but with this difference, that they had put on a few more patches. I have seen children with their clothes patched like Joseph's coat, mothers nearly driven to despair to know what is going to be done when the clothes are so worn that they will not bear another patch and when it is impossible to find money to buy new clothing, and children who can only go to school if someone provides them charitably with boots—and that in industries which during the 19th century were the backbone of the wealth of this country. It cannot be a matter for astonishment to Members on the Benches opposite if we do feel very bitterly about this question, and if we sometimes are led to say things which may not be regarded as constructively helpful, but which, at any rate, are a vent to feelings that are past the bounds of reasonable expression.
I want for a moment to turn to another phrase used by the Parliamentary Secretary. He said that by the accumulation of small chances they hoped to do something in the way of mitigating unemployment. I should like for a moment or two to deal with some of these small chances in regard to the extension of training schemes. I do not think that unemployment is going to be solved by the accumulation of small chances; I do not think that anything short of immensely big and far-seeing schemes will help us to get out of the mess, but these small chances are not to be despised, and I quite agree that we ought to take every opportunity that presents itself of finding work, even it be only for two or three people. In that connection I should like to ask 1464 whether something could not be done in the way of extending training centres to other forms of work than those now in operation at Wallsend, Claydon, Brandon and elsewhere. Could there not be a more systematic investigation as to the possible requirements of trades in which the boom which we have been promised once more is going to operate in two years' time? There is, for example, at Wallsend, a very excellent training centre, but, as far as my information goes, it does nothing whatever to assist in preparing labour for shipyards.
In the shipyards there are certain classes of boys' labour which I am informed require at least two years of training before the boys are in a position to assist the men. These boys do not get the chance of that training, and, if a sudden boom should come, there would in fact be no boys who have had that training to enable them immediately to set to work, so that, if and when trade revives, it is possible that it will again happen, as it has in the past, that whole sets of men who have gone to work in the morning will have to stand off because there are no boys there to do the necessary work. The heater boys, the catchers, and the markers are all required by the squad, and those boys could be trained in training centres, at least for the first year's work. It is not a question of expensive equipment. I imagine that there would be no difficulty about getting equipment lent to the training centre from the yards. There is only one firm that I know of that makes any attempt at preparing in its own yard the necessary junior labour required at the shipyard, and that is the firm of Messrs. Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, who have a training school. I am given to understand that the reasons why all the yards have not training schools is that it is too expensive an undertaking, and is only possible in the very biggest yards. I merely give that as an illustration of the kind of work which I think we have a right to expect the Ministry of Labour to do at this time—to go over the trade if necessary, metaphorically, with a small tooth comb to set up those committees that were recommended under the Blanesburgh Report in every industry, to investigate, to note the 1465 possible opportunities for expansion and the manner in which it is proposed to feed them, and to do everything possible to direct labour into channels of training which will have a reasonable chance of being absorbed afterwards into the kind of work for which it has been trained.
In connection with afforestation, I am sure there is general agreement, so far as I remember previous discussions, that anything that can be done to develop and enlarge the scope of employment in the basic industries would be a very wise and important thing to do, that is to say, anything that can be done to enlarge the scope of agriculture, for example, dairying, afforestation and so on, in order to absorb more people upon the land. In relation to our afforestation schemes, we are growing timber. We are making a certain amount of progress, not as fast as many of us would like to see, but certainly progress in the right direction. For the most part, we are growing timber for, roughly speaking, a period of 50 years at the earliest, and the only saleable timber meantime will be the undergrowth, the thinning out, and so on. Is it not possible that steps should be taken to grow timber for 15 years for use as pit props? It is no use growing timber for pit props unless you carry it through and ensure that you are going to get them sold, but if we could get a thing like that definitely planned out and settled for a 15 or 30 years' programme, and a certain amount of money allocated for the purpose, it would be one of those small chances to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred which would employ three times the number of persons, probably being able to fix many of them up with small holdings in relation to the growing of the short timber, which would make a small contribution to the solution of the problem.
Migration is a matter upon which I have spent a very considerable amount of time and thought, and I am concerned with the failure of many schemes which appeared to be so promising three or four years ago, again, I believe, due to the fact that they were not planned over a sufficiently long period, and that cooperation has not been anything like as complete as it should have been between ourselves and the Dominion authorities. 1466 Let us take Western Australia as one illustration. Does anyone in his sober senses believe the world at large will be content to allow Western Australia to be occupied for a great many years by only 300,000 persons? That is the population of that vast tract of territory, with immense potentialities and every kind of possible development. Let us look at their point of view for a moment in connection with the development scheme. That small Dominion cannot hope to raise money in sufficient quantities to engage in the immense undertakings that are required to settle Western Australia satisfactorily. Why should not this country act as many hon. Members on that side of the Committee would expect a private capitalist to act? Why should not the resources of this country be used, not on a fifty-fifty basis, but on a 100 per cent. basis, if necessary, in order to develop Western Australia in the fullest sense of the word; in order that people may go to Western Australia from this country, not in ones or twos, not as young men who will be so miserably lonely and cut off from their home surroundings that they will drift to the towns at the first opportunity? I agree absolutely in saying that development schemes must precede the transference of large numbers of people, but these schemes may not be ready for 10, 15 or 20 years. We cannot wait for that slow normal rate of development if migration is to be regarded as a way by which a more scientific distribution of population can be brought about.
I come back to the position of the women. Here we have statistics to show us that the position is not getting better but steadily worse. Hon. Members are frequently referring to the expanding industries. The expanding industries are largely those industries in which the number of women employed is increasing in proportion to men. Take Celanese, take even the motor-car trade. By mass production and standardisation of parts and the introduction of automatic machinery, more and more women are being drawn into and are being employed in those trades. When one points to the increased number of persons employed, it is very important from the standpoint of the purchasing power of the people, from the standpoint of home consumption, to watch to what extent the increase is due to young girls coming in on to the automatic process and to what ex- 1467 tent it is due to the increase of employment of men who are earning a family wage. It makes an enormous difference to the purchasing power of the country.
I find from the return just issued in connection with the number of migrants, the statistics of adult migrants, that is persons of 12 and over who are regarded as adults by the emigration laws, 1927 showed that the males exceeded the females by 12,098 as compared with an excess of 11,465 in 1926. The proportion of adult males of the total adults in 1927 was 55 per cent. as against 54 per cent. in 1926. If we take the figures of migration for January we find that, while they are practically stationary as compared with 1926, in the case of Canada they are, in fact, enormously decreased in regard both to Australia and New Zealand. But take the stationary figures in respect of Canada, we find that the position is round about 39,000 and 40,000 odd persons—39,000 in 1926 and 40,000 in 1927.—The remarkable fact is, that in the year in which 40,000 persons go from this country there are no less than 84,000 persons who are received into Canada from the Continent—84,000 from Middle Europe as compared with 40,000 from this country. So that Canada is receiving still a very much larger percentage of persons from Middle Europe than she appears to be willing to receive from this country. It is not that the people are not willing to go. We have lists of people waiting. People have been waiting for months, some for years, for the chance of getting abroad. We are not pushing people out. We are not getting the chance of sending them now although the reduction in the assisted passages has certainly made the difference that the figures for Canada are practically the same as last year.
The point I want to make is, that we are sending fewer women out of the country in proportion to men and we have more women going into factories here, into the trades that are called expanding trades, while the trades that mainly employ men are the trades which at the present moment are depressed. I ask the Ministry of Labour to accelerate the rates at which training centres are set up for the purpose of training women. We know that this is the one avenue of unsatisfied demand for women abroad. We know that we can secure for these women transference 1468 to Canada under conditions that guarantee them a better livelihood than anything they can get in this country. We are doing an excellent work at Market Harborough in the training of women, but my complaint is that we are not doing enough. The whole thing is too slow, too pettifogging, on too small a scale, and it makes hardly a dent upon the problem with which we are faced.
In relation to this question of training, while none of us believe that it is going to solve the problem of unemployment—we do not put it forward from that point of view—I do profoundly believe that it is one of the things that the Government can do to prevent deterioration. It is one of the things that the Government can do to save our young people from a kind of dry rot. I believe also that side by side with these training centres it is the obvious duty of the Government to organise work, to go out to find work, to find new channels through which employment can be offered to persons who are on the list' of the Employment Exchanges. I would ask very definitely that the officials of the Employment Exchanges shall be given clear directions in regard to the kind of tests of genuinely seeking work. I do not know whether I can make clear the difficulty that arises. The difficulty may be one of personal touch, it may have to do with the unclearness in which orders are issed from the central department, it may have to do with some purely local cause, but I do want to assure the Minister that time after time we are made aware of the fact that people who are genuine workers, people who are genuinely unemployed, people who have a life's record of service in industry, are sent away from the Exchanges with the feeling that they have been "dished," that they have been defrauded out of the unemployment benefit to which they honestly believe they are entitled.
Nobody knows better than I do how difficult it may be to decide what is genuine and what is not; to decide when somebody is looking for work and when they are not. I would direct the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Umpire cases that are quoted in the Blanesburgh Report as guides from which one would have thought the Government might have found some other form of words which would be a guide not only to the Employment Exchange officials but 1469 to the unemployed people themselves. In these cases it is clearly laid down that the applicants' record of work in a trade throughout the whole of their life must be regarded as prima facie evidence of whether or not they are genuinely seeking employment, that it should be the endeavour to secure some idea of the mental attitude of these workers towards this problem and that one of the best possible tests is whether or not during the 10, 20, 30 or 40 years of their industrial experience they had been more or less continuously employed in industry. When it comes to the question of the older men, there should be no difficulty about deciding that they are genuinely unemployed, and when it is a, question of the younger men, who have never had a chance of becoming genuinely unemployed, the responsibility of the Government is complete. It is their business to put these young men into employment. It is their business to organise employment for them, if the capitalist system is in such a condition to-day that it absolutely fails to function in that respect
The period through which we are passing makes this more and more necessary. Therefore members of all parties should recognise that the situation is one from which we cannot hope to emerge with any degree of satisfaction to ourselves or to posterity, unless we make up our minds that we have to get away from the antiquated ideas of individualism, and unless we realise that the period calls for a great co-operative effort in which the whole of the resources of the country will have to be organised and distributed, and that the results of industry will have to be divided in such a manner as will secure for those who work in industry, who are the wage earners of industry, a reasonable share which they have justly earned. Nobody can pretend that the system to-day does that. Nobody can pretend that it is not the most haphazard thing that could possibly he, and that the division of the products between capital and labour is most unfair in its incidence.
If this kind of thing is to go on, I predict that the country as a whole will find itself not in the front rank of nations as a first-class industrial nation, but will find itself sinking steadily more and more to the level of a country that is not going to matter very much in 1470 the industrial development of the world. I feel that the Ministry of Labour is a sort of key Department. It should bring before the rest of the Cabinet matters which are of such vital importance to the whole nation. I ask the Minister of Labour at least to do that. So, by means of continuous discussion and by recognising the importance of co-operative effort, the Ministry of Labour will not be left in the isolated position in which it is to-day, but there will be concerted action in all the Departments of the Government in order that this terrible problem of unemployment may be brought nearer solution.
I want to ask one question, to which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will find time to reply. It arises somewhat from what was said by the hon. Lady who has just spoken. Although I disagree entirely with some of her premises, I am glad that she has raised the point as to what is being done in emigration on an Imperial and Colonial basis. I gather that the Debate to-day has ranged a good deal around the transference of labour from one section of trade where there is great unemployment to sections of trade in which employment is more easily obtainable. I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether any steps have been taken in the direction of Imperial emigration on a big scale. I had the temerity to raise this subject 18 months ago and to put forward the suggestion that an expeditionary labour army was not beyond conception if the matter was properly handled. I still have, that belief, and before giving my vote to-night. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Government have advanced one step further forward towards tackling the unemployment problem on a large scale?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
Your predecessor in the Chair, Sir, said, I think, quite truly, that during this long-drawn-out discussion the presumed sins of the Ministry of Labour had been lost in academic discussion. In the course of the Debate, however, there has been one speech from the other side which stands out almost alone among those we have heard. That is the speech of the hon Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield). It, alone, of the speeches from the other side, contained the slightest appreciation 1471 of the difficulties with which we are faced and any constructive suggestion, towards meeting the present position. It was in contrast with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) which, for the most part, was a series of rhetorical and perfectly, meaningless questions. The speech of the hon. Member for Wallsend, at any rate, contained some suggestions worthy of consideration. In the first place, she asked whether it was not possible to extend the system of training lads for our shipyards. That is a matter, certainly, worthy of consideration.
The hon. Member also referred to the question of migration as did the hon. and gallant Gentleman who intervened last. The question of migration is hedged around with very great difficulties and the solution of those difficulties does not lie with this country alone. As I said already, this is one of the questions that is being considered and examined and I have every hope that we may be able to make some suggestion which will be useful with regard to that matter. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) told us that it was humbugging the country to say that there was any industry in which any employment could be obtained. I wonder if the hon. Member really thinks that no transference is possible. That is not our view at all, because we believe that when trade improves there will be—and there are at this moment—opportunities of transfer from one industry to another, and from one part of an industry to another. That is exactly why we are developing and increasing this scheme of transference in order that we should give these men a better opportunity of obtaining those advantages which training offers. If there has been one demand made by the Labour party during the last two or three years—and by no one more than by the hon. Member for Wallsend—it has been the demand that there should be training, not only of juveniles but of adults on the ground that there is nothing more likely to cause deterioration than lack of work and training. Now this training is exactly what we are doing now; and we are not only initiating training centres for adults but we have increased them largely within the last two months. If the Transference Board so recommend, we shall certainly consider still further facilities.
1472 The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) told us that when he was in Canada he was told there that the wrong class of migrant was going out. They knew nothing and cared nothing about the land, and consequently when they went out they found there was no place for them. It is precisely for that reason that we started these training centres for oversea at Brandon and Claydon, and the main object of these centres is to ensure, as far as we possibly and humanly can, that before a man goes out he shall go through a testing period, so that he shall be in a position to decide whether work on the land is the sort of life that is likely to suit him. From reports that we have had, we are satisfied that the men who have gone overseas from these training centres have for the most part made good and are settling down in the country to which they have gone. Therefore, when the hon. Member for Govan pointed out this fact that training is necessary before men go out, say to Canada, Australia or New Zealand, the centres that we have set up are the answer and the justification for what we are doing.
From some speeches which we have heard one would imagine that the training is of no use at all because there is nowhere the men can go after they are trained. If that is so and it is of no advantage to improve the adaptability and capability of men, it is the answer you will get to education of any sort and of every kind. If education is a good thing, as we on this side at any rate think it is, surely we are improving the adaptability and value of a man if we give him all the training which we can. If proof of that were needed, the figures I gave earlier in the afternoon are a justification, because of the men we have trained at our two centres at Birmingham and Wallsend alone, out of those who are known to have been trained and who numbered 3,012, no less than 94 per cent. are known to have obtained employment. That to my mind is a complete justification for the principle of training and doing our best.
§ Mr. MAXTON
This is very important. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us where the 3,000 went and whom they displaced?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
The hon. Member knows just as well as I do that that is a question which neither he nor anyone 1473 else could answer. I am not prepared to admit for a moment that they have displaced anybody, because it is perfectly well known, and the figures show, that there are large districts of England where unemployment is either quite negligible or very small proportionately. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) asked a series of questions about the juvenile unemployment centres and wanted to know where they are, how many of them there are, and the number of boys and girls who are attending them. I have a long list here which will give him the information that he desires, and which I will give him in answer to a question, if he puts one down on the Paper, or otherwise I will give him the list. I have in my hand.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I will. The right hon. Member for Preston made a statement with regard to wage reductions in this country which is wholly and entirely misleading. Having regard to the falls in the cost of living, the real wages, taking the country as a whole, are at the present time higher in this country than they have been at any time—
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I assert that in the year 1974 wages rose by more than 2500,000 a week, and every year since, with a slight exception, they have gone down.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman has repeated a statement which he knows as well as I do is wholly misleading. It is quite true that money wages have gone down; it is equally true that real wages have gone up. Wages are worth what wages will fetch, and if the cost of living goes down by more than the rates of wages, then the real wages are higher, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, if he repeats that statement, will at any rate at the same time mention the fall in the cost of living. At the end of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman asked what we had done. I will tell him. We have pursued a policy which has secured peace abroad, and, I agree, with the assistance of hon. Members in all parts of the House, during the last year we have placed in industry and absorbed in industry at least 500,000 more men than when the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were in office. We have absorbed in industry more than 1,000,000 men—about 1,100,000 men—more than at the time of the Armistice, and having regard to the grave difficulties of two years ago, to the economic difficulties abroad, to the difficulties not only in this country but in Europe, I say that that is a record of which we have every right to be proud.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £7,242,409, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 114; Noes, 227.1477
|Division No. 92.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Dennison, R.||Kennedy, T.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Duncan, C.||Kenworthy, Lt. -Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Dunnico, H.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Edge, Sir William||Lansbury, George|
|Baker. J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Gardner, J. P.||Lawrence, Susan|
|Baker, Walter||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Lawson, John James|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Gibbins, Joseph||Lindloy, F. W.|
|Barnes, A.||Gillett, George M.||Lowth, T.|
|Barr, J||Gosling, Harry||Lunn, William|
|Batey, Joseph||Grentell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Griffith, F. Kingsley||Mackinder, W.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Groves, T.||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Broad, F. A.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Bromfield, William||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Maxton, James|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hardie, George D.||Montague, Frederick|
|Buchanan, G.||Harris, Percy A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Baxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Murnin, H.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hayday, Arthur||Naylor, T. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hollins, A.||Palin, John Henry|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Compton, Joseph||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Connolly, M.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Potts, John S.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Dalton, Hugh||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Riley, Ben|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ritson, J.|
|Day, Harry||Kelly, W. T.||Saiter, Dr. Alfred|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Scurr, John||Snell, Harry||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Sexton, James||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Stamford, T. W.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Stephen, Campbell||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Stewart. J. (St. Rollox)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Shinwell, E.||Sutton, J. E.||Windsor, Walter|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Thurtle, Ernest||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Smillie, Robert||Tomlinson, R. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Townend, A. E.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut. -Colonel||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Albery, Irving James||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Fielden, E. B.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Ford, Sir P. J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Astbury, Lieut. -Commander F. W.||Forrest, W.||McLean, Major A|
|Astor, Viscountess||Fraser, Captain Ian||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fremantle, Lieut. -Colonel Francis E.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Atkinson, C.||Gadie, Lieut. -Col. Anthony||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Balniel, Lord||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Gates, Percy||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gilmour, Lt. -Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Bennett, A. J.||Goff, Sir Park||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Grace, John||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Moore, Lieut. -Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Grant, Sir J. A.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Brass, Captain w.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol. N.)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Hall, Lieut. -Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hamilton, Sir George||Penny, Frederick George|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hammersley, S. S.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'ld., Hexham)||Hanbury, C.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Buchan, John||Harland, A.||Preston, William|
|Burgoyne, Lieut. -Colonel Sir Alan||Harrison, G. J. C.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Burman, J. B.||Hartington, Marquess of||Radford, E. A.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Ramsden, E.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd. Henley)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Henderson, Lieut. -Col. Sir Vivian||Remer, J. R.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanc., Stretford)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hills, Major John Waller||Rye, F. G.|
|Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hilton, Cecil||Salmon, Major I.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon, A. D.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney. N.)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Cope, Major William||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd. Whiteh'n)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Couper, J. B.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Huntingfield, Lord||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Crockshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Iveagh, Countess of||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jephcott, A. R.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Steel Major Samuel Strang|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lamb, J. Q.||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Dixey, A. C.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Drewe, C.||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Templeton, W. P.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Long, Major Eric||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Looker, Herbert William||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Ellis, R. G.||Lougher, Lewis||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|England, Colonel A.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston- on-Hull)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Warrender, Sir Victor||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Watts, Dr. T.||Wolmer, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wells, S. R.||Womersley, W. J.||Captain Margesson and Captain|
|White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)||Wallace.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.