§ [FIFTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [8th November] to Question [6th November]—
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN.
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Major Edmondson.]
Which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words:
But regret that, although Your Majesty's advisers have had four years of office with a commanding majority in Parliament, general election pledges remain unfulfilled, the country is burdened with the problem of unemployment in a more acute form, in many mining areas appalling conditions prevail, the proposals outlined in the Gracious Speech are utterly inadequate to meet the existing industrial situation and ignore the need for improving the conditions of labour, and, in particular, regret that the oft-repeated pledge with respect to factory legislation is unredeemed, and that it is the declared intention of Your Majesty's advisers not to honour it during this Parliament."—[Mr. Clynes.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I am going to ask for the indulgence of the House for a very short period. It will perhaps be within the recollection of some hon. Members that I was interrupted by the clock on Friday, after having spoken for a few minutes. I have very little more to say, but I would ask the indulgence of the House for a short period to complete the remarks which I then intended to make. When the clock interrupted our Debate on Friday of last week I was trying to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that it was of no use to blame the Government's policy of having gone back to the gold standard for our troubles, at this stage, or at this time of day. The decision to return to the 532 gold standard in 1919 at the pre-War parity of exchange was a very courageous decision, and, I think, a very wise decision, but certainly it was not a decision for which the present Government can in any way be held responsible. That policy, which was then put into operation, inevitably involved a period of falling prices and of high unemployment, but it carried with it an increase in our invisible exports, an increase in the purchasing power of our people, and a general increase in British credit. Now that we have gained that credit I cannot see the use of reducing it. We have attained it with great difficulty, and I see no reason why we should throw it away; and really you are not going to increase the wealth of this country by calling a penny a penny-halfpenny.
On the other hand, what you are going to do, if the Government lend themselves to such a policy, is to lay yourselves open to a charge from hon. and right hon. Gentleman upon the benches opposite that we have, so to speak, reduced the wages of the workers of this country behind their backs, because that is what a policy of inflation would mean. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may complain of the wages that are paid to the workers of this country at the present time, but at least it is true that for the last three or four years the Government have been more or less surreptitiously increasing the real value of those wages all the time. If we were to go in for a policy of inflation we should be quite unable to meet the charge from the opposite benches that we were surreptitiously decreasing the real value of the wages of the workers of this country. Inflation at this stage would come back on us sooner or later, with high prices and lower credit. What we all want is neither inflation nor deflation, but stabilisation. We have succeeded to a very great extent during the last two years in checking the fall in world prices. We want to check it absolutely. I think there is only one way in which we can really succeed in doing that, and that is by international action to stabilise the value of gold in relation to commodities. If we regulate the demand for gold with this objective, which was the avowed purpose of the Genoa Resolutions, we can achieve our purpose. His Majesty's Government stand by the policy laid down at Genoa 533 in 1922. The right hon. Gentleman who is going to speak for the Government to-night even went so far at the time as to claim that the Genoa Resolutions were of equal importance to the legal Code of Justinian. I think he is quite right. That is the position of His Majesty's Government on the subject.
I would remind hon. Members opposite, however, that two stipulations were made in those Resolutions, one that the leading nations of the world should go back to gold, and, two, that the central banks of those countries should be independent of and free from the Governments in those countries.
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has talked to us a great deal about roads. There is only one part of Great Britain that I can speak about from personal experience and that is the North of Scotland. In the North of Scotland we have main roads which are like racing tracks; we have many of them, certainly quite enough, and we do not want any more of them. They are about the only thing we have got. In addition to drainage, it seems to me that what is required, in the first place, is a development of our telephone system. The rural telephone system up in Scotland at any rate, is most unsatisfactory and quite inadequate to the requirements of the farming and agricultural community.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Does the hon. Member say that the Aberdeenshire roads require no further work upon them? Is he aware that when I was up there in August I found them disgraceful?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I am quite satisfied with our main roads, even if the hon. and gallant Member is not. I give precedence, when it comes to a question of national development, to telephones. There is one aspect of our life, especially in the rural districts, which I think is nothing short of a scandal, and that is the condition of our electrical development. Why should it be the case that in this country we should be so much behind other countries in Europe? Not only are we behind France and Germany but we are behind Denmark, Norway and Sweden in electrical development; we are behind our own Dominions. I believe that in New Zealand, over large tracts of country 534 there is hardly a single farm that is not supplied with electricity, not only for lighting and cooking but for the actual working of the farm itself. In my constituency in East Aberdeenshire, which is one of the most important agricultural districts in the North of Scotland, there is not a single village, there is not a single town, much less is there a farm, which is supplied with electricity. I do think that that state of affairs is disgraceful. We are told that we are going to get, some time or other, a central electrical system in Scotland. I would put in a plea that as well as a central electrical system we should have a northern electrical system, and as soon as possible. It is something like a scandal in our rural life at the present time that we have not such a system, and I do not see why we should put up with that condition of things any further.
A few words about industrial problems. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs spoke a great deal about the rationalisation of industry. There can be no doubt that if we are to have any real revival of prosperity in this country, and diminution of unemployment, we must put the basic industries of this country upon a firm footing once again, and enable them to make a profit. That is more important than anything else. In regard to face future of our industries, we ought to consider the competition in the markets of the world from the United States of America, which we are bound to have to face. Lord Melchett has often pointed out that the mass production methods which they have put into operation in the United States of America, involve large economic units all over the world. There are two things which we ought to do in this country, and do as soon as possible. The first is to develop all the markets available to us in every way we possibly can. The most important thing is Empire development, and particularly, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs pointed out, the development of the Crown Colonies, where there is still a vast field for expansion. The next thing to do is to encourage in every possible way migration to the Dominions. There lie our markets of the future, and we must develop them to the fullest extent possible if we are ever to regain markets adequate to our needs. These are two 535 of the cardinal planks in the policy of His Majesty's Government at the present time.
Another thing which is desirable, is to stabilise as far as possible in our basic or heavy industries, which employ most men, both production and prices. There are several industries, of which coal is one, where demand is limited at the present time, and can to a certain extent be estimated. In these industries uncontrolled competition becomes after a time absolute suicide. I do not think it is impossible to relate production to consumption by scientific regulation of output and prices. Most of the leaders in these industries take that view. Take the case of coal. About five weeks ago, I read a paragraph in the "Times," in which reference was made to the great satisfaction that was being felt in South Wales that they had been able to undercut Durham and Northumberland by a very small amount in accepting a contract for coal from the Continent of Europe, even although it would scarcely bring them any profit. It seems to me that that sort of policy amounts almost to insanity. There are, however, much more hopeful signs. Hon. Members will perhaps remember that the other day we read in the newspapers reports of a conference of coalowners from all over the country to discuss the question of a national organisation for selling and controlling the export of coal.
Reorganisation of the coal industry of this country has proceeded at an extremely rapid rate during the last nine months; but I would ask hon. Members on the opposite side and especially those who are going to take part in the Debate to remember that the process of rationalisation, while it does mean and will spell greater efficiency, must also mean that a certain number of miners are going to be displaced from the industry. That imposes upon the Government of the day a separate and temporary problem, and that the Government are dealing with it was made quite clear by the Minister of Labour last Friday. I would ask hon. Members opposite to remember that in the coal industry, as in other industries, you can only employ a certain number of men at good wages, and that if you try to impose upon that or any other industry 536 more men than it can maintain, it leads to disaster for all who are engaged in it. When we have, as I hope we soon shall have, something in the nature of a national selling organisation for coal, then we shall be in a position to stabilise production and prices and to compete far more effectively in the markets of Europe and in the markets of the world or, alternatively, to negotiate agreements with our competitors. These views are not held merely by politicians or journalists who have been advocating them strenuously, but by men of great influence and weight in the coal industry, such as Lord Aberconway, Mr. William Archer and Mr. Wallace Thorneycroft. We are within sight of a national organisation in the coal industry which will do more to solve the problems of that industry than anything else.
Exactly the same thing applies in the iron industry. I have a letter from one of the leaders in that industry who points out that the great aim now is to consolidate, to amalgamate, to get a national council to control exports of pig-iron in this country, and that when we get that we shall be within sight of victory and prosperity once again. How can the Government help? I think they can help, first of all, by approving the the policy of rationalisation; this the President of the Board of Trade has done on at least three occasions in the House. Secondly, they may help by passing Acts of Parliament to assist, such as the Mining Industry Act, 1926. But public opinion can do more than any Government in this respect, and more still can be done by the joint stock banks. I could not help thinking when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was urging the Chancellor of the Exchequer to relax credit, that he would do very much better to address his observations to the joint stock banks of this country. Those are the people who ought to relax credit. And quite obviously, most of all can be done by those actually engaged in industry itself. The most hopeful sign at the present time is that all the leaders of our great industries are not only alive to the problem, but are busily engaged in working at it in order to arrive at a satisfactory solution.
As far as international co-operation goes, I do not think there is any insuper- 537 able obstacle which stands in the way of an ultimate agreement between ourselves, Germany and France as far as coal and iron are concerned, bar one. There is one obstacle which would be insuperable, and that is if you were to nationalise the coal industry of this country. Conceive the Government of this country sitting down to discuss with the private owners of the coal industry in Germany, France, Belgium and Poland, the intricate questions of markets, quotas, prices and so on. You would get international complications in the first ten minutes, and that is what vitiated the arguments of the lion. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) when pleading for international co-operation in this Debate the other night. If he had referred to this in his discussions in Germany recently with the German coal owners, he would have found that they laid great stress on the point. They told me—and I put forward this particular aspect of the problem a year ago in this House—that there were two things that were essential if ever we were to come to an agreement, the first that the coal industry in this country should remain absolutely free and independent of any Government control. The second essential was that the coal industry should got some central body which was capable of negotiating on behalf of the industry as a whole. I know that there are many people in this country to-day who hold that the time has not yet come for an agreement of this kind. They may be right; I do not think we ought to enter into negotiations until we are in a more formidable position from the competitive point of view than we are at present. But we are getting into a much more formidable position every day now, and nothing will increase our competitive and bargaining power more than the scheme for the relief of rates and the reduction of freights which is to be put into operation next year by His Majesty's Government. Therefore if the time is not yet, it is very much nearer to-day than it has ever been.
Finally, such a policy, so far from being antagonistic, is complementary to the development and consolidation of the British Empire. When all is said and done, Great Britain, France and Ger- many have between them cradled modern civilisation, and if for the first time in 538 their history they are going to co-operate both politically and economically, then I am quite sure that in an incredibly short space of time they can rebuild both the prosperity and the glory of Europe.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am I sorry I had not the privilege of listening to the opening remarks of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) who has just addressed the House, but I am quite sure that the part of his speech which he delivered on Friday was just as interesting and just as solid a contribution to the solution of the problem of unemployment as that to which we have had the pleasure of listening this afternoon. I was particularly interested in the fact that he followed the brief of the Chancellor in damning rationalisation as a remedy for unemployment, That is, perhaps, the only point on which I am here in agreement with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Member on this subject. Undoubtedly rationalisation means progress in production, but we are not here dealing with the problem of production. We are dealing with the problem of unemployment, and I agree with both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman that it is childish in the extreme to think that by improved machinery and methods of production all the world over, we are going to increase the demand for manual labour.
The hon. Member seemed to find some comfort in the treatment of the coal situation by the Government. I must say that I envy the hon. Member, because I can see nothing in the Government's action and conduct toward the coal situation that is calculated either to bring relief to the nation or comfort to their supporters. The hon. Member referred to the Eight Hours Act. I think the results of that Measure have been 100 per cent. bad, and the Government cannot escape responsibility for its consequences. Then he mentioned selling agencies. What has been the net result of the selling agencies that have been established during the past 12 months? Surely the hon. Member knows, because he seems to have studied the subject, that the price of all exported coal has fallen from 21s. to 15s. 7d. since January, 1927, and, strange to say, through the whole of that period the 539 quantity of coal exported from this country has steadily decreased, and we have exported less coal this year than we did in 1927, when the price of export coal was high. It has had another effect which has not, I think, received general attention. The policy of selling British coal to foreign consumers at, a lower price than it is sold to British consumers, is having a very damaging effect upon other British industries. You are supplying foreign steel makers with coal at 15s. 7d. a ton, and you are charging British steel makers a higher price. The result is that you are putting the British manufacturer in an unfavourable position in competition with the foreign manufacturer, and by that policy increasing unemployment in the steel trade.
I want to devote my remarks to some extent to the speech we had on Thursday from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I pass from the hon. Member's speech, not from any discourtesy, but because I regard the Chancellor's speech as really the election address of the Conservative party. In one respect, at any rate, that speech was to me a great disappointment. We have grown accustomed to the right hon. Gentleman providing a pleasant afternoon. He is usually merry and bright, and refuses to take his politics very seriously. On this occasion he was rather in a doleful mood. He told us that British trade was in a bad way, and that this was due to a number of causes. Capital had been destroyed during the War. Foreign trade was disappearing, because of greater production in foreign countries. The heavy National Debt that hung over us was also a considerable burden on industry. The position of the miners, he told us, was hopeless, and then, after referring to unemployment, he asked the House what a poor Government was expected to do. The most amazing statement, however, in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that in which he appealed for help to the other sections of the House. This is the right hon. Gentleman who, not very long ago, told us that Labour was not fit to govern. Now he turns to Labour and says, "You should not treat unemployment as an electioneering cry. This is a common problem we must face together, Come to our aid, and let us, 540 in the national interest, remove this serious cancer of unemployment." I must say that, remembering the right hon. Gentleman's past, I wondered whether he was fishing for a fresh Coalition, whether he was thinking of deserting the sinking ship, and whether he was aiming at finding in some agreement with Members on this side of the House, a basis upon which he can conduct his political activities in the years that lie immediately before us when the Conservative party is in trouble. Towards the end of his speech he seemed to grow more consoling. He brightened up a little, probably with the object of consoling the relatives at the bedside. He spoke about a revival in trade, about a glorious resurrection, about a better time that would be experienced beyond the clouds.
Altogether, taking it as a national pronouncement, it was undoubtedly a pathetic performance. The right hon. Gentleman's explanations of the causes of bad trade were, in many respects, if I may respectfully say so, sheer nonsense. To lay the blame on a shortage of capital is absurd. Everyone knows that capital does not consist of notes drawn from the banks on a Friday to pay the Friday's bills, and which find their way back to the banks through the shopkeepers on Monday. Industrial capital consists of the mines, railways, ships, docks, mills, machinery and factories used in the production and distribution of wealth. In what industry is there a shortage of industrial capital to-day? In my own division, a very large concern with a world-wide reputation, has just written off £3,000,000 of capital that has rusted since 1920. Can you mention a steel works in this country in which men have been dismissed because of shortage of plant? Where is the mining area in which there is unemployment through a shortage of mines? What part of the textile industry is on short time or has unemployment because there is a shortage of mills and of machinery? To talk about the shortage of capital as being responsible for unemployment, is to indicate that His Majesty's Government, if we are to take the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an example, has not devoted five minutes' serious thought during the past five years to the consideration of a problem which is the most desperate that has ever confronted the nation.
541 In the same way, when you come to the question of the National Debt, if we admit that it is a tremendous burden on the industry of this country, is it not the particular job of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with the National Debt, and to remove that load from the industry of the country? His colleagues do not agree with him that the National Debt is the main cause of unemployment. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), in his speech on Thursday, attributed it mainly to the cost of production, and mentioned particularly the wages bill. Every hon. Member opposite really believes that the wages bill is one of the chief causes of the unemployment from which the country is suffering at present. Believing that the wages bill is the chief cause of unemployment, they appeal to the workers to make sacrifices in the national interest. They say that unless they make sacrifices we are going down, and that ultimately it is to their benefit as well as in the national interest that these sacrifices should be made. And, willy-nilly, since 1920 the workers of this country have bad to make sacrifices. The wages bill of this country since 1920 has been reduced, so I am informed, by no less than £600,000,000 per year. If the workers of the country have had to submit to such an extraordinary, almost phenomenal, reduction in the standard of living in the national interest, what is wrong in making an appeal to the rich to make sacrifices also in the national interest? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer believes, as he said he does, that this burden of the National Debt is one of the principal causes of unemployment, prevents the wheels of industry running smoothly, why does he not take the same attitude towards the rich as he has adopted towards the poor, and ask the rich to make. sacrifices?
The £7,000,000,000 of National Debt is not held by the miners and the unemployed, but by the friends of the right hon. Gentleman. Whether it is held by Conservatives or Socialists is really beside the mark; it is held by people who have surplus wealth, and if you appeal to the poor who have no surplus wealth to make financial sacrifices in the national interest, why should you not at the same time appeal to the patriotism of the rich to make equal sacrifices with those made by 542 the working classes? The right hon. Gentleman knows that in interest alone the holders of this stock take from the national purse every year approximately £300,004,000. If you made an appeal to these people that the State was in difficulties and the ship might sink unless there was some little relief, surely all their patriotism is not in their purses, and we might expect a little assistance in order to help us through this dangerous situation. If they sacrificed 50 per cent. of the interest which they draw on their capital, look at the proud position in which they would place the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They would present him with £150,000,000 a year, and he could pay £3 a week to 1,000,000 unemployed people without putting a single penny of tax on industry. In the course of his speech he told us that he would not require to provide for all the unemployed; that if we could provide for two-thirds of them, then their additional purchasing power would create the necessary demand for labour which would obliterate unemployment in time. The right hon. Gentleman does not do that. He assumes that it is only the workers who are to make sacrifices and that the rich are to go on like Tennyson's brook irrespective of what may happen to the major section of the community.
The right hon. Gentleman also spent corsiderable time in explaining how we were losing our foreign trade. Why does ho never mention our home trade? One would think that the trade of this country was entirely -foreign, but the fact is that we do more trade with one another than we do with the foreigner. The late Mr. Bonar Law, speaking at that Box, told us some years ago that only 29 per cent. of British trade is foreign, and that 71 per cent. is home trade. Why should the Conservative party be always talking about our foreign trade and about assisting our foreign customers? Why should there never be a single word about our home trade, the greater portion of our trade? Surely it is worth their serious attention. They have more influence at home than abroad, and our trade at home is greater and. more important than our foreign trade. Why should they be always finding a solution for unemployment through our foreign trade, and never have a word to say about our home trade? The right hon. Gentleman also said something 543 about overseas credits. Why should it always be overseas? Why should it always be assistance to the poor foreign customer? Why do not the Government think of assisting our own people, with whom we do 71 per cent. of our trade and enable them to become greater purchasers than they are to-day? If we help the people who are far away then, according to hon. Members opposite, we shall live happily ever afterwards. We should, however, be only touching a small portion of our trade, and I think the country will want to know from the party opposite why they cannot devote some attention to the improvement of our own customers in our own country; why they reserve all their solicitude for every other country but their own. I sometimes wish a rich man would endow a Chair at some university for teaching twentieth century politics to Conservative Cabinet Ministers.
With regard to the mining industry, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was most pessimistic and hopeless about its future. That was in strange contrast to the optimism displayed by the Prime Minister when he was promoting the Eight Hours Bill through the House of Commons. That Bill was going to be the root of prosperity for the miners. They were going to be all right. I have indicated already what the result has been. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we are about to have a trade revival. How many times since 1920 have we heard this story of a trade revival? A statement of that kind is the merest superstition, and the people who make it have no more knowledge of the causes of good and bad trade than they have of the nature of next year's crops. They go on year by year in this mean and dirty way, humbugging the people of this country into the belief that they, being wiser men than the ordinary working classes, can see on the horizon a trade revival which will give us national prosperity. It is the sheerest mockery, and I hope we are going to get down to this problem and get away from humbug at. the earliest opportunity. Even if we had a trade revival, how long would it be before its benefits would reach the working miners? In Scotland, I am told, where they are organised in a unit there is a deficit to-day in the mining industry on the wages paid of £4,500,000. In 544 other words, before the condition of the working miners in Scotland could be improved through a revival in trade this deficit of £4,500,000 would have to be wiped out from the current profits of the industry. Think what that means. In Scotland we have 90,000 miners working and £4,500,000 of debt; every miner is £50 in debt. Think of the rosy conditions and prospects in life for the most useful section of the British industrial population! Yet we are regarded as extremists if we suggest that the rich should make sacrifices. Here are people who have a difficulty in finding employment, and even then are compelled to meander along on the merest standard of existence, and always faced with the fact that every one of them is £50 in debt, and cannot hope for any improvement until that £50 has been liquidated.
Turn to the other popular straws which have been clutched at for relieving unemployment. If we could have more emigration the thing would be simple. It is the easiest thing in the world to rise and get the popular cheers of a thoughtless audience by describing the rosy future of the thousands of sturdy Britons we might send to Canada and other places; how they would produce food there in superabundance, send it to the starving home population, and take our manufactured products in return. It all seems so charming, but it is all nonsense. The fact is, that the more food you buy from Canada the less you buy from Ayrshire and Gloucestershire, the more manufactured goods you send abroad the more you set up opposition to farmers at home. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I wish hon. Members opposite would consider the question; they know nothing about it. They are acting in sheer ignorance, and the unfortunate thing is that the vast toiling multitudes outside give them credit for having some administrative political capacity which they do not possess. The people of Glasgow will not buy more food because additional food is coming from Canada. They have no money they can only purchase the amount they are purchasing now. If it comes from Canada it will not come from Ayrshire or Gloucestershire, and if our manufactured products go to Canada in payment for food, as they must do, they will not go to Ayrshire and Gloucestershire. I should like to hear any hon. Member opposite or any 545 learned apologist dispute that hard statement in economics. In the same way, if you went to a small conservative shopkeeper in a side street and asked him what were the causes of his bad trade he would give you a simple and direct answer. He would tell you that what he requires is more customers, as more customers means more trade, and more trade means that he would make more money. That is the simple test. If you put it to that conservative shopkeeper as to what he thought the effect would be if you shipped 100 families from that street to Canada, I think he would give you a very hasty reply. He would know quite well that you were not going to improve the trade in his street, and if you do not improve the trade in his street how in Heaven's name is it going to improve the trade of the nation?
Another suggestion made by the Government in this valedictory address, in this, their swan-song, is the setting up of schemes of work for miners in areas where there is already considerable unemployment in other trades. Even if the scheme is practicable, do you think any locality will tolerate it? It will only produce and create friction between the miners and other sections of the community. It always strikes me as strange that no one suggests, in these schemes of work, that the unemployed should produce what they need most. They want food, clothes, boots, furniture, houses and all the prime necessaries of life. No one thinks of putting them on the supply of these things. No one thinks of a scheme for the making of boots or furniture or clothes. Why? Because there are already on the market more boots and clothes and furniture than can be sold, and there are already in those industries unemployed men prepared to produce more of these goods if you can find a market for them. I do not know what your fantastic schemes of finding work will amount to. If it is more work that you want, let me repeat a suggestion that in my earlier and more frivolous days in the House of Commons, I put to the late Mr. Bonar Law. He was talking this Conservative nonsense about finding work, and I asked him if he had ever considered making a tunnel from here to New Zealand. Great advantages could be claimed for such a scheme. It would link the 546 Empire; there could be branches here and there; and you would have work for ever for the unemployed population.
The bulk of the suggestions made by the right hon. Gentleman were mainly humbug. I can treat them only as humbug. However valuable it may be in itself, what is the use of talking about the drainage of land as a solution of unemployment, at a time when you have thousands of acres of drained land that you are not using? In the same way you talk about training the unemployed people, when you have thousands of highly skilled and trained men in every industry for which you propose to train youths. The time has passed for all this superficial and ignorant method of making proposals for dealing with a very serious problem. Just think of all the silly views in which the Government find consolation! The Chancellor of the Exchequer gets up and we expect something from him, but he repeats, parrot-like, the old cry of the Prime Minister, "Don't look at the number of our unemployed, but look at the number of those employed." What would you think of a General who, having led his army to disaster, said "Don't look at the number that have been slaughtered, but look at the number of soldiers not yet slaughtered." That is realty the apologia of His Majesty's Government.
May I ask the House for a minute to picture the state of affairs that confronts us to-day? Here we are at the beginning of winter, called upon to face the cold climate of this country. We shall have millions of families actually famishing for want of fuel, while we have tens of thousands of miners unemployed. Even in the mining areas of Lanarkshire, Durham and South Wales, we shall have the children of the miners shivering for want of coal while their fathers are idle. The problem is how to get for the unemployed man leave to produce the needs of the suffering people of the country. There is sufficient intelligence in this country to drive from office not only this party, but any political party that cannot find a solution of the problem of unemployment.
§ Sir ASSHETON POWNALL
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that he wished to give a 547 course of twentieth century political facts to Conservative Cabinet Ministers. May I present a political fact of the twentieth century to a Socialist ex-Cabinet Minister? The right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted to see sacrifices from the wealthy, and added that it would be desirable for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take 50 per cent. of the annual income of the wealthy derived from interest on War Loans etc. I understood that he did not wish the capital to be touched. The right hon. Gentleman apparently does not realise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer already takes 4s. Income Tax and 6s. Super-tax; in other words, exactly the 10s. in the £ that the right hon. Gentleman suggested the wealthy should sacrifice. Nor does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, owing to the incidence of Death Duties, whenever an estate passes, 40 per cent. of the estate has to be rendered to the National Exchequer. So that in fact the rich are now doing very considerably more than the right hon. Gentleman wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make them do. That is a political fact that the right hon. Gentleman opposite would do well to consider. Obviously, it is not only Conservative Cabinet Ministers who require instruction in political facts.
Listening, as I did on Thursday and Friday last, to this Debate, it seemed to me that there was hardly enough realisation in any part of the House of the ebb -and flow which is continually taking place in industry, for so many Members seemed to be under the impression that if an unemployed man came from outside to undertake work, he was automatically displacing a man in the locality who might otherwise get the job. That does not take into allowance the ebb and flow of which I shall give particulars. I have here the figures of July, 1923, and July, 1927, furnished by the Ministry of Labour. The percentage increase in employment in the silk trade between those four years was 47 per cent. or nearly half as much again; brick manufactures. 40 per cent.; scientific instruments. 38 per cent.; distributive trades, 26 per cent. In four years, in terms of numbers, the increase in those employed in the distributive trades was no less than 377.000. In brick manufacture, 35.006 more people were employed. Those 548 figures give some idea of the ebb and flow in industry. There are, I know, many industries in which the flow is the other way. For instance, there is shipbuilding, with a decrease of 20 per cent. There is a move taking place in all parts of the country where things are better. In the South-East division we have an increase in our insurable population of 16 per cent.; in London of 7 per cent. and in the South-Western district of 9 per cent.; whereas in Wales and Scotland, the increase is only one or two per cent. In other words it is actually less than the normal increase in the insurable population in those four years. That shows how valuable it is if the Government can do something to accelerate the movement and see that men go to the places where there is the greatest chance of their getting work. At the present moment there are districts in London where unemployment is between 2 and 3 per cent, and one whole county where it is not over 3 per cent. Obviously, with the changes taking place in employment, there must be room there for more men, and that offers a chance to the Ministry of Labour to rind work for men from the depressed areas.
Much the same thing, I believe, is taking place with regard to overseas migration. I have analysed the interesting figures given in the Industrial Transference Board Report of six months ago, with regard to the movement overseas in the five years before the War and in the past five years. Incidentally I do not agree with what the last speaker said on this subject. In regard to Canada I find that the total for the five years before the War was 524,000. In the last five years, 265,000 left these shores for Canada. The difference is over 250,000. Australian and New Zealand figures are very hard to get, because those countries do not prepare them in quite the same way as Canada. So far as one can tell, those who left our shores for those two countries were roughly 150,000 less than in the five years before the War. The total of something like 400,000 gives us a measure of the difficulty that we have had in this country at a time when, through the collapse of markets abroad, the difficulties of the exchanges and the aftermath of the War, we should have been hardly hit in any case to find employment in our own country. But this decrease of 400,000, if we could to-morrow 549 knock it off the 1,300,000 now on the live register, would make a very big difference. It is one of the great difficulties that we have had to contend with, and whoever had been in power in the last four years would have had just the same trouble in regard to emigration.
There was the harvesters' scheme, under which 8,500 men left at short notice early in August last for Canada. Up to the end of October 4,000 had elected to stay in Canada. It may be that some of those will come back later, but it is safe to say that about one-third of the 8,500 who went to Canada, not to find homes but as a temporary measure, are actually finding permanent work in Canada, and I know of others who intend to go back in the spring. I spent a few days during the Recess in visiting the South Wales mining areas which have been so hardly hit in the last two or three years. I can appreciate the feeling of hon. Members who sit for constituencies such as Merthyr Tydvil, where two-thirds of the total who should be at work are out of work through no fault whatever of their own. In Blaina, the proportion is two-thirds, and in many other districts it is from 30 per cent, to. 40 per cent.
I think hon. Members representing such areas are quite right in putting their troubles before the House of Commons and in going to the Ministry of Health and other public departments to ask for help: but what I do ask them to do, as I know many are now doing throughout South Wales, is to take a long view. It is not merely a question of bridging over difficulties this winter. We have to look ahead at the industry as a whole. A week before I went to South Wales the Naval Colliery had been closed and 2,000 miners thrown out of work, the clerical staff dispersed and the pit ponies brought to the surface. I understand the last fact is a pretty sure sign that the pit is not to be re-opened in the future. Since then I have seen that the Cambrian Collieries have gone into liquidation. The whole problem is extraordinarily difficult and complicated, and it is fair to ask for the support of all in doing what can be done to solve it. In several places I found most encouraging evidence with regard to the recent small movement to Canada. From Risca 22 men have gone to Canada and I was informed a fortnight ago that 20 of them were staying in Canada. From Crummlin 34 had 550 gone and 27 were staying, and so it went on. I saw a good many letters written by those who had migrated to Canada under the harvesting scheme and who were well pleased indeed with their reception. I saw letters similar to those which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour read on Friday—letters from men who had found work at excellent rates and who wrote to their friends here, asking those friends to come along and work with them.
The whole problem seems to me not dissimilar to the position of the miner working at the coal face. There are the great seams of coal, many feet thick, extending for miles. Each individual coal-hewer's contribution and each individual truck-load seems an extremely small individual effort, and yet in the bulk they mount up and they all help to produce the nation's wealth and individual prosperity. In just the same way the small bits which the Ministry of Labour and others are hewing away from this great chunk of unemployment do not appear to be much when viewed separately, yet if these efforts be persisted in they will eventually lead to a solution of the greatest industrial trouble with which we in this country have ever had to deal. That is why I am speaking here to-day in, if I may say so, a non-party sense. We want all parties to do everything they can to help the Ministry of Labour officials who have had a very hard time in connection with the industrial transference scheme. I feel, however, that there is a distinct gleam of light, if people continue to help as they are helping, and if all join their efforts in order to get round this great trouble which is such an obsession to every one of us to whatever political party we may belong.
§ Mr. HARNEY
Two days ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a very eloquent speech, told us that the causes of unemployment were mysterious and wide. He pointed out that we had had about 1,000,000 unemployed here for a short period in 1908; that, if we looked east, we should find a great country in which capitalism has been wiped out and in which there had been heavy unemployment, while if we looked to the west we found an equally great country which was an extreme example of capitalism and there also we found unemployment. 551 I agree generally with the right hon. Gentleman. I believe myself that the full solution of the problem of unemployment is beyond the wit of any party and that it must await the restoration of industrial health to a war-worn world. But there is this difference between the unemployment which we are now talking about, and the other unemployment problems to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred. In those other cases, unemployment was spasmodic; it was sporadic. It was, if I may use a medical simile, a functional derangement. The unemployment with which we are now dealing has been at a dead level of about 1,000,000 for eight years and it is, really, now organic. I do not, therefore, direct any criticisms which I make to the mere fact that there is unemployment, or to the mere persistence of that unemployment, but to this fact—that there has been an alarming increase in it at a time when a decrease was to be expected. I make two distinct charges against the Government. One is that they have had recourse to methods for dealing with unemployment which have tended to aggravate and not to mitigate the evil. The other is that they have made no serious effort to utilise this large body of labour for adding to the national equipment, thereby fitting our country, at this time when labourers are plenty, in such a way as to add to its material work and at the same time arrest moral and physical decay among the workers.
Let me take the first charge. I mention the coal subsidy. That was distinctly put forward as a remedy for unemployment. Let us see how it operated. The original idea was that the subsidy was to be limited to £10,000,000, but that figure rapidly grew to £24,000,000. The Government themselves avowed that the purpose of the subsidy was to enable owners to pay wages which they otherwise would not pay, in order that they might reduce prices and capture foreign markets. The foreigners said, "Two can play at that game," and down went their prices. Then in went more subsidy money and down again went the foreigners' prices; and this suicidal method continued, until, certainly on the North-East coast, the price of coal was reduced by 4s. 6d. a ton, but what was 552 the result? The owners, in order to keep the pits open, squeezed the one item which was squeezable, namely, wages, and reduced the amount of wages so that the miner's wage became little more than a subsistence wage, if it was any more. The wage has stopped there ever since. There was no additional export of coal after the subsidy; no more profits went into the owners' pockets, but there are lower wages for the men to this day. What effect had it on unemployment? Before the subsidy, in Durham and Northumberland, there were employed 183,600 men. After this £24,000,000 had been taken from the taxpayers, directly to relieve unemployment, that figure fell to 172,500. Am I not justified in saying therefore that the subsidy was a mistaken measure?
The secondary reason given for the subsidy, according to the Prime Minister, was that the Government would have a report on the coal industry, and the subsidy would give time to think. The persons employed to think—nominated by the Government themselves—were the Royal Commissioners, and they thought for nine months. They said, as a result of their thinking, that the Government must not lengthen hours, must abolish royalties, and must have State reorganisation instead of leaving it to owners' reorganisation. But the Government turned down their own nominees. Now in this matter our slogan may be "unemployment," but the slogan of the Conservative party is "the general strike and the coal strike.' They blame everything on those occurrences. I think the less said about the general strike and the mining trouble by Conservative Members the better. There never would have been a general strike had it not been for the vacillation and "shilly-shallying" of the Government up to the last minute. There never would have been the prolonged coal strike—it is more correctly described as a lock-out—had the Government carried out their plain duty and given effect to the recommendations of their own nominees. Therefore, when that excuse is brought forward as a justification for the increased unemployment, I think it comes very badly from the mouths of those who were really more responsible than the unfortunate men themselves for this trouble. As the outcome of the inquiry to which I have referred the Government were told that on economic grounds they ought not 553 to lengthen the hours because there was a glut of coal already. Four pages of close reasoning were devoted by experts—chosen by the Government themselves—to prove that lengthening of hours would lead to unemployment. The Government lengthened the hours, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this Debate on unemployment has used these words:The fact remains that that enormous casting out of labour from the coal industry has taken place "——that is the eight-hours day—and if it is a. grievous misfortune for these men and their families it is not a misfortune for the coal industry. On the contrary, the coal industry with its reduced staff is now capable, so I am informed, not only of supplying the whole of the present demand, home and foreign, for our coal, but it can, if need be quite easily without taking on another man produce 30,000,000 tons of coal more than we are able to sell now anywhere."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1928; cols. 262–263, Vol. 222.]That was what the Samuel Commission said, and that was why they said, "Do not lengthen hours." But the Chancellor of the Exchequer evidently thinks it a good thing that the Government should have brought in a Measure which has cast out an enormous number of workers. If one carried that logic to its extreme, perhaps it would be a better thing to lengthen hours and lower wages up to a point where human endurance could no longer stand the process. Then, indeed, you might get more and cheaper coal, but it would be at the cost of a return to the days of slavery. Fortunately, civilisation now looks at these problems from quite another standpoint. It begins at the other end and it lays down as the irreducible factor in regulating the cost of a commodity that the wage-earner must have a decent wage and a reasonable leisure. In face of the Chancellor's own statement that the eight-hours day did nothing towards absorbing unemployed, hut cast out an enormous quantity of labour, is that an act that the Government can pray in aid of their contention that they have done everything in their power to mitigate unemployment?
I take another example—the bounty. I shall not dwell upon because there is no sugar grown in my constituency but I should like to have a reply, if a reply can be given to this point. I understand that £10,000,000 has been expended on this subsidy and that while 554 some few hundreds of additional men have been employed in the new refineries more have been thrown out of work in the old refineries. Therefore we have lost our £10.000,000 and have less employment instead of more employment. There is also the case of the Road Fund. In 1926, £7,000,000 was withdrawn from the reserve fund and one-tenth of the net proceeds of the licence duties on private cars, amounting to £3,400,000, was appropriated for the year's revenue. In 1927 practically the whole of the remaining balance amounting to £12,000,000 was appropriated, as well as one-third of the tax revenue on private cars, estimated to amount to £4,000,000. Thus £26,400,000 has been taken in two years, from the Road Fund. What has been the consequence? Schemes already approved have been cut down, work on schemes has been delayed, and outstanding sums due to local authorities on account of these works have remained unpaid. Experts say that, had that raid not been made, employment could have been given to 130,000 men. Is that a matter in regard to which the Government can say they have acted in mitigation of unemployment?
Now we come to safeguarding, which is a subject certainly not in its first youth, but for the present, and relevant to my point, I will only say that if the safeguarding of steel and iron takes place, whatever good it may do elsewhere—and I say it will do none—it is certain that in a coal-mining, ship-re-pairing, ship-building, and engineering district like mine it will throw tens of thousands of men out of employment. It is a mystery how anybody can think that any action which means less ships coming in and going out can do anything to give employment to the hands that work upon ships, to the yards that build ships, to the dry docks that repair ships, and to the hands that handle goods that come off ships. It is sheer nonsense seriously to contend that our coal mines that supply the bunkers of ships, our yards that build them, our dry docks that repair them, and our men that handle the goods will not be ruinously affected if you place any difficulty in the way of moving ships across the ocean.
I want now to say one or two words upon the latest panacea of the Govern- 555 ment, namely, de-rating. The Chancellor of the Exchequer fathers a scheme which has for its aim a reduction in the cost of production by lessening the burden of the rates. I wish the House to notice that up to the eleventh hour he and the Government with him did everything in their power to increase the burden of the rates. They took £1,100,000 from the Navy, Army, and Air Force Insurance Fund, money that should have been available for additional benefits to ex-service men; they took £2,800,000 from the Health Insurance Fund, they took £3,700,000 from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, they wiped away extended benefit, and they said that nobody should receive any assistance after the transition period from the Unemployment Fund unless they could show 30 contributions in two years. Have they realised how many can show that? Hundreds of thousands cannot. Do they think that these funds they are raiding, these ex-service men's allowances they are taking away to save their own pockets, will result in the workers doing with less? They will not. They cannot. This country cannot let them starve, and what you take away you simply put on the boards of guardians, and they in turn put it on the rates.
I shall take great delight in dealing with the rating policy itself when we come to the new Bill, but, as relevant to the theme of unemployment, I would ask how it is supposed that de-rating is going to find employment. If you gave the whole £29,000,000 to the areas where nine-tenths of our unemployment is—the necessitous areas—even then you would barely have enough to bridge the gap between the buyer and the seller, but when you give only half—I know this is in controversy, but I fear it will turn out that you will give less than half—to these areas, it is the merest moonshine to think that you are going so to reduce your cost of production as to create great employment. But suppose you did. Has not this de-rating proposal precisely the same vice as the coal subsidy? Is it not a challenge to those abroad? You say, "We are going to pinch back from you the old markets of ours that you have won, and we will do so by an artificial process whereby we will reduce our rates contrary to all 556 economic laws." I prophesy that the foreigner will say, as he did with the coal subsidy, "I, too, can play at that game, and I, too, will drop my price to hold the markets that I so dearly won." What will be the result? Just as the coal subsidy forced down wages, so this de-rating will cut away profits and react in forcing down wages, and the last state of the poor working man will be worse than the first. That is a prophecy, but I venture to say that it will work out so. We made the same prophecy in reference to the coal subsidy, and we were right, and I make this prophecy with reference to de-rating.
Before I leave de-rating, there is one special matter to which I must call attention. It has, in a general way, been referred to already, but if something is not done, it will have the effect of throwing out of employment many, many thousands on the North-east coast. The intention of the rating scheme is to aid productive industry by giving it a three-fourths reduction of rates as regards the industry itself and the benefit of the same reduction as regards the transport of its goods. Collieries with private lines are treated as if it was all a colliery; collieries without private lines are treated independently. What is the? A colliery which gives its coal to a public railway gets a two-fold benefit: first, its own three-fourths, and, secondly, its proportion out of the pool of the three-fourths transport reduction in respect of the carriage of coal; the colliery with a private line gets only one, the three-fourths. The colliery with a public line gets the benefit from the 1st December; the colliery with a private line does not get any benefit until October. That has been worked out, and it means that the colliery with a private line is handicapped at least 6d. a ton and will he absolutely unable to face the competition. If this is not remedied, it is as certain as that I hold this paper in my hand that a third of all the collieries in Durham and Northumberland will have to close down. The Government know that, and they say that they can do nothing. They can do something; it is sheer nonsense to say they cannot. They could do it on the forthcoming Supplementary Estimate to antedate the transport relief. But if they do not do it, they may rest assured that 557 they can look for little voting support from anybody on the North-east coast of England.
With regard to the Transference Board, I do not believe that employers in prosperous areas are going to turn aside from the local applicants and look with tears in their eyes to the man who says he is a distressed miner. You will not get much of that, I am sure. The Prime Minister's cheerful appeal to employers is equally absurd. How anybody with a knowledge of political economy or of human psychology can expect that employers, who will always take on a man if they can make some profit on his wages, will do what would be economically unwise because of humanity, I cannot understand. The right hon. Gentleman, I fear, expects more from human nature than he will get. Just a word on the cheapening of fares to Canada and Australia. I do not believe that the difference between £15 and, say, £8 or £9 is going to affect much the poor devil who cannot find even £1. Unless you are going to give free passages, to tell a man, "Oh, you are blessed; you will only have to pay £9 for what would otherwise cost £13," is useless. He will only laugh. The is as far away as the £13.
I rather agree with what the right hon. Member for Shettieston (Mr. Wheatley) said about all this talk about Empire settlement. Honestly, I believe the whole thing is humbug. The ideas of the Dominions and of ourselves are in direct conflict. We think that it is possible to cultivate the broad acres of the Dominions, have their primary products come in here, and ourselves become a central manufacturing depot for the lot; but they want to be manufacturers themselves as much as we do, and I should think the one class of person and of goods they least like coming in is the British. They cannot get their own men to go out on their own land. They loiter round the towns, and in five cities of Australia is found more than half the population of the country. As long as their own people are holding up their street corners, leaving their land uncultivated, they may say what they like, they may have all the sentimental postprandial declarations to which we are so used, but, believe me, when you go to 558 Canada House or to Australia House, you will not be facilitated, but driven back with a shower of buff forms to fill up.
In regard to the second branch of my remarks, I charge the Government with not having utilised the amount of labour that there is available now in order to add to our national equipment. The Yellow Book sets out that among the things needed are road improvements, reconstruction, development, waterways and docks, slum clearances, reclamation and drainage, reforestation, and other things. Nobody can deny that if these things were taken in hand, they would absorb all the unemployed. Nobody can deny that in them there is work that would add to the industrial efficiency of the people, that would equip it, furnish its industrial weapons, and clear its industrial decks, so that when the day of prosperity came we would be better able to enter into competition with other nations than we would be if we left these things undone. Yet nothing is done. That class of work cannot be carried out haphazardly. It requires thinking, organisation, and initial capital, and my charge against the Government is that they had been so appalled by the whole problem that they had refused to tackle it really and fundamentally. They have not had the energy to do the thinking, and they had not had the courage to risk the initial capital. It will be said by those who come afterwards that there was a. period in England when there stood a huge army of men able and willing to work, a list of works which badly needed doing, and a Government which could have brought the two together. The indictment will stand that the Government failed in their duty by not doing it. It is no excuse to say that unemployment is wide and extensive; something should be done, and something could be done if the Government really felt a sense of the importance of it, had a due regard for the responsibility which they owed to the nation, and had the courage to risk the initial capital.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) will not expect a comparative newcomer to this House to follow him in his long discourse on the Government's sinning. One point, however, struck me. He said that the derating scheme could be of no use to industry, and pointed out that it would 559 lead to a decrease in wages. Almost in the next breath, however, he said that those collieries which own their own railways in Durham and which therefore would not come under the whole of the advantages of the derating scheme, would be penalised to the tune of 6d. per ton. I do not see how these two remarks harmonise, but I daresay that if only one were able to digest his little Yellow Book post-prandially every day, one would be in a better position to cope with his arguments. I am not going to follow quite the line that, has been taken so far in this Debate. It is a pity that these Debates centre so much on unemployment and on what to do with the unemployed. I would much rather that they were treated as employment Debates, because, after all, it is employment and getting industry again into motion which is so vitally essential to us. Schemes of relief and schemes for helping the unemployed may be necessary, but it is a great misfortune that they are necessary, for no lasting good can come from such proposals.
I was glad—though in a way I was also sorry—that no factory legislation could he included in the Government's programme this year. Everybody on this side agrees cordially that factory legislation is desirable, but it would have been a most inopportune time to have forced a large expenditure upon manufacturers in all parts of the country. After all, the Government's promise was first made before the General Strike and the Coal Stoppage. It was repeated, I agree, after that date, but it was impossible then to realise the far-reaching effects of that stoppage. To-day, with industry stagnant in all part of the country, the introduction of factory legislation would be nothing short of suicidal. I will not dwell upon coal, for I frankly admit that I know little about the coal trade, and it has been dealt with by hon. Members on all sides of the House who have close and real knowledge. It would be impertinence, therefore, for me to claim to amplify views already expressed.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) spoke the other day about iron and steel. Iron and steel are the basis of all industries in this country; it is essentially a key industry, if ever there were one, but those engaged 560 in the actual production of iron and steel are a very small number compared with those engaged in the manipulation of it. The puddlers, the furnacemen, the metalliferous miners and the rollers altogether number only 60,000, whereas the other metal workers number nearly 1,500,000, while the whole body of labour in this country depends upon iron and steel for its vitals and its machinery. Let us, therefore, be very careful before we do anything that may impede the manufacture of that commodity which is so valuable to us in this country. We are essentially a nation of world traders. We live on imports, but we live by exports, and as traders the first and most essential thing to which we have to look is our costs. I believe that the question of costs to be the whole root and basis of our present industrial trouble. We have such tremendous advantages for our trade in this country. We have a climate, not ideal for doing nothing in perhaps, but ideal for working in; we have the best plant in the world; we have the best managerial experience in the world; the best body of wage-earners in the world; the finest shipping in the world, and we have ample capital available for exploitation.
With these advantages, why is it that we are so deeply in the slough of industrial depression to-day? Why is it that we above all nations in the world have been unable, even for a short period, to extricate ourselves from the results, if they be the results, of the War? There was a saying in Yorkshire before the War that there is only 5 per cent. difference between good trade and bad trade. The margin is very close. We have not a tremendous gulf to bridge, and I feel urgently that, if we got together, that gulf could be bridged now. If any process cost, say, 1s. upon a 75 per cent. production, it could be profitably undertaken for 10d. on a 95 per cent, production; therefore a comparatively small increase of production must bring about a decrease of cost. That may seem like belling the cat, but I do not think it is. If we realise that increased production is what we are after, I think that it clarifies the position considerably. If we need improved plant, we have the capital available. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) said that we needed no improvement of 561 plant. I do not agree with him. There are lines where improved plant is needed, and I am sure that, where the necessity is clearly proved, the capital will be forthcoming in this country.
A great deal has been said about rationalisation. As I understand it, rationalisation means the elimination of all but the most efficient plant, but we are not being beaten only by the most efficient plant; we are being beaten by inefficient plant in different parts of the world. We are being beaten, for example, by plant in Central Europe which was put in long before the War and by plant in India and Japan which, I am told, cannot compare with our organisation in Lancashire. We are being beaten, in a word, over something other than the question of plant. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields mentioned safeguarding, and spoke with scorn about any possibility of help coming from that direction. I say again that we are an exporting nation, and safeguarding by giving us a larger measure of our own markets, would definitely result in some proportion of increased production, and therefore put us in a better position to compete in the export markets. While on this question, I should like to remark that whatever else is desirable when the Government make the changes that they propose, I hope they will make it clear that any duty imposed will be retrospective to the date of the application. In my constituency of Leicester the hosiery trade suffered last year a most severe depression owing to the tremendous amount of imports which were sent while the duty was under discussion. It put 4,000 or 5,000 men out of work this summer. It is a small change, and I am sure it could easily be met by Government action.
Can we get a, decrease of standing charges in industry? In that direction the Government are helping us by a reduction in rating charges; they are helping us — or I hope they are—by a reduction of taxation; and they are helping in financial arrangements by keeping down the price of money. In all these things the Government are being of real assistance to industry. There remains the controversial question of wages. It is always the first thing that is dealt with by employers; the first effort in any reduction of costs is 562 always a reduction of wages. That is not only unfortunate, but absolutely suicidal. Trade unions, however, are equally to blame in that they resist less strongly a reduction of wages than any other form of reduction of wage costs. It is by far the most harmful, since it not only upsets the morale of the men, but it decreases their purchasing power which everybody believes is invaluable to trade. The actual wages earned in the textile industry are deplorable.
The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) spoke about having met a miner's wife in his constituency who said that her husband one week brought home only 29s. 6d. in wages. That is not abnormal at all in the textile industry. I had a calculation made for me by a large firm in Yorkshire last year that showed that, though the nominal wages of several important sections of the operatives is 57s. 8d., their actual earnings were 33s. 8d. The nominal earnings of women were 40s. 9d., and the actual 24s. 5d. per week. In a situation such as that, how can one rationally talk about a reduction in wages, and how can one sit still with equanimity and do nothing to help industry? But there are other ways in which this question of wage cost can be met. It may be met in one or two ways. The most objectionable is by an increase of hours. In 1919 there was a reduction of hours in this country equivalent to 2,000,000,000 working hours per year, and at the same time weekly wages, far from being decreased, either remained the same or were increased. During the general strike 1,300,000,000 hours were lost. Every year as a result of the action in 1919 we have in this country a reduction of working capacity half again as great as the loss during the general strike. I do not think that is sufficiently realised. I am the last person in the world who would advocate any general or any precipitate increase of hours, but I suggest that a Committee such as Lord Melchett's, which is considering the industrial conditions in the country, ought to give this aspect of the matter close and earnest consideration.
Lastly, there is another, and a more important, in that it is a much easier, method of reducing costs. From time to time agreements have been made between employers and employed as to the amount of work that may be done by operatives or the number of machines which may be 563 tended by them. Employers have been, I think, the greatest sinners in this regard; often when an application for increased wages has been made they have said, I am told, "No, we cannot give you increased wages, but we will give you fewer machines to mind." Such a policy, which has been a general policy in some of the textile trades at any rate, is absolutely fatal. From my own personal knowledge in one branch of the woollen industry by a rearrangement in this direction an economy of 10 per cent. to 12 per cent. is possible without touching hours, and, of course, without touching wages. Such economies would be of the very greatest service in our textile trades. I am sure that if these matters are examined in a broad and large way, and if these considerations are taken into account, it will be possible to find ways and means of reducing production costs in many of our largest industries by 15 per cent., 20 per cent. or even 25 per cent. Such reductions would put us in the position of being able to compete in world markets once more, would enable us to take our natural and proper place in the van of world industry, and, what is more, these results would come about not through a decrease but by an increase of wages, while they would produce a far more lasting decrease in unemployment than can be brought about by any scheme of relief works.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Whatever may be the differences of opinion about the Amendment we have submitted to the House, there can be no controversy, I think, over some of the premises on which it is based. It cannot be doubted that the advisers of His Majesty have had four years of office, and that they have enjoyed an unprecedented majority. It cannot be denied that the problem of unemployment is to-day in a more acute state than it was when the present Government took office. It cannot be denied that the conditions in the mining industry are appalling. It cannot be denied, either, that the charge we make in the Amendment in respect of factory legislation is true, seeing that the Government have not fulfilled their pledge to introduce a Factories Bill. Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches have addressed the House, but none has faced the charge 564 made from this side that the proposals of the Government are utterly inadequate to deal with the present disastrous industrial situation. A curious characteristic of most of the speeches from the other side has been to show a sort of organised optimism. The Chancellor of the Exchequer changes from one week to the other, almost, in his attitude towards this problem. Early in the present year, in a speech made in the country, he assured us that trade was going with a swing. In April, when introducing his Budget, trade was languishing so badly that he had to introduce special measures in order to assist it. Last week, when speaking from that Box, he added and subtracted, multiplied and divided the figures of unemployment so cleverly, that one wondered whether there was an unemployment problem at all.
The Minister of Labour has addressed himself to this problem, and the result of his deliberations and his conclusions we shall be able to examine in a moment or two. Certain proposals for dealing with this situation, none of them very new, were adumbrated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There was Empire settlement. I listened to what the Minister of Labour had to say concerning his efforts, in so far as they have achieved anything at all, in the matter of Empire settlement. He told us that he had already got between 5,000 and 6,000 persons so far trained that they will be ready for emigration at the end of six months. In the course of his remarks, he observed several times that even these figures would only be achieved if there were no cribbing of the scheme from this side of the House. There was an insinuation behind those words which I scarcely liked. He may take it for granted that there will be no cribbing of any attempt to send voluntary emigrants from this country—so long, that is, as there is no sort of economic or other pressure brought to bear upon them to compel them to leave their homes. I should feel it to be too great a responsibility to deter anyone from going to seek his fortune beyond the sea who thought well to go. Having disposed of his Empire Settlement scheme with that very limited promise, the Minister indicated what was going to be done in regard to juveniles. He told us they had already dealt with 565 800 boys, and are now dealing with them at the extraordinary rate of 30 per week. At that pace, how long will it take to deal with the boys who are suffering so terribly, both morally and otherwise, from this disaster of unemployment?
He had a curious method of calculating when speaking of adults. He said they hoped to deal with some 15,000 in the next six months, and then they hoped—and it is a hope—that those 15,000 would attract another 15,000, acting, presumably, as some sort of Pied Piper of Hamelin. If the letters I have received from my own constituents in this city are anything to go by, they will attract very few. Let us take the position at its best. Let us assume that 40,000, 45,000, or 50,000 will be dealt with. After all, what does that amount to when we realise that in one week we can have an increase of more than 30,000 in the number of unemployed in the country. It is clear that however much may be done by removing them either to places beyond the sea or to other parts of this country—and as far as that may be successful I shall be prepared to congratulate the Government—there will still be a large number of people remaining in those areas who can neither be emigrated nor transferred. The problem therefore remains—What is going to be done, particularly in the mining areas, with which I am primarily concerned, to relieve the terrible distress in those areas?
I wish to deal with a remark made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in the Debate on Thursday last. We all understand that at the present moment there are in the coalmining areas between 200,000 and 250,000 who are probably permanently unemployed. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, when speaking about the Pact of London and the Dawes Report, said:It is a fact that within four months of that decision unemployment in the coal mines had increased by 100,000, and the party opposite were still in office."— OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1928; col. 364, Vol. 222.]Of course, if the Eon. Gentleman can substantiate his statement that 100,000 were unemployed as a consequence of that, he will be able to say that half the present unemployment was created by the Labour party, which is no doubt his hope, but where did he get his figures? The Pact of London was carried in August, 1924.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Herbert Williams)
My recollection is that I said — [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] I may have been inaccurately reported, but if the hon. Member works back from the end of October, when the late Government resigned office, he will find, on looking up the "Labour Gazette," beginning the end of June, that substantially my figures are accurate.
§ Mr. JONES
My hon. Friend cannot ride away so easily as that. It would have been as well if he had looked up the figures before he spoke. What are the facts The Pact of London was carried in August, 1924. The Labour Government went out of office at the end of October, 1924. It was not in office more than 2½ months at the outside after that Pact was carried. What are the facts in regard to the unemployment figures? I will take the figures for June, which my hon. Friend asked me to take. The number of men employed in the coal trade, according to the Ministry of Labours figures, which I have taken the precaution of looking up, was 1,186,000 odd in June, 1924.
§ Mr. JONES
The Ministry of Labour Gazette. The figures for September were 1,159,748 and for October 1,146,000, or a drop of 42,000. These figures do not bear out the fictitious figure of 100,000 given by the Parliamentary Secretary, whose figures seem to be as reliable as those given recently at a by-election at Cheltenham.
Having disposed of that quite erroneous charge made by the right bon. Gentleman opposite, I will apply myself to the point made by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), who said—and I agree with him—that the Government have to deal with necessitous areas and with the unemployed. I think it will be agreed that the main hope for the Government rests upon the efficacy of their de-rating proposals. At any rate, the hon. Member for East Aberdeen put all his faith in that horse, and so did the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Sir W. Preston), although the latter hon. Member has had some curious experiences in regard to this matter, for he assured the electors of Cheltenham, if I may judge 567 from the report in the "Times," that not only would there be an increase of employment in Cheltenham by tens of thousands in consequence of the de-rating proposals to be introduced by the Government, but, incidentally, the hon. Member claimed that they would relieve the rates of Cheltenham to a very great extent. A local newspaper had the curiosity to look into this matter, and it was discovered that instead of the de-rating proposals being a saving to the Cheltenham rates of £24,000, there would probably be a loss to the rates of Cheltenham of £42,000. Later on, the hon. Member for Cheltenham asked the Minister of Health to tell him the facts, and he has had three attempts at this matter. First, the Minister said, "Yes, I think there will be a loss." Then it was suggested that there might be a gain; and a third suggestion was: "Perhaps there was nothing in it one way or the other …" Even now the Minister of Health, apparently, does not know what is going to be the effect of his de-rating proposals, although the Government have just won a by-election on that issue. If the Government do not know, who ought to know?
I turn to the main claim which has been made for the de-rating proposals. It is claimed that those proposals will help the areas which most require and deserve help. Some interesting figures are given in a return issued by the County Accountants' Society. I want hon. Members to recollect that repeatedly it has been pointed out how industry is shifting southward in the country. Those of us who are acquainted with the environments of London know that new businesses are springing up on every hand. According to the authority I have just mentioned the County of Essex is going to gain £423,000 by the de-rating proposals of the Government.
§ Mr. JONES
Yes, I think it is upon the original five years. Middlesex will gain £455,000, Kent £334,000, Surrey £227,000 and Glamorganshire, with its frightful problem of unemployment and its devastated mining areas enduring the almost unbearable silence of the sepulchre, is to get a gain of £101,000. 568 The same authority says that Durham will get £103,000, and it seems to me that it is a case of to those who have shall be given, and from those who have not shall be taken away even that which they have. Take the West Riding of Yorkshire as an example. That is a very thickly-populated area which has undergone a good deal of industrial suffering. Under the de-rating proposals, the West Riding of Yorkshire is going to suffer a loss of £227,000 and the East Riding of Yorkshire will suffer a loss of £76,000. Lancashire with its terrible depression in the cotton trade will suffer a loss of £67,000. Not only are these de-rating proposals unjust in that sense, but if you take individual towns like Brighton, Bournemouth and Blackpool, where there is no distress on the whole, and which are comparatively well off, those towns will gain, whereas Bradford, which is situated in the heart of an industrial area, will suffer a loss. It is perfectly clear that a scheme of that kind cannot possibly bring relief to a depressed area such as that which I have the honour to represent in this House. How many distressed ratepayers will feel like the poet Cowper:What ardently I wished, I long believedAnd disappointed still, was still deceivedBy expectation every day beguiledDupe of to-morrow even as a child.There is not the faintest doubt about the statement I make, that even though you may be able to bring about some benefit to the necessitous areas, no one can deny that even after this relief has been given to them they will still remain necessitous areas. Take my own district. I represent a district council whose rates per year were fixed at 36s. 2d. in the£ for the year, or 18s. 1d. for the last half year. Suppose you gave that district council a relief of 8s. 2d., it would still remain a necessitous area. You cannot possibly help the people in that way, and you will have to make some far more effective gesture if these areas are to be redeemed from the terrible plight in which they now find themselves. I want the Government to realise that however good and however welcome may be the relief given to many areas through the de-rating scheme, it is impossible for us to regard those proposals as a final contribution from the Government to relieve the terrible distress from which so many industrial areas are suffering.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I would like, with the permission of the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to correct a misstatement.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member has already exhausted his right to speak on this Amendment, but I will allow him to intervene if he confines himself to an explanation.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) said that the figures he gave dated from the signing of the Dawes Pact. If the hon. Member will refer to column 364 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, dated 8th November, 1928, he will see that the words which I used are;The right hon. Gentleman opposite, while conducting those negotiations"—That shows that the hon. Member has misled the House.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The words I used were:The right hon. Gentleman opposite, while conducting those negotiations "—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Parliamentary Secretary has been allowed to make an explanation by leave of the House, and he must not make use of that to make provocative remarks.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I apologise if I said anything provocative. The words I used were:That within four months of that decision unemployment in the coal mines had increased by 100,000. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1928; col. 364, Vol. 222.]The decision referred to was the new wages agreement with regard to coal mines and not the Pact of London. The figures given by the "Labour Gazette" are as follows: "May, 1926, 30,094; June, 1924, 59,778; October, 1927, 130,034." Therefore, these figures show that the increase in the five months' critical period 570 was 92,000, and in the Debate last Thursday I said the total was 100,000.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
I hope the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) will not think me discourteous if I do not follow in detail the points he raised which seemed to me to be rather more germane to the Second Reading of the Bill which will be put before the House later on than to the actual Amendment which we are now discussing. The discussion on this Amendment which is now drawing to a close has been one of very great 'interest, and has been maintained at a high level. The discussion has been of a somewhat sombre character, and nearly all the speakers have found it necessary to dwell upon the very difficult situation in which we find ourselves with regard to unemployment. The only distinction which has been made between the two classes of speeches during the Debate is that one type has been purely recriminatory in its character, and the other type has been one in which the speakers have tried to make positive constructive suggestions. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer the Member for Collie Valley (Mr. Snowden) made a speech which, although it was extremely critical of the Government's policy, contained no suggestion of any kind which would help the situation.
The speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was in great contrast, and it did make a definite attempt to make positive suggestions to relieve the difficulty with which we are faced. It is purely in that spirit that I wish to make a few remarks. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Borough's said, I think right; y, that the effect of the return to the gold standard has been to put an increased difficulty in the way of industry and production in competing in the markets of the world. I do not think that at this stage and at this time we ought to argue, or could argue, as to the desirability of giving up that system of currency which we hive adopted, and to which we have worked up after a long struggle, and I am sure that neither a Liberal nor a Conservative Government would ever be a party to altering that position, 571 whatever may be the view of any of us as to whether the right moment was chosen for the final point in reverting to the gold standard; and, therefore, I do not propose to discuss as a matter of practical politics whether we ought to abandon that system of currency. I think, however, that we ought to realise that the whole tendency of our currency policy since the War has been continually to put this increasing difficulty upon productive industry. Although we have gained substantially from many points of view, which may well outweigh the disadvantages, only the most skilled and trained economists could really weigh up the advantages against the disadvantages.
I welcome the decision of the Government to undertake this great reform of our rating system, mainly because it does seem to me to mark the beginning of quite a new policy—a producer's policy—of taking burdens off the producer and saying that, since through the reversion to the gold standard we have given substantial advantages to the investor and the rentier, we will now pursue the policy of giving corresponding advantages to the producer. The rating scheme and the reduction of the cost of transport will be a very considerable advantage. It amounts, in fact, to a subsidy to production given by the taxpayers as a whole.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
We need not argue on small details; the taxpayers as a whole will be required to find the £30,000,000 or whatever is the amount required by the scheme. I think that that policy could he followed in other directions. I see nothing that prevents our making a similar contribution to help productive industry by revising some of the other things which press hard upon production to-day. The main one of these is the present administration of the Unemployment Insurance Scheme. The Unemployment Insurance Scheme had primarily, as its real object, insurance for those who are in and out of industry, temporarily unemployed. If it were confined to that object to-day, the Fund would not be bankrupt. It would be possible, if we had a normal amount of unemployment, and if unemployment benefit were given only to those who 572 were temporarily unemployed in the ordinary way, for the Fund to be solvent and for considerable reductions to be made in the contributions both of employers and employed, which, after all, are a charge upon production. I cannot help thinking that what we ought to aim at is the tightening up of Unemployment Insurance to such an extent that it really does become insurance. I should like to see a very large number of men not carried upon the Fund at all—men who have been unemployed for so long that they have really ceased to belong to the army of industry, and cannot really be counted as part of the army of industry. They should not be carried by their fellow workers in productive industry, but in other ways. If we could do that, and thereby relieve the burdens of industry as much as by the rating scheme, those men would not have to be thrown upon the Poor Law, but a new scheme would have to be made, chargeable upon the taxpayers, and not upon the ratepayers or the industrialists.
It seems to me that, by pursuing this social scheme and throwing the whole charge upon industry, and then suddenly turning round and tightening up the conditions so as to throw all these men upon the rates, we have been pursuing, during the last 10 years a policy which, together with the difficulties which currency questions have put upon industry, has added all the time to the cost of production and the difficulties of industry in competing in the markets of the world. The rating scheme marks a tremendous reversal of policy, and forms what may be called a producer's policy, and I think that pari passu with that other schemes might be followed out—the administration of Unemployment Insurance is one of them—which would have a similar effect. Much as we welcome and thankful as we are for this tremendous reform, I hope the Government will not rule out the possibility of undertaking a really satisfactory revision of the whole system of Unemployment Insurance, in order to see in the first place whether the burden upon industry cannot be reduced by making it really an insurance scheme and reducing the contributions of employer and employed, at the same time seeing that the ratepayer does not suffer, but that able-bodied people who are more or less permanently 573 unemployed are carried on some other basis altogether, chargeable to the taxpayers as a whole. If we could pursue that double policy, we might get down to the roots of our trouble and be doing something to add to the competitive power of British industry.
§ Mr. COMPT0N
Judging from the tone of the speeches, a stranger coming into this House would be led to believe that unemployment was of recent growth —a practically new thing. I notice a disposition on the part of the speakers generally to forget that we have had tremendous unemployment now for a period of about eight years. The Government in office in 1921 was forced to take notice of the unemployment at that period, and made an appeal to local authorities to put in hand work that would find useful employment for men and women who could not be absorbed in the industries of the country; and so we had, through the Unemployment Grants Committee, systems of work in operation that were working out very satisfactorily to the local authorities concerned and also to those who were unfortunate enough to be unemployed, who were in that way brought back into some kind of work. We can remember that, during the intervening period from 1921 to 1925, large grants of money were given to local authorities conditionally on their spending the ratepayers' money in the promotion of these works. In 1924, without any increase in the taxation on the taxpayers of this country, the Labour Government gave nearly £25,000,000 to the local authorities to encourage them in this kind of work; but what happened —and this is the point that I want to Make—when the present Government came into office?
The appeals from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Labour, and others on the Front Government Bench, to come along and help—selling the baby of the last General Election to the Benches on this side—leave one stone-cold. In 1925, before the Government had been two months in office, what the Minister of Labour was pleased to term a tightening-up circular had been sent but to every Employment Exchange in the country. This tightening-up circular brought in its train the removal of men and women from the live register, and it 574 has been shown time and again that, just as those persons were removed from the live register, they were thrown upon the ratepayers, being able to prove themselves destitute, and that they should never have been removed from the register.
The Government ask why we do not come along with schemes and give them some advice. It is within the knowledge of almost every Member of the House that the local authorities, for the last two or three years, have been pestering the Prime Minister, the Minister of Labour, and the Cabinet as a whole, with regard to a constructive scheme for dealing with this great question. I have been instrumental, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) and other Members from the City of Manchester, in continually badgering the Minister of Labour and other Cabinet Ministers to try and get something done, putting before them schemes for dealing with this question, but we have been turned down on every conceivable occasion. Even the Lancashire and Cheshire local authorities, Conservative bodies in the main, have sent deputation after deputation to Cabinet Ministers, putting forward proposals for dealing with this question. Now we have a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, followed by a White Paper, but, so far as Lancashire and Cheshire are concerned, and more especially the cities of Manchester and Liverpool, we are today in the unfortunate position of not knowing whether they will come within the new scheme outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week.
What was the position at the end of last year with regard to unemployment in those two great counties—the two greatest industrial counties in the whole of England? So far as the insured population were concerned, in 1927 the average unemployment over the whole of Great: Britain was 9.63 per cent., but in the county of Lancashire the average was 10.77, and in the county of Cheshire 10.52. So far, therefore, as those two great counties are concerned, while they will welcome any relief from the scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they have been regarded as depressed areas for so long that they are likely to remain so under the scheme of the present Govern- 575 ment, the effect of which will be undoubtedly to assist various authorities that have had very little experience of unemployment, and to keep the burden on the backs of those local authorities which are already overburdened as it is. When the Government went further and issued the circular from the Unemployment Grants Committee in December, 1925, that was the biggest blow to local authorities throughout the country. Many of them had had schemes in operation and had gone to considerable trouble to provide money in order to obtain these unemployment grants for the promotion of their schemes. The result was that many of these local authorities were declared ineligible for grants owing to their not being regarded as depressed areas, and in those cases the schemes were all upset and the local authorities came out of it very badly.
A further statement was put before the Prime Minister with regard to unemployment in the localities I have mentioned, in so far as the acuteness of this unemployment brought heavier burdens upon the Poor Law authorities. A census was taken by the Board of Guardians in Manchester, largely a Conservative body, of the unemployed and destitute people who were being relieved by the guardians during one week about the middle of last year, and they found that in that week nearly 4,000 able-bodied destitute men were drawing relief and not receiving unemployment benefit. They also found that 45 per cent. of this body of nearly 4,000 able-bodied men were disqualified as having ceased to be eligible for unemployment benefit. Twenty-two per cent. never qualified by reason of the nature of their occupation, being in clerical work or other uninsured occupations. That was due to the tightening up, to use the words of the Minister of Labour himself, of that circular of February, 1925, wherein he made an attempt to deal with unemployment from the standpoint of Tory psychology as we understand it so well in this House. The numbers have increased since then, and, so far as these particular places are concerned, we find the position growing gradually worse week by week.
The Ministry of Health compiled some very interesting statistics in June of last 576 year, for the week ending 18th June, 1927, and issued a statement with regard to unemployment and Poor Law relief in many of the Unions throughout the country; and 206 Poor Law Unions out of a total of 631 had not a single unemployed person in receipt of outdoor relief, and 185 Unions had Fewer than 10 persons in receipt of relief. As far as these statistics go, they prove that, even on the new statement issued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the White Paper, many citizens in the better class localities have no knowledge whatever of unemployment and do not subscribe at all to unemployment insurance, but when they become destitute after being removed from the live register and thrown on the Poor Law these people, as far as one can judge from this White Paper, will receive still further relief from the ratepayers, while the industrial centres will have to bear a still greater burden even under the new regulations.
Now may I say a word with regard to the transfer system? It may be all very well for the Ministry to endeavour to remove the miners, or some other derelict workers, from one part of the country to another but it is a very serious proposition if one has to tackle it with the large number of unemployed and destitute in the country to-day. One has only to go to Paddington Station occasionally to see there the transfers actually in operation and see men coming off the train, not very well clothed and certainly not looking the happiest, holding a card up in their hand for anyone to see, waiting for the officer from the employment, exchange to come along and deal with it. It is not a very nice sight for men who have served their country faithfully and well in industry and in the Army in its time of trouble and need. The Government are certainly creating the feeling in the mind of the people—and their past policy proves it—that they are not so much concerned with dealing with unemployment, now in the fifth or sixth winter of dissatisfaction in the coalfields as with breaking up the men collectively and endeavouring to scatter them over the country in the hope that some of them may get lost in the transaction. That is the feeling which the present Government have created in the minds of the working population. There is grave reason to think that the transfer system is certainly not adding lustre to the Gov- 577 ernment or to their conduct of this great question for the last four or five years. I hope it may be successful to a little extent, but the Government have done nothing to mitigate unemployment. They have done everything to increase it. They must shoulder the responsibility, and the country will know how to deal with them when it gets the opportunity.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
We are now approaching the end of a long and interesting Debate. There has been a good deal of wandering in the comments which have been made outside regarding what we were doing and in the speeches which have been delivered here. There is a sort of idea that the Opposition, after having used every opportunity during the last four years to bring home to the Government a sense of their responsibility, should now, at this moment, continue to give suggestions which the Government hitherto have consistently rejected. The Gracious Speech from the Throne gives the House an opportunity, not of reviewing or anticipating or considering coming legislation but the past deeds of the Government, and what we have been doing since Thursday, quite, plainly and openly and candidly, is to tell the Government that they have broken their pledges regarding factory legislation and other things, that they have been losing every opportunity that they had to deal with the unemployed and that now at the eleventh hour they are trying to flounder out of the morass in which they find themselves. That is what we are doing, and what we are going to do in the Division Lobby. I am rather surprised to find some Members, whose contributions we always listen to with great interest, talking year after year the same barren, liberal, detached ideas, getting up and telling us, when the Government are being asked to explain their unemployed policy, that if they had only done this, that and the other thing how much better it would have been. What is the use of all that to-day? They have been doing that for three or four years. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member is satisfied with that achievement, I do not think anyone else is.
Year after year we have talked about the Government standing by manfully. What do they mean by standing by? Standing by like Lot's wife when she was turned into a pillar of salt—standing by 578 and doing nothing. [An HON. MEMBER: "She looked back!"] The hon. Member prides himself that the Government have been looking back—looking back for seven years and standing by. An hon. Member opposite who spoke recently has once again produced his great idea. It is not the first time I have heard it, and it is not the first time I have heard his own leader say the idea is an absurd one, and that if we put the cost of non-insurable unemployment upon the Treasury we are committing an act of financial folly. But here to-day one is tired of these pseudo-Liberal ideas, always supported by good old-fashioned Tory votes. We say the Government have falsified their pledges, and the Prime Minister agrees to that. He has said candidly that it is true. The Home Secretary has been blushing ever since the accusation was made. [Interruption.] The Home Secretary has a better conscience than my right hon. Friend imagines he has. Conscience will out on the cheeks of an honest man. When the Prime Minister tried to explain why he had broken his pledge, really it was too trivial for words. When one looks back on the records of the legislation of the House for the last four years there has been Bill after Bill of fifth-rate importance. Remember the time wasted last year on the Tote Bill, time which, if devoted to the Factory Bill, would almost have been enough to pass it to law. The Government were far more interested in the breeding of horses than in conserving the breed of human beings. The time excuse does not hold water at all.
The second accusation is that they are trifling with the time of the House, as they have trifled with it as far as unemployment and bad trade are concerned during the last four years. They have done nothing until they have been forced to do it. How will those hon. Members who take these liberal surveys, these large-hearted surveys, those who say they are in favour of high wages and lower hours, a combination which is perfectly possible if industry is properly organised and managed—how will they answer this accusation, that from beginning to end—I do not care whether it was in handling the very difficult misfortunes of 1926 or not; I do not care where they made their activities manifest—the policy of this Government has been based upon the assumption that by lower wages and 579 longer hours costs of production could be lowered, lowered costs of production would mean an expanding market, and by an expanding market the annual incomes of the people receiving lower wages would, as a matter of fact, be higher than the annual incomes that would be earned by the same people on higher wages with a restricted market? That is the theory. What is the use of hon. Members coming here, as some have done to-day, and preaching fundamental economic doctrines which are absolutely at variance with the very root idea that has been animating the Government they are supporting? It is no good, this superficial, easy-going self-satisfied talk. With the unemployed mounting up 1,000,000, 1,500,000, 1,200,000, 1,250,000, 1,300,000, the time has come for the country to make up its mind, and to proceed quite clearly when it does so, that a large part of the responsibility for the bad trade rests on the shoulders of the Government, and that what stands in the way of recovery is largely their blame.
I read with impatience papers that say my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) offered no positive proposal. We have had two Ministers in the course of the Debate delivering programmes. Where do they get their programmes from? A good halt of the changes they are now claiming credit for instituting were things that they stopped when they came into office, which they told us were unsound national economy and put into pigeon-holes because they believed they were of no further use. One has only to go down the list to see it. Take, for instance, that very valuable road-making scheme—I think it is known locally as the intervalley roads in South Wales. I have a vivid recollection of going over something which was like a Swiss switchback. I know the road system of South Wales. I was present when the Minister of Transport did me the great pleasure of asking me to accompany him to the opening of part of those roads. They were started in 1924 on the 75 per cent. Brant. There is your system begun, from the Rhondda to the road that ultimately goes into Bridgend, passing through Abergwynfi down to the Avon Valley.
They now think that they are going to begin those schemes again, and yet at 580 the same time they say that because that is a distressed area, they cannot begin them at all. What an absurd thing! They restart these roadmaking schemes, but they lay down as conditions that no areas that are specially distressed can have the grant, but only areas not specially distressed, and those areas will only get it if 50 per cent, of the work employed upon the roads is drafted from distressed areas. There are no houses, no preparations. When the work is over, what is going to happen to it? The whole thing is a piece of absurd patchwork, an inconsistent policy definitely worked out and applied here and there where it is necessary to apply it. The proposal which I make is that you should take out from those pigeon-holes and adopt everything that we left behind, and that would be very well for an immediate programme of temporary relief of the unemployed.
Here we are towards the end of 1928. I asked a question of the Minister of Labour—I hope he did not think I was interrupting him for interruption's sake. He was reading from the printed declaration made by the representative of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain in Conference, that there would be 200,000 practically derelict miners in the course of a very short time: that when reorganisation took place, when the changes that were necessary took place, there would be something like 200,000 men who would find it very difficult to get work again down the coal pit. I asked him when was that written, and he politely replied, "1926." Of course the House sees at once the point of my question. That was written in 1926. As a matter of fact, he did us a little injustice because the statement—I do not necessarily mean that particular document—was written and printed in 1925. When we were working at the coal problem in 1924, it was quite evident that any comprehensive handling of the coal problem required to include within its conspectus this extraordinary, unusual and very tragic thing. I remember in 1925 a Government conference, with the miners' leaders present. I heard the miners' leaders solemnly warn the representative of the Government that there would be this unfortunate situation very shortly, and in 1928 we have hardly begun to face the tragic situation.
581 But the point the Minister of Labour made—I think it is an advisable thing to do, and I advise him to stick to that there is no trouble at all. That is a good, sound position for him to take up. Of course, when he began to analyse his figures and to explain 900,000 for this, 100,000 for that and 200,000 for that and so on, there was nothing left. He actually came to the conclusion—I think he was persuading himself in a most magical way as he went on with his speech before he finished with the question of juvenile employment—that there was no juvenile unemployment at all. There were one or two rather awkward things that he admitted. Perhaps we may have them brought up again on Thursday. For instance, when he was so eloquent about the amount of unemployment in Germany and America, it was quite evident that the Minister of Labour is no friend of safeguarding. His speech the other day showed that he agreed with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said with great emphasis, "Safeguarding is only pottering along." He undoubtedly agrees with his own Chancellor of the Exchequer who said that the problem of tariffs had nothing to do with imports. Let us see about that later on. As far as the Minister of Labour is concerned, he claimed—and it was essential to his argument and the logical and necessary conclusion to his position—that the Government had done everything they could during their four years in office, and that the phenomenon of unemployment was a natural adjunct to the present state of society. When he argued it on ratios, his ratios were so small as to be quite insignificant except in one or two instances.
What an absurd statement! What an absurd position! It is just like the position which they took up last year, and again we had those pious speeches from hon. Members opposite when we were considering the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill. We often saw them literally putting their hands on their hearts, and heard them say, "Industry is going to flourish; all the prospects are so good. We are going to take that assumption as the basis for this legislation. We will tell you the position. The financial scale of our Bill is financially sound." Last week they came 582 and told us it was all wrong. They had made a great mistake, and those who are going to support them in the Division Lobby agree with them.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I do not know what they fixed. They certainly did not fix common sense in their legislation.
On the question of general trade we had an interesting contribution by the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse). But the thing that I am interested in is, what direct contribution have the Government made towards the opening of markets? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said quite truly—he did not use these words—that this is what has happened. Owing to the War partly, and then owing to the political arrangements which followed the peace, our historical channels for exported goods and our markets where our goods were sold have been very badly upset? That is quite true. But what have the Government done to extend markets? There are various ways in which this can be done. There are our Dominions. Somebody the other day suggested that it would be a very good idea if this House would give a little time to this question when there was no Prime Minister, no Leader of the Opposition, no Tory party and no Labour party. It was suggested that the one thing of which we should be conscious was that we were Members of the House of Commons discussing quite candidly and without any fear of misrepresentation in any way whatever, genuinely and deeply-held opinions regarding the things that concern the wellbeing of our nation. In those circumstances, I should like to hear hon. Members opposite expressing their minds quite candidly about the prospect of the Dominions as a market for Imperial goods, 20 or 25 years from now. Still, they are a market.
There are the Crown Colonies. They have been mentioned several times. What has been done? All development in the Crown Colonies must depend upon financial assistance—I cannot see any other way out; I should be very glad if we could see any other way out—loans, guarantees. I think that probably it would. not be a question of very much cash—I mean direct contributions. I am not sure about this, but, in any event, this land, undeveloped as it is, ought to 583 give, for years, a splendid market for certain British products, which would put a very large number of people into employment. May I leave that and go to other countries? Hon. Members opposite, I suppose, will laugh when I mention Russia. Surely, the whole secret of national business is to get hold of everything you can and not reject the smallest market.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
It is all very well to say you can get it now. I want to get it much more effectively than you can get it now, or are likely to get it for a good many years. Market after market, of which Russia has been typical, has been sacrificed by British trade through the political prejudices of the party opposite. Take the question of transference. Here, again, it is perfectly true that you cannot keep communities of men doing nothing in areas from which the tide of industry has flowed away. That is perfectly true. But who is going to say that the arrangements made for the transfer of our people from those areas into the towns have been carefully thought out and are going to be planned with due consideration for the people who are going to be transferred? That is the whole point. The statement of the Minister of Labour the other day gave one the greatest doubt. It was casual; it was piecemeal. When he rose at the Treasury Box he gave a wonderful story of Captain Mayne Reid and the prairie schooners; of the poor men who went away in cars and out on to the track and then came to a clearing in the middle of the country and squatted there, clearing a little bit, and later thriving. What nonsense! If he had used properly the opportunities that had been at his disposal, he would not have beers tolling us wild stories of individual courage and adventure; he would have told us of community settlement. He would have told us of afforestation being co-ordinated with land settlement. When he talks about drainage and so on, my accusation is that they have allowed acres upon acres to become derelict, because of their neglect. That is not the way to rule the country, and it is not the way to deal with unemployment.
584 Take the question of migration. In this connection, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour have talked a good deal. What is their plan regarding migration? Let us assume that what they are saying about it, theoretically, is sound. Four years have gone, and yet when I was in Canada, and I spoke to those who knew about the situation and asked what the plan was, they said they did riot know; nobody knew. There was no plan, no systematic arrangement. For years, the Government could have been studying how the thing was working. I went to see sense of the migrants who had gone out under the family scheme of 1924. The Government talk about training. Have they studied the result of the experiment of 1924? I visited one of the quarter blocks, not very far from the city of Winnipeg, where there was a good deal of settlement. Some people talk about derelict farms. Talk on that subject is not confined to one side. I have seen derelict farms in cultivation. Do not let us minimise the possibilities of the situation. A derelict farm may be due to one of two reasons or may be due to a combination of reasons. It may be derelict because nature meant it to be derelict, or it may be derelict because it had a bad farmer, or it may be derelict because both these causes may have combined to make it derelict. What did I find? I found on one farm a man with no training whatever, except in the general use of his hands and the use of a good Scottish head. He had been there two years. In regard to one of his fields I told him he ought to be ashamed of himself; it was derelict. Another field alongside of it was in such a condition that I praised him for a beautiful crop, clean heavy and rich. The explanation was perfectly simple. He was still subduing his first field, and he had subdued the second. 1NTot very far from him was a steel smelter and his wife, and again not far from him was another steel smelter.
Migration has a very limited value for the easement of unemployment, but what value it has ought to be exploited. In exploiting it, do not exploit it on your thumbs. Go and see. Go and find out what the experience has been. A friend of mine, a man of very great experience in Canada in regard to settlement, told me that when he values up the chance 585 of success he puts down 40 per cent. of the chance of success to the man and 60 per cent. of the chance of success to the woman. What is our position at this moment, in 1928, after four years? The Government have no idea what their plan is going to be and when one inquires, no one seems to know anything about it. They had their warning and they ought to have had their programme ready and in operation. Instead of that, they are now talking about unemployment being a most pressing thing; but instead of acting as if employment were the most pressing thing they have been acting as if there was no pressure at all from the point of view of unemployment.
Their assumption has been that there was going to be brighter trade and that everything would be all right, that the unemployment figures would go down and that unemployment finance would become sound. At the very last stage of their existence in this Parliament they come forward with a programme of public works that, are not effective, with emigration promises that are not thought-out, and with transfer proposals that have never been considered adequately. The one thought which seems to have been uppermost, in their minds has been this: "Where unemployment is most pronounced, if we can only take it up and scatter it abroad a little, we are solving unemployment. If we can take 20 or 30 miners from South Wales and put them down as builders' labourers in Camberwell, although builders' labourers in Camberwell are out of work, well, they will be lost. Segregated they are seen, but scattered they are lost." The Liberal ideas which the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan) so feelingly expressed, will amount only to this, that he and his friends are going into the Division Lobby to support a Government whose record is such as I have described. So far as we are concerned, we shall certainly do exactly the opposite.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
We have listened to a speech from the Leader of the Opposition, roost of which was devoted to looking back over the actions of the Government during the last few years and finding fault here and there with every action that they have taken. I could not help thinking, as I heard him, 586 that it was a case of words, words, words. He had nothing to suggest; not a single suggestion that would give one day's work to a, single man who is out of work. If he and his followers are satisfied with that, then, indeed, the House of Commons are not treating this problem as I wish they would. I beg pardon. The right hon. Gentleman did make one suggestion. He suggested that we might do better if we traded with Russia. The position of our trade with Russia is this, that in the last quarter for which figures are available for this year, we have purchased from Russia £1,000,000 worth more goods than in the corresponding quarter of 1926. The trade with Russia has gone down, not in our purchases which are within our control, but in our sales which are not within our control. Nothing that this or any other Government could do could force Russian or any other purchasers to purchase if they do not wish to buy. The trouble is that it is known to everybody, except the right hon. Gentleman and those who support him, that Russia is less able to purchase now than she has been before. She is far less able to find foreign currencies to enable her to make purchases abroad. Such purchases as she does make are for the feeding of her people rather than the manufactured goods that we are desirous of selling.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me some questions to which I shall reply in the course of my observations. Before I deal with the only other constructive proposal, which has been made from the Liberal benches by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who, I regret to say is not in his place, I wish to refer to some arguments of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) who, also, is not in his place. Last Friday, the right hon. Member for Colne Valley dissented from a statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a large part of the misfortunes of to-day in regard to unemployment are due to the Labour party, and that the strike of 1926 was responsible for a large part of the unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must he wrong, because the figures of unemployment in 1925 showed an increase of 200,000 over 1924 and that, consequently, it had nothing to do with the strike, which did not take place 587 until 1926. I am surprised that the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer should have used figures which, useful for their purpose, were not quite candid to the House. The very next month, the figures were quite different, showing that the number of unemployed had not increased by 200,000 but by 47,000.
There are other figures much more germane to the question of whether or not the strike did in fact increase the sum total of unemployment in this country. The strike took place, as is known, in May, 1926. There have been fluctuations all the time since we took office, but gradually the figures were getting better and for the first time in April, 1926, were reduced below a million. For the week ending 4th April, 1926, the number of unemployed in Great Britain was reduced to 981,000. Then came the fatal first of May and five weeks afterwards the number stood at 1,600,000. The Socialist party cannot avoid the blame. Progress had been made in reducing the volume of unemployment month by month. There were some ups and downs, of course, until April, 1926, and then immediately that progress was checked, and the heavy figures I have mentioned were the result of the strike. Surely, it is apparent to any impartial mind and even to partisans, when they are not acting as advocates against the Government, that the large increase of unemployment is due to the strike. Why the right hon. Member for Colne Valley himself, speaking in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) said, in March, 1927:We have tried class war in industry, and we see the result to-day—stagnation in wages, a million or more unemployed, bad trade, and the arrest of social progress.That was not said only to please the right hon. Gentleman's constituents because the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer made a similar statement writing quite calmly in a financial paper. He might have been carried away by the exuberance of the right hon. Gentleman's constituents, but he wrote this in his study quite calmly:The last 12 months have been a period of effort to recover from the disastrous effects of the coal stoppage.588 Can it be denied that the general strike and the coal stoppage have had a terrible effect upon unemployment?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer also made another statement to which the ex-Chancellor took exception. He pointed out that, in the three years previous to April, 1928, real wages had gone up by £100,000,000. I know that hon. Members opposite do not like that statement. They like to point to the Government as having reduced social conditions and to pretend that the Government's policy has put on extra burdens instead of having reduced burdens. So the ex-Chancellor proceeds to correct it, and first of all he proceeds to misquote the Chancellor. He said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that there had been an increase in real wages of £100,000,000 in a year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did nothing of the sort; he said it was in three years. Again, the ex-Chancellor seems to have selected the figures he used to rebut that statement with some care, for he seems to have omitted altogether to take into account the wages paid in agriculture. The real facts are, as my right hon. Friend stated them in reply to a question only a day or two ago, that the cost of living has gone down by from five to six per cent. and wages are about one and a half per cent. over 1924. It is not at all an easy calculation, but it has been worked out, and it can be found in the "Labour Gazette" for October. If you relate those figures to the volume of employment and to the wages paid according to Sir Josiah Stamp's estimate, it will be found that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is correct and that, worked out in that way, there is approximately £100,000,000 of increase. I will challenge any hon. Member, if he does not accept these figures, to give any figures which will stand analysis and which will be comparable in validity with the figures which I have given.
The ex-Chancellor then had a second line of defence. He said: "Even if that is true, even if there has been a reduction in the cost of living, the Government ought not to take any credit for it. They are world conditions and have nothing to do with the Government." I say the contrary. It is directly and definitely to do with the Government 589 policy and, if we are to be blamed for every possible, even though improbable, consequence of going back to the gold standard, then we ought at least to have the credit for doing so now. If the world conditions are responsible for the reduction of the cost of living in this country, then you will find the cost of living falling in other countries. But, if you compare 1928 with 1924, you will find there are rises in Germany, in Belgium, in France and in India in the cost of living as between 1924 and 1928. There is a fall in this country and in the United States and in Holland, but the fall in this country is twice as great as the fall in the United States or in Holland. I am glad to leave the right hon. Member for Colne Valley who made a sterile and unhelpful speech of criticism based on figures selected for the purpose and supported by assertions easily disproved.
Let me devote a short time to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. He prefaced his suggestions with some criticisms of the Government. He had a tilt against gold. He said it was a grave blunder that the Government had returned to the gold standard in the precipitate manner in which they did. That act was debated in this House in May, 1925, and the right hon. Gentleman, so far as I know, was well and sometimes here, but that was an occasion when he did not think it wise or necessary to put in an appearance. He never came and gave us the benefit of his advice. He said the other day that our export trade was hit hard, that 10 per cent. was added to the value of our exports in foreign countries, that coal was hit by at least 18 pence a ton. Why did he not tell us at the time we were making this terrible mistake? Why did he not come down to this House and say so? It is like a good many other of his speeches. Jobbing backwards is a very well-known amusement, and it is very easy to be wise after the event or, at any rate, to pretend to be wise after the event—because I do not believe he is wise even now. I believe what he said is quite unfounded. Let us examine it. I do not gather that he is suggesting that we ought not to have adopted the gold standard for, as every hon. Member knows, that has been the policy of every Government since 1919, including, of 590 course, the Labour Government, and every Chancellor of the Exchequer, including the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, has acted in support of returning to the gold standard. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) said, in that admirable speech which he made partly to-day and partly the other day, there is no one who would now say that we ought to go back upon the decision that we took.
The right hon. Gentleman may say, and I think will say, that the time at which we did it was wrong, that our action was hurried, not that we ought not to have done it, but that we ought not to have done it when we did. He did not point that out at the time. Whether it was too hurried or not depends upon the facts. Lot us examine the facts of the time. If the Bill that was passed in May, 1925, did in fact add 10 per cent. to the cost of production, then of course the results were serious, but let us remember the date. For four months before May. 1925, sterling had already risen to within 1½ per cent. of parity. It might well be that the rise to parity did have an effect upon the export trade. I am not denying that, but it was the rise of sterling nearly to the parity of gold that had that effect, and not the passing of the Act in May.
In May we had the choice of either going forward or going back. Ever since 1919 action had been taken by every Government preparing the way for going on the gold standard. In May the work was nearly completed. Sterling was then within 1½ per cent. of gold parity, and we had either to go forward or to go back. What did going back mean? It meant a public declaration that we were not yet ready to go on to the gold standard. What would have been the effect of that? The sterling would have gone down point after point, I do not know how far, in relation to the dollar. We might have had four dollars to the pound instead of 4.86, and that would have been a much worse check on trade, a much greater damage to our credit, than could possibly arise from completing the policy for which every previous Government had prepared. The right hon. Gentleman holds up the wisdom of the French and Belgians and Italians; why did we not go slow, as they have gone slow? Does he suggest that we should have followed 591 their example and have fixed the pound not on the 4.86, but on some revalued basis, that we. should have confessed that our pound never could look 4.86 dollars in the face but could only look one dollar in the face. That is what the French and Italians and Belgians have done. They have valued their currency at one-fifth of pre-War value, and if we had followed their example we should have said £1 can look one dollar in the face, but £1 will never look 4.86 in the face.
Why was the particular moment chosen? As I have said, the time was ripe, and we had to go back or go forward. We went forward; but there was another reason. We are a great monetary centre, but we are also the capital of an Empire. South Africa was on a gold basis; Australia was wanting to go, and intended to go, on to a gold standard Canada was on a gold basis. Empire currency is as important to the Empire as a common language, and it was necessary that we should have a common currency with other parts of the Empire. To say that this has anything to do with unemployment, with the 200,000 or 250,000 men in the coal industry who are now out of work, is surely stretching our credulity too far. The right hon. Gentleman on the way to his constructive suggestion had a tilt at the Treasury, and said that as we have now restored our credit, at great cost, do not keep it underground, bring it out and let it be used. He always speaks of credit as if it were a little bit of metal in the earth which we should bring out and use. He said: There are 1,300,000 out of work. Let us make an effort to use the credit and put, within a year; half of these men back into employment. And he addressed himself to the problem as to how he would do it. He said: We will borrow £200,000,000 and construct roads. We constructed the railways of the country in the days gone by, now let us reconstruct the roads of the country on a big scale.
I wish his friend the other Leader of the Liberal party the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) had been in his place to hear that speech. I should have enjoyed watching his face. I wish the right hon. Member for West Swansea were here to-day because he is really the man who ought to reply to that proposal. I remember being scolded 592 by him during the debates on the Sinking Fund Bill. He said: You have not improved your credit. The credit of Great Britain has not been going up as it should have been. It is worse than Chile or China—I forget which. You have, he said, destroyed it because you keep on borrowing. Instead of reducing indebtedness you keep on increasing it. What you ought to do is to stop borrowing and let funds accumulate so that the trade of the country may have cheap money and use it, and then you would have no unemployment. That is the policy of one of the leaders of the Liberal party. I will try and examine the policy of the other leader, for I do not agree with either. It is a matter of degree. We are accused of not having used our credit which we have so tirelessly improved by our self-sacrifice. Does the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs realise that in the last four years we have used our credit to the tune of £197,000,000 in loans and guarantees. He said that the telephones were starved. They are not fed to the same extent as in the United States of America I admit, but £42,000,000, nearly £43,000,000, has been expended on capital account in the last four years an the telephones of this country, and the other large item in the 197,000,000 is local loans, £129,000,000, which has been used for the particular purpose of local improvements giving employment to the people there.
That is not all; we have not ceased to use our credit. We have at the moment authorised or are in course of authorising £95,000,000 of additional borrowing powers or guaranteeing powers for the purpose of capital expenditure, and I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman can have appreciated that so large a use is being made of the credit. of this country as these figures show. The right hon. Member for West Swansea was better instructed. He at least realised the danger of the over-use of credit. Let me examine for a moment: the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman that £200,000,000 should be used for roads. He does not mean that this should come out of the taxpayer's pocket. He cannot mean that, because it would be no contribution to unemployment at all. It would be taking from the taxpayer money which otherwise he would be using for the purpose of giving 593 employment, and it would be reducing the purchasing power of the community by that sum. If it is to come out of loans it must either come out of loans without inflation, without artificial increase of credit, or else out of loans with an artificial increase of credit. If it is to come out of loans without an artificial increase of credit, then it is not increasing the available fund at all. It is merely taking money which would otherwise be used in the ordinary course of trade in this country and it does not increase employment at all. On the contrary, it may actually hinder employment because under Government auspices you find that money is less well spent.
If the right hon. Gentleman means that it is to be found out of loans with an artificial inflation of credit it could be done and you could give greater employment, but you would simply be using to-day what normally ought to be used over several years, and all Europe is suffering so much from inflation and its results that I cannot believe that this House could be induced to run the terrible risks which that would involve. With great self sacrifice and with great success we have recovered gold parity, we have put the sterling back again on a gold parity, we have restored our credit, and it would be the height of folly to risk the solid advantages which have come from that course; it would be the height of folly to throw away the substance for the shadow. But if £200,000,000 were available I do not think it should be used for the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman's road scheme. We have naturally examined with the greatest care the possibility of the use of capital in the building of roads. Actually we find that for every million pounds expended on that purpose about 2,000 men are given employment for a year—
§ Mr. MAXTON
That seems to be the crux of the problem. If the Government gives a grant of £1,000,000 for roads and only 2,000 workers get wages, who walks away with the difference?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
A proper and economic method of building roads requires considerable expenditure 594 and outlay on material and machinery. The hon. Member can double the figures if he likes; the argument may be weakened, it is not destroyed. We propose to spend on roads out of the Road Fund a sum of £20,000,000 and the total expenditure local and national upon roads will be £60,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had robbed the Road Fund not only of accumulated balances but also of the income which was coming in. Does he realise the figures?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Yes, some of them. Let me give the hon. and learned Member some more. There has been an increase in the amount spent out of the Road Fund each year for the last four years, and the amount to be spent this year will be £4,000,000 more than lout years ago. I do not deny that but for our action the Road Fund would have been greater, but it is wrong to represent that fund as starving and no expenditure being made out of it. There is no short-cut such as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs adumbrated. His plan could not be carried out without. doing more harm than good to the employment position in the country. The plans of the Government are not so spectacular but I hope they are much more certain in effect.
Let me in the few minutes I shall detain the House make some further observations on the Government's plan and, at the same time, answer a question which was put to me by the Leader of the Opposition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer explained the Government's policy and I need not go over it in detail though there are some points which I warm the House to bear in mind. There is a separate and special problem connected with employment in the coal industry. There are 200,000 up to 250,000 people in the coal industry who never can get work again in that industry. That is the consensus of opinion—[Interruption]—a consensus of opinion in which, so far as I know, all well instructed people agree. From 200,000 to 250,000 people will not get employment in the trade, notwithstanding a revival of trade or even a boom. That is a problem which by itself will have to be dealt with.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
There are certain well defined areas in which there is no alternative employment. You cannot suggest that widening a narrow lane is a real alternative employment to coal mining. The only remedy is to transfer some of these people, or all if possible, from the area. That is a policy; it is a policy of opportunity for those who are now in distress. [Interruption.] I do not know which is the Labour party opposite, whether it is sitting at the back or in the front. I repeat that that is a policy which the Labour party, or that part of it which is responsible for the 65 Articles, has advocated. I find in the summary of the Articles, under Number 5, the following:The transference and migration of unemployed miners.I could have understood it if the right hon. Gentleman opposite had claimed that we had taken his policy from him, or even from the Yellow Book of the Liberal party, for there is something very like the policy of transfer in the Yellow Book. That being so, and if there is a consensus of opinion on all sides of the House that we ought to try to transfer from these areas to other areas those who cannot get work in the mining districts, surely we might agree to help that policy. Let me state the policy again. It is to transfer either to the Dominions or to other areas of the United Kingdom, and to give a new opportunity to those who cannot now find work in the mining areas.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs made a speech which was not interrupted. Perhaps he will give the Minister the same opportunity as he himself enjoyed.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The Unemployment Grants Committee is going to give substantial grants in areas where those men can find work—[Interruption.] Electricity will find new work for some of the men in the district to 596 which they will be transferred. Hon. Members opposite have more than once said that those who are transferred will meet with certain jealousies in the districts to which they will be transferred. It will not be easy, but it depends a great deal upon your help and everyone's help whether the policy is carried out successfully or not. I say, "Do not aggravate the difficulties which must face a policy like this. Do not crab it. Try to help it and alleviate the difficulties, and smooth the path for a policy which is your policy as much as ours." The Prime Minister's letter was intended to help this policy of transfer. Hon. Members opposite have scoffed at that. letter from time to time. I say. "Do not scoff. Forget the Prime Minister for a moment, and remember the men who want work and on whose behalf the Prime Minister sent that letter." [Interruption.] The other branch of the policy is to assist in transfer to the Dominions. It is not an unthought-out scheme. It is not using the Dominions as a dumping ground for unemployables. It is to help men who are capable of work to find a new home overseas. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has been to Canada. He says, "Why does not the Government go out?"
§ Mr. MacDONALD indicated dissent.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
A member of the Government has been out. Lord Lovat has been out, arid has been negotiating with the authorities in Canada and Australia. Unfortunately his voyage has had to be shortened owing to ill-health, but he has done a great work in Canada. We have to remember that 53,000 found new homes in Canada last year, and what with the reduction of fares and the results of Lord Lovat's negotiations there are great possibilities. Again I say, "Help." There was one hon. Member who spoke earlier in this Debate. He said he had been Canada 25 years ago and had had experience. He said that it was no good sending men to Canada, that there were derelict farms and all sorts of drawbacks. I say to hon. Members opposite, "Do not say that, but help." These men want new chances of work, and it is up to all of us, if we believe in the policy of transfer, to carry it out.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Would it be convenient for the right hon. Gentleman to say when the Lovat Report is to be published?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
It has been interfered with by his illness, and I cannot at the moment say when it, is likely to come out, but it will be published as soon as possible. In addition to the general measures, the Government have been pursuing a policy which was intended to help the industries of this country. The difficulty of our manufacturers is not to produce goods, for the skill of workmen is greater in this country than anywhere in the world; the difficulty is to produce them at a cost which is competitive in the markets of the world. When hon. Gentlemen opposite tell me that it is intended to reduce wages, I reply that that is not in the least the policy of the Government. The assistance that the Government is giving is to reduce the cost of production by lowering the overhead charges, by relieving the manufucturer of the heavy burden of rates which now keep up his expenses.
It is not easy, in the presence of all the misery and hardships due to unemployment, to keep a level outlook, but there are no grounds for despair. Complete recovery is bound to be a slow process. The poverty caused by the War and the dislocation of productive industry and the international exchanges do not pass quickly. But up to 1926 there was a gradual recovery, with ups and downs, but more ups than downs. Then it was set back by the strike, with the loss of purchasing power and of working capital in business, and both those losses tended to depress the pace of re-
§ covery. At the beginning of this year conditions certainly looked right for a general improvement in trade, and all the pundits, including the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, prophesied that 1928 would be the best year for many years past. There has been a check, the causes of which are obscure, but the conditions are still not different. The relations between capital and labour are better; peace at home and abroad seems secure; the nations of the world have balanced their budgets, and their currencies have been stabilised, and, though all are poorer, wealth is being recreated and world trade ought shortly to revive. I noticed in the "Newcastle Chronicle" great staring headlines such as these, "Trade in the North of England on the mend. Big power and shipyard orders show an upward trend."
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I believe that the tide is turning and that a trade revival is due. It would greatly alter the whole of our outlook. Meanwhile we have adopted specific measures and a general policy which deserve the support of all who desire to put the helping of the unemployed ahead of political animosities.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 151; Noes, 321.601
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.||[7.43 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Fenby, T. D.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cape, Thomas||Gardner, J. P.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Charleton, H. C.||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Cluse, W. S.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Gibbins, Joseph|
|Baker, Walter||Compton, Joseph||Gillett, George M.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Connolly, M.||Gosling, Harry|
|Barnes, A.||Cove, W. G.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Barr, J.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)|
|Batey, Joseph||Crawfurd, H. E.||Greenall, T.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Dalton, Hugh||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Bellamy, A.||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Griffith, F. Kingsley|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Day, Harry||Groves, T.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Dennison, R.||Grundy, T. W.|
|Briant, Frank||Duncan, C.||Hall, F. (York. W.R., Normanton)|
|Bromfield, William||Dunnico, H||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Edge, Sir William||Hardle, George D.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth. Bedwellty)||Harney, E. A.|
|Buchanan, G.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Harris, Percy A.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Maxton, James||Strauss, E. A.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Montague, Frederick||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Mosley, Sir Oswald||Taylor, R. A.|
|Hirst, G. H.||Murnin, H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Naylor, T. E.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Oliver, George Harold||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Palin, John Henry||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Tinker, John Joseph|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Potts, John S.||Townend, A. E.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Purcell, A. A.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Viant, S. P.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Riley, Ben||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Kelly, W. T,||Ritson, J.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Kennedy, T.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Kirkwood, D.||Scrymgeour, E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Lansbury, George||Scurr, John||Welsh, J. C.|
|Lawrence, Susan||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Westwood, J.|
|Lawson, John James||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Lee, F.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llaneil)|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Shinwell, E.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Lowth, T.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Lunn, William||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Windsor, Walter|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Sitch, Charles H.||Wright, W.|
|Mackinder, W.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Smillie, Robert|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Snell, Harry||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Stephen, Campbell|
|March, S.||Stewart, J. (St. Roflox)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Drewe, C.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Albery, Irving James||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Butt, Sir Alfred||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Calne, Gordon Hall||Ellis, R. G.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Carver. Major W. H.||England, Colonel A.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Cassels, J. D.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Cayzer Sir C. (Chester, City)||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Astor, Viscountess||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Fairfax, Captain J. G|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cazalet, Captain victor A.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Atkinson, C.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Fielden, E. B.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Finburgh, S.|
|Balniel, Lord||Chapman, Sir S.||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Christie, J. A.||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Clayton, G. C.||Frece, Sir Walter de|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Berry, sir George||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Bethel, A.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gates, Percy.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Colman, N. C. D.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Bevan, S. J.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cooper, A. Duff||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cope, Major Sir William||Goff, Sir Park|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Couper, J. B.||Grace, John|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Grant, Sir J. A.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn., N.)||Grattan Doyle, Sir N.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City Of London)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Crookshank, Col. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon, F. E. (Bristol, N)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hacking, Douglas H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Buchan, John||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hamilton, Sir George|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Burman, J. B.||Dixey, A. C.||Harland, A.|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Meller, R. J.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Meyer, Sir Frank||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Herbert. S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Hilton, Cecil||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Nelson, Sir Frank||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'K, Nun.)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Nuttall, Ellis||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Oakley, T.||Tasker, R. Inlgo.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Pennefather, Sir John||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Penny, Frederick George||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Perring, Sir William George||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L. (Kingston in Hull)|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Pilcher, G.||Warrender, Sir victor|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Preston, William||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Price, Major C. W. M.||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Raine, Sir Walter||Wells, S. R|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Rees, Sir Beddoe||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Reid. D. D. (County Down)||Williams, Cam. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Remer, J. R.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Loder, J. de V.||Rentoul. G. S.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Long, Major Eric||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Rice, Sir Frederick||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Lougher, Lewis||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)||Withers, John James|
|Lumley, L. R.||Ropner, Major L.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Womersley, W. J|
|McLean, Major A.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Rye, F. G.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Salmon, Major I.||Wood, Sir S. Hill. (High Peak)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Woodcock, Colonel M. C.|
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Wragg, Herbert|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Sanderson. Sir Frank|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Sandon, Lord||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Savery, S. S.||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and Major Sir George Hennessy.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
The Vote which the House has just given is an intimation to the country that, in the present position of unparalleled unemployment, the House is satisfied that the paltry proposals whch the Government have put before us are adequate for dealing with this tragic problem. We are told that the first and main contribution of the Government is to be the proposed rating relief for agriculture and industry, but as far as nine-tenths of that proposed relief is concerned, it will not come into operation for several months. The position being admitted to be as serious as it is 602 by the Government some reason ought to be given as to why nine-tenths of the suggested relief is to be so long delayed. We are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that earnest appeals have been made that the railway relief should operate sooner, and I venture to say that equally earnest appeals might be made in every other direction. We may as well recognise the fact that if this were a question of war on some foreign nation, nothing would stand in the way of the necessary steps being taken and no question of finance or of anything else would for one moment be considered. But we are at war. We are at war with this terrible problem as a result of which 603 1,300,000 of our people are out of employment. There are certain directions other than those indicated by the Government in which steps might be taken and these should at all events be considered.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade is, no doubt, familiar with the Census of Production and I wish to deal with certain extreme figures taken from that Census showing the number of persons employed in certain trades in relation to their output. Working out these figures in a way slightly different from that employed in the Census of Production, we find at one end of the scale that in the brewing and malting trade an output of £1,000,000 worth finds employment for only 550 people whereas on the other hand boots and shoes, hosiery, clothing and so forth, for an output of £1,000,000 worth, would find employment for 6,300; building and allied trades would find employment for 4,700 for that output and food trades would find employment for 3,100. These figures indicate something to which not sufficient attention has been called, namely the very small amount of employment found by some of these trades for every £1,000,000 worth of output.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
May I ask whether the values on which the hon. Member is calculating include Excise Duties or exclude them?
§ Mr. WILSON
I am rather surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary should ask that question. He must know perfectly well that in the return which has been made that point is specifically referred to and they are included.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. WILSON
They are comparable as far as the return in the Census of Production is concerned—take it any way you like. If 10 per cent. of that output of brewing and malting were diverted to boots, shoes, hosiery, etc., it would mean additional employment for 70,000 persons. If it were diverted to the building trade, it would mean additional employment to 50,000 persons, or if diverted to foods, 30,000; and no one would suggest that there is not wasteful expenditure on the part of the country in such trades as brewing and malting. Looking 604 at the question of unemployment in the mining areas, from a slightly different point of view from that which has been touched upon, I want to read the words of a gentleman who has had a very large experience on the question of allotments and who has recently paid a visit to South Wales. This is what he says:The number of allotments in the Rhondda had been over 8,000 some seven or eight years ago; but for various reasons it had dwindled until it was only 3,000. In the Abertillery, Blaina and Brynmawr districts there was a large number of derelict allotments and a few in cultivation. He had sought the secretaries and organisers of allotment societies to ascertain the reasons why, when the produce was so urgently required, the allotments had gone out of cultivation. He had had their answers. First, the rents were very high. They worked out at 1s. a perch, which was the equivalent of £7 or £8 an acre, a sum impossible for a man on unemployment pay or relief to find. Secondly, such men could not afford the cost of seed and seed potatoes. Thirdly, there was a widespread idea that a man found working on his plot when he was supposed to be looking for employment would be liable to be struck off the unemployment register. He could not discover any such case; but on inquiry of officials in Cardiff, he had been told that possibly under officials had given that impression or had said that growing vegetables for sale would he inconsistent with unemployment pay; but that authority gave an undertaking that work on an allotment would not be allowed to interfere with pay. Apart from these points, the general feeling of hopelessness was an important reason for the lapse of the allotments. When the plots were well cultivated, the story was the same as in the north; the allotment made all the difference between a reasonably good table and very short commons.Even if the Employment Exchange has set this right, I am not sure but that, where you had appointed boards of guardians, they would not say they were going to reduce their pay still further because of what was being done on the allotments. Even if you take as the rent £7 or £8 per acre, which is a very high figure, for the expenditure of £100,000 per annum you might find 75,000 allotments. It is quite true that this is not a question of unemployment except in this sense, that in all parts of the country it would be infinitely better that these people should be employed on the allotments, if willing to work there, than that they should be hanging about and doing nothing. It would also add to their own food supply and do something to make them feel 605 that they were being of some use, and it would make a very considerable difference in their physical efficiency, a question to which very little attention has been paid hitherto.
We seem to have forgotten that in 1919 there was an Industrial Conference called by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), at the opening of which the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) said that no such important Conference had ever taken place before, and that it might be productive of very great service. That Conference, the unanimous report of which was signed on the one hand by Sir Allan Smith, as representing the employers' representatives, and, on the other hand, by the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), for the trade union representatives, included among its recommendations these points, that there should be a 48 hours week by legal enactment, that systematic overtime should cease, that there should be State development of new industries, and that there should be the raising of the school age. We are unfortunately in the position to-day that the Government are not willing to have a 48 hours week by legal enactment, that they are not willing to do anything in the direction of ceasing systematic overtime or anything in the direction of State development of new industries, and that they are entirely opposed to the raising of the school age, everyone of which recommendations, in the unanimous opinion of that Industrial Conference of 1919, was going to make a considerable contribution towards alleviating or remedying what was feared at that time in the direction of unemployment.
We have this proposal now in regard to emigration. The Minister of Labour said on Friday that it was probably going to mean 10,000 immigrants in the course of six months as a maximum; that is 20,000 in the course of 12 months. Combining that with the proposals for transference, what does it mean The Minister then save us that interesting illustration of the man who said, in regard to an allotment, that if he was going to make a success there with a family of nine, he would need a bit more land. That was 606 not exactly what the Minister said. He said that the man had said,I shall need to buy a bit more ground.The Minister comes before us and suggests that one of these men, with a family of nine, is in the position of being able to buy land when we know perfectly well that the vast majority of those for whom this transference scheme is intended have long since exhausted all their resources and have not the money to buy anything of the sort. The case quoted by the right hon. Gentleman must be an entirely exceptional case, and it ought not to be brought before us as typical. But this is not simply a miners' question. There is unemployment all over the country. There are men who have had no regular employment for three, four, five, and six years. By all means, let us deal with the cases where there is the gravest necessity, which, it is admitted, exists in the mining areas, but if I went to my constituency in the city of Sheffield, where for a long period we have had 25,000 people an the register, and said there was going to be a transference of 600 or 700 a week, if you dealt with Sheffield alone—and as far as I can understand you are not going to deal with Sheffield at would take 40 weeks to deal with that whole problem.
These two schemes together deal with 20,000 as far as emigration is concerned, as a maximum, and 30,000 as far as transference is concerned, and it is suggested to us that this is a very substantial figure. No doubt we shall have hon. Members opposite going down to their constituents and telling them that in 12 months the Government will deal, by emigration and transference, with 50,000 people as a maximum—that is to say, 50,000 people out of 1,374,000 on the register, or just over 3½ per cent. They call that a very substantial contribution, but is it suggested that if there is a body of creditors called together and the debtor offers them 9d. in the £, that is a very substantial contribution? The whole thing is perfectly ridiculous. Let me put it in another way. Is there any hon. Member of this House who dare go down to a meeting of 1,374 unemployed persons and explain this scheme of emigration and transference to them, and then tell them, when they ask what it means, that within 12 months 50 out of the 1,374 are going to be dealt with? There is no 607 Member who would dare go down to such a meeting and tell them anything of the sort.
What is the use of our deluding ourselves and the country and treating the unemployed in this way? The country expects something altogether better and larger than this paltry scheme that is put forward by the Government. There are people saying, quite apart from this problem, that Parliament is played out. We do not believe that Parliament is played out, but do not let us behave as though we did. Is there no alternative to dealing with these matters in the way in which they have been dealt with today and previously, and to saying in effect that this is a matter which has got to right itself and in regard to which we can do nothing? Is Parliament incapable of dealing with this tragic problem? I believe there are good men, men of good will, in all parties, who, if brought together, would be able to evolve some scheme for us which should deal with this problem in an altogether more satisfactory and efficient way than is suggested in the Government proposals. But if we have not that ability here, unquestionably there are people outside, persons of good will, who, if brought together in the way in which that Industrial Conference of 1919 was brought together, would, in a comparatively short time, be able to look at this whole tragic problem of the misery of a very large part of the population of this country, and make practical suggestions, not from any party point of view, but from a deep feeling for the needs of the nation. Some attempt ought to be made on these lines. The House can never be satisfied with the vote that has been given to-day on this matter; it can never be satisfied until the question has been taken up in a much more thorough and effective way than has been put forward to-day.
§ Mr. HAYES
I have listened to requests from the party opposite that we should refrain from scoffing at the Prime Minister's appeal to employers to keep on those already employed and to add, if possible, to their numbers, and when I listened to the Secretary of State for War adding the latest appeal, and urging us not to do anything that would handicap the placing of transferred men into employment, I wondered how far he 608 had remembered, when the Prime Minister's appeal was sent out immediately after the House had risen at the end of last Session, that at the very same moment a Member of his Cabinet was actually considering the placing of very important contracts which had to be paid for by taxpayers' money, and that his decision to help his Prime Minister and give effect to that appeal took the form of placing the contract with French and German firms. I am referring, of course, to the two contracts for bronze wire placed by the Postmaster-General with firms outside this country.
When one made inquiries as to the reasons which actuated such a decision, the Postmaster-General excused his policy by stating that the prices quoted by the British manufacturers were so high that it was impossible for him to give them the business. He quoted, as some support for his policy, a reference made to this, matter of placing contracts at home or abroad by the Estimate Committee. That Committee had apparently been considering the possibility of the existence in this country of a ring or combine which was by its prices probably holding up the Government to ransom, and they expressed the opinion that the Government might be justified in going abroad with their tenders and contracts if they were not receiving satisfactory disclosures from the manufacturers in this country as to their costings and their prices generally. If it be a fact that the Postmaster-General was satisfied that there was a combine in this country holding up the Government to ransom, it is indeed a weak-kneed policy on the part of the Government that the only thing they can do with such employers is to strike through the stomachs of the unemployed and place contracts with firms in France and Germany.
If it had been the miners who had been holding up the country to ransom, there would have been the Emergency Powers Act and the Regulations made there-under. Although the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade smiles, I hope that he will refresh his memory as to what Clauses still exist in the Statute and can be applied by any Government under the Emergency Powers Act. There is a Clause which gives any Government the right to take over an industry, to run it and to control it, to examine the 609 books of the industry, to search its methods, and to take such action as may be necessary in the interests of the nation, if the Government are being unfairly held up.
§ Mr. HAYES
Yes, but, apparently, when we have a growing list of unemployed workers in this country, there is no emergency. Immediately, however, there is a threat to the assets on the balance-sheets of trading concerns, there arises an emergency which enables a Minister to do what was done under the Emergency Powers Act. To place contracts abroad is not the kind of policy that any Government ought to adopt when at the same time they are putting on hoardings, "More trade for the British workpeople," and delivering what are called patriotic speeches, when the workers in Birmingham, Manchester, Prescot and Liverpool, who are affected by the bronze wire contracts, are walking the streets unemployed. It is a bad example for the Government to set employers in private industries. If the Prime Minister's appeal means anything at all, it means that employers are expected to do all they possibly can to place work at home.
At the Singapore base, sub-contracts for excavators are being placed abroad when they ought to be executed by engineering firms in this country. They are being placed to the tune of £70,000 with an American firm. It is insulting to British industry and to the skilled work-people of this country, for whom I know the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has a high regard. I should imagine that he will find it difficult to square his conscience as a member of the Government with the policy of one of the Cabinet Ministers in placing a contract for excavators with an American firm. I am reminded that the excavators which were used in the Manchester Ship Canal were provided by firms in this country, who have given evidence of their skill to produce the best excavators in the world, and they are entitled to complain of the humbug of the appeal of the Prime Minister when such contracts are placed with firms abroad. The bronze wire contracts which amount to £120,000 would represent in wages to workpeople in this 610 country about £60,000. That £60,000 would have been very useful in implementing the promises of the Government that they were anxious to do something for trade at home. Therefore, while they talk about Imperial preference, I urge the Government that, if they want any faith at all on the part of the people in an Imperial policy of trade, the least they should give is national preference as evidence that Imperial preference might be acceptable.
I desire to raise a matter which has reference to the Government policy in respect of the treatment of tubercular ex-service men. I do not raise this question because of any specific case that has come to my notice, but because of a disclosure that was made arising out of a special case, which I admit is quite startling. I ought to inform my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that I am not raising this question without previously informing the Minister concerned. I am not complaining that he is not here, but I mention it to him so that he may indicate to the Minister that the point has been raised. The treatment of tuberculous ex-service men has been handed over by the Minister of Pensions to the Minister of Health, who is an authority on all matters of tuberculosis in this country. The Minister of Pensions informed me last week-end that the question of treatment was primarily one for the Ministry of Health. I think, however, that it concerns both. I am not going to complain about any local authority; I just want the responsibility for the treatment of this type of ex-service man accepted by some responsible Department.
A case came to my notice of a man over 50 years of age in Liverpool who was in receipt of a 100 per cent. disability pension for tuberculosis. There can be no question about his condition, because 100 per cent. pensions for tuberculosis are not given unless tuberculosis is in existence. This man is a dying man, living in a slum area, and there are five members in the family, who, if you took away the father, would run considerable risks of tuberculosis owing to the conditions of the slum. A man who is in such a "live" condition, so far as his disease is concerned, is a danger to his family if he is to remain at home. On the 611 advice of his panel doctor, and supported by a medical certificate, he asked to go into a sanatorium for treatment, but was informed by the Ministry of Pensions' local representative that his case had been referred to the local authority, which in Liverpool is the Port Sanitary Hospitals Committee. On consideration, that committee decided that they could not admit him to any of their sanatoria. The man returned home and went to bed. The case has been raised locally with the local authorities. I am not just arguing this man's particular case; I feel concerned about the disclosures which have resulted from the application made to the local authority. The Port Sanitary Hospitals Committee replied through the tuberculosis officer of the City of Liverpool, who is a doctor. He declared that the view of the chairman, who is also a doctor, was similar to his own, and they expressed their regret that they could not see their way to readmit this man to a local sanatorium:While there are other patients on the waiting list who have not as yet had an opportunity of benefiting from a period of sanatorium treatment.There is a waiting list of men who have not had an opportunity of sanatorium treatment in spite of the fact that the War has been over for 10 years! Further, the letter declared:Our sanatorium accommodation"—that is, the sanatoria on Merseyside—is fully occupied, so that if this man were given a bed some other patient would be deprived of it.Had it not been that this was the state of affairs disclosed I should have done what I always do in personal cases, that is I should have represented it directly to the Minister without bothering Members of this House with it: but here we have an admission by the local authority which ought to receive attention. I suppose that we have in Liverpool the very best of accommodation for tuberculous patients, we certainly have very fine institutions and a very fine staff, and one can well understand that a man would be desirous of being readmitted to one of the institutions. It may be argued that this man has been in an institution on several occasions and that he has left. It may be said that 612 he is a difficult subject. Good gracious, you must expect men who have 100 per cent, disability through tuberculosis to be difficult subjects. If they are difficult subjects when in an institution which specially caters for them, how much more difficult a subject must a man be when living in a slum dwelling with his wife and three children, all of working age but all, unfortunately, unemployed? The answer given locally is that there is no shortage of beds and no shortage of accommodation, but that this man is not suffering any hardship. On Saturday morning I received information that this man had become so ill that on the advice of the doctor he had had to be removed to the local Poor Law institution in Walton.
Yesterday was a day when everybody recalled what the War was for—at least they all recalled, according to their own opinions, what the War was for, and I think they recalled what is the duty of Government, whether it be the present Government, the one before this, or the next Government. The duty of the Government is to look after those who are in such a condition that they cannot look after themselves. When I heard the maroons yesterday the one thing I happened to think about was this particular ex-service man now lying in a Poor Law institution, who is full of tuberculous disease, admittedly due to his war service, and in receipt of a pension of fifty shillings a week from which the local board of guardians deduct one guinea to pay for his maintenance and treatment. I have tried not to become too extravagant in my language about this particular case, because I can very well deal with it through the local authorities and the Ministry, and I am certain that every attention will now be given to this man's case, as it would have been if I had represented it privately; but I have brought it forward because, if the official admission in that letter of the 29th of October from the Public Health Department in Liverpool is to be taken as correct it must be equally true that a similar condition of affairs exists right throughout, the country. I am asking the Minister of Pensions, or, if it is not primarily his duty, as he says in his letter to me, the Minister of Health, to consider the importance of not allowing the case of these ex-service men who are 613 in a dying condition to become everybody's business and so, in the result, no one's business. If there be not sufficient accommodation in local areas, the policy of the Minister of Pensions must be directed towards providing it. I suggest that some of the institutions which are now being closed down by the Ministry of Pensions might be converted into sanatoria to deal with these cases if there is any extensive number of them; and in any case provision should be made for those debarred from treatment in the institutions where they desire to go.
I hope I shall get a reply from the Government on the points I raised earlier in my speech, and that Government Departments responsible for placing Government contracts will endeavour to give expression to the spirit of the Prime Minister's appeal to employers by placing contracts at home. This will give work to British workpeople, who will be only too glad of the money, which, so far as the bronze wire contract is concerned, is now going into the pockets of the workpeople of other countries.
§ Mr. LUNN
As I listen to Debate after Debate upon unemployment I marvel at the complacency of Tory Members who take part in the Debates but go regularly, slowly and surely through the Lobby in support of the Government and of a policy which has been put- before the country so nakedly in the King's Speech. Occasionally we hear criticisms of the Government's proposals from Members on the other side. During the Debate upon unemployment the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis) was very critical of the inadequacy of the proposals of the Government for dealing with unemployment. When the vote was taken I met the hon. Member in the Lobby which I was going into, but he was rushing out of it, in order to vote in support of his Government. I think that is the height of hypocrisy. Actions speak louder than words. We have about 1,500,000 men registered as unemployed, we have 1,000,000 people resorting to the Poor Law, and since the passing of the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Pensions Act we have some scores of thousands of men who at 65 cannot draw unemployment pay or health insurance and have to try to exist upon a pension of 10s. a week.
614 Besides all these things there are the petty annoyances imposed upon honest men in my own area at the employment exchanges where they have handed out to them a form on which they have to state where they have been to seek work on every day of the week. It is left to the unemployed men to fill up these forms. Of course the unscrupulous man will have no difficulty but honest Christian men—and there are thousands of them amongst British workers—are being handicapped and struck off the Unemployment Register because they have done their best to be honourable, and they know that there is no employment to be obtained in the area in which they live. When the regulation relating to 30 stamps comes into operation in England there are scores of thousands of men in the mining areas who will be very seriously affected, because many of them have not had an opportunity of working during the past two years, and they will be in the position that, automatically, they will have to starve more than they are doing at the present moment, or once more they will have to go on to the rates in the necessitous areas and those industrial districts will have a still greater burden imposed upon them.
The most remarkable thing about unemployment is that the Government does nothing whatever to keep men employed. The hon. Member for Wakefield mentioned a colliery in his own area which had been stopped a few months ago: I quite agree with what the hon. Member said about Wakefield, because the same thing has happened in many villages around my constituency where collieries have been stopped. In one particular instance the men might have been working to-day had there been some possibility of a guiding hand from the Government which would have enabled those men to be kept at work. That particular colliery was likely to be sold, and negotiations for its sale were going on. I interviewed the Minister of Labour and urged him to intervene because I knew that the result of closing the pit would be that those miners would come on the unemployment fund. The Minister told me that he had no power, and that he could do nothing in the matter nor could any other Minister.
The Labour party have introduced a Bill on several occasions for the co- 615 ordination of the Government departments dealing with unemployment and if that Bill had been carried I am sure the departments of State concerned with unemployment would have looked upon a position like that afforded by the case I have mentioned as being one in which they could intervene. Every effort has been made locally to keep that colliery going but under present conditions no Government department could intervene. The result has been that in this case the Ministry of Labour has paid to those men £1,000 a week as unemployment pay for more than six months. In my opinion, no colliery company dealing with natural resources like the production of coal, which is a national necessity, ought to be able to close down their works without notifying a Government department, and giving the Government an opportunity of dealing with the situation. If there had been such a possibility, instead of 1,000 men being paid unemployment pay with no hope of that colliery being opened again those men would have been in employment at the present time. There are many other districts similarly situated where the Government if only they were interested in keeping men in work might avoid keeping them idle.
We have heard a good deal about the Industrial Transference Board. That Board has issued an admirable Report, and those who know the Secretary to the Committee are well aware that he would produce a well-written report. Nevertheless, there is nothing in that Report which is going to touch the question of unemployment or produce work. That Committee have never seen the land of the country. We all know that there are scores of thousands of acres of land upon which these men might be producing food. During my own lifetime no less than 4,000,000 acres of land have gone out of cultivation, and we are purchasing more food every year from foreign countries. We have plenty of land at home to which these unemployed men could be transferred. I am interested in the question of migration, but I am satisfied that you ought to have an alternative scheme in this country, and even those who are supporting migration know that we have plenty of land at home as good as in any other country. We ought to be able to produce the food of our people, and we ought to use our land more for the pro- 616 duction of the necessaries of life. The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Cecil Wilson) spoke of the difficulties of obtaining land for allotments, and stated that at the present moment the total allotments in his district did not amount to more than one-third of the number eight years ago. It would be a great help in the mining districts if we had more allotments. The miners live in small communities, and to-day they are walking about idle. If the local authorities had compulsory powers to take land for the purpose of allotments it would provide food and would help to improve the present position.
The proposals of the Government with regard to the Unemployment Grants Committee will not benefit the mining areas. The miners live in small communities, and if you have a hundred men unemployed in a village with a. population of 5,000, the difficulty there is greater than it is where you have 1,000 unemployed in a town with a population of 50,000. I want to know if assistance is going to be given by the Unemployment Grants Committee to those towns which have an abundance of unemployment equally with many of the large towns. I represent small urban and rural districts, and this question is as important to them as it is to the large towns of the country. Although I conic from the county that is rarely mentioned in mining Debates, I wish to inform the House that we have more than 20,000 unemployed miners in York-shire, we have many thousands who are working short time, wages are terribly low for those who are in employment, and we have a devastated area. which ought to be dealt with and needs dealing with in order to provide employment for the people of our county equally with any other part of the country.
I said a moment or two ago that I was interested in the question of migration. I am, and have been for some years, a member of the Oversea Settlement Committee, and I was very much interested in the question of the harvesters. I think I have heard everything that has been said on that subject in these Debates during the last few days. Personally I claim a great deal of responsibility for the harvesters' scheme, because in May of this year I was urging the necessity of providing for the going out of men from this country to Canada to take part 617 in the harvest. We had a report that it was a bountiful harvest. As I have said, I live among the unemployed. I live in a mining village, and I represent 40 mining villages. I see young men who cannot get unemployment pay, many of them dejected—I have seen the tears drop on to their toes because they had no hope whatever; and anything that I could do to guarantee those men employment I would be prepared to do. When I heard of the possibility of sending men to work during the harvest in Canada, I was prepared to give the scheme my support provided that it. could be arranged properly, and I took my part in endeavouring to see that it was arranged as well as it possibly could be. The Canadian Government said that they were prepared to take 10,000 men, but it took from the middle of July until the 2nd August before we could get any satisfactory decision to settle the business and arrange for the men to go.
I readily admit that the scheme was not as well thought out and looked after as it should have been. There was only about a fortnight, from the 2nd August to the 18th August, in which to select the men and despatch them to Canada. Things were bound to happen that should not have happened, and men were bound to be selected who ought not to have been selected, in the course of the hasty examinations that took place. I am very sorry, and am as indignant, perhaps, as any Member of the House to hear the stories that have been told by Members who have been to Canada and have taken an interest in this matter, and to find that hundreds of men have not been treated as they ought to have been treated. I suppose they have employers who are rotters in Canada, as we have in this country, and as I expect there will be in every country, who have not much soul or heart for any human being, but are looking after what they can get out of it.
I think, therefore, that it is the duty of the Oversea Settlement Committee to go fully into these cases, to find what has been the real position, and to satisfy hon. Members of this House and the individuals concerned as to what the fault has been; and, from such experience, we ought to improve if we have to take such a course on some similar occasion. This, however, I do want to say, that it was 618 quite definitely laid down in the conditions that men who went out and who had to come back, or who desired to come back to this country, would be provided with the means of coming back, and, therefore, I do not accept the stories, wherever they come from, that men had to provide money of their own to come back, or, if they had to do so, I am satisfied that that is one of the matters that could be quite easily remedied. At the same time, desiring as I do to find employment for people, I would take the same course again, but I would prefer that we should have ample opportunity to do it. in a proper manner, and not be rushed as we were on this occasion. If it be possible to provide employment for 4,000 men who are going to be in permanent employ, if you can give an admirable trip across the Atlantic and back again to 3,500—and it is the most delightful tonic that ever I had in my life—giving them the opportunity of using their muscles for a few weeks, which would do them good, as they have not had the opportunity before—if I can do that, I will do it for 7,500 out of 8,500 of the 1½ million who are unemployed to-day.
That is my position with regard to unemployment. I feel that employment is of far more importance than paying people money for doing nothing or walking the streets. I wish the Government would tackle this question with a view to providing work for the people, rather than squandering the taxpayers' money in the way that they are in keeping people in idleness when there is so much useful and necessary work to be done in the country. I heard the admirable speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) on this question of migration. The King's Speech mentions that the Government are giving their earnest attention to the condition of the mining districts, but no one in the mining districts can see anything that they are doing or have done. All that they have done during their four years of office has been to make the position worse. The eight hours' day will never be forgotten, and they will never be forgiven for passing that Act of Parliament; and if every division in this country were a mining division, the next General Election would be all right for a Labour Government. The King's Speech says that they are taking up the 619 question of migration. It is a question that bristles with difficulties; it is one of those questions about which most is said by people who know least about the subject. I have had some experience of meeting representatives of the various Dominions, and it is not simply a question for this country. We are an emigrating country; the other countries, like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, are immigrating countries, and they look upon this matter, as they have a right to do, very seriously from their point of view as to what it is going to mean to their people. I do not blame them; I think that a Government ought to be concerned with the people who live within its own shores, and that they should be its first consideration.
What was the position before the War? Before the War there was no Government regulation, there was no Government interference; people could go of their own free will, and, of course, people then did go when they had some money of their own. To-day the people who want to go to the Dominions have no money of their own, and they have to be assisted, and I am satisfied that the Empire Settlement Act has been a blessing in connection with emigration in regard to the way in which schemes have been arranged, which have made it better for those who have taken advantage of it than it would have been had no such Act been in operation. If schemes could be arranged similar to the Canadian scheme mentioned to-night by the Leader of the Opposition and if that could be extended, there are something like. 100,000 people in this country who are anxious to-day to migrate to the Dominions. It is not a question of compulsion. No one wants to compel anybody; no one ought to compel anybody; but those who of their own free will desire to go ought to be assisted as far as possible. There is, however, very little doing, and the Government must not hang upon migration. It is no solution in any circumstances of the question of unemployment; it is not going to touch the fringe of unemployment as we have it to-day, because there is very little doing between this country and the Dominions as to any future migration policy. The Government are in a hopeless position. They have no 620 suggestion to make, and they treat the matter lightly. As regards unemployment, the condition of our people is a sad one. In the mining areas it is perhaps sadder than anywhere else, for there is no hope whatever. There is nothing in the King's Speech that gives the people any hope, and there is nothing in the speeches that have been made in this Debate. We do, therefore, look ahead to the coming winter. This winter is going to be one of the worst winters in our lifetime for millions of our people. We look ahead to the General Election, which we hope will come soon, because we have faith that the people have had enough of this Government and its lack of action and they will take the opportunity of clearing them out, and I sincerely hope they will.
§ Mr. PILCHER
I should like to afford some slight solace to the hon. Member who has just spoken. I was a member of the Parliamentary party which has just returned from Canada, and I saw. a good deal of this harvester-miner migration experiment in progress. It is lamentable that so much has been heard in the House and the country generally of the infinitesimal proportion of failures in that scheme and that so little has been heard of the very great success that was actually achieved. Fine words butter no parsnips. One can talk generalities till one is blue in the face and no one pays very much attention, so I will give some examples of successes actually achieved. Here are a few reports which have been received since I returned home. H. Bouen from Westmorland, said he had earned £40 since coming to Canada in about six weeks, and he was about to take up a. quarter section of his own (160 acres) in 1930. William Henderson of Durham, who was earning £2 a week in the old country, worked 25 days for John Bullock at Nottingham, Saskatchewan, and earned £26. That is over and above his keep. Harry Farby, another Britisher, was paid even for wet days on the farm of W. J. Gatley, Austin, Manitoba. He earned over £18 net in 24 days.I like the country and do not intend to go back homehe wrote to the immigration authorities. A. Williams has £17 in the bank, savings earned from harvest work. J. Wilson 621 and F. Wells of Durham, saved £90 in six weeks between them at Lomand, Alberta, and took a lien on a farm. I could go on almost indefinitely reading these concrete cases reported back to Winnipeg of very great success achieved by these men.
I should like to refer to the unfortunate episode at Winnipeg which has been so much discussed. A great deal has been said which suggests that the conditions in regard to these immigrants were derogatory and discreditable to Canada. Members of the Parliamentary party who investigated those conditions did not belong to only one party in the House. We all took our work very seriously. I in common with a good many others, made my own investigations. I went to both the Immigration Halls and saw the beds. I saw the men in the beds and I saw they had good sheets and good blankets. I examined the beds and pillows very carefully. I examined the cooking operations. I talked to the entire staff and found out what kind of men they were. I found exactly the degree of responsibility and care and consideration which you would expect to find in institutions of the same kind at home. I satisfied myself on a number of points in regard to the incident at the railway station. There were 347 men who were returning eastward, and for a few hours only they were accommodated in a room with space for 800 persons. A lot of them had the misfortune to arrive out West just as bad weather set in. There were three or four days of rain, the earth tracks were almost impassable and there was no work going on. Some of them certainly had a bad experience, but the majority were well received. Generally they said that the farmers showed them every consideration.
Even in the case of some who did badly at the outset there was a recovery. For my own personal interest I went down a coal pit at Edmonton. I wanted to see the seam and the conditions underground. I asked whether there were any miners from my own constituency, which is associated with mineral work. There were no Cornish miners there, but the man who was taking me round, a Welshman, said: "We have some people here who will interest you. We have 22 of the miner harvesters." These men, all of whom I interviewed, were glad to see 622 me, and mentioned their Members in the House. They told sue they had been up country, but had found bad weather and they had come down rather depressed. They went to the pithead at Edmonton, and asked if there was any chance for British miners. The man in charge was only too glad to get them, and 22 were there working at 7 dollars, about 30s. a day, and are likely to remain there until next spring. Really we must try to he fair and weigh the pros and cons and think of the advantages as well as the disadvantages. I know public opinion in Winnipeg was very much distressed about the incident that occurred there, and If am afraid it did a considerable amount of harm to the cause of emigration from this country. If anything I can say will do something to mitigate that impression, I am only too glad to do my little bit in that direction.
The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to what he took to he the Government's lack of zeal and enthusiasm in pressing this, amongst other solutions of the unemployment problem. I have listened to most of the speeches in this Debate, and I do not think I have heard Lord Lovat's name mentioned. The Government took the special step of sending him out, accompanied by an expert, to survey and report on the whole problem. He sent a most valuable report home, and I take it the Government is proposing to act as soon as possible on his recommendations. The next four or five months are quite obviously the time to do spade work in regard to the whole emigration problem. It is highly desirable, if possible, that men should go out in March and not in a hurry before the harvest in July or August. I am very much hoping that after Lord Lovat's report has been fully discussed we shall have a real big drive throughout the winter time to get men ready to go out next March. I imagine Members of the Labour party realise that there is a good deal of difficulty in men going out to Canada in an industrial capacity. There is the almost insoluble problem of providing winter work in the towns. The work in Canada is very largely done in seven months out of the twelve. There is a natural apprehension in regard to having numbers of men pressing into the towns with no work when winter comes on.
623 To give the House a further idea of the keenness of the people in Canada in many provinces, and I think in almost every province, to help us, I should like to draw the attention of the Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department to one or two things that happened when we were there. I should like to remind him that there has recently been a general election in the Province of British Columbia which is not a Province associated with extremes of climate and hardships such as we have heard of from the Labour Benches in recent Debates. The Province, with the exception of the mountains, has an equitable climate giving ideal conditions of employment for Englishmen used to our climate at home. The newly elected Prime Minister, Dr. Tolmie, addressing a big meeting of merchants in Vancouver, said that 80 or 90 per cent. of the people in that Province were British by origin and they were determined, as far as they could, to keep the stock in that Province mainly British. He was prepared there and then or as soon after as possible, to negotiate with the British Government and the Dominion Government. The Dominion Government are in charge of the coast of the country, and therefore they must come into the discussions of the migration problems. Dr. Tolmie said he was prepared immediately, in a. constructive mood, and in no spirit of hard barter, to negotiate for the introduction of as large a number as possible of British immigrants into that Province. There, at any rate, is an opening for an agreement when the Home Government and the Dominion Government care to discuss it.
In the Province next to his—Alberta—the Acting Prime Minister, who attended an important conference, was equally constructive and just as keen to give all the help that he could. One of the remarks which he made was that they could take 1,500 women each year from this country provided they were prepared to do domestic work and they would he glad to have them. We have 2,000,000 women in this country who have no possible hope of ever being married, and there are opportunities in that great. Province. The foothills of Alberta are as beautiful a country, and far from 624 being extreme in climate, as you can possibly imagine. So there are these constructive opportunities. With regard to younger lads and boys, they are only too glad to have them out there, almost passage free. They are proposing to raise the 'teen age to 19—it used to be 17—when they will take the lads from this country on special terms. It seems to me that migration to Canada is extremely hopeful. There is a real desire to help us there, and I hope that, when Lord Lovat's report is published and the Government's decision on it is announced. we shall have a real forward drive during these coming winter months.
There are one or two other aspects of the unemployment problem to which I should like to refer. As I said just now, I have sat through most, of these long unemployment Debates during the last few days and, in spite of what has been said and the constructive speeches we have had from some quarters, and the thorough analysis of the whole unemployment problem we have had, I do not think that even now we have heard the real basis of the problem discussed, or what seems to me to be the real basis of the problem. There was one allusion to it at the close of the speech of the Minister of Labour. He referred to an industrial revolution as great, I think he said, as this or any country has participated in since the Eighteenth Century. But is it not really a fact that our unemployment problem, particularly in relation to the coal industry, is the result of something which is much more than a trade depression. It is not a depression, if you must use a. meteorological simile it is more like a typhoon. Coal, on which the United Kingdom has depended for its industrial rise and for its long industrial supremacy, is attacked by two great new forms of energy. It is going to be increasingly attacked by them. Matters will not get better but very much worse unless we tackle our coal problem constructively.
§ Mr. PILCHER
And scientifically. I propose to say something about that in a moment. May I give the House figures in regard to the world's shipping, which will give some idea of what is really at the bottom of our coal problem? The 625 vessels now under construction consist of 1,500,000 tons of motor ships and 1,000,000 tons of steam ships. Three-fifths of all the shipping now under construction is absolutely independent of coal, and every quarter sees a larger proportion becoming independent of coal. The Royal Navy, too, is completely in dependent of coal. There is another very significant fact that tames out of these shipbuilding statistics. It seems to me that this change over from the old coal boiler to the internal combustion engine is giving our competitors in shipbuilding a very big chance of getting something like level with us in that department of industry in which we have so long excelled. In 7913, we did 57.2 per cent. of all the ship construction in the world, and the foreigner did 42.8 per cent. At the present time we are doing 43 per cent., and the rest of the world is doing 56.8 per cent. The rest of the world is building twice as many motor vessels as we are building in this country. At the present moment, there are only 21 steam ships of over 8,000 tons in course of construction, and there are 63 motor vessels over 8,000 tons in course of building. IT you bad only that one revolution going on at sea in connection with the great industry in which we have led the world since Elizabeth's reign, how could you possibly avoid an almost fundamental disturbance of our coal industry?
There is something much more important going on than even that revolution in the shipbuilding world. The other great attack on our coal resources and on the industrial position we built up on the basis of coal is in hydro-electrical development. It does not appear that nearly enough has been made of the world's hydro-electrical development The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), in his speech, asked whether we had reached the bottom of the depression in the cotton industry, and whether Lancashire could ever recover her lost cotton market. My firm belief—and I know one or two of the overseas markets of the American section of the Lancashire cotton trade— is that a great deal of that work, as far as Lancashire is concerned, is gone for ever. I think the right hon. Gentleman wondered what had happened and what had been done and what was the overseas cause of the Lancashire difficulty.
626 I would like to remind the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department that these are some of the causes of Lancashire's loss of trade. Since 1913 the Bombay Mills have increased their capacity for annual output by 1,000,000,000 yards. The whole of Bombay is entirely driven by hydro-electrical power derived from the Ghats. Every tramway and every bit of lighting and all the mills are driven by electrical power. This 1,000,000,000 yards means a loss to Lancashire of 1,000,000,000 yards. In South America you find exactly the same thing going on. There is boundless electrical power and the capacity of the South American mills is just about 1,000,000,000 yards, thus accounting for another 1,000,000,000 yards of trade lost by Lancashire. I do not think that there is the slightest possibility of Lancashire recovering either of these two great markets in the cheaper lines. Those countries have built up a great new industry on the basis of cheap electricity, and at the same time they have developed a strong national sentiment which makes them tremendously tenacious of the victory which they have at last obtained over their ancient competitor. In Canada I have seen the same sort of thing going on, and in the United States, also, on a prodigious scale. In the Province of Ontario alone something like 1,000,000 horse power is being developed by a big communal organisation, which supplies the current to 500 municipalities. How is it possible for us, relying on our ancient form of power, not to feel the blast created by that sort of change? I suggest that this is a permanent problem. It is not just a depression, and it is no good hoping for something better unless we do something really constructive to deal with the situation.
I should like to hear a great deal more than we hear at present from the Fuel Research Board and such organisations as to what the Government are doing to reduce our coal asset to some more marketable form. There are something like 200 different private firms that are at work on this problem and I know that they are getting a little bit nearer a solution on economic lines. I saw an allusion in the "Times" to-day—I do not know what the exact allusion was—to a proposal to donate £100,000 of 627 public money to some association for the purpose of research in regard to coal. Would it not be possible to give greater publicity than the Government are doing in pressing on with this work? Have the Government considered the possibility of handing over a considerable sum to expert physicists and chemists at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and other universities in order to elicit national sympathy and stir the public imagination with regard to the immensity of this work and the desirability of solving the problem as soon as possible? Scientists very rarely get a really large sum of money to use for the purpose of experimentation. Although there are 200 different systems already existing and doing this work, they are not doing it quite economically enough. It should be possible to get help from independent experts devoting their minds and their souls exclusively to the task of solving this problem.
With a view to obtaining some partial solution of the unemployment problem, I would suggest that attention should be directed to the question of advertisement. One can hardly discuss that matter better than in the presence of the Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department. We were told publicly in Canada at a conference of the Parliamentary delegation at St. John's, New Brunswick, by a leading Canadian—I should be glad to send the Parliamentary Secretary a copy of the speech—that Canada was ripe for buying much larger quantities of home produce from this country, but that he knew of no single organisation throughout the Dominion which advertised the products of the United Kingdom. That seems to be a very serious statement at this time of day when we are paying so much attention to the question of Empire marketing. I would like to suggest the possibility of direct advertisement in Canada.
With regard to the Empire Marketing Board and its advertisements I should like to say that at a conference in the House of Commons at Ottawa we were addressed by the Minister of Commerce in the Dominion Government and the attitude of that Minister in regard to our procedure here in connection with the advertising of Empire goods, Canadian goods amongst others, in London, was a little doubtful, to say the least of 628 it. He seemed to think that not only Canada but the Dominions generally were capable of doing their own advertising and he seemed to suggest that in the United Kingdom, suffering as we are from commercial depression, we ought to be advertising our own products. He thought the time had come when there should be more direct advertising. When I made inquiries I found that our greatest asset in Canada was the superiority and durability of our goods. In any advertising campaign that may he decided upon in Canada, the point to be stressed in our advertisements must be the quality and durability of our goods. The Canadian will pay two or three dollars more for a air of English hoots rather than American or Canadian boots, because the English boots wear so well. This matter might be considered by the Overseas Trade Department.
While I realise that the Empire Marketing Board is doing a very great deal of good work, and no one appreciates it more than I do, we are spending a great deal on advertising, and I should like to see some improvement in the quality of the advertising. I do not know whether we are spending £1,000,000 per annum in this connection, hut we are spending a very large sum, and when one sees the extensive advertisements issued by the Empire Marketing Board one does ask oneself seriously whether those advertisements pull their weight and are worth the money spent upon them. The other day, I noticed a half-page advertisement in the "Times," which must have cost several hundred bounds. This particular advertisement suggested that more raw cotton might have been got from the British Empire. There were two curious wood blocks at the ton and bottom of the advertisement, which looked as if they had come out of the tenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I could not conceive that that advertisement was worth the money paid for it. Another advertisement was one recommending people to drink more milk. I noticed some small capitals printed on the picture, and I crossed the road to read them. They consisted of a Latin motto. I was educated at a classical university but I could not translate those Latin words. Is it really worth while spending money in that way? Is it worth while issuing an ad- 629 vertisement of a jazz factory, such as we see at times, where everything in the factory seems to be upside down and triangular headed men are doing strange things? It puzzles me to know how an advertisement of that kind can do any good.
I should like to see the efforts of the Empire Marketing Board produce the maximum possible result, and when I look at these advertisements, charming and beautiful as no doubt many of them are, I doubt whether the modern advertising genius, of which a greal deal is visible in Canada and the New World, and which produces advertisements that live in the memory, would be proud of some of the advertisements which are produced by the Empire Marketing Board. The advertising genius, which is utilised to so much effect overseas, might very well be applied to that task here, if only as supplementary to the more artistic methods already utilised.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
We have listened to an interesting speech from the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pilcher). He said, rightly, that not very often in unemployment Debates are fundamental issues reached. It is clear from some of the things said by him that he is not very far from the Kingdom, and I am hopeful that, if he pursues his studies a little further, he will later on be sitting on this side of the Gangway. He has shown clearly—if not intentionally —that the more we apply science to industry, the more we have rationalisation, and the more, by these methods, we increase production, the greater is the amount of labour displaced—labour which can only be utilised by setting a higher standard of life, by more leisure from shorter hours, and by the further application of the principles of the party represented on these benches. It is, indeed, one of the tragic features of to-day that much of the distress and suffering which we have is due to the wonderful organisation, inventions, and intricate machinery which have been brought about by the skill, genius and talent of men, and which, instead of making our workmen happier and making poverty less, have made our social contrasts worse than they were before. We say that only when these great and wonderful instruments and powers of production are used, not for the benefit 630 of private individuals, but for the benefit of the whole of the people, shall we succeed in sweeping away the poverty and unemployment which we have had up to now as a result of their being in private hands.
The hon. Member also illustrated our text by speaking about the conditions in Bombay. He showed us that those whom we are in the habit of calling capitalists—those who run industry in this country, or those who have money to invest—are not concerned with the patriotic sentiments which are so frequently expressed from Conservative platforms. They send their money where they will get the biggest return, and part of the result which they get in Bombay is not due to the special machinery which they employ, but to the low wages which are paid to the workers there, who are competing with the higher-paid workers of this country.
A third point which the hon. Member mentioned—and the significance of which he did not seem to realise—was the hydro-electrical scheme at Niagara Falls in Canada. Anyone who has had the privilege of going over those works, as I have had and he has had, must realise what a wonderful scheme it is. It is an application of Socialism which is supplying 500 municipalities, and not only municipalities but rural areas, throughout that great Province, and it is supplying power and light efficiently and at prices very much lower than are charged on the opposite side of the Falls by companies conducted under private enterprise. We are often told that Socialism has been tried and has failed. Socialism has never been properly tried on a large scale and where it has been applied on a smaller scale we have abundant examples, of its success. In the same country, the national railways are another example, and the municipalities have many here.
While this Debate has, to my mind, abundantly proved that the only ultimate solution of unemployment will lie in the increasing application of the principles of Socialism, we realise that the public of this country are not yet sufficiently educated to have reached the point of fully accepting that. But we believe that, at the next General Election, they will show that they have taken a very substantial step towards it, by 631 showing their disappointment with the Government which has been so unsuccessful in working the present system. They will, we hope, put into office a Labour party which has shown not only that it has ideals and that it has a scheme for a better order of things, but also that it is able to work the existing system better than the present Government. It is a notable fact that in 1924 when the Labour party was in office the unemployment figures were improved and the downward trend of wages was stopped. Therefore, the gibe that the Labour party has not the men of business and financial ability to run the country—which is the impression which hon. Gentlemen opposite try to create throughout the constituencies—is falsified by the facts of 1924.
I am sure that the Labour Government, when it does come into power, will not only work the present system better but will show that successful steps can be taken towards a state of society where unemployment and poverty will no longer exist. Surely our wisdom and talent are sufficient to deal with this problem, which, after all, has never been really seriously tackled in this country. Since the War, Government after Government has gone on hoping that this excessive unemployment was only temporary, just tiding it over, and spending money in unemployment and poor relief only sufficient to keep unemployed people alive. We have spent nearly £400,000,000 on Unemployment and Poor Relief just to keep people alive, and no more than alive. We have nothing to show for it, and we have subjected these people to a very serious ordeal, to demoralising influences, and to great suffering and privation.
One of the most serious charges against this Government has been that they cut down the funds of the Unemployment. Grants Committee and have diminished the amount of work available under various relief schemes. There is a great deal of criticism about certain relief schemes not being economic and satisfactory, but we know that every municipality in the country has got, pigeon-holed, schemes for their town or neighbourhood which are valuable schemes and which would increase the utility and beauty of the country. These schemes could be carried out if financial assistance were given. I am glad to see that the Government have 632 realised that their policy has been wrong and that now, at this late hour, some of these schemes are to be gone on with and some of our unemployed put in a more hopeful position.
After the War we ought to have tackled this unemployment problem just as we did the War. We ought to have had our General Staff, similar to that which has been suggested by the Labour party in their Unemployment Bill. It could have been done and it should have been done. At the present time, there are a great number of useful schemes waiting to be gone on with. One, which I hope will not be lost sight of, in Scotland, is the road bridge across the Forth. The preliminary survey has been made and I understand that the Ministry of Transport is sympathetic towards this project, and has, indeed, supervised the preliminary survey. That road bridge will be a great advantage, as all who have had to use the present ferries would admit. I do hope that the Government will assist in carrying that through, among other schemes, because Edinburgh at present has 13,000 or 14,000 unemployed. In that connection we see one of the anomalies which will occur under the new scheme of the Government because the town of Leith—for which the hon. Member who sits near me (Mr. E. Brown) will no doubt be speaking later—had it not been joined up with Edinburgh a few years ago, would have been regarded as a necessitous area. Leith has suffered perhaps more than any other port from the decrease in the Baltic trade and from the loss of our trade with Russia, and has had very considerable unemployment. Linked up as it is with Edinburgh, and with its figures spread over a larger area, it will not be regarded as a distressed area and therefore will not have the allocation which other distressed districts will have.
That is one of the anomalies which, I have no doubt, my hon. Friend will deal with more fully later. Another point made by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. C. Wilson) which I should like to emphasise is in regard to the physical health of the unemployed. It is not realised that the amount given in unemployment relief is not sufficient for the physical well-being of those who receive it, and there is undoubtedly a 633 very large amount of ill-health and malnutrition throughout the country. We are told by the Ministry of Health, in connection with national health insurance, that there seems to be evidence of people making claims who are not entitled to them. I believe a great many of these claims are directly due to malnutrition from unemployment. There is no doubt that the physical health of our people is being steadily undermined by the huge amount of unemployment, and from the point of view of the physical fitness of the nation that is one of the aspects which should appeal to all patriotic people, and to any good Government.
A great deal has been said about the miners and I do not propose to go into that question at length. I have several thousands of miners in my constituency, and I would like the House to keep before it the condition of the Scottish miners as well as those in South Wales and Durham. I know that these deserve all the publicity they have got and all the care which their condition justifies, but the condition of things in the Lothians, Lanarkshire, and Fife is very bad indeed. There is one place near Edinburgh where there is not a single man working; all the pits are closed, and you have a picture of absolute desolation; men, women and children without prospects, the whole place enveloped in a horrible air of depression and almost of unreality. That example can be multiplied over and aver again in Scotland, and I hope that whatever is done in regard to South Wales and other places which is of a helpful nature, will also be done in Scotland.
I was interested to hear the Minister of Labour say that a training centre would be set up at Carstairs. I should like to know more about it. That, I take it is for training in agriculture for emigration. I understand that another training centre is going to be set up in Glasgow in connection with industrial training for young miners. The Minister is no doubt aware that in Edinburgh we have a very excellent technical school in Portobello, which is available for the large area in the East of Scotland affected by unemployment, and I hope it may be utilised. In some ways we in the East of Scotland are suffering more than those in the West.
634 It is frequently proclaimed that the Government and hon. Members ooposite are very much opposed to Communism, and it should be pointed out that the condition to which the country has been brought, either by the action or inaction of the Government, is the very best breeding ground we could have for Communism. It produces the raw material, and to me the surprise is not, that we have had some Communism but that the afflicted people throughout the country have been so patient. It is a serious reflection on the Government when one has the feeling in going through these depressed areas that if they had not been so patient but had been a little more troublesome they might have been better off than they are to-clay. It is a reflection on the Government that it should require urging by unrest; and that it does not sufficiently interest itself in the welfare of the people to look after their interests without such stimulation.
A good deal has been said about emigration. While we were glad to hear the cases which the hon. Member for Falmouth quoted he pointed out himself that the winter in Canada is a very serious proposition. I am agreeable to emigration taking place in the case of those who are willing to go, but I am very anxious also that the conditions in Canada or Australia should be such as to make us feel justified in encouraging people to go to these countries. It always seems a strange thing to me in Canada, a feature which I could never quite understand, that we have a large town like Montreal, with over 1,000,000 inhabitants, many of them not very well off, with many young people not in very good jobs. Why do they not go to the great open spaces and take advantage of the opportunities which are provided there? Of course, everybody does not like country life, and there is no doubt that country life in Canada is hard. I believe it can be made successful, but it must be remembered that there is no unemployment relief, no poor law, and that conditions are not easy. I hope the Government of Canada will be willing to co-operate with this country in making such arrangements as will enable us to recommend people to go there without having it on our conscience. In Canada, as in Australia, as the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis) said 635 in his interesting speech, there is a curious trek from the country to the towns. It is becoming practically a world-wide problem, and it. has to be considered in relation to the people who go to these countries.
There is one thing on which. I think, most people will agree, and that as to the merit of training schemes for people going to the Dominions. Personally, I should like to see the present schemes of the Ministry of Labour considerably expanded and developed. They are not only valuable for the preliminary instructions which they give but are even more valuable as a means of finding out the people who are suitable for emigration. It is important, to select those people who are likely to he a success. In West Australia, to which a great deal of emigration is going, we found that the men who were trained at Catterick, under an Army scheme, were always more successful than those who had had no preliminary training. It is desirable, therefore, that there should be this preliminary training and I hope the Government will be encouraged to increase the scope of their schemes so that people may go from this country knowing a. little about agriculture, so that they will not feel nearly so helpless when they start their new life.
In closing, I should like to say one word in regard to ex-service men. Very little has been said about ex-service men during this unemployment Debate, but they are a not unimportant factor in this great problem. On the last day of the last Session I expressed very fully my opinion as to the way in which we have treated our ex-service men and their widows and children. in my opinion a great deal of injustice has been done, and many ex-service men, to whom great promises were made, are now in poverty, many of them unemployed and many of them very bitter and unhappy. I would particularly point out that many of the disabled men have their pensions estimated on the presumption that they arc capable of doing light work: their microscopic allowances are intended to be supplemented by this light work. That is based on a normal state of things, when unemployment is at the usual level. But the fact is that since the War these dis- 636 abled ea-service men have found it almost impossible to get employment at all, and many of them with these small pensions, who are married and have children, are having a very unhappy experience.
The suggestion was made by an hon. Member at Question time to-day that these pensions should at least be brought up to subsistence allowance. I have had a good deal of work to do in connection with ex-service men s cases for a good many years. Armistice day commemoration always gives me very unhappy feelings. While I think it is right that we should remember those who are gone, we should also remember those who arc living. I think that our debt to ex-service men has not been fully paid. This is an aspect of unemployment that needs attention, and if, as we are entitled to do, we look better after the disabled ex-service men, we will remove from the competition of employment a class of men who find it almost impossible to compete with other men who are not disabled and who are equally desirous of getting these jobs. wish that the British Legion, Which has done very good work in a number of ways, and many of whose minor officials have given magnificent service to ex-service men in work on the tribunals, and otherwise—I wish that the organisation as a whole had put more pressure on the Ministry of Pensions in order to secure justice to ex-service men and to their widows and children. I hope it may be possible for them to look into the matter more fully than they hove done up to now.
As I have said, I believe that the only ultimate hope of a cure of unemployment is in the adoption of the principles of Socialism. I believe, however, and have said, that a Labour Government has shown that it can work even the present system better than the present Government, and I trust that the electors of this country will very soon give them an opportunity to prove again that that is the case.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The fifth day of this Debate has turned very largely on the question of migration and transference. In the main, as has been pointed out, two cardinal points in the Government's policy on unemployment have emerged during the last few days. They are Empire development and migration. On lath April of this year, I raised the 637 question of migration and pointed out the difficulties which surrounded it. I said then that for the Government to encourage unemployed men to emigrate to the Dominions or Colonies, which already had an unemployment problem of their own, and to do that without giving the men adequate preparation or training or some guarantee of a job, was cruel in the extreme. From then till now I have been inundated with cuttings from the Press of Australia. They are cuttings of the most astonishing kind, pointing out the magnitude of the unemployment problem in Australia. The handful that I have here is the collection during the last month.
I am not opposed to any man migrating under reasonable conditions. One or two points regarding emigration have been mentioned by the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Filcher), and what he mentioned I will deal with briefly. We have had a good deal of talk about emigration to Canada in particular. If emigration is to be to Canada, to whatever extent it may take plate, men ought not to be sent out there at the end of the summer season. There is no provision for unemployment pay in the winter in Canada. and for men with inadequate clothing to have to face the rigours of a climate where the thermometer drops many points below zero is too much. I want, however, to read a quotation regarding Australian emigration, for it is obvious that if the Government intend to deal with emigration on a large scale, all the emigrants are not going to Canada. I have here a cutting from the "West Australian" of 21st June, 1928:This is the text of the Development of Migration Commissioner's Report to the Federal Minister on Unemployment, of which the recommendations were published in yesterday's issue. It traverses the causes and disputed causes of unemployment and considers the means of prevention and remedy.This statement goes onThe Report states that the statistics dealing with unemployment were incomplete, hut the Commonwealth statisticians claimed that the percentage results, based on trade union returns, provided a fair illustration of the general position. While the total membership of trade unions in Australia was about 850,000, and the estimated number of employés of 20 years of age and over was 1,534,508, the number of members of the unions that supplied returns was 638 about 400,000. During the first quarter of 1928, 45,638 or 10.7 per cent. of the 400,009 were unemployed as compared with 8.9 per cent. for the last quarter and 5.9 per cent. for the first quarter of 1927.Those are startling figures. It is not much use asking men to go from this country to Australia, where already the trade unions' report to the Government of the Commonwealth exhibits figures which go to show that 10.7 of the trade union membership making returns are already unemployed. That is comparable with the unemployment here, and if their unemployment problem is as acute as ours there is not much use in urging our people to go to Australia. I have another quotation from a Sydney paper dated 3rd May which shows the kind of thing that is going on out there. It states that, alleging that the position in Australia regarding the prospects of employment had been misrepresented to them, a deputation of Czechoslovakians asked the Secretary to the Labour Council to request the Federal Government to pay their fares back to their own country. The men said that in Prague they were told that there was plenty of work at £5 or £6 a week. According to their statement they were advised that new buildings at Canberra would provide employment for all above 20 years. Many migrants sold their homes and arrived there after paying their passage with an average of £40 each. On arrival they registered at the Labour Bureau but had been unable to obtain work. Fearing that they might be left destitute they were afraid to spend their money and were making the Domain their headquarters. Practically all the migrants are unable to speak English. The Consul for Czechoslovakia in Sydney decided to send a cable to his Government stating that Australia. could not absorb any more men at present. That is a nice state of affairs—and we are asking our people to face. competition of that kind. I have here another extract in which the State Government say that they have no control over migration, and that—migrants from several European States are displacing Australians and throwing the latter on the labour market.That is precisely what the Government are doing here—they are trying to put men into jobs, regardless of whether or not they put others out of work. You can got no solution of this problem by 639 means of that description. Here is another extract from an Australian paper:Five pounds offered by young man for permanent job. Has a good kit of tools and can drive a car, truck or tractor.There are others:Twenty pounds given by young man for permanent position. City or somewhere similar. Can supply truck if required.Ten pounds given by married man for permanent position. City. Excellent references.Ten pounds offered by capable man for permanent employment in the City.This is the place to which the Government propose to emigrate our unemployed workmen—a place where men are offering anything from £5 to £20 for a job and are prepared to find their own trucks and wagons. I have another extract indicating the magnitude of the problem already existing in Australia. It is a circular issued by the Presbyterian Church of Victoria in connection with the General Assembly's collection on behalf of those suffering from unemployment. They say:This is a time for constructive thought. It is also a time for action. It is estimated that 20,000 people are idle through inability to obtain employment. Think of what that means. In practically every street of this city, men, women and children are cold and hungry and harassed with worry. Nor can they expect. any natural relief from a return of better times for three or four months at least. Many a breadwinner has not the means of obtaining the vital necessities of food and warmth.10.0 p.m.
I protest against the Government basing their policy for dealing with our unemployed upon conditions in the Dominions Such as I have indicated—and these extracts must be accepted as giving a fairly accurate representation of the state of affairs in Australia. It is not difficult to understand why that state of affairs exists. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us how the huge National Debt contracted by this country affects employment and trade. But the Dominions are in the same position. They have all contracted huge debts. The War affected them too and they have problems similar to our own. For instance the aggregate public debt of the several Australian States on 30th June, 1926, was £642,844,761 and the Commonwealth debt was 479,658,000, or a total of 640 £1,122,502,000. That is with roughly 6,000,000 of population which means that the National Debt in Australia is roughly £187 per head. It is £80 per head for the Commonwealth debt alone, and the Commonwealth debt is, to the extent of £300,000,000, due to loans contracted for the purpose of carrying on military operations during the War. I quite agree that they have valuable assets but at any rate there is a huge debt contracted owing to the War and it must have the same economic effect in Australia as our debt has here, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right in his assumption. I protest against the Government's assumption that they can solve our problem by getting rid of our unemployed people and send them out to the Dominions and placing our responsibility upon our fellow-citizens overseas. We have to deal with our own problem along our own lines and I am sure it will have to be dealt with in ways other than mere migration.
I now wish to raise the question of the Government's action in regard to my own constituency. I have come to the conclusion that the Government's policy is to make things as uncomfortable as possible for the unemployed in the distressed areas in order that they shall be driven out and lost in the aggregate mass outside. I was at a town's meeting in my constituency two or three weeks ago. It was convened by the mayor and attended by representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and representatives of all political parties in the borough. A member of the town council who is not of my political party but is a political opponent of mine, stated that the Court of Referees set tri by the Minister of Labour had, during September, struck off the unemployed register over 500 men. It was stated that the number of persons affected was over 1,500, and the immediate effect of that was that these men, struck off from the receipt of unemployed pay, at once came upon the guardians for Poor Law relief, and the guardians' expenditure went up by over £300 per week. The guardians are harassed for money, they come to the Ministry of Health for loans or for permission to raise overdrafts, and they are point blank refused. The rates go up, the burdens increase, and the national Unemployment Fund is relieved to the extent that these men are deprived 641 of unemployed pay, but the local burden is increased enormously on a poverty-stricken population that has been cursed with unemployment for years. The closing of these pits is not a question of 1926 or of the general strike. These pits began to close in 1923 and 1924, and this problem has been with us ever since, growing in intensity year by year, until to-day the town of Merthyr has the largest percentage of unemployed men possible of insurance of any other centre in the country. I protest against a policy that seeks to economise on one fund at the expense of another. It is not good enough, nor is it any solution of the problem.
The Government have never approached this question as though they realise its magnitude. The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth mentioned the question of science and the coal industry. My memory may play me false, but I saw a very interesting account of a new discovery not long ago by a Spanish scientist. I do not know his name, but I believe it was during the British Association's meetings, and I saw a report of it in the "Manchester Guardian." This man claimed that he was already driving engines or creating a motive power and a fuel to drive his engines from water, and he was doing it by means of electrical vibration. He was releasing the hydrogen from the oxygen, separating them, and the hydrogen and the oxygen coming together created a fuel. He claimed that if this thing was perfected, it was going to knock out everything, every oil or coal, so far as fuel was concerned. Whether he is right or wrong, there are very few of us here to-night who dare say that we are more than standing with our feet upon the doorstep of the hall in which science resides, We do not know, nor can we tell, what developments science has in store for us, and I am convinced that we ought to have an agency, or a Department, or some provision made by the Government that will look into all scientific developments, and that we should make provision for handling such developments and attempt to appreciate how new developments of science are going to hit us in various ways. Those are the problems that will confront all Governments in the future, because they are national and not party questions, and I am convinced that science will compel 642 some Government to deal adequately with these great problems which science itself is creating. Unless we do that, we are going to have our footsteps dogged lay disaster from year to year until we take upon ourselves the responsibility of attempting to deal adequately and sufficiently with the powers which science is placing within our reach for dealing with our national problems upon an organised and scientific basis.
§ Mr. RITSON
I wish to raise a more or less domestic question in regard to my Division, and that is the question of the de-rating of private railway lines. We are in a very serious position in the Division that I represent, and there is no doubt that we shall be very severe sufferers because of the Government's lack of foresight unless our case is met. Some 69,000 men and their dependants are affected by this issue, and we are appealing to the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Health, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to help us. Here are 69,000 men and their dependants already employed who will be thrown out, because there is going to be a difference of 7d. per ton between the price of their coal and that of the coal from the mines served by publicly-owned railways. Here are men and their families dwelling in houses already built, with railways laid and in operation, with schools and other social amenities lying round about them, and they will all be disturbed and thrown out, because it is well known that they cannot possibly compete with a debit of 7d. per ton against them. We are pleading for a meeting with the Prime Minister and his Government to see if they cannot give us some equalisation with the users of the publicly-owned railways.
The argument used by the President of the Board of Trade is that when the Valuation (Rating and Apportionment) Bill went through this question was not brought up, although there was an opportunity for it to have been put. We say that the privately-owned railways never got an opportunity to put their case before this House, and we ask that the Prime Minister should meet us and that the Government should keep an open mind in regard to these 69,000 men and their dependants. If we can spend thousands of pounds on sending men to 643 Canada, surely we can spend some thousands on giving us equalisation in the Counties of Durham and North-numberland. We want you to give us some sort of stabilisation in an industry where our people are settled. We put this appeal, not only from this side, but from the coal owners themselves, and from the miners and their leaders, and we hope that we shall be listened to.
We are simply asking to be taken into the pool. We have never asked for an extra penny; we only ask to be put into the pool with the public users. The whole of the north of England is stirred by this issue, not only miners but mine-owners, and great ports like Sunderland, l3lyth, and Tyne Dock are all going to be affected by this simple matter. In my own division three large collieries, and in the division of my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) 12 will be closed, while in Northumberland, all the collieries are to be closed down. The whole of the East Coast of Northumberland is unanimous upon this matter, and we are appealing to the Government without political bias. It is not a political matter at all, and it is so easy of adjustment that we feel that an appeal like this, at a time when thousands of our people are already out of work, ought to be granted. We do not want to close down any more collieries, for poverty and privation are surrounding us, but if we are not put into the pool, our misery and the horror of our unemployment will be made greater. I hope that the Prime Minister will give us another meeting, for the condition of the whole of the north-east coast beggars description.
Dr. VERNON DAVIES
This question of unemployment greatly concerns every thinking man and woman, and we have heard several times during the Debate that it should not be treated as a party question, but should be looked at from a national point of view. I have listened to a great deal of this Debate with the hope that something would evolve which would give us some hope, so that we could go back to the country and say that Parliament in its wisdom has been able to find some solution of this difficulty. Listening to the speakers from the Labour Benches, I am more puzzled than ever. We heard the right hon. Gentleman the 644 Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) giving us the impression that he had a solution for the unemployment problem, but that it was not his duty to place it before this House until the Labour party formed a Government. He may have been right from a purely party point of view, but I wonder if the poor unemployed will think so. If they get the idea that any man or any party has a solution for this problem, but refuses to place it before the country until they taste the sweets of office, their opinion will not be very flattering.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I do not wish to see injustice done to any of my hon. Friends; if the hon. Gentleman reads the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley, he will find that he is misinterpreting him.
If I am wrong I will withdraw, but that was the impression which I obtained. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) definitely laid it down that the Labour party's solution for unemployment was Socialism, and he went so far as to say that, if they were in power and brought forward their theory of Socialism, they would be able to deal satisfactorily with the unemployment problem. Unfortunately, the next speaker, the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) spent a large part of his time in drawing attention to the unemployment in Australia. I was under the impression that a. Labour Government was in office in Australia and that Socialism was being applied there. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There we have two speakers from the Socialist Benches, one of whom says that if we can have Socialism here we can deal with the unemployment problem satisfactorily, while the other points out the difficulties they have in Australia, where men are actually offering money and taking their tools in order to find a job.
With such a variety of opinions, it is understandable that we in this House may be a little puzzled, and decidedly the people in the country will be puzzled; but we are dealing with a problem which is beyond party considerations, because we are dealing with human lives, and if any hon. Member could suggest any way of improving 645 things, the majority would only be too pleased Mat he should do so. Various schemes have been suggested, both from the Conservative and other benches, but all of them, I think, may be fairly described as palliatives only, which do not touch the root of the matter. I cannot see how any suggestion which has been made during this Debate can help the cotton trade, the iron and steel trade or the shipbuilding industry. Those great industries will not be helped by our building roads or bridges or undertaking afforestation or drainage schemes. What we want to do is to improve the condition of these poor, distressed industries, and up to the present I have not heard any constructive suggestion.
We are faced with a definite competition from workers in other parts of the world who work longer hours for lower wages. There is strong competition on that account, and our people cannot fight it. No one suggests that we should bring the conditions of labour here down to the level of our competitors in foreign lands, but I think the Labour party here, with the help of their international organisation, could do a great deal of good by working to secure that the conditions of labour abroad are brought nearer to the level of our own. The closer the conditions of foreign labour approach to the British conditions, the better we shall be able to fight competition and the fairer it will be; and if the Labour party, instead of going about the country making so many vain promises, would concentrate on the work to their hand and see that the workers abroad are brought closer to English standard's, we should very quickly overcome one of the great causes of our unemployment. [Interruption.] We have heard about the Washington Convention. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) knows perfectly well that his right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) does not wish the present Washington Convention to be signed, but asks that it should be altered. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] He has said so from that bench. I am in the recollection of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said he. did not want the Washington Convention passed in its present form, because there were certain things in it which were not quite applicable to this country, but that he wished the Govern- 646 ment to state definitely and quickly what amendment they offered, and to get on with it.
Members of the House who look back upon the legislation of the last four years will not be able for a moment to say that the Conservative party are not the sincere friends and helpers of the working-classes. I would remind the Members of the Labour party of the Widows and Orphans and Old Age Pensions Act which has been of inestimable benefit to the working-classes of this country. That was a measure which was promised and brought in by the Conservative party and passed into law. I have no doubt that when an appeal is made to the country hon. Members opposite will find that the electors will recognise the good work of the Conservative party.
I would also like to remind the House that the Conservative party passed the Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Act, which has been a Godsend to the working-people of this country. One amusing result of the passage of that Act has been the great concern of the Labour party as to how they are going to find the funds to enable them to fight the next election. We were told in the discussions upon the Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Act that everybody who contributed to the political levy were Socialists, but for some peculiar reason those subscriptions have gone down, and I am told that the Labour party is very seriously concerned at the present moment about their election fund for next year.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh spoke about unemployment benefit, but many hon. Members opposite do not seem to appreciate that what he was criticising was an Insurance Act and not a relief scheme. It was never suggested that the money paid under that Act would be sufficient to keep a healthy man or woman in good condition, but it is an insurance scheme, and those concerned are getting a good return for the contributions that they have made. May I remind hon. Members that that Act was founded upon the Blanesburgh Report which was signed by three Members of the Labour party, and hon. Members cannot get away from that fact. The Conservative party went one better than that, because they increased the allowance to persons between 647 18 and 21. The Blanesburgh Report was founded upon evidence taken from people who were quite competent to judge, and I think it is very disgraceful for hon. Members to criticise, as they have done, an Act which was founded upon the Blanesburgh Committee's Report.
Apart from all that, the problem is a very great one, and it is causing great anxiety in the country. I would like to make one criticism. Speaking at Manchester at a luncheon of the Cotton Trades' Association, the Prime Minister told the cotton trade very definitely that they must manage their own affairs, and the remedy was in their own hands. There are two sections in Lancashire who are divided on this question. One section desires to have amalgamation, and they are opposed by a small minority. This division of opinion is going on with no signs of agreement, and the only result will be a cut-throat competition in which the weakest will have to go to the wall. It may be all right from the point of view of the owners of the mills, or the shareholders, that the weakest must go to the wall, but what I am concerned about is what is going to happen to the work-people while these two sides are fighting their battle to the death. A large number of these people are unemployed, and, for each mill that becomes bankrupt, a certain number of people are thrown on the labour market. I wonder if it is not the duty of the Government, to a certain extent, to pay some regard to the position of these people? Can they allow the Lancashire cotton trade, through its intense individuality and jealousy, to come to a state of chaos and ruin, so that thousands of people are out of work, and perhaps have no chance of getting any work. I think that perhaps the time might come when it would be the duty of the Government, in the interest of the people of this country, to take a hand in that dispute, and see if, by the good offices of the President of the Board of Trade or his Department, some means could not be found to bring these warring elements together, for the good, not of the industry alone, but of the people who work in the industry.
We hear very little in the country of the conditions of the Lancashire workpeople. They are a proud and reserved people; they do not wear their heart upon their 648 sleeve; and the people in the country generally have no conception of what they have been going through during these last seven years. I have recently been to Lancashire, and I was astonished to find how well dressed the people were. They appeared to be living in the same condition in which I knew them years ago when I lived there, and so I took the trouble to make some discreet inquiries of the shopkeepers, and I was told in more than one place that the people are saving money on their food. They are not spending half as much on food as they were in good times. They are spending it on clothes; they looked decent and well clothed, and were apparently happy, but they were spending decidedly less on food. We cannot afford that, and I would like to suggest, in all humility, that the Prime Minister should still keep his eye on the warring elements in Lancashire, and that, if any opportunity should offer in which his services, or those of the Board of Trade, could be utilised to bring peace into that industry, this House and the country would be delighted; and by so doing there would be some possibility that the curse of unemployment in the cotton trade might be minimised and a hope in the future of better times.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I feel sure that the representatives of the Government cannot feel quite comfortable under the indictment that has been levelled against them, even by their own supporters, owing largely to their own blundering and neglect in dealing with the many problems with which they have been confronted during the past year, and in particular since the last Speech from the Throne. The hon. Member for Royton (Dr. V. Davies) spoke about the iron and steel trade, and the duty of bringing up the standard of the workers abroad to the level of the standard of the workers here at home, in order to put the competition between manufacturers at home and abroad on a more even basis. Apparently, however, the British manufacturer keeps himself up to date in production, when he can compete against foreign competitors in the iron market. Quite recently a fair-sized contract was obtained by a Midland blast-furnace company in competition with French manufacturers. The difference in the prices was certainly very small, and, remembering the dictum 649 of the Government, "Buy British goods," one can quite imagine that, if there were more of that patriotism on the part of buyers in England, there would be greater encouragement to the home producer, and he would have a better opportunity of securing orders to which he is justly entitled when they are going. So that it appears to me that where production is modernised, and where there are enterprising companies, they can compete pretty successfully if they get a little encouragement from the people at home.
An hon. Friend behind me raised the question of the de-rating proposals of the Government. It becomes more significant, and shows the troublesome times through which they must be passing, and the bewildering counsel that they must have, when at the Cheltenham election a Member of the party opposite submitted himself to be elected, assuming that the proposals would give them £24,000 per annum. He now says he is afraid he obtained his election under false pretences, although the Government sent official speakers down in his support and although the de-rating proposals became the principal issue, but he is now suddenly informed that, so far from Cheltenham benefiting, in a few years there will be a loss of £42,000, and he now says definitely and firmly that although elected under those circumstances he intends to vote against the Government. One would like some statement from the Government, if not to put at ease the minds of the populace from being still further entangled in this jigsaw puzzle, at least to try to get the hon. Member to thoroughly understand the position, so that he can explain it more fully to those people whose votes he says he secured under false pretences.
I should like to compare the discussion taking place now with the discussion that took place 12 months ago on unemployment. Then, when the Government had put forward their proposals in an Unemployment Bill, they foreshadowed in a White Paper all kinds of things that would happen, and it was assumed that by April, 1929, we should possibly have reached our normal figure of about 6 per cent. unemployed. The fact remains that so bungling, so blind has the Government been to its responsibilities, that it has starved the sources which might have been of service to the unemployed and 650 added considerably to their numbers. They robbed their Road fund, which might have found work for 100,000 or more. They gave £12,000,000 as a present in four consecutive Budgets to Super-tax payers.
In their passion and desire to give support to those who have been their immediate supporters, they have shut their eyes to the distress amongst the workers of the country, while in speeches here they always say that in six months' time things will be better. But when the six months come round we find that their old opinion has been revised. An hon. Friend behind me mentioned that there was 11 per cent. of unemployment. According to the figures in my possession, there is nearly 16 per cent. of unemployment in this country. I shall have an opportunity upon another occasion of showing how I arrive at that figure, which I have gone into as far as it relates to a district with which I am concerned as a trade union official. Of my members, 16 per cent. are at present unemployed, and this, I think, is a fair criterion of the degree of unemployment throughout the country. The Employment Exchanges, whether they have acted upon any circular or instructions, have in a wholesale and wicked manner wiped out from benefit many of those who ought to be enjoying benefit at the present moment. They ought to be able to enjoy the benefit which they have, with others, helped to provide. It is quite a common thing for an interviewer to ask a person, "Where were you last Wednesday? Where did you look for work?"
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I do not thank my hon. Friend for interrupting in so frivolous a manner on an important discussion of this kind. If that is an example of the attitude of his party to this question, I am very sorry for them. The interviewer then gets the person to sign the statement, and then by that declaration it is sought to show that the person concerned has only looked for work that one day during a period of three weeks. His claim is disallowed, and he has to ask for a re-hearing of his case. I am reminded that there is another speaker, but I want in a final word upon this occasion to ask whether the Board of Trade and the Labour Ministry have done all that might 651 be done to give encouragement to such industries as desire it, and which are handicapped, to expand and enlarge the scope of their operations, so that they might in the near future provide some permanent employment for a large number of unemployed?
I refer particularly to the gas industry. That industry is hampered and handicapped by obsolete regulations. I think that the most recent of them dates back to 1871. An undertaking must come to this House for powers to obtain fresh capital, and extend its operations. It is a national industry. It is owned by municipal authorities as well as by private companies, and they have to operate amidst all these restrictions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other clay said that he hoped by the development of electricity to open out new avenues. I say that here is a national industry which employs at the present time at least 60 per cent. more than the electrical industry. It is capable of employing more people, and there are many indications of a, desire to extend into the field of the by-products — low carbonisation, coke-oven plants. These concerns, if allowed to develop, could supply in bulk fuel at a cheap rate and so help industry in general. If there is a Board of Trade representative here, I ask that he shall see whether it is not possible for something to be done to give that industry a fair chance in common with any other industry, and not handicap it by these old-time regulations, which were good in themselves at the time they were instituted to prevent monopolistic control of the industry, but are now obsolete. The industry ought to have an opportunity, in common with all industries, to develop upon lines which would redound to the benefit of the country by the development of the industry and by employing larger numbers of people.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I will try to respond, in the few minutes at my disposal, to the appeal of the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies) who, I am sorry to see, is not now in his place. The hon. Member seems to have been puzzled by some of the speeches on this side of the House. I think he will be puzzled very much more after the next General Election. He said that we would not put 652 our proposals before the House: that we were keeping them for our own good time. He ought to know that it does not matter what proposals come from this side of the House, they will not be adopted by the present Government, however good they might be. The hon. Member suggested that we ought to concentrate on equalising the standards of labour throughout the world, by means of the international Labour organisation. He ought to know that it was this very Government which recently moved a Motion at Geneva to reduce the Budget of the International Labour Office and to make it impossible to do exactly what the hon. Member suggests. Does the Minister of Labour shake his head when I say that? Surely it is common knowledge. Our own Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs was there, and I happened to be at Geneva when he made his speech.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The lion. Member for Royton suggested that, we ought to employ the International Labour Office to equalise and standardise the conditions; but he is a supporter of a Government which proposed to reduce the efficiency of that office. When we are challenged about, not putting forward proposals, I would here and now suggest one that is ripe for acceptance by any Government, whatever its political colour. I have a feeling that the Minister of Education could probably do as much to help relieve the unemployment problem as any Minister. I think I am right, in saying that there are about half a million boys and girls leaving school every year and entering the labour market. I am told that some education authorities have already decided, for the sake of the children in their districts, to raise the school age from 14 to 15. I understand that the Carnarvon County Council, the East Suffolk Education Authority and the -Cardigan Education Authority, in respect of children who cannot find work in their areas, have raised the school age from 14 to 15, which by the way they are entitled to do by law at the present time. It would be a good thing for any Government, as I said, of any political colour, to raise the school age immediately in 653 order to relieve unemployment, because at present, when a child enters an occupation at the age of 14 or 14½ years, it often prevents another older person retaining remunerative occupation. It must be remembered that there has been a great change in this country, not only in regard to education and the school-leaving age, but in other respects. People are remaining in employment to-day longer and older than they used 'to do. We have extended the average age by 12 years during the last 50, and, consequently, because of that fact, the school-leaving age ought to be raised proportionately in order that the new state of things may be equalised. I wish I could carry the hon. Member for Royton with me in raising the school age because he represents a cotton district of Lancashire.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am only speaking for my own people. If everybody here spoke for his own Division we should probably have more sense in Debates. The point I want to develop is this: I feel sure that with the great development of inventions and the growing capacity to produce commodities, there will be a less and less number of persons employed in industry supplying the requirements of the world, as years go by. Therefore, Governments of every industrial country of the world—America., France, Germany and this country too—will be faced some day with the problem as to whether they may not be compelled to give, by way of inducement., an adequate pension to all persons who are willing to leave remunerative employment at 60 years of age and probably younger. I feel we are getting two points brought out in connection with employment in the industrial countries of the world. The capacity to produce as I have said is increasing all along the line, requiring a smaller number of workers to feed the communities of the world; and we ought therefore to raise the school leaving age to commence with, and we ought also to provide an inducement to people to leave remunerative employment at 60 years of age or thereabouts.
I am not so sure that some hon. Members have been generous enough to the Government in complaining about the King's Speech. I noticed in the 654 Speech that the Government really are going to do just a little to relieve unemployment. I do not know whether it has escaped the notice of hon. Members, but if they will refer to the King's Speech they will find these words:You will be invited to pass a Bill authorising the appointment of two additional members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and of one additional Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.There are three additional workers to be employed any way over and above those already engaged in those occupations. I would like the House to devote a moment to a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day. He said—what was perfectly true—that we were provided in this country with the best social services in the world. We all admit the truth of that statement; but I want to point out to the Chancellor that, in spite of all these services, in some of the districts, and mining districts in particular—and I represent a predominantly mining Division—these schemes have absolutely finished in so far as those districts arc concerned. Unemployment benefit has ended, and health insurance is not now available to some of them. They have fallen out of health insurance; and local authorities who have hitherto been able to provide meals to necessitous school children, are in dire straits financially. Their income has dried up to such an extent that they cannot now find money to meet the increasing number of claims made upon them.
Let me give a case. Whenever anybody speaks to me about the depression and poverty of the people in a country, I always try to find out from vital statistics what is happening there. One vital statistic that all people interested in poverty ought to look at, is the infantile mortality rate. That in my view is a good key to the situation. Let me give the infantile mortality rate for one of the districts in my Division, from which hon. Members will realise that things are very much worse than some are willing to admit. In a little district called Aspull, there is a population of 7,000. Nearly all the pits are closed, and closed permanently. Some of the men have been unemployed for two and three and even four years; and the infantile mortality rate, which is 85 per thousand for Great Britain as a whole, 655 is 128 per thousand in that area. I say, therefore, that the Government ought really to study the terrible effect of unemployment on infantile mortality as well as upon mortality generally.
I do not wish to detain the House at this late hour. Probably, there will be an opportunity of developing the subject later; but when the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that social schemes are available, I admit that they are, and were it not for the fact that they are so available our people would be suffering much more severely than at present. But if the Chancellor of the Exchequer will turn for instance to the figures relating to the payment of sickness and disablement benefits to the insured population of this country he will find an additional proof that our people are suffering much more severely than many hon. Members opposite and the Government imagine or will admit. The amount paid by approved societies is growing each year. I therefore appeal to the Government to raise the school leaving age, to study the infantile mortality rates and, above all things, to find out whether, in fact, our social schemes are not gradually drying up, which means that the people arc faced with a very terrible situation indeed in the near future.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. E. Brown.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.