§ "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10,250, he granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1930, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Lord Privy Seal."
§ Resolution read a Second time.
Sir BOLTON EYRES MONSELL
I beg to move, to leave out "£10,250," and to insert instead thereof "£10,240."
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
I do not complain at all that this Supplementary Estimate is brought before us in this way. I take it that the Lord Privy Seal is reserving his remarks for a later stage of the Debate when he has heard all the eager questions which I am sure will be put to him from all parts of the House, and I can assure him that I rise to speak now with no sense of hostility to him personally. Indeed, I have a very great deal of sympathy with him, or with any other man who has to bear such a tremendous responsibility. I think that when he sees the facts of unemployment in front of him and the terrible problem that he has to face, he must from, time to time feel, like the great French revolutionist Danton, that it is better to be a poor fisherman than to meddle with the government of men. I assure him that if he should grapple successfully with this great problem, we on this side of the House, at any rate on these Benches, would certainly not be moving to reduce his salary, but, if the rules of the House permitted, we should want to give him a substantial rise.
I do not think it would be right for this House to break up and go away for Christmas without receiving some further assurance, some further information, on this great subject than has been given to us already in the White Paper issued by the Lord Privy Seal. We want some 1794 message of hope, at any rate, for those whom we represent, and it is a message that is urgently needed because, on the bare facts of the matter, as we see them, the prospect is bleak indeed. The figures show that, but I would like to call the attention of hon. Members opposite to this fact. They may remember remarks that they made in this House at about this time last year when another Government was in power. They may remember those speeches and their comments on the figures of unemployment at that time. Well, the figures of unemployment are just as important, and they carry the same message, whatever Government happens to be in power; and we are frequently told that behind all figures, behind all curves, and behind all averages there is the human factor. The human factor is equally important and has to be considered in the same way whatever Government is in power, and indeed one may say that the human factor varies only in this, that with each successive year, whatever the Government may be that is in power, the problem becomes more grave, because there are so many who have for one more year been living without work and therefore without wages.
The first figures to which I refer are naturally the actual figures of unemployment given to us on the latest date, 9th December, namely, 1,309,500, and I think the natural comparison is with the figures at the end of June, when the present Government had just come into office. One does not suppose they could have affected those first figures, which were 1,117,800. That faces us at the beginning with the stark fact of an increase of nearly 200,000. I am aware that it does not do full justice to the situation merely to compare the figures of a summer quarter with the figures of a winter quarter. Ever since Mr. William Beveridge, as he then was, wrote his very remarkable book on unemployment, everybody has realised the importance of the phenomenon known as seasonal fluctuations. Before the War, that fluctuation was annual and we knew what it was going to do, and on pre-War experience one would have accepted fairly easily the excuse, "It is the winter; what can you expect?"
We want to be more up-to-date in our examination of the problem. I have here 1795 the figures for June and December in each year from 1923 to 1928. I will give the differences, because it would be burdensome to give the complete figures, and the differences are what matter. In 1923, there was a 65,000 increase between June and December; in 1924, an increase of 263,000; in 1925, a decrease of 234,000; in 1926, a decrease of 176,000; in 1927, an increase of 50,000; and in 1928, an increase of 328,000. These figures show that of these years, only two—one of which happens to be 1924, but I expect that that is only a coincidence—showed an increase between June and December on anything like the scale that we have at the present moment. The other years show, however, a much smaller increase. I do not want to draw any extravagant deductions, except to say that seasonal fluctuations cannot be accepted as an automatic excuse. We now have a Government in power who would themselves say that they were elected specifically to deal with this question of unemployment. Any Government that was returned at the last Election would have recognised that responsibility, because that was the dominant issue at the Election.
It is now more than six years since Mr. Sidney Webb, as he then was, said that he and his party had schemes of work actually worked out and ready for application—a statement which I am not disputing, or casting any doubt upon, but doubtless there were practical difficulties when the Government came into office. Since that time, they have had five years in Opposition. They have a very expert research department, which doubtless has been working on these schemes, making them still more ready and adapting them according to the experience of the Government in the period which they had in office. I assume that that was their plain duty, and that they have been doing it. Furthermore, we have three most able Ministers—the Lord Privy Seal, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the First Commissioner of Works—dealing with this problem and devoting their whole time to it—at any rate in the case of the Lord Privy Seal and the Chancellor of the Duchy. With all this machinery and with this magnificent staff in charge of the problem, was it extravagant to hope that, 1796 even after six months, that machinery and that staff would have at least produced enough effect to counterbalance the ordinary seasonal fluctuations?
Instead of that we find that they have nearly 200,000 behind. That is an extraordinarily difficult thing for anyone to face, and I am certain that it must be giving the right hon. Gentleman the gravest anxiety. Where is he to look for comfort? Where is anyone to look for comfort in the situation? No one could look at the great staple trades, and say that there is such a promising revival there that we should be wasting our efforts if we put too many men on special provided work. But where is that revival? If you take the great staple trades of coal, iron, steel, cotton, wool, shipbuilding and engineering, there has been, I admit, in the last five years an improvement in the figures of employment. But against that there is a most important figure, that of number of persons insured in those industries. There has been an actual decrease in the number of people in the industries, and therefore, the lesson is that these industries are not reviving and taking up their own unemployed, but that the unemployed in their hopelessness have drifted off somewhere else. That may be a good thing for the trade of the country, if it is a genuine industrial transference, and means that the men have gone to other places where they have a more secure livelihood, but I fear that many of them are drifting from one casual job to another, or are depending on the guardians.
The figures do not show any such revival in the great staple trades as would lead to any confidence or justify any slackening of effort on the part of the Lord Privy Seal. The most significant figure with which to compare the increase in our employed population, is the increase of the total insured population. That is really a vital figure. I remember when I, in my small way, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in his more impressive way, tackled the late Government on this subject on several occasions, we always had to put up with the reflection that it does not matter, because there are more people employed in this country than there were before the War. That was the answer to everything, but it is not an answer unless birth control or some other method may be adopted to prevent the 1797 population increasing. The question is whether you have kept pace with the increase of population. I take the first quarter of 1926, because it came immediately before an event which it is hardly safe to mention in this House, because hon. Gentlemen opposite attribute it to hon. Members above the Gangway, and vice versa, and we on these Benches regard it as a chemical combination of both.
However that may be, it is right to take for comparison the state of things which existed before that important event, and to see where we are now. I want to compare the first quarter of this year, not that the Lord Privy Seal is responsible, but that it shows what the problem is. The figures show that whereas employment has gone up by 509,000, the insured population has gone up by 684,000. That means that we are absorbing only three-quarters of the new blood that is coming into industry. That is a very serious state of affairs. I say "new blood," but I daresay that the actual new blood is being absorbed completely; the tragedy is that it is the old blood—and not such very old blood at that—which is being pushed out at the other end. We know the tragedy of the man who comes to us and says: "I am supposed to be too old to work, but I am still hale and hearty." That is what we have to face at the moment, and it is only just to the late Government to say that the Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues have one great natural advantage over them—and it is due to no merit of their own—that the children who are now coming upon the employment market are the War babies. The children who were born during the War are just now coming on to the labour market, and as there were fewer children born in the War years, there are fewer of them to come into employment. Therefore, the Lord Privy Seal's task is to that extent eased, and we shall expect all the more remarkable achievements from him in consequence. I am not sure that even the bare figures of unemployment which have been given really exhaust the matter, because we have to realise that a great many of our industries are working either on the barest margin of profit or else at an actual loss, and wherever that is the case there is not a very secure source of employment. Therefore, however optimistic one would desire 1798 to be, one has got to face the possibility that matters may actually become worse.
There is the situation. How is it to be met? The late Government very frequently met us by trying to explain the figures away. I hope that example will not be followed. They took the figures of unemployed and said: "Some of these are people whom nobody will want to employ; they are people who smell a job a mile off and then run a mile in another direction." Others, it was said, are merely resting temporarily between two jobs, and one was almost given the idea that this was a kind of pleasant holiday for them. So the figures were filed away, until we could all sit down and say: "There is no problem at all." Of course, one has to make some allowance for purely temporary unemployment which can be dealt with adequately by insurance, and that is not the real problem we have to face, but if anyone will turn to the report of the Industrial Transference Board—which I have always regarded as a model report in everything except its conclusions—he will find himself faced with the fact that there are some 200,000 workers surplus in the coal industry alone, and with no reasonable prospects of getting back to employment in their own industry, 100,000 more in the metal industries, and so many more, an undefined number, in the textile industries. Those people, at any rate, do not fall under any of the heads that can be argued away or charmed away or "magicked" away. They are the kernel of the problem we have to face, and everyone knows in his own constituency that outside the confines of these industries there are hundreds of people—we have seen and spoken to them personally—who have been out of work for years. They are the permanent problem for us; and nothing will magic it away except the finding of work.
I do not think I shall find the right hon. Gentleman attempting merely to argue these figures away. To give some kind of mark—it is only an estimate of my own, but I think it has a fairly sound basis—if we take 600,000 as the number of unemployed who could be explained away by these methods—and I am trying to make it a large figure, because I do not want to exaggerate the problem—that leaves the difference between 600,000 and 1,300,000 as the size of the problem with 1799 which the Lord Privy Seal has to deal, and that is grave enough. I hope we are not going to be told that all this is comparatively unimportant and that we have got to wait for the revival of trade. We want a revival of trade as much as anybody else, but a revival of trade depends on many causes, most of which are not within our control. It is like the wind, that bloweth where it listeth. It is certainly no good for us to sit down, whistle for the wind and do nothing. One would think very little of the captain of a ship if in a great storm he consoled himself with the reflection: "This gale will blow itself out at some time, so I need not stay on the bridge any longer, and I will go down to my cabin." We have to deal with the immediate problem, or our industry may not be in a condition to meet the revival of trade when it finally comes along.
On these benches, at any rate, we have consistently said that if work cannot be privately provided then it must be publicly provided. I understand that is what the right hon. Gentleman wants to do, and if he can do that he will have every assistance from us. He will not find all the hon. Members on his own side in agreement with him. Hon. Members opposite who sit on the back bench below the Gangway have' adopted a rather different principle, according to an interesting document which, in honourable fulfilment of his pledge, the leader of the fourth party sent to us. From that and from his own speeches I think they would say: "Your problem of pay for work is all very well—at least, the pay part is quite all right." I think their position is like that of a man who was called upon to explain wireless to an unmechanically-minded aunt. He said: "It is rather like this. Suppose you had a dog so long that if you pulled its tail in London it would bark in Liverpool. Well, wireless is just like that, only without the dog." I think the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) would regard this interesting dog, which he has doubtless seen before, very much in the same light. He would say: "It is all right, only without the work." But I do not think the Lord Privy Seal is going to take an attitude like that, because, after all, his present office has been created to deal with this problem of finding work.
1800 What has he really done in this matter? I turn to the White Paper which he has put in our hands. It is not a very long document, not a three-volume novel, by any means, and yet I am not sure that it is not a novel that one will skim through in order to find out what happens in the last chapter. I am not complaining that we have got a very careful explanation, for instance, of the two parts of the Development Bill, the part which is concerned with the public utility companies and the part which is concerned with local authorities, and their subdivisions according to whether the scheme is revenue-producing or not, and yet further sub-divisions as to whether transferred labour is to be employed or not. All this is very right and proper in its place, but what we want to know is the conclusion of the whole matter—how many men are going to be put on work? The difficulty is that we find the answer given in a foreign language. The answer is given in man-years. I am always rather worried when engineers and wise people of that sort talk to me about foot-pounds. I distrust those hybrids. Man-years are an even more fearsome combination. One can arrive at the definition easily enough. It is given on page 6 where it says:The volume of employment given may be expressed in man-years, the number of man-years being the number of men who would be employed if all the schemes lasted for one year.To which the quite child-like answer is really justified: "But they do not all last for one year." The fact that some of them may last a great deal less and others will last a great deal more, is probably unavoidable, and it may be that they cannot find any other way of giving it, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will realise that it does not make it easy for him to answer in those terms or for us to explain any of the questions that we really want to put. What we want to know is this kind of thing: How many people on this day as I stand here are actually on work provided by these schemes? How many people will be at work on those schemes at the end of March, and how many at the end of June? If we knew that we could get some kind of standard by which to judge. We could see how we were getting on. We might say: "This is a very tender plant, but, thank God, it is growing." 1801 That would give us a great deal of consolation; but I doubt if even the mathematical genius of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury could extract from these tables the information which hon. Members on all benches really desire to have.
The total—I have got to deal with it in man-years, because that is all which has been vouchsafed to me—the total in man-years under the schemes I have mentioned comes up to 84,000. In addition, there is what comes under the Colonial Development Act. I do not think any of us expected very much of that, and all that we can count on getting is 5,300, entirely accounted for by the Zambesi Bridge and three schemes from Tanganyika. In addition, there is the Road Fund. We have got no details, but we are told that the trunk road programme and five-year programme together amount to 100,000 man-years. So the total comes to 190,000 man-years, spread over five years. What does it mean in each individual year? One can only make an estimate. I put forward my suggestion, and I shall be glad to be told it is an underestimate. Does it mean that more than 50,000 are likely to be employed in the first year? I should very much like to know. If the figure can be shown to be greater I shall be very glad to hear it, but if it is only about 60,000, then it means that by these schemes we are accounting only for about a quarter of the seasonal increase that has taken place since June.
That is really a very terrible situation. Of that 190,000, more than 100,000 are being dealt with as far as I can see by the normal use of the Road Fund, which even right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway were ready to do with the Road Fund. With regard to all these schemes, I want to know exactly what is the function or the use of the Lord Privy Seal. I see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer provides the money, and he makes a contribution by drawing upon the Road Fund. We can see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done, hut, as far as I can see, the Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues 'sit at home and wait for what comes in. They take all the schemes which arrive and which they can make use of, and turn away those that are bad insurance risks. It is like the man at the wedding feast who sat there waiting for the guests to come, and 1802 turned away those who were not in a wedding garment. We want the Lord Privy Seal to go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in.
In connection with another Bill, about which we have heard a great deal, the genuinely-seeking-work Clause, I want to know whether the Lord Privy Seal is genuinely seeking work, and whether he has the genuinely-seeking-work mind. I want to know what the right hon. Gentleman is doing, for I am sure he would not want to be left at home smoking his pipe or whatever fumigatory apparatus he prefers. I have to look outside the scope of all these things to discover what the Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues are actually doing in a national respect. The Lord Privy Seal went to Canada. He went, saw, and conquered, but exactly what he conquered we do not know. This is a most important question, because we do not know how many man-years he brought back in his bag. I am not quite so sure whether the work he was doing there ought not to have been done by somebody else, in order that the right hon. Gentleman might have concentrated upon co-ordinating the work of his Department. But perhaps, after all, the work of his Department runs on oiled wheels.
I remember that it was said of a famous Chief of a General Staff that when war broke out he was able to go away for a day's fishing because his preparations for the war were so perfect. In the ordinary way we do not send an army commander on a trench raid. The Minister of Transport has set the right hon. Gentleman an example in the case of the construction of the Dartford to Purfleet tunnel, which is a very good example of what ought to be done, but that seems to be the only currant in the bun. The Minister of Agriculture has produced two drainage Bills which involve an estimated expenditure of £20,000,000, and that does look like work. I do not wish to plead for the expenditure of money, but we have to reckon the working man-years available, and they are directly calculated from the total cost. Only in that way can we arrive at an estimate of how many men are employed. I think it would be a Gilbertian situation if it turned out that the only man of push and 1803 go, and of iron determination in the Government, is not the Lord Privy Seal but the Minister of Agriculture.
What does this all amount to? The public utility companies, the local authorities, the Road Fund, the tunnel, the drainage, the great visit to Canada —what do they all amount to in man-years? Dare anyone opposite estimate them at more than 220,000 man-years, and what kind of impression is that going to make on the unemployment problem as we see it to-day? It is like trying to bail out a leaky boat with a teacup. You may in that way make a very impressive total in pint-hours, but the water is rising on you all the same, and the water is rising on us now. We do not, if I may roughly translate the language of an old Latin poet, Lucretius, want to be in the position of those who stand on the pier and watch other people being seasick. We have made our contribution for good or bad. We are not here simply in the position of armchair critics. We have put forward schemes which would have covered 600,000 in the first year. I should be going beyond the bounds of this Motion if I attempted to deal with those schemes in detail, but I am entitled to call attention to the fact that they exist, and, as far as I can make out, the only objection advanced against them, the only reason why the Lord Privy Seal is not adopting, them now, is the question of expense.
I am the last to minimise the importance of the financial basis of any scheme, but I am entitled to remind the right hon. Gentleman that we provided an arrangement whereby the financial support for dealing with the development of our country, and the employment of those who are now unemployed, would have been entirely independent of the Chancellor of, the Exchequer; it would have stood on its own basis. The right hon. Gentleman is tied to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's apron strings by his present policy. He has all sorts of competitors to meet. He may want money, but so does the Minister of Labour, so does the President of the Board of Education, so do a host of most formidable competitors, all with just claims to advance. What would have been done by our method would have been to give him a fund of his own which he could have developed along his own lines. If he 1804 rejects that, if he says that it cannot be done, then I, for one, can see no way out. It seems to me that we shall go on seeing the unemployed without work, and the nation will go on paying in doles and in Poor Law relief instead of paying for work really valuable to the State.
The usual criticism is that, if you take money in this way, it always reacts in some miraculous manner on the rest of industry, and does more harm than good. I can at least quote a very distinguished economist, Professor Henry Clay, who, in his recently published book, say this:While German industry is hampered by the lack of liquid resources, we have a superfluity, which is used to finance speculative issues and to sustain an inflated level of industrial security prices.And he says on the next page:If a series of government development loans did divert some of the savings from the type of speculative issue that has found most favour with investors in recent years, it would be a benefit to the investors, who would be less likely to lose their investment, and to the country, which would have something, even if only roads and houses, to show for the expenditure.Therefore, I do not in the least mind being branded as an economic heretic in the company of so distinguished an economic authority, but I do ask, if we do not face the problem in some such large manner as that, what is going to happen to our unemployed? They continue to weigh upon us as a burden, even in this House. Why was it we had to spend all those days trying to find an appropriate formula with regard to the question of genuinely seeking work? Only because the unemployed were swamping any possible avenue of employment. If we could get the employment figure back to normal, there would be no worry about a Clause of that kind—it would not arise. Everyone wants to get on with industrial transference, but it is hampered all the time because there is no destination station at the other end —there is no work being provided for the people to be transferred to. Above all this, there is a crushing burden weighing upon all those homes in the back streets, which have now again to face a rather black Christmas, with festivities very different from the humble feasts that they had in the old days.
Is this White Paper the lever that is going to lift that crushing weight from the necks of the people? It seems to me 1805 that this White Paper is on altogether too frail a scale; it is utterly inadequate to the weight of the mass that it has to lift. Our contribution may be criticised. It may be said that this instrument has flaws in it, that it has oracks in it, that it is made of the wrong wood—what you will. But at least it cannot be denied that it was designed upon a scale commensurate with the weight which it was intended to bear. Therefore, I would say to the Lord Privy Seal that we await with the most eager anxiety the statement which at a later stage he is going to make. We desire that he may give us hope at least, if he can give us nothing else—hope that what he has shown us so far is only a beginning, hope that new developments are ahead of us, hope that a Socialist Government is not going to fall 'lower in its estimate of the responsibilities of the State than the humble capitalists on these benches. If he can give us an assurance of that kind, we, at any rate, will pray that a blessing may rest upon his head.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I would like at the outset to associate myself with a remark made by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith), and to say that anything that I have to say must not be regarded as in the nature of a personal attack on the Lord Privy Seal. We all recognise and appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's sincerity and energy, and, if these were the only qualities required to-day in a Minister for Employment, the right hon. Gentleman might be hailed here this morning as a national saviour. But we have to face the hard fact that the right hon. Gentleman is making no impression on the unemployment situation. The schemes and plans and prospects that he is parading before us are only the same old stage army that has tramped the battle lines of Labour Ministers since ever this crisis began. There is, as far as I can see, not one new idea.
Every proposal, including the proposals made by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken—which are only on the same lines—every proposal is a makeshift. There is nothing at all to indicate a proper understanding of the situation. Every scheme that is submitted to us is merely an overdraft on the labour requirements of the next few years. There is no indication that the Lord Privy Seal, 1806 to whom my remarks must be addressed, realises that he is not dealing here merely with a temporary industrial dislocation; there is no evidence that he recognises that he is confronted with an industrial disease that threatens the very life of the industries of this country. Since 1921, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough, we have had this mass unemployment. I have just been looking at the figures again, and I find that not once in the month of October since that year has the number of unemployed been less than 1,100,000, while on two occasions the number reached the enormous total of over 1,500,000.
Have the Government any long-distance plan for dealing with that situation, for, after all, that is what the country requires? As I have already suggested, every scheme that is now before us, or has been before us, is based on the assumption that this is a temporary crisis which will pass away, and that when we get into the golden years, say five years hence, there will be such an abundance of work that we shall not have men to do the ordinary bridge-making that we are proposing to undertake at the moment. If that be wrong, if this be not a temporary dislocation, but something permanent, like a cancerous disease eating into our national industries, we surely require, and are expected to demand from this Government, or from any Government, a long-distance plan for dealing with the situation. Have the Government any such plan, or are they providing merely for casual workers employed from day to day on any little job that may turn up from a local authority or a utility society?
We were all gratified, I am sure, to read recently that the Prime Minister had been giving luncheons to industrial and intellectual leaders, presumably in the hope that he would learn from them how to tackle seriously the problem that confronts this Government. The Lord Privy Seal was, no doubt, present at those luncheons. I cannot imagine such luncheons without his Lordship being present. Are we to have to-day from the right hon. Gentleman a statement of what is the value to the nation that those luncheons have been? He gathered, I have no doubt, eagerly and greedily any crumbs of wisdom that fell from those rich men's tables, and we want to know 1807 if those crumbs, when analysed, contained any hope whether, as the result of those meetings with those eminent men, he is in a position to give us a statement as to what the permanent policy of the nation ought to be in regard to this problem. This is a very appropriate occasion for such a statement. It would be an excellent Christmas gift to our people if, in the moment of their misery, they could be told that the Government, aided by the best intellectual and industrial minds of Britain, now saw a way out of the morass in which we have been muddling for the past eight or nine years, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will issue a bulletin from these eminent gentlemen telling the country what they think of the disease from which it is suffering. It would be most unfortunate and regrettable if we were to separate for Christmas and the unemployed were to be told they were to plunge into these four terrible weeks that lie immediately before us without even a crumb of comfort or any suggestion of any hope that the position will he better at the end of the winter than it was when the present Government took office.
I hope, also, that we are going to know a little about what has happened to the raw recruits of the Lord Privy Seal's stage army. I want to know, for instance, what has become of the steel sleepers for railways. I am anxious about that, because I read that the Great Western Railway, with which the right hon. Gentleman has a long and honourable connection, has just placed an order for 200 sleepers. Am I to take it that the right hon. Gentleman was consulted before that order was placed?
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Then did the right hon. Gentleman explain to the railway company, as he did to the House, the wonderful advantages which would accrue from using material that we produce in this country compared with the use of material that we do not produce? Can he say he has been attending to that part of his jab? After he had convinced us that this was the right material to use, and had led the nation to be encouraged by the statement that these steel sleepers were to be introduced, has he been 1808 turned down by one of the railway companies which are getting Government aid under this scheme? Are we to take it that that is the spirit of the response that the railway companies are making to the excellent assistance that has been granted to them by the Government? I should like to know also how the new coal marketing scheme for Canada is progressing. We have not heard much of it lately. I was looking at the coal reports for November, and I find that, while there is a substantial increase in our exports, it is mainly to France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Finland. These are all places which have not yet been visited by the right hon. Gentleman. He has been to Canada and brought home words of cheer and good will, but we want to know whether the orders have materialised. I should like to know what prospect there is of the coal exports to Canada being substantially increased during the next six months. I hope he will tell us what is to-day the net result of his commercial visit. Then there were five new ships to be built to carry the coal to Canada. Are these to be regarded as of the class of ships that pass in the night, or could the right hon. Gentleman tell us the name of the shipyard where they are being built, and is the coal waiting for export when the ships arrive? This will be very interesting information, and if there is anything at all in his policy we are entitled to know it to-day.
Are we to take it that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his point of view on this problem? I read a speech that he delivered to Canadian journalists in London at a dinner, and it differed somewhat from the speech he delivered the last time he addressed this House. In his speech to the Canadian journalists he said the policy of this country ought to be to supply Canada with labour and with capital to enable it to develop its own resources, and that then we might reasonably expect reciprocity from the Canadians and a material expression of their gratitude for the assistance we had given them. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that a great part of our difficulties arises from our, having supplied labour and capital to other people If you look at the foreign countries that are competing with us, you will find that in very many cases we have 1809 supplied them with capital for manufacturing purposes. The same thing applies to the Dominions and to India,. Are we now to be told by the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for the curing of our industrial ills that it would help Lancashire if we doubled the number of mills operating in Shanghai Are we to send more British capital to Shanghai in order that we may make the East independent of Lancashire's products?
I read that in the part of the country that I represent, we are sending capital to Australia for the manufacture of light castings. Are we to be told that Scotland is to be benefited and its unemployment stopped by the sending of more capital for the production of light castings in Australia? Is that the new way of tackling the unemployment problem at home? People from my division are being taken to India to supervise and teach the natives in the production of steel. Is the British steel industry to find emancipation by the sending of more steel workers to India to produce steel there to supply the markets of the world? These are things on which the House, I am sure, will welcome information from the right hon. Gentleman, because until we know his mind we do not know the risks we are running in keeping him in his job. The country wants to know what return it is getting for the salary we are voting for him and what his real views on the situation are.
Then I should like to know what has happened to the mid-Scotland canal. I remember that during the election some of my hon. Friends, one of whom is now a prominent Member of the Government, had a cut-and-dried scheme which they put before the electors for the making of that canal. I have not heard anything about it since. Has that canal served its purpose or is the scheme to fructify, and are we to benefit from it, just as the hon. Gentleman benefited when he appealed to the electors. I want to know when the Committee on this canal is likely to report, because we are told that considerable employment would be given to the labouring classes of Scotland in the making of such a canal. Then, again, I would like to know how the scheme for the electrification of Liverpool Street Station and suburban lines stands. Is that going on? Is it likely to be started this winter? I am told by people who profess to know—I do not know anything about 1810 these things, and that is why I am asking for information—that it will be a long, long time before this scheme is put into operation.
I give the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues credit for the land drainage scheme which they are submitting to this House, but for the life of me I cannot see how they appeal to the business minds of the country. You are asking us to spend £20,000,000 in reclaiming land when you have many acres—can I put it at millions of acres—of land which is already reclaimed, is fit for cultivation and has not been cultivated. While I have no objection to any old way of finding work, or rather finding wages for people—[Interruption]. After all, I have never met a very large number of people who are enthusiastic about getting manual labour if they do not need it. If people have enough money to satisfy them they are quite willing to stand by and see other fellows using pick and shovel, so why one should be shocked at the suggestion that the worker's first consideration is not in his work but in the money he gets for it, I cannot understand. It would be eminently more sensible at this moment in regard to the question of the amount of work you intend to provide, and it would be more businesslike, to spend your £20,000,000 on using the land which is already there than in spending it to reclaim land which you now know you will never use. I take it the right hon. Gentleman does not believe in the waste of public money, and it seems to me that the spending of public money on land drainage on lands which you are not likely to use is on a par with the spending of money in training boys in trades in which you have skilled labour unemployed. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are giving us an additional number of cabinet-makers, while cabinet-makers are walking the streets and cannot get jobs. That may be all right and there may be a good deal to be said for it from the point of view of draining land with the object of finding employment and all the rest, but the last thing you will find in it is any indication of commonsense, because if you have more skilled labour than you can use and more land than you can use, surely the best course is not the spending of public money to produce more skilled labour and more useable land.
1811 The right hon. Gentleman in his speeches also puts a good deal of his faith in what he has called industrial rationalisation. We have become familiar with that phrase during the past year or two. In Debate after Debate in this House the virtues of rationalisation have been submitted to us with great eloquence. I agree that rationalisation has its virtues, just as I agree that thrift has its virtues, but I aim sure that no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that it is not the virtuous who always get a job. For instance, if I may refer in passing to the virtues of thrift, of which the right hon. Gentleman is, indeed, a public advocate, I would like to remind him that the present Chancellor the Exchequer in a speech delivered to a savings association the other week dealt on the glorious state of a country that had £1,500,000,000 of savings in the possession of its workers and its small capitalists. That is an excellent thing. It indicates magnificent virtue. But when you come to apply it, as the right hon. Gentleman has to apply these virtues, to the problem of unemployment it does not carry him much further. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that every £1,000,000 spent, not only every £1,000,000 saved, provides labour for 4,000 workmen. If we take his figures as correct, and I have no reason to doubt them, the £1,500,000,000 saved by these virtuous people would provide work, if it were spent in order to provide work, for 1,000,000 persons for six years.
While you may cheer the virtues, you have no reason to ignore the consequences —