HC Deb 27 February 1929 vol 225 cc2088-143

Postponed proceeding resumed on Question proposed on consideration of Question, That a sum, not exceeding £117,562,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments (including Pensions, Education, Insurance, and other Grants) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1930.

Question again proposed, That Item Class V, Vote 9, be reduced by £100.


When I was interrupted in my speech I was referring to what had been said about the difficulty of young persons finding employment and their services being dispensed with when they reach adult age so that younger persons can be taken on in their place. It is no comfort for us to hear about that from the Minister of Labour. We look for something more helpful from him in the handling of this great problem of unemployment. He told us the usual story about morn, people being employed. That may well be so, and it would, indeed, be a sad commentary on our industrial and economic system if, with the growth of our knowledge and scientific attainments, and our increasing control over nature, me were unable to absorb more labour. But what will the unemployed think of the Minister's statement? What comfort will it be to the unemployed in my constituency—in Wednesbury, Tipton and Darlaston—to be told by the right hon. Gentleman, "Ah, well, never mind, there are 600,000 more people employed now than there were a few years ago." There is no food for them in that statement. There is nothing in that to give them either satisfaction or material comfort. We expected the right hon. Gentleman to come down here at our invitation and the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) to tell us precisely what the Government intended to do.


They have told you!


Yes, and did we expect anything else? Of course we did not, either from the right hon. Gentleman or his friends or from the Cabinet. We know they are only waiting for the opportunity to go out of office, and that they expect a scheme to come into operation at the end of October this year which they think may do something. The unemployed are entitled to something better than that. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to put his faith in training. Figures have been quoted of the small number of people being trained to follow useful occupations; but afterwards it very often happens that they cannot get work, and when they do they find that it is not permanent. Though that may be some contribution towards the problem, it is a very small one indeed. If I understood the Minister aright, he told us they had reached the limit of potential output from their institutions; in other words, the institutions are unable to deal with any more persons, and, therefore, the hopes which were held out to us a few days ago about the training of the unemployed are not likely to be realised.

Reference was also made to emigration and training for work overseas. I particularly object to members of the working class being singled out for emigration. Why are the poor unemployed men and women the ones to be provided with the opportunity of emigration? I should prefer to see some of the super-men, some of the clever men, some of the men who tell us they know how to do it—those who can leave the law and polities and go into the city to run great businesses—taking their brains and their wealth, if they have any, to Canada or to Australia. Let, them go there and create an El Dorado, and then, when they have done that, we will follow. But, no, it is the unemployed man who is to be transferred to Canada and Australia. He goes there under doubtful conditions, with no real security, no certainty of permanent work, and having to compete, in many cases, with people drawn from all the races in Europe—if my correspondence bag is to be believed. This is not the way in which we expect the unemployment problem to be dealt with in the fifth year of office of His Majesty's Government. I hope that when the speech of the Minister is read by the great mass of the working class, and particularly by the unemployed in our great industrial centres, that they will give the right hon. Gentleman a message regarding his policy which he will not like. I must, however, pay a tribute to the civil servants of his Department. They seem to have great ability in producing all kinds of reasons and all kinds of explanations for this happening and the other, but little, if anything, in the way of a remedy to deal with the situation.

I will now say a few words about matters which concern the administration of the Employment Exchanges. I have had occasion to complain before about the lack of accommodation in my constituency so far as the Employment. Exchanges are concerned. It has been reported to me from time to time that hundreds of people stand in queues out in the cold and are unable to get inside the Exchanges to sign on when they go to receive their benefit. When I raised this question by letter in connection with the Wednesbury Exchange I was told it was due to the holidays and the abnormal condition of unemployment. Later on when I pointed out that the queues still continued then I was told that something would have to be done to remedy this grievance. I should like to know where the Minister got his information from. Why are we told that this state of things is due to the holidays and afterwards it is discovered to be a real grievance? On another occasion we were told that the women's department of this particular Exchange would be transferred, and after that we were told that the Government were going to build a new Exchange at Wednesbury.

I have received another complaint from Tipton that between one hundred and two hundred unemployed persons have been standing out in the cold during the wretched weather we have had recently waiting to sign on, and could not get inside the Exchange for over one hour. The Minister of Labour has admitted this afternoon that he has no remedy to absorb the unemployed, and as far as the administration of his Department is concerned we can get very little comfort. The people continue to stand in queues outside the Employment Exchanges protected, as they were in Wednesbury, by a policeman. That state of things should be remedied and I hope the Government will find the money to provide adequate accommodation for the unemployed. This is a grievance not merely in Wednesbury and Tipton but we get similar complaints from other parts of the country.

I wish to raise a grievance in connection with the Court of Referees. Very often either the employers' representative or the representative of the workmen is not present at the Court, and the Chairman of the Court sits and adjudicates without the assistance of those two representatives. That ought not to be permitted, and steps should be taken to ensure the presence of the representatives of the employer and the workmen when the Court of Referees adjudicates upon any case. With regard to the administration of the Court of Referees frequently an employer's written statement is accepted but the workman is obliged to attend the Court and give evidence, and he must support his written statement. In the case of the employer it does not seem to matter because he is allowed to sign the document and need not appear before the Court. In one case which came to my notice the Chairman of the Court happened to know the employer, and he even went and telephoned to him to ask whether a certain passage in his statement was correct. This is not the kind of treatment which the people I represent ought to receive, and if necessary there ought to be an amendment of the law to make this kind of thing impossible.

I wish to raise another point in connection with the transference scheme. I have waited in vain for the Minister of Labour to tell us anything about the number of people transferred, the number of schemes approved by the appropriate Committee and the local committees, the number of workpeople provided with labour, and the cost. On the 20th of February I asked a question and I gathered that 120 schemes had been approved and the estimated cost was roughly £1,600,000. That seems to me to be a very small contribution even if we put our faith in the transference scheme. I am not referring merely to the transference of miners, but transference in connection with the schemes of local authorities where they undertake to employ 50 per cent. from the depressed areas. I am disappointed that the Minister of Labour has not told us more about these schemes, the opportunities of labour provided and the expenditure of the local authorities in this direction.


I am speaking from memory, hut I think that under the schemes already approved, whereby 50 per cent. of labour will be transferred, the total will amount to between 30,000 or 40,000 or 40,000 and 50,000 man months of labour.


As the Government put so much faith in the appeal of the Prime Minister and the transference of men from depressed areas I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have given us a fuller and a more complete statement.


If the hon. Member is asking for that information, I can give it. I did not deal with transference, because there were so many other subjects to deal with. About 11,000 people have been transferred directly through the exchanges or the training centres. At the end of the present month, another 3,000 will have been transferred through the Prime Minister's appeal. That does not take into account the number transferred through the efforts of their own friends to find them places by talking to the foremen and so on and probably they amount very nearly to as many again as those transferred directly from the exchanges. On the whole, I should be surprised if not less than 20,000 have been migrated in that way.


I am very much obliged for that additional information. I quite appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties in covering all the ramifications of his Department. We are dis- appointed with the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and I think the country and the unemployed will be disappointed. It is clear to us and it is becoming clearer every day to the country that there is no hope for the unemployed so long as the present Minister of Labour sits on the Treasury Bench.


The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Short) was good enough to say that at any rate the suggestions of the Minister of Labour were not contributions to the solution of the unemployment problem. I think the Minister of Labour might well retort that we get very few contributions from hon. Members opposite. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have any real remedy for unemployment surely in the face of all the misery and distress in the country they would not be so callous as to keep it to themselves. I think it is sometimes forgotten that the causes of unemployment are not one or two but they are many and various. It may be that we have almost reached the saturation point in the employment of labour, and that trouble is aggravated by the fact that fewer people are leaving for the Dominions than was the case before the War. Another cause of unemployment is the greater output of machinery by means of which we can now manufacture more goods with fewer men and that aggravates the trouble. Since the War other countries have made more of their own goods and we are no longer the workshop of the world. Other countries cannot or they will not take as many of our manufactured goods as they used to do.

I came across a very striking illustration the other day of how difficult it is to create more employment in this country under our present system of working. Some friends of mine have spent something like £750,000 in equipping a mill with the most up-to-date machinery for making certain kinds of paper. Any hon. Member can go down to that mill in a motor car in under one hour. The mill is already equipped on a most expensive and efficient scale, and it was ready to set men to work in order to manufacture this particular sort of paper. Immediately that fact became known abroad the Germans and other foreign countries where this particular paper is made, dropped the price of that article by £6 per ton, and that made it impossible to manufacture that paper at a profit in his country. The consequence of that is that that particular mill has never been opened and can never be opened as a factory to produce that particular kind of paper. It may be that the engineers will be able to find some other use for the mill, and they have great hopes that it may eventually be put to some useful purpose. That is the sort of thing that happens when you try to create employment in this country. Of course, the remedy for that state of things is the one proposed by the Government—


That is a remedy which would require legislation, and it cannot be discussed on this Vote.


I am sorry if I have transgressed the Rules of Order, but thought I might be allowed to go into our remedy now. On this point I do not expect to convince hon. Gentlemen opposite, because nothing would convince them, but I think I have said enough to show them that we have a remedy it they will only allow us to put it into force, as the working men of the country want us to do, and we are only prevented from doing so by the leaders of the party opposite.



I have heard the Minister of Labour on many occasions during the last four and a-half years defending the Government and his Department in regard to the unemployment problem, but I have never heard him make a poorer defence than the one he has made tonight. The right hon. Gentleman has gone into the details of various schemes, and he has given us reasons why certain things could not be done. It seemed to me that he had been reading a lot of memoranda, probably compiled by some professor of economics, and that he was delivering them to us like a lecture to students of economics.


They were my own.


Throughout the right hon. Gentleman's speech we had no reference to anything that would be likely to mitigate the present unemployment in this country. He told us that he was of opinion that safeguarding and de-rating would help to reduce the number of unemployed. The hon. and learned Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Grotrian) said that we had never put any remedies before the House for the solution of this problem, but might I remind him that none of the back-benchers on that side have put forward any real practical remedy except that of migration? Many interesting points have been raised in the discussion to-night. The Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) commenced his speech by referring to the Report of the Ministry of Health Inspector on the conditions in South Wales. That is a most appalling document, but I venture to say that, if a report were made on any other of the distressed areas in this country, it would be to a similar effect. Throughout the length and breadth of the land it is quite apparent that men, women and children are losing their vitality through this terrible disease of unemployment which prevails in our midst. Therefore, it is a problem, whether we make it political or nonpolitical, to which everyone in this House ought to bend his energies with a view to trying to find some solution.

With regard to the transference scheme, the right hon. Genleman, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Short), said that he would not be surprised if upwards of 20,000 men had been transferred from the depressed areas. We should be very much surprised if the number had reached that figure. I understand that, according to the scheme referred to in the circular issued on the 9th November, 1928, local authorities can only get a certain element of relief if 50 per cent. of the men employed on a new scheme are drawn from a depressed area. A depressed area may itself have a hundred and one schemes in its own midst that it could put into operation, but it would not be allowed any grant from the Grants Committee unless it brought in men from a depressed area. What is the good of bringing men from one depressed area into another depressed area to carry out schemes of work? I have here an extract from the minutes of the Highways Committee of the Cumberland County Council, and I expect the right hon. Gentleman has received a copy of it. It says: Unemployment Relief Works. A circular letter dated 9th November. 1928, was submitted from the Unemployment Grants Committee, together with a report by the county surveyor, and the same was considered. Resolved: '(a) That the Unemployment Grants Committee be informed that so far as this county is concerned the terms of their circular of 9th November are considered exceedingly unsatisfactory, and they be urged to give consideration to the varying of the conditions to meet the exceptional unemployment that exists in the county, and thereby permit schemes such as the Moss Bay road widening being eligible for the highest percentage grant, as indicated in the circular letter.' The Moss Bay road-widening scheme is on the very doorstep of a large steelworks. In that area, where there is something like 26 per cent. of unemployment, and where the greater proportion of that unemployment is due to lack of employment in the steelworks, it will not be possible for the local authority to get any grant for the purpose of that necessary road-widening scheme if they only employ men from the immediate neighbourhood. That seems to me to be a ridiculous idea. The resolution goes on to point out that, owing to the decline in rateable value—


Have they applied under the old scheme of grants? This does not preclude an application under the old scheme of grants. Perhaps the hon. Member does not understand that, and perhaps he will have a talk on the matter with the Parliamentary Secretary.


I should like very much to have a talk with either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary, because this is a very important matter to the part of Cumberland which I represent. The resolution goes on to point out that the reason why the county council cannot do this work themselves is that their rateable value has become abnormally low owing to the decline in industrial undertakings. In my Division there is a large number of iron ore workers, steel workers and miners. I am not going to deal with the question from the point of view of the miners, because the Miners' Federation Executive have already met the Secretary for Mines and have put before him their proposals and suggestions as to what should be done in the way of relief so far as the mining problem is concerned. I may say that we received no consolation whatever from the Secretary for Mines, but I see, from an announcement which has been made, that we are now going to have the privilege of meeting the Prime Minister on the 5th March, and placing before him the situation in the mining areas, so that it would not be advisable for me to deal now with the miners' point of view.

As I have already said, in my Division there is a large number of steel and iron workers, and also of iron ore workers, unemployed. These men have been unemployed intermittently for a period of seven or eight years, and the result has been that the industries of the district have declined, the rateable value has gone down, and the county council and local authorities cannot raise the money necessary for putting into operation schemes of work for these unemployed men. They have been told exactly what we have been told here to-night. Every time that the men go to the Employment Exchanges they are told about emigration schemes. One hon. Member said this evening that surely the spirit of adventure had not left the young man-hood of this country, but I think he was speaking from an angle quite different from ours. He was thinking about the young man who goes out to explore, to find what there is to be done and what he can do. He, if he fails, has a, good home to come back to, and ample provision will be made for him. But these men who have been unemployed for several years, if they go out to a strange country amongst strange people to seek work, may find themselves stranded, and in a worse position than that in which they would have been had they remained in their own country.

It is no use giving us figures regarding what took place in connection with emigration 20, 25 or 30 years ago. We are all agreed that our Colonies have been developed, and their industries have now become almost stabilised. Twenty, or even 15 years ago, large numbers of mechanics were required for those industries, but to-day, if I am rightly informed, the largest demand is for people to work in agriculture pursuits, and, therefore, the skilled mechanic or artisan who goes out from this country may find himself taken right out of his own profession and put into an occupation of which he has never had any experience. Therefore, I am not prepared to agree to an extensive emigration scheme of a compulsory character, under which our men would be dumped down in those Colonies and left absolutely alone. I think that we should devote our attention to finding work for our own people as far as possible in our own country, under the conditions that ought to be created in this country. The Minister referred to the fact that wages had gone up by 7 per cent, in the last five, years, but he did not tell us which five years he meant. Did he mean the years 1923 to 1927, inclusive? He probably has not the figures yet for 1928. He must remember, however, that the biggest advance in wages that took place during any of those five years took place in the year 1924, and neither he nor his Government was responsible for any part of that advance.


Speaking from memory—I will obtain the figures before the end of the Debate—it was 7 per cent. since 1924.


Then it was not five years.


Four years.


Then we have got that put right.


I hope the hon. Member will withdraw that. I made a slip.


I withdraw it without hesitation, but it is rather a peculiar thing that the right hon. Gentleman was so emphatic about, five years, because he repeated the expression "five years" more than once. If 1924 was included in those figures, I should be prepared to say that there is a good deal of truth in the statement which he made, because wages in certain industries went up in 1924, but I have looked very closely at the Labour Gazette, and I have failed to see any appreciable advance in wages which would make me think we had got an advance of 7 per cent, in real wages from 1924.

I want to make a complaint or two about the administrative side of the Department. The right hon. Gentleman cannot keep his eye on everything that happens in every Employment Exchange, but I have appealed to him in regard to the accommodation for the men in Workington and in regard to a new exchange, and he has commenced to build a new one. The Court of Referees is composed of three persons, and, generally speaking, the Chairman of the Court is a solicitor. I have been before the Court of Referees on behalf of men belonging to the Cumberland Miners' Association, and I invariably find that, if there is a big case involving a good many men, the chairman is there less in the capacity of an impartial chairman than of counsel for the employers, puts questions which appear to cast doubt on the statements of the men and their representatives, always seems to favour the statements of the employers, and cross-questions and cross-examines the men on information that he has received from the employers. Admirable as some of these men may be, probably with good legal knowledge and experience, I am afraid they forget that they are sitting in the capacity of judges, and it should be an instruction to them that they sit there in an impartial capacity to hear the evidence of both sides without bias.

I put down a question two or three weeks ago complaining of delay, and the Minister in his reply said that if I had any specific cases he would be very pleased to hear them. I could give a large number of specific cases, but mine was a general complaint in regard to our own district. There is delay in hearing these cases. I have a letter from the Department saying that they found I have some cause of complaint, and that they are proceeding to remedy it as quickly as they can. The complaint I want to make now is in regard to delay by the chief insurance officer. A case is heard before a court of referees and a fortnight or three weeks will elapse before there is any information from the chief insurance officer as to whether he is accepting the decision of the court or not. If he declines to accept the decision, there is a right of appeal. If there is delay, these men have to apply to the Poor Law authorities for relief, and they are told, because they are able-bodied men, and because there is doubt whether it was a trade dispute or not, that they can only get relief for their wives and children. The result is that able-bodied men have been going about for weeks pending a settlement of their case practically starving. Surely, there can be a better system than that. I admit that the chief insurance officer may have had a lot of cases to deal with, but surely they can be dealt with more quickly than they have been in the past. The right hon. Gentleman's new Act, which became operative in April last, has done a grievous amount of injury, not only in creating unemployment, but in forcing men to work at reduced wages, because now an employer can break any agreement with impunity, and we cannot take any action unless we resort to a strike, whereas before, if we could prove that he had broken an agreement, we had a right to appeal for unemployment benefit and were entitled to it. The reason road schemes cannot be carried out—and we need miles and miles of new roads and miles and miles of roads want widening and opening out—is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer robbed the Fund of every penny it had and left local authorities to their own resources. They have borrowed beyond their powers of borrowing and, while these schemes would not have solved the problem of unemployment, they would have been a palliative and would have helped to lessen the amount of suffering. These men have been left high and dry owing to the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in taking away a fund created for the very purpose of making new roads, which would have meant employment for unemployed men. I remember Sir Eric Geddes bringing the Road Act before the House and telling us of the employment it would create, but he never dreamed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to raid the fund. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will do something to alleviate some of the things I have mentioned.


May I now give the hon. Member the figures I promised him? The increase in real wages, that is to say, the rate of wages and the cost of living combined, at the end of 1928, as compared with the end of 1924, was 8 per cent. In 1923, it was, on the average, 1 per cent. lower than in 1924. The hon. Member will find the figures in the fourth column of the table on page 44 of this month's Ministry of Labour Gazette. He will see that I was meaning four years. I was comparing with 1924 throughout, and the figure I gave was amply justified. I was speaking from memory, and it was 8 per cent. and not 7. I was dealing with real wages, which is the important thing—what money will buy. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much was advance of wages and how much cost of living?"] The first column gives the rate of wages based on a normal working week, the second column gives the cost of living, and the third column gives the real wages, which is what a man's money will buy. There was a rise of 8 per cent, over 1924 and 9 per cent. over 1923.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

There is always a temptation in a Debate on unemployment to repeat arguments and to indulge in recriminations, but I would like to exempt from this charge the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield), who opened the Debate, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson). They were both, in their observations, helpful and constructive, and were, I believe, an example to all Members on all sides of the Committee in their attitude towards this terrible curse of unemployment. As a matter of fact, I rather sympathise with the hon. Member for Durham in his reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs Mr. Lloyd George). I visualised as I heard the right hon. Gentleman's remarks the instructions to his private secretary when he knew this Debate was going to come on: "Where is that speech on unemployment?" This is not uncommon among many Members of this House; in fact, I detect in some of the remarks I have heard from Members on all sides of the Committee references that I have heard in previous Debates. To get a real appreciative point of view of this problem of unemployment, we want to realise how it came about or to what it is due. We should remove from our minds that if is due to any particular form of society or the lack of any other form of society. That is absolute nonsense. Unemployment will exist under any form of society if the conditions which govern unemployment remain.

Let us examine the position. To what is unemployment due? We must clear our minds of party politics altogether. It is due to one thing to a major extent and to another thing to a minor extent. It is due to the War primarily, and it is due to the General Strike in a lesser degree. [Interruption.] I am now referring to the present exaggerated position of unemployment. You cannot throw away the lives and productive elements of a country every day in the year for four years; you cannot saddle the country with a thousand million pounds of debt; and you cannot place a burden on the country of millions of pounds a year in pensions, without it having effect. Those are to my mind the basic reasons of unemployment. At the end of that time, after four years of continued dissipation of our national wealth and our productive efforts, you cannot then blow a bugle on Armistice Day and say: "Now, business as usual." Governments can help, but they cannot work miracles.

I will try and show, from my point of view, what the present Government have done in the way of assistance and what they can do. To my mind, the lack of prosperity of this country and the unemployment in this country can only be rectified, as Mr. Goodenough said the other day, by hard work, by economy, and by sacrifice. I am not talking exclusively about the unemployed, but about every section of the community. During the War we were forced to absorb into the big basic industries of the country—coal mines, shipbuilding, cotton—a vastly increased number of men to-satisfy the enormously increased demand that the War made upon us. When the War came to an end and these demands subsided, we found ourselves with our big basis industries glutted with men who never again could be employed as long as normal demands remained. We have to face that point. How are we going to find an egress for this increased number of persons who were employed during the War owing to the urgent demands of that time and who are now looking fur jobs? The Minister stated to-night the means he is using and has used, and as the hon. Member for Wallsend has admitted, many of them are of great use. He has told us about the easy and cheap migration that has been arranged. I would say this, in reply to some hon. Members opposite, that migration is not to be sneered at. No one wants to make migration compulsory. It is a free migra- tion for those men of our country who, some of us on this side of the Committee think, may have the adventurous spirit and want to carve out a new career for themselves under new conditions and with new hope. The Ministry have arranged and are arranging schemes of preliminary training which no other Government in this country have put forward.


I beg the hon. and gallant Gentleman's pardon; it was started by the Labour Government.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

Perhaps the hon. Lady will permit me to say that it has been very greatly increased by the present Government, far in advance of anything that her Government had in view. There is the scheme of the transference of labour, and that, again, we know is working, though, unfortunately, only to a limited extent. We hope that it will increase and go on and that, where fresh industries are created and where fresh opportunities are being created for the wage earners, men will be sent in increasing numbers to districts where they may find a reasonable standard of life. I do not know whether I shall be in order in mentioning this, but I hope that the Minister or those whom he can influence—that is, of course, when we return to power this year—will advocate a more progressive system of safeguarding so that our basic industries will really he able to prosper.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dennis Herbert)

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not in Order.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

The Unemployment Grants Committee is a body for whom I, personally, have great respect. They have met me in every way, and in every case in a spirit of understanding, of sympathy, and of generosity. I have no complaint to make whatever against the machinery of the Unemployment Grants Committee, but I have perhaps a complaint to make against its limitations. I would like to see the Unemployment Grants Committee given far greater powers of assisting, because we know that if the local authorities are given confidence that their requests will be met their requests will be trebled within a month. Work is waiting to be done. All they want is confidence, and the knowledge that the machinery of the Unemployment Grants Committee will be made sufficiently wide to admit of far greater assistance being given.

With regard to the question of the decentralisation of unemployment which was referred to by an hon. Friend on this side of the Committee, I should like to say that I think it is a very good idea. The county councils or the local city councils are the people who are directly cognisant of the situation in their areas. They are directly in touch with the necessities of creating fresh road work, erecting new buildings, and embarking upon other forms of industry. They know the individuals in their areas who are most suited to the different types of employment which they might create. My suggestion is that it would be a good thing if the Minister could see his way to make some sort of arrangement whereby, instead of the soul-destroying dole being continued as at present, the money payable by the Government could be allocated to each county or city and handed over with certain restrictions and governing powers. The local authorities might then be empowered to expend the money not only in relief works, but in beneficial work in their own areas. That would create a new standard of self-respect for the men employed. It would create useful work in the neighbourhood and would do a good turn to the district and the country by providing not only necessary work but effecting necessary improvements. We should, also, be giving to our young men and youths the self-respect which honest work gives, coupled with a new hope and a new confidence in life which they have not at the present time.


Like my colleagues, I have been greatly interested in the statement of the Minister of Labour and, like them, I have a feeling of disappointment. I am not, however, going to pour the vials of my wrath upon the devoted head of the right hon. Gentleman, because I want to say that even the devil is not as black as he is painted. Relieved from his official environment and approached—I am afraid that I have given him very considerable trouble in this respect—in a private capacity on questions to which he has applied his own individual mind, I have always received from him very careful and sometimes generous treatment. It is not the individual whom I am attack- ing, but the Department, and I would like to supplement what has been said with respect to the administrative work of the Department. Much of that ground of criticism has been covered, and there is only one point with which I should like to deal. With regard to the Court of Referees, I can speak from practical experience.

The only fault I have to find with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is its sheer poverty of policy on the general question of unemployment. With respect to the composition of the Courts of Referees, the Chairman, of course, goes there to deal with questions from the purely technical, legal point of view. I have often thought that if these gentlemen had a little more human experience, in addition to their legal knowledge, it might influence their minds in a more humane direction. We have heard to-night eloquent and practical speeches, particularly from a new Member. In so far as my particular industry is concerned, I have very little, if any, fault to find so far as unemployment benefit is applied, except to say that the percentage of unemployment in casual labour is higher than in any other industry in the country, and it might be improved upon. I am not a miner, but I claim to represent a mining constituency. There is scarcely any hon. Member on these benches who could not repeat from his own personal knowledge the experience of the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Shield) who spoke from the point of view of the mining industry.

The right hon. Gentleman went into the question of cause and effect, and spoke of imports and exports and their effect upon employment. It is an acknowledged fact that exports mean imports, yet the record of the present Government has been to put obstacles in the way of imports coming into the country, thereby affecting the conditions of employment. The right hon. Gentleman went into the question of causes, and went far back before the War. I could go much further back. I could go back to the root causes in Genesis, but it is too long a story, and the lynx eye of the Chairman would he upon me. The right hon. Gentleman referred, incidentally, to the coal stoppage, but he was very careful not to allocate any responsibility for the coal stoppage. I have often wondered what the Conservative party would do without the slogan of the general strike. The roll it like a sweet morsel under their tongues on every available opportunity. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not here. It certainly comes with very bad grace from him or from any member of the Government to lay at the door of the general strike any of the causes of unemployment to-day. What was the history of that strike?


I thought it was a stoppage, not a strike.


First of all, the Miners' Federation were compelled by sheer stress of circumstances to accept conditions which broke up the national agreement, and sent them back to district arrangements. Then the Government subsidised the coal trade, and the subsidy, instead of relieving the industry, was used by the coalowners in cut-throat competition amongst themselves in order to capture foreign trade. The Government appointed a Commission, which reported, and then the Government callously and brutally tore up the report of the Royal Commission, and handed the miners, body and soul, to the coal-owners. That was the cause of the trouble. The cause of the general strike was the fact that the limit of human endurance had been reached. When hon. or right hon. Members talk about the whole of the blame being attributable to the general strike, my reply is that there comes a time in human affairs when human endurance breaks down, and that strike was one of those occasions.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the fact that wages have increased by seven or eight per cent, during the last four years, but he forgot to tell us a much more important fact, that previous to the last four years wages were reduced by £6,000,000, 7,000,000 and £8,000,000 per week, so that the seven or eight per cent. increase does not at all bring us up to the previous level. He also believes—I do not think there are many outside his own party who will agree with him—that the de-rating and safeguarding proposals are going to have some effect in reducing unemployment in this country. We have had three solid months of de-rating. The Local Government and Rating Bills have dragged their weary length along for nearly two Sessions of Parliament, and even now I doubt whether anybody outside this House understands what it means, where it begins or where it ends. With my limited lay knowledge I fail to see how any of the suggestions made by the de-rating and local government policy of the Government is going to find employment for a single individual in this country. One hon. Member has asked whether we have any suggestions to offer. I am now over 70 years old, and I have been in the Labour movement for 50 years. Ever since my apprenticeship to the Labour movement I cannot remember a single day, a single week, a single month or a year, when we have not offered suggestions and proposed remedies to the Government. The only consolation we have to-day is that the Government themselves have endeavoured feebly, very feebly indeed, to adopt some of the suggestions we have made to deal with the question of unemployment.

My mind goes back to the middle nineties when I was President of the Trade Union Congress. At that time I waited upon the father of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health and Mr. Balfour, and put before them the proposal that at 70 years of age 5s. per week should be paid as an old age pension to the workmen of this country. They held up their hands in holy horror at the idea of pauperising people. Yet they are offering to-day a pension of 10s. per week at the age of 65. That was one of our suggestions, made many years ago but very feebly applied by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The fault we have to find is that the application is altogether too feeble and not as practical as we would like it to be. The hon. Member who spoke last said that it was difficult to solve the problem of unemployment under the existing system. I agree. What is the present system? We have a million and a half of men unemployed, they are on the live register, and another half million who are off the register; deliberately shut off by the legislation of the Government. I do not say that the Minister of Labour has shut them off deliberately, he is bound to act under the general regulations imposed.

May I refer, incidentally, to another matter; the question of genuinely seeking employment. A more monstrous and iniquitous rule was never created by the mind of man. I am not going to say much on this question now because I consider that personal contact with the Minister of Labour is much better than a cross-examination across the Floor of the House. But I have a case before the right hon. Gentleman now from my own constituency, which is typical of hundreds of others. It is the case of a young woman who has never drawn any unemployment benefit. She has been out of work for two or three months and has looked for work all over the place, but because she refused to go 30 or 40 miles from where she lives, and where she might get the chance of a job, she has been refused unemployment pay on the ground that she was not genuinely seeking work. That is typical of hundreds and hundreds of other cases. I quite agree with the hon. Member that under the present system it is not possible to solve the unemployment problem. That is why we are up against the present system. Here we have 1,500,000 men on the live register, and another half million off the live register, about whom nobody speaks and nobody cares. These 2,000,000 people represent another 2,500,000 dependants, altogether you have 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 or perhaps 5,000,000 human beings concerned.

I will take the adults, the 1,500,000, who are willing and anxious to produce and add to the wealth of the country but who are denied the opportunity under the existing system. I will not detain the House much longer. What is the existing system? It lays down this principle, that men and women are employed to produce and are paid sufficient wages to keep them alive until the warehouses are bursting with the produce of their hands or brains. Then there comes a slump, not because of any fault of theirs, but because it is said that there is no demand for the commodities they are producing. Therefore, they are shut out of work; they have no wages; there are not customers for the produce. These 1,500,000 people are out of work, on the dole if you like, with no wages, living in starvation, while the warehouses burst with the produce they have made. They are told that they must starve in the midst of the plenty they have produced. There is something wrong in the state of Denmark when wealth pro- ducers are denied the opportunity of working and becoming customers and consumers.


Would it not require legislation to alter that state of Denmark?


I only wish we could force legislation in this matter, because that is the only remedy. Talk about no contributions to this problem from this side of the House; we are sick and weary of offering suggestions. Let me make one suggestion. The only thing to cure unemployment is work, and it is the duty of the Government, for their own sake and in the interests of the community, to see that where private enterprise has failed to provide it, they themselves should step into the breach. It is a Christian doctrine, but; I am afraid that there is not much Christianity about present-day politics. What the future may hold is still in the lap of the gods. Over and over again this question has been raised in this House, but it appears to me like thrashing a dead horse. The time may shortly come when there will be a change in the situation. The sooner that time comes the better, and with it the application of the real Christian doctrine: Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.


It has been very interesting to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton), but all that he has done has been to point out the evil of the unemployment which already exists. He has failed to realise that unemployment and the distressful conditions in this country ought to be a non-party question. It is not a bit of use going about the country and at street corners pointing out the condition of evil which exists and not pointing out any remedy. The hon. Member accused the Government of being responsible for the unemployment of 1,500,000 people, with their 2,000,000 dependants. What we want to do, what every party in the House wants to do, is to remedy the unemployment. The hon. Member mentioned that wages have been reduced by £7,000,000. He did not say from what point the wages had been reduced, nor did he say that wages went up £70,000,000 or £170,000,000 during the War. Everyone regrets, and no one more than I do, that there should have been this drop.

I represent a purely industrial constituency in which, unfortunately, three of the basic industries are at about the lowest ebb—coal, cotton and iron. It is all very well to talk about poor starving miners, but let us also think about the poor starving cotton operatives and iron workers. The problem is threefold; all these industries are hit together. It is the prosperity of the country that is at stake, and the only way to get the nation's industries going on a sound foundation is to get our heavy industries started. We must persuade the Opposition in this House to use their energies in raising the standard of living and of wages in those foreign countries which are dumping in this country the produce of their sweated labour. [HON. MEMBERS "The Washington Convention!"] We want to wash out the Washington Convention. Take the cotton trade, to begin with. What is needed is the introduction in the importation of cotton goods into this country of the same conditions as are applied to the importation of cotton goods from Lancashire into the United States.


If one happens to be fortunate enough to produce goods which can be exported to America, in spite of the high tariff wall there, one has to get what, is called a consular invoice. That costs 10s. 4d. On that invoice one has to state the name of the customer, the price and width of the cloth, the actual number of threads per inch in the warp and the actual number of counts per inch in the weft. When the invoice goes to the States with the bill of lading, there has to he submitted a sample six inches by four inches, and a pattern three inches by two inches, and there may be as many as twenty designs. When the goods arrive in America, any United States citizen can go through the appraiser's house and look at the invoice. The exporter has to give the actual counts, that is to say, has to state the texture of the article and to give his trade secrets away. No matter what the weight of the cloth may be, if the actual counts are stated on the invoice the American gets to know what he wants to know. He can look at the patterns and can see the texture of the cloth, and he knows immediately whether he can produce at a competitive price or not. That enables the American manufacturer to say, "I can produce these goods." Immediately he produces the goods, up goes the tariff and the British manufacturer is shut out.

As a measure of retaliation it is not necessary to impose a tariff or a duty here. All that is needed is to give our cotton manufacturers a chance of knowing exactly what comes into this country from Belgium or from France. I defy any expert to tell what is the composition of some of the textiles that are imported from the Continent to this country. If we compelled foreign manufacturers to do what we have to do when we export to the United States, that is, to state the width of the cloth, what the yarn is composed of, and so forth, that would enable our manufacturers, without any tariff and without any interference with Free Trade, to know whether it was a legitimate business. Up to the present we do not know that. The hon. Member for the Rossendale Valley (Mr. Waddington) represents a great manufacturing place for sheetings and cotton blankets which are within the reach of every working man. As to this, a question was asked the other day. Belgian sheets are coming into this country loaded with 54 per cent. of china clay. I say it is china clay because I have used it myself. These Belgian goods are loaded with it. If our Belgian competitors were compelled to state the actual counts of the yarn in these sheetings and the rest of the information that America demands from us our manufacturers would be able to compete with the stuff that is coming into this country.

Another point that I would like to raise relates to the Postmaster-General and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Probably everyone in this country is under the belief that, in connection with the British Broadcasting Corporation, everything is British, but I would point out that this is not so. I refer to the cords for wireless sets and, in connection with the Post Office, there is also the case of the pendant cords for telephones.


I would point out to the hon. Member that broadcasting does not come under the Ministry of Labour.


I merely wanted to show, in connection with the question of unemployment, that the British Broadcasting Corporation, by importing foreign cords, are doing thousands of British workers out of employment. The hon. Member who represents the constituency where a great deal of this work is done has, I think, pointed out that some 5,000 men were working in this industry, but I do not think that they have more than 200 working at present, and that is all through the system which exists at the present time of importing these covered wires or cords from abroad. I do not wish to chastise the Opposition, but they do not suggest any remedies. They only point out the difficulties which exist. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who has been somewhat unfortunate in his experiences on the Mediterranean is not here, but his deputy is here in the person of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), and I hope he will do something to stop the Free Trade parrot cry and give the British working man a chance of earning good money.

Another point on which I would touch is in connection with the British Industries Fair. I think one would be safe in saying that the goods there are about fifty-fifty British and foreign production. I looked at several of the stalls there and made inquiries and I found that the bulk of the goods had been imported into this country and only minor details added to them. Then, in connection with an Admiralty contract for bootlaces, I am informed that the bootlaces were imported from abroad in foot lengths and the tags were imported in separate cases. British labour was employed simply to put the tags on to the bootlaces, and then they were supplied to the Admiralty as British-made bootlaces. I hope all parties will join in doing their utmost to relieve our unemployed and to get our people work again. We have the best workpeople in the world if they got the same chance as other people, and I hope the day will soon arrive when we shall prevent any goods made by sweated labour coming into this country.


I do not propose to follow the last speaker in his very interesting discourse on the textile industry. I wish to deal with the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Acts and to suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he can do a great deal to mitigate the conditions under which his Department is at present administering those Acts. The introduction of the 1927 Act did away with the local committees, and brought into prominence an officer who in the past had not been so prominent, namely the insurance officer. My observations are not confined to one small geographical area when I say that the activities of the insurance officer have made the Ministry of Labour repellant to every self-respecting unemployed man. When a man applies for benefit he is subjected to some of the most outrageous questions imaginable. The men are treated as if they themselves were the cause of unemployment, instead of being the victims of conditions over which they have no control whatever. We all know that the unemployment problem is due to national and international causes, but instead of the insurance officers treating these men as the victims of circumstances, they treat them as though the men were responsible for unemployment.

The attitude adopted is not one of finding out what is right but of how to get these men off the Fund. I do not ask the Parliamentary Secretary to accept my unsupported word, and I have taken the trouble to bring with me original documentary evidence. There is one case in which a man who was seen holding the head of a fractious horse, was reported to be in receipt of remuneration for doing so, and was struck off the unemployment roll. We challenged this decision through the Ministry of Labour and had it put right, but what happened? The case occurred in October of last year and the man did not get his benefit until February of this year. That man had a wife and four children, and when he was denied benefit in these ridiculous circumstances, he had to go to the Poor Law guardians to obtain support for his family. When the Minister's officials were inquiring into the case they submitted certain questions to a farmer and the farmer objected to signing the document because, he said, things were put down which he had not said. I quote the farmer's own words in his letter: I told him (the official of the Ministry) that he seemed to want to put statements down which were not true and was wanting me to sign it and therefore I would not sign anything, That is a very serious allegation against an official of the Ministry. It is to be remembered that the official was interviewing, not the applicant for relief, but an independent person, and it is suggested that he put words into the mouth of the independent person to such an extent that the latter refused to sign the document when it was presented to him. I hope the Minister will take cognisance of that case, and that he will make it quite clear that he will not tolerate any official in his Department conducting himself in that disgusting fashion. There is another point of importance. When men make an application for benefit, the question of merit is not uppermost in the minds of the people who, temporarily, at any rate, decide the question, but how long has it been the policy of the Ministry of Labour that when a man asks for benefit because he is out of employment, it should be suggested to him that his wife might take in washing, or take in lodgers, so that the Unemployment Fund should be relieved of the wife's dependent allowance of 7s. a week? I think this is Bumbledom brought up to date, and I will quote, for the benefit of the Parliamentary Secretary, a letter which has come to me from Yorkshire, corroborating the statement that I have made. It is from a man in a representative capacity, and the letter shall be handed over to the Parliamentary Secretary if he desires to see it. It says: I know from personal experience that the insurance officers have endeavoured to initiate claims to be made upon the housewife when the husband has been up for examination, as to whether he was diligently seeking occupation in some way or another, that they wanted to know what the wife was doing, and could she take in washing; could she not do some charing; could they not take in lodgers; and other similar insinuations; that because the husband was unemployed she ought to be compelled in some way to be keeping the house going. Does the Parliamentary Secretary justify that conduct on the part of his officials? I want him to answer that question either now or when he rises to reply later on. Many of these men either have their benefit cut off or they have it temporarily suspended until the matter can go before the court of referees, and the plight in which these people are placed is intolerable. They have no Surplus on which they may feed their families pending their appeal to the court, and many unfortunate men who go before the court of referees are ill equipped to make a decent statement. Even the managers of the Employment Exchanges themselves are not always clear as to whether a man is entitled to receive benefit. I have a letter in my hand which deals with the case of a man who desired to clean a car at 2s. 6d. a day. He might clean a car one day at 2s. 6d. and a couple of days later another car at 2s. 6d. He asked the manager of the Exchange if he might do so, and the manager told him frankly that he must not earn the 2s. 6d., because, if he did, he would destroy his right to draw benefit; though it is well known that there are subsidiary occupations which men may follow provided that the work is done outside the hours during which they would normally be working.

Unfortunately, these men go before the court of referees very ill equipped to state their case, and many times, with a little application of common sense, a man's benefit would never have been stopped in the first place. If the Ministry's officials were as helpful in finding men jobs as they are zealous in applying themselves to striking men off the books, there would be some extenuating circumstances. We have heard of centres for training boys, but I had a case recently where a miner, working on short time, asked that he might be permitted to learn motor driving, so that he could equip himself to be a driver in the omnibus service in my own constituency, which the Parliamentary Secretary knows well. He applied to the Minister of Labour to know if he might do so. He was not to be paid, but merely to be taught. The reply was, "If you are taught driving in your spare time, you cannot possibly draw unemployment benefit." If the man had stood by the door of the public house instead of trying to learn another trade, he would have been entitled to draw benefit. It is surely to the advantage of the Ministry to encourage men to train themselves for other occupations, instead of allowing them to remain in industries which are obviously suffering from the general depression.

In view of these and hundreds of similar charges which might be brought against his Department, I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he will institute an inquiry to see whether his officials are doing what I am alleging that they are doing. We do not ask him to accept my word or that of any of my colleagues on this matter, but we want him to see whether the 1927 Act is fulfilling the promises which he held out when it was before the House. I make bold to say that some of the conditions under which men are given benefit and struck off benefit constitute a scandal, and I hope the Minister, when he replies, will be good enough to tell us what he or his Department proposes to do in the matter.


I make no apology for joining in this Debate. I think it is about the fourth time that I have taken part in an unemployment Debate, and there seems to be a paucity of ideas, especially among Members of the Opposition, as to any sort of cure for unemployment. Indeed, several hon. Members have spoken in a way that I could more or less have dictated to a typist. I could almost tell what they were going to say. For a complete proposition I have had to look to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), but what does that amount to? I represent some of the finest skilled operatives in the world, and they are proud of their Member. [Interruption.] I join with my operatives in being able to work with them and to work the same number of hours. I heard a suggestion made by the Minister of Labour that he would like to keep a man to his particular trade, and I agree with that.

What is the position with regard to our great industries? I am referring entirely to cotton. I was born in the cotton trade, as were my father and grandfather. At present in my division and throughout Lancashire the position is that for the last seven years our operatives have been on short time. In Bolton we are now on short time. What is the remedy to get people off the unemployment dole? I want a real, concrete suggestion from either side. This subject is so serious to me that, were I on the Opposition side and had I a cure, I would give it to the Committee this moment. The man who refuses to lay be- fore us his cure for unemployment is a traitor to his fellows. The right hon. Member for Come Valley (Mr. Snowden) said that that was not a job of the Opposition; their job was to oppose. If I had a. cure I would lay it before the Committee. It is a very serious matter for us. We have the most skilled artisans in the world. We have no competition in the sense that we spin the finest fabrics, and no other country can spin the same fabrics, yet we are on short time. We are working two weeks and playing one. The hon. Member who has just spoken had the privilege last week of addressing my constituency and the Leader of the Labour party spoke on Saturday, yet the only suggestion that they made in Lancashire was that if they were returned to power they would appoint a Royal Commission. For what purpose? To tell us in Lancashire something we know already and we know more about it than they will when they have finished their investigations. They have got no remedy. The right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw), who was Minister of Labour prior to my right hon. Friend was a failure. If he were here he would know what I was saying.

I want a suggestion that will put another 200,000 people on full time, and there is no suggestion coming forward. I would like to make a suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary. On the last occasion when I spoke I referred to the monetary policy of the Government. I have not receded a fraction of an inch from the position I took up then, and since the Bank Rate has gone up I am more sure now than I was. My suggestion is this: In the Budget of 1926 we extended the McKenna duties from motor cars to motor tyres, and every tyre coming into this country has to pay a duty of 33⅓ per cent. I submit that when that was passed, it was in the mind of every Member of this House that it was a complete 33⅓ per cent., and not half of 33⅓ per cent. What I mean is this: Six huge concerns have erected mills and workshops in England to turn out motor tyres. Every Member of the House thought that the whole of the tyre would be taxed and not half the tyre, but what has happened? These mills have got to work, and are turning out tyres now, and will probably be working to full capacity this year. The makers of those tyres realise that the Lancashire cotton operatives are the highest paid artisans in the world. I am proud of that, and I say that they are entitled to it because they are such adept workers. The operatives who spin the yarn to make the cloth produce half of every motor tyre. I mean half of the intrinsic value, because, if a tyre costs £5, then, roughly speaking, 50s. of it represents the cotton fabric. These mills are importing that cotton fabric into this country, and it is coming in free. The foreigner realises he cannot get the whole tyre into the country without paying the tariff, so he imports half of it and makes the other half here.

I do not want to advertise any of these firms or speak in any derogatory way of them. There are at present French, Italian and American firms producing these tyres. In spite of the hon. Member's references to the Washington Convention, the French are working double the time that we are, the Belgians are doing double shifts and the Italians are doing three shifts in many instances. They are dumping this cheaply produced cloth into Lancashire, and we are buying it in our tyres and putting it on our motor cars while our own spindles are stopped. I have samples here which I can produce to any Member. Is the Minister of Labour aware of the unemployment in the cotton trade due to this particular cause? Has he considered how many people are employed in the making of motor tyre fabric? Broadly speaking, over 1,000,000 pounds of cotton are used a week for this purpose, as it takes four pounds of cotton, on the average, to make a pneumatic motor tyre. If the whole of that was made in Lancashire, there would not be an unemployed operative in Bolton. This fabric is made from the best Egyptian cotton, but it is being made by sweated labour abroad and imported into this country. This duty of 33⅓ per cent. has been passed, and the House has agreed that a 33⅓ per cent. duty should be placed upon these tyres, yet the intention of the House is being evaded in this way.

Why is this material coming in? I am ashamed to say it, but it is because of the incompetence of our Customs officers. It is a serious statement to make, but I have seen them and they told me that they cannot tell the difference between a sponge cloth, which engineers know as cleaning cloth, imported into this country, and a loose tyre imported into this country. I say "loose" because it has not been proofed. I told them that if they could not tell the difference between a cloth which is made out of waste at 4d. per pound and a cloth which is made out of the best Egyptian cotton, then they wanted better Customs officials, and that if I were appointed I would work free. Here is a great source of employment to Lancashire, yet our Customs officials say that they cannot discriminate between stuff made out of waste for cleaning the outside of engines and stuff made out of the best Egyptian cotton. If that be so, then it is time the Minister of Labour explored that avenue in order to see if he cannot get us that trade, and let the mills of Lancashire be used for the purpose. I suggest that there are many other avenues which the Minister might explore.

I was for many years head of a firm employing 80 girls on a process which finished shoe-laces. It takes about 20 processes to get to that stage—the mixing, the carding, the spinning, the winding, and others. Our customers were in Yorkshire, good customers who paid regular cash on the nail: that is the real Lancashire idea of business. To-day, that stuff is coming from Germany, and our people are out of work. Has the Minister of Labour explored every Avenue of helping our people? I could multiply cases and could name them in hundreds and thousands. I want the Government to realise that the Lancashire cotton operative is real good Tory, and he wants full work and full time. It is our duty to find it for him, and if I can contribute anything to help the Minister out of the morass in which he is, and to help him to look forward to 10 years of full employment, that will be my job here.

I am not out to make any political kudos or capital out of this question. Anyone trying to make political kudos out of unemployment ought to be ashamed of himself. I am talking to all parts of the House, and to the Labour party in particular. The only remedy which I have heard yet has been to turn our cotton operatives on making roads or to transfer them to Another part of the country of which they have no idea. I would rather send them to Canada or South America to do cotton spinning there. I would love to go with them, and, were I a single man, I would not hesitate to go to Brazil and be a cotton spinner. Every other country offers facilities to men to work, but this country seems to offer them only facilities to be idle. It is every Englishman's duty to be employed, and it is the Government's duty to assist him with all their might.


If you, Sir, were presiding over a safeguarding inquiry, I could reply to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton (Mr. Hilton) who has just spoken, but the question which we are discussing is the administration of the Minister of Labour, particularly with regard to transference. The Minister will make the position worse instead of improving it by the way in which he is applying his powers of transference. I will give an illustration. In the North of London, where there are two Employment Exchanges covering a population of about 300,000, I have it from the Minister that 8 per cent. were unemployed before Christmas. It would be nearer 12 per cent. or 13 per cent. now. That was the percentage over the w hole number, but if we take the percentage on the unskilled element, it would be nearly 20 per cent. Yet the Minister's officials, instead of paying proper attention to their work, are busy looking into firms and jobs and trying to persuade employers, foremen and managers to take men from other districts rather than men who are standing on the spot waiting for jobs. When there are men in that proportion in the district already out of work, and when they are told that they are not genuinely looking for work after waiting hour after hour at places u here men are expecting to be taken on, it is very wrong for an official of the Ministry to try to persuade employers to take men from hundreds of miles away instead of the men on the spot. When the local man goes to the Employment Exchange for his benefit, he is wiped off the list because he is not genuinely seeking employment. When he goes to sign, he sees in the Employment Exchange a notice or he will get a request from the officials to find lodgings in his house for a man who has come to take his job.

You do not improve the conditions by removing the sore from one district to another. There is no saving to the nation in taking one man from one end of the country, removing his benefit, and putting another man on. If a man who is unemployed in his own district got a job, he would be able to live in his home at the lowest possible expense, but under the Minister's scheme, under which the wages paid to these unskilled people are very often far below the rates of the district, the man has to keep a tamely in Durham or South Wales, and he cannot pay his way in his lodgings and keep his wife and family at home. The result is that the man's wage has to be subsidised from the Poor Law of the district where the family lives. It is an abominable practice, and it is a pretence of doing something to help when it is, in tact, doing a great deal of harm. I am inclined to think that the purpose of the Minister is to use transference under impossible conditions as a trap, so that men may refuse or show unwillingness to be transferred, and so that they can be cut off from benefit. We find such cases as this occurring. A man from Tottenham will be sent to Hayes for an odd job, and, when he gets there, he finds men sent from other Employment Exchanges; and men from those other districts will be sent 12 or 15 miles across London to the very district from which the Tottenham man has come. We know of a great catering firm which employs a large number of young women of 30 years and upwards as scrubbers, and, it these women refuse these jobs, they are turned off benefit.

Figures show that, proportionately, about three times as many women workers are denied benefit for not genuinely seeking work as men. Is the reason that the women are so dishonest that they would sooner hang about than work? The fact is that the Minister takes advantage of the women, because they are not well organised enough to put their case forward. The whole system which is being applied by the Minister is a travesty of justice as we in our British minds understand it. Any pretext is put forward in order to deprive a man of his benefit on the ground that he is not genuinely seeking employment. Then he goes to the court of referees—a man who is not used to presenting a case! The Minister's official is there to put a number of questions designed to trip the man up. He is asked, "Where were you last Thursday week at 10 o'clock in the morning?" The man cannot recollect. He makes a shot at a reply, he is wrong, and then it is said that he has told an untruth. Could any Member of this House say where he was last Thursday? That is the kind of thing done by the Minister. After his case has been heard the man retires, but the Minister's representative remains there to confer with the court and influence them. He has secret reports, prepared by the Minister's officials, which the man knows nothing about, and he prejudices the court behind the man's back. I can prove that from a secret instruction which was sent out by the Minister. It is marked "Confidential," and was issued on 26th March last year. It is headed "Ministry of Labour (Employment Insurance Department). Memorandum on changes in procedure necessary under the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1927." Paragraph 55 says: In forming a conclusion as to whether the claimant is genuinely seeking work the local officer may also be influenced by a general impression which cannot be stated in either Part 1 or Part 2 of the Form"— That is the form which the man sees— It is important that the chief insurance officer should he fully advised of any definite opinion formed. Observations having this purpose in view which the interviewing officer may wish to make for the guidance of the chief insurance officer should not be included in Form U.I. 567A, but should be put on a blank sheet U.I. 589, which should be pinned to U.I. 567A. Remarks on those sheets are for the purpose of assisting the chief insurance officer, and are not for communication to any person outside the Department. Paragraph 57 goes on to say: It is not necessary to retain at the local office copies of reports submitted to the chief insurance officer under these instructions. That is the position. The man is given a form in which are entered the grounds of the objection to the payment of his claim. In all good faith he goes before the court of referees, and, when he has left, the prosecuting counsel remains with the judge and gives the man a stab in the back under the instructions of the secret circular of the Ministry of Labour. If that occurred in any other court, it would be denounced as something entirely un-British; yet this is the method which is employed by the Minister of Labour. I questioned the Minister on of these instructions and the reply was: They are departmental which we cannot publish, I say they have not been published because the Minister knew that if they were known to the House they would not be tolerated. So it is we find that a tremendous number of people were last year deprived of benefit on the grounds that they were not genuinely seeking work. There were 212,000 of these cases last year. If that were a true picture of the working class of this country, that there is this large number of working men who are so lazy that they would sooner linger along on the miserable pittance of unemployment benefit than do An honest day's work, then the outlook for Britain would be deplorable indeed. It is not a fair picture to represent the British working man as dishonestly trying to get benefit to which he is not entitled, but it is the measure of the dishonesty of the Minister in depriving men of benefits for which they have qualified.

There is something else. A decision in favour of the man is given by the court after they have heard his case. Is he allowed to know that? Is he then entitled to draw his benefit? No. That decision has to go back through the offices, back to the Exchange. Then we find this further instruction: If in any case the local insurance officer is doubtful of the court's recommendation to allow, he shall refer the papers to the chief insurance officer, but should continue payment except where a new circumstance has arisen since the court's hearing which would justify suspension of the benefit. This is the position. The case has been heard, all the evidence against the man has been put before the court, and any secret reports have had their influence; notwithstanding that the decision of the court is given in the man's favour, but yet he is not to get his benefit. The Minister is going to see if some other case can be trumped up against him to deprive him of the benefit of the verdict, not because it is an unfair verdict, hut because of something which has occurred since.

The figure of unemployment which we have in this country to-day, 1,400,000 persons, by no means represents the full measure of unemployment, if we take into account the large number of people who ought to be on the registers but who know that it is hopeless to register in view of what the Minister has done for them; because, once a person has been turned down on such a case, never again can he get benefit without a tremendous amount of trouble. Here is the case which the Minister has to answer. He is responsible. He appoints the referee, he appoints the insurance officers, he issues his confidential instructions, and it is no use for him to say the person responsible is somebody apart from him. The Minister of Labour is as much responsible to this House for the chief insurance officer as is the Home Secretary for the Commissioner of Police.


I am sorry I have to rise just now to deprive at least one other hon. Member on the benches opposite from, the opportunity of speaking, but the Debate has to finish at a certain time in order that we may take a Vote. I am sorry the two hon. Members who enlivened the proceedings a little while ago have gone. No one has any right to challenge us for bringing forward criticism of the Minister of Labour and his Department, because if we were to add up the number of times our party has challenged him during the last four or five years, it would be found to be fewer than the occasions on which the party opposite challenged the Labour Government during their eight months of office. I regret very much that more interest is not taken in this question of unemployment, even at this late period, in the life of Parliament, than is evidenced by the state of the benches all around us. I think it is a very terrible satire on this assembly that we can crowd and pack the House upon such a question as the Irish loyalists which only affects about 200 cases or a theological quarrel about the Prayer Book, but very few Members remain throughout a Debate on the unemployed. Here is a question which, when the Labour Government was in office, all parties united in saying was the one question by which this Parliament would be judged. I think those who sit on the Labour Benches are free from the charge that we try to make party capital out of the unemployment question. On three separate occasions, my hon. Friends sitting on these benches have appealed to the Government to set up a non-party com- mittee to discuss ways and means of dealing with unemployment. It seems to me that everybody charges everybody else with not having found a remedy. My remedy for unemployment is a complete change in production and distribution, and it is known as Socialism.

10.0 p.m.

We all know that this question is one which worries the Government very much. I have listened to most of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite on this subject, and I think they have all admitted that the problem is insoluble. Supposing it is true that Safeguarding is a remedy for unemployment and that Protection is a remedy, what sort of men are hon. Members opposite to sit in this House for four years without putting their policy into operation? We are not strong enough on this side of the House to prevent the Government doing anything they like, but the Government know that Protection is no remedy. Hon. Members opposite know as well as I do that in countries where they have tried Protection and Safeguarding up to the hilt they have a great deal of unemployment, great fluctuations in trade, and every other difficulty that we have to face. The sole reason is that the fundamental thing to be changed is production. If you increase your power of production and at the same time your markets become contracted and your former customers become your competitors it must mean that you are thrown back upon your own resources. Under those circumstances, you must find some means of producing things in your own country, and bring about a better distribution than that which obtains to-day. The Minister of Labour told us to-day in his analysis of the situation that one of the things which was pulling us down was the fact that we were able to produce so much more. If hon. Members look at the "Daily News" of to-day, they will see a large headline: Six women doing the work of 200. Fancy six women displacing 200 others! That can be multiplied in every industry in the country, and you do not overcome that difficulty and tail fundamental change in production merely by saying: "Let us penalise the foreigner." If we could have had a non-party committee, we might have considered such cases sitting round a table. In that way, I am confident that we could convince the Minister of Labour that we are right and that the policy of the Government is wrong. I know I should be out of order if I pursued that argument, but I did want, in dealing with the analysis of the Minister of Labour, to point out that we are aware of what he laid down, but we deny that the Government or the party opposite have found any remedy whatever. I believe with William Morris: If society does not settle unemployment, unemployment will settle society. Society to-day is being pulled down by economic decay which brings about moral and mental decay. This is apparent to any hon. Member who goes into industrial centres or reads the reports of the two principal officers of the Ministry of Health who recently investigated the conditions in South Wales. Those two officers have put it on record, first, that the children in South Wales are developing rickets, which everyone knows is a poverty disease. They also reported that the unemployed population are losing their vim and spirit and all interest in life. Not only this, but we are told by those two officials that the men in the South Wales area are losing their self-respect. I am not one of those who can say that I have endured poverty, but for eight weeks of my life I was out of work, and I must say that as the weeks went by my willingness to work became less. There are men in my Division who have been out of work for three, four, and five years, Some of them are men of 50 years of age with wives and children to support. Some of them are skilled men who made gun sights. The gun factory in our district has closed down, and that means ruin to these men, and none of them have been able to get other jobs. They know that it would be hopeless to go to Birmingham, because it is well known that the manufacturers of small arms have introduced many improvements, and the ability to turn out mass production and the decreased demand for small arms has displaced thousands of men. Under those circumstances, it is impossible for the men on whose behalf I am speaking to get work elsewhere.

This society, which we in this place are responsible for administering, says to these men, not, indeed, "To Hell or Connaught," as Cromwell said to the Irish, but "To the workhouse or starvation." The Minister tells them that insurable employment will not be available for them, and that, therefore, they are not an insurable proposition. The Ministry of Health says, "You must not degrade them by giving them out-door relief for so long a period." It would be better to kill them and be done with it than to leave them in that position. I listened to hear what the Minister was going to say, and the only thing that he put forward that appeared to be of any value was what he said about transference. He said that everyone agrees that there must be transference. Yes, but transference where? That is the question. I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies—I have asked the question in the House many times—to say what particular trade or industry there is in this country that wants men or women. I want him to tell me the names of the towns where there are no people unemployed in the particular work which it is said there is to be done. I have asked that many times. We believe in transference, but we believe in transference to work of a permanent character.

I will tell the House what the right hon. Gentleman is doing for East London. I raised, just before the Adjournment, the case of 12 men who were displaced from a job in Whitechapel. It was said that they were displaced because of a union dispute, and 12 miners were taken on to do some other unskilled work. I have gone into that, and what really happened was that there was a dispute about some particular form of work, but the 12 East London men who were displaced could just as easily have done the unskilled work which the miners were doing. All that the Minister did in that case, therefore, was to throw 12 other men out of work. That is not the worst of it. Anyone would imagine that unemployment had only arisen since the coal strike or the War, but when I came into this House for the first time, in 1910, we had a great inquiry about the conditions in East London. The Minister of Health took part in that inquiry, and he knows better than any other man in this House that casual, intermittent labour is the curse of East London, and the curse of every waterside district. He knows, and all his officials know—and that is the crime that they are committing against their own intelligence—that every man whom they bring into London without finding him a permanent job will in the end swell the ranks of the casual labourers on the waterside.

Everyone knows also, and no one better than the officials at the Ministry of Labour, that for years the Transport Workers' Union and humble individuals like myself have been wrestling with this problem, and trying to get it put on an equitable footing; and now the Minister, whose memoranda, prepared for the Poor Law Commission, of which I was a member, can be seen in the Library, has the impudence to stand at that Box and defend the bringing in of these men to London. His officials cannot deny that in London to-day there are miners whom they have transferred here and who are now taking unemployment pay in London. Was there ever such a crime committed as to bring these men here and only give them temporary work, displacing other men and in the end re-creating and making worse the terrible problem of casual labour which has worried and distracted every social reformer in London? The Minister boasts—he did to-day—that it is not always the same man who is out of work. There is nothing to boast of in that. I should like to know what his precious officials, who supply him with all these arguments and figures, would do if they were in work for three months and out of work for a couple of months. They know perfectly well that that sort of thing pulls down the general standard of life of the worker. And if you say that you have a million and a-half of men and women out of work to-day, and that to-morrow 100,000 of them will be in work and another 100,000 will take their places out of work, that is merely to extend the area of demoralisation and make the problem a thousand times worse. Of course, if there is work for men to do, we agree to transference.

I want also to say that when the right hon. Gentleman—I am sorry he is not here—interrupted one of my hon. Friends about the question of grants and public works, I was amazed at his impudence in doing so. He and his Department know perfectly well that they practically stopped giving assistance to local authorities, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made them stop. If there are three men more responsible than others for the position we are in, it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health. I am often asked what the country ought to do under these circumstances. I maintain without fear of contradiction that the more we are able to produce of the things that the community wants, the higher the standard of life of the people should be. During the whole period of capitalist development, the workers have got back portions of the advantage that the capitalist has received in certain social services. What I would do if I had my way would be to take out of industry all the aged and partially infirm people and the men and women who are more or less worn out and give them, not a miserable, rotten pension of 10s. a week, but adequate maintenance for the rest of their days I would also raise the age of the school children.

As for work, if right hon. Gentlemen liked, under the powers they already possess, there is not a slum in England and Wales that could not be dealt with. I read to-day the Bishop of London's statement in reference to slums. We have talked about slums almost as long and as wearisomely as we have talked about unemployment. I can take you to slums in the East End which have been there since I was a boy and for years before. There is nothing to prevent right hon. Gentlemen if they will use their intelligence as intensively to find work and treat the unemployed decently as they do to treat them indecently, putting all the able-bodied to work to-morrow, and clearing up this mess of the slums. It would pay the country to do it, because it is out of the slum conditions and the low wages which accompany them that comes the necessity for the public health expenditure that you incur year by year. If that were done, you would be able to do something decent for the community. I believe, too, in spite of what the Minister said, that you ought to raise a loan for internal development. I can see from the trend of the newspapers, and the people who speak of this subject outside the House, that, whatever Government comes in next time, one of the first things it will be driven to do is to develop agriculture, and you will have to do it by raising a big loan and putting men on idle land and bringing waste land into cultivation. You do not need legislation for that either. Those are propositions which I am sure would ameliorate the conditions that prevail today. Speaking for myself, I do not believe that within what is known as a pure and simple capitalist system there is any real root remedy for unemployment. You can only get rid of unemployment when you carry on industries for the service of the community so that every time you get an increase in production you have a higher standard of life for the whole of the people. The extraordinary thing to-day is that, because we can produce more, the people have got to get less. That is the most absurd position possible.

I want to finish with a point that I consider of some importance. I know an individual case does not prove everything, but when I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) just now, I was reminded that the Ministry of Health during the administration of the right hon. Gentleman spoke just like a charity organisation society—just like a board of guardians. The men pay into an insurance fund and the officials treat them as if they were interlopers who had no right to be there. I put a question to the Minister to-day and I repeat the request to the Parliamentary Secretary. I want to know on what evidence the officer—I do not care whether he is a statutory officer or what is his position—deemed this man Peart to be a person who was not genuinely seeking work. Here is the letter written by the man's wife which called my attention to the case: My husband was employed for 16 years with a certain firm of fishmongers, Manor Park. After that he was in short jobs, nine months in one job, and odd work. Eventually he had to apply for unemployment benefit. He did not rush to draw unemployment benefit directly he was out of work. He did his best to keep away because workmen hate the Employment Exchanges and all the inquisitorial business. After he had been receiving this for six weeks, he received a notice from the Employment Exchange to the effect that he was not genuinely seeking work. I repeat I want someone to stand at that box and tell me what evidence they had and where they went in order to get the evidence. The bad times that he had had before this had greatly depressed him and getting this notice"— Hon. Members may laugh at this— seemed more than he could stand out against. During the three weeks which followed he hardly ate anything and on the 17th November a telegram came to him offering him work but he did not seem able to understand. He went out the next day and was drowned. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take notice. This is not written by anyone whom I know. I just happened to see this in the paper, and that was the reason why I put down the question. I am writing this to you because if there is any way by which other men who are placed as he was can be saved the heartbreak that he suffered I shall be glad. He had always worked hard and been prosperous until latter years, and when one sees some men having unemployment for a much longer time than he had it is difficult to understand. If I can in any way save any man from such suffering, I shall be glad. I want to say that if there is only that one case those Regulations under which that man was charged with something of which he was not guilty ought to be altered. Although I say very hard things about him, I do not believe that in his heart the right hon. Gentleman would want to do a cruel thing to anybody, but these Regulations are cruel. I know. I have had long years, bitter years, of experience. There are people, good people, who belong to the Charity Organisation Society who get it into their minds that the poor are, as Tennyson said in one of his poems, "bad in the lump" and that you must be very careful and you must never give them the benefit of the doubt. I have taken some trouble to inquire about this man, and, if the right hon. Gentleman wants to inquire about him, or if his wretched umpire or whoever he was wants to inquire about him, let him go down to Stratford Market. That man stood waiting for a job again and again. He was out at six o'clock in the morning, long before any of us, and this is the end of it. He is not the only one by many thousands. It may be said that the coroner's jury did not bring in a verdict of murder against the Ministry of Health Regulations. They brought in a verdict of suicide while of unsound mind. The man was driven that way by the fact that after having lived a decent, honourable life, that was the end for him—"not genuinely seeking work." How many hearts of men have you broken at the age of 45, and how many hearts of women have you broken at the age of 45, by telling them that insurable employment is not likely to be available for them? Therefore, you shove them off. You are not dealing with bits of wood or bits of metal; you are dealing with human beings, with the same feelings and the same flesh and blood that we have. It is time that this House revised these Regulations, and if we had the non-party committee that we begged the Government to set up in order to deal with this question, we should be able to deal with this and all the other questions connected with unemployment.

We have had many discussions on unemployment. We have debated the question again and again, and to-night we are finishing on the same note—there is nothing at all from the Ministry. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite may denounce the 700 or 800 men who marched, I think mistakenly, into London; they may think what they will of those men, but the fact that there are millions of them to be found, in all parts of the country, sitting dumbly, waiting for something to be done, is a greater menace to the future of this country than anything else. Those who charge us with having no remedy; those who say that we have no proposition to put forward, would do well to remember that we have not had a chance. If we had had the years of government, the centuries that Liberals and Tories have had in office, and the majorities that they have had in this House, and if, under those circumstances, my friends failed, it would be right to condemn us. I say to hon. Members opposite: "Up to the present time you have held the field, and all the evils that we see around us are the results of your administration and of the system that you support."


When this discussion opened, we were warned that it would range over the whole field. That intention has been fulfilled to the letter. We have been attacked in our administra- tion, the Government has been attacked in its policy and the social system which prevails in this country has been attacked. The only specific remedy, so far as I could gather, which has been put forward is that lion. Members opposite should again be given the opportunity to return to the office which, for a few uneasy months, they held in 1924. I do not intend to deal with the questions of principle that have been raised to-night, or to discuss questions of policy. That was done by my right hon. Friend earlier in the evening. I have been asked by hon. Members on both sides of the House to give certain information and to deal with certain questions which they have put to me, and it would not be right or courteous to them if I did not make some answer to the specific points which they have raised. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield), who opened the discussion, said that the human element should come more into the administration of our offices, particularly in the districts. Having had a good many years experience of our offices in the country and of the way in which our Exchanges carry on their difficult duties, I have been impressed more and more with the sympathy which they exercise and the care with which they try to do their duty.

I will give the Committee one illustration, which arose out of a case put to me a day or two ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). He put a question, and he also wrote to me, that in the recent snowfall at Hull unemployed men came very early in the morning to the Employment Exchange in order to be taken on for sweeping the streets. Half-past five was the earliest time at which they could be employed by the corporation, and the officials of the Exchange said that in that case they would be there at half-past five in order that the men might get the chance. It was then found that these men came before half-past five and stood out in the cold waiting for the Exchange to open. Our officials said that in that case they would come at four o'clock in order that the men who would be likely to be taken on should have shelter between four o'clock and half-past five. That is one example which has come to my personal notice within the last few days. I have known many instances in which the officials of Employment Exchanges have worked all night in times of stress in order to make quite sure that the recipients of benefit next day might not have to wait a single day for it. It is only right in justice to these men to place these facts upon record.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I am much obliged to the hon. Member. Can he tell me whether arrangements will be made in future to prevent men having to go at that early hour when there is not work for them.


I have just explained that we have arranged to have the Employment Exchange open at four o'clock when there is a snowfall, and it will give shelter to as many men as the corporation are likely to take on. Those who come at four o'clock will get shelter until the time their services are required for sweeping the streets. I do not think we can do any more than that. This is a spontaneous act on the part of the officials at Hull, and I think it should be placed on record. The hon. Member who opened the Debate said that she was disappointed with that part of the work of the Department which relates to the placing of persons in employment; not with the work relating to the payment of benefit. The number of persons placed in employment during last year by the Ministry was over 1,300,000. That figure is not negligible or unimportant. The point was raised by the hon. Member, and I thought she would like to know the figures.

The hon. Member also raised the question of the proportion of the number of appeals from insurance officers which were allowed, and she gave figures showing that 60,300 claims were disallowed by insurance officers and that, of these, only 5,150 remained disallowed by the Court of Referees. The suggestion there is that the Court of Referees allowed no less than 11 out of 12 appeals. She is under a misapprehension as to the facts; she thought they were appeals from the insurance officer. The figure of 5,000 to which she referred had nothing whatever to do with appeals at all. It was the number of disallowances in reviewed cases. Out of 60,000 cases, 21,000 only were the subject of appeal to the Court of Referees, and of these, 9,000 were allowed and 12,000 disallowed. That, of course, is a very different position.

One other matter that the hon. Member referred to related to Trade Boards. She complained that the Ministry had told the Trade Boards, which for years have had rules regarding the number of learners in relation to the number of adults, that those rules were ultra vires. That is true. We have done so because we have legal authority for saying that the rules are ultra wires, and if they are ultra vires, obviously we cannot enforce them. The next point was with regard to inspection. That is a point which has been raised very often before. It is a fact, at which I am sure the hon. Member will be just as glad as anyone, that by an improved system we have been able very largely to increase the number of inspections in the course of the year. For instance, in 1925 the number of inspections was 5,076, and in 1928 it was 14,438, or nearly three times as many. That total represents something between 13 and 14 per cent. of the employers on our list. I give these answers because the hon. Member knows as much about the administration of the Ministry of Labour as anyone in this House, and as she asked the questions, I thought it right to give her specific answers.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) raised a very important question. He asked whether there was any attempt to relate the work of the juvenile employment centres and the work of the Board of Education. There is the closest co-relation between the two. The centres are under the control of the local education authorities so far as instruction, staffing and equipment are concerned. On the other hand they run these centres on lines and according to schemes that are agreed between the Board of Education and ourselves. Therefore there could be no better assurance that there is complete co-operation between the Board of Education and ourselves in the matter.

The hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), the hon. Member for St. Helen's (Mr. Sexton), and the hon. Member who has just sat down made serious statements to which I must refer. These so-called regulations—that of "genuinely seeking work" is one of them—have been referred to over and over again as if they were the arbitrary regulations of a remorseless Minister. They are nothing of the kind. These are statutory conditions laid down in an Act of Parliament, the responsibility for the administration of which the House of Commons itself placed in the hands of my right hon. Friend. I do not wish to make any point of it, but it is the fact that these words "genuinely seeking work" were the invention of the Labour Government and first appeared in the Act of 1924. It is perfectly true that the Blanesburgh Committee considered these words and could not improve on them. I speak in the presence of a Member of that Committee when I say that when they were asked whether they could improve upon these words, what they said in effect was that each case must be judged on its merits. All that the Umpire can do is to lay down, as far as he can, the general principles which are applicable to all cases, but each individual case must depend on the facts of the individual case.

We come, therefore, to this position—that these so-called Regulations are statutory requirements imposed by this House upon my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Ilkeston, as a trained lawyer, will follow me when I say that these words, according to the Act of Parliament, are to be construed by the statutory authorities. This is a matter of some interest to me, as we have been so often denounced in years gone by in connection with this matter. My right hon. Friend has often been told about our cruel exercise of the Ministerial discretion, and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), I am bound to say, was one of the first to appreciate the fact that administration by the statutory authorities would not necessarily be more favourable than that of the Minister.




The position now is that the discretion of the Minister has been taken away, and the construction to be placed upon this and other Sections of the Act has to be made by the statutory authorities themselves. It is significant that one thing—I was going to say the only thing—about which the evidence before the Blanesburgh Committee was almost unanimous was that the discretion of the Minister should be taken away and that the obligation to construe this Act should be placed quite outside any Parliamentary officials and in the hands of the independent authorities appointed to administer the Act. I do not wish to labour the point, but I would remind the Committee that in the evidence given on behalf of the Trade Union Council by that expert in insurance, the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood), and by Mr. Bevin and others, they said they were satisfied with the principle of adjudication by courts of referees and appeal to the umpire. They said, at another point in their Memorandum: We desire at this point to express our satisfaction with the system whereby the umpire, a completely independent authority, is the final court of appeal. That is what the Committee recommended in their Report, and that is exactly what we have put in the Act of Parliament.


Is it not the case that out of our experience we asked the Minister not to have this statutory condition of "genuinely seeking work," but to make the only condition, other than stamps, for the receipt of benefit, the lack of provision of a job at trade union rates? That was our case.


I do not dispute what the hon. Member says, but I am pointing out that what the Act which it is now our business to administer contains is just that form of procedure which was asked for, first of all, in the evidence before the Blanesburgh Committee, which was recommended by the Blanesburgh Report, and which is now incorporated in the Act of Parliament.


I think there is a genuine misunderstanding here. The point of criticism which, so far as I can gather, has been consistent throughout the evening, is that, instead of doing what was asked by the Blanesburgh Report, namely, to try and work out a definition, and that each of these cases should be adjudged by the court of referees or the umpire, you have attempted to establish a sort of cast-iron regulation which is exercised by the officers of the Ministry.


All that I ask the hon. Gentleman to do is to give me the, evidence on which this man was adjudged.


The hon. Member is dealing with a particular case, but I am now on the general principle with regard to the way in which this requirement is interpreted—[An HON. MEMBER: "Regulation!"]—It is not a Regulation it is a statutory requirement, and it really is the fact that hon. Members themselves, the Blanesburgh Committee, and everybody who has tried has failed to give any definition of "genuinely seeking work," for this reason, that you cannot give a definition which is applicable to every kind of case. Therefore, you are thrown back, as you must be thrown back, upon the decision of the umpire, stating in general terms how the condition must be dealt with.

Now I want to refer to what is known as the secret Circular, and really the statement of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Broad) as to what takes place was, I will not say wilfully intended to mislead the Committee, but so fantastic and such a travesty of the situation—


I have copied it from your Memorandum, which I obtained surreptitiously.


I do want to ex plain exactly what happens, and why it happens, and the Committee will then see that, so far from being an injustice, it is nothing of the kind. The interviewing officer, as hon. Members who are acquainted with the actual procedure know, first of all fills up a statement of facts supplied by the applicant, who signs it, and our instructions are specific and definite. They are, to quote them verbatim: This statement should be signed by the claimant and care should ho taken to see that he has full knowledge of what he is signing. Up to that point it will be seen that we have given the most explicit instructions to see that he is aware of what he is doing before he signs it. That, again, was a concession or alteration which we made in the applicant's favour in the last year or two and which did not exist in 1924 when the hon. Members opposite were in office. In those days, the report went straight to the court of referees or the insurance officer. The applicant did not know what was in it; he was not asked to sign it; it was not even read to him. In order to protect them, we have that most explicit undertaking that the applicant must have full knowledge. That is the first stage. This is the second stage: The interviewing officer also gives on the form information which would be useful, if required, to the court of referees. The sort of information given is the state of local employment which is very relevant and the chances of the average workman. These remarks are seen by the applicant if the case goes to the court of referees. There is nothing then concealed from him there. If it does not go to the court of referees, then presumably benefit is allowed. So far from being kept in the dark, contrary to the former practice everything is disclosed to him, and he is under no illusions as to what the ease is when he goes to the court of referees. Now we come to the point raised by the hon. Member, the so-called secret report. The fact is that, if there is anything which he thinks the insurance officer should know, which is not appropriate—and I will explain what I mean by that—for inclusion in the form, he is to enter it on a separate sheet. This is not shown either to the man or to the referees.


What I said was that that secret report was in the possession of the Minister's officer who confers with the court of referees and remains in the court.


I am pointing out that the court of referees have not this so-called secret report disclosed before them and know nothing about it. I will explain why it is made at all. When this question was first raised, my right hon. Friend asked for a sample to be taken quite at random from the so-called secret reports. That was done, and far the larger number were reports made in the interests of the men themselves. It may quite well be that the interviewing officer sees that the man perhaps has had some industrial accident, and is therefore not so well equipped for competing in the labour market of the country, and he thinks it only fair that that fact should be known to the insurance officer before the insurance officer gives his decision. On the other hand, it may be—I put the other side of the case quite fairly—that there may be something which he thinks the insurance officer should know which is not to the man's credit. It is quite untrue to say that these secret reports are necessarily to the man's detriment, because in the samples taken the majority of the reports were in the man's own favour.

I have only one word to say, in conclusion, on the major question of relief. We have been asked over and over again to-day from hon. Members both above and below the Gangway to devote more money for road making or something else which will involve the employment of a larger or a fewer number of men. It is perfectly obvious that if proposals for road making or for anything else are in excess of the economic requirements of the country, and are only for the purpose of making employment, they are simply relief work and nothing else. One of the most distinguished Members of the party opposite, who is no longer a member of the House, and was the first member of the Labour party to hold office, had views from which I do not differ as to the value of relief work. Mr. Burns, speaking in the House of Commons, on the 19th July, 1906—


He was a good Liberal.


Well, you repudiated him then.


He was a Liberal Minister.


All right, but this is what he said: I believe that relief works ought to be the last resort of any community. They sterilise volition, sap self-reliance, and introduce into industry those very conditions of irregularity and low pay which we are seeking to remove.…If the works are State-aided, charity-fed, tax-founded, or rate-subsidised, they will only be a form of public benevolence that will divert the right money in the wrong way to wasteful ends with demoralising results. New works unproductive and unremunerative, fed by rates and taxes, are about the worst form of relief that can be imagined. I will give one other quotation which shows that Mr. Burns was not alone in the views that he expressed, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald) in one of the first speeches that he made at that box after he became Prime Minister, said much the same thing in rather less florid language. He was speaking in this House on 12th February, 1924, and he said: I wish to make it perfectly clear that the Government have no intention of drawing off from the normal channels of trade large sums for extemporised measures which can only he palliatives. That is the old, sound, Socialist doctrine, and the necessity of expenditure for subsidising schemes in direct relief of unemployment will he judged in relation to the greater necessity for maintaining undisturbed the ordinary financial

facilities and resources of trade and industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1924; col. 760, Vol. 169.]

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

If that is a description applied to such works as road making, land drainage and afforestation, the sooner the present Government get out of Office the better.

Question put, "That Item Class V., Vote 9, be reduced by £100."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 100; Noes, 149.

Division No. 244.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Saklatvala, Shapurji
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hollins, A. Scurr, John
Ammon, Charles George Hore-Bellsha, Leslie Sexton, James
Batey, Joseph Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Shepherd, Arthur Lewie
Beckett, John (Gateshead) John, William (Rhondda, West) Shield, G. W.
Bellamy, A. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Shinwell, E.
Benn, Wedgwood Kelly, W. T. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Kennedy, T. Sitch, Charles H.
Bondfield, Margaret Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Kirkwood, D. Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Briant, Frank Lansbury, George Snell, Harry
Broad, F. A. Lawrence, Susan Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Bromfield, William Lawson, John James Stamford, T. W.
Bromley, J. Lee, F. Stephen, Campbell
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Lindley, F. W. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Longbottom, A. W. Strauss, E. A.
Buchanan, G. Lowth, T. Sullivan, Joseph
Cape, Thomas Lunn, William Taylor R. A.
Charleton, H. C. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Tinker, John Joseph
Clarke, A. B. Mackinder, W. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Cluse, W. S. Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Wellock, Wilfred
Compton, Joseph MacNeill-Weir, L. Westwood, J.
Connolly, M. Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Dalton, Ruth (Bishop Auckland) Montague, Frederick Whiteley, W.
Day, Harry Murnin, H. Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Duncan, C. Naylor, T. E. Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Dunnico, H. Oliver, George Harold Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Gardner, J. P. Owen, Major G. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Palin, John Henry Windsor, Walter
Gibbins, Joseph Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gillett, George M. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Potts, John S. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. B. Smith.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Ritson, J.
Hardle, George D. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Bullock, Captain M. Dawson, Sir Phillip
Albery, Irving James Burman, J. B. Dixey, A. C.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Campbell, E. T. Edmondson, Major A. J.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman Cautley, Sir Henry S. Erskine, Lord (Somerset,Weston-s.-M.)
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Chapman, Sir S. Forestier-Walker, Sir L.
Atholl, Duchess of Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.
Atkinson, C. Clarry, Reginald George Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Clayton, G. C. Glyn, Major R. G. C.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Cobb, Sir Cyril Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Grotrian, H. Brent
Bethel, A. Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.
Betterton, Henry B. Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Hamilton, Sir George
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Cope, Major Sir William Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Blundell, F. N. Couper, J. B. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Boothby, R. J. G. Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim) Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Hilton, Cecil
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro) Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)
Briscoe, Richard George Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford) Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Brittain, Sir Harry Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil) Hopkins, J. W. W.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Davies, Dr. Vernon Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)
Buchan, John Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.
Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Skelton, A. N.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Moreing, Captain A. H. Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Hume, Sir G. H. Neville, Sir Reginald J. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Smithers, Waldron
Iveagh, Countess of Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
King Commodore Henry Douglas Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Power, Sir John Cecil Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Little, Dr. E. Graham Pownall, Sir Assheton Styles, Captain H. W.
Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Preston, William Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th) Price, Major C. W. M. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Loder, J. de V. Raine, Sir Walter Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Long, Major Eric Ramsden, E. Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitehell
Lougher, Lewis Rawson, Sir Cooper Tinne, J. A.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Lumley, L. R. Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint) Ward, Lt.Col. A. L. (Kingston-on- Hull)
McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
MacIntyre, Ian Ross, R. D. Warrender, Sir Victor
McLean, Major A. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Mac Robert, Alexander M. Salmon, Major I. Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Wayland, Sir William A.
Margesson, Captain D. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Wells, S. R.
Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Sanders, Sir Robert A. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Mason, Colonel Glyn K. Sanderson, Sir Frank
Meyer, Sir Frank Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby) Major Sir George Hennessy and Captain Wallace.
Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Shepperson, E. W.

Resolution agreed to.

It being after Eleven, of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote.

Whereupon the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow: Committee to sit again To-morrow.

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