§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair,"—[Sir G. Hennessy.]
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House views with grave concern the continued existence of a gigantic volume of unemployment; deplores the refusal of the Government to take any active measures for stimulating industry by well-considered schemes of national improvement and development, alike in this country and in the Dominions and Colonies; specially regrets the discouragement by the Government of the efforts of the municipal authorities to effect local improvements; and condemns the failure of the Government to provide maintenance and training for the tens of thousands of willing workers for whom the Employment Exchanges can find no situations, and the slow and inadequate provision of additional centres.This is yet another of many Debates on this subject in this House. I have been a Member for about seven years and I have heard more than a score of Debates on this question, but this occasion is perhaps more important than any of the rest; not because of the terms of the Motion or because it stands in my name, but because it will be probably the last opportunity of discussing this subject before this Parliament ends. Unemployment is a very old question. It has been before the country for nearly 100 years. The records of the House show that interest has at times been keen, at other times less intense; but during the last 80 or 100 years Parliament has frequently taken some interest in the subject. I have taken the trouble to look up the records of this House and I find that a most interesting Debate, lasting several days, took place in 1843, a period known as the "hungry forties," when the people of this country suffered great privation and distress. The Debate took place on a Motion by Earl Stanhope calling attention to the distress in the country in these terms:That this House do resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House for the purpose 2098 of taking into the most serious consideration the present condition of the productive classes in the United Kingdom with a view of providing for their profitable employment and for the due remuneration of their industry.The population of the country in those days was much less than it is at the moment; probably it was about half the present population, but owing to the development of machinery in industry there were, even at that time, all the symptoms of the disease which modern industry carries with it. Unemployment is too often mistaken for a disease whereas, in fact, it is a symptom of the industrial system under which we live. In that Debate one Noble Lord referred to an old friend of ours—namely, the law of supply and demand, which was given as the excuse for the hardship and misery imposed on the toiling masses of the country. Among the many interesting speeches I noticed an observation of Sir Robert Peel, which I will quote, because he seems to have realised what an important effect the use of machinery would have in the industrial life of the country. These words should be kept in mind when we study the problem of unemployment in these times. He said:That great effort of British ingenuity, whereby our machinery has been brought to such perfection, instead of proving the greatest blessing to the nation would prove its bitterest curse.That is a prophetic statement, and, in view of the prevalence of unemployment not only in this country but all over the world wherever machinery is used, it is worth noting that Sir Robert Peel, even in those days, appreciated the significance of the change from handwork to large scale machinery manufacture. This evil of modern civilisation, this unemployment, which is so widely distributed all over the world and so persistent in every modern civilised country has been the subject of attention by many statesmen, social students and public-minded men, who recognise the hardships which unemployment brings. The question has been asked whether this disease can be cured. I hear no cheers from the Liberal Benches. In the last few days they have proclaimed a great discovery which is going to conquer and cure the evil of unemployment. It will be received with interest all over the world, for there is no country which is not waiting for a solution of this problem. 2099 It cannot be solved, however, until we understand the real character of the disease itself. While there are many means of alleviating the disease, many palliatives and many ways of minimising the effect of unemployment, there is no cure without a much more fundamental treatment than that entertained by any of the leaders of the Liberal party. I have figures here showing how true was the statement of Sir Robert Peel in 1843.
In America and Germany they have paid more attention to the effect of rationalising, or modernising, industrial practice. Starting with a clean slate some hundred years ago the United States has built up the finest and largest industrial equipment the world has ever seen, yet the volume of unemployment proportionately is as large as our own. These figures show how tremendous has been the improvement in production in the United States, due to the addition of machinery and the perfection of industrial processes. If you take 1919 as the basis year, with an index figure of 100 for the production in that year, you find that by 1927 the production of the United States had gone up to 126. The aggregate number of industrial workers in the same-period, taking the 1919 figure at 100, is represented in 1927 by 92—s fall of 8 per cent. The production per head in the same period had gone up from 100 in 1919 to 137 in 1927. The aggregate wages had gone up from 100 in 1919 to only 105 in 1927, and the wages per head were raised from 100 in 1919 to 114 in 1927. From these figures it will be observed that there is an enormous disparity between the rate of production and the increase afforded to the workers in the form of wages. It shows that an increase in the individual production is accompanied by the displacement of a very large percentage of the working people—that an increase of production has meant a decrease of 8 per cent. in the total number of industrial workers in America. That explains, to a very large degree, the prevalence of unemployment in that country, and explains, by the same sort of calculation, the prevalence of unemployment in this very much older country.
The American example, however, is only one. The fact is that all over the 2100 world productive machinery has been slowed down or stopped, and men have been displaced. Germany has its quota of unemployment. Belgium has its quota. So has far off Australia and even Japan, that country which has jumped seven centuries in seven decades, the latest recruit to the industrial army of the world, has found this problem of unemployment and excess production The problem will require radical treatment, and we on these benches are not forgetful that a programme of reorganisation is one to which I shall not be allowed to refer to-day, because I should be out of order on the Motion that has been allotted to me. But I we are not-permitted to discuss the problem of re-organisation, we can show that the Government have entirely misunderstood and miscalculated the tendency and the degree of unemployment, and have entirely misdirected their efforts towards the alleviation of this complaint.
Having gone as far back as 1843, I come to more recent times. About 50 years after 1843 there appeared in this country a new political party, deriving its authority and owing its responsibility to the great mass of the people of the so-called productive classes referred to in the Motion of 1843. For the first time, the working people decided themselves to take a hand in the political affairs of this country, and from the very first day of their political party activities, they paid attention to this question of unemployment. Soon after 1893, there appeared in this House one by one, following each other, working-men from the mines and the fields. They made their appearance here among strange surroundings, but with their experience of life they found here an opportunity to ventilate the grievances of their fellow-workers. The question of unemployment was discussed on many occasions, until 1905 the first Unemployed Workmen Act was passed in this House. It was not a very comprehensive Act. It did not go a very long distance even towards the alleviation of this trouble, but it started the way, and the Labour party—a few in number in this House—kept on agitating and pressing this House to the consideration of more generous and more useful Measures. In 1907, another Bill was brought in. It received its First Beading only, but in 1908 it was brought in again. I should say that, prior to the Second 2101 Reading of the Bill in 1908, a debate took place in this House, and I should be serving the House well, perhaps, if I read a statement made during that debate on a Motion by Mr. Percy Alden, who was a Liberal. I find that the Seconder of the Motion made this remark during his speech:Unemployment tended to impoverish the State, and therefore it was the business or the Government to face that question, and seek to remove the evil.The Liberal Member who pronounced those words in 1908 did a service to the House at that time, and also, perhaps, helped to call the attention of the Government to what was really a Government's responsibility and a Government's duty. In 1908, the same Liberal Government refused a Second Reading to the Bill that was brought in. There were Bills brought in in 1911, 1912 and 1913, and they were defeated by the Liberal party who were then in power in this House. When Liberals take to themselves the sole credit for the interest they have shown in this subject, it should not be forgotten that the Government of those days was a Liberal Government—a Government committed to laissez faire, to a do-nothing policy in regard to this subject. Our old friend Supply and Demand was then the most popular motto in that party, and when the Unemployed Workmen Bill was up for Second Reading we find that there were certainly 74 Liberals who voted for the Bill, but 184 voted against and 136 abstained, so that in 1908 the Liberals voted in part Aye, in part No and a part did not vote at all. I regard that as a case of history anticipating itself. There has been no great change in that matter.
In 1914, the War came, with its effect upon employment, and for 4½ years there was no unemployment in this country. When 5,500,000 were away fighting their country's battles on land and sea, there was no unemployment. There was plenty of work, and even wages were tolerable in those years, but those people who recognised what an important thing it was to maintain the homes of the workers in comfort, and realised what a mass of disorder there would be when those men came back in a body, the War Emergency Committee and other committees, in 1916 and 1917, made repeated 2102 representations to the Prime Minister and the Government of that day, and in 1917 a very comprehensive policy on unemployment was submitted by the Labour party to the Prime Minister by deputation and memorandum. The memorandum contained details for road-making, afforestation, land reclamation, construction of public buildings and all those parts of the scheme now so well advertised by the Liberal leader in this country. All these things were told him personally in 1917, 1918 and 1919. In 1918, there was a General Election, and the great mass of the people in this country were led to believe that, not only would they not be concerned with unemployment, but that they need not work any more, because the Germans were going to do all the work required to keep the workers of this country in idleness and plenty. The responsibility in this matter does not fall entirely on one side of the House. We have it on the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself that he was "in the swim" on the subject, and on both sides of the House there are those who are responsible for that stupid and foolish attempt to divert the real issue at the end of the War, in order to gain political advantage from the catch-cries and phrases which were so recklessly flung about in those days. Soon after the War a conference of employers and workpeople was called. The Prime Minister of those days made a speech at that conference. I have here a quotation from the speech, because I think it is well to remind the House of what was said by people as far back as 1919. This is what the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said in 1919 to that conference:During the War the workers have been removed for four and a-half years from the terrible dread of unemployment, and it is only those who have lived in industrial homes who can realise what a horror that prospect is. For four and a-half years that has been eliminated from their lives. It has been taken away from the horizon. Now peace has been established, and the spectre reappears, and there is a general feeling that something must be done to suppress it, to destroy it, to eliminate it for ever from the lives of the workers. These are questions that have to be examined and have to be determined.That was the speech made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs on 27th February, 1919. He was Prime 2103 Minister of this country then, and again in 1920, 1921 and 1922, and no real attempt was made to remove the spectre of unemployment, to remove the shadow of poverty from the homes of the workers of this country. Nothing tangible was done, and if I allow other critics to take my place for the moment and pass their judgment upon him, it may be taken with better grace than if I deliver that criticism. I have here a Liberal leaflet, No. 2595, of 1922, referring to the responsibility of the Prime Minister of the Coalition Government:1919, 1920, 1921, 1922. Who is responsible for those four years of failure? Mr. Lloyd George and the Conservative party are equally responsible. Mr. Lloyd George has been head of the Government all the time.Total unemployed persons registered, 3rd January, 1919–231,756.Total unemployed persons registered 21st August, 1922–1,427,311.This Liberal pamphlet goes on to say:Thus unemployment is to-day more than six times as bad as it was when the Government took Office. These are the two things we want—work by which to live and homes in which to live. In both these things the Lloyd George Government have failed.I would express my gratitude to those who joined in that severe and merited criticism of the present-day Liberal leader. Now we come to the present Government.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
In 1924 there was a reduction of the unemployed. I would call attention to the figures that I received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour a week ago. I asked for the figures for a purpose. I wanted to see how the productive industries, the main industries of the country, were faring. I had heard it stated in Debates that a larger number of men were employed than had been employed when the Government took office in 1924. I am not prepared to question that fact to-day. With a population increasing rapidly the number of men employed should be increased proportionately. I do not deny that there is a slight increase in the total number of employed persons, but it is not an increase 2104 commensurate with the increase of the total of employable persons. I find that in the heavy industries, such as coalmining, blast furnaces, iron and steel, shipbuilding and engineering, there is a reduction in the number of unemployed, but, taking the figures relating to a great variety of industries with which the Parliamentary Secretary supplied me, I find that whereas in 1924 there were 4,000,000 men, women and juveniles employed, the number has since been reduced by 244,000.
I know that the reply of the Minister or of the Parliamentary Secretary will be that men over 65 have been taken out, but, even making allowance for that, there is an actual diminution in employment in those very important and fundamental industries. The rate of unemployment is increasing. I hold the Minister of Labour and his Government responsible for the great mass of unemployment in at least two industries. In the mining industry unemployment is almost entirely due to the action of the present Government. I know the comparative figures of output and unemployment very well, but I have not time to go into great detail. I say that if there had been no extension of working hours, if the seven-hours day and the rate of production under the seven-hours day had been maintained, side by side with the present demand for coal, there would have been an actual shortage of mine workers in this country. The rate of production has been raised so much that the margin of unemployment is easily explained by the enforced increase of individual production. Men are overdriven, driven too hard and driven too long to produce, with the result that 150,000 people are out of work. It is the eight-hours day alone that is responsible for unemployment in the mining areas to-day. During the last three months every miner who is capable of following that occupation could have been working if the seven-hours day and old rate of production had been maintained.
Let me turn next to the building industry. There we find 160,000 workers idle. The number reached over 200,000 a few weeks ago during the severe weather, but, even omitting those who were temporarily stopped by climatic conditions, we find that 160,000 are idle. That is because the Government has interfered 2105 with housing policy and reduced the sum of money available for the building of working-class houses. There need not be a single building trade worker or miner idle to-day. I shall not examine the figures further, but shall pass to what the Government claims to have done. The Government takes credit for its activities in regard to transference and migration. Those are the two special activities by which the Minister of Labour justifies his existence. I shall expect to hear from him to-day, as I have heard from him on previous occasions, details of men who have been transferred here and there, the number of those who have found places, and the assistance given in providing travelling expenses and so forth. All these things hardly touch the fringe of the unemployment problem, and it is an insult to the House and to the country to attempt to make the one or the other believe that here are any measures even for the alleviation of unemployment.
The Minister is riding off too hard on this transference business. He is taking credit for removing young men from the coalfields and the industrial districts—from Durham, South Wales and other parts of the country—to be employed in miscellaneous occupations elsewhere. I am not satisfied that the present extra demand for coal is to be maintained. I hope it may be; I should like to believe that the demand would be maintained at its present level for some time to come. But let me warn the Minister that if the demand be maintained, some of the young men who have been forced to leave home and have been driven to a life of vagabondage elsewhere, will be wanted. I have good authority for saying that at the present time the absence of single men from the mining industry is being very much felt. In a parish or township where you have 1,000 unemployed a pit re-starts and requires only 500 men. It may find difficulty in getting the right kind of men. Our young people are indispensable. I warn the Minister from my personal knowledge that in driving our young people about the country in a search for work he is driving them to worse than degradation and demoralisation. The policy has been worse than futile; it has been cruel in many cases, as I know. As to emigration I do not think the Government 2106 can hope to find satisfaction in what it proposes to do or take credit for what it has done. We hear the broad open spaces of Canada and Australia spoken of with pride, and the Empire feeling is aroused by such references. I know emigration conditions very well, and if I know anything about labour problems I do know the labour problem of Canada, where I worked some time time ago. I know that there to-day there is no room and no welcome for the unemployed. If one wants to do a service to the Empire one can do it, not by sending men with empty hands and pockets, but by keeping men away from those counties. I can conceive of nothing more injurious to the Empire than the dumping of our surplus unemployed in a country where they are not wanted, whether Canada, Australia or elsewhere. I protest very strongly against the idea that this sending of men away, under special arrangements with steamship companies and railway companies, is of service to emigration.
Let me read something taken from a book on Canada that I saw. In the last nine years, that is from 1919 to 1927, Canada has received about 1,100,000 immigrants. But she has lost to the United States 950,000 in the same period, and she has lost, through men who have been there returning to this country, 150,000. The incomers and the outgoers in the case of Canada almost balance each other. Canada does not want our unemployed, and enlightened opinion in that country is very strongly against the dumping of our men there. Those who go to Canada cannot stand the conditions. It is only a delusion to suggest that men with empty pockets and hands can find work. The Canadian point of view is expressed in an article in the "Queen's Quarterly," of Canada, of September last, in which Professor McArthur writes:Our immigration problem is a problem of keeping immigrants, not as is generally supposed a problem of getting them. There can obviously be no adequate adjustment of supply and demand as long as companies interested in the revenue derived from the transportation of immigrants are able to direct the flow of immigration.Here is another quotation:Our supreme need is a more careful adjustment of immigration to economic and social conditions in our own country.That is a statement from a Canadian who has only one purpose to serve, and that is 2107 the interest of his country. Canada is a great country and ought to have at least twice the number of its present population. But will not Ministers ask themselves the simple question: Why is it that when Canada was discovered many years ago there was for long a very sparse population? Why is it that Canada has not since become thickly populated? The same questions apply to Australia and to many other broad spaces on the face of the globe. The explanation is that these countries are countries in which it is hard to live. In Canada many months of the year are hard winter. That fact prevented the original inhabitants from multiplying. What is wanted is not only plenty of space, but moisture and an equable climate. Australia is no more exempt than Canada from adverse natural conditions. The only way to find room for men who wish to settle there is to send them with the capital required. In Australia they could then construct railways and bore artesian wells, and eventually make homes, but if you send them without the wherewithal to develop the country they will not stay, but will leave the countryside and flock into the towns, to the great danger of people already there. Thus you have an over-congested condition in the cities while the countryside is denuded of population. There is no way of getting our people off our hands except by sending them with abundant capital for use in the development of these open spaces and for making homes.
I turn now to another aspect of this question. I wish to deal with what has been done by the Unemployment Grants Committee. I know that the Minister will be very touchy when I refer to an interview which he had recently with the representatives of the Municipal Corporations Association. They came to him a few weeks ago and complained of a provision in a circular which the right hon. Gentleman sent out on 8th November last. I have here a return of the answers supplied by 14 large municipal corporations to a questionnaire which was sent out on this matter. The corporations concerned are those of Barrow-in-Furness, Birmingham, Blackburn, Burnley, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newport, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Salford, Sheffield, Swansea and Walsall. 2108 These cities represent a population of over 5,000,000 and a rateable value of over £36,000,000. Each one has a large amount of unemployment, and it is of interest to note that the number of unemployed in each of these cities—with one exception—is higher than it was when the Government took office.
The sole exception is the case of Walsall and the aggregate increase is 30,000 as compared with the number five years ago. The local authorities concerned have done their best and among them have spent nearly half of their rateable value. They have spent £15,000,000 on their own account, and they have received just over £3,000,000 from the Unemployment Grants Committee. They were allowed to spend on much more favourable terms than the present terms until 1925, when restrictions were placed by the Committee on the supply of credit. Since then the replies given by these corporations to the Committee go to show that they cannot carry on work for the relief of unemployment on the terms now offered. In this questionnaire, we find a whole series of negative replies in regard to the prospects of finding employment.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member, further than to say that the terms for these places, if they are given credit facilities by the Unemployment Grants Committee, are precisely the same now as they were before.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
The terms for these places include this—that if they are not distressed areas, they are to take in 50 per cent. of the labour from outside.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Those which have a considerable degree of unemployment are, as I said, going to get precisely the same terms as before. [An HON. MEMBER: "What do you call a considerable degree? "]
§ Mr. GRENFELL
It will be within the recollection of hon. Members that on Thursday last we had the representatives of the municipal corporations here in a room upstairs and they made up their minds after a long discussion, that, having approached the Minister of Labour, they would now approach the Prime Minister in the hope of inducing him to withdraw that clause in the circular 2109 and to give them permission to employ their own people. In this connection I wish to speak more particularly of my own town of Swansea. In 1925, partly because of relief works and partly because of trade conditions, the number of unemployed there was less than 5,000 but now the figure is over 9,000. Swansea, having spent over £1,000,000 in relief works, cannot find any more money on the conditions laid down by the Unemployment Grants Committee. The Corporation will not take the responsibility for bringing into the town any unemployed from outside areas. It would not be tolerated by the townspeople themselves and, because of this restriction, schemes are being held up. The Unemployment Grants Committee and the St. Davids Funds might just as well not be in existence.
I give some instances of local authorities who wish to carry out public works and are entitled to assistance. Birmingham has spent on its own account £3,087,000 and has received from the Government only £619,000. The city of Salford, with a population of 247,000 has spent on its own account £2,426,000, or over £9 per head of the population in relief of unemployment and the Government have given them £410,000. They cannot carry on under the new conditions and they cannot be expected to welcome people from outside areas who will come in to receive wages which they think ought to be paid to their own unemployed. As I say, in Swansea there are schemes to the value of £400,000 ready for immediate prosecution if the Government waive this Clause. The case against this Clause is put in a letter from the town clerk of Chester to the secretary of the Unemployment Grants Committee, dated 31st December lasts as follows:I have now to state that until the Council can be satisfied that they are not bound to absorb into an area where unemployment already exists, further unemployed men from the depressed areas, provide those unemployed men with housing facilities, and, when the relief works for which they are employed are completed, have those men as additional unemployed men in the city with the possibility that preference will be given to them in obtaining employment of a permanent nature over their own local unemployed, the Council feel that they cannot, in justice to their own unemployed citizens, proceed any further. I am to ask for an assurance from your committee in connection with this matter.2110 That letter expresses what local authorities all over the country are thinking about this matter and shows the absurdity of transferring men from their own homes where they have connections, and the possibility of employment if industry recovers, to places where they are strangers and have no homes. I observe that the suggestion has even been made that some kind of compounds or barracks should be provided for the reception of these men. The public authorities of the country will be very glad if the Government express a willingness to remove this objectionable Clause. Had time permitted I would have spoken at some length on the question of training centres. The Ministry take some credit, and I give them credit, for this work. Where training centres have been established, they are doing good work and she young men who are kept there, are being well looked after, but the facilities are not as numerous or as extensive as they ought to be. The work is not touching an appreciable percentage of the young people who are unemployed. If the Government wish to stand well before the electors in the next few weeks they should, even at this stage, do something to stop the further demoralisation and deterioration of our young men.
§ Mr. J. BAKER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I wish to appeal for the sympathy and help of the House on behalf of the landless and workless men whose one desire is to earn their living by their own toil. They accept the injunction:In the sweat of thy face, shalt thou eat bread.These men would be only too glad to do the work to which they have been accustomed, if they had the opportunity. I believe that this House can help. I know that in the past it has hindered. It has done much harm, but I believe that, with a change of policy, it could do an equal amount of good. My first introduction to this problem was when I was eight or nine years of age. Going down the main street of Stockton-on-Tees, I saw a string of men parading behind a banner on which were the words "Let Stockton flourish." When I asked what it meant I was told that those men were out of work. I wish to emphasise 2111 that they were men who had been doing work a few weeks previously, and they were parading the town advertising their desire to go on doing more work. They were not the loafers of the town. They were not the kind of people who had never worked and did not want to work. They were men whose one hope was to get a job of any sort so that they might earn bread and shelter.
My next experience of the problem was in 1892. We had then reached the end of the period of the substitution of iron by steel in shipbuilding. Our iron works were closed down. Fewer men were required to produce a sufficient quantity of steel than had been required previously to produce a sufficient quantity of iron. We were solaced then, not only by our old friend, the law of supply and demand, but also by the assurance that this was a trade cycle, that trade cycles came and went uncontrolled, that no man could control them, and that, while it was a pity that people had to suffer, nobody could do anything. I never believed that story for a single moment. We started agitating that something should be done, if only by way of relief works. But these men were abused in the Press, from the platform and from the pulpit and ultimately they were treated as common criminals and given penal work to do. They were put into sheds to tease oakum, as a test so that they might qualify for a few shillings a week from the board of guardians. In other cases people were given soup two or three times a week. I suggest that this country ought to have bigger ideas than that in regard to dealing with the people who produce its wealth.
We made many statements in our agitation for work on that occasion and probably the Press did not believe them, but, in any case, one Northern paper sent a commissioner to make inquiries. We took him to a number of the houses of the unemployed. We had not manners enough to knock at the doors; we simply opened the doors and walked in. The commissioner selected the area of the inquiry and there was no pre-arrangement because we did not know of his arrival until 10 o'clock that morning and the people in the houses did not know that we were going to call on them. In the first house which we entered there was 2112 a woman ill in bed, there was a dead baby in the house, and there was no money, no food and no fire. By the time we had taken the commissioner to half a dozen houses—and we might have taken him to hundreds which were just as bad—that man who was, perhaps, not as case-hardened to poverty as we were, was shedding tears, and he had to get Dutch courage before he could continue his inquiries.
In other words, in Durham in the winter of 1892–1893, you had exactly what His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales saw in Durham in 1929. In both periods complacent Governments said that this was not their work, or their responsibility. Then, as now, we were told that if this House interfered it would interfere for the worse. Until that policy is changed, all this suffering will have to go on. At that time we were advocating schemes for the building of houses, the laying out of streets, the making of harbours and the building of a railway on the north bank of the Tees. That scheme had already been sanctioned by this House but was being delayed by the North Eastern Railway Company. We were also advocating the clearance of slum areas, improved sanitary services, the cleansing of local streams so that they could deal with storm-water and prevent flooding and the reclamation of the foreshore of the Tees. We advocated the dredging of the Tees up to its higher reaches, and the repair of its banks where they were falling in, and a whole programme of that sort. That work could have been put in hand if we had had a House of Commons which was desirous of helping. If we had had a council desirous of helping, and if we could have got the funds—and Parliament could have got the funds—there would not have been any need for a single willing worker on Tees-side to be out of work during that particular depression.
But we realised in those days, as we do now, that all those remedies were temporary and were no solution of the unemployment problem. I believe that unemployment is inherent in the present system of wealth production and distribution, and that if we want to remedy the senseless, useless, needless, idleness among 1,500,000 people, we have got to change the system of wealth production and distribution, but we cannot do it 2113 by temporary measures. We have been pointing that out for 40 years. The next period when this House caused unemployment was in 1906, when it raised the load line on ships and enabled the ships afloat to carry, it was estimated at the time, 1,000,000 tons more cargo. At that time we were building about 900,000 tons a year, clear of naval construction. In other words, this House, by a stroke of the pen, put 1,000,000 tons of ships into the water, closed our shipyards, and threw our workmen out of work. We had 75 per cent. of our shipbuilders, 50 per cent. of our engineers, and large numbers of iron and steel workers and others thrown idle in 1906–7 by the raising of the load line by this House. This House caused that, and I feel safe in asserting that had the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) realised the harm that was going to ensue from his action, he might have refrained from signing a document, which really inflicted immense misery on the workers of the North.
The next time we got this House interfering directly with trade was in 1920, when it decided to start to revalorise the pound. Hon. Members will remember the phrase, "We are going to make the pound look the dollar in the face." On the 15th April, 1920, the Bank rate was raised to 7 per cent., and the unemployed in this country on the 30th April of the same year numbered 325,915. In one year they had increased to 1,661,852. Credit was restricted, trade fell off, and men were thrown out of work. I stop at March, because the point where unemployment reached as high as 2,700,000 came after there had been an industrial dispute, but that dispute was caused by the action of this House. We now have the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs telling us that the return to the gold standard was a cause of the present depression. We agree, but he started the ramp in 1920. It is not the work of the present Government or of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer alone; they are merely following on a policy that was adopted in 1920.
Now the right hon. Gentleman takes the platform and tells us that we can cure or conquer unemployment, and I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has accepted our view of this matter. It 2114 has taken us 20 years to educate him up to that point, and it gives us hope that we might even impress the present Government in the course of time. In the old days we used to send petitions and deputations to Ministers. Now we are sending petitions in boots and we have knocked at the door of this House so loudly that we have actually disturbed the slumbers of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I hope he will be successful in conquering unemployment, and I wish the Government would do something to help. There is a large amount of work that can be done, but we have to change our viewpoint and our outlook. After the War this House compelled the Germans to give cheap reparations coal to Belgium, France and Italy, and threw our own miners out of work. We took the German mercantile marine, closed our own shipyards, and compelled the Germans to build new fleets of the most modern construction with which the more successfully to compete with our ships.
We collected scrap from all the battlefields in Europe and sold that scrap to steelmakers, closing down our own blast furnaces. Out of over 600 blast furnaces that we have in this country, we worked an average of only 140 last year. Now all scrap is getting scarce, and probably a few more of those blast furnaces will be brought into requisition in the immediate future. But that policy had a wrong angle of view and did not think of consequences. The German fleet was sunk at Scapa Flow, but we had to take steps to raise those battleships so that we might have scrap, and we kept our blast furnace-men out of work. I might be asked the question, "Would I leave those ships there?" I want to retort to that question that if to-night or to-morrow you or I or any other person could discover an unlimited supply of gold, we would never be allowed by the Governments of the world to put it on the market because it would disturb trade and upset the markets. What would be done with that illimitable store of the means of exchange, we ought to have done with these other things that I have mentioned. We should have asked what the consequences of taking that particular course of action would be likely to be. It seemed on the face of it as though somebody was going to gain, but, as a 2115 matter of fact, I believe the world has been the poorer because of the suffering inflicted on workmen, not only in this country, but in other countries.
There is a large amount of work that needs doing now and that could be undertaken without sacrificing any principle of individualism. Hon. Members opposite can stick to their shibboleths until we have either talked them to death, converted them, or voted them out of existence by a new race of people accepting the view that co-operation is better than conflict. They have accepted the building of houses as one of the things that can be done by the State in an emergency, and I suggest that, if we have 100,000 building trade employés out of work, that is a state of emergency so far as they are concerned. We ought to reverse the order reducing the housing subsidy, because we need those houses and we have not attempted slum clearance. We have done very little indeed in the way of clearing slums and building new houses to take the place of the old ones. All that we have done has been to build new houses for the newcomers.
In my own constituency the three urban district councils desire to go on building more houses, but the reduction of the subsidy stops them going on with that work. Wolverhampton has many schemes in hand which will be delayed if it cannot get Government assistance. Those schemes will be carried out ultimately, but in the meantime people who might have been working will be out of work and will be receiving public funds in return for no effort. That is not good, either for them or for the general public. The town clerk tells me that they cannot comply with the Clause requiring 50 per cent. of people from distressed areas in the new arrangements. Sedgley had a scheme of deep sewerage sanctioned by the Grants Committee, but when three-quarters of that scheme had been carried out, the grant was cut off. A building company owns the surface of the land, and if deep sewers were put in, Dame Rumour says that they would be prepared to build 700 middle-class houses. If, by the expenditure of some public money we helped Sedgley to get sewerage into that area, and so could get some £750,000 or £1,000,000 of private money put into the building of houses there, that would be good for the country as 2116 a whole, and it would certainly be good for the Urban District Council of Sedgley and for the workmen there.
At the present time, as we have heard very much lately in the Press, slum areas need clearing, roads and harbours need reconstruction and schemes; have been laid before this House for the drainage of areas which might become profitable agricultural land if it were drained, but the private owners cannot afford to drain it. Our industries need cheap credit, cheap raw materials, and cheap transport, so that they may be restored to prosperity. But the industrialists of this country seem to prefer to face bankruptcy rather than have the help of this House to restore them to prosperity. This House has a responsibility to the community which is greater than that of the owner of any particular industry, and I believe this House could secure cheap credit for industries which are desirous of getting it, because that is the proposal of the Balfour Committee. The proposal is not that this House should scatter loans of money at cheap rates to all and sundry, but that the industries which are desirous of being restored and are prepared to take the first steps themselves might be helped. The Committee are not very definite in their statement, and I wish they had been more positive, but they state that such industries might have the assistance of the State in being restored.
§ Mr. BAKER
I wish I could get the hon. Members opposite to change their views on this matter, because so long as we, as a nation, believe that unemployment is no concern of ours, that each individual is doing his best for the race when he is looking after himself, and that if I am all right, everybody is all right, I do not think this country will be as great as it might be. If we had a little more mutual consideration and mutual help, it would be better for everybody.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I have listened with the greatest interest to the two speeches delivered this afternoon. Interesting as they were, there seemed to be one peculiarity in both of them. They agreed entirely as to the impossibility 2117 of dealing with unemployment by any partial measures, but, at the same time, both agreed that it was necessary to condemn this Government and all previous Governments, except presumably the Socialist Government of 1924, for not having dealt with problems which, in the opinion of these speakers, were really insoluble. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), in the first part of his speech, referred to the programme for doing away with unemployment altogether which has been put before the country by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He spent a good deal of time showing us that the Liberal party has been in fact in this matter the really conservative party in this House, inasmuch as they have not changed in any way for something like 30 years, and that, at the same time, they are putting forward proposals which have been put before the country not only by the Socialist party but also by the Conservative Government and Coalition Governments.
I do not want to follow the hon. Gentleman into any consideration of the programme put forward by the Leader of the Liberal party. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs himself believes in the statements that he is reported to have publicly made as to his ability to do away with unemployment by a stroke of the pen, by the expenditure of money which he is to get somehow as a conjurer, and at the cost of nobody; but I am perfectly certain that the bulk of the Liberal-minded voters in the country do not believe in it, and I doubt whether the bulk of the Liberal party in this House believes in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—I am sorry he is not here, and I do not say it in any unpleasant or vindictive spirit—always reminds me of a famous character in Bunyan's "Holy War." This was a very famous gentleman, a man who was at the head of the society of his time and in his city. He was a man who was supposed to be very clever and very agile in debate, but he had a family crest, and that crest was a very delicately poised weathercock. Round that weathercock was the motto: "We always change our judgment according to the necessity."
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I should be delighted to give way to the hon. Member, not only because it would be polite to do so, but because it would show the House that he has a knowledge of Bunyan's work for which no one here has given him credit.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
In the consideration of this problem there is, I think, one very important factor on which everyone should be in agreement, and that is that this question of unemployment is not a matter to be settled by any partial method, but is one which far transcends any question of party politics. It is true that we have a large problem of unemployment, and the figures are heavy; but I wonder if it is realised how different is the method by which these figures are computed to-day as compared with the manner in which they were produced previous to the War? It must be remembered that in the figure of 1,000,000 or 1,250,000 of unemployed, there exists about 250,000 women who were not previously included in the returns, and that there is a floating population which did not come into the calculations of those who prepared the figures in pre-War days. I think it is probable that a very careful examination would show that the problem is not really as heavy as at first sight it might appear to be. I do not mean by that to minimise it. It is a heavy problem, heavy in this country and in other countries. But if one realises that the last figures available from America showed something like 3,000,000 unemployed there and in Germany something over 2,000,000, with consequent partial unemployment of a further 3,000,000 people, it will be seen that unemployment is not a problem in this country alone and that it cannot be dismissed with any proposals of temporary Government works, or that schemes which are not carefully thought out and prepared can possibly be successful even in relieving it.
2119 Probably it is very little understood how changed are the conditions of our industry in this country to-day as compared with those of the latter half of last century. I do not refer to the claim of the days previous to the War, when we were supposed to be the workshop of the world. That has gone; we cannot hope to hold that position to-day. But I want to draw attention to the conditions under which our industries originally grew up, and to the difference in the conditions which prevailed then and now. Practically all our great industries were started from small beginnings, very largely by individual enterprise. You have a proof of that in the very common and very much quoted saying, "Shirt-sleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," and sayings of that kind. That kind of individual effort does not get the same chance today. I say quite frankly that we have to recognise that the modern system of finance in this country and other countries is all against any help being given to the small man. The whole conditions have altered, and in this country the small man has a very poor chance indeed. I do not blame the joint stock banks; indeed I do not blame anybody for the conditions which exist; but, in the old days all over this country, in the days of the private banker, the passing of whom many of us regret, the small man was able to get help, not because he had behind him War Loan or Consols or some other security which would satisfy any lender, but rather that he had behind him the reputation of himself and his family, the fact that he was a hard-working fellow who would probably make good with a little help. To-day these things have to be settled by a board in London, and undoubtedly the small man finds it more difficult to get support than he did in the old days. But it is just that very kind of man whom we want to get going if we are to help unemployment. He seems a very small figure—the little joiner or builder with two or three men growing to 10 or 12 men—but, all over the country, he is the man we want to get started, the man who is working to make good for himself and for those dependent upon him.
I would go further. Is it not the case that the present system of finance is not only against the email man primarily, but is against the industrialist altogether? 2120 Again, I wish to make it clear that I am not attacking the joint-stock banks; far from it. I may not go the length of the gentleman who, every time he went past a bank on the top of an omnibus, is stated to have reverently raised his hat, but I owe too much to the bankers to say anything against them. At the same time, I say frankly that the whole banking system of this country wants examination from the point of view of two things: first, whether the gold standard and the basis of the Bank Charter Act we are working under are suitable for the transactions carried out in this country; and, second, whether the great joint-stock banks have not rather dried up the credit which the small man got in the old days. The greater problem, no doubt, is that which has been referred to by an hon. Member, who said that getting back to the gold standard had caused great hardship to industry. I am not prepared to dispute that it caused hardship to industry; I think it did. At the same time, I am not prepared to say that it was not the right thing that we should get back to the gold standard. I think it was. The whole question is how to do it, and the rate of progress by which you make the change. Gold is a commodity like everything else, and, if gold is to be the standard for settlement of international obligations and exchange—and nobody has suggested any better standard for the purpose—I do suggest that it is worth while for the country to consider whether gold is equally necessary as a standard of obligation between two nationals living in the same country, who at the present moment are prepared, and do daily take as between themselves a piece of paper with a promise written on it as the only means of negotiating their payments and obligations. I question very much whether now that we have a large fiduciary currency, we could not with advantage follow to some extent at any rate the example of the Federal Reserve Bank of America, and base some of our credit upon trade bills and obligations of our own people, and this prevent our being so much tied, as we are at present, to the operations of the American banks and American speculators.
The Bank of England is to be congratulated in some respects on the way that it 2121 has handled the position in the last few months. What it did was possibly to save us from something much worse, if indeed it has been able to avert further serious consequences which, I think, is not yet certain. But there is no doubt that in January last the Bank Rate was suddenly raised just at the moment when trade was looking up again and undoubtedly industry was thus dealt a very serious blow. It is worth considering whether there are not some means by which we can free ourselves from the necessity of being tied to the operations of those on the other side of the water. It is an extremely intricate and difficult subject, but I think that it is a matter for inquiry. If it is a question of industry as a means of providing employment, and restored and active industry is the only real remedy, then the industrialists should get a fair show. Is he getting a fair chance, financially and otherwise? The banker has to look after his shareholders and his profits and he may rightly say that it is not his business to support industry in its early stages, but anyhow there is no doubt that it is to the interest of the banks to deal in short-dated bills rather than to lock up their money in long credits. Is there not a chance, therefore, for the Government to help the industrialists by a reorganisation of what used to be called the Trade Facilities Act? That Act was excellently administered, but I want a different Act altogether, an Act which will not allow a great shipping company or a great public company which has already plenty of credit in the market, to raise its money at 5 per cent. instead of 6 per cent., and lock up a certain amount of Government money. I want an Act which will help the small industrialist to get that credit which the present banking system does not permit of his getting even if it means the Government taking some measure of risk of loss.
We are often told that the industrial employer is out to reduce wages. That is not true. No industrialist in the country really wishes to reduce wages, for the obvious reason that productive industry is entirely based upon buying power. The statement with which I am in entire agreement is constantly made from the Labour benches that we will never have successful and prosperous industry in this country until we have a 2122 high purchasing power, and that means a high standard of living. It is not the 1,000,000 people unemployed that worries me, but the 10,000,000 people who are living too near the margin of want, because these people should be in the mass the best customers that we can have. Does it not follow that no industrialist wants to reduce the buying power of his customers. We prevent a man who conducts an industrial business from in any way controlling the prices of his raw material; we prevent him controlling the price at which he can sell his goods, because we allow free imports and competition from abroad, whatever the standard of living of the people who make the competing goods. How then is he to economise and put himself in a position to compete. Broadly speaking, only three things enter into the matter—the price of his raw material, the price at which he sells the manufactured article and the cost of his labour. If he reduces wages, he is forced to it partly because of the system of free imports which prevents him having any chance of competing on reasonable terms with those who send goods from abroad, goods made by cheap labour living under conditions much lower than those existing in this country or than anyone ever wants to see exist here.
I suggest that the Government should put into force the Safeguarding Act. One of the greatest misfortunes to-day is the fact that in the last four or five years we have not been able to put that Act into force in the way that many of us hoped. I do not suggest that the criticism which we sometimes hear from the Liberal benches, to the effect that we have not gone far enough to show any results, is correct. The results are remarkable so far as they have gone, but the conditions under which we have had to work this Act, owing no doubt to the pledge which the Prime Minister conceived was given—but which I personally have never been able to find—have had the result that it enables our opponents to say that we have not gone far enough to convince everybody.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Gentleman is getting very near the question of new duties, which would require legislation.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I hoped, Sir, that if I was getting near, I was not getting over the border. I was only suggesting putting into force the Safeguarding Act, which exists at the present time; the procedure under that Act is not a matter, may I submit, which requires new legislation, but merely a White Paper.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I will not pursue the matter further, but I hope that the position with regard to the future will be made clear in the country, so that everybody will know where they stand in regard to this matter at the next Election. The Government might do one other thing to help industry. We are constantly told that they ought to economise. Economy is all very well, and I am always in favour of it, particularly because the Government is under present Income Tax conditions a 20 per cent. partner in industry, taking a large part of the profits but paying no share of the losses. It is difficult to get industry keen and active under these conditions. What has been done in connection with economy in the fighting forces is excellent, and if we had a Ministry of Defence, it would give us a chance of discussing the whole problem and enabling us to say where further economies could be made. Possibly, in the air, for example, it is not economy but expenditure that is required.
With regard to migration, the hon. Gentleman who spoke last put his case much too strongly. He said that we were doing harm to Canada by sending people there, and he referred to the fact that people are coming back from Canada saying that there was no demand for labour in that country. We know that that is not correct. The hon. Member omitted to tell us anything of the immense numbers of people going into Canada from other countries. It is not true to say that Canada does not want British migrants. Canada wants people from this country rather than from any other country, but the hon. Member was right when he said that these people would have the best chance who were sent out either with capital or with opportunities partly made for them. 2124 When this matter was discussed not long ago in the House, I was gad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) refer to a scheme which I put forward in the House a year ago when the Empire Settlement Bill, brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville), was being discussed. This was that this country might take over some district, Such as the Peace River district of British Columbia, which would eventually be handed back to the Canadian Government, and develop it with British money saved to us by the fact of the men not having to be supported here. That would give a wonderful chance for people who were sent from this country. Such a scheme, worked out in co-operation with the Dominions, would I think be welcomed, and I do-not think that we should find any serious opposition from any authority in Canada, it being clear that these men are not to remain supported from this country but are to become Canadian in every respect and adopt that great land as their home. I agree that it is useless to suggest migration from the point of view of merely dumping people overseas as a cure for unemployment; on the other hand, the statements that, have been made as to the impossibility of increasing migration, are not only wrong but dangerous. They give a wrong impression, and they are not a true picture of the facts. I would like also to see an unofficial Board of Migration which would co-ordinate the work of the State and the work of the many wonderful voluntary societies engaged in migration work. If that were done, quite apart from the Government, a, great impetus would be given to settlement in the Dominions.
The main problem in connection with reducing the bulk of unemployment—we can never do away with every unemployed man—is that of providing assistance to the men who give employment, that is to the industrialist. We should assist him, and consider his interests as apart from those of the person who is only interested in goods coming in and going out of the country. The Government should consider whether what they are doing to help trade and industry is really a help to that man, or whether on the other hand the whole system is not one which 2125 aims more at helping those who only import goods. We spent some £383,000,000 in 1927 on social services; that is, £76,000,000 more than six years before. There must be some limit to the amount. Housing, education, unemployment and health insurance are all excellent. The figure has to be increased by something like £37,000,000, which represents the decrease in war pensions, so that the increase in these six years amounts to over £100,000,000, and however estimable these services are, they are a charge on industry, and there must be a limit and a time when the country must consider the rate at which it is moving. I do not believe that our troubles will come to an end by increased expenditure on social services or by maintaining people in unwilling idleness, but if we can get our own individual industries working again, we raise the purchasing power of our people, increase their comfort and contentment and really solve the unemployment problem. In fact, I believe that there would be before very long a shortage of labour. There is a shortage of skilled labour to-day, and there would be a shortage of all labour within a few-years if we support and encourage by all the means in our power the man who provides the employment. To-day this Government or any other Government has to face that problem. We have had a very difficult time and there has been a good deal of change in industrial conditions since this century began. The whole country wants waking up to the fact that it is the industrialist that matters, and those who talk so much about Free Trade are very often, I think, people who have never engaged in it, and do not seem to realise the burdens or the expenditure, whether it be for the purposes of Government or for the professional services of the lawyer, doctor or schoolmaster, for example, fall in the end upon the productive industries of the country. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would turn their minds more to helping those who employ labour, they would find before very long that we should really solve the unemployment problem.
§ Sir OSWALD MOSLEY
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) has made a most moving appeal in favour of economy. While listening to that appeal the thought passed through my mind as to whether the hon. 2126 Member supported the Government a week or two ago when they were compelled to spend £400,000 more than they felt bound to expend in subsidising certain landlords in Southern Ireland. I do not know on which side lay the sympathies of the hon. Gentleman in that struggle. We are always hearing of appeals for economy in general from the opposite benches, but when it comes to the particular on which they wish to economise it turns out to be the social services or the working class who have to bear the burden. We have just listened to an argument against expenditure on the social services, and the hon. Member for Kidderminster said that the industrialists have to bear the burden of that expenditure. Surely when we build schools by public expenditure we are providing a market for the building industry. When we spend large sums of money by means of direct cash payments like War pensions, what in fact are we doing? We are simply transferring purchasing power from certain taxpayers to other members of the community. The hon. Member for Kidderminster and myself are taxed by means of the Income Tax and Super-tax, and instead of having that money to spend on objects which please us, it is devoted to enhancing the purchasing power of that part of the population which is for the most part the working class. Why should we assume that the objects upon which the working class spend this money will not provide a better market for our industries?
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
The argument which the hon. Baronet appears to be using is that the more money we spend, the better off we shall be. Surely he does not advocate unlimited expenditure and no thrift?
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
The argument is perfectly clear. Industry must have sufficient capital accumulation for new developments. Under a Socialist system that would be done by these industries setting aside sufficient reserves for their own development. Under the present system we rely for that capital accumulation upon the private investor, and under this system sufficient money must be left to the taxpayer to provide for capital accumulations. Over and above the necessary capital reserves it is purely a question of who spends money on consumption. 2127 Is it to be the rich taxpayer who is taxed for the social services, or the poorer members of the community who are assisted by those social services? I submit that actually the money is more likely to be usefully spent in promoting trade in the hands of the working class than in the hands of the hon. Member for Kidderminster or myself, for the reason that the working class demands stimulate the staple trades of the country such as the cotton and woollen trades and the boot trade, which are among the main productive industries upon which the strength of this country has grown up. It is purely a question whether by our measures we leave money in the hands of the richer class to be spent on luxuries which are manufactured for the most part abroad, or whether by measures of taxation we take from the richer class a part of their money and spend it on the social services, a policy which the hon. Member for Kidderminster deplores. By spending money on social services in this way we increase the purchasing power of the working class, and stimulate the staple trades of the country.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster addressed a considerable argument to us on the subject of migration. What has the Conservative party done to encourage migration from this country? We are now asking the Dominions to do something for nothing. The policy of the Conservative party in the past has been to tax the food of the people in order to provide a market for the products of the Dominions. That policy has now been abandoned for electoral advantages, and now the Conservative party in this connection have no policy of any kind. On the Labour Benches we have a policy for the bulk purchase of wheat and meat and a system of direct supply to the consumers of this country, and by this method we would be able to assist the staple trades of the Dominions and at the same time to provide cheaper food to our own people. In return we could ask the Dominions to give proper facilities to any of our population who desire to migrate to secure employment and reasonable standards of wages. It is idle for the Members of a Conservative party to suggest that a big policy of migration is possible, because they have absolutely nothing to offer 2128 the Dominions in return. The Imperial cry of the Conservative party is entirely bankrupt, and they are going to the country without a Dominion policy of any kind whatsoever.
Then the hon. Member for Kidderminster advanced an argument which seemed to me to constitute a very powerful support of our pleas for the proper control and development of our banking system. The hon. Gentleman pointed out that in Joint Stock Bunks purely rule-of-thumb methods are now adopted; they regard only the securities which are offered by their customers and not in any way the social uses for which the credits supplied will be used. That old consideration of the private banks has vanished altogether under our present banking system. For these reasons I welcome the hon. Member's strong support for our plea that there should be a reform of the banking system for the qualitative as well as the quantitative direction and control of credit. When I heard the hon. Member opposite refer eulogistically to the semi-Socialised Federal Reserve system of America, I almost rose in my place to invite him to come over and sit on these benches. The hon. Member for Kidderminster then spoke of the only policy by which the Government claim to be dealing with unemployment. I should not be in order in dealing with the de-rating Bill now, but I can point out that a; a cure for unemployment it has been set aside, and it was turned during its later stages into a purely Local Government Bill. Consequently, we now come back to the safeguarding policy, which the party opposite claim is doing so much for industry.
I would like for a few moments to analyse this policy in order to see whether in fact the one and only suggestion of the Government for dealing with the problems of the day is having any beneficial effect, or can have any effect, upon the grave condition of unemployment in this country. The suggestion of the Government is that under the stimulus of their policy new industries are taking the place of the old ones, and that we are gradually carrying through a big transfer of our productive activities from the old basis to the new basis upon which we can recover our prosperity. What test can we apply to the success of this safeguarding policy? As a first test, there is none 2129 better than that which was suggested the other day in a speech by the Lord Chancellor, who judged the success of the safeguarded industries by their export trade. Stimulated by that suggestion, I have looked into the matter of what safeguarded trades have actually improved their export position. I find that only three—motor cars, artificial silk and musical instrument trades—have increased their export trade during the last three years. If the rest of the safeguarded industries are considered in this respect, we find a total decline of £1,278,000 in their total exports during that period. The three industries which are expanding and improving their export trade are-all industries the success of which obviously depend in a far greater measure on new scientific inventions and general progress than upon any measure of safeguarding. Can anyone seriously suggest that the motor car trade would not have expanded in any case during the last few years? Who can contend that the artificial silk trade would not have expanded without safeguarding, and who believes that with the progress of modern inventions and modern tastes the musical instrument trade would not also have been an expanding trade?
While it may be true that these three industries alone have improved their position by the tests which the Lord Chancellor has applied, whether they will continue to improve is another big consideration because the Government by their action, or rather by their inaction, in raising the price of petrol and by their raiding of the Road Fund are crippling the development upon which the motor industry depends for its success, and they are doing very much to upset any conceivable advantage which they may claim that this industry has derived from safeguarding. If we add to that the consideration that the motor industry has to meet an ever-increasing competition from America and from the Dominions, the outlook for that trade, I am afraid, cannot be so bright in the future as it has naturally been in the past.
Let us examine the claim that the new trades are effectively replacing the old trades. What has been the expansion in the motor trade during recent years? Between 1923 and 1927 the total number of cars used in this country rose from 87,000 to 209,000, or an increase of 2130 150 per cent. Even with this immense and unparalleled expansion of the trade, the number of workers employed only increased by 38,000. In the same period the number of workers employed in the coal trade decreased by 250,000. How can we claim or pretend that the new trades are effectively taking the place of the old trades? Take the case of artificial silk. That is admittedly a substitute trade. Between the years 1923 and 1928, this trade absorbed 33,000 new workers; but in the same period the cotton and the woollen trades declined by 40,500 workers. At every stage we see the decline in the old trades far and away outstripping any increase in the new. To take other new trades in a different category, electrical engineering has increasd by 36,500, but general engineering has declined by 84,800—again an increase in the decline of the old above the rise of the new. In the chemical industry we have some of the most surprising figures of all. In that industry since 1923 there has actually been a rise of 9 per cent. in production, but a fall of very nearly 4,000 in the number of workers employed. That is the process of rationalisation and scientific development.
What policy, what suggestion, have the Government for meeting a situation of that kind? On facts and figures which make the situation only too tragically clear, the decline is progressive, the new trades are failing completely to take the place of the old, and the Government have no plan or suggestion to apply beyond the safeguarding policy. But the safeguarding policy is one which does not and cannot apply to the overwhelming majority of the unemployed in this country. No fewer than 856,857 persons, or 64.5 per cent. of the registered unemployed in December last, are employed in trades right outside the scope of any safeguarding policy. It is quite easy to define those trades. They are industries with no import problem at all, such as mining or shipbuilding, or industries in which labour is sheltered, like building and internal transport, [Interruption.]. I do not think there is any very big import problem in the mining industry at the present time. When the hon. Gentleman comes to reply, possibly he can supply us with figures, but I have noticed before that, when observations are made from these 2131 benches, the hon. Gentleman adopts a very derisory attitude, though when he comes to reply the facts and figures which can refute the observations are entirely lacking from his speech. I was trying to develop the argument that this safeguarding policy does not and cannot apply to industries in which 64.5 per cent. of the unemployment in this country occurs.
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman may rest assured that in the course of my argument I will cover the whole field.
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
No; that will be included in another set of figures which I will give in a moment. There are industries, such as those of internal transport and building, where labour is sheltered and where this policy does not arise; and there are industries which obviously are not and cannot be safeguarded, such as shipping and distribution. Then there are the food, drink and tobacco industries, for which not even the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has yet suggested a tariff policy. These four categories of industry account for some two-thirds of the total unemployment registered in this country in December last. Remaining beyond that there were some 472,000 unemployed registered in December, or 35.5 per cent. of the total unemployment of the country. Of those 35 per cent., two-thirds are employed in the textile and metal trades, to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred. Both of those trades are overwhelmingly export trades. In the metal trade the export surplus over imports is 28 per cent., while in the textile trade it is as high as 56.1 per cent. They are overwhelmingly export trades, and the safeguarding policy does not apply to them and cannot assist them.
If you take some half-dozen of these remaining industries—textiles, metals, chemicals, oils, vehicles, apparel, earthenware pottery and glass—you will find that 92.9 per cent. of the remaining 35 per cent. of unemployment is accounted for, 2132 and all of those trades are overwhelmingly export trades. You come, therefore, to this conclusion, that only one-fortieth of the total unemployment in this country arises in trades which are not predominantly export trades, and that, therefore, by any policy of safeguarding, only one man in 40 of the total unemployed can conceivably be assisted. If these facts and figures can be answered, I shall be very happy to hear the answer. They are derived from very reliable sources, which so far have not been challenged. They show that, if we take out of industry trades which obviously cannot be safeguarded, and if we further take out trades which are predominantly exporting trades which cannot be assisted by safeguarding, we are left with industries which account for only one man in 40 of those who are unemployed.
§ Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON
The hon. Baronet has pointed out that the real problem is that of the export industry. Can he now explain, in view of what he said in the early part of his speech, how those industries are to be helped by increasing the purchasing power of our own working people?
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
If the industrial genius of the hon. Gentleman will apply for guidance to the industrial genius of Mr. Ford, he will find a very simple answer. Mr. Ford has is frequently pointed out that the high purchasing power of the American people has developed that mass production method which has enabled him, not only to sell cheaply in American markets, but to capture the export markets of the world.
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
I have always found in Debate that any answer which is effective is not regarded as an answer by the recipient. Possibly the hon. Gentleman is suffering from something which affects us all. I myself always have the same sensation when I get a reply to which I cannot immediately see the answer.
To return to my main argument, so far as we are aware the Government have no policy of any kind in relation to unemployment except this safeguarding 2133 policy. I have striven to show by facts and figures that that policy cannot apply to the overwhelming majority of those industries which account for unemployment, and that as regards only one man in 40 of the unemployed can it be even technically argued that assistance can be given by that policy. What plan and what suggestion have the Government for dealing with unemployment? We are at the end of 4½ years of their tenure of office. Unemployment is higher than when they took office, and they have no single suggestion or policy to put forward except a policy which in practice has proved a failure, and any extension of which in theory can very easily be exposed and exploded. The Government have evidently surrendered to unemployment in advance of the election. They are going into the election with their hands up. Their whole record and their whole policy show that they have no suggestion of any kind to offer. I must admit that I had hopes from another quarter this afternoon. Where, oh, where, is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) is a very industrious but I am afraid, if he will forgive me for saying so, rather inadequate understudy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has produced a remedy for unemployment. This is the first Debate that has taken place since we had the advantage of hearing his proposals, and it may be the last Debate on unemployment before this House goes to the electors; and yet the right hon. Gentleman, having maintained silence and not having given us the benefit of his counsel on this subject for the 4½ years which this Parliament has lasted, now, on the last occasion when we can debate the subject, does not come down to this House, where his proposals can undergo the test of debate, where they can meet reasoned analysis, and where, if they could be sustained, they would come through the ordeal to the triumph which the hon. Member for Leith imagines. The right hon. Gentleman has great resources of publicity at his disposal, but where his arguments can be met on level terms, where they can be analysed and, if they be fallacies, 2134 destroyed, the right hon. Gentleman, the new knight who is to cure unemployment, is sadly lacking from the field of battle. Even in his absence, however, we might put one or two questions, which I am sure will be adequately answered by the hon. Member for Leith.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has developed a great attack upon the policy and administration of the present Government. He claims, and I think rightly, that their policy of deflation was responsible for the great coal stoppage and the industrial struggle of 1926; but he has omitted to mention that he initiated the whole of that policy; that he adopted the recommendations of the Cunliffe Committee, which started that policy; that he applied it far more rigorously than the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has ever applied it; that where the present Chancellor of the Exchequer aimed by deflation at a fall of 10 per cent. in our price level, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs actually achieved a fall of 50 per cent. in our price level, or five times as severe a deflation as that aimed at by the present Chancellor.
All through that period the bottom was falling out of the market, prices were descending, manufacturers were selling their finished products on a lower price level than that on which they paid for their labour costs and raw material, and, as a result of precisely the same policy, but applied in a more rigorous degree, as that which he now denounces, the right hon. Gentleman piled up a total of unemployment in this country amounting to some 2,000,000. At one period during the application of that policy, when unemployment was reaching its height, namely, on the 24th October, 1921, he replied to representations from the Federation of British Industries asking him to modify that policy and to reopen an inquiry into the whole of the recommendations of the Cunliffe Committee, from which this policy originated. His reply was to turn down any suggestion of the kind, with observations which are pathetically reminiscent of the speeches in the country of the present Prime Minister. What do we find the man of executive genius, the man of push and go, the man who is going to cure unemployment, saying at that time? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs replied 2135 thus to the Federation of British Industries:The idea that there is some short cut to the recovery of normal conditions is, in the nature of things, not unlikely to prove illusory.When he had the opportunity to do these things which he now promises to do, the answers he returned were in language almost identical with that of the present Prime Minister. He went on to say:At the present moment, after going through a period of unexampled depression and weathering the three months of coal stoppage,which was caused by his policy,trade and industry are beginning to show the first faint symptoms of recovery.6.0 p.m.
The right hon. Gentleman then, like the present Prime Minister, was seeing the first faint symptoms of recovery. Every Prime Minister sees those symptoms about once a year. When the right hon. Gentleman was seated upon those benches, when he had an opportunity to put these plans into action, those were the answers he gave.
I should like, all the same, if the Government would be good enough to make some observations upon the plans the right hon. Gentleman has advanced, for the simple reason that they are taken in bulk from the programme of the Labour party and, therefore, are of some interest to us. There is only one proposal in the right hon. Gentleman's suggestions which is not to be found in the Labour programme, and that is the novel suggestion of extending the telephone system to some 90,000 working-class homes, a benefit for which those who pay with difficulty for their Sunday dinners will no doubt thank the right hon. Gentleman. I should be grateful if the Government would put forward what are the reasoned objections of the Treasury to the whole policy of raising a loan or incurring capital expenditure for the relief of unemployment, a policy long advanced from these benches. The Prime Minister dealt with it in a very jejune way at Leicester the other day. He said thatcapital money employed on such a purpose would merely be taken from the rest of industry and, consequently, would not add a single man to the aggregate of employment.That seems to me to be an argument which applies to the development of all 2136 new enterprises. If a new factory with a promise of success is started and draws capital from the investment market, does it damage other enterprises?
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
Quite. Why should we not absorb the unemployed in works of this kind, certainly until you can by other measures stabilise the employment situation? This argument applies with equal force against any new development and any new enterprise. Really it is the duty of the Government to advance a reasoned contravention of this policy unless they themselves, as their newspaper supporters suggest, are prepared to adopt it before the election.
But it is not suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to reduce unemployment below what he is pleased to call the "normal." I should like to address this question to his understudy. What is normal unemployment? I have seen the figure put at 500,000. I believe that is roughly the relation of pre-War unemployment to the present situation. Can we be content with a permanent unemployment of 500,000? It is true that the system the right hon. Gentleman supports depends for its existence upon the surplus of unemployed. No matter if your unemployed are 1,500,000 or merely 500,000, as long as you have that large surplus you have still the roots of the unemployment problem with you. What is the real evil of unemployment? It not only affects those who are actually unemployed, it affects every worker, because every man in industry knows that unless he is ready to work in bad conditions and at low wages some poor fellow who is out of a job is only too glad to get his job at any wage or under any conditions, and if you have your 500,000 surplus, that is going to be a lever which is for ever beating down wages, for ever reducing conditions and preventing that rise in purchasing power which alone can give a home market upon which a real industrial revival depends. Therefore, though I naturally agree that these Labour proposals for public utility works are essential and should be undertaken, and although I agree that they can do much to reduce unemployment in a very short space of time, yet, in themselves, they are not enough. For that purpose 2137 two other Measures are necessary which are not found in the programme of the right hon. Gentleman and are found in the programme of the Labour party alone—the removal at one end of industry of the aged, and at the other end of the young. Give to your old workers a pension upon which they can retire, if they wish, in decent conditions, and let their place be taken by the able-bodied unemployed. At the other end raise your school age and pay maintenance allowances to the mothers.
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
I bow at once to your Ruling, Sir. I only submit that there is a kind of pension system at present in existence, and I thought possibly I might suggest that a development of that system could be used to remedy the unemployment that we are discussing. But I do not want to develop this theme. I have merely suggested other measures which are quite beyond the scope of anything suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and measures such as that, combined with these great public utility works, can go far towards reducing unemployment to vanishing point, and not until you have got rid of that surplus of unemployed can you expect that great advance in working-class conditions which will give us the large home market which is the basis of a real industrial recovery. Almost the whole of American prosperity rests upon the high purchasing power of the working class, and America, in addition to being the largest Free Trade area in the world, has other advantages. It has that federal reserve banking system, and it has, in addition, certain immigration laws, which have maintained a permanent shortage of labour. The result has been that labour is in a strong position and has fought for, and won, high wages.
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
There was no substantial unemployment in America until the Federal Reserve System altered their policy, and the reason they altered their policy was that speculators got out of hand on Wall Street and their system 2138 was inadequate to deal with the situation without hitting industry. They pursued the extraordinary policy, although it is necessary to the present system, of a restriction of credit irrespective of the source to which the credit was flowing. The speculator is a man who borrows for a short time in the expectation of a very big return, and he does not mind so much paying a high rate of interest for his money as industry, which borrows for a longer period in expectation of a much smaller return.
§ Mr. STANLEY
Surely the hon. Baronet is incorrect when he says the Federal Reserve System has not differentiated as to the reasons for which credit is required. Surely the whole basis of the difference between the Federal Reserve Rate to-day and the rate in Wall Street is the fact that the Federal Reserve has been loaning money to industry on lower terms.
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
There is, of course, a difference between call money and the ordinary Federal Reserve rate, but that difference is not, and cannot be, nearly sufficient to check the present speculation. We are now getting the extraordinary situation that, not only is speculation out of hand in America, but you are having the large English bankers saying the rate of the Bank of England had to be raised primarily to check speculations in Wall Street. So we come to this, that dear credit obtains here, industry is slowed up and unemployment is created in Britain because our bankers are co-operating with the Federal Reserve board in a frantic effort to reduce speculation in New York. But this is all a divergence from the theme on which I wish to conclude my observations. If you can, by analogous measures, raise the purchasing power of your working-class population, your problem is on the road to being solved. Those analogous measures are to remove the surplus of unemployed by the expansion of your pension system for the old and by maintenance at school for the young, and at the same time to modernise your banking system and to direct its operations towards industry rather than to the maintenance of certain positions on the international money market. That must be the basis of any real remedy for unemployment, the gradual raising of 2139 wages and the increase of working-class purchasing power will supply the home market for our great staple trades which industry lacks. Any suggestions to that end are lacking from the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon. Any suggestions of any kind are lacking from the policy of the Government and such a policy and such proposals come alone from the Labour party.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
It always seems to me when I listen to the hon. Baronet that it would be a wise provision if all Members of this House at some time in their life had to earn their own living, because his speech shows a total lack of knowledge of the actual facts of industry. Apparently, to take one example, he is unaware that the Federal Reserve System has broken down completely, and that American industry and finance and commerce is faced at present with an appalling situation. The credit position has got completely out of hand, very largely owing to the existence of the Federal Reserve System. The enormous money rates which obtain for call money for speculative purposes in New York are got very largely from the surplus balances of the industrialists of the United States. To a very large extent, they are not bank credits at all, and every endeavour the Federal Reserve Bank makes to curtail loans for speculative purposes is bound to fail. If they pursue the policy of providing artificially cheap credit for industry, the only effect is to help industrialists by giving them cheap loans, so that they will have still further surplus funds to lend at a higher rate of interest for speculative purposes. The hon. Baronet also pointed out that several Prime Ministers in the past have come to this House and talked about the symptoms of reviving trade and he suggested that the present Government was guilty of the same offence. Very briefly I will give the hon. Baronet one or two present symptoms of reviving trade. The most recent Returns from the coal industry of this country show that we have now reached the normal output of coal. They also show that our exports of coal are mounting; that there is actually a bigger demand for export coal than what we are able to supply at the present time. They show that the prices which we are 2140 obtaining for export coal not only in South Wales, but also in the north country as well, are prices which are highly profitable to the coal industry of this country; so highly profitable that every coalmining district in this country is now making a fairly satisfactory profit—a profit which will enable the wages of the miners of Great Britain to be increased within a comparatively short space of time. That is one symptom of reviving trade.
Another symptom is that thee actually is at the present time a very grave shortage of coke for the blast furnaces of our country, and so grave is the shortage that in one case at least a modern blast furnace has been blown out, simply because there is not coke enough. There is not coke enough because prices which are being offered for coke both for home use and for export are such that the production of by-product coke in this country is not sufficient to supply the furnace demands which exist at present. Another sign is the fact that the steel industry is now turning out what in the days before the War would be considered a thoroughly satisfactory output. Furthermore, one branch of the iron and steel industry which many of us thought was doomed to failure in the near future—the production of pig iron—is already in the position that there is a positive shortage of pig iron in this country at the present time. The steel works which have been using in recent years a very high percentage of scrap—higher than we used before the War—are finding a shortage of scrap since the flush of scrap iron and steel resulting from the War has now come to an end. A higher percentage of pig iron will have to be used in the open-hearth furnaces and that reacting upon the blast furnace trade will inevitably demand a further production of pig iron and actually the relighting of any furnaces of modern construction now blown out and probably the construction of still more modern furnaces in a comparatively short space of time.
I am informed that in one of the neighbouring towns of Lancashire which is one of the most depressed areas in the cotton trade that the present unemployment figures in that trade are falling, and finally I may remind the hon. Baronet that week by week the 2141 total figures of unemployment are falling steadily and that actually there are very much larger numbers of people employed in the country now than there were eight years ago. Therefore, there are obvious symptoms of trade reviving in this country at the present time.
I wish to refer to two other portions of his speech. He pointed out to us that the really depressed industries where unemployment is most severe were the export industries of this country, but he had already informed us that the one cure for unemployment was increasing the purchasing power of the working classes of the country. I ventured to interrupt by his permission and to ask him how he reconciled those two statements, that he was going to cure unemployment by raising the wages of the workers in this country although unemployment on his own figures was really a problem of the export trades. With his usual delicate taste, humour and courtesy, he endeavoured to make out that he had answered my question, but I submit to hon. Members who were present when I asked that question and when he made his reply that his answer had nothing whatever to do with the question and was in no sense a reply, and that the dilemma in which I placed him still remains.
Of the unemployment figures of the present day we have to bear in mind that something like 200,000, or thereabouts, relate to the coal-mining industry of this country. Let us consider for a moment what those 200,000 may represent. They represent the redundant men that were brought into the industry during the period of the coal control. They represent the men who were retained in the industry by the passing of the Seven Hours Act. They represent the men who were still further retained in the industry by the policy of the Ministry of Mines in the Labour Government in 1924. If there is one thing which is perfectly clear to those of us who have no party bias—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Has anybody any objection to that statement?
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I am willing to give way to any hon. Gentleman who wishes to make an observation. Those 2142 men were retained in the industry by the policy of the Labour Government of 1924. Those men had to be ejected from the industry if that industry were to survive and if the workers in that industry were to have a reasonable expectation of a proper wage for their work. In the main, those men are what we call the floating population of the mines. It has been usual in the coalmining industry of this country almost from time immemorial that there shall be a certain number of what we call the floating mining population, that is to say, men who prefer work in and about the mines when coal is fetching a high price and wages are high. When there is a slump in the coal trade and wages fall they have found occupation hitherto in other trades. These 200,000 have been the problem which this Government have had to face. The Government to my mind have done their best in that respect. They set up a strong committee to go into the whole question and to make recommendations. What was the gist of those recommendations? It was simply that there is no broad general policy which can deal with those 200,000 unemployed in the mining industry. Only by a succession of comparatively small schemes can we hope to reduce that number to reasonable proportions. As far as I can make out the Government have followed out the recommendations of that committee to the best of their ability and up to the present with very considerable success.
The hon. Baronet referred to the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and he was inclined to pour scorn upon that scheme. But I would remind the hon. Baronet of this, that many years before he joined the Labour party, before he became an independent Member, and in fact in the remote days when he was a Conservative, the Labour party published a little pamphlet towards the end of the War, in which they outlined the whole scheme to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has now attached his name. When it was first produced, there was nobody apparently who could say a decent word for it or encourage it in any way and that scheme was dropped only to be revived in the yellow pamphlet 2143 which was placed on the market just recently.
The hon. Baronet, misled by having been deprived of the privilege of earning his own living at any time in his life, said that if people condemn this scheme of borrowing money to employ men for two years in making roads which are not wanted, they also condemn all borrowing of money for private enterprises of any kind. I would like to point out this, that if any of us industrialists borrow money to carry out schemes we do not anticipate that those schemes will only endure for a period of two years, nor do we anticipate that we should be able to raise money on the market or from the banks to carry out a scheme which like the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman is emphatically not required, certainly not urgently required, in this country at the present time. If there is one more useless way of wasting money than another in this country at the present time it is in the further extension of roads. Therefore, I would point out to the hon. Baronet that in private enterprise we do not borrow money which will be a burden upon us for the rest of our lives to carry out a scheme which will have come to an end in two years and will have produced something for which there is no demand. I commend to his consideration these few remarks from one who is pleased to say that he has had the privilege of earning his own living ever since his school-days.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) indulged in remarks about taste and delicacy, and I must say that the last passage of his speech shows that he lacks a good deal of both. If I were to indulge in the personalities in which he indulged and if I were to describe him, I should say that he is a political pharisee and leave it at that. The Debate has been a very remarkable one. We have had speeches from all quarters of the House, and every one of those speeches seemed to centre round the personality of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I am very pleased to note that, as I have no doubt will be the right hon. Gentleman when he reads the Debate to-morrow. I do not wonder that this is so. [Interruption.] 2144 I have been challenged about it, and I propose to say a word or two. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why is he not here? "] I do hope that the hon. Gentleman's memory is longer than that of the hon. Baronet. The memory of the hon. Baronet ought not to be quite so short, for I was present on 9th November last when the right hon. Gentleman did make a speech. It would appear that the hon. Baronet gives more attention to reading and preparing his own speeches than to listening to and digesting the speeches of other people. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) at that Box said that it was the official policy of the Labour party not to make constructive suggestions in this House, and whatever may be that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, he did stand up and deliver a speech, two-thirds of which was full of constructive suggestions. More than that, he appealed to the Minister to adopt the suggestions and put them into operation. He delivered a speech of over an hour's duration, and a Conservative Member, the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) went out of his way to point out that there was a vast difference between the sterility and inaction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley and the constructive nature of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. The Socialist party seemed to be in a strange dilemma.
§ Mr. BROWN
I am just going to quote from a right hon. Gentleman who was not on that bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), referring to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, says: "They do not exist; they will not act." He gives away his case by referring to Maskelyne and Devant, and, like most Socialists, he is 30 years behind the times. Devant has been dead a quarter of a century. [Interruption.] It would appear that the Liberal party can infuse more life into debate than all the Socialists combined. The Socialists are in a strange dilemma. The right hon. Member for Derby says that our proposals are empty, 2145 useless wizardry and magic. The hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) does not dare to say that. He says that they are Labour proposals. He asserts that, so far as the loan is concerned, that has always been argued from the Labour benches and is a policy of the Labour party. His memory of Labour politics is short. I sat in this House, four years ago, when the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) was Prime Minister, and the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) had a chance of initiating schemes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rabbits!"] I am not talking about rabbits. The appropriate comment about rabbits was made by an agricultural worker, who wrote some doggerel lines to this effect:To bees you go for honey,For kittens you go to a cat;But what can you do with a bunnyThat won't come out of the hat?I can assure the right hon. Member for Preston that the reference to rabbits did not come from me. The reminder came from his own benches. It will be news to the right hon. Member for Aberavon to learn that the hon. Baronet has stated that the policy of a loan has always been the policy of the Socialist party. What did the right hon. Member for Aberavon say in 1924, when his was Prime Minister? 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 be palliatives. That is the old, sound Socialist doctrine, and the necessity of expenditure for subsidising schemes in direct relief of unemployment will be 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.]The hon. Baronet was kind enough to refer to my inadequacy. I accept his rebuke with due meekness, but his claim that a loan is part of the Socialist policy is inadequate, in the face of the statement which I have quoted from his own leader, at the time that he was Prime Minister. The one thing that arises from this Debate is that the Socialist party are perfectly prepared, as they have been during the whole of the past five years, to condemn the Government for not taking action; but they themselves are not prepared to put forward definite constructive proposals. The ex-Chancellor 2146 of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Colne Valley said, in this House, on the 9th November:It is not for us to put forward proposals. We have innumerable proposals, but we are not discussing that question at the present moment. We are now discussing the failure of the Government to deal with this problem. On many occasions we have pointed out how the Labour party would deal with this problem, and we should not deal with it in the pettifogging way in which the Government now say they are going to attempt to deal with it by applying small remedies to great evils.The right hon. Gentleman also said:It is not our business to put forward constructive proposals. We have not the authority of the country to put forward constructive proposals now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1928; cols. 391–393, Vol. 222.]Seeing that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members of the Labour party consistently in the country claim that they, and they alone, know how to deal with unemployment, it seems rather farcical for them to put a Motion upon the Order Paper, condemning the Government. Ever since I was returned to this House two years ago and have sat in my box—[Laughter.] Hon. Members are amused. It is not for me to make a comment upon that slip. I have sat in this corner ever since I was returned, and in every unemployment Debate I have tried to put forward practical suggestions for remedying unemployment. It is not 80 easy for a Member who sits for a place like Leith to treat the problem of unemployment as the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) treats it. When one has 5,000 unemployed out of 25,000 workers, it is not so easy to address to the House purely academic arguments. There was a very wise man who told one of the highbrows the other day—
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I cannot give the number of unemployed in my district, but, seeing that its industries are coalmining, iron working, and cotton spinning, the probability is that, out of the 45,000 electors, precious few of whom are middle-class workers, there will be at least 5,000 who are unemployed.
§ Mr. BROWN
The hon. Member has not helped his case. I say that quite bluntly. The hon. Member is very plain to other people. I should be ashamed to stand up in this House and to say that 2147 I had unemployed in my division and that I did not know the number. I consider it to be the duty of every hon. Member who has a large number of unemployed in his constituency to follow the returns that come out week by week, so that he may know the number of unemployed in his district. I will leave the hon. Member there. To-day's Debate although it has arisen on a Motion by hon. Members above the Gangway, has produced from those benches not a single proposal which would make one job for one out-of-work man. During the whole period of unemployment they have not produced one new or original idea to make one job of work for one unemployed man.
§ Mr. BROWN
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) will have his chance directly. There are three views on the Socialist benches. There is the purely destructive view, there are the creative views and there are the views which we may call the purely intellectual. The right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) takes the destructive view. Speaking of the policies of both parties, he said:A plague on both your policies. We are going out, if possible, to smash them both."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1923; col. 553, Vol. 168.]The right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), speaking in the country about this problem said—I suppose this is the creative view—There is only one way of tackling the problem—the introduction of a new industrial order based upon public ownership and democratic control of the primary sources of wealth.I do not profess to understand what the right hon. Gentleman means. When we come to the pure intellect of the party, the intelligentsia of the Socialist party, we find the late President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) saying:The proper way to deal with unemployment is to prevent it from occurring.The Liberal party having attracted rather more than its fair share of time in this Debate, perhaps the House will allow me to say a few words about the future. The Government must not complain of criticism. My late opponent, the hon. Member for Rugby (Captain 2148 Margesson) will remember that at the last election there were ladders showing unemployment and employment, on the hoardings in the Rugby division. The Government complained four times when they were in Opposition and moved four Votes of Censure during ten months against the Labour Government, on this particular issue. They cannot now claim that they themselves shall not be judged by the same results that they asked for from their predecessors in office. The figures of unemployment are larger now than when they took office, although they have produced some constructive ideas, and I have no doubt that parts of the Local Government Bill will have an indirect effect upon unemployment, months ahead. Notwithstanding, I think the Minister of Labour has misled the Government, judging by his speeches, into believing that if they only left the problem alone for five years, recovery would be made. I cannot conceive that the Minister of Labour, with his knowledge of the industrial situation, would have permitted the cutting down of the work of the Unemployment Grants Committee by the Circular of the 15th December, 1925, if he had not hoped that the situation would have righted itself by the end of their tenure of office.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick should be encouraged to pursue his researches a little further into the policy of the Liberal party. If he will read not only the small pamphlet which has proposed a definite policy for two years, but the larger volume—he can afford 2s. 6d.—he will find that he is not alone in suggesting the question of the school age alteration or pensions. If he will read the first report on the coal problem produced by any political party, namely, the Liberal party's policy, "Coal and Power," he will find that suggestions were made by the Liberal party long ago. I welcome the interest which has been shown in the personality of the Liberal leader and the proposals which he has made, I am sure that what has been the case in this House to-day will be the case in the country, and with this result, that the country will do what my right hon. Friend is doing—it will call for action to cut down the number on the live register of unemployed.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I cordially welcome this Motion. The strongest supporter 2149 of the Government could hardly have done it a kindlier act than has been done by the putting of this Amendment upon the Order Paper. The country has the right to discuss what the Government have been doing or are likely to do, and the country has a right to know what the Liberal party and the Socialist party have in their minds to do. Now, for the first time, after four years of dreary, unconstructive criticism, we have the other parties out in the open to-day, and this Motion gives us a chance of comparing policies. The Motionviews with grave concern the continued existence of a gigantic volume of unemployment; deplores the refusal of the Government to take any active measures for stimulating industry, by well-considered schemes of national improvement and development.It is still a gigantic volume of unemployment, and it is a volume that we deplore. It is a volume that is not less through the action that the Leader of the Opposition took at the beginning of the general strike. It is a volume made none the less by the journalistic activities of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) during the same period.
We deplore it, but at last it is improving, and rapidly. Hon. Members opposite have referred again and again to the fact that, even now, the figure of unemployment is higher than when we took office. They are out of date; it is not higher. I have received the preliminary figures of the results for next Wednesday. There was an improvement last week of 118,000, of which about 45,000 were due to the stoppage of the cold weather and 70,000 were due to sheer improvement in trade. This week the increase in employment due entirely to improvement in trade, 86,000. Mark the joy of the hon. Members opposite! I have never see a real improvement in trade greeted with such hang dog looks. At the present moment the figure of unemployment is some 36,000 less than when we took office. That is not the whole story. Hon. Members opposite will no doubt appreciate the fact that while it is 36,000 less than when we took office, 550,000 fresh people have entered into the insured trades. In other words, judged by percentage, which is the proper method, the percentage has been reduced from 10.9 when we took office to 10.3 now, and that half per cent. in figures means an improvement in numbers 2150 of employed persons of 84,000 as com-pared with when we took office four years ago. That is the present figure of unemployment, and I say that it is stills too large. Hon. Members opposite now know the facts which they have received with such pleasure.
I come to the "well-considered schemes of national improvement and development." As the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) has said, one naturally thinks first of the most recent and spectacular. He said that no doubt the attention of the House would be drawn to these proposals. He has referrd to the fact that the leader of his party is not present to-day on just the one occasion when his proposals might have been debated. I have no doubt that the attention of the country will be drawn to them as well, and that on any occasion when he can be tackled, the right hon. Member will be absent as he is to-day. Might I ask the House briefly to consider the pledge which the right hon. Gentleman gave:I am prepared to give a definite pledge with regard to unemployment. This is very important. I have considered even the very words of it. That is why I will not give it to you except in the very words which my colleagues, and I will stand by.Then he says:We are ready with schemes of work which we can put immediately into operation….The work put in hand will reduce the terrible figures of the workless in the course of a single year to normal proportions.and without any cost to anybody.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
He said:These plans will not add one penny to the national or local taxation.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs says that he has considered the very words he used by which his colleagues and he will stand; and that he will reduce unemployment in a single year. This is the only place where these schemes can he properly debated and examined. Take housing. I do not think anyone will accuse the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs of being a house-builder with his record before the War, when he reduced house building so much that the problem which confronted us afterwards 2151 was far greater than it otherwise would have been. Take two points which have not yet been fully mentioned. He is going to put between 580,000 and 600,000 men at work by his schemes. Electricity is to provide work for 62,000 more men in the next year. Is that in addition to the Government programme, or is it the Government programme, If it is the Government programme he is bearing testimony to the electricity scheme of the Government.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
If it is in addition to the Government programme, then let me say that if he would consult, as I have, people in the industry and connected with it, who know the facts, they will tell him that at the present moment in order to fulfil the orders that are being given out the trade is strained to its uttermost, and to add orders which will give work to 62,000 more men, or half that number, is a sheer impossibility. Every practical person in the trade knows that. I take one other type of statement that was made. In addition to ordinary road building, another 350,000 men are to be put on to make roads within the year. I should like to ask the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs a question—let me ask it through the hon. Member for Leith. We have had comments lately about the Defence of the Realm Act. Is the right hon. Member going to acquire the land by ordinary procedure—
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
That means legislation, and will take months—or is he going to call to his help the old Defence of the Realm Act procedure? Let us know which. If he is going to apply the Defence of the Realm Act procedure everyone will know where they are and where the right hon. Gentleman stands. If not, it will take months to start, as everybody knows, with the ordinary service of notices, and yet he is going to do it within the year. I have been concerned in building roads, and I have consulted surveyors, and I put it to the ordinary common sense of every hon. Member that if anyone wants to build a road they have to get it surveyed, get the plans made, the quantities 2152 taken out, the specifications drawn up, and then they have to let the contracts. It is an absolutely inconceivable possibility to put 350,000 more men on to roads in a year, and everyone knows it. Any hon. Member of this House without any special technical knowledge or experience has Been roads being made with 50 or 100 men at work, and they have seen quite inevitably how slowly it goes on. If that is the case with 50 or 100 men, you have to multiply that by 3,000 in order to produce the right hon. Gentleman's figures. And we have to realise that all the costs are to be borne by the Government, and have to go, quite properly, under examination and criticism by Government Departments. That is why when I put a question to one or two most competent surveyors the answer was given to me in language which I am not at liberty to repeat in the House.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The effect of it was that it was absolutely and inconceivably impossible. Then, briefly, what good will be done when the roads are made? The object on which the money is spent makes all the difference in a matter of this kind. If anyone were to raise £1,000,000 and build a factory, what would happen? When the factory was built and the machinery installed, after the construction work had been finished, after the builders and masons had finished their jobs, and the engineers had finished their work, you would have a productive asset left which gives employment at once in an ordinary business way. That is one result when the work is justified. On the other hand, what would be the case with roads? There is a limited amount of road making which no doubt is desirable. One hundred years ago, when railways were being made they did not give employment directly at once like a factory, but they facilitated an improvement in production later. That may be the case with a few roads, but to ask any transport specialist to produce thousands of miles of new roads quickly cannot be justified on any economic ground whatever. When the work is over there is no immediate return and the men are back on the streets again.
2153 We all know the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—his Corn Production Act passed one year, and repealed the next. His land taxes first imposed, as rare and refreshing fruit, and then the tree cut down and thrown on the ash-heap. Now he has planted it again. With regard to safeguarding, it is just the same. First, he opposed anything of the kind, then he put on Safeguarding Duties, and now he is a Free Trader again. The party opposite have a similar opinion about his work, his promises and his schemes, but the most unkind cut of all comes from one of his own colleagues—and remember they have considered the very words of his pledge: "That is why I will not give it to you except in the very words which my colleagues and I will stand by." Let me read the words of his principal colleague in this House, the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman). Speaking last November, he said:There have been large public works, as the right hon. Gentleman so truly said, done at public expense, which really have brought very little return, and in some cases no permanent return whatever. We have passed from the stage where that is likely to be or can be a solution of these very difficult problems."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1928; col. 275, Vol. 222.]And his colleague has repeated these words since the proposals were made. He repeated them at Liverpool:He did not believe that anyone could by State action bring about a permanent cure of unemployment. The only way for that was by a genuine expansion of trade.
§ Mr. BROWN
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to read this?The most practical suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman was with regard to expenditure on public works. I am sure the House must heartily agree that, if money is to be spent on relief works, it had far better be spent on remunerative work than on any other. No one has more consistently advocated expenditure on wholesome relief works than those who have been authors of the Liberal scheme.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Then why does he now say we do not believe that anyone can by State action bring about a permanent improvement? That is the type of scheme we are given by the Liberal party, which its author does not come to defend. The position of the Labour party is at least as instructive.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am dealing with them all. I now deal with the Labour party. We are told that the Labour party will make no "stunt of unemployment." What is making a "stunt of unemployment"? Surely, making a "stunt of unemployment" means drawing attention to it for political purposes or making it a pawn in the party game, and the people who made that statement have been doing that for the last four years.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
Does the Minister forget that we deliberately proposed to make unemployment a non-party issue?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The right hon. Gentleman's party continues to treat it as the opposite. I have read with great care through all their publications, and there are only a few suggestions which can be reduced to the concrete, and to start with they are primarily those dealing with finance. We are told that one great method by which the Labour party hope to reduce unemployment is by increasing the purchasing power of the people in this country. That has been stated to-day. I agree with that if it is coupled with production, but not if it is based on what cannot be described as anything else but a gigantic system of doles. The Leader of the Labour party, in his recent speech, referred to the increased benefits that would be given by the Labour party on their return to office. The whole policy of the Labour party on that question has been to give largely increased benefits by the aid of a new tax which they call the Surtax. I am precluded by the Rules of Order from discussing in detail the Surtax, and I shall in passing say this: It was produced out of the minority report of the Colwyn Report. It was said it was going to produce £85,000,000. That has now been admitted by its author to have been miscalculated and to have been built up on one vast mistake, and, instead of producing £85,000,000, the maximum that it can possibly produce would be about £40,000,000 a year. The Leader of the Opposition is also pinning his faith to it by saying: "Make no mistake. That is what we are going on with." I refrain from discussing 2155 it further because of the Rules of Order. I asked the House to pay attention to the benefits which have been referred to and stated without correction by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) when he spoke just now. What are the benefits that are going to be given in order to increase the purchasing power? He advocates Old Age Pensions, costing £32,780,000.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
No, you never gave any figure, but we had the figure calculated on the data given by your party. They will find that data in Leaflet 174. Increased unemployment benefit will cost £51,500,000; education, which has just been referred to, will cost £32,400,000; health insurance, following the same course as unemployment, £27,000,000; widows' pensions, which they have mentioned specifically, would cost £64,500,000 at the least; other pensions to single women and orphans would cost £15,500,000, and other benefits would cost £5,000,000. If the money was all to come like manna from Heaven, we should not object. The total so far is £229,000,000 per annum for the benefits to which they officially pledge themselves. In addition to that, they are now pledged by their own publications to "work or maintenance" and also committed to it by this very Amendment. The calculation which has been made by my office is that that would cost £62,000,000 additional to that to which they are officially committed. In other words, they are committed on this score alone to over £290,000,000. They have to get that out of the Surtax. It is no good talking about other sources of income. They are hypothecated already to the Sinking Fund, the payment to the Poor Law, and so on.
§ Sir O. MOSLEY
On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Member entitled to discuss the imposition of duties which involve legislation?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
In his concluding remarks, the hon. Member himself said that these were their ways 2156 of dealing with unemployment, and they are dealing with it by trying to get £290,000,000 out of the Surtax.
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. My hon. Friend ventured to deal with the points with which the Minister is now dealing freely and was immediately called to order by the Chair. Is it to be permitted to the right hon. Gentleman to deal with them?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If hon. Members would not make so much noise, I would be able to hear what the Minister is saying. I am constantly saying during this Debate that this sort of question cannot be debated. Owing to the noise, I cannot hear what is being said.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am not going to pursue this question further. I only dealt with it because the hon. Member raised it. Hon. Members opposite are objecting to my dealing with it now only because they do not like it. They know that, absurd as are the proposals of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, yet, as compared with those of the Labour party, their folly is "as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine." No wonder that, when he heard of these proposals, the Socialist ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer said that his blood ran cold. Though his blood ran cold, he toed the line in the end, and, shivering with cold, he supports them. The only comfort he can really take is that he knows perfectly well that neither he nor any of his side would ever endeavour to carry them out. If any more proof is required, it is to the leaflet in which these things are set out that I would turn. There are two editions of this leaflet, both of which I hold in my hand. In the first, they are given definitely, but in the second, while the rest of the leaflet remains the same, yet since criticism has been directed towards them, they have began not to put it to them quite so plainly. Those are their proposals for diminishing unemployment and increasing purchasing power. They have their other unemployment proposals besides those that are purely financial, and, as the Leader of the party opposite has told us:in dealing with unemployment, we believe we have the programme, we have ideas, and we have the power no other party possesses.Well, naturally, when I listened to that claim, I waited with extraordinary interest 2157 for the proposals that the Leader of the Opposition would make when he made his great speech at Swansea. I wondered what they could be, what new ideas we should get put forward with all the power that they possessed. I looked through the speech, and then the murder is out. The new-ideas are these:land settlement, afforestation in conjunction with small forest villages, drainage, building houses, clearing slums, and the development of electric power. On these lines actively and steadily pursued the Labour Government will go on tackling the problem.Above all programmes, what a complete absence of new ideas there is in this! We might be going back 30 years, for all the new ideas we get from the party opposite. Everything that the Labour party or the Liberal party suggests is exactly what we have ourselves been carrying out. Electrical development—over £6,000,000 of contracts have already been given out. The trade cannot possibly proceed at a greater pace and is being strained to the uttermost. That is being done. No one can possibly push the capacity of the trade further at this moment. Housing is the next item of which they speak. There have been 800,000 houses built in four years in England and Wales and 60,000 in Scotland. It is record unequalled by any country in the world at any time. Next there is slum clearance.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Hon. Members do not know that there are slum clearance schemes. There are already 121 schemes approved. There have already been, in addition to house building, 15,000 properties dealt with, involving 75,000 people being re-housed and 16,700 new houses being built. In Scotland there are schemes for reconditioning 14,000 and building 14,000 new houses. Afforestation is their next new invention—a policy at present going forward, with £5,500,000, and £1,000,000 for forest workers' holdings. The Opposition seem just to have discovered this remedy. The only thing I can say is a caution that, so far as it means helping unemployment, the number of men that can be employed on even an enormous forestry scheme is comparatively small. It is wise building for the far future to replant and afforest, 2158 but the number of men that can be employed at the moment is not great, and the number of people who are needed to look after forest holdings cannot be great either.
Drainage was their next discovery. There are two programmes of drainage in hand now, involving £1,300,000. Then we come to roads. This year, so far as the making and maintaining of roads that are necessary to meet economic needs are concerned, £12,000,000 has been spent on maintenance, and on an average during each of these last years £5,500,000 has been spent on the making of new roads. Let me pass now to the Resolution on the Paper. Take "maintenance and training." Fancy being condemned by the party opposite on the question of training! When the Socialists were in power, when they held the reins incompetently in their hands, they never produced a single proposal for training a single adult man—not one—these people who are now so much in love with the idea. Up to the present we have places for training 17,000 men a year for work at home or abroad. We have spare places which we are anxious to get filled. We have extended the training accommodation up to the full capacity that was wanted.
Lastly, there is transference. We are transferring men, and it is a standing disgrace to the party opposite that they have not helped us in that matter.
All the schemes that they have touched on, with their boast of new ideas, are things that we are doing at this moment, but we are not going round with a trumpet or a trombone to herald the fact. I have said what we have done and what- we are doing. All these schemes are good in themselves, but of course in themselves they are only palliatives from the unemployment point of view. They do some good, but they do not go down to the root of the question, and none of the schemes proposed by either party opposite has ever dealt with the root of the question. Any real remedy must go down to the causes of the trouble.
The two chief causes of unemployment—I dealt with them in detail the other day, and will mention them only briefly now—are, first, the falling off in emigration since the War, which has meant an extra 300,000 to 400,000 on the labour market here; and, secondly, the falling off in the volume of foreign trade, which 2159 has meant the unemployment of from 700,000 to 800,000 in this country, calculated by the best-informed economists. Those are the fundamental causes which have made unemployment such an intractable thing to deal with. Let me take each of these causes. The decrease of emigration has meant that 300,000 to 400,000 insured persons have been left on the market here without jobs. That is the reason why we want safeguarding; that is the reason why we realise that if there is work that can be done just as well in this country, we should keep it for those 300,000 or 400,000.
The hon. Member for Smethwick with a great air of wisdom said there were 800,000 people who were not interested in safeguarding, and he referred to coal and transport. Of all the people who will be helped, they would be helped as much as any. Suppose that iron and steel were safeguarded. Does anyone mean to say that in the making of a ton of iron or steel there would not be used two or three more tons of coal? Would not that help go to coal? What is true of that is true in greater or less degree of the other trades, all of which burn fuel. Again, take the case of transport. If I make a ton of machinery in this country, for that ton I have to bring in twice the amount of raw material. There is the transport. It is necessary to use three tons of coal and a ton of iron. It would mean six times as much transport on the railways as would otherwise be necessary. The result is shown in one trade after another. [Interruption.]
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The result, in every one of the trades that have been safeguarded has been an increase in employment. That is one way of going to the root of the problem. Take next the falling off in the volume of our foreign trade. The calculation of Professor Bowley was that this falling off accounted for the unemployment of between 700,000 and 800,000 persons. To what is that due? To the fact that new industries have grown up in some overseas markets during and since the War, and that the competition from our Continental rivals, especially that aided by debased currencies, 2160 has been extraordinarily keen. That is where de-rating comes in. The object of it is to take from industry the burdens that go directly towards raising the cost of the article which has to be sold in competition with a similar article from other countries. The effect of de-rating is concentrated on just those industries which have suffered most by competition. It is there that the relief will be greatest.
§ Sir A. STEEL MAITLAND
Not only so, but the relief given to transport under de-rating is passed on in reduced rates, and merchandise is carried more cheaply and effectively to the coast. Thus we may hope to regain our foreign markets and to put back into employment some of the 700,000 or 800,000 men who have been thrown out of work.
Those are the reasons why we come to this house and why we shall go to the country quite confidently. Every single thing which has been advocated by the party of ideas opposite is a thing which we have been doing for years. What we have done, in addition, has been to deal with the problem that really has caused the unemployment by adopting safeguarding and de-rating. That work we shall continue to do, when the schemes of our opponents have met with contempt and gone into oblivion.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I had not intended to take part in this Debate, out the extraordinary performance of the Minister of Labour has induced me to say a few words. He began by saying that he welcomed the opportunity of telling the House what the Government had done with regard to unemployment. He finished his speech by saying that his party would go to the country with confidence. I remember the right hon. Gentleman calling my attention, on one occasion, to a quotation from a Frenchman. He made a mistake with the name of the Frenchman, but his quotation was fairly accurate:
§ "L'audace, encore l'audace, toujours l'audace."
§ Audacity is possessed in full measure by any Member of the Government who welcomes an opportunity of talking about unemployment and who goes to the country with confidence. Such a Minister does not need to be told anything by 2161 Danton or any other Frenchman, for he has sufficient audacity to carry him anywhere.
§ It being half-past Seven of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.