§ Postponed Proceeding resumed on Amendment to Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
Which Amendment was, 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."—[Mr. D. Grenfell.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I rise to continue the Debate that was interrupted at Half-past Seven. I would like again to congratulate the Minister of Labour on his cheerfulness in what many people would call depressing circumstances. If, with the results of the last by-elections, any Minister or body of Ministers can go to the country with perfect confidence, I think they must be very bad judges, or that they are prepared to blind themselves to facts—as, indeed, they have 2182 done on unemployment—to pretend that things exist which do not exist, and to refuse to accept the evidence of their senses as to the things which really are there. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) is not in his place. He seemed to think that the Labour Government when in office had done nothing and proposed nothing to deal with unemployment. I want to read to the House a short quotation from a speech made by a very well-known Liberal, which seems definitely to prove that at any rate some Liberals thought, not only that something had been attempted, but that something had been done. I shall try to demonstrate by actual facts and figures that something was not only attempted but definitely done, and I shall compare 1924 and 1929 in order to justify an assertion which I am going to make that, after five years of this Government's existence, with all the promises that they made in 1924, conditions are worse than they were in 1924; that the five years, instead of bringing stability and constant improvement, have brought neither stability in industry nor constant improvement; and that the whole record of the Government is a record of colossal failure in dealing with unemployment. Here is the quotation from that well-known Liberal, Dr. Macnamara, who was my predecessor as Minister of Labour:The plea I make is this: Let the Government press on with these schemes for all it is worth.Evidently we must have propounded such schemes, when the plea of Dr. Macnamara was that we should get along with them.
He continued:We shall back them up for all we are worth. This thing is very urgent. These people have suffered great hardships for a long time; they are now drifting on to the fifth winter of hard times. Therefore, my one last word to the Government is this: Press on with this; do not waste time; and you shall have all the support we can possibly give you."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1924; col. 2125, Vol. 176.]Shortly afterwards we adjourned, and the Liberal measure of support when we reassembled was to put a knife into our backs.
§ Mr. SHAW
That is the extent to which the Liberal party was concerned. Now I am going to examine, not our 2183 record, but the Tory record, because, after all, it is a Tory Government that has been in office for five years, with a crushing majority, with no Opposition that could do anything to defeat it, with unlimited power. If it had had any ideas, principles or policies that were sound, it could have put them into operation with no one to say it nay. What is the result of the five years work? The Government deliberately promised to the electorate in 1924 that it had a method of curing unemployment. [Interruption.] I would call attention to the fact that, when the statement was denied by the present Minister of Health, my right hon. Friend the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer passed to him the actual Central Office document in which it was stated quite conclusively that the Conservative party had a positive remedy for unemployment. About that there can be no doubt whatever.
I know it is claimed that the Conservative party did propound a positive remedy in the shape of Protection, but the country would not have it. That, however, only makes the position of the Conservative Government worse. Surely, it is not a happy position when a Government which believes that a certain thing is necessary in order to cure the worst evil in our social system will swallow its principles in order to get office. That excuse only makes the thing worse. The fact remains that the Government did definitely pledge themselves to the statement that they had a positive remedy for unemployment. What have they done in these five years to keep that promise? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will know that I personally do not accept the present figures of unemployment at their face value; I do not think that they represent the number of unemployed in the country. But, taking them for the purposes of argument as they are given, how much improvement has this Government made between the position at this period of the year in 1934 and at this period of the year in 1929? The Minister of Labour cannot get away by comparing the end of March with the end of November. Everybody knows that for the last eight or nine years the unemployment figures have moved downwards and upwards according to the season of the year, so that the only fair comparison is between the same 2184 period in different years. I know that the Minister has given some figures to-day which are not yet available to the public. He claims, I think, that there has been a reduction of 260,000 in a fortnight—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
No; he said that the figures this week would show a diminution of something like 86,000, which must be added to the previous diminution of 118,000, or whatever the figure was.
§ Mr. SHAW
That is 200,000. I wish it were 1,200,000. Certainly there is nobody on this side who would regret seeing the figures tumble down. The more they tumble down the better we shall be pleased, and, so far as I personally am concerned, I do not care whether it is a Conservative, a Liberal or a Labour Government that brings into the house of every working man in this country plenty of food and plenty of clothing. Whichever it be, good luck to them! But we have to look at the facts of the case. The latest figures that I can get from the official returns show that, in April, 1924, there were 1,057,000 unemployed, while on the 25th February, 1929 there were 1,412,818. That shows a difference of nearly 400,000, so that, assuming that since those figures were given there has been a diminution of 200,000, we are still nearly 200,000 worse than we were at this period of the year in 1924. Therefore the Opposition claim that the announced policy of stability and a remedy for unemployment have proved illusory.
§ Sir Clive MORRISON-BELL
Does the right hon. Gentleman carry in his mind the figures for April, 1926?
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
The figures just before the general strike, in April, 1926, came down below a million. That date is very important.
§ Mr. SHAW
There is the startling fact that April, 1926, and April, 1927, show almost exactly the same percentage of unemployment. I am sorry I have not had the whole of the figures copied, but here are the percentages, and they clearly demonstrate that the theory that 1926 caused a tremendous increase in the un-employment 2185 employment figures is quite incorrect. I have given the official figures that you can find in the Library. It is useless to contradict unless one knows. The last time I spoke on unemployment I was contradicted by an hon. Member opposite who demanded a certain date. I could not give it him. He bluntly stated that I was wrong. As a matter of fact I was perfectly right and he was wrong. So it is as well, before contradicting these figures, to check them, and if they are incorrect, I at once withdraw all I have said. Here are the figures as taken from the reports in the House. On 3rd March, 1924, the total unemployment was 1,134,000. On 1st March, 1926, it was, 1,107,138.
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
My point is that in April, or the beginning of May, the unemployment figures were below a million. The general strike put them up, in May, to 1,600,000.
§ Mr. SHAW
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that I am dealing with official figures. If he will give me an opportunity, I think I can demonstrate my point. The figures before the general strike and the figures after it were relatively the same—there was a difference of 37,000—and there was an enormous increase in 1928–9. So that there is no question at all about the facts. It is wrong to state that these figures are due either to the miners' lockout or to the so-called general strike, because 1927 shows a much less number than 1929. So that I hope we shall get out of our heads altogether the idea that in some way or other the miners' lockout, forced by the employers, was responsible for the huge increase in unemployment. The fact of the matter is that this increase has been the result of the last few months rather than anything to do with the general strike.
The Minister adopted an attitude of optimism and care-free enjoyment which I cannot understand. I am a Lancashire man, and I know something of the textile trades and something of the people. I worked in a mill myself for 21 years and I know mill workers in many towns as thoroughly as any man 2186 could know them. When I go to my own town, and see the people I have known pretty well all my life, and see the men who used to be jolly and good-tempered—and there never was a jollier or better-tempered man in the world than the Lancashire working man—when I see them dejected and down in the dumps—what is the use of the Minister telling me what has been done and all the rest of it? It is simply not true that the conditions are such as to satisfy any decent man. As for the result of the inquiry of the Prince of Wales in the mining areas, what is the use of making the pretence that things are as they ought to be, that God is in His heaven and all is right with the world? The suffering and the degradation are enormous, and whether we are Conservative, or Liberal or Labour, we ought to try to get down to the facts. It is untrue also to suggest that we on this side have never helped. Who was it who proposed a joint Committee of the three parties in the House to try to find out what could be done? Who proposed that this Committee should render periodical Reports to the House in order that Members might know what was going on? Did we not do it, and if we did, what idle chatter it is to say we have never suggested anything but have simply acted the part of critics.
§ Mr. SHAW
Yes, I suggest a General Election at the earliest possible moment. We have given our proposals over and over again. We are dealing now with a Government that have had five years, and we are saying: "Give us a report of your stewardship, and show us what you have done." It is no use talking to us about our being empty of proposals. What have you done? We have not been in office for five years with a two to one majority. We did not promise that we would cure unemployment.
§ Mr. SHAW
We did not promise. You asked us why in six weeks we did not cure unemployment? We ask you after five years, what have you been doing? We find that the positive result of your work is to make things worse. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not worse."] Oh! yes, they are, and wages have been reduced. May I call attention to three 2187 things which I think ought to be known? There were three things which happened in 1924. Unemployment went down, wages went up and our exports went up. Those three things happened in 1924. Can the Conservative party after five years show us a record like that, of unemployment going down, of wages going up and of exports increasing? I will give the House a fourth point. The number of working men and women who were being driven to the boards of guardians went down, too.
I was interested in the Minister's statement about the safeguarding of iron and steel. It was a very interesting statement. I will ask the Parliamentary Secretary if we are to take the Minister's statement about the safeguarding of iron and steel as being official? We are entitled to a plain answer to that plain question.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I merely ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not a fact that his hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) stated that you can give no advantage to labour in the steel industry by safeguarding, and that is why my right hon. Friend mentioned it.
§ Mr. SHAW
That is like the flowers that bloom in the Spring—it has nothing to do with the case. The Minister spoke quite definitely about the safeguarding of iron and steel as being a remedy for unemployment. Is that official? Do the Government intend to safeguard iron and steel? I invite the hon. Gentleman to give an answer.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
If the right hon. Gentleman asks me whether what my right hon. Friend says is true or not I have nothing to add to or detract from anything that he has said.
§ 9.0. p.m.
§ Mr. SHAW
What am I to take that lack of frankness to mean? I do not know whether it is a declaration of policy or not. "You can take it as you like, and we can twist it as we like." Is that what it means? Will the hon. Gentleman state definitely whether it is a statement of Government policy or not? Even the Opposition is entitled to frankness and straightforwardness, and when a Minister makes a declaration as to the importance of safeguarding iron and steel for the curing of unemployment we are 2188 entitled to ask, does he mean it? If the hon. Gentleman says that he means it all, well and good, and there is an end of it. After hearing so many things, we have to be very precise in the statements that we get before we can know exactly what is meant.
We heard a statement as to the Government's splendid work on housing. The Government have built over 800,000 houses. That is exactly like the Government's statement on the 3-hours day. How many of these houses were built under Government auspices?
§ Mr. SHAW
Really, I had better address myself to the House generally. I am going to claim that in regard to houses built to let, the Government have not built 100,000 houses under any but the scheme of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). Outside those houses very few have been built to let and that is the problem that confronts us. To speak about the clearing of the slums! Heaven knows that there is plenty of work to do yet. A Government that cannot clear more slums than this Government have done after five years of untrammelled power is not a Government that ought to be bragged about in any sense of the word. Relatively little has been done to clear the slums and to give houses to the people at rents which they can pay. There was a certain pledge given to the building trade workers who, like doctors and lawyers, have their own rules. They were promised that if they would take steps to build houses, they should have certain guarantees of work. There are thousands of building trade workers idle now, and there are hundreds of thousands of 2189 houses needed, and the Government cut down the subsidy and prevent the rapid extension of the building of houses. That is what the Government have done—not what they said they would do, but what they have actually done. [An HON. MEMBER: "And reduced the price of houses!"] The price of houses in Scotland where the subsidy was not reduced came down at the same time. The hon. Gentleman has not gone closely enough into the subject, or he would have known that the price came down where the subsidy was on and where it was not on.
The fact of the matter is, that in the present state of affairs a condition of the utmost gravity faces the country. I bitterly regret that the Government did not accept our suggestion to have an all-party committee to go into this question, to see if we could not get some policy that might have some degree of continuity in it, and that would get the support of everybody in the House. The Government were proud of their majority. And now we have been reduced, a proud nation, to sending round the plate, to begging like cripples at the gate, in order that our people may have assistance; I will not say sufficient to eat and wear, because they have not enough to eat and wear. "We have done that by begging. What a thing to do after five years of a Government with a two-to-one majority! What a result to present to the people. Nevertheless, the Minister of Labour says that he welcomes the opportunity of telling the country what this Government have done. I could tell the Government quite a lot that they have not done. They have not given a decent living to the hardest working, the most courageous and the most loyal of the workers of this country, the miners. They have not given a decent living to the most skilful workers of their trade in the world, the Lancashire cotton workers. They have not given a diving to the men whose skill is superior to that of the rest of the world, the shipbuilders. There can be no question that our shipbuilders are the finest in the world. The Government have not given a decent living to these workers, but they have secured certain things for very wealthy people. They have seen to it that very wealthy people should be helped.
§ Mr. SHAW
We are paying now in actual production probably twice as much for the National Debt as we were when the debt was incurred. Our financial policy has been such as to take a larger and larger share, year after year, of the production of this country for the payment of interest. If we had been half as generous to the working people as we have been to the bondholders and the millionaires, no working man in this country would have gone short of a meal or have gone short of clothing. These are plain facts; they stick out and cannot be mistaken. What have the Government done in order to tackle the root problem of unemployment? I am one of those, and I make no apology for saying it, who fervently believe in a co-operative commonwealth coming to this country; but I want to make the best of what is as well as the best of what is to be. I cannot go to my constituents and talk to them about ideals for the future, if they have not a meal on their plate. I must, first of all, see if I can do anything to guarantee them the necessities of life, before talking to them about ideals.
Unquestionably, the one thing above all others that we ought to do, if it be possible, is to increase the trade of this country, particularly its exports on that line and on that line alone lies the cure for unemployment. What have the Government done? There is no question of anyone in this House not desiring to develop trade with the Empire. The Labour party would take a lot more risks and spend a lot more money in developing trade with the Empire than the Conservative party is ever likely to do; but when we have finished with the Empire, the great basic producing and exporting trades must have other markets. There are three parts of the world that are primarily fitted to form a perfect square with this country. They produce raw 2191 materials in abundance but have not our skilled artisans. We need their raw materials and they need our produced goods; we are complementary one of the other. I refer to Russia, China and India. What have we done to develop trade with Russia? We have spent £100,000,000 trying to make the Russians have a Government that they did not want. What business was it of ours to interfere with the internal arrangements of Russia? We spent £100,000,000 there in destroying markets. A sensible Government would have spent £100,000,000 in making markets. What about China? I believe our policy there has improved very considerably of late. The difficulties in China began under this Government, at a Japanese mill in Shanghai, and we drew the fire of Chinese hostility on ourselves. We can only hope that China will quieten down, and that her huge market will be developed.
What about India? Let me give the House a little sketch of the position as I see it. During the War, we gave the Indians, as a reward for going into the War, certain very definite promises. The Hindus, who were greater politicians than the Mohammedans, were promised a liberal measure of self-government. The Mohammedans were promised something quite different. I think I can repeat almost word for word the promise that was given to them. It was, that the Allies were not fighting to take away from Turkey her capital, Constantinople, or the rich and renowned lands of Asia Minor that were definitely Turkish in race. Everyone who has taken the trouble to study the question knows that the Sultan of Turkey at that time stood towards the Mohammedan faith pretty well as the Pope of Rome stands towards the Roman Catholic. The Hindus were certainly disappointed with what they got in the shape of self-government. The Mohammedans were worse, because they found that the Allies were egging on Greece to attack Turkey, and for the very things that the Mohammedans had been promised should not be touched. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was the Lloyd George Government!"]
The Government that was doing it was not just the Government of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The present Prime Minister sat on the Government Bench. Hon. 2192 Members forget. Have they forgotten that the present Foreign Secretary at one election tore up a bill and said to his audience that, whatever had been done in regard to Greece and Turkey, they were all in it. It was a very dramatic incident and was reported in all the newspapers. Greece was egged on to attack Turkey, in defiance of every promise that had been given to the Mohammedans, and for the first time in the history of India we witnessed the strange phenomenon of the Hindu and the Mohammedan combining to destroy our goods and not to buy them. Our goods were burnt in the streets and bazaars. Afterwards a tremendous boycott movement was started by Gandhi. Nobody knows what that movement has meant to the trade of this country.
The cotton trade is the greatest exporting trade in this country, and on the trade and its exports depend a large number of other workers, shipbuilders, sailors, carpenters, engineers, miners and transport workers. Nobody can tell how much of our unemployment is due to the fact that we have this curious state of opinion in India. I am hoping that the day will come, and pretty quickly, when the feeling in India will be much better than it is now. Mr. Gandhi is now preaching another boycotting campaign. I hope he will change his opinions and realise that after all the world depends on all its parts and that it is just as impossible for India to rise to her fullest development without the rest of the world as it is for us to live without India. I am hoping that these things will come about, but they will never come unless we try to make them. When the Government turned down our offer of co-operation in the work of dealing with unemployment it made one of the biggest mistakes that a Government have ever made. I may be wrong, and I may be giving to ourselves greater credit for intelligence and a desire to help than we deserve, out I do think that the Government made a mistake in not accepting our offer.
We have had many Debates in this House on the possibilities of migration to different parts of the Empire. I should be the last person in the world to try and prevent the ambitious pioneering young man going to any part of the Empire and trying to develop it, but I put in a humble plea, not very humble, in fact, that this country is part of the Empire 2193 and that we have thousands of acres of waterlogged land. Why do we not tackle that? Our men who go dragging stumps out of the vast Canadian lands might be developing our land at home. The Minister has said that you cannot employ many men in afforestation. I do not accept that statement. I believe that by a combination of afforestation and small holdings you can employ thousands of men, particularly in Scotland. Then there is the reclamation of land. A friend of mine, an old Member of this House, who knew what engineering was because he had been a large contractor all his life, said that it was quite possible in his opinion, and he had taken advice upon it, to add another county to England on the East Coast. Why should not our men be doing this work at wages instead of being on unemployed pay? The Government, after all, is merely closing down everything that was being done, not to speak of developments which were foreshadowed and prepared.
While we have this large amount of unemployment why should be go on in this spasmodic way? Assuming, for instance, that the Liberal party came into power at the next election—I am assuming that because I like to give pleasure—what would they find? They would find a body of Ministries each with its own special work and a Chancellor of the Exchequer who would want to know definitely, for the purpose of making his Budget, what the demands on him were to be; and spasmodic demands which come from the Ministry of Health one day and the Ministry of Transport another day are bad. No Chancellor of the Exchequer can ever hope to keep his Budget right in that way. We made a suggestion to the Government, which they did not accept, that instead of this rule of thumb spasmodic way of dealing with national work that there should be a specific sum set apart each year so that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would know exactly what he had to face, and that Ministers should meet together in order to have a co-ordinated common-sense policy best fitted to provide work for a large number of people. It is wrong to say that we have never suggested anything. We have kept on suggesting; and what has been the use? All our suggestions have been turned down, and we 2194 have the bitter spectacle that after five years the position is worse than when the Government began.
In my own Division, we were told how a stable and commonsense Government would develop our nation, reduce unemployment, make us happy, and take from us the terrible danger of a Labour Government. The Government have succeeded in reducing wages and in lengthening hours; they have succeeded in making unemployment worse, and in making poor people go to boards of guardians. What a brilliant result for five years of work! And then the Minister of Labour says that he is glad to have an opportunity of putting before the country what the Government have done! We are not proud of what the Government have done. This state of things, I am afraid, cannot go on many more years without leaving permanent marks on our body politic. If I could convey to the House, if I had the language to convey to the House, the feeling I have when I go amongst my own people I am sure hon. Members would understand and appreciate and help us as far as they could to provide better treatment for these people. When I was working in the mills—I have told this story before—there was working beside me one of the best workers who ever entered a factory. He never lost a minute. He had, as far as one can see, no bad habits. He was an excellent worker, with a character just as good as his skill. I went to my constituency one week end and found that unemployment and sickness had caused him to throw himself in front of a train. Not long ago another friend of mine with whom I used to work as a colleague in my own trade union went the same way.
Really, this problem is too grave to be treated lightly. I implore the Government to drop the idea that all is well. All is not well; and there is no excuse for any civilised nation allowing people to live under the conditions which some of our people are living under now. How can anybody who calls himself a Christian see these people short of boots and clothing, and even short of food? It is a monstrous thing in this 20th century. With the march of science and our capacity for production, we can produce wealth in overwhelming abundance; but we have capital lying idle on the one hand and skilled men lying idle on the 2195 other. Because we cannot bring capital and labour together do not let us wreak our vengeance on the people who are suffering. Whoever's fault it is, it is not theirs. If the Government cannot cure this problem I appeal to them, even at this eleventh hour, to take such steps as will relieve the necessities of those who are suffering most.
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
The House has listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It always enjoys his speeches because he always seems to enjoy them so much himself, but, after many years of similar speeches in this House, I failed on this occasion as formerly, to find anything very constructive about his speech. I took an opportunity of making an interruption, and I asked him if his recollection carried him back to certain figures on a certain day. I will tell him why I asked him about that month, which was April, 1926. It was that, for the first time, the unemployment figures then came down to just under 1,000,000. It was the most heartening sign in this great fight against unemployment which we had seen for years. One month later those figures had risen to 1,700,000—the result of the General Strike. [HON. MEMBERS: "Miners' lockout!"] The Socialist party can say, anyhow, that in one month, through their action—and their action alone—they raised the figures from 1,000,000 to 1,700,000. I sometimes wonder how the Labour party can criticise the Government for unemployment when it can be said, without fear of challenge, that there is no party or body of persons more responsible for having stimulated unemployment in this country than the Socialist party who in one month, raised it from under 1,000,000 to 1,700,000. That is the record of the Labour party.
There has been no constructive proposal made during this Debate, but the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) did hint at one. I am sorry he is not in his place, for I would have liked to say how much I enjoyed his apologia for being a rich Socialist. It is a dreadful thing if his proposal is really the official policy of the Labour party. He said his party intended, if and when they came into power, to start a large Government concern for buying 2196 produce from our Dominions, such as foodstuffs, in bulk. His words were "bulk purchase." It is well known that the buying of provisions and foreseeing what is likely to be the state of the market, keeps some very clever men busy in Chicago, Winnipeg and in the Argentine and elsewhere, and it is their operations which we cannot avoid.
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
I tremble to think of some clumsy Government—I do not care what Government it is, though a Socialist Government of all Governments would make me tremble most—trying to compete with these clever, active, brains who have made a whole life-study of the buying of food and foreseeing the state of the market. The Government would either be left short on the market and pay enormously in prices for provisions, or they would find there was a shortage of provisions, and that they could not get supplies for love or money. I hope that no Government will seriously consider, if they get the chance, starting any kind of Department for this bulk purchase, because I can conceive no course which would be likely to bring starvation nearer to the public than clumsy efforts of that kind.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just-sat down mentioned the question of War debts. That gives me an opportunity of asking him if he can explain to him a poster which I saw on the railway bridges at Salisbury yesterday afternoon. There was a balance with two scabs, and in one side was put into the scale "Payments for wars, past, present and future—14s. 6d.," and on the other side of the scale, "Social services—4s. 6d." Underneath was written "Vote Labour." Is it the intention to put in the mind of the electorate that were a Labour Government returned it would be their intention to repudiate debts of past wars? If they started repudiating war debts and smashing our credit, I can hardly conceive anything which would bring starvation more quickly to this country than the complete loss of confidence and credit which this country now enjoys. The whole population of this over-populated, industrialised island is kept alive by what is called the capitalist system, and the credit system. If you once get your clumsy fingers into that, people will 2197 starve more quickly in this country than they would have done if the general strike had succeeded.
I really rose to ask a question or two about the Liberal policy for curing unemployment. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), and I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for this policy, is not here. That policy of curing unemployment in one year without any cost to the country is—and it must really be known to him, because the right hon. Gentleman is a man of acute intelligence—a cruel and fraudulent deception. Had the right hon. Gentleman put that policy forward in the guise of a prospectus in the city of London, he would have been hauled before the Committee of the Stock Exchange for a fraudulent prospectus, and he knows it.
§ Mr. JAMES HUDSON
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the right hon. Gentleman put forward exactly the same prospectus when he was in association with his leaders, and it was allowed to go without any comment or objection.
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
I am not aware that any similar prospectus was put forward, and I do not think it is very likely that the right hon. Gentleman would repeat such a blunder. I should probably have remembered it if he had put it forward. I am dealing with the prospectus which is now the chief literary fare of papers which are supposed to be friends of the Conservative party, but from which every morning and evening, and Sundays, the Prime Minister gets a Judas kiss. How is this policy of the right hon. Gentleman being treated in the country and in the Press? It is being treated as a stunt, and as the right hon. Gentleman has said he does not wish to treat unemployment as a stunt, it is cruel to try to deceive people that this can be done. It is really a stunt. We have seen what an hon. Member who was very much respected in this House—one of the Liberal Members—thinks of this policy. I refer to Mr. Vivian Phillips. We now know what the Liberals themselves think of this policy. That is why I say that it is fraudulent. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is pretending that there is some magic that can cure this great problem. The Labour Minister in 2198 the last Labour Government knows well that there is no magic way of curing unemployment. He admitted that honestly himself, and everyone knows that there is no magic way. Here is the cutting to which I have referred. It refers to the Liberal party and is meant to be a friendly allusion because there is a little boost of the Liberal party every day:Certain members and candidates disapprove, but not the rank and file. Why should they, since it is winning them elections?Why do they agree? Why should they disapprove? Probably most of the Members of this House in their heart of hearts disapprove. They know that no one can cure unemployment. But the programme is "winning elections." I say to the Liberals, "You may have won one or two elections during the past week, but you cannot go on fooling the people all the time."
§ Sir C. MORRISON-BELL
I know what would help unemployment, though not cure it. The best chance the working classes have in this country is in another five years of Conservative Government. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh at the moment, but there are some of us who will live to see how nearly I am right. Long before the General Election comes on 30th May both parties opposite will have had a chance of putting forward their proposals if they have any. It is easy enough to come here and criticise the Government, but it is necessary to put forward something constructive. The Minister of Labour has told us this afternoon that every one of the schemes that are being put forward now as some new discovery has actually been put into operation by the present Government. The best chance that the country has is not by stunts to cure what is really a desperate problem, nor by pretending that you have some patent way of doing it, but by courage, energy and hard work on behalf of the whole nation, and the maintenance of public order. The best thing that can happen to this country is another five years of Conservative Government, and I wish I could make some of my party feel as confident as I am that the country will get it.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
A very remarkable thing in this Debate is that whereas it appeared to be initiated, on a Motion from above the Gangway, in criticism of the policy pursued by the Government, the great bulk of the Debate from beginning to end has been devoted to the programme which has emanated from the leader on the Liberal Benches. If Members have asked who is in the House and who is not, no one has been looking either for Ministers on the Front Bench or for ex-Ministers on the Labour Benches, but everyone has been asking why the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not here; and the policy that has been attacked has not been the policy of the Government, but that which has been outlined from the Liberal Benches. It is a recognition of the fact, which is coming to be recognised everywhere in the country, that the policy on unemployment is now connected with the scheme put forward by the Leader of the Liberal party. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members who have not taken part in the Debate to laugh, but all those who have taken part in it have proved the truth of my statement by their action in devoting their speeches to the Liberal programme. If they thought it did not matter and was not the central point, how is it that it has been the central point of this Debate?
I am not saying for a minute that unemployment can be dealt with only upon the lines of providing, by public action, constructive work. There are, of course, other avenues along which it must be approached, very importantly the avenue of foreign affairs. As the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) has pointed out in a speech with almost every word of which I quite agree, the foreign affairs aspect, our relations towards Russia and our own Dominions, must have a tremendous effect on the export trade which is such a valuable part of our market. I go further and say that I entirely agree with the speech which was quoted by the Minister of Labour from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), that ultimately for the permanent cure of unemployment the improvement of our markets is the only thing that gives security. But, of course, we have to face an abnormal situation 2200 and have to face it in an abnormal way. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken did not mean to misrepresent anyone, but he repeated the phrase that I have heard so often about there being a promise by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to cure unemployment. It was a promise to reduce unemployment to the normal, and that is a very different thing. Those are the words of my right hon. Friend's pledge, and in the speech in which the policy was introduced my right hon. Friend said in terms this: "We have to get down to normal first. But we are not satisfied with the normal. After that we go on to attack the permanent problem. The permanent problem can be solved finally only by the restoration of our general trade."
I appeal to the House in general, what are we to do in the meantime? It is going to take a considerable time for any Government to restore trade to normal, because restoration depends on many matters not all of which are within the control of a British Government. In the meantime here are 1,250,000 to 1,500,000 unemployed. Are we to be content merely to pay them for doing nothing? I do not think anyone would gladly embrace that solution. It is better to put men on any kind of work which will maintain their self-respect and pay them a decent wage, than to go on having this millstone hung round the neck of the nation and to get nothing in return. It is a simple proposition that work is better than idleness and that the men themselves want it. I welcome the pronouncement of the right hon. Member for Preston that if schemes are put forward, it does not matter what Government brings them forward. I associate myself entirely with that view. I shall support schemes, whoever brings them forward, for giving work to those people whom I see in my constituency decaying in body, mind and soul because they cannot get work.
What kind of work are we going to supply? That is the practical question. You cannot set these people to any kind of work which immediately competes with other forms of industry. It is difficult to set them to work at a boot factory, for instance, because you have to consider the effect on the present 2201 makers of boots. When you are providing, by State effort and public effort, work to occupy to time of these men and to keep their hands skilled and to give them wages, you have to turn to the kind of work which does not offer any immediate dividend to any shareholder. That is the answer to the Minister of Labour when he asks what is the use of roads. He is thinking in terms of dividends. We have to get out of the habit of thinking in terms of dividends in a matter of this kind. Improving the transport of the country is improving the wealth of the country. Bringing more land into use, adding another county to the country as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston put it—that, again, is increasing the wealth of the country. It does not offer an immediate dividend to any shareholder, but for that very reason it is work which can be undertaken by public effort without putting other people out of employment and, therefore, it ought to be selected.
When the Minister of Labour says that roads are of no value, I cannot understand what is passing through his mind. The United States are often held up to us as a model of efficiency. They do not take that view. A commission which dealt with the subject of roads in the United States expressed the view that you could not afford not to put your roads in order; that you were losing money all the time if you did not put your roads in order. I take this question of roads because it has been dealt with so much during the Debate and because it offers an obvious avenue for the employment of the greater part of the unemployed. That is why I emphasise the enormous importance of road work. I am not saying that I would willingly take coal miners, or iron and steel workers out of their own trades, to put them on to other kinds of work but we have to consider the abnormal situation presented by the statement of facts in the report of the Industrial Transference Board. We have to face the fact that there is a surplus of labour which, although it may not be permanent, is likely to continue for a considerable time. It is not only what is said in the Industrial Transference Board's report but what has been supported by leading speakers in all parties in this House.
2202 If that be the case, then for those people work of this kind is most certainly a great deal better than no work at all and that is the programme that is being put forward—a programme which would give to these people who are at present unemployed definite work which is not relief work. I do not mean digging a, hole and filling it up again; I mean work which will be of real value to the country. I say for myself that I welcome the pledge which has been given. I believe that that work can be given which will bring unemployment down to normal and that the financial basis of the scheme, as outlined is sound. Reference has been made to-night to a Member who sat, I believe in the last Parliament for one of the Divisions of Edinburgh. I dare say that the pace now being set by the Liveral party in this matter may be too hot a pace for some; but the pace that has been set by the Government for the last five years has been too slow for the whole country. We want at the present time somebody who will put real energy and drive into dealing with this problem and who will make this question the one dominant issue in the country. That policy has become the dominant policy and has been so recognised in this Debate. Since that policy has been put forward everything else has sunk into the back ground, and, if the result is to spur any other party on to producing a scheme better than ours, then I say "good luck to them." I shall be the first to hope that their efforts will prosper.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The speech of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) has been very interesting, and I, for one, am delighted to find that there is a certain livening of political interest in the country. I am particularly glad to find that the dry bones of the Liberal party have begun to rattle a bit and that Liberals have begun to take an interest in the subject of unemployment. The hon. Member took exception to what he regarded as an unfair description of his party's policy when one of my hon. Friends suggested that the Liberal party claimed that they were prepared to cure unemployment. I am sure my hon. Friend did not wish to offend hon. Members opposite and in any case we read on the outside of a book recently issued—the author of which is conspicuous by his absence to-night—that the Liberal party's policy is that they can conquer unemployment. 2203 I leave it to the House to decide whether "conquer" or "cure" is the more emphatic word.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
The statement made was that the Liberal party said they could cure unemployment in a year.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I do not think there are many hon. Members in this House who believe that you can conquer unemployment in a year by schemes for which no preparation has been made. I think the Leader of the Opposition will agree with me as to the impossibility of putting in hand any schemes of work without any preliminary survey. It is to be remembered that these proposals all refer to additional work, over and above what has already been undertaken. The work which is now being undertaken is work which can be put in hand and which is effective, but everybody knows that the policy of the Liberal party is absolute moonshine. The hon. Member drew a pathetic picture of the situation in his constituency, and said that his constituents were decaying in mind and body. It is not going to be much consolation to skilled steel and iron workers to be told that they are going to be put for a few months, or even for two years, on to the making of roads and then to suggest to them that, later on, perhaps they might get back into industry—especially when the hon. Member and his party have taken no steps whatever to keep out foreign competition.
I would remind the hon. Member that the present position has very largely come about owing to the fact that his leader abandoned the creed which he held in 1918. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he was in a position of responsibility had a far clearer impression of what was wrong with the state of affairs in this country than he has now. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion issued a manifesto to the country in which he used words to the effect that where goods were being dumped, or were produced on the Continent at lower wages, we ought to safeguard our countrymen against such competition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs held those views in 1918. To-day he has forgotten them. He finds it inconvenient to 2204 support any national policy of any party to which he is opposed. So he begs, borrows and steals bits of policies from the other parties in the State and parades them, posing as a kind or pioneer. Although he may have, for one brief moment, deluded some of the electors in a couple of constituencies, I think if he came down to the House and allowed his policy to be explored, and allowed a few questions to be asked, the enthusiasm would very soon evaporate.
On the subject of by-elections, I remember in days gone by when I was youthful I was a very keen politician and I was longing for the decease of the Liberal party. In the year 1909 I remember waiting up night after night for the results of by-elections, and on five successive occasions messages came through that Conservatives had won Liberal seats. Then I thought the country was safe, but I was quite wrong. This was merely the result of the efforts of a few disgruntled people at the end of a long Parliament who wanted to have a kick at the Government, knowing they could do it no harm. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston in his remarks roamed all round the world and treated us to a lecture on Hindus and Mohammedans.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I was going to say that what he said had not very much to do with unemployment. The right hon. Member for Preston, pointing the finger of scorn at us said, "What have you done?"
§ Sir H. CROFT
The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) always adds to the gaiety of nations when he interrupts, and even on a serious subject like this it is sometimes nice to have the atmosphere of the circus introduced just for a moment. I think the right hon. Member for Preston is entitled to an answer, and when he says, "What have you done? the answer is this, that since the present Government came into office, with all the difficulties of the world, there are something like 600,000 more workers at work to-day than when they came into office. Then the right hon. Gentleman pointed the finger of scorn at 2205 us—and I always remember his wonderful contribution to the Debate when he was a Minister and complained that he was not a conjurer—and, with regard to housing, he seemed to think we had done very little. In fact, he complained of the number of houses that we had built without the assistance of the taxpayers. I have never been able to understand why it is that hon. Members opposite object, if we build, under private enterprise, 200,000 or 300,000 more houses than could possibly have happened at the time when there was a lack of confidence and his own party were in office, but is it not a fact that with every single house that you build you release another house for a family of British citizens, and is it not desirable that, if you can, you should build houses without subsidies? If you build houses under private enterprise, what does it matter if they are sold? The people who buy them vacate other houses.
I believe I am right in saying that some 27 per cent. of the houses which have been built under these various schemes have been built under the scheme of the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). I believe I am also right in saying that 68 per cent. of the houses which have been built since the Armistice have been built during the time that this Government have been in office. If these are facts, why get up and be-little these results? I know the achievements of the right hon. Gentleman were as great as he could perform, but the fact that he failed and we succeeded is no reason for him to get up and sneer at these really remarkable results which have created records not only for this country, but for every other country in the world. Then he says, "What are you doing with the slums? I pity any Government that has done so little for the slums." What did his Government do in its year of office? I beg him not to be led astray by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. There is nothing more ludicrous than to attempt to pull down slums until you have got houses into which you can put the people displaced. That, we have achieved, and now we can go forward with our slum clearances.
For a statesman like the right hon. Gentleman to get up in this House and to suggest that it was giving relief to 2206 millionaires to take 6d. off the Income Tax, when he knows that it was put on to the Estate Duties, is really unworthy of him. I cannot follow him in his talk about India, which was very interesting I have been unable to check his figures, but my impression is that our exports to India have maintained a very much higher level compared with our exports to all foreign countries. I do not think the Sultan of Turkey is any longer regarded as a Pope, and I hope he will not blame the Conservatives too much for the fact that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was so anxious for the Greeks to go into battle against the Turks, because I think that was one of the principal reasons which brought about the break-up of the Coalition.
I come to the programmes of the two Oppositions in regard to unemployment. We have heard rival speeches this evening, to which I have listened with the greatest interest, and all the speakers for the two Oppositions have been claiming the new Liberal plan as their own. As a matter of fact, I think it has been fairly accurately substantiated, since the Minister of Labour sat down, that these schemes, in so far as they are practical, do not belong to either of the parties opposite, but are merely extracted from the various schemes which my right hon. Friend has put into operation and planned during the last three or four years. We are absorbing, in our various electrical, telephone, and road construction schemes, practically all the men who can be usefully employed, without wastefulness and after due consideration. We are working now on a plan which is the outcome of the combined wisdom of our forebears and also of our own Government, and I think it is fairly clear to any man who ex amines these schemes that it would be absolutely grotesque to attempt to employ hundreds of thousands of additional men on them, anyhow in the next year or two.
We have been lectured every year since we took office by Members of the Liberal party. Every year they have preached sermons to us and have insisted that the one thing which was going to restore prosperity to this country was to cut down expenditure and to cut down our national indebtedness, yet now they say ' Spend millions everywhere, whether 2207 they are wanted or not, on roads or anything else that you can find, and borrow another £250,000,000 to do it. That seems to me to be absolutely hostile to the whole conception of the policy which the right hon. Member for the Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), and others of the true Liberal faith have advocated in days gone by. If I am right in my interpretation of the Press in the last day or two, it would appear so inconsistent, because apparently the leader of the Liberal party has been elected Vice-President of the Anti-Waste League. He is making it impossible for any financial transactions to be undertaken in the way of improving our loan position in the next 10 years, and at the same time he is encouraging this ghastly, wasteful expenditure.
It is very remarkable, if the right hon. Gentleman had this scheme all the time, that he did not come down here and say, absolutely from a non-party point of view, "I have got the remedy within a single year. I can beat the right hon. Member for Preston into a cocked hat. Here, within 12 months, I can solve unemployment and reduce it to normal." Instead of that, he has said hardly a word. He never came down and offered this scheme to the country until now, and we are amazed to find that he dare not defend it. If he thinks it is possible to dump down some 300,000 or 400,000 unfortunate steel workers, cotton workers and others on our countryside, unhoused, uncared for, on roads unsurveyed—and in most cases unrequired—for two years, merely to dump them back on the Employment Exchanges at the end of that time, he will prove pretty conclusively, what most of us have thought before, that he is utterly bankrupt in statesmanship. On the day when the Liberal party nail their flag to the mast of extravagance and ever-increasing public indebtedness they will finally seal their doom.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The hon. Member need not worry me too much about those who are wise enough almost entirely to repent of their sins. Now that the fumes of the luncheon party are passing away, we find that this policy is beginning to stink in the nostrils of the orthodox Liberals, and every day we open our papers to see one 2208 Liberal after another repudiating that scheme as absolutely opposed to Liberal ideas. I do not want to rub it in too much, and I see that hon. Members opposite share my feelings. I would only suggest to the Liberals that if ever they come back to power in this country it will not be by way of this kind of bluff, and that they had much better stick to Liberal principles than copy an inferior type of Socialism. The Liberal party of Gladstone, Campbell-Bannnerman and Asquith would deplore the type of policy which is now being advocated. It is enough to make those gentlemen turn in their graves.
There is only one way to cure unemployment, and that is to get right down to the causes of it and remove those causes. What are those causes? I am trying to talk seriously now, for, after all, we all at heart agree that this is the greatest problem we have to face, and that we ought to try to make a contribution to solving it. The first cause is the astounding fact that in this country our net population is 2,521,000 greater than it was in 1914. We have that much larger population to support.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am very glad that the Socialist party have at last discovered a wag in their midst. If I said 1814 instead of 1914 it was a mistake. [Interruption.] I see that I did right in interpreting that as a jocular interruption.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Really, I cannot go back 100 years. I am discussing now the position at the present day as compared with 1914. In spite of all those who were killed in the War we have this largely increased population in our midst. Up to the period of the war a quarter of a million of our population left this country as migrants every year. During the War that migration absolutely ceased and since the War it has almost been a bagatelle compared with pre-War migration. That is another reason for the existing state of affairs. It is no good saying that we have more than a million unemployed workers and that the Government 2209 are to blame. On the figures I have quoted, the situation in this country is really better than most people could have imagined it would be, though I am entirely with hon. Gentlemen opposite in saying that I am not satisfied with things and would like to see them better.
A second reason for the position of affairs is to be found in our restricted exports, a subject referred to by the Minister of Labour earlier this evening. Pious resolutions are passed at Geneva, but, notwithstanding that, every country in the world has raised its tariff barriers against our goods, and countries on the Continent which before the War were our best customers have become our most active competitors. There is a complete change in the situation there. Thirdly, there is a large increase in the imports of competitive goods. We have, roughly, 1,200,000 unemployed persons in this country, and that state of affairs has been fairly chronic; but equally chronic has been the importation of foreign manufactured goods, which have given employment to more than that number of foreigners. If hon. Members opposite ask us how we can put this state of affairs right, I say it is not by setting our steel workers to dig up the lanes of the countryside but by giving to those steel workers the work which is now done by steel workers abroad.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I hope I shall have the help of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. Jones). Whenever he comes to our aid England and Ireland pull together and we get ahead.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I will tell you something. Since the small policy of safeguarding has been in operation, with the McKenna Duties and the Silk Duties, I estimate that something like 300,000 additional workers have been absorbed in those industries. If we have not got along faster, it is because, on the one hand, the Prime Minister has been most anxious not to exceed his pledges—and everyone will pay him a tribute for that—and a further reason is that no other party has come to our aid in trying to solve this problem.
§ Sir H. CROFT
It is sufficient to show why trade unionists all over the country are now coming over to our party, as the hon. Gentleman will discover if he consults those whom he presumes to represent in the textile industry. The hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley), in his ill-informed speech, attempted to suggest that safeguarding would not do much more good, that the field was very limited and that the vast proportion of our unemployed could not benefit from the policy; and he was particularly delighted that nothing could be done in this respect to help the transport workers. No workers stand to gain more from safeguarding than the transport wokers. I will give an example. I have urged during the last two or three years that we should do everything to exclude at least 2,500,000 tons of foreign steel which is coming into this country every year. Before the Balfour Commission evidence was given that, in order to complete a finished ton of steel, something like seven tons of ore, limestone, coal, pig iron, and so on, were used. It may be very good to carry 2,500,000 tons of foreign steel, but if we were making steel in this country the railway workers would be carrying over 17,000,000 tons of material.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not the Speaker of the House of Commons yet. If I am out of order, I will bow to the Chair, but I am not going to be led into an argument by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The hon. Gentlemen opposite are very interested at the moment in the railways, because they find that there is going to be a vast subsidy from the Liberal party to try and crush the railway workers, a point which is rapidly gaining the ears of the railway workers. I put it to them that if they had carried last year 17,000,000 tons of heavy haulage instead of 2,500,000 tons of foreign steel, would it not have been sufficient to prevent that drop in wages which the workers undertook in order to help industry along? We are importing into this country every year £200,000,000 2211 worth of foreign manufactured goods, which we might quite easily make ourselves if we made up our minds to do it, and at least three times the volume of these goods would be carried by our transport system. A year ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer made an alteration in the Sugar Duties in favour of the British manufacturer. It did no man any harm; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is very cautious in these questions; he reduced the duty upon raw sugar and left it on foreign refined sugar. The result has been that 500,000 tons of raw sugar is coming into this country, and I am told that it will be 800,000 tons in a full year. We have a net gain of something like 300,000 tons in transport owing to the fact that we bring in the raw sugar instead of the foreign refined sugar. I am also informed that as a direct result of that policy, in one year 4,000 more men were engaged in the refining of sugar.
When the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick made his speech dealing with all those industries which he mentioned, and, when he claimed that the Labour policy would increase the purchasing power of the people of this country, he failed entirely to realise that even those countries which rely on their export trades were being undersold by foreign products in places where the machinery for producing those goods had been invented. Thousands of men in Lancashire might be employed to-day if Lancashire decided to keep out foreign piece goods, because that would give employment to thousands in the textile industries of Lancashire. Yorkshire has discovered this and is trying to remedy it. If you can secure your home markets, then manufacturers can reduce their overhead charges, and they can sell their goods abroad at a lower price. Mr. Samuel Courtauld, speaking the other day at the Annual Meeting, told us that they did not ask for these duties; in fact, he said they were opposed to them: but, as they had been imposed, he must now utter this warning that, if that protection were removed, it would be an utter calamity to everyone engaged in the industry.
You are not going to cure unemployment by a policy of doles or temporary expedients. That will only help people 2212 for a very short time. I believe that you can conquer unemployment if you go out for a big Empire policy of development, building new railways all over the Empire, and doing these things on a really large scale. That is our opportunity. The other method is to safeguard your home markets and stimulate your production so that you may increase your export trade and your total overseas commerce. That is the issue. The present Government, with all their difficulties and all the opposition they have received, first from the right and then from the left, have definitely declared that our policy is the de-rating of industries and the safeguarding of industries, and that is the policy which will help producton and restore British trade.
§ Mr. TINKER
I agree that this Debate has given the Minister of Labour an opportunity of getting off an election speech, although some hon. Members sitting behind him did not seem to enjoy it very much. I think, when the right hon. Gentleman's speech is more closely analysed, it will be found that it does not reflect very much credit on the Conservative party. The opening part of our Amendment must appeal to every Member of the House. It declares:That this House views with grave concern the continued existence of a gigantic volume of unemployment.The hon. Member for Mosley (Mr. Hopkinson) appeared not to realise its whole significance; indeed, he showed signs of not realising it at all. He was really optimistic, and this is the first time I have ever known him to be so. I have always looked upon him as being a very doleful and pessimistic man-perhaps the most doleful in this House; but to-night he took satisfaction in certain things. One was that the Government had removed the Seven Hours Act from the Statute Book and made it an Eight Hours Act; and he went on to say that one of the causes of unemployment was the fact that the Labour Government brought about increased wages for the miners. He also said that we might expect a further increase of wages in the mining industry. I hope that he is correct. Three or four agreements will come to an end next December, and we are hoping that the hon. Member's words will come true.
2213 As to the question of dealing with unemployment, suggestions have been made for the improvement of roads, the widening of canals, afforestation, and several other methods. That may answer for the time being, but it is really not a solution. Safeguarding is not a solution, nor is increased spending power a solution. The only permanent solution that I can see is that where, with the advance of science, productivity increases, so that the same amount of production can be obtained in the same time by fewer workers, then, instead of a number of people being thrown out of work, the same number should still be employed, and their hours of labour reduced. That is the only real solution that will come about as a result of the advance of science. I have always understood that whatever benefit might accrue from scientific methods should be for the good of mankind, but, if scientific methods mean throwing out of work a certain number of people, there is no resulting improvement in the working conditions of the people. We have examples in the mining industry, and also in the glass industry, of men being thrown out of work owing to the adoption of improved methods, but there is no satisfaction in that, and, unless whatever Government may be in power determines to make full use of such improvements for the advantage of all concerned, I cannot see that there is likely to be any fundamental improvement in dealing with what is called the unemployment problem. I would urge any Government to take a strong line and give the benefit of increased productivity to the people employed in the industry. That can only come about under nationalisation; it cannot be done under our present system, and, therefore, I will leave that point.
I should like to say a word or two on the administrative side of this matter. When a man signs on for unemployment benefit, if he has any dependants, he has to fill in a form giving particulars of his dependants. That paper has to be signed by a justice of the peace. It has come to my knowledge that, among a number of people in the Tyldesley area who signed on for unemployment benefit was a justice of the peace who had also signed these forms for others. The official in charge of the Employment Exchange told him that, owing to his having signed on for unemployment benefit, he had lost 2214 that power of signing these papers which he had as a justice of the peace.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
The hon. Member will recollect that I at once gave instructions that the signature in that case should be honoured, because it was obviously given as a justice of the peace.
§ Mr. TINKER
I was not going to divulge the conversation that I had with the Parliamentary Secretary, but he told me that this was an administrative order, and that, although he allowed it in that particular case, it could not be allowed in future, so that in future a justice of the peace, who happened to be receiving unemployment benefit would not have this power which he otherwise would have, and that is why I am drawing the attention of the House of Commons to the matter. I think it was never meant that way. If a man gets J.P. put after his name, he ought not to lose that dignity simply because he is unfortunate and is put on unemployment benefit. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the whole matter. When a man such as I have described is in receipt of unemployment benefit, he should not be deprived of the power of signing these papers. I hope the hon. Gentleman will take notice of that and see that it is put into operation.
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
I wish to refer again to the very interesting and enlightening speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). As usual he came back to the well-worn subject of safeguarding and Protection, addressing to us, and to Members on the Liberal benches, a plea which, of course, all the time he ought to have been addressing to the leaders of his own party, for if all these benefits that he says could be obtained from the safeguarding of steel and the other big industries were possible, his case surely lies against his own Government for their failure to apply the methods which he says would have such beneficent results. He referred to the programme, as he called it, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in 1918. Perhaps he did not mean it, but his suggestion was that it was largely a plea for safeguarding and the prevention of dumping. But that programme included a great many other things than that. Indeed, safeguarding, and provisions to prevent 2215 dumping, played a very small part in the programme. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman laid out a scheme which, in my judgment, went much further than the scheme which has been so extensively referred to to-night. The question of road making, the building of houses, afforestation, land drainage, the provision of homes for everyone, a land fit for heros to dwell in, and everything that could be encompassed in the form of promises found their part in the scheme which made the electoral programme of the right hon. Gentleman in 1918.
§ Mr. HUDSON
Including everything. We need not bother much about details. Practically everything was there, especially when one remembers a speech like that in the Manchester Hippodrome, a very appropriate place for it, where the whole of the programme was laid out and where the wonderful promises were made. Although there seems to have been some complaint that we have given too much attention to the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. I want to spend a little time considering the new proposals, or, as I prefer to call them, the old proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to deal with this problem of unemployment. In the year 1917, when the War was running its course and it was becoming pretty clear to everybody what would be the after-War conditions of this country, there were in existence a number of Commissions dealing with the reconstructive work that would be necessary in this country if unemployment were to be prevented. The Members of our own party in those days, reading those reports, and understanding the problems that would confront us pressed upon the Government then, and particularly upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who was at that time Prime Minister, the necessity for preparing, at the end of the War, a scheme of things, including the roads, canals, light railways, afforestation, land drainage, and indeed, all those things that are now promised again by the right hon. Gentleman. They pressed those questions upon his attention and urged that some preparatory work should be done to mate those schemes possible. What happened? The 2216 right hon. Gentleman may say that he was too busy getting on with the War to give special attention to it, but at the end of the War he included in his promise all the points that this party had pressed upon his attention. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not quite."] At any rate, hon. Members put up with him very well for a time, and they were very glad in the 1918 Election to get the advantage of the extensive promises he then made.
I rather imagine that one of the complaints at the present time is that the right hon. Gentleman is making his promises in such a way that the Conservative party will be able to reap none of the advantages of those promises. Let me come to what happened after 1918. An industrial conference was summoned at which all these questions were to be considered. They were considered on the employers' side as well as in this House of Commons. Statements continued to be made about the necessity of carrying out the plans that we then laid down. With what result? None of those extensive promises was accomplished, although there was then an enormous majority in the House of Commons to make it possible to accomplish all of them. On the other hand what actually was accomplished—and I draw the attention particularly of the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to this—was that the right hon. Gentleman himself scrapped the one proposal that might have been of assistance to him in dealing with these schemes, the proposal that came down from pre-War days by which something could have been done to deal with the land problem. After all, the making of new roads, the opening up of afforestation schemes, the extension of land drainage schemes are all closely associated with the land problem. What is the situation to-day?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is now pretending that he can do all these; wonderful things, all promises, without making any considerable raid—without making any raid at all—upon public moneys. He suggests that the 350,000 men who are to be put on to the new road schemes within a year can be employed by the raising of a loan, which is to be partly mortgaged on what ultimately could be obtained by a betterment tax. It is suggested that by putting a special tax upon the improvement of the land value along the side of 2217 the new roads there would be a return which would cover the cost of the loan proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. Who would grant a loan to a Government for which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs could ever be responsible, on the basis of a betterment tax that he would impose? Does not everyone know that on every side of the land question, particularly the taxation of land, the right hon. Gentleman has absolutely betrayed his trust? At the present time all that he is putting forward in the new financial scheme to cover the employment of men upon roads is something that he did not carry out when he had the chance to do it, and we know that if he had another chance—we all know that he will not get that chance—ho would fail, as he did before.
When the right hon. Gentleman is making these revived promises, in almost exactly the same words that he made them in 1918, I wonder whether he cannot remember that, in the long run, if we are to allow to remain in existence the power of landlordism, as it has ruled in this country hitherto, neither afforestation schemes, land drainage schemes nor any effective schemes for the amelioration of our lot can be carried through. It is because we know, and because everybody in this House knows, that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has completely betrayed that central principle upon which any good thing must be done, that so few people can place confidence in his words.
The Government claim that they have done certain constructive things during the last year or two. The Prime Minister, in giving a catalogue of the benefits that the Tories have accomplished in this country, indicated that in 1926 they had passed the Electricity Act. We have heard from the Minister of Labour to-day that under the Electricity Act they have expended £6,000,000, with a view to helping the reorganisation of the national electricity supply. They have spent this £6,000,000 not so much upon the unemployed as in bolstering up private interests in the electrical industry. We have had an example recently on the part of Americans who are anxious to share in the swag that is already being shared by the private electrical industry in this country, as a result of the 2218 benefits that have accrued from the £6,000,000 that have been spent.
The re-electrification of this country on a scale necessary to deal with our industrial needs cannot be done until we apply electricity to coal in the same way that in Canada the nation has applied electricity to its water supply. So long as we allow the coalmines to remain in the possession of the private few, and so long as they are able to hold us off from the full electricial developments that are necessary, we may spend our millions, £6,000,000 or more millions, but the benefits will go not to the unemployed, not to the nation but to the bolstering up of private interests.
It will be our aim in the coming election as Socialists, and honest Socialists, to stand by what we believe, in contradistinction to the Tories who pretend to oppose Socialism but when they get into power bring in a Bill which the hon. Member for Leeds described as a rotten Socialist Bill, a Bill which pretended to apply nationalisation to a concern but in the long run only uses nationalisation and socialism for the benefit of a few people who happen to be in control of the business. In the coming election, when we speak for the unemployed, we intend to stand by the principles we have taught throughout. We believe that if the land and the mines are to be made to serve the interests of the nation and the unemployed they cannot continue to remain in the possession of private individuals, and if the nation will give us a majority, which we hope and believe they will, then we can begin to do the real fundamental work by which the problem of unemployment may be dealt with.
§ Mr. DIXEY
I should like to make just one or two remarks upon the position of unemployment in the country. It is amusing to hear hon. Members opposite refer to the Government schemes for dealing with unemployment in the cynical way to which we are accustomed in this House, but I should like to hear what concrete proposition they have to offer as a cure. I fully appreciate the fact that the Liberal party have stolen a march on the Socialist party and that for once they have found themselves out-promised in what they propose to do for the electors of the country. We on this side of the House stand for a policy which will do some good and make for 2219 real industrial progress. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has made promises before, but not one of them has, in fact, been carried out. As far as we are concerned, we appreciate the fact that we have not been able to solve the unemployment question, but if the Government would tackle the whole policy of safeguarding we might get some good results. I say quite seriously, that we all have a duty to the nation in this matter. The real solution must rest in giving our people a chance in the competitive markets of the world.
It is a tragedy that the Socialist party will not appreciate the fact that, when all is said and done, it is a question of the employment of our people at an equal wage for the job in which they are engaged. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) and other people always say that if we indulge in the policy of Protection we shall be putting up prices to the consumer. I think we have proved definitely that the price to the consumer goes down if we put on Safeguarding Duties. Hon. Members may laugh. With the election pledges and policies of their leaders before them, they may say that they dislike the policy of safeguarding, but the actual proof is in the improvement in unemployment in those areas where the Safeguarding Duties have been applied. What do all the promises about nationalisation and gifts from the Road Fund for the people amount to? Nothing. The right hon. Gentleman for Carnarvon Boroughs was in office, and he did nothing at all to relieve unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) was in office, and he did nothing to relieve unemployment.
When the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) came into power, he did relieve unemployment to a certain extent by Safeguarding Duties in the particular trades to which they were applied. Nobody can dispute that 20,000 people more are employed in the motor
§ trade in this country. Facts speak for themselves. We have got to justify our existence. [Interruption.] I agree, quite frankly, that we must go upon the improvement in industrial conditions. I am perfectly confident that if the Government have the courage to apply these duties which they have applied to smaller trades—[Interruption.] After all is said and done, promises will not win a General Election. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) may profess confidence in the pledges given by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in securing employment, but he knows quite well that those promises to give every man a job are absolutely fantastic. He knows quite well that there is no danger of any test of that policy, because the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs will never have a chance of putting it into force. I really believe in the policy which I advocate, and I think, if hon. Members opposite would put their political beliefs second to their desire to benefit the people of the country, they would be the first people to come out and support the Safeguarding policy. They know quite well that the main question is the finding of more employment. Are the workers of this country treated in the same way as the workers in competitive countries? The right hon. Member for Preston and other minor Members of this House know that the wages in this country are better than those in competitive countries, particularly in the iron and steel trades. Is it fair that we should be obliged to compete in the export markets of the world with countries that have longer hours and lower wages? I appeal to hon. Members opposite at least to give serious consideration to a policy which would benefit the workers of this country and provide a remedy for the present deplorable position.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 149; Noes, 100.2221
|Division No. 273.]||AYES.||[10.57 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Betterton, Henry B.||Brass, Captain W.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bevan, S. J||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.|
|Brown-Lindsay, Major H.||Hills, Major John Waller||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Holbrook, sir Arthur Richard||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Salmon, Major l.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Christle, J. A.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lamb, J. Q.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||MacIntyre, Ian||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||McLean, Major A.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Makins, Brigadler-General E.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Margesson, Captain D.||Thomson, Sir Frederick|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Fielden, E. B.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Ward, Lt. Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Forrest, W.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Ganzonl, Sir John.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Gates, Percy||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Wells, S. R.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Nuttall, Ellis||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Oakley, T.||Withers, John James|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Perring, Sir William George||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Pilcher, G.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Preston, William||Wragg, Herbert|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Raine, Sir Walter||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Reld, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Remer, J. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Rentoul, Sir Gervals||Mr. Penny and Captain Wallace.|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Ritson, J.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Scurr, John|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hardle, George D.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Harris, Percy A.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shield, G. W.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hirst, G. H.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bellamy, A.||Hollins, A.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Snell, Harry|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Briant, Frank||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Strauss, E. A.|
|Bromley, J.||Kelly, W. T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Kennedy, T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawrence, Susan||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cluse, W. S||Lawson, John James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lee, F.||Townend, A. E.|
|Connolly, M.||Lowth, T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lunn, William||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dalton, Ruth (Bishop Auckland)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Day, Harry||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Dennison, R.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Westwood, J.|
|Duncan, C.||Maxton, James||Williams, David (Swansea, East),|
|Edge, Sir William||Montague, Frederick||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Gillett, George M.||Mosley, Sir Oswald||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor, Walter|
|Greenall, T.||Oliver, George Harold||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Owen, Major G.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Palin, John Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]