§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I propose to raise, not at great length, a matter which I am sure will he of interest to the whole House, namely, the welfare and conditions of service of the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine, or, as I believe I am now correct in calling it, the Royal Mercantile Marine. In the last 10 years, Mr. Speaker, during which you and I have been in this House together, this matter has not often been raised, and yet there is no body of men and no industry of greater importance than this. Our Mercantile Marine is still the greatest in the world, and I believe it will be generally agreed that the nation owes a great debt of gratitude to those men of the Mercantile Marine who go down to the sea in our ships. £2,000,000,000 worth of food, oils, coal, raw materials and manufactured goods are carried in British ships every year to and from these shores, and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are always roaring out about national defence, will, I am sure, be interested in anything affecting the welfare of the men who man these ships from the national defence point of view.
It is our duty wherever we can to see that the conditions of service in this great Mercantile Marine are such that the best type of efficient man and lad is attracted to the Service, whether for service on the bridge as an officer, in the engine-room, or before the mast; but I am sorry to say that for many reasons there is a danger of the best type not being attracted in the future to the Mercantile Marine, or of those who are in it leaving at the first opportunity and taking up some other employment. One difficulty, of course, is that there is a great lack of training establishments and training ships, especially for lads of poor parents. It is extremely difficult in most 2364 parts of the country for a poor lad, whose parents cannot afford to pay fees to apprentice him, to enter the Mercantile Marine and, while there are excellent training facilities for future officers—the "Worcester," the "Conway" and the "Pangbourne" turn out splendid seamen—there are not nearly enough facilities for those who cannot afford the fees which those excellent training establishments are bound to charge.
For many years the National Union of Seamen have been pressing the Board of Trade to provide greater facilities for the training of suitable youths for service at sea. I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman has to say on that subject. We have, of course, certain training facilities. In Hull, we have Trinity House, which has turned out some of the finest seamen of this or or any other age, and there is an excellent technical college at Cardiff which also does splendid work in this direction. But far too few vacancies exist for the required number of young men and boys to be trained as seamen. I believe the "Port Jackson" training ship has been paid off, and, if that is so, there is not one seagoing training ship at present engaged in training officers or boys for the Mercantile Marine under sail or under steam. In view of our immense Mercantile Marine, our immense responsibilities, and our absolute dependence on the sea for our whole prosperity and life, that is an extraordinary state of affairs. So far this matter has been left almost entirely to private persons, to the benevolent public-spirited men who provide the money, for example, for commissioning the "Port Jackson" and the great benefactors who founded our establishment at Hull. I think the time has come when the Board of Trade should take a more active interest in the mutter.
One excuse put forward for the employment of foreign seamen in such large numbers is that there are not sufficient trained British seamen. A question was put to-day with regard to the employment of Chinese. I believe there are at present 11,000 European foreigners in our ships and over 52,000 Asiatics, of whom I admit many are British subjects. Lascars are good seamen. They did splendid service in the War, and I make no kind of attack on them. They are, nevertheless, employed in very large numbers, 2365 and, I think, in certain trades which should be reserved for British seamen. The reason really is that the Lascar gets 30s. a month, and the white able seaman £9 a month. Furthermore, only very modest sums are extracted from the shipowners by the Government of India in workmen's compensation in case of an accident to Lascars. I believe the payments are not on Dearly so large a scale as for a white seaman, and therefore Lascars are employed in enormous numbers. With regard to the Chinese, there has been a great improvement from the British point of view. I believe the numbers have gone down from 14,000 to 2,000, but even that is a very great number. Of course they all claim to be British subjects. They all say they come from Hong Kong or Singapore. Although they cannot speak the local dialect of Hong Kong, they are always British subjects.
I have nothing to say against the Chinese seaman. He is an excellent seaman, reliable, and that kind of thing, but we have enormous unemployment amongst British seamen, and the Board of Trade should discourage in every possible way the employment of foreigners on all British ships, especially on the home trade. I know it is a difficult question, and it cannot be done all at once, and it is necessary to employ a certain number of non-British seamen, but I see very few signs of activity by the right hon. Gentleman in a matter of such importance. While the Chinese have decreased, there has been an increase in employment of Arabs, and they all claim to come from either Aden or India. There are more Arab seamen employed in British ships claiming to come from Aden than the whole population of Aden, men, women and children. The answer that is made, that the Englishman cannot stand the climate, is absolute nonsense. As a matter of fact, an Englishman in good health can stand extremes of hot and cold better than the Asiatic. It is an extraordinary thing, but actual statistics show in favour of the British seaman in two cases of sickness to three for the Asiatic under similar conditions. I believe the number of Arabs, who are nearly all firemen, is about 9,000, of whom about 25 per cent. can show War service. I would not suggest that they should be debarred from employment, but I think 2366 some reservation should be made to prevent an increasing number of Arabs being employed in ships trading to British ports regularly. There are certain social results of an undesirable character from these Arabs being in large quantities in British ports. Cases have occurred at Cardiff which have been published in the papers, and it is a well-known trouble.
I want now to touch on another matter altogether. I know the pay of the seamen and officers is outside the direct jurisdiction of the Board of Trade, and I am not pretending that the right hon. Gentleman should intervene in this matter directly, but in view of the low pay—I say it advisedly—the uncertainty of employment and the many disadvantages suffered by both seamen and officers, the Board of Trade, where it can, should see that their lot is made as humane and as healthy as possible. The Board of Trade cannot directly interfere at present with wages, but it can insist on proper accommodation, and it could do a great deal in regard to the hours of labour. The standard pay of an able seaman is £9 a month, a boatswain, a man who must have had years of service and must be experienced, £10 to £10 10s. a month, and a fireman, £9 10s. Some owners pay more, a few pay less. Now we come to officers. There are hundreds of officers serving as chief, second and third officers who have been holding their master's certificate for years. They have had an extensive professional training and years of service at very low pay as apprentices and junior officers. They pass a stiff examination for their certificates, and they have great responsibility and very hard work. When I mention the rates of pay, it must be remembered that the average employment on pay of the average officer in a British line is only round about seven months in the year. Any accident to a ship, the ship paid off or laid up, and he is off pay at once. The pay of a third mate is £11 10s. to about £12 10s. a month—a little more on certain lines. The pay of second mates, the majority of whom are qualified for their master's certificates, and most have them, is £14 10s. to £16 10s., and chief officers, £17 to £20 a month, with some rare cases up to £24. I know a case of a chief officer of a 7,500-ton cargo steamer who gets £19 a month.
2367 Imagine the lot of this man. He has to keep up an appearance, he has to meet passengers, and to be well-dressed. His wife has to keep up a certain appearance, and he has to pay for his own laundry and all sorts of other expenses. Such a man has tremendous responsibilities. So much is expected of him in case of disaster. He must stay at his post and he does. He has high professional attainments and has a commission in the Royal Naval Reserve. He performed valuable services in the War, and he received only £19 a month when at sea. He is a man of the highest character and attainment. He is not entitled to any pension or superannuation and the moment that his ship is paid off he is on the labour market. He has no security of tenure. Is it to be wondered at that many of our finest seamen amongst the officers of the Royal Mercantile Marine are seeking any kind of employment on shore in order to get out of it?
What can the Board of Trade do here? The Board of Trade can do and should do—it should have done it long ago—what the officers, through their own organisation, have been asking for for years and what the majority of the best shipping lines are prepared to do, namely, introduce a general pension or superannuation scheme for the officers, and for the men too for that matter. The mortality and sickness among seamen is high. The seaman is very often past work at an earlier age than his brother on shore. As I have said, the majority of the good lines would welcome such a scheme. It would be contributory on the part of the officers, the shipping lines and His Majesty's Government. But so far the Board of Trade has been adamant. A regulation has been brought out by the Admiralty enabling lieutenant commanders to retire at 40 on a fair pension, but their brothers in the mercantile service still await some such scheme. The Board of Trade has funds which should have been applied to this purpose. I am informed that there is in the right hon. Gentleman's coffers, or has been—I do not know whether they have been raided—a very large sum, something like £1,000,000 from the old shipping fees which every officer had to pay on signing on and on being paid off. That was the custom years ago and very 2368 large sums were accumulated. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give any information about these sums. Who have had them? [An HON. MEMBER: "What are these sums?"] They are large sums of money accumulated from the old shipping fees. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matter and if he can give me information about them, not necessarily in this Debate, but later on, I shall be very much obliged to him. These funds would be a nucleus for such a scheme as I have mentioned.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
I can tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman at once. I am quite sure that I have no funds in the coffers.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Where have they gone? I did not say that the right hon. Gentleman has this money stored away about his person. I would very soon search him if I thought so. What has happened to the accumulated funds from the old shipping fees? Another way in which the Government can help very much is by the instructions which they give to their representatives at the Maritime Conventions called by the International Labour Office. There is to be a meeting in October of this year, and one of the matters to be discussed from the international point of view is superannuation schemes. If this can be done internationally, the great argument of the bad shipowners who stand in the way because they say they cannot face the competition of the Greeks or of the Portuguese—and there are not many great nations now which are not ahead of us in regard to the pay and conditions of the personnel of their mercantile fleets—will be cut away from them. If the representatives of His Majesty's Government on this Convention to be held in October are sympathetic, the other nations will certainly follow our lead. They follow us in all these matters. We always take the lead in any discussion of a nautical nature, and our prestige is very great. If the right hon. Gentleman's representatives would adopt a sympathetic attitude in this matter at the next meeting, I believe that something could be done internationally. It would be one of the greatest reforms for the benefit of that very fine body of officers and men. Up 2369 to now the discussions on this matter have been confined to officers but a superannuation scheme for men of the Mercantile Marine is badly needed. The right hon. Gentleman will say: "These questions are settled by the Maritime Board." But the findings of the Maritime Board are not statutory. They can be avoided, and in some cases, I am afraid, they have been avoided.
I come to another question which is of very great importance not only to the men who man our ships but to those who send their goods in our ships and who travel in our ships. It is the question of overloading. There have been some recent cases—the "Eastway" and others—where the right hon. Gentleman has taken action. I am not making any complaint against what he does in this country. I believe that on the whole the inspection for the prevention of overloading is admirable in this country. I am not making any general attack on the Board of Trade officials, and I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will understand the position, but it is notorious that there is a great deal of overloading. I have been assured on this point by a great many officers at sea and by others who have left the sea. It is, I am afraid, far too common a practice. Here again it is the black sheep amongst the shipowners, and when they are black they are of the very deepest black.
The suggestions that I wish to make to the right hon. Gentleman for dealing with this matter—and the evil is mostly in foreign ports where we have no control-are: First, the present regulations of the Board of Trade should be tightened and the penalty for infringement should be increased. Secondly, all deck officers, all bridge officers and all navigating officers should be responsible for the loading of the vessel. Thirdly, the Board of Trade should issue through the press, through the official log books and in the notices to mariners, a re-statement of their intention to prosecute any person who infringes these regulations, and that any person who causes such cases to be brought to the notice of the Board of Trade shall be protected from victimisation. There we have the crux of the whole thing. There is so much unemployment amongst officers of the Mercantile Marine—and I am assured by gentlemen of the highest integrity and character 2370 that this is what happens—that when the stevedores at a foreign port want to overload a ship the officers dare not complain. They are not openly victimised, but the next time the ship lays off, their billet is filled by another. It is very important that the Consuls at the foreign ports—they come under the right hon. Gentleman's jurisdiction through the Department of Overseas Trade—should be told to take more interest in official log books and in the tank sounding books. If there is a suspicion of overloading, His Majesty's Consuls abroad should have instructions to report to the Board of Trade in this country.
Next I must deal with the question of accommodation. The statutory accommodation for seamen is still 120 cubic feet, which is far less than for the inmates of common lodging-houses, prisons, workhouses, etc. Many shipowners have, of course, exceeded that allowance and have provided very good accommodation for their seamen. During the War the standard ships had very good accommodation indeed. They had the cubicle system in the forecastle, and it was much appreciated by the men. We have gone back since then, and new ships are being built without the cubicle system. But quite a number of foreign countries have adopted the system. The accommodation in Norwegian, Swedish and Danish ships is better than that in ours, and Spanish and Belgian ships are ahead of us. The three Scandinavian countries are very fierce competitors of ours, but they can make their ships pay, while providing decent living accommodation for the men. It is high time that the Merchant Shipping Act was amended. It has not been amended since 1906, except by certain Orders in Council. I believe that the predecessor of the present President of the Board of Trade prepared a Bill, which has been lying since in the pigeonholes of the Board of Trade. It contained many improvements of the original Act. It is a great pity that the present President of the Board did not energise a little and bring forward that Bill or one of his own.
The next item is with reference to the food scales. There is plenty of food supplied to the seaman to-day. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will get up and say that things are far better 2371 than they were 100 years ago. That, no doubt, is true. In the same way the President of the Board of Education could say that education to-day is much better than that of a hundred years ago, and the statement would be greated with loud cheers. It is high time that things were made better than they were even in 1906. There is sufficient food supplied to seamen, but there is not enough variety. Now I come to what is of the greatest importance of all, and that is the health of the seamen. The President of the Board of Trade has at his disposal few, if any, qualified medical men. If the health of the seamen is to be properly looked after, this health duty must be placed on the shoulders of the Minister of Health, who has the necessary medical officers. This is anon-non-party question. All who have a knowledge of the facts will bear me out when I say how very desirable it is that properly qualified medical men should be at the disposal of the Government to give advice in these matters.
Let me revert to the question of the men. I wonder whether the House will be surprised at the statement that I am about to make. Apart from the officers, the only person on a British liner or a cargo steamer who must have a certificate is the cook. You could send the "Mauretania" to sea to-day, under the right hon. Gentleman's regime, with two certificated officers on the bridge—only two—and no able seamen. All she would be obliged to have would be 10 efficient seamen—a very wide term. The cook would be the only other certificated person, according to the law. Hon. Members may say that it would not be done, but that is how the law stands. You can send the largest liner to sea to-day with two certificated officers only on the bridge, and the rest of the crew, apart from the engineers and the cook, could be farmers or soldiers or costermongers or lawyers. That is how the law stands. I mention this fact to show that the law certainly needs amending. I know that there have been certain Orders in Council to improve matters, but we do need a certificate for able seamen, after a proper examination, and the able seaman should be a recognised person, qualified as such. At present he gets qualified after three years' service 2372 at sea, I believe. Although many lines do insist on a very high standard amongst their seamen, that is how the law stands to-day. There was an Order in Council in 1911 fixing the men in the effective watch. That has been a slight improvement, but the Merchant Shipping Act is as I have stated—a most extraordinary state of affairs.
Another matter in which the right hon. Gentleman can help is with regard to the hours of work. I believe it was the intention of the Peace Treaty that the 48-hours week should be applied to seamen. It is high time that the 48-hours week, with payment for overtime, was insisted upon, if possible by international agreement. If the officials or representatives of the right hon. Gentleman, or his successor, would give a lead in the matter at the next Convention, I believe we could get something done. There is competition now for British seamen. The Americans are going to make an attempt to build up a Mercantile Marine, and they are competing for British seamen. What do they offer? They offer 50 per cent. higher pay, better food and accommodation than is provided in British ships, and special facilities for naturalisation. If we are to continue to attract the best type of young Englishman and Scotsman and Welshman and Irishman into our Mercantile Marine, the conditions must be improved. We cannot expect a boy to leave a good home on shore, with the higher standard of living of the last 20 or 30 years, unless the conditions on a ship and the nature of the employment are such as to allow reasonable comfort.
Secondly, there must be a career for the able, intelligent and industrious young lad who goes to sea. When his talents have earned him promotion he must be assured not only of the status that he has now, which is high, but must have reasonable remuneration, some security of employment, and, above all, in old age or failing health something to prevent him and his family falling into poverty. That is the least that we should offer to the right type of young Englishman. I am certain that a contented and an efficient service, manned by the flower of the race, as it should be, would in the long run not be an extravagance but a national economy, and from the point of view of the duty of this House to our 2373 seamen and from the point of view of our national defence, I invite the President of the Board of Trade to direct the attention of his advisers to the matter and to the other matters that I have mentioned.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I could not help feeling, when the hon. and gallant Gentleman was speaking, how different is the real picture of the mercantile marine, both of shipowners and of seamen, from the picture which he painted. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has travelled over a very wide field. I did not know what points he was going to raise, but I think I can deal with most of them. He painted the picture of a ship, one of our greatest liners, going to sea with two certificated officers on the bridge, and, apart from them, only the cook certificated, and he asked: "Why do you not legislate to prevent that sort of thing?" The whole of the Labour party might enter for the Grand National to-morrow. There is nothing in the British law to stop it. They probably would not win the race, and I do not know how many would get over the first fence. We do not think it necessary to pass legislation to prevent interesting spectacles like that taking place. In a great common-sense country and in a great service which has run itself for the last 100 years or more, things of that kind do not happen; you do not get great British liners going to sea manned by an entirely incompetent set of officers and men. On the contrary, what you do get is a magnificent ship going to sea with the most competent officers and the best set of men that sail the seas. You get that, not by Act of Parliament, but because we are a great maritime country, and because it is in our interest to send our ships to sea in the most efficient condition.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Of course I did not for a moment suggest that the things I mentioned would happen, but as the law stands they could happen. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Mercantile Marine has run itself for 100 years. Has he never read his own Merchant Shipping Act and other legislation on these points?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
A certain number of things in the Act are to-day very largely obsolete. They were passed at a time when a ship went to sea and 2374 was out of touch with this country for 12 months at a time. We do not legislate about everything in the whole world. We do not prescribe the ordinary conduct of people in their business, more than is strictly necessary. The object of legislation—until we have "Socialism in our time"—is not to prescribe exactly how everyone is to do his daily work, but either to give assistance or to exercise such restraint as may be needed. What is really the position? The position is that you have a very efficient body of shipowners and an amazingly efficient lot of seamen. No Debate of this kind would be complete without a reference to that grand old man who has just died, Mr. Havelock Wilson. No man ever did more for those whom he represented. He did more than anyone in his day for the whole of the British Mercantile Marine, not only for the men, but for the service as a whole. While he was a great fighter for everything that concerned the best interests of his men, he always conducted negotiations in a fair and conciliatory manner, with a real appreciation of what was the issue in the long run, realising that this great service had to compete with the Mercantile Marine of other countries.
It is perfectly easy to say, "Why do you not lay down a large number of conditions under which everything will be absolutely perfect; in which the standard of every single ship comes up to the standard of comfort and convenience of the very highest type of vessel." It would be quite possible to do that, but what would be the result unless every other country in the world made similar regulations? At once it would put out of commission a large number of our ships and would put out of employment a very large number of men. Some years ago I went to Liverpool—I was invited to do so—and saw a large number of ships without warning of my visit. I visited all manner of vessels, from the latest liner, perfect in every detail, down to the worst tramp that one could see. The men on this particular tramp said to me: "The conditions on this particular ship are not very satisfactory, are they?" I said, "No. It would be perfectly easy within the law for me to make a regulation to-morrow morning—I do not think I should have to lay it before the House—which would put that ship out of commission, but would it be wise to do that? 2375 What would be the result? The ship would go out of commission and the trade would go to another flag." Is it not wiser to try to get the highest standard possible but to confine our regulations to what is necessary and reasonable, having regard to the standards which other countries adopt?
I do not believe that anyone who occupied the position of President of the Board of Trade, faced with the responsibility, not of making general speeches but by his action assisting or restricting the activities of the British Mercantile Marine, would adopt the wholesale policy of regulations of the hundred and one kinds which the hon. and gallant Member has put forward. He asks: "Why do you not bring in the admirable Bill that has been left for you by your predecessor?" I have not seen it; it does not exist. I have considered different amendments of the law, some of which have been made in our administration, and we are considering amendments from time to time. The hon. and gallant Member is entirely wrong if he suggests that his chiefs when they were in office completely recast the law governing merchant shipping, and left behind them general proposals for amending the Merchant Shipping Acts. They were far too responsible administrators to do any such thing. No one will deny that the standard which we set in safety, comfort and convenience is higher than is set by any other mercantile country in the world.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I do not think that is a very happy intervention. We must be guided by some consideration of what we can do in competition with the world—except that, where the question of safety is concerned, you have to act promptly. The mention of Australia really supports my thesis, because, though I do not want to say anything in any way disrespectful to Australia, the Australian shipping experience did not show a very large profit, and the whole of the Australian Commonwealth steamers have been sold.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The hon. and gallant Member's idea is, of course, that all business should be ran at a loss, but that cannot be done indefinitely. Let me deal briefly with the detailed points which he raised. With regard to training at sea, he said that strong representations had been made to my Department by the union. That is not so. I am told that no representations have been made to us in that matter, and for the very good reason that there is already a most admirable training ship, the Gravesend Sea School, which is run by the Shipping Federation and the National Union of Seamen. The hon. and gallant Member says that we ought to have a training ship, a sailing ship, which should go to sea. That would be a very expensive proposal, and I am not sure that the training that would be obtained would be of commensurate value. I am informed that the Gravesend Sea School provides more trained boys at the present time than there are places to fill. The hon. and gallant Member also dealt with foreign seamen. He knows the law in that matter, and the administration. The law is strict and the administration is strict. He admitted that there was a decrease in the number of foreign seamen, but he forgot to tell the House that it is not simply a question of dealing with aliens employed on British ships. The difficulty with which we are confronted is that there are certain "non-British" British subjects with whom we have to deal. He said that aliens are taken on because the shipowners get them for a lower wage. I am sure that that was an unintentional slip on his part, because the Aliens Act says that:No alien shall be employed in any capacity on a British ship registered in the United Kingdom at a rate of pay less than the standard rate of pay for the time being current on British ships for his rating.
§ Mr. HAYES
That is the rate of wage laid down by the Maritime Board, but when the ship goes to the Far East and the Chinese sailors are discharged, they are re-employed at wages that run down from £12 a month to £2 10s. or £3. Therefore, it is cheaper for a shipping company to employ a Chinese sailor in 2377 London on a ship discharging in the Far East, rather than to take on British seamen.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The hon. Member cannot expect me to legislate for the rate of wages paid in China. That is outside my jurisdiction. I cannot say that every ship which sails from a Chinese port is to pay a special rate of wage. I could, I suppose, bring in legislation to say that any ship which is on the British register or is British owned and sailing from an Eastern port to another Eastern port must always pay a certain rate of wages. What would be the result? That legislation would not be applicable to any other ship sailing out of that port, whether it happened to be an American ship, a German ship or a Dutch ship. One of two things would inevitably happen; either the British ship would go out of the trade altogether and we should lose the value of that shipping trade in that port, or the ship would be transferred to another flag.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
On the question of Chinese seamen the right hon. Gentleman is labouring under a misapprehension. Take Chinese seamen engaged at British' ports on British ships which proceed to ports abroad, and after calling at intermediate ports come back to home ports. Surely, they come under the right hon. Gentleman's control in regard to wages.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
As I understand the point raised by the hon. Member for Edgehill (Mr. Hayes)—he raised it at Question Time—it is that a Chinese crew is signed on a British ship and they get British wages in a British port, but that afterwards when that ship goes to a Chinese port and it continues to trade out in the East and does not come to this country, she can take on any crew she likes at any wages she likes. That is so, and every other ship sailing from that foreign port in that way is equally outside my jurisdiction. The only effect of passing legislation in this House to say that if that ship is a British ship the owner must pay the same wages that we compel people to pay in 2378 British ports, such wages as are agreed on by the National Maritime Board for British ships, would be that no foreign ship sailing from that port would be under such a regulation, and we should either lose the whole of that shipping business to the Americans, the Dutch, the Japanese or some other nation, or the British owner would transfer his ship to a foreign flag in order to avoid the restrictions and to keep the business going.
The hon. and gallant Member asks why I do not establish a pensions scheme, and he accuses me of having concealed in some way a large sum of money or, rather, he suggested that I was stupid or negligent rather than ambitious in this matter. He hinted that there was a sum of £1,000,000 somewhere about in my coffers. I can assure him that if that were the case I should not leave £1,000,000 idle. The answer is that that sum does not exist. I am amazed that the hon. and gallant Member's memory goes back as far. I think there was a sum of money in 1898 or 1894, but neither the hon. and gallant Member nor I were in a position to govern its destination at that time. It was not as much as he thinks; it was a small sum, and I think it was applied towards assisting some pension scheme. At any rate, it was exhausted a long time before he or I came into this House. Therefore we have to start afresh, with the cupboard bare. My reply is, that you cannot select one particular industry and start a special pension scheme for it. If you start a pension scheme for the Mercantile Marine, obviously you would have to start a scheme for other industries. Seamen, in common with other citizens, have since we came into office derived the benefit of having the opportunity of getting their pensions earlier, and getting them without disqualification for thrift. Therefore, they are to that extent considerably advantaged under our administration as compared with the administration to which he contrasted ours. In addition to that, they have another fund at their disposal. There is a fund consisting of the contributions which British owners have to pay for Seamen who are domiciled abroad.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Yes, Lascars. In order that there might be no inducement to shipowners to take on Lascars rather than Englishmen they have to pay contributions equal to those paid under the National Health Insurance Fund, and these contributions are carried to a special insurance fund. Therefore, seamen enjoy the advantage of a fund which others do not. The question of hours and watches has been discussed by the Joint Industrial Council, the Maritime Board, an admirable organisation where all questions as to conditions of service are discussed very fully. It is composed of representatives of officers and men and representatives of the shipowners, and, obviously, the last thing this House would desire to do is to interfere in any free settlement of wages and wage conditions, and labour conditions, in a service where you have a Joint Industrial Council working so satisfactorily and so amicably as it does in this case. Before taking international action you must get agreement nationally, and in that respect a great deal has been done. In the matter of watches an agreement has been reached and will come into force in September next. I need not go into details, but it covers long voyages, voyages beyond the limits of Narvik to Corunna, and in ships above a certain tonnage the three-watch system is to be maintained. That is a satisfactory arrangement. It only shows how wise it is to leave this industry to look after its own affairs.
But the Maritime Board, in view of the Conference at Geneva in October, are engaged in getting out a precise statement of the position to-day in the Mercantile Marine, and are discussing whether any changes are desirable. Is not that the proper way to proceed, to get the owners and the seamen to meet together and agree as to what agreement should be made and what attitude should be taken up? What we desire in the matter of conditions, as in other things, is to bring the world into line with our standards; then we may be able to proceed further together. That is the line we have consistently taken, and if the hon. and gallant Member will look at our record in this matter he will find that a series of conventions has been made in which advances have been made which will bring international standards more 2380 into line with the practice which has largely operated in this country, or at least in our better ships. I have dealt already with the question of accommodation, but I should say that the Regulations under which we are now working were made as lately as 1923, and they stood the test of nine months of a Socialist Administration. At the present moment we are collecting full reports as to the conditions on different ships, both at home and abroad, which we propose to submit to an inter-Departmental Committee of the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Health.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
That is the first hopeful sign we have had. May I ask whether the proposed alterations in the Regulations with regard to accommodation will apply to new ships?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I have not said that we proposed to introduce new Regulations. We are getting reports as to the conditions on different ships, and we are proposing to submit these to the Joint Committee. I am not going further than that at present. In the matter of health, the statistics may be misleading. Anybody who dies at sea is returned as a sea casualty, and it will be quite improper to draw deductions from the figures as to the rate of mortality due to the incidence of sea service. In this matter we hope to get more detailed particulars. The hon. and gallant Member also referred to the question of food. I am perfectly certain that if there were any real complaints on the ground of insufficiency or unsatisfactory nature of the food, we should have heard of them. The National Union of Seamen have always been ready to put forward any claim, and particularly any reasonable claim, as to the insufficiency or unsatisfactory character of the food. If there had been any real complaints I am perfectly certain that they would have been brought forward. We have had hardly any complaints at all on that score, and the matter has hardly ever been raised at the Maritime Board meetings, where one hundred and one matters affecting seamen are being constantly considered. If there was any ground of complaint in this matter we should certainly have heard, the shipowners would have heard and the Maritime Board would have heard. And diseases due to under-nutrition 2381 or malnutrition are practically nonexistent in the British Mercantile Marine to-day.
The question of the load line is undoubtedly most important. The difficulty is the enforcement of the law. British ships all over the world must comply with the load line. Foreign ships in this country must also comply with our provisions, but I am not quite certain that we can enforce the provisions with regard to the load line against foreign ships as efficiently as I would desire. I do not think it is easy to get a conviction. I do not want to argue the matter in detail now, because proposals will have to be made in this matter. The right line to take is this: At the present moment a committee is considering the question of the load line, and I want to see their final recommendations. The law requires amendment in this country in order to make it easier to enforce what is the intention of the law to-day as against foreign ships. I do not want to get into a long technical discussion as to what line the amendment should take. I have submitted to the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee a draft regulation providing that where a British ship sails from any port there shall be set out so that it may be easily visible what the load line is, and what the draught of the ship is when she leaves the quay. This, I think, is desirable, and the draft regulation is now in the hands of the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee.
In order to deal with the question of the load line satisfactorily you will have to go a great deal further. You will have to get a recognition of the principle and practice of the load line adopted by all countries. We shall not put this matter right until we get that recognition. In America there is at present no load line regulation at all, and you will never get people to enforce on British ships in ports outside our jurisdiction provisions to which national ships in these ports are not subject at all. I do not think British Consuls can do more than they are doing. They cannot be on the watch all the time, and when a ship is loaded she must often clear at once in order to catch the tide without waiting till a Consul can come down and examine her. I have considered whether any special provisions of this kind are 2382 possible, but I am certain that they would interfere with trade. What I hope is this. The International Conference which is at present considering the question of safety of life at sea cannot deal with this matter as well; but when our inquiry into the load line is concluded I hope it will be possible to go forward with suggestions which will appeal to all the maritime communities of the world as being reasonable, and that then we might get universal agreement on load line provisions.
It is only by international action that we can really get agreement as to what is a fair load line on British ships and foreign ships all over the world. That is really what we are aiming at, and we are taking practical steps to obtain it. All the Regulations which have been made by the Board of Trade for a number of years have been submitted to the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee, which represents all those who are interested in the industry, shipowners, underwriters, shipbuilders, officers, the national seamen's union and wireless operators, and the best guarantee I can give the House that the Regulations which we make are fair and meet the desires of those engaged in the industry is that before they come to this House for confirmation they are considered by a body so representative and so capable as the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee.
§ Sir BURTON CHADWICK
Naturally, I am inclined to sympathise fully with all that has been said in favour of improving the conditions of the men of the British merchant service. I would like at the outset to associate myself with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in his remarks about that great man who died the other day, Mr. Havelock Wilson, who, undoubtedly, performed for the British seaman and the British nation a very great service. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) started well, and I was congratulating myself that, on one occasion at least during our period in this House, he and I would he able to agree. But he was soon drawn away from the region of fact into the region of fable, and I was sorry that he spoiled a very good case, owing possibly to his anxiety in reference to the next few weeks.
§ Sir B. CHADWICK
The hon. and gallant Member opened with a reference to the subject of training, and with what he said I was in entire sympathy. I speak on this subject with a good deal of experience and in such circumstances men are tempted to speak from the experience which they have had, rather than from the conditions of the day in which they are living. If I were to speak only from my experience of the conditions of life, in the Mercantile Marine in those days, and the conditions of life to-day, I would be inclined to say that the British seaman of to-day is in a condition of absolute luxury. But it would not do to argue in that way, and, in the matter of training, I believe it would be a most excellent thing for the British Mercantile Marine if more attention could be paid to the training of lower deck boys. The boy who is going to become an officer has most excellent and, I think, ample training facilities in the establishments which have been mentioned; but with regard to the lower deck boy, there is perhaps not quite sufficient opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the combined effort at Gravesend on the part of the Shipping Federation and the National Union of Seamen in which I think the Board of Trade and the Board of Education have a supervisory interest. That is a most admirable establishment, and its great virtue is that the boys are sent into the service by a selective process.
When I went to sea the Mercantile Marine was regarded as the last hope of a boy. It was assumed that he could do no good or that his parents could do no good with him if he was sent into the Mercantile Marine. [Laughter.] Yes, but there was a motive behind it. It was said, "Send him to sea and make a man of him"—and they sent him to sea and it made a man of him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] But I would like to see the day when no boy could be engaged in a merchant ship unless he passed through some establishment which gave him a preliminary training, which, above all, applied a selective process in getting suitable boys for the service, and which followed up the boy afterwards to see how his career was working out. That is one of the most valuable functions 2384 of this establishment at Gravesend. The training there is intensive and I understand that they turn out a partially trained seaman in a period of something like four months. I do not say that the boy comes out a perfect seaman, but he is prepared for the sea, and that is the great thing about it.
The hon. and gallant Member also spoke about overloading, and suggested that there was a tendency on the part of British shipowners deliberately to overload their ships or, at any rate, that cases of that kind occurred with too great frequency. That suggestion I absolutely deny. British shipowners as a community are in no sense guilty of deliberately overloading ships, or of overloading ships with any frequency. Here and there one may find a case of a ship being overloaded, but the overloading of a ship by an inch or two is a fault easily fallen into, even by the most careful and punctilious of men. I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that to go round a ship in a choppy sea and to try to decide whether it is two inches above or below the mark—which means possibly a margin of 100 tons of cargo—is a matter of the greatest difficulty. But I do not believe there are any cases, or, if any, more than a few very exceptional cases in which a British shipowner would lend himself knowingly to the deliberate overloading of a ship under his management. I should like it to be known that I express my very strong condemnation of any suggestion of the kind.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I meant to make it clear that I was making no general charge, but there are black sheep, and the hon. Gentleman will admit that it is most unfair to the decent shipowners that the regulations should be evaded.
§ Sir B. CHADWICK
There are black sheep in every walk of life. I am able to speak on this matter with an experience which is I think unique inside or outside this House. I do not know of another man who can view this matter from the standpoints of a seaman a shipowner, and an ex-Minister of the Board of Trade. Of course, there are black sheep everywhere and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman knew as much of this matter as I do, he would be aware of cases where, against the interests of the 2385 shipowner, other people have been guilty of overloading ships for what they could make out of it. I know of cases where it was not the shipowner but other people—I will not say who they were—who had an interest in the business of running, loading and discharging the ship. I entirely agree with him in saying, "Enforce the overloading conditions punctiliously," but I am against him in saddling any particular branch of the shipping industry with the guilt—and it is a terrible guilt—of deliberately making ships un-seaworthy, because that is what it means. I resist that suggestion most strongly.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman also spoke of wages, but as my right hon. Friend has pointed out the Board of Trade have nothing to do with wages. This is a great commercial service, and I, myself, am anxious to see the men living under the best conditions and in the best way. The hon. and gallant Member spoke of accommodation and food. A lot of grandmotherly nonsense is talked about all these things. Of course, I must not draw too much on my own experience in considering this matter, but I remember when, during our voyages, we were housed and fed like Esquimaux, and paid a wage at which a corner loafer of to-day would jeer. The men to-day are not so badly paid, and I think that the shipowner of to-day pays the greatest care to the food which the men have and the variety in which they get it. As to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member about the Merchant Shipping Act and the regulations which govern the number of executive certificated officers on a vessel, I may mention that I sailed recently from New York in the "Mauretania" and found that, although she is 22 years old, she still does 26½ knots and still holds the blue riband of the Atlantic. I do not think the hon. and gallant Member need worry about the manning or management of ships like that, nor need he ask my right hon. Friend to alter the Merchant Shipping Act, because no Merchant Shipping Act could do what the Cunard Company or any of our great companies do in the running of these ships.
British ships. British shipowners and British seamen still hold their own in the world, and I am inclined to say, "Not too much legislation." Let the Service look after itself as it is doing. 2386 The British Mercantile Marine has taken a different place in the nation to-day, because, fortunately, the scales have fallen from the eyes of the British people since the War, and I think it is all to the good. The British merchant service officer has a different place in the life of the nation to-day. That is what will bring about recovery. It cannot be achieved by amending the Merchant Shipping Act and making regulations to meet conditions which may never arise. I support what the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull said in regard to training. I hope training facilities will be extended, but, as to his other remarks, I think he has exaggerated, and has thereby rather spoiled what promised to be a very good case.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
There will be general agreement that the contributions of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Sir B. Chadwick) are so breezy, and reminiscent of the sea that we would welcome them more frequently, but I am bound to confess that I cannot accept all his observations regarding conditions in the Mercantile Marine. It is not inappropriate that we should be considering these matters on almost the last day of this Parliament, because the Mercantile Marine is the Cinderella of our Services, and receives little consideration at the hands of the Legislature. I recall but few occasions on which matters affecting the Mercantile Marine have come within the purview of our deliberations, and I think it a great pity, because the Service is of such great importance in our national and economic life, and employs so many people that it deserves more consideration.
I shall not be controversial in what I have to say. It appears to me that little can be done by this Government, and one can only indicate what might be accomplished at a later stage. Before embarking on that voyage, may I say something apropos of the right hon. Gentleman's observations on the general position of the Mercantile Marine. One might be disposed to agree that it is unwise to have constant legislative interference with legislation in industrial services. But it must be remembered that the Mercantile Marine is governed by regulation from stem to stern—if I may put it in that way. Those Regulations 2387 come within the powers of the Board of Trade and relate to displacement, tonnage, carrying capacity, the number of men, accommodation, food, and, indeed, all matters affecting the navigation and conduct of a vessel. That being so, it is difficult to draw the line at which legislation and regulation should stop, and that situation must present a dilemma to the right hon. Gentleman and his Department many a time. There is the necessity for interference, and yet the desire not to interfere too frequently. We can appreciate that difficulty, but when it comes to a question which affects the safety of life at sea, then clearly there is a national obligation which cannot be set aside.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I said so. I said that where it was a question of safety, as against what I might call a question of convenience, we must act.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I expected that the right hon. Gentleman would appreciate that point, and I think there is general agreement upon it. But I want to go a step further. Just as there ought to be agreement on the need for regulations, in matters affecting the safety of life at sea, so there ought to be agreement on the need for regulations concerning the safety of merchandise. The hon. Member for Wallasey, who is a shipowner with wide commercial experience, would, I am sure, accept that view. It is important that we should not have to jettison cargo, and that the load of the ship should not have to be lightened in weather such as is sometimes experienced at sea. Therefore my submission is that, whether it is in respect of personnel, or of cargo, we ought to have the requisite regulations efficiently applied, so as to protect both men and merchandise.
The question arises of what ought to be done. I speak not as a seaman, but as one who for 16 years came into close contact with the shipping service and particularly with the seamen. I no longer have any connection with that service, but my experience has led me to certain conclusions. I entirely accept the view that it is impossible to impute blame to the shipowners in respect of overloading. There may be cases in which a shipowner has allowed a ship to be some-what 2388 overloaded, and I am reminded that there was a case in which a shipowner was sent to prison. But if one shipowner out of many hundreds is sent to prison for such an offence, it does not appear to be any more grave than the fact that one director of a public company has been sent to prison for falsification of accounts, and it is not sufficient to justify one in condemning the whole system. That is not our case. Our case is that you cannot impute blame to the shipowners generally, nor to the stevedores and others responsible for the loading of the vessels. What must be done is to enforce the regulations by a rigid method of inspection.
Let us say that cases of overloading occur, inadvertently, and I think that is putting it very fairly. What is to be done? It endangers the life of the crew, it endangers the cargo, it endangers commercial interests. Surely, in those circumstances, we ought not to boggle at any price we may be called upon to pay for the purpose of ensuring the efficient inspection of ships before they leave port. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we cannot expect Consuls in foreign ports to deal with these matters because they are overburdened as it is, but it might be possible to have some method of inspection—I am not prepared to go into the details of the arrangements—whereby there could be a close scrutiny of ships proceeding from foreign ports. I think there would be no difficulty in applying such a scheme to this country. To begin with there are too few inspectors. I understand that shipowners do not desire any more inspections than they deem necessary, but inspection is now general in industry, and we ought not to refuse to apply to shipping, what we apply to railways, and many other national services.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
Do I understand that the hon. Member wants British inspectors appointed to inspect foreign ships in foreign ports?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
It is a great pity that the hon. Gentleman was not present when his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade spoke.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Possibly the hon. Member may have missed this point. The point is very simple. It is first, in relation to ships leaving home ports, whether there is any means of avoiding the overloading, and that requires sufficient inspection.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I do not mean that the present inspectors do not do their duty. I suggest that the fact that you have not got sufficient inspectors means that ships may go out occasionally overloaded.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
As regards foreign ships, I think that cannot be dealt with unless you have some kind of international arrangement, but, as regards British ships leaving foreign ports, since they come under British regulations we can adopt a method of inspection which would ensure that these ships should not leave foreign ports without observing the regulations. As to the question of whether or not ships are overloaded, the hon. Gentleman speaks with great experience, but it is possible that his experience in this connection is limited and that he has not got the experience of going down to the docks daily and of knowing what is going on. I suppose he has the experience of the average shipowner, who receives his reports and occasionally goes down to the dock, perhaps once a month or once a week, and is there ushered on board a vessel which has everything prepared for him. He has his lunch, is introduced to the various officers on board, and then departs, or, in the case of a tramp owner, he walks down to the boat, has a word with the captain, finds all is going well, and disappears. That is not sufficient, and I suppose that that is the hon. Gentleman's experience, except when he is going to sea.
§ Sir B. CHADWICK
I have also had experience of the man who is loading the ship, and of moving about for years among the very men who have the practical supervision of the loading of the ships.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I accept the hon. Gentleman's word at once, that he has done that work and that his experience is 2390 wider than I thought, but I submit that there must have been cases that have come within his experience where overloading has occurred. I am certain that that has happened, and I say that now we hear from seamen, or I used to hear, constantly of cases of overloading. Now let us take the case of the officers. They are in a very unfortunate position. An officer has to keep his position on board a vessel. He knows there are many unemployed officers in the country, and that if he loses one job, he cannot get another very rapidly. The Imperial Merchant Service Guild is doing all it can to find vacancies for its unemployed officers. Supposing an officer knows that there is some overloading taking place, and he reports it, what happens? He is not certain what his position is likely to be.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
We need not have any difficulty about this matter. I am stating what is my own experience, but take the case of the "Vestris" inquiry.
§ Sir B. CHADWICK
On a point of Order. Is not the "Vestris" inquiry a matter that is sub judice at the moment, and is it not, therefore, out of order?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I am not certain whether the President of the Board of Trade could give the House information on that point, as to whether the inquiry is technically a judicial inquiry, but even if it is not, it would be entirely against the spirit of this House to discuss matters which are being inquired into while the inquiry is still on.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I should say that it certainly fell within the scope of a judicial inquiry under the rules of Order. It is an inquiry set up by the Board of Trade as a judicial inquiry under the Merchant Shipping Act, with a King's counsel presiding, and with statutory assessors appointed to sit with him, and with Law Officers appearing.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
If the hon. Gentleman opposite had waited, I would myself have indicated that I must avoid such controversial matters. My only point was this, that it appears that, according to the evidence, some of the officers were 2391 reluctant to make reports in respect of overloading before the ship left.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
In any event, I think there will be general agreement that no harm could result in respect to the overloading of the vessels concerned if there existed a more rigid and more efficient method of inspection; and that method of inspection can only come about as a result of the appointment of more inspectors. There are one or two other matters with which I want to deal. I say quite frankly that the point which concerns me most, as I believe it concerns seamen most, is that of the constant encroachment of Indian seamen on our vessels. Some 52,000 Lascars are now employed in British ships, and that is more than a third of the total complement of the British Mercantile Marine. It is a very serious state of affairs. I shall be told that these Lascars are employed under the control of the Indian Government and that they are employed because they are most suitable for the trade for which these vessels are utilised, but my contention is that British seamen have in the past been employed on the Clan Line, on the City Line, and on the various other lines now trading between this country and India, and have been found quite suitable. There can be no doubt about that. It has never been disputed.
No British officer, in my experience, sailing on any of the vessels from this country to India and back again has ever stated that British sailors and British firemen were not suitable to proceed on those voyages. There has been controversy as to how British seamen conducted themselves in the Red Sea because of the extreme heat. We have had that controversy in mercantile marine circles for years and years, and it has never been settled. They still discuss it in the forecastle, and in the "glory hole," and in the saloon bars of the ports of the United Kingdom, but it has never been settled, and British seamen are just as competent and efficient for the purpose of these voyages as the Lascars are.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
Is there any reason why Lascars, who are British subjects, should not have employment?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
There was a time when a few Lascars were employed, but now there are 52,000 of them employed, to the exclusion of many British seamen, as a result of which many of those British seamen are now unemployed. I do not object, and we on these benches offer no objection at all, to the employment of Indian seamen, and I go further. I offer no objection to the employment of Chinese seamen or other foreign seamen, but I say that, if you are going to employ seamen who are not British, in the sense that they do not belong to this country, you ought to pay these men from abroad the same wages as the British National Maritime Board lays down for the payment of British seamen. At present you give 30s. a month in the case of Lascar seamen and £9 or £9 10s. for British seamen. Is not that a temptation? I confess that if I were a shipowner, I should be tempted myself—it is not unnatural—and the very fact that this remarkable increase has taken place proves to me that British shipowners are availing themselves of the opportunity thus afforded.
I should like to see something done, not to exclude Lascars altogether, but to bring the pay of Lascar seamen up to the level of that of British seamen, to equalise the conditions, so far as is practicable. I admit that there is some difficulty. I am not so foolish as to pretend that you can put Lascar seamen in the same position as British seamen, but, so far as it is practicable, something should be done to equalise the conditions. There was one point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech that I could not understand. He said that he had no control over Lascar seamen in this country, but I do not think he could have meant that. Lascar seamen, when they contract for a voyage in India, come under the control of the Indian Government, it is true, but on this side, when they renew engagements, and during the time they are in this country, not on board but ashore, they come under the control of the right hon. Gentleman's Department in respect of their conditions in the sailors' homes and all that sort of thing; and I think he might exercise a larger measure of supervision in respect of their employment, and thus help British seamen, who badly need help.
Just a word about the officers. I have great sympathy for the officers in the 2393 mercantile marine. They have to undergo very expensive and very long examinations, after which they are lucky if they get employment at £10, £12, or £20 a month. How few of them ever rise to the position of commander of a vessel, and even when they do the pay is not so lucrative as one would suppose. I have met British engineers, second, third, and chief engineers, and the mates of vessels who, even when in employment, were having a hard struggle to make both ends meet, but when unemployed the position is a thousand times worse. You have on the streets to-day a large army of British mercantile marine officers who are unemployed, for whom the employers are offering no vacancies at all, and something has to be done for these men. If they are going to be placed in the position of having to undergo these costly and long examinations, they ought to be protected, and I venture to say to the hon. Gentleman opposite that, unless we are very careful, we shall find in the course of time a very great shortage of mercantile marine officers, because men are not going to undergo these examinations unless they are assured of some regular employment afterwards.
I entirely agree that there has been a great advance in respect of both food and accommodation in British ships, but the advance has been a slow one. I recall that during the War we were requested by the Government of the day to inspect the accommodation on the standard ships then being built. We made suggestions at the time, which were adopted, and the accommodation of those standard ships was, in my judgment, very good. But many of the shipowners have departed from the standard which was set during the War, and there are any number of vessels sailing from this country on which the accommodation—I say it without qualification—is scandalous. The right hon. Gentleman himself, I think, admitted that he saw some vessels in Liverpool that were very bad. It may be that if you say to the shipowners concerned, "You have got to change your accommodation and to reconstruct it," it might mean laying up the ships for a while, but you can escape from that difficulty quite easily. While the annual survey is proceeding, the accommodation for the crew could be reconstructed without any difficulty, and I hope something will be done in that 2394 connection. As regards food, I would like to say to the hon. Gentleman opposite that, while it is true that there has been a great change, he ought to hear what seamen have to say about the food on certain of the tramp vessels.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
No, British seamen, and "shellbacks" too. I know they are always grousing, but there is substance in their grousing when it comes to the food on some tramp vessels, though not on all. As regards liner vessels, in the main the food is excellent, although there have been occasions when it has not been altogether satisfactory even there, and I think there should be some change in that regard. My last observation is this: The right hon. Gentleman said the Government have been responsible for a steady advance since the days of the last Administration. I would like to say to him, however, that the last Administration explored this matter very closely and consulted with the Shipping Federation, the ship-owning interests, and the seamen, in respect of all the matters raised to-day, and then it went out. The right hon. Gentleman appeared, and for four and a-half years he has been exploring the matter. What has happened? Very little advance has been made in that time in respect of the load-line regulations, of crews' quarters, of food, of the manning of vessels, and, in particular, of the exclusion of foreign seamen, who are jeopardising the position of British seamen in this country. Much more might have been done, and all that we can hope is that in due course, whatever Government may come in—I am raising no electioneering issue—it will have at least the wisdom, while embarking on great national adventures in respect of the coal industry, the cotton industry, and other industries, to give some little time to the consideration of issues that affect the men in the mercantile marine.
§ Sir MARTIN CONWAY
I desire to use this last opportunity which is afforded in the present Parliament to call attention to a matter in which I am sure I shall have the sympathy of every Member of every party in this House. There appeared in the Press a few days ago a letter signed by the Prime Minister and by the two ex-Prime Ministers the 2395 Leaders of the two Oppositions, who united to call the attention of the public to a great danger which overhangs this country, and that is the destruction of the beauties of rural England. I am old enough to remember the time when the bicycle was introduced. I was one of the first bicyclists, I think, who ventured forth upon the roads of this country to make some sort of exploration of its natural beauties, and I well remember the rural England of 40 or 50 years ago. I have seen the change which has come over it since the arrival of the motor car, a change which was at first gradual, but which has been going ahead from year to year with ever greater velocity.
At first, the stream of cars, somewhat exiguous in quantity, penetrated the old villages and began to affect them injuriously, but the introduction of great arterial roads has, as a matter of fact, saved from destruction quite a number of villages and small towns, which are now by-passed and, therefore, no longer endangered by a stream of traffic passing through them. But the great new arterial roads which are penetrating the country in all directions, which, we are told, are to be enormously increased in numbers, are having a contrary effect. They plunge in many cases through virgin, or at all events previously unspoiled, districts, they cut down a great number of trees—a great many more than are necessary, I think—they open up fields and woods and lands which have previously been isolated, and they lead not merely to the passage through what was previously simple and suitable country of great streams of cars, but they lead, and naturally lead, to the introduction of a number of buildings, shacks and other erections, intended to serve the stream of cars which comes along.
We are saluted now at every point by groups of petrol pumps, by tea houses, Borne of them pretty, most of them hideous, by garages and by all kinds of erections which are scattered all over the country in the neighbourhood of the roads; and, further, by an enormous increase in the number of cottages, bungalows and houses which are, unfortunately, very often strewn in a long series alongside the new roads. The development of houses along the sides of arterial 2396 roads is one of the most obnoxious signs of the present times, for these long rows of houses flanking the roads shut out the country on both sides, and prolong for a good distance the feeling and spirit of the towns. This damage which is being done to our countryside is no mere matter of sentiment. It is a regret to us not merely on the ground of sentiment, but for a purely practical and even commercial reason. England is a country, which, by the nature of its history and geographical position, is a centre of pilgrimage, and will more and more as the centuries go by become a centre of pilgrimage by visitors from all parts of the world. The motherland of the English-speaking peoples, it is the home of great art and wonderful buildings of which the historical interest is immeasurable. Visitors come, and we desire to see them come in ever greater number from all parts of the world, to enjoy the beauties and the interest of the country.
The beauty of England is one of its great assets. It is a great commercial asset, though I regret to put on so low a ground an argument in favour of its maintenance. The beauty of England is a thing well worth saving from the point of view of mere practical interest, and it is a quality of this country which is rapidly being diminished. There is no necessity to diminish the beauty of a country because of the development of industry. Stockholm is a beautiful town on the margin of many channels of the sea and rises out of the midst of woods. It has manufactures and industries of all kinds, and it is a prosperous city; but there is not a single disfiguring feature, as far as I know, in the surroundings of Stockholm as the result of modern developments. You see, planted by the side of the channels of the sea, factories which are like roads penetrating the country, but you never anywhere see such a thing as a displayed name advertising the factory. There may be a small name printed in letters an inch high on a door, but in looking from a distance at any of these places, you see no advertising signs, nothing disfiguring on the buildings and no advertising surrounding them. Nor is there a single displayed advertisement, as far as I know, all over the country.
2397 When Sir Herbert Samuel was appointed High Commissioner in Palestine, the first regulation that he made was that there was to be no displayed advertisements at all in Palestine; no posters were allowed anywhere except on certain regulated spots. That regulation was no nuisance to anybody, because it was the same for all. If we were to have in England any such regulation, what an improvement it would mean in the aspect of our country! The tyranny of the advertiser is upon us all. I do not know why it should be so, why we should be willing to submit to the tyranny of advertisements, which are one of the great disfiguring features of our land. Why should we, passing along a road, be obliged to suffer the indignity of having forced upon us the sight of hideous hoardings put up in the interests of some manufacture?
§ Sir M. CONWAY
Any kind of hoarding is equally objectionable, and any regulation must be the same for all. The road which I most frequently follow is the one that leads from London to the centre of Kent. That used to be a perfectly beautiful road all the way along, commanding beautiful views; it went through pretty villages, went over hills and down valleys, and was charming. Now, from the time that I leave London to the time that I reach Maidstone, I pass one hideous thing alter another. There is a hoarding here and a hoarding there; every tea-house has a hoarding half-a-mile away telling you that it is coming; every petrol pump claims you not only by its own presence, but half-a-mile away it tells you where it is going to be. Hoardings recommend you to winter here and to summer somewhere else, and there are advertisements for every kind of foreign resort. There are garages and sheds of every sort and kind of hideosity, and on every building there is some vast placard summoning the passer-by to spend money on something. When you reach Maidstone, there finally culminates the ugliest advertisement in England, a hideous thing, 30 feet high, illuminated with electric light at night, and covered with placards and posters of an appalling vividness and so ugly that I am glad to say the first 2398 gale that came blew it down. The owner has put it up again with a steel framework, so that I am afraid it will stay there.
These are the things that make life hideous along the roads of this country, and if all that has happened has occurred in the last few years, what will happen 50 or 100 years hence unless some interference takes place on behalf of those friends of peace and beauty, which we all profess to be? I trust that something may be done. I cannot say whether the powers which the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Transport already possess are sufficient to remove or minimise the danger to which the country is subject. I trust that these Ministries will—perhaps they do—exercise all the powers that they possess, and perhaps in the Parliament that is to follow, further powers will be given. We cannot now discuss legislation that might be introduced to control this evil, but whatever may come in future, the great thing we need to do is to arouse public opinion to a wholesome restraint in this matter. I never buy a thing which I see advertised. If I see a thing advertised, it is quite enough for me to refuse to buy it. Unfortunately, this is not a subject which is taught in the elementary schools as it should be; it would be a healthy thing to introduce. Public opinion must be roused and stimulated in this matter, for when the public understand the mischief that is being wrought to its sensibilities and commercial interests by the degradation of our countryside, the evil, perhaps, will be diminished and ultimately abolished.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I do not propose to weary the House with any details of the beauties of the land or the dangers of the sea. I note that the House appears to be determined to let this opportunity pass in dulness and in apathy rather than to make correct use of it. I wish to point out that the monetary contributions which have been made now and during the last four years are not only responsible for the unsatisfactory condition of the country, but are even calculated to perpetuate that condition. We have made provision for unemployment benefit and for various other purposes, which are all tending, not towards relieving unemployment, but towards making it the permanent feature of the 2399 policy of this country. We have seen that the chance that used once to come in the conflict of parties is also gradually disappearing. I come from North Batter-sea, and I read the other day the speech of my colleague the victor of South Battersea, wherein he publicly declared that the Prime Minister's scheme for reorganisation had the full approval of the Labour party, but that it was stolen by the Prime Minister from the Socialist programme. I leave it to the Home Secretary to say whether it was stolen or not; I am only satisfied that the schemes are identical. Further, my colleague openly suggested, and I think he was fair in suggesting, that it is a pity that the three older parties should continue to disagree instead of uniting and co-operating for the benefit of the nation.
Judging from the monetary provisions, and from the criticisms and counter-suggestions that are emanating from the three older parties, it seems to me that we are approaching something like the situation before the War which produced the War Coalition; and that unemployment will be accepted as a national calamity, instead of the result of the selfishness of one class against another class, and that we were approaching the time when we might have a sort of coalition between the older parties in order to put our house in order. All the parties seem to be agreed that the ownership of land and of industry will remain in private hands, and with that ownership goes the rights of the owners to shut up valuable and useful industrial plant whenever they wish to do so.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It would require legislation to prevent them from doing so and to force them to keep works open. This is an occasion when anything can be discussed which could have been discussed on the Estimates, and the hon. Member can refer to anything that he regards as waste in the course of administration, but he cannot discuss questions of future policy which would require legislation.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I am not proposing that legislation should be passed. I am only saying that all the three older parties are agreed that no such legislation shall be passed.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
Then we have the various relief schemes put forward in this Budgetary scheme, or put forward as counter-schemes. As I tried to get out at Question Time to-day, even under these relief schemes, when worked under the system of private ownership of land and property, the money goes primarily towards the purchase of land and materials, and the purchase of rotten houses which need to be demolished and are not required, and the working class get very little out of it. There is the case of the coal industry. The Government try to bolster up that one industry—not all industries, but one industry—by a subsidy of £25,000,000, and they failed miserably. That industry has gone from bad to worse, and the unemployment in it has increased enormously. The same Government now wish to throw dust in the eyes of the public by their de-rating scheme.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member that that was a matter of legislation, and that he cannot now discuss legislation.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I am not discussing the de-rating legislation. I am pointing out that the Government have now made provision of £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 subsidy not for one industry only but for all industries.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That has been done by legislation and it cannot be discussed now. The time for discussing that was on the Third Reading of the Local Government Bill.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
May I not refer to the monetary provision made in order to meet the expenses of the de-rating scheme?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member can raise any point he has in connection with the steps taken to carry out that scheme, any point about the duties of the Minister of Health in regard to it and how far he has discharged them, and that would be in order; but to discuss the policy or the provisions of the Act, which the House has passed, would not be in order.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I submit to your ruling on that point, but I again say that we are making a monetary provision which maintains all the old evils of the 2401 old world and even makes the conditions worse, and this House ought to vote national money for the benefit and the happiness of the nation and not for destruction. The bulk of the money we have voted in this House is for the destruction of the happiness of the people of the working class. Not one pound spent under unemployment schemes and benefit schemes goes to lessen unemployment. Not only that, but the House has made monetary provision to maintain the Empire possessions of this country. The maintenance of the possessions of the Empire in India, China and Africa is the undoing of the standard of labour not only for the British people but for European and Western peoples also. The question of the employment of Lascars as sailors, which was raised this afternoon by one of my hon. Friends, is not a question of employing a particular species of human beings but a question of employing one set of human beings against another set of human beings at a disgracefully low standard of wages. Every farthing voted to maintain the Empire is voted for the positive destruction of the standard of wages and living of the working class of the Imperial country. The Labour party policy in this respect is on all fours and perfectly identical with that of the present Conservative Government. We say that all the money collected from the taxpayers and spent in maintaining the Empire is provision made for undermining the standard of life and of employment of the workers in this country, and unless all these provisions are cancelled and withdrawn, unless the maintenance of the Empire is given up, there is absolutely not the slightest hope or chance of improving the condition of unemployment, nor is there any such hope under the right of private ownership of industries and of land.
We have made one provision of £350,000,000 which ought never to have been made. It is the wrong use of money, it is a bad use of good money, it is a false use of good money, it; is money given as a premium upon blood profits and for carrying on and encouraging future wars. There is also not the slightest doubt that the entire provision made for the Army, Navy and the Air 2402 Force in the present Budget is not made merely as an idle pastime or an idle sport, but that this country is definitely arranging and planning a war; we are carrying on the necessary preparations of war. It that were not so it would be impossible that this country, when times are so bad and when the people themselves require so many of the necessities of life, should waste £100,000,000 in planning murder of the Indians and the Afghans and the Russians and the Chinese. That is the deliberate purpose with which these preparations are kept up.
Several times we have been told that those who think with me would put the finances of this country on the same basis as those of the Soviet Government in Russia, but I would point out that while we here, with our national finances on their present crazy basis, are talking about raising loans and pottering about with relief schemes of road making, fisheries and afforestation, the Soviet Government, who have put their finances on a sound basis, making the people's own earnings the property of the people, have succeeded in spending during the last five years £2,500,000,000 on developing legitimate industries in which skilled workers find a legitimate and honourable living, and the schemes over the next five years provide for an expenditure of another £6,000,000,000. That has not been achieved by hunting about for tea taxes and petrol faxes, but has been accomplished out of the legitimate earnings of the nation. As the wealth is being produced it is being reinvested. At the same time, a great effort is being made to renounce the Imperialism of the old type of Russians, and as a result we see that Russia is the only country which is prepared to abolish armaments altogether. If their suggestion were followed here it would save this country at least £100,000,000 a year, which could be well spent in building up the bodies of the children of the country instead of on preparations for destroying the lives and the limbs and the rights of the peoples of other countries.
The sole reason for the whole expenditure on armaments is to be found in the preparations made for holding our Empire in other people's countries. That policy is opposed to every moral 2403 principle; it is abominable and disgusting, according to any genuine Socialist principles, that one nation should claim to control the lives and liberties of other people. There is no more abominable policy of confiscation, wholesale murder and wholesale robbery, than that of an Imperialism under which one nation confiscates the land, the lives and the liberty of the people of other nations. We are engaging in it and pledging ourselves about it. With the approach of the General Election we find all the three parties standing shoulder to shoulder and saying they are going to keep up Imperialism. [Laughter.] The Labour party laugh. They are afraid to confiscate the property of the rich people of this country for the benefit of the working class, but—
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
Perhaps so, in the present atmosphere, and I think that even when I come back with my reinforcements it will not be very proper then. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] Thirty. If that is condemned as confiscation, I suggest that every farthing voted for maintaining the confiscation of the lives, property and land of people in other countries outside Britain is really a far worse type of confiscation. People who have real qualms of conscience about confiscation should not confiscate wholesale the countries of other people.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
All the provision we have made, £350,000,000 for the so-called War Debt, £100,000,000 for armaments, and all the money we have voted in the past, ought never to have been so voted. The voting of this money was necessary because of the vice which is in the backbone of this nation of going and 2404 murdering other nations and acquiring empire in other people's countries. Now it is coming home to the people of this country that this £450,000,000, which would have done enormous good for the aged and the young children, is being drawn from that useful work and is being used for the murderous work of robbing and pillaging the people of other lands. That sort of provision by the Government makes it necessary for neighbouring nations to make similar wasteful provision in regard to armaments, not for protecting human life, but in order to destroy it. While I am willing to obey your ruling now, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the time will come when the workers will refuse to believe all these hypnotising political speches, and they will realise that Toryism is Toryism, whether it is quoted from the Bible or from the Socialists' pamphlets. I firmly believe that during my lifetime the workers of this country will make up their minds that what is required now is not a Budget like the one we have been considering, or a Government like the present Government, but a revolutionary workers' Government which will not tolerate the kind of murderous expenditure aimed at wasting human life instead of building it up.
§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Colonel Ashley)
I should like to say a few words in reply to the excellent speech of the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir M. Conway). The hon. Member raised the important question whether anything has been done to preserve the amenities of the countryside. I think his speech was unduly pessimistic. He said nothing about the considerable amount of useful work, in this direction, which has been done by legislation and precept to improve the condition of the countryside. We have many institutions, such as the Society for the Preservation of Rural England, which are educating the public in these matters. This House has not been unmindful of the importance of this question. We have passed two Advertisement Regulation Acts, which have given widespread powers to county councils and local authorities for the regulation of this question. The hon. Member for the English Universities said that advertisements were not being regulated or removed, and that the blot on the countryside 2405 was as bad now as three or four years ago. I entirely dissent from that view. I go about the country a great deal, and I have observed a great diminution in the advertisements on our roads and railways; and when the five years time limit, which is allowed under the Acts I have referred to, expires, I am sure there will be a much greater diminution in that undesirable class of advertisements.
As regards hideous bungalows, no doubt some of them are hideous, but it would be a drastic step in these days, to add any considerable cost to the housing of the people, and legislation in that direction would, I am sure, have to be very carefully considered if its effect would be to impose any serious extra charge upon the buildings. I would remind the hon. Member for the English Universities that under the Town Planning Act there are model Clauses which can be adapted with the consent of the Minister of Health, giving the local authorities very considerable power of regulation as to the form of the houses and their general appearance. If those powers are applied for by the local authorities, and if the authorities are stimulated in the right direction by the societies which take such an interest in these questions, I am sure that bungalows will be less hideous in the future than some of those existing at the present time.
The hon. Member for the English Universities said very unkind things about the new arterial roads. I admit that the new arterial road is not "a thing of beauty," although it may be "a joy for ever" to the motorists. We are doing all we can by planting trees along these roads. I am the President of the Roads Beautifying Association, and that Association has been the means of planting arterial roads with trees and shrubs. This work will tend to lessen their ugliness. In my own County of Hampshire, the county council have taken the greatest care in their road reconstruction to leave the old trees on the roadside where it has been at all possible, and very often a path on the far side of the trees has been made, so that people can get away from the danger of the traffic and the ugliness of the road. When you go down the road from Camberley to Winchester, you will see a lot of fine trees 2406 which have you left in order to beautify the road.
There is one matter to which I claim that the Government have given very considerable attention, and that is the preservation of old bridges. I think the old bridges form one of the finest ornaments of the countryside. In the past it used to be the policy of the local authorities to scrap those bridges and replace them by hideous structures. Some time ago I issued a Circular to all local authorities inviting them to reconstruct their old bridges instead of pulling them down. It has been found cheaper in most cases to reconstruct the old bridges and to use the old stones on the outside than to have new structures altogether. I hope my hon. Friends will realise that the Ministry of Transport has not been unmindful of the duties placed upon it, and I am very pleased that this important subject has been raised this afternoon.
§ Sir ALFRED HOPKINSON
The present is a very opportune time for calling attention to what is, perhaps, the most important question which can arise within the next year or two, a question which is usually considered a very dull subject, namely, education. Only yesterday we had a very important announcement, in the shape of a document issued by the Board of Education, which covers a very wide field indeed. I am very glad that that document has been published, not so much because it will have any effect upon party questions, but because it will give us the opportunity of considering, in regard to education, what is best for the welfare of the nation. To attempt to go through that document clause by clause would take too long, but I think that before criticising it, hon. Members should take the opportunity of studying it very carefully. For these reasons I do not propose to say anything about the various clauses of that document. Whatever may have been the case in the past, education is not now considered a mere side issue, but the Education Department is now a Department to which two Ministers devote their time and attention and earnest thought. I hope that that state of things will continue in the new Parliament. It is due to the Ministers to say that the record of achievement set forth in the document referred to shows that it is one 2407 that requires our most earnest and serious consideration.
The reason why I am saying a few words on this occasion—and they will be the last words I shall speak here—is that I feel so intensely in earnest upon a subject to which I have devoted a considerable portion of my life, and which I care more about than any other subject, and that is the welfare of the children. I am going to raise three or four points on which I think we ought to go directly counter to the usual educational opinion. I shall suggest two or three things which I think ought to be avoided. They are what I call educational heresies, and I ask those who will have to deal with these questions in the future to avoid these heresies so far as they can. The first of these educational heresies is one which we hear repeated again and again. It is that the more we spend on education, the better. I am not quite sure that the converse is not nearer the truth, and that the efficiency of education depends inversely on the amount you spend upon it.
Let us look at the actual facts. The first thing we have to do in educational history is to look round and see where in the whole history of the world you find the best educated people that have ever lived. This could be said of the Scottish people many years ago, because in Scotland the young men made many sacrifices in order to obtain a university education. At one time Scottish people were the best educated in the world. The Scottish people went all over the world and demonstrated their success in every walk of life. What is more important, the Scottish people could understand good literature, to whatever class they belonged. You may go into the poorest homes in Scotland and you will find the best literature, and if you converse with the Scotsmen on the border you will find that they know all about the history of their country. That is the kind of thing that makes the educated man, and the Scotsman was usually a highly educated man. Let it be remembered, therefore, that it is quite possible to have highly educated men at practically no cost to the State.
If I were asked what is the very best educational movement that we know of within recent memory, I should say with-out 2408 hesitation that it is the Boy Scout Movement. That gives the finest education that you can have, it extends all over the world, and it costs the State practically nothing. The first thing that a Boy Scout learns is service. The second is observation, and he also learns the love of his own country. These boys, when they go out into the country—which I hope we shall preserve against all the horrible things that are overcrowding it at present—take care that they do not destroy bird life or flower life, while, if they camp anywhere, they do so in a manner which makes the landowner where they camp recognise that these boys care about the beauties of the countryside. One of the pleasantest days that I can look back upon as teaching more than the lectures that I have given—and I have given an unconscionable number in my time—was a day spent with Boy Scouts on Welsh hills, where they and I learnt as much as we possibly could, and it did not cost anyone a penny piece except to kind friends who helped the Boy Scouts, and, indeed, I am not sure that they did not pay out of their own pockets for what they required.
The next subject to which I should like to refer is one in which, perhaps, hon. Members on the other side may be surprised to find interest taken by one of those people who are supposed to live in out-of-the-way academic groves, or whatever they may be called. The Workers' Educational Association was started largely, if not entirely, by private effort, and at no cost to the State, though I know that certain subsidies are given to it now. Indeed, when you really want money to be properly applied to educational purposes, the best way is to get voluntary effort first and then help it when you find that help is really necessary and that the money can be properly applied. The Workers' Educational Association, due largely to the efforts of Dr. Mansbridge and his friends, is one of the things that we who care about education value most of all. Our idea in supporting the Workers' Educational Association is that men who by economic necessity have to devote their time and thought to earning their daily bread, it may be by mechanical and dull work from 2409 day to day, should share the inheritance of an intellectual life, whether it be literary or scientific; and experience shows how well they do. I have learned much about bird life in the country from a working barber, and, although I thought I knew the Yorkshire dales well, I found that a chimney sweep who did me the honour to accompany me on an excursion knew more about them than I did. It is that inheritance that I want to see shared to the fullest extent, and it costs the nation practically nothing.
I would like to protest as strongly as I can, in regard to education and in all walks of life, against the detestable doctrine that, if you offer more money, you can get a better teacher. You do not. One sees it stated in the Press daily, and in the speeches of distinguished people, that, if you pay more, you will get better teachers. Heavens, what nonsense it is! Just fancy offering a prize of, say, £100,000 for the best new poem in the style of the 23rd Psalm. All the waste paper baskets and all the rubbish that you see after a Bank Holiday on Beachy Head would not be in it compared with the tons of rubbish that would be forthcoming on such an offer. One of the things that we all care for and regard as the summit of beauty in literature, something which will exist for all time, was composed without a penny of cost to anyone by a shepherd boy on the hillside. Let us get rid, root and branch, of the idea that you can get a better article by paying for it. Milton got £5 for "Paradise Lost." Some of those people who try to measure the benefit of educational work and the position of the teacher in terms of money, if they had wanted to get a man, to be a good Evangelist, would have gone to the man at the receipt of custom and called, "Come, and I will offer you a higher commission." Really, there is hardly any need to labour the matter, but I could give example after example to show that the mere expenditure of money is the worst criterion of efficiency in education.
On the other hand, I do not say that you should starve education. While the first principle should be not to make a criterion of money, whether it be dispensed by the State or by private individuals, it is vital that you should not starve the teacher in such a way that his 2410 thoughts, instead of being on his work, are on his butcher's bill or what will be the position of his family if he dies. Again, while it is necessary to spend money on schools, merely to dump down money wholesale upon educational institutions is harmful. If I wanted to destroy higher education, and all the benefits which come from those Universities, eight of which I have the honour to represent in this House, I would give them. £5,000,000 a piece and tell them to spend it immediately. On the other hand, it is useless and wrong not to recognise that, in these days, an equipment which would have been very good 30 or 40 years ago is impossibly inadequate now. The amount of accumulated knowledge, especially in science, makes it absolutely necessary to have much greater grants than were possible then. Look at the apparatus with which Joule made his great discoveries. It cost hardly anything. But you cannot do with such apparatus now, and must spend more money in that direction. Do not, however, make expenditure the measure of efficiency.
I am sure that anyone who has followed the history of education would be able to find endless illustrations in proof of what I have said. One has just flashed across my mind. In one of the Universities it was thought that proper provision was not being made for natural science, and, accordingly, they got a man of very great eminence and gave him as much money as he wanted for his laboratory. He was an extremely able man, a first-class lecturer and experimenter; but the result was that, instead of going on as he did when he was without money, he came to spending all his time seeing that the elaborate apparatus with which he had been furnished was properly kept, and did not get damaged by too much use.
The next educational heresy that I want to mention is too much system and regulation. It has also been referred to in the charming speech that we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Sir B. Chadwick). We can have too much legislation and regulation in education, either from Whitehall or from county councils or from other quarters. The teacher ought to have freedom, and we ought to be very cautious about stipulating that we will only have 2411 the "highly qualified" teacher. I speak from some experience in this matter. By far the best teacher that I ever knew, a teacher who made a mark that will never be eliminated, was a teacher who could not possibly have taken a degree in any university; and the worst teacher that I think I have ever known was one who had great educational theories, and discoursed upon them to his pupils instead of teaching them the subject he was supposed to be teaching.
It is vital to remember that, in making grants, especially for universities, regulations should not be carried too far. I would rather see the Universities half starved than lose their freedom. I am bound to say that, although at one time there was a threat of danger that the universities in accepting grants would lose their freedom in regard to research, the Board of Education in more recent years has been ready to recognise the vital principle that, in regard to the expenditure of money, including grants, the universities should have absolute and complete freedom as to how exactly they would do it, provided always that, if it were afterwards found that they had made fools of themselves, say by erecting unless buildings, the grants should be withdrawn. There should also be freedom for the teachers in different kinds of schools. A local authority which says that all its schools shall be of the same type is doing an injury to education. Masters may have their own way of teaching. I remember one such teacher saying to me, "Your university regulations are worrying me. I am going to teach my subject in my own way, even though it may shock you." I said to him, "That is the happiest thing I have heard since I came within these walls." A teacher who knows exactly what he wants to do should be free to do it, without even caring about university regulations, still less about Whitehall regulations or regulations of any kind.
Another heresy is that of keeping the period of education—I mean of education which is not self-education, but directed, and especially compulsory, education—too long. There is a superstition now in many quarters that you can keep a girl or boy at school till the age of 19, under school discipline. I do not think that that is economically possible for the 2412 middle classes, and I do not think it is desirable. It is far better that boys and girls should learn to stand on their own feet and be brought out of that kind of discipline; and I know that the very best results have been attained in the case of pupils who were sent to college, where they were free from school discipline, at the age even of 15. I very much dread any idea of compulsion after a very early age. The next heresy to which I should like to call attention is one that is now too common in education—self-expression, self-development—do exactly what you like. That is the very worst thing possible to teach. I believe that the right definition of primary education, which is accepted by those who know most about education, is, "Learn to do what you do not like." If it is secondary school work, it is no use fiddling about cutting out paper and calling it geometry. What we want is good training of the mind by doing what is difficult. A very good definition of secondary education—I have said it before, and I shall repeat it as long as I have a voice to repeat anything, which may not be very long—is to look bright and cheerful when you are doing what you do not like.
There is one other point I cannot refrain from mentioning, and here I am going to deal with a subject from which one rather shrinks. I think my experience goes back probably longer than that of anyone present, and, if I were to be asked, I should say the age at which the human mind is most susceptible to impressions, and when the impression made most permanent, is about the age of six. Things that happen then take hold of the mind. This leads me to my last point. If we are to have the country recovering from its troubles and making a real development which is worth having we must have a religious basis for our education. I say that without fear of contradiction. Who would object? It is not the earnest man. It is not the agnostic. People love their children to have beautiful stories told them. Only yesterday or the day before, the Archbishop of York told how someone said to him "I wonder what this Cowper-Templeism is. I think it is the product of something that was written by your father with the concurrence of some gentleman or other named Cowper." Cowper-Templeism has been called a "moral 2413 monster." What is it? On that point we may say we will judge of it by the syllabuses—a horrid word, but I shall have to use it. If we look at these syllabuses which have been carefully prepared, it may be by diocesan authorities or by county authorities, we shall find there something which, I believe, nearly every parent, would be glad for their children to learn. I believe Cowper-Templeism may be attacked by a few Plymouth Brethren of the very old school, estimable people not too wide in their views, a few Anglo-Catholics of the new school and those who are inoculated with anti-religious venom that comes from Russia. The rest of the country I believe, parents, teachers, local authorities, would be delighted to teach it.
One word as to what it is. I will mention three syllabuses, one prepared by the Oxfordshire County Council, one by the Cambridgeshire County Council, and one by a clergyman of the Church of England in the North of England. I am bound, when we hear this talk about this moral monster, to say I believe nearly every parent, every earnest teacher, whatever his views may be desires it, and I hope every candidate for every position will always resent impertinent inquiries as to what his religious beliefs and practice may be. That is an impertinent and irrelevant inquiry. These prospectuses start first and foremost with Biblical instruction. One of our great losses is want of knowledge of style. The Bible is the best example of the highest style in writing. Tell the children the old stories, and let them speak for themselves. Do not criticise them. Let them stand in their own beauty. Old people read them again and again. They attracted them in childhood, and they will attract them still more in old age if they read them without comment. Choose the stories. Tell them as they are. The child itself has wisdom enough to see in what cases they may be taken as literal truth and in what not. Children are a great deal more acute than most of the literary critics. They know what really appeals to them.
One word more about syllabuses. I will read something about the influence of this kind of religious education. This is the kind of thing which is called a moral monster by certain people. Let 2414 us have no more of this talk about Cowper-Templeism being the religion of no one and no religion at all. Take this document sent out to teachers. Here is a suggestion to the teacher's mind:School life. We must ask ourselves whether not only the religious instruction but the ordering of the whole life of the school is in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount.That is the sort of thing that is sneered at as a moral monster.Is it arranged so that the stronger and cleverer may be helping the weaker? Is it really based on the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive? Is there the free quest of truth based on the certainty that if we seek honestly wherever it may be, we shall find it? Is the child doing anything for the school? Is the school doing anything for work outside?That is the spirit which the teacher wants to have. Then there are the common prayers at the opening of the school. There are the hymns. It does not matter a bit if the hymn, if it is high in aspiration and good in form whether it is the work of Roman Catholic cardinal, or a Nonconformist tinker. You do not mind whether it is an Anglican bishop or whether it is the greatest of all of them, I mean the good old Nonconformist, Dr. Watts who wrote it. Whatever may be the religious views in the home, a child able to sing will be wecome. The education it receives in school, in common with others, is a thing which is welcomed as the right thing in the-home. I will not go through the rest of the syllabus. It is honestly adapted for the provided schools, and I am glad to say that is used in some of the county schools. The writers say, quite fairly that you are not to teach in the provided schools any distinctive doctrine of our religious denominations. The ground which is common on these matters is vastly larger than the ground of disagreement. I remember a discussion with one of the greatest men in the Church, the late Bishop Moorhouse, of Manchester. The institution of a perfectly free theological, with no tests for anybody, and he said that if people would but remember how large and important is the area of agreement and how small and unimportant in comparison are the things on which we disagree, how very much better it would be.
2415 Finally, I hope that those who want to talk about the moral monster of Templeism will study this kind of prospectus. In this syllabus, which goes out to the county councils and to provided schools, there is also, in different print, a sort of extra teaching which Church schools will welcome and which the county schools will omit. The teacher is told as a matter of honour that this is to be kept for the Church schools. I trust that we shall regard with equal favour and give equal support those schools which are provided and those which are not. The instruction also which has been carefully prepared for those who are more advanced in years is a thing worth noting. The teachers are asked to look at these questions from an historical point of view. Is there anything better for the young boy or girl than the kind of thing that is indicated here? Teach them the history of the great people who have worked in the Church, using the term in the broadest sense, give them stories of the Saints, of the earliest days in England, and then we follow it up with the story of George Fox and what he did.
It is a very good thing that those children who have been brought up in Quaker or in Baptist homes should know the story of the local Saints, and that the others, whatever homes they come from, should know what it was that inspired George Fox and inspires the Quakers of these days to devote themselves to the service of the community. Beyond that, it is suggested that in the country districts the children should be taught to see the beauty of the country around them. We wish to prevent the horrors to which allusion was made a short time ago. They will care about the country. They come to you and you say, "Look there. Do you know any story about that?" They learn one and are delighted with it. It appeals to the child's growing imagination. The stimulus which comes from the cultivation of imagination—and this is done in the early stages by their learning the history of their own country—will inspire patriotism and teach the children to appreciate the beauties of the country around them.
§ Mr. SAVERY
The hon. and learned Member for the Combined Universities 2416 (Sir A. Hopkinson) could hardly have chosen a more appropriate theme on which to base that speech which, I am sure all of us deeply regret, is likely to be the last that we shall hear from him in this House. As a certain amount of freedom is allowed in the choice of topics which may be raised to-day, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will forgive me if I do not follow the line of thought which he has developed so beautifully. I desire with the permission of the House to refer to the subject of agriculture for a few minutes. I do so because in many parts of the country the condition of agriculture is so grave that it deserves the fullest public attention that can be drawn to it. It calls for the widest interchange of views from all parts of the country and from all parties in this House. A report which was issued recently by the Council of the Central Landowners' Association stated that the crisis through which agriculture is now passing is more serious in character and fraught with graver consequences than any period of depression which the industry has, yet encountered. The National Farmers' Union have made it abundantly clear that they share that view. For a long time past they have been agitating earnestly and valiantly on behalf of farming interests, and I think that most people will agree that they have rendered signal services to the community, and to the industry, by impressing upon the minds of the public the national danger that will result from any further decline in agriculture.
Those of us who represent agricultural constituencies are painfully aware how severe and how deep the depression is. We know that in many places it is only the dogged determination of the average farmer which has enabled him to carry on in spite of losses season after season. If the full facts were known I think no-one would doubt the gravity of the situation or wonder at the outcry. To ensure improvement in the conditions of agriculture is one of the outstanding and most urgent business propositions before the country to-day. Every section of society is concerned in it. I think that it is not an exaggeration to say that the vitality and the stability of the nation are involved. There seems to be no valid reason why a revival in that great industry should not take place. Our soil is for the most part excellent. Our 2417 climate is on the whole good for agriculture, and our home market is so valuable that it has stimulated the farming efforts of many countries outside our own.
Those who are engaged in the industry are unanimous in believing that the postponement of the revival and the present depression are due in no small measure to the influence of legislation. It is, therefore, irritating, and distinctly beside the mark, to tell farmers that the trouble is merely economic and that it is in no sense political. On all hands farmers resent that advice. They look upon it as lacking in sympathy and understanding, and more than that, they regard it as an affront to their intelligence. They maintain very stoutly that on the costing side of their business the problem is essentially political. For many years they have pointed with emphasis, and with reason, to the effect of legislation on the three main costings in arable farming: the statutory insistence on wages fixed by a political Wages Board, the statutory burden of rates and taxes, and the statutory handicap of transport charges. They point to these as definite political influences and the farmer is convinced that they are the chief reasons which prevent him from getting for his own produce a price which is commensurate with the cost of production. If legislation can aggravate the problem it can also relieve it, and the Government are to be congratulated—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid that the hon. Member must not deal with legislation on the Appropriation Bill.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SAVERY
I bow to your decision, Mr. Speaker. I was only desiring to say that I consider that the prospects of the industry will be greatly improved by what has recently happened, because one of the gravest symptoms that has affected agriculture is the depletion of capital and the high cost of credit. The two sources of capital from which the industry has gained in the past has gradually been drained almost to the dregs. The landowner is withdrawing his capital from the land and investing it more profitably elsewhere, and the tenant farmer has seen his smaller capital gradually absorbed, and steadily reduced, until at last the only chance of saving what is left seems to be to get 2418 out of the industry altogether. An industry starved of capital is doomed. If we can attract capital into it, then there is hope of restoration, and I believe that what has happened recently constitutes a good beginning in the process of helping agriculture. It has in view a good end to infuse new health and vigour into the rural life of England. Those of us who are interested in agriculture will devoutly hope that this good beginning and that good end will soon shake hands together.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.