§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. McSHANE
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I hope I shall perform my task of moving the Second Reading of this Bill with that modesty and humility which should characterise any new Member introducing a Bill of this character. In order that the debate may follow traditional lines, it may be well if I explain the Clauses of the Measure. I must say at the outset that the Bill is in no sense compulsory. It is purely permissive. Under Clause 1, a public authority is put on the same footing as a limited company or any other company. It can trade generally, although personally I should be satisfied if trading were to be established only in coal, meat, milk and bread and in what has been so signal a success in Birmingham, a municipal bank. Under Sub-section (2) of this Clause a council will have power to purchase land and become owners of land generally. Clause 2 protects the community from any rash or ill-advised attempt on the part of a council to set up trading departments without adequate exploration. If any such attempt is made it must be agreed to by a majority of the council at a special meeting, and that special meeting must be called after 10 days' clear notice has been given and after a public notice has appeared in the local newspaper published or circulated in the district.
Clause 3 deals with borrowing powers. and here the most explicit safeguards and protection are given against any wanton attempts to install or inaugurate municiple trading. Under this Clause, it is provided that the sanction of the Board of Trade must be obtained, and, what is not less important, that the total debt, including the loan to be borrowed, shall not exceed one-quarter of the annual rateable value. Clause 4 give power to the Board of Trade to sanction such undertakings, while Clause 5 enables two or more councils, where it is deemed desirable, to join together for the purpose of their common interests in regard to this Bill. Clause 6 prevents a council 804 from selling or leasing an undertaking for longer than a period of seven years, and the reasons for that will be fairly obvious.
In Clause 7 there is a reference to parish councils. When the new Local Government Act comes into operation parish councils will cease to exist, but we have to take things as they are to-day and assume their existence. That accounts for the term "parish councils" being used in the Bill. Smaller authorities are given powers if the Board of Trade deem them worthy. Clause 3 establishes a common fund similar to the Glasgow Common Fund, and it also specially prohibits whatever surplus there may be from such trading being used for rate reduction. It may be used to extend and develop the services. Clause 9 gives a further clear and explicit protection to the community and ratepayers. The Board of Trade through their auditors will exercise the- closest scrutiny over the work of the councils. That in a summarised form is the purpose of this Bill, and I feel perfectly certain that the House will give it a Second Reading to-day.
Throughout the country there are hundreds of local authorities exercising great, important, and responsible tasks of administration. They are composed of men and women of all political parties, who are imbued with a very fine public spirit and the keenest local patriotism. Since the War a very great: fillip has been given to citizenship generally, and, in particular, to the spirit that animates the men and women who are on our councils to-day. I should like—and this is the main object of the Bill—to harness that spirit, it will give them a much wider sphere of work; if I may put it so, it will give them elbow room. Even to-day with the restrictions that are placed upon them they are doing wonderful work indeed.
Let me contrast the position of our great towns and cities to-day with what it was roughly a century ago. A young person to-day lives in a municipal house, and he washes himself—or I hope he does—in municipal water. He rides on a municipal tram or omnibus, and I have no doubt that before long he will be riding in a municipal aeroplane. He walks on a municipal road; he is educated in a municipal school. He reads in a muni- 805 cipal library, and he has his sport on a municipal recreation ground. When he is ill he is doctored and nursed in a municipal hospital, and when he dies he is buried in a municipal cemetery. But I hope he does not anticipate that event.
Contrast that picture with a picture of 1840. In 1840, a pamphlet was written by Professor Cowan, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence in the University of Glasgow. The title of his pamphlet was "Vital Statistics of Glasgow illustrating the Sanitary Condition of the Population." These are some quotations from that pamphlet. Speaking of the sweep of disease, he says:Epidemic disease was a scourge. In those five years, 1835 to 1839, when the population on an average was less than a quarter of a million, 79,601 persons, an average of 15,920 each year, were affected by fever (typhus and typhoid), scarlet fever, and smallpox. Of those 'fever' was the worst. There were 55,949 cases and 4,788 deaths. Only a fraction of the sufferers could be treated in hospital or even treated at all, while from want of hospital accommodation and want of proper medical superintendence many have perished miserably whom food, fuel and clothing would in all human probability have saved.He goes on, and with a spark of human kindness in the midst of his statistics' illustrates the dreadful position of the Glasgow population that time. Speaking of small-pox, he says:It is a disease which has caused a mortality during the last few years inferior only to that of typhus and measles, and it is one which could be eradicated under proper management at a trifling expense, less indeed than the sum paid from the poor's rate for the coffins of its victims.That is a truth which the experience of the intervening years has proved. He gives a description of the state of affairs in a particular part of the city. He says:In all the districts of the burgh, and in the suburbs, there is a want of sewerage and drainage, and the deficiency is in the ratio of the necessity for it. The streets, or rather lanes and alleys, in which the poor live are filthy beyond measure; excrementitious matter and filth of every description is allowed to lay upon the lanes or, if collected, it remains accumulating for months, until the landlord whose property it is is pleased to remove it. The houses are ruinous, ill-constructed, and to an incredible extent destitute of furniture. In many there is not an article of bedding, and the body clothes of the inmates are of the most revolting description. In fact, in Glasgow, there are hundreds who never enjoy 806 the luxury of the meanest kind of a bed, and who if they attempted to put off their clothes would find it difficult to resume them.That was the condition of affairs in Glasgow in 1840. Whatever transformation has taken place since that time is mainly due to the further and further extension of the beneficent work of the great local authorities of this country. Two centuries ago out of 1,000 babies that were born 500 died before they reached their first year. It is a fine comment on the advance which has been made when we find that last year out of 1,000 babies born only 70 died before they reached their first year. Where two centuries ago seven babies died, only one dies to-day. These are days when old men and women resort to all sorts of ways of prolonging their lives. They may resort even to monkey gland treatment. It is a very fine comment on the beneficent work of these great local authorities that the child of to-day, without monkey gland treatment, may expect to live 17 years longer than the child of the period for which I have just quoted the death rate. I say that this great change is undoubtedly due to the work of the local authorities and it would be fitting, perhaps, in this connection to quote a remark of the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. E. D. Simon) made when he was Lord Mayor of Manchester. He said:A city council's services mean the difference between civilisation and savagery.Since I am quoting from Manchester, I may also mention a passage from the "Manchester Guardian" year book:—Being British, we grumble when the demand note for rates is presented to us. We are more conscious of the expense than of the benefits. Who can blame us? The administration of a great city is a vast and complex affair, and the work of the numerous civic departments is not done in the lime-light. Yet a cessation of their activities would mean that dirt, disease, and lawlessness would turn Manchester into a city of horrible night.That great transformation has been the work of the local authorities. It is due to the services rendered by nurses, by doctors, by teachers, and not least, by sanitary inspectors. We desire that the work of those great local authorities should be extended. Up to the present, local authorities have been mainly concerned with what are usually described as monopolies such as water "supply, electricity and gas supply, tramways 807 omnibuses and so forth. Let us not forget however, that even with regard to gas supply it is not many years ago since there were four separate gas companies with their four separate lines of pipes in Oxford Street. That condition of affairs has luckily been abolished and with its abolition there has been a very great advance in the health of the community. I quote here another instance of the extraordinary advance which has been made by the local authorities. About the middle of the last century local authorities owned one-eighth of these great monopolies in the country. To-day, they are responsible for four-fifths of the water supply, four-fifths of the tramways and omnibuses, two-thirds of the electricity supply, and two-fifths of the gas supply of the country, and that without any nationalisation whatever. Has their work in those monopolistic services been justified? I submit that nobody in this House can refute with any convincing arguments the claim that their work in those fields has been an extraordinary success. The Balfour Committee on industry and Trade reported as follows—The trading activities of the public authorities referred to above (gas, electricity, water, tramways) have not lagged behind, and in some cases have out-distanced private enterprise in the rate of progress as tested by the ordinary criteria.With regard to trams the Chairman of the London County Council Highways Committee in January, 1928, said:There has been no loss on working in any year since the Council acquired the ownership of the trams.Further, the report of the London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority for 1928 stated that the London local authorities charged per unit for lighting and domestic purposes 2.80 pence. The London companies charged 4.41 pence, and the extra-London companies 4.91 pence. We have the same story with regard to power. The London local authorities for power charge 1.26 pence. The London companies charge 1.55 pence, and the extra-London companies also charge 1.55 pence.
A further comment on the private ownership of a monopoly like this is taken from the "Daily Express," 22nd August, 1928, as follows: 808Margate pays more for its electric light than any town of its size in the country, for in no other town with a population of or exceeding 47,000 is a customer called upon to pay a flat rate of 8d. per unit for his light.I suggest that although the population is put at a figure of 47,000 it must still be very dense in spite of the cost of their light. With regard to electricity generally, I think our aim should be that stated by Emile Zola:The time must come when electricity will be for everyone like the waters of the earth and the winds of heaven. It must be provided, and provided liberally, enabling people to use it as they wish, like the air which they breathe.Up to the present, municipal authorities have been allowed, apart from the monopolies to which I have referred, to deal entirely and solely with questions of sewerage, drainage, public health—matters in connection with which naturally very little profit can be derived. We desire to secure by this Bill a great enlargement of their powers. What we ask for is a perfectly natural development of their existing powers. What is the use of all their medical officers, all their nurses, all their inspectors, all their hospitals, all their sanitation if to-day the food which large populations eat is very largely poison. It is equivalent almost to placing an ambulance at the foot of a cliff and waiting until people fall over the cliff one by one, and then picking them up at the bottom when they are injured, instead of putting up a fence to prevent them falling over the cliff at all.
To illustrate what I mean, let me take the specific case of milk. Naturally the House would not wish me, and it would not be possible for me, to enter into the details of the specific trades that a town council might well take up. But I would take the case of milk, which I think is in one of the most unsatisfactory positions in connection with the food supply of the people, and that in spite of a host of inspectors. The London County Council expends no less than £100,000 a year on inspectors, or detectives as I prefer to call them. There are in the country, of course, a number of excellent companies and societies, like the co-operative societies, that do exceedingly well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am very glad of that corroboration from the other side, and I hope the corroboration will be 809 shown at the end of the day. In going through the Ministry of Health report for 1928 I noticed that out of more than 67,000 samples of milk taken at random, no fewer than 5,542 were reported as adulterated. That worked at 8.2 per cent. In a full House it would mean that if we were getting that type of milk, 50 or 60 of us would be drinking adulterated milk.
In adulterated milk most extraordinary ingredient are sometimes found. One of them is paraldehyde. I do not know whether hon. Members have had any experience of it. I had once, and I do not wish to have another experience. There was a considerable quantity of paraldehyde found in one sample of milk. One influence of paraldehyde is to make people sleep. I could imagine the purpose of paraldehyde being in milk if it were given to babies. Last year Glasgow destroyed no less than 95 tons of foodstuffs as being diseased or unsound. That was foodstuff that they found. We do not know how much was destroyed of the food that they never found but was equally diseased. I suggest that if town councillors generally and the Members of this House were compelled by law to eat and drink the lowest standard of food in this country in order, as Voltaire once said on a historic occasion, to encourage them to do better, there would not be a single vote cast against this Bill to-day.
The Birmingham medical officer of health reported in 1928 that 91 samples of milk were taken at random and were found to be infected with tuberculosis. That meant that his inspectors had to pay 100 visits to 69 farms. They examined 2744 cows and found 80 of them infected with tuberculosis. The other 22 cows which they knew from analysis were impregnated with tuberculosis they could not find. The medical officer expressed the opinion that perhaps in the meantime those 22 cows had gone dry. I hope that his faith was justified; I hope that the milk was not merely diverted elsewhere, and that while he was writing his report they were not continuing to send that tuberculous food to other towns, to be drunk probably by children. A councillor from Thirsk once said, "It is better that the poor should have mucky milk than none at all." An old farmer, when being criticised about the questionable state of the milk from his cows said, 810 "If God had intended the milk to be clean He would have put the cow's udder at the udder end."
I shall now quote what I have no no doubt will be within the experience of the hon. Member for Withington. The Manchester City Council in 1920 set up a committee of inquiry with regard to the municipal retailing of milk. That committee reported, I am informed, that the quality of the milk then being retailed in Manchester was abominable. Two-thirds of it, it was alleged, was so dirty that if it were being retailed in New York it would have been allowed to be used only for cooking purposes. The Manchester Council, when dealing with the report of that committee, declared that if they were to undertake the municipal retail sale of milk, they could save £70,000 annually after compensating the private owners—and so, incidentally, save hundreds of lives. The Council unfortunately turned down that proposal; in other words they voted for mucky milk. During the War Rotherham had a municipal supply of milk. The reason for it was obvious to most of us. They were angry with the profiteers at that time, and they determined to establish their own municipal supply. They obtained powers to do so. After the War they sought further powers to continue the undertaking, but the powers were refused. It is very significant that their experience during the War encouraged them to go on in the hope that they would be able to extend the undertaking afterwards.
Last of all, in regard to milk, may I say that the Report of the Food Council, no later than last year, with regard to the milk ramp would convince any who might still he in doubt as to the necessity for giving municipalities power to deal with this article of food. The Food Council reported that the books of the five private firms whose business they had had under review showed a profit of no less than 49.7 per cent. of their capital investments, and that there was no justification for the increase in price that took place last year. My plea to-day is that we should give municipalities power to extend their activities, at any rate as far as meat, milk, bread, coal, and municipal banking are concerned. I should be quite content if we were to have those to start with.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
Will the hon. Member kindly repeat what he said that the local authorities ought to do? Did he say meat, milk, coal, bread, and municipal banking?
§ Mr. McSHANE
Yes, those to begin with. We do not wish to overdo them. With regard to municipal banking, I need not in this House elaborate upon the success of the Birmingham municipal bank, and I wish the right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. N. Chamberlain) were here. He indeed was the very head and front of the movement that inaugurated the municipal bank in Birmingham, with the purpose, as he said, of it being extended to all other municipalities. In that connection may I quote his own words? He said:You may call this Socialism if you like. I have never been frightened by a name. I do not care whether it is good Socialism or not, so long as it is a good thing.There was a Committee called the Bradbury Committee, set up to make a report upon the question of the advisability of granting powers to other municipalities to establish municipal banks. That Committee consisted mainly of financiers and bankers, and it occurs to me that it was like setting up a committee of gamekeepers to make a report on the virtues of poachers with a view to encouraging the further establishment of poachers. That Committee reported strongly against the further extension of municipal banks, but it is very significant that the Municipal Corporations Association, many of the individual members of which this week are passing resolutions calling upon the Government to give them powers to establish municipal banks, should have passed this resolution on the 31st January, 1928:This Council (of the Municipal Corporations Association) expresses its strong dissent from the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Municipal Savings Banks, and urges that the question be reconsidered by a larger committee, representative of all the interests concerned, and its proceedings should be in public.I want to make this appeal, that at any rate the work of a local authority which may be specialising particularly upon its health services is largely nullified and negatived if, as a matter of fact, an unsatisfactory condition of affairs with regard to food is still allowed to exist. We have extended the municipal services 812 to education. We have, if I may express it like this, got the municipalities feeding or clothing the minds of children. Surely, when they are feeding and clothing the mind of the child, a very difficult and delicate task, it should not be a very difficult thing to feed the stomach of the child and to clothe the body and the feet of the child too.
As things are to-day, millions of pounds of money are wasted by the national Government and by the local governments in trying to recover the health of the people from the serious ill effects caused by adulterated foods. Millions of pounds are expended annually in this strangest of competitions between poisoners on the one hand and healers on the other, between destroyers on the one hand and builders on the other, between evil on the one hand, as it were, and good on the other. And the stakes in this competition, unfortunately, are very high; they are the stakes of the health and happiness and the very lives of little children. We want the towns to have greater powers. We want them, if I may express it in a post-war phrase, to have self-determination—self-determination, if you like, under the limitations and restrictions that are quite justifiably placed in the Bill. I should like to quote, in connection with the extension of public ownership, the words of Professor Frank Parsons, of the Boston Law School in the United States of America, when he said:Real public ownership is the very essence of democracy. Instead of debasing human nature by conflict and corruption and dividing men into masters and mastered, it brings men together in a union of interest, accords to all a share in the development arising from the exercise of judgment and discretion in the control of business affairs, and affords the co-operative conditions necessary for the highest traits of conscience and of character.It is on these lines that I desire local government to run; it is on these lines that the health, happiness, vigor, virtues, and character of our English people can develop; it is on these lines, I believe, that local government, here in Britain may do as it did centuries ago and act at once as an example and an inspiration to all the world.
§ Dr. SALTER
I beg to second the Motion.
813 I think it is an agreed fact that at any rate in one respect the municipal system in this country differs fundamentally from that in almost any other country in the world. Throughout Europe a great town council is entitled to engage in any work or undertaking or activity on behalf of its people unless it is specially prohibited from such undertaking by Statute, whereas in this country no municipality is entitled to do anything at all unless specifically authorised by Statute. In our opinion, that system is now completely out-of-date so far as this country is concerned; it is more than a hundred years behind the times. We have an illustration here right outside this building of the ridiculous limitation which our present law imposes on a municipality. In great towns Ike London to-day the ever-growing volume of fast-moving traffic requires that in busy centres there shall be subways beneath the streets in order that pedestrians may be able to cross in safety and with celerity. But even a great City like Westminster cannot make a subway beneath a street unless it comes to this House, spends a large amount of the ratepayers' money, and obtains a special Bill to enable it to make a subway under its own streets. The position is really rendered still more ludicrous when it is realised that a municipality may make a public convenience or urinal beneath the surface of the roadway and may then make a subway at either end to connect with the pavement on either side. At the present moment no borough in London can provide the necessary and obvious convenience of a subway for its citizens, unless at the same time it constructs beneath the surface of the roadway a urinal. I venture to submit that that illustration is sufficient to indicate the extraordinary and out-of-date restrictions which to-day are still imposed upon municipalities.
As far as London is concerned every year the London County Council has to come to this House with a General Powers Bill to enable it and to enable various Metropolitan boroughs to obtain powers to effect quite trifling and trivial municipal improvements. If we want to widen a main street, to extend the tramway service by a few hundred yards, to vary the route of a tramway service, deal with a street market, or extend a park or 814 public open space, we have to come to this House, spend Parliamentary time, engage Parliamentary counsel, use hundreds or thousands of pounds of the ratepayers' money in order to obtain powers which in practically every other country in the world, are regarded as absolutely inherent in a municipality itself. So slowly and so imperfectly has constitutional practice moved in this country as far as municipal power is concerned, that practically every local authority in this country to-day is breaking the law, or is over-stepping its powers in numberless respects. I know, personally, of at least a dozen instances. My hon. Friend here suggests that I should be careful and not give away secrets. I do not intend to particularise or give specific details, but I repeat that I know at least a dozen instances where municipalities to-day are deliberately, with their eyes open, breaking the law, because the law is impossible; it imposes impossible restrictions upon them.
I know one case for example—it is familiar to several members of this House—where a public body provides what I may call a valuable social amenity. It is a social amenity which has been commended by one of the present Cabinet Ministers, and highly commended by one of the Cabinet Ministers in the late Government. It has received the blessing of the Bishop of the Diocese who, when he spoke in the locality, said that the people of that district ought to be extremely grateful to the local authority for having provided it. Yet, as a matter of fact, the authority is breaking the law in establishing this particular amenity, is acting ultra vires and could be stopped by way of legal process if any evilly-disposed person chose to invoke the law. The illustration to which I have referred is quite well known, as I say, to a number of Members in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where is it?"] We are asking that these mediaeval restrictions, because I can call them nothing else, which are entirely unsuitable to present-day conditions, shall be swept away, and that municipalities shall be endowed with larger powers than they possess at present, and, indeed, that they shall be allowed, under proper safeguards as are specified in this Bill, to undertake any local works which they deem to be of benefit to the citizens, and which are 815 approved by the ratepayers of the district. In particular those who sit on this side of the House think that municipalities should possess the power of supplying communal necessities.
I desire to say a few words particularly with regard to the provision of such vital necessities as bread and milk. It so happens that I, probably, have a greater knowledge of the baking industry than any other member of this House. I was instrumental in founding a bakery some 16 years ago which has flourished and grown until to-day it is supplying the daily bread of some 60,000 persons, and during the whole of that time I have been the secretary of that bakery concern, and, practically, its managing director, so that I am thoroughly and intimately familiar with the whole basis of the subject. The waste that is going on in the bread manufacturing industry to-day, the waste of human life and human effort and of poor people's money, is simply appalling. I should like to give the House a few facts in connection with the matter. If ever there were an industry needing rationalising—to use a phrase very familiar at the present time—it is the industry of the supply of bread. I want to try to show what could be achieved if local councils had the power of manufacturing and supplying bread and delivering it from house to house in exactly the same way as the postman delivers letters from house to house.
May I be permitted to give an illustration from my own borough? The figures which I shall give to the House in relation to Bermondsey can, of course, be applied to any town in the kingdom. My borough has a population of 120,000 persons, and it has been found by experience that the average consumption of bread amounts to 3½ lbs. per unit of the population per week. That for a borough of 120,000 persons is equivalent to 420,000 lbs. of bread per week. To make that amount of bread 1,130 sacks of flour are required, and I must ask the House for a moment to consider this matter in terms of sacks of flour rather than in terms of loaves of bread, because the unit of a sack is rather more convenient for the purpose of exposition. With a proper, full, automatic plant in a large modern machine-bakery, one man only is required to turn 30 sacks of flour 816 into loaves of bread, and that on a 48-hour week. Therefore, 38 men only are required inside the bakery to manufacture the whole of the bread supply for a borough of 120,000.
We come now to the distributing side. If you assume a house-to-house delivery, is is obvious that a roundsman can deliver very much more bread in a given number of hours than if his customers are scattered over a wide area, as is usual under the system of private distribution to-day. It is found that in my own bakery, on the average, one person including the roundsman, the round foreman, the checkers, and so on can be responsible for the delivery of the amount of bread made from 10 sacks of flour per week; with a concentrated round on a house-to-house delivery, it would be easy for one man to deliver 20 sacks per week. If 1,130 sacks are required to deliver to a population of 120,000 people, that means that 57 men can comfortably get through the work; in other words, that with a centralised, municipalised bread service, we should require only 95 men to manufacture and distribute the whole of the bread supply for a population of 120,000 persons. What are the actual numbers at present engaged in supplying that population? There are 62 small bakeries in the area, and the average number of persons employed by each is four, which means that 248 people are so employed. In addition, 64 people are attached to various other firms like the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society, Messrs. Price, Messrs. Neville, and other similar wholesale firms who deliver loaves, and also to my own bakery. An estimated number of 20 persons are engaged in the manufacture of the bread which is supplied by these wholesale deliverers. That makes a total of 332 persons who are employed in supplying the bread to that borough of 120,000 people; in other words, more than three times as many people are engaged in making and distributing bread in that one area than are necessary. The total number of persons employed could be reduced by two-thirds, and a more efficient service given than is given to-day.
§ 12 n.
§ Dr. SALTER
Yes, I am coming to that in a moment. That obviously means that the present system is thoroughly 817 wasteful and extravagant, and that the cost of a loaf of bread is far higher than it ought to be, or need be. It involves a great waste of human life and effort, because most of these men are employed for very long hours, for the most part more than eight hours a day, and many of them for practically a seven-days week. Large numbers of them work under the most dreadful conditions in overheated underground bakeries, badly ventilated, and only habitable at all by the constant pressure of the sanitary inspectors. For the most part, the men who are actually engaged in the manufacture of bread are doing hard, laborious manual work, which is totally unnecessary to-day in view of the existence of machinery, which normally has taken the place of manual labour. The bread industry in the small bakeries is exactly comparable with the old hand-loom weaving and spinning of 120 years ago. Small-scale baking to-day ought to disappear just as the hand-loom weaving disappeared all that time ago. The parallel between the two industries is almost absolute. If the supply were centralised in the way that I have described, and these dreadful little places, these small units of production—to use a term which has been employed a good deal just now in connection with the coal industry—were scrapped; if the whole of the bread supply in great towns were concentrated under municipal auspices, and bread were manufactured by automatic plant and never touched by hand from the moment the flour—as is the case in any great machine bakery—leaves the hopper at one end, until it comes out as a perfectly finished loaf from the revolving oven at the other, you would have a more wholesome, a cleaner, and a far cheaper product.
From very extensive knowledge of the trade, I assert that if the bread industry were conducted on the lines which I have indicated, the price of bread to-day could be reduced by at least 1½d. per quartern, assuming that the price of flour remained the same as now. In addition, we could shorten the men's hours to not exceeding 40 hours a week, and we could give them a fortnight's holiday in a year on full pay. My own bakery gives a three weeks' holiday on full pay. We could increase the wages of the men, we could improve the conditions, and we could deliver the bread wrapped by an automatic machine 818 and untouched by hand from start to finish. These facts are unchallengeable; they are known to everybody in the trade, and are not disputed by people familiar with the subject. Whether the House passes this Bill or not to-day, or whether it is dealt with summarily or not in another place, should it go there, the. demand for the rationalisation of the industry generally, and the advantages which would accrue to the public by some such measure as I am advocating, are such that it will be impossible as the days go on for this House or for anyone to resist the claim for change in this direction.
§ Dr. SALTER
No, the Members on this side of the House are strongly supporting the Factories Bill, which will shortly be introduced, and which will have the effect of abolishing night baking.
§ Dr. SALTER
We are obliged to carry on night baking because of the force of competition of small bakeries and of other bodies that practise it. We join most heartily with the men's trade union in demanding that night baking shall be wholly and permanently abolished.
I now turn to the subject of milk. I approach the matter in this case more from the point of view of public health that from the economic standpoint. I am prepared to claim after a considerable study of the subject, however, that the saving to the public would be just as great in regard to milk as in regard to bread. Everyone knows that it is almost impossible to secure a pure milk supply in any one of our great towns; and the greatest danger from which we suffer is tuberculosis. Eight per cent. of the milk that comes into London is definitely tuberculous. Those are official figures and they are unchallengeable. The percentage in different towns varies, but it is practically never below 8 per cent., and is often as high as 20 per cent. Every year from 13,000 to 15,000 turberculous milch cows are slaughtered in this country, but apparently the number of tuberculous cattle never diminishes. 819 With 2,000,000 milch cows in the country, there are only 850 herds which are known to be tubercle free.
It ought to be known that living tubercle in milk is an infective agent to a human subject. There are two varieties of tubercle, that caused by what is known as human bacillus and that caused by bovine bacillus. The human bacillus is responsible chiefly for the pulmonary form of tuberculosis in human beings, commonly known as consumption, and the bovine bacillus is responsible for what is commonly called surgical tuberculosis, that is, tuberculosis of the bones, joints, glands and intestines. Each year 2,300 human beings in this country die from tubercular disease caused by the bovine bacillus, and in addition to those 2,300, many scores of thousands—the figures probably run into hundreds of thousands—suffer disfigurement, deformity and permanent disability. The bovine bacillus reaches human beings almost exclusively through the agency of tubercle-infected milk, and we have to ask what is being done by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Agriculture, or both together, to protect the public from this source of infection. I regret to say that practically nothing is being done.
There are a number of Members of this House who are very much interested in this subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Dr. Hastings), my hon. and gallant Friend opposite the Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Dallas), myself and others have been deeply concerned for a long while past, and by interviewing members of the official staffs of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture we have endeavoured to get some move on in respect of this question of bovine tuberculosis. I am deeply disappointed, and I think all who have taken a special interest in this subject are deeply disappointed, to find how little progress has been made recently, and what little prospect there is of getting anything further done in the immediate future; and the more I see of the subject the greater the inherent difficulties appear to be under the existing conditions of privately-owned milk supply and privately-distributed milk supply. This poisonous milk is coming into our 820 cities every day and being drunk by our children. This is going on year after year; and, although the number of deaths is slowly decreasing, yet, taking the most optimistic view, an enormous number of years must elapse under present conditions before the disease is exterminated.
I suggest that if a town were allowed to supply milk to its own inhabitants, whether by contracting with farmers and then supervising and managing the delivery itself, or whether by obtaining the milk direct from its own farms, we should very rapidly effect a change. If it were known in any town that 8 per cent. of the milk being supplied by the town council was tuberculous, there would be a great outcry amongst the ratepayers. If it were known that every new death from surgical tuberculosis was due to milk which had been supplied by the town council, we should have every member of that town council accused in that town as a murderer, and the electoral pressure would be so great on the council that they would be compelled, willy nilly, to take steps to prevent the introduction of tuberculous milk into their milk supply.
§ Dr. SALTER
Steps which can be taken immediately by any person who had the authority. There would be an immediate veterinary inspection of every cow from which milk was drawn for that municipal supply, there would be the immediate elimination of every cow that was suspected even of tuberculosis, much less proved to be tuberculous by scientific tests. Every tuberculous cow would be immediately eliminated from the herd or herds from which the milk supply of the town was drawn. Looking ahead, as I am trying to do, to the milk supply of the immediate future, I see no chance whatever, no hope whatever, for the elimination of tuberculous milk and the prevention of the tubercular infection of human beings from the consumption of milk, except by the establishment of a municipal milk supply.
It is always urged by my hon. Friends opposite that public authorities are extremely wasteful, extravagant and inefficient. I want to put before the House a few facts regarding the relative cost of work carried out by a municipality itself with direct labour and the cost of the same work when done by an out- 821 side contractor. This has an important bearing on the Bill we are considering. I do not think it can be disputed that practically everywhere where direct labour is employed by a municipality there is a great saving over contractors' prices, and, in addition, the quality of the work is of a very much higher character. I would like to give one or two facts with which I am personally familiar and with which my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. B. Smith), who is sitting on the Treasury Bench, is also familiar. In my own borough in the last six years building works to the value of approximately £500,000 have been carried out by direct labour by the municipality. The works include electricity station, public baths, new municipal offices, library and library halls, a dust destructor and extensive housing schemes. In the case of all the larger contracts, the municipal works department has tendered against outside contractors in the open market.
In every instance the tender has been considerably below the lowest outside contractor, and in many cases thousands of pounds below it. At least £41,000 has been saved to the ratepayers during the last six years upon the works to which I have referred. In addition to building works, road and sewer works have been undertaken by the Bermondsey municipality amounting to £360,000, and a saving to the ratepayers has been effected of £30,000. The total work carried out by direct labour amounts to over £1,250,000, and I do not over-estimate when I say that the saving to the ratepayers must have been at least £100,000.
If my statement that large sums of money have been saved to the ratepayers is challenged, let me call attention to a private circular issued by the London Master Builders' Association to all the great building firms in the Metropolis. A copy of that circular came into my hands from a private firm, the manager of which was good enough to hand it to me. This circular asks the master builders of the metropolis and the extra Metropolitan area not to tender in future against the works department of the Bermondsey Borough Council. That circular was issued, because they know that there is no hope or likelihood of obtaining the contracts. Why, and on what ground have they taken that course? Is it on the ground of favouritism? If 822 the private contractor put his contract at a figure below that of our works manager, is it likely that the municipality would accept the higher tender, even if it happened to be that put in by the council's works department? On the contrary in every single instance, the tender of the outside contractor has been considerably higher, and in many cases thousands of pounds higher than that of the tender drawn up by our works manager.
We have now got to the point that although the Bermondsey Borough Council will advertise their contracts for future works, and invite public tenders in the ordinary way, we get no tenders from outside firms. In addition to the saving to the municipality of large sums of money, we have done a great deal for the workmen employed. Although the contract of our works manager is considerably below that of the outside contractor, we pay 10 per cent. above the trade union rate of wages. We give the men a holiday and pay them for it. We pay them for wet time and frost time. We give them sick pay, and, until we were forbidden by the public auditor, we gave pension rights as well. The extra rates and better conditions offered to the men average in value something like 15 per cent. Looked at from the ratepayers' point of view or from the workmen's point of view, or the humanitarian and psychological points of view, which is the more advantageous system? There can be no doubt whatever as to the answer, and yet a municipality that is empowered, as municipalities are empowered to-day, and as we are empowered in my own district to employ thousands of men—a municipality that can manage and does manage efficiently gigantic building jobs and has the right to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in that way—is not considered sufficiently capable to be allowed to run an apple stall.
In my own borough of Bermondsey we are steadily buying up the whole of the house property in the borough. When a house comes on the market it is purchased by the municipality. It is then reconditioned or rebuilt, and, as the greater part of our area is practically one huge slum, we intend for the next 15 or 20 years steadily and systematically to purchase the whole of the house property and rebuild the borough from 823 end to end. We are entitled to do all this and spend all this money with the approval of the ratepayers, but we must not sell a cwt. or a ton of coal. The limitations in this respect are ridiculous. In Bermondsey, we have a number of open spaces, and we are running a municipal nursery. We have planted about 10,000 trees in the borough, and we grow the whole of the flowers and shrubs which we place in our open spaces. We are allowed to do all that, but we are not allowed to grow a few vegetables to supply our own people. That is absolutely ridiculous. I should like to enlarge in a similar way upon the advantages to be gained, in my opinion, from publicly organised supplies undertaken by municipalities.
§ Dr. SALTER
There are many other hon. Members who wish to speak on this question, and I will deal with the subject of a municipal medical service at the proper time. I strongly advocate a State medical service. At the present moment, however, we are discussing a municipal Bill, and a question like the setting up the State medical service can only be dealt with by a national department. I venture* finally, to say that our municipal legislation to-day is hopelessly out of date. It is inspired by the ideas and conceptions of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, and the jealousy of private interests as opposed to the public interest has hitherto kept municipalities bound in fetters. The object of this Bill is to strike off those fetters from the municipalities, and to enable a public authority to do anything which the ratepayers desire or which the public interest demands.
May I say one intimate word with regard to what I feel is the right spirit to animate us in discussing a subject of this sort? A township with anything like strong local patriotism, or a developed community sence, is really like a great family, and everywhere that the Labour party is in control to-day that family spirit is being fostered and is becoming the dominant motive in local politics. I would ask, why should not a family supply its own communal needs in this way? Every one of the citizens needs 824 coal, every one of the citizens needs milk, meat, bread and so on, and we need these things in exactly the same way in which we need water. Why should not the Council representing all the citizens, all the members of that family, meet the family needs in the one department as in the other? I suggest that there is no reason either in justice or in logic, or even on grounds of practical wisdom.
The time was when it was considered to be wholly wrong that a municipality should supply even water, or, indeed, be responsible for the removal of sewage. For 21 years, I believe, year after year, Mr. Silk Buckingham, in the early part of the nineteenth century, brought a Bill into this House to enable such public authorities as then existed to establish a public water supply. Every year it was met with the same argument, the argument that it is the duty and the business of every man to find his own water supply. Let him dig a well on his own premises. If he could not get water there, or if he did not possess any premises, he must make his own private arrangements with someone else who had a well or who had access to a spring. If a group of people could not in this way secure water, they must make arrangements with some enterprising entrepreneur elsewhere who would bring them water.
Exactly the same arguments were used with regard to sewage disposal. It was stated in the House that it was the duty of the head of every family to secure the removal of the sewage of his own family, and Bills enabling local authorities to take over these services were repeatedly thrown out by this House, on the ground that it was not the business of the State or of the municipality to concern itself with matters of that sort. That was the tone and temper of the mind of people a century ago, and I venture to suggest in all seriousness that it is precisely a perpetuation of that temper that is inspiring the opposition to this Bill to-day. We have got a long way beyond the position taken up by those opponents of municipal enterprise, but some of them still survive. I hope that the House is going to give us this Bill to-day. If it does, I believe we shall open up an area of municipal development and extension which will be of inestimable benefit to the people of this country.
§ Sir GERALD HURST
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
The ground for this Amendment is that, of all the bad Socialist Bills that we have had during the last few months, this is the worst. I make no reflection whatever on the two interesting speeches which we have heard from the Mover and Seconder, and I should like, if I may be allowed respectfully to do so, to congratulate the Mover of the Second Reading upon the very eloquent and persuasive appeal which he made. I hope that he and the hon. Member who seconded will realise that, when I say that this is a bad Bill and want to pass strictures upon it, I am not reflecting at all on a great deal of what they themselves said. The only criticism I should like to make of their speeches is that their points are quite outside the Bill itself, and that a great deal of their speeches showed that they had not really read their own Bill with any great care.
The Mover of the Second Reading spoke with entire truth and great persuasiveness about the valuable work that is done by local authorities, but that has nothing whatever to do, if I may say so, with the actual provisions which are before the House in this Bill. The hon. Member alluded to various past episodes in history, and read extracts relating to a certain fever which was prevalent in 1835; but the fact that people suffered from fever in 1835 is no reason why we should embark upon lunacy in 1930. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion said that as the law now stands a local authority cannot make subways or street improvements without obtaining a special Act of Parliament, but there is nothing whatever in this Bill, as I think he will agree if he reads it, which touches the right of a municipality to make subways or street or park improvements. This Bill seeks to give local authorities powers to trade and carry on a business which a limited company can carry on; but the limited company cannot make subways or street improvements without obtaining similar Parliamentary sanction.
§ Dr. SALTER
I suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman that a private company can do so on its own land; and, as these streets to which I referred in my speech are the property of the local 826 authority, clearly, under the Bill, they will have the power to make the subways referred to.
§ Sir G. HURST
With great respect, I think not. Of course, it is a matter of construction. I suggest that the provision giving powerto establish or purchase or carry on any business or undertaking within their area having for its purpose either the acquisition of gain or the promotion of commerce.and so on, would not cover street improvements; but at any rate, whether that be so or no, I think that the hon. Member will agree that that is alien from the main purpose of the Bill, which is a purpose affecting municipal trading.
§ Sir G. HURST
The hon. Member also told us at great length about the beautiful trees and flowers which they grow in Bermondsey, and we know that he did a great deal to further the "Come to Bermondsey" campaign; but that, again, I suggest, is a long way from the provisions of the Bill. As the hon. Member said, it is almost impossible at the present time, in spite of the keenness of the Ministry of Health, to deal with the question of eradicating bovine tuberculosis, and it is difficult to see, if the Ministry of Health, under the enlightened guidance of the present Minister and Parliamentary Secretary, are unable to deal with this evil, why it should be made perfectly easy for them by the establishment of municipal enterprise in place of private enterprise.
The great objectives which we ought to place before us in regard to local government are quite remote from the extension of this policy of raiding and trading which hon. Members opposite wish to add to the functions of local government. Local government has quite enough to do at the present time. It has the tremendously important function of trying to run the affairs of our great municipalities at a cost which the ratepayers can bear. It has to deal with great problems of education, public health, the Poor Law, and many public services, and I was very glad indeed to hear the splendid tribute which the Mover of the Second Reading paid to the great work of the Conservative party in providing for the better care 827 of maternity and child welfare cases. It is a tribute which I think ought to be written in letters of gold over every Socialist meeting place. That is one of the objects of local government to-day. Another object which we ought all to set before us is to place some limits upon the functions which members of these bodies have to exercise. They have their hands tremendously full, and it is very difficult to find men and women with sufficient time to undertake the responsibilities of local government. There must be some limit and, before enabling local authorities to embark upon all the enterprises which this Bill makes open for them, we ought to be assured that there is a sufficient body of persons able and willing to fulfil adequately the immense range of activities which are imposed upon members of a local authority.
I do not want, however, to deal with general principles. I want to deal with the Bill itself, and, if hon. Members regard it as the expression of modern Socialism, I think they will come to the conclusion, which I suggest is the true conclusion, that if in Europe Socialism stands for crime, in England Socialism connotes folly. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading said that we had absolute security against any abuse of the powers given to local authorities because there has to be a majority of the Council in favour of any more extensions of these activities.
§ Sir G. HURST
Clause 2 says:No council shall establish or purchase any land, business or undertaking which they would not, save for this Act, have been otherwise entitled to establish or purchase, unless it has been decided so to do by a resolution of a majority of the members of the council.
§ Sir G. HURST
Clause 9 has nothing to do with this point. All it does is to enable the Board of Trade to audit the accounts of the common fund after these activities have been engaged in. The only security—I use the word "security" in deference to the hon. Member's own language—is the consent of the majority of the local council.
§ Sir G. HURST
That again has nothing to do with it, because it refers to undertakings outside the area of the Council. I will deal with the Clauses one by one. First of all, with regard to the supposed security against abuse, which the hon. Member says is provided by the consent of the majority: It is the misfortune of this country that, in a very large number of local authorities, Socialists happen to be in a majority. What protection is it against municipal extravagance in Poplar that the majority of the Council have to give their assent to such extravagance?
§ Sir G. HURST
Any place you like. It is no security at all. If the majority of the members are extravagantly minded, it is no protection against extravagance. That is common sense. The main object of the Bill is, of course, Clause 2, and the Mover described it as harnessing the spirit of the towns. I call it ruining the trade of the towns. That is a more apt expression. The hon. Member who seconded said what an unfortunate thing it was that even in Barmondsey, with all its beauties and amenities, the Council could not run apple stalls. Why should a Council run apple stalls? The people from whom these authorities derive the money that enables them to embark upon these enterprises are the ratepayers, and they are entitled to be heard in answer to proposals to run competing industries against them at their own expense.
There are millions of people who are engaged in retailing food, clothes, amusements, sports, newspapers, books, groceries, anything you like, and in all those cases the Bill will enable a local authority, at the expense of the ratepayers, to compete with them in their own streets and against their shops with the whole wealth of the community behind them. It is a totally unfair form of competition. They could undercut every trader in the country. It would be competent for a council to run newspapers, at the vote of the majority in the council, produced so as to propagate the views of the majority for the time being with a view to taking party advantage of the fact that they have a majority. They could distribute throughout the whole 829 community, below cost, any literature they liked. They could propagate fables like "How to Cure Unemployment," fairy tales like "Labour and the Nation"; in fact, they could deluge the whole community with Marx's books on Capital. Looking through the Bill, I see nothing about bovine tuberculosis at all, but I find that any possible trade or industry can be embarked upon at the vote of the majority on the local council at the cost of and in competition with the ratepayers.
The most amazing Clause is Clause 4, which enables the local authority to run multiple shops. It is not only in their own area. With the consent of the Board of Trade and some transient phantom returned by some Socialist constituency at the last election, it would be possible for the ratepayers of Poplar to run multiple shops in competition with tradespeople in Manchester, Liverpool, or Birmingham. There is no limitation whatever, because, with the sanction of the Board of Trade, one municipality could run a shop, or a newspaper, or a racehorse, not only in its own area but anywhere throughout the whole length and breadth of the country.
There is no responsibility under the Bill with regard to the finance of the scheme. It is true that under Clause 9 the common fund is audited, but that has nothing to do with the raising of the money. The only way in which the money can be raised is by loan, and the council can borrow up to a point without any leave at all from any Government department. Someone may say it is going to help the ratepayers, because a profit is, going to be made on some of these businesses. That is not so. Any profits have to be paid into the common fund, and Clause 8 (2) says:No payment shall be made out of the common fund for the purpose of avoiding or reducing rates, nor shall the common fund be considered to be part of any fund of any council to which recourse may be had by the council for the purpose of meeting the legal liabilities of the council other than those incurred under this Act.In other words, there is unlimited scope for the undercutting of all other trades in the country, because there is no financial responsibility whatever. If any profits are made, they do not go in relief of rates; they do not go to lighten any burden upon the local community. They 830 cannot be used to discharge any municipal indebtedness. Apparently under this Bill they simply have to be accumulated and apparently they are destined to make still further extensions of municipal enterprises in the future. The whole finance of the Bill—I shall be glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has to say on this subject—seems to have no regard whatever for prudence. The effect of the Bill, therefore, is, that without any financial responsibility whatever one local authority can ruin every shop within its area and, mind you, not only shops; it can compete with all the great ratepaying concerns within the area. Take a city like Manchester. It will enable the city council there not only to set up next door to existing shops a rival shop to undercut them—no aim is made at profit at all—but to set up shops in rivalry with every single shop there. Nor is it limited to the retail trade. The city council can, without any financial responsibility, embark upon any great manufacturing, engineering or merchanting business in competition with its own chief ratepayers. It seems an extraordinary thing.
The hon. Gentleman invited support, I take it, from my hon. Friend the Member for Withington (Mr. Simon) by quoting from his speeches, and when the hon. Member for Withington speaks I shall be very glad to hear if it is his policy to support a Bill which would enable the local authority to set up shops to compete with every single retail shop in his Division and to set up businesses to compete with the businesses from which his own constituents derive their livelihood. The scheme is really an absolutely mad one. I cannot help using the words. The actual framework of the Bill seems to be uncommon even among Bills produced by members of the Socialist party. I was also very interested to hear what was said by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading. He quoted from some professor who, I think, came from Boston, about what a beautiful thing it was to eliminate the relationship between employer and employed. The hon. Gentleman who seconded talked about this being a nice family arrangement, so that everything could be arranged in the communal spirit. If we are going 831 to have a local authority running all these businesses, are they not going to have employés? You have to preserve the relationship between employer and employed even though you substitute for the individual who knows his business a city council which does not, and even though you substitute for a business, which is run with energy and for profit, a business which has no financial responsibility and which is run at a loss. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It must be run at a loss because according to the Bill you are disabled from utilising any profits for the relief of rates or the reduction of municipal expenditure. You do preserve the relationship between employer and employed, but, instead of allowing a large proportion of the population to pursue the bent of their characters by acting on their own initiative and pursuing their own enterprises, you are destroying all captainship in industry.
You are substituting an entire municipal service for the conduct of trade instead of preserving the energy and the interest in results which constitute the lifeblood of successful industry. It means clearly a terrible loss to the community, not only a social loss and an industrial loss, but also a heavy loss in funds. It it inconceivable that, if the whole industry of the country is municipalised in this way, it can have any other effect than an enormous increase in rates. Hon. Members opposite cannot say that it might possibly reduce rates, because there is a Clause in the Bill which prevents it from reducing rates. It must increase rates. [HON. MEMBERS:"How?"] If you are disabled from putting any profits into the industry in which you are working, that industry must necessarily be run at a loss.
§ Sir G. HURST
Unfortunately, it is not a question of suggestion; it is what it says. I would advise the hon. Member kindly to read Sub-section (2) of Clause 8. I will read it again, as, perhaps, he has not read it. If he will look at the marginal note of Clause 8 he will see that it says:Profits from land and undertakings to go to the common fund.832 Then in Sub-section (2) it says:No payment shall be made out of the common fund for the purpose of avoiding or reducing rates, nor shall she common fund be considered to be part of any fund of any council to which recourse may be had by the council for the purpose of meeting the legal liabilities of the council other than those incurred under this Act.
§ Sir G. HURST
I am very glad hon. Members opposite now realise the meaning of their Bill. We know what Socialist finance is. We see it on those unhappy councils which have had the misfortune to fall within their power. We see it in those trade unions which have had the misfortune to have their funds frittered away on political and non-trade union purposes. We see it again and again wherever Socialism holds sway. The effect of this Bill will be to increase prodigiously the great burden upon trade, industry, and the ordinary life of the country. The extraordinary thing is that the greatest burden of the rates is placed upon those shop-keepers who own premises and occupy considerable areas. They are the people who suffer most from rates, and they are the people who are going to suffer by this Bill. We have had many bad Bills from the Socialist party, but I contend, after the unbiased examination of the Sections which I have sought to give, that this Bill is absolutely the worst. That being so, I have great pleasure in moving the Amendment to which I have attached my name.
§ Captain GUNSTON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I have great pleasure in doing so. While we are very grateful to the hon. Members for their very interesting speeches in introducing this Bill, we ought to be all the more grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Moss Side (Sir G. Hurst) for having brought the issue clearly before the House. The two hon. Gentlemen who introduced this Bill gave us a very interesting lecture on dairy produce and bread making, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) interested us very much when he told us all about the details of the bread trade. I understand that there are three times as many men employed in distributing bread than there 833 ought to be, and I suppose we may look forward with great pleasure to the time when we sec him trying to reduce an equal number of redundant doctors.
§ Captain GUNSTON
I rather object that the Government, not having had the courage to bring in this Socialist Bill themselves, have tried to get a back bencher to sneak it through the House of Commons on a Friday under the innocuous name of an enabling Bill. To-day, we see the culminating point of a campaign which was initiated many years ago in the drawing room of the? Fabian Society. They realised that it would be impossible to impose Socialism on this country unless they were successful in doing two things; the first was, by a system of peaceful penetration, to capture the Liberal party, and the other was to capture the local government of this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, some years ago, made a speech in which he said that if they could capture the local government of this country they would have the greatest implement for Socialism in their hands. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] I am very glad to hear confirmatory cheers from hon. Members opposite. That is what they are attempting to do to-day. The Mover of the Second Reading of the Bill gave us an interesting discourse on what he called family life and the municipal spirit. I should like to join with him in a tribute of praise of the work of local authorities. He then gave us figures to show that public service was better under the municipalities than under private enterprise. Figures can prove anything, and I can give figures to prove an argument the other way, but I do not propose to inflict figures upon the House.
When the advantages of Socialism were first put before us, we were told that people would work for service and not for self. For many years we have had municipalisation, but I am afraid that it has not meant, as we were told it would, the abolition of strikes. Strikes among employés have been known in the municipal service and, although I hesitate to say it, there have been strikes even among the employés of co-operative societies. Granting that there has been success in the municipal services, it has been success invariably where there has 834 been a monopoly. You can take over trams and run them successfully, but in nearly every case those trams were started by private enterprise, which first went through difficult pioneering days, and when the municipality has taken over such tramways they have generally been a going concern.
One of the great dangers of the Bill, apart from the Socialistic element, is that hon. Members are attempting, by increasing the services of local authorities, to turn the mind of the council away from the primary duties of a local authority. What are those primary duties? They are to govern, and to control and inspect food, housing, and so on. Members of the Liberal party may remember that many years ago the so-called Progressive party had a majority in the London County Council. At that time they were very interested in the acquisition of the tramways and in running the London steamboat service which, I believe, cost the ratepayers £300,000. They were so interested in their new toy that they neglected the primary services, and there was an outcry at that time about the main drainage system in London. In 1903, a meeting of the Sanitary Institute, of sanitarians and professors of sanitation condemned the county council for their neglect of the primary duties connected with the health of London. The excuse advanced in the report of the Finance Committee in August, 1905, was that there were so many demands upon the council's credit in the direction of capital commitments on tramways that they could not devote so much money to the main drainage of London. In other words, they neglected the health of London for one of their pet theories. Exactly the same thing happened in regard to the fire brigade. They were so intent on their steamboats that they neglected the fire brigade. Finally, the Municipal Reform Party came into power and put the main drainage right and reformed the fire brigade. When private enterprise and Socialism compete on equal terms, private enterprise will win every time.
§ Captain GUNSTON
Yes, when you leave the sheltered waters of monopoly and come into the uncharted seas of competition. Usually, those who are engaged in running business have been 835 engaged in business all their lives. It is the old story of the amateur versus the expert, and the expert will win every time. When the private trader starts in business he has great difficulties to overcome. We are told that many people who start in business, fail. The people who succeed are the people who have the necessary qualities for carrying on business. In regard to local government, we have no guarantee that the people who are responsible for carrying on the business will he the people who have the necessary qualities. I think that danger is emphasised in a quotation from Mr. Bernard Shaw, who confessed that the drawback to public enterprise was municipal inertia. He said:—It is as possible for a local authority as for an Imperial Government to do nothing over and above the work that cannot be left undone without obvious disaster. Private enterprise, on the other hand, must discover and supply public wants or else starve.In this Bill, hon. Members are deliberately loading the dice against the small trader. If the trader who starts in business fails, he has to bear the loss himself, or if a group of individuals start a company and that company fails, they have to bear the loss. What happens if a municipality start a business and that business loses money? They do not close down, like the private trader, they come back upon the wretched ratepayers and get the money and, in many cases, they have not the courage to say that it was folly to start the scheme. The private trader who has to compete against the municipality in a particular trade will not gain by their failure, because the more money they lose the greater will be the charge upon the rates, and he will be a contributor to the cost of the failure. Under Clause 8, even if the municipality succeeds, the private trader who is a ratepayer will not gain anything by the success, because he cannot have any reduction on his rates.
I would ask hon. Members opposite why they have this animosity against the email trader. Why try to sweep him out of existence? He supplies the wants of the community in a way that the municipality cannot. If hon. Members dislike the private trader so much that they have no mercy upon him, what about the co-operative societies? Recently, a Bill was introduced into this 836 House to improve the economic position of co-operative societies. No doubt members of those societies were' very grateful when they read of the efforts made by hon. Members opposite, but I do not think they were so grateful this week when they found that the economic advantage had been sacrificed to the political desires of hon. Members, and I doubt whether they will be grateful when they read the way in which hon. Members will vote in the division Lobby to-day. On the 22nd May the Co-operative Union held their annual congress at Torquay, and Mr. H. J. May, the Congress President and Secretary of the International Co-operative Alliance, said:More important still for the future of our movement is the question of the intervention of the State and the municipality in the marketing and distribution of commodities. We should as a movement be prepared to resist by any means in our power every attempt at legislation in this direction, no matter by what party it is proposed.This Bill will see the beginning of a divorce in the unnatural alliance between Socialism and the co-operative movement. Why should hon. Members opposite be so unkindly disposed towards private traders? As a matter of fact, at the present time, many of the powers in this Bill can be got by promoting a private Bill. After it has received a Second Reading it goes to the Private Bill Committee upstairs, before whom counsel can appear, and the arguments for and against are heard very impartially by hon. Members whatever their politics may be. That is one safeguard which this House provides. If a small group of traders think they are going to be swept out of existence by one of these Bills, they can come to this House and put their case. These Bills are also subject to a town meeting or a poll, and recently polls have taken place in towns like Leeds, Sheffield, and Leicester. At Leicester the proposal to run municipal omnibuses outside was defeated by 19,187 to 4,654. That is a great protection to the traders of this country, but under this Bill you are not only sweeping away the protection which Parliament provides but there is no provision at all for a poll of the electors. I do not know why hon. Members opposite want to take away the last safeguard of private traders in this country. 837 I know it is absolutely hopeless to try and cure by argument the belief of hon. Members in Socialism.
§ Dr. SALTER
I do not want to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member, but may I call his attention to Clause 2, which requires that before any such undertaking is engaged upon by a municipality the provisions of the Borough Funds Act must be complied with, and in those circumstances an appeal to the ratepayers will be required.
§ Captain GUNSTON
I am glad the hon. Member has drawn ray attention to that provision, and if the Bill gets a Second Reading we shall hope to have his cooperation in insisting upon a poll of the electors.
§ Captain GUNSTON
I know there is no hope of curing hon. Members opposite of Socialism. It is a sort of mental disease which comes from abroad, and as far as I know there are only two cures for it. One is to go to Russia and the other is to be promoted to the Treasury bench. I want to make an appeal to the Liberals—and I see two distinguished Members of the Liberal party present. Are the Liberal party again going to act as a back upon which the Socialists can attain their object, or are they going to stand up for the private trader? Let me read another quotation from Mr. Bernard Shaw, from a pamphlet—"Fabian Society's Early History":We permeated the Party organisations and pulled all the wires we could lay our hands on, with our utmost adroitness and energy, and we succeeded so far that in 1888 we carried the solid advantage of a progressive majority full of ideas that would never have come into heads had not the Fabian put them there on the first London County Council. The generalship of this movement was undertaken chiefly by Sidney Webb, who played such bewildering tricks with the Liberal thimble" and the Fabian peas that to this day both the Liberals and the Sectarian Socialists stand aghast at it. It was exciting while it lasted. All this permeation of the Liberal Party, as it was now called, and no person with the smallest political intelligence is likely to deny that it made a foothold for us in the Press and pushed forward Socialism in municipal politics to an extent which can only be appreciated by those who remember how things stood before our campaign.838 The House and the country will be able to judge whether the Liberal party is going to stand up for the private trader or whether they are going to be the Liberal pea under the Socialist thimble.
§ Major MILNER
As a very junior Member, I should not have been in any hurry to trouble this House with my views on this or any other subject had it not been for the very great interest which has been taken in my own constituency of South East Leeds, and in Leeds as a whole, in the subject-matter of this Bill, and particularly so as the Bill refers to the purchase and use of land. The city of Leeds has a Labour majority, and incidentally has the honour of being the birthplace of the right hon. Gentleman, who, a moment ago, so fittingly adorned the Front Bench. The city of Leeds recently promoted a scheme to run a new street from East to West of the city. It was a project of a character which had not been undertaken by any municipality in this country for over 100 years in that it is intended that all the buildings erected thereon shall be of one very definite architectural character. In the course of the work, very naturally a great number of properties had to be demolished, and a number of tenants of shops and other premises were in need of alternative accommodation. The city council, in their wisdom. decided that it was right and proper that those who had been dispossessed by reason of the improvement, which was being carried out with the agreement of all parties and in the public interest, should be provided with alternative accommodation by the city council so far as was possible.
That, of course, meant the acquisition of land and the building and letting or selling, as the case might be, of suitable premises for those who were dispossessed in other parts of the city. There were also other vacant lands and premises, which the city council desired to have the right to make use of from time to time for public purposes—for building on the land in some cases, or to lease or develop and otherwise deal with them as the circumstances demanded. Leeds Corporation thereupon took the necessary steps to obtain the powers required. They proceeded by way of an application for 839 a Provisional Order. That Provisional Order was granted by the Minister of Health and was confirmed by this House, but was turned down in another place, not on the merits, but on technical grounds of a legal character, with the result that the city council were put to the expense and inconvenience and delay of proceeding by way of a Bill for these powers.
All this time, of course, those who were in process of being dispossessed of their premises were waiting for alternative accommodation. The Bill that was promoted included, among other matters, the power to build on and to lease and otherwise deal with lands which they might already possess or might acquire under the Bill. Owing to local circumstances, largely due to Press propaganda and factious opposition from the Ratepayers' and Property Owners' Association, it was not possible to obtain the necessary powers under the Borough Funds Act by means of a town's meeting and poll. These reasons were purely local and had no real relation to the particular facts of the case. The result of that procedure, the delay, inconvenience and expense, has been that Leeds City Council has not been able to provide the alternative accommodation, and in plain fact has not been able to do what it likes with its own, as a company or individual might do. Had the Bill which is now before us been an Act at the time, there would, of course, have been no need for the expense or delay or inconvenience of including these powers in a Bill; the lands would have been acquired and the buildings erected, and the dispossessed tenants would probably by now have been in occupation of their new premises. It is, perhaps, a commonplace to remind the House that in many other countries the position is different in this matter.
I believe I am right in saying that over a very large part of the Continent, speaking quite generally, the local authorities are enabled to carry on such businesses or to do such work as is not specifically forbidden by the particular national legislature concerned. In this country, local authorities can do only what is either made obligatory, or what they are given merely permissive powers to do under some general or local Act. 840 The position in this country is therefore precisely the reverse of what it is in many other countries, both in Europe and America. In German Switzerland, for instance, I believe that a commune or town can do practically anything, except deal with the Cantonal police, without reference to the national legislature at all. That is also the case in many cities in Australia and Canada. I can hardly think that even hon. Members of the Conservative party can be of opinion that the local authorities of this country are less capable of carrying out with due discretion any powers which may be conferred upon them than are the local authorities of the countries which I have mentioned.
There is another very great advantage which would be conferred if this Bill were passed. In my short experience of the House, I have appreciated how overburdened it is with legislation of one sort or another. A day or two ago I received a list of petitions and private Bills for the Session 1929–30, and I see there that no fewer than 91 private Bills or petitions have to be considered by the House. The great majority of those are asking for powers which, ipso facto, would be conferred on these authorities if this Bill became law. I submit that one of the greatest possible advantages which could be conferred by the passing of this Bill would be to avoid the expense, delay, and inconvenience which are caused not only to local authorities but to this House by the necessity for so frequently bringing private Bills before the House. We have been told during the last few days by the Lord Privy Seal that some 30 or 40 of those Bills ask for powers to enable certain works to be done for the relief of unemployment, and that it is impossible to deal with those works until these Bills have passed the House. If the Measure now before us became an Act, these works would be undertaken at once and the unemployed could be employed, and to that extent the unemployment problem would be solved.
I would remind the House, and particularly hon. Members of the Conservative party that the last Government passed the Local Government Act, one of the principal objects of which was to increase the area and financial resources of local authorities and enable them to employ competent technical officers for the 841 precise purpose of carrying on public services in the most efficient way. That was in the contemplation of the then Government. All one's experience goes to prove that local authorities, with the very high technicians whom they are now able to employ, can in the majority of cases carry on their undertakings with at least as much success, and some of us think with greater success, than private undertakings can do.
I do not propose to enter into any detail with regard to the 101 matters in which local authorities might engage. We have had a good many objections put forward by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, but I think I am right in saying that while a great many extravagant statements were made by the Mover of the Amendment, he advanced no single fact in support of any of his statements. He said that local authorities at present had their hands full. I have been a member of a local authority for a good many years and of this House for a few months, and I can only say that in my humble judgment local authorities have a good deal more time available and have not their hands half so full as the Members of this House have to-day. There is no doubt that local authorities could undertake any services which they thought it right to bring into operation. Then we were told by the Seconder of the Amendment that the Bill would ruin the small traders, for whom he appeared to have the greatest possible consideration. The last Government in their De-Rating Act had no consideration for the small trader. I would further remind the hon. Member that he did not say one word nor does one ever hear a word said, as to the effect on the poor small trader of large companies or trusts or combinations of one kind or another setting up businesses in different areas.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico)
I would point out that the hon. and gallant Member for South East Leeds (Major Milner) is making his maiden speech.
§ Major MILNER
I do not agree with the statement of the hon. Member who has just interrupted because the 842 majority of these multiple shops are working on public money invested by shareholders and the directors of these concerns are therefore not working on their own money at all. Frequently the directors have a very small financial interest in the business or just sufficient to qualify them for their seats on the directorate. No one knows that better than the hon. Gentleman. We were also told, which appeared to be a little contradictory, that the small trader and private enterprise generally can always carry on a business more economically and with greater advantage to the public than any public undertaking. If that be so, why should the small trader or those engaged in private enterprise be afraid of the competition of municipal or other local authorities? If it be true that private enterprise in all circumstances can compete successfully with public enterprise, why should private enterprise be in the least afraid of the powers asked for by this Bill being conferred on local authorities?
I submit that public enterprise "an only survive if it gives a better and cheaper service to the community. We on this side of the House believe that it can do so and that past experience has proved this to be the case. I undertook a little research work in the Library on this question and I find that 30 years ago there was a Parliamentary inquiry into municipal trading, or as I prefer to call it municipal service. The result of that inquiry was so demoralising to the then exponents of an anti-municipalisation policy that the committee never reported. It was quietly squashed but the evidence, and the conclusions arrived at proved beyond the possibility of doubt that not only was a better service being rendered by municipal undertakings then in operation, but that from the purely cash or profit-making point of view they were an undoubted success.
The hon. Member opposite also said that the result of any extension of municipal trading would be the piling up of debt. From what I know of municipal enterprises I have not the slightest doubt that, whatever their debts may be, their assets considerably exceed those debts. I have heard a former Tory Member of this House who sat for one of the Divisions of Leeds, frequently say 843 that the assets of the City of Leeds might be sold for two or three times the amount of the city's liabilities. I wonder if it is possible to get better value for money anywhere than the value which the citizen gets by the payment of rates. For instance, in a city like Manchester, Leeds, or Birmingham a house which is rented at 10s. a week pays £8 or £9 a year in rates. The occupant of such a house receives better value for that money than he could receive for any similar expenditure in any other way. The many social, health, recreational and household services could not be obtained in any other way for a great deal more than the inhabitants of those cities pay to-day. These services, at any rate where they are under Labour control, are gradually becoming cheaper every year. In Leeds under Labour control within the last year the price of gas, electricity, and water has been reduced, tram fares have been reduced, house rents have been reduced and hon. Members opposite may be interested to hear that compared with three years ago rates have been reduced. No evidence has ben adduced to substantiate the statement that Labour control, or the extension of municipal services, means waste or extravagance. In fact, the contrary is the case because it is by reason of economies, extension of the service and other factors that the Leeds City Council under Labour control has been able to make the reductions to which I have referred.
There are numerous safeguards in the Bill apart from those safeguards which exist outside it—the safeguard of public opinion and the fact that the electors have the opportunity year by year of putting into power those whom they think can best conduct the affairs of the city. In practice, as hon. Members must appreciate, the services which will be undertaken by a city under these proposals will be in the main only those which are considered necessary or desirable by the great majority of the people. It is not likely, at any rate for some time to come, that, as one member said might be the case, apple stalls will be opened—although that is a development which some of us would contemplate with equanimity at some time in the distant future. Finally, I remind the House that the principle of the 844 Bill has been proved in practice over a long period of years. The great majority of the people of this country nowadays are brought into the world by a municipal midwife. They go as children to municipal schools; they play in municipal parks, get books from a municipal library, swim in a municipal bath, wash in and consume municipal water, use municipal gas and electricity, ride in municipal trams or omnibuses and finally the great majority are buried in a municipal cemetery. Yet we find gentlemen who on the platform and in the newspapers declare that there is no municipalisation to-day and so forth. It has been well said "where there is no vision the people perish," and I submit that if the House passes this Bill it will result in a great impetus to local patriotism; there will be a much greater interest on the part of the electors in the elections—a matter on which hon. Members opposite have frequently complained—and it will lead to a great growth in civic spirit in social service and in fact to a great municipal awakening.
§ Mr. E. D. SIMON
In the first place, may I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for South East Leeds (Major Milner), who has just spoken, on his very excellent speech? I do so, in particular, for two reasons. The first is because the subject of municipal Socialismis one which almost always arouses the worst passions of hon. Members of the Conservative party, and it is very rarely that you get the subject discussed in the calm, thoughtful, and constructive spirit of the speech to which we have just listened; secondly, because the hon. and gallant Member dealt mainly with what seems to me to be by far the strongest argument in favour of the Bill, and that is the power to be given to municipalities to purchase land without coming to the House of Commons for a private Act whenever they want to buy land. It is true that Manchester and a few other localities have that power already, and it is true that foreign countries have given it to municipalities no more responsible than ours, and it is high time that a general Act was passed giving that power to all municipalities in this country over a certain size.
This is the first time I have had the privilege of listening to a debate in this House on the question of municipal trading. I have listened to such debates on 845 the Manchester City Council frequently, and there is a considerable similarity between the debates there and here on this subject, to which, however, the speech we have just heard is rather an exception. The similarity is this, that in every case, whatever the actual proposal is, if it tends to extend municipal trading, whether it is a good or a bad proposal, members of the Labour party stress only the good points, are quite sure it is desirable, and invariably vote for it, whatever it is. With equal uniformity and certainty again, however good the proposal may be, the members of the Conservative party point out only the bad points and vote absolutely unanimously against it. It is therefore fortunate that the Liberal party, although not very numerously represented here at the moment, but represented, nevertheless, by a higher proportion of its members than the other two parties, is here to consider these matters dispassionately and in the only way which is useful, namely, whether in each case when any extension of the principle of municipal trading is mentioned, it is or is not an extension that is going to be of advantage to the city concerned and is or is not going to give a cheaper service. The two able and eloquent speeches from the Conservative benches did not make the least attempt to deal with that kind of question. They dealt with it, as Conservative speeches always do, as a general matter of principle, and they stated, in eloquent and imaginative terms, the evils that would result from any extension of municipal trading. I do not believe that either of the hon. Members who spoke from those benches has ever been a member of a local authority. It did not emerge anyway from their speeches that they had, and they tried to frighten us. The hon. and learned Member for Moss Side (Sir G. Hurst) tried to frighten me personally by saying that if this Bill went through, not only would all the shops in Manchester be ruined, but the Manchester City Council would compete with my own works, aided by the rates. I said the hon. and learned Member was imaginative, because that is a purely fantastic suggestion, and it does not frighten me in the least. It is the sort of thing that I am quite certain will not happen. My complaint of local authorities 846 is not that they are too enterprising and taking on too many services and competing with people, but that they are too timid and that all kinds of powers that they have to-day are very ineffectively carried out all over the world.
I have an interesting illustration of the way in which Conservatives having very long experience in municipal affairs regard this question of municipal trading, and it tends to discount what we hear from them. In 1920 I was a member of a committee, referred to by the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. McShane), who introduced the Bill, to inquire into the question of the municipalisation of the Manchester milk supply, and their report was sent up to the city council recommending it. The chief opponent was the chairman of the Manchester gas committee, gas in Manchester having been municipalised for 80 years, and he made a passionate speech denouncing it as a Socialist proposal, saying it was quite inconceivable that the municipality should manage the Manchester milk supply as well as the experienced business men who were making such a success of it. It was pointed out to him that his gas committee, which he was constantly boasting was the most efficient gas undertaking, private or municipal, in the country, was also a case of municipal Socialism, but this made him very angry, and he flatly denied that it was anything of the kind.
I happened to go to Bristol a few days afterwards, and I talked to a gentleman who was chairman of the new municipal docks committee there, a very successful and fine piece of municipal trading. Knowing that their gas was provided by a private company, I asked him, "In view of the fact that most gas undertakings are municipalised, and in view of your success in running the docks, why do you not municipalise your gas undertaking?" This caused him great perturbation, and he said, "We would never dream in Bristol of going in for a piece of Socialism of that sort." So there you have, in Manchester, gas as a respectable piece of trading, with a Conservative chairman, but in Bristol it would be n case of gross municipal Socialism.
The hon. and learned Member for Moss Side tried to frighten us by saying that enormous losses would be made. The Manchester gas undertaking, which it is generally agreed is a very efficient under- 847 taking, up to the time when it was prohibited by Parliament from contributing to the relief of rates was contributing £30,000 to £40,000 a year in relief of rates, and our various examples of municipal Socialism in Manchester, if you like so to call it—gas, trams, and electricity—were contributing up to a short time ago no less than £200,000 a year in relief of rates. Personally, I do not think that is a right thing; I think the profits ought to go in reduction of costs, but these undertakings are successful and could again contribute to the relief of the rates if that were allowed.
The same hon. and learned Member tried to frighten us by pictures of enormous extensions of municipal trading under this Bill, and he seemed to have read the Bill more carefully than some of the speakers. On the other hand, he seemed to have missed Clause 3, in which it states that the total of the loan which is to be borrowed is not to exceed the amount of one quarter of the annual value of the rateable property in the area. That means that in Manchester you could not borrow more than £1,000,000 under this Bill. In Manchester we have already borrowed £3,000,000 for our tramway undertaking—these figures are a few years out of date—£5,000,000 for gas, £8,000,000 for electricity, and well over £10,000,000 for water. Altogether, in Manchester the outstanding capital on our municipal trading undertakings is £33,000,000, and under this Bill we should be able to extend that without coming to Parliament up to £34,000,000. I am astonished at the moderation of the hon. Member who brought in this Bill. Why Manchester should only be allowed to spend £1,000,000 more on trading when they have already got a capital of £33,000,000 invested, I do not know. It is 3 per cent. of the total trading of Manchester now; and I think that Clause, like a great many other Clauses in the Bill, might have to be reconsidered in Committee.
I will come now to consider for a few minutes a few cases of actual municipal trading—whether and how far the different kinds of municipal trading are likely to be satisfactory—which have come within my own experience in Manchester. In the first place, I was for some years a member of the electricity committee in 848 Manchester, in pre-War days. At that time we had one of the ablest engineers in the country in charge of the committee, and we built a power Stacion which to-day is one of the two or three most efficient power stations in the country. We promoted the South East Lancashire Joint Electricity Scheme, which was the very first purely municipal scheme to get the sanction of the Electricity Commission. I say, without hesitation—and I have a good deal of inside experience of two or three private concerns working on comparable lines—that the electricity committee of that time was as efficiently and well run as the best type of private enterprise. I do not say better, but it worked thoroughly well.
My second experience on a large scale was as chairman of the housing committee at the time of the Addison Act when we had a very difficult task—a task which private enterprise could not carry out under the conditions. The work was done fairly satisfactorily, and now the housing committee has a very good start and is working satisfactorily. But that was a much more difficult task. When it comes to building houses, we do not get a monopoly, and we had different interests represented on the committee. There were the interests of the trade unions, who were, in some cases, more interested in looking after the wages of the people doing the work than of seeing that houses were built cheaply. There were the interests of builders, who were very much concerned to see that the municipality should not compete with them; and there were the interests of property owners, who wanted to see that nothing was done to damage existing property. There were a good many interests, and they caused a good deal of difficulty in various ways, and the greatest possible difficulty in getting our staff appointed, because of the opposition of people who wanted to kill the work of the housing committee. It was an illustration which impressed itself very strongly on my mind, that when you have got diverse interests it does tend to make municipal trading less efficient. In spite of those difficulties, the work could not be done otherwise, and it is universally admitted now, that, generally speaking, all through the country it is a successful form of municipal trading.
849 My third experience was the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Walsall, in which our Public Health Committee spent a long time in investigating the milk supply in Manchester. We got evidence from dealers, from co-operative societies, and the Medical Officer of Health, who showed a very close interest, and we came to the conclusion that as regards quality, two-thirds of the milk supplied to Manchester hospitals at that time was of a grade which in New York would be allowed only to be used for cooking. We came to the conclusion that we could make a net saving of £70,000 a year if that were municipalised. If that saving were to be made—and this applies also to the case of baking given by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter)—it could only be made, not only because it is municipal trading, but because you had a monopoly, and in both these cases of milk and baking that could not be got under this Bill. It means some separate Bill to give a monopoly. If one started a municipal bakery and simply competed with others, none of the economies could possibly be obtained, and, therefore, really everything said as regards that is irrelevant as far as the present Bill is concerned.
Another interesting though a very small case occurred during the War, when the public health committee on medical advice, and owing to certain conditions of supply, thought it necessary to sell cheap sugar to mothers with young children. They were informed at once, although it was on quite a small scale that it was petty trading outside the scope of the public health committee, and that they had no power to do it. They then went to a voluntary body of ladies helping in welfare work called the School for Mothers and arranged with them to sell this sugar to mothers, and gave them a grant out of the rates which they had power to do. Surely it is a humiliating and even an intolerable thing for a great municipality like Manchester not to be able to sell cheap sugar, on medical advice, to mothers of children who need it, and have to adopt an evasion of that sort and get voluntary effort to do the work. That is one of the things that would definitely be avoided by this Bill, and that kind of irritating restriction would be removed.
Let me give one other illustration. In the early days of the housing committee 850 we had the utmost difficulty in getting bricks. We were convinced that there was a ring, and that we were being charged unduly high prices. As we thought that we were going to build houses on a large scale for many years, we considered very seriously whether we ought not to purchase brickworks, and insure a constant supply of bricks at a reasonable price. If we had been a private company carrying on work on that scale we should have done so. It would certainly have paid us to buy one or more brickworks. We could not do it, we were advised, without going to Parliament and getting a special Act, and the whole thing fell through for that reason. I think that is the kind of thing which certain great municipalities might be justified in doing if and when they felt there were rings holding up supplies against them.
Those are the cases which have convinced me, personally, that municipal trading is in many ways a very great success. I do not think it is going too far to say that where there is a monopoly, municipal trading is almost invariably the best form of carrying it out. There are cases such as milk where it is probably desirable to create a monopoly and hand it over to the municipality, but it cannot be done under this Bill. An absurb case is that of the supply of sugar. It is quite obvious that a great municipality like Birmingham or Leeds ought to be able to do that kind of thing without coming to Parliament. We have in Manchester 60 private Acts of Parliament. Sixty times we have had to come here and spend large sums of money, and our leading officials, who ought to have been in Manchester administering the city, spent weeks on end walking through corridors here and helping to get a Bill through. A Measure like this, which will reduce very considerably the necessity in future of coming to Parliament in that way, will be a real advantage to local authorities from that point of view.
Coming to the Bill itself, it does seem to me, frankly, to be an extraordinarily badly drafted Bill, and if it gets a Second Reading it will need a very great deal of revision in Committee; but I do not propose to spend any time going into points of that sort now. Broadly speaking, I differ fundamentally from the 851 hon. Member for Moss Side, who said that local authorities have too much to do, and, therefore, you cannot get good men upon them. My view is that the greater the responsibility, the greater the freedom you give to our large local authorities, the better men will think it worth while to go upon them. I know, personally, but one case up against these hampering and irritating little restrictions, or did one day when I was on a local authority. They tended to make one say, "Really, if they will not trust us in a thing of this sort, is it worth while spending our time on this?" In Manchester there is a population three times the size of Newfoundland. The Government of Newfoundland have complete authority over life and death. The governing council in Manchester is not allowed to sell cheap sugar to mothers. I am quite convinced that restrictions of that sort are not in the interest of the good government of Manchester. I must confess that when I heard some of the sweeping proposals of the Mover and Seconder, I wondered whether it would be safe to trust a Bill of this sort to gentlemen like them, but, perhaps fortunately, the average city councillor has nothing like the imagination municipally of these two hon. Members. Personally, I am not in the least afraid that too much will be done under this Bill. My theory is that, if the Bill goes through in a modified form, it will have very much less effect than the hon. Members who moved and seconded it supposed. At the same time, it is important that further powers on these lines and on other lines should be given to our great local authorities, and speaking purely for myself, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
The House has listened to a number of interesting and important speeches. I allude particularly to the speech of the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon), who is well known for his long and wide experience of local government. I cannot claim to have been Lord Mayor of Manchester, or to have had the same direct experience of local government as the hon. Gentleman. I also allude to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner), who spoke with close personal acquaintance of certain difficulties under which 852 local authorities are now labouring. Turning to the constitutional aspect of the question, hon. Members will recall the fact that the powers of local authorities have been entrusted to them by Parliament, and this Bill proposes to make what I may term a constitutional challenge to the powers of Parliament. Local authorities have from time to time through many generations had very wide and important duties entrusted to them by Parliament in its wisdom. This Bill does not propose to limit those powers, and it will not interfere with the successful discharge of them by local authorities, such as that of the city of Manchester. What it does attempt to do is to introduce Socialism in our time, or as is sometimes described, Socialism by the back door.
It proposes to sweep away certain safeguards which now operate for the protection of the ratepayers, and to place power at the command of a majority of a municipality without any of those safeguards of a poll or town's meeting, and so on, which at present exists, and without any of the opportunities which are now the right of the ratepayer or the person concerned, to come to this House and appear before it in Committee. It also deprives this House of those powers which it now enjoys, and which are inseparable from the system of Private Bill legislation. What advantage will there be in this? It is claimed that there will be a certain saving in time, but if, as hon. Members regularly insist, they have the greatest faith in the strength and discretion of democracy, why do they deprive democracy of the opportunity of determining a question, in the first instance, as can be done by a town's meeting? An hon. Member, referring to Clause 2, pointed out that that safeguard existed, but that is not, of course, a fact, as will be seen by a reading of the Bill. Notice has to be given, but no town's meeting would be held and no poll would be demanded. The Bill, therefore, proposes to sweep away very important safeguards which the ratepayer has at the present time, such as the direct appeal to Parliament, with the opportunity of interested parties to be heard, and the discretion of Parliament itself.
It is all very well to say that no self-respecting authority would indulge in them, but the opportunities which local 853 authorities would have under this Bill are almost fantastic in their variety and extent. They may carry on any business in anything and in any place. They may even, as far as I can see, run a line of steamers. As has been pointed out, they can run a series of multiple shops without any proper opportunity on the part of the persons most concerned, with whom they would compete to object; and no opportunity either for the ratepayers whose money, resources and credit would be used in these adventurous undertakings. There would be no safeguards in fact, and the proposal is a challenge to the constitutional system of the country. In Clause 6, the Bill proposes to take away from a local authority, so far from extending them, the powers which they at present possess. When you turn to Clause 8, you would suppose that it was almost indelicate to reduce the rates. The ratepayers are required to provide the credit, the capital, and the resources to pay the losses of these undertakings, but whatever may happen, if there be a profit on any of these enterprises, the last thing to which the money is to be allowed to be devoted is the reduction of the rates, as if there were something indelicate in combining the claim for efficiency with the obvious need for economy. What happens to the fund has not been clearly defined.
Is not this Bill a first step in the progress laid down in "Labour and the Nation"? The Labour party intend to use its power, the word "power" is used, and let it be a warning to the ratepayers of the country. Here is a Bill which deprives the ratepayers and Parliament of certain safeguards which now exist, and the Labour party proposes to use its power to convert industry step by step and put it under public control.
The Labour party, on another page of this document, claims and asks for the maintenance of the unquestioned supremacy of the House of Commons; yet here is a Bill where they are actually taking away from the House of Commons powers which it at present possesses. Then, again, on page 24 of this book, it proposes to encourage local authorities to expand their functions subject to safeguards. Where are those safeguards? They do not exist in this Bill. They will be encouraged also to undertake such services as their citizens may desire— 854 although the citizens are being deprived of the opportunity of expressing their will—including the compulsory acquisition of land and the conduct of economic enterprises from which they are at present barred. It is fortunate for the ratepayers that local authorities are debarred at present from engaging in such enterprises as have been briefly referred to and such as they will be at liberty to undertake under this Bill. They would be free to compete with their own ratepayers, establishing a rate-subsidised monopoly and putting a section of their traders out of business. In what order do these trades come? The list reads; "Meat, milk, bread, coal, banking, tailors and shoemakers." Who is the unfortunate milkman or the unhappy baker whose business is first to be ruined by this municipal enterprise? Is that to be settled by a poll of the people? Why should some industries be interfered with and others left alone? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I see by the welcome which that remark received that this Bill is very much more than the first step, it is a glimpse of the whole.
In point of fact this ought to be called not a Local Authorities Enabling Bill but a Citizens' and Ratepayers' Disabling Bill. It is going to reduce their liberties at the behest of what may be a temporary majority on a local authority, after an election fought, possibly, on a whole host of local questions entirely foreign to and separate from this issue. The ratepayer has at present an opportunity of expressing his opinion. He can call for a town's meeting, and procure a poll. But that safeguard is to be done away with. Of course, an ambitious local authority does not wish to have its hands tied by a direct appeal to the people—in spite of what the Labour party profess. What they profess on one hand they take care to prevent happening on the other. This Bill has been called Socialism by the back door, but it is something worse; it is a constitutional challenge to the powers of Parliament and the liberties of the citizens and ratepayers.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
That may be true, but I did not say so. If the hon. Member had his way, no doubt 855 he would start things as rapidly as he has described, though I trust, for the benefit of the rest of us, we should not come to the same end. We shall have to try to keep him in order and perhaps we shall succeed.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
It cannot be said that in the course of the discussion of this Bill the ratepayers have not had explained to them what the Bills means, though not by the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Second Reading. They hardly referred to the Bill. They discussed a number of interesting subjects but all very wide of the Bill. I understand the Bill follows old examples, proposals of this kind having been put forward at other times during the past quarter of a century; but nevertheless it has not been adequately explained by its Proposer or its Seconder, and it has not been adequately explained from either side of the House, though various proposals have been referred to and the milk trade and the bread making trade have been described. I trust the House will decline to accord a Second Reading to a Measure so far reaching, so immature and so ill-drafted.
§ Mr. SINKINSON
I welcome this very modest Bill, because it is a step in the direction in which I and my colleagues would like to see matters go. The hon. Member who has just sat down was very pained to think that we were out-stepping the bounds of decorum, the bounds of decorum of society as we had to suffer it for so long; but in my view- tremendous safeguards surround the Bill. It does not go anything like the distance indicated by the word "Socialism." If there were anything like Socialism in it, there would be something to talk about. The Mover and Seconder of the Bill mentioned that at present we can have municipal cemeteries, wash houses and libraries. In the case of libraries we are allowed to levy a rate in order to supply the community with books, but under this Bill we are not allowed to levy a rate to supply people with houses. According to the Bill, a company has to be formed, but the municipality is not allowed to levy a rate, as I would like to see, and thus get the money without 856 borrowing. That seems to be the bugbear of the opponents of municipalisation—that you should do something without borrowing money. As long as it is left to private financiers to do it, it is all right, and everything can go along swimmingly, but for goodness' sake, they cry, do not let the municipalities interfere in this kind of thing.
Statistics show that the municipalities of England and Wales have something like £589,000,000 of debt round their necks, and have to pay something like £26,250,000 in interest, financiers are finding a very fine field for investment in municipalities. It may be noticed that very few private companies are building houses to be let. It is left to she municipalities to build houses for people who want to rent them and the people on the opposite benches would certainly discourage the building of houses by municipalities in favour of private enterprise. I know of municipalities which did not provide a sufficient number of houses because they thought it was a matter that should be left to private enterprise. If you had a tremendous shortage of houses and that is not met by the municipality, you will be left at the mercy of private enterprise, and you will be encouraging private contractors to build those houses.
The hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) has told us, what they are doing under the Bermondsey Borough Council, and other municipalities, have done remarkably well in regard to the provision of houses, but look at the tremendous rents which are being charged for those houses? What is the reason? The real reason was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) when he stated in 1924 that you would have to charge 9s. 9d. per week for the houses provided for the simple reason that two-thirds of the rent had to be paid to the money-lender. This Bill does not save us from that danger, and I would like to see provisions made in this Measure for supplying money by the Government free of interest just as is done in the case of battleships. Houses are a form of wealth, and fuel, food, clothing, and shelter should be provided by municipalities, because they are a form of wealth, and a nation or a municipality when investing its money 857 could not invest it in a better way than in wealth of this description.
§ Sir COOPER RAWSON
The hon. Member for Berwick (Mr. Sinkinson) has been speaking for a long time, but has scarcely touched upon the Bill. He has dealt with battleships and houses, but they are not dealt with by this Bill.
§ Mr. SINKINSON
I merely gave that as an instance. As a rule, the houses which are built by municipal enterprise are let at exorbitant rents, and they would be considerably cheaper if, by this Bill, they were allowed to have the same advantages as those which are given to a private company. If that could be done I believe houses could be built much cheaper than is the case at the present time. In July last the right hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Sir T. Walters) gave a very fine exposition of the housing problem, and he did not mention municipal enterprise. I would like more attention paid to what the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth said on that occasion, because he stated that he could produce A3 houses under a system of bulk production which could be let at a rental of 2s. 6d. per week. If that is true, surely on a basis of 3s. 6d. per week that might be done in other parts of the country. If this Bill could give municipalities the power to form themselves into companies and adopt a scheme that would have the effect of bringing down the rents of houses from 13s. or 21s. per week to about one-half of that rent, that would be a great contribution towards the solution of the housing problem.
There are many municipal authorities and county councils that say that they have not the power to form companies on such a large scale as I have suggested, but I notice that in this Bill there is a Clause under which municipalities would be allowed to combine one with the other so as to form a company big enough to undertake bulk purchase and bulk and mass production in such a way that the cheapening of houses could be brought about. A Bill on those lines would be a very fine one. The building of houses for sale has been greatly encouraged, but more houses ought to be built for letting, and anything that this Bill is likely to do in bringing about such a result I should certainly welcome.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I have listened with very great interest to the last speaker, and what he has said about housing, but I would like to remind him that housing is not dealt with by the Bill we are discussing. Already municipalities have power to deal with the housing question. During the lifetime of this Parliament the Minister of Health brought in a Bill to enable local authorities to build houses to let and he took a great deal of credit for having introduced that Measure. I shall not say anything to take away the credit due to the right hon. Gentleman on that account, but to talk about this Bill giving more power to municipalities to deal with the housing question is absolute nonsense. We have heard from the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill a good deal about milk and bread, but very little about the Bill itself. This Bill was introduced in 1912 by the late Mr. Keir Hardie, and on 16th May, 1919, it was again introduced by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) whom I am sorry is not present on this occasion to support this Bill. Probably the hon. Member has been enlightened since 1919. In his speech on that occasion, the hon. Member for Govan did not disguise or camouflage his object in any way, and he claimed that the Bill of 1919 would enable local authorities to enter into any schemes they cared to undertake, and to carry on all forms of trades which were at present undertaken by shopkeepers or multiple firms in the city. The hon. Member for Govan made no secret of his intention, and I am sorry that the Mover and Seconder of this Bill did not think it worth while to follow the example of the hon. Member for Govan because, when we are discussing the Bill whether it is a Socialist, a Conservative, or a Liberal Measure we should be really honest about it.
§ Dr. SALTER
Speaking for myself I certainly did nothing to camouflage our intention in promoting this Bill, and I think I showed clearly that we intended to cover the widest possible field of municipal activity.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
The hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) devoted a 65 minutes speech to bread, milk, and the wonderful things that Bermondsey has done. I have listened carefully to the speeches delivered in this Debate, and I 859 say that there has been an attempt to camouflage the real issue which this Bill brings before us by sentimental talk about milk and bread business and housing.
If the local authorities wanted special powers, they could come to Parliament and receive them if they could make out a sufficiently good case. I speak as one who has had considerable experience of local government and local government enterprise, so that I am able to give an opinion on this matter. We must consider this Bill from the point of view of whether it is really needed. Do the public want such a Bill? I say that there is no public demand for such a Measure. As regards the services with which the local authorities are not in a position to deal because they have not the necessary statutory powers, private enterprise can supply all the needs of the community. That has been proved time and again. If hon. Members opposite want to go in for this form of municipal enterprise, they will be up against another great community which is a supporter of theirs, namely, the co-operative movement. In certain towns in this country where there are Socialist majorities, and those Socialist majorities have attempted to go in for various forms of municipal trading, the co-operative people have been the first to protest and tell them to hold their hand.
Again, the shopkeepers, who as a body are the largest ratepayers in any city or town in the country, should be considered in this matter. All of us who have had experience of municipal government know that the rates received from small property do not in any way pay for the services rendered. I am not going to dispute at all that that is a right and proper thing, because people who live in the smaller houses could not afford to pay more; but the local authorities have in the main to depend on the shopkeepers for their rates with which they carry on the city or town services. Under the present system, with the de-rating of factories. the local authorities have to depend on the Government grants to balance the de-rating, and they are left in the position of having to depend largely on the shop-keeping fraternity to keep their city or town services going. If a system of trading is going to be instituted which will wipe out the shopkeepers, what are 860 the local authorities going to do? It is all very well to say that the shopkeepers, if they are efficient, can compete with and beat the corporation services, but it must be borne in mind that the corporation services will have the whole financial backing of the community behind them. They can make losses and need not show them, because county boroughs have no audit of the Ministry of Health to contend with. They can camouflage these things in many ways, and, if they wish to do so, they can beat the private trader by cutting prices and making a loss.
What is going to happen when the shop-keeping class has been cut out! Where are the rates to come from then? [Interruption.] It is all very well to laugh. If the hon. Member who laughs has had any practical experience of dealing with the rating question, he will know very well what I mean. In the large cities the majority of the people living in smaller property, where there is direct rating, are appealing to the local councillors to get them excused from the rates, and many a Socialist member of a local council is there because he has promised to get these people excused their rates. The rates have to be obtained from somewhere. Where are they to come from if the shopkeeping class is wiped out? Moreover, I suggest that there is no benefit to the community in this. The real test as to whether it is worth while is whether a better service can be given at a cheaper price by the municipality. The hon. Member for West Bermondsey talked about the wonderful system of employing direct labour in Bermondsey, and how they compete with the private contractor and beat him every time; but he did not say that in many cases the prices tendered by his own authority have proved altogether out of plumb when it came to settling up.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Let me remind the hon. Member of the case of the new Central Baths. The estimate for building those baths by direct labour, which was submitted in 1925, was lower than any of the 10 tenders received from contractors. I give the hon. Member credit for that. It indicated a saving of £7,492 as compared with the lowest tender, and a saving of £18,466 as compared with the highest. Therefore, it did appear that 861 the works department of the Bermondsey Borough Council, in tendering for this work, was going to do something to save money for the ratepayers. But the actual cost, when it was finally determined, exceeded the estimate by 45 per cent.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
It exceeded the estimated cost by 45 per cent. The actual cost of the building by direct labour was £117,904, as compared with the estimate of £81,508; and the cost of demolition and supervising was £11,600, as compared with the estimate of £8,350. There was thus a total excess of nearly £40,000, apart from an excess of over £7,000 under other headings, such as machinery. There is no doubt that some part of this excess was due to alterations made subsequently—
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
That happens in the case of most contracts. I am quoting the Inspector of the Ministry of Health, who says in his report:My chief reason for referring to this matter is that it shows, as my experience in like cases has taught me, that it behoves a council, in considering probable cost, to add a large percentage to estimates submitted by Works Officers. No pecuniary responsibility attaches to such estimates corresponding to that which the tenders of contractors involve.If a contractor had put in that tender, it would have been sized up very carefully as to what his extras were, and he would have been paid for those extras on a certificate, and on a certificate only. The local authority's own man puts on the extras, and, as they are there, they are paid for. There is no fair comparison as between a local authority's works department and outside work. I do not wonder that the London building trades organisation issued instructions to its members not to tender for work required by the Bermondsey Borough Council. They would be wasting their time, and very valuable time too, because they would not get a fair share of the work.
It is not possible to get a better or cheaper service in certain lines of business by engaging in it as a municipal enterprise. The only cases that I know 862 of where the department of a municipality has proved really successful are cases in which they get a local man with the same public spirit which the hon. Member for West Bermondsey has- shown in regard to his bakery business. He is prepared to devote his valuable time and knowledge and ability to making it a paying success, without receiving any payment or reward other than criticism, possibly, from opponents on the council, or a little approbation, sometimes, when his annual balance sheet is presented. But unless a man of that type can be found, who would be able to command a pretty high salary for the same amount of work if he were engaged in private enterprise, it is not possible to get efficiency or good management. It reflects great credit on many men who have gone into local government service that they have given their time and brains in this way, but again I ask, where are they to be found? Certainly they are to be found here and there, but if local authorities are going to ramify into all sorts of business, where will they find the necessary men? Speaking as one who has had 19 years' experience of local government work, I say that the business of a local authority is, first of all, to look after the health of the people, to see that proper services and amenities are provided for the people, and also to provide for the education of the citizens of the future. These are matters that the local authorities certainly ought to see to and make their primary objects. As regards trading matters, as I said when I was speaking last week on the Bill that was then before the House, in regard to monopolies which provide services for the people, there are things in which the municipality ought to engage, but when it comes to ordinary trading, opening shops and selling apples or vegetables, as has been suggested, is it not rather in the nature of a farce? This Bill is pure Socialism—
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I am glad to hear the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) applaud that. It might be extended even to authorship, to the publication of books and the writing of articles in the newspaper Press, and I would ask the hon. Lady how she would like that? I might suggest that even 863 the hon. Member for West Bermondsey would object to being a municipalised doctor.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Then what a wonderful opportunity he has of becoming one now by taking a post of medical officer of health. He knows, however, that he prefers sitting in the House of Commons to taking on a job like that under a beneficient municipality. It is a piece of pure Socialism, an attempt at nationalisation on a small scale, and in my opinion the House ought to reject it, because the citizens would reject it if it was put to them as a referendum. We have had a fair example during the last week or two, as to how the citizens will treat proposals of this kind when they are given an opportunity to vote. The Birkenhead Corporation introduced a coal trading scheme into one of the Bills. It had the safeguards that this Bill does not provide under the Borough Funds Act, 1872. A meeting was held, according to the Statute, the citizens protested against the Clause and demanded a poll, it was defeated, and the Birkenhead Corporation had to cut it out of their Bill, quite rightly. Sheffield, with the wonderful organisation of the Socialist party—let me compliment them on that—could not get their own people to vote for their Clause. But the people who disagreed voted in great numbers. One of the Socialist members said, "Never mind. Our own people will not have this business but a Bill is going to be introduced shortly which will give us these wide powers that our own people have refused. Let us wait until it is placed on the Statute Book." During the poll, one ratepayer wrote upon his vote paperIll fares the land to hasten'g ills a prey,Where doles and taxes multiply, and industries decay.Excessive taxation kills good trade.The Lord Mayor of Sheffield said he had no hesitation in saying that that was a vote against the Clause introduced by the Socialists, and there is no doubt about it.
The Bill provides that no profits shall go to the relief of rates. This is a question that I have fought in my own Council time and time again. I have argued that the ratepayer, who has to 864 back the risk, ought, if there are profits made, to get some little benefit by way of relief from the rates. Those who have drafted the Bill do not think that is the correct way. It goes into the common fund. They may say, "We will use it to reduce the price of certain commodities." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That shows that hon. Members have not given deep study to the question. There are many commodities on which a reduction of even a farthing would mean a loss instead of a profit. [An HON. MEMBER: "Then you would not reduce the price."] But what are you going to do with your profit? You cannot have it both ways. Long ago a well-known author who. I believe, is a Socialist—he certainly was then—George Bernard Shaw—in writing on this question in "The Commonsense of Municipal Trading," put forward this theory about these invisible profits, that is to say the mere existence of a municipal trade undertaking furnishes the community with a tangible benefit which may be termed an invisible profit. The profit has to be invisible according to George Bernard Shaw and the author of this Bill. Fancy the Chairman of a Company which has made a very heavy loss telling the infuriated shareholders that, though there were no visible profits, there were great invisible profits and that they ought to be pleased. I scarcely think George Bernard Shaw, when settling his account for royalties, would be satisfied if a theatrical manager said, "Here you are. Here is 10 per cent. representing the gratification of the public, 10 per cent. represents your gratification for having written a successful play, 10 per cent. represents the comfortable feeling of myself and my staff because we are running a successful play, and therefore we are doing all right—and you can take the 30 per cent. invisible profits to the credit side of your ledger, but you will never see it in cash." That is exactly the position the ratepayers will be in under this Bill. The. hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Sinon), who expressed great sympathy with the idea in the minds of those who promoted the Bill, said it was badly drafted and would have to be drastically altered. I suggest that it is such a bad piece of legislation, both in its intention and in its drafting, that the best thing for the House to do is to refuse a Second Reading.
§ The MINISTER OF HEALTH (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)
The Debate has been interesting if only because that it has disclosed the mind of hon. Members opposite. Whenever the subject of municipal Socialism is raised in the House you may be quite sure that hon. Members opposite will disclose their minds in the froth of their own oratory. We have had the Bill described in the most fantastic terms. The Mover of the Amendment searched the dictionary for every possible kind of offensive epithet to apply to this relatively innocent Measure. Hon. Members who have spoken against the Bill have spoken against past history which they themselves have helped to make, and have passed criticisms upon that system of local government of which they profess to be so proud. Further, they are assuming that local government has reached its apex, and that there cannot be any further development. Those assumptions are entirely erroneous. The truth is that, not under Socialist local authorities, not under Socialist governments, but under municipal administration by Conservatives and Liberals, and under successive Parliaments with Liberal or Conservative Governments, added powers have been given to local authorities to embark upon activities which many people have opposed and, under the general law to-day, there are quite a large number of services which local authorities can provide, and which a large number of authorities, not dominated by red Socialists but by political reactionaries, have found it desirable to institute. If we come to perhaps the main place, about which nothing has been said on the opposite benches, the only municipal bank in the country was instituted, and has been defended as its own child, by the Conservative party, and no Government has dared to take from Birmingham its ewe lamb, the only municipal bank in the country. Why? Because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamber-Iain) regarded it as common sense, and in that he was right. I am glad to be able to agree with him on that point.
I want the House to see that, in so far as we have approached towards municipal Socialism in this country, it has been done by the people who to-day are decrying it. Our municipal gasworks, waterworks, electricity works, municipal 866 markets, slaughter houses—municipal concerns in competition, mark you, with private enterprise—have been inaugurated, defended and expanded by Conservative and Liberal local authorities. My submission is that that development was to be expected and that it was a normal development of local public life. No hon. Member in this House can defend the view that we have now reached the utmost limit of municipal development. If that be so, it is clear that more and more services may pass under the direction of local authorities. I am not going to say that all services are suitable for local administration, because clearly that is not so. I am not satisfied that certain municipal services now ought to be administered on a purely municipal basis, but what I think is clear is that, with any increasing consciousness of purpose among the public, more and more services will pass in one way or another under public control. That control will be of various kinds. That movement cannot be resisted. The party opposite have not resisted it.
Only in the late Government two great experiments were made in types of Socialism. One was the Electricity Bill and the other was the foundation of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The most reactionary Government dare not come to this House and pretend that the development of either of these quite essential services in modern times should be left to this private enterprise about which we have heard so much to-day. That principle is a principle which even Conservative members of local authorities are defending day by day. It is not always Labour local authorities which come to this House with Private Bills for an extension of their powers, for the right to run municipal trams. I should imagine that the majority of the local authorities which have moved in that direction have been authorities where there is no Labour majority.
Where, then, is the case of hon. Members opposite? They have no case. Therefore, they proceed through their usual process of misrepresentation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] An hon. and gallant Member accused me earlier on—and I make no protest—of having deliberately promoted the bringing of this Bill to the House in order that it may sneak through on a Friday. [HON. MEM- 867 BERS: "Hear, hear."] I say that that is misrepresentation, and if I were outside this House I should use a stronger word. Next, we have the speech, full of carefully turned' phrases, of the hon. and learned Member for Moss Side (Sir G. Hurst), which envisaged local authorities going out to do battle against the capitalist system. He pictured Poplar going to Manchester, to Glasgow, and opening multiple shops and he trembled at the consequences. He said that this means the ruin of British industry. I am sorry that he thinks so little of the system which he has been defending this afternoon to think that one Poplar could destroy all the multiple shops. It may be true, but it does not help his case. Even under this Bill—and local authorities are as reasonable as Government departments—there would be no schemes seriously put forward of the kind suggested.
The Bill is an attempt, as I understand it—and I have been interested in this Bill in the past—to allow local authorities a little more freedom with a view to feeling their feet for what they regard as necessary new developments. One of the great principles of the Local Government Act which was passed last year was to give greater freedom to the local authorities and to get rid of the meticulous control of the central department and allow local authorities to carry out their duties without constantly being under the microscope of the Ministry of Health. That view was defended with tremendous enthusiasm and with the expenditure of considerable oratory by Members on the Front Bench. It is a principle with which I agree. My view is that in many directions the State exercises far too detailed supervision over the activities of local authorities. The fact that the late Government took a great risk in enlarging the freedom of the local authorities seems to prove that they know that local authorities can be trusted wisely to exercise that freedom. As long as we have a system of local government—how long it would have lasted under the late Administration I do not know—it is clear that it has to be trusted as far as possible and ought not to be unduly limited in its activities. As you give increased freedom, you must inevitably give increased powers. Therefore, sooner or later, those authorities 868 who have been hammering at the door of Parliament for wider powers and have been refused them, will find the door opened to them. Nothing will stop this development in the very near future.
We heard hon. Members speak about the true functions of local authorities. What are the true functions of local authorities? They are such functions as Parliament cares to place upon them. The functions of local authorities are not something which is in the book of Genesis and which are for all time. The functions of local authorities to-day are not what they were, shall we say, before the passage of the Municipal Corporations' Act. Those functions, as interpreted this afternoon by hon. Members opposite, are confined to the smallest and narrowest functions exercised by the local authorities, and, if their interpretation of the functions of local authorities were to be accepted as the right one, then a good deal of the beneficent activity of local authorities being carried out to-day, would have to cease. I do not believe that hon. Members opposite would suggest that that should happen.
What of the Bill itself? Not many hon. Members have spoken all the time about the Bill. This Bill is not a minor Bill in its proposals. In the minds of some hon. Members it seems to be the beginning of a great revolution. It would be a very big step in the development of local government, and I think hon. Members will agree with me that it would be more appropriate as a Government Measure. I should hope to take a hand in a Government Measure of this kind, if there was one, as I hope there may be one day. The Bill, as drafted, would, from the point of view of the Government, need certain substantial Amendments. I should be glad, not wishing to take further powers to myself, if the name of the President of the Board of Trade, for instance, stood in the Bill in place of the name of the Minister of Health: but hon. Members will realise that if a Bill of this kind were to go forward it would be administered more appropriately by the Minister of Health rather than by the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Health already having to deal with sanctions for loans and already having intimate contact with the local authorities, while the Board of Trade has neither the machinery nor the contact with the local authorities.
869 3.0 p.m.
It would, I think, be necessary to add further safeguards. I should be prepared, for the safeguards, because I should not like unnecessary mistakes to be made. I do not think that anyone on this side of the House has ever said that, efficient or inefficient, costly or cheap, we ought always to go in for municipal enterprise. If municipal enterprise cannot take its place in the world and prove itself right and efficient, it is no use. Therefore, I think it would be necessary, where there was specific need and where there was little experience to guide the local authorities, that there should be additional safeguards. This is a Measure which ought to be a Government Measure and it is a Measure which will need a good deal of revision if and when we come to consider the various Clauses, one by one. I have welcomed the debate because it has helped to clear the air, and it has brought out clearly the two entirely different attitudes of mind in this House about the place, the importance and the possible future of local government in this country. The Bill has been called Socialism. We do not complain about that. That is an accurate description of the Bill. I am an unrepentent Socialist, and I have no objection whatever to hon. Members of this House describing this Bill as a Socialist Measure. It is a Measure de signed to put wider powers into the hands of democratically elected local authorities in order that those local authorities may more effectively supply the needs of the lives of the citizens whom the local authorities exist to serve. There is nothing wrong in that. It is a cardinal feature of the faith of those who sit on these benches, and we would never wish to run away from that particular view. The fact that hon. Members opposite, one of them with 19 years' experience on a local authority, still believe that local authorities ought to be cramped, cabined and confined in their powers, illustrates what the debates of last year and of the previous year brought out, that the Conservative party is now afraid of the trend of local government, that it is frightened by the developments for which it was itself responsible, and is trying now to stem the free progress of local authorities. That will never be done. The tide 870 which brought us here is a tide which is still flowing strongly.
§ Sir K. WOOD
We have had a most interesting and illuminating speech from the right hon. Gentleman. I desire to acquit him, unlike one of my hon. Friends behind me, of deliberately endeavouring to sneak this Bill through the House. The right hon. Gentleman would not, if he could have helped it, touch this Bill with the end of a barge pole. He has delivered a speech which shows that experience and knowledge plays its part even with a Socialist. For many years the right hon. Gentleman strongly supported this Bill, but he now tells us that a Bill of this kind ought to form part of a Government proposal, that there must be substantial Amendments of this Measure and that there must be many more safeguards. He neglected to say, and I will complete the task for him, that he hoped he would see no more of this Bill, and that it would be rejected this afternoon. He said that he was a Socialist. He reminds me of the case of the boy who was asked whether his father was a Christian, and he replied: "Yes, Sir, but he does not do much at it." Why should the right hon. Gentleman repudiate this Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "He did not."] Certainly, he did. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill was simply carrying out what we so seldom see in this House, and that is, the true Socialist principles as enunciated by the Socialist party at the last Election. We were told in the famous manifesto "Labour and the Nation" that they were going to bring in this very Bill. They stated:In contrast with the distrust apparently felt in some quarters at the development of the democratic machinery of local government the Labour Party holds with the inhabitants of London, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, who desire to see an extension and have indicated in the Local Authorities (Enabling) Bill.They refer to this very Bill, because it has been before the House on many occasions—that they should be able to undertake such services as their citizens may desire.And yet this afternoon the Minister of Health says that this Bill must be substantially amended, that many more safeguards must be inserted. In fact, he wishes it to be talked out. That is an extraordinary thing even for the right 871 hon. Gentleman. He ought to be welcoming this Bill. Hon. Members behind him are really doing what the Minister of Health ought to be doing if he is standing up for his Socialist principles. Therefore in fairness to the hon. Member who has introduced the Measure I do not propose to treat it in the cavalier fashion of the Minister of Health. After all it is worth consideration because it comes from the Labour party and is supported by the hon. and learned Member for Withington (Mr. Simon). You cannot have a more Socialistic Measure. If there is one thing the hon. and learned Member for Withington has demonstrated it is that not only is he supporting this Bill but that there need be no Socialist candidate in his constituency at the next election. What does this Bill really do? It aims at private enterprise and the small trader. The Mover and Seconder have not disguised their intentions. The hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) who always speaks what he thinks, stated quite plainly what he intended, and said that if they had a municipal milk supply in Bermondsey they would wipe out all the traders and, what interested me more, the Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society as well. That is very interesting indeed.
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Beading made a great point of the fact that it is permissive. It certainly is. The only people who will really take up this Bill will be local authorities like Poplar and West Ham, Bedwellty and Chester-le-Street. I know of no Bill more suitable for these local authorities to take up than this Measure. It is based on a principal which entirely appeals to Poplar and West Ham to Bedwellty and Chester-le-Street. It is the principle of "heads I win, tails you lose." If Poplar and Bedwellty go in for a milk supply and make a loss, well, the ratepayers have to pay. That will be no great surprise to the ratepayers of Poplar and Bedwellty. If, on the other hand, by some miracle from on High they happen to make a bit of money the unfortunate ratepayers will not be recouped because it is to go to some common fund. I am not surprised that the Minister of Health in his responsible position has shed his Socialism and says that further safeguards must be inserted. I should have thought that the Government had 872 done enough harm in the last eight months without attacking the private trade of this country. We have only to look at trade and industry and unemployment, and we find that the only people who are able to struggle along with the Socialist Government are the shopkeepers and traders. So we have this Bill introduced in order to deal effectively with them.
But I am going to say a word this afternoon on behalf of a body of people of whom I am surprised not a word has been said by hon. Members opposite. One of the most interesting things to my mind is to see among the backers of this Bill the name of Mr. Barnes. Yet. not a word has been said this afternoon on behalf of the great co-operative societies of the country. We were told at the last General Election that the association of the Labour party and the Co-operative Society was such that it could be described only as an alliance of husband and wife. How quickly has a family quarrel arisen! I am very glad indeed to see sitting opposite to me once again an hon. Member whom I have known for many years. I shall quote a prophecy by him, because I think it is a great tribute to his foresight. It was reported in the "Co-operative News" of 26th March, 1927, that Mr. S. F. Perry said:As a co-operator, he thought they had more to fear from the Labour Government than from the Conservative Government.
§ Mr. PERRY
I am indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for kindly warning me before making this statement that he was going to make it. It is characteristic of his fairness to opponents. But I am going to ask him to take the matter a little bit further, and to read the whole of the quotation, and not just an extract which has been printed in millions of leaflets by his own head office—an action which I have publicly described as "a dirty Tory trick." I ask him in fairness to the hon. Members of this House, irrespective of party, to give the whole of the quotation, and to mention the fact that the speech was made when I was addressing a conference appealing for an alliance between co-operators and the Labour movement.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I shall be very glad to give the whole quotation as I have it. If I have not all of it, perhaps the hon. 873 Member may be permitted to add anything. It is strange to me that, in addressing a gathering of this kind and in making an appeal of that character, the hon. Member began in such terms. This at any rate is the quotation that I have:As a co-operator he thought they had more to fear from the Labour Government than from the Conservative Government. The policy of the Labour Party was to municipalise and nationalise, whereas, in his opinion, where the co-operative movement was doing its work well it should be left alone.That is my quotation. If the hon. Gentleman desires to add anything to it, I know that he will do so. But I am confirmed in my statement. It is not a statement from the hon. Gentleman alone. He need not take on his own shoulders the full responsibility of the position of the co-operative movement with regard to municipal trading. I see sitting opposite me an hon. Gentleman who is evidently balancing on some sort of tight-rope. First, he is backing the Bill, and then he is chairman of the Co-operative Society. I observe that in 1926 at the Co-operative Party Conference, under the chairmanship of Mr. Alfred Barnes, M.P., South East Ham, we were) told oflocal conflicts between the Co-operative and the Labour parties, and the two I executives were to discuss the situation and I there was to be a closer working arrangement greatly to the advantage of both.Where is it in this Bill? Here is the chairman of the Co-operative Society empowered by this conference to enter into a better working arrangement with regard to these local conflicts, and he backs this Bill in which there is not a single Clause to say that where there is a co-operative society carrying on business in a particular area the local municipality shall not enter into trading in that area. But we can take this interesting story a step further. In May, 1928, the Municipal Trading Committee of the Co-operative Society issued a very important resolution dealing with those matters which have been mentioned by the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, namely, milk, meat, bread and coal. This is what they sent broadcast:The policy of development by cooperative societies is the most practical and satisfactory way of extending collective principles in meeting the needs of the community.874 What does the hon. Member mean by backing this Bill if the co-operative societies of the country provide the most practical and satisfactory means of doing this? What does he mean by encouraging municipal authorities in this respect? The hon. Member for Bermondsey presented a most distressing tale about the milk supply of this country, and, from his great medical experience, he came to the conclusion that the only way to remedy it was to have municipal trading. But all this milk of which he was talking, or a considerable portion of it, came from the co-operative societies of the country. I hope before the Debate closes that the hon. Gentleman will give some explanation of this matter. The fact is that the co-operative societies of the country have definitely opposed the principles of this Bill and only a, few months ago—in August—the United Board of the Co-operative Union circularised the co-operative societies of the country urging them to institute and equip an up-to-date milk service and to establish a modern dairy plant and an economical distributive system. What was the reason which they gave:The absence of a properly conducted co-operative milk service in any area may lead to and even necessitate the establishment of municipal trading, and as cooperative societies can give a more efficient, secure and economical service in staple food commodities it would be damaging to the movement if lack of enterprise on the part of the co-operative societies should leave a large field of business open to municipalities.Where do hon. Members opposite stand? No wonder the right hon. Gentleman does not want to see any more of this Bill. He is not only convinced that, from a practical point of view, the Bill is impossible, but he sees that, from the point of view of the inner workings of his own party, instead of having this relationship of husband and wife, which we were told about at the General Election, it would all end up in "cat and dog." This is an impossible Bill, condemned by the Minister of Health. It is true it is following out the pledge of the Labour party at the last General Election, but it has been sufficiently exposed this afternoon by the Minister of Health, and I hope we may have an opportunity, those of us who desire to stand by the private trader and the cooperative society, to give a vote and condemn this Bill.
§ Mr. PERRY
I think all sections of the House will unite in congratulating the right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), who certainly, in my short experience of this House, has made one of the most delightful and one of the best speeches ever made in this House. If he continues long enough in that vein, we shall welcome him very cordially on these Benches, and it may provide him with a safe retreat from West Woolwich.
This Debate has been extremely helpful. The point that has been under discussion, the question of the extension of municipal enterprise, as compared with private enterprise as we know it, or with another form of collective enterprise and ownership, spoken of as our co-operative movement, is one of the most important subjects that could be discussed on a Private Member's day or even in public time, but I want to state the position of those on these Benches—and it is practically the whole of us—who are intimately associated with the Co-operative and the Labour movements, so far as this Bill is concerned. The Cooperative movement definitely stands for the collective ownership and control of the means of life. Hon. Members opposite may disagree with its policy, but that is a policy in which we believe, and to which we have devoted many years of our life, and I think, having regard to the wonderful development of the movement in this country, and to the fact that the policy, combining collective ownership and control, is embraced by nearly one half of the population, we may reasonably rest assured that all the operations of Standing Committee B will not prevent its ultimate development,
I want to make our position clear in regard to the principle contained in this Bill. I think it is readily understood that when the chairman of the Co-operative party, a Member who, like myself, has had many years of active association with the movement, who in his turn occupied the chairmanship of the great London society, and I, who in turn occupied the chairmanship of the Birkenhead and Stockport societies in the north, are supporting a Bill containing this principle, hon. Members opposite, however much they may disagree with the provisions of the Bill, will at least grant that we must be convinced that we see nothing in it detrimental to the interests of the co-operative movement, or 876 we should not have been supporting it to-day. I am not going to say that the Bill as drafted is a perfect Bill, but I have yet to see a Bill introduced into this House which has been claimed to be a perfect Bill. There is always the refuge of a Standing Committee or some other Committee of this House. We have developed our great co-operative movement from the London society down to the small village society with, perhaps. 20 or 30 members definitely organised for the principles of collective ownership and control. I concede our opponents here this afternoon this point: The cooperative movement is a definite challenge to private enterprise and competition. We accept that, and I think its development shows the success of the policy in its application.
The right. hon. Member for West Woolwich very kindly quoted from the report of a municipal inquiry committee established by our movement. As one of the joint secretaries of that committee, I have seen that report before. Our position again is quite clear, and it has been made clear by the right hon. Gentleman who is now Prime Minister of this country, when he said that where you have developed a system of voluntary co-operation which is rendering the best possible service to the people by supplying food and other necessities at the lowest possible price, strengthen and develop your co-operative movement, and, where needed, strengthen and develop the powers of your local authorities. one who has been in the working-class movement and the co-operative movement, I would say that we in the co-operative movement will never stand in the way of the development of collective ownership and control by the widest section of our people. The co-operative movement in this country may be strong; it may have done a tremendous amount of good. When the time comes that we have to take our stand and to recognise that the wider general public demands a certain policy, I, for one, will give that policy my whole-hearted support.
There are many lines of demarcation between the policy of co-operative societies and what we call municipal ownership. No question is ever raised about the collective ownership of gas works, electricity works, water supplies or the development of public libraries, but we submit that, even in the wider 877 policy of collective ownership, the ultimate ideal will be found to be a development of voluntary co-operation in those branches in which we are best fitted, side by side with the development of the power of local authorities. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) referred to the point that every local authority could at present come to Parliament and ask for special powers to deal with any subject. Everyone here knows full well what a rich harvest that method has proved for the legal profession in this country, and, in seeking to grant these wider powers to local authorities, we are doing something to relieve the local taxpayer of some of the burdens of which the hon. Member for Grimsby spoke. Speaking for myself, and recognising the possibilities of the co-operative movement and its still undeveloped powers, I can give my whole-hearted support to the general principles contained in this Measure.
§ Mr. HOPKIN MORRIS
I do not desire to enter into the wider field of discussion as to the desirability or otherwise of municipal trading, which is a very interesting subject, but I prefer to confine myself to the Specific objects of this Bill. If this Bill is intended to confer upon local authorities the wider powers that are mentioned in the various Clauses, it has taken a singularly ineffective way of doing it. I am not surprised to hear the Minister of Health say that he would like to see the Bill redrafted. In its present form it must have been drafted before the War. In Clause 3 there is mention of the Local Government Board. That has long ceased to exist, and evidently the promoters have not discovered that the Ministry of Health has been set up in its place. That is not the only fault; it may have been a trifling misprint, but there is a more serious mistake. Clause 3 provides that if local authorities engage in business, they shall borrow for that purpose to the extent only of one-quarter of their annual rateable value.
§ Mr. McSHANE
The hon. Gentleman said that the name "Local Government Board" was displaced before the War. The expression in the Bill is:Provided that the sanction of the Board of Trade shall be substituted for the sanction of the Local Government Board in those Acts.
§ Mr. MORRIS
Yes, the expression is "Local Government Board in those Acts." I am coming, however, to a much more serious point. The Clause provides that the local authority shall borrow to the extent of one-quarter of its annual rateable value. The figures given by the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon) in regard to Manchester were £33,000,000, which represented its debt, and he said it would be able to borrow an additional £1,000,000 under this Bill. The outstanding debt of Manchester to-day, however, is £18,000,000, after making the allowances that are to be made under Section 3 of the Bill. The annual rateable value of Manchester is £4,000,000; one-quarter of the annual rateable value is £1,000,000. Its outstanding debt is already eighteen times that amount, therefore, it cannot borrow one single penny under this Bill.
There is not a local authority in this country of this extent that could borrow a single penny under this Clause as it stands. If I wanted to deprive local authorities of the right to engage in these enterprises, I would vote for this Bill. I would not oppose a single Clause, because under the Bill not a single authority could do so, except it be given a Provisional Order by the Board of Trade. On what grounds is it to be granted a Provisional Order? At the time the Bill was drafted, local authorities were in the position to know that a Provisional Order from the Board of Trade would have a principle to guide it—that is that the majority of local authorities were solvent, and that the granting of a loan would be an exceptional thing. To-day, the granting of Provisional Orders would not be an exceptional thing, but the rule, so what principle would guide the Minister when he drew up his Order? He would not have to deal with exceptional circumstances, but with normal circumstances which are not contemplated by Clause 3.
Clause 1 of the Bill says, among other things, that local authorities may set up enterprise dealing with art, science and recreation. That is a retrograde Clause, because local authorities can, under the Companies Consolidation Act, without the provisions of this Bill, engage in any of these three enterprises, provided that they do not engage in them for profit. The one ground entitling them to engage 879 in enterprises under this Bill is that they shall do it for gain. Do the Proposer and the Seconder contemplate that a local authority must only provide art, science and recreation with the object of gain, in place of doing it as at present? That is a most retrograde step, and I am astonished to see the Labour party, of all parties, bringing in a Bill with such a Clause.
There are two other serious objections to the Bill. Apparently it is designed merely to enable local authorities to engage in trade, but as it is drafted it would have a very serious effect upon local government. Clause 4 provides that the Board of Trade may, by Provisional Order,authorise any council, under such conditions as the Board of Trade may prescribe, to establish or purchase or carry on any business or undertaking, or to purchase or hold land outside the area of any such council when in the opinion of the Board of Trade, it is necessary or desirable in the interests of any business or undertaking carried on, or to be carried on, by a council within their area that they should establish or purchase and carry on a business or undertaking or purchase or hold land without their area,The principle underlying this Bill is that a local authority is to be permitted to engage in trade because it is the will of the electors that it should do so and is for the benefit of the electors. What would be the result if this Clause were passed into law? You would have one council determining to engage in trade and to put the Bill into operation and a neighbouring council refusing to have anything to do with the Bill and declining to engage in trade. The council which had decided to engage in trade could go to the Minister of Health and obtain a Provisional Order to trade in the area of the other council whose electors had decided against trading. What becomes of the democratic principle in that case? This is a blow at local government and raises a very much wider issue than is raised by the general purpose of the Bill.
Clause 5 says that any two councils may jointly establish or carry on business under the Act. What would be the result of putting this Clause into operation? I have said that probably most councils have already exhausted their power of borrowing under the terms of this Bill, but suppose there are councils which still retain borrowing powers? You have 880 two councils near to each other, both desirous of engaging in trade, but one has exhausted its borrowing powers and is unable to obtain a Provisional Order; possibly it has made an application for a Provisional Order and has been refused it. It can then join forces with the council which has good borrowing powers. This latter council will borrow the money and they will both use it for the purposes of their joint venture. The Government Department making the loan would naturally look to the solvent council for the repayment of the loan, and the ratepayers of the solvent council would be primarily liable, although it would be a joint venture. Thus you would be putting on the electors of a council which had no legal authority to borrow and could not borrow on its own account a burden which it had incurred by coming in to the scheme through the back door provided by Clause 5. That would be a very curious situation.
Then it appears that the promoters of the Bill rather despair of the success of their operations, for we find Clause 6 to be a most pessimistic Clause. That envisages a situation where the local authority having engaged in an enterprise, and, looking forward for any opportunity to get rid of it would lease it as long as possible in order to get rid of it. Bather than do that, they put in a Clause to restrict the lease for seven years. It would be impossible to make any success of this Bill apart from the municipal trading Clauses. I would like to know what is going to happen to the common fund provided under this Measure. Assuming that there is a condition that they can use the money for a new enterprise, and supposing that was a success, and each further operation turned out successful, what is to happen to the common fund? The money cannot be used for the reduction of the rates, and there is no provision in this Bill to provide what shall be done with the profits in any shape or form. Apart from the merits of municipal trading, this is a Bill to which the House of Commons ought not to give a Second Beading.
§ Mr. MARCUS
I wish to associate myself with those who are responsible for the promotion of this Bill. No doubt this Measure requires some revision as every other Bill does which is presented to this House. The central feature of the 881 Bill is the development of municipal enterprise, and I think that principle has the unanimous support ox every hon. Member on' this side of the House and of several hon. Members who sit on the Liberal benches. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] I feel sure that there are some Members of the Liberal party who would welcome an extension of public enterprise in this country. It must be recognised that vast changes have taken place since a Bill of this kind was last discussed in this House. I believe it was in the year 1919 when the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) introduced a Bill on similar lines to the one we are now discussing. On that occasion, Conservative Members opposite pleaded that the chief objection to the Bill was that it had not the support of the electors. They claimed that the electors had voted by an overwhelming majority against the principle of public enterprise. I think we are now entitled to argue, after the vast change which has taken place in the public opinion of this country, that we have a mandate for a vast and rapid extension of schemes of public enterprise. To-day, there are many local authorities on which the Labour party have a majority, and many local authorities have been elected to a substantial extent on the basis that schemes of public enterprise should be introduced, and I think on that ground alone we are entitled to submit that we have a mandate in 1930 for a Bill of this kind.
Most local authorities, even those which are not of a Labour complexion and which are distinctly of a Conservative and Liberal complexion, have afforded evidence that they are in favour of an extension of the principle of public enterprise. Those authorities are responsible for the numerous tramway, gas, water and electricity undertakings which have been approved by this House, and this shows that there has been a substantial increase in this country as far as public enterprise is concerned. It is only a few years ago since the Conservatives objected very strongly, and Liberals also, to the suggestion that local authorities should attempt to deal with the housing problem. To-day it is acknowledged on every side that much has been done by local authorities in tackling the housing problem, and no one will suggest that the work done in this respect by local 882 authorities should be undone or restricted in any way. Recent legislation has encouraged public enterprise, and if my argument holds good in the case of housing it also holds good in respect of every local service.
Who would seriously suggest in this House to-day that we should abolish municipal tramways? When I was at school in Edinburgh the teacher once told our class that the municipalisation of tramways meant that the municipalisers would cut up the tramway lines and give each one of us a bit. We have been told, for example, that if municipal enterprise is developed along similar lines to those suggested in this Bill, it will crush out initiative and abolish the incentive for gain. Let us examine that argument. What do we mean by "initiative" and by "incentive for gain"? Millions of our fellow beings have never had an opportunity of participating in initiative or incentive for gain. The system of society under which we live has never allowed millions of the toiling masses to undertake any action of that kind, and a Bill of this kind will liberate them and give them the opportunity for the first time.
It may be argued that the Labour party has not shown by results that it is capable of dealing with a problem of this kind and with municipal enterprise. I am not concerned with the political complexion of a local authority. If a Conservative authority is prepared to introduce schemes of public development along the lines of this Bill, I heartily welcome those schemes. The only test I wish to apply is whether they will be of benefit to the majority of the people. The history of social and public development under the auspices of local authorities has been overwhelmingly in favour of the extension of the principle. I should have no difficulty, if I had the time, in submitting overwhelming figures to substantiate the point that the great majority, if not all, of these schemes have met with substantial success.
There is one overwhelming reason in favour of the Bill. In my view, the development of public enterprise is inevitable. The history of municipal government proves that contention up to the hilt. I believe that the development of public enterprise in 883 this country in our localities is just as inevitable as the development of the trustification movement and the rationalisation movement. The right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) asks what would happen to those people who would be thrown out of their small businesses. I should like to ask him what happens to those people who are crushed and squeezed out of business by the large trusts in this country in the process of rationalisation and trustification; and also what becomes of the half-million miners in the country who are crushed out of the coal mines by rationalisation? No attempt is made by private enterprise to meet the needs of these people who are thrown upon the scrap-heap. The onus does not rest upon our shoulders of proving to this House that we have a method whereby we can deal with those who are put out of business. Speaking broadly, practically all of these people who would gladly close down their businesses under existing conditions would be employed under happier conditions by the local authorities.
What happens to-day? As a result of the development of trustification, thousands of small shopkeepers and tradesmen in this country have gone bankrupt. It may be that bankruptcy is not always the equivalent of ruin, but, assuming the great majority of these bankrupts to be of the type I have mentioned, I want to ask those who stand for private enterprise what is done for these small tradesmen when they become bankrupt, when their assets are taken, when their furniture is sold, and they are thrown on to the scrap-heap, often permanently? Private enterprise is the last system in the world to meet the needs of those who fall by the wayside. There is no case at all for any Member of this House saying that private enterprise is preferable to public enterprise because it attempts to look after people who are in need the very opposite is the case.
I should like to say a word in reply to the suggestion, which is often made by Conservative speakers, that a Bill of this kind is merely a bribe to the electors. That suggestion is put forward from Conservative platforms, and it has been mentioned in this House on several occasions. The idea of that argument is that the Labour party, if it carries out its schemes of public development and public enter- 884 prise, will give good jobs to the electors. If that argument is seriously advanced as as argument in this House, obviously it is an admission by Members on the other side that we have a good chance locally of solving the problem of unemployment. We should employ people who are now on the streets, not people who are in jobs. I pay no attention to that argument, because I regard it as ridiculous.
No one on this side of the House will say that this Bill will solve the unemployment problem, but I am prepared to argue, contrary to what was said by the Mover of the Amendment, that there will be a substantial change in the relation-ship between employer and employed if the Bill becomes law. At the present moment the relationship between employer and employed is one which comes more under the description of a contract of hire. The employment of men by municipalities is a substantial step in the direction, not of hire, but of social partnership. It means that the men employed by a local authority feel that they have an interest in the local services, while a person employed by a private employer has very little interest, for obvious reasons, because, as has been said by Members on the other side of the House, there is no incentive to gain.
I could, if I had more time, go into further details on this question, but I should like to refer to one commodity which has been brought to the notice of this House very often during the past week or two, namely, coal, and particularly municipal trading in coal. If I remember rightly, the Royal Commission over which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) presided a year or two ago, recommended that the principle of municipal trading in coal should be extended. That Commission, after hearing evidence from experts and after an exhaustive examination of the question, came to the conclusion, I think unanimously, that municipal trading in coal was worthy of development in every area where it was possible. If any locality to-day wants to show any enterprise in the municipal distribution of coal, it must come to this House, and here we come to the fundamental basis of this Bill. A Private Bill or a Provisional Order is promoted, and certain interests in the locality, usually not belonging to working-class homes at all, but 885 people with vested interests, wealthy people, often a mere handful of them, club together and constitute what is regarded as a formidable opposition to the progress of the Bill.
Then we have what might be described as litigation and nothing else, a contest at the expense of the ratepayers. I do not think that I am disloyal to the profession of which I happen to be a member when I say that I regard expenditure in that connection as a colossal waste of public money. That is what goes on when an Order of that kind is promoted. Apart from the money loss, enormous time is wasted. We know what happens in this House with regard to Bills generally and the stagnation which exists. and in consequence of that stagnation it is the very last place in the world where local authorities can expect the expeditious passing of their Bills. It is because of that fact that this Bill affords a more simple device of dealing with this intricate problem of Parliamentary legislation affecting our local authorities.
We want by this Bill to remove the paralysing effect of the restrictive legislation which everyone who has sat upon a local authority realises keeps back the work of a local authority. It is out of date now. Perhaps in the embryonic stages of local authorities it was necessary to have some kind of restrictive hand over them. The only people in this country who are entirely capable of Judging what is good or bad for them are the electors themselves, and the electors are able annually to check any possible extravagant attempt on the part of the
§ local authority in the way of the development of municipal enterprises.
§ If this Bill is passed and they do not want municipal enterprise, they need not have it. This Bill is not compulsory. It is permissive and enables the local authority to do certain things, to participate in municipal trading and purchase land and so on. It is an enabling Bill. It's very name suggests that, and in practice it means that, if in a locality the electorate in any given area decides against the people who advocate the principles of the kind which I have advocated this afternoon, the enabling powers in this Bill will not apply to them.
§ Captain GUNSTON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. MARCUS
I am glad to say that we have had from these benches what I regard as an exceptionally able advocacy in support of the Bill on the part of the Mover and of the Seconder. After all, the time has come when a proposal of this kind must be taken seriously.
§ Mr. McSHANE rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That the-word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 150; Noes, 124.887
|Division No. 164.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Compton, Joseph||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Daggar, George||Horrabin, J. F.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Duncan, Charles||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Arnott, John||Ede. James Chuter||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Edmunds, J. E.||Jowitt. Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Freeman, Peter||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Gillett, George M.||Kinley, J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Gossling, A. G.||Knight, Holford|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Gould, F.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||Lathan, G.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Bowen, J. W.||Groves, Thomas E.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Lawson, John James|
|Bromley, J.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Hardie, George D.||Leach, W.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Harris, Percy A.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Haycock, A. W.||Longden, F.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayes, John Henry||Lovat-Fraser. J. A.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Lowth, Thomas|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hoffman, P. C.||McElwee, a.|
|McEntee, V. L.||Phillips, Dr. Marion||Snell, Harry|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Plcton-Turbervill, Edith||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Mansfield, W.||Pole, Major D G.||Sorensen, R.|
|March, S.||Potts, John S.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Marcus, M.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Stephen, Campbell|
|Mariey, J.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Mathers, George||Romeril, H. G.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Matters, L. W.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Maxton, James||Sanders, W. S.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Middleton, G.||Sandham, E.||Thurtie, Ernest|
|Milner, J.||Sawyer, G. F.||Tillett, Ben|
|Montague, Frederick||Sexton, James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Viant, S. P.|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Shield, George William||Watkins, F. C.|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Shillaker, J. F.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Mort, D. L.||Shinwell, E.||West, F. R.|
|Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Simmons, C. J.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Sinkinson, George||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Sitch, Charles H.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Palin, John Henry||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Paling, Wilfrid||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Wise, E. F.|
|Perry, S. F.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Mr. McShane and Dr. Salter.|
|Albery, Irving James||Glassey, A. E.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Gower, Sir Robert||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gray, Milner||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Renneil|
|Bellairs, Commander Cariyon||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Berry, Sir George||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Hammersley, S. S.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hanbury, C.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Boyce, H. L.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Hurd, Percy A.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Cockerill, Brig. General Sir George||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lymington, Viscount||Vaughan-Morgan. Sir Kenyon|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Macqulsten, F. A.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Meller, R. J.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M)||Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Muirhead, A. J.||Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Nathan, Major H. L.||Wood. Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Peake, Capt. Osbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Sir Gerald Hurst and Captain Gunston.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."—[Dr. Davies.]888
§ The House divided Ayes, 119: Noes, 144.891
|Division No. 165.]||AYES.||[4.8 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Berry, Sir George|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Beaumont, M. W.||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Hammersley, S. S.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Boyce, H. L.||Hanbury, C.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Henderson, Capt. R. F.(Oxt'd, Henley)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Hore-Bolisha, Leslie||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Cattle Stewart, Earl of||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hurd, Percy A.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Colman, N. C. D.||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Lymington, Viscount||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Macquisten, F. A.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Meller, R. J.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Wardiaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Ford, Sir p. J.||Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Muirhead, A. J.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Nathan, Major H. L.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Glassey, A. E.||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Gray, Milner||Power, Sir John Cecil||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Dr. Vernon Davies and Captain Gunston.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Amnion, Charles George||Hoffman, P. C.||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Arnott, John||Hopkin, Daniel||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Horrabin, J. F.||Palin, John Henry|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Paling, Wilfrid|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Perry, S. F.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Kelly, W. T.||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Kennedy, Thomas||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Kinley, J.||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Potts, John S.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Lathan, G.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Bromley, J.||Lawrence, Susan||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridgs)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Laweon, John James||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Leach, W.||Sandham, E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Lindley, Fred W.||Sexton, James|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Longden, F.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Shield, George William|
|Compton, Joseph||Lowth, Thomas||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Daggar, George||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Shinwell, E.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McElwee, A.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Duncan, Charles||McEntee, V. L.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Ede, James Chuter||MacNelli-Weir, L.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Mansfield, W.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwelity)||March, S.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Freeman, Peter||Marcus, M.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Gillett, George M.||Marley, J.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Mathers, George||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||Matters, L. W.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James||Snell, Harry|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Middleton, G.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Milner, J.||Sorensen, R.|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Montague, Frederick||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Hardle, George D.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Harris, Percy A.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Strauss, G. R.|
|Haycock, A. W.||Mort, D. L.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Thurtle, Ernest||West, F. R.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Tillett, Ben||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughh'gh)|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)||Wise, E. F.|
|Viant, S. P.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Watkins, F. C.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wellock, Wilfred||Williams. T. (York, Don Valley)||Mr. McShane and Dr. Salter.|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.892
§ Whereupon MR. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Sixteen Minutes after Four o'clock until Monday, 17th February.