HC Deb 21 January 1930 vol 234 cc58-161

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £4,150,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1930, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Exchequer Contribution to the Unemployment Fund, Grants to Associations, Local Education Authorities, and others under the Unemployment Insurance, Labour Exchanges, and other Acts; Expenses of the Industrial Court; Contribution towards the Expenses of the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations); Expenses of Training and Transference of Workpeople and their Families within Great Britain and Oversea; and sundry services, including services arising out of the War.


The Estimate which the Committee is asked to consider to-day is for a contribution of £4,000,000 from the Exchequer towards the Unemployment Fund, an additional sum of £300,000 for salaries, wages and allowances at out-stations and £100,000 for the training of young unemployed men. This makes a total of £4,400,000, from which has to be deducted appropriations-in-aid, £250,000. I think, before explaining the details of this Estimate, it might be well to make clear its relation to the Estimate of £3,500,000 which was passed just before the Recess last year. The Committee will remember that there seemed to be some confusion towards the end of last Session in respect to this £3,500,000, which was given from the Exchequer to make what is known as the equal-third contribution from the Exchequer to the Fund. The Exchequer now pays into the Fund half of the total contributions paid by the workmen and by the employer. That £3,500,000 was granted to make the principle of equal-thirds, which was recommended by the Blanesburgh Committee, effective, and, in the nature of things, in order to give effect to that principle no more could have been voted at that particular time. I think it is well to draw attention to that fact, because the contention at the end of last year was that there had been an underestimate in regard to that particular amount, but it was made clear at that time that, while £3,500,000 was asked for in order to make effective the principle of equal-thirds, at the same time it was estimated that that would last only to the end of the year, and that the Minister would have to came at the turn of the year for another Supplementary Estimate. The further proposals which we made were laid down in the Bill which is now in another place and which, of course, cannot be discussed to-day. I will only add that, in order that this further contribution from the Exchequer contemplated by the Bill may be made available as soon as that Bill is passed, the Committee is asked to consider this Estimate now.

The main item of this Estimate is the sum of £4,000,000, which, under the Bill, will be granted for the purpose of the Exchequer accepting the responsibility in respect of claimants under the transitional conditions. The Committee will recollect that for a year or two now, all that has happened in reference to the transition men is that when we came to the end of the period there has been an extension, the cost of which was borne by the Fund itself. Under the Bill which has passed this House this "transitional benefit" will be accepted by the Exchequer as a direct charge. I do not think it is necessary to discuss that particular principle, as it has been discussed rather fully during the passage of the Bill, except to say that the people who are the chief beneficiaries under that Bill, and to which this Supplementary Estimate is to give effect, are perhaps amongst the saddest portion of our population to-day. They are in the main, I think, in what are known as the depressed areas, and, what is worse, they are in the main in single industry areas. Only those who live in single industry areas know the tragedy of those parts. The mining areas which are depressed are bad enough, but in some cases they have two and three industries. Where they have only a single industry only those in such an area know what the position is. May I say, in passing, that I myself have seen during the last few months some of these men who have been out for long periods working at some of the schemes now in operation—not relief schemes, but schemes of public utility, and one of the encouraging things was to see not only the return to the ordinary working community of these people, but their sense of pride in again contributing their portion towards the ordinary industrial and commercial activities of our country. In that sense I should like to say that the schemes which employ such men cannot by any means be called relief schemes. That is altogether a misnomer. They are not only doing useful work, but are restoring a sense of usefulness and self-respect to large numbers of these men.

There are two other large items of expenditure in this Estimate, namely, for £300,000 for salaries, wages and allowances and £100,000 in respect of the training of young unemployed men. Rather more than half of the sum required for salaries, wages and allowances, that is, £176,000, is due partly to an under-estimate for the provision made for the staff in the Exchanges in the original estimate, and partly through the extra work being done in the placing of unemployed persons and the recruitment of men for training. I shall return to the increase of placing and the increase of staff for that purpose later on. There is also a sum of £15,000 needed for strengthening the staff dealing with juvenile work at the Exchanges in accordance with the policy repeatedly referred to during the discussion of the Bill. I know that there are Members in the House who will be pleased to note that part of the increased cost is due to the fact that the rates of pay of clerks of branch offices have been brought more into line with those obtaining in respect of clerks in the direct employment of the department. A small additional sum is also needed in consequence of the decision to pay the cost of living bonus at the figure of 70 instead of 67½ for the year. I have pointed out that part of this increase is due to the improvements of the placing facilities at the Employment Exchanges. I think it will impress the Committee to know exactly the ex- tent to which that improvement is taking place. The number of persons placed in employment during the period from April to December, 1929, was 1,166,254. That compares with 966,079 in the corresponding period of 1928. That is an increase of some 200,000 in 1929 as compared with 1928.


Has the hon. Gentleman got the figures for 1927?


I am sorry I have not, but I will be pleased to give the right hon. Gentleman those figures later on. That, of course, is also due to the knowledge that is spreading among employers of labour of the facilities there are at the Exchanges for the placing of men and women in employment. The percentage of vacancies notified which were filled during the first nine months of the current financial year was 87, a tribute to the work of the Employment Exchanges. There is, I think, considerable ignorance—I hope the word will not be misinterpreted—among employers as to the facts concerning the placing of men when they notify vacancies to the Exchanges. Anyone who has had anything to do with local employment committees, or has come into contact with employers who have been members of these committees, will know that the employers themselves have been most enthusiastic for an extension of the facilities for placing men in employment.


Will the hon. Member allow me? Does his remark mean that there is a larger acceptance of the principle of notification? Is his argument based on the fact that there has been an extension on the part of employers in the use of these facilities?


That is the case. A knowledge of the actual work being done is growing among employers generally.


I should like to make it clear to the Committee that it is not really fair to compare 1929 with 1928. As everyone knows, the number of places was less in 1928 than in 1927 and the two previous years, and it is obviously not fair to compare 1929 with the one year preceding. The Hon. Member should give the Committee the number of vacancies which were filled in the year 1927 and previously as compared with 1929.


I am sorry if I have conveyed the impression that I was trying to make a debating point. I was really doing nothing of the kind, and I will give the right hon. Gentleman the figures for which he asks. I was merely emphasising the fact that the growth of the knowledge among employers of the work which is being done by the Exchanges leads inevitably to an extension of notification. The Minister of Labour has stated more than once that emphasis will be laid more and (more upon the placing side of the work of the Exchanges and to that end part of this Estimate will be used to strengthen the staff generally from that point of view. May I just put this further point to the Committee. One does know employers, some-times those who sit on employment committees, who do not place notifications with the Exchanges. Indeed, in some cases they will go from one part of a district to another in order to get their employés, when actually in their own area there are old employés of their own who are unemployed and have been so for some time. The Ministry has received deputations on this matter. It is the regular thing throughout industry to take age as the criterion of economic fitness, but anyone who knows anything about modern industry knows that age is not the only criterion and is not always the best criterion of industrial fitness. Men have been brought from other areas into the depressed areas thereby prejudicing the people in those areas in their chances of finding work.

With regard to the £100,000 for the training of young unemployed men: This is required for the training of these young men as handymen or for settlement overseas and for preparing them for transference. About £60,000 of this sum is required for additional capital expenditure on the provision of two new non-residential centres for training handy men and for adapting and improving existing centres. Here again I do not wish to make any comparison with the previous administration, but it is the case that three new centres were opened last year for the purpose of training handy-men; one in May, one in June, and one in November. Each of these centres has a capacity of 400 places and the three centres together will enable nearly 3,000 additional men to be trained annually. There are now eight nonresidential training centres and, in addition, places for a small number of handymen are available at the three residential overseas training centres, at Brandon, Claydon and Carstairs. The total number of places available for such trainees is now 3,300. It is proposed to open two further centres, each to take 400 at a time, or approximately 1,000 annually, and these extensions will bring the total annual output of the centres up to between 9,000 and 10,000 men. One thing which has marked the discussions in this Parliament has been the fact that, whatever may be the condition of unemployment generally, it has been agreed that in the case of those who are able to take training and reconditioning it would be better for them to do this than simply do nothing at all. These training centres are developing up and down the country. Whether I have sat on this side of the House or on the other I have said that while recognising training to be a matter of experiment, it has always seemed to me that some of the most useful work the Ministry of Labour could do was to keep the fingers and eyes and the spirit of the man alive until such time as he would be able to take regular employment, and the Ministry welcomes investigation into the working of these centres and the very fine work that is being done to keep all the faculties of these men alive.

Another thing which the Committee should know is the present position with regard to the allowances for these men. The man himself usually knows it; and the Department knows it; but I do not think hon. Members fully realise the position in regard to this matter. The arrangements for admission to training centres and transfer instructional centres did not originally permit of the admission of married men, who in the absence of allowances for the maintenance of their families and dependants were unable to take advantage of these facilities except in a few cases where they resided within a short distance of the centres and could attend daily. Special allowances are now paid to married trainees, and these allow- ances enable each man to send home at least 16s. per week for his wife and 2s. for each child. A similar allowance is paid in the cases of men who have adult dependants in respect of whom they are in receipt of dependants' benefit. I want the Committee to mark this new extension of these training facilities for married men, who originally found it difficult to get any training at all and were excluded. Arrangements have now been made so that their wives and families can receive the necessary financial support while they themselves are in training. Arrangements have also been made whereby single men trainees, who have hitherto been unable to take training because they have been making a substantial contribution out of their unemployment benefit to the support of their family, are now able to enter a training centre because a remittance of 9s. per week is sent to his family while he is away from home.

Experience has taught the Department that it is not only the young men who need attention in the matter of training. Recently arrangements have been made for including some of the older men, and particularly the older single men, in the opportunities for receiving training. One of the saddest sights I know is that of a single man of advanced age in one of our depressed areas. The younger men can very often look after themselves and take the chance of getting out, and the married man has his family and relations, but the middle-aged single man in an industrial depressed area presents a great problem for the Ministry and for those who have to deal with the possibility of his transference. Arrangements have been made to take such men up to the age of 45. I have seen a new light come into a man's eyes, and a new spirit take possession of him, when he knew that there was a chance of getting training and the necessary support with the possibility of finding work somewhere else. I have also seen men who have been transferred to other areas, and in one or two cases within my own experience they have proved to be very valuable experiments.

One of the heartening things about this very depressing problem of unemployment is that in the depressed areas there is very great concern on the part of those who are connected with the workers' organisations, and on the part of all who have the well-being of the unemployed at heart, to give their services and help. I have had before me trade union secretaries who have expressed themselves as being considerably alarmed particularly regarding the case of young men who have been idle for a considerable length of time That willingness to help is being shown up and down the country. The men's organisations and representatives clearly recognise the lamentable fact that deterioration takes place when men are unemployed, and in so far as they can aid or advise or influence those concerned, so that they may get training or reconditioning, they give their services freely. Quite recently the Minister received a very large deputation representative of the whole of the organised churches of the country, without limit as to sect or creed, and the members of that deputation asked that the churches might be allowed to keep contact in every part of the country with those who move, as they do nowadays from one end of the country to the other, so that the churches' influence, moral and social, could be added to that of the Ministry in dealing with this great problem.


The Parliamentary Secretary has made some very interesting remarks, hut could he tell us what proportion, or how many, of the places in the overseas training centres are now filled? That is the real test of how they are going ahead.


For the moment, I could not give an answer except to say that for overseas purposes the places are not all occupied. At Brandon, which has been open since 24th February, 1926, there are 250 places. Cranwich Heath was reopened on 8th November, 1929, and has 200 places.


How many places?


I cannot answer for the moment, West Tofts, reopened on 22nd November, has 200; High Lodge to be reopened on 22nd January will have 200; and Carstairs has 120.


Are those places that are available or are the men there?


As I have said, all the places are not occupied for the moment. The right hon. Gentleman knows the difficulties—it is not advisable to stress this point too much—about the Dominions' acceptance of these men overseas. The fact is that there are 1,220 places available and that there are 607 in training. As I have said the figures vary from time to time, and in proportion to the demand from overseas for men the Department has to keep a certain margin of places available, and what this margin may be depends, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, on the policy of the Dominions in the matter.


Will the Parliamentary Secretary say what proportion of these vacancies is being kept for Government purposes and what proportion of places is vacant because the places cannot be filled? I am not asking the hon. Gentleman to answer that question immediately.


As the hon. Gentleman knows, Australia's position has changed somewhat quite recently. The position varies, too, in Canada. The Department has to keep a certain margin available to meet demands from these and other sources. There is not any real difficulty in filling the places. Perhaps the difficulty will be all the less as the Department develops its scheme. In the matter of age there was a limitation of 19 to 25 years. Now the age for single men has been raised to 35 years. In proportion as that policy is developed it will be easier to fill the places, but there will still have to be a margin kept in view of the possibility of overseas development.


I and every Member on this side of the Committee have always felt great personal interest in these training centres, both for home work and for overseas settlement. What I would like to have from the Government, though not at this moment, is a statement showing the real state of affairs at these training centres. We want figures relating both to home and overseas. We want to know how the work of training men for overseas settlement in particular is getting on. We would like to know the number of places available in all the training centres, how-far they have been filled, or what likelihood there is of filling them, and whether there are difficulties either in regard to the Dominions or in getting entrants in this country.


The Parliamentary Secretary stated that three new centres had been opened recently and that two further new centres were to be opened within a short time. Would he state where are the three new centres already opened and the two new centres that are to be opened?


In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, the Minister will give him later all the information that is necessary. The three new centres which have been opened last year, two of them since the present Government took office, are Park Royal, Slough, and Watford.


Where are the two new centres that are to be opened?


I do not think it is quite settled at the moment where they will be.


Have they been decided on?


They have been decided on, but the sites are not settled at the moment. That is all I have to say in explanation of this request for £4,150,000. I am sure that the Committee will appreciate the fact that it has not been possible to ask for this Estimate at an earlier stage. I would emphasise that point. This Estimate is not the result of underestimating last year. It was necessary at that time to make it clear that, in view of the unemployment position, we would need to come before Parliament early this year for more money. Moreover, when we took office the Unemployment Fund was certainly in a very bad state; it was very near the point of exhaustion. Then from year to year there has been an extension of the need for dealing with the transition stage. The bulk of this amount will be expended under the provisions of a Bill which is now in another place.


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.

I am sure that we have all listened with interest to the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation of this Estimate. Of course it was necessary for him to account for the very considerable sum for which he is asking. I was not at all surprised to hear him say that this Estimate could not have been brought forward any sooner. As a matter of fact the Government are bring- ing forward this Estimate at a very premature stage as it is, and for a very good reason—the reason of approaching bankruptcy of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. They are bringing forward this Estimate to deal with a Bill hat has not yet passed all its stages in either House of Parliament. Is not that rather an astonishing thing in the case of a Ministry which prides itself on purism, carried to a fanatical degree, in finance? The Government are bringing forward the proposal because the rise in the unemployment figures, the rise over last year, the rise compared with the corresponding period when a so-called reactionary Conservative Government was in power, is so great, that they have to send out an S.O.S. call and bring men hurrying up with barrels of money to be poured into the Exchanges in case the fund should be bankrupt before their Bill takes its normal course through both Houses.

It is a most extraordinary position. The Government passes from stagger to stagger in this Bill. Before the House adjourned the Government were driven to the extraordinary position of asking for the Third Reading of a Bill which had not been printed or circulated and was not available to Members of this House. Then they took what seemed to me the most extraordinary course of introducing the Bill in another place. We could get a copy only by going along to the other place and, as suppliants, asking for a copy of this Measure, this great charter of the unemployed, on which so much fire and fury had been expended in this House. There was not a copy available for hon. Members except as pensioners on the bounty of the other place.

Meanwhile, in another place, the Committee stage of this Bill is commencing, and Amendments may be made in it. If the Government decide to accept those Amendments, they will inevitably result in very considerable alterations in the finances of the Bill. We have already had, I think, two, or two and a-half, reports upon the finances of this Bill. The last report from the Government Actuary pointed out that on a figure of 1,200,000 this Bill would put the Unemployment Insurance Fund into a deficit of £2,000,000. But what is the figure before us now? Does the number of unemployed look like coming down to 1,200,000? The number is fluctuating well above the figure of 1,400,000 men and women unemployed in this country. The Government say that they could not have brought forward this Estimate any sooner, or, no doubt, they would have done so, but what do these figures show? The figures show that, in spite of all that we are told is being done for the unemployed, a mountainous rise took place after the Christmas holidays. A formidable rise after the Christmas holidays is a familiar feature in our unemployment statistics, but this particular rise was preceded by no fall. The news papers and others have pointed out—the Ministry's own report pointed out—that there was not on this occasion the pre- Christmas fall in unemployment which usually takes place owing to the Christmas shopping boom, when a number of people have to be taken on to handle the greater amount of business. A considerable increase in the spending power of the working class usually takes place about that time—


Hear, hear! We want it all the year round.


That may be so, but evidently with the present Government in power, the people do not even get it at Christmas time. That normally was the festival time at which the working classes of this country had money in their pockets and enjoyed additional spending power, and the time at which, in past years, they actually did succeed in making a considerable reduction in the unemployment figures by hiring their own less fortunate brethren to carry out work which was of use to them. What the Parliamentary Secretary has been describing is good work, valuable work, interesting work. He speaks about the light of hope coming back into men's eyes. When? When they get a chance of transferring to another district; when they are asked to separate themselves from their wives and families and from all the associations among which they have been brought up. What a commentary upon the work not of the Ministry of Labour—because it is not the Ministry of Labour which is on trial to-day—but on the work of the Lord Privy Seal and the Lord Privy Seal's Department and the Lord Privy Seal's admirable and indefatigable lieutenants, if I may so call them—his staff officers, the chief of whom we are glad to see present at this discussion. But let us take the course of unemployment as shown in the weekly figures. We find, in the first place, that the usual pre-Christmas fall in unemployment did not take place. Secondly, we find, in spite of that fact, that the New Year post-Christmas rise in the unemployment figures did take place and take place to a tremendous extent.

Furthermore, we find that the rise is maintained. The figures for 6th January show 20,000 persons unemployed above the figure of the previous year, when the reactionary Conservative Government were in power. And what are the new figures going to show? Is there any sign of a rise in trade or of any improvement owing to the steps which the Lord Privy Seal is taking? The Lord Privy Seal to-day put up a smoke screen. He jumbled up a number of questions all in one, and said that he had been admitted to the secrecy of the councils of the banks and, of course—[HON. MEMERS: "The City."] The right hon. Gentleman said the City, and added that it would take him too long to explain what "The City" was, but in his speech ho made it quite clear that he meant the banks. He would not tell the House of Commons anything to-day because it might annoy the banks. He thought it would be a great pity to reveal what he was doing because his plans were so great and wide and far-sweeping that if anybody heard about them they would come crashing to the ground and the last state of the unemployed would be worse than the first. And so we have to work on these figures showing a rise of 200,000 odd unemployed after Christmas. We have to work on the fact that there is a surplus of 20,000 unemployed above the figure which was shown under the Tory Government last year. And we have to look forward to the figure which, no doubt, will be published in the Press to-morrow and will be available for the further stages of this Vote. That figure will show the result of the returns for the last fortnight, and I make bold to prophesy that it, too, will still be above the figure—if you like the monstrously too high figure—of unemployment which existed while the reactionary Conservative Government were in power and were being bombarded with the utmost fury by hon. Members opposite, by the very Members on the Opposition Benches who are now asked to go into the Lobby in support of this Vote. They will be asked to support this Vote because there is at present 20,000 more, and in a week it may easily prove to be the case, that there are 40,000 more unemployed than there were when we were—


On what does the hon. and gallant Member base his prophecy that the number is going to be increased?


I am going to show the Committee why I think the number is bound to increase. I base that opinion on the extraordinary uncertainty and vagueness which we find not only from the Lord Privy Seal but from other members of the Government when they are asked to indicate their commercial policy, their industrial policy, or their agricultural policy. We question the Minister of Agriculture in vain for any information about a policy for agriculture. We question the Chancellor of the Exchequer in vain for any suggestion of what he is going to do in the case of the McKenna and Safeguarding Duties.


The hon. and gallant Member knows that I have no wish to rule too rigidly on these matters, but I would point out to him that the question now before the Committee is not the provision of money for unemployment schemes or Ministerial salaries but of money for the payment of benefit, and while questions such as he is dealing with may perhaps be raised incidentally I cannot allow a general discussion on these subjects.


May I ask your guidance, Sir. Does not this Supplementary Estimate arise because a larger amount of money is required owing to the increase in unemployment, and does it not therefore cover the whole question of the number of unemployed and what that number is likely to be in the immediate future?


The money asked for in this Vote is to provide for a number of persons who otherwise would be debarred by Statute from receiving benefit over a transitional period and the actual question before the Committee is whether that money ought to be granted or not. Questions regarding the provision of work are incidental and cannot form the main subject of discussion.


May I ask your consideration, Sir, for these points? The first item in this Vote concerns increased expenditure owing to the need for additional staff, that need being due entirely to the increase in unemployment. Surely, therefore, we are entitled to go into the question of unemployment. As regards the other big item of £4,000,000, the amount required would not be so great were it not for she increase of unemployment, and its effect on the Exchequer contribution.


May I also put these considerations? First, it was evidently understood by the Government that the whole question of unemployment could be discussed, because at Question Time the Lord Privy Seal lumped together a number of questions on this subject and said that he hoped to be here at this Debate and to hear the speeches from this side about his part in relation to the problem and to reply to those speeches. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Undoubtedly the right hon. Gentleman said if he was not here himself he would see that some representative of his Department was here and the hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is here. Furthermore, the first item in this Vote concerns the expansion of the staff of the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry of Labour has to be the whipping-boy in reference to these unemployment questions though it has no power to initiate schemes yet. The custom has always been, I understand, that when we discussed the salaries of the Ministry of Labour we discussed possible schemes of work designed to diminish the number of unemployed for whom the Ministry was responsible and I respectfully submit that it would be a bad precedent if the Debate were limited on this occasion in view of the urgency of the question.


While it may be quite correct to rule that the question of whether the unemployment figure is 1,000,000 or 1,250,000 is not a subject for discussion on this occasion yet I submit that a particular increase in the number of unemployed and the cause of that increase must be covered by this Estimate. This Estimate is for the purpose of providing for staff and additional administrative expenses at the Exchanges, and while the larger issues of unemployment may not be in order, the number of unemployed now added to the total and the considerations which may arise from that additional number, ought to be the subject of debate.


In the first place, I think it only right to say that the Lord Privy Seal is not the Chairman of this Committee and, therefore, I cannot take responsibility for any remarks which he may have made. In the second place, the first item in this Vote deals with the salaries of the staffs of the Exchanges in view of the additional work which those staffs have to undertake and that matter can be discussed but the larger issues concerning the provision of employment do not arise here. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) can discuss the rise in the unemployment figure but he cannot go on to discuss in detail schemes for providing employment.


With all respect, Sir, may I put a concrete case. I was told at Question Time to-day that Leith at present has more unemployed than it had this time last year. Definite concrete schemes have been submitted from Leith and if these had been accepted by the Government the number of unemployed would have been lessened. If we extend that throughout the whole of the Kingdom surely it is evident that it is because of the lack of these constructive schemes that the figure is higher now than it was 12 months ago; and surely we ought not to be tied down to a mere discussion on the actual rise in the figures.

The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Sir Oswald Mosley)

Regarding the reference to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal at Question Time, I understand that my right hon. Friend said that the Government would shortly lay a White Paper dealing with the subject matter of the particular questions which appeared on the Order Paper to-day. In saying that, the Lord Privy Seal very clearly had in mind the fact that neither he nor I nor any other representative of his Department would be in order on an Estimate like this, in detailing the plans for the provision of work on which we were engaged. If I attempted to reply to the question just raised by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Brown) as to the provision of work and the supply of money for the provision of work you, Sir, I understand, would promptly rule me out of order. For that reason my right hon. Friend said this afternoon that the Government would shortly lay a White Paper and that on an appropriate occasion, when it would be in order to do so as, for instance, on the Lord Privy Seal's salary, he would be very happy to answer all these questions.

5.0 p.m.


While all that the hon. Gentleman says is true about one side of the Lord Privy Seal's statement, it is not true of the other. He failed to listen to, or was absent from, the other statement, when the Lord Privy Seal specifically dealt with what he hoped would be the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) and said he regretted he could not be here but that a representative of his Department would be.


It is perfectly obvious, I think, from the speech of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) that if questions of that kind are to be raised, as to the provision or lack of provision of schemes of employment in particular localities, the Committee would be entitled to discuss the provision of money for such schemes, and obviously that could not be allowed on this Vote. Discussion must be confined to unemployment benefits, and the money voted to meet that need.


I am sure we shall be able, within the limits of your final sentence, to raise all the points which we desire to raise, because we are discussing a Supplementary Estimate, of which the purpose is to implement the provisions of a Bill. The Explanatory Memorandum states: In 1930–31 the revenue will cover expenditure if the number of persons on the live register on the average for the year does not exceed 1,200,000. If the live register is on the average 100,000 above or below this figure, the expenditure of the Fund will be increased or reduced by about £4,700,000 per annum. It is clear that the number of persons on the live register intimately affects the finance of this Bill which we are now discussing. Therefore, while no doubt it would be out of order to go in any great detail into unemployment schemes and the failure of the Department to provide them, yet some review of the unemployment position in the country is inevitable if the Estimate is to be discussed intelligently at all.

The essential point about the present position is this, that the Bill as introduced balanced at 1,200,000, but the Bill as it left this House did not balance at 1,200,000. No permanent steps have been taken by the Government to deal with the additional burden which was laid upon both the Fund and the Exchequer by the Amendments which were accepted as the Bill passed through this House, and it is vital for us to consider how the unemployed can be brought below 1,200,000 or else the whole finance of the Bill will be out of order. As I say, the difficulty in which the Committee is placed is considerable, in that it is dealing with a Measure which has not been printed for its benefit, a Measure which was introduced for the first time in the other place, a Measure which was defended there by arguments quite different from those by which it has been defended here, a Measure which was defended in the other place because it was a Bill for the relief of rates. It was suggested there that the unemployed were being provided for anyhow—but that in this Bill they were being provided for off the Unemployment Insurance Fund instead of off the rates. They are very interesting arguments, and they may be sound, but certainly the arguments put forward by hon. and right hon. Members below the Gangway were not that the unemployed were being provided for anyhow, and that it was merely a change of source from which the provision would come, but that the unemployed were actually not being provided for but were suffering hardships and were in great distress.

These considerations will no doubt arise on consideration of the Lords Amendments when the Measure returns from another place, but we here have the opportunity and must exercise the right which the House of Commons possesses of ventilating grievances before voting Supply. We are now being asked to vote Supply, and in no small sum. We have to-day and on Thursday an opportunity for reviewing the administration of the Government which makes it necessary to demand these huge sums of Supply, and it will be not merely desirable but incumbent upon the Opposition and upon all Members of the Committee to review the position which has produced this necessity.

The right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a few genial words, if any words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be called genial, wished the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer a merry Christmas and put the whole thing down to a raid of the last Chancellor upon the Unemployment Insurance Fund. He went on to say that the ex-Chancellor had robbed the Fund of a revenue of £10,000,000 a year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I hear that echoed by hon. Members opposite, so that it is apparently necessary to clear up an error which is not merely the error of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The ex-Chancellor pointed out that what he had done was to reduce not merely the Exchequer contributions but the contributions of both employer and employed, and that the lowering of the levy on wages was called by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a robbing of the Fund. That is a very queer use of the word "robbing," and if that extreme Treasury view of the word "robbery" is to be taken, it is robbery whenever taxation is reduced on anybody or any levy in any way lowered which comes under the review of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The ex-Chancellor tried to correct the present Chancellor on that subject, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, taking refuge in hard words, which is his very frequent refuge, said that the right hon. Gentleman's observations showed his abysmal ignorance of this question. It is true that abysmal ignorance was shown on that occasion, but that abysmal ignorance was shown by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, not by his right hon. predecessor. The suggestion that the reduction in contributions made by employer and employed is a robbing of the Fund is a suggestion which would only come from one who was abysmally ignorant of the principles under discussion.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has been abroad organising unemployment by succeeding in gaining greater and greater sums on reparations for this country, which only a short time ago he and his right hon. Friend denounced as the most certain way of producing unemployment in this country, has swallowed his opinions on that subject, and no doubt will swallow his opinions on a great many other subjects before he finishes. [An HON. MEMBER: "Say that when he comes in!"] If the Chancellor of the Exchequer or even the Financial Secretary to the Treasury were to grace our Debates by their presence when we are spending £4,000,000 of public money, there would be no need for hon. Members opposite to defend them.

I am glad to find now that we have the Financial Secretary to the Treasury with us, and I will repeat what I was saying, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the Debate before the House adjourned for Christmas, accused us on this side of having robbed the Unemployment Insurance Fund of £10,000,000 a year, which was due to the reduction not merely of the Treasury contribution, but of the employers' and employed contributions; and I was putting it, as I now put it to him, whether that suggestion that the Fund was robbed by lowering amongst others the workmen's contributions is a just one. If it is a just one, does the right hon. Gentleman propose to remedy it by increasing the workmen's contributions again? I will leave, that question with him.

The points at issue are not merely the narrow point of the position in which the fund finds itself at present, not merely the drafts which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is having to make on the public purse to fill this almost bottomless pit; they are the position of many of the great industries of this country in relation to the Government and its present policy. Let me deal more particularly with one of those industries, one which I am sure will be of great interest to the "right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). Let me deal more particularly with the housing industry, with which he dealt when introducing this Measure in the last Parliament. We were told from these benches, when the Labour party sat in Opposition, that the Government was not pressing on with sufficient vigour in the matter of housing, that it was not employing enough people on housing, that the reductions which were being made in the housing subsidy were calculated to cut down housing and throw people out of work. The present position is extremely interesting, but rather from the point of view of the Conservative party than from that of the Labour party.

In November, 1928, there were under construction in England and Wales, under the Chamberlain Act, 3,387 houses, and under the Wheatley Act 28,279 houses. In November of this year there were under construction no houses by local authorities under the Chamberlain Act, and 25,900 [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman does not need to be so vigorous in his interruptions. I am pointing out to the right hon. Member for Shettleston and his colleagues, who take a great interest in the provision of municipal houses, of houses to let, that of houses to let, either municipal houses under the Chamberlain Act or municipal houses under the Wheatley Act, there was a total of 31,666 under construction in England and Wales in 1928, when the reactionary Conservative Government was in power, and that there are under construction only 25,963 such houses to-day, when the progressive Labour Government is in power, a drop of 5,700 houses. What does that represent in a lack of employment?

The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) asked me a little while ago why I thought the figures of employment were likely to go down. Does not he see that these key men, if ever there were key men, being thrown on the dole is bound to mean the throwing of furniture makers and linoleum makers and others of the ancillary trades up and down the land, quite apart from the difficulties with regard to health which these proposals inevitably bring about? The Labour Government in England and Wales has to-day 5,700 houses less under construction than there were in November, 1928, when the Conservative Government was in power. But I will come more closely home to the right hon. Member for Shettleston. What does he think the figure" for Scotland are? The housing position in Scotland is not one on which any Government can be allowed to go to sleep. In November a year ago the figures were 16,000 houses. What were they in November of last year? They had fallen to less than 10,000 houses; there were 9,000 odd houses under construction in the whole of Scotland—municipal houses, State-aided houses. Instead of 15,000 under our Government, they had fallen to 9,000 odd.

What does that mean in the way of a fall in employment? It inevitably means a certain fall of some 5,000 men who, under our Administration, were building in Scotland, were laying bricks, nailing on slates, and carrying out the thousand and one activities which the building of houses necessitates. Five thousand of these men are drawing this new, reinforced unemployment benefit to-day, and we are being asked to vote £4,000,000 more to keep walking about the streets men who, under our Administration, were building houses. Is that a thing of which the Government can be proud? Is it not worth while asking them why the figures have fallen from 16,228 houses in November, 1928, to 9,613 in November, 1929? Is it not worth while asking them why the unemployment figures for the building trade which showed a rise between June and December, 1928, of 42,000 men, showed a rise between June and December, 1929, of 68,000 men, and why the percentage of builders unemployed, which had increased 5.3 per cent. between June and December, when the Tory Government were in power, had increased 8.4 per cent. when this Government of all the talents came into operation and began to promulgate their great schemes for absorbing the unemployed?

There are many things of which this Government might be ashamed and about which they might hang their heads. The Government have said so much and provided so little where a vital need of the people is concerned; that is a thing for which the people of this country will not readily forgive them. We have to deal with the position as we find it. We are told that the Government are going to bring in great schemes for dealing with slum clearance. We shall believe in those great schemes when we see them. There are 9,000 houses under construction in Scotland to-day, and, whatever their schemes, they will be unable materially to increase that number before the end of this year. As anyone knows who has had to do with housing, you have to bring in your Bill and negotiate with the local authorities, and carry through the thousand and one negotiations which are necessary before it passes from the stage of discussion on the Floor of this House. Then you are only really beginning your task, and I shall be greatly surprised if much more than 10,000 houses are constructed in Scotland in the present year. Cannot hon. Members opposite see what a whip the Government are weaving for their own backs? We shall have no difficulty when we go to the constituencies, to the places where people are crowded together in making our case at the next election. Let the Government have the election soon, because every month that passes strengthens the case against them. We are not afraid; they can stay in power, or they can go out of power.

The right hon. Gentleman he Member for Shettleston knows very well how closely housing is bound up with the ideals of the people whom he claims to represent. Does he think that the Government who have betrayed the working class in that way, will be in a happy position when they go to face them? Hon. and right hon. Members flatter themselves if they think that they can go to the country with safety on a programme like that. The progress of housing is sagging. It is one of the things which the Government claim that they hold specially in regard, but it is sagging dismally in the country. We are discussing to-day a Vote of £4,000,000 for payments to men who go idle, yet the Minister of Agriculture wraps himself in a mantle and says he cannot give any agricultural policy, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer wraps himself twice in his mantle and says that he will give no indication of his policy towards the great staple industries which have done so much to absorb the unemployed, and the Minister for Housing continues to delay the pronouncement which would let local authorities know where they were in regard to the housing position. And all the time the figures sag; men are thrown out of employment, and people are walking the streets who, under the previous Administration, were drawing money for work instead of money from the Employment Exchanges. A correspondent of a paper wrote recently: The Unemployment Insurance Bill with its vast expenditure upon unconstructive ends—its cynical recognition of unemployability as a vested interest—its abject surrender to the difficulties of the status quo form a more eloquent commentary upon Mr. Thomas's failure than do any of his or his colleagues speeches. Where were these words printed? They were not printed in any of the journals of the "Right" or in any journals which give support to the Conservative or Unionist parties. They are the words of the "Nation," which was certainly never a supporter of the Tory party or of any of its work. A justifiable denunciation like that is one of the most damning things that can be said about the whole policy of the present Government. We have a Vote before us which is no doubt necessary, but we are moving to reduce it as a protest against the action of the Government in their handling of the question of unemployment; and we shall have no hesitation in carrying this to a Division, and registering our disapproval of the way in which the problem is being handled. We ask for the support, not merely of the Conservative party, but of those who in all quarters of the House feel that a great opportunity is being lost and muddled away by the incompetence of His Majesty's present advisers.


Every Member of the Committee, no matter in what part he may sit, must recognise the tremendous importance of the subject which we are now discussing. I want to raise one or two points which, I think, come within the ambit of this Vote. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) said that he forecast an increase in the figures of the unemployed. He is not the only person who forecast that unemployment would not become less. The Lord Privy Seal, in answer to a question to-day, stated that he was actively pursuing a policy of helping on rationalisation, and he stated further that that rationalisation must cause unemployment to follow in its trail. Therefore, we find the Front Benches united in the view that unemployment is not likely to diminish to any serious extent in the succeeding months. We are therefore faced with a serious situation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman forgot, when he was dealing with the Government, that his successor delivered a speech last Sunday, in which he threw out an alternative for dealing with the unemployment problem. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, speaking in Glasgow, pointed out one way which might diminish the unemployment figures, and I want quite seriously to ask the Lord Privy Seal, or his representative, or the Minister of Labour, whore we stand? The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, from his point of view, was rightly indicting the Government for not having reduced the numbers, and he quite rightly asked what schemes of work were they adopting, and what methods they were taking to reduce that number.

The Under-Secretary, when speaking in Glasgow, said that the numbers were appalling, and that the magnitude of the problem was great; and he suggested that, in order to save the numbers from increasing, and to save us voting such large sums of money, 30s. a week ought to be paid to every man or woman over 60 in industry, and that they should be asked to retire voluntarily.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Robert Young)

That would require legislation.


We are dealing here with the problem of the increase in unemployment. The Under-Secretary of State was dealing with that problem, and he stated that his alternative was a grant of 30s. a week to each person over 60.


The hon. Member knows perfectly well that we cannot discuss on this Estimate statements of a Minister which would require legislation.


I do not want to cross swords with you here, Mr. Young. I know that you made a speech outside attacking us, and I do not want to cross swords with you to-day, but I am entitled, even with your Ruling, to ask this question of the Lord Privy Seal. Does he intend, in order to save us granting large sums of money like this, to legislate in future on these lines? Surely that is in order. Does the Lord Privy Seal intend, in collaboration with other Departments, in order to save us from voting further large sums of money for unemployment, to ask for powers from Parliament to operate the plan of the Under-Secretary for Scotland? I ask that question for this reason. I represent, with others, great masses of poverty, and 30s. a week would be a godsend to these people. It would mean the difference between a fearful struggle and—


The hon. Gentleman can ask a question, but there can be no discussion as to the merits of the question.


I am asking if we can get legislation on these lines, because there is no use holding out hopes in a speech on a Sunday night, and no use talking about 30s. a week, unless we know exactly what is in the minds of the Government. I, therefore, ask the Lord Privy Seal if it is the serious intention of the Government, and if this utterance of the Under-Secretary for Scotland has some foundation of fact, or was really a propaganda speech without any real meaning in it. I am anxious to know, and I hope the Lord Privy Seal's representative will tell us exactly what is in the Government's mind in relation to this point.

I turn from that to another point. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour dealt at great length with the Estimate for training. He said we were increasing by several thousands the number of persons in training, that we had established three new centres in different parts of the country and were proposing to establish two further centres. Then a question was asked as to what was being done in regard to sending men overseas to take up vacancies in the Dominions. I want to know for what work overseas we are training these men. I am getting letters daily or at least weekly—and there may be other Members in my position—asking if I cannot obtain money with which to bring men home from overseas. They say they are suffering such acute poverty in Canada that, bad as Britain may be, they want to come back, because here they would at least get unemployment benefit. I am constantly receiving letters from people resident in Canada telling me about the hardships and the difficulties of securing work. When the Minister of Labour is replying, will she tell me what openings there are for men and women in Canada or in Australia?

Then I want to know for what occupations at home men and women are being trained. Axe they being trained for engineering, for house building, for furniture making, or for women's tailoring? I wish to know this, because I do not know of a job for which there are not trained men already available. In every occupa- tion of which I know anything there is already a superabundance of men. The lack of the country is not trained men; already too many men are applying for every vacant place. May I remind the Minister of Labour of a phrase in a report which was signed by her in which it was stated that evidence had been submitted showing that in certain trades there was a lack of properly trained persons? I have repeatedly asked what are the trades in which there is this lack of trained people. In the cotton, engineering, shipbuilding, house building and electrical trades, are there not already trained men wasting for want of work which cannot be found for them? That being the case, for what are these other people being trained? When I visited one of the training centres in Glasgow I found men being trained to make furniture. Then I went to the Employment Exchange, and there I met trained men looking for work in the furnishing trade. I have seen men being taught to be hairdressers at the training centres and again at the Employment Exchanges I found hairdressers looking for work and unable to get it. When we are asked to vote large sums of money for an enterprise which we are told holds out some hope for the common people, I must ask what new jobs are being created. Are we finding work for larger numbers of people? I would ask the Minister of Labour to reflect seriously on the point that training people for work affords no guarantee that they will get work when they are trained.

The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that whereas under the previous administration no married man could take advantage of this training, married men were now being asked to go to the training centres, and that each married man is allowed to send home 16s. per week for his wife and 2s. for each child. Putting it plainly, that means that if a man has three children, which is something like the average family, he will be allowed to send home 22s. I put it to the Minister of Labour that it is a shocking thing to ask a family to live on that sum—22s. for three children and an adult. And that we are told is a concession! That is a step in advance! That is something new! I would ask tin-Minister of Labour if the 22s. cannot be increased. If a man must change his calling and must go to one of these centres for training, surely his family should be given an adequate income on which to live. Could not the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) use his influence, which I understand is great, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to get the amount increased? [Laughter.] I am putting this to him terribly seriously. This is a terribly serious problem. Let me repeat the figures—16s. for a wife and 2s. for each child. Before he became a Minister the hon. Member for Smethwick used to plead for high pensions for the people. I remember listening to a very fine speech from him in which he advocated large pensions for the poorer section of the community. I would ask him and the Minister of Labour seriously to consider the position in which a married man who is offered training is placed. If the man says, "I am not going to be trained," he is put into the category of the workshy, is said to be a man who does not want work; and if he does take up training, all that he can send home to his wife and family is this terribly miserable sum.

The sum granted for the working of the boards of assessors is another point arising on this Estimate. Before the Adjournment the Minister of Labour urged that the boards of assessors had gone some way towards lessening the number of men and women who were cut off benefit as being persons not genuinely seeking work, and I accepted what she said; I think her figures went to prove it. But I felt that they still left serious cause for complaint, and I now want to know if the boards of assessors are now properly functioning. I have recently had some experience of the boards of assessors, and in some cases they do help the unemployed man, but that is not always the case. Only last week I met a representative from the Shettleston Division of Glasgow who looks after the unemployed from the mines outside, who told me that he had deliberately come to the conclusion that he would do much better without these boards of assessors. He said that whereas beforehand he could take a case to a court of referees and get a decision overturned that now, when the boards of assessors had met, if was almost impossible to get a favourable decision from a court of referees. I would ask the Minister of Labour whether she thinks that these boards of assessors, which functioned well in the early months, are now functioning half so well as they did? My own view is that they are now badly attended; certainly, there is rarely a full quorum present.

Next I would like to deal with the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove as to housing. He said that only 10,000 houses were being built in Scotland as compared with 15,000 under the Tory administration. He said that instead of employing people to build more houses the Government were now asking for more money in this Estimate in order to give them unemployment benefit. I think this reply can be made to him. He must not forget that at the time when he held office in the last administration every local authority, largely composed of Conservative-minded people, was anxious to assist the Government, because it was a Government of their own particular colour. Let me point out one case. The county council of Renfrewshire, who are anti-Labour almost to a man, have now decided not to proceed with any more houses, although there is a clamour for houses in Renfrewshire. That is what the Government are faced with.


Surely it is a somewhat strong order to suggest that the local authorities in Scotland built houses and raised the rates in their areas on account of their affection for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour) and the Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot). Anyone who remembers the campaign which the two of us had to carry on in Scotland, the speeches we made and the conferences that were called, and sees that there is nothing of that kind now from the present Under-Secretary—nothing except attacks on the memory of Robert Bruce—will not wonder that more houses were built when we were talking about houses than when he is talking about Robert Bruce.


I am not an authority on Bruce. My New Year was not spent in discussing Bruce, but in discussing parish council relief and unemployment benefit. We are told that the Government are being hampered by reactionary authorities who refuse to help them. That is the point I was making. Is that the defence, and it is the only defence I know of, that they put forward? From the point of view of the need of the country there is no justification for this amazing drop in house building. The need to-day is greater than it was 10 years ago. We have been told that we ought to organise for peace as well as we organised for war, and if the local authorities are standing in the way I say, why do not the Under-Secretary for Scotland and the Minister of Labour form a Department of their own to start building houses by direct labour? They have powers under present legislation. Remember even this: a predecessor of the present Prime Minister built 2,000 steel houses, without legislation. He formed a company called the Scottish National Company for the purpose, and gave them money grants, which passed through the House of Commons, for the purpose. If local authorities are holding up matters, there is the excellent precedent of the previous Prime Minister to work upon: form a company with Government money, start them building, not steel houses, but ordinary dwellings for the people. If local authorities are refusing to do their duty, follow the last Prime Minister's example. He did it within a short period. Follow him, and inaugurate a new company, with Government money and Government control, and get them to build houses. I think by those means we ought to be able to help matters on.

The last observation I have to make is this. Everybody knew that this sum of £4,500,000 would have to be asked for. Even in July last all of us knew that that sum would be demanded from the Government. This £4,500,000 is, I think, absolutely necessary. I told the Government months ago that they ought to ask for a considerably larger sum, but they have not asked for more. Far from reducing this sum, I think the sum ought to be increased, because even in the next six weeks men and women are going to be cut off from benefit who ought not to be cut off from benefit, and I should like to see the sum increased, so that in the ensuing six weeks nobody justly entitled to benefit would be deprived of it. I shall vote against the reduction of the sum, because I believe that the sum should be increased. I ask the Minister of Labour, instead of wasting her time on schemes of training in which, there is no scope for the great masses of the people, to turn her attention to the two other sides of it, first of all increasing the purchasing power of the common people of this country, and, secondly, trying to reduce the hours of labour. I am convinced that instead of creating new work, we ought to be sharing out the work among the people. After all, we rationed food during the War. There is only a certain amount of work to be done; why should we not start rationing the work? Instead of having 1,500,000 unemployed and other people working too long at work which is too hard—men in mines working 48 hours a week—we ought to ration the work, bring in the men who are able to work, give them their chance to work, and shorten the hours of labour, and so make unemployment less, instead of increasing the poverty of the people, and instead of going after a will-o'-the-wisp called training. Instead of making wives the drudges of the age, get women to come in and lessen the toil of the other women and shorten their hours of work.

Let the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is representing the Lord Privy Seal here, turn to his pre-election speeches, and to the prophecies which he used to make—and he was right—when he was out to increase the purchasing power of all those who are unemployed, and to lessen labour. That is what the hon. Member for Smethwick then said, and he was right. Let him keep to his Socialist pledges; do not let him follow the will-o'-the-wisp of training men who are already trained. You do not want to follow that. You do not want to pack men off to Canada in order to make the lives of the Canadians even more miserable than they are. I ask the hon. Member for Smethwick to return to his Socialism and to his Labour pledges, for along that way lies a saner path than following the stupidities and follies of rationalisation and modern capitalism.


I have been very much interested in the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and I have been contrasting its tone with the tone of the speech which he delivered on another Financial Resolution in the month of July. Upon that Resolution, which was a Resolution for a smaller amount of money, the hon. Member for Gorbals asked the Minister of Labour to withdraw her Resolution, to take it back and bring in another; and he made a very vivid and angry attack upon the Minister of Labour and upon the Government for their failure to seize the opportunity which they had of dealing properly with unemployment. It seems that the doctrine of graduality and moderation is spreading to the mountains of Scotland. I think the House will take notice of it, and I hope the country will take notice of it, too, because in this matter there is no question whatever that every Member of this House has been anxious not to face again, as we have to face to-day, the implications of a demand for more Supplementary Estimates dealing with only two sections of operations against unemployment, namely, maintenance on the one hand and training on the other.

There are three possible lines of operation: maintenance, training, and work. While I do not want to transgress the ruling of your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Young, I am entitled to ask a question, at any rate, about one item, namely, with regard to the provision of work. If hon. Members will look at the Supplementary Estimate on page 5 in Part A under "Salaries, Wages and Allowances," they will find this extremely interesting sentence: Additional provision for work at Unemployment Exchanges in connection with the administration of Unemployment Insurance, including work relating to the Boards of Assessors; and this is the fragment of the sentence to which I want to call the attention of the Committee: increased activity in placing men in employment. We were not told by the Parliamentary Secretary, but I think we are entitled to be told, what is meant by that part of that sentence. What is this increase of activity in placing men in employment? What areas are affected by it, and what bodies of men? Is it on a large scale? How many men does it affect? And is the Lord Privy Seal's Department co-operating with the Minister of Labour and her Departmental officials in this increased activity in placing men in employment. This is a matter of very great moment to the country and to the unemployed. I have on the Paper to-day a question addressed to the Minister of Labour asking, if she will state the number of unemployed persons registered at the Exchanges in Scotland on 15th January, 1928, 1929, and 1930, respectively. What is the answer that I get? It is this: The number of persons on the registers of Unemployment Exchanges in Scotland at 6th January, 1930, was 193,238, as compared with 187,305 at 7th January, 1929, and 146,675 at 9th January, 1928, so that in Scotland there were a fortnight ago nearly 50,000 more unemployed persons registered than there were two years ago. I would like to know from the Minister whether any of this increased activity in placing men in employment has taken place in Scotland, and if so, where and in what directions? Because we ought not to be told in a Supplementary Estimate of this kind that there is this increased activity unless we are given details about it, so that we may be able to face our constituents with a clear conscience in the matter.

Speaking personally, I do not want precipitately to judge the Government in this matter. I am perfectly willing to give them every opportunity to make good their claims at the General Election. I am perfectly willing to take, for instance, this point of view, which was the point of view of the "Daily Herald" on 7th June last: Labour in office will ho judged by what it can do in solid constructive work to decrease the volume of unemployment. Given a proper chance to apply its own remedies, the situation should grow progressively better as the months go on. It is not easy for those hon. Members who sit for these distressful areas to face Motions to reduce Estimates of this kind, such as that moved by the hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot), and to support the Government or otherwise to abstain from the division, unless we are given to understand that there is some prospect of increased activity in placing men in employment in the months ahead, that those plans are now in the minds of the Government, and that within a short time the details will be given to the House.

Take my own case. I asked the Minister of Labour to-day what was the case in my own constituency of Leith in January, 1928, January, 1929, and January, 1930. I am happy to say that things are a little better there this month than they were last January. There were on 6th January this year 4,886 unemployed; and that is out of a total of 25,000 insured persons, so that nearly 20 per cent. of the total insured population of Leith is registered this very month. If we speak rather warmly about this matter, the Committee must understand that it is because we have to meet these unemployed people regularly as we spend our time in our constituencies week end by week end, and if we can exercise patience, I can assure the Committee that they are in no mood whatever to exercise patience, either with this or with any Government which, when out of office, has talked about increasing work, and in office brings in Estimates of this kind which, on the figures, find no justification. Let me continue with the figures, after having given that explanation about the 25,000 insured persons. On 6th January this year, there were 4,886 unemployed; on 7th January last year, which is the comparable date, there were 5,193, and in January of the year before the number was 3,889; so that I have to face the position that I shall have to explain either voting for the Government, abstaining from the division, or voting against the Government, on Estimates of this kind, in face of the fact that there are at this moment in Leith 1,000 more unemployed than there were two years ago. I think the Committee ought to face these facts, not merely as to my own constituency but as to every constituency in the country which has these large masses of unemployed; and we ought to be told what are these steps which are being actively taken to place men in employment.

I have personally no complaint to make about the courtesy of the Lord Privy Seal, nor about the investigations made by the Lord Privy Seal. When I get my opportunity, I am going to press the Lord Privy Seal, and the Government, on a matter of policy, and to tell them that if they are to be held up by Treasury Minutes such as this futile Treasury Minute which makes a distinction between revenue-producing and non-revenue-producing undertakings in the case of docks and harbours, then these figures are not likely to come down this year. I will not pursue that subject any further, but I wish to call the attention of the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer to the fact, because I believe much might be done right round the coast in the way of developing docks, harbours, and piers, it the Lord Privy Seal and his Department would stand up to the Treasury officials and tell them that they mean actively to take steps to place men in employment.

I want to say one other thing before I sit down, and it is this: In regard to the actual grant of £4,000,000, I think the hon. Member for Gorbals might on this occasion have used all his influence with regard to this Amendment, because in his speech on 11th July last year he used these words: Let her take this Resolution back. There is nothing lost in admitting that you have not done the right thing. Let her come back three weeks hence, and ask the House to meet. Let her introduce a proper Financial Resolution that will allow her to bring in a Bill under which she can administer the Fund as every Member of this party and herself desire. When last this question was discussed, hon. Members on these benches were agreed that £10,000,000 of borrowed money was not sufficient. One hon. Member, I think it was the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), suggested that we ought to double the amount, and he was right. This Resolution is a miserable makeshift. Let it be withdrawn, and another take its place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1929; col. 1136, Vol. 229.] 6.0 p.m.

We did not hear a repetition of that point of view from the hon. Member for Gorbals this afternoon, and I note it for the purpose of future debate. Whether or not the Debates referred to took place about Robert Bruce and the spider or about black sheep and little white lambs from Lanarkshire, is not a matter for this Committee this afternoon, but it may be that there are reactions from those Debates, and from the vote which took place, so that in the months ahead the hon. Member is not going to be as easy in standing up to the unemployed and using those impassioned terms of his as he was in the month of July last. We all realise that this money must be found. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and see!"] There are some people who cannot wait and, if they do wait, cannot see. Our trouble is that we are waiting and we are not seeing. What we desire the Government to do is to face the problem so that they may never have to come again with a Financial Resolution of this kind because the numbers are actually being reduced.


For many years, in the happy land of Opposition, I tried to raise a general unemployment debate on occasions such as this and I have invariably been ruled out of order. I must congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) on having enjoyed a slightly greater measure of success than I ever did, although the conflicts with the ruling of the Chair have debarred me altogether from making the kind of statement he desired me to make. I am unable, on this Estimate for the provision of money for a totally different purpose, to describe a single measure adopted by the Government which would provide work as opposed to benefits, and which would require other Estimates for that purpose. See, therefore, the happy position of the Opposition. They can point to every Department in turn. They can point to the Ministry of Health and say nothing is being done for housing, knowing perfectly well that the Minister would be miles out of order if he attempted to describe what he intended to do. They can point to the Minister of Agriculture and ask what he is doing about land drainage and the rest, knowing perfectly well that he cannot possibly describe the measures he has in contemplation. There are two reasons for a Minister not being able to describe what he has in contemplation. The first is the reason which debars my right hon. Friends, that they would be out of order, and the second is the reason that debarred the late Government, that they had not the slightest conception of what they had in contemplation. Those are two very different reasons for imposing a certain silence upon Ministers. But it is well known, and it has already been announced, that the Government have a big slum clearance measure available for presentation and it is only the Parliamentary time table which has prevented them from making progress with it. They know also that the Ministry of Agriculture had a land drainage measure for presentation, and in due course these matters will come under the consideration of the House. But both measures, of course, involve legislation and are completely outside the ambit of this discussion. Therefore I felicitate the hon. Member opposite on the very great skill with which he has suggested inactivity in these Departments, knowing perfectly well that the Ministers were unable on this occasion to make any reply.


Surely the hon. Baronet knows as well as I do, as a vigorous administrator, that by vigour in administration a great deal can be done to further the measures a Minister has in view, and certainly a Minister would be quite entitled to show the active steps he had taken, the circulars he had sent out, the meetings he had addressed, extracts from the speeches he had made in the country to show that he was in fact pursuing in the country the discussion he was precluded from engaging in in the town. The Financial Secretary laughs at that idea. He is pretending an innocence which he does not really share. Everyone knows that there are ways of ventilating in the country a line of policy that a Minister intends to take if he has any such policy. The reason they do not ventilate the policy is that they have no policy to ventilate.


Then it comes to this, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests that a useful purpose might have been served by those Ministers saying that in the ordinary course of their Departmental work they have had a few talks with their advisers as to the Measures they were going to introduce, without being able to describe in any way the results of those talks or the Measures that were likely to be introduced. That is the kind of thing to which we were accustomed under the late Government. Vague and windy platitudes were supplied to the House in every discussion of this kind for a period of four and a-half years, but we now have a beneficial change of method. The present Government wait until they can approach the real and the concrete before they come to the House with any claims as to their proposals, and surely it is nothing less than a waste of time for Ministers to stand at this Box talking about the preliminary Measures that are usually taken when they are about to bring a Bill forward. In any case this is not the Vote of their Department but that of the Ministry of Labour, and I very much doubt whether they would be in order even in describing their administrative activities.

Then the hon. Gentleman turned to the Department of the Lord Privy Seal and wanted a general review of the unemployment situation. That expression "general review" is one that I rather distrust. How many did we have from the late Prime Minister—those general reviews which always saw a trade revival with the coming of the new year, a general review based on vague speculation. I do not know if any such general re view would be in order in this discussion. I am certainly not going to make one. I do not believe in a general review. Governments in the end are justified by facts and by achievements, and by those facts and those achievements I and the Government in the end are prepared to be judged. But at the end of this period of time we certainly are not prepared to be judged by facts or by achievements, and I will challenge anyone in the Committee to state any occasion on which anyone on these benches ever claimed that within this period of time we would have solved, or materially affected, the unemployment problem. No one in the House on any bench has ever claimed for himself, or for the party, that within the period of time in which this Government has been in office any Measure that it adopted would seriously have reduced the unemployment figures.


Has the hon. Baronet overlooked the speech of the Lord Privy Seal in which he said that by February he hoped to have made a heavy impression upon unemployment?


I will come to the month of February in due course. What I believe my right hon. Friend said was that in some such period as that he believed the unemployment figures would show a favourable comparison with those prevailing under the late Government-last year. I have not the extract with me, but, unless I am very much mistaken, that is what he said. We must wait and see before we come to any rash conclusion.

I do not think anyone would suggest that any measures taken by the present Government are affecting the unemployment situation materially one way or the other, either beneficially or adversely. I never claimed, in speeches inside or outside the House, that within this period of time the unemployment figures would be affected by any measure that the Government could undertake. At this-stage we cannot be judged by our achievements one way or the other. We can be judged on the appropriate occasion by the likelihood of success which resides in the Measures we present to the House. It is always open to hon. Members opposite on appropriate occasions to say, as they do, the measures we are taking are obviously inherently inadequate to meet the situation. That is a criticism that they are perfectly entitled to make, and it is then for the Government spokesmen to try to show that those measures are adequate. That is the real field of debate as this stage of our proceedings. No one has ever suggested that within this space of time the measures of the Government would have affected the unemployment figures, and no one in his inner conscience and mind has ever thought for a moment that any measure taken by any Government within this period of time could have affected the situation. With the actual rise in the unemployment figures which always takes place at this season of the year, and with the peculiarities of the present year, the Minister of Labour will deal when she comes to speak. I was interested to see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove committed himself to a very definite prophecy—always a danger in politics—that the unemployment figures would steadily increase during the next few weeks and months.


I did not go further than the next figure, which we shall see before the Report stage of the Vote. The figures then will be higher than the figures upon which we are asked to judge in the Committee stage.


Do I understand now that the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks the unemployment figures are going down during the next few weeks, or does he think they are going steadily to rise? I should be very happy to make that a test of his political sagacity, and about Whitsuntide to remind him of the prophecy he has now made. I understand now he does not so far commit himself as he appeared to do in his general denunciation of the Government. It is perfectly clear that, with certain unusual factors, the recent increase in the figures is of the usual seasonal character, and I, for my part, do not either claim success for the Government in mitigating that usual increase, or recognise a failure of the Government in that customary increase in the unemployment figures. I do not, in fact, at this stage, either claim success or admit failure. It is far too early, by any standard that we have ever set up for ourselves or that any reasonable man has ever adopted, to judge this Government by the actual facts of the situation.


How long do you want?


We have always rigorously avoided, and especially during the Election, any time-table whatsoever for the culmination of the Government's efforts in success. It was precisely that point which divided us at the Election from the Liberal party. The Liberal party pledged themselves within one year to reduce the unemployment figures to normal. In every constituency in Great Britain Labour candidates were faced with that phrase, and we were asked in public meetings—I myself was asked on many occasions—to say whether we also pledged ourselves within a year to reduce unemployment to the normal figure. In the published statements of our leaders, supported by every candidate in his individual answers, we said specifically that we would give no such pledge, and in the very first speech, a week or two after we took office, that I made in this House on the subject, I denounced that pledge, which I thought was impossible of achievement, and I said why I thought it was impossible of achievement. I said that to say that, within a definite period of time, we could overcome the unemployment problem, seemed to me to be as unreasonable as it would have been to say at the beginning of the Great War that, at a date in the future to be definitely fixed, our leaders in that War would be successful and would bring the War to a triumphant conclusion. Any man making such a prophecy at the beginning of the Great War would have been ludicrously falsified by events, and it seemed to me, as I said at the very outset of this controversy, that it would be equally foolish to make any prophecy as to the successful outcome of our unemployment Measures.

That is not the nature of the problem. It is not a problem which you can say dogmatically will come to its appointed end on an appointed day. It is a problem which, by its fundamental nature, requires the whole resources and energies of the State, mobilised, very much as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) mobilised the resources of the State during the Great War, and employed in a continuous struggle over a long and possibly indefinite period of time, until, by a variety of measures, we arrive at a victorious conclusion. In all probability we shall find, during the course of that struggle, as we have found in similar struggles, that many of the efforts which we make are frustrated, and many avenues to success which we believed to be closed are in fact open to energetic action. But these measures which the Government are employing at the present time must take longer for their fruition than can be judged in any such short period as that for which we have now been in office. If anything dominates the present situation, if any measures are having any practical effect on this situation, they are the measures of the last Government.

During the last Debate I quoted, from speeches made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, claims that a magic change would come over the whole situation on 1st October last, when the great De-rating Bill was to come into operation, the unemployment figures were to come crashing down, and at last the fruits of that great Measure were to be reaped; and asking, were they to be reaped by a Labour Government? We have reaped the fruits of that Measure during the last few months. It is precisely this period of time in which the party opposite, just prior to the General Election, claimed great results for those Measures. No one on this side has ever suggested that in this period of time our own measures would have the slightest effect one way or the other. If hon. Gentlemen will read our appeal to the nation at the time of the General Election, couched in language of peculiar moderation—I am not sure that it was not a little too moderate—they will certainly find no claim whatsoever that unemployment or the national situation would be seriously affected in this period of time. If I remember rightly, the language was to the effect that, if we had a majority, in the course of the full Parliamentary period of five years some beneficial effects might be brought to trade and industry. [Interruption.] That was our election language. I should be prepared to use stronger language now, and to make more confident claims than that document made at the time of the General Election; but certainly, if we are taunted on the ground that our election pledges are not being fulfilled, we can point to an election literature of such studied moderation of pledge, in contradistinction to that of some of my hon. Friends on the Liberal benches, that it is possible, after these few months, for Government spokesmen to make stronger and more confident claims at the present time.

It is difficult to try to conduct a Debate on unemployment under conditions which forbid our approaching either the precise or the concrete, as is the case this afternoon, but on the appropriate occasion the Lord Privy Seal will be more than ready to defend his policy. A White Paper, which at present is in course of preparation, will be laid, bringing the progress of these measures up to date, and I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will be agreeably surprised by the progress of these schemes. After all, a patriotic thrill always goes through the hearts of an Opposition at the success of a Government, and on this occasion I hope that they will be even more, agreeably surprised than they were on the last.

There are one or two specific questions which were asked of me by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and to which I will do my best to reply. He asked, first of all, about certain references by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to the question of retirement pensions. As has already been announced to the House, a Committee of Ministers and civil servants was set up some months ago to inquire into the whole of that question. That Committee has completed its work and has reported, and it will be for the Cabinet in due course to make any pronouncement—


May I ask whether the speech of the Under-Secretary for Scotland might be termed au intelligent anticipation of what the Committee had reported?


I understand that my hon. Friend was making certain observations upon the general possibilities of that sphere of action. Certainly neither I nor any other Minister could make any pronouncement on Government policy until the Cabinet had considered the matter.


A large number of the poorer people thought that the Under-Secretary for Scotland was speaking for the Government, and that this was the Committee's Report—that 30s. a week was to be given at 60 years of age.


My hon. Friend has just informed me that he specifically said on that occasion that he was not announcing the Government's policy—he made that quite clear.


Did the Committee report before that speech was made in Scotland?


That question does not arise.


My hon. Friend was speaking on the general subject of retirement pensions, and was reviewing some of the possibilities in that regard. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals, I can say that the Committee has reported, and that in due course he will be in a position to ask the Cabinet what their decision is on the matter. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals raised some very interesting points on the general question of the rationalisation of industry. He appeared to think that there was some conflict between rationalisation and the general doctrines of Socialism. I cannot for the life of me see why. After all, rationalisation is merely the modernisation by technical processes of British industry. It is bringing British industry up to date. It is the big merger the pooling of resources, the lowering of costs of production—


The hon. Baronet is now going outside the Vote.


I will not go deeply into this profoundly interesting subject, but will pass on to my hon. Friend's argument that rationalisation will in- volve some displacement of labour, and consequently an increase in the number of people unemployed. That, of course, is perfectly true. Nobody can deny for one moment that, when you introduce the new machinery and the more up-to-date methods of better organisation, when you "Fordise" your industries, work which was formerly done by a large number of men can be done by a limited and smaller number of men, and that is one of the great problems with which all Governments dealing with unemployment are faced. To the extent that we are successful in the real economic problem of making Britain up to date, of modernising our machinery and introducing new processes, to that very extent we are aggravating our immediate problem of unemployment. [Interruption.] That is perfectly true, but I think we can all agree that it was an essential process because, after all, in any State, Socialist or Capitalist, you have to be up to date; Socialism is not a device for the maintenance of obsolescent plant. My hon. Friend and I will agree, I am sure, upon that. In any State you have to go through the process of bringing Britain up to date, of scrapping dud machinery and out-of-date organisation, and during that process you are going pro tanto to displace labour. That process, which is the long-term reorganisation of Great Britain, must occupy a considerable period of time, and it is precisely because, by applying the real remedy, the permanent remedy, we are aggravating the temporary difficulty, that we have such a paramount necessity for a short-term programme as opposed to a long-term programme, in order to bridge the gulf between the present situation and our long-term programme. We have to separate these problems in our minds. There is nothing more dangerous than confusing the long-term reconstruction of Britain with the short-term immediate unemployment problem. Under any system—


Under capitalism.


Under any system you have exactly the same problem. It is a technical process, whether in a Capitalist or Socialist society. There are other differences, but this is merely a matter of mechanical and technical details. It is essential that we should divide in our minds the long-term programme from the short-term programme. The long-term programme, known as rationalisation, must involve in the first instance an aggravation of unemployment, and that provides the great necessity for a short-term programme of constructive and useful works, which themselves add to the economic equipment of the country and bridge the gulf between our present situation and the permanent reconstruction of our country at which we all aim. I think it can be shown that the Measures which the Government have in contemplation at any rate make a real attempt in both these directions. I do not claim that we have produced our last Measure or have said our last word. This is a long and continuous struggle. But I do say that, within the short space of time that we have had, we have at least made—and it can be supported by statistics—a far bigger effort than any other Government has yet made to meet this problem. That is not a reason for slackening our activities; it is a reason for going on to far greater attempts and far more comprehensive schemes, both in the long-term and in the short-term sphere, than we have yet made; but for my part I am more than ever confident that, not within any narrowly confined space of time, but in the full operation of the Measures of a Government given a reasonable chance, we can not only reconstruct the industries of this country and make them once again the foremost industries of the world, but that in the period which must elapse before we reap the fruits of those Measures, we also can devise plans and schemes which will afford earlier relief to those who suffer from unemployment to-day. And to these two great purposes of the reconstruction of Britain and the relief of unemployment by immediate and useful schemes this Government will press forward, and on appropriate occasions will not be afraid to submit them for detailed consideration.


I did not intend to intervene in this Debate for I had hoped that the Government would take up a different line from that taken in the original Bill which was under discussion before Christmas. My hope was increased by the sight of the hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Duchy in his place. But I cannot say that the remarkable and illuminating speech of the hon. Baronet has really removed the troubles from my mind. I do not think that the hon. Baronet quite appreciated the kind of difficulty which is in the mind of many of us on this side of the House. We do not ask him or the Government to make any premature disclosure of their plans for unemployment—that would be absurd—and we do not ask from him frequent general reviews of the situation. I agree with him that general reviews are of very little use. But he must remember that the party which he adorns came into power attended by very large expectations—expectations which they themselves had created. They professed to have a real policy which would go to the heart of unemployment—not a cut-and-dried plan; no one could ask that from them, but a policy which really went to the root of the matter. So far we have had no indication of any policy of the kind. It is no use for the Chancellor of the Duchy to mention rationalisation. That is not a sufficiently differentiated policy from that of any other party. It is no good to refer to Socialism. That is a faith, not a policy. No doubt he and his party believe that in the long run it will cure all our evils, but for a policy we want something more short-range and practical. Before Christmas the Government on this very question committed themselves to a great deal of financial expenditure, and in doing so gave no hint of any serious or considered policy on the subject. They made no attempt at the much overdue revision of the whole insurance system. They gave us no suggestion of any reasoned and comprehensive policy on the question of unemployment. Their attitude really was one of hopelessness and impotence. They said: "Here we are committed to a particular line of country. We must go on with it. We have not the time or vitality to consider whether this course is the best possible." This afternoon the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour has come down to the House and asked for further Estimates on the subject of unemployment, and his attitude has been very much the same. With a great deal of what he said I agree. The objects for which this money are required are, no doubt, admirable. No doubt the whole thing is an extension of an organisation to which we are already committed. I quite agree with the old pro- verb that it is no good swallowing the cow and choking at the tail. What I want to know is, to what is this wholesale diet of cattle going to lead.

Members on this side of the House want to know when this series of emergency commitments of the Government is really going to end. We have had one to-day. We had several before Christmas. We are promised a large number more in the future, all more or less related to the unemployment question. My first difficulty in this matter is that, though it may be possible to defend any one piece of expenditure by itself, you cannot really judge it fairly unless you are given some idea of the total commitments and the policy to which they belong. Even if any particular item is perfectly justifiable, the justification may fall to the ground if the total policy which includes all the items is not justifiable. It may be answered: "Of course, that involves the Chancellor of the Exchequer prematurely disclosing his Budget." I appreciate that point, but I would most seriously press upon the Government the danger of slipping into this habit of undirected, piece-meal and unrelated expenditure. Let me take a case which, I think, is a fair parallel. A business man, a manufacturer, may have a certain sum for replacement and betterment to which he is strictly limited. He makes a schedule of various items of betterment each of which can be absolutely defended by itself, but the justification for each one falls to the ground if the total exceeds the total which he cannot go beyond. I submit that that is a fair parallel unless hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to argue that, unlike the total of my manufacturer, our national wealth is inexhaustible. That is why the attitude of the Government fills me with so much anxiety. The nation is entitled, when asked to decide upon any one commitment, to have, at any rate, some indication of what the total scheme of commitments is, otherwise it cannot judge fairly on any one of them.

When the Government came into power they professed to have a bold policy on the subject of unemployment.


I am afraid it is rather a general question which the hon. Member is discussing. The amount of money which is being asked for is a commitment arising out of legislation, and does not deal with the general question.


The point is that legislation has not even yet been passed. The commitments may be extended or diminished before the Statute finds the Statute Book.


I would also point out that the first item in that Vote does not depend on legislation; it is for administration. Everyone who is connected with the question knows that the number of officials and the amount to be spent on salaries go up in a more or less constant proportion to the amount of unemployment, and to that extent the expenditure which we are asked to sanction to-day depends very largely on the increase or decrease of unemployment generally.


It is a general and well recognised rule that in discussing these Estimates we are confined to administration which arises within the power of the Minister.


I have no desire whatever to disregard your ruling, Mr. Young. There are two points which I want to make which really fall naturally under this discussion. The first I have already put. I do not think the Committee can be asked for a pronouncement on any one item of expenditure such as this without being given some idea of the total figure involved. My second point is that I do not think that we should be asked to vote further money for this subject unless the vote is affiliated to some policy for unemployment in general which the Government have always promised us. As I have said, they came in with this promise of a large policy on unemployment. They were contemptuous, and rightly contemptuous, of those who imagined that the evil could be cured merely by the spending of money. All the irresponsible Members have been most clear and most eloquent on that subject. They promised to act boldly, but first of all to think, a process, which they implied, was almost unknown to their opponents. What has been the result of this session of sweet, silent thought? They have now been in office for eight months, and a great deal can be done in eight months in the way of hard thinking.

We have so far no sign of any real policy unless it be the Lord Privy Seal's recent suggestion that credit should be extended only to those industries which were prepared to be scientifically reorganised. What we have had has been a large number of suggested schemes. I am sure that the Lord Privy Seal and the hon. Baronet have done their best, but I do not think that they believe for one moment that these schemes, or even twice as many, go further than the margin of the subject or that they are more than stop-gap measures. I cannot help feeling that we are in danger of slipping back into what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has frequently reprobated, the rut of unintelligent sporadic expenditure. No doubt the right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour this afternoon will get the money for which she is asking, but all this brings us not one step nearer to any real solution of the problem. Are we not handicapping and stultifying ourselves for any real solution by dribbling away our none too ample resources upon not very well considered emergency expedients?

We are now in the middle of a hard winter. I do not know whether unemployment is going to increase further or not. It has certainly increased compared with last year. As far as I can judge from going about the country and talking to a great many types of business men, I think there is a real danger that it may get worse still. It seems to me that this one question has ousted every other question from the mind of the ordinary man. You cannot interest the ordinary man in any other problem. You cannot interest him in foreign policy or large schemes of international peace, excepting in so far as you relate them to this urgent question of his own. On that subject he will listen hungrily. If you can give him any hope, or even talk about the matter fairly with him he will listen till any hour. It is hope he wants—some chance of escaping from the blind alley in which he finds himself. There was a time when he had a pathetic belief that this Government now in office were really going to offer him an intelligible and intelligent policy. I would ask how much of that belief is remaining to-day.

I foresee in a situation like that one very grave danger. We may sicken the ordinary man of politics altogether. He is very suspicious of them already. We can very soon turn that suspicion into disgust. Now mark what will happen. Human nature will never sit down in mute despair; it will turn for help to unauthorised practitioners and what may be dangerous remedies. Let me give an example. The papers to-day are full of what is called a "Crusade for Empire Free Trade." Behind it there is a man of great ability, who is most deeply in earnest, and who commands unexampled resources. I pass no judgment upon its merits, but I would impress upon hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that, whether right or wrong, whether sound or unsound, every day the Government spend in these maiden meditations, which produce nothing but a few more cuts off the old joint, increases the chance of that movement's success.


I am afraid that the hon. Member is getting wide of the subject before the Committee.


I bow to your Ruling, and I have no desire to go further on that point. I am, however, anxious to say that as one who is an old-fashioned believer in Parliamentary government. I do not wish to see the centre of gravity move away from this House. I am old fashioned enough to believe that this country should be led by the Government in office, whatever its party complexion may be. I am perhaps old fashioned and optimistic enough to believe that this problem of unemployment can be solved if we resolutely turn our attention not to palliatives but to cures. I do not know whether I am in order, but I should like to urge most strongly upon the Chancellor of the Duchy that he might in this matter follow the precedent of the Great War. I believe that if we could produce anything like the corporate effort of productive industry that we produced then we should solve our problems. After all, the challenge of unemployment is every bit as big a challenge as the challenge of a war. I do not think—the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Liberal party will bear me out—that we shall ever do that if we confine ourselves to consultations.

The Prime Minister has luncheon parties with economists; very good, but not enough. The Lord Privy Seal sees every kind of business men: very good, but not enough. We want to go beyond consultations. We want to be able to bring the best expert talent actively into administrative tasks, so that its reputation and credit are put at stake. In the difficult and intricate conditions under which we live, I believe that it will be necessary in the near future to broaden our executive basis and to bring to an unexampled extent into actual administrative work the right kind of private citizen; but it is not for me to press that matter at this moment. What I would press upon hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite is that to come down to this House and ask for further money for what is no more than a palliative, without at the same time affiliating it to some larger, more hopeful and more comprehensive policy, is neither fair to the Members of this House nor to the electorate behind them.


I do not want to detain the Committee for more than a few minutes, but I must make a few observations upon the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy. I had not intended to speak until I heard him. It was a most extraordinary speech. He appeared in a most unaccustomed role. Ho was pleading with the Committee. He was very humble because he was, quite obviously, not in the business from the first word that he spoke. He was ashamed of his policy or, rather, the lack of it, and well he might be. He said that he made no claim whatsoever to have had any measure of success in his policy up-to-date. The furthest length to which he permitted himself to go was that he would not at this stage admit defeat. That was a formidable admission for one of the hon. Gentleman's character to make. He then went on to say that we had no right to judge the Government by the results that had been obtained up-to-date. I do not know why we have no such right. They have been eight months in office. The programme of the Liberal party would have been three parts through by this.

He seemed to think that we had no right to complain that the figures of unemployment have been steadily mounting for the last three or four months. He said we might have a right to complain that the policy which the Government have brought forward or the Measures which they have produced were not cal- culated to decrease the numbers of unemployed. He was on the verge of saying that such a criticism would be quite justified, and then he checked himself and said that that criticism was one that we might be justified in making. In his own mind it was quite clear that he thinks that that criticism is justified. It is justified. We go much further than that. We on this side of the House do not merely say that the Measures that the Government are introducing are in no way calculated to decrease the number of unemployed, but we say that they are aggravating the problem at every stage and in every possible way. At the end of his remarks the Chancellor of the Duchy made reference to a constructive policy, and spoke about a long-term programme and a short-term programme. He was very careful not to mention anything about the long-term programme or the short-term programme, which is not surprising, because there is not one; there is not a long-term programme or a short-term programme. Therefore, it is no use even asking what it is.

He then went on to discuss the subject of rationalisation. That is a question which ought to have been tackled in the very first days of the present Government taking office. We are years behind in our industrial reorganisation. We are years behind Germany and the United States, our most formidable rivals. The Government are frightened of tackling this subject, and they are frightened because of the attitude of certain hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who think that the policy of rationalisation would involve the displacement of labour, in its first stages. That is true; no one would deny it, but would the Government propose that industry should be held up indefinitely, to quote the hon. Member himself, in a state of wholesale continuing obsolescence, simply because the bringing of it up to date and its equipment into line with modern requirement would involve for the time being a certain displacement of labour, and nothing more? If he studies the condition of Germany, he will find that although the rationalisation that they have carried out did involve a certain initial displacement of labour, the speed at which that labour was re-absorbed, due to increased production and efficiency and the lower costs of production which followed the process of rationalisation, was equally rapid. It cannot be said that rationalisation in Germany, which has been carried out on a scale not attempted in any other country, has within the last four or five years involved an increase in the number of unemployed. It has been the reverse. It has led to a certain amount of displacement in the initial stages, but to an increased total volume of employment in the short space of three or four years.

We say that the Government, by the policy they are adopting at the present time, are holding up the process of rationalisation. The weight of taxation upon industry in this country is very nearly unbearable. There is no confidence in industry, and industry finds the greatest difficulty in obtaining the necessary financial accommodation to carry out any schemes of reorganisation or reconstruction. Is the present policy of the Government, which is simply to slop out for an indefinite period more pensions and more doles, likely to increase the confidence of investors or of the banks in the stability of the future of British industry? One of the greatest troubles in this country at the moment is—you have only to ask any stockbroker to confirm the statement—that you cannot persuade anyone to invest their money in British industry, because they have no confidence. I claim that the Government are more responsible for that than any other institution in the country.


Has not the hon. Member been asking for a dole for the fishing industry?


I have not been asking for that. On the contrary, I have spent the last fortnight in my constituency denouncing the present Government for giving a dole to the herring fishing industry, with the rapturous approval of the fishermen in the North of Scotland.


May I ask if the hon. Member has not specifically, in public, asked for large loans of money, free of interest? Is not that a dole?


I made the suggestion that the proper way to deal with an industrial problem of that character was not just to slop out money, especially when it meant an appeal to private charity, but to make a loan to the industry. I am not against making loans to industry for the purpose of industrial re-organisation. I would make loans of money to industry. I note the inherent inability of hon. Members opposite to distinguish between productive and unproductive expenditure. We must get at that in this country. If you spend wisely and productively and you raise a loan for the purpose of improving the capital equipment of this country and to develop the health of industry—


The hon. Member is getting wide of the subject.


I bow to your Ruling, but I would point out that it has been transgressed by other speakers. Other speeches may have been more interesting than mine, but they have been equally off the point. There is no evidence of any coherent or constructive business so far as the Government's policy towards economic problems is concerned. They do not seem to be driving towards a proper goal. They seem to have contented themselves by doling out public money. They cannot possibly expect to get any return upon that expenditure. You do not get any return upon doles and pensions. If you are going to tackle the roots of this unemployment problem, you must try to improve the general trade and prosperity of the country. The Lord Privy Seal is never tired of saying that. How are you going to do it? There are only three ways in which it can be done—by reductions in the cost of production, by an improvement of the capital equipment of this country and by developing our markets overseas. These are the only three methods, so far as I can see, to reduce, in the long run, unemployment in this country. I would ask hon. Members opposite to point to a single Measure or a single proposal that they have brought forward which is designed to carry out any one of those three objectives. There is not one. On the contrary, this policy of slop and dole, which has been the best thing that they have been able to produce up to date, is calculated to hang up and to hold up these three desirable things.

They know as well as we know that the limits of taxation in this country have been practically reached. You cannot go on with the present process indefinitely. We are already more heavily taxed than any other country, and industry in this country is more heavily taxed than industry in any country. Even if the limits had not been reached, is it very desirable that in the next 10 or 15 years we should have half the population living on doles or pensions at the expense of the other half, and our basic industries, upon which we must ultimately depend if we are to revive, reduced to a state of shambles? It is not more doles and mote pensions that this country wants, but more employment and more wages, and until the Government recognise that fact and legislate accordingly, I do not think there is much hope for this country.

7.0 p.m.


The Liberal party, by long tradition and practice, is the protaganist of improvements in social condition. It is also, by tradition and practice, the guardian of the public purse. As I look at this Supplementary Estimate, I observe that the sum of £12,500,000 has in a relatively short space of time being increased by successive Supplementary votes to £19,000,000, an increase of 50 per cent. on the original Estimate, without any satisfactory explanation from the Treasury as to how this large expenditure stands in relation to the national balance-sheet taken as a whole. The Committee is entitled to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his view is as to the effect upon our national finances of these successive burdens. It is to be observed that, though the Chancellor of the Exchequer apparently took the Labour party into his confidence at a party meeting in the course of the Debates on the Unemployment Insurance Bill, no official information to enable the House to Commons to form its own judgment as to the state of the finances and the relation to them of this expenditure has been vouchsafed to the House of Commons. It must be remembered that this item does not stand alone. Week by week we have been adding to our expenditure, and more millions of expenditure are envisaged. We have in view the acquisition of the mining royalties; there are already specific pledges for increasing the school-leaving age and for the payment of maintenance grants; bills for slum clearance are proposed, and presumably there will be very heavy financial obligations attached to these Measures. With some of them and perhaps with all of them I find myself in agreement.

The dictates of human kindness make it difficult for any man to speak or vote against these increases in expenditure, but really we ought, when considering these various items, to consider the state of our bank-book. I suppose that many of us have had the temptation at our tailor's of adding under the persuasive charm of the shop assistant very considerably to our original order, and for the purchase of each new suit there have always been quite unassailable reasons. What often augments the temptation is the fact that we know it will be several months before we have to pay for them. There is a danger that the House of Commons may indulge in very similar kinds of extravagance. For each new obligation we undertake there are ample and indeed overwhelming arguments to be adduced, but the bill will be sent in next April, which is close upon us. The House of Commons will not be able to burke it then, because across the Bill will be written the words "please remit at once." Have we the money to meet these new liabilities? We do not know.


In this Debate, we are confined to these Estimates, and I must call the attention of the hon. and gallant Member to the fact that he going rather wide.


I speak with the lack of experience which is inevitable in a new Member, but I would submit, with great respect, that we are discussing here the voting of a very considerable sum of money in respect of a Bill which is not already law. It may very well be that our vote, if it should be an adverse vote, would affect the fate of that Bill. I would therefore ask your Ruling whether a discussion as to whether the expenditure is such that the House of Commons could legitimately endorse is a suitable matter to discuss in the Debate on which we are now engaged.


On all Estimates the Committee is confined to the administration of the Department which is being criticised or commended at the moment. Anything requiring legislation is barred. In everybody's mind there is a desire for a wider discussion than usual, but the Ruling laid down at the beginning is that we must stick to the Estimate, and the Estimate is for salaries, wages and allowances, contribution to the Unemployment Fund, and training of young unemployed men.


I bow to your Ruling, and I think I have made my point, which is, shortly, that the resources of the country are likely to diminish, and what guarantee have we that the unemployment figures will not grow larger? The right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not seem to have any great faith in a trade revival when they budget for an average unemployment figure of 1,200,000 or more. That is the Party which in June, 1923, had a specific remedy for unemployment, but now contemplates without alarm unemployment stabilised at a higher figure even than that touched under the Conservative Government. The last Unemployment Bill contemplated 1,000,000 unemployed, but the present Government contemplated unemployment increased by a quarter of a million, and it has, in fact, increased by half a million. It is not so very long ago that hon. Members opposite were sneering at those who conceived unemployment stabilised at 700,000, 800,000 less than the present figure. May I ask those who represent the Ministry of Labour and the Lord Privy Seal's Department whether they put any limits to the extent to which they expect the unemployment figures to rise under their stewardship? We ought to have a statement.

We are asked for a very large sum of money. How do we know that we shall not be asked for half as much again in six months' time? It is understood that the Prime Minister has promised that this is only a beginning of the handling of unemployment. The Committee would like to know what the Treasury have to say about that. Is the Treasury prepared to find more and more money for more and more unemployment, because that is the prospect that is opened up before us? I am sure, if the Treasury is prepared to do it, the country is not. The mere fact that this Supplementary Estimate has to be placed before the Committee is in itself a melancholy confession of failure. The country look to the Government for prosperity. This Estimate shows that all that it has got is a further endowment of destitution. The Lord Privy Seal, in the course of his election compaign, said, at Oldham, on 24th May of last year, "We shall solve unemployment by spending money." The electors thought it would be money to re-equip the nation, money spent in the manner that has been advocated by so many Members of this House. They never imagined that this great further expenditure was going to be in coping with heavier unemployment figures. The Committee is being asked to support a relief fund for the victims of a disaster. It is a tragedy that this Government should have to ask us to subscribe for that purpose.

The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence)

I rise only to deal with two questions which were definitely put to me in the course of this Debate. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) asked me a point as to the intentions of the Government towards reversing the action of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. His question was really a rhetorical question more than one in search of information, because the information which he required is really forthcoming in the actual Unemployment Insurance Bill which is now in another place. He reminded the Committee that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had criticised the late holder of that office for the way in which he had raided the Unemployment Insurance Fund, so as to make it insolvent. My right hon. Friend had pointed out that had that raid not taken place, the fund would have been solvent at the present time. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove asked me whether it was the intention of the Government to reverse in all particulars the action which had been taken by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. The answer to that is contained in the Bill, namely, that it is only in certain ways that that reversal is to take place. The other question was put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan), who has just addressed the Committee. He asked me whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to explain exactly how the money was going to be found if this particular Estimate was passed to-day. The answer, of course, is that this is not the occasion on which the methods, the ways and means, by which money has to be found, are discussed.


Perhaps I did not put my question as clearly as I might have done. My criticism was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, might have been expected by the Committee to make a statement which would enable the Committee not to judge how the money should be found, but the amount involved in relation to the expenditure of the nation as a whole, so as to debate the question whether we could afford it, and not the question how the money should be raised.


The hon. and gallant Member will find that that point has been answered. It turns on two questions. First of all, what are the total commitments of which this is one? The hon. and gallant Member forgets that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a definite announcement on that point. If he will turn to the OFFICIAL REPORT for the 19th November and 24th December, he will find the additional commitments of the Government under various heads, including the one with which we are dealing, carefully set out both with regard to 1929–30, and with regard to 1930–31. The second one is the 24th December, and that covers the changes effected in the Unemployment Insurance Bill at the very end of the Session.


It does not give any estimate.


It gives the effect on the Estimates of the new change in the law. That is the latest we can go by. It is premature and quite impossible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to estimate the revenue. When it comes to the Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will indicate to the House how he proposes to meet the specific expenditure which is referred to in the figures to which I have called attention. We are in a very peculiar position this year; quite a different position from that in which Parliament usually finds itself. That is due to the action of the late Government in choosing the month immediately following the Budget for the General Election. Whatever may have been the intention of the late Government, the effect is that the financial provisions cannot be made for nearly 12 months after tine Session has begun. That is a totally different position to what we have ever seen before. Usually the Budget has been introduced within a month or two of the King's Speech, and even when commencing a Session in the autumn the Budget has been available within four or five months of the King's Speech. But the late Government dissolved Parliament in May, and the financial provision does not become available for 11 or 12 months after the Session has begun. In these circumstances the difficulty referred to by the Member for North-East Bethnal Green necessarily arises. In so far as the Government requires additional financial expenditure the actual provision for it cannot take place until several months after the Session has begun.

Captain EDEN

It is rather a melancholy reflection that on the first occasion after our brief Christmas Recess we should be back again in the somewhat gloomy atmosphere which this Vote inevitably arouses. I confess to grave disappointment with the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster this afternoon. It was not so much what he said as what he left unsaid that depresses me. He analysed the problem, which we in this Vote have to relieve, very fairly. He said there was the immediate problem, which is the concern of this Vote. That is no doubt true. He said that there was the more distant but more far-reaching problem of the reorganisation of industry; but that this second problem was out of order at the moment. As to the immediate problem, which is what we are most concerned about and which was what we imagined the Government had in mind when they told us that their schemes had been before the country for years, the Government have shown a strange failure to bring forward any schemes or plans; and what we are now discussing in this Estimate, which is the price of the rising tide of unemployment, is the price of the Government's failure to fulfil any one of its gay promises which they held out to the electors as recently as last May.

But that is not all. We have to find this money; but so far from improving the situation the figures with which we are now confronted will, I fear, grow worse in the weeks immediately ahead. The position now is worse than it was a year ago and I can see nothing within the horizon to lead us to expect that it will be any better in the next year than it is now. On the contrary, the uncertainty which the Government has held over industry and their failure to announce any policy in relation to agriculture or the motor car industry must further injure these figures and increase the sums which we shall be called upon to find during the coming year. The Government cannot escape from the serious reflections which will certainly be held in the country as the outcome of this Debate.

I want to deal with one particular item in this Vote, and that is with the training for young unemployed men. The Parliamentary Secretary gave us some information this afternoon which I should like to ask the Minister of Labour, when she replies, to supplement. His explanation as to the number of men now in training centres for work overseas, the percentage at present in training, seemed to me a little involved, and I should like to clarify it. I should like to ask, what percentage of the younger men who come on to the labour market in the depressed areas are now being absorbed into these training centres? I have always felt that we have not gone as fast as we should in this direction. We fully appreciate the great difficulties which confronted the late Minister of Labour in his work, and considerable progress, quick progress, has been made in the last two or three years, but I want to ask, what stage has that progress now reached? What percentage of the younger men, when they come on to the labour market, can hope to be absorbed into these training centres?


Does the hon. and gallant Member limit that to the depressed areas?

Captain EDEN

If the hon. Member can give me the figures for the country as a whole I should be glad to have them. I want to ask whether there is room in the present training centres for the young men who want to get this training? Can they find places if they desire to do so; and, if they cannot, what percentage are debarred by lack of accommodation from doing so? Then, having passed through the training centres, what percentage find permanent employment? These questions cover those who are in training centres for absorption here and for absorption overseas. I would like to ask a few specific questions about those who are to be absorbed overseas. The hon. Member gave us information which shows that at the present time the available places in these training centres are not being fully used, or anything like fully used. Only about 50 per cent. of the places are being used, in some districts the figure is even lower. In fact, it would not be over-stressing the position to say that we are not making half the use we should of these training centres for overseas.

I want to ask how far this failure to use the capacity we have is due to the reluctance of the Dominions to take these men; or how far it is due to the inability to find men to go to these centres? I think we should have that information. If this figure is to remain for a long time at under half capacity, if these places are to be wasted, when there is a demand for greater space for training men for our own industries, I think they should be filled up for this purpose. I hope we shall get an answer from the Minister on these points. If the Government believe that the failure to use these training centres for overseas even up to half their capacity is due to the inability of the Dominions to co-operate in absorbing the men once they are trained, I suggest that there would be a remedy if there were closer co-operation between the training centres and the Dominions. Anyone who knows the conditions in the Dominions will agree that it would be possible by closer co-operation to improve largely on the work done in the past. It is deplorable to find that these training centres are not being used even to half their capacity. There is something lacking, and I hope the Government will not be content to leave the position as it is to-day.

I share with all hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate a sense of anxiety at the position into which we are drifting. We are being asked for yet another estimate; and an estimate neither directly nor indirectly related to the Government's policy to deal with this problem. It is that which makes the country, as well as this House, anxious. We cannot see through this mass of figures one ray of hope that they have any ultimate purpose other than a hand- to-mouth time-saving policy. That is what makes the country and this House anxious for the future. I have no doubt that the Minister of Labour will get this Vote to-night, but I hope she will not be content and think that she has done her share to meet the problem of unemployment. When she has this money she will have done nothing at all to meet the problem, except to make it rather more difficult still for trade and industry which has to find the money. Perhaps the worst feature of the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy was the extreme self-satisfied complacency with which he viewed the immediate future of this problem. If that is the attitude of mind of the Government, if they really believe that is the position, and never hope to do any better than they are doing, then, indeed, the outlook for the nation and for the Government is bad, and the complacency of the Chancellor of the Duchy will, I believe, receive a jolt which it richly deserves.


Everyone who has listened to this Debate must have been impressed with the desire on the part of Members in all parts of the House, a desire, I believe, shared by the Chair, to widen the discussion rather further than is usual under a Vote of this kind. It is a desire which everybody who is interested in unemployment—and who is not—must have felt was natural and perhaps quite in keeping with what is essentially the duty of the House of Commons at this particular time. To me this Vote, as it stands on the Paper, brings first and foremost to my mind the question not as to whether the amount of money is large—of course it is—but whether it is large enough to be of any use. Is it not the fact that the Minister of Labour is going to come to the House within the next few months, perhaps the next few weeks, and ask for a further sum. The House of Commons, at any rate, when it is asked to vote a sum of £4,000,000 for Ministry of Labour charges, is entitled to have some idea as to what is expected of I[...] in the near future. I do not suggest that the Government should give us an exact estimate of the money which is going to be required for any long period ahead, but when they ask us to vote £4,000,000 to-day, with no knowledge of what the future has in store in the way of further commitments, they put the House of Commons in an extremely awkward and unfair position.

I was very interested in looking through the figures given in the Report of the Industrial Transference Board as to the nature of the unemployment problem in this country only a few months ago. The figures given are for March and April last year, and the unemployment in the principal trades was then as follows: Unemployed in the coal trade, 134,000; engineering and shipbuilding, 48,000; textiles, 30,000; metal trades, 50,000; building trades, 135,000; and transport trade, 115,000. Is it not perfectly clear to everyone who studies the problem that under the present policy of the Government the figures are bound to increase? I do not wish to be in any way unfair, but at present it is well known to everyone engaged in industry not only that there is no confidence as to the policy of the Government in the future, but that those who are usually occupied in seeking opportunities for new enterprises, for making money if you like, are in fact going out of industry, and that the attitude of the Government at the present time, the attitude of the country if you like—I do not care whether we put it on the Government or on the country—is to give no support or encouragement whatever to productive industry, with the result that there will be, almost inevitably, an increase in the number of unemployed in the great staple trades. I suggest that it is useless for the Government to bring forward a proposal that the Committee should pass this Vote of £4,000,000 without some statement as to the future requirements. I do not doubt that the Minister will get her Vote. It is probably necessary that she should, though personally I am glad that the party with which I am associated has moved a reduction as a protest against the way in which the matter has been brought forward.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present: House counted; and 40 Members being present—


I was drawing attention to the fact that it is almost a certainty that before many weeks have passed further money will be required by the Government, and that a further Vote will be brought forward in exactly the same way as this Vote has been brought forward. It is grossly unfair for the Government not to give us some idea of what they visualise the future of unemployment to be. I can see no reason to expect any decrease in the number of unemployed in the near future. If we look at the period of 2½ years from October, 1923, to April, 1926, quoted in the Government publications we find that out of 11,500,000 people insured under the Unemployment Insurance Act, at that time nearly 8,000,000 drew no unemployment benefit at all, and that of the remaining 3,500,000 no fewer than 2,500,000 in no case exceeded 100 days in unemployment. What is the position to-day? Every one hears more and more of the number of employers who are forced by want of confidence, by lack of knowledge of what the Government intend to do in future, to withdraw to some extent from industry, to draw in their horns, to refuse to expand; and the fact is that we are destroying any idea of enterprise altogether. What is happening is that the men who used to be most active in any walk of life, whether they were big employers or small employers, the men who were most active in seeking avenues for enrichment by means of new enterprise, now say that with the ever increasing burdens of taxation, with the Government always as a sleeping partner, with the Government taking 20 per cent. of the profits and taking no share in the losses, it is not worth while going on.

Unemployment is bound to go on increasing unless those who are engaged in industry can be told definitely what it is that the Government intend to do. It is of no use bringing forward schemes of relief work and thinking that they will deal with the problem. Readers of history can tell you that in 1845 there was a serious financial crisis, caused largely by the building of vast railway schemes There was a great boom in railways at that time, and money was put into them to such an extent as to cause great dislocation of ordinary commercial credit and indeed finally to bring about a financial crisis. It is not the least use thinking that unemployment can be dealt with by mere schemes of relief. Industry, with a fair field, can put its house in order perfectly well without the Government, if the Government will let it alone—[HON. MEMBERS: "No tariffs? No Derating?"]—if the Government will say definitely that it is prepared to give British industry at any rate a fair chance in the world—nothing more. Industry does not want the Government to go on spending money on relief works, but it does want to know that it is to have a fair chance in competition with the competing industries of the world. At this moment it does not have that chance. It would be out of order if I were to begin a Debate on the question of Protection or Free Trade, as I should much like to do, but perhaps I shall be within the Rules if I say merely that a fair chance to produce and sell our goods in competition with other industries in other parts of the world is what is wanted. At present British industry has no such chance at all, and it is that which makes it impossible for new enterprise to absorb our unemployed. The sooner this country gets down to the fact that it is productive industry and that alone which matters, and productive industry only which produces every penny to be spent in the relief of unemployment or in any other way, the better it will be for the country.

I want to finish on this note: I would suggest to the Minister that she should reply to questions put to her earlier regarding the training centres. We are most anxious to know what really is the attitude of the Dominions. I know that it is a delicate subject, and one which perhaps the Minister does not wish to speak upon too freely in case it should give any offence: but I do not think anyone in the Dominions would be offended by a clear statement as to what the position is. I think we are entitled to know whether the difficulty is entirely on the Dominions' side, or whether there is a difficulty in getting candidates to fill the vacancies at the centres. Is there any chance of the emigration side of the problem being assisted? But whether the schemes to assist emigration be successful or not, there is not the smallest doubt that there is only one real remedy for unemployment, and that is to get our productive industries in this country back to prosperity. That cannot he done by voting more and more money in the shape of unemployment benefit, which no one who can get work wants to take and which in the end only adds to the burdens which are reaching, if they have not already reached, the point at which they break the back of the very willing camel which has borne these burdens for so many years.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)

It has been a very interesting Debate, and Members have exercised great ingenuity in finding some field for criticism. That seems to be an indication that the policy of the Government is really very sound, particularly in relation to this particular Estimate. There are certain points that I think it exceedingly important should be made clear. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Major Elliot) raised one or two specific points with which I will deal first. There was the question of housing in relation to the increase of the number of persons unemployed. The hon. and gallant Member omitted entirely to take into account factors which have influenced the situation. There was first of all the fact of the expiration of the subsidy under the 1923 Act, which caused a cessation of the compilation of statistics; we no longer get reports as to the extent of private building Then in regard to the 1924 Act there was that change of policy in the reduction of the subsidy, which completely upset the programmes of the local authorities. There has been that overlapping which is due to change of policy, and it has prevented a rapid recovery. The hon. and gallant Member was correct in his figures about the numbers of houses under construction in 1929. They do show diminution. What he did not quote was the group of figures which show that the turn of the tide has already begun as a result of the policy of the present Government. In October, 1929, the number of authorisations was steadily rising The figures are: October, 1929, 5,453 authorisations; November, 1929, 4,381; December, 1929, 8,934. That number in December is greater than in any previous month of 1929. The greatest number of authorisations reached previously had been 6,727 in March.


Of course, those figures do not apply in any way to Scotland.


No they are for England and Wales, but they are indicative of the turn of the tide in local government administration, and of the prospect that next year we shall see rapid progress in connection with housing. It is only fair to point out these facts in view of the very caustic remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member. The next point raised by him was as to the constitutional position. I am very glad that the point was raised. It is extremely fortunate that every Department of the Ministry should be aware of the fact that the House of Commons is watchful regarding constitutional propriety. But in connection with this Estimate I am glad to know that we are not merely acting constitutionally, although it is perhaps on rare occasions that this particular course has been followed, hut that we are following precedents set by the previous Government.

There are three precedents to which I draw attention. One is in connection with a Supplementary Estimate in 1924 in relation to old age pensions. In that case both the Bill and the Appropriation Bill in which the Estimate was incorporated received the Royal Assent on the 7th August. That is to say, the Supplementary Estimate was dealt with in this House at the same time as the Bill was being dealt with in another place. That was under the Labour Government. The next precedent is the British Sugar Subsidy Measure in 1925. In that case the Ministry of Agriculture brought in a Supplementary Estimate when the Bill was awaiting its Third Beading in the House of Commons and both the Bill and the Consolidated Fund Bill were finally passed on 22nd March. The next precedent is in connection with grants to rating authorities in Scotland, and this Estimate provided for anticipated expenditure under the Local Government (Scotland) Bill. The Estimate was voted in Committee of Supply on 7th May and reported on 8th May, and the Bill received the Royal Assent on 10th May, as did the Appropriation Bill incorporating the Estimate. Both these precedents were under the late Government.

Of the three precedents quoted, that which arose under the Labour Government related to what was definitely a Money Bill, but the other two Measures were not defined as Money Bills, and, therefore, we have in that case and in the other two cases, a complete precedent for the action now being taken. I would like to take the matter a step further. I do not want to depend upon precedents alone, but upon eommon- sense. Here is a case in which it was well known to the House of Commons that the money provided under the 1928–1929 Estimate was not sufficient to meet the liabilities of the fund. We had in July to pass hurriedly an emergency Measure in order that the Estimates which covered the period of 1929—the 12 months to the end of the year—should be supplemented. We had had £12,000,000 voted, and I raised that sum to £15,500,000 under the July Measure by adding the one-third Exchequer contribution. As a matter of fact, the £12,000,000 originally estimated for had been spent in nine months. It had only covered nine months instead of 12, and, therefore, there was urgent need to make provision for the payment of benefits up to the last day of December. When I introduced the Bill in July I pointed out that it was simply intended as a carry over while we were searching for other methods by which the fund could be saved, and I made it abundantly clear that the new method of financing the fund, or rather the new method by which the fund was going to be relieved, necessitated a further Supplementary Estimate which we hoped to get before Christmas. It was the exigencies of the Debate on the Bill which made the time so short that it was impossible to get that Supplementary Estimate before Christmas.

During the Debate to-day it has been rather assumed that I have suddenly plunged the Committee into a new demand for a Supplementary Estimate of which they never heard anything before. Of course such a suggestion is absurd. It was implicit in the Measure which was sanctioned before Christmas that this Estimate was essential and was part of the proposals then discussed. It was purely a matter of dates which prevented us from getting this Estimate before Christmas. The contents of the Estimate were clearly displayed to the House of Commons and it is now again a question of facing the position of the Fund and of enabling us to carry on until a new Estimate becomes due. I was very careful to point out to the House of Commons that this would arise and I based my estimate upon last year's figures, on the assumption that we should probably have the same if not a greater figure this year. I will come presently to the reason why I believe that the figure may be greater. We were under no illusion about the possibility of an immediate reduction in the figures on the live register and the Committee cannot accuse me, at any rate, of disguising the situation as I saw it during the time of the Debate on the Bill.

Therefore, when we were estimating what would arise as a result of the Bill which has passed through this House and has been sent on its journey in another place, it was clearly understood that it necessitated a further Estimate to carry us on to the end of the financial year and the Bill provides for the relief of the Fund during the next 12 months by the removal of the cost of the "under 30 stamps" claimants into a fund which is to be provided wholly by the Treasury. The situation may become very much worse. I am not a prophet and I think nobody in the present state of British industry would be well advised to make any prediction about what the position of unemployment is going to be at the end of the next three or four months but I have assumed that there will be no great decrease in the figures in fixing my annual average of the amount that requires to be met.

The other point raised in connection with these figures is, I think, rather important. It has been said that I should explain the words of the explanatory note in the actuarial report and I think the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Major Elliot) was rather sarcastic about that point. He said: "Here is a figure of 1,400,000 on the register and the balancing point in the actuarial report is placed at 1,200,000, subsequently corrected by the Bill to 1,160,000." But does the hon. and gallant Member forget that under his own Government when the figure on the register was 1,500,000, the balancing point was only 1,000,000. That was December, 1928, and however much one may wish to have a perfect system of financing the Fund, I, at least, can claim that I am 160,000 on the right side as compared with the position of the late Government in December, 1928.

The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) and other Members dealt quite appropriately with the sum of £300,000 in the Vote for Exchange salaries. The hon. Member for Leith wanted to know whether the words in the Estimate indicated any form of development in the work of the Exchanges. I wish to assure him that it is purely an administrative statement. What we are trying to do is to increase placing facilities, as a matter of developing the Exchange machinery—developing the personnel which will specialise on the work-finding side of the Employment Exchange machinery. In that respect I have already taken rather vigorous administrative action in order to release certain officers from dual or divided duty and enable them to concentrate upon the work-finding side of the machine. It is very difficult to forecast the number of persons who will be employed, because that will have to vary with the number on the register. The number of Exchange personnel goes up and down in relation to the number on the register, and what I am doing is to re-allocate duties apart from the ordinary up and down flow. It may be necessary in certain areas—and if it is necessary I shall not hesitate to do it—to increase the number of persons in connection with an Exchange, even if there is no increase in the number on the register, because it will be a question of dealing with under-staffing.

I have found that placing work in certain areas has been definitely crippled by the fact that the Exchange was working at such pressure and, therefore, part of this £300,000 represents an endeavour to ease the situation in those areas where under-staffing was proved to be the cause of less effective work in this respect than otherwise might have been done. Part of it is also definitely and directly due to the increased work which I desire to pursue in relation to juvenile unemployment centres, with which the whole Committee is, I am sure, in sympathy and which hon. Members would desire to see carried out in the most efficient manner possible. Other factors of a minor character have caused slight increases, but I hope I may be in a position to say that the changes which will take place under the new Bill—changes in the nature of the work of the Exchanges by the abolition of "not genuinely seeking work "—may have the result of releasing certain staff, now largely occupied with appeal cases and things of that kind, and enabling them to be devoted to the more constructive side of the work. I believe that may be possible but not immediately.

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) will endorse my statement in this respect from his own experience. When there is a change which involves new directions to the officers at the Exchanges or any great differentiation in administrative practice it takes a long time for the machine—if I may use the expression—to unwind and then to wind up again under the new conditions. In the case of the 1927 Act, for example, it took nine months to re-establish the Exchanges working at full speed under the administrative changes then introduced. I do not anticipate that in this case that it will take nine months. I think I can manage to improve on that very much, but I take this opportunity of warning the Committee that there is bound to be a certain amount of dislocation in connection with the change-over from the old style to the new style of administration. There may be, and undoubtedly will be, as in 1927, Exchanges where everything will not run smoothly at first, and I am going to ask for the sympathy and cooperation of hon. Members in their own constituencies. I ask them to help us to get the change-over made as smoothly and easily as possible. If unemployed persons go to them with grievances let them be helpful and let them also give the Exchanges a chance to put the machinery into proper working order before they start to proclaim that the Exchange machinery is no good. Let us try to help and encourage the staffs of the Exchanges who are performing a most difficult task under very difficult conditions. Let us make them feel that the House of Commons at least understands their difficulties and will help them in every possible way.

8.0 p.m.

In coming to the next point, which refers to the question of training, I should like to give the Committee some very clear figures. They have a right to ask for those figures, and I am very happy to explain to them what the position is. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) and others asked for a clear statement as to the exact position. There are three groups of training centres. There is the group known as handymen centres, and there they have a total number of 3,300 places. The total admissions to these training centres, some of which were opened as early as 1925 and 1926, and some in 1928 and 1929—the last two, of which, Slough and Watford, were opened, one on the 20th June and the other on the 28th November—was 16,118 persons. The number of men at the end of the year in those training centres was 2,689; 3,300 places, 2,689 actually in training. That shows vacant places there numbering about 600, but I want the Committee to remember that any figures taken on a given date may be falsified within a week or a fortnight of that time, because it may be that at the moment when the census was taken a certain number of men had finished their training and gone out, and other men had not come in to take their training, so that the Committee must not assume that there are 600 places that cannot be filled. That would not be a correct assumption. In the middle of January we may have every one of those places filled, but that was the position when those figures were taken.

With regard to the group for overseas training, we have at Brandon, Carstairs and Claydon places totalling 1,220, and we have passed through these centres 9,785 persons. At the present moment we have 731 in those places—a very low number compared with the number of places available. We admitted for training to go to Australia 2,830 applicants, and the number who emigrated amounted to 2,366. For Canada we admitted 6,810, and those who emigrated totalled 4,893.

I was asked to be frank about the situation with regard to the Dominions. I do not think there is any secret about it, though it is a somewhat delicate matter to discuss, because it is one in which the policy of the Dominions is bound to be brought in, but it is common knowledge that the policy with regard to Canada received a sudden check. One morning we had a telegram cancelling the sailing of a number of men who had finished their course and who had actually got their tickets for embarkation, and everything ready, but at the last moment it was discovered that owing to the failure of the harvest and several other reasons Canada found it was most unwise to let them start. In that case we were very fortunate to be able to secure their admission to Australia, but, of course, it had a very definite effect on the number of candidates who even asked to train for Canada after that experience.

The Australian situation is also well known. They have quite definitely announced that for the moment they are not accepting further immigration. That again has its effect on the number of men who are willing to come forward for training for migration to Australia. In regard to the general policy of migration and whether it is to be regarded as one of the contributory causes reducing the unemployment figures, I think we must not be discouraged by setbacks of this kind. I think we must realise that this question of the movement of population from this country to the Dominions is one to be spread over a very long period of time, and that in all probability next year the situation may be reversed. It may be that the Dominions will be prepared to take men in larger numbers than they are prepared to now. At the present moment the position is that more men are prepared to go than the Dominions are prepared to take.

The next group of training centres is what is known as the transfer instructional centres. We have had a very great deal of activity in that connection. Blackpool was opened on the 2nd May, 1929, Carshalton on the 26th August, 1929. Fermyn Woods on the 31st May, 1929, Presteign on the 20th June, and Poole on the 1st October. We have in addition to that a very interesting experiment which we hope will be successful in connection with the Zoological Society's new area at Whipsnade. We have there an understanding with them that they are prepared to take about 150 men at a time on road and excavation work under ordinary industrial conditions, and for the first time we have an interesting arrangement by which the Ministry of Labour is to be responsible for the finding of the labour required by the Zoological Society. That will be a very real help in connection with our transfer schemes, and we are looking forward to a development of that kind of special work that can be earmarked for men from the distressed areas. The total number of places in this group of training centres is 1,200, and though they have only been opened for a short time, we have admitted to those centres 3,468 trainees, and in training at the end of the year there were 929 persons. In addition to that, those who have completed their training, found work before completion or transferred to an ordinary training centre amount to 1,950.

The Committee may ask what is the attitude of the unemployed men with regard to these training centres. It is very varied. In some areas we have a large number of people who have expressed their desire to go into training centres, but the experience and the knowledge of the Exchange officials compel them to recommend that the men are not suitable for training, either that they are too old, or that there are local circumstances which make it almost impossible to move them; and, therefore, there are a certain number of applicants who want to go into training for whom training is not considered to be the best kind of help. There are other groups of men who are not only suitable for training but anxious to go into training, and it is from that group that these training centres have been fed up till now. We have to face the problem—and I am taking the Committee into my confidence—of a group of men who are entirely suitable for training but who do not want to go and in regard to whom we have to use such persuasion as we can to try and enable them to benefit by the opportunities which we can now offer them.

There are cases in which men are entirely suitable for transfer and who want to be transferred, but the difficulty has been that they did not see how they could even consider it unless there was some further help given in connection with the family that would have to wait until they got settled. That is quite true, and we have been able to do a little towards helping a few. It is only a small percentage of the total, but a few of these people have been helped to get into an area in which both they and their families have a chance of settling into something like a decent life. The housing difficulty, of course, is very great, and confines most of the questions of transfer to those areas in which housing accommodation is possible. It means, of course, also that to a very great extent it confines transfer to single men who can go into lodgings.

On the general question of transfer, the opposition, perfectly understandable and with which everybody sympathises, has, I am glad to say, been steadily diminishing, and many authorities, particularly the London County Council, which was so very much opposed even to considering it, have been able to come into line with the new proposals made and are now helping us in the matter of arranging for a certain proportion of transferred men to go into works within the boundary of their administration. The same applies to a number of borough councils in the more favourably situated areas, where their own unemployment is something under 5 per cent., or thereabouts. The situation, therefore, from that point of view is distinctly improving and encouraging.

At the same time, there is no doubt about it—and again I am putting the Committee fully in possession of the situation—that the industries of this country, and particularly certain heavy industries, are in a very bad way in regard to organisation and efficiency of plant; and surely no one will say that employers must not take their share of blame for the neglect. No one, I am sure, will say that employers could not have done more than they have done to foresee events and to look a little further ahead than for the next few months, living from hand to mouth.

The position in which we find ourselves is that the cumulative neglect and shortsightedness of those who have had the control of the heavy industries of this country have now brought us to a crisis in which they have either got to rationalise or go under, and it is all coming at once. It is coming in the woollen industry, the textile industry, the iron and steel industry, all at once, and it is bound to have an effect upon the register. Nobody wants to put off the rationalising process or to put off the time when we can look upon our industries as efficiently equipped with proper machinery when we have to face—and I hope it will not be regarded as a party question—the consequences of past neglect and we find that this thing is piled up upon us in an intensified degree week by week and month by month.

It is not within the scope of this Estimate to deal further than with the administrative side of the constructive measures that we are taking, but I hope I have said enough to show that the Ministry of Labour is fully seized of the gravity of the situation and realises that the situation is such that it does need clear understanding that we are going through probably two, three, or four months more when the figures may be high. They may very easily go up, but, in spite of what I feel it my duty to do to put the position as it were in the clearest way before the Committee, I contemplate that there is a movement in industry, as is shown by the number of persons employed, that shows a certain expansion and development in certain other directions. Nobody will profess that it is possible to reorganise coal, cotton, wool, iron and steel in the space of two or three months, but until that process of reorganisation is completed there will be, as previous speakers have said, a necessity for making provision for it may be an increasing number of unemployed.

This Estimate is strictly confined to the Bill which was passed through this House, and I want to assure hon. Members that if there are any Amendments in the Lords which are likely to increase the amount of money distributed under the Bill, in a circumstance like that it might be possible that I shall have to come back to the House towards the end of the financial year, if those increases were really considerable, but I do not anticipate increases. Hon. Members may say that the chances are the other way. Very well, assuming that the chances are the other way, what is the constitutional provision? It may be urged that I might have money in excess of my needs under this Estimate. All I can say to hon. and right hon. Members in this House is that I can give you my word that if such an event occurs, I will undertake not to spend a penny more than that which is allowed by the Bill which this House passed. I hope, therefore, they will give me my Supplementary Estimate and that they will realise that we do understand the gravity of the position in which we are placed, and that, as far as the administration of the Department is concerned, we are leaving no effort untried and no opportunity unused to strengthen the work, to increase the opportunities and the desire for training on the part of the unemployed, and to administer the Unemployment Fund in the best interest of the nation, which is in itself the best interest of the unemployed persons themselves.

The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) asked what we are training people for. We are not training them to be carpenters or engineers or to take their places in skilled trades as skilled workers. I am convinced that young men and women—and middle-aged men and women too—who have been subjected to compulsory idleness week after week, month after month without any hope, lose their powers, they deteriorate in the quality of their minds and the skill of hand which was theirs. The centres are established for the specific purpose, not of training them for a particular job, but of keeping them alive, of giving them something to think about, and of making them feel that they have capacity and that at some time or other the nation will badly need them; and we have to keep them fit and well and sane in body and mind. It is that which is the primary purpose of the training centres.

Captain BOURNE

The Committee will agree with the last few sentences of the right hon. Lady, and we have all listened with great interest and some relief to her statement that, although things are black at the moment, she sees some chance of the clouds passing in the near future. She is the head of a Department which is one of the best and one of the most able of the Government departments to judge the future in the matter of unemployment, and we all welcome her expression of hope, and sincerely trust that it will not be disappointed. I do not altogether agree with the right hon. Lady's explanation of the constitutional position. Most hon. Members realised that when the Bill, which we were discussing just before the Recess, finally became law, a new Supplementary Estimate to deal with what was Clause 12 would be required. I do not think, however, that any of us expected that that Supplementary Estimate would come quite so soon, but that it would not corns until the Bill had passed the Committee stage in another place, or, preferably, until it had passed through another place altogether.

I do not think that the precedent which the right hon. Lady quoted was quite a good one. In point of fact, a sum of £1,750,000 was voted by this House for a purpose for which it could not be used, and it had to be voted at a later date. I hope that the right hon. Lady will not find herself in the same position. I should have thought that, after that experience, no Government Department would willingly ask this House for an Estimate until they were certain of the final form in which the Bill would reach the Statute Book. If she had looked, she might have found a better precedent for her action. That was an action taken by the Liberal party about 1906 in respect of education.

When does the right hon. Lady intend to ask the Treasury for the money? She will probably get her Estimate to-night, and I do not doubt that she will get the Report stage this week, but that does not authorise an expenditure of money. When does she hope to get the Consolidated Fund Bill? Is it the intention of the Government to introduce another Consolidated Fund Bill before the 31st March, so that there will have been three, or four, Consolidated Fund Bills this Session? Will that be introduced before we have had an opportunity of considering any amendments which another place may make? That is clearly a point of constitutional importance, and it is one that ought to be answered.

The right hon. Lady said that, supposing the Amendments made in another place, which the Government might feet constrained to accept, reduced the total amount of money required, she promised the House that she would not spend a penny more. For one thing, the Comptroller and Auditor-General would take care that she did not, but that does not meet the situation. If the money has been voted by this House, put in a Consolidated Fund Bill, and agreed to by both Houses, and is subsequently not required, it goes automatically to the Sinking Fund at the end of the Session. The taxpayer, who has to find the money, has in that case to find more money than is needed for carrying on the Government of the country. He has burdens enough already, and, largely owing to the heavy burdens which he now carries, this heavy figure of unemployment continues.

The bulk of this Estimate, really is for £4,000,000, which is required under what was Clause 12 of the Bill. The appro- priations-in-aid nearly cover the additional expenditure, and therefore, I presume, the total amount of new money asked for under the other three heads is about £150,000, of which £100,000 is asked for training. I want to know something about the £4,000,000, because I have heard very little about it, except that it is to remove the liability on the fund for those who have not had the requisite number of stamps, and to place it direct on to the Treasury. When the Bill was first introduced, it was accompanied by a Financial Memorandum showing that, so far as could then be estimated, the total amount likely to be required under Clause 12 by 3lst March, 1931, was £8,000,000. I do not know whether that estimate still holds good, nor do I know from what date the Treasury takes over this liability, but it is obvious that, if the original estimate holds good, we are being asked for half of the total amount which was estimated, and presumably, the right hon. Lady expects that another £4,000,000 will carry the total liability in respect of these people for a period of 12 months. I should like to know how many people it is estimated that this £4,000,000 will take from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. We have had little information on that point. After all, this sum of £4,000,000 is by far the greater amount which is being asked for in this Estimate.

Then I should like to ask whether, if the changes which were made in the Unemployment Bill during its passage in this House, remain when it receives the Royal Assent, they have increased the estimate of the liability on the Exchequer in respect of the people who come under the original Clause 12, namely, those who have not paid sufficient contributions to enable them to draw from the fund, and to whom the payments are now being made direct from the Exchequer. Lastly, in Clause 12, there was, to the best of my recollection, a provision that the cost of administration of this part of the Act should be borne by the Treasury and not by the Unemployment Insurance Fund. I would like to know whether any portion of that expenditure comes under the £300,000 under Part A or comes out of the £4,000,000, because if nothing has yet been asked for on that account, presumably a further Supplementary Estimate will be required in order to deal with it.


May I be permitted to deal with that point without delay? I should have explained it in the first instance. May I say, first of all, that the £4,000,000 is needed because we shall have to begin to use the money very shortly, very soon after the 31st January. It may be a little after that, but that is the latest date that we can regard as safe. It will then run on probably through the spring if not the summer, but by that time we shall have had the Estimates for the next financial year. In regard to the Royal Assent, undoubtedly there will have to be a Consolidated Fund Bill. We need the money to carry on until March, and therefore we not only need the Supplementary Estimate but we must have the Consolidated Fund Bill; but the time table is so arranged that the Royal Assent will be given to the Unemployment Insurance Bill before it is given to the Consolidated Fund Bill. With regard to the cost of administration, the number of persons calculated to come within the "under 30-contributkm stamps" provision will, of course, vary. We have made arrangements to keep a very close check upon those numbers, and we shall from time to time be able to give exact figures to the House. Broadly speaking, I think 120,000 is the number immediately coming in—by degrees, of course—as the year expires; but we shall have a very definite account kept showing in one category the persons who have paid contributions to the fund and in another those who have not paid contributions, and the administrative charges will be allocated accordingly. The figure of 120,000 is estimated to be the number to come on to the Treasury grant.

Captain BOURNE

The only point which the right hon. Lady did not answer was my question as to whether the alterations made in the Bill during its passage through this House affected the Estimate.


Yes; as I pointed out on the Third Reading the balancing point was shifted by the alteration of the Bill from 1,200,000 to 1,160,000. The calculations have been made on a balancing point of 1,160,000.


The unemployment situation is so serious that when we are asked to vote yet another large sum in relief the opportunity should not be lost of inquiring how steadfastly the Government are getting on with what is, after all, the primary task, namely, that of trying to reorganise the insurance system, in so far as that can be done, to alleviate instead of aggravating unemployment. There is a widespread impression, which I share, that every time the Minister comes to this House to ask for more money for the relief of unemployment we are in fact doing something to aggravate unemployment. The vital connection between this increasing and heavy taxation and the insecurity of work from which our people suffer cannot be too often or too heavily stressed. We ought to remember when we are asked to vote money for the relief of unemployment that we are being asked, in effect, to withdraw from industry the sinews of industry, thus preventing industry from recovering the position which we all hope to see it enjoy and in which it will be able to provide security of employment and good wages for the workers.

It is with those points in view that I wish to return to the very hopeful statement which the right hon. Lady made on the Money Resolution of the original Bill. In explaining that for the first time the Treasury were accepting the liability for paying the whole cost of what I may call the incurably unemployed, the right hon. Lady indicated that a great change was made in the whole system of unemployment insurance. With that statement, with that departure, unemployment insurance has ceased to be what it has at least always pretended to be, namely, a system of insurance, and has become in large measure a device for distributing public money in relief quite independently of the position of the insured person in the fund. On that occasion the right hon. Lady told us that she was asking for these powers for 12 months, so that she might await the Report of a Committee which was being set up to reconsider the whole question of unemployment insurance. No one can doubt that such a reorganisation of the whole system is long overdue, because it may be, as I suggested earlier, that by this chaotic, unorganised system of unemployment insurance we are aggravating the unemployment situation. The need for the system to be reorganised so that it may aid the productive energies of the country instead of being a drain upon them becomes more and more apparent with every rise in the figures which the newspapers so dolefully and so repeatedly present to our gaze.

I would ask the right hon. Lady if she could give us some sort of interim Report on how that Committee is getting on. I do not press her to tell us to-night, but on the Report stage, or at some other convenient opportunity, I hope she will be able to give us reassuring news that the Committee are grappling with the important task of reorganising the whole system and have made some progress. Unless we grapple with that important problem and unless the Committee have really got down to the essentials of it, then all these recurrent demands upon the public purse for additional expenditure are merely putting off the inevitable day of disaster, because the problem will be getting worse and no better. In two points in particular we should be very glad to know what is being done by the Committee. Under the Unemployment Insurance Bill and the financial arrangements embodied in the last Bill, we have money going directly out of the Treasury to the relief of what are called the chronically unemployed, and at the same time we have another large and expensive machinery for relieving destitution out of the rates; and there is not the least doubt that there is great overlapping between these two forms of relief. The step taken to separate the incurably unemployed from those who merely come on and off the register should enable the problem to be envisaged more clearly, and allow the two forms of relief, namely, relief out of the rates under the Poor Law and relief—because it is, relief—under the Unemployment Insurance system to be co-ordinated and to be improved.

I was greatly interested in a speech, of which I read a report in the "Scotsman" newspaper, by the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. W. M. Watson), in which he drew attention to how these two system of relief may overlap. He gave figures with regard to the particular area where he bad taken the trouble to find out the position. I will read this Report, if the Committee will permit me, to illustrate his point, because I could not illustrate it better than by reading what that hon. Gentleman, who is a supporter of the present Government, said. This is the report: Recently he had been favoured with particulars as to the expenditure by parish councils in Midlothian, "West Lothian and Fife on able-bodied relief during the years 1923–24 to 1928–29. In that period the expenditure in Midlothian, including the city of Edinburgh, was £892,000 odd, in West Lothian, £96,000 odd, and in Fife, £267,000 odd, a total of £1,255,761. In the same period the amounts spent in unemployment were: In Midlothian, £2,353,000 odd, West Lothian, £365,000 odd, and in Fife, £1,293,000 odd, a total of £4,000,000 odd. There had thus been expended in those counties in the period mentioned upon able-bodied parish relief and unemployment benefit a grand total of over £5,250,000. That was a sum of money which would have been sufficient to build a Forth Road Bridge in the time during which that money had been paid out, I do wish earnestly to impress upon the right hon. Lady and upon the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of War, who is now taking her place for the moment, the absolute necessity, if we are ever to get out of this vicious circle of higher taxation, unemployment, unemployment relief, and still higher taxation to pay for it, of proceeding in the first place, and before we do anything else, with some sort of examination of the whole problem of relief, and how it is paid out in different ways in this country, and of trying as far as we can to use the money which can be saved by economies and by preventing overlapping to give work and not relief to the people who are the main sufferers at the present moment. That is one measure which I commend most earnestly to the Government, and I hope to hear from the right hon. Lady on the Report stage, or at some other time, that the Committee has that matter in view, and that it has made some, progress towards its coordination and solution.

The only other matter to which I would like to draw attention to-night is an aspect of the present unemployment system to which we are asked to vote a subvention. In my humble opinion we very often concentrate too much upon the recipient of unemployment relief and too little upon the person who pays it. It is true that in these hard times through which our country is passing unemployment is a relief, and a substantial relief, to great numbers of people in this country; but we ought not to lose sight of the fact that it is also a drain, and a heavy drain, upon the limited resources of many wage-earners who are the chief contributors to the Fund, and for that reason I think we ought, if we can, to approach the problem with some consideration for' the man who pays into the Fund as well as for the person who draws out of it. My suggestion, in brief, is this: that one great criticism which can be levelled at the present moment against the Unemployment Insurance Fund is that it actually pays a man to be out of work—in one sense only; I do not wish the Committee to misunderstand me. You get a man who is in steady employment, paying in year after year and never drawing anything out of it. It is a tax upon such a man; he gets no benefit at all from it. I should like to see, either through the agency of the Committee which the right hon. Lady has promised us, or by the Government acting upon their own volition, the system so reorganised that there will be an incentive to a man to pay into the Fund and not to draw out of it. At the present moment, a man who does not draw out of the Fund is in some cases in danger of being considered a fool. He pays in year after year, and he may be asked: "Why do you not take a holiday on it for a few days or for a fortnight?" If the system could be so rearranged that a man who paid in regularly and did not draw out would have a substantial incentive for maintaining his position in the Fund, either by getting a much bigger withdrawal out of the Fund than he can get at the present moment, or by being able to hand on to his children the unexhausted benefit of his own insurance, I do believe that it would be a great step forward in making the Fund attractive to those who are in work, and insuring that a man would work hard to keep in work and to pay into the Fund; and you would at the same time raise the Fund to the dignity of some family provision, instead of it being, as it is at the moment, a mere device for scattering the nation's money among those who are unfortunate enough to be in need of it.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will at some time tell us what the Committee is doing, and for my part I would like to hear what it is doing with reference to those two points. What is it doing in co-ordinating relief? Because it is relief which the Treasury is paying out to-day, although the present Government always pretended that it was insurance. That pretence has gone to-day. It is relief just as surely as poor relief is. It is raised from the taxpayer instead of from the rates, and that is all the difference. So I ask: What is the Committee doing to co-ordinate relief; and, secondly, what is it doing so to remodel the system that a man who stays in work gets something out of it, that a man has an incentive to keep his contributions in the Fund intact, either by giving him the option of a bigger withdrawal or by enabling him to hand on to those who come after him as a heritage, as something for which he has worked, and something which he has denied himself to obtain for his children, the unexhausted benefit of his own insurance fund?

It will be said, no doubt, that these matters present grave financial difficulties. I believe they do, but when we are being asked to vote £4,000,000 for this Fund, when we are being asked, as we are being asked continually in this House, to devote money to entirely unproductive eleemosynary purposes, surely it would be the soundest economy to take some of that money and use it in some manner such as I have suggested, so as to make the Fund a stronger and a nobler institution than it is at the present moment.


I desire to make a few remarks in support of the Motion. In the first place, I feel that it is hardly dignified to proceed to vote money for the purposes of legislation which is not yet through all its stages. Again, it appears that we are piling up, by small sums, a burden of taxation which is becoming quite intolerable to the industry of this country. There seems to be no appreciation of the fact that every tax which is imposed in any way in this country has to be paid by productive industry. The more taxes go on, the higher the prices become at which we are able to sell our goods. If our markets were entirely confined to this country, there might he some wisdom in that, but we have to compete for our livelihood in the markets of the world, and our success depends upon the price at which we can sell our goods in competition with foreigners. How do we stand with regard to most of our competitors in the markets of the world? We are the most heavily taxed nation on earth to-day. We have to bear the burden of this taxation, send our goods overseas, and still be able to undersell our competitors. If we fail to undersell our competitors, we are unable to pay our way in the world. I believe it has been estimated by competent authorities that the annual income of this country is somewhere in the the region of £4,200,000,000, and, since our Budget amounts to some £800,000,000 per annum, we are spending roughly 4s. in the £ of our income in taxation. That is a factor which has to be borne in mind in connection with the export trade of this country.

We are hampered in many ways by our advanced ideas in regard to the provision of safeguards for the workers in our factories, and in regard to the cost of buildings. There is no country in the world where the regulations are so stringent as in this country. All these luxuries have to be paid for, and, before you can pay for them, you have to get them on to the price of your goods. It seems to me that the continual putting on of fresh taxation, as the present Government have done since the day they came into office, is merely making matters worse. It would seem that there are two kinds of personality at work in the Government to-day. The one seems to hamper the efforts of our manufacturers to produce goods at a reasonable price in competition with our competitors in the world, while the other preaches the doctrine of the expansion of trade. On the one hand, you have every obstacle put in the way of the expansion of trade, and, on the other hand, you hear speeches from prominent Members, particularly from the Lord Privy Seal, saying that the only way to cure unemployment is by an expansion of trade. You cannot have it both ways; you must make up your mind what you are going to do. You are either going to throttle industry by fresh taxation, or you are going to try to give industry a chance to recover.

A great deal has been said to-night by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about rationalisation. How can you expect the average manufacturer to be able to raise money to re-equip his factory with new machinery in place of that which has become n ore or less obsolete, owing largely to the effects of the Great War, when at the same time you make it impossible for him to sell the products of his industry in competition with the other nations of the world by the excessively heavy taxation that he has to bear? All these taxes have to go on to the price of goods at some time or another. [Interruption.] The City is a business concern like any other City, and it can only lend money where it can earn its fair and reasonable hire. In order really to help industry, it is necessary to reduce and not to increase taxation. A great deal is said about the inefficiency of our industries. That may or may not be true, but there is no getting away from the fact that a huge proportion of the profits made in industry goes in taxation—far more in this country than in any other country in the world; and yet we are more dependent upon our export trade than any other country. If we fail in our export trade we starve, because it is with the money that we get for the goods we manufacture that we buy our food. These are truisms which are known to everyone, but they seem to be absent from the consideration of this House.

The Bill of which this Vote is really a part was passed through this House in an orgy of emotion, in which hardly a business statement was made. Hardly a word was said about the working-man contributor who has to pay into the fund year in and year out; the whole attention of Back Benchers on the Government side was directed to the unemployed, who, after all, are a small proportion. The more taxation there is, the greater will be the number of unemployed. On the one hand you have the Lord Privy Seal preaching the expansion of trade, and on the other hand you have the Chancellor of the Exchequer threatening something like 600,000 workpeople with the possible loss of their employment by the abolition of the McKenna Duties. Such threats simply unsettle industry, and in my own experience certain industries are practically unable to sell their products. Some people, certainly, are waiting in the hope that these duties may be removed and prices become cheaper, in order that, disregarding the welfare of their fellow-countrymen, they may snatch some temporary benefit.

With regard to training centres, the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), speaking from personal experience, pointed out that, at the training centre in Glasgow, men were being trained as furniture makers, while at the local Em- ployment Exchange he found a number of furniture makers seeking work. Others were to be trained as hairdressers, while in that case, again, the hon. Member found at the local Employment Exchange that hairdressers were out of work. I accept his statement as correct. It seems to me that the Government are tackling the question of unemployment at the wrong end. What they should do is to create work, and not to build up inducements for people who may or not be desirous of finding jobs. No one can get away from the fundamental fact that every tax must eventually find its' way on to productive industry, and it seems to me that the Government are going on building up taxation until it reaches a point at which the nation will not be able to bear it. According to the figures, which I believe are correct, we are spending something like 20 per cent. of the national income in taxation to-day, and I do not believe that any country, especially an exporting country like ours, which has to live on its ability to undersell other parts of the world, can successfully maintain its position if some halt be not called to this extraordinary volume of taxation, which seems to be put on without the slightest consideration.


I desire to make a few remarks on the item:

"Additional provision for training of young unemployed men as handymen or for settlement oversea, and of preparing men for transfer £100,000."

I was very much interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) on this question of training, because I myself have had considerable experience of men who have been trained and have come back to their own towns and then been unable to find employment. I was particularly interested also in the speech of the Minister on this question. The right hon. Lady told us that men were being trained as handymen, and others were being trained for emigration overseas—but she stated that this latter class is now a very small one—and also that men are being trained for transference to other districts. My experience has been more particularly in connection with men trained by the Ministry of Pensions under their scheme, and, as that is similar to the present scheme, I should like just to quote my experience with men under that scheme, as I think it will show the weakness of the scheme for which we are asked to vote this money, that weakness being the fact that, as the right hon. Lady herself said, her Department could not guarantee to find work for the men after they were trained. That is the great weakness not only of this scheme but of all the schemes of which I have had experience in connection with the Ministry of Pensions. Two men visited me in my constituency last week. One was being trained as a saddler and had passed out from the Loughborough Technical College of the Ministry of Pensions with very good credentials as to his craftsmanship and his character as a worker. He has been tramping about for months and cannot get a job as a saddler. I quite agree with the right hon. Lady, that the fact of the men being trained for something is helpful inasmuch as it keeps them active and prevents them getting depressed, but you get a reaction of more depression still when a man has been given some hope from the fact that he has had this training and then finds he cannot get a job. If we are having, as I am told we are, committees of inquiry into the whole question of unemployment pay and administration, surely this point ought to be taken into very grave consideration and some report given us upon it, because we ought not to be satisfied merely by saying we have trained these men. We ought to do something more than that and make special efforts to place them, at any rate for a time, till they are able to carry on on their own initiative after they have been trained.

9.0 p.m.

Then you have the question of the handyman. I suppose the idea at the back of the minds of those who formulated this scheme was that, if you trained a man as a handyman, he could go about, not working for an employer but getting odd jobs here and there. That was the idea, at any rate, at the back of the mind of those who formulated the scheme for the Ministry of Pensions. I have another man in my mind who at this moment is vainly endeavouring to get some sort of employment in this direction. He was trained at Leeds and Leicester and came away with first-class testimonials, but he has not been able to earn anything like a living. This is a matter that is worthy of consideration by the right hon. Lady to pass on to these committees of inquiry, because it seems to be a waste of good money to train a man for an occupation and not be in a position to give him a reasonable chance to carry on in the work in which he has been trained. The Employment Exchanges are so busy in dealing with claims and paying out that they have not too much time to find jobs for the men, but they were set up in the first place to find work, to do something to give reasonable directions to men seeking work as to where they could find it. On the question of training men for transference work, we are up against a different problem. Under the present scheme, as under that of the late Government, the work that is being found is not so much for trained as for unskilled men. The majority of the Lord Privy Seal's list of schemes which have been approved so fax are for public works, for roads, docks and harbours and work of that kind, and the bulk of the labour employed is unskilled. It is not so much a question of training. It is a question of the man being physically fit to undertake the work. The greatest problem we have to face is not so much that of finding a job for a man who is able-bodied and physically fit to do hard work. In my experience as a member of a local employment committee, the great problem is dealing with men who are not physically fit or those who, having been out of work for a considerable time, have lost a great deal of their energy and initiative. Therefore, I do not see that training for transference is going to help very much, bearing in mind the class of scheme the Lord Privy Seal is bringing forward. I do not want the country to waste money on any particular side of the work of the Employment Exchanges if we are not getting something in the way of a reasonable return.

I have also been very much interested in speeches which have dealt with what ought to be the one thing on which our minds should be set. That is the question of finding employment for men so that they will not be such a severe drain upon the funds of the Department and, therefore, these Supplementary Estimates would not be necessary. We have to face the fact that the Fund is something like £38,000,000 in debt. It may be termed a debt, but I do not think there is a Member who is not of the opinion that some day the State will have to wipe off that debt, and it will become a charge upon the national funds because, according to the way things are going, there does not seem much chance for many years to come of the debt being reduced. Rather would it be likely to increase. Rationalisation is a blessed word. It covers a multitude of things and enables people who do not understand it to get away with an argument. It used to be nationalisation. Now it is all rationalisation. Even to-day the Lord Privy Seal admitted quite freely that the process of rationalisation would indeed cause a good deal of unemployment for some time. My experience in one industry is that it has resulted not in closing down that were told, the inefficient sections of an industry, but in closing down those that are a nuisance to the larger sections of the industry. The Government may say they would not sanction anything of that kind, but those who are responsible for the rationalisation of industry will not be looking at the question of rationalising altogether for efficiency but rationalising so that the industry can be made to pay a little more in the way of a return on the money invested in it. We have at the moment a typical instance in Yorkshire where in one district alone huge works have closed down, which means absolute ruin for the district.

Bearing in mind that, even on the admission of the Lord Privy Seal, you are bound to have more unemployment the more rationalisation you get, the prospect is not too bright. Therefore, the House and the Department ought to pay far more attention to the question of finding work rather than what we are going to pay in the shape of unemployment benefits. I heard the Member for Gorbals discussing the question of increased pay and complaining that the Government were not carrying out the promise made at the last election about the increasing of pay. I know the working man through and through. The average British working man prefers work to drawing unemployment pay. Whatever sum you might make it, it would not in my opinion be an inducement to a man to refrain from taking a job if the job was really worth while. There is a temptation for many of these trained men whom I have mentioned as being started as handymen, after a few weeks' experience trying to find jobs for themselves and earning only a few shillings to say, "Well, I should be better off on unemployment pay." Who can blame a man for taking this view. After all is said and done, he has to live. If a man can get a little more in a certain direction, you cannot blame him.

If we could carry out what has been suggested and reiterated time and time again by Members on this side and on that side, namely, form a Council of State of the best brains of all parties in this House to try and solve the unemployment problem, I think that we should not have to come here and ask for these Supplementary Estimates. We have far too much of party politics in this unemployment question. We do not want merely to talk about goodwill in this matter, but to get down to business. I am certain, if the Government come out clearly and boldly and say, "We are prepared to form a committee to deal with this question and to invite the Conservative party and the Liberal party to send their best men who understand this problem," that both the Conservative party and the Liberal party will accept the invitation. We should then be able to get down to something which is really worth while. Although this suggestion has been talked about on platforms outside, I do not know of any invitation having been given by the Government of the day. I would suggest to the right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour that this suggestion is worth taking to her colleagues in the Cabinet. I am satisfied that she would get the full support of all parties in this House if she adopted that course.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I should like to back up my colleague, the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) in his claim for a non-party conference on the question of unemployment. I can assure the right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour that the suggestion is put forward in a true spirit. She would find a very ready response from the Conservative party. I would like also to say a word or two about unemployment in rural areas. It is a very sad fact that since the present Government came into office there has been a distinct increase of unemployment in the villages, and certainly in Lincolnshire. I want to ask her—and if the Minister of Agriculture had been here, I would have liked to have asked him—to pay special attention to the difficulties of the rural workers in relation to unemployment. I am perfectly well aware that the rural worker at the present time does not come under the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, but a large number of men who pass in and out of agriculture are in the Unemployment Insurance Scheme. I submit that under the present Government these men are not having a fair deal. I know of a case of a man who came to me not long ago. He worked on the roads and therefore came under the unemployment scheme. When he was not working on the roads he turned his attention to agriculture. His son, I understand, had a small cottage-holding of about three acres. There are a good many men like him who have a share in agriculture, and, if it is ruled by the present Government that because they work in agriculture and their sons or relations may have small holdings and are expected to support them, they should not get unemployment insurance benefit, it will be most unfair.

The Government really will be discouraging men from taking up any work whatever. A man will say, "I cannot keep a pig, because it would be regarded as a means of sustenance, and I should not get unemployment insurance benefit," or "I cannot accept a day's work of threshing on a farm as I should then be supposed to be in work and I should not get unemployment insurance benefit." The Government are discouraging men from seeking work. Things have come to such a bad state in some of the villages that for the first time farmers, when they want men for threshing work, can get unemployed men in their own villages, whereas before they had to send to the towns for them. The Government have a very heavy responsibility for discouraging agriculture in this case. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was very ill-advised in trying to defend his party's pledges. I should like to lay before the Committee these pledges with regard to unemployment. Listening to the hon. Baronet, one might imagine that this Government not only promised nothing, but gave a distinct undertaking that they would promise nothing upon unemployment.


I have already ruled that the question of the provision of work is not covered by this Vote. The question before the Committee is whether money shall be voted for the purposes named or not. I cannot allow the hon. and gallant Member to discuss schemes of organisation for the provision of work.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I understand the position, but I submit that when the Chancellor of the Duchy wastes a great deal of time both in explaining what his pledges were and the way that his party were not committed to particular pledges, we are entitled to give quotations to show what the Members of the Government and of his own party wrote during the Election, and said in the House of Commons. I will read what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, He stated: In our first Session we shall deal with unemployment and give relief and hope to the workers of the land. We will not disappoint those who have shown a belief in us. Mark you—"In our first Session!" So far as I can see, there is no real hope in the rural areas of any employment being brought about by the present Government. As I see the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) in his place, I should like to quote what he said with reference to Unemployment Insurance Benefit and other things which are dealt with in this Supplementary Estimate. After all, he and his friends are as good judges of the Government's pledges as any Members in this House. At Cardross on 7th September the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs said that if he asked the unemployed men and women who might get the sack on Saturday if they felt any better because "Labour" was in power, he was sure they would reply, "Not one bit." Our contention is that the unemployed man is very much worse off now that the Labour party are in office. In an article, the hon. Member wrote: The unhappy unemployed at the Labour Exchange know no difference as the result of a change of Government. We would put it very much stronger than that. He also stated: The condition of the unemployed man or woman is as bad now as it was when Baldwin was in control, and it is a disgrace and a sham and a libel on the great Labour party, because it is pledged with all the pledges that man can give to stand by the unemployed. That is a Socialist opinion of what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster says, namely, that his party has given no pledges whatever. Again, at Treharris, on 23rd November, the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs said that the Government was not doing the things that it was elected to do. I should be willing to quote the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and other hon. Members on the same subject. I wish definitely to enter a protest, on behalf of hon. Members who represent rural constituencies, with regard to the lack of attention to unemployment in aural areas. It is a shame and a die-grace. I wish hon. Members opposite knew the numbers of letters that are received by myself and other hon. Members of the Conservative party, asking if any thing can be done to get a move on with this Labour Government. Our offices are inundated with requests for work in rural areas. I beg the Front Bench to do their best to deal with unemployment. If we cannot have a Council of State, let us have a Government that can get on with the work.


Anyone who has listened to this Debate from beginning to end may say that it has not been of a very exciting character, but there has been one feature which has been extraordinarily remarkable, and that is the change of tone on the part of the three Members of the Front Bench opposite who have spoken on behalf of the Government policy to-day. A year ago one listened to them thundering from this side of the House, full of indignation, full of what they would do to deal with the problem, very sure that if they came to power they could apply nostrums which would cure this problem. What a change we see to-day! The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is like the month of March. He started in Opposition like a lion, and he is now bleating like a lamb. He was apologetic in all that he put forward on behalf of what he and his Department are doing. Then we had the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I remember hearing him speak in Opposition. He was extraordinarily caustic then because the Government did not get on quicker with the work. He was immensely cocksure then that his theories as to a more free use of credit and other expedients of that kind, would gradually effect an improvement. To-day, so far as credit in these matters are concerned, he is now strictly correct in his behaviour. The whole tone of his utterance this afternoon was extremely apologetic for what he and the Lord Privy Seal have done, or have promised to do and have not yet produced.

Lastly, there was the right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour. A year ago she was fairly strong in her language. Today, compared with her two colleagues she displayed a sort of very temperate optimism, but her optimism would not carry her far if she had to face a meeting of shareholders, with as little performance as that which the Government can claim during the time they have been in office. It is even more remarkable to note what has happened on the back benches opposite, particularly amongst those who constantly directed a steady drip of invective upon the Government of the day a year ago. I heard the right hon. Lady talk about training centres, and I agree with the enthusiasm with which she spoke of them. She spoke of them almost with the love of a parent or, rather, of a foster mother, but I would point out that they are not the product of her party of new ideas, but were a legacy which she received from the preceding Government. "What about the rest of the party opposite. Where are they to-day? In the old days they inveighed against training centres. They complained that they taught men a trade and took the bread out of the mouths of other tradesmen. They asked me why I instituted such abominations. To-day, those hon. Members are sitting opposite, like good little boys saying nothing, or like still better little boys, going out of the House, and coming in to vote when there is a count, to make sure that the Government are not going to lose the provision that they want for the training centres which they abused a year ago.

I heard the right hon. Lady speak about transference and how she was overcoming the opposition that there was to it. How has she overcome it? What is the position of her hon. Friends on the back benches? I remember well that they said I was taking the bread out of the mouths of their constituents in London by transferring people from distressed areas. I remember the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Day), who was most constant in his anxiety for the safety of the employment of his constituents in Southwark.


Day in and day out.


Day in and day out. He never left me alone on the subject. Where is he now? He is away, doing something or other, but careful not to be here in order to voice opinions like those which made the work of transference rather difficult over a year ago. I also carry my mind back to another item in the plan for dealing with the unemployed—the scheme for training the boys of minors. I remember that subject well in the election time. It was a libel about it which cost me my seat. I have no cause to complain, because now I sit for another constituency where, perhaps, I need not have so much anxiety about the future whilst I am engaged busily elsewhere. What about other colleagues of the right hon. Lady, the Socialist Members for Birmingham, who were so painfully alluded to by the Prime Minister a little time ago? Perhaps I ought not to repeat what the Prime Minister said as to what he thought was the product of Birmingham. To-day, they are quiet. They are not pursuing their objections. What a change we see! Does it not show both to this Committee and to the country—is humbug a Parliamentary expression?—what an appalling amount of humbug we must have listened to a year ago from benches opposite, or what an appalling amount of silent humbug we see to-day when there is a count, and those hon. Members hurry hack into the House in order to ensure that the Government get their Vote.

I have said that the Chancellor of the Duchy was apologetic. Let me deal with what he said. The situation does, indeed, warrant an apologetic tone. There are 1,480,000 unemployed. I have small doubt but that the figure is likely to go down in the near future. It nearly always does go down. I would not prophesy that there will be an increase in the figures in the next month or two, because spring always does bring an alleviation. The Chancellor of the Duchy was apologetic, and rightly apologetic. When they came into office the unemploy- ment figure, in June of last year, was 60,000 less than it was the year before. After they have been in office for eight months, there are 20,000 more men out of work than there were at the same time a year ago. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had to deal with this situation he makes the usual sort of debating reply. He says: "Your side made great promises about what would happen with the Derating Bill. My side made no promises at all." Unfortunately, the Chancellor was a little unhappy and a little slipshod either in memory or methods. He did not point to anything that any Conservative had said about the results of the Derating Bill, but when he tells us that no promises were made and no undertakings were given to the electors as to a rapid reduction being possible if a Socialist Government came into power, he forgets the words of his own Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said: A Labour Government is the only Government which will deal with the problem of unemployment with courageous determination. Courageous determination, indeed! I would ask hon. Members from the Clyde, especially, to rejoice in approving the courageous determination of the Government. I notice when there is a count that some hon. Members from the Clyde come in to save the Government all the same.


You want us to save you.


That is a species of reasoning from the hon. Member which I appreciate greatly. Then the quotation went on: They will deal with it with courageous determination. Labour has a programme, and it only needs the power. —[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I should have thought that Scottish Members on the other side would have been a little more cautious than to rise to that fly. If they had a real programme that would have provided a cure, we would all have supported them. If that was the case, why have they never produced a programme? It is something like their agricultural programme. They had a programme which they could produce, but when they are asked for it they cannot produce it. That is the reason for the right hon. Gentleman being apologetic. Again, let me refer to what the right hon. Lady has said. She is now very cautious. She said that, of course, they could not cure the unemployment problem quickly, and, what was more, there might be no sign of a cure for another two, three or four months yet. That means a year from the start of the Government. Then let me turn to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said when he was trying to get votes at the Election. He said: I can promise you that a Labour Government will start at once with determination and, what is more, with knowledge of the nature of the remedies that have to be Applied, and in 12 months' time I am confident that we can make a great impression on the magnitude of that problem. To-day, when the right hon. Lady was speaking with the experience she has gained, she says we must not look for anything much before another four months, or a year from the time that the Labour Government came into office. I am bound to say that the Government have one great advantage. The Conservative party made a great mistake at the Election. They had the assets but they did not have them on their prospectus. There is one thing about the party opposite—though they have no assets, they are wonders at writing a prospectus. It it a sort of Hatry Government in the prospectus it puts out. They had a triumvirate which they said would get to work at once. There was the Lord Privy Seal like Moses, with the other two Ministers like Aaron and Hur, on each side holding up his hands in order to get on with the work. Yet to-day what have we got? There is an amount of mistrust and doubt in the actual business world as regards the future which is one of the great causes why unemployment is so extremely intractable at this moment. There is one feature in it to-day which has never existed before. We all knew there would be a jump up just after Christmas and the New Year which would gradually get better as the spring went on. Never before, however, has Christmas trade been so bad, or has there been a regular rise in the unemployment figure right up to Christmas and the New Year, with just as big a jump after it. We are really entitled to say we have a right to know what the Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues are doing. I am not asking about any particular schemes, but as to what lines they are really going on. We have been put off time and time again. First of all, it was steel sleepers for the railways, which would cure the steel trade. We have heard very little about that. I remember reading whole columns in the Press about it.


The right hon. Gentleman knows my ruling. Even if the Lord Privy Seal were here, I should not allow him to give details.


I certainly do not want him to give details about any schemes. I pass over that point, and over Canada, which it is best to pass over as quickly as possible, as nothing resulted from it. We do not ask for any particular schemes, but we have a right to know rather more than we have been told to day, in general, by the Chancellor of the Duchy as to what it is they are so oracular about—the City and the Banks. What is really going to be done? We have been twice bitten already by the Lord Privy Seal, and everybody has a right to be shy of him a third time. Supposing the Lord Privy Seal—and I quite accept it—is perfectly genuine in his efforts—


The right hon. Gentleman must please obey my Ruling. We cannot discuss either the schemes of the Lord Privy Seal or the lack of schemes. The question before the Committee is a Supplementary Vote, and the schemes of the Lord Privy Seal have nothing to do with the question before the Committee.


On a point of Order. Is it not the case that the right hon. Gentleman has been put down twice, and that if you put him down again he will have to resume his seat?


Now that I understand exactly what the Ruling of the Chair is, I shall endeavour to conform to it, but I sincerely trust on future occasions the right hon. Gentleman opposite will do the same and so render unnecessary any of the little incidents of the past. Let me pass from the Banks, and what the Lord Privy Seal has done, to what is the immediate cause of this expenditure which we are asked to vote to-night on the transitory provision. What have his colleagues been doing? It is all very well for the Lord Privy Seal to act as a decoy duck for the general public and to say how reasonable he is, but what are his colleagues doing? Here we have an expenditure of £2,000,000 a year for the one substituted Clause in the Unemployment Bill which we were discussing before Christmas, a sum which capitalised is equivalent to £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 on the National Debt. We have a Bill coming on in regard to coal, which will add to the expenditure. Can we be expected to support the Lord Privy Seal and his policy of rationalism, which as the Chancellor of the Duchy told us is intended to decrease costs, enable us to get employment, and diminish our expenditure by regaining our foreign trade, when all the time by the general distrust created, by the burden of this £2,000,000

under this particular Bill and by future burdens under the Coal Bill, far more costs are going to be put on industry than will be saved by any immediate scheme of rationalisation. Therefore, while I have no wish to stop the passage of an ordinary Supplementary Estimate I say that the kind of defence we have had this afternoon shows that while the Government promised much their performances are nothing, and they have shown a complete incapacity to deal with the problem of unemployment on which they tried to win the election last year.

Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £4,149,000, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 102; Noes, 242.

Division No. 114.] AYES. [9.39 p.m.
Atholl, Duchess of Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Reid, David D. (County Down)
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W. Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Remer, John R.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley) Greene, W. P. Crawford Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet) Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Bird, Ernest Roy Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Harmon, Patrick Joseph Henry Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome
Boyce, H. L. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Skelton, A. N.
Bracken, B. Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Somerset, Thomas
Buchan, John Hurd, Percy A. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Butler, R. A. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Carver, Major W. H. Kindersley, Major G. M. Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Cautley, Sir Henry S. King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.) Lamb, Sir J. Q. Thomson, Sir F.
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Leighton, Major B. E. P. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Colville, Major D. J. Lewis, Oswald (Colchester) Todd, Capt. A. J.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Llewellin, Major J. J. Train, J.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. Lymington, Viscount Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.
Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Marjoribanks, E. C. Warrender, Sir Victor
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford) Mason, Colonel Glyn K. Wayland, Sir William A.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Wells, Sydney R.
Dawson, Sir Philip Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Dixey, A. C. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Edmondson, Major A. J. Muirhead, A. J. Withers, Sir John James
Elliot, Major Walter E. Oman, Sir Charles William C. Womersley, W. J.
Ferguson, Sir John Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Fison, F. G. Clavering Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Young, Rt. Hon. S r Hilton
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Power, Sir John Cecil
Ganzoni, Sir John Purbrick, R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley) Ramsbotham, H. Captain Margesson and Captain Wallace.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Benson, G. Cameron, A. G.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Bentham, Dr. Ethel Cape, Thomas
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Charleton, H. C.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Bowen, J. W. Chater, Daniel
Alpass, J. H. Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Church, Major A. G.
Angell, Norman Broad, Francis Alfred Cluse, W. S.
Arnott, John Brooke, W. Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.
Aske, Sir Robert Brothers, M. Cocks, Frederick Seymour
Attlee, Clement Richard Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Daggar, George
Ayles, Walter Brown, Ernest (Leith) Dallas, George
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West) Dalton, Hugh
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Buchanan, G. Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)
Barnes, Alfred John Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland) Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.) Denman, Hon. R. D.
Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff, Central) Caine, Derwent Hall Devlin, Joseph
Dickson, T. Lawson, John James Romeril, H. G.
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Dukes, C. Leach, W. Rowson, Guy
Duncan, Charles Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.) Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Ede, James Chuter Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Sanders, W. S.
Edge, Sir William Lees, J. Sandham, E.
Edmunds, J. E. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Sawyer, G. F.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Lloyd, C. Ellis Scrymgeour, E.
Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Logan, David Gilbert Scurr, John
Egan, W. H. Longbottom, A. W. Sexton, James
Elmley, Viscount Longden, F. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
England, Colonel A. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Foot, Isaac Lowth, Thomas Sherwood, G. H.
Forgan, Dr. Robert Lunn, William Shield, George William
Freeman, Peter Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Mac Donald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Shillaker, J. F.
Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.) McElwee, A. Shinwell, E.
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea) McKinlay, A. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Gibbins, Joseph MacLaren, Andrew Simmons, C. J.
Gill, T. H. Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Gillett, George M. McShane, John James Sinkinson, George
Glassey, A. E. Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)
Gossling, A. G. Mander, Geoffrey le M. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Gould, F. Mansfield, W. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Graham, D. M, (Lanark, Hamilton) March, S. Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Marcus, M. Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Gray, Milner Marlay, J. Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) Mathers, George Snell, Harry
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Matters, L. W. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Grundy, Thomas W. Maxton, James Stamford, Thomas W.
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Melville, Sir James Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Middleton, G. Sullivan, J.
Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.) Milner, J. Sutton, J. E.
Hardie, George D. Montague, Frederick Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Harris, Percy A. Morgan Dr. H. B. Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Morley, Ralph Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Mort, D. L. Tillett, Ben
Haycock, A. W. Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick) Tinker, John Joseph
Hayday, Arthur Muff, G. Tout, W. J.
Hayes, John Henry Muggeridge, H. T. Townend, A. E.
Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Murnin, Hugh Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Nathan, Major H. L. Turner, B.
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Naylor, T. E. Vaughan, D. J.
Herriotts, J. Noel Baker, P. J. Viant, S. P.
Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston) Walker, J.
Hoffman, P. C. Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley) Wallhead, Richard C.
Isaacs, George Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon) Watkins, F. C.
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Owen, H. F. (Hereford) Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
John, William (Rhondda, West) Palin, John Henry Welsh, James (Paisley)
Johnston, Thomas Paling, Wilfrid Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint) Palmer, E. T. Westwood, Joseph
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Perry, S. F. White, H. G.
Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Phillips, Dr. Marion Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Picton-Turbervill, Edith Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Pole, Major D. G. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. Quibell, D. J. K. Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford) Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Kelly, W. T. Rathbone, Eleanor Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Kennedy, Thomas Raynes, W. R. Wise, E. F.
Kirkwood, D. Richards, R. Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Lathan, G. Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
Law, Albert (Bolton) Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Law, A. (Rossendale) Ritson, J. Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Whiteley.
Lawrence, Susan Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported upon Thursday; Committee to sit again To-morrow.

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