§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The object of the Bill is a very simple one of one Clause. The House is well aware of my views on this subject. I bring forward this Bill with the greatest reluctance, but it is the least obnoxious form of measure. I cannot contemplate bringing in a Bill to raise contributions, or to lower benefits, or to ask for larger contributions from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that it has been taken for granted more or less, as it was last Friday, that there is no alternative to this proposal. If unemployment continues as at present, the limit of the borrowing powers may be reached before autumn, and it is that that leads me to fulfil the promise which I made last March. I should like to read what I said to the House:I am not going to prophesy. I have always taken up the position that it is not possible for anyone to foresee what is going to happen to British industry in the next two or three years. Whatever statement is made can only be guesswork. My business as custodian of the Fund is to make an arithmetical calculation, and that is all that I propose to give to the Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1930; col. 794, Vol. 237.]I went on to say that if the live register remained at or about 1,600,000, the £10,000,000 would be exhausted by November next, and in that case I should have to come to the House and reconsider the situation before the House rises for the summer Recess. I much regret that I have to come to the House again before it rises for the summer Recess. Certain calculations are made in the White Paper, which have been distributed, but in the debate last Friday, there were one or two questions asking for still further figures which I gladly give. The figures that I gave brought us up to the exhaustion of the borrowing powers by March, 1931, if the average live register remained at 1,900,000. If the average on the live register continues to be round about 2,000,000, the borrowing 2180 powers will be exhausted by January, 1931. With the live register at 2,100,000, it would mean that the Fund would be exhausted by the end of December, 1930. If the live register reaches 2,300,000, the Fund will be exhausted by the end of November. I want to emphasise the fact that these are average figures and that means that as the register has not yet reached 2,000,000, it will require to rise above the figure I have mentioned if the average is to be maintained.
All that I am concerned with at the moment, therefore, is to fortify the resources of the Fund so that, unless a catastrophe happens, the revenue will meet the expenditure until the House meets again. Naturally, I hope that I have left myself an ample margin, but I do not think that anybody will consider that it would be possible to prophesy even about that. I can only hope that I have left an ample margin to cover the needs until the House meets again. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) was good enough to tell us on Friday what he would have said had he been Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. The right hon. Gentleman was too modest. I would like him to have said what would have happened if he had remained Minister. The debt would not have been £43,000,000 but £53,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] About 170,000 claims allowed under the present Act would have been disallowed. About 84 per cent. of the total live register would have been receiving benefit instead of the present 93 per cent. Therefore, it would have been very helpful if the right hon. Gentleman had assumed the position of Minister of Labour while he was prophesying, and have said what he himself would have done if he had been faced with the situation.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
As the right hon. Lady has referred to me, may I ask her whether she is satisfied with the present system of administration?
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I am coming to that. The point I am making is that whatever the situation now, that would have been the situation if there had been no new Act, and if the figures had remained as they are on the live register under the provisions of the 1927 Act. 2181 That is the basis of the calculation. In spite of the fact that I mentioned that 93 per cent. of the claims made are made under the present Act, there was criticism of the fact that under the not normally in insurable employment condition, people were being struck off the Fund. It is true that some 68,000 claims have been disallowed under that heading, and that is due to the large number of claims that were made by persons not in the insurance field at all. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) exclaimed last Friday:A figure of 68,000 at the beginning—when the machine has only started to work!"—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 18th July, 1930; col. 1651, Vol. 241.]He suggested that the 68,000 was a figure that would increase as the months went on. He would be surprised to learn that the machine is not working that way. Although in the four weeks to the 9th June, over 44,000 more claims were made than in the preceding four weeks, the number of disallowances under the "not normally" condition decreased from 28,000 to 20,000. In the same period in Scotland the reduction amounted to 4,630; that is to say in the four weeks to 12th May there were 7,970 disallowances under this head, but for the four weeks ending 9th June there were 3,340 disallowances. That is due to the gradual working off of claims that ought never to have been made.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
No, the hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. The proportion of claims disallowed is lower since the number of claims has increased. It is the total number of claims which has increased by 44,000 in the last four weeks.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
The point I wanted to know in regard to these additional claims is that it is important to know how many of the additional claims are claims under the transitional conditions, because the not normally in insurable employment condition would not apply to those who could fulfil the statutory condition of 30 stamps in the preceding two years.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The right hon. Lady said that if the late Minister of 2182 Labour had been Minister of Labour now, the Bill would be for £10,000,000 and she went on to say that 173,000 people were taken off the register, whom my right hon. Friend would have left on.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I am afraid I cannot have been very clear. I said that 170,000 claims which have been allowed under the present Act would have been disallowed under the 1927 Act and that under the financial provisions of the old law the indebtedness of the Unemployment Fund would have been £53,000,000 instead of £43,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because among other things the new financial arrangements have relieved the fund of a considerable burden.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Is the right hon. Lady assuming that the unemployment figure would have been as high as it is at the present time? Is she crediting us with all the incompetence which has been shown by the present Government?
§ Miss BONDFIELD
To finish off the point with which I was dealing earlier I think the figures demonstrate what I said in the last debate, that there would undoubtedly be difficulty in weeding out the first rush of claims, and that we should not be able to get a really accurate analysis of the situation, and I think we have not yet got it complete. I do not think the process is finished yet but we are showing a diminution in that rush of claims which ought never to have been made because they were not really claimants who could be regarded as entitled to claim unemployment benefit.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
No, they were the result of a most misplaced propaganda on the part of certain newspapers which attacked the Act and talked about everybody being able to get benefit whether they were in industry or not. [Interruption. I am quite sure there is no dispute about what I am now going to say, that all parties accept the obligation to give assistance in some form, to some extent, to all unemployed men and 2183 women. In the industrial revolution of the 19th century the workers were left to misery, starvation and death as a result of the changes that took place in industry and the displacement of labour by new machinery. To-day we are in a much more far-reaching revolution of industrial processes, and at the same time we have a far more enlightened social conscience. To-day it is not possible to contemplate leaving the changes brought about by the modern industrial revolution to be borne wholly by the workers themselves. No party, even if it wished to, would dare to enforce a policy of starvation on the workers in this crisis, especially on those who through no fault of their own are unemployed.
I am not saying this so much for the benefit of this House as to try to meet some of the uninformed criticisms about unemployment insurance that one meets with in the daily Press, but there are three points of view from which unemployment insurance is accepted in this House. It has come to stay, whatever modifications may be required. It is undoubtedly true that from the standpoint of the community unemployment insurance has been a guarantee of the peace of the realm. Imagine a situation in which there were 2,000,000 unemployed, no insurance scheme at all, bankrupt local authorities, indiscriminate charity, bread lines, riots, credit shaken and general demoralisation and terror. If the community had to choose between the present situation and a situation like that there is no doubt which the community would choose.
It has become fashionable for great newspapers to complain about the burden thrown on employers, but very large groups of employers do not take part in that criticism, because they know better. Unemployment insurance has enabled them to maintain a reserve of labour in a state of comparative efficiency such as would be quite impossible otherwise, and it has enabled them to limit their commitments in hard times. I will go further and say—though it is open to argument whether it is a wise or right thing to do—that in my opinion some employers have taken advantage of the scheme in ways which were never contemplated. It is open to argument whether this should be a method 2184 by which employers should ease the situation with regard to their wages bill; but if they deliberately plan their work so as to have so many days' work and so many days' unemployment benefit then quite obviously they are the last people in the world who ought to complain of the increased taxation arising from this source. They have benefited immensely by the existence of the unemployment insurance scheme.
From the workers' point of view I think there is no disagreement that the fact of unemployment insurance being in existence has prevented misery and demoralisation and that it goes some way towards mitigating the horrors and haunting fear of unemployment from which most of us on this side of the House have suffered at one time or another in our lives. I feel profoundly glad to think that this generation of workers has not been dogged by exactly that kind of fear. Present conditions are bad enough, but there is not that kind of fear that dogged us when we were in the midst of our industrial lives.
Then it is said, and it is emphasised again and again in newspapers until it becomes a kind of slogan that the dole is demoralising people. I must insist that it is not the unemployment benefit that causes the demoralisation, but the unemployment. If we have to pay unemployed people, and everybody must admit that we must, which is the better way to pay them? Is it better for an unemployed man who has been a wage earner to go on outdoor relief, to get unemployment benefit, or is it better for him to be facing either starvation or charity with soup kitchens and bread lines? There is no doubt in my mind that the system of unemployment insurance is the best, the most economical and the most commonsense way of dealing with the situation.
The criticism is also offered that money is being wasted because under the present Acts the conditions are too easily satisfied. But was the old method so satisfactory financially. We are paying out more in benefit. The additional cost of the latest Act is about £12,000,000 a year on the basis of the present high live register, but what was the result of the old method? It is quite true that we did not pay out so much from the central fund, but the guardians were 2185 spending huge sums, we were bankrupting the local authorities, and finally, in despair, there was the Lord Mayor's Fund. Is that more economical, is that more satisfactory? I very much doubt it. We would not claim for one moment that we have saved money on the unemployed. We have shifted the burden from local to national funds. I think we can all sympathise with the difficulties of my predecessor, and I have no doubt—although I fundamentally disagree with his methods, and, as far as I am able to understand it, with his point of view—that under the mask of party hostility he sympathises with me. No Minister of Labour has an easy task, no matter to what party he belongs, and I am sure that all hon. Members who have been intimately connected with the Ministry of Labour will realise that the problems are far too complex and important to be the subject of mere party scores. [HON. MEMBERS: "Murderers!"]
I will put before the Committee some of the unemployment insurance problems confronting me at the moment, all closely related to the question immediately before us. We all know the financial position. At this moment, with a high live register, we have the annual expenditure of the fund exceeding the revenue by £25,000,000, and we have a debt of £43,000,000, although we have transferred the cost of transitional benefits to the Exchequer. It may be asked, Is there a correct relation between contributions and benefits? Are the benefits too low, as many of my hon. Friends think, or are they too high, as hon. Members opposite think? Are the contributions adjusted to the benefits in relation to the different categories of the unemployed and the incidence of unemployment?
With regard to the conditions for receiving benefit, it is yet too early to judge the effect of the new conditions. I remember in connection with the 1927 Act that it was not until the following January that we began to get a true reflex of its effects. I think we shall probably have an earlier reflex of the 1930 Act, but a great machine like that of the unemployment insurance scheme works slowly in dealing with a change like that. I myself am satisfied, however, that we now have a truer index of the actual number of the unemployed 2186 and of the categories of the unemployed. No doubt a few are getting benefit who ought not to get it, and I think that some are not getting benefit who ought to have it. There are border line cases for which we have not yet a sufficiently sensitive adjudicating machinery to feel perfectly certain that in every case absolute justice takes place; but there is a very vast difference in the attitude of the adjudicating machine towards these problems as compared with the position several years ago.
Then there is the question of the transitional benefits. Is it right or wrong that transitional benefits should be used under cover of or through the machinery of an unemployment insurance scheme to maintain the unemployment benefit? And what is the alternative? Is it suggested that we should hand over those now on transitional benefits to public assistance committees. Is it wise to create a third intermediate scheme? I am not going to attempt to give answers to these questions to-day. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley) who said on Friday that it is futile to pass panicky legislation. There is no question of panic, there is no question of doing other than facing quite wisely and very earnestly a situation the like of which this country has never had to face before. We shall make an honest attempt to legislate, when the time comes, on the basis of the ascertained facts.
I wish to deal briefly with some of the subsidiary problems which arise out of these larger problems. They will have to be considered before we can be satisfied that the system under which we are now spending the money for which we are asking is the best possible system. There is a group of problems which most of us will agree, I think, require special treatment, because they are not adapted to the flat rate principle or flat rate basis of the scheme. For example, there is the question of married women. Could anything be more different than the position of married women in Lancashire and in Birmingham? In Lancashire, of the total number of married women, 38.8 per cent. are in the cotton trade. Birmingham is a district where married women are practically not employed in industry. In large numbers of firms there is a pro- 2187 hibition on the employment of married women. There is the question of seasonal trades. There is the type of seasonal trade which begins at a definite date and ends at a definite date, and there is the other type of seasonal trade.
Then there is the question of the short-timer and that is in quite a different category. You have a systematic plan in a number of cases for larger groups of surplus labour to be employed. Of course they are working on what might be described as systematic short time and it is a question as to whether something ought not to be done in these cases. There is very much to be said on the other side in connection with the question of short time. I believe that a few years ago it was a definite policy to encourage short time rather than adopt a system of dismissal. Short time is a very good thing in order to meet a temporary difficulty. It is quite obvious that the elderly married worker and the young chronically unemployed man each require quite specialist treatment and the ordinary method does not do justice to them. They require far more remedial treatment.
There is another problem interlocking with this—not precisely coming under the same heading but affecting the whole basis of the fund—I mean the overlapping with non-insured occupations. There is insurance up to a certain point and we have to deal with the trouble created by the bar which ends insurance at a certain point. There is the borderline where labour is constantly required to be passed over the line from one industry to another. I am not at all satisfied that we have reached a satisfactory basis in dealing with this matter. Generally speaking there are two main groups outside insurance which have a great influence on the situation—I refer to agriculture and training for domestic service. We have heard a great deal in the papers about hay-making. Many letters have appeared in the papers relating to persons who have refused the job of hay-making. I will give one illustration of the loose manner in which people who know nothing about industry talk on this question. It is claimed that it is possible for farmers to make more use of the machinery of the Employment Exchanges for different kinds of casual 2188 labour. Very often it is found quite impossible to dovetail in casual labour of the kind required by the farmer, and for any person to imagine that any industrial worker can suddenly turn to hay-making and become a suitable substitute for that purpose shows a complete misunderstanding of the labour problem. Whenever I hear farmers talking about the difficulty they have of obtaining labour, I cannot help feeling that the employers are greatly to blame who permit jobs to be offered and refused without helping us to maintain the notification of those facts in connection with the Employment Exchanges. The Employment Exchange is not merely for insured persons but it is a place for the exchange of all forms of labour, and I ask that we should have more assistance from all those who know where jobs are waiting in the way of notification.
In my own experience, I have known of five or six cases where men were offered jobs and refused them, and in one case a man was receiving from 33s. to 36s. as unemployment pay when they would only get 30s. for the employment which was offered them. What is going to happen in cases like that?
§ Miss BONDFIELD
That is an illustration of what I have been trying to explain. Why are those jobs not notified to the Employment Exchanges? The Exchanges would then have an idea of the conditions under which the jobs were being offered, and whether they were jobs which a man on the register was competent to fill.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The job referred to was evidently not a suitable one, otherwise they would have been refused benefit.
Will the Minister of Labour kindly look into this case thoroughly? We have heard of a number of people refusing domestic service, and the "Daily Mail" has tremendously exaggerated these cases. I assure the right hon. Lady that what I have stated is going on, and I think she ought to make a pronouncement upon it and look into this question.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) mentioned a case where a person was drawing 36s. a week unemployment pay. I think that must have been the case of a man with a wife and a large family. If the wages offered to the Northampton man were 25s. a week and he has to maintain his wife and family, say in Northampton, while he had to go into lodgings else- where, it is quite obvious that that wage would not be sufficient.
In the case I mentioned there was exactly 3s. difference between what the man was drawing as unemployment pay and what he would get at work. From the point of view of social structure, would it not have been better for the man to have been working?
§ Miss BONDFIELD
There is only 3s. difference, but what was the extra cost to the worker? I will undertake to look into the Northampton case myself.
The next great factor which complicates the situation, is declining emigration. Comparing the 10 years 1904–13 with the 10 years 1919–28, this decline has amounted to 1,275,000 persons, or, say, an insured population of 400,000 persons. That means that there are 1,275,000 persons in this country to-day who, under the normal flow of emigration would not have been here. [An HON. MEMBER: "They will not go abroad!"] I do not think that the Ministry of Labour can be held responsible for this check in emigration.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The Minister of Labour has just given us a very important figure. I put the number on a previous occasion at between 250,000 and 300,000. Has the right hon. Lady allowed for the death-rate during the last 10 years?
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I believe that all the relevant factors have been taken into account in the figure which I have given for 1919–28. Another great factor is the displacement of labour in consequence of rationalisation with all its attendant difficulties. This has proved to be a very difficult problem in isolated areas where the whole community has been dependent on one particular works. There is the case of a large firm in Wales which had works in other parts of the country. That 2190 firm decided that the least efficient plant should be scrapped, and that other works should be developed. That change means leaving a population of something like 500 persons absolutely stranded. That problem has to be faced by the movement of the population or by maintenance while the industry is being reconstructed. It is questionable whether the charge in a case like that ought to be placed upon the Unemployment Insurance Fund. That is a kind of risk which was never contemplated when unemployment insurance was framed.
Finally, there is the question of the reorganisation of boards of guardians as public assistance committees. Those committees are only just getting to work, and the exact relation of their work to the work of the Exchanges needs to be defined, and that work is proceeding at the present time. On all these questions we are weighing up the evidence which is being collected. We are being helped by such committees as the Committee on Dock Labour, and the National Advisory Council for Juvenile Employment (England and Wales), which has just submitted to me a most valuable report on the training of unemployed boys and girls who are not covered by the existing scheme of centres.
I think the survey which I have given to the House shows that these problems cannot be treated as party problems. Whatever party is in power there must be unemployment insurance. What we have to decide is how the scheme can be developed so that the man who has to work for wages and the woman who has to work for wages, shall not be left to starve but shall be assisted before the destitution point is reached. We earnestly hope that the parties opposite will be willing to enter into consultation with us with a view to an agreed solution of these problems. We have our ideas; they have theirs. Let us pool them, and see if in this way we can obtain some measure of agreement on the next Unemployment Insurance Bill to be brought before Parliament. In the meantime while those investigations and consultations are going on, the fund must have money, and that is the reason why I have moved the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am sure that none of us would wish to quarrel with the 2191 right hon. Lady in regard to the survey which she has given to the House of the position, and of the problem with which she is faced. I think, indeed, that most of us would have wished that survey had been still more exhaustive, and that the right hon. Lady had taken steps to answer some of the very many questions which she put. Her speech, indeed, was addressed to herself; it was a catechism of herself. She reeled off a long string of questions, but they were addressed to herself, to the Parliamentary Secretary, and to the First Commissioner of Works. They were not addressed to the late Lord Privy Seal, who, as somebody said recently, has retreated to the Dominions Office and bolted the door. They were not addressed to the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley), because he is now, perhaps, the chief of her accusers. To whom could they have been addressed? The right hon. Lady represents the Government of the day; she represents the authority of Parliament in dealing with these tremendous problems. It is not enough for her to come down here and place before the House a number of questions. We should by this time have had some indication from the right hon. Lady what she expects to find in the way of answers.
Let us consider the situation. We have the figures this morning showing that 1,939,000 persons are out of work, or 803,000 more than there were at this time last year. We have the speech of the present Lord Privy Seal, who went to Wales and told the people there that in Glamorganshire there were 22 per cent. unemployed a year ago, while to-day there are 30 per cent. unemployed; that in Monmouthshire 22 per cent. were unemployed a year ago, and 28 per cent. are unemployed to-day; and he then went on to say:The figures of unemployment are mounting week by week, and indicate that during the approaching winter there will be a larger volume of unemployment than at any other time in the history of the country.That is the serious position that we have to meet, and the time is running on. The right hon. Lady herself took, under the principal Act, only a year for the transitional period. That transitional period runs out at the end of next March. She 2192 has given us no indication of what legislation she proposes to bring before the House to deal with that tremendous problem. She has told us the appalling fact that at present the deficit which the fund is incurring has reached £25,000,000 a year. That is in addition to the £15,000,000 or £16,000,000 which the State is finding; it is in addition to the £18,000,000 extra which the State is finding for the transitional period. The State is feeding this fund from the Exchequer with some £34,000,000, and, in addition to that the right hon. Lady is asking the House to-day to give her an instalment of a deficit which is amounting to £25,000,000 for a single year. The whole revenue of the National Debt, the whole service of the Debt before the War, was between £26,000,000 and £27,000,000 a year. Every pound that this country had ever borowed and not repaid was being served by a sum less than the deficit of this fund to-day. That fund was begun in the reign of Charles II, it was funded in the reign of William III, it bore the strain of the Dutch wars, the French wars, the Napoleonic wars—[An HON. MEMBER: "The American War!"]—and the American War—the winning of an Empire—and the whole service of that fund was less than the deficit which has been announced to us to-day. This is merely an instalment for a year, with nothing more at the end of that period than the recommencement of another period of borrowing. If we had come down to the House in such a position, the roof would have been torn off this building with the indignation of the Opposition. Hon. and right hon. Members would have been carried screaming from the House. Hon. and right hon. Members have been expelled from this House for far less than the right hon. Lady comes down with to-day.
§ Major ELLIOT
The right hon. Gentleman the late Mr. Wheatley was expelled from the House, as we all know—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, in regard to this policy, there has been a change of heart since then?
§ Major ELLIOT
We agree that everybody's heart has changed except that of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). We understand that he is still unchanged, that he stands by his election pledges; and he puts them on the Floor of the House as well as at the street corner. It is quite true that there has been a change of heart. There are the effects of office; there is the necessity of supporting the Government; there is the desirability of avoiding by-elections and general elections. I see before me the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), who can speak as to the effect of the policy of the Government during the past year. The hon. Member only got in by, first of all, receiving a letter of congratulation or support from the Prime Minister, and then denouncing the Prime Minister and his Government in every possible way.
§ Major ELLIOT
We now hear that the letter was imposed upon him. He would have sent it back, but he did not know the Prime Minister's address; he might be here, he might be there, or he might be somewhere else. Had the hon. Gentleman, who is now the Member and was then the candidate for that Division, known where to return the letter to, he would have returned it. Such is the support which the right hon. Lady is obtaining for her Government by the course of action which she and the Front Government Bench are pursuing at the present time. It is not the intention of the Opposition to divide against this Bill; it is not our intention to divide against the Motion, following the precedent which was set when hon. Members opposite were in Opposition. It is quite true that you cannot go to the unemployed and say that the shutters have been put up, that the enormous social effort which all this represents has been brought to an end. We cannot break faith with these people; but what about the faith that has been broken with the 803,000 who are now out of work, and who, when we were in office, were in remunerative 2194 employment? It was on that faith that they returned hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the present Government have a long and bitter reckoning to settle with them.
Here is the position with which the House is faced. We are making the worst of both worlds. The right hon. Lady said that she could not go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask him for more money, but she is going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and asking him for more money. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was very proud of the Estimates of expenditure which he placed before the House on the Third Reading of the Bill. He said that £10,500,000 would be required. He was not only wrong, but he was wrong to the extent of over 50 per cent. in his Estimates. The right hon. Lady recently said that the expenditure of the transitional period would be, not £10,500,000, but £18,000,000; and the most recent Estimate which she gave in answer to a question to-day ran to more than that.
The expenditure which the right hon. Lady is bringing before the House is an expenditure in borrowing and an expenditure in taxation. Borrowing really is only one half of the policy. The other half is the Supplementary Estimate of £8,000,000, which will be not less than £10,000,000 when the full figures are ascertained. That will be an extra burden on the Budget of this year. There will be £25,000,000 raised by borrowing and £10,000,000 on a Supplementary Estimate. These are the figures which the House has to realise on the Second Reading of this Bill. The Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is shattered by these figures for the transitional period. And then the right hon. Lady puts a string of questions to herself. She might have put them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. She might ask him if he is now as proud of what he said on the 16th December, 1929. He then said:We are piling up expenditure"—for what?—in order to try to bring the finances of this country into an honest and a sound condition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1929; col. 1096, Vol. 233.]Is he so pleased with the condition into which he has brought the finances of this country? Are they so very sound to-day, 2195 with this £25,000,000 of borrowing and a Supplementary Estimate for some £10,000,000 which will be laid in a few months' time? The Chancellor of the Exchequer explained as recently as last week—on the 16th July—his unemployment policy. It is one of the most astounding policies that has ever been laid before this country. He said:If you bring a foreign workman into this country to take the job of a British workman, he puts the British workman out of employment; but if the foreign workman produces goods in his own country to send here, he is providing employment for the British workman."—[OFFICTAL REPORT, 16th July, 1930; col. 1322, Vol. 241.]If a foreign seamstress at Dover is working with her sewing machine making garments, she is throwing a British seamstress out of work But when that sewing machine is wheeled on to the Channel steamer, as it passes across the Channel it comes nearer and nearer to the neutral or balancing point at which it will begin to provide employment for a British seamstress, until, after it has passed mid-Channel, it becomes a piece of machinery for providing employment for British workers, and, by the time it is landed at Calais, every time that she turns the treadle she is providing employment for a British worker. These are the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, had they not been used in all seriousness, I could not have believed them. I only believed that they were serious because the Chancellor of the Exchequer accompanied them with one of his characteristic sneers when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) found some difficulty in accepting this astounding proposition.
The proposals which are brought forward to deal with the present situation are, no doubt, excellent in themselves. The borrowing must be carried on. The right hon. Lady has torn up all her previous declarations of principle, and they have now become declarations merely of regret. At first she wrapped herself in a mantle of virtue. Then she said, "I am upon a rake's progress, but my rakishness is not as progressive as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth." That plea, too, has disappeared. She has beaten my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland). Her progress 2196 in rakishness is now at a super-Schneider Trophy speed. She is rolling down the road to destruction with roses in her hair and the wine of borrowed money in her goblet.
The right hon. Lady may consider that she desires consultation with all parties in this House, but are we so very able to enter into consultation with the right hon. Lady in an all-party conference and sign an all-party report? Do we not remember another all-party conference into which the right hon. Lady entered, and another all-party report to which she affixed her signature? She was subsequently unable to adhere to the scales of benefit which had been agreed upon in that report—[Interruption.] I refer to the Blanesburgh Report. Was that report so thoroughly adhered to that it is desirable that all parties should enter into consultation and sign again a report which may be thrown over by one of its signatories? If now we could go into consultation, if we could examine these questions to the bottom, if we could come to agreed findings and facts as to these questions, I am sure that all of us on this side of the House would be more than glad. There are many of these grave questions which I believe cannot be solved simply by one party, and on which a solution is impossible if one party begins to compete against another for votes as the result of some small advantage which is seen projecting out of the report, or of the conclusions, once they have been reached. But if it can be shown that there will be a full examination and a rigid adherence to the conclusions then arrived at, I should be more than glad to examine such a proposition with a desire to find a solution to a problem which reflects upon Parliament, and not upon any of the parties in this House so much as on all of them.
We are the guardians of a trust fund. It is an easy matter to obtain popularity by distributing trust funds. It is an easy matter to gain applause by taking the easy course, but some day or other the difficult course has to be taken. Sooner or later the Chancellor of the Exchequer, faced with the mounting deficit which arises out of figures such as these, will be forced to put before the country what the right hon. Lady says she dare not put before the House of Commons now. Are the benefits to be lowered? Are the 2197 contributions to be raised? Is borrowing to continue? There are only three solutions. If we are to accept the right hon. Lady's figures as normal, running into an order of 2,000,000 or 2,250,000 unemployed people, raising the contribution or lowering the benefits will become an immediate and an urgent necessity. We do not believe that figures such as we are now struggling under should be regarded as anything like normal, that there should be one man in six, or one in five, out of work and not able to engage in productive industry. But that demands an openness of mind, a readiness to consider alternative schemes and new problems which the Government so far has shown very little sign of acceding to. Last night the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he considers that in the next Budget some slight modification of the rigid principles of orthodoxy might be indulged in the case of the Sinking Fund. He will need to go further than that before a solution of the problem is reached. We have brought forward a solution. We have brought forward the suggestion that for the sempstress crossing the Channel on the boat, making her garments, the salt water has no magic quality in washing away all competitive stain from the garments as they enter this country.
The proposals that have been brought forward and accepted in every country in the world except ours may perhaps have some bearing upon the state of unemployment. We know the Scottish story of the old lady looking out of the window as a regiment marched by saying, "They are all out of step but our John." It may be that every country in the world is out of step except Great Britain, but the figure of 1,939,000 unemployed, and 803,000 more unemployed than last year, lends very little colour to that hypothesis. We are told there is unemployment in America and in Germany. But unemployment in Germany is going down, and in Great Britain it is going up. The Under-Secretary on the last occasion said unemployment in Germany was 3,000,000. The answer given by the Minister to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) showed that since that time the figures of the unemployed have fallen by some 300,000, with an insured population of 17,000,000. We are reaching the unemployment figure 2198 of Germany, which has 2,600,000, with a very much smaller insured population. There is not much comfort for the right hon. Lady there. It is said there are a great number of unemployed in America. America has had for ten years the biggest boom the world has ever known and, if we could have ten years of a boom like that, I should be willing to risk a year or a year and a half of unemployment. We have had no boom and the slump is getting worse. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not much risk!"] Not much as long as the hon. Member continues in the position and supports the policy of the present Government.
The right hon. Lady brought forward some most interesting suggestions to herself. She said, "Is the rationalisation of industry the sort of problem for which the Insurance Fund was created?" I think not. But let her not stop at suggesting these things to herself. Let her take some action on them. She said, "Can we make some use of the public assistance committees? Is it desirable that the geographical organisation of this country should be entirely omitted in dealing with this problem—that we should work entirely upon this functional organisation, the organisation of the Ministry of Labour." I think not, but let her consider that. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Gorbals says it is absolutely wrong. He will need to settle that with the right hon. Lady. When it is a question of dealing with a regional organisation I am certain something on the lines of a regional organisation, for at least the transitional period, will need to be adopted. At any rate that is a suggestion which we on this side and the right hon. Lady would be glad to consider together, but when she considers these things, and when she asks us to come into a conference, she must be sure that she speaks also for the hon. Member for Gorbals. She spoke of the enormous question of emigration. That is another matter that we should be glad to consider, but all these things need more than suggestions. They need a willing mind to act upon them, and the willingness of the right hon. Lady is not enough unless she also secures willingness to act upon them from some of her friends on the back benches.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
She needs more than our consent. The Under-Secretary for Scotland has a very strong record of opposition.
And bear in mind that directly after the War, when we preached emigration, every Socialist in the country said, "We will not send our sons abroad."
§ Major ELLIOT
The right hon. Lady is bringing up many of the proposals that were brought up from our side of the House and bitterly attacked by hon. Members opposite. The proposals as to transfer and as to emigration and all these things were bitterly attacked when they were advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth. [Interruption.] The hon. Member will need to discuss the matter with the Minister. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Shettleston must not impose anything upon me. I send the letter back to his address. I know where he is. The suggestion is being made by his Minister and his Government, and those are the people with whom he must discuss it. The proposals that have been considered to-day go far beyond the scope of a Bill such as this. Obviously, as was said by the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Dickson), we are dealing here with the arrival of the ambulance, but the accident is a matter of concern to the nation as a whole. The national policy which has led up to this is a matter for close and anxious consideration by everyone of us. There have been periods of abundance in the past. These have led to prosperity, to great works of construction and of building. It is not a matter for one party but for all, why abundance should come to us in the sinister guise of over-production, why it should be said the Americans are about to grow so much wheat that we shall all starve to death, and the miners to cut so much coal that we shall all freeze.
A solution of these tremendous questions is demanded. It will not be a party solution. It will certainly not be found in any gospel of hate. If we attack these questions in a spirit of bitterness and hostility, we shall deal with the question of the surplus all right. We shall destroy the surplus and there will be nothing for either of us to have. To enjoy what modern medicine and 2200 modern science have put into the hands of the human race—that is the problem before every one of us. It is a problem that is represented by figures such as we have here to-day. A problem of 1,900,000 people whose labour should be utilised, but for some reason or other we find ourselves unable to utilise it. It is a problem of taking advantage of all the great things which science and art and industry have won for us. If we approach these things in a spirit of comradeship we can succeed, but if we approach them in the spirit of those who have monopolised the title of "comrade" in one of the bitterest quarrels the human race has ever inherited, we shall not succeed. If we can rise to the height of the things which fortune is offering us, a great future awaits, not merely this country but all the civilised white countries which have gone through the industrial revolution, but if we approach it in the line of a bitter quarrel continued until we destroy the surplus and have to start to build amongst the ruins, we shall not achieve it and it will be said of our generation, as it has been said of past generations, that the gods were too kind to them. They fulfilled their prayer and it was impossible for them to utilise the gifts which a bountiful Providence desired to offer them.
§ Mr. TINKER
I do not doubt the hon. and gallant Gentleman's sincerity, but in the latter part of his speech I was wondering whether he meant it all. If he was sincere in what he said, we can agree with him on the solution of our problem. I can see that there is strong ground between us. In the other part of his speech he seemed to go out to rival the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I want to correct him on one matter. He said, if that side of the House had come forward for borrowing powers the roof would have been lifted by this side against him.
§ Major ELLIOT
I said if we had come forward with an increase of 800,000 unemployed the roof of the House would have been lifted.
§ Mr. TINKER
I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that we should have objected to borrowing powers, and I want to correct that idea. In the last Parliament, when the late Minister of Labour came to the House for borrowing powers, we welcomed the pro- 2201 posal and pointed out that anything on those lines would always be welcome, because we realised that these people had to be dealt with. With regard to the fund, we were told by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that we were losing about £450,000 per week, and that that was why it was necessary to borrow. He went on to say that in 1920 we had £22,000,000 in excess of requirements, and that the accumulated surplus of £22,000,000 disappeared in eight months. Looking at the figures for 1921, I found that during that year the unemployment figure reached the 22 per cent. rate which we have not reached at the present time, but evidently we are on the way towards that point. Our present indebtedness is £43,000,000. It will very shortly be £50,000,000, and the £10,000,000 for which we are now asking will make the total still greater.
We are now paying 5 per cent. on the borrowed money, and I ask the House whether it is right that interest should be paid upon money borrowed for this purpose? On £50,000,000 at 5 per cent. we shall have to pay £2,500,000. That sum will be placed against the fund, and will have to be met later on by the contributions of the workers and employers. Is it right that the contributions of workers and employers should have to bear this added burden? I have the strongest objection to this money having to bear interest. The House of Commons, sooner or later, will have to deal with this matter. The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley), speaking on Friday, made a remark to the effect that it was certainly not thought that we should have to pay the money back. He said:Let us face up to the fact that this is not a loan at all. A year ago in similar circumstances the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained to us that there was no possible chance of this loan ever being paid back."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1930; col. 1663, Vol. 241.]I think that it will be better for the House of Commons to face up to the matter and do away with the question of the money being a loan, and make it a gift, as it were, to the fund.
Do I understand the hon. Member to say that it was unfair that the burden should fall upon the employers and the workers?
§ Mr. TINKER
I stated that the money which we are borrowing now will have to be met by the contributions generally of the employers, the workmen and the State. Apart from the Exchequer, two bodies will have to pay the accumulated debt. In my view, the interest on the borrowed money should not be added to the sum which will have to be paid back. It is unfair, because later on, when the Fund becomes normal, it is proposed that the contributions shall fall to 6d. all round. At present, the contribution by the employer is 8d., by the worker 7½d., and by the State 8d. But the contributions will fall to 6d. all round when the debt has been cleared off. Contributions cannot fall until the whole of the debt has been paid off. The interest should not be debited against the Fund. The present rate of contributions will continue as long as the debt remains.
I find, on looking into the question of the application of the Fund, that at the present time the unemployed women contributors to the Fund have risen from 6 per cent. last year to 15 per cent., having practically caught up with the male unemployed workers. The problem is greater than it has ever been. We can always visualise the possibility of men getting back to employment, but no one knows how to deal with the females. I am not speaking in any sense against female workers. When we create schemes of employment, there is never any thought of females being brought into them. The result is that when mills close down, we have a greater surplus of female labour. One wonders how it is going to be dealt with in the future. This is a matter which will have to be faced by the House of Commons. I want the Minister of Labour to take a serious view of that aspect of the case. I put down a question the other week to find out how the figures compared, and I was amazed to find that the percentage of female workers unemployed was practically equal to that of the men, and that there had been a greater increase than ever before.
When I hear hon. Members speaking about the Fund being the "dole," I wish they could realise what is the attitude of many of the employers at the present time. In Lancashire, in a district I know best, a mining district, we have men suffering from miner's nystagmus and other forms of injury, and, owing to the 2203 Workmen's Compensation Act being weak in certain places, the employers are having these men examined. If they find that these men are what are termed only partially incapacitated, compensation is in some cases being taken away altogether and in other cases it is being reduced, with the result that the men concerned are being driven to the Employment Exchange, which is thereby having to carry a burden which should be borne by the employers. Now that the coal trade is becoming worse, large numbers of men are being driven to the Employment Exchange. As the Minister of Labour put the position the other day, when an application is made at the Employment Exchange for workers, only the very best workers are sent, and therefore these derelicts of industry will never get back to employment. They are there for all time, as far as I can see.
What is to be done with them? The employers do not want the cast-off workers. There is an ever-growing number of workers of that kind being thrown on to the Fund. They have to be kept by some one. It must be remembered that these men are not wastrels but men who have given of their best to industry, and they are hoping that something will be done for them, for their position is almost hopeless. I ask the Minister of Labour, when she is sending out the very best men—and employers will only have the very best men—to remember these poor individuals who have practically no hope at all. The Unemployment Fund cannot provide for them all the time. The time must come when we shall have to take men and women, who have no chance of getting work again, off the Unemployment Fund, and we shall have to treat them as being in a different category. They must be put upon a different plane. Something more will have to be done for them, but the Fund will have to be a separate fund.
There is the old age pension at 65. When that provision came into operation, the employers cast off the old workmen, saying, "You can have the old age pension now." What is happening at the present time? On Saturday last I attended a meeting of men's representatives in Lancashire when it was reported that at certain collieries all the men of 60 years and over had received notices. 2204 Some of these men had worked at the colliery for 20 or 30 years. There has been an amalgamation. The head of the amalgamation has said, "We must have no aged workmen." He sent word to the manager that all workmen over 60 years of age had to be discharged. The manager has been seen by the workmen's representative, and it was stated that they did not like to have to do this sort of thing but they had to carry out orders. These men have now to go to the Employment Exchange for five years with very little hope of getting any employment. No men over 60 years of age will be sent out, so that the Fund will have to bear the burden of these men for five years. This has been brought about through no fault of the workmen, but because of the state of employment and of society at the present time.
I hope that the House of Commons will realise what it means to unemployed men and women who have no hope of getting employment. Unless something is done, I am afraid that something tragic may happen. I recall the words which were used by the Financial Secretary on Friday last when he made a very true remark to the effect that if it had not been for this Fund, he wondered what would have happened to this country. If the Government had not met the position by giving greater benefits to the unemployed and by borrowing powers, the crisis would have come. I hope that the House will do everything possible in future to make the position better for the men whom I have described.
§ Sir GEORGE PENNY
I am sure a good many Members in this House will agree with many of the points which have been put forward by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), but the Minister of Labour in dealing with the fund said very little as to root causes. I am one of those who feel that the necessity for this Bill is another glaring instance of the abject failure of the Socialist Government since they have been in office. It is impossible for anyone in this House to oppose a Bill of this nature in view of the parlous plight in which we find the fund and also the great figure of unemployment which is mounting up week by week and which, I feel sure, will reach a still larger figure as long as the present Government remain in office. The definite cure 2205 which was proclaimed throughout the country a year or two ago has either been lost or it never existed. I would tell hon. Members on the opposite side that many of their supporters hold the latter view. It does not surprise me that at one of those little cheery family gatherings which are held upstairs by the Labour party the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have told his friends that he considered the present time would be disastrous for them to have an election. They have done nothing to help the position. In fact, they have gone out of their way on many occasions to aggravate it. By their profligate expenditure, by their increased taxation, by the feeling of insecurity which they have created, our great industries are paralysed and dying to-day. We see works and factories closed down or only working part time, and our great export trade rapidly passing into the hands of the foreigner.
To make the position still worse, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the other day, removed duties from industries which were gradually picking up. The workers in those industries appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to do this and the trades union representatives interested in those particular industries also appealed to him, but he paid no heed and only turned a deaf ear to them. He has always said that he wants to see men in employment, with a high standard of living, as we all do, but when he had the chance of doing something to bring that about, he did nothing. He reminds me of the man in a high position who was approached by a friend in trouble who told him his plight, and said: "I have been robbed by the foreigners. I have lost my work. My family are starving and I have nothing to give them. I want work. Can you help me?" Having listened with much sympathy, the great man rang the bell on his desk, and hope came to the heart of his visitor, but when the attendant came, he merely said: "Show this poor fellow out! He is simply breaking my heart!" That is the kind of sympathy that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given to the men who are out of employment and want work.
We know what the Chancellor of the Exchequer did in regard to the McKenna Duties. Whether it was an act of providence or whether it was pressure on 2206 the part of more far-seeing colleagues of his, I do not know, but those duties were allowed to remain, and thereby a great number of people who would have been unemployed were kept at work. But even in that act of grace the right hon. Gentleman stultified his action by raising a feeling of uncertainty as to whether the duties will be continued or not. In regard to the forthcoming Imperial Conference, he stated the other day what his position would be. He seems to be going to that Conference determined not to budge from his worn-out ideas and fallacies. We want to see him go into the Conference determined to explore every avenue whereby additional employment can be provided for our people. We saw what Mr. Scullin, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, said last week regarding the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He said:It is the absence of a sound Protectionist policy, which allowed Australia to be flooded with imports, which has brought Australia to her present difficult position. I decline to believe Mr. Snowden's intention to bang securely and bolt the door against open discussion at the Imperial Conference on the whole question of reciprocal trade.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico)
That subject is entirely outside the scope of this Bill. The hon. Member cannot discuss on this Bill a fiscal policy to be proposed at the Imperial Conference.
§ Sir G. PENNY
I am very sorry if I have trespassed, but I was hoping to show that the policy which is being pursued is going to make potential applicants for the benefits of this Fund within a very short period if we do not take care. I understood that the Chair was going to allow us to have a somewhat wide discussion. I do not wish to deal with the fiscal policy as such, but the point upon which I was speaking I felt affected the employment of our people.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member and other hon. Members are quite entitled in a broad general way to discuss the problem of unemployment and to suggest and indicate ways in which the money asked for might be more profitably spent, but they must be relevant to the subject of this Bill. It is obvious that almost every conceivable subject might be dragged in on this question of unem- 2207 ployment, but as I stated in a previous debate there are limits to the latitude which the Chair can allow.
§ Sir G. PENNY
In speaking to-day I am speaking in all seriousness and with a desire to help towards a solution of the problem. Although I may say things which grate upon the feelings of hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite, I speak with deep sincerity, in order that the Minister of Labour may look into the questions that I bring to her notice. I was pointing out that the actions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer have done much to retard our advance in the direction that we wish to go. I have a great personal friendship for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and admiration for his ability and intellectual powers, but I think it is a tragedy that Providence should have endowed him with a faculty which overrides them all, and that is his mulish obstinacy. The more he is urged to do a thing or consider it, the more he pulls back from it. That has been a great drawback to the country. His colleagues have come forward to make excuses regarding the need for this Fund. They say that it is due to world causes that we are in our present plight. Of course there are world-wide causes at work which make it extraordinarily difficult for all of us, but all our trouble cannot be put down to those causes. It is no good coming to this House and reading statistics, and saying that the position might have been worse. That is no help to our unemployed. The more optimistic Ministers even go so far as to say that there is a silver lining to every cloud. I heard of a Jew the other day who said, "What is the use of a silver lining, with silver at its present price?" That is the kind of thing that we are offering as a hope to those who are seeking employment.
There is one thing that I am going to say about the trade unions. I realise what great good the trade unions have done to their members in the past. I believe in trade unionism, so long as it works for the interests of its members; but at the present time in many directions the reverse is being done. By the rigid demarcation of work and by the lack of flexibility, it is impossible for men to give full scope to their energies and enterprise. We hear much about rationalisa- 2208 tion and making industry efficient. We want employers to rationalise, and I would also appeal to trade unionists to get the operatives to rationalise. They do not want longer hours or lower wages, nor do I want them to come about, but we have to realise that we must produce at a competitive cost if we are to retain work for our people. Therefore, I would ask the trade unionists to look at the matter from that aspect. Many trade union leaders are beginning to look facts in the face, and I want those who represent the political side of trade unions in this House to do the same thing. We have seen as regards ship repairing that by the rigid demarcation of work and the lack of flexibility, our costs are increased, work cannot be done within a specified time, and contracts which would have employed our men are placed abroad.
There is another matter to which I would direct attention. The Minister of Labour told us that there are nearly 500,000 women unemployed, 248,000 of whom are unmarried women. It seems paradoxical to have this great volume of unemployment among women, and at the same time see column after column of advertisements in the newspapers for housekeepers, domestic servants, nursery governesses, nursemaids, and such like. Cannot the committee of inquiry with regard to employment investigate the position? There is a feeling abroad that domestic service is derogatory to women. Solid work is derogatory to none. I want to see every job in this country filled, and if we could ensure that some of these unemployed people were put into these vacant jobs, I should be very pleased to do all that I could to assist the Minister of Labour in the task. The War altered the relative position of men and women as regards the employment. To-day, we see large numbers of women being employed in Government offices, and I want to know whether the committee is looking into that question to find out how many additional men have consequently been placed on the dole. I naturally wish to see our women employed, but I do not want to see them employed to the detriment of men.
§ Sir G. PENNY
I hold the view that women have greater opportunities than men of getting posts in domestic service, 2209 or in occupations of that kind. We have heard of complaints having been made by employers who have taken on men, and the Minister of Labour said that these were only loose statements. I can assure her that that is not so, for I have many cases that I could put before her. There are men who take on jobs for two or three hours; they do not like the job and then they chuck it. They go away, and do not say a word—[Interruption.] I can assure hon. Members that in taking about this matter I am stating facts and the Employment Exchanges have supplied them. Here is an extract from a report of the Birmingham authorities in regard to one of their unemployment relief schemes:We are experiencing great difficulty with a number of the men sent to the work"—They had applied to the Employment Exchange—who, in many cases, only work a few hours, and occasionally a few days, when they clear off and we hear nothing more of them. The result has been recently that we are having men coming and going all the time, which is completely disorganising our work, increasing the cost and making everything extremely difficult. As an instance, we applied for 12 men last week; 11 of them reported on the job, five of them refused to start work at all, and of the six who actually did start, four of them only stopped there about 10 minutes, and then cleared off.Those are points which I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister of Labour. I am not doing so in any spirit of antagonism. I want the whole position to be looked into, so that that kind of thing can be prevented, because it stigmatises the men who really want to work, and we know the majority do, and it is up to all in this House to try to assist them all we possibly can. I do not want to see the man who wants work and is prepared to do his bit, having to bear the stigma of actions such as those to which I have referred.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I have had no such complaint from that quarter, and I should be very grateful if the hon. Member would give me the details.
§ Sir G. PENNY
I shall be very glad to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is your authority?"] I will give it to the Minister. In speaking of the altered conditions of the time, I think we shall also have an alteration in this House. 2210 We want to see it, as the Prime Minister and others have suggested, more a Council of State than just a debating society of delegates, as it is at the present time. We hear hon. Members representing trade unions putting forward their own little particular case, quite heedless of the bigger things. I want to see a far larger outlook taken on national questions by all. A case in point was the incident which took place the other day when the party below the Gangway pressed one of their own Amendments to the Finance Bill, which was supported by their leader, on the question of reducing unemployment. When the Division was called they behaved like a covey of startled partridges not knowing where to go. That kind of thing not only does their party harm but brings this House into disrepute. I want to see all parties working more in co-operation on all matters and national interests given more consideration than party manœuvres.
The position is had and there are signs and portents which make me think there are still worse times ahead. Foreign countries are adding to their reserves of gold—[HON. MEMBERS: "Our gold!"] Hon. Members opposite are so accustomed to trifling with a matter like this when it does not affect their particular trade union that they will not listen to one who is speaking seriously. I do not mind, nor do I take any heed of it, but I do want those who seriously think out the problems of this country to consider the welfare of the people. The position is bad, and I am wondering whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has much hope of getting the revenue for which he is budgeting. We are spending additional money every day—
§ Sir G. PENNY
The Bill refers to a loan. This is not a loan at all. It is unproductive expenditure, and will have to be met. It is time we called a halt, otherwise we shall be in such a position that trade and industry will fly from this country and our workers will be worse off still. We have to remember that trade and commerce are our lifeblood, and if they fail, the poorest of our community will suffer most.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Sir G. Penny) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his sporting allegory. He seems to have brought to the House a speech which he might most appropriately have delivered on the Finance Bill last Tuesday or the Third Reading of the Finance Bill next Friday. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) who opened the debate made, as he always does, not merely an interesting but a very able speech, and he rendered a very useful service in bringing into proper perspective the large sum of money which this House is asked to sanction this afternoon in relation to some of the great national tasks which this country has faced in the past. I should like to add another figure by way of illustration and not as a criticism; and that is that in the pursuit of methods for dealing with unemployment every Government without any exception has followed the line of least resistance; that is, to rely upon relief rather than getting down to a consideration of the root causes and the provision of work. As a result of the policy which has been pursued by all Governments in the past, we have now expended in relief a sum greatly in excess of £500,000,000, and if that sum is to be augmented at the rate now proposed, and is to continue, it will soon be equivalent to the capital expenditure of our municipal authorities on revenue-producing plant.
The Minister of Labour has appealed to all Members of the House for a joint consideration of this question, and the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove replied to that appeal in terms with which I wish to associate myself. There is good reason why all parties should agree to co-operate in this matter. They have all contributed in their degree and in their time to the present position of this fund. They have varied to some degree in their methods, but all parties have contributed to the condition in which we now find ourselves. According to my observations, which are of course somewhat limited but which are a sample I have no doubt of the whole country, a change is taking place in the minds of the unemployed. There is increasing indignation and, quite naturally, a growing bitterness at their enforced idleness. They see work which could be done and work which they know 2212 ought to be done, and they cannot understand why some of it is not put in hand.
I do not intend to develop an argument on this point, but I was reminded at Question time to-day of a matter relating to the rate of house building in this country. We have just sent to another place a Bill for the removal of slums, with inducements to local authorities to touch that part of the housing question, which, in spite of the great efforts made since the War, still remains untouched, that is, the clearance of slums. There are well over 100,000 men in the building trade unemployed to-day, and there are a large number of men who normally would be occupied in trades ancillary to the building trade who are also unemployed. There is no reason why any one of these men should be unemployed at all, and, as a contribution to this matter, this House should decide, if the inducements in this Bill are not sufficient, to treat the matter as an emergency question and see that these men are no longer unemployed.
I sincerely hope that a Bill of this kind will not come before this House again in this form. We have been drifting, and this legislation is in a most unsatisfactory state. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove has put certain questions to the right hon. Lady. They are very important questions, and I propose to add to the list of interrogatories which are floating about the House. There is a great deal of fiction and pretence as to the present position of our unemployment legislation. What about this debt of £50,000,000? Is it suggested that it is a potential tax upon industry, to be suspended and launched upon our industries when they emerge, as they will in due time, from the world crisis? Is it to be a tax to be levied by means of a stamp tax on employment? Is it seriously suggested that this is to be the reward of industry when it begins to struggle again to its feet? That question will have to be faced and a decision taken upon it at no distant date.
Other questions were raised by the Minister of Labour, and I heard with some surprise her observations upon the policy of employers in relation to short-term employment. She said that they had no call for complaint because they had the advantage of being able to stand-off their employés for three days at a 2213 time. I suggest that a question which calls for urgent and earnest inquiry is the result of our whole policy of unemployment insurance upon the creation of irregular short-term unemployment. I do not congratulate the employers upon it. It may be an advantage to them, but there is another side to the question, and that is, how far the provision which is made makes employers less keen and determined, if you like less sympathetic, to keep their men employed. Is it not possible that this very provision is the source of the creation of short-term unemployment which otherwise would not exist? Again, as the right hon. Lady most properly said, the question of married women requires careful consideration. When we were engaged for so long on Clause 4 of the Act of this year, certain aspects of the Clause in relation to married women escaped the attention of the House. Hon. Members were earnestly trying to remove what they considered to be the injustice of the genuinely-seeking-work Clause, and concentrated largely upon that one aspect, with the result that other important matters escaped wtihout the attention which they deserved. That is a matter which calls for serious consideration.
In one of our earlier debates on this subject I ventured to draw the attention of the House to the question of the internal incidence of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The debt itself is a big potential tax on industry, but the whole thing as it works out is not merely a tax upon industry, but falls very unfairly and very unevenly. Take the insurance years 1924–28. The distributive and allied trades in those years have paid into this Fund £9,620,000. On the other hand, over the same period, the shipbuilding and repairing industries have withdrawn from the Fund £10,250,000. I could go on illustrating the matter by quoting figures from other industries, but that is sufficient to make my point clear, and the inquiry which the Government have in hand, dealing not merely with unemployment insurance, but with the whole question of social insurance, should now give special attention to this point and consider whether this method of dealing with the burden of unemployment insurance is, in equity and from the point of view of sound economics, the best 2214 way for the country as a whole. In an earlier debate, the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) touched upon this subject. He almost seemed to suggest that the time would come when the Whole thing would be revised, and when it would become a national charge on a non-contributory basis. On that point, however, he seemed not to be quite definite. I do suggest to the Minister of Labour that this inquiry ought to be directed with earnestness to this particular point.
I would like to stand beside the Minister of Labour in entering a protest against the continued accusations of demoralisation in relation to Unemployment Insurance. To my mind it is a singular thing that these stories of demoralisation, the accusations of laxity and of deterioration of character, are always launched by those newspapers which are particularly identified with offers, without any premium whatsoever, of free insurance for almost anything. Such newspapers are those which are particularly identified with the attacks upon the unemployed and their alleged demoralisation. There are two reasons why the charges are false. One is that the character of the people who are unemployed is such that they are not to be demoralised by any benefits which have been offered them hitherto by any Government in this country. The other reason is that this life upon the dole, which, according to these periodicals, one might imagine was a life of leisured ease, free from care, and punctuated with visits to the cinema and the public house, is really not life at all, but a drab and dreary existence.
In past years it has been a marvel to me how those who have had to live for a long period on the dole have managed to live at all. I have made it my business to find out how they do it. It is a weary existence. If they have been on the dole for a long time it is an iron ration of bread and margarine. The need of a pair of boots is a domestic problem of great gravity. The presence of an invalid in the house is a source of torment and agony to the mind, because there is no means by which the delicacies and extras which are required in those circumstances can be supplied. If there is a need for a pair of boots, how are they to be obtained? By going to some 2215 second-hand shop, buying a second-hand pair, then buying a little bit of leather elsewhere, and cobbling up the boots. The necessity for a new suit of clothes is indeed a tragedy. That is the life which light-hearted people and journalists describe as something which is demoralising to the people of this country. It is a life which is leading at the present time to increased bitterness and indignation, and it is a challenge to us who sit in this House not to be content with these measures of relief, but really to devote ourselves, with any capacity that we have and with all the good will that we possess, to the only answer to Bills of this kind, and that is the provision of work.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I welcome the note on which the last speaker ended his speech, and the protest that he made with regard to criticisms of the dole and of the way in which people are supposed to get easy money through Unemployment Insurance. He instanced the case of certain newspapers, and I certainly would like to join with him in protest against those people who write articles about these poor people who have passed through years of unemployment—writers who themselves obtain fairly large incomes for that kind of writing out of the existence of these poor people. It has been an interesting and a valuable discussion to-day. The Minister of Labour raised many questions which the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) suggested were questions that she was putting to herself. I was interested, however, to note that the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, at the end, seemed to be willing to enter into some form of co-operation with the Minister of Labour and with the Liberal party in dealing with this problem. Evidently he is not so adamant as the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) with regard to the invitation that was thrown out to the ex-Prime Minister and the Conservative party to co-operate. The Minister of Labour is to be congratulated upon the fact that she can have the co-operation of the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove in this matter.
At this time I do not want to follow in any detail the speech of the hon. and gallant Member. I do not propose to join him in his week-end with the young 2216 lady and her sewing machine across the Channel. I say this to the Minister of Labour, however: That while there are so many problems in connection with Unemployment Insurance, the resolution of a great many of them would be effected if we approached this thing from the point of view from which in the past the Labour party has approached it, that is if we approached it from the point of view of the adoption of the principle of the right to work or adequate maintenance, and accepted that as the basis upon which we are going to deal with the question. We have never managed to get that done. There was introduced this method of social insurance, which laid a certain burden upon the work-people, a certain burden upon the employers, and a certain burden upon the State, and all the time the question has not been the maintenance of the unemployed person or the provision of work for that person, but rather whether it is a sound financial insurance scheme; all the tendency has been to forget the need of the human beings and to think rather of the financial commitments.
The Minister of Labour to-day got a warning that it was to be hoped that this would be the last of this type of Bill to be brought forward, in which we were going to increase the borrowing powers. I think it is a matter of relative unimportance whether we are going to increase the borrowing power of the fund or not—relative unimportance compared with the great human problem of the deterioration of our people because of the fact that they are not in enjoyment of the income that allows them to maintain their homes and to make suitable provision for the physical and mental wellbeing of the members of their families. I believe that that is a matter of supreme importance. If only this House were going to approach the problem from that point of view, I believe there would be a solution of many of our difficulties. The last speaker said that there was rising indignation among unemployed people with regard to their treatment. He spoke of an increase of bitterness. I think that that is true. He also said that the unemployed see that there is so much work to be done, and cannot understand why they are not allowed to do it. I am afraid that I could not follow him in his statement that there is 2217 so much work to be done. Where is this work? The hon. Member suggested the provision of housing. There may be a shortage of houses, but in what else is there a shortage? Always along with it there goes the idea of the new roads that could be made. I believe that the greatest need of all is food and clothing for the people. We could get along with the roads that we have, but what the people are needing more than anything else is food and clothing. They have not got the income for these things. When some of us sought to give so many of the people the incomes that would allow them to buy more of these things that they need we were only a handful in the House. But is it only along those lines that we shall be able adequately to deal with this problem.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
I could have spoken at great length on the point to which the hon. Member has referred. I gave the illustration of housing only because it was a particular instance that arose this afternoon.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Of course, I do not wish to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman, but there are many people who talk about the amount of work that is waiting to be done, and I ask what kind of work? The hon. Member for Kingston (Sir G. Penny) brought forward what was perhaps a better illustration. Then there is the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) who is so filled with the possibilities of hay-making. These statements about so much work that is available show a wrong conception of the problem altogether, it is not so much a question of doing work here or there. Every day the rationalisation that is proceeding and the provision of new machines are making more people idle, and it is hopeless to approach the problem from that point of view. It is not rationalisation of production that will provide us with the way out, but the rationalisation of distribution. But we cannot get people to accept rationalisation of distribution, because there is this involved in it—that it will make so many rich people so much the poorer. Because of the great material interests involved we shall never have this problem approached from the right point of view. With regard to these general problems which the Minister of Labour suggested that she was consider- 2218 ing at the present time, I wished to say that they made a very imposing list as she read them out—they looked such great and fundamental issues—but they are only accidents. These problems, I am convinced, are only accidents due to a wrong method of approach to this subject. We have put all the stress on insurance rather than on the principle of the right to work or adequate maintenance.
I wish to deal with some points in connection with the administration of unemployment insurance which are, I think, bound up with the question of the expenditure of this money. The Minister referred to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and said that he had pointed out that 68,716 applicants were refused benefit on the "not normally in insurable employment" ground. She pointed out that while there were 44,000 additional claims in the last month, there had been a fall in the number of refusals from, I think, 28,000 to 20,000, and she evidently took a great measure of comfort from that reduction. But surely one would look for such a reduction in the number of refusals in connection with these claims as compared with the previous year, because, under the "not genuinely seeking work" disqualification, when a person was disqualified he could claim again in six weeks, and if he was refused a second time he could make a third claim in another six weeks. But under the "not normally in insurable employment" condition once you are down you are down for good and all. The Minister of Labour ought to go into these figures and consider the possibility of introducing legislation to get rid of this disqualification.
I have some interesting figures in connection with my own district. This problem is sometimes referred to as a problem of the married woman. It is sometimes said that the list has been swollen because so many married women have claimed who have really no right at all to unemployment benefit. If that were so, some of us would not be as excited about this matter as we are. I find that in the two Exchanges which serve my own district, the Bridgeton and Parkhead Exchanges of Glasgow, from 13th March to 14th April there were 382 disallowances of men's claims and 409 disallowances of women's claims. From 2219 15th April to 12th May there were 757 disallowances of men's claims and 253 disallowances of women's claims, and corresponding figures are shown for the other Glasgow Exchanges. I was also interested to see if this was a Glasgow phenomenon, something due to the administration of our Exchanges as compared with other Exchanges, and by means of questions in this House I got the figures for other Exchanges. I find that the same thing applies in Birmingham, for example, where there were 736 men's claims for a specified period, and 556 of these were disallowed, while in Newcastle-on-Tyne, out of 1,769 men's claims there were 1,181 disallowances.
The Minister knows that most of these people have been in insurable employment. They are being refused benefit because they have had a long period of unemployment. Because of the length of the period of unemployment they are regarded as having gone outside the ambit of insurable employment. It is true that their cases are considered by the courts of referees but in regard to the working of those courts, I find, for example, that registration by courts of referees is being taken as something which has to apply in practically every case. There is an umpire's ruling but the umpire's ruling is being misinterpreted and is quite definitely the opposite of the interpretation put upon it. I suggest to the Minister that she should bring to the notice of the courts of referees what the umpire's ruling is with regard to registration. We have had complaints made in this House in the past in connection with unemployment insurance about the Minister of the day sending out secret notices and secret instructions to local employment committees and that sort of thing, but here is a good opportunity, not for a secret circular, but for an open circular.
I also think that the Minister ought to pay a great deal of attention to the way in which the courts of referees are working in relation to the hearing of cases by incomplete courts. The Parliamentary Secretary when he was in Glasgow, I believe, considered that question among other questions and I myself asked in the House whether the Minister would not definitely make it impossible for a claim to be disallowed by an incomplete court. The Minister told me that she had not the 2220 power. I wish to say here to-day that she has the power. These courts work under regulations made by the Department and laid upon the Table of this House and it is one of those regulations which allows incomplete courts to function. I have put figures before the House regarding the court in my own division showing that out of 1,565 cases heard by incomplete courts, only 13 were allowed to apply to the umpire. It was definitely put into the Statute that the applicant should have the right of going to the umpire if the court was divided in its opinion, but that right is practically being taken away by this procedure.
The Minister may reply that an applicant need not take an incomplete court unless he likes but haw does it work? He is told, perhaps, that his case may not be heard for months or he is told, "You are one of those know-alls" and he has a feeling that he is prejudicing his case. Remember that all the time you are dealing with people who because of their unemployment, because of their poverty, are afraid of coming into a position in which they might incur the hostility of the officials of the Exchange or in which they think they might incur the hostility of those officials. I ask the Minister to consider making a new regulation to the effect that no claim should be disallowed by an incomplete court, but, that where it is an incomplete court, and the person or persons concerned think the claim is one for disallowance on these grounds, they should refer it to a full court so that the full statutory rights meant to be given to the applicants shall really be theirs.
We have heard the statement that "doles" demoralise the recipients. I, myself, have not perhaps a very high opinion of many hon. Members opposite but I think that, on the whole, in very many respects, they compare with people in other parts of the House. I do not think that hon. Members opposite have been unduly demoralised by the doles of which most of them are in receipt. It is quite true that their doles in certain respects are in a different category from those connected with Unemployment Insurance. For one thing, they are very much greater in amount and they may be considered as the legitimate fruit of the wisdom of hon. Members opposite in choosing parents who were able to leave them well-endowed. But what demoral- 2221 ises the unemployed is the smallness of the amount which they receive. They are not able to run their homes properly on what they get. They are up against every kind of difficulty; everything tends to dishearten them, and thus it goes on month by month. They may get employment for a few months and then they are out again and they have to start the weary round over again and face perhaps many more months of unemployment on this pitiful income which does not allow them a decent standard of life. It is that which is demoralising and breaking the spirit of the unemployed, and, consequently, I hope since we have all this talk about a reconsideration of the whole question, that this Labour Government will approach it from the point of view of increasing the amount.
I know the argument that if the amount is increased many of the people in receipt of unemployment benefit will be getting more than people engaged in certain employments. I would make this condition also—if persons can get more money through Unemployment Insurance than they are getting in their employment, then let them go on to the Insurance Fund, and thus force up wages. The curse of to-day is low wages in this and other countries. The surplus production which is not being distributed is choking up everything and is going to lead to many difficulties in the future. I would appeal that, in the working of the Act, the Minister should make it a point to see that there is introduced a change in spirit on the part of the courts of referees by their being made to understand that they are not to strain the law against the applicants.
There is a man, one of my own constituents, who has been for years in insurable employment. He falls out of employment and is out for some years. He has a physical defect—his speech is difficult—and because of this, when he applies for a job, he finds it very difficult to get into employment. I bring the case before the court of referees and to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who has inquiry made into it, and he says he cannot interfere with the finding of the court of referees. I then take the case further with him, and say, "Here is this individual, who has never been in any employment but insurable employment in 2222 his life, when he has been employed. What are you going to do for him? Can you do something to help him to a job of some kind?" The Parliamentary Secretary writes back that the labouring employment at which this man had worked was such employment that there are few vacancies, and he advises him to keep in touch with the Exchange, although he cannot hold out very much hope.
What is the man to do in the interval? He has no unemployment insurance benefit and no job to be got. He has some impediment in his speech. Then there are others, who have 40 and 50 per cent. disability that they got in the Great War, in seeking to save this country, and they find it almost impossible in these days, with nearly 2,000,000 unemployed, to get a job. What are you going to do with those people? They go to the public assistance committees and try to get what is called Poor Law relief—some of them are single people—but in Glasgow they can hardly get anything from the public assistance committee. They have not been able to live in lodgings but have had to go into a model lodging house, and the idea is that there is something specially wrong with them, whereas what is wrong is not with these individuals, but with this system which has almost 2,000,000 unemployed to-day.
I welcome the speech of the hon. Member for Birkenhead East (Mr. Graham White). I welcome his protest at the way these people are held up, but there is one thing that I would like to go out from this House to-day, and that is that the complaint from the Conservative Opposition in this House is not that the Minister of Labour is not sufficiently generously administering the Act in the proper way to give these people benefit, but the protest from those benches is at the profligacy of expenditure. I want the unemployed people to know how little they are getting compared with what they ought to be getting at the present time, but the Conservative party, the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) and the Members on those benches, are protesting against the profligacy of the expenditure of this Government in making provision for the unemployed.
What is wrong with this Government is not their profligacy, but their economy. I am glad that this time they are coming 2223 and simply bringing in a Bill to increase their borrowing powers. In the previous Measure the State took over the burden of the additional expenditure, but I believe that that money would have been far better spent in providing additional benefit rather than in keeping the debt on this Fund at a smaller figure. That money, distributed to the unemployed, would have been fruitful, and it would have produced employment in a far better way than it has done in simply being an incident in connection with the bookkeeping accounts of this Fund. I do not think that, when the Conservative Members go to the various parts of the country to tell about the misdeeds of this Government, they are going to have a very good case when they say that this Government gave 17s. a week to the unemployed man instead of reducing it, say, to 15s. That is the purport of this accusation of profligacy.
I hope the House is going to approach this matter from the right point of view. The unemployed man and the unemployed woman are entitled to as decent a standard of life as any Member of this House, and I hope that soon the working-class people are going to see that that is achieved. It is said that this problem will only be solved by the co-operation of parties. I do not believe it. It will only be solved by one party, by the working-class party seeing that the workers get the full return for their labour, that there is not created this surplus production, this surplus value that is robbed from them. Give the workers the full product of their labour, and you will solve your problem of unemployment and give to your people a decent standard of life.
§ Captain EDEN
The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) is profoundly mistaken when he thinks that our charge against the Government to-day is one of profligacy in having given too much money to the unemployed. On the contrary, we condemn the Government, not for its generosity, but for its failure. That is precisely the charge which will be brought against the Government—
§ Mr. STEPHEN
The hon. Member for Kingston (Sir G. Penny), speaking from those benches, stated that the expenditure was profligate expenditure, and that is all that I said.
§ Captain EDEN
I am not dealing with the hon. Member for Kingston, but with the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I am telling him that the condemnation which he will suffer, without doubt, and deserve, is not the condemnation that he has not spent enough money, but because his Leader, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrote to the "Daily Herald," for instance:In our first Session we shall deal with unemployment and bring relief and hope to the workers of this land. We shall not disappoint those who have shown belief in us.I suggest that by the time the next General Election comes, hon. Members opposite will be uncomfortably familiar with that pledge. It is neither worth while nor necessary for hon. Members opposite to attempt to explain away that. The confession of failure lay in what the right hon. Lady said in her speech this afternoon. It is not the unemployed whom she was defending; it is not the unemployed who are in the dock; it is not insurance which stands condemned. It is the Government which is in the dock. We know that the mass of the unemployed are genuinely seeking work, but we are confronted with the position, for instance, in my own constituency where there was practically no unemployment a year ago, but where the percentage is comparatively high now. We are confronted with that position, and we expected to hear from the Minister of Labour some explanation as to why we are being asked to provide this new money, or at least some reason why we might hope there was going to be something done to ensure that we should not have to provide still more when the month of November comes. But not a word about policy, nor any explanation of the present state of affairs—only a very interesting but entirely departmental analysis of the working of the present Act. The right hon. Lady took great credit to herself for the working of the Sections which affect benefits, though in point of fact they are not her Sections. She did not put them in the Act. We remember who was responsible for them in the first instance, and it was certainly not the present Government.
I confess that I have listened with growing depression, in the years that I have been in this House, to these debates on unemployment insurance problems, 2225 and we never seem to get any further, but I have never heard a speech from a responsible Minister which had less relation to the facts than that of the right hon. Lady to-day. For all that she said, we might have been in a position where unemployment was going down for the summer and the status of the fund improving, and we might be making provision for an ordinary seasonal rise in the autumn, instead of which we are confronted with figures which are far worse than anything that this country has known hitherto, and still worse if you make allowance for the present time of the year. What is she going to do about it? What proposal is she going to make? There was absolutely no suggestion that she had any realisation even of the seriousness of the present position. It is small wonder that Parliament in these days falls into disrepute, when a Minister of the Crown seems to be so utterly out of touch with the pressing difficulties of the day.
The hon. and gallant Member who spoke on Friday on the Financial Resolution made what seemed to me to be a plea that the figures should be published less frequently. I gather that one of the reasons for that was that these figures have a somewhat demoralising influence upon trade and industry in this country. Certainly I think there is a measure of justification for that, but it is not a question of the publication of figures as such which the Government have to consider, and which they should long since have considered, but it is a question of whether or not the figures that they do publish accurately reflect the position. The right hon. Lady to-day gave us a long explanatory dissertation, dividing these figures into their categories. Yes, but the public as a whole does not read the commentary, but only reads the figures, and in the first place what we need is some fresh arrangement of our insurance system which shall show the figures as they should be shown. That is much more important than suppressing them.
I had not much faith in the election promises of the party opposite, but I did think that, as a Labour Government, if they did nothing else, they would turn their attention to the present position of unemployment insurance and try to put it on some scientific basis. I thought we 2226 should see a genuine insurance system separated from a system of relief, and that if more funds were necessary for relief, they would be made available, but it is not right to saddle this fund with great burdens for which it was never intended and for which its present insolvency is not responsible. I want to ask the Minister whether the Government have under consideration any system that is going to provide this insurance fund so that it has some true relation to our industrial needs and so that we may see the problem of relief, which is an entirely different problem, in its true and correct perspective. I suggest that that is something which the Government might do.
I hope we shall hear no more from the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the wonderful financial integrity which he has set up in this country and of the superiority of his performance over that of his predecessor. We are being asked for another loan of £10,000,000, and so far as one can judge from the right hon. Lady's speech, a further £10,000,000 will be required at the latest in the middle of November, and this is the Government that prides itself on not borrowing! The Chancellor of the Exchequer was telling us last night that he was going to keep the Sinking Fund intact. His pride is to practise financial purity there, so that he can practise financial impurity here. I confess that no one is less entitled to congratulate himself on the financial position of this Fund than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who must bear that responsibility. He is, indeed, in my judgment the Joseph Surface of modern politics. Some people think he would go to the stake for his fiscal and financial purity. I do not believe it except the stake were a sham one and the flames painted cardboard.
What of the future? Surely the hon. Gentleman, when he replies, is going to give some indication of what the Government intend to do with regard to the difficulty with which this Fund and the country are confronted. The hon. Gentleman below the Gangway made one reference; he said we want roads. Roads from Nonsuch to Nowhere. That will not help any of us very much, but I will not discuss that now, because it will be out of order to do so. I would only say 2227 that, in my judgment, there is very little help to be found there. The right hon. Lady herself made reference to two matters where she might find assistance to enable us to carry this Fund through to solvency. Studying this problem of unemployment insurance on broad lines, you have to deal with the sheltered and the unsheltered industries. You will not meet the situation unless you take fully into account the differences between the sheltered and the unsheltered. That is the first essential which the Government must face. The second is this: I wonder whether any present occupant of the Treasury Bench has read the record of nearly 150 years ago, when 40,000 men from the United States of America went in to Canada. The Minister of Labour was complaining just now about the falling off in migration as being one of the troubles which beset us. That is no doubt true, but what is she going to do about it? I believe that a reason for the failure of our migration policy is the fact that we are not dealing with it on a large scale as Wakefield did. We are trying to tinker with the matter; we are sending them out in driblets instead of in waves. Now, I think, is the time to consider the operation of this matter on such a large scale as I have indicated.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Lawson)
Has the hon. Gentleman taken into consideration the recent financial offer made to the Colonies?
§ Captain EDEN
Of course I have, but it has never been on such a scale as I have suggested. They have been sent out in driblets. [HON. MEMBERS: "They will not have it."] Why do you not try it on a sufficiently large scale? Why say it is going to fail? Have not the Government failed already? Is not this Bill a confession of failure? I suggest that the matter should be taken into consideration at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. In two days' time a book will be published in Canada by a professor of economies in which a suggestion of this kind receives the warmest support, but, of course, it cannot be carried except on a large scale. How can we expect this Government to do anything on a large scale? I beg Members opposite not to take up the part of inverted 2228 Micawbers, only waiting for something to turn down. If that is to be the attitude to any suggestions made, then, indeed, the outlook is even blacker than it would appear to be.
The Government have an Economic Council. What is it doing about the matter? This is a subject which might well be put before it for consideration. While we are voting more money to-day for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, there are members of the community applying to county councils for small holdings. What steps are to be taken to finance these? Is it not only finance that holds them up? Will the hon. Gentleman look into that matter? Will the Economic Council be asked to consider it and see whether this may be a way of helping to stop the drain on the Unemployment Insurance Fund? I confess that, as I listened to the speech of the Minister, I felt an atmosphere which was described by Dr. Johnson as inspissated gloom. There seemed to be no ray of hope, no indication of any new idea. I hope that before this debate is ended, we may have some assurance that the Government are alive to the position. They have been 18 months in search of a mind and have not yet found it. Before the debate closes, I hope that we shall have an indication that if they are not able to deal with the difficulty, at any rate they have a realisation of its existence and of its tragedy.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Having listened for a year to the debates on unemployment, I wish to call attention to two or three difficulties. I think that all ought to look at the problem with eyes free from prejudice. Let us see if we can discover the real difficulty. I do not see how overburdened officials, and committee members on various bodies who have to discharge their duties, can, in connection with the test of genuinely seeking work distinguish between those who are genuinely seeking work and the somewhat rare case of the shirker. I do not believe that the best laid scheme of unemployment insurance is going to distinguish between the genuinely seeking work and the person who is not perhaps so anxious as he might be to try to get work. The problem is immeasurably aggravated, I suggest, by our adherence to the British method of flat rates of contributions and flat rates of benefit. I 2229 call it the British method because, as far as I know, it is unique. I do not know of any Continental country where unemployment insurance is carried on by this system of flat rate contributions and benefits. They all either divide the unemployed into groups according to their industrial status, with a special rate of benefit and of contribution, or the rate of contribution and of benefit are expressed as a percentage of their rate of wages.
What is the bearing of that upon the position of the Unemployment Fund which has made this Bill necessary? Consider what happens in the case of the ordinary unskilled man who, perhaps, has a wife and several children. The small contribution that he has to make is a considerable strain upon these wages, although they may not appear so large to the well-paid artisan. With unemployment insurance as it is, his rate of benefit may be nearly, or even more than, his rate of wages. We must all recognise that human nature, being what it is, if a man when out of employment is likely to get as much as or more than when working, there will be a certain tendency for him to relapse the fibre of his efforts to find work. Supposing the insurance were arranged on the German, Dutch or other European standard, this man would then have to pay a smaller sum, which would be less of a burden on his wages, but when he was unemployed he would know that whatever his benefit it would always bear a direct relation to the amount of his earnings while in employment. It works out in some of the Continental countries at 50 per cent.; I think that is the usual rate.
I have often discussed with our British officials the difference between the two systems, and always they have said that to attempt to raise contributions and pay benefits according to the wage of the employed person would be administratively impossible. I have discussed the same idea several times when in Geneva with officials there. When I visited the International Labour Office in Geneva there were a German and a Belgian in charge of that department which has produced the weightiest tome on Unemployment Insurance that we have had, and these officials were familiar with the whole subject. I have always been assured by them that the British system of the flat rate was a sort 2230 of bee in the bonnet of the British official; that it was an insular fact, and that it was a grave obstacle to the standardisation of the whole international system of insurance, which is so important in the eyes of those who realise we shall never have proper labour conditions until we have international standardisation.
The second feature in our insurance policy is the employer's contribution. I make bold to mention this question, which I have not heard alluded to, by the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did once make the statement that he had been opposed to the employer's contribution when the Unemployment Insurance system was first introduced. But from the Members above the Gangway, who are always talking about the burden of these social payments on industry, I have never heard one suggestion made that we might get rid of the employer's contribution. And yet have they asked themselves, if these insurance payments are a burden, what part is a burden on industry? Surely not the worker's payment? I am sure they cannot think that. Also, if we are to believe the Colwyn report, not the contribution of the State, as long as that is levied through Income Tax on the higher range of income. If we examine most of the criticism of Unemployment Insurance we shall see that the employer's contribution is always adhered to. I could develop many reasons to show why employers' contributions are economically unsound and industrially mischievous. I will merely say this. When the reconsideration of the whole scheme is undertaken, might we not consider whether it will not be infinitely less a burden on industry, and more economical, to see that, whatever proportion of the demand that it is thought right and proper to put on the employing class, is paid by them, not through an ad hoc contribution, but as ordinary taxpayers?
I am aware that, in lightly dealing with these two features in our policy, I am dealing with a subject which may seem to some people academic, but is it not about time that, in considering our unemployment policy, we applied to it that same idea of thorough rationalisation which we talk so much about when we consider the rest of our industrial structure? At present, we keep on mend- 2231 ing a patch here in our unemployment insurance system, and mending a leakage there, and putting temporary additions on to a structure which, after all, in its origin, was built up in those post-War times when everybody was in a hurry, and when we were faced with a tremendous problem of unemployment which most of us believed was going to be temporary. It has not proved temporary, and is it not about time that we considered the possibility of building a permanent structure to replace that lath and plaster, corrugated iron building, which we call our unemployment insurance system? I have always felt that insufficient attention was paid to these points, and that just because we are pioneers in the whole world in the matter of health and unemployment insurance, we pay the penalty of pioneers and have not chosen to benefit by the experience while other nations have benefited by our mistakes. Need we always be stuck fast and never pull ourselves out?
I want to deal with a much more familiar question, that of women's unemployment. Several speakers have reminded us of the alarming fact that, though women's unemployment is smaller than men's, because there are fewer women employed than men, women's unemployment has risen at a much higher rate than men's unemployment. There are 400,000 women unemployed, or more than double the number a year ago. We must have a thoroughly specialist consideration of the problem of women's unemployment by the select group of persons, whoever they may be, who are discussing the whole question of unemployment. This House, where 600 out of the 615 Members belong to the male sex, is not likely to dispute the proposition that women's unemployment forms a special problem. Men are apt to over-rate the differences between the sexes, but it forms a special problem, not because of inherent differences between men and women, but because their occupations are mainly different, and their rates of pay are different; and, though men and women are equally subject to the disease of matrimony, it takes them in different ways. The disease of matrimony when it attacks women has a much more disastrous effect on their 2232 industrial career, and that has a vital effect on the whole problem of unemployed women.
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether three possibilities to mitigate unemployment among women are being explored. First, with regard to relief work: We had from a distinguished Member an example of the masculine attitude towards relief work as applied to women. He said that it was unsuited to women because they could not be put upon afforestation or road work. Therefore, where women's unemployment is concerned, we must only watch and pray. I suggest that if some of that extra skill, which is so abundantly available where men are concerned, were brought to bear upon the problem, it would be found that there were methods that were suitable for women. Secondly, in regard to transference: I do not think that we have been given any information as to whether the Transfer Board has done anything to transfer women. The vast increase in the number of unemployed women has occurred almost entirely in the cotton and textile industries, where the unemployment is brought about by such causes as oriental competition, which make it probable that these districts will never recover their former position. It is no use watching and praying until the cotton and textile women workers are re-absorbed into industries in Lancashire. They are the very cream of our industrial women workers. They are skilled, they are organised and self-dependent kind of women, who are accustomed to remain in industry throughout life, and do not look upon it as a steeping stone towards domestic life. They are women who could form valuable groups, as at one period in history the Huguenots formed in British industry; if they were moved to the southern counties, their fresh vigour might bring life into those industries which, in some cases, have an unsatisfied demand for women workers.
Thirdly, there is the problem of training. So far as I can make out, hardly anything is being done in this matter, except for that one occupation of domestic service. I do not belittle domestic service, and I want to take this opportunity of saying that I believe that some Members opposite are by their 2233 cruel thoughtlessness doing harm by the contempt that they are apt to pour on domestic service as an opening for women. They are strengthening a tendency, which they will admit is really a snobbish tendency, to believe that a woman loses caste when she engages in domestic service, although she does not lose caste if she does unpaid work at home for her father and mother. It is equally useless to speak, as hon. Members on this side sometimes do, as if domestic service were the universal panacea to cure women's unemployment. The truth is that domestic service is wholly unsuited to many of the unemployed women. If they offered themselves for domestic service, they could not get it. It is a mistake to suppose that domestic service is anybody's job. It is skilled work, and many employers would rather go without servants than take an untrained girl out of a Lancashire or Yorkshire mill. In addition, there are many of the unemployed women who have domestic service duties which prevent them taking residential occupations, and many who by natural aptitude are not fitted for service.
I ask the Government to explore much more thoroughly than they have done the possibilities of training women for other occupations. For thirty years I have been pleading for a greater development of day training schools for women and girls. We are far behind nearly every European country, and especially France which is a serious competitor in many of the industries which could employ so many women. There should be real co-operation for this development between the Ministry of Labour, the body that is providing unemployment grants for relief work, and the Board of Education. There ought to be some representation of women on whatever committees are dealing with special aspects of unemployment, and it would be as well if there were a special committee of women of experience in various problems connected with unemployment to act as an advisory committee to whatever main committee is dealing with the task.
I welcome the stress that has been laid by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) on unemployment as it applies to women, but I am afraid that she does not quite appreciate the reasons why some of us on 2234 these Benches have put up opposition to domestic service. In domestic service, as in factory or any other kind of work, there is a law of supply and demand, and we may be reasonably sure that if the wages and conditions were sufficiently good, there would be no natural lack of workers, especially in these days when the general level of wages and conditions are low enough. Further, we are gravely concerned because the Employment Exchanges, unwittingly perhaps, but in a very real way, are being made an instrument with which to reduce the status, and very often the wages of women, once they become unemployed. I have tried without success to get a definite reply from the Minister of Labour to the question whether a woman who is trained in office work, factory work, or shop work is free to refuse domestic service, and not thereby jeopardise her right to benefit. I can get no definite answer. I find in the west of Scotland, and I would not be surprised if it applies to a much wider area, that once women become unemployed, whether they have been shop workers, factory workers, or any other kind of workers, they very soon find that they are offered domestic service. I am certain that Members of the House would very soon object, if every time a butcher or a baker or a carpenter became unemployed, he was offered manual labour on the worst conditions and level of wages.
Our objection to domestic service is that very often we find women against their will forced into this sphere of work, and, once they are in it, they have two great difficulties to contend with. Domestic service is not an insured occupation, and, in addition to all her other troubles, this woman is faced with the position that she might again find herself unemployed, and no longer entitled to benefit. Once this woman accepts domestic service, she finds that she is not on the spot to hear of offers of work in her own employment, or, if she finds that there is an opening in the factories, a woman who has been more recently employed, and has not changed her employment to any other kind of occupation, has a much better chance of getting the opening. Therefore, I ask the House to realise that, in objecting to pushing women into domestic service irrespective of the consequences, it is not because we do not want employment for women, but because 2235 we want that employment to be found on fair and reasonable terms.
We want the Government to give more time and thought than they have given to the provision of schemes that will modify the unemployment problem among women. We on these benches do not expect the Government to come forward with schemes that will cure unemployment. One of the fundamental things about Socialism, and one of the reasons why there is a Socialist movement, is because we know that unemployment is an integral part of the system, and so long as we have this present system, we shall have unemployment. I believe that we might modify it slightly, and I believe that we ought to be employing more men and women in the building trades.
I am afraid I do not share the optimism of the Liberals that they are going to do very much by their road schemes. Indeed, one finds that in the case of roads, as of everything else, the machines are doing the major part of the work and this problem of the machines must force the House, if it is going to square up to the issue of unemployment, to realise that there will be permanently a number of people who cannot be brought into industry. What surprises me about the attitude of the Government is not that they are not doing the impossible, curing unemployment, but that they go on bearing all the humiliation of having the figure of nearly 2,000,000 unemployed held up before them as the unemployed army.
We come here to-day to pass this Financial Bill with apologies, as a kind of makeshift, whereas we could be spending the money on sections of some of the 2,000,000 proudly and with credit if only we used a little discrimination and did not treat the 2,000,000 as one lump but divided them into the different elements of which that figure is composed. I want to see the Government reducing the number of people who are not employed by taking out those who are so old that they never again will be employed, by taking out all those over 65—or let it be an earlier age if it must be so, if the machines are coming in so rapidly—and spending money in giving an honourable and a reasonable pension to those old men instead of giving it in the form of a dole. 2236 Even £1 a week as a pension will be more acceptable than 17s. as unemployment benefit. At the other end, the children who are now on the labour market could be provided for with maintenance allowance. That would reflect infinitely more credit on the Government than they get by spending this money in an indiscriminate lump on unemployment benefit.
To come back to the position put before us by the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot). He stated the case very well, although I am afraid he is not prepared to apply the remedy. The position is that we are producing so rapidly from our coalfields, our wheat-fields and from other sources that we cannot consume all the commodities at present on our hands, and it is absurd to suggest that we should tackle this problem by trying by any artificial means to create more work. We on these benches, if we had the power to deal with it, have the remedy. Hon. Members opposite are far off the mark when they imagine that they can go to the country and put forward a case that will condemn the Government on the unemployment issue. They are under-estimating the level of education among the working class, who realise that there always will be unemployment and poverty until all this wealth which is at our command is more fairly divided. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove was pleading eloquently for a remedy, but he is far too well versed in the Socialist case as well as in the Tory case not to know that we could do a great deal to solve the problem he stated if more money went into the ordinary homes of this country. The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities said there are women unemployed in Lancashire and Yorkshire who will probably never be employed again. It is a difficult problem, puzzling the wisest heads, to know what to do with these women, but I do not think any hon. Member can contradict me when I say that we could employ at least some of them in their old occupations if there were a larger demand for cotton and woollen goods and all the other things of which we find there is a scarcity in the homes of the country.
In speaking to-day, I am not asking the Government to do the impossible, but am asking hon. Members opposite to realise that there 2237 is a Socialist case which contends that by the proper scientic distribution as well as the production of the wealth of this country we could abolish both poverty and unemployment. But that is not within our present power. What is within our present power is to provide more adequately for men and women who are unemployed. I hope that before the winter comes the Government will reconsider the allowances for the unemployed, particularly for the children. A most eloquent appeal was made from the Liberal Benches describing how an unemployed worker went to a secondhand shop to buy a pair of shoes, and to another shop to buy a patch to put upon them. We cannot claim that we do not know the poverty problem, that we do not know the worry and the pinching and the scraping. If what was described happened in a house where there is no children, we all know that things must be a thousand times worse where there are children, and any hon. Member ought to be ashamed to get up and show how well he or she knows the poverty problem unless at the same time he or she is willing to go into the Division Lobby in favour of more adequate maintenance allowances, particularly for the children. That is what I ask the Government to do, to give the old unemployed an honourable position, a more care-free position, by giving them old age pensions instead of the dole, and by providing for the young workers.
In this House we are inclined to say "provide work"—of any kind, at any wages, under any conditions; if only work is provided for a man he ought to be grateful and happy ever afterwards. I want our Minister of Labour to pay more attention to the conditions under which men are working on road and similar schemes. There is not a silver lining, but a very unpleasant lining, to the scheme of the Liberal party. In my own constituency there are men employed on a road scheme financed, in part at least, by the Government. Those men go out at six o'clock in the morning, and if the weather be such that they cannot start work there they are waiting until seven o'clock, drenched to the skin, with no shelter, and with no sign of the weather improving. Then they go home, and because they have shown the intelligence and commonsense to go home when they were soaking, and there was no chance 2238 of better weather, they have been dismissed by their employers, treated almost as if they were dogs and had no right to make an independent decision. I ask the Minister not to be satisfied with providing work of any kind and under any conditions, but to lay it down categorically that any employer, whether a local authority or a private contractor, given public money to carry out work, must be a model employer so far as wages and trade union conditions go.
That is very far short of seeking to solve the unemployment problem. It is not our job, as I have said, to pretend that we can do that. It is hon. Members opposite who are going to the country at the next election asking for support to carry on the present system, although we know from their own suggestions that they cannot cure unemployment. I admire the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain Eden). He did put forward a suggestion as to how to provide work, but when he went on to enlarge upon his scheme he reminded me rather of the bad type of housekeeper who cleans up by brushing all the dust underneath the carpet. His method of dealing with unemployment was to get people out of the country. I wonder whether he knows what is happening to those who are already out of the country. They have no unemployment scheme, no proper poor relief, they are starving and begging and going from place to place in a hopeless search for work. There is little wonder that those of us on this side who are working people, and who know that it is our kith and kin who will be affected by these emigration schemes, look at them very closely. If the hon. and gallant Member can suggest schemes and is willing to finance schemes, or go into the Division Lobby and vote for money to finance schemes, that will really guarantee that these workers will be as well treated as they are at home, that if they do not find work we will give them unemployment benefit abroad, then we might be prepared to consider such schemes or to allow the unemployed workers to consider them, but we are going to be no party whatever, whether the suggestion comes from the benches opposite or from our own Front Bench, to indiscriminate 2239 schemes of shoving workers abroad no matter what the consequences may be.
I hope that the Government, if they can do nothing else, will at least remember the coming winter—[Interruption]—remember the coming winter—and that Members opposite are responsible for the children of unemployed workers receiving 2s. a week. There is not a single one of us who could go into the Dining Room of the House of Commons and get a single meal for 2s. a week, and yet 2s. has to feed and clothe the children of unemployed workers for a Whole week. The unemployed woman has to pay the same price for her food and the same money in rent as the unemployed man, and I do not see why she should get less benefit than the man. I would like to see the benefits both for the man and the woman brought up to at least £1 a week. If we cannot do that, at least I want to see the unemployed woman paid as much as the unemployed man. If we could do that, while we should not be curing unemployment, we should be giving hope and encouragement to unemployed workers, because they would feel that we were doing all we can with our limited power, and they would then be ready to give us that unlimited power which would enable us really to get rid of this great and utterly unnecessary army of unemployed workers, in a world which is overflowing with wealth of every kind.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I do not propose to follow the hon. Lady in her eloquent and vivacious speech, except to say that she ought to be reminded that we are discussing a Bill to provide the Government with money with which to carry out their duty as trustee of funds which are contributed by employers, the employed and the State. Her argument will no doubt be listened to with great attention by the Ministry of Labour, and no doubt the Government will consider whether they ought not to carry out many of the promises which, as she has reminded us, they made, and on which they climbed to power. One cannot help feeling a great deal of sympathy with the Minister in her task this afternoon. She has had to go back upon her own statements as to what was the right thing to do. She notoriously hates borrowing in order to make ends meet, yet we find her adopting a course which is against her principles. 2240 One cannot help being sorry, also, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who came here yesterday and preened himself on his financial purity and on the deflationary method of increasing the Sinking Fund and to-day sees the mortifying spectacle of another Department increasing inflation by increasing the floating debt through borrowings to make ends meet under the Unemployment Insurance Act.
However, I do not wish to make debating points, but to respond to the invitation of the Minister of Labour by making a few constructive suggestions which in my opinion, and in the opinion of a great many of us on this side, may contribute to dealing, if not with the unemployment problem, at any rate with the unemployment figures, which are a different thing altogether. I would like to ask the Minister of Labour whether she is satisfied that that method is not aggravating the problem. The speech which was made by the right hon. Lady seemed to indicate that she had some doubts on that point, and she gave several instances which drew an artificial picture of unemployment in this country at the present time. She mentioned short time and the running of industry by sending people off work in order that the employing interest might obtain the benefit of the fund to which they contributed. I think that would be an abuse of the fund which was not intended when the system of national insurance was introduced. The right hon. Lady mentioned a case of rationalisation where a whole community was thrown out of work, and where the employés have become permanently on the Unemployment Fund. I think that shows that the present method is breaking down, and that the fund is causing a lack of fluidity in labour which is aggravating so much the unemployment problem in this country. I ask the Minister whether it is not obvious that a fund in which no party contributing to it really has any interest left can ever be a satisfactory method of running unemployment insurance.
We have been invited to make constructive suggestions, and I want to suggest that the Government have an unrivalled chance of abolishing the present system, which bas broken down, and replacing it with something better. We 2241 talk about an insurance system. What kind of an insurance is that from which you exclude all the best risks. The hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Miss Lee) used an argument with which I sympathise when she mentioned the case of women who were asked to take domestic service, and who refused to do so because they would be adopting an uninsurable occupation, and would lose their right to benefit. That is a matter which deserves the close attention of the Government, and we should endeavour to settle these matters without depriving those people of insurance benefit.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Relief administered on a national scale. I think there ought to be a separate fund contributed to on an actuarial basis from which relief could be drawn very differently from the way in which it is drawn at the present moment. Let us consider for a moment how the system works. An employed man may contribute to the Fund for years, and he may never draw a penny from that Fund. That is unfair because that man is bearing an unfair share of the burden of national relief. The system bears unfairly on industry, because the industry which is actually working has to maintain the people who are unemployed, and industry is kept down with this millstone of debt around it. If you separate the two you would be able to give better benefits to the regularly employed man, and you would be able to reduce the contributions alike of employers and employed. You would also by that process bring into solvency a system the cost of which would be equally shared by the two parties, a state of things which does not exist to-day. That is one of the reasons why the Minister of Labour has had to come to this House and ask for more money to keep the ship afloat.
Subsidiary to that and separate from it ought to be the eleemosynary scheme to deal with people who have exhausted their right to benefit, and the extent to which benefit ought to be calculated on a proper actuarial scale. I would face that problem as well, and set up a definite system of national relief. We are so muddle-headed that now we are distributing this money as national relief, and calling it an insurance scheme. 2242 It is no use saying that we are distributing the Insurance Fund when it is clear that it is not an insurance fund at all, and the method of distribution is not fair to any parties in industry. Those are some of the suggestions which we put forward for the attention of the Government. Unfortunately, we have no assurance whatsoever on that point. All that we know is that the Government are content to come down to the House to administer what has been described as a ramshackle scheme under which they ask permission to borrow million after million quite recklessly, and they cannot even see that the confusion of thought with which the whole system is being administered is one of the prime causes of their failure.
I wonder how many hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen opposite have ever looked at what is called the principal Act—that is the Act of 1920—and considered the elaborate safeguards that were inserted in that Act in order to secure the solvency of this Fund. That Act provided that the Minister could, by an order, arrange for an increased contribution, a decrease of benefit, or a shortening of the period during which relief was to be paid. We do not consider those matters to-day. The right hon. Lady said that no one would suggest that we should increase the contribution or decrease the benefit. If it is a real insurance that is what you have to do. Either you must increase the contribution or diminish the benefit or you must shorten the period, and that is all you can do if you wish to keep this Fund as an insurance system at all.
We have got beyond the stage at which we can consider this as an insurance fund, and the sooner we realise this fact the better it will be for the credit of this country, because there are hundreds of thousands of people who would never figure in the unemployment returns at all if they had some real interest in the fund which was introduced with the idea that all parties would keep it solvent and prevent unnecessary claims being made. That is one of the strongest advantages of a free insurance system. Under the present system the interest of the insured person is to let things slide, and instead of it being a real insurance fund people look upon it more as a pool into which employers of labour 2243 can dip. The right hon. Lady says that the Government are unable to keep a pool of trained workers in excess of requirements into which employers can dip as occasion arises, whereas the whole interests of the country are that the number of workers required should be ascertained, and you should not have these pools in idleness keeping a floating population as a charge on the community. For these reasons I hope some constructive attempt will be made along these lines to overhaul this method of unemployment insurance. I feel satisfied that unless this is done, unless you separate the eleemosynary from the contributory system we shall not get any further, and this time next year the Government will be coming to the House again to borrow more money to inflate when the object of this Measure is to deflate, and you will be hanging a millstone round the neck of industry which will greatly hamper progress.
Mr. FRANK OWEN
The Minister of Labour gave us a very apologetic and detailed account of how the numbers on the register were made up. I think the right hon. Lady entirely failed to explain why the unemployment figures were at their present height and what was much more alarming she held out no hope that at any period during the coming winter they would be much less. The right hon. Lady drew a picture of an alternative between bread riots in the streets and coming to this House at intervals in order to ask for further subsidies of £10,000,000, £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 in order to keep the insurance fund solvent—an intolerable choice of evils. I think before we pass this Bill we are entitled to ask the Government if they have any plans or hopes to hold out that such a thing is not going to happen again in the next session of Parliament.
The facts of the present industrial situation are too well known to need recalling. The unemployment figures are rising and the problem has been accumulating since the present Government came into office. In view of the fact that the present Government came into power upon the specific programme of curing unemployment I think we are entitled to ask them what plans they have before them for dealing with this problem during the Recess. 2244 What has this active and vigorous Government done to relieve unemployment? They belong to a party which above all others have maintained that the first duty of a Government in the modern economic state is to direct a vigorous trading policy. Instead they mumble Free Trade and they pile, by measures of this kind, upon the last individualists the last burden of their increasing load. They told us that they were going to control national credit in the interests of the nation, but they have not even set up a board of investment in order to guide—since they are too timid to control—the flow of national savings. They told us that they were going to mobilise the idle man-power of this country, not for the base purposes of making profits, but in order to further social services, in order to build the houses that the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was talking about just now, in order to provide transport, it may be, to carry the unemployed population to and from the Employment Exchanges throughout the country. Perhaps there is too much of Socialism in these proposals to suit a Government of Little Englander Whigs. They have set up, instead, Committees of inquiry. There has never been in the history of this House a Government with such an inquiring mind as the present Government.
In 1924 they knew the cause of all our industrial ills, and in 1929 they knew the cure, but in 1930 they are taking just one more piece of expert advice from just one more expert. They can at least claim that, if inquiry has become an insurable trade, they would have solved the problem of unemployment for the great army of inquirers. They have appointed a whole board of them on their latest committee of inquiry—"Uncle Tom Combley's" Economic Advisory Council, lunching at Downing Street whenever they can be fitted into the programme of the most popular restaurant for inquirers in the whole country. I suggest that they might ask that expert body of inquirers not to trouble about what one particular industry or another is suffering from, but what is the cause of the general malady of rising unemployment and declining trade, and, having got that information, to act upon it with some vigour. Be- 2245 cause there comes a time in the existence of the most long-suffering patient when he requires something more than that best bedside manner of which the Prime Minister is the greatest exponent in the whole country.
On Friday last we had a debate in this House in which the Minister of Labour brought forward the Money Resolution for this Bill. The right hon. Lady was explanatory, as usual, and a little apologetic. Then we had an interesting competition between the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer), who tried to vie with one another in giving the gloomiest forecast that they could. The one said that there would be 2,500,000 people out of work, and the other capped that with a kind of dismal relish by saying that the figure would be 3,000,000. They were a couple of very bright and entertaining people to have at the sick bed of British industry. The Minister of Labour was a little more hopeful, but she did not give to the Committee on that occasion, any more than she has given to the House on this occasion, any reason whatever to share her optimism.
If she came down here and told us that she had been able to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to let us have £10,000,000 in order to finance a great reconstruction loan, instead of £10,000,000 in order to keep this Fund solvent, she might have found a great many people who were prepared to share her optimism. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, as we know, is resolutely opposed to such a loan, because no doubt he consoles himself with the fact that Mr. Gladstone would not have permitted it. Mr. Gladstone has been dead for some considerable time; and Mr. Gladstone, at all events, would not have looked with any pleasure upon an Unemployment Insurance Fund which was insolvent to the tune of £60,000,000. The trouble is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is trying to get a performance out of a curious animal which is a cross between rigid individualism and unintelligent Socialism—an animal with a head and ears of Ricardo and the hind legs of Karl Marx. It would be well enough suited to a Lord Mayor's Show, but is not of much use for putting between the shafts of the 2246 State coach at this stage of the nation's business.
It is not much loss that we are not able on this occasion to discuss fiscal changes, because, whatever may be the merits or demerits of Tariff Reform in our trading system, it will at all events be agreed that nothing in that direction could make any possible change between now and the time when we reassemble, and it depends upon what we do in that interval whether or not, in the first days of the next Session, the Minister of Labour will come down here again and ask us to give her another £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 in order to prop up this Fund—the real Sinking Fund of the State.
There is a phrase going about in the newspapers and in the streets: "It will be all right in the autumn." Nobody knows what is going to be all right in the autumn. It is supposed to be trade. If enough people believed that it was going to be "all right in the autumn," it is very likely that that would be the case. The cause of the present bad trade is the number of people who seem to have a vested interest in saying that trade is very bad. When you have a millionaire, million-sale Press bellowing every day to its readers that this country is going to the dogs, that the country is going into bankruptcy, that it is going down into ruin, you cannot expect people to start new enterprises and new industries. Money is cheap, but nobody wants to use it, because nobody has any confidence. Money is lying idle, and, therefore, the whole of our trade is languishing.
It would be most unfair for us to blame the Government for all the admitted anxieties of the commercial community at this moment. It is perfectly true that they have done nothing to restore confidence, but it is perfectly true, also, that they have had to face the aggravated problem of general falling prices. I think that those who talk of bad trade and impending ruin do a very great disservice to the State. They perform a kind of treason to their own country. They are comparable, in my submission, with the meanest kind of agitator who seeks to undermine loyalty and courage in a hard-pressed garrison. In the War, we locked those fellows up, because, as a nation, we felt that they were undermining confidence. It is high time that we locked up some of the scandalmongers 2247 who are undermining the nation's trading confidence at the moment. [Interruption.] During the War, when we had to put these defeatists under lock and key, we took vigorous steps in order to improve our advantage. We sought to inspire confidence, and we sought to deserve it. We said then, "It will be all right in the autumn," and we took immense pains, we went to immense sacrifices, in order to see that it was all right in the autumn.
I heard an hon. Member ask just now, "What about Lloyd George?" The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has had a very adventurous and controversial career, and, perhaps, the least controversial part of his career was his conduct of our affairs during the War. Even then there were plenty of people who had differing opinions about his conduct of the War, but at least he will never be denied this, that in the very blackest period of the War he never believed that we should not win, and he induced people in this country to believe that we should win. [Interruption.] He mobilised at the back of his Government all the good will and all the intelligent support that he was able to get in the country. There is no doubt that he deserves credit for having done that. It is still open to this Government to mobilise good will and intelligent support. There never was a Government since the War days that came in with such general good will on all sides, and there never has been a Government that has been treated with so much forbearance by the parties in opposition. [Interruption.] The charge against this Government, and it is a very heavy one, is exactly the same charge that lay against the late administration. It is not that they have created unemployment. That is due to a greater misfortune than the advent of a Socialist Government. The charge against them is that they have done so pitiably little to meet it, and that is a charge that will be sustained against them on every platform at the next election.
It is not too late, even now, for the Government to make a lively effort, and to crystalise that support which is still behind it. Reference has been made in this debate to the plans that have been advanced from time to time from these 2248 Liberal benches for dealing with unemployment, and in the minds of all the critics there appears this one solitary thought—roads. They seem to think that the whole of our ideas are concentrated upon roads. Even roads, however—well-planned roads—are a very useful factor in reducing distributive costs, and anybody who knows anything whatever about the marketing problem in this country knows that the successful handling of it depends upon swift and cheap transport by road and rail. An intelligently planned road system is the very basis of a proper housing plan, and, in the schemes which have been advanced from time to time from these benches, housing plays at least as important a part as roads. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Viscount Lymington) the other day poured ridicule upon our ideas in regard to telephone development. Has he read the opinions of the most expert marketers in this country upon the vital necessity of telephone development if you are going to have a proper scientific and co-operative system of marketing, in order to collect and distribute a great volume of farm produce and stock in the right quantities and at the right time in the proper markets? There is nothing in the nature of digging holes and filling them up again in such a policy as this. I would commend this to the House, that, if we are going to meet and beat the foreigner in our own markets, we must at least avail ourselves of the same services which make him such a powerful competitor with us.
With regard to general plans of development, I am surprised that hon. Members above the Gangway are for ever opposing us. It is, surely, a fundamental part of their policy that the home market must be secured, and, if adequate telephone, electricity, road and house construction schemes are to be put before the nation, that will involve all our engineering, building, steel, cement and stone-quarrying trades, we shall be supplying the home manufacturer with a great many profitable bargains, and creating for him a basis upon which he can expand his work. We could do all these things with the money that we are voting away now. We could do something which, perhaps, would even more directly stimulate industry with the money that we are being asked to give, and shall have to give here. We could direct 2249 and control the industry of agriculture, and bring about what might be a social revolution in the countryside, through the development of electricity. Our most formidable competitors ill the world have the advantage of cheap and abundant electrical power. They have it mostly through hydro-electrical development. It is our fault, because, in the past, when we had a monopoly of coal, we were too greedy, and wanted too big a price for it. There are only two great areas in this country in which hydro-electrical developments are possible, the one being the Clydeside area, and the other those counties which surround the Severn Valley. One might think that a Government so hard pressed as this Government is would have put in hand great schemes of hydro-electrical development, but the best that this Government can do is to appoint another committee of inquiry. The result has been that in this country we have had to depend upon coal for our supply of electricity, and there, again, the one first-class Measure which this vigorous and active Government has been able to pass through this House has been a Measure which has put the coal industry into a strait-jacket at the very lowest point of its production—a Measure which makes no provision whatever for the expanding electrical industry, nor for supplying that industry with the small coal which to-day is the least remunerative part of the coal industry and which, under an intelligent development, might be most profitable.
They had this problem in Russia, but they did not set about trying to fleece the home consumer and to get as much as they could within a restricted market. They set about developing their market by covering a vast area with electrical works, so that in 10 years' time we shall have to face from that quarter the most formidable competition. Even so, we are able to compete, as far as electrical power goes, on equal, and even favourable, terms with the two greatest electrically developed countries in the world. One is the United States and the other is Sweden. In the areas round about Niagara, of course, they get cheap and abundant power, because they have no heavy initial outlay in dam construction and no heavy overhead charges, and it has cost comparatively little to harness that mighty torrent; but if you take a 2250 comparison of the six biggest electrical companies there and here, we are supplying even more cheaply than the Americans can over the whole area of American industry. That is because in a compact little island like our own we are able to cut down the cost of distribution. With Sweden, again, we are at an advantage because they have no concentrated industrial areas that can take a heavy load. We can do that to-day with our electrical industries in a very incomplete state. How much more profitably should we be able to run our industries if we got a vigorous lead from the Government? We should be able to meet and beat the foreigner on the very ground on which to-day it is claimed that he has an advantage over us. There is something more than that. Take farming. In something like 300 processes to-day you can employ electrical power in farming. The report of the Electricity Commissioners tells us that, if you can only increase your load in the rural areas, you can supply not only the farms, but the cottages of the farm labourers. You can get cheap heat and light and power, which means an immense saving in drudgery and a very real saving in the cost of living, into the homes of the poorest paid workers in the whole of the land.
You can do more than that. You can attract into your countryside those industries which are complementary and allied to the trade of farming, like fruit canning, milk powdering, brick making and industries for handling the surplus of potatoes, using them as industrial products by turning them into alcohol. You can do more than that. Intelligent and progressive electrical companies in the Evesham Valley and in Gloucestershire have attracted industries like wool making, pin making and silk stocking making. As ladies cut their hair and it grows shorter, pin-making may be a diminishing industry, but as the hair grows shorter, and their dresses also grow shorter, silk stockings are an expanding trade. They are there beginning to attract from the towns populations which should never have left the country, where rates and rents are low. You are definitely checking that drift to the towns and turning it back into the countryside, and providing a higher standard of life, and creating a ready market for farm 2251 produce among the industrial population that is coming back.
We could do all that with the money we are going to vote away to-night to subsidise enforced idleness. You could finance a Development Loan of £200,000,000 with this money. If we did that, and if this Government would take in hand a vigorous regional planning and town planning scheme, they might be remembered as the architects of a new industrial England. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much would the landowners get out of that?"] There is a majority in the House for the proper taxation of land values and everyone but your Front Bench knows it. We have to remember, too, the vast expanding field of our Empire opening out in front of us, but we are not the rulers of those countries. We are the rulers of this country. We are the masters in this House and we ought to put our own house in order. We are going into a great Imperial Conference in a few weeks. Do not let us go into it and meet our brothers from richer countries overseas like the poor relations of the family, begging for sympathy and for credit. Do not let us go there like a bankrupt concern trying to attract capital and whatever we can to prop up a sinking business. If we put our own house in order we can go into it and offer them a share in the most flourishing business in the whole world.
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
I will not fall into the temptation to take up the arguments of the last speaker or to deal with the more fundamental principles that lie at the bottom of this very great problem. I propose to deal only with what may appear to be a very domestic problem but one which, nevertheless, affects many hundreds at the younger end of the unemployed who are now assembled in training centres. It is with the administration of them that I want to deal. I should like to say how very much I have all along welcomed the establishment and the development of these training centres, which in many cases has exceeded my utmost expectations, and I wish more than almost anything in conection with unemployment that they may go on in the same way as they have started, with the very high skill and enthusiasm both of the headquarters in Whitehall and of those who are administering the centres themselves.
2252 I want to confine my remarks to some of the troubles which have arisen in connection with a centre which I will not name, because it would probably isolate it too much, and the problem may perhaps be exaggerated, but the Minister knows to what I am referring. Those who go to these centres are sent there compulsorily, and it is all the more up to us to see that their treatment is on the highest possible plane. It is almost impossible for them to get along with the amount of money that is left at their disposal. They are left with 5s. a week to supply them with everything they need other than board and lodging. I will not mention smokes, but clothing, boots and socks and everything they need has to be found out of 5s. a week. They are a very great distance from home, and in many cases these boys wish to continue what they were doing when at home, namely, to send 1s. or 2s. 6d. to the people they have left behind. It is almost imposible for them to do this and to keep straight on this very miserable allowance of 5s., and I want to ask the Minister whether some way cannot be found to increase the allowance.
I have been to one centre to-day, and I have also received a deputation from another centre. I will take the items as they appear in the minds of those who have been to see me. When one of these youths is sent away by the officials of the training centre to apply for a job, it is on the understanding that he must be back within 24 hours, and if he does not return within that time the training centre has finished with him. It is easily understandable that a youth may go to a job, it may be 10, 20 or 30 miles away, and may be found to be unsuitable, and that it may be impossible for him to get back to the training centre within the 24 hours. Yet if he does not get back within that time, they have no further use for him at the training centre, and he is left stranded. I am sure that this is a matter which has been overlooked by the Minister, and I ask her to look into it. If a youth is taken on at the place to which he has been sent, and it is found after an hour or two, or after half a day, or a quarter of a day, that he is unsuitable through no fault of his own—in many cases you cannot tell whether a youth is 2253 suitable or not until you have given him a trial—and he returns to the training centre after the 24 hours have elapsed, they have no further use for him. He is left stranded, perhaps a long distance from home. I feel sure that this is a matter which has been overlooked. Again, if a youth is provided with a job, and after a week or two he is found unsuitable through no fault of his own—the job may have been finished—he is left in that particular place right away from his home with no means of getting back again. What is more, when he gets back home he is out of benefit, and he has to start the whole round again. I think that that is a matter which might very well be looked into.
A very urgent point at the centre which I visited to-day deals with the question of landladies. The centre has been very successful, indeed, in regard to the homes which have been found for the boys. I have never found that any boy has had a word to say against his landlady, and I would like to tender my thanks to the landladies who are so excellently looking after these boys. The amount which the landladies receive for the keep of these boys is gradually being reduced. I understand that in the particular case I have in mind they started with an allowance of 23s. It was lowered to 22s., then to 21s., and now it is rumoured, and I think with some amount of justification, that it is going to be lowered still further to 20s. I should like the House to realise that the landladies are of the same class as the boys to whom they are acting as hosts. They understand their difficulties, and it very often happens that although the money they receive is so small, they will say at the week-end, "Look here, sonny, we know how you are fixed. Here is a bob with which to get some cigarettes," or some little perquisite of that sort. I am certain that if the amount is further reduced, this sort of thing will disappear altogether, and it will make the position still harder for the boys to get along and to obtain their little amenities or even the bare necessities of life. It will not be possible for these landladies to give a square deal to these boys if the money is further reduced. I ask the right hon. Lady to recognise how splendidly they are playing their part, not by decreasing their 2254 allowance, but by increasing the allowance in respect of these boys.
Another question of serious concern is the lack of medical attention. I speak here subject to correction, because one cannot always be certain that all that one hears is absolutely correct. I have received this information from one angle, but as far as I can ascertain I believe it is correct. It very often happens that accidents occur, particularly where there is very heavy work involved. Not long ago at one centre a youth fractured his leg—I cannot go into the details, as I am not sure about them—and I believe that the treatment received was not all that it ought to have been. I do not say that the boys do not receive attention, but the people who give the attention do not appear to be people adequately qualified to give the attention that ought to be given. Another grouse, and a very real one, concerns the question of the provision of food on Friday. I refer to the Roman Catholic boys who appear not to be catered for as they ought to be catered for on Fridays. It means, as they cannot have ordinary food, that they go very short of food, especially in consideration of the fact that they have often very heavy work to do. I ask that the question of Roman Catholics shall be properly considered.
What seems to be one of the most important grievances relates to the question of clothing. I know from people in my constituency the great struggle families have to fit out boys to go to these places. It means a big sacrifice on the part of those families to provide boys with a decent set of clothing, under-clothing, boots, and so on. I ask the Minister of remember that the great majority of boys possess only the clothes in which they stand, and it often happens that they have to go on working in the rain and during all sorts of inclement weather without any change of clothing when they reach home. Surely, out of all the money which we grant for this sort of thing, it ought to be possible to provide all boys at least with suitable overalls so that they can be protected from dirty work. I ask that overalls and boots shall be found, and that everyone who goes to these centres shall get a grant of clothing. It might only be for a temporary period. They might be called upon to give up the clothing when they leave; 2255 but steps should be taken to ensure that when they go to a new job they shall be presentable.
I also want to ask the Minister to point out to the Employment Exchange managers that when they are selecting people they need not necessarily send those boys who come from homes where the accommodation, the feeding and so on are quite adequate. Surely, those who come from the worst homes should be the first ones to go to these centres. I am convinced that some of these boys would be very much better at home. I have in mind one boy who was using his leisure time between going to the Exchange and reporting by taking a correspondence course which would fit him to enter a higher calling. That boy was sent hundreds of miles from home. I ask the Minister to see that a little more care is taken in the way that people are selected to go to these places.
There are two more points to which I want to refer. There is the question of girls who are sent to canteens, and here, I know, I am laying up a great store of trouble for myself. I come from a constituency which is very near to Catterick Camp where canteens are run by the Navy, Army and Air Force Canteen Board. When I have mentioned this matter before, I have had all sorts of remarks hurled at me. I know well that the organisation behind these canteens is excellent. I can only wish that the conditions in all places where our girls have to work were up to the standard of these canteens. I have no criticism at all to make of them, but I want to plead that in those cases where the parents of the girls have an objection to their daughters going to serve in camps, the objection shall be recognised. I know that in very many cases it is a real, conscientious objection. It may be a mistaken one, and I believe that in most cases it is a mistaken one. I have several friends serving behind the bars in canteens at Catterick, and I wish to know no more decent people, but I ask, even if parents may be mistaken in their ideas as to the dangers to which the girls may be subjected, that those opinions may be respected.
It is obvious to everyone that in a canteen the girls and the assistants are 2256 not leading the ordinary normal social life. Where there are thousands of men segregated from the ordinary safeguards of town or village, there are added dangers, but I believe that the girls are very well able to look after themselves. That has been my experience. There is, however, a very real fear behind the minds of some parents that they would prefer their girls not to go to the canteens. If they object, the girl is left with a difficult choice. If she goes to the canteen, very often the parent says: "You need not come back here." If she refuses to go to the canteen, her benefit goes. It is very unfair to make a girl face up to that choice. I recognise that the canteens are run with very great care and skill, and I think that the girls are shepherded far too much, but I would ask the Minister to recognise the very great fear that the parents may have at the back of their minds.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I am not going to pursue the subject which the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Shepherd) has raised with respect to his friends at Catterick Camp, but I would point out that what he has said is somewhat similar to what was said by the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Miss Lee). She in connection with domestic service and he in connection with girls who may be asked to serve in a camp, wanted certain classes of employment excluded from the ordinary range of jobs that ought to be taken by unemployed girls. The hon. Member for North Lanarkshire and the hon. Member for Darlington want to say to these girls: "It is better that you should be kept by the State rather than undertake an unpleasant job in domestic service or a possible risk at Catterick Camp."
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
I am not objecting to that service. I am only asking that where the parents or the girls have conscientious objections to camp canteens, that objection shall be respected.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I realise that, but they also ought to have conscientious objections of the most serious kind to taking the dole or insurance benefits if they can get work of any honourable sort When the Parliamentary Secretary introduced the Financial Resolution last Friday he traced the history of the Unemployment 2257 Fund. He reminded the House that for its inception we had to go back to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Of course we have. We have to go back for the inception of all these schemes to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. He was the father of 9d. for 4d. He was the man who, in the first place, set us as a nation on the downward slope, from which we are now trying to free ourselves. He might be called the Doges of doles. He has done more to demoralise industry in this country than any other single man, and it was not surprising to find that his own fund, the very year after its inception, was bankrupt and had become not an insurance scheme but a definite scheme of doles.
The Parliamentary Secretary made no mention of the intervening period. He jumped from the regime of the right hon. Gentleman to the present day. I would remind him of an incident that has very often been mentioned in this House, an incident which is not popular on the other side. I would remind him that by the year 1926 the insurance debit had dropped from £30,000,000 to £7,000,000, and that in one bound it went up to £22,500,000, an increase of over £15,000,000, due entirely to the action of hon. Members opposite in forcing upon this country an industrial upheaval which we could ill afford at any time, least of all at the time when it happened. The hon. Member went on to say that the present Government were faced with a very difficult problem and with a very heavy debt on the Fund when they took office. He said that they had to face £37,000,000 of a debt. That is true, but he did not say that when they took office the Fund was becoming solvent, that the income was then slightly greater than the expenditure; that during the month of June, 1929, there was a surplus of approximately £200,000. If the figure that I have quoted is not correct, the right hon. Lady will correct me. When she took over the regime she found the Fund in a bad condition but in an improving condition. To-day, we find it in an infinitely worse condition, and a condition which is weekly and daily growing worse.
The right hon. Lady says that she hopes the £60,000,000 will carry her on 2258 to March. We all hope that it may. We hope that it may carry us through the whole of next year, but we do not believe that it will, and she does not believe that it will. We do not believe that it can possibly do so. It will be exhausted far earlier than that time. Is she going to come back and ask for more money? It is only 15 months since the right hon. Lady, standing at the Box, adopted an attitude very different from the attitude she has adopted to-day. To-day, she came to the Box in a very proper and meek frame of mind. Her whole attitude showed clearly to the House that she felt that she was undertaking a task that she did not like and that she ought not to undertake. That was not her attitude 15 months ago. On that occasion she said that she had tried to be a careful housekeeper but that like most careful housekeepers she had not had the money to do with as she would like. She went on to say that by careful budgeting and taking some risks she had just over £2,000,000 to play with. She had just over £2,000,000 to play with. She has played the game this year, a game so satisfactory to herself, possibly, that she now comes to the House and asks for a further £10,000,000. When we have a little flutter we play with our own money but, unfortunately for us, she is playing with the money of the taxpayers. In all quarters of the House we should like to hear from her something to prove that as the Minister of Labour she realises the responsibility that rests upon her in the administration of this tremendous Fund, and that she will do something tangible to get us out of the mess in which we are involved to-day.
There was a most interesting leading article in the "Times" yesterday, which I dare say was read by many hon. Members. That article pointed out that the payment of 30 contributions amounting in all to 17s. 6d. would entitle a married man to benefit for 18 months; that for the payment of 17s. 6d. he would receive £118 from the insurance fund if he had three children and that he could receive a further £43 from the transitional period scheme, which is really outside the present insurance fund. For a payment of 17s. 6d. he becomes entitled to the payment of £161. That is not the whole story. He may have been given a job on a Government subsidised scheme at 2259 £2 a week, and if he works for 30 weeks he gets £60 in wages to add to the £161. For 30 weeks' work he will really earn £221, or £7 10s. per week; and that wage is to be got from other productive industries in this country. How is it possible for industry to recover and trade to carry on under such conditions?
There are five different ways by which a State subsidy, or dole, may be obtained. The first two ways we are discussing today; and the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Stanley) has estimated the cost at £100,000,000. His estimate has not been challenged and, therefore, may be taken as correct. Then there is the Public Assistance Committees, or the old board of guardians, who granted to able-bodied men in England and Scotland last year £5,887,000. Then between 1st June, 1929, and 31st March, 1930, £30,000,000 worth of schemes for the relief of unemployment were sanctioned, or about, £40,000,000 per year. These schemes would not have been commenced had it not been for the Government loan and therefore they may be fairly added to the bill which the country is paying to meet the drain of unemployment. Finally, and perhaps most vicious of all, we have the surplus which local authorities and some Government Departments pay over and above the economic wage. We know that men labouring for local authorities are getting 10s. and 12s. per week more than a tradesman working at his job. What that costs the country it is impossible to estimate, but the other four items alone cost about £150,000,000 a year, or just about as much as we spent as a nation altogether about 19 years ago. That fact cannot be too strongly stressed in this House and outside.
Can anyone wonder, with an expenditure of this sort, that we alone among the nations in Europe are going back; that we alone are not emerging from the trough into which we have been ducked. The Parliamentary Secretary said that it was a pity hon. Members did not read the "Labour Gazette" more carefully.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I do not think the hon. and gallant Member is correctly interpreting what I said. What I meant to convey was that the new form of figures in the "Labour Gazette" were not 2260 sufficiently widely known outside, and I added perhaps not to hon. Members in the House.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I was not suggesting that the Parliamentary Secretary had been discourteous in any way, but I was saying that while we look at the figures at which he wants us to look we also turn to other pages which are not such satisfactory reading to him. Looking over my copy of the "Labour Gazette" I see that Germany during the month of May decreased the unemployed number by 150,000, France which has practically no unemployment at all had a decrease of 10 per cent., in Belgium there was no change, in Holland a decrease, Denmark a decrease of 2 per cent., Poland a decrease, Austria a decrease, Italy a decrease, and in Switzerland the position was satisfactory. I have taken them in the order in which they appear in the publication. In every country in Europe there has been a real mitigation of this trouble; but here we have an aggravation every week. In the United States there was virtually no change; the figures for Australia are not quoted, and in Canada there is a definite decrease in June of the numbers of unemployed. We have to face this problem, and face it clearly. We have come to the point where we have to say that doles as doles must cease—[Interruption.] The laughter on the benches opposite only shows how deep this disease has sunk into the marrow of hon. Members opposite and their satellites outside this House.
Doles as doles have to cease or industry will cease. It is all very well to expect industry to live on tremendous capital reserves. The hon. Member for North Lanarkshire said that if we had Socialism we could abolish poverty and unemployment. I quite believe that if we had Socialism in this country we could for a moment abolish poverty and unemployment, but it could only be done by using up the tremendous reserves which have been built up under the capitalist system. In that way only can it be done, and experience outside has shown that as soon as capitalistic resources are exhausted, poverty, unemployment and slavery take its place. I repeat that the dole as a dole has to go. Our insurance scheme must again become an insurance scheme; contributions must be the guide to benefits, no benefits 2261 should be paid which have not been paid for. How did unemployed people carry on before the War? Hon. Members opposite have told us how on other occasions. They did it partly by savings, partly by credit, and partly by borrowing from their friends and relations. In my view we have to get back in some measure to that. The present position is this, that unemployed men and women have to borrow from the community as a whole, they have to borrow from industry, they have to sap industry.
We have to get back to an actuarial basis of insurance, to let others get help from their friends as far as possible and to have behind that the assistance of our new Poor Law, the Public Assistance Committees, to deal with cases of real need and real destitution. These cases must be dealt with on their individual merits. It is a farce to say that a dole, a gift, from the State must be so much per man, woman, and child. Every case ought to be dealt with by itself on its merits; and by people who are in the habit of dealing with such cases. That body, the inspectors of our Poor Law, are respected generally on all sides of the House. Unless and until we can get back to some such system, this evil will continue to crush out the very life-blood of our industry. We are spending as a nation £1,400,000,000 a year, and we are spending on this cause alone at least £150,000,000 a year. What could be done with even a portion of that money if it got back into industry? I hope that before the Minister comes to this House again she will have thought out one of the schemes which have been considered for so long in her time, both when she was out of office and in office, and that she will be able to lay something tangible on the Table of the House.
§ Sir HENRY BETTERTON
The object of this Bill is "to raise to £60,000,000 the limit on the amount of the advances by the Treasury to the Unemployment Fund which may be outstanding." In the very few remarks that I shall make I shall not go beyond the terms of the Bill, and I shall confine myself to its main purpose. Like many other hon. Members, I have taken part in and have attended many debates in the last four or five years on the subject of unemployment, and indeed we have all of us taken part in many debates where the 2262 object has been to pass such a Bill as this. But, having heard practically the whole of this debate, I am bound to confess that it has been one of the most depressing and most distressing debates of the kind that I have ever heard. On the other hand, it has been one of the most significant. It has been discouraging because in the speech of the Minister there was, to begin with, no analysis at all of the main fundamental causes that have made this Bill necessary. There was a survey, interesting enough, giving statistics of this category or that, to which we all listened with attention, but when we looked to her for her analysis of the fundamental causes, which is all that matters, we listened in vain.
It has been discouraging for this reason: I wonder what any unemployed man or woman reading a verbatim report of this debate, if there be such, would think. They would surely think this—that throughout there has not been a message of hope of any sort or kind to them in their trouble. I should be the last person to criticise the Minister of Labour because she has not propounded great schemes of amelioration which she hoped would go far to remedy the troubles from which we are suffering. I know too well how limited are the powers of the Ministry of Labour. But that is a responsibility which is a Government responsibility, and if the Government had any scheme or could give us any hope or prospect that our condition would be better, of course the opportunity would have been taken to-day, and the Minister of Labour would have been the medium for the expression of those hopes. The truth, of course, is that the Minister has no message to give and no hope to offer. What is it that has been particularly significant in the proceedings to-day? When we discussed the Financial Resolution on which this Bill is founded the Parliamentary Secretary, in terms of almost pathetic despair, made the following statement:Reluctant as the Government are to increase the borrowing powers of the Fund, I think there will be general agreement that there is scarcely any other road out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1930; col. 1628, Vol. 241.]I think the House should consider whither the road on which we are travelling is leading us. I do not propose to 2263 take up time in discussing what has been discussed already, namely, what have been the effects of the Act of last year. Various estimates have been given as to the number added to the register in consequence of that Act. I do not know, nor is it really relevant to this Bill, but whatever doubts there may be as to the numbers that have been affected by reason of that Act, one thing is certain, and that is that the Act as passed was very different from the Act as it was presented.
We know that fundamental changes were made at the demand of hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway on the Government side, on the fourth bench. They had the reward which is always the reward, here as elsewhere, of those who know their own mind and stick to it. But the important point is that the Minister of Labour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the whole Government went down before the very first attack of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), and in spite of the protest of the learned Attorney-General—an Attorney-General after all cannot he always extemporising his life-long convictions—who protested in the most vigorous language one day and adopted precisely the opposite course the next. But that is not the point which I want to discuss. What I want to point out is that this debate has shown, if it has shown anything, that the road to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, and along which we are travelling, is leading to two points. It is leading, first of all, to the hopeless bankruptcy of the Insurance Fund, and in my view it is in great danger of leading to the utter bankruptcy and destruction of the system of contributory unemployment insurance. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that we ought to recognise the boldness and the courage with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has attempted to meet the situation, to use his own words. But the result of his efforts is the measure of his failure.
Let me point out once again what has happened. Last November the Chancellor of the Exchequer granted out of State funds a sum of £8,500,000 to finance those who come under the transitional arrangements until April next. In addition, he increased the State con- 2264 tribution by some £3,500,000 a year. This brings up the State contribution to £24,500,000 a year which, incidentally, is just twice what it was in 1929, but in spite of that tremendous effort on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer we have had two Measures since, raising the borrowing powers first from £40,000,000 to £50,000,000 and now to £60,000,000. As my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley) said the other day, this is probably the only thing that could have been done, but I put it to the House that it is a very curious course to be adopted by a right hon. Gentleman who has always boasted of his austere and rigid financial orthodoxy. This is not a loan; this is a raid, and such a proposal comes very curiously from the right hon. Gentleman who has for the last three or four years been reproaching and attacking and criticising my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping for financial raiding which he has always hitherto denounced as the most atrocious of financial crimes. What is the other point to which this road is leading us? I have already said that I think it is leading to the bankruptcy of the insurance system. On 10th July I asked the Minister of Labour:the present estimate of her Department of the cost for the present year of the transitional provisions in the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1930.The Minister's reply was:The cost of the transitional provisions in the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1930, for the first quarter of the present financial year has been about £4,500,000, or at the rate of £18,000,000 in a full year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1930; col. 660, Vol. 241.]The House will observe that the figure which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave but a few months ago of £8,000,000 has already been exceeded by £10,000,000, and this is the significant point. This fact would never have been divulged but for the question which I happened to ask. During the long debates on the Finance Bill one of the subjects under discussion was the question of what are termed hidden reserves in companies. We were told that this represented a not very honourable form of finance, because the Exchequer could not get out of those reserves what it ought to get. Here we have, in fact, a hidden deficit which would 2265 never have been exposed, as I say, but for my question to the Minister, but which will have to be met when the time comes for presenting the next Budget. The seriousness of this position has only to be known to be realised.
What does this £18,000,000 mean? I ask the attention of the House to this matter. What is this £18,000,000 which finances the people who come under the provisional arrangement? There is no use burking it or blinking it. We have to face the fact that this is a provision of State relief under the guise of insurance and that relief is given at the same rate as the benefit paid to those entitled to insurance benefit by reason of their contributions, and a number of persons for whom that £18,000,000 will so provide is probably somewhere between 350,000 and 400,000. What cannot be too often emphasised or too clearly realised is that this is a compulsory scheme and everybody, whether they like it or not, belonging to practically every industry except agriculture, with an income under £250 a year, has to subscribe. When I was at the Ministry I had the most unmistakable indications that men and women, some of whom had never drawn any benefit at all, many of whom have drawn only a very small amount, are not satisfied to go on week in and week out, year in and year out, subscribing compulsorily to an insurance fund, when friends and neighbours living it may be in the same street, and belonging to the same trade are getting precisely the same benefits for nothing at all. That is the sort of problem which we have to face and with which we have to deal. I am not going to repeat what has already been so well said on this side, but I say that this question is one which has to be faced, and it is a matter for great disappointment that the Minister did not take the opportunity which this Bill gave her of dealing with what is fundamental in our system of unemployment insurance.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The tone of this debate has been somewhat different from the tone of the debate on the Money Resolution. The Minister's introduction and suggestions have received what I should describe as very sympathetic consideration, and, generally speaking, as far as the amount proposed by the Bill is concerned, there has been no adverse com- 2266 ment of the kind which we had on Friday, except in two instances, with which I shall deal later. The speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rushcliffe (Sir H. Betterton) was delivered in a spirit worthy of the debate, but I think he was wrong on two points. He suggested that the amount paid by the Exchequer on behalf of those in receipt of the transitional benefit had been paid secretly, and that the House would not have known what was taking place had he not asked a question. While the hon. Gentleman was the first to draw attention to it by question in the House, I am sure he would not for a moment suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Minister of Labour would consider conducting the business of the House in such a way as might be inferred from his statement. He must know perfectly well that a Supplementary Estimate would have to be asked for in respect of this extra amount for the transitional period, and that the matter would be dealt with in the ordinary way of business.
There is another point that he raised, when he said that he had known men in work living next door to other people who were receiving unemployment benefit for nothing, and they themselves were making contributions, and that they were rather critical of that position, and of having to pay contributions themselves. I must say that, from my knowledge of working-class areas, I have never yet heard a working man grumbling about paying contributions to this Fund. The outstanding thing in my experience is this,that the very people who criticise the men and women who are receiving the unemployment benefit are, as a rule, the people who do not contribute towards the Fund themselves. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) made an interjection during the debate which, if we were to let it go without comment, might be misunderstood by Members of this House and the public outside. She said she knew of people herself who were receiving benefit and had refused jobs because the amounts they were receiving were round about as much as they would have got for working.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The Noble Lady raises that matter here on the spur of the moment, but there is no evidence that she has ever brought it to the notice of the Ministry of Labour. If she considered it so serious a matter, I suggest that she might have done so, in order that not only the Ministry but herself also might know the facts. Had she done that she would possibly have discovered that the amounts offered were less than the actual rates of wages current in that particular industry, against which the Act has expressly made safeguards. There may be many such circumstances and possibilities, but I can tell the Noble Lady this, repeating what I said during the last debate on this subject, that I have known people, and know men to-day, who are actually working for the same amount in a mine, at hard work, as they would be getting if they were receiving unemployment benefit. It is almost pathetic to find how very grateful those men are to be working, and I suggest that criticisms of that description, which one could understand if they were made by people outside, are scarcely worthy of Members of this House, who are in a position to ascertain the facts of any such case.
The hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) made some very extraordinary statements. The interjection of the Noble Lady and the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester were not at all worthy of the spirit of this debate. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to think was, as other people sometimes think, that it is possible to go back to the state of things that prevailed in pre-War times.
I did not hear the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse), but from what I hear that he said, I entirely disagree with it, and I think it is not fair to put my question to the right hon. Lady on a line with his speech.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I do not want to be unfair to the Noble Lady. I rather think she made a mistake, and did not really mean that what she said should be taken in the spirit in which I know it will be taken outside this House.
Duchess of ATHOLL
If an hon. Member of this House, like the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor), hears of cases where work has been refused and unemployment benefit has continued to be drawn, might not such a Member hesitate to bring such cases forward to the attention of the Ministry? I have from time to time heard of similar cases myself, but I should have hesitated to make the local investigations that would have been necessary to inform myself of the names of the persons in order to bring them to the notice of the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. LAWSON
If any Member of this House has a doubt about any case, there is nothing to stop him or her from naming the case and asking the Minister to make an inquiry to find out the facts; and may I remind the Noble Lady and the House that, after all, these cases are decided by courts of referees, on which there is an employers' representative, a contributors representative, and an independent chairman? With regard to what the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester said, I am sure he does not know, and the critics do not know, what the position was for the great mass of the people of this country before there was a national unemployment insurance scheme. I was one of those who were fortunate enough to find regularity of work when I was a young man, but I remember what unemployment was in my family when I was a boy, and I remember times when I had very great sympathy with the dog that went about looking for a bone, because we had been in the same position ourselves. It would be an ill day for this country if there had not been an unemployment insurance scheme.
I want to reciprocate the spirit of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot), who spoke early in the debate to-day. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour gave an analysis of the various types of people who have drawn benefit from this Fund. It was pointed out that it was never intended, for instance, that short time should be almost a permanent feature in connection with the Fund, and it is also true that the exigencies of a certain industry have taught that industry how to use the Fund as against other industries. My hon. Friend the Member for 2269 Leigh (Mr. Tinker), in a very effective speech, if I may say so, drew attention to the fact that there was a class of men receiving benefit for whom again it was never intended that the Fund should be used—in regard to light rate compensation. As a matter of fact, I gravely doubt whether, if the Unemployment Insurance Fund had not been used in this way, it would have been possible for the light rate compensation position to have remained as it is at the present time.
One of the most regrettable things during this Parliament has been that the Bill to deal with light rate compensation was held up. The Government appreciate the spirit in which the suggestion of my right hon. Friend to have some co-operative consideration of this matter was met, because sooner or later, with a definite understanding as to the points of view of the parties, this matter has to be taken out of the area of controversy. There has been put from the other side of the House the suggestion that what the Government ought to have done was to have made some distinction in the Fund as regards insurance. I do not know why hon. Gentlemen should keep on repeating that, because there has been a distinction drawn as regards those receiving transitional benefit. That will be found to be helpful when the real position of the Fund comes to be considered.
I do not wish to take up much more of the time of the House because, as was stated here this afternoon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in response to the Leader of the Opposition, there are three or four more Orders to be disposed of. I should very much have liked to have dealt with many of the points raised, but may I make one further point? Previous to the coming in of this Government, local authorities complained that a great burden was placed upon them, which ought not to have been placed upon them, because of the fact that certain unemployed did not receive benefit. Local authorities used to call conferences attended by workers and employers, by Liberals and by Labour men. People in those areas from all parties made great attacks at those conferences upon the Government because the locality was compelled to bear the expense of men for whom they felt they had no responsibility in fact. You never 2270 hear of those conferences to-day, and there is therefore a reasonable measure now of what the problem is. The Government have been working continuously on this matter. It was not a matter of mere statement when I said that the Minister herself made this proposition—made an offer from which there will be some practical results.
A point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Shepherd) about training centres. I should have liked to have dealt with this matter as a whole and with the points raised by the hon. Member for the combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), which hinge upon the same point. I can assure my hon. Friend that his point will receive consideration and that any information which he has at his disposal will receive consideration. My hon. Friend and the House will understand that the Minister and the Government will not only lose no opportunity of seeing that the training centres are worked in the spirit in which they were formed but will also seek to do what they can to develop that side of the organisation. I am very sorry that I could not by any means deal with the points which have been raised but from time to time in this House there have been abundant opportunities of considering the position of unemployment. Hon. Members opposite have had their say to-night, and therefore, without saying anything further, I would ask the House to give this Measure a Second Reading.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
After the speech delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, we cannot possibly consider passing the Second Reading of this Measure for some considerable time. Of all the debates upon unemployment that I have ever heard take place in this House, the debate this afternoon has been, on the whole, the most constructive and helpful and full of the most fruitful suggestions. There is only one quarter from which no suggestion of any sort or kind has come, and that is from the Treasury Bench. It is the same old story—absolutely barren of any sort of policy or ideas. The Minister was asked a number of direct questions; the Parliamentary Secretary has not attempted to reply to any of them. No analysis of the causes of the present situation or of the reasons for unemploy- 2271 ment was attempted by the Minister of Labour or by her colleague. Now, at the very end of a very interesting debate, the Parliamentary Secretary gets up and says that he cannot really attempt to answer the questions put to him. Why can he not? Either he means he is incapable of doing so or that he is so hamstrung by the policy which is being pursued by his superiors in the Cabinet that he simply dare not make a constructive suggestion or proposal of any sort or kind.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Warwick (Captain Eden) and other hon. Members on this side of the House asked one very important question of the Minister: whether she proposes to carry through any real, fundamental, radical change in the whole system of unemployment insurance in this country so as to put the fund upon an actuarially sound basis and treat those who cannot come into a proper insurance fund under a national scheme of relief. That is what has been advocated by hon. Members on this side of the House for years past and in the last Parliament. The Parliamentary Secretary has not attempted to make any reply to that suggestion or to say whether the Government have even considered reorganising the existing system or have tried to grapple with the problem of the manner in which the unemployed themselves are being handled in this country at the present time. It is the first problem one would have thought a Labour Government would have been anxious to tackle. I was very interested in the speech made by the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Miss Lee). The hon. Lady said that a pension of £1 a week would be very acceptable to a large number of people who are at the present moment engaged in industry. £1 a week would be acceptable to everybody; it would be acceptable to Members in this House, but I am perfectly certain that, in the manner in which the hon. Lady approached this question, she was profoundly mistaken. It is not by an extension of doles and pensions, but by a restoration of trade and industry in this country that the problem can alone be tackled.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I have told you how to do it so often. We have been telling the Government how to do it from both sides of the House for the last 14 months, but they have not paid the slightest attention.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) did a great deal more to deal with this problem than has been done by any effort made by the present Government. Proof of that can be found in the present figures of unemployment and in a comparison with the figures when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Lady, at the conclusion of her speech in favour of more doles and more pensions of all kinds in order to help the unemployment problem, made some further observations on the subject of over-production. I want to repeat what I have said in this House before, that no more nonsense is talked in this country than upon this matter of over-production. There is no over-production; there is a steadily increasing production throughout the world—and so there ought to be—for there is also a steadily increasing demand. The trouble, quite nakedly, is that there is not enough money available in the world to-day to relate consumption to production. That is one of the main causes of the trouble, and I would remind the hon. Member for North Lanarkshire of what the late lamented Mr. Wheatley used to say in the few months before he died. I remember on the last time I ever spoke to him, he said to me, "The only thing that worries me so far as the economic problem is concerned, is the question of how to bring consumption and the power of demand into some relation with the world's increasing productiveness." He was quite right; that is the fundamental problem of the present era.
Up to the time of the first Wall Street crash, the United States had come nearer to a solution of that problem than has ever been reached by any country. They had got into the right circle, the circle of high wages, high demand and high purchasing power as against the vicious circle of low wages and low purchasing power in this country. When we on this 2273 side of the House, as we have often done, have urged that the supply of gold for monetary purposes has been and is now inadequate to meet the requirements of increasing world production, we are met by the present Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer with an adamant, resolute opposition. It can be proved, although I have no time to do it now, that the present Chancellor, by pursuing a policy of the most rigid deflation ever since he took office, has actually decreased the amount of money available during the last 14 months. That is beyond dispute. Therefore, instead of attempting to arrive at a solution of this problem, he has actually aggravated it.
What are the facts that are before the House to-night? For the second time, the Minister of Labour has come to us, and she is doing what she told us not many months ago was a very shocking thing to do; she is asking us to increase the borrowing powers of the Insurance Fund by £10,000,000 making £20,000,000 in all. Does any hon. Member really suppose that any of that money will be repaid? Of course it will not. It is £20,000,000 more raised by way of loan instead of by taxation, and what a farce it makes of all the pious remarks made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the course of the debates on the Finance Bill about repaying the Sinking Fund! It is easy to take a rigid orthodox view on the Finance Bill, when next day he sends the Minister of Labour to the House of Commons to ask for another £10,000,000 by way of loan, which comes from exactly the same quarter as the money he is attempting to repay.
The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Owen) made an admirable speech which was full of ideas from the first word to the last. If the Government would only accept half the ideas that he suggested, they would be kept busy for the next two or three years. But I have given up any hope that the Government will ever listen to any suggestion put forward from any quarter. The hon. Member for Hereford said that we were too pessimistic in this country, and he blamed the popular Press for spreading ideas that this country was "broke." He is unfair, on the whole, to the popular Press. Those hon. Members who read the "Daily Express" the first thing in 2274 the morning, as I do, will have learned from the leading articles in that paper that this country is going on from strength to strength, that everything is quite all right; that we only want a little more courage and vision from the younger politicians; that we only want a few more Empire Crusaders and Lord Beaverbrook as Prime Minister, and then we shall be astride the world. I do not think that the hon. Member was right when he blamed the popular Press. I blame the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and indeed I do not think that this country can stand another six months of him. There has been no attempt on the part of the Government to grapple with the problem of unemployment or with the problem of how to handle or treat the unemployed.
The sole policy of the Government up to date has been to set up innumerable inquiries into every question and subject under the sun, and, while they are examining into these questions, they simply content themselves with steadily pouring out public money in the form of increased pensions and doles. That is all that they have been able to think of up to now—the only constructive proposal that they have been able to put before the country. It is not for want of suggestions from this side of the House or from their own Back Benches. The late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has given them the benefit of his advice on several occasions since he resigned—[Interruption]. I would rather the Government adopted his policy than their own policy, which is no policy at all but one of futility and sterility. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) also would rather see the policy of the late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster adopted because he is not a keen supporter of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that we ought to form an independent party of our own. The Government have had suggestions poured in from every quarter; innumerable suggestions from both sides of the House particularly on the subject of agriculture; yet they have not attempted 2275 to produce an agricultural policy. What did we hear during the last Election about import control boards, the reorganisation of marketing and guaranteed prices? They won an immense number of votes in agricultural constituencies on those promises, and we have not heard a word about agriculture, nor has a single Measure been introduced to promote land settlement or to secure adequate prices for the farmer. I am certain that the development of agriculture and an increase of land settlement would do more to solve the unemployment problem than perhaps any other single thing, and yet the Government do not come to the House with any suggestions on these subjects. We put forward proposals which have been endorsed by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) for the protection of the home market from the ravages of foreign manufactured goods, which are produced under conditions with which we can never hope to compete, but they have been ruthlessly turned down. Similarly, proposals have been made from both sides on the subject of Imperial development and the economic organisation of the Empire, and these also have been turned down by the Government. The hon. Member for Hereford referred to the policy of the Liberal party for raising a loan for the purposes of national development. Where we differ on these benches from the policy is that we think that there are quite enough main roads in this country.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I have been battling here to get a scheme through for the improvement of Peterhead Harbour; but I cannot get the money out of the present miserable crew who occupy the Treasury Bench. It is the same with electricity, housing, and a thousand other matters which could be put forward, and, although we say that we can never hope to solve the unemployment problem permanently by means of a loan policy, because the only permanent solution lies in a revival of trade, yet almost every hon. Member on these benches would rather see the money for Which the Government are asking, in order to subsidise idleness, spent on some constructive purpose and spent in a manner by which 2276 we should ultimately get some return. It is this wholly unproductive expenditure, from which we can never expect to realise any tangible asset, that is doing more than anything else to demoralise not only the unemployed but all industries in this country.
May I now come to the actual question of the handling of the unemployed themselves? This is a subject which we should have expected a Labour Government to tackle practically at the very beginning, but after 14 months they continue to tinker at the obsolete and hopelessly out-of-date system which prevails and which, as the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) has pointed out, is behind all the systems of unemployment insurance known to the civilized world at the present time. Even in Geneva they are almost in despair about us. [Interruption.] yes, they are because they say that our present system of unemployment insurance is hopelessly out-of-date and that it is impossible to come to any international co-ordination or agreement so long as our present organisation continues. What single argument can be adduced in favour of the present system? It is fair to nobody. It penalises the man who is in full employment, it penalises the man who is unemployed. There is an incentive both to employers and employed to try to extract from the Unemployment Fund as much money as they can possibly get. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] We have heard from the Minister of Labour that there are many employers and many workers who devote themselves, sometimes in concert, to seeing how much they can get out of the fund. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] It may be a shame, but it is not their fault, it is the fault of the system, which ought to be reorganised.
We have the Government coming here to ask us to spend another £10,000,000 on bolstering up a system which is fundamentally rotten and unsound and requires to be radically changed. We ought to put insurance upon an actuarally sound basis. That is the first thing which needs to be done. Nobody from this side of the House suggests—and if he did so it would be speedily repudiated—that any man or woman should be allowed to starve or to suffer any great destitution, 2277 because we are far past that, but we do say that it is unfair that an immense number of workers who are employed practically full time—sometimes when discussing the unemployed we forget the number of people who are employed, and in full employment—should have their wages docked week after week of money to be paid into an insolvent fund and then doled out again to people who have never had a day's employment for months past and are never likely to be employed again. We have to get down to the roots of the problem and to separate the various categories of the unemployed. We must have, on the one hand, an insurance scheme which is actuarially sound with adequate benefits, probably on a more generous scale than are paid now—I am prepared to advocate that. It must, however, be a scheme which is actuarially sound and one which it will be to the interests of both the employers and the workers to keep solvent. Having done that we must put those who have been long unemployed into an entirely separate category and treat them upon a national basis but in a quite different manner.
I would go so far as to say that there are many categories of these workers who can never expect to obtain permanent employment in their own industries again who might well be turned on, under a new system, to work upon schemes of national importance and national reconstruction. The younger generation might be sent to training centres; and the whole of this category could be put under a separate administrative machine which would look after them either by means of training centres, or of outdoor relief, or by means of emigration to the Dominions and Colonies, or by means of transfer from one industry to another. The workers who are more or less permanently unemployed ought not to be allowed to suck away and to dain the Unemployment Fund, which receives the regular contributions of a large number of workers who are hardly ever out of employment and whose wages are being docked simply to pay for those who are unemployed. We have not had a word about this from the Government.
We are reduced to this, that in one of the most interesting debates on unemployment which I have ever heard, 2278 the Government have to come forward and say, after 14 months of office, that the only constructive suggestion they can make is that we should continue for an indefinite period to subsidise idleness to the tune of £100,000,000 a year under an administrative scheme which is admitted to be rotten by anyone who has made even a cursory study of it. They have no proposals to reform the scheme, nor any constructive suggestions to get to the root of the problem, which is to restore some measure of prosperity to the industries of this country. Everybody knows perfectly well, although some hon. Members opposite will not admit it, that one of the chief causes of the industrial depression which is creating so much unemployment is lack of confidence. Do the Government really think that this sort of Measure will increase the confidence either of the City of London or of foreign countries? Is it likely to increase confidence when it is found that the only proposal they can make is to ask for another £10,000,000 in order to subsidise idleness, adding to an expenditure from which everybody knows we can expect no return. It is the one thing that will continue the undermining process. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite may jeer at the mention of the Stock Exchange and the City, but when you have the City as stagnant as it is, when there is no confidence in this country, no investment going on in British industry, and the whole process of rationalisation and reorganisation held up, the numbers of the unemployed must be enormously increased.
I honestly believe that more confidence would have been engendered by a few constructive Socialist suggestions from the Government than by their policy of absolutely barren sterility and negation with nothing to propose except more doles shoveled out to the unemployed. We might have expected that the Government would have had a few semi-Socialist constructive proposals to offer, and I am certain that the hon. Member for Hereford was right when he said that almost any proposals the Government had made when they first came into office would have been received with great consideration by this House, because no Government ever had a better feeling shown towards it, the whole country 2279 being determined that it should have a good chance. In 14 months the Government have not made a single constructive proposal of any kind. There they sit, a stagnant and impotent heap of humanity.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
No, he never would have thought of anything as good as that. They are absolutely hypnotised by the bleak stare of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, I assert, is more responsible than any other single individual for the misfortunes of this country; we cannot blame the Minister of Labour. We cannot blame those who are representing this wretched Government upon the Treasury Bench this evening, but we can blame those who are collectively responsible for the main policy of this country. They have had every opportunity. They have had constructive suggestions hurled at their heads, but they have refused to adopt any proposal, Socialistic or individualistic or of any other kind; and I say that so long as they continue in office there is no hope whatever for the future of this country, and the sooner they are flung out the better.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I have a higher opinion of the House of Commons than I had before listening to the discussion this afternoon. It has been what we might call a rank and file debate, and those who have taken part in it have treated the subject we are discussing with a certain measure of concern. The speeches we have listened to in this House for the last few weeks have displayed a vanity on both sides of the House that would have delighted the hearts of our great grandfathers. I welcome the change that has come over this House to-day in connection with the problem of unemployment. I quite agree that every hon. Member of this House would like to see the unemployment figures reduced, and the workers placed in employment instead of drawing the dole.
I should have appreciated the Conservative proposals a great deal more if they had been suggested when the Conservative party were in office. I have heard the speeches of hon. Members opposite in this House and also over the wireless, and I have read them in the 2280 newspapers for the last 20 years. I am able to go back in my recollection 20 years to the old struggle over the large and the small loaf, and we seem to be getting back to that same old struggle. We have an unemployed army reaching nearly 2,000,000, and the Minister of Labour comes here to-day to ask for a further grant of £10,000,000 in order to feed, clothe, and house them. I have listened to the insulting references made by hon. Members opposite as to the demoralisation of the working classes due to the fact that they are drawing the dole. I suggest that if doles are good for hon. Members opposite there is no reason why they should not be good for the working classes.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I will endeavour to respect your wishes, Mr. Speaker. Many suggestions have been made concerning the working classes who are unemployed, and one thing that has been suggested from the other side of the House has been that we ought to initiate a large scheme for dumping the unemployed out of this country. I think that the people we ought to dump in other countries are the friends of hon. Members opposite, because we have far too many people in this country living on the earnings of the working classes. Hon. Members opposite want to unload the unemployed of this country and send them out to the Bush in Australia.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I have been out in the Bush in Australia and I have seen there the victims of your policy. [Interruption.] I resent the suggestion that the working classes of this country should leave their native shores. The working classes have a right to inherit what nature has given them in abundance, and which the friends of hon. Members opposite try to take from them. Unemployment has not been caused by any Government which has been in office. I have denied during the whole of my life that any politician or any Government has been responsible for increasing the figures of 2281 unemployment, which is solely the result of the capitalist order of society. Unemployment will increase and will become more rife, and will rise to such an extent that in the end it will sweep away hon. Members opposite. I suggest to the House that we are dealing with a problem which is having serious effects upon millions of human beings, although it is treated with levity by overfed Members opposite.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Question before the House is Unemployment Insurance, and the hon. Member must confine his remarks to that subject.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I am suggesting that the sum asked for to-night is too modest, and that the Minister of Labour might have asked for a much greater sum, because all the evidence goes to show that before very long the sum that is now asked for will be exhausted. The Minister of Labour stated that 170,000 people who were cut off from benefit under the rule of hon. Members opposite have been placed in benefit since the Labour Government came into office. My experience in local Government in Glasgow and in parochial work leads me to believe that a large number of men are still being cut off from benefit from time to time, and I believe that the figures are increasing at the present moment. That statement is supported by responsible people in the City of Glasgow.
The Minister of Labour says that her task in connection with unemployment is not an easy one. I quite agree that the task of any Minister who is in charge of the Ministry of Labour cannot be an easy one, but it is much easier for the right hon. Lady than it is for the victims who have to stand at the doors of our Unemployment Exchanges. I had four months' experience at one time of going to an Employment Exchange, and I never wish to have a similar experience during the rest of my life. It is all very well for hon. Members to say that the mere standing at an Employment Exchange and signing the register does not take away the manhood from a person, but I say quite definitely that morning after morning, as I went to that Exchange, I felt snore like throwing myself into the river, because I felt that my manhood was slipping away. [Interruption.] I want the right hon. Lady to realise the tragedy of a large section of the working class 2282 who at the present moment are cut off from benefit. Take the case of single men and single women who are denied benefit and are refused relief by the Public Assistance Committee. We find there some of the greatest tragedies that anyone could imagine. I want to direct the right hon. Lady's attention to the fact that the people who are largely in charge of these departments are nothing other than a band of reactionaries, who are determined at every opportunity to cut people off from benefit.
I suggest to the right hon. Lady and the Government that not only are schemes required for finding work for the unemployed, but there is also the necessity for greater scales of relief, and I hope that the Government will face up to this problem before the next election, and will give to the working class greater scales of relief than they are giving at present. It is not my duty to suggest schemes for the employment of these people. Those who have created the victims and the wreckage should suggest the remedy. They cannot claim that they have not been in office and have not had the opportunity of finding employment. We have been waiting since 1918 for the old ship of State to come safely into harbour; we have been waiting for party after party to solve the unemployment problem; but there is no solution for the unemployment problem, and I want to urge the Government to deal more justly with these people in connection with the allowances that are made for children.
I appeal strongly to the Front Bench on this matter. Nobody in this House or outside would dare to assert that the scale of 2s. per week is sufficient for the child of any member of the working class. The tragedy of that is tremendous, and I appeal to the Government to do something in relation to it in the very near future. We were told the other day that it may be necessary to go to the country and to put again to the electorate the appeal of work or maintenance, and that we might require to put that into the window. If there is anything in the window when I go to make a purchase, I expect delivery of the things that are advertised; and, when the Government went to the country to secure the votes of the working classes, they ought to have delivered to the working classes the goods 2283 which they advertised. [Interruption.] There could be no meaner or more contemptible action than to trade upon the poverty of the working class.
The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) talked of my difficulties in getting into the House of Commons. I am not satisfied that I made a very great bargain in getting into the House of Commons, but time will tell. I am compelled to judge people by their actions, and by their efforts to do something for the workers. I judge the prosperity of this country on the health of the children that I see about the country, and it cannot be claimed that the scales of relief given by the Government of this country are adequate to meet the needs of the time. I see children who are being practically placed in a state of starvation by the inadequate scales, and I should be less than a man if I failed to express my denunciation of and contempt for a policy that reduces the working class to that inadequate standard of life. It is all very well to sneer and smile, as the Minister of Mines is doing at the present moment. [interruption.] I want to say, in conclusion, that it is very easy to wait on £30, £40 or £50 per week, but it is not so easy for the children of the working class to wait on that inadequate scale. I charge the Front Bench of this Government at the present moment that they have not acted according to their responsibility, that they are not delivering to the working class the promises and pledges that they made, and I, for one, refuse to be an apologist for a Government that betrays the working class.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I do not intend to detain the House for very long, but I want to say a few words on a subject to which inference has already been made, namely, that of the entry into domestic service of women who are at present unemployed, and the contribution that can be made in that way towards the reduction of unemployment among women. The Minister will remember a speech which she made about 18 months ago—if I may say so, a very admirable speech—in which she said that the main reason why girls do not take up this kind of work is the fear of losing caste with their friends in other occupations. 2284 She went on to say that that sort of spirit had existed at one time among girls working in shops, but that it had been fought down and overcome; and she said that we must get rid of that inferiority complex among domestic workers. I want to appeal to the right hon. Lady, and to ask her if she does not realise what a wonderful position she is in to give a lead to the unemployed women of this country in this matter.
She recognises, just as I do, the tremendous importance of the work, and what it means to the comfort and health of the families of this country. She realises, I know, what an admirable preparation it is for the making of a home on marriage; and she must realise, also, that it is permanent work, and, therefore, has a peculiar value in solving, or helping in some measure to solve, the unemployment problem. It is not, like the embroidery, lace or hairdressing trades, subject to fluctuations of fashion; it has no foreign competition to fear; it is permanent work that will always be needed in this country; it is work on which the comfort and health, and, therefore, the happiness and efficiency, of the nation are dependent in a tremendous measure. I would ask the right hon. Lady if she will not give a lead to the women of this country by pointing out to them what this work means, the dignity of it, the importance of it, and the contribution that, by taking it up, they can make towards reducing the number of the unemployed. I do not say that every woman, or nearly every woman, out of work could take up this work, but I believe several thousands could be absorbed into it if only a really great push could be made to bring them in.
I believe training centres are necessary for older women and for those who have been in other occupations. They must be given special training. They cannot be expected to enter into subordinate positions as young girls can. But the right hon. Lady knows that valuable training can be and is being given in thousands of homes to young girls who come in knowing nothing about it. She realises, I think, that conditions which were once in great need of improvement have made very great strides in the last few years, and where there is need of still greater improvement she will, I feel sure, meet 2285 with assistance from many women employers in improving things, and she can count on many of them endeavouring to elicit that spirit of co-operation between employers and employed in domestic work which I know she wishes to see in operation. Will she not appeal to the women of the country to come forward and help, and remind them of the response they made to the call to help the men in the War? They rose to a woman to help the men in what they had to do in the War and I am certain, if she will try to put before them what I know she thinks about the value of this work, she will find many of them ready to help in this war against unemployment.
I should like to know if the Noble Lady is advocating that these unemployed women should go to serve other women who cannot look after themselves or their young children, or is she advocating that one set of able-bodied women should go merely to wait on another set of able-bodied women?
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 273; Noes, 101.2287
|Division No. 456.]||AYES.||[10.18 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Dukes, C.||Johnston, Thomas|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Duncan, Charles||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Ede, James Chuter||Jones, Rt. Hon Leif (Camborne)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Edge, Sir William||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Edmunds, J. E.||Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Arnott, John||Egan, W. H.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Elmley, Viscount||Kinley, J.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Knight, Holford|
|Ayles, Walter||Foot, Isaac,||Lang, Gordon|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lathan, G.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Law, Albert (Bolton)|
|Barr, James||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Law, A. (Rosendale)|
|Batey, Joseph||Gibbins, Joseph||Lawrence, Susan|
|Bellamy, Albert||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Gill, T. H.||Lawson, John James|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.)||Gillett, George M.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Cattle)|
|Benson, G.||Glassey, A. E.||Leach, W.|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Gossling, A. G.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Gould, F.||Lees, J.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Blindell, James||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Granville, E.||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Bowen, J. W.||Gray, Milner||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Broad, Frauds Alfred||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Longden, F.|
|Brooke, W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Brothers, M.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lowth, Thomas|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Groves, Thomas E.||Lunn, William|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||McElwee, A.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||McEntee, V. L.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||McKinlay, A.|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Harris, Percy A.||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||McShane, John James|
|Cape, Thomas||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Haycock, A. W.||Mansfield, W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayday, Arthur||March, S.|
|Chater, Daniel||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Marcus, M.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Marley, J.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Marshall, Fred|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Mathers, George|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Herriotts, J.||Matters, L. W.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hirst, G. H. (York, W. R., Wentworth)||Melville, Sir James|
|Compton, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Messer, Fred|
|Cove, William G.||Hoffman, P. C.||Middleton, G.|
|Daggar, George||Hopkin, Daniel||Millar, J. D.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Horrabin, J. F.||Mills, J. E.|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Milner, Major J.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Day, Harry||Isaacs, George||Morley, Ralph|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Morris, Rhys Hopkins|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Tillett, Ben|
|Mort, D. L.||Sanders, W. S.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Moses, J. J. H.||Sandham, E.||Toole, Joseph|
|Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Sawyer, G. F.||Tout, W. J.|
|Muff, G.||Scurr, John||Townend, A. E.|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Sexton, James||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Murnin, Hugh||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Viant, S. P.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sherwood, G. H.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Shield, George William||Walker, J.|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wallace, H. W.|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Shillaker, J. F.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||Shinwell, E.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Palin, John Henry||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Watson, W. M. (Dunlermline)|
|Palmer, E. T.||Simmons, C. J.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Perry, S. F.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Sinkinson, George||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Sitch, Charles H.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Pole, Major D. G.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||West, F. R.|
|Potts, John S.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Price, M. P.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||White, H. G.|
|Pybus, Percy John||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Quibell, D. J. K.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Snell, Harry||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Raynes, W. R.||Sorensen, R.||Williams, T. (York. Don Valley)|
|Richards, R.||Stamford, Thomas W.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Strauss, G. R.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Ritson, J.||Sullivan, J.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Roberts, Rt. Hon F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Sutton, J. E.||Wise, E. F.|
|Romeril, H. G.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Rowson, Guy||Thomas, Rt. Hon, J. H. (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Albery, Irving James||Everard, W. Lindsay||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Ferguson, Sir John||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Atkinson, C.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Gower, Sir Robert||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Smithers, Waldron|
|Bracken, B.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Buchan, John||Hurd, Percy A.||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)|
|Butler, R. A.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Train, J.|
|Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton||Lymington, Viscount||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Christie, J. A.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Meller, R. J.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Muirhead, A. J.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Dixey, A. C.||O'Connor, T. J.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Ramsbotham, H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Sir Frederick Thomson and Sir|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.||George Penny.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.2288
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. Kennedy.]