HC Deb 28 October 1930 vol 244 cc7-34

I beg to move, That an humble Address he presented to His Majesty, as followeth: "MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament. May I be allowed to say how glad the House was to learn that the health of His Majesty has been so improved as to enable him to come in person to-day to open Parliament, and we pray that his health and strength may be maintained.

My constituents no less than myself feel the honour that has been conferred upon us in entrusting me with this Motion. It has also been conveyed to me that the whole City of Leeds also realises the distinction which has been placed upon that great city. My fellow engine —drivers— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—would naturally approve of an engine-driver being chosen to take up the running at the beginning of a new Session; and we are all assured that the very best way to get to one's destination with safety and dispatch is to get behind the engine-driver. I realise that custom has placed certain restrictions round my historic task, and the traditions of the House are such that this is seldom, if ever, violated. Should I stumble, I must crave your indulgence, not that I would set up the plea of in- experience, but there are other reasons. A few days ago, at a very interesting gathering presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the Home Secretary quoted a line or two which is familiar to most when he said:

"When in that House M.P.'s divide, They've got to leave that brain outside And vote just. as their leaders tell 'em to."

I can quite imagine leaders—and they are not all on the Front Bench; they are all round the House—dreaming of those golden days when they could command the loyalty of their party. To-day some of these erstwhile leaders never know -when they may be called upon to walk the plank. In those days, in filling the role that I and my hon. Friend beside me are doing to-day, it was fairly easy to steer a middle course. The fairway was broad and deep. But to-day we sail our little craft on uncharted seas. Below we have hidden rocks and shifting sands, and we are also in danger of coming into collision with some of the prodigals returning home. So our task is not quite what it always has been.

We were pleased to see the reference in the Gracious Speech to the Imperial Conference. That Conference, it seems to me, meets under the most difficult circumstances in which any previous conference has ever met, and it will need all the essentials of British statesmanship to find solutions to the problems. How acute some of the difficulties are the ordinary person is not aware. It is emerging as time goes on how very difficult some of these problems are. I can quite believe that the statesmen from across the seas may be tempted to apply desperate remedies for what they believe to be desperate diseases, and little wonder. I hope and believe that all the proposals for the solution. and mitigation of the problems will be examined very carefully in the light of the best interests of the great commonwealth of nations to which we all belong. In the words of the Gracious Speech, we watch with deep interest the progress of their labours, the satisfactory results of which we shall confidently await.

Reference is also made in the Gracious Speech to the coming Round Table Conference on India. The more I learn about this -subject the more I become impressed with the immensity of the problem. I am also struck, and somewhat alarmed, at the assurance with which many people dogmatise about this great Continent, its peoples, religions, languages and customs. I feel sure that very few of us know very much about India at all, and I hope that nothing will be said or done by any of us from now onwards, until the Conference has done its work, which may endanger its usefulness, for so much depends upon a friendly settlement of the great problems.

We rejoice to hear of our peaceful relations with foreign Powers and pray that this may for ever continue. At present, the world is war weary, and it seems to me that now is the time when a special effort for permanent peace should be made. It is no use talking of the horror of war. Youth will always scoff at that. I do not think the limitation of armaments alone is enough. The only line upon which, it seems to me, we shall secure permanent good is the path along which the Government are proceeding. Yesterday we witnessed the recording of something attempted, something clone. With the aid of modern science the whole world heard, in a manner never before possible, three epoch making speeches. I believe that is now behind us, and in front of us we should go on and encourage our statesmen to proceed on these lines. Although each nation has its difficulties, most. of those difficulties are born of fear. A week or two ago I paid my first visit to Carnarvon Castle. I walked round the battlements and saw the thick walls and all the arrangements that had been made for the defence of that spot against enemies, but no enemy except time has reduced it to ruins. So many of the things which we are pressed to do by way of force will crumble with time. If we want peace, we must develop the will to peace. To me the greatest condemnation of war is the futility and the imbecility of it, because you never come out of a war with your problems solved as you thought they were going to be when you went into it.

The trade unions will welcome the allusion to the Trade Disputes Bill. As a lifelong trade unionist, I want to submit that the trade unions have a very definite place in modern life. They have played an important part in the building up of cur present civilisation. Our contem- poraries do not always recognise that, but few thoughtful people, looking back, will deny it. The modern trade union leader has quite a different task to perform from those who preceded him. He is something like Father O'Flynn. He is:

Checking the crazy ones, Coaxin' onaisy ones, Liftin' the lazy ones on wid the stick. My own experience of the railways—and I believe every railway director and officer will bear me out—is that we have created order by our trade union efforts and by the co-operation of the trade unions the management, and I am sure there is not a director or officer who would ask for the abolition of trade unionism on the railways. I want to suggest that the Trade Disputes Act was the result of some hysteria following the demonstrations of sympathy with the miners when they were locked out. I would ask, has time brought no healing balm? Do we now believe all we said then or would we say it now? I fear not. I do not confine this question to either side of the House. Has not the time now come to reconsider the question of trade union rights in accordance with the ideas of liberty which we in England enjoy? I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) would have been present, because I wanted to make a direct appeal to him. It seems to me that he ought to be the first to come along and help us, because I would tell him, if he were here, that he has killed all thoughts of a general strike, at least in his time, for did he not warn us, standing at that Box amidst the breathless silence of the House, in solemn tones, that if ever again we launched a general strike he would re-issue the "National Gazette," a challenge that we dare not take up, the horror of which is too terrible to contemplate.

We also welcome the reference to the raising of the school age. This is close to my heart and is to me of first-class importance. Many of us on this side left school at a very early age. We know the handicap of little schooling. I left school before I was 12 years of age and, while the door of knowledge opens easily, on oiled hinges, when one is young, when one is old the hinges are rusty, they creak, and the latch is difficult to raise and, if we have had to work when we ought to have been at school or at play, it is difficult to get the student habit in after life. It seems to me that the aim of education is to provide an environment so that each individual can develop to the fullest possible extent his innate powers. I believe the greatest danger to the State is an uneducated democracy. I put it to the sense of fair play. It is not fair that great masses should be denied what is at the disposal of the few. When I speak of raising the school age, I do not want merely that we shall train children to be more fitted to worship at the shrine of the "Goddess of Getting On," as John Ruskin called it. I want to approach it rather from the ideal of Tennyson, when he wrote: Let knowledge grow from more to more, But more of reverence in us dwell; That mind and soul, according well, May make our music as before, But vaster. We welcome the reference to the ratification of the Washington Convention. We trade unionists have already enjoyed the eight-hour day and the 48-hour week in all the great industries. Our regret is that in those industrial countries where the long hours of the employés compete unfairly with ours, the eight-hour day and 48-hour week should be set aside. It is because of that unfair handicap that we support it. We also welcome the announcement of the consolidating and improving Factory Bill which has been promised by Home Secretaries on both sides of the House. We believe there is much to be done. We believe many of the regulations want bringing up to date, and we welcome the announcement. The Gracious Speech does not provide for establishing Socialism in our time; it does not even propose to establish at once all the ideas contained in "Labour and the Nation," but it does provide for a generous contribution towards the building of that edifice which, given the opportunity, the Government propose to erect.


I beg to second the Motion so ably and happily moved by my hon. Friend the Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton). I regret that I am unable to claim that long association with the House which equips a Member to deal, in the able manner in which the Mover has done, with the Gracious Speech to which reference has been made. I also express my thanks for the honour and privilege which have been conferred on my constituency and the county to which I am proud to belong, and the industry of agriculture with which I am equally proud to be associated. I think that when the Labour Government do a small tenant farmer the honour of recognising the industry on such a classless basis—and I would have the House observe the movement of the times in relation to agriculture and the present Government—it signifies that we are moving along lines of classless justice fur the whole of the industry. Therefore, it is with peculiar pleasure that I venture to speak, not only on behalf of the producers and the peasantry of the countryside, but also for every section associated with that isolated life which so many of us have to live. I cast my eye to the right of the Front Bench and I see four historic ages. I understand that the City of London has been honoured in every Parliament with distinct representation on the Front Bench on the opening day of the Session, and the oldest historic industry in the world, established by Adam himself, is now, perhaps, almost for the first time, being addressed from a Labour Bench by a tenant farmer claiming a right which will increasingly be recognised on this side of the House, as upon all sides, as agriculture more definitely agrees within itself as to what it requires.

I am informed, as a new Member, that the approach to my few remarks in relation to the Gracious Speech should not be heavy; that the lighter touch is much the better line to pursue upon a non-controversial occasion when we are thinking, all of us, more about the definite development of the whole of this great British Commonwealth of Nations than, as, perhaps, we are sometimes, of partisan advantages and other things. It reminds me that on an earlier occasion when a candidate for a rural constituency, an ancient borough, invited the Member and the two candidates to meet their unemployment committee to discuss that great question, and, the Mayoress having given us her blessing, the chairman proceeded, in an address of half an hour, to instruct us as to the line along which we were to proceed. The Member and the two candidates were definitely informed that on no account were they to make any political suggestions, and you can imagine the difficulty that some of us felt in facing up to a position where there were very real problems to the solution of which private enterprise acting alone was totally incapable of rendering any assistance. You can imagine what a difficult position we were in.

This afternoon my position is much easier, because I find that there are definite proposals in the Gracious Speech from the Throne which enables one who is associated with the agricultural industry to offer one or two remarks in relation thereto. I should like to refer to the fact that unemployment and agricultural reform are closely connected in that Speech. To bring together idle men and idle land, in so far as they can be constructively organised on business lines, appears to be an avenue along which, judging from the proposals, coming legislation will lead into better channels. We are face to face with a challenge from the countryside. It is being met in the Gracious Speech which we have just heard, and to those of us who know something of the conditions of British agriculture it brings a very real measure of hope. This is not the time or the place to examine those proposals in detail, but there are one or two outside aspects which seem to make the position more hopeful than it looks, judging from the existing situation. I refer to the spirit and purpose of this House. We know that the Prime Minister is exceedingly anxious and that he has been, in his early days, associated with the industry of agriculture. No less interested is the right hon. and distinguished leader of His Majesty's Opposition, and certainly we may suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has an association with agriculture second to none in regard to his desire for rural reform. In looking at the position to-day, we discover that in recent years the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has passed on from the policy enunciated in the Land Campaign with which I have never seen very great reason to find fault. He has gone into farming himself, and I am going to suggest that the more Members there are in this House who will go into farming the sooner will this House be able to grapple with problems the solution of which will only come from those experienced in the industry itself. Indeed, if I can say it without being misunderstood, I can conceive of no better development along that line than to persuade my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—my right hon. Friend shakes his head, but if he could prevail upon the First Lord of the Admiralty to enter into co-operation with him I am sure he would teach him how to make farming pay along cu-operative lines.

The point associated with the King's Speech which I desire to make here is that we have definite proposals for large-scale farming and for other developments associated with the acquisition and improvement of agricultural land. I must apologise for keeping the House, but I should like to offer one word of comment in regard to that aspect of the position. I should be forgetful of my knowledge of the inside of this great industry—I am afraid that I am rather taking advantage of this occasion to push one industry more than another, but, remembering the long silence in this House in relation to this industry—[HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"]—Hon. Members opposite know how true that is. But with regard to any developments in large-scale farming and any developments in placing unemployed men upon the land, having in recollection the working of the Land Settlement Act as an administrator on a county council through the dfficult years since the war, I would urge most respectfully but very firmly that we should move very carefully in that form of development in the countryside or the condition of the unemployed man may be even worse than it is.

I am in favour of such a development. I do not know whether hon. Members who deplore the difficulties will help us to remove them, but I suggest that in that development we should do well to remember that there are certain factors which are very essential. You want suitable land. You must have suitable land. You must have suitable renting. You must have suitable land made cheap, and you must have suitable equipment, which is a, very vital factor. I think that along these lines we can make a start in rebuilding rural Britain which will not be unworthy of the efforts of this great House.

I think that Ruskin has a word in relation to the matter in his "Seven Lamps of Architecture." It will be difficult task rebuilding rural Britain, but there are men in this House on all sides bigger than their party who can surely come to the help of this hard pressed industry. We are "down and out" in many aspects of arable agriculture, and I should be neglecting this opportunity if I did not urge this House to realise that we must secure some measure of economic justice in relation to prices [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"]—I did not say fiscal justice but economic justice along humane, just lines, so that we can secure an honourable stabilised price adequate to cover the cost of production and to give a living wage to the workers. As we face these introductory features of what may well prove to be largely an agricultural Session, I think of the spirit expressed by Ruskin in his "Seven Lamps of Architecture": Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not he for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, 'See! this our fathers did for us.'


It is always the task of the Leader of the Opposition to offer the first observations in the new Session when the mover and the seconder of the Address resume their seats. I should like to say one or two things, as is the custom, about the speeches to which we have just listened. They were not conventional speeches, and they were none the worse for that. I listened with great interest to both of them, and, if I may say so, the speech of the hon. Member for South Leeds (Mr. Charleton) was a speech instinct with sincerity and, what is perhaps rarer than sincerity, with wisdom. I naturally, perhaps, had a peculiar appreciation of that speech because he seemed more to enter into the difficulties of leaders, and most men would say unhappy leaders. I think that his remarks on India might well be taken account of by every Member of this House. I am sure that he will allow me, having made an allusion to himself as an engine driver, to congratulate him on this run on having ob- served all his signals and, on that account, being able to pull up at the right platform, amid the cheers of the populace. In regard to the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. W. B. Taylor), I am not striking a controversial note when I say that his task was difficult. We all share the feelings to which he gave expression at the end of his speech. How far we may find agreement in methods I cannot at this stage say. In the absence of any detailed knowledge as to how the Government propose to increase settlement on the land, to set up large-scale farming operations, and to acquire and improve agricultural land in need of reconditioning, we must wait and see.

It will, doubtless, fall to the lot of the Prime Minister, as the Leader of the House, to-day to give expression to the feelings of this House with regard to the tragedy which occurred three weeks ago to the R.101. It is his painful duty to do it, but, as custom compels me to speak on this occasion before him, I would merely say that in all that he may think fit to say he will carry with him the heartfelt sympathy and support of every Member on this side of the House. I would like for myself and for all who sit behind me to say to him that, over and above the great public tragedy, we feel the profoundest sympathy for him in the loss of a man who was not only a colleague but a trusted and well-beloved friend.

Although I know that it is not usual, and I will only take a moment in doing it, I cannot refrain from reminding the House that we only separated at the beginning of the month before last and five well-known figures have been taken from us. Death puts an end to all party struggles, and the House itself mourns the loss of four Members of Parliament, two on my side and two on the other side; on my side two colleagues who were trusted, respected and liked and on the other side of the House two private Members of valued and tried service to their party—all faithful servants of this House. The whole House mourns the loss of Sir Lonsdale Webster, to whom fitting tribute will be paid at the proper time to-morrow. I would only say now, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, that, while we lament Sir Lonsdale Webster's death, we congratulate Sir Horace Dawkins on the appointment that has been made and we are quite confident that, like Sir Lonsdale Webster, he will be the guide, philosopher, and friend of every Member of this House, from the Speaker on his Throne to the newest recruit who sits in the House.

It is my duty to put certain interrogations to the Government. There are always points in the King's Speech on which the House desires to be enlightened, and there are always points, perhaps more important, to which no allusion is made in the King's Speech, on which the House also desires to be enlightened. The object of my question is that the Government may give such information at an early stage of the debate as they may think fit, so that the House may be helped in its proceedings in the next two or three days while the general debate lasts in discussing the subjects which they would like to discuss. The House is, of course, well aware that the more controversial matters on which the Opposition finds it necessary to censure the conduct of the Government, past, present or prospective, are generally deferred until after the first few days. This afternoon my task is rather to seek for information, in the hope that the information will be given.

The King's Speech strikes different people in different ways. No doubt it has given immense satisfaction on the benches opposite. Our first feeling is that it is a gigantic act of faith. We say that the work outlined will probably occupy Parliament for three years at least. Believing that, the first question that I desire to ask the Prime Minister is, can he give us any indication at this stage as to the principal business which he proposes to take between now and Christmas. That is to say, on which of these rare and refreshing fruits he will make a start. We will come back to these fruits in a moment.

I pause now to look outside the King's Speech. There are three things on which I desire specific information. They are all important, but I think that, at the moment, the first one is the most important. I think we all understand, from what we have read in the more reliable portions of the Press, that a despatch has been received from the Government of India. I have no knowledge of the nature of that despatch, nor do I know whether it is confidential, but I do feel, and I feel very strongly, that it is desirable that that despatch should be made public, if possible, at the earliest moment possible. I think that here I can hang my hat on the peg provided by the hon. Member for South Leeds. Knowledge is essential in these matters, and all the proceedings that can be should take place in the open light of day. Rumours are busy, they always are busy, and we cannot help them, and they do a great deal of harm. I would merely say now that I think the sooner the considered opinion of the Government of India is known in this country the better it will be; the better it will be for the chances of the Conference, and—I say this without knowing at all what is in the document—I cannot help thinking that its publication would allay a good deal of criticism which has been uttered in various quarters and which I think it would be wise to allay at the earliest moment possible.

There are two questions connected with the Colonial Office on which I think the House should have some information. We should like to hear from the Prime Minister as soon as is convenient to him whether we are right or not in believing, as many of us did believe when we read it, that the wording of the White Paper on Palestine does mark a definite alteration in the policy which has been pursued by successive Governments since 1917. In our view, after careful consideration of that document,' we thought that it did mark a very serious alteration. The real danger of that is obvious to the House, because, if that be so, it means that we are going back on our word. At no time ought this country to go hack upon its word, but at a time like this it is peculiarly dangerous with the present state of the whole of the Eastern and Oriental world, and at a time when we are embarking on an epoch marking conference with our Indian fellow subjects. If there should be any doubt as to our intention and ability to hold to our word, however awkward and difficult it may be for us, it might make much more difficult the solution of problems which in themselves are difficult enough always.

The other point in connection with the Colonial Office is as to what is being done in regard to East Africa. We have none of us heard much about that matter lately. There have been reports that the Government propose to set up a joint committee. Perhaps the Prime Minister will be good enough to tell us as soon as he conveniently can whether that is so, what the nature of that committee will be, and exactly what its functions will be. People who are connected with or interested in the very difficult problems of the East African colonies are getting anxious about the time which is passing without apparently any definite decision being come to. I think the House would be relieved to know exactly what the situation is in that regard. These are the three principal points outside the King's Speech on which I desire some information.

4.0 p.m.

Of the King's Speech itself I know that, in the main, we have to wait until the legislation is produced to give effect to the proposals which appear in the Speech, but it is not unusual to review two or three of the main items in the. King's Speech, sometimes to request further information and sometimes merely to offer a little useful criticism. I do not know whether the Prime Minister is yet in a position to tell us anything about what is going on in the Imperial Conference. I cannot, of course, having had the experience of presiding over these Conferences, press him to do so before the time that he thinks fit. A veil seems to have been drawn over their proceedings, and all that we know is that he is confidently awaiting satisfactory results. The question is the amount of confidence and the extent of time you have to wait. Is it a case, which was alluded to by a writer probably as familiar to him as he is to me, and as loved by him as he is by me. that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive? Is the Conference going on hopefully without arriving at any destination, or is it going to arrive at a destination, and, if so, what destination? I think we should like information on that. Then, of course, on this side of the House, we are very glad to hear that the Government

will persist in its efforts to develop and extend home, Imperial and foreign trade. We like the word "persist." We think it might be possible to tell the House something about the efforts that have been made, because you cannot persist unless you have started. On this side of the House we have not yet noticed the start. The only thing we have noticed is the Tariff Truce, but we do not quite see how that is going to help Imperial trade. We hope to hear before very long exactly what has been done with regard to the Tariff Truce, exactly what is the effect of it, and how it will help either home or Imperial trade.

If I say that I should regret the setting up of a Royal Commission, I shall be told that I set up plenty of Royal Commissions myself, but I hope that we shall have some further information as to why it is considered necessary to set up a Royal Commission on the question of unemployment insurance. It was with great regret that, owing to a reason which I gave to the Prime Minister, I was unable to join in one of his three-party conferences. It was with all the greater pleasure that I was able and glad to join in the conference on unemployment benefit. think the Government will admit that I asked to serve on that committee two most admirably equipped men for the purpose, and, although I have not the pleasure of complete familiarity with their work, I think the Liberal party put on that committee two excellent men for the work to act with those who were put on by the Government themselves. It seemed to me that they had the capacity, the skill and the judgment really to make recommendations upon which the Government, if they thought fit, might act on their advice without waiting for the time that must elapse until the Royal Commission can begin to advise, because it is common ground among us that there is a great field in unemployment insurance that gives us cause for apprehension today. That is felt in all parties in the country, and it would have been perfectly possible in this House, by agreement between all parties, at any rate, to have taken some steps that would help in the situation, and that we should not content ourselves at the present moment with doing nothing for the unemployment insurance scheme except come to this House and vote more and more money to go into a bottomless pit of borrowing. I heard tremendous cheers from the other side when this paragraph was read: My Ministers propose to introduce legislation to secure for the community its share in the site value of land. And no one smiled with more knowledge and sympathy than the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Very few hon. Members opposite were in the Parliament of 1909. I am going to make no criticism of site values at this moment, but I would remind the House of this—and the right hon. Gentleman knows it well—that there was never a more brilliant team than that team in Mr. Asquith's Government which defended the proposals for the Land Value Duties. It was an amazingly competent team, and it took them months. I ask myself, where is that team to come from to-day?


From Paddington!


I have studied very carefully the form of all the candidates for Paddington, and I cannot quite see who is going to make any contribution to that topic. I merely relate this that hon. Members opposite may have some idea of the complications of the subject. I suppose there was no better equipped and acuter brain than that of Mr. Haldane. I remember Mr. Haldane defending a Clause at the bench opposite. I was a private Member. He said, "It is no use my explaining it to you because, if I did, you would not understand it." I can assure the House that hon. Members who cheered that statement have no idea of the course upon which they are embarking, if, indeed, the ship ever puts out from harbour.

There is only one other subject on which I would like to say a word, because it was omitted by both the Mover and the Seconder of the Address—"a Measure of Electoral Reform." Those few beautiful words have set me thinking. I asked myself subsequent questions to which I cannot at present find an answer.


About the Referendum?


No, it is not. A Measure of electoral reform may mean one of two things, and I am afraid the Prime Minister will not tell us yet which. It may mean that it is an effort of his party alone to try to tinker with electoral law in such a way as will at the same time bring the greatest amount of benefit to his party and the least amount to mine. On the other hand, it may mean that that correspondence which I read with such regret, although I have been engaged in some correspondence of my own—I have every sympathy with people who take part in correspondence—it may be that that correspondence which was in the papers about a fortnight ago between two very distinguished leaders of parties, really meant nothing, and that, after all, when the unthinking concluded that a breach had been made which nothing could heal, yet righteousness and truth have kissed each other. Be it so. We shall maintain a respectful silence until the cause of the osculation has died away, when we shall consider what we shall do. There is only one other observation I have to make. I have seen many Speeches, and they have always concluded with a prayer in a certain form. This time that form has been altered. All I can say is that, having regard to the contents, it was time it was altered.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)

It is my first duty to join with the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating those who have moved and seconded the Address. They adopted the usual modest reserve and genial good humour. They have been very happy in their blending of classical poetry and ancient history, and they have commended to the House the King's Speech with all that light and deft touch which we have been accustomed to see displayed by those who have performed these functions. With the Leader of the Opposition, I congratulate them both most heartily.

I regret that what I have to say this afternoon must open in a note of sadness. The disaster which befell Airship R.101 on that Sunday morning stands alone in the record of such mishaps for the bitter fatefulness of that tragic drama. As not only the head of the Government, but the Leader of this House, I take the opportunity of having placed upon our records our grief for the loss of the brave men of all ranks who met death together, and now so appropriately share a common grave. Their leader was a devoted friend of mine. He was also a great Minister devoted to the service of this State in many fields of action, the inspiring head of a department of gallant pioneers in whose ranks have been enlisted some of the finest and most single-minded and promising of the youth of this country—the Air Force. They have all gone, but in the music to which one moved on that day of funeral, the prayers of uncontrollable grief were broken by the twittering notes of sustaining faith and hope, and those twittering notes now must become the predominant music to which we move in the future on the paths which they have followed. I know that Lord Thomson, Sir Sefton Brancker and their comrades believed that they were pioneers of conquest, and they have handed over a great trust to the nation to continue their work.

Our first duty has been to have a thorough and searching inquiry into the causes of the accident, to secure the best judgment and the best thought and the fullest powers which can be set up. I think I can say, in the name of the whole House, that we have been fortunate both in the court and in the assessors, and we are under great obligations to them for having undertaken their task. It is not fitting that I should pass on without an expression of thanks and gratitude to France, and especially to M. Tardieu, as head of the nation, for the way he so feelingly associated himself personally with the State ceremonies attending the disaster and the arrangements he caused to be made in the work of taking the bodies home with efficiency and reverence and to the Mayor of Beauvais and all the kindly people whom he represents for what they did with so much human consideration and thoughtfulness, with so much tender care and feeling, to respect the dead and nurse the living. France has once again touched the hearts of our people. Regarding Sir Lonsdale Webster, a fitting opportunity will present itself to-morrow for us to pay a tribute to his memory.

The Leader of the Opposition put some questions to me, and I hasten to answer them. He asked me, first, what the business between now and Christmas was to be. I should like the business between now and Christmas to be to as great an extent as possible in the nature of unemployment emergency measures, and there will be two Measures taken, not wholly exclusively to that end—the Education Bill, and the Bill relating to agriculture, the big one. His next question related to the Dispatch of the Government of India. A Dispatch has been received from the Government of India giving the views of the Government of India on the constitutional questions which we must discuss at the Round Table Conference. It is the intention, it is the decision, of the Government to publish that Dispatch, but a little time must elapse. I do not mean a long time, but a necessary, short time, or as short a necessary time as possible—I am anxious to get the right expression—must elapse while we are exchanging views with the Government of India on one or two points, but the Dispatch will be published in a shape and form uniform with the Simon Report.

The next question he asked was whether the wording of the White Paper on Palestine does or does not mark a departure in the policy of this country to the Palestinian Mandate. It does not. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman, when he says that the word of England must not be broken, that we did not inherit a word, we inherited words, and the words are not always consistent. What has to be done is in the spirit of the Mandate, and, sticking strictly to the letter of the Mandate, to straighten out the differences between the contradictory parts of certain declarations. I repeat, there is nothing that has amazed the Colonial Office more than the extraordinary meaning and the extraordinary intentions attributed to the Colonial Office and to the Government on account of the publication of the White Paper. His fourth question was: Have we anything to say about East Africa? That will be announced as quickly as possible. At the present moment the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies has not returned to this country. He went on a mission to see something of the Colonies, and as soon as he returns we shall be in a position to make an announcement.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to ask about the Imperial Conference. He says: "What is going on in the Imperial Conferences?" I am perfectly amazed. I thought the right hon. Gentleman knew more about what was going on at the Imperial Conference than the Dominion Prime Ministers themselves. Again and again, has he not associated himself with statements and proposals even before they were made? I read a letter signed by the right hon. Gentleman saying "I approve of this," and at that moment the Prime Minister concerned was explaining to us what he had said. The right hon. Gentleman anticipated his mind; and he was quite wrong in the meaning he attached to it. I can give a very good report of the Imperial Conference. The Imperial Conference, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is divided into two main sections, although for one reason or another the economic side is receiving almost exclusively all the attention. Hon. Members think they may make more political capital out of that. [Interruption.] I am glad if I have misjudged hon. Members opposite. But hon. Members, or those who are not hon. Members, who believe that they can make more capital out of the economic problems of the Imperial Conference are not doing the Imperial Conference justice. I am not at all sure that the most important and permanent part of the work which is being done at the Conference is in applying and putting a definite content into the various phrases and declarations made by our predecessors in 1926 relating to the constitution and political relationship of the various Dominions. That work is being proceeded with very rapidly, and my report this morning is that it is drawing towards an end.

As regards the economic side, a great deal has been written about it. Let me make it perfectly clear to the House where we stand. The common purpose of the Dominions, and the common purpose of the home Government, is to increase inter-Dominion trade without any Dominion suffering in its own economic position. I see my experienced friend the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) smiling. He knows perfectly well that within those words there is not only one simple problem of adjustment between two countries, but an extraordinary complicated problem of adjustment and readjustment, and adjustment again, between a whole group of Dominions, each one of which quite rightly and properly claims to be in its own eyes first and foremost. That is the problem that has to be solved. Each Dominion, quite rightly, has made it perfectly clear that its claims must be for its own needs first, and in so far as Preference, or anything else, goes it is only in so far as that preference can be given without injuring what is considered to be the Dominion interest giving the preference. May I claim, even in front of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that this country enjoys the status of a Dominion? Must, I be asked to put on a white sheet and confess to faults if I report to this House that we have fought for the interests of this country in exactly the same way At any rate, we have done it. The question is not a phrase, but what is being offered; for how long is it being offered, and under what conditions is it being offered?

The House must remember in talking about Preference that there are three classes or grades of Preference, and one cannot build up a policy of Preference without understanding the triple character of the practice of Preference. There is first the Preference which is protectionist, full Protection, and the wall which is labeled Preference is sufficiently high to keep out any inflow of goods from the Mother country. There is a second class of Preference, a preference given to goods and manufactures not yet started in the Dominion giving the preference but scheduled by the Dominion as being products which they themselves will make and which as soon as they start making they will make under the shelter of a protective wall. This second grade of Preference is a preference which is constantly moving up and up against us and against the world in accordance with the stage reached by the Dominions in manufacturing the goods which are the subject of the preference. Then there is the third grade of Preference, when the Dominion tells us there are certain things—one Dominion says motor chassis—which it never intends to make, and which it does not believe it could make even if it intended to make. In respect of classes of goods like that when we get a preference it is a preference which is absolute, and it will be of the greatest value to our producers. These three grades must be remembered, and, when one talks with the Dominion Premiers and Ministers of Commerce, there is nothing that impresses itself more upon one than this, the tremendous keenness they all have to meet us and help us within the limits of their ability.

One of the first conclusions one comes to when he gets right down deep into it is not that the Dominions and Commonwealth people are niggardly, for indeed they have been very generous, but what has happened to the British producers and manufacturers to make so little use of the preferences they are getting in the Dominions. There would be far more added immediately to the production of this country and exported to the Dominions if our manufacturers took full advantage of every opportunity than if the Dominions themselves increased their preferences by 5 or 10 per cent. You find this: We have got now whole grades of examples of defective production, defective marketing and defective competition. Here is one taken from the "Montreal Gazette" of 12th September. It is only one sentence and deals with only one point. It is only an example of 'how the opportunities given to us by our Dominions have not been adequately seized upon by our producers here:

"I would also like to have heard him"—the "him" refers to Lord Melchett— tell us if the British industries are going to continue forming cartels with our American neighbours, allotting Canadian territory to our rivals in trade, as was done in the tinplate and many other industries. The right hon. Gentleman asked me what we had done for trade. I am not at all sure that a very formidable dossier cannot be produced, that one of these efforts that we made very successfully for trade produced a very substantial order for certain important lines in the engineering group. Yet when the order came over here, I mean the request for the tender, the reply was sent back: We cannot deal in these goods; you must apply to Westinghouse of the United States." I dare say that the manager of that firm will be explaining that the trade has gone down on account of the taxes imposed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Believe me, if we can get the Imperial Conference to work that out, to examine all these things and to take steps to get the offered market for British industry, then our exports will go up by very substantial figures and our unemployment figures will come down very substantially.

There are two things that have emerged from the Imperial Conference. The first is that Empire Free Trade is an absolute fraud. No honest man, after what has transpired at the Imperial Conference, can pretend that Empire Free Trade is an issue that ought to go before the electors of this country. The second thing is this: that if it is going to be a simple exchange, our imposing tariffs for the purpose of allowing a wider field of preference to be shown us, the only tariff that we can propose, that is worth anything to the Dominions, is a tariff on food. You can devise and you can sit as sympathetically as you like, and you can ask them, "Well, now, what do you want of me? What can I give you in our market? How can I help you to get more of your products, primary or secondary, into our markets?" The very first thing that every Premier says, and in some cases not only the first thing but the last thing, is "Tax wheat." We cannot do it. Yet there is no one who has got down to details, who has seen production on the one hand and imports on the other, who has listed out the material that we want to produce in this country and then market from this country, and the materials that the Dominions can put into this country—there is no one who has taken the trouble and the patience to examine all this in detail who believes that there is only one way of helping inter-Dominion trade—the way of tariffs. There are other ways, and those other ways are being carefully explored.

I do not propose to go through the items in the King's Speech, but I should like to say this in regard to international affairs: The Speech may be one which it will take three years to get through. I am not a betting or bargaining sort of man, either on the Tote or otherwise, but, if hon. Members will secure us for three years, we will under take to go a very much longer way in national reconstruction than is indicated in the Speech. But it is perfectly right, and I have no objection at all to the House taking the view, that the Speech has to be taken as a whole. We shall do our best to get it through this Session, but, if not, it will be continued and the work will be done, because it is only by continuity in the working out of a scheme, carefully balanced both in home policy and foreign policy, that this country is going to be led out of the mess in which it is at the present time. In foreign policy we are laying emphasis upon arbitration and disarmament, for only by arbitration and disarmament are you going to establish peace. There must be no mistake about this: We cannot isolate ourselves in these policies; if disarmament, naval disarmament, land or air disarmament, is to be carried out substantially, it can only be done by international agreement, and only in so far as other nations can come in and take their share in disarmament. We cannot go away into a garden of our own; we can only march when other people are marching alongside us.

Then the right hon. Gentleman put a question to me about unemployment. We are inquiring; we propose to set up this inquiry, this Unemployment Insurance inquiry.

Viscountess ASTOR

We have had an inquiry already.


The Noble Lady does carry on, with charming persistency, this role of the innocent. We are talking about the King's Speech. In the King's Speech there is a paragraph which says that the Government are going to set up a Royal Commission, and as regards that paragraph the Leader of the Opposition has put a question to me, and to that question I am about to give an answer. The three-parties consultation, to which he referred, was a very valuable one indeed. It is a novel experiment. I dare say the right hon. Gentleman gets complaints from behind him. I confess to him that I get plenty of complaints from behind me, over these transactions. I am absolutely unrepentant. If by laying our heads together on these very complicated questions of social polity and policy we can discover common grounds, without in any way sacrificing any of the political principles which must divide us, if in practice, in administration, in the direct contact between the State and the individual it is possible for us, by exchanging views, first of all to smooth the way for effective legislation, I am at the disposal of the House. As a result of that investigation it was perfectly evident that the intricacies of this problem have to be examined and considered, and recommendations made regarding them which would have as little party taint as the report of any Royal Commission can ever secure, That conclusion was come to as a result of the conferences which were carried on with so much helpfulness and so much good will.

I want to put this question to the House. We are publishing week by week the figures of unemployment. There is no country in the earth that defines unemployment as it is defined in those figures. I was talking to a big American industrialist the other day. He had been into our figures of unemployment and had been visiting and coming into personal contact with people who were unemployed. He told me that, if the United States issued unemployment figures to include the unemployed who are in our figures, the United States figures would be anything between ten and twelve millions. Yet the House knows perfectly well that by those figures of ours we are seriously handicapping ourselves in the eyes of the world. What does it mean? My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) the other day made a discovery. He said that there is a great deal of abuse. Is there? There is no use in simply throwing interjections at each other on the subject. Of course, it is a thing capable of proof. If anyone said that absolutely there is no abuse, he would be wrong certainly. What one wants to know is, is there such an appreciable percentage of abuse as to create a general wrong? There is not. But there is something of a different character.

The sort of cases given, of £3 earned and then unemployment for the rest of the week and drawing what is called the dole—these are not abuses. There is not a single one of these payments given except after the decision of an umpire. [Interruption.] I have not come to the end of my story. What is the explanation? I am not apologising. I am explaining the thing which you are up against, so that if you want to deal with it you can do so with accurate knowledge, and so that you may help the right men and not the wrong men. Take those people and the a week they are getting. They are insured. They are in full benefit. They pay the contributions. They are not what is offensively called "on the dole" at all. They are on insurance. The Insurance Fund is being used perfectly legally, and there is no fault and no fraud. It may be that one can say that, by experience of the working of the Act, ways and means have been found of getting things which were never contemplated in the Act. That is all right, but do let us be careful of what we say. All these abuses—so-called —if hon. Members will look into them when they appear in the newspapers and so on, are not the abuses of evil-minded, robbing, malicious, dishonest people. They are abuses in the working of the Act that have been used for certain purposes, and let me warn you that those who are guilty of that sort of abuse are as frequently the employers as the workpeople.

There is another thing. I was in this House—it seems a tremendously long time ago—when the right hon. Gentleman opposite introduced his Bill to establish the Employment Exchanges. The purpose of that Bill was to make labour fluid. I remember perfectly well the right hon. Gentleman explaining that the scheme had been devised for the purpose of making labour as fluid as possible. Now one of the most curious effects of insurance has been to reintroduce an extraordinary amount of stagnation. The transfers that have been made have led to much good in training, but have been of very little value for their main purpose of draining off. That problem remains unsolved. Take another case. There is a great deal made about the vast amount of money that is paid—£20,000,000 from the Exchequer and so on—and when you, Mr. Speaker, read about the Bill that is going to be introduced shortly to increase the borrowing powers, there was some laughter. Is the country quite sure that it is not getting value for its money? I am perfectly certain that it is. With the volume of unemployment and the volume of destitution—or the destitution that would be had there been no Unemployment Insurance Fund—can anybody, even with a very stunted imagination, think of what would happen if no such assistance had been given?


Does not the Chancellor of the Exchequer think it immoral to borrow money for this purpose?


My right hon. Friend has an economical mind. Here I want also to put in this word of warning. Before anything like this was done we found district after district becoming derelict. We found great local government areas becoming bank- rupt. That has been saved by the operation of this Fund and hon. Members, when they look at the money or at the figures indicating the money, must remember to put a social meaning and a social content into those figures. I am perfectly certain whatever unfortunate experiences may be contained in it which ought to be cleared out of it, that taken as a whole the country has had full value for every 6d. spent.

Bills will be produced as we go along—[HON. MEMBERS: "Electoral reform!"] Some hon. Members seem to go tremendously fast, but they are always behind. [Interruption.] As I say, Bills will be produced, and every time a Bill is being produced the right hon. Gentleman opposite will make a familiar observation, an observation which we have heard 20 times in the course of a month—the Trade Disputes Bill, to increase the chances of industrial peace in this country and to remove an Act characterised by prejudice rather than by justice—the Electoral Reform Bill to deal with the escapades of parties who are too wealthy to observe the law with strict accuracy. I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that in the production of this programme I shall, most unwillingly, have to draw very heavy drafts upon the time and the efforts of the House, but we are convinced that it is necessary for national well-being and national up-building. We cannot agree. Our Government will always be conducted by party. There will always be great differences, some of us looking perhaps one way and some of us another, some of us, perhaps, having one kind of upbringing and others another, which means differences in political standpoints. But I do hope, however hard and trying the Session may be, that we shall all do our best to keep national interests in front of purely partisan advantage.


As representing the area which has suffered most grievously owing to the disaster to the R.101, I rise for one purpose only, and that is to express on behalf of the relatives of those who lost their lives, their grateful thanks, first, to France for its spontaneous sympathy and ready help; to the Prime Ministers and Governments of the Dominions who have shown by their actions and words their sorrow, and to those Governments throughout the world who have expressed their sympathy and especially to Dr. Eckener who paid such a personal tribute in this country. Lastly, to the people of this country from the highest to the lowest, I offer the thanks of those for whom I speak, for their generous sympathy and their expressions of sorrow, particularly to the officers and men of the Royal Air Force who by their personal attentions and ready help did their best to lighten the burdens of those who mourn. Also today I wish to thank the Prime Minister and the Houses of Parliament for their generous sympathy.

The blow has fallen with particular severity on Cardington and Bedford. All those who worked in the airship works carried out their duties in happy comradeship. They put their best into their work. They took a personal pride in it and had the utmost confidence in the ship and in the officers and men who handled that ship. I would say to-day that the spirit of Cardington is not broken. To them this disaster does not spell defeat. They are ready to carry on, if called upon, and there will be no lack of volunteers to handle a ship if wanted. They believe that what other countries are doing we shall be able to do and are able to do. This disaster may cause a set-back, but, as was said by one there who lost her husband in the disaster, "My son will be ready to fly in R.102." I would beg one thing of the Government, namely, that the dependants of those who have been lost should be dealt with in a considerate and generous manner. I feel sure that such is the wish of the whole country in view of the fact that these gallant men who lost their lives were undertaking a great and perilous adventure in the cause of Empire.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. T. Kennedy.]

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.

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