§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 71A.
§ [Sir ROBERT YOUNG in the Chair].
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient
§ Sir HENRY BETTERTON
May I ask, for direction and guidance, a question as to the course the discussion will take? There are two separate Amendments. The first provides for reducing the borrowing powers by £10,000,000, and the other Amendment reduces the transitional period from 42 months to 39. I would suggest that we should have a general discussion on the first Amendment, on the understanding, of course, that that discussion is not repeated when we come to the second Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If I accept the first Amendment, of course I should have to tie down the discussion to that Amendment and that would restrict the Debate. As the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir 902 H. Betterton) has just pointed out, there are two parts to this Resolution, one increases the borrowing powers by £20,000,000 and the other extends the transitional period by six months. There are two Amendments dealing with these points. I suggest that we should discuss the whole of the Resolution on the first Amendment to reduce the borrowing powers by £10,000,000, and that when we come to the second Division there should be no discussion on the second Amendment.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
I am quite willing to meet the wish of the House to have one general discussion. The purpose of the Financial Resolution is to increase the borrowing powers of the Unemployment Fund by £20,000,000, making a total of £90,000,000, to extend the transitional period by six months, and to enable a grant to be made from the Exchequer to the Unemployment Fund equal to the cost of that extension. This matter is very urgent, because, according to the figures of the live register, this increase is necessary in order that the fund may make its payments on the 5th and 6th March. Therefore I make no apology for bringing this question before the House at this time and asking the very serious consideration of hon. Members to this matter. The Unemployment Insurance (No. 4) Act, which was passed on the 19th December, 1930, increased the borrowing powers from £60,000,000 to £70,000,000. On that occasion I pointed out that the borrowing powers would be exhausted by the middle of April with an average live register of 2,200,000, and by the middle of March with an average live register of 2,500,000. The live register at that time was 2,286,000, and the weekly expenditure on ordinary benefit and its administration, but excluding interest, exceeded the income by £700,000. There has been a large increase in the register since then, and on the 2nd of February it was 2,624,000, and I can give no assurance that the peak has been reached.
Weekly borrowing has increased from about £700,000 to about £1,000,000, and the debt has risen from £55,200,000 on 17th December to £67,100,000 on 14th February. I think it will be a very great advantage if the House will permit me on this point to give several groups of 903 figures. I know how tedious it is to listen to figures one after the other, but I think there is a very distinct advantage in putting the figures in the way I shall put them. While the Conservative Government robbed the fund of about £16,000,000, the present Government have strengthened revenue resources available by over £66,000,000, as follows: In 1929–30, £7,500,000; 1930–31, £25,500,000; 1931–32, £33,500,000; making a total of £66,500,000. Therefore, whilst the fund has been borrowing at a great rate, the Government did take steps to increase the revenue of the fund.
Conservatives frequently make the statement that it was the general stoppage of 1926 and the coal dispute which caused them to leave the fund with a much larger debt than when they entered office. As a matter of fact, if they had left contributions and benefits as they found them in 1924, my inheritance of debt, notwithstanding the general stoppage and the coal dispute, would have been £21,500,000 instead of £36,870,000.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I want to come now to the question of the balancing point, which as I stated in December was a live register of 1,275,000. That is to say, income and expenditure would meet, with the addition which we had made to the revenue, at the point of 1,275,000 on the register. To-day, owing to the nature of the fund which causes the income to drop as the figures of those who are entitled to benefit rise, the balancing point would be about 1,000,000, plus the number of persons receiving transitional benefit. If the average number on the live register is 2,600,000, then the borrowing powers would be exhausted by the middle of July. It is impossible to say when the fund will be in fact exhausted, because the course of the live register cannot be foretold, but at the present rate £3,000,000 comes out of it for interest before 1st October.
The latest live register figures, for 2nd February, 1931, show a. total of 904 2,624,000, an increase of 1,115,000 compared with the corresponding figure of 3rd February, 1930. I have been at some pains to have this additional figure analysed, to see if we can trace precisely in what direction we should look to account for the increase. Of that number, the wholly unemployed number 802,91: the temporarily stopped, 285,395; and the casual workers, 27,331. The increase is shared by the following three categories in fairly equal proportions to the size of the register: Men, 773,702; women, 290,432; and juveniles, 51,504. I went further into the figures, to find out to what trades they belonged. An increase of 1,106,122, the December figure, is accounted for in the following nine groups:Cotton 17 per cent. of the increase. Other textiles, 9.4 per cent.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
It is 26 per cent. of the total. I am now dealing with the increase only:—General engineering, 7.7 per cent. Iron and Steel, 5.2 per cent. Metal trades, 5.7 per cent. Building and contracting, 5.8 per cent. Distributive, 5.7 per cent. Coalmining, 4.9 per cent. Transport and communication, 4.4 per cent.These nine groups account for two-thirds of the total increase in the live register, from December, 1929, to December, 1930.
I think it is generally admitted, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) admitted it in the Debate last week, that this great depression has come upon us as a result of world causes. The right hon. Member for Hillhead said:I am prepared to admit at once that the Government have had a misfortune in that there has been an enormous increase of unemployment which they could not possibly have anticipated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1931; col. 528, Vol. 248.]I will give the House two groups of figures from other countries to show that ours is not a unique experience, but that other countries have had, in relation to world depression, a far greater blow than we. In Germany, the number registered as unemployed on 15th January, 1931, was 4,765,000, and the number registered a year ago in Germany was 3,092,000, showing an increase in the year of 1,673,000. 905 In America, a. conservative estimate puts the total at more than 6,000,000 totally unemployed.
I said I would give figures as to industrial population at a later stage; I did not refuse to give them, and I object very much to that kind of interruption. The American figure, on a conservative estimate, appears to be more than 6,000,000 totally unemployed, and 4,400,000 on part time. These figures do not include agriculture.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
On a point of Order. Is it the custom for a Member on the Front Government Bench, when giving statistics, not to give way when those statistics are challenged?
§ The CHAIRMAN
It should be the custom of the House, and hon. Members should recognise it, that before any question is put to an hon. Member who is speaking the hon. or right hon. Member who is speaking should have given way.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
On a point of Order. Is the expression "determined to be insolent" allowed in Committee?
On that point of Order. So far as the right hon. Lady was referring to me, I should like to say it is a matter of complete unconcern to me what she calls me, or anybody else.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I venture to suggest to this Committee that, when a Minister is doing her best to give all the facts that she has in her possession, and is called dishonest, it is insolent. Regarding the American unemployed, the figures show that—
On a point of Order. I think the right hon. Lady must have misunderstood what happened. I suggested that to give the first figure without giving the population would give a dishonest impression. If the right hon. Lady thinks herself in any way aggrieved by the use of the term "dishonest," used conversationally, I am very willing to withdraw it. I now ask you, Sir Robert, whether it would be in order, if the right hon. Lady objects to the use of the word, for me to withdraw it. May I also press her to give the figure?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I should like to ask if a charge that a Minister is giving misleading figures ought to he allowed during the proceedings of this Committee?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am quite clear that in this last exchange of interruptions I never heard either the word "misleading" or the word "dishonest."
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I have here a statement showing what proportion of the American industrial population is represented by the figures which I have obtained. The most official figure in regard to unemployment shows 23.8 per cent. of the industrial population as totally unemployed and a further 21 per cent. on part time. These are the figures taken from the President's Emergency Committee on unemployment. Another group of our own figures is in relation to migration, which has a very direct bearing upon our unemployment register. A very careful study was made by the Overseas Settlement Department, of the movement of population during the period 1908 to 1913 and 1923 to 1928. Taking these two periods for comparative purposes, the Department came to the conclusion that the annual reduction in gross migration that has taken place in that period is approximately 38 per cent. I will not trouble the Committee with details or an analysis of where the migrants go to, but I will just give a few totals. The actual figures for the year 1930 as compared with 1926 are as follows: Total migration to all quarters of the globe in 1926, 166,601; in 1930, total migration figure, 92,158.
Another factor ought to be noticed. We have striking illustration day by day of the effect upon the live register of the movement in trade itself. The general process of rationalisation and amalgamation of big concerns, can be traced almost 907 week by week, reflected in the figures from the districts in which the movements occur. This presents us with a. new and very difficult problem. I have spent a very great deal of time in trying to get some connected train of investigation to prove by actual working example the old orthodox theories as to the increase of productivity with the absorbing of the labour displaced. So far, I have utterly failed to trace any such connection. I quite understand that it is not possible to get a direct result within a few weeks, but I cannot get any kind of result that helps me at all, or gives me any hope that the process is going to catch up quickly enough to enable us to see results in the immediate future. It makes one wonder whether, in this matter of the development and application of science to industry and to the processes of production, we have got the whole story; whether, in fact, we have got a scientific approach at all to the movement of labour and the absorptive power of industries that are called "expanding" industries, or whether we are overlooking some very important sociological aspect of the whole question, and so failing in our plans to make the necessary and proper provision.
It may be that this old theory is still perfectly true, but might it not also be that the introduction of machinery is so rapid as to cause such a great displacement of labour, that the process of readjustment is going to be too painful to bear? Will not new industries be specially well-equipped for labour saying? They will start right off with all the improvements of science in regard to the application of automatic power in place of man labour, and to that extent will make the situation, for some period anyway, considerably worse than it is to-day. It may very well be that we are on the right road, and that this is the right way in which to proceed, but at a period of general trade depression we must be prepared to face the fact that in the future a higher proportion of willing workers than was ever contemplated will require to receive financial assistance to tide them over the lengthening lag between the increase of production and the absorption of that increase. I believe that the great majority of people who are on the register to-day are in fact in the employable field in the sense in which that 908 term was originally used. I will return to that point presently, when I come to discuss the Blanesburgh Committee, because that is one of the points on which we need to see whether there is any general agreement in the House as to the road which, it appears to me, we shall have to travel.
May I give one or two more of the illustrations which pass through my hands from week to week in connection with the work of the Ministry I want to make some comment on them, because they indicate the kind of problem with which we are faced. Take the baking trade. More bread is consumed to-day than was consumed 10 years ago, and yet 10,000 fewer people are employed; and I cannot find any trace of compensation by way of jobs anywhere else that will take up those 10,000 people and utilise them in the service of the community. Again, as regards the manufacture of cigarettes, there has been an enormous increase in the use of cigarettes, and it is an expanding trade, but there has been put into use a machine capable of turning out 1,200 cigarettes a minute. Not more than three employés are needed to attend to the machine, and its productive capacity is equal to 700 hands; that is to say, 700 hands used to be employed in turning out cigarettes which are now turned out by three persons.
§ Captain Sir WILLIAM BRASS
Can the right hon. Lady say how long ago it was that 700 hands were being employed for that work?
§ Miss BONDFIELD
It is not a. very great time. I remember going to see one of the earlier machines, which had not the speed or capacity of the present one.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Hon. Members must recollect that we are in Committee, and that the right hon. Lady can speak again, so that any of these questions can be brought out in the discussion.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
Then there is a, case in which two firms in the Briton Ferry district amalgamated, and 120 men were thrown out of work as a direct consequence of that amalgamation. In the boot and shoe industry, again, as a result of an amalgamation, 100 skilled employés were thrown out of work last June, and they have not to any appreciable extent been absorbed in any of the other factories. In the dyeing industry we find that within six months 1,500 members of the Amalgamated Society of Dyers have been thrown out owing to the merging and amalgamation of different workshops. Turning to another class of cases altogether, I find, in connection with professional services, very startling figures regarding the mechanisation of clerical employment. In one bank alone, 325 machines have been installed, worked by 86 women, to post the ledgers in 73 branches. At the end of 1930, 120 branches had been mechanised, and this enabled them to withdraw 311 men, in whose place 86 women, plus 325 machines, were employed. I have tried to trace how far new employment was created for the manufacture of these machines, but have been unable to find that it has added to the number of persons employed in the manufacture of machinery, though it has probably been one of the causes of pre venting more people from being unemployed, by giving some additional work to factories which were already underemployed.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I want now to turn to the question of transitional benefit, and this brings me to the point to which I referred just now as to what was in the mind of the Committee, or, at least, was certainly in my mind, as a consequence of the discussions when the Blanesburgh Committee was receiving evidence and discussing this problem. We were faced with a system the calculations of which were based upon one week's benefit for six stamps. This one-in-six rule was the basis of the law regulating the payment of unemployment benefit at that time. The evidence brought before the Blanesburgh Committee showed perfectly clearly that that rule did not in fact give a sufficient latitude to enable 910 those who were genuinely in the employable field to receive the support that they ought to have during their periods of unemployment. As hon. Members know, the Blanesburgh Committee recommended an altered basis, and the late Government accepted their recommendation and placed that altered basis—that is to say, the basis of 30 contributions in the last two years—in the Act of 1927.
It was felt at that time, when the number of unemployed was round about 1,000,000, that that was an exceptionally high register, and that the figure would sink. It will be remembered that the Blanesburgh Committee was taking evidence in 1925 and at the beginning of 1926, and reported at the end of 1926. At that time it was assumed that the percentage of unemployment would come down to about 6 per cent., and that, when the percentage had reached that figure, the new basis would ensure that all the really employable people would be provided for. That was the general asumption underlying the Act of 1927. It was understood that there would have to be an interval, and it was suggested that there should be a transitional period of one year in order that we might get over the peak of unemployment, as it was called, and get back to a level where provision was made in the scheme for all able-bodied unemployed. It is perfectly clear from what has happened since that that provision is not sufficient; that is to say, that the finance based on the scheme of that time, with the contribution what it is and the benefit what it is, is utterly inadequate to meet the situation. Therefore, I beg the Committee to realise that what I am trying to bring before them to-day, and what I have tried to emphasise in every speech I have made on this subject, is that we cannot treat this transitional period as though it were something that was going to disappear next year, but must recognise the fact that the number of persons unemployed is going to be permanently a larger ratio to the number employed in normal times of good trade; and we must, therefore, face the responsibility of so financing the fund that we may get rid entirely of this question of carrying on on a transitional basis, and put the whole thing on something like a permanent basis.
It was from that standpoint that, after examining the question ourselves and 911 giving the most careful consideration to what was possible as an interim period, we definitely decided that it was necessary that there should be another examination by an impartial body, who would receive evidence from the other two contributors to the fund as well as from other parties in the State who were directly and personally interested in this question. We, therefore, decided last year to ask a Royal Commission to go into this matter. We appointed a Royal Commission with specific instructions that the matter was one of great urgency, and that it would be necessary for them to consider it in its broadest aspects, the terms of reference being made deliberately so broad that nothing was excluded. We wish it to be recognised that the Royal Commission will be required to give us what light they can on the additional experience since the Blanesburgh inquiry; and upon the further evidence which they will collect and upon which they will base their recommendations we shall have to frame the next Bill.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
As the right hon. Lady said that this is a matter of urgency, may I ask whether those members of the Royal Commission who are public servants have been relieved of their public duties, so that the report may be expedited? I noticed that Judge Holman Gregory was trying a case the other day.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I am afraid that I cannot very well answer a question of that kind at this stage. I should have to make inquiries; I am not able to answer it from my own knowledge.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I believe that the Commission is sitting at least twice a week to take evidence, and it is continuously in session as far as the consideration of the evidence it has received is concerned. It is our considered view that a scheme of unemployment insurance should be a self-supporting scheme, that it should contain the elements of the tripartite contribution, that it should cover the able-bodied unemployed, and that we should do everything that we can to see that there is a fund which will cover the risks that it is intended to cover. With this experience we can get a far better view of what that risk 912 really amounts to than we could possibly get prior to coming face to face with this new industrial revolution and the changes which it is bound to bring about in regard to the number of persons who can be employed in the various industries of the country.
The present Government, by the Act of 1930, extended the period of transitional benefit for a further 12 months, following the extension which the late Government had brought into operation in April, 1929, when the live register was standing at 1,153,000, or about one-half of the present figure. I want to make clear the operation of transitional benefit from its financial aspect. The present period of transition dates from the 17th April, 1930, to the 17th April, 1931, but, on the 17th April, 1931, it will not be the whole of the transit ional people who will fall out of benefit, but only those who have exhausted the 12 months' grace. Every month sees a successive number falling out of benefit, but, even on the 17th April, 1932, if the period be extended for six months, the number will still not be exhausted, but will lag over, and the Estimates provided for that additional lag. Therefore, in addition to the amount of money which has been voted, I am asking the Committee to agree to an additional sum which will not all be spent until six months after the end of the next financial year.
To put it in another way, the £30,000,000 mentioned in the White Paper is the estimated charge on the Exchequer for the next financial year on the basis of the Resolution as it stands, and without taking into account any further legislation which the Government may propose for coming into operation at the end of the transitional period. The expenditure in the second six months of the financial year will depend upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission and the nature of further legislation, but we are bound by the processes of Parliamentary procedure to make provision for the whole period. We have already made provision for the lag in the Estimates of this year, and we are making the same kind of provision now. The cost of the extension, including the cost of administration, is estimated to be about £20,000,000, of which about £13,000,000 will fall in the financial year 913 1931–32, leaving the balance for the lag covering those who will tail off in the next financial year. Under existing legislation, transitional benefit is estimated to cost, in the year 1931–32, about £17,000,000. The proposed extension for six months will increase this £17,000,000 by £13,000,000, making £30,000,000 in all. The continuance of a high live register will cause an increasing number of persons to transfer from what is known as standard benefit to transitional benefit. Therefore the proportion of those in receipt of transitional benefit is likely to increase under the existing law.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
We have put in a figure, but the right hon. Gentleman knows it must be very speculative.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
It depends entirely on the trend of trade, and which industries remain depressed or become depressed.
Another point with which I wish to deal at this stage is the question of the report of the Royal Commission. We had hoped it would have been able to give us an interim report on which legislation could be based before the end of this financial year, but we find now that that is impossible. We have had a communication from the Chairman of the Commission pointing out that he considers it essential that they should hear the evidence of three large groups before they can consider any recommendation at all—the Federation of Employers, the trade unions and the local authorities. We have felt compelled to concur in that decision of the Chairman. I stated last December that we did not proceed because we felt that the other parties bad a right to express their views.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
; I am coming to that. We have specially asked that they will give us a report by the end of May. We have pointed out that we must legislate before the House rises for the Summer Recess.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
Surely the Commission ought to sit day after day. 914 The Chairman of this tribunal is sitting taking cases.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Lady is giving an explanation of what she expects, so that our understanding of the Resolution may be more clear. We cannot now discuss whether the Committee should sit day by day.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I want to make my position quite clear as the right hon. Lady gave way. All I am asking the Government to do is to urge on the City of London Corporation, which can exercise a great influence in the matter, that the judge should be excused from his judicial duties in view of the national importance of this work.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
Not necessarily, but it is made clear, I think, from what, the chairman has said that he feels great difficulty in deciding even a point like that until he has heard the evidence. It is the definite intention, indeed it is necessary, that we should introduce further legislation before the Summer Recess.
A great deal has been written with regard to what are called abuses. I want to make it clear that the Government do not propose for a moment to hesitate about dealing with any abuses of the fund, on both sides, which the Commission consider are proved, but I beg the House to realise that that is the smallest part of the problem. I have been going carefully into the figures and I want to give the Committee a set of figures in relation to the question of how far the money that is nom expended as a result of the 1930 Act is expended on what are called the abuses. Here is the exact position as far as we have been able to analyse it. The effect of the expenditure up to the end of the present financial year of the 1930 Act has been to add about £5,000,000 for ordinary benefit and £8,000,000 for transitional benefit. That is for the whole of the increased register. About £4,250,000 of the total of £13,000,000 which we asked for is in respect of increased rates of benefit granted. In so far as married women and seasonal workers receive additional payments as a result of the 915 1930 Act, the cost of these is included in the figure of £13,000,000 and is only a minor part of the whole sum. If none of the alleged abuses existed the saving would be small and would not appreciably affect the financial position of the fund, which is mainly due to the world wide depression which has resulted in doubling the numbers of the unemployed.
Now I want to come to the last Amendment on the Order Paper. I have shown how extraordinarily difficult it would be to consider any less sum than the £20,000,000 which has been proposed in the circumstances, and in view of the fact that we must come to the House for fresh legislation before it adjourns. With regard to the length of extension, here again, in view of the fact that the end of May is the earliest time at which we can expect the Commission to report or make any recommendations, and that after May those recommendations would have to be carefully considered and a Bill prepared and discussed by the House, and Parliament would have to make up its mind on it, it is clear that we could not expect to get legislation through before the end of the Summer Recess, and it will be some period after that before it will be possible to get it into operation. Therefore, the earliest date at which any legislation could become effective would be October, or perhaps even later. Anything less than six months is totally impracticable in the circumstances of the case. There is no reason why we should not recognise that we have run into this dense fog of depression. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) might describe it as a City of London particular. In any case there it is. We have to face that fact. We are apt to overlook the fact of the bitterness felt by the people who are overcome by this fog, the unemployed men and women. I am sure this is not a sentiment that is shared by merely one side of the House. We have moved on, at any rate, from the period when it was regarded as a crime or a misdemeanour to be unemployed. We have to face the stern realities of this new industrial situation—this new industrial revolution.
916 My attention has been drawn to a very remarkable coincidence by a newspaper yesterday, and I have had the curiosity to look up the proceedings of the House precisely 100 years ago to see how far, in fact, it was pertinent to the question before us, and I find that on a Monday, precisely 100 years ago, this House of. Commons was considering a petition. The country was alarmed at the misery, the suffering and the terrible distresses resulting from the beginning of that industrial revolution, and a certain Mr. Hughes presented a petition from a congregation of Oxford praying the House to address His Majesty for the purpose of having a day set apart for a national confession of sins and to exhibit a desire of atonement by the means of a general fast.Mr. Hunt said he should like to know whether the persons who wished a day set apart for a general fast were not aware of the fact that one-third of the people of the Kingdom fasted almost every day in the week.Mr. Perceval, as the Member who had given notice of a Motion on the subject of a fast, which was shortly to come before the House, begged in return to ask if the lion. Member recollected who it was they must look up to as the Almighty and sole dispenser of all good and mercy to His creatures.Mr. Hunt was well aware of the object the hon. Member had in view when he asked that question. He knew well also to whom they were to look for the blessings they received, but he was well aware of another fact, that the hon. Member and some other Members of the House were the means of taking away from the poor of this country the greater portion of the benefits the Almighty intended for them.We have progressed since that day. I believe there is a much quicker conscience and a much greater recognition that in this matter those who have only their labour to sell have to take as important a part in the consideration of any schemes that are adopted as the owners of capital, and it is on that basis that we bring forward this Motion.
I should like to give one other quotation and that is from Senator Borah, who has been one of the bitterest critics of this country. He has been a critic about our system of unemployment insurance but he is facing now a situation in America which he never thought he would live to see. This is what he said according to a report that appears in the "Times": 917They talk of how Englishmen established the dole and now they are unable to get rid of it. England will get rid of the dole when she can get rid of the economic depression which has made it necessary. We place too little faith in the courage, pride and self-reliance of the Anglo-Saxon race. Neither Americans nor Englishmen ever have been dole-gatherers nor ever will be. And so I am willing to accept the challenge on this matter of principle. The principle is whether this Congress will do its duty by suffering Americans.I think this House is now prepared to do its duty by these English people who are to-day suffering under the shadow of uncertainty, under the shadow of having been brought down to the point of bare subsistence, of having literally the source of unemployment benefit as the only source by which they can maintain themselves and their dependants. I am not prepared to say we cannot improve on the present system that we have. There is no party in the House to-day which will face the question of the suspension of benefits such as will occur if these two Amendments were passed.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out the word "ninety," and to insert instead thereof the word "eighty."
I cannot bring myself to deal with the matter which we are discussing this afternoon without reference to a colleague who has died. Less than a week ago he was taking part, with his customary skill and fairness, in a discussion of the very character in which we are engaged to-day. For myself, I can say that I was honoured by his intimate friendship. I was often guided by his example, and I was instructed by, and indebted to, his ripe experience. To us on this side, his loss is incalculable, but the whole House, and every part of it, will mourn his loss without regard to section or to party.
The Amendment which I rise to move proposes that the sum of £20,000,000 for which the Minister asks shall be reduced to £10,000,000, and a later Amendment proposes that the proposed extension of the transitional period of six months shall be reduced to three months. I confess having listened to the speech which the right hon. Lady has just made—and I listened to it with the greatest care—that I can find nothing whatever to 918 justify the Financial Resolution. On the other hand, I heard much which seemed to be a complete justification of the Amendment which I am moving. I desire, in the first place, to point out that this Resolution is unprecedented. This is the first time, as far as I know, that any Minister of any party has asked that borrowing powers shall he granted to an extent of £20,000,000. Formerly, the sum was always £10,000,000. I say also that the period of six months is far longer that the situation warrants.
The truth of the matter is that the action of the Government and their policy in regard to the finance of unemployment insurance is undefended because it is indefensible. The fact remains that in the position in which we are now, the whole system of unemployment insurance—a system of which we ought to be proud and one which I would be the first to say, in the past has been of great value to this country—has been, in the first place, discredited; in the second place, it has been abused; and, in the third place, it has become in many quarters the subject of ridicule. But when we look at the result of the policy of the Government from the financial position, it will be seen that it is even more serious, because the financial position has been explained with the greatest possible clearness in a document, I suppose, as grave as any which has ever been issued by any Government Department. I refer to the statement of Sir Richard Hopkins and Sir Alfred Watson in which they say quite clearly, that the effect has been, in the first place, to obliterate the Sinking Fund, in the second place, to impair Government credit, and, in the third place, to disclose to the world the ordinary and well-recognised sign of an unbalanced Budget. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech of great gravity which made a tremendous impression upon the whole House, repeated that warning in other words. I will read a few sentences from the report of Sir Richard Hopkins. He says:Continued State borrowing on the present vast scale without adequate provision for repayment by the fund would quickly call in question the stability of the British financial system. The State has every year to borrow large sums for various productive purposes. This additional borrowing—for purposes other than productive—is now on a scale which in substance obliterates the 919 effect of the Sinking Fund. Apart from the impairment of Government credit which such operations inevitably involve, these vast Treasury loans are coming to represent in effect State borrowing to relieve current State obligations at the expense of the future and this is the ordinary and well-recognised sign of an unbalanced Budget. From this point of view it is necessary both that the scale of borrowing should be greatly reduced and that the fund should be reconstituted on such a basis and with such provision for necessary financial adjustments from time to time that the debt incurred and still to be incurred will be swiftly repaid as conditions return to a more normal equilibrium.That statement, we were told, was issued by the Treasury—and, indeed, it could not be otherwise—with the approval of the Chancellor himself. Mark what happened! That statement is dated 21st January. Therefore, within a few weeks of the issue of that statement, and within a few hours of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in which he confirmed it, the Government come down here and, for the first time, ask for borrowings to the extent of £20,000,000, double the amount of that for which they have ever asked before, and to extend the transitional period for six months. It is well known that a considerable part of this amount is made up by payments for transitional benefit which is as I have said before—and I believe it to be true—in practice quite indistinguishable from indiscriminate relief, and which is costing £22,000,000 for the present year, and is estimated to cost from £35,000,000 to £40,000,000 for next year, according to Sir Richard Hopkins.
I ask the Committee: Has Parliament a right in these circumstances to remove for a considerable period control of this question? It is a matter, as we have been told, which is calling into question the stability of the British financial system. The Government are asking for further borrowing powers when we have been told that borrowings should be reduced. It would be the gravest dereliction of duty on the part of all parties in this House if they did not retain control in circumstances so grave and in a situation so serious. The Liberal party have often claimed to be the special custodians of the rights of Parliament in the matter of finance. Are they prepared to allow this to be done without any control at such a time and in view 920 of such warnings It is sometimes said that Parliamentary institutions are beginning to become discredited, and it is alleged that this House is becoming discredited. I cannot imagine a greater justification for that view than that it should appear at this moment that the Government have asked and have been given powers of this magnitude at such a time. Sir Richard Hopkins pointed out that we are borrowing to meet current financial charges. As long ago as last July my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley) said almost exactly what Sir Richard Hopkins said, and in almost the same language. He pointed out that the effect of what we were doing was to raid the Sinking Fund. He pointed out that what we were doing was to use borrowed money for current charges. The point which I desire to make now—and it is a perfectly clear one—is that serious as was the position last July, it was quite certain that it would be almost desperate by January if nothing was done, and nothing was done either to remedy the abuse to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred or to check these further raids upon the Sinking Fund. We have no right, then, to be surprised if that which has happened is exactly what we foretold would happen.
In view of these warnings, and of the knowledge which, of course, must have been in all Government Departments, the only step that the Government took was, in the first place, to set up what is known as the three-party committee and, in the second place, to set up a Royal Commission. As far as I can see, the Royal Commission has been set up to examine questions of fact which are already in the possession of the Government Departments. In any case, if it he true that further investigations are desirable or necessary, the question that must at once be asked—it has never been answered—is, why was not the Royal Commission set up last year, or, in any case, why was it not set up last summer when the position, serious as it was then, was much less serious than it is now?
With regard to the three-party committee, I imagine, Sir Robert, that you would be quite right in ruling out of order anything which took place in our deliberations at our meeting. But I am under another and even deeper obliga- 921 tion. It is the obligation of secrecy which was imposed upon it and which I intend, in spite of almost intolerable provocation, to observe. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to a statement by myself, that before we had sent in any report, and before we had made any recommendation, the whole thing was sent to a Royal Commission, said:Hon. Members opposite are always very ready to take the uncorroborated ipse dixit of one of their own Members. I can well understand their indignation. The two hon. Members who were members of the committee made no contribution whatever to the deliberations of that committee which was of the slightest use."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1931; col. 441, Vol. 248.]I should like to ask the Minister of Labour whether she accedes to, or agrees with, that view. If he were here now, I should like to ask the Lord Privy Seal who was present at our meetings, whether he takes that view, and I would even ask the Minister of Health, who was present at all of them, whether he takes that view. Whether that be so or not, I should like to remind the House—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Will the hon. Member forgive me for interrupting, but why does he not tell us what took place?
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I cannot. The hon. Gentleman has asked a very natural question. We are under a pledge of secrecy. We were regarded as a, Cabinet committee and we were told that the deliberations were secret. We cannot divulge what we did, having given a pledge of that kind.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I understood that we had abolished secret diplomacy abroad. The hon. Member has entered into secret conclave with people whom he denounces at election time. It is a very serious indictment against him.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I was referring to what the Prime Minister said in the Debate on the Address on 28th October last. For greater truth and greater fairness I will quote the exact words:The three-parties consultation, to which he"—meaning my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition— 922referred, was a very valuable one indeed. It is a novel experiment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1930; col. 29, Vol. 244.]He went on to refer to the conferences which were carried on "with so much helpfulness and so much good will." Can it be expected that we shall again respond to invitations made by the Government to assist them to the best of our ability if the only recognition that we get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer is calumny and insult? We have had appeals for Councils of State, and we have had appeals for co-operation and appeals to pool all our experience. We are forced to the conclusion, in the light of what has happened, that those appeals are nothing but meaningless cant.
The Minister of Labour told us that the Royal Commission had asked for an extension of the powers, in order that they might be in a position to report. Some four months ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I am reading from a report in the "Times" of 16th October—the Governor and Directors of the Bank of England, and the bankers and merchants of the City of London were guests of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress at dinner at the Mansion House, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech, in which he said:There is one item of national expenditure which is distressing me almost beyond measure, and that is the cost of unemployment. From various sources the cost of unemployment is £100,000,000 a year, a necessary but still at the same time an unremunerative expenditure. The Exchequer contribution has been raised, and I have to find this year £21,000,000 in order to finance a large class of unemployed persons who had no insurable qualifications. I think it is the duty of Parliament to face up to this problem and to put the Insurance Fund upon an insurance basis.What we would like to be clear about is whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared not only to face up to the position, but to face up to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and to face up to the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), who is chairman, this year, of the Trade Union Congress. In matters such as this the hon. Member for West Nottingham is a person of far greater importance and far greater influence than any Member of the Government. It may well be that the Government will survive, or, as some of 923 their Members think, it might be strengthened if certain Members of the Government were removed, but it is certain that without the active approval and support of the hon. Member for West Nottingham and those whom he represents the Government could not remain in office for five minutes.
The attitude of the hon. Member for West Nottingham is not very encouraging. In the first place, so I read in the newspapers, he protested against the Royal Commission being appointed until he had been consulted, and he protested against the Terms of Reference, particularly the second part of the Terms of Reference, and he went with a deputation to the Prime Minister to make the protest. The point arises, is it at all likely that the Government will face up to the position, and make the system self-supporting? It is perfectly clear that they will do nothing of the kind. I can only express my personal opinion, and that is, that the eminent members of the Royal Commission, with whom I sympathise, are wasting their time, just as the members of the three-party committee wasted their time. I am also driven to the conclusion that it was the object, if I may call it so, the primary object, for which they were set up.
With regard to the figures, the right hon. Lady referred to some of them, and I will not weary the Committee by dealing with them at any length. The facts are quite short and very significant, and the House and the country have already judged of their seriousness. A year ago the debt was just under £39,000,000. Last December it was £56,000,000. It is now approaching £70,000,000, and the estimate of Sir Richard Hopkins is that on the existing basis £40,000,000 to £50,000,000 will be added to it next year. The debt will then be between £110,000,000 to £120,000,000. That is in addition to the normal contribution of the State to the fund, which is about £15,000,000 a year. Last December the weekly increase was about £800,000 a week. Now, it is £1,000,000 a week. Moreover, the transitional benefit, which this year is estimated to cost £22,000,000 is estimated to cost next year from £35,000,000 to £40,000,000. It will be observed from an examination of the figures that the situation is becoming worse every day, and Sir 924 Richard Hopkins was perfectly right in the grave warning which he gave. Yet this moment is chosen by the Government to ask for powers double those that have ever been asked for before, and that the period should be extended for six months. The request is one which the Committee has no right to accede to, and I hope that it will be refused.
A few words about transitional benefit. The fortunate applicants for that benefit—[HON. MEMBERS: "Fortunate!"] I withdrawn the word "fortunate," and say "unfortunate." The applicants obtain that benefit without any of the tests which are applicable either to insurance or to the recipients of those who obtain relief from the public assistance committees. That this is the view of the Government Actuary I will show by an extract from the evidence which he gave before the Royal Commission. This is what Sir Alfred Watson said in regard to transitional benefit:The witness doubted whether the Government or Parliament realised, when taking the apparently simple step of putting transitional benefit on to the Exchequer, exactly what they were doing. The personnel of the live register on standard benefit was always changing, but the personnel of recipients of transitional benefit was not changing to nearly the same extent. More and more people were passing through standard benefit every week and going on to transitional benefit, and very few persons were going off transitional benefit. The effect was that the mass of people on transitional benefit was gradually growing towards a number, the cost of supporting whom must, he thought, be far in excess of anything contemplated by Parliament when the last Act was passed. The benefit would, in fact, become in many cases a pension, without its ever having been realised by Parliament that it was a pension.That being so, and with such warnings from authorities so important, I maintain that the Committee has no right to lose control for a period of eight months, for that is what it amounts to, over the payment of transitional benefit. The facts that I have described have been known for months, and they have now been revealed to the public, and no report of the Royal Commission can avoid the issue. There is no excuse for further delay, and no excuse should be tolerated by any party which attaches importance to the credit of the country and which is not prepared to see our financial 925 system crumble into ruin. For these reasons, I move the Amendment, and I hope that the Committee will accept it.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
As one who has not been described as particularly friendly to the Minister in the past, and as one who has been keenly critical, I must say, in common fairness to her, without appearing unduly patronising, that I think her speech to-day is the best that I have ever heard her deliver since she has occupied her present position. Her analysis of the figures struck to the heart and core of the Lady whom I knew long before she occupied a Parliamentary position. I say this because in the past I have said equally hard things about her. On this occasion I feel that her speech has brought us much nearer than in the past. I should like to say a few words about the opening remarks of the last speaker. He referred to the death of a late colleague, the ex-Secretary of State for War, Sir Laming Worthington-Evans. I did not know the right hon. Gentleman beyond a casual acquaintance in the Smoking Room. I have never been in close association with him, but I knew him as a very fair debater and one who was always tolerant of his opponents. Occasionally I crossed swords with him in Debate, and I fear that I was much more intolerant towards him than he was towards me. I am sure the Committee will regret his loss and we offer to his widow and family our sincere condolences and sympathy.
I congratulate the Government on introducing this Motion for borrowing a further sum of £20,000,000. On the occasion when the Government asked for a Vote of £10,000,000 I suggested that it should be for at least £40,000,000 or £50,000,000, but we were laughed at for asking such a large sum of money. Since that time, however, the Government have asked for borrowing powers up to £30,000,000 and to-day they are asking for another £20,000,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is present, and before he leaves I want to say a word or two to him. I wish he could have heard the speech of the Minister of Labour to-day before he made his speech of last Wednesday. It may be perfectly true that he is not going to reduce unemployment benefit. It may be true that he has disowned the "Daily Sketch" reporter, and that according to his letter to the Labour candidate in East Islington he intends no 926 interference with unemployment benefit. Yet no one reading his speech, no man or woman drawing unemployment benefit and reading his remarks that sacrifices were called for from all classes of the community, and remembering also the complaints about abuses of unemployment insurance, which have been so widespread, and considering the atmosphere of the Debate last Wednesday and the setting up of the Royal Commission—no one taking all this evidence into consideration could be other than suspicious.
There is also the evidence of the expert of the Treasury, who mentioned the case of a footballer drawing £6 a week and getting unemployment benefit. He did not give us the name of the footballer, and, indeed, this expert must be ignorant of the facts of the situation, because a man working more than three days a week cannot draw unemployment benefit. This £6 must have been earned in a period of three days or less, and anyone who knows the life of a professional footballer and the amount of training upon which the average football management insists, will know that he will not train on one but on every day of the week. Consequently, unemployment benefit cannot be paid to him. Why was this case quoted It was quoted to show that there is wholesale abuse. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, taken into consideration with all this other evidence, as well as his grave warning that sacrifices must be made by all classes, led the unemployed man and woman to view the future with apprehension.
There was talk about abuses by the Prime Minister on Thursday. Why do the Government talk about abuses when they have set up a Commission to inquire into the matter? If they know there are abuses there was no need for the Commission. If, on the other hand, they are not sure, why talk about them? Why not wait until the Commission reports? When the hon. Member for Kirk-dale (Mr. Sandham) said something about the character of hon. Members of Parliament everybody got hot and asked him for the names, but when the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) and the hon. Member on the Liberal benches talk about abuses and when the expert of the Treasury talks about abuses, and they are asked 927 for facts they simply say that they are true and do not give a single fact in support of their statement.
The first reassuring note we have had on this matter from the Government Front Bench is the Minister of Labour's speech to-day. Until it was delivered there were grave forebodings in the country. The terms of reference to the Commission raised grave suspicions that large numbers of the unemployed were to be shifted from unemployment benefit to some other form of benefit. Some of us are suspicious about the Commission. Take the letter they have written to local authorities. They were set up to get the facts, and they have sent out a secret letter to local authorities. What are the terms of this secret letter which they have sent to the Town Clerks of Glasgow and Dundee? The inference is that the Commission has already made up its mind as to a change in the character of unemployment benefit, to shift it to some form of Poor Law assistance.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Philip Snowden)
The hon. Member has no justification whatever for making that statement, and he is doing a great injustice to the members of the Commission.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
You told us the other day how many members of the Labour party were in the pay of the drink trade.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I have seen the document. It was published in the Scottish edition of the "Daily Herald" 928 on Friday or Saturday last. It was marked "Confidential," and the "Daily Herald" correspondent says that the whole trend of the letter to local authorities was to ask how they might get some new category, some new method, as they have already by their note made up their minds as to the trend and movement of events.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It is not untrue, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has no right to say that I am more untruthful than he is.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I say that the right hon. Gentleman is equally untrue. Even his privileged position does not allow him to slander me, and the sooner the right hon. Gentleman learns that the better. There has been a good deal of debate as to what happened at the Three-Party Conference. It is no use hiding facts, rumour will out, and there have been various rumours as to what happened. One Liberal newspaper went so far as to say that it had good information that certain suggestions were offered about a means test, an inquiry into the family income. One is not certain whether this is correct or not. Did the Conservative members make any contribution? Did the Liberal members make any contribution? Did the Government make any contribution? The Commission will bring in a report on this question, and legislation will be involved. I remember the Prime Minister making a statement about secret diplomacy, and he said that everyone had a right to know, not the actual steps which led up to the War but the secret conversations which took place long before. I think the House of Commons is entitled to know what took place at the Three-Party Conference.
The hon. Member opposite has no right to complain. He entered knowingly into a secret conference. He thought that he could get, secretly, in some way, a shifting of the unemployed, some arrangement to get the unemployment benefit changed; and then, having entered into this secret conference and finding that other people were not prepared to agree, he grumbles. 929 We ought to know what proposals were discussed. Did the Government pledge themselves or offer any suggestions? Did the Government suggest any means test, or any shifting of any section of the unemployed from the live register? Did they in any way commit themselves individually, or the Front Bench, or the party, to any of these suggestions? If they did privately we have a right to know. If they did not, then the country and they, for the sake of their own honour, have the right to clear themselves, and the only way in which they can clear themselves is by the publication of those secret conversations and the minutes relating thereto.
I want to say one or two words about the alleged abuses. The right hon. Lady has dealt with the abuses in relation to what is called casual employment. The chief forms of abuse we are told, are threefold. There are the married women, there is the casual employé, and there is the person who is supposed not to be genuinely seeking work. Let us take the casual employé. The great standard case is that of the man who is getting £4 a week, and his wife, a barmaid, is drawing benefit. That is the case of the barmaid in Hamilton. That was placarded all through Glasgow: "Hamilton barmaid draws Unemployment Benefit." I found out that the husband was working and was earning £3 5s. a week. The wife got 15s. and that made an income of £4 a week in all. The woman was prepared to work, but one would almost think it was the end of the world to have a married couple with a family earning £4 a week, and the "Hamilton barmaid" was blazoned everywhere as a typical example of the abuses of unemployment benefit. But take the casual employé. The numbers given up to date effectively dispel the suggestion that there are any large sections, but, even if there were, far from being ashamed of it I would like to get the Government to agree to a further extension of the casual system.
What is happening? Hon. Members above the Gangway on the other side of the House deplore the fact that the young men are unemployed. Everybody says that the most ghastly part of our unemployment problem is the fact that there are young men between the ages of 19 and 30 who have never worked. What is your casual system? Take my own trade. I followed a very highly 930 skilled technical trade, and whenever a young man's time was out, at the age of 20 or 21, he was dismissed and was unable to get work. He was idle, it might be for one, two, three or four years. Now the employer comes along and says, "We are not going quite to dismiss all our young men. We are going to give them three days a week. We will give them three days this week and three days next. We are going to retain a portion of our young men. We are not going to throw them on the scrap-heap and lose their technique and their skill." Those men will receive unemployment benefit for the other part of the week. Somebody says that that is wrong and that because these young men do not work for the other three days a week, but draw benefit, that is an abuse of the insurance fund. But, surely, it is much more important that you should keep our young men with all their technique and their skill in employment. Hon. Members opposite say: "Slash them out."
But this is the funny point: Let hon. Members note that three days idle a week over a period of 12 weeks is six weeks idle. Now take a short-time worker, who is idle for six weeks out of the 12. Does anybody suggest that the man who works six weeks and is then idle for six weeks should not receive unemployment benefit? Is anybody in this Committee going to suggest that if, instead of cutting them off to three days a week, they should work for six weeks and then be idle for six weeks, unemployment benefit should not be paid during the six weeks that they are idle? Are the Conservative party going to say that we should go back and argue how much the man earned in the previous six weeks? Hon. Members opposite say that we ought to have the insurance principle, but let them bear in mind that the casual worker is not outside of insurance. He has got his stamps. He has all the qualifications you need. He would even satisfy my friend Watson, the Government Actuary, little as he knows about insurance. The casual worker pays 39 stamps. He would get benefit.
Are we to be told, before a fire insurance claim should be paid, that the fire insurance company ought to inquire into the private living of the people who have 931 taken out the policy and are paying their premium? The Conservative party cannot have it both ways. They cannot say first of all that there should be an income test and then that there should be an insurance test at the same time. As far as this Motion is concerned I welcome it. May I say this about the married woman? I do not want to become too personal about the married woman, but when we talk about the married woman drawing unemployment benefit let us remember this. I can see little injustice in it. But, even at the very worst, assuming that these women do not want to work and they are not looking for a job, what is the. worst they do? They get 15s. a week. Their husband earns about £3 10s. a week, and therefore they get about £4 5s. a week. They have usually two or three bairns. That is five in all on £4 5s. a week. The very worst that happens is that that type of woman spends her 15s. a week in giving her family and her husband and herself a better chance than they otherwise would have. That is all that matters.
It is said by those who criticise the fund as it is at present that we must get back to an insurance basis. The one blemish on the speech of the right hon. Lady was the talk about an insurance basis. I would say to the right hon. Lady and to the Government Actuary that you cannot run this on an insurance basis. The sooner the right hon. Lady stops talking about an insurance basis the better. What is an insurance basis? Take the Blanesburgh Committee. You had their figure of 700,000, and if ever a Government were responsible for an insane system it was this. You are never going to be near 700,000. You will be lucky if you get down to 1,500,000. Stop talking about an insurance basis. The right hon. Lady's rationalisation argument has dispelled that effectively for ever. Let us stop talking about it. It cannot be run on a basis of 7d. from a working man, 7½d. from the employer, and 8d. from the Government.
Whether there is an insurance system or not, these men have to be kept and they have to be kept by the State. You cannot make an insurance system. I would like to call the Chancellor of the Exchequer's attention to the statement that the debt has to be repaid. There 932 are £80,000,000 of debt to be repaid, before it is finished, possibly £100,000,000. Just imagine our trying to repay £80,000,000 on an insurance basis. Does that mean that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is out for reduced benefit? His spokesman has said that this money must be repaid. Repaying this money means that it can only be done in two ways. It is said that the employers cannot pay any more, and that the workmen cannot pay any more. How is it to be repaid? There are the unemployed. That is the only method; and I say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is wrong if he thinks he can meet the Conservatives by running after them to save money at the expense of the unemployed. Does he think he can meet them by talking about economies? Even if he goes a little further, the more they get him to go on that slippery slope the more they will push him. Once they get him to go one step, that one step will not be enough for them. Many steps will be needed to satisfy them.
For my own part I say this to the backbenchers. Many members of my party in the early days were cross because some of us opposed the Unemployment Insurance Act that started 12 months ago. We divided on allowances for the children and allowances for the women, and allowances for the men. It was said, in reply to our division, that this was only a first Measure. It was said: "Give the Government time. This is only a first instalment of Unemployment Insurance "; and so it was passed. But no Labour man here can defend two shillings a week for a child. Hon. Members talk about the abuses of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Abuses! Yes, the great abuses to-day are not the abuses of the unemployed receiving money, but the tens of thousands who are being refused when there ought to be a charge.
Last Friday I attended the Court of Referees. An old roan, an Irishman, appeared before the court in regard to two shillings a week for his child. That child was earning three shillings a week going with papers. The man was hauled before the court to have that two shillings taken off because his child got three shillings a week. And yet some people talk about dishonesty! The chairman of the court, a decent man, wanted to give the grant. He said to the Irishman: "Does not your 933 laddie get a present of this money?" If he could prove that it was not paid, but that it was a present, benefit would be allowed. The old fellow says: "No, he is paid regularly." The chairman says: "Then we must refuse the two shillings"; and at the end of it I said to the old man: "Why did you not say it in another way? "He said: "I am 54 years of age, and knowingly I have never told a lie, and I am not going to tell a lie for two bob!" That honesty is characteristic of the unemployed.
I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) would go down among his unemployed and would work with them as I have done, then he would not make speeches at banqueting halls in the City of London and elsewhere and talk about the abuses of Unemployment Insurance. He would talk about how the unemployed were abused. I wish the right hon. Gentleman and these Treasury experts could see how these people are abused, and they would not talk so much about the case of a football player. Experts! God knows we have had enough of experts. It was the experts who drafted the Blanesburgh Committee's report. It was the experts who drafted this last report. It was the experts who told the Chancellor of the Exchequer that good trade was coming in the next month. It was the experts who talked about trade with Canada on the occasion of a certain visit. It is the experts who are playing hell with us. Why did they pick out the football player as an example? There are only about 20 football players of that standard getting benefit in the whole of Britain. Why did they pick out that case? Because the slander was meant to stick. They meant to pick out that one case so as to create the feeling that it was typical of tens of thousands of cases. In other words, they picked it out on account of what the experts call the psychological effect.
I wish that the experts were unemployed for six months and compelled to stand in a queue to realise the position. I wish even that this expert was the manager of a local Employment Exchange for a while. I listened to the evidence of the manager of the Glasgow Exchange who is, I believe, a personal acquaintance of the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove. He said in his evidence that there was no attempt at 934 "sponging" on the fund; that the unemployed were clean, decent, honest people; that the number of abuses was infinitesimal and not worth discussing, and that the abolition of the "not genuinely seeking work condition" had made for an easier, simpler and better administration. He said it had taken the officials away from the cockpit of bullying the man on the other side of the counter and away from the experts in London and in Edinburgh. That was the evidence of the manager of one of the biggest Exchanges in the whole system. I wish the Treasury experts could work at an Exchange for a month and they would not talk so much about arithmetical figures and about how we are to balance out things.
I would say particularly to the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) that if there is to be an attack on the unemployed, it is the women who will suffer. It is the women who always suffer in these cases. Somehow or other we never seem to look upon women as breadwinners in the same sense as men and, I have no doubt, that if the Government care to follow certain advice which is given to them they can save millions. They can find reasons for cutting off women. They can say after a certain period of time that women must be put on to a family income as advocated by some hon. Members. They can say that women must be refused benefit. But I would ask hon. Members to consider what may be the effect of such a course. I am not an old man though I am older than my appearance would indicate, and I have lived my life among the poorest folk. I am bound up with the poorest section of the community. They have no trade unions. Most of them have gone beyond the pale even of the Labour movement, and they are placed in a fearful predicament. They cannot turn to the Tories because the Tories will treat them worse than they are being treated. They cannot turn to the Liberals because the Liberals offer them no hope. They cannot turn to the Communists because they say, "We have built up a party already and it has failed us and every other party will fail us in the same way." No hope for them! Nothing but rags, and hovels and cruel conditions. Now we have got to the stage when there is to be no second 935 Measure for dealing with this matter and what we are fighting for is to keep hold of the two "bob." To hold even what we have got—that is what we are fighting for to-day, and not the second Measure which was promised.
What are the two improvements which I have seen in my lifetime? In this connection may I say that I resent the remark of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) during the Debate on Friday about Glasgow and drinking. I resent it because the improvements which I have seen in my native city are, first of all, as regards its sobriety, and secondly as regards the greater care which is taken of the women and of the children. I have never known the people more sober than they are to-day and when we are told about so called abuses of unemployment insurance I would point out the great improvement which has taken place in the care of the women and the care of the children. I attended last week two large schools in my division, one Catholic and the other Protestant. I used to fight with the Catholics when I was a. boy and in those days there were barefooted children attending those schools. Last week I was in that Catholic school and almost every child there was a credit to its parents, and the same remark applies to the Protestant school. That is what you have got for unemployment benefit. That is something which has been gained and which cannot be counted in terms of money or figures. You have the children treated to-day by their parents as they were never treated before. May I say to the Minister of Labour, may I say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that that is again greater than any consideration which can be urged by Sir Arthur Watson or his colleague.
Another thing which I would say about the women is this. Whether we like it or dislike it, the women of to-day will insist on dressing well and neatly. My hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and I, during the holidays visited the Exchanges in Glasgow and in every Exchange one saw women, clean, well dressed and tidy. You may take the money from them, but they will still dress. The modern woman will see to it that she is well dressed. Let the Conservative party in their campaign for 936 economy, and in taking this money from the women, take care that they do not let loose much more serious social forces than they are aware of, for the sake of saving £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 now. They may save at the moment but let them take care that, in five years' time, as a result of that saving they may not be facing a grave social problem among our women and with possibilities of social destruction in the future for which the saving made now could never repay. I ask this House and I ask the Minister of Labour to consider all these aspects of the case.
I ask the Minister of Labour not to mind the Commission's report. She has been on the Trade Union Congress and on the Blanesburgh Commission. She knows the woes and the sufferings of the unemployed and whatever may be said about the Commission it is the Government which is and must be responsible in the end. The Commission report is already foreshadowed—even the economies which they will recommend and how they will propose to strike off some here and to separate some there. The composition of the Commission is enough to tell us what its report will be. Members of the professions, and only two Labour people on a, body of this kind? The Labour movement in this respect I have no doubt will still keep its unity among its members, no matter what may be done, but these poor folk for whom I speak have nowhere to turn but to the Labour movement. If you in your day and generation disappoint them they cannot do anything to you. They cannot turn you out. They have nowhere else to go. I only hope that the Government, those who are responsible, those who have been given places and power will recognise however, what may possibly happen in some day that is to come, some day which we cannot now foresee, if they treat the poor other than generously. Where are widows' pensions now? We have been told that after the Chancellor's speech there are to be no more widows' pensions, no more old age pensions. I ask the Minister of Labour, despite the Chancellor's speech, to turn to the wheel again. Even if it means that he should be dismissed let her get on with the job, because, greater than the Chancellor by far is the well-being and comfort of our toiling masses.
§ Sir ROBERT ASKE
Graceful references have been made by speakers upon both sides of the House to the passing of our late colleague Sir Laming Worthington-Evans. He gave a great part of his life and energy to the service of his country. He was one who fought hard but he fought fair and he has left behind the record of a life well-spent and work well-done. I wish on behalf of my colleagues on these benches to join in the tributes which have been paid and the sympathy which has been expressed by previous speakers.
The subject of the Resolution and the Amendment now before the Committee is one which is engaging the close attention of the country. The nation has been profoundly impressed and one might say depressed by the grave warning of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week, and no less by the Treasury Memorandum. The Chancellor was some what cryptic and elusive in his implications, but the statement on behalf of the Treasury leaves no doubt as to the official view of the serious nature of the situation and the drastic remedies which they consider necessary. As far as one can gather from the speech of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir H. Betterton) there is no opposition to the grant of some measure or provision of the nature of the scheme which is now put forward. The real question in the minds of the Opposition above the Gangway is as to the extent of the provision which should be made. Beyond question, the present position is as serious as this country has ever had to face. We are about to be confronted by a Budget which can only be characterised as presenting an alarming deficit, and, it is all the more serious, because that deficit arises over a period when the sources of revenue were infinitely more favourable than they are at present or are likely to be in the next forthcoming year. He would be a bold man who would venture to predict that if the basis of taxation remains the same, and having regard to our commitments, the deficit for the next following year will not be at least twice as much as that which we shall soon have to face for this year. It is in these circumstances that one approaches the consideration of this proposal to enlarge still further the borrowing powers upon the 938 Unemployment Fund. The loan at present is in the neighbourhood of £70,000,000, and if this loan to-day is granted, it will in the course of less than five months be £90,000,000. The most significant evidence as to the real nature of these advances is to be found in the statement of the Government Actuary with regard to the steps which he considers necessary in order to repay the loan at present existing, and if one has regard, not merely to that statement, but to the Treasury Memorandum, one is driven to the conclusion that any further advance to this fund and probably a substantial part of the existing debt is in fact no loan at all. It is in substance a grant to a bankrupt fund, and one which inevitably will have to be shouldered by the State.
If that is the case, the country should face the position without delay. As the Government actuary has stated, unless the situation is to get completely out of hand, steps should be taken, and should be taken now, to grapple with this question. The remedy may be drastic, and it may be painful, but it may none the less be the best in the interests of the country. Whether one has to face heavy increases of taxation of an unprecedented kind, or remorseless reductions in expenditure, or both, they are probably far better than the alternative, which would be to resort to some measure of inflation, even if that is not forced upon us by continuing what is evidently the case at the present time, namely, that we are in fact failing to meet our current expenditure out of our current income.
It is perhaps not surprising to find that in last week's Debate there seemed to be a large measure of common agreement that the situation could not be handled by one party alone, that in fact it could not be dealt with even by one Government, but that it needed the mutual co-operation of all the parties. If that is the case, it is unfortunate to the last degree that the Government failed to take full advantage of the three party committee which was set up last year. If, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, it is necessary that all the parties should combine in order to work out a solution now, it is obvious that it was no less necessary when that committee was set up. In fact, the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week admitted the seriousness of the item and that it cannot 939 go on in the form in which it is being raised and expended at the present time. He said:We realised the seriousness of this matter months ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1931; cols. 440–41, Vol. 248.]One must ask, if the seriousness was realised some months ago, Why did not the Government take the fullest opportunity of the services of the three party committee, composed of those who were quite competent to handle this matter and who, I am certain, would have been able to arrive at some measure of agreement? It is a great pity that the reports which were presented to that committee are not available to this House, but in any case one knows that there was a considerable measure of agreement on principle between all parties represented there, and there is no doubt that if agreement could be reached now, it could probably have been reached then.
Instead of that, the Government had recourse to a body which I think was quite unsuitable to deal with this particular matter, even with regard to what are called the abuses of the dole. it was far too cumbrous, and with regard to the other matters which are particularly embodied in this Resolution to-day, it was quite inappropriate. One is tempted very seriously to doubt whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has ever thought he would derive any practical advantage from that Commission, whether he would receive from it any information of which he is not all the time fully aware, or whether he will receive any report which will enable him to make up his mind. The Commission, in my view, must be regarded as a mere device in order to stave off the day of reckoning; it was simply setting up a machine of procrastination instead of what was really wanted, namely, a council of action.
Of course, the Commission is now in being, but I wish, on behalf of those who sit on these benches, to press upon the Government that progress is not being made with that Commission to our satisfaction. We think that there can be a great deal of speeding up if an effort is really made to that end, and in any case I think we are entitled to ask that without delay the Government should determine how much of this loan 940 which is being made to the Unemployment Fund really represents a genuine security, which can at some time or other be realised, and how much of it represents a debt which is to fall upon the shoulders of the State, because if there is a real debt which we have to face, then obviously, by pursuing the financial policy with regard to it which we are doing now, we are inflicting damage upon our national credit. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a courageous man. I admire that courage, and I think he will recognise that the Minister who is charged with the finances of the country will leave a far higher record behind him and will have rendered a far greater service to the State if he will shoulder the burdens as they come along instead of leaving them by the wayside to be picked up and carried by his successor.
We have at this time to make provision for the maintenance of the unemployed for a further period. No suggestion has been made as to any better method, in existing circumstances, than continuing the practice which was instituted by the preceding Government, but two principles are involved. The first is that the unemployed and their dependants have to be maintained, and the second is, I hope, that that maintenance has to be provided by the State. I press the latter point, because one observes from many influential quarters at the present time a suggestion that the contribution from the State should be cut down, and indeed that forms one of the methods upon which the Royal Commission is expected to express an opinion. I only speak personally in this matter, but I regard that as a very serious question, because one has to consider what are the alternatives. If adequate provision is not made by the State, it is obvious that the balance will have to fall upon the local authorities, and the local authorities are in no position to meet any further burdens. The main burden would rest upon the north-east of England and upon parts of Scotland and of Wales, which are all depressed areas, where the basic industries of the country are situated, and where the real weight of unemployment is felt.
This is a matter which directly arises out of the question we are discussing. One may instance the engineering trade, where there is in the south of England 941 only 10 per cent. of unemployment, but in the north of England there is three times that amount. In the shipbuilding and ship-repairing trades, there is on the north-east coast unemployment of no less than 55 per cent.—a tragic figure, and one which there is little hope of seeing reduced for a long time to come. On the north-west, it is 45 per cent., and in Scotland it is 48 per cent. One finds in the woollen trade a figure of 27 per cent., and in the cotton trade a figure of no less than 47 per cent., the last-named being one which we hope, under the present more favourable circumstances, will be reduced in the near future.
The point I wish to stress is this, that the relief of unemployment arises in this time of national emergency, and the nation must foot the bill. Whatever sacrifices have to be made must be made by the country as a whole and not rest on particular areas. An additional burden on the rates will only add to the existing depression. Those burdens enter into every process of manufacture, and the aggregate total culminates in the final processes of production and renders still more difficult the competition which we in the industrial areas already have to face. Therefore, I hope there will never be any question but that this must remain a national charge. As the hon. Member who has just spoken indicated, great burdens are already being borne in maintenance by local authorities. In the City of Newcastle alone we have an expenditure of £1,500 a week for the maintenance of the able-bodied, and £2,500 a week for ordinary relief. In other words, we have an expenditure in maintenance alone of no less than £200,000 a year—an immense burden upon a district which is suffering so severely from depression in trade. That burden is added to considerably by the rigidity with which the courts of referees and the umpires administer the transitional provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act.
I see no alternative but to continue the loan in the way in which it is proposed for a further period, but I would press upon the Government that this Measure for raising the necessary financial provision must be regarded as only a temporary expedient; and I should like some assurance from the 942 Government, if this heavy loan is agreed to, that it will not necessarily follow that the whole of it will be used, but that they will really make an energetic effort to get a report from the Royal Commission and to get the finances of the unemployment scheme put upon a proper footing at the earliest possible moment, and bring them more into accord with the fiscal traditions of the country.
§ Captain AUSTIN HUDSON
We have just heard what we may call a powerful plea for the Amendment which is put forward from these benches. In that Amendment we ask that the amount should be cut down by half that which is proposed in the Financial Resolution, in order that at the end of three months, rather than six months, the House may again have an opportunity of reviewing the finances of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The hon. Member for East Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir Aske) also made a powerful plea for the shortest possible time for this system of finance, but I did not hear from him whether it is his intention or the intention of the Liberal party to support the Amendment. There was a certain amount of discussion when the Minister was speaking on the number of unemployed in different countries. I wonder if the Under-Secretary would give the percentage of unemployed to population in America and Germany, and, if possible, in France, and let us know how that compares with the percentage in Great Britain. The right hon. Lady made these figures a point in vindication of the policy of the Government, and unless the figures are given in a form comparable to population, it is impossible to know what the situation is.
I hope that the Committee will agree to the Amendment. Everybody is seriously perturbed by the financial position, particularly of this fund, and it is vital that the House should retain control of the situation. The Minister of Labour and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are, according to the Memorandum issued in respect of the Financial Resolution, asking enough money to carry on for at least six months. If I gather aright, a rather complicated pasage at the end of the right hon. Lady's speech, the Financial Resolution, so far as it affects the transitional period, will allow for a considerable period beyond six months. Another 943 point which has not been sufficiently noticed is that the amount which is being asked for is not £20,000,000, but £40,000,000, made up of £20,000,000 under the loan provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act, and £20,000,000 under the transitional benefit arrangements. Therefore, we are being asked to grant no less than £40,000,000, and to have no further control for six months. The Minister says that she wants at least six months in order that the necessary legislation, after the report of the Royal Commission, shall be brought in. I also understand from reading the various reports that the debt of the fund is increasing at the rate of £1,000,000 a week. That will, therefore, give the Minister only five months unless the unemployment figures are considerably reduced.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I shall have to come back in any case before the Summer Recess for necessary adjustments, according to the trend of the figures.
§ Captain HUDSON
The first £20,000,000 comes from raising the limit to £90,000,000, and the second £20,000,000 will arise under paragraph (c) of the Resolution. If the hon. Member will turn to the Memorandum, Command Paper 3788, he will see on page 3 that the amount under this paragraph is estimated at £20,000,000, £15,000,000 of which will fall in the financial year 1931–32. With unemployment increasing as it is, and with the debt increasing by £1,000,000 a week, it would be difficult enough at the present moment to frame some kind of scheme to bring the fund back to solvency, and if it is left for six months, the problem will be well-nigh insuperable.
Several useful papers with regard to the finance of the Insurance Fund have been presented to the House. One of the most useful and interesting is one dealing with the receipts and payments in respect of groups of industries, which can be obtained from the Vote Office. I have never disguised my opinion that it will be necessary to divide the fund into two halves—one, a proper unemployment insurance scheme, and the other, a type of relief scheme. That point 944 of view is held to a great degree by the Government, who, in the terms of reference to the Royal Commission, have more or less asked them to frame a. scheme on those lines. We find some very remarkable and interesting figures in this paper. I take the year 1929–30 as the last available year in which these figures are given, and as being a year in which the present system of equal thirds was in operation. The paper gives a group of 34 industries, and shows that the contributions of the employers, employés and the State—that is to say, the total ordinary contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, quite apart from any extra payments in respect of debt—amounted to £45,845,000, whereas the actual benefit paid out was £51,420,000. That makes a balance on the wrong side of £5,575,000.
It struck me that, on these enormous figures, that balance was not so great as one might have expected, and it ought to be possible for the Government to do something to wipe out that balance altogether. Of these 34 industries, which cover the whole of the big industries of the country, 19 actually contributed more than they get out in benefit. Five of them balanced almost exactly, and only 12 actually took out in benefit more than they paid in. It is true, of course, that these 12 are for the most part large industries in which there is a great deal of unemployment. We find, however, that while between them they paid only £14,723,000, they took out in benefit £27,385,000. So that these 12 industries between them took out nearly twice as much as they put in, and any Government in considering this question will seriously have to consider that fact, because, according to these interesting figures, which were got out for the benefit of the Royal Commission, certain industries are drawing out much more than their fair proportion, and other industries are putting in much more than they draw out, and to a much greater degree. It is obvious that no insurance scheme can work exactly financially, but these figures are so disproportionate, that the Government ought seriously to consider them. I think they prove that some scheme must be devised by which only those people who are definitely "in contribution" are kept on the Unemployment Fund. They 945 show that in those industries which are drawing out of the fund an amount so largely disproportionate to the amount they pay in there must be a vast number of people who should not be a charge on the fund.
§ Captain HUDSON
If those people were divided into two classes, then those who were not in contribution would have to be available for any work that was going, and not only work in their particular industry.
§ Captain HUDSON
It would be out of order at the moment to go very deeply into the question of a completely new unemployment insurance scheme, but the Minister has all this information, and has had it for a very long time. She has had the evidence of the three-party conference, and I wish to ask whether that evidence will be available for the members of the Royal Commission? That is a most important point. I would ask, further, whether the Members of the Government can be prevailed upon to publish that evidence? Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made observations on the contribution towards the solution of the difficulty made by all three parties, the House has no means of knowing whether or not some useful contribution was offered. I do not see what harm could be done by publishing the evidence, and I hope it will be made public. He said himself—and it is true—that we cannot deal properly with this problem unless the three parties are more or less in agreement. In the past, when attempts have been made to deal with the problem, the party which has been most active in trying to make party capital out of it has been the Labour party.
I can give the Chancellor an example of what is going on at the present time. The work of giving public assistance to those in need has been taken out of the hands of boards of guardians and put under the local authorities. In London it is under the London County Council. The elections for that council are coming on, and one of the biggest planks in the policy of the Labour party is the state- 946 ment that the relief given by the Conservatives is nothing to what would be given supposing the Socialists were put in power on the council. If that is happening in local government, we on this side are very much afraid that the same thing will happen in national politics should any steps be taken to deal with the unemployment problem. I do not think the Minister need he frightened that we on this side will try to make party capital out of any revision that may be found necessary, but I think he will have to give a very definite pledge on behalf of his own party. I come once more to this point: According to the figures published, we can see that the financial situation, although very difficult, is not yet completely out of control; but some of us are beginning to wonder whether in six months' time, and with another £40,000,000 added to the present figure, we shall be able to say the same thing. I trust that the Committee will see their way to accept this Amendment, in order that the whole subject can be brought up and ventilated again, not in six months' time but in three months.
§ Mr. TINKER
It has been my lot to be present on many similar occasions to this one. I have been here when the party opposite have had to come forward with similar applications, and on those occasions I heard no objection raised from this side, because we realised that the situation was there and had to be met. This afternoon, when our party ask for further borrowing powers, the party opposite say that, while they do not see why something should not be borrowed, they do not understand why the amount asked for should not be cut down by half. I cannot understand how they can justify that attitude. H we have to borrow, then the party opposite may as well accept the position. They want an opportunity of reviewing the situation again in three months' time, but in view of the fact that the Royal Commission is sitting and will present its report before long, why should we object to giving borrowing powers to the full extent asked? When borrowing powers were sought, some time ago, the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) remarked that he had no objection to granting borrowing powers so long as the amount borrowed did not exceed the income of the fund. At that time it was never expected that the amount would exceed the income of the 947 fund, but just to show how far we have gone I would say that we have passed all idea of the fund being able to meet in one year what we are borrowing. I understand that the income from the three sources is round about £50,000,000. What we are asking for is permission to raise the amount of the borrowing powers to £90,000,000; even if we acceded to what the other side wants, the figure would be £80,000,000. We have come to a situation which bears no resemblance to what was envisaged when the right hon. Member for Epping made his remark, and, therefore, I do not see any point in the objections of the party opposite, apart from their desire to get an opportunity of discussing the whole circumstances, and if that is the object one cannot take any exception to it. I hope, however, the Amendment will be withdrawn after this full discussion.
The Minister of Labour made an excellent speech, and one which we liked very much, except for one point she made. I gathered from what she said that she had some idea in her mind of getting the fund to balance, at some time or other. If she has any such idea while we have 2,600,000 out of work I cannot agree with her. There could be only one way of balancing the fund, and that would be by increased contributions from the workers, and we cannot agree to that. I do not think the employers would be willing to make additional contributions in order to balance the fund; and the only third party left is the State. Well, of course, it will be the State in any case. The other alternative would be to cut off those in transitional benefit, and those who are now drawing an excess from the fund, and put them under some other system. At present there is a shortage of about £1,000,000 per week, and under transitional conditions, with round about another £1,000,000 a week, there would be altogether close upon £100,000,000 per annum in excess of what is being contributed.
If we cut people off benefit they will have to go to the public assistance authorities in their own districts. Can anyone conceive that that would be a wise thing at the moment? An expenditure of £1000,000,000 a year means roundabout £2 per head of the population per annum—that is, with everybody bearing an equal burden. If these people have 948 to be supported by public assistance committees we shall be putting more than double that burden on the inhabitants of particular areas. An hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal benches emphasised that point. The necessitous areas would have to bear a burden double or treble that which is now imposed upon them. On the other hand, benefits could be cut down, and in place of paying £100,000,000 we might pay only £50,000,000. Even with that reduced sum the burden on the shoulders of the people would amount to more than £2 per head all over the country, and in the necessitous areas they would be paying £4 or £5 per head of the population. My district is not so hard hit as many others, but things are bad enough there. Of the people who normally would be employed, between 20 and 30 per cent., on an average, are out of work. If we had to bear our own burdens on the lines towards which the speech of the Minister appeared to be leading us, then, instead of it costing us £2 per head of the population the people in our area would probably have to pay £6 or £7 a head. It would be unfair to try to get out of the difficulty in that way, and, therefore, I would utter a word of warning to the Minister if she has any idea of bringing that about.
If, on the other hand, her suggestion is that when things became normal the fund must bear its own burden I can agree with her. I take it she was referring to a time when instead of having 2,600,000 unemployed the figure might be 1,200,000. That would be the time for the fund to meet its own expenses, but I do not want it to go forth that she has any idea at the moment that the fund can be self-balancing, because it cannot, and we have to meet the situation as it is. In place of calling it a loan, with accumulated interest growing day by day, and agitating the minds of the people outside with the idea that it will have to be paid back at some time or other, it would be far better to face the position fairly and squarely and recognise that the money can never be paid back by the people who are at present in work; and I trust this Debate will force on the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the House of Commons that the fund will have to be balanced in some other way—by a 949 national grant. If that is the idea in the mind of the right hon. Lady we can readily agree with her.
On the general situation I would say that I have not heard it suggested by any hon. Member this afternoon that there is any question of malingering or of abuse on the part of the people who are receiving benefit. During the last week or two I have been through my constituency and I can agree with what the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said as to the state of things that we find. It is with gratitude that the people are looking to the Labour Government for what they have done for the unemployed. There is very little in the way of abuses. I have not discovered any. The people are only too eager for work if it can be provided for them, and that is the thought we ought to have in our minds all the time. When we can provide work for the unemployed and they will not accept it, then will be the time to find out whether they are malingering or not; but until that time comes we ought to recognise that these men and women are genuinely in search of work but cannot get it, and must be kept in something like decency. So long as these people cannot get work we, as legislators, must see that they are provided for, and, therefore, I hope the Amendment will not be pressed.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
With much of that which has fallen from the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) we find ourselves in agreement. Those who are out of work for long periods should undoubtedly be provided for in some way or another. Nobody has ever disputed that, and nobody ever will. That, however, is a very long way from the proposals which we are discussing this afternoon. We are discussing the question whether the Insurance Fund should be permitted to borrow a further £20,000,000. In these days the works of Professor Einstein and Sir James Jeans have given us some confused ideas of distances, so that millions of miles have very little meaning for us. It is similar with the vast sums of public money which are being spent upon unemployment. We are losing entirely our sense of proportion at the present time. One might follow out the astronomical simile by saying that if this Resolution were passed, we could place one Brad- 950 bury on every milestone between here and the sun.
Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose courage we on this side of the House all admire, made a very great stand in favour of some sanity in our national economy. We heard with the profoundest regret that the Leader of the Liberal party, instead of supporting the Chancellor of the Exchequer, attempted to cut the ground from under his feet. Under his leadership, the Liberal party is to be led, not towards the respectable Socialism as represented by the Solicitor-General and the other minor Kerenskys on the Front Bench, but directly to the banks of the Clyde. Besides the confusion that exists in the public mind as to the magnitude of these sums of money there is not the smallest doubt that the public conscience has been dulled to the problem to which these sums are being applied. During the Christmas Recess no less than 300,000 people were added to the unemployed list. At any other time in the history of our country that would have been looked upon as an unmitigated disaster. The whole Empire stood aghast at the disastrous earthquake which took place a short time ago, but even that event in its magnitude and importance and the human misery it represents, is incomparable with the importance to this country and to the Empire of the increased unemployment which has led to the Resolution we are discussing to-day.
Why is it that the public conscience has been dulled? It is because the Government, having no constructive measures and no practical solution for the actual difficulties with which they are faced, are simply sticking progressive doses of dope into the body politic in order to keep the people quiet. Now they have come to Parliament this afternoon, and they are asking that the syringe may be filled again with a double dose of dope in order to keep people quiet until next July. On this side of the House we conceive it to be our duty that the nation should be kept conscious of the actual state of things, and that Parliament should be given a chance of reviewing the situation before next July.
We have heard a great deal about the Royal Commission which the Government have set up to consider this problem. My hon. Friend the Member for one of the 951 Divisions of Newcastle insulted the Government—they are used to insults—by saying that this Royal Commission had been set up purely to delay matters. Of course I do not wish to ascribe any unworthy motives to those sitting on the Front Bench, but I am beginning to think that what my hon. Friend said was really the case. I believe beyond all doubt that there is hardly an hon. Member sitting on the back benches opposite who does not look upon the appointment of a Royal Commission to consider this question as a measure of delay, and they are anxious that its findings should be put off for as long a time as possible. What are the obvious facts of the financial situation? For transitional benefit, and for borrowing for the purpose of the Unemployment Fund, the cost is going to be something between £1,750,000 and £2,000,000 a week. Surely that creates an emergency situation. The Minister of Labour said that any legislation that could follow upon the report of the Royal Commission could not be introduced until the end of October. Between now and then, that means, if nothing is done, that something like £60,000,000 is going to be spent before the end of October before the Royal Commission's recommendations can be put into operation. Are the Government not prepared to treat that state of things as a matter deserving very urgent treatment? Sir Richard Hopkins has put forward some suggestions which the Government might adopt in order to keep this country out of the vortex of a financial collapse. It has been pointed out that there have been abuses of the transitional benefit in the case of married women.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
If the hon. Member for Gorbals will look at the report which has been issued by Sir Richard Hopkins, he will find that what I have just stated is foreshadowed there.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Sir Richard Hopkins is a Treasury official, but if the hon. and learned Member will read the evidence given by the managers of the Newcastle and Glasgow Exchanges, and the manager in control of the Exchanges in Lancashire, he will find that their evidence puts an entirely different complexion on what he has stated.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Even if there have been any illegal abuses, they are not mentioned in the same relation as the cases with which we are dealing now.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I have given to the Committee the opinion of an important Government official. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken the responsibility for issuing that document. I have not the smallest doubt that that document was scrutinised by the Cabinet before it was allowed to be placed before the Royal Commission. And before the 1930 Act it was pointed out to the Government that the effect of these proposals might be a large increase in the number of married people receiving benefit. It is well known that there are cases where married women have been drawing unemployment benefit who were not able to draw that benefit before.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I hope I shall be allowed to continue my arguments without any undue interruption. If the Government are really as conscious of the national emergency as the Chancellor of the Exchequer invited the nation to be last week, then their duty is to take these obvious steps in the case of transitional benefit, and they ought not to come to the House of Commons with proposals like those we are now considering. Have the Government no responsibility to the contributors to the Unemployment Insurance Fund? What an outcry there would be if one of the great insurance companies of this country invited contributors to pay into a fund which was not only bankrupt but was £90,000,000 overdrawn? One can imagine what would be said of private enterprise in those circumstances. By permitting this state of things, the Government are not only doing something unfair to the contributors to the Insurance Fund, but they are bringing the whole insurance system of this country into discredit. I am aware that the Prime Minister has said that it is not the intention of the Government to discredit insurance, but that is exactly what he is doing.
I will now turn to the question of transitional benefit. Must the Government wait for the report of the Royal Com- 953 mission before dealing with this urgent problem Surely they must do twine-thing. It seems to me obvious that transitional benefit falls between two stools. It is neither national insurance nor public assistance. It has none of the tests associated with public assistance, nor any of the actuarial tests associated with insurance, and it offends against every rule that exists for providing Treasury control. All this money is being spent without the Treasury having the smallest control over it. Instead of waiting until the end of July before dealing with this urgent question, cannot we have an emergency Measure, and set up some regional commissioners to scrutinise the way in which this money is being expended?
Over 12 months ago the "not genuinely seeking work" test was abolished. That was decided by the House, but I should like to ask hon. Members opposite, did they realise when that test was abolished that they were throwing a different onus upon the Employment Exchanges and that to discharge that onus they would need new machinery? This additional duty has been thrown upon the Exchanges, and not a step has been taken to make the machinery of the Employment Exchanges able to carry out that duty. The Government have not added one soul to the staff, with the exception of the staff that has to distribute the dole week by week. Some additional machinery ought to be provided at the local Employment Exchanges to ensure that the additional obligation which has now been thrown upon them can be efficiently discharged.
I have spoken of the obligation that the Government have to the contributors to this fund. It has a much greater obligation in this national emergency to the taxpayer and to the country as a whole. If I might use a simile, it is this. This dead weight of 2,500,000 unemployed people is being maintained at the present moment very largely on the revenue from our overseas investments and from our invisible exports. If it were not for the fact that we have an invisible income from our overseas investments and foreign services amounting to something like £300,000,000 a year, the pound would have gone west long ago. We should never have been able to carry 954 a burden of 2,500,000 unemployed with comparative stability to our exchange but for this income. What has happened is that in a little financial pool, mainly centred in the City of London, there is being accumulated this money, which represents our interest on overseas loans and our services such as banking, shipping, and insurance. The State like a vast sponge simply takes that money up, squeezes it out again and drenches it over desolated Middlesbrough and desolated Clydeside and Nottingham, made more desolate by the removal of Safeguarding.
That is, roughly, the process that is going on. This distress is being paid for out of our invisible exports, our savings and our investments in foreign loans. The whole of that structure depends upon the consideration which the Chancellor of the Exchequer tried to bring forward so courageously last week—the belief of the world in our economic stability. It is because that belief is being undermined at the present time by this rate of borrowing that we are opposing this Motion this afternoon. In every capital in Europe, in Vienna, Budapest, Paris, Berlin and Rome, you will find people asking in financial circles, "Is the pound sterling going to stand the strain?" That question is being asked in every financial centre in Europe and in America also. It is because we feel that that question is now being asked with some justification that we desire to see the closest possible limit put upon this reckless Treasury borrowing. The other nations are pointing out that we, the financial purists of the world, who have re-established the finance of other countries by making them balance their budgets before granting them loans, are now under Socialist finance failing to balance our Budget while our Sinking Fund is being raided for the purpose of meeting these obligations.
There is one other matter which shows the vital urgency of dealing at once with this question of borrowing for unemployment. At the present moment we have 2,500,000 on the unemployed register; soon it may be 3,000,000 or 3,500,000. Nobody knows to what extent it will go as long as this inept, weak administration continues. When it gets to a certain point, which it not very far away, then the mesh of unemployment benefit 955 will at some time or other have gathered in almost every adult worker in this country. If you get 3,500,000 unemployed, nearly every adult will have been on the register for benefit at one time or another in his life and, when you get to that point, you get to a position in which no party in a democratic state will be safe from mass bribery. There will then be a direct interest to each party to appeal to the electors by increases of unemployment relief, by increases of transitional benefit, by making more simple the method of drawing national relief, which is what transitional benefit is. Those temptations will be far greater when you get to a state when a majority of the people will have at some time or other passed in and out of benefit.
For those reasons, it appears to me that there is a real danger that not only the party opposite, which I always thought would collapse under the transitional benefit, because they would have to meet those hon. Gentlemen on the back benches who say that transitional benefit shall under no circumstances come down—[Interruption.] The answering echo amply proves my point. It is a point which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to fight out with them some time and, if his courage is equal to his declarations last week, I have no doubt he will win in the battle. It is because of the alarming possibility, of which I have just been speaking, of a great extension of unemployment, which would bring within the ambit of either relief or benefit almost every adult worker in the country, that I for one feel that courage is necessary at the present time, not only if the Socialist party is to put a decent face on it, but if democracy itself is not going to fail in a very grave issue.
§ Mr. R. A. TAYLOR
The hon. and learned Member ought to be the last person in this Committee to charge other people with mass bribery because, in the recent by-election campaign in which he was returned, the whole basis of the appeal he made to that constituency was that special benefit would be given to it at the expense of the rest of the community. I am rather amazed, therefore, to hear that observation from him. I am also astounded to find how easily he loses those great gifts of calm, deliberate 956 analysis, which we all know he possesses, whenever he ventures into the political field. He spoke to us about abuses in connection with the Unemployment Insurance Acts. It may be perfectly true that there are certain limited abuses arising out of the new Act. I hope the Government will remove those abuses wherever they are clearly shown and, in doing so, they will have the support of hon. Members on this side.
But what about the abuses that were in existence before the Act was passed? What about the abuses under Conservative administration by which hundreds of thousands of men were denied benefit at the Employment Exchanges and their maintenance thrown upon the local authorities in depressed areas, building up enormous rate burdens and making it more difficult for the industries there to recover? To some extent, the 1930 Act has helped to alleviate the position by removing heavy charges from the local rates and placing them on national funds. One of the few suggestions which have been made from Conservative Benches was that the Government should impose a means test with regard to transitional benefit. I can only say that now at last we are informed by the Conservative party that their view in relation to the bona fide industrial worker, who is out of work through no fault of his own, is that, if his unemployment is prolonged, he shall, first of all, be reduced to absolute destitution and to a Poor Law standard before the State will give him any help. I am surprised to hear suggestions of that kind coming from a Member from a semi-industrial constituency.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
It will be within the recollection of the House that the hon. and learned Member suggested to the Government that they should impose a means test in transitional benefit.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
In the case of married women. I said there was a clear case for investigation into a grievance in the case of married women.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I am sorry I misunderstood the hon. and learned Member. He intended to imply only to married women. There are many married women with a long record of industrial employ- 957 ment, who are just as much entitled to fair treatment from the State when they are out of work as other people. The hon. and learned Gentleman also drew an analogy with regard to the position of an insurance company. He said that an insurance company ceases to pay premiums and asked what we should say of an insurance company that administered its fund in the way the State is administering the present Unemployment Insurance Acts. There is no analogy whatever between the relationship of an unemployed worker to the State and the relationship of a person who has paid premiums to an insurance company. The insurance company receives a premium and, if, unfortunately, there is an epidemic which affects a very large proportion of their policy holders, that insurance company will go bankrupt and the people will not get their benefit. That is a totally different position from the relation of an unemployed worker to the State.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
It is a long way from being bankrupt at the moment. What rather impresses me is the fact that a gentleman of the hon. and learned Member s intelligence, in fastening on to an expenditure of £60,000,000 in relation to unemployment insurance, all of which goes back into the trade of the country and helps to maintain the purchasing power of the internal market, should at the same time ignore the tremendous difficulties that are placed upon this nation by the biggest single item in our expenditure, namely, interest and Sinking Fund on the War Debt. If my memory serves me, the Estimates this year provide for about;7½d. out of every £ for unemployment insurance relief and about 9s. 8d. out of every £ for interest and Sinking Fund on the War Debt. If the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks we are rushing towards bankruptcy, he will on a suitable occasion offer us some views as to how the Government may deal with that particular problem. Where does the money come from in the first instance? It comes from the labour and skill of our creative workers. There is no other source from which the money and wealth can come. I see great inconsistency in the point of view of Members of the Conservative party who are quite 958 willing to go on maintaining the Army, Navy and Air Force in peace time, to feed them well and clothe them well, and keep them ready and equipped in case of war, and at the same time refuse to recognise that the reserves of the industrial army, from which the wealth of the whole country springs, have a right to expect the State to see them through the very difficult times that. are come upon them when they lose their employment.
If there be any original sin in the principle of borrowing for unemployment insurance, there is no party in this House that can claim to be without original sin. The Coalition administration inherited a balance of some £14,000,000 in the fund, but before they went out of office they had borrowed £22,000,000. The last Conservative administration did not balance the fund, but when they left office there was a debt of £36,000,000, and in 1927 and 1928 world trade was nothing like so depressed as it is to-day, nor had we to face the special circumstances that are now due to the economic paralysis which the present. Government have to face. Therefore, if the industrial workers who for the moment are superfluous to the requirements of industry are to be properly catered for and to have their standard of life maintained, we ask our Friends, Why do not they, instead of entering into party criticism of the Government and making suggestions such as those which came from the hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor), give us in practical and understandable terms the alternative that they would adopt if they were in office? They do not seem to have a single constructive idea to put before us.
I want to ask the representative of the Government whether the Government are paying any attention to the possibility of diverting a portion of the fund that is now being used for the payment of unemployment benefit to men who may be placed in employment by private concerns as the result of an arrangement between them and the Government by subsidising employers from the Unemployment Insurance Fund? I do not know how far such an arrangement is practicable: I do not know whether the Government have explored it since the late Lord Melchett formulated his scheme. At that time we all came to the conclusion that it was not possible to get 959 over the difficulties, but I understand that the German Government have recently been giving considerable attention to this possibility, and that plans are being worked out whereby a portion of the fund that is now used for unemployment insurance benefit may be diverted to German employers and industrial undertakings provided that they take on additional labour. I am not at all sure that that scheme has actually been worked out, though I have heard a good deal of discussion about it; and I am not sure that it is a scheme which could be supported even if it had been worked out; but nevertheless there is a very strong feeling in the public mind that we must use every possible effort to stop the economic waste which is represented by simply pouring out money, especially as a very large, and, indeed, an overwhelming majority of the recipients of unemployment relief are anxious and willing to work in order to contribute their quota to wealth production.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Lawson)
Perhaps I might answer my hon. Friend's question with regard to the German position. Inquiries have been made concerning it, and there is nothing official at all about it.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I think that the German Finance Minister made a speech about it, and I will communicate what information I have to my hon. Friend. I do not know, of course, what is happening in other constituencies; but I am familiar with the conditions in one or two industrial areas in this country; I know that a great deal more could be done if the employers would work with good will and do their best to help the nation by sharing the available work. I know that I am on delicate and difficult ground here, but I do want to suggest to the Government that they should fully explore the possibility of getting a larger number of men into industry, if it is humanly possible, by getting a stop put to any unnecessary overtime. I am quite satisfied, from facts within my own knowledge, that there are firms who are keeping their staffs at a minimum and deliberately working overtime, whereas, if the work was properly organised, a larger number of 960 men might be able to participate. Not only would that be an advantage from the economic point of view, but none of us who have come closely up against the human tragedies that arise from prolonged unemployment can fail to use every effort to see that men are given an opportunity of at least having a turn now and then in industry. When men are out of work for 12 months, 18 months, two years and three years, and have reached middle age—say 50 or 55—they begin to feel that there is no further opportunity in their lifetime for them ever to get back into industrial employment. If firms would recognise the obligations that they owe to these men who have given them long service, who have helped to build up their undertakings, and if, when there is work, they would see that these men are given an opportunity of sharing in it, I think we should have a much better feeling than we have in the country at the moment.
I should also like to ask whether we may have some assurance from the representative of the Government that the intentions of Parliament are being properly carried out by those who are responsible for the administration of the Act. A short time ago the Minister of Labour, in reply to a question in this House, informed us that the chairmen of courts of referees were paid a fee of 2½ guineas for a session of about three hours, and that the total payments to chairmen of courts of referees amounted to something like £60,000 a year. I desire that we should be thoroughly satisfied that we are getting full value for our money in this connection, because, although we all know the very great difficulties which even learned legal gentlemen have in interpreting some 19 Acts of Parliament on this subject, with accompanying Regulations and amendments of Regulations, which would require a Philadelphia lawyer to unravel them, nevertheless one constantly sees umpire's decisions which indicate that the intention of Parliament is being ignored, and I particularly want to draw the attention of the Government to what I regard as a very serious development in administration.
In this connection, I am concerned with the position of elderly men, perhaps, mope than with that of any other class 961 of unemployed workers. It is not that I have not full sympathy with the others, but, through local work, I have been brought face to face with the very real tragedies that exist in the case of men of 50, 55 and 60. In my own city, during the week-end, I meet men of 65 who have lost their unemployment benefit, men whose wives are two or three, and in some cases five and six, years younger than themselves, and they have to face life on 10s. a week. The position of men over middle age in a depressed area is really one of the most distressing sides of this problem. Here are these men domiciled in an area, and all sorts of difficulties prevent them from being as mobile as younger men. When they are competing for what work there is, they are up against the competition of younger and more virile men, while when they are competing for work on a relief scheme most of them are up Against the disqualification that they are not ex-service men—we have to have 75 per cent. of ex-service men. Another difficulty is that many of them are, unfortunately, in the position that they cannot leave the district where they reside in order to take a job, because they have commitments with regard to their families, and so on, and it is infinitely more difficult for them to get a job than it is for anybody else. Another thing which really happens, and everybody who has been concerned with local administration knows it happens, is that, in deciding which men are to be employed on relief schemes, the local authority is always guided by the principle of giving a preference to men with large families, and, therefore, the elderly man again finds it increasingly difficult to get a job.
The result is that a high proportion of men over middle age have a long record without any insurable work—three, four, five, six, seven, and even eight years; and, owing to an Umpire's decision, the chairmen of many courts of referees are interpreting it as an automatic principle that they have the right to disqualify a man merely because he has no record of insurable employment for the last five years. It seems to me that that principle is being applied automatically in a number of our Employment Exchanges. I hope that the Minister will draw the special attention of chairmen of courts of referees to the provisions of the Act, 962 to the Regulations, and, particularly, to the appropriate Umpire's decision which governs the position of men residing in an area which has suffered from prolonged trade depression. I have already drawn the Minister's attention to what is happening in one area, and I would like, if the Committee will allow me, to quote briefly from the appropriate Umpire's decision, No. 3367, which is really relevant to the case of these elderly men in areas where there has been prolonged depression. The Umpire lays it down, first of all, that a presumption arises, in a case where a man may have been unemployed for five years, that he has normally ceased to be an insurable person, and in this particular case he is dealing with a man, I think 56 years of age, who lives in a depressed area. This is the essence of his decision:I find that, although the claimant has received no unemployment benefit since 1926, he has maintained registration at the Employment Exchange, and the local officer reports that his efforts to obtain insurable employment have been good. This tends to show that the claimant is anxious to obtain work, and that the explanation for his failure to do so may be afforded by the fact that he lives in an area suffering from severe industrial depression, and that he is in competition with younger men for whatever vacancies arise and for which the younger and sturdier men naturally obtain the preference. There is no reason so far as I can see for supposing that the claimant will cease to make such efforts in the future, as he has in the past, to obtain insurable employment. Looking, therefore, at all the circumstances, it may be said that the presumption raised by non-employment for eight years is rebutted in this case and, applying Rule 2 of Decision 2203/28, as amended by this Decision, benefit may be allowed on the ground that the applicant has proved that he is normally employed in such employment as would make him an employed person within the meaning of the principal Act, and that he will normally seek to obtain his livelihood by means of insurable employment.Therefore, quite clearly, the interpretation of the law by the umpire is that, a man living in an area where there has been prolonged depression in the main industry, even though he has been out of work for as long as eight years, is properly entitled to benefit. In my own area men with a long record of insurable employment—25 or 30 years in the employment of one firm—who have not been out of work so long as eight years, have been recently turned down ostensibly on an umpire's decision. The insurable 963 record and all the conditions of the claimant's case have been equally as favourable as that of the man in the umpire's decision I have referred to. This has naturally given rise to some alarm on the part of the public assistance committee, because they may be faced with having to throw back on to the local rates the maintenance of all those men whom the Conservative Administration cut out of benefit and, therefore, I ask the Government, in this matter of the elderly men, to see to it that the attention of all chairmen of courts of referees and of assessors, too, is drawn to the legal position in relation to these classes of claimants.
§ Major GLYN
I am sure that the Committee has listened with great interest to the hon. Member's remarks. If we could solve the problem of the employment of the younger men, it, would automatically make it easier for the older men. I have often wondered whether we have lost all hope in these Debates of putting forward practical suggestions for the employment of the younger men, such as I recollect being put forward by an hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal benches in Coalition days who suggested that the younger men should almost be enlisted into divisions, as was the case in the War, and should be guaranteed their clothing, food and pay in this country and employed in the Crown Colonies. I have often felt that that would give encouragement to the men. They could get away from the little local centre where they are in a despairing atmosphere of trying in vain to find work, which is bad for them not only physically but in mental ways as well. I am sure we shall also agree with the hon. Member when he said that the wealth of the country is the skill of its workers. No truer word was ever said, but I think it hardly fair to charge us with inconsistency and to say that we have no constructive policy. The main constructive policy that we put forward is so to improve the conditions under which our workers are employed that they will not suffer from unfair competition from abroad. That is our great panacea to enable the workers to be employed. But that is rather beside the point of the main issue.
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, which, I trust, will have 964 very large support from all quarters of the Committee, moved it in the hope that we should set a limit to the credit that is given to the fund. I have been really astonished not to hear from a single hon. Member opposite any regret that the real fact to-day is that the Insurance Fund itself is on the dole, and that seems to me the most alarming feature of the whole affair. We know that true methods of insurance were employed when the scheme was originally set up. We are also aware that the State pays a third, the employers a third and the workers a third and, had we not suffered from the blizzard of unemployment which has swept all over the world, and had the procedure which was going steadily forward when the Labour party took office been continued, there was hope that the fund would gradually become more and more solvent. But the real problem with which we are faced is this transitional benefit, so-called. I recognise that, when it was originally fixed, there were very good reasons why for 12 months only there should be something to help a man over what the Minister of Labour described as the peak of unemployment. We hoped against hope that the bad times of those days would not be prolonged, and there was an extension. It has been brought out in the evidence before the Royal Commission that the original estimate of the Treasury for transitional benefit for 1930–1 was £10,500,000. The figure now is £22,000,000 and we must find where that estimate was wrong. If you read further in the evidence, the Treasury say they did not take into account the benefits paid out to married women and seasonal workers, and they estimate that those two categories amount to another £4,000,000. A little further on one reads that the numbers on transitional benefits increased from 140,000 to 300,000 between February and May, and it is estimated that 50,000 only of that number had been previously in receipt of Poor Law relief and that there were 110,000 others who suddenly came on to benefit who, previous to that time, had not been entitled, for some reason or other, and, having come to benefit, they upset the calculations of the fund.
What I think of greater moment to us, is that it is also stated in evidence that of that 110,000 a very large proportion are workers who are not likely ever again 965 to be employed. I do not know on what evidence that is based. I do not doubt it for a moment. I am certain no statement was made by a witness unless it had been fully proved. If it is a fact, we ought to consider by what method we are going to assist people like that who are unlikely ever again to get employment and who, quite obviously, have to be kept in a state of decency and a fit state of physical health. We never seem to face the fact that we are always giving benefit under the cloak of unemployment insurance, and it seems to me strange that members of the Labour party, who themselves have done so much in building up the insurance movement, the friendly society movement and, indeed, their own trade union benefit funds, would never for an instance allow these things to take place in regard to the funds of their own unions. When the fund was originally set up, all the information available came from the trade unions themselves, and the rules that were then laid down for the good government of the fund were very largely taken from the rule books of the unions. Now we have reached the position where, owing to the difficulties of the day, we do not hear a single word said in defence of true insurance principles by hon. Members opposite, and some of them are inclined to think that we who do believe in insurance do not give them credit for the great work that has been done by the friendly societies and trade unions in that regard. If we do not, it is because their present attitude is so much at variance with that of their predecessors who set up those great insurance funds in the past.
§ Major GLYN
I cannot see how they can be in keeping, because, obviously, the Insurance Fund itself is not solvent, and no trade union is allowed to continue to possess a benefit fund unless it is solvent, so that it cannot be in keeping. I have far too high a respect for well-managed trade union benefit funds to believe the hon. Member is serious when he says that.
There is, however, one other matter which I think the Committee ought to consider very seriously. It seems to me, and it has been stated from the other side, that a most unfortunate impression has been created outside the House and 966 in it by some of the reports in regard to so-called abuses. I think we are all to blame for those abuses, because it is very largely due to the difficulty of producing in the English language Bills that can be easily understood. Most of the abuses are legal abuses. It is our fault for passing legislation which is capable of abuse and I believe it is our first duty—the hon. Member himself said it would have the support of the whole of his party—to clean up any abuses and get rid of these instances which unquestionably are bringing the whole system into disrepute. There have been items of evidence before the Royal Commission which have been widely reported. I am sure there is not a Member of the party opposite who would not wish to see those abuses done away with. When my hon. Friend behind me spoke in regard to married women, he was met by a storm of ridicule from the other side. I should like to read what was said by the Government Actuary on page 5 of the White Paper:The payment of unemployment benefit, e.g., to a woman who has left employment on and because of her marriage, and who in many cases has left the locality in which she was employed before marriage to make a home in the town where her husband is employed, and where there is no work of the only kind for which she is qualified, even were she available for it, is obviously at variance with the conditions upon which the sufficiency of the contributions depends. Equally is the payment of benefit to the girls and women who have a standing job as week-end assistants in stores and have probably been deterred from entering domestic service by the attractiveness of such employment combined with unemployment benefit for the rest of the week, and to the sandwichmen and bill distributors who work only one day a week, and come on the fund for five days.He points out that this sort of thing is not only bringing the whole fund into disrepute, but is making it more and more insolvent. I am not altogether ignorant of the terrible distress which is rampant up and down the country. Genuine working men, through no fault of their own, are losing their skill, and they know that they are losing their skill far better than we know it, and it is a most hideous fact. It seems to me that they must resent, even more than we do, hearing of abuses of that sort because, after all, the other workers who are in employment are contributing towards the fund, and it seems to me that people who are capable of misusing the fund, although legally misusing it, are really robbing their fellow 967 workers at a time when everyone ought to be working to make the thing a success and not to bring it into disrepute.
Another matter to which attention ought to be drawn is with regard to ex-Service men. It is right that a preference should be given to ex-Service men. One of the matters to which too little credit is given occasionally is the loyal way in which the older men have recognised that fact and have never grumbled or complained about it, because instances have been brought to my notice where a man had been looking forward to getting on to some relief scheme and he found he could not get it because there were too many ex-Service men. I have never heard that man complain, although he has known perfectly well to his own satisfaction that he was just as physically capable and able to do the work as anyone else. Therefore, there is all through the country mixed up with that spirit of despair, which I am afraid it is, a spirit of great loyalty of one worker to another, and the great majority of them are loyal, keen, good, honest men. There is that small section which I hope and believe the interim report of the Royal Commission will bring out. I also hope that the Government will act on any such report fearlessly, and that they will tighten up the regulations so that there can no longer be these abuses.
From the bottom of my heart I believe that we cannot afford to go on as we are. The Royal Commission was set up, replacing the committee of all parties, and we have been told to-day that they cannot make their report before May. One reason why I am going to support the Amendment is, that I believe that there is nothing like pressure of this kind. If the money has run out, means will be found for making the Royal Commission report a little sooner. The sooner the Royal Commission report, the sooner will the funds be put on a proper basis. I should like to feel that every hon. Gentleman opposite is as anxious as we are on this side that the interim report of the Royal Commission should be published forthwith. I am certain that if only the report is published and the facts are clearly stated for the information of the country, it will be impossible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to act— 968 as I am sure he wants to do—in order to preserve the finances of the country. It will be impossible for the Members of the party opposite to stand up against the abuses and to defend them, if they should wish to do so. Machinery should be created to set right evils which are very largely due to legislative enactments.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am sure that we all appreciate the tone of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) when compared with the tone of the speech delivered from those benches just previously. It gives one a feeling of something human being left, and of some human relationship still being in the Tory party. I have been surprised during these Debates to see how the whole subject has been sidetracked from its basis. The hon. and gallant Member wound up on the question of abuses—things that have not been proved. As a Member of this House, and like many other Members, I have sought to find out these things. Last night in my constituency in Glasgow a complaint was made which had to be followed up. I followed it up, but found it was, as usual, absolutely without any foundation. I would ask the hon. and gallant Member to realise that there is nothing more cruel than the vicious next door neighbour who gives information which is not always correct.
We are discussing the question of money to-night, but the reason for the provision of that money has been treated as if it were a short-dated event. The need for the money is based upon the absolute failure of the capitalist system of society. Members on the Conservative benches frequently instance the case of America, of Germany and of France. France has been doing fairly well in regard to loans. The hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) spoke about the cost of the unemployed, but he forgot to tell the Committee that this country pays millions in War interest. We have cheeseparing in every direction. The rentier class have to sit tight even with the fall in the cost of living; they still have to maintain that continuous circle. If we are going to talk about contrasts in expenditure, let us contrast the reality between interest-mongering and honest people prevented from working by a 969 capitalist system of society. In regard to the question of unemployment and the growing need for more money, we have to look at the capitalist system.
The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir H. Betterton), when he was speaking today, made a slight reference to the application of science. Why should any man claiming to be serious in the consideration of this question make only a slight reference to the application of science? Science is a basic factor. So-called captains of industry under capitalism are always ready to take advantage of scientific brains. They take the maximum profits, but do not for a moment consider what is called displacement by the application of God-given powers. Not only do they take no cognisance of the fact, but they try to lump the displaced men amongst the unemployed group. What do we mean by the word "unemployment"? It has always been associated with some period in the workers' life which has been interrupted. But that period was only regarded as a. certain amount of time until he came back again with the cycle of trade, as it was called. That is what we understood as being the unemployment question. When my late brother stood in this House fighting upon this question, that was the definition of unemployment. I can remember speaking with him at an open air gathering. I was very young. I spoke about a machine, and when we were walking home he said, "What do you mean by this machine?" The machine came, and it is that about which I am talking still.
What is the position of the unemployed man where industry is temporarily interrupted? You know that you are going to take him back again. What is the position of the worker who is displaced by the application of science through machinery or any other course? That is a permanent matter. The Minister of Labour to-day gave as an illustration the period when, 100 years ago, a change-over was taking place owing to the development of the industrial system. It was different from the change-over which is taking place to-day. There was a development in demand as well as a development in methods of production. The development in demand brought about the absorption of those who were displaced by machinery, be- 970 cause the demand was so great that they could be accommodated. To-day we have reached saturation point as far as markets are concerned, although we have not reached saturation point with regard to power. The taking of maximum profits has always proved the failure of the capitalist system, which has never at any time taken any cognisance of what was to happen to the workers who were displaced. If hon. Members will read the history of the last 100 years they will find that what I am saying is absolutely true in that regard. This Resolution besides revealing the failure of the capitalist system, provides what in reality is a subsidy for the capitalist system. The amount which is paid by the Government, and that which is paid by the worker, are nothing less than a subsidy due to the failure of the capitalist system. I was rather surprised that we did not have some cheers from the other side when it was pointed out that on the question of dye production in this country we had, a few weeks ago, a turmoil in the House about the need for doing something for that great industry. Even in that industry you have the maximum of unemployment.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted; and, 40 Members being present—
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. Member for Rushcliffe did not seem to be in his usual logical mood. He began by showing that it was quite wrong to come down to the House for £20,000,000, but he apparently agreed that it would be right to come down for £10,000,000. We are not dealing only with the question of the amount of money. The amount of money is dealt with in the Resolution, but we are dealing with that which makes the provision of the money necessary. If it was wrong to come down for £20,000,000, it was less wrong to come down for £10,000,000, and still less wrong to come down for £5,000,000. The hon. Member could go on arguing in that way and he might get a medal for it. I am glad that the hon. Member is present, because he has always in previous Debates been very clear as to what he was doing, but to-day I think he was just a bit too quick. When the hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham was speaking, an Irish Member said to me, "What a pity 971 that man has got such a good Irish name; he disgraces it." He seemed to be going on the lines of one of H. G. Wells's books of just seeing how far you could keep a single cell alive without having to do anything towards the sustenance of that cell. He used the words: "Just keep them conscious and alive." It is not a very Christian conception when you are talking about your fellow-beings, that you should just keep them conscious and alive. [An HON. MEMBER: "What will his constituents think?"]
§ Mr. HARDIE
When the hon. and learned Member was talking about the unemployed, he spoke, as many hon. Members opposite speak, as if there were plenty of jobs and there were men and women to be found who would not work if they got a chance. I would like any hon. Member opposite to tell me where there is a job, and I will find hands for it at once. I do not make any limits. I can get the most highly skilled engineers in Britain. I can bring men who have degrees in engineering and chemistry, men who have every kind of engineering certificate, right down to the man who is a most scientific worker—the man who can walk on a shaking plank carrying a hod of bricks, and who does not fall. That is a skilled job.
§ Mr. HARDIE
If my hon. Friend wanted some proof of the statement that I am making, perhaps he will recall a certain public building at Cambuslang Cross, and a competition one Saturday afternoon in walking a plank, carrying a hod of bricks. I will, however, leave that subject.
§ Mr. HARDIE
In this talk about jobs, it is always suggested by hon. Members opposite that someone gets money from the Exchange without seeking work. Last night I had an interview with a workman whom I had known for 28 years. He has been out of work for two years. He has tried everywhere for a job, and I have tried to help him as best I could and have got other people to try to help him. For two years, every day, he has 972 searched, and he cannot find a job. I wish those hon. Members who are against this would accept my challenge and produce the jobs.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I was speaking of the party to which the hon. Member belongs. Had he been in this House during those five years, things might have been different. I have no doubt that it was lack of mental capacity which was the cause of the failure. The remarks that are made by hon. Members opposite on this question show that there is no serious thinking in their references to the men or women on the streets. The capitalist system has failed. The men who claim to be captains of industry, claim the right to say, "This is my property. These are my goods. This is my land. These are my materials." When they have the power to say that all these natural things that are meant by God for the use of everybody, are theirs, it is the duty of those who claim to be owners of that public property to give work to the people. We have a right to say to them, "You have failed, and therefore it is your duty to keep these people from starvation. You have failed with the capitalist system. You stand on the edge of a new life, and you are afraid to move. You cannot do anything more under the capitalist system, and you must move over, sooner or later, and the sooner the better, into a new system of living, where everything will be for the interest of the community as a whole, for the citizenship of Britain, and where industry will not be run as it is to-day."
The Secretary of State for the Dominions stated only the other day that the employers and manufacturers in this country were creating unemployment at the dictation of a foreign cartel, because orders were being held back. Not only is that true so far as a foreign cartel is 973 concerned, but it is true of the filthy combinations that have taken place in industry in this country. There can be any amount of talk about abuses, and about the type of men and women who will not work, and hon. Members opposite can build up any argument they like on those lines, but they can never destroy in the minds of honest men and women the belief that the present system of society is to blame for the existing unemployment. That is why the Socialist idea and the Socialist movement are making the progress which one day will bring full power to this House to carry necessary Measures of social reform.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
We have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie). He reminded us that the Debate had wandered a good way from the subject before the Committee, and I thought that we should hear from him something in the way of a change from the other speeches. What have we had from the hon. Member? We did get a change, but what a strange sort of speech to deliver on such an occasion. I can well understand that the speech was directed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who told us that Socialism in our time means Socialism in no time. I can remember, many years ago, listening to speeches from the present Chancellor of the Exchequer similar to the one delivered by the hon. Member for Springburn, but since those days the right hon. Gentleman has had the responsibility of office and he knows too much of the inner working of that delicate organism which we call national finance to agree with the hon. Member. I will leave the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman to settle the matter at a party meeting.
The hon. Member for Springburn is very fair, as a general rule, but I must take exception to what he said about the hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor). He has not been fair in his references to the hon. and learned Member. He said that the hon. and learned Member had declared that we must keep people just conscious and alive. That was an insinuation that the hon. and learned Member was satisfied that people should be kept merely conscious and alive. He did not say anything of the sort. He said that people were beginning to 974 become conscious and alive to the facts of the case.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
If the hon. Member will read the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow I am sure that in his usual straightforward way he will apologise to the hon. and learned Member, because as one hon. Member opposite said: "That is the sort of story to take to his constituents!" I am sure the hon. Member for Springburn would not like it to go to the hon. and learned Member's constituency that he made any such statement, and I hope he will put the matter right when he sees the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. I find myself in agreement with certain speeches from the Government side and with a speaker from the Liberal Benches, and I find myself in sympathy with the Minister of Labour. I agree with the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) that it is time we faced this subject and decided whether we can continue this process of borrowing, with no hope of repayment and with a large debt for interest creeping up year after year. We ought to settle once for all whether this is to be a burden that the State must bear. Chancellor of the Exchequer after Chancellor of the Exchequer never dares to face up to the position. They have said: "Pass it along. Some day we shall be able to pay it back." It is quite evident that it is not at all likely that we shall be able to pay this back. I would have preferred that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had faced the problem and included in his next Budget provision for dealing with this great national emergency, rather than adding to the borrowing, which means more interest year after year, and is very unfair to those who have to contribute to the fund.
The Minister of Labour quoted a speech made 100 years ago, and with some effect, but I am afraid she was rather unfortunate in the selection of the hon. Member of that date who delivered the speech. He was known as "Orator" Hunt, and he made speeches on many occasions. It is on record, which can be found in the Library of the House, that he made six speeches on six different subjects one evening. If you had been in the Chair, Sir Robert, 975 I am sure you would not have called him six times. I am sure that "Orator" Hunt could have made a speech on any occasion to fit the occasion. The Minister of Labour was rather unfortunate in quoting him to try to prove her case. Dealing with the question of increased borrowing powers, she tried to throw a great deal of responsibility on her predecessors in office. She talked about inheriting the burden of debt. From 1911 to 1920 the scope of insurance was limited in its operation, covering something like 2,500,000 workers in selected trades. Up to 1920, when it was extended to cover a greater number of trades, it was a solvent fund. I think it had a credit balance of round about £220,000,000.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I do not think it is germane to my argument. The case I want to prove is that the right hon. Lady did not inherit such a terrible burden as she suggests. We had the depression which followed after the great boom period of the War, with a series of strikes and lock-outs which culminated in the General Strike of 1926—
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
—and the long drawn-out coal stoppage, which had a very material effect on the Unemployment Insurance Fund. From 1924 to 1929 we had a Government who really tried to bring this fund into solvency—[Interruption],—and if it had not been for the troubles of 1926 and the long drawn-out period of depression which followed, we should undoubtedly have got the fund on to a basis where it would have met the annual charges. Take the position at the end of March, 1929. At that period the contributions from the employers amounted to £16,460,000, from the employés £14,080,000, and from the Exchequer £11,760,000.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I shall be prepared to debate that question with the hon. Member on the proper occasion.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Other speakers want to take part in this Debate and I hope, therefore, that these interruptions will cease.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
The total contributions from the three parties amounted to £42,300,000. The benefit it paid out amounted to £46,730,000 for the last full year when the late Government were in office. The fund was running into debt, but not to the extent it is now. We were beginning to pull round and to get it on to a really balancing basis. The fund was running into debt at the rate of about £7,000,000 per annum, but that is nothing like the position with which we are faced at the moment. When the Labour Government took office, we had power to borrow money up to £40,000,000, and the total borrowings up to 1st June, 1929, the date when the present Government took office, amounted to £47,389,000. From this you must deduct £10,519,000 repaid to the Treasury in 1923–24, and you get a total debt to the Treasury on 1st June, 1929, of £36,870,000. This sum covers, of course, the borrowings outstanding from the date power was given to borrow under the Act of 1921. When the Minister of Labour talks about the Coalition Government, she must not forget that the Government was neither Conservative nor Liberal.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I understood she was speaking about the commencement of borrowing during the time of the Coalition Government. I am sorry if I have made a mistake, but no doubt the OFFICIAL REPORT in the morning will reveal whether I am right or wrong. Nevertheless, she will agee with me that the amount of borrowing when she had to take over did not exceed the sum I have mentioned.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
The late Government can claim credit for the fact that during 4½ years they only increased the borrowing powers by something like £10,000,000.
§ Mr. LAWSON
By £32,000,000. The debt was a little over £5,000,000 when the former Government came into office; it was nearly £37,000,000 when they left.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I have given great consideration to these figures and we can, of course, soon have the matter cleared up. According to my reckoning, the late Government did not borrow to the extent stated by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, but I will not argue that point with him now. We are agreed on one point, that the amount taken over by the Minister of Labour in the shape of borrowing was the £30,000,000 odd I have quoted. What are the causes of the present position? After all, we must face the situation and consider ways and means of overcoming the difficulty. The causes have been described as being world wide; the general depression in trade and a large increase in unemployment. No one can deny the fact that they have caused a considerable run upon the fund, but I submit that there are other causes, one of which was the passing of the Act of 1930. [Interruption.] It has increased considerably the amount of money that is required; and hon. Members opposite must realise this and face it.
I have had considerable experience in dealing with the administration of these Acts and I know the difficulties which we are up against. You have two extreme points of view. You have the man who says that there are great abuses and that practically everyone drawing unemployment pay is drawing something he is not entitled to draw. I have no sympathy with that point of view, because it is not true. On the other hand, you have the critic who looks at, it the other way round and who says that there is not a single case in which there is any abuse at all of the privileges that are provided by way of unemployment pay; that every man should be given the same consideration, and that anyone who utters a word at all against any man who is really abusing the fund ought to be sent somewhere else. We must not take the extreme view one way or the other, but take the commonsense view and realise the position; and there is no doubt that there are cases of abuse. We have evidence not only before the Commission, but those who administer trade unions know very well that they have similar cases to deal with from time to time.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
In that case, the experience of the hon. Member has been very limited in this matter. Let us consider where these abuses can come in. Let us face the facts. Take the question of the abolition of the "not genuinely seeking work" Clause. I was one of the Members of my party who was strongly against that particular Clause in the Act that was passed when the last Labour Government was in office. I was against it not so much because of the Clause itself, but because of the interpretation of it by those administering the local Exchanges, and also by the interpretation put on the term "not genuinely seeking work" by the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary for War, which was that a person must be "continuously seeking work." That led to the silly farce of a man walking round from factory to factory with a. sheet of paper to prove that he was continuously seeking work.
Last year, after the statement which was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, I felt that we were at last going to get something which would be fair to the country and to the workers. But against the advice of responsible people who had administrative experience, a different Clause from the one which was first suggested was put in. That has been the cause of a good deal of trouble and difficulty, and it opened the door wide to many abuses. I want to submit to the right hon. Lady—and I speak from my own experience, and I feel sure she will not regard it as unfriendly—that the real trouble has been the abolition of what is known as N.E.P.I., which means "Not expedient in the public interest." This condition was put into operation where it could be proved that the person making application for unemployment allowance was earning a good living. The local committee, who, after all, know the circumstances better than anybody else, were able to deal with those people who had been reported as abusing the fund. Those people were earning good wages on part-time work, often on piece-work, during long hours, and they had spells of unemployment. They could legally draw the unemployment pay. When this condition was in operation, it was left to the local committee to use their own discretion and to find out, if necessary, what the person was earning, and the taking away of that 979 condition weakened considerably the hands of those who serve on the local committees.
I have found that the trade union representatives on those committees have always acted fairly, and have never allowed any abuses of the fund if they could help it. If I were asked into whose hands I would put the administration of the fund I should say, "Put it into the hands of the trade unions; they will manage it all right, just as they manage their own funds." The strength and the soundness of the Health Insurance Fund is due to the fact that it is administered through approved societies which are managed in many cases by working men who understand the conditions of their own people. It has been said that there are no abuses of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Well, we will wait until we get the report of the Royal Commission. Like other hon. Members I am sorry that we have not had a report from the three-party committee because I think that that report would have been useful. Possibly they got information that we shall not get through the medium of the Royal Commission's report; nevertheless we are content to wait for that report if we are to get it in any decent time. But I would quote what was said by the Prime Minister. Speaking at Bedford, he said:Unemployment Insurance as insurance must be put back on to an insurable basis.The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, speaking in this House, said:Nobody assumes that the Unemployment Insurance Scheme is to-day in a satisfactory condition. The piling up of debt cannot go on; the scheme must be put on a self-supporting basis. That is agreed. There is also agreement that able-bodied unemployable workers who fail to qualify for insurance benefits must be provided for outside the existing arrangement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1930; col. 65, Vol. 246.]Then I find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), speaking at the annual conference of the Liberal party at Torquay, in October, said:Able-bodied men and women must accept the work for which they are physically adapted when it is offered to them, or they must be deprived of the dole. The whole cost of unemployment ought to be scrutinised. One hears every day tales of 980 unwarranted cadging on the dole. Millions could be saved without impinging on the meritorious claims.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I say, and I repeat, that that statement is absolutely the reverse of what I know to be true.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
That statement was not my own; it was the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs when he was addressing the Members of his own party.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
No, he is not my leader. I am quoting him as giving an opinion on a question upon which some doubts have been cast.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
For hon. Members opposite to ask hon. Members on this side to suggest the remedies is beside the mark. I could make suggestions which would not be "Socialism in our time" or Socialism at any other time. But, according to the promises which were thrown out by hon. Members opposite at the last Election—if they were anything like the promises that Members of their party threw out in my constituency—the Labour party had a remedy. They were to find work, and the numbers of the unemployed were to be considerably reduced. You cannot altogether hold the Government free from responsibility for the increase of this debt. Agreeing that they have struck a very bad patch in trade, something has been caused by lack of confidence on the cart of the people in this country in the present Government. I am satisfied that many of the Acts which have been passed by this Government have contributed considerably to the bad trade. Giving them every credit, a large amount of the money we have to find now is due to the actions of the present Minister of Labour and the Government generally.
When we get the report of the Royal Commission, I am satisfied that hon. Members will agree with me—although they will not say so to-night—that much of the money which we have had to vote could have been saved if the Act of 1930 had not been passed and if better administration had been exercised. That could have been done without depriving a single genuine case of the amount to 981 which that case was entitled. I believe that it is the duty of the State to provide in times of depression for those who cannot, through no fault of their own, provide for themselves. I recognise that that opens a very wide door. When you are getting State relief, what are you getting Hon. Members in asking for State relief talk glibly of "work or maintenance," but they do not realise where that is going to lead them. We discussed this matter in the last Parliament and the question was raised as it has been raised to-night, of imposing a test. Let me remind hon. Members that in the last Parliament the right hon. Gentleman who is now First Commissioner of Works, said that as far as the young men were concerned, he would provide a certain amount of work and if they would not do that work then he would let them starve. But that is only test work, and, thus, State relief would become a glorified system of Poor Law relief with test-work attached. I ask hon. Members opposite to consider this point carefully. State relief is not such an easy solution as it appears on the surface and many of those in connection with whom hon. Members are talking of State relief, would resent such relief very much if it was offered to them.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
It has not saved our town a great deal. We happen to be very independent hard-working folk and in our chief industry the number of those employed has actually increased. Our difficulties have been caused by people being sent from other towns to our towns. [Interruption.] I hope I may be allowed by hon. Members opposite to reply to their interruptions, since my constituency has been mentioned and these things travel to a constituency. I am very proud of my constituents who are a very hardworking and independent body of people. Actually, in the fishing industry we are employing more people now than we were 12 months ago, and I challenge any other trade to show a similar state of affairs. As I say, what we are suffering from is the fact that people are coming into the town from other districts. Our difficulty is that those people are being added to our register day by day. In view of that fact, I should be pleased if the Minister 982 could see her way to take steps to stop the importation of labour from the distressed areas into our district until such time as we have provided full work for those with whom we already have to deal.
I had to deal with this subject before, when my Socialist opponent charged me with bringing people into the town from outside simply because I was instrumental in getting a Government grant for a certain scheme. Hon. Members opposite apparently want to have it both ways. I hope that the right hon. Lady, however, will give this matter her careful consideration and I thank the hon. Members opposite whose interruptions have given me the opportunity of introducing the subject on this occasion. What we want to do is to get people elsewhere to emulate the example of Grimsby and not to depend so much on the State as on the individual. In July, 1929, I had to conduct a deputation from the Municipal Corporations Association to the present Secretary of State for the Dominions, who was then, as Lord Privy Seal, dealing with the unemployment problem. We went to talk to him about relief schemes and to try to reduce the number on the unemployed roll and we had a straight heart-to-heart talk with the right hon. Gentleman. He did not tell us that what was wanted was Socialism in our time. He faced the position and told us that it was as much our problem as his, and then he said:The question of unemployment and its demoralising effects upon the character of our people ought, in my judgment, not even to be a party question.With that I agree, but then we have the case of the three-party committee apparently dissolved because it was not bringing in a report which pleased certain people. The right hon. Gentleman went on:The more I see of it, the more I am up against it daily, the more I know from personal knowledge of its demoralising effects, the more I am as satisfied as I am standing here, that unless unemployment is tackled, this country must go to the dogs.He did not say "unemployment insurance," but "unemployment."I say that deliberately for this reason. The figures are startling.This was in 1929.£600,000,000 has been paid in unemployment benefit since 1918 and £109,000,000 has been spent on the kind of work we are talking about to-day.983 That referred to relief schemes.There are still nearly 1,250,000 unemployed.Think of how those figures have grown since July, 1929. Then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded:As I say, these figures are startling. You are as much alive as I am to the realisation that the future of this country will depend on the same character that built it up—independence, that characteristic of our people which was not money for nothing, but a desire to work and their daily bread. That was the spirit of our people, but we are losing it, as a result of the demoralisation which has taken place; we are losing that independence, and when that goes our country goes.My final words are these. We have to realise that the statement then made by the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly true. It is by that statement that we have to steer our course. We are bound as a matter of honour to see to it that the man who is genuinely unemployed is provided for. That I say without hesitation; but I say, also, that we have the right as the custodians, not only of the national Exchequer, but of the money paid into the fund by the working man, to see that no one gets out of the fund something to which he is not entitled.
§ Mr. MARLEY
The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), who has just sat down, in the usual way of not facing the issue says, "I say that wherever there is a genuine man unemployed, he should be kept." Let us see what that means. It means that you can reduce this fund considerably, by the payment of only those who are genuinely seeking work, which means that there is a very large section at the present time drawing benefit who are not genuinely seeking work. I rebut that charge. If hon. Members opposite argue that every Man genuinely seeking work shall receive benefit, they cannot reduce that fund by one-eighth per cent. Let us face the issue, which is this: Are the unemployed getting too much, or is it going to be argued from the other side that there are tens of thousands getting benefit to which they are not entitled? If they think the unemployed are getting too much, let them get up and say it in this House, quite openly and frankly. I would admire hon. Members who would get up and say it, and I challenge them to say it.
984 They say there may be a number of people who are not entitled on an insurance basis, to benefit. Well, what are they going to do with them? Hon. and right hon. Members opposite deprived the local authorities by their de-rating scheme of any funds which they might have had to provide these people through the public assistance committees. Are they going to throw these people back upon the local authorities? No. They say, "We agree that this must be a national charge," and I think they are afraid, because of their own local authorities, to say that these people must go on to the Poor Law. We must admit that the whole scheme has long since left the insurance basis, and now we get the argument from the other side: Why do we not get this fund put in a certain way so that it will not become bankrupt? I would suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might finance it in this way, by borrowing £2,000,000,000 and starting a, sinking fund like that which was created after the War and then it will be sound finance, but to borrow £20,000,000 and to repay it somehow, is unsound finance. We want better thinking in the House that that. To take £20,000,000 and borrow it against this fund is unsound, but to take £2,000,000,000 or £4,000,000,000 and have a sinking fund with which the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) can do what he likes, is perfectly sound finance. I think hon. Members opposite—
§ Mr. MARLEY
I used to talk of legal robbery, and Conservative Members did not like that. I said that people were taking land, and I called it legal robbery. It appears that the Conservatives themselves are now coming to the point and admitting that there is a legal robbery, a legal unfairness within the law. But is it suggested that these employers really could employ their men full time and that they are doing what they are doing out of sheer spite? I maintain that it is wholly true to say that these employers are doing it in the best interests of their workmen. They think their workmen cannot live on what they would earn in three days, and therefore they say that they will help them to get a little more assistance—[An HON. MEMBER: "And to keep their works together."]—I should have thought Conservative Members would not have objected to that and would not have called that an abuse.
With regard to the means test, if you are not going to put these transitional people, such as the married women and others who are supposed to be abusing this Fund, back on the public assistance committees, it is suggested that you should have a means test, but I should like some hon. Member to explain how you can work this means test inside the insurance scheme. Conservatives, Labour people, and Liberals all agree that this must be a national charge, but hon. Members opposite say these people must be taken off the Insurance Fund because it has become insolvent and cannot be put on an insurance basis which will make it solvent; but why create a new fund which is equally bound to be insolvent? This is what I call book-keeping finance. The Unemployment Insurance Fund is insolvent, so they say, "We will take away the part which makes it insolvent and make a new fund, which will still be insolvent, but it will be all right, because we are shifting it from one book to another." I should like some reply from the other side as to how this makes the thing more possible and more solvent.
You say, "The present fund is insolvent, because there are large numbers of transitional people on it. Therefore, create a new fund, quite apart from it, 986 from which to provide these people with some kind of income, but not out of the public assistance committees, because the money must not be put back on the rates." This new fund will always be insolvent, but you think you are saving the National Exchequer by this sort of juggling with books. Why intelligent people should discuss a proposition of that kind for more than 10 minutes really amuses me. Could any actuary foresee or plan, by contribution or in any other way, for unemployment rising from 1,250,000 to 2,500,000 over a period of 15 months and make sure that the fund would be solvent If hon. Members opposite are intending to make the fund solvent at any time, I suggest to them that they should get an actuarial basis for normal unemployment and, after a month or two, or three months, if they are above that normal figure, they should proceed forthwith to increase the employers' contribution, the workers' contribution, and the Government contribution to keep the fund solvent.
§ Mr. MARLEY
Under our present system of society normal unemployment has always been round about 800,000, though I believe the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has put it at somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,000,000. Take that as your basis, and when you go above that, in a month's or three months' time, proceed to increase the contributions all the way round. Will hon. and right hon. Members opposite suggest to the employers of this country that they should immediately increase their quota to make the fund solvent? Oh, no. The Government must make up that deficiency, not merely on behalf of the employers who fail to pay their contributions, but also on behalf of the workmen who fail to pay their contributions. As soon as the Government propose to do the only thing that can be done, it is suggested that the benefit should be reduced. What right have we to reduce the benefit of a man who may be out of work for the first time, while other men have received it for years on the same contributions? Some people are out of work now who have not been out of work since the War, 987 and what right have we to say that they shall get less than the man who has had it for two years?
In borrowing this money, at least we are providing an investment for the rentier class at a good rate of interest. That ought to be consolation to hon. Members on the other side. Surely they ought to be pleased to know that the Government are creating a loan of £20,000,000 at a percentage which they cannot get in industry. Of course, they say that if the Government go on doing this, industry will not be able to get money when it wants it at a cheap enough rate of interest, but in these days, when industry does not want the money, the rentier class have an investment in which they can put their money, and on that account alone they ought to vote for this £20,000,000, and another £30,000,000, too, if necessary, because it provides such a secure investment for those who have so much money to invest and nowhere to invest it. That may be a ridiculous argument, but it ought to please Members on the other side.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. TRAIN
I did not intend to take part in the Debate, but for the invitation of my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie). He reminded me of an incident that happened 40 years ago when I was an apprentice boy. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman for the persistence with which he follows up the cause of his late lamented brother, and the manner in which he persists in saying that the capitalist system has absolutely failed. As I have been among the people to whom he referred for the past 40 years, and know a little of their difficulties, I am able to say that there is a certain unrest among the same tradesmen of whom he spoke because of the condition of the Insurance Fund. They rightly look upon it as an unemployment insurance fund. When an insurance company is formed, the capital is put up by the public, and they make a profit. These tradesmen were led to understand that when the Unemployment Insurance Fund was started, it would be a mutual insurance scheme for their benefit when they were unemployed. There are a great many of them with whom I come in contact in my constituency and in the places referred to by the hon. Member 988 for Springburn, and they ask me certain questions. They are uneasy because they see in their shops week after week men losing their jobs, and they are looking to the day when their time will come, because of the state of unemployment in that part of the country. I speak of the Clyde district. Just as they put money in the savings bank for a rainy day, so they put their money into this Insurance Fund with the expectation that they will be able to draw something when unemployed. They find, however, in reading their newspapers, that month after month the Government make application in the House of Commons for more money, and that the fund is bankrupt. Why do the Government not face the situation? They appoint a Royal Commission. Any insurance company, when in difficulties, take advice from the best experts. I am not saying a word about the personnel of this Commission, but I am gravely disappointed at the time it is taking to make a report. From what I hear to-day, it will be May before we have any report, and I am disgusted. I do not think that the Government are facing their responsibilities in this matter.
We have heard of abuses. We all get letters from our constituents, and I have passed one or two of those which I have received to the right hon. Lady. A young woman, who has subscribed for 10 years to the fund, gets married to a young man who is in a comfortable job: they have a little beanfeast after the wedding, get a presentation from their friends, and then settle down comfortably. A fortnight afterwards, however, the young woman's employer gets a form to fill in with reference to unemployment relief. Surely there is something wrong here, and I ask the right hon. Lady whether any of these young married women can get relief when their husbands are in comfortable jobs.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The regulations say clearly that anyone who leaves of her own accord cannot get benefit.
§ Mr. TRAIN
I am informed that some of them get married, and then go back for their jobs. The employer, perhaps, is not in the habit of employing married women, and when they apply for their 989 jobs again, they are told that they cannot be employed. Can a woman in that case have unemployment relief?
§ Mr. TRAIN
I will give the right hon. Lady further particulars. It is said that to put the fund on an actuarial basis will mean throwing a greater burden on the rates, which already are high enough, in all conscience, in the necessitous areas. The hon. Member who has just sat down blamed the late Government for robbing those necessitous areas of rateable valuation through the De-rating Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Springburn knows perfectly well that at Cambuslang there was a decrease in the rates last year owing to the operation of the De-rating Act. That has been the case, also, in all the necessitous areas in Lanarkshire. There have been decreases up to 6s. in the £ through the operations of that Act.
§ Mr. HARDIE
When that Measure was passing through the House the claim was made by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary at that time that it would bring such relief, through the relief of rates, to the industries in those centres as would give an impetus to employment and that there would be no unemployed left.
§ Mr. TRAIN
That may follow as a natural corollary when we get some confidence in the country. I had no intention of talking half as long on this question, and I will conclude by saying that men and women are looking to the Government to face their responsibilities and give them security regarding the Unemployment Insurance Fund, instead of a feeling that the position of the fund is growing steadily worse.
§ Mr. KELLY
The last speaker dwelt on the importance of the Insurance Fund being put upon what he termed an actuarial basis. He has told us that there was a period in the life of the fund when it was solvent, when it was sound. I do not know when that was, and I have been concerned with unemployment insurance from the start.
§ Mr. KELLY
It was not. I expected that interjection. To say that during the War period, when we made a great many more people pay into the fund, and when everybody who could be put to work was in work and there were no outgoings from the fund that the fund was solvent—to suggest that of an abnormal time like the War shows the type of argument that is put forward.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Heyday) is very fond of quoting the fact that in 1920 there was a balance of £22,500,000 in the fund, which has since been absorbed.
§ Mr. KELLY
I am quite well aware that the hon. Member for West Nottingham says that, and he may continue to say it, but I do not agree with it. I remember that when the fund was started in 1912 the actuaries—one of them is still an actuary, I think—told us they had nothing upon which they could base any estimate or any figures, and they took the records of the few trade unions who were paying benefits as a basis, as meeting the situation in regard to this unemployment insurance fund. I do not mind the fund being placed on an insurance basis, but I want to know who is to pay the contributions. The idea among hon. Members opposite of putting the fund on an insurance basis is that there must be either a reduction of benefit paid to those who are out of work or an increased amount stopped out of the wages every week, or that the employer is to take a great deal more out of the wages of his workpeople, making an increase in what is termed the employers share of the contribution.
My view is that from the start the whole of the contributions ought to have been paid by the State. That is the only fair and just way. There would then be no question of having to delimit industries. It must be remembered that, in the first place, unemployment insurance was confined to a few industries, many others much more prosperous, being denied the opportunity of coming in. Hon. Members opposite have spoken of the contributions made by the employers. I quite admit that in the early days of unemployment insurance the employers did pay a little; but employers in every industry know full well that as time went on they themselves ceased to pay it because they either reduced wages to a 991 greater extent than was required to offset any contributions they had to pay to the fund or they refused to give advances in wages. They always held that it was an impossibility for them to pay higher wages, or said they were compelled to reduce wages, because of the charges for unemployment insurance which fell upon them. The whole of the cost of it up to now has come out of the wages of the workpeople in the various industries concerned.
The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) told us that we needed a race of independent people. I wish he had developed that view a little more. I want to know where there is an opportunity for them to cultivate that so-called spirit of independence when there are men and women who have been trained in industry, now out of work. They include many of the men trained in the industry with which you, Sir Robert, and I are concerned, who for a period of 20, 25 or 30 years knew not a day's unemployment except at holiday time but who now are without work. It is not always the case that they are unemployed simply through a lack of orders, but they are unemployed as a result of the progress of science and invention in introducing machinery. Machinery has become so simplified as to remove the necessity for close application by highly-trained men, and those are the people who are to-day out of work. Hon. Members say that the Government have no responsibility for looking after them, but how is it possible for those unemployed men to retain what is termed an independent spirit when they are out of work and when there is no hope of their being able to obtain work at the present time?
Take the various industries of the countries. In every one of them, whether textile, shipbuilding, iron and steel, engineering or the various sides of the electrical industry, we find that a lesser number of people are employed, and yet those who are employed are giving a greater production than was given even a few years ago. Compare that with the state of things 20 years ago, when production was beyond the dreams of those who ever thought of such improvements as were taking place. I ask this House, is it right to allow these people to drift on in such a hopeless position without 992 help and without benefit from an insurance fund?
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. KELLY
I ask whether the position taken up to-day by hon. Members opposite is justified in face of the fact that these people have no income on which to maintain themselves and their families, and they are having a very hard time. We are asking in this Vote for £20,000,000. The arguments of hon. Members opposite seem to be that you ought not to entrust the Government with the amount of money that is being asked for in order to deal with the number of unemployed at the present time. We say that this Committee ought to vote the money. The Opposition seems to be of the opinion that, realising that all this money is running out, there will be a state of mind created which I cannot understand any decent-minded individual desiring. If that is the reason for the Amendment to cut down the money and the period of transitional benefit, then all I can say is that there is little realisation by the Opposition of the position that so many of our people find themselves faced with at the present time. The existing state of things has been met with ridicule.
We have heard a great deal of generalisation from hon. Members opposite about people who are in receipt of benefit and who are not entitled to it. That is rather a serious attack upon the officers of the Ministry of Labour. It is tantamount to a charge that those officials are giving benefit to people who they know are not entitled to it. Is it manly—I put it no higher—on the part of hon. Members of the Committee to bring charges of that kind without a tittle of evidence in support of those charges and without mentioning a single individual case? My experience of the officers of the Ministry of Labour is in the opposite direction, and I wish they were a little more generous. They are very strict in their administration—so strict that any individual who does happen to receive a. penny to which he is not entitled is a very fortunate individual indeed.
These charges are made because it is believed that they will create in the country state of mind which will make 993 people believe that these individuals are out of work through their own fault. The daily Press of this country, in the references to those who are out of work, have descended to depths which show just how far they will go when dealing with the working men and women who happen to be unemployed. I know that the cost of unemployment is great, but it must not be overlooked that the problem with which we are dealing is great and that the numbers concerned are great. I hope the Committee will realise that this country exists, not for the purpose of seeing that certain people's financial condition is quite satisfactory, but for the welfare of every man, woman and child in it. If that is the purpose, there is no justification for any one of them "going short."
I have worked in the shops of this country with many of those who are unemployed, and I know that they are anxious to find work. They seek and beg and implore people to give them work, and they would do almost anything to obtain work. And yet, while they are in this state making these efforts, we find people speaking of them as not being genuine in their desire to obtain work. In these circumstances I regret that hon. Members opposite are anxious to cut down even the small amount of benefit paid to these unemployed people in the shape of Unemployment Insurance. I hope the Committee will realise its responsibility. Industry and commerce must realise their responsibility to the men and women who have built them up. Industry and commerce have done well for individuals, but unemployed people have no capital but their own labour. Industry and commerce have neglected them, and therefore it is the duty of the State and the country to provide for them. It is the country of the people and not of a section of them only, and it is the duty of the country to see that the people do not "go short." I hope that the Government are going to do even more for the people who have fallen by the way through no fault of their own.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) accused us on these benches of saying that people are drawing benefit when not entitled to it. That is not the accusation at all. The accusation is that there are a great many people entitled to benefit under the law as it stands who ought not to be drawing 994 it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Hon. Members opposite do not seem to have studied with any care the White Paper issued the other day by the Treasury. They will surely admit that the evidence given by the Government actuary to the Royal Commission may be taken as correct. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I notice an hon. Member sakes his head. I think that is a very grave reflection on the Civil Service which ought not to be made. Let us hear what the Government actuary said on this point. It has already been quoted, but I will read it again:Equally is the payment of benefit to the coal-trimmer who works regularly, and for very long hours, on two or three days in each week during which he earns from £5 to £7 a day; to the professional footballer who is paid £6 10s. a week and is 'unemployed' for four days a week; to the girls and women who have a standing job as weekend assistants in stores and have probably been deterred from entering domestic service by the attractiveness of such employment combined with unemployment benefit for the rest of the week.Hon. Members opposite may ask who is to blame? I say they are to blame for having passed the 1930 Act and having opened the way to abuses. We are not saying that these people are not entitled to it. The scandal is that they are entitled, and it is one which ought to be stopped.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
May I put two points? The first is that such men would have got the benefit under the previous Act, which did not alter the total benefit, and the second point is that I question whether that football player is in existence.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I will leave the last point to the hon. Member to settle with the Government actuary. I think we can take it that these examples are perfectly correct. They are a gross abuse of the system, and, if they do exist, they ought to be stopped. The hon. Member who just sat down wanted the whole of the unemployment contributions to be paid by the State. What is the State? He said they ought not to fall on industry. All this loose talk is perfectly absurd. What is the State? It is the men and women in industry who compose it. If the State pays the whole contribution, then industry pays it just the same. If only hon. Members would remember that in this House they should 995 use terms accurately and that they are talking to people who think and are not standing on platforms or on soap boxes talking to people who do not think, perhaps they would carry more weight in this House. It is no use using these loose terms which have no meaning whatever.
I really rose to support the Amendment for two reasons. It is intolerable, in the present condition of the country's finance, that the Government should come down and ask us to give them £20,000,000. I understand that that will carry them on to July. Our Amendment proposes that they should take £10,000,000 and then come to the House again. There is a very good reason for that. We may hope—it may only be a pious hope—that by that time the Royal Commission may have reported, and if it has it will be a very excellent thing for this House to refuse to grant further borrowing powers to this fund until the Government have implemented that report and given the House an opportunity of seeing that they do. The second reason is that in the present financial position of the country these large borrowings are regarded with very grave apprehension.
The Government come here and ask for £20,000,000 for the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Let us see what has been the result of the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, still more, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), whose last service to his country has been to try and destroy its credit. I wonder if hon. Members have taken the trouble, as I have, to look at the prices of five of the representative British Government securities? Take the prices at which these securities closed on Tuesday night and the prices at which they closed to-night, and it will be seen that there is a total depreciation in excess of £72,000,000. You come to the House and ask for £20,000,000 for this fund, but, by your policy and by the entire want of confidence you have caused in the financial centre of the country, you have wiped out £72,000,000 of the nation's wealth. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where has it gone?"] It is perfectly true. I have no doubt the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs would say that that has been done by the moneybags and the bankers who are the chief holders of Government securities, and 996 that they have reduced the value of them to spite themselves. Did anybody ever hear such an absurd suggestion? The cause of the depression is entirely due to want of confidence engendered by the party opposite, aided and abetted by the Liberal party. I believe more harm was done by the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs than by that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member is taking the opportunity of this Resolution to reply to a speech made the other week.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that is relevant at the moment. What we are concerned with is this Money Resolution.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I will leave that point. I wanted to impress on the House that this continual coming to this House and asking for these vast sums of money, without effective control by this House over their expenditure, is causing great depreciation in the national credit. If this sort of thing goes on and there is no restoration of confidence by some sign that the Government realise what the result of such action is, I foresee, not only that the movement will go on, but that it will lead to a very serious financial crisis.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I have listened with amusement, almost amazement, to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley). He started to deal with the question of finance, and I also shall deal with finance in supporting the application of the Minister for money for essential needs. We are told about the nation's finances, but the hon. and gallant Member, if he read the daily papers, would find that never during the last five years has our position in regard to gilt-edged securities been better than it is to-day. Again, we hear certain criticisms with regard to the transitional benefit period, as though we had no knowledge of things which are patent as affecting all the municipalities of this country. Either the transitional benefit period must be borne nationally or it must be borne locally, and many who have spoken in this Debate have 997 forgotten that from the national point of view it is much better that this expense should be borne nationally than that the local authorities should be expected to bear the great responsibility of the unemployed in their areas.
One would think that unemployment was a plague. From 1914 to 1918 the question of the manhood of the nation was no plague, but to-day, after the War, the question of the number of men is a plague, and we are told that from the point of view of solvency, actuarial calculation, and so on, this Fund should be on a paying basis. If this were not the House of Commons, but some ordinary debating society, one would naturally be inclined to think that we were in the elementary stages of discussion, but when one comes into the House of Commons, where men are supposed to be versed in things that count, and when the unenlightened electorate outside are expecting to get so much from an Opposition, one would naturally expect speakers to have some knowledge of the subject we are discussing. We find that an attack is made upon what is misnamed a dole system. Hon. Members opposite have some occasion to remember doles. Those who have been associated with the whole system of interest-getting which has come down from the laws of the past to the present day have been drawing the dole for generation after generation.
When we are dealing with 2,600,000 unemployed, I want to remind the Committee, when solvency is spoken of, that these funds cannot be dealt with from an actuarial standpoint. There have never been any reliable data in regard to National Health Insurance or Unemployment Insurance during the whole of its period of operation. The whole of the information received was received from the trade unions, and we are now experiencing what was bound to come as a result of unemployment brought about by world causes. Unemployment is not confined to England. Take America, take Germany, take France. Apart altogether from the numerical strength, which is disproportionate to the numbers here, the fact remains that it is world-wide. I was surprised to hear reference made to the beauties of Budapest and of Vienna. I should not have thought that anyone, in dealing with 998 this question of insurance, would ever dare to, mention in the House of Commons the beauties of Vienna in regard to finance, where only 5 per cent. interest is allowed, where the usury laws are abolished, and where the taxation year by year is raised by taxes on the luxuries of the people. We are living, I suppose, in an enlightened England, which is out to-day to regenerate and lead the nations of the world: [Interruption.] I may get a little excited, but I shall be most exact in the statements I make We are told by hon. Members opposite that rationalisation is the thing of to-day—
§ Mr. LOGAN
I have a wife at home, and rationalisation is the last thing I would expect from you. We are told that, as, applied to industry, rationalisation is the thing. Then another body of men come along and say we must have amalgamation—scientific methods to bring about the amalgamation of companies and to save. Can it be said, to anyone who renders service in employment to-day, that there is any guarantee, thou good and faithful servant, that, after 40 or 50 years' employment in any firm, your services will be retained?
I am looking for the mythical docker or coal-heaver at £6 a week. I do not know much about centre forward football players, but I do know that in my own neighbourhood coal-heaving was an industry many a long day ago—that in the Scotland Division of Liverpool men went out to earn an honest day's wage at that employment; but anyone is foolish who makes that statement to-day in regard to the great industrial centres. Coal spades, in my neighbourhood, are put up to-day to keep the draught from coming in through the window; they are not used for digging coal, because in the shipping industry to-day they have more scientific methods than the old system of digging up coal. They have escalators, they have patent devices of various kinds; and a new system of working at the docks has brought on to our streets, especially in the City of Liverpool, thousands of right honest, good men.
What are we to do? Let us disabuse our minds of the fallacy of having to find £20,000,000. What would you do if you did not find it? Look at the vast crowd 999 of people outside who want food. You cannot deny that they are honest men and women, who have a right, as members of this nation, to food, clothing and shelter. What are we told with respect to this Vote? We are told practically that they have no moral right. One or two isolated cases are quoted, which I do not dispute, but, surely, one or two isolated cases are not going to degrade the whole British race or the working men and women of this country when the Minister of Labour comes forward with a just demand? In the days when money was liquid, when you could make your thousands upon thousands, you paid. To-day you must pay in the hour of extreme poverty, when men and women want food, clothing and shelter. You have got to alter your conditions of life. You have got to recognise that 1931 is a new era. We are in a transition period. The nations of the world are altering. You have got to see life from a different aspect. Do not run away with the impression that I begrudge to any of you the wealth that you may possess. Do not for a moment think I want to take from you the things that are dear.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I am very provocative because I have reason to be. My sons gave almost life, and had to go out of the country because of the depressing circumstances, and we in our home, and in many homes in Liverpool, have had to make sacrifices that cannot be calculated in this House in respect of unemployment. We are anxious as Britishers to see a contented nation. We are anxious to get rid of our difficulties, and in all humility—perhaps it is not expected in 1000 this part of the House—I should like to suggest that, if machinery and mechanisation are brought in to throw honest men into the streets, the employers who make the extra profits have a right to meet the burden. It is only an honest, moral proposition. You cannot go on increasing the poverty line, and get safety unless you make provision for the people you put in the streets. Therefore, the Minister is morally justified in asking, not for £20,000,000, but for £1,000,000,000. There is something more sacred than wealth. Human life is above all wealth. If you do not manage affairs well, it will be a dangerous day for England. [Interruption.] I do not want to say things. I will excuse the Noble Lady.
The hon. Member said, "You are managing affairs." It is the party opposite who are managing them, and not us.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I may have got a little excited in my statements, but I believe every one I have made to be true, and I feel them keenly. In my particular neighbourhood we have at least 45,000 to 48,000 in one section. I see day by day some of the finest men of the land in shipping and in engineering. I see thousands week after week going to the Employment Exchanges, and I ask, as they have bodies and souls, Where are we going? Either we have got to make provision for them or to find work for them. If the machine puts men out the profit that the machine makes must support the men who are out and, until that time comes and that reorganisation takes place, I shall always be in my place, if God spares me, to support the Minister in her demand for the redress of these difficulties.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
The last two speeches we have heard from the other side of the Committee seemed to show that our real objection to this Resolution is not yet fully appreciated. I have two reasons for opposing it. I do not care whether there is one fund or two, or three. I have no objection to this Vote being administered nationally at all. The whole point with me is that there is a mixing up of insurance benefit with something that is not insurance benefit. As long as you are distributing something to which a man is entitled because he has 1001 paid for it, as long as you are distributing benefits which are properly insurance benefits, there is no justification for inquiring into means or necessity, but once insurance benefit is exceeded, you surely pass into another realm of benefit, the realm of maintenance, and I object to maintenance benefit being distributed exactly as if it was insurance benefit. When you pass into the realm of maintenance benefit, it ought to be distributed on the basis of necessity and nothing else.
The footballer has been referred to, and it is as good an illustration as any other. The point about it is this. It is not as if it were an isolated case got through in ignorance of the facts. The footballer who is drawing £6 10s. a week under the system at present administered is entitled to maintenance. He is entitled to say, "I was out of work for four days and I am entitled to draw something out of this fund." He can do it openly and avowedly, and, however much the tribunals may dislike it, they are bound to give it to him. In other words it is indicative of the fallacy of the principle as it is now being administered. I am certain it is the cause of much dissatisfaction in the country, because if that kind of thing can happen, the country does not believe that this big fund is being administered on a proper basis. There is no question of letting people starve. We are asked in pathetic language, "Are you going to let these people starve or go begging for this, that or the other?" No one wants that. All we are asking for is that, once you get out of the realm of insurance and come to deal with benefits which are really maintenance benefits, they shall be administered on the basis of necessity and nothing else. That would restore the confidence of the country in the fund, People are very heavily taxed, and they dislike seeing this big fund administered on a wrong basis, when no one can find out to what extent money is being wasted, or paid to people who they feel are not morally entitled to it.
My next objection to this loan is that we are subsidising unemployment instead of using the money to subsidise employment. I repeat the illustration I have given before in connection with nails. A thousand tons of nails come into this country every week. If they were made 1002 here, you would employ 3,500 men. You are paying in out-of-work pay to these men £5,000 a week. In other words, for every ton of nails that come in, the country is paying in out-of-work pay £5. These nails are being sold at 15 shillings a ton less than the price here. For less than £1 wisely spent you could have saved to this fund £4, and you would have had these 3,500 men at work drawing wages and spending money and benefiting the country as a whole. There must be something wrong with a system which permits that sort of thing. There must be some way of remedying it. One way is the way which we advocate—a system of duties. There are other ways. You can subsidise industry. I agree that all subsidies are probably wrong in principle and in theory, but you are subsidising now—you are subsidising unemployment, and as long as you have to subsidise somebody why, in heaven's name, not subsidise employment as well as unemployment? One illustration is as good as half-a-dozen illustrations. We have had the case put in the House before of orders from India for locomotive engines where a little money wisely spent could have brought these orders to this country and have saved the country thousands upon thousands of pounds in out-of-work pay.
These are the two reasons why I object to this loan. One is that the maintenance is distributed as if it were insurance benefit instead of being distributed on the basis of necessity, and the other is that it is wrong in subsidising unemployment instead of employment. If we could only adopt—and there must be some method of doing it—a wiser method of distributing this money, so that we could get people back to work, we should save the country a vast sum, and at the same time benefit our industries, which, after all, are the source of all employment.
§ Mr. ROWSON
I am particularly interested in the point which has been raised by the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) who has stressed the question with regard to football players. I know that there are many charges made about professional footballers and other people who are working on short time work. I, like many hon. Members on this side, cannot believe that there are professional footballers receiving £6 10s. a week and also unemploy- 1003 ment pay. I want to put to the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham a particular case of a young man who resides in nay constituency and who played for Altrincham Football Club in the Cheshire County League. His case went before the umpire less than 12 months ago. That man, who had a professional agreement with the Altrinaham Football Club for 30s. a week and became totally unemployed, was a painter and decorator by trade, and the umpire turned the case down on the ground that the man had more than £1 a week from following a subsidiary occupation. Scores of other eases have been turned down for similar reasons, and under the Act of the last Government they could do exactly what they have done in this particular case. I cannot understand why a case of mine is turned down when the sum is only 30s. a week, and it is possible for a football player who receives £6 10s. a week to obtain benefit. There is a serious anomaly somewhere. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants the name of the man in the case, it is: James Haydock, Boothstown, Manchester. I sent the case to the Minister of Labour and failed to get redress. I can give cases of Rugby football players at Warrington getting 25s. to 35s. a week who cannot get unemployment benefit when totally unemployed.
As to the main principle of this proposal, the hon. and learned Member Nays that we have here two distinct branches of payment. I do not know whether the Committee will take the view the hon. and learned Member has put forward or not, but I hope that the Committee will never agree to two rates of unemployment benefit being paid to two different classes of unemployed people. You cannot distinguish between the two. If the people who put forward that proposal would come into the mining areas and the iron and steel areas where there is no work to be found, I could show them men, as honest and straightforward and as eager to work as anybody in the world, who have been unemployed since 1926, hundreds of them with no possibility of getting work again. I could also show them some men who have not had work since the 1921 stoppage. What are we to do with those people? Hon. Members opposite say that they must not 1004 be kept in insurance. At least, we have the right to say this to the Opposition. You may twit this Government for not having done certain things, but, at any rate, we on this side have never yet been allowed, or been given the power by the electorate of this country, to control the means of producing and distributing wealth. Hon. Members opposite or those whom they represent in the main, are responsible for the unemployment problem. At least we ought to be able to ask a Labour Government, if the owners of industrial enterprise in this country cannot find full employment for the whole of the workers, to step in and provide the means of sustenance for the unemployed people who are left, outside.
As far as this Resolution is concerned I should like to see a unanimous vote of this Committeee to carry on the transitional conditions. After all, if this is not done, it means nothing but Poor Law relief for hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers in this country. The Minister of Labour is to be congratulated on the case which she has put forward this afternoon. I hope the Resolution will be carried, and I plead with the Tories not to oppose the Motion because it is needed by the unemployed workers in the country.
§ Major ELLIOT
Again we find ourselves at odds with speakers on the other side who seem to think that this is a Resolution brought forward by our side of the Committee, that the criticisms and the administration of the Unemployment Fund are criticisms brought forward from this side of the Committee, and that the declaration that certain persons are outside the fund and must be administered outside the fund is a declaration which is laid down from this side of the Committee. The hon. Members are wrong. It is from their side of the Committee and from their own Front Bench that all these principles have been laid down and established. Hon. Members have spoken at some length about the case of professional footballers, but that case was not brought forward from this side of the Committee but from their side of the Committee.
The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), whom I am sorry is not in his place, raised the question of the coal trimmer who was earning £5 to £7 a day. That is not 1005 brought forward from this side of the Committee, but from his own side of the Committee. Who vouches for that? The second man in the Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman himself. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has just come in. He made considerable play about the evidence which he said had been tendered, and he said that if the Government Actuary had known anything about labour, the administration of labour funds and the administration of Employment Exchanges, he would not have brought forward his proposal. They were brought forward in very strong language merely to make this slanderous statement.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member has not done the Government Actuary the honour of reading his report.
§ Major ELLIOT
Let me call the hon. Member's attention to paragraph 8. He will see that the Government Actuary was not bringing forward the statement of his own knowledge and initiative, but he was quoting the memoranda submitted by the Minister of Labour. Does the hon. Member under those circumstances repeat the accusation that he made against the Government Actuary?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Yes. I was dealing with his statement about professional footballers. If an accusation had to be made with respect to a professional footballer, it ought to have been made by a representative of the Ministry of Labour, acting for the Minister of Labour, and not by a witness who had no direct connection with the administration of the Employment Exchanges. I say again that the evidence on that point should not have been evidence by such a witness as the Government Actuary, but evidence by officials connected with the Ministry of Labour.
§ Major ELLIOT
Certain memoranda were submitted officially by the Minister of Labour herself to the Royal Commission. Let me call the hon. Member's 1006 attention to paragraph 8 of the Actuary's report:Examples of these are abundant in the memoranda submitted by the Ministry of Labour (Appendices to Notes 3 (a)—Married Women, and 3 (d)—Intermittent Workers).Therefore, the whole case of the hon. Member for Gorbals falls to the ground. The slander, if it be a slander, was brought forward by the Ministry of Labour, and the person responsible, if anyone can be said to be responsible, is the right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour herself. These accusations brought against civil servants are greatly out of place when, on the face of the document, it can be seen that the statements are based on memoranda submitted by the responsible Ministry which has the special care and charge of these subjects, and they are merely being quoted by the Government Actuary as examples of abuses which have been tendered by the Ministry of Labour. I think that goes far to substantiate the difficulty in which the House finds itself in all these discussions.
Two statements of great interest have been made from the Government Benches to-day. There was the statement of the Minister of Labour, an analysis of the deepest interest to hon. Members in all quarters of the House: an economic analysis and a statement of policy of still deeper interest. The economic analysis indicated that a new set of economic facts have now to be taken into consideration. We are dealing with the economics of glut, in which she said that the absorption of those displaced by machinery waft not taking place as the classical theorists expected that it would take place. That statement is interesting, because the evidence given by at least one official of the Ministry of Labour indicated that that absorption did take place. The evidence tendered by Mr. Eady was that it did take place. I could not follow all the examples given by the Minister of Labour to-day. She gave the particular case of bread making. I should have thought that the food distributive trades were, above all, trades which were expanding and were absorbing more and more labour.
The only document to which I have been able to refer and which gives a table showing receipts and payments by 1007 grades of industries, shows very clearly that the food distributive trades contributed to the fund £530,000 over a period of four years and only drew £372,000, showing that that group had contributed to the fund a net amount of £158,000. They have contributed far more than they have drawn out. In the bread making trade itself it would appear that the classical theory does take place, but the food distributing trades generally are continually expanding and are one of the few groups of trades which are expanding. Therefore, it is possible that these trades have been able to absorb people displaced through the process of the introduction of machinery.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I think there is no real difference of opinion, in the main, about the group of food distributive trades. I think the difference is that, with the exception of one particular section, the food distributive trades are employing, on the whole, more women, but they are not employing more master bakers. It was the 10,000 bakers of bread to whom I was referring.
§ Major ELLIOT
I was drawing a distinction between the food distributive trades which are showing on the whole an improvement in employment, as against some other trades which, on the whole, are not showing any such improvement. An entirely new set of phenomena confront us in our economics. We are confronted with the phenomenon of glut, and it is probably true that we shall have to examine many of our ancient classical economic ideas on that basis. It is one of the strongest arguments which oppose the Protectionist as against the Free Trade theory and upholds what I might call the exaggerated phrase of the Empire Free Trade idea as against the nineteenth century Free Trade idea, of a number of separate national units. The Minister has brought forward a question of the utmost importance. We are not absorbing and, therefore, we may expect the transitional benefit group to remain at its present great height and we may expect the burden upon the Unemployment Insurance Fund to remain at its present great height.
That brings us to the second point, and that is, the supreme importance of the 1008 declaration of policy by the Minister. If these funds are to have this tremendous burden continually upon them, then the theory that we are passing through some temporary phase must be abandoned, and the funds must be made to balance. The suggestion has been made from the benches opposite that we should leave these matters out of account. That suggestion was not made by the Minister but by several of her supporters, if I may call them so, speaking from the back benches. The view expressed was that the Minister's proposal of £20,000,000 was good and that if it had been £50,000,000 it would have been better. If it had been £1,000,000,000 the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool suggested that it would have been better still. That idea was exceeded by another hon. Member opposite who went to the length of suggesting £2,000,000,000, and the creation of a Sinking Fund for the purpose. The Minister of Labour said that the Government had set up the Royal Commission for the purpose of telling them how to balance the fund. She said: We lay it down as absolute that the fund shall be self-supporting and balance; that the tripartite basis of contribution shall be maintained, and that provision outside the scheme must be made for those who are able bodied unemployed.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I did not lay down the last condition as being part of the policy of the Government or, in fact, the other two considerations. I pointed out that it seemed to me to be a desirable policy.
§ Major ELLIOT
The right hon. Lady, asking for £2,000,000 per week, lays down what she says are a desirable set of conditions, but does not lay them down as the policy of the Government. We must take it when the Minister of Labour lays down in an official speech what she says are a desirable set of conditions, that they are the best possible, unless she has a still more desirable policy which she is withholding from the Committee whilst asking for £2,000,000 per week for borrowing and between £800,000 and £900,000 as a subsidy out of taxes. If she has anything like that, may I say, up her sleeve, then I think it was very ill of her not to produce it to the Committee. If we cannot have the advice of the Minister on an occasion like this on what occasion 1009 are we to look for advice? We must take it as the policy of the right hon. Lady, or at any rate as the policy which is the most desirable. She went further and said that this Commission, which has been set up, is to report by a given date. She gave the date, by the end of May; and she gave a pledge which is of vital importance to the Committee, and to her own supporters in particular, that she would legislate on this matter, that she would introduce legislation before the House adjourned for the summer Recess.
That is a pledge to which we must hold the right hon. Lady. I do not know a more important pledge given by a responsible Minister. We are now discussing the largest Financial Resolution ever submitted to the Committee, a Resolution covering £2,000,000 per week of borrowed money and between £800,000 and £900,000 per week of money from the Exchequer, upon which the Government actuary and the Financial Controller to the Treasury have commented upon in the strongest term, at a time when the whole House and, indeed, the whole country is under the shadow of the grave declaration made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer only last week. The proposal brought forward to-day by the Minister of Labour is that this Royal Commission, which was set up in the autumn, which has found its work unexpectedly onerous, which is examining the affairs of the Unemployment Insurance Fund and of local authorities and the position of insured persons and employers; and which will be doing this work through December, January, February, March, April and May, six months, will report and after a report has been obtained she is going to draft a Bill, get it agreed to by the Cabinet and passed through all its stages in both Houses of Parliament before the House adjourns for the summer Recess. The Minister is taking a very great responsibility and it is upon that speech that she is asking the Committee to pass this Financial Resolution.
One other statement of importance has been made from the Government side during this Debate, and it was made by the hon. Member for Gorbals. He placed the real case before the Committee. He said, "Never mind the report of the Royal Commission. I reject it here and now." He is absolutely unwilling to pay 1010 the slightest attention to the Royal Commission, to have any truck with it, with its membership, with its evidence, with its conclusions, and he said in the strongest possible terms that if it came to sacking the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he tried to act upon the report, he would not hesitate a moment. Well, "Pull devil, pull baker." I have enough belief in the qualities both of the Lowland Scot and of the Yorkshireman to believe that that would indeed be a battle of the Titans. But the Minister has pledged herself to deal with the situation along more or less orthodox lines, to make the fund balance, to deal with those who are outside this self-balancing and self-supporting fund, to stop borrowing, and to put the fund upon a permanent basis. All these things are in keeping with the strictest canons of orthodoxy, but we look on with some difficulty and suspicion, because this is not the first time that the Minister has made this pledge, and this is not the first Bill the Minister has got upon a pledge as definite as this. On the 21st November, 1929, the Minister came down to the House of Commons, and on the Second Reading of her Unemployment Insurance. (No. 2) Bill, she explained the period for which she was asking money in connection with the transitional provisions which are now the subject of this extending Bill, and she said:The transitional provisions come to an end under the present Bill during the year beginning in April 1931. I want to make quite clear, and repeat, what the Minister of Health said in moving the Widows' Pensions Bill. He pointed out that the Government had already set up a committee which is to examine and make a general survey of the various National Insurance and Pensions Schemes. This survey involves an analysis of the complex problems to which schemes developed on independent lines inevitably give rise; an examination of the gaps and the inadequacies in the present schemes, and full consideration of the relation between Unemployment Insurance and other forms of social provision. I want to repeat that declaration, because it affects my Department very materially and quite as much as the Ministry of Health."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1929; col. 737, Vol. 232.]Then she went on to say:With the concurrence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the transitional period is continued by the Bill for another year, but on a different basis and with a definite objective. The Exchequer will meet the 1011 cost of claims made under the transitional conditions, and this will amount to £8,500,000 in a full year.I need not remind the Committee that the Government actuary estimated between £35,000,000 and £40,000,000 in the year to which these provisions are now being extended. The right hon. Lady continued:The definite objective in view in continuing the transitional period is, as I have explained in my opening remarks, to give the Government time and opportunity to examine how best the able-bodied unemployed, who are now outside the insurance scheme, may be dealt with."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1929; cols. 749 and 750, Vol. 232.]All that we now know is that the Minister comes down once more with another memorandum asking this time for £20,000,000, and for £35,000,000 and £40,000,000 for the transitional period. She explains that she is asking for it for only six months because the Commission will report at the end of May and, before the House adjourns, between May and the beginning or end of August, she will have succeeded in grappling with all the problems which have beaten her and all her Committees until now, that she will have got it through the House, and that she will have brought to the House and to the Insurance Fund a solution of this most complicated problem. The task is certainly beyond the wit of man. Whether it is beyond the wit of woman or not, we shall know when we come to adjourn for the summer Recess. The proposals which the Minister brings forward are proposals which vitally interest every section of this Committee. The official report brought forward on behalf of the Minister of Labour and the Chancellor of the Exchequer states most clearly that the scheme has been so drawnas to give a legal title to benefit in circumstances which the trade unions would not have recognised as unemployment.And further that:In view of the abrogation of the condition that an applicant must show that he is genuinely desirous of obtaining employment it seems essential to supplement the conditions as to entitlement by a provision limiting the total amount of benefit receivable.It is of vital interest to the employed people who are subscribing to a fund which is admittedly bankrupt. It is of vital interest to those who seek tran- 1012 sitional benefit and who are warned by the Minister that she will pass into law a Bill dealing with those enormous questions which have, so far, baffled her every attempt to deal with them. It is of interest to the insured trades which are running on short time, because short time has been pointed out as a legal abuse and, although I do not want to go into the matter now, it is obvious that it amounts to nothing more than a subsidy paid out of the general funds of the company towards the continuance of those industries. It is Speenhamland on a gigantic scale, and as the Minister has pointed out the problem which the House of Commons was discussing 100 years ago is precisely the same problem as the House of Commons is discussing to-day—that is a subsidy paid out of the public funds to wages, which has the effect of depressing wages in those areas, and worsening instead of improving the conditions under which workers in those trades are operating.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of all these matters. They have been examined, as I say, first by a committee of Ministers, then by the House of Commons in the various Debates on the many Bills which have been introduced dealing with the subject, and then by the three-party conference. The three-party conference did not, apparently, commend itself, either in its minutes or in its recommendations, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I make no complaint as to his personal opinion. He said that the recommendations which I and my hon. colleagues put forward were of no value whatever. That may be, but I gladly welcome the withdrawal of the earlier accusation that I had brought forward no recommendations whatever. I have been subject to many attacks throughout a controversial life, but the suggestion that I had not put forward ideas, when a subject was being discussed, was an entirely novel one to me, and I hope that my hon. Friends will take that as a sign of virtue which may bring me into a higher place in the councils of the party. I am perfectly willing to put the recommendations which we brought forward against the recommendations put forward from any other section of the three-party conference, and I am perfectly ready to have published not merely the report but the minutes of the conference. I am perfectly ready to have considered whether the conclusions 1013 at which we arrived, were not conclusions which would have had a great practical bearing upon the fund, and conclusions which were not arrived at by the Conservative representatives on that three-party conference alone.
The Minister is in a difficulty, and that difficulty must be recognised by all sections of the Committee. I can only say that I think it was unfortunate that from any of those who had access to the papers of that Committee references to its proceedings arose. It is bound to lead to a certain unwillingness, to put it no higher, to enter into any other such conference, and still more to talk and discuss with that frankness and openness which is vitally necessary if anything is to be brought out by the pooling of ideas beyond barren party wrangles. The Minister has to reply to perhaps as grave a Debate as has ever taken place in the House of Commons, and yet there is a feeling of unreality throughout the whole of this Debate, because this is a Motion for postponement.
This is the House of Commons in its most dangerous mood. This is the House of Commons refusing to face facts, deciding to push the matter off, to take the easy course, to say: "Let us leave it for a month or two, or for six months; let us put off the executive responsibility of the King and Parliament to a Royal Commission." That is not the way in which you can govern a great country. These are not worthy proposals to bring before the House of Commons. This is the Finance Committee of the nation. This Committee of the House of Commons contains in its ranks men and women at least as able to pronounce on questions of employment and insurance as any of those who are sitting upon the Royal Commission to-day, men and women, too, who need have no hesitation in pitting their knowledge and experience against the verdict of that Commission, whatever it may be.
The time for committees and commissions and inquiries has passed; the time for holding this inquest upon the Floor of the House of Commons has come. Unless the Minister can trust either the House of Commons or her supporters and colleagues in the Government to bring forward suggestions, then the Minister has abdicated the main functions of executive government. It is not 1014 enough to say, as hon. Members have said to-night, that the Opposition is not bringing forward constructive suggestions. It is for those who hold the seals of office, for those who sit in the seats of power, for those who have access to the infinite knowledge and skill of the Civil Service and who have their hands on the huge executive levers of power which the expenditure of these hundreds of millions of money gives—it is for those to make positive, constructive suggestions and to put them up for the consideration and criticism of the Opposition, and not to scurry away from their responsibilities on this phrase that the Opposition has not brought forward a positive, constructive scheme.
The Government cannot long continue on a basis of putting this country into commission. This is the place where these great decisions have been taken in the past. This is the place where, a hundred years ago, the decisions as to the general subsidy, which was wrecking the industries of this country, were discussed, and the Ministers of the day were the people who took the responsibility of making the decisions, and who were afterwards criticised, and bitterly criticised, for taking executive action, which the House of Commons will always pardon, rather than allow the mere danger of criticism and hostile opposition to push them from their path. The Ministers 100 years ago were bolder men than the Ministers of to-day, and until the Ministers of to-day succeed in recapturing the sane executive power and command which the Ministers of those days captured, it is needless for the Ministers to expect the country to do anything but plunge itself deeper into this morass of bad finance and evil administration which these Memoranda and this Resolution disclose.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I was very much interested to hear the last few sentences of the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Were it not for those sentences, I should have thought his speech was against the Amendment of his friends. The greater part of it was taken up in explaining to the Government how impossible it would be to get a report in the time in which we said it would be given, and, in the light of the speech, I can scarcely understand many of the speeches that have been made from that side. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is 1015 right; it will be difficult to get a report in the time that has been given, and he has explained the reason. When, however, he says that sufficient evidence is at the disposal of the Government, and that the Government ought to act on it, he is suggesting something to this Government that his Government would not dare to do if they were in our place. The workers are partners to this scheme; they make their contributions; and are hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen going to suggest that changes should take place upon some statements, without taking the evidence of the workers' representatives through the Trades Union Congress, and without taking the evidence of the Federation of Employers and of local authorities? It is well known that these bodies have yet to be called to give evidence, and if hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in our place, they would not dare to act without representative bodies of that kind being consulted in the matter which we are discussing.
The amount which we are asking tonight is a large amount; nobody will say that it is not a great matter, but no one can say that it has not been discussed with a gravity worthy of the subject. I am astonished at the attempt of the hon. and laerned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) to explain what a colossal amount £90,000,000 is. He said, in order to give an idea, that if you laid down Bradburys to represent that amount, they would reach from here to the sun. I understood that there are 90,000,000 miles from here to the sun, so that his Bradburys must be something like a mile in length. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir H. Betterton) and the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Major Elliot) gave the Committee the impression that there is practically no test for the people who are on transitional benefit. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe said that the standard test is not there, and that the means test, which is characteristic of public assistance relief, is not present either. Surely, both the right hon. Gentlemen and the hon. and gallant Gentleman lost sight of the fact that the people on transitional benefit must have the eight stamps for the last two years or 30 at any time. Further, they must be unemployed, cap- 1016 able of work, available for work, and normally in insured employment. These things have often to be proved before courts of referees. The objection I take to the right hon. Gentlemen's description, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman's description is that from what they said it would seem that the bulk of the people who are on transitional benefit are people who are not likely to be engaged in employment.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I have not got the report at my disposal, and I do not remember exactly what the hon. Gentleman said on that point, but what he certainly did say was that they were not subject to the same test as in the standard test. I take it he overlooked the fact that they have to comply with the test of being unemployed and capable of and available for work. The impression was certainly left on the minds of hon. Members behind the right hon. Gentleman that these people have proved their unemployability. To the knowledge of Members of this House, they include some of the best types of working men and women in the country; and when such descriptions are sent out from this House to the country, and sometimes to other countries, a false impression of the real position is created. We have been charged, generally, with giving sums of money to people who apparently do not want work, but I think hon. Members on the other side of the House would wish it to go forth, not only to the country but to other countries, that at least the great mass of people who are unemployed, whether they are on standard benefit or transitional benefit, are men or women who would jump at work if they had the chance of it.
In spite of a good deal of criticism from employers, I do not believe they really feel that there is anything wrong with the great mass of our people. Sometimes hon. Members opposite speak as though we on this side of the Committee are either ignorant of the difficulties of employers or do not care. I would remind the Committee that hon. Members on this side, in order to discharge their duties properly as workers' representatives, have to make themselves familiar with the intricacies of the busi- 1017 nesses and industries with which they are connected. In doing that we have also become familiar with the difficulties of the managers and whose who are directly responsible for industry, and to my knowledge those directly responsible for industry would not make that charge; and it is certainly true that the workers who contribute towards the Unemployment Fund think themselves too fortunate to be in work to make any complaints about the people who are receiving unemployment benefit.
Some of the speeches which have been made in this Debate have created the impression that wholesale abuses are taking place, but there has been no evidence to that effect. If there are any such abuses, it is for the Royal Commission to discover them and deal with them. A question has been put relating to the state of things in America. It has already been pointed out that in America there are something like 23.8 per cent. unemployed. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have asked what is the actual number of industrial workers in America. I have looked up the figures relating to that point, and I find that the number of industrial workers in America is 32,000,000 and 23.8 per cent. are unemployed. In Germany there are 19,750,000 industrial workers, and of that number the unemployed amount to 25 per cent.
The only information we could get upon that point about France was given by the representative of the French Ministry at the International Labour Conference, and it was to the effect that, generally speaking, there were 1,350,000 unemployed in that country. The general impression that was given by the official representative of France was that that was a moderate statement. As far back as October last year, when I had something to do with the Motion setting up the Unemployment Committee for investigating the cause of unemployment and the methods of dealing with it, I know that at that time it was said that there was no unemployment in France, and I quote these figures to show how rapidly the situation has developed. One of the points to which I would like to draw attention is that while 23.8 per cent. are unemployed in America in that country they have no unemployment insurance. Most hon. Members have no doubt read an article which appeared in the "Daily 1018 Telegraph" which was staggering in its description of the condition of the people in the United States. In that article it was stated:There is more misery to the square mile to-day in the great American metropolis than in any city abroad.Most lurid descriptions have been given of what is taking place in that country.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the Committee which he set up last year to look into the causes of unemployment. Can he say what, happened to the findings of that Committee?
§ Mr. LAWSON
Answering the question put by the hon. Member for North Hackney (Captain A. Hudson), the figure in December was nearly 20 per cent., and in this country at present it is 21 per cent. I ought to make it quite clear that we have the most perfect system of registration in the world, and it is safe to say that as against those of other countries our figures are really an exaggeration, owing to the methods of registration. It is said that there is no such thing as insurance in this country. I venture to say that there is. This nation is insured against starvation, against physical, mental, and moral deterioration, against crime, and against social disorder. It is high time that the armchair critics understood that fact. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) gave some striking illustrations of how the physical condition of the people had been maintained because of unemployment benefit. One of the things of which I am particularly proud is that unemployment benefit has tended to keep the great masses of the two Northern counties in touch with the trade union organisations. In doing that it has certainly tended to preserve their self-respect.
The last time I stood at this Box I gave some figures which to me were very striking. I have had them brought up to date. What is the position? In America, it is safe to say, not only is there hunger and starvation among the great mass of people, but some of the unemployed are being compelled to join the ranks of crime. In this country, instead of increasing the crime statistics, 1019 unemployment is actually having the effect, through maintaining the status of the people, of reducing crime statistics. The latest figures I have got from the Home Office report for the last quarter show the following results: The figures for various kinds of non-indictable offences and crime show great decreases in proceedings for offences connected with criminality or low standard of life. The proceedings for begging in 1914 numbered 25,000, and they have fallen to 5,000, while proceedings for sleeping out numbered 8,000 in 1914, and have fallen to 2,200.
All the evidence goes to show that the self-respect of our people is increasing and their mental and moral standard is improving. If there is one thing that the people of this country can be thankful for it is that in the day of stress and trouble and unemployment, instead of their dependent on charity, instead of starving and being in want, the great mass of the workers have a regular
§ organised system of insurance to fall back upon. There is really no case for any limitation such as is suggested in the Opposition Amendment. There is no case for reducing the period of six months to three months, or for limiting the £20,000,000 to £10,000,000. If it were possible for the Opposition to achieve what they want, I venture to say that no one would be more sorry than they, because, in the long run, it would place the Insurance Fund and the unemployed in such difficulties that it would be quite impossible to get through the necessary legislation when these provisions came to an end at the period which they desire. I think that the best possible answer to the Amendment was given by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that the Committee is now going to give the Government this Financial Resolution.
§ Question put, "That the word 'ninety' stand part of the Question."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 251; Noes, 220.1023
|Division No. 150.]||AYES.||[10.57 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. w. (Fife, West)||Compton, Joseph||Haycock, A. W.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cove, William G.||Hayday. Arthur|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Or. Christopher||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hayes, John Henry|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Daggar, George||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Dallas, George||Henderson, Arthur, Junr, (Cardiff, S.)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Dalton, Hugh||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)|
|Arnott, John||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Aske, sir Robert||Day, Harry||Herriotts, J.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Ayles, Walter||Dukes, C.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Duncan, Charles||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Ede, James Chuter||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Edmunds, J. E.||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie.|
|Barr, James||Egan, W. H.||Horrabin, J. F.|
|Batey, Joseph||Elmley, Viscount||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Foot, Isaac||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Isaacs, George|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Freeman, Peter||Jenkins, Sir William|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Benson, G.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Johnston, Thomas|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Gibbins, Joseph||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Bilndell, James||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Gill, T. H.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Glassey, A. E.||Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Gossling, A, G.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Bromley, J.||Gould, F.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Brooke, W.||Granville, E.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Brothers, M.||Gray, Milner||Kinley, J.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Knight, Holford|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lang, Gordon|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Buchanan, G.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lathan, G.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Groves, Thomas E.||Law, A. (Rossendale)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lawrence, Susan|
|Calne, Derwant Hall-||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Lawson, John James|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Leach, W.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Lea, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Chater, Daniel||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Lees, J.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hardie, George D.||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Harris, Percy A.||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Sorensen, R.|
|Longden, F.||Plcton-Turbervill, Edith||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Lunn, William||Pole. Major D. G.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Potts, John S.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Price, M. P.||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Pybus, Percy John||Strauss, G. R.|
|McElwee, A.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Sullivan, J.|
|McEntee, V. L.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Sutton, J. E.|
|McKinlay, A.||Raynes, W. R.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Richards, R.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Romeril, H. G.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Rosbotham. D. S. T.||Tillett, Ben|
|Mansfield, W.||Rowson, Guy||Tinker, John Joseph|
|March, S.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Tout, W. J.|
|Marcus, M.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Townend, A. E.|
|Markham, S. F.||Sanders, W. S.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Marley, J.||Sawyer, G. F.||Vaughan, David|
|Marshall, Fred||Scrymgeour, E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mathers, George||Scurr, John||Wallace, H. W.|
|Matters, L. W.||Sexton, Sir James||Watkins, F. C.|
|Messer, Fred||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Milner, Major J.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Morley, Ralph||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Sherwood, G. H.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Shield, George William||White, H. G.|
|Mort, D. L.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Muff, G.||Shillaker, J. F.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Shinwell, E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Murnin, Hugh||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Nathan, Major H. L.||Simmons, C. J.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Wise, E. F.|
|Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Oldfield, J. R.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Palin, John Henry||Snell, Harry||Mr. Parkinson and Mr. Charles|
|Paling, Wilfrid||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Edwards.|
|Perry, S. F.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Ferguson, Sir John|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Fermoy, Lord|
|Albery, Irving James||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Fielden, E. B.|
|Alexander, Sir Win. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Fison, F. G. Clavering|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Christle, J. A.||Galbraith. J. F. W.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Atkinson, C.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Grace, John|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Colfox, Major William Philip||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Colman, N. C. D.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Colville, Major D. J.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Cranborne, Viscount||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansl[...]ttart||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Cunilffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Boyce, Leslie||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Bracken, B.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hanbury, C.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Dixey, A. C.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Duckworth. G. A. V.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Buchan, John||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Eden, Captain Anthony||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Butler, R. A.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Peake, Captain Osbert||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Penny, Sir George||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Purbrick, R.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Ramsbotham, H.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Little, Sir Ernest Graham||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Llewellin, Major J. J||Remer, John R.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Train, J.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Long, Major Hon. Eric||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Lymington, Viscount||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Wallace. Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A||Ward, Lieut.-Col. sir A. Lambert|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Salmon, Major I.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Margesson, Captain H. D.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Marjoribanks, Edward||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Savery, S. S.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Simms, Major-General J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wood. Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Muirhead, A. J.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Smithers, Waldron||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Sir Bolton Eyres Monsell and Major|
|O'Connor, T. J.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Sir George Hennessy.|
|O'Neill. Sir H.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
§ Amendment proposed: In line 9, leave out the word "forty-two," and insert instead thereof the word "thirty-nine."—[Sir H. Betterton.]1024
§ Question put, "That the word 'forty two' stand part of the Questions."
§ The committee divided: Ayes, 251; Noes, 218.1027
|Division No. 151.]||AYES.||[11.8 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Church, Major A. G.||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Adamson. W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cluse, W. S.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Addlson, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hall. G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Compton, Joseph||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Cove, William G.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)|
|Arnott, John||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Daggar, George||Hardle, George D.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Dallas, George||Harris, Percy A.|
|Ayles, Walter||Dalton, Hugh||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Haycock, A. W.|
|Barr, James||Day, Harry||Hayday, Arthur|
|Batey, Joseph||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hayes, John Henry|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Dukes, C.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Duncan, Charles||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Ede, James Chuter||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Edmunds, J. E.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Benson, G.||Egan, W. H.||Herriotts, J.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Elmley, Viscount||Hirst G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Blrkett, W. Norman||Foot, Isaac||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Blindell, James||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Freeman, Peter||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Horrabin, J. F.|
|Bromley, J.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)|
|Brooke, W.||Gibbins, Joseph||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Brothers, M.||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Isaacs, George|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Gill, T. H.||Jenkins, Sir William|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Glassey, A. E.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Gossling, A. G.||Johnston, Thomas|
|Buchanan, G.||Gould, F.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Granville, E.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Gray, Milner||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Calne, Derwent Hall.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Chater, Daniel||Groves, Thomas E.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Kinley, J.||Nathan, Major H. L.||Smith, Renn[...]ie (Penistone)|
|Knight, Holford||Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Lang, Gordon||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Noel Baker, P. J.||Snell, Harry|
|Lathan, G.||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Law, A. (Rossendale)||Oldfield, J. R.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Lawrence, Susan||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Sorensen, R.|
|Lawson, John James||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Leach, W.||Palin, John Henry||Stephen, Campbell|
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Paling, Wilfrid||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Lea, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Perry, S. F.||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Lees, J.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Sullivan, J.|
|Lindley, Fred W.||Pole, Major D. G.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Potts, John S.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Price, M. P.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Pybus, Percy John||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Longden, F.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Lunn, William||Rathbone, Eleanor||Tillett, Ben|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Raynes, W. R.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Richards, R.||Tout, W. J.|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Townend, A. E.|
|McElwee, A.||Romeril, H. G.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|McEntee, V. L.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Vaughan, David|
|McKinlay, A.||Rowson, Guy||Viant, S. P.|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Sanders, W. S.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Sawyer, G. F.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Mansfield, W.||Scrymgeour, E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|March, S.||Scurr, John||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Marcus, M.||Sexton, Sir James||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Markham, S. F.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||White, H. G|
|Marley, J.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Marshall, Fred||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Mathers, George||Sherwood, G. H.||Williams, T. (York, Don V[...]lley)|
|Matters, L. W.||Shield, George William||Wilson C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Messer, Fred||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Milner, Major J.||Shillaker, J. F.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Morley, Ralph||Shinwell, E.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wise, E. F.|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Simmons, C, J.||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Mort, D. L.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Muff, G.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Murnin, Hugh||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Mr. Parkinson and Mr. Charles|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Butler, R. A.||Dixey, A. C.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Duckworth, G. A. V.|
|Alexander, Sir Win. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Campbell, E. T.||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Castle Stewart, Earl of||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)|
|Astor, Viscountess||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Atkinson, C.||Chamberlain Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Ferguson, Sir John|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Fermoy, Lord|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Christie, J. A.||Fielden, E. B.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Fls[...]on, F. G. Clavering|
|Balniel, Lord||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Cohen, Major J, Brunel||Galbralth. J. F. W.|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Colfox, Major William Philip||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Colman, N. C. D.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Colville, Major D. J.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Grace, John|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cranborne, Viscount||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Boyce, Leslie||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Bracken, B.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Brown, Brig-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Buchan, John||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Hanbury, C.||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Muirhead, A. J.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)|
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C, K.||O'Connor, T. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||O'Neill, Sir H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Peake, Captain Osbert||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Train, J.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Purbrick, R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Ramsbotham, H.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Remer, John R.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Little, Sir Ernest Graham||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Llewellin, Major J. J.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Russell. Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Long, Major Hon. Eric||Salmon, Major I.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lymington, Viscount||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Savery, S. S.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)|
|Margesson, Captain H. D.||Simms, Major-General J.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Marjoribanks, Edward||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Sir Frederick Thomson and Sir|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||George Penny.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.