§ Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Major MILNER
I regret that the hon. Baronet who has been absent for so many months has apparently left us again, presumably for a few more months. I was saying when the interruption occurred that, as I understand it, the hon. Baronet was putting forward certain suggestions in quite general terms as to constructive works, relief works, long-term policies, and so on, and I was about to remind the House 2151 that there have been quite recently, as part of the Government's policy, very large questions before them which the hon. Baronet presumably strongly supported, as they find a place in his pamphlet of odds and ends entitled "A National Policy," but which he did not find it possible to give his time to come here to assist the Government in passing. I will merely refer to the agricultural Measures introduced by the Minister of Agriculture, the housing Measures introduced by the Minister of Health, and the London Transport Bill introduced by the Minister of Transport. I, therefore, anticipated hearing something rather more definite as to the alternative which it was suggested should be adopted in place of the Bill now before the House. I gather from a programme which an hon. Friend has been good enough to hand to me, that the hon. Baronet has been engaged with his party in providing, presumably as such an alternative, a good deal of employment, and is intending to do the same sort of thing in future. Example speaks louder than precept.
I have here a poster setting out a programme of the New party's demonstration which is to take place on Saturday, 1st August, 1931. We cannot, of course, be responsible for the grammar. This is to beThe most gigantic, biggest, best and cheapest one-day attraction in Great Britain.It is described as the New party's "Demonstration, Fete and Gala." The speakers at the top of the bill are the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick, and the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke. I see that there is to be a remarkable band contest for the hon. Baronet's Silver Challenge Cup, value 50 guineas, and £15. Why it should be necessary to have brass bands present when the hon. Baronet is there, I cannot understand. It is interesting to note also that the test piece is entitled "Golden Age." Those who attend are to be favoured with aLavish Stage Performance booked at enormous expense.The first turn is to be Oswald, "Eccentric Skater"—I beg the hon. Baronet's pardon, not Oswald, but "Alvis." Then there are 2152The Victas, sensational acrobatic barrel jumpers,and presumably the hon. Baronet again personating.Clown Durney Rolling Globe Performer, introducing spade dancing and acrobats on the chairs.This time on the chairs, not on the benches. Then we haveDoreen and Eddy, great comedy tumblers and hand balancers.I do not know whether that has any reference to the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Allen) whose Christian name, I believe, is Edward. The hon. Baronet's contribution to the agricultural problem is the gift of a live pig, the prize in a clock golf competition. Then we have an excellent boxing programme, with a contest between Harry Crossley of Mexborough and Kid Moose of Southport and so on. As the hon. Baronet's contribution to the aid of industry, a Morris Minor saloon car is to be "given away absolutely free—see big bills." The poster says "What a day's entertainment!" [Interruption.] I am quoting from the New party's programme——
§ Major MILNER
I have almost concluded. They are going to haveA heavy attractive boxing programme, a first-class sports programme, two high class band contests, a tip-top stage performance, a bit of sport winning a live pig, and a chance to win a Morris motor car—all for 1s. 2d.All these attractions are apparently necessary in order to interest the populace sufficiently to go and listen to the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick.
I support this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which Bill?"] The Bill which is before the House, and not the Bill promulgated by the hon. Member for Smethwick. I support it because it indicates the intention of the Government not only to maintain, but, where opportunity occurs, to improve and increase existing benefits; it is at the same time an indication of their determination to remove these and many other admitted and harmful anomalies when they are found 2153 and brought to their notice. The hon. Baronet's policy is not even the old Roman policy of providing bread and circuses. He provides the circuses alone. The Government are providing bread, and a good deal more than bread in many instances, and some of us wish that even more could be done in that direction. In so far, however, as this Bill is a contribution to a fair dealing with this problem, taken in conjunction with other Measures of the Government and in conjunction particularly with the financial provisions which were before us the other day, I hope that the House will pass it without any censorious voice other than the two voices we have heard.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
The House has listened with interested attention to the close diagnosis of the Measure before the House which has been delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner). We cannot be surprised that hon. Members opposite are slightly annoyed that some of their erstwhile supporters have come over to sit on these benches. We listened to a very remarkable speech by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley), and, whether we agree with it or not, the House must realise that there is a good deal of thought behind it, and must agree, too, that His Majesty's Government deserve the remarks about them which fell from the hon. Baronet's lips.
I should like to ask the House to consider what the principles should be behind any unemployment Measure to-day. It is always interesting to go back to first principles, and in this case the first principles were promulgated in this House about 20 years ago. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) introduced the first Unemployment Bill in May, 1911, and it was moved by the then President of the Board of Trade in a rather remarkable Second Beading speech. He laid down certain definite lines which should be our guide today. He said that the burden should be shared by the employers, the workers and the State, and that the system should be compulsory and contributory. He said that it should aid—and this is a very remarkable statement—towards the diminution and prevention, as well as the alleviation, of unemployment. He said that 2154 criticisms had been raised that the Measure he was introducing was creating risks unknown and unfathomable. How well we realise to-day that the risks he undertook 20 years ago were both unknown and unfathomable!
He said, however, that he set up round those risks a triple defence. First there was the defence of the contribution, then the defence of the benefit, and finally the margin of surplus. The first defence of contribution has been played out. The contribution, which started as a few pence, has now gone up in the aggregate to 2s. 3d. for every insured person. Once that first line was passed, what lines were there behind? When we got to the second line, the line of benefit, we found that the parapet had been put on the wrong side. It was no longer a fire trench to stop raids on the solvency of this fund, but a trench from which to shoot on those who were defending the solvency of the fund. That line was swept away, and the subsequent line, the margin of surplus, proved to be entirely non-existent. Now we find ourselves going over a broad plain without any defences in front of us between national bankruptcy and the final abandonment if this policy is continued, of all schemes of national insurance, for the good reason that we shall not be able to afford them. Across this plain the Government have placed one strand of wire in this Bill. There are no barbs in the wire; it is not even a live wire, and if this is the best that the Government can do to stem the attack, we have got to a sorry plight in considering any measure of unemployment insurance in this country.
Immediately after the War, we had recourse to extraordinary measures of what we called the out-of-work donation. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) as Minister of Labour introduced his Insurance Bill in 1920, he dealt with this out-of-work donation firmly and not too kindly. He spoke of it as a guide and a warning to the House and the country when they came to consider setting up a more permanent scheme. He said that Members opposite, referring to hon. Gentlemen who sit there and some of those who now sit here below the Gangway, declared that 2155 it was a source of demoralisation to the people. If out-of-work donations then were a source of demoralisation, is not our whole system now a much greater source of demoralisation? The present Home Secretary made a very remarkable contribution to that Debate. He made a remark which might well be made from this side of the House about this particular Bill. Speaking of unemployment and the difficulties of unemployment insurance he said:It will not be cured, the difficulty will not be overcome, and we shall not catch up with the arrears of work by any such Measure as this, and that is why the right hon. Gentleman, in the closing part of his speech, admitted that this Measure cannot be described as heroic, as any attempt, I suppose, to cover the ground that needs to be covered in relation to this great economic problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1920; col. 1761, Vol. 125.]Could words more suitable be found to describe the feelings of the House and the country when they are discussing this so-called Anomalies Bill, which the right hon. Lady has introduced?
The scheme to-day has ceased to be a contributory scheme in any real sense whatever. It has ceased almost altogether to be a scheme for sharing the burden. The Committee's figures were instructive on that point. Out of an estimated expenditure of £118,000,000, the beneficiaries are to contribute no more than £14,000,000. For every shilling distributed, the workers contribute only 1½d. If we assume, as we are entitled to, that from half to two-thirds of the insured workers never have to draw benefit at all, it is a halfpenny or three-farthings contribution which is earning for the others a shilling in unemployment pay or dole, whichever you like to call it. A halfpenny or three-farthings paid and one shilling received—the right hon. Lady cannot possibly refer to that as in any sense a contributory scheme. The Royal Commission has presented its report, which was long asked for. Where is it now? Gone to join the reports on the cotton trade and on the wool trade, the Simon Report, and the host of other reports issued by various committees and commissions which now lie in the pigeon-holes of various Government Departments. It can be said that the mountain was in labour, and, after many rumblings, gave birth, not even to a 2156 mouse, but to a miserable little worm now creeping towards a tiny and invisible hole. Its oscillations are being pursued down the slope by the mailed heel of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and the heavier and more sonexous foot of the hon. Member for Smethwick.
What is going to be the fate of this scheme? We have a right to ask the right hon. Lady at this juncture. Is she going to make any attempt during her tenure of office to get back to an insurance basis, or is this her first and last word on this question? I, personally, do not stand in any way for small benefits as a necessity. I should like to see a scheme started which was so arranged on an actuarial basis that the bona fide unemployed man and woman got as near a normal wage when he or she was out of work as possible, with the smallest margin of difference between the two, but, in order to get that, one thing has got to be made absolutely clear. We have got to be certain that only genuine unemployed, who are not only willing but anxious to get back to work, can draw the benefit at all. Before one can get to that state of perfection, that ideal, we have got to inculcate into everybody in the scheme the idea that, if there is any malingering, any drawing of benefits by people who should not draw them, they are thereby directly and certainly going to deprive others in the scheme from drawing what is their right.
At present, the opposite is the case. They know that there is no attempt at an actuarial basis, that whether they draw one week's or six months' benefit without a real necessity makes not one whit difference to anybody else around them. As long as that is the case, what incentive is there to get any section of the community to look on this as an insurance scheme and to play fair by the scheme? The idea I have put forward of large benefits is not very far from realisation in some directions now. In many textile trades one finds women working for from 28s. to 30s. a week. If such a woman happens to have two small children, whom she has to board out, she has to pay 12s. or 15s. a week to a neighbour to look after them. The difference between her cash in hand when she is working and when she is on her unemployment pay is almost negligible 2157 in that case. I do not think it has been greatly abused, but our present system is laying itself open in that direction to very grave abuse indeed.
If the right hon. Lady is not willing to adopt such a course as that—and she cannot be, in view of her attitude on the "not genuinely seeking work" Clause—she must consider the question of smaller benefits as against restrictions. When one looks round and sees the wage reductions that have taken place in the industries of this country among shipbuilders, miners, textile workers and in the Civil Service, whore two reductions have already taken place and another is threatened on 1st September, one wonders, if the right hon. Lady has got in mind those tremendous reductions, how she can stand to-day for the benefits which are now being paid. There has been no change in the money benefits in the last four years, and in the last 10 years the real benefits have increased by 100 per cent. It is not the policy of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side. They do not want to take this line, as they have got a fully developed scheme, a proper scheme, but, unless such a scheme is brought forward, then the right hon. Lady has no choice but to do what she was advised to do by her own Commission, and to adopt the line of altering a scale which has proved incapable of being put on an actuarial basis. The Government's contribution to the Unemployment Insurance question in this regard is such a poor one that it might be considered as negligible. You, Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago said you were not always sure whether speeches were in favour or against the Bill. I am not surprised, for if a man was being washed down the tide by the Thames and someone threw him a reel of cotton, it would be hard to say whether he was very pleased or very aggrieved. Really, throwing out what is only a gesture at this time is almost an insult to the unemployed and to those who are paying for unemployment benefit, the other wage-earners of this country.
Is the right hon. Lady really in earnest in introducing this Bill? Is she really determined to get it on the Statute Book and operative shortly? When we were discussing the Money Resolution, I pointed out that it might be six or seven months before any provision under this 2158 scheme came into operation. Is that the right hon. Lady's intention? Does she mean to let the matter go on in that way, or does she mean to get to work on this Bill? I do not believe that she will have any factious opposition, or, indeed, any opposition at all from this side of the House on the Committee stage. I doubt whether she will have any Amendments put down on the Committee stage. If a day does not offer, is she willing to put it down at 11 o'clock and get it through in order to carry out these small meausres which she thinks are necessary? I would not vote in the "No" Lobby to-night, even if some hon. Members opposite think of taking that course, but, unless the right hon. Lady will give some assurance that she not only means to put the Bill on the Statute Book, but to do so before the Recess, and to put it into operation before the Recess, I shall not feel justified in supporting the Measure with my vote. It will be very hard for the right hon. Lady, in those circumstances, to withstand a charge of complete insincerity in her handling of this Measure. This is called a Bill to deal with anomalies. It is the Bill itself which is the anomaly and the greatest anomaly of all is that the right hon. Lady and her colleagues are to-day being entrusted with the guidance and misgovernment of this country at a time of crisis the like of which we have never known, and the like of which I hope that we shall never know again in our history.
§ Dr. PHILLIPS
In rising to speak on this Debate, I ought to say a word or two as to the part that I myself have had to take on this question of unemployment insurance in regard to women. As secretary of the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organisations, I was concerned in drawing up and giving evidence before the Royal Commission on this subject. That committee represents about 1,000,000 working women in the Labour, trade union and co-operative movements. It gave a great deal of time and consideration to drawing up the evidence which it placed before the Commission. It is too frequently the case that in industrial difficulties the old rule of chivalry is applied, and it is a case of "women and children first." That is exemplified in the attitude taken up by a great many people 2159 in this country, and especially by hon. Members opposite, towards women in insurance when the difficulties of the fund were growing. They looked, as they always will, to see if there was something that could be saved on the women. There came a great outcry against married women in insurance.
The difficulty with regard to married women in employment in this country is this, that the great majority of them do not continue in industry after marriage, and that when they do so continue it is either because they live in one of the textile areas or one of the pottery areas, where it is the custom for married women to stay in employment, or because of poverty in the home. Under present circumstances the number of married women desiring employment rises just as the amount of employment both for men and women decreases, and it is therefore very natural that there is at present a great increase in the number of married women drawing benefit. A great many people jumped to the conclusion that the bulk of those women were unfairly drawing benefit; the number of married women drawing benefit was enormously exaggerated on every side. My organisation felt, therefore, it was very necessary to examine the situation carefully to see how far the statement that married women in very large numbers were unfairly coming on to the fund was true, and, if it were true, how it could be met. What we found was this, that from all quarters individual cases were brought forward where there was undoubtedly a wrong position, a position never intended by the Insurance Acts, in which women who were not in the true sense available for employment and therefore had not a right to benefit were drawing benefit.
Those were individual cases, and they are, I believe, far fewer in number than is yet realised, because a great many of the cases placed before the commission—not by my organisation, but by others—were very poor instances of what they were supposed to prove; but that there were a number, a number that nobody can exactly estimate, is undoubtedly true. To some extent there is a notion amongst them—and I think one can very well understand how it has arisen—that, as they had paid in for a 2160 very long time without getting anything out, when they got married and left industry came the chance for them to get a bit of it back. There is not a moral right of that kind, but one can understand the feeling, especially in a time of great poverty. In addition to that there are undoubtedly women here and there who are taking advantage of the present situation, and the regulations laid down by Parliament, to stay on the fund when, in fact, they do not desire wage-earning employment. To some extent umpires' decisions have been to blame for that, because the decisions in relation to married women's work in some instances treat the words "available for work" in a sense so wide as to make them almost ridiculous.
But if those cases exist we on this side of the House have no reason to say that we want them to continue, and I believe that the working class, who are infinitely more honest in their outlook than many people who have been for a very long time members of political organisations within this House, have a straightforward and exact sense of what is right and what is wrong, a sense which sometimes gets a little blurred in the case of those who have been for some years in this Assembly. I think the working class are the last people to say that they want anybody to draw benefit who is not entitled to that benefit as a person seeking work. When we came to draw up our evidence, we found that this matter had been greatly exaggerated, and we were most anxious to make it clear to the Commission that we were totally against any proposal to sweep married women out of unemployment insurance.
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) quoted a sentence or two from the chairman's examination of me before the Commission. His quotation was perfectly correct, but the chairman's question to me was whether I would be in favour of married women automatically ceasing to be insured, losing all rights to insurance and having to re-insure after marriage before they would be eligible for any benefits. I said, in reply, that it was lucky that married women had votes, because I could imagine no House of Commons agreeing to sweep them out in that fashion. That I repeat. I think it would be a totally impossible proposition. What we said in our evidence, however, 2161 was perfectly true. We said we would have no objection to Regulations which would make it certain that no one should draw benefit who was not genuinely available for work so long as they penalised no one who was genuinely entitled to benefit, whether married or single. To that I adhere, and I believe the proposals in this Bill will enable that principle to be carried out. I do not regard the constitution of the committee as being a constitution in which the workers cannot have confidence. I am quite confident that a committee which contains two appointed members and three representatives of the Trade Union Congress, and a committee whose regulations have to be placed before this House, is a committee before which the working woman's position can be properly and fairly and justly supported.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Does that mean that the hon. Lady wants, in the case of married women, to reimpose the "genuinely seeking work" condition?
§ Dr. PHILLIPS
It means exactly what it says. It means that if a way can be found in which married women who have after marriage ceased to work and then go to an Exchange, not having been working since their marriage, and want work, and are still in benefit, that if a long period has elapsed they may be subjected to special inquiry to test the fact of whether they are really available for work. It does not mean that if a married woman comes to the exchange, having fallen out of work, and brings her baby with her in a perambulator, that it shall be said that because she has the baby in the perambulator whenever she comes to sign on obviously she is not looking for work. I have heard some people take that objection, but that I think is nonsensical, because obviously if she is looking for work she has nobody to look after the baby until she has got work. The Regulations to be drawn up in this case need the most careful consideration and need the most careful safeguards, and if any way can be found, even before the proposals are being operated by the committee, to make those words more exact I should be very glad indeed to see it. But I do think the hon. Lady who has brought in the Bill has got over one difficulty, inasmuch as she has not classified all married women. She has selected as the only ones to whom special inquiries 2162 can be applied, those who have not any record of work over a period after their marriage. That does not mean that all those women will be deprived of benefit if they are unemployed. It simply means that special regulations and special inquiry will be made in their case, inquiry which may not be made in the case of other women.
I want to say a word or two about the other classes which are brought into the Bill—persons employed in seasonal work and persons employed for not more than two days in the week. There are women in both those classes. My organisation put evidence on that point also before the Commission, and I would say the same there as I have said about the married women who are not in fact available for work. With regard to seasonal workers who for years have worked during the season at a particular employment but not worked during the rest of the year, if you can devise regulations suitable to them, so that they will not just automatically draw benefit during the remaining part of the year when they are not even thinking about working, it is indefensible to say that we should not agree to such regulations; but one must be careful in drawing up the regulations to leave sufficient elasticity to permit of those people drawing benefit who are only working at a seasonal employment perforce, because they cannot get anything else during the rest of the year.
Whenever I have spoken on his subject—and I have been dealing for the past week-ends with the misrepresentations made on this point both by the hon. Member for Gorbals and his friends—I have always noticed that at the end of the meetings people have come up to me and said, "There is a case of that kind here, and I think it is shameful"—or something of that kind. The fact of the matter is, people do think it is unjust that men or women should draw unemployment benefit as a sort of subsidy. They feel the injustice of it, and while those same people would greet with joy a decision of the Government to increase the amount of unemployment benefit, and make other changes for the welfare of those who are really unemployed and looking for work, they would regard this Bill, if it is properly worked out, as a Bill which they can welcome, because it takes away from the working class as a 2163 whole the general accusation that they want everything for nothing. They do feel that, and in spite of the sweet smile with which the hon. Member for Gorbals greets my remark, I may say that I think I have given a better description of the moral outlook of the workers than he did in his speech this afternoon. I think a decent working man or working woman, a decent working girl or working lad, would regard what he has said as misrepresenting entirely the view they take as to the receipt of unemployment benefit. That we would like to see more money going into the workers' houses can anybody doubt? But taking money for one purpose when you are not really entitled to it on that ground is a thing which makes unemployment benefit, or any form of State assistance, demoralising in itself and like the hated system of the Poor Law. Naturally, those who would favour Poor Law methods would be opposed to any effort to put this matter on a proper basis by going carefully into the question of how to prevent anomalies without damaging the great masses of workers who are now drawing benefit, and who are fully entitled to it, and who would, if we had our way, draw still more.
§ Sir ROBERT ASKE
Naturally, those who are so closely affected by unemployment insurance cannot regard this question from the same point of view as those who live in more congenial surroundings. Any representatives of the depressed areas, particularly those north of the Humber, have to regard very critically any Measure dealing with a revision of the terms or conditions of unemployment insurance. I feel when we are dealing with the elimination of anomalies, it is necessary, in the first place, to be satisfied that the elimination is to be on a fair and equitable basis, and that anomalies are not merely being regarded from one point of view, that is the point of view of anomalies at present existing in favour of insured people, and ignoring altogether the anomalies which exist against the employers. There must be equity and justice in this matter. Therefore, I approach this matter, in the first place, by asking whether there are any serious anomalies of the kind within the preamble of this Bill which ought to have 2164 been included, and which are not included in the Bill.
Of the four classes -which are mentioned in the Bill two of them deal with the conditions of normal employment. Therefore, we may take, as a test, the transitional period, which deals with the point as to whether a person is normally employed in insurable work. In my submission, that is a genuine anomaly. It is an anomaly of administration, because, when we approach the question as to whether a man is normally employed in insurable work, and apply that test in an area such as we find in the north-east of England, Lancashire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, South Wales, and Scotland we find that there has never been normal conditions there for the last 10 years. Consequently, we have to regard this question from the point of view of dealing with an abnormal situation the whole time.
I will take as an illustration the industry with which I am most familiar, the shipbuilding industry. In that industry I find that during the last 10 years the normal condition has been unemployment to the extent of 30 per cent., and at the present time it is no less than 64 per cent. On the north-east coast and Scotland it is 63 per cent. and it is 61 per cent. in Wales. Under those conditions, when addressing ourselves to the question as to whether an applicant is normally engaged in an insurable employment, I ask what test would hon. Members apply. Obviously, the test would be that any man who is unemployed in a trade of that kind, who has spent his life in that trade, who has regularly registered during the period of unemployment, is a man who is normally unemployed and is normally engaged in insurable employment. What is the test which is, in fact, applied? Instead of every man in those areas under those conditions being regarded as prima facie normally engaged in insurable work, the test laid down by the umpire and regularly acted upon by the court of referees is that when a claimant has had no insurable employment for a long period a presumption arises that he has ceased normally to be employed in such an employment as would make him an employed person.
If one is looking for anomalies in the administration, there is one of the most 2165 glaring anomalies to be found. Fancy in a place where the normal condition is 30 per cent. of unemployed, and the present condition is nearly 65 per cent., saying that the presumption is that these people are not normally engaged in insurable work. This is a most serious matter. If we address ourselves to the situation as it has existed during the last two years since the Bill was introduced dealing with the condition of not genuinely seeking work, we can plainly see what has happened by the concrete figures given by the Ministry of Labour. In the Tyne area in three months at the beginning of 1928 the number of claims disallowed on the ground of not being normally employed in insurable work was 65; in 1929 in the first six months of that year the number of claims disallowed on that ground was 79; and, after the passing of the Government Bill abolishing the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition, we find that the number of claims disallowed in three months on that ground in this year was no less than 2,007. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"]
Of course, it is a shame, because it is obvious that what has been done is to apply the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition under another name, to keep these men out of benefit, men who have spent their lives in this particular trade, who have never done a hand's turn at any other trade, and who have maintained their registration throughout. The only reason why they are not working and not regularly working at their trade is that there has never been less than 30 per cent. of them unemployed, and there is now more than 60 per cent. of the men in that trade unemployed. That is the situation as I know it from the point of view of those unemployed men. I heard the promise of the Minister that this matter to which I have referred was to be brought before the commission, but there is nothing in the interim report about it, and therefore I would like to ask the Minister what is the position? Why is it that these anomalies have not been dealt with? It is not necessary for the Government to have a report about a matter of this kind, because the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary represent constituencies which are situated in this great ship-building area, 2166 any they know as much about it as any person in the country.
I wish to press upon the Minister the urgent need of removing this anomaly, and I press it all the more because it is not really a matter which affects only the unemployed people. These are the depressed areas of the country, and their situation is absolutely critical. They are at present struggling for existence. In those areas the ship-building berths are bare, and work is getting more scarce instead of more plentiful. I am afraid it will be worse within the next three months than it has been in the past, and, in this state of affairs, what is the result of these men being disallowed benefit? What will be the result if a lot more of the people mentioned in this Bill are disallowed benefit? Obviously, the result particularly in those cases must be that these men will have to apply for public assistance. I always understood that it is a Liberal principle that the able-bodied poor should be a charge on State funds and not on local funds, but what is now proposed simply means that by this inequitable administration these men will have to be maintained by their fellows in those localities which are all suffering together. The number of able-bodied poor in the city of Newcastle alone is about 1,700 per week and the cost is about £75,000 a year and that sum has to be raised in rates and falls partly on industry and results in additions to the rents of working men who are already struggling under severe conditions. In my submission, there is an urgent demand for the removal of this anomaly.
I will mention another anomaly arising out of the same transitional condition, and I do not think that I can do better than to read a letter which has been addressed to me with the object of its being brought before the House by a gentleman who has had enormous experience in sitting on courts of referees-He writes:It is generally agreed that the most serious effect of the present system is the stifling of enterprise on the part of the unemployed. Most of the Tyneside shipyards and factories start work at 7.30 a.m. There is therefore very little chance of an insured worker being started after 8 a.m., and the only steps he can take after 8 a.m. are to register at the Exchange and possibly visit one or two building sites. The rest of the day must be spent either in 2167 loitering or in doing some useful subsidiary work. A number of cases have been brought before courts of referees to decide whether a man who has spent all his working life in insurable occupations has abandoned those occupations because he has, during a period of enforced idleness, tried to do something useful as a side line. The workers' and employers' representatives take a very strong view "—he means the representatives on the courts of referees—of these cases, namely, that it is shameful that genuine insured workers should be penalised because they try to help themselves or employ their idle time. But the Umpire and his deputies appear to take a different view, and there is an impression among working men that any effort to help themselves prejudices their right to unemployment benefit.This view is founded on Section 7, Subsections (1) and (2) of the 1920 Act, as interpreted by a Gilbertian decision of the Umpire which has been printed and circulated. The Umpire in that case held, reversing a court of referees, that an unemployed man who had won two cross-word puzzles in 12 months must be held to be 'not unemployed,' i.e., to have abandoned insurable employment for the uninsured occupation of winning cross-word puzzles.A typical Tyneside case is the following: A miner who had been unemployed for a considerable time employed part of his spare time selling fish-cakes, the extent of his sales and profit being very small. The case was brought before a court of referees to ascertain whether the man was entitled to benefit, or whether he had abandoned insurable work and taken up fish-cake selling. The workers' and employers' representatives took the view that the man was obviously an insured worker, employing his spare time usefully, and that the case ought not to have been contested. The case was unanimously allowed. The insurance officer appealed, and, presumably on the ratio decidendi of the cross-word puzzle case, a Deputy Umpire disallowed the claimant's benefit for any day on which he sold fishcakes.One could multiply that illustration many times. Whenever a man becomes tired of being on the dole, and says, "I am going to make a try for myself; I do not want to remain in idleness any longer," and strikes out, sometimes by taking a little shop, sometimes by hawking fruit or vegetables in the street, and is able to carry on, possibly, for three months, or four months, or six months, and then strikes a bad patch, finds be has lost his money and goes to his Employment Exchange, he is told at once that he is no longer employed in insurable work because he has been too energetic in try- 2168 ing to get work and provide a living for himself, and has thereby done for himself so far as unemployment benefit is concerned. I suggest that these are anomalies which ought to have been dealt with in this Bill, and illustrations of them could be given by the score. I feel that we ought to have some assurance from the Government that anomalies which, under the administration of the Acts, deprive these men of benefit which I am sure they were intended to have, will be dealt with, because otherwise it appears to me that this is an entirely lopsided Bill, framed from the point of view, not of rectifying anomalies, but merely of saving money. No one wishes to maintain real anomalies, but there must be a fair sense of justice in any Bill that is brought forward, and, as at present advised, inasmuch as this Bill merely weights the dice against the unemployed man, I do not think it is a fair or a just Bill.
§ Mr. G. HARDIE
The last speaker has touched upon a great many real, practical difficulties, and has shown an intimate knowledge of what takes place from day to day in the working of the Employment Exchanges. I was interested to hear him point out that there is a tendency for one's views to be tinged according to where he comes from. He implied that he came from an industrial area where unemployment was severe, and that that would tend to tinge one's views. That may be so in some cases, but it is not so in all, because in this House I have heard speeches touching a most human note from hon. Members who came from districts where there was not 1 per cent. of unemployment. It is, surely, one of the great things about an Assembly like this, that, no matter what may be the conditions, an impartial and sane view is generally taken.
The hon. Member's remark in regard to men helping themselves related to a matter which, if anomalies in regard to the application of unemployment insurance were to be dealt with, ought to have been dealt with long ago I have in mind two personal friends, who, being Scottish, were taught in their infancy that it was a crime to become so poor as to require relief from the parish. That feeling is deeply embedded in many Scottish people, and it has the result that men 2169 who are well-to-do, rather than be seen standing in the queue at the bureau, prefer to maintain their independence as long as what they can save lasts; but anyone who does this is immediately penalised.
One of my friends took his savings and started a business. It may be said that to begin a business of which you have no knowledge is bad, and I admit it, but in this case it was not so, because his wife had been in that business. They began this business, and put all their money into it. Then bad trade came, and the usual thing happened; but, when these people, who had saved the fund to the extent of all their savings, came back to the Exchange, they were wiped out, they were unknown. If anomalies are to be dealt with, I should hope that the Minister would deal with anomalies of that kind.
The other ease to which I would refer is that of a family of skilled engineers, and I may say that engineering is the chief industry in my constituency. The two sons went, to Canada on their own savings, and the father, mother and two daughters went to a married daughter in America, all with the idea of maintaining their independence. The two sons found it impossible to get employment in Canada. They spent every halfpenny that they had, and they spent the money that they got for selling everything they had, including their watches, fountain pens, and some micrometers—very expensive instruments. They had everything that the efficient engineer required, and they sold these things, in some cases for coppers, though they had cost pounds. These fellows were compelled to come back. The father and mother spent what they had living with their married daughter, but the unemployment cloud fell there, and they too had to come back. These were all constant contributors to unemployment insurance, in the case of the father from the inception of the fund, and in the case of the sons from the day when they entered employment right up to the day when they left this country. Are we to be told that, having shown this enterprise and independence of spirit, and make such efforts to lead an energetic life, they are to be penalised for having made those efforts?
These cases wipe out the cry from the benches opposite that the great majority 2170 of the people who are on the dole, as it is called, do not want to work. One night last week I went to the place of a friend who had advertised for a typist—he wanted three, but he knew he need not ask for more than one—and I saw 4,000, from 16 to 44 years of age, in queues with a policeman regulating them; and yet we are told by some people that a Bill of this kind is wanted to prevent—what? The sponger? How few there are! If there is the sponger, or the individual man or woman who is trying to "put a bit across," is it not the system of society that has created that demoralised type; and, instead of a Bill like this, would it not be better to bring in a Bill designed to raise the moral standard of these people? Instead of trying to get clean out of the mess, we are merely trying to make the mess just a little cleaner in order that it may be a little more endurable.
An hon. Member opposite mentioned the question of reduction of benefit, but I know that he does not understand poverty, which is what we are dealing with to-day. There is a constant parrot cry about people being "available for work." The hon. Member who suggested reduction of benefit knows nothing of what is meant by poverty, or living on a wage; he has always had the wherewithal to get what he wanted; and that is why we hear that type of speech. Some people think that, when an unemployed man and his wife and children are given 29s. a week, that is a great sum, but it is still poverty. There is the question of clothes, boots, and all the other things outside a mere bread-and-butter existence. You are not dealing with poverty by unemployment insurance. All that you are trying to do is to help a little in what is called the basis of existence. None of the people who are receiving unemployment insurance are living the lives that they lived when they were employed. I am sorry that hon. Members should be returned to this House to misrepresent the facts of the case. We have had sad stories about the baby in the pram. I have some personal knowledge of cases of that kind, where women who are engaged in industry are to be deprived of benefit simply because they happen to be married. We have 2171 made an insurance contract with these people. If we do not carry out the contract, if regulations are sought to put the system upon what is called an insurance basis, upon the basis of earnings, what becomes of the scheme? We have the case mentioned of the man who is said to be working and earning sufficient in two days and a night. That ceases to be insurance. You are now putting it on another basis.
Last Monday morning I caught the train at 1.10 a.m. at St. Paul's. In the carriage there were nine people, all pressmen except myself. We got talking about this Bill. They were very friendly. The first man who spoke was an operator on a linotype machine. He said that he earned £7 10s. a week. Another earned £5 18s. They said: "The two fellows at the end of the carriage are labourers, who carry the paper, and so on. They get £2 15s. Does it mean that because we have more wages, that they are going to get all the benefits, or does it mean that we are never going to draw any benefits unless we get down to their level?" I shall be told that the Bill does not seek to do that. It is not what is intended by those who bring in the Bill, but it is the interpretation that will be put upon it. This House has had enough sad experience to know that while the House may have very good intentions and may put them as logically as they can in a Bill, when it comes to interpretation in the courts, even in the Court of Referees, and by the committee that is to be set up, it is a different matter.
If the present Act is not what is desired, let us amend it. I shall be told that the thing is far too difficult and complex for us to bring in an amendment to the Act, that will work. I have seen much more difficult things than we are facing to-day got over in this House by an amendment of an Act. I hope that before the House has done with this Bill there will be a great many changes so far as its structure is concerned. The Minister of Labour said that it was not the money that they were trying to save. She could not give the figures, but she said it was not a question of money. They were considering, the moral side. If we have had loss of morals because of the system, surely it is a question of changing the system. 2172 We are not going to make people any more moral by putting more restrictions upon them. If that argument were carried to its logical conclusion, we should have a policeman at all our doors. It is not what is in the Bill, but what the interpretation will be, that matters.
I have always fought against work that ought to be done by this House going outside. We held up the Electricity Act in Committee for three days on that question. Is the House so incapable of dealing with its work that it has to start pushing its work outside. I hope that the House will not permit its business to be put outside in the fashion proposed by the Bill. We ought to be able to deal with our business, or we ought to tell the public that we cannot do it. I do not know that the people who will be called upon to do this work outside the House will be any better able to do it than we are. If they have special ability, why has it been withheld? Has it been withheld in order that this work could be put outside the province of this House? It seems as if the working classes are not to have justice. The employers are to be present. I suppose they are to be there to see whether anything is done wrong. I do not see any ground for the employers being present. Many of the so-called captains of industry have failed, and they ought to be in the dock to answer the charge of having failed.
The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) drew a pathetic picture. He said that if it had not been for the benefit that had been poured out, there would have been riots and revolution. He declared that as a result of the pouring out of so much money not a pane of glass had been broken. He is wrong. He suggests that the pouring out of this money has been a good thing. It has not. It would have been far better if the nation had taken into its hands the industries that should have been reorganised, and had kept the people in a higher standard of living. The right hon. Gentleman said that it had been proved that people were this, that and the other. It does not matter what you may prove. You have to face the fact that there are people who cannot get work. We have to give them a job, or put them on public assistance if they 2173 are not insured. It is said that we shall save money. We shall not save a penny. These people have to be kept. I challenge the people who talk to be logical. If they are not going to keep these people, they must do the next thing; put them in the lethal chamber. They are afraid to do that. They are afraid even to think of that.
In my own constituency, I have tried to find out the enormity of the offences that are described in this Bill. It may be that I have a very decent constituency. Compared with what is set forth in the Bill, I must have a very decent constituency. I inquired into two or three cases. I spent a day going into what is called the undermind to find out the facts. When we got to the bottom of the thing, it was the biggest mare's nest that had ever been raised. We ought not to base any Bill upon an unknown quantity. We have asked questions, but we have received no figures. It is all assumption. Take the printer's men, of whom we hear so much. How many men are there engaged on all the Sunday newspapers in Britain? The number is a mere bagatelle. What about the babies in the pram? How many are there? We are told that there are many cases. When the Conservative party were in office, why did they not try to deal with these so-called anomalies? They are trying to get the Labour party to pull the nuts out of the fire for them. I object to that. No one will play the monkey trick on me. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Major Elliot) was wrong in his Scottish history in what he said about a certain king. We all know that a man or a woman has to die in a certain way before their ghost can come back. That particular king did not die under those conditions. He was not good enough even for that.
The hon. and gallant Member dealt with what he called the constitutional issue. When he was asked what he meant, he said that he was in favour of the Bill. That is the attitude the Opposition are taking up. They are trying by this Bill to do that which they had not the courage to do themselves, and at the same time they are trying to discredit our party for doing what they think ought to be done. If I were a member of the present Government, I would rather come on to the back benches than take any 2174 part in trying to place on the Statute Book anything that is not based upon true figures. Until we get those figures we have no right to take such action. When we talk about anomalies on the part of the unemployed, let the anomalies also be dealt with from the other side. Then it will not be an Anomalies Bill, but an amendment of the original Act.
§ Sir GERVAIS RENTOUL
There was one statement of the hon. Member with which all of us would be in agreement, namely, that the Bill would be unnecessary if you could create a higher moral standard and change human nature. He went on to say that the spongers were, in his judgment, very few. That may be so compared with the total number of the unemployed. I do not think anyone has ever suggested that the abuses are, comparatively speaking, more than a small number, judged by the total figures. Nevertheless, actually they are not a small number, because we know that, in the opinion of the Royal Commission, and indeed according to the statement of the Government in the Memorandum to the Bill, it is hoped to save at least £5,000,000. That is a large sum and represents a great many cases, although £5,000,000 may be very small in comparison with the enormous expenditure that is going on in connection with unemployment insurance. But certainly the Government have had ample warning that these anomalies were likely to arise. They were warned in 1929, when the proposal was brought forward and an alteration was made in regard to the genuinely seeking work Clause, that the words which it was proposed to be substituted might in themselves give rise to some of the very anomalies which have now been created and with which this Bill is endeavouring to deal.
I certainly have hesitated before taking part in this discussion, because it seems to me that, while one has no option but to support the Bill, and, if necessary, I shall be prepared to do so with my vote, one does so with very little enthusiasm. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) criticised the Bill, because he considered it did far too much. I criticise it because it seems to me to do far too little. But, inasmuch as the professed object of the Bill is to deal with certain anomalies which have been revealed by a 2175 Royal Commission established by the Government itself, I feel that one cannot do otherwise than give it support. At the same time, it seems to me to do very little to grapple with the real facts of the situation, and those facts it is impossible to exaggerate. It may be a step in the right direction, however weak, feeble and tottering that step may be. It is something that the Government are no longer able to pretend that anomalies and abuses do not exist to an extent which, in their judgment, requires urgent legislative action, in justice to the enormous number of persons who are genuinely insured and who, therefore, have a direct interest in the whole scheme being made actuarially sound, and in justice also, in my view, to the country, which is faced, as we know on the most unquestionable authority, with the terrible dangers of an unbalanced Budget. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may scoff, but it is difficult to exaggerate those dangers, not only in their effect on what are called the more prosperous classes, but in their effect on the trade and industry of the country as a whole which, in its turn, would be bound to react with the gravest consequences upon the workers. Unless, therefore, we hold the view of the hon. Member for Gorbals that apparently all those who pay taxes may be classified as the rich and all who do not pay taxes are the poor, and that it is perfectly legitimate and proper to take from the one in order to give to the other, I feel that not only this Bill but something a good deal more drastic than this Bill is urgently required.
The main reason why one hesitates to support it is that it only touches the fringe of the question. According to its express terms, it only proposes to deal with certain anomalies, and those by no means the gravest existing to-day, as we know from the Report of the Royal Commission. The grave anomalies which the Bill does not touch in any way to my mind are, firstly, the inclusion in an insurance system at all of persons who cannot by any stretch of imagination properly come within it. That seems to me the gravest of all anomalies that ought to be dealt with. Secondly, I feel that it is a grave anomaly in that it is possible for anyone to receive by way of bene- 2176 fit sums closely approximating to the amount that they would receive if they were in full employment. That is a grave situation which has been emphasised by the Royal Commission and to which it repeatedly refers in its Report. I am referring to cases where no contributions have been made and, consequently, where a person does not properly come within the insurance scheme. The Report points out that one of the things to be guarded against is the discouragement to industry that may be created by an unemployment insurance scheme unless it is properly based. There are two passages in the interim Report which are worth repeating. The first is this:One of the cardinal principles which was present in the minds of those who framed the original scheme in 1911 was that State provision for the unemployed should not be such as to create unemployment and that it should, so far as possible, be associated with measures tending to diminish unemployment by improving the organisation of the employment market. The prevention of unemployment is of more importance than its relief, and unemployment insurance should be subordinate to the encouragement of industry to reduce unemployment.That is a very important passage which is frequently apt to be lost sight of in debates on this subject. This is the other passage:Some significance must attach to a proportion of one in fourteen out of work in a period of active trade and, in other countries, of abounding prosperity, in a class of industries from which have been excluded not only the industries adversely affected by the War or by the decline in exports but also those in which there is a special problem of unemployment arising from internal organisation. Since it persists after the influence of the transient effects of the War has been excluded, it must be associated with some more permanent condition of British industry, possibly in part with the existence of the Unemployment Insurance Scheme itself.Therefore, one reason in particular why I should feel some hesitation in supporting the Bill is that it seems to me to run counter to these cardinal principles. The hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) complained that the Bill was in reality a Measure of economy. That may be to some extent true, but it is essential, in the interests of the country, and in the interests particularly of those coming within the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, that we should have economy on a real scale and not a mere tinkering with the situation. It is 2177 well to remember that the mast drastic regulations made under the Bill could only save under 5 per cent. of the total cost of unemployment. Even if the Bill is passed into law and is operated to the full extent that is possible, unemployment will still cost the nation over £90,000,000 a year more than the contributions of industry provide. That is a very grave situation. Yet the cost of improper claims, according to the estimates of the Government actuary, is possibly as high as £13,500,000. Many of us have considerable doubts as to whether the Government are really in earnest in this matter, for the simple reason that practically all the anomalies with which it is proposed to deal under the Bill have been very well known for a very long time and have been frequently pointed out, and it needed no Royal Commission to call attention to them. If it was desired, they could have been dealt with long ago.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
It is becoming rather an old trick on the part of many hon. Members opposite when in an awkward situation to say, "What did you do? "or "Why did you not do it?" That really is beside the point. To-day the House is concerned with the present situation and not with what was done or was omitted to be done in bygone times. Furthermore, if that question is asked, one is justified in pointing out that when the Conservative party were in office, the unemployment figures were somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,000,000 and that they are now over 2,500,000. Therefore, the anomalies have proportionately increased, apart altogether from having, in many instances, been directly created by the actions of His Majesty's Government in regard to the operation of the genuinely-seeking-work Clause and in other directions.
My point is that if the Government were really in earnest in desiring to deal with this matter, it is extraordinary that they should have thought it necessary to appoint a Royal Commission at all in order to discover things which, as I say, were well known. They could have established, for example, their Advisory Committee long ago. The three-party conference on unemployment was, in 2178 effect, an advisory committee which the Government called into being, and then when it seemed to be on the point of producing some practical recommendations, those recommendations were ignored. All these circumstances fill-one's mind with a considerable amount of suspicion as to the sincerity of the Government in approaching this matter. What guarantee have we that the Minister really intends to act? The Advisory Committee, as its name implies, is merely advisory in character, but the whole of the executive action under this Bill must rest upon the Minister, and the Minister alone. Have we any guarantee that she will carry out the advice that is given her by the committee which is to be established under the Bill? Even if she does, it is quite apparent that there can be no saving in the best circumstances until late in the autumn, and in this sense the Advisory Committee seems to be but a new device for delay. The Minister has six weeks in which to set up the committee, "and after that there will be a long procedure of regulations and consultations, and then the report has to lie on the Table of both Houses for 21 days. How can the Government justify such a state of affairs in the emergency with which the country is faced to-day?
It appears to me, although I see no option but to support the Bill, that it is only introduced in order that the Government may save their face. It does nothing to deal with the real anomalies to which I have referred, and we are told that nothing will be done until the final report of the Royal Commission is produced. But surely that in itself is a great subterfuge, because the Government have made it quite apparent already that they do not intend to act upon the report of the Royal Commission, and consequently it is a mere waste of time for it to continue its discussions. We may not at the same time, for those reasons, have much faith in the efficacy of the Bill, but nevertheless we are prepared to support it, because we shall be reluctant to seem to-put any obstacle in the way of even the most tardy repentance on the part of the present Government. We are willing, therefore, that the Government should make this experiment. The Minister herself does not put it any higher. We are willing to give the Government, in effect, this last chance to put an end to what is 2179 now recognised as a growing national scandal.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House declines to proceed further with this Bill on the grounds that it removes from Parliament effective control of the conditions under which benefits are paid; defines too widely the classes of unemployed whose benefit may be removed or reduced; creates more anomalies than it removes; jeopardises the benefits of thousands of unemployed persons; establishes an advisory committee on which there are only three working-class representatives out of nine; introduces the principle of differential treatment of casual and seasonal workers and married women in varying trades and districts; fails to deal with the abuses which the unemployed suffer, such as withholding benefit from those who have been employed in non-insurable occupations, or who have emigrated for a period, or who have reached pensionable age; ignores the need to increase benefits, in view of the prolonged period of unemployment and the consequent intensification of hardships experienced by so many working-class families; and also fails to provide benefits for agricultural and other workers at present excluded from unemployment insurance.The Amendment which stands in my name and the names of several of my hon. Friends is for the rejection of the Bill. I have listened very closely to the general discussion on the Second Reading, and every speech has made me more convinced of the Tightness of my action in putting this Amendment upon the Paper. I hope that before the proceedings close to-night the Government will agree that the opposition to the Bill is so keen, and the support so tardy, that they will decide not to proceed any further with it and so save me and other of my hon. Friends from the necessity of going into the Lobby against it, which we certainly shall do if the Government propose to proceed with it.
Members of the Labour party will agree that the Amendment is a very brief summary for what we stood for with reference to the treatment of the unemployed during the General Election, and we are here to try to implement the position we took up at the General Election rather than to give our support to a Measure which was never contemplated at any time by any section of the Labour movement, never contemplated by any trade union, and never contemplated in 2180 our political philosophy. It has only arisen out of the exigencies of the present Parliamentary situation and represents to us a surrender of great principles in the face of one of the meanest, ill-natured agitations that has ever taken place in this country on the part of the rich against the most defenceless of the poor. We used to be told that a Socialist was a man, who, having no possessions of his own, was grieved at the wealth and envious of the better-off sections of the community. That was never true of me. I have never envied any man's possessions. I have never felt any reason to envy any man's material possessions. If it were true that the Socialist envied the wealthy man his riches it might be a grievous sight, it might be contemptible, but it would not be half so contemptible as the sight of the wealthy man envying the poor man his miserable pittance, and that is the sole motive power that is behind the agitation which has created a Parliamentary position that puts a Labour Government in the humiliating position it is in to-day in introducing a Measure of this description.
I am sorry. I had intended, in dealing with this matter, to maintain that calm argumentative method which is recognised as the correct thing in this House, and I am sorry that I have opened in a tone which is otherwise. To those who have put down this Amendment there is not one solitary scrap in the Bill in which we can feel any satisfaction, and nothing that we can defend. It has been brought in to remove anomalies. The Labour movement came into existence to remove anomalies, and in that sense it is in line with the outlook of the party. But the anomaly to which we called attention when we were propounding our philosophy was the anomaly of a few thousands of people at the top end of society drawing huge incomes, owning large aggregations of capital, rendering no valuable social service, living in luxury and in idleness, using wealth in great abundance but never actively creating one pennyworth of wealth themselves; this small group at one end of the social scale in this position of wealth and the mass of toilers at the other end always on the verge of starvation and, when permitted to toil, only getting a bare subsistence and nothing more. That was the 2181 great outstanding anomaly, but inside that great anomaly of class division were many smaller anomalies for which no justification could be advanced. Good, genuine useful people living on the verge of starvation and imbecile and dissolute people living in luxury and ease.
Our social system is packed full of anomalies. A Labour Government in office says, "We must remove anomalies. There are some of the unemployed people, only a few out of about 2,500,000, who are getting a few shillings more than we ever intended them to get. They are doing it under the law it is true, by just a little straining of the law which we in our wisdom had never contemplated when we passed the legislation." Do not we know that there are chartered accountants and lawyers, Income Tax experts, making huge incomes in this country by doing nothing else than advising wealthy people how to dodge their proper share of the Income Tax. Talk about anomalies! The Labour Government say "We are going to start among the pennies and the halfpennies and the shillings of the poor." It reminds me of a story to which I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister many years ago—I hope it will not embarrass him in his official duties if I tell the story—of the Scotsman who came to London for the first time and asked to be directed to a particular place. As it happened the man he asked was afflicted with a stutter and after taking half-an-hour to give the directions he said: "Jus-s-a-t a m-m-m-minute. There are s-s-seven m-m-millions of p-people in L-London; why p-p-p-pick m-me?" In the capitalist system of society there are "seven millions or more in office" looking for anomalies to redress, so why pick this?
If the Government had made up their mind to remove anomalies, why not let the House of Commons do it themselves? The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot), who was supported by the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley), the leader of the New party, supported the view that it was a good idea for Parliament to devolve its responsibilities to other bodies such as the committee contemplated in the Bill for the removal of these anomalies. He made a comparison with the Broadcasting Corporation and 2182 the Electricity Commissioners, and other statutory bodies, and said that it was a good development in our Parliamentary system which he hoped would be extended. The hon. Member for Smethwick supported this with the qualification that it all depends on what they are going to do. My hon. Friends have omitted this fact. It may be that this House will have to devolve many of its responsibilities in many directions, although I say quite frankly that I am in complete antagonism to any attempt to remove things out of the realm of public discussion and public agitation and to deny Members of the House of Commons the right to discuss the affairs of corporations and other bodies in this House. The remedies for our Parliamentary system are not to be found in the direction of less democracy but in the direction of far more democracy than we have just now, and every hon. Member knows that our troubles in this House do not arise because power is distributed through too many hands, but because, in actual practice, in this Chamber power is concentrated in far too few hands. The one man who is responsible for the financial affairs of this Parliament can dominate and dictate and direct the whole policy of Parliament.
I hope that we will not proceed any further in the direction provided in this Measure, that of a greater bureaucracy and autocracy, but that on every occasion we will endeavour to distribute responsibility and activity among as many people as possible instead of into as few hands as possible. I want the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove and the hon. Member for Smethwick to consider this. It is not a parallel case to say to a particular body of men, "You are to run the Broadcasting Corporation," and to another body of men, "You are to run the Electricity Commission." What we are doing in this case is to say, "Look here! Here is a very difficult legislative job to be performed. It is too difficult for us, the House of Commons, who have been elected to legislate. We will pass over the job of legislation, our work, to the shoulders of you nine irresponsible people." To me it is a very terrifying step that the Government are taking. We say to this commission in so many words: "You nine men have to survey this married women's problem. You have to survey this problem of the seasonal 2183 workers; you have to survey the problem of the intermittent workers; you have to solve the problem of the occasional workers; and to legislate, legislate, to decide which married women are to get benefit, in which districts married women are to get benefit, whose husbands are in such a position as to exclude their wives from getting benefit, and which are not."
You say, regarding the seasonal workers, the fishermen of Stornoway, the fish gutters of Lewis, the hop-pickers of Kent, "The problem is too complicated for us in Parliament to legislate about; so you nine men who have never done anything in the way of legislative work before"—that is one of the qualifications they must have—"you are to legislate, because the subject is too difficult for us experts." Does the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove support that kind of thing?
§ Major ELLIOT
If the hon. Member had done me the honour of listening to my speech, he would have realised that at the end of that speech I said I believed that when we had tried this method we would ourselves decide to reform the insurance system on the basis of insurance.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. and gallant Member spoke on behalf of his party, and I interrupted, and the hon. and gallant Member said, in effect: "Oh, I am going to vote for this. I think it is a great Bill," and he said that the whole party was going to vote for it.
§ Major ELLIOT
We were discussing the question of the demand by the Government for powers to deal with a particular case, on the Government's responsibility, and I said that I was not prepared to withhold those powers from the Government. I stand by that. But I also said, at the end of my speech, that I am certain that the demand for reform of this scheme will be paramount, and that by the autumn, in spite of all the difficulties, we shall be driven to reforming it.
§ Mr. MAXTON
But in the meantime the Labour Government, the Conservative party and the Liberal party are all going to walk into the Lobby to-night to hand over their legislative duties to nine people whom they do not know, and 2184 they are going to ask those nine people to legislate on matters that will affect the lives and livelihood of an unknown number of men and women. I say that that is sheer irresponsibility. I am glad that I am in the position of at least being able not to commit myself to such a fantastic act.
Then there is the question of economy. We have had that rubbed into us at every turn—the terrible debt that is hanging over this Insurance Fund. It is what? It is not 2 per cent. of the whole National Debt. It has taken 19 years to build up, due from the beginning to bad actuarial calculations. I am not blaming the actuaries, because actuaries cannot work unless there are statistics available. There were no statistics available in this case. All that was available was the hopes, the optimisms of the successive Ministers who have stood at the Box, every one of whom has gone on the assumption that the capitalist system had within itself the powers of resuscitation. Always they have gone on the assumption that things were going to be better. We had it yesterday from the Secretary for Mines. He said, "The outlook is very depressing for the mining industry in every direction, but we hope that if better times come along there will be an increase of wages available for miners under this Bill." But the indications are that things are going to be worse.
This Unemployment Insurance Fund is in this debt because successive Parliaments and successive Ministers have failed or refused to recognise the obvious fact, that the industrial and economic system under which we have lived in the past is not fitting the facts of to-day, and that the contradictions are becoming greater and greater and will end in collapse. Time and again I have argued that we should recognise that fact and not wait for the revival of this system, but should cut into the middle of it and start creating a new system that will work. We regard this as being a trivial playing with a serious situation and an attempt to save a nation in dire distress by imposing starvation on the most helpless section of the community.
I want to answer one point that has been raised two or three times in these Debates—that if you stand here and support the unemployed there is something 2185 wrong, that you are bidding for votes, that you are auctioning for votes. But hon. Members opposite can stand in their places week after week and defend landlordism or banking, and they are doing their duty as statesmen. They can defend any vested interest in this country and they are doing it with the highest sense of duty. But if we stand up and defend the unemployed it is corrupt and we are bidding for votes, and we have no thought in our minds but the number of people who are going to vote for us. I like to get votes behind me, for then I assume that these people stand for the political philosophy I am propounding. The interest of the unemployed man is as legitimate and as clean an interest as any other interest voiced in this House. Therefore, quite unblushingly, I oppose this Bill.
I argue that the Government ought not to proceed with it. I would like to see this unemployment insurance machinery extended and developed and used as a lever for the creation of a new social order. What does the unemployment figure mean? It means that there is available social leisure which has become concentrated on 2,500,000 people, so as to cause them intense misery and so as to create national danger and difficulty. In the very first speech that I made in this House I said that our problem in these days was not one of creating unnecessary work; that our problem was how best to distribute the available social leisure. Nearly every one of these so-called anomalies represent the crude beginnings of the distribution of leisure.
What about the terrible case of the Cardiff dockers, for instance—the 6,000 men in Cardiff? I am not quoting the figures exactly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) used the case, and it has been repeated in other quarters of the House and the precise figures do not matter. We have this position. At the Cardiff docks there are so many thousands of men, say, 1,000 or 2,000 more than the number required for the work at the docks. The dockers have agreed that the work available shall go round the whole lot, so that all shall have so many days work in the week and on the other days draw unemployment benefit. This has been held up as something immoral. I would like to find out before 2186 this discussion finishes exactly whether the House is taking its stand for this Bill on the ground of morality, or on the ground of economy, because the two things have become so intermixed that I cannot be quite clear as to which is the leading motive.
The dockers in Cardiff decided, through a very strong trade union organisation and by agreement with the employers, that, instead of having two-thirds of their men permanently employed all the days of the week, and one-third permanently idle, the available work should be shared by all and the available wages should be shared by all, so that nobody would be demoralised by long periods of idleness, and everybody would pay into the Insurance Fund and so feel that when they got unemployment benefit they were not getting anything to which they were not entitled. And that is an anomaly, forsooth! That is demoralising. To me, it is the wisest way of dealing with the unemployment problem as it presents itself to-day. If the Government would take a tip from the Cardiff dockers, instead of being advised by God knows whom, if they attempted to extend and develop and regularise this whole system, by seeing that everybody got a share of the work and everybody got a share of the wealth and everybody got a share of the leisure—then you would begin to get some faint embryonic form of the social conception that will abolish our troubles of to-day and lead us into national prosperity—real prosperity—in the future.
But this is a retreat. This is a reaction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean), as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. G. Hardie), claps the nation on the back because at the cost of this money it has purchased freedom from industrial disputes, from riot, from possible rebellion, and suggests that it is cheap at the price. Well, I do not know that this quietness, this peace, is altogether a matter for congratulation for the working-class, but I want to point out to the economists opposite and to the economists on our benches this most extraordinary fact—that at this period in the nation's history, when the unemployment figure is at a higher point than ever before, the 2187 prison population is lower than ever before. Drinking among the people is at a lower point than ever before. Our vital statistics are tending upwards, and last year we had this most amazing fact which I want hon. Members to consider in their minds when they think about the problem of the married women and unemployment—the attendance in the elementary schools last year was at a higher point than ever before. For the whole year round, the average attendance in the Scottish schools was at a higher point than ever before in the history of Scotland.
These are tremendous figures. If, in spite of industrial stagnation, in spite of an obstinate unemployment problem, you are maintaining your people in life and in health; if crime is diminishing in your midst; if there are public evidences that parental responsibility is higher to-day than ever before—then indeed you are purchasing it very very cheaply. Do not ruin and destroy it for the sake of a problematic saving of £6,500,000. Remember this. Some of you seem to think that 17s. is a terrible lot of money. I want you to recognise this interesting fact, that the unemployed man poor, demoralised, disheartened, as you allege, maintains himself on 17s. more cheaply than the nation has ever been able to maintain him inside gaol, asylum or poor-house. Get that figure burned into your minds. Get that fact burned into your minds when you are talking about demoralisation. When you are talking about the unemployed or about economy, ask yourself if this is not, after all, a very, very sound economy on the national Exchequer and on the general, national body politic.
I apologise for having spoken longer than I had intended, but I am consoled by the recollection that we have suspended the Eleven o'clock Rule and that, therefore, no one will be excluded through my rather unusually long intervention, but there is one other fact to which I want to call attention. This unemployment insurance scheme, since the immediate post-war period, has been a hybrid scheme. It has been partly insurance and partly social assistance. There is a great shout of "Make it one or the other." Why should you? This is the system that has been proved by experience to work. There is a case for 2188 making it the one thing or the other, but what there is not a case for is to do as this Bill attempts to do, and that is to keep it a hybrid scheme, part social assistance and part insurance, and give the workers the worst of both ends: Do not give them the full rights of insured persons; do not give them decent public assistance. I am content with the hybrid scheme. I am content with a continuance of the hybrid scheme until we have decent social assistance; and, as long as I am here, I am going to use my influence as a Member of this House to see that the workers get the best of both aspects of it, the insurance aspect and the social assistance aspect.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I beg to second the Amendment.
I have to confess that it is not with pleasure that I second the Amendment, because I appreciate that it is a very serious thing for a member of a party to move the rejection of a Bill which the Government of his party have introduced. It is only because I share the views which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) as to the dangerous results of this Bill upon the unemployed and upon the working class that I feel it absolutely essential to take this step. I need not re-emphasize the point which the hon. Member for Bridge-ton made regarding the origins of this Measure. It arose from an agitation which began in the Conservative party and in the Conservative Press, and which was subsequently supplemented by an agitation in the Liberal party, for economy, and it was that agitation which led the Government to appoint a Royal Commission upon this matter. The Government, when they appointed that Royal Commission, made two mistakes, in our view—first, in the personnel of the Commission and, second, in the terms of reference to the Commission. Both the personnel and the terms of reference invited the kind of report which the Commission has produced.
When that report was issued the Government said, "We will not consider certain aspects of this report until there is a final report, but in the meanwhile we will deal with certain anomalies." Our first objection to the Bill which is actually before us is that the anomalies. 2189 which are dealt with in the Bill all refer to abuses which the unemployed are supposed to commit, and nothing is done within the terms of the Bill to remove the far greater abuses from which the unemployed suffer. We are told that we can be certain that the Advisory Committee which will consider this matter will not propose reforms unfair or unfavourable to the unemployed, because that committee will have among its members three members of the Trades Union Congress. We welcome the representation of the Trades Union Congress upon a committee of this kind, if there is to be such a committee, but we cannot forget that these three representatives of the Trades Union Congress will only be three representatives in nine, and their influence will be balanced by the official representatives of the employers.
Of the other three representatives on that committee, one will be appointed by the Treasury, and the evidence of the Treasury before the Royal Commission was more unsympathetic to the unemployed than the evidence of the most diehard Tory; another will be appointed by the Ministry of Labour, and with the best will in the world we cannot say honestly that the attitude of the Ministry of Labour has been sympathetic to the unemployed during the administration of this Government; while the third will be an independent chairman, and if we are to judge from every commission and committee which the Government have so far appointed, the only thing which independence means is that the chairman will be opposed to the interests of the working class and to the point of view of the unemployed. Therefore, we say that this committee will be no safeguard to the unemployed even under a Labour Government, but one cannot consider it only from the point of view of a Labour Government. This House cannot possibly be asked to legislate in terms of the maintenance of a Labour Government. Supposing we had a Conservative Government in office, what even under a Labour Government will be a committee which will be unsympathetic to the unemployed, under a Conservative Government would certainly be a committee which was anti-unemployed from beginning to last. That is a dangerous proposition which, I put it to my colleagues in the Labour party, 2190 ought not to be receiving their support in the Division Lobbies.
I want to add to that, that we oppose this Bill also because of the grave abuses from which the unemployed suffer, and to which no reference is made in the Bill. I will not describe them in detail, because I do not want to speak at length, but I would point out the abuse of the man of 64 who is receiving a benefit of 17s. a week and who, as soon as he becomes 65, loses that benefit and receives a pension of 10s. Everyone of us who has knowledge of unemployment conditions in our constituencies knows how wide is the suffering which is caused to the unemployed by that condition. We take the case of the man who has worked in a non-insurable trade or who has emigrated to the Colonies for a period. I had in my own constituency last week a young man who had contributed for three years to the unemployment insurance scheme, and had never drawn benefit; he has taken a job for a period in the Dominions, and when he returned here he was denied benefit. If he had not sought a job in the Dominions, and during that period had been a cost upon our own fund, he would have been entitled to benefit. We take the case of the agricultural workers, the domestic workers, the share fishermen and others who are entirely without benefit when they become unemployed. Is there any class in the community to whom the Labour party is more committed than the agricultural workers in this respect?
Why should we wait for a final report from the Royal Commission? If we intended dealing with the problem at all, it should have been one of the first problems to be tackled. In order not to extend my remarks beyond a reasonable time, I will only indicate in brief other anomalies on the side of the suffering unemployed. Where a person is required' to undergo training with an employer as a condition of future employment, he cannot claim benefit. The umpire who gave that decision said:There is a natural desire to assist claimants in such circumstances, but the statutory authorities are bound by the statutory provisions.Why in this Bill, when even umpires express such a view, cannot the statutory-provisions be changed? There is the case of persons who perform some action 2191 on one day in the ordinary course of their employment, but owing to some fortuitous circumstances are prevented from working. They are denied benefit. There is the instance of a miner who descends his pat and finds that there is no work that day. He has descended the pit because the official responsible has not put up the notice, and he is denied benefit, even though he receives no employment and no earnings during that day. There are a hundred cases regarding dependants' allowances, which are abuses far more serious than any of those which are in this Bill. There is the case of the child who is deformed, who grows in the course of years beyond the age of 16, and who is a continued burden upon the parents, but the father out of work receives no dependant's allowance for that child. If a man's wife is earning 10s. a week, he may not have dependant's benefit. If she is earning 8s. 11d. a week, he may get the 9s. benefit. If the wife of a claimant is in an institution, and the man is paying 10s. a week, he gets 9s. benefit. If he is paying only 8s. or 9s. he gets nothing. If a child is in an institution, and the man is paying 6s. a week for the maintenance of the child, he gets benefit. If he is paying less than that, he does not even get the 2s. benefit for the child. If a son wholly supports his mother, but does not live with her, he cannot get benefit. If a wife earns 10s. per week in regular work, but has to pay 2s. a week for cleaning materials, her husband gets no benefit for her when unemployed. If she is paid 8s. and the employer pays for the cleaning materials, then the husband will get benefit.
These are instances which everyone of us who has any contact with the unemployed can multiply again and again. How is it that a Labour Government, when they are dealing with anomalies, dare to come before this House with a Bill that only removes, or seeks to remove, anomalies where the unemployed are alleged to be guilty, but does not include a single reference to those anomalies and abuses from which the unemployed suffer? Here is this House of Commons spending to-day upon a Second Reading of a Bill of this kind, which will have to be discussed many days in Committee also, to save £5,500,000 at the expense of the unemployed. We are living in a critical situa- 2192 tion with our industries collapsing all about us; the Government bring in no plans to deal with the situation, but sit there with utter futility and when they deal with the problem of unemployment at all, they bring in this miserable little Bill which is to save £5,500,000 at the expense of the unemployed. That is not a Government; that is simply a Front Bench of keepers of Office having to respond to an agitation on the benches on the opposite side.
We ask the Government to take their courage in their hands, and not to humiliate themselves and the Labour movement by a continuance of the futile policy which they are now pursuing, but to bring before this House plans which are adequate to the situation, plans which will raise the working-class standards, plans which will reconstruct society on a basis which will give hope to the unemployed; in other words, to carry out the spirit of the policy which we were returned to this House to carry out. If the Government will pursue a policy of this kind, they will find no more enthusiastic supporters than those for whom I speak in this House, but, when they do these fiddling and futile things, we shall be compelled to go into the Lobby to express our contempt for the kind of legislation which they are bringing forward.
§ Miss RATHBONE
There are many aspects of this Bill on which I should like to speak, but I will confine myself to one or two of them. First, with regard to the constitution of the Advisory Committee, the right hon. Lady mentioned that she took special satisfaction in the prospect of that committee, and expressly told us that it would be representative of all the great interests concerned. Yet in the preceding portion of her speech she had been dealing chiefly with the case of the married women workers. I do not know whether the House noticed that, not only when she was talking of the married women workers but of the seasonal and short-time workers, she repeatedly used the pronoun "she" and she was right because a very large proportion of the reasonal and short-time workers are women. I hope she will tell us in her reply what guarantee there is that this Advisory Committee will be in any real sense genuinely representative of the 2193 class of persons whose interests it meddles with most seriously.
Can it really be said that the presence on the committee of three Trade Union Council representatives is a guarantee that the interests of the married women will be looked after, in face of the jealousy in the past of the male trade unionists who largely dominate the Trade Union Congress? Great as is my respect for the right hon. Lady I find it hard to forgive her for that action. Is there anyone in this House who knows better than she the uphill fight women have had to secure their present precarious footing on the slope of industry? Can she find it fair to leave it to this committee which contains no women? The Trade Union Congress may be fair to woman, but she will have to tread the line which the Trade Union Congress prescribes. There may be one or two women among the Trade Union Congress representatives, but will the Minister make it statutory that at least one is a woman? She may think it is some safeguard that she herself is a woman, but Ministers are here to-day and gone tomorrow, and she may be succeeded by someone with less knowledge than herself of the case of the working woman.
My second point is the way that this Advisory Committee will work. How would it deal with the question of the married woman worker? I am not disputing that there are anomalies and abuses in this respect. I have read not only the Report but the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission, and I was greatly impressed by the evidence that there was a certain amount of real abuse. I agree with that, although I doubt whether this is the real way out of the difficulty. The difficulty is the number of married women deciding to remain on benefit after they are married without any real intention of going on working. The period at which the witnesses say they are most anxious to get benefit without working is when they have domestic responsibilities and children at home. The young married woman finds it easy to remain at work. She has comparatively little temptation to seek benefit without working.
At present many employers make it a practice of dismissing women on marriage and the evidence at the Royal Commission shows that very largely the 2194 abuses of this Act are the fault of the employers themselves. It suits many of them to keep a pool or a reserve of labour to draw upon in times of pressure. After this Bill is placed upon the Statute Book, tremendous pressure will be put upon employers by married women to keep them on for the stipulated number of weeks in order that they may count as regularly employed persons. Then, when they have accomplished that period, if they are persons who desire to sponge on the fund, they will find it easier than before.
The more one studies the evidence of abuses brought before the Royal Commission, the more clearly it appears that the fault centres round the decisions of the Umpires and of the courts of referees. They show the most astounding inconsistencies. I will only give one example. The woman administrative officer of the North Eastern district stated that, if a married woman would not take factory work because it did not give her time to return in the dinner hour to nurse her babies, that gave her a reasonable excuse for refusing the work and remaining on benefit. Yet in some of those courts married women have been swept off in shoals because they refused to work unreasonably long hours at low rates of pay at work which would prevent them getting back to skilled work which they have been doing all their lives. Is it not clear that the decisions of these courts of referees and of the umpires are not guided by any clear principle?
The proper way to remedy this anomaly of the married woman is to tighten up the definition of "availability for work" and to make it perfectly plain that, if a married woman applies as a married woman, she should take work that a man or a single woman would take. If she is not free to work the normal factory hours, then she is not available for work. If action on those lines is taken, it would not be necessary to introduce this special discrimination against the married woman as a class, which is so bitterly resented and which is regarded with such grave suspicion by the organised women of the country.
§ Major BRAITHWAITE
I regret very much the reasons which have led the Minister to bring in this Bill. I am one of those who believe in the honesty and 2195 integrity of the working people of this country. I feel that to-day with conditions as they are the steadiness and patience of our people is a really remarkable thing. In no other country in the world would the people of the country have remained so steady and constant as they are doing under the most trying conditions. There never has been in the history of our country such a terrible spectacle of redundant labour as in Great Britain today. I regret that the Minister has found it necessary upon investigation to bring in a Measure of this kind. I feel certain that she would much rather have brought in some Measure which would give employment to people than a Measure of this kind.
I have had the opportunity of visiting the United States of America during the past three months, and in that country I made some inquiries from the very largest of their industrial organisations into the way they were tackling their problem of unemployment. It might interest the House to know that I asked the manager of one of the very largest of the labour employing organisations of the United States of America what they did with the unemployed people, and he replied, "We have no unemployed. We have a shortage of work, but we have no unemployed people. We are spreading the work that we have available over the whole of our personnel in order to maintain the moral and efficiency of those engaged in this industry." Though there is no measure of unemployment pay the people were able, with the wages they were receiving, to work three weeks on and two weeks off, and in that way the personnel necessary to carry on the business was maintained. There was no ease of anybody creating anomalies or trying to get money to which they were not entitled; and at the same time the personnel of the works are kept in a state of efficiency and are ready, when world markets improve, to seize the opportunity and go ahead. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the bread line?"] The bread lines do not concern industrial organisations. The bread lines consist mostly of clerks and people operating in the insurance companies and banks in New York City.
2196 There is one part of this Bill on which I wish to congratulate the Minister, and that is Clause 3. There she has taken power to transfer workers from one part of the country to another, and in that respect she has made a start towards dealing with the problem presented by those of our industries which have redundant workers, many of whom, as the Government know, will never again find work in the industry in which they were brought up. [Interruption.] It may be a continuation of what has been done, but it is a policy which has never been acted upon by this Government. They have done little or nothing in that direction so far.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Lawson)
We are carrying on what has been the practice for some time.
§ Major BRAITHWAITE
In some of those industries there are people who will never get back to their accustomed jobs again, and this part of the Bill will assist in taking them to places where they can be reabsorbed into industry. I believe that at the present time we have 11 months' work in the country for everybody, if we could spread it over the entire population, and Clause 3 might help us to do it. If we could spread the work over the population in that way we could have everybody employed and everybody contributing to the Insurance Fund, which would then be solvent instead of being bankrupt, and there would be no danger of anomalies creeping in. I am certain there is not a single Member in the House who wants to see anyone getting money from any Government fund in a dishonest way. I know that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) does not want to see people taking money to which they are not entitled from any fund. He wants to see the fund put into such a condition that people can have a proper standard of life, and be maintained in a proper way.
§ Mr. TINKER
Does the hon. and gallant Member mean that we should spread out the work by reducing the hours of labour in every industry?
§ Major BRAITHWAITE
No. I do not know whether I should be in order in describing the scheme, but what I suggest is that there is 11 months' work in 2197 the country for everyone. If we gave everyone in the country a month's holiday and paid every man a month's dole pay for the holiday, we should save half the amount of money we are now spending. That is something which I hope the Government will consider. We must put ourselves into a greater state of efficiency. When the employés in skilled industries are out of work for long periods they are of little use for a year or two after they return. Conditions in industry are changing every day and in the case of the engineering industry one might say they are changing almost every month. I do not think I have overstated the case. Men who have been out of work for a long time cannot go back to their industry and at once become the competitive units that it is necessary for us to have if we are to regain our markets. One thing I feel is that this is the wrong time at which to bring in this Bill—just when we are going to adjourn over a period of months. We have 2,600,000 unemployed people, and until late in October there will be no means of legislating to get them back into work.
I do not understand the attitude of the present Government. If ever a party had a record of broken pledges it is the party who are now in office. They have done absolutely nothing to tackle this problem, and when the history of unemployment legislation comes to be written, what has been done by this Parliament will be accounted as the greatest fraud ever perpetrated by any Government upon a trusting public. Surely something ought to rouse the Government to action. There have been attacks on them from inside their own party, there are attacks on them by the new party, the Liberal party are dissatisfied with them and we are bitterly disappointed. Any reasonable legislation to help trade and industry would have had the support of every member of our party, but the Government have proposed no single thing. They have not put a single man into work, and the longer they remain in office the more men seem to get out of work.
If the Government have not the courage to legislate, surely they ought to have the courage to get out and give the country an opportunity to say which party ought to be put in charge of affairs. This is getting to be the most tragic 2198 and most terrible spectacle of industrial chaos which any Government have ever created. This unemployment problem is much more serious than the War. We lost 1,000,000 men in the War, but now we are losing 2,600,000 people, who are gradually going out of service as economic units. We have to fight for world markets, and with a demoralised group of people in the ranks of those who work in industry we shall never secure those markets again. I appeal to the Members of the Government, not as politicians but as Englishmen, and say to them that if they have not got a policy to put before the country they should let other people who have a policy form a Government in their place.
Having said that I want to add that I agree with a great deal that is in this little Bill, though I regard it as a Measure totally inadequate to deal with this problem, and I ask the Government to come forward with other proposals which will restore a little more confidence to industry, and give an opportunity to the people in the country who are ready to play their part in bringing about a restoration of prosperity to Great Britain. In the meantime, so long as the Government remain in their present dormant state, simply sitting down and waiting for the inevitable to happen, the country will only go on from bad to worse, and there will be more and more people crossing the Floor of the House in an effort to turn them out. The hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) was perfectly right this afternoon. He has had an opportunity of seeing the Labour party from inside and I am certain he is perfectly right in his criticism. With criticism from within their own party, with another party forming below the Gangway opposite, with the whole pressure of the country against them, with practically every newspaper in the country against them the Government ought to show that they have a little pride left and go to the country. There would be a restoration of confidence at once if the country had an opportunity of expressing its opinion. I think the time will not be long delayed before the Government are turned out and another Government take their place.
§ Mr. BENSON
In moving the Amendment which is now before the House the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) announced that his party intended to vote 2199 against the Government. I knew that four years ago. I knew that the Independent Labour party intended to vote against the Government as soon as the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) sat down after announcing the attitude of the Opposition towards this Bill.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. Member knew it earlier than that for he knew it at the meeting which was held yesterday.
§ Mr. BENSON
No. I did not. Behind all this self-righteous posturing there is a good deal of shrewd calculation before going into the Lobby, and they have carefully weighed up the situation before deciding to vote against the Government. The Independent Labour party are always ready to strike a reckless blow at the Government if they know that in the Division Lobby there is no risk. It was not until the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove gave an indication of the line which was going to be taken by the Conservative party that the Members of the Independent Labour party declared their intention of carrying this opposition to the bitter end.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton asked why out of all the innumerable anomalies in the capitalist system the Government had picked out the anomalies relating to the Insurance Bill. I will tell the hon. Member. It is because the Government and the bulk of the Members of the Labour party regard the national insurance scheme as a matter of vital importance. The hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway) told us that the present Government might not always be in office, and there might be a Conservative Government some day. What would a Conservative Government like better than to find the Insurance Act riddled with anomalies which are indefensible? Under cover of righting those anomalies they would be able to make a general attack and undermine the whole insurance system and the standard of living. Therefore, the Independent Labour party by opposing this Measure are doing the worst possible service they could do to the unemployed. The speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was a defence not of the anomalies that exist, but of every 2200 imaginary abuse that has ever been thought of by the "Daily Mail," and by adopting the attitude which he did adopt the hon. Member for Gorbals did a great disservice to the unemployment scheme which we want to defend and which we desire to make unassailable. The Amendment states that the Bill threatens the benefit of thousands of people. We are prepared to make the unemployment insurance scheme unassailable, and, by what we are doing, we are protecting the benefits of millions of insured men and women.
I want hon. Members on this side of the House to realise that sooner or later there may be an Conservative Government in power, and in those circumstances I would ask what would be the attitude of such a Government? I have here the evidence which was given by the employers who are the power backing the Opposition. What was their attitude? This is so important that I propose to read it to the House:We would wish equally to emphasise the serious financial burdens imposed on British industry, and in addition we would wish to draw attention to the profound and far-reaching consequences which, since 1921, the payment of unemployment benefits at high rates and for long periods under relaxed conditions have had upon the general wage levels of this country, and our productions costs.In spite of the more or less continuous fall in world prices since 1922, the average wage level in this country has not only failed to keep pace with that fall, but has indeed remained practically stationary at its 1922 level.In our view the system of unemployment benefits, as operating since 1921, has by preventing unemployment from acting as a corrective factor in the adjustment of wage levels and costs of production, been responsible in no small measure for aggravating the very disease which it has been trying to relieve.That is the attitude of the employers. They regard unemployment insurance and the present benefits as a powerful weapon for stabilising wages, and, if tney possibly can, they will depress it. On this question I think the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove has shown the cloven hoof. How did he end his speech He said that this Bill was no use and that the best policy would be to amend the insurance scheme and put it upon an insurance basis. What does that mean? It practically means cutting down the benefit to one half, because the 2201 benefits at the present moment require double the amount of money which the contributions bring in. The Tory party, through their official spokesman, have practically adopted the attitude of the employers as shown by the evidence given before the Royal Commission. I say it is of the utmost importance that before the evil day comes when the Tory party sits upon these benches we should make the unemployment insurance scheme utterly unassailable. Anomalies which no one but the Independent Labour party challenge and certainly not their constituents——
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
How does the hon. Member know that? I challenge him to the effect that he is prepared to give his seat to-morrow and I am ready to fight him on this Bill.
§ Mr. BENSON
If we allowed these anomalies to remain as the Amendment would do, does any hon. Member in this House believe that a Conservative Government would allow them to remain? No, the Conservative party would use them as a screen under which to attack the whole basis of insurance as it exists to-day. It would utilise them as a method of, to use the rather euphemistic phrase, "putting the insurance scheme upon an actuarial basis"—in other words, cutting down benefits and allowing the employers to use unemployment as "a corrective factor in the adjustment of wages." That is why we, who are loyal supporters of the Government, are prepared to support this Bill—because we believe it to be essential, because we are afraid to leave anomalies in the administration of the Act which, undoubtedly, would enable any future Government to do infinitely more grievous harm than anything that this Bill as at present drafted could possibly bring about.
The hon. Member for East Leyton, in criticising the Bill, pointed out that there are only three members of the Trades Union Congress, or three members appointed in consultation with them, on the committee. Apparently, he is under the impression that this committee will have some legislative function. The hon. Member for Bridgeton definitely said that it had. Apparently, neither of them has taken the trouble to read the Bill. This committee is purely a critical committee. It has no power of initiating any regula- 2202 tions; it has no power of vetoing any regulations. The regulations arise at the instance of the Minister, they are sent to the committee for criticism and report, and thereafter the regulations, and the report of the committee upon the regulations, lie upon the Table of the House. There is nothing to prevent any minority of that committee issuing its own report, which will lie alongside the majority report.
§ Mr. BENSON
The Bill. If, instead of interrupting me, the hon. Member would read the Bill, he would see it. It is true, as he said, that these reports and regulations can only be discussed after Eleven o'clock at night, and he protested bitterly. I know, and we all know on this side of the House, that makers of eloquent speeches earlier in the evening frequently leave before Eleven o'clock, particularly when there is an all-night sitting, and leave the loyal Members to do the hard grind through the early hours of the morning—[Interruption.] Surely, Eleven o'clock is not too late to ask the hon. Member to stay. He is eloquent enough at Five o'clock—[Interruption.] There are ample safeguards in this Bill, and I do not think that any Member of the Labour party need be afraid of voting for it. I am fully convinced that in the interests, not so much of the stability of the fund, but of making the unemployment insurance scheme watertight, and giving the fewest loopholes for hon. Gentlemen opposite to attack and undermine it, this Bill ought to go through, and I very willingly support it.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
If anything could be more anomalous than the Bill which we are now considering, it is the speech of the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). What is the complaint of the hon. Member——
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
What was the complaint that he professed to have? It was that certain hon. Members in his party have been more faithful to their principles than he has. They have had the courage to stand up in this House, without hope of any reward, to speak for those who elected them—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. BENSON
If I had a complaint, it was not that, but it was that, having had the courage to speak in the House, they carefully calculated whether they dare have enough courage to go into the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
The hon. Gentleman, of course, beats me there. He has a knowledge of the mental mechanism of other people which I, not being a phychologist, do not claim to possess. The hon. Gentleman is doubtless judging by the processes of his own mind, for, if there is one thing which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and his friends have never lacked, it is courage, and the proof of it is that they have come here, in spite of all the obstacles placed in their way, and have spoken what they believed to be true. It is in the interests of the country that they should do so, and it is certainly not in the interests of the country that endeavours should be made to suppress free speech, because Parliament exists for the purpose of free speech.
When one leaves the personal side of the hon. Member's speech and comes to the argument, one finds oneself in a still greater difficulty in understanding it. He said, at the outset of his remarks, that this insurance scheme should be placed upon an unassailable basis. Is that what the Government are doing? Are the Government carrying out any of the recommendations of the Royal Commission? After having said that, he judged it to be a reproof against the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot), who made so powerful a contribution to the Debate this afternoon, that he had actually said that this Fund should be put upon an insurance basis. It was not the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove who said that. My hon. Friend has been at the Treasury; has he not followed the utterances of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? It was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who said that this Fund should be put upon an insurance basis, and for that purpose he appointed a Royal Commission; and the very terms of reference of that Royal Commission required them to answer the question, How can this Fund be put upon an insurance basis? That, I am afraid, is the answer to the hon. Gentleman.
2204 I think I might also allude to another statement of his which seemed to me to be extraordinary, and to display great ignorance of the facts. He said that one day there might be a Conservative Government sitting on those benches. Does he not know that there is one? Does he not know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the hope of the stern, unbending Tories? Is there any action of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the. Government Bench that would entitle them to be described by any other title than "Conservative"?
One sympathises, of course, and very deeply, with the difficulties of the right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour. She is confronted with, perhaps, the most serious crisis in British history. So serious is it that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has expressed, on more than occasion, very great alarm; and here, if I may refer again to the speech of the hon. Member for Chesterfield, it was not the evidence of the employers that indicated alarm; it was the evidence of the Treasury. The Treasury has called attention to the fact that our Budget is in a state of disequilibrium which portends a similar disaster to that which has befallen Australia. These are the difficulties with which the right hon. Lady is contending, and, naturally, so dazed is she by these difficulties that she has lurched from committee to commission, she has tumbled about from inquest to inquiry; and, at long last, we have the result of all this portentious consideration—we have the great Bill.
Neither the right hon. Lady nor the right hon. Gentleman who sits beside her can for a moment complain of the tolerance of this House The House has been patient. In the whole history of party politics I do not suppose that so much latitude has been shown to a Government. At length, we have the great Bill. What is the justification of it? Is it because the method that it employs is novel and useful, or is it because it is to save £5,000,000? I do not know. It has been recommended to us as being an innovation in procedure which will be thoroughly helpful. Is it an innovation? This method has been in existence in this country, with short exceptions, ever since the beginning of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and I am surprised that nobody has called atten- 2205 tion to it. It used to be known as the discretionary power of the Minister. From 1920 to 1924 a similar power to this existed. It was abolished by the Labour Government in 1924.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It is true to say that the Minister's discretionary power was to some extent the same, but at that time it only applied to the extended benefit of people without insurance, but now it has been extended to people in insurance.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for anticipating what I was going to say. This aggravates what used to take place. The discretionary power of the Minister only interfered with people on extended benefit, but the right hon. Lady is now taking power to interfere with those who have actually contributed and are entitled by law and contract to certain benefits. This power existed from 1920 to 1924. It was abolished in 1924 and restored in 1925, where it remained until 1929. Nobody heard any complaints during that period about casual, intermittent short-time workers and married women. It was reinstated in 1929 by this Government because they found the discretionary power of Ministers intolerable. I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for War is giving a sort of police protection to the right hon. Lady to-night, because when he abolished the discretionary power in 1924 he said:This, it is true, is one of the vital principles or the Bill. … I hope that the House will accept neither the principle that the Minister should have a right to say whether or not a man should have benefit, nor the principle that it is necessary at some time to stop a man's benefit. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1924; cols. 2299–2301, Vol. 175.]He thought that absolutely intolerable. The Home Secretary, who has been attending this Debate throughout the day, did not go quite so far as that. He put his objections upon a different ground, but all the present Ministers had an objection of one kind or another to the proposals contained in this Bill.I do not think"—said the present Home Secretary—that my right hon. Friend is a man likely to abuse power, even though a large measure of it may be placed at his disposal, but no Minister in these days is certain of being in office for long, and therefore I cannot 2206 trust to the vagueness of the future, not knowing who might succeed my right hon. Friend in the condition of removals, I suppose, which in due course, perhaps even before long, may have to take place within the Ministry,"—OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1923; col. 97, Vol. 161.]That was said by the present Home Secretary in 1923, in a discussion on discretionary powers. The objection of the Home Secretary was not that a Conservative Minister might not be trusted to exercise those powers with care and circumspection and with solicitude for the conditions of the unemployed, but that that Minister might be replaced by another ever harsher, and, protected by those powers, the unemployed would have no defence against him. To-day, we must abrogate all those principles because we are going to save £5,000,000. The Budget is in a very serious position. There may be a deficit of £100,000,000 at the end of this year. Therefore, the right hon. Lady is going to save £5,000,000. Thirty thousand are going to be added every week to the unemployment register. For how long will the £5,000,000 pay their benefit? The so-called saving of £5,000,000 justifies the Government in abrogating a great principle. The country is in a crisis, and the right hon. Lady is going to give us £5,000,000. I am impressed by an argument which I think assails that argument, and perhaps the Secretary of State for War will forgive mo for reading it:May I repeat"—said the present Secretary of State for War, when a similar matter was under discussion six years ago—that we refuse to bow the knee to gold, that there are other things in the world besides £5,000,000"—What a coincidence!that you can take from the unemployed, that the unemployed are of infinitely more value than your £5,000,000. … I could understand a big Government, a Government full of noble ideas, a Government that wanted to keep its promises to the people, coming forward and saying: 'We will wipe out this deficit as a had debt and start afresh.' I could understand that, but I cannot understand a Government coming with a cheese-paring, miserable policy of robbing people. I use the term advisedly. These people had promises made to them in good faith, and while you were afraid of them you tried to keep your promises. … You made promises, and did things, and now, when you think there is no danger, your promises are not worth a pie-crust, and you do not care a hang about either, 2207 keeping the promises or maintaining the people that you promised you would maintain. You will take your five million pounds. You will screw them, I do not doubt, and when you have screwed them you have screwed them at the expense of your honour and at the expense of humanity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee D), 22nd July, 1925, col. 746.]That was a very powerful criticism. Nobody has delivered a criticism of that kind to-night. It shows how different is the composition of right hon. Getnlemen opposite and those who oppose them. This Bill has an unsavoury character. It looks as if the right hon. Lady wants to hide behind the proposed committee. I say that for this reason. She knew exactly what was wrong with the Unemployment Insurance Acts. She told us this afternoon exactly what should be done. She does not want to do it. She wants to hide behind the advisory committee, so that when people come to her, poor people, and say: "You promised to attack poverty, and now you are attacking the poor," she will say: "I am not attacking the poor. It is the advisory committee. My heart is bleeding." There will be moaning and lamentation. Rachel weeping for her children! It will be the advisory committee. When some of the poor, gifted with intelligence, say to the right hon. Lady, "But who appointed the advisory committee?" she will say, "That was the Royal Commission." "Why did you appoint the Royal Commission?" "Because there was a three-party conference and that was agreed between everyone."
The right hon. Lady and her colleagues are moving targets. I wish they would move a bit quicker. I do not think it is fair on the unemployed, although I think there are germs of common sense in the Bill. If it were to contain powers to remove all anomalies, the anomalies that tell against the unemployed, I think there would be some sense in the Bill and, therefore, I ask the Secretary of State for War: is it possible to do justice as well as injustice to the unemployed on the Committee stage or is it not? Perhaps he will answer that question when he speaks. There is a great deal to be said for removing from Parliament matters of intricate detail but it is not fair to the unemployed to come here every six months and make changes. If this is to be an Insurance Act, which the right hon. Gentleman wishes it to be, 2208 it is reasonable that you should take it outside the scope of Parliamentary interference and establish a scheme which is understandable by all those who enter into it, so that those who pay the contributions can get the benefits, because the people who are being penalised under the Bill are the people who have paid the contributions, and, if the insurance scheme were upon an insurance basis, no one would question their right or call them anomalies or any other convenient epithet.
It is quite reasonable to put the insurance scheme upon an insurance basis and take it out of Parliament altogether and administer it by a Commission and, if the Bill meant that, there would be something to be said for it as a constructive Measure. But the right hon. Lady says it does not mean that, and yet, by Clause 1 (2, a), you have power to deal with every single insured person. How does the right hon. Lady reconcile that power with what she has told us to-day? There would be justification for taking even tyrannical powers to deal with the question, not of unemployment insurance but of unemployment. Right hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House are a little slow about dealing with unemployment. They have not done anything for the unemployed, so now they are proceeding to take it out of the unemployed, and I do not think it is quite fair. They talk about genuinely seeking work. You may talk about genuinely seeking work when you are genuinely offering work.
§ Mr. DUFF COOPER
This has been from many points of view a remarkable Debate. In the first place, I do not think I have ever heard a Bill brought before the House, which I believe is likely to pass through the House, for which there is less to be said or in favour of which there have been fewer willing to speak. There have been only two whole-hearted and effective speeches made on behalf of the Bill, the speech, of course, of the right hon. Lady who introduced it and the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Sunderland (Dr. Phillips). It is remarkable, and perhaps regrettable, that a Bill that is going to affect so seriously the position of so many married women could find only two sound supporters in the House, and both those should be ladies and both should be single. The Debate is also remarkable 2209 in that it has been graced by the presence of the hon. Baronet the (Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley), whom we are all glad to see, I will not say in his place, but in a place. During the last six months I believe he has paid only one other visit to the assembly. He holds Members of the other parties in supreme contempt. It is possible that we shall survive his contempt. But it is not of us that I am thinking to-day. I am thinking of his constituents. What have the voters of Smethwick done to be disfranchised? If the hon. Baronet rises superior to Parliamentary affairs, if he is right, as perhaps he may be, in holding everything that is done in this Chamber in scorn and contempt, I would suggest to him that he should make way for some humbler person, who will either support the Government or else assist us in the task we are taking on in trying to turn them out.
The hon. Baronet has, during his voluntary absence from this House, wandered far from the principles of Socialism which he once maintained. He told us to-day in referring to what he considered the real right, the indefensible right and the right nobody would dispute, to take as an example, the right of a child to inherit any amount of money left to it by its parents. Even such a moderate Socialist as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been known to take that right into question. He went on to say that that was the kind of payment you would be quite sure would be made if you insured with an insurance company, and that when, in due course, the insurance fell in you expected to be paid, and undoubtedly would be paid, by that company the amount for which you had been insured. I suggest to him that there is one possible contingency in which the company does not pay, and that is if the company happens to be bankrupt.
The reason why this Bill was introduced and the reason why the present Government support such a Measure is not, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) seems to believe, that the Government have been jockeyed into a false position by an intrigue of the wealthy classes stirred up by envy of the poor who are taking their insurance benefit. That is not the reason. Can the hon. Member for Bridgeton really think 2210 that it is? Can he really think that the wealthy classes are so well organised that they could stir up so powerful an agitation as to compel a Labour Government with a majority in this House to adopt measures of this sort against their will? No.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
My hon. Friend is not present, so perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to intervene. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is!"] Can the hon. Member give us any idea of any working class organisation which suggested the Bill?
§ Mr. COOPER
I do not say for a moment that any working class organisation suggested the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman had not interrupted me, I was going to tell him what I thought had suggested the Bill; what had compelled the Bill upon unwilling Ministers, and that was the solid economic facts of the situation. The fear of bankruptcy, and nothing else, has driven Ministers, first, to appoint a Royal Commission, and then to act in this hesitating, unsatisfactory and feeble way upon one, and one only, of the recommendations of that Royal Commission. This Bill brings us up against a fact which is in the background of all political life in England to-day, and that is that for the first time in the history of this country we are living beyond our means. "We are meeting decreasing revenue by increasing expenditure. A rich man may afford to live for years beyond his income and may afford to borrow money at continually increasing rates of interest, but there is no man so rich that he can do that for ever. When we have to deal, not with an individual but with a great country, exactly the same laws apply.
There is no country, however rich, that for ever can go on increasing its expenditure with its revenue getting less. If we were living in the middle of the eighteenth century, when the affairs of Europe were more secure than they are to-day, there might be some excuse for the illusions of some hon. Members opposite, but only in the last fortnight we have seen two great European countries upon the verge of bankruptcy and have realised what that meant not only to this country but to the whole civilised world. It is impossible to go on borrowing for ever and living beyond your means for ever. There is, 2211 fixed and immovable, a certain point beyond which you cannot go, and every year, every month, every day, we in this country have been approaching that point. For the first time the Government seem to have realised the facts of the situation which we have been trying to impress upon them for two years, and they now come to us with a novel request, a request not to borrow money, but to save it. We who have denounced them on previous occasions on the present occasion, and for this reason only, that it marks a new departure in policy on their part, find it impossible, at least I find it impossible, to vote against the Government which is attempting or pretending to attempt-its effort may not be sincere though it appears to be on the face of it—a real effort to make one step in the direction we have been urging them to go.
It is a small step. It is as though in the case of a man who has been running into debt on a gigantic scale someone comes along and assures his creditors that he will give up taking sugar in his tea. But not immediately. The first thing is to set up a committee to ascertain whether it is good for his health, and it will take six or seven weeks to collect that information. I object to this committee, though not for the same reasons as the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I object to it on principle. We are living in an age when there is a danger of all government falling into the hands of committees and commissions—a monstrous regiment of committees. It is one of the banes of democracy. The real reason behind every commission and committee which is set up is that somebody is afraid to accept responsibility. You can shift it on to a committee. The members of a committee or commission are usually admirable, worthy, expert, learned and broadminded people, but they are not men who are in the public eye. I wonder whether any Member of the House can rattle off the names of the members of the Royal Commission whose report is now under consideration. The moment you can refer anything to a committee or commission you feel safe. It is for this reason, and for no other, that the principle of the Advisory Committee has been introduced into this Bill.
2212 We have had no explanation of that committee. The right hon. Lady waxed eloquent in her peroration upon its merits, and thought that it was going to change the whole system of insurance in this country. She thought it was going to do wonderful things, but she did not explain them. She did not say what kind of person was to be chairman; she did not make any defence of the membership of the committee. Perhaps the Secretary of State for War will be kind enough to tell us, not who are the individuals, but what kind of person the Government have in their mind as chairman of this committee. Why is the committee necessary? There are to be three members to represent the Trades Union Congress. Is that really necessary when the Minister of Labour is surrounded here by representatives of the trade union movement? She has at her command also an extremely efficient Department of State—a new Department of State, I would remind hon. Members, for before the War there was no Ministry of Labour. The whole of that Department has been created for her assistance. I believe it is one of the most efficient departments in the Civil Service.
Why should the Minister need extra advice? If she wants the advice of trade unionists there are plenty of trade unionists behind her, and I am sure they would not be backward or reticent in giving her any advice. As to the employers, they are not so many here as Members of the Labour party, but I am sure they would always be willing to come forward if they were asked to give their view. Then there is to be a Treasury official on this committee. That also I regret. This committee is going to have its full share of the lime-light; it is going to attract a great deal of attention and of odium to itself. I think it would be much better that that odium should be attached to a Minister who can come down here and defend his or her conduct in the House of Commons, rather than to a committee which cannot defend itself and which one always feels one has been unfair in attacking. Above all, I think it undesirable that a member of the Civil Service should be a member of that committee. No greater misfortune could befall this country than that the idea should get abroad—I see signs of it already in the speeches of hon. Members 2213 opposite—that the Civil Service is a class organisation, that it is the enemy of the people. The spread of that idea would be fatal to the future welfare of this country.
By putting a representative of the Treasury on a committee which will be bitterly attacked and will undoubtedly arouse tremendous feeling throughout the country, the Government are dragging the Civil Service into politics and doing a disservice to the Civil Service. Perhaps the Secretary of State for War will tell us about the mysterious ninth member of the committee. There are to be a chairman, three members of trade unions, three members representative of the employers, and then there is to be one other. Nothing is said about him. If it were a detective story we would know at once that he was the murderer. We should like to know more about him. They are all to be nominees of the Minister; they all hold office during the Minister's pleasure. I suppose that all of them will obtain a certain remuneration for the services that they perform. I suppose that even the Treasury official, much of whose time will be taken up by this work, will have to make way for a new Treasury official, an extra member of that Department. All these people are to be paid. By whom? By the Unemployment Fund. That is to say, their wages are coming out of the contributions not only of the Government and the employers but of the workers of this country.
It is to take six weeks to set up this committee. Why should it take six weeks? I think it might be done in six hours. It could certainly be done in six days. But in this case the maximum time allowed is apt to prove the minimum time required, and I prophesy that the committee will not be working for six weeks to come. Nothing will be done until the middle of the autumn, and that at any rate will not satisfy those for whom I speak, who feel that something ought to be done at once, though it may well please hon. Members opposite, who would be only too glad to think that nothing at all will be done. Then there are the anomalies mentioned in the Bill, and the case of the married women about which we have heard a great deal this evening from every corner of the House. Many speakers, the hon. Member for Smeth- 2214 wick among them, complained that these abuses have existed for years. Why, they ask, have these anomalies not been remedied before? Why did not the last Government do something about it? I do not think it has been sufficiently realised that the majority of these anomalies have been created by the present Government. It is their own act which they are seeking to undo to-night.
What are they really trying to do in the mass of verbiage, with which they have concealed their real intention in the Bill? What policy are they going to pursue with regard to these married women? At one moment I thought that the right hon. Lady was going to allow the phrase to escape her lips "People who are genuinely seeking work." There was also a moment when the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) asked the hon. Member for Sunderland (Dr. Marion Phillips) whether that was what she meant with regard to the married women, and she took refuge in the efficacious but not original device of saying "I meant exactly what I said." But to all intents and purposes what they do mean is to re-establish that phrase or something like it. I do not say that they are wrong to do so, I think they are right. I think they were wrong to put the onus of proof, not on the people seeking benefit but on those who had to distribute the benefit, and they are really to-night trying to re-establish the system as it existed formerly. That is why they have come so violently up against an important section of their own party.
The schism which we see in the Labour party to-night is not one of degree. It is a real dividing line not between moderates and extremists, not between two sets of people believing the same thing, but believing it to a different extent, but a division of principle, or rather a division between those who have principles and those who have none. We can understand—bitterly as we are divided from them—the point of view of the hon. Member for Bridgeton and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). When we tell them that if they go on spending money in this way, they will drive the country into bankruptcy, they can answer "So much the better." They say that the sooner the capitalist system goes bankrupt the better. "We believe in another systeb," 2215 they say. "We believe that you cannot introduce that system on the top of the older one immediately, and that it would be better for society that the older system should make way for the system in which we believe." That is their policy. We, on the other hand, believe in the old system which has worked so long in this country and in every other civilised country. We believe that by wise administration, by gradual and careful and considered reform it can be made still to work in this country and can be productive of far greater benefits to the whole of the people than the situation as it exists to-day.
That is our point of view. The point of view of the hon. Members I have mentioned is, to us, the wrong one, and we prefer to devote the whole of our political lives to fighting their theory and doing everything in our power, so long as any power remains in us, to prevent a Socialist state from being set up in this country. They, on the other hand, are prepared to fight for that state because they believe in it. But what are we to say of the Government and those who support them? Do they believe in it any longer? Do they believe that anything can be done for the unemployed by any expedient known to Socialism? If they do, why in the name of Heaven do they not produce it? Why do they not come to this House with any socialistic scheme for solving the problem of unemployment? What is there to stop them? At one time it could be said that they had not got a majority, but we know now that they have got the most obedient, the most docile, the most servile majority in this House. Can they be afraid that the Liberal party, which last week voted for the nationalisation of land by a gradual process—[An HON. MEMBER: "A bit of Socialism!"] Certainly, a bit of Socialism, of true Socialism. They voted for a proposal that is only going to come into force in two or three years' time and for which there is no great demand in the country. Can they believe that the Liberal party, which voted for that, would refuse to vote for any practical socialistic scheme that was going to deal with unemployment? And if by some freak of chance they did succeed in goading those patient oxen to the point at which they could stand no goading any more, if they 2216 did vote against it, then what a chance for the Government!
The Government have got sooner or later to consult the country. Their trouble is that they have nothing with which to go to the country, but if they were defeated in this House by the Liberal party and ourselves on a socialistic Measure to deal with unemployment, they would have a cry with which to go to the country and something for which to ask for a majority. We do not believe that they have any scheme, because if they had, they would have brought it forward long before now. The fact is that they have no policy, they have no scheme, they have no plan, and this Advisory Committee, this Bill that we are discussing to-night, is simply a smoke-screen put up to conceal a vacuum—[Interruption]. We on this side of the House may be criticised for not voting against a Measure in which we do not believe, in which we have very little confidence. We have already explained—my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot), I think, made it sufficiently plain—why it is that we shall not oppose the Measure before the House to-night.
We have treated the right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour with extreme consideration. She has come to us time after time asking us for money, and it has been given her with both hands. She used to say that to borrow if you could not repay was dishonourable. That was her own word, and ever since she has done nothing else but pursue that road of dishonour; and she now pleads the exigencies of the situation which nobody could foresee. Well, changed conditions may forgive a great deal. They may pardon you for adopting policies which at one time you would have been reluctant to look at; they may pardon you for taking all sorts of steps that in other situations you would not have taken, but no changed situation can excuse you for doing what you have once believed, and what in your hearts you still believe, to be thoroughly dishonourable. Let us not forget the words that the right hon. Lady used. She will not be allowed to forget them herself. They have been quoted more than once in this House, but they will be quoted very much more at the next election, on every platform in the country. Hon. Members will get 2217 sick of those words. They will still resound in their ears when the Government are defeated.
But still to-night we support a Measure, or at least we allow a Measure to become law, to give great powers to the right hon. Lady, and, although I think she will use them drastically and will not abuse them, we are giving her the worst kind of cheque—a blank cheque—and we shall call her to account in the near future for the use she has made of it. Even if this Division to-night results in a victory for the Government, the Debate will have done them damage throughout the country, because the people of England will have realised how much they have been deceived by the Government which two years ago was elected principally on the cry of restoring a 7-hour day in the mines, of reducing unemployment, and of distributing greater benefits with a freer hand to those who remain unemployed. Last night they were pushing through this House at the eleventh hour a Bill to prolong the 7½-hour day for another year. To-night they are asking us to legislate in order to take away unemployment benefit from those who have hitherto been enjoying it. The reason for this melancholy and tragic climax is not that Ministers are ill-disposed or are inefficient; it is because they have no policy and no political beliefs. They have lost their illusions. They have lost their faith. They have lost their following, and, when they themselves are put to the test, they will find that they have lost the country.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. T. Shaw)
Whatever complaint may be made of the Debate, no one can complain of its lack of variety. We have heard just one or two things about the Bill in the course of the evening. We have in a glancing way had its provisions talked about, but, generally speaking, we have had speeches which, though excellent in character, had, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, nothing to do with the case. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who began the Debate made a contribution which was rather unique. He began by giving us substantial chunks of history, philosophy and, above all, admonition. We were to be supported in the Bill, but our blood was to be on our own heads, and he threatened us 2218 with the spectre of Charles I, and talked about Strafford's ghost wandering round the House. Then he began to argue the Bill seriously and constructively, and his contribution is worthy of being treated not only as the first, but as the best treatment of the Bill. He said it was as great a revolution in its way as D.O.R.A., that it completely changed the system of unemployment insurance, that it meant putting the whole of the people who are insured under the charge of the Minister; and, in fact, that it was a complete change from our usual policy and from ordinary constitutional practice. If those things be indeed the case, then we have fairly to meet the arguments used.
Let me recall to the House the genesis of this Bill. From every part of the House, without exception, there were complaints that people were drawing insurance benefits by fraud, or, at any rate—though "fraud" was the word frequently used—were drawing them when they ought not to be drawing them. Those complaints did not come from one part of the House, but from all parts. I want some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House to remember that there is no keener critic of abuse and no keener hater of what is considered to be wrong than the decent working man. I shall have a word or two to say about the working man and woman that I know before I have finished. As a matter of fact, the Government found themselves with an interim report in which certain anomalies were referred to. The Government agreed in principle with the interim report that these were anomalies which ought to be removed, but could not agree with the method suggested by the commission for abolishing the anomalies. We found, on investigation, that it was possible by adopting a rough-and-ready method, by adopting a legislative method, that we could easily provide more anomalies than the anomalies we got rid of. Consequently, we decided, quite coolly and in the interests of the insured persons themselves, that it was advisable to ask the House for a power, which is certainly not ordinarily asked for, but which, in the circumstances of the case, we believe to be fully justified.
Remember what has taken place in connection with unemployment insurance. Minister after Minister, without excep- 2219 tion, of both parties has utterly failed to foresee what was likely to happen. In 1924 I found myself in a position with the debt on the fund rapidly diminishing and unemployment rapidly falling. If ever there were a time since 1921 when it appeared as if things were becoming what is generally known as normal, it was in 1924. When we went out of office, the debt on the fund was about one-eighth of what it was when the Conservative Government went out of office, so that, if ever there were a time when we could have assumed that one could deal in a permanent way with unemployment insurance, it was in 1924. My calculations, like the calculations of my predecessors, and of my successors, were proved by the march of events to be altogether wrong. Nobody could foresee it, and we are in the condition now when we cannot foresee what is likely to take place. If it be the case that certain categories of people are drawing benefit who ought not to draw benefit—and I am going to maintain there are those categories—then, obviously, with all the miscalculations that have been made in the past, and with the not genuinely seeking work Clause in our minds, it is essential to provide, not for rigidity but for elasticity in our legislation, so that a remedy may be found if certain words do not work as they are expected to work.
"Not genuinely seeking work" are words one would have thought in the ordinary way would have been quite comprehensible, and could not be misunderstood. The decisions taken on those words show, however, that you must have the capacity to deal with cases where the application of your words is quite different from your intention, or you are going to have the same anomalies as in the past. Quite in cold blood, knowing what we are doing, we suggest this experiment, believing that we can do greater justice to the unemployed people than by any form of words that could be devised; for how, indeed, can one get a formula for married workers which will be as equitable in the case of the biscuit worker in Scotland as of the textile worker in Lancashire. The conditions are absolutely different, and consequently we make the suggestion that we do make.
It is said that this is taking the matter out of the hands of Parliament and crush- 2220 ing discussion, whereas in truth it is encouraging discussion and encouraging Parliament to take an interest in the business. It is wrong to assume, as the hon. and gallant Member did, that this Committee is to be the judge in these matters and is really in control of administration. The Minister is responsible for the regulations; the Minister must bring the reports to the House, and must be responsible, as, indeed, the Minister ought to be. The House will have every opportunity to discuss what is being done on the presentation of these reports, and if it disagrees it can make its voice heard and its influence felt. So we do not apologise for the experiment in any shape or form. Is there such a revolution as has been suggested? It is not correct, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman says, that this Bill will cover all the insured persons. It is the intention to cover four specific classes of people, and there will be whole ranges of the community to which this Bill will not apply at all. If it be the case that there is any doubt about this, of course the Government will be perfectly willing to listen to any suggestion that may be made, and to make it clear that in its general application the Bill will be limited to the classes specified in it.
May I deal with the constitution of the Committee? There are three contributory forces to the Unemployment Fund. There are the workers; and we say to the organised workers, "Three representatives for you." There are the employers; and we say to the employers, "Three representatives for you." There are the general public, and we say, "Three for you." Could anything be fairer than that? And when we say there is to be a representative of the Treasury, that does not necessarily imply that it will be a civil servant member of the Treasury. There are other representatives of the Treasury than civil servants, and I hope it will not be taken for granted that we mean to push a well-known civil servant into the line of fire, where it is likely he will be heavily criticised as a result of his actions. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman can take it for granted that the serious points he made are either not so serious as he thought them or, if he can suggest a way that will make the meaning plainer, he will find willing ears to listen to him.
2221 He said there was nothing in the Bill dealing with the time when it would become operative. It is perfectly certain, is it not, that we cannot appoint a committee before we get the power? I should think it is perfectly evident that if we have to have a chairman or chairwoman we must get a person of such standing and such known fairness of character that he or she will command universal respect. People of that kind are not to be picked up in the street in a minute. You have to try one person after the other, and finally get the best that you can. In Clause 4, there is a proposal providing that the scheme will be ready in three months' time, and the committee ought to be set up, chairman and members complete, in about six weeks.
Let me now turn to what has been said about giving up the powers of the House under this Bill. We are the last party in the world to try to take away from the House of Commons its powers. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Guillotine?"] I understand that it is within the power of the House to take measures to cut off unnecessary discussion, and it was by the power of the House that the Guillotine was set up. We have no intention whatever of attempting to undermine the influence of Parliament, and I claim that in a case of this kind Parliament has more power by holding the Minister responsible for her regulations than it would have under a Statute on which it could say nothing, whether the Act worked well or badly.
It has been said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvin-grove (Major Elliot) that all the country is in sympathy with the objects of this Bill, and the hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Cooper) argued in the opposite direction. I think that is a rather extraordinary coincidence. We have also been told that this Bill has only two supporters, but it is still going going to be carried, and evidently those two supporters are very strong in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) said that, in his opinion, although the word used in the Bill was "anomalies" in reality it meant that there had been a abuse of legal powers, and he gave a case of earnings which were about twice the amount of the 2222 ordinary workman's earnings in the country, and asked if we believed that a man with those earnings should draw benefits which had been contributed by people working a full week, and earning only half that sum. I say deliberately that I am not in favour of paying benefit to any man who, by working a short week regularly, makes double the average wage. I am not in favour of paying a man of that kind unemployment benefit. I do not want to use strong words, but I know the words my own people would use about cases of that kind, and if I want to hear strong words on this question I can go to my own people.
I do not claim a very high moral standard, and I do not claim that I am the only person whose heart beats for the workers. [Interruption.] I was earning my living at an age when many people who talk about the poor and about the workers were preparing for the university, and I have been actually poorer myself than most people. [An HON. MEMBER: Did not the poor provide the suit you are wearing?"] I have got a suit on, and I have earned it, and the poor did not give it to me. If I may be permitted a personal note, to which I think I am entitled in view of what has been said, I have known what it has been to be in bed with rheumatic fever, for my wife to be in bed utterly worn out, and to have three children in bed ill, with not a farthing in the house. I had nowhere to turn to for help, but was dependent upon the kindness of my own people, the workers, and that I have never forgotten. When I am told that we are the people who are robbing the poor, I could say a great deal, but I will simply say that there is too much humbug in these statements.
We are told that we are robbing the poorest of the poor, but there is not a word in this Bill that will rob anybody. We are told that we are putting a premium upon women living in sin. That is the most extraordinary statement that I have ever heard. I remember that at one time handbills were given out at the door of every Catholic church in Preston stating that the Labour party were Bolshevists, and that Bolshevism meant the nationalisation of women, and appealing to all good Catholics to vote against the Bolshevists. My hon. Friend the Mem- 2223 ber for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has given them another handle; he states that the Labour party is giving a premium to the woman who is living in sin. It is a most monstrous and foolish idea that this Bill will give a premium to the woman who is living in sin. It could only emanate from the mind of a man who was either so hopelessly prejudiced against the party or such an absolute megalomaniac that he did not appreciate the meaning of what he was saying.
Then there was the right hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley). I am afraid that he has played the part of Marc Anthony so often that he must play it whether the play is Julius Caesar or not. I believe that if he were discussing the Copernican theory he would say that all our astronomy was wrong because the Government had not got on with its long-term policy. He asked, why have all these years gone by without the anomalies being found out before? I would tell him that the anomalies were pointed out, as I have already said, from all sides of the House. Does he forget, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals and my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) forgot, that our Bill has put scores of thousands of people on insurance benefit? Have they forgotten that our Bill increased the benefits? If they have not forgotten, they have a capacity for hiding the truth which I think is absolutely unexampled in this House. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick——
§ Mr. SHAW
He is "the right hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick." He raised the point that there is only one true test as to whether anybody ought to remain on the insurance register or go off, and that was the offering of a job. If the job was not accepted, it must be assumed that the person was not genuinely unemployed. Take the case where you have not a job to offer, where you have a woman who has got married and you know that, deliberately, she has no intention to work again. If you do not offer her a job, are you to go on paying her? Is that the idea?
Let me point out another detail which some of our friends seem to forget. They 2224 are so unaccustomed to industrial practice that they do not know that there are certain unions that will not let the Employment Exchange interfere by offering jobs. I wonder if the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) belongs to the Patternmakers' Union.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Yes, ever since I was of the age to join, and I had the honour of being on the executive for four or five years.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Patternmakers filled vacancies, or the Exchange, but the great majority of patternmakers are fixed up, as other workers are fixed up, by going round and getting the jobs themselves.
§ Mr. SHAW
I do not question for one moment the hon. Member's statement. I merely say that it is so different from my information that I am rather staggered. If you had compulsory registration of vacancies by employers and compulsory filling by the exchanges there would be a case for making a clear dividing line and saying that unless the exchange could offer a job, it must be assumed that there are no jobs to offer. We have not got there yet. The Government are acting on the principle that a job must be there before there is any question of a person not seeking work. Although that principle is being acted upon, it would be very inadvisable in the present state of trade to attempt to make that an absolutely binding condition.
The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. G. Hardie) told us a story about travelling with some men who are week-end workers. They are the type of men definitely dealt with in one part of the Bill. He said that the weekly wages of one man were £7 10s. and of another man £5 10s. and that the labourers got £2 10s. Is anyone in this House going to say that they would pay insurance benefits for four days to a man earning £7 10s.? Is there any Member of this House who would say that it is proper to go on paying these benefits?
§ Mr. G. HARDIE
My point was this—At what point is a man insured, and at what point does he become uninsured under the Bill? Is the matter to be put 2225 on the basis of what a man earns or is it a question of time or of insurance?
§ Mr. SHAW
The Bill definitely pro-Tides that the Minister shall have power to deal with these cases. "When in habitual work a man or woman works two- days and earns either the normal wage or more than the normal wage, the Minister will have power to say that in those cases benefits shall not be paid or to determine what proportion of the benefits shall be paid. I make no apology for that. It is a perfectly square thing, and I think that the workers themselves have more objection to payments of that kind than anybody else. We are told we should not have this Bill because it is not based on proven figures. How can they be proved? Everyone knows the cases exist. There is every power in the Bill for the Minister to be strictly just to everyone, and the statement that it is to rob the poorest of the poor is a monstrous invention. There is no truth in it.
I will deal with one or two questions raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I have dealt with his argument about effective control and I have told the House it has been deliberately done in order that we may experiment in order to find the proper and the best way to deal with cases, and to have sufficient elasticity to find the best way without having to get a fresh Act of Parliament every time a regulation proves not to work in the way we want it to. Surrender of great principles! What principle have we surrendered? There is no surrender of principle. There is no Member of the House who is a keener upholder of the rights of the poor, and of the duties of the poor, than Members of the Government, and as for the assumption that somewhere there is a party whose humanitarian feelings are so high above those of everyone else that we poor mortals can only look up to them—they are a collection of unsocial megalomaniacs. So contented are they with their own superiority that they -cannot even imagine that there are other people quite as good as they are themselves. Let them get it out of their heads that we look upon them as being superior persons. When they can talk as equals, we will talk with them. When they sit in solitary grandeur and pride themselves that they are the best and 2226 noblest and that they alone look after the poor. We listen with amused contempt. [Interruption.] We are told we are trying to pass over our work to other people who know nothing at all about it. There, again, the Bill has not been weighed, because we are not transferring our work to other people who will be responsible, without knowing anything about it. The Minister will be responsible for the regulations and will be responsible to the House. It is a total misrepresentation of the Bill to pretend that we are putting our responsibility upon them. The Minister is there and must be responsible under the Bill.
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
Will the Government treat this committee with the same disregard as they have treated other committees?
§ Mr. SHAW
I tried to explain that the Government was accepting the responsibility, and was not trying to push it on to a committee. The committee will be an advisory committee, as every committee is an advisory committee, and the Government must bear its own responsibility for the policy.
Let me turn to the question of bidding for votes. The hon. Member for Bridge-ton seemed to think that, if you voted for this Bill, it was a very bad vote-catching proposition. I am prepared to state to my constituents—I have not one voice here and another there—that I object to paying benefits to people who are working for a full week's wage. I object to paying benefits to married women who have no intention of working. I object to paying benefit to seasonal workers whose family for generations have worked at seasonal occupations and never did work at anything else. I object to paying benefit to people who are making more than an average weekly wage at their trade and week in and week out drawing benefits in addition.
§ Mr. SHAW
I have told you about the married women. I will give a typical case of what I mean. Take the case of a woman who marries a man who has a business. They want to increase the business. The wife gets work for a certain number of months. Every- 2227 body knows for what purpose. In order to get enough money to increase the business. Everybody knows that when the business has increased to a point she will give up working, and not come back any more. Are you in favour of stopping that woman's benefit? I am, and I will say so in my own Division. I turn to the points raised by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). She is very anxious that one member of the committee should be a woman.
§ Mr. SHAW
Six out of the nine will be appointed by the employers' associations and by the trade unions, and I do not know what are the intentions of my right hon. Friend with regard to the other three. Certainly I think the hon. Lady may take it for granted that there will be someone on the Committee who will know particularly what married women's work is. The hon. and gallant Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite) gave us some rather interesting details with regard to what is going on in America, and he showed us how we could abolish the whole of the unemployed problem by giving a month's holiday with pay to all the workers. I am sure that his representations will be received favourably by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and if he can show us how we can abolish the unemployment problem by giving holidays with pay, no one would be more delighted than we should be to accept his advice at once.
I am not going to conclude by way of a peroration, but by making a perfectly plain and categorical declaration as to the intentions of the Government. The intentions of the Government are that everybody genuinely entitled to benefit shall get it, but that in cases where owing to the law there are classes drawing benefits who are already better off than the ordinary working man then those classes shall not get benefit. Where it is quite evident that work is systematically concentrated in a way that gives a big return there shall be no claim for benefit on top of that, but there are cases where the intermittent work 2228 is purely due to the ordinary accidents of trade. Take, for instance, the building trade. No one would dream that this should apply to the building trade. In the engineering trade where a man might work three days and three nights at a stretch at an engine and then perhaps play for two or three weeks, no one would ever dream of stopping his benefit. But how are you going, without experiment, to draw a Clause that will hit the man who is drawing the money but will not hit the man who is working intermittently and not drawing it? We suggest that ours is the only practical way, and knowing perfectly well what we are doing, we commend the Bill to the House.
There is no greater enemy of the working classes of this country than the man or woman who fills them with ideas which are not for their own good. It is a perfectly sound idea on the part of working men to object to what appears to be an improper action. It is not true to say that the workers are not in favour of this Bill. There is no keener opponent of abuses in the world than the working classes. You cannot help the Unemployment Insurance scheme, you cannot help your own friends, by shutting your eyes to the fact that these anomalies exist. We have never claimed that we are going to save £5,000,000. If the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) had listened to the Minister of Labour he would have known that she specifically said that she could not guarantee any figure, and if he will read the explanatory memorandum he will find that the Royal Commission estimated that figure. My right hon. Friend made it perfectly clear that she had made no estimate, and the hon. Member wanted to make a debating point and made it at the expense of strict veracity. I ask the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill in the belief that it is a fair Bill and in the best interests of the poorest of the poor themselves.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 231; Noes,. 19.2087
|Division No. 383.]||AYES.||[3.28 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Groves, Thomas E.||Malone, C. L' Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Grundy, Thomas W.||Manning, E. L.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mansfield, W.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||March, S.|
|Arnott, John||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Marcus, M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C)||Marley, J.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Marshall, Fred|
|Barr, James||Hardle, David (Rutherglen)||Mathers, George|
|Batty, Joseph||Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Matters, L. W.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Harris, Percy A.||Messer, Fred|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Haycock, A. W.||Milner, Major J.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hayday, Arthur||Montague, Frederick|
|Benson, G.||Hayes, John Henry||Morley, Ralph|
|Bevan, Aneurln (Ebbw Vale)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Muff, G.|
|Bromfield, William||Harriotts, J.||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Brooke, W.||Hicks, Ernest George||Murnin, Hugh|
|Brothers, M.||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Hoffman, P. C.||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Horrable, J. F.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)|
|Cape, Thomas||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Palin, John Henry.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Isaacs, George||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Chater, Daniel||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Perry, S. F.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Cornpton, Joseph||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Potts, John S.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Daggar, George||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Dallas, George||Kelly, W. T.||Raynes, W. R.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Knight, Holford||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Ritson, J.|
|Day, Harry||Lang, Gordon||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Romeril, H. G.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Rosbotham, D. S. T|
|Dukes, C.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Rothschild, J. de|
|Duncan, Charles||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Rowson, Guy|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lawrence, Susan||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Samuel, Rt. Hen. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Cattle)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Leach, W.||Scurr, John|
|Egan, W. H.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Sexton, Sir James|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lees, J.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (preston)|
|England, Colonel A.||Leonard, W||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Shield, George William|
|Evans, Major Herbert (Gateshead)||Logan, David Gilbert||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Freeman, Peter||Longbottom, A. W.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lunn, William||Shinwell, E.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Mossley)||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Glassey, A. E.||McElwee, A.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Gossling, A. G.||McEntee, V. L.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Calthness)|
|Gould, F.||McKinlay, A.||Sinkinson, George|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsoy, Rotherhlthe)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James J.||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McShane, John James||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Tinker, John Joseph||White, H. G.|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Toole, Joseph||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Stamford, Thomas W.||Vaughan, David||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Strauss, G. R.||Viant, S. P.||Williams, Dr J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sullivan, J.||Watkins, F. C.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Sutton, J. E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Taylor R. A. (Lincoln)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)||Wellock, Wilfred||Winterton, G. E. (Lalcestsr, Loughb'gh)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Welsh, James (Paisley)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Thurtle, Ernest||West, F. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Tillett, Ben||Westwood, Joseph||Mr. Paling and Mr. Charleton.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Nail-Cain, A. R. N.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)|
|Albery, Irving James||Forgan, Dr. Robert||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Frece, Sir Walter de||Penny, Sir George|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Cault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Boyce, Leslie||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Bracken, B.||Hammersley, S. S.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hartington, Marquess of||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd. Henley)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Broadbent, Colonel J.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Hurd, Percy A.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Iveagh, Countess of||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Thompson, Luke|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Christie, J. A.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Locker- Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Macquisten, F. A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Marjoribanks, Edward||Womersley, W. J.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Milne, Wardlaw-, J. S.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Sir Frederick Thomson and Captain Austin Hudson.|
|Ferguson, Sir John||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Fielden, E. B.||Muirhead, A. J.|
|Division No. 384.]||AYES.||[11.28 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Perry, S. F.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Harris, Percy A.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Haycock, A. W.||Phillips, Dr. Marlon|
|Alpass, J. H.||Hayday, Arthur||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayes, John Henry||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Arnott, John||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Potts, John S.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Price, M. P.|
|Ayles, Walter||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Barr, James||Herriotts, J.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hicks, Ernest George||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Ritson, J.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hoffman, P. C.||Romerll, H. G.|
|Benson, G.||Hollins, A.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Hopkin, Daniel||Rowson, Guy|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Isaacs, George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Bromfield, William||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Sanders, W. S.|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Brooke, W.||Jones, Rt. Hon Leif (Camborne)||Scurr, John|
|Brothers, M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sexton, Sir James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Shield, George William|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Lang, Gordon||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Cameron, A. G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Shinwell, E.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Chater, Daniel||Lawrence, Susan||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Clarke, J. S.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Sinkinson, George|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Leach, W.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Daggar, George||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley).|
|Dallas, George||Lees, J.||Smith, Rennle (Penistone)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Leonard, W.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Lewis, T. (Southamoton)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Longbottom, A. W.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lunn, William||Scrensen, R.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Dukes, C.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Strauss, G. R.|
|Duncan, Charles||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Sullivan, J.|
|Ede, James Chuter||McEntee, V. L.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Edge, Sir William||McKinlay, A.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Edmunds, J. E.||MacNelli-Weir, L.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Egan, W. H.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Manning, E. L.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Evans, Major Herbert (Gateshead)||Mansfield, W.||Tillett, Ben|
|Fielden, E. B.||Marcus, M.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Foot, Isaac||Marshall, Fred||Toole, Joseph|
|Freeman, Peter||Matters, L. W.||Tout, W. J.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham. Upton)||Middleton. G.||Vaughan, David|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Mills, J. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Milner, Major J.||Walker, J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Montague, Frederick||Wallace, H. W.|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gill, T. H.||Morley, Ralph||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Gillett, George M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Glassey, A. E.||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mort, D. L.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Muff, G.||West, F. R.|
|Gould, F.||Murnin, Hugh||Westwood, Joseph|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Nathan, Major H. L.||White, H. G.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Naylor, T. E.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Gray, Milner||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||Noel Baker, P. J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Oldfield, J. R.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Palin, John Henry|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Paling, Wilfrid||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. William Whiteley.|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Brockway, A. Fenner||Buchanan, G.|
|Cove, William G.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Maxton, James||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Wise, E. F.|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Sandham, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Beckett and Mr. Kinley.|
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next, 13th July.—[Mr. T. Kennedy.]