§ [THIRD DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [10th November,]
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. G. Lloyd.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:But regret that Your Majesty's advisers have no policy for the planning and coordination under public ownership or control of the principal industries, including agriculture and the banking and financial machinery of the country, nor for British initiative in international action to deal effectively with the outstanding and vital problems of war debts and reparations, of international currency and exchange, and all the factors which are at present constituting economic barriers against the free flow of international trade, so as to enable the people of this country and the world to enjoy steady employment and to reap the full advantage of the ever-increasing productive power of mankind; and further regret that there is no mention in Your Majesty's Gracious Speech of any intention of reversing the unjust economies imposed upon the unemployed and other classes of persons or of restoring and developing the social services.It has already been said that the House is considering the King's Speech in very unprecedented circumstances because, although the Government have an unexampled majority in the House, yet they have no policy whatsoever to put forward. Never before in the constitutional practice of this House has a King's Speech been so entirely devoid of any programme whatsoever. Nothing is stated in the King's Speech except the problems which have to be solved; the solution which is to be found for them is not given either in detail or in out- 278 line. The Opposition, therefore, find themselves in the position that there is nothing to oppose in the King's Speech, because there is nothing in it at all. That being so, they deem it incumbent on them to offer some suggestions to the Government as to measures which might be taken in order to solve the problems which the Government apparently realise exist. These suggestions are suggestions which were never properly considered at the recent Election. The Prime Minister and others found it necessary to fight that Election upon scares, like the Post Office savings scare and the German marks scare, to fill up a gap which was left by their entire lack of constructive policy. I hope that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), which gave a full and fair statement of the position as regards the Post Office savings, stating that the procedure had actually been raised before the Public Accounts Committee in July of this year and had been approved by them, both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Dominions will give the House some information as to how they came to make the statements which they made two days before the Election.
The Prime Minister, in his speech on Tuesday—a speech which seemed hardly to inspire his followers with enthusiasm for a national hero on his first appearance in the House—said he would approach any proposals by the Opposition in a truly national spirit, in the sense that whatever was good in them he would adopt and whatever was bad in them he would reject. One can understand his anxiety to get suggestions from anyone. I have a feeling that the suggestions from the Opposition will not meet with such a speedy response as those which were urged upon him by the hon. baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and by the right hon. Member for Epping. Apparently the Prime Minister is to sit as arbitrator upon these various suggestions, and to decide which of them is to be put into force. I gather that the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), from his speech yesterday, was feeling considerable anxiety as to the position of the Free Trade followers of the Government. What does this announcement of the Prime Minister amount to? Does it mean that this House is again to experience the 279 formula-mongering which went on before the General Election? Are we to have the question raised as to whether double taxation by tariffs can be met by putting a tariff on three quarters of the goods and not on the other quarter, as was done in another arrangement which was made?
Are the Lobbies to be filled with laughter at the latest story told by the Tories of their Liberal leaders, or are we to wait until the Lord Privy Seal and the Secretary of State for the Colonies have finally decided whether Tariff Reform or Free Trade is the proper line to take for the salvation of the country? If we are to wait on that, then I think that those who desire immediate action will find "immediate action" postponed until the Greek Kalends. The Prime Minister promised the House a most careful inquiry into the problems, both national and international, which confront us. I should like to warn those keen young Members of the House who have come here in order to induce the House to take immediate action that the Prime Minister has a perfect mania for inquiries and committees and commissions. He is probably the greatest artist in avoiding the issue by a carefully-planned series of inquiries that has been known in politics for many years, and the method by which he postpones the evil day when a decision has to be come to, is well known by those who were in the House before.
It is idle to suggest that the problem of tariffs and Free Trade has not been fully canvassed already. The trouble is that different people have come to different conclusions upon it and those different people all find themselves in the Government at the present time. We on this side can appreciate fully the attitude of the Conservative party. After some doubt and hesitation, the Lord President of the Council came to the conclusion that he was to accept whole hog Protection and that that would suffice to cure all the evils to which the country was subject. We on this side believe that to be a fallacy. We understand that argument and that attitude and we shall fight against the imposition of Protection. What we fail to understand is the attitude of such persons as the Lord Privy Seal and the Home Secretary who think that the 472 Protectionists in their party are going 280 to sit quietly by while their policy is examined by persons who are well known to be in opposition to it. Everyone realises the value of a decoy to beguile the Free Trader into the net of Protection. To the decoyer, the decoy serves a most useful purpose, but for the decoy it would not seem to be much of a job. When the decoying has been completed, the only place for the decoy is either the shelf or the rubbish-heap. However, whatever the result may be of the internal strife which has already broken out in the National party, we can only deal at the moment with that lack of proposals which appears in the King's Speech and we are going to attempt to put forward some constructive suggestions in order that the Prime Minister may refer them to a committee, as no doubt he will, and give us the benefit later on of the report of that committee upon them.
There are three main heads in the Amendment—first national planning and reconstruction; second, international coordination, and third the treatment of the unemployed and certain other people who have suffered cuts, in the intervening period before reconstruction takes place. I desire to deal first with the international situation. The Prime Minister has said that so far as international politics are concerned, he sticks to the old view which he possessed before he ceased to be a Member of the Labour party. That statement, I noticed, was not very warmly received by his new Conservative friends, but so long as he continues to stick to those ideals and that policy, we on this side of the House will give him our wholehearted support in international matters. Certainly, we should do nothing to oppose the carrying out of the policy which has been the policy of the Labour party ever since 1919. the policy of getting rid of War debts and War payments in order that once more the world may return to something like normality in its international trade. We shall certainly assist the Prime Minister in the most arduous task which he will have in trying to persuade his somewhat reactionary allies to travel along that path with him.
We believe that it is essential for this country to take the initiative in bringing about the summoning of an international conference to deal with all international 281 economic difficulties. Thanks to the conduct of foreign affairs during the past 2½ years by Arthur Henderson, this country has regained its international leadership. [Laughter.] I am glad to hear those jeers from hon. Members opposite who do not believe that this country holds the international leadership—a truly patriotic attitude. This country still has an unrivalled place in international and world politics and it is perfectly capable of taking the leadership. Knowing the new Foreign Secretary as I do, I am convinced that no one could present more cogently than he, or more persuasively, the case for fresh agreement on all these matters. If he will go forward on those lines, we will give him our unstinted support in every action that he takes. But these problems cannot be solved separately. They are so closely inter-related that carrying out a series of different conferences upon them must, in our view, lead to failure in the finding of any solution, and if there is such failure, we believe that it will be disaster to the future of the civilisation of the world.
We are seriously disturbed on these benches at the reactionary forces which are found in the National Government. That great supporter of the National Government, Lord Beaverbrook, who has been responsible, we believe, for a great part of the policy of the Conservative party, which he has forced upon them largely against their will, has recently started an attack upon the League of Nations. On Monday night, in one of his papers, he deplored the mention of the League of Nations in the King's Speech. We regard that, at this moment of crisis, when the League of Nations is attempting to deal with the Manchurian dispute, as a very bad augury for the future of the international politics of this country. Then, we find the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Air, at the Guildhall on Monday night saying:For the physical and also for the moral support of the world, it would be foolish to abolish, or even to weaken still further, that index of national security which we all understand, and which is embodied in the maintenance of the Imperial Forces of the Crown.4.0 p.m.
I am sorry to hear hon. Members, but not right hon. Members opposite, cheer 282 that statement, because it seems to be an unfortunate attitude to adopt when you are about to enter upon a Disarmament Conference, and I hope that the Prime Minister, or some other Member of the Government Front Bench, will tell us whether that is a statement made with full Governmental responsibility, and is intended to foreshadow the policy of this Government at the Disarmament Conference in February next.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Whether it is a fact that Mr. Arthur Henderson made it, I am afraid I do not know. All I say is that at this moment, when a Disarmament Conference is in view, we do desire to know whether that sets out the declared policy of the British Government upon disarmament in this country. Now the conference which we believe ought to be called will have to deal with disarmament, as well as with other matters, because disarmament, in our view, is an essential part of the economic difficulties of the world at the present time. The burden of continued armaments in this country alone is over £100,000,000 a year. Throughout the world the total sum spent on armaments amounts to many hundred million pounds, and we do not believe that mere benevolent or even anxious aspirations as regards future peace are sufficient at a time like this, when the question of armaments is so vital to the economic future of Europe and the world. We believe that quick and decisive action is essential before we are overwhelmed by the storm clouds which the Prime Minister said he saw rapidly approaching this country. The Prime Minister said that we must not rush into any disarmament or any other conference; we must prepare the ground first, and secure the co-operation of all. We agree, so far as the urgency permits, but so urgent is this matter, that we believe that unless the National Government strain every effort to secure an international conference on the scale necessary before it is too late, Germany will crash, and other countries will crash, and then the utility of such a conference will largely have disappeared.
As we see it, there are four problems to he faced by that conference. First 283 of all, there is the problem of disarmament to which I have already referred; secondly, the problem of War debts and reparations and its inter-relation to the subsequent commercial debts and municipal loans which have been contracted by Germany and other countries, and which form a great dead weight stopping the purchasing power of vast masses of population throughout the world from being available for absorbing the products of industry. Then there are the currency and exchange problems, including the problem of currencies based on the silver standard, which is one of the matters which it is vitally necessary, in the European interest, should be tackled forthwith. The breakdown of the Gold Standard, according to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason), who spoke yesterday, and who took, if I may say so, the typical bankers' view, was inevitable. The accumulation of gold by France and America, he said, could not be avoided. I am afraid I do not appreciate his outlook, because exactly the same argument might have been applied to this country pre-War. It might have been said that owing to our being such a large creditor country, we were bound to accumulate gold. As everyone knows, we appreciated how to work the Gold Standard basis, and by making extensive loans abroad, we stopped the accumulation of gold. Precisely in the same way now, America and France can stop that accumulation of gold by distributing it in the form of loans to other parts of the world.
Of course, the problem of loans depends very largely upon the security which can be offered by the countries that borrow, and that question shows the close interrelation of the Gold Standard problem with the problem of War debts, reparations and subsequent loans. That is why we believe that it is no good trying to tackle these problems separately. They should all be tackled as one complete whole. If I may interpose one statement which the Prime Minister made on the Gold Standard at the Guildhall, he said that the Government wouldtake steps which will most surely tend to stabilise the pound on a definite basis.I do hope that the Prime Minister does not mean by that, that a new policy of deflation is to be carried out by the Bank of England. This country has suffered 284 enough from the policy of deflation in the last seven years, and I am sure there are no industrialists anywhere in this country who want to see that policy started again at this period when there is a possibility of their prosperity increasing.
Finally, the fourth point to be considered internationally is the great "economic barriers against the free flow of international trade." Tariff barriers—there are nearly 30 different Customs unions in existence in the world—with the depression that has come upon industry, have been forced up and up in order to try to preserve the home markets of various countries, with signal failure, and now it is proposed, apparently, that another one should be erected in this country in order to make international trade more difficult than ever. We believe that, among other things, if a tariff barrier is erected here, it will have this effect internationally, that we shall inevitably lose the whole benefit of the most-favoured-nation treatment upon which our foreign trade has been completely built up.
The Labour Government tried to get that problem of international trade barriers tackled internationally, but now the time has come, when the world is in an even more depressed state than it was then, and if the National Government will put all their forces behind the effort to remove these trade barriers, they have a great opportunity to do a great service internationally to the world. All those problems must be explored together, and some solution must be worked out by the united wisdom of the world, unless we are to be reduced to what has been described as a state of starvation in the midst of plenty. We believe that it is the duty of this country and this Government to take the initiative in bringing about that conference, and if only they will do that, we will assure them of our unstinted support in every step they may take.
If I may return to the national aspect of this problem, the whole basis of our suggested solution of the problem is the necessity for a definite national plan, the co-ordination of industry, agriculture and finance, so that national resources may be pooled to be used in the best interests of the nation as a whole, and not merely used in the interest of sections competing 285 one with another. We believe that the question of Protection or Free Trade has no special application to the present critical state of affairs. Precisely the same arguments were put forward for Protection 30 years ago and have been put forward ever since, and precisely the same arguments for Free Trade were put forward 30 years ago and have been put forward ever since. Whether there is great prosperity or whether there is great adversity in this country, those two rival doctrines have been advanced as solutions.
We believe that neither of those two things can solve the problems of this country. For what is it that has altered in the crisis in which we find ourselves? Markets have contracted in some cases and have expanded in other cases. What has altered is the competition, which has become far more intense now than ever it was before. In the nineteenth century with the rapidly expanding industry, we practically held the field in all industry. During the War there was the most intense industrial development in other countries, and, indeed, in this country, too, and post-War, during the boom period, there was an even more intensive industrial development in countries like France, Czechoslovakia, Germany and others, and after that boom period we find ourselves in this position, that our industrial organisation, which sufficed for the competition of the nineteenth century, no longer suffices in the new conditions with which we have to compete at the present time.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The hon. Member says "Nonsense," but does he appreciate that in practically every inquiry into industry in recent years it has been stated over and over again that our industries require reconstruction? The hon. Member, with that sublime knowledge which surpasses the knowledge of everyone else—
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
That may well be, but I am not pitting my knowledge against that of the hon. Member. I am pitting the statements of all the commissions, committees and experts who have inquired into this matter. Industrialists themselves have recognised it by their 286 conduct. Rationalisation, amalgamation, combination in trusts and other forms, have held the field throughout the whole industrial world. There has been a steady movement throughout the world to eliminate competition in industry, and Parliament long ago recognised that movement, and the necessity for bringing about compulsory amalgamation in cases where the community was concerned. We have only to look at the railways, where compulsory amalgamation was brought about, the coal mines, where compulsory amalgamation was brought about, the electrical industry, where the Conservative party brought about amalgamation, and, long before, the docks were amalgamated under Acts of Parliament into the Port of London Authority. Those steps were taken because the community refused to stand by and see those industries go on the scrap-heap because of the national interests that were concerned. And in the most difficult cases, such as that of electricity, control under a public authority was insisted upon by Parliament. This tendency in industrial organisation for protection of industrial interests is very analagous to the development of the political organism throughout the world. First of all, you had the family as the unit. It gradually found that it was necessary to coalesce and combine into the tribe or nation, then to federate tribes or nations into larger units, and now, at last, the world has realised that there will probably have to be some super-national power such as the League of Nations so as to order the political conduct of the world.
It is just as necessary, essential, and indeed inevitable, to have international regulation in trade as it is in armaments or in any other great question. But as a first step to that international organisation you must have organisation on a national basis, and the only real difference that exists between those on these benches and hon. Members opposite is whether those grouped industries to which industry is all tending should be under private control or should be under public control. Both forms already exist in this country and in many other countries in the world, but we believe that so long as private control persists, there will be no possibility of national planning; and that planning is necessary for very many reasons.
287 First, it is necessary in order that the nation may determine the location of its industries. One of the most vital questions to-day is to provide employment in the distressed areas. One of the most desperately uneconomic things is to allow new industries to be set up in new districts, where new housing, new public works, new transport facilities are required, while you abandon, on the other hand, housing, transport, public works where there are distressed areas in the country, and that national planning of the location of industry is one of the most important features of national planning.
But the financial side is by far the more urgent at the present moment. This country has a certain amount of available resources. How are those resources to be used? Are they to be used haphazardly? Are they to be used just as the company promoter can influence their use by prospectuses which the Macmillan Report called "tawdry," or are they to be used on some organised and planned basis for the good of the country as a whole? We believe that it is vitally necessary that the Government of this country in the present crisis should immediately enter upon a campaign of national planning of financial resources. Take such an illustration as the sending abroad at the beginning of this years of £49,000,000 in money for foreign investments. Under any national scheme there can be no excuse for such money going out of the country in order to make our balance of trade worse than it is already. It should be prevented, but there are no means for preventing it. At the present time the Bank of England has some loose control, together with the Treasury, over the investment of moneys abroad and over foreign issues in this country, but that control, right hon. Gentlemen opposite know, is not adequate to direct properly the national resources as between foreign and home investments. When you have, as you have now, industries in this country which are starving for the want of capital for reconstruction, it is nothing short of madness that this country should permit money to be wasted in that way.
The reconstruction of industry—steel, or cotton, or agriculture, or many others 288 —has been acknowledged over and over again as vital. Money for that reconstruction at the present time cannot be obtained. Private enterprise is unable and unwilling to supply it, and we believe that such an effort as the Bankers' Industrial Development Company has failed because it has no plan and no considered policy for which the whole community is prepared to make itself responsible. Two things, therefore, are necessary: planned reconstruction and planned investment of national resources. If I may read one short passage from the Macmillan Report, in paragraph 385, the position as regards reconstruction is put very adequately and completely:It has been represented to us strongly in evidence that a great deal remains to be done in more than one important industry in overcoming sectional and individual opposition to desirable amalgamations and reconstructions designed to eliminate waste and cheapen costs. It was stated to us that very important economies and much greater efficiency are possible if there are concerted movements to that end. …We desire to express a strong opinion that sectional interests should not be allowed to stand in the way of reorganisations which are in the national interest.We believe that you can only bring about that reorganisation by having some power which would compel industry to reorganise and reconstruct itself. That is the key to the domestic policy which we believe to be essential in the present crisis. There are already examples enough of what can be done and how it can be done, whether by voluntary amalgamation, which we believe has proved itself ineffective—such as the Lancashire Cotton Corporation, in which you find amalgamated all those businesses which have been driven there by bankruptcy, but none of the others—or otherwise. We believe that the businesses that stand out of these amalgamations make the amalgamations ineffective. You have to have some over-riding power, some Government control, which will bring those industries into reconstruction and amalgamation.
That policy of control has, as part and parcel of it, the policy of the control of the banks. The Government must be able, if they are to carry through those schemes of reorganisation, to control the direction of the flow of credit, and also they must take the responsibility for their actions. The only way in which the Government can take the responsibility 289 for their actions in controlling the flow of credit is by controlling the Bank of England. It has long been mooted by many authorities in the financial world that the Bank of England should be reorganised on one system or another, with less or more governmental control, but we believe that at the present time, when the actions of the Bank have such a vital effect upon industry, it is absolutely essential for those who have the planning of industrial development to have the control of credit as well.
As an instance, at the present day, when the Bank Rate is 6 per cent., industrialists all over the country are crying out against it, the papers are crying out against it, but nobody in this House can be questioned as to why it was done, or how long it will continue, or what policy lies behind it. Then we have Lord Beaverbrook, in the "Evening Standard," commenting upon the action of the Bank of England in its adverse effect upon the industry of this country. I believe that every industrialist takes the same view at the present moment, and until the Government take control of the Bank of England, that state of affairs will continue, and the Government will not be able, whether they desire to do so or not, to bring about the rehabilitation of the great basic industries of this country.
Then, linked up with that, is the question of the provision of long-term credits and intermediate-term. credits for industry. Again, the Macmillan Report has pointed out that the present machinery is wholly inadequate, especially as regards the intermediate-term loans, which businesses must have if they are to carry on. We say, again, that for that purpose, if the Government are to have the responsibility, they must have the power to direct the flow of short-term and intermediate-term money, and they can only do that by having some control of the direction of the investments of the joint stock banks and also having control of some larger fund under a National Investment Corporation, which will include all the funds which are at present at the disposal of the Government, such as the Post Office Savings Fund and other funds of a similar kind.
That control of the joint stock banks will, we believe, enable the Government 290 to provide the necessary finance for the reconstruction of industry, and if the Government are going to direct those moneys into the channels which they believe to be right, they are hound to take the responsibility for it and they are bound to offer security to the shareholders of the banks for their money, which will be used in the national interest. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the depositors?"] The depositors' money and the shareholders' money too. They will just as much have to make themselves responsible for the depositors' money as for anybody else's money that the Government have, whether in the form of National Savings Certificates or of Post Office money. [An HON. MEMBER: "They will not trust their money with you!"] The hon. Member is referring to what we call financial sabotage, but I am not going to discuss that at the moment. I am asking the National Government to do this, and surely they will trust the National Government. I am not suggesting this as a course for a Labour Government, because there is not one; I am suggesting this as a course which the National Government may pursue, and which we believe, if the National Government pursue it, will be successful; and I am sure the hon. Gentleman opposite agrees by the way in which he is nodding.
This necessity arises because there is not now a vast surplus amount of capital available in this country. In earlier days there was a. vast hoard of money here, which was used in this country, and a big surplus went abroad every year. That condition of affairs has ceased, and, if now we are to provide adequate resources in this country, it can only be if the Government will take the responsibility of seeing that those national resources are used in the best possible way for industry. I will not go on to elaborate in any sense the question of the control of banks, because I have already spoken much too long, but we ask the Government seriously to consider this point of view, and, even if they are not prepared to go to the logical conclusion of the control of all the financial resources of this country, we still ask them to consider whether the present time is not one in which national planning should at once be taken up and initiated, because we believe, as I have already said, that to decide upon a policy of Protection or 291 Free Trade, whichever it may be, is merely tinkering with what is the real difficulty of the industries of this country.
The only alternative to some policy of reconstruction of that sort is the reduction of wages and social services, and that strikes at the very root of the consuming power of this country, which we desire to maintain, and we believe that all the evidence which has been collected shows clearly that there is an alternative way of cheapening production, so that we can compete as we used to do in the export trades of the world, an alternative of reconstruction which does not mean reduction of wages and which will enable us to retain the social services at their present standard.
Now, if I may, I will say one word about agriculture before coming to the last short point. The Conservative party have had about a hundred years in which to reconstruct agriculture, but the Noble Lord the Member for Alder-shot (Viscount Wolmer) appears only in the last two and a half years, when he has had the advantage of the advice of Dr. Addison, to have realised the sound lines upon which agriculture must be reconstructed. In a most illuminating and interesting speech which he made to the House yesterday we were delighted to see that he had gone a very long way to adopt the programme of the Labour party for the reconstruction of agriculture. He asked whether we would not be prepared to co-operate with him. We should be delighted to co-operate with him in trying to force the hand of the Minister of Agriculture, which clearly, from the Minister's speech, will require a good deal of forcing in order that the Noble Lord may get his way. There is, however, this fundamental difference between us. We agree as regards marketing and the change over of production largely from cereal to dairy and other products. We agree as to the absolute necessity for the provision of credit for the farmer, and perhaps even more than credit during the time of turnover. We agree also that improvement has to be made in marketing and transport facilities.
All these matters, however, entail expenditure, and we do not believe that it is right for the country to enter upon the expenses of organisation if the 292 money which it expends is to go into the pockets of the landlords. We there-tore believe that the only basis of a national reconstruction of agriculture is the nationalisation of the land first. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Land Taxes?"] They were but a feeble effort by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has now turned out to be a Tory.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
So long as the Noble Lord will agree with us in starting from the basis of the nationalisation of land, we shall agree with him in nearly every one of the measures which he mentions, and we shall be only too willing to co-operate in agricultural reconstruction.
Let me come to the third and last item. We agree entirely, as everyone in the House does, that the primary object of any scheme must be to re-employ the population, but while those steps are being taken, whatever they may be, the country ought to reconsider the cuts which have been made, not only upon the unemployed, but upon other persons and upon the social services. We believe that it is an entirely false idea of economy to persist in those cuts. It is reducing the purchasing power which is required to help our industries at the present moment, and it has even gone so far as to reduce the productive power of the country. Take such an example as the cutting off of the 120,000 allotments which the unemployed were to work, a scheme which was to cost £36,000 and which would have produced probably at least £500,000 in food. It is a strange-economy by which you cut down £36,000-and prevent yourself producing £500,000 worth of food, especially when it is essential to produce food in order to balance the trade of the country.
Surely this great National Government might have the courage to say, now that they have got back in such overwhelming numbers, that conditions have altered since the cuts were imposed. Because we are off the Gold Standard, prices have risen and are still rising; bread is up one halfpenny to-day; and surely the balance of trade to-day is improving as the result of going off the Gold Standard. The number of unem- 293 ployed, too, may decrease as the result of the devalued pound is felt more and more in the export industries. Surely those matters are sufficient to enable this Government to reconsider the immediate necessity for cuts on the unemployed. Surely for the coming winter they might say: "In view of the altered circumstances, we will withdraw this cut for the winter; we will reconsider it in the spring when we come to our new Budget, and if necessary we can reimpose it." But let me appeal to them to say that in view of the changed circumstances which undoubtedly exist that 10 per cent. which would mean only some £5,000,000 for the coming winter, can be restored. I beg the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs at least to consider that aspect of the cuts, to consider the real and terrible hardship which will be suffered in the coming winter, and to see whether in the altered circumstances, which surely justify an alteration in the cut, it might not be tentatively put back even if a right is reserved to put it on again. That at least would be considered a national action at the present time.
We have always taken the view, as hon. Gentlemen opposite know, that these cuts were never justified, and that there were other persons who could bear the burden more justly and more easily. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is busily making a note to say that some members of the late Cabinet of the Labour Government agreed to the cuts. I am wholly unmoved by that. So far as I am concerned, I always objected to them from the moment I first heard of them.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I notice that the right hon. Gentleman is full of glee about the suggestion in regard to the Anomalies Bill. I believe that to be a right and sound piece of legislation, as he does.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The question as to how-it is administered is a completely different proposition. [Interruption,] I am not going to argue that point at the moment. Let me appeal in all seriousness to the 294 right hon. Gentlemen opposite and ask them to reconsider the question of the cut in the light of the altered financial circumstances, even if it be only for the coming winter, because we believe that there are plenty of people who can contribute in this emergency and are perfectly willing to do so. There is, however, one very serious aspect of this problem which causes us great alarm. Shortly before the election the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health made a speech, which was reported in "The Times," in which he stated that the direct taxation which had been put on was purely temporary, but that the cuts would continue. If that be really the attitude of the National Government, namely, that the direct taxation which is put on the shoulders of those who can certainly afford to bear it, is to be removed at the first possible moment, while the cuts which we think were always unjust and are more than those who have to suffer them can bear—if that really is the attitude of the National Government, then, when that attitude is discovered by the people of this country, they will make up their minds that they were thoroughly fooled at the last General Election.
The CHANCELLOR of the EX-CHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give me the reference to the speech which he said I made.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I said the Minister of Health. I should have made the distinction; it is entirely my mistake. At that time, the right hon. Gentleman who is at present the Minister of Health was not a member of the Cabinet. It was a speech which, coming from a financial expert, among Conservatives, at any rate, in this House, although not comparable to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, carried some weight in the country, and it was reported at considerable length in "The Times" as being no doubt a statement of policy. [Interruption.] I am delighted if the consternation which has been caused on the Front Bench opposite shows that it was not the intention of the Government to do anything of the sort, and we shall be delighted to get that specifically stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs when he replies.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
Is it quite fair to quote to us a statement from a speech, which we have not seen, made during the election by a private Member, and represent it as a statement of Government policy?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The Lord President of the Council is not doing me justice when he says that I tried to make the House believe that it was a statement of Government policy. What I said was that Members on these benches had been alarmed at the statement which had been made before the election—not during the election—by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health. He was at that time Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department, so that he was a member of the Government. As the Lord President of the Council knows, he has always been looked upon as one of the financial authorities of the Conservative party—
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I think that it was made to some Empire Association. I cannot remember the exact date, but it was made at a dinner a fortnight or 10 days before the election started. I can easily get the quotation if the right hon. Gentleman wants it. Let me say, in conclusion, that we do ask the National Government to consider these suggestions in the spirit in which the Prime Minister asked for them. We believe that, if the suggestion of starting a national plan is considered, the Government will inevitably come to the conclusion that it is necessary to apply it immediately. If they will take that step, we shall do everything we can to support them in that as in any other good Socialist policy which they may adopt.
The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
Those of us who sat in the last Parliament were accustomed to look upon 296 the hon. and learned Gentleman not only as a coming Parliamentarian, but as an able Parliamentarian. He was always accustomed to prepare his brief, speak to his brief, and stick to his brief. Consequently, he was usually on sure and sound ground.
That shows the mistake he made; he stuck to his party when it was wrong. This afternoon he has indulged in plain speaking and hard hitting, and I am sure that he expects to be dealt with in precisely the same way. We need have no squirms about it. At least I am going to say this, that it does not rest with him, above everybody else, to sneer either at Philip Snowden or the Prime Minister. I can understand old colleagues in the movement making references to Philip Snowden, I can understand their strong feelings, but it does not rest with those who did not know the movement until a few months ago to sneer at him. [Interruption.] No one will deny that if Mr. Snowden were here he would be quite capable of taking care of himself.
But I would like to remind the hon. and learned Member that on this occasion he cannot have looked up his brief so carefully as usual. He complained of the speech of the Secretary of State for Air at the Mansion House three nights ago. The substance of his complaint was that the Secretary of State said that so far as he was aware we had reached the minimum as regards our present position in armaments. May I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Secretary of State, at the Mansion House on Monday night, said precisely the same thing, in almost the same language, as Mr. Arthur Henderson said in referring to the preparations for the Disarmament Conference? Is he aware that Mr. Henderson's view was that the delegates—that is, the British delegates—should make a full statement of the reductions already effected by the United Kingdom and state that any further reductions by us must be only by an international agreement, and also that the possibility of our keeping our armaments at their present low level may have to be reconsidered unless there are comparable reductions by other Powers? Is that different from what 297 Lord Londonderry said on Monday night? [An HON. MEMBER: "Completely!"] Very well, I leave the House to judge the comparison. What did Mr. Alexander say? On the 6th April this year, speaking as the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Alexander said the people of this country must not hide from themselves the fact that no nation in the world had made a relatively larger contribution to disarmament than this country had already made, and that we had reached the limit. May I quote Tom Shaw? [Interruption.] Then all I have to comment is that, if the hon. and learned Gentleman's complaint is that Lord Londonderry on Monday night stated the facts to the nation and to people abroad, he only said what every Service Minister in the late Labour Government knows is perfectly true and had previously said himself.
I do not understand the logic of the hon. and learned Member when, in opening his case, he said, "We warn you that so far as tariffs are concerned we are against them, and we will fight them to the end, because we know their evil effects," and then went on to say, "But please remember that Tariff Reform or Free Trade has absolutely no bearing upon the real facts." I want to know whether the first part of the statement was not rather influenced and coloured by the General Election, when they were thinking of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)? I can only conclude that, if it does not matter so far as he is concerned whether it is a question of Free Trade or Protection, that only means that every case will be considered on its merits. Incidentally, the Leader of the Opposition, who sits beside him, would be the first to remind him, with reference to the question of Free Trade or Protection, that his own view is, "I am indifferent to it so long as this country and the people will benefit." That is his attitude, as he knows as well as I know. Therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman need not have made so much play with the Prime Minister's difficulty in balancing opinion. If he had been in the party as long as I he would have known that that has been the Prime Minister's difficulty, not for the past few months, but for many years. [Interruption.] When the Prime Minister was questioned upon appointing more com- 298 mittees no one knows better than he what a willing participant he was in the virtues of those committees.
This Amendment is moved as a direct challenge from the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition, in opening the Debate on the first day, made two complaints. He said, "I complain first about the wisdom of the election; and I complain, further, about the character of the election." He said the election was not necessary, that it was uncalled for, that the Government could have done just what they liked without the General Election; and that when the election took place it was the dirtiest, wickedest, most unfair and meanest ever known. [Interruption.] There is common agreement upon that point. We are agreed that the language is a fair description. As to the need for the election, will it be denied that on the first day when the National Government met the House of Commons the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Arthur Henderson, made it perfectly clear, definite and beyond doubt, speaking for his party, that it was not a National Government, that it would not be accepted as a National Government, and that the nation was not behind it? That statement was a clear challenge, and it was repeated day after day, and when Mr. Clynes followed on the Friday he emphasised it. He said that not only did he believe that the Government did not represent the country, not only did he believe that the country was not behind it, but, pointing to me, he said. "And here I refer to the temporary Member for Derby." [Interruption.] The only difference is that I can now say there is a permanent "ex" for him. When ho made that statement he conscientiously believed that the nation was not behind the policy of the National Government.
The internal view of the country, whatever it may have been, might not have mattered, but no one knows better than those sitting on the Front Bench opposite that the speeches made and the challenge repeated from day to day, inside and outside the House, created in the minds of foreigners the impression that what was being said was true. The statement was repeated so often from the other side that I honestly believe now that they believed it themselves. Therefore, it was necessary right away to challenge that 299 contention. Then my right hon. Friend said that it was a dirty election. Who gave the key to that? What was the commencement of this dirty election, and what form did it take? Immediately the election was announced Mr. Graham said at Scarborough, "We now enter upon the most savage fight we ever knew."[Interruption.] So Mr. Graham was speaking with knowledge. Yes, and it was. His statement was true. I have fought many more elections than the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I have fought eight in the same constituency, and I have no hesitation in saying that it was the dirtiest and most brutal election ever fought; and the most brutal thing, the cruellest and the meanest, and the thing that did that party more harm than anything else, was that responsible Labour leaders should have said to trade unionists, "Vote for a National candidate and you are a blackleg." I know that that makes you uncomfortable. You all know perfectly well that, according to that definition, there are a lot of blacklegs in this country. In my judgment, the result of the last election was achieved because the people got it clearly into their minds that there was a crisis, and that was admitted even by the leaders of the Labour party. They admitted that there was a real difficulty, and when it came to facing it they ran away. That is at least what I believe—[Interruption.] Even in my own language I cannot find a word strong enough to express my view. As far as this Amendment is concerned, the remarkable thing is that it is a Vote of Censure on the Government because they did not include in the King's Speech the very thing that the people of this country said that they did not want. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Let us see. The Amendment reads:and further regret that there is no mention in Your Majesty's Gracious Speech of any intention of reversing the unjust economies imposed upon the unemployed and other classes of persons or of restoring and developing the social services.That is the Amendment. What did hon. Members opposite say at the Election? They said: "Return us, and we will restore all the cuts." They said to the unemployed: "We will restore the dole." And yet the unemployed did not vote for the Labour party and, because they did 300 not do that and voted for the National Government, hon. Members opposite are now supporting a Vote of Censure because the electors said to them: "We cannot trust you to do what you have promised." What can be said of an Amendment moved four days after Parliament has met which is in the form of a Vote of Censure on the Government for not doing what the people distinctly declared they did not want them to do? I think that shows what I have suspected all along, that some hon. Members opposite are really out of touch with realities. I want to say quite frankly that I did not run away from what is called the blank cheque, and I assert that the Gracious Speech is an absolute reflection of the Prime Minister's mind.
I will proceed to interpret that as I think it ought to be interpreted. The late Solicitor-General who moved this Amendment said that he was not riveted either to Free Trade or Protection, and did not believe that either would solve the problem. I say that if there is a deficit on the Budget the Budget must be balanced. If the balance of trade is wrong, if imports exceed exports, a balance of trade on the wrong side is as dangerous as an unbalanced Budget, and, whether the real remedy to be applied is a tariff or anything else, I say deliberately that the mandate of the country is that it should be applied. So far as Free Trade and Protection are concerned, hon. Members opposite know perfectly well that the Trades Union Council were equally divided on those questions during the crisis. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) knows perfectly well that a majority of his colleagues in the late Government were prepared to consider even a tariff. If hon. Members opposite were prepared to consider tariffs on any grounds before the Election, it cannot be pretended now that Free Trade has become a fundamental principle with them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tell the whole story"] I will tell the whole story. [An HON MEMBER: "I said the whole story!"] This is a case where the old story deals with the whole situation.
The mandate of the country is very clear and definite, and I do not think it will be challenged by any hon. Member opposite. The Prime Minister's 301 manifesto and the King's Speech clearly indicate that the potentialities of the British Commonwealth of Nations could be more fully developed and utilised than they are at the present moment. I am aware of the hundred and one differences existing between Colony and Colony and Dominion and Dominion, but I believe that there is a genuine desire on the part of all Governments to effect a settlement. That is the spirit in which this matter is mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and that is the spirit in which we intend to proceed.
The late Solicitor-General must be well aware that all his references to war debts, reparations, and disarmament are fully covered in the King's Speech, and he must know that if the present Government or any other Government—certainly it was not the policy of the late Labour Government—came down to this House and tried to deal with disarmament, war debts, or reparations, and pretended that they could broadcast to the world some cut and dried scheme, they would be bound to fall at the outset. That is why the paragraph dealing with this subject is couched in the language to be found in the Gracious Speech. It is because the Government have been returned with such an overwhelming majority that I believe they are better able to go to any conferences truly representing the nation as a whole. I attach great importance to that fact, and on account of that mandate I feel that good results will follow. That is the way I interpret the mandate of the country, although hon. Members opposite do not agree with me. My answer to that objection is that time must tell, and I have stated quite definitely what I believe to be the interpretation of the mandate of the nation. I put it even higher than that, because I believe that that is the spirit in which it will be interpreted by the Governments concerned.
The real work that faces this nation and faces the world now is not work that can be conducted across the Floor of this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "It should be"] Every Member of the Front Opposition Bench and every Member of the late Labour Government knows perfectly well that what I have just said is true, because they all know that these problems are too difficult, and too delicate and intricate to be debated across the Floor of the House of Commons. I 302 believe that the people of this country want real business done and not talk, and that is the spirit in which the mandate will be interpreted by the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is the dictator?"] I think the nation gave an emphatic declaration that they wanted business done and not so much talk. My answer to hon. Members opposite is that the best way to give effect to the mandate of the country is to deal with it in the way I have suggested, and that is my answer to those who look upon the result of the last election as a failure of democracy.
Whatever differences there may be on that side or this, or with my old friends, none of them will dispute that one of the most magnificent things during this election was that teachers, soldiers, sailors, policemen and unemployed, who were all affected by the cuts, were prepared to sink their own personal interests in what they believed to be the interests of the nation. That, I am sure, in their heart of hearts, will be admitted by all Members on the opposite side of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It was the common experience of us all. Because I believe that that mandate, given by such people, is not a failure of democracy, but a triumph of democracy, I say that it is our duty to prove ourselves worthy of such confidence.
I can understand the bitterness that is felt. No one is more entitled to complain about the dirty election than I am, and, if one were speaking merely from a personal point of view, I could multiply every experience that my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite have had. But the election is now over, and the country's verdict is given. I know that my right hon. Friend is a democrat. Democracy means that we accept democracy's verdict. I accept that position, and I answer it by saying two things. First, the great mass of our common-sense people believed that their nation was in difficulties, and they placed the interest of the nation first. Secondly, the people of this country will neither have hooliganism nor mob law, and they showed that by their verdict, which proved conclusively that no threats of intimidation would divert the people from exercising their political rights. With that mandate, given clearly and definitely, this 303 Government will proceed to interpret it, and we hope to be worthy of the confidence which has been placed in us.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
We have listened to a very remarkable speech. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman address this House on many occasions, and I have had the privilege of standing with him upon platforms in this country. When he stood as a democratic leader, I came across from Ireland specially at his request, and addressed several mass meetings in his favour. I do not say that that was of much value to him, but at all events it was intended to be of some value. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman, who is a great authority upon public gratitude, will appreciate that I have been grateful for his recognition of the service I rendered on that occasion, but I confess that the speech to-night of the right hon. Gentleman, whose speeches always strike me as being less speeches than performances, was entirely unworthy of a man of his record in the late Government. I never was so bitterly incensed in my life with a speech in this House as when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the late Mr. Bonar Law made a fierce and violent attack upon the late Lord Asquith when the late Lord Asquith sat on these benches with a few loyal colleagues around him; and I do think that a sense of chivalry, a sense of old comradeship, a sense of all those higher things that should move successful politicians in their new places, ought to have made the right hon. Gentleman less passionate in his denunciation of the men who have been his lifelong friends.
I am not a Labour Member, but, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman, is he still a Socialist? Would he please answer that question, because, although I am not a Socialist, and never was, I was denounced as a Socialist during my late election in an agricultural constituency in Northern Ireland. Is that a crime in the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman or of the Prime Minister? It only shows how profoundly dishonest this election was, that I, who am not a Socialist, was denounced as a Socialist during my election, a fortnight ago, by the party opposite, who are following a Socialist leader, and who take their inspiration from a Socialist Prime Minister. That is the 304 first part of my impeachment of the dishonesty of this so-called National Government.
In the second place, the right hon. Gentleman made the somewhat curious suggestion, or rather, statement, that the working classes who were on the dole voted for the cuts. Did he really think that an intelligent assembly of this character would accept an argument of that sort? He actually suggests that, when the election took place, all who suffered cuts in their salaries, in their pensions, and in their grants, so rejoiced at it that they rushed into the polling booths at Derby and elsewhere, saying, "Mr. Thomas reduced our salaries; Mr. Thomas reduced our pensions; let us rush into the polling booths and vote for him." No; that was not the reason. They voted because of the organised campaign of lying and calumny and misrepresentation in this country and elsewhere. It was a serious thing for the countless investors in the savings bank to be told— you were challenged to answer it and you did not—that everyone who had money in the savings bank would lose their money. It was a serious thing to be told with picturesque gesture by the Prime Minister himself, "Here is a pound. If you do not vote for the National Government it will be worth only 5s." I did not follow the campaign very carefully in this country, but I know something about what occurred in my own. On the morning of my election it was boasted of in the Tory Press that notices were served upon all the farmers of that constituency that they would have to pay Income Tax for the first time. That was scattered all over the constituency and boasted of, and the cry was, "It will kill Devlin's chances when these farmers have to pay Income Tax for the first time." Fortunately, the people of Tyrone and Fermanagh knew me better than the propagandists.
I have said that I was never a Labour Member or a Socialist, but I was profoundly and passionately anxious to give the Labour party a chance for the first time in their history. I was not only anxious to give them a chance to apply themselves to the great task of raising the standard of human existence and making brighter and happier the homes and conditions of the people, but I was anxious, as a trained politician who 305 claimed to have some prescience, to see the Labour party get a chance of training themselves for the large responsibilities of Government which will come to them in a high degree in course of time in this country, and that is why I support them. If I had supported them in the formation of a National Government, it would have been real National Government, but the first thing that this National Government proceeded to do was to rob the poor. For the sake of £12,000,000 in the balancing of a Budget where £172,000,000 was involved, they proceeded to rob these people of the petty contribution which the State and their own insurance was making to save them from penury and destitution. That was why I voted against them, and would not support this Government. It is not a National Government at all, and it never was a National Government.
I do not question the bona fides of the Prime Minister, of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, or of the right hon. Gentleman, but I do say that they were led into a trap—into a Tory trap. The Prime Minister was made a prisoner by the Tory party. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer was caught also, and the right hon. Gentleman less reluctantly walked into that trap. The prisoners were there before the General Election and afterwards, and they were presented here in this House yesterday by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). This is not a National Government; it is a Page Croft Government. The Prime Minister is not the Leader of this party; the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth is the Leader of this party. I have watched him well.One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.He once had a party of two; he was in precisely the same position in which I am now; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to be a very proud citizen of this proud British Empire, for now he has a party of 300, and he claims that, now that he is the real Leader of a real party, he will see that the party of which he is the Leader will pluck the full fruits of this election, the triumph of which is theirs and not yours. I shall follow with interest and watch carefully the developments of this campaign. Now that the right hon. 306 Gentleman has left the House, perhaps the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth will be produced, for I do not want to occupy my own time or the time of the House without having the Leader of the party here. If I cannot have the pleasure of having the nominal Leader here, perhaps the real Leader will be produced.
This Government never had any mandate from anybody for anything. It had a mandate, no doubt, to balance the Budget, and it proceeded to balance the Cabinet. I have noticed Coalitions. There is no single unholy phase of British politics that I have not seen. Coalitions generally consist of one body of politicians united with another body of politicians to watch other politicians; but this is a most extraordinary coalition—it is a coalition so that one section of the coalition may watch the other section. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer has been selected for that position because he is an out-and-out Protectionist, who has the devoted loyalty and confidence of the whole Tory party. The Home Secretary is put there to prevent the Tory party running too far. To cool the temper and passions of the Protectionists, he is brought into the Cabinet. Then there has been a further balancing of the Cabinet. I have waited here, very much to my own inconvenience, because I did not want to be here at all, to know when, having balanced the Cabinet, the Budget is to be balanced? When is the trade of the country to be balanced? When is something practical to be done? Whence comes the reward of this manifestation of great confidence which the people have placed in the National Government? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who looks so cross—an Under-Secretary who is sulky is never happy—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Very well, you are an amanuensis for some absent Minister, and I should like you to take this down. Would you please ask whoever that Member of the national hierarchy is—Is this Government in favour of Protection or Free Trade? You, no doubt, will come back to me and say, "I have consulted the Cabinet, not collectively but individually. The Chancellor of the 307 Exchequer said Protection is the only thing in the world that will save the country. But then the Home Secretary says 'we could not have that at all'." Did you get a mandate from the country for it? If you did, why was it not put in your programme? Why were not the people told that Protection was to be carried through if a National Government was established? That is what I want to know. I certainly think a more amazing speech I never listened to in my life than that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) the other day. As there are not many of you here to listen to me, and as you have done me the honour of listening to me, I want to repay you by giving you a little of my experience. I came into this House with a virgin mind upon the question of economics and tariffs 30 years ago. It was in the year that the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain launched his protective policy. I saw sitting below him the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), two brilliant stars of the Tory party, rising to denounce him in the most violent terms. They passed from those benches to these. They left the Tory party.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. The Noble Lord did not leave the Tory party. I do not believe he would ever leave anything. I think he will be found dead with his arms round the temple of antiquity. No progress for him. At all events, whether he left the Tory party or not, he continued to be a passionate and violent opponent of the father of the right hon. Gentleman. I remember my pity being aroused by the violent attacks made on the right hon. Gentleman who was then the Member for Birmingham by those two brilliant young orators. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping crossed over and became a Liberal and became a great protagonist of Free Trade, and he made a Free Trader of me—the only thing of me he ever made. I am like the Noble Lord. I cling to my principles, even if I question the ultimate orthodoxy of my schoolmaster. He changed over on Free Trade. I do not 308 mind him changing over. There is nothing I have a greater contempt for than the fetish of consistency. I do not mind people changing their minds. I would change my mind to-morrow if I thought it the right thing to do. But, when I hear him lashing old Free Traders for sticking to their convictions and telling them that their business is to become Protectionists, I would advise him to depend less on his intellectual and oratorical capacity and to endeavour to cling to something like principle and honour in the controversy in which he is engaged.
This Parliament is not a reflex of the nation's will. Nothing of the sort. It is a panic Parliament which has come into existence by a well-organised and skilfully laid campaign of lying and unfairness towards these men. I wonder whether the social constitutionalists and Tories realise where this may lead them. Is it fair to rob the industrial masses of the country of those leaders in whom they have confidence and to sneer at the remnant who remain here, they who represent an ever-increasing mass of discontented citizens who are mute with despair at the moment but whose despair may take violent expression later on? To assume an attitude of that character, to rob them of their leaders, to rob them of their numbers, to sneer at their weakness, which has been brought about by such a policy as I have described, is a fatal blunder in tactics and is an instrument which you will find a very dangerous one if you proceed to use it. Everyone says the Labour party has been wiped out, but what are the facts and the figures? The Government parties, with 14,500,000 votes in the contested constituencies, have 493 seats. The Opposition, with 6,600,000 votes in the same constituencies, have 46 seats. Every voter of the party supporting the Government counts as equal to five voters of the parties forming the Opposition. Where is the boasted equality of the franchise there?
Last Session—I did it when the Liberals were in power, when the Tories were in power, and when Labour was in power—I appealed to them to introduce a scheme of proportional representation, which would give precisely to each party the representation to which it was entitled. But every party in power despised that method and treated it with 309 contempt. I still think it is worthy of the consideration of this House and this Parliament, with its overpowering numbers and its great and unfair majority, apart from the tactics and methods by which it was brought about, a cumbersome majority and one that is a danger to effective Parliamentary control. Do we not see it in the speech of the Secretary of State for Dominion affairs? Nothing amazed me more than the latter part of his speech. He is what I would call a Parliamentary whole hogger. He goes the whole way. He is not satisfied with the serried ranks behind him of all the Tories and reactionaries and so on that to-day constitute the majority of this House. He wants a dictatorship. What a contempt he shows for the characteristics even of the Tory party, who were returned to support him and to help him, and what is their reward? He says: "I will not have your support. I will not have your assistance. I will do the work of the nation, not in the free air of a great constitutional assembly breathing the free spirit of a free people. I will go into the ante-chambers and the committee rooms and fashion out the fortunes of the British people in the years that are to be." That is the new-doctrine that is preached to-day.
I want to know another thing, if the amanuensis will take it down. After the Budget is balanced, after trade is balanced, and after the Cabinet is balanced, how long are you going to remain in office? The balancing of the Budget and of trade is the only thing for which you have a mandate. If you attempt to carry any legislation beyond that for which you got a mandate, you will be acting completely at variance with the whole spirit of the judgment of the country. You are told to save the country and you are going to do it, though how you are going to do it you have not told us yet. I suppose we shall remain in a state of pristine ignorance for a long time to come. I am only concerned with the honour of the Tory party. All other things will not count. I came into the House for one specific purpose, and that was to lend whatever help I could to any party which would give its thought, its power, and its intelligence to the task of making the people, and especially the toiling masses of the people, happier than they were. 310 No Government can justify itself except on the ground that national prosperity depends upon home comfort and a high standard of life for the people.
I join in the appeal that was made by the late Solicitor-General when he asked you to restore these cuts. You can afford to do it now if you could not afford to do it then, because there is less unemployment. There will be greater trade prosperity, and you will, according to your own story, have such widespread wealth and power that you will be able to spare the modest sum that will be needed for the restoration of this amount to the poor people from whom you took it. At any rate, I trust that, before the Debate ends, and before we have said the last word on these matters which have been raised in the House, the Prime Minister will come before the many honest men on those benches who genuinely believed that a National Government was essential to the nation and state precisely and in the clearest terms what this National Government proposes to do.
The Prime Minister made a speech from that Bench, and at the close of it there was a painful look on the faces of the Tory party. He ought to take them out of pain. He ought to tell us whether he is going to dissolve Parliament, or whether he ought to dissolve it after the mission which has been entrusted to him has been discharged. He ought to tell us, if he remains in power, what are his proposals. Are they to be proposals which will meet with the united sanction of the House, or are they to be proposals forced upon him by a section of the so-called National party? These are the things we wish to know.
The Members on these benches should not be in the least discouraged. I have been in a minority all any life, but I was never in such a small minority as the present one. But they are slaves who dare not be in the right with two or three. I prefer to be in the right with two or three. I never came near the Labour party or sat upon their benches when they were in power. I have come to sit here now not as one of their Members but as one of their sympathisers in this time of adversity in order, as far as possible, to encourage and inspire them. Those who carry the banner of 311 democracy may walk along the thorny path and suffer from bleeding feet, and many may be crucified, but their resurrection will be the triumph of the common people.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
We listened attentively to the speech of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Devlin), but we are perhaps entitled to ask him these questions Does he come from a Free Trade or a Protectionist country? Does he come from a country which has passed through very quickly in the last week or two Protective and anti-dumping legislation? We might ask him a further question. What does he think of dictation and coercion in Ireland? Have not the people of that country been coerced far more than has ever been the case under any British Government in the past? Of course they have. In a Measure recently passed there are provisions for secret trials and secret sentences which could never take place in or under this free country. One may pass from those observations of the hon. Gentleman and contemplate the extraordinary scene which we who were in the last Parliament now can see in this. It is a Parliament, he said, completely without precedent. There is no precedent for this Parliament unless you go back a very long way.
I should like to take the Leader of the Opposition back to the Cavalier Parliament. He made a comparison; he introduced the subject. Let me put him right historically. The Cavalier Parliament was returned by a mandate almost as universal as the present mandate. There had been before a Republican Government. It is not very useful to compare a Republican and a Puritan Government of the seventeenth century with a Socialist and Trade Union Government of the twentieth century. But there is this in common. The country was heartily sick of them and gave a unanimous verdict against them. Also, when the Cavalier Parliament came to administer the finances of the country they found something like £10 in the national Exchequer instead of an enormous deficit. You have also this paralled between the two Parliaments, that it was a great-leader, not of the Royalists, but of the Republicans, General Monk, who brought the Cavalier Parliament into being. It 312 is true that he soon became an earl and shortly afterwards became a duke. I do not know whether it is likely to be fulfilled in this Parliament. Undoubtedly he led back the free people of this country to their own institutions, in accordance with their own desires. There is this in common, that both the trade unionists and Socialists of this generation and the old Puritans and Republicans of the past Parliament misunderstood the spirit of the English people. They did not see that the freedom of England goes hand in hand with tradition, with liberties hardly won in the past by the efforts of every class in the community. Freedom in England was never associated with Continental maxims or with ideas of Karl Marx imported from abroad like the cheap goods from Russia which we continue to import. The idea of English liberty does not go with the political theories of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just regaled us with his speech.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I had passed from Ireland. I was not referring to the hon. Member at that time, but to the hon. and learned Gentleman the ex-Solicitor-General, whom I was about to congratulate on his new technique. There never was a greater change shown in the technique of a politician after an election. Then we saw him mouting the soap-box and his speeches reflected clearly the most extravagant fallacies of the Socialist party. Now we see that the soap-box has gone. The Old Bailey manner has gone, and ho has returned to the old Court of Appeal manner with which he is so familiar. One would have liked to have attacked him if one did not feel so extremely sorry for him in his situation. There were no cheers even from the few followers he had, and no inspiration to lead him on, and so he pursued his pedestrian way along the old Socialist fallacies.
This Parliament is a Parliament without precedent. Although party politics are indefensible to the political idealist this country rose to a great position on party faction which grew out of the Cavalier Parliament elected so unanimously. Never since then was there a greater spirit of unanimity in the House; and out of that grew Parlia- 313 mentary Government, with one party in power and a strong Opposition. It was on that basis we drew our Parliamentary strength. That is what created the Parliamentary system. Now for a moment it has been suspended, and we have an enormous party, with a feeble Opposition.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. The Government have a feeble official Opposition against them. We have always learned in the past that there must be effective criticism and opposition if an administration is to go forward. We have had a big majority before. We had it at the beginning of the War. We had strong appeals made for unity. I was not then of political age, but I understand that anybody who dared to criticise the Government at that time was held to be unpatriotic and almost a traitor. Newspapers which defied authority of or criticised the Government were burnt publicly. That was a very bad thing. That Government went on under a Prime Minister who was never a National leader, and only at his best a skillful chairman. That big, unwieldy Government went on doing nothing that it should have done into a gradual position of incompentence and contempt, and nearly lost the War. Only when an official Opposition grew up under the powerful leadership of the then Sir Edward Carson did that Government ever fulfil the mandate the country demanded of it—the efficient prosecution of the War.
Therefore, the Government may well expect, and should not reject, any criticism which may come even from their best friends, because we are not likely to have any effective opposition from the Opposition Benches, as we have seen from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and the ex-Solicitor-General who, we understand, "star" the Socialist team. I think it is much more likely to come from the bench in front of which I am now standing. If you have not seen the lion lying down with the lamb, at any rate you have seen Bournemouth sitting next to Bridgeton, and you have seen Dumbarton sitting on the knees of Eastbourne. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who initiated 314 the Debate was no rallying call, but was a cry of despair, sometimes degenerating into deep bitterness which one could well understand. The right hon. Gentleman was in despair and he showed it. I never heard so clearly the cry of "Save our Souls." I can tell him how they can save their souls. The right hon. Gentleman should save his soul by coming over and helping us. He is a democrat. Nobody can accuse the right hon. Gentleman of not being a democrat. He should accept the verdict of the country. It is, after all, a somewhat contemptible method of dealing with a political situation to accept the voice of democracy and of the country when on your side, and when that voice is emphatically given against you to say that it is obtained by injustice and a fraud. It does seem cowardly. Hon. Gentlemen and the right hon. Gentleman certainly know that this nation is not a cowardly nation. It is not a nation which is to be driven by fear into decisive action, and the country will reject any such insult to democracy. The longer they go on on that line reviling the country for cowardice, the less are they likely to succeed. It was a cry of despair which be made.
I would put to him the following point of view with a great deal of respect. This great country is usually right if only the politicians will give her a chance. In the Election of 1929 the Conservatives fought on their record. We thought that it was not such a bad record, but the country was not satisfied with it. No constructive policy was put forward at all. They said "Safety First." Safety first is by no means the worst political cry, but it is certainly not the best. The Liberal party went to the country on mad extravagance which nobody is now concerned to champion, and they are now silent about that extraordinary manoeuvre for winning votes. The Labour party fought on "Labour and the Nation" which we arc now assured the late Chancellor of the Exchequer never read. The country was confused. The country could not do right. It was not going to, decide for Socialism and it could not decide for Liberalism and not for the Tories. It gave a verdict of "Safety First," and put no party in power. It is often the safest course which turns out to be the most dangerous, and the country had to pay bitterly for that decision.
315 In the last appeal made to the country there was nothing of that. It was a clear-cut call to self-sacrifice, which is so much despised by my hon. Friend sitting upon my right. The willingness of the people to make sacrifices was shown on this occasion. Policemen, soldiers and sailors, schoolmasters, unemployed, what you will, they all voted for us. Ten millions of the working class at least must have voted for us as the hon. Member for Bridge-ton (Mr. Maxton) admitted, and it was the old traditions of our race which induced them to do so. My hon. Friend on my right believes in divine discontent rather than in the dignity of sacrifice. He encouraged, in his eloquent speech on the first day of the Debate, people not to look to Parliament but to other means. He upbraided them almost for the self-sacrifice they had recently been called upon to make.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not think that that explanation entitles the hon. Member to say that I despise self-sacrifice.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I am sure that the hon. Member has himself made many self-sacrifices; but he does not wish self-sacrifice for the people. He does not think it necessary. I would put it in that more moderate way. Nor do I think that this is the time for unseemly triumph over a defeated foe. This House should be extremely considerate to those who have survived the most difficult time in the history of their party. I say that for myself, and I do not claim to speak for anyone else. There are some reasons for the sadness of the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley. One can appreciate his feelings. I was reminded of the words of Charles Lamb, of which the right hon. Gentleman may have been thinking:I have had playmates, I have had companions.In the days of childhood, in my joyful schooldays.All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.316How some have died and some they have left me,And some are taken from me: all are departed.All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.The right hon. Gentleman ended with an appeal and also with a very strong complaint. He said, with indignation, that the old parties had combined and refused to let him divide and rule. If ever there was a confession that the Labour party climbed to power not on any constructive policy but by the factions of their opponents, that was a confession. I always suspected it. The Labour party has risen to power by the factions of the two older parties. If in 1918 the Conservatives and the Liberals had fought separately on the old lines, exactly the same thing would have happened that happened in America when the Republicans and the Democrats did the same thing. The Labour party-would never have had a look in but for the factions of the older parties. As the result, first, of the Coalition and afterwards of divisions, the Labour party climbed into its high position. Therefore, I cannot sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that he is not being allowed to divide and rule. That is, I think, a most contemptible complaint to make.
Clearly, the Government have an alternative to the Amendment that has been moved. I would not advise them to despise the Amendment by any means, because it may be what we shall have to come to if the Government do not take their proper action. I think that Socialism is utterly wrong. I think that the Socialism put forward by the ex-Solicitor-General, in his somewhat curious speech, is utterly untenable and would certainly lead to disaster but, undoubtedly, if the people are disappointed this time with the Government which they have elected by so large a majority they will turn to other courses. Therefore, the Government should realise the absurdity and the nakedness of the arguments of the late Solicitor-General and decide whether there is not something that they can and must do to prevent the country from turning to such arguments and such policy as an alternative to the policy of the present Government. At the present time there is no other alternative before the country. The country has clearly given a mandate to 317 the Government to act, and to act in a very specific way. We are told that there are to be more inquiries. Has not the fiscal question been inquired into for many years? Does not every single fact that is coming forward every day instruct the Government what to do? On what was the Election fought? Very largely on the clear-cut arguments of the present Foreign Secretary. For him the doctor's mandate became the surgeon's mandate. He said in effect:The country is suffering from a disease, and it can be cured by the surgeon's knife. the excess of imports over exports can be cured by the surgeon's knife.Could anything be clearer? The right hon. and learned Gentleman put the situation so clearly to the electorate that every one, whoever he was, understood him. That statement was of enormously greater value in winning votes than the statement about the deposits of the Post Office Savings Bank. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman must not expect those of us who accept the broad implications and consequences of Protection to abandon our faith and merely to believe in the surgeon's mandate. That would be to abandon everything which means anything to us in political life. I would by far prefer the broad Imperial view which has been put so often by the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin). But we say that the doctrine of the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) is an immediate cure for a temporary situation and that it would mean a great Imperial result for the benefit of our race. We, too, want control and organisation and we want to organise our own Empire. We do not want merely to take control of the industries of this country. We have a great scheme for Imperial control and also for the control of the trade of the nations that send goods to us. We want order out of chaos, a plan instead of laissez-faire. We want control where no control has been exercised before.
There is a great deal in the Amendment with which we might agree if we altered a few words. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley has put forward his surgeon's plan to cure the immediate ills of the country. We think that it should have a far greater and wider economic result. I cannot see why, in accordance with Liberal tra- 318 dition, every Liberal in this House should not adopt the broader view, and be able to see the wider horizon. My family has been not without connection with the Liberal party, and I would ask Liberals to look at the altered circumstances. What about our land? What right have we to allow the finest land in the world to lie fallow and to allow want in the midst of plenty? What right have we to ask for our daily bread, as a certain "Pedlar of dreams" said in the recent election? Why do we allow 1,000,000 acres of our land to go out of cultivation in a few years? We ought to have known better: we were fully warned. During the War we were separated from starvation only by a few days and we were saved by the Navy. At the end of the War Sir Edward Carson was put in charge of a Cabinet Committee, the Committee on the Economic offensive, which recommended a scheme of drastic control of imports to be applied after the War in order to save this country from industrial chaos and financial crisis. The Cabinet adopted it, and never acted. Had that scheme been put into force wisely and well we might be living in a very different world now. We might be living in a world of order instead of chaos. We might have Imperial economic unity instead of the Statute of Westminster.
Why should not every Liberal in this House look upon the situation with new eyes? They have great authority for taking a far more constructive view than the mere medical and surgical view of the present situation. Mr. Gladstone was a great idealist. He thought that Free Trade was bound up with the welfare of the country, but he was no pedant and he did not hesitate to change and to apply the opposite method when he saw that the country needed it. In Ireland he tried coercion, and it failed. He swung round at once and fought with the strength of a hero and with the voice of an angel during his last years to win the Home Rule which he thought was the solution for the problem of Ireland. Would he have adopted a different method with regard to Protection in these days? I think not. Let me quote the words of Mr. Gladstone. They might well be the words of Disraeli, but they were the words of the great Liberal leader: 319Perhaps if the day of difficulty and danger should arise, we may from the affection of the Colonies obtain advantage and assistance which compulsion would never have wrung from them, and may find that all parts of the British Empire have one common mart and that all are equally devoted to the honour and interest of their common country.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
In 1881. I fail to believe that if Mr. Gladstone were alive to-day he would not apply that doctrine in action, and that he would not be a member of the National Government advocating Imperial economic unity, which we know can be obtained only in one way. Many hon. Members claim Mr. Gladstone as their hero. I remember Sir Ben Turner saying that Mr. Gladstone would have been a Socialist if he were alive to-day, and he quoted Mr. Gladstone as an authority. Would that lofty and religious mind ever have sunk to the depravity of class war? Would that cold financial genius ever have consented for one moment to agree with the economics which have been put forward by the late Solicitor-General? I hardly think so. I am claiming him now as an Imperialist. But finally I would ask Members of all parties to join in the Council of State which was prophesied by the Prime Minister in the last Parliament and now has actually come about, after the bitter travail of the nation.
§ Major MILNER
I do not propose to follow the somewhat excitable hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Marjoribanks) either in his historical retrospect or in his family recollections, nor, after listening to the eloquent and heart-felt speech of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Devlin) does it rest with me to say very much about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite or to quarrel with his definition of a blackleg, on which he is such an admitted authority. The first duty of those of us who have been elected to sit on these benches ought to be to express our appreciation, which increases day by day, of the wisdom shown by our constituents in returning such a compact, devoted and united Opposition to the service of the nation. Well might we say with the poet:We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.320 The second comment I would make would be that every reflection which has been made upon the late Labour Government or its Cabinet, or upon the Labour party must reflect and rebound with redoubled force upon the Prime Minister and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. One was the trusted head of the Government, the trusted custodian of the honour of this party and of the Government of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was the trustee of the nation's finances. Both betrayed their trust. It is as though—as, in fact, has been the case in my own city of Leeds—there had been a great fire. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer knew in February that it was coming, and he neglected to take any steps to prevent it.
§ Major MILNER
He was guilty, in my view, of a very grave dereliction of duty. In August, when the flames were reaching their height and the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were appealed to by the owners of the building, the financiers and the bankers, not the nation, because the nation's finances never have been in real or imminent danger, although they knew that the flames were reaching a great height and that the building was almost devoured, they took no steps until they were appealed to, and when the appeal was made they appeared in the garb of firemen and claimed the credit for saving the edifice; but left their innocent colleagues to be engulfed in the earthquake which followed the fire. Why did the Prime Minister and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer take that course? The answer is clear. They desired, in plain language, to save their own faces, to shift the responsibility, to avoid the burden of their own neglect. To do that they had to combine with others; hence the formation of this so-called National Government.
The Prime Minister some years ago wrote the epitaph of such a Government when he said in Coalition days that it was an abortion of feeble politics. That is what this National Government is likely to be. It is like a joint stock company which has been formed on the Prime Minister's manifesto, which may 321 be termed the prospectus of the company and, like all prospectuses, it was a very alluring document, holding out hopes, implanting fears and making appeals to a false sense of patriotism, with the result that it was overwhelmingly over-subscribed. The directors have now been appointed, and I am sure that it must have given unalloyed pleasure to hon. Members opposite to know that Mr. Snowden has been appointed one of the directors. He was somewhat of an old man of the sea to the late Labour Government, and I doubt whether he will be different in his present company. We wish you joy of his association with you.
§ Major MILNER
I do not consider the hon. and learned Member any judge of worthiness. We are now gathered together to hear the programme of work as set out in the King's Speech. The dividends are eagerly awaited by the expectant subscribers. What a disappointment! No plan, no policy, vague promises of inquiry, investigation and report; delay, indecision, failure. Up to this afternoon even the invitation to Ottawa had not been accepted; it was to be considered, but I gather from the announcement made by the Secretary of State for the Dominions that the invitation has now been accepted. I had thought that the tour which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to undertake was to be a substitute for that conference. Only some two years ago the right hon. Gentleman made a tour. He went to Canada and to other Dominions, but the only result, as far as I am aware, was a large number of very racy reminiscences, a number of fairy tales, on the style of Baron Munchausen, but nothing else of the slightest value; and I prophesy that a similar result will accrue from his present proposed visit. It may be that this is the right hon. Gentleman's contribution to national economy. The unemployed have to tighten their belts while the right hon. Gentleman perambulates the world, being feted here and there and making speeches at every stopping-place.
In a perusal of the Gracious Speech it is difficult to find anything which one may term a constructive proposal, but that has not deterred hon. Members opposite from making out a very definite demand for tariffs. I submit that the Govern- 322 ment have no mandate for tariffs. They owe their seats not to their advocacy of a tariff but to the stories that the pound and the savings of the thrifty were in danger. Whenever a tariff has been put as a straightforward issue to the electors of this country, it has been decisively rejected. The position is that the Tories who form the great majority of the Government, are proposing to obtain tariffs by a side wind. Mr. Snowden has said that he did not believe the Conservative leaders would regard a majority obtained in the circumstances of this election as giving them a mandate to carry a general system of Protection—and Mr. Snowden is an honourable man. He will not have a tariff, we feel sure. The sweets of office will not tempt him; he will resign first. The Prime Minister asked for a doctor's mandate, and surely the first step, as the Prime Minister very properly said, is to diagnose the disease. Hence his proposal for inquiry and investigation; and then the remedy, if remedy there be. It is true that the Prime Minister also promised in his manifesto urgent and decisive action without delay, but we now understand that the Government in a few days are to adjourn for a couple of months and that no definite action is to be taken. We are to have two months' holiday; a two months' period of gestation. What a response to those who so trustfully voted for a policy of action! We on this side who know something of the Prime Minister do not envy him his present position. I imagine that the short couplet:Oh, what a tangled web we weaveWhen first we practise to deceive.must often have been present to his mind. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East (Sir S. Cripps) said little about agriculture, but he did call attention to the fact that there is no mention of agriculture in the Gracious Speech. We on this side of the House do recognise the importance of this industry if hon. Members opposite do not, and I welcome the conscious or unconscious tribute of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) yesterday to the great work of the late Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Addison. During the period when the Labour Government were in office, the Noble Lord was inclined to. damn their policy with faint praise and, therefore, we welcome his complete conversion to the policy 323 advocated by Dr. Addison. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East, called attention to the action of the National Government in doing away, or suspending, the operation of the Land Utilisation Act, including the provisions for allotments and small holdings. Some 54,000 unemployed men were set up in a few months on allotments.
Surely it is not necessary or desirable, even in the sacred name of economy, to do away with the provisions in that Act for allotments. They are value for money in a very definite sense, and they provide work for a large section of the community. During the coming winter, if the steps which I know were contemplated were put into force, a much larger number would have been given valuable work in being able to provide fresh food for their families. I should also like to welcome the recognition by the Noble Lord of the necessity for public control of the marketing of milk and potatoes, and his plea for a great national policy. The Labour Government laid the basis of such a policy, which in our judgment can still do much more than any tariff can do. But agriculture at the present moment is, as we all know, a world phenomenom. It is a problem of overproduction, under consumption and maldistribution. Quite clearly it would not be right, even if it were possible, to slow up production, and in my submission it is not necessary or desirable to build up barriers, which is the proposal of hon. Members opposite, but to remove those barriers which at present exist.
There are many people who, when they discuss the subject of agriculture, get it rather out of focus. They discuss agriculture in terms of cereal and arable farming. Those who know anything about the subject know that cereal and arable farming forms only a small proportion of agricultural production in this country, and the Labour Government and the late Minister of Agriculture were right in looking first at the things which presented the greatest opportunity while at the same time preparing a policy which would help cereal production. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Viscount Lymington) told us yesterday of the great opportunities which existed, apart altogether from any question of tariffs, for the production of pigs and 324 poultry, for dairying and for fruit, cheese and vegetables. Over £200,000,000 worth of these products is imported annually; and my submission is that if the policy put forward by the Labour Government could be carried into effect, if we could have a great national effort, helped and controlled by the State, in the interests of consumers and workers as well as producers, a very large contribution indeed would be made towards putting right the present adverse position of our trade balance. This can be dona, and has been done in Denmark, without the application of any tariff.
A tariff merely means higher prices to the consumers, and the poorest of the poor pay proportionately more because they spend a much greater proportion of their income on food and the necessaries of life than the better-to-do. I gather that it is not now suggested that there should be a tariff on wheat. Of course if such a tariff were proposed it would be an intolerable burden. It would have to be something like a tariff of 60 or 80 per cent. Any suggestion of tariffs, particularly on agriculture, on top of the present depreciated exchange and the higher shipping charges, would do precisely what the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said two years ago. The right hon. Gentleman then stated:He should be quite frank and say at once that the protect on of foodstuffs was quite impossible. The moment prices went up through protection there would be such a storm of protest against the agricultural industry that any Act would have to be repealed.That is true to-day. Certainly, speaking for my own constituency, it is true. Something was said yesterday about a tariff being a help in improving our adverse trade balance. I submit that the experience of France has clearly proved that that would not be the case. In France, in spite of the great increase of the French import duties during the past year, the imports during the first eight months have remained almost stationary, while their volume was almost entirely due to the fall in world prices. I am reading from the "Manchester Guardian" of 21st September. On the other hand the exports fell 29 per cent. in value and 18 per cent. in volume; and the adverse trade balance in the first eight months of last year, £44,455,000, 325 increased, notwithstanding the imposition of additional tariffs, to £72,457,000. How can it be suggested that a tariff would appreciably affect or improve our adverse trade balance? That trade balance will very largely right itself in view of the present depreciated exchange and the fact that we are not now anchored to sterling, as the Prime Minister terms it.
If the policy of my hon. and learned Friend who moved the Amendment is put into effect this country, in our view, will very soon regain its former position. As I understood my hon. and learned Friend he pleaded for public regulation, guidance, help, control—call it what you will—of the basic industries, including agriculture, under non-political business management. A great deal was said during the last election about running businesses either by the Trades Union Congress or from Whitehall or something of that sort. As I understand the policy of my party, we stand for running these businesses by public corporations or by bodies of producers, as for instance set up under the Marketing Bill—set up under some such statutory authority, with proper safeguards in all cases for workers and consumers. We submit also in the Amendment that we must have co-operation amongst the nations of the world; we must bring them together rather than keep them apart by economic barriers such as tariffs. Finally I urge the House, and the National Government so-called, to take a long view. Crises come and crises go, but problems remain. True statesmanship cannot restrict its view to the no doubt urgent pre-occupations of the present, but must look to the future. It is because I believe that the conglomeration of tariff traffickers who form the great majority of the party opposite have no conception of such a policy, that I support the Amendment so ably proposed by my hon. and learned Friend.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir WALTER SMILES
In making my maiden speech, I find it necessary, as other hon. Members have done, to start by saying how I won my seat. I have heard it stated, especially by hon. Members opposite, how the General Election was won. I have no hesitation in saying why I was fortunate enough to be honoured with elec- 326 tion by the people of Blackburn. It was because I am a staunch supporter of the policy of the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin). Whenever I was in doubt and heckled, I replied that "I stood by Mr. Baldwin," and that satisfied the electors. Because of long residence in India I am able to speak a little upon the question of Lancashire cotton there. I would like to see a trade agreement with India. Even within the wide range of this Debate I have not yet heard the question of India and a trade agreement mentioned. I would ask the cotton producers of Lancashire to cast their minds back to 15th April, 1929, because I believe it was from that date that the cotton industry of Lancashire began to suffer. On 15th April, 1929, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer abolished the preferential duty for Indian tea. If we abolish a preferential tariff for goods produced overseas we cannot in return expect our friends there to give a helping hand to us.
§ Sir W. SMILES
I believe that the present crisis arose particularly from want of money, and I submit that we stand a good chance of getting plenty of money if we reimpose in part some of the duty on tea. It may be said that that would be taxing food, but in my own constituency I mentioned this question of giving a preference to Indian tea and it was never treated with any great seriousness; up there the people were far more interested in the price of beer than in the price of tea. It is a fact that since 15th April, 1929, the tea industry of India has been going down-hill. Some of my own friends with gardens in the Surma valley have this year been trying to raise money and have offered 10 and even 15 per cent. debentures, but could not get the money. The abandonment of the preferential tariff for Indian tea has ruined these people. We must get a trade agreement between India and this country. A prosperous and contented India means a prosperous and contented Lancashire. Of course there are plenty of other produce besides tea and cotton which should get a preferential tariff, but in the course of a maiden speech I can deal only with two things with which I have been intimately connected.
327 It is a duty of most tea-planters in India every Sunday morning to go, not to church, because unfortunately there are not many churches on the tea gardens, but to go down to the bazaars and to see that their labourers get their cotton goods at proper prices. For years it was my custom to see Lancashire cloth sold to our own workpeople. In return I hoped that this country was thinking of Indian tea being sold to workpeople here. I want to see fair play for Lancashire as well as fair play for India. When I said goodbye to my friends on the Assam Legislative Council, with whom I served for seven or eight years, they said to me: "If you are fortunate enough to be returned to the House of Commons will you remember us? I remember that question to-day in making my maiden speech. I represent the people of Blackburn, but I feel also that I am representing the people of my own province of Assam. I am sure that the prosperity of Blackburn is intimately connected with the prosperity of Assam. We ask for a preference for tea grown within the Empire. It is already given by many of our Colonies and Dominions, by New Zealand and many others. It is only in the ease of the Home country that we are asked to compete with the foreigner without any advantage at all.
Our principal competitors are Java and Sumatra. When the owners of the Dutch tea gardens buy their engines and machinery they do not buy them from England but from Germany. We buy our goods in the north of England. When we buy machinery we buy it from Marshalls, of Gainsborough, or from the Sirocco Works in Belfast, and thus support the old country. The girders for building our tea houses we generally get from Glasgow, and, last but not least, when any profit is made we pay our Income Tax in England, whereas the profit made by the Dutch companies is sent abroad. I suggest that it would not be an unfair thing to give a preference to our countrymen overseas. I see opposite the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). He and I and the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) went over two or three tea gardens together. If he casts his mind back to 1929 he will remember those tea gardens. 328 Some of them are now stopped. The managers and the assistants have been discharged and the labour is dissipated searching for work. If a preferential duty were available again tho6e gardens would be restarted, more machinery would be brought from the old country and more Income Tax would be paid into the coffers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not only are the European planters ruined, but the Indian planters also.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Limehouse remembers the speeches to-which we listened in Delhi. I met him last on a hot day in April and I meet him here again on a cold day in November. People in India often refer to "the Mother of Parliaments." I know one Indian planter who is nearly ruined. He said: "I used to talk about the Mother of Parliaments. I hope it is not the wicked stepmother now." People all over India still look to this House to protect and support them. I suggest, therefore, that if a duty be again put on tea with a preference to Empire-grown tea, not only will more money come into the Exchequer, but everyone in the tea industry will become a potential commercial traveller for Lancashire cotton goods. I am certain that every manager, every assistant, every babu, every sirdar and labourer, would do his best to buy cloth from Lancashire, if the case was put to them properly. All we ask for, both from Blackburn and Assam, is fair play for India and fair play for Lancashire.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Permit me to begin by congratulating the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. Smiles) on his maiden speech. I think I can assure him on behalf of the House that we shall await with interest his next speech. I have listened for the past two days with great interest to speeches from all quarters of the House in reference to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I am sorry that you, Sir, could not see your way to accept the Amendment which appeared on the Paper in the names of some of my colleagues and myself, but we have to leave it at that. What has struck me during this Debate is that the atmosphere of this House is very peculiar in view of the election through which we have just passed. I have passed through many 329 General Elections. I have been an active worker in the Labour movement for 40 years. I am now 40 years a member of my trade union—the Amalgamated Engineering Union—and never in all my experience did I pass through such a peculiar election as the last General Election.
It is true that the powers-that-be in this country have dealt a staggering blow to the working-class movement, but I want to assure the House and I want, particularly, to assure the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Marjoribanks), who spoke from this bench a short time ago, that the working-class movement is not down and out. Far from it. The working-class cannot be defeated—neither by the Tory party, nor by any other party, nor by any conglomeration of individuals who may desert the Labour movement and go to take control in some other section of the community. The working class will rally from that shattering blow. Those who organised the election understood the psychology of the British working people. They knew that deep down, our people, and particularly those of my own race, the Scottish race, are essentially conservative. Next to the Scottish people in that respect are the English people. They knew that there are still tens of thousands of people possibly a million or two of folk in this country who are not on the bare subsistence level, who have a few pounds in the savings bank or in the co-operative stores, and they played on that fact.
Further there are the people who have a few pounds in the Post Office Savings Bank. But I do not wish to hammer at that question now, because we are going to ply the President of the Board of Trade with questions on that in our own peculiar fashion. If the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had been in the House we would have done what we possibly could to roast him and toast him to the very best of our ability. I know him very well. I have known him and his wife, not for ten minutes nor for a year or two only. I know the part which they have played and I know that it is the movement for which I am speaking, the great working-class movement, which made it possible for them both to fill the position which they occupy in society to-day. It ill becomes them now to use in the way they are doing the power and 330 the influence which they got from the working class. It ill becomes them to turn in the way they have done at a moment when the country certainly thought that there was a crisis and when everybody believed that anything might happen.
My colleagues of the Labour party would not listen to me and my friends when we stood up against the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in our party meetings. Instead, they turned us down and moved votes of censure on us. Talk about a dirty Election! My trade union executive used all its power in order to keep me from coming here. But all that is by the way. The Lord Privy Seal, I hope, has a long life in front of him. I do not envy him in any way. He can be created the Lord of Auchtermuchty if he cares for it. He can have any title so far as I am concerned, but the fact remains that in the working-class mind, and I am speaking as an engineer and viewing the situation from a working engineer's point of view, the men and women who formerly considered Philip Snowden one of the greatest men whom this country ever produced are looking upon him today in another light.But Man, proud man!Dress'd in a little brief authority;Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd,Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,As make the angels weep!He will pay the price, you can take it from me. Everyone does so in his own peculiar and particular fashion. And what do we find after this hurricane, this typhoon as the Prime Minister described it, which struck this nation in the General Election? The people were hurled completely off their balance. There were posters put out by the Tory party showing a picture of a cross-roads and one road was marked "The Road to Socialism—Ruin."[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but the leader of the Socialist movement was part and parcel with those who were putting out bills of that kind. I wish to God he was in his place now.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Mac- 331 quisten) has slipped this time, because the Prime Minister himself publicly announced through the wireless that though the label "Socialist" might be taken off his back, it could not be taken off his mind. He remains a Socialist, and therefore he has not seen the light which the hon. and learned Member prescribes for him. He remains a Socialist—I am not going to question that— but the point which I am on at the moment is that this poster showed that Socialism was the road to ruin whereas the other road marked "Tariffs" was the road to prosperity. And then I come here to this House, and I see these Benches crowded with Britain's might—or what is supposed to be—and they produce what? Out of this terrible storm, this typhoon, this whirlwind, they produce this King's Speech—an orphan of the storm. If there ever was an orphan this is one.Poor innocent unchristened babe.There it is, nameless. There is a King's Speech for you! We were told that the road to prosperity was tariffs. The Prime Minister with all this might behind him, with all these millions of votes, was asked from this bench by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) a plain, simple question and that question was evaded by the Prime Minister, who is supposed to be the greatest man in the world at the moment—in the eyes of most people in civilisation, he is. The whole of Britain believes him to be the saviour of the moment and believe that not only will he save Britain but save civilisation. But when the Prime Minister was asked a simple, straightforward question in straight British fashion, as one Briton to another, he evaded that question.
Not only that but to show you the power of this wonderful Government, I may mention that I heard the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) put another simple, plain and straight question to the Prime Minister, and she also got an evasive answer. There was not a straight answer even for her, but she plied the right hon. Gentleman further and said she did not understand his reply. And what did the Prime Minister of England say to that? He said: "I did not intend you to understand what 332 I said." Hon. Members opposite can have that for honest leadership if they like. We had him for years. A few of us tried to face up to him and because we did so, we were denounced up hill and down dale, and were not allowed the party's endorsement at the election. So I say to hon. Members opposite—beware.
Let us turn to another side of the question. What have the Government done since they organised themselves to face what they described as an increasingly dangerous situation not only in our own country but world wide and affecting our whole civilisation. I will not go into that in detail because the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), who is here in spite of all the forces that were arrayed against him, has explained the situation with which civilisation is faced to-day. He has also shown that we have no longer the workshop of the world, and that countries which we formerly supplied are now competitors in the world market, and that market, as far as we are concerned, instead of expanding is contracting.
The problem is even worse than that, because the problem which is facing civilisation is one not of shortage but of superabundance. We say that it is not the duty of a Socialist or Labour party to find work for the unemployed, as the work is all done. Look what happened. The Prime Minister, when he was head of the Labour Government in 1929, created a new Department to overcome unemployment. He put in charge of that Department one of the most sagacious men of the Labour movement. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) is one of the most sagacious men in the Labour movement, no matter what we say about him, and nobody has told him, publicly and privately, what they thought of him more than I have. I was censured in 1929 by the Labour party for calling him a bluffer. Even when they put him in charge of that Department, he was not able for the job. With all his ability he had to tell us there that, just as he was able to get work for 2,000 or 3,000 men, the conditions were of such a character that another 2,000 or 3,000 were thrown out of work. The Government were forced to abandon that Department for finding work for the unemployed. No matter how we appealed to the Prime 333 Minister and to the late Government, they went steadily on their way trying to run Capitalism, just as they are trying now.
The Prime Minister then appointed an Economic Committee, and this time went outside the Labour and Socialist movement. He was travelling in the direction in which he has now completely gone, and again we were the only individuals who protested against the line which he was taking and along which he was taking the whole Labour movement with him. That is why I am so hard on the Prime Minister and on Mr. Snowden, because his colleagues, whom he is now denouncing, were only too loyal. They said to me, who went round the country as a wandering missionary trying to make converts, "Davie, you don't know. Philip and Mac must be right." It was not said slightingly, but in sincerity by men and women who had sacrificed their all to try and make the Labour movement possible. What did the Prime Minister do then? He appointed a committee and put Lord Weir, one of the most hard-crusted Tories in Great Britain, France or Ireland, in charge of it. He was opening the gate then. He was not going to be tied down by any party principles. He was going, as Lord Birkenhead said, to get first-class brains, the Churchill brains. He went outside the Labour movement for his committee and we again protested. We plied him with questions as to when we were going to get a report from that committee, as to how much work it had found, and as to how many unemployed had been found employment. The answer always was that the report would come by and by.
Now, after all that experience, here we are still, and the right hon. Gentlemen have gone the whole hog and plunged themselves into the ranks of the Tory party in order to try another way to run capitalism. It cannot be done. The Prime Minister had all these brains at his disposal before he took up the idea of forming a National Government. Yet what did they do for this world of ours which is teeming with all the good things of life, with riches beyond the wildest dreams of avarice, and with the finest workers in the history of the world? Here in Britain, with the finest raw material, the British working class 334 is in its present condition in spite of all this power, all this great Empire, with its economic resources which smashed the mightiest military machine on which the sun ever shone, the German Empire. With all those resources at his back, what did the right hon. Gentleman do? The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) made a speech in which he told us what the Government were going to do. He told us that they were going to ask for sacrifice. In the midst of all this wonderful affluence, in this world in which man by his ingenuity has harnessed the powers of nature, and made nature do his work, in the midst of all this superabundance, the right hon. Member for Bewdley told us that we must be prepared for sacrifices. He said that the sacrifices, of course, were to be equal and he added that he knew his fellow-countrymen. I believe he does, but there is a section of them about whom he knows nothing—the unemployed. He does not know what it is to be up against it or what it is to be without his breakfast; the unemployed do. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was satisfied that if we were to go to the unemployed and ask them to make a sacrifice, they would do so, and he added that, if we did not ask them, the unemployed would feel insulted.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Do not be so superior. Although the hon. and gallant Member is a doctor, he ought to have some sense. What did they do? What did this mighty Empire do? It started by the right hon. Member for Bewdley telling us that there must be equal sacrifice. Let us see how this equal sacrifice is to be applied. I shall quote from the figures in the Government's own White Paper. They expect to save £3,000,000 from the Anomalies Act. I am satisfied that, instead of £3,000,000, they are going to save £6,000,000. In Glasgow alone, out of 5,000 people who came before the authorities, 4,000 have been cut off. I and my colleagues rightly fought the Anomalies Bill here all night when it was introduced. The Government also expect to save £12,800,000 from reduced benefits. All these savings are made from the working class and the unemployed. Then comes transitional benefit 335 and the means test. There was dirty work. They never applied the means test until the 12th November, until after the Election, because, if the means test had been applied before the Election, instead of their coming back here with an overwhelming majority, they would be chased into the sea. They expect by the means test to effect a saving of £10,000,000. By increased contributions to Unemployment Insurance they intend to have a saving of £5,000,000. All those savings come from the poorest section of the community. Do you believe, Mr. Speaker, that I could be maintained as you see me on 15s. 3d. a week? Do you think it is possible? It is utterly impossible. You cannot rear a hardy intelligent race on 15s. 3d. a week. Remember that those are the sons of God, the same as you and I. They may have all the faults and all the blemishes that human flesh is heir to, but they never asked to come into this world, and this world and the goods of this world are as much theirs as ours. A new civilisation was born when our national bard Robert Burns got the ploughmen of Ayrshire to whistle—A man's a man for a' that,whether he is poor or anything else, and should be treated as a man. You are not treating as a man to-day the man who has absolutely no other means of subsistence than that 15s. 3d.
It does not end there. They are not satisfied with what they have taken off the working class, but they have attacked our educational system, believing that we of the Scottish race are the best educated race in the world. This Government, headed by my great fellow-countryman, is going to take from free education £10,700,000 a year. That is a great deed for a great, big, powerful Government headed by all the powers! No wonder that when they brought the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) the list of ejection results, he said, I am informed, "I wonder when the Christian Liberals are going to get a chance."
How much, therefore, is being docked off the working classes? £41,000,000 a year. Now let us see how the well-fed, the well-slept, are treated, most of them individuals who have never worked. I 336 know ever so many in this House who have never worked in their life, and if they had to do it, as I understand working in the workshop, as an engineer, or as a collier, before they would become a collier—and they talk, so brilliantly and courageously, about the dignity of labour—they would go out and make a hole in the Thames. I know them. How much is this great Government going to ask of the rich, the Super-tax payers, the 97,000 of them who own more than all the working class put together? They are taking £41,000,000 off the poor working class and £5,000,000 off the super rich. There is your equal sacrifice.
That is what you are faced with, and it is all being done with a view to driving down the standard of life in this country, when statesmen to-day are in the honourable and noble position of being able, instead of lowering the standard of life, to raise the standard of life, not only in our own country, but in every other country in the world. Do the Government think that other countries are sitting idly by while they are driving down the working-class standard of life? Last July I asked the Labour party to support me in a Bill to make a reduction of wages in this country illegal, and I was not supported. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I believe to be the villain of the piece, would not have it, and my colleagues were too true and too loyal to their leaders, with the result that there has been a gradual process downward. If we could have got a rise in the wages of the employed, there would have been no decrease in the payments to the unemployed. But it has been a general downward trend, and what is going on? When we go to the Continent our comrades tell us, "Do you think the capitalists are going to stand idly by in our country and see your capitalists drive you down?" Hear what Mussolini says:The Italian people, who, fortunately, are not accustomed to eating several times a day, can easily stand a crisis.That is Italy. Then the Rhenish coal king says:The German people must learn to work more and eat less.Then the Governor of the Bank of Japan says:The Japanese producer is eating too much of his own produce and enjoying too many of his own manufactures.337 The last that I am going to quote is from that well-known man Mr. McKenna, Chairman of the Midland Bank, etc., etc. But the British statesman, with his craft and cunning, clothes his statement in language that is not so clear and crisp that "he may run that readeth it," as it is in the case of the Rhenish coal king. Mr. McKenna says this:We shall recover the Gold Standard automatically when the exports of the country exceed the imports, or, in other words, when the energies of our industries can be devoted to the manufacturing of goods to sell abroad instead of goods to be consumed at home.That is just the same as the German coal king, who says:The German people must learn to work more and eat less.I want to warn the Government, I want to warn the "powers that be," I want to warn the Prime Minister— who, when we talked about Socialism in our time, always called it shillyshallying futilities—that he has either to adopt Socialism in our time or to receive the same fate as was meted out to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was a mighty man during the War. I fell foul of him very much during the War, but undoubtedly he played his part and marshalled the forces, political and otherwise, of this country behind him. They backed him while the country was in danger, while they believed there was a crisis in the country, while their old nobility in Britain never produced a solitary man, not one—the only remnant of one was the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—but they backed the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs until that crisis was over. When the War was over, what did they do with him? What did the Tory party do with him, immediately the German menace was over? They cast him aside like a sucked orange, they threw him out; and and they will do the same with my great fellow-countryman, who has not won a great war, but who for the time being has conquered the working class for the Tories. I want him to take note that the day is not very far distant when probably we shall have to be defending him against the very individuals who are now lauding him to the skies.
338 The Government have a great opportunity, nevertheless, in my poinion, if they will take it, from a national or an international point of view. It is only a name, this idea of a National Government. They are not patriotic; they are selfish. It is their own selfish individuals whom they are looking after at this juncture. If they believed in the nation, if they believed that we as a race were a superior race, and that we also ought to have our place, dignified, secure, and serene, in the world to-day, then they would ally themselves with the great Socialist movement, which is not out for any individual, which is not out to make a god of any man or any set of men, but which is out to take advantage of this glorious situation with which we are presented, with a world containing all the good things of life, with men and women who are better to-day, morally and physically, than ever before in the History of the world. That is what is presented to this Government. If they would seize their opportunity, there is no doubt about it that they would go down to posterity as the men who came forward at the psychological moment and saved the situation, not only in Britain, but for civilisation in general.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I hope I may be allowed to make a few remarks on the subject of the social services, and in doing so I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) to recognise that even if we, on our side, cannot and do not try to emulate his expression of feelings with clapping of hands and with deafening shouts and other expostulations which we are quite used to hearing from him, at the same time we share and respect very fully his really sincere feelings of sympathy, combined with anxiety, for all classes who are affected at the present time by the crisis. It is because of that feeling that we recognise, many of us, that there is a great deal in the point of view which has been taken by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and his associates. In fact, I think it could hardly be better put than it was put the other day by the hon. Member for Bridgeton, when he spoke of the long-suffering working class and said:I hope…that we shall get for the first time in this country an opportunity to build a decent State, on a decent foundation, and that…they"—339 I presume he meant the Government—can start to build up a new social order on foundations of human decency, fair play and common justice."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1931; col. 80, Vol. 259.]That could not be bettered. We can echo that feeling from these benches. What is more, I think that we can share the feeling expressed in the words at the end of the Amendment regretting that there is no mention of any intention of restoring and developing the social services. Most of us know that those who are keen on the social services and supported us in the election feel anxious on the subject, but we want to approach the matter rather differently, because we have been returned by an overwhelming majority of the electorate to give a free hand to the Government. In that free hand, in that doctor's mandate, on which I may claim to have some right to speak, it is clear that you can read the greatest anxiety as to what the doctor is going to do with his mandate. The Opposition naturally taken the line of suspicion of the doctor, but we take the line of hope of the doctor. I join, however, with those who say that we feel some anxiety as to the situation, and we shall feel it until we see the Government's programme.
We do not want the Government to state their case at the present time, but I want to state what is necessary in order to maintain our social services. I differ from the hon. Member for Bridgeton mainly in this, that he cannot recognise that he has backed the wrong horse at the election. The real fact is that we represent the working classes more than he does. The real working classes are represented on these benches, and not on those. Two-thirds of the Labour movement and the large majority of the trade union movement voted for us, and we represent them. I was sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) said the other day that the British working man was sick of the social services. In that he was guilty of an exaggeration, something akin to the exaggerations to which we have just been listening from the other side. There is no question that, although there are aspects of the social services to which the working man objects, we must not leave out of account the British working woman. Sometimes the cynics forget 340 that the women are a majority of the electorate, and the time is coming when they will have politics of their own and a definite alignment or angle of political views. Coming into politics, as the greater mass have, since the enlargement of the franchise, they have taken their place in the ordinary political field, but as they find their own power, they will assert their authority to try to get an extension of particular lines of social reform that interest them.
The social services are of special value to this party, for a traditional part of our platfrom, and one of the three main fundamentals of the Conservative party as laid down by Disraeli, is the welfare of the working classes. In order to show that that is not merely a superficial welfare, it is only necessary to refer to the fact that the introduction of the idea of imposing State requirements on the employer as embodied in the first Factory and Workshop Act, was the work of a Tory Government. The Labour party have been in power only in the last few years, and they have done practically nothing effective in the matter. It is not the Labour party, but the Conservative party, and to a less extent the Liberal party, which have been responsible for the long line of social legislation all through the last century. Therefore, it is not up to us to belittle the social services or what they represent. We are faced with a real difficulty at the present time in view of the economies that have been necessary. The first thing that we have to do is to maintain the social services in this time of fluctuating money exchanges and price levels.
The fundamental thing in all social reforms, which is often forgotten by social reformers, is the ordinary welfare of the working class in money affairs. You cannot go ahead with social services in regard either to health or education unless an income is coming into the family. For that reason it is no use having artificial price levels, and the first essential for social reform is to get that put right. We cannot go ahead with that work until we have first obtained the stabilisation of the money position. We have also to see that employment is improved; there have been considerable signs of improvement within the last five weeks. Then, again, we must see that the abuse of State funds iii stopped. Anybody who has had any 341 responsibility for money knows that waste and abuse must be stopped. How to do it is another question, but inasmuch as the necessity for a means test is agreed to by the mass of the Labour party, I am certain that the only question is how the test should be applied. We have decided on certain specific measures of economy, and I believe that there is a great possibility of exercising economy in social ser-vices without loss of efficiency, and we want to impress on the Government that, if there is to be economy, it must be enforced without loss of efficiency.
There are three definite things which we want to impress on the Government. First, we must maintain the efficiency of institutions and personnel; secondly, we must make a better use of what we have; thirdly, we must progress slowly but surely in making further advances. There are certain advances that must be made, and we want the Government to give some assurance that a steady advance is made on certain lines in order that we do not lose what we have got. We want to feel sure that there will be a general continuance of the movement for improving the housing of the people. I hope, however, that we shall stop the waste that has been going on. There has been an appalling amount of waste. The report of the Departmental Committee on rent restriction showed clearly that with all this £12,000,000 a year with which the national Exchequer is saddled for the next 40 or 50 years, there has been practically little or no improvement in the housing conditions of those who can afford to pay only about 10s. or less a week in rent. We want a change in the system of the housing subsidy; we must stop subsidising those people who can build for themselves, and focus attention on those things which are necessary, especially slum clearance and the building of houses at lower prices. An Act, useful in intention, was passed in July of last year, and I hope that some use will be made of it and of reconditioning, which has been so useful in rural districts.
We want also to stop the wasteful development of the countryside. A scheme to that end was almost brought into law in the last Session in the Town and Country Planning Bill. I think that we may definitely expect that that will be put into law with the necessary amendments very soon, because every day and 342 week fresh developments are going on that are spoiling the countryside and wasting our heritage. It is an economic matter to make proper arrangement for planning out the countryside. We want also less costly administration in some of our institutions. An excellent report was recently made by the Board of Control on the subject of their permanent institutions, especially those for mental defectives. They have learned a good deal from foreign countries, and we can learn a good deal from them. There is a great deal of extravagance and unnecessary expenditure in these institutions. The whole trend of medical and surgical science of recent times has been to show how much better we can get on with much cheaper and simpler material. There is enormous waste in the building and furnishing of present institutions. We do not want things that will last for 100 hundred years, and there is a good deal to be said for cheaper but, at the same time, good forms of building. We must maintain the efficiency of institutions and their personnel, and not try to economise in a way that will not mean efficiency in their work.
Let us make better use of what we have got; we can make a great deal better use of it. Let us be perfectly certain that whatever we do we keep our hands off research. That is one of the ways in which we can get greater value for expenditure than anything else. The public money that is spent on it is but a drop in the ocean. I hope that the scheme of veterinary research will be brought to fruition. An enormous amount can be done by publicity and education for the proper use of the services that exist. We all know the tremendous change, the revolutionary and progressive change, in local government created by the Local Government Act, 1929. There has been tremendous development under that Act, and I believe it would be all to the good of local administration if there were now a breathing space for a year or two. Instead of passing new legislation and setting up new officials we ought to get down to bedrock in the proper administration of that Act. All local authorities realise that that in itself is a heavy enough job. In that way we could make enormous progress without further expenditure.
343 Then there is the question of the institutions under the Ministry of Pensions which are becoming obsolescent. I have long tried to urge Ministers to bring about some reasonable scheme by which we can get the different Departments of State working together so as to deal with that question in the most efficient manner. While on the one hand we have the number of persons dealt with by the Ministry of Pensions shrinking, another Department is building new hospitals and setting up new staffs. A great deal could be done if we could get the medical departments of the different Ministries to co-operate. The law has managed to get one united body to serve the different Departments of the State, and I wish to see the general medical and sanitary services so framed that we may secure cooperation. Lastly, I want to emphasise the great value of voluntary institutions in addition to official institutions. There is no need to be dogmatic on the question of voluntary institutions or official institutions; we should deal with the matter as common sense men. We need both voluntary institutions, so far as they are efficient and useful, and official institutions—if only to fill up the gap, if only to make the voluntary system comprehensive. There are large spheres of effort which up to now have been most usefully covered by voluntary institutions and services; the hospitals and the nursing services are two instances. We should develop them because they serve as a means of educating the public to make a proper use of all the facilities which are now available to them.
This brings me to a point which is too often forgotten nowadays, especially by the Socialists. With them the expenditure of money is taken as the criterion of progress. Progress becomes a question of building institutions and providing new officials. Benefits are looked at from the point of view of whether they are pecuniary benefits. The real benefit arises from the opportunities which are provided for the individual to help himself or herself. People should be taught that they must come forward to help themselves if they are to get full value from all the opportunities which are provided. The report issued recently by the Chief Medical Officer of the Board of Education said how important it was to secure that extra value which comes from 344 self-help among the people. As long as we measure the amount of good done by the amount of money spent so long shall we divert the people of all classes from the part they must play in order to make a proper use of the social services.
I end by saying that we are going to economise; we have to economise all round; but I hope the Government will economise wisely, and in doing so I hope they will take advantage of the opportunity to make advances along certain lines which will not cost money but which spell efficiency and are all too frequently neglected. If they do that I think we shall not be worse off but better off during this period of economy; and at the same time we shall be serving the greater end of bringing the country back to financial prosperity.
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has been converted to the point of view of the last speaker. In his speech he pointed out that the Prime Minister and Mr. Snowden had succeeded in defeating the Scottish people because they were Conservatives and the English people because they have a Conservative mind; but I would point out that the Welsh people stood solidly by their Socialist principles during the Election. When I was in the Whips' room some years ago the Prime Minister was trying to find a seat after having been defeated in the 1918 election. He went to Scotland, and they refused him; he went to England, and they rejected him; but we in Wales received him with open arms. It was the Welsh people who gave the Prime Minister the opportunity of sitting where he is to-day. If the Prime Minister were present now I would tell him that the very people who drew his motor-car for five miles nearly to Port Talbot—there were women with babies in their arms among them—are still firm in the faith and have returned a Socialist Member for Aberavon. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs in one thing he said. He stated that the Tory party will let down the Prime Minister just as they let down the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I know the Prime Minister; I have been with him for 30 years; he is a wily, tricky, political customer. He always 345 sees the moves on the chess board. I say that it is not the Tory party who will let down the Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister who will let down the Tory party, as he has let this party down.
I rose, however, to deal with our Amendment in favour of the organisation and national planning of industry, the case for which was so ably put forward by the late Solicitor-General. I was a little surprised when I heard the Prime Minister say on Tuesday, in reply to some questions put to him, "If any question is brought forward we will have an inquiry." I agree with the speakers who are Members of the National Government that so far as the iron and steel trades are concerned we want no inquiry at all. That question is ripe for settlement. In 1924, when a Conservative Government was in power, my society, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, approached the then Prime Minister, who was himself connected with the iron and steel trades, and asked for an inquiry into those trades. He appointed a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet and they investigated the question, but we never received any report of their decision, and during four and a half years the iron and steel trades were left drifting from bad to worse. Works were closed down in England, Scotland and South Wales, and absolutely nothing was done to deal with the industry.
We thought we would try someone else, and prior to the 1929 election we approached the executive of the National Labour party and the members of the Parliamentary Labour party. The Prime Minister himself was present. We stated the case on behalf of the industry, how men were being thrown out of employment and how steel was being imported into this country at pounds under the cost at which we could produce it here. The Prime Minister said, "I think you have made out a very good case, and we promise you as a Government, if we are returned in the 1929 election, to institute an inquiry." He did so. He appointed another Committee under Lord Sankey, and evidence was given on behalf of the employers, of the workmen and of different business concerns in the country. That Committee reported to the Cabinet, but the unfortunate thing is that the Cabinet refused to disclose the report 346 to the House. Ultimately, however, we discovered what was in the report. It had leaked out in some foreign newspaper. The Committee proposed that regions should be established—a region for Scotland, one for the North of England, another for the Midlands and a fourth for South Wales. In. that way there was to be a national planning of the industry.
During the last two years we have been trying to get something done for these trades which are in a worse position than they have ever been in their history. Now we want the present Government to do something. I have been connected with the industry for over 30 years, and whether it is fortunate or unfortunate, we now have in the House employers in these trades who are supporters of the National Government and even Members of the National Government. They are men with whom I have engaged in negotiations regarding the fixing of wages when new plant has been introduced. One of those employers spoke yesterday—the hon. Member for East Leyton (Sir F. Mills)—and there are others here. There are plenty of people in the House who know this industry and who will not be led astray by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who knows nothing about it at all. He does not know the difference between a first hand and a ladle boy, between a sheet roller and a furnace-man, or between a Bessemer ingot and another ingot. The officials of my society and I will give all the assistance we possibly can to the Government if they will endeavour to do something for the iron and steel industry. We have got our proposals. The hon. Member for East Leyton yesterday suggested to the new Members of the National Government that they should purchase a certain document which he mentioned containing the proposals put forward by the iron and steel industry. I wish to give to the House the proposals which we suggest. In the first place, we do not rule out tariffs, but we say that we do not believe that tariffs will solve the problem. What we want is a national kind of industry like that suggested by the late Solicitor-General. We want, in the first place, the application of a national scheme of planning of the industry in all its main branches in well- 347 defined regions of organisation, with managerial boards responsible for the operation of the industry in their respective regions. There should be a central board for the general supervision of the regional organisations, but allowing such local autonomy as will secure the fullest degree of initiative to produce the best results consistent with a sound national policy. The central board would arrange for an adequate supply and distribution of ores and other raw materials, the coordination of research work, the distribution of orders and the marketing of the finished products. The central board would act for the industry as a whole in formulating agreements with other countries in regard to inter-trading relations, and would have authority to regulate, restrict or prohibit imports if the nature of the competition and other circumstances justified that course, and to fix the price of iron and steel in the home market, with due regard to the necessity of stimulating the activities of important using trades. A regional joint board would deal with wages and conditions of labour that are local in character and a national joint conciliation board would deal with those of a national character.
Those are our proposals. We have placed them before supporters of the National Government who represent the iron and steel industries, and they have pledged themselves to this policy, and so we shall expect their support in the House of Commons. We have their names and we want their support for these proposals. The sheet-iron industry will have to be considered when we are dealing with the importation of steel bars. When we are taking this industry into our consideration we must not forget that there is £30,000,000 worth of tinned goods imported into this country. A good deal of fruit, fish and various other things might be canned in this country, but we cannot accomplish this end by rehabilitating the trade on the basis of private enterprise and competition, and if an attempt is made to deal with it in that way it will be doomed to failure.
You can only deal with this question effectively by a national plan, and I appeal to the Government to adopt this suggestion. I do not appeal to the Prime Minister, because he has a shilly-shally 348 mind, and he is hopeless. The Prime Minister is a Free Trader one year and a Tariff Reformer the next year, and I would not trust him a bit. I never have trusted the Prime Minister. I used to trust Mr. Philip Snowden, but not the Prime Minister, who is too much on the chess-board, and is always moving. The Prime Minister would give you one move and take two moves from you. We have now in office a National Government, and we want to do what I have suggested in the national interest for the sake of the men who are unemployed in the iron and steel industry.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER RAMSAY
Like the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles), I am one of those strange new birds about which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) spoke last night. Some of the speeches to which I have listened have contained a great deal of good humour directed at new Members, and some of them have been just a little cynical. I would like to make one suggestion with regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Griffiths). The hon. Member said he would welcome the cooperation of employers of labour in this House who represented the iron and steel industry, and I suggest that in doing so the hon. Member showed remarkably good sense and suggested something which might be very generally followed. There are many new Members of this House who have had considerable experience in industry and commerce. The issues with which the Government are now confronted are economic issues, and if the spirit which has been indicated by the hon. Member for Pontypool is put into practice, many hon. Members may be able to make contributions to a solution of these problems which have baffled the Governments of recent years.
In the past few days in this House we have heard quite a torrent of recriminations about the origin of the General Election and its conduct, and also about the result, and there is not a Member of the House who went through the last General Election who could not add his quota to what has already been said on that subject. I represent a typical industrial constituency, and I am sure that my constituents do not wish to hear the opinion of the Opposition about the conduct of same of their former 349 colleagues. The people who want a job want to know when the work is coming along, and the men who are working only three days a week want to know when they are likely to be provided with more work. The employers also wish to know when something is going to be done, and that is the issue to which the House might usefully direct itself.
The Amendment before the House may be divided into two main sections. The first section deals with the kind of industrial philosophy which has been before the country for at least 30 years, and will probably be a subject for discussion during another 30 years. I cannot find, in the first part of the Amendment, a single contribution to the practical issues with which we are faced at the present moment. The second part of the Amendment is one which in spirit I support, but the House must realise that social standards cannot be improved—in fact, it is an open question whether they can he maintained in their present form unless and until we find some means of resuscitating industries in order to provide an income from which social benefits can be distributed. It is from the industrial point of view that I approach the general question which the House is discussing to-day.
We have had from the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment some criticism and, perhaps, a little qualified praise about industry. Whatever we may say about industry by way of criticism, one thing is absolutely clear: the industries of the world between them have, at any rate, solved the problem of production. There is no single essential commodity which cannot be produced in sufficiently abundant quantities to meet all the needs of all the people. If we could have solved the exchange problem by the expedient of giving things away, as some hon. Members appear to suggest, our position would have been a happy one. It is to distribution that we have to direct the earnest and urgent attention of the country.
It seems to me that exchange has gone wrong for two outstanding reasons. There may be many subsidiary reasons, I agree, but there are two main ones. So far as we are directly concerned, our trade has become completely unbalanced —and that is really the issue with which we are faced in the House now—because 350 we have been maintaining, in circumstances which no longer justified or could carry it, a system of free imports without free trade, and I defy any Member of this House or any economist outside this House to find a method that will be immediately applicable to the conditions of England to-day by which that balance of trade can be adjusted without in a very definite way restricting imports and, so far as we can, extending exports. The second main reason why exchange has collapsed so badly is because the money tokens which are the basis of currency and credit, and which are the means of exchanging goods between man and man and country and country, have become segregated and sterilised in the hands of certain countries not our own.
I am certain that, if this Government is to make a useful contribution to the position in which we find ourselves, it must make certain declarations and do certain things forthwith. I believe that, if it does not, it will be creating an outrage on the sentiment of the electors who sent it back here in such overwhelming force, and it will be going contrary to the considered opinion of the great industrial and commercial and most of the financial institutions of this country. I believe that the first step the Government ought to take, and one that it ought to announce in the way in which we all hope it will be announced during this Session, is to stop the degradation—because it is a degradation—of our national pride, of our prosperity, and of our social standards, arising from the fact that this country of ours has now become a mere sink into which overflows the surplus production of every other manufacturing nation in the world. Then, the doors having been guarded, so to speak, by that means, there would be time for the Government to sit down and consider the question of a scientific tariff applicable in a scientific way to the various needs of the various branches of industry.
The third point that I would submit to the Government as one that is really urgent is this: I think we ought to tell the world that the hoarding and stabilisation of monetary gold in the hands of certain countries has brought about a process of deflation on a world basis, and there is not, cannot be, and never will 351 be, a process of deflation that is not accompanied by bad trade. If you take the means of exchange, to the extent of two-thirds of the total volume, out of the general circulating movement of world commerce, how can it be expected that the volume of commerce can be maintained or its prosperity continued? If the answer of those countries were to be that they could not provide sufficient world credit and for the stabilisation of commodity prices on a gold basis, it would appear to me to be the obvious duty of the Government to tell the world that we must find another credit basis, if you like on sterling, where our friends could join us and we could live in concord with one another without being dependent on the exigencies of a commodity held by other people.
It seems to me too that, if one fact more than another has emerged recently from the economic tendencies of the world, it is that world development is moving directly and inevitably towards economic units. That may be right or wrong in theory, but it is there. We have in the British Empire a potential self-supporting economic unit of the first magnitude, and we should be guilty of the most criminal folly if we did not at this stage take every possible step to consolidate those interests and use them for the mutual good of our various Empire peoples.
I really believe that hon. Members have been searching honestly for the reason for the remarkable turn of events at the General Election. I would venture to suggest what I myself believe to be the main reason. Our people have been shocked to the very core of their being because they have realised that this country has been humiliated by other countries which in fact have depended on our own complacency for much of their industrial and financial strength. The spirit of our people will not be brought back to the point at which we should like to see it, until the Government have declared, as we should expect them to declare, that they are prepared to play their full part in international policy, but that at the same time they are determined, in present circumstances, to put the interests of Britain first to the advantage of the British people. I believe that, if we were to make a strik- 352 ing declaration of that kind, representing what I now hope is the spirit and outlook of the country the country would respond. I firmly believe that we still have the courage, the resiliency, and the capacity to get back to our once proud position of being a leader in the industries of the world, and, more than that, a trustee, not only for our own people, but for civilisation too.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I must compliment the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. A. Ramsay) on his very able maiden speech in this House. I hope that on future occasions the House will have the benefit of his knowledge in regard to financial matters, of which, no doubt, he has made a great study. I rise to-night because my memory takes me back to a Friday only a few weeks ago, when this House was about to break up. and when we were expecting great events to happen. I re-member that, when I asked the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Health one or two pertinent questions in regard to the measures that had to be taken, the answers given to me were most indefinite. There has been no cut-and-dried system in regard to the action that had to be taken in connection with transitional benefit.
I am amused, but am rather alarmed in my amusement, and take to-day's position rather more seriously than I did when I was here on the Friday before the House dissolved. At the present moment we are face to face with a great crisis. The gravity of the situation to-day must be admitted, both from the Labour benches and from the composite benches opposite. It would ill become me to follow the line of an earlier speaker, and I think I should be blamed if I became hysterical in regard to the great difficulty which a composite Government has in dealing with matters upon which the whole nation is anxiously waiting for action to be taken. But I think I am entitled to ask of any man in this House, from the Prime Minister down to the humblest Member, how far his responsibility is going to carry him in the great problem which now confronts us of settling the financial matters of this nation.
Am I to understand that, as far as this nation is concerned, it is only a question of the adjustment of finance and trade 353 balances? Am I to understand that the question of the flight from the pound has lost its great importance to-day, and is not so important a matter as it was a fortnight before the House broke up? It would appear to me that many illogical statements have been made in the House. I could call them by harsher terms. It is rather unpalatable that Ministers who have changed and gone opposite seem also to have changed in principle and do not know what truth really means. Either they are ignorant of what truth means or the air has a more tonic effect upon them, but they become either logical or illogical according to the seats they sit upon. The Prime Minister before the Dissolution did not tell the private benches very much. He may have had conferences with the Cabinet, but he never told the Labour back benches anything. We made an idol of gold out of an idol of clay. We placed too much faith in our leaders without questioning what they said, and the Labour movement and the Members on these benches are paying the price of not questioning those who are supposed to represent democracy. We are paying a great penalty because we were too loyal, because we believed, having placed them on a pedestal, in their sincerity, their honesty and their truth. Then this mandate was asked for from the people by one who was never able to diagnose the disease when he was on these benches and he wants an open cheque from the whole country to bluff the Opposition or to be bluffed by them.
The House of Commons is a funny place—much funnier than outside. People outside ask questions. You are lucky here if you get a chance to ask a question. If you ask a question, it is answered as the Prime Minister replied yesterday to a Noble Lady. She said, "I cannot understand." He said, "No, I answered it in such a way that you would not understand it." During the whole period that he occupied a seat here, he answered us in the same fashion. None of us understood him. The psychology of this House had a lot to do with the defeat outside. The defects of our benches meant the downfall of the party. A game of bluff was played, due to the want of honesty and sincerity in those who pretended to be the leaders. I am getting to my point. I have to have a few pre- 354 liminary canters before I reach the substance of what I am driving at. It may cause a smile, but it does not cause any smile where I come from. I see the haggard faces. I see the line of seven or eight miles of the finest docks in the world and some of the finest men that God ever gave a breath of life to walking along our dock-side. I am not concerned with either the fetish of Free Trade or Tariff Reform. I am concerned with the prosperity and the uplifting of our people. They sail the seven seas and in the time of the Great War they were considered to be the finest mercantile marine afloat. Now where are they? Walking along our line of docks, not able to get work, and I am the only representative sent from the great seaport of Liverpool to voice an opinion in regard to those whom I love so well, who sent me back after the great rout.
But where are we getting to? This Government that came in to balance the trade of the country, that told us that the flight from the pound would mean ruin, now tells us that stabilisation below par would be very beneficial. With practically 20 per cent. against us in the par value of the pound, we are told there is a great benefit to be derived. Has it ever struck the Members of the Government that, when we have finished with the goods that we have in our warehouses, when we have to purchase elsewhere, and the foodstuffs of the nation have to be bought, difficulty will be experienced, and will it be said then that the purchasing power of the people will be great enough and that you will be able to give them the contentment that this Government pretends it will be able to give? I should imagine that the Speech from the Throne was concocted by the Prime Minister. There is as much value in it as there was in the reply that he gave yesterday and he meant that it was to be puzzling. He said, "Give me an open cheque, a doctor's mandate to deal with it." We do not generally on a critical occasion give the doctor the free right of doing whatever he likes. We generally go to a specialist and have a consultation. I should imagine, with my little knowledge of 22 months in this House, that the Prime Minister would be the wrong person to give the mandate to, because I should be afraid that life would be extinct if he experimented. He said, "Reduce the 355 unemployment pay by 1s. 9d., tighten the belt, give only 15s. 3d. to a man genuinely seeking work."
We are told there are many receiving £6, £7 and £8 a week who are not entitled to it, but everyone knows that, whether a man be Labour, Liberal or Tory, wherever you go, the honest British working man—by Britisher I mean English, Irish, Scotch and, of course, the Welsh must always be included—when they are genuinely seeking work they have a right to maintenance. Surely, if a man is unemployed, he has a right to live. Surely that is the position of the English people since 1601 up to the present, that no man shall want. I am going to put a proposition before the House which I consider will have a great bearing in regard to the Poor Law of 1601. The Government are going to deal with transitional benefit by putting an Order-in-Council into effect. They say that as far as transitional benefit is concerned they can refuse applications for relief. I contend that under public assistance, whether you like it or not, until you rescind the law of the land applicable to relief, they have no choice whatever in regard to applications that may come from the unemployed for public assistance. Under the Poor Law a person is entitled to adequate relief.
§ Mr. LOGAN
If a person makes application under the Poor Law they are compelled to give adequate relief. The relieving officer is the responsible officer, and if by any chance a person who had previously asked for relief should die, the relieving officer could be placed on trial for manslaughter if the jury found that the person had died through malnutrition after relief had been refused. 356 Where is the relieving officer who is going to take that responsibility? I have been told by hon. Members opposite that pensions will be taken into consideration, and that income from every known source will be taken into consideration, and I have been told that men will be refused benefit at the Employment Exchange. Before the House broke up prior to the election I asked what about these cases? I asked whether Old Age Pensions would be considered, and they said, "Oh, yes." I have come back after the election. I have told the people of Liverpool that they are entitled to relief. I want to know when Parliament rescinded any Act of Parliament dealing with the Poor Law between 1601 and 1837, or up to the present time. There has been no rescinding with regard to the Poor Law. I want to know whether any Law Officer can give information with regard to that particular point. I contend that in every city in this country every soul refused unemployment benefit will be entitled under the law legitimately to claim from the members of public assistance committees adequate relief.
§ Mr. LOGAN
The Minister of Labour, the Minister who was at the Board of Trade, and also your Minister of Health. I want to know, having come back after the election, what do they know about it now? The people are asking me—[Interruption]—Perhaps in the hon. Member's neighbourhood they do not ask him any questions. He is lucky. Perhaps that is why he has been returned.
We have heard a good deal in this House about patriotism, and in so far 357 as the machine has taken the place of the sailor and the fireman, I wish to know about the patriotism of the British shipowners and those representing shipping in this House, If you consider it right to talk about bankers being secure and about money being all right I am entitled, coming from a great seaport like Liverpool, to ask what patriotic effort is this House, in its new constructive policy, going to make in regard to the great shipping industry of the country? It is admitted that as far as the mercantile marine is concerned we have the best men in the world. No one can dispute that fact. It must also be admitted that owing to the uneconomic condition of our shipping those men are suffering great hardship. The period from 1918 to 1931 has been a great tragedy. I am reluctant to say anything in this House which may hurt the susceptibilities of any hon. or right hon. Member.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich referred to the iron and steel trade: I also know something of that trade. I have heard the story of engineering at home. When I see our firemen and sailors walking about and the great Lascar labour and black labour colonising in our great centres, I begin to wonder where we are. In the constructive policy which is to be brought forward, is it proposed to do anything to help shipping? Every street in the neighbourhood in which I live tells the tragedy of the War. The past is dead. A new era is at hand. Our forces on these benches have been depleted from 286 to 46, but it is no use whining and crying. We are not going to grumble. We have had a fight and we will keep up the battle.
Meanwhile, the six and three-quarter millions of people who voted for us are wanting to know what the great House of Commons is going to do. I must be true to myself and the people I represent. I come to this House and I ask the Government how they can bring bread to deserving people, without cold charity being offered; I ask when can they break down that damnable system under which many thousands of our men and women are standing in the streets. When can they revive industry and give back to the men and women who have a sense of honest respectability the chance 358 of being able to earn their livelihood in a land that is so wealthy? That is the problem of the Government now. If we on these benches had had the numbers I doubt not that we should have been able to devise some successful scheme.
The responsibility of the present Government is great. I am not going to talk about departed leaders. The men and women of our generation can always find leaders. The difficulty is to find the rank and file to follow the leaders. When the rank and file of this nation lose faith either in big majorities or in minorities, England will be most unhappy. I believe in revolution, in the revolution of mind, the revolution of the ballot box, where thinking men and women can put a cross to attest their faith in their fellow-men. I come to this House to ask the new Government to remember well all that they have promised for the regeneration of this country and to put it into operation. The problems that beset the Labour Government beset every member of the party opposite. Are they going to play simply for place and power, to give this man or the other man a job on the Government Bench? That, to a great extent, ruined the Labour party. I would say to hon. Members opposite, do not let your ruin come in seeking the spoils of office. We are told that certain men in the late Government ran away from their duty; that these men ran away from £5,000 a year in order to sit here with salaries of £360 a year. The hypocrisy of the situation is this, that men talk of sacrificing £5,000 a year reduced to £4,000, and in the same family they have an increase of £500. There is not much sacrifice there. There is much sacrifice on the part of the poor unfortunate people in the country, the flotsam and jetsam on the line of docks, who were told to be patriotic and to pull in their belts for the good of the nation.
Will the £12,800,000 that has been saved by cutting the benefit of the unemployed be any good in helping to save the nation? We are told that £70,000,000 are to be found now and £170,000,000 next year—£240,000,000. How is an economy of£12,800,000, taken from the poor unemployed, going to save the nation under those circumstances? What is £12,800,000? We lost £37,000,000 in two days in the fluctuations in the market. I hope that the Government will take into 359 consideration the question of lascar and black labour. We cannot ask our white men to go abroad, because other nations have no time for them. We find from all parts of the world white men are seeking to come back to England. I ask the Government, in these days of great industrial struggle, when the machine is putting men out of work, that in our own home land the Britisher should be able to find employment. It may be said that the lascar and the black men are British subjects. I admit that, but my son and the sons of other men have the right to be able to get food, clothing, shelter and a living in their own land. That applies to thousands along the line of docks in every shipping port of this country. Because I know the men, because I know the lives that the women and the children live, I ask for consideration to be given to this matter.
I ask the Government to bear in mind the position of the unemployed, and I suggest that, if only for the sake of peace, the damnable reduction should be done away with. I regard the Gracious Speech from the Throne as too subtle. The Amendment in its last paragraph covers anything that any body of Christian men, anxious to build up a new society on sound lines, need to take into consideration. Because I know that this is a great assembly, that it is a forum which speaks to the whole world, and that we are entering upon a period which will either bring new life or put an end to the British Constitution, I am anxious not to say one word of recrimination. I am desirous of giving assistance in a constructive way, if the Government are able to bring forward a constructive policy. Because I consider that the Government have not given us any assistance in the Gracious Speech, I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ Mr. GEOFFREY PETO
I have been trying for the last three hours to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. I have listened to many speeches from hon. Members on the Opposition Benches pouring invective upon their former leaders, and resorting to cheap sneers. I could not help thinking how unenviable must be the position of the Front Opposition Bench. No doubt hon. Members sitting behind them have the same mistrust of them as they evidently have always had of the leaders 360 who sat there before. When they see the light and come over here, I suppose they will receive the same criticism as their former colleagues. I should like to say a few words of comment on the speech of the late Solicitor-General with regard to the nationalisation of banks. The hon. and learned Member to-day and the Leader of the opposition yesterday laid considerable emphasis on the nationalisation of banks as being a cardinal point in the Socialist policy. They also complained that the remarks that had been made about deposits in the savings bank had made people nervous about their deposits, and that as a result we had received votes which ought to have gone to them.
The late Solicitor-General said that he desired to nationalise the banks, in order to control the flow of credit. What an excellent Socialist maxim that is. The Socialist party know that the moment they come into power, if they ever do, with their schemes of spoliation and nationalisation, credit is bound to disappear. If they could only control credit by some law or other what a splendid position for them and for their Government? But credit, whether it is national or individual, cannot be controlled by any law; it depends on action:? and words. and it is the actions and words of the Socialist party which has prevented them getting credit as a Government. The reason why so many people were nervous about their savings in the banks of this country was because the Labour party threatened to nationalise the banks not because of any remarks made by the President of the Board of Trade. The people of this country knew that nationalisation of the banks had been tried in other countries, and had resulted in the people losing their savings. In New South Wales they nationalised the principal bank, and when the crash came, as it always does sooner or later to a Socialist Government, the bank had to close its doors, the people could not get their money. I have here a copy of a Sydney newspaper with a list of advertisements. It is dated last August. These are some of the advertisements:Government savings bank deposit, £100. What offers?Government savings bank book, £190. Take best cash offer.Government savings bank deposit, £164 l1s. Id. Best offer wanted.361 And so on through a whole column of advertisements. That is what made the people of this country nervous about their savings. They knew that this had happened in another country, and would inevitably happen here. The question as to what the Government are going to do and when they propose to do it has been raised unceasingly from both sides of the House. Undoubtedly the nation is waiting with eagerness and interest for the declaration which is to be made, and I am thankful that we are going to be told by Monday what the Government propose to do. In my own constituency Liberals who had never voted for any form of Protection before supported me at the last election, and urged that everything should be done to deal with the menace of dumping. The late Solicitor-General made an attack on the export of capital, and said that the Government should stop it. If hon. Members opposite object so strongly to the export of capital, why do they not object to the export of income? To-day we are paying enormous sums to foreign countries for goods -which we can make ourselves. How can they object to the export of capital if they do not object to our paying these enormous sums to the foreigner for goods which we could make for ourselves in this country.
Certain economies have still to be made. I hope the National Government will stop spending money on land valuation. It will cost a great deal of money, and do nobody any good. I hope that during the four years of office, with an able and energetic Postmaster-General, we may see some reform of telephones and telegraphs. A suggestion has been made to denationalise this industry and set it on its feet again. You have only to quote the case of the Post Office as an illustration against nationalisation to have the applause of the audience. The sooner the telegraphs and telephones are denationalised the better for the Exchequer and for the nation. A great deal has been said about the hardships which the unemployed are suffering today, and the cut that has been made in their money. Everybody regrets it. I was asked at several meetings why, if unemployment pay, and other forms of pay, were to be cut 10 per cent., Members of Parliament should only suffer a 10 per cent. cut in their salaries. It 362 does not seem to me to be equality of sacrifice, and I hope the House will reconsider this matter and make a larger cut in our own salaries. I hope also that the question of first-class railway vouchers will be reconsidered. I cannot see why gentlemen who travel third class until they get into the House of Commons should then be allowed to travel first class. It would be invidious to make this a voluntary action on the part of hon. Members, and it would be much more in accordance with the dignity of this House if it decided that it would cut railway fares to third class.
§ Mr. CAPE
I rise to support the Amendment. I support it because I believe it is the one way to solve the problems with which this country is now faced. I support it also because it deals with unemployment and social services, two matters which need the attention of a National Government just as much as the financial interests of the country. The Amendment also gives us something to discuss. The Gracious Speech from the Throne does not give us anything which we can discuss. Everybody has been looking at each other and wondering what they could say in regard to what is not in the Gracious Speech. The Amendment has given us ample scope to discuss all the various problems which confront us at the moment. Up to the present we have had no effective reply. It was expected by everyone that the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) would at least tell us what would be done and why the Amendment should not be accepted. What did he do? He did not do anything that surprised us on this side of the House. We expected from him just exactly what we got.
We have known the right hon. Gentleman many years, and we know that he is one of the best mud slingers in this country. While he can sling with vigour himself, there is no man who squeals more when anyone slings at him. He made violent and unqualified attacks on Members sitting on these benches. I would say this to him, that probably if there had not been a Labour party in this country there would not have been a Jimmy Thomas as Dominions Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman did not make the Labour party but it was the Labour 363 party and the trade union movement that made him. He is able to-day to take his place in what is called a National Government because of the coppers subscribed by the railwaymen of this country, who placed him where he is. I do not know what other Members on these benches feel, but my surprise is that he has not joined his new friends long before. For many years anyone who has followed his actions must have known that that was his spiritual home. The only thing that has delayed him hitherto has been that he could not find a suitable reason for sliding over to friends with whom he had been hobnobbing for years. When the opportunity came, Jimmy, being an opportunist, said, "I am going"; and he went, and on this side no one regrets that he has gone.
The question was raised about the Trades Union Congress. I think I have attended as many Trades Union Congresses as the right hon. Gentleman, and probably more. I attended the last one held at Bristol. When the right hon. Gentleman talked about the General Council of the Trades Union Congress considering the question of tariffs, he ought to have told the whole story. It was after a prolonged deliberation of two days that the General Council was given permission to inquire into the subject, and was told quite plainly and distinctly that it must not commit any trade union in this country until its findings had been submitted to every union affiliated to the Congress, and until a special conference had been called so that the whole matter of the report could be discussed. It is not fair to say either that the General Council has committed itself to the policy of tariffs or that the trade unionists have accepted Protection as a principle of policy.
I have never been in a House of Commons where I have seen so many cliques and sections combined as in this House. I have been here since 1918, and it seems likely that I shall be here to the end, for every device known to man has been tried by my opponents to get me out and so far they have failed. I have seen many Members come and go in this House. I have seen some come and go more than once. The hon. Member who has just spoken has been here once or 364 twice before. In all the Governments I have seen I have not seen one with as many sections and cliques as the present one. The dominating section is led by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). He made that quite clear last night in his speech; he left no uncertainty as to what he is going to do, and told the Government distinctly that if it did not do what he and his colleagues wanted the Government to do, they would put an end to the Government very soon. There was a time when the hon. and gallant Gentleman led a party of two or three. He rather amused me yesterday by saying that for two years he had been preaching to the Labour Government what it ought to do to save the country from industrial ruin, and further on when he said that for the last seven years he had been preaching the policy that he was then advocating. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman never said that his own party was in power with a substantial majority from 1924 to 1929, and that it had an opportunity of putting his policy into operation.
§ Mr. CAPE
Very well. For that particular reason I assume that it was not put into operation. But did that Government not put into operation other things for which they had no mandate? Had they a mandate to repeal the Trade Disputes Act? Had they a mandate to increase the miners' hours? No. That Government did not treat mandates as of any consequence. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth assumes now, and so does the hon. Gentleman who has interrupted me, that the Government have a mandate for tariffs. We have been told that in all the Government supporters' election addresses it was made clear what candidates stood for. The gentleman who opposed me did not put that subject in his election address.
§ Mr. CAPE
No, but some hon. Members opposite are here because they dared not put it in their addresses. Assuming that the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth gets his way—and it is evident from the Prime Minister's statement to-day that he will get his way—I suggest this to him: Why is there 365 all this cry about Protection being able to save this country when it has not saved the other countries of Europe? Is no country except this country facing difficulties to-day? We are told that Germany is again face to face with a financial crisis. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about France?"] We get France mentioned every time. We used to have America mentioned until America herself got into serious difficulties. In all the discussions regarding tariffs and the balance of trade, not a word has been mentioned by any speaker except by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) about the position of the workers. The Noble Lord did put in a strong plea that, in connection with protection against certain things coming into this country, consideration should be given to the position of the agricultural workers in any arrangements that were made. But neither the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth nor any of the other hon. Members who have spoken in favour of tariffs have said what is to become of the workers of this country if tariffs are imposed.
Is it the desire of the Tariff Reformers to bring the British working man down to the standard of life of the Continental worker. [Interruption.] Will hon. Members who hold those views tell me why there are longer hours and lower wages in the protected countries, which they tell us, are in a much better position than our own country? The conditions in those countries, for the workers are not better, but worse. Employers say that owing to the costs of production in this country, through the higher wages and shorter hours and certain trade conditions, they are not able to compete with the protected countries. Why? The wages and conditions in those countries are nothing like as good as they are in good old Free Trade England. Therefore I assume that hon. Members who have come here, with the votes of what they claim to be the bulk of the working class of the country and who are determined to force through this House in any form that can be devised a policy of tariffs and Protection, are prepared to do so regardless of the consequences to the workers in their wages and their standard of life. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then will hon. Members dare to go as far as this? Will they dare to say that if tariffs mean an increase in the cost of 366 living, they are prepared to give us wages, at any rate, commensurate with that cost of living? There is not an employer who would give that guarantee.
As far as we on these benches are concerned, we respond to the Prime Minister's speech. He said that it was not too late to make another appeal for some sort of unanimity in this House and for assistance from all parts of the House to put the country on what is regarded as a proper economic basis. We will give any assistance we can to any endeavour to secure a better standard of life for the people whom we represent, but we are not going to assist the Prime Minister to put this country in a better position merely for the benefit of the few at the expense of the majority of the people. We ask the Prime Minister to give us some guarantee of that kind in connection with all these schemes which he has in mind. Where those schemes will end, Heaven knows, but if he will tell us frankly and plainly that in any schemes which he puts before the House his endeavour and his intention will be to raise the standard of life of the workers, he will get the wholehearted support of this party. But we are not going to lend our strength to help in making the position more secure for financiers and bankers and capitalists at the expense of the workers.
In regard to unemployment, I wish to make an appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, whom I wish now to compliment publicly on his appointment to that office. I ask him to use his best endeavours and to use the persuasive powers which I know he possesses to influence the Government to take away the awful penalty which has been imposed on unemployed men. The cut in itself means a severe penalty to these men. I am sure hon. Members will believe me when I say that the largest proportion of these men are the victims of circumstances over which they have no control. They are, for the greater part, genuine and bona fide British working men. There may be a few who are not as desirable as we would like, but what body of men is there in which each one is perfect? We have no right to condemn the many because of the shortcomings of the few. As the Government claim to have the confidence of the country, one of the most gracious things which they could do would be to 367 show the people who voted for them—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby told us that the unemployed voted for him—that they reciprocate and appreciate the trust and confidence of those people, by restoring to them what was taken from them some weeks ago.
Then there is the abominable means test. Men who never had to face a Poor Law committee in their lives are already dreading the prospect of having to go before such a body. They feel the taint of pauperisation in it. They may have to undergo not only one examination, but an examination every month, and if successful in passing the ordeal of the means test, it does not mean that they are entitled to unemployment benefit. They will be entitled to be paid at the Employment Exchange the amount which is paid out in that district as Poor Law relief. If the Government intend to show that they have the welfare of the people at heart, I appeal to them to remember that while financiers and bankers and capitalists are part of the community, the workers are the majority. In considering all things pertaining to the welfare of the country, the workers ought not to be the last to be taken into consideration. They ought to be the first, because it is by their productive power, by their keenness of brain and their strong right arms, that this country has attained the position which it holds among the nations as a producing country. When these men become the victims of circumstances, it is but meet and proper that this Chamber, the greatest in the land, practically the greatest in the world, should give full consideration to those who are the backbone of the nation in times of war and in times of peace. I ask the hon. Gentleman to bring this matter to the consideration of his Department, and I feel sure that his Department will make a strong plea to the Government on the subject.
§ Mr. NALL-CAIN
I feel it a great honour to be able to speak here to-night because, of all the Members of this House, I have fought more elections in the last four months than anyone else, and I think I can bring a certain amount of knowledge which may be helpful to the Government and to the House in doing what we all desire to do, and that is improve the trade and industry of this country. I am not going to follow the 368 precedent set by some hon. Members on both sides by going into the reasons why the election was won by one side or lost by the other save to mention one or two things also connected with the Opposition's Amendment. In -he last paragraph of the Amendment, regret is expressed that there is no mention in the Gracious Speechof any intention to reverse the unjust economies imposed upon the unemployed and other classes of persons.During the last election I think that policy had a very great effect in returning a great many supporters of the National Government by very large majorities, for this reason, that our opponents said that if they were returned they would reverse all the cuts and would give all the percentages back. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer said in a broadcast speech that if things had been allowed to drift as they were drifting, there would have been no money to pay unemployment benefits after the middle of November. I, personally, found a great many people who voted for my opponent in June who said that if that was the case they would rather have less unemployment benefit for all the time than greater benefit for a short time.
I agree with many hon. Members opposite in that, if it were possible, I would like unemployment benefit to be the same as it was. I do not agree that the standard of living of these people should go down and I would far prefer it should go up. I have fought two elections very largely on that, and I have tried to talk what I call common sense to the electors and to show them that unless we have a system of tariffs which keeps out sweated goods from this country, the standard of living would go down in order that the wages gained by the people in this country should compete with the wages which are lower in other countries. Under a system of Free Trade, if our manufacturers are to compete with the manufacturers of other countries, wages must unquestionably go down, and it is for that very reason that I have fought two elections in a very short time on tariffs and Safeguarding in order to show people that only under a system of tariffs is it possible to maintain the standard of living which we all hope to see. Under 369 the system of Safeguarding, as has been proved in safeguarded industries, the prices of articles, owing to the larger production of the factories, have gone down, and in every case I believe the wages have either been maintained or gone up.
I represent one of the divisions of the City of Liverpool, and I have just listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) who sits opposite. I agreed in my own mind with a great many things he said. We both represent different parts of the same City and our interests are very much the same. We want to see more work in that City, and we want to give employment to the people. That brings me to the question of shipping. If we have a tariff in this country, and if, as I believe the price of goods produced in this country under a system of Safeguarding will go down, I think that we would export more goods to foreign countries. If we export more goods, our ships from the great port of Liverpool and other ports are going to carry more goods out of the country. On the other hand, if the manufacturers tare going to be more prosperous they will require more raw materials for their factories, and our ships coming into Liverpool and into other ports will bring more raw materials into this country. I think it is obvious that if we are going to help the trade of this country we shall also help shipping. That is one of the reasons why I stand here, because I do not agree that trade can be helped by any of the theories of hon. Members opposite. I think a system of tariffs will help trade, will ensure the home market for our own manufacturers and will help shipping.
There are several important points about shipping which, if I am not detaining the House too long, I should like to put before the National Government. In the United States, France and Holland all the coastal shipping has to be carried by the ships of those respective countries, but in this country last year, I believe, 750,000 tons of coastal shipping was carried by foreign ships. If that shipping were carried by our own ships, it would employ about 60 ships and at least 600 men. According to the latest figures which I have, there were, 370 two months ago 51,000 unemployed seamen in this country and if anything can be done to put them back into employment, the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool and myself will be heartily glad, whether it is by means advocated by our side or by his side.
The Gracious Speech of His Majesty mentions the development of the Empire, and I am very pleased to see the Secretary of State for the Dominions is to go round the Empire to try to get increased trade with the Empire. I, personally, have preached during each of my elections that we must develop trade with our own kith and kin in the Empire rather than with foreign countries. That provides a much greater possibility than developing trade with foreign countries. As regards shipping in which I am so much interested,, of all the shipping which comes from the Baltic and Europe into our ports, only 41 per cent. is carried in British ships, but of the shipping which comes from the Empire a great proportion is carried in British ships. I, for one, wish the Secretary of State for the Dominions great success when he goes to the Dominions, and I hope that he will so expedite trade with the Dominions and Colonies that the trade between them and us will grow to a much greater proportion, and that that trade will be carried in either British ships or Dominion ships.
It is very important at this time that no avenue should be left unexplored. I am certain that with the bargaining power which tariffs give us, a country like the United States will have to reduce some of its tariff walls. I am told that every 14 days ships belongong to an American shipping line come to Glasgow from America bringing in 3,500 tons of goods. Those ships go back empty because of the high tariff walls in the United States and because in that country they produce their own goods for their own people. I want us to produce our own good for our own people, and I want our National Government to be in a position to go forward and bargain with other countries so as to increase our exports to those countries. As regards our Empire, there is one other thing which is applicable to the City of Liverpool and to shipping, and that is that the journeys between England and the Empire are far longer and more produc- 371 tive of freights than the short journeys across the Channel. I hope and, indeed, I am sure, that if our Empire trade is developed, as I am sure it will be, by the National Government, we may look forward to a period of greater prosperity for the shipping of this country.
I should like to put forward one other matter I have not seen mentioned very much in the last few days, and that is, that if we are to have a tariff in this country, and if that tariff is to produce, perhaps, £60,000,000 a year in revenue, it is absolutely necessary that the load of direct taxation should be reduced. At the present time, industry is struggling under an enormous load of taxation, and until that taxation is reduced, I do not see that industry can revivify itself to the extent we should all wish to see, and employ the number of people whom we wish to see employed in industry. I am an entire opponent of Socialism and nationalisation, and I believe that industry, given freedom from this appalling taxation, and looked after by a Government who have given no negative pledges, but who are going to consider everything, has a very good chance of making a recovery and employing more men. I was told only a few months ago by a Liberal, a great-nephew of John Bright, that if we did not have a tariff-produced revenue by next Budget, industry would go downhill as fast as it could. I entirely agree with him, and I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to reduce the burden of direct taxation and so help industry.
As to agriculture, the Amendment to the Address wishes, just as we do on this side, to help agriculture. Of course, I am entirely against the nationalisation of land. There may be Members opposite who disagree with me, but I speak with a certain knowledge on this subject when I say that the best system of farming is farming by a tenant under a good landlord with a reserve behind him with which to do repairs, to give rebates of rent, and to help his tenant, as landlords used to be able to do and as, I am glad to say, some landlords are still able to do. One of the reasons why the country is becoming depopulated and why agriculture is going from bad to worse is the fact that Estate Duties have hit agricultural estates very hard and 372 are still doing so. If that goes on, there will be more and more tenant farmers going bankrupt every year.
It is a good thing if we find landlord and tenant working in harmony, with a reserve behind the landlord, a thing the tenant cannot have, even if he buys his own farm; and there are many tenants who have bought their own farms and regret it very sincerely. Many farmer-owners are struggling to pay interest on mortgage which is far greater than the rent they ever paid to their landlords, and they are being swamped by the repairs rendered necessary by every gale that comes along, when they have to repair roofs in the same way as some of us unfortunate people who own farms have to do. These farmers go from bad to worse, their farming goes from bad to worse, and the farm labourer gets far too low a wage. He gets less than a man on unemployment benefit with three children. He may have five or six children himself, and in some parts he gets 28s. a week, which is, I think, too little. I hope that agriculture may be helped and that what I consider to be the best system of farming may be revived by the reduction of taxation on agricultural landlords.
With these few words on a mixed lot of subjects, I thank the House very much for their indulgence to me in my first speech. The Government has been formed in the midst of tribulation. They have been given a free hand, and in my opinion that free hand includes tariffs and everything else. Many of us have fought the election on anti-Socialism and tariffs, and the verdict of the majority of the electorate has been emphatic. I hope the Government, which has been formed in the midst of this very serious time in the history of our country, will go forward with courage and will not hesitate or set up numerous commissions and committees. We have had enough of those during the last few years. I hope they will go forward with courage and with freedom, with no negative pledges, and that they will bring this country back to a period of prosperity, both for what the Opposition call capitalists and for the working people of this country.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I want to pay my congratulations to the hon. Member for the Wavertree Division (Mr. 373 Nail-Cain), who has just spoken, for his very excellent maiden speech, and I want him to look kindly upon me when I make my first speech from the very low level of this Front Bench. He has taken occasion to refer to a very large variety of subjects, as he said, all of them outside the King's Speech, and I am interested that he and so many of his colleagues have been unable to find very much in the King's Speech, which is a negative document, showing a want of policy from beginning to end, and it is the most extraordinary King's Speech that has been presented to this House during the last six Parliaments, of which I have been a Member.
I would to-night give a very short time to the Amendment which has been submitted by the party to which I belong, and proudly belong, even after the results of the last election and after all that has been said to-day by the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). I wish he were in his place, and I would like it very much if he were not so finicky about the use of terms. He denounced us on this side as quitters. That is a very offensive term, but when someone on this side retorted that he was a traitor, the right hon. Gentleman was very annoyed. I do not think these recriminations help much, but I would observe that a man who quits leaves a job, and we admit that we left a job which it was not our job to do. We gave up a responsibility that was not ours, because we refused to do something which was utterly inconsistent with our pledges to the electors, but we are not guilty of the very much more serious offence of treating with our opponents behind the backs of our colleagues, as did the right hon. Member for Derby. He actually entered into negotiations with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and while we were considering the possibilities of overcoming what was then said to be a crisis, without consulting myself or my colleagues on this side he was in actual consultation with the right hon. Gentleman opposite and preparing for a National Government without taking his own side into his confidence. That is treachery, and I am entitled to say that he is a traitor to behave in that fashion.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there was no word that he could apply properly to me. He is a man with a very 374 rich vocabulary, and if in his highly coloured vocabulary there is no word that suits me, I feel very highly honoured indeed and think it is the highest compliment that could be paid to me in this House. But I do not wish to follow the right hon. Gentleman any further. I am very sorry to find that old colleagues have to quarrel across the Floor of this House. We were colleagues. We on this side were faithful to the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Derby and to Mr. Philip Snowden when he occupied an important position in this House, but we were faithful above all to the things for which they stood, and we still remain faithful, and if they have found it necessary for any consideration to leave those who stood by them for so many years, the responsibility falls upon them and not upon us.
This Amendment calls attention to one consideration which has hardly been mentioned in this Debate except by my hon. and learned Friend the late Solicitor-General, but I am convinced that nothing can be done in the way of social reconstruction—no system of tariffs, no system of Free Trade, no half-way house, no modification of either system will serve us very much—unless we attend immediately to the problem of world finance and world economics. We suffer from what has been described as world causes, but in the examination and the pursuit of those causes we have so often lost our way, and, as appears very much from the speeches we have heard from the Front Bench opposite, including the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, I think we are again on the wrong track. Our interest on this side of the House, the interest of hon. Members on the other side, and the interest of people in all parts of the country, is to be found in a solution of this problem, which has produced nearly 3,000,000 unemployed people in this country and has produced such an amount of poverty and such an embarrassment and handicap to our trade.
This world depression is one to which we need to attend because whatever we do at home, however carefully we divide the loaf at home, there is a possibility that, with all the good will and the care that we display at home, we shall find ourselves with a universally lowered standard of living in this country unless we take the initiative which is asked for 375 in the Amendment, and make a declaration which will rally to us all those people who share the view we hold on this side of the House that war debts and the enormous financial liabilities in all parts of the world should be wiped out. It is clear that the world suffers from an over-mortgaging of the world's assets. I saw an astounding statement the other day as to the capital liability of the world which is payable in gold. I would like to be able to vouch for the figure, but we have to take figures for granted when they are published by experts. This astounding statement was that the gold liability of the world between countries and sections of the people all over the world is £200,000,000,000. All the gold in the world is only £2,000,000,000, and yet there is that enormous gold liability of State to State, community to community, and industry to industry.
I have heard a great deal said about the Empire, but people do not realise that the very bonds of Empire are in danger of being broken because of the weight of mortgage which one part of the Empire has imposed on another part. Take the example of Australia. She owes to the outside world £650,000,000, and is under an obligation year by year to pay in interest on her external debt, £37,000,000. It is common history, which was recorded in this House last year, that she was unable to meet her obligations, and this House had to pass a Bill granting her a moratorium to the extent of £3,000,000 a year because the Australian community, small and isolated as it is, found itself unable to pay its liability to us. Australia is only one example. All over the world similar examples are to be found. Germany, a great powerful State, is on the verge of breakdown because her external and internal obligations are too heavy for her to bear.
The people of this country want peace with the peoples of the world. They want to share in the utmost progress which can be achieved in the world. They want to be leaders in this matter, and, in the happy position in which we still find ourselves as compared with some other parts of the world, we shall do a great service to the world at large, and to ourselves in no less degree than to others, if we make an unequivocal and prompt declaration from this House that 376 we are prepared to go one step further than the Balfour Declaration, and are not merely willing to forgo claims if others do likewise, but believe that the time has come when all war debts should be cancelled forthwith. The Prime Minister referred to it and said that it would be a highly desirable thing, but that it would not be an easy thing to do, and that it would be very difficult to get people into that frame of mind. That is always the state of mind of a man who cannot make up his own mind. He always thinks that it is difficult to convince other people, but a man who is himself convinced cannot fail to convince other people. I have heard the Leader of the House speak on these things, and I know that he has a clear grasp of the world position. He is very sound on some of these problems, and I hope that he will exercise his influence on the Prime Minister.
Without offence, I do not regard the Prime Minister as a great leader, and I hope that the Leader of the House will help him to strengthen his resolution, to hasten his decision, and to come down on one side or the other on this question very soon. I urge that this declaration should be made by the Government in the name of our people. If the Government are given a free hand they cannot say that they have not authority. Let the Government use the free hand that has been given to them to free the world from the crushing burden which is destroying industry and trade; let us wipe out the liabilities that people have and let us make a fresh start, remembering that this country has always depended upon the export of its surplus commodities and the loan of its surplus wealth for the development of other parts of the world. If we relieve the world of the heavy burden of mortgage, we shall make a fresh start and give a fresh impetus to our industries by making loans which will enable other parts of the world to be again in a position to become purchasers from us. Then our industry will expand and the trade of the world will revive.
Something must be done in this House to strengthen the resolution of the Prime Minister. He is not a man who can make up his mind easily. He is not a man who can hold firmly to an opinion once he has reached it, and I should like the House to give him an instruction 377 that this thing must and can be done. The Prime Minister has changed over. He is now occupying a position in which none of us expected to see him. I hope that the disappointment of his new friends will not be too keen when they find him to be a leader who is not very strong and firm. I do not wish to say unkind words, but he will disappoint his friends until he sees to it that his action is prompt and that his action is taken in an unmistakeable way. I am reminded of a little poem, "Verses to a Mystic," which I saw the other day. It was written by a Canadian poet, and the last verse, which I hope will not come true, goes:But you came to us empty-handed, and your tongueBabbled strange tidings, none could wholly trust;And, if we half believed it, it was only Because we would, and not because we must.Hon. Members on the other side for the time being trust the Prime Minister, Let them not trust him too much. Let them exercise their will and see that he gets down to his job. The first job he should do, and the first job to which the House should give its attention, is the question of restoring world finance and world trade by wiping out its enormous burden of mortgage which presses upon individuals and industry and makes production impossible. Let us not put a responsibility on a man who has failed to be loyal to his own party, and who cannot therefore show the utmost loyalty to the country which he wishes to serve. Let me ask the Leader of the House not to be too lenient with the Prime Minister, and let me ask hon. Members opposite not to be too lenient. Let them see that he does face this responsibility, which I believe to be of the first importance.
§ Mr. PEAT
I hope that I may claim the indulgence of the House for yet another maiden speech. An hon. Member on the Opposition benches said that he had heard no good reason put forward against their Amendment. I would like, very humbly, to advance my reasons why it should be resisted. It suggests that nationalisation ought to be one of the first things taken in hand. As a business man who is of industry, but not in it, I feel that the nationalisation of any 378 industry would place upon the consumer far greater burdens than would arise from the most exorbitant tariff restrictions. Nationalisation, inasmuch (as it can exist only under the conditions of a monopoly, puts up prices in the most scandalous and the most dangerous manner. The consumer can only be safeguarded so long as we have free competition, so long as he is free to buy not from one source but from many sources. A nationalised industry cannot compete under conditions of free prices, and to suggest that nationalisation should be applied to industries which have to compete not only in our markets here but in the markets of the world is to suggest something which is impossible.
The Amendment also expresses regret that no steps are to be taken to reduce the tariff walls of the other countries of the world and the hindrances to Free Trade. I feel strongly that the proposals put forward in this House that the Government should arm themselves with a power to impose tariffs will do more towards breaking down tariff walls and bringing back free and fair trade throughout the world than any suggestions made by His Majesty's Opposition. The last part of the Amendment deals with the oft-made promise to abolish the cuts which are so obnoxious to everyone. As a business man I am accustomed to look at things from a business point of view. I try to estimate how much money I have to spend before I spend it. I try to find out the sources from which I can draw my revenue. After careful study of the national balance sheet I cannot see how we can at the moment raise more revenue in order to abolish these cuts without doing greater harm to those we are seeking to benefit than we shall do if we leave things as they are until we can recover our trade position.
As one who has studied taxation, the request for higher taxation seems to me completely out of focus with the actual facts, seeing that Income Tax is leviable only on income and not on losses. We must have profits, we must make industry prosperous, before we can get from industry sufficient money for our social amenities. During the election, which was one of the most educating experiences I have ever had, I found that my constituents, who 379 are nearly all working men and working women, were not voting for me because I suggested cuts; they were voting for a national cause because they saw the justice of those cuts, and hoped that under a National Government the conditions which had necessitated them would be put right sooner than they would be under a Socialist Government. I learned, too, how rent was one of the most burdensome items in the budget of workingmen and women, and I would like to take this opportunity of saying that I hope the Government will take what steps they can to lighten that item in the family budget, because its weight makes the cuts all the harder to bear.
I would like to deal with an industry which is very dear to my heart, because although I am not in it I have lived with it in this country and in other countries for the whole of my working life. It is the iron and steel industry. In this year of grace that industry produced 7,000,000 tons of steel, against a capacity of 12,000,000 tons, and 4,000,000 tons of pig iron, against a capacity of 12,000,000 tons. At the moment it is employing, roughly, 129,000 men, when it could employ 300,000. If we take into account not only the iron and steel industry itself but also in the ancillary trades, it is probably employing 200,000 men, when it could employ approximately 500,000. It is using 25,000,000 tons of raw materials, that is to say iron ore, fluxes and coal, when it could use 74,000,000 tons. It is using the railways to the tune of 35,000,000 tons per annum, when it could put 82,000,000 tons on the rail. This state of affairs has not been brought about by the payment of exorbitant dividends. Companies representing 40 per cent. of the output of iron and steel, with ordinary capital amounting to £40,000,000, have not paid a halfpenny dividend for the last 10 years.
This industry was subject to an investigation by the Balfour Committee in 1916, and to two further investigations in 1925 and 1929. I had a considerable amount to do with the preparation of evidence for the last two investigations. Perhaps I, like some other hon. Members in this House, represent a new species—Homo sapiens nationalis. We had the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) saying yesterday that every Member had to think what his commitments were, and how he stood with his constituents. 380 I feel that some action should be taken regarding the iron and steel trade without any further investigation taking place, because I believe that further investigation would be a waste of time. There are Members of this House who know the iron and steel trade better than I do, and some of them sit on the Government Benches. I think any further investigation in regard to this industry is quite unnecessary, and there ought to be no further delay in dealing with the tremendous dumping which is going on in this trade, and which is going to be very disastrous. For these reasons, I ask the Government to take immediate action, and, if they do not, I hardly dare face my constituents.
I am glad to have this opportunity of addressing the House, and first I wish to offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Peat) on his maiden speech, particularly his reference to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape), who said that it was impossible to deal with the iron and steel industry by imposing tariffs. That statement was refuted by the speech made by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. T. Griffiths), who said that he hoped that some help would be given to the iron and steel industry by preventing dumping. Of course, the hon. Member was not quite in agreement with the hon. Member for Darlington in regard to the nationalisation business, although he recognised the necessity for some reform. It is rather strange that the hon. Member for Workington should describe a policy of Protection as something which would benefit only the owners of industry. May I point out that anything which is likely to benefit working men in regard to their wages should benefit the owners as well, and the attitude of the Labour party on this question is very difficult to understand.
I have fought several elections in the past, and I have always put this question of Tariff Reform and Free Trade forward as a non-party question. Therefore, I think it is one which a National Government are well able to deal with. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) has made a suggestion that a trade board would be a proper instrument for carrying out a 381 system of tariffs. I think the details of any such system would be far better dealt with if, as he suggests, they were left to a committee which would not be subject to a political influence. The question of food taxes cropped up during the recent election, and it is a subject which has been very much misunderstood. I listened carefully to the speech made by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), and I think he will agree, that a great deal can be done to help the Merseyside by promoting Dominion and Empire trade. It seems to me that this is not a question of taxing food, but a question of taxing foreign food. Such a policy would enable us to carry more merchandise in our own bottoms instead of importing so largely from Europe in foreign bottoms. I feel that in this connection we ought to alter an old saying and say, "England expects that every foreigner should pay his duty."
I rose more to deal with the points brought up by the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), who criticised the remarks made by the hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), with whom I agree that the National Government had obtained their big success by Labour votes and that the working classes were sick of living on doles and relief. I want to deal with the subject of housing, and this is an important question with regard to social services. I have had the honour of representing a Scottish constituency in a previous Parliament, and I was one of the protagonists of the Rural Housing Bill. I know that in the county which I represented that Bill was a great success, although it was denounced as a "landlords' ramp." It has been recognised that that Bill has turned out to be a great help to the working-class, and more particularly to farm servants. The conditions in rural areas in Scotland are probably more favourable than in England, because the cottages are built in rows instead of being more or less isolated as in this country. I hope the Government will do something on similar lines for housing in our industrial towns, more particularly in places like my own Division, where the state of housing is dreadful. In many of these places it is necessary for people to live close to their work, and there are large numbers of 382 houses which I feel sure could be very easily reconditioned.
I am aware that economy is the order of the day, and is a great necessity, but in my view a vast amount of the money which is being spent on new houses might easily be diverted to reconditioning existing houses that would provide accommodation at a much less expense than would be involved in constructing new houses. For these reasons, I think we require a Bill somewhat on the lines of the Rural Housing Bill to apply to housing in boroughs. I know many instances where the people live under crowded conditions which, in the circumstances, probably cannot be avoided, and in those places it is almost impossible for the finances of the borough to deal with the problem, and there is no alternative accommodation elsewhere. I think much could be done to meet this difficulty by reconditioning houses and bringing them up-to-date. I plead with the Government to do something in that direction. No doubt social services in every direction will be fully considered, having regard to the question of expenditure in that direction, and, after all, expenditure on these matters must be limited to the capacity of the country's purse; but questions of housing are questions of immediate necessity in the study of true economy, and I think that a great deal could be done in regard to them. I thank the House for the attention with which it has listened to my views on housing in Merseyside shipping ports, and on the desirability of improving conditions in those and other ports.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
It is some years since I addressed the House, and I do so with the same nervousness as before, but I am very pleased to follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bootle (Colonel Crook-shank), because in the last election I stood for a constituency on the other side of the Mersey, and my thoughts were very often with him as he was struggling in a very different area. We have the same interests at heart, and there is no doubt that in that district anyone who has anything to do with shipping is at heart very much a Free Trader, and very suspicious of any tariff that may be contemplated or in the air. If there is one thing that 383 emerges from this Debate, it is that, Government or no Government, the House of Commons means to have tariffs, and I would ask the Government to consider whether they can see their way to say that there shall be a rebate on any goods coming from abroad on which a tariff is to be paid, if they are carried in English ships. That would encourage English ships as compared with foreign ships, and would reassure many people who are still afraid of tariffs in the shipping industry.
I rose for the purpose of saying a word with regard to a sentence in the King's Speech which is not very inspiring, but which is addressed to us and to no one else. It saysThe Estimates for the public services will be laid before you in due course.We have all listened to speeches from the Opposition on the Services, and it is indeed a very grim thought that the present Leader of the Opposition will have to make the same speech in every one of those Service Debates, because in the past we have time and again heard him and his son-in-law make those booming disarmament speeches which have moved us to tears on this side of the House, and they have become somewhat dull after we have heard them half-a-dozen times. I have often contended that the expenditure on the Army, the Navy and the Air Force in this country is an expenditure for the defence of the Realm, and that it must be looked upon as money spent on one subject. and not on three subjects. At present, Estimates are introduced for one Service before we have heard what the Estimates for the other Services are. That is not fair to the House, because the Estimates for one Service must depend on the Estimates for the others, and, although I do not propose to say to the Government that they should lump the whole lot together and go straight for a Ministry of Defence, I think that the criticism from this House should anyhow be directed to actual points instead of to general policy, as happens at present in every Debate. We never really get down to brass tacks at all, but always talk about the League of Nations and generalities until all the time has gone, and we never discuss the Services in detail. I hope that the Prime Minister, and especially the Leader of 384 the House, will bear that in mind, and will see whether we could not talk about the three Services as one, see how much we can allot to them, and then, when we get to the separate Votes on the Services, the Debate could be in detail.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I was very much interested by the novel suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), and I would suggest to the Government that, when they are considering the possibility of inflicting a tariff upon goods imported from abroad, they should not forget that some other nation or nations may inflict a similar condition upon the export of coal in this country. I represent a mining Division, where we are dependent to the extent of 50,000,000 or 60,000,000 tons per annum on the export of coal, and I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will see that that will be a boomerang which will adversely affect the trade of this country, and the mining industry in particular. This Debate has been extraordinary in that, for approximately six and a-half hours, an Amendment has been under review, but very rarely has the Amendment been referred to at all. Particularly does that apply to the speech of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs who, in what the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Devlin) described as more of a performance than a speech, carefully avoided any reference to the speech of the ex-Solicitor-General and one must conclude, after listening to what the right hon. Gentleman opposite said, that there could be no reply to the submissions of my hon. and learned Friend.
We discovered, however, as the result of that speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, the real cause of the emptiness of the King's Speech. The leader of the Opposition described it as full of emptiness. That, I think, is perfectly correct, and the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs appeared to me to-day to explain the reason why it contains no tangible items on which we can found an argument. I thought his words were very remarkable, and they may indicate a new orientation in the House. He said the real work is not to be conducted on the Floor of the House of Commons. That is a very important statement. Some of us during the election campaign rather felt that, 385 if a Conservative majority of any size were returned, we might be confronted with some sort of dictatorship. The right hon. Gentleman seems to indicate that that is to become an accomplished fact and that we are to be governed by Orders in Council, legislation by reference, or by any means other than the ordinary method of transacting the business of the country by the House of Commons. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman who is to conclude the Debate to-morrow to tell us exactly what the Secretary for the Dominions meant when he said the real work of this Parliament was not to be done on the Floor of the House of Commons. I think the Members of the Opposition and the Members of the Conservative party and the two or three sections of the Liberal party are also entitled to know exactly what the Government's intentions are in regard to legislation.
I notice that, although my hon. and learned Friend made a very definite request to the Secretary for the Dominions to make some statement on the question of Poet Office Savings Bank deposits and to clear that matter up, the right hon. Gentleman, with his well-known facility for avoiding the thing that matters carefully avoided any reference to Post Office Savings Bank deposits and the part that they may have played in the election campaign. I should like the right hon. Gentleman who is to speak to-morrow to clear up that point so far as he himself is concerned, hearing in mind the very fair statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) 24 hours or so ago. I observe hat the Secretary of State for Dominion Affaire has now become a real, true convert to Umpire Free Trade. One has to congratulate Lord Beaverbrook on his newest recruit, since he has been enlisted during the past few months, though I remember reading a statement attributed to him in the "Daily Mail" on 18th September, 1930, where he said:Never make the mistake of assuming that, because you talk Imperial sentiments and give utterance to Imperial platitudes, you will be able to sell to the British housewife that which she does not want or cannot afford to buy. Efficiency is the order of the day and you cannot have Imperial sentiments or protective tariffs as a substitute.386 It would appear that the right hon. Gentleman has come down on the side of Imperial sentiment, and has already forgotten the possibility of the housewife who would desire to purchase Empire products not having the wherewithal with which to purchase them. It would seem that Lord Beaverbrook, or association with the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, had at least had the effect of finally converting the Secretary of State for the Dominions as a supporter of Empire Free Trade; although the right hon. Gentleman himself not too long ago was by no means a whole-hearted supporter of the policy of Empire Free Trade referred to by many Members of this House during the Debate to-day. I remember not so long ago that the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House made a statement with regard to Empire policy. I want it to be clearly understood that I shall in no way oppose any success that may attend the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby or the National Government with regard to the further unification of the Empire which would be materially helpful to all the various sections. The right hon. Gentleman a short time ago made this statement:As a practical policy, however, Empire Free Trade is impossible to-day, and no responsible statesman could go to the country and tell the electorate that it would be introduced if ho were returned to power. It cannot be done. The Dominions will not have it. They have said so in the clearest terms.I merely repeat that that shows that any of the hon. Gentlemen who have been elected to this House for the first time, and who are quite rightly bubbling over with Imperial sentiment, should clearly understand what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House thinks about the possibility of Empire Free Trade. He told us clearly that the Dominions will not have it. I think that on another occasion he went even beyond that point and said that it would tend to ruin the Colonies if we were to attempt to impose Empire Free Trade upon them. Therefore, from that point of view it seems that when the Secretary of State for the Dominions, the only Member on the Government Front Bench who has intervened in the Debate to-day, they have sidestepped the issue absolutely and have 387 tended further to confuse the minds of Members of the House, leading them up the garden as it were when there is no possibility of any real results being produced in the direction indicated. The Secretary of State for the Dominions for 25 years has been supporting a policy of national planning, public control, socialisation, or describe it as you will, as the only possible solution for the industrial ills of this country, and indeed of all countries. To-day he made reference to some of his colleagues who no longer believe in the things for which he stands to-day. He called them "quitters." I should have liked to ask the right hon. Gentleman, could he have been in his place, whether we are to regard him as a "quitter" for having deserted the policy which he has been pursuing and advocating in all parts of the country for the past 25 years or so?
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Amendment was the Opposition's challenge. The Amendment is not only a challenge from the Opposition to the only policy so far which has emerged in the course of three days' Debate, namely, tariffs, but my hon. and learned Friend made this real, constructive alternative to the lazy and sinister policy of tariffs to which really no one can point as having been an outstanding success in any part of the world. I suggest that the policy submitted by the ex-Solicitor-General is our alternative constructive policy. If the National Government can produce a better policy, if they can rehabilitate our industrial life, and if they can show us any tangible reduction of unemployment, we shall not only be very pleased to assist but very happy to note the success of the National Government. When the Government came along, a few days ago, with a King's Speech which contained so little that really matters, one wondered what the free hand actually means and what the result of the free hand policy is to be. In this connection I would like to make reference to the Home Secretary. I regret that he is not in his place. Speaking at Blackburn on the 7th February, 1930, and making reference to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, who is now leading the House, who, apparently, was seeking a free hand to do as he liked if he were returned to this 388 House with a majority, the present Home Secretary said:He asks a free hand to do what he likes. It is an impossible demand. Let him state a Protectionist policy if he wishes. Let him describe its purpose and its terms. Let him argue it out in the presence of the electorate and let the people vote upon it; but to say, Elect me first and I will tell you my policy afterwards, is a negation of the very first principles of self-government. Whatever else may be right, that is certainly wrong. The reason for the adoption of that attitude is plain enough. When he is asked: Do you propose to protect iron and steel? he cannot say 'Yes' and he cannot say 'No.' Either course would bring upon his head a storm of opposition. Before the Election he took refuge in the proposal to refer the matter to a committee which was supposed to be impartial. Now he says: 'We will refer it to myself.' No statesman ever addressed to the electorate so arrogant a demand in relation to vital matters as the free hand for which Mr. Baldwin asks.Clearly, the Home Secretary, in a few short months, has not only changed from the state of mind in which he described the Lord President of the Council as having made an arrogant demand, but he is supporting the arrogant demand for a free hand which the electors have undoubtedly given to the present Government. We are waiting to know exactly what the free hand means so far as a protective policy is concerned. From the speeches that have been made, particularly by new Members who have submitted the case for tariffs, with no possible alternative, it seems to me not to be unfair to suggest that the Tory party have one simple policy for the cure of the industrial, financial, economic, social and spiritual ills of the nation—tariffs. Apparently, tariffs is the one and only policy that has emerged from the Conservative Benches during these Debates. I suggest that the policy of tariffs is a lazy and sinister one and that it is not calculated to do the good that many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen think. On the other hand, it is almost certain to do infinite harm to a multitude of working-class people in this country, as it has done in almost every country where high tariffs have been employed.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member suggests that they voted for a 10 per cent. tariff. If he knew what he was talking about, he would know that they never voted for tariffs. That statement 389 has been made frequently. The hon. Member must know that there is no truth whatever in the statement. I am not attacking the Prime Minister, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs from the personal point of view, but because they descend to the level of the gutter in their arguments there is no reason why decent, honourable Members should adopt their arguments. The question of tariffs is, as we have always stated, the policy of the inefficient employer. Is there any hon. or right hon. Member who can point to any tariff country and tell us that that country is prosperous? If they could point to any single country where high tariffs have been applied and can satisfy us that that country is enjoying unbounded prosperity, there would be no doubt that, from the point of view of those who claim to represent the workers, we should have to look at the situation.
What are the facts? In America there are anywhere between 10,000,000 and 14,000,000 unemployed. [Interruption] Hon. Members are apparently unwilling to accept those figures. Will they apply to their own Minister of Labour and ask for the latest returns, or examine the latest report of the Deputy Director of the International Labour Office. If they do they will discover that the number of unemployed in America may be anywhere; between 8,000,000 and 14,000,000. I am not particular about 3,000,000 or 4,000,000; I will reduce it to 6,000,000 or 7,000,000. America has between 6,000,000 or 10,000,000, and possibly 14,000,000, unemployed, and it shows clearly that tariffs have not been the solution of unemployment there. Germany is in no better way. France is invariably quoted as a good example, but she is not much better off. There is a vast difference between France and this country. She has a much smaller population, and while there are 9,000,000 people working on the land in France, we, owing to the faulty agricultural policy of the two older parties in the State, only employ about 1,250,000 people to-day.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
We have often argued that this nation has developed itself in a lop-sided fashion, and whether it is the fault of Liberals or Conservatives the fact remains that we only em- 390 ploy 1,250,000 people in agriculture today. There is only one party in the State to which this fact cannot be attributed, and that is the Labour party. I want to make special reference to the question of steel, which has been referred to so often by those who are anxious to apply a policy of tariffs to this country. The high priest of Protection, the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said that if the Government had taken note of what he had been telling us for the last two and a-half years—namely, that for 10 years we have been importing about £2,000,000,000 worth of commodities which could have been produced here, everything in this country would have been merry and bright. What are the facts. The hon. and gallant Member has always told us but one side of the story and very carefully avoided the other. It may be true that during the last 10 years we have, imported £2,000,000,000 worth of manufactured articles, but it is also true that during the same period we exported about £6,000,000,000 worth. If we adopted his policy we may put one or two millions of people back into work but we may also put 3,000,000 of people out of work in those industries which serve our export trade.
In mining districts we have been told by would-be Conservative Members who are supporting the policy of a tariff on imported steel, that as it requires three tons of coal for the production of every ton of steel it would have meant, according to the figures for last year, an additional 9,000,000 tons of coal in order to produce the amount of steel imported. Look how many more miners would have been brought back into work. But these same Conservative speakers do not tell those audiences that while we imported last year 2,900,000 tons of steel, we exported 3,158,000 tons; they do not say that the value of the imports of steel was £23,000,000 and that the value of our exports was £51,000,000; they do not say that if we put a tariff on imported steel other countries might very well retaliate and put an impossible tariff on all the goods that we export, and that if we put 10 men into work we might conceivably put 15 out of work.
It seems to me that the case for a tariff has not only been tried but has been found seriously wanting. We ought at 391 least to satisfy ourselves as to two or three vital things before we put on a tariff which means increasing the cost of living to millions. We ought to satisfy ourselves, first, that the application of a tariff will bring prosperity to industry or prevent depression. There is a further test. Would the putting on of a tariff produce wages equal to the wages that our workpeople now receive, or better wages? Then there is a third test. If we put a tariff upon imported steel, would it be advantageous to dependent industries and to that extent advantageous to the nation as a whole? It is very easy to apply these tests. If a tariff preserved prosperity or prevented depression, there would be no depression in the steel trade of the United States. But what are the facts? In 1929 the output of steel in the United States was 55,000,000 tons. In 1930 the output was 40,000,000 tons or a reduction approximately of 25 to 30 per cent. So that the application of a tariff to steel in the United States has been futile as a means of bringing prosperity or preventing depression.
Take the case of Germany and see what has happened there. The output of steel in 1929 was 16,250,000 tons; in 1930 it was 11,500,000 tons, or a reduction of 4,750,000 tons. The application of the tariff has not brought prosperity to Germany and has not prevented depression there. Will the application of a tariff produce better wages or at least the same wages as are paid to-day? Take any comparable country in Europe. [HON. MEMBERS: "Take America!"] Take America and the cost of living there, and put them both together. But first of all, take any comparable country in Europe. We find that as compared with the £3 received by the English steel producer, the wage is 45s. in Germany, 35s. in France and 27s. in Italy—all tariff countries. Is it to be suggested that the second test which would be applied by any impartial person to a tariff, can be passed? The third test is equally difficult to pass. I want the right hon. Gentleman before he is driven by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) or led by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth into the tariff ring to remember that, while there are 200,000 workpeople producing steel—I think the figures are 392 actually less—and while, if all the steel now imported were kept out, the application of a tariff would find work for a few more in producing steel, there are 1,500,000 men who use imported steel as raw material and whose products are largely exported. You may easily put 50,000 people into work and dislocate the employment of 1,500,000 other people. It seems to me that, applying tests of that description, there is no possibility of tariffs either bringing prosperity or preserving the rates of wages which are paid to-day. I suggest that there is also a grave danger to dependent industries if a tariff were imposed upon such commodities as steel. I would ask those who are to reply for the Government to deal with those points.
The hon. Member has described very carefully to us how all those countries which have tariffs are not prospering. Perhaps he will now explain also why they do not take off the tariff.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think that the answer is very simple. In the countries referred to they have either Conservative Governments or Governments which are made and maintained by the employers.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member is like the typical Tory politician. If the workers begin to learn anything about home he is always wanting to talk about India or China. If the hon. Member will refer back to his own statement concerning Australia made in this House not so long ago he will find that he was one of the first to condemn the whole organisation of Australia both in regard to industrial life and methods of finance and everything else. Now he is the first to quote Australia as an example of what ought and what ought not to be done. But I am not to be diverted from my point. I suggest that the three tests which I have mentioned ought to be applied to this question and that the position of the Government ought to be very largely based upon the result.
I suggest that a tariff policy, which is the only policy so far emerging in these Debates, involves the question of which 393 we have heard so much in connection with the suggestion of dictation by the Trades Union Council. We submit that this tariff policy is equally dictated by employers in this country. We suggest that that is because they are interested persons: not because it is calculated to be of real use to the country but because it is calculated to enrich those who have already been made far too rich on inefficiency. I suggest that this is a policy of the employers which has already been superimposed upon the Government, and which to some extent they have already carried out, and that it may very-well prove, not only the undoing of the National Government, but in time it may be found disastrous to our already sorely depressed industries, and disastrous to the State as a whole.
I want to ask the Government one or two questions. Our industries are referred to in this Amendment, and we are entitled to know something of the policy of the National Government. We want to know, for instance, what the Government's intention is in regard to the mining industry? There are approximately 310,000 miners unemployed, and the 800,000 who are working are working about 4.6 shifts per week. We know that the depression in the mining industry is due to our capacity for output being infinitely greater than the demand for coal. We attribute no blame for the moment in regard to that, but what we have to point out to the Government is that in all parts of the country there are districts rendered derelict as the result of the conditions which have grown up since the War.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
It may be oil, or electricity, or water or anything else, but the fact remains that there are 300,000 miners out of work, and who have been robbed of a few shillings per week by the National Government. We want to know whether the Government are going to take any steps to try to secure the ratification of the Convention which was negotiated by the ex-Minister for Mines. We see no prospect for the miners in this country, or in any of the coal-producing countries in Europe, unless some effort is made to secure a general all-round reduction in the hours of labour.
394 Then we want to ask the Government what their policy is in regard to the cotton industry? We recognise that our exports of cotton have been reduced by approximately 50 per cent. since the War. We want to know what the Government are contemplating doing to assist the 200,000 cotton operatives who have been out for a considerable time. We want, further, to bring to the notice of the Government the question of the persistent increase in the output of every man and women in every industry in this country and the world. While there are approximately from 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 wouldbe workers unemployed in all parts of the world, we want to ask whether the Government are contemplating ratifying not only the Washington Eight Hours Convention, but whether they are even contemplating something much more generous than that? We believe that unless there is to be a constant revision of the hours of labour, with the increased capacity for output per person, not only will unemployment remain with us, but it will become intensified. Then the crises will come nearer and society itself will most certainly be endangered unless the civilised nations take the necessary steps not only to revise hours but to redetermine the amount of wages the workpeople shall have so that the spending power is maintained almost on a par with the value of the commodities that are produced. We want to know from the Government whether they are taking any steps in that direction to help not only ourselves but other countries who are suffering equally from unemployment.
We say that the King's Speech is not only full of emptiness, but that there is not a word of hope in it for either the employed or the unemployed, and that there is no indication of any drastic reorganisation of any industry or any service in any part of the country. The Prime Minister said, in one of his speeches quite close to my Division:There is no doubt that the financial arrangements of the City are bad and must be changed, so that the wealth of the country may be use for the benefit of the country and not for speculation and gambling.The Prime Minister has definitely made that statement, that there is something wrong in the City, and we want to know what the Government are going to do about it. We stand by the terms of the Amendment and by the policy of 395 Socialism as the only possible alternative to unrestricted and unregulated competition, and we are convinced, with all the evidence around us, that in the end there can only be one possible solution, namely, that Socialism will carry the day and that ultimately we shall be transferred to those Benches to carry out a policy that we ourselves would prefer that the party opposite should carry out.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. Charles Edwards.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.