§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Major Elliot)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out the word "thirty," and to insert instead thereof the word "twenty."
After the controversy in which we have been engaged for the last two days, this is a Bill which, I am sure, will commend itself to all sides of the House. It was introduced by the preceding Government and obtained its Second Reading and we now proceed to the Committee stage. There is only this one Amendment down in my name, which does not raise any question of principle, and I am sure the late President of the Board of Trade will agree that in the recent past it has been found that no sum greater than £20,000,000 was issued in fact within the period of 12 months. The Amendment does not in any way limit the sum that has been entrusted to the care of the Public Works Loans Board in previous years. Furthermore, the sum of £30,000,000, which was suggested in the summer when the Bill came up, was for a period of 13 months. Now that a period of some months has elapsed since that time, it is quite reasonable that a corresponding reduction should be made. This does not in any way fetter the discretion of the House. It is not an Annual Bill 197 which cannot be brought in again. It merely indicates that, at the period when this sum has been exhausted, the expenditure here authorised will be again reviewed by the House and, with this explanation, I hope it will be possible for the House to assent to the Amendment.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is, I am afraid, rather optimistic in expecting that we shall welcome a proposal to reduce the Public Works Loans Fund by £10,000,000 and that we shall welcome it with the paucity of information which he was good enough to give in his very meagre opening speech. I do not wish to discuss at this moment the procedure of the Public Works Loans Fund. Other hon. Members will deal with that point. I desire to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman this specific question broadly relating to distressed or necessitous local authorities and their relationship to the Public Works Loans Fund as it will be depleted if this Amendment is carried. When the borrowing powers are reduced by £10,000,000, what effect will that have upon necessitous areas which are compelled to come to the fund for assistance if they desire to proceed with public works? Already these necessitous areas are in a state of considerable apprehension and perturbation. There was a conference this week addressed by the Minister of Health, and I have before me a summary of what that conference was told. For example, the conference was informed that at and after the beginning of November next all persons presently in receipt of transitional benefit were to be subjected to a poor law destitution test and that local authorities would be asked to make up the difference between the benefit that would he paid on a reduced scale and the present Poor Law destitution rate.
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not know how far this is relevant to the subject of the. Debate now. It is a discussion in advance of proposals not so far made before the House and which, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, do not in any way correspond with the statement that has been given.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I do not, I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman, intend to discuss the merits or demerits of these 198 proposals. I recognise that it would be completely out of order to discuss them, but I submit that I shall be within the rules of order if I ask for the attention of the Committee to the fact that local authorities, particularly in distressed areas, may he put into a very embarrassing financial position if £10,000,000 is deducted, as is now proposed, from the Public Works Loans Fund. I am putting it no higher than that, and I am suggesting that it is within the knowledge of these authorities now that proposals are being discussed, that proposals are being mooted under which 500,000 persons presently in receipt of transitional benefit from a national fund are henceforth to be transferred in regard to part of their maintenance to the burden of the local authorities.
§ Major ELLIOT
I really do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I cannot admit for one moment the accuracy of that statement and therefore the strength of the argument which is based upon it.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I should be delighted to have a specific repudiation from the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I will put what I have to say in the form of questions. Was there a conference held on Monday of this week at the Department of Health? Was that conference addressed by the Minister of Health? Did he put proposals before the conference to the effect that 500,000 persons presently in receipt of transitional benefit are to be subjected—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to refer to the expectation of local authorities requiring extra borrowing powers, but I do not think he is entitled to ask the hon. and gallant Member to tell him details of the Government's policy on various questions. It would not be in order.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I certainly bow to your Ruling. I put to you for your consideration the question whether I am not in order on a, proposal to reduce—for that is what it amounts to—the borrowing powers of the Local Loans Fund from the National Debt Commissioners to the extent of £10,000,000, in asking if necessitous areas in this country, where the bulk of the unemployed poor reside, are not entitled to feel apprehensive at these proposals. [Interruption.] I do 199 not wish to put forward obstruction in the slightest, but merely desire to ask for information in proper form. If the Chair holds that I ought not to put specific and detailed questions, I shall not attempt to do so. I merely say that to the best of my information and belief—and I should be glad to have a specific denial of it—500,000 persons presently in receipt of transitional benefit are to be subjected to a means test or a Poor Law destitution test after the beginning of November next, and that, in part, the expense of their maintenance thereafter will fall upon the necessitous areas and therefore upon the rates. I beg the attention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to this fact. Our heavy industries lie in most of these necessitous areas, and, if you subject these heavy industries, as you may, to heavy local rating burdens, you swill absolutely prevent any possibility of their industrial or economic recovery.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that I can make clear to the right hon. Gentleman my view upon it. He is entitled to refer to expectations that these local authorities will require to borrow more money, but he is not entitled to discuss the merits or demerits of the Measures, or possible Measures, which may have to be taken.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I have put my point, and I will not further enlarge upon the merits or demerits of the proposal. I confine myself to asking the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment for a public explanation. He declared that he felt that there would be general agreement that there should he a reduction of £10,000,000 in this fund. I think he said that. I ask him for what purpose this reduction of £10,000,000 is to be made, and whether it is in relation to proposals laid before representatives of the County Councils' Association and the London County Council on Monday of this week?
§ Major ELLIOT
I am willing to answer. I am entirely in the hands of the Committee. If hon. Members opposite desire to speak, I will give way to them, but, if the Committee desire me to answer the specific questions now, I shall be 200 most glad to do so. The proposal does not mean a limiting of this fund. The proposal simply means that the amount which is being entrusted by the House to the Public Works Loans Board may be reviewed at a shorter time than otherwise would have been the case. There is no limitation of any kind or description upon the fund, save that it will come up for review at a shorter time. The proposals are not in any way connected with any proposals which have been made for transitional benefit, for the administration of transitional benefit, or for anything arising out of the administration of transitional benefit.
I am sure that hon. and right lion. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench who are deeply versed in local administration will admit that loans from the Public Works Loans Board are only granted by the Board, which is not in any way subject to the control of this House, and only granted, on economically sound propositions, for public works which can pay, in principal and interest, according to the strictest actuarial considerations. This has always been the consideration under which the money has been issued, and no change of any kind is proposed. Furthermore, as I have said, no larger sum than this has been issued, even in recent previous years. The sum which would have run us, in normal times, for a full year is actually going to run for less than a full year. It is, therefore, really to bring the expenditure more closely under the review of the House, and is purely an accounting and book-keeping piece of administration, and it is for that purpose that I have moved to insert the word "twenty" instead of "thirty." I ask the Committee to accept the assurance that it does not in any way deter public authorities or the Public Works Loans Board or the discretion of this House in subsequently dealing with this sum.
§ Mr. EDE
I am astonished to see the Order Paper relating to this Bill to-day, because I hold in my hand the Order Paper as it related to the Bill when the House adjourned on the 31st July. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite had filled two pages of the Order Paper with Amendments. I saw the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Smithers) here just now. He had an Amendment down. The hon. Member for Farnham 201 (Mr. A. M. Samuel) was responsible for several Amendments. They have disappeared. I notice that he is apparently going to speak. I hope that we shall find that a change of situation does not mean a change of heart and that he is still going to advocate the things he was going to advocate on the 20th October. The present Minister of Health was responsible for an Amendment similar to tic one now in front of us.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member should confine his remarks to the specific Amendments upon the Paper.
§ Mr. EDE
I was going to do so. I do not desire to transgress your Ruling, and I was coming to that as rapidly as I could. The present Minister of Health, the hon. Member for Farnham, the hon. Member for Down (Mr. Reid), the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Hull (Sir A. Lambert Ward), the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) and the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) had given notice of an Amendment to leave out "thirty" in order to insert, not "twenty," but "fifteen." Between the 31st July and the time when the present Amendment was placed upon the Order Paper their Amendments disappeared. The Amendment which has been moved by the hon. and gallant Gentleman has taken its place. I see the President of the Board of Education there. The county councils get their loans for schools out of this Fund. Is one reason for the reduction made by the present Government from "thirty" to "twenty," the circular which the right hon. Gentleman issued last week notifying local authorities that, instead of getting a 50 per cent. grant towards new buildings, all new buildings, which the right hon. Gentleman himself, speaking from that seat, urged them to get on with in December, 1929, should be stopped? Is it because those buildings will be shut down and hundreds and thousands of men will be thrown out of work in the building trade, that the Government now think that they can do with £10,000,000 less? I saw the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and the Secretary of State for the Colonies there just now. He is one of those who has been a Member of both Governments, and whether he will be a Member of the next Government is a matter for 202 prophecy. I am betting that he will not. [Interruption.] Oh, no. At any rate, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the welsher's best, friend, made it legal again.
§ Mr. EDE
I was going to appeal to you, Sir Dennis, as to whether I was interrupting the hon. Member or whether he was interrupting me. The financial control of the Government is with the same Chancellor of the Exchequer, although, as I pointed out yesterday, the hon. and gallant Member who is now Financial Secretary to the Treasury has mounted guard over the prisoner. Is it part of the terms that the policy of the President of the Board of Education, which was laid down in 1929, is to be reversed and that these loans are not to be required for the Public Works Loans Board? This fund represents for the coming winter an opportunity very largely for the building trade and other trades concerned with public works, for the navvies and other so-called unskilled workers, their chance of getting employment.
§ Mr. EDE
My hon. Friend, who has had much experience of local government, mentions the roads. This Bill is a test whether the Government really intend to help the local authorities to deal with the coming winter and with the appalling distress which they do not hold out the slightest hope of averting from falling upon the working classes. They have no idea of the number of men for whom it will be necessary to provide through these public works. The £20,000,000 to which they propose to limit the Bill, is absolutely useless. This represents the first act of surrender to hopelessness and to the policy of letting men eat their hearts and souls out in idleness.
I hope that the Amendment proposed by the hon. and gallant Member will be resisted. The Minister of Health has to be informed on these matters, because the local authorities cannot get any loans unless they have obtained his sanction. When they go to the Public Works Loans Board, the first question that is put to them is, "Have you obtained the sanction of the Minister of Health?" On the 203 31st July the Minister of Health thought that £15,000,000 was enough. He sprang £5,000,000 however. I would ask the Members of the Liberal party what comes of the £250,000,000 loan which they said was necessary to deal with this question. I would appeal to the hon. Members for Cornwall. I am afraid that there is only one Cornish Member left outside the Government who can express a free view in this House. There are five Members for Cornwall—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Does the hon. Member suggest that the £250,000,000 is to be advanced by the Public Works Loans Board?
§ Mr. EDE
No. I was pointing out that if the sum of £250,000,000 was required, how much more so the miserable £30,000,000 that was proposed originally in this Bill. I would appeal to the Members for Cornwall, three of whom are in the Government. The Paymaster-General, who is a Cornish Member, told us only a few weeks ago—
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
On a point of Order. May I ask for an instruction as to what is in order on this Bill. As far as I can follow the hon. Member's speech, every word that he has said is out of order. If we look at the very elaborate memorandum that was prepared by the hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite, we find reference to Stonehaven and other places, and various advances under the agricultural credits, but nothing whatever about anything of which the hon. Member has been speaking. I should like a Ruling as to what is in order.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think the Noble Lord was here some time ago when I gave a Ruling. I drew a distinction between the references to matters which might require the raising of certain sums from the Public Works Loans Board and to a discussion of the merits of those particular matters for which money was to he voted. Strictly, upon this Amendment the only thing that can be discussed is whether any inconvenience would be caused by limiting the amount.
§ Mr. EDE
I have read the Order Paper, and what it says is that the Financial Secretary is moving to leave 204 out "thirty" in order to insert "twenty" as the number of millions that may be raised under this Bill. The points raised by the Noble Lord might perhaps be discussed on the question that certain other Clauses stand part. I am trying to demonstrate as well as I can that £20,000,000 is not sufficient, and I am rather surprised that so profound a champion, usually, of the rights of private Members as the Noble Lord should have interrupted me without having made himself acquainted with the Amendment on which I was speaking.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I am acquainted with the Bill, but the hon. Member does not show any signs of acquaintance with the Bill.
§ Mr. EDE
I do not desire to bandy words with the representative of the home of lost causes. I should have thought that one so senior to me would know that on the Amendment we are only allowed to discuss the Amendment and not the Bill. I accept the Ruling of the Chair rather than that of the Noble Lord, and I hope that I may now be allowed to make an appeal to those hon. Members of the Liberal party, who said that public works of huge magnitude should be undertaken, although one of them has issued his first circular as President of the Board of Education to stop those works. I hope those hon. Members will on this occasion show that independence which the present Financial Secretary urged them to show only a few weeks ago. Independence is as much a virtue on that side of the House to-day as it was when hon. Members opposite were over here. T am sure that the right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Leif Jones), in whose constituency I was the other day, where unemployment is rife and where the need for public works is great, will exercise his influence—I do not know whether the rumour in to-day's "Times" is correct and that he is to have the gag applied to him—so that we may have one good vote from Cornwall. Otherwise, the only independent Liberal Member left to Cornwall will he the Member for the Scilly Isle.
§ Mr. ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
The Amendment is simply that the amount is to be limited to £20,000,000 instead of £30,000,000. The hon. Mem- 205 ber for West Leicester (Mr. PethickLawrence) must know that his two colleagues who have been speaking on this matter are climbing up the wrong tree. This Bill does not deal with policy, but with a piece of financial machinery—[Interruption.] The late Financial Secretary to the Treasury and I have held the same position, and I think he will bear out what I have to say. Let me read what, he said in the House on the 27th June, 1930. On the last occasion we had put down certain Amendments to the Bill, not for hostile reasons but with a view to raising certain points. He said, and it is exactly the answer which fits the complaint that has been raised by hon. Members opposite:With regard to the amount of £30,000,000 there is nothing really limited. Another Public Works Loans Bill can be brought in at any time. There is no specific date to which this £30,000,000 runs. The amount brought in to any one Bill can run until the next Bill has been introduced, and, if the estimate which has been made, that this sum would probably last until the summer of next year, proved to be unfounded, and the money was required before that date, it would be perfectly possible, as has been done on previous occasions, to bring in a, second Bill earlier than was anticipated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1930; Col. 1565, Vol. 240.]I do not think I need add a single word to that statement. Anything which my hon. and gallant Friend the present Financial Secretary has said is rendered almost watertight and cast iron by that speech of the late Financial Secretary.
§ Mr. BENSON
The speech that we have just heard is absolutely correct. The £20,000,000 put down is no more a limitation of the amount that may be spent than was the original figure of £30,000,000 which is in the Bill. As soon as the maximum sum which has been allowed to the Public Works Loans Commissioners is finished, it is essential that another Bill should be introduced in order to give further financial powers. What I want to know is, why on earth have the Government taken the trouble to move the Amendment. If the £30,000,000 is no limitation and the £20,000,000 is no limitation, why are they wasting the time of the House discussing whether we shall put a mere token figure into the Bill.
206 Although it is perfectly true that, £30,000,000 or £20,000,000 would be merely a token Vote the fact that the Government have thought it necessary to reduce the figure can be due only to two causes. In the first place, it may be an indication of policy; it may be an indication to the Public Works Loans Commissioners to go slow; it may be an indication that they must refuse loans to local authorities. If that is so I shall have something to say about it. Alternatively, it may be nothing but a piece of window-dressing. If it is window-dressing, if it means nothing, if there is to be no change of policy, if the Public Works Loans Commissioners will be allowed to lend as readily in the future as in the past, then it is a very shoddy piece of window-dressing. The Public Works Loans Commissioners in the supply of comparatively cheap money to local authorities are performing a very important function in our community, and if there is the idea of giving the world the impression that this Government is going to economise ruthlessly and we start not by cutting luxuries, but by cutting down the capital development in the country we may succeed in impressing the world with our desire for economy, but we certainly shall not impress it by our wisdom.
There are various methods of financing the schemes of local authorities. There are the unemployment grants, and in that matter, so far as this side of the Committee is concerned, I am rather a heretic. I have on occasion opposed the policy of what I consider to be shoveling out money on unemployment schemes when the schemes themselves were not immediately necessary.
§ Mr. BENSON
The point I want to make is that whilst I was perfectly willing to oppose unemployment grants for schemes for unnecessary work, the money under this Bill is not for unnecessary work or for work which has been accelerated, but for work which is immediately necessary for local authorities. The Bill exists for the purpose of providing cheap money in order that local authorities may carry out their work, cheaply. If this proposal means, as I 207 am afraid it does, an indication of policy it means either that immediately necessary work is going to be held up, that local authorities will have to curtail work which is socially requisite at the moment, or that they will have to carry out that work and get the money they require in the open market when they will have to pay a higher percentage than they do to the Public Works Loans Commissioners.
That is essentially false economy. We are not economising if we compel small local authorities without any great financial backing, or authorities in distressed areas, to get their money in the open market and pay a higher rate than they do to the Public Works Loans Commissioners, we are merely increasing the amount of money which will go into the pockets of the rentiers. Surely that is not what the Government desire; at any rate, I do not think they would do it quite so openly and so brutally. I hope the Financial Secretary will tell us whether this is a piece of very poorly conceived window-dressing or whether it is really a definite change in policy; that the Government does propose to curtail the amount of money which local authorities may borrow from the Public Works Loans Commissioners and thus force wretched local authorities to go into the open market and pay whatever rates of interest tiny are compelled to pay.
§ Mr. HARRIS
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) made a very effective quotation from a speech of the late Financial Secretary, but there is an Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of the new Financial Secretary, and it is an Amendment which requires some explanation. I heard his speech in proposing the Amendment and knowing his clear mind I felt that it was not quite so clear as one would expect from him. If this is to be the limit of borrowing, for financial reasons, it is far better to tell the Committee and to take the country into our confidence. We are living in difficult times. There is a financial crisis and the way to get legislation through Committee is not by mystery but by frankness. I suggest to the Financial Secretary that he should make quite clear the policy of the Government. If it is only a matter of accountancy and machinery, and that there is no other purpose in it, let him make it quite 208 clear; but if there is to be a limit on the powers of borrowing on the part of local authorities from this very useful source it should be clearly indicated to the Committee. As a good beginning in his new office I hope the hon. and gallant Member will practise frankness.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) in his observations except to say this, that I hope it is the beginning of a Liberal revolt against the Government. The hon. Member was one of the most effective opponents of the last Coalition and I still have hopes of him. Let this fact be noted, that the first executive act of the present Government is to add £20,000,000 to the National Debt. I see the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) in his place. I have before me the OFFICIAL REPORT of the 13th July of this year, and the Noble Lord on that occasion said that we were discussing the addition of £30,000,000 to our debt. The Noble Lord, who is in the higher councils of the Conservative party and I believe also holds an important position in the financial life of the country, could not swallow the £30,000,000. He and his new friends the Minister for Education, the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman), the right hon. Member for Cam-borne (Mr. Leif Jones) could not swallow the addition of £30,000,000 to the National Debt, it was too much. It was denounced at one o'clock in the morning, but since then we have had a crisis, a flight from the £, the City has been disturbed, and the first executive act of the new Government is to add £20,000,000 to the National Debt. What humbug there is in this economy programme! It is mere camouflage for the office hungry. [Interruption.] The hon. and learned Member for Nottingham South (Mr. Knight) one of the pioneers of the Labour movement who has parted with his friends on the question of economy is going to vote for the addition of £20,000,000 to the public debt—
§ Mr. HOLFORD KNIGHT
If the hon. and gallant Member is referring to me may I say that he is usually inaccurate but profoundly inaccurate on this occasion?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
No economist can vote for this Bill. We are 209 going to oppose the Amendment because we do not stand for this reduction. I happen to know that in Cornwall the harbours of the fishermen are in a scandalous condition: and one of the uses to which this £30,000,000 was to be put was the reconditioning of those harbours. They are dangerous, and the lives of fishermen may be lost in the case of storms.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member is discussing matters which I have already told him Cannot be discussed on this Motion.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
One of the uses of this money is to provide employment where it is badly wanted, and while we can understand the position of Conservative Members it is impossible to understand the position of Liberal Members, who during the last Election made this the main plan in their programme to reduce unemployment, are going to vote for a reduction of £10,000,000 worth of work. The constituents of the two hon. Members for Bethnal Green and the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. F. Brown) will be queuing up in the winter in their ragged clothes—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
No, I will not give way. The hon. Member has got to learn the truth. He is not going to get away with the betrayal of his principles. His constituents as a result of his vote to-night will be shivering in the queues in Leith—
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am not so sure. It depends upon what queues. If the hon. Member for Leith is to he in the new dictatorship, I may be there. That is what we are coming to by this policy. I must refer to the speech made by the hon. Member for Farnbam (Mr. A. M. Samuel). I quote, not from the copy of the OFFICIAl REPORT from which he quoted, but from one of a few weeks ago. This is what he said about this Bill, referring to the Public Works policy of the late Government:The whole of their public works policy front the beginning of their administration, in spite of their prophecies, has 210 been a ghastly and unrelieved failure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1931; col. 208, Vol. 255.]That is the sort of talk, conning from a great financial and business authority, that was eagerly taken up by our creditors abroad, and was part of that propaganda which has done us so much harm. To-night, can he vote with a clear conscience for a reduction of this sum from £30,000,000 to £20,000,000? This was a "ghastly and unrelieved failure" on 13th July; on the 9th September it is respectable Conservative policy. The hon. Gentleman, who ought to have known better, at one o'clock in the morning on the 13th July denounced the policy of advancing Public Works by this Public Works Loans Bill. He should not now he voting for a reduction of £10,000,000; he should be voting for a reduction of the whole £30,000,000.
§ Major ELLIOT
I suppose the hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware that he is quoting the wrong financial authority. He is attributing to my hon. Friend statements which he never made.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg your pardon. That denunciation was not made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Farnham. I am quite wrong. The hon. Member for Farnham said nothing of the kind. What he said was that he so objected to the Bill that he would like to denounce it for three quarters of an hour, but that at that hour of the morning he would not do so. What I quoted was said by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord Percy) who to-night is going to provide £20.000,000 for a policy which he denounced as very iniquitous when it was £30,000,000. The Noble Lord does not deny it. He is there, and I will be glad to hear his defence.
What have I to say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury? I do not want to embarrass him. I know his views on many of these questions of finance. They are not the orthodox Conservative views. They have frightened his new chief as much as some of the views of my hon. Friends have frightened him. He actually believes in this. He believes it is right, in times of financial stress and had trade, to give men useful employment, rather than have them idle in the 211 market-place. He knows that that is true, because he has said so from these benches many a time when he was in opposition. He is going to cut down one third of this expenditure on useful work, which he declared just now has only been expended on financially sound schemes, passed by a committee of bankers under the chairmanship of, I believe, Lord Hunsdon, and not in any way to be questioned.
These schemes were Conservative in the first place, and the appointments were re-affirmed by the present financial leader of the Conservative party, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is not the point. Every one acknowledges, except for a few financial purists like the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings, that there has been no misuse of these funds. The Commissioners have done useful work, and have added to the real wealth of the country. I do not refer to the fictitious credit of the money-lending machinery, but to real works, such as harbours. Useful public work of that kind has been promoted under the most stringent conditions. It was one of the great constructive plans that the late Government brought into operation. Their act now is to cut it down. They are getting the worst of both worlds. First of all, they are adding to the National Debt, and by reducing this amount they are going to throw idle men who might have been usefully employed. I cannot congratulate them. I am sorry for those hon. Members who fought the last election on the Liberal programme and now find themselves compelled to support this proposal of the Government.
I would like to endorse the appeal that has been made by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) and by the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris). If this is an indication of a change of policy, it arouses great fear and apprehension in a county like Glamorganshire, which is already submerged, and which has cause to be grateful to this House and to the late Government for the Measures which they took to assist the county during the last few years. During the last two years especially, efforts have been made to relieve some of the poverty and privation that 212 were endured. I would like the Committee to realise that for a number of years Glamorganshire has carried, in the administrative county alone, over 7,000 people unemployed, and that, for the last three years, up to March, 1930, there were in that county over 17,000 people on transitional benefit. With the assistance that has been given, we have been able to find employment through relief works for a very large number of our unemployed. On the 31st July of this year, no less than 3,750 men, mainly on transitional benefit, were taken off the list and transferred to employment.
I want to supplement the appeal that is made that. the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) too, should assure us that there will be no injury for us in the present proposal and that it is not going to make it much more difficult for us to get money from the Public Works Loans Board, now that only £20,000,000 is to be distributed all over England and Wales, than if the sum had been earmarked as before. We want to be sure that, when we put our claims forward, we shall not find it more difficult than we have found it in the past. We have been doing our best under great difficulties. I appeal and pray that the Committee will not make it more difficult for us to sustain our population in the future than has been the case in the past.
§ Mr. MARLEY
I want to make a definite appeal to my lion. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to withdraw his Amendment. He told us, in the very brief speech which he made, that there was no indication of policy in this reduction, but that it was merely carrying on what had been done for years. It was explained, I believe by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) that this money is applied to very useful work, and that the distribution of the money is very carefully supervised. The distribution of the money and the advancing of loans is very carefully scrutinised by the Board, which, so far as I know, was appointed chiefly by right hon. Gentlemen now in office on the other side of the House. The Labour Government agreed more or less to the Conservative Board en bloc, but the original appointments were made by Conservative and previous Liberal Governments. 213 Can you trust these men now carefully to scrutinise the advancement of £30,000,000, or is the Amendment an indication of policy?
I want to ask the Financial Secretary that definite question. Is it a hint, a very broad hint, to the Board that in future they have to guard carefully this fund? If that is so, we have here the beginning of economies which the Prime Minister himself has asked county councils not to proceed with. The Prime Minister warned county councils, a few days after he took office, that there was no need for the appointing of economy committees and for a panic in county council administration. Neither the county councils nor the local councils have changed their political complexion and they are not likely to rush into extravagant expenditure because of a national emergency. They are not suddenly likely to evolve great schemes, such as the Liberal party brought forward at the last Election. They have been warned off that by the Conservative party, and now they have been warned off by the Liberals on the other side of the House, who are now saying that these public works cannot be afforded.
We have this indication to-day that no more money has to be advanced than the £20,000,000 voted for in the Bill. His Majesty's late Government thought that £30,000,000 was necessary to tide us over this winter. Has anything occurred to make His Majesty's present Government change their minds? Is there arty reason to believe that the local authorities will not be able to use the £30,000,000 if it is voted? If they are able to use £30,000,000, does the Financial Secretary believe that the men who are in charge of the granting of the loans cannot be trusted? If that be so, then they ought to be sacked. If he cannot trust those people with the granting of the loans, let him get rid of them; if he can, why cut down the figure by £10,000,000? There is no need to do it. You have very good, careful watch dogs. You have a very much better watch dog in the present Chancellor of the Exchequer than you have had before.
The Minister of Health is not likely to be too extravagant so far as the local authorities are concerned. No grant is to be issued out of this Public Works Loans Fund unless the Minister of Health previously sanctions it. Is the Finan- 214 cial Secretary suggesting that the present Minister of Health is going to be extravagant in doling out money to local authorities? Does anything in the past history of that Minister's administration lead him to that conclusion? No. The only conclusion that any sensible and reasonable person can draw is that, apart from going round and definitely instructing the Board, which is an outside body that has been entrusted with responsibility, this is the biggest hint chat could be given to that Board to cut down public works. If that is so, there ought to be a first-class fight in this House now, and with the hon. Member for Lcith (Mr. E. Brown) if he wants it.
One thing should be made perfectly clear. We are facing a very dangerous winter. We were told on the authority of the late Government, and we are told by the present Government that there will probably be £3,000,000 unemployed by Christmas. At the same time the Government are not going to increase the amount of loans for public works. I ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to say definitely that the Minister of Health did not mean anything when he met that conference and told them that 500,000 was going to be put off the Employment Exchanges. I want him to say that this is not a change in policy on the part of the Government. I want him to say that anyone who can show to the Public Works Loans Board that there are reasonable works that could be done to employ people will not he refused a grant. I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give a pledge that if it can be shown by any Member of this House that work is being held up because of refusals of loans, the hon. and gallant. Member will do his utmost to get a fresh Bill introduced for extending the borrowing powers.
Can we have a promise that no work will he held up when the Public Works Loans Board advises that it, should be done? Such assurances would relieve not only Members of this House, but members of county and urban authorities who are faced with the task of finding useful work. I hope that Members of the Liberal party will support our request. The Board is capable of supervising the expenditure of the money and of seeing that there is no extravagance. Then why not trust the Board with the £30,000,000? 215 Why not withdraw even the suspicion that there is any change of policy. The merest hint as to the Government's desire to cut down expenditure is all that is wanted in certain quarters, and immediately expenditure is cut down. I hope that the Financial Secretary will give us the assurance that so far as he is concerned he would resign from the Government rather than continue in the control of an inadequate fund for the employment of men on useful public works during the winter.
§ Mr. HOFFMAN
I would add my plea to that of my hon. Friend who has just spoken. It is only a few months since the nation was faced with such an enormous crisis in connection with unemployment that all local authorities were called together here in London and asked to speed up all their public works, and to develop works wherever they could, in order to provide employment during the winter. The Prime Minister himself called that conference, and Members on these benches and on the Liberal benches applauded the fact that it was held. I have been spoken to about it by Members of local authorities who are certainly not Labour members, and who cannot now understand why the hint should now go out that all these works should be cut down. Already there is the impression that they should be cut down. I am very alarmed at the prospect this winter. In the industrial areas, which are the hardest hit, and have been the hardest hit for five or six years, if the hint goes out that all capital expenditure is to be cut down, I am afraid that the local police forces will have to be considerably increased during the winter months. I am afraid that there will be enormous difficulties apart from enormous suffering.
Can we afford to neglect our capital expenditure? Can we afford to go on letting our harbours silt up and our land get more waterloggged than it is? Surely in encouraging work of this kind we are adding to national values, adding to real wealth. It is not real economy to stop this kind of work. You may take it out of the workers for a little while, but the history of civilisation shows that you will reap what you have sown, and that every depression of 216 human standards rebounds against the privileged few in every country where it has operated. If this Bill is intended as a hint let it be altered. Already wages are being attacked, because it is suggested that there is need for economy. That is not merely the case in Government Departments. I have had brought to my notice this morning the fact that in establishments in London the workers have been told already that wages should be cut by 10 per cent. because the King has set an example.
§ Mr. HOFFMAN
I am very anxious not to get out of order, but I wanted to show that in every area this panicky way of dealing with the matter, instead of facing the situation coolly and calmly, is not going to do any good to the nation. I sincerely hope that there will be reconsideration of the matter before it is too late.
§ Major ELLIOT
If I can, let me make it clear to the Committee what is the position of this fund. The fact is that for some years past the sum annually placed by the Public Works Loans Board has been of the order of £20,000,000, or less than £20,000,000, precisely the sum which the Committee is being asked to authorise for the Board to-night.
§ Major ELLIOT
There is still nearly £10,000,000 in the fund. In our care for the adequate supply of funds during the few months immediately ahead it would have been unnecessary for us to come before this Committee at all and to ask for a Vote. That is the best answer I can give to the hon. Member who raised the point. In every one of the past years there has been a considerable sum of money which the Commissioners were authorised to lend, but which in fact they did not lend. So it 217 would seem unreasonable and a piece of window-dressing if we were to ask now for £30,000,000, which the Commissioners are not likely to spend in the immediate future. The suggestion has been made that there has been some change of policy put forward to the local authorities. I am anxious to respond to the appeal made by the hon. and gallant Member for East Rhondda (Lieut.-Colonel Watts-Morgan), who as the representative of a considerable local authority is anxious to find out exactly how the matter stands. I say again that for some years past the money annually issued by this fund has been £20,000,000. The sum which was suggested by the Labour Government when the Bill was brought before the House in July was to run from July to the end of July, 1932. That period of 73 months has been reduced to a probable In months and it is reasonable that we should introduce a figure which as nearly as possible will represent the demand likely to be made on the fund in the future.
Several questions have been asked as to whether this proposal would make it more difficult fur the local authorities. I do not see any reason why it should. These are business propositions, put up to a business board consisting very largely of bankers, and bankers to whom in the past some Members opposite have taken vehement exception. If they think that., in view of the difficult situation, a wave of extravagance is likely to overtake Lord Hunsdon and his colleagues, I would ask them to disabuse their minds on the point. The business propositions will come up to this business hoard in the future as in the past, and if those concerned can justify the propositions money will be issued for them in the future as in the past. We are attempting to adopt a more accurate system of dealing with that national account than would be the voting of a sum of £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 more than is drawn upon in the course of the year. In that action I am sure Members in every quarter of the House will agree. I have here numerous examples of the speeches of previous Financial Secretaries on the subject of this very hardy annual.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
The Financial Secretary has given us an explanation with his accustomed adroitness endeavouring to cover over the 218 weak points in his case, but I tell him straight away that while his explanation may be good enough for some of his colleagues on the Front Treasury Bench, it certainly is not good enough for me, and I do not think it will be good enough for those who sit behind me. I hope that there are some Liberals who, even though they are on the Government side of the House, will find out to what his defence really amounts. The hon. and gallant. Gentleman endeavoured to persuade us that in making this change he was doing nothing at all, but the question obviously arises why, then, should he do it? In order to justify himself, the hon. and gallant Member, I have no doubt accidently, mis-stated the position. He said that it was a mistake for us to vote more money than was actually required. If the object of the Bill were to vote money; if this were an Estimate: if he were able to say that an Estimate of £30,000,000 had been made in June, _but that three months had now elapsed, and he found that in the changed circumstances £20,000,000 was enough, and if we were in fact voting that money, then there would he a great deal in what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said. But this is not a Vote. Hon. Members will see that the Bill does not vote a sum of money. What it says is this:There may he issued by the National Debt Commissioners for the purposes of local loans by the Public Works Loans Commissioners any sum or sums not exceeding in the whole the sum of thirty million pounds.If the hon. and gallant Member's version of the policy behind that proposal is correct, what difference, does it make whether the sum is changed to £20,000,000 or whether £30,000,000 remains in the Bill. Why waste the time of the Committee—as obviously this is a matter likely to raise considerable controversy— there really is no difference at all between the Bill as it stands and the Bill as he proposes to amend it? What, is the real distinction? It is that the Financial Secretary, representing the Government of the day, has come to this Committee and asked for an Amendment to this Bill and if that Amendment be carried, it will then go out to the country that the Government have changed the Public Works Loans Bill and have reduced the amount that the Public Works Loans Commissioners are expected to 219 spend from £30,000,000 to £20,000,000. I know that the hon. and gallant Member can introduce another Bill next week if he likes, but though that may be true, he knows as well as I do that it is the gesture in these matters that counts, and this is a gesture to the local authorities and the Public Works Loans Commissioners and it is with the intention of making that gesture that this Amendment has been proposed.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us why he fixed the sum of £30,000,000? Why did he not put in a sum of £50,000,000 instead of £30,000,000?
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I put in a figure which I thought was a reasonable estimate of the expenditure which might. be expected over the period in question. The question is, why change it as proposed? It is one thing to put in a certain figure and quite another thing deliberately to take up the time of Parliament in altering it, on the ground that whatever figure may be fixed in the first instance, it is perfectly well known that it can subsequently be modified by a further Act. But to come down to the Committee and to seek to change that figure—that is not done for nothing. It. must he done with the intention of having a certain change of attitude and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cam-borne (Mr. Leif Jones), who makes such admirable contributions to our Debates, is in this matter at variance with his hon. Friend who pointed out just now that either this proposal had a meaning or it had none. If it has no meaning, why does the hon. and gallant Gentleman make the proposal? But I suggest that it has a meaning and that. it is to be taken as a gesture, almost as an instruction to the local authorities and to the Public Works Loans Commissioners that less money is to be spent on capital expenditure.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I cannot charge my memory on that point, but it is quite irrelevant. The question here is, why make the change in the Bill? I say that the change is clearly for the 220 purpose of making a gesture. In my opinion, which I think is the opinion generally held on this side of the House, and I believe it is an opinion held in the country, not only among those who take our point of view, but among others, that is what it means. If so, I wish to ask if this cutting-down of the expenditure of local authorities is part of the original bargain that the Government have made at the instruction of others outside this country. It is no good for the hon. and gallant Member to try to run away from the point. We have been told quite frankly from the Front Bench that certain changes have to be made in order to satisfy certain opinions in other parts of the world. Is this change part of that bargain or is it not? If it is, then I ask where are we going to stop?
Are we to take our policy in this way not merely with regard to national expenditure and the Budget, but also with regard to the actions of local authorities? Are we to stop there or go still further? Has all this been prearranged for us by the terms under which we have obtained a loan? If it has not been so prearranged, if it is not part of the original bargain, why is it being done? Is it being done from a spirit of general subservience and is it the case that while we are making all these alterations in our internal affairs, we have to do every conceivable thing to those who are good enough to lend this money to us? This alteration is the first fruits of the Government policy. It. is contrary to the traditions of this country and I hope that the Committee will vote against it.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The hon. Gentleman failed to satisfy me in regard to the original figure of £30,000,000. I understand that when he brought in the Bill, he estimated that the £30,000,000 would be sufficient for 13 months.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
No, the right hon. Gentleman must not assume that at all. I brought in the figure of £30,000,000 as a reasonable figure for expenditure by the local authorities, but how long it was to last was not filially decided—[Laughter]. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to laugh, but it is the fact that there was not any fixed date. It was assumed that £30,000,000 would be enough to go on with.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The hon. Gentleman will admit that he must have had some period in his mind within which that £30,000,000 would be expended, and at the end of which it would become necessary to have another Bill, and in the Debate I think it was mentioned that that period was about 13 months. I understand that the figure of £20,000,000 is what the Government estimate will probably be spent, assuming that there is another Loans Bill in the spring or early summer of next year. T put it to the hon. Gentleman that £20,000,000 for nine months is very much the same figure as £30,000,000 for 13 months. I accept the explanation of the Government. I do not understand that there is any intention to interfere with the actions of the Public Works Loans Commissioners in regard to the schemes of local authorities. I do not see any reason to disbelieve that statement, and I hope that the local authorities are not going to be misled by the speeches which have been made on the other side of the Committee. I suggest that it is an arithmetical correction which is being made and that a great deal too much importance is being attached to it by the Opposition.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I am sorry to have to intervene in the Debate And I apologise to the hon. Gentlemen who are standing at the Bar, for keeping them from their dinner for a few minutes, but this is a matter of considerable importance to a lot of people who are not likely to have any dinner to-night. I suggest that remarks such as are being made from both sides of the Gangway opposite to the effect. that there is nothing in this proposal, that it is only putting in one figure instead of another, and that everything will be perfectly all right, would not deceive a babe of five years old. This proposal is the beginning, the first step, in the new policy of dealing with local authorities. Everybody knows that, and those who try to pretend that it is something different, are not even deceiving themselves. They know that they will have to face their own constituents and try to explain away the words which they were using only about six weeks ago.
The Financial Secretary being a Scotsman, can produce in the sweetest possible words the most charming reasons for 222 avoiding the expenditure of money. But he knows that this is the beginning of a policy of cutting the local authorities down to the bone. He said —it may be, perfectly truly —that £20,000,000 was perhaps sufficient, but we do not know that it is going to be £20,000,000 or for how long it is going to be used. He has not said anything about nine months as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Leif Jones). He has not said that it is not likely to be for 19 months instead of nine. The point is that this is a statement of Government policy with regard to loans. As for strengthening the hands of Lord Hunsdon or this Committee, I suggest that it is the last thing that this Government need do.
This proposal is going to have a much greater effect than some realise. Various Ministry of Health inquiries with regard to loans are going on just now. In my own constituency this week they are having a local inquiry into an application for sanction to borrow money under this arrangement for very large public works. Does the Financial Secretary suggest that the reduction of this amount from £30,000,000 to £20,000,000 is not going to affect the minds of people who have to judge and report in connection with these local inquiries, when they come to make their decisions? Of course the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that that is bound to be the ease. I also ask hon. Members to consider what is likely to be the cumulative effect of the Measure which we are asked to pass —not merely the effect now. but the cumulative effect of it as it soaks down, so to speak, through the local authorities.
Everybody knows how difficult it is to get local authorities to move in this matter of public works. I think the first Minister produced by the Labour party for dealing with unemployment stated that his problem was not to vote money, but to get the local authorities to spend it. Some hon. Members may say, "If that is the case, why bother about reducing the amount from £30,000,000 to £20,000,000?" But under the previous Government the whole force of the Ministry of Health and of the Government generally was being used to try to persuade local authorities to realise their responsibility with regard to public works and to spend money wisely, in such 223 a way as to provide vitally necessary work that would add to the capital assets of the country. Every party has advocated that policy in this House for the past two years, but these things move very slowly, and with some local authorities it has been like pushing a heavy stone up a hill. In some cases it has taken 18 months or two years to get the local authorities to put forward schemes that have not yet been the subject of local inquiries; and then we have this gesture of this House in the midst of this crisis. What is going to be the effect?
I will give an example of the difficulty that there is in getting the local authorities to use their present powers. Middlesbrough is the centre of a huge catchment area for floods. Three years ago we had a terrible flood, which brought ruin to many people. We then tried to persuade the local authority to get busy on a large public work that would not only employ a large number of men and do away with the danger of floods, but would add to the capital assets of the authority, and yet here we had that local authority, with the whole pressure of the Ministry behind it, and what happened? It wasted a whole year, and it cut down the scheme from £150,000 to £80,000; and this: very week I have been visiting homes in my constituency which were ruined by floods that could have been prevented if the local authority had taken full advantage of this procedure. I give that as an illustration of the sort of difficulty that there is with local authorities.
There is no Member of this House who has taken up the question of finding work for the unemployed who has not had difficulties with his own local authorities, in going to them and saying, "What work is there to be provided? "Yet the Government bring in this Bill, the psychological effect of which will be that the local authorities will use the excuse of this House and the Government and will say, "Oh dear, we must remember that we have to cut down our loans, because the Government themselves have just cut down, from £30,000,000 to £20,000,000, the money available to local authorities." I wonder if the members of the Government realise what will happen this winter. It is easy to talk about cutting down expenditure. God knows, we do 224 not want to spend money unnecessarily, but does anyone think, whatever the state of the national finances may be, that it is good policy to allow men to drift around this winter, doing nothing, especially if the policy of the Government in another respect throws them off unemployment benefit? You say they are work-shy and do not want work, but—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has been gradually straying farther and farther from the actual point before us.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I am anxious to keep within the narrow point of Order, but I think it is essential to realise what the effect of this policy will be. If we were merely voting one figure or another—
What is going to be the effect on unemployment may be very important, but it does not arise on this particular Amendment.
§ Miss WILKINSON
No one is less anxious than I am even to appear to wish to contravene the rules of Order, but it seems to me an extraordinary position if this House is merely to talk figures without realising the results of those figures. I leave it there, but I would beg hon. Members not to blame men for being work-shy when they prevent the work being there to be done, because that will be the effect of this Measure. It, is extraordinary that the very people who have pleaded and lectured us and censured us, when we were on that side of the House, for not providing work, should, as their very first act as a Government, swallow all their speeches and lectures in that respect. If they say that we must do this because of a national crisis, why do something that will make the national crisis worse? But it is no use speaking to the Government. We know what will happen. We are under a practical dictatorship and are steam-rolled, but it is important that those of us who realise what it means to these devastated areas should raise our voices in protest against the Measure that is going to begin the whole policy of calculated meanness to the unemployed.
§ Question put, "That the word 'thirty' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 182; Noes, 281.227
|Division No. 468.]||AYES.||[7.53 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, West)||Haycock, A. W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Stall, Cannock)||Hayes, John Henry||perry, S. F.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Healy, Cahir||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Plcton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Alpass, J. H.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Potts, John S.|
|Amnion, Charles George||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Price, M. P.|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Arnott, John||Hopkin, Daniel||Raynes, W. R.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Horrabin, J. F.||Richards, R.|
|Ayles, Walter||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bllston)||Jenkins, Sir William||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Barr, James||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Benson, G.||Kelly, W. T.||Sandham, E.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Scurr. John|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sexton, Sir James|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Kinley, J.||Shield, George William|
|Brooke, W.||Kirkwood, D.||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, c. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Lang, Gordon||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Simmons, C. J.|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Sinkinson, George|
|Buchanan, G||Lawrence, Susan||bitch, Charles H.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Leach, W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsoy, Rotherhithe)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Smith, frank (Nuneaton)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leonard, W.||Sorensen, R.|
|Chater, Daniel||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Clark, J. S.||Longbottom, A. W.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cluse, W. S.||Longden, F.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Sullivan, J.|
|Compton, Joseph||McElwee, A.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cove, William G.||McEntee, V. L.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||McKinlay, A.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Tout, W. J.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Manning, E. L.||Vaughan, David|
|Davles, D. L. (Pontypridd)||March, S.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Marcus, M.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Duncan, Charles||Marley, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dunnico, H.||Marshall, Fred||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Mathers, George||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Maxton, James||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Egan, W. H.||Messer, Fred||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Evans, Major Herbert (Gateshead)||Middleton, G.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Freeman, Peter||Mills, J. E.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Milner, Major J.||Whlteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Mossley)||Montague, Frederick||Whiteley, William (Blaydcn)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Morley, Ralph||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gould, F.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mort, D. L.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanslly)|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Mosley, sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Muggeridge, H. T.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Murnin, Hugh||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Noel Baker, P. J.||Wise, E. F.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Noel-Buxton. Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Young, R. s. (Islington, North)|
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Oldfield, J. R.||Young, Sir R. (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)|
|Hardle, David (Rutherglen)||Palln, John Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Paling, Wilfrid||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut-Colonel||Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Buchan-Hepburn, p. G. T.|
|Albery, Irving James||Blrchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Bullock, Captain Malcolm|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Birkett, W. Norman||Burgin, Dr. E. L.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Blinded, James||Burton, Colonel H. W.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Boothby, R. J. G.||Butler, R. A.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn.John J. (Kent, Dover)||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.||Butt, Sir Alfred|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward|
|Atkinson, C.||Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Campbell, E. T.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Boyce, Leslie||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bralthwaite, Major A. N.||Castle Stewart, Earl of|
|Balniel, Lord||Brass, Captain Sir William||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Beamish, Rcar-Admlral T. P. H.||Briscoe. Richard George||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Broadbent, Colonel J.||Cayzer, Maj.Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S.)|
|Bellalrs, Commander Carlyon||Brown, Ernest (Lelth)||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||8rown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks. Newb'y)||Cocll, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)|
|Bettorton, Sir Henry B.||Buchan, John||Chamberlain, Rt.H n.Sir J.A (Birm-,W.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Haslam, Henry C.||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Purbrick, R.|
|Christie, J. A.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Church, Major A. G.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Rathbone. Eleanor|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunei||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Reid. David D. (County Down)|
|Collox. Major William Philip||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Remer, John R.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Reynolds. Col. Sir James|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Hurd, Percy A.||Rhys, Hon. Charles|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Rodd. Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rothschild, J. de|
|Crlchton-Stuart, Lord C.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Russell. Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Russell, Richard John (Eddlsbury)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Knight, Holford||Salmon, Major I.|
|Dalrymple-Whlte, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Knox, Sir Alfred||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies. E. C. (Montgomery)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sandeman. Sir N. Stewart|
|Davies, MaJ. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovll)||Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Davison. Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Law. Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Savery, S. S.|
|Dawton, Sir Philip||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Scott, James|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Dixey. A. C.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Shepperson. Sir Ernest Whlttome|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Skelton, A. N.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Smith, R.W. (Abcrd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Long, Major Hon. Eric||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|England, Colonel A.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset,Weston-s-M.)||Lymington, Viscount||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Somerset, Thomas|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Ferguson, sir John||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Macquisten, F. A.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Flelden. E. B.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Flson, F. G. Clavering||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Foot, Isaae||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Steel-Maltland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Margcsson, Captain H. D.||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)|
|Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Marjoribanks, Edward||Stuart. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Sueter. Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Fremantlc, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Meller, R. J.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Millar, J. D.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Milne. Wardlaw-, J. S.||Thompson, Luke|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Moore, Lieut. Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Train, J.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morrison, W. S. (Gins., Cirencester)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement.|
|Glassey, A. E.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mulrhead, A. J.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Nali-Cain, A. R. N.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Granville. E.||Nathan, Major H. L.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Gray, Milner||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Newton, sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)||White, H. G.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||O'Connor, T. J.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Windsor-Clive. Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Ormsby-Gore. Rt. Hon. William||Withers, Sir John James|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Peake, Captain Osbert||womersley, W. J.|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Penny, sir George||Wood, Rt. Hen. Sir Kingsley|
|Hanbury, C.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Harbord, A.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Harris, Percy A.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Captain Wallace and Viscount|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Elmley.|
§ Question, "That the word 'twenty' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.228
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."229
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
There is a question of great importance that I would venture to put to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is answering for the Treasury. May I draw the attention of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) to this as he is particularly concerned? Now that this Clause has been amended, £20,000,000 is to be added to the national indebtedness. I want to ask hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen who heard yesterday's Debate, especially the speeches from the other side of the House, whether they can with a clear conscience, and without certain questions being answered, add £20,000,000 to the National Debt. When the attempt was rightly made to add £30,000,000 to the Debt by my hon. Friend the late Financial Secretary, there were few protests from the Conservative party on the 13th July. Since then the whole financial situation, we are told, has worsened, so much so that it has been necessary for this spectacle to take place on the Front Bench— say it in no disrespectful way—of hon. Gentlemen with no political interests in common joining together in this mesalliance. Have the financial authorities of the country approved of this addition to the National Debt? We have a right to know that. The hon. and gallant Gentleman speaks with great ability for the Treasury in this House, but the Treasury arc no longer all-important in these matters. We were told yesterday by the Home Secretary, in a speech to which we listened with great interest, and by the Prime Minister that it was absolutely necessary that certain economies should take place and that a certain balancing of the Budget should he made before we could obtain necessary relief for sterling. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R Horne) wilt not deny that. Yet here we are on the first day of this Government adding £20,000,000 to the National Debt.
If speak now as a patriotic Englishman who believes that the sterling is the symbol of England's might, and I do not want to have any further loss of gold or any run on the banks or anything of that kind, so I want to know if the financial authorities approve of this addition of £20,000,000 to the 230 National Debt. Have the international authorities been consulted? They would not say, of course, "You must not do this or that." They would say, "We want to help you, but naturally we cannot go to the investors in our different States, and we cannot expect people to subscribe money unless we are able to assure them that you are able to make economies." Is it possible for some ill-wisher on the Paris Bourse or in Wall Street, to say, "Look at the first action of this Economy Government—the new Coalition Government—they are adding £20,000,000 to the National Debt"? Have the necessary precautions been taken of consulting the gentlemen in Wall Street, at The Hague, or on the Paris Bourse? Have we got their permission? Have our new masters given their leave? Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman a clear conscience that we will not be hauled over the coals tomorrow for adding £20,000,000 to the National Debt? On every expenditure proposed by this Government we are going to have an answer to that question. We are going to remind them con tinually who their masters are.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
To answer that, would take me out of order. We shall never let the Government or the country forget it. They cannot humiliate England and the House of Commons without knowing anything about it.
§ Mr. EDE
I see the Minister of Health in his place. I have in my hand the Order Paper that was arranged for the 20th October when this Bill was to be-considered, and his name stands at the head of six Conservative Members who, gave notice to move to omit "thirty" and to insert the word "fifteen" On a Motion of a colleague of his in the House. The Committee have just inserted "twenty" instead of "fifteen" On the 31st July the financial crisis, although existing, had not become apparent. There was no outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual disgrace of the British financial situation. Is the right hon. Gentleman, as the Minister who will have to sanction most of the loans that will have to come out of this money sure that it is safe now to include £5,000,000 more than he was prepared to include?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now discussing a point that was disposed of by the last Amendment. The amount has been fixed by that Amendment.
I am appealing to the Minister to let me know whether it is still safe to vote for the Clause standing part of the Bill, and whether, in view of the imminent disaster that threatens this country, we ought not now, having put "twenty" in, to say that even that is too much and that the Bill had better be withdrawn. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some enlightenment on this point. I am sure that in July, when he gave notice of his Amendment, he had a very sincere desire for both the public service and the public finances, and some explanation is required from him.
I notice also that the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) had an Amendment down to allow only £15,000,000 subject to a sinking fund applicable to the amount to be issued. When he spoke earlier in this Debate, he made no reference to that. I appeal to him as a great financial authority, and as the person who stood at this Box only a few weeks ago as the ex-Financial Secretary in the previous Government denouncing this Bill, and I ask him whether it is safe to include Clause 1 of this Bill without the addition of the Amendment which he wanted on the 31st July. I feel sure that he again was guided by no other motive than a desire for the public service and that motive, I have no doubt, is as strong in his breast on that side of the House on a back Bench as it was on this side of the House standing before the Treasury Bench. I sympathise with him that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has got his job. As a Surrey man I would have liked to see a Member for Surrey, that great Conservative county, included in the Government in some responsible position. I appeal to him as the vice-chairman of the Surrey County Council, which may have to come for money under this Bill, to tell us whether it is safe to pass this Clause without the Amendment that he wanted on the 31st July.
§ Major ELLIOT
I did not wish to take up to the time of the Committee. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me, with a new found zeal as a patriotic Englishman for our financial stability, which burns so fervently in his breast, if the financial authorities of the country have approved of this, and whether the financial authorities of the world will look with favour upon it. The Treasury approve of it, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer approves of it. Further, the House of Commons approves of it. Now the hon. and gallant Gentleman says: What about the bankers? Let me read the list of the bankers who have to approve of it. They are—Rt. Hon. Lord Hunsdon, Mr. Laurence Currie, the Hon. E. Hubbard, Mr. E. H. Loyd, the Rt. Hon. Lord Clwyd, Mr. Anthony de Rothschild, the Hon. Sir W. H. Goschen, K.B.E. Sir C. E. Hambro, K.B.E., and a great many more whom I could quote from the Public Works Loans Board. If every action of this House is approved of by as many distinguished financial men as those whose names I have just read out, the credit of this country will stand very high in a very short time.
§ Mr. COCKS
The representatives of the great central banks have stated that they do not intend to issue loans for industry or the State until wages have come down. Dr. Sprague, who is the American adviser to the Bank of England, and the representative in this country of the Federal Zone Board, speaking at the Royal Statistical Society last June, said the great central banks did not intend to issue any loans or credits to industry or the Government until wages came down. If they got an assurance that wages would come down then they would proceed to issue credits, so that prices should go up. Therefore, the working man, having had his wages reduced, would then have the benefit of having the cost of living put up as the result. I want to know if Dr. Sprague, who stated this—the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well he did—is amongst the list of names which he read out? I did not hear the name of Dr. Sprague, who is the uncrowned king of England to-day—although I do not think he has ever been naturalised: I am going to put a question to the Home Secretary about that—and I did not hear the name of Mr. Montagu Norman, who is—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member has sufficient intelligence to know—[HON. MEMBERS: "Partisan!"] I am sure that the hon. Member would be the last to think that I had intended to say anything rude. If I did so, I withdraw it. I will put it in another way. If the hon. Member considers the matter, he will realise that he is not now discussing anything which has to do with the issue of loans by the Public Works Loans Commissioners.
§ Mr. COCKS
I would assure the Committee that I have absolute confidence, Sir, in your fairness and impartiality. I recalled the statement that was made by the central banks, and when the Public Works Loans Commissioners are going to issue a loan of £20,000,000 I wish to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he has had the approval of Mr. Montagu Norman and Dr. Sprague. Otherwise, the country will be in doubt about the matter.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The question put by my hon. Friend was quite pertinent, and I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who has been very good in giving us information, will reply. I ant perfectly satisfied with what he said about the distinguished bankers he named. They are all in the swim and I suppose it is all right: but my hon. Friend is not satisfied, and as this is a matter of £20,000,000 surely we are entitled to an answer.
§ Major ELLIOT
We all appreciate the chivalry of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) in pressing for an answer for which, I think, the hon. Member himself was not so desirous. Surely the answer to his question is contained in the statement which he himself made. I read out the names of the Government advisers. They do not include the names of Dr. Sprague or Mr. Montagu Norman, and their opinion has not been asked in the matter. Surely the fact that they are not in the list of Public Works Loans Commissioners makes it unnecessary for us to consider what their opinions are.
§ Miss WILKINSON
May I ask whether it would be in order for me to hand in a manuscript Amendment to the effect that the names of Mr. Montagu Norman 234 and Dr. Sprague should be added to the Public Works Loans Commissioners?
§ Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Ifill," put,. and agreed to.