§ Mr. LANSBURY
I beg to move,That His Majesty's Government, having appealed to the country for a free hand to take such action as it thought fit to restore national prosperity and to deal with unemployment, and having entirely failed in these objects as is shown by the steady diminution of trade and industry at home and abroad and the increase of unemployment, together with the deplorable conditions to which the unemployed are being subjected, has forfeited the confidence of this House.We feel that no explanation or apology is needed in moving this Motion. The Opposition in the last Parliament gave the late Labour Government a "hymn of hate" every week. Although we are a small Opposition, we have done our best to put our views before the House on occasions, and we felt we could not allow the Session to close without challenging in a direct fashion the whole policy of the Government on trade and industry. We say in this Motion that the Government was elected witha free hand to take such action as it thought fit.There may be some dissent in the Cabinet about the statement as to a free hand, because I understand Members of the Government thoroughly disagree among themselves as to what the "free hand" really meant. We say it means that the Government were elected with an unparalleled majority to carry out such a policy as in their judgment would restore trade and industry. Now, after many months have passed, it is acknowledged, I suppose, on all sides of the House, that trade and industry are in a much worse plight than when the Government came into power. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] The House must agree with the official figures of unemployment. No one will deny that pauperism, as recorded in the figures issued by the Ministry of Health, has increased very considerably, or that the Ministry of Labour figures, however much we may twist them and try to explain them away, show an enormous increase in unemployment during the past few months, and especially during the last two months, when they have risen by very nearly 200,000.
It must be remembered, in considering unemployment now, that we must take into account a whole mass of people who have been put off unemployment benefit 1274 and who cease to register because of the hopelessness of getting any employment. I, myself, think the total figure of the unemployed in this country is very much over 3,000,000. It was said that we might reach the 3,000,000 mark this year, and some have congratulated themselves that we have not, but I am confident that if the people who do not now register, and of whom the official figures, therefore, take no account, are included, the real total of the unemployed is well over 3,000,000. Is any evidence needed of the cruel destitution and misery prevailing in the country as a result of the policy of the present Government and the deliberate policy of the House—I do not charge the Government any more than I do the majority of the House? If so, we have only to take note of the resolutions passed, not by Socialists, Liberals or Tories, not by any people who think they will get kudos, but by conferences of religious leaders in Newcastle, Huddersfield, Hoxton and other parts of the country. Those conferences have put it on record that there is tremendous suffering and destitution arising from the terrible increase in unemployment and the very cruel treatment being meted out to the unemployed.
Let us take another test, one of which everyone in this House ought to take note. In the East End of London there is an organisation which is carried on by certain West End ladies and others. I think Mrs. McKenna is chairman or president of it. The other day I came across their report, and found they had put it on record that, owing to unemployment, sickness and destitution were very much on the increase in the Ratcliffe and Shadwell areas. In my own division we had prided ourselves on reducing the death rate among our babies under one year, but, owing to this treatment of the unemployed, the figure is slowly rising to what it was before the Labour majority got control there. These are facts which can be multiplied all over the country, and I do not believe that any Member who represents an industrial area will deny the truth of what I am saying. I think they will all admit that in the administration of Poor Law relief, applicants and their dependants are being driven down into what Mrs. Webb called "the pit of destitution." That is one of the records of the Government's administration.
1275 Take another side to which I should have thought hon. Members opposite would have paid much more attention than, so far as I am aware, they have paid up to the present. We read in the newspapers of outrages in Chicago, and elsewhere in the United States, and there was a time when we rather prided ourselves that such things could not happen here. Every hon. Member is cognisant of what is happening and has been happening in this country during the last couple of years. I do not charge that against this Government, because I would not charge the responsibility for it against any other Government. According to the Home Secretary's statement made a week or two ago, the figures show an increase of crime, banditry, crimes of violence, etc., and they are rising rapidly in this country. Another sign of the terrible destitution and want is the number of suicides in the industrial areas. When I was young it was almost an unknown thing for a workman to commit suicide. We hardly ever take up a weekly local paper now in the East End of London without reading of one or more suicides, and every one of them is due to unemployment and want. About that there is no question.
Bringing it a bit nearer home to this House, I will now refer to the hon. Member who preceded the present hon. Member for Middlesbrough West, and who was well known in this House as a Member who persistently stood up for his area, and made a big fight in order that unemployment should be made a national charge and should be dealt with in a national manner. He was the representative of distressed areas. For a short time the committee representing distressed areas went out of business, but it has been called back into business again, and there has been a meeting already in this House of representatives of the distressed areas which are finding themselves saddled with the responsibility for dealing with the unemployed which has been pushed on them by the regulation regarding transitional benefit. About that there is no question or dispute. Not merely are the Government putting on to the shoulders of the family the burden of unemployment as far as they can, but they have also pushed off hundreds of thousands of cases on to the local authorities. There is no economy 1276 in shifting the burden from the nation on to individuals or on to the local authorities, because you simply shift the burden. That is the case so far as the effects of the Government's policy or want of policy is concerned.
When I said just now that trade and industry were in a bad way, there was a little hilarity in the House. I did not witness that hilarity when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Billhead (Sir It. Home) made his famous speech from the corner of the Gangway. The House was then shocked. The right hon. Gentleman told us, in the words of the Duke of Wellington, that it would be "a damn near thing" if we got through the present crisis. I did not say that, Mr. Speaker, but the right hon. Gentleman, who is much cleverer than I, said it. There are other people who have put statements on record. I am anxious that the Government shall not ride off this afternoon by saying, "These are only statements by you Socialists, and you always bring up one song on these occasions." That was the answer I got from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day. I have only one principle to stand for, just as the Lord President of the Council, when he was Leader of the Opposition, stood for tariff reform. I stand for Socialism, and I advocate it all the time. A cry of despair came from the Economy Committee of the League of Nations a short time back. On that committee there are some of the most eminent economists, not Socialist economists but capitalist economists. What do they say? I hope hon. Members will not laugh at this:The situation grows worse from day to day. We can only ask with anguish: What shall be done to-morrow?They go on to say:Barely four months have elapsed since the last report of the Committee, and already the fears which it expressed at that time have teen confirmed, and even exceeded by events. The value of world trade to-day is one one-half—or perhaps less than half— what it was in the first quarter of 1929.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) may say, "We are weathering the storm better than other people." He may be weathering the storm better than other people, but the 3,000,000 people who are unemployed are not weathering it better. During the same period, taking the world and ourselves, the number of unemployed 1277 has nearly doubled. Then the "Morning Post," which is not exactly a Socialist journal, but which supports the Tory Government of the day, on 10th June— not 10th June when the Labour Government were in office but 10th June when the National Government were in power —said:It is no idle prophecy of gloom to declare that, in the absence of one contingency, and one only, a crash is as inevitable as the succession of night to day.The "Economist" on 28th May last said:The sands in the hour-glass run ominously low.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said:We may have little to do but to share miseries and face them bravely.I hope that he is doing so. There is no need for me to say more on that side of the subject. No one will think that it is a matter of amusement when I say that the position of trade and industry is worse, and that the number of unemployed has been much intensified. The misery and suffering of millions of people have also been much increased during the period of the present Government. What is the present Government's remedy? I suppose that hon. Members can recall the great scene and the tremendous pœan of victory when the House carried the Import Duties Act. Then it seemed that hon. Members believed that we were starting on a new road that would lead very speedily to the promised land. We were told to "Wait and see." I think that was one statement of the President of the Board of Trade. Other hon. Friends of mine will probably elaborate this point, but the effect of tariffs up to now has been to increase unemployment throughout the country. [Interruption.] I do not deny that you may be able to prove to me that here and there industry improved greatly, or that some German dealer has come to teach the woebegone British capitalist how to run his business. You may tell me that a Swiss has done something there, but on balance you have increased unemployment. If you doubt that, you have only to read the figures of the coal industry.
As I said when I spoke on the Import Duties Bill, both Free Trade and tariffs are issues totally irrelevant to the present situation. It may be that in some instances some protection is needed, and it 1278 may be that in other cases Free Trade pure and simple is needed, but to think of tariffs or Free Trade as a remedy for the present situation is, in my view, midsummer madness. There is nobody here who would say, and I challenge anyone in this Debate to get up and argue, that if the world were entirely Free Trade, and we had competitive: commercialism on the same basis as to-day, the world would be free from unemployment and distress. No such thing would happen; and exactly the same applies to the question of tariffs. Therefore, we approach this question from the point of view that, in the situation in which the world now finds itself, the application of tariffs or Free Trade will not of itself cure the evil.
I may be told that I am not taking account of what the Government are doing with regard to the Exchange Equalisation Account, and that I ought to give them credit for that proposal. I do not want to repeat what I said the other Friday afternoon, except to say that the speeches I have heard in defence and in criticism of that proposal have convinced me that, while it may be a very tiny step towards this House getting control of the Bank of England, it is only an infinitesimal step, and if it should be carried out as one hon. Member thought it might be—if, that is to say, our Government were to commence gambling with the other international gamblers in finance—I am quite certain that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer will get the worst of it, and in all probability we may find ourselves without that £150,000,000.
There is another point in connection with this matter that we want to make quite clear. We do not believe, and we do not accept the doctrine, that economy is a remedy for the present state of affairs. The policy of the Government is twofold; on the one hand it is tariffs, and on the other hand it is economy. What does economy mean? Economy means, as I said at the beginning, starving people. Every time you cut down a man's wages, he has so much less to spend, and the area of business is restricted to that extent. Also, every time you cut down the public assistance that a man or woman may receive, to that extent you stop their spending power. I should like to repeat here what Lord Snowden once said when standing at this Box. He said that public expenditure is not a crime if you are 1279 spending the money wisely and for a good purpose. He also said, and it is perfectly true, that if you take £1,000 from a millionaire and give it to a number of aged persons as pensions, you have not reduced the spending power of the country, but have only changed its form, and have probably changed the form of spending to something very much better than it otherwise would have been. It is nonsense to tell me that trade is injured when expenditure is shifted from one thing to another. The rich man might buy a motor oar with £1,000, but, if you gave the £1,000 to a number of poor people, the money would go in bread and other food, clothing, rent and so on; you would not have decreased the total trade of the country one bit.
Further, we deny altogether that the social services have brought the nation to the pass in which we are. I shall be surprised if the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon stands at that Box and says, 12 months afterwards, that it was expenditure on social services that brought about the crisis last year. I never denied the crisis; what I did deny was the infamous lie that that crisis was brought about because of British expenditure on the poor of the country. The right hon. Gentleman knows now, and the country knows—tens of thousands of people know who did not know it a year ago—that that crisis was brought about by the gambling of the men in the City of London. [Interruption.] Hon. Members who laugh should read the Macmillan Committee's report, in which attention was called to the fact that the use of short-term money here to lend on a long-term basis to Germany and Austria would inevitably bring about a crisis such as that which arose last year, and no one outside this House will deny that who knows anything about the subject. Therefore, we do not take the view, and are not going to take the view, that these social services cannot be paid for.
Let me say a word as to how these social services grew up, and what the need for public health services in this country was. Why was it that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had to bring in Health Insurance and Unemployment Insurance? Why was it that Housing Bills had to be brought in? Why was it that we had to bring in Bills 1280 to get water supplies for whole districts? Why was it that we had to bring in Bills to take children out of the mines, out of factories, and so on? Because, under capitalism, there is only one thing to be pursued, and that is to make money at any cost; and if this House years ago had not instituted these social services, the condition of the people would have been infinitely worse than it is. The right hon. Gentleman knows that while he was Prime Minister a Ministry of Health was brought into being because we discovered during the War how much of a C.3 population has been produced by the conditions—the brutal conditions—under which masses of people toiled and laboured.
I would remind the House, and it is worth considering, that 100 years ago, within, I think, two years, the old new Poor Law, if I may use that expression, was brought in. That new Poor Law was brought in in order to deal with similar conditions which prevailed at that time. Members of this House, and especially the younger ones, are fond of talking about Disraeli and Disraeli's policy. I recommend them to read, "Sybil, or The Two Nations," and note the scathing indictment of the Poor Law conditions that prevailed at that time. I would recommend them, and especially the 200 who are going through the Estimates in order ruthlessly to cut down the social services, to read the denunciation by the great chieftain of their party, Disraeli, of the infamous treatment of the poor and the unemployed during the days when he wrote that book. I would also recommend them to read the books of Charles Kingsley and others, like "Yeast" and "Two Years Ago," and see how those conditions are being repeated to-day, how you are bringing back the same brutal, hard treatment.
On the social services we shall fight your proposals as hard, as bitterly and as ruthlessly as we can. You may perhaps kill us by all-night sittings, hut we are not going to see our people robbed of what they have fought for and won, that is the right to educate their children, the right to an old age pension, the right to maintenance when you have taken from them the right to work. We are not going to see them robbed of the new houses that can be provided for them. We are not going to see them doomed to 1281 remaining in the slums in which they have been doomed to live for many years. We give you full notice of our intention. Then when I come to consider the sort of situation to which all this is to apply, I recommend hon. Members who may like to get a true diagnosis of this business, to read a speech made by the Lord President of the Council. I have tried to find the speech. I believe it was made in this House during the short period of the first Labour Government. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman reviewed the whole position of the country after the War, and I thought at the time that it was one of the clearest expositions of the conditions that had arisen that I had heard from anyone.
The right hon. Gentleman pointed out quite truthfully that during the War we had increased tremendously our power to produce, that the necessities of the War had compelled us to look round and see how we could improve our production. Then he went on to compare the difficulty to-day with the difficulties after Waterloo. After Waterloo we had the tremendous improvements brought about by steam and machinery, we had the whole world to deal with and we had markets everywhere. To-day markets are all restricted, and all of them competitive, some of them competitive by our own people, some of them competitive by foreign nations, financed by British capitalists. About that there is no question whatever.
That is a condition of things to which this House has not yet faced up. But we are obliged to face up to it to-day, because we see that through the operation of the Peace Treaties Europe itself has been cut up into different pieces as it were, each forming an economic unit, and this has resulted in such a stagnation of industry and exchange that the world apparently cannot move. I think that this House will very shortly be obliged, not because of the workmen but because of the moneyed interests of the country, to face up to the further fact that millions and millions of pounds have been lent abroad, to Chile, to the Argentine, to Bolivia, Brazil and Greece. At the beginning you could collect your interest, you could take it because you were sending out goods representing the loans for a loan is not merely money but goods. But to-day, even if these people could pay, you could not take the goods, 1282 because if you did you would choke yourselves with goods. That is why you are crying for tariffs all the time. You have to face the fact that you will not have that huge sum of £250,000,000 to £300,000,000 coming in, partly for such services as shipping, insurance, etc., partly as interest on debt. You have not merely to deal with War debts and reparations but with these huge commercial debts all over the world. This paltry petty policy of crushing the poorest does nothing to help.
What I want to press home is that, while it is perfectly true that there is collapse in other countries, or that other countries are on the verge of collapse, while it is true, as the "Times "kindly says to-day, "We are in favour of international co-operation and we must ultimately get international co-operation," we say that, pending that time, we ought to be doing something entirely different from what the Government are doing in regard to our own country. The party opposite continually talks of wanting to help British industry. I believe they have done nothing of any worth to help British industry. Let us see what we might do—and we are going to fight for this. Mr. Snowden did his best to befoul his own principles, or what we imagined were his own principles, at the General Election. We are going to advocate the Noble Lord's own policy on this matter, in spite of the fact that the Lord President will tell us that we shall win no elections and that we shall always be in the wilderness. My colleagues who are much younger than I am will face the wilderness on this subject.
I will tell the Lord President of the Council what our policy is. We say, first of all, that before this nation can be free to reorganise and rationalise the great basic industries in the service of the nation, we must take control of the citadel in the City of London; we must have absolute ownership and control of the finances of this country. We maintain, and I think the Lord President will have a job to controvert it, that the Governors of the Bank of England are not the right people to decide whether or not an industry shall be rationalised. We do not think we ought to be forced to go cap in hand to the City of London and to ask, "Please may we use our own national credit?" After all, what credit has the City of London outside 1283 the natural resources of the country and the bone and sinew of the workers of the country? What have they to offer to us? When you think of it, why should you leave yourself in the hands of these gentlemen'? You judge a steward, a servant, anyone that you employ, by results. What are their results?
Read Sir Arthur Salter's book on investments, on the sort of gerrymandering that has been done in the matter of loans. I remember that when I was a boy the bead of the Egyptian State borrowed millions of money, and in the end the British Fleet had to go to Alexandria in order to collect the bondholders' debts. Those debts were created through the corruption of the man who happened to be ruler of Egypt for a time. Here is the City of London. I notice that the Lord President of the Council laughs. What about Mr. Kreuger? Could a set of Socialists have been taken in more than that lot were taken in?
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that Sir Arthur Salter said that we wanted more men like Mr. Kreuger.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Yes, that may be perfectly true. As long as you have a good clever rogue and keep him under control he probably will be of some service. I advise the right hon. Gentleman to keep one to look after that £150,000,000. It will go west if he does not. The Government are dealing with a, lot of gentlemen whom I do not want to call hard names, because if they get away with it they get to the House of Lords. Sir Arthur Salter, I am sure, did not want a lot more gentlemen who would blow their brains out or go to heaven some other way, with debts of £50,000,000 that they had got from someone or other. We consider that if the present Government had been in dead earnest they would have taken control of the finances of this country right away. They would have seen to it that, whatever money there was, whatever wealth there was in the country, it was invested along lines which would prevent the Kreugers "doing them down" and swindling them. As to swindling I do not want to take time in giving instances. Hon. Members opposite know them better than I do; they are their friends, not mine.
1284 But there are other things we can do. We think that instead of reducing wages you should increase wages. I heard Mr. John Wheatley in this House one day give a story of money and money's worth, and he finished by saying what was perfectly true. He said, "The warehouses are full of goods." Does anyone deny that? There is not a single thing that is needed but what we have, abundance of it. Does anyone deny that? Is there any single thing that men and women need for their daily sustenance of which we have not got abundance? Does anyone deny that? Too much coal, too much cotton, too much wool, too many clothes, too much everything. I sat one day to be educated by half a dozen cute business men on the question of the development of this country and of the Dominions. I had the wild notion that it was rather absurd that there should be millions of acres in the Dominions and in this country, untouched wealth, and that there should be millions of men anxious and willing to produce from that natural wealth. After a discussion for two hours I was asked: "Suppose that we adopted your proposal what would you grow in this country?" I said, "One or two things. We have too much." One said, "What would you do in the Dominions?" I said, "We might grow food; we might possibly get coal; we might build a railway or two. We might do everything that you do when you develop a new country." They said, "We do not need anything." I said, "You are giving the Communists their case. Within capitalism there is no way of escape. You have to have these terrible periods of destitution and misery." Their answer was—I have heard it said in this House; Philip Snowden said it to me privately—"We must have patience, George." It is easy to have patience when you have a full stomach.
Sir Josiah Stamp has told us what we want—a few national bankruptcies and a few individual bankruptcies. Stocks will rot away and will be burnt sometimes. They will gradually go out of use, and then we will start all over again. No one outside Bedlam would believe that intelligent men could talk in that way. I do not understand it. Surely to goodness, if men put their toil and labour into the production of goods they ought to be used and not kept from use. We believe that masses of the unemployed 1285 could have been put to quite good, useful work at proper wages. I travelled to Yorkshire at the week-end, right across the Fens to Cambridgeshire and, although parts of Cambridge, Huntingdon and Lincolnshire are better cultivated than others, there are still miles of land where there is not a human being. You never meet anyone. You can go hundreds of miles. [Interruption.] I will repeat that so that you can laugh again. You can go hundreds of miles and scarcely meet a human being. You can ride on the North-Eastern Railway from London to York. [An HON. MEMBER: "I have done it."] I invite you to skin your eyes next time you are travelling and you will see what I have seen— hundreds of miles of land—[Interruption.] I can only give you argument; I cannot give you anything else. [Interruption,] The hon. Member who says, "Go on," is one who believes in agriculture. I happen to believe in agriculture, too, and I think it is a confession of the abject failure of statesmanship and of any sort of imagination that, with a country like ours, there should be miles of land uncultivated and 3,000,000 unemployed.
The House had before it to-day a number of questions about Denmark. I visited Denmark because Sir Horace Plunkett persuaded me years ago that we ought to have a system of that kind operating here. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why our Government do not take the sort of broad view that the Danish Government did and reorganise agriculture by bringing education to it, by insisting on a co-operative system of collection and distribution and also upon the proper grading and bringing to market of their goods in such a fashion that people know when they buy Danish bacon that it is the same to-day as to-morrow, and so on. Butter and eggs are the same. The reason is not that it was left to private enterprise, but that the Government took it in hand. Why should not we?
Then I want to know why, instead of allowing all these young miners to eat their hearts out, it should not be considered an economic thing to reclaim land already almost derelict through sinkings and floodings, or to take the necessary steps to prevent flooding. When I was in Yorkshire the other day I went through 1286 the Bentley area. To allow the condition of affairs that you can see in that district to have occurred and to take no steps to prevent it occurring again when the next high tide conies, is also sheer madness. I cannot understand any Government saying in the name of economy, "We will not spend this money." I represent a division typical of hundreds of others where we have a number of slums. A site came into the market almost on top of a slum area. The London County Council bought it. We should have bought it ourselves had they not done so. We imagined that houses would have been put there by now, but the work is all stopped. The Government may say they are not responsible, but the local authorities think they are doing the Government's will by not going on with the building.
I believe that can be matched anywhere. Does anyone imagine that you are saving anything by not getting on with the work? You say you cannot afford it, but you cannot really afford not to do it. There are a hundred and one good useful things which would provide work for the unemployed. It is proposed that the iron and steel industry shall be reorganised. As I understand it, the scheme is, as it were, to replant the industry in, perhaps, half a dozen centres in the country. If that is left to private enterprise, it means the wiping out of certain industrial areas, leaving them derelict and allowing the toil of years to go to ruin. I call that decadence. This party will never again support any sort of reorganisation or rationalisation except that which is done under public control and public ownership, and which, first of all, provides for the people who are going to be squeezed out. We are not going to see the workers treated as they have been treated for a century and squeezed out of their work. If the job of a public servant is abolished, he is compensated for loss of office. Why should a workman be the only one who has to suffer? We think they need not suffer. We believe you could reorganise these industries as social services if you took care to control the money side of the business, and did not have to pay out huge sums for watered and other capital. We think you could, if you would, reorganise them in such a fashion that you could pay better wages, making the workmen bigger consumers, and work them shorter hours, which is the 1287 only logical reason why workers should support machinery and reorganisation.
We believe that, it that were done, this country could, without looking to the outside world, to a very large extent restore its life. With regard to agriculture, the right hon. Gentleman will say, "What of foreign competition? "If this nation owned the land and had agriculture organised on the basis of social service, we would take good care that that was not ruined either from the outside or from the inside. But we are not going to have prices raised in order to keep rents up or in order to pay profits to anyone. We believe the Government ought to set up, here and now, a board of men, not imbued with, the idea of profit-making, but charged with this principle, that they are reorganising the industry on the basis of social service, and we say that there ought to be not only short-term planning but long-term planning. My friend, Lord Marley, in another place last night, called attention to the fact that there was only one country in the world which has no unemployed, and that is Russia. We may all have our views as to the political system that is operating in Germany, France, or Russia. If we are to believe Mr. Selfridge, all the systems are wrong except one of which he would be dictator. We may disagree as to how things ought to be run, but it is a fact that that country, rising from the ruins of war, revolution and Tsardom, is creating a new life. You may not like it, but everyone who goes there—[An HON. MEMBER: "Would never stay there!"] I have friends who are very glad to stay there, but that is all beside the point. They are planning their industries. They have before them an ideal.
What have we before us? No one on those benches has an idea outside competing with someone else. Let us beat someone else in the market. We say that, instead of that, there ought to be co-operation, but we say, first of all, clear our own doorstep. Let us develop our own industries. If the Dominions want to come in with us in the business of developing their countries, let us do what we can, but not shut ourselves out from the rest of the world.
The last thing I want to say is this, and I ask the House to forgive me 1288 because I know that in this case, probably, I ought not to say it; but I am my age, and I have not a long number of years, perhaps only days or weeks—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, no! plenty of time "]—I want to say something which is very much on my mind and which, I hope, the House will take in the spirit in which I am going to say it. I sit at home occasionally on Sunday evenings and hear Pat McCormick. I heard previously a doctor, whose name I forget, lecturing on the subject which is now before the House. Both of them said that what was needed was a new spirit in life, something which would bind men and women together in the bonds of comradeship and brotherhood. I said to my wife, "I wish all the House of Commons could hear this," and I meant it, because, believe me, that is the root thing I wish to say this afternoon. This old world is in its present condition because we have all been living—all of us, you and I and everybody—the wrong way. We thought that we did the best for ourselves by only thinking of ourselves. We believed that the aim of life was what we got and not what we gave.
I believe that the British Parliament and the British nation, if they really believe in the Gospel and in doing to others as they would be done unto, could lead the world in a new campaign. I have tried to put this point of view to meetings all over the country for 20 odd years or more. The poor people listen to it. Lots of people believe it, but they do not see their way to do it. You believe it, and if you have the will, believe me, you can do it. We can do it if we have the will, but it must be done on the basis of working in the service of one another, and none of us asking from the world more than we are prepared, according to our ability, to give back to the world.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman need make no apology to the House for the concluding words of his speech. I know that they will find an echo in many hearts throughout the House, and, I think, I can say that I have advocated, perhaps not so ably as the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon; the general principles of what he has said on many platforms during the last 12 or 14 years. I have this after- 1289 noon for a short time to devote myself, as far as I am able, to dealing with the case brought against the Government in the Motion which is upon the Order Paper. Before I do so, and as I had no opportunity last Friday, I should like, as the Leader of the House for the time being, to tell the right ton. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) how pleased we are to see him back again. He could not have made a more auspicious entry because, as he reminded us in other words, he was sent to this House by the bailiwick of Carnarvon, and he came as Balaam. He came intending to curse, but remained to bless. I am so thankful that he followed the analogy no further, for Balaam, having blessed, went home and was seen no more. The right hon. Gentleman went home, and we are glad to see him back again.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will doubtless remember that in my innocence, when I saw this Motion on the Paper, I said that I was astonished, and he said that it was his duty to astonish the Government. It was an innocent remark, because I remember Mr. Asquith once saying to me that he had got to a time of life when he was neither astonished nor disgusted at anything that could happen to him in this world. Disgust passes, but astonishment persists. Really, I can think of no other case in which a small group of shipwrecked mariners, the orphans of the storm, as the silver-tongued Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) said the other day, moved a Vote of Censure on the very lifeboatmen who saved them. I have no doubt that Mr. Asquith might have added to those words the word "gratitude." I do not expect to be astonished or disgusted or to receive gratitude for anything which I do in this world. I will get on with my task.
It will be the duty of the Government, as far as they are able, to explain to the House what they have accomplished— what they have failed to accomplish will doubtless be put before you from the other side—since they came into office last autumn. As the ground is rather wide, and as I think that this may be the only Debate of the kind we shall have before the House rises, it is very important that the House should examine every aspect of the problems which are before us. I propose to confine myself 1290 mainly to the questions of trade and industry. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour wilt deal mainly with the question of employment, and a question closely connected with it—the question of the coal trade as affected by what is happening in the world outside. So many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House have peculiar knowledge of that subject that they will be bound to make frequent reference to it in their speeches, and I think that it is far better that whoever speaks for the Government should speak on that subject after he has heard what has been said, rather than speak early in the afternoon.
I do not seriously complain of a Motion like this being put down. It is perfectly natural in the work of Parliament, and I have no complaint of the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman discharged his task. He naturally dwelt, as we should expect him to dwell, on the human side of these problems, and if we may judge from what I said when I first stood up, that human side is not absent from any of us on this side of the House. But it is not a side to which I can devote much time this afternoon, or I should be making too large a claim upon the time of the House. Nor do I propose to say anything in detail about the changes which have been made in the fiscal policy, or what we had to do in the way of balancing the Budget and in imposing increased taxation for that purpose. I will only observe that no one who studied closely the conditions which prevailed in this country and in the world last autumn would have imagined that either this country or the world would attain any position of normality in six months or nine months.
It is a very long row which we have to hoe, and I do not mind frankly admitting to the House that it was difficult during the time that one was in Opposition and had not access to all the sources of knowledge which one has in office, to realise the appalling deterioration in all the world conditions which had taken place since I was last in office. I knew that they were bad; I knew that they were very bad; but the reality of what we had to face was worse even than I had expected, and justified the phrases which were so often on the lips of the right hon. Gentleman a year ago, as to the "economic blizzard" and "world conditions." I ask hon. Members who 1291 censure us to-day to bear that in mind and remember what they said a year ago.
One of the first things to which we devoted our attention was the matter of the balance of trade, and it was to deal with the balance of trade primarily that the Government came to the decision to impose import duties. I have never been an extremist, and I have never made elaborate claims as to what a tariff would do in a short space of time. Today the whole tariff system is on its trial. It is a great experiment, and in my view the right experiment and the only experiment, but it will be two or three years, certainly before this Government goes out of office, before we shall know whether it has fulfilled our hopes and expectations or not. I think that the country was determined that the experiment should be made, and that an enormous majority in the country are satisfied to give fair play to this experiment for such a time as they think not unreasonable to see what is the effect of that experiment. That is my view, and I believe that it is the view of a great number of people in the country.
With regard to the balance of trade, our efforts there have not been unsuccessful. In the first five months of this year the excess of imports has decreased from what it was a year ago by £30,000,000, which a little exaggerates the figure because of the fall in prices. The curious feature is that in the first quarter to the end of March the adverse trade balance was decreased by only a little over £4,000,000. So that the large difference between those two figures is the result of the trading in April and May, and that shows that we are gradually working off the effect of the forestalling of goods which came into this country in February. In the first quarter there was practically no change in the volume of trade—of course, the volume is by far the more important—and the apparent improvement was due to price changes. But while we have not yet got the figures completely worked out for April and May, by all the indications, which we have, the reduction in the unfavourable balance of trade is due both to an increase in the volume of our exports and to a decrease in the volume of our imports, particularly the latter.
1292 One further satisfactory feature is that in the five months the statistics regarding raw materials are practically stationary, whereas the value of manufactured articles is down by over £32,000,000, in spite of forestalling in February. All that I would say on that is that the result of a few months—of course, I would never claim that a few months taken as it were haphazard is a conclusive proof of the case—as far as it goes, and that is as far as we can go to-day, is that the policy we are pursuing is effecting what we desired to do in relation to the balance of trade. In the present state of the world and having regard to the conditions of foreign countries and their trade, on which I shall say a word or two by and by, that, I think, as far as it goes, is satisfactory.
We have to look at and consider carefully in any Debate like this the kind of foreign restrictions which exist to-day, because they are restrictions comparatively new in our trade, restrictions which did not exist the last time that I was in office. They have mainly come about as a result of the crisis in Germany last summer. All the restrictions, taken together—and I propose to say a word about the different kinds of them— will show the House what an appalling amount of grit there is in the whole machine for the circulation of goods, and until that grit is removed and the machinery is lubricated little progress can be made. I do not propose to do what would be only a waste of time, and that is to argue whether we should recover more quickly under a Capitalist or a Socialist system. I have to take the environment in which I find myself and do the best that I can in it, and I do not feel that we have time to conduct such an experiment as would be necessary if the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends were to take charge of the whole financial machinery of this country, before we could make any step forward.
Another important thing to remember is that these restrictions in foreign countries have been put on owing to their own domestic conditions. It is a kind of game of the devil take the hindmost. They are put on sometimes to balance the Budget, sometimes to try and save the employment of their own people, and that is particularly the case in regard to coal, sometimes to help the adverse 1293 balance of trade, sometimes for the protection of their own currency and sometimes for an object in which all these motives are linked up together. Such restrictions are not retaliatory, whatever hon. Members opposite may say. They have been put on by one individual country after another which has got into a panic as to what is going to happen inside its own borders.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
My hon. Friend will have an opportunity later on of saying what he likes. These restrictions are not only enforced in Europe. In South and Central America, countries with which we do a great deal of trade, they have been introduced. Some of our own Dominions have got increased duties. There are no fewer than 30 foreign countries to-day that have some kind of exchange restrictions, and in many cases those restrictions are such that it is almost impossible to bring currency from one country to another. I have said that it started with the German crisis in July of last year. Germany, with her restrictions, was immediately followed by Hungary. In turn, in the early autumn, Bulgaria, Greece, Norway, the Baltic States and Czechoslovakia all joined in this mad race. It had nothing to do with any policy of ours. All these things were done before our policy was declared. All these restrictions applied not only to us—who, you may like to consider, have a double dose of original sin—but to all countries alike, and perhaps these restrictions, because of their different nature in different countries, are telling to-day more against the recovery of trade than even tariffs themselves.
Another form of restriction, and on this probably a good deal will be said in the course of the Debate, because it touches a question which is in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, is the question of quotas. The quota is a very dangerous weapon. I advocated it myself in regard to wheat at the election, but I said at the time that it was a very powerful weapon. It is not one that I am anxious to see in general, universal use. I regard it as one for an emergency. Of course, many of these countries are using it genuinely, because they believe it is helping them to face an emergency, but they do not think for a moment what the effect will 1294 be on other countries; and they are disastrous. You cannot consider Russia in this question, because in Russia alone you have the whole of the trade system at present controlled by the Government. So long as that be the case in Russia, or any other country that may follow her example, you have, at any rate, in that system an absence of certainty, because no one can tell what a Government with a free hand will do and that absolute uncertainty in itself is most liable to militate against regular and steady trade.
Take Denmark. One or two questions have been asked about Denmark. Denmark has gone in quite recently for a very severe limitation of trade. I am perfectly certain that Denmark would not have done it had she not felt that it was necessary for her own economic salvation, because the last thing that Denmark wants to do to-day is to do anything that will annoy us. She is most anxious to do business with us and most anxious to come to some arrangement with us in regard to our tariffs, and she has distinctly said that she has no desire at all to make the regulations that she has enacted any more troublesome to us than they need be. We have been told formally, our Minister in Copenhagen has been told by the Danish Government, that all possible care will be taken that the Danish exchange control shall be used in a way to cause the least possible difficulty to British traders. Of course, we are grateful for that; but there you are. There is one more barrier, and a barrier in a country that has been a good customer of ours and I hope in time will be better.
Perhaps we have had as much difficulty in regard to this matter with France as with any other country. With France, curiously enough, we have no Most-Favoured-Nation Treaty, but for half a century we have had a kind of recognised agreement that in all our deals we do the best for each other. When we have remonstrated with her, France has explained that the steps she took were steps to prevent her own industries from being flooded by cheap importations, not from this country but from Belgium and Germany. As a matter of fact, investigations show that the goods subject to the quota there are goods that have been in-the past chiefly coming from those two countries. France is one country whom we induced to remove the surtax on coal. 1295 We were successful in getting France to remove that. It is only fair to say that she has always protested that she has taken no step against us alone. The surtax that was put on was put on against the countries with depreciated currencies and applied to every country which found itself in that condition. On the top of quotas and restrictions we have had, practically all through the world, increased duties, and they have been increased against the goods of all countries. There is nothing in the increases of duty that have been made that is directed chiefly against us, or has been effected because of the change in our own policy in this country. They have been put on for the same reasons as the other restrictions that have been put on. In Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, France and some of our Dominions, tariffs have been raised and raised until in places they have got to a height that it is almost impossible to climb.
That is the position, and it is extraordinarily difficult to see how that position is going to be broken. At the present the conference which is taking place at Lausanne naturally affords us some hopes, but we know how difficult it is at these great conferences. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as any of us, in regard to these conferences, when the interests or the supposed interests of various nations are brought together, how difficult and how slowly they work, but I am perfectly clear in my own mind, as the British Government is, that the course we want to see pursued, the complete cancellation of all reparations and debts in Europe, between ourselves, is an essential step, and I believe a long step, towards giving the countries more confidence and helping them to get on with their business, and is the first step to the removal or, shall I say, would lead to a day nearer the time when we may hope to see the beginning of the removal of such restrictions as I have alluded to.
At this point I should like to say a word about our own export trade. Our export trade, tariffs or no tariffs, for so long as we can look ahead, must be a trade of vital importance to us. It would have been of some interest to the House—it was alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition 1296 —to see the attempt that is going to be made for a thorough rationalisation of the steel trade. I have no doubt that if that can be carried through that trade in this country can compete with any country in the world. Our exports are vital to us, and I believe that the effect of that rationalisation will be to make us more and not less efficient in export.
But however efficient we are, there is another thing that we are up against, and that is the impoverishment of the world and the impoverishment of consumers in foreign countries. There are many cases, of course, in which the producers of primary goods have become impoverished in every country in the world and their markets have been made far less possible to sell in. Many of them can only buy very cheap goods, and some of them not that. Yet it is some encouragement for us to see that through this time we are holding on to our export trade. In the five months just past we have had a 15 per cent, increase over a year ago in the amount of cotton yarns and cotton manufactured goods which have been exported. There has been a considerable percentage increase in the export of woollen and worsted yarns and semi-manufactures such as tops, noils, and wastes. In the heavy woollen worsted goods—I think they call them worsted tissues—plush, flannel, and druggets, there has been a substantial increase.
I said something a short time ago about the figures of value being a little misleading because of the fall in prices. You see that very markedly in the result in these past months in carpets, where you have a very slight decrease in the sterling value of the amount sold, but you have actually an increase in the yardage sold of nearly 200,000. Chemicals, tinplates, and the paper and cardboard trade have all either held their own or increased the amount which has been exported. On the other hand there has been a serious decline in the trade in locomotives, railway carriages and trucks, and the reason for that is a world reason. That does not make it any easier to bear; but the world reason is this, that in such times as are prevalent throughout the world to-day, the first thing to be shut down is large capital expenditure on new railways, docks and works of that nature which employ plant of that kind.
1297 With regard to the home trade, there again, as I said, manufactured imports have declined, and in the first quarter of the year there has been actually a small percentage increase in the volume of manufactured goods. I may say here—and possibly the right hon. Gentleman may have something to say upon this later on—that you have the rather curious phenomenon that the figures show that in spite of what is happening in the world, upon which I will give one or two figures later, the actual volume of production in this country is holding its own or is slightly increasing, and yet at the same time you have an increase in the unemployment figures. That is probably due to the appalling condition of the export coal trade and to the fact that in a great many industries which are getting to work now, they have been getting greater production with fewer men at work.
That is, of course, one of the big problems which we run up against, one which we all recognise, and one which will have to be met. It is satisfactory to know that there has been, as I have said, an increase in the manufactured production in the United Kingdom for the first quarter of the year of just over 1 per cent., so that it has just more than held its own, while the comparative figures for Germany and the United States are decreases of 22 and 15 per cent., respectively. Do not let us misunderstand; these decreases in the world are tragic, and they all affect our trade. That is perfectly true, but we can take comfort in this, that in the very heart of this economic blizzard, this old country of ours is holding her own. It may not be a holding of our own which makes people happy or keeps all our people employed, but relatively we are facing the blizzard better than any other country in the world to-day.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
The hon. Gentleman will be able to make his case upon that later, perhaps. I was speaking about unemployment and the increased production of goods. I will say one word, and one word only, upon that point, not to go into the details of the figures, but with regard to an aspect of it which the right hon. Gentleman discussed. Even now, after what has been done in the way of cuts, and with the number of unemployed that we have in this country, it is satis- 1298 factory to feel that though what we do may be far short of what the right hon.. Gentleman would like to see done, we have nothing to fear from any comparison of what we do with what is done by any other country in this world. There is only one other country which can be compared with us in the magnitude or the scope of what it does for the working people of the country, and that country is Germany. It is interesting to see that Germany has a system—an older system than ours, and one which probably the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs studied very closely—of unemployment insurance, health insurance, and contributory old age pensions.
At the end of April, Germany had nearly 5¾ millions of registered unemployed, and of these only about one-half were receiving unemployment insurance benefit or transitional payment. In Great Britain at the end of May there were just under 2¾ millions unemployed, and of these over 80 per cent. were in receipt of insurance benefit or transitional payment, as compared with Germany's 50 per cent. Moreover the German rates of benefit, which in June, 1931, were reduced by about 10 per cent. on an average, are about to be reduced again by an average of 23 per cent., and when those reductions are made the rates of benefit in Germany will be substantially lower than in this country. The period during which ordinary insurance benefit is paid without the application of a means test was reduced last year in Germany from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, and is in future to be only six weeks, as compared with 26 weeks in Great Britain. As I say, there is no one who would minimise the hardships of this present time, but do not let us lose sight of the fact that with all our difficulties—and they are great, as we all know—we are yet relatively and comparatively better off, I believe, than any other country in the world.
I must make an observation upon another subject. There has been some talk in this House of a conference. The question was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). There are Members who are very anxious to see wholesale prices get back to where they were in 1929. Of course the surest way of getting prices back is to get the circulation of goods which will stimulate trade. Other 1299 methods may or may not be successful; I am not going to hazard any prophecy, but I will say this, that, after all, the success and prosperity of this country depends upon the fellow responsible doing his job. Those people cannot wait for conferences or for any artificial means of raising prices; and I rejoice at the many instances which have come to my knowledge of men in different parts of the country who are sitting down to face this problem, using their brains, consulting their own workpeople and taking them into their confidence, and who are able to carry on in these times, and to carry on without any cut in wages.
I will give the House two instances of what I mean which have come to my notice. One is concerned with the export trade and one with the home trade, but I give them as being typical. I have not yet had time to study a most interesting report which has apparently just been made by Sir Gerald Bellhouse, the senior Inspector of Factories, upon what is being done in this country in new industries which have been established, where people are producing more efficiently and more cheaply. My first case, in the export trade, is that of a man in the Midlands who makes buckets. He could not wait until prices rose to the 1929 basis; he found that he could not sell his buckets because the people who used to buy the buckets were not able to afford the prices which they used to pay, but that they might buy something cheaper. He sat down with his own people and they worked at the problem until they had solved it. They are to-day producing a considerably cheaper bucket, and he has got a very large order from a most competitive part of the world, in North Africa, which will enable him to put his place on full time at the old rates of wages for many months to come.
The other case which I have is a case which concerns a large Provincial store with its own clothing factory. They manufactured suits of clothes which were sold at 70s. per suit, and they found that in the impoverished state of the country they could sell very few. The overhead charges went up; so these enterprising men consulted with their own folk and with the cloth manufacturers, they used their brains, and they produced a suit, not perhaps quite so good, but quite good, at 60s., with the result that the factories are 1300 working full time and are likely to do so for a long time to come; and they are paying exactly the same rates of wages as they paid previously.
Now that is the spirit, and the only spirit, which is going to overcome difficulties. If you have not got that spirit, you may have all the artificial remedies which can be applied to the body politic without their having any effect at all. Both those men no doubt would have been happy if some means of rapidly raising prices had been applicable; but they could not wait, and they solved the problem themselves. Great harm may be done, I always think, in holding out hopes that the Government may be able in a moment, as it were, to raise price levels. It arouses false hopes, and many people—I except men like those of whom I have spoken—will just sit down and wait until a finer day comes. The Government will do what it can. It is perfectly willing to enter into conferences and to consider anything that may be arranged between the countries of the world, but in the meantime the garden has to be cultivated, the work has to be carried on, and I say, all honour to those people who will do it.
There is only one word I want to say about foreign conferences. One of the great objects of Ottawa, as I said last Thursday, is to help to break down these barriers and restrictions which are crippling trade. I have always believed —time alone will show whether I am right—that tariffs serve a double purpose: they protect your own people against the competition of lower standards of life, and at the same time they are an invaluable weapon for breaking down extreme protection in a foreign country. When we return from Ottawa we shall be free to see what we can do in that direction with the countries of the world. These barriers have to be broken down; these restrictions have to be removed, the sand has to be got out of the machine. Time alone will show which of us is right.
Let me turn for one moment to the terms of the Vote of Censure. It says:His Majesty's Government, having appealed to the country for a free hand to take such action as it thought fit to restore national prosperity and to deal with unemployment, and having entirely failed in these objects as is shown by the steady diminution of trade and industry at home and abroad 1301 and the increase of unemployment, together with the deplorable conditions to which the unemployed are being subjected, has forfeited the confidence of this House.I still think that it is a little early to bring in a Motion of this kind. I should like it to be brought in when our policy has had time to justify itself, or to fail. May I remind the House of what I said in the early part of my speech? That is that we have maintained in this country, indeed slightly increased, the volume of our trade and diminished the volume of competitive manufactures coming into this country. We believe that in a world where trade has been falling rapidly, where the difficulties of conducting it have made it in many countries almost impossible, we have held our own better than any country in the world. We cannot expect at the moment to do more. We are doing our best. We are conscious of these problems. We continue to wrestle with them day by day, and all day, and we have every confidence that in time we shall win through. But it is a hard struggle for all of us. I know as well as any hon. Member opposite—we need not consider any foreign countries at the moment—how the economic struggle bears on those who are least able to bear it, and there is nothing which acts more as a stimulus to us to do all we can internationally and domestically to keep the wheels of industry revolving once again than the thought that the only permanent solution for those who are so unhappily situated to-day is a complete revival of trade.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
Although I have only a comparatively short experience of the House, there is a certain family likeness about all these full dress Debates on official Votes of Censure, whichever Government is in power. The procedure is much the same. The Opposition marshals a deplorable lot of figures regarding unemployment and trade—and, unfortunately, they have been deplorable for some time—and imputes the blame for everything to the Government of the day. The Government of the day retorts by calling attention to the world causes over which they have no control. Really one might shut one's eyes and wonder who is speaking. It. is somewhat like the duel in the last scene in Hamlet, where the duellists have exchanged rapiers. In this case the poisoned rapier is in the hands of 1302 the Opposition; but they are making an early and a very clumsy use of it. The only suggestion that has come from the Leader of the Opposition as to what should have been done instead of what the Government are doing, is that we should have complete Socialism. Yet in the matter of the Exchange Equalisation Account he is reluctant to trust the unfortunate Chancellor of the Exchequer not to be "done down" by every competing private speculator throughout the world. If he is going to be "done down" in that comparatively small sense, how can any Government official be trusted with the running of the whole banking system? It is an entirely inconsistent attitude for the right hon. Member to take up.
We agree most cordially with the Lord President of the Council that in considering what the Government have done we must not imagine that we can reach a final conclusion on the figures of trade and employment for a few months. The views of those members of the Liberal party who think as I do on the subject of tariffs have been expressed by the Home Secretary, and I should be serving no useful purpose if I attempted to restate the case in my own inferior language. We may all have different opinions about a Protectionist policy and its final effects. The country as a whole is not interested, because at the moment they are in the region of experiment. They are going to wait and see what is going to happen. By its results the Government will be judged. It cannot be judged on the comparative figures of unemployment and trade for the last few months. Indeed, if we were to look at these months only we should come to the conclusion that tariffs were not producing any of the results which have been foretold by their supporters or by their opponents. Prices have not on the whole gone up, and, on the other hand, employment has not substantially been increased. It is too early to judge, and we shall have to wait before passing a final verdict on the matter.
No Liberal Member will have seen very much enthusiasm for Free Trade in. this Vote of Censure as moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Clearly the ultimate ideal of the right hon. Gentleman is complete Socialism; and at the same time the most rigid form of Protection on the top of it. During all our Debates on fiscal 1303 policy I have noticed that practically no use has been made of the Free Trade case by Labour Members, except as a stick with which to beat the Government. The only Free Trade speeches which have carried with them any ring of conviction have come from the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major G. Lloyd George). From the Labour party we have had nothing which upholds the Free Trade case as we on these benches understand it. [Interruption.] I 'am glad to have that emphatic assent. It proves that no Liberal need be under any temptation to vote for this Vote of Censure. In the last Parliament, when Votes of Censure were moved by the Conservative Opposition, the Liberal party did not support any of them during the whole of the two years, and many of us were blamed in our constituencies for not doing so. But we refused to hold the Labour Government responsible for all the results of world depression, and it is not reasonable for us to vote for this Vote of Censure, moved as it is after such a short space of eight months and at a time when world conditions are probably more difficult than they were when the Labour Government was in office.
The real, substantial sting in the Vote of Censure is the feeling, sincerely held, I have no doubt, on the various cuts and economies, with the effects of which we who sit for industrial districts are painfully familiar. I say that the necessity for these cuts and their probable effect and justification, were fully canvassed at the last General Election, and every hon. Member will remember that every ounce of political capital was made out of the proposed cuts, the most serious parts of which were already in being at the time of the General Election. [Interruption.] I say that the most serious parts were in being, and the imagination of our Labour opponents amply supplied all the prophecies with regard to the future. They went beyond anything that has actually happened. But all this was fully canvassed at the last General Election, and the country gave its verdict.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
If the hon. Member had done me the honour of listening to me with more attention he would realise 1304 that I did not say that the whole of these cuts, but that the greater part of these cuts and economies were already in being, or were announced before the last General Election. The country has given its judgment on these very points. This Government was elected by the popular voice to do unpopular things, and nobody can deny that they have done them. Whether the people will continue in the mood of sacrifice and readiness to nerve themselves to the ordeal at the next election depends entirely on the amount of success which the Government will be able to achieve during its period of office. But the Government cannot be blamed for doing these things, however unpleasant they are. They have a direct mandate from the country to do them. Having said that, may I say that I do not think that the mandate is indefinitely elastic; it cannot be stretched indefinitely? Already very painful reductions in the standard of living in the great industrial centres have been made; and they have been borne with a patience which is almost miraculous. But it must not be supposed that this patience is inexhaustible.
When I hear of voluntary committees being set up to consider further reductions in expenditure I am rather uneasy. I am always suspicious and nervous when I see the axe in the hands of an amateur, and I hope that the Government, while paying attention to the need for economy, will realise that in a great part of our social services there is no margin for further reductions. The people are now living at a rate which cannot be further reduced. For hundreds and thousands of families the essential part of the social services is their only means of living at all and any further attempts at economy in that direction will, I am sure, be undertaken very reluctantly indeed by the Government.
I think that in the matter of the means test, which is of the greatest importance in the great industrial centres, the Government will at some time have to make a change. They will deserve censure if they let the years go past without adopting full responsibility, themselves, for the administration of that test instead of leaving it to the local authorities who are doing their best in most heartbreaking circumstances. I hope that before long, whether as a result of the report of the 1305 Commission, or for any other reason, we may get a substantial reform in that direction. While I am dealing with the subject of economy I want to say that economy may be absolutely necessary in an emergency. It may be a necessary foundation for a national policy, but it is not itself a policy and it must not be treated as if it were an idol that could be worshipped. If it is regarded in that way it can become a very false and very dangerous idol.
It is true that trade may be strangled for want of capital, but trade may also be strangled for want of customers, and what any Government has to try to do is to preserve the balance between that saving out of which capital is provided, and that spending out of which customers are provided. Unless attention is paid to both sides of the problem industry will suffer. The last thing we want to do is to freeze up the circulation of our national wealth so that, in the end, for all our savings, we might find ourselves in the position of the miser, living in squalor and brooding over hoarded and useless gold. We want to keep our trade going on the two sides—both saving and spending—and although there is still a great deal of truth in the old Gladstonian saying about leaving money to fructify in the pockets of the people, it is none the less true that that saying does not apply in quite the same way to-day as it did when Gladstone said it. In Gladstone's time if the money was left in the pockets of the people one might be pretty certain that it would fructify. There were many openings for its employment so that it would fructify, for the benefit not only of those who owned it but for the benefit of the workers in general by giving employment and increasing the standard of living.
It is not so easy to say that to-day. Now, when money is left in the pockets of the people, some of them have doubts as to the way in which they are going to make it fructify. Sometimes they seem to be left with the rather difficult choice between buying tickets in a hospital sweepstake and investing the money in Government securities—perhaps the two extremes. The great desire of everyone to become creditors of the Government, to lend to the Government, or to buy Government securities, is not altogether a healthy feature of our present 1306 economic conditions. It means, undoubtedly, that the people of the nation have considerable confidence in the Government. If they had not that confidence they would not invest in Government security at all. But it also means that they have very little confidence in anything else and that is one of the great difficulties of our time. I can only suggest that the Government ought to take advantage of this tendency, whatever its evil effects may be in some ways. It would seem as if the time were ripe for the floating of a Conversion Loan, when people are so eager to become creditors of the Government. One would imagine that there could be no more favourable opportunity for a Conversion Loan.
When we talk about economies, we must recognise that there are little economies of administration which are not to be despised, but, all the same it seems to me that the really great economies which can be envisaged at the present moment are only two. One is a Conversion Loan and the other is following up, if we can, the suggestions of President Hoover in regard to disarmament. Those represent two large slices of economy and not merely crumbs. If we could get along on those lines the situation would be eased far more than it can be eased by more or less cheeseparing efforts at cutting down a redundant official here and there. But let me make it clear that I am not trying to found a rival organisation—a Society of Foes of Economy. I believe economy to be most valuable, but I believe that it can be overdone and that it would be disastrous to overdo it at present. Economy should be regarded not as a cure for our social evils, but as a kind of first aid, as a bandage which may have to be applied in order to save the patient from bleeding to death, but not something which is to be worn permanently. To overdo economy might lead ultimately to stagnation and there would be no future for our people and no hope of a better standard of living for them.
All I am doing is to ask the Government, under all the pressure which is brought upon them to reduce in this and in that direction, to regard these questions with a certain amount of balance, proportion and humanity and not to be led away by the tendencies of the moment. But none of the considerations 1307 which I have indicated would lead me to support the Vote of Censure. Hon. Members opposite will recall the critical times which they went through during the last Parliament when, sometimes, they did not know from day to day whether they would continue in office or not. They will also recall a famous occasion when they were saved by a certain Naval Conference. The present Government have at least three times that excuse. Three Conferences are meeting or are about to take place on just as vital matters. Nearly everybody, including even hon. Members opposite, would agree that in those Conferences— at Lausanne, for instance—the Government are tackling the most vital matters that any Government could possibly be called upon to deal with. If hon. Gentlemen opposite were still in office they would be there trying to do so.
One of the advantages which I foresaw from the formation of a National Government was that if foreign nations were convinced that such a Government did represent the nation they would be more inclined to give our representatives real authority and to give due weight to the words of those representatives. We ought to say and do nothing at present which would weaken the authority of those representatives who have been sent out on our behalf, on behalf of this House and the nation, to take part in deliberations which are going to affect the future of the whole world. I cannot imagine a more unsuitable, indeed a more mischievous time for tabling a Vote of Censure on the present Government than the exact time when every ounce of authority that can be given to the Government of the day is needed for the good of the nation. A Vote of Censure at such a time reminds me of an incident reported in the newspapers last week. We are told that some kind of infernal machine was placed by some mischievous person under the chair of a bishop. The infernal machine is alleged to have made a loud whirring noise but to have produced no other result. I think that will be the result of this Debate.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. Member for West Middlesborough (Mr. K. Griffith) does not intervene very frequently in our Debates but, when he does so, he always puts his case clearly 1308 and succinctly. I thought his speech to-day rather critical of the Government, and it seemed to indicate a deeper note of criticism unexpressed. I regret very much that that deeper note of criticism is not going to compel him to go into the Lobby with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway this evening. While I can make my criticisms and, probably, before I conclude, will make my criticisms of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway now when they are in Opposition, just as I did in the past when they formed the Government of the day, I certainly will not allow any antagonisms which I may have with them to prevent me from doing what I regard as a necessary public duty, namely, to go into the Lobby in support of this Vote of Censure on the Government.
I listened carefully to the Leader of the House in his defence of the Government. I think, from the Parliamentary point of view, it was a very feeble defence, and from the point of view of the country a very dangerous defence. Everyone in the House will agree that few statesmen have the same public standing as the right hon. Gentleman. Few men have the same reputation for simple sincerity and genuineness as he has, but he stood there to-day using that prestige and that reputation to soothe the country into the belief that the nation's affairs are proceeding reasonably well and that, as the months go by, they will become progressively better. He used what the Chancellor of the Exchequer used on the Third Reading of the Finance Bill, that curious type of statistical manipulation so frequently employed nowadays, which says in effect, "Our affairs must be all right because so-and-so's affairs are ever so much worse. "It reminds me of the conversation among prisoners in a gaol. One says to another, "How long are you in for"? and the reply may be, "I am doing six months. "Then the first prisoner says, "I am only doing three, so that I am all right." Everything is all right—relatively. But they have all lost their freedom; they are all living on "skilly"; they are all having a rotten time. Still they find satisfaction out of realising that somebody else is worse off than themselves. I hope that the Government will throw that kind of plea overboard once and for all, because it has been the stock-in-trade of successive Governments all the time that this crisis 1309 has lasted and it blinds their vision to the real nature of the problem which has to be dealt with.
Then, the right hon. Gentleman, speaking presumably on behalf of the united party, says that it is an effort in the country which is required—the quiet steady effort of the man who is working at his job—and he has cited two examples of the spirit that he wants to see. One is the example of the man who was producing buckets but was producing them too dearly. So he applied his own brains to the problem and got the collaboration of his workers and, now they are producing cheap buckets for North Africa. Substantial orders are coming from some place unspecified in North Africa—whether it is Morocco, Tangier or Tripoli I do not know, but it is some place, evidently, where they want to kick buckets. So the British nation is going to be saved by producing cheaper buckets. The other example was of a similar kind—that of the man who was producing suits at £3 10s. He could not sell them at that price, so all the business capacity of Britain was put on to the problem.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Well, I never misrepresent people in this House and I think I am giving a correct description of what the right hon. Gentleman said. I am putting a little more vigour into it. My voice is a little louder than the right hon. Gentleman's and perhaps, also, there is a greater amount of gesture of which I am unconscious. But what he said was to the effect that this typical business man of Britain, who should be an example to all the rest of the business men of Britain, gathered round him the heads of his staff, and they discussed the problem of how they could produce a £2 10s. suit instead of a £3 10s. suit. Now they are going ahead merrily selling £2 10s. suits. I know of a works which was working overtime, with night shifts, producing flannel trousers and light flannel jackets for those fellows who could not even buy £2 10s. suits, and the next stage in this business procedure will be to devise some form of loin cloth for the people who cannot even afford flannel trousers.
This is the National Government. Cheap buckets and shoddy suits, after 1310 having produced standards among the people that make it impossible for them to buy suits at £3 10s. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that if either in the manufacture of buckets or in the manufacture of suits there is a real, genuine increase of what is called efficiency in their production to get that lower price, it means that at some point in the productive process human labour has been dispensed with, that some men have gone out on to the street— [Interruption.] Hon. Members have a great habit of interrupting, and I so seldom interrupt anybody, unless he is a Cabinet Minister. Necessarily either men are being put out on to the street or more goods are being produced by the same number of people, and ultimately in the long run, when putting goods on to the world market, it amounts to the same thing. It may show great cleverness and spirit on the part of the individual owner or manager of a factory, but it makes no contribution to solving the general, national, unemployment problem, and there is yet no realisation whatever, on the part of the National Government, of the nature of the problem with which they are confronted.
The right hon. Gentleman objected because this Vote of Censure had been brought forward at the expiry of nine months. He said that he was making no complaint, but he complained about three times in the course of his speech, and one of his supporters said just now that this was a most inopportune time for a Vote of Censure. When a Vote of Censure is introduced, it is always inopportune for the people on that side of the House. However, the right hon. Gentleman makes no complaint, and he says, by implication, that it will take three or four years until we see whether this policy is to be successful or not; and, of course, there ought to be no Votes of Censure meanwhile. During the period of the last Labour Government, I think, there was a Vote of Censure every week, and when the Prime Minister Was announcing business, he always left Thursday blank—[Interruption]. The supporters of the present Government themselves sowed the seed, and the official Opposition now are the tree they planted. My quarrel is that they should have known what fruits would spring from such a seed. That is not Maxton, but Byron, I think.
1311 They started it, most indubitably. They opened the gate to the idea that a problem of world superfluity was to be met by an economy policy. They opened the door, and the only policy that could logically follow was the nomination of the May Committee. Then there are the gallant 200, who are going to rampage through the Government offices during their summer recess—I do not think they will rampage very long—looking for more economies. They are carrying to its logical conclusion the policy that was initiated by the May Committee, which was set up by the Labour Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO!"] Who said "No"? These be historic facts, my masters. The master mind of Sir George May, as a public servant, was the discovery of the late Labour Government, and we are now to-day engaged in going along what was to me from the beginning a foolish and a fantastic road, a road that could only lead to a steady deterioration of national standards of life, and that will ultimately end in complete catastrophe.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council said to-day that that is not the course that events have taken, but, remember, it is only a week ago since the Government came into the House and insisted that the situation was so much worse than it was 12 months ago that reductions had to be made in what the State could allow to the sick workpeople. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was only this week!"] It was Monday of this week when it was finished, but last week they came forward and told us that our national situation was so much worse to-day than it was 12 months ago that the payments and arrangements that were then made for the sick were not possible now. That is after nine months of National Government and progressive improvement. I was looking at the Trade and Navigation Returns while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, and he talked about the increase in exports and the diminution of imports. I take the documents and the figures that are available to Members, and I find that in May, 1932, the last available month, our imports were £55,000,000, which was £2,000,000 more than in the previous month, and our exports were £30,000,000, which was more than £4,500,000 below the previous 1312 month, and the lowest on record, so far as the three years given here were concerned, with the exception of the two crisis months of August and September last year.
Here we have the deterioration in working class standards of life, unemployment benefit, means test, cutting of sick pay, cutting of wages and salaries, a steady insistence from a large, proportion of the Members of this House that the meagre educational facilities of working class children shall be reduced still further, a steady insistence that large numbers of underpaid civil servants shall be turned out on the streets; and the Government come along and try to suggest that it is unfair for the Opposition to censure them. If ever there was a Government due for censure, it is this one, and if ever the time was appropriate for it, that time is now.
The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough talked about the hopes of disarmament. I am an enthusiastic supporter of disarmament. I hope that the conference now meeting will decide on the most drastic disarmament step, though I did not gather—I was asking the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs where I could get a reliable report of his speech on the matter—when I read two or three journals, that his acceptance of the Hoover proposals on behalf of Great Britain had been of the most enthusiastic kind, and I am still wondering just exactly what the attitude of the British Government is on this important issue. But while I am an enthusiastic supporter of disarmament, I have never deluded myself into the belief that that is going to be any contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem, nor do I believe that it is going to throw money into the national Exchequer, because speedy, drastic disarmament, involving a cessation of the production of clothing for the Army, food for the Army, implements and equipment for the Army, the Navy or the Air Force means definitely throwing many men out of employment, it means displacing many men who are presently drawing incomes in one or other of the Services.
That social problem, when it has been created, has got to be met, and it seems to me that in the early stages at least anything that you are going to save on armament expenditure is going to be almost used up in meeting in a reasonable way 1313 the social problem that your disarmament creates. Nor do I believe that the cancellation of War debts is going to make any impression on unemployment. Let us have the cancellation of War debts, let us wipe them off the slate entirely—it is a preposterous piece of stupid book-keeping —but do not let us delude ourselves into believing that when we do it, and when we have done it, we are doing anything whatever to tackle the trade problem or the unemployment problem. My hon. Friends and myself on these benches have sung one theme steadily and regularly— one theme. The only brilliant Parliamentary exponent we have heard of it was my late Friend the right hon. John Wheatley, the former Member for Shettleston, who, Parliament after Parliament, Session after Session, drummed into the ears of this House the view that you cannot gain prosperity for the nation on the basis of increasing the poverty of the individual members of the nation.
All attempts to lower working-class standards of life, whether it is for moral reasons such as those for which the Anomalies Act was produced, or for economic reasons like the means test, or for actuarial reasons as in Health Insurance— all these so-called economies, to the extent that they take effective purchasing power out of the pockets of the mass of people, tend to accentuate the problems that successive Governments have vainly tried to solve. I nearly always feel at a loss when taking part in these Debates, because I try so hard to get over to those who are responsible the essence of what I want to be done. I have never asked that I should be put on the Front Bench to do it. Heaven knows that I do not want to go on to that Bench. I have seen how it plays havoe with the moral of a whole lot of people for whom I have tremendous respect. I have no desire to be there at all, but I have a desire that the people who are sitting there will first of all show some realisation of the problems that they are facing, and show some realisation of the general principles that must guide a solution. If I have weighed up this Government correctly, they have no feeling, they have no common purpose, they have no community of intention, and they have no common understanding of the problems that are confronting them. I go further—and this is the most deadly criticism and the most 1314 damning criticism of all. They have no desire to try to get to a common understanding of the problems that are confronting them.
This nation elected a National Government; there were all sorts of conflicting reasons why people cast their votes for them, but this was generally in the mind of the whole population—that these men would go into a Cabinet and put aside Liberalism, Conservatism and Socialism and pool their brains; that they would start, as it were, de novo, so far as political beliefs and antagonisms were concerned, and tackle the problems confronting the nation as a practical job to be tackled by practical men in a practical way, not being tied by doctrines of one kind or another. That is what the nation thought they were getting when they elected a National Government. They have not got that, and so far as this Government are not doing that they have been elected on fraudulent grounds.
My hon. Friend opposite said that the National Government were elected to do unpopular things by a popular vote. They are not doing unpopular things. They have only struck the poor. That is not unpopular. They have every organ of public opinion at their backs. They have the pulpits and the platforms of the country singing their praises. The only note of criticism is that they are not hitting the poor hard enough. The Government which will really get this country into a decent place for people to live in, where people can have some confidence about to-morrow, next month, and next year; which will make it into a place where people can have some joy in life instead of a miserable place where they fear life and fear death—the Government which does that will have the courage, not to attack the poor, but to attack the rich.
When has this Government attacked the rich? They are just as crawling as the last Government in their approach to the financial interests. There was some excuse for the last Government in that they were inexperienced and did not know the ropes, but the present galaxy of talent are cringeing and crawling before the financial interests of the country at the same time that they steal maternity benefit from the poor women on the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow. I do not mind that being their attitude of mind, but I do mind very much their 1315 trying to represent themselves to the nation as people who are tackling a difficult problem in a courageous and fearless way, because that is a complete misrepresentation of the facts as they are.
§ Mr. PEARSON
May I crave the indulgence of the House in rising to address it for the first time? My first words must be words of congratulation to the Government for what they have accomplished. Notwithstanding what has been said by the Opposition, I believe that the great mass of the people are satisfied that problems are being tackled in the right way, inspiring feelings of hopefulness and confidence. I represent an area that has probably suffered more than any other area in the country, where the people have shown remarkable courage, great patience and wonderful forbearance, and I reflect the feelings of that area when I say that the people recognise that the difficulties are worldwide, and that prosperity cannot be determined by a wave of the wand. After all, we have had two-and-a-half years of Labour administration with all its complications, and that is our heritage; but I am certain that the people of the country are giving our statesmen credit for doing the best possible thing to get the country out of its difficulties. They have accomplished a great deal; they have won greater confidence of other nations in ourselves, they have introduced the Import Duties Act, they have encouraged economy, and in the conferences that are in being and are yet to be, we shall find results that will be for the good of the country.
The times in which we are living demand a new approach to all the problems that confront mankind. Nations are linked together as never before. The wireless and other scientific developments have brought nations which were in close contact with each other into almost immediate contact, so that the difficulties and problems of each have become the difficulties and problems of all. If it be true that no man lives to himself, it is true that no nation lives to itself, and our statesmen are being called upon to solve problems so complicated and far-reaching that they require the sympathy and support of every Member of the House. One is inclined to ask what the Opposition hope to gain by this Vote of Censure. I suggest that it loses in effectiveness 1316 by reason of its repetition. People are not deceived by these gestures which are made from time to time. For the Opposition to suppose that by censuring the Government they are likely to gain adherents to their cause is to underestimate the intelligence of the electorate. Our people have been politically educated and the return of the National Government showed how wise had been that education. They are now by bitter experience undergoing an economic education, and the more they become economically educated the less will Socialist theories appeal to them.
Every nation is up against economic realities. The nations of the world are groaning and travailing together; I believe that they are experiencing the birth pangs of a new order, and that we are passing from the political into the economic sphere. Everybody is now beginning to understand that the ignoring or the breaking of economic laws brings retribution just as surely as the breaking or ignoring of physical laws. I have listened to the speeches of the Opposition with interest and, I must confess, with some surprise, as they have debated questions of high finance and its relation to unemployment. I am reminded of the rebuke administered by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Snowden, to them. We have heard the Leader of the Opposition to-day quoting a certain Newcastle clergyman. May I quote the words of one of the friends and leaders of the Labour party, Mr. Straker, who is the secretary of the Northumberland Miners' Association. I quote from the Newcastle "North Mail" of 6th April, remarks which are taken from Mr. Straker's monthly circular to his members. It says:A great weakness of the Socialist party in Parliament is the ignorance of the majority of its members of matters of international finance and relationships.The newspaper continues:Mr. Straker recalls the helplessness of many representatives when confronted by the financial crisis of last year. 'For the first time,' he writes, 'many of us realised, how much our everyday welfare depended upon international finance. Yet how helpless we were. … we floundered about, and are floundering still. I have always believed that the greatest weakness of the Labour party in Parliament was its lack of knowledge of great international problems, especially finance. It is true that we have always had a very few Members of the party who knew a good deal about these problems; 1317 but the knowledge of the overwhelming majority was of a very elementary kind. … Labour demonstrations have their place; but they will never save the people. The man who only shouts has little influence as compared with the man who knows.'The Opposition cannot shirk responsibility for the serious problem of unemployment which is due in a large measure to the ignoring of economic laws. They may wash their hands in public, but that does not absolve them from guilt. Let me be specific on one point. In Jarrow, which is part of my Division and is an industrial area, unemployment was 32 per cent. of the employable population when the Socialist Government came into office. When they left office it had risen to almost 80 per cent.
§ Mr. PEARSON
It has now gone down to about 70. It is significant that all the industrial areas returned National Government candidates. That is surely a sign that Britain has awakened to the realisation that we were drifting to disaster, and that Socialist theories and promises were not to be trusted. What have the Opposition to offer? When they were in office they had nothing constructive, and now they are out of office they have nothing immediate. I have here a publication, issued by Socialists, which is called "The New Clarion," in which they quite definitely state that their policy of undiluted Socialism means the control of the Bank of England and of the Joint Stock Banks, and that:No industry or business will be able to carry on unless we allow it to get credit.On another page they are recommending people to spend their holidays out of Britain. I wonder whether that will help the unemployed problem here. They declare their disbelief in the capitalist system, but they themselves have capitalised discontent, and I suggest that that is both a heartbreaking and a soul-destroying business. A superstructure reared upon that foundation will not be able to withstand the storms that beat against it. The great thing in life is to produce harmony and not discord, and in the present grave crisis we need the co-operation of all people. The unemployed question should be above party consideration. The trained artisan, with all his skilled knowledge, cannot find an outlet for his abilities and that will lead to an undermining of his abilities, and 1318 will be a serious thing for industry in the days which lie ahead, a national loss which the country cannot afford.
One of the most serious aspects of the unemployment problem is the effect it has upon the youth of the country. Boys who are leaving school can find no outlet. They have no chance of serving an apprenticeship. Industry will not be able to draw upon its apprentices, as was the case in the past, because no one is being apprenticed to-day to any particular trade. As chairman of a juvenile advisory committee I know the difficulties of dealing with lads who are leaving school and desire a certain training. At the present time we are unable to offer them anything. I urge this aspect of the problem on the attention of the Government. They ought to see whether something cannot be done to help the youth of the country, because, after all, the youth of the nation are the masters of posterity.
What about the effect on the morale of the people? With the inevitable deterioration which accompanies this enforced idleness, who can visualise the future with equanimity? What Government can be indifferent to these things? For the Opposition to charge the Government with indifference, which is, in effect, what this Vote of Censure means, is unfair and unwarrantable. It shows a lack of appreciation of the problems which have to be faced. I think the Government have tackled the difficulties both promptly and courageously, and the conferences at Lausanne and Ottawa will, we hope, bring good results so far as the unemployment problem is concerned. This is a serious attempt to deal with the situation. Ottawa, viewed in the light of Imperial economic unity, will, we hope, lay the foundation of Empire prosperity; viewed in the wider sense, its effect upon the economic life of the world will be great. After all, the British Commonwealth of Nations is a family, and the contribution which each part of the Empire makes to the social and economic life will determine to a large extent the condition of the world.
The object is to restore trade and to lessen unemployment, and every avenue, we have been told, will be explored. The other day the late Solicitor-General used rather scathing language about the open mind. Surely the open mind with which these gentlemen will approach the prob- 1319 lem of unemployment is the desirable state of mind, because it does not prejudge things. I should have thought that the open mind would have appealed to a legal gentleman, because a judge, in trying a case, keeps an open mind, and a jury, when considering evidence, keep an open mind, and when our statesmen go to Ottawa and to other conferences, if they go with an open mind, they will perhaps be able to view the problems in a new light. We all recognise the malady from which the country is suffering. A good doctor, after diagnosing the illness of his patient, does not tell him that he is so ill that he will not recover. Rather, he does what he can to keep his patient hopeful while he is applying the necessary remedies. The National Government is like that good doctor. It got a mandate, it talks hopefully, it acts courageously and it applies remedies; and I believe that by its efforts it will bring the country back to health and lessen the burden of unemployment.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
May I first congratulate the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Pearson) on his maiden speech? I do not think he need fear rising to address the House on future occasions, because he has presented his case forcibly and clearly, and I am sure the House will always give him a ready hearing. It is not customary, I know, to enter into controversy about maiden speeches, but one remark made by the hon. Member compels me to reply. He held up what he called a Socialist paper and called attention to the fact that it was urging people to spend their holidays out of the country. May I remind him that the journals which support his party are full of advertisements offering luxury trips to all those who can afford them—they can travel to the uttermost parts of the earth if they so desire? The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) said that in his opinion this Vote of Censure was premature, seeing the Government have had so short a period in office. I cannot understand the hon. Member making that remark after he had heard the speech of the Lord President of the Council, because if the Vote of Censure needed any justification it could be found in that speech by the Lord President this afternoon. What did he have to tell us about the work of the National Government? Was he able to tell us of any real accom- 1320 plishments of the National Government? The chilly reception of that speech must have damped the spirits of many who support the National Government.
After the country has been enjoying the blessings of a National Government for eight months we are entitled to look out over the scene of their activities and appraise the result of their efforts, so far as they have made any efforts that matter. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) made a most damaging speech, and the most damaging remark in it was his statement that among the Members of the National Government there was no common understanding or common policy. Can we detect any common understanding or any common policy amongst the Members of the National Government? Perhaps it would be as well if I were to refer, first, to what the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has called "the exaggerated and manipulated crisis," out of which the National Government was born. I cannot make a reference to that exaggerated and manipulated crisis without reminding myself that we were told at that time that the one way to save the nation was to preserve the Gold Standard. It is rather ironical, now, to be told that any attempt to return to the Gold Standard would probably precipitate a worse crisis than the one of last autumn.
As we listen from day to day to the conglomeration of ideas of the quick-change artists on the Treasury Bench, we become more and more befogged as to the policy of the National Government. We have seen life-long Free Traders become whole-hog Protectionists over night, as it were. We have seen out-and-out Protectionists advocating what they call freer trade, and at the same time ascribing a world's ills to tariffs and trade restrictions—the very things they themselves are advocating as a is policy for this country. We have seen some of those who boast about the superlative quality of their British sentiment and patriotism glorying in the fact that foreign factories have been established in Great Britain, and that foreign machines have been introduced into some of those factories when, in some instances, those machines could have been obtained in this country. [Interruption.] I can give instances and describe the specific machines, if I am challenged. In some instances, too, foreign workmen are 1321 being employed to do jobs which British workmen could equally well do.
Never has the country had a Government with such a hotch-potch of ideas as the present occupants of the Treasury Bench. Never has a country been cursed with a Cabinet so utterly opportune as the present one. Its Members seem to have an unlimited capacity for shelving all their professed principles whenever it suits their purpose. I know I shall be told, in reply to what I am saying, "We were elected with a free hand to do what we liked and our right to survival depends upon our adaptability to the ever-changing circumstances of the moment." The chameleon character of the Government is now obvious to everyone. I have heard Ministers play up to their die-hard back benchers, talking as economic isolationists so far as this country is concerned, and then, at Lausanne, they are presuming to be internationalists, and at Ottawa they will be beating the Empire drum with all the fanaticism of religious bigots, unable to see any other aspect of truth than that tiny atom to which, in Canada, they will give such slavish adherence. Thus at the end of 12 months we look in vain for any policy of a coordinated or coherent character from the occupants of the Treasury bench. It is all a make-shift, to satisfy clamant interests. A sop to the cereal farmers, another to the horticulturists, a general tariff of 10 per cent. a prolonged incubation of the Ottawa egg, which will turn out to be addled, much to the disappointment of hon. Members, in a few months time.
The other day I heard the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) urging the Government to be bold enough to initiate a policy which would give 10 years of certainty to trade and industry in this country. I wonder what is thought of the speech which was made this afternoon by the Lord President of the Council. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that Ottawa is calculated to add a new element of uncertainty to the present condition of world trade and commerce. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook talked about "turning trade into Empire channels. "That process will create all sorts of cross-currents which will inevitably lead to further confusion and uncertainty as regards world trade. I think such 1322 statements as those are very unfortunate at the moment when the times demand, and are crying out for, a policy which will make a genuine contribution towards the integration of the world's economic life, and not towards its further disintegration or disturbance.
It is unfortunate at such a time that many Members of the Government are thinking only in terms of Empire. I pointed out last Thursday that there were dangers in the Ottawa Conference as well as some possible advantages, and that for successful bargaining among a group of autonomous nations to be successful there must be complete identity of economic interests without any disturbing element of third parties to which consideration must be given in any arrangements which, sure ultimately made between this country and the Dominions. Though it may be true that the Dominions and the mother country may be pulling in one direction, economic interests may pull in another direction, and we know which will win in a conflict between sentiment and economic interests. The main condition on which the success of the enterprise and policy of the Government depend is the success of the Conference. The success of the enterprise to which the Government are attaching so much importance depends, first of all, on tariffs at home; and, in the next place, on a system of Empire Preferences, with probably Empire tariffs against the rest of the world. The success of that policy depends almost entirely upon forms of social control of production and distribution to which hon. Members opposite are utterly opposed, and it is because the policy of the Government is opposed to the social control of production that their policy is bound to fail. If that test is applied, then I hold that, in spite of all their efforts, the Government will not achieve any real success, because their policy is so much out of keeping with the present views of economic developments in the life of mankind.
We have to recognise, as the Lord President of the Council recognised in his speech, that in most of our Dominions and Dependencies there are millions of people in the direst poverty. Not only is that true of our own country and of our Colonies and Dependencies, but it is true of many of the countries to which the right hon. Gentleman made reference. When our attention is called 1323 to that fact we are compelled to bear in mind that the power of production in this country to-day is ever increasing to an extent that has never before been known in the history of mankind, and we must do everything we can to alleviate that poverty. It is no use Ministers describing that state of things as something which has occurred by the merest chance. It is not an accidental result. The real reasons why this state of poverty is not a matter of the merest chance were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), and the position must be faced. The position was aptly stated a short time ago in a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) in which he urged the Government to adopt a policy that would result in raising the price level, and in one of his speeches he used as his main justification the phrase, "Enterprise must be rewarded." At the present time those who have control of production are not actuated by the social motive of supplying in the best possible way human needs and desires, and that is our criticism of the policy which we have heard from Ministers on the Treasury Bench.
The Lord President of the Council told us in a previous speech that before we may see any tangible results from the wider policy of the Government, we may have to wait some tune, and the right hon. Gentleman repeated in his speech to-day what he stated in his speech last Thursday when he said that the country might have to wait one, two or three years, or even longer, for any tangible results. The right hon. Gentleman said, in effect, to the masses of the people of this country, "Better days may come some time, but not yet." The right hon. Gentleman is not even sure about that, and he says, in effect, "Lausanne may succeed, and Ottawa may succeed, and now that we have tariffs things may be better. My luggage for Ottawa is labelled 'Difficulties,' and the luggage of the Secretary of State for the Dominions is also labelled 'Difficulties,' but his labels are much larger than mine." We must remember that all the luggage may come back labelled "Failure."
We have heard something about the schoolboy's motto, "If at first you don't succeed, try again!" That is the motto 1324 which has been put before the House by the Lord President of the Council this afternoon, and he hopes that something may come out of it in the dim and distant future. [Interruption.] I believe that, to all intents and purposes, I am not misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman, and I think what I have said is a fair paraphrase of what the right hon. Gentleman did say, and what he said last Thursday. The gist of his speech to-day is exactly similar to the speech which he made last Thursday. The right hon. Gentleman does not want us to hope for too much or even to expect anything, although he thinks that something may come out of the efforts being made by the Government. Nevertheless, it is problematical and questionable, and I do not think what I have said is a misrepresentation of what the right hon. Gentleman said. When we listen to such speeches we cannot ignore the fact that in this country to-day there seems to be on every hand plenty of the things that the people need most—plenty of boots and shoes, plenty of food and clothes. All the things that the people are needing exist in abundance, not only here, but in every country in the world. Meanwhile, the condition of the people of the world grows steadily worse. There can be no doubt about that.
Let us look, so far as the condition of the people is concerned, where the National Government began. They began with the slogan, "Equality of sacrifice," in the circumstances which existed last August, and they put it into operation, first of all, by attacking the unemployed. Of course, the unemployed were the most defenceless and the easiest to get at, and so the Government began there. Then they proceeded to cut down the benefits. The next task of the Government was to embark upon the process of broadening the basis of taxation. That is another phrase by which the Government tried to carry out the principle of equality of sacrifice. To carry out this process the Government established a system of Protection under which it was claimed that even the very poorest in the country would have the privilege of paying something every day to ease the burdens of the rich. Of course, the Government did not put it that way, although that is what they meant. What the Government said was that even the poorest people in the 1325 country should have the privilege of paying something in order to broaden the basis of taxation. Whoever winds up this Debate for the Government to-night will be able to tell the country that they have made another successful attempt in the House of Commons this week further to put into operation the principle of equality of sacrifice by reducing the health insurance benefit of married women, by imperilling the maternity benefit of a considerable number of people, and placing in danger the old age pension of some categories of the unemployed. That is the way in which the Government carry out the principle of equality of sacrifice.
To the student of political history there can be no doubt about the intentions of the Government in the realm of domestic politics. In the first decade of this century the disparity between wealth and poverty had become so glaring that there set in a movement actuated by two motives. The first motive was a desire to maintain the social peace, and the second motive was humanitarian considerations. That movement was an attempt to alleviate some of the most glaring forms of poverty by a redistribution of the national income, to some extent, through the instrumentality of taxation. I am reminded of a great Liberal statesman who in the years before the War said that in this country there were always about 7,000,000 people regularly on the verge of starvation, and that is why there came about efforts to redistribute the national income by means of taxation. There can be no doubt that the accession to power of this Government marks the end of a phase in the political and economic development of this country.
The process to which I have just alluded has at least done two things. First, it has kept the social peace; and, secondly, it has humanised large areas of our social life. There is one thing that it has not done; it has not by any means removed the disparity between the rich and the poor which was responsible for its initiation. Relatively, that gap is wider than ever it was. An hon. Member shakes his head, but I say "relatively." Poverty and wealth are relative terms, and by "relatively" I mean that, as contrasted with our powers of production to-day, the poor of this country are worse off than they have ever been be- 1326 fore. I make the comparison between our relative powers of production then and now; we on these benches always use the terms "wealth" and "poverty" in a relative sense. If you have the power to create this wealth, it follows, in our view, that increasingly the wealth which you have the power to create should flow back again to those who created it. All that the domestic policy of this Government has done so far has been to intensify that disparity, and there is no hope, so far as I can judge, that out of the wider policy in Europe, in the Empire, and in the world, there will come anything that will materially improve the lot of the common people. Indeed, judging by what we hear about the activities of many hon. Members opposite, we are likely to find the Government taking steps further to reduce the standards of life of the people at no distant date.
Perhaps, however, the economy enthusiasts, having seen this morning's papers, may take a new line; at any rate, I hope they will. I [suppose they will go on having their meetings, but I would suggest that the economy enthusiasts who gather in their multitudes in the rooms upstairs should call a specially urgent meeting, and I would ask them, at that meeting, to send a deputation to the Cabinet to request, say, the Foreign Secretary to return to Geneva and go one better than President Hoover in his disarmament proposals. I suggest that the economists should, through such a deputation, request the Cabinet to ask the Foreign Secretary to state at Geneva that this country will be prepared to reduce its armaments by half if other countries will do the same, or, better still, to propose the abolition of armaments altogether except for police purposes. The economists in the ranks of the Government have here a splendid opportunity, but I do not think they are likely to act on those lines.
I have listened to Debates on the Army, Navy and Air Estimates in this House, and I do not recollect one supporter of the Government ever getting up and suggesting the reduction of armaments. Indeed, most of the speeches to which I have listened on those occasions have asked for more, and not for less. One of the most telling of them was delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour), and I do not think I shall ever forget it. He 1327 knows a lot about the Air Force, and I remember that he described to the House very graphically the killing power of the present bombing aeroplane. He told us that it could fly from its base in the thickest fog or in thick clouds, and, by the aid of instruments, could reach its objective, perhaps 100 miles inland, drop its bombs on its objective, and return to its base without being seen. When he had described to us in vivid phrases the killing power of the bombing aeroplane, he asked for more; he asked for greater efficiency—
§ Mr. BROWN
That is always the argument used by the advocates of armaments; those who sponsor a policy of armaments always use the argument of defence as a justification for what they are asking. So far as my recollection goes, that is the attitude of hon. Members towards a field in which there is large scope for economy. If a proposal to halve armaments could be accepted, that would effect about £60,000,000 of economies straight away. I urge the economy enthusiasts in the ranks of the Government to get busy along those lines, instead of making further attempts to reduce the social services, instead of reversing the engines of progress, as appears to be their intention.
There are many other things that one could say about the policy of the Government and its supporters, but there is just one other thing that I should like to say before I sit down. I remember that, when the last Government was in office, we were taunted day after day in regard to the question of unemployment. As the figures rose steadily, the taunts became more virulent than ever, and the criticism sharper. The reply of those who represented the Government of that day usually used to be that this increase in unemployment was largely a matter outside their control, that it was due to world causes, and then we used to be taunted. It now gives us some measure of satisfaction to sit on these benches and listen to the defence of the utter and complete failure of the National Government by exactly the same argument. We are told by every Minister who speaks on general policy that they are failing 1328 because of world causes, that world causes are responsible for the existing conditions—
§ Mr. CAPORN
Will the hon. Member deny that the policy of the Government has brought work to the hosiery workers in his constituency?
§ Mr. BROWN
I at once agree with the hon. Member that, as regards a certain section of specialised operatives in one branch of the industry, that is true, and I gladly give him credit for it. In my opinion—and I am entitled to express my opinion as well as the hon. Member—they have benefited temporarily by the policy which has been pursued. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends asks me what has happened to the miners in my constituency, and I think it is just that that question should be put to me. I am bound to say that the benefit to a tiny few in a particular industry by the action of the Government is far outweighed by the injury which has been done to a very large number of the mining population.
§ Mr. CAPORN
Are the miners in the hon. Member's division affected by the export of coal? Is it not all for home consumption?
§ Mr. BROWN
Yes, they are to some extent. I think that the hon. Member will find that a considerable quantity of coal from my Division goes to the East Coast ports, and particularly to the Humber. But that does not alter the essence of my argument. The hon. Member justifies his support of the Government because a tiny section of operatives in one industry have benefited, and, in reply, I say that a very large number of my constituents have suffered ill-effects because of the activities of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
There is one phrase that we hear repeatedly from some members of the Government and their supporters. I have often wondered what is meant precisely when a right hon. Gentleman like the right hon. Member for Billhead talks about the collapse of civilisation. We have heard that phrase more than once. I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind when he uses it. Does he mean the end of an economic system which confers unlimited benefits on the few and leaves the millions in distress? I would ask who it is that maintains the mighty fabric of civilisation that we are 1329 afraid may collapse in existing circumstances. I would remind the House that it is really maintained by the 14,000,000 or 15,000,000 people who will leave their homes to-morrow morning for work on the land, in the mines, in the factories and workshops of the country, on the railways, and in other forms of transport. There can be no doubt that those 14,000,000 or 15,000,000 people who are so employed day by day maintain the fabric of civilisation by their efforts. The whole policy pursued by this Government must fail unless they turn their energies to the task of directing the wealth which is produced into channels by which it will reach again in ever-increasing quantities those who produce it. No other policy can succeed in existing circumstances. I do not know how it will happen—I do not know whether it will be by internal dissension, or by the rising of a popular wave of indignation—but sooner or later this Government will go out of office, and I would not have it said of them, as it will be if their policy is not altered, that they were the Government in Great Britain which, more than any other, pursued a policy which ground the faces of the poor.
§ Mr. STONES
I crave the indulgence of the House on the occasion of my maiden speech. Representing, as I do, one of Lancashire's industrially populated districts, where men and women are patiently awaiting the time when the mills and factories which have been idle or semi-idle for many years will again call for their labour on the production of goods for home and foreign consumption, I think I may claim to speak on a Motion such as that which is now before the House. I have been amazed at the audacity of the supporters of the Motion in complaining that the Government have failed to restore national prosperity, and, when I am asked to support this Censure Motion, I marvel at what would be called in Lancashire the cheek and impudence of it. I was elected to this House by a working-class population because, although the Socialist who was elected in 1929 promised the restoration of national prosperity in a very short time after the establishment of a Labour Government, the people of my Division of Farnworth realised that, after two and a-half years of Labour administration, instead of prosperity being restored, the 1330 country had been brought face to face with national bankruptcy.
We have heard a great deal about poor working-class people, and they are the people from whom I sprang as a working man Conservative candidate. I know something about the lives of colliers and other working people. I happen to be the son of a collier, who lost his sight in the pit, and whom I had to lead about the roads for something like 19 years. Therefore, I remember something about the life of the collier and the homes from which these people spring. The poor working-class people in my constituency realise fully that the policy maintained by the efforts of the National Government has gone a long way to undo some of the mischief inflicted by the Labour Government. They appreciate the fact that, had not the National Government saved the country from insolvency, their sufferings would have been intensified, and the restoration of national prosperity would have faded into oblivion. They declined to re-elect the Labour representative because they realised that the Labour leaders in Parliament were incapable and incompetent to take boldly the necessary steps to balance the National Budget. They realised also that the importation of foreign-made cotton and other goods was sapping their life-blood. They knew well that the Labour representatives in this House were more inclined to serve the interests of the foreigner than to help the Lancashire cotton operatives. They demanded a change of fiscal policy, and to-day the people of my Division are grateful to the National Government for having introduced a tariff. They know that by the introduction of the tariff the National Government have taken a very positive step towards the restoration of national prosperity. The very fact of Britain adopting a tariff has recently led to the European nations calling for a reduction in general import duties. our Lancashire people know full well that such a pleasing attitude on the part of European nations would never have been adopted had we held to our antiquated Free Trade policy.
We in Lancashire are hopefully concerned with the great possibilities offered to our staple industry through the holding of the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa. Lancashire will be repre- 1331 sented there, and I can assure this House that if Lancashire saw no prospects of good results accruing Lancashire would certainly not be represented at Ottawa. I wonder sometimes if the Opposition ever appreciate the fact that of all countries in the world Britain alone is to-day making strides towards the restoration of national prosperity. If they do, it is to be regretted that so much valuable time should be occupied in discussing a Motion such as that which is before the House. I believe that, given sufficient time, the present policy of the Government will bear good fruit. On the other hand, I would like to say that a growing reduction in taxation, with a programme of more stringent economy, would lead to a quicker return to prosperity. Our present high taxation is paralyzing the heavy industries, and heavy local rates are causing further industrial distress. We in Lancashire do not support the contention of the Opposition that the National Government have failed to deal with unemployment. There is more prospect of employment in Lancashire to-day than at any time during the two and a half years the country was governed by the Labour party.
I know from experience, as a past chairman of an employment exchange—and, in passing, may I say I was discharged from that job by the late Minister of Labour, Miss Bondfield, for having the temerity to become a candidate for Parliamentary honours. I accepted that decision very graciously, and I am rather pleased than sorry that I did not have the opportunity of meeting her in this House. I know that employers of labour had completely given up all hope of ever having their mills running at full pressure, and the operatives had resigned themselves to their unhappy position. To-day, masters and men are confident that things are improving. Mills are gradually being re-started, and Lancashire knows that, in the main, this change in the industrial situation has been brought about by the helpful and effective measures introduced by the National Government since last October. May I make one passing remark with respect to the Secretary of State for the Dominions? Some few months ago, in a speech—I am not sure whether it was in his constituency or in London—he said that he was the only railwayman in this 1332 House. May I say to him that I am a retired railwayman, after 40 years' service? May it be some little comfort to the right hon. Gentleman to know that in future, when matters are brought before this House which have for their object the improvement of railwaymen's conditions, he will have in me a stalwart supporter to assist him.
I shall vote against the Motion because I feel, as a working man, that the Opposition can offer no remedy that will overcome present national and international difficulties. Their policy, instead of upholding the principles of economy, would result in the piling up of more and more taxation, which must eventually mean the complete stagnation of British industry and an enormous increase in unemployment among Lancashire people. Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for allowing me this opportunity of making my maiden speech. It is my third attempt to make it. It has been a painful operation. I have gone through all sorts of things to-night, and I am delighted to know it has come to an end.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am sure the House was interested to learn from the hon. Member that this had been a painful operation for him. No one would have guessed it if he had not said so. I am sure the House would like me to express our pleasure at having heard the hon. Member make that speech. It is not necessary to agree with a man to enjoy his speech. His was certainly made with that forthrightness we always expect from Lancashire, and with the certainty which is always listened to in this House. The Motion deals with the fact that the Government appeal for a free hand to restore national prosperity. I have been thinking since I have been sitting here to-day, and, while the Lord President of the Council was speaking, I was particularly impressed with the thought what a change has come over the Members of the Government and their supporters since they were elected in October! I remember shortly after the election that famous speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in which he told us how the figures had gone up in one month. He told us that was proof that unemployment figures had gone down, proof of the moral and spiritual superiority of this Government's policy. I have been looking at the Members of the Government 1333 to-day and I say to my friends, "Just look at them!" I am more impressed every day with the comparison with what they were when they first began, and I am reminded of the words of the old hymn,Some are sick, and some are sad,Some have lost the love they had.Whatever happens to the Censure Motion, we know how the Members of the Government are going. It is a fact that the Government themselves have lost faith in the possibility of carrying out their own policy. I believe that they really did think they could do something at the time of the election, but, stage by stage, that faith, that belief and that hope have waned. One can expect that of all Governments. One thing that is certain is that the Government asked for sacrifices from the unemployed, and the unemployed unfortunately gave them those sacrifices, and the result is that there is more unemployment to-day than there ever has been in the history of this country. There are 2,750,000 people unemployed, according to the last figures of the Ministry of Labour Gazette that I saw, and it was admitted that, owing to legislative changes, you have to add 181,000 to get a proper and accurate resemblance of unemployment figures. That leaves it about 50,000 short of 3,000,000. The highest figure there had ever been in the history of this country was 2,811,000, and now the figure is only 50,000 from 3,000,000. The Government have the championship in that respect.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I do not know where they started, but I do know that, in spite of all their professions and in spite of the tariffs of which they have boasted, the fact remains that the figures are higher now than they have ever been before. That would be a regrettable fact in itself, but it is a very poor return for the sacrifice that the unemployed made, and after which they sent this Government back to power. The figures really are worse than they appear on the surface, because, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the unemployed are being pushed back on the Poor Law. I have read of meetings among Members of the House to consider the position of the distressed areas. I am going to be quite frank. I have not been invited to these meetings, and I would not go if 1334 I were invited. As far as Members who support this Government are concerned, it is sheer impudence on their part to be complaining about the position in the distressed areas. They support the means test; they support the policy of the Government which has pushed people back by the thousands on to the Poor Law.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I would be glad to deal with the position so far as the Anomalies Act is concerned, and I know a good deal more about it than does the hon. Member. I have not the general figures for the Poor Law, but I know the figures in 47 selected areas, and comparing these for October and May, they show an increase of 121,000 since October. It is still worse when you take the selected areas. London's increase is from 280 to 316 per 10,000 of the population. That is in. what is said to be one of the best areas. If you take the 43 specially selected towns, there is not one that shows a decrease. Gateshead has gone up from 579 to 695. That is an increase of 116 per 10,000 since this Government came in. I am quoting the figures from the Ministry of Labour Gazette for October and May. Liverpool has gone up from 595 to 723, an increase of 128; Manchester has gone up 113; Newcastle-on-Tyne, 112; Norwich, 116; and Sheffield from 775 to 1,028, an increase of 254 per 10,000 since this Government came into office.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I notice that, when there is any credit to be taken, it is tariffs that have improved, the situation and, when there is any discredit, it is due to the Labour Government. The weakness of the right hon. Gentleman's position is clear. You can get two or three dozen in the 43 selected areas which bear out the position that I am putting of an increase since this Government came into office. In South Shields the increase is from 317 to 366, and it has gone up by 70 per thousand in Sunderland. The Government is under no illusion as to the feeling in these areas. It does not need Members of this House to tell them. The Manchester Corporation saw the Minister of Health and appealed for 1335 relief from the heavy burden which recent legislation and alterations in practice have thrown upon the local rates. They told the Minister that the cost of relieving unemployment is estimated at £200,000, over £73,000 of which is due to recent legislation. That is an indication of what the position generally is in the country.
In the depressed areas the position is really deplorable. I would like to ask what the Government are going to do about it? Do they think it can continue? It is no reply for Members to organise and ask for economy. The only economy they have made up to the present has resulted in increased unemployment—at any rate it has gone along with increased unemployment. The hon. Member who has just spoken has dealt with those who ask for economy. I notice that last night a certain Noble Bishop, who comes from the county in. which my constituency is situated, had something very scurrilous to say about the people there.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I carefully refrained from alluding to the other place. All I am going to say is that we will take the first opportunity of dealing with one who has been appointed Bishop of Durham, who has never been in touch with the people of Durham, and will never in any sense of the word be, as a cure of souls should be, the Bishop of the people of that county. The Lord President of the Council kept off what he called the human side. He dealt with the financial and the business side. I have here a document which is the result of investigations in a particular area in London. I wish I had time to tell the full story of it. It deals with the cases of 3,901 applicants under the means test. There are on the average five per family, so that it covers 20,000 people, and there has been a reduction of 3s. 4d. per family. They are left with an average income of 53s. 8d. per family and the average rent is 9s. The person who made this investigation tells me that they are sometimes in one room and sometimes in three, but there is an average of two rooms. They are sometimes in a basement. They are gloomy and they are not by any means the kind of place in which 1336 you can bring up a healthy population. The State has cut them down by 3s. 4d. a week, leaving them 1s. 3d. a day per head to live on. Those are the people that the Government asked to make sacrifices, and they have been rewarded by being left in a position such as this.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I may not have made the position clear. They were reduced 3s. 4d. a week on the family. There were 4,000 cases investigated—20,000 people— and that was the net result. The Government make a saving of £671. Even that 3s. 4d. a week is life and death to a family like that. It makes all the difference in the world. Of single applicants there were over 5,000. Their brothers, sisters and fathers had to keep them. There was a reduction of 4s. 6d. a week in those cases. Of married people without adult children there were 1,842. They covered nearly 8,000 people. Where the wife works her income was taken into consideration. They had £821 taken off them. The rent was 7s. 1d. for two rooms, and there was 32s. 1d. on the average left for those families.
§ Mr. LAWSON
All I can say is that it is somewhere in London. There were 11,000 cases investigated, there were 55,000 people covered by the investigation, there was an average of 4.6 in the families, and there was an average reduction of 5s. 10d. They have had nearly £3,000 taken off them in the bulk and there is an average of 45s. a week left after the reduction. I had one case put to me in which a daughter was working and earning about 18s. a week. The adult scale was 15s., and the result was that her father lost 3s. a week because the daughter happened to be working. A position like that is a disgrace to any Government.
There is another point with which I want to deal. The Government claim that tariffs have improved this and that industry. I noticed the Lord President of the Council was rather chary about dealing with the mining industry. He took the line that there was no retaliation as far as coal was concerned. I have never 1337 been able to understand the mind of the Government on that question. One thing they do not deny is that there has been discrimination against Great Britain in the application of the German quotas. Why have the Germans discriminated against us? Because we have stopped their goods from coming in here. It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head. The fact remains that whatever the Government may say, they know that in fact this discrimination amounts to retaliation. I am glad to know that even the coal-owners have felt this thing so hardly that now they have made a protest to the Government. I should like to know the result of the meeting with the coal-owners of the North Eastern ports.
§ Mr. LAWSON
All we were told was that it was a meeting held some time this week. The coalowners are now feeling the draught so badly that they are making their protest against the effect of these restrictions. Have we to wait until the Government go to Ottawa and negotiations have taken place before any business is done with the Germans? We want to do business. They are discriminating against us because they want-certain goods either to come into this country free or special consideration for them. They made certain proposals to the Government. The hon. Gentleman opposite, when asked about the matter, said that he could not reveal the nature of the proposals, but it is as clear as daylight that the restrictions upon British coal going into Germany are reprisals against our policy.
The House is entitled to know what is to be the position as far as the industry and the restrictions are concerned. It will be of interest to the House to show the extent to which these restrictions have hit the coal trade. The figures of coal exported from the whole of the areas for October, 1931, were 3,950,972 tons, and the figures for May were 3,300,000 tons, which is a reduction, since the Government came into power, of roughly 700,000 tons. It may be said that the figures for October were peak figures, but it would not be true. If it is said that it is a result of coming off the Gold Standard, the Government can also take 1338 credit to themselves for interfering with the results of falling off the Gold Standard by putting tariffs into operation. At any rate, October was the month during which the Government fought the Election and certain mining constituencies supported the Government. But this is not anything like the whole of the story. If one takes the areas particularly interested in the export of coal to Germany it is not a case of men being made idle for a day or two, or of a single colliery being closed. Every week-end when I go home to Durham I am told of three or four collieries having to close almost exclusively as a result of this policy.
The Government have caused scores of thousands of men to become idle and many collieries to close. We are entitled to know exactly what the Government intend to do in reference to those areas which have had large numbers of people thrown out of work, and which are really in an impossible position. What are they going to do about this export business? It is no good trying to fob us off day after day and week after week with some academic answer. Sooner or later there will be an explosion in this House. I guarantee that there will be one if the Government do not give an explicit answer in regard to this question. The coal exporting areas are not going to suffer in silence in order to suit an agricultural policy, to suit a farmer's policy or a landlord's policy. Through all these years pits in these exporting areas have been working. There is a pit in the constituency of the hon. Gentleman opposite. West Stanley hardly ever lost a day, and I can name colliery after colliery where no work was lost whatever, and yet immediately the Government put tariffs into operation and the German reply comes by way of a discrimination against our coal, our collieries are closed by the bunch.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
Can the hon. Member give the figures of unemployment among miners on the occasion of the last return as compared with August of last year?
§ Mr. LAWSON
The right hon. Gentleman has asked a question on the spur of the moment, but my hon. Friend beside me says that the figures are at least 50,000 up as compared with the figures in August of last year. I did not really 1339 think that it was worth while troubling the House with any figures at all, because the position is becoming common knowledge. I ask the Government for an explicit answer. We cannot go on like this. If we have to wait until some decision is taken at Ottawa and the rot continues in the industry, I do not know what will happen. Areas which are being depressed will become devastated.
I should have liked to have devoted more time to the constructive side of the position. One of the most wicked pieces of work I have ever known was that of the Government when they took £80,000 away from the unemployed in respect of the provision of allotments. It was not only wicked, but stupid. If any hon. Members supporting the Government have an intimate connection with men who work allotments, know of their love of the soil, of their passion for doing something useful, and of the love of the beautiful, even among the roughest and crudest of the workers, they must agree that to take that small amount away was almost a crime. I ask the Government to reconsider the position in order that if men have to remain unemployed they may be encouraged to do this useful work which keeps the manhood strong and virile and helps to make a man feel that he has a place in life. I agree with my hon. Friends that sooner or later some Government will have to make a better plan for this country.
I hear Members speaking on all sides about the effect of finance, and saying, "If only we could get a new currency, or a better form of currency, or a reduction of the Services!" All these are very useful, but the keypoint is that to-day we can produce more than people can have. What is needed is that people can have what can be produced. That is the problem which has to be solved. The reduction of the hours of work, increased leisure, and organised industry are not so vague or impossible as people imagine. The coal miners had a seven hours convention. The Government destroyed the seven hours convention. The British Government have destroyed the seven and a-quarter hours convention. I wish that the hon. Gentleman the Minister for Mines had been here. I should have challenged him to produce information concerning the discussions which took place in January. Other Govern- 1340 ments followed Great Britain's lead. That is all that happened, so that with regard to the 48 hours convention there is no policy. All that they advocate is economy. Although the House will not give us a majority in favour of our Motion, and although the Government may last another four months or four years, one thing is certain, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) said, that this is the last Government of its kind. If a Socialist Government comes into power and does not carry out a mandate for the drastic reorganisation of society, it will perhaps be the last of any Government.
§ Mr. MITCHESON
During the past few months I have made many maiden speeches, on the way to the House, on the way from the House, in the corridors, on the Terrace, but this is the first occasion, thanks to you,, Mr. Speaker, upon which I have been able to have an audience. If this Vote of Censure were a serious matter and anything more than audacity, if it were in any sense a menace to the Government, I should have withdrawn and made way for more able and experienced speakers, but, in view of the fact that the Government are creating satisfaction not only throughout this country but throughout the world, I think that I might safely continue especially as my constituents may be wondering whether I have been returned to the House of Commons or to the Secret Service. If unemployment could have been settled by promises and declarations, it would have been settled within a month, nay, according to one member of the late Socialist Government, within three weeks of the return of that Government to office in 1929.
The Labour party stated in their election address that they could settle the unemployment problem within three weeks when they got to office. They got to office and discovered that great and serious problems were not solved by platform orations. They could not get "the rabbit out of the hat." It took them nearly three years to realise that there was not a rabbit in the hat. In view of the enormous increase in the unemployment figures during the regime of the Socialist Government this cannot be called a question of the "kettle calling the pot black," because the pot is proving a very good pot, a very serviceable pot, 1341 and a pot which is doing its job. What about the poor little kettle? The kettle has corroded and leaked, leaked and corroded until there is very little left but the spout. In fact, there is much more leak than kettle.
It is a happy coincidence that in one's madden speech one can honestly and sincerely congratulate one's Government on its success. I am proud of our Government. I am also glad of the Opposition. I wish it were more numerous, because it is only by listening to the speeches of Members of the Opposition that one can realise what a very fine Government we have got and how fortunate the country has been in its choice. This Censure Motion might reasonably be resented by any Government, but I am sure that the Government will not, nor will any Member of it, resent constructive criticism, which I wish to offer. In my opinion very great improvement could be made in the employment figures in the shipping and shipbuilding industries and other industries relating to them. It is necessary, however, that before the cure of a patient can be effected one must got down to the cause and the circumstances of the illness and the condition in which the patient then is. I think I can prove that the Board of Trade returns concerning shipping are absolutely inaccurate and misleading. The returns make it impossible for any one to gather the true and relative position between British and foreign shipping entering into and leaving our ports, or to appreciate the true extent of the suffering of these industries from foreign competition.
None other has suffered so much through the wiles and methods of foreign competition as has our shipping industry. To-day, we have over 42,000 unemployed seamen, we have over 800 idle ships around our coast., and we have practically every one of our shipyards empty. It is not that the shipowners are unable or unwilling to do their job, it is not a case of any inefficiency or lack of desire on the part of our seamen; it is not that the trade and every branch of the trade has not made every effort in its power to overcome the difficulties of the position, but it is because, apart from the world diminution of trade, foreign ships have free access to our coastal trade and are competing for our export trade under 1342 most unfair conditions, whilst we have not got similar rights around their coasts. There are successfully competing for our carrying trade to-day ships subsidised by their Governments whose coastal trade is protected and preserved to them, and ships in which the food, wages, hours and other working conditions are such as would not be, and rightly would not be, tolerated under the British flag. These ships are successfully competing and stealing our trade owing to the cheaper if less satisfactory working conditions and subsidies.
Take the Italians. Whoever thought of Italy as a mercantile power, yet to-day Italy is one of our greatest competitors, because she subsidises her fleet to the extent of £4,000,000 per annum. That is equal to something like £1 per ton of the idle shipping we have around our coasts. That 4,000,000 tons of idle shipping we have represents something like one ton for every 10 of the population of this country. Take the Greeks. "When Greek meets Greek" they get married, they go on to a Greek ship which becomes their home, have a lot of children and the wives and families run the ship under conditions that we could not allow. When they have enough children to let out a few, they go along and take another ship. And we allow thorn to come to our ports! They are able to work under costs and conditions that enable them to compete with us, to cut our rates to ribbons and to steal our trade from us.
I will give another typical instance of recent date. There was a British ship that had a contract to load at Blythe and discharge at Poole. The price had been cut and cut and at last the contract was for 4s. 3d. per ton. A German ship came along, quoted 4s. per ton, a price which would have meant n heavy dead loss to the British shipping company. The result is that the Gorman ship got the contract and now we have that German ship, flying the German flag, manned by German seamen, taking the bread out of the mouths of British seamen. They are doing that on the coastal trade from Blythe to Poole, from English port to English port, in the place of a British ship and British seamen. May I quote another instance that was handed to me to-day of a British steamer of 9,000 tons deadweight and having a crew of 36. It 1343 was recently sold to the Italians. On leaving it was found that the new owners were satisfied with a crew of 20 as against 36. That means that the new owner is running the ship at one-half the wages and one-half the victualling cost under the British flag.
Is it surprising that in such circumstances British owners lose heart? The head of one of our principal shipping companies says:We have an invasion of foreign tonnage on our coasts carrying British commerce between British ports without let or hindrance. These vessels are mostly Dutch motor ships, poorly manned and with crews' wages on a basis which would not be tolerated for one moment by our National Maritime Board. They allow extraordinary terms to the merchants, and in some cases the crews will even discharge their cargoes as part of their charter agreement. No British steamer can compete with the methods of these foreign vessels, and to-day, while these ships are trading here, the Bight can be seen of British steamers laid up and their crews on the dole.Practically every country in the world, with the exception of Great Britain, has flag discrimination around its own coast, in addition to subsidies or other methods which protect its own shipping industry while enabling carrying contracts to be secured by them against our ships. Is it surprising to hear, as I elicited by a question to the President of the Board of Trade on 12th May last, that even the Board of Trade statistics relating to British and foreign ships engaged in our imports and exports fail to serve any practical purpose and are, in fact, definitely and entirely misleading? In reply to my question I was informed that the figures published by the Department showing the amount of tonnage cleared by British and foreign vessels respectively are based on "nett tonnage." For the benefit of those hon. Members who are not conversant with shipping terms I may say that nett tonnage measurement has no relation whatever to the amount of cargo earned by a vessel but is merely a basis adopted for the calculation of port dues, taxes, etc., just as in the case of a motor car the horse power is used as a taxation basis. If one were asked how much goods could be conveyed in a motor car the answer would not be 20 horse power, but that is practically the answer which the Board of Trade figures give to an inquiry as to 1344 the amount of British and foreign tonnage engaged in our shipping.
As an instance, let me take the British passenger liner "Mauretania." The "Mauretania" has 12,542 nett tonnage, but its cargo-carrying capacity, its deadweight, is only 2,600 tons. Therefore, every time the "Mauretania" comes into our ports it is given credit for 12,542 tons when actually its cargo-carrying capacity is only 2,500 tons. Take the "Dartford," a tramp steamer of 2,443 tons nett tonnage, with a dead-weight tonnage, a cargo-carrying capacity, of no less than 6,089 tons. The misrepresentation is as follows: If you take five foreign cargo steamers of a nett tonnage of 2,500 each and a cargo-carrying capacity of 6,000 tons each, those five foreign cargo ships of 2,500 tons each, making 12,500 tons nett tonnage, will bring into this country over 30,000 tons of cargo. The "Mauretania" will be recorded as 12,500 tons of shipping, though bringing in actually only 2,500 tons of cargo, whereas the five foreign cargo boats will be registered at the same amount of tonnage but will be bringing actually 27,500 tons more cargo. If you reckon the "Mauretania" as coming into this country say 20 times a year, you will visualise that there is an enormous misrepresentation of the figures of actual cargo-carrying capacity between foreign and British ships concerned with the carrying of goods to and from this country. If you reckon that this applies to every other liner, every cross-Channel steamer, and every other passenger steamer, you will realise that we must be misled enormously as to the relative condition of British and foreign tonnage.
I reckon that every British liner has an over-estimation of cargo-carrying tonnage of something between 400 and 500 per cent., and for every foreign tramp steamer engaged in carrying goods to this country there is an under-estimation of cargo-carrying capacity by over 50 per cent., so that we are hundreds per cent. out in the over-estimation of our own tonnage and considerably over 50 per cent. out in the under-estimation of foreign tonnage. We must also remember that foreigners own the majority of cargo-carrying steamers. It might be said that the discrepancy might be balanced by reckoning in the same way 1345 in the case of foreign passenger ships calling in this country, but these foreign passenger liners do not come into port; they anchor outside the port, and so they cannot be brought into our consideration.
I therefore state that there is no clear, helpful or accurate record obtainable of the relative position from time to time, though it is vital to our interests that this should be made known from day to day and from week to week. We have no knowledge of the relative values of British and foreign dead-weight tonnages respectively entering the ports of this country. The position to my mind is serious. If we had a true statement of the figures, we should find that to-day we are living in a fool's paradise in respect of our shipping industry. We must have, and I hope the Board of Trade will give us from now onwards, the deadweight tonnage of our British and foreign shipping in place of the nett tonnage figures which we are now getting.
Another instance of the lack of precision in the statistical department dealing with shipping was a statement made in a speech on 3rd May last by a responsible member of the Government, obviously on figures supplied to him by the Department, when he stated that the shipping for the period of three months ended April was an improvement on the shipping for the three months ended January, and his reason for that statement was the fact that there were 44 fewer ships lying idle in the second than there were in the first period. But if they had gone a little further, if they had sought to get at the actual facts of the case, they would have found that of those 44 ships 12 had been scrapped and 32 of them had been sold at knock-out prices to foreigners, who could run them under their flag, and under their conditions, profitably and more cheaply than we could do under our flag, and they were therefore enabled to make the condition of our shipping still more difficult, and the possibility of an order for a ship being placed in our shipyards still more remote. We all remember the Biblical instruction—If lie smite thee on the one check, turn to him the other,but I think that alludes only to the first round, and that there are no instructions for the second and further rounds of the contest. I think we have had too much of the "Pardon me" and "After you" 1346 with the foreigner. I want us to say "After me" until we have got all the work we require for the full and adequately-paid employment of our own people. I should like to see flag discrimination around our coasts for the protection of our own coastal shipping, as is adopted, as I have said, by almost every other country in the world. I suggest an additional tax on all goods imported in foreign bottoms, or a rebate on all goods carrying a tax when shipped in British bottoms; but first and foremost I appeal to the Minister to give his urgent attention to the statistical department of the Board of Trade dealing with shipping. Do let us have the truth of the position. Let us know the actual position regarding the relative number of our and foreign ships. I want to see how far our shipping has fallen irrespective of the world diminution in trade. I want to see, regarding the balance of that trade, how far our own shipping has fallen, and how greatly foreign shipping has increased.
May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and hon. Members for the very kind indulgence which has been extended to this maiden speech? I am very thankful that I shall never have to make another maiden speech in this House.
§ Mr. GEOFFREY PETO
I am sure I am expressing the views of the whole House in conveying to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West St. Pancras (Mr. Mitcheson) our hearty congratulations on his most excellent maiden speech. His great and close knowledge of shipping has enabled him to make a speech which, I am sure, has interested us all very much, and on future occasions when he takes part in our Debates I am sure that he will always have the attention of the House.
Now may I say a word about the closely-reasoned speech which we heard from the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson)? We on this side of the House, and hon. Members throughout the House, all realise the gravity of the unemployment problem, and we all know the very distressful condition of the unemployed to-day, but where we differ from the hon. Member is as to the cause and the cure. He seemed to think that unemployment was due to our economy, but surely when the Labour party were 1347 in office and their extravagant schemes, or most of them, were in operation, unemployment increased by one and a-half millions. We are told to-day that they object to our saying that this Vote of Censure is premature because tariffs have not yet had a chance of taking effect, or inopportune because some of our chief Ministers are at the moment engaged in very delicate negotiations abroad. I will give them another reason, which I feel strongly, against this Vote of Censure today: it is rash. Will right hon. and hon. Members opposite consider what would happen supposing this Motion were to be carried, and supposing the Government were defeated? There would be nobody more dismayed than they would be if they were called upon to take office today. They know that perfectly well. The risk is small; I dare say they do not think that it is worth insuring against; but they know perfectly well that no power would induce them to take office under the distressful conditions of to-day.
I did not rise to enter into party wrangles; what I did rise to do was to make just one point about a section of the unemployed who I do think are harshly treated in present circumstances, and whom I think we should materially help; and I know that under our present very sympathetic Minister of Labour everything possible will be done to help them. A few months ago an unemployed man in my constituency came to see me and told me his story. It was this: He had, some years ago, got a hand badly damaged in an accident at the works. He received lump sum compensation for the accident, coupled with an assurance from his employer that he would be continued in employment. He was continued in light work, such as suited his incapacity, until last autumn, when, in the disastrous state of trade the business failed and was liquidated, and this man was thrown out of work. He said to me, "What chance have I got of getting a job to-day with a maimed right hand and absolutely untrained in the use of the other?" This is a question in which I have been interested for some time, and I promised him that at the first favourable opportunity I would raise it in this House.
I do not propose, in the short time during which I want to occupy the House, 1348 to deal with the question of compulsory insurance. It is a very big question, full of great difficulties. Some day it must be tackled, but at any rate I have no time to discuss it to-day. The point I do want to make is that we in this country are very much behind the rest of the civilised world in the training of those who are maimed or crippled through accident, no matter whether the accident has been industrial, a street accident or whatever it may be. In the year 1930 there were 439,000 disablement cases under the Workmen's Compensation Act. In addition to those we are told that 182,000 people a year are injured in street accidents. I am not dealing with deaths in either case. That makes over 600,000 potential cripples produced in this country per year. We do practically nothing to train those cripples or those maimed people to make the best use of their remaining limbs and to earn up to their full maximum earning capacity. If any one of us lost a hand we should have to teach ourselves, very laboriously, to dress and feed and write, and do everything else with the other hand, or we could go abroad to the United States, to Germany, Belgium, Switzerland or Italy, where there are excellent training centres, where we could learn quickly how to use the left hand by the latest and most scientific appliances.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I have a little difficulty in connecting the hon. Member's speech with the Motion before the House. The matter he is discussing is a question more suitable for the Ministry of Labour Vote.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is really dealing with a matter of administration. A general discussion of the question of unemployment and the conditions of unemployment is in order, but the hon. Member is now raising a matter of administration which is a very long way from the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. PETO
I want to point out that by a slight alteration in our present arrangements we could make unemployables into 1349 employables, and I suggest that it is worth consideration in an unemployment Debate. We do not want to hurl party recriminations backwards and forwards, but to do something constructive. The Holman Gregory report made some recommendations, but nothing has been done. The first objection to the training of maimed and crippled workmen is that of expense. Under the Workmen's Insurance Act, £5,000,000 was paid in compensation in 1930, and of this £3,500,000 was paid in weekly allowances and £1,500,000 in lump sums, and in addition large sums were paid by motor insurance companies and other accident insurance companies.
I suggest that the Government might, by organisation or by legislation, divert some of these large sums to the training of persons who have been maimed, and make them fit to take their place in life again. The Government might form a small committee of the trade unions, employers and the insurance companies, with the Ministry representatives to investigate this matter, which in my view is a very serious question. I agree that if we want to stop the increase in unemployment we must stop all unnecessary expenditure, because the greater the burden on industry the less likely is industry to revive, but I suggest that this proposal will not cost a lot of money. The moment it receives the support of the Government and those interested I am certain that philanthropic societies and the public generally would come along and provide the necessary capital to start training centres, even during the present difficult times.
Can we secure the support of the trade unions, the insurance companies and the employers? The employers and the insurance companies want to settle claims for the smallest possible lump sum, the trade unions want to secure the largest lump sum for their members, but the responsibility of everyone ceases when the money is handed over. No one is responsible for seeing that the money is not wasted and the man thrown into the ranks of the permanent unemployed, and thus on to the rates and taxes. That is not only unfair, but it is very extravagant, and, as to the victims themselves, everybody knows that they would welcome a restoration to full earning capacity instead of being compelled to take other jobs for 1350 which they are fitted. It reminds me of the story of the old lady who was knocked down in the street. When she came round a man stepped out from the crowd and handed her his card and asked to be allowed to give his professional services to secure substantial damages for her. The old lady turned round and said, "Damages! Why, man, I have had all the damages I want. What I want now is repairs." That is the feeling of vast numbers of people who have been injured in industry. They do not want a lump sum or a miserable pittance of so much per week; what they want is to be restored to their full earning capacity.
As to the employability of these men, that is another aspect of the question. People often ask: how is it possible, with the vast number of our unemployed, to get employment for the maimed and crippled man? As a matter of fact, a maimed person has at least as much right to a fair chance as anyone else, and experience has shown that he generally shows greater skill and devotion to work within his capacity than an able-bodied citizen. The Ford Motor Company, in the United States before the crash came, employed 9,000 cripples on its pay-roll, not from any charitable motive but on an economic basis. The Western Electric Company, a large firm of the United States, found that there were 5.6 per cent. fewer accidents among handicapped workers, 7 per cent. less absence due to illness and 7.4 per cent. fewer discharges among handicapped workers owing to unsuitability of work. Physically-handicapped applicants were, therefore, given the preference on economic grounds, and it stands to reason that a physically-handicapped man realises that he has not the wide choice of employment of the ordinary citizen and, unfortunately, cannot take part in those recreations which we all enjoy. I submit that it is quite a small matter as far as cost is concerned, and it is a matter which if taken up will remove the grave reproach on this country that we do nothing to train the physically maimed, whereas nearly every other civilised nation does a great deal.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
The hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. G. Peto) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his very interesting references to the cases with which he dealt. I can only say 1351 that I am rather surprised, since that he wants redress in cases such as he mentioned, that he is not sitting on this side of the House. I can assure him that we are quite sincere in moving this Motion of Censure against the Government, and we have no objection to any risk of this party being called upon to take the reins of Government in this country. If we did so we can assure the hon. Member that we would not make such a mess of it as the present Government are making. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the Government at the last election appealed for a free hand. They got their free hand in a very large majority. No Government in the last 100 years has had such a majority. Since 1832 there has been only one Government in this country with a majority at all approaching that of the present Government. I assure the hon. Member that if this party were entrusted with the government of the country and with control and power such as this Government enjoy, we would certainly put into operation the policy and the programme which we think will right the economic and industrial life of this country.
The present Government have not only political power. They have not only power in this House; there is another House at the other end of the corridor always ready to support them, while 95 per cent. of the financial and industrial interests of the country and, I should say, about 98 per cent. of the Press of the country, are behind them. Yet we find 10 months after this Government have taken office that the country is infinitely worse than it was when they took over control. The Lord President of the Council frankly admitted that he had no idea that the conditions brought about by the world economic blizzard were quite as bad as he found them to be when he went inside and discovered the effects upon the industry of the country. He will now probably appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said a few weeks ago regarding the suggestion that the-Labour Government had been responsible for the crisis. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was definitely of opinion that the crisis was not only exaggerated but manipulated and I think that statement explains the position 1352 better than any hon. Member on this side could explain it. I was interested in the statement of the Lord President of the Council that the difficulty as regards industry at present is that there is too much grit in it which prevents it running smoothly. The grit to which he referred is represented by those barriers raised in different countries against the interchange of world trade, but I have never known of any engineer, who discovered a small portion of grit in machinery, adding more grit to the machine with the object of getting it to run smoothly. That is certainly a peculiar doctrine. I wish there was a little more grit, but of a different kind, in this Government.
I propose to examine briefly the present condition of trade and industry in the country. Reference has already been made to the speech delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade six or seven months ago when he said in effect that industries were jumping over each other in their desire to become established in this country. We do not minimise nor have we ever attempted to minimise the value of getting new industries into this country, but we say that many more men have been thrown out of employment a3 a result of the Government's tariff policy than have been put into employment by the establishment of new industries. The last reply which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade gave in the House on the subject showed that something like 120 new industries had been established here, and were employing between 3,000 and 4,000 persons. I shall, I trust, be able to give the hon. Gentleman such information as will prove to him that a much greater number of workpeople have been thrown out of employment, especially in the coal industry as a result of the Government's policy.
The iron and steel industry enjoys the advantage of a tariff but we find that in May of this year the production of pig-iron, steel ingots and castings is down considerably, compared with the figures of May of last year when there was no tariff. The number of blast furnaces in blast at the end of May was 69 compared with 89 at the end of May, 1931. In the same industry the percentage of insured persons unemployed on 23rd May this year was 51 compared with 47.6 per cent, on 25th April of this year and 44 1353 per cent. at the corresponding period of last year. In the tinplate industry employment has shown a decline and we are informed that trade has been very bad. There is little change with regard to steel sheet manufacture. Engineering, shipbuilding and metal industries show a decline. In the cotton trade, compared with six weeks ago there is a decline and in the spinning section it is very bad. The wool textile industry also shows a decline. Employment in the hosiery industry shows a further decline and trade is slack on the whole in the lace and artificial silk industries. The leather trades also record a decline and, as regards pottery and glass, I am informed that employment in North Staffordshire is still bad on the whole. Apart from these declines, employment has also considerably decreased among dock labourers and seamen.
I wish, however, to deal chiefly with the coal industry, and I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that there has been a serious decline in the number employed in the production of coal in this country. At no time within the last 50 years has there been so few men employed in the coal industry as at the present time. The right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) asked my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) as to the reduction in the number of men employed in the mining industry as compared with October of last year. I have not that figure, but I have the figure showing the reduction in the number of men employed in the coal industry as compared with this time last year, and there is a reduction of 39,000—from 852,000 to 813,000—and that reduction is very largely in the exporting areas. There is a marked decline in the export of coal from this country for the first five months of this year, a reduction of well over 1,000,000 tons, as compared with the first five months of last year, and of 8,100,000 tons as compared with the same period of 1930.
These reductions are taking place very largely in the countries which are our best customers, and those are the European countries. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council was almost indignant when it was suggested that the restrictions which have been placed on the export of coal from this country into 1354 European countries was due to retaliation. I will ask the hon. Member to put it to the Minister of Labour, who is to reply, as to how many European countries had any restrictions imposed against the importation of coal from this country until the National Government took office and declared that it was their intention to apply a policy of tariffs. France was the only one. Germany had no restrictions imposed against this country before the National Government took office, and the restriction by France was not nearly as great as that which is now in existence.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the fact that, very largely as the result of negotiations which the Government had had with the French Government, the French withdrew their Surtax of 15 per cent. They did, but what did they do almost immediately the Surtax was withdrawn? They reduced the quota, and it was not a Surtax which affected the import of coal into France from this country, because going off the Gold Standard really gave us an advantage of nearly 30 per cent. in the prices of coal which we exported from this country into France, and notwithstanding a Surtax of 15 per cent., the price of coal sent from this country to France could compete with coal sent from any other European country into France. Therefore, the Government must not take much credit that they succeeded in abolishing the Surtax, because it was a question, as I say, of reducing the quota.
One can also deal with the question of Germany, although I do not want to deal too fully with that, because my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street, who comes from the North-East Coast, a district which is more affected than any other as a result of action by Germany and Belgium, has dealt with that fully, and I trust that there will be a reply from the Minister of Labour. I want to deal with the question of Italy, one of the best coal customers which this country has, and I am sure my hon. Friend has in mind the agreement which was entered into between this country and Italy at The Hague, at the end of 1929, when Italy agreed to take from this country 1,000,000 tons of coal for three years for use upon the Italian State railways. The Secretary for Mines last week, in reply to a question, stated that Italy had taken from this country just 2,000,000 tons of coal, which coal was 1355 a part of the 2,000,000 tons which should have been supplied during the first two years, but as far as the third 1,000,000 tons was concerned, whilst he did not say so, we are of the opinion that it is not the intention of Italy at present to place orders in this country for the supply of that coal.
Last Friday this House was indignant at what was called the breaking of an agreement between this country and Ireland. I wish the House and the present Government would be as interested in the breaking of this agreement for the supply of a further 1,000,000 tons of coal to Italy. The Secretary for Mines said that diplomatic representations were being made to the Government of Italy, and I would like to ask the Minister of Labour if he could tell us whether there are any results of those representations. This is a definite case of retaliation. On Friday of last week, travelling from London to my home in South Wales, I met the representative of one of the largest coal exporting companies in this country, who told me that he had then returned from Genoa. He is not a member of the Labour party—if anything, he was a supporter of the present Government—and he assured me that, as far as he could see from all the discussions which he had; had with the representatives of coal purchasers and those responsible for taking coal from this country, they were definitely of the opinion that the refusal to carry out the Hague agreement for the supply of coal was political, and it is done because of the imposition of tariffs by this country upon goods which would be supplied by Italy.
Not only are we concerned about the question of the restrictions which are already in operation, but some of us are very alarmed as to the turn which things are taking at the Lausanne Conference. It is reported in several papers to-day that there is a possibility that there will be a moratorium put into operation for the next three years, but that it is not going to apply to reparations in kind, and that France, Italy, and Belgium will be prepared to consider the question of taking a certain amount of reparations in kind. The coalfields of this country have never forgiven the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) for what took place in the Versailles Treaty, 1356 and we had a good deal of difficulty with our own people in the coalfields regarding the action of the present Prime Minister in 1924. If the representatives of the British Government are going to agree to a continuation of reparations in kind, which will mean the loss of markets for millions of tons of coal from this country, then they can be assured that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street rightly said, mining Members will have to be very much more persistent in their claims upon this Government than perhaps they have been in the past.
We would that the Government could send to their representatives at Lausanne and inform them what reparations in kind will mean to the industrial areas of this country. Those of us who come from South Wales are also a little concerned as to the policy of the Government at the Ottawa Conference in its relation to the coal industry. I have endeavoured to ascertain in the House and by meeting the Dominions Secretary whether the Government have any policy to deal with coal. I understand that there is to be no direct representative of the coal industry, important as the export coal trade is to this country, in attendance with the delegation at Ottawa. I would put this to the Dominions Secretary. It is no use his going to Ottawa and talking about increasing the export of anthracite coal from this country to Canada. We have a very valuable market in anthracite coal with Canada, and if all the other branches of the coal industry were in the position of anthracite coal, there would be very little to complain about, because it is the one part of the coal industry where production has increased beyond what it was in 1913. The falling off has been in the bituminous areas. I warn the Government that it is not a question of selling anthracite coal to Canada. We have a market for almost all the anthracite coal we can sell from this country. What we really want to sell is the soft bituminous coal.
Let us see how far we are interested in the Ottawa Conference. There may be arrangements with regard to a quota for wheat, a quota for meat and a quota for butter from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Australia has not taken a single ton of coal from this country during the first five months of this year. She has all the coal she requires within her own borders. New Zealand has not 1357 taken a single ton from this country during the first five months of this year. She, also, has all the coal she requires in her own borders. South Africa is in the same position. During the first five months of this year Canada has taken 388,000 tons of coal from this country and British India 6,000 tons; while Denmark has been a much more valuable market for coal from this country than the whole of the British Dominions put together, with the exception of the Irish Free State. Germany has taken 1,120,000 tons, France 3,723,000 tons, the Argentine nearly 800,000 tons, and Italy over 2,000,000 tons. Those of us who come from the coal export areas are concerned lest the Government, in their desire to appease the agricultural Members of this House, will forget that there are other industries which are as important to the well-being of the nation as agriculture, important as agriculture is. If the coal industry is to be further impeded there will be an addition to the number of persons who are unemployed.
The Lord President of the Council told us that 2,750,000 persons were unemployed. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street said that he could add another 180,000 or 190,000, making almost 3,000,000. But that is not the whole story. I put a question to the Minister of Labour to-day asking him if he could tell me the number of persons who had been refused unemployment benefit since 1st November last year. I was very surprised at the figure which he gave me. He said that the claims disallowed by courts of referees from 13th October last year to 31st May this year numbered 475,489. The number of determinations given by public assistance committees where the needs of the applicants did not justify payments being made, was no less than 513,770, so that the total number of persons who have had their unemployed benefit stopped from November last year until the latest available figures is nearly 1,000,000.
§ Mr. HALL
I am giving the figures which I received in reply to a question by the Minister of Labour only to-day, and if the hon. Member will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow morning, he will find that the figures which I have given are accurate. In addition to the number of persons who have been de- 1358 prived of their unemployment benefit, there has been this large increase in the number of persons who are receiving Poor Law relief. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street dealt with that aspect of the question. Take my own county of Glamorgan, where we have 38 per cent. of the insured persons unemployed. For the week ending 18th June this year, no fewer than 43,000 persons were in receipt of Poor Law relief. That is why we are very concerned about the position.
I would like to ask whether the Government have any policy on the question of assisting exports. Let us see what has been done by other countries against whom we have to compete in the markets of those countries where they have no coal and where there is constant competition to supply them. Poland has nationalised and controlled the coal industry because she realises the importance of the coal export trade. Germany is heavily subsidising her export trade to enable her to compete with us in the Scandinavian market. There is no coal exporting country, with perhaps the exception of America, which scarcely counts, that can withstand the competition from this country unless it has artificial help or is subsidised to stimulate exports. We are the only country, and this is the only Government, powerful though it is, which is standing idly by and seeing its coal industry gradually go to ruin. The policy of the Government has not assisted the coal industry. It has thrown out of employment 10 times as many persons as tariffs have put into employment since the tariff policy was put into operation.
A deputation waited upon the Lord President of the Council with a request from South Wales that the Government should do something to assist not only the export side of the coal industry, but endeavour to ascertain whether something more could be done to combat the influences which are responsible for the decline in the production of coal in this country. Though this country is so much dependent upon power, it is the most backward country in compiling statistics showing the changes in power production during the last 20 years. If we want to know how far oil or electricity or the greater utilisation of gas has displaced coal, we have to go to America for the information, because we cannot get it in this country. Some time ago we asked the Lord President of the Council whether 1359 the Government were prepared to set up an inquiry to ascertain how far oil has displaced coal not only in the Navy and the mercantile marine but in the industries of the country and how far it was possible for coal to be used where oil was now being employed; and we also asked whether the Government were prepared to undertake an impartial inquiry into the production of oil from coal with or without any assistance from the Government. If such an inquiry were set on foot it would give a great deal of satisfaction to those who represent coal mining areas, because I can say, without in any way exaggerating the position, that the coal mining areas of this country feel that there is absolutely no hope.
The Act of Parliament recently passed by the present Government is typical of all Tory legislation, giving the industrialists all they ask without asking anything in return; but if the Government hope there will be "freedom from politics" in the coal mining industry in the next five years as a result of that Act, they are under a very great misapprehension. The speech of the Lord President also referred to the extent to which machinery was displacing labour. Every one knows that in every industry, including agriculture, the production per man employed has increased by leaps and bounds. We have only to look at the Census of Production returns published month after month in the Board of Trade Gazette, to see that, as a result of the application of machinery to industry, tens of thousands of men are being displaced, and, unfortunately, a very large number of them are men over 50 years of age. Many of those men have spent 30 or 40 years in a given industry, and cannot adapt themselves to other industries where employment may be available, and they are the most tragic figures in the industrial areas. I ask the Lord President to give a good deal of consideration to that aspect of the question.
We feel justified in moving this Motion. The Government have been in office almost half the time the Labour Government were in office—the Labour Government, faced with all its difficulties, and without a majority in this House. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) once described the Liberal Members as the patient oxen because they 1360 came into the Lobby to support us. He did not know the difficulty we had on many occasions in getting the Liberal Members into the Lobby in support of us. We have now had 10 months of this powerful Government, powerful only so far as its numbers are concerned, and the results are such that we shall, without hesitation, vote in favour of this Motion.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DICKIE
When the Lord President of the Council was asked last week whether he had seen upon the Order Paper the Motion we are discussing today, he said that he had, and that he was surprised at the wording of it. At that time I did not understand whether he was surprised at its literary form or at the meaning which the words conveyed. This afternoon we have learned that it was the meaning which excited his surprise; but what has surprised me more than either of those things is the audacity of those who put down this Motion. Here is a Motion condemning the Government because they have entirely failed to restore national prosperity and to deal with unemployment, put down by a party which had four times as long to deal with the same things under infinitely more favourable conditions than exist to-day.
§ Mr. G. HALL
Did I understand the hon. Member to say we were in office four times as long as the present Government have been?
§ Mr. DICKIE
Exactly. [Interruption.] The Labour Government not only failed to accomplish the very things for which they are condemning the present Government, but succeeded in bringing this little country of ours to the verge of the abyss of ruin. Now, when the Government have been kept busy ever since they took office in staving off disaster and clearing up the mess left behind—the worst legacy which any Government has inherited in the last hundred years—the Opposition bring forward a Motion of this character. It is an entirely destructive Motion; not one constructive word have we heard from the Opposition benches this afternoon, save the worn-out and discredited theory of nationalisation. It finds expression in different forms in the leaflets and election addresses of hon. Members opposite, sometimes taking the form of "Socialisation of the means of production and distribution and exchange, "sometimes" Production for use and not for profit" 1361 and sometimes "Public ownership and democratic control"; but in every case it boils down to nationalisation,, and nationalisation, wherever it has been tried the wide world over, has always failed. The Leader of the Opposition smiles. There is not a Member opposite, from the Leader of the Opposition to the humblest back-bencher, who can point to any experiment in the nationalisation of competitive industry in peace time in any part of the civilised world which has been successful—not at any period in the world's history, past or present. That is a broad challenge.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
Will the hon. Member endeavour to explain to the House where capitalism is succeeding at this moment?
§ Mr. DICKIE
I do not know whether capitalism is to blame for all the evils from which the world is suffering. If a case could be made out it might conceivably be held to blame, but I am not one of those who is prepared to risk throwing over capitalism to put in its place something which has signally and demonstrably failed in every part of the world. In my judgment the main reason for bringing forward this Motion is the fact that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite are unable to adapt themselves to the changing conditions of a changing world. In this case it takes the form of refusing to budge from the old traditional standpoint, that it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose. It does not matter what is proposed from this side of the House, or what the Government ask the permission of the House to do, because the Opposition think it is their duty of necessity to oppose anything that comes from the Government side, irrespective of its merits. That only goes to prove how very stereotyped the so-called progressive Opposition have become; their action demonstrates that they are more conservative than many of the old crusted Tories, of whom they complain so much.
I would like to tell hon. Members opposite that I do not object to nationalisation because it is proposed by the Socialist, but because I honestly and sincerely believe, as one who has spent the whole of his life amongst the workers, that the pursuance of that will o' the wisp of nationalisation has been very detrimental to the interests of the work- 1362 ing classes, has hampered progress, and has prevented that advance to a higher standard of life which could have been attained but for the great waste of time and energy spent in the advocacy of nationalisation. I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that for 20 years he had been pleading for cooperation between capital and labour.
§ Mr. DICKIE
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had been pleading up and down the country for co-operation. I have lived all my life in the coalfields, and I have been associated with the workers ever since the passing in 1912 of the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act. Ever since that time the watchword of the Socialist party has been that capital and labour must necessarily be opposed to each other, that they cannot be reconciled, and that anybody who would not accept what the Socialists put forward were the enemies of the workers. That is what we have had to contend with in the mining areas for the last 20 years.
I should like to reinforce the plea which has been put forward in this Debate by several hon. Members in favour of a revision of the statistical department of the Board of Trade. I consider that accurate information is one of the most vital factors in enabling this House to arrive at an accurate estimate of what is happening, not only in connection with coal, oil, and power, but also in relation to the volume of goods to which the Lord President of the Council attaches so much importance, in order to show the quantity carried in British ships. At the present time it is utterly impossible to ascertain this information from the Board of Trade.
Having regard to the exceptional difficulties of the Government during the last three or four months it would be quite unfair to blame them for not having accomplished more than they have done. I have been a Free Trader all my life, but two years ago I saw the need for some modification of our fiscal system, and I was very glad to hear from the Lord President of the Council this afternoon that our adverse balance of trade is being slowly redressed. I made a point in a letter to the "Times" on 1363 3rd March which was never brought out during the course of the Debate on the Import Duties Bill. It is a point of vital importance, because it goes to the root of the whole trouble of our import and export trade. I pointed out that under Free Trade from 1859–1913 the volume of our export trade in relation to the total import and export trade never varied more than 2 per cent., and it represented from 44 per cent. to 46 per cent. of the total volume. That meant that only 12 per cent. had to be met by our invisible exports. To-day the figures have sunk from 44 to 34, and that is a difference of 66, and necessitates 32 per cent. of invisible exports. That difference cannot be met by our invisible exports unless we stem the tide of imports coming into this country.
§ Mr. E. WILLIAMS
How is it possible to increase our invisible exports if the Government adopt a policy which stops imports coming into this country?
§ Mr. DICKIE
We are seeking to change the character of the imports. We cannot expand our exports owing to the growth of economic nationalism, which I deplore as much as the Home Secretary, and that is a fact which we have to recollect, and which we cannot overcome. Therefore the only possible thing which this House or the country can do is to stem the imports in order to redress the balance, unless we are going to continue to live on our capital. The world is suffering to-day far too much on account of tariffs. Someone wrote that the two worst enemies of mankind were wars and tariffs. The whole world is suffering to-day from the effects of one war, and we are adding to our troubles by tariffs, which are making things much worse. Therefore, the greatest service which we can render to the world is to use the new tariffs to induce other countries to lower their tariffs in order to break down those artificial barriers which are to-day choking the channel of trade throughout the whole civilised world.
I do not want to add anything now to what I said on the exporting areas a fortnight ago, but I wish to join with other hon. Members in the endeavour they have made to impress upon the Government the urgent and vital importance of dealing with this extremely pressing problem. I come from an area 1364 which is as distressed as any, and which depends entirely upon the heavy industries. The boroughs depend upon shipbuilding and engineering, but the county depends almost entirely upon coal, and the export of coal is by far the most important consideration throughout the whole county. If the export of coal diminishes, there can be no other result than an increase of poverty and hardship, not only for the miners, but for all those who are dependent on the success of the mining industry in the various communities throughout the county. Our pits are closing one after another on account of the loss of export trade. As each pit is closed down, it becomes more difficult for the rest to be carried on, because, of course, no rates are drawn from the pits which are not working, and the rates are added to those which are. The result is that we are the most heavily rated county in England to-day.
In the county of Durham, we are paying in rates for Poor Law services no less than 7s. 9d. in the £, which is higher than the total rate in many other parts of the country. I believe there are only two districts, namely, Merthyr Tydfil and Glamorgan, which are mulcted in a higher rate than we are for Poor Law services. I submit to the Government that there is something wrong with a system which penalises industrial centres to the extent of compelling them to charge 7s. 9d. in the £ for Poor Law services, while Blackpool gets off with 6d., and Bournemouth with 10d. I submit to the Government that we ought not to have to carry this burden—and there are other areas which are almost as badly off as we are— and I appeal to them to consider this matter during the next few weeks. I can only reiterate what I said in this House in the course of the Debate on the mining question a fortnight ago, namely, that, while I agree that the restrictions imposed by foreign countries have had some effect on the export of coal, by far the greatest effect in diminishing the quantity of coal exported from this country is due to the operation of the Coal Mines Act, 1930. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members opposite, because it was a Socialist Act of Parliament, feel compelled to back it up, but I have stated a well-known fact. [Interruption.] I do not wish to go over the ground again, but I showed in this House—I had the minutes in my pocket 1365 at the time—that the coalowners of the county of Northumberland were overwhelmingly against the Act, and I showed that the coalowners of the county of Durham were so evenly divided that there was practically nothing in it. There was a slight majority. [Interruption.] The percentages are 42 and 58, and, if my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) considers that that is a large enough majority to justify the infliction of such hardship and disability on the coal exporting industry, I must beg to differ from him.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I do not think that that statement can be allowed to pass without challenge. As a Member of the House of Commons, I was interviewed by a gentleman representing the coalowners, who asked me, not only to support that Act, but to support the levies.
§ Mr. DICKIE
I also have been interviewed by gentlemen asking me either to support or condemn it, but my hon. Friend ought to know perfectly well that the difficulty has been to get the Durham coalowners, or coalowners in any part of the country, to speak with a united voice. I appeal to the Government to reconsider this matter. The Lord President of the Council mentioned, as an illustration, the case of an up-to-date gentleman who had his eyes wide open so far as his own industry was concerned. He made buckets —[Interruption.] Hon. Members smile, but that is an industry. This manufacturer, who was alive to the situation and was a wise man, cheapened his process, consulted his workpeople, cut down his costs, and produced a cheaper article which he was able to sell in the markets of the world. Can we do that with the export of coal? No, because our hands are tied behind our backs by this wretched Act of Parliament, which establishes minimum prices and tells the foreigner the exact figure at which we are going to sell. A contract is put out for the Norwegian State railways, the Danish State railways, or any other railways. The Northumberland and Durham coalowners are asked to tender, and the foreigner in Poland, Belgium, or Germany says—
§ Mr. DICKIE
The foreigner in Poland, Belgium, or Germany knows that our price will be, say, 13s. 4½d., he quotes 1366 13s. 2d., and the order is his in the ordinary course of business. My hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) says that we cannot compete with Poland. I tell him that that is not true—
§ Mr. DICKIE
My tautological Friend has just repeated himself. He did say that we could not compete against Poland—
§ Mr. DICKIE
I say to my hon. Friend that we can compete against Poland. If this House will remove from the collieries the restrictions as to minimum prices, we can not only compete with the Poles to-day, bat can secure contracts, and, by doing so, get out of the way of the competition of the other coal producers in this country hundreds of thousands of tons of coal. I do not want to detain the House any longer, but I should like to know whether the Government are really giving serious consideration to the point which was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall). These quotas, restrictions, and licensing systems are doing serious injury to the coal exporting industry. During all my political life I have objected to subsidies and Government interference with industry, but we are now living in a changed world, and, if we have to meet the competition of this kind, we must, in the interests of our workpeople, find some new method of dealing with it. The experiment which is being carried out by the Cunard Company is a matter of urgent and vital importance. It has potentialities which it is almost impossible to forecast. As a marine engineer and the representative of a mining constituency, I can visualise enormous potentialities for this discovery provided that it proves successful. I earnestly and sincerely trust that, as soon as ever the necessary information is in the hands of the Government, they will not only give the process every encouragement, but will substantially assist in its development until it becomes commercially exploitable and of great value to the nation.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
No one who has lived in, or who has had to do with the mining areas, can fail to have sympathy with the miners, and the whole industry and population which exist there at present, in the troubles through which they are passing. I used to live on the border between the Consett Division and the Chester-le-Street Division. I am not certain whose constituent I would have been.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
And I am sure anyone who has had any experience of conditions there cannot fail to realise the troubles through which the miners have passed. When it comes to making that situation a reason for condemning the action of the Government then I think, without laying oneself open to any lack of sympathy, one is entitled to ask what there is in the charges that have been brought by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) and the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson)? During the Debate we have heard that the present unemployment in the mining district is to be laid to the charge of the present Government. I seldom interrupt, but I did interrupt the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street to ask him what was the increase in unemployment. He said perfectly frankly that he did not know. The hon. Member for Aberdare, without giving a positive figure, said it was about 50,000 more than at the end of August.
§ Mr. G. HALL
I did not mention the figure of 50,000 as compared with a year ago. As a matter of fact I gave it in my speech. It is 39,000 as compared with last year.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The reason I did not give the figure was that I had looked it up very carefully this week, but as a matter of fact it is well known there are quite a lot of men who are retained on the books as wage earners after the pits have been closed indefinitely.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am interested to hear these various explanations. I asked what was the comparison of the figure now, as against the last figure before the Socialist Government ceased to hold office? I went out afterwards and looked at the figures and I found that in each case the figure was between 330,000 and 340,000—I am not 1368 quite sure which was the bigger of the two. But as a matter of fact the figure at the end of August, the last date before the late Socialist Government resigned office, and the latest figure given to-day, show there has been no appreciable change in the volume of recorded unemployment. If the hon. Members will read the Ministry of Labour figures they will find I have stated these figures correctly.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am taking the official figures of the Ministry of Labour. The next point laid to the charge of the Government is that if there have been difficulties as regards exports to some countries, to Germany for example, those are due to the policy of the Government. It may be a ground for regret, but before it is made a ground of accusation, perhaps hon. Members opposite will try to ascertain the whole facts of the case and the figures of German production. When you take the trouble to consult that modest but extremely valuable little monthly document of figures issued by the League of Nations you find that the decrease of coal production in Germany, comparing it with the last pre-War year, has been, on the average, 5,000,000 tons a month on a lesser production, whereas it has been about 3,000,000 tons per month in this country on a much larger production. The decrease here has been about 15 per cent. as compared with a decrease of about 40 per cent. in Germany in the internal production. It is perfectly obvious to anyone who looks at this from the business point of view that the Germans clearly have not been able to afford to import coal very largely, quite apart from anything which may have been due to action taken by this country. Therefore to put facts like this, regrettable in themselves, as a charge and accusation, really robs that accusation of any point whatever.
Apart from the question of coal, when one takes the whole charge brought against the Government in this Motion, the first question that one would ask oneself is, What is the reason for bringing this Motion forward? I think the answer is that at the meetings which the leaders of the Labour party in the 1369 House of Commons have had with their colleagues outside and the party managers in Eccleston Square, probably some sort of conversation like this has passed between them: "You really must make something of a splash before the Session ends. If you do not do something of this kind, what sort of figure shall we cut when we have the Labour Conference meeting in the autumn?" Then they would say: "My dear George, it is not much of a case which you have to put. Of course, it is quite true, when you compare it with our own record you have a pretty black record on which to base your case; still, put it pretty hot and you may get away with it." It is really that fact that accounts for what I am sure every Member of the House, whether he admits it or not, must feel, the complete air of unreality throughout the greater part of the Debate to-day. It is an air of unreality which is seldom met with outside "Alice in Wonderland." Take the actual Motion. It says:That His Majesty's Government, having appealed to the country for a free hand to take such action as it thought fit to restore national prosperity and to deal with unemployment, and having entirely failed in these objects as is shown by the steady diminution of trade and industry at Home and abroad "—mark the words "and abroad"—and the increase of unemployment, together with the deplorable conditions to which the unemployed are being subjected, has forfeited the confidence of this House.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
What a world of confidence there is in that "Hear, hear!" from Members opposite. But just take first of all those words "and abroad." Do hon. Members really mean that they can condemn this Government for what has been happening abroad I Why, in the hon. Member's own speech in the last Socialist Government and in the speeches of his colleague, the then Minister of Labour, Miss Bondfield, and in the speeches of practically every apologist for the then Socialist Government, you will find this sort of phrase, that it is the general economic blizzard that has come upon the world and that it is not anything which has been particularly due to this country. You get other phrases such as that it is complimentary but at the same time it is foolish to think that this country is responsible for what happens throughout the world. 1370 Those speeches are forgotten, but if you go back to the speeches of the former Solicitor-General (Sir S. Cripps), since the Socialist Government left office, you will find that he analysed the causes of depression throughout the world. He said that they were due to War Debts and Reparations. I wonder whether he thinks we could have controlled the policy of France with regard to Reparations. He told us it was also due to currency, and largely due to the fact that War Debts could not be paid to the United States because of high tariffs. Does he really think that we control the policy of the United States?
Again, I hear that it is because of the way in which the loans, that have been made have been used. Of course, they were misused by Germany, but are we to be blamed for not having prevented the Germans four or five years ago from using their loans more wisely? Those are the causes of the world depression. They occurred largely before this Government came into office. They now come, with the audacity that is borne of despair, to ask the House to condemn this Government because of unemployment that has existed abroad. But let me come to the responsibility, which, is of course true, of the Government at home. Judge what has happened here and the responsibility of the Government for it. [Interruption.] There is the same enthusiasm coming from the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street. He is a confirmed optimist. [Interruption.] It is better to be a pessimist and go through with it than to be an optimist who fails to reach his goal.
What criterion can you take? What criterion would any business person take if it was a question of a competing business and not of a different country? He would say, "How has this company fared as compared with its competitors?" How them has this country fared as compared with its competitors? Take the question of unemployment to start with. Judged by any business criterion, those who have spoken from the Front Bench opposite are not really worthy of attention because they have not considered the time-lag in the matter. You cannot have a tariff producing its effects at once, when there have been immense forestalments. You have to take a time schedule. The idea of that has not been at all present to their minds.
1371 Even so, what is the truth with regard to unemployment? I again commend to hon. Members opposite this invaluable little record, price 1s. 6d. monthly, and worth the money. It is entirely impartial, being published by the League of Nations. So far as figures of unemployment are obtainable in any foreign country of importance, they will find that the course of unemployment here is very favourable in comparison with any great European country which is our competitor. Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Czechoslovakia. Take the figures one and all and compare them with the figures for Great Britain. The volume of such increase as there has been here compares extraordinarily favourably with the course of unemployment in those countries. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street referred to the fact that there are 80,000 married women who are no longer in receipt of unemployment benefit, and indeed no longer registered, who ought to be added to the total, but he forgot to inform the House that the fact that they are no longer registered and are not added to the total is not the work of this Government but of himself and Miss Bondfield, the late Minister of Labour.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I see. Now the crime is that we are carrying out the principle that he laid down. I ask anyone how much real force they attach to this full-blooded condemnation of the Government. Let them look at other figures which are at least as important in this connection. Let them take the actual figures for production. No one denies that the depression has been gradually deepening throughout the world as a whole, but take the figures of production; see how this country compares with others in the last quarter before the Socialist Government left office and in the first quarter of this year. In Germany there has been a falling off in production of 19 per cent., in France of 17 per cent., in the United States of 12 per cent., and in this country there has been an increase of seven per cent. If there is anything in the record of actual fact, it seems strange that no one on that side has thought fit to draw attention to it.
Let me pass to the test that any business man would naturally apply. Of course, you cannot apply business tests 1372 to politics, but you ought to be as businesslike as you can. To start with, to anyone outside analysing this problem it is really twofold. There are two sets of points to be dealt with. There is, first of all, the situation inside this country and then there is the world situation, and unless and until both these aspects of the problem are dealt with successfully there can be no hope of real revival in this country. It is obvious that these two sides of the problem have to be dealt with one after the other, the home side first and the foreign side later. If I take what happened at home, I take a simple test. I do not believe in his heart of hearts there is anyone, whatever his politics, who would wish to see us back in the state we were in in August of last year. People inside the country may be biased, but you can get a fair basis of truth in the opinions expressed in the Press of foreign countries. There is no comparison whatever between the extraordinarily poor opinion of Great Britain's stability, power of endurance and ability to face her troubles last autumn and the opinion universally held in foreign countries to-day.
I now turn to the second the external side of the problem. The Government here have, in conjunction with foreign countries, to face the questions of debts and reparations, currency and trade restrictions, quota regulations, exchange restrictions, tariffs and all the rest, and restoring all the creaking machinery of ordinary international trade. It is an infinitely harder business to deal with foreign countries and to get concert among them than to deal with the situation inside the country, however hard that may be. In view of that I wonder what was the real object of the Leader of the Opposition in moving the Vote of Censure today. Did he think that it would help this country in dealing with foreign countries at Lausanne or Geneva, or what was his object? Perhaps he did think that it would help this country in dealing with other countries at Lausanne and Geneva, but the only reason why he could have thought so was because it would have been very clear how extraordinarily weak any criticism would be which was brought forward at the moment. I believe that such a Machiavellian subtlety combined with altruism is perhaps a combination which only the Leader of the 1373 Opposition in his kindliness can possibly exhibit. At any rate, those are the points which have to be dealt with as the second part of the problem, and, until they are dealt with, there can be no revival.
May I make this remark concerning what, I think, are the sentiments of many individuals on this side of the House? I think that the Government have made mistakes since they came into power, that they are likely to make mistakes still. No set of human beings could do anything else. I think that they made a mistake in putting on the Beer Duty at the beginning, but I do not think that they made a mistake in keeping it on. I think that they have made other mistakes. Frankly, I think they are rather too sensitive sometimes to criticism without inquiring whether the criticism is well meant or whether it is mischievous in intent. But the one thing about which I am quite clear—and I think every Member on this side of the House will agree with me—is that so long as they really drive ahead with what is essential they will get support from all those quarters of the House, whatever mistakes otherwise they may make. All that we really require is that they shall know what the essentials are—and it is clear that they do know what they are— and that they shall drive them home, and we shall support them. We are not going to turn out Charles II in order to make James II King, and we are not going to weaken them in order to return to the position of mess, muddle, and makeshift and make-believe of last year.
There arc two points on which I would make a suggestion to the Government. We have the Lausanne Conference, and out of Lausanne are coming negotiations to try to arrive at agreements which may do good in freeing the trade of the world. It is natural that those of us who are Tariff Reformers want to see our industries protected. At this moment, however, I am convinced that there is a growing need for the international trade of the world to be freed from some of the appalling shackles which are strangling it at the moment. Speaking as a Tariff Reformer, I hope that the Government will use their tariff as a negotiating instrument to the utmost degree possible at Lausanne, in order to free the trade of the world. I would say this as well. We are infinitely affected by the condi- 1374 tion of affairs in the world, but still we can do a great deal from the inside. Psychology exercises an enormous influence upon the population of this country, and I trust that the Government will once again give the people here the same lead which the Prime Minister gave about five months ago, namely, that those in this country who have the means should go on making their purchases in the same spirit of confidence as they did before. Their means are less. The tax-gatherer has taken a great quota of them, but in so far as purchases can be made, it is that fact which keeps trade from collapse. If people individually economise as distinct from the Government, it would mean that the trade which is flagging would go slower still.
In those circumstances, whatever mistakes the Government may make in minor matters, provided they drive ahead with essentials we are not going to weaken their position in order to let in another Government less able to deal with the problems which confront us. Least of all are we going to allow a Government to come in which would act upon the principles which have been ennunciated by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that things could never be put right until industry was controlled by a Government. Does he never realise that it was not individual action but the action of Governments which made the mistakes in the Peace Treaty which have been the origin of the present troubles? ft; is the action of Governments and not individuals which has led to quota restrictions and tariffs and to the greater part of the rest of the troubles which exist at the present time. If he wishes to give us double doses of the same trouble in the future the present depression will be slight compared with the depression which will follow. If the Government, having got to essentials drive ahead, I am sure that none of us will have any hesitation in supporting them in their task.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The right hon. Gentleman has certainly struck a welcome note of cheerfulness and optimism in this Debate compared to the Prime Minister—I mean the Lord President. I nearly always forget about the Prime Minister, but before embarking upon this Debate I looked up a Vote of Censure moved by the Lord President of 1375 the Council, and oddly enough in the course of that Debate the same question about Charles II and James II was used by the present Prime Minister. I have seen since then another likeness to Charles II in the Prime Minister, because he has made up his mind not to go on his travels again. A change has come over the Lord President and right hon. Gentlemen opposite now are quite prepared to accept the Prime Minister. The right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) indulged in a good deal of sarcasm on this Motion. He did read the Motion, but he did not understand it. But he read the Motion in quite audible tones—The steady diminution of trade and industry at home and abroad"—and he will see that it does not imply that the whole of the present troubles abroad were caused by the present Government. But if one is making an analysis of the causes one must bear in mind that among the causes of the troubles with foreign trade are the restrictions on trading between nations. The right hon. Gentleman is a Tariff Reformer and the Government are engaged in building tariffs higher. I do not think that there is any great need to dwell upon the points made by the right hon. Gentleman except one. He and other hon. Members suggested that it was very unkind of us to move a Vote of Censure on the Government when they were trying to pilot the ship through such stormy waters. I wonder hon. and right hon. Gentlemen did not think of this last summer when they cried "stinking fish" the whole of the time. Has no one ever read the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) when he went round America telling all America that this country was down and out? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not ashamed to write and to speak anywhere and in every kind of country, running down this country for purely party purposes.
The right hon. Gentleman suggests that we must not attack this Government. There is reason for our Motion. We have never had any clear statement of policy from the Government. The most we have had was the somewhat apologetic remarks of the Lord President of the Council this afternoon. We are told that we are passing through 1376 a crisis. This House has a right to demand what is the Government's policy, to comment on that policy and to put forward an alternative. We have no apology to make for putting forward this Motion, which we believe is entirely justified by the record of the Government. If anything more was needed to justify the Motion, it was the speech of the Lord President of the Council. I have never heard a more piano note struck. All the new hopefulness of tariffs has faded away. I notice week after week, and month after month, that the blessings of tariffs are put further and further away. At the election time they were to operate quickly, and when hon. Members opposite came to the House they were clamouring for them and painting glowing pictures. What have we now? The Lord President of the Council says that two or three years must elapse before the tariffs begin to work. The right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) says that no one suggests that they are going to work quickly, but that suggestion was made at the election.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Has the hon. Member any quotation to prove that anyone said at election time that they would work quickly? Everyone knew then and said that they would take some time before they came into effect. The hon. Member has made the statement quite definitely, and I hope that he will substantiate it.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am quite willing to produce evidence, but I never supposed for a moment that the statement would be challenged.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I shall be pleased to look it up. I take it that it is admitted that it would not work quite so quickly. We all admit that there is not quite that cheery spirit of optimism about tariffs that we had before, and the reason is pretty obvious. What is the utmost that we now get from Ministers. The Lord President of the Council, and even the right hon. Gentleman, who has less responsibility, told us, that we are not quite so badly off as other countries. What is the point of that? By common consent the whole world is slipping down to ruin, and we are slipping down a pace 1377 or two behind the rest. It is perfectly ridiculous. The Lord President of the Council told us that things are difficult. He said that there were important conferences on. He gave us some amiable sentiments, and then there came certain details about improvements in manufacturing buckets and clothing. He then told us of a great discovery—the iron and steel trade. That trade is to be reconstructed and, according to the Lord President, if the iron and steel trade is reconstructed we can sell in the markets of the world and meet anybody. But the trouble is, he said, that there are no buyers. That is the wonderful prospect before us. I am sorry to say that the Lord President of the Council reminded me of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's speeches always contain a good deal of general, broad statement mixed up with one or two very minor specific instances, and the rest is always a blank. I do not know whether it is a case of evil communications corrupting good manners.
We challenge the whole position of the Government. We say frankly that the position of this country is not better than it was when Labour went out of office. Even if it is better, it is a very serious position, and I confirm that from what has been said by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister announced to the assembly of the world at the conference that the whole world is slipping down to ruin and that the whole system is breaking up. We are told of the Lausanne Conference, the Ottawa Conference and the Geneva Conference. We hope something may come from Lausanne, but the Lord President of the Council does not hope to get much out of it. Everybody has been singing extremely small about Ottawa lately. They have practically left the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) to keep his faith in Ottawa. In regard to Lausanne, I am very much afraid that it has come too late. We have asked constantly, right from the time that this Government came into office, for such a conference, but the months have slipped by and events have happened. We have a situation now in Germany of the utmost possible danger. We have a world situation in regard to which persons of great authority all agree that it is extremely difficult and doubtful 1378 whether it can be saved. We consider that in that matter the Government should have taken action much earlier. [HON. MEMBERS: "How long ago?"] Directly they came in. We shall be told that we must prepare the ground first. What is the good of preparing the ground when it is slipping from under your feet?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I hope the hon. Member will allow me to make my speech in my own way. I am not saying that the Labour Government did all that it should have done. I have never suggested that and I do not think anyone suggested it. I think that the actions that were taken over a number of years have been wholly' insufficient to deal with the situation in which the world and this country find themselves. I do not think the House realises the gravity of the world situation, I am not trying to raise a scare. I am merely giving the gist of articles and writings by persons of authority who write on this question. These opinions are not from Socialist papers only but from the most serious economic papers in the world and the best informed papers. There can be no doubt whatever about the gravity of the situation. The question is, how far this Government are dealing with it. There are two sides to the problem—the external condition of the world and the internal condition of this country. I do not think that anyone can doubt that one of the troubles of the world is excessive economic nationalism.
The Government have gone on the lines of economic nationalism. It is true that some hon. Members who are Free Traders salve their conscience by imagining that the tariffs they put on are merely in order to bargain to get greater Free Trade, but I am sure that that is not the views of the majority of hon. Members opposite. The majority of hon. Members opposite believe that Protection has come to stay. They want it as a permanent system. Therefore right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite, who are carrying out their "doctor's mandate," must be homeopaths to a man; they find the world suffering from trade restrictions, and they add to those restrictions; they find international trade gradually dying down, and they add to that; and all they claim is that they are slightly better than the rest of the countries of 1379 the world. I do not think that Lausanne is going to get you out of that difficulty.
But what of their home policy? At the same time as they carry on their tariff policy, they are carrying on a home policy of economy. If the tariff policy is designed for anything, it is designed to get an increase in prices. That has been stressed over and over again by almost every hon. Member on the benches opposite, with perhaps the exception of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), but certainly stressed by many of the most distinguished tariffists. They all desire a rise in prices. They deplore the deflation which has gone on throughout the world; but your economy campaign is only a form of deflation. They intend to cut down expenditure on public services. I do not quite know why this curious distinction is made between public and private expenditure, except that apparently it is made with regard to different classes. Apparently, if you manage to keep on educating your child and pay for that, if you are in the upper classes that is good expenditure and it is keeping the country going. If, on the other hand, you pay for education through public funds it is a wicked waste. If you buy your usual amount of food and so on, that is all right; it is justifiable expenditure. On the other hand, unemployment relief and so on you have got to cut down as low as you can. As a matter of fact, there arc persons in the Conservative party who recognise what the true inwardness of that is, as is shown by a speech made by a Noble Lord in another place yesterday, in which he pointed out that all these cuts in social services were, after all, only a transfer of purchasing power among the people of this country. Let them say so quite openly if that is what hon. Gentlemen opposite really mean. If they really mean that they want more money kept in the pockets of the Income Taxpayers and less to go into the pockets of the workers, let them say so quite frankly, and we shall know what they mean, but do not let them pretend that it is due to some idea of economy. There is no economy at all in that.
I think that when you look at the state of this country you have got to consider the position vis-a-vis the world, as if there were a war on. In time of war you have just what is happening to-day: You 1380 have trade upset, exchanges upset, and you have to adopt entirely exceptional means for dealing with the internal situation of the country and the external situation of the country. What is now suggested is that the people of this country should sit down and draw in their belts, cut down social services, cut down education, and go in for all the greatest possible economies on the ground that that is somehow or other going to get us through this crisis. I entirely deny it. I believe that it is utterly futile and wrong to talk so. Supposing a war broke out next week, does anyone suppose that this country would not manage to get food, would not manage to get munitions, would not manage to set its people to work—that there would not be credit enough for that? Does anyone suppose that contracts could not be made for the importation of iron and steel, meat and wheat and so on? Does anyone suppose that the wheels of industry would not be turning, that there would not be munitions, that you would not have people flocking to the colours, if they were willing to fight again, that you would not be able to clothe them and put them into uniforms, arm them and feed them t Of course you would, and it is all hypocrisy and nonsense to say that you could not do it. It is simply because hon. Members opposite will not regard the matter from the point of view of the nation.
Let us look for a moment at what happened in the War. During the War the workers of this country were, on the whole, better fed and better clothed than ever before, and this in spite of the fact that millions of men and women were withdrawn from productive work altogether, and were employed either in fighting or making munitions. How was that done? Let me quote the report of the Colwyn Committee:The War, except so far as money was raised abroad, had clearly to be paid for immediately.As a matter of fact, as everybody knows, our borrowings from abroad were smaller than our lendings to people abroad. As a matter of fact, the whole of the expense of that War was provided by the people of this country out of the labour of this country, except so far as there may have been a small part which was raised by realising securities abroad.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Yes, £1,000,000,000 is a comparatively small proportion. As a matter of fact, if you take the amount which was realised in that way and the amount which was borrowed from the United States of America, and if you set off against that the amount which we lent to our Allies, you find that they amount to about the same sum. It is therefore clear that we were, as a matter of fact, able to carry on the War, to keep our people fed and clothed, and to do all those operations out of the work of the people of this country. Whether it was done by loan or not is merely an internal transaction within the country. If you can do that when you have got four or five millions of people to be kept fighting, you can do it with that standard of life when you have got a number of people whom you are keeping unemployed, and you could do it still better if you could keep them employed.
I maintain that what the Government ought to do in this emergency is to try to increase the circulation of the wealth in this country and production in this country. I want the Government to try to look at this country of ours as a unit, and not as a mere bundle of separate interests. Looked at as an economic unit, what this country has to do is to buy its food and its raw material with its goods and its services. If it can do that it is paying its way, and every bit of work which is done inside this country beyond that, or in the production of goods inside this country from materials produced in this country, is an addition to the wealth of the country, although it is generally described by hon. Members opposite as waste, and is generally ordered to be put down in the name of economy. Those views are not borne out by any economist of repute. In that extraordinarily one-sided view the trouble of hon. Members opposite is that they cannot see the economic life of this country as a whole; they are always looking at individual enterprises, and saying, "Here there is a profit," without counting the loss on the other side, and they say, "Here there is a loss" without counting the profit on the other side.
1382 Let me take one or two little instances. I gave some the other night with regard to the question of roads and bridges. The Government have got to make up their mind, first of all, whether they intend to keep the people of this country fed and clothed. Are there any hon. Members in this House who will suggest that the people of this country, existing in this country, should be starved to death, or should not have enough food? Are there any people who would suggest that they should not be clothed? When you have got your people clothed and fed, why not, recognising that you have got to do that, make use of their services? It is not possible as long as you are bound to the system, or the lack of system, which you have to-day. You cannot do it unless you are prepared, and I know you are not, to go a very long way on the Socialist road. That is just our complaint against you.
The point was well put by an hon. Member opposite, who suggested that things have changed and that we have to take a new view on these matters. He was echoing what has been said by a number of authorities, the most recent of whom is Sir Arthur Salter, The fact is that the present system has entirely broken down; that is evident from the condition of the world, and the Government are laboriously trying now to patch it up when they should think out the inevitability of the situation and the obvious next step. The point made by Sir Arthur Salter was that we have departed from the old laissez faire system, which worked during the nineteenth century, that we are getting all the worst of two systems: that we cannot go back and had better go forward. I know what is in the minds of hon. Members opposite when they talk about economy. They think of the old Gladstonian phrase of money fructifying in the pockets of the people, and they imagine that money is always sterilised if it is in the pockets of the State or municipalities. Mr. Gladstone, although a great authority in his day, was a man of his day. In the nineteenth century we were in much the same position as the people of Russia are to-day. [Interruption.] That is so. At that time most enterprises were small and the only way in which more capital was put into industry was by the individual making 1383 profit and putting it back into the industry.
The industrial supremacy of this country was built up on the profits sweated out of the labour of the people, who worked excessively long hours before the reforms were brought in, many of them by Conservative Governments, for the improvement of factory conditions. You have the same conditions in Soviet Russia to-day. They are saving an excessive amount of their production in order to pile up for the future. The only difference is that they are doing it for the whole of the community, whereas in nineteenth century England it was done for the benefit of a limited number of capitalists. That is the comparison; but that is not the position in this country. There is no difficulty in finding enough capital. This country is wonderfully well equipped with power and the means of production and the means of transport. It is wonderfully well equipped with skilled workers. The point is that we cannot get our goods consumed, we cannot bring production and consumption into relationship. I quite agree that we have to consider our foreign trade. We have to depend on our foreign trade if we want to keep a high standard of life. But while our foreign trade is upset, that does not say that we should not develop internally all our resources and all the wealth of the people.
Our indictment of the Government is that they have no plan whatever; that they are applying an entirely out-of-date point of view, that they have made an entirely false diagnosis of the situation. Ministers contradict each other over and over again. They tell us that we must have economy, that we must not spend, and then the same hon. Member gets up and says that there is a glut of goods all over the world and we cannot sell. The Lord President of the Council says that we have to increase our iron and steel trade and the matter is committed to a wonderful Committee of three, which makes its report that the iron and steel trade ought to be reconstructed if we are to recover our markets. Then we find that there is too much iron and steel in the world and we cannot sell it. When I listened to the Lord President of the Council explaining the position in this country and in Denmark, France, Germany and the United States I felt that I was in the presence of an extremely 1384 kindly warder who was exhibiting to me views of the inmates of some enormous lunatic asylum. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is, I understand, to deal with some specific points in closing the Debate, will try to controvert this proposition.
Is it not a fact that in the world to-day there are the means of production to enable us to provide a full life for the people of the world? Is it the fact that we have to economise because we cannot produce? Is it not really because we cannot distribute and consume our production? If the latter be true, it is perfectly obvious that all the remedies introduced and suggested by the Government are entirely beside the mark and that unless you can increase the consuming capacity of the people of this country you will not be able to get in those goods which you say you want to come from overseas at increased prices. We have a campaign to-day to cut down the standard of life, and, at the same time, right hon. Gentlemen say that we must try to give better prices to producers of food and raw materials from oversea in order to help the Dominions. So, you are going to offer them higher prices, while, at the same time, we are to have nothing here with which to pay them. A suggestion of that kind has never been made outside a lunatic asylum. We say that without a big advance in the Socialist direction, nationally and internationally, this depression is going to deepen and deepen. I do not think that hon. Members realise how serious is the position. I do not think they even realise how serious is the position of the people of this country. It is not only that people are being deprived of food and are suffering physically. It is a case of the ruin of thousands of young people who have never worked at all because they have never had the opportunity. No doubt it is an economy, but you will pay a heavy price in the future in respect of that generation.
We on these benches are not in the least afraid of putting forward this Vote of no confidence in the Government. We have no confidence in this Government. We have no confidence in the system which they represent. We are not afraid to face the situation. [Laughter.] I expected that kind of laughter. I suppose that we shall have the old canard, "You ran away." Well, in regard to the 1385 subject of running away, I will only say that there are some hon. Members opposite who have been soldiers, and I think they will agree with me that the time when one is justified in disobeying the orders of one's captain is when he surrenders to. the enemy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who is the enemy?"] For five and twenty years I followed the present Prime Minister. [Interruption.] I followed the present Prime Minister in a certain policy which hon. Members opposite may think is a mistaken policy, but I believe in it—the policy of Socialism. I was sent for at a moment's notice and told by my Leader that he proposed to go over to the enemy, that he proposed to adopt—and he has adopted, holus bolus—the policy of the people to whom he was opposed, that when faced with a crisis he was going to help to save the enemy's cause, Capitalism, and not to fight any more for Socialism.
Hon. Members will perhaps think we are a little bitter. Let me suggest a parallel, and then perhaps they will understand our position. Suppose at the time of the General Strike the Lord President of the Council had suddenly come down to hon. Members then on the Conservative benches and said, "I am sorry, but I am determined, with the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and one or two more, that the right thing to do is to go over to Labour. I have made arrangements with the Liberals, and therefore I propose to take over the. Government and socialise the mines right away." Supposing that he then proposed to have an election, and had one, in which he did his utmost to tell the people the utmost possible misrepresentation about you, and that when you were returned, a small remnant, you found that he not only did that, being cheered by the Labour men, and not only nationalised the mines and the land and abolished the House of Lords, but went in for a fairly full Socialist policy, and then, when you complained, one of us got up and said, "You ran away; why did you not follow him?"
That is the situation, and I hope that we shall not hear any more about running away. As far as we are concerned, we are perfectly prepared at any time to accept that challenge. We believe that the only way to meet the difficulties facing this country and the world is to be found 1386 in our Socialist principles. We believe that your principles have brought the world to disaster and that you will inevitably bring the world to utter disaster unless you change them.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
This Debate has now been in progress for about seven hours, and we have heard, I suppose, the full case that has been made against the Government. It has been summarised by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I am bound to say that I think the Government may be profoundly congratulated on the result of the Debate. There were three maiden speeches, and I am sure that everybody who is in the House will join with me in congratulating those who made them. There were the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Stones) and the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Pearson), and they both made contributions which were extremely welcome to those who heard them. There was also the speech of the hon. Member for South West St. Pancras (Mr. Mitcheson), who made a suggestion of rather a technical nature directly affecting the Board of Trade, and I am authorised by the Board of Trade to say that they will communicate with him on the points that he raised and will give every consideration to the facts that he put before the House.
I have been in this House now a good long time, and I have listened to a good many Debates on Motions of Censure, and have taken part in some, but I confess that I have never listened to a Debate on a Motion of Censure which must have struck everybody as so hollow, so unreal and so ill-founded as this Debate. Nothing has been said to dispel that notion or to satisfy the House that this Motion should be passed. I can tell the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) that I am afraid ha must, with such resolute reluctance as he can muster, face up to this fact, that what is in the mind of the House, what is in the mind of the country, and what is in the mind of a distracted Europe are not feelings of censure against the Government, but feelings of profound relief that the hon. Gentleman and his friends are no longer responsible for the conduct of affairs. With regard to debts and reparations, I thought—in fact, I have often been told by hon. Gentlemen opposite— that it was a matter of common agree- 1387 ment that the very difficult questions of debts and reparations which are being discussed at Lausanne must be settled before there is any hope of a return to world-wide prosperity. These are questions which are taxing the intelligence of the most experienced men in every country, and I will quote, because I entirely agree with it, a passage from the Manifesto of the Socialist party at the last election.The Labour party has never failed to insist upon the intimate relation between war debts, reparations and economic depression. It believes that the general acceptance of President Hoover's moratorium on War Debts permits a reconsideration of the whole question.With that I entirely agree. It is for the purpose of considering those very questions that we have sent to Lausanne what, I suppose, is the most authoritative delegation that ever left this country, and the Prime Minister himself is the President of it. Yet what happens? Very largely through his efforts there has been made what we are encouraged to believe is a hopeful beginning towards the approach to the settlement of these matters. If ever there were a time when this country should speak with a united voice it is now, but what happens? No sooner had the Prime Minister left these shores, no sooner had his colleagues begun on their fateful task, than hon. Gentlemen opposite tabled a Motion which, if successful, would have humiliated the Prime Minister and destroyed the Government. What, then, would have been the effect on Lausanne? Lausanne would have wholly failed in achieving the objects which hon. Gentlemen opposite know as well as we do are so necessary. The truth of the matter is that the success of this Motion would have been received with consternation in every part of the world.
The Opposition seek to condemn us because we have not in nine months restored national prosperity. The hon. Member for Limehouse told us that things are not better than when they left office. May I remind him that the first condition precedent to prosperity is to restore national confidence. National confidence, which is the greatest asset which any nation can have, was in deadly peril of being destroyed last August, and we have to-day not only confidence in ourselves, but, what is equally important, 1388 we have inspired confidence in others. That is something, at any rate, for which this country may be indeed grateful to the National Government. I need not remind the House that last August sterling was suspect and our credit was impugned. To-day sterling is the strongest currency in the world, and our credit is the firmest. The National Government have performed the supremely successful feat of preventing the depreciation of the exchange from being accompanied by any one of the adverse reactions with which such an event is ordinarily and almost inevitably accompanied. Can anybody say that if the exchange had depreciated when the party opposite were in office there would have been the same result? Of course there would not.
Many of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite have dealt with what they call our failure to deal with unemployment. I am very glad that question has been raised, because I propose to apply myself to it, but before I do so I will make one general observation to which I think no one will take exception. It is perfectly clear that this country is passing through a stage of economic development not very different from that which it passed through 100 years ago. At that time, when work passed from the home to the factory, and from hand to machine, there was a dislocation and a disturbance the tradition of which still remains in my county of Nottinghamshire, and it was accompanied by very great distress. To-day, owing to that reorganisation and amalgamation which we call by that lather barbaric word "rationalisation" exactly the same thing is taking place but just as that period 100 years ago was followed, at a not very long interval, by a period of prosperity, so I have no reason whatever to doubt that the same process which is going on to-day will also be followed by a period of prosperity.
The conclusion I draw from that is that the figures of unemployment, about which I am going to say something in a moment, may not be the true, or perhaps the best, criterion of the position of the country, either actually or relatively to others. I am not going to repeat the figures which the Lord President gave when he opened this Debate, but there is one figure which was not given, and that is the index of industrial production. In 1931 the figure for the first quarter was 95—that is, in 1389 relation to 100; for the second quarter it was 91.8, for the third quarter 89.4 and for the last quarter 97.1. That shows that during the whole of last year when the Labour Government were in office there was a diminishing figure of production. For the first quarter of this year the figure was 95.6, showing that since the National Government took control we have recovered the whole of the ground we lost last year. Those are figures which the House might well consider when it is assumed that this country is going downhill, for they show that it is standing up to the impact of world forces far better than any other country in the world.
Although I do not attach too much importance to actual figures, I am going to state one or two about which there can be no dispute at all, and am going to make some comment on the construction which has been put upon them by hon. Gentlemen opposite. In the six months -and it is quite useless for the purposes of comparison to take less than six monthly figures-from 30th March last year to 28th September, when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office, the figures of unemployment rose continuously from 2,580,000 to 2,825,000, an increase of 250,000. In the six months from September of last year to March this year they fell from 2,825,000 to 2,567,000, or a decrease of over 250,000. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) discovered a number of 186,000 persons which, he said for some reason, should be added to the present total, and then the figures would be higher than they had ever been before. May I point out that of the 186,000 half are married women struck off under the Anomalies Act for which hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible, and they represent the people who were on the register. What is the inference to be drawn from that fact? Those people are no longer registering or using the facilities of the Employment Exchanges, and therefore I dispute the statement that that 186,000 should be added to the total.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Did not the right hon. Gentleman, in his official publication of the Ministry of Labour, say that they ought to be added for purposes of comparison?
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
It must be remembered that that 186,000 represent 1390 people who do not register, and if they do not register the inference is that they do not want the facilities of the Employment Exchange in order to get work. Consequently, I dispute that that 186,000 should be added to the total. Making every allowance for what the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street says, this broad fact remains, that whereas the figures were going up by leaps and bounds last, year-and unless they had been checked they would probably have been between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000., and probably nearer 4,000,000 than 3,000,000-we have at least arrested that increase, and the position is infinitely better to-day than it was then. [Interruption,]
I am going to give some other figures which I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will find equally interesting. I am going to give the figures of those in employment. The increase of those in employment between September last year and April this year is 158,000, and during the last year of office of the Labour Government the numbers in employment decreased by 353,000. What now becomes of the charge that we have done nothing to give employment to the people? It is perfectly obvious if the figures are going up when formerly they were going down, there has been an immense change for the better. We have been told that we have done nothing to restore national prosperity, but I would ask hon. Gentlement opposite to compare our record of employment with the figures of employment when the Labour Government were in office, and when those figures went down by 353,000.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street and the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) raised, as I knew they would, the question of coal. I think it will be the desire of the House that I should say a word about that subject. It has been perfectly obvious to me, and, indeed, to the House, that hon. Gentlemen who, like the two hon. Members and many others, representing mining divisions, are very worried and anxious about the position of the coal trade. I entirely share their anxiety, and I am worried too, but they have formed the view, I am sure quite genuinely, that the diminution in the export of coal is due to the tariff policy and they would say-I think I am putting their case quite fairly-that this is part of the price which, whatever benefits tariffs may have in other direc- 1391 tions, the coal industry will have to pay. I have given the very best consideration that I could to this matter, and it seems to me to be clear that these restrictions fall, broadly, ino three categories. First, there are exchange restrictions; secondly, there are increased import duties; and, thirdly, of course, there are the quota restrictions.
With regard to the exchange restrictions, I can find no evidence at all that they have any relation whatever to the fiscal policy of this country. Certainly, there has been a great variation in the extent of these exchange restrictions, but in all cases they have been imposed equally against all countries for the purpose of maintaining the currencies of the countries in which they are imposed, and, as my right hon. Friend pointed out at the beginning of the Debate, no fewer than 30 countries have adopted exchange restrictions. Many of the restrictions so adopted by these 30 countries were actually put into operation before the General Election, and so there can be no question of any policy of ours having any relationship at all to these restrictions, because they were actually put into operation when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office.
As regards the import duties, these again have been applied equally to all countries, and cannot, therefore, be said to have been put on in retaliation against Great Britain. They have in fact been put on for the purpose, as can be well understood in these days, of reducing imports and redressing the trade balances of the countries concerned.
I now come to the third category, which is of particular interest to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to which both the hon. Member for Aberdare and the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street referred. So far as quota restrictions are concerned, they are only in operation in three countries, Belgium, France and Germany. So far as Belgium and France are concerned, they could not have been put into operation in consequence of anything that we did in our fiscal policy, because, in the case of France, these quota restrictions were actually put on in August last, when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office, and in the case of Belgium they were put on, I think, in October or at the end of September of last year.
1392 That leaves only the question of Germany. As the House knows, there have been very strong representations from this country to Germany on the matter of quota restrictions. We protested to the German Government against the fact that, while they have drastically reduced the amount of United Kingdom coal allowed to enter Germany, they have not imposed similar reductions in regard to coal coming from other countries. That is the point which was put by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street. The German Government have, however, after an exchange of further Notes between the two Governments, suggested that the question whether their treatment of British coal is a breach of the Anglo-German Treaty of 1924 should be referred to arbitration, and have intimated that, in order to expedite the hearing, the Tribunal should consist of one German and one British arbitrator, with a neutral president. At the same time, they have suggested that other treaty questions outstanding between the two Governments should also be referred to arbitration. I am authorised to say that this proposal has received the very serious consideration of the Government, and it is hoped that a reply will be sent shortly. What I have been able to say, therefore, is a very great advance on what could have been said a few days ago, and I think that it will be satisfactory to the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member for Aberdare raised the question of the coal exports to Italy under The Hague agreement. As he knows, under that agreement Italy was to take one million tons annually for three years. There is at present a balance of coal due from this country of 1,200,000 tons. It is not the fact that the office of the Italian Government in Cardiff has been closed, nor is it the fact that any official intimation has been received that the balance will not be taken. The Government have no reason to believe that this balance will not be taken. That deals with the question of coal.
There was another point which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate. He said that we should provide good, useful and proper work at proper wages, and that we should put the unemployed to work. He suggested the reclamation of land. I would remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman was for two years in office 1393 and he had to consider exactly those problems. What happened? During the time that the Labour Government were in office the Unemployment Grants Committee provided assistance for work of an actual value of no less than £80,000,000, and the Lewis Committee provided works of the value of £40,000,000. What was the result? At the very peak the largest number of persons directly employed at any one time was not more than 125,000. I only offer this as showing how infinitesimal is the number you can put into employment by relief work. During the time that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were in office unemployment in this country rose by 150 per cent., or by 1,600,000. It is perfectly useless to pretend that relief works can solve the problem.
I will repeat the figures I gave some time ago. If you take all that has been spent, including expenditure on housing which, of course, is not strictly relief work at all, we have spent no less than £700,000,000 since 1924 in works of this kind, and local authorities have increased their outstanding indebtedness between 1921 and 1930 by no less than £565,000,000. That burden has to be borne by the community, and we are firmly convinced that to increase the burdens on the Exchequer in the future, as they have been increased in the past, would have the very opposite result from that which is claimed, and would increase and not diminish unemployment.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I do not remember that the right hon. Gentleman did, but they are, in fact, relief works, whether you call them relief works or not. If you spend money for the relief of unemployment that is what I call relief work. I have time to say only a word or two more. The last part of the Motion deals with what is called the deplorable treatment of the unemployed. I would remind the House that as far as standard benefit and the reduction of 10 per cent.
§ which was justified last August by reason of the fall in the cost of living are concerned, the facts are that since that time the cost of living has gone down by another three points. Therefore, so far as those on standard benefit are concerned, they are actually better off, when you, have regard to the cost of living, than at the time when the Act was passed by the late Labour Government.
§ So far as those on transitional benefit are concerned, I would remind the House again that we are spending no less than £41,750,000 on transitional payments, and altogether we are providing for the relief of those unemployed a sum not less than £100,000,000 a year, which is equal to the whole Budget of this country at the time when some Members now in the House first entered it. These transitional payments are, in fact, relief paid out of public funds. They are in part provided out of taxation paid by those who are in many instances little better off than the recipients themselves, and it would not only be impossible but in my view it would be wrong to ask the taxpayers to provide this money without making some inquiry whether the recients need it or not.
§ I ask the House to reject the Motion by a very large majority. I hope that the size of the majority will be the measure of the contempt with which the House regards the Motion, and that it will be a measure of encouragement to the Prime Minister and his colleagues at Lausanne which will show him that we Here are determined to support him in the great work he is doing, and that we are united in our determination to extricate the country from the morass which at one time threatened to engulf it.
That His Majesty's Government, having appealed to the country for a free hand to take such action as it thought fit to restore national prosperity and to deal with unemployment, and having entirely failed in these objects as is shown by the steady diminution of trade and industry at Home and abroad and the increase of unemployment, together with the deplorable conditions to which the unemployed are being subjected, has forfeited the confidence of this House.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 47; Noes, 4461397
|Division No. 258.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Cape, Thomas|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Cocks, Frederick Seymour|
|Batey, Joseph||Buchanan, George||Cove, William G.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hirst, George Henry||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Daggar, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Edwards, Charles||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thorne, William James|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Kirk wood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lunn, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||McGovern, John|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maxton, James||Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Milner, Major James|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G,||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)|
|Albery, Irving James||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Alexander, Sir William||Chalmers, John Rutherford||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Chotzner, Alfred James||Falls Sir Bertram G.|
|Apsley, Lord||Christie, James Archibald||Fermoy, Lord|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Fielden, Edward Brockiehurst|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Clarry, Reginald George||Fleming, Edward Lascelles|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Ford, Sir Patrick J.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Collins, Sir Godfrey||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Colville, John||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Balniel, Lord||Conant, R. J. E.||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Cook, Thomas A.||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cooke, Douglas||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Cooper, A. Duff||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Copeland, Ida||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Courtauid, Major John Sewell||Gledhill, Gilbert|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B.(Portsm'th, C.)||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Cowan, D. M.||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Cranborne, Viscount||Goff, Sir Park|
|Bernays, Robert||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Crooke, J. Smedley||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Granville, Edgar|
|Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Crossley, A. C.||Graves, Marjorie|
|Blinded. James||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Bossom, A. C.||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Greene, William P. C.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Curry, A. C.||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Grimston, R. V.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Davison, Sir William Henry||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Dawson, Sir Philip||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E.R.)||Denville, Alfred||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Dickie, John P.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Donner, P. W.||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Z'tl'nd)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Doran, Edward||Hammersley, Samuel S.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Drewe, Cedric||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Burnett, John George||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Harbord, Arthur|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Duggan, Hubert John||Harris, Sir Percy|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Dunglass, Lord||Hartland, George A.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Eady, George H.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)|
|Caine, G. R. Hall.-||Eales, John Frederick||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Eastwood, John Francis||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Eden, Robert Anthony||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Edge, Sir William||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Milne, Charles||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Milne, Sir John S. Wardlaw.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Scone, Lord|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Mitcheson, G: G.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Morgan, Robert H.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Morrison, William Shephard||Slater, John|
|Hurd, Sir Percy||Moss, Captain H. J.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Munro, Patrick||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Smithers, Waldron|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)|
|Janner, Barnett||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Jennings, Roland||North, Captain Edward T.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||O'Connor, Terence James||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Ormiston, Thomas||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Patrick, Colin M.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Peake, Captain Osbert||Stevenson, James|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Pearson, William G.||Stewart, William J.|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||peat, Charles U.||Stones, James|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Storey, Samuel|
|Knebworth, Viscount||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Petherick, M||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Peto Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Pickering, Ernest H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Leckie, J. A.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Pike, Cecil F.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Lees-Jones, John||Potter, John||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Power Sir John Cecil||Templeton, William P.|
|Levy, Thomas||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lewis, Oswald||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Pybus, Percy John||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Train, John|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Ramsay, Capt. A. H.M. (Midlothian)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Ramsden, E.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Rankin, Robert||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Mabane, William||Rathbone, Eleanor||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Ray, Sir William||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|McKeag, William||Remer, John R.||White, Henry Graham|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|McLean, Major Alan||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|McLean, Dr. W H. (Tradeston)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S)|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Robinson, John Roland||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Magnay, Thomas||Rosbotham, S. T.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Maitland, Adam||Ross, Ronald D.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Meller, Richard James||Salmon, Major Isidore||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Millar, Sir James Duncan||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Captain Margesson and Mr.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Harcourt Johnstone.|