§ Mr. LANSBURY
I beg to move,That by their failure to deal effectively with the economic situation at Home, as shown by the increasing volume of unemployment, insistence upon a false economy in the social services, the imposition of a means test upon unemployed persons, and the unauthorised pursuit of a policy opposed to the restoration of world trade, His Majesty's Government have forfeited the confidence of, the country and of this House.We do not propose to discuss the whole of the Social Services which the Govern-mint have attacked during the past 12 months. We hope to secure in the arrangements with the Government for time, opportunities for special discussion on education. We think that that subject ought to be discussed alone and that the House should be given an opportunity of coming to a decision on the latest proposals of the Government with reference to it. We shall discuss the means test to-night, but we hope that there will be sufficient time, and we shall do our best to help the Government to give us sufficient time, thoroughly to discuss and amend, and, if possible, to carry, the Bill which is coming before the House. There is no use touching the present means test or any means test unless we take the unemployed out of the Poor Law away from the public assistance committees and deal with them as a national question. If the Government consider that men who work in agriculture or on the railways or other industries that are not insured should continue under the Poor Law, I can only point out to the Prime Minister that the policy, which the party to which he formerly belonged laid down in "Labour and the Nation" and in our Amendment to the Derating Act, was that the whole of the able-bodied unemployed should be removed from the Poor Law for good and all.
The 1834 barbarity of the Poor Law has caused the difficulties with which we are confronted to-day. The present arrangement is based on the view that the nation cannot bear the cost of unemployment and also that the locality cannot bear it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in days when he was more free than he is now, used to lead the Birmingham Corporation on deputations to Ministers pleading that the locality could not bear the burden of unemployment; but the Government of which he is Chancellor of the Exchequer, 834 which is lead by the Prime Minister, has turned it right round and said that the family shall bear the burden of unemployment. Young children are now called upon to maintain parents and parents are called upon to maintain adult sons and daughters. It is the wickedest and most, immoral imposition upon the working classes that has ever been made, and it is because of this iniquitous business, the fact that you cannot trust the administration of this business to Government Departments, that our party have come to the conclusion that we shall light any means test that may be proposed by the Government. I hope that is clear and definite.
Twelve months ago the scene in this House was very different from what it is now. The National Government came in "on their toes," as it were. There was tremendous enthusiasm. We were to be launched on the broad highway to prosperity, and everything was going to be better than ever—if only we had patience, if only we would trust His Majesty's Government. I am well aware Chat all the speakers were careful to hedge a little, arid to say, "It will take time; but we shall steadily and persistently get to our goal." In the 12 months since then we have not even moved sideways, like the crab, we have positively gone backwards. I am sure the Prime Minister will not deny that if we take into account the men and women who have been put off the Employment Exchanges and pushed on to their families, those who have lost hope and now do not register, the figure of the unemployed is well over 3,000,000. About that there cannot be any question whatsoever. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke recently at that famous luncheon—the luncheon at which all the Tory Ministers were present: it was called some jiggery pokery name that did not mean very much: I mean the National Labour luncheon—he claimed some credit because the number of the unemployed had not reached 3,000,000. I want to tell him across the Table that he knows perfectly well the number very considerably exceeds 3,000,000. During the 12 months the number has steadily risen.
Last week the right hon. Gentleman challenged us to say that the Government were responsible for the increase, and went on to give expression to a good 835 Socialist doctrine that unemployment is inherent in the system of society under which we live. We do not deny that; but what we do say is that he is now at the head of a Government which does not accept that analysis of society, and he is now applying principles which he knows perfectly well cannot affect the question of unemployment one way or the other. The Government have had 12 months in which to apply their policy of tariffs, and they have at the same time converted some portion of the outstanding loans. All that has been done, and yet, in the end, the condition of the mass of the people is considerably worse than when they took office. I notice that a right hon. Gentleman laughs. It is the fact that the class to which he belongs and to which I belong are not suffering, but the great mass of the working people are suffering. About that there is no question whatsoever. It is quite true that in the midst of all this suffering last Winter, and I have no doubt in the midst of it this Winter, the West End of London's season will be, as it was stated to be last season, one of the most successful that has ever been seen. About that there can be no question. But no one can deny that the condition of the masses is worse than it was 12 months ago, and no one can deny that that is in spite of, if it is not due to, the Tory policy which the Government have adopted. That must be patent to anybody.
It is also quite true that no one is more hopeless about the present position than spokesmen for the Government and for the City. I listened last Thursday night to the right hon. Gentleman, and thought the latter part of his speech was the most pessimistic confession of hopeless failure that ever a Member of a Government could have made. It was honest and sincere, and I respect him for having made it, but it was not any compliment to the work of his Government during the past 12 months. If that be not sufficient we have had a speech from Mr. Montagu Norman, who was the archapostle of the policy which was forced on the country 12 months ago; because the Government and the country must not forget that Mr. Montagu Norman came to this House with Mr. Sprague, the American adviser to the 836 Bank of England, and, up in the Committee Rooms, told two large bodies of Members of Parliament that wages must come down, that social services must be cut down or abandoned, that we must get right down to bed rock in regard to the costs of labour, and so on.
All that has been done, we have had 12 months of that, and at the end this great financier, this marvellous genius in the realm of money, tells us on Thursday that he feels he is looking to the end of a tunnel, that there may be a glimmer of light somewhere, but that he has really lost heart and does not know where he is. That is a pretty fine state of affairs! That is a pretty fine statement! If it had been made by a Labour Minister from the Treasury Bench all the Members now on the benches opposite me, if they were then on this side, would have made the House ring with their denunciations of us and their jeers. Then what do we hear from supporters of the Government in the House itself, men like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who we are all very sorry is away from the House—sorry for the causes of his being away. These three right hon. Gentleman have not ceased to say whenever they have spoken, that what is wrong with the world is the monetary and currency arrangements, and that until those are dealt with there is practically no hope. I am not now going to argue whether that is right or wrong. I am only pointing out that when we come to balance up the record of the Government even its chief supporters admit that its policy has done nothing, and it has left over something of even greater importance, without which everything else is of no avail.
That was the miserere chanted by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook the other evening, and I would ask the Prime Minister, "What are poor innocents like me to think about all this?" Here are the men who are the greatest geniuses in the country all confessing their hopeless failure. The right hon. Gentleman told us something just now—not very much. He said he knew what was happening to the Exchange Equalisa- 837 tion Fund. As I read the placards about the pound conning down, I start shaking, and wonder whether the prophecies of the right hon. Gentleman are coming true, and that I. shall have to carry a sackful of notes around; whether the horrible fate which he pictured to the eletors of Seaham is really coming true under his rule and guidance after all. If these things had happened under a Labour Government hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have said, "Drive out of Parliament these wretched Socialist Members who are sitting there, a set of incompetents." But now nobody is troubling, and it is said although the pound may go a little lower, or a lot lower, "Thank God we are here, and it does not matter, so long as we keep the Socialists out." It only shows what humbug it all is. I really admire the cynicism of the right hon. Gentleman in all these matters. I enjoy it and appreciate it very much, but the people in the country cannot appreciate it, because while you are fooling round like this, while the Chairman of the Bank of England is having, as Low depicts, a merry-go-round with a pile of gold, people are starving, and nothing is being done to alleviate their misery.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer put in his word of hope which is something fresh for him, at any rate. He made a speech on Saturday at a municipal bank, of all places in the world. I wonder the right hon. Gentleman dare go near that Socialist kind of institution where they teach people how to deposit their money and not have it run away with by Kreuger and other people, but where their money is really safe, and the right hon. Gentleman tells them it is safe. He thought he would strike a note of hope and glory for the country. We were on the verge of new things. I used to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. I heard him at the Brighton conference when he said, "All will be well," and I heard him at that Box, and I did my best to say "Hear, hear." I hoped for the best. The right hon. Gentleman said he can see signs, and Mr. Montagu Norman sees them at the end of a tunnel, but I do not know where the tunnel is going to. 838 The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well there may be a slight fluctuation in the figures of unemployment. His right hon. Friend will tell him that at Christmas time there are a lot of people employed by the Post Office, in shops and at odd jobs, and if the numbers do not go down then, well, God help you! He knows perfectly well that there is no hope whatever of any improvement in the figures of unemployment. There cannot be with the world conditions as they are to-day. The world conditions are that everywhere in this country and abroad, in the Dominions and foreign countries, there are more goods, more commodities, than within the capitalist system the workers are allowed to use. When I say "workers," I mean the general body of the people. About that there cannot be any dispute. Everywhere there is superabundance, and how have the Government met this during the coming year? [Interruption.] Well, during the past year; and they are proposing to meet it in the coming year in exactly the same way. They have gone in for economy. They have gone in for reductions of wages, and they have generally depressed the spending power of the nation. They have so alarmed people that people with a little money to spend are afraid of spending it. They tell everybody that economy must be the order of the day, and in their own Departments they have cut down in every direction, and have supported directly or indirectly the chimand that wages must come down, with the result that there is everywhere a restriction of consumption.
I do not know whether people understand that in a place like Poplar, which is cursed with exceedingly high rates —[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because we have an exceedingly large number of poor people, and to-day they are being starved by the public assistance committee of London. The right hon. Gentleman can send down, if he pleases, and inquire from every shopkeeper in Poplar, and he will find that they would rather live under the conditions of heavy rates and maintain the poor than have practically no income coming in and the poor starving outside their shops. That is what is happening through this curtailing of expenditure on the unemployed and the poor generally. The same thing happens with regard to wages. If you 839 cut down a man's wages, his spending power and that of his family is cut down. Consequently, in a time like this, in a time of abundance, to cut down expenditure is the most tomfool policy that could be adopted. What is needed today is more expenditure. I have heard an argument from Philip Snowden until I have got tired of hearing it, and I have heard the same argument from the Tory benches until I have been nauseated by it. It is the argument that if you take money from the taxpayer, and spend it on social service, then, in some mysterious way, that is all lost; it 'does not bring anything back. For the life of me, I cannot understand that argument at all. The money is not lost; it is circulated, and must be making trade in some form or another. If there is a millionaire from whom I take away £10,000, and he cannot buy a couple of £5,000 motor cars, and I spend that £10,000 on 10,000 poor people by giving them a pound apiece to spend, surely they will make as good use of the money.
I am certain that it is economically true, and I repeat deliberately that what is needed to-day is more real spending of the nation's money. That brings me to this point. It used to be said that there is not any money. I remember standing at this Box and denying that proposition 12 months ago. It was said that we were using up the nation's credit by using the money on social services. I denied it then, and I deny it now, and 12 months have proved that I was right, because to-day what is the matter with the City of London? We have commodities we cannot consume, and money and credit we cannot use. That is the position in which we have been placed to-day. I say deliberately that what is needed is that we should have a great public expenditure organised by those gentlemen here, or people they appoint, for the purpose of reorganising the staple industries of this country, and, incidentally, find employment for the people.
The idea that gold is something that is sacred and sacrosanct—why, if all the gold in the world were sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic, the world would go on just the same. This mysticism about gold has been stripped almost bare, and I hope to live long enough to see the mystery exploded for good and 840 all. The idea that this or any country cannot get on without it is nonsense, and I put this against the doctrine of the Gold Standard and the present currency arrangements with which men gamble, that the Government long ago, and the right hon. Gentleman especially, should have insisted that the currency of this country, and, if possible, the currency of the Empire, should be based on a commodity basis, and it should be used for the only purpose for which money is necessary to be used, that is, to bring consumption into relation with production, to determine what goods you need to produce for the consuming power of the people. As it is, to-day the greater your productive power, the less the consumption of the people. About that there is no question. Look round the world and you see it everywhere, and the idea that the people are going to submit to this kind of thing seems to me to' be sheer madness. The people outside are wanting someone to tell them when we are going to begin to get out of this terrible plight. We are deeper in it than ever.
I want to say one word about the Empire in this connection. As I understand the argument of Ottawa, it is that we are doing our best to make the Empire a self-contained unit within which there shall be free trade between the partners of that Empire or Commonwealth, and that outside it you shall have protection against other people. I want only to point out, in passing, that America is a self-contained continent with free trade between all the various States, and with protection against the outside. Yet within that self-contained Empire there are 13,000,000 unemployed. There is the same poverty problem with which we are faced to-day, and the same monetary problems with which we are faced to-day, and all of them are due to one fundamental cause to which I want, finally, to bring this House back. The fundamental cause is that the whole world is organised on a competitive basis, each country competing one with the other, blindly, chaotically, without any relationship with each other at all, all of them pouring out commodities, turning out millions of pounds' worth of goods, quite irrespective of whether they are needed under the competitive system of marketing, and quite irrespective of the effect of their production either 841 on the people who produce them or on the people all round.
The world has got to the position, the terrible position, that in every country the problem that we are talking about to-day is being put forward, and statesmen are trying to settle it within the four corners of the system which has produced it. The Labour party, up to a year ago, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, thought that we could work within the capitalist system and work outwards towards Socialism. We are convinced that the economic development of the world will prevent that being done. We are quite certain that it is no use trying to palliate or cure the evils that capitalism produces. Therefore, when we get the opportunity—[Interruption]—I should not prophesy unless I knew—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We have come to the conclusion that we must say to the people in the country with whom we come into contact that there is no cure, no short cut, and no roundabout way out of the evils from which they are suffering. We shall tell them that—and no one knows that better than the Prime Minister—and we shall ask them to give us power, or to give some party in the State power to take over the industries of the country, reorganise them, and rationalise them. [Interruption.] We cannot make a worse mess of it than other people have done. We shall rationalise them so that, instead of every increase in the power to produce meaning more unemployment and poverty, it will produce a higher standard of life. There is no sense—[Laughter.] An hon. Member laughs. Perhaps he will speak later. I will put this to him: Will he please tell me why there should be a single invention of any sort of machine, if that machine does not minister to a higher standard of life and comfort for the individual?
It is no use blinking this, and it is no use trying to dodge it. The increase of machinery, the continued application of science to manufactures has brought us to our present state. Within Capi- 842 talism we have not yet found a way to distribute the enormous quantity of goods which are being produced. It may be that money has something to do with the circulation of the goods. I am not sufficiently acquainted with that to be able to say. I am simply stating the fact and the fact is as I have stated it, namely, that we are going to ask the people of this country, whenever we get a chance of speaking to them, to turn their minds away from the competitive struggle which beggars everybody, and, instead, to concentrate upon the principle of real co-operation in our own land and to see that every single acre of it is cultivated for the service of the country; to see that coal mining is organised, not as it is now, with districts fighting each other, but on a co-operative basis for service, and to treat all the other great staple industries in the same way.
There is no hope for the world within Capitalism by juggling with tariffs. Thee is no hope for mankind by going back merely to Free Trade, of which we have had much more than half a century, at the end of which we see the present plight of the world. I am not blaming individual employers, or individual members of the Government, except to this extent—if they know the truth then they ought to follow the truth wherever it leads them. The Prime Minister and those acting with him, Lord Snowden and the rest of them, have taught the masses of the people that within Capitalism the betterment of the people could not be accomplished. It is true that they said that it could not come all at once, but we have taken a long time to reach the point that we have reached to-day with the Prime Minister as Leader of the Tory Government.
The advocates of Capitalism, the great financial magnates of the City of London, have sent out the edict that they cannot maintain the unemployed, and that they cannot give the unemployed a decent standard of existence. They have sent out their edict to the Members of this House, to tell them that, in order to bring back capitalist prosperity, wages must come down and the conditions of the workers must be depressed lower and lower. We refuse to accept that, and we refuse to take that as any sort of doctrine that will bring peace or contentment. Against it, we put the old Socialist 843 principle that industry must be organised, that money must be used for the purpose of bringing to mankind all the good things that capitalism has enabled us to produce, and which Capitalism does not know how to distribute.
Part of the House apparently is in a mood to think that we are moving this Motion from political and ordinary party motives. [Interruption.] I am quite willing that those who are impeccable in their conduct, and who are so unimpeachable in their virtues should think that. We must be responsible for whatever of conscience yet remains to many of us. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. MAXTON
The difference between myself and the Leader of the Opposition is that he is not allowed to be responsible for his conscience. He is responsible for the Labour party. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I will only say to the hon. Gentleman that he has known me for a good many years, and when he reaches my age after he has stood for his conscience, and has to suffer for his conscience—as I have done——
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That remark is worthy of the hon. Gentleman, but for my part he is welcome to that opinion. I was going to say that there is one aspect of this question which, whatever we may think or say about each other, still remains. There are 3,000,000 people out on the streets unemployed, the mass of them very poor people——
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Who made them poor? Who robbed the starving girls, leaving them without a penny piece?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Before I sit down I will repeat what I have said many times in this House. It may very well be that for a time at least the present Government, and those who manage the capitalist arrangements may continue, but they are building up and allowing to grow up a mass of young men and young women who are without hope, and who are depressed 844 in mind, body, and spirit. People complain sometimes because those young people break loose. Surely it is better that they should show some fight against the infamous conditions under which they are condemned to live. Surely you do not want them to sink right down without any voice of protest? This is not going to be cured by soft words, or by any of us thinking that any sort of charity or kind words will heal it. Only deeds and action will heal it. What we are demanding is that this nation, instead of having its eyes on the ends of the earth, should look first at our own country which is still undeveloped, and is still waiting for developing, and that we should, here and now, use the immense resources which it possesses to develop our own land.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
I must confess that when read this Vote of Censure on the Order Paper for the first time, I wondered why my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was moving it. It was appropriate perhaps to some of my hon. Friends, and my right hon. Friend had to excuse himself for sharing so largely in the deplorable results which are now cited from that bench. He referred to his conscience, and consequently before he finished his speech, he had to tell us something that really amounted to an extremely odd confession. He said: "Up to twelve months ago I was as bad as the worst of them. I was a Socialist. I believed in all the things that I have been expounding and explaining during the last 20 minutes. I believed in the co-ordination of industry, and this, that and the other thing, but twelve months ago I saw a great light. Twelve months ago I saw that all this was wrong, and then the whole method of the Socialist movement changed, and I who am responsible for the increase of unemployment, I, who am responsible for trying to show my approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, now stand up and confess that the Labour party has changed itself completely, and has now ceased to be an evolutionary party, and has become a revolutionary party." The reason why he censures us, the reason why he censures the Government, is that he himself has changed his opinion, and wishes to have an heroic opportunity, and a political opportunity, 845 and a more or less respectable opportunity, of palming off his own conversion on to public opinion. But I am going to deal with the Resolution, and not with my right hon. Friend. His Resolution is very sparing in its review of the facts. He describes the conduct of national affairs, but he confines himself very much to a small corner of them. He says nothing about the international aspect—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I thought that probably the Patronage Secretary would have informed the right hon. Gentleman that we deliberately kept out foreign affairs for another day, so that we could have a nice day on that.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I hope my right hon. Friend will be more successful. As a matter of fact, I did not mean the international situation in relation to what are commonly known as foreign affairs, that is to say, Foreign Office affairs. The Government, when it came into office, was faced with a very serious financial situation, which was both international and national. The Government had to balance its Budget; the Government had to protect the financial situation of the country; the Government had to restore international confidence in our position; the Government had to meet a situation which, if unmet, would have left the country absolutely in a bankrupt state. That is warded off, and, because it is warded off—because the Budget is balanced, because there is a restoration of confidence—the right hon. Gentleman holds forth in the way that he does. It is only so far as the action of the Government has restored confidence, only so far as the action of the Government has staved off the financial situation which existed 12 months ago, that the right hon. Gentleman can indulge in the somewhat loose language regarding future administration which he has indulged in this afternoon.
He seems to lay chief emphasis upon the increase of unemployment. Hon. Members will discover, from the wording of the Resolution, that that is the central fact, upon which everything else hinges. I thought the right hon. Gentleman might have examined that; I am sorry he did not. May I remind him of some of his own connections with it? This Government did not come into office, as I have said, with a clean slate. [Interruption.] Certainly not. This Government came into 846 office with a condition of things that right hon. Gentlemen there had to face by passing an Anomalies Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Advised by you!"] It may be, and I stand by that advice. In any event, they are not white sheep. They may be sheep, but they are not white. It is very doubtful to-day whether my right hon. Friend really meant to appear in a white sheet or in a red tie. I, too, know something about Socialist theory and Socialist methods—the discussion, at any rate, of Socialist methods—and I feel that it is a white sheet, for I look in vain for a red tie. But the situation which we inherited was such that, before there was any retreat on the part of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, they passed that Anomalies Bill; and when my right hon. Friend talks about the figures of to-day having to be augmented by blocks of figures of people who have been knocked off the register, he, on all assumptions of united Cabinet responsibility was responsible, according to the best estimated figures that we can get, for knocking 90,000 married women off the register.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It may ease the right hon. Gentleman and other people if I say that I stood here a year ago and said what I will now repeat. Whatever sins of omission or commission or whatever virtues attached to the Cabinet as a whole of which I was a member, I shall accept my share of the blame or praise—[Interruption.] I do not want to get out of it; I am not such a contemptible skunk as that. It may save a very great deal of this vituperation about my action and my responsibility. If I stayed in the Cabinet longer than I ought to have done, or did anything that I ought not to have done, the public can blame me, but I am free now to state my opinions. [Interruption.] Certainly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) will state a lot of things now that he did not state before.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My right hon. Friend is perfectly right. I think lie used the word "recrimination," or something like that——
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am not doing that at all; I am reminding the House, I am reminding the right hon. Gentleman, I am reminding the party which is responsible for this Resolution, of what the situation was when the National Government came in. The right hon. Gentleman may have made a mistake in supporting it—that is not my affair—but he knows perfectly well, and I am quite certain that he is the last man who will deny, that the Anomalies Bill was passed by his colleagues. The Anomalies Bill was not passed for fun. The Anomalies Bill was not passed because either he or I or any of our colleagues had any spite against these people. He knows perfectly well, and everybody knows perfectly well, that the Anomalies Bill was passed because a state of financial stringency and pressure was growing up which compelled the passing of the Anomalies Bill. I say that in the most friendly way. Moreover it was not only the Anomalies Bill—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The position as stated by the Treasury was that certain cuts should be made, and it is a fact—it is all printed and published—that those cuts, made shortly before the Labour Government went out of office, were made, not on account of the operation of the cost of living rule, but were made because a contribution in the shape of cuts of wages had to be taken from civil servants, and, owing to the mere fact that a reduction was due at a certain date owing to the operation of the cost of living rule, that was taken as a contribution to the cut that was going to be made a little later on. What is the use of coming and censuring us on a Resolution worded like that? They can censure us on other things, but not on that—unless the censure comes from below the Gangway. But there is something more than that. The position of the unemployed was becoming such that, first of all, there was a three-party conference—the committee to which I made reference in answering a question to-day—which was private, and which, consequently, cannot be referred to, at any rate so far as the substance of its work was concerned. But, in order to get out of the difficulty, 848 the Royal Commission, whose report we have been awaiting for weeks and months, was appointed by the right hon. Gentleman and myself—[An HON. MEMBER: "By yourself."] Certainly not; I should like that to be asserted, too. That Royal Commission was appointed by the Labour Government in order to get a lead as to how to deal with the unemployment financial position. I repeat, what an extraordinary source that is for a Vote of Censure upon us to come from, worded in the words of this Resolution.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Are we going to have a re-hash of the controversy that raged for about two months? I am perfectly prepared that every document that I submitted to the Cabinet about this particular question should be published, but it is not fair to do this by inference. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we were told that, unless we had this Royal Commission, you would not get the next instalment of £10,000,000.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We must apply ourselves to the situation which is being dealt with. We are censured, apparently, for certain things which arose out of the financial stringency and the position of unemployment, and the demand made in respect of unemployment by the very people who are now censuring us for that. I am not going into anything further, but, at the same time, I am not going to let them off. I see daily papers. I read accounts of speeches delivered at by-elections and on platforms scattered over the country. If they expect that I am going to remain quiet, they are under a profound misapprehension.
There is the first point about this extraordinary Vote of Censure. We have done all this, we have balanced the Budget and we have done the other things to which I referred, and, when we were doing it, grave prophecies were being made by speaker after speaker that the charges that were being imposed would have to be paid by the consumer. I remember a very lurid speech made by the hon. and learned Gentleman some months ago from that bench that the cost of living was going up, and he proved it by logic in such a way 849 that nature was bound to respond to his logic. He said two and two made four, and so on. Unfortunately, he made a mistake. I saw a great tirade the other day about the increase in the cost of living that was going on. What is the truth? The cost of living index figure for 1st October was 43, as against 45 for the same date last year and 65 for the same date in 1929, the first year of the Labour Government. I can say it is going up and I can say it is going down, and I can say this and I can say that. If we base our arguments upon facts and not upon imagination and half-digested information, this stands, that the cost of living figure is 43 against 45 last year. If one goes back to 1924, when every Member opposite, then sitting on this side of the House, asked the working classes to be happy because their standard of living was higher than it had been before, then why is it down and down to-day so far as cost of living is concerned below what it was in 1924 I do not give the figures as being unassailable, but they are indexes. They certainly indicate that the exaggerated statements that are being made up and down the country just now of the increased cost of living caused by action taken by this Government are absolutely baseless and without any foundation.
To come back to the wording of the Resolution, there are two grave accusations. Is the number of the unemployed an indication of the neglect or failure of the Government? If it is, look back. What is the position? I can remember perfectly well those very terrible years when we were in office from 1929 up to last year. My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that we moved everything we could move to discover a way of reducing the number of unemployed and putting them to work. He himself was on a Committee that was dealing with it, and I know perfectly well his feelings. Often and often we discussed and turned ideas over in our minds. It was very much easier then to spend £1,000,000 than it is now to spend £10,000. In any event, there was plenty of money at our disposal. One has only to look at the accounts. One has only to look at the millions and millions that were spent or that were had on loan or borrowed or that were morgaged during those years. I deny the extravagance. They were 850 spent one way or another, for the purpose of tiding over the unemployment difficulty, on the assumption that that difficulty was going to be temporary and that when the temporary difficulty was over we were to get a return for the capital that we had spent.
But before we went out we saw that that was a mistaken view. We saw that this was a different thing. It was not an ordinary trade depression. We saw that what had happened was a very considerable revolution in industrial processes and a great fundamental change in the channels of international exchange, and we had to be driven back upon the foundations and the fundamentals. But the money was spent, and yet, when the right hon. Gentleman was spending the money, his returns week after week broke his heart, because the unemployment figures were going up month after month. He spent the money. He negotiated with employers—when I say "he" I ought to say "we," including us all. We negotiated with employers. We started new schemes to get employment. Even when we were convinced by experience that those great schemes of road-making and pure relief work were ceasing to yield the returns that justified their execution, we stuck to it. We strove and strove, and still the unemployment figures went up. The Labour Government received as an inheritance from its predecessor on 24th June, 1929, 1,117,000 unemployed. On 30th June, 1930, after enormous expenditure on relief the 1,117,000 had become 1,890,000. On 29th June, 1931, the 1,890,000 had become 2,664,000. On 21th August, when they went out, the unemployed return had become 2,733,000. In two years and two months the increase in unemployment was 1,615,000. We have been in office for just over 12 months. Our increase, not counting in those who have been knocked off, is 66,491 and, if we add the Anomalies Bill and the others, we only have to add to that something between 170,000 and 175,000. The very people who were responsible for an annual average increase of 800,000 in unemployment censures a Government which has been responsible for an annual increase of a little over 230,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "You were Prime Minister."] That observation has nothing to do with the subject.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Does the right hon. Gentleman take the view now that, when a Labour Government is in, it is responsible for the unemployment figures and, when this Government is in, as he said the other night, it would be villainous—that is not the exact word, but it is equal to that—to charge him. I expressly did not charge him with being responsible. I said that in spite of his policy the figures went up.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is that kind of argument that I am resisting now. May I explain his argument to the right hon. Gentleman 7 It is that when he was in he was not responsible. Therefore, having been a Member of the Government which increased unemployment, he was not worthy of censure, but I, being a Member of both Governments, though not responsible for the large increase while his comrade, am responsible for the very much smaller increase now. My argument is that this kind of censure, this kind of observation used as the basis of a censure, is sheer humbug, and I hope with all my heart that the whole case will be persistently exposed in the country and that those people who are the victims of this terrible state of society may be no longer misled by the promises and alurements held out to them by right hon. Gentlemen who when they were in office were still greater failures in reducing the figures than this Government happens to have been. The Minister of Labour later on will deal with details that may arise, but I felt that it was necessary that the general situation should be stated quite plainly—the work that is being done now, the work of new administration, the means test, changes in the means test—another revolution by the by. They are no longer in favour of any means test. [An HON. MEMBER: "He did not say that!"] The Opposition has said it in the Resolution.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
He said they were not prepared to support any means test proposed by the present Government.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think the hon. Member is letting them off too easily. The Opposition now say they are not in favour of a means test, and that after the right hon. Gentleman himself has said again and again:I am not prepared to give people money year after year without knowing what is their own personal position. That is to say 852 that, if a person has gone out of ordinary benefit and has the means of his awn to maintain himself, I am not prepared to pay him State money.What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman from whose lips that opinion fell using his fingers to write a sentence which contradicts that pledge that he has given again and again to the country? Why has he changed? Where does he stand now?
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We are now in this position, that the right hon. Gentleman and his followers apparently are perfectly prepared to give money to anybody who has once been insured whatever may be his position. As far as I am concerned, we are perfectly prepared to meet that in the face of every decent unemployed' man and woman, who, at any rate, are not sponging on the State.
The means test was adopted for very good reasons. It was adopted without any machinery being in existence for its application. Machine after machine was considered as to whether it could be adapted to the purpose of a means test. It was assumed that the means test was to produce such an enormous number of cases that machines like that which inquired into old age pensions were quite inadequate to do the work, and the only thing to be done was what the Government did. The Government do not intend to make a complete sweep of the administration either of the means test or of the others, because we do not budge one inch from the general position which we took up here 12 months ago. The Unemployment Fund has to be balanced. The amounts paid from the Exchequer must be limited and be severely within our capacity to pay. The means test so very well defined by the right hon. Gentleman is to he imposed. It may be that any matters like disability pensions and allowances ought to be reconsidered, and that will be done. There is also the question of how far thrift and savings should be taken into account. But the Government do not mean—and I hope that the House is not going to expect it—to produce a great sweeping Measure without full consideration of what it means. When that is done the time will be next Session.
853 I wish to assure the House and hon. Members who support us that it is no use talking merely sympathetically because the sympathy is here.
The problem of unemployment is a problem in business, a problem in finance and a problem of devising ways and means by which the workless man may get into contact with work. In order to do that, we have to straighten out such problems as those left to us by the financial clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. We have to go on applying the Lausanne Agreements. We have to go on working at the International Economic Conference in order to get international economic agreements. Slipshod work is not going to last. The mere granting of money is neither going to help those who give nor those who receive. The mere treatment of the unemployed as a problem which raises human sympathy—and I hope will continue to raise it—and which does more, enables papers to be put into ballot boxes, will not be followed by this Government. I beg and pray of those who support its to take their courage into their hands and show that we are fair and just and that we mean to get right at the root of the unemployment problem and to deal with it in such a way that there will be more production in this country, and that waste places will remain no longer wastes if it is possible to cultivate them at all. In that way and on those lines we shall proceed to develop a policy which really will overcome unemployment by employment and will mean making men, women and children feel the happiness and the joy of earning their own living.
§ Captain Sir WILLIAM BRASS
I am very grateful for having been given an opportunity of saying a few words upon this Vote of Censure, because I do not wish to give a silent Vote on this occasion and because the means test is mentioned in it. The means test is a question of paramount importance in my constituency, and it is for that reason that I am very grateful to you, Sir, for allowing me to say a few words upon it this afternoon. A great deal of the Motion has been dealt with by the Prime Minister himself, and I agree with everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said. It is a lot of humbug for the right hon. Gentleman slitting on the Front Opposition Bench to move a, Vote of 854 Censure upon the Government because of the increase in the number of the unemployed and of the imposition of the means test when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has said that he agrees with the principle of the means test and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. J. H. Thomas) has told us that the late Cabinet of which he and the Leader of the Opposition were Members were in favour of the principle of the means test for the unemployed before the late Government resigned. Therefore, it is humbug for the Leaders of the Labour party to come forward and try and censure the Government on the imposition of a means test, for that is what is included in the Motion.
If the Motion were solely for the purpose of censuring the Government on the administration of the means test I am not at all sure whether I would not have found myself in the Lobby with the Opposition, because I do not think that the Government have dealt with the means test in a proper fashion. I have raised the question on many occasions in this House because I think that the administration of the means test at the present time is all wrong. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who by?"] By the present Government. [An HON. MEMBER "By your people!"] By the present Government I said. I have put many questions to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and to the Parliamentary Secretary, who has been very courteous in his answers but not very helpful. As I have said, if the Vote of Censure had been upon that particular point, I should have been quite prepared to Vote against the Government, because I think that the Government knew all about the matter before, and I see no reason why the Government should have waited for Birkenhead and for Liverpool people marching upon London to bring in something to alter the administration of the means test as it is applied at the present time. I will show what sort of thing happens under the present conditions. The Parliamentary Secretary, I think in November of last year, said with relation to the electors at the last election:
To their enternal credit, they disregarded—the pamphlets and so on which were issued by the Labour party— 855these statements, and decided that the interests of the country must come before the interests of the individual.He went to to say:I do think that…imposes upon us a special responsibility to see that that faith is Justified."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1931; col. 662, Vol. 260.]I entirely agree with what he said then, but I do not agree with the administration which has taken place since. I will put before my hon. Friend the sort of thing which happens in Lancashire in my constituency. I happen to be in the Lancashire County Council area, and I wish to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary and the Members of the Government to the disparity between the scales laid down by the Lancashire County Council and those laid down by some of the boroughs abutting on to my constituency to show that there is a complete lack of uniformity in the administration of the means test. I will take the Lancashire County Council area first, because my constituency is in the Lancashire County Council area. The scale laid down by the Lancashire County Council for an adult male is 7s., that is, under the system of transitional payments. In a county borough, which I will call "A"—I am prepared to give the name if anyone wishes to know it—which is quite close to my constituency, instead of being 7s., the scale for an adult male is 15s. 3d. In another country borough, which I will call "B," and which is also quite close to my constituency the amount is 11s. There you see the great discrepancy. In the Lancashire County Council area, which is not an agricultural area but an urban area where the conditions are identical with those existing in boroughs abutting, you get one scale in my constituency of 7s., and in a borough within a few miles of my constituency another scale of 15s. 3d., and in a third borough within about 15 miles of my constituency yet another scale of 11s.
§ Sir W. BRASS
It is the figure laid down by the county council for the public assistance committee. It is the figure of the Lancashire County Council limiting the amount to be given.
§ Sir W. BRASS
The scales down in Lancashire for a man, wife and three children are—in Manchester 39s., in Salford 36s., and in the Lancashire County Council area, where the conditions are identical in my constituency with either Manchester or Salford, 29s. If that money was raised locally there might be some excuse for that, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer provides this money, and I do not see why my constituents should receive only 7s. whilst somebody next door receives 13s. 6d. and somebody a little further off receives 11s. I do not see why a man in Manchester with wife and three children should get 36s., while a man with wife and three children in my constituency should receive only 29s. It is for that reason that I bring this matter forward and ask whether, when the Bill comes in to alter the Means Test, these things will be taken into consideration.
There is another point to which I should like to direct attention, which shows the complete lack of uniformity, which I have pointed out frequently to my hon. Friend opposite. I pointed it out over a year ago. I will take the liquid assets which are allowed. In the Lancashire County Council area no account is taken of savings under £100, but if there are savings over £100 the person is disqualified from benefit. In borough "A"—I am talking about borough "A" because I do not want to name the particular town—the first £200 is calculated at 5 per cent. interest, and the next £300 up to £500 at 7½ per cent. Over £500 there is a disqualification from receiving benefit. Therefore, in my constituency anyone who has over £100 is disqualified, while in a county borough which abuts on my constituency anyone can have up to £500 and only the interest is calculated on that amount. So far as another Lancashire county borough, which I will call "B," is concerned, the first £100 is exempt, and the rest, without any limit apparently, is reckoned at interest of 5 per cent. That shows again the lack of uniformity which exists at the present time and which ought to be altered.
When the scales are lower in the county areas, what happens, for instance, in my biggest town, Great Harwood, is that the scale is so low as laid 857 down by the Lancashire County Council that the free meals for children have been enormously increased in number, and free milk for maternity benefit has been increased, and the cost of all that comes on to the rates. Therefore, besides the people in my constituency receiving less through the Public Assistance Committee, the rates are increased' also as a result of the activities which are taking place at the present time. I will quote one or two instances showing the percentage of cases of disallowed benefit, to show the disparity which exists. I will take Blackburn as an example, because Blackburn practically abuts on to my constituency. The percentage disallowed was 12.5 per cent. in Blackburn, in Oldham 15.6 per cent. and in my own constituency, in Great Harwood, 44.1 per cent., while in Darwen, the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman who has just run away from the Government, it was 45.1 per cent. There is a very great disparity in these cases.
There is also the question of the treatment of disability pensions. This is a matter which ought to be carefully considered when the Government are bringing in their new Bill. In the Lancashire County Council area no account is taken of 25 per cent. of the disability pension but the remainder is calculated as income. If a man has a disability pension of, say, £1, 25 per cent. is not taken into account, but 15s. is taken into account as income. In county borough "B," the first 15s. of the £1 is exempt, instead of only 25 per cent. in the County Council area, and the remainder for the purpose of income is reckoned as two-thirds of the income. Therefore, assuming the man has a pension of £1, his income for Means Test purposes in the County Council area is 15s. and in the county borough area which I am caling "B" it is 3s. 4d.That is a great disparity.
In order to discover whether these disability pensions were intended for the purpose of maintaining the family or for the purpose of maintaining the individual, I have consulted the Minister of Pensions. I asked this question. If a man is a bachelor and has, we will say, a disability pension of 100 per cent. as an ordinary soldier, and receives £2—it is a hypothetical case because he would not get any unemployed insurance at all 858 —he would get his £2 as disability pension. If he were a married man when he was wounded he would receive a disability of £2, plus 10s. for his wife, 7s. 6d. for the first child and so on. That tends to show that the £2 is for himself, and the 10s. and 7s. 6d. are not for himself but for his wife. Therefore, I say that when disability pensions are taken into the income of the household the principle is wrong, and that the disability pension is a personal pension given to him. I think the example I have given shows that a pension is a pension for the man and not a pension for his wife and family.
I do not want to speak at great length, but I felt that before giving a vote on this Motion of Censure, I should like to say a few words on the subject of the means test. I am not going to vote with the Opposition, because the Opposition Vote of Censure does not talk about the administration of the means test, but refers to the imposition of the means test and the pursuing of a policy which is opposed to the restoration of world trade. That I think is all nonsense, because the Government are trying to do everything they possibly can to restore the trade of the world and the trade of this country. It is for that reason that I do not propose to vote with the Opposition. I propose to vote with the Government, but I would ask the Government when they come to consider the Bill that is to be brought forward with regard to the means test to take into account some of the anomalies and disabilities and the lack of uniformity which undoubtedly exists all over the country, because they are causing very great dissatisfaction not only in my constituency but all over the country.
Lieut.-Colonel CHARLES KERR
I understand that there are a great many hon. Members who wish to join in the Debate. Therefore, I intend to cut down what I had meant to say to the purely constructive side of the subject. I regret extremely that unemployment should have been embodied in the Vote of Censure as I feel, and I am sure that most hon. Members feel, that that is a subject which ought to be completely divorced from controversial politics. Therefore, I shall try to restrict my remarks entirely to a study of some aspects of the situation and also, with great respect, make one 859 or two suggestions to His Majesty's Government. I will ask the House to consider the financial position in regard to unemployment. It is very interesting. I think the minimum sum we can put down as being expended to-day on unemployment is £150,000,000. That probably is not all, because there are many unemployed people who are fighting their way, getting help where they can, and not applying for public assistance.
What does this £150,000,000 represent? At the current rate of interest on gilt-edged securities it represents the gigantic sum of £4,000,000,000—five times the annual budget. Let me give another side of the question. I am informed that a family—when one says a family we mean four people—cannot cost the State less to-day than £100 a year. What does that mean on the current rate of interest prevailing? It means £2,800 at the current rate of interest to produce £100 a year. If we take £1,000 away from that £2,800, it leaves us with £1,800. I am informed that that is ample to settle a family overseas. I put forward these amounts because they show that we are gradually coming into a position where it would be economically sound to spend money in the direction of settlement. This £150,000,000 per annum, if one works it out, is enough to settle annually, at £1,800 per family, 80,000 families or 320,000 souls.
Let me ask the House to think for one moment of the condition of the country with regard to markets. We, being a great industrial nation before any other country, have found that our old customers, the young countries, have now grown up and are not only supplying themselves with those necessaries of life and goods which we used to supply to them, but are also competing against us in the markets of the world. We have to face these facts, and unless we face them in a bold and courageous way we shall go from bad to worse.
I want to put forward, if I may, a suggestion which many hon. Members will no doubt remember. Soon after the War certain municipalities in this country adopted in the devastated areas in France certain towns and villages and assisted the French to repatriate themselves in their country, to rebuild, and to get back the life of the country as it was before 860 the War. With great respect, I put this suggestion to the Government. There is an Act of 1922 which allows the expenditure of £3,000,000 per annum on settlement overseas. Whether this can be regarded as a success or not, I am informed that 400,000 people have been settled under that Act, and I respectfully suggest, taking the idea that the municipalities helped the French people to settle again in the devastated areas, that it is an idea which might now be extended in dealing with unemployment. That Act has not exhausted its usefulness, and if with the assistance of the Treasury and municipalities certain areas in the Dominions could be allotted and settlement in a small way begun we should be doing something to strike at the root of unemployment in this country.
I know it will be said that the Dominions do not want any migrants for the time being. That is only natural; they have their own troubles, but I feel that if the municipalities, who may send out these people, and the British Government took full responsibility for them, the Dominions would look upon the idea with sympathy. I have noticed a very interesting experiment in Germany with regard to rebuilding slums. No doubt this question is being seriously considered. I was told only yesterday that when a large firm of contractors was asked whether they would take over an area of slumland in London and rebuild it, they said that it was quite a feasible proposition to take over the land, pull down, and rebuild modern houses, and that it could be done with a considerable decrease in rents as a result. Those are two constructive ideas which, no doubt, have been thought of by other people and which, no doubt, are in the mind of the Government.
I feel most strongly that we have to try to be constructive on this question. It has come to us and been with us long enough; we must not think that something is going to turn up next year which will make things better. We have to realise that large numbers of unemployed are going to remain with us for a considerable time; therefore, let us build up some scheme which will be permanent in character. If we study the financial situation we are justified, from the economic point of view, in spending money in this way. With all humility, if 861 any words of mine will help in any way to relieve the tragedy from which we are suffering, I shall not have spoken in vain. If we can by any means work together, putting party politics aside, to remove this terrible evil which is tearing at all our hearts, we shall have done well indeed. I make a final appeal to the Opposition that as a gesture of good will and co-operation they should withdraw this Vote of Censure.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
I am sure that I shall be expressing the opinion of the House when I extend to the hon. and gallant Member, on his maiden speech, our congratulations and a cordial welcome to our Debates. For my own part, I welcome him wholeheartedly as a personal friend, and now as a Parliamentary colleague, and I only wish that he were in even closer political association than is the case as yet. We have all listened with great interest to his thoughtful and constructive speech. His suggestion with regard to municipal initiative, with Dominion sympathy, is original and interesting. His proposal with regard to the extension of building construction is also of value, and I am sure that these proposals will receive the consideration of the Government and of the House. We hope that on many future occasions he will intervene in our Debates.
This Motion raises a large issue and one particular issue, and the Debate seems likely to concentrate on the wider ground, and on the narrower ground of the means test. The Motion definitely declares that the intention of those who move it is to advocate that the means test should be abolished. This has also been stated by the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), the Leader of the Opposition, in the speech he has made to-day. We on these benches are clearly and definitely of the opinion that the means test cannot be abolished and ought not to be abolished. If it were to be abolished it would mean that the conditions which prevailed before its enactment would revive; that is to say, that any unemployed workman who was out of insurance, whose insurance had lapsed, could nevertheless claim a payment from the taxpayer respective of his needs; and we know that before the institution of the means test there were grave and gross abuses, that many 862 people whose household income was £5, £6 and £7 per week, and people who had possessions of £1,000 or £2,000 did not disdain to apply for unemployment benefit, and who had the right, and could not be refused, to draw sums from the taxpayers' pocket. That was generally disapproved by the whole country, irrespective of class.
If the present suggestion of the Labour party were to be adopted and the means test abolished, and no similar institution was to replace it, those abuses would instantly revive. There would be a vast expenditure from the taxpayers' pocket for persons who did not really stand in need of that assistance. An expenditure of £16,000,000,000 a year, from figures lately given to the Horse, would at once be required. If by some impossible upheaval the present Opposition to-morrow or next week became the Government, I am perfectly convinced that they would not attempt to abolish the means test, not only for financial reasons, hut because they would know that such a step would be disapproved by the general body of the nation, including the great majority of the working classes. But this proposal is in the forefront of the Motion now before the House, and in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and, therefore, in my view, no one can vote for it who is not prepared to declare himself in favour of the abolition of the means test.
I am exceedingly glad that the Government have now decided to introduce a Measure which will facilitate changes in several important particulars in the administration of the means test. My right hon. Friends with whom I lately had the privilege of being a colleague, are well aware that I have pressed this upon them continuously during the whole of this year. Of necessity such a measure as the means test must be unpopular. It must arouse antagonism, heart-burnings and bitterness. Its administration throws upon local committees an exceedingly unpopular and invidious task, and everything should have been done to facilitate their performance of that task. Every effort should have been made to keep the actual administration of the means test as far away from the Poor Law as it was possible to keep it. In several respects this has not been done, although it might have been done within the terms of the Order in Council as it was enacted by 863 the Government last November. No doubt other hon. Members will deal with such points as disability pensions. I wish to draw the special attention of the House to the position of persons with small savings. I do not know what provisions the Bill will contain, and perhaps it is somewhat unfortunate that we are not given an outline of the Measure so that the discussion might take into account suggestions which are in the mind of the Government. However, since the Bill has not yet been introduced, I think we should take this opportunity of expressing our views as a House of Commons to the Government as to the provisions which we think the Bill should include.
I would very strongly urge that special consideration should be given to the cases of people with small savings. I am not referring to those who have £2,000 or £1,000 of capital and who really are not in need. But there is an immense number of persons all over the country who own £100, £200, £300 and even £400. Week by week and month by month they have been putting by pence and shillings, and gradually they have been able to build up this capital as a reserve for their old age. It frees them from acute anxiety; it is something to look forward to in case of need. Owing to the prolonged industrial depression many of these, tens of thousands of people, find themselves, through no fault of their own—it is no more their fault than that of a man who is struck by lightning or involved in an earthquake—through this economic cataclysm find themselves unemployed for so long a time that their insurance lapses. A year elapses, or two years go by, and they have to depend upon transitional payment. They cannot get work in the mills or the shipyards, and it is useless to go elsewhere, for there the conditions are exactly the same.
What has occurred in those cases? There is great inequality between different parts of the country. In many county boroughs and other places full and sympathetic consideration is given to these cases. The annual interest on the money saved is, of course, taken into account as income, whatever amount it may be, but they are not called upon in many cases to spend their small savings and to leave themselves destitute or nearly destitute.
864 In some districts, on the other hand, it is otherwise. For instance, in the county of Lancashire, which I represent, the county council has adopted au exceedingly strict rule, and it is currently stated that they have done so because they understood from the Ministry of Labour that the Order in Council required them to do so.
Observe the anomalies and inequalities of the administration. One man with £300 buys a house and lives in it. He is unemployed. He applies for transitional benefit. The committees in Lancashire and elsewhere say, "We do not require you to sell your house or to mortgage it. Under the terms of the Order in Council you can keep your house, and we shall merely debit you with the annual value of it, £15 or whatever it may be." Another man, having saved exactly the same sum in exactly the same circumstances, invests his £300 with the local corporation or co-operative society, or in Government securities. Instantly, when he applies and is recommended by his local committee for treatment on the same lines as the other, he is told that he must spend his £300 or £200, and go on spending until it gets down to 2100, and if he has only £100 left, or in some cases £80 or even £50, then and not till then is he given any transitional payments. When the local committees protested with vehemence against this—men of all parties have appealed to the county council to change their views—they have been told that the Government have said they must administer the Order in this way. Yet in other boroughs it is not done, and the Government have not intervened.
This is most deeply resented in Lancashire, where there is a very large number of the best element of the working classes, who are precisely in this position. The people cannot understand how it can be; why in the one case it is legal for the man who owns his house to get transitional payment, but not in the other case where a man has invested his £300 and uses it to pay for his lodging. They cannot understand why the latter man should be called upon to spend the greater part of his money and even to face destitution. It is felt that the thrifty are penalised and the wastrels helped. This is a movement in which all parties have joined. Ministers of religion, the mayors of the small boroughs, the chairmen of district councils and members of 865 all three political parties have appealed to the Ministry of Labour, but the Ministry have turned a deaf ear. On the contrary, the hon. Member who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, speaking in Lancashire on 1st Match, said:The Order in Council lays down that persons applying to local authorities for transitional payment should be treated exactly as if they were applying to that authority for public relief, and the public authority has got to treat these people in the same way.That cannot be, because, as I say, they are allowed transitional payments when they have a house, and in the second place they are not required to spend the last £50 or £100; they are left with that, although under the Poor Law the rule is that if an applicant for public assistance is in possession of resources he is not a lawful subject of relief. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary have argued on this point in two entirely contradictory ways. They say at one time that they are bound by the Order in Council and must adopt a strictly Poor Law attitude, and on the next occasion they say that as a matter of fact they do not adopt a strictly Poor Law attitude, that considerable latitude is allowed, that the local authorities do exercise wide discretion in the matter, and that consequently no serious complaint need be made. The two arguments are contradictory. If the strict Poor Law attitude is to be adopted innumerable illegalities are going on. If these practices are conceded then the argument that the Order in Council requires a strictly Poor Law attitude falls to the ground.
For my part continuously, in November, in January, in March, in June, in August and in September, I brought this matter again and again before my colleagues, and I feel justified on that ground in bringing it now publicly before the House. I am very glad that a Bill is now being introduced, and I regret the delay that has taken place in introducing it. It will involve an exceedingly small cost to the public Exchequer to meet these cases, and I have no doubt that Parliament will rapidly pass the Bill into law. But the means test is not the unemployment question, and the new Bill when passed will, of course, leave the problem everywhere in all its magnitude, 866 formidable, profoundly disturbing to us as a legislature, deeply distressing to each one of us individually as men and women. When we go into the back streets of the great industrial towns now we know the extreme distress and hardship which afflicts all these millions of respectable people in hard-working families.
What is the essence of the whole matter? I am not going to discuss the fiscal question, but I must draw attention to one aspect which does affect an international issue. The essence of the whole matter is this—that we are here on a comparatively small island, a few hundred miles long, with 45,000,000 of people. It would be impossible to support those 45,000,000 if we were to depend simply upon the resources of this island, its agricultural produce, its coal and other minerals and its fisheries. If we were thrown back upon our island alone our population could not be 45,000,000. No one can estimate what it might be, 25,000,000 perhaps or even fewer. Consequently, we live as a nation very largely upon the income which in one form or another we get from the rest of the world—the sales of our exports, the earnings of our shipping, the income from our investments, commissions and other items. Here we have had a most extraordinary collapse in the last few years. An answer which the President of the Board of Trade gave me to-day in reply to a Parliamentary question showed that in 1929 all those items together brought us in an income as a nation of £1,170,000,000. Now, after two years, that figure is reduced to £668,000,000, a loss of £500,000,000 of national income, or 46 per cent.
That is really the main cause of our unemployment. For example, if Lancashire sells to India only half the cotton goods she used to sell, it is impossible to employ more than half the cotton operatives who used to be employed in that trade. That is obvious. Nothing can make that good except some expansion of trade in other directions. If our collieries sell only one half of their usual exports you may have 100,000 miners thrown out of work. If our income from investments falls off from £231,000,000 to £169,000,000 those who receive that money, having less to spend, must economise, and the result is that people are thrown 867 out of work. A friend of mine not long ago told rue that "he was just able to keep the wolf from the garage." There are very many people who are in that kind of position, who have to restrict their expenditure, and the failure of this country to receive that £500,000,000 a year which it had been receiving is undoubtedly one of the main causes of our unemployment.
The question therefore arises, what constructive measure can we propose My right hon Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), whom we are all delighted to see in his place, will no doubt speak to us, as he often does, on the agricultural aspect of this question. He is himself a keen and successful farmer, engaged largely, I believe, in the production of fatted calves, which do not always find consumers. My right hon Friend is also, as we all know, in public controversy a master of the sharp and flashing sword, which he seldom allows to rust with disuse. My right hon. Friend has attacked everyone in turn and often three or four together. He has attacked the Conservatives and the Socialists and the National Liberal Federation and the City of London and Germany and France and the League of Nations and the Lord President of the Council, the Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friends and myself. There will soon be no one left to attack unless Lloyd attacks George and George attacks Lloyd, and, as my right hon. Friend in his time has advocated many contradictory policies, there will be plenty of material for such a controversy. Instead of attacking those of us who, like himself, have left a Coalition Government supported by a pre ponderatingly Conservative majority in the House of Commons, one would have thought that my right hon. Friend would have felt for us that fellow-feeling that "makes one wondrous kind." It re mains to be seen whether that feeling will be expressed or not.
My right hon. Friend will give us, no doubt, some constructive suggestions. The Lord President of the Council has said that the state of trade is appalling. "Appalling" is his word, and it is none too strong for the conditions in which we find ourselves. I will go so far into the forbidden ground as to say that in 868 our view tariffs, quotas, exchange restrictions, constitute the principal among many causes of this. There are many causes but these represent the chief single cause of the present appalling state of trade. We hope that the World Conference will help us to find some solution. I have never said on any occasion that I thought that the Ottawa decisions would necessarily make the World Conference futile. What I have said was that the Ottawa Agreements will in our judgment make the task of that Conference far more difficult. It will make its scope much more limited and will deprive this Government of the moral authority of leadership that might otherwise have belonged to it.
Let us hope that the Conference will be able to propose monetary changes, monetary measures, which may be—I should be sorry to express a definite opinion—one of the means of curing the present depression. The matter is as we all know—and as some of us who have studied it know to our cost—one of extreme complexity and difficulty. We waited for years for the report of the Macmillan Committee. When it came, it expressed many divided opinions and, so far as I know, no measure has been taken as the outcome of that report. One definite conclusion—I will not say positive conclusion, because it is a negative conclusion—to which I have come, is that the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Horne) in the direction of bimetallism, of introducing silver as a solvent for our difficulties, is not likely to be of value and might become of great harm. What is needed above all is stability in your medium of exchange and in its value, and silver, being a metal of fluctuating value and fluctuating production, would merely introduce, if it were brought into the currencies of the world, an additional element of instability, uncertainty and change. I trust that the Conference, where the best experts from all over the world will be gathered together, will give close attention to these matters—as of course they will—and they may hit upon some measure to assist the world to free itself from its present situation.
One positive, definite proposal I would make to the Government is that they 869 should take more active measures to set free the capital that has now accumulated unused, to make it more accessible, if they can suggest some steps for doing so, than has hitherto been the case, and to encourage its active use. A few weeks ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked for £150,000,000, which our fathers would have regarded as an enormous sum to borrow in a single day in the City of London. He obtained that £150,000,000 at 2 per cent. for a period of five years in 10 minutes. That is a splendid proof of the state of the Government's credit though it is a lamentable proof of the state of the nation's trade. I am very glad that the Government are able to borrow at that rate of interest, but I am sorry that the public should be compelled to lend at so low a rate, showing that there is no demand for capital at the present time in commerce and industry.
The restrictions upon the use of capital were necessary a year ago and until the last few months. It was essential to balance the Budget and to stop borrowing, in order to restore confidence throughout the world in the credit of this country. There were grave financial anxieties with regard to India about a year ago, and it was necessary to prepare the ground for the gigantic financial operation of converting £2,000,000,000 of loan to a rate of interest only two-thirds of what it was before. The complete success of that operation, on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is wholeheartedly to be congratulated, has been the justification for the course hitherto pursued but now the course ought rather to be the opposite. Capital has been over-accumulated. The rate of interest is excessively low. The patient who had to be kept on a starvation diet while his temperature was high, now needs feeding up.
What the country needs more than ever is, not unremunerative investment, not expenditure of capital which will involve increased burdens on rates and taxes. Not for a moment do I suggest that. We must not imperil the balancing of the Budget. With great difficulty we have secured a balance and it must not be allowed to slip back, but it is desirable that all kinds of State and private enterprise—and I draw no distinction between the two—which are remunerative should now be encouraged rather than discouraged; and the cheaper money which 870 is now available should make remunerative all kinds of schemes which a year ago would have involved a loss. In building operations, for example, it makes a very peat difference if your capital has to be borrowed on a 5 per cent. basis or on a 3½ per cent. basis. It may make all the difference between loss and profit. The Chancellor of the Exchequer two days ago made a speech with which I should like to express my respectful concurrence. He said:He was satisfied at present that both national and local public authorities ought to confine themselves to essentials, in which of course he included expenditure that would be productive of income, and expenditure necessary to maintain the efficiency of the services.I venture to underline those words:
he included expenditure that would be productive of income.I suggest that the influence of the Government and the Treasury in the City and elsewhere should now be devoted to rendering available the enormous accumulation of capital with which the banks are gorged, for it is only in that way that you will be able to set many industries going again and relieve the depression of many trades, such as the building trade or the iron and steel trade, which rely for employment largely upon expenditure of capital.
I would again take this opportunity in connection with unemployment of expressing regret at the steps that have been taken with regard to our trade with Russia. I am one of those who regard that as a very serious matter. Russia has a population already of 170,000,000, which is increasing with great rapidity, which is in a state of rapid industrial development and which might, if the matter is wisely handled by our Government, prove one of the most valuable of our export markets and one which would give employment to great numbers of our people.
An agricultural policy, of course, we all favour but that I will leave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs with whose views I am as a rule, in entire concurrence upon this point. Lastly, turning to a matter which is on a different plane, and not for a moment basing it on the same level as these large suggestions which we have hitherto been discussing, there are measures which might be taken for dealing with unemployed men while they are unemployed and endeavours to mitigate 871 in some degree the hardship of their situation and to save them from the moral deterioration that is too likely to happen in prolonged idleness. There are many schemes by local authorities and well-meaning and active people throughout the country, which the Government might at very small expenditure assist—educational, and recreational schemes and some industrial schemes, including the provision of allotments. These things may, as I say, be some mitigation of the plight in which the unemployed find themselves.
This Motion is a Motion of Censure. There are phrases with which we on these benches agree but we must regard it as what it is, a Vote of Censure, which, if it were carried, would involve a change of Government and a change of Parliament and those who vote for it must contemplate that such would be the interpretation of their vote. When my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself withdrew from the Government, that was not the general course which we announced in our letter of resignation. We declared that on matters apart from those on which acute differences had arisen, in general we should lend the Government our support, and for that reason we shall vote against this Motion. At the same time, I feel sure that in expressing our own views, I shall also be expressing the general opinion of the House and of all parties in it, when I say that as a House of Commons, while rejecting this Motion, we desire and expect from the Government a large policy of energetic, resolute and effective action.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The most important, I may say the only relevant part of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was the last sentence or two in which he committed himself to voting against this Motion. He was good enough to taunt me with having differed from time to time from people with whom I had previously collaborated. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman was the last man to taunt anybody with that after the exhibition which we had last week in this House of a very lively scratching tournament between two comrades who had been working together in Geneva and elsewhere a few weeks ago. But, if I may say so, the thing that matters to Members of his party, not in this House, but 872 outside, is the attitude which he adopts towards the policies to which he has committed himself during the last 12 months. He talked about allotments, he talked about agriculture, he talked about building schemes, but he was a party to the document which scrapped all those proposals 12 months before; nay, more than that, during the whole of the 15 months that have intervened he stood by the abandonment of all those policies, and although to-night he has told us—to what extent he has got the consent of the Prime Minister to reveal Cabinet secrets I do not know—that on three different occasions, of which he gave the dates, he has pressed certain considerations inside the Cabinet——
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Either the right hon. Gentleman pressed them in this House, or he pressed them in public speeches, or he pressed them inside the Cabinet.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
As a matter of fact, I did not say "inside the Cabinet," and most of these representations were in writing.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Surely communications of that kind, between colleagues, are of a confidential nature, and whether that is dune inside the Cabinet or by means of communications with his chief for the time being, they are secret documents. But that is not the point which I am making. My point is this, that he has emphasised to-night the fact that with regard to the means test he had been urging changes upon the Government, but although to-night he has talked about allotments and about great schemes of building and agricultural development, he has never told us that he has written a single letter during the whole of the 15 months to urge those considerations upon the Government. To-night he is going to vote against the Motion because he is committed to the scrapping of all those proposals 15 months ago. That is not what the party expected when he was snatched like a brand from the burning. But these compulsory renentances are never very satisfactory. There was something which was, I think, more or less semi-official as an explanation of the 873 conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. It was in a very reputable and influential Liberal paper:The Liberal party will support the Government, the argument being that it would be indecent not to do so, since it cannot discharge itself, even if it wished to do so, which it does not, of responsibility for Government policy during the period covered by the Motion. It is one of the inescapable difficulties of the Liberal Parliamentary party at the moment and, therefore, calls for the indulgence of the rank and file.What does that mean? It means that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are entangled by their commitments, that they have entangled their party with those commitments, and they are trying to get the Liberal party revived and to go forward. I tell them that a horse that is hobbled does not make much progress, especially if he has only one leg left free, and that is the position in which the right hon. Gentleman is left. He has gone over the top; he expected a real charge forward, but he has fallen flat in No Man's Land, firing at the moon. He is caught in the barbed wire which he himself helped to set up. That is his position at the present moment, and no amount of talking and gibes will get away from that fact. The right hon. Gentleman made the suggestion that I should give the party a supply of fatted calves, but, from all I understand, the veal was very cold at the Queen's Hall meeting. The whole position is that the right hon. Gentleman, from the moment he committed the party to an election without guarantees, is responsible for all that happened afterwards without guarantees.
It is no use talking about pledges. I read the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Conservative party and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They were quite clear. They stated in specific words that in their opinion the only way to redress the trade balance was by import duties. That was their opinion. They said it not merely in one speech but in several speeches, and it was clear that they were agreed words, in order that they should be absolved from any charge of breach of faith in the event of there being Protection. From that moment I had absolutely no doubt that when the right hon. Gentleman advised Liberals throughout the country, and Free Traders, to vote for candidates who supported these two right hon. Gen- 874 tlemen, he must have foreseen the consequences; and he has no right to talk about Ottawa trickery and things of that kind. From that moment I felt certain that everything was protected except Free Trade, and it was clear to anyone—and I am not one of those who have joined at any time in charging a breach of faith against the right hon. Gentlemen opposite for what they have done—what they had in their minds. They were quite prepared to listen to any arguments which could be advanced, but if they had done otherwise, the whole of the 400 Members behind them would have felt, not merely that they had thrown away an opportunity, but that they had neglected the pledges they had given.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen belong to opposite wings of the Liberal party, but they are both Ministerial wings. There is the right Ministerial wing, and there is the left Ministerial wing. I cannot see any substantial difference in practice between the two, except that one is more candid about the position. Free Trade was doomed from the moment the right hon. Gentleman agreed to an election without sufficient guarantees. He talks about the time when I was in a Coalition. I am not in the least ashamed of it, and I have never criticised the fact that there was an attempt to set up a National Government to deal with a national emergency. In so far as I could at that time form any judgment at all, I did so; but in our case, in an election which has been condemned by almost every gentleman there, we had an agreed programme beforehand of the most elaborate character —Mr. Bonar Law and myself—and we published it to the country. I had my guarantees about Free Trade, and Mr. Bonar Law and all his colleagues stood by all those pledges to the very last word, and we carried out that programme.
But what is the difference between these two right hon. Gentlemen? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen thinks that, Free Trade having been destroyed, he can revive it; the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and his friends, being realists, have come to the conclusion that it is no use wasting time on lamentations and attempts at resuscitation. That is the difference. The great race to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 875 Darwen belongs, and of which he is a very distinguished member, used to be divided into two sects, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Sadducees taking a broad, tolerant, not to say worldly view of the doctrines of their faith and not believing in the least in the Resurrection; the Pharisees, narrow, self-righteous, straining at gnats—like your constitutional points—after they had swallowed huge camels, but professing a working faith in the Resurrection.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, and the right hon. Gentleman might join them. That is the difference between the two right hon. Gentlemen, and the right hon. Member for Darwen to-night has made abundantly clear, what I stated in my letter, that he has not merely committed himself, but committed the whole of his party, to the scrapping of all the great schemes of development upon which we fought the election of 1929. It is all in that White Paper, and he boasted of the fact that he was one of the triumvirate that settled all the policies at the time. He scrapped scientific research, draining, allotments—which he wants now—agricultural revival, building; he scrapped them all, and when there is a Motion to-night, he condemns it. Yes, and Disarmament, too. I shall have something to say about how he went back on proposals to which not merely he and I agreed, but hon. Members here agreed. He has gone back on those vital proposals and landed Europe on the brink of war. Liberals to-morrow, when they read his speech, will find what they are committed to, and I think there will be a feeling, not only of disappointment, but of dismay. He has paralysed all the remnants of the hope that was springing up in their breasts.
That is all I am going to say about that. I appreciate all the humorous references that have been made to me by the right hon. Gentleman. He has acquired a kind of synthetic humour which is by no means, as everyone knows, a natural product of his soil; but he knows now what the ingredients are, and he mixes them up and he presents us with synthetic jokes which pass off very well.
876 Having said as much in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to say something about the substance of this Motion, which, with the exception of the means test, the right hon. Gentleman avoided. Upon that I do not disagree with him. I am very glad that the Prime Minister is reconsidering the position. I regretted this means test. When you live in a very small place, you can find exactly how it works. It works very unfairly, and it is creating a great deal of resentment, not only in the minds of working men, but in the minds of others who happen to know the kind of individual who gets full pay and the kind of individual who is ruled out. That is resented by a decent community where everybody knows his neighbour, and I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are taking it in hand.
With regard to the Motion as a whole, I support it without hesitation. It is the view which I have taken from the start. I think that the Government have made a mistake, and I hope that they will reconsider it, because the situation is far too serious for any attempt to make party capital out of it. There are 3,000,000 unemployed, and as far as I can see, in spite of the reassuring message of the right hon. Gentleman, there are no clear signs of a blue sky, nothing that you can depend upon. I hope that the Government will reconsider the line which they have taken up to the present. The Prime Minister's speech was not reassuring. He defended everything that has been done, and defended it with an emphasis which I regretted. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Conservative party made a speech the other day. It was very frank as usual, and he put the position of Protection and Free Trade in a statement which I think, on the whole, is hopeful. He has said it before in my constituency and at Blackpool. He has treated tariffs, not as if they were permanent, but as if they were experimental. He has said that you cannot tell at the present moment whether they are a success or a failure. I quite agree. It is too early to say. I, naturally, think that they will fail. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that they will succeed, but in two or three years time we shall know. Then, he says, when the experiment has been really tried, we can reconsider it.
877 The Goths used to try every question twice: once when they were drunk, and once when they were sober. The question of tariffs was settled when, if I may adapt a famous phrase of a great leader of the party opposite, they were inebriated with the exuberance of their own triumphs. The right hon. Gentleman says that they will try it again when they have been sobered by experience. That is all you can expect. Nothing can alter the situation, except the act of this Parliament, and if the Leader of the most considerable section of this House, one who has the majority and the life of the Government in his hands, undertakes that he will reconsider the matter in the view of experience, and, if he finds that it is a failure, will take the necessary steps and give the necessary advice to his party, that is about all that you can expect.
The only thing that I would ask in that respect is, What is your test? The test is not what our trade or employment is in a period of world-wide slump. The test is whether tariffs are a success in reference to a period when the world has recovered; that is, you will compare conditions, not with 1931 and 1932, but with, say, 1928 and 1929 when the world was doing well and when there was no unemployment in France, Germany, the United States of America, and in Belgium, but only here. That is the only way in which you can fairly test it. You must compare with a Free Trade period, when the world conditions are the same. I have no doubt at all that when the world recovers our unemployment will go down, but in 1929, as the Prime Minister pointed out, we had over 1,000,000 people out of work. The test is, How many shall we have out of work when the world has recovered?
I am going to ask the Government one or two questions. Upon what hypothesis are they working as far as the future is concerned? What are their plans? They have 3,000,000 unemployed. The future is dark and doubtful, and anybody reading carefully, as I read, the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will find that what is called his optimism was very qualified. He said: "You will have setbacks. I do not say the improvement is coming immediately; it is going to be very gradual." I hope that I am interpreting the right hon. Gentleman fairly. Take the speech of the Governor of the 878 Bank of England. It was a very ominous speech. Here is the man who, above all others, has been the guide of Ministries for over 10 years. He says he is lost and does not know what to do; he cannot foresee what is going to happen. When the pilot on the bridge says that he cannot see the course clear, it is time that the passengers felt uneasy as to what will happen.
Take the hypotheses of the right hon. Gentleman. There are two. The first is the one on which he is working, that we are going to have a gradual improvement. The 3,000,000 will be down to 2,000,000—when? Will the right hon. Gentleman hazard his reputation as a prophet by saying that the number will be down in 12 months time to 2,000,000? The 2,000,000 will be down to 1,000,000—when? I ask again, will the right hon. Gentleman or any Member sitting on the Government Bench, having all the advice at their command, venture to tell the House of Commons and the country that they will get rid of the solid mass of unemployed that we have had in this country for over 10 years? The waters of the deluge may abate, but you may have that swamp of unemployment left which we have had for over a decade. As the oldest Member of this House, may I ask the Government what their plans are? Have they any plans, except to wait and see how the dose of tariffs will work? There is no country in the world that is acting like that at the present moment. Even in the United States of America, after they adopted the policy that the Prime Minister proclaimed, the policy of the White Paper, with which my right hon. Friend agreed for years, President Hoover threw it over this year. He may find in November that he threw it over too late.
What are the Government going to do? Are they going to make any provision at all for the unemployed, except doles? Take the hypothesis of the Chancellor of the Exchequer–3,000,000 gradually working down to 2,000,000, not rapidly, but gradually, with setbacks; and the 2,000,000 going down to 1,000,000. Has he thought for a moment what it will cost to maintain this number in idleness during the present Parliament? At the end of this Parliament you will have spent from £350,000,000 to £450,000,000 in maintaining anything from 1,000,000 to 879 3,000,000 in idleness, but what will you have at the end of it to show? Nothing? No, the deterioration of some of our best workers. I went down to the National Eisteddfod of Wales in a district where very nearly half the population was out of work. They were not old men whom I saw along the streets, but robust, sturdy young men hanging about. They have been hanging about for months. The mayor of the town, a very able man and a steel worker, has been on the dole for six months and has no prospect of anything.
You will have spent £350,000,000, and there is nothing to show for it except the deterioration of hundreds and thousands of young men. And you are going to wait for four years to see whether tariffs will save the situation? I beg the Government to reconsider that position. The right hon. Gentleman to-night has rather banged the door against suggestions.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am very glad to hear it—so pleased that I make no further comment. I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. I think it is vital that the Government should not slam the door against suggestions. I make the same suggestion as I have made over and over again, and I will continue to make it, as long as I remain in this House, until the problem is solved, and that is that you should use this period of slackness, slackness in men, slackness in trade, slackness in money—you do not know what to do with it; there is a surplus of men and a surplus of money—to put right in this country the things which need rectifying and which need improving. Will the House bear with me if I put forward exactly what I suggest? I am not putting forward the case of municipal baths and washhouses, or even town halls. I am not despising those things in the least, but there are so many urgent things of a reproductive character that you could do that those things could wait. Agriculture I am going to deal with later; but before I come to one or two suggestions about that let me enumerate others. You could cleanse the slums. Nobody was keener about that when he was Minister of Health than the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer. But every effort hitherto has 880 been timid, tentative. That is not the way to eradicate a sore like that, with which there is nothing comparable in any civilised country in the world. [Interruption.] Well, I would like to know where; but if there is, then do not let us dispute about things which are not relevant. Assuming there are other countries as bad, it is an obligation of conscience on us to cleanse them, to rehouse the people in brighter and healthier surroundings, giving them speedy and cheap access to their work. It would be an asset to this country if we were to do it.
Then there is the question of telephones. We are the tenth in the world as regards telephones—this great commercial country the tenth in the world Could not we at least climb up and become the third? It seems to me to be the opportunity for initiating new schemes, when banks cannot find investments for their cash, when many of the docks need renovating, when the iron and steel industry might be improved, and not merely our road but cur rail transport should be seen to, in the matter of electrification and wagons. In the case of the roads at least we might complete the programme which was begun, instead of leaving the roads in such a condition as I have seen them, in which they are a perfect danger—where hedges have been broken down, and you do not know where the road begins and where it ends.
Then there is land settlement. I urge this upon the Government. In my judgment land settlement offers the best opportunity and chance of providing productive employment for our workers. In France there is 40 per cent. of the population on the soil, in Germany 30 per cent., Holland 23 per cent., and Belgium 19 per cent., whereas we have only 7 per cent. If we increased our percentage by 5 per cent. there would be an extra 800,000 people on the land, and that would mean another 500,000 employed in ancillary occupations to equip them, to build for them, to provide for their needs. You would solve the permanent problem of unemployment. Yet here we are, buying £350,000,000 worth from abroad, selling £225,000,000 of our own produce, and selling it at £800,000,000 to the consumer, which shows how thoroughly bad is the organisation of agriculture in this country. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends will say, "Where are you 881 going to get the money? You are going to burden the taxpayer." No, you are not; you can do this in a way which will lighten the burden of the taxpayer temporarily, leaving him a margin, and will permanently add to the resources of this country by doing something.
Reclaim your derelict lands and recodition—[Interruption.] Just listen, first of all. It is worth listening to, I can assure you, because I have no hesitation in saying that in one or two or three years you will be coming to it. What is more important, recondition your half-cultivated land. I make this statement upon evidence which I can produce. There is more uncultivated, and certainly more under-cultivated, land in this country than in any country in Europe, except Russia. The right hon. Gentleman says we cannot borrow. Why? Here we are with hundreds of millions and more of money lying idle—valuable reserves—all these tasks waiting accomplishment, and 3,000,000 men out of work. Millions of men idle, millions of acres idle, hundreds of millions of money idle! Cannot we bring the three together, somehow or other? My schemes may not be good ones. Why do you not think out schemes of your own? You have at your command all the resources of your Departments.
I beg the Government to do this, and to do it in time. They cannot be quite sure that even the Chancellor of the Exchequer's qualified, modified optimism is to going to be realised. I remember very well, when I was Prime Minister, discussing matters with the right hon. Gentleman who was then President of the Board of Trade. We consulted some of the greatest financiers and some of the greatest business men in this country as to what was going to happen, and they all said, "It will be all right about the spring." I never found one of them who foresaw—well, there might have been one or two, but the bulk of them never foresow—that for 10 years we should be burdened with over 1,000,000 unemployed. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has to resort to the same kind of information as was available to us when we were Ministers. He must not be too sure that he is right, or that his advisers are right. I hope he is, because if he is not I do not know what is going to happen in this country.
882 The responsibility rests upon the majority in this House. You have four years. Nobody can move you except yourselves. Your responsibility is enormous. You were chosen, just as the rest of as were chosen, by a party caucus, but you were elected by voters not amenable to party caucuses, but drawn from every party. You came in to put things right, to save the pound—it is down to 13s. 5d.—to restore our trade. If you fail, no party caucus can save you. The issue will be decided by men and women who are not amenable to the orders of party caucuses. Party discipline is an admirable thing in its time and under proper conditions. It is very useful to save a party in political crises. Party discipline can be fatal in a national crisis. It means that hundreds of men, who are responsible to scores of thousands behind them, are not exercising their own judgment, using their own gifts of discernment, but are subordinating what they believe, in their hearts, are suppressing their apprehensions, merely for party reasons. I have seen that happen twice recently in this House. Take the administration of the present Lord President of the Council, which started in 1924. He had a majority of 200 or 300, I think, admirably drilled, very docile—their tameness was shocking to me. We had over 1,000,000 unemployed the whole time, and absolutely nothing was done to cope with that problem. The countryside was emptying itself into the towns and increasing unemployment. Agriculture was decaying, and nothing appreciable was done the whole time, and yet not a protest came from behind.
§ 7.0 p.m.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The Noble Lady is always protesting. She is the only protestant in that party. Then, take the administration of the present Prime Minister. He came in with a great programme for dealing with unemployment. Great schemes! He said to-day "I tried them all." He did not. The right hon. Gentleman afterwards scrapped them in the White Paper, and I sat there asking him month after month to carry out the very schemes he himself had projected. They were great schemes.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They were in a book to which my hon. Friend agreed— 883 "Labour and the Nation "—and, by the way, I never saw him join us in the Lobby at that time.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Member never gave me a chance. He was always voting for the Government, except when he thought it perfectly safe to vote against them. But what happened? I remember very well the late Vernon Hartshorn giving au account of the schemes. He broke his heart because he was not allowed to carry these schemes into operation. But let me say this, when we were trying to press these schemes upon the right hon. Gentleman, the opposition came from the three gentlemen who afterwards created the National Government. At last we were getting a move on when the crisis overwhelmed that Government, but during the whole of that time party discipline, in spite of party murmurs upstairs, was so rigid that nothing was done in this House. If you had had independence when the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister, if you had had independence when the present Prime Minister was head of the Socialist Government, you would have saved the situation. I here appeal to right hon. Gentlemen sitting there and here, knowing the gravity of the situation, knowing the graver possibilities of the situation, to act—to act for themselves, act for the thousands who trusted them without respect of party last time, and behave like the trustees of a great nation.
§ Mr. ALAN TODD
We have just listened to a most remarkable speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I am sure the House will bear with me for a few minutes and also sympathise with me in the ordeal I have to face in following so brilliant a speech as that of the right hon. Gentleman. May I say I have a certain line I wish to take with regard to a development loan and I would like in this matter to follow the remarks of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs on that subject? It does appear to me, speaking as a back-bench Conservative Member for a poor district in which there is an immense amount of poverty and a great deal of distress, that during the present time the Government 884 must take some steps to tide over the intermediate period which we, supporters of tariffs, realise must take place before the tariffs can be successful. During that period it is absolutely necessary that some sort of development scheme along the lines indicated by the right hon. Gentleman should be taken up by the Government. I should like to say that there is no more opportune moment for the raising of a long-term development loan, or so it seems to me, than that following upon the War Loan conversion. A great amount of money has been released, and there is considerable danger that money will be wasted if it is not put into some form of useful channels. There is on the Stock Exchange a condition of affairs whereby money is boiling over from the gilt-edged market and going into ordinary shares. That appears to me to be a very dangerous situation because I do not think that within the next six months the present height of ordinary shares will be justified by the results There will then be an inevitable collapse, and I would prefer to see a Government loan for development purposes whereby some of that surplus cash would be absorbed. I do hope the Government will make an endeavour to raise some such development loan in the near future for I consider the moment, most opportune for making such an issue.
There are only one or two remarks I would like to make with regard to the means test. I think the Labour party, who always criticise our party and assume to themselves the credit for assisting the unemployed, should realise that many back-bench Members here are equally in touch with the unemployed. I have time and again, as I have held small meetings in different parts of my division, come in contact with and inquired into the troubles of the unemployed. I am perfectly certain that the present means test is working unsatisfactorily. It has been pointed out by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) that you may find differences in administration in small areas between one town and another. That should be done away with, and I expect the Minister of Labour will do away with it. But I think you will have to go much further. You will have to take into consideration the question of small savings. It is a legitimate grievance that a man living next door to a 885 thrifty man is given more benefit than the thrifty man because the thrifty man has saved a few hundreds of pounds. This grievance has spread from the unemployed to the people in employment. Before the means test it was only the unemployed who were apprehensive about how the Act was working. But the cancer has spread to those people who are employed for the reason that they have to support the people who are unemployed. It is a question you have to go into most carefully because it affects the whole basis of our working-class society. How are you going to relieve the young men and women who should be in a position to get married and yet must spend their wages in supporting their kin; how you are going to relieve them and spare the burden falling on them at the present moment?
There is another point regarding the young single men between 18 and 25. I think the Government should compel them to go to physical drill classes in the morning and to have some craft lessons on their trades in the evening. I believe the thing should be done compulsorily. I see no chance, for many years, of many of these young men getting back into employment, and I do press that the Government will consider compulsorily making these young men attend physical drill classes in the morning. In the afternoon they can play their football matches and in the evenings they must attend craft classes in connection with the trades in their areas.
§ Mr. HICKS
In rising to take part in this Debate, I want to say how much appreciate sonic of the suggestions that were put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and also the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I am sure that the Government must feel, as we all feel, enormous uneasiness abort the present position. The note of warning struck will certainly not fall unheeded, or on deaf ears. Everyone should feel their responsibility in this grievous position with which the country is faced in dealing with this problem of unemployment. I am not proposing in the short time I am going to speak here to-night to concentrate upon the means test; that has been stated for our party. Later, when the Government introduce 886 a Bill, it will be competent for us to put our point of view in a more pointed way than we could do to-night. We are once again discussing this monstrous evil of unemployment, and all that the Government and their supporters are holding out to us is nothing more than their belief that somewhere out of the "vasty deep" something will arise to give relief to this colossal problem with which we are faced at the present time.
My beliefs are reinforced by the mumblings and manifestations taking place all over the country. I say "mumblings." The size of the demonstrations and the urge behind them are only an indication of the enormity of the problem and the feelings that lie behind it. I believe that unemployment will break this Government as it has broken other Governments—that it will undermine the whole fabric of society—unless the steps taken to deal with it are different from those hitherto employed in dealing with the matter. This House must be now fully aware, or ought at least to be fully aware, that every economy we make creates unemployment. The continued displacement of labour by machinery, the concentration of capital, the amalgamations, the mergers—all these things which are taking place in our midst to-day are creating unemployment. I would be very happy, and I am sure that my party would, if, at a later period, any hon. Member could suggest a means of overtaking it.
Unemployment is being created much faster than either new industries or fresh avenues of employment can be provided. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs says that we have 3,000,000 people unemployed, and he asked how you were going to reduce them, by how many, by what steps, how gradually, and in how many years you were going to do it. The very conditions of the system of society result in every step in economic progress creating more unemployment; it is adding to the numbers at every step. Economic progress is excluding our people from normal participation in the affairs of life. They are stripped of all means of living and they are naked of all resources. Unemployed are created by the thousand, by tens of thousands and by the million and, if you take the world over, they are created by-the tens of millions. They are stripped 887 of all opportunity for taking part in normal life. When proposals are made for economy, that is the moment when you begin to ask how many persons you can discharge.
Very scant consideration is paid to the human side, but if the figures of income and expenditure can be so arranged that you are able to provide less working expenses than you did before, you go back to your directors and smile and they receive your report with loud applause. The human tragedy represented by the human beings that are displaced has scant, if any, consideration, but they should be the persons, who are flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood first to be considered in any measures of economy. Your every move is adding to the numbers of the unemployed. It is time that somewhere and somehow this situation was properly dealt with. You object to the unemployed parading along the main streets and you hope they will go back to the alleys and remain there, and not become public nuisances. When they come out and become a public nuisance, then you say that the forces of the State should be employed in order to show those people how wrong it is to come out and parade as they do, aggravated by their misery. You are the people who are responsible for the present system. It is you who are on trial.
The Government are doing very little to help. To discharge a worker from employment is like passing sentence of death on him. What chance has a worker to be re-absorbed into the industry from which he has been discharged or into other industries? You are throwing the workers out, to become the prey of want and hunger, just as the Christians were thrown into the arena many years ago. What have the women and children of the unemployed to do? said the other night, during a Debate here, that, stripped of all resources, the unemployed have either to become burglars or bandits. They can do nothing but beg or steal, or prostitute their bodies. Give me some alternative. Unemployment figures go mounting higher and higher, and in our opinion the numbers will get greater. What are you going to do to assuage the hunger, misery and privation that the system itself makes? The alternative is to wither and perish.
888 You may say that there is the dole, and that there is the public assistance committee or the Poor Law. What a hideous joke, to say that! Ask the experts in poverty—ask the Rowntrees—what the minimum is upon which people should be allowed to subsist. Ask the representatives of the churches, and ask the people who go into the shadows very often, and so become acquainted with the sordid side of life, what that minimum should be. It is a hideous joke. You have, in a thousand ways, endeavoured to make these people good citizens. This system has made them capable, industrious, honest, truthful and self-respecting. You have established a thousand and one institutions to make them law-abiding and possessed of social and civic pride. What chance have they to manifest or exercise those qualities? What chance have they to participate in civic pride when they are thrown into the abyss of unemployment? Whatever step you take, it is to keep these people down, after having given them their education. Unfortunately, the Government seem to be employed in limiting the opportunities for education. Perhaps those people will not be so sensitive of their suffering in the future as they are at the present time. People must break your law in order to be able to live. Whatever forces you employ, these poor, weak, unarmed men and women, driven frantic by anxiety, will penetrate your defences, whatever defences you may put up.
In the time at my disposal I cannot condemn the social order with the degree of thoroughness that I should have liked. Rooted in the very system which the Government are supporting is the fact that the unemployed are utterly superfluous to our existing social order. They are more than you want. The unemployed army will be added to, and the surplus will grow greater. In what way can you absorb them? Tell me of an industry where you think that there is an opportunity for revival, and where you can absorb the people who are unemployed? Capitalism, at breakneck speed, is doing its best in every industry to lessen the amount of available employment, by means of machinery, science, rationalisation and trustification. It does not matter whether you like to hear the word "rationalisation" or not; it is still true. The choice of our people is either to perish, or to destroy the present social 889 order. That is the alternative. They have either to agree to go back into the shadows and perish, or to destroy the system that condemns them to such a living death. The unemployed are knocking at your doors with anger and desperation. I ask any of the spokesmen of the Government, or any supporter of the Government, what is going to be done. I hear magnificent speeches, presented in a way which makes me envious of their makers' capacity for building up argument and putting a case. I hear men of wonderful ability, who hold the House enthralled, and are able to state their position, deal devastatingly with their opponents and hold them up to ridicule; and at the end, when we ask what steps are being taken to deal with this problem, you say that it must be hard work for the people, and then afterwards you say to the people that they must have hard times.
The present Government are deliberately setting themselves against public enterprise. They are discrediting public enterprise, and private enterprise is not able to fill the gap. What indications are there that private enterprise can fill the gap Municipal bodies have been compelled to abandon housing schemes. I am glad that the Minister of Health is present now, because he will remember how we deputised him on behalf of the people engaged in the building industry, and begged of him to put a fresh interpretation upon the circular that had been sent to the municipal authorities and to give encouragement to municipal authorities to get on with public work. One or two authorities have refused to do the thing that Parliament and the Minister had declared devolved upon them, to take steps, as was said by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, to clear up their slums. Everybody ought to regard that as an eminently desirable and practical job that should be capable of giving an enormous amount of work, as should bridge-building and road-widening schemes.
The Government have deliberately brought about a curtailment of public work in one way or another to the extent of roughly £65,000,000 in 12 months. There is £65,000,000 worth of work waiting and then this National Government came in, and the councils had either to abandon or suspend it. I am sitting in my office every morning signing cheques which are 890 to go out for unemployment pay over a small portion of the building industry; we are sending out £10,000 or £12,000 a week in unemployment pay to our members. The number of unemployed has been added to by over 90,000 since the National Government took office. Our industry is one in which very few women are employed. Our workers are nearly all males, many being married men. The extent to which they are represented is perhaps bigger than it might be in other industries. I am a representative of the building workers, on their operative side, which I know fairly well. The building industry is a great key industry upon which most other industries are focussed —the timber, stone, slate, glass, cement, sand and gravel, lead and iron and steel industries all need to be supplied with building materials, as do others whose name is legion. There are, in the building industry and in the ancilliary industries, roughly 2,000,000 people, providing building material. The figures were brought out, as the result of an examination of the industry and its immediate surroundings, which was carried out by men most competent to form an opinion. They were sitting in committee for a long time, and they carefully compiled figures and details, and marshalled them in such a way as to present a general picture. There were architects, surveyors, accountants, employers, operatives, manufacturers and commercial people, all trying to take a picture of this industry. If all building workers were employed throughout the whole of the industry it would give employment to 2,000,000 people.
I would submit that building is not waste, but is an asset to the community once it is erected. It is not something thrown away; you have some-thing to look upon as the result of your expenditure. A busy building industry would spread a broad stream of vitalising activity throughout industry generally. The Government, by their policy, have, done their utmost to encompass the ruin of this great industry; they have used every endeavour to check, hamper and destroy it by slowing down housing progress and chaining the slum dweller to the slum, and by failing to maintain the vital equipment of the country in the matter of building roads, bridges, and so on. 891 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs referred to the slums, and I would also refer to housing generally in this country. There are 50 per cent. of the houses in this country with only two bedrooms; 75 per cent. have no bathroom accommodation. There is an opportunity, if you are seeking agencies that would provide opportunities for a better life, to put something in the place of the ramshackle conditions under which so many of our people have to live. In our streets to-day there are enormous opportunities for the employment of people even in repair work, to sweeten up the houses in which our people are compelled to live until proper houses can be built for them. The only house that is painted and decent-looking is the "pub"; that is the only decent house in the street in many of our working-class districts. In the others you will find doors that want painting, windows that want painting, glass broken, the gutters along the eaves and the down-pipes shattered and broken, the tiles loose, the chimney pots loose, and all that kind of thing.
This question of the slums ought surely to be sufficiently appealing, not only because it provides opportunities for employment, but on humanitarian grounds. The Bishop of Southwark and ethers have been for a long time revealing figures showing the enormity of our overcrowding and slum problems. It is recognised by all housing authorities that, on a very modest estimate, 9,000,000 of our people are living in overcrowded conditions, and that at least 2,000,000 children of the people are robbed and cheated of fresh air, sunshine and light, and, as a consequence, of life itself. Surely these facts ought to be sufficiently appealing on the humanitarian side when we have 350,000 men unemployed.
I remember how we were almost bullied by successive Governments to increase the personnel of the building industry in order to meet a long-term programme, and governments and others were talking about the building trade workers being so conservative and so decided that they would not allow anyone to enter their ranks, and saying that their numbers ought to be increased by this, that or the other group of men in order to assist in meeting the nation's demand for housing.
892 I took part in some of those negotiations, and at one time we were offered a bribe of £250,000 to take in an additional 50,000 men. We pointed out, however, the unwisdom of such a course, because already there were sufficient men to utilise all the material that was available and to carry out such programmes as would materialise. We found our unemployment mounting up, until to-day we have 350,000 who, instead of being employed by the Minister of Health, are now at the doors of the Minister of Labour. Instead of working to transform ugliness into beauty, they are drawing unemployment pay, and I, as one general secretary of a union, and others, are sitting every morning in our offices despatching unemployment pay to them and trying to cornmiserate with them in their terrible position.
We not only have that condition of affairs, but there are 20,000 architects unemployed in this country—men who presumably have had a good public school education, who have been trained on the technical side, and who have travelled abroad to equip themselves for submitting designs that will give us an opportunity of turning ugliness into comparative beauty. There are 20,000 of them unemployed, and they are running "draws" inside their organisations to try to provide them with the means of subsistence. What a waste, what a folly it is that, while we have 350,000 building trade operatives and 20,000 architects unemployed, while we have factories and workshops idle, all this necessary work is not being carried out. In our industry we have an abundance of employers, organisers and specialists, and the Government are not availing themselves of the skill and capacity that we have, while we have a proportion of unemployed that is the greatest in the country to-day.
Nearly 30 per cent. of our people are unemployed, and I am afraid that before this winter is over the percentage will be even higher. Work is not expanding; this is not the period of the year when building work expands—on the contrary, it contracts. People do not have building carried out in winter unless under necessity. Is there any other industry in the country to which the Government can turn to provide employment? This is the only industry that offers the possibility of breaking through the vicious circle. Including the trades which are necessary 893 to supply the industry with material, 80 per cent. of the total outlay returns to the workers in the form of wages. What better avenue could there be for spending money and trying to stimulate trade than for these people to be able to take part in purchasing the things which they need, and with which nearly every warehouse in the country is now overstocked?
At the International Labour Conference at Geneva this year, Government representatives from over 30 countries passed a resolution urging that this problem of public works and public buildings should be tackled in order to alleviate the problem of unemployment in their countries. I ask our Government whether they cannot lend a willing ear to this plea, without waiting to see the effect of tariffs next year. What tariffs may bring forth we are waiting to see, as everyone else is, but I ask the Government not to wait till then, when they know in their own minds that whatever contribution tariffs may be able to make will be infinitesimal as compared with the problem of unemployment, and will not be sufficient to enable it to be tackled in anything like a practical way.
An extension of public works will encourage industrial revival in three ways: by providing direct employment; by improving the facilities and equipment of the country; and by an increase in the volume of goods purchased. These three would act concurrently with one another. We do not want to see the unemployment figures further increased in six months' or 12 months' time. Last year it was said in Debate that they would be greater than they were then, and that prediction has been justified. It is no joy to us that that is so; it is our own people who are suffering, and I am confident that the Government's sympathy with them is as great as ours. They are not, however, providing employment, but are treating us to clever speeches and Debates in the House of Commons while not giving the opportunities for employment for which we are asking. Who else can do so? Can private enterprise do it? Private enterprise has had the opportunity for the last 10 years, and it is failing more and more. It cannot bridge the gap. The problem of unemployment becomes greater, and its capacity to handle it becomes less.
894 The workers loathe the relief system that has been forced upon them. Every worker, whether a member of a trade union or a member of the Labour party, has the greatest contempt and loathing for this vile business. Our people do not want relief as a substitute for employment. Have the Government no better conception of our people than to make them a nation of paupers? Under the present system the chances of taking them back into employment are becoming less and less. They do not want to be harassed and bullied by public relieving officers coming round and prying into the sacred precincts of the family.
Let me quote some figures from the Economic Supplement of the International Federation of Trade Unions with regard to the overstocking of goods in other industries, in order to show that, however great our desire may be, it will not be possible to relieve unemployment in those directions for a very long time, even if at all. This document states that in the middle of 1932 the stocks of wheat in the world were times as great as in 1927. What chance there will be of producing wheat to compete against that, the Government will be best able to understand-. It is stated that 12,000,000 tons were available, constituting about 10 per cent. of the last world harvest. The sugar stocks were 80 per cent. higher than in 1927, amounting to nearly 9,000,000 tons, or 35 per cent. of the world's sugar crop last, year. The stocks of coffee were between three and four times as large as in 1927, being 1,800,000 tons, or 65 per cent. of the crop of last year. These stocks which are already in hand are equivalent, it is stated, without any further production, to the whole of the demand for 1931
In the case of cotton, the stocks were 50 per cent. higher than in 1927, being 1,800,000 tons, or 40 per cent. of last year's crop. Jute stocks had increased almost eightfold during the period 1927–31, there being 720,000 tons already in hand to-day, or 60 per cent. of the world production of last year. The stocks of raw silk are three times as great as in 1927, and comprise 80 per cent. of the world's production last year, or almost 11 times the average monthly world output. Coal stocks are four times as great as in 1927. The stocks of oil are about the same, but constitute 23 895 per cent. of last year's output. If the demand remains at the present level, it will he three months before the present stocks of oil are cleared and new supplies are needed. The stocks of benzene are 10 per cent. of the world output last year, while the stocks of copper are seven times as big as in 1927, or 45 per cent. of the world production; and of lead the stocks are three times as large.
I could go on with zinc and the other commodities. What reason is there to think that in any of these industries there is going to be an industrial revival? The building industry offers the greatest opportunity, and in my opinion the only one, to break through this vicious circle of unemployment and provide relief to ancillary industries. However much you may desire to defend the Government, if the truth is told, you cannot hope for prosperity by and through these agencies. I am asking that this should be regarded as a proposition which may very seriously be entertained by the Government. I could give figures dealing with the size of the housing problem, the millions that have been added to the population since the War, and the number of people who have transferred from one part of the country to another, and show that in Wales roughly 250,000 people have left on account of the industrial depression and gone into industrial towns in Great Britain, because there is the only opportunity of employment, and created congestion where there was already congestion before.
If you accept the theory that this country is down and out, which I do not believe, that is all there is to it, but, if you say that we ought to have opportunities for whatever trade there may be in the future, one of the best ways and means of tackling the problem is not merely housing, not merely building schools, municipal baths and washhouses, but factories and workshops, many of which are antiquated, congested and out of date. Instead of having people coming from the outskirts, straphanging in omnibuses and trains, working in the centre under congested conditions in badly lit, insanitary buildings, as many of them are, and sending them back again at night, you should have some plan—a five-year plan if you like. Do not be afraid of copying other people who have taken 896 stock of where they come from, where they are, and where they want to go. Look out for a plan and then try to establish some responsibility for the Government in this direction, which I hope they will do, particularly in building, and you will then recognise that the country is not worn out and that an investment in building is a decent asset which we should be proud to possess. There is nothing that would give you greater comfort than to know that your factories were up to date and that you had built decent homes for the people.
§ Captain FULLER
We have listened to a very interesting speech. The hon. Member is able to put his case in a forcible manner which I always appreciate. There was one inconsistency, when he said that industry as we knew it to-day could not absorb our unemployed and then went on to tell us how it could be done. When I approach this problem of unemployment as a. newcomer to politics, I look round to see if I can get any assistance from anything that has been done before. I think that is a perfectly legitimate quest. I have come across a statement by a member of the Independent Labour party, not now in the House, in the "Daily Herald" of August last year. He said:The Government had no courage to grapple with anything. Committee or commission was its standby, either to gain time or to shelve, and then nothing was done. Their plan for dealing with these things was Electoral Reform for 1933 and Land Valuation for 1934.I am sure hon. Members opposite will not blame me if I am not able to produce anything better than that. But I can see no point in indulging in carping criticism. This is a question which transcends all parties and should call for the earnest attention of Members of all parties to suggest some kind of solution. I do not agree with hon. Members opposite that the means test can fairly be done away with. I imagine that people who can afford to contribute towards their livelihood should do so because otherwise, by taking relief to which they have no particular claim and which they really do not need, they are preventing those who do need some kind of relief from getting as high a scale as they otherwise might. We have heard many objections to tariffs as being a pressure on the poor and yet by giving indiscriminate doles under any 897 system surely you are making it more likely that more tariffs will be necessary.
In my view, from inquiries that I have made throughout the summer and the early part of the year, the agitation is not against the means test at all but against the irregularity of its administration within the law. Is the law right? I cannot refrain from mentioning one or two cases of harshness. In the first place, there is the case of the ex-service man and his disability pension. I am a man who has been connected with the Service for the best part of my life. For the life of me I have never been able to see the justice of the Government's claim that the disability pension should be taken in to account in granting relief. Consider the case for a moment. You have a man who was wounded in the War and lost, say, an arm. He is assessed on a 50 per cent. disability pension and by that assessment what you do theoretically, although in practice it never can be the same, is to put back that arm and give him two arms with which to work. When he comes along for some sort of relief, you take off that arm and say he is not allowed to come in. I can never see the justice of that. We shall never reward these wounded men sufficiently for what they have done for us, and it is, to say the least, a very mean attitude to take up in regard to them.
Then there is the question of Widows' Pensions. When they were given, they did not provide for the contingency that the widow might be obliged to support a son or daughter who was out of work and required relief by way of transitional payment. Another case I might mention is that of allowances to families where there are a number of young children. It is futile to cut down relief in cases of that nature. In the great majority of cases where I have been able to make inquiries the public assistance committees have performed a real public service in the administration of transitional payments. The difficulties that they have had to contend with have obviously been in the interpretation of the Act in one way or another, and that has demonstrated beyond doubt that the Government in a matter of this kind cannot just put down the framework of the Act and leave the public assistance committees to fill in the details. I hope that they will be relieved of this onerous and very distaste- 898 ful task, which they have performed with a good deal of ability.
Perhaps I might consider the general question of unemployment for a moment. We have the evil among us in a very intensified form, and we have to deal with the question of temporary relief. I want the Government to give a lead. I want to put a stop to all this verbal competition that is going on all round for the benefit of the electorate and to get down to the problem. It is amazing to me to think that for all these years, with this nettle growing up under our very noses, no one has done much more than talk about it and give out doles. Every Government in turn has glorified in this while the Opposition has be sported itself in futile criticism. The Government cannot afford to mark time and in their approach to the problem they must face two things: First, they must be prepared to spend money. You will not do much without it. Secondly, we must all stop talking about it and must make constructive suggestions and push the Government on to action. This is a matter that transcends all party discipline, and I shall do my best to push them as long as I can.
Again, if we face up to the fiscal issue and are candid, we shall realise that Free Trade under existing conditions in the world means putting our own people out of work and, on the other hand, tariffs mean putting the foreigner out. I believe we are labouring under a complete misconception when we imagine, as many seem to do, that the life of the country depends entirely on foreign trade. Seventy per cent. of the trade of the country is internal trade and So per cent. of those engaged in it are wage earners and low-salaried people. In my view, it is perfectly ridiculous, when there are other forms of economy which those not connected with business know of, for employers, the State, or anyone else to insist on cuts in wages, I have never been in favour of that policy because I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it is false and vicious in its application. That is probably about the only thing upon which I shall agree with them. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we decide to revive agriculture and in time begin to exclude foreign agricultural imports, surely, by so doing, we are bound to restrict our export of goods probably by 899 the amount of the excluded agricultural produce. But are we going to be any the worse off for that? I very much doubt it. It is, in my opinion, in the agricultural sphere that the most effective means lie for combating the evil of unemployment. The tragedy of the whole unemployment problem lies not so much in the fact, vital though that is, as in the physical and mental retrogression of its victims. Our thought then must be to maintain these vast reserves of men in an energetic state of mind and body and not permit them to deteriorate before our eyes. What sort of a nation shall we be handing over to posterity?
I ask the Government to get busy on the ameliorative side. I want them to get local authorities going in the matter of assisting to organise recreational centres. There are great reserves of willing people in this country to-day who are waiting for someone to give them a, lead in the services which they are so willing to give to these unfortunate members of the community. The existing activities of many bodies of people are well known to this House. I might mention the Society of Friends and the great effort which they are making to provide allotments for the unemployed. I hope that the Government will see their way to give them a much bigger sum than the measly £10,000, pound for pound, which at present they are doling out under the existing arrangements. It is real, productive work indeed. It is true that less money should be sunk in unproductive ventures, which are a form of luxury we can ill afford at the present time, but there are plenty of works which are productive.
There never was a, time when money was so cheap as it is to-day. No Government has really tackled the housing problem in this country. They have all shirked it, mainly, in my view, unpalatable though it may seem, for political capital. There are drainage schemes. Drainage schemes cannot be said to be a dead loss. At the beginning of this year we had appalling floods in the Doncaster area, and I should like to know if there is any possibility of that matter being attended to in the very near future. There are also telephone developments and afforestation. These are all productive things. At the present 900 time the Government are fiddling about in London with another slice of the introduction of the automatic telephone system, and in a few months' time they will be fiddling about in another area in London. If they have a scheme, a five-year plan if you like, for introducing automatic telephones, let us have it now when depression is with us and we need work.
Probably some arrangement could be made with trade unions as a result of which young men, even though they are on the dole, may be taught some trade in the great works throughout the land. There is no reason why they should come into competition with men who are fortunate enough to be employed. Many farmers now need labour on their land, but under the working of the Agricultural Wages Act they are unable to pay the wages laid down in that Act. Why should not the Government allow the labourers to make use of the benefit under the transitional scheme. I know that some people will say, "Oh, that is a subsidy." What on earth does it matter what it is as long as it brings some relief to the people and results in productive enterprise I should like to see the Army centres in the country used for recreation. Some people will no doubt say, "This sort of thing will militarise the young men." There is no such suggestion in my mind. The garrison centres have the instructors, and, what is more important still, they have the equipment, and young men going there voluntarily would be assured of fellowship and a great deal of sympathy which we know exists in the Services. The Churches are doing a great work. But much more could be done if the Government would only give the lead and encourage these bodies, and especially the Y.M.C.A. This institution became a great national institution during the War, and, indeed, is still, but it could be expanded enormously, I am sure, with Government aid and advice. This would all be worth while.
We should take the long view of the problem and face the facts. Unemployment has been a dead weight in this country for many years, and such being the case I want to see this Government, or any Government, more efficiently equipped and prepared to assist in the alleviation of the unemployed and in tackling the solution of the problem. 901 There is an Economic Advisory Council. It is a mysterious sort of body. I do not know to what extent it advises the Government. It is certain, however, that some members of it have opposed the recent policy of the Government in the Press, and that in my opinion is a measure of its weakness. What we really need is a body constantly studying the economic situation and putting before the Cabinet facts for the consideration of this House. It is ridiculous to suppose that the Cabinet can do all these things as the result of the individual knowledge of its members. Cabinets are composed of politicians whose business is to govern the country, which is a whole-time job, and as a result, of course, the storm is upon them before they even hear its approach. The Government can no longer, in my view, Conservative as I am, divorce themselves from the effect of trade depression and must have a real live organisation to advise them in the matter. They have it in the military sphere, so why cannot they have it in the economic sphere, for in a matter of this nature, as in all matters, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. There are problems looming ahead already, as has been mentioned several times in this Debate. There is the problem of machinery. It is not so easy for the displaced workmen to find work as it was in the old days, and the time-lag between a man being placed out of employment and finding new employment is sometimes spread over a number of years, and in many cases he cannot find employment at all.
On the financial side, there is bound to be a decline in Death Duties with the passage of years, and since the Budget rests upon them to a very large extent, it rests upon a weak foundation. In connection with that matter, the institution of machinery and many other matters, every avenue needs to be explored. The Government need more detailed assistance and helpful advice, and they can no longer stand back and allow events to solve themselves. I am sure that everyone in the House, no matter to which party he belongs, wishes to do the very best by the unemployed. There is no stigma or disgrace in being unemployed, and a man is not a social outcast because he is unemployed. He is a fellow being, a very human being, and I think that we shall all admit that he is standing up against this very great 902 adversity with the courage and determination characteristic of our race.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
May I crave the very kind indulgence of the House in making my first speech here. It is very fitting indeed that I should speak upon this Vote of Censure. My very presence in this House, as a matter of fact, constitutes a Vote of Censure on the Government. The electorate in my constituency were fully conscious of the fact that the mere return of one more Labour Member would hardly be sufficient to convert hon. Members opposite, but they were profoundly dissatisfied with the Government, they were tremendously disappointed with the work of the Government, and they registered in the only way they could their disapproval by defeating the Government candidate. The main reasons for the dissatisfaction were the fundamental problem of unemployment, the administration of the means test, and the general lowering of the standard of life which had gone on since the Government came into office. Twelve months ago people all over the country supported the Government in the hope that thereby some possible hope of prosperity would be brought into their lives. The fact remains that during the last 12 months unemployment has become worse, wages have been reduced, and poverty is more apparent, and probably never in the history of this country has a Government fallen from popularity so quickly as the present Government. When we take the Division, I suppose the Government will win, but if a vote of the electorate could be taken to-morrow the result would be very different. There is tremendous resentment over the administration of the means test, a resentment which is not confined to people who are unemployed. It is a resentment which is deep in the hearts of the people who are employed, and people in different stratas of society, including ministers of religion and all kinds of classes and creeds of men and women. They are resentful because they resent the pauperisation of decent people.
We say that the means test should be abolished. I claim that the right to work, the right to live and the right to maintenance are the right of every man and woman and that the only test that should be employed is the test of the man or woman being willing to work. Take the effect of putting the administration 903 of the means test under the Poor Law. It means that men and women are to be treated as being absolutely destitute. I have heard in this House to-day hon. Members giving instances of different committees at work in different ways, but the fact remains that so far as the vast (majority of public assistance committees are concerned they take the view that the only way they can treat these people is by treating them as being absolutely destitute. In the borough where I live a woman with £16 war savings certificates was told to go away and cash them and spend the money, and then they might be able to do something for her.
The operation of the test itself does a great deal to destroy family life. Hon. Members opposite have accused the party to which I belong of wishing to break up family life. The effect of the means test is that one half of a very poor family are obliged to keep the other half. Where is the justice of it? You not only punish the man who is unemployed but you punish those who are employed. You try to differentiate between families living next door to each other. It is not the fault of the family when a brother is unemployed or a father is unemployed. That is simply bad luck for them, and a result of the social system which creates unemployment. The family next door may be more fortunate. They may have no unemployment in the family; but there is this difference that you are taxing one family far more than the other family. There are no people more generous than the workers are to their relatives and to members of their families. They are prepared and always have been prepared to extend the helping hand. They have done it generously, but when it is made compulsory in this way it means that those who are employed are miserable, the woman who is unemployed is more miserable, and the family life instead of being happy is being broken up. It is better for them to go away from home and into lodgings so that they may then draw a certain amount of relief for themselves.
This Debate will be of no use whatever unless the Government are prepared to recognise that the coming winter is going to be the worst in the history of this country for poor people. What is to be 904 done Transitional payments are presumably to go on at the semi-starvation level. When I was a member of a board of guardians for many years we always recognised that in the winter extra relief should be given to the poor people who came before us. The Prime Minister said this afternoon that there was very little difference between the cost of living in winter and summer. He should know, as we all know, that in the cost of fire alone there is an extra charge of at least 2s. 6d. a week. Unless the Government and those who support the Government are prepared to get down to this matter of unemployment and the abolition of the means test, they are going to find not a very warm welcome but a very cool reception in the constituencies. Our people are asking why there is difference in the treatment of men receiving transitional payment and employers who draw relief under the Derating Act? They want to know, and they have a right to know, why it is that hon. Members talk about the necessity for a means test for the unemployed man who has exhausted his ordinary benefit, while on the other hand the Exchequer gives millions of pounds per year to great industrialists whose concerns pay 20, 30, 40 and 50 per cent. dividends. Have not the Government the right to say to these people: "You can well afford to pay your rates yourselves and not to come on the Exchequer." We have been told, and we shall be told again in the House to-night, that the Government are very strict on the point of economy, and that money cannot be found even to give a little more relief to the unemployed. If they are looking for economy the Derating Act provides a very ready way of saving some millions of pounds a year without putting any increased burden upon anyone.
I want to bring before the House one example of the working of the means test in regard to a disabled ex-service man. He lost an arm and he had a 50 per cent. disability pension. He tried to find employment, but he was crippled in his employment because he had only one arm. He struggled on for a year or two, but eventually he was thrown out. By and by he came to the public assistance committee for transitional payment and his pension was taken into account. Including his pension, he has 31s. 3d. a week. He has a wife and four growing 905 children. Rent, light and fuel cost 12s. a week, and the actual amount of money that he has for keeping six people is 20s. or less than 6d. per person per day. Here is a man who fought for his country. He has medals to show that he was fit in the days of the War. He has to be a bigger hero now than in the days when he went to fight for his country. That is only one case of an ex-service man. There are people in my constituency who are being starved. They live on tea, bread and margarine from Monday morning till Saturday night, with sixpenny worth of pieces at the week-end. Yet the Government and their supporters say to us: "Wait. To-morrow will be better." Our people cannot starve this winter while the Government are finding the way to prosperity.
In conclusion, I say to the Government and their supporters that unless they are prepared to get down to this matter, to recognise that they will stand or fall by the way they deal with the problem of unemployment, unless they are prepared to recognise that employment and good wages are the basis of the prosperity of our country, they will be swept away and the country will come back to a Labour Government, but to a Labour Government with this difference, that it will have a mandate for Socialism which is now the only alternative to the present capitalist system.
Mr. MAN DER
It is with peculiar pleasure that I congratulate the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) very warmly on his admirable maiden speech. His constituency adjoins mine. He spoke in an earnest and sincere way on a problem which I know both he and his constituency feel extremely, and I am sure that the House will look forward with pleasurable anticipation to any contribution he may make in the future. I want to say a word on a matter which has already been referred to by many hon. Members, and that is the necessity for taking some steps at the present time to use the money that is lying idle in the banks of this country for productive work. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) dealt with it, and nearly every speaker who has addressed the House, no matter to what party he belongs, has made the same point. It is true that before the Conversion Loan was issued it was desirable to keep a rigid check on expenditure 906 of all kinds, but now that it has been such a magnificent success the Government would be right and wise, and I think will be forced in the long run to allow this money to be used for private enterprise and by public authorities in carrying out schemes which are so urgently wanted and which will give employment in the building trades. I want to add my voice to the chorus in favour of commencing again, on a cautious scale, the policy of development which was held up so rigidly a year ago where conditions now admit consideration to be given to the most urgent cases.
Let me address a few remarks to the House on the subject of the means test. I am very glad that the Government have decided to act in this matter. They realise that there is a tremendous intensity of feeling on this subject, and they have been wise to bow to the gathering storm. It has been a gathering storm. They may say that they would have done it without any consideration of that kind, but the two things are happening at the same time, and I believe that if nothing was done there would be a revolt in this country. When I say a revolt I am not referring to those unfortunate people who come under the administration of the means test. They are bearing their difficult and trying position with amazing patience and endurance. I am not referring to a revolt among these people. I believe there would have been a revolt of the public assistance committees and of local authorities throughout the country. Several of them are on the verge of being taken over, and there are quite a. number who, if nothing was done, would decline any longer to be responsible for a system of administration which goes right against all their humane and reason able feelings.
I want to call particular attention to a striking example in the case of an important county borough in my own constituency. The county borough of Wolverhampton have certain definite ideas as to how people coming under the means test should be treated, and they have not in the past always coincided with the views held by the Minister of Labour. They have none the less persisted in those views, and only within the last month the Wolverhampton Town Council unanimously, the members of all parties agreeing, passed a resolution saying that they would no longer accept re- 907 sponsibilty for the administration of the means test on the lines and on the scales to which the Ministry of Labour were attempting to make them conform. I do not want to take the matter any further because I am glad to know that negotiations have been restarted, and I hope, in the light of the new development, that it may be possible for an arrangement to be reached which will enable that essentially sane, moderate, and progressive authority to continue its work in this particular sphere. Let me also refer to a resolution from a model urban district council, also in my constituency, where again it was passed unanimously, all parties in the council agreeing to it. It is a resolution from the urban district council of Wednesfield, to this effect:This council is of opinion that the time has now arrived when the cuts in unemployment benefit should be restored, and is further of the opinion that every effort should be made to vary any part of the administration of the means test which is operating harshly.Let me refer to some of the main points which have been put to me in the investigations I have made in my constituency, to which I hope the Minister of Labour will give his close attention in connection with the legislation that is promised. It is obvious that there is only a limited amount of money to go round and there should be a method of preventing those who have ample means from taking it away from those who have not What machinery is to be adopted is a matter which, I believe, is receiving consideration at the present time. But the variations which take place not only in different parts of the country and in neighbouring authorities but under the same authority, depending on who is sitting on the committee on that particular occasion, are too striking to be allowed to continue. In particular, I refer to the variations in scale in the same locality from day to day and week to week.
No doubt it is difficult to lay down in an Act of Parliament a rigid sum which should be paid to all people in all circumstances. Wages and conditions vary, but I suggest that the Minister of Labour should lay down a maximum and a minimum scale between which there should be a discretion given to the local authority to do as they think fit on the merits of 908 the particular case. Whether that duty should be continued with the public assistance committees or whether it would be necessary, in view of the altered circumstances, to appoint commissioners to devote their whole time to it is a matter which should receive consideration. But 'I think it is necessary that the upper and lower level should be stated in an Act of Parliament; they should be known to all who are affected. At the present time there is a strong feeling against the secrecy which exists, people think they are entitled to know on what basis the means test is administered. That information is withheld on the ground that it is confidential.
I hope the Government will also give attention to this further point. There are varying definitions as to what is a family. Sometimes everyone who lives in the house, however remotely they may be related, are considered part of the family; whether they are sisters, cousins or aunts they are all considered as part of the family. In other cases it is confined to what is generally understood as a family, that is, father, mother and children. I hope it will be definitely decided what is to be the definition for the whole country, and that it will be the ordinary definition as known to us. The question of saving has been fully dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen, and it will be universally agreed that the case is overwhelming for some definite arrangement to be made about it. The same remark applies to the treatment of pensions of different kinds.
There is another small matter, the question of a personal hearing. A determination is made. A man is perhaps dissatisfied with it, thinks he has a good case to put forward and asks that he should be personally heard by the committee. No doubt at the beginning there were far too many cases to allow anything of that kind to take place in a general way, but it cannot be so now. I hope the Minister will lay it down that it should be a definite rule that people be allowed to go personally before a committee and present any facts for a reconsideration of their case. Another point is the question of dating back. I understand that now no determination can be made to date back for more than a week. That is really not fair. There 909 have been cases of delay taking place through no fault of the man, and he has been deprived of an allowance which certainly he would have had if the case had been heard earlier. There should be some limit, perhaps a month, up to which a dating back might take place.
There should be a right of appeal for redetermination if there has been a change of circumstances. No doubt it is allowed in some places, but I know places in my constituency where it is not always allowed. A man asks for some additional grant for some special reason, but he is told, "No, we have made our determination for three months and nothing can be done until the end of that period." That is not fair. Administration should allow cases of that kind to be dealt with.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
If the hon. Member has a case like that why on earth did he not let me know about it long ago instead of bringing it forward in this Debate?
§ Mr. MANDER
The evidence has been placed before me by responsible authorities, and I have reason to believe the case to be absolutely true. It was given to me in the course of receiving a deputation from the persons affected. At any rate, I will bring the matter before the attention of my hon. Friend, who is always so assiduous in dealing with these matters. There is another small point, that of longer notice of any change that may have taken place. I have heard of cases where people go on a Friday and are told "Oh, a decision has been come to in your case, and the allowance is not going on any longer." Arrangements might he made by which an earlier notice would be given to these unfortunate people, so that they can make arrangements beforehand and not come suddenly right up against it without any expectation.
There has been a good deal of feeling about this: The unemployed who are on the Insurance Fund and get the weekly benefit have had their one cut. That is bad enough. But many of the people 910 under the means test feel that they have had cut after cut. They have had perhaps 2s. knocked off, and when they had settled down and got used to that, the committee have made another cut and taken another 1s. off. That sort of thing has been going on, and while it may have been done with the best of intentions, to ease the situation, it has caused a good deal of feeling. Probably by this time it has come to an end. I am very glad that the Conversion Loan was a great success, not only because of the assistance it will give to the Budget. It is a cut in capital. During the General Election the people who were affected by the unemployment benefit cut said, "That is all very well, but will there be equality of sacrifice?" The cut in rates of interest is a cut on capital of 30 per cent. I hope that the Government will take every opportunity of continuing the process, because it coincides with the feeling of equality of sacrifice.
I am not so much concerned to-night with censuring the Government for anything that they have done in the past as with trying to urge them, as they have decided to tackle this question, to tackle it in as wide and generous a way as possible. It is a matter of great political importance. We all know the feeling. It is a very right thing that these people, who have political power, should use it to bring pressure to bear on those who can change things. If they had not got the vote their lot would indeed have been difficult, and they would have had very little chance of changing the present situation. Countless homes are saddened and embittered by the inperfections of the present system. The Government will indeed deserve censure if they make no adequate response. I urge them to take every possible step as soon as they can to provide a remedy for the present terrible state of affairs.
§ Mr. MACMILLAN
The terms in which this Motion has been drawn have naturally led to the Debate being conducted partly upon a narrow and partly upon a wide field. Some speakers have dealt with the narrow question of the relief of unemployment and the administration of the means test. Other speeches, quite relevant, have dealt with the whole economic situation, and with the grave and tremendous question that underlies the root problem of unemployment and employment in this country. I shall con- 911 fine myself to the narrow question of the administration of the means test. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) called attention to some part of this problem, and with the arguments put forward by him I found myself in complete agreement. But I am bound to say that I think that speech might properly have come from almost any Member of the House except the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman was for 15 months a Member of the Cabinet who have imposed the rigid administration of the means test. I challenged the right hon. Gentleman and gave him notice that I proposed to raise the point of his specific addresses and pledges at the election. On 26th November of last year, after giving him notice, I raised the question of speeches that he made, speeches which seemed to me inconsistent with the administration of the means test. Pledges have been widely used by Members of all parties to defend their position. Debate has followed Debate, in February, April, and June, and all the time the right hon. Gentleman has sat silent in his place.
He now tells us that he has written letters to the Prime Minister. While speaking without anything like the right hon. Gentleman's experience of public affairs, it seems to me grossly improper that he should disclose the subject-matter of letters written by him to the Prime Minister during a period when he was one of the Prime Minister's trusted colleagues. But now, having resigned upon a different issue, and not upon this issue, in regard to which, I think, he is completely involved, the right hon. Gentleman is trying to get a little cheap popularity by bringing up this question and by saying, in effect, "All the time I was trying to do my best for the poor unemployed." The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the acts of the Government during the time that he was in the Government, and I think that it was very mean to his colleagues for him, of all Members of this House, to have made that particular speech. After all,post hoc, propter hoc is the oldest form of political argument, and I might just as well say, "Look what has happened. For 15 months the right hon. Gentleman's maleficent influence has been in the Government, and three weeks after he leaves it, we get rid of the means test. It was 912 he who was keeping it on all the time." I might just as well argue that while the Liberals were in the Government, nothing was done in this matter, but within few weeks of their departure the Government took, what are, in my opinion, the necessary steps to put the matter right.
There are a few hon. Members of whom I can humbly claim to be one, who need not be ashamed or afraid of raising this issue. Hon. Members of all parties at different stages have raised it and have brought forward their views on it, and the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Labour must now excuse me if I exercise one of the few privileges which back bench Members possess. The members of any Administration, and particularly the Members of this great national Administration, have the privilege of enjoying what may be called "the sweets of office, and are in the proud position of governing the country. They have legitimate pleasure in the fruition of their political ambitions. But we have one privilege. We can, from time to time, yield to the temptation of getting up and saying, "I told you so." The Parliamentary Secretary will forgive me if I indulge a little in that slender right—about the only right left to back bench Members. Debate has followed Debate on this subject and the question of the administration of the means test has been raised time and time again—raised by many Members who support the Government in I think a very moderate, but at the same time, a very cogent manner. We had a Debate in November, 1931; we had a Debate in February of this year, and we had a Debate in April, and in all those Debates, while supporting the principle of the means test, we ventured to raise certain points with regard to its administration.
We raised the first main point of the importance of uniformity of principle in administration and we were told that there could be no uniformity because of the varying conditions of local affairs. Of course, that was not the answer to our point. We did not want uniformity of actual payments, but uniformity of principle. I am told that we are now to be given uniformity of principle. We raised the questions of savings, of disability pensions, of the right of an individual member of a household, however highly you might rate his filial and paternal duty to contribute to sup- 913 port his relatives, to be given some definite allowance or proportion of his income for his own support, and similar matters. It is a great satisfaction to us to feel that the Government propose to deal with these matters.
Of course, we have not yet the text of the Bill, and we do not know on what lines the Government propose to reorganise this system. We recognise, what we always recognised, that even this reformed system is only temporary—to last until larger and far more important Measures for dealing with the relief of the poor, whether employed or unemployed, and the general question of the relief of unemployment come to be-considered as a whole. This reformed system, as I say, will still be temporary, but I think the Government are wise to make such reforms and alterations in their administration as will, I hope, cause general satisfaction throughout the country. At the same time I must exercise my privilege once more. We warned them of this and we must not be afraid of it, but we must mark it as a precedent never to be followed. They have incurred the risk of being thought to yield to rioting what they did not concede to reason. It is a very depressing thing to Members in this House who give loyal support to the Government, and still more depressing to hundreds of thousands of honest and loyal working men who never associated themselves with anything except legitimate and proper agitation, to feel that such a precedent should have been established.
I know that the Government will argue and argue truthfully that all along they meant to deal with these matters, but that is not the point. They let it go on too long. Let it not happen again. Let us attempt to deal with these questions by the light of reason and honour and never allow a Government, whether of the Right or of the Left, to appear to have yielded to the force of violent agitation. I know that I speak on behalf of many Members who have long considered this question and who are personally in touch with these matters in reiterating, that we will give the Government complete support in preserving the principle of the means test—a principle never better stated than in the words quoted by the Prime Minister from the Leader of the Opposition—but we are glad to 914 know that the Government propose to deal with these points and we are deeply anxious to see that no unfairness, no harshness, no hardship in the administration of the means test which eau be removed, will be allowed to persist.
§ Mr. COCKS
We are discussing a Vote of Censure on the Government, in regard to the most important subject of our time—one which goes to the very roots of the existence of civilisation. It seems a great pity that the Prime Minister should see fit to absent himself during the greater part of the Debate on such a Vote of Censure. Even though the right hon. Gentleman is not here, I propose to make some references to his speech. He made an extraordinary attack on the Leader of the Opposition and actually accused my right hon. Friend of changing his views. And this was from a statesman who, whatever his qualities, has changed in the last 12 months every view he publicly professed, whatever may be the case about his private ideas. The right hon. Gentleman said he opposed the Motion because it specified three things for which the Labour Government—of which he was Prime Ministe—were also responsible. There are only three things mentioned in the Motion. First there is false economy in the social services. When was the last Labour Government responsible for false economy in the social services and in what way? The second is the imposition of the means test. When was the Labour Government responsible for establishing the means test? The third is:the unauthorised pursuit of a policy opposed to restoration of world trade.When was the Labour Government responsible for Protection and tariffs, to which those words obviously relate? In regard to these three points the Prime Minister was speaking from imagination and not from facts. As far as the rest of the speech was concerned, it seemed to me to be simply a plea for continuity in political policy. In effect the right hon. Gentleman said: "As a Labour Prime Minister I was a failure and as a Tory Prime Minister I continue to be a failure." Then we came to the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who made a speech which would have been more relevant, so I thought, to a Debate upon the Means Test Bill which 915 we understand is to be put before us than to this Motion. He said he was opposed to our attitude with regard to the means test and that he was not going to support the Motion. We shall have to put up with that with the best grace we can. His speech showed that though he has crossed the Gangway, he has not crossed the Floor of the House. He has crossed the Jordan, but not the Red Sea. As far as the means test is concerned, the position of the Labour party is very simple, clear, and definite. [Laughter.] My hon. Friends below the Gangway here may laugh, but I think they will agree that it is very definite, as I put it anyhow, and I represent the views of the Labour party on this question. It was put by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), when he said, "We stand for the complete abolition of the means test root and branch, without reservation or qualification." That is clear enough, and there is nothing vague, hazy, or Prime Minister-like about it.
§ Mr. COCKS
It was not a, resolution, but a statement in this House, made on behalf of the Parliamentary Labour party, and by that statement we stand. Hon. Members opposite think it an unreasonable position, but it rests on the principle that we believe that the 3,000,000 men and women in insurable trades who are unemployed to-day have not reached that position through some, defect of mind or character. They are not people who have lost the battle of life because of some weakness or ill-habit, or because they are workshy or are given to drink, or are scroungers or wasters or anything of that sort. No doubt there are people like that in any great mass of the inhabitants of this or any other country, but on the whole they are trained men and women who are in insurable trades, many of whom have been so for many years, some of whom fought in the War and have suffered for it ever since.
Anyhow, they are men and women who really want work, who are looking for work, and who do not wish to be on the dole, as it is called; and the only reason they are unemployed to-day is that society has failed to provide them with 916 the employment that they desire to have. We say that these men and women have a right, not merely a human right, but a civic right, to demand from society and from the economic system which has failed to provide them with employment everything that is required to keep them in health and strength and to preserve their self-respect. Those are, clearly and simply, the philosophic principles which we hold.
I believe the Government are making a great mistake in this matter. It is not the unemployed who are the defendants in this matter. The unemployed, in my view, have not got to prove anything except that they are unemployed and available for work. It is society which is the defendant in this matter. It is the social system which is in the dock, and if there should be a means test at all, it should he applied to society. If society makes the claim that it cannot afford to pay full unemployment benefit, we have the right to ask society to explain what is its income from all sources, how much it spends in luxuries and non-essentials and how much in necessities. We say that society should prove that before it can satisfy us that it cannot afford to pay unemployment benefit. I go further, and I say that before the unemployed should be deprived of a penny of benefit many of the owning or Capitalist classes, taking them as a whole, ought to give up some of the luxuries which are not essential to their lives. I do not ask them to give up every motor car they have, but merely to give up a third motor car, for example, and to keep the other two. But further I would go to the limit and say that before unemployment benefit is reduced in a single case society must give up some of those dignities and pageantries which are so dear to the governing class of this country and which make our West End and the social season equal the glitter and pomp of Babylon.
But my chief point is this. I do not believe that there is really any necessity at all to give up our luxuries in order to pay for these necessities. I believe that we can afford not only our necessities but our luxuries as well, because surely this problem of unemployment—and this is where the great mistake is made—is not a problem of insufficiency of things. It is not a problem of scarcity, but it is a problem which exists in a world of abun- 917 dance. If some strange botanical disease had suddenly destroyed all the harvests of the world, it would be necessary, because there was not enough food in the world, to ration it out. If we were in the position of a shipwrecked crew, on an island, and some stores had come ashore and we did not know when we should be rescued, it would be necessary to ration out the stores to one biscuit a day, or even half a biscuit a day, in order that the stores might last until some other ship arrived.
But that is not the problem. It has been the problem at different stages in our history. It was the problem in the olden days, but to-day it is not a problem of under-production, but a problem of under-consumption. The social system today can produce everything that is needed for everybody, in great, abundance. When you have a machine that to-day will turn out a thousand times the quantity which could be turned out by a man in the olden days, you are not dealing with scarcity; and I suggest that the Government, by dealing with this problem as though it was one of scarcity and underproduction instead of a problem of world abundance and under-consumption, are dealing with it in an inappropriate manner. In the Saxon and early Norman days, between Alfred the Great and, say, Henry II, we are told, thousands of people died in England because the harvests failed, but to-day the harvests all over the world provide enough food for everybody in the world, and the, Government, by instituting the means test and reducing unemployment benefit, are going back to the days of the Saxon heptarchy. They are proving themselves a thousand years out of date.
What is the problem to-day? We have 3,000,000 out of work, but they are only a portion of a vast army of people who are out of work all over the world. It has been calculated that to-day there are from 25,000,000 to 30,000,000 people out of work in the western world, without counting Asia, representing with dependents about 100,000,000 people who are suffering from the effects of unemployment. These people are unemployed in a world of great riches and abundance. What is the reason? The Leader of the Opposition stated it. I know that Members do not like to hear these things because they have been accustomed 918 in the past to sneer at them and to say it is soap-box talk. I am certain that more and more people are beginning to consider whether there is not a great deal of truth in this analysis. What we think is at the root of the trouble is this. When goods are made for profit, interest, rent and profit have to be taken out of the product and that which remains, which goes in wages, is not sufficient to enable the workers to buy the goods which they themselves produce, unless the producing classes can find some undeveloped market overseas on to which they can dump their surplus goods. These markets are closing rapidly for many reasons, one being that they are developing themselves. If that be so, and wages are not sufficient to buy the goods, the goods cannot be sold. Then factories have to work on half-time or close down, and we have 3,000,000 people thrown on to the streets.
This problem has been intensified by the introduction of machinery. I would like to give the House one or two instances of what machinery does in the way of throwing people out of work. In many of our banks and counting houses there are adding machines which are operated by one clerk, throwing about a dozen out of work. I saw the other day that in one place in London there had been instituted a machine which opened 500 letters a minute and did the work that formerly employed from 10 to 20 girls. In Milwaukee there is a machine which lays down 9,000 motor car frames a day and does this with the work of only 120 workers instead of thousands. An extraordinary statement was made the other day about agriculture in America. Through the introduction of tractors, the agriculture production had gone up 25 per cent. and no less than 3,000,000 people had left the soil. In a glass factory, by the institution of what is known as the Owens machine work which was formerly done by 3,000 people is now done by 400. In last Saturday's "Manchester Guardian" is was recorded that in the last three years an invention has been developed by which electric lamps can be turned out at the rate of 500,000 a day, which is 9,000 times as much as could be done in 1929. That shows how this sort of thing is developing. They also mention the case of cigarettes. Whereas a man could 919 formerly make 500 or 600 a day, there is a machine now which enables him to make 2,000 to 3,000.
At the beginning of this year the International Labour Office issued a report on rationalisation. The report says that, taking 10 main industries in this country, the production had gone up through the introduction of rationalisation methods by 11 per cent., and the number of people employed had gone down by 8 per cent. The report went on to say, "as the process of rationalisation goes on steadily, it must of necessity lead to a certain permanent margin of unemployment." "Such unemployment," it says, "may therefore be considered as the price paid for progress." It must be very consoling to people who are out of work to be told that they are the price paid for progress! They are not in fact. They are the price paid for private profit-making. That price is too high, and the time will come when we will pay it no more.
But if machinery and rationalisation and private profit-making are the cause of unemployment, how can you deal with it by cutting down expenditure on Social Services or by instituting a means test? We on this side believe that the only possible way of finally curing this condition is the establishment of Socialism, but in the meantime, before society is changed over into a Socialistic State, one of the obvious ways of dealing with the introduction of machinery is to have some system of shortening hours and to have, for example, a five-day week or even a six-hour day. Yet when Signor Mussolini only a month ago called a conference of the various nations to discuss the question of an international convention for a 40-hour week, while he was supported by Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, and even by Canada, the National Government opposed it, and, as far as I understand, even opposed putting the question on the agenda for discussion.
This problem, great of itself, has been enormously intensified during the last 10 or 11 years by the enormous debts which are burdening nations and which have been increased by the operation of the deflationary methods pursued by the banks which have been advised by Mr. Montagu Norman. Mr. Norman, who is the favourite financier apparently of Lord Snowden, is the man who has done 920 more harm in this country than the Kaiser. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish!"] It is so. The Kaiser caused us to incur an enormous debt, but Mr. Montagu Norman's advice has caused it to be doubled.
Sir Josiah Stamp has said that the weight of the National Debt alone in the last seven years has been increased by £4,000,000,000. Yet Mr. Norman himself now admits his ignorance of the whole thing, and in his speech last week he said:The difficulties are so vast, the forces so unlimited…that I approach this whole subject not only in ignorance but in humility. It is too great for me.This weight of debt is pressing upon the shoulders of the nations, and if it is not removed, it will break the back of civilisation. The moneylender is on our shoulders to-day, and he is choking out our life and our existence. I sometimes think that it is time that we sent for the whip and the knotted cord to scourge the moneylender out of the temple of the British people. We can stand the burden no longer. We find great European statesmen and financiers like M. Caillaux saying, as is reported in the "Times" to-day, that the crisis is menacing civilisation and that it might well prove to be the final phase. Out-side Russia the world seems to be without any sort of plan at all. Civilisation seems to be crashing into destruction. The danger I feel is that before anything is done to deal with the situation with a strong hand and remedy it, the whole of civilisation may collapse in a horror of great darkness. "And in the dark can no man gather fruit." The Government are seeking to deal with the problem by cutting down benefits and introducing tariffs, which only reduce trade, and even if they were beneficial it would be only to a trifling extent. By cutting down consuming power they are intensifying the problem.
We have heard a great deal from the Liberal party on tariffs, and it may be just as well to say a few words from this side of the House. Whatever people may think tariffs can do, I cannot conceive that anyone can think they can cure unemployment. They have never cured unemployment in any other country, and if they have not succeeded in countries where they have been tried for years why should they succeed here? If ever there 921 was a country in which one would think Protection could be successful it is America, because there is a large country producing most of its own raw materials, except, I think, rubber, and able to build up its own industries behind a tariff wall over which it can set out to conquer the markets of other countries; and yet in that country there are 12,000,000 or 13,000,000 unemployed, and 100 people drop dead with starvation every day. In contrast with that this country has to bring its raw materials from the end of the earth, and sends its manufactured products abroad, and is the worst country in which the experiment of Protection could be tried. It was stated by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) that we have a quarter of our shipping laid up—I do not know whether the President of the Board of Trade ever thinks of that—and that unemployment has increased by 300,000 since the introduction of tariffs.
I feel we are in the last act of the final tragedy of the capitalist system. It has done a great deal of harm in its time, although we have also got a good many benefits. Now, I think, its time is over. Even if it be a good thing we must recognise thatThe old order changeth, yielding place to new., And God fulfils himself in many ways Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.That was a favourite quotation of my old headmaster. Whether we think it a good or evil thing, capitalism is now perishing in the ruins it has itself made. I believe the only remedy is, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition, the remedy which we stand here to advocate, and we believe that when the time comes for the people to say this matter must be handed over to somebody who will tackle it in a different way, then we shall go forward with resolution. As the Leader of the Opposition says, we must nationalise the banks and the railways and the mines. We must reorganise industry on a national plan, with shorter hours and higher wages, and with full benefits to any unemployed whom there may be. We have to open up the fullest and the most intimate relations with Russia. If we lead, Germany will follow us, and we shall lead the way in the socialisation of the world. It is a great task, almost terrifying in its magnitude—and in its majesty; but it is 922 not for us to falter or to fail. I believe that to us has been given the greatest task ever given to human people, the task of saving not only our own country but the world.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I endorse with my whole heart the peroration of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), as I also endorse the peroration of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who moved the Vote of Censure. But I should have thought that if their Socialism was so strong as the peroration indicated they would have found ways and means of bringing it into the Vote of Censure. So far as the Vote of Censure is concerned, what seems to be causing anxiety is the insistence of the National Government upon,A false economy in the Social Services, the imposition of a means test upon unemployed persons, and the unauthorised pursuit of a policy opposed to the restoration of world trade.I am not sure why the word "unauthorised" is inserted there. It is because of those things that His Majesty's Government have forfeited the confidence of this country and the House, they say, but there is no mention of Socialism at all. There is concern about Free Trade, I see—almost as if this Vote of Censure were a net set for people on the benches opposite who might line up to censure the Government. No word of Socialism, but a reference to Free Trade. I am sorry that the strategy has failed, and that the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), the Leader of the semi-Opposition, has refused to line up behind it. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who might quite well have put this Vote of Censure on the Order Paper, did line up behind it, and declared his intention of supporting it, although he spent a large proportion of his time in explaining that the pursuit of a policy opposed to the restoration of trade was not unauthorised. He proved fully, to my satisfaction, that the Government have complete authority from the electorate for any fiscal changes they make.
The interesting thing about this Vote of Censure is this: The Leader of the Opposition spent a large proportion of his time in making an unprovoked attack on myself and my hon. Friends who sit on these benches. The Leader of the Liberal party on that side of the House 923 spent a large proportion of his time in an attack on the Leader of the Liberal party on this side of the House, and the Leader of the Liberal party on this side used a good deal of his time in replying to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. So on the whole the Government can congratulate themselves on having had a pretty good day, because there seemed to be more anxiety among the various sections of the Opposition to censure one another than to censure the Government, who have the responsibility at the moment. My hon. Friends and I ventured to put an Amendment to the Resolution on the Order Paper. I quite understand, Mr. Speaker, that, in accordance with your usual practice, which I do not think is a good one, that Amendment will not be called, but I do not think I shall be going beyond the Rules of the House or the usual practice if I read that Amendment in order to give the House some idea of its purport. We proposed to delete the Vote of Censure as moved by His Majesty's Opposition, and to substitute:That His Majesty's Government by its adoption of the policy of economy recommended by the May Committee set up by the previous Governent; the refusal to introduce legislation to repeal the Anomalies Act and to reduce the rents of working-class houses; the imposition of a means test which equally with that proposed by the previous Government reduces the purchasing power of the working class and imposes intolerable hardships on the unemployed and their relatives; its interference with the aspirations of the Irish Free State and its determination not to grant freedom to India and the subject colonial peoples, and by its failure to realise that the present economic and social difficulties are the natural outcome of capitalist imperialism and are not to be solved within the framework of capitalism, but only by its supersession by a Socialist system, has earned the contempt of the unemployed and forfeited the confidence of the working class, and should not longer be tolerated by this House.Judging from the perorations of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, Mr. Speaker might quite fitly substitute this Vote of Censure of ours in place of the one moved by my right hon. Friend, and I am quite sure after all their speeches they would follow us into the Lobby and secure for this a substantial vote. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, in challenging the Prime Minister, asked: when was the Labour party responsible for economy in 924 the social services? Was he genuine in asking that question? I know the hon. Member and that he is usually genuine, but is his memory defective? He knows perfectly well that the Labour Government passed the Anomalies Act. Was that not a cut in social services.
§ Mr. MAXTON
No, but though the hon. Member was not there he is defending the late Labour Government, and his speech and his attack on the Prime Minister was a defence of that Government. The Anomalies Act was not only a cut in social services; it was the first cut in social services since those services were started. From 1900 up to that date there had been a steady output of social ameliorative legislation of one kind or another by the Liberal party and the Conservative party, when the Labour party were a small group fighting for its principles. I am not going to lay the credit at the door of one party more than another. I merely say that as a result of efforts to which every party in the State made some contribution, up to the date of the Anomalies Act there was steadily developed the social services in this country which were ameliorating the lot of the working-classes in one direction or another. The Anomalies Act was the first definite reactionary step.
My hon. Friend also asked: When had the Labour Government proposed a means test? As the Anomalies Act was first introduced there was a section in it that was only withdrawn after very strong opposition, which laid it down that part-time workers should also come under that Act. That was definitely in the legislation, and we had to fight ourselves to get it withdrawn. That was definitely a means test, for the question whether the part-time worker was to get unemployment benefit or not was to be decided on his needs. Then we have very good reason for believing that the first proposals of the means test as a method of dealing with the state of the Unemployment Insurance Fund was made in the inter-party committee by a representative of the Labour party.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It was with the very greatest regret that I had to come to the 925 conclusion that the Labour party was not a party which could be relied on to stand up to its principles. I came to it, but it had to be driven into my mind. When it was in it was well in.
§ Mr. MAXTON
When I am speaking in the country I have that thrown up at me very regularly by supporters of hon. Members above the Gangway—that it was MacDonald, Snowden, and Thomas who led them up the street, but now they are away we have recovered our Socialist souls again. First of all, I want to ask hon. Members above the Gangway if it is a very manly defence for them to say they allowed themselves to be manipulated here, there, and the next place by three men. I think I heard hon. Members say to-day in the course of the Debate—[Interruption]. The hon. Member has made that excuse, that the leaders were responsible, and that they knew nothing about it.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not want to drop into the same error that I accused other speakers of, namely, of censuring one another and letting the Government away, because it is the Government who are in the wrong. The Labour party prided themselves on being a democratic party. They had a party meeting upstairs every week, and at every stage of governmental policy the Cabinet had the endorsement of the party.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
As we have not much more time, I think the hon. Member should be allowed to make his speech in his own way.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Well, if the hon. has dropped his "Lieutenant-Colonel" there should have been a public announcement of the fact. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Ham says that I got the endorsation. I never endorsed the Anomalies Bill.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not know whether anybody else in the House has understood that, but it does not get through to me. The Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Gentlemen have repeatedly agreed to the principle of a means test. They set up the May Economy Committee without dissent. My hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) knows that on the night that the May Economy Committee was proposed the Lobby was packed as full as it could be, not with MacDonald, Snowden and Thomas, but with the rank and file of the Labour party, the Liberal party and the Conservative party. The personnel of the committee was decided by the Labour Government, and the terms of reference of that committee were decided by the Labour Government. The means test came out of that committee, and the National Government that has been censured to-day is working still on the mandate of the May Committee. They chose Sir George May. Nobody in political life knew of Sir George May, although in the commercial world and in newspaper life there was some knowledge of him.
It was the Labour Government that pulled this captain of industry from the recesses where he was engaged, and put him at the head of their most important commission to carry out their programme for the construction of a Socialist system of society. That this man has qualities is to be recognised by the fact that when the present Government got power, this same genius who was to carry 927 us through a cracking Capitalism into Socialism, was put on to the most important commission of this Government, to decide who is to have tariffs, what the tariffs are to be and how they are to be applied. A wonderful man for the Conservative National Government, discovered and brought into the forefront of our political life by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, who had told this House and the country that their purpose in life was the construction of the Socialistic system of society.
I would indeed be falling into great error if I assumed that the last Government was the present Government. The purpose of our Amendment to the Vote of Censure was to indicate that this Government is following a policy of continuity with the previous Government. It links up quite definitely with the concluding months of the Labour Government's work and is proving just as fruitless in producing results as the Labour Government. The same general idea is running through the minds of this Government as ran through the minds of the last, and the right hon. Member for Darwen, in his speech to-day, indicated the same thing, which is that there is, in the existing economic system, the power to cure itself of all its ills. The Prime Minister used this idea when he said that the policy of His Majesty's Government has been, as will continue to be, to provide, in every way within their power, the conditions requisite for a natural revival of trade and industry.
That is the theory that has run through the work of every Government that I have seen in this House, and I have sat here during all the years of the crash. Always, prosperity was just round the corner, and always there was the belief that there was some natural way to make our economic system worth while. There is nothing of the sort. The economic system that is going to work has got to be planned out by intelligent men and carried out by the will of intelligent men. There is no natural way in industry, particularly in this time, that operates itself from illness into good health. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last has used some figures showing that the powers of production are increased and are increas- 928 ing in the most frightening way. One of the most distinguished statisticians in this country used the figures that in 1929, marking consumption as 100, the goods in stock could be represented by the figure 83, or.10 months' supply. By the end of July, 1931, taking the same figure of 100 as the standard, he declared the world's stock to be 213, or sufficient goods for two years and three months.
That was the biggest stock of goods the world has even seen, since the day when Adam appeared on the planet. That was the biggest stock of goods in the world, to supply the world's needs, at the ordinary rate of consumption, for two years and three months. That was high prosperity in 1931, and then the crash came. We were too well off. The Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the President to the Board of Trade and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen all by one accord said: "There are two years and three months stock of consumable goods in the world. We must tighten in our belts!" That is what we have been doing ever since. Every month sees the position getting worse. I am interested to note that in three or four of the speeches to-day, revolution and the possibilities of revolution were in the minds of the spokesmen as a practical probability for the first time since I have been in this House. There was a genuine doubt.
I can see the change that has taken place in successive Parliaments and the change that has taken place in right hon. Members and hon. Members of the Government. They said: "Wait till we get started. We are the fellows. Our predecessors were only a lot of pettifoggers." An overwhelming Parliamentary majority, all the greatest statesmen gathered on the one Front Bench and collected from all political parties, unlimited power, and unlimited backing in the country; the widest mandate that a Government has ever had, and the most self-sacrificing mandate. The population of this country said to the Government: "Do anything you please. Make the system work. Take any steps that you see necessary. Starve us if you like. We will accept additional privation, if you will but make the system work. Make it run so that we will get employment and wages, and that everything will go on." The Government have 929 been trying for 12 months, and, in spite of the Prime Minister's assurances, the position is worse than ever it has been. Imports and exports are steadily falling; the confidence of the nations of the world in British finance is less to-day than it has been since the day—[Interruption]yes; and a host of unemployed are marching from every corner of the country upon the City of London, for the first time with the united sympathy of the working classes at their back.
I have travelled the country from Land's End to John o' Groats during the Recess, and I have been in contact with working people. The working people of this country do not like the Communists the least little bit, but they believe that this hunger-marching is a demonstration of the things that they are feeling, and their spirit is behind it. There is a rising tide of revolt among the people such as I have never seen in the years that I have been engaged in Socialist agitation throughout this country. We see nothing but collapse in front, and, unlike other sections in the House, we are not dodging it—we are facing it. We have come to believe that that collapse is quite inevitable, and our thoughts are directed entirely to seeing how best, when that collapse has come, a new and more intelligent and more just social order can be built up on the ruins of a system which has done great things—which has circled the globe, which has taught people how to produce the material things of life, which has always been a terror and an imposition on the masses of the people, but which has solved the problem of turning out material things.
Civilisation is not at an end; civilisation is not going to end; but this particular phase, the capitalist age, is definitely going to end, and a better, freer, more honest and more manly age is going to take its place. Consequently, we join with others in the censure of this Government, which is, like its predecessors, trying to prop up and maintain a system that is dropping away before the eyes of all those whose eyes are open to see. We censure that Government. We say that they will fail, that they are bound to fail unless the impossible were to happen and they were to recognise that what they are struggling to save are things that are essential to capitalism. Therefore, the sooner they go from this House the sooner there will he put into 930 power—real power—either in this House or through some other governmental instrument, a workers' Government which will have as big a mandate as the National Government. Their mandate said, "Make the capitalist system work. Take any steps you please, but make it work." This Government has got to go, and to be replaced by a Government which has a, precisely opposite mandate —a workers' Government with the mandate, "End this capitalist system and create a new Socialist system of society."
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
I have five minutes in which to say a few words. I would ask any Member of this House who has heard the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the previous speeches whether there is really any need to answer the case for a Vote of Censure against the Government. The hon. Member spent the first part of his speech in showing how the two leaders of the Liberal party outside the Government were at loggerheads among themselves, and could do nothing of themselves to provide anything in the way of an alternative Government. He then spent the major part of his speech in showing how, in the first place, there was no possibility of common action between his own group and that of the Leader of the Opposition. He was interrupted by Members on the back benches opposite, showing that, even between the Front Bench opposite and the back benches opposite, there was distrust and lack of confidence. I would ask whether, after this, there can be in the mind of any reasonable Member of this House any possible question of an alternative to the present Government being found from any of the other parties or sections of parties of which any representatives sit in this House to-day.
It is too late for me to say anything in detail about the means test, but I should like to thank the Government for, and congratulate them on, the statement that they will deal with the question of disability pensions. It is too late for me to deal with that question now, and it is too late for me to deal with the question of unemployment. I can only say in passing that, if you are going to judge a Government by its record on unemployment, you have, in a world trade depression, to judge it by comparison with 931 the course of unemployment in other countries. There is not another manufacturing country in the world where the course of unemployment during the last 12 months has not been more depressing and less satisfactory than the course of unemployment here. I will say no more than that, but, in conclusion, I should like to say that many of us on the benches behind this Government realise that they make mistakes here and there—mistakes which we should criticise in normal circumstances. Everybody realises that they are not a choir of angels and archangels that can go on functioning without weariness, always acting impeccably. But there is one thing that they have done during these 12 months that appeals to most of us. They have kept things steady in this country during a period of quite unparalleled difficulty.
The next thing that we have to consider is this: I have always said during the whole of the past year, that in the second year of this Government its task would be harder than in the first—that during the first year it would only have to tackle domestic affairs within the country, but that during this second year it would have to try to achieve common action as between other countries as well as ourselves. That is an infinitely more difficult task, and yet success in it means relief to unemployment and improvement in employment far more than any relief schemes in this country alone can ever afford. For that task, on which they are now entering, the Government need all the power and all the prestige that this country can give them, and it is just for that reason that I would ask the House to-night to give them all that prestige in the Division that will follow this Debate.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
If I may, on behalf of the Attorney-General and myself, I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the brevity of his speech. I wish to bring the House back to the substance of the Censure Motion that is on the Paper. This has been a field day for various opposing personalities. But the primary purpose of the Motion was to indict the Government for its failure to deal with the problem with which it was confronted and for the fact that it had inflicted unnecessary hardship on the people. I am very sorry that the Prime Minister is not here. I do not wish to 932 accuse him of discourtesy. He has written to say that he and some of his colleagues are engaged on a Cabinet Committee of an urgent character. In any event, whether he is here or not—and I should prefer him to be here—I must refer to his opening speech.
I have heard more speeches from the Prime Minister than anyone who sits behind the Government. I never heard him make a worse speech than he made to-day. He tore his passion to tatters. I have heard him do that many times. He descended to the lowest level of Tory polemics in the arguments that he used. He accused my right hon. Friend of having changed his mind. The Prime Minister, of all men in this House, is the last person to accuse my right hon. Friend of having changed his mind. The Prime Minister, the darling now of the Tory party, living upon the adulation of people who for 20 years on this side of the House he consistently fought, has, if I may use the term, the insolence to charge my right hon. Friend with changing his views. The truth is that the Leader of the Opposition has kept his views. We still remain in the Labour ship. We left one because we discovered that it was the "Golden Vanity," skippered by the Prime Minister, and we are not sorry that we left it. The Prime Minister's speech might be regarded as a Vote of Censure on the long-lost Labour Government. That is not in question to-day. The people who are in the dock are the Prime Minister and his new colleagues, not the Prime Minister and his old colleagues. It is no use reviving ancient history.
This Censure Motion was devised with a view to giving the Government an opportunity of justifying their policy. The Prime Minister has not done it. He said, "No, but a little later on the Minister of Labour will do it for me," and the Minister of Labour felt that there was either no need or no time for his intervention in the Debate. Therefore, in spite of the Vote of Censure we have had no justification of the National Government's activity. The Prime Minister spent most of his time in what I think must be a unique performance in the history of Parliament, in censuring a Government of which he was Prime Minister. He did not refer very much to the pound. He did not say anything in 933 reply to what my right hon. Friend said about the stacks of notes that we might have to carry about. He said—I can imagine the tremulous resonant tones; I have heard them hundreds of times: "We were confronted with a difficult situation. We did not come in with a clean slate." That is perfectly true. He said: "What about the Anomalies Act?" He knows that we had to introduce the Anomalies Bill because of the people who are supporting the Government to-day. He knows that the price of our doing anything for the unemployed at all was to surrender to the people who would have put us out and would have imposed the means test six months before it was imposed. It is no good the Prime Minister saying he inherited this situation from himself, because he was the Prime Minister in the late Government. The Anomalies Act was the product of our numerical weakness and the strength of the opposing forces, who are now behind the Prime Minister. He went on to say—this is really in the line of general Tory argument and on the level of Tory logic—that we were responsible for this increase in unemployment in the time we were in office. When we are in office and unmployment increases, it is due to the wickedness of the Labour Government. Indeed, there are municipal by-elections going on to-day in which the Labour Government are accused of the increase in unemployment between 1929 and 1931. But, when the MacDonald leopard changes his spots, it is the world crisis, and the people opposite, including some of his colleagues now—I will single out the Postmaster-General—who said this increase of unemployment was due to the Labour Government now say it is due to the world crisis. Now that the Prime Minister sits there instead of here, he accuses us of a certain responsibility for the increase and defends himself by saying, "Although I have an unprecedented majority in the House of Commons, unemployment has not gone up as much as it did when a minority Labour Government was in office." He describes our Motion in the classic terms of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs as "humbug." Indeed, he went further and said it was "sheer humbug." I apply that to the whole of his speech.
I come to the substance of the Motion. The fact that it has taken me five 934 minutes to do it is not my fault. It is due to the irrelevance of the Prime Minister and most of the speakers who followed him. The Government came into office, and indeed supreme power—power even greater than that which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) enjoyed—on a programme of economy as the chief means to the restoration of prosperity. As in other respects, the Government have failed in this policy of economy. The one thing they have done, even if they shake off all responsibility for the fact that the situation is worse than when they took office, is to inflict serious hardship on defenceless people.
Let me remind hon. Members of the fact that from 1929 to 1931 the home market was expanding. I do not believe that anybody in this House would deny that that was the case. It may be that unemployment was increasing because of the increasing gravity of the world situation, but the home market was improving. That is the market which is more directly under the control of the Government than the foreign market. It was improving as far as the Government could influence it for two reasons. [Interruption.] You had better wait until I have finished my argument. In the first place, the Labour Government had increased the purchasing power of the people. It did it by improving the lot of the unemployed, by improving the lot of the aged widows, and by a more humane administration of the Poor Law. The purchasing power of the masses of the people increased, and in addition the Government did their best to expand public activities in the provision of work.
I remember—we do not hear of it now because it is dead—during the whole of my term in this House until this Session hearing of the St. Davids Committee, of relief works and trade facilities, but we never hear of them now. I take the St. Davids Committee as an illustration. From its formation in 1920 up till to-day it has been responsible for putting work in hand amounting to over £190,000,000. From the time we took office up to this moment 42 per cent. of that work was put into operation. In two years—because during the past year not a pound's worth has been spent—the Labour Government, by putting in hand work amounting in all to £175,000,000, made a greater effort 935 than any previous Government in this country.
The National Government have deliberately, just as we did our best to expand public works, restricted public works at a time when it is universally recognised by economists, publicists and business men that the primary need is to increase the purchasing power of the people. The Government of set will have initiated a policy of decreasing purchasing power. The two chief items of the policy of the Government to deal with trade—Protection and Economy—are flying in the face of the instructed opinion of the world. Wage cuts, reduction of Unemployment Insurance Benefit, the means test, schemes of national and local development, have been either deliberately discouraged or postponed or actually abandoned, with the double result that certain permanent advantages which might have resulted to the nation from these works will not be enjoyed and the volume of unemployment has been actually increased.
Since the beginning of this year, I understand from questions answered by the Government in the House, not a single new scheme of work or development has been initiated by the Government. Since they took office it has been admitted by the Ministry of Transport that they have slaughtered no less than one thousand schemes of road development. Thirty million pounds of work have been slaughtered with pride by this Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad to have that admission. The moral example of the Government found response in the heart of reactionary local authorities, and their road works, repairs and maintenance were correspondingly reduced, piling up a bill which will have to be met in five years or three years. Housing has been restricted. It is no use the Government saying that they are concerned about housing. They are not concerned about housing.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The noble Lady need not ask me anything. The housing programme of the Government, a subject on which the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council feel very strongly, has been reduced. There are 936 fewer houses under construction to-day than there have been for years. Then there is rural housing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs spoke about agriculture. The very last Act placed upon the Statute Book by the late Labour Government was a Bill for which I was responsible to build 40,000 rural cottages. The last reply given in this House was that 1,902—I am not sure of the numbers—were being built. In other words, that scheme was deliberately suppressed, I am sorry to say, by the present Government. That is not the end of the story. Apart from housing, in the summer of last year a quarter of a million men, directly and indirectly, were being employed on State-aided schemes. What is the position to-day? Since the Government took office there are at the most 15,000 men who may with luck get work for a year. It is no use the Government trying to evade responsibility for unemployment. They are here to deal with that problem. They may call it the restoration of trade; we call it the restoration of employment. It is the same kind of thing.
The situation to-day is worse than it was when the Government took office. They have definitely contributed to an increase in unemployment by their own deliberate policy of restricting public work of an important kind. The problem of unemployment is a serious one to-day. It is no use the Secretary of State for Scotland—changes take place in this Government so frequently that I am not quite sure whether he was the Minister —arguing that the serious discontent among the unemployed is the result of a carefully engineered agitation. It is no such thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Home Secretary said it."] The Home Secretary. He tried to suggest, some days ago, that the marches to London which are now taking place, the violence, the unfortunate violence, that there has been in certain towns results from some engineered conspiracy. That is not true. It is the serious question which is perturbing the hearts of men who are at work, and the Government have to be judged by their treatment of this question.
The Government hover between two attitudes. The first is, that they are turning the corner. They are always turning the corner. It is a very twisty road they are following, and they are 937 always turning the corner. Alternatively, if the atmosphere or the audience calls for it, they are the strong, noble men who are still standing in the breach against the terrific, abnormal, terrifying, overwhelming difficulties of the times. They can have it which way they will. I will argue either way. This twisty lane that has no ending—[Interruption.] I have 17 speeches filed of Members of the Government, all of whom have declared on different dates that the Government were turning the corner. Therefore, I assume that this road has at least 17 corners, and we are not at the end of it yet. If they say that they are still standing like lions in the path, then I say that, after 15 months of supreme power, the Government have proved themselves to be a failure. So far we are agreed that the Government have not improved the situation. As to whether they have restored something like confidence, the answer is shown in the fact that the pound is lower to-day than when we left office. I understand that is the great test of the value of a Government's activity in restoring credit.
Behind this economy policy there lies an economy which cannot be defended by people who will view the consequences of it honestly, and that is the curtailment of the social services. It has been said from these benches that the Government have swallowed the policy enunciated within these precincts, but not in this House, last year by Mr. Montagu Norman and his colleagues. It is also true that the Government have accepted holus bolus the policy of the Federation of British Industries. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have the document here, and if.O had time I would read it. There is nothing that the Government have done so far which is out of harmony with the statement on public expenditure circulated to Members of this House by the Federation of British Industries. National expenditure, we are told, is too high, and local expenditure is too high. Social services are all very nice, but we must really get down to brass tacks. That is the view of supporters of the Government. That is the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the speech that he made last Saturday in Birmingham. The national Government and the local authorities have overspent, and we had to get down to the bare bones and bare essentials.
938 It is true to say that a considerable proportion of the expenditure of the Government is entirely unproductive, economically and socially. The larger part goes in payment of War Debt and the national defence services. But as regards local government expenditure practically the whole of it is for constructive purposes. The social services have been deliberately attacked by the Government. They have reduced unemployment insurance benefit. Nobody has accused us so far of being responsible for that. The Government have introduced a means test, as to the hardship of which several supporters of the Government have spoken to-day. I am surprised at the number of leading articles in papers supporting the National Government saying all that we said a year ago about the means test. It is becoming quite fashionable and respectable to say that the means test is not quite nice. The means test which the Government introduced has humiliated hundreds of thousands of decent workers. I am glad to think that we are not accused of responsibility for it. [Interruption.] We have a state of affairs which has not only brought people into contact with the Poor Law, a condition of affairs under which the Minister of Labour has instructed local authorities against their wishes to carry out a harsh administration
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
It is true. [Interruption.] It has met with the support to-day of hon. Members behind the Government. We have had statements about the harsh administration. A semi supporter of the Government, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton East (Mr. Mander), I heard his speech myself, said that in two local authorities, which he named, every member, whatever his political party, protested against the harsh administration imposed by the right hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The result of this harsh administration imposed on local authorities has been to increase [Interruption.] The hon. Member behind me has called me a liar, and he must withdraw that statement—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I did not hear the remark myself, but, if the hon. Member used the expression, he must withdraw it.
§ Mr. CAPORN
I said that the right hon. Gentleman has called the Minister of Labour a liar and that he ought to withdraw it.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
If that is the hon. Member's mentality, I leave him to it. I made no such suggestion about the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. He does not think the administration is harsh; I do, and I prove it by the statement that members of local authorities of his own political colour take the same view. I could quote case after case of local authorities who have been asked to administer the means test, and who, having done so, have to face a larger rate burden on the Poor Law as a consequence. That is happening in Sheffield—[HON MEMBERS: "You are running away."] There is not much running away in view of the admission made in this House that there are 250,000 more people on the Poor Law to-day than there were when I left office. There is no question about that. It means a greater burden upon the public assistance committees who are administering this scheme of the Government.
I have not time to deal with one of the meanest of 111e economies of this Government, its economy in secondary education. I have not time to deal with all the Government's other economies. But if they are analysed it will be found that everywhere the Government have attacked the most defenceless people in the community, the unemployed and their dependants, the children in school, the over-crowded people who want houses, and all that on the top of the direct financial burden that the Government have asked them to bear. We expected some statement about the means test. Its worst harshnesses, or some of them, are to be removed. Why? Not because the financial position has improved, but because the Government and its supporters know that they were wrong. We are to have a gesture made because the Government have had to bow to a certain extent to public opinion. A gesture is to be made because Tory candidates are fighting municipal seats at a number of elections.
940 10.30 p.m.
This restriction of the Social Services is a definite and, I am afraid I must say it, a deliberate blow at the standard of life of the people of the country. Most hon. Members opposite do not need to utilise these Social Services. Employers—this has been pressed by the Federation of British Industries—have urged that the Social Services should be taken into account in reckoning money wages. Those things are now a part of the warp and woof of the life of the people of this country. I do not mind so much your robbing people of money, if you rob your selves to the same extent in the national interest. I do object, and my friends object, to the policy of the Government on financial grounds, and financial grounds alone—that is their claim—depriving people who cannot provide these things for themselves of Social Services which are vital to a decent, civilised life on the part of the great masses of our people. I sum up what has been said from these benches. We have come to the conclusion, if for no other reason as a result of the experience of the past 15 months, that the Government are engaged on the futile task of shoring up a system which is bankrupt and which cannot continue. They have failed daring the first 15 months of their office and I see nothing but failure ahead of them in the future.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
We are accustomed to the vigour with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) addresses the House and to-night he has shown no abatement of his natural powers. But he has shown even more than his usual courage in suggesting that the Government who have administered the means test, are more wicked than the person who first devised it—the right hon. Gentleman who in the halcyon days of January, 1930, said:It rests with the guardians to decide on the appropriate form of relief, but, in coming to that decision, they should be guided by the need of the individual household and not automatically by rules.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The Attorney-General knows perfectly well that that has been part of the law of this land since 1601.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
If the right hon. Gentleman knew that it was 941 part of the law of the land for all those years, he wasted a great deal of time in suggesting that the Government were the criminals.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman starts many hares, but I can only chase one at a time. I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield that, if he will study his own record in regard to the means test, his next speech on the subject will be more chastened. He was quite right in regretting the necessary absence of the Prime Minister, for I am sure that the Prime Minister would have enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman's speech as much as the right hon. Gentleman himself enjoyed it. The right hon. Gentleman spent more than a little time rebuking the, Prime Minister for irrelevance. It was a pity that he was led by that irrelevance into devoting so much time himself to the same topics as those discussed by the Prime Minister.
The fact is that the Vote of Censure is a Parliamentary device invented for the purpose of throwing a searchlight upon the misdeeds of the Government, but to-day it has been a searchlight turned upon the divisions of the Opposition and not upon the Government. From one bench of the Opposition to the other there have been withering retorts. Each bench has taunted the other. The apostles of Free Trade have shown a much keener desire to castigate their former colleagues than to castigate the Government, and the attack of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) upon the Government appeared comparatively benevolent in contrast with the rather savage attack which he made upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). Whether or not it is a satisfaction to the Opposition to have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs as their ally, to make up for the loss or defection of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) I must leave to the Opposition to decide. I am glad to notice that the net which was spread in order to catch the right hon. Member for Darwen has been spread in vain. The last sentence of the Vote of 942 Censure referring in rather cryptic terms, I suppose, to the Ottawa Agreements, was drafted with that object, but whether or not the right hon. Member for Darwen supports the Government on this occasion, we certainly shall not be afraid to shrink from any detailed examination of that policy upon the right occasion. This is not the occasion on which it is possible for me to make any observations on that question.
I must say one word further about the question of the means test. After all, it is, as I think the Prime Minister said, a great human problem, and it would ill become this House to discuss it as if it was merely a matter upon which it was possible for one party to score off another. I am sure that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, in spite of what the late Minister of Health said about a deliberate attack upon the social services, would give us credit, perhaps for being stupid, but at any rate for having almost as much heart as some hon. Members opposite. We have recognised frankly the anomalies, the difficulties, the inconsistencies in the application of the means test. It has been a gigantic experiment. The Government have indicated their intention of moving remedial measures. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has pledged himself, very readily and frankly, to help the Government to get a Bill through, whatever the Bill is which the Government propose. [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "] Indeed he did.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
This is what the right hon. Gentleman said:May I say that, whether the Bill goes as far as we want it to go or not, we shall certainly do our best to help the Government get it through?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1932; col. 481, Vol. 269.]I do not think I am misrepresenting what the right hon. Gentleman said.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I have read the whole of what the right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I have got to the last full stop of what he said. However, these are comparatively trifling matters. Whether or not the right hon. Gentleman will help the Government, the fact is that a Bill is to be introduced and that the right hon. Gentleman will give it at any rate benevolent consideration; and we are one and all of us agreed upon this, that some alteration in the law is required. But then I am left in considerable doubt as to whether the Opposition have pledged themselves to that motto inscribed on the banners of the unemployed marchers that the means test must go. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] I gather that some hon. Members behind the Front Opposition Bench are of that opinion, but I venture for a moment to think that the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench is even more important than that of hon. Members on the back benches.
Does he approve of a means test or not? Is the Motion intended to be a repudiation of any means test? The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly within his rights in refusing to reply, and I do not want to put him in any rhetorical difficulty. It is merely that the country is entitled to know whether or not the issue between the two parties is as to the form of the means test or as to the existence of any means test at all. [Interruption.] I am obliged to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan), who expressed so much ignorance as to the tactics and policy of his leaders in the last Government. It is possible that the same ignorance on his part of the right hon. Gentleman's policy applies to the present position.
Before I leave this question, let me make it plain that we regard this question of the means test, not as a policy which is designed to catch rogues. It is quite true that there are a few people in all classes of life who will shirk and try to get more than they are entitled to, but, broadly speaking, no one will suggest that the classes who are most interested in the means test are less honest, less patriotic, less courageous in the bearing of burdens than any other class. I am not suggesting for a moment that the means test was devised to catch rogues. It was the best device that could be imagined at the moment to see that 944 those who needed public support should get it, and that those who did not need it should not get it. I venture to say that there is not a trade union or a friendly society in the country which administers the money entrusted to them on any other principle than that on which the Government are bound to administer public money. They are the trustees of public money. I do not believe that hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would desire that public money should be handed out to people whose means or needs, whichever way you like to put it, do not entitle them to the consideration of the public purse for which they have applied. I propound that as the principle on which the means test rests to-day, and I invite the co-operation of hon. Gentlemen opposite, when the Bill is placed before the House, in making the means test as effective and humane as it can be to carry out that main purpose.
The next question upon which the right hon. Gentleman chiefly dilated was unemployment. It is, I am afraid, an inevitable result of a Motion of censure upon the Government that it compels the Government to blow their own trumpet. I hope that I may be able to do that in a detached position so far as these great problems are concerned. I am not responsible for the policy, and I am not responsible for its success, but I am bound to say that the Government have to my mind been remarkably successful in the main purpose of their policy at the particular date at which we have arrived.
The right hon. Gentleman made a rather bitter attack upon what the Government have done and not done. He suggested to the world at large that this country was on the downward path and would soon collapse into ruins, from which only he and his colleagues would be able to rescue it. If I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's voice would reach to distant parts of the world, I should be a little sorry that he spoke in that way, but facts will reach much farther than the right hon. Gentleman's voice. You cannot open the Press of any country in the world without finding tributes paid by perfectly impartial critics to the achievements which this Government have been able to accomplish. I will take the judgment of the world. I say that perfectly impartial critics, whether they be statesmen, or journalists, or mere poli- 945 ticians—whoever they are, there is not a country which has not expressed in the public Press, or in some other way, except Russia, its admiration for the way in which the Government have helped the nation to meet its great obligations.
What is the attack upon us to-day? It is that the volume of unemployment has increased. We used to hear a great deal about what was called the economic blizzard. To-day the "economic blizzard" has been watered down, in the terms of the Motion to the "economic situation." Upon the whole, I think I prefer the less picturesque phrase as being more accurate. But we will meet the challenge. What is the economic situation? What was the economic situation? Have hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite forgotten all that they and their colleagues said about the economic situation 12 months ago? Has the much-lamented Mr. William Graham been entirely forgotten? Was he a prejudiced critic? What did he say about the economic situation 12 months ago? It is all very well for the right hon. Gentlemen, in the comparative security in which this country rests at the present time, to forget the unhappy facts of 12 months ago, which they described in every speech they made as an "economic blizzard."
We are well aware of what the Opposition's policy would be to-day, and what it would have been if they had been allowed to be responsible for policy a year ago. They would have balanced the Budget; but how? By increasing taxation. They would have borrowed what they could not raise by taxation. They would have abolished, they would to-day abolish the means test, I suppose. They would proscribe economy, whether in local or national expenditure. What does anybody suppose would have happened if that had been the policy which had been operated over the past 12 months instead of the policy for which the present Government, have been responsible? They would have poured out money like water. To take the illustration of the Leader of the Opposition, they would have taken the wealth from the rich people who were going to spend it upon motor cars and distributed it in largesse amongst thousands of persons to support them for a day or week.[Interruption.] It was the right hon. Gentleman's own illustration. He said:
946 "Supposing we take £10,000 from a mail who is going to buy two motor cars and distribute it amongst 10,000 persons, then we shall produce a spending power which will be at least as advantageous"—I think he said more advantageous—"as the construction of the motor cars."
Let us suppose that that policy, magnified a thousand times, had been the policy, as I understand it to be the policy of the Opposition. Where would they have been at the end of 12 months with a policy of that sort? They would have been faced with exactly the same problem, only infinitely worse, as we were faced with when this Government took office 12 months ago. How are you going to manage the affairs of a great and complicated industrial organism like this, unless you follow the ordinary teachings of prudence and common sense? Right hon. Gentlemen are perfectly entitled to their opinion. They think that their policy of extravagant outlay is the policy that is going to save this country. They are always speaking—and I believe the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) believes in this—as if you can create a purchasing power that will save the country merely by handing out money to people to spend. They are entitled to their opinion, but it is not the opinion of hon. Members on this side, and it is not the opinion of the country. It is the choice which this House has to make, the choice which the country made 12 months ago.
I was struck with the right hon. Gentleman's despair. With all my heart I wish him a long life to enjoy the admiration and affection of his supporters, but he will have to live a very long time if he is going to see all the countries of the world abandon what he calls the competitive principle. He said there was no hope for the world with world conditions as they are, with every country working on a competitive basis. Why, the right hon. Gentleman cannot even control his own party. Yet he aspires to persuade the nation and the world to abandon the competitive basis upon which they operate at present in order that the right hon. Gentleman may realise his hopes of a Socialist Kingdom in this Realm. I intend no misrepresentation of his views; he has said that over and over again. It was the refrain of his speech—that there is no hope for this country as long as this present system endures. He said 947 further, not only as long as it endures in this country but, in the words which I have read, that there is no hope with world conditions as they are. I say there is hope for this country. This country is not dependent on other nations for the success with which it will manage its own affairs. It is perfectly true that as other nations suffer, so we suffer, and as other nations prosper, so we are apt to prosper, but the task before the Government is that, world conditions being what they are, how can this country, with its great intelligent and courageous people, rescue itself from world conditions, and rebuild the prosperity which we have seen before and will see again?
The right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Health complained that there had been no actual outlay on what he called public works. I do not complain of the statement. Broadly speaking, it is perfectly true. It has been a deliberate part of the Government policy. A few years ago we were all impressed with the idea that you could in some way make work for a sufficient number of people by borrowing large sums and spending the money upon roads, reservoirs and all the rest of it. Everybody knows that it broke down; the effect was relatively small. It was mortgaging the resources of the next generation and piling up debt, while all the time we were employing only a few men of one particular section of the community for a few weeks, and then at the end of it your problem faced you with increased severity. I make no apology. It is one more of the differences of opinion between the Government and the Opposition. We have deliberately abandoned that policy because we believe there is a more fruitful policy. The Opposition would resort to it if they were in the seats of office to-day, though it is a policy which has been opposed by text-book writers as well as by the practical experience of the last 10 years, and in face of the evidence that along that line there is no hope for this country. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs would magnify that policy a thousand times. He said, in a sentence that astonished me, that nothing had been done from 1924 to 1929 during my right hon. Friend's Ministry. Nothing done! The late Minister of Health complained that we have forgotten Lord St. 948 Davids Commission. That gives the answer to the right hon. Gentleman. Lord St. Davids Commission, the public works loans and all the rest of it, were in full swing during the whole of those five years.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No. The St. Davids Commission was appointed by me, and the schemes were considerably slowed clown during that period.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am not suggesting that we appointed the Commission, but that Commission or some analogous Commission was in operation during the whole of the years from 1924 to 1929. I was then a member for a great industrial constituency, and I made many applications, because I believed in the policy of getting funds for employed. It failed disastrously. I repeat that not only do we admit the accusation, but we say it is an accusation of which we can justly be proud. We have abandoned the policy of hopelessness for something which holds out a higher hope.
Then the late Minister of Health made some very wounding accusations against this Government, if they were true, and he said we had aimed a deliberate blow at the social services, because we, on this side, who were well off, did not find it necessary to avail ourselves of those services. Does he really believe that? The right hon. Gentleman says, in a voice intended to reach me but I imagine no wider public, that he does believe it. All I can say is that it does very little credit to him. On this side of the House, there have been people just as active as anybody in the Kingdom in the extension of these services.
In the moment that is left I say that by all the tests that have been applied throughout the last few months, whether we take the maternity services, infant welfare or tuberculosis, there has been no diminution in efficiency. There has been no failure to maintain them. So far as housing is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman appears not to have been aware that subsidised houses completed to September are practically as many as during the same period last year. So far as non-subsidised houses up to March, 1932, are concerned, there were only 2,000 less than up to March, 1931. If you take both subsidised and non-subsidised houses 949 together, the total for the six months up to March, 1932, exceeded the corresponding period, when the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Health, by no less than 6,000 houses.
The fact is that the Government have made no attack upon the Social Services. It is perfectly wrong to suppose that local authorities, any more than anybody else, are immune from the temptations to waste other people's money if they are never subject to any check. Directions were given that waste was not to be permitted in the administration of public money. Efforts were made to correct administration but to maintain efficiency, and to make public health one of the first duties of all persons connected with local or public administration. I shall challenge anybody on that side and I can safely challenge any figures or reports in reference to our Social Services. Hon. Members will find that these Services are efficient. It has always been the proud boast of this country to maintain her Social Services. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will study these matters a little more closely. If he cannot give the country credit for the great way in which it has met its burdens, I hope, at any rate, that he will not renew the disgraceful charges which he has fathered upon this House this evening.
§ There is only time for me to say one word more. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen spoke of stability. The fact is that measures, harsh though they may be, and cruel upon many households, were rendered necessary. They were deliberately adopted as part of the Government's policy. They were to produce that stability which we conceived to be essential. It is in relation to that over-mastering purpose that the policy must be judged. It was to protect the fruits of the workpeople's labour that these measures were passed, and it is against that background that the nation who will judge us in due course received and perceived those measures, and endorsed them with an emphasis with which the ears of the right hon. Gentleman are still smarting.
That by their failure to deal effectively with the economic situation at Home, as shown by the increasing volume of unemployment, insistence upon a false economy in the social services, the imposition of a means test upon unemployed persons, and the unauthorised pursuit of a policy opposed to the restoration of world trade, His Majesty's Government have forfeited the confidence of the country and of this House.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 55; Noes, 462.953
|Division No. 326.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Groves, Thomas E.||Milner, Major James|
|Banfield, John William||Grunay, Thomas W.||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Price, Gabriel|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Salter, Dr Alfred|
|Buchanan, George||Hirst, George Henry||Thorne, William James|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||John, William||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Deviln, Joseph||Leonard, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. G.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern, John||Macdonald.|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Apsley, Lord||Balfour, George (Hampstead)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Aske, Sir Robert William||Balniel, Lord|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M.||Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar|
|Albery, Irving James||Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Barton, Capt, Basil Kelsey|
|Alexander, Sir William||Atholl, Duchess of||Bateman, A. L|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Atkinson, Cyril||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell|
|Allen, Lt Col. J. Sandeman (B'knh'd)||Balley, Eric Alfred George||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Belt, Sir Alfred L.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley|
|Bernays, Robert||Donner, P. W.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Doran, Edward||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Birchen, Major Sir John Dearman||Duckworth, George A. V.||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)||Duggan, Hubert John||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Dunglass, Lord||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Boulton, W. W.||Eales, John Frederick||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Eastwood, John Francis||Hunter, Capt. M..J. (Brigg)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Eden, Robert Anthony||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Elmley, Viscount||Jamieson, Douglas|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Jennings, Roland|
|Briant, Frank||Emrye-Evans, P. V.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Brown,Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Buchan, John||Falls, Sir Bertram G.||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Fermoy, Lord||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Flelden, Edward Brocklehurst||Knebworth, Viscount|
|Burghley, Lord||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Knight, Holford|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Burnett, John George||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Fox, Sir Gifford||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Fraser, Captain Ian||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Calne, G. R. Hall-||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Ganzonl, Sir John||Lees-Jones, John|
|Carver, Major William H.||Gibson, Charles Granville||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Levy, Thomas|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Gledhill, Gilbert||Lewis, Oswald|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Glossop, C. W. H.||Liddell, Walter S.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Gluckstein, Louls Halle||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hon.SirJ.A.(Birm.,W)||Goff, Sir Park||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Gower, Sir Robert||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Locker-Lampson, Rt.Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Granville, Edgar||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Graves, Marjorie||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Greene, William P. C.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Lymington, Viscount|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W).||Mabane, William|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Grimston, R. V.||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Cooke, Douglas||Gunston, Captain D. W.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Copeland, Ida||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||McKeag, William|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zeti'nd)||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Hanbury, Cecil||McLean, Major Alun|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hanley, Dennis A.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Macmillan, Maurice Harold|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Harbord. Arthur||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hartland, George A.||Magnay, Thomas|
|Crossley, A. C.||Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)||Maitland, Adam|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Malialieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Curry, A. C.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Davies, Maj.Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Meller, Richard James|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Millar, Sir James Duncan|
|Denville, Alfred||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Mille, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hopkinson, Austin||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Dickie, John P.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Milne, Charles|
|Dlxey, Arthur C. N.||Hornby, Frank||Milne, Sir John S. Wardlaw-|
|Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Ray, Sir William||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Rea, Walter Russell||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham.||Storey, Samuel|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Moreing, Adrian C.||Remer, John R.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton—|
|Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Summereby, Charles H.|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Robinson. John Roland||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Morrison, William Shepherd||Ropner, Colonel L.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Moss, Captain H. J.||Rosbotham, S. T.||Taylor,Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)|
|Mulrhead, Major A. J.||Ross, Ronald D.||Templeton, William P.|
|Munro, Patrick||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph||Rothschild, James A. de||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Nall, Sir Joseph||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Nall-Caln, Arthur Ronald N.||Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Thompson, Luke|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||TitchrielJ, Major the Marquess of|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wickon-T.)|
|Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Russell,Hamer Field (Sheffield,Btside)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|North, Captain Edward T.||Salmon, Major Isidore||Train, John|
|Nunn, William||Salt, Edward W.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Ormiston, Thomas||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Peake, Captain Osbert||Savery, Samuel Servington||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Pearson, William G.||Scone, Lord||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Peat, Charles U.||Selley, Harry R.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Penny, Sir George||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Percy, Lord Eustace||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Petherick, M.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||White, Henry Graham|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Pike, Cecil F.||Slater, John||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Potter, John||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Procter, Major Henry Adam||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Purbrick, R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Pybus, Percy John||Smithers, Waldron||Womersley, Walter James|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Somerset, Thomas||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Wrag[...], Harbert|
|Ramsbotham, Herwald||Soper, Richard||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noake)|
|Ramsden, E.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Rankin, Robert||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Ratcliffe, Arthur||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
§ The Orders of the day were read, and postponed.