§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I beg to move,That this House regrets that, instead of making the burden of unemployment a national charge, His Majesty's Government have driven large numbers of able-bodied unemployed persons to seek the aid of the Poor Law, thereby exhausting the resources of an ever-increasing number of local authorities.When the present Government took office they did so with the object of solving the unemployment problem, or, if not solving the problem completely, of reducing unemployment to such an extent that the expenditure, not merely of the Government but of the country as a whole, involved in dealing with it would be lightened. To-day, more than 18 months after the formation of the National Government, unemployment is considerably worse than it was when the Government took office and the conditions of the unemployed people are worse than they were when the Government took office. The Government have made several cuts in unemployment benefit. They have imposed reductions on various classes of the unemployed; the growing mass of misery in the country, and the financial burden on local authorities involved in trying to alleviate that misery and poverty, have reached such a stage that local authorities are now sending deputations to the Government appealing to them to revert to the pre-Election method of the Government of the day bearing the burden of unemployment. Several deputations have reached London from various parts of the country and there is hardly a Member in any quarter of the House who has not been requested to make representations to responsible Ministers with a view to securing some alleviation of the present burden.
A large number of Members of the present Government saw fit in the past to criticise the Labour Government for what they alleged to be its inefficiency and its inability to stem the growing tide of unemployment. But this National Government of which they are members, now finds itself in office with the country in a worse condition than it was at any time during the period of office of the Labour Government. I have before me the terms of a Vote of Censure which was moved against the then Labour Government on 16th April, 1931, almost two 2588 years ago. It was moved by the present Lord President of the Council, and the main objection that he took to statements made by leaders of the Labour Government was in particular to this one:This is the paragraph that I have in mind, and it was spoken just before the election,Then the right hon. Gentleman gave a quotation from a speech by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Lord Snowden, as follows:The problem of the present abnormal unemployment was to restore the great staple industries of cotton, wool, iron and steel and shipbuilding'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1931; col. 364, Vol. 251.]Then he went on to speak of the importance of these trades to the country. I want to ask the present Government, which has within its Cabinet the same distinguished Member who moved that Vote of Censure on the Labour Government just two years ago, whether he or his Government has taken any steps to make improvements in any of the staple industries to which he referred at that time. I would also like to ask the present Prime Minister, who was Prime Minister at that time, whether he has taken any steps, or done anything to secure the support of the Lord President of the Council, to make any improvements in any of those staple industries, whether his journeyings over the face of the earth have had anything to do with an endeavour to bring about the desired improvements, and whether he has satisfied his colleagues in the Cabinet that improvements have been made; and I should like him to give to the House a statement of what improvements have been made that have brought the Lord President of the Council and his followers to support him as they have been doing when, two years ago, they were attacking him because he had not done the things which I have just read out from the speech of the then Leader of the Opposition.
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, when he moved that Vote of Censure, was moving it against a Government that was in a much less effective position in this House than is the present Government. The Labour Government had about 280 Members in this House and was in a minority. However sincere the will may have been to 2589 effect improvements, by lack of numbers it had not the power to carry out any of the things which it might have desired to do to better the lot of the great majority of the people of the country. Can the present Prime Minister say that he is still in the same position in which he found himself when the Leader of the then Opposition challenged him? Is it not the case that at the present time his majority in this House, based upon the support which he received at the General Election, amounts to 500, that he has 550 Members in this House who were elected pledged to support him? If he has the will to carry out those improvements, he has a power that has never been given to any House of Commons in the past, and I challenge him or those who support him to say what they have done to bring about any improvements in the condition of the country.
To those Members who are now visiting him as deputations and pleading with him and the Government to do something for the distressed areas that they represent, I would point out that if they are sincere and really desirous of bringing about better conditions in their areas, instead of moving Amendments to the Motion that we have placed upon the Paper, they should join with us in voting against a Government that has violated every pledge that it gave to the community outside. The present Government is, in my opinion and in the opinion of very large numbers in the country, the real villain of this particular piece. It has reduced benefits, and it has issued regulations, through its Ministry of Labour, that have thrown people off unemployment benefit because of the very contradictory nature of those regulations. Unemployed people have been asked to prove two things, and the two things are so contradictory that if they prove the first, in the main they disprove the second.
According to a statement contained in the final Report of the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance thousands of people have been cast off unemployment benefit who are rightly entitled to receive it, and although that report has been in the hands of Members for several months now, the Minister of Labour has done nothing to correct that violation of the promise made to individuals When they subscribed to the Unemployment Fund. I refer to the regulations issued 2590 under the Anomalies Act, and the statement contained in the report is that they are so contradictory that they have thrown thousands of people out of benefit and cast them upon the Poor Law in the localities. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour doubts that statement, but it is contained in the report. [An HON. MEMBER: "In the report or the Minority Report?"] It is in the Minority Report of the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance, but it is signed by men who had the same facilities for estimating the evidence submitted to them by those who appeared before them as had the majority. Further, they published the two sections of the regulations, and I will challenge any lawyer in this House to deny that they are contradictory in their nature and that proof of one means denial of the other. This is what they said:As a result of the regulations, the few who were claiming benefit without any particular intention of wage-earning have been got rid of, but at the price of disallowing thousands of women fully paid-up contributors, genuinely seeking work, and in many cases in financial need of it. They suffer from the industrial depression in common with the rest of the unemployed, and, like them, would be back at wage-earning again if the opportunity occurred.The regulations which they are asked to fulfil before they receive benefit are there also. I submit that the Minister of Labour, by the issue of those regulations and by the fact that he has not seen fit to do anything to correct the anomaly that has arisen from them, has cast as a burden upon the local authorities thousands of people who were entitled to draw unemployment benefit and receive it from the Government. Many Members have received circulars from localities drawing attention to the fact that large burdens have been placed upon them owing to the numbers of people who have been taken off unemployment benefit. Figures have been given showing how the rates have risen and how the amount of money paid in Poor Law relief has increased until all over the country to-day from those areas where industries have been hit hardly by the industrial blizzard, a call goes out from the local authorities demanding the Government to relieve them of the burden of bearing unemployment upon their shoulders. Suggestions have been made by some authorities that they are willing to carry the burden of 2591 unemployment and Poor Law relief to the extent of a 4d. rate. I have here a circular issued from Glasgow which was sent to the Secretary of State for Scotland last year. They submitted evidence to the Commission in which they stated that they were prepared to bear some portion of the burden of unemployment on the local rates. I will not read that circular, except the concluding paragraph:Since the representations were made to the Royal Commission, the corporation has again taken the whole circumstances into consideration, and have resolved that representations be made to the Government to meet the cost of the relief of the able-bodied unemployed. This decision supersedes the proposal put forward to the Royal Commission that local authorities should share the cost. The incidence of unemployment is so unequal and the increase in the number of ordinary Poor Law cases consequent upon abnormal unemployment is so great, that the only equitable course is to make the burden a national one. As the matter is urgent it is hoped that this representation will receive early and favourable consideration.That is a point of view which is now being taken up by the majority of local authorities. When the Prime Minister was Prime Minister of the Labour Government he established a principle that he advocated up to the last General Election of work or maintenance for the unemployed. In the 1930 Unemployment Act of the Labour Government the principle of work or maintenance was established. It is true that the amount of maintenance set out in that Act might not have been all that the Prime Minister and those who supported him at that time desired, but it established the principle that a man or woman willing to work and unable to find it should receive an allowance out of the Unemployment Fund. Many thousands were taken off Poor Law relief and given unemployment benefit by the operation of that Act. When the right hon. Gentleman became the Leader of the present Government and passed the Economy Act, when the Orders-in-Council dealing with unemployment and the respective cuts were issued, when the regulations under the Anomalies Act were issued by the Minister of Labour, that principle was scrapped. The right hon. Gentleman now sits as Prime Minister of a Government denying the very principle that he himself in the many years in which he has stood upon Labour plat- 2592 forms has advocated time and time again. That seems a joke to some of his new supporters. I am certain that it is not a joke and was not a joke to those who in the old days supported the right hon. Gentleman and were among his most loyal adherents.
Many local authorities are in the same position as Glasgow Town Council. Reference was made during Question Time to Stockton-on-Tees. I have the report referring to Stockton, and it is an amazing document. It actually shows that among a number of people who were taken out of an unhealthy slum area and included in what is considered a healthy municipal housing scheme, the death-rate is higher than when they were in the slum area. The medical officer of health for that town gives it as his considered opinion that the high deate-rate is due to the fact that the people in the municipal houses, after meeting the expense of rent, have not sufficient left to spend on food to maintain them in a standard of life to which human beings are entitled. That is one of the most damning indictments that have ever been made against any Government, and it shows that the conditions this Government have imposed on the people are such that a section removed from an unhealthy area to what is considered to be a healthy area find that their death-rate goes up because of their inability to purchase the necessaries of life in such quantities as to maintain them in sound health. That is the problem which the Minister of Health will have to meet and inquire into. If it were possible to make definite inquiries into other localities as has been done in Stockton, it would probably be found that a similar condition of affairs exists.
I submit that the whole situation in the country to-day has become so abnormal that the Government must take action. I understand they have yielded somewhat to the protestations of representatives from the northern districts, though I do not know exactly to what extent those representations have been met. In my opinion it is impossible to meet any situation such as has arisen and is developing in unemployment by merely shoving either the major portion or a large portion of the burden upon the localities. The possibilities of doing so decline as the blizzard continues. Workshops close down, even shops in the main thoroughfares in towns in the depressed areas 2593 have had to close their doors, and it is no longer possible to obtain from those areas the amount which could be raised by, say, a 6d. rate five, six or 10 years ago. When those distressed areas are left to bear the burden of the unemployment within their borders while districts not very far removed escape the main burden, it is high time there was something in the nature of an equalisation of the poor rate in the country, so that districts which are not so closely identified with industry, and therefore are not so severely hit at the present time, may take a share of the burden. The whole nation shares in any general uplift in trade and employment, and I take it that the whole nation ought to assist in bearing the burden of unemployment, and not thrust it upon a few local authorities.
I have figures from Durham county, Glamorganshire, the county of Northumberland, Yorkshire, and so on, showing that right over the country there has been an increase in Poor Law charges. It is not one locality alone that is making this outcry. It comes from industrial towns throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain, and therefore it must be listened to by the Government, and something must be done to assist the distressed areas. The General Purposes Committee of the London County Council has recommended estimates of £3,027,890 for the year 1933–34, of which sum £1,915,025 is in respect of public assistance. The London County Council is having to set aside almost £2,000,000 to meet the cost of poor relief this year. In Manchester the over-spending of the public assistance committee in 1933 which had to be financed out of the 1933–34 rate amounted to £130,369, and the additional requirements for the year 1933–34 were estimated at £108,816. Since the corporation assumed responsibility for public assistance the annual rate charge has increased by no less than £275,000, rising from £365,000 for 1929–30 to £639,000 for the present estimate. I could go on through a list of towns where there have been similar increases.
The demand for taking the burden of unemployment from the local authorities does not proceed from the discredited—according to the Government—Labour Opposition, it does not proceed from Labour town councils or Labour groups or Labour sections in those towns. This 2594 demand is made irrespective of the political views of the localities. We have requests from Tory aldermen, Tory mayors, and Tory councillors, Liberal aldermen, Liberal mayors and Liberal councillors and Labour aldermen, Labour mayors and Labour councillors. All join in the demand that the nation shall bear the burden of the nation's unemployment. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear that that finds agreement even on the other side, and I hope that if the Government do not give us some concessions that support will be not merely vocal but will be pedal as well, and that the hon. Member will walk into the Lobbies to assist us.
Next I will give some figures for Scotland, because I feel sure that hon. Members representing English or Welsh constituencies will have figures to give relating to the other parts of the country. As one of the representatives of the principal industrial town in Scotland I will quote figures relating to Glasgow. In September, 1931, when the first National Government took office, the total number of persons in receipt of poor relief in Glasgow was 74,368. In February, 1933, the number had jumped to 117,077, showing an increase of 43,000 in the lifetime of the present Government, and yet we are asked to believe that the Government have brought a certain amount of prosperity to certain areas by their Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council. Even in Edinburgh the numbers have risen from 16,266 in September, 1931, to 26,779 in February, 1933, although Edinburgh cannot by any stretch of imagination be regarded as an industrial town in the same category as Glasgow or Manchester. The same proportions apply to smaller places. They are shown in the county of Lanark. Small boroughs like Hamilton, Wishaw and Motherwell show these increases. With regard to Glasgow, the amount expended on able-bodied relief by the public assistance committee in Glasgow in 1931 was £362,780. In 1932, the figure was £549,046, a jump of between £170,000 and £180,000 in one year. That was the period when the people were being cast off unemployment benefit, and were coming more on to public assistance.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
No; it is not due to the Anomalies Act. If the hon. Gentleman would read the extract I gave earlier, he would find that very large numbers of people who were put on the Poor Law by the Anomalies Act were not put there by the late Labour Government but by his own Minister of Labour.
§ Mr. LUKE THOMPSON
Is it not a fact that the regulations were set up by the advisory committee which advised the Minister and that any disallowances are by the court of referees?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I had better meet that statement, since that is evidently the impression in the minds of certain people. I have the regulations here. They were issued by the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Labour.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Let me offer my own explanation, and the hon. Member can take it up with his own Minister. The regulations were submitted to the committee and then were sent back with a certain request to make an alteration dealing with a certain phrase, and the right hon. Gentleman issued them without making any alteration. He is responsible for the regulations as submitted to that committee, and he is now responsible for the regulations which threw thousands of people on to the Poor Law as stated in this report, and who were rightly entitled to receive unemployment benefit. You cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. THOMPSON
May I be allowed to put this? Is it not a fact that under the Act of the Labour Government, all decisions of disallowance had to go to the court of referees, and whether regulations under the Anomalies Act are put forward or not, the decision of disallowance does not come through the Minister or the insurance officer, but through the court of referees?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
It is quite evident that my hon. Friend has not had many dealings with Unemployment Exchanges. He has not appeared before any courts of referees on behalf of any unemployed men or women.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
If the hon. Member has appeared before courts of referees often, and not shown a greater knowledge of the regulations under which the courts of referees operate, I do not wonder that he lost some of the cases for which he was appearing. The regulations under the Anomalies Act are the regulations which were set up by the present Minister. The Anomalies Act is not operated except through regulations issued by the Ministry of Labour, and the present Minister, one of the hon. Member's own leaders, is responsible for what is happening under the Anomalies Act. If there is any discredit arising because of the operation of that Act, then the discredit rests upon the shoulders of the right hon. Gentleman.
Practically all the authorities in Scotland are making the same request, that this should be thrown upon the nation instead of being borne merely by the localities. If the House will bear with me for a few more minutes, I will give a startling statement that appears in a report issued by the Chief of Police of Glasgow, a fortnight ago. It is a report of the state of crime in Glasgow, and his views upon the increase of crime are rather significant. He states that there is an increase of crimes against property with violence of 3,088 over the previous year, and an increase of crimes against property without violence of 5,933—a total increase of 9,000 in crimes against property. Here are the two paragraphs in his report in which he deals with these significant items:There can be little doubt hut that the increase of crime in the city is due in some measure to the difficult times through which we are passing, and that unemployment is the main factor, especially in the case of crimes involving dishonest appropriation of property. Many of the younger generation have drifted into crime owing to present day conditions. Their parents may be able to provide them with a home and clothing, but are unable to supply them with the pocket money they require for amusements, etc., and as they have never known the discipline of work, they fall into criminal habits as opportunity offers.That is a rather significant report, but it sets out something which very few students of social habits can dispute. I want to appeal to this House. I want to appeal to those who show at least, some regard for the conditions of people outside when they have put down Amendments qualify- 2597 ing, to some extent, the Vote of Censure that is being moved. I want to appeal to them, and to those who intend to support them, to be very definite and very firm in this matter. The Government, or any Government, will yield to the amount of pressure and in accordance with the amount of pressure which is placed upon them. Those outside are helpless to better themselves in the present conditions so far as Poor Law relief is concerned; so they come to the House of Commons.
Many things have been done in the past to assist local authorities. The De-rating Act of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was expected to turn the area of every local authority into what might be considered a fragrant garden; yet de-rating has brought not one penny of relief to any of those districts, but, by taking away from them many rateable properties, has reduced the area over which the rating of the city to bear these burdens might he spread. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not true."] I am not concerned with whether it is said that it is not true. I am only stating my information. [An HON. MEMBER: "Facts."] And the facts are there. They are being placed before this House, and will continue to be placed, namely, that arising out of the methods taken by this Government, arising out of the various conditions of administration which have been set up by the present Government to-day, there are thousands upon thousands of unemployed people, decent respectable people, who never dreamt in their lifetime that they, or any belonging to them, would have to undergo the indignity of taking Poor Law relief. They have been compelled to look upon Poor Law relief now as something to which they are entitled, as they were entitled in the past to unemployment benefit. I am asking the Members of this House, whether they represent rural constituencies, holiday resorts or industrial areas, to vote for this Motion to-day in a manner which will compel the present Government to realise that the burden of unemployment, not being a local problem, but a national problem, ought not to be thrown upon the shoulders of a locality to bear, but that the nation as a nation ought to take its responsibilities, and face the matter bravely and with courage, and pay for those who are unfortunately unable to pay for themselves.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)
In reply to the hon. Member who moved this Vote of Censure, I feel that the first necessity is to try to make some mental distinction between those arguments which had some connection with the Motion, and those arguments, very interesting in themselves, which had no connection whatever with it. Perhaps for the sake of greater clarity I might deal first with the—if he will forgive my using the word—irrelevant arguments. He has blamed the Government for failing to find employment for the unemployed. No issue could be greater. Negligence in that matter would, indeed, deserve censure. Upon that issue we shall be prepared to meet the Opposition at any time in any manner, but we must meet it on a specific Motion, which has some bearing on that question, and not on this Motion, which has no bearing on it whatever. He has blamed the Government for failing to adopt the Socialist policy of "Work or maintenance." I can only say that the experience which the nation has had during the years of Socialist administration and the effect of a slow advance in that direction might well make anybody resolve that no further steps should be taken in that direction. He has blamed the Government for an increase in crime—it is the small change, as it were, of Debates of this sort—and every conceivable circumstance which shows a deterioration is laid to the charge of the Government. I will concede to the hon. Member the words which he quoted in regard to the increase in crime. The very words show that there was no foundation for such an irrelevant charge.
Lastly he raised a matter which I confess does concern us. He referred to the Report of the Commission, and made a charge in regard to the insufficiency of sustenance for the unemployed. After the most careful and anxious consideration of that matter, I do not believe that there is any basis sufficient to support the charges and the conclusions drawn by the hon. Member. I invite him to turn to another and more recent authority. If there is inadequate sustenance in any class of the community, it would be shown first of all, we all know, among the children. I invite the hon. Member to consult the last report of the Chief 2599 Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health. There be will find what we must all feel to be of the greatest comfort. It is stated that there is no evidence that deserves attention of any deterioration of the general physical condition of the children of the country. That is a situation which we may consider with pride. We are all conscious that this entails effort and struggle on the part of those who are responsible for the welfare of the children.
Let me turn from those matters to others which were advanced by the hon. Member, and which do actually support the Resolution which he moved. If I may say so, his arguments reveal a little too clearly the tactics of the Motion. In vain is the net spread in the sight of the bird. Had he confined himself more closely to his own Resolution and not advanced such reckless and wandering charges against the Government he might have been more successful in his efforts to detach votes. The basis of the Motion of Censure that is contained in this Resolution, and which was supported by the hon. Member, is in the first place that we have delayed, as a Government, to intervene to assist in the difficulties and distresses of local authorities. The accusation of delay in this matter lies ill in the mouth of the official Opposition. What is it that has made the task of the Government difficult and long in this regard? It is that when we came into office we found the whole system of unemployment insurance in the localities lying in a state of ruin and chaos. There was an accumulating—
§ Sir H. YOUNG
There was an accumulating debt of £1,000,000 per week. We remember the grave statement which was made, calling in question the stability of the British financial system. The restoration of the stability of that system is not a work that can be accomplished in a short time or without great effort. The task of the Government has been difficult; it has been work of patient reconstruction and of the re-establishment of the foundations of credit and stability, in order to begin the construction of the new edifice in which we are engaged. I would fain brush aside the search for 2600 party advantage, the laying of credit or discredit to this side or that, in such a matter as the increase of Poor Law relief. The hon. Member got into sad difficulties with one of the greatest experts in the House, the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Thompson).
§ Sir H. YOUNG
He knows more about those matters from practical experience than most hon. Members. I leave to the consideration of the official Opposition the question whether it is advisable, wise or judicious of them to raise the consequences of the Anomalies Act, which was their own creation. I want to get away from genial interchange of recrimination to the real bases of the situation. The simple and obvious fact, which we all know in our hearts and minds, is that there has been a grave increase in the burdens of the country in connection with Poor Law relief, and that is causing grave fresh difficulties to the local authorities. That position is due to the great depression and to the great increase in unemployment. We all know that we are confronted with a difficult problem which needs solution. In the search for that solution we are now proceeding. What is the situation? I would call attention to the following conspicuous features: Unemployment, and the giving of help to those who need help, is casting all sorts of fresh strains upon our national system. I use the good old Anglo-Saxon word "help" advisedly in order to avoid other words, "assistance," "relief" and "maintenance," which all have implications which are unfortunately controversial. I am talking of the help which must be given to those who are unable to earn their own living. It has now become a problem of so much magnitude that it is casting a strain upon every aspect of our national life.
We have nearly 3,000,000 unemployed, which probably represents a total of nearly double that number, or nearly 6,000,000 persons, who at one time or another in the course of the year, have to have help. The cost of that to the State mounts up to something like £90,000,000 per year. No part of our national economic life does not feel very deeply the effects of that strain. Consequently, it is not only the economic life which is strained deeply, but new and 2601 heavy strains are cast upon the whole machinery of local administration. As long as the numbers in receipt of help were comparatively small, the work could easily and readily be done by the faithful and assiduous service of those who often gave their lives to the work of assistance as members of the local authorities. Now we are confronted with a completely new social system of help which has become a substantial factor in the life of the localities. That factor has entered very deeply into the life of the communities for which the local authorities are responsible. Those who are engaged in local administration consequently find that the strain which is put upon them of bearing the burden of the very livelihood of those who are members of the same social group, is getting beyond their strength.
More important still is the new strain which is thrown in another direction upon our national organisation, and that is that the magnitude of that factor is straining to the extreme the very ideas upon which our system of public help is based. These ideas have gone through a very great change since public help and Poor Law -relief first came into existence. Hon. Members know how they started. They started in the rugged old Tudor days, which considered that anybody who had not enough to keep himself was, by hypothesis, a rogue and vagabond, and was to be dealt with as such. That was no doubt a historical remainder from the feudal time, when a man without attachment to the land was a danger to society. Gradually, and in the course of time, that rugged and harsh Tudor outlook developed into what we might call the Victorian view, familiarised by the works of Charles Dickens. That was harsh too. There was a presumption that anybody who was unable to maintain himself was in that position by his own fault, and was to be dealt with as if he were an offender against society.
That idea has developed in our changing circumstances and now we are in the position in which we must regard this problem as upon an absolutely different basis. We must get rid of that assumption that anybody who is unable to support himself is necessarily in fault. The conspicuous and outstanding circumstance at the bottom of our ideas in solving the problem is that nowadays that part of the community, or a very large section of it, which is unable to maintain 2602 itself, deserves the same status as that part of the community which is able to maintain itself. We have to accommodate our institutions to that change in the development of our national life. Our economic structure, our administration and the very structure of our ideas have changed and have to be changed in order to bring them into accordance with the conditions and spirit of the time.
Let me turn for a moment from the analysis and the description of the problem with which we have to deal to one or two ideas which must appear to all of us to be basic. As regards the new structure which we must now proceed to build, in order to relate our institutions and our changed circumstances with our changed ideas, the principles that I have mentioned are very obvious and are even humdrum. They can also be expressed in old saws, and the first of these to which I would refer is, "He who pays the piper should call the tune." I believe that it will be agreed by all of us who have given our close attention to this question that in our organisation of help there has been a mischievous feature that has increased in its potentialities for mischief with the increase in the cost of help and the increase in the number of unemployed. That feature is the divorce between responsibility for spending the money and responsibility for raising it. Any one of us who is laying out an extensive business organisation will surely, in the first place, see that care, economy and common sense in the spending of money is ensured, by making the spender confront the difficult and painful task of getting the money that he bas to spend, and of accounting for it to those constituents to whom he owes responsibility. There has been, as I have said, a complete divorce between these responsibilities.
What is the present situation? Take the able-bodied unemployed, who are the centre, as it were, of our discussion this afternoon. The cost of maintenance of the able-bodied unemployed borne by the Exchequer—the direct cost only—is at the present time some £80,000,000 a year. The cost that falls on the local authorities through the rates is only some £6,500,000 a year, and, of that £6,500,000, about £1,750,000 goes for the maintenance of the sick and infirm, children, and so on; so that, in fact, the comparison is between some £80,000,000 found by the State and some £4,750,000 only that is found by the 2603 local authorities. I say that there could not be a better instance of the divorce between the responsibility for getting the money and the responsibility for spending it.
The second principle that must guide us in our new structure is this: In the old days, when this question of public help played so small a part in our economic structure, unexplained differences between the treatment of the same sort of persons in one place and another were not, perhaps, of very much significance, for the simple reason that there were not many of them. Nowadays, when, as I have pointed out, they constitute so large a factor in our public life, the state of affairs is very different. One recognises that it is no longer possible to justify to the country as a whole, and, in particular, to the recipients of help themselves, any unexplained or unreasonable differences in their treatment from place to place—in other words, that unnecessary anomalies are no longer tolerable. Let me not be misunderstood as saying that we ought to have a system of cast-iron uniformity in the country as a whole. Every practical administrator knows that there is nothing less desirable than that. There are great differences between place and place. To mention only one, the differences in rents may make it quite impossible to apply any common scale or standard over the whole country. On the other hand, it must be recognised that it is impossible to continue, now that this matter bulks so largely in our daily life, any system which does not enable us to secure a reasonable measure of uniformity, and reasonable freedom from irritating, unexplained anomalies. These considerations to which I have referred will he understood by the House as pointing to some system of more centralised administration, of more centralised control.
Let me deal now, before I come more closely to the question of practical proposals, with the important financial aspect of the matter. This brings me closely to the attack made upon the Government by the hon. Member in his opening speech, on the ground of failure to assist the local authorities. I have already said that the existence of the problem is recognised, but let us get that problem into a right perspective. Let us remember, in the first place, that what we are 2604 dealing with here is simply the question of the nation's left-hand pocket and the nation's right-hand pocket, and let us see, if possible, what arrangement of expenditure should be made with respect to the relative rights of the two pockets. It is not an indifferent question; it is, of course, a very important question. If we attempt to take more money out of the left-hand pocket than there is in it, that pocket will be in a state of local bankruptcy.
In approaching this question, I would like to emphasise another aspect of it. It is a question of the relation between the nation's two forms of taxation, rates and taxes, and we shall never arrive at any reasonable solution of it in the interest of the nation as a whole unless we approach it in the spirit of co-operation. We recognise that bad times are casting a heavy new burden upon the whole nation; they are casting a heavy new burden both on the ratepayer and on the taxpayer; and what we have to do is to put our heads together and see that these two burdens are distributed justly between them. That can be done by co-operation. It will be achieved with wisdom by co-operation; it will not be achieved with wisdom by a mere spirit of reckless competition. As I have said, we must try to get this question into perspective—financial perspective.
There are some circumstances to which I must refer, in order that the House may see the matter in its true bearings. Of late, the point of view of the local authorities has been developed with very great vigour and force, and with a large measure of truth; and the other side of the question must also be put, in order that the taxpayers' interests should be justly balanced with those of the local authorities. As to this distribution of burdens between Exchequer and rates, the House must realise that, in providing finance for the maintenance of the able-bodied unemployed, the Exchequer charge during the last few years has enormously increased. That is well known to all those of us who follow these matters. What may not be so well known is that the rate charge for the maintenance of the able-bodied unemployed has remained practically the same during those years. I will give a concrete fact to demonstrate that. The cost of out-relief for the able-bodied borne on the 2605 rates for England and Wales—in this year about £6,300,000—is not, in fact, greater than it was in the year 1927–28, whereas, during the same period, the Exchequer charge has increased by being multiplied no less than seven times. In fact, the rate charge for the maintenance of able-bodied unemployed at the present time is not greater than it has averaged since the War. Let me turn from that question, and consider the actual burden upon the rates and upon the taxpayers. I would like again to compare the year 1927–28 with last year, 1932–33—
§ Sir H. YOUNG
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to proceed. It is well known to the House that one interruption during a statement of figures may produce absolute confusion. I am comparing the year 1927–28 with the year 1932–33, as regards the total burden on the rates and on the Exchequer, in order that we may see how we ought to adjust the balance. Between those two years, the whole burden of national taxation increased by £59,000,000, to £732,000,000; but during that period the whole burden on the local rates did what? It decreased by £20,000,000, to £146,000,000. As I shall explain in a later part of my observations, it is not my intention, and it is not for the moment necessary for my purpose, to argue that there are not grave problems to be considered as between the central Exchequer and the position of the local authorities, and, particularly, of the depressed areas; but, in order that we may solve those problems according to the right measure and in the right manner, we must bear in mind these leading factors as regards the relative position of the two.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
Yes. Now I would pass on to the question of the constructive programme of the Government for dealing with the situation. In the first place, in view of the suggestions which I have seen from certain quarters—quarters in which pleasure is taken in representing that the Government of this country, whatever may be its, political complexion, is always in a state of panic and hurry— 2606 let me make it clear that what I have to say as regards centralisation, as regards the acceptance of central responsibility, has been the basis of the Government's deliberations ever since they started to solve this problem. There has been no hasty decision, no decision simply in response to recent representations from the distressed areas. The work that is proceeding is a difficult work, which will take time to complete. We are preparing a structure the right building of which will be of infinate moment to our future national life. It must take time; it must be tested in every stage; but, since the work was begun, many months ago now, it has proceeded throughout upon the assumption which I will now state to the House.
Before the end of the Session, we intend to take action. The Government will introduce a Bill dealing on a national basis with the problem of assistance for those who are in need of assistance, including those who, having been insured against unemployment, are no longer so insured. I cannot at this time anticipate the contents of the Bill in detail, and it will not be possible to do so, any further than I am doing now, in the course of this Debate; but I can give the following broad outline and the leading principles on which the Bill will be based. The essence of the matter is that we have to provide for large numbers of persons such as I have described, who, seeking work, are unable to find it for themselves, and who, even on the most hopeful calculation, are faced with the disheartening prospect of a continuance of that condition. Meanwhile, they suffer from the deteriorating effects of idleness. To mitigate that evil as far as possible, it will be a primary purpose of the Bill to make a close connection between the work of giving help in money and the work of promoting the physical and mental welfare of the unemployed, and, in particular, to protect them, as far as is possible, against the ill effects of idleness, by training, by occupation, and by recreation.
As to the important question of administration, it is recognised, and has been recognised throughout our deliberations, that the increasing burden of work on the local authorities which I have described, the lack of uniformity in local standards to which I have referred, and the fact that by far the greater part of 2607 the cost is already borne by the Exchequer—it is recognised that all of these circumstances require a greater measure of national supervision and control. The Bill will establish such a measure of control. In particular, it will redistribute and define the functions of local authorities and the central Government in relation to assistance from public funds, whether the funds of local authorities or the funds of the Exchequer. One of the bases of this redistribution of responsibility between local authorities and the central Government will be that the central Government shall accept responsibility, both administrative and financial, for assisting all the able-bodied unemployed who need assistance. The acceptance of this responsibility by the central Government will necessitate a readjustment of the present block grant paid to the local authorities by the State, since they will be relieved of a liability to which they have hitherto been subject. At the same time, we shall take the occasion of these financial readjustments to make some allowance on a regular basis for the special necessities of what are commonly described in this connection as the distressed areas. In the embarrassing wealth of Amendments to this Motion, I find it difficult to give a prize among so many, but the Amendment that has been put down in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Thompson) appears to the Government to be in accordance with these principles to which I have referred, and the Government propose to accept it.
I desire to deal a little more closely with the position of the distressed areas. Here, again, my first word must be one which will be less welcome to the representatives of those areas—though I do not think it should be so—by way of bringing this problem into the right perspective financially. It has been stated in the course of this Debate that the distressed areas are little interested in the state of the country as a whole and that what they desire to emphasise are their own difficulties, and quite rightly so. They receive no lack of attention and sympathy in emphasising those difficulties. They are personally known to me, being the greatest anxiety that can confront a Minister of Health at the present time. It has been my duty to make myself personally acquainted 2608 with them by conference with the authorities on the spot, and no words are necessary to impress upon me what those difficulties are in Lancashire, on the Tyne, in South Wales, and I will hastily add in other districts, because I have got into trouble on previous occasions by not making my catalogue complete. In order to put this problem into its right perspective, I would draw attention to this circumstance, that what is true of the rates of the country as a whole is also true of the rates of those areas. I take 51 specially distressed areas, and I find an interesting comparison between those two years to which I previously referred, 1927–28 and 1932–33. What has happened to the average poundage of the rates in the areas during that period? Has it gone up? As a matter of fact, it has gone down substantially.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I will deal with those circumstances afterwards. My hon. Friend is anticipating the blow. The blow, such as it is, has not yet been dealt. There is a fact that we must know in order to get the true aspect of the problem. It is that between those years 1927–28 and 1932–33, the average poundage of those 51 specially distressed areas has gone down from 22s. 3d. to 16s. 9d. Let me add at once that I do not produce that figure as a conclusive proof that the distressed areas are in no difficulty. Of course, there are many circumstances which must be taken into account on the other side. The assessments are one, but there are more important circumstances still. A circumstance that leaps to the eye is that it is not the poundage of a rate that matters so much as the wealth of the neighbourhood on which the poundage falls. During that period the resources out of which the rate has to be paid have diminished. It is because in the depressed areas, owing to the increase of unemployment and owing to the stagnation of their trade, the resources have diminished more extremely than in the rest of the country that those areas are depressed. That is what constitutes a depressed area.
There are other circumstances. There is the circumstance of de-rating. De-rating conferred great advantages, and that is recognised by everyone who has 2609 followed the distribution of trade in the country. It has conferred the great advantage of diminishing the hindrance put in the way of trade in depressed areas by diminishing the burden of rates upon trade. At the same time, it had a repercussion of disadvantage. It narrowed the basis upon which the rates had to be levied and it thus tended to accentuate the burden upon the distressed areas. These circumstances undoubtedly constitute a case for special consideration for these areas. There is another circumstance which weighs even more, and that is the fact that behind economics there is always the psychology of human beings, and these depressed areas are suffering from a sense of mental depression, a sense of the enormous weight of the burden which they are having to bear, and a sense of the long, hard road which has to be passed before they can return to prosperity. There is a mental, psychological burden weighing upon them. We cannot evaluate it in money, but it is important that a nation regarding its general health should do what it can to remove all sense of heartbreak from those parts of the country which have suffered the greatest distress.
I have referred already to the inclusion in the long-term scheme which the Government will introduce of a special consideration for the depressed areas. We have to recognise that we are constructing a big and a difficult structure. Its promotion, its adoption by the Legislature, its construction—all these things will take time, Meanwhile difficulties do not wait, and this is a difficult year. It is proposed, therefore, to deal with the immediate question of the difficulties of the depressed areas in this year, pending the introduction of the general scheme, in a manner which I will now describe. The House knows how I have approached this matter in consultation with the depressed areas in the past.
Last autumn I accepted a suggestion as to this problem which was proposed to me on behalf of those areas themselves, and I undertook to obtain the concurrence of the Association of Local Authorities and the London County Council for the ante-dating of the investigation of the working of the unemployment factor in the block grant formula under the Local Government Act, 1929. I have proceeded since then with the 2610 collection of the necessary statistical material. I completed its collection and obtained the nomination of representatives of the associations and of the London County Council to undertake the investigation. At that stage the Report of the Royal Commission came along and had to be considered. It dealt at length with the problem of persons no longer entitled to unemployment benefit and still needing public assistance, so that it had a vital bearing on the major difficulty of the distressed areas, and the special course of action which had been proposed to me by the areas themselves to meet that difficulty had of necessity to be deferred until the Government had considered the whole problem and come to the conclusion as to it which I have announced. The announcement of that conclusion clears the way for the completion of the negotiations which I had then undertaken.
After discussion with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I propose to deal with the immediate needs of the distressed areas, as compared with the Government's permanent plans, in the following manner. I propose to carry to a conclusion as quickly as may be the investigation of the working of the unemployment factor in the block grant formula. It is almost completed. Secondly, I trust that the more fortunate areas will be found to be ready, as a purely emergency measure of a temporary character pending the introduction of the long-range plan, to make some contribution out of their share of the block grant for the first year of the second fixed grant period—that is 1933–34—towards helping the hard-pressed areas. The Government will then propose, on their part, to bring a greater measure of relief to the distressed areas by providing an additional contribution from the Exchequer equivalent to one-half of the sum which they anticipate may reasonably be provided for those areas by the less heavily burdened local authorities through a suitable modification of the distribution of the block grant.
That completes what I have to announce as to the immediate intentions of the Government, the long-range plan, the process to which I have referred, and this plan for the relief of the immediate necessities of the depressed areas. As I draw my observations to a conclusion, 2611 let me return to what I said at the outset. We are not dealing to-day with the greater and more important effort for the provision of work for the unemployed. We are dealing to-day only with what I will call the Red Cross work, while the real battle is being waged on another part of the Front. The President of the Board of Trade will, as a matter of fact, have an announcement to make later in the Debate affecting a very interesting aspect of the provision of work which I believe the House will hear with pleasure, but that is not the main purpose, perhaps, of the Debate. The main purpose of the Debate is to initiate this great work of reorganisation. Let me not under-estimate the novelty of some of the ideas that will be introduced. I have shown how, in course of time, our old ideas are no longer adequate to our needs. We shall have to set our minds to a great effort. I am confident that when, 10 years hence, this plan being completed, we look back upon its completion, the verdict will be that the National Government dealt with a national problem in a national manner supported by the unity of the whole nation.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
The Motion before the House raises what is clearly one of our most difficult domestic problems. I do not know of any statement in recent times which has been awaited with greater interest, indeed, I might say with greater anxiety, than that which we have just heard from the Minister of Health. I would like to say at once how cordially we welcome the broad statement which he has made. Towards the end of his remarks he referred to the various Amendments which appear upon the Order Paper and said that he hardly knew to which to award the prize. We are not interested in the distribution of the prizes, but I think that we may be allowed by the House to express great satisfaction at the adoption of a principle by the Government which the Liberal party adopted many years ago and has since constantly advocated. It is a matter of profound satisfaction to the House that the Motion on the Paper and all the Amendments to it have running through them the same principle, and I hope that the House will with unanimity now adopt that principle and bring its time, know- 2612 ledge and intelligence to bear upon the practical measure which we have been promised to bring the principle to fruition. The Liberal industrial inquiry which concluded its labours in 1928 gave very great attention to this particular matter. The executive committee—it is not without significance at the present time—comprised my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the present Foreign Secretary, and Sir Walter Layton and a number of others. Those right hon. Gentlemen were in agreement at that time, and, no doubt, will be in agreement on this matter today, and it is satisfactory to know that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen in other parts of the House agree on this particular subject.
I will now pass to one or two observations upon the statement which we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman. He drew an inference from the general incidence of the rating for the whole of the country, but it was hardly an accurate basis on which to make a sound calculation with regard to our special needs at the present time. If the unemployed were in fact equally distributed over the whole of the country, and if our rating system was based upon comparable assessments, the problem would be the same in dimension, but it would be one which would be theoretical rather than practical. It would hardly matter whether the money which has to be raised for the maintenance of the unemployed was raised by rates or by taxes. But that we know is not the case. It is rather interesting to observe, in passing, that the problem which is of such urgency and which has long been a matter of urgency is another illustration of the fact that the major troubles of the world to-day arise from the fact that units of government are in the main misfits internationally and nationally. Owing to the fact that unemployment is not co-existent with any local boundaries, the problem has assumed the terrible dimensions which we have been called upon to consider at the present time. It is not only the fact that large numbers of people who have previously been in receipt of unemployment benefit have been transferred to the rates which has created the difficulties of the areas which are known as depressed.
2613 The Minister was not making any exaggerated statement when he said that fresh strains were making themselves felt upon our industrial system, I sometimes ask myself whether those who live in the south of England, in the comparatively prosperous areas, have any idea what conditions are like in the northwest, north-east, in South Wales and in other parts where the difficulties have been so great. I wonder, for example, whether they can visualise the human problem which is represented by the fact that in Liverpool we have 80,000 people who are in receipt of relief. Can they contemplate with equanimity the difficulty of the financial problem which the maintenance of those 80,000 individuals involves? Last year the City of Liverpool had to call for a sum of £87,000 in addition to the original estimate for the maintenance of the unemployed, while for the current year they have had to add to that figure—
§ Mr. WHITE
Eighty thousand in receipt of relief—public assistance. They had to call for a supplementary grant of £87,000 as additional maintenance for those who have to be maintained. For the current year they have to call for no less a sum than £393,000, making in all an addition of £480,000 for the current year's expenditure over and above that of the previous year. That led to an increase in the rate last year to the sum of 16s., which is somewhat less than the minimum figure mentioned by the Minister in respect of the distressed areas. But I do not myself find the same satisfaction from the drop which has taken place. It is satisfactory that it should have dropped, but it merely represents, not a drop to a satisfactory figure, but from disaster to calamity. We can only hope that the process of reduction will be continued. The City of Liverpool only avoided an increase of rate this year, which would indeed have been a calamity, by an act of faith, I suppose, in the Government or in the Ministry of Health, and I am glad to think that that act of faith has not been altogether unjustified.
Taking the Merseyside area as a whole, in the adjourning borough of Bootle, conditions are exactly the same. It is 2614 merely a matter of degree. There the amount of money which has to be raised for the maintenance of the wholly able-bodied unemployed has risen from £6,856 in 1930 to £44,252 in the estimate for the current year. In my town of Birkenhead the conditions are the same. There we have had an example of the working of the block grant which we have been informed this afternoon is to be re-investigated and reorganised. This year Birkenhead, as a result of the operation of the block grant for the new quinquennial period, is to receive a sum of £500 less than was received before, although the number of unemployed has risen from 6,000 to 16,000, and although the amount which has to be raised for the maintenance of able-bodied unemployed, as distinct from other forms of public assistance, has risen from £6,834 in 1930–31 to £37,150, estimated for 1933–34. This area, at all events, will hear with satisfaction the statement that there is to be, not merely the extra grant from the Exchequer, but also a revision of the block grant. I would ask the Minister whether they cannot deal a little more specifically with the actual amount of the extra grant which is to be made.
§ Mr. WHITE
It does seem somewhat indefinite. We do not wish our satisfaction in this matter to be qualified, and would like to have more definite information on the point as to the actual amount which is to be made available. Broadly speaking, I think that the scheme which has been outlined commends itself to us. It has had a long period of incubation. It was in July of last year that the Minister first informed us that it was his intention to review the block grants. He has, as he has said, had time for mature consideration, and we will give such help as we can to the further practical consideration of the Measure when it reaches the House. Speaking for myself, I heard with particular satisfaction the proposal that the Government intended to link up the granting of assistance by the State with a scheme for the physical welfare of the people.
We ought to direct our attention, not merely to the way in which the money is to be raised and the equity with which it is to be distributed, but also to the question whether out of the colossal sum 2615 which we have to spend, we are getting the greatest value, or whether, by thought and application, we cannot devise some methods which are better. I remember one of the earlier speeches of the present Prime Minister on this very subject. I think it was before he became Prime Minister for the first time. He dwelt at some length on the dangers of Governments choosing the easy path of maintenance and doles rather than devoting themselves to constructive, hard thinking which would diagnose the diseases from which society was suffering and bring about a better state of things. In these days we are obliged to concentrate upon the raising and provision of money rather than upon the more constructive things. It has been a burning question whether the able-bodied unemployed should be a local or a national responsibility, and if that matter is now settled by the House it will set free the energies and time of Ministers and others for the consideration of problems of greater constructive value.
I particularly welcome the proposals which have been made to link up the expenditure upon relief with the provision of schemes for physical welfare, and, I hope, education. It has always seemed to me to be a form of national insanity that in a time when our labour market was so overstocked we should, year after year, allow it to be flooded with hundreds of thousands of juvenile competitors of adult labour. In the year 1932 there passed into the labour market from the schools over 292,000 juveniles, and the Minister of Labour, we understand, is engaged in conferences and consultations with various interests with the idea of creating more labour on the basis of reorganisation of hours and by other means. That is a big task and one which the country has to face and which the world must solve, having regard to the enormous development of machinery in these modern days.
I suggest that my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Education should devote special attention to the fact that if there is to be enforced idleness that that enforced idleness should be concentrated upon those who are of an age to benefit from it, and in whose case training and education can be most fully utilised. If conditions remain comparable to those 2616 in which we find ourselves to-day we could bring great relief to the localities as well as to the national exchequer by reorganising our system of training and education. I need not remind the House that the average cost of maintaining an adult in unemployment benefit or any other form of benefit is approximately 22s. a week, including dependants. For that sum it would be possible to maintain two juveniles in education and give them allowance for whole time, or to provide part time occupation for four juveniles. The Minister of Labour could himself decide what effect that would have upon the unemployment fund and how many people would be likely to benefit. I suggest that as a matter which should be considered urgent by the Departments concerned, and I should like them to give the House the benefit of their judgment on it.
Before passing from this matter I should like to refer to a suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs when he spoke on unemployment on the 15th February. Dealing with schemes of employment which might be adopted by municipalities he said that he would make a suggestion to the Government, that in the case of a municipality which was proposing to put in band housing schemes, or any other form of work, such as land drainage and the like, the Government should say: "We will give you a proportion of the dole money for every man you put to work." That is to say, the money should be used not for subsidising unemployment but for subsidising employment. Those who are familiar with the scheme which the late Lord Melchett proposed in 1922 and the criticisms of it, and those who are familiar with the disastrous consequences which followed the development of the Speenhamland principle in the early part of the last century, and those who have followed the interesting experiments in Germany in subsidising work by means of the dole, will naturally approach this matter with some caution, but I would invite the Minister to refer again to the proposal of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and other proposals and see whether with careful safeguards and the work judiciously controlled, there is not there means which would help the municipalities and at the same time help the national exchequer.
2617 We welcome the adoption of the principle of the maintenance of able-bodied unemployed by the State, a principle which we have advocated for years past, and we hope that the measures which will shortly be brought before the House will be adequate to give effect to the proposals and to bring relief to those districts which are suffering so acutely at the present time. There is every reason to believe that in the elements of this House, in all quarters of it, not only on the Government side, but on the Opposition Benches and on these benches, there is agreement upon that principle. Although we shall no doubt be at variance upon some aspects of the proposals which may be made to the House, I think there is here an opportunity for the whole House, without regard to party matters, to help the nation in this very serious matter in these difficult times.
§ 15.18 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I do not rise to offer any words of welcome to the Minister, nor do I offer him any words of congratulation. Until I know far more about these vague and evasive proposals no word either of congratulation or of welcome will fall from my lips. We have had a speech this afternoon on the plan of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of saving the plums to the end. There was a, long and irrelevant preface to vague proposals which may mean much or which in the hands of the present Government may mean little. Still, I am glad to have lived to see this day. It is good to hear a Minister denouncing work or maintenance and then embracing that principle within five minutes, and saying that we must adapt ourselves to new times. I welcome that statement. In his very sketchy history of the Poor Law system, with which no doubt he has familiarised himself during his 18 months of office, the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law, of which my right hon. Friend on this bench was a member, of which commission the majority and minority alike came to the conclusion that the Poor Law was no place for the unemployed. Now we are going to see a change made.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the strains and stresses of our national life. These proposals emanate from the strain that has been put upon the loyalty 2618 of about 200 supporters of the Government. We should not have heard anything about this scheme on this particular day if it had not been that the Government's life has been made a burden by their own supporters. This is not an act of voluntary grace on the part of the Government. This is what we all know it to be, a capitulation to the pressure of their own back benchers. I am delighted that some can exercise pressure from the back benches. That is the real truth of the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the long and anxious consideration that has been given to this problem. The whole policy of the Government has been to drive the unemployed on to the Poor Law. That was deliberately intended, and it has succeeded. Even if we leave out of account the heavier volume of unemployment, proportionately there are more people on the Poor Law than before, because of the Government's own policy. To say that they have been administering this principle for 18 months and succeeding in driving more and more people on to the Poor Law and that at the same time they have been giving long and anxious consideration to a reversal of this policy and the establishment of a new one, does not seem to me quite to fit. At least we have got some way along the road by the acceptance of the policy of centralisation. There is to be a long-term scheme and something to deal with the temporary question of the difficulties of the distressed areas. That is an afterthought. There was nothing about it in the King's Speech. It has been forced upon the Government. The dog is to be fed on half of its own tail.
I have suspected for a longtime what was in the Minister's mind when he has examined the unemployment factor. It was in order to take some money from the better-to-do areas and to give it to the poorer areas, but he dare not carry out that principle completely. He has had to provide a little State money, but there has been no indication whether it will be £1,000, £100,000 or £1,000,000. I am satisfied that it will not approach the sum of £1,000,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not going to give him one penny more than he need give him, so that I am afraid a small sum will be available, and as for the rest the distressed areas are to live on charity. They 2619 are to be left to the charity of other areas. There is no reason why a national burden should not be spread over, but under this scheme the principle will not work fairly. If you take London as a whole it will compare very favourably with the North-East Coast or South Wales. In this scheme London, which will mean the East End of London, will have to contribute to help the necessitous areas of the North and elsewhere. I did not notice great enthusiasm on the part of the Government supporters when the assistance to be given to the necessitous areas was announced by the Minister.
Now as to the larger problem. Before the end of the Session the Government will introduce a Bill. This Bill was promised in the King's Speech, in the unemployment insurance scheme. We are going to get the Bill this Session. It will come up for public discussion during the summer and may reach the Statute Book perhaps a year from now. It is very unlikely to reach the Statute Book any earlier.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman could not tell us the details of the Bill. I do not suppose that he knows them himself. I believe that the Government have arrived at certain general principles, so general that they mean nothing to anybody in this House. I listened with care to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. His principles were so general that I must say for myself, and I think I may say for my hon. Friends on these benches, that we do not find very much light in the Bill so far. We are to have central control. The functions and responsibilities of local authorities are to be divided, reorganised and re-distributed. The able-bodied unemployed are to be dealt with by the central government, administratively and financially. As a principle we accept that. We have always stood for that, ever since the days when my right hon. Friend signed the Minority Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law. And, indeed, in the days of Mr. Keir Hardie in this House, this party always stood for central responsibility for the 2620 maintenance of the able-bodied unemployed. That is very good so far as it goes, but I must say that I am not sure that this is the kind of Government that ought to do it. I have little faith in their generosity of spirit or their generosity of heart; they are a pretty hard-fisted Government—
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
—as their administration of the unemployed has shown. Until we know on what principles that scheme is to operate and at what standard the unemployed are to be maintained and under whose direct authority, and whether in any association whatever with the Poor Law, we cannot assent to any principles that have been adumbrated to-day by the right hon. Gentleman. We are inclined, moreover, to ask for as early a statement as we can have on the actual principles of the Bill, a little more fully expressed than they have been to-day. The right hon. Gentleman is apparently going to take over from the Poor Law the able-bodied unemployed. He made play with the figure of £4,500,000—a mere nothing. One-quarter of all the money spent in Liverpool goes into poor relief; that is not important. The right hon. Gentleman is going to say to the local authorities: "We are relieving you of £4,000,000." When he talks to them about it he will say what an enormous sum he is going to relieve them of, when they are even now making a contribution to pay him. Of the £80,000,000 which came out of the national funds, only a third is provided by the State.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
It is the State. The right hon. Gentleman is going to get the local authorities to pay the £4,000,000; then he is going to them for a redistribution of the block grant. I never heard of such a piece of intellectual and political dishonesty in my life!
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
We have enjoyed the Noble Lady's absence from this House very much. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of a readjustment of the block grant. That block grant has nothing whatever to do with the Poor Law; it 2621 never has had anything to do with the Poor Law. The Poor Law has never been a State-aided service in this country. Local authorities have never received money from the State for the maintenance of the unemployed under the Poor Law. The block grant was not intended for that purpose at all. It was made up of entirely different elements, which we have discussed in this House ad nauseam. Now the block grant is to be pared down; money is to be taken from the local authorities because they have been relieved of a burden which they never ought to have had to bear.
That, then, is no doubt going to become the basis of this assistance to the distressed areas. We accept the principle of central responsibility for the unemployed apart from the Poor Law, provided that it will work on reasonable and fair main lines. We are not prepared at this stage to accept a pig in a poke, nor do we think that the right hon. Gentleman's offer of assistance to the distressed areas is likely to be of any real assistance to them. The problem is far more complicated now than it was three years ago. The old distressed areas are more than ever impoverished; they are impoverished and depressed, and their condition is indescribable. To them you have added the new distressed areas, and I venture to say that if it had not been for the Manchesters we should not have had this measure to-day. It is the new depressed areas which have forced the pace. They are feeling the pinch now, and this miserable offer to pay half what you cannot steal from the other local authorities is not going to meet their necessities. It cannot meet their necessities. I should imagine that, when the details are put before the local authorities in these distressed areas, they will receive the right hon. Gentleman's proposal with a certain coldness, as being inadequate to deal with the situation. I should imagine that the right hon. Gentleman will not find it too easy to get those local authorities who appear to be rather better off to give up some of their money to help their weaker brethren. That is his trouble.
Our attitude on this question is that the local authorities are to-day entitled to every penny that they are getting out of the block grant, and it would only be further injustice in what I think is a quite unjust system—the present block grant 2622 system—to take money away from the local authorities and give a microscopic amount to other local authorities who are in serious plight. I should imagine that the distressed areas, whose distress will increase so long as this Government remains in office, will have to look to a successor to this Government to get their grievances redressed.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
From the right hon. Gentleman we have had more heat than light. Nevertheless, I think he has some justification for saying that the sketch which we have so far had of the scheme is not very detailed. In these circumstances, it is not much use commenting, or attempting to comment, with any precision on what the effect will be. Offhand, no one can tell what effect the weighting according to unemployment is going to have on the grants to some areas; how much it will diminish the grants to some and how much it will increase the grants to the others. Until that has been worked out, no one can tell what the extra grant will cost the Government. Most of those who will speak today will speak in the hope of getting something extra for their districts. I am reasonably certain that my district will be a paying district, and my people are entitled to consideration because of the money which will be taken from them. The rates in Croydon will go up in order that the rates in other places may go down. I live in the London County Council area. I am quite satisfied that the rates in the borough of Wandsworth, where I live, will go up as a consequence of this Measure. The rates in the borough of Poplar will go up as a result of this transfer, because London is one Poor Law area. The whole of London is in the same area. For this reason, the rates of Southwark, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe will all be increased as a result of to-day's decision, and we must recognise that fact. I am rather more perturbed about the later consequences of this proposal, because to some extent some of the distressed areas are distressed because of their own past financial policy. There are a great many areas in this country which deliberately raised the cost of local government to such a pitch that they have driven industry out of their boundaries.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Just one moment; let us first examine one of the curious situations. I am sorry the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. White) has gone, because, though he represents Birkenhead, he put in some time talking about Liverpool, which is separated from Birkenhead by the river Mersey. Now, in Birkenhead in December there was a great deal of unemployment: 35.4 per cent. of the insured working people then were out of work. Liverpool, which the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) represents, in common with his colleagues of the other party, had 29.6 per cent. of its insured workers unemployed. A far larger proportion of people were out of work in Birkenhead than in Liverpool. Liverpool is one of the cities which I know very well and with which much of my early life has been connected. It is grumbling at the heavy burden that it has to carry in respect of the Poor Law. Why should Liverpool, which has less unemployment than Birkenhead, have nearly twice as many people in receipt of Poor Law relief, in relation to population, as Birkenhead has? Why is it that Liverpool is paying out, in relation to its population, twice as much money in Poor Law relief as Birkenhead, though Birkenhead has more people out of work? Those who study the Order Paper will have observed an Amendment standing in my name—which will not be called—in which I draw attention to this curious anomaly. Take two districts—I take them because they are the first two in the list I have here: one is Barnsley, in Yorkshire; the other is Barrow-in-Furness, in Lancashire.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Does the hon. Member not know that the Liverpool Corporation has always been run by Tories?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I do not see that that has anything to do with it. Let us just contrast the state of affairs in these two towns. At die end of December they had, roughly, the same proportion of unemployment; just over 33 per cent. of their 2624 insured workpeople were out of work. In Barnsley they were paying poor relief to 907 persons out of over 10,000; in Barrow they were paying it to 299 only. It is a very extraordinary thing that three times as many people in proportion to the population were receiving payment from the public assistance committees in Barnsley as in Barrow-in-Furness. We have had some reference to Manchester. I see opposite to me my hon. Friend the Member for North Salford (Mr. J. P. Morris), who is to a substantial extent responsible for the decision that the Government have announced to-day. Let us contrast these two important cities, separated by a less pleasant and a narrower stream than that which separates Liverpool from Birkenhead. In Manchester unemployment is serious, but not nearly so serious as in many of the other large cities. At the end of last December just over 17 per cent. of the insured workpeople of Manchester were unemployed. On the other side of that not very pleasant river, in Salford, there were nearly 25 per cent. of the insured people out of work; half as many again in proportion were out of work in Salford as in Manchester. Yet the people in Manchester were giving Poor Law relief, in proportion to population, to twice as many people as the ratepayers of Salford. Economically, the two are the same city. You cannot tell when you are passing out of Manchester and entering Salford. They are supported by the same industries. They are, however, two separate municipalities, and therefore have separate policies. They are two Poor Law authorities, and the one with the far higher degree of unemployment is relieving proportionately far fewer people.
I think that those of us who are going to be called upon to pay the piper must have some explanation of these extraordinary anomalies. The Noble Lady opposite represents one of the distressed parts of the South of England. Unemployment is very heavy in Plymouth: 22½ per cent. at the end of December. I have taken all the figures for the end of December, because that is the period to which my Poor Law figures relate. There were 22.5 per cent. unemployed in Plymouth and 22.9 per cent. in Hull; both cities are on the sea, and their unemployment is substantially the same. The public assistance committee of Plymouth 2625 is rather more careful than, I think, it would be if the Noble Lady were the only Member.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
They relieve only 356 people out of each 10,000 of the population at Plymouth; but in Hull they relieve 680 out of every 10,000 of the population. It is most extraordinary that these great ranges of difference appear. Take a part of the world where things are more prosperous. Take the city of Birmingham, with a relatively low level of unemployment, 13½ per cent. Then travel a few miles to Wolverhampton, a town of very similar characteristics, with the same kind of industries and not quite so prosperous, with 24 per cent. of the people out of work. What are the relative proportions being relieved? Roughly they are the same in the two towns, which are 14 miles apart. Unemployment in the one is half as great as in the other.
As a matter of fact unemployment is only to a partial extent responsible for the poor relief expenditure that is involved. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have spoken to-day as if there had been a gigantic transfer of people from the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour to the Poor Law. But that is not so. People are rather misled by the fact that the figures published by the Ministry of Labour relate to the individuals who themselves are receiving benefit, but the figures of the Poor Law authorities relate not only to the persons relieved, but to the whole of their dependants. Obviously the proper thing is to take the persons who are themselves concerned as distinct from the dependants. Broadly speaking, for every person who has been disallowed benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act only one in six reaches the Poor Law.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Henry Betterton)
The Ministry of Labour figures are the figures of those registered for employment.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am fully aware of that fact. No one has more frequently drawn attention to the fact that the number registered as unemployed has nothing to do with the numbers receiving benefit. I have said that the number of those receiving benefit is diminished.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour was afraid, apparently, that I was creating in the minds of the House the idea that the people on the live register are necessarily the people in receipt of benefit, and that if a man ceases to get benefit he vanishes from the live register. But he does not. He remains on the register because the purpose of his being there is for him to get a job and not to get benefit. If I was creating any misunderstanding on the point, I am grateful to the Minister for his intervention. How many people, as a matter of fact, have come on to the Poor Law as a result of any action that has been taken? Every three months the Ministry of Health publishes a statement. If we take the position at the end of September, 1931, we find that there were 32,000 insured persons registered at Employment Exchanges who were also receiving Poor Law relief. Whether they get unemployment benefit or not I do not know. At the end of December the number was 85,000, which is an increase of 53,000. The total number of persons transferred to the Poor Law as a result of this disallowance of benefit cannot exceed the 53,000, and that is nothing like the gigantic numbers that have been so frequently mentioned.
It is rather important that we should find out what the facts are before we start prescribing for the disease. Many statements have been made which are not warranted by the facts. I am one of those who hope that if the Government carry through the schemes to which they have made reference, they will be very careful that the scheme does not become a stimulus to new extravagance on the part of local authorities. The position is that the local authorities are now spending three times as much money as they spent in pre-War days, but the national grants to local authorities are six times as great. Whereas in pre-War days in Great Britain, in round figures, the Parliamentary grants were £25,000,000, they are now £150,000,000. The rates raised were £80,000,000, and they are now about £160,000,000. That 2627 is a very serious situation, and I find no adequate sense of responsibility existing amongst a great many of those who are running local authorities. They have been extravagant under all heads, and now that they are in distress they cannot meet their responsibility, because they have been too extravagant in other directions.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
In every direction. At a time when the cost of living is not more than 40 per cent. above the pre-war figure, what justification is there for spending three times as much on our local government? That is a very simple question, and it is the test right along the line.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Will the hon. Gentleman put that proposition to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask why the nation is spending £800,000,000?
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
If the hon. Member will analyse the national Budget he will find that if he takes that part of the National Debt which arises out of the War, if he takes that part of the expenditure which represents War pensions and deducts that from the total, and if he then deducts from the total of national expenditure the increased grants to the local authorities, which are not national expenditure at all, he will find that the increase in the national expenditure which arises, not from the War and not from the increased grants, is small compared with the increased expenditure of the local authorities.
§ Mr. THORNE
The hon. Member talked about the extravagance of local authorities. West Ham has been charged with extravagance. Will the hon. Gentleman give us a single item on which West Ham has been extravagant?
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
It is very important that we should gather the garbage and dust from our houses, but there is no reason why that service should to-day cost in money more than three times as much as it cost pre-War, having regard to the fact that the mechanical devices for cleansing of our towns are much more economical than anything known hitherto. There is one example to show where we could save a 2628 great deal of money without harming the health of a single human being. We have had a good deal of reference to Liverpool, in which I have a great interest. As far as I can make out the people of Liverpool are paying something under £5,000,000 in rates. They are receiving something above £4,000,000 in Government grants. They are receiving £5,000,000 in unemployment benefit. They are receiving by way of pensions of one kind or another—old age, widows' and War pensions, all of which have their effect, in relieving distress, whatever their origin may be—about £2,500,000. That is to say, £7,500,000 a year is going into Liverpool in payment for social services. They are receiving some £4,000,000 of Government grants besides. Actually out of the £16,500,000 which was spent in Liverpool, either on the local services or paid for nationally, three-quarters is at the moment being paid out of the public Exchequer. That being the case, we are reaching a situation at which ultimately we are stimulating people to extravagance because they have the privilege of paying out and someone else has the privilege of finding the wherewithal to pay.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Is the hon. Member aware that Liverpool has about the largest Conservative majority in the country, and is he quoting that as an example of the extravagance of Tory administration?
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I am rather amazed that people should regard this matter as purely a party issue. Liverpool has been frequently mentioned, and I have spent a good deal of time in and near Liverpool. I know that they have a Tory city council to a large extent. Croydon Town Council has a majority which is rather inclined to be Tory, though there are a good many Liberals as well. I think that Croydon Town Council spends too much money, and I do not mind saying so. I think that the town council of the district where I live, the Wandsworth Borough Council, spends too much money. I think they all spend too much money. Why bring in the purely party issue? I say that there is public extravagance, and that the nation cannot stand that extravagance, and that unless we stop it we shall not bring our people back to employment. As I have said on other occasions, the greatest 2629 social service we can render to our people is to give them jobs. I believe that oppressive rates and taxes are an outstanding cause of unemployment, and therefore once again I plead in this House for economy.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
I understand that one of the traditions of the House is to extend to a newcomer certain privileges, which I assure hon. Members I shall be very happy to be permitted to share. I fear that the statement made by the Minister will have the effect of changing the whole ground of the Debate, and possibly will make it less interesting to some people. The statement as to the manner in which the Government propose at some time to deal with this problem, is likely to divide the country into two sections, the gainers and the losers, and I think there were fairly definite indications in the remarks of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) that will lead people along that line of policy. Personally I have not the slightest doubt that the unemployed will read to-morrow with dismay the remarks of the Minister. For what did they indicate? What does he promise them for the future? An additional amount of drilling, an additional mass of regulations, to be confined here and fettered there, to be protected from the effects of idleness, and so forth. But in what form? And by what mass of machinery? I have not the slightest doubt that the statement will spread dismay throughout the ranks of the mass of unemployed. Not that they fear the principle of nationalisation of control in unemployment, and so on. There is a great deal of difference as to whose hands are to operate the control, and what degree of sympathy is to be applied to the operation of these measures. I fear very much that the all-too-ready acceptance of the outline sketched by the Minister will very shortly be withdrawn by Members who have already expressed their views.
I am very much interested in this problem of unemployment because with my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda West (Mr. John) I represent the most concentrated necessitous area in the whole country, the Rhondda Valley, with its population of 140,000, of whom 60 per cent. draw subsistence from public funds in one form or another. I wonder if anyone in this country can draw a 2630 parallel anywhere near those figures—60 per cent. of the total population of the Rhondda Valley and the Rhondda urban district drawing their subsistence at this moment from public funds, and 17,000 of the employable men wholly unemployed. In a bad week that figure would be increased by intermittent unemployment to at least 25,000 men unemployed in that confined narrow valley. The poor rate for the county of Glamorgan is 8s. 1¾d., and if the Rhondda district itself had to carry its burden it would mean a rate of over 13s. apart from institutional treatment. When anyone suggests that we can deal with this problem by protecting men against the effects of idleness, let me say that I have for seven years been pleading with successive Ministers of Labour that they should apply themselves to this subject in a humane and sympathetic manner in Rhondda and elsewhere. Some of these 17,000 men have been idle Since the years 1924, 1925 and 1926, and anyone residing among them can see that daily, weekly, monthly, year in and year out since then there has been a gradual degradation and degeneration of that mass of humanity. That is the problem that we want to tackle. That is why we charge the Government with having failed to accept a national responsibility.
The majority of hon. Members here accept the present economic order as the best of all possible orders. With the acceptance of that principle, there is also the acceptance of responsibility. The responsibility devolves upon the defenders of the present economic order to give some standard of existence to those for whom the capitalist system at present provides no right of existence. Last week we were very much concerned here about rights of citizenship abroad. What are the rights of citizenship of the 3,000,000 unemployed in this country? So far, they have only a limited right to existence as parasites, and I want to warn the Minister, when he speaks of dealing with this problem of protecting the unemployed from the effects of idleness, that these men, condemned to exist as parasites, through the failure of the nation to provide them with work, may, as parasites, take steps to insist upon the highest possible standard for themselves. These men are becoming desperate, and it is no wonder, condemned as they have been for years to 2631 such an existence. It is useless for the Ministry to publish figures indicating that on the average throughout the country an unemployed man does not remain unemployed for long periods. In this area to which I have referred thousands of these men have been unemployed for years, and that state of things is to be found in other areas of South Wales as well.
When we come to consider the necessitous condition of the local authorities what is the position of Rhondda as an urban area? The facts which I am about to give may also illustrate the position of other areas. The rateable value of property per head of the population in Rhondda is £2 16s. 1d. The amount of rates levied per head of the population is £2 16s. 11d. The neighbouring urban area of Caerphilly has a similar situation. There, the rateable value of the property per head is £3 2s. 6d. and the rates levied per head represent £3 3s. 5d. The county borough of Merthyr Tydvil is in an even worse plight. There, the rateable value per head of the population is £3 2s. 11d. and the rates levied represent £3 17s. 8d. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is but one rating authority in England which can show a condition of affairs parallel with that situation. Here we are in a state of absolute poverty in Rhondda, with 60 per cent. of the people living on public funds and we are levying rates upon that 60 per cent. What for? In order that they may try to maintain themselves.
The plight of the working class in this country has lasted long enough under these conditions. Proposals have been brought before this House on many occasions. I think the time has come when a serious effort ought to be made, not to patch up this sore in the manner indicated by the Minister, but to do the honest thing, to do what this nation ought to do, to produce plans whereby these men will get work. Nothing short of work is going to keep men in decent condition, physically and mentally. That is what the Ministry have to do. You talk about protecting men against the effects of idleness. An idle man is going to be idle, no matter what you do with him, but provide him with decent employment and you will achieve something for him. It is to that end that the resources 2632 and energy of the Government ought to be applied.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
I hope I may be allowed to congratulate the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) upon a maiden speech which, if he will allow me to say so, does credit to himself and to Rhondda. He has brought to our discussion here a wealth of local knowledge and colour which must be of value to the House in the future. I intervene for a very short time in order to answer a question which, very fortunately for me, was put by the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. He asked, what are the Government doing to provide work for the unemployed in the distressed areas? I shall very briefly point out one direction in which we have been exercising our activities. I agree with him that there is no comparison between the benefits which can accrue from ample work being provided for our people, and the benefits which come through public assistance or the distribution of other State aid. It is infinitely better that our people should be at work in the industries which they know so well, and for which they are equipped, rather than that they should be dependent upon public assistance for their existence and the maintenance of their families. It is with that in mind that the policy of the Government has been framed ever since they came into office.
We are well aware of the fact, as everybody is who looks into this subject, that the distressed areas are mainly the export areas. They are the areas which are dependent upon the export of coal, of shipping, of iron and steel, of textiles. I mention the principal exports but, of course, there is a long list of other articles which concern the manufacturing areas of this country. In each of those I have mentioned, we have sunk to a degree of depression such as has never been known in the history of this country. In particular, let me refer to the coal areas. The coal areas are not all passing through a period of misfortune, nor are colliery companies all failing to make profits, but in the export areas it has been almost impossible to keep the pits open during the last three or four years. When we took a survey of the situation we came to the conclusion that the best service 2633 that could be rendered by the Government to the country as a whole, was to endeavour by such powers as they possessed, and by such negotiating ability as they could command, to provide work by way of the extension of our export trade. It was in that spirit that we invited representatives of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Argentine to visit us. We have had the honour of a visit from the Vice-President of the Argentine Republic, along with two or three of his distinguished colleagues. We have also at present here representing the Kingdom of Norway, Mr. Lykke, who was at one time Prime Minister of Norway and still remains one of her most distinguished public men. Sweden has been represented by Mr. Prytz and some of the most efficient of her technicians and her business men and Denmark has had the advantage of the presence here for some weeks of her Finance Minister who, I need hardly say, guards the interests of his country with a determination that is natural with Finance Ministers everywhere.
These distinguished gentlemen have been discussing with us in detail and most thoroughly the trade relations between their countries and our country. Our interests speaking generally are not identical but complementary. We have been anxious, as far as we could, to extend the business connections between those countries and ourselves conferring benefits upon each alike, and I am glad to say that, as far as we have gone, we have succeeded. I need hardly say that it would have been impossible for us to have opened these negotiations or conducted them successfully, if we had not adapted ourselves and our tariff policy to a changed world. I would like to add that we could not have justified the policy of the Government, if we had not succeeded in carrying through negotiations during the last few weeks with our neighbours and competitors.
In the case of Argentina I can only say that the negotiations are not yet completed but they are proceeding satisfactorily, and I hope and trust that in the near future I shall be able to announce a satisfactory outcome of those negotiations. As regards the agreements on which I am in a position to give the House information, I am afraid there are still some technical points and details of drafting to be considered so that the 2634 formal signature and publication of the agreements cannot take place just yet. Until that is done, it would not be proper for me to give any details of the agreements which have been already reached but those who are concerned about our distressed areas—and who is not?—may rest assured that definite and immediate practical advantages will be secured to some of our most depressed industries.
The negotiations which we have been conducting must of necessity be subject to a certain amount of reticence. There are others concerned as well as ourselves, and they have their own Parliamentary systems to pay respect to, just as we have ours here. I would like to say to the House at once that the agreements cannot come into force until they have been ratified. They will be presented to Parliament before ratification in accordance with the usual practice, and, if any hon. Members are concerned with the proposals which will appear in these documents, they will be able to deal with the matter under Section 19 of the Import Duties Act. I wish to say, however, that we have made arrangements which, I believe, will be of benefit, not only to these special exporting areas, but all over the wide range of industries in this country. I know it will be asked, and quite rightly asked, whether we have had to make concessions in order to attain these objects. Of course we have. These agreements were bound to be two-sided, and we have taken into consideration the interests of the country as a whole. I would beg hon. Members to accept this preliminary statement this afternoon and defer detailed discussion until the documents are published some time after Easter.
In the meantime, may I say that, as regards Sweden, considerable progress has been made during the past few weeks, and we expect that a basis of an agreement will be submitted for the approval of their Government shortly after Easter, at about the same time as we hope to make a similar communication here. As regards Norway and Denmark, I am happy to be able to announce that the heads of the agreement have now been reached. As I have said, various details have yet to be completed, but these two agreements will lead, I trust, to a considerable extension 2635 of the trade between these two countries and ourselves.
At the same time that we have been carrying on conversations with the representatives of the Scandinavian countries, negotiations have been proceeding with the German Government. In particular we have been interested M. the position of British coal in the Weser and the Elbe. There has been a continuous fall in the use of that coal for some time past, but we have now reached an agreement with the German Government which, I hope, will turn the tide in the opposite direction and go a long way towards doubling the amount of the coal exported from this country to Germany. In return for this, it will be incumbent on us to reduce some rates of duty leviable in this country on a certain number of articles in which Germany is specially interested.
I would have preferred, I need hardly say, to come to the House with agreements which had already been settled and signed by the foreign representatives and by ourselves, but that has not been possible, and I thought it well to take the earliest possible moment to tell the House how the negotiations had proceeded. I will promise to press on and to deal with the ratification as soon as possible after Easter. I would like to add that we have been greatly indebted, not only to the representatives of these countries, but also to representative business men here, who have made many useful journeys abroad in the public interest, and also, let me add, in particular to my hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. They have dealt with the details of these discussions, and I need hardly say that we and the country have reason to be grateful to them.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I regret that I missed two or three minutes of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. We were told that he was coming in at half-past six, and I might have hurried up something I had to do otherwise. I rise to say that I think my hon. Friends and myself will appreciate, and I think the House will appreciate, the fact that the right hon. 2636 Gentleman has, as it were, reported progress in regard to these very important matters. Although I am a good Socialist, whatever can be done to mitigate the evils of bad trade and the resulting unemployment in this country, we shall welcome and support in every possible way, and anything that will bring the nations more into contact with one another we shall also welcome. If I may be allowed to say so, I hope that not only shall we be successful in these negotiations, but that when the next few days have passed we may also spread the area and include Russia.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. L. THOMPSON
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:resolves that responsibility for assistance to all able-bodied unemployed not over 65 years of age should be accepted by the Government, with such readjustment in financial relations between Exchequer and local authorities as is reasonable, having special regard to the necessities of distressed areas.I feel somewhat embarrassed at having to rise at this juncture to move this Amendment, for two reasons. First, it has been a little out of the general procedure, in my experience of this House, that the Amendment should not be taken at an earlier period, but I think the House will agree that it has been worth while waiting to hear the very weighty pronouncements which we have had from the various Ministers this evening. Secondly, I feel a little embarrassed also because the opportunity has not been afforded me of giving expression possibly in an extended form to what I wanted to say in relation to this Amendment, owing to the fact that the Minister has intimated that the Amendment has the acceptance of the Government, and therefore it would appear that I am not under the necessity of moving it in an extended form. Nevertheless, I think it necessary to say something on the Amendment, and I would like to take the first opportunity of saying how greatly I regret the attitude of the official Opposition on this matter.
It seemed to me, when I picked up the Order Paper, that instead of calling for violent opposition to the Government, the Amendment presented a unique opportunity for the Opposition, on a 2637 matter of prime importance, to keep in the closest co-operation with them, and to stand together, so that things which they have advocated for years might be brought into effect. Instead of that, to our dismay we find that they have tabled a Motion which seems to have been put there for a very problematic party gain. It was too precipitate, because if they had waited and appreciated the effect of the conferences that have been initiated and that have been operating between the various Ministers and groups of Members, including some Members representing the Opposition, they would certainly not have embarked on such precipitate action.
§ Mr. THOMPSON
I myself for 10 years have been advocating the same principle, but I still say that the nature of the Motion is precipitate. Together with many others, we have had the very great privilege of waiting upon responsible Ministers of the Crown, and in particular the Prime Minister himself, and I should like to say that at the hands of all these Ministers the deputations have received the utmost courtesy and consideration. I wish to take this opportunity of stating that I rebut and repudiate some of the scurrilous Press comments that have been made on these recent interviews with Ministers. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, there has been no unnecessary delay. As has been revealed to us to-day, the problem is involved and difficult, and I am satisfied that, owing to a great extent to the fact that we have been assured of the acceptance by the Government of the main issue, the able-bodied unemployed will be taken over by the State and the cost of their maintenance discharged by the State.
I want to try to get the House back to the Motion and to ask what are the real facts of the situation. The Motion indicts the Government, and the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) followed the same process. I am not addicted to interposing, and to some extent I regret that I had to do so during his speech, but he laid himself open to cross-examination, because I think he was entirely unfair in his criticism of the attitude of the Minister towards the regulations. Under the 1930 Act it is specifically laid down that the courts of referees 2638 are the final arbiters in these awards, and his suggestion is that these courts of referees are largely influenced by the decisions of the Minister. Nothing of the kind exists.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
May I also be forgiven for intervening? I was not discussing the Act of 1930, but the Act of 1931, commonly known as the Anomalies Act, which lays down certain categories of treatment, but states that the regulations which lay down conditions applying to these people will be issued by the Minister of Labour; and they were so issued at the end of 1931.
§ Mr. THOMPSON
Precisely so, but the regulations and the awards and disallowances or otherwise are under the 1930 Act. The 1931 Act was just an Anomalies Act.
§ Mr. THORNE
Is the hon. Member aware that the regulations dealing with transitional payment were issued on the 12th November, 1931?
§ Mr. THOMPSON
I know perfectly well that transitional payment is determined under the Acts of Parliament regulating whether or not persons should have benefit, and that the means test is only determined by the public assistance committees.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
There is a complete misunderstanding. The criticism that I was directing against the Minister of Labour was in regard to the regulations issued under the 1931 Act, the Anomalies Act.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am allowing the hon. Member to reply to the speech made in moving the Motion, but I must remind the House that the question which we are now discussing is neither in the Motion nor in the Amendment.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On that point of Order. Under the terms of the Motion which we are now discussing, if an hon. Member can prove that a certain Act has thrown people on to the Poor Law, 2639 is he not entitled to discuss that Act, which has for its effect the creation of a charge on the Poor Law?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The substance of the Motion does not deal with the question of, as the hon. Member says, throwing people on to the Poor Law. The question is that the State should take over the obligation.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The substance of the Motion is that the unemployed have become a charge on local relief. May I submit that it could be argued that the Anomalies Act is the cause of the unemployed being thrown on to the Poor Law, and that the Government have only driven them to the Poor Law in so far as the Anomalies Act has been responsible for it?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I can only deal with the Motion as it is on the Paper, and the substance of it is the question of making the unemployed a national charge.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
An hon. Member accuses me of stating a lie. I do not want him to withdraw, but I only want to say that I hope in the course of the Debate to show that I am not guilty and never have been guilty of telling an untruth in this House, and I hope that the mind of the Member who said it is as clean as mine.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said that he has been accused of telling a lie. Had I heard any hon. Member do that, I should have asked him to withdraw at once, but I did not hear him.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The statement I made in the House is clear. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was not here at the time. I quoted from the Minority report of the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance, in which they accused the Ministry of Labour by the contradictory nature of the regulations which they had issued of throwing on to the Poor Law large numbers of people who were entitled to unemployment benefit. That was the point which I made, and what the hon. Member for Gorbals has been saying has nothing whatever to do with the statement I made. Had he been in the House he would have known what I said.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
On the original point of Order as to the extent of the Debate, as I understand from the terms of the Motion before the House, it would be competent for an hon. Member to show that the Government by their administration have in fact driven large numbers of persons to seek Poor Law relief who would otherwise be in receipt of insurance benefit. I submit that if this Debate has been extended at all, it has been extended by Front Bench Members opposite and not by back bench Members.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
So far it has only been extended by the Mover of the Motion and the hon. Member who is now replying to him and moving an Amendment. As regards the question which the hon. Member asked as to what would be in order the substance of this Motion is to make the burden of unemployment a national charge. Hon. Members may state in Debate the reason for making it a national charge, but I do not think that they would be justified in going into the causes of putting the unemployed on the Poor Law.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
A Vote of Censure is a purely colloquial expression in reference to a Motion put down by the Opposition. I must take the Motion as it is on the Paper, and I say again that the substance of it is to make the burden of unemployment a national charge. The other things are only subsidiary to that part of the Motion.
§ Mr. THOMPSON
I wish to bow to your Ruling, and I hope you will keep me correct in my approach to this question. Surely it will be right for me to rebut any statement that has been made by Members opposite and any statements that are contained in the Motion. The Motion makes a direct charge that people have been driven to seek Poor Law relief. I was asking who was to blame. It is not the Government surely. If there be any blame—and I do not want to attribute unnecessary blame—for the fact that a large number of people are being driven to Poor Law relief, it is due to a specific 2641 law. To-day unemployment insurance is administered by the 1930 Act, which was instituted by the Opposition with which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Govan (Mr. MacLean) had a great deal to do. If it is said that outside that Act those who are called on to administer it are not administering it well or dispassionately, that is a very grave charge both against the Minister and those who have charge of the administration. If we are to attribute blame, surely we must attribute it to the Act under which unemployment insurance is administered. Let me remind Members that the "genuinely seeking work" condition in the 1924 Act, eventually turned out to be the one instrument that drove possibly the greater number of men to seek Poor Law relief, but in 1930 the Labour Government reversed that.
It is a curious thing that in 1924 the conditions applying to extended benefit were enlarged by the Labour Government. The condition defining uncovenanted benefit was that a man was normally employed in insurable employment, and the Government then in power added to thatand that he is normally seeking to obtain his livelihood by means of insurable employment.That stands to-day, and it is the test as to whether a man should receive benefit or not. As a matter of fact, the fact that men are now transferred from unemployment benefit is largely due to the fact of that condition being on the Statute Book. It is due to the fact that the Labour Government put it on the Statute Book. Therefore, if there be any blame attached to anybody, it is not to the present Government or to the Minister, but to the Government that put that condition on the Statute Book. That same Act delegated to the courts of referees very complete power. At one time persons were disallowed by the insurance officers, but under that Act that power was taken away and it was decided by the Labour Government that the courts of referees should be the arbiters of who were to be disallowed. Section 8 says:It is provided that in the case of all questions of title to benefit, other than arising under the trade dispute qualification, benefit shall be disallowed in the first instance only by a court of referees.Applications for benefit which cannot fulfil the conditions of the 1930 Act are determined by the courts of referees. 2642 My contention is that this Motion is loosely and inaccurately drawn, and when I saw it it did not take me two minutes to make up my mind about it.
May I turn from what to me is a kind of unpleasant picture to my Amendment, which in view of what has been said, seems to be scintillating with hope and promise because it has been in a sense accepted by the Government. I divide it into two parts. The first part asks the Government to recognise a great principle—the principle of making the able-bodied unemployed a national charge. Some hon. Members have said that the second part is rather ambiguous, but after the statement of the Minister that ambiguity will be largely if not entirely removed. This great principle, for which many of us have stood and fought for years, has been affirmed. It will appeal to every part of the House, even to the retrograde and renegade Opposition. Once it is accepted, we shall have surmounted the first hurdle. Ordered progress seems possible if somewhat difficult. The difficulties that have been presented are those of finance and administration. I could understand why the Government were not able to give a categorical reply to the questions that have been put to them because I have not heard any Member or group of Members or of any municipalities or representatives of municipalities state definitely what they want.
There has been a suggestion of three possibilities—the equalisation of rates, the revision of the formula of the block grants, and direct contributions, with such readjustments in financial relations between the Exchequer and local authorities as are reasonable. To-day for the first time we have had it announced that the State is going to take the natural course. Immediately you have decided on the one side that the State should be prepared to undertake the care of the able-bodied unemployed, and on the other hand that the local authorities should undertake the care of the indigent poor they each have their apportioned obligations. The State will have to pay for the able-bodied by the method of transitional payments to a large extent. I quite appreciate the Minister's point that some adjustment would have to be made between the Exchequer and the local authorities.
2643 Having admitted this principle, cannot conceive that the State can do anything else, in regard to the administration of relief for the able-bodied unemployed, than allow public assistance committees to go, but at the same time I do not think it desirable to create a super-administration, in the form of a statutory commission, to be set over the Employment Exchanges or the body administering relief to the able-bodied. Therefore, it is clear to me that the body which determines whether benefit is necessary or not under the Act should be assigned to the administration of this new departure. The next step is to secure uniformity in administration throughout the country in the definition of "income" and in the adjustments made in respect of rent. Having decided these points, we can look forward to the time when we shall have a new form of administration of relief to the able-bodied, to insured and uninsured persons, which will command the respect and secure the help of every party in the State.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for having allowed me to travel so far. I suppose at some time or another everyone who has sat in this House has asked himself whether it has been worth his while to be here. In the last few months I have seen the fruition of many ideals for which I have stood for the last 35 years. To-day I have had the privilege of moving an Amendment which, I anticipate, the Government will accept, and in that way, also, I hope to realise some of the dreams and aspirations of past years. It is with great hope and with great expectation that I move this Amendment and commend it to the kindly sympathy of the Government and to the support of the House.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT ASKE
I beg to second the Amendment.
Like the Mover of the Amendment, I found it very difficult, even before the statements we heard from the Minister this afternoon, to appreciate why a Vote of Censure had been put down against the Government for their treatment of the depressed areas. For some time all the representatives of the depressed 2644 areas had been giving their closest attention to this subject and had decided upon the submissions they would make to the Government. They had been received by Ministers and, contrary to what had been stated in the Press, had received no rebuff. The suggestions they put forward had been received with every sympathy, and it was well known that Ministers had given an honourable assurance that they were giving close attention to the matter, and were treating it as one of urgency. In those circumstances, it was incomprehensible why a Motion of Censure should have been put clown, more especially in view of the fact that there was perfect unanimity among the representatives of the distressed areas, and that we had had the co-operation and the sound practical assistance of several Members of the Opposition. It is particularly difficult, also, to understand why the Opposition should be determined, apparently, to persist in their attitude against the Government, notwithstanding that the Government have gone much further than any other Government in offering aid to the depressed areas.
I find it quite impossible to support the Motion, and, in my submission, this Amendment adequately fills the bill. As a representative of a depressed area, I feel the deepest gratitude to the Government for having shown a willingness to come to our rescue at this critical period in our affairs. I hope it will not be regarded as in the least degree ungracious if I add a rider to the effect that I trust it may be possible for the Government to reconsider what I may term the formula for the current year, because that involves, to some extent, a setting of the depressed areas against the other areas in the country. It trenches upon that sound principle of having a general national burden which we had sought to put forward. If there has to be a formula I submit that the Minister should consider whether the Government ought not first to determine what amount is requisite for the depressed areas in order to relieve them of a good deal of their present burdens, and then get what portion of that sum they can from the other areas of the country.
I do not think it is necessary to say a great deal on the subject of this Amendment, and would rather confine myself to an appeal to hon. Members who do not 2645 represent depressed areas, because it is quite evident that in the course of the legislation which is to come it will be necessary for the depressed areas to carry with them the generous sympathy and the sense of justice of Members from other areas. The existing trouble is very largely due to the fact that heavier and still heavier amounts have to be found for public assistance. There are many causes for that, but, so far as my experience goes, there are two principal causes. First, a large number of men are being gradually drafted off benefit or transitional payments owing to a decision of the umpire that they are no longer engaged in insurable work. The second principal cause is that men are ceasing to be entitled to transitional payments because, in the most depressed areas, they are not able to obtain the requisite number of stamps to qualify. Another cause, to some extent, is to be found in the fact that not so much work is now being provided by local authorities, with Government assistance, as there was previously. Those are the causes, and that they are operating with an ever-increasing intensity may be seen from one figure. Ill our own area, if one takes the figure of 58 as the ratio two years ago, it will be found that the figure to-day is no less than 144.
That indicates the extent of the pressure of the able-bodied poor on the local authorities, which is reflected in a growing burden on rates falling upon local industries already having a struggle to keep afloat. It also falls upon all the tradesmen, who are already suffering most seriously from the fact that the wage fund circulating in the district is so much smaller, and it falls also upon all households and even upon the unemployed. It provides another example of the fact that the greater the difficulties and the burdens which are being faced by any particular locality the less able it becomes to bear them. I hope the Minister of Health will forgive me for differing from him on one point. He indicated that there was not much real evidence that the health of the people in the depressed areas is suffering. That is quite contrary to the experience in our own area. He said that such evidence would be found first in the case of the children. A report has been issued recently by the senior medical officer of schools in Newcastle. It is true that there is no sub- 2646 stantial deterioration in the health of the children, but he attributes that to the great self-denial, due to parental instinct, shown by the fathers and mothers. He says the children have been fed first, and that the parents have been left with less than enough to maintain a fair standard of health. That view is borne out by the chief medical officer of the dispensary, which treated no fewer than 640,000 people last year, who says that out of every 100 patients visiting the dispensary no fewer than 50 have not enough food. I submit that those figures are definitely reliable and do show, what is a matter of importance not merely to the distressed areas but to the country as a whole, that people who in the past have worked hard but are now suffering enforced inactivity, will become less able to undertake their ordinary work if the day comes when that work is again available.
Another point of great importance is that owing to the burdens upon our areas we are having to reduce even the standard of public assistance which has prevailed until recently. We have had to reduce the scale to such an extent that a grown woman living at home with her parents receives no more than 4s. a week. When one takes a figure like that, for an area which was once the great industrial metropolis of the north, one can see the depth of depression to which we are falling. But all these matters do not really only concern our industrial areas. It is absolutely essential to the prosperity of this country, and all areas alike, whether distressed or otherwise, that the people in the areas where the basic industries are situated should be kept up to a proper standard of physical efficiency.
The fact that we have this great depression, and the fact that the rate burden is increasing so much, means that from the circumstances we cannot expect new industries to come into our areas where there is a rate burden so much higher than in other parts of the country. These are matters which I venture to put forward for the consideration of hon. Members who represent much more favoured areas. I venture to say that in doing that they will not only give us their assistance in order to continue our appeal to the Government, but they will be acting in the best interests of the nation. Acceptance of this principle does not mean any lack of economy in any part of the country. The money for the 2647 maintenance of these people has got to be found, and it can be found only in one of four ways. It has to be found either by the areas themselves, or by spreading the burden equally, or in some ratio, over the rateable areas of the country. It has to be placed on the shoulders of the State, or dealt with partly in one or other of these ways. I submit that it is fair and equitable in a matter of this kind which affects the basic industries of this country, in one of which—the shipyard industry—not less than two out of three are unemployed at the present time. These industries are of the greatest importance to the nation, and we submit this Amendment to the House with every confidence.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
Perhaps, as I am the first Member to speak from these benches since the President of the Board of Trade made the announcement to the House, I may be permitted to associate myself, and those on these benches with the Leader of the Opposition in hoping that the results of the arrangements that the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in making will be as bright, and as beneficial to the country, as he hopes they will be. At the present moment, of course, we have been merely told of the bargain. We know there is a quid for a quo, but we do not know what is the quid or what is the quo. Until we know the two sides, it would be unprofitable to embark on any examination as to whether the right hon. Gentleman's expectations are likely to be fulfilled. We shall look forward, with varying degrees of hope and confidence, to the effect of the arrangements made.
Coming to the Amendment before the House, I am glad to add my words in support of it, and also to join with the Mover and Seconder in regretting that it was thought necessary to bring this matter before the House in the form of a Vote of Censure. I know it is a very attractive thing to take action like this —to have the lists set for a party brawl. But there are some occasions when it does not—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The reason why the Opposition have put the Motion down in this way is that it is the only method by which we can get a day for discussion. We may have a Resolution on the Paper 2648 for months and not get a day. If we put it down in the ordinary way, the Government rarely find time.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has given a perfectly correct account of the normal procedure. I do, however, suggest that on an occasion when, as has been pointed out, it was well known that opinions were greatly agitated on this question, and not only among the Opposition, but indeed primarily among supporters of the Government, that the Opposition should have indicated through the usual channels that a day was desired, and I cannot believe they would not have been given an opportunity to discuss this matter on the first possible occasion. It was obvious that the Government had something to say to the House. When the Government have nothing to say that is a good reason for not giving a day, but there was every reason in this case that they should take the opportunity, and arrange for the first available day to give what, to the Members for the depressed areas, was exceedingly good news.
This is not a new problem. Members in all parts of the House have often advocated action on the particular line of the terms of this Amendment. It has been put before successive Ministers of Health. I myself have been on deputations, not only attending the present Minister of Health but also the last Minister of Health. We put before them the urgent circumstances in which the depressed areas found themselves, and the need for acting. I am referring to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) who was one of the Ministers of Health. The hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) was there, and he will remember—
§ Mr. THORNE
We did not advocate the statement in the latter part of the Amendment. That is where the sting comes in.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
If the hon. Member sees a sting there, he will no doubt develop, in a speech later in the Debate, the dangers he sees. I have not seen any sting in the latter part of our Amendment. In some parts of the Minister's reply I did see a danger, to which, later on, I shall call his attention. As far as the deputation which went to the Ministers of Health in the Labour 2649 Government and this Government, they consisted of the same kind of people, working for the same kind of interests. We were received perfectly politely, and told that the Government had the matter under consideration. Somehow nothing happened. We have waited and now, at last, something is going to be done. It does seem to be quite futile that the present Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour should be called the ugly sisters in this matter. What we are really looking for is a fairy godmother for the assistance of the depressed areas. The situation at the present time is, frankly and obviously, a good deal more serious than at the time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield had to deal with it. The increase of unemployment is, in itself, the main cause of the situation being so much more serious.
It is worth noticing, incidentally, that, with regard to my own area of Middlesbrough, the increase of unemployment that has caused the acuteness of the present problem took place within a very limited period. It took place between January, 1930, and December of the same year, when right hon. and hon. Members opposite were in office. The increase was from 6,600 in January to 19,000 in December, 1930. Since that time there has been a comparatively small increase, which has varied from time to time. At present there are about 1,000 more. The problem of the present Government was not one they invented for themselves; it was passed on to them. We all hoped that the problem would be resolved in the normal course of events, in the best possible way by men getting back to their own trades in an ordinary revival of trade. We have got to face the fact that these areas of depression, for the greater part, cannot hope, with the fullest possible revival of trade, to absorb all or nearly all the unemployed. We had the report of the Industrial Transfer Board—200,000 in mining, 100,000 in iron and steel and 100,000 in textiles, without taking into account the industry of shipbuilding in which unemployment is very grave. That situation has to be faced, together with the fact of the drift to the South, which is one of the very disquieting features from the point of view of representatives of the North and West. It means that the nation is suffer- 2650 ing from fatty degeneration of the heart and paralysis of the extremities.
If we say this is all in the course of nature, and that we are going to fling ourselves along the path of least resistance, anticipating that this drift must go on, the result will be that, in the end, the North will be depopulated as it was after William the Conqueror had finished with it. If the Government were to adopt that course, they would find it in the end just as expensive as anything suggested. They would have to control, and make themselves responsible for, industrial transference on a vaster scale than anything attempted yet. It means uprooting people from their homes, although I have some hope that by land settlement a certain number of men may be taken up. But that will not settle the problem in the iron and steel areas. The other course was for the Government to say that they would treat the depressed areas by giving them fair conditions and chances.
When we talk about the depressed areas, we are not talking about derelict areas. Speaking for one area which has been depressed for a longtime, Middlesbrough, I would not represent to this House that it is derelict. On the contrary, the resources which made it great are still there. Its workmen retain their skill. They retain most wonderfully their spirit and courage. Their employers, by reorganisation, are trying to fit themselves, as much as possible, to restore prosperity. They only need fair conditions to give back a large measure of prosperity to the area. Although it would be idle to think that we can absorb the full number of the unemployed, a good deal could be done.
I congratulate the Government for having their long-term programme, and on having taken the broad and bold path which is laid down in this Amendment, which, I understand, they are going to accept. It is difficult, undoubtedly, in its details to carry out, but there is much more difficulty in adopting any other course. By boldly taking over responsibility for the whole of the able-bodied unemployed, they are avoiding all kinds of invidious distinction as to what are depressed areas, and what are not. By that method they will, automatically, be giving relief to localities in accordance 2651 with the needs of these localities. That is an enormous gain. There are difficulties involved, undoubtedly. The Minister tells us that the State is taking over the responsibility and that since he who pays the piper calls the tune, the State must take over the administration. I do not regret that. I have seen the burden of this invidious task laid upon local authorities, and in mere time it is more than it is reasonable to ask people to undertake voluntarily in the localities. Apart from that, it is a most unpopular and invidious operation, and it is far better that the local authorities should be relieved of it. There is no difficulty to me in accepting that inevitable consequence, if the Government adopt it.
The Minister suggests a further result, with regard to which I am rather more doubtful, and the Parliamentary Secretary, or whoever is to reply, will perhaps do me the honour to consider the point. It is suggested—or, at least, this is how I understood it—that once the complete responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed is taken over by the State, the weighting formula under the De-rating Act is to be revised. So far I agree, but to what extent is it to be revised? If the contention of the Minister is that, as he is taking over for the State the whole burden of unemployment, unemployment need no longer be a weighting factor, then I venture to disagree with him most profoundly. That would be a very great mistake. It has to be appreciated that the burden of a district does not consist solely in the amount that is paid out to the able-bodied unemployed. The indirect factors are very great.
As long as men are either in work or are in benefit, they maintain, out of pride or natural affection, their own sick and incapable relatives, and as long as that lasts the locality is, to that extent, relieved; but once there is unemployment upon a large scale, and people not only go out of work but out of benefit, those people can no longer undertake those pious tasks of helping families or friends, and the burden of the non-able-bodied unemployed upon the area becomes very much greater. I have been supplied with figures which show that if you compare the 13 weeks ended the 11th March, 1933, with the 13 weeks ended 11th March, 1932, 2652 there is an increase of nearly 9,000 in the number of persons to whom outdoor relief was given, or of nearly £2,500 in the cost to the community for that period. That is an increased cost of nearly £10,000 a year, which is a pretty considerable item. On the basis of figures like that, which I have no doubt could be repeated for almost every depressed area, unemployment has to remain as a weighting factor, whatever course is adopted, if the formula is to be administered satisfactorily and according to the needs of the district.
Having made those points of criticism, I want to pass from the long-range scheme to a rather graver doubt which comes into my mind with regard to the short-term programme. I am not clear at the present time what is the proportion of the payments to be made, let alone the total amount of that expenditure. If I understood the Minister rightly, the State puts down only 10s. for every 20s. that is collected from the more fortunate areas. I do not like this method of collection from the more fortunate areas, and I would much rather that it had been possible for the State to take over the whole burden at once. As soon as you get a question of putting the burden upon the more fortunate areas, you have to decide which are the more fortunate areas.
I have before me figures for certain towns for comparison. There is Bradford, for one of the divisions of which one of my hon. Friends sits. I do not think that he considers that he represents a very distressed area. The percentage of unemployed to the total population is only 6.5, as against 16.8 to the total population in Liverpool. It will be understood that I am giving the proportion to the total population, and not to the insured workers. There is a difference of very nearly three times, in the examples that I have given, in the proportion of the unemployed to the total population. When you come to the rate, that of Bradford, even on the information which was given to me, was 16s. 8d. —I think it is more now; it has gone up another eightpence to over 17s.—whereas the rate of Middlesbrough was only 13s. 4d. Does that mean that Middlesbrough under this scheme is to be called upon as one of the more fortunate areas? If so, I can only say that I regard the proposals with the very greatest horror.
2653 I have heard complaints as to the burden of unemployment coming from towns this evening who have only just discovered that they had unemployment. Middlesbrough has had it for 10 years, but by extremely economical administration there, and almost unduly starving other services, we have managed to present a rate of that amount. It would be a, very unfortunate result if we were to suffer, and it would indeed be an encouragement to extravagance. If I may make a comparison with another town, I will take Gateshead, which has a proportion of unemployed to the total population of 11.4 against our 16.8. Other conditions are more or less equal and the rateable value per head is very nearly the same; yet, although they have a less proportion of unemployed than ourselves, the amount of rate devoted to public assistance purposes is over twice as much.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I would like to say that there are factors in the situation which cannot be overlooked. Gateshead, from which I happen to come, and where I have been for 35 years, has not the resources of Middlesbrough; it has been more indigent for a longer period than Middlesbrough; it is not a market town, as Middlesbrough is, but is only a dormitory town to the larger city of Newcastle across the water. These and other factors have been under consideration by the Ministry, after I had seen them about it and after I had consulted the local authority. There are unseen factors, and weighty factors, which we cannot apprehend now, and the comparison cannot be made in the terms in which the hon. Member is putting it.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
The hon. Member is quite entitled to intervene when his constituency is mentioned. With all respect to him, I did point out that there is not very much difference as regards the main comparison and the comparison with regard to indigence. The cost per head at Gateshead is £4 ls. 9d., and for Middlesbrough it is £4 11s. 5d. Admittedly, Middlesbrough has rather more resources. I do not wish to do any injustice to Gateshead. I was making a point in which that was only an example. To take the total amount of the rates, or even the amount spent in rates on public assistance, gives an entirely false view, and 2654 it is an entirely wrong standard by which to decide whether a district is distressed or not. It becomes at once of enormous importance, as soon as we get to the point of balancing which are the least distressed areas that have to help the more distressed. I suggest that, if a line of division it to be taken in order to decide which are and which are not depressed areas, the proportion of unemployed to the total population is in the end the only scientific test which enables you to know what is the pressure upon local resources. If any test is to be taken, I prefer that. As soon as the Minister can get off his short-term programme on to his long-term programme, that problem will disappear.
I do not want to occupy any more time in putting my objections to the short-term programme, except to hope that whoever replies for the Government will find time, perhaps in a sentence or two, to deal with them and to set my mind at rest. In any event, when we pass to the long-term programme, we reach an arrangement by which relief will automatically be given in accordance with the need. I rejoice that that step should have been taken. We have been waiting a long time. The problem has been put to three Governments. The Conservative Government that passed the De-rating Act did its best for us, although in my humble opinion it was on the wrong lines. I wish that these lines had been followed from the first. This was always put from these benches by the late Secretary for Mines, who led us so ably when the Bill was brought before the House. He urged that the only way to bring about relief was, not to de-rate hereditaments, but to transfer whole services. We still hold to that view. I am bound to admit that, within the limits of the scheme, the weighting formula has been of benefit to Middlesbrough. It is idle to deny that we should be pushed beyond the verge of endurance at the present time were it not for the operation of that formula. It has to be recognised that the situation is changing from hour to hour.
I have been trying, to the best of my ability, to give the accurate and latest figures with regard to my own constituency, but those figures change continually, and no one can venture to estimate what the needs of a town like 2655 Middlesbrough will be, in, let us say, six months time. I urge that besides taking to themselves the credit, as I think they may, for having taken this step, the Minister and the Government should also realise that it is best that what they do is done quickly, for the problem is so urgent that it cannot wait. If they can carry out a scheme on the lines that we have heard, they will have done a great thing for the depressed areas. On the mere promise this afternoon, I am delighted to find myself in the position of most whole-heartedly voting against the Vote of Censure on the Government.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
The last three speakers were from the distressed areas, and they opposed the Motion. Coming from the North of England, and from a very distressed area, I wish to support the Vote of Censure, but, before dealing with it, I want to say something about the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. The Minister of Health told us that the President of the Board of Trade would make an important statement. I thought that we were to hear something about the distressed areas, but there was no meat on the bones to satisfy the miners in the distressed area which depend on the exporting of coal, as they will know when they read the speech of the President of the Board of Trade to-morrow morning. He said that the Government had been negotiating with four European countries, and were on the point of reaching an agreement with them. I find, from the Trade and Navigation Accounts, that in January of this year, as compared with January of last year or January, 1931, we sold immensely more coal to all of these four countries, the Argentine, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. To Sweden we sold 114,546 tons this January, as against 87,516 tons in January, 1931, and the figures for the other three countries tell the same tale. Therefore, it is not such a great benefit as the President of the Board of Trade led the House to believe to-day that the export coal trade is going to get from these agreements when they are signed.
He avoided mentioning, however, the European countries that really do matter as regards the export of coal. To be fair, he certainly mentioned Germany, but he did not lead us to believe that there 2656 was any prospect of immediate agreement with Germany, and to Germany, in January of this year, we sold only 177,000 tons of coal, whereas two years ago we sold her 286,000 tons. There is need, therefore, for something to be done so far as Germany is concerned. Neither did he mention France, Belgium or Italy, which are far more important than the countries he mentioned. To France, in January of this year, we only sold 751,000 tons of coal, as against 875,000 tons two years ago, and France, even with the coal that she is now buying elsewhere, is far more important than the four countries which the President of the Board of Trade mentioned. Those four countries, in the month of January of this year, only took 586,000 tons of coal from us, whereas France, even with her reduced amount, took 751,000 tons. The President of the Board of Trade says that what he has been able to do is due to the tariff policy of the Government, but we say that the tariff policy of the Government has simply ruined us in these most important markets, and, therefore, the President of the Board of Trade, before he can make the House believe that he has done something for the export coal trade, must do something in the case of France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, and so far there seems to be very little prospect in that direction.
I turn now to what has been said with regard to the Motion of Censure. The last three speakers on behalf of the National Government have all deprecated the action of the Opposition in putting down their Motion. They have followed the lead of the Minister of Health to-day. The Minister of Health regarded this Motion of Censure as a, party manoeuvre. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Members of the National Government and Members of the Cabinet should be the last to complain of a party manoeuvre, because they are in office now as a result of a party manoeuvre at the General Election. Had it not been for that party manoeuvre—the statements as to the use of Post Office savings, and so on—they would not be here to-day. The Mover of the Amendment said that this was a party game. I wonder what the Amendment is? I wonder whether the Amendment is not a party game to help the Government out of a difficulty and wreck the Motion of Censure? The Motion of Censure states in clear, simple and definite 2657 language that, instead of making unemployment a national charge, the Government have forced large numbers of able-bodied persons on to the Poor Law, thereby exhausting the resources of the local authorities. I wonder if any of those supporters of the National Government who have attached their names to the Amendment will deny the truth of that statement?
§ Mr. BATEY
I am not surprised at the hon. Member. Those of them who come from the North of England are simply leading one on to say what one ought to say regarding them. They have been making a lot of noise in the Committee rooms downstairs, they have been passing Resolutions in the Committee rooms, and making the working class in the North of England believe that they were really sincere in trying to get the Government to do something for the unemployed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Is not that so?"] Hon. Members will have their chance to-day. I say that they have tried to wreck the Motion of Censure by putting their names down to an Amendment which means nothing, which is pure humbug, which simply provides a back-door for the Government. That is the whole object of it.
§ Mr. DICKIE
Will not the hon. Member give credit to those who represent constituencies similar to his own for an honest desire to do something for the unemployed in their constituencies?
§ Mr. BATEY
Oh, yes, but men must be judged, not by their words, but by their actions, and we are going to judge hon. Members' interest in the working class by their action to-night—by whether they go into the Lobby to support the Motion of Censure, or whether they go into the Lobby to support the Government.
§ Mr. BATEY
Do not worry; it is not my custom to run away from my statements. It may be that hon. Members 2658 are satisfied with the statement of the Minister of Health, and believe that it will help the working class in the North of England, but I believe it will do no such thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will tell hon. Members. The Mover of the Amendment said that it had been a great privilege for them to meet the Prime Minister and other Ministers, and he was exceedingly loud in his praise of the meeting with the Prime Minister. If I read aright the report in the papers about their meeting with the Prime Minister, he simply took a big bowl of cold water and threw it in their faces. He asked them did they not know that it would increase the cost; did they not know that it would mean 6d. on the Income Tax; and were they prepared to support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that?
§ Sir A. SHIRLEY BENN
The hon. Member is repeating a statement that he got from the papers, but that is not what happened. I was one of those who were present, and I thoroughly endorse what was said by the previous speaker.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am prepared to confess that I had to rely on the Press report. I read it very carefully, as I always read any statement made by the present Prime Minister, because any statement made by the present Prime Minister I look upon with suspicion. I was interested when I read in the Press report—and it has never been contradicted—that the Prime Minister asked them, had they considered the cost; did they know that it would mean 6d. on the Income Tax; and would they be prepared to support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that? I think the northern Members had better say as little as possible about their meeting with the Prime Minister and the encouragement that they got from him.
As regards the speech of the Minister of Health, if other northern Members are satisfied with it I certainly am not. In reference to his long-term policy, he talked about centralised administration and centralised control. What does that mean? Before I came into the House this afternoon, I read a report in a northern paper depicting the speech that was going to be made by the Minister of Health to-day. The report said that it is the intention of the Government to put into a new category all the able-bodied unemployed who have exhausted their con- 2659 tributions to unemployment insurance. If that is what the Minister meant by centralised administration and centralised control, we shall oppose it. Bad as our condition is now, we prefer to stay as we are rather than have centralised administration and centralised control by removing all the able-bodied people who have exhausted their unemployment insurance, and putting them into a new category where they could be treated as if they were paupers. This long-term policy is nothing more or less than the Unemployment Insurance Bill which has been promised for so long. All that is meant by the statement of the Minister of Health this afternoon is that, when that Bill is drafted, it will be drafted in such a way as to deal with all the able-bodied unemployed.
The Minister said something else. He spoke about the idleness of the unemployed, and about dealing with them by training and by occupation. I should like the Minister of Labour, or whichever other Minister is going to speak to-night, to tell us what the Minister of Health meant when he talked of dealing with the idle unemployed by training and by occupation, because it seemed to me that this construction might be put upon his statement, that the intention is that the new Unemployment Insurance Bill shall be so drafted that all the unemployed can be forced to go anywhere and do anything. If that is the proposal of the Government, I want to submit that it is not going to help us in any way. We have already waited six or seven months since the Royal Commission reported and there is no prospect of anything being done at the moment. The Minister said that before the end of the Session they would bring in a Bill. We have heard Ministers talk like that many a time. It seems to me that the Session will end and we shall be no further forward, as far as the long term policy is concerned, than we are now. But what about the short term policy? The Minister said they had been having an investigation and they are going to carry it on. This Government is nearly as bad as the Labour Government for investigations. They are simply continuing the bad practice that we instituted under the present Prime Minister of having an investigation into every little thing. I wonder how far this investigation will 2660 lead us. When it ends, I wonder how much better we shall be. The prospect that warms the hearts of my friends from the north of England is that the right hon. Gentleman is going to do something by passing round the hat to the wealthier localities to help the distressed areas. The Government is not going to do anything.
§ Mr. K. GRIFFITH
The Minister said distinctly that for every 20s. of money that was provided in the way he described there would be 10s. from the Government.
Does not the hon. Member remember that during that time the Labour people said that, when they got into power, they could by a stroke of the pen arrange that all the children would have boots and all the kiddies would be looked after. When you came into power the Liberals and Tories said: "Show us your plan." But we have never had it.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am not going to argue with a woman. I have been too long married for that. We want something done now for the distressed areas. We do not want to wait till next year or till the end of this Session. We cannot afford it. The position of the distressed areas is so desperate that we want the Government to help them now and, unless they do that, we shall vote against them.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Sir GEOFFREY ELLIS
The Minister of Health said that what he was proposing was a novelty. I do not think that will be accounted a crime either in the House or in the country. I rather admire the bold way in which he has tackled the whole subject. I cannot agree with hon. Members above the Gangway that it is fair to expect an immediate result from conditions which we shall have to watch very carefully before we can get any real control in the future. I got up to speak because I felt it necessary for someone from what have been described as the more fortunate districts to say something. It is a little 2661 difficult for the outsider to follow why the expression "depressed areas" should be used, because depressed conditions are not confined to the north coast. They occur throughout the whole of the country. It is not any use facing this position with the idea that a considerable measure of unemployment arising from people who have passed insurance can possibly be dealt with by any change in trade conditions in a speedy fashion. Those who know the coal industry have accepted the position for a considerable time and there are people in the iron and steel and engineering industries who accept it. There is a great deal of rationalisation and possibly extra unemployment to come. Little as we like it, we have to face the position that a considerable number of unemployed have to be carried in the future, and probably they will not be able to find alternative employment for a considerable time to come.
The suggestion has been made that it is, therefore, the duty of the more fortunate areas to provide some contribution or, as it has been expressed, to pass the hat round to enable them to meet these charges. I think it is due to what are called the more fortunate areas to recollect that a good deal of their income arises from the production in the distressed areas, and, with the cessation of dividends from the distressed areas, their ability to meet their expenses is diminishing almost as fast as the production in the distressed areas, and incidentally it is producing in these very fortunate places a great deal of unemployment. Much of it is not disclosed in the returns, because it is in respect of people who are not industrially employed and, therefore, the facts never come out in public as they do in the other areas. I do not want to press that too far because to some extent there seems to be still a margin left, and we are all really gambling on the hope that the margin that we have left is enough to carry us through to better times.
That is the position that we have to face, and, when one part of the country is asked to come to the aid of another, both sides have to look at it from the point of view of the general interest. In these non-distressed areas it is hardly ever possible to say that you can take particularly a whole county and treat it 2662 as though a contribution from it may be considered quite fair. My friends tell me that there is no difficulty in my constituency of Winchester and, until they realise that practically a half of the constituency is dependent on the trade of Southampton, in addition to a large railway works, they do not appreciate that, when you have said that a place is a county constituency or is in the South of England, you cannot absolve it from any danger of unemployment in the future. That is one of the reasons why I want my right hon. Friend to appreciate that, in getting the help that he is going to get from these more fortunate districts, it may create a great deal of hardship individually if the area selected is too large, because it may well be that the county itself may become worse than some of the distressed areas.
I admit the need of a temporary Measure, but I should like to accept it only as a temporary Measure, because I am quite convinced that in the long run the only basis upon which this aid ought to be given is to accept, as the Government do, the realisation that this kind of unemployment is a national question and should be definitely a national charge. If you accept that, you get away from a great deal of the difficulty of treating districts unfairly compared one with the other and having to make constant changes in the weighting of particular areas if they are to be treated fairly. What has struck me as much more interesting in the very short details that have been given of the suggested statutory changes that are to take place is the help that may be given to many of the younger people who are now out of work and who may possible be out of work for some time.
The training and apprenticeship centres which have been established will presumably remain under the control of the Ministry of Labour as they are at present. I see there—it may only be my imagination—a considerable opportunity for the Ministry, with the knowledge and information at hand about conditions of trade throughout the country and the possibilities of trade improving, being able to a large extent to direct those young people into suitable districts and into the trades which would be most profitable to them in the future. If that can 2663 be done the new suggestion will be very helpful to us in the future. One of the greatest difficulties with which young people have to contend to-day is not only to know where they can go for labour which they may hope to obtain but the kind of trade most suitable for them to go into. It is not sufficient to go from day to day looking here and there for work. It would be a great help to them to have some kind of scientific advice as to what may happen in the future. I cannot see, however, these new proposals of grants, whether from the centre direct or whether by aid from new rating in more fortunate districts, being successful without the assumption of increased control—central control was the term used—throughout the whole of the country.
I have considered the matter very carefully and with great interest since the Minister mentioned what he proposed to do. The first principle which comes to one's mind is that it is impossible for the Government to give a free grant of money and to leave the control in regard to the spending of it to other people. It means that the Government will have to take control throughout the spending. If that is accepted, obviously the Government must go very closely into all the details connected, not only with the spending of the money, but with the classification of the people concerned before the spending can take place. Let me take a series of ordinary cases meeting the officials concerned. You might have people coming to the Exchanges claiming, first of all, that they should be helped in the ordinary way. You might have a man who said that he was in benefit but who, it might be found, was not in benefit. It might be a question of whether he ought not to be included in the public assistance class as being no longer capable of being employed either because of sickness or incapacity. If those possibilities arise, the final decision must rest more or less with the official representing the Government which has to find the money.
If that is the intention, then logically the plan holds together. I suggest to the Minister that, if that is what he has in mind, he will have to have something very like the existing courts of referees or advisory committees of some kind in order to help him. No individual with- 2664 out help of that kind would be able to get through the work. No doubt in time some sort of general procedure will be established with some definite principle to work upon. There will have to be examination and classification, and then possibly you will get more uniformity in treatment. Such a committee would have to face the obligation of deciding whether any young persons are to be given relief unless they are willing to go to an instruction centre or to become apprentices or bound in some way. Such work would be exceedingly valuable. I do not want to accept the principle implied unless the Minister takes the point of view that its application shall be complete and thorough. If it is not complete and thorough, the whole thing will be hopeless. Again, I see a danger here. If you appoint commissioners—I use the term "commissioners" for want of something better; I do not necessarily mean the kind of commissioner who has replaced certain authorities to-day—I do not think that it will be advisable to retain the system in force to-day which puts them all under the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health or some other Ministry. I would prefer the whole thing to be put under the control of a board, the activity of which should generally be clearly defined in the Act of Parliament.
As a Member of the House of Commons, I can see a most awful prospect. I see the possibility of a host of queries coming from Members of the House as a result of pressure brought to bear upon them in their constituencies. I hope that the Minister, when devising his scheme, will bear that possibility in mind, because I think that hon. Members, to whichever party they may belong, will realise that such a treatment of Members would become impossible and in the end would defeat the very object it had in view. The immediate arrangement of a grant from the less distressed areas, and half from the State—that is from the Exchequer—is obviously a temporary measure, and one which lets down the Chancellor of the Exchequer easily. We all know what the position of the Budget will probably be this year, and therefore it is essential that provision should be made for as little as possible. Although I agree that it should be regarded as a temporary measure, the principle should be finally and firmly established that the obligation is upon the 2665 country as a whole, and admittedly any charge should be borne centrally. Any charge borne centrally will mean an Act of Parliament which will thoroughly and completely protect the State.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
I am rather afraid that the Debate has been switched on to a different line altogether from the Motion on the Paper, which deals distinctly with the help being given to local authorities which are supposed to be financially embarrassed owing to the very heavy charges for Poor Law relief. One must remember that there are many sides of the case. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health in his speech this afternoon stated that they were straining to breaking point the whole idea of Poor Law finances. I think that the terms of the Motion make it clear that there is very great hardship in connection with the local authorities, particularly in the North of England. He further said that the unemployed workers deserved as good treatment as those who are employed. We as a party have always held that to be the case. We have always held to the one principle, that if workers could not get employment, they should have State assistance. "Work or maintenance" has been our policy for many years.
It appears from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the Poor Law is to take over the whole of the transitional unemployment payments. We do not think that that will be a good thing at all, but will be rather a retrograde step, and one which will tend either to stabilise or to worsen the present conditions. He stated that the central Government should accept responsibility for all able-bodied men who need assistance. If centralisation is to be anything on the lines of that in Durham and in other areas, I am not sure that centralisation will help at all. If centralisation is being commenced with a view to making a good job of the business as a whole, then it will be quite all right.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade switched the whole Debate on to new lines. He made a statement which we all welcomed. I do not think that there is a Member in the House who did not welcome that statement. But, when will it materialise? [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and see!"] That is what we shall have to do. Similar 2666 statements have been made in the House before as to the effect of certain agreements which were to be made with other countries, but they have not materialised. Will the statement of the President of the Board of Trade share the same fate? Personally, I hope not. I trust that at least it will bring some brightness into the homes of many of our people who are to-day suffering very severely.
I wish to get nearer the terms of the Motion on the Paper. Every Member in the House will remember the meetings which were held by Northern municipalities both in London and in their own areas. At one of the meetings which they held in London they passed a resolution that the Government be urged to accept as a fundamental principle that the cost of assistance afforded to all able-bodied unemployed persons, not being over 65 years of age, capable of, or available for, work should be borne by the State. A large number of Members of the House were behind that resolution, but in order to make the position clear a meeting of the Members of the House was held upstairs. According to the Press, something like 200 Members attended the meeting, which was held on 21st March. The meeting passed this resolution:That this meeting urges the Government to accept as a fundamental principle that the cost of assistance afforded to all able-bodied unemployed persons, not being over 65 years of age, capable of and available for work, shall be borne by the State.Where are those 200 Members to-night? Where are the 200 stalwarts who were going to play havoc with the Government, and who probably promised the local authorities in the North that they would do all they possibly could to get this burden transferred to the State? They were 200 Members who, as it were, were to march forward in a solid body and let the Government understand exactly their position. Where are they now? They have probably deserted their posts. It look like it.
§ Mr. J. P. MORRIS
Reference has been made to 200 Members of this House passing a, certain resolution in a Committee Room upstairs. The question is then asked, Where is that stalwart band? Speaking for myself, I can say that I am one of them. What I said at that committee meeting, I will carry out, and the acceptance of the Amendment 2667 does not in any way conflict with the expression of opinion passed at that meeting.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
I am very pleased to hear that statement. My hon. Friend comes from Wigan, and Wigan is one of the distressed areas. We cannot blame him if he is going to stick to the position which he took up beforehand, but we can apportion some blame to people who have shown some weakness when strength ought to have been maintained. They have thrown over the demand of their own local authorities simply at the behest of the Government, or, in other words, it appears that they have yielded either to pressure from the Department or from the Whips. The Prime Minister has for many years preached the doctrine that we still hold to be a firm principle —work or maintenance. He, along with many other colleagues, took up that position in the past, but I am afraid that he has irretrievably broken away from it.
There can be no doubt that the local authorities in the North are being brought to a position of financial stress by the action of the Government and in the name of economy, which is bringing poverty and suffering to millions of our people. I come from one of the places described as a distressed area. Although the figures for unemployment were going down during last month and it was reported in the Ministry of Labour Gazette that there had been a great decrease, I find in my local Press this week that the live registers of unemployed persons at the Wigan Employment Exchange, for the week ending the 20th March, 1933, showed 10,561 men and 3,053 women, an increase of 903 men and 746 women compared with the previous month. One realises that that is a very serious state of affairs. It may not be known generally but Wigan is one of the hardest hit places in the whole of Great Britain. Practically speaking, all the mines are removed out of the Wigan area, all the great steelworks and the rolling mills have been dismantled, and we have mills that have not turned a wheel for a considerable number of years. The Corporation in such a position, with a population in the borough between 80,000 and 90,000, must be bearing a very heavy burden.
2668 I have been looking over some of the figures of the cost to the Wigan Corporation of relieving able-bodied unemployed during the past three years, together with their estimate of the cost for 1933–34. For the year 1930–31 the cost of the relief of unemployed able-bodied men and women was £3,304 and the total cost of out-relief £33,925. The estimated cost for 1933–34 for able-bodied unemployed is £10,000 and the total estimated cost of out-relief £42,475, an increase in one case of £6,596 and in the other case of £8,550. The rateable value of the borough is not going up but is rather going down, consequently the burden is becoming harder to bear. When we realise that at least 80 per cent. of the increased cost of relief is for able-bodied unemployed and that the total amount required for 1933–34 for the relief of able-bodied unemployed people is approximately a 7d. rate, and that the total rate levied for public assistance purposes is 4s. 8¾d., one gets some idea of the seriousness of the position.
The difficulties may not be seen very clearly but they are very apparent to anyone who knows anything about public authority finance. We have to look at the position from the angle in which it presents itself. I am not saying that Wigan is the only distressed area in Lancashire. We have a number of distressed areas in Lancashire. My hon. Friend behind me represents one. The extra cost which has been imposed upon many local authorities and even upon he county councils is out of all proportion. It has been said that the Local Government Act, 1929, widened the area of charge for public assistance as far as the county area is concerned, but it has restricted the area of charge as far as the county borough is concerned. This is amply borne out by the fact that the public assistance rate in the county area surrounding Wigan is about 2s. less than the rate required in the County Borough of Wigan. The number of persons in receipt of relief on one day specified, per 10,000 of the population, was in December, 1930, 331; in December, 1931, 336; in December, 1932, 408. Out-relief paid to persons ordinarily engaged in some regular occupation was in 1931–32 £12,823, in 1932–33 £21,220, while the approximate estimated amount for 1933–34 is £25,100.
2669 The Motion on the Order Paper asks that some relief should be given to these areas rather than there should be a discussion as to the means of providing employment generally. While we would go as far as we possibly could in any direction in order to provide employment, this is one of the most immediate issues in connection with our public life. The local authorities are being penalised to a very heavy degree, and it will not be possible for them to continue very much longer. I have a statement in respect of Manchester which shows that they require something like £140,000 more this year than last year for the purpose of relief. In connection with the Lancashire County Council things are very much in the same position. Their budget estimate for last year was £589,000 and their requirements were considerably over £603,000. Their estimated net requirements will be something like £66,000 more than their budget estimate. Outdoor relief has continued throughout the whole year and a sum of £50,000 has already been voted to meet the over-expenditure, but a further sum of £16,000 will he required. That falls upon the county area, and it is a matter which ought to be taken into consideration. I would ask the Minister of Health to give greater consideration to the immediate relief of these authorities, so that they can carry out their work and duties with the greatest possible efficiency. The budget for the Lancashire county area allows, roughly, £1,250,000 for indoor and outdoor relief during 1933–34. There is an increase of £28,516 for indoor relief and of more than £130,000 for the assistance of the out-door poor.
Much has been said about poverty and the casual ward, that people are in a lower state than they have been before, and that we have an increase in the number of people who are receiving indoor treatment. That is inevitable in present circumstances, but I think that there are many ways in which the Minister of Health might help these people to a better condition of life. We have about 5,500,000 people who are included in the National Health Insurance scheme who do not come under unemployment insurance. For these people their only recourse in unemployment is to the Poor Law. I find that in December, 1928, the number seeking Poor Law relief was 2670 135,918, in December, 1932, 269,739. The number of uninsured persons receiving out-door relief has doubled during the last four years. That is not an event which the Minister of Health can look upon with any happiness or pleasure. I know that he is as desirous as anyone else to relieve this condition of things, and I would like him to lay the whole matter more strongly before the Cabinet with a view to help being given in this direction. At the end of November, 1930, there were 12,380 people in casual wards, and at the end of December, 1932, 18,633, or an, increase of 50 per cent. In England and Wales as a whole at the end of last year only 3.5 per cent, of the population was in receipt of Poor Law relief. In Sheffield the percentage was 11.41, and in Lincoln it was 14.1. I do not think that I should do anything wrong in reading a short paragraph which has been issued by the National Association of Local Government Officers. It contains quite a lot of truth—it is probably all true—but it denotes the direction in which the country is travelling. The memorandum states:The ratepayer is fortunate if his rate for 1933–34 does not show a substantial increase. Improving methods of administration reduced the cost of out-relief from £6,900,000 in 1927–28 to £3,300,000 in 1930–31. But in 1931–32 it increased again to £4,200,000. It cannot have been less than £5,000,000 in 1932–33, and probably the total estimates for 1933–34 will fall not far short of £6,500,000.Moreover, the de-rating scheme of 1929 has reduced the resources from which revenue can be drawn. The memorandum adds:To place the burden of poor relief upon the areas which suffer most from unemployment is the height of folly.All I want to say to the Minister this evening is that, even if that great army of 200 Members has deserted the position which they took up when, as a deputation, they brought pressure to bear upon the Government and did not get the most gentle treatment in the process—if you go on deputations, you must expect some rough shocks sometimes—there is certainly a feeling to-day that more help should be given to those people. By the action of the Government on the minds of these men—and probably women as well —their view has been altered to the sense of the Amendment standing on the Paper. The Amendment sidetracks the whole issue, because by its terms they are will- 2671 ing that a proportion of the money required for the relief of the able-bodied unemployed under 65 years of age shall be secured from the rates. My contention is that the rates of the country at the moment are quite heavy enough.
I fully understand the statement made by the Minister of Health this afternoon, in which he drew a comparison between the national expenditure and the expenditure of the local authorities. He must remember, however, that the national contribution which he mentioned is only one-third of the whole of the money. If, therefore, local authorities have to continue to raise this money by rates, they will have to call upon their people to pay twice in order to realise the sum required, and that at a time when circumstances are at their hardest. There is not the slightest doubt that our unemployed people include some of the finest types of men and women that it is possible to find. Some of them would scorn the idea of receiving any help at all if it were possible to gain money by work. We feel, therefore, that these men and women must not be lowered physically, mentally and materially by their struggle for existence in circumstances over which they have no control. They would certainly take employment anywhere they could find it. They would be glad to have the opportunity of earning food and living for themselves and their dependants. Circumstances, however, are against them, and while circumstances are so much against them, they should be assisted.
I believe the only solution of this very great problem lies in the Motion which we have put down on the Paper. Everybody knows that it is a great problem; every Minister has given a certain amount of consideration to the question. Nevertheless, I am going to ask the Minister to take the matter up once more, and I urge upon the Cabinet to share a responsibility which is really theirs and to follow the old principle which has been preached in this House for over 30 years and in advocating which the Prime Minister himself has taken his share: that the able-bodied people of the country for whom work cannot be found shall be given State maintenance.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. P. MORRIS
First of all, I wish to congratulate the Government on the 2672 courageous action it has taken in adopting the principle adumbrated in the Amendment to the Vote of Censure. The acceptance by the Government of the principle that the cost of the able-bodied unemployed shall not be borne by the local authorities is only a consummation of the many advances that have been made in local government since the principle of chargeability for Poor Law relief was first established in 1601. At that time the country was not the economic unit that it is to-day. Unemployment and vagrancy were caused solely by local circumstances. Each parish was an economic unit, self-contained and self-supporting. There were few industries, there were no transport facilities, nor were there telegraphs, telephones or wireless. Indeed, what occurred in Silvertown was not known in Croydon until a long time after the event. Modern conditions of economic and industrial life have entirely changed the circumstances which gave rise to Poor Law relief.
This evening my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) has criticised the action of the Government in that it was conducive to extravagance by local authorities. If be were here, I should tell him that in the days when the principle of Poor Law relief was first established it would have been impossible to find such a phenomenon as the combination of a skilled engineer and an astute politician. To-day, owing to the depression of national commerce and industry, the country—in so far as responsibility for the maintenance of the poor is concerned—has become the equivalent of the parish in the days of Queen Elizabeth. Very remarkable advances in Poor Law administration have been made since those days. In 1722 the parishes were empowered to combine. In 1834 unions of parishes were established. In 1865 the union was made the unit of chargeability. The De-rating Act of 1929 continued the principle of widening the area of charge and made the county and county borough the unit.
In the declaration to which we have listened this afternoon we see the further march of progress, the reflection of more enlightened public opinion, and a final severance, after 332 years, of the relations between Poor Law authorities and the cost of relief to the able-bodied unemployed. I regard this day as a very memorable day in the history of our 2673 country. It is a day that posterity will be asked to remember as an important milestone in better government, both local and national. It must be obvious that the alarming increase in the number of persons drawing what is commonly known as able-bodied unemployment relief, has become a very grave and urgent problem, and the cause is entirely disconnected with local administration or purely local affairs. Indeed, it may be said that it is not due to national causes. No one in his right senses can hold the National Government responsible for the high degree of unemployment. A person with all his faculties could say, and quite rightly so, that were it not for the existence of the National Government the degree of unemployment would be considerably worse.
No; unemployment is due to international economic conditions, and in so far as it relates to the provision of able-bodied relief for the unemployed in this country it is greatly minimised by regarding the figures for the country as a whole rather than by careful examination of the unemployment in various parts of the country. Indeed the unemployment, and therefore its causes, are not spread evenly over the whole of the country. If it were, the Motion of Censure and the Amendment would not be necessary to-day. If it were spread evenly, it would not matter whether the cost were borne by the rates or the taxes, provided that in the case of the rates they were based on uniform valuations. But unemployment is not spread evenly throughout the country. The converse is the case. Unemployment is spread unevenly over the country, and the figures from the comparatively prosperous South reduce the figures and obscure the gravity of unemployment of the North, the Midlands and South Wales.
Let me illustrate what I mean by the quotation of a few figures. On 31st December, 1932, the proportion of people in the country drawing outdoor relief amounted to 3.35 per cent. In Sheffield on the same date the proportion of the population was 11.46 per cent., and on the same day in 1931 it is only 5.68 per cent. That shows that in the course of 12 months there was an increase of 100 per cent. in the number of people drawing able-bodied relief in the city of Sheffield.
2674 In Lincoln, at the end of December, 1932, the proportion of people to the population who were drawing unemployment relief from the rates was 14.1 per cent. I have not the figures for the same date of the previous year, and therefore I cannot say what increase has occurred in Lincoln. But let me take the case of the city of Liverpool. On 31st December, 1932, there were 78,000 people drawing outdoor relief, or more than 10 per cent. of the population, while in a prosperous city like Oxford only 607 people were drawing outdoor relief, which is equal to three-quarters of one per cent. of the population of that city.
Now let me refer to the increase in the cost of outdoor relief which has had to be borne by local authorities. In 1930–31 the cost was £3,300,000. For 1933–34 the cost is estimated to be £6,500,000. The gravity of the question does not stop there. During all this period of increase of rates for public assistance many local authorities have made attempts not to increase the general rates. What has happened in those cases? The only possible way in which the authority could avoid increasing the general rate, in view of the mounting charge for public assistance, was by starving the other services, and those services have had to be starved at a time when the demand upon them has been increased. You cannot have lower wages, increased unemployment, and decreased insurance benefits, without, at the same time, increasing the demands upon the health services, the school medical services, and that part of the education service which provides meals for school children. Accordingly we find that local authorities who have attempted to avoid an increase in the general rate have had the worst of both worlds. They have had an increase in the charge for public assistance and at the same time a deterioration in the social services of the locality.
The hon. Member for South Croydon made play regarding the position of certain authorities in areas where the degree of live register unemployment was small, but where a tremendous proportion of the population was drawing able-bodied relief. He compared the position of such an authority with that of an authority in whose area there was a high degree of live register unemployment and a smaller 2675 proportion of able-bodied relief and asked for an explanation. He did me the honour of referring to me and asking me for an explanation of that situation as it affected Manchester and Salford. If the hon. Member were in his place I might say to him that many reasons enter into that argument, one being that—as in a particular case which he might have cited—there may be a great increase in unemployment among female workers. There is, secondly, the reason that when a person is transferred to the Poor Law his dependants increase the number drawing Poor Law relief. Thirdly, there is the reason that different towns have different industries, and one industry may be suffering more acutely than another.
While I welcome the announcement of the Government and their acceptance of the principle that provision for the able-bodied unemployed will, in the long-term plan, be a responsibility on the National Exchequer, I still regret that they have not seen their way to adopt the proposal for the equalisation of the public assistance charge which was first formulated by the Salford City Council. I have propounded that scheme on the Floor of the House, and the only objection raised to it was that it cut across a principle inherent in good local administration, in that the area of chargeability was divorced from the area of responsibility. To me it seemed that that objection could easily have been overcome. I think in many cases, having regard to the fact of the relief being more or less uniform, the objection is not valid. I only hope that if the Government are willing to entertain any suggestions other than those they have announced, in so far as the long-term policy is concerned, they will give further consideration to the equalisation of the public assistance charge. The National Government have enhanced their prestige considerably to-day by the announcement of their new policy. I hope the Prime Minister will take heart and that his deliberations in America will meet with the same success as the action of the Cabinet in this matter will, I am sure, meet with throughout the country to-day. I congratulate the Government on having had the courage to carry out the policy indicated in the Amendment.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. SOPER
I congratulate the Minister of Health on the statement which 2676 he has made to the House this afternoon. As the representative of a large mining constituency I feel sure that the news which will doubtless be made known, not only through the medium of the wireless, but in the newspapers, will gladden the hearts of hundreds of miners and their families, throughout the country. I have only one regret in regard to the action of the Opposition on this occasion. To me it seems that this ought not to have been made a party matter. Other hon. Members representing constituencies like my own will, I think, bear me out as to the view which men and women in those constituencies take of this question of unemployment and able-bodied relief. Again and again they have said to me, "Why do you people in Parliament treat this as a party matter?" The Notices on the Order Paper to-day in the names of Opposition Members, will not do the Opposition any good in the mining constituencies of this country.
I wish to suggest that this House has no more right to expect us in the industrial areas to maintain the industrial army than they would have to expect the citizens of Portsmouth and Chatham to bear the whole cost of maintaining the Royal Navy or the citizens of York to bear the cost of maintaining the Northern Command. Just as the cost of maintaining the fighting forces is spread over the whole country, so we contend that the cost of maintaining the industrial army—at least the effectives, meaning those up to 65 years of age—ought to be a, national concern. One Member has described this as a "red letter day" and I am sure that it will go down to history as such. It is just as necessary for the welfare of the country that the industrial army should be kept fit and well as that the military forces should be kept fit and well and efficient, and on that ground, if on no other, I am glad that the Government have shouldered this responsibility.
If prosperity is to return to this country it must return by way of the industrial areas. I think I can say that the Government have at last taken their eyes for a while away from Bournemouth Bandstand and Brighton Aquarium and have fixed them on the pitwheels of Yorkshire and Durham and the looms of Lancashire and Bradford. The Bournemouth orchestra can fiddle away until its strings wear out, without bringing 2677 this country one inch nearer a trade revival, and there can be no move in that direction until the industrial areas have got rid of the burdens which they are unfairly bearing at the present time. So I ask the Government not to be too concerned because a few pleasure resorts do not want to pay their fair share of the cost of running this country.
The hon. Member for South Croydon referred to Barnsley and Barrow. We know that Barnsley is a mining district and that Barrow is more an engineering area, and the cost is bound to be more in such a constituency as Barnsley than in a constituency like Barrow. It seems to me that we have come to-day to title point that able-bodied relief must be in charge of the State. Those men wanted work and they would work. The municipalities are not to blame for the men being out of work, and I am glad to think that we are going to have them, as they should be, a charge on the State. I believe that it will be to the interests of all concerned to carry out the policy announced by the Government to-day.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPE
I rise to support the Motion. I have listened to the speeches since about a quarter past five, and the more I have listened the more I have become mystified. The last speaker, like the majority of the speakers to-day, condemned the Labour party for putting down this Vote of Censure, and said we ought not to make this a party matter, but they must have forgotten that between 1929 and 1931, when the Labour Government was in office, but not in power, they made it a party matter on every possible occasion.
§ Mr. CAPE
The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Soper) went on to say how glad he was to hear what the Government were prepared to do, and he followed that up by saying that, just as the whole country was responsible for the maintenance of the Army and Navy stationed at Plymouth or Southampton or somewhere else, so should the nation be responsible for the maintenance of the unemployed industrial workers who might be out of work. That is what we are asking for in our Motion. We say that this House regrets that the Government 2678 have not made the burden of unemployment a national charge.
A good many hon. Members who have spoken seem to be abundantly satisfied with what has been promised by the Minister of Health, and there is one thing about this Debate at any rate that pleases me. I wish the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. L. Thompson) had been in his place. He is full of happiness and joy, and it seems to me that he is going to have a very pleasant holiday, owing to the fact that he has been one of those who have compelled the Government to give them all they want. He said that the able-bodied unemployed were going to become a charge on the State, but the hon. Members from the North East Coast who followed him were very much in doubt as to what would happen, and the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) in particular was in doubt as to what would be the outcome of the proposals set forth by the Minister of Health.
If those hon. Members had been as long in this House as I have, they would know that there is grave reason to be in doubt, because if they went through the history of the Governments that we-have had in this House in my time, they would find that they have all made fulsome promises, but that very few of those promises have been fulfilled. The present Government in particular told us at the outset of its life that with big tariff schemes we should have an abundance of trade, that imports and exports would flow like a river, in and out, and that before very long unemployment would rapidly decrease, instead of which it has rapidly increased. Then there was the agricultural policy of the Government, which was going to solve practically all our troubles, and several other things have been suggested by the Government as remedies for the distressed areas, but everyone of them has failed up to the present, yet hon. Members opposite go on pinning their faith to the promises given by the Government.
I come from a distressed area, and it is very difficult for me to speak here, because it seems as if in this House everyone looks upon a Member from a city or a large borough as the only one who represents the unemployed. My division contains no large city, but there are several small towns and a good many 2679 villages in it. What is the position there in regard to unemployment? These are the latest figures, up to last week-end: in the Workington Exchange district there were 7,163 persons unemployed, out of a total insured population of 18,000, or 44 per cent. unemployed; and in the whole of West Cumberland 48 per cent. were unemployed. I have in my division alone several towns in a depressed state and I can go further than the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough went, because I have in my division several villages which are derelict, with scarcely 20 per cent. working at all, and if they are at work, it is on road repairs and jobs of that sort. The more unemployment you have in your areas and the more your industry declines, the less chance there is for providing for the unemployed in the areas, and we say in our Motion that we are dissatisfied with the present system of relieving the able-bodied unemployed, and ask that it should be made a national charge.
Several statements have been made during the course of this Debate with regard to the Anomalies Act. The Labour party was in office when that Act went through, and the present Prime Minister was head of the Government that put it through. He must, therefore, have escaped his share of the responsibility for that Act, and hon. Members opposite must remember that the man to whom they have given the fullest praise was head of the Government that put the Anomalies Act on the Statute Book. While I stand for the Labour Party principle of work or maintenance, which we have advocated for more years than I like to remember, I prefer work to maintenance. I feel that my men would be much more pleased to hear that there was some likelihood of work coming to them in place of maintenance in idleness.
The hon. Member for Barnsley talked of the joy there would be in the mining districts when they opened their papers to-morrow and read what the Government were going to do. I thought before he finished his speech and got on to the musical part of it that he would say that the bells of all these places would ring in a new era. He comes from only one part of the coalfield, which is the most prosperous part in the British Isles. The measures of the Government will not bring joy to my men, because 52 per cent. 2680 of the Cumberland miners are unemployed, and for 30 per cent. of them there is no likelihood of employment in that coalfield again. Therefore, I urge the Government to meet the obligation of maintenance from public funds and to use their activities and energies in trying to bring trade into the country. I am one of those who believe that we can only come to prosperity through that channel. The President of the Board of Trade was ushered in to-night as a new Elisha. The mantle had fallen from the shoulders of the Minister of Health on to his shoulders. It went along the benches of the House like an electric current that he was going to make a most important announcement. We looked at him and were like the people of Goldsmith's "Deserted Village"—And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,That one small head could carry all he knew.When he told us all that he had to tell, it simply meant that we were to wait until he could tell us something definite. The hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) by saying, "Wait and see." I would remind the hon. Member that it was a distinguished and respected leader of his party who used those words, and I ask hon. Members to remember them, because we shall have to wait and see a long time before the Government's measures solve this problem. I am one of those who will be prepared to give the Minister of Health credit if any proposal of his will bring relief to my constituency. While I am a strong Socialist, if my men are needing the necessities of life in a capitalist State, I shall give credit to anybody who helps them to get those necessaries and enables them to live a full and free life. Notwithstanding the promise that we have had from the Minister of Health and the statement of the President of the Board of Trade, I shall without hesitation vote for the Motion.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. ROSS TAYLOR
I want to take the House from the depressed industrial areas to the depressed agricultural areas, and to touch upon the question of agricultural unemployment. Accurate figures are not available, but the figures which were published some time ago showing 2681 the great growth in the numbers of those in receipt of Poor Law relief in those areas indicate clearly to what extent unemployment among agricultural workers has increased in the last year or two. As there has been no abnormal increase in genuine Poor Law cases, the increase must be attributed to the increase in unemployment among agricultural workers. The Government have declared their policy in regard to agriculture. That policy is to rebuild the industry, and already the Government have taken many important steps to that end. I believe that success will undoubtedly crown their efforts, but agriculture has been neglected for a very long time, and the task of rebuilding it must necessarily be slow and the results for which we hope will naturally be slow in showing themselves. Thus it is that the prospects of improvement offer very cold comfort to the agricultural worker. He is face to face with the realities of the present, and he has no illusions 'about the state of agriculture to-day. If he is out of a job, he sees no prospect of getting another unless it be of a temporary character in seasonal work; or, if he is not out of a job, he realises the parlous plight of his employer. I think that the agricultural worker probably realises a good deal more clearly than workers in other spheres the position of his employer. Knowing that position, he is, in a great many cases, in daily dread of being turned off.
It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that agricultural workers have been asking with ever-increasing insistence if no other provision is to be made for them than that offered by the Poor Law when, through no fault of their own, they fall into unemployment. They are not the only people in the rural areas who have been anxious, because, quite naturally, the local authorities have viewed with very great alarm the steady drain on their somewhat limited resources. For that reason I am perfectly certain that agricultural workers all over the country, and local authorities and all others who are concerned in any way with agriculture, will welcome the statement made this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. As I understand it, the scheme which he outlined will mean that the able-bodied agricultural worker will be taken right out of the sphere of the Poor Law, which should never have 2682 been applied to him, that local authorities will be relieved of a great financial responsibility, and that public assistance committees, which in the rural areas have done magnificent work, conscientiously and thoroughly, and with very great sympathy, will be relieved of part of their arduous duties.
I would like to ask my right hon. Friend if he will make one further statement, and that is in regard to unemployment insurance for agricultural workers. It may well be that the scheme which he proposes will make such a system of insurance unnecessary, and I hope it will be so, because quite obviously any scheme of that kind bristles with difficulties, and may very well be found, if introduced, to cut both ways. On the other hand, there is a growing demand among agricultural workers for a scheme of some kind, and while I know that, officially, branches of the National Farmers' Union have declared against any scheme, individual farmers of my acquaintance very strongly favour it. In any event, there is need for further inquiry as suggested by the report. The only suggestion I have to offer is that the Government should not wait for a report from the Statutory Commission, which the Report of the Unemployment Commission suggests, because that will merely mean delay. I ask them to appoint a committee forthwith to go into the whole question of the insurance of agricultural workers, because if a scheme is devised it can then be put into operation much sooner than if the method suggested by the Commission is adopted. In conclusion, I want to say that I am firmly convinced that the measures taken to restore agriculture will be successful, but I regard it as of the very greatest importance that this scheme of which we have been told this afternoon should be put into operation, in order to tide over the difficult period before the policy of the Government has had full effect.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Mr. McKEAG
I regret that the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) does not happen to be in his place, because he made a speech a little while ago which was most suspicious in character, and in which he made it perfectly clear that he steadfastly refuses to believe that there is the slightest merit in any of the announcements made this afternoon from 2683 the Treasury Bench. He went further than that, indeed, and permitted himself to indulge in an attack upon the North-Eastern Members. He made a statement to the effect that we are not accomplishing anything for the depressed areas. Earlier in the afternoon the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Minister of Health made a speech in which he definitely stated that the announcement made by the Minister of Health represented a capitulation to the pressure of the Members representing the depressed areas. I wonder how the hon. Member for Spennymoor reconciles his own statement with that statement which came from the lips of his own leader on the Opposition Front Bench. That was not the only inaccuracy in his speech. He also said that he was entirely opposed to any kind of centralised control in this connection. If he had been in his place when the ex-Minister of Health spoke he would have noted that the right hon. Gentleman welcomed it, and said it was something for which he had been clamouring for many years. Again I ask the hon. Member how he reconciles his speech with that statement.
I see that the hon. Member for Spennymoor has now returned. I will not go over the ground again, but I want to say that we are rather tired of the suggestion so constantly made from the benches opposite that only Members of the Labour party are likely to help the working classes. Surely that is a myth which has long since been exploded. Most certainly it is something no longer believed by the miners of Durham. I would remind the hon. Member that helping the unfortunate people in these depressed areas does not consist in breeding discontent and casting suspicion on every proposal which does not emanate from the Labour Government. The hon. Member could not agree that there was any merit whatever in the announcement made by the President of the Board of Trade. He looked upon it with suspicion. He refuses to believe for one moment that it will bring any benefit whatever to the coal areas. As the representative of a division in one of the greatest coalfields in this country I would say that if the agreements to which the President of the Board of Trade referred bring any increase in the exportation of coal from that area, whether it be half a million 2684 tons or a million tons or three million or four million tons, it will be very heartily welcomed. No doubt when we resume after the Eastern Recess there will be an announcement, as promised by the President of the Board of Trade, as to the ratification of those agreements, and I am prepared to accept at its face value the announcement which has been made this afternoon.
It is most gratifying to those of us who have been constantly pressing this matter that at last the Government have accepted the principle of national responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed. The Government are to be congratulated on the steps it has now taken and I hope that, now the principle has been established, it will be translated into action at the earliest possible moment. I remember once hearing the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) saying that a resolution was not carried until it was actually carried out. We shall now anxiously wait the tabling of the actual proposals to give effect to the Government's decision. I fully realise the intricate and delicate nature of the financial adjustments involved, and I appreciate that great care will have to be exercised. It is acknowledged by those who have any understanding of this problem that these matters cannot be dealt with in five minutes. The Government must now be in possession of all the information they require, and there should be no unnecessary delay. We have been chided from the benches opposite as to what these proposals will really mean when they are finally before the House. We on these benches hope that the assistance to the depressed areas will be substantial in its character. If it is not substantial, the storm, which has been brewing during the last few weeks, will burst with greater severity than had the announcement not been made from the Treasury Bench.
Those of us who have been thrusting this question upon the Government since the commencement of this Parliament were almost beginning to despair, and to feel that the Government were holding back because of the pressure from more prosperous areas. We had some justification for that fear when we heard with some dismay the following passage from the speech delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health 2685 on the lath March. On that occasion the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. J. P. Morris) raised the question of public assistance on the Adjournment, and pressed for rate equalisation. The Parliamentary Secretary in his speech used these words, referring to the hon. Member:His idea is a very simple, straightforward and ingenious one. So far as I can gather, it amounts to this, that the watering places of the country should pay for the distressed areas. Before I commit the Government to that policy I should like a small talk with the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1933; col. 1755, Vol. 275.]That clearly showed the mind of the Government on that. However, I would ask the Government not to be unduly influenced by any threat which may emanate from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I would ask the hon. and gallant Baronet and other Members who represent similar constituencies to remember that the prosperity of their districts is indissolubly bound up with the prosperity of the industrial areas. It is from those districts that they themselves derive their prosperity. If they take the long view, they will realise that by assisting the distressed areas now they will be ensuring their own future prosperity and throwing their bread upon the waters.
It is quite clear that the plight of the industrial areas is still not sufficiently realised by some who represent southern constituencies, and that is evidenced by some of the Amendments on the Order Paper to-day, Amendments which will probably not be reached. Since I entered the House I have made many speeches here on the plight of the North, and particularly Durham. I have no wish to reiterate any of the arguments, which are now well known to Members of this House, but I would like to read the letter which I have received recently from the senior medical officer at the Dispensary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It will show Members representing Southern constituencies the difficulties we are having to contend with in the North:Ill-nourished women are common as blades of grass here upon Tyneside. We were attracted by the problem as long ago as April, 1930. Ill-looking women used to come to seek my aid, not for themselves but for their babies. I was so impressed that I started to investigate their condition. We 2686 made a series of experiments, uniform in character, very free from error, simple research work but honestly done. We were amazed, and I may say appalled at the poverty of the blood. This anaemia was not associated with any organic disease. For the most part, we failed to cure those cases with iron, and it was not to be wondered at when one realised that the cause of the anaemia was not lack of iron but lack of food. When you consider this terrible state of things in connection with pregnant women and among women who will probably become pregnant again, the force of it begins to strike you. If I can find the time and the money next winter, I intend to begin treating a number of these cases with one good meal a day in addition to any existing allowance they may have.Any comment from me would be entirely superfluous. The letter speaks for itself. What is happening there is typical of the other depressed areas.
There is only one other point that I wish to make, and it is in regard to the position of medical benefits to able-bodied unemployed in the depressed areas. For some years, provision has been made to continue the insurance benefit of those persons who, as a result of the deep depression, have been unemployed for years, because it was generally felt to be most undesirable that they should be driven out of benefit simply because they were unable to pay their ordinary contributions. The National Health Insurance Act of 1932 provided that all insured persons who, on the 31st December of this year have been continuously unemployed for two years and nine months, will cease to be entitled to medical benefit. They will then be thrown on to the Poor Law and will add to the burdens of the very districts which we are seeking to relieve to-day.
I wish to give an instance. Take the case of a man of 55 who has been insured for 21 years. He has had his family doctor and panel doctor for the whole of that time, but having been unemployed for two years and nine months at the 31st December of this year, he will lose the right to be attended by his family doctor. He will be thrust on to the Poor Law and will be attended by a Poor Law medical officer, and will be placed in the hands of some medical man who is entirely unacquainted with his medical history. If he is unemployed and uninsured at the age of 65, he will lose his right to medical benefit for the rest of his life, except under the Poor Law. There are only about 70,000 of such cases likely 2687 to happen this year, and the annual sum involved is about £40,000, because the average cost is only small, amounting to a few shillings per annum—13s. I think it is. That is a cost which is capable of reduction by arrangement with the medical profession. I want to ask, since it will cost only such a comparatively small sum to prevent all this hardship, that the Government should consider it. It may require fresh legislation, but even if it does, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the suggestion. It is a natural corollary, if you are to make the maintenance of the able-bodied unemployed a national charge, that medical benefit should be a national charge also.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Sir A. SHIRLEY BENN
I shall not keep the House more than a few minutes, but I wish to support the Amendment which was moved by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. L. Thompson). I am satisfied with the assurance that we have received from the Ministers who have spoken. I am not one of those who dub a Minister false; I have never found that if either of the Ministers concerned told you a thing he did not mean it and did not stick to it. I am perfectly satisfied that they are going to handle this matter to the best of their ability and for the benefit of the people. There are two points which I want to put. It was said by an hon. Member on the Opposition Benches that he could not understand how a Conservative could be in favour of this Amendment. I am a Conservative, and I am thoroughly in favour of the Amendment. Times change, and circumstances have to be met. People who are in public life and who do not realise that they have to deal with things as they come along in the best possible way at the time and for the good of the people, are not fit, in my humble opinion, to be in public life.
Our home life depends upon our trade and upon our people getting work. Our workmen, as we all acknowledge, are as good as you can find in any part of the world. They are one of our greatest assets. I look upon it as a duty of the nation to see that those workmen are kept in proper condition so as to be able to do the work when it comes along. We know that the existing conditions are a heritage of the War, that they have to be met and that they will be met; but 2688 they cannot be met unless we face the difficulties as they come up. I am confident, on this Amendment which the Government are going to accept, perhaps with some amendments—the Government know both sides of the question but we only know one—that the Government will do the very best thing that can be done in the circumstances.
I am one of the representatives of Sheffield. There is no city in this country that has borne more than Sheffield. Look at her during the War. Look at what she did. We brought into Sheffield thousands of men in order to provide munitions, and to my knowledge many of them wanted to leave after the War and they could not do so. They were not allowed to do so; the Government would not let them go back whence they came Why should the people of Sheffield pay for their maintenance? I believe that the country should do it, and I believe that the country is going to do it Sheffield has had a peculiar experience I looked up my district, and I got to know a good deal about it. From 1827 until 1921 there were only two years, 1887 and 1888, in which there were more than 10,000 people under the Poor Law. Look at what Sheffield is to-day. Look at the way people are taxed. Look how work is not coming in as we hoped it would do. I believe that it will come, and I believe that it will be vastly because of the Amendment which the Government have accepted that there will be a better result.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Mr. LECKIE
I have listened with very great interest to the Debate and especially to the speeches from the Opposition Bench. I am bound to say that I have been disappointed with the speeches of the Opposition. They have spent their time in grumbling criticism of the Government, and in suggesting a want of bona fides. I am, on the contrary, delighted at the way in which the difficulty has been met. I am especially disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) who went out of his way to show that he was not in any way disposed to throw bouquets at the Minister of Health. I can understand his annoyance because the announcement of the Minister of Health knocked the Motion of Censure into a cocked hat.
2689 The Motion reads:That this House regrets that instead of making the burden of unemployment a national charge"—the Minister announced that he accepted the principal that unemployment should be a national charge. Then the Motion goes on—His Majesty's Government have driven large numbers of able-bodied unemployed persons to seek the aid of the Poor Law.The Minister of Health announced that one of the main objects of the forthcoming Measure will be to take these people right out of the Poor Law. It is no wonder that the speeches from the Opposition Bench have been so ineffective. As one who has been working for some time in connection with this matter, I would like to throw a bouquet to the Minister of Health and to the Government for the announcement that has been made. I am sure that it will send a message of hope to the many depressed areas up and down the country, and will encourage the administrators and local authorities in those areas to carry on, feeling certain that the Government is going to do its job. I was especially glad to hear of the temporary relief that is going to be given. I welcome it because of the urgency of the matter, and I am sure that the Minister will implement what he has said, and that the money which is to be allocated to the depressed areas will be substantial enough to help them in their time of need. All the depressed areas are struggling along, and the matter is a very critical one. Therefore, I am very glad that at last we can see some daylight through our difficulties, and that the Government are going to tackle this question in a manner which will be satisfactory to all the depressed areas.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It would not be within the Motion or the Amendment to discuss the announcement of the President of the Board of Trade on the question of coal and coal quotas, and I would only say, in regard to it, that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be more successful with his coal negotiations than his colleague in the Cabinet was when he went to Canada to negotiate regarding coal. The Motion which we are discussing to-night stands in the names of hon. Members of the Labour party, and the Amendment stands in the names of 2690 some National Liberal and National Conservative Members. In effect, the Motion blames the present Government for driving large numbers of able-bodied persons to seek the aid of the Poor Law, and increasing the cost to local authorities. The Amendment says, in effect, that the charge of all able-bodied unemployed ought to be a national charge, falling on the national Exchequer. One of my reasons for intervening in this Debate is that I wish to re-state to the Labour party the views that I held before. They cannot, and I hope do not, complain about our reminding them of the past. After all, they must bear in mind that we were virtually expelled from the Labour party for not signing a, certain document, and if, perchance, we remind them of it, we do so in pursuance of what we think is our duty.
I listened to the defence put forward by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean). He said that the Anomalies Act was this and that, but the Labour Government passed that Act, and passed it deliberately. It was meant to put in jeopardy the benefit of four classes of workers, namely, married women, weekend or intermittent workers, seasonal workers, and short-time employés. The Act was meant to put every one of these people's benefit in jeopardy, and what it said, in effect, was worse than the policy of the present Government because, not only were these people to be refused unemployment benefit, but they were to be maintained by themselves, and were not even to be allowed to become a charge on the Poor Law authorities. The hon. Member for Govan made the defence that it was an advisory council, and that it exceeded its powers—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I only want to say that I believe that that Act was the forerunner of driving more people on to the Poor Law. It was the commencement, and you cannot assign responsibility on a particular day or in a particular week. It was done deliberately. So far as I am concerned, I regard those things as wrong and indefensible. Quite frankly, I also view with suspicion the proposals which have been put before us to-day by the Minister of Health. There is something more important than the question 2691 whether the cost should be national or local, and that is that the people should be relieved. I am more concerned about the people being relieved first than about who is to pay. There is to be a national charge. What does that mean? It means national responsibility and a national scale of relief, and the nation is not going to make a national scale without laying down the conditions.
Look at what is happening in the country now. Years ago it was only South Wales, parts of Scotland, and the North-East coast that were depressed areas, but to-day you can go to places like Margate and find a tremendous percentage of unemployed—almost a depressed area. Wherever you go, you will find whole classes of working people unemployed. One of the effects of the Anomalies Act was to attack people and make them depressed when they were not depressed before, and to-day whole areas are depressed that were not depressed a year or 18 months ago. The result is that the charge even now is becoming a national charge, but it is not uniform in its character. What is going to happen under this proposal for a national charge is that, while to-day certain districts are, comparatively speaking, generous to the poor, when it is made a national charge those areas which appear now to be generous will be compelled to reduce their standard of relief to that of the poorest and meanest districts in the country. An hon. Member shakes his head, but I say that every time the State has come in the State has made conditions, and the State will be faced with the necessity of making them as low as possible. So far as the conditions are concerned, I am guided by two principles. The first thing is that the unemployed must be relieved and, second, that the relief must be generous. If you make the conditions of getting benefit as easy as you can and make the amount high, I do not mind if it is national, but, if you make it difficult, I much prefer to see local than national administration. Every statesman in Europe is toying with the idea of some form of dictatorship, and these proposals are a move towards the dictatorship of the central Government over local authorities. I cannot look upon these proposals with a great deal of welcome. I do not blame this Government more than any other 2692 for driving people on to the Poor Law. The process was started before they undertook it. They threw the responsibility on to advisory committees. It was a cowardly and contemptible way of dealing with it. I am not at all enamoured of the Government's proposal to make it a national charge. I have neither the power nor the wish to make threats. The Government may win and we may lose but, in the years to come, the authors of this proposal will have no great credit for it.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The party to which I belong has been reproached from various parts of the House for putting this Vote of Censure on the Order Paper. In so far as the Minister's declaration has been satisfactory to Liberal and Conservative Members, the occasion of it was the Vote of Censure itself. I have had the pleasure of speaking to Liberal and Conservative Members in the last few weeks and I gathered that their interviews with the right hon. Gentleman and with the Prime Minister had been wholly unsatisfactory, and what I read in the Press confirmed the view that ad been conveyed to me by those present at the meeting. It must not, therefore, be regarded as sharp practice on our part to have put down a Vote of Censure which elicited what they regard as so satisfactory a reply from the Minister. I believe that, in so far as the Government have made any concession at all, it is to escape the embarrassment which would be caused by a Vote of Censure of this kind. I am sincere in saying that I believe it would have been an embarrassment if the Government had not made their reply, because I assume that hon. Members did not tell lies when they promised their constituents, and the deputation of Northern Mayors, that they would back them up. Indeed, I assume it would have embarrassed them if they had gone back on their pledge. Therefore, it was to save that embarrassment that the Minister of Health made his speech to-day. It really is rather hard lines that the Opposition should be complained against, because we have given them an opportunity of appearing to be virtuous in the country.
I have not been able to understand why the Debate has taken so complicated a turn, because the issue is a very simple one. There is no need to make long 2693 quotations and figures, because we are all very familiar with the facts. They have been discussed on the Floor of the House on many occasions, and they have been discussed upstairs ad nauseam, and those of us who have had long local government experience have been familiar with them for 10 or 12 years. There is nothing novel about the problem that the House is asked to consider. In my short life I have attended innumerable conferences dealing with what has been described as the distressed areas problem. But the House is not asked to consider primarily the distressed area problem. It is being asked to consider a very simple proposition. It is true that in the Motion we make a charge. We charge the Government with having driven men on to Poor Law relief. Does anyone challenge that? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] The number of able-bodied unemployed chargeable to local rates in September, 1931, was 281,558, and a very large number of them consisted of persons who had never been able to establish a title to benefit because they had never paid any contributions. In September, 1932, the figure was 543,287.
§ Mr. MAGNAY rose—
§ Mr. BEVAN
If hon. Members will study the figures, they will see that adults who were chargeable to the Poor Law really declined in 1924 and 1925, largely as a consequence of legislation by the then minority Labour Government. They declined steadily throughout the whole period of the Conservative administration until 1929, and they declined almost immediately after the last Labour Government took office. Indeed, I recall a Debate which took place in this House in which, I believe, the present Minister of Labour said that our not-genuinely-seeking-work Clause would have the effect of bringing large numbers of people upon the insurance scheme who would not otherwise be there. The Ministry of Health officials submitted a White Paper in which they showed that the effect of it would be to make chargeable to national funds 120,000 more adult workers annually. It was proved to be correct. 2694 The legislation of the Labour Government did, in fact, transfer a large amount of the burden from the shoulders of the Poor Law authorities to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The facts are against hon. Members. An impartial and strict examination of them by any reputable Government statistician would prove that the Government have driven people to the Poor Law. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not so!"] Even if I admit the point—it has not been proved because the figures have not been divided up—that large numbers of people have gone to the Poor Law as a, consequence of the Anomalies Act, you have been sitting here for 18 months and could have stopped it any day you liked. Hon. Members who get up now and in a mealy-mouthed manner pretend to have sympathy for the distressed areas, have sat here for 18 months, when they could get a Bill through the House of Commons in two hours if they wanted to do so. [Interruption.] We are supposed to accept all the charges here mildly without throwing any back. We have been accused this evening by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) of putting down a Vote of Censure in what he almost described as a frivolous manner. He could not understand why it was put down. It was put down for the purpose of finding out how far you believe in the House what you say in the country.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
The hon. Member referred to me, and my answer is, that what I have been saying in the country is contained exactly in the terms of the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Thompson). That is what I am supporting here.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I will examine in a moment the terms of the Amendment, but I would simply point out at this stage of the proceedings that, so far from it being put down as a strategical manoeuvre, it is deliberately narrowed in order to prevent the hon. Member from wandering away. The first part of the Vote of Censure is obviously subject to objective proof. No hon. Member up till now has adduced anything against it. The other part of the Motion on the Order Paper is a very simple one. It is merely repeating on the Order Paper of the House of Commons what the deputation from the north asked for. That is 2695 all. It merely repeats in the simplest form that for which every local authority in Great Britain has now asked. It asks that the Government shall accept the responsibility for the maintenance of all the able-bodied poor. Is that a very new, original or complicated principle I Is there any complication even in carrying it out?
The Minister of Health delivered what I thought was one of the ablest speeches to which I have ever listened in the House of Commons. I thought it was a masterly exposition of a very difficult case. If the Prime Minister has the art of making a clear thing ambiguous, the Minister of Health has the art of making an ambiguous thing clear. The only quality which exceeded the clarity of the proposal which he put before the House was his exposition. We understand that the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland is acceptable to the Government. No one doubted it. It simply repeats the existing situation. I understand that able-bodied unemployed men are maintained in three ways (1) by benefits received from the insurance scheme, (2) by transitional payments made from the Exchequer, and (3) amounts raised from the local rates. Therefore, there is a divided responsibility for their maintenance. What is proposed in the Amendment? Exactly the same thing. It divides the obligation for maintaining the able-bodied unemployed between the State and the local authorities. It puts in the word "all" able-bodied men. It will be quite easy far the Minister of Health within the limitations contained in his statement to-day to accept the Amendment and still leave the local authorities finding as much money as they are finding now, and he can do that within the terms of the Amendment. I listened to the hon. Member for Sunderland, because he has been described as one of the leading authorities on unemployment insurance. I wanted to have the benefit of his luminous intelligence and knowledge, but I did not gather from him anything as to the proportion in which the burden is to be divided. I want to know how much the local authorities are still to find and how much the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
2696 The Minister of Health told us that in his long-term scheme all the able-bodied unemployed of the country, including those in receipt of benefit from insurance schemes, are to be chargeable to the national Exchequer and are to be subject to a national administration, with such modifications of the block grant system as will be equitable as between the two. Therefore, although he said that he who calls the piper should play the tune, in future the local authorities are going to pay the piper and he is going to call the tune. The local authorities at the moment are making a certain contribution and they will still be making a certain contribution by loss of block grant, but they will have no administrative responsibility of any sort. Therefore, although they will be called upon to make a contribution of an unknown quantity for the maintenance of the unemployed they will not be allowed any voice in the administrative management. I would ask the Members of the Liberal party how they can find that answer satisfactory having regard to their own Amendment. We know that the Liberal party is not yet prepared to cross the Jordan. We know that it is their policy to wait until they have some vital principle of disagreement with the Government. At present they are only too anxious to remain where they are and to seek every excuse to stay there. Always they are going to declare war in the future. In the words of a certain Persian poet:Oh the brave music of a distant drum.They put down an Amendment on the Order Paper in the clearest possible terms. They said that they desire that all the money that the local authorities are now finding for the maintenance of the able-bodied poor shall be found by the Exchequer. They have not had that from the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health has said, "You still must lose block grant." I therefore submit that hon. Members in trying to shelter behind the statement of the Minister of Health are simply trying to give the shadow of the reply to the northern areas and to keep the substance of it in the hands of the Minister of Health all the time. This is not a very difficult problem to solve. It is merely one of cash. We have to decide who is to carry the burden—the local authorities, the State or the unemployed. Up to now the Members of the National Government 2697 and their supporters in the House of Commons have said, that the unemployed must carry it. The hon. Member for Newcastle, East (Sir R. Aske) gave instances of malnutrition and starvation of unemployed people. Who starved them? He did. I may seem to be speaking strongly, but I have lived for 10 years in the most distressed district in Great Britain.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member not misleading the House when he quotes only one part of a document?
§ Mr. BEVAN
To-day at Question Time the Minister of Labour, answering a question, said that last year the unemployed had lost £30,000,000 which they would not have lost had the old rates been in existence. Hon. Members get up and quote instances of suffering among the unemployed; but those are the people from whom the Government took the £30,000,000. The Minister of Health said that the first evidence of starvation and deterioration among the unemployed was starvation, malnutrition or deterioration in the children. The medical officer of health for Monmouthshire recently conducted an investigation in the schools, and made a comparison between the children in those schools where unemployment had been continuous and those in which there had been some employment. He proved that the children in the first class of school were seven to eight pounds lighter in weight and one and a half inches to two inches shorter than the children in the rest of the country. And hon. Members opposite have the impudence to say that unemployed people are not starved. The Noble Lady said that it was possible to take an inch and a half off the length of a child—
Stop. I have had that remark put up against me before, that if you take three inches off the height of a child it is not starvation. I do not say that the children in Monmouthshire are starved, but I agree that they are not in such a good condition as those of the rest of the country.
§ Mr. BEVAN
It is perfectly true that, up to now, the unemployed people have not been staggering about the streets too weak to hold themselves up, but although they are not being starved in that sense, yet if malnutrition, under-nourishment, and physical deterioration are evidence of starvation, then they are starved. What do hon. Members want? Surely they do not want the unemployed to die before they admit that they are starved! From those people the Government took £30,000,000.
I wish to refer directly to the scheme of the Minister of Health. He proposes his system of national administration. We on these benches support the principle of national administration, and also that of making this administration a national charge—not in the interests of local authorities as such, but in the interests of the unemployed. We want the unemployed to have a better deal, and we think that if they are made chargeable to distressed local authorities, those local authorities will not be able to give them a square deal. What, however, we do not desire to see is unemployment made a national charge, and the administration of Durham County made a model of what the Government is to do. I will make a phophecy: When the Government have made unemployment a national charge, the total expenditure upon the maintenance of the unemployed in all categories will be less than it is now. From what the Minister of Health has said to-day the fact appears that neither the ratepayer nor the taxpayer is going to carry the burden, but it will be carried by the unemployed men and women themselves. If what I have said is occurring in my county, where they are trying to administer the need test as generously as possible, what must be happening in Durham County, where much lower scales are allowed?
I ask the Minister of Health, under what Department are the unemployed to be? Are they to be under the Minister of Health or under the Minister of 2699 Labour? Who is to have charge? Is the need test to be applied universally throughout Great Britain on the Durham principles? Are the unemployed all over Great Britain to be subject to commissioners? Are the Government going to try to add to the £30,000,000 they have already saved? What is the proposal of the Government? What right have they to ask us to accept their reply as satisfactory when all these fundamental questions are not yet answered? The Lord President of the Council is present. We say this to the Government: In Durham County in the course of the last week or so there have been many ugly scenes. Like the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) I do not want to make any threats at all, but if in the carrying out of this long scheme of administration the Government put commissioners in charge and do in South Wales what they are already doing in Durham, it will cost them more in the maintenance of police and soldiers than they will save in relief.
I am tired of cant and hyprocrisy. The party opposite stripped us of all power, and by stripping us of all power they stripped themselves of all excuse for failure. I say to the Government, we cannot stop you doing anything. You have the power in your own hands. [An HON. MEMBER: "The people gave it!"] An hon. Member says, "The people gave it ! Why do you not try to justify it? Why do you not play the game? [HON. MEMBERS: "We do !"] You are not playing the game. The Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour were the first to screw up things all over the country. This National Government is being carried on the shoulders of starving, depressed, heartbroken people. I say to hon. Members opposite that they have a very grave responsibility in this matter. The distressed areas are hoping that this House will do something to help them. The Minister of Health is simply walking off by making a concession which means very little; and when the legislation which this Debate indicates actually emerges, the Government will simply deliver another blow to the heart-broken people in Wales and Monmouthshire.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Boyd Merriman)
This certainly has been a remarkable Debate. The hon. Member 2700 for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) said he could not understand why it had taken so complicated a turn. May I for a moment remind the House what has happened in the course of the Debate? We began at four o'clock with a Vote of Censure on the Government for not doing something which, within a very few minutes the Minister of Health announced, as people in all parts of the House hoped he might announce, that he was going to do. We then had a speech from the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), full of the sound and fury to which we have become so accustomed, and which fitted so ill one of the leaders of the retreat from responsibility in 1931. Of course we were told that it was all due to the Socialist Codlin and not at all to the National Government Short that the depressed areas were going to be relieved, and that he was going to hand out no congratulations for the vague and evasive proposals of my right hon. Friend and then, as it were, the curtain went down on Act I. Hardly had the curtain gone up on the second Act, than my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, not perhaps speaking exactly according to the book of the words, came on and made one of the most cheerful announcements that we heard. Then the Leader of the Opposition, whose name as it happens is first among the names attached to the Vote of Censure, proposed a vote of thanks to the President of the Board of Trade for what he was about to do for the depressed industries of this country.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I only wanted to join in what was evidently intended to be a little Easter joy for the hon. Members opposite.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
That, of course, is a very proper spirit, but think we all hoped that the right hon. Gentleman was, at any rate, sincere, and, as I say, he proposed a vote of thanks to the President of the Board of Trade, and that was carried nemine contradicente. In due course, when Hamlet had spoken his part according to the words, and someone who is accustomed to take the lead in another play had come on and. I will not say had "gagged," but had, as it were, announced the Relief of Mafeking in the middle of the second act of Hamlet, we came to the third act, and 2701 the lot of the man who has to come on at the end of the third act and play the part of "third gentleman" is not a happy one. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has reminded us that we are discussing a Vote of Censure on the Government. True, the Leader of the Opposition said the Motion was only put down in that form for the purpose of securing a day for its discussion from my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury. True, also that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale explained that it was put down in order that he might find out whether the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) really meant what he had been saying in the country. Still, I would remind the House that we are discussing a Vote of Censure on the Government.
Before I come to that topic, however, may I answer one or two questions which were asked during the Debate? The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough asked whether he was right in his recollection of what the Minister said as to the proportions of the contribution. He was quite right. The Government are giving one unit for two contributed by the local authorities. In other words, the Government contribute one-third. He went on to ask whether it would be necessary to revise the formula, and the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) asked what would be the exact amount available for the distressed areas. Both the hon. Members are good Liberals, and they will not misunderstand me when I say that one of their prominent leaders provided three classic monosyllables in which that question could be answered. Manifestly, all questions of the finance of the scheme are matters for negotiation with the local authorities when the time comes. It is quite impossible for me to give a categorical answer to either of those questions.
Let me come back again to the Vote of Censure. The right hon. Member for Wakefield committed himself to the statement that the distressed areas were bound to get worse under the present Government, and the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), who moved the Vote of Censure, after reminding the House that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council had once stated that the most important thing was to relieve the basic industries of the countries, asked 2702 what the Government had done to relieve the depressed industries and the depressed areas. May I, in a sentence or two, remind the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member what the Government have already done; and I am not prepared to exclude from the depressed industries or distressed areas the whole of the agricultural areas of this country.
Let us begin then with the countryside, and as we are thinking of spring products, let us remember for a moment the Horticultural Imports Act, and ask whether people in Cornwall or those who own glasshouses in Essex, to mention nobody else, think the Government have done nothing for the distressed areas. Then there was an Act called the Wheat Act. I do not know whether any farmers in the eastern counties agree that the Government have done nothing for the farmers, and my own experience, as I know the west better than the east, is that even in the west, where they are not primarily concerned with wheat, they are beginning to think there is something in the Wheat Act for them too. Then what about the rest of the farming community? Do they not recognise at any rate that the regulation of meat imports into this country is going to do something for the farmers?
I will now come to the depressed areas in the strict sense of the word. Is nobody in the engineering trades or in the iron and steel industries in the least interested in the import duties which have been put on during the life of the present Government, and are none of them likely to be at all cheered up by the trade treaties which we heard were so intimately connected with those trades this afternoon? Just to mention one other thing, even the Government's slum clearance scheme may bring a ray of hope to the building trade. When all is said and done, all these things, taken one with another, are breeding confidence in the country, and they are not only breeding confidence, but they are at the same time recreating the home markets, out of which recreation every one of them will get the benefit. The benefit of one reacts on the other, whether you are benefiting the countryside or whether you are also benefiting the towns, and if you benefit the heavy industrial areas, you also benefit the countryside. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield has the effrontery to come here and tell the 2703 House that the future of the depressed areas is bound to get worse and worse under the present Government.
Though it is true that the general effect of all these things is bound to be beneficial in the long run, it must be admitted that there may be areas where the benefit will not be felt at once. It may be admitted that there are areas in which for the time being during the transitional period there may even be an adverse effect, and it is for that reason that, since we can fairly claim that no Government in our generation have ever taken so large a hand in regulating the conditions in which trade may revive and industry may have a hope of flourishing, it is true that the country expects the Government to shoulder the main burden for the able-bodied unemployed. However successful any of these measures may be, everybody is bound to acknowledge that there must be a period—I do not care whether it is 10 months or 10 years—where a certain number of people—and for the purposes of the argument I do not care whether it is 10,000 or 1,000,000—are bound to be unable to get the employment for which they are fitted and which in times before the War they might reasonably have expected to get. We have all to acknowledge that, for it is a commonplace of the industrial situation.
If I may just speak simply my own point of view about this business, I would like
§ to put it in this way. One of the great scandals in our pre-War history in the earlier campaigns before the later days of the 19th century was that we allowed the wounded and disabled soldiers of our campaigns to rely on the resources of vagrancy and to take on the stigma of pauperism. We can claim, at any rate, that that stain has been removed from this country in connection with any recent campaigns. But the country is now suffering from the effects of an industrial cataclysm unprecedented in our time, the effects of which are not less grievous than were the effects of the Great War, and in which those who are disabled, not physically but disabled for earning, are comparable in numbers even to the wounded during the Great War; because, as my right hon. Friend reminded the House, to-day we are not merely concerned with the weekly numbers, but with the number of individuals who in the course of the year, for some period or another, are not employed. To remove from these people the stain of pauperism is to do no more than justice to them, is to do no injustice to anybody else, and must redound to the credit of the Government which has achieved this reform.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 46; Noes, 384.2707
|Division No. 148.]||AYES.||[10.45 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Banfield, John William||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Groves, Thomas E.||Milner, Major James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Buchanan, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Dobbie, William||Lunn, William|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Aske, Sir Robert William||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. p. G.||Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Atholl, Duchess of||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Atkinson, Cyril||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley|
|Alexander, Sir William||Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Bernays, Robert|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J,||Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Blaker, Sir Reginald|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Boothby, Robert John Graham|
|Apsley, Lord||Balniel, Lord||Borodale, Viscount|
|Boulton, W. W.||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Ganzoni, Sir John||Lymington, Viscount|
|Bracken, Brendan||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Mabane, William|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Gledhill, Gilbert||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Glossop, C. W. H.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Brawn, Ernest (Leith)||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Goff, Sir Park||McKeag, William|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Goldie, Noel B.||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Buchan, John||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||McLesan, Major Sir Alan|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Gower, Sir Robert||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian|
|Burghley, Lord||Granville, Edgar||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Magnay, Thomas|
|Burnett, John George||Graves, Marjorie||Maitland, Adam|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Greene, William P. C.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M,|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Grimston, R. V.||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Meller, Richard James|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Carver, Major William H.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Cassels, James Dale||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Milne, Charles|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Hales, Harold K.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Hanbury, Cecil||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Gazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hanley, Dennis A.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Harbord, Arthur||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Hartington, Marquess of||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm., W)||Hartland, George A.||Moors-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Most, Captain H. J.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. 0. J. (Aston)||Munro, Patrick|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Nail, Sir Joseph|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Hopkinson, Austin||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hornby, Frank||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Horobin, Ian M.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Howard, Tom Forrest||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Nunn, William|
|Croom-Johnson, R, P.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Cross, R. H.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Ormiston, Thomas|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hurd, Sir Percy||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Curry, A. C.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Janner, Barnett||Pearson, William G.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Jennings, Roland||Peat, Charles U.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Penny, Sir George|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Dickie, John P.||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Petherick, M.|
|Doran, Edward||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Peto, Geoffrey K (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Ker, J. Campbell||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Duggan Hubert John||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Kimball, Lewrence||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Knebworth, Viscount||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Edge, Sir William||Knight, Holford||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Ramsay, T, B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Rankin, Robert|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Leckie, J. A.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ray, Sir William|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Lees-Jones, John||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Levy, Thomas||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Liddall, Walter S.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Llewellin, Major John J.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Fox, Sir Gilford||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Remer, John R.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Somervllie, Annesley A (Windsor)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Soper, Richard||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Sotheron-Ertcourt, Captain T. E.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Rose Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Runge, Norah Cecil||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Spens, William Patrick||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Stevenson, James||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Salt, Edward W.||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Stones, James||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Storey, Samuel||White, Henry Graham|
|Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Stourton, Hon. John J.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Strauss, Edward A.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Savery, Samuel Servington||Strickland, Captain W, F.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Scone, Lord||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Selley, Harry R.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Shuts, Colonel J. J.||Summersby, Charles H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)||Sutcliffe, Harold||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Skelton, Archibald Noel||Tate, Mavis Constance||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Thompson, Luke||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Thorp, Linton Theodore||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Smith, R. W.(Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Smithers, Waldron||Touche, Gordon Cosmo||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Somervell, Donald Bradley||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Proposed words there added.
That this House resolves that responsibility for assistance to all able-bodied unemployed not over 65 years of age should be accepted by the Government, with such readjustment in financial relations between Exchequer and local authorities as is reasonable, having special regard to the necessities of distressed areas.