§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [30th November], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:
§ "this House declines to assent to the Second Reading of an Unemployment Bill which fails to recognise that all the victims of the unemployment which is inherent in the modern system of industrial capitalism are entitled to equal and honourable treatment and maintenance from national funds so as to preserve intact their value to and status in the community."—[Mr. Greenwood.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I desire to continue the discussion on the Amendment for the rejection of this Bill, and I want to say here that, so far as we are concerned, we are entirely opposed to the Bill in every shape and form. We take our stand, as is well known, in favour of a completely non-contributory scheme of benefits and allowances for the unemployed of this country. No doubt it is the duty of the Government to pilot the Measure through the House, to defend the substance of the Bill, and to take their stand on the Bill in the country after they have brought it in. The report of the Unemployment Insurance Commission, of which this Bill is the outcome, was the result, as everybody knows, of the deliberations of a Commission set up by the late Labour Government. The late Labour Government set up what might be regarded as a completely Tory Commission to inquire into what action" should be taken in order to put unemployment insurance in this country on a sound actuarial basis. The fund for a long time had been gradually going into a more and more bankrupt state, and various Governments in this House postponed taking action along these lines because, according to their advisers and to their own opinion, the depression that was taking place in this country was of a temporary nature. Various Govern- 1500 ments since 1918 or 1920 hoped, like Micawber, that something would turn up to put the fund into a state of greater solvency, but as time has gone on from 1918, the fund has gone more and more into that state of insolvency that we have seen within the last year or two.
Owing to the fact that large sums of money had to be found from the taxpayers of the country in order to balance Budgets and deal with unemployment insurance, there were the usual scares that large numbers of people were drawing benefit who were not entitled to benefit, and we had wild stories from one end of the country to the other about unemployed people living in a state of complete affluence who were not anxious to work, and who were drawing benefits from the Employment Exchanges. If I may digress for a momant, I was surprised to hear, in the Debate the other day, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who is usually credited with being astute and fair in discussion, introduce the old bogy of the man with £1,000 in the bank who was drawing unemployment benefit. This argument about the man with £l,000 in the bank has been used by many people in the Liberal, Tory and Labour parties at various times, in order to keep great masses of the people in destitution and in poverty.
The Labour Government took action by setting up a commission. In most cases, when Governments in the past, Liberal and Tory, set up commissions, those commissions were composed of their particular supporters-people who believed in capitalism in every phase; but the Labour party, hoping to carry on as a Government, appointed a Tory commission with a small percentage of moderate Labour representation, in the hope that its recommendations would get through the House. We have been told from time to time on Labour platforms that it was the Liberal party that forced them to adopt the personnel of this commission, and that, if they had been able and free, they would have appointed a more sympathetic commission in connection with unemployment insurance. I am not going to grumble about the members of the commission. They believed in capitalism, and they believed that capitalism can only be carried on by protecting the people at the top at the 1501 expense of the great majority of people at the bottom. If that be their point of view, I have no grudge against them. But there were demands for interim reports, and in the first place a report was presented, and the Labour Government took action on that report. When this commission was set up, the then Minister of Labour, Miss Bondfield, said this:We wish it to be recognised that the Royal Commission will be required to give us what light they can on the additional experience since the Blanesburgh inquiry; and upon the further evidence which they will collect and upon which they will base their recommendations we shall have to frame the next Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1931; col. 911, Vol. 248.]That was the statement of Miss, Bond-field, that when this Tory commission reported, the Labour party, if in office, would be prepared to accept its recommendations and upon them to frame the Bill. I want to say at this stage, that in connection with the first report that was made concerning the Anomalies Act—and I raise this point because it is important—this Bill is simply a continuation of the recommendations which were made and carried into effect. The first portion was the Anomalies Act, which was more outrageous in many ways than this Bill, bad as it is, because it deprived large numbers of people of the whole of the benefit they were drawing at the Employment Exchange. We have been making history within the last week or so. Mr. Greenwood, on 30th November last, speaking of the abolition of the not-genuinely-seeking-work Clause said:When the late Labour Government altered that regulation and shifted the onus of proof from the worker there was a great outcry about anomalies, and the Anomalies Act was passed to meet the clamour in the House of Commons. The Anomalies Act still remains, although the justification for it has gone."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1933; col. 1105, Vol. 283.]He said that if this Bill passes, it will introduce practically a new not-genuinely-seeking-work Clause, and therefore the Anomalies Act is absolutely unnecessary. If that be true, I want to ask this question. We had a declaration last week from the Labour party concerning the means test. I want to know if they stand for the abolition of the Anomalies Act in its entirety. I am asking the official Labour Opposition, because if we make progress in the way they were doing last 1502 week in throwing over the means test, and they can throw over the Anomalies Act, then in about 50 years' time they will be competent to defend the working classes of this country. I am putting it to them definitely, in order to get it in the country, where they stand according to that statement, because, in my assumption, it is drawn up with a view to encouraging the belief in the country that they stand for the rejection of the Anomalies Act. I want to know whether they are prepared at this stage to declare for the overthrow of the Anomalies Act along with the means test, and not to go on defending the indefensible, while at the same time going to the country and making people believe that they are not supporters of either of these Measures. This is an attempt, in answer to the recommendations of the Commission, to put the fund on a sound actuarial basis. All Governments have been struggling for that, and the Prime Minister at Bedford on 14th November, 1930, when he was Prime Minister of the Labour Government, said:Unemployment insurance as an insurance must be put back on an insurance basis.In October, 1930, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Snowden, at the Guildhall, said:I think it is the duty of Parliament to face up to this problem, and put the Insurance Fund on an insurance basis.There was no repudiation of that point of view by the rank and file Members of the Labour party at that time. It is all very well to say, "We have now got rid of the Prime Minister. We have now got rid of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have got rid of the intellectuals, and, therefore, we can go along and pretend in the House that we are a working-class party, that we have left our philosophy and policy of make-believe behind, or in front on this bench, and we stand as an orthodox working-class party." I would welcome an open declaration in the country by the Labour party that they have repudiated their past policy, and have taken a new line which is necessary according to the conditions we see to-day. But I see no change from the actual line of policy which operated when the Labour party were sitting on the other side of the House.
1503 The Labour party over this Bill are in a very difficult position, and I sympathise with them, because everything contained in the Bill they stood for. Last week they threw over publicly the means test in this House, although it still remains part of the policy of the Labour party at its annual conference, and it is not throwing over the test in any shape or form. It was done on the eve of the introduction of this Bill. They can only say that they stood against a Poor Law test, and as the Government now propose to take the power out of the hands of the actual Poor Law authorities, they had to queer the pitch last week in order to make a semblance in this House. I say that it is hypocritical in the extreme to come down to this House after the decision of an annual conference for the carrying out of a means test, and to say at that bench that they stand for the rejection of the means test in its entirety.
I remember the hon. Gentleman for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) making the statement in this House, shortly after the beginning of this Parliament, that they had rejected a means test, though there have been open declarations by the Leader of the party that he stood for the means test. I do not care what Members are inclined to mutter or whisper. I say that if we know the policy of the Tory party, we are entitled to know the policy of the Labour party. They have no right to say that the Tory stands for the starvation of the working classes under the Insurance Bill, when they themselves during 1929 and 1930 walked into the Division Lobby for a 2s. standard for the unemployed man's child, and go back again to the country, as they did at Kilmarnock, and condemn this brutal Government—and I believe it is brutal. They are not justified in going to the country and saying that there is any demarcation, or line of division, between themselves and the Government at the present moment.
Therefore, I say that we have really no official Opposition in this House. We have a sham Opposition. We have elements in the Labour party that do not approve of the means test, that did not approve of the Anomalies Act, that do not approve of any parts of the Labour party policy, but they will go to the by-elections and back candidates who 1504 go for all these things, and claim independence in the House while tied to the party machine in the country in every way. Let us hear what Mr. Citrine, speaking for the Trades Union Congress, said:We therefore suggest that an Unemployment Benefit board should be constituted of three nominees of the Trades Union Congress General Council, three nominees of employers' organisations, one nominee from the Ministry of Labour and one nominee from the Treasury, together with an independent chairman.Our old friend the independent chairman! Where they get the illusion that there is such a person as an independent chairman, I do not know: he must either be drawn from the ruling class or the working class, either from the exploiters or the exploited. But the board comes along, and these people say that the board is all wrong, because the National Government have adopted the policy of the Trades Union Council and they see it in print. It reminds me of the soldiers of whom the famous General said, "I don't know what you think, but, by Heaven, they frighten me!" When they see the actual thing put into a Bill they say, "We do not want that," like a child buying a toy; it wants an engine, and, having got that, wants a doll. To continue the quotation:We are convinced that the formation and functioning of such a board, by largely removing the question of unemployment benefit from the arena of party politics and by relieving the legislative congestion of Parliament"— I have seen the congestion when it has five months holiday in the year—will ensure sound administration of the scheme on democratic and business-like lines.That is Mr. Citrine, of the Trades Union Congress. We shall be told by some people that he does not matter, but we know that he does matter. They are the men who walk to the rostrum with 250,000 votes never asked for by the rank and file, and vote down elements that are Socialistic in the movement.
We are attempting to put the fund on a sound actuarial basis. We never attempt to put the Army and Navy on a sound actuarial basis. We never consider the cost of battleships, of guns, of tanks, of poison gas, of rifles, of Dreadnoughts, of submarines, of airships or aeroplanes. They are all put as a burden 1505 on to the people in order, we are told, to defend the interests of the country if it had to go to war. Why should we have to put human beings below that level? People are not unemployed because they want to be unemployed. People are running around and appealing in every way to get employment.
The Unemployment Fund is in a state of insolvency, because capitalism is in a state of insolvency, not because individuals are not anxious or willing to work, not because they have done something deadly in the line of crime in any way. They are anxious and willing to work, but the State cannot give them employment, and as capitalism declines and declines, and goes headlong into disaster, with every step downward on the private profit-making system, various Governments come along to the House, and it is the fifteen and threepenny man, to whom the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) referred, who has to go down another step. I am not adverse to economy; I am not averse to sacrifices, to pruning with the knife, but I want to start from the top, and not from the bottom. I think that is the only logical way, and if you are going to place everyone on a means test, let us go right down the rungs of the ladder, and the man at the bottom will go up.
The National Government, like their predecessors, say that they must put this fund upon a sound actuarial basis. The system of privately-owned industry has ceased to be self-supporting and, therefore, the needs of the unemployed must be adjusted to meet the needs of a bankrupt system of society. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) yesterday approved the Bill as a sound, courageous piece of legislation. I do not see where the soundness of it is. I do not see where the courage is required, because I never thought it was courageous to set up machinery for the purpose of attacking the common people. The hon. Member said that before any of the cuts were restored to the teachers or to any other persons, including Members of Parliament I assume, there should be a 1s. extra for each child. Even that is a revolutionary demand compared with the Labour party.
The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) last night waved his hands and carried on, threatening the Govern- 1506 ment and the ruling class with what the Labour party would do if they got into power. I know what they would do. He said, "We will assist the common people; we will abolish the means test, and we will take away the whole of this outrageous legislation."
In December, 1930, when the Independent Labour party proposed 5s. for the unemployed man's child, he walked into the Lobby with the landowners, the coal-owners and the royalty owners and declared that 2s. was sufficient for the children of the unemployed man. It takes a brass cheek to come to the House and pose as a defender of the common people after having voted with Members of different political parties for a continuation of what is described by several medical men as a miserably inadequate scale of benefit for the unemployed man's child. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock said this was a courageous piece of legislation. They are doing a very drastic thing to the children from 14 to 16 years of age. They are taking 2d. a week from them, and at 15½ or 15 and 9 months, if they become unemployed, the father, who may be unemployed also, is going to be able to return to the 2s. standard for the three or six months until the child is 16. Is not that a courageous thing? The Government are giving 2s. a week for a boy of 15½ or 15 and 9 months with practically all the wants and desires of a man, including entertainment, food and recreation under this bold, comprehensive, courageous scheme brought in by the strong men of the House.
The Prime Minister and his so-called National Labour supporters are in a coalition of all the elements which at one time they denounced. I do not say that people have not a right to change minds and their ideas, but he has become contaminated and debauched by the association of the Londonderry's and others who are his daily companions. He told the country over the wireless—fancy a man claiming to be a Socialist saying this: "We are putting through the cuts, but we want it to be understood that we are not cutting the 2s. benefit of the child." Was not that a generous thing, was it not a civilised thing, was it not a Christian thing that a great man with £5,000 a year, and another member of his family with £1,250 or £1,500, were not going to put through any cuts on the child drawing 1507 2s. a week. I remember the time during the War when I went with the Prime Minister to Glasgow. I was looked upon as the leader of his bodyguard. I helped to defend him with rubber pipes, lead pipes and various instruments of warfare at peace meetings. I never believed he was much of a Socialist, but I thought at least he would put up some fight in the War, and we defended him. At that time the Press, Liberal and Tory, were hounding him from one end of the country to the other, but to-day he is their darling and, when he sits on that bench, they all get behind him like beasts of the jungle in order to attack the working-class. I have been in houses where, since these cuts have been made, the people were practically broken hearted over what they termed his betrayal of working-class interests. They had almost worshipped the man, but now his name stinks in the very nostrils of every decent minded progressive individual throughout the length and breadth of the land. He played the Judas to the class who put him into supreme power and authority, and he used the poverty of the common people to get on to that bench and become the puppet and the darling of the people with whom he is now associated.
What is the reason for the introduction of this legislation? It is simply that it is not the people in the House who rule. It is not the landowners; it is not the capitalists. We have a new financial ruling class, and the financial dictators lay down the lines of Parliamentary business, and they lay down to the Cabinet their wishes and desires, because they own and control almost every human being from one end of the land to the other. They are the King Herods of our 1933 civilisation. They abstract the energy of human beings in employment in order to provide luxury for themselves and their friends and, when creeping paralysis has overtaken industry and they can no longer employ the workers, they reduce their standards to the level of starvation and degrade the mothers and young women and destroy children more rapidly than King Herod under the system that is in operation to-day. Under this Bill you will make permanent the cuts which have been operated by the so-called National Government. The hon. Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) said yesterday 1508 that the country had been cheated by the application of these cuts. We were told that they were temporary and that as soon as the crisis had passed away they would be restored, and he demanded that they should be restored. He only showed that he was a simple supporter of the National Government, because the very essence of capitalist decline in every part of the world means that capitalism can never be stabilised and will never be out of crisis until it is finally destroyed in every way.
Under this Bill you are dealing with one important feature, the question of training. The late Minister of Labour, Miss Bondfield, approved of training, and the Labour party at that time were committed to it. But the Bill sets up what might be termed slave camps. I believe they are practically on the model of the camps that have been set up by Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy, and I can see at every stage of your legislation that you are quietly and cunningly setting up a dictatorship which, at any given moment, can suppress the whole of working-class institutions and working-class freedom and which may take the ownership and control of the lives of every human being and completely put your schemes of dictatorship into operation without a struggle. There is one called High Lodge at Brandon in Suffolk. There is no need for ex-service men to picture this. He knows what a desolate camp in the middle of a moor is like. He lived in them and they almost made going to War seem intolerable. Each man receives 3s. for each of the 12 weeks that he is at camp. If he is a man receiving 15s. 3d. in benefit, the Government deduct 12s. Whatever the man's financial position, he gets the standard 3s. rate of pay. I would never suggest that they would ask a man to work for nothing. They are not as mean as that. They give him 3s. a week. At first he is given light work to do and then, after physical exercise, he is promoted to heavier work.
At High Lodge this consists of cutting trenches to guard again forest fires, land drainage and reclamation and trenching and shoring. No wonder the men sing, "Yield not to temptation." It is difficult to see what temptation they could yield to on 3s. a week in such a hell- 1509 hole, except the temptation to run away. They are up early-early to bed and early to rise. The ordinary men rise at 6, and the others at 6.30. After breakfast at 8 o'clock they start the day's work. The work is of the hardest description, and all for 3s. a week. The camps are full of men who have been kidded on to volunteer. The new Bill gives the Unemployment Assistance Committee power to make them compulsory. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who says this?"] The hon. Member is assuming that it is the "Daily Herald," but he is quite wrong. I would never quote from the "Daily Herald." It is the "Daily-Worker." There is another camp at Dunoon where the work is swinging a pick or hammer for eight hours a day. If you are caught smoking during working hours, the manager threatens to send you home, which means a loss of six weeks' money at the Exchange. It is just like the Army. You go on parade after breakfast and dinner and a loudmouthed instructor bawls out to his heart's content. If you want to go home for the week end, it costs a matter of 6s.—a fortnight's pay.
We have no hope of defeating the desire of the Government to carry out the training camps, but we are certainly not without hope of being able to stir up trouble outside the House. We do not hope to convert Members to our point of view, but there is a great mass of people in the country whom we have hope of converting, because they are the unconscious victims of the present system. Therefore, they should be encouraged to revolt. Every action and activity, and line of obstruction and attack that we can take will be taken in connection with the attempt to put training camps into operation in this country; to use men in that way and put them into military camps and upon the soup kitchen standard of life. It is something like the German prisoners of war camps. We have got to a fine stage in this system of capitalism. Your system is going down into degradation when all that you can do and work for is to use their bodies ·and prepare them for future warfare in defence of capitalism in this country and abroad. We shall do all that we can to obstruct, not only the passage of the Bill, but to destroy the effect of the Bill in its application outside.
1510 There is the question of political influence which has been raised on many occasions. Every speaker says: "I am glad to see that this is being taken out of the political arena." Why should it be taken out of the political arena? Why should not working men and women be able to make known to their representatives their wishes and desires in a so-called democratic country? Why should they not be able to make demands upon the willing or unwilling politicians in this country? Why should it be taken out? There is no objection to the long line of financial deputations which come to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and no objection to lobbying, correspondence and Press which come to Members of this House. If you do not take particular interest in them, they threaten to turn their army and hoards against you at the election. That is all legitimate. It applies to big business and to the exploiting section, but we are not to be allowed to have the men and women who have fallen into the gutter in the backlands and in the slums coming to political meetings and demanding a humane standard of life from the governing authority and the ruling classes of the country. We see tariff boards, and lobby and Ministerial deputations permitted. I say that to keep unemployment insurance in politics is not only the life of politics, but it helps to galvanise, inspire and to keep going those who are desirous of evading the influence of those people.
With regard to central and local boards, I would rather have the local board under the public assistance auspices. We have always been told by people who approve of capitalism that they would welcome a return of the good old days when every man in the workshop felt that the employer was his friend and when the employer went round with the personal touch. They say that he had a knowledge of their conditions and that there was more humanity and consideration in those times. But as rationalisation and combines have developed, there has been nothing but a keen sense of business responsibility, profit and dividend, and the human element does not count. If you are to operate this scheme, a great amount of play in connection with its application is absolutely essential. There should be on the local boards people who understand 1511 local conditions and appreciate the position of individuals, so that they can assess their needs in a more humane and decent way than a board sitting in London or elsewhere whose only job is to see that the fund is balanced irrespective of the tears, suffering and agony of the people in working-class areas. I know that there are some people who are not inclined to give consideration to that point of view, and, therefore, I would desire to see, if the Bill is to become law, that the local influence should be allowed to operate to the full.
We have been told of the effects of the means test. There has been no dubiety so far as we are concerned. We have never stood for the support of any kind of means test at any time. We are antagonistic to a means test unless there is a means test applied to every individual in society. We realise what a means test under capitalism really means. By close knowledge and experience of local work I am able to understand the application of a means test in respect of the ordinary able-bodied man requiring relief from the parish council and the public assistance committee. Knowing what it means, I say to the House without any egotism that I believe there are not 33⅓ per cent, of the Members of the House who know what a means test really is. They do not understand it. There are to-day people on local authorities who do not understand it because they have never given study and time to the individual cases which come before them. From time to time, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and sometimes on Saturday, I have had to meet people at the public assistance offices. There have sometimes been 20 or 30 people, and I have sat on relief work from 9 o'clock till one o'clock on some days studying every individual case. A, B and C may have the same number of children and to all appearances have the same claim, but they may be absolutely different in every way. Their demands are different because of the many demands which they have to meet and of the difficulties in their family life. The means test is operated harshly, brutally, and in the most extreme manner.
I will cite three cases, and ask hon. and right hon. Members to say whether they are right or just. There is No. 1, a girl 1512 of 23 years of age, earning £2 5s. per week. The father, aged 59, is unemployed, a brother, 28, unemployed, and another brother, 31, unemployed. None of these three men has any benefit at all because the girl's wage of £2 5s. has to go into the home to keep the father and two brothers. Many things happen. You undermine parental authority, because the father feels that he is a charge upon the daughter, and the brothers feel the same. Before they can get 6d. for a packet of cigarettes, a penny for a newspaper, a pair of socks—the mother is dead—before they can get anything, they have to go to the daughter with her £2 5s. a week. She is being denied holidays. She cannot get the ordinary decencies of Life. She cannot have a dress in order to go to a dance and make herself as becoming as those with whom she associates. The family are reduced to the gutter and are in poverty, with each individual in the home clinging to the girl of 23 years of age. Is there any hon. Member in this House who would defend conditions of that kind as applied to three men living out of the bare income of a girl of 23? Not even a penny can be put by for her future marriage, and in this case she is keeping company with a view to marriage. She cannot get a holiday, clothe herself decently, or get the ordinary nourishment she needs. It is a scandal and an outrage that this sort of thing should take place in the year 1933, when you have bountiful supplies of food and are destroying the results of the energy of the people in every part of the world in order to keep a bankrupt, selfish and soulless system of society in operation.
I come to case No. 2 of a girl of 29, with £1 5s. per week as wages, and another girl of 32, with £1 8s., bringing £2 13s. into the home. There is the father, who is unemployed, the mother, and a sister of 26, none of whom has a single penny of benefit. Would any person care to say that this is equity and that he would like to go into my division and defend those cases in the interests of the National Government? I assure, hon. Members that they would be lucky to leave the division with their lives. Here is the case of a girl, a teacher, whose parents put the whole of their surplus money into educating her in the hope that they would, at some distant 1513 date, see her become a good citizen and take her place in life and be able probably materially to contribute to the home. The girl has £3 10s. The father is unemployed, there is the mother, a sister, aged 22, a brother, aged 19, and two boys at school, aged 12 and 9, respectively, and they are all living upon the £3 10s., and the girl herself is paying Income Tax. Would any Member care to defend such a case?
Is there any Member in the House who is prepared to say that these cases are just or that they ought to be allowed to go on? This sort of thing is going on in thousands of cases throughout the country. Working-class people are being crucified at the present moment in order to keep the brutal and ruthless band of money barons in operation with their affluence, wealth and power in this country. We see the results of this sort of thing in Glasgow. The chief constable says that child crime is on the increase. I met a magistrate from Glasgow only yesterday, and he told me that when sitting on the bench last week he had before him a boy of 10 years of age who had been six times in the court this year for stealing. You find that the denial of money for sweets, pictures, and other little entertainments and decencies which the parents cannot afford to provide for their children is driving children to crime in this way. These people have desires just as every Member in this House. Why should not their wants be satisfied?
It is now getting near to Christmas time. Last Friday there were two birthdays in my family, a girl of 23, and a boy of 5, both having been born on 1st December. I love my family, and I should like to see every child given an equal opportunity with my children. I look forward to being able to go home and to buy something in order to brighten the lives of those children at such periods. When it comes to Christmas time, the season when people are asked by their children for presents, what will be the position in the homes of the poor? Little children, ragged and ill-shod, will see others whose parents are in a happier position, with their tricycles, their Meccano sets and their games, and they will not understand why they are denied these pleasures. I have seen children—I am deeply interested in children—where 1514 that contrast operates. I have seen a child coming along the street, badly dressed, ragged, without boots. That child sees another, well and brightly dressed, and one always sees a consciousness developing in the poor child as it looks at the well-dressed child. One sees admiration, the face beaming; then the poor child takes a sly look at its own garments and slips away, feeling incapable of being in company with the better-dressed child.
That is what the means test is doing. I know of cases in the area that I represent where children have been born in a home where the electric light or the gas has been cut off, where eviction notices have been served, and where the 40s. maternity benefit has been denied them; the woman lying in bed, with not a blanket, not a ray of hope, no nourishment, no comfort, no decency in the home, and we are told that this must continue. We are told that the means test must operate. If economies were essential, there is no man in this House who would be more ready to practice economies. I neither drink nor smoke and I am prepared to surrender part of my salary at any time if it can be shown to me that it is essential that it should be surrendered in order to meet the needs of the people who are less fortunate in life, but when I know that people at the top have the right to purchase, if they had the power, to consume 1,000 dinners while other individuals have not the right to one decent dinner, I say, quite frankly, that you cannot satisfy outraged humanity that it is essential that these things should continue.
The men who operate this scheme of things ought to feel ashamed that they are using their power as a so-called National Government to harass their fellow men and women who are in a less fortunate position, to degrade them, to destroy them, to drive them into asylums and into early graves, because of a bankrupt system of society, instead of declaring that the system can no longer operate to the satisfaction and well-being of the whole of humanity. Let us reorganise on the basis of common ownership instead of private ownership in the interests of the few. We are hampering people to death at the present time. We know that they are suffering acutely under the system known as the means test, and 1515 I ask the House to pay serious attention to the question. You may pass your Bill and carry it through the Lobbies by the sheer numerical weight of hon. Members defending the National Government, but I tell hon. Members that in the slums, in the back lands, there will be a rumbling, a revolution of feeling which is gradually developing, as Members of the Government know, and which is encouraged and developed when the people of this country realise that nothing is to be got by pleading with this House or on the public platform, and that this House is using its majority to force through these Measures.
I wish the Labour party would declare itself openly and unashamedly the working-class party and stop chasing after the middle-class shadow while losing the working-class substance. Let them take their stand along with the people who are in the gutter, inspire them, galvanise them into activity, bind them into one strong army of labour, with a strong policy and programme. If they take their stand in that way, men and women, without fear or favour, will cooperate with them on the basis of the revolutionary demands of the common people for the ending of capitalism. Do not imagine that in this Bill or in any Bill you are going to put oxygen into the dead carcase of capitalism. It is not a doctor's mandate that it wants, but the undertaker's mandate to cremate it. This system has outlived its usefulness. Let us go forward to the next step in civilised development. Commonly we produce and commonly we ought to own and distribute the goods of life. If the sufferings and the anguish of the people of this country in working-class homes could be condensed into one human cry, it would rattle and appal the people in high places. I for my part go out to the country every week-end and at every moment that I get the opportunity and tell the people there is no hope from this House, and that sitting in this House is a gang of hard-faced business men and women, with the outlook of the capitalist class. [Interruption.] Yes, hard-faced and hard-hearted in every way to the demands of the common people.
§ Sir W. BRASS
I say that the hon. Member's remark is just as truthful as those of the "Daily Herald" and the "Daily Worker."
§ Mr. McGOVERN
My hon. and gallant Friend is not entitled to say that. He may defend the present system, but I am antagonistic to it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must call the attention of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) to the fact that he is getting so enthusiastic about the system that he seems to have forgotten the Bill.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I am prepared to accept your Ruling, but I am not going completely into details or making any plea just now. I am dealing with the general effects of the Bill in working-class homes, and I can only say, in passing, that the hon. and gallant Member who interrupted me is too sensitive. His name makes him too sensitive. Brass is always much cheaper than gold. I would point out to the Government that there have been many periods in history where the ruling class have used their power—as the Government are using it in this Bill, and as they use it in the general lines of legislation in this House—to force through that which the people of the country on a referendum would overwhelmingly turn down. Therefore, the Government are not democratically carrying through the wishes and desires of the people. There have been many periods when people have been so carried away with their power that they have carried through legislation that has been harmful to the people, but the people in the end have risen from their slumbers, and have swept the ruling class away.
I believe that we are within measurable distance of the time when the working class of this country will rise in revolt against those who are imposing this injustice upon them. We will encourage them to do so, knowing that only by a complete change of system, with the working class against the ruling class, and the working class transferring power from the present ruling class to themselves, with 1517 a new economic order, is there any hope. We shall live to see the day when the various political parties who have misused their power will be swept away into the limbo of forgotten things, and men and women, with courage, with knowledge and consciousness will take their place in a new system which will be substituted for the present bankrupt system.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I shall not detain the House one tithe of the time that the hon. Member for Shettleston has taken. I want to make one point which has not been made in the Debate. There are in this very comprehensive Measure of social legislation three weaknesses, three omissions or ambiguities. One was dealt with very fully last Friday, and to a certain extent last night, and I do not intend to refer to it again, namely, the whole question of the control of the recruitment of juvenile labour into industry. That remains a question which the Government will have to tackle beyond and in addition to this Bill. There is, secondly, the whole range of questions referred to in the very remarkable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) last night—the question of the mode and operation of the Unemployment Assistance Board. It is clear that that board as it is set forth in the Bill at present may be the greatest organ of remedial action that has ever been planned in this country for two generations, or it may be a mere piece of bureaucratic machinery handing out payments at certain rates to persons qualified by assessment on the application of certain tests of means. We shall have to examine very closely during the Committee stage of the Bill whether it is possible to make clear by any Amendment of Part II that it is the remedial action which we expect that board to take, and that the board must be adequately equipped to take such action. I will say no more on those two points.
I come now to the one point which I do want to make and which has not been made so far in the Debate. Part I of the Bill attempts to remove the Insurance Fund out of pure politics and to give it a financial administration representing the contributors to the fund and the beneficiaries of the fund. It does not stereotype the Unemployment Insurance scheme, because the Statutory Committee 1518 is to have very wide powers to vary contributions and benefit according to the financial position of the scheme, but it does tend to stereotype it in one respect—it tends to stereotype the whole scheme of contributions in their amount and their arrangement. There is one feature in Unemployment Insurance which I have always thought to be a scandal and that is the employers' contribution, a contribution assessed rigidly at so much a head for every person employed. That represents a barbarous conception of the relation between capital and labour—I do not pause now to consider in whose hands capital should be. Even if it is in the hands of a public authority surely it is a barbarous conception that the business of the holder of capital is not to employ labour, that the manager of capital in employing labour is not discharging his obvious duty but is assuming a risk against which he must insure himself and the State. So much for the conception of the thing, but think of the effect of it.
I believe that insurance contributions fail in respect of Unemployment Insurance, Health Insurance and insurance against workmen's compensation liability. These insurance contributions are probably a greater cause of unemployment than any other single factor at the present moment. We talk a great deal about technological unemployment and the replacing of manual labour by the machine, but, surely, historically and economically, the motive for replacing man's labour by the machine is not that the machine is in itself cheaper but that the production of the machine is far greater than that of manual labour. In other words, the adoption of the machine in place of human labour is a characteristic of expanding industry, expanding production and expanding consumption. We know only too well to-day that in most of our staple industries there is no question of expanding production^ we are coming down, for the moment, to a more or less stationary rate of consumption. Therefore, the motive for the replacement of man by the machine, the ordinary economic motive, is much less to-day than it has been for the last 100 years. But on the employer who is considering whether it will pay him to replace human labour by the machine you put this extra incentive to incline him towards the machine that he has to take 1519 out, as it were, a sort of dog licence for about £5 for every single man he employs. That poll tax is throwing men out of employment steadily every day in this country. Obviously, it is difficult to devise an alternative but I think we shall ultimately find that it is essential to get rid of this poll tax.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Will the Noble Lord bear in mind that the Americans never had this poll tax and they have millions of unemployed?
§ Lord E. PERCY
I did not quite catch what the hon. Member said, and I want to get through my remarks as quickly as possible. It will be impossible to get rid of this poll tax unless you can so develop representative organisation in industry that you can make a block assessment of industry, in substitution for its poll tax on the number of men employed; and that, surely is a problem to which the Statutory Committee and the Government should devote prime attention. I hope that the Government will consider this matter in view of the fact that they are in danger, to some extent, in this matter of stereotyping the insurance scheme and will look with favour on proposed Amendments to the Bill which will at any rate make the question open for the consideration of the Statutory Committee and the Government.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
We are in the third day of the Debate on this Bill and many varied speeches have already been delivered. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) is usually fairly clear in his analysis of any Measure before the House, but he has not been quite so clear to-day. I admit that he has raised a new point which may be considered by the new Statutory Committee which is going to make regulations and deal with this subject instead of the representatives of the public who are sent to this House. The Noble Lord suggests some new method of dealing with the workers of the country in a kind of block contribution. We have hardly got that in this Bill with regard to unemployment insurance, but as the Statutory Committee is going to have wide powers I have no doubt that they will give consideration to the suggestion of the Noble Lord. But we have had another speech to-day, a very long 1520 one, much longer than the speech I propose to make, from the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). The first 25 minutes of his speech, beginning last night, was an attack on the Labour party without any reference to the Bill, but that is usually the case with the hon. Member when he speaks in this House. He is allowed to do it. Last night he quoted a resolution passed at the Labour party conference at Scarborough. I was present at that conference and I remember a resolution coming from the national executive and being placed before the conference condemning the hon. Member. I remember a very impressive speech delivered by Mr. Willam Shaw, of Glasgow, to that conference, composed of the best and most highly-respected men and women in the working-class movement in this country. That conference confirmed that resolution, and I say that when a man deceives my class, the working class, he is not worthy of my consideration.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
The hon. Member is now raising a personal issue. The statement made at the Scarborough Conference was made whilst I was lying in prison, and I had no opportunity of replying to it. I only say that it was a lying and slanderous statement, for which I could have taken action for slander had I been so disposed. I ask the hon. Member to recognise that the right hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson) is in the dock just now for much worse than I was.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
If there are going to be any personal references to me no matter what may be the orders of Debate, I am going to have the right to reply; and if there are going to be any lying insinuations about me I am prepared to challenge the hon. Member or any other hon. Member in this House to debate them in public.
§ Mr. LUNN
In the few words I propose to address to the House I want to put what I have always understood is the Labour party's position with regard to unemployment. I have been a member of the Labour party since its formation, a loyal member, and I am a loyal member of it to-day. This Bill does not in any way cope with the problem of unemployment. The Minister of Labour, in moving the Second Beading, calculated that he would have on the live register 2,500,000 unemployed, but he did not say for how long, whether it would be for months or for years. But this we know, that there is nothing in the Government's policy which is going to ensure work for any of these 2,500,000, and that after all is the most important question. We shall spend weeks of consideration on this cumbrous Measure of great complexity, with very costly machinery, which is designed more for the purpose of preventing men and women getting either work or maintenance. We shall see that when the Measure is in operation. We are compelled to oppose the Bill because it does not meet the policy of the Labour party, that is, work or maintenance out of national funds for those who cannot get work. That is our policy and has been our policy for a long time. The Prime Minister was the Leader of the Labour party for many years. He is now the Leader of the Tory party. I remember him speaking in support of a Motion similar to that on the Paper today, and he used these words: 1522In a statement on unemployment, such as we have to-day, we must have ameliorative work or ameliorative treatment, and as has been said again and again from theee benches, if you cannot find work, which is your first resiponsibility, then maintenance must be found. You have not found maintenance and you have not found work.That speech was made on 1st December, 1923, 10 years ago. I wonder whether the Prime Minister holds that opinion to-day. I would have liked to have heard him in this Debate. I have often heard him speak on this subject, and I can hear him at any time in my own home making the same declaration from a gramophone record that was produced in 1929. It would be to the advantage of the House if we could know where the Prime Minister is on this matter at this particular moment. After all the gospel is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever. What the right hon. Gentleman used to say, I admit, was often the gospel truth. I am extremely sorry that I have the impression that he is not a supporter of he Amendment that we are discussing, an Amendment whose purpose he supported on many occasions in this House when he was associated with us on the Labour benches.
The Bill does not restore the cut in unemployment benefit which was imposed in 1931 and by which the unemployed have been robbed of more than £50,000,000. I do not say that even restoration would be satisfactory to me or to the Labour party. There is no doubt that Amendments will be moved to the Bill asking for something more than restoration of the cuts. After all 2s. or 2s. 6d. or 3s. is not sufficient to keep a child, and 8s. or 9s. is not sufficient to keep a woman. This Bill stabilises, for how long we do not know, the present miserably low rates. That is unjustifiable. What has been the result of it? Millions of our people have been prevented from obtaining a sufficiency of good food, of good boots and of decent clothing, and we shall soon have to pay the price in the lowered standard of the physique of our people. We have seen during the last week or two what has been quoted many times in this House—the report of a commission or committee which was set up by the British Medical Association. Nine doctors considered the physical condition of the people under these terms of reference: 1523To determine the minimum weekly expenditure on foodstuffs which must be incurred by families of varying size if health and working capacity are to be maintained, and to construct specimen tariffs.I have read that report. I have seen that the food purchased was purchased from the cheapest market. Yet they say that the minimum to provide food for five persons is £1 2s. 6½d. I have a family of five. They are all taller than I am, and some of them are heavier. I would like to see the nine doctors keep those five in food on double the 5s. 11d. which they say is the minimum required for an adult. I would like to see them do it and keep the five in physical fitness. But even that is more than is given by the Government to the unemployed. When the £1 2s. 61/2d. for a family of five has been spent there is only 6s. 8d. left, if they are lucky enough to get the unemployment benefit, with which to provide rent, coal, light, clothes and boots. How can it be done? We know that it cannot be done.
We have no right to impose such conditions on any people. But they are not even assured of that miserable existence, for the Bill reimposes the means test in its worst form. The household income is to be taken into account by a soulless official acting under regulations made by a well paid Unemployment Assistance Board. Although everyone of us in the House knows of innumerable cases of hardship that have arisen in the last two years through the operation of the means test, we shall see the principle of the means test applied more rigidly than it has been applied before. That, I believe, is what the Government want to see. What hope is there for young men and young women, in homes where there is unemployment, to provide a home of their own? There can be none. Through the means test we are laying the foundations of a population seriously deteriorated in physique. We cannot vote for the continuance of a system which we have had no part or lot in bringing into being.
The Bill provides for children of 14 coming into the scheme. They have to pay in but they are to receive very little out of it. If out of work they will get 2s. a week. I say deliberately that it would have been better for the Government to have raised the school-leaving age to 16 and to have provided means for the 1524 parents to keep the children at school. If that were done work would be provided for many who are now unable to obtain it. Instead, the Government are introducing a shilly-shally course of instruction for some of those over 14, and they are going to make the ratepayers in the poorest areas meet the cost. It is the wrong way about and is certainly not in the national interest. Education is an incalculable asset both to the individual and the nation, and we ought to be generous in the provision of it at a time like this.
The Bill imposes an unfair burden on local ratepayers in maintaining those who have not an insurance claim. The Government have already driven 320,000 more persons to seek Poor Law relief than we had in 1931. Who can tell how many more will be affected by the operation of Part II of the Bill. There are 2,500,000 unemployed and hundreds of thousands who have been out of work for years, especially in the mining industry, who have nothing to thank this Government for, as it has done its very worst for that industry in everything it has done since it came into being. It will be a difficulty in that industry to find any man with a five years qualification for the extra benefits under the Bill. I would like the Minister of Labour to make inquiries as to the position in the mining industry. I think I am safe in saying that there would hardly be one in a thousand who would be qualified for extra benefits under the Bill.
We say it is the duty of the nation to maintain these people, and that the burden should not be placed on the poor in the industrial areas, as is proposed in the Bill. Moreover the contributors should not be called upon to pay back the £115,000,000 owing to the fund. I notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said something on this subject yesterday. I differ from him completely in this conclusion. He said:I object altogether to the proposal to transfer this debt from the fund to the Exchequer, which is already bearing £70,000,000 out of some £100,000,000 to £ 110,000,000, which is the total cost of unemployment, because it seems to me to encourage that slovenly sort of idea that if you put a charge on the State, nobody is going to have to pay it. I cannot conceive a worse way of starting a new fund on a self-supporting basis than to suggest that it does not matter what money the fund runs up in the way 1525 of debts, because in the end the State will bear it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1933; cols. 1365 and 1356, Vol. 283.]I wonder whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer put that view in front of the Cabinet when the report on Newfoundland was presented? It would be interesting to know. We shall be considering the Newfoundland question in a day or two and we shall then see what the policy of the Government is. That is a case where they will hand over money without any question as to qualifications, and I think in a most undeserving manner. But this is the most useful and the most necessary expenditure of money, in my opinion, since the War, in providing for our unemployed people who are in need. The Government ought not to impose a payment of £5,500,000 a year for the next four years, to pay for what has been spent on food and necessary light for the poorest of our people.
In Clause 36 the Bill deals with training. I ask the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary to explain what is meant by training. What form are the training centres to take? Are they to be centres for doing work which ought to be done by ordinary work? Are they to do work for nothing, and are people who are in employment to be thrown out of that employment because, just for mere food and to provide work for those who are sent to the training camps, this scheme has been devised? Or are these people to be trained on the land? The Minister has had some experience of training the unemployed on the land. He knows that such schemes are costly, extravagant and wasteful. He knows that perfectly well. I was associated with him a little in two schemes that have been run, and he would agree with my statement. It would be much cheaper and far more satisfactory to give the unemployed people benefit than to reinstate that form of training. I agree with the idea of finding useful work. I want to see useful work provided for every man and every woman who is willing to work. But a successful centre is not the rule. I know that there are exceptions. I know of one undertaken by a man well known to the Minister and myself, but he is a rarity in that sort of thing. It may be possible to do a great deal for those who desire training. There should be no compulsion or the scheme is bound to be a failure. If there is a desire for training 1526 and you start proper schemes, something might be done to enable people to keep themselves fit, but you should give them something to live upon until work comes round.
In our opinion this Bill will not, in any way, be of service or benefit to the unemployed. It does not meet our claim for adequate maintenance from national funds. We do not believe in the separation or division of the unemployed into two classes or categories, nor do we believe that they should be treated worse than criminals. They are decent, self-respecting, deserving people whose only crime is lack of opportunity to find work. We do not believe it is fair to impose burdens such as those proposed in the Bill upon the rates for their maintenance. We have excused nations from paying their debts to us since the War to an amount which would have kept our unemployed in a suitable manner for years. We are going to find money in a few days time for people in various parts of the world who will not meet their obligations, because of their own selfishness, greed, graft and corruption. But as this Bill shows clearly, we refuse to find money for our own people, for those who are, in my opinion, among the most deserving in the community. For those reasons I shall vote for the Amendment.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) always delights the House with his charm and sincerity, and I hope he will not think me aggressive if I point out that a great deal of his speech would have been more appropriate when any regulations which may be made or suggested by the Board in future are brought before the House for review. He made one or two remarks which showed that he laboured under some misapprehension. He said that the Government contemplated a figure of 2,500,000 unemployed. That is the reverse of the truth. The figure of 2,500,000 upon which these estimates are based, is one which errs, we hope, upon the side of conservatism and it is inserted in the interests of the fund itself.
§ Mr. LUNN
If the hon. and learned Member will look at the speech which the Minister of Labour made on last Thursday, he will see that the Minister on more than one occasion referred to 1527 the fact that he was dealing with a live register of 2,500,000. The right hon. Gentleman also said:In regard to the live register of 2,500,000, I want to make it perfectly clear at the outset that I believe that our prospects now are brighter than they have been for many years past, and that we may face the future with greater confidence. At the same time, I remember the experience of other Ministers of Labour who have one after another based their estimates upon expectations which have not been realised.Later, he said:I have based the finances upon this very large figure of 2,500,000.I think, therefore, I am justified in quoting that figure.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I hope that I made my point equally clear. My right hon. Friend the Minister followed the words just quoted by saying:I may be criticised for excessive prudence but I trust at any rate I shall escape the charge of approving doubtful finance.He also used these words:While, …. I believe that conditions will improve, no one can tell what the state of world trade may be in the future, and I do not think I should be carrying out my duty as custodian and trustee of this fund unless I took all possible precautions against contingencies which cannot be foreseen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1933, col. 1079, Vol. 283.]The point at issue is, however, a email one, and as the hon. Member for Roth-well will probably want to intervene later when I make some remarks about him, perhaps he would reserve himself until then. It is quite clear that the figure of 2,500,000 errs on, the conservative side and it is in the interest of the fund and of any scheme which is going to weather the coming years that the most conservative basis possible should be taken. If the figure is lower than that estimate, the advantage will accrue to the fund. Another matter in which the hon. Member seemed to be under a misapprehension was indicated when he said that the Bill would not produce work. Of course, it will not wash clothes and it will not lay eggs. It is not a Bill for producing work, but a Bill for dealing with the unfortunate condition of those people who are unable to find work, and it attempts that task in a more constructive and comprehensive way than, any Bill of this character that has ever been before the House of Commons.
1528 The hon. Member went on to say that the Bill perpetuated the inadequate provision made for children and dependants, but that is inaccurate. There is no schedule of scales of relief anywhere in the Bill. That matter is entirely at large and the provision will have to be suggested to the Minister by Regulations from the board which will be laid before the House. When those Regulations are considered there will be an opportunity which, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman will take with alacrity, to express his views as to the adequacy of any particular sums of money. Lastly, he said that it was proposed that children between the ages of 14 and 16 who were out of work should get 2s. a week. That must have been a slip of the tongue. There is no provision in the Bill for the receipt by children between 14 and 16 of any sum at all. This very valuable part of the Bill is in fact an addition to the dependants allowance by offering a supplement of 2s. in the case of children between those ages.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Is the hon. and learned Member suggesting that the 2s. supplement is 2s. in addition to the 2s. which is now paid? That is what one would take from his remark.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
As I understand it, the existing dependants allowance would cease at the age of 14. This proposal is to supplement it, in the sense that it is an extension of the existing dependants allowance, not in amount but in time.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
That is how I read the Bill. When we look at the stability and confidence which evists in this country at present it is material to remember that a certain amount of it is due to the fact that we have had a system of unemployment insurance. That stabilising element has prevented us from experiencing some of the worst economic disasters that have been seen in other countries. It has been a stabilising element, constitutionally and economically. But it became clear a couple of years ago that the edifice itself was creaking very audibly and that any Government which pretended to call itself National, would require radically to recast the structure which had proved itself unequal to the storm of 1931. This Bill is the product, 1529 therefore, of two years of work by the Rational Government. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have also had two years in which to contemplate the question of what alternative they would present to the Bill which the Government has now produced.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I have read with the greatest attentiveness—and it does not take long—the Amendment which the party opposite have put down, in order to see what is their alternative to the Bill. Hon. Members opposite will forgive me for saying but I am still quite in the dark as to what are the constructive alternative proposals of the Labour party after the two years which I am sure they have devoted to intensive deliberations on this subject. What is the alternative proposed by them in what is, I think, the silliest Motion for the rejection of a Bill that has ever been put on the Order Paper of this House? I can understand the Amendment of the hon. Members below the Gangway. They are like the crackers on the tail of the Labour party—pushing them on, driving them off the means test, driving them off insurance altogether as we shall see in a moment. But what do the party opposite propose? A plan whereby—" "all the victims of unemployment"— I leave out the propagandist verbiage which we always take for granted and which may in future be inserted by means of a rubber stamp—are entitled to equal … treatment and maintenance.But no speaker on the other side has dared to suggest it in this Debate. Could not the Labour party's draftsman have produced something which expressed their mind better than that? How is it possible to give all the victims of unemployment equal maintenance and treatment? For instance, is the unemployed man who has fallen out of insurance to be required to pay insurance contributions? Is that contemplated? If not, the Motion is nonsense because it demands equal treatment for all. It also demands equal maintenance for all. Is there to be a general level, a minimum which is to be applied to everybody whether he is a married man or not, whether he is the father of a family or 1530 not? That is what the Amendment says. Then, if there is not to be equal treatment for all, how are different cases to be differentiated unless we investigate need? You are driven to a need test whatever way you attempt to do justice as between the different categories of unemployed.
It is a need test if you ask a man, "Are you married?" It is a need test if you ask him, "How many children have you, and how many are legitimate and how many are illegitimate?" You must have a need test if you are going to-do justice and if you are not going to do what this Amendment suggests, namely, distribute equally over the whole unemployed community a certain dead level of assistance towards their needs. If you are going to have a need test—and in my submission you must investigate need—that involves a means test. You cannot ascertain a person's need without ascertaining his means and I venture to think, whatever the crackers on the tail have forced the Labour party into, that if ever they have the responsibility of administering unemployment insurance they will find it absolutely impossible to administer a system which is devoid of a means test.
Are they going to say to those who are to receive benefit, "You are not required to present any case for the particular benefit for which you are asking, but the taxpayer who is to provide the money must be subject to a means test." Or do they propose an equal level of taxation to raise the money to provide the assistance. Do they not recognise that by the aggregation of the incomes of husbands and wives, millions of pounds go to the tax-gatherer in this country which would not otherwise go in that way. There is a means test, there is a domestic test in the collection of the very revenue that is to be distributed in this way. It is not the fact of a means test but the administration of the means test that gives rise to the grievances that have been so frequently brought before the House by hon. Members on all sides, and to some extent the great advantage of this Bill is that it gives the opportunity to the House of Commons of taking responsibility that the means test shall be neither unequal nor harsh. Hitherto it has been to a very large extent outside the purview of the House of Commons altogether.
1531 Public assistance committees may have operated in entirely different ways in different parts of the country, and the Minister has had a perfect answer under the existing imperfect system, namely, "It is not my responsibility, and I cannot interfere, because the local authorities are charged with that duty." This Bill gives the House of Commons the chance of seeing that the regulations upon which the means test is administered are at any rate regulations that commend themselves to the conscience of the House.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Now we have the chance again. The House will now have the chance—a very different thing from last time—of framing regulations and scales which will be of general application throughout the country, on the recommendation of the board, and I am very surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) making any complaint, because I always thought that he was in favour of a means test. Certainly the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), I well remember, said in this House:I am prepared to-day to agree to a national scheme which involves the investigation of the question, but not under Poor Law auspices.Well, here it is. It is in the Bill. The grievances that the right hon. Member for Wakefield had about the means test as it existed under the previous Act of Parliament is removed in this Bill, and I should have expected, if the cracker had not been working, to have found him congratulating us on at last doing the very thing that he always thought was the right thing to do. We know now, however, that the abolition of the means test is the programme of the party opposite, but what is their position about insurance? This Amendment and the speeches to which we have been listening are quite inconsistent with insurance. The hon. Member for Rothwell said that it was entirely wrong to divide people into two categories, insured and uninsured. I have read or listened to all the speeches made from the benches opposite on this Bill, and I can see no vestige of approval of any insurance system whatsoever. What becomes of 1532 what the late Minister of Labour, Miss Bondfield, said, namely:It is our considered view that a scheme of unemployment insurance should be a self-supporting scheme, that it should contain the elements of the tripartite contribution, that it should cover the able-bodied unemployed, and that we should do everything that we can to see that there is a fund which will cover the risks that it is intended to cover.Is that the policy of the Labour party to-day? If not, when has it been changed? The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street himself said:The piling up of debt cannot go on; the scheme must be put on a self-supporting basis. That is agreed.That is strikingly different from the speeches to which we have been listening in the last few days. This Bill, as I see it, has two or three really outstanding virtues. It has some defects, about which I propose to have a word or two, but it presents us with what we have been waiting for a long time, and that is a watertight insurance scheme; it presents us with a system by which there is national responsibility for the relief of the able-bodied unemployed and uniformity of administration—whether or not that administration will be sympathetic is a matter for the House of Commons to decide when it considers the regulations that are put up—it provides, further, steps for reconditioning the chronically unemployed, which no other Bill has ever attempted to do; and it provides for an extension of children's allowances, coupled with juvenile training. Those are four pillars of the system, and upon them I want to see whether we have a foundation upon which future Parliaments can erect a structure. That is the important point. Have the Government presented the House of Commons with a stiff, unalterable Measure which will not be capable of evolution? If they had, I should vote against it, but I think they have given us scope for the evolution that we want to see of this important form of social service.
Now I want to offer one or two criticisms, first of all as regards the insurance part of the Bill. I listened to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night, and I am bound to confess that I should have a very strong feeling of disappointment if I felt that he had spoken his last word on the 1533 subject of the debt on the fund. His arguments are perfectly sound as far as they go, but I will put another aspect of the matter to him. It is possible that the Statutory Committee may make a recommendation which would include agricultural workers within the framework of insurance in the future. Thus there would come into the scheme people who had had no contact at all with the finances of the fund. Does (he consider it right that new entrants of that kind, new types of workers brought in, should have cast upon them the burden of amortising a debt contracted when the fund had nothing to do with them at all? I cannot think that that is fair, and I also hope he will bear in mind that the Commission inquired into this very point and considered it very carefully. They considered it from the point of view of what would be fair and reasonable, and the conclusion to which they came was:We formed the definite conclusion that it would not be equitable to call upon employers and workers to contribute separately at the same rate as the Exchequer towards the repayment of the debt of £115,000,000.They recommend that that debt should be divided as to two-thirds to the State arid as to one-third to the contributors to the fund. I hope very much that the last word has not been said about this matter, because although upon financial grounds you can make possibly an unarguable case—you can establish a parallel between it and the National Debt—you will never get away from the feeling that you are going to surcharge the contributors to the fund for the ineptitude of the Labour Government in 1929 which permitted £65,000,000 of this debt to be accumulated.
There is another matter on which I want to offer what I hope will not be destructive criticism, and that is on the question of benefits under Part I to insured contributors. I should very much like to see those benefits different, not so much in amount, or duration as in kind, from the benefits that are payable under Part II of the Bill to those who are under relief. I see no power at the present time for the Committee under the Schedule or under the Bill to make recommendations, for instance, that will result in a lump sum payment at some advanced age to men who are getting beyond their best in the working areas, 1534 and that, I should like to see. I do not say that it should be embodied in the Bill at the present moment, but I think that power ought to be given to the Committee to make recommendations which would permit an insured worker who had a long, good, and steady record of contributions to the fund to take his benefit, not as 26 or 52 weeks' benefit at the end of his working life, but either in a lump sum or by way of getting an old age pension at an earlier date than he would otherwise be entitled to, and so to be brought out of the industrial field at an earlier age than that at which he would otherwise depart from it; or, what would perhaps be even more revolutionary, I would rather make this concession to my hon. Friends on the Liberal benches and see an aged insured worker who had a good record of contributions paid a lump sum in land, so as to enable him to settle by way of small-holding on the land and with a certain amount to assist him starting.
Consider otherwise what the position is at the present time. It is not generally observed, at any rate, that the scale of relief payable under Part II may be higher, and must be higher in many cases, than the scale of benefit payable under Part I, because the scale of benefit payable will, of course, be fixed by the Statutory Committee, but the scale of relief payable under Part II will be assessed according to need, and it may very well be, therefore, that if you take a man of 58 years of age, with 20 years' contributions to his credit, it will be a positive advantage to him to find the moment at which he ceases to draw benefit under the insurance part and count upon the relief administered by the board, because in the latter case the need will be assessed and in the former case he will be offered only a scale of benefit. Therefore, there is little or no inducement, when a man is ending his working life, in offering him as an advantage of being a good, steady contributor that he will get as much perhaps as two years of benefit without means test, whereas if he had not got such a record, he would be getting only six months. For these reasons, I think that at the present moment Part I is not as attractive as it might be to the better paid and regularly employed workers, and I should like to see the Schedule amended so as to give 1535 the Statutory Committee power to make recommendations along the lines that I have been suggesting.
I would like to make one or two observations upon what I think is a misreading of Clause 6, Sub-section (1), which, it will be remembered, is the Clause that alters the present third statutory condition. It reads: "The following shall be substituted for the third statutory condition for the receipt of benefit by insured contributors— '(iii) that he proves that he is capable of, and available for, work but unable to obtain suitable employment.'"
It is suggested that that is really restoring the "genuinely seeking work" Clause, but nothing could be further from the truth, and that allegation must be based on an entire misapprehension. In the first place, these words were recommended by the Royal Commission, and not by the majority only, but by the minority as well, who adopted these very words. Secondly—and this, I think, is a most important consideration—these words have existed in Acts dealing with unemployment insurance from 1911 right down to 1924. They existed in 1924, when the Labour Government added to them the words "not genuinely seeking work." That seems to me to dispose of that argument entirely, because they would never have added those words if they had thought they were synonymous with the words in the present Bill.
They are framed to deal with a very limited number of cases, but they are real cases. They are framed to deal with the case of the man who has himself avenues in which he knows, he can find employment, but who is too idle to find employment along those avenues. No party in the State, I am sure, wishes to deny the proposition that the first efforts to obtain employment should come from the unhappy victim of unemployment himself, and that is a principle that is supported by sound common sense, a principle that has been enunciated over and over again from the opposite side of the House, and by none better than by the late Attorney-General, Sir William Jowitt, and by Miss Bondfield, when she was introducing the Bill in 1924.
The present fourth statutory condition is found not entirely to meet those cases, and although it is said that this Bill— 1536 and in a legal sense, no doubt, it is to some extent true—throws the onus, in the first instance, on the man to say that he is unable to obtain suitable employment, and to that extent there is a burden upon the man. He discharges that burden as soon as he says, "I have been looking for work and have not found it." The burden then shifts on to the Exchange to prove that he has not availed himself of sources that are open to him. To clinch the matter, it might be serviceable if I read a ruling, which was made by the umpire under these exact words in a previous Act, as to how that condition is interpreted:It is for an applicant to satisfy the court of referees or the umpire that on any day for which he claims benefit he is unable to obtain suitable employment, and if he knew there was a possibility of getting work, and did not take reasonable steps to get it, he does not shew that he was unable to get it.If that was a ruling on these very words in the new Clause, it appears that they have not the application that the genuinely-seeking-work Clause had, and the apprehensions of hon. Gentlemen opposite are very much overstated.
I congratulate the Government on this Bill. I think that it is a bold and courageous Bill. The spiritlessness of the Second Reading Debate and the lack of reality show that fundamentally there is no one who can attack the broad general principles of the Bill It can be attacked upon details, and there will be a good deal of attack, and I am sure that the Government will not commit the fatal error of thinking that, because they have had no real opposition on the Second Reading stage, it will not get a good deal of opposition on minor points during the Committee stage. That is right and natural, and is in the nature of things, because this is a great Bill which will affect the lives and the economic happiness of more than two-thirds of the population at one time or the other in the coming years. It is idle to expect that a Bill of this kind will remain unchanged for a generation, or even for a small part of a generation. It is a Measure that will undergo evolutionary change from time to time, and it is because it seems to me to afford scope for evolutionary change, and because it is a bold and real attempt to solve a very 1537 difficult problem, that I certainly shall not have the smallest hesitation in giving it my support.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
It is a curious fact that I find myself in agreement with most of what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor). The only part of his speech with which I disagreed was his peroration. I can agree with the criticisms he directed at the Amendment which has been put down by the official Opposition, but I suggest how much better it would have been if, instead of discussing that Amendment, we had discussed the Amendment which is on the Paper in the names of my hon. Friends. It is but a month ago since this Bill was first put into our hands, and in that time, in spite of the chorus of praise from the apologists of the Government, and in spite of the undoubted virtues which are contained in certain Clauses of Part I of the Bill, nevertheless I think it is fair to say that in many parts of the country the Bill has been received with disappointment and misgiving. I believe that as we go on discussing the Bill Clause by Clause, particularly Clauses in Part II, and as there comes a full realisation of all that will be implied by the Bill being carried into law, there will come a rapidly growing volume of protest from both the unemployed and the local authorities.
The local authorities were certainly led to expect that they were going to be relieved of the whole burden of the able-bodied unemployed. They may have been wrong in taking that attitude. It may have been that the words that were used in the speech of the Minister of Health on 12th April leaves some loophole for the Government through which they can manage to scramble. Nevertheless, anyone who read that speech would receive the impression that the Government were going to take over the whole burden. Certainly that impression was given. Only three days ago I attended a meeting of my own public assistance committee in Dundee, and found that while different views were held by different Members with regard to the various provisions of the Bill, there was very little opposition on the subject of financial responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed. The committee were strongly of 1538 the opinion that that burden was one that they should no longer be called upon to bear. They are to be asked to find 60 per cent, of the expenditure, not for a normal year, but for the year 1932-3 which was a year of peak unemployment. That 60 per cent, has to be borne by the local authorities without their having any voice or say in the way in which the money is to be disposed of. It is a sound principle, to which all parties have agreed, that taxation and representation ought to go together.
The criticism which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour aimed in his speech the other day at the present system of transitional payments was that taxation and representation were being divorced, but under the present system, at any rate, in the last resort, the Minister and the Government that provides the money have some means of control over the local authorities, because the Minister can sack a public assistance committee and put a commissioner in its place. Under the arrangement which is now to be made, the local authorities which have to contribute this high percentage of the cost will not have any voice in the way in which the money is to be spent.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
Has the hon. Gentleman deducted from the. 60 per cent, the amount that Dundee is getting in block grants?
§ Mr. FOOT
I am coming to that, and perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to deal with it in due course. The only way in which any influence can be brought to bear by the local authorities is through the advisory committees. It is difficult to tell how those committees are to be constituted. They will not necessarily have any connection with the local authorities. Will the Minister tell us a little more about the constitution of the committees? Are they going to be local committees or regional committees? Will they be large like the present public assistance committees or will they be small bodies? That is an important point becuase if instead of having a large committee of about 20 persons, you have an advisory committee of two, or three or five persons, it will mean that the odium of administering the means test will have to fall on a smaller number of shoulders. That may have serious effects, and you 1539 may have great difficulty in getting the right people to serve. Whom are the advisory committees to advise? Are they to advise the board or the local officers of the board? It is provided in Clause 38 (1) that the officer shall make all the determinations. Is he to be subject to the advice of the advisory committee or is the committee simply to advise the central board on the general tendency of their policy?
It seems to us that this arrangement offends against every canon of sound finance. Our opposition to this arrangement with the local authorities is not something like the attitude of the Socialist party towards the means test, not something that is simply invented for purposes of by-elections, but something which has been for years the policy of the Liberal party. I have here a copy of the Yellow Book. [Laughter.]. I hear loyal supporters of the National Government laughing at this book. It is not open to them to laugh at it, because it was the report of the executive committee of the Liberal Industrial Inquiry, and when I look through the names of the members of the committee who were responsible for this policy, I find the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The policy that the whole burden should be borne by the central government was clearly laid down by us in 1928. It is not confined to the Yellow Book, because a great deal was said in the House on the subject of the burden of the able-bodied unemployed. A great deal was said by Liberal Members at the time of the Derating Act and of the Local Government Act, 1929.
In particular, a prominent part was played by my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines. I always read his speeches with the greatest interest, because I learned a great deal of my political faith from him. When I first began to take an interest in political matters, I had the opportunity of attending meetings which were addressed by my hon. Friend. I went on many occasions to sit at his feet and I learned his great language and had no difficulty in catching his clear accents. Naturally, when I wanted to study this subject and what has been said by the Liberal party in the past, I looked up the speeches of my hon. Friend the 1540 Secretary for Mines. He made a speech in the House on 26th November, 1928, in the course of which he was interrupted by the right hon. Gentleman who is now Postmaster-General, who asked: "Is it still the policy of the Liberal party to transfer the relief of the able-bodied poor to the State?
I am flattered by these inquiries after the policy of the Liberal party, for it shows how really the Debate will go—not between the official Opposition and the Government, but between the Government and the Liberal benches."
It may be that history will repeat itself.
"If the Government had quoted from the Yellow Book, not its diagnosis only but its constructive policy, we should have had a better Bill. This policy not merely transfers"— that is, the policy of the Yellow Book—the able-bodied poor from local to national shoulders, but links that up with an immediate and determined attempt to find work for them, so that they may be relieved as early as possible from their position as able-bodied unemployed.That was the view taken by my hon. Friend, who was at that time acting as the spokesman of the Liberal party, and that is still the view of the Liberal party. It is our view that we ought not to leave all sorts of persons out of the scope of this Bill simply because they do not happen to come within the range of industrial employment. We do not believe that the shopkeeper, or the jobbing gardener, or the clerk, or the hawker, anyone of that kind, ought to be left out of the scope of this Bill.
The defence of this arrangement was put forward yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who brought up the subject of the block grant, which was referred to just now by my hon. Friend the junior Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh). It is perfectly true that the burden of unemployment is an important factor in determining the block grant, but I do not know whether it is really suggested that the money spent on relief is the only expenditure which has to be incurred by a local authority in a depressed area on account of prolonged and high unemployment. Surely they have to carry a financial burden other than the mere payment of relief. A considerable item, though I do not say it makes up the whole of the block grant, is the amount paid for meals and clothing for necessitous school children. That 1541 amount has more than doubled in Dundee in the last five years, and I imagine the experience of other industrial areas has been the same. That directly arises out of prolonged and heavy unemployment. It may very well be that even the ordinary Poor Law payments will be swollen by prolonged unemployment.
I want to say something on the subject of the means test. The House will already have gathered that whatever our views on this subject may be, we are entirely out of sympathy with the Labour party. We were in some sympathy with the original utterance of the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke in favour of an inquiry, but we really cannot follow him in his retreat from that position. The House will remember the old story of the man in the French Revolution who saw a friend following a ragged mob and asked, "Why do you follow that mob?" He received the reply, "I must; I am their leader." That seems to be the position of the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the means test. The means test was applied to transitional payments by the National Economy (No. 2) Order, which was issued in October, 1931, but, after all, the means test was nothing new, because it Was already in operation under the existing law. There is no definition of the means test in the National Economy (No. 2) Order, because paragraph 4 reads:A committee or sub-committee in determining any question under the last preceding paragraph shall make such inquiries and otherwise deal with the case as if they were estimating the need of an unemployed able-bodied person who had applied for public assistance, and if such assistance could only be given in money.That was simply extending the test already applied to those unfortunate enough to come under the Poor Law. Who determined that? The conditions for the means test under the Poor Law were laid down in Circular 1069, issued from the Ministry of Health on 3rd January, 1930, when the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was at the Ministry of Health. I will quote from paragraph 4 of that Circular:In assessing the amount of relief to be voted the general principle is that income and means from every source available to the household must be taken into account.1542 Further it states:Again, it is proper that earnings of widows and children should be taken into t account.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Does the hon. Member assert that the law was laid down then? It is a 16th century law, which the Minister had to administer. As a matter of fact, the Order made a more generous interpretation of the law, in view of the fact that we had not time to get the law altered.
§ Mr. FOOT
The hon. Member cannot of wriggle out of it in that way. In 1930 there was placed on the Statute Book a Poor Law Act which must have been, passed through this House at a time when the hon. Gentleman was a Minister, I and surely, if his party had had such a strong objection to the means test at that time, it should have been possible to cut it out while that Measure was passing through Parliament. In any case a Minister has to accept responsibility for the documents which go out under his aegis. Whatever hon. Members may say now, they cannot escape responsibility for the document which went out defining the means test. All that happened in 1931 was that the means test, which was already in existence, and which had been in existence under two Labour Governments, was extended to the transitional class.
§ Mr. FOOT
Well, I have given the House the quotations, and I think it is possible for hon. Members to judge the matter for themselves. In the view of the party on these benches, the principle of the means test is in itself perfectly sound. I agree with what was said yesterday by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Montrose (Lieut.-Colonel Kerr) when he said the principle of the means test was not necessarily unpopular among the wage-earning classes. There is no doubt that under the old system there was, at any rate among a small minority, a certain abuse of the system of unemployment relief and insurance benefit. Where people drew benefit when they were not in need of it, that was generally known to their neighbours, and was resented by their neighbours, who 1543 knew that they themselves had to pay for this unnecessary relief either as contributors to the Insurance Fund or as indirect taxpayers. I think the abuses of that system were resented by the general body of wage earners just as much as by anybody else, and I do not believe the principle of a means test was then, or is now, necessarily unpopular with any great class in the community. But having said that I want to add this, that there is a very real danger of bringing a sound principle into permanent discredit by the unjust manner of its application. I must refer again to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday. He began just after a speech from an hon. Member on the Opposition side, and said:I sincerely hope that all Members of the House will follow tile advice which has just been given by the hon. Member opposite and will consider this Bill carefully. I am certain that, if they do so, the majority of them will, unlike the hon. Member come to the conclusion that the inevitable result of the provisions of the Bill must be greatly to improve the lot of the unemployed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1933; col. 1347, Vol. 283.]I am sure everyone must have been glad to hear that opinion put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, but how can we tell from the provisions of Part II that the Bill will greatly improve the lot of the unemployed? Nothing in Part II lays down the scales which are going to be applied. We do not know on what scale payments are going to be made to those' who are now in the transitional class after this Bill has become an Act. One of the most important Clauses of the Bill is Clause 37, and sub-section (3), which deals with the resources of the household, says that regulations shall be made,and such regulations shall in particular provide that the resources of an applicant taken into account shall include the resources of all members of the household of which he is himself a member, due regard being had also to the personal requirements of those members whose resources have been taken into account.How much regard is going to be had to those resources? That is a vital question, which goes right to the heart of this Bill. Those of us who represent depressed industrial areas with a high level of unemployment know that although there may be quite substantial grievances about disability pensions, savings and the rest, 1544 the real grievance against the administration of the means test has been about the family contribution. In a speech yesterday the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scrymgeour-Wedderburn) gave the familiar instance of the young man living at home earning wages or a salary who is saving up to get married. If I may say so, I have a good deal of sympathy with the position of such a young man. At this time last year I also was saving up to get married, and I should have considered it a real grievance if just at that time a public assistance committee had told me they would allow me just a few shillings a week out of my own earnings, and that all the rest was to go to the support and maintenance of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot). Let me say that I should have been prepared, had he been destitute, to make at any rate a reasonable contribution, and that is what I suggest to the Minister ought to be done under the regulations which are to be made.
I think that we have a right to say to a man who is bringing home wages that he shall make a reasonable contribution to the upkeep of those of his family who are unemployed; but I think it is entirely wrong to say, "You will be allowed a small personal allowance"—in most places about 15s.—"out of your own wages and all the rest must go into the family pool." Every Member, especially those from industrial constituencies with a great deal of unemployment, must look at this Bill, sometimes at any rate, from the point of view of his own constituency. I do not suggest that we should judge it entirely from that standpoint, but we are entitled to look at a Bill of this kind and say, "How is it going to affect our constituents; will they be better off or worse off?" No Member representing a constituency where a large number of people are now on transitional payments can possibly tell how this Bill will affect the people he represents. Every Member knows the scale of relief paid by the public assistance committee in his own area, and knows the allowances made in respect to household contributions, but what is not known is whether Clause 37 will make the people we represent better off or worse off. Therefore, it is not possible to give the Bill an unmitigated blessing, it is not possible to judge of the 1545 Bill, it is not possible to apply the tests which we ought to be able to apply.
One word, finally, about the Regulations which are to be made. It is laid down in Clauses 37 and 51 that Regulations are to be made as to the administration of unemployment allowances. In the Amendment put down in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) we have raised the objection that there will not be sufficient Parliamentary control, and I think that objection applies also to the Regulations. Whenever, in my short experience, we have had Regulations and Orders brought before the House we have always found that it was not possible to amend them. We are not able to go through them Clause by Clause and line by line and put down Amendments. We have simply to accept or reject them outright.
The future of the means test has been a foremost political issue for two years in many of the great cities in Scotland and England, and is probably regarded by many thousands of people as of far greater importance than any questions which we discuss in this House. Yet it is to be dealt with not line by line on the Floor of this House; we are simply to have Regulations brought up which we shall have to accept or to reject outright. It cannot be said that there is sufficient Parliamentary control in that. I would refer to the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who pointed out that those regulations would only become operative if an affirmative Resolution approving them were passed by this House. He went on to say that the Board would haveto produce an annual report upon the whole of its work, which will again be laid before Parliament and may he the subject of debate. Under Clause 46 there is an annual vote of the money required for the purpose of the Unemployment Assistance Fund, and that, of course, again will be the subject of debate in this House in the usual way in which estimates can be debated. Finally, I would point that under Clause 43, the accounts of the board have to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General and he has to submit the accounts and his report upon them to the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1933; col. 1359, Vol. 283.]If my calculation be correct, and if we are allowed to discuss the reports of the Auditor-General, that will make three oocasions on which we shall be able to discuss the administration of Part II of 1546 this Bill. I do not know whether it is the intention of the Government to take this matter out of politics, but it is a matter which ought not to be taken out of politics. This House is a national safety-valve. Its chief value to the nation is that it is the place where grievances can be raised. To try to take this burning question out of politics and say that it shall only be debated on certain occasions during the year while Parliament sits, seems to me to be destroying a very great part of the value of this House, which is the place where we ought to raise burning questions of this character.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The hon. Gentleman's party took the initiative in doing what he complains about. The first time that this was done in unemployment insurance, it applied to people who were on standard benefit. That was done under the Anomalies Act, by regulation, and was even worse than at the present time. The Regulations did not have to come up for confirmation, but passed automatically without confirmation. That was done with the strong approval of Liberal Members, who voted for it, so how can the hon. Gentleman now complain of a Regulation which has greater Parliamentary force t His party backed the Regulation without Parliamentary control for people who were on standard benefit, and not upon transitional payments.
§ Mr. FOOT
In regard to repudiation, I should prefer to look at the Division Lists of that time. In any case, the responsibility of any Measure that was passed then must rest, not upon the party here, but upon the party that sits above the Gangway, the official Opposition.
May I say a word upon a question that has been raised by a good many speakers, the cuts in the rate of benefit. I do not want to repudiate this in any way, 1547 because I was one of those who thought that the cut was necessary, in the circumstances of 1931. With most of my hon. Friends, I thought that the cut was a temporary one, which would be restored as soon as the financial situation allowed. We have a good deal of authority for that view. I see that Viscount Snowden, writing this week in the "Sunday Chronicle" said that he thought that the first cut to be restored ought to be the cut in unemployment benefit. I could go even further than that, and quote an even higher authority. This morning I looked up the file of the "Manchester Guardian" and, in the issue for 15th October, 1932, I found this report:Mr. J. H. Thomas, Secretary for the Dominions, addressing a meeting of workmen at Derby to-day, spoke on the question of the possible restoration of cuts in unemployment pay. 'I have no hesitation in saying,' he said, 'I would restore unemployment cuts before any other.'We entirely endorse that view, and we hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make his influence felt in the Cabinet, so that, if there is a surplus in the next Budget, the first consideration may be given to those who were called upon to bear relatively the heaviest sacrifices in 1931.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Sir W. BRASS
I have listened with the greatest attetion to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. D. Foot), and I have a very great deal of sympathy with the remarks that he made about the means test. I have agitated more, I think, than anyone else in this House, certainly upon my side of the House, against the means test. When the leader of the hon. Gentleman, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was sitting in the Cabinet, and when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) who is now sitting next to the hon. Gentleman, was also in the Cabinet, I was agitating against the means test. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness has come round to my way of thinking, instead of the way of thinking that the Government had at that time.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
Did the hon. and gallant Member express his opinion in the Division Lobby?
§ Sir W. BRASS
I did, on many occasions. I voted against the Government, and I spoke against it. I am very grateful for the opportunity of saying a few words on this matter. I represent a constituency in Lancashire which, I suppose, has more unemployment than any other constituency in the whole country. When the Minister of Labour introduced the Bill he said that, as we have an immense majority in this House, we have a special responsibility. I think that he was quite right. We have a special responsibility for the unemployed. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will forgive me if I am rather critical of the Measure which is at present before the House, but I remember a lot of the pledges which were made during the General Election, and especially the pledges that we made. I remember that the same pledges were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, as far as the means test was concerned. I do not think that any of us, at that time, thought that people who were going to be put upon transitional payments would be brought down to the Poor Law level, as they undoubtedly were. I certainly did not believe that, otherwise I should not have said the things that I did at the General Election. I want to be perfectly honest in this House, and to my constituents, in making these statements.
There are quite a number of things in the Bill with which I agree. As far as it goes, it is good in parts. I am very glad that the dual control of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour has been put an end to. That was another thing about which I had been agitating for some considerable time. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has seen eye to eye with me on that subject, and that the public assistance committees are not to administer the means test. It is to be administered, as was suggested by several people besides myself, through the Ministry of Labour. With that part of the Bill I agree. As far as the stigma of the Poor Law is concerned, I think there is a little confusion of thought about it. The hon. Member for Spenny-moor (Mr. Batey) was a little confused about the stigma of the Poor Law. I object to a man going on to the rates, and being relieved by the town. I do not object so much to his going to the public assistance committee to get more 1549 money from the public fund. The men very much object to going and getting money from the local authority in the town. There is a definite distinction between the two. The stigma of the Poor Law has been removed in this Bill.
I am very glad to see that we are to have training centres. That is an excellent scheme, and I have always supported it. I do not agree with the remarks that were made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) on that subject. Training centres will be a very great help, especially to the younger people, in keeping the unemployed in good health and ready for work when it becomes available. I am sure that the local authorities will welcome the opportunity of housing some of these people, who are at present loafing about the streets, and of using them for works which are necessary in the various areas. No doubt hon. Members of the Liberal party will have seen a statement in the "News Chronicle":The workhouse is the alternative to the training camp.I hope that that statement did not originate from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen.
The insurance principle is maintained in this Bill. Possibly there is a hardship in suggesting that £5,500,000 annually should be collected from the worker and employer, and paid into the fund. I am not at all sure that it is not a hardship to the employe and an excessive burden upon the employer and upon industry. I am not sure that it would not have been better to add the £115,000,000 to the public debt and pay the interest on it, in the ordinary way, instead of, as it were, funding the debt, and making a contribution of £5,500,000 a year for 40 years to pay off that debt. I think that that is rather harsh treatment. I am not sure that the Minister is right in his view as to what he should do with the credit balance of £8,500,000 which he is going to get when the unemployment figure stands at 2,500,000. I am not at all sure that his decision that this money should be given back to the people who have paid the most premiums is really a right way of doing it, because I think that the people who have paid the most premiums in the past 10 or 15 years are probably the people who have been able to save more money than any- 1550 body else, and are probably more able to look after themselves than the poorer people who are at present on transitional benefit. In my opinion it would have been very much better if this £8,500,000 had been contributed towards the smoothing away of a lot of the difficulties and injustices of the means test, about which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Dundee.
I asked a question a little while ago as to how much it would cost the country if the means test were abolished altogether, and I was told by my right hon. Friend that the amount would be £15,000,000. £8,500,000 is quite a little step in that direction, and, if the fund is going to have a surplus of £8,500,000 on a register of 2,500,000 unemployed, as I understand is the case, I think that that amount might have gone to the alleviation of the means test rather than to the people who have paid the most premiums. As I said at the beginning, I agree with quite a lot that is in the Bill. Where I do not agree—I will not say that I quarrel—with the Minister is in regard to what he has left out of the Bill. He has left out of the Bill altogether what is going to happen to those unfortunate people who are on the means test. Clause 37 defines the need of the applicant. Clause 51 (2) says that the board which is being set up to administer the fund is to report to the Minister, and that, when it has reported to him, the Minister—I am quoting from the Bill— "shall consider any draft regulations"—made by the board—so submitted to him and shall make draft regulations either in the form of the draft submitted to him or subject to such variations and amendments as he thinks fit.In other words, my right hon. Friend, when he gets the report from the board, can take what he likes out of it. He can take the whole if he likes, or he can reject everything and make his own regulations just as he pleases.
I would like to know whether the Minister is going to give any special instructions to the board as to how the means test shall be applied in the future, because it is not being applied at all well at the present time. There are numerous hardships. The hon. Member for Dundee has mentioned a few, and I propose to illustrate what happens in the Lancashire County Council area. I will take the 1551 case of a man, his wife and two children both over the age of 21. Under the scale laid down by the Lancashire County Council, the man and his wife receive 23s., and the two children over 21—they are not children any longer—receive 7s. each. These figures, added together, comae to 37s. Assuming that one of the children, a man, is earning 35s.—not a very high remuneration—he, out of his 35s., is allowed 6s. free. Consequently, the amount which has to be deducted from the 37s. allowed to the household is 29s., and the whole household is allowed 8s. altogether.
I want hon. Members to realise what is happening, because this point has not been made. Here is a man who is earning 35s., out of which he is allowed 6s. free, and he is allowed, according to the rate of benefit laid down by the Lancashire County Council, 7s.; so that, out of his 35s. which he has been earning, he is allowed only 6s. and 7s., or 13s. altogether. If, on the other hand, that particular person were completely unemployed and drawing ordinary benefit, he would be drawing 15s. 3d., which is the ordinary rate. Here, therefore, is a man who is employed, who is earning 35s. a week, and all that he is allowed is 2s. 3d. less than he would be drawing if he were unemployed under ordinary unemployment benefit. I think that this ought to be remedied, and I would ask my hon. Friend to deal with the point when he comes to reply this evening. I want to get an answer to some of these questions; I have never had any answer yet. I want my hon. Friend to tell me whether this condition is going to be perpetuated after the Bill has been passed, or whether special instructions will be given to the board so that things of this sort do not happen in the future.
I will give another case, that of a man, his wife, one child over 21, and two other children, one 14 and the other 15. In this case the man and his wife, according to the Lancashire County Council's scale, draw 23s., the child over 21 draws 7s., and the two children of 14 and 15 only draw 2s. each, so that the total allowed to the family, according to the scale of the Lancashire County Council, is 34s. Assume that the eldest child, over 21, is earning 40s. He is allowed, as I said just now, 6s. free. This 6s. is deducted from the 40s., leaving 34s. Therefore this 1552 family, consisting of a man, his wife, a child over 21 and two children of 14 and 15, can draw nothing at all from the public assistance committee, since the 34s. which is the balance of the man's earnings has to go to maintain the whole household. How can anybody say that that is fair? It certainly is not fair.
I have here a list from the Lancashire Public Assistance Committee, showing what allowances are made for children by the different authorities. In the Lancashire County Council area the amount is 2s. In Burnley it is 5s. for the first child, 4s. for the second child, and 3s. 6d. for the third child. In Preston itself, the county town where these regulations are made by the Lancashire County Council, they treat themselves better than the people in the Lancashire County Council area are treated, because in the city of Preston the allowance is 3s. for the first child and 3s. for the second child. Again, in Warrington the amounts allowed are 3s., 4s. and 5s. I do ask my right hon. Friend to realise that 2s. is not enough for a growing child. I have here a statement, published by the British Medical Association, showing the estimated minimum cost of an adequate diet for children. These are the figures given:
Therefore, I would beg my hon. Friend when he comes to reply, or my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, to take these figures into consideration, and to realise that the people in Lancashire have been down and out for years and have no more savings at all. I think that in my constituency some 40 to 45 per cent, of them must be unemployed, and they have been unemployed for a great number of years. I beg the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to remember these things. May I refer them to the Royal Commission's Report? On page 288 it says this—and it is very important:
s. d. Under 6 years of age … 3 5 Over 8 and under 10 years … 4 2 Over 12 and undor 14 years … 5 4The practice of regarding almost the whole income of each member of the household as available equally for all the other members is not easily defensible, and we think it necessary that, under any system of discretionary assessment, definite guidance should be given to the assessing bodies as to the treatment of different kinds of income.Therefore, there is no excuse for either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secre- 1553 tary to say that no instruction has been given by the Royal Commission in regard to this matter.
Another case which I should like to put forward is the case of a man over 65 years of age. He is an old age pensioner, and receives 10s. He has living with him a daughter 31 years of age, and she is receiving 9s. from the public assistance committee, so that the total coming into the household is 19s. This lady went out to work, and worked for two days during the week. I think it was at charing, but anyway she worked two days during the week, and she was paid 8s. Naturally, being very honest, as all my constituents are, she told the public assistance committee that she had earned 8s., and what happened? The public assistance committee took off, not the 8s., but the 9s., and she got nothing at all, so that there was only 18s. coming into the household where before there was 19s. That, as one of my hon. Friends here says, is not a very great incentive to work.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
The hon. Member is dealing entirely with the past. There is a specific Clause in the Bill which deals with the questions about which he has been talking for the last quarter of an hour. Perhaps he would be kind enough to read the Bill.
§ Sir W. BRASS
I have read the Bill, and I can tell the hon. Member the number of the Clause. But I have not read the instruction which the Minister is giving, only the Clause itself. The Clause is 37 (3). I nearly read it out at the beginning of my speech:(3) The need of an applicant shall be determined and his needs assessed in accordance with regulations made under this Part of this Act, and such regulations shall in particular provide that the resources of an applicant taken into account shall include the resources of all members of the household— That is the whole point of my speech, which perhaps the hon. Member has not appreciated—of which he is himself a member (due regard being had also to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account).I want to know what "due regard" is going to be. That is the whole point of my argument. If my hon. Friend tells me that these things which are happening 1554 to-day will not happen in the future, then I shall be satisfied, but if they are going to happen in the future, as they quite easily could under that Clause, I shall not. We shall not know until later on.
Another point which is not dealt with at all in the Bill is that when an individual becomes unemployed he has a waiting period of six days. After that he has to sign on for another six days, and at the end of that period he may get benefit. If there is any question of whether he will or will not get benefit, he does not get it. I have had representations made to me by my local authorities that this is a most unfair position. In one of the biggest towns in my constituency I have heard of 25 cases in which benefit was refused because there was a question as to whether the applicant should or should not receive it. It took on an average three weeks before any decision was given, and in all those 25 cases the people had to go on to the public assistance committee—on to the Poor Law—to be assisted during the whole of those three weeks. The number of cases that were turned down out of the 25 for whom there was an average delay of three weeks, was one. One case was disallowed out of 25; all the other 24, who had a perfect right to benefit, had to wait for three weeks and go on to the Poor Law during the whole of that period. I ask the hon. Gentleman whether that position cannot be remedied in this Bill?
Another very important point is the question of reserve pay. My hon. Friend was in the Army during the War, as I was, and there were a certain number of men on the Reserve. I have a case in my constituency where a man is on the Reserve and receives 1s. 3d. a day paid quarterly, which comes to 8s. 9d. a week. The whole of that 8s. 9d. a week is deducted from his transitional benefit. I ask my hon. Friend whether he thinks that that is an inducement for the man to remain on the Reserve, if he is going to have the whole of his 8s. 9d. taken away from him when he comes to be assessed for transitional benefit? Why can the reserve pay not be taken into account in the same way as pensions and such sums are in the present Unemployment Insurance Acts?
The other point is one which I raised some time ago; I have a Special Resolution upon it, and my hon. Friend pos- 1555 sibly heard about it a little while ago when he was in Lancashire. In a trade dispute, if there is intimidation—and this actually happened in my constituency— which is so strong that the police have not control of the crowd and the owner of a mill has to close his mill and throw the willing workers in it out of employment, according to the umpire's decision and to the law as it stands to-day, the employe who becomes unemployed as a result of the mill being closed through intimidation is debarred from getting any benefit at all, although he has to pay all the premiums for unemployment insurance. That ruling, which was given by the umpire and which I tried to get reversed—I asked my hon. Friend a long time ago to put up another case to the umpire, which he refused to do—is most unjust. I now ask him whether he wants the law to stand as it is to-day, so that anybody who is forced out of employment owing to intimidation in a trade dispute in which he is not taking part is forced to go on paying premiums, and whether he proposes to allow such a man in the future, as he is at present, to be debarred from getting any benefit whatever under the Unemployment Insurance Act? If the law is not to be altered, I propose to vote against the Bill. It is a perfectly monstrous state of affairs, and a direct inducement to mob law.
I am very glad that I have had this opportunity of speaking my mind on this subject. I have been wanting to say this for some time. My constituents have been very badly treated, and if the Minister simply shakes his head, as he does, I do not see that I shall get any satisfaction from him. If I do not, I shall certainly not vote for the Bill.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
It is appropriate that that speech should have been delivered from these benches. The hon. and gallant Member made it perfectly clear that he completely and strongly condemns the means test. His attitude is very different from that of the hon. Member who sits below me on my left, who said that he was in favour of the means test, but was opposed to its results. He wishes to be in both camps. It would be interesting to know just where the Liberal party stands, because it is so difficult to dis- 1556 cover where it is on anything. The hon. Member favours the means test, but objects to the results.
§ Mr. BATEY
I agree; your attitude never changes and you always get the best of both worlds. The Minister of Labour, in closing his speech last Thursday, said that this Bill was the greatest Measure of social progress which has been presented to this country by any Government for many generations. I was amazed when I read that statement. The right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill was social progress—a social progress which smashes the family life of the working classes by the means test. He describes as social progress a Bill which sends decent unemployed men to labour camps as though they were convicts, which will fill to overflowing the workhouses with unemployed men and their wives and families. What the Minister calls social progress I call the worst instrument of oppression that has ever been introduced into this House for many generations.
During the 12 years that I have been a Member of this House, I have taken part in the Debates on several Unemployment Bills that have been introduced. None of them has been as bad a Bill as this one, yet the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary seem to have persuaded themselves that it is a useful Measure. I am sorry that we have not with us to-night the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Thompson), who last Thursday night said that he was speaking for all the Northern Members. He was supporting this Bill, and he spoke as the Minister of Labour had spoken; he copied the Minister of Labour in saying that this was a great Bill. I am wondering how many of the Northern Members of Parliament are in support of this Bill. Two or three of them have spoken; the hon. Member for the Eastern Division of Newcastle (Sir R. Aske) opposed the Bill; the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Curry) did not support the Bill, and I am not sure that the hon. Member for Sunderland who spoke actually supported the Bill himself. In discussing, as some other hon. Members did, the results of the means test, he said that 1557 he did not like the results of that test and, after quoting a case or two, he said, "I say that that is ridiculous and unfair." This Bill is doing something ridiculous and unfair, and yet we are told that all the Northern Members support this Bill. I am wondering whether the Newcastle Members are supporting it. I read in to-day's Northern newspapers that last night there was a meeting in Newcastle and the Lord Mayor, who is not a Labour man, moved a resolution:That we express our dissatisfaction with the Unemployment Bill now before Parliament.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Thompson) is not in his place, so may I say that he did not refer to this Bill as ridiculous? What he said was by way of criticism and by way of illustration of how a certain situation arose through the application under one authority of the provisions in connection with family allowances. He gave the details of the case, and then said quite plainly that he hoped that the definition of the household would receive the attention of the Minister. All he said concerning the Bill being ridiculous was in connection with that illustration. He did not say it of the Bill generally.
§ Mr. BATEY
That is perfectly true—in fact, it is just what I said. I consider that this Bill is a twin sister of the Bill of 1931, and that there is less justification for it. In 1931 we believed-at least, the country believed-that we were in a financial crisis. To-day all that has gone; we are told that trade is improving and things are getting better, that there is less unemployment. Whatever justification there may be for the steps that were taken by the Government in 1931, that justification does not exist today in this Bill. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to remember this. The Minister of Labour, I take it, will ask the House to-night to pass this Bill, as he asked the House last Thursday to pass it. We cannot forget that two years ago the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary asked the House to allow them to send the transitional benefit cases to the public assistance committee, and the House did it on their advice. Last Thursday the Minister of Labour condemned far more strongly than we could 1558 condemn the sending of transitional cases to public assistance committees and he admitted they made a serious blunder two years ago. How do we know that they are not making a similar blunder now? If the House was misled then, it may be just as easily misled to-day in accepting this Bill. The language that seems to me the best to describe the Bill is language that was used a few years ago by the present Prime Minister. In 1929, just before the General Election, the Labour party issued a pamphlet entitled, "How to Cure Unemployment" with a preface by the Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald. This is what he said:Unemployment will be the major issue at the forthcoming General Election. No stone will be left unturned to rid the country of the results of Tory ineptitude.You could stamp with a rubber stamp on each page of Part I of this Bill the words "Tory ineptitude," because there is no reorganisatfon in Part I and no statesmanship. You could stamp on every page of Part II the other two words, "Tragic results." Two years ago you divided the unemployed into two classes. In this Bill you are dividing them into three classes, the standard benefit class, the transitional benefit class and the workhouse class. The last is going to be an increasing class. It is a new class for whose creation only the National Government can be held responsible. It is to be created out of men who have lost heart and who are bitter. You are going to put them into the workhouse, and I prophesy that within six months the workhouses will be overflowing with unemployed men, their wives and families and, unless you do what there is a danger of being done and send some of these unemployed men to prison for not obeying some rules made by the Unemployment Assistance Board, there will not be sufficient room in the workhouses to house them. One reads that in the north of England 100 years ago there were so many strikes that they were not able to put all the miners into prison, and they had to use a bishop's stable as a prison. We are going to see a similar state of things under this Government. They are creating a new class which will over-fill the workhouses, and they will have to find some other places to put them in.
You are abolishing the public assistance committees—at least you are abolishing the need for the transitional 1559 cases to go before the public assistance committees—and you are going to apply the Commissioners, who have been hitherto restricted to, Durham and Rotherham, to the whole country. This Unemployment Assistance Board is to be composed of an employer, a trade unionist and someone representing Northern Ireland. I need only say in regard to Northern Ireland that it is difficult to understand why the Government want a representative of Northern Ireland, because they have their own Unemployment Insurance Fund and the only connection they have had with us has been to draw money from this country. From 1926 to 1932 the Treasury of this country have paid to the Treasury of Northern Ireland to help the Unemployment Fund £3,424,494, but the fact that we pay that money is no reason why Northern Ireland should have a representative upon the board. It is the trade unionist that I am more interested in whom the Government propose to put upon it. I cannot see how any trade unionist can sit on it.
The board is going to deal with the means test, a thing that is condemned hip and thigh by the trade union movement. It is going to send men to labour camps to work for no wages, a thing that is condemned by the trade union movement. It is going to send men into the workhouses, a thing that the trade union movement condemns. So I am hoping that we shall not find any trade unionist prepared to sit upon the board. I hope the trade union movement will refuse to appoint a representative. In my opinion, any trade unionist who sits on the board will be betraying the trade union movement, and will not be entitled to remain in it. I object to the powers of the board. I object to their continuing the means test. I object to their power to send men to what they call training centres, but what I call training camps. I am definitely opposed to all training centres for anyone over 18 years of age.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am taking it for granted that the House understands that it is the training centres under the Ministry of Labour that I am criticising. I do not object to training centres for juveniles, but I hold that there is no need for training centres for anyone over 18. If any men are needed for any particular trade, the trade is able to train them. My chief objection is that the Government have been training men and are now proposing to spend an additional £750,000 on training them and, when they are trained, they cannot find jobs for them. The Ministry of Labour Report for 1932, dealing with the training or instruction of men says:Opportunities of employment for men from the transfer instructional centres suffered an even greater reduction and as agents of the policy of transference it became necessary to contemplate their almost total closure.It also states:The procedure whereby suitable men who were unwilling to undergo a course at a transfer instructional centre were required to do so as a condition of the further receipt of benefit was abandoned in view of the fact that the likelihood of employment could no longer be held out to those going forward.If it was impossible to find jobs for these men, it seems to me sinful to provide £750,000 extra for these training centres. The Government are developing training centres into training camps and they are making a training camp for the first time in Durham. The hours of work are 44 a week and the men's time is spent on forest clearing, trenching and draining, road making, quarrying and similar work, for which no wages are paid. Jobs will be found for as many as possible of those who work hard and show keenness. Then we find that the men's lodgings are paid and they are allowed either 4s. or 3s. It is wicked to take young men to these labour camps to do work like this and at the end of the week give them only 3s., or at the most, 4s., after paying for their lodgings. The sum of 4s. will not provide them with clothes to replace those that they wear out. I have some pictures here of work in a training camp. They are making a bridge, and one man is lying on his back under the bridge. The hard nature of the work will mean that the men will go through any amount of 1561 clothes and wear out boots more quickly than when engaged at ordinary work.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The work does not involve any wear and tear of their own clothes, because we provide them with working clothes and working boots.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am glad of that, but your circular does not say so. What kind of uniform are you going to put them in? Convict's uniform? Is the clothing to be provided to have the arrow upon it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, it is work which is as bad as convict's work. To put those men to such work, even if you provide clothes and boots, and pay them no wages entitles those who are interested in the welfare of the country to vote against this Bill.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
I want to confine my remarks to a particular point in this Measure which to my surprise has not been dealt with in the Debate to which I have listened. It is one of outstanding importance, and appears to be a definite hole in an otherwise complete scheme. Whatever may have been said for or against it, the scheme is probably one of the finest schemes for unemployment insurance which this or any other country has yet had. It is far from perfect, but it is far better than any scheme which any other country has had, and that is a sufficient reply to the different condemnations which have been made. If you condemn the Government for this scheme, you condemn every country in the world throughout history for not having made such good proposals as are contained in this Bill. It shows how human are the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary when one can show a flaw in such a Bill. There is a very definite flaw, and I am going to bring it to their notice. It is clear that the Minister did not realise the flaw, because he; did not deal with the point in his opening speech. It is clear that hon. Members opposite who have been searching with a fine tooth comb for flaws in the scheme have not found it, because they have not mentioned the matter. Therefore, I want to deal with the treatment of the able-bodied unemployed. The Minister of Labour is keen on saving them from the stigma of the Poor Law. He said in his opening speech: 1562The Bill differs greatly to the advantage of the applicant, from the Poor Law.Again he says:One of the main features of the Bill which will commend itself to all parties, is that the genuine workman who has lost his employment and is in need of assistance, without the traditional stigma of the Poor Law. … An applicant detests having to apply for public relief and so on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1933; col. 1088, Vol. 283.]He suggests that such a man objects to having to apply for it as he is not as independent as he wishes to be. In that way stigma is a matter of self-respect, but in actual practice one of the chief elements in the stigma of the Poor Law is the association with the other people who include the dregs of society, as I have found out as a medical officer of health. Where is the association with the Poor Law the closest 1 It is on the question of medical relief. That question comes into this Bill. Clause 35 of the Bill says clearly that the able-bodied unemployed who will be dealt with in Part II of the Bill include persons whose normal occupation is employment in respect of which contributions are payable under the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Act, and that essentially includes the National Health Insurance Acts. It goes without saying that when a man is unemployed his employers are no longer able to pay his health insurance. Part II includes these persons. It is clear that the matter has received exceptional treatment. In the Seventh Schedule it provides that a public assistance authority shall not order outdoor relief for these people because it is desired to keep them from the stigma of the Poor Law except provided that this paragraph shall not apply in respect of the medical needs of any person, and vis-a-vis the Unemployment Assistance Board shall pay to the public assistance authority the cost of any outdoor relief not being relief in respect of medical needs.
It means that in Part II the able-bodied unemployed come under the Poor Law public assistance authority for medical relief. What is the effect? These men, who through the whole course of their employment have been looked after medically by their panel health insurance doctors, have now to leave the panel doctor and are to be looked after 1563 by the public assistance doctor, who is technically known as the district medical officer. He is the district medical officer who is paid a fixed sum for the treatment of all the people who come under public assistance or the Poor Law. Whether he has one, 20 or a 100 or 500 extra patients thrown upon him he has to treat them for the same salary. The panel doctor loses his panel patient. The official reply to this is unworthy of the Government. It was not made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, but by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health when this matter was being discussed recently in the House. I raised the question on the subject of the Poor Law assistance treatment of these persons, and he replied that the public assistance officer and the district medical officer is very often the same man as the panel doctor. It was simply being changed in regard to payment from one to the other. That we all know to be absurd. Very often he is the same man, but in many cases it is not so.
Instead of having the choice of 16,000 panel doctors and of 10,000 chemist shops, the able-bodied unemployed man is to be put under a system which employs 3,500 district medical officers each of whom looks after an average population of 15,000 extending over 15,000 acres. It is not a reflection upon the district medical officer, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health suggested the other day, because he is very often the same man and an excellent fellow. There are black sheep in every flock, but I am objecting to the system. The system of the district medical officer is grossly inefficient in general ways and unfair both to the patient and to the doctor. The district medical officer can seldom prescribe extras, never district nursing, although some boards subscribe to local nursing associations. He makes no returns. He has rarely a superior officer to advise and to encourage him. He has no relationship with the medical officer of health and no incentive to advise, to prevent illness, or to report unhealthy conditions. His business is to supply medical relief which is too often limited to the giving of a bottle of medicine. The friendly relations which exist between doctor and patient are now to be broken. Everybody knows as well as the medical 1564 profession that the essence of sound medical treatment, especially the prevention of illness and the keeping of people in health, is the personal relation and friendship of the doctor and patient; the patient knowing the doctor and the doctor knowing the patient year after year. All that is to be broken. It is an unworthy and an unnecessary arrangement. What is the alternative? We had the alternative mentioned by the Minister of Health the other day. He said:What is to be said in regard to the particular difficulty, which has been put to me with great force by hon. Members, that the real difficulty, and it is if I may say so, the only practical and substantial difficulty that has been adduced to-day, is that of free choice of doctor. Is there any way in which it can be met? There is. It is perfectly open to the local authority in a suitable case to make use of the panel system for its public assistance organisation. Experiments have been made in that direction in three areas, namely, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East Ham and Wiltshire."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1933; col. 485, Vol. 281.]He says in cold, chilly terms, "I invite local authorities"—
§ Mr. HUDSON
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. This is a Bill to deal with able-bodied unemployed who are available for, and capable of, work. Obviously, a man is not available for, and capable of, work if he is sick. Does not the speech of the hon. and gallant Member seem to be more appropriate on a Debate on the Ministry of Health, as the Bill only deals with the able-bodied unemployed?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir D. Herbert)
I did not like to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member in dealing with what appears to be a Committee point. He must not argue it. He may draw attention to it, but must not go into the details.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
I gladly accept your Ruling, but, considering the amount of details introduced by other Members, I thought that I should be in order. As regards the point of the Parliamentary Secretary, it is clear that he will have to meet the point in Committee; otherwise, he cannot say that he is saving those people from the stigma of the Poor Law when he is putting them definitely under the Poor Law. The Government must see this thing as a whole and not in compartments. If it is a question of the 1565 Ministry of Health, that Department must be brought into it, and the Government must work together in those two offices instead of in pigeon-holes. The Bill throws the people on to the Poor Law for medical relief. It is a great blot, and, what is more, people will feel that it is against the whole arguments and statements of the Minister of Labour. The Parliamentary Secretary may shake his head. Doctors are clearly against it. The British Medical Association have raised this matter again and again, and the matter will have to come up in Committee.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Dr. SALTER
Many grounds of opposition have been raised by speakers on this side of the House against the Bill. My strongest objection is that the Bill, as far as I can see, does nothing whatever to remedy the terrible privations from which hundreds of thousands of unemployed people suffer. It has been mentioned again and again in Debate that the cuts in unemployment benefit were made in 1931 at a time of crisis. Not only are those cuts not restored by the Bill but, as I read the Bill, they are to be stereotyped and made practically permanent.
§ Dr. SALTER
The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. It is true that there is a very vague possibility that at some remote period in the future the board may recommend an increase in benefit. There is a faint shadow of something of the sort happening but, surely, the fact that the first call on any surplus in the Unemployment Fund is for reimbursing the Treasury for money expended in the past practically negatives any chance of any available surplus being allocated for increase of benefit. I cannot see, looking at the construction of the Bill as it stands at the present time, that the Bill holds out any hope to the present unemployed of securing additional benefits. An enormous mass of evidence has been accumulated recently to show that the rates of benefit are totally insufficient in multitudes of cases to sustain life or, in the words of the report of the British Medical Association Committee, "to maintain health or working capacity." The Secretary of State for Scotland, in winding up the Debate last Thursday night, said: 1566I challenge the hon. Gentleman"—I think he was referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell)—to show in any sense of the word that this Government has starved anybody. It is a gross mis-statement."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 30th November, 1933; col. 1183, Vol. 283.]I take up that challenge here and now. I say, quite deliberately, that, reviewing all the facts available to me, that literal starvation—using the word in its common, colloquial sense, to say nothing about the physiological starvation referred to by the British Medical Association-actual starvation exists at the present time in an enormous number of cases of unemployed persons and their families, and that it is working grave damage to health in hundreds of thousands of persons. The Minister of Health has said that there is no evidence of any increase in malnutrition among, for example, elementary school children in industrial districts. He has said, and it has been repeated on several occasions by other representatives of the Government, that there is at present no available medical evidence of any general increase in physical impairment, sickness or mortality as a result of economic depression or unemployment. Words to that effect have been used by other representatives of the Government. I reply that neither the Minister of Health nor the other Members of the Government who have repeated that statement can have read the reports of their own medical officers of health. I have an enormous mass of cuttings from the reports of different medical officers. I will quote a few. The Cumberland school medical officer, Dr. Kenneth Fraser, in his report for 1932, says:There is no doubt that large numbers of the children are carrying on in this county without adequate food. The money available for food in very many homes is not sufficient to buy an adequate diet for a growing child, even on the plainest and simplest lines.Yet the Minister of Health says that there is no evidence of starvation.
§ Dr. SALTER
I am going to give a selection. I have probably about 40 extracts from the reports of different medical officers of health, but I shall not read more than seven or eight.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I hope the hon. Member will be good enough to recollect the intervention that I had to make during the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), and that he will relate all his facts, whatever they may be, strictly to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Dr. SALTER
I propose to relate what I am saying strictly to the Second Reading of the Bill on the ground that it does nothing whatsoever to assist the unemployed or to relieve them from the effects of starvation or semi-starvation from which they are suffering, and that they will continue to suffer under it. I propose to relate my facts strictly to that point. Dr. Kenneth Fraser goes on to refer to the abnormally high infantile mortality in the country during the first nine weeks of the present year, and says:I do not doubt that under better economic conditions many of these children would not have died.Is not that equivalent to a charge of manslaughter against the authorities, whoever they may be, who allowed those children to get into such a condition of malnutrition that they died? The medical officer of health for Preston says:The general health of the children showed uniform decline in the last quarter of the year, the unprecedented trade depression and consequent unemployment being the direct cause. Possibly at no period during the past five years has work at the infant welfare centres been so difficult as during the latter part of 1932. One cannot help feeling that the means test was the responsible factor. No one can deny that the ex-baby and the toddler were both definitely much less robust and much more in need of medical attention and much more prone to rickets than was the case two years ago.The medical officer for Burnley says:In the present state of unemployment children are getting too much starchy food and too little fresh fruit, fresh milk, fresh vegetables and fresh eggs.The medical officer of health for Monmouthshire, reporting on rickets, which has gravely increased, he states, throughout the county, declares: 1568It would seem that the prolonged industrial depression is saving its grave effect on the mothers.The medical officer of health for Cardiff reporting on the greater number of children in his area suffering from physical disease or defect, says:It is the first sign of the influence on health of the bad times.The medical officer of health for Blackburn reports:The standard of nutrition continues to decline," —The Minister of Health said there was no evidence anywhere of anything of the sort—and in the case of boys shows but small improvement over that of the War period. The malnutrition is brought about by financial inability to provide the requisite sustenance.The medical officer of health for Stockton-on-Tees says:The ill effects of the deficient quality of nutriment are widespread.Dr. McGregor, the medical officer of health for Glasgow, says:Rickets among pre-school children shows a distinct tendency to increase. This increased prevalence of rickets is not entirely a local phenomenon. Reports from other areas are to the effect that similar increased incidence in rickets among preschool children has been noted.The medical officer of health for Hammersmith, Dr. Howell, says:Many expectant mothers are undernourished. No provision is made for the supply of milk during the first six months of pregnancy, although the early period of pregnancy is equally as important, if not more so, than the latter.He refers to the malnutrition among children, which he says:is due to the small amount of money left over for food for the family after paying present-day rents.He quotes an examination of children in the families of unemployed working-class families and says:Evidence of malnutrition exists in 28 per cent, of the cases, while 76 per cent. were below the average weight of children of the same elementary schools.I refrain from reading more quotations, but they could be multiplied almost indefinitely.
§ Dr. SALTER
I am quoting extracts which demonstrate conclusively my assertion that malnutrition is very widely pre-velant at the present time among children.
§ Dr. SALTER
I am denying statements made at that Box, and I am giving concrete evidence, not from politicians but from unbiased persons who have to administer the Public Health Act, and whose statements are correct.
§ Dr. SALTER
Yes, I have read it, and it has been read in this House several times. I am going to deal with that point in a moment, to show how hopelessly inadequate Sir George Newman's summary is to throw any light on the situation. I suggest that the recital of these reports of medical officers in regard to the inadequacy of the feeding of children and adults supplies a terrible indictment of the Government in regard to its policy through the administration of unemployment and transitional benefit. Many of us who live in industrial districts know the facts first-hand from our own observation and our daily contact with the people concerned. I live in my constituency and in a working class street and I see the people all around me going down-hill month after month as a consequence of their inability to obtain adequate nourishment. The Government by their present policy are creating wholesale C3 individuals, C3 physically and C3 mentally.
§ Dr. SALTER
With great respect I am trying to show that under the existing Act, the policy of which is to be perpetuated by the Bill, these things are happening and that as no remedy is effected by this Bill things will become worse. I submit, therefore, that I am in order. As a result of this Bill the present policy of the Government is to be continued and we are definitely developing a C3 race. In a great many cases, owing to starvation of brain as well as of body, we are going to have persons of weakened mentality in the 1570 future. Hon. Members in this House and outside it have again and again demanded the sterilisation of the mentally deficient person. Here we are actually growing them by the policy of this Bill.
§ Dr. SALTER
Last night the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scrym-geour-Wedderburn) in discussing the adequacy of the scale of benefit, said that there would be a difficulty in postulating any ideal scale of benefit, but he said:Any question such as 'What do you consider the minimum weekly sum upon which an unemployed man and his family can decently live?' is an unfair question to which it is impossible to give a concise answer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1933; col. 1385, Vol. 283.]At the present moment we have in our possession a most remarkable and valuable report of the special committee of the British Medical Association which gives us a scientifically worked out minimum scale of expenditure upon food, admittedly not an ideal scale. The committee's terms of reference were:To determine the minimum weekly expenditure on foodstuffs which must be incurred by families of varying size if health and working capacity are to be maintained.This committee, which was appointed last April, consisted of nine distinguished doctors, none of them, as far as I am aware, being Socialists, though certainly a number of them I know do share the political opinions of hon. Members opposite. They sat for several months and made elaborate and detailed investigations and calculations. They consulted Professor Bowley, Professor of Statistics at London University, and Dr. Crowden, and also a number of medical officers of health. This expert committee condemns in the most unqualified manner the statement made by the Minister, reiterated by other hon. Members, that there is no malnutrition among elementary school children. They point out that the standards or criteria adopted by the Minister are useless for the purpose of estimating malnutrition. Their actual words are:The usually adopted age, height, and weight ratios are open to serious objections when applied to individuals. The functional fitness of the individual needs to be studied as well as the anthropometric measurements if the true state of nutrition is to be correctly appraised.1571 It is only upon one particular criterion, the relation of age to height and weight, that the Minister relies for his declaration that there is no appreciable malnutrition among children at the present time. The standard upon which the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) relies has been condemned in unqualified terms by this committee of the British Medical Council, and it is also criticised by the Chairman of the Council of the British Medical Association. This again is a direct contradiction of the Government's policy and the Minister's statement that there is no malnutrition. He says:Officialdom's methods for assessing malnutrition are so loose, haphazard, and out of date; that they give an entirely false impression of the state of things which actually exists.That statement was followed in the Press the next morning by a statement from the Superintendent of the Church Army Homes who said: "I have known families in which the children somehow keep up the illusion of health, despite the fact that they are lucky if they get one full meal a day, and even then that meal would be bought for bulk and cheapness rather than for nutritive qualities.
Let me add the very definite statement, that among very young children you may have excessive bulk, a child almost bloated with fat, yet suffering from extreme rickets. It is well known that young children who are not properly fed, who are not getting sufficient vitamins, can actually put on weight and yet get every day nearer and nearer to death's door. Only last week I saw young children who are deformed by rickets, whose limbs are bowed, who will be knock-kneed for life, others who will have to be operated upon if their limbs are to be straightened, and yet they are actually over-weight for their age, and above the standard relied upon by the Minister. That is a medical declaration which no one can dispute.
§ Dr. O'DONOVAN
No one will dispute my hon. Friend's statement about fatness and want of health, but there was one remark, perhaps a little rhetorical, that they were at death's door. The approximation of death and increasing weight cannot be co-related.
§ Dr. SALTER
This is not the place, of course, to conduct a medical controversy, but I think my hon. Friend is a specialist in skin diseases, not in children's diseases, and if he were aware of the whole of the facts of the case he would realise that many of these children with extreme rickets, who are bloated and over-weight, are simply fading away, and would be seriously affected by a slight disease which an ordinary child would throw off in a day or two.
§ Dr. SALTER
Therefore, I say that they are next to death's door. When hon. Members opposite talk about the unemployed having lost their morale through being unemployed so long, and when the Government take credit for establishing training schools to re-establish this morale, I should like it to be known that chronic semi-starvation of the proper foods affects the brain functions and brain structure, and this insufficient feeding which is going on produces the sluggishness of brain, the inertia and the incapacity to effort, and is really the cause of what is described as a loss of morale. It is not a moral defect, it is a physical defect, because of the starvation imposed upon them by the Government's present policy. Let me turn again to the report of the British Medical Association and to the standards of payment which ought to be put into force immediately. As to the necessary amounts which ought to be allowed for food alone for different classes of individual, the report says:The minimum required to maintain a man in health and efficiency is 5s. 10½d. a week.That is really an under-statement, because the report goes on to say that it is necessary that an adult man should have at least a quarter of a pint of milk a day and the cost of that is assumed to be 2½d. a pint in summer and 3d. in winter, or an average of 2¾d. for the year. Milk cannot be obtained under 7d. a quart, or 3½d. a pint, and I see that owing to the operations of the Minister of Agriculture a man was prosecuted the other day for selling milk at 6d. a quart when the price was 7d. I know of no places where fresh milk can be obtained at less than 7d. a quart, and it means that the figure of 5s. 10½d. must be raised by another penny to 5s. 11½d. Many of the 1573 ingredients in the diet set out in the document cannot be purchased, in London at any rate, at the prices mentioned. I have had comparative figures made out, and I find that they cannot be procured except for 1d. or 2d. more For children, allowing for this correction in respect of the price of milk, with which the Committee I have no doubt will agree, the minimum cost of the diet of a child from one to two years of age would be 2s. 11½d. per week; of a child between two years and three years 3s. 4d., from three years to six years 3s. 8d., and from eight years to ten years 4s. 3d. The Committee add:It has not been found possible to prepare any diet for a child at a less cost than 2s. 6d. per week.Yet only 2s. is allowed, and the Bill proposes to perpetuate this allowance, at any rate, there is no suggestion that the figure is to be increased. The Ministry of Health has published its own report in which they say:For the proper feeding of children in Poor Law institutions, in homes containing 200 children, the weekly cost of food is 4s. 6½d. per head, if all provisions are bought at contract prices.How can the unemployed buy food at contract prices? They will have to pay more. If 4s. 6d. is, on the Ministry's own showing, a minimum, how inadequate must be an allowance of 2s. for a child, and that 2s. is not merely for food, but it includes a proportion for firing and for cleaning materials, which in the case of young children are a heavy item in the domestic weekly expenditure. In fact, on three or four occasions in their report the committee point out that a diet for young children cannot be procured except for about 4s. 6½d. per week. That 4s. 6d. does not include a charge for any other service or purpose whatever. It is a curious coincidence that the Ministry's figure is almost exactly the same as the figure which the British Medical Association reached in this connection.
When you come from the individual child to the family, how can a man with a wife and three children between the ages of six and 14 spend £1 3s. 1½d. on food, which is the figure set out in the British Medical Association report, out of a total payment of £1 9s. 3d., when the rent will be 10s. or 12s. at the least, and no allowance is made for renewals of clothing and fuel 1 In this bitter weather 1574 the cost of fuel cannot be less than 1s. 6d. a week. I would remind the House that since the British Medical Association report was published there have been articles in the Press, letters from doctors and public administrators, and pronouncements on the platform from public officials, from authorities of the Church Army homes, representatives of orphanages and legions of other people who are engaged in social and philanthropic work, drawn from all ranks of life, who declare that even the British Medical Association ration is only barely sufficient to maintain life at the level of subsistence. For decent life at all it is hopelessly inadequate. I have here an article by a very well-known writer and social investigator, who says:The amount left after purchasing the minimum foodstuffs allowed by the British Medical Association would not pay the rent alone in many hundreds and thousands of unemployed households. The only possible conclusion to be drawn is that in order to pay the rent and purchase bare necessities the housewife in every instance must economise on food.That plainly is what is going on now. That is the explanation of the tragic records of the various medical officers of health whose documents I have mentioned. There is practically universal condemnation outside, by disinterested persons, of the scale of benefit which is permitted under the Act and under this Bill. I ask the Minister of Labour or his Parliamentary Secretary quite definitely whether there is any intention on the part of the Government to increase this scale of allowances for unemployment benefit, more especially in the case of children. A daily newspaper, the "News-Chronicle" on Saturday contained an article by a special commissioner who has been making investigations in Bishop Auckland and the North. He reports case after case where the family, when the husband was in receipt of benefit on present scales, had to live largely on bread and margarine, and even then by the middle of the week they had to pinch themselves. The conclusion of the commissioner was this:The recent medical estimate that 5s. 10 ½d. is a sum upon which a man doing moderate work could reasonably be fed, has attracted much attention. I do not think that the sum available for food to any unemployed man in this village is more than 3s. a week.1575 That is my experience first-hand in the industrial district in which I live. I am, therefore, justified in condemning the Bill root and branch. The Bill does nothing whatever to relieve the privations from which unemployed families in this country are suffering. I oppose the Bill because it gives legislative sanction to what I cannot but describe as the deliberate starvation of great masses of my fellow countrymen. There sits the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. He is always approachable, he is always very kindly, very genial, and very sympathetic, but I would most solemnly say to him that in commending this Bill to the House, and offering no hope of any increase in the scales of benefit, he is really, with all his kindness and all his good intentions, making himself a party to the wholesale destruction of the health, and life even, of the people of this country.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Sir J. WALKER SMITH
I propose to refer especially to the provisions of the Bill that fall within Part II. I shall restrict my observations to those particular provisions. I am concerned because of the fact that under those provisions there will be somewhat ruthlessly thrown on to one side the administration of unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit by those elected of the people, who have traditionally for many generations administered that particular service. I am concerned too on account of the fact that under this Part of the Bill there will be vested in Government officialdom powers and responsibility for this vast service, which involves the exercise of wide discretion and the expenditure of tens of millions—about £50,000,000 of public money per annum. I propose still further to restrict my observations to the question of the extent to which these particular provisions may develop an undesirable bureaucracy.
In a very brief but very clear speech earlier in the day the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) indicated that there were in the scheme three main features which emerged for consideration. The second, with which he did not deal, was the question whether or not the vast service contemplated under this Bill would degenerate into an undesirable bureaucracy. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr: Greenwood) 1576 said that in his opinion it certainly would. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) rather gloried in the fact that it was a purely bureaucratic Bill and perhaps the Minister of Labour had in his mind the idea that it might involve something very much in the nature of an undesirable bureaucracy. He himself emphasised the fact that the responsible authority for the control and administration of affairs under this Measure would be what he termed the central authority. That is a somewhat euphemistic expression for what others have termed a bureaucracy.
One knows that the Minister must be guided largely by his advisers and that he has around him a large staff of skilled advisers and draftsmen. It has occurred to me however that in the drafting of this Bill official effrontery has carried us rather further than we are accustomed to go. It is usual for the official authors of contemplated Government legislation to secure, by way of support for their proposals, some recommendations Or findings by Royal Commissions or committees or bodies of that kind. It may be that they are now so emboldened that they do not think it necessary to find any support from documents of that kind or it may be that in this case they have been unable to find any such support. It would be astonishing to me if, in relation to an astonishing Bill of this kind, anyone could find recommendations by a Royal Commission to support the provisions of Part II.
The Minister of Labour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Scotland have in turn referred to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance which presented its report in November of last year. They have referred to the findings of the Commission in support of various proposals in the Bill, and I take it that, had there been any support in that report for the astonishing provisions of Part II they would have felt it their duty to make that fact known to the House. But upon that point they were silent. I have perused with care both the Majority and Minority Reports of the Commission and have failed to find the slightest support for these provisions of this Government Measure. Indeed I find the reverse. It would be astonishing to find any recommendation of the Commis- 1577 sion in favour of placing a service of this kind in the hands of Government officialdom a more arbitrary or more regulation-bound body than which it is impossible to conceive. Yet it is to a body of that kind that the Government propose to entrust the welfare nay almost the very existence of a vast number of our people who are down on their luck.
The provisions of Part II seem to be based upon certain questionable assumptions, and if those assumptions are shown to be unsound, as I shall show them to be unsound, the provisions of this part of the Bill fall of their own weight. The first assumption seems to be that Parliament has now become so invertebrate and Ministers so effete that they can no longer be relied on or indeed no longer desire to discharge the irksome duties of their offices without having some quasi-independent body to shield them from the worry and trouble of real responsibility. Secondly, there seems to be an assumption that local authorities are now so craven that they succumb readily to fears of the electorate and can no longer be relied upon to discharge their duties loyally and courageously. I do not propose to discuss the extent to which Parliament may have become invertebrate and Ministers themselves by their own actions, will tell us the degree to which they feel they have become effete and the extent to which they desire to interpose between themselves and real responsibility some body behind which they can shelter. But I protest that there is no justification for the belief that local authorities are now so craven that they can no longer be trusted to carry out their duties loyally and fearlessly even though those duties may have unpleasant consequences.
I am not impressed with the statement of the Secretary of State for Scotland that there are some members of local authorities in Scotland who would be glad to get rid of the duty of administering assistance to the able-bodied unemployed. I do not think it can be a general desire among representatives on local authorities so to shirk a public duty which involves the welfare of citizens of their own boroughs. I would be sorry to believe that such is the case. Nor do I think it fair to judge local authorities upon their experience in regard to this particular service during the last two 1578 years under a scheme that is comparatively new and the machinery of which no doubt requires to be running for some time before its efficiency can fairly be judged. In circumstances of industrial depression which are unparalleled I have no doubt that for the effective administration of a service of this kind some adjustment of the scheme would be necessary, but when the scheme has been suitably adjusted I believe it is but right and proper that the administration should be left in the hands of the local authorities.
In my own experience, I am bound to say I have found a much greater measure of effectiveness in the administration of affairs by local government bodies than in administration by Departments which fall under Parliamentary control. I say that without hesitation having had practical experience of 15 years in both services. I have no doubt that the machinery of local government could be considerably improved, and that the areas of administration could be modified in order better to adapt them to this vast service suddenly thrust upon them. But, notwithstanding anything Ministers may say from the Front Bench to the effect that local authorities are now manned by such a craven crowd that they would be afraid to discharge these duties to their fellow citizens, I maintain that there is no justification whatever for that view.
There is one more assumption upon which this provision is based which is, perhaps, less untruly founded and that is the assumption that democratic government either has broken down or is in process of breaking down and that for the efficient discharge of unpleasant functions or duties involving great courage we must resort to some form of dictatorship. It may be that we must recognise, in common with almost the whole world now, that democracy is breaking down, but even so I do not think we have yet reached the stage when we need a dictatorship. But if, for purposes of this kind, we should need dictators, I sincerely hope that we shall have dictators whom we know, whom we can see, who will publicly proclaim their policy, and who will stand up publicly to defend it and take full responsibility for it. The dictatorship that is adumbrated under the provisions of this Bill is a very different sort of dictatorship.
1579 These dictators are unknown, they are unseen, they are secret in their methods, they are secure, they will wield an enormous amount of power, and they will carry no responsibility. That is not the kind of dictatorship that I think we could contemplate with any degree of equanimity whatever.
I do not think there will be any efficient measure of Parliamentary control over the administration of this Part of the Bill at all, and I am still of that opinion after having listened with great care to the explanation that was given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the subject yesterday. It is true that the regulations will need to be laid before this House, but this House will either have to accept them in full or reject them in toto, and that, of course, is practically an impossible thing to do. In any case no regulations can properly define the discretionary power that will be vested in the officials who will administer the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the expenses involved would necessitate a Vote, but the House must either pass the Vote or leave all the machinery at a standstill and no money available for the unemployed. I have no doubt the Comptroller and Auditor-General will see that the accounts are properly kept, but that will not be any control upon the extraordinary activities of this bureaucratic body, who, under the Bill, are being given enormously wide powers of discretion in the expenditure of this vast sum of public money.
I wish to make one or two specific references to the Bill itself. I must pass rapidly over Part I of the Bill, although I feel quite satisfied that the organisation set up under it will be used merely as a convenient instrument for sheltering the activities of a permanent officialdom. I have noted too the manner in which the Unemployment Insurance Committee is to be appointed. The Chairman and the members are to be appointed by the Minister, and the Minister, one knows, in circumstances of that kind, very soon becomes a euphemistic expression for the higher officials who surround him. I have no doubt whatever that when the limelight of public attention is concentrated upon these particular appointments, the Minister will 1580 appoint those who will have a certain amount of independence of judgment and who can be relied upon to exercise impartiality in the administration of this enormous undertaking, but the appointments will endure for a period of only five years, and then there may be another Minister, more amenable to the wishes and to the pressure of his own officials, and at the end of that period, under cover and in the shadow of public inattention and indifference, those lucrative appointments will, without a shadow of doubt, fall into the hands of the present permanent Civil Service, and the whole thing will become part and parcel of that vast, uncontrolled, and perhaps uncontrollable organisation. I think that is most undesirable.
I pass to the body which is to be appointed under the Fifth Schedule, namely, the Unemployment Assistance Board. It would appear that the method of appointment of that board is somewhat different from that prescribed for the appointment of the Unemployment Insurance Committee—in terms, yes, but in practice, no. The Minister will appoint the board for all practical purposes in the same way. It makes no difference whether the Minister appoints directly or whether the appointments are made upon the Minister's advice. The members of the board are appointed under what is termed the Sign Manual. By whatever method these lucrative appointments are filled, there is no doubt whatever of the ultimate destination of them. It will be precisely the same, as will be seen very shortly. I congratulate the draftsman who prescribed the constitution of this particular board in such grandiloquent terms. I forget the precise terms, but I know that they are to be a body corporate, with licence to hold land, and that they are to be appointed by warrant under the Sign Manual. That is all very gradiloquent, portentous, and ponderous, but it does not mean anything at all. I think it is designed for the purpose of deluding the public, and perhaps this House, into the belief that the body so appointed will be extremely independent, above suspicion, beyond reproach, a body which can be relied upon to discharge its duties with extreme impartiality. For myself, I feel quite sure that it is mere camouflage for Government officials.
1581 I am even more concerned with the proposals for the appointment of the appeal tribunals, which seem to me to be singularly objectionable. The scales have been loaded very heavily against the appellants. Each tribunal will consist of a chairman, who will be appointed by the Minister; the chairman will have a casting vote, and the chairman will be paid, so to speak, by the Minister who appoints him. There are to be two other members appointed, one to represent the Assistance Board—that is to say, another Ministerial appointment—and the third one is intended to represent the workpeople. He will be appointed by the Assistance Board, but even then the board cannot be trusted to appoint him, but has to appoint him from a panel which the Minister himself will supply to them. Therefore, it is clear that the triumvirate constituting this panel will be purely a Ministerial appeal tribunal. I submit that it is extremely unfair to the applicant.
There is another provision to which the Minister looks forward with considerable satisfaction, believing that it will be a very important part of the Bill. That is the provision for the appointment of advisory committees. I do not think that will be a very important provision at all. I think it is somewhat farcical. Those who have had anything to do with advisory bodies to advise a Government Department know that they are chosen in the first place on account of the anticipated advice which they will give. If they do not give that advice, their advice is not taken. In any case, it seems to be ludricrous and a complete inversion of the proper order of things for representative persons in any locality—representative citizens, representative employers, representative trade unionists or any other representatives—to be called together to advise a paid clerk of the Civil Service who will have absolute responsibility for decisions made and in whom will rest the whole discretion with regard to these payments. It should be the reverse process, as it is under the Poor Law procedure. The elected of the people have the determination of these questions and the Minister of Health has his Poor Law inspectors, men of considerable knowledge and experience who sit with the elected representatives and help them with their assistance and advice. That is as it should be, but no self-respecting citizen 1582 will sit on the advisory committees which are proposed in this Bill.
The independence of this Unemployment Assistance Board is illusory; I am quite satisfied that the tribunals are thoroughly unsatisfactory in that they are weighted against the appellants; and I am sure that these advisory committees are quite impossible. The whole of this machinery is of the wrong kind for administering the needs of the able-bodied unemployed. Sooner or later it will be found to be a meticulous organisation and inhuman in its operation. I think that it will be found to be extremely undesirable, and I fear that this additional organisation will become part and parcel of the Civil Service. I feel sure, too, that if this step is taken we shall have gone a considerable step towards the revulsion of public opinion against Parliamentary institutions and the forms of government. It may be that I have overstated my case in stating that probably this organisation will become part and parcel of Government officialdom, and that I have been a little too apprehensive that these lucrative appointments will soon pass into the hands of civil servants. I wish I had, but my experience tells me that I have done nothing of the kind because I have seen it happen over and over again.
I have seen these intended quasi-independent bodies eradicated and the particular services which they were administering fall entirely into the Civil Service, and I am sure that the present lucrative appointments will fall into the present service. It will be remembered that a body called the Coal Reorganisation Commission was set up, and the chairman was to have a salary of £7,000 a year because he was to be a man of extraordinary impartiality and judgment who knew the coal trade through and through, and for no less sum could a man undertake such duties. Who was appointed? A civil servant got that appointment. This is one of the means whereby the Civil Service uses lucrative appointments of this kind as a spearhead to increase their emoluments and their standard, a standard which is greater than that of the Civil Service in any other country. I am apprehensive that the needs of the unemployed should be exploited for official grandiosement, and this movement is a real danger to the State.
My first criticism of this Bill is against its Title. The Minister of Labour calls it the Unemployment Bill. I think, however, that if it had been named a Bill to regularise starvation it would have borne a more appropriate name. The Bill has 63 Clauses and eight Schedules, and I challenge the Minister to point to one Clause that gives the slightest anticipation that work will be found for a solitary unemployed man. Surely the country was entitled to expect that, following a General Election and the promises that were made by Members of the Government and their followers, we should have had a Bill after two years' experience that would at least have given some promise or offered some hope that some of the 3,000,000 men now unemployed would be employed. There is not a Clause in the Bill that gives the slightest hope of employment. It simply perpetuates the starvation cuts and scales that are already in operation.
I would like to make an observation on the financial position. We on this side of the House take strong exception to the first duty being placed upon the new Statutory Committee to make the fund solvent and to refund the £115,000,000 that has been spent in years gone by. The men who are employed and those who are coming in to make their contributions ought not to be held responsible for this debt. Not only are they to be asked to pay that amount, but, as we were told last night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, this debt is carrying 3½ per cent. interest. That means that the fund will have to repay something in the nature of £220,000,000 in 40 years at the rate of £5,500,000 per annum.
The country was led to believe that when the Bill was introduced the total financial responsibility for dealing with the unemployed would be taken by the State. Many of us have already received strong protests from local authorities because the Bill does not put on the State the full financial responsibility. The reply which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave last night to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) was misleading and ought to be corrected. A discussion arose as to the position of the local authorities. We are told by the local authorities that 60 per cent, of the expenditure, based on the standard year 1584 of 1932–33, on the able-bodied unemployed in receipt of transitional payments will have to be found from the local rates. We on this side of the House say that is totally unfair. The reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night would lead one to believe that that was not the position. In his reply to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, he said:The cost of transitional payments is £51,000,000. The charge to the local authorities for the classes in respect of which they will be relieved under the Bill is estimated at £6,500,000. That is a total of £57,500,000. Under the Bill they are asked to pay a contribution of £3,900,000, but they already get a block grant, which means that they are relieved of about 23 per cent, of their total expenditure, namely, £1,500,000. We are left, therefore, with these figures: that of the total present cost of relief to the able-bodied unemployed the Exchequer pays £55,100,000 and the local authorities will be asked under the Bill to pay out of rates £2,400,000. That means that the Exchequer does not pay merely 40 per cent. in comparison with the local authorities' 60 per cent, of the cost of the relief to the able-bodied unemployed, but that the Exchequer pays 95 per cent, and the local authorities only 5 per cent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1933; cols. 1361 and 1362, Vol. 283.]That statement does not show the true position. The block grants to local authorities are not only a redemption for the cost of the unemployed but include grants for other social services, and, as stated by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), this Bill still leaves the local authorities to find 60 per cent, in respect of the able-bodied unemployed. After the promise of the Ministry of Health last April, and after the pronouncements made by dozens of Tory Members in the country, we on this side of the House say that it is wrong to bring in a Bill which casts any responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed on the local ratepayers. We say that unemployment is a national responsibility and ought to be met out of no other funds than national funds.
Part I of the Bill sets up a statutory committee to watch the finances of the fund and see that it is kept solvent. The committee are given powers to make recommendations. Are they to be empowered to make recommendations to increase the allowances to unemployed men and their families? It does not look as if they will be. The only power they will have is to make recommendations to the 1585 Ministry of Labour about the finances of the fund when additional contributions are needed or there is a reduction in the fund. We would like to know what the extent of their powers is to be. As to Part II of the Bill, we take strong objection to there being a Part II. We take strong objection to the unemployed being separated into two sections. It is not to be wondered at that there has been such varied discussion and criticism. We on this side approach the question of unemployment in a very different manner from some other hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot), who was speaking on behalf of the Liberal party, said that Members ought to approach the Bill from the standpoint of the effect it will have on our constituents. I think we ought to approach it from the standpoint of its effect on humanity. Nearly every Clause deals with human beings, and before we can gauge its real effects there enters the question of how we approach the problem of unemployment. Personally, I approach it in this way. As a member of this community I have always made one claim ever since I was 21 years of age. That claim has been the right to work. If the State cannot find me work, owing to the system under which we live, over which I have had no control and very little hand in shaping, then the State must keep me and my wife and bairns in decency until it can find work for me. That is what we stand for. This Bill does not make the slightest attempt to deal with the problem, as we should have expected from a National Government which claims to have in the Cabinet the best and finest brains in the country.
Part II sets up a new authority entirely, the Unemployment Assistance Board. Why has that board been set up, and why have its duties been taken out of the hands of locally elected representatives? When the Minister of Labour was introducing the Bill I very much resented—I say it here to his face—the remark he made regarding members of public assistance committees and the old boards of guardians. He suggested that one of the reasons why he had transferred this administration to the Unemployment Assistance Board was that under the old regime on boards of guardians the proceedings became what was termed a whispering gallery, because men who 1586 were making application for unemployment benefit felt afraid to tell tike board the full domestic circumstances of their homes. That is not true, and it never has been true, and a statement like that is a gross insult to thousands of good, honest men and women who have spent tens of years in public life in dealing with the hard and difficult task of relieving the poor and the unemployed. If that is the only reason for the transfer of these functions, it is a very poor reason indeed.
We see nothing in the Bill promising a restoration of the "cuts" suffered by the unemployed. I very much question whether there is a single hon. Member who, during the last few years, has not been responsible for giving an undertaking in his own constituency—and in many cases in other constituencies— that when financial stability was restored one of the first things to be done would be to abolish the "cuts" made in unemployment benefit in 1931. Nearly every speaker this week, even supporters of the National Government, has suggested that these "cuts" ought to be restored and yet they will be sufficiently hypocritical when the Division is taken to walk into the opposite Lobby to me and my party. I was told before I came here that it was very difficult to be a politician and a saint. I did think that hon. Members would be more honourable to their consciences and would carry out the promises that they made to the electorate and to the unemployed. If any speech has been made in the whole of this Debate which warrants, not only a return of the cuts to the unemployed but a vast increase in the scales that we are paying to those poor unfortunates, it is that which has been delivered by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter). Statistics have been brought forward that, in every part of the country, men, women and children are underfed, the public health is deteriorating, and we are breeding a C3 nation, as the result of the allowances that we are paying to the unfortunate unemployed.
We say that there is nothing in this Measure that gives the slightest hope to the unemployed, and that this Bill is a disgrace to the National Government. We are hoping very much that the Bill will be taken before Caesar himself, in the form of a General Election, when the population of the country will be able 1587 to record their feelings about the abominable treatment which is meted out to the unemployed by the Bill, and which it is intended shall be continued. We shall fight this Bill root and branch, both in the House of Commons and in the country, and we hope, if we cannot get it amended by plea, that at a very early date the country, and the unfortunate unemployed who supported dozens of National candidates in the last General Election, will have seen the light of day and will be wise enough to know who are their real friends. We shall then have an opportunity of ripping this Bill off the Statute Book, and of giving to the unemployed men what hon. Members themselves would desire if they were in the ranks of the unemployed, a maintenance that is adequate, reasonable and Christianlike.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Colonel GOODMAN
I have listened to the speeches in this Debate for three days, and for three whole days I have waited for some constructive criticism from the benches of the Opposition, but in vain. That is not surprising, because we have been given to understand that the Labour Opposition intends to fight the Measure which we are discussing not only in the House, but in the constituencies. That being the case, we are entitled to consider what is their alternative policy for dealing with unemployment. We know how wholeheartedly and fanatically they believe that there will be no unemployment problem when Socialism is adopted in this country, but they still have to convince the majority of the constituencies on that point. As we are discussing the present problem, the ultimate expectation of those hon. Members, in regard to unemployment being cured by Socialism, is too far distant to be considered as an alternative to the present Measure.
It is some years since "work or maintenance" was declared to be the policy of the Opposition for dealing with the unemployed. If my memory serves me aright, the Right to Work Bill, which was introduced about 10 years ago, laid down that if any man or woman wanted work from other individuals, firms, local authorities or the State, and if the work was not forthcoming, the taxpayer was to provide adequate maintenance. The right 1588 hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), in moving the rejection of the present Bill, stated that his party re-affirmed the principle of work or maintenance. We can therefore assume that the right to work is the Opposition's alternative to unemployment insurance. They take the view that the unemployed should be maintained by the State. I should like to know how they translate adequate maintenance into scale relief.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield says that a scale should enable health and competency to work to be maintained. That has been repeated this evening by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter). It happens to be a phrase used by the British Medical Association. I admit that it is a very effective phrase, and that it would be very useful from the platform, but I cannot see that it gets us any nearer to the cost of the alternative scheme. As the policy of the Opposition is the right to work, instead of unemployment insurance, we can appreciate their hostility towards the unemployment insurance system. I cannot see how, in opposing this Bill, they can say that they are any nearer their object. They are not likely to have power for a long time in order to scrap the present system and to replace it by one based upon the right to work principle, and I should have thought that, instead of opposing this Bill tooth and nail, as we are told they intend to do, they would be much more usefully employed in co-operating with other parties, in order to see that, out of our discussions, the Measure emerges in as perfect a shape as possible.
I am tired of methods to deal with the unemployed being made a party question. We heard last night that there should be more co-operation; I agree, but the party opposite has consistently declined to cooperate with any Government on the unemployment question, or with any method of dealing with the unemployed. The right hon. Gentleman who now sits for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson) wrote, certainly a long time ago, to this effect, to a Labour meeting at Manchester:The national emergency emphasises the importance of everything being done to ensure the success of Labour at the General Election.1589 Although those words were written some time ago, they could be applied to the present day. I feel that hon. Members opposite have only considered the prospects of their own party, and not the prospects of the unemployed. That policy has governed their actions for a very long time. Last night, the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham), nearly at the conclusion of his speech on this Bill, said:You cannot settle the unemployment problem if you intend to do it in a partisan way and from one side of the House, because then it is approached from an entirely different angle from that which I have suggested. So far as hon. Members on this side are concerned, play the game straight and open, and you will find that you will get, not so much criticism, but a good deal more co-operation than you have bad in the past"—that is not necessarily a very great amount—and more than you are entitled to if you continue the present partisan policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1933; col. 1433; Vol. 283.]
§ Colonel GOODMAN
I presume that after that speech it may not be too late to ask hon. Members opposite to think a little less of their own party fortunes, and a little more about co-operating with other parties in the House, in order to make the plans proposed in this Bill an efficient means of dealing with the unemployed.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
From my statement it appears that I hold exactly the opinion of the hon. Member's party as he appears to hold of mine.
§ Colonel GOODMAN
That is my approach to the Measure, and it seems to me that it should be the approach of everyone who believes that the question should not be viewed from the standpoint of party. It is my intention to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, because I believe in it. The Bill, also, has introduced some developments which commend themselves to me very cordially, as one who is not without practical experience of the existing scheme. For a year or more I sat as chairman of a public assistance committee in the East End of London. It was not a pleasing duty, but it certainly 1590 was a very illuminating one. I am very glad to see that this Bill provides that connection between the Poor Law and unemployed people who are seeking relief shall be severed. The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) said that there was no real distaste on the part of people going to a public assistance committee for relief, but I have sat with these people and have spoken with them, and I know that, in the minds of the majority of unemployed men and women who are obliged to go to a public assistance committee, there was, and is, a very real distaste for being associated in any way with the Poor Law system. Therefore, I heartily approve of the provisions of the Bill by which a special body is set up to deal with those unemployed people who have exhausted their insurance benefit.
There are further provisions which commend themselves to me and, I think, to all others who, like myself, have interested themselves in boys and girls and their education. I refer to those Clauses which relate to the instruction and insurance of boys and girls. In the case of boys and girls, the uninsured gap between the leaving of school and going into employment and the age of 16 was exploited by a certain class of employers, who would employ boys and girls while insurance was not required, and discharge them as soon as they became of insurable age. I think it is a matter for congratulation that the Bill stops that gap by bringing the age of entry into insurance down to the school-leaving age. The provision of the Bill which requires instructional courses for boys and girls also commends itself to me, and I think it marks a further definite advance in the acceptance of responsibility by the State for these juveniles. That is a principle which must commend itself to every hon. Member of this House, to whatever party he may belong.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield concluded his speech by saying that the old system had broken down, and it was no use tinkering with it. But the unemployment insurance scheme was never framed to meet the prolonged and unparalleled depression in industry which we have had to face, and successive Governments have taken the easy way with the unemployed by tacking on to the insurance scheme a re- 1591 sponsibility for meeting an economic situation which it was never erected to bear. Is it any wonder that it sagged beneath what was practically an impossible burden? I do not agree that, because this economic situation was fastened on to it, that should be adduced as evidence of its breakdown due to its inherent weakness. I believe that the fact that there are millions of workers who have never exhausted their benefit is proof positive that in normal times and under normal conditions the scheme is a sound one.
I agree that there are defects and omissions, and I would like to take this opportunity of associating myself with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay), when he said that the first thing the Government ought to do is to increase the allowances to children. I would go even further than the hon. Member. He wanted to add another shilling, but, personally, I do not think that if the allowance were doubled it would be too much, and I would ask the Government to consider that possibility when the Bill reaches the Committee stage. The defects and omissions will, I assume and believe, be adjusted during the Committee stage. I support the Bill in the main because it disentangles the two types of unemployment—that which is due to national and international depression, and that which is due to the ordinary vicissitudes of an individual's industrial life.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
The views of those who sit on these benches were stated on the first day of the Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), and we have heard nothing in the Debate since to cause us to alter our views on any of these points. Our attitude towards the Division to-night is plainly this: Obviously, we cannot agree with the Amendment which has (been moved by hon. Members above the Gangway. They have put their Amendment, as they had a perfect right to do, in Terms of their own particular political philosophy, which we do not share. But to-night there will only be one Division, and in that Division there will be a plain question, "Aye or no, are you in favour of the Bill or are you against it?" For us on these 1592 benches, who find ourselves at variance with the Bill not merely on Committee points but on points of principle, there can only be one Lobby in which to vote.
I think there is one common basis upon which everyone in the House approaches this question. In spite of some words used by the hon. and gallant Member for North Islington (Colonel Goodman), in one sense "work or maintenance" is now the motto of every party. That is to say, we are face to face with more than 2,000,000 of our fellow-countrymen who cannot obtain work or a living from their own resources, and we all agree that they have to be maintained somehow. The question is not "whether"; it is "how." This Bill is the Government's answer to the question how it should be done. We believe it to be the wrong answer. A wrong answer in a matter of this kind is not merely like an arrow which one looses at a venture at some target. If one is unfortunate enough to miss, one can have another shot, and try to have better luck next time. It is more like a building put up on the only eligible site. Once you have constructed a large piece of machinery like this, it must remain, just as was found to be the case with the De-rating Bill. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who was among those who criticised that Measure most strongly, when he himself in turn was in office, could not lightly and in a moment overturn the whole of that structure. I am afraid that a mistake made in these provisions will have lasting effects, because there will be so much clearance work to be done before the country can get on the right lines again.
Undoubtedly, Part I of the Bill has merits, which I think have been pretty generally recognised. It extends the scope of insurance; it restores the balance of the Insurance Fund, and it budgets for a surplus, as far as we can make out; but it is precisely on the disposition of that surplus that the temper of the Bill is tested almost at once. If the spirit of the Bill had been of the kind which we on these benches would have desired, I cannot imagine that the opportunity of this surplus would not have been immediately seized for the benefit of those who have contributed to the fund; but, instead of that, we have the provision with regard to debt. What the Government 1593 are really doing is floating a new company, which we all wish well and want to prosper. We want to see it start under the best possible circumstances, but the Government are saddling it from the start with a large debenture issue in favour of people who have a right to be paid in priority to the ordinary shareholders, by whom I mean the beneficiaries of the fund. This is bound to operate to the prejudice of the beneficiaries of the fund, and really there is no reason whatever why it should have been done.
There seems to be some difference of opinion, as far as I can make out between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Royal Commission as to whether this particular debt is properly attributable to the fund or not. The Chancellor said very plainly thatpractically the whole of this debt is in respect of insurance benefit proper, not in respect of transitional payment or transitional benefit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 4th December, 1933; col. 1354, Vol. 283.]On the other hand, the quotation read from the Report of the Royal Commission last night by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bethnal Green North-East, who sits below the Gangway, showed the verdict of the Royal Commission precisely in the opposite sense. Whatever their opinion on the nature of the debt may be, there can be no doubt that they recommended that two-thirds of the debt should be transferred to the National Debt and should not burden the fund. Apart from that, there is ample precedent for an obligation, a liability, which has been incurred in times of national necessity being transferred to the National Debt. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) not long ago asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the fate of the sums of money which were lost in paying back to France and America amounts which were borrowed in the attempt to save the country from going off the Gold Standard. There was a sum of £17,500,000. The Chancellor's answer to that question was:This debt is represented by an increase in the internal sterling debt of the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1932; col. 1966, Vol. 262.]That money, which had been spent in time of emergency and which one would have thought would be payable, if any 1594 such debts are payable, by the people who had incurred the liability under the Budget of the year, it was thought quite proper—and I am not disputing the propriety of the decision—to put on the National Debt. If a debt of that kind can be so treated, why should a debt of this nature, that with which we are dealing to-night, be transferred to the fund so that—I am not afraid to repeat the phrase—it bears upon children as yet unborn? It is an important matter, in dealing with the debt, to remember that new people are continually coming in who know nothing about the debt. They are not like sharehloders who buy shares in a company with full knowledge of its financial circumstances, taking their choice as to whether they will come in or not. These people have* got to come in; there is no "take it or leave it"; they have to take the scheme as they find it.
I am afraid that losing this obvious opportunity to restore the cuts will create the worst of impressions in the country. Equality of sacrifice was the most essential plank in the Government's programme at the last election. After people have been asked to suffer, that suffering should be equal, and that implies that the restoration and the recovery should also be equal. If there is going to be an opportunity to restore this particular cut, the most pitiable cut of all, surely it is now, and the Government should not wait until the time when there will be numbers of other competitors for restoration. The convenience of this moment is that no one else has any claim upon this fund except the unemployed and their dependants. That is the most excellent of reasons for restoring the cuts now. If that is not done, I am grievously afraid that the impression will go abroad into every unemployed home that equality of sacrifice has been scrapped, if it was ever seriously intended.
So much for those who are in insurance and their treatment under this Bill. I come now to those outside insurance. They, of course, have always been in a weak position, because they have had no contractual status. My criticism of Part II of this Bill is that it is going to make their position weaker still. In the past, however weak they were, they had one remedy, the remedy that was employed against the unjust judge: they 1595 could employ importunity. They did employ it: importunity to their local authorities and importunity to their Members of Parliament. Of course I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) and others that many local authorities and individual members of them have been crying out to get rid of this burden. So they have, and it is quite natural that they should. It is very convenient for members of local authorities to be relieved of an invidious task. It is very convenient for Members of this House not to be pestered on all occasions with questions in regard to unemployment relief. It is very convenient for the Minister to have a system under which he can say that he is not responsible for individual cases. It is very convenient to everybody except the unemployed themselves, and they, after all, are the people to be considered. Elected persons have no right to set their convenience before their responsibility, and that is what I am afraid is being done in this case.
I feel that we are setting up a soulless machine which may well become the instrument of widespread injustice. I do not believe that the safeguards, local or national, are of any value. We have no basis for supposing that the advisory committee is of any use whatever, because we have been told practically nothing about its functions. The only thing we know is that it is advisory; that is to say, it may have to take the blame for the advice which it appears to have given even when that advice has perhaps never been accepted at all. I do not think that tine membership of such an advisory committee will be a particularly inviting job.
As to the control of Parliament, the Minister must realise that the essential point in this matter is whether we are to have an opportunity of really discussing, line by line and word by word, the Regulations which are going to affect the lives of our constituents. If each Regulation is merely to be put before us by the Minister, and it is quite clear that the Minister takes the responsibility—if, when the recommendation has been made by the board, the Minister then goes over it and puts it before us in his own form; then, if we take the responsibility of rejecting in toto what the Minister has been accepting, we are dealing a blow 1596 to that Front Bench. I, myself, might not be so reluctant to do that, but can we imagine the supporters of the National Government, however keenly they may feel upon this matter, dealing a rebuff to their Front Bench by referring back a whole Regulation, except in a case of the very direct need? I feel that we shall be allowing to grow up progressively a harsher system than the present one, which is quite harsh enough for me.
I want to know how the means test is likely to be administered under these provisions. That seems to me the essential point, and I am not at all cheered by the vague outline of the kind of thing which will be required from the new authority which is given in Clause 37 (3). Certain things are laid down which are to be embodied in the Regulations; for instance, the treatment of wounds and disability pensions and the treatment of invested money. These matters are dealt with, as far as I can see, on the basis of the treatment now afforded by the harsher local authorities. There is only a direction to leave out half of the wounds, or disability pension or compensation payment. I have always wondered why we stopped at half in a payment of that kind. Then we have a direction in which, for the purpose of reckoning the value of a capital sum, each £25 is treated as the equivalent of a weekly income of a shilling. That always seemed to me desperately illogical. It represents a rate of interest on capital which no one could possibly obtain. If they can, I should be very glad to be directed to the investment; I am sure that it is not within the reach of any unemployed person.
Take, above all, the matter in which the Minister took rather peculiar pride: that this Bill is directing the new authority to pay due regard to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account. That is the very heart of this Bill—in a way one of the most important things in it. We have no guide whatever as to the measure in which we are to take that into account. I know from personal experience, as most industrial Members must, that at present there is an enormous variation from one locality to another in the amounts that are allowed for the personal needs of each person before contribution 1597 to the family income begins. It might be claimed as an advantage for this Bill that under the new provisions we are likely to get a more uniform administration. Of course, that depends on the kind of uniformity, whether we are levelling up or down. What I see as likely is that the Commissioners in endeavouring, perhaps in a praiseworthy manner, to get uniformity of administration will adopt this kind of argument. "White town gets such and such a minimum allowance, why cannot Red Town do the same?" The result is that you will get a continual levelling down all the time.
I do not want to appear gloomy in imagining the worst for the sake of being miserable, but we have to realise that we are putting enormous power into the hands of an absolutely untested body and it is the duty of the House before it parts with those powers to examine very closely how they are going to be exercised. It is not we ourselves who are going to be affected but the people for whom we are most vitally responsible. I am very anxious, and I find that my anxiety is fully shared by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass), as to what is going to happen as to the administration of the means test under this authority. Further than that, I agree with the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), who directed attention to the danger of creating yet a new class of unemployed persons, those relegated to the workhouse. I do not want to exaggerate at all. I do not view, as he does, the prospect of all our workhouses being crowded out with special cases, but the fact remains that you are giving to this new body the power to declare a new class of persons who are to be treated as cases of special difficulty, and those persons can be treated in an extremely drastic way under the Bill, by compulsory training and by the workhouse, and I am very reluctant to give such powers to an unrepresentative body. Exercised by those who are locally responsible, or nationally responsible, and could be called to account, I might not fear them so much, but here the responsibility is practically non-existent.
Lastly, I come to the matter of the relations with the local authorities. I am quite prepared to admit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he is ob- 1598 viously right in his contention that the most impressive figure can be arrived at if you add up the totals of the various sums which by State expenditure have been allocated to the relief of the able-bodied unemployed at one time or another. It is an impressive sum, and it ought to be an impressive sum, for the thing is a national charge. But I think, unintentionally no doubt, he was unjust to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) in the passage of arms which he had with him yesterday. The hon. Member seemed to me to be putting forward a quite plain and accurate proposition, namely, that of the burden which still remained upon local authorities for the able-bodied unemployed, after taking into consideration matters which had already been taken away from them, there were these percentages of 60 and 40, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer must surely realise that, however much the nation has previously taken over, a terrible burden still remains on many of the worst situated localities. That cannot be denied by anyone.
Look at the result. We had meetings upstairs, which the Ministers of Health and Labour attended, not on any matter of detail but because the matter was urgent. We had the local authorities sitting on the Minister's doorstep, we had a Debate in the House, and finally we had a special emergency provision by which money was provided to bridge the gap. It was so urgent that it could not even wait a few months for this Bill. It cannot then be denied that, whatever has been done in the past, a very heavy burden still remains on local authorities, and the best that we can be told is that by a special provision not in the Bill as yet they are not going to be left worse off than they were under the transitional provisions that were arrived at in the summer. That is rather cold comfort for those who were seeking relief from a burden that had become practically intolerable. I contend that the general result of the financial treatment of the local authorities under the Bill must be to spread widely amongst those authorities disappointment and disillusion. It is quite evident that disappointment and disillusion are there, and I am afraid that that will be the result of the whole of this Bill—disappointment and disillusion as the general effect. That is the 1599 atmosphere in which this new scheme will start, and we on these benches, seeing that the Government has set its feet upon the wrong road in the treatment of one of the most vital matters in politics, are bound to utter our most solemn protests and to back that protest in the Division Lobby.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Islington (Colonel Goodman) was at some pains to give me and my friends a sort of lecture on what should be our conduct as an Opposition. If lectures will do us any good, we have been lectured pretty often. We have enough lecturers all round, and they take advantage of their opportunities. I should like to recommend the hon. and gallant Gentleman to read the speeches of the Lord President of the Council, the Postmaster-General, the late Minister of Agriculture, who has now gone to another place, and several others—I am not sure that I might not include the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour—a sort of hunt the slipper in trying to have the blood either of Miss Bondfield or her assistant, my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). I am amused when I hear Satan rebuking sin.
I am also amused at the doctrine that a Royal Commission is something sacred and that we must listen to what they say. I spent three years and more on a Royal Commission, and no one took any notice of us until a couple of Parliaments ago when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer applied some of the propositions of the minority report plus a few of the majority report. I am, therefore, quite unmoved when I hear Ministers calling Royal Commissions in aid. They are no more than we are. We are capable of reading and judging the evidence, and that is our business. When you appoint a Royal Commission you do not, of necessity, agree to accept their findings. I should like to see the Government start on the Betting Commission's Report.
I want the House to understand that our opposition to the Bill has been, in our judgment, very fairly stated by a considerable number of Members in all 1600 parts of the House. They have not all agreed in every detail, but some of the principle objections have been stated again and again. We are told, as I dare say we shall be told again to-night, that this is another milestone on the upward march of the people towards the temple of progress. We do not believe it. In our view it is a reactionary Measure. It is the setting up of an entirely new Poor Law. The recommendation to appoint the statutory body, which is irremovable, as I understand it, except by petition to the Crown, is exactly what the original promoters of the Poor Law 100 years ago wished to do. Every prophecy made in regard to what may happen through the working of this Bill was put forward then. The proposition underlying the legislation based on the 1834 Report was that the individual in some way was responsible for his condition. Anyone who has read Webb's books on the history of the Poor Law knows that drastic as were those proposals, with no option but the workhouse for the able-bodied men, the whole policy broke down because it was very speedily discovered that it was no way of dealing with a social problem which had arisen, very much like the present one has arisen, owing to the fact that we had then come through, not one tremendous war but a series of wars, plus the rise of the new industries in the country.
To-day the Government are tackling a problem of a similar character partly by insurance and partly by public assistance to be administered by five persons removed altogether from the control of this House. The insurance part of the scheme deals with one section. It may be said that it is the biggest section. That remains to be proved. We shall know more fully when the five gentlemen get to work, and when the public assistance committees no longer deal with the hawkers, the casuals, and the people who are out of unemployment benefit. We shall know much better than we can know now the full extent of unemployment. We cannot know now, because there are masses of people who are unregistered. These people are to be dealt with by men who, I suppose, will have their central office in London and perhaps divide the country among themselves. As I understand the position, there are to be officials held 1601 responsible only to these commissioners or board. I do not know what title will be given to them. That is something entirely new in the administration of affairs connected with the social needs of the people. I think that nothing similar has ever been set up. I would point out to the House that it is exactly the sort of body, not with the full powers which they wanted, as the Charity Organisation Society has been for the last half century. [Interruption.] I happen to know, and the hon. Member has not been connected with these people as long as I have, I have had half a century of experience of the Charity Organisation Society. I served with Mr. Locke on the Poor Law Commission, and if he had had his way at that time we should have brought forward a similar sort of proposition to that which is being brought forward now. Their whole conception is that you should remove the individual away from his fellows and treat him as if he is something different from the rest of the community. That is exactly what is to be done here.
If there was anything in the extraordinarily able speech of the Minister which came out very clearly it was that the person who was in employment fairly regularly and did not suffer long periods of unemployment was in some way a better sort of citizen than the other fellow who ran out of insurance and became a burden on the community. We do not take that view at all, and we think that that is the fundamental difference Between the Charity Organisation Society's conception of this problem and ours. I have argued this thousands of times because it is fundamental. If you take the line that because a person is unfortunate to be unemployed for a long period of months or even of years, as many thousands are just now, he in some way is socially the inferior of those who are able to keep their heads above water, you are establishing a principle which we consider to be derogatory to human society. We do not accept that at all.
When does this principle of dependence come in? Is it the good and lucky individual, the man who has kept his job and has never been out of work until suddenly he gets two or three weeks or a month and then receives his insurance pay in a respectable, honest and decent manner? When does this business of dependence come in? Two-thirds of what he gets is paid for by the employer and 1602 the State. He only pays one-third, so that two-thirds of his benefit is on exactly the same footing as that of the man who comes under Part II. That cannot be denied at all. Therefore I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will explain that matter to me. Where does the dependence and the less worthiness of the person concerned come in? The person whom the Charity Organisation Society, who are represented here to-night, would have described as a strong, independent citizen living his own life independently of his fellows, ought not to get that two-thirds. The Poor Law Commission in 1904-5 argued that point but the representatives of the President of the Local Government Board at that time argued against it. They said that the State ought not to have anything to do with it.
I call attention to it for this further reason, that we object altogether to the doctrine that the fund to-day should bear the cost of the debt on the fund of £115,000,000 which has been accumulated because at the close of the War there was put upon the Insurance Fund a burden which in 1911 nobody dreamed of putting upon it. I am speaking in the presence of hon. Members who were in the House in 1911 and they will know perfectly well that the casual labourer, the unskilled labourer were not put in the original Insurance Bill because it was generally recognised that they were an impossible insurance proposition. The premiums could not be thought of that would cover them. Therefore, they were not put in, with the result that when the War ended and the men came home something had to be done.
The first thing that was done was to collar the resources that had mounted up in the Insurance Fund and to put on to the fund masses of people who had not paid any money to it and many of whom never were able to pay any money into the fund. All kinds of arrangements were made. I discussed this matter one day during the Peace Conference with a very noted Member of the other House who, if he were here to-night is a good enough gentleman not to deny what I am going to say. He said that we had to do that kind of thing, and he afterwards stated publicly that we had to pay money to these men and were obliged to take this course, otherwise there would have been a revolution in the country. Therefore, 1603 we say that the Government have no right to put that burden upon the shoulders of those who are in insurance now. They are not entitled to say that those who are in the insurance scheme to-day must bear the burden that was placed upon the fund all those years ago, a burden which, as the Minister admitted, has been carried on by successive Governments.
When we come to the question of the household means test, it is the Poor Law destitution test, and nothing else. What is the Poor Law means test that is being administered now? Hon. Members are talking as if there is going to be something fresh. I hope very much that there will be something fresh. I hope we shall be able to put into the Regulations, but I do not see how it can be done, exactly the questions that are to be asked to decide the amount to be taken from the individual in each household to maintain the unemployed members, and how much is to be left to the girl or boy, the man or woman for his or her maintenance and for his or her own self out of the money they earn. Here is one of the chief objections to the means test, and the Parliamentary Secretary knows it as well as I do, because he assisted to crush the people in the east end of London when this Government passed their Economy Act. He knows perfectly well, nobody better, that one of the worst features is the sending of letters to the employers of the children or of the father to ascertain their income.
The Minister was a little eloquent about the "Peeping Toms" and whispering galleries of the guardians. There is many a home in this country where girls are almost stinting themselves, doing without necessities of life rather than allow the public assistance committee to write to their employers. That is the biggest crime of all. That is the very worst crime. It lowers the status of the person and makes the person feel that they are less worthy in the sight of their employers and in the sight of the girl or the man who opens the letters. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the members of the public assistance committee did that. No, it is done mainly by these sort of communications. It is also done verbally by the officer going to the places where the persons are employed. What 1604 right have you to say that what you yourselves admit is a national disaster should be a burden on the family or the household? Children are always good to their parents. If hon. Members give me a case where that is not so, I say that it is the exception that proves the rule. This is a continuing problem. It is not something that you can deal with just at the moment. It goes on from week to week and month to month.
I do not find that this sort of thing happens in other walks of life. Look at the Votes of this House and you see some very extraordinary sums voted without any means test whatsoever being applied. I believe there is no legal justification for what is proposed to be done. Take the case of a man living in a certain household, eating at the same table, with people who are not his relatives, with people who are almost strangers. Are you going to say that that household income is to be taken into account. The London County Council administer this business in London. A man came to me the other day, and I give it as a typical case, and told me that he is living with his brother and his sister-in-law. That man had not drawn one farthing of unemployment or health insurance benefit all the years since the Unemployment Fund started. Six or eight months ago he got out of work, went on transitional benefit, and was then told that as he was living with his brother, who is over 60 years of age, and a sister-in-law who, I think, is little older, that the income of that household was enough for his maintenance. We have; got to this point, that it is not merely parents and children, but brother and brother, whether the brother is in a position to do it or not. I think that is an infamy, and I want to know whether it is going to be continued. In answer to a question put by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. K. Griffith) it was said that this master is not going to be left entirely to the officials, but that there is to be a committee of people with local knowledge.
The hon. Member knows that the principle adopted by the London County Council is that nobody with local knowledge except Tories may serve on the local committees. They are packed in London, and he knows also that the people who administer public assistance 1605 in the East of London are ladies and gentlemen from the West End, who probably know all about a good dinner at the Eitz but nothing about the dinners of the poor people in East London. [Interruption.] It will be easy for hon. Members opposite to put a question to the Minister asking him to give the names and addresses of the people who serve on the London area committees. We shall then be able to understand what conception a Tory county council has of ladies and gentlemen of leisure who know all about au area to which they never go except when they are administering Poor Law relief. I am glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer is present. He was quite hilarious yesterday and thought that he had scored a point by saying, "You say, why should the workers pay for 40 years"; and then proving to us quite conclusively that they are going to pay one way or the other for 40 years. I am glad to agree with the right hon. Gentleman for once. The workers always pay.
But in regard to this debt, he was at some pains to ask "Where do you propose to get the money?" I think it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer or it may have been the Minister of Labour who challenged us to say where we thought the money was to come from. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to think that we imagine there is a big hole somewhere and all that he has to do is to dip his hand down and haul it up. I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman where the money can come from. All of us in one way or another pay taxes, and since this Government has been in office £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 of indirect taxes have been imposed, most of which the working people pay. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members who interrupt will agree that everybody pays taxes one way or the other. If you smoke you pay; if you drink beer you pay, if you drink bad lemonade you pay; therefore, why should not everybody pay this? Why should you put it on to the employers and the employed? Why should you say that they alone shall bear this burden? We maintain that it should be borne by the whole community and that instead of one-third coming out of the Exchequer the whole of it should come from the National Exchequer. If that were done every one 1606 would pay according to the manner in which the taxes were levied. [Interruption.] I cannot give the hon. Member opposite brains, but I am attempting to give him an argument. If the employer pays one-third and the employes one-third, and the Exchequer the other third, then they are paying the whole of this debt. But the employers and the employed, who pay two-thirds, also pay part of the other third.
Is it a very extraordinary thing to ask that the Exchequer should pay the whole out of the general taxation of the country? That is our case, and we put it forward seriously as a fair and equitable way of settling the question. I have not time to speak at any great length; I brought all this lot of notes with me so I am sparing hon. Members something. We on this side have decided against treating unemployment as an insurable proposition. The Bill acknowledges that it is not an insurable proposition. You only insure against a certain proportion of the evil, up to six months, or in certain special cases up to 12 months, and if the case goes longer then the persons are to be dealt with in some other way. We object fundamentally to this division of the unemployed. We recognise that it cannot be settled by insurance as one ordinarily understands the term, but it can be settled by the State shouldering the whole of this burden, whatever it is.
If I am asked again about the money, I ask where does the money come from now? There seems to be some doubt on the other side about it. It comes from a section of the people now. If it were a charge on the national funds it would come from a larger area, from an area which would make it impossible for any one to say, as is said now, that industry is injured by the payments that have to be made. It would come in part from those who are living either on unearned income or are making money in the City or in ways that do not affect industry in the ordinary manner. If hon. Members say that the nation cannot afford it, I reply that the nation has to afford it, that it affords it now. All that we are asking is that the incidence shall be changed, and that the whole nation shall bear the cost of what is a national problem. That is our answer when the point is raised about the family. If the 1607 family have to keep the unemployed they have not as much money to spend on other things. It is just as bad for them as for anyone else that they should have to pay. In fact it is worse for them because the burden is ever so much heavier.
My final words are that we consider unemployment should have been grappled with by the Government on altogether different lines. We do not take the view that economy, the shutting down and restricting of expenditure, or the reduction of the consumption, aids employment or helps the country. We believe that if this country were socialised, if the land and all the means of production were set going full pelt to supply people with the goods they need, the food they require to eat and the clothes that they require to wear, Lancashire, which to-day is crying out for sustenance, and the woollen mills of Yorkshire, would be kept going for a considerable time. So would all the industrial districts of the country. We repudiate the notion that what we want to do is merely to dip our hands into someone's pockets and to give money away. We want industry reorganised and rationalised on the basis of service for the community instead of profit for the few.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The right hon. Gentleman has stated that what we have to consider is whether the problem of unemployment is one which is susceptible of solution by the method of insurance, and that statement goes to the very root of the case which I have to try to meet. I propose to try to sketch in broad outline the problem with which the country is faced at the present moment and to show 1608 how, in our opinion, the provisions of the Bill meet that problem. The problem stated in its bald essentials, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, is this: Is the relief of the results of unemployment a subject that can be dealt with by insurance at all and, if so, to what extent? We have had since 1911 in this country a so-called unemployment insurance system, but for the last few years that system has prostituted the name of insurance and has been nothing more or less than a glorified system of State relief. One of the results is that there has grown up a distinction in the public mind between unemployed men according as they were insured or uninsured, according as they happened to be drawing standard benefit or transitional payments, according as they had to go to the Poor Law or were fortunate enough to draw money at the Employment Exchange.
That distinction, which I think is purely artificial, has caused a great deal of misapprehension and a great deal of legitimate heart burning among the working population. It is based on no real distinction, and I thoroughly agree with the right hon. Gentleman who talked about the doctrine of the lesser worthiness of certain persons. I go so far as to say that you cannot justify an insurance system in Equity if you are going to base it on such a moral distinction between different types of men, and imply, as happens at present in the public mind, that the man who happens to be drawing transitional payment is in some way a less good citizen than die man who gets standard benefit or is at work.
The question arises then: Is there any alternative test? I believe there is, and I submit to the House that the distinction which we ought to draw is not one between different types of men but one between different types of unemployment. I believe that distinction can be made, and I am going to try to make it, and I think, when it is made it will be found that certain types of unemployment emerge which are suitable subjects for insurance. What is it that the working man desires to-day above everything else? [HON. MEMBERS: "Work."] Yes, work—eeonomic security. How is that economic security, in the shape of employment jeopardised? In three main ways. The first is by fluctuations inside individual industries. Every industry has its busy and slack seasons through 1609 various causes such as custom, season, habit, fashion and so forth. A second cause is found in the periodic cycles of industrial activity as a whole, usually nation-wide and often due to world influences. The third great cause is that, although industry on the whole continues to grow, individual industries, or industries in individual areas, tend to decay or to undergo radical changes in structure, organisation or methods of manufacture.
These three causes of unemployment cover the various types of unemployment from which we suffer, ranging from the short-term unemployment of a day or so at one end of the scale, to the long-term unemployment of years at the other. They affect all the different methods of recruitment of industry from the industry that has an actual shortage of labour, through the industry that has reserves adequate but no more for its requirements to the industries with an excessive supply, and finally to the marginal cases of industries with a definite surplus where there is no prospect whatever of reabsorption. Hon. Members will observe that there is a continual fluctuation, therefore, in the demand for labour, but that the supply of labour at any particular moment is constant and fixed by the size of the population. Perhaps the House will say that in view of this infinite variety in the causes and types of unemployment, I was a little ambitious in suggesting that I could find some remedy in insurance. But I appeal to the facts of the case, and I find that those three main causes of unemployment that I have mentioned affect the individual in such a way that you can distinguish between two broad categories of unemployment, the short-term unemployment and the long-term, chronic unemployment, although, of course, very naturally in the middle they shade off one into the other.
If I look at the experience of the people in this country, regarding the community as a whole, the overwhelming mass of individuals, I find that the risk that the average man suffers is short-term unemployment. Then I ask myself: When that risk occurs and overtakes them, what do they want? I think the answer must be that what they really require in order to maintain their economic security is that they shall receive with certainty, as of right, with the minimum of inquiry, 1610 save whether they are involuntarily unemployed, a weekly sum, which together with any private provision that they have been able to make, will at least, by providing money for rent, enable them to keep a home above their heads, and, by providing them with money for food, enable them and their families to bridge the gap until wages start to flow into the family exchequer again. I submit that if I can show that I can provide that weekly sum over the period of that risk for a reasonable premium, I am entitled to say that to that extent insurance is a satisfactory solution of my difficulty. It is a solution of part of the difficulty, though not of the whole.
I turn to the other type of unemployment that I mentioned, the chronic or long-term unemployment, and there I say, quite frankly, that insurance is not and cannot be the remedy. We have to find some other solution, and we suggest the provisions of Part II of the Bill as the remedy. I cannot sufficiently emphasise the importance of this part of the problem, nor the fact that this is the very first time that any Government has attempted to solve it or even to face up to it. We have had an insurance system since 1911. Successive governments, misled by undue optimism into thinking that unemployment would be cured at the end of a month or two, or of a year or two at the most, have frankly shirked facing the problem, and the result has been that the Unemployment Insurance Acts of 1911 and 1920 have been stretched, as I think the right hon. Gentleman himself said, to cover risks that they were never intended to cope with. The result again has been that the principles of insurance have become submerged and the safeguards of insurance have been abandoned, and all because there was no satisfactory alternative for the man who had exhausted his right to standard benefit. We claim that this is the first attempt to provide a satisfactory alternative, and that, by providing a satisfactory alternative, it makes an insurance scheme possible; and it is worth noting in this regard that the original framers of the Act of 1911 realised this, and intended, if they had gone on, to couple with the introduction of unemployment insurance in 1911 a reform of the Poor Law to provide a satisfactory alternative.
1611 Now let me show the House how the various parts of the Bill fit into the problem, and I will take first Part I-Insurance. I will not weary the House with a great number of figures, but I must give a few. I said just now that the great risk, as far as the overwhelming number of individuals was concerned, that affects the workman to-day is short-term unemployment. It is short spells of unemployment, loss of work and wages, occurring between frequent and much longer spells of employment. The total number of unemployed to-day, 2,250,000, is not a stationary mass of individuals, but a continually changing mass; 800,000 new claims are made every month. That does not mean that 800,000 new faces go into the exchanges. They are very often old faces coming back to the exchanges after a spell of employment.
Let me give the House a few figures. I take the eight years from 1925 to 1932, and I find that of the total population insured during those years, only 3.6 per cent, suffered unemployment in each of those years. Of that 3.6 per cent., one-third suffered less than 100 days unemployment in each of the years. The House will realise that even this last category of people would have been covered by Part I of the Bill. I will take an even sterner test-what happened in 1932, a year of exceptionally bad unemployment, and, moreover, the third of three successive bad years. Out of the 4,250,000 separate individual men who suffered unemployment during that period, over one-third were unemployed for 12 weeks or less, and only one in 13 for the whole period; while of 1,140,000 women who were unemployed, over one-half were unemployed for 12 weeks or less, and only 1.5 per cent, for the whole period.
Do not let the House forget that there were over 7,000,000 people in 1932 who were not unemployed at all. Even under the very stern and restrictive conditions which we were forced to apply in 1931, 60 per cent, of the 5,500,000 insured people who actually suffered unemployment were fully covered by insurance during the whole period of their unemployment even in that bad year. If we add to them the 7,000,000 who suffered no unemployment, we get a figure of 80 per cent, of the total insured population whose risks of unemployment were fully covered in 1932. We calculate that if Part I of this Bill 1612 had been in operation in 1932, 800,000 more persons would have received longer periods of benefit than they actually received. In other words, 85 per cent, of the total insured population would under Part I, if it had been in operation in 1932, have had the whole period of their risk of unemployment covered by insurance.
I submit that in face of figures like those in the very worst year that we have had, insurance can be said to be a satisfactory cover for the risks that affect the overwhelming majority of individuals. I admit frankly that insurance is only part of the whole scheme. It only covers a certain amount of risk, but do not forget that of the 15 per cent, whose risk was not wholly covered in 1932, even the provisions of the existing law covered a very large portion of their risk. We say that insurance is a satisfactory remedy for part of the problem. Because you cannot insure again3t every conceivable risk at Lloyd's, it does not follow that you should not insure against the risks that you can insure against. Before I leave Part I and pass on to Part II I would like to say one word about the Statutory Advisory Committee. Some hon. Members have questioned the desirability of this part of our scheme. What we are aiming at is to set up a sound insurance system, free from any hint or suspicion of the "dole," and if it is to survive it is absolutely essential that it should be free of what has proved the curse of the existing system, namely, instability of principle and of finance.
Some hon. Members have talked to-day about taking insurance out of politics. You cannot. It would be wrong to take a scheme that affects the lives of 12,500,000 persons out of politics altogether. What we want to do is to see whether we can set up a system which will not be altogether outside politics but which politics will be unable to destroy. We have, therefore, set up this Advisory Committee with the object of keeping an outside eye upon the finances of the fund. Parliament, of course, will have the ultimate responsibility for action or inaction, but no future Parliament and no future Minister of Labour will have the excuse of saying that he did not know what was happening or was likely to happen, or be able to get away with making unduly optimistic financial assumptions.
1613 Part II sets up a new assistance service which is, perfectly frankly, relief and not insurance. For 300 years the community has imposed a statutory duty upon local authorities to relieve destitution and to come to the help of a man who had no means of livelihood. We are making a fundamental change; we are assuming that liability nationally. Part II will deal with those who are not insured at all and those who have exhausted their contractual right to benefit. It will deal for the most part, though, not of course, wholly, with men who are suffering long term or chronic unemployment. When a man has been out of work for a long period, or over a long period has been able to get only intermittent work, a new factor enters into the field, and we may say that the problem of his unemployment is not so much the reason that led to the loss of his last job as the reason why he cannot get a new job.
As regards the overwhelming number of persons who will come under Part II, our experience is that they suffer unemployment for the last of the three causes that I have mentioned, namely, the decay or the change of individual industry and alterations in the industrial structure. It is idle to suppose that you can prevent any changes in the industrial structure, even in a Socialist State, because changes in the industrial structure are the life-blood of an industrial community; but what we have to do is to see whether we cannot deal with the results of that long-term unemployment. That is why we say, and we lay stress on this, that when a man comes under Part II cash relief is not necessarily the beginning and end of what he requires. He needs something more. The really serious problem of long-term unemployment in its social aspect is the problem of the transfer of men from decaying industries and decaying areas into new and expending industries and expanding areas. But once a man has come under Part II we say that there is no possible justification for making any distinction between the insured and the non-insured. They will all be on the same basis, and being on the same basis we refer, in spite of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman does not like the report of the Royal Commission, to the recommendations in their report in which they suggest that need must be based on the 1614 household, and the resources of the household must be taken into account. If the House will allow me, I will read one short quotation. The report says that the terms on which the unemployed worker should be protected against distressmust include conditions that furnish some guarantee to the community that help is really needed. … A service based upon needs has this convincing advantage, that it at least attempts to have some serious regard to the principle of equality. It does not add equal benefits to unequal resources, but seeks to apportion the assistance available in such a way that the greater measure of help reaches those whose need is most.The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) says something about the Minority Report. Even the Minority Report was unable to reject the means test altogether. It is true that they hedged it round with certain conditions about it being an individual test, but the principle of the test they were unable to reject, and had to accept.
There is another important point. Once a man has come to the end of his contractual rights, generous as they are, we must surely recognise that his contract is at an end until such time as he is enabled to reestablish the conditions of the contract. One of the main reasons why the present insurance system got into financial difficulties, and suffered so much public disrepute, was that Government after Government, instead of "facing up to that fundamental conception, went on paying men, week after week, and month after month, money which they led the men to believe was contractual. They encouraged the men to think that they had a moral, if not a legal, right to go on receiving weekly sums of money out of the national Exchequer for an unlimited period.
Having said that, I should like to say a word about the make-up of the persons who are coming under the board. Apart from the fact that they contain a rather larger number of men in the higher age groups and a small number of persons who are handicapped in the labour market, they are composed of exactly the same type of person as those who are in work or are in receipt of standard benefit. The only difference is possibly that they happened to have attached themselves in their youth to the basic industries of the country upon which this country's prosperity was founded. The fact that they did that, is no ground for differentiating against them, and for that reason we are taking them away 1615 from the Poor Law and attaching them to the Employment Exchanges of the Ministry of Labour, which runs an industrial scheme and not a Poor Law scheme.
The second great change that we are making is in the conception of need. The assumption underlying the old Poor Law was that, if you made things sufficiently unpleasant for a man, he would eventually find work, and that the obligation of the community to come to his assistance did not arise until he was destitute. The relief of destitution has undergone modification in the past few years, but it still forms the basis of the Poor Law. A destitution test will not form the basis of Part II of this Bill. A man will be given assistance to prevent his becoming destitute, while the fact that he is unable to obtain a job will not necessarily be taken to mean that he is unwilling to do so. That enables me to point out that the arguments, laboriously built up by speakers on the Opposition side, pretending that the new Bill is nothing but a national Poor Law, fall completely to the ground. Part I represents the first line of defence, but no more. Part II, with its much more varied expedients, represents the second line of defence, and will enable the Board to make good any deficiency or close any breaches that may be discovered in Part I. Under Part II, all needs, other than medical needs, will be met, irrespective of the rates of standard benefit.
That answers another whole batch of objections of hon. Members opposite, including the hon. and gallant Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan), who talked about the rates of benefit forming the ceiling of this scheme. They do nothing of the kind. If anything, they form the ground floor. That meets, I hope, a great deal of very genuinely felt misapprehension on the part of hon. Members opposite. The limit of need will not be confined in any way to the rates of unemployment benefit. It will be possible for the Board to supplement benefit in the case of persons under Part I, and they will also be able to meet the whole needs other than medical needs to the extent that the meeting of those needs requires.
I had better, perhaps, deal now with the hon. Members who follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). I have in my hand a 1616 pamphlet containing the report of the National Liberal Federation on Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment. It contains the results of the Liberal party's inquiry under Mr. Milner Gray, my predecessor, who issued a large questionnaire to a great many eminent people. It contains a number of conclusions and recommendations, and 90 per cent, of the recommendations of the Liberal Committee arc; to be found in this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "No wonder it is a bad Bill!"] I can only conclude that the attitude of the Liberal party is due to a realisation that the historic fate which always overtakes the remnants of the Liberal party has again overtaken them, and that is that some other party and some other Government give practical legislative effect to what in their hands were merely pious aspirations. I think the only thing left for me to deal with is the question of the board—[HON. MEMBERS: "The local advisory committees!"] The local advisory committees will have no executive function under the scheme, but they will be able—
§ Mr. HUDSON
No; they will appear before the appeal tribunals, which will be bodies of very much the same nature as the courts of referees to-day. With regard to the question of the board and its appointment, the salaries of the board will be charged on the Consolidated Fund. The terms of each member's appointment will depend on the terms of the warrant, and it will, therefore, be possible to decide on those terms, and probably to make an announcement to the House when we have made more progress with the Bill and see exactly how the board emerges from the discussions in the Committee stage. In any case, there will be an opportunity on Monday to discuss this matter more fully, but I think I have answered the point that was made.
§ Mr. HUDSON
In each case that will depend on the terms of the warrant. Some may be longer than others, but, as the Bill says that members will be eligible for reappointment, it implies that they will not be appointed for life.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. 1617 O'Connor) made a very full and able statement about the question of inability to obtain suitable employment. I need only say, on that question, that there will be plenty of opportunities for discussing it, but the Royal Commission foresaw the suggestion made in the course of the Debate that the phrase "unable to obtain suitable employment" would be so interpreted as in effect to re-establish "genuinely-seeking-work." They said that there was no foundation for this suggestion. They pointed out that until 1924, when "genuinely-seeking-work" was added, such a construction had never been put upon the words. The Royal Commission, the majority, recommended that the present words should be inserted, and the minority, consisting of members of the Labour party, concurred specifically—I stress their specific agreement—and the Trade Union Congress, which gave evidence before the Morris Committee, said that such a phrase would be reasonable. Therefore I honestly think that there is no case whatever for the apprehension which has been expressed by hon. Members opposite.
Now I come to the end, not of what I might say, but nearly of my time. I think I have shown—I hope to the satisfaction of the House—that the insurance principle is a satisfactory remedy for part of our problem. For the other part of our problem we have provided a new alternative which is not in any way to be described as a national Poor Law, because it differs from the present Poor Law in very important and essential details. I should like to remind the House of the terms of reference of the Royal Commission which was set up by hon. Members opposite: "To inquire into the provisions and working of the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, and to make recommendations with regard to:
Independently of that, I hope that I have shown that our scheme is satisfactory. To those who lightly throw over the contributory principle I would offer this observation. This Bill is not the last of the Measures which will have to be under- 1618 taken in this country to set up a comprehensive scheme to meet all the risks to which the working man is exposed. If, however, we abandon the principle that those who are going to receive the benefits shall be asked to make some contribution towards the cost, we shall seriously delay the speed at which the completion of those operations can be carried through. A very interesting pamphlet was issued the other day written by the Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, in which he sketched a comprehensive scheme for dealing with unemployment. The cardinal principle of that scheme was the contributory principle. Whatever we may think of Mr. Bevin, at least we may expect him to know what the British working man wants and is willing to pay for, and that he was, on that occasion, not talking pure politics.
- (1) Its future scope the provisions which it should contain and the means by which it may be made solvent and self-supporting, and,
- (2) the arrangements which should be made outside the scheme for the unemployed, who are capable of and available for work."
The whole of this Bill adds one more— the right hon. Gentleman suggested that I was going to say "milestone," but I will say one more storey to the edifice which this country provides in recognition of its debt towards the less fortunate of its fellow-citizens. It is a recognition the cost of which has risen from £30,000,000 in 1900 to £490,000,000 last year. This Bill contains provisions which are not surpassed and are not equalled in any other country in the world. Hon. Members opposite may say that it is the fault of the present industrial system that we need to make this sort of provision. I prefer to regard it as a tribute to the present industrial system that we are able year by year to employ increasing numbers of people, an increasing population for which society to-day is itself not responsible, but which is the result of the unco-ordinated efforts of individual parents a generation or more ago, an industrial system which is yet able over and above this to care for the casualties in an adequate and even a generous manner. The fact that the country is able to do this within two short years of being on the verge of bankruptcy is a testimony to the manner in which the National Government have husbanded our resources and the fact that in this Bill for the first time we are facing a task from which previous party Governments shrank is one more proof of the national manner in which we are carrying out our mandate.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."1620
§ The House divided: Ayes, 435; Noes, 81.1623
|[Division No. 9.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Colman, N. C. D.||Grigg, Sir Edward|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Albery, Irving James||Conant, R. J. E.||Grltten, W. G. Howard|
|Alexander, Sir William||Cook, Thomas A.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Cooke, Douglas||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cooper, A. Duff||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Copeland, Ida||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Applln,Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hamilton, Sir George (Alford)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Cranborne, Viscount||Hammersley, Samuel S.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Craven-Ellis, William||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Crooke. J. Smedley||Harbord, Arthur|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Crookihank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Balniel, Lord||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)||Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenn'gt'n)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cross, R. H.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Barton, Capt. Basll Kelsey||Crossley, A. C.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Bateman, A. L.||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B.(Portsm'th,C.)||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Herbert, Capt. S. 'Abbey Division)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Davison, Sir William Henry||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Dawson, Sir Phillp||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybrldge)|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Denville, Alfred||Hopkinson, Austin|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Dickie, John P.||Hornby, Frank|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Donner, P. W.||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Doran, Edward||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Boulton, W. W.||Drewe, Cedric||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vanslttart||Duckworth, George A. V.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Duggan, Hubert John||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Dunglass, Lord||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Eady, George H.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Eden, Robert Anthony||Hurd, Sir Percy|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Eillot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Brown, Col. D.C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Elmley, Viscount||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Buchan, John||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Jennings, Roland|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Burghley, Lord||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Burnett, John George||Everard, W. Lindsay||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Fermoy, Lord||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Knight, Holford|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Fraser, Captain Ian||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Carver, Major William H.||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lambert. Rt. Hon. George|
|Cassels, James Dale||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Ganzoni, Sir John||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Leckle, J. A.|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lees-Jones, John|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Gledhill, Gilbert||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hon.SirJ. A. (Birm.,W)||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Levy, Thomas|
|Chapman, Col.R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Lewis, Oswald|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Goff, Sir Park||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Goldie, Noel B.||Lindsay, Kenneth Martin (Kilm'rnock)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Clarke, Frank||Gower, Sir Robert||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Granville, Edgar||Lloyd, Geoflrey|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd.Gr'n)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Graves, Marjorie||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Colfox, Major William Phillp||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Loder, Captain J. de Vare|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Soper, Richard|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Mabane, William||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben||Southby, Commander Archibaid R. J.|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Purbrick, R.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Pybus, Percy John||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Radford, E. A.||Spens, William Patrick|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Stanley, Hon. O. F, G. (Westmorland)|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Stones, James|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Storey, Samuel|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Rankin, Robert||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Magnay, Thomas||Rathbone, Eleanor||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Maitland, Adam||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Ray, Sir William||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Remer, John R.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Meller, Sir Richard James||Rentoul Sir Gervais S.||Templeton, William P.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Milne, Charles||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Rickards, George William||Thompson, Luke|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Robinson, John Roland||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Ropner, Colonel L.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Ross, Ronald D.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbrldge)||Train, John|
|Moreing, Adrian C.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Tree, Ronald|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Runge, Norah Cecil||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff. E.)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Munro, Patrick||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Nall, Sir Joseph||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Newton, sir Douglas George C.||Salt, Edward W.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Peterst'ld)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|North, Edward T.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Nunn, William||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Savery, Samuel Servington||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Scone, Lord||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Selley, Harry R.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Ormiston, Thomas||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Pearson, William G.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Peat, Charles U.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Penny, Sir George||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Percy, Lord Eustace||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Petherick, M||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)||Smithers, Waidron||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Somerset, Thomas|
|Pike, Cecil F.||Somervell, Sir Donald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Potter, John||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Daggar, George||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Adams, D. M (Poplar, South)||Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Groves, Thomas E.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Dobbie, William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Banfield, John William||Edwards, Charles||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Batey, Joseph||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Harris, Sir Percy|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Hicks, Ernest George|
|Briant, Frank||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Brown, C.W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Janner, Barnett|
|Buchanan, George||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Jenkins, Sir William|
|Cape, Thomas||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||John, William|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Cove, William G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Curry, A. C.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.)||Kirkwood, David|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Lawson, John James||Maxton, James||Thorne, William James|
|Leonard, William||Milner, Major James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Nathan, Major H. L.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Owen, Major Goronwy||White, Henry Graham|
|Lunn, William||Parkinson, John Allen||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Pickering, Ernest H.||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|McGovern, John||Price, Gabriel||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|McKeag, William||Rea, Walter Russell||Wilmot, John|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Mainwaring, William Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. D. Graham|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Captain Margesson.]