HC Deb 20 December 1933 vol 284 cc1327-85

4.10 p.m.


I beg to move, That, in view of the failure of private enterprise adequately to utilise and organise natural resources and productive power or to provide the necessary standard of life for vast numbers of the population, and believing that the cause of this failure lies in the private ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, this House declares that legislative effort should be directed to the supersession of the capitalist system by an industrial and social order based upon the public ownership and democratic control of the instruments of production and distribution. At the beginning of my remarks I want to enter my protest against the amount of time which has been taken from private Members by the statements made by the Government to-day. It seems to me that those statements might have been held over until to-morrow morning. We have lost half an hour to-day in consequence. I wanted to occupy as little time as possible to-day, and therefore to confine my remarks, because I desired to set an example to other speakers by a short speech, so that we might have as many speakers in the Debate as possible.

My only reason for selecting this Motion is the poverty-stricken condition of millions of our people. I see that the Press has been saying that there is another reason, but I assure the House that I was actuated solely by the condition of the people of this country at the present time. I believe that the only remedy for that condition lies in substituting public ownership for private enterprise. Every week in this country, from thousands of platforms, the principles of Socialism are preached, and millions of people in this country believe in those principles just as others believe in tariffs. Many people here preached tariffs when there did not seem much prospect of success, but they continued to preach them until at last they won; and so I believe that one day we shall win. I believe the day is not far distant when the principles of Socialism will be applied to industry and there will be public ownership instead of private ownership. We believe that there will be no real economic salvation for those who depend on industry for their livelihood until industry is publicly owned.

I will, first, state a proposition with which, I think, everyone here will agree. It is that every man, woman and child in this country is entitled to have sufficient food, sufficient clothes, a decent house to live in and reasonable leisure and recreation. I think that there will be no dispute among us as to the right of the people to those essentials. It cannot be denied, however, that there are millions of people in this country to-day who have not got those essentials. Why? Because industry, on which the working classes depend for their living, has failed to enable them to get such essentials. They have not got them because industry is not organised to produce them. Private industry has been given its chance, and, after a long period of trial, we find that it has failed both from a wages' point of view and in providing regular employment.

The chief object of private enterprise is neither to provide work nor wages—they are secondary things—but profits. Industries are started because people have capital that they want to invest. They will continue them as long as they can hope to make a profit, but let the time ever come when they can no longer see a prospect of a profit and they will close them down and dismiss perhaps thousands of workmen, who with their wives and families can live as best they can. That is not fair to the workers. The working classes ought to be in a far more secure position than that. The sad plight of workers abandoned by private enterprise has again and again compelled this House to relieve their condition. The greater the failure of private enterprise, the greater the burden on the State to look after its victims. Since the War only, it must have cost the community thousands of millions of pounds. It is not only those who are thrown out of employment and those who suffer low wages. There are other victims of private enterprise. I have been supplied with a long list of failures of private enterprise companies in which those who had capital invested have lost it. They are victims to be added to those I have mentioned.

This House, which is the custodian of the lives and rights of the masses of the people, has left it to private enterprise to provide work and wages. There have been many changes in industry within the lifetime of some of us, but none of them have meant any betterment for the workers. We have seen old family industries supplanted by limited liability companies, followed by amalgamations and trusts. Recently we have seen the rationalisation and mechanisation processes, but none of the changes have been for the betterment of the workers. When the Prime Minister was speaking on the wireless three weeks ago, some of his old Socialism jumped out of him. He said: Revolutionary changes in production which improvement in machinery and industrial organisation have brought about must not result only in a reduction in the people employed. The benefits must be seen in more abundant life, shorter hours, and more leisure. I liked that when I read it. It seemed to me that that was a little bit of the old Ramsay. But exactly the opposite has taken place. Instead of a more abundant life we have poverty and misery which is indescribable. Instead of shorter hours we have longer hours. Instead of more leisure, the workers only have leisure when they cannot get work and when they have to depend upon the dole or upon charity. The House must never forget that the amount of wages that people receive decides the kind of life that they live, the kind of house that they live in, the kind of clothes that they wear, the food they eat, and the kind of education that their children get. It decides, too, whether working men with their wives and families sit in the stalls in the theatre or up in the gallery.

I wish particularly to complain of the policy of private enterprise in the coal industry. In the annual statement of the Mines Department last year it is stated that the average wage in the Durham coalfield is £98 12s. 11d. There would be many who would have more than that amount, but that means that there would be many who would have much less. Those wages are disgracefully low. All the efforts of the men to establish machinery for the regulation of wages nationally are being refused by the coal-owners. The figures I have quoted prove that district regulation of wages is an absolute failure. I should like anyone to attempt to justify the policy of private enterprise in the coal industry. Low wages in that industry are a scandal, and the sooner private enterprise is supplanted by public ownership the better.

The Government seem to be afraid of the coalowners. The Minister of Mines met the executive of the Miners' Federation on 26th October. They pressed upon him that the coalowners should be compelled to set up machinery for the regulation of wages nationally, and he said: The Mining Association now has no powers from its constituent bodies to deal with wages. Supposing the Government tried to compel the owners to attend, all that would happen would be that the Mining Association would disband next morning, and there would be no association. Then he said to the miners' executive, "What then?" He seemed to think that that was an answer. My answer to his "What then?" would have been, "Either compel the owners to attend or nationalise the industry. Either you attend or we abolish you." The history of mining is a long, black record of unreasonableness on the part of the coalowners. This House has to compel them again and again to be sensible. They employed women in the pits until they were compelled to do so no longer. They allowed hundreds of miners to go to their deaths because there was only one shaft. The House has had at last to compel them to provide two shafts. The owners allowed thousands of miners to be killed by explosions through insufficient ventilation. The House had to compel them to provide adequate ventilation. I remember the experience of 1926. I remember the Government saying they would bring the coalowners round a table with the Miners' Federation Executive. They never did any such thing. The coalowners were too strong for them, and we know that they are too strong for this Government. The Prime Minister's answer to-day was most unsatisfactory. He evaded the question and, when we return at the end of January, we shall find that the Mines Department is no further forward. Until the Government make up their minds either to compel the owners to attend a national board or to nationalise the industry, we shall not make very much progress.

Private enterprise stands condemned in connection with the great basic industries, not only coal but cotton, engineering, shipping and shipbuilding. In this discussion it is not Socialism that is on its trial, but private enterprise. Speakers need not attempt to deal with Socialism. They have to justify private enterprise. May I submit a few of the changes which would take place if the principles of Socialism were applied to industry? One is that the State would take steps to see that men were employed. No one cares to-day whether they are employed or not. The revenues of the State and local authorities are used to keep alive those who are thrown by private enterprise on to the scrap-heap. Instead of the Government appointing statutory committees to reduce the payment of the working classes, they would be much better employed in appointing committees to see that they were provided with work. The State would thus be helping to make industries prosperous. To-day the State has no incentive to promote trade. It considers that its duties have been fulfilled when it has appointed inspectors to acts as policemen for industries. It is so little interested in trade that it has taken the Government two years to make up their mind to help to build one ship. If the principles of Socialism were applied to industry the State would have a far greater incentive to help trade and to make it successful.

The Government have missed a golden opportunity of promoting trade and helping the coal industry. The Government, as we have said on several occasions in this House, have done nothing but injure the coal industry of the country. Science has done its part and as proved that coal is a valuable asset to the country, and that oil and other by-products can be extracted from coal. It has shown that oil can be extracted from coal by four processes, namely, the hydrogenation process, low temperature carbonisation, pulverisation and colloidal fuel. Yet there has been very little progress made in regard to any of those possibilities. I know that the Government will say that they are helping the Imperial Chemical Industries to put down a plant to deal with the extraction of oil from coal under the hydrogenation process. That will not help the miners to the extent to which the Government believe it will help them. It is only a wealthy company like the Imperial Chemical Industries which can put down such an expensive plant, but the only benefit which the miners in the North of England or anywhere else are likely to obtain from that plant is a little more employment. I know that the Secretary for Mines, if he were to reply to-day, would say that there is not only that system, but that; there are ten low temperature carbonisation plants in the Midlands.

Those are the possibilities for re-making the coal industry, but practically nothing has been done, because private enterprise has not the capital with which to instal the necessary plant for these processes. As things are drifting at present in regard to the extraction of oil from coal, even under the hydrogenation system, or the low-carbonisation system now being carried out in various coalfields in the Midlands, the miners will get no benefit from those processes. The Government should have taken this matter in hand and should have seen to it that these new processes were started at the coalfields. They should have linked them up with the coal industry, and then there would have been some hope of the wages of the miners being bettered from the revenue from coal. There is not much hope from what the Government have done so far. If private enterprise were abolished and the coal industry were publicly owned, the State would have a direct interest in promoting the re-making of the coal industry and in taking thousands upon thousands of miners away from the public assistance committee, off the dole, and off unemployment standard benefit. It would be the means of saving thousands of miners from receiving charity at the present time by putting them back to work.

If industries were publicly owned, the State would not encourage the installstion of machinery except in exceptional cases. The problem of machinery supplanting men has become enormous. In the coal industry in 1913 there were 2,895 coal cutters at work, and in 1931 they had increased to 7,137. In 1913 there were 359 conveyors, and in 1931 they had jumped to 3,265. If industry were publicly owned, we should not have the reckless installation of machinery supplanting men as we have at the present time. The same argument applies to overtime. I was rather sorry to hear the Minister's reply to-day on the old-time question to the Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). I am satisfied that if we are to obtain any settlement, either upon the question of machinery or of overtime, the industry must be publicly owned. With industry privately owned, the Mines Department seems to be helpless, and some men are allowed to work as long as they wish and others are unable to get a single hour's work. If industry were publicly owned, not only would the question of machinery and overtime be dealt with, but I believe that it would end in the State encouraging the payment of higher wages, which to us would be a very important matter. The time has long passed when industry in this country should be left in private hands. This House ought to take steps to see to it that industry is publicly owned, and I ask whoever is to speak for the Government, to say where the Government stand on the question. We are entitled to know where they stand. Ten years ago a similar Motion to this was debated in this House, and in the present Motion there is only one word different from the Motion which was discussed on that occasion. The Motion says: This House declares that legislative effort should be directed to the supersession of the capitalist system In the former Motion the words were the 'gradual' supersession of the capitalist system. We have left out the word "gradual" in the present Motion, because we consider that that word is not necessary to-day. During those 10 years there has grown up a phrase, "The inevitability of gradualness," and some people have begun to link that phrase with the Socialist movement as part of its policy. When we obtain the power we shall want private enterprise to be supplanted by public ownership, but we shall not want the process to be too gradual. We know that it will not be possible to apply the principles of Socialism to all the basic industries in one day. Still we do not want any misrepresentation as far as the word "gradual" is concerned, and. therefore, we have left the word out of the Motion to-day.


We have left out the Prime Minister.


I have not left out the Prime Minister; I will come to him shortly. When this question was debated 10 years ago, Lord Snowden introduced the Motion, and the Debate had to be adjourned. On 16th July, 1923, the present Prime Minister wound up the Debate for the Opposition, and said: I am perfectly satisfied that the capitalist system has to be supplanted by Socialism."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1923; col. 2007, Vol. 166.] There can be no mistake about those words. I wonder where the Prime Minister is now, and whether he is prepared to repeat those words to-day. I told him that I was going to make use of them. He is at the head of a powerful Government, and, if he still believes in those words, he can give legislative effect to them. I am more interested in the Prime Minister than in anyone else in the Government, and I should like the speaker for the Government to tell us where the Prime Minister stands on this question to-day: whether he stands where he stood 10 years ago, and whether he is prepared to say to-day what he said 10 years ago? We are nearing the end of another year, and very soon men and women will be wishing each other a "Merry Christmas," but to millions of people in this country Christmas cannot be merry. Poverty has got them so far down that it will be impossible for them to be merry at Christmas time even upon charity. We object to the working classes always being fed by charity. The working classes have a right to earn money in the only way which it can be earned, and that is by working for it. As private enterprise has failed in allowing them to obtain work, the time has come when it should be supplanted by public ownership. The capitalist class is a small class, and the workers are the masses of this country. It is the duty of this House to see to it that important and essential industries are no longer run for the benefit of the few, but are run in the interests of the many.

4.43 p.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

We have to satisfy the House and the country on two points. One is that the present system has failed, and the other is that we have at hand another system which can be used. We have chiefly to satisfy the country, because this House is largely composed of those who will take a long time to alter their point of view. Anyone who examines the question of private enterprise must admit that up to a certain point it has fulfilled all that was expected of it. It has satisfied everybody that the means of production are such that the needs of everybody can be supplied if only we can get what is called distribution. The pioneer spirit of our people in searching out other lands and building up an Empire stretching out all over the world has greatly developed in the past and it is our duty to try and utilise the Empire for the benefit of our people, but when at this stage we find that there is so much poverty in the land we must come to the conclusion that some other system is needed to take the place of the present one, unless those who bolster up private enterprise can justify our continuing the present system. Some three-fourths of our population live on the verge of poverty while one-fourth are doing very well. We object to one-fourth of the population having all that is going, while three-fourths have to be on the verge of poverty.

I have figures showing the number of people in receipt of Poor Law relief in England and Wales. On the last Saturday in June, 1933, the number was 1,272,058. In a land of plenty we have over one million people in receipt of Poor Law relief. In Liverpool the numbers in receipt of Poor Law relief have increased over the previous 12 months by 11,000, in Manchester by 9,000, in Sheffield by 7,000, and in West Ham by 2,000. A report has been issued by the British Medical Association showing the needs of the average family. The object of the committee which investigated the matter was to find out the requirements of the average family and the amount of money to be paid for food. The committee report that £1 2s. 6½ d. is required for food for a man, his wife and three children. In many cases unemployed people in receipt of relief would in the case of such a family receive £1 9s. 3d. If we deduct £1 2s. 6½ d. for the bare necessaries of life, laid down by the British Medical Association, only 6s. 8½ d. is left for fuel, rent and coal. Therefore, one must realise that a vast number of people in this country are living on the verge of poverty.

In an indictment of the present system we must take everything into account if we are to convince hon. Members opposite that they are wrong when they say the present system is satisfactory. Yesterday, an hon. Member asked the Minister of Health how many people in England and Wales were living at the rate of more than three persons per room.

The reply was that, according to the census of 1931, 565,869 people were living more than three persons to one room. Here we get an instance of serious overcrowding. The hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Mrs. Ward) asked a question yesterday in regard to the people who are living in her area. She stated that there was a waiting list of 1,000 people who wanted houses and could not get them. Another question in regard to housing was put to-day by one of the hon. Members for Salford, who stated that there were in Salford 1,331 houses unfit for human habitation. I am giving these few instances of bad housing because it is necessary to draw the attention of the House to conditions which ought not to prevail if the present system was carried out in a proper manner.

In the Debate which took place on 20th March, 1923, Sir Alfred Mond was the chief spokesman for the Government against the Resolution that we moved. In bolstering up the present system of society he said: What keeps this wretched private capitalistic system going? I will tell you. If a private capitalistic business is badly managed, it goes into the bankruptcy court. What does that mean? It means that you have a method by which inefficiency is automatically weeded out of your industrial system. You have a method by which efficiency is automatically rewarded. It may be a crude system. It may be a harsh system, but it is the only system in the world which has been devised up to the present."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1923; col. 2498, Vol. 161.] That was his defence of the system. No one could defend the system in that way at the present time, because since Sir Alfred Mond made that statement subsidies of all sorts have been granted to private enterprise. In 1925, £23,000,000 were given to the coal industry. I voted for that subsidy because I believe in taking what one can get, and because I believed it would help the coal industry. It did not, however, help us. It went into the pockets of the coalowners. That shows that private enterprise has to be helped from time to time by the State. There was also a wheat subsidy of £6,000,000. The subsidy of the sugarbeet industry is a crying scandal. According to the figures just given, that industry has received £37,000,000 from the State. Last week the shipping industry made an appeal for help from the State. Sir Alfred Mond argued that private enter- prise stood on its own, but that argument has gone by the board. They are all coming for some help with which they can be bolstered up.


The Cunard Company.


Yes, the Cunard Company and others are appealing to the State for help. Do hon. Members pay due regard to the sufferings that fall upon large numbers of families because of the failure of private enterprise? In my own district of St. Helens the Ashton Green Colliery closed down at a moment's notice and 1,200 people were thrown out of work. Those people had no voice in the management of that colliery. For many years the firm had made huge sums in profit and when the time suited them they closed down, and no redress was given to the people concerned. I join issue with those who support private enterprise when they say that under the present system there is room for individual openings. At one time we could migrate to other countries, but at the present time no one can move out of his own constituency with any prospect of getting work. The chance of going overseas and making good has been spoiled. No one is encouraged to go overseas now, especially in view of what happened to certain people who have migrated to the Empire overseas. I have here a statement in a newspaper, headed "Settlers stranded in Australia." In that newspaper it is stated that Mr. Thomas last week received a deputation representing the Victorian settlers, who went out there some time ago under the Empire Settlement Scheme and have not been able to make progress and are anxious to get back to this country. In our indictement of the present system we can show that all along the line methods have had to be adopted which are different from those which private enterprise adopted many years ago. There is no chance to-day for any individual with the pioneering spirit going out and developing overseas. A question was put yesterday with regard to the mis-management of the mining industry. The hon. Member for West Houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) put a question dealing with a mine in West Houghton, which shows how badly the present system is run. Everybody knows that mines from time to time are subject to over-flooding with water. Properly organised under State control, that difficulty could be dealt with. We have had instances in Lancashire of flooding. Water overflowed at one mine in Aspull and the mine was closed down because they could not carry on. The water got over the water line mark and overflowed into another colliery at West Houghton. The people concerned with the West Houghton colliery tried to get the colliery owners together in order to make a common scheme for dealing with pumping, but they could not get any co-ordination. Unless something is done there will be more flooding and other collieries in a neighbouring constituency will get the water and will have to close down. In these collieries we have a national asset which ought to be under the control of the Minister of Mines, who in an answer which he gave yesterday proves our point of view that private enterprise cannot be allowed to have unrestricted control of mines. He said: The answer to the first three parts of the question is yes. With regard to the last part, my Department has kept closely in touch with the position, but the hon. Member knows how very limited my powers are. The matter is primarily one for solution by the owners of the mines concerned, but I shall always be ready to help in any way I can."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December, 1933; col. 1093, Vol. 284.] The Minister admits the danger to the mines, the danger that they will have to close down unless something is done, but he has not the power to force upon the owners that they should do something to protect the mines and keep them going.

The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Ernest Brown)

The hon. Member must understand that in this case the question of safety did not arise. It was quite another matter. The question was an economic one.


The hon. Member is right. He was dealing with the economic side of the industry, but may I suggest to him that in dealing with the economic side there is grave danger about the water there? I hope that he will watch that. I admit that yesterday he was not dealing with that side of the question, and I withdraw that part of my statement. On the economic side it is true that unless the State can do something other mines will be lost to the nation. We want national ownership of the mines. In regard to the position of Lancashire, everybody knows what is happening. Industries are leaving Lancashire. Lancashire is becoming an almost derelict county. I should like to emphasise a point that was made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). It is not often that he comes here to help us in these matters. He always gets a chance of having his say, and then he goes away again. On Monday he said: I would ask the House and the Chancellor to take a look into the future. One of the most formidable difficulties with which we have been faced in recent times in this country is the drift of the great Northern industries to the South. It is the cause of very much heart-burning as well as of very great hardship and distress. It is not merely from Scotland, because similar experiences have been suffered by other parts of the country. The North-East Coast of England is suffering as badly as Scotland, and so also are the North West portion of it and large areas of South Wales …. It is not the fault of the West of Scotland or the North-East Coast of England or of the Cumberland district that they are suffering from unemployment worse than London. Is it fair that they should have to bear such an extravagant burden as they have to endure? The principle to the contrary has been conceded by the Government, and the only question is to what extent are you going to mitigate it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th December, 1933; cols. 1054-1056, Vol. 284.] That proves that various parts of the country are going derelict and that the Government is paying no attention because they believe that private enterprise should be allowed a free hand in the development of industries. I want hon. Members to consider the position into which the country is drifting. There are about 40,000,000 people in England, but within a radius of 20 miles from this House, that is in Greater London, there are 10,000,000 of people, or 25 per cent. of the population. On the other hand, various parts of the country are being allowed to become derelict, parts like Lancashire and Yorkshire are being neglected, because private enterprise has no solution or redress for the problem. It is not right that one part of the country should be in a prosperous condition while many of the outlying parts are neglected and starving. The present system stands condemned; I do not think anybody can defend it. At the same time it is not sufficient for us to indict the present system without attempting to put some- thing in its place. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I hope to be able to satisfy hon. Members opposite on that point. In his Amendment to the Motion, the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) does not offer any other solution, he merely stands by private enterprise, he would let it carry on. But there are more enlightened hon. Members than the hon. Member for Attercliffe, who are also more careful in the use of language. In their Amendment they say: recognising that the competitive development of natural resources and human effort has continuously raised the standard of living of the people but had now so greatly increased the production of wealth as to require more scientific organisation if a balanced production of commodities and services and their free exchange in increasing quantities are to be secured, this House believes that the two main aims of legislation and administration should continue to be, first, the development of self-governing institutions in agriculture and industry for production and marketing, and, secondly, the maintenance of an appropriate political, fiscal, and financial policy. In that Amendment there is an admission from hon. Members that something wants to be done. They agree that private enterprise can no longer be allowed to have free play, it must have some guidance from the State so that the results of production shall get to the people. We say that there is a need for a coherent and comprehensive policy of economic reconstruction both at home and abroad. Chaos and disorganisation must be replaced by ordered planning. The only basis on which ordered planning of industry and trade can be carried out is by public ownership and control. Neither competition or party mononoly has proved able to rescue the nation from its plight. We would include the reorganisation and re-equipment of socialised industries and also industries not yet ripe for socialisation, but requiring drastic measures of reorganisation under public control; a programme of electrification, including the electrification of the socialised railway system; the erection of publicly-owned plants in mining areas for the extraction of oil and other by-products from coal, to be worked in conjunction with the socialised mining industry; a programme of building, to include housing, schools and hospitals, to be worked in accordance with regional plans; a programme of land drainage and water supply, to be worked out in con- junction with one another, and also based upon regional plans; a programme of agricultural development, including a vigorous extension of afforestation and forest holdings, based on the public ownership of the land; a programme of roads, bridges and harbours, and municipal developments of many kinds.


May I ask what is the policy?


I am stating our case and the hon. Member will be able to put his point of view when he comes to speak. The benefits which would accrue from this would be, first, a higher standard of remuneration, secondly, economic security, and, thirdly, shorter working hours and a shorter working life. Further, we should take over the land and industries—and I assume this is the point upon which hon. Members wish my opinion—we should not confiscate. My plan would be to pay the owners a valuation based on expert opinion; we should take an expert's valuation of the land or industry and those who owned them would get paid on that valuation. They would then become national assets belonging to the State. To the former owners of this property stock would be issued upon which they would be paid a certain percentage; to be reviewed every five years. We should agree on a certain percentage, and then every five years the matter would be reviewed. The question then arises: how should we pay them? I have not used the word "confiscation"; I should use the ordinary canons of taxation. There would be a certain amount upon which they would not be called upon to pay, a certain amount would be allowed for each family which would not be taxed, but alter that there would be a graduated scale of taxation and the person from whom we had bought the land or the industry, and who might have done very well by the deal, would have in his possession large accumulations of stocks. That man would have to pay in accordance with his holdings and we should get back from him the money the State had paid to him. [Laughter. "] Hon. Members laugh, but if you take from a man at any time it is confiscation. If yon take it in Income Tax or Surtax or Death Duties, you are taking something from a man; and it is confiscation. If the Income Tax is 4s. or 5s. or 6s. in the £ it is only a step up in the confiscation scale, although it is called taxation. But I would do even better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Speaking on 17th May, 1933, when we on these benches were asking that more should be taken from the rich the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us this: I think that perhaps the following figures are interesting, although they have been given to the House before. The figures are of the total amount of taxation in these three forms of Income Tax, Surtax and Death Duties as expressed by the insurance necessary to provide for Death Duties. I have here figures for £6,000, £10,000, £25,000 and £50,000 a year, the latter being the income of a millionaire. In the case or an income of £5,000, the total amount required is £2,293. In the case of £10,000, it is £6,208 for that purpose. The man with £25,000 a year has to provide £21,106, leaving less than £4,000 out of the £25,000 for himself.

And—hon. Members must listen to this: In the case of £50,000, no less than £53,505 is required."—[OFTIOIAI, REPORT, 17th May, 1933; col. 424, Vol. 278.]

That was the Chancellor's statement. I am fairer than the Chancellor of the Exchequer because I would leave a man enough upon which to live, he would not be in debt. When hon. Members speak of confiscation and use the term against the Labour party they must remember what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that under the ordinary canons of taxation we are now taking from a millionaire, £3,500 more than his income. I have never heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer make such a statement before, and, of course, there is no substance in it. A man with an income of over £50,000 does not lose anything. But that is the way in which we should deal with the position if we socialised industries and the land. I know that there will be many sceptical comments on the proposal, but I ask hon. Members opposite not to brush it aside lightly as though there was nothing in it. They must remember the figures at the last General Election. When Labour was being condemned on all sides for what was termed inefficient government, when the country swung over to the other side, we had voting for us 6,638,171 electors, or 31 per cent. of the total electorate. At a time when many of our adherents, who perhaps had not adopted Socialism as their policy, left us we had a strong body of convinced Socialists of over 6,500,000, and out of that it can be said that 5,500,000 are convinced Socialists who want some change. If you get 25 per cent. of the electorate of this country thinking seriously on such a subject it is well that the House of Commons should realise the position.

We must pay some attention to what is being said to-day. In the early days, 20 or 30 years ago, I was as convinced an individualist as anybody else, I believed that a strong and healthy man could go forth into the world and his living was assured. Can anyone say that at the present time? The conditions are so bad to-day that unemployed men who will not beg for a job or use any subterfuge to get work may be out of work for years. Men are losing their independence and manhood. If hon. Members opposite believe in the present system they must show that it is capable of giving some relief to the unemployed. It is not good enough for them to defend the present system and leave 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 people out of work, and millions badly housed and underfed, and then hold up this system as being the only system that is bound to survive. At least we have put forward a scheme which we think ought to attract the attention of the House, believing that in time to come it is the scheme which will have to be adopted by this country and followed by the rest of the world.

5.16 p.m.


I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: this House, believing that the abolition of private enterprise would impoverish the people and aggravate existing evils, is unalterably opposed to any scheme of legislation which will deprive the State of the benefits of individual initiative. The opening speech in favour of the Motion was remarkable for its complete lack of support of the underlying motives or the underlying principles which, towards the end of the hon. Member's speech, it was intended to suggest should take the place of private enterprise. The hon. Member informed the House that the Motion did not vary from that submitted to the House in 1923 by the then Member for Colne Valley, Mr. P. Snowden. But in my view it does represent an entirely different position, be- cause if one is to regard the term "private enterprise" with the same spectacles and with the same thought and understanding as one regards the term "capitalism," then from an economic point of view one will get very far from the real issues at stake. This Motion differs from its predecessor apart from elimination of "gradual," and differs in so far as it eliminates the word "capitalism" and substitutes the words "private enterprise." In my opinion to that degree the House is called upon to discuss an entirely different matter, a matter as far apart as are the poles from that which was discussed 10 years ago.

The Mover of the Motion said that the only reason which actuated him in moving it was the poverty of hundreds of thousands of the people of this country. We know and frankly regret that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are faced with conditions tantamount to poverty. But what it was the hon. Member's business to do was to show us that under Socialism, the alternative that he suggested, there would be no persons subjected either to poverty or the pangs of poverty. Far from that, the hon. Member led us into an argument which gave some of us the impression that under a Socialistic State there would be far more tendency towards poverty and poverty-stricken conditions than there is under the present system. He said that the victims of private enterprise cost this country millions of money every year, but I noticed that he made no mention of the great cost to this country at the present time of the victims of the administrative inability and inefficiency of the last Socialist Government. The taxpayers at the moment are unquestionably suffering more as the result of Socialist administration during two years than they are suffering from what is described as private enterprise or capitalism.

The hon. Member also reminded us that upon the wages a man received depended the level of his standard of life. I thought that that was common knowledge. Does the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) suggest that under public ownership and control, or Socialism, the standard of life that a man will enjoy will be dependent on other things than what he receives in return for services rendered to the community? If he does suggest that, we are going to have something different from what I have always understood to be the principle of a Socialist State. The hon. Member said that it was private enterprise and not Socialism that was on its trial. If it is private enterprise that is on its trial, it is my business to prove that the charge against it is entirely unfounded. I am not a very great student of economics, but from what I have read I am convinced that no person can regard private enterprise as a system of production, distribution and exchange of wealth. I do not believe it is possible to regard so-called capitalism as an actual system of production, distribution and exchange of wealth. I believe that private enterprise is a practice which is inherent in human nature, and that it has none of the qualities or the inequalities of what we regard ordinarily to be systems. For that reason I believe that the suggested alternatives to capitalism or private enterprise fall very much below the ground.

The hon. Member referred to the mining areas, and the Seconder of the Motion spoke of the growth of Socialism in those areas. I suggest that the workers of this country neither understand Socialism nor want it. I go so far as to suggest that very few of the members of the party opposite understand Socialism. Not only do they not understand it, but the vast majority of them do not want it, because if they, of all the representatives of the working classes, were immediately affected by the administration of a Socialist plan, they would be the first people to grumble at the effect it was having on them personally and not as members of the community. If hon. Gentlemen opposite do not agree with my suggestion that they do not understand Socialism let me read to them what one of their members said on this subject only a few months ago. Here is a statement by the hon. Member for Bermondsey, West (Dr. Salter): I made a statement at the conference that at the present time there is not a single constituency in the country where there is a majority of convinced Socialist electors. We have plenty of districts, such as Bermondsey, where there is an overwhelming Labour majority, but it is a sheer delusion and sheer hypocrisy to think that the greatest number of these people understand what we mean by Socialism. They neither understand it nor do they want it. They neither understand the type of Socialism submitted to the House this afternoon by the hon. Member for Spennymoor, nor do they understand the type of Socialism made public quite recently as an innovation by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). I am convinced that in the district represented by the Mover of this Motion there are at least three distinct types of Socialistic thought—Socialistic thought that is not inherent, but is the result of the teachings of the hon. Member for Spennymoor and his colleagues of the Socialist party in the last 25 or thirty years. You have the mining community which believes that Socialism means the ownership of the mines by the miners and control of the mines by the miners for the miners. You have another type which believes that Socialism means the ownership of the mines by the State but controlled by the miners. You have a third type which believes that Socialism will mean control by the miners of all the results of the production of the mines, and the distribution of those results so long as there are profits to distribute, but that at the moment there are losses the State will step in by virtue of its position and make up the difference between what would have been gained and what is temporarily lost. It is idle gossip for hon. Members opposite, to whatever division they go, to suggest that there is any more established or more concentrated thought on the real meaning of Socialism in the mind of the working men and women of this country, than that which I have submitted to the House. What applies to the mines applies to every industrial area in the country.

I suggest that there is one great factor dominating the minds of the workers, who really believe that they are Socialists because the hon. Member for Spennymoor and other hon. Members opposite tell them so, and that is the fact that they have, been led to believe that under Socialism there will be no boss class. The miners are Socialists as far as their votes go because they think that every time they put a cross on the ballot paper in favour of a Socialist candidate they are going to weaken the position of the colliery owner and shareholder. They consider neither the position of the colliery owner, nor the services that he is rendering to society generally, nor do they consider the position of the shareholder in so far as he has applied his capital to industry for the purpose of future production, distribution and exchange.

I suggest, that this Motion, if it proves anything, proves that there is in the ranks opposite a dislike of monopolies, a dislike of activity which leads to the creation of monopolistic ownership. The Motion also reveals to the House that there is a tendency to believe in the right to full maintenance by the State or the right to work. The Motion also gives us reason to say that those who support it really believe that the present system destroys the freedom of opportunity for the subjects of the country under the effective working of that system. It also infers that under private enterprise there is, to the benefit of the few, a vast system of exploitation of the many. Let me suppose for one moment that those are four of the main features that generally constitute the reasons why men adhere to a Socialist policy. If that is true I submit that they are the very four reasons why they should not submit to a change commonly called Socialism, because those four reasons are the very reasons why Socialism is both impracticable as a system of production and distribution and exchange of wealth, and as a system which will bring about a condition of equality among the people of the country. As far as we have seen it, Socialism not only, for its own propaganda purposes, fulminates against monopoly, but at the very first opportunity it seeks to establish monopoly.

The speeches of this afternoon go to prove that under the Socialist State there would be not only that monopoly which is regarded by Socialists as so injurious when practised under a capitalist system but a monopoly enforced by iron rules and demanding the most rigid adherence that one can conceive. Take the trade union movement, which is the stronghold of Socialist policy in this country, and, incidentally, the great co-operative movement. Would anyone suggest that the trade union movement does not seethe with monopolistic enterprise? It not only demands for itself the right to lay down conditions and rules and regulations, but it also says: "If those who are outside our movement refuse to come in and to observe our conditions, we shall use every power in our hands to prevent them from earning an ordinary livelihood." The great dispute of 1926, if it proved anything, proved that the Parliamentary Labour party was entirely within the grip of the trade union monopoly.

We have seen it even in connection with this House. In 1929 we had a Socialist administration. I suggest with all due respect that the voices which were raised on this side of the House in those days did not represent the political Labour party. It was the gramophone record of Eccleston Square which re-choed through this Chamber. It is true that there were some few Members who refused to accept the dictates of the trade union movement. There were the three hon. Members who now sit below the Gangway opposite, and who do credit to their various constituencies by their individual representation of those constituencies. There were also the hon. Members for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and Merthyr (Mr. Wall-head). After a few months, however, the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs received his trade union instructions, that he was either to get back into the Labour party or to get out of the trade union movement. I do my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr the credit of saying that he left that little group and went back because his principles took him in that direction. But the trade union movement cannot in this generation, or in any generation, take upon itself the responsibility of dictating to a great country like this what shall or shall not be the system of the production, distribution and exchange of wealth under which that country is to develop.

Let me go a little further. A conference was held at Chesterfield a few weeks ago in connection with the trade union movement. It was held in private and it was for the purpose of demanding from the headquarters of the party opposite the reason why the representative of a certain union had been pushed out of the nomination for the Clay Cross Division. If the position were revealed, it would show that the trade union movement has such a dominating power over the Parliamentary Labour party that whatever they demand has to be done. In this case a seat had to be found for the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson). No more, they asked, should the right hon. Gentleman suffer the ignominy of defeat at Burnley. No more should be be called upon to undergo the trouble of by-election campaigns. The small trade union which had financed Labour representation in that division for years, the miners' leaders there who understood the local position, who had been brought up with and had worked with the miners, were cast aside. The monopolistic trade union movement said, "You must get out, and make way for Uncle Arthur." Thus we find monopolistic enterprise at work in connection with the machinery of the Labour party to-day, both in its trade union section and in its political section. What it is doing in that respect to-day is only a faint reflection of what it would do if this country ever gave it the opportunity to claim greater powers over the means of production, distribution and exchange of wealth.

If there is not this monopoly, even in connection with the Parliamentary seats at the disposal of the Labour party, why did not the trade union movement send some of the stars who were crowded out at the last election to contest Market Harborough or Rutland or Kilmarnock? Because there was no chance of victory there. It was said by the trade unions, "Let the little standard-bearers suffer the ignominy of defeat. We shall wait until something more certain turns up. Then the monopolistic hammer will fall again and the trade union movement will have its own way once more." We are entitled to judge by their actions in these matters, the people who want to upset the present system and the present order of things. In my opinion their actions prove conclusively that they are thoroughly incapable of good government.

I have said that one of the striking features of this Motion is the elimination of the word "capitalism" and the introduction of the words "private enterprise." We take it for granted that it is a Motion attacking private enterprise and not attacking capitalists. But if the general terms of this Motion were embodied in legislation, the Mover himself will admit that it would involve such an extension of the functions and powers of government in the State as would make its operation incompatible with individual freedom. It is impossible to have a Socialistic state, except under those conditions. If you are going to give more and more power to the State over the general conditions of the life of the people, ultimately you arrive at the point of interference with individual liberty against which human nature revolts. We have had it in Russia and in Germany to some extent in Italy, and also to some extent even in America. No hon. Member opposite has given us the slightest assurance that the system which they advocate could take the place of private enterprise without those disruptions which I have indicated. While the abolition of private enterprise would give satisfaction temporarily to the party opposite, it would bring poverty and destitution, conditions of hunger and, probably, internal war within our social order and would retard Great Britain's social advancement, not by one generation but by scores of generations.

I give hon. Members opposite the credit for good intentions. Apart from their weird ideas, I believe they are out to do good to the community. But for 10 years they have undoubtedly gone the wrong way about it, and this Motion would make it appear that for another 10 years they are going to drift along in the old channels. Capitalism or private enterprise has produced, according to the Seconder of the Motion, some great and beneficial advantage. I believe that Lord Snowden said that capitalism had only existed for 100 years. My view is that the basis of private enterprise originated with mankind. I believe it is the result of a feeling which is just as deep-seated in animal life as in human life. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) laughs, but the form of Socialism which he advocates has never existed and thank God will never exist, however much he may attempt to persuade the people of this country by intellectual argument. His form of Socialism is out of keeping with this Motion.

As I have said, I am convinced that capitalism or private enterprise is inherent in the human race, and, before you can destroy it, you will have to satisfy human nature that what is going to take its place is going to be better in every respect—not merely better after worse has been endured, but better at the very point of application. Until hon. Members opposite are able to give that assurance, they cannot expect hon. Members on this side to support them in their Motion. I would like to remind hon. Members of what was said by Sir Ben Turner in 1928. I think that when I mentioned the name of Sir Ben Turner I heard the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol say "My God." I do not know why. Sir Ben Turner is a great trade unionist. I believe he has served the workers well, and continues to serve them well. I am certain of one thing—that he has served the working class and the organised movement during the last 35 years to a very much greater degree than the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol can ever hope to do. Sir Ben Turner, speaking at the Trade Union Congress in 1928, said: The great changes in the past 40 years in the industrial life of the country must be pleasant for every Englishman to look back upon. There has been a vast change for the better in the personal attire of both men and women workers as well as in the amenities of their homes. As regards wages, although there have been big changes since the War, wages improved by at least 30 per cent. between 1890 and 1910, while working hours have been reduced from 58 to 48 per week. The abolition of the half-time system is another condition favourably affecting the growth of the children. It also gives an impetus to their higher education. Thus, with the lowering of industrial hours and the raising of the school-leaving age, the children of the workers have fuller opportunities for real educational equipment. He went on to deal with technical schools and scientific advancement. These facts from the lips of one of their own representatives show, I submit to hon. Members opposite, a state of things which exists not in spite of capitalism but which has been created by virtue of capitalism, with the assistance of capitalism, and certainly with the closest possible cooperation of those who are generally regarded as responsible for the machinery of capitalism. There are one or two points which I would put to any hon. Members of the Opposition who may speak later in this Debate. I wish to ask first, are they in a position, on behalf of the party, to guarantee that under their proposed system of state ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, there will be individual freedom. I would also ask them, if it is suggested that the individual has not complete freedom to-day and that the master class alone are the people who have all the liberty, whether conditions would be guaranteed to be better under Socialism.

However much the party opposite dislike Eussia at the present time, however much they choose to denounce the leaders of the Eussian movement and to dissociate themselves from propaganda carried on even in this country on behalf of Eussia, the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol will admit at least that Eussia is the only country in the world in which large-scale Socialism has ever been attempted, and it is because Russia does offer us that illustration that I ask hon. and right hon. Members opposite whether they have carefully considered the very first condition which had to be applied by Lenin in the early days of 1918–19 in order to establish even a reasonable chance of success for the scheme. According to "Forward," a very pronounced and well-known paper run by Members opposite, dated the 13th December, 1919, Lenin said: We are now in the third stage. Our games, our decrees, our laws, our plans, must be secured by the solid form of everyday discipline. This is not only the most difficult but the most promising programme, for only its solution will give us Socialism. We must learn to combine the stormy energetic breaking up of all restraint on the part of the toiling masses with iron discipline during work, with absolute submission to the will of one person, the director of industrial undertakings. The revolution in its own interests and in the interests of Socialism depends on the unqualified submission of the worker to the iron rule of the dictator. Then again, "The Call" a one-time official organ of the British Socialist party—if there is any difference between that party and the Labour party—of the 15th April, 1920, stated: Organised social work is impossible without the employment of compulsory measures towards the parasitic elements as well as the still backward sections of the working-classes. The means of compulsion at the disposal of the State is its military power. The militarisation of labour is an absolute necessity to the success of Socialist policy. Is that the reason why the right hon. Gentleman, whose absence to-day we all regret, made such a very important reference a few weeks ago to the conditions of military and naval officers under a Socialist régime? Is that the reason why, in his recent book, the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol makes such an important argument from that one little word "dictatorship"? I am convinced, from what I have seen in practice and from my own deductions from theory, that under Socialism the dictatorship of what is called the industrial leader, or the iron rule of the industrial dictator, is an absolute necessity, and as it is such a necessity to the success of the scheme, so, in my opinion, is it in itself an absolute guarantee of the failure of the whole scheme in this country, because, as I said in the first instance, there is nothing more abhorrent to the Britisher than the suppression of his ordinary industrial, social, and economic freedom and liberty.

Hon. Members opposite, I am convinced, will not deny that that iron rule exists in Russia to-day and in Germany to-day, and they will not deny that it exists in Germany to-day because of the failure of Socialism in Germany to work hand in hand, or harness to harness, with the capitalist machine of Germany prior to the taking over of affairs by the present regime. I believe that freedom of action and individualism are completely doomed under the scheme that has been rather meagrely outlined by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion. They failed to guarantee us that the scheme is workable or to give us any indication as to the length of the period that its application would necessitate before it was complete; they failed to show us how wages or regularity of employment would be secured; they failed to indicate a line of State action in respect to disputes between authority and the people; and certainly they failed to give any guarantee as to the position in relation to the Governments of those nations with whom this country's trade must be carried on.

We never heard a word about export trade. The very term has never been mentioned. We have heard of nationalism and nationalisation, but is there no such thing as internationalisation? We have heard of the nationalisation of the banks. Fancy any hon. Member opposite having the audacity to suggest to this House that you can automatically nationalise something which in its whole constitution and in its whole being is international from top to bottom. I am convinced that capital in this country, held or directed as it is under the so-called system of private enterprise, does give the greatest incentive of all to the whole populace, whether the small and insignificant or the large and important bodies, the incentive to save; and I believe that so long as the incentive to save exists, so long as the right to own after you have saved exists, so long as the right to possess and control property continues to be the right of the individual, so long will you have arising from that condition a much more effective incentive to operate for the benefit of the people as a whole than you would if you attempted to harness yourself to Socialism.

I had a lot more to say, but I will conclude by asking consideration, not of the 100 years, but of the 400 or 500 years of the growth of private enterprise in this country. Population, national wealth, national income, the growth of trade imports and exports—all these great factors I have no time to discuss, but if hon. Members opposite regard these as of the importance that they deserve, they will see that, as against their allegations about capitalism or private enterprise having failed, figures prove conclusively that the system has succeeded almost beyond the imagination of the average Socialist. Although we on this side admit that within the operation of the machine there are defects, we are convinced that this House and public opinion in general will correct those defects and not only make, in the remaining years of our time, for complete perfection in the system of private enterprise, but will make for complete elimination of those evils which hon. Members opposite attribute to private enterprise, but which really are evils that emanate from the ordinary movement of nature, over which nobody of the past generation has had control and over which nobody this afternoon has indicated that we can have any control in the future.

5.55 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

It has been very forcefully moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Atter-cliffe (Mr. Pike), and I would like to make a comment or two on the speech of the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), who, in his very carefully reasoned and well-read speech, gave us what we expected from a Socialist speaker. He embarked on the usual wholesale destruction, but I listened in vain for something new from a Socialist speaker, except one word, which would suggest a constructive policy. What we did not get from Durham, however, we were fortunate enough to get from Lancashire, because the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) certainly gave us the usual long, orthodox and, with great respect to him, ill-considered dogmas which constitute the Socialist platform of to-day. When I say that he gave us the Socialist platform of to-day, however, I must be very careful, because he is only announcing one side of that Socialist programme for the next election, and there is a prospective competitor for the Premiership when the policy has to be declared. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) is in his place, and I do not think the policy so mildly, so nicely, so kindly and so gently put forward by the hon. Member for Leigh would stand the hot fire blazing from the crimson furnace of the Bolshevism of the. hon. and learned Member.

To come on to a somewhat lower plane—although a man who has party ambitions need not be limited and there is no reason why the hon. Member for Spenny-moor might not be announcing the Prime Minister's policy from those benches—the hon. Member says that industry privately owned has failed. It is no use indulging in generalities, and I am still waiting to learn from the party opposite how they are going to prove to a sensible, hard-headed British nation that public ownership has ever improved the management of anything. Public ownership is only indulged in in moments of utter extremity, and in those days it has not always been too successful, and its success has always been bought 'at the most exorbitant price. I have no doubt that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), if he were here, would tell us what it cost him in the nation's extremity to run the nation's business publicly.

The hon. Member said again that industry had failed at home. Industry now is bucking up at home, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman, even with his red glasses on, could refuse to see that fact. I am not going to blame the Government for all of it, but why had it failed? Our industry at home was failing because we were giving free to the foreigner a market which was ours by right, which he had and denied to us, 'and which we allowed him to use, to the destruction of our own industry; and since we have stopped that foolish policy, which the Socialist party seem to have inherited from the gentlemen on the second bench below the Gangway opposite, private enterprise industry has consistently improved. The figures all state that fact. What policy have the party opposite got for improving industry abroad, and how is public ownership going to improve the prospects of British industry in its competition in foreign markets?

Now the secret is out, because, of course, industry as we run it now has to be run at a profit. Of course, under Socialist schemes it does not matter whether there is a profit or a loss, and it does not matter to Socialists who pays the loss. The taxpayers of this country have learned twice who pays for this Socialist madness of public ownership, and they have told the Labour party twice what they think of it. The first time they only whispered it, but last time they shouted it. What struck me all through the speeches from the other side was the emphasis on the fact that this is not a Debate on Socialism, but is only on a Motion against private ownership. Why are hon. Members so shy of the word Socialism? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol is not afraid of it. He gives it out in overdoses. Why are all the other Members of that party so frightened of it? The people of this country have been "had" by the Socialists twice. They are not going to be "had" again, for the word "Socialism" stinks in the nostrils of the majority of the people of this country.

The Labour party were beaten at the last General Election in a way in which no party or policy has ever been thrashed or beaten before. What has happened since? There have been a few by-elections, and, to judge by the "Daily Herald" and its headlines, there has been a revolution, the whole country has changed its mind, and it is going to do away with the National Government. Where is the proof of that? Where are the figures to support it? On what were the by-elections fought? I have attended most of them, and the Socialists have given me a rough house. The first of them were fought on the means test and a mean and dirty interpretation of it. That brought some delectable figures to the Front Bench opposite, and we could not see the House for red carnations. When that was worn out, we had a second line—peace versus war—and to that we owe the pleasure of the presence of the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot), who is a very nice Member and whom we are all glad to see. A more fraudulent and more wicked perversion of the rights of free election than the Fulham by-election, however, I have never witnessed and I hope never to witness again. The word Socialism was never mentioned. The Labour party were shy of it then, they were shy of it before, and they are shy of it to-day. We are, however, determined to fight them on the merits of whatever policy they put forward.

I would like to say a word on the policy of taking over the management of the banks, industry and so forth, which was put forward this afternoon. There is nobody of intelligence in this country to-day who could swallow a policy of that kind without realising what it means to the business and industry and the welfare of the people of the country. Every business man in this House, every trade union leader in the Labour party, all those who read and know what they are reading, know perfectly well that at the very first signs of the advent of a Government which was going to give effect to that policy, or, worse still, to the policy of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, British credit would be smashed, and by the time the banks were taken over there would be nothing in them. The moving of this Motion to-day is the biggest piece of impertinence ever perpetrated on the House of Commons. To think that this attenuated remains of what was once the apology of a party should, before their black eyes are open enough to see, invite the House, in the face of the vast majority of the House and the huge majority of the people, to pass a Motion such as is on the Paper to-day! I admire their colossal impudence. I hope the House will by a most emphatic majority mark its disapproval of a technique which, for sheer hypocrisy and fatuity, will be hard to beat.

6.6 p.m.


The hon. Gentleman who spoke last seemed to challenge some of my colleagues on these benches with being afraid of declaring their faith. I hope that before I have finished he will not be able to make the same charge against me. At 17 years of age I joined the Socialist movement before the present Labour party was formed. We stood then for the principle of the social ownership and control of the means of producing and distributing wealth. That is more years ago than I care to remember. I have listened to a travesty of economic history by those who made themselves responsible for the Amendment. One would imagine from them that the world began with the capitalist system, and that what they call human nature was an absolute stated fact in economic development and in the evolution of society. As a matter of fact, as far as economic history goes, Communism in material affairs of life is more historically correct than capitalism. Three parts of the history of the world were lived during a time when goods were held in common, and even to-day, as. far as economic affairs are concerned, the principle of Communism is stronger than the principle of private control of industry. When young men who ought to know better try to teach their grandmothers how to suck eggs, it makes me tired. If they went to the School of Economics with the kind of stuff that has been said in support of this Amendment, they would be regarded as suffering from abysmal ignorance.

The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment demonstrates the pugnacity of Capitalism in its declining years. He tells us that the world is made bright by the influence of people like himself, that when he has finished the world will end, and that the only thing that can be done to make humanity desirable, to make life what it ought to be, is to continue the system in which he believes. It is the good old system of the right of the slave-driver to wollop his own nigger. What is the situation to-day? We have private enterprise, and we can look round and see its results. The great land of capitalism is the United States of America, a classic example of the system which hon. Members are defending. They do not know where to look for a remedy now. At one time those of us who were derelicts in western Europe were told to look to the great land of the west be- yond the Atlantic; we were told that all could go there, and that in a comparatively short time we could be millionaires. They are now well on the way to becoming paupers, and they are looking to other countries to teach them how to get out of their difficulties. You have only saved capitalism in so far as you have adopted the principles for which we stand. Capitalism has only been modified and made possible by the introduction of a system of help from the community to the victims of the industrial system. What are the Unemployment Insurance Acts, the Public Health Acts and the Poor Law but an effort on the part of the State to rescue the victims of a system which, if it were allowed to work out to its logical conclusion, would lead to the destitution of the majority of the people.

Now that the victims of the capitalist system have been saved in this way, we are told that the oldest and best system in the world is private enterprise. I agree that men must work, but our complaint against the system is that the workers do not get the benefit of it. It is a case with them of— Monday plenty, Tuesday some; Wednesday little, Thursday none; Friday doesn't matter, Wait till Saturday, Then go round again. On the 31st of this month the great mass of the workers will be a year nearer the workhouse or the old age pension. The workhouse will be a certainty. Two out of five who reach the age of 65 will end their days in receipt of some assistance, either public or private. Only one in ten reach the age of 70. If a bishop dies before the age of 70 it is looked upon as a case of infantile mortality. Yet the old system which has produced these results is praised up. We are not asking you to accept what we say, but what your own experts say. When I was a youngster I read the book on the life and labour of the people of London by Charles Booth and later I read General Booth's description of life among the people in the East and South of London; and when in my constituency I see the things that exist, and will continue under the present system, I want to know how it is that hon. Members opposite can take such a complacent view of the present situation.

We have got the means of making everybody happy. We have annihilated space, we have bridged the ocean and we have almost conquered the air; yet with all our technical abilities and power what do we find—a huge mass of our population Irving on or below the poverty line. That is an indictment of any system. There is no need for an appeal to the emotions or for lectures about our lack of industrial capacity. Suppose we have not got the brains that the hon. Gentleman opposite has got, but does not display too often, all the same we might have an idea which would fructify in the mind of the hon. Member. Sometimes wisdom cometh out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. Suppose the hon. Member opposite, with his colossal intelligence, would just take a hint from a fellow like myself, an unskilled labourer. That is what I was before I got here—and I never met one until I did get here. I have discovered that those who know all about business know how many beans make five, and how to make five beans out of two—if somebody else finds the two.

Surely hon. Members opposite can take a hint from us when we tell them that their capitalist system is "going west" of itself. Competition breeds the great combine, the big fish eat. the little fish, and the little fish have nothing but mud to eat. The capitalist system is coming to an end. It does not matter how many of us there are on these benches; if there were only one, the economic working of our present industrial system would itself put an end to capitalism. The problem is, What is to take its place? We are told about dictatorships in Russia. Russia is an illustration of the development of nations. Russia has always been used to dictatorships, the people have never had any other form of government, and when the people of a country are driven up against it, it is not unnatural that they want to upset their government and go to the other extreme. Take the history of France, of Russia and of Germany. When the people have been tyrannised over by a ruling class they have put their backs into it and upset that form of government, and gone to the opposite extreme. We here congratulate ourselves that we have never gone from one extreme to the other. We have tried to find a way in between, to find a democratic method of settling our internal difficulties.

I am a Social Democrat—a democrat in politics and a Socialist in economics. I believe that the people of this country have the power, if they have the will, to alter things in any direction they care to, and if they will not alter them consciously, then they must not grumble when the bricks fall on their heads. We accept the will of the majority as shown in the last election. I hope the hon. Member opposite will accept the result of the next election. We shall not be afraid of it when it comes. Also, I shall be ready to go into by-elections in company with my friends. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to meet the hon. Member on a public platform in the country, where he would not have a crowd here cheering him, as he had here to-night, and laughing at jokes. Jokes are very good things in their place, and I appreciate a joke as well as any Member, but what I cannot appreciate is a joke made at the expense of the starving millions of this country. I cannot understand a joke about the conditions existing in Great Britain to-day. We are coming to that period of the year when we talk about good will to all men, and here we are being told by the supporters of this Amendment that the capitalist system is the best yet invented. As a matter of fact, it is the last system invented. It is not the best; it is only an imperfect method of dealing with man's material necessities. It solved problems for the time being, but to-day we have got beyond the stage in which it served.

I remember the late Lord Balfour saying in a speech, when he represented one o: E the constituencies of Manchester, that the 19th century would go down in history as the century in which man succeeded in solving the problem of production, and that he believed the 20th century would go down in history as that in which man solved the problem of distribution. That is what our proposition is—solving the problem of distribution. The world is not short of things because God is angry or Nature is niggardly. We are going short largely because of man's inhumanity to man, and because past systems are not meeting present necessities. Therefore, we have put down this Motion, although we know beforehand that it will be defeated. But that does not discourage us. We must keep on keeping on, and at the end of the road we shall find ourselves in the direction of the place to which we want to go. In our Motion we are asking the nation to face up to its responsibilities. Every other system has been tried. I remember that a few years ago the hon. Member who moved this Amendment was a great ornament on Tariff Reform platforms, and used to tell us that all we had to do was to put on plenty of tariffs and everything in the garden would be lovely.


I hope the hon. Member will accept my assurance that I have never spoken for the Tariff Reform League nor as one of the Tariff Reform party in my life.


I am not suggesting the hon. Member ever spoke for them. He has talked on so many platforms that I do not know exactly which he was talking upon, but from what I heard him say at a celebrated meeting I understood that he advocated tariffs.


Hear, hear!


That is all I said; but tariffs are like sticking-plaster on a wooden leg. The hon. Member has no solution to offer for our difficulties. All he does is to cast ridicule on our Motion without providing any policy of his own. The National Government have no policy. Up to now we have received nothing from them. "Live horse and you will get grass," things will be better after Christmas—that is the economic policy we receive in response to our Motion, cheap jokes by people who ought to know better. Those jokes will be read to-morrow by the people, but they will prove to be a poor effort for Christmas, and will not provide much sauce for the Christmas pudding, if there is any pudding. I support the Motion put forward by my colleagues because we want to challenge this system. Those who are supporting that system boast about their majority, but what are they doing with it? Are they going to lift the people out of the slough they are in, are they going to make the lot of the people better, or leave them to stew in their own juice? Because if this be the policy of the National Government, we are challenging it.

6.26 p.m.


No Member of the House will under-estimate the seriousness of the problem before us. There is always a tendency to seek some new solution, and, therefore, I was very much interested when the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said they had to satisfy the House that there is a better system than the existing one. I rather expected that he would have touched, if only for a moment, on the one country in the world which has attempted public ownership on a very large scale. For years people have talked about public ownership, but it was left to the people of Russia to try it out, and in that vast country, covering one-sixth of the whole world, and with 120,000,000 people, we have had an opportunity of seeing the system at work, so that we may express our opinion about it. If we examine the results there, most of us will come to the conclusion that, whatever defects there may be in the present system here, we are at least better off than they are in Russia. I was particularly interested to hear a remark from the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) who, I am sorry to see, is not in his place—


He has gone to get some tea.


He referred to the bad conditions in the coal mines in this country at the time when women worked in the mines, conditions which everyone in the House would deplore. It is true that we permitted women to work in the mines some 80 years ago, but one can imagine my surprise when visiting Russia only last year, and going underground in the pits, to find women at work there—under public ownership. I will conclude my remarks on Russia by quoting a special correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian," who, after a careful survey, wrote: There is not 5 per cent. of the population there whose standard of life is equal to or nearly equal to that of the unemployed of England who are on the lowest scale of relief. That is testimony from a newspaper which is not usually given to extreme statements. It is one thing to experiment with Socialism in a country like Russia, which is to a large extent self-contained, at any rate as regards foodstuffs, but we in this country have a very different problem. Russia, with a population three times our own, has an export trade only 12 per cent. of our export trade. As my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) pointed out, the hon. Member for Spennymoor, in moving his Motion, did not say a word about the export trade. That is a problem which we cannot dismiss from our minds, because we know that one in every five of the population of this country is to a lesser or greater extent dependent for employment upon the export trade. I want to examine the application of public ownership to that part of the trade of the country. Never was the export trade harder to conduct than it is at the present time. We find in countries all over the world nationalism growing, and tending to increase. We have to struggle and fight for markets, which are only obtained in these days if we are prepared to make immediate adjustments of prices, frequently working upon very small margins.

I suggest that State or public ownership is ineffective to get orders, under such conditions. We have only to look at what has happened in competitive State enterprises, such as State shipping in Australia or in America, to realise the difficulties which public-ownership encounters when it has to carry on competitive trade in an export market. In our export trade, we are not dependent upon sending abroad a few staple articles. Our export trade is extraordinarily wide and varied. It would be a most difficult thing to conduct, the more so as the tendency of modern business is for demand to change and shift, particularly in those high-quality goods in which Great Britain specialises. Have we any reason to suppose that under public-ownership the workers would be more satisfied? I have not been a Member of this House very long, but I have observed during that time that workers in Government services do not appear to be so very much more contented with their lot than people working in private enterprises.

In spite of the difficulties, we can point to definite signs of improvements. We can point to more people at work, to the export trade going up and to our credit once more restored. I submit, in spite of the terms of the Motion which we are discussing, that we are taking steps to utilise and organise national resources and productive power. May I give one example of what I mean? Last year we established in this country no fewer than 646 new industries—new factories—employing some 44,000 people. One of the difficulties, when the Government have such a large majority as at present, is that many of their supporters are silenced and have no opportunity of putting forward their own views. Therefore, to a large extent, we have not had opportunities of thanking the Government for what they have done in the way of assisting industries in our constituencies. Those of us who represent constituencies which have benefited as a result of Government policy wish to thank the Government for doing it. We all know that there are areas which are suffering from acute depression, and we sympathise with the difficulties of Members of Parliament who represent those distressed areas. I must confess that sometimes I wonder whether prodigality in the past, on the part of local authorities in those areas, has not to some extent been responsible for the difficult conditions of the present time. It may not be altogether fortuitous that new industries have started in counties like Middlesex, which has always tended to reject Socialism in national and local administration.

Although times are bad, I see no evidence that capitalism is unable to carry on. I suggest that it is able to carry a population with ever-increasing numbers and to provide a standard of living that is definitely increasing. I can quote figures to prove that, but that has already been done by hon. Members on this side of the House. I could point to the huge volume of ever-increasing savings, accumulated not by rich capitalists, but by small people in small amounts. I claim that private enterprise gives full scope to invention. New machinery, brought about by private enterprise, is always lightening the toil of humanity. It should not be beyond the ingenuity of this country to introduce a method for gradually shortening the hours of work. We have seen a tendency of that sort at work during recent years, and I hope that it will continue. We have never claimed perfection for the capitalist system, but we claim that it has made material progress possible, and that it is flexible and adaptable. The National Government have shown quite clearly that it is prepared, as occasion may arise, to modify and control the system. Unlike their predecessors in office, they have taken steps to see that the standards of life built up under private enterprise are not imperilled by the competition of countries with lower standards, whether capitalist or Socialist.

6.37 p.m.


My time is so limited that there will be no opportunity to make the speech which I should have liked to make, and I will have to put my case in the form of a few simple propositions. I waited with a good deal of attention for what the two hon. Gentlemen were going to say in favour of Socialism, but I received very scanty satisfaction out of their speeches. They talked of Socialism in the conventional sense, and they never suggested how wide its ramifications would have to be before it would function in a country like this. They seemed to imply that Socialism simply meant taking over the coal mines of the country. A passing reference was made to a matter in which there might be a point. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion pointed out, that when the time came to take over property and the land, it would be done by increasing taxation to such a degree that ultimately the State would have to take over the property, because the industry could no longer pay the taxes levied upon it. That is to say, the new Socialist State is going to start off as a bankrupt concern.

Capital would have to be brought in, in some way or other, to put the industry on its feet before there could be any hope that it would make a profit for the Socialist State. We are told, though not in this Debate but by Socialists generally, that we are to have production for use, and not for profit. I have never been able to understand exactly what that meant. I wonder whether it means that under Socialism no profit will be produced, that we shall have no surplus to pay the hundred and one expenses that fall upon industry, and that we shall have nothing left over for new capital. The implication of every Socialist speech is that production will be for use alone, or, in simple language, that we are going to consume the whole of production as fast as it is produced which, as all business men in the House will know, is impossible. Important as it is to know how the wealth of the country is to be acquired from private ownership by the Socialist Government, I submit that it cannot be acquired in that particular way. There are two ways by which it might be acquired. One is by confiscation, and the other is by purchase. We have never had a definite Socialist declaration as to which policy the present Labour party would follow.

I looked up some references to it, and I first went to the documents of the Independent Labour party. The Independent Labour party is supposed to be the intellectual end of the Socialist movement. I found that there was a conference at which they appointed a committee to inquire into the question, and the conference decided that the time was not ripe for general confiscation and that the Socialist State would probably buy up the industries one at a time. They mentioned something which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has read, because his speeches have been made on similar lines to that Debate of the Independent Labour Party in 1925. They said that if the propertied classes attempted to sabotage the Socialist changes by unconstitutional means we should be confronted by a state of national emergency which would require to be dealt with on similar lines to those adopted during the War. This report was prepared about eight years ago by the Independent Labour party, and I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman interested himself in politics in those days. The Independent Labour party have told us conclusively that when the time comes they are going to socialise this country by buying one industry at a time.

How long is that going to take? Obviously, if you purchase one industry you have to make that industry pay sufficient money to enable you to acquire others as you go along. That cannot be done, because it is impossible to do it. The only way in which industry can be acquired is by confiscation. If you are going to buy all the wealth of all the people, you have nothing with which to pay for it except all the wealth of all the people. You could take all the wealth of the State and nationaise it, but you would have to hand back the wealth you had taken, because there is no other wealth in existence. If you hand back that wealth, you set up a capitalist State, and you are exactly where you were when you started. To acquire all the wealth of all the people you can only do it by confication. There is no other possible way.

The scantiness of the arguments that have been raised so far is such that Capitalism is represented by mines, mills, and things of that kind only. We heard nothing of the many millions of working-class capitalists, whose wealth would have to go in with the rest. We heard nothing about the co-operative movement. Are we to assume that the co-operative movement is to be nationalised when the private concerns are nationalised, or that, when we have a Socialist State, and the stores and multiple shops have been absorbed into a State scheme, the cooperative movement is to be allowed to remain and to compete with the State-owned shops? From where will they get their supplies? Socialist speakers never tell the poor capitalists that they are to lose their wealth just like other people.

It is not only the advocates of the Independent Labour party who raise that question, but the orthodox and more respectable—if, as some people say, less intellectual—Socialists of the Labour party, take precisely the same view. I have a, quotation from a newspaper called the "Daily Herald." I hope that it will never fall under the influence of a Socialist party. In the course of a leading article on the Licensing Bill the "Daily Herald" said: Our remedy is national ownership and control of this industry, as of all others … We would buy out brewers, distillers, publicans, and all who have honestly invested money in the trade, just as we would buy out the proprietors of any other industry. Of course, if the workers decide to buy out nobody but to confiscate all property, then this industry would go in with the rest. For a number of years we have wanted to know what the Labour party's basic proposal is. They want to nationalise the wealth that belongs to someone else. We want to know whether they are going to steal it or buy it. If they are going to steal it, will they at election times go to the constituencies and tell the working class that they are going to take the lot and give nothing? I remember at the last election the statement that the Post Office savings of the working-class were being used to pay the dole. The holders of small capital got the wind up, and I believe that that contributed very largely to the defeat of what is called the Labour party. If they go to the people and say that they are going to take, not ½ d. in the £, but all the savings that they have, because they are going to translate the present system into another system, I fancy that after that election the Socialists will be as scarce as the Dodo. It is only because people do not know what Socialism will involve that they support it, or perhaps it is because the Socialists have used the name of "Labour" to which they have no title.

They want to help the working classes. So do we, and I believe' the Conservatives do as well. We have a record of having helped the working classes which is unequalled and unprecedented in this country, and if our friends opposite really want to help the working classes, there are occasions when they might profitably, in the interests of the working class, join hands with us to do it; but time after time in the past they have themselves passed Measures altogether prejudicial to the interests of the working classes. We claim as a Liberal party that in the last year before the War we brought unemployment down to 2 per cent. I do not think it will ever be lower; there are so many things that contribute to it. If the light hon. Gentleman thinks he could get it lower, I would suggest to him that, the more progressive a nation is, the more changes take place which displace one set of workers by another. A short time ago I was at Stroud, in Gloucestershire, where there used to be a huge hair-pin factory which kept a large number of people working. But the time came when ladies cut off their hair and no longer required hairpins, and all those people went on to the unemployed market. That may be considered to be wrong; there may be hon. Members of the Opposition who object to hair-cutting, but these things will take place from time to time. Workers in the building trade are less busy in the winter, farmers are busier in the summer, printers are busier in the winter, steel and concrete have taken the place of timber. Even under the most perfect system you will never reduce unemployment to a very much smaller figure than 2 per cent.

There is one other thing that ought not to be forgotten, and that is that the Labour party have had their chances. They have had two opportunities to table their Measures, and show us what they could do. But they have not done it. I have a record of what they did in their first Parliament which is not at all creditable to any Members who may have belonged to it then. I remember how time after time they opposed the interest of the working class—how they voted against the right of a soldier sentenced to death by a court-martial to lodge an appeal, how they voted against a Bill to give a soldier the right to stop away from a Church parade if he wished to do so, how they voted against the reinstatement of the police strikers. Surely, the real evidence is what a party does when it has the opportunity of doing it. I grant that they were not in power, but the Liberal party have never been in power. The Parliament Act, which gave the Liberals power for the first time, only came into operation after the Great War. But it happened in the past that Liberals had courage as they have now. They had the courage to advocate certain proposals, while the Labour party pulled up their stumps and ran off the field whining that they had been bowled out. Nothing could have prevented them from tabling their Measures; nothing could have prevented them from fighting for them, with their flag nailed to the mast instead of being laid on the floor and used as a carpet. The case for Socialism becomes progressively weaker as the people understand more about it.

I believe there was something in the contention of the Mover of the Amendment that the Socialists have not sufficiently studied this question. There are pitfalls and traps everywhere. You can have no freedom of speech under Socialism. I could not see myself standing up in Moscow making a speech in the market-place. You cannot have a free Press under Socialism, nor can you keep a Press going, unless it is subsidised very heavily, in the absence of advertisements. You cannot have Free Trade under Socialism. I do not think there is another body of Socialists anywhere who even profess to be Free Traders. The Australian Socialists do not; the Continental Socialists do not. The Socialists abroad do know their case. They say that Free Trade implies the right of a man to buy where he likes and sell to whom he likes, and they cannot have that under Socialism. Under Socialism the State is the sole producer, and people must buy from the State; the State is the sole distributor, and no one else has a right to distribute. All these points should be considered before we suggest that we should hand over businesses which the present managers understand to another group of people who understand them less. In the open market the public official, however competent he may be, is going to lose every time against the private business man who has the right to use his initiative and judgment in his own way.

I hope that the opportunity will come, and I think it should come, for each political party in the House to have a Debate on their own philosophy and their own policy. This is the second time in 10 years that the Socialists have had that opportunity, and it may be 10 years before they have another; but I think that others who belong to different parties should be allowed to have their case examined, and the Liberal party will submit to that examination with every possible confidence.

6.54 p.m.

The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Major Tryon)

If the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. Young) is anxious to see a Debate in this House on all the various views that are held in the different parties, I think that such a Debate might well take place among his own party's ranks. There are two parts of the Motion which has been moved from the benches opposite, the first condemning Capitalism, and the second urging the Government to introduce Socialism. Very little has been said about Socialism, and I do not wonder at that, but, with reference to the suggestion that there has been a failure under Capitalism, I would say that hon. Members opposite are not right in saying that this Government takes no interest in trade, and does nothing in regard to trade. I would remind them that the last Budget had an anticipated deficit of £170,000,000 as they left it, and under the Capitalist system that deficit has been balanced. I would also point out that under the present Government a system of traiffs has been set up which has given more employment in every direction. That proves that the present Government does take an interest in trade. Owing to the confidence which is felt by this country and the world in the present Government of this country and in the capitalist system, we have been able to bring about a great conversion scheme—the largest financial conversion scheme in the history of the world.

Moreover, if you go back, not, as I have, for two years, but for 50 or 100 years, nobody can deny that under the capitalist system there has been an enormous improvement in the condition of our people. Whether you take expenditure on education, housing, health, or the real wages of our people, there has been, taking the long view, a great change for the better in the condition of our people, and that has occurred under and owing to the capitalist system. Moreover, under that system we have all sorts of encouragement for enterprise—encouragement to start new businesses and many other things which I hope will lead Members of the Liberal party to support us in the Division on this Motion. Under nationalised industries there is not the same encouragement for new enterprises, for invention, and for all the things that are so necessary for the benefit of the world, such as we undoubtedly get under a highly competitive system like the Capitalist system. I notice that, as was the case last year, no examples whatever have been given to us of the successful operation of Socialism in other countries. We have not had any account of what is at any rate supposed to have occurred in Russia, where I believe they still get food after waiting in queues—


Some people do not get it at all here.


The hon. Member knows that they do get it. Moreover, in a country where there is at the same time a nationalised railway and a railway run by private enterprise. What does one find there? The private enterprise railway does at all events manage to carry on, but the nationalised railway has to be subsidised by the State with money drawn from other capitalist interests. In other words, the nationalised industry is only kept going by subsidies from those portions of the national enterprise which are not yet subject to the evils of nationalisation.

I have been studying a book for which we are greatly indebted to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). I find, in a portion of the book which he did not write—I am anxious not to involve him in something with which he may not agree—suggestions regarding the confiscation of wealth; but these writers are a little anxious lest money should be removed to countries which are less under the influence of social justice. I suppose that most people have a safe in their houses in case someone should come along with a, sense of social justice. We gather that all agricultural land is to be taken over and managed by the State, but we have not heard how successful the co-operative societies were when they managed their own land. They are much more likely to do that well than some of the people who make speeches about it. Hon. Members opposite are suggesting that their system would be better than the one we have at present if only they were managing it, but the co-operative societies in 1932 had a loss of £124,000, incurred by 110 societies, in endeavouring to run the industry of farming. To propose that we should embark on a Socialist scheme for the whole country is to propose a vast dangerous experiment. It would mean that all production, distribution and exchange would be managed by the State; the State would become the sole employer; everyone would have to go to the State to get employment, and, presumably, would have to do whatever work he was ordered to do by the State. Clearly, there would be no liberty for the individual.

Again, under a Socialist system—and it would have to be shown that this could be done before the country could be got to adopt it—it would be necessary in the first place to maintain the power of the country to import essential supplies. Those essential supplies could not be got in in return for interest on capital lent abroad, as is the case at present, because that is contrary to Socialist principles. Those supplies, therefore, would have to be got from abroad in return for a successful export trade, and that when all businesses were conducted by the Government—and, I would say without discourtesy, conducted by the remains of the late Government, who would not be regarded by us on this side of the House as likely to be the (most successful part of it in the management of the country's business. Sufficient funds would have to come in from all these nationalised industries—I am assuming that all the industries are nationalised and that that there are no individual profits—to keep the social services going.' I do not, however, gather that those who study nationalised industries find that there is much profit about them, and yet if those industries do not pay there will not be the money available in the long run to maintain old age pensions, disablement pensions, health insurance, and all the other things for which money is now available. I wonder whether hon. Members opposite realise what enormous sums are now spent on social services—sums which are raised by and are due to the success of the capitalist system.

I now come to a subject which I think will very much interest the House, and also the Labour party, namely, the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol. In these days, when we understand that there are some differences of opinion within the Labour party, I am very glad that there should now be sitting next to the hon. and learned Member an hon. Gentleman who will, I believe, follow me, and who says in his book that he associates himself with the conclusions of the hon. and learned Member, so that there is at all events one Member of the Labour party who agrees with the hon. and learned Member. I have heard attacks made upon the hon. and learned Member as though he were someone anxious to be a dictator for sheer love of power. I do not think that that is the case. I believe that he is a sincere believer in Socialism, and that he wants to socialise and nationalise all our industries and everything we do in this country. I think—and I hope he will not mind my saying so—he is much more clear-sighted than some of his supporters, because he knows quite well that you cannot carry on Socialism except under dictatorship, and he says so.


Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman point out where I have said that you cannot carry out Socialism except under a dictatorship.


I will give four quotations.


Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say where I said what I have just been reported to have said.


I will give the hon. and learned Gentleman all the quotations he wants. There is no doubt that the hon. and learned Member is in favour of a dictatorship. I think that he is right in urging this course, and that it is very straightforward of him to warn the country that there would have to be a dictatorship. It is obvious that when you are going to get conflict between the Government and all the various interests, such as miners, agricultural labourers and organised masses of labour, the Government would have to come to firm decisions and often decide against labour and the trade unions. Therefore, I suggest that I might briefly recite the steps which the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol evidently considers necessary before Socialism can be conducted in this country satisfactorily. There are in this country four important factors—the Upper House, the Lower House, the Press, and the public or the electors.


The right hon. and gallant Gentleman surely does not leave out the crown?


I particularly avoided mentioning the Crown, and the hon. and learned Member would have been well-advised to have done the same.


It is part of the Constitution.


The hon. and learned Member does not like my comments, and he will like them still less before I have finished. The first step upon the election of a Socialist Government—I am describing it from his book—is that he will immediately get a meeting of Parliament. We gather that the Government's first step will be to call Parliament together and place before it an Emergency Powers Bill to be passed through all its stages on the first day. There will then be a difficulty, which he discusses clearly and fully. One of the solutions will be the setting up of a temporary dictatorship, and then, after a second general election at which the position of the Upper House will be challenged, we shall, as a country, find ourselves in the possession of only one Chamber. So of these four bodies we see a gradual disappearance something on the lines of the little niggers, who were four, and now are only three. The Upper House has gone. Now we come to deal with the House of Commons. He proceeds to deal with the work of the year. Towards the latter part of the Autumn, somewhere about now, there will be, every year, a planning and Finance Bill. A Bill of this nature will be introduced and discussed. We gather that there will be a timetable, and that, once the Bill has passed, it will be made impossible by appropriate Resolutions to rediscuse the merits of the plan after it has been decided upon. That is not all. We come to the point where the third of these factors or powers come under the action of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol. We come to the problem of the Press. We gather that all newspapers—not only the "Daily Herald"—will be turned on to explaining the merits and actions of the Government and the advantages of Socialism. Some Conservative Ministers might be rather amused to see under a Socialist Government certain Conservative papers—and I could name papers if I chose—forced to give support to a Socialist Government which they have so often denied to Conservative Members in this House. [Interruption.] The hon. and learned Member is quite right; this is not from the hon. and learned Member, but from someone else. But the hon. and learned Member wrote the preface, and I gather that in that way is expressing his approval.


To write the preface is not to say that I said it.


That is nothing to the point which comes at the end. We have had the power of the Upper House demolished, the House of Commons not allowed to discuss English affairs, and the Press putting forward the Socialist programme. But there is one difficulty left, and that is very awkward—the electors.

I think that the Labour party have not forgotten 1931. However, there are steps to deal with that. The country is under Socialism, and given such a majority, success or failure"— this is from the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol— will be proved in the first full Parliamentary term. Thus in five years we shall know whether Socialism has been a success. Unless, during the first five years, so great a degree of change has been accomplished as to deprive Capitalism of its power, it is unlikely that the Socialist party will be able to maintain its position of control without adopting some exceptional means shades of 1931— such as the prolongation of the life of Parliament for a further term without an election. I will not make any comment on the constitutional outlook of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol. As I said before, I think that he is quite right in believing that extraordinary powers of this kind would be necessary in order that an autocratic body should deal with the working of this country under the difficult operations of a complete Socialist system. The point with which I will close—and I think it is a good point—is, that if the state of public feeling is such that the Socialist Government will not dare face a General Election—it is not owing to the indignation of the landowners, as there will no longer be any, and it is not owing to something on the part of the banks—if after five years, in the opinion of its authors this scheme is to be so unpopular that the Government of the day will not dare to face the electors, I suggest that the best plan will be not to try the plan at all.

7.9 p.m.


We have had two Amendments put down to this Motion, one of which I should describe as the intelligent Amendment and the other as the unintelligent Amendment. Unfortunately, the unintelligent one was called, and none of the supporters of the intelligent Amendment have been able to speak to the House. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has contented himself with making a number of amusing debating points. When I look back and remember the Debate in 1923, I find that it was notable for two speeches. There was the speech of the present Lord Snowden, which was a destructive examination of the present system, and there was a very able defence put up by Sir Alfred Mond, as he then was, but it is interesting to note the distance we have travelled since that time. If Lord Melchett, as he afterwards became, had been present in the House he would not have made the same speech. His speech was really full of abounding confidence in the capitalist system. We do not find that abounding confidence any where to-day. On the contrary, we find everywhere a close examination being made by many thoughtful people of what Capitalism has really accomplished, and what it has not accomplished. I regret that we did not get this point brought out in the discussion by the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment, or indeed in the speech of the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. Young), nor, I think, in the speech of the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Mitchell). They attempted to deal with only minor points. I think that if we had had speeches from the Members who put down their names in support of the intelligent Amendment it would have been more useful to the House, because it is more and more recognised to-day that there is a problem to be faced. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) to put down an Amendment as being unalterably opposed to any scheme of legislation which will deprive the State of the benefits of individual initiative. I do not know what it means. He might equally well be opposed to any scheme of legislation which deprives individual initiative of the benefits of the State. For the moment the whole of the time of this Parliament has been taken up by the supporters of individual initiative seeking the help of the (State, and I am sorry to find that the hon. Member—and perhaps that is why he sits below the Gangway—does not really support the Minister of Agriculture because the multifarious schemes of the Minister of Agriculture do not fit in at all with the philosophy of the hon. Member. A point which we have to face is that capitalism has managed to increase our powers of production enormously, but that under a capitalist system we do not get adequate consumption and adequate distribution. The important point is to see whether it is possible to get it under the existing system. We claim on this side that modern industrialism cannot work without a very wide distributive purchasing power among the masses of the community. To-day, as has been pointed out in previous debates, you get an enormous power of producing masses and masses of goods. They are produced with a view to profit, but it is difficult to make a profit out of abundance. The essence of making a profit is to have some kind of scarcity. If you have an absolute abundance of goods, so that anyone can come in and take what they like, you necessarily cannot have a profit.

The difficulty in the world situation today, particularly in primary products, is that you have had such an enormous production that the profit has all run away: hence the policy of the present Government to try to make an artificial scarcity, because the whole system is based on private profit. They cannot take advantage of the abundance because they must have the profit motive. That point was alluded to in the speech of the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick, when he was dealing with our foreign trade, and also by the right hon. Gentleman, who suggested that a Socialist Government would have enormous difficulty in dealing with foreign trade. Curiously enough, the hon. Member for Brentford pointed out that the Soviet Government had been only too successful in its foreign trade, because it can effectually export without importing. The real point with regard to the question of our foreign trade is that it is just the existence of the capitalist system and the fact that all the food and raw producing countries were in debt which has made it so difficult to carry on, because they could not pay their debts to the world, and the Government are now making very great efforts to enable them to pay the interest, and the total effect of the Government's measure is only a transfer of purchasing power from the worker to the investor. That has not in the least solved the essential problem that you have to face when you try to get an ordered society, because the more you reduce the purchasing power of the masses, the less market there is for the enormously enhanced production under the present system. As long as you depend on the private profit system, you cannot get distribution of purchasing power.

A further point that has been raised is the question of shortening hours. Everyone realises that, if you have 2,000,000 unemployed, it is perfectly ridiculous from the point of view of the community that there should be people working too long hours while others cannot get any employment at all. But it is precisely owing to the fact that you have a competitive system in which each firm has to stand on its own leg and make a profit that you have enormous difficulty when you try to reduce hours of labour. You have the same difficulty with wages. You have it put forward with regard to sheltered and unsheltered trades, and that is because you are not treating this community of ours as one business. You do not consider this nation as a nation trading with other nations, but as a bundle of private interests. During the War we took control of foreign trade. We had to arrange for the buying of our foodstuffs. The essential position of this country vis-a-vis the. rest of the world is that we have to buy a certain amount of foodstuff and raw material and to pay for it. It is true that we get a certain amount as a return on foreign investments and some as payment for services, but otherwise, if people send goods here, we have to buy them with our commodities in the long run. We are moving towards a controlled system of imports, only the Government have not gone nearly far enough. The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough is absolutely out of date, like the Liberals. The Liberals who think that in the present world you can go back to 'a system of unrestricted Free Trade are absolutely and entirely out of date, and we on this side do not stand for that system. We stand for a controlled system.

If you control your foreign trade so that this country is able to purchase what is requires from abroad and pay for it with its production or services, it becomes merely a matter of internal organisation what amount of labour you give to the production of any particular set of goods or commodities, and, once you have secured that control, you can utilise to the full the whole of your natural resources and the whole of your labour power for building up the standard of life of your people. It is precisely because of that failure to see that what you have to apply in running the country to-day is the economics of the family, which is not the economics of capital, that the system breaks down. If you have a family which in its dealings with the outside world has to pay its butcher, its baker, its candlestick maker and its landlord, as long as it can do that it is solvent, and the question how either the work or the money is divided up inside the family is a matter of internal adjustment. But this Government, 'and any capitalist Government, is eternally brought up against this difficulty that, as long as it has private enterprise, as long as it considers that each of its businesses must stand separately and, above all, as long as it is based on the idea that the most sacred thing in modern society is private property—and private property in the modern world takes the form, for the most part, of the right to receive income without working; you find that the bulk of the wealth of the world to-day is held in the form of stocks and shares and rights of one kind or another to receive an income—


What about tools?


Of course, there are spades and picks and shovels, but they are comparatively small as compared with stocks and shares. The wealth is in that form, and you have got to a stage where the right to draw an income is divorced from the management of the business. The point that was made by the late Lord Melchett was largely a question of skill in managing business. To-day you find that the bodies that are supposed to control business are infinitely more clumsy than the political machine. In great businesses to-day it is impossible for the shareholders even to meet together to discuss things. As a matter of fact, in any crisis they cannot be got together into a room. Your expert, your technician, your business man to-day is not the powerful man of the middle of the nineteenth century who owned his own factory and ran it, but more and more tends to be the servant of a group of capitalists. There is to-day in this country and in other countries a very wide revolt in the mind of the entrepreneur, the expert and the technician from the fact that, when they put their brains, their energy and their invention into improving the productive process, they find that it has all been wasted because of the' failure of the distributive system, and anyone who meets many of these men will realise that they are searching around for some change.

The right hon. Gentleman chose to make, I thought, rather party points of the proposal with regard to the question of dictatorship. This party is unalterably opposed to dictatorships, and so is my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). The whole point about the need of the present world is that to solve our difficulties you want an economic democracy, that the progress of the world is such that you cannot absorb the products of the world unless you have a fairly equalitarian society, and the principle that we apply here, the principle of political and economic democracy, applies equally well when we come to foreign affairs. In foreign affairs, if you take the position of domination or dictatorship or Imperialism or extreme economic nationalism, it simply leads to war. Most people admit in their quieter moments that, from the point of view of this country and other countries, if you want a higher standard of life for the mass of people, you must have it widely distributed throughout the world. Everyone admits that cut-throat competition, like war, is merely ruining civilisation. We suggest that, unless you accept the ethics of Socialism, which means the application of family morality to the running of this community, and family morality applied to the family of nations, you cannot get out of the economic difficulties which are simply caused by technical changes. What faces us, to my mind, is a race as to whether the world is going to be ruined by another war or by the fact that it cannot manage to bring the economic possibilities of a new world to the mass of the people. I should like to have gone into a great deal more detail, but our time is short. I would ask the House to face up to this, that we have had two years of national Government. I am not making a party point with regard to what they have done or have not done, but the broad fact is that they do not suggest that they can within measurable time get rid of the mass of unemployment, they do not at present suggest that the world is really improving and they do not show the slightest possibility of getting out of the economic difficulties. The method they are adopting now is absolutely fatal because of the enormous burden of debt which is all over the world and, by the cutting-down method, we are making the basis which is to carry the overhead narrower and narrower. It is suicidal from the point of view of the capitalist system. I do not believe that the workers of the world will long stand

living in a world with the potentialities of plenty in which they do not share.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 37; Noes, 203.

Division No. 65.] AYES. [7.30 p.m.
Attlee, Clement Richard Edwards, Charles Maxton, James
Banfield, John William Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Milner, Major James
Batey, Joseph Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Parkinson, John Allen
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Thorne, William James
Buchanan, George Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Tinker, John Joseph
Cape, Thomas Hides, Ernest George Wallhead, Richard C.
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jenkins, Sir William Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cove, William G. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lawson, John James Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Daggar, George Lunn, William Wilmot, John
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) McEntee, Valentine L.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) McGovern, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Groves.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Emrys-Evans, P. V. McCorquodale, M. S.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Entwistle, Cyril Fullard McKie, John Hamilton
Albery, Irving James Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) McLean, Major Sir Alan
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Essenhigh, Reginald Clare McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Fleming, Edward Lascelles Macmillan, Maurice Harold
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolte Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Atholl, Duchess of Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Fox, Sir Gilford Martin, Thomas B.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Fuller, Captain A. G. Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Galbraith, James Francis Wallace Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Ganzonl, Sir John Mayhew, Lieut-Colonel John
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Gluckstein, Louis Halle Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Golf, Sir Park Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Goldie, Noel B. Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Moreing, Adrian C.
Blindell, James Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Granville, Edgar Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)
Bracken, Brendan Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Broadbent, Colonel John Graves, Marjorle Morrison, William Shephard
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Grigg, Sir Edward Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd.,Hexham) Grimston, R. V. Nail, Sir Joseph
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Gunston, Captain D, W. Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks.,Newb'y) Hamilton, Sir R.W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd) Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Newton, Sir Douglas George C.
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Harbord, Arthur Nicholson. Godfrey (Morpeth)
Butler, Richard Austen Harris, Sir Percy Peake, Captain Osbert
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Pearson, William G.
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Penny, Sir George
Carver, Major William H. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Percy, Lord Eustace
Castlereagh, Viscount Holdsworth, Herbert Petherick, M.
Cayzer, sir Charles (Chester, City) Hornby, Frank Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Pickering. Ernest H.
Chapman, Col.R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Radford, E. A.
Clarry, Reginald George Hume, Sir George Hopwood Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Clayton, Sir Christopher Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Colman, N. C. D. James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Ray, Sir William
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Rea, Walter Russell
Conant, R. J. E. Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Copeland, Ida Kerr, Hamilton W. Renter, John R.
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Rickards, George William
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Law, Sir Alfred Robinson, John Roland
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Cross, R. H. Leech, Dr. J. W. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Crossley, A. C. Lees-Jones, John Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery) Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Denville, Alfred Llewellin, Major John J. Salmon, Sir Isidore
Duckworth, George A. V. Lloyd, Geoffrey Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Duggan, Hubert John Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Lyons, Abraham Montagu Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Elmley, Viscount MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles Whiteside, Borral Noel H.
Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Thorp, Linton Theodore Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Touche, Gordon Cosmo Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Somervell, Sir Donald Train, John Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E. Tree, Ronald Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Spencer, Captain Richard A. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey) Wise, Alfred R.
Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde) Wallace, John (Dunlermllne) Womersley, Walter James
Stourton, Hon. John J. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Strauss, Edward A. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S. Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Summersby, Charles H. Wells, Sydney Richard TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Sutcliffe, Harold Weymouth, Viscount Mr. Hartland and Mr. Pike.
Thomas. James P. L. (Hereford) White, Henry Graham

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

Several HON. MEMBERS rose

It being after Half-past Seven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.