HC Deb 18 May 1933 vol 278 cc541-74

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £22,593,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including sums payable by the Exchequer to the Unemployment Fund, Grants to Associations, Local Authorities and others under the Unemployment Insurance, Labour Exchanges and other Acts; Expenses of the Industrial Court; Contribution towards the Expenses of the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations); Expenses of Training and Removal of Workers and their Dependants; Grants for assisting the voluntary provision of occupation for unemployed persons; and sundry services, including services arising out of the War."—[Note.—£31,000,000 has been voted on account.]


Before I call upon the Minister to make his speech, I think that I ought to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that on the face of this Estimate it is stated that provision is made for certain services until 30th June only, that to continue these services later legislation will be necessary and, therefore, in accordance with the well-known rule in Committee of Supply, the Debate so far as these particular services are concerned, will be limited to their present administration by the Ministry of Labour. The proper occasion to raise future administration will be when the Bill foreshadowed by the Minister is introduced in the House.


In view of the importance of what is to happen on 30th June, might I ask whether there will be another discussion on that occasion? Seeing that your predecessor took the view that when it was the unanimous wish of the House there could be a general discussion on the principles arising in a matter of this kind, could not these matters be discussed to-day, in view of their importance and of the necessity of some discussion?


I think we must abide by the Rule that legislation must not be raised. I think that the hon. Gentleman is an ingenious enough Parliamentarian to be able to make his points without infringing that Rule.

3.59 p.m.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Henry Betterton)

The convenient procedure of this House enables a Minister, when his Estimates are called for, to take the opportunity of making something like a general survey of the work of his Department during the past year. As you have already intimated, Sir, that would preclude discussion of anything which involves legislative action; on the other hand, it opens the door to a discussion of the administration of the Department in every aspect. When these Estimates were called for, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and the hon. Gentleman who, I believe, is to follow me in this Debate, intimated that it was their desire that I should take the opportunity of making a general statement as to what we have been doing during the past year. I very gladly avail myself of that opportunity, and will endeavour to give an account of what we have been doing during the last year.

The first observation I want to make—and I think the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who has been in my Department, will agree with me—is that too often the work of the Ministry of Labour is identified in the public mind solely with the payment of benefit or the payment of relief, and too often is it thought by the public outside, though not by those who know the work, that we are concerned entirely with the administration of either the one-or the other. I, myself, feel that in these days of world-wide depression, such as we are now going through, there never was a time when it was more necessary that special attention should be given to what I may call the constructive work of the Ministry itself. Let me remind the Committee of the change that has come over the problem with which we have to deal during the last four or five years. Four years ago the numbers on the register were not much over 1,000,000. In two years they went up to 2,500,000, and they have fluctuated rather above that figure ever Since. Let me remind the Committee what that means. During the last few years there have been brought within the ambit of our register men who never before, perhaps, had been out of work at all. For the first time, owing to the depression, they have come on to the register. That is the first observation I have to make.

The second observation is that, as this depression has continued, we are finding, as was inevitable, that the numbers of those who are on the register for a considerable period tend to increase, and, therefore, in considering what action we ought to take, we have to bear both these facts in mind. It is for these reasons that I, myself, attach the great importance I do to training and reconditioning, because if it be true, as it is, that men are coming on to the register for the first time after a long period of activity, it is, in all probability, also true to say that they may reasonably expect to be the first to be absorbed when industry recovers. Therefore, it is more than ever necessary that the State should do what it can to keep them in a condition of physical fitness that is within the powers and limits of the State's opportunities as will enable them to take advantage of re-absorption into industry when they get the chance.

In a moment or two I am going to deal in more detail with this question of training and reconditioning, but before doing so I will quote one or two figures which the Committee will expect me to give. Let me assure the Committee that these figures have certain encouraging features, but do not let it be said or thought for a moment that I quote the figures in any spirit of complacency, because no one who occupies my position, and no Member of this House, can regard otherwise than with anxiety the tremendous aggregate of unemployment which there now is, and I do beg the Committee not to misunderstand me on that point. There is another thing I want to say, and I do not want to be misunderstood on this matter, either. Although there are indications, as I am going to show, which give signs of encouragement, I am only too well aware that there are, up and down the country, for instance in Durham—I see the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street here—in parts of South Wales and in other parts of the country districts where the aggregate of unemployment has reached perfectly appalling figures. Therefore, I say, do not let me be misunderstood on that point, because I realise the tragedy which underlies that picture.

I have before me the figures for the first quarter of each of the last five years. Those figures show that this is the only year in the last five years in which there has been a continuous decrease in the figures in each month during the first quarter. The next thing they show is that during the first quarter of this year the numbers have gone down by 200,000, or thereabouts—a total only equalled by 1929, which was a comparatively long time ago and was a year of comparatively good trade. Take another comparison, that is, from April to April in each case. I take April because the figures relating to that month are the last. The increase this year as compared with last April is the comparatively small one of 45,000. The increase from April, 1931, to April, 1932, was 132,000; from April, 1930, to April, 1931, 822,000; and from April, 1929, to April, 1930, 557,000. That shows, of course, that the increase has been checked to a very large extent. But the most significant figures, to which I, persoNaily, attach more importance than to the numbers of those not employed, are the numbers of those employed. There are 91,000 more in employment than there were a month before, and 92,000 more than there were a year ago. But, compared with January, that is, taking the comparable quarter, the numbers of those in employment show an increase of very nearly a quarter of a million, namely, 249,000. I say that that justifies me in thinking that those figures give some cause for encouragement. It means that in this year under review, when the trade of the whole world has been paralysed by exchange restrictions, when it has been disturbed by political uncertainties and harassed by monetary crises in every country, our position is not, only incomparably stronger than it was a year ago, but I think the outlook is more encouraging than it has been for a long time past.

The next thing I want to say—and I do not think, again, there will be any disagreement in any part of the Committee, but it is a point which, I think, ought to be made, and certainly ought to be made by the Minister of Labour. In this country, as in most other countries, as our predecessors found, as the occupant of my office found, the Government cannot, except to a limited degree, provide employment. Employment must depend upon the confidence, the co-operation and the enterprise of those engaged in industry. The main purpose of the Government should be to produce conditions in which industry can develop, and when you ask, therefore, what is the Government's employment policy, the answer is exactly the answer which would have been given by our predecessors and by every previous Government. The Government's employment policy, therefore, is to be found—you may criticise it or not as you like—in its financial policy, its trade policy, its foreign policy and its agricultural policy, and they are the responsibility of the Cabinet as a whole.

What are the special responsibilities and the special duties of the Minister of Labour? The responsibility of the Minister of Labour, it seems to me, is to help to maintain, if he can, satisfactory relations between employers and employed, and it is his duty, of course, within the means at his disposal, to do what he can for the unemployed themselves. That is what I have tried to do during the last year, as I will show. The importance of the figures of the register published every month is not so much the actual figures as the significance of those figures. The actual figures given each month may be influenced, to a very large extent, by purely accidental causes. If you had, for instance a very hard frost, with the result that building operations were stopped for a week, it might mean an increase of thousands on the register. You might even have a pouring wet day which prevented outside work in some industries, and that would have the same result. It would not necessarily indicate a worse industrial situation.

What we have to consider is the significance of the movement which seems to have been taking place during the last few months. There has been improvement in certain directions in respect of which I will give figures. There has been, undoubtedly, a marked improvement in building. I hope very much that that is not entirely seasonal. There has been improvement in some trades which clearly are seasonal, such as hotels, and there has been some improvement in the clothing, millinery and dressmaking trades. It is satisfactory to note that there are signs of improvement, slight though they be at present, in iron and steel and in general engineering. I will give some of the figures. As compared with January last, there has been a diminution of those unemployed in the building trade of no less than 124,000. There has been an improvement in the tailoring trade of 26,000. There has, however, been a worsening during the last 12 months in the cotton industry which is deeply regrettable. There are 21,000 more unemployed in the cotton industry than there were in January. On the other hand, if you go back 18 months, to September, 1931, there are 107,000 more employed than there were at that time. The diminution of employment during the last three or four months is extremely disquieting. In the clothing trades including tailoring which I have already mentioned there has been an improvement of 44,000 within the four months, and there is an improvement, which is very satisfactory, in general engineering. It is not very large, but still I hope it is not without significance. It amounts to 13,000, and there is an improvement to the extent of 5,000 persons engaged in shipbuilding.

Coming to the coal mining industry, I am sorry to say that during the last four months the number of those unemployed in that industry has gone up by nearly 60,000—about 49,000. It is for that reason that I am glad that the agreements which are being negotiated abroad have paid, and are paying, considerable attention to the coal mining industry, and I can only hope, as I am sure every Member of the Committee will hope, that their results may be reflected later on in an improvement in these figures. This country is, of course, the very centre of the commercial system of the world, and it would be very foolish for anybody to prophesy as to what the commercial conditions of the world are going to be in the immediate future; but this much is certain, that international trade is based on international confidence, and the Committee can judge just as well as I can how far international confidence exists at the present time.

There is another factor, which is within our own control. Because we hold our share, and more than our share, of a diminishing world trade, it would, it appears to me, be the height of folly to regard that fact with complacency, because, when the world begins to recover, our industries here, beyond all doubt, will be subjected to tremendous competition from without, and, although we have given comparative protection to some of the industries in our own country, and they are also protected by the depreciation of sterling, it would be most unwise for anybody to regard the trend of world trade with complacency.

Turning to the problem as it immediately affects the Ministry of Labour, and looking at it for a moment from my own angle, what I see is this: There are in this country about 12,000,000 insured persons. As regards 7,000,000 of the 12,000,000, even now, their employment is practically continuous. That leaves about 5,000,000, and, of those 5,000,000, about 2,000,000 only experience a brief period of unemployment throughout the year. With respect to a further 1,000,000, the interruption is less than a quarter of the year. I do not, as I have said, minimise the significance of the fact that the tendency is for the number of those who have longer periods of unemployment to increase. That is a fact which we cannot ovErieok and which we must bear carefully in mind. In this year of very serious financial stringency, when the House and the country, quite rightly scrutinise every shilling which the Government propose to spend, and when the demand for a reduction in all forms of public expenditure is most persistent, I have not hesitated to come to the House and ask for a sum of no less than £600,000 for the training of young unemployed men and for approved courses of instruction for unemployed youths. That represents an increase of something like £120,000 over last year. The Committee, of course, will want to know how this demand is justified, and how the money is spent, and I will give a short account of the way in which it is spent.

In the first place, we have eight training centres, where men receive six months' training in some skilled craft; and, in spite of all the difficulties with which we are confronted, the percentage of those for whom we manage to get places from these training centres still remains pretty high—in fact, very high. In addition to that, we have at present 10 instructional centres, or what we call reconditioning centres, where men go for a course of 12 weeks; and I repeat that the reason why I attach so much importance to these reconditioning centres is because, so far as it lies with me, I want to do my utmost to secure that as many men as possible, having, as I say, for the first time come on to our register, should not find themselves unable, from physical disability or from being so completely out of condition, to take work again when opportunity offers. The work which they do at these reconditioning centres is mainly afforestation, and, in addition, there is some workshop instruction. This year we are going to try an experiment. It may be successful or it may not, but, at any rate, like many experiments, it is worth a trial. We are going to attach five tented camps to Centres on Forestry Commission land, conducted on the same lines. If these camps are a success, we shall repeat them; if they are not a success, of course they will not be continued.

Further, more centres on Crown land are in process of being opened or surveyed. I announced the other day that we are going to open one—I am not sure that it is not already open—at Kielder, in Northumberland. There will be a further centre in Argyllshire, which will take unemployed men from the industrial areas of Scotland, and we are conducting surveys on the conclusion of which, I hope, further centres will be opened in Yorkshire, Durham and South Wales which will be available, not only for men from the distressed areas surrounding those districts, but for further men from other parts of the country. It is extremely gratifying to me to find, as a result of very careful inquiries, that, as is mentioned in the Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour, the conduct of the men in these centres—both the training and the reconditioning centres—speaking broadly, has been admirable throughout the whole year, and there is a very considerable reserve of men who are anxious to come into them and to have the advantages which they provide. That is a very satisfactory feature of this work, to which it is well worth while to call attention.


Will these men be subject to the same conditions which obtain now as regards the question of pay? I recognise that this is an extremely useful experiment, but I should like to ask the Minister if he can give us an idea of the conditions under which the men will go there, and whether the conditions will be the same as they are at present? It is not quite voluntary, but is a part of the conditions on which they are granted standard benefit.


I have not in my mind any alteration, but I would refer the hon. Member to page 32 of the Annual Report of the Ministry, which deals with the whole question of the obligations attaching to the entry to these training centres.


You are not proposing to alter them?


I had not any alteration in mind.


Do I gather from the report that, if it is not possible to get a man a job, as is frequently the case, the thing comes to an end, and the man merely goes voluntarily?


Yes; if that is what the hon. Member had in mind, that is so, and, if the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) will read page 32 of the report, I think he will find an answer to his question. It is exactly as the hon. Gentleman has suggested.

Viscountess ASTOR

Is the Minister going to say anything about training centres for unemployed women?


With regard to women, there are 33 training centres, under the management of the Central Committee on Women's Training. These centres received 5,058 women and girls, of whom 4,332 successfully completed the course, and no fewer than 4,079 were placed during the year within three months after leaving the centre. The number actually now in training is 1,009, the Majority being between 16 and 21 years of age. If the Noble Lady will look at the Estimates, I think she will find that the amount proposed for next year is precisely the same as it was last year.

Viscountess ASTOR

As there are 500,000 women unemployed, and as these centres have been such a tremendous success, does not the Minister think it is time to increase them? The centres for men are being increased; is there not going to be an increase in the centres for women? The increase proposed for next year is very small.


The Noble Lady has raised a familiar point, namely, that of the conflicting claims of men and women. All I can say is that I have done the best I could with all the money I could get. If I had had more money at my disposal, I could have done more, but I have attempted to allocate it in the way that seemed to me to be most useful.

Our training is not confined to adults. There are at present over 140 junior instruction centres and classes, which are conducted by the local education authorities, aided by a grant from the Ministry, which is usually 75 per cent. The curriculum is left to the local education authorities, and it does not seek so much to train boys and girls for specific occupations, but embraces a considerable proportion of practical work. Taking adults and boys together, about 170,000 have passed through these courses during the last year. I want to say a word on a matter which is closely allied with this question of training and reconditioning, for the purpose of removing some misconception as to what is being done by the National Council of Social Service, and by the corresponding National Council for Community Service in Scotland, for the occupation of unemployed persons. I have never claimed, and never will claim, that the work they are doing is in substitution for Government responsibility. I want to make that perfectly clear.

There seems to be a suspicion in some quarters that the Government propose to take over these voluntary occupation centres. I say most emphatically that the Government have no such intention. They are anxious to see the voluntary movement developed and will do all that they can to assist the National Council, but they will do nothing that is likely to impair the voluntary character of the work. Most of these centres are run by committees of the men, and in the great Majority of cases the men have the opportunity of using their hands in some handicraft. Connected with this movement we have given some opportunity to the unemployed for physical training. The Ministry started eight physical demonstration centres, and it is our policy to make arrangements wherever possible that at the end of the demonstration period they shall be taken over by local education authorities or by the local voluntary movement to be run on behalf of the men. I should like to pay my tribute to the self-sacrifice of many hundreds of men and women up and down the country who have done their best to make this work a success.

I pass now to another point, and I hope that what I say may be helpful to Members on all sides of the Committee. Doubts have often arisen whether an unemployed person is entitled to unemployment benefit or transitional payments if he is engaged in certain occupations or activities. Of course, to get benefit or transitional payment a man has to be unemployed, and he must be available for work, but there are many things that he can do to occupy his time without being employed in the sense which that word is used in the Unemployment Insurance Act, and without ceasing to be willing to accept any offers of suitable employment. I have often been asked, in the House and in correspondence, whether the cultivation of an allotment does not jeopardise a claim to benefit or transitional payments. I have sometimes been asked what is the position of persons attending occupational centres when they are taking part in voluntary labour schemes, and also what is the effect on a man's benefit if he does an occasional odd job, such as making a hen coop or painting a fence or something which only 'takes a short time. I have so often been asked these questions that I am having issued—it is in course of preparation—a leaflet which will be available within the next week making the position clear.

I want next to refer to the question of placing. I remember very well when the first Unemployment Insurance Bill came before the House. I was not a Member of the House, but I took an interest in the matter at that time and of course I have done so Since. I am not sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was not in charge of the Bill. I remember well the emphasis that was laid by those responsible for it on the importance of the Exchanges for placing men in employment. The payment of benefit was considered almost a subsidiary duty. The main purpose was always to be to enable a man to get a job if possible. Owing to the fact that we have such an immense register, the work of the Exchanges has, unfortunately, been largely occupied, necessarily, in the payment of benefit or relief, but I can assure the Committee that I have never lost sight of the enormous importance of fully utilising the Exchanges for the purpose of placing and finding jobs, and I have given every encouragement that I can, both at headquarters in London and in the provInces, to the officials in my Department urging upon them that this is one of the most valuable parts of the constructive work of the Ministry of Labour. In these circumstances, it is a matter of congratulation that, in a period of great depression, during last year the Exchanges filled 1,855,000 vacancies, representing more than 92 per cent. of the vacancies that were notified to them. Developments, often by way of experiment, are taking place all the time.

Last year, for instance, we made the experiment of recruiting men quite voluntarily for lifting the potato crop in Jersey, and that was a great success. 2,500 men went to Jersey. I have had a report in great detail of the results of the experiment, and I am fully satisfied that it justifies repetition, and we are going to try it again. We are also making special arrangements to meet the seasonal demand for labour in holiday resorts, and 51,000 persons were placed in this way last year. Farmers are using the Exchanges more and more for the purpose of getting men to work on their farms, and 33,000 were placed with them last year, which is 6,000 more than the previous year.

The juvenile side of this placing work is at least as important, perhaps more important, than the work of placing adult men and women, and it is shared between the Ministry of Labour and a number of local education authorities. Last year over 320,000 boys and girls were placed through the agency of the juvenile ex- changes, nearly three times the number 10 years ago and a substantial advance of over 14,000 on last year's figures. We have also been successful in transferring a number of boys and girls from the depressed areas and finding them employment. Last year we transferred 600 boys and 2,500 girls. In all these activities the duty of the Exchange, and the consideration that they have to bear in mind, is the industrial qualification of the man. They have to consider who is best qualified for the job. Therefore, it is a matter of gratification that employers in increasing numbers are tending to use the Exchanges, and I think it is now recognised that we provide a service which is of real usefuiness.

I want now to refer to another aspect of the work of the Ministry of Labour—the administration of unemployment benefit and transitional payments. The Estimate provides for a sum of £54,000,000, which is a decrease as compared with last year of £29,000,000. The Estimate does not provide for all our requirements, because certain transitional payments only are provided up to 30th June next. To provide for the remaining three-quarters of this year it will be necessary to present a Supplementary Estimate. The Chancellor in his Budget statement allowed £22,500,000 for the purpose. The total of £54,000,000 is made up of an Exchequer contribution to the Insurance Fund of £22,600,000. Of that, £19,650,000 represents the Exchequer contribution to the fund, which is half the joint contribution of the other two. The remainder, £2,950,000, is the amount of the deficiency grant. The remaining £31,400,000 is for grants for transitional payments and the relative costs of administration. To give the Committee an idea of the immense administrative problems with which we have to deal, the exchanges pay out in unemployment benefit each week about £1,000,000 to 1,250,000 claimants. In addition to that, they pay out to those who are entitled to transitional payments. In the administration of the needs test the assessments are made by the public assistance committees, but the whole of the rest is administered through my Department. The applicants are registered at the exchanges and are paid through the exchanges. During the financial year that has just ended the average number of persons registered at the exchanges as applicants for transitional payments was 1,110,000, and the total amount paid out by the Exchanges was something like £48,000,000.

In handling this vast volume of work, the exchanges have obviously been compelled to work at very high pressure, and I think they are to be congratulated on the way in which they have carried it out, because with all the criticisms that are made against the Government and all the criticisms that are often made against me, I am glad to say there has been hardly one against the officials of the Ministry here or in the provInces. That shows that they have carried out what often must be a very painful duty with a tact and discretion for which I think they are to be warmly commended. In regard to transitional payments, the overwhelming Majority of the authorities up and down the country have cooperated with the Ministry in carrying out their duties, and very many of the early difficulties and anomalies have been cleared up by administrative action. In two areas it was found necessary to appoint commissioners. Some time ago we had a Debate on the administration in Durham and, in answer to what I believe was the universal wish of those present in the House, I asked for a report from the commissioners, and I promised that, when I received it, I would lay it on the Table or in the Library. I have now received it. I have studied it and have decided to publish it, and I hope it will soon be available. I am very sorry to say that recently I had to warn an authority in South Wales that I could not, consistent with my responsibilities to this House, allow a deliberate disregard of the law. I will not say more than that at the moment, but I hope very much that it will be taken account of.

I want to say a few words upon another matter, because I was invited to make a comprehensive review. It relates to the administration of Trade Boards. I remember very well the first Trade Boards Bill. I was not a Member of the House, but I think it was about 1910 or 1909. It was represented that there were trades in this country so sweated that they were entitled to the protection of the State for their workpeople. There were four or five trades, and the chain-makers was said to be one of the worst of the sweated trades. Looking at the operation of these Acts, I am satisfied that they have proved, and are proving, a very valuable instrument in unorganised and sweated trades, but I think it is essential that the application of the Trade Boards Acts should be limited to proper cases. If you were to have an indiscriminate application of the Trade Boards Acts to all sorts of trades which do not come within this category, then, so far from doing good, you might do actual harm to those whom you desired to help.

I have had occasion within the last few weeks to consider two trades, and I have come to the conclusion in regard to both of them that they come within the description and category of those who are entitled to have a trade board. In the case of the fustian-cutting trade, I have already issued a notice of my intention to apply the Acts, and I have also decided to take similar action in the case of the cutlery trade. I am glad to say that I am assured of the support of the organisations of both employers and employed. I am satisfied that with the removal of the very serious undercutting of wages which has been taking place in the cutlery trade those who are endeavouring to improve its efficiency and competitive position will be assisted.

During the past year there were over 20,000 inspections of firms, and the wages of 227,000 workers were examined. Of these under 3 per cent. were found to be paid less than the proper rate, and I think that that indicates that on the whole the trade boards have protected conditions and adjusted them to the circumstances.


Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to apply it to mining?


I want to refer to another part of the work at the Ministry of Labour which is perhaps the most important of all our activities. It is our conciliation work. Employers and employed, and trade union leaders, and the Ministry can congratulate themselves on the way in which important and serious industrial disputes have been avoided during the past year. I do not suppose that the general public have any idea—and indeed there is no reason why they should, and it is perhaps just as well that they do not know—what is going on almost every day in industry up and down the country. You may have some incipient quarrel which, unless handled tactfully on both sides, may develop and flare up into a serious dispute. In numbers of these cases, some of them comparatively trivial and some of larger dimensions, over and over again the good offices of the conciliation officers of the Ministry of Labour up and down the country has been called in. Over and over again the conciliation officers have assisted those who have asked for their assistance and have prevented disputes flaring up into serious trouble. All this is work which receives very little publicity. I do not. in the least ask that publicity should be given to it, but I should like to mention it, because I believe that it is a feature of our national life which cannot be too highly valued. I do not very often receive tributes from anybody, but I have often had indications of thanks from both employers and employed in the country for the assistance which I or the Ministry through our officers have been able to give in this connection.

There has only been one really serious dispute during the last 12 months. I refer, of course, to the great dispute in the cotton industry last autumn. Serious as is the position in that industry—and nobody realises that fact more than I do—I am glad to say that they themselves freely acknowledge the debt which as an industry they owe to the services which we as a Ministry of Labour were able to render last autumn. That disastrous stoppage was not only brought to a close, but new conciliation machinery was established, which, we hope, will operate for the next two or three years. It is very unusual, in fact I think it is never done, to mention the name of a civil servant, and I am not going to infringe that rule, but I will say that the officer in my Department, whose name was a household word in connection with this dispute, deserves well, not merely of the industry, but also of the country as a whole for the work which he did.

I do not see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) in his place, but he may remember that some time ago I gave him an answer to a question in which I said that I was proposing to consult the representatives of both employers and employed as to whether they could offer any practical suggestions with the object of providing employment for a larger number of persons in industry. I am glad to say that both sides readily acceded to my request, and I have had conversations with both sides. I made it clear that the limitation of the hours of work was only one of the matters which required consideration. I made it clear that I wanted to consider every constructive proposal, and that I wanted from them their estimate— the estimate of both sides—of the effect upon their industry of any of the policies proposed. As Minister of Labour I conceive it to be my duty to consider all these things objectively and without any political prejudice one way or the other. I am glad to say that both sides met me in the best possible spirit, and I am expecting to receive their considered views on the various aspects of the problem.


Can the hon. Gentleman tell us who is meant by "both sides"?


The Trades Union Congress on the one side, and the Confederation of Employers on the other. There is one other thing I want to say, and I am sorry to have to say it. I read with indignation a statement made by Mr. Tom Shaw this week in connection with cotton. Speaking to the operatives' representatives as Secretary to the International Federation of Textile Workers—reported, I think, in the "Manchester Guardian" —he made the following astounding statement: We are …the most backward nation on earth with regard to legislation for hours of labour for men. We are even worse than Japan. We have no legislation on hours for men except the miners, and it is our own fault. We used to be proud of being the first nation in the World. We are rapidly losing our position, and we are losing it because we are not determined enough. It is well known, and to no one better than he, that there is in the cotton industry a rigid 48-hour week both for machinery and operatives.


Not by legislation.


I know, not by legislation. Except in the preparatory section no machine or operative can work a minute over 48 hours. There is in this country legislation prohibiting Sunday and night-work for women and juveniles. Let me compare that situation with Japan. In the report of the International Labour Office published only a few weeks ago on "Industrial Labour in Japan," it says: The only statutory limitation of hours of work in Japanest factories relates to women and young persons. Those statutory hours of work are 11 hours a day. In this country one shift only is worked, and Saturday afternoons and Sundays are free. In Japan two and sometimes three shifts are worked, and a large proportion of the workers have only two days off a month. The average wages of cotton workers are: men 1.2 yen a day, which is about 1s. 6d.; women, .75 to .9 yen per day, which is about 11d. to 1s. 1½d. plus, where provided, dormitory, food, &c, estimated to be worth 30 sen a day, or 4½d. To compare the condition in this country and say that it is worse than the condition in Japan, is such fantastic nonsense that I cannot imagine that he thought that those whom he was addressing would be taken in by it. The President of the Cardroom Amalgamation, who was present at the same meeting, said at once, in the course of the discussion, that Japan is winning all along the line, because of inhuman conditions among her workers and large State subsidy; because of a state of things which it is quite impossible for an industry unaided to combat. I should like the hours to be reduced in the cotton industry as much as anyone, but I should like to know what would be the effect; whether it would involve a corresponding reduction in wages and further loss of trade in face of foreign competition, with a consequent increase in unemployment? It is on those vital questions that neither they nor I got the smallest assistance from Mr. Shaw when he spoke. I have endeavoured, within the limitation of time, to give a comprehensive review of the work of this great Department. I believe that the Ministry of Labour is trusted by the public, and I know that it is regarded with confidence by the great mass of men and women whom it endeavours to help in the time of their distress.

5.0 p.m.


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.

The right hon. Gentleman has given a full review of the administration of his department. I am sure he will not object to my saying that, while we appreciate that review, we must jog his memory about some very important facts that he omitted from his statement. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not very often get compliments. I can say this to him at any rate: The Minister of Labour by the very nature of the functions that he performs, let him be ever so able, almost invites hostility. A significant thing about the Minister of Labour is that he, with perhaps the greatest departmental responsibility in the Government, has not by any means power equal to that responsibility. It is a further significant fact that in Debates dealing with matters which are so vital to this country, not only to-day but always, the chief members of the Cabinet who ought to be here are conspicuously absent. Here is a department that deals with no fewer than 12,000,000 insured contributors, and indirectly with a far greater number of workers. Apart from the professional workers in the higher ranks, numbering some 4,000,000 or 5,000,000, the Minister to-day has been giving an account of his stewardship in relation to those with whom he is in vital contact at every point, and they include practically the whole working manhood and womanhood of the nation.

Industrial relations, international relations, trade boards—the multitude of functions that the Minister has to perform in his department involve an Estimate of nearly £54,000,000. When matters of that kind are being debated not only ought representative Ministers to be present, in addition to the Minister of Labour who bears a very grave responsibility, but the House should be better attended. [An HON. MEMBER: "By all parties.] I quite agree; I am not making any distinctions at all. These sparse attendances are only too common. I shall deal with the reason later. The truth, of course, is that the House, like the country, has been almost overcome with pessimism regarding the unemployment problem, and I shall show where a great deal of the responsibility lies. The right hon. gentleman dealt to some ex- tent with transitional payment, and one of his statements ought here to be dealt with. The grants for transitional payment are "down" by over £22,000,000, from £54,000,000 to £31,000,000. I do not know the explanation, but I think it would be well if the Minister would tell us just what the Ministry is saving on transitional payments. I ask that question for this reason: It seems strange that there should be such a great drop when actually there have been more people on transition than there were when the transitional payments Order was put into operation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time calculated that he would save £10,000,000, and that he would save about £12,500,000 on the 10 per cent. reduction, but, from the hypothetical estimate that the right hon. Gentleman gave us the other day I gathered that with the coming in of the new Insurance Act there would be a saving of something like £36,000,000 in 18 months. One thing is certain, and that is that the Government are saving much more than the £10,000,000 that was origiNaily estimated. There is a decrease in the estimated amount for the coming year, as against last year, of nearly £23,000,000.


I am not sure that I appreciate to what exactly the hon. Gentleman is referring. If he will look at page 3 of the Estimates he will see at the bottom, in black print, this statement: This Estimate does not cover a full year's provision for certain services. In particular the power to make transitional payments in the case of persons who do not satisfy the first statutory condition (i.e., the 30 contributions rule) expires on 30th June, 1933. This Estimate includes provision in respect of transitional payments in these cases only up to that date. The hon. Gentleman asked me what the saving is over the estimate to which he has referred. I cannot carry the figures in my mind, but I can assure him that the saving is nothing like £36,000,000.


Quite recently I put a question in the House and the right hon. Gentleman gave me an answer which to my mind was very significant. I asked him how many applicants for transitional payments had been refused any payment, and the number who had received reduced payment Since the operation of the Order in Council. The answer he gave was:

Period. Allowed at rates lower than maximum benefit rates. Needs of applicants held not to justify payment.
12th November, 1931— 23rd January, 1932.* 764,223 319,112
25th January, 1932— 1st April, 1933:
Initial Applications 506,762 285,989
Renewals and Revisions. 3,806,803 389,788

[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1933; cols. 1721 and 1722; Vol. 277.]

That is only an indication of what is going on in the country. In his statement to-day the right hon. Gentleman paid a tribute to those people who have been giving voluntary help in dealing with unemployment. He told us that the Government did not regard that effort as a substitute for Government responsibility, but I am afraid that, although the right hon. Gentleman said that, in actual fact that is the view taken of it by the public and the country generally. The Government have reduced transitional payments to such an extent that they really have not only robbed the people of the clothes off their backs but have taken the food from their stomachs. It is generally considered now that this business, which was a very laudable endeavour on the part of volunteers, is how a kind of semi-Government charity, and is part of a policy for the reduction of the payments and the robbing of the payments to the unemployed. I am sorry I have to say that to the right hon. Gentleman, because we know that he persoNaily would rather administer his Department on a much more generous scale. But it is the logic of the policy pursued by the Government from the beginning. I am sorry to have to say that. Those of us who know this matter to our regret have only too clear illustrations north, south, east and west, of the lamentable results of the policy on transitional payment which is known as the need test.

The right hon. Gentleman gave us a very encouraging picture of the growth of employment as against unemployment. I was not surprised to hear him say that for the first four months of this year the employment figures have shown a distinct advance. He could also have said that the seasonal figures have emerged successfully almost for the first time for years. We are very pleased to have such news as that. It may be that it shows a tendency within a small circle of a return to something like normality. But the fact is quite clear that the average of those employed year after year is coming down in a distressing way. The really menacing thing about unemployment and the industrial position of the country is that, bad as unemployment is, there is a rapid and continual decrease in the number of those regularly employed. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that the figure he gave, while they showed some improvement on the usual seasonal parallel of the years that have gone by, are mainly seasonal figures, and are figures for what one might call the good months of the year. I want to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having brought the Ministry of Labour report up-to-date. We have it to the end of 1932, and that is very useful.


I am not sure that the hon. Member is right in what he has said about the figures of employment. The figures I gave for the first four months of this year show an increase of about a quarter of a million Since January. That is 92,000 more than a year ago. I have not compared it with the figures of employment in September, 1931, but my impression is that there has been a considerable advance Since then. Therefore, I do not think the hon. Member is entitled to say that the amount of employment is going down. On the contrary, it is going up.


We have to take the measure of the year generally. Taking the general level of industry, things are becoming distinctly worse. Let me give the figures. For 1929, the figure of employment was 10,250,000, for 1930, 9,797,000, for 1931, 9,421,000, and for 1932, 9,352,000. The right hon. Gentleman will see that in those four years there is a drop of 1,000,000. If he looks at the figures for the past four months he will see that the increase in the employment figures are an increase upon the average for those four years, but I say that those are the good months. I hope that the standard continues, but there is a distinct drop all round, because of the increased use of machinery. The right hon. Gentleman must know that that is so. In his last report he points out that in coal mining and many of the basic industries there is a continual decrease in employment, even in the good months. That is the real menace, and the Government must really face up to the fact. The Government seem to think that somehow or other, something will turn up to put things right, but they will have to face these menacing facts before they are much older. I have received a letter which reveals a very serious position. It points out that at a large colliery, Boldon, 610 men have received their notices, and that at Whitburn, another large colliery, 800 men have received their notices. It goes on to say: This is the biggest blow that Boldon has had in our history…It has cast quite a cloud over the area. Whole families of long standing have been wiped out. If this sort of thing stood alone I should not pay so much attention to it, but it is an indication of what is happening in the country generally, and it troubles me and my hon. Friends on this side of the House just as if we were as responsible as the right hon. Gentleman. The letter names persons whom I have known from boyhood and who are known to the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey). It says: According to our deputation there does not seem much hope. The facts are, that we are to be a whole-time machine colliery. Hewers and putters are to be dispensed with and valuable seams are to be closed because we are in excess to Hilda and Harton collieries.…It will affect all the progressive movements at the colliery, nursing association, baths, welfare, co-operative society and tradesmen because of the large number of contributors who will cease to function. There was a time when economists told us that if we put machinery in a factory or a colliery there was sure to be such an enlargement of trade that it would he all to the good. No economist will tell us that to-day. At one time one could move from one place where machinery had upset the normal activities and go to some other district, but you cannot do that now. At one time the Conservative party were absolutely sure that the unemployment question could he solved by sending people to Canada or the Colonies. That does not operate now. Indeed there is a balance inwards rather than outwards. At one time the Government—I remember the Government which was in office from 1924 to 1929—believed in transference and we tried the same thing for all it was worth when we were in office. No one would say that transference to-day, except in so far as you treat the country as a unit for this purpose, is any use. Transference has been abandoned. I am, however, glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman has met the situation to some extent in one respect. Instead of waiting and merely keeping a trading centre open on the assurance that the man who is trained gets a job although he now finds he cannot get a job, he still leaves the training centre open for others who are not sure that they will get a job so that they can keep in training.

The point that has to be borne in mind is that old nostrums have failed in the face of this decreasing employment. What are the Government going to do about it? The situation must be faced. It cannot be blinked at very much longer. You can train a man, you can be charitable to him, but that is not going to meet the needs of men or women or the nation. These years are what we call the apex of the war years births, when there are fewer boys and girls on the average coming into industry than in normal years. We have been told repeatedly that in these years those under 18 would be so decreased because of the reduction in war years births that it would be a great contribution towards a reduction in the number of unemployed. But as a matter of fact in these apex years we find that unemployment is increased. There are more girls and women coming into industry than ever before. No one objects to that, but it is significant that the Ministry of Labour report shows that 75 per cent. of the girls who left school last year are going into work of some kind. Ten or 20 years ago that was an unthinkable thing. Now, however, they go into industry, and that has to be borne in mind for the future.

Many factors have to be kept in mind which show that employment is not going to increase. I am sorry to put this point, but it is too important to be ovErieoked very much longer. What are the Government going to do? There are things that they can do. There is in this country at the present time gross overtime being worked. One peculiar thing is that the very machine that throws people out of work is an excuse for overtime. Take what happens in a coal mine. At the coal face you get a machine working for 400 or 500 yards on the coal face. We used to think six yards a very dangerous width to run. Now they go 500 yards. They say that the machine has to keep on cutting and the men must continue to make a proper cut for the men who are coming in, while the men who are filling have to clear up and to make a road for the machines. Men who have talked to me about this matter have not dared to talk aloud. A man came to see me recently and he told me that he had worked 10 shifts. He said: "I want a bit of relief, but I dare not say anything." One man from a great steel area who came specially to see me told me a very lamentable tale of how men were working overtime while others were being thrown out of work. He beseeched me not to mention his name or even to mention the matter. We have asked the Minister for information about these things. I know it is difficult to get any information, but the Government will have to take extraordinary means to learn the extent of this movement in the near future.

There is the question of the reduction of hours. How are the Government going to evade serious consideration of that question? It is not merely a question of 48 hours. It may mean less. The Government's policy has led in another direction. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he has seen the Trade Union Congress and the Confederation of Labour.


The Confederation of Employers.


He did not tell us much about what they have done or what is their point of view. Sooner or later the Government will have to take steps to level out leisure. Men do not want to be idle or unemployed, while on the other hand the people who are working want some little relief. I know that there are difficulties. As a practical man who has attended the Conferences at Geneva as a representative of the Ministry of Labour I know how great the difficulties are. Whatever defects the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of Mines have found in respect of the Convention for Mines, I have no doubt that if the Labour Government had remained in office, with their particular point of view, notwithstanding the difficulties, I think there would have been a uniform seven hours day in the mines in Europe to-day. I think all the Governments were convInced that it was a practical solution. If it is possible in one industry it is possible in another. If it is possible to get a seven-hour day, it is possible to get a six-hour day always, of course, through international agreements. If there was a desire to achieve this purpose I think the Governments could give it practical effect in a short time. The situation is becoming really so menacing that it cannot be allowed to drift without causing great danger to the country.

The right hon. Gentleman can do one thing. He can see that those who are unemployed are dealt with leniently and decently, that there is a somewhat generous interpretation of the Acts. I asked a question the other day as to how many people during the last 12 months had lost their benefit under the condition of not normally being in an insurable occupation. The right hon. Gentleman knows the kind of people they are. They are not the wastrels. As a rule they are people who have given their lives to industry. It is a lamentable fact that the figures which the Minister gave for last month show that no less than one-fifth of the total number of unemployed, 500,000, have been out of work for 12 months or more. The number of those who are wholly unemployed is now larger than the number of the temporary unemployed. It used to be the other way about, but at the moment no less than 500,000 have been out of work for 12 months and more. That is a significant feature in the decrease of employment, but in addition the number of people who have lost their claims as not being in an insurable occupation, is 253,000. The Minister said that this figure did not necessarily mean persons, but I contend that very few people come back to claim again who have once lost their benefit or their transitional payment. There is no doubt that this is where the increase in the Poor Law has come from. There is 250,000 increase in the numbers on the Poor Law.


The hon. Member must remember that these are the results of decisions of courts of referees, over which I have no control.


It depends on the insurance officer as to whether a case goes to the court of referees. It may be that no special instructions are given—I do not say that there are any special instructions—but I do say that it is significant that there should be such a rapid increase in the number of people who have lost their claims to benefit under that special condition. There is probably a reason for it.


Perhaps I had better explain it now—the same point had occurred to me. I am, of course, speaking now from memory, but the numbers who are struck off under this condition month by month are not getting larger, in fact they are getting less, but it becomes accumulative, and the longer it goes on, the more people that are struck off, the larger the aggregate becomes. There is no indication that courts of referees are construing this condition more harshly or more strictly than before.


I do not say they are, but it looks as if the insurance officer is sending more of these people to the courts of referees.


No, and the answer to that is that the monthly numbers are not increasing. If you look at this month, and last month, and at the previous month, you will find that the monthly figures are not increasing. The aggregate, of course, if increasing.


The fact remains that 250,000 persons have lost their claim to benefit in the last 12 months. They are living in areas which are suffering from long unemployment; their last resources have now gone. Let me sum up the situation. We are asked to vote £54,000,000 for this Department. The net result of its work is that there are more unemployed this year than last, and that a great mass of the people have gone on to the Poor Law. They should be counted in the unemployed.


The hon. Member, I am sure, does not want to do the Department an injustice. He will not suggest that the result of the work of the Ministry during the last 12 months has been to create more unemployment. That is a mistake.


Shall I say that the work which the Minister of Labour has not been able to do, or has not the power to do, has resulted in more unemployment this year than last. The Government's policy has completely failed to meet the situation. In the case of great masses of the people the little means they had have been taken away, they are without hope of work; how they ever live some of us cannot understand. At one time we had the Unemployed Grants Committee. There was nothing charitable about it. That Department has been closed down. We have been told by the Minister of Health that the Government have a policy, that they are prepared to accept some schemes and to give grants under certain conditions. That is a most outstanding deception. I do not know a single authority which has been able to get a single scheme through. The Unemployed Grants Committee has been closed down by the Government, and they have done next to nothing. The Prime Minister goes to America and makes a declaration about a policy of expansion, using public credit for public works. The Government allows the Prime Minister to be almost a Labour man in America, but when he comes here the Prime Minister has to sit silent and see the policy for which he stands and in which he believes so negatived that not a single person gets work by reason of any schemes put forward by the Government.

5.40 p.m.


The Committee, I am sure, heard with great interest the wide if not comprehensive survey which the Minister of Labour gave of the work of his Department. No one will accuse him of any feeling of complacency with regard to the great task he is endeavouring to perform. Indeed, the feeling which the Committee must have for him is one of great sympathy in having, under conditions of difficulty, to deal with a task which is almost superhuman. I heard with great satisfaction the emphasis which the Minister of Labour laid upon the constructive side of the work of the Department—

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and there being 40 Members present—


If I have any criticism to make of the constructive side of the work of the Department it is not so much of the quality or the nature of the experiments he proposes, but of the quantity, especially on the juvenile side of that task. I should like to associate myself with two remarks which were made by the Minister with regard to the administrative side of his task. First of all when he paid a tribute to the officials who work the administration of unemployment benefit, and the Employment Exchanges. They have to work under conditions which sometimes are little short of heartbreaking, and the fact that they do their work with such good humour and on the whole with such satisfaction to those for whom they have to work, is greatly to their credit.

It is satisfactory to know that the placing side of the work of the Department is maintained and is increasing. I, myself, have had unsolicited and remarkable testimony lately from important manufacturers as to the service rendered in this respect by Exchanges of which I have knowledge. This work has not only been of service to the manufacturers, but also of very great service to the unemployed themselves, and in many cases it makes a remarkable difference to their comfort and to their arrangements for going to work. Nevertheless, I am a little doubtful as to whether more should not be done to make known the placing facilities which are available at the Exchanges to those who might make use of them. I find that there are some who, in spite of all the efforts which have been made to make them known, are still ignorant that such facilities exist. It has occurred to me that my right hon. Friend might borrow from the Secretary of State for the Dominions the sites which are used at present to advertise the Empire Marketing Board and use them to display announcements of the facilities which the Employment Exchanges provide. I am afraid that he could not supply the same beautiful decorative effects as those which are supplied by the Dominions Secretary, but some step of that kind would serve a useful purpose.

With regard to the criticism made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) on the administration of the insurance scheme proper and of the transitional payments, I think it cannot be denied that the Minister and his colleagues and advisers are in a great difficulty. They are in a great difficulty with regard to prospective legislation dealing with this tripartite problem of the insurance scheme, the transitional payments and the residual persons who fall within the Poor Law. They are also—and I say it in no unfriendly spirit—in an insoluble difficulty with regard to the administration of the existing scheme. It is insoluble in this sense, that there is no possible solution for unemployment by means of relief. It is impossible to give any form of compensation by means of payments or by any transitory occupational employment in a centre or elsewhere to that great mass of 850,000 men in the prime of life who are out of work. It is for that reason, among others, that one may describe the problem as insoluble. There is also the impossibility of devising machinery for dealing with the fluctuating conditions of industry and the gradations in the physical capacity of men for work. There are all the different classes, between those who are fully capable of doing any work, whatever it is, and the border-line cases. One class shades off into another and it is exceedingly difficult to deal with them by any administrative method. The right hon. Gentleman has a task there which, I believe, is almost beyond human capacity. It is true that the effort must be made. The right hon. Gentleman and his advisers and the Government will produce legislation in due course which they think may meet the situation. It is the duty of Parliament to assist them in their task by criticism and suggestion. It is a national task and there is no evidence that the Ministry of Labour will not be glad to receive any suggestions which are likely to lead to its accomplishment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street referred to the large number of people who are being struck off the benefit roll on the ground that they are not normally earning their livelihood in insurable occupations. In that category there are some indescribably hard cases of elderly men, men of from 60 to 62 who, having worked all their lives, and perhaps for 20 years at a stretch without once being out of work, are now being disqualified on that ground. It is most humiliating to them. It touches their pride, especially when they see much younger men, who have had a comparatively short spell of work drawing full benefit. I am aware of the administrative difficulties which prevent the Minister from interfering at the moment and I only mention that as one of the grievances which are very difficult to remedy and which make the task of Parliament and of the Minister in this matter extraordinarily hard. It is for these reasons that I think this problem if it is to be dealt with in a satisfactory way must be approached from a new angle. If, in this uncertain world there is anything which can be predicted, it is that the rapid development of machinism and the great intensity of its application to industry is going to increase permanently and in great measure the enforced idleness—leisure is the better word—of the community as a whole. Reorganisation will be forced upon industry. Industry will have to deal with the new state of affairs. There is no escape from that situation and the sooner we begin to devote our minds to it the better. The right hon. Gentleman in response to a question referred to negotiations which were taking place on his initiative between the Trade Union Congress and the representatives of the employers.


I do not think it was said that negotiations were taking place, but that consultations were taking place, with the Minister.


I am sorry if I used the wrong word but I do not think I am under any misapprehension as to what is happening. I think it is the case that consultations are taking place with a view to exploring the possibility of arriving at some method by which a greater amount of labour can be absorbed.


I do not think that that is quite right either. It is an examination by both sides of what the effect would be on individual industries, of the various proposals which are being made and which have for their object the absorption of persons in these industries.


I am obliged to my right hon. Friend, but I think it was my expression that was at fault rather than my understanding of the situation. It is clear that before those explorations have gone very far, those engaged in them will be confronted with the great difficulty that limitations of an international character, affecting the interests of industry and affecting this question, will present grave problems. We in this country will be driven, I think, to take the common-sense view. There is no reason why, if we organise ourselves properly, this great increase in enforced idleness or leisure, should not be a blessing rather than a curse. Let us direct it and concentrate it upon the people to whom it can be of abiding benefit. Let us concentrate it upon the old and upon the young. Can we do so and at the same time bring about a more reasonable adjustment between the supply of and the demand for the labour of those, at the present time out of work, who are in the prime of life and in the enjoyment of full vigour. That is a problem to which the Ministry and Parliament must devote attention.

I ask the Committee seriously to consider the juvenile employment problem. Since 1929 the volume of juvenile unemployment has risen by approximately 150 per cent. and the number unemployed between the ages of 14 and 18 is estimated at the present time to be 130,000. If we assume, as I suppose we may, that that forecast of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to a decade of considerable unemployment, is, in some degree correct, the position with regard to juvenile unemployment becomes in prospect positively alarming. Owing to the post-War bulge in the birth rate to which reference has been made, if the general volume of unemployment among juveniles is to remain somewhere about the same level, then by 1937 there will be added to the number I have mentioned some 440,000 boys and girls making a total of 600,000. That is a situation which the Committee will scarcely regard as tolerable, and we must insist that something should be done to meet it. The inevitable conclusion is that the only way out of a difficult situation is that there should be a great development of the constructive side of the work of the Ministry. There must be a great development of education and a wholesale development of training, whether whole-time or part-time. Something is required different from the experiments which the Minister sketched this afternoon and involving a sum of money, not of the same order as the £600,000 which the right hon. Gentleman regretfully informed us was all that he could bring to bear on this work under the present Estimates.

If there were to be an extension of the beneficial occupation of juveniles, if, for example, there were to be a scheme for training all juveniles between 14 and 18, either on a half-time or full-time basis, it would bring us up against a considerable financial problem. It would also cause us to consider another aspect of this important matter. If it were possible to withdraw from employment and put into beneficial training juveniles between 14 and 18—and that is what we shall have to do sooner or later, whether we wish to do it or not—what will be the effect upon the employment of those who are in the prime of life I It is quite clear that the substitution of juvenile labour by adult labour is a complicated and difficult subject, and the information available does not enable one to enter upon its consideration with any degree of certainty. But at least it seems certain that if the 1,900,000 juveniles in this country who are, or who will be available, were withdrawn from the labour field up to the age of 18, it would have an important effect upon the demand for labour. It would make a great breach in the 500,000 unemployed between the ages of 18 and 25, and it would inevitably go beyond that and increase the employment available for the 880,000 who are in the prime of life and are at the present time without any employment.

One is tempted to ask, What would be the financial effect upon the country? If one may assume—and it is a modest assumption—that something like 600,000 adults would be brought back into employment, and if one may assume further that the average amount which they receive per week by way of benefit and allowances is 18s., there would be liberated by that operation the sum of £28,000,000 a year. You can do a great deal of training and provide a great many educational facilities with the sum of £28,000,000 a year. You could, in my judgment, deal with the whole problem of training and education, and you might also be able to deal with the question of such personal allowances as might be required. It is upon these lines that I think we shall be called upon to move in this country, and to move before very long, because it is not merely the rapid deterioration of the youth of the country which will come about if we do not act on these lines, but we shall have, as the next few years go on, an increasing glut of juvenile labour, which must inevitably compete with adult labour; and the best laid schemes of insurance and relief, to which I know the right hon. Gentleman is at present giving his mind, with the valuable assistance of his capable advisers, will be completely upset.

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