§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [24th November] to Question [21st November],
§ "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Cross.)
§ Which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words:
§ " But humbly regret that, by their mishandling of international and Imperial affairs, pursuing at home a policy of creating artificial scarcity in the interests of private profit instead of taking measures to increase the production of wealth and to ensure a better distribution of purchasing power, failing to reverse the unjust economies enforced upon the unemployed and other classes and to restore and develop the social services, impeding the housing activities of local authorities. and refusing to initiate or finance public works calculated to develop our national resources and. provide much-needed employment, Your Majesty's advisers are delaying the realisation of peace and disarmament, making no contribution to the solution of the world economic crisis, and neglecting-their mandate to promote the welfare of the country."—(Mr. Attlee.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words he there added."
§ 3.96 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I rise to support the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). In the very interesting speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary made on Friday last he appeared to be chafing under the collar because of the references of my hon. Friend to complacency on the part of the Government; and he repudiated anything of the kind. In spite of the fact that the Foreign Secretary felt very uneasy in regard to this charge, I am going to repeat it again this afternoon, particularly in so far as housing and slum clearance are concerned. The questions 532 of slum clearance and housing have been written about so extensively and spoken about so frequently that it is difficult to find something fresh to say about the problems. We have had so many investigators, so many men and women taking an interest in this subject, and so many special inquiries, that we have more housing knowledge to-day than ever before. The only thing I can do this afternoon is to call attention to the magnitude and urgency of the problem and try to show where the Government have failed in their method of dealing with it. The inadequacy of the proposals of the Government can be shown by facts and figures available from sources which I think are generally regarded as reliable. It may be that the Government will say that these investigators take an exaggerated view of the matter and are not willing to accept the state of housing as revealed by these investigators, but there is no doubt that generally the standard of housing is below that which we expect for working people, and the figures which are available from housing surveys and the classification of certain types of house are colossal.
The Minister of Health at a conference during the week-end said that the problem had been over-stated by certain people, and that if the figures given by some of the housing critics were reliable then practically every other house in the country should be pulled down and replaced by another. That figure may appear colossal to Members of the House, hut as I proceed I shall be able to show that there is not a great deal of exaggeration in the statement. During 150 years working people in this country have never been properly housed. They have been sheltered, but never properly housed. Over 50 per cent. of the houses in Great Britain to-day have only two bedrooms. It is not an exaggeration, therefore, to say that every other house ought to be pulled down. I have never heard of a person living in a two-bedroomed house asking that there should be more two-bedroomed houses built. It is only those who have more than two bedrooms who think that there is a demand for two-bedroomed houses and that they should be built. Such people usually have four, five or six bedrooms, and perhaps some to spare. The Lord President of the Council, in a speech 533 at Cambridge on 22nd July, said, in regard to the Government's crusade on the slums:We want this to be the greatest effort in living memory—an effort similar to that this country made 100 years ago to abolish slavery. We want this country to abolish the slum dwelling, whether it be in town or country. Every crusade has behind it a simple conviction, and our simple conviction is that every man in this island is entitled to live in conditions that will provide comfort, health and happiness, as far as we can afford it.I entirely endorse those statements, and I want them to be translated into activity; I want to see them backed up. So far as working people are concerned, everything centres round the home. The whole of their habits and behaviour, their expression and conduct, are conditioned by their homes. Working people in this and every country have to live in their homes and around their homes. If they move from the type of house in which they were horn it is to live in another house of the same type. They cannot live in hotels; they cannot choose a different environment. If they go for a holiday it is usually a holiday spent in the same type of working-class house. In this country particularly we sing with enthusiasm, "Home, Sweet Home." The song is sung with great fervour by any gathering of people if someone starts the tune. Homes are all-important. It is to the home and the conditions of the home that I shall direct my observations.
I suppose there is no man who has greater opportunities than I have for travelling throughout the country, to the large towns, the smaller towns and the villages. I have often wandered through the mean streets of towns and cities and seen the dull, drab appearance of the rows of houses. It is fortunate that the houses bear numbers on the doors, for otherwise I do not know how the people would distinguish one house from another. It is just dull, drab monotony. Usually the sanitary arrangements are not of a very high order. Over 75 out of every 100 of these homes are without a bath. The Minister of Health says that our statement as to the number of houses that should be pulled down and rebuilt is exaggerated. Is a bath to be considered so extraordinary that it should not be in every home? As I wander through mean streets and know of the absence of even proper sanitary arrangements, I feel very 534 sad. We are perfectly justified in stating that the working classes of Great Britain have never been properly housed. The duty and responsibility of the Government is to make the greatest effort within living memory to deal with houses. An eminent architect, Sir Raymond Unwin, writing in the "Daily Telegraph" on the housing problem, said this:Allowing one house per family the shortage in England and Wales is over 800,000 houses.That is one house per family. I shall come presently not only to the dulness and drabness of the houses, but will show that there is not even a house for each working-class family:Apart from this, 500,000 houses are unfit to live in, and another 500,000 are below a good modern standard.That appeared in the "Daily Telegraph" of 25th July last. Sir Raymond Unwin has had great experience, both as an adviser to the Ministry of Health and as a great architect, and he has received the recognition of his fellow architects by being elected to the highest possible position in the architectural profession. He is generally recognised as a man who is reliable and who does not make flamboyant or exaggerated statements. There is another authority who has shown great activity in regard to housing. I refer to the late Lord Mayor of Manchester, Sir E. D. Simon. I apologise to the House for giving so many quotations, but they are necessary in order to reinforce my arguments with the statements of men and women in public positions who do not necessarily subscribe to the political views that we hold on this side of the House. Sir E. D. Simon says:In Manchester the Medical Officer of Health has estimated that 30,000 houses are unfit for human habitation. If we call these the slums of Manchester then the corresponding number of houses in England and Wales would probably be about 1,000,000. But there are in Manchester no less than 80,000 houses of a similar character, all of which must be replaced by lunch better houses before we shall be within sight of our goal. If we extend the word slum ' to cover these houses, then there are probably 4,000,000 which come into that category, and which are certainly a long way below any standard acceptable to public opinion to-day.There is one other quotation I must give from a very capable investigator, Mr. Massey. Writing in the "Architects' Journal" of last month, he said: 535517,221 live at over three per room. 2,977,565 live at over one and a-half per room (over two in the Scottish cities). 669,750 rooms are required merely to abate overcrowding at over one and a-half per room (over two in the Scottish cities). 530,000 houses are required in order to abate overcrowding at over one and a-half per room in the English cities, and two per room in the Scottish cities, and to replace all unfit houses. 578,C00 houses are requited to abate overcrowding at over one and a-half per room and replace all insanitary houses in all the cities dealt with in the inquiry…Assuming that housing conditions in the other parts of the country (ranging from cities of about 250,000 to the smallest rural areas) are half as bad as the cities investigated which seems justifiable so far as can be judged, the total housing needs of Britain amount to 1,400,000 houses.The Minister of Health, in reply to a question quite recently, told us that estimates based upon the programmes received for slum clearance indicated that, on the average, 44,000 houses a year will he provided by local authorities under this five-year slum clearance scheme. When the Minister introduced his Housing Act last year, and was dealing with the question of slum clearance, he estimated that 12,000 houses per year would he cleared in slum areas. I am particularly glad that the pressure of public opinion of all sorts of people interested in houses has been sufficient to get a bigger move on than that. Instead of 12,000 houses a year the number is to be 44,000, which we very gladly welcome. It is a contribution, and I am not complaining about anything the Government have done. I am complaining about what the Government are not doing. There is failure to recognise the size of this problem, and a deliberate waste of housing organisation and skill, while the terrible unemployment also provides an urgent reason for dealing with the problem in some sensible and practical way.
When millions of people have to be content to live under such abominable conditions, I say that starting off with 12,000 houses, and, under public pressure, getting the number up to 44,000 is still, and will be, a very small effort indeed. If in five years we are able to build 200,000 houses—and the statements of the authorities I have quoted, and can reinforce by many others, if necessary, prove that we are miles behind—I know the Minister will tell me what private individuals have done in building houses since 536 municipal authorities have been stopped, and will take these into calculation. When I asked the Minister the proportion of houses there were to let at 15s. a week in London and Ms. outside London, there were no figures available. It may be assumed that Cumberland Hotel is a house, and that other large buildings are houses, but when we speak here of housing the people, we intend to apply our terms to the housing of the working classes, housing which normally gives habitation and shelter to those whose average wages are roughly about £2 5s. a week. When the Minister replies, will he say whether there is any intention to vary the present subsidy under the 1930 Act? No statement has even been made as to whether the present subsidy will continue in the present form, or for how long, or whether there will he any variation under it.
I want to say how much I appreciate the light of publicity which has been shed on the absence of proper housing accommodation by so many leading papers and writers. I think we might include Morton of the "Daily Herald," who revealed slum conditions in this country; Marshall, of the "Daily Telegraph," who very faithfully gave us a wonderful amount of information; Thorogood, of the "Evening Standard"; prominent churchmen like the Bishop of Winchester, and the voluminous reports of medical officers. No one can say there is not the information. There is no municipal authority which is not chock full of information as to the bad and insanitary conditions in their own boroughs. I am sure the Ministry of Health must have their shelves overloaded with information. As I started off by saying, it is not a question of bringing fresh matter to bear, but of restating some of the facts, perhaps in a slightly different order and stressing the need and urgency. Vividly illuminating housing surveys have been made by Irene Barclay, Evelyn Perry and Avice Trench, all of whom have told us of the terrible conditions existing in different parts of the country. Now the truth is being made plain when the Lord President of the Council says that we must make the biggest effort within living memory. Yet we start off with 12,000, and, under public pressure, raise the number of houses to 44,000. I hardly know the meaning of words when this is described as the biggest effort. Look at the 537 habitations of our people in Poplar, Stepney, Hackney, Shoreditch, Bermondsey, Deptford and Camberwell. Look at the housing accommodation at Manchester, at Gorbals in Glasgow, the squalid foulness, dirt and dilapidation, as is only too apparent to anyone who will take a look at the houses. I have abstracted a statement from a speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), when speaking about his own constituency in December last, not quite 12 months ago. He saidIn house after house the tenant will show you a cracked copper, show you a door which he has to prop to and fasten with a chair at night because it is hanging loose upon its hinges. You will see that all the brickwork ought to have been repointed. You will see the paper peeling off the walls, paper which the tenant has put on out of his own money, because the walls so reek with damp that no paper will stay there. You go up into a bedroom and you see a bed propped on the tops of packing cases, because if the castors of the bedstead were left upon the planking of the floor they would go through, so rotten are the planks. Those are the houses of a large number of my constituents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1932, col. 574, Vol. 273.]I can understand why they return National candidates; they have not time to reflect upon their miserable conditions, because, believe me, they are not a residue of strength in the Labour party. We have no trade unions, or hardly any, in the slums, and no branches of the Labour party or of the co-operative society. Those who stand for the National Government draw their strength from those places. We only get abused if we ask them to support our particular candidates. If the slums were in the main streets, I do not think they would remain there long; but they are at the back, out of sight, and sometimes out of mind. If they were not, they would he such ghastly sights that I am sure public opinion would be roused more quickly. I have gone into slums, and taken other people, and I am glad that the Minister of Health has paid visits to the slums. He was not very welcome to the land-lords. It was almost like meeting Al Capone. Anyone who goes there will come back and say, "I would never have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes."
The terrible conditions under which many of our people have to live are a definite indictment of our modern civilisa- 538 tion. Compare the East end of any town with the West end of any town, for there is a West end and an East end in all towns. Go to the West end of a town and see the layout, the beautiful streets, and then go to the East end where the workers live and see the difference. We are asked to take a broad view, not to introduce class hatred, strife or suspicion. But the bare facts are there. The money of the municipal authorities is spent to improve the West end, while the dingy, badly lighted, miserable conditions of the East end of any town are only too obvious. if we go into the slums we usually take an electric torch to enable us to find our way about. In the West end the lights are always equal to the occasion. There are slums from Aldgate to West Ham, if you want to see rows of houses in which the workers are housed and say that we are exaggerating the problem.
As long as the authorities have power to recondition, they should recondition, but only as something to take in their stride, and not to be regarded as a policy. It is impossible to attempt to make some places habitable. Take such places as I have quoted from the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. The only thing to do is to pull down verminous, pestiferous property. The Order Paper to-day had something about rats coming into this House, and I am sure the idea was not conceived after coming out of the Smoking Room. Eats have been in this House, but I would like to tell the Government and the Minister of Health to remember that unless you are prepared to attack the plague, the plague will attack you. Unless you are prepared to tackle this problem of housing, no sort of restrictions brought in in this House will be sufficient to keep down the volume of discontent and wrath in the minds of people against such conditions, which are not necessary, and to deal with which our modern science, capacity, and everything else are available. It is certainly wrong that our people should be kept in conditions such as we find from Aldgate to West Ham, from Wandsworth to Deptford. Take a trip on a county council train, and go right through and look at the housing conditions. I am sure everyone will be profoundly disappointed. The Minister says that in 59 years, that is since 1875, only 200,000 people have been rehoused by slum clearance. I am glad 539 that the pace is to be accelerated, and am grateful for anything that is being done, but I am complaining about the speed and the lack of appreciation of the size of the problem. On 23rd August, the "Times" said in regard to the absence of slum clearance:From the Armistice until the coming into operation of the Greenwood Act in 1930 fewer than 12,000 houses were erected in connection with schemes of slum clearance, and so far only 8,000 houses have been completed under the Act.I am not new to this question. Over 30 years ago I was on the executive of a workmen's housing organisation and the late Dr. Macnamara, then a Member of this House, was the president of our committee. Thirty years ago I was lobbying Members of this House urging upon them the importance of housing and trying to "get a move on" to deal with the problem. if it has not been dealt with, it has not been for want of public agitation or because Governments have not been apprised of the facts. But there has been an absence of desire to deal with it. If, from the Armistice until last year only 8,000 houses have been cleared it shows that in the absence of a persistent clamant demand from outside very little will be done. Governments, like local authorities, will not move unless a vigorous active agitation from the outside drives them on to activity.
I would emphasise the fact that houses are perishable and as regards the general type of house in which our workers in many districts have to live, apart from the amenities and surroundings, the actual structure of those houses does not lend itself to reconditioning. Those houses have not the ordinary qualities which are necessary for good houses such as good foundations, good damp-proof courses, good drains and good ventilation. That is quite apart from the important question of density. One thing upon which we pride ourselves in this country since the War is the planning of housing schemes with a density of only 12 to the acre. It is a joy to go round the housing schemes of Great Britain and to see them planned on those lines with open spaces and approaches which are clean and sweet and healthy and with gardens, even though they are only small ones, in the front and the back. That is something very different from the spectacle of the old rows of 540 back-to-back houses, miserable, deplorable structures with insufficient sanitary accommodation and no baths.
One feels particularly pleased with many of the features associated with the structure of working-class houses—apart from the accommodation provided in them—since successive Governments have taken an interest in the question and have insisted upon certain standards. But in houses of the old type those standards were neglected. Ask the sanitary inspectors and the medical officers of health about the conditions in houses of the old type. They bring back appalling reports from the districts in our cities and towns where those old houses exist, reports which ought to make every person responsible for housing in those localities feel very much ashamed unless a very stout effort is being made there to effect some improvement. These houses, as I say, are perishable and I want the House of Commons riot to let the Ministry get it into their heads than reconditioning of the slums must be a policy of the Government. That would be a mistake. The municipal authorities have powers in that respect already. In so far as they find reconditioning useful as a temporary expedient, let them do it, but we must not bring it into the calculation as being part of a big national effort.
The Minister said recently that housing was a social service. I agree and it is becoming more and more a social service and it must become more and more a national responsibility. Private enterprise will not be able to meet the national need. The big employers of labour are not able to use their organisation or machinery to build houses which can be let at what are called working-class rents. They could riot afford to do so, without increasing the density and cutting down the amenities. They would have to build down to a lower standard in order to make the proposition an economic one for them, and bring the houses within the range of what is called the capacity of the worker to pay. But where are we getting to by the process of building down to lower standards? There is no bottom apparently_ We can go down to the two-roomed house and then to the one and a-half roomed house, and then to the one-room house and so on, to box-rooms, I suppose. Where is a policy of that kind to end?
541 If we had not the skill, the labour, the experience and the materials there would be an excuse but when we have all these things it is a miserable policy to be building down to what the workers can afford to pay. It is that attitude of mind which is responsible for confining our activities in this direction. The fact that a family is poor does not make that family's housing requirements any the less. They are not poor of their own desire. A man and wife and children, even though they are poor, are entitled to housing accommodation which will provide them at any rate with separate bedrooms for boys and girls of marriageable age. There might be some reason for huddling people together as is done in many cases to-day if we were suffering from plague or if there was an absence of opportunity or something of that kind, but we know that we have the resources available, we know what the housing requirements of the people are. I understand that the London County Council propose to erect dwellings of a block type on the Duchy of Lancaster estate. I am not familiar with the details but I understand that in these new dwellings three or four families are to share one bath and to share the washing accommodation. They are I am told to be known as "B" houses and am sure they will be known as "B" houses by those who have to live in them.
Why should we regard the working people as a class apart? They are not living in districts such as have been described of their own choice. How can they be expected to sing "Home, Sweet Home" when two, sometimes three families are herded together in a house which would not be too large for one family? The Government's attitude to—wards this matter is profoundly mistaken and indeed the Minister and the Department have no more responsibility in connection with this question than the Government generally, because it is a part of the general position that has been created in this country, that the people are too poor to buy or rent the housing accommodation which the Ministry, I have no doubt, would like to provide. But instead of building down to these low standards, as the Minister is being egged on to do by a large number of people to-day, the Minister's job should be to urge the Government to increase the purchasing power of the people so as 542 to enable them to purchase and rent housing accommodation of the kind which the Ministry and the local authorities would like to provide. Slums are born of poverty, fostered by poverty, rooted in poverty. If there were no poverty there would be no slums. If the people could afford suitable and decent houses they would not live in slums; they are only driven into the slums by poverty. In this matter therefore the Government cannot escape general responsibility because no sooner had they taken office than they proceeded to cut down wages thus forcing people to live in overcrowded conditions.
I would remind hon. Members that new houses may be slums as well as old houses. if two or three families have to live in a house which has only accommodation for one family, there are all the conditions of a slum, whether the house is old or new. The Government cannot escape responsibility for having driven people to live two or three families in one house. Since the Armistice wages have been reduced by over £6,000,000,000 and £2,000,000 a day less is being paid in wages now than was being paid at the end of the War. If we withdraw that money from the people how can they purchase houses. What have the doctors said about it? The doctors in a report last week spoke about the conditions under which many of our people are living. The landlord does not fail to call every week because a man happens to be unemployed—and the person who is providing housing accommodation is no worse in this respect than the purveyor of any other commodity.
I object to the idea that a man who owns property is, in some way different from the man who sells bacon or some other commodity. If an individual engaged in industry is concerned in disposing of a particular article, the person who wants that article has to pay the price. Otherwise it will not be economically possible to supply it and the person who has been supplying it will have to go out of business. It does not follow therefore that because people are unemployed the person who owns the house property in which they live is not to call for the rent. He has to call for the rent in order to meet the ordinary needs of business. But starvation is imposed on the people who have to meet that rent, 543 because of the wage-cutting policy pursued by the Government beginning with the teachers, the civil servants, people in municipal employment and extending to other classes. I am glad to say that that process of wage-cutting is being arrested now, very largely through trade union activity. I hope that the purchasing power of the people will increase so that the Minister will be able to build houses of the standard which he would desire and the people engaged in industry will be able to avail of them. That is the way to tackle the problem.
It is no use trying to tickle the ears of the public by saying that we are waging a war on the slums. We are only touching the fringe of the problem. It is like entering a pedal bicycle for a race which could only be won by a highly powered car. The problem is not the creation of this Government. The slums were not created by this Government, but are many decades old. They have existed since the period of the industrial revolution. For years the type of house provided to shelter our workers was not what it ought to be. The worker's environment has been influenced by his economic conditions. If a worker does not know with certainty that he is going to be in work next week or next month or next year, how can be purchase a house of a proper type? How can he even be expected to rent a proper house, if he feels that by cribbing himself within a smaller house it will be possible for him to save up money to provide food should the day of unemployment come.
Look at the position of industry to-day with 3,000,000 unemployed. I know I shall be told that that is not the number, hut the figures that we are given do not deceive Members of this House. I was delighted to know that a number have gone into employment in the building industry during the last few months through the stimulation of certain work by the Government, but I have here figures which show that in February, 1930, the number of unemployed in the building industry was 151,000 and in February, 1933, the number was 287,000, while in October, 1930, the number of unemployed in the building industry was 147,609 and in October, 1933, it was 175,411. in October, 1932, the unemployed had gone up to 255,466; this year it is 175,411.
§ Mr. HICKS
I am using these figures to show the position in 1930 under the Labour Government and what a change there has been since the present Government put their dead hand on the municipal authorities and restricted their housing activities. In spite of the fact that it was generally denied that there was any such attempt to restrict them, all sorts of difficulties were put in their way, public works were restricted, and the number of unemployed rose from 147,000 to 255,000. That was my point, and while it is now down to 175,000, which I welcome, the Government cannot claim too much credit for reducing the numbers, but are to be condemned for raising them. If we guaranteed families a reasonable income, the motive power that produces slums would disappear. A general policy of raising the standard of the purchasing power of the people of this country is needed, failing which it matters not what good work the Government may do in the way of slum clearance. Unless side by side with the provision of accommodation we raise the purchasing power of the people, slums will not disappear. You can build houses by the thousand and have them vacant, and you can have other houses overcrowded. The remedy lies in the direction of enabling the people to purchase adequate housing accommodation for themselves.
Let us look for a moment at the statement of Dr. M'Gonigle, medical officer of health for Stockton-on-Tees. He says that they took the people away from a slum area called the Housewife Lane area to a Mount Pleasant estate. The people moved from the slums into better housing accommodation, but because of the financial exaction for rent and the absence of nourishment for the body in these particular families, the death-rate increased over 50 per cent. They had to move out of decent housing accommodation back into the vile places because of the absence of sufficient purchasing power with which to buy the ordinary necessaries of life. These are the points that we have to get down to. It is not merely a question of physically providing houses we have to give the people the opportunity of being able to occupy them.
I have statements from the medical officers of health for Hammersmith, 545 Paddington, and Bermondsey. In Bermondsey there is a big area that was built on a swamp; at high tide it is below the river level, and homes which have been investigated there have been found to have slugs and bugs. If it were riot for the valiant efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) to do some rescue work there, to sweeten up the place, clear some of the slum areas, and pull down back-to-back houses, God knows what kind of life the people of Bermondsey would live. The Government talked first, about dealing with this problem to the extent of 12,000 houses a year and later, under public pressure, they went up to 44,000 houses a year, but I submit that they are not touching the problem in anything like the proportion that is necessary.
With regard to the public assistance committees, when the men go round to them and ask for assistance, some of these committees urge them to go into smaller houses so that the public funds shall not be used to maintain them. In London alone there are 100,000 people who are living in basements, and two families out of every three are living in one house. How can you expect the ordinary standard of decency, morality, and rightness to come out of such homes I It is a marvel that the people are what they are, and it is because of these facts that I say that the picture of the problem which the Government have in their mind is altogether inadequate. It is all very well for the Minister of Health to talk about bugle blowing and the war on the slums. I want to encourage him to go On with his good work, not to be afraid of slum landlords, and not to be satisfied with the very small programme that he has in his mind's eye at present. I was present on Saturday when the Minister gave a very fine address, which was much appreciated, at a very big housing and town planning conference held in Worcestershire, not very far from the constituency represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council—a very nice part of the country too.
§ Mr. HICKS
There are not so many slums round where we were, anyway, and I congratulate the Minister of Health on 546 having had the courage and the wisdom to go down and address that conference, but after he had left, in spite of the very favourable impression made by his speech, and in spite of their gratitude to him for his address, there were two resolutions passed. They were drafted before he went there and discussed after he left, and if the right hon. Gentleman likes, I will meet him behind the Speaker's Chair and tell him what some of them said about him. One of the resolutions passed was as follows:That this Conference, having considered the reports on the 1933 Act, is of opinion that it will fail to provide houses for the lower paid working classes, and calls upon the 'Minister of Health to re-introduce a subsidy to local authorities.''The other resolution was:That the Minister of Health be requested to promote a Bill extending the Housing Act, 1930, so as to provide for Government contributions towards expenses of local authorities in providing accommodation both for aged persons and for the rehousing of persons of the working classes who were living under over-crowded conditions (but in houses which were neither situated in an area suitable for clearance or improvement under the Housing Act, 1930, nor suitable for demolition tinder that Act).There was a general complaint that, while they appreciated the small effort being made in the war on slums, the 1933 Act handed over to private enterprise the problem of providing new houses and that private enterprise was unequal to the job. They therefore asked the Government to reconsider the matter with a view to giving them assistance to build additional houses in order to meet the requirements of the people of their respective boroughs. They were not condemning what had been done, but they were asking for additional powers. I agree with, and entirely endorse, what they said in those resolutions. Whether it be in rural districts or in towns, these slums are there. We look sometimes at the work of some clever photographer who has been able to take a nice view of some housing accommodation. It looks nice on picture postcards, but they are not nice houses to live in. They are living hells, they are slurps, and the problem of getting rid of them has to be tackled vigorously. All the while this country has the idea that we must be divided into various classes, that there must he rich and poor, and that there is one class which has to have decent housing accommodation and another class 547 which has not, we shall never get this problem into a proper perspective.
With regard to public works, I spoke in this House a fortnight ago asking the Government to save what little there was of opportunity for public bodies to initiate public works without having to go through the extensive paraphernalia of putting in their programme by a certain date, going before a committee, and so on. The Government, however, were adamant and refused to listen. I believe the Government will require all the help from the local authorities and all the opportunity for them to initiate public works which they can get, and I believe they will have to bring in fresh legislation to tackle the problem. It is not very often that I take part in the Debates in this House, but I listen to them for hours—Debates on cotton, on coal, and other industries—and every week I hear the cry coming from one industry or another to the Government and to this House asking for help. In the old days they could go on independently of the Government and did not want assistance, but now they are crying out for prohibition, or quota, or tariff, or subsidy to give them an opportunity, proving that they themselves are not equal to the job of providing an opportunity for every man and woman in this country to be able to get a livelihood.
Is private enterprise able to employ all the men in coal mining, engineering, cotton manufacturing, agriculture, or shipbuilding 1 There is not a Member of this house who would say that he believes private enterprise is equal to the job of bringing all these unemployed people back into industry again. Where will these poor people be? Are they to be entirely condemned for the rest of their lives? Are they to be wiped out, to be left to wither away? Are no steps to be taken to rescue them from the morass into which they have fallen and to put them into some occupation? I know of no other way of doing that than by the provision of public works, unless this country agrees to take over the whole of industry and to run it as an economic unit.
As it is, the opportunity for initiating public works has been made much more difficult. I begged the Minister of Health to allow this opportunity to remain in 548 the Act, but the Prime Minister is desirous of removing every possible trace of his past, and he seems to be working with rubber gloves on, so that not Sherlock Holmes himself will be able to trace him. I thought there was something left in the old Act to provide that opportunity, but it was taken away. I know of no better way of bridging the gap between what private enterprise can do and what requires doing than by the Government giving the municipalities or other approved bodies opportunities for initiating public works, whether in house building, road widening, bridge building, modernising towns and villages, or bringing the old country up-to-date in some way or other Finally, let me say that I think the Government's approach to the problem is small. I believe that it is inadequate, and I feel certain that hon. and right hon. Members of this House will be profoundly disappointed when the balance-sheet is presented and they are able to look at what they were promised in comparison with what has been performed. The object of all this house building and slum clearance should be to aim at a structurally separate dwelling for every family in the country. I am not saying that everyone should have a separate house, but there should be a structurally separate dwelling, with the ordinary amenities. It is not wrong to ask for a bath in a house, it is not wrong to ask for separate lavatory accommodation, it is not improper that every- family- should have a tap and a sink in their house. That is the last thing we should think of denying to our people and the first thing we ought to give them. I say that this war on the slums is superficial and temporary. Whatever is being done now, unless side by side with it definite steps are taken to increase the purchasing power of our people, the slums will not only remain, but they will be intensified. Private enterprise comes more and more to the Government for assistance and advice, and I feel sure that we are justified in condemning the Government, not only for their wider policy, but for their complacency and niggardly attitude towards housing. I ask them to reconsider the whole problem and to examine it in the light of its size and nature, and then to put forward a man's effort to deal with it.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) has very ably presented a case which in its essence is unanswerable. I do not propose to follow him in that subject, for my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), who to-morrow will move the Amendment that stands next on the Order Paper, will enter fully into that matter and will endeavour to do what my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich has not endeavoured to do, namely, to present a series of definite and concrete suggestions for handling the present housing situation. I intended in rising merely to state in a few sentences the course which we on these benches propose to take with regard to the Amendment, but the Minister of Agriculture on Friday addressed to the House a very important speech, and before coming to the Amendment before the House, I ask leave to address myself to that. The right hon. Gentleman is always stimulating, his speeches are always refreshing, and on this occasion he had a new point. It seems strange that after all these long controversies, which have lasted so many years, on land development, tariffs, restrictions and so forth, it should be possible for anyone, however ingenious and original, to present something which is wholly new; yet such are the resources of my right hon. Friend that he has succeeded in doing so. He attached importance to his point, for he said:I wish the House to face up to this problem, because it is one which will more and more engage its attention in the immediate future.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1933; col. 473, Vol. 28.3.]The new point which the right hon. Gentleman has brought out, and which none of his predecessors has ever adduced, is a proof rather of their prudence than of his wisdom, for when one comes to examine it it is found to be quite unsubstantial. It is this. He says that those of us who advocate a large plan of settlement upon the land and the placing, possibly, in course of time, of as many as 500,000 new smallholders upon the soil of Great Britain, are faced by the dilemma that we provide for an enormous increase in the production of food in this country. He says that 1,000,000 people now on the land produce food sufficient for about half our present population, that is, 20,000,000 people; if 550 you put another 500,000 on the land, they will produce enough food for another 10,000,000 people; consequently, we shall have to restrict our imports of foodstuffs from the Dominions or from foreign countries, and, if there is any truth in the contention that by restricting imports we lessen exports, we shall be striking a great blow also at our export trade. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, says that we must choose the abandonment either of our opposition to the restriction of imports or of our advocacy of a larger population on the soil.
That is his new point, and I think that he will agree that I have stated it fairly, and, I hope, lucidly. Indeed, I am using practically the right hon. Gentleman's own language in his speech of Friday. The right hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, his rule of three, is far too simple. He says that 500,000 smallholders will produce half as much as the 1,000,000 agriculturists who now live on the land on the existing farms. That is fallacious, in the first place, because, as everyone knows, smallholders very largely produce for their own consumption. They have their five or 10 acres of land, and they and their families live upon it. The amount they sell off their land in the general market is only a fraction of the proportion that is sold from ordinary farms. That does not apply to the poultry farms, but it does to the ordinary smallholders. They largely produce for consumption. Take again the question of acreage. If the 500,000 were to have smallholdings as large as 10 acres each on the average, which is what the average would in fact he, that would be equal to 5,000,000 acres of cultivable land. The present cultivable land of Great Britain is 44,000,000 acres, and yet by the right hon. Gentleman's over simple arithmetic he says that as 500,000 smallholders is half the number of people on the land now, therefore the smallholders would produce half as much as the present farmlands of Great Britain, which means that the 5,000,000 acres of smallholdings are to produce half as much as the 44,000,000 acres of farmlands. Further, the right hon. Gentleman says that the consumption of food in this country must be regarded as practically a fixed quantity, and that, if you have more population on the soil, that means that somehow or other you will have to cut off supplies in other directions. He said: 551I have given some thought and attention to the question of the consumption of food in this country, and it is impossible to expect any very great increase in the gross weight of consumption of food.He clinches his point by putting it in a definite form:It is a case that for big schemes of land settlement you must have drastic reduction of the importation of foodstuffs, and there is no escape from that."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1933; col. 473, Vol. 283.]That is where I think my right hon. Friend has again fallen into a grave fallacy. It is not true that there is no room for an increase in the consumption of food- in this country. A very large proportion of our population are actually underfed to-day. The report of the British Medical Association shows that a really wholesome dietary, even at the minimum, would contain more articles of food and in larger quantities than a considerable proportion of our people in the present distressful circumstances in which they live are able to purchase. Take milk, for example; it is certain that numbers of children in the poorer quarters of our towns are almost starved of milk. Any social worker will tell you that. To suggest that there is no room for expansion of the milk consumption is far from the fact. I have seen figures, but I have not been able to verify them, and I do not know whether they are authentic; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can make a statement to the House on the point. These figures show that in the United States the consumption of milk per head of the population is three times the consumption in this country, and in the Scandinavian countries it is four times. I do not know whether those figures are reliable, but it is certain that the consumption is enormously greater. If we can, by improving the condition of the people, raise the standard of consumption of these articles, there will be an enormously increased market for any number of smallholders whom you put upon the soil. It would be better if people could have liquid milk instead of condensed, and fresh fruit and vegetables in larger quantities. Poultry production in this country has increased enormously in recent years owing to the cheaper foodstuffs that have been available, to scientific research, to the egg marketing scheme, and to other measures. In Lan- 552 cashire to-day, I believe that there are more poultry than people, and the expansion that is possible in that direction, if poultry were cheap and available for working-class households, is beyond computation.
The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, in assuming that consumption is fixed and that you must cut down supply in order to fit a shrinking demand, is on the wrong lines. The whole object of our policy should be to enlarge demand in order to absorb an increased supply. The right hon. Gentleman and all those with whom he has been co-operating in other countries in the Wheat Agreement and other ways of restricting, cutting down, and destroying, is facing the wrong way. When I was in America recently I read a speech by Mr. Wallace, the Secretary for Agriculture in President Roosevelt's Cabinet, and a very able and outspoken man. He mentioned that in visiting the agricultural districts in the south of the United States, he drove on one occasion through a farm and stopped and talked to the farmer, who, he found, was engaged with a team of mules in ploughing up a large acreage of cotton plants in obedience to the instructions of the Government in order to reduce production. The plants were over a foot high, in good order and healthy, and he was ploughing them up. At the same time, on the same farm, he saw flying to and fro over the fields an aeroplane of the Agricultural Department spraying poison over the fields in order to protect the cotton _plants from the boll weevil which is the plague of cotton. Mr. Wallace said he could not help wondering whether it was worth while going to the expense of these two operations—the farmer on the one hand ploughing up the cotton plants, and the aeroplane on the other spraying the crop to save it from the boll weevil. Why not let the boll weevil do the work that was necessary? He came to the conclusion that the intelligence of insects was too small to enable them to destroy the right amount of the crop.
This illustration is of the very essence of the matter. We have now reached such a stage of things in the world, such is the lucidity of our statesmanship, that in all countries we have to take measures for burning coffee, ploughing up cotton, and reducing production here and there in every direction. In Western Canada 553 the farmers are to be saved by the depredations of the grasshopper. Only in such ways is it possible to ensure farmers getting a livelihood. To what a pass has the world come that we should pray for blight, for hail and storms, and for locusts, and that after the harvest we should go to the harvest thanksgiving services and thank God for blights and for scarcity because only by those means can our farmers receive a remuneration for their labours. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government are facing the wrong way. To increase demand and not to restrict production should be the essence of their policy.
Then the right hon. Gentleman says that our aim must be to give the farmer remunerative prices, for unless he has remunerative prices he cannot do anything. That is true, but what is meant by a remunerative price? Obviously, it is one that will give the producer over the cost of production a margin sufficient to remunerate him for his labour and his capital. An unremunerative price can be caused by one of two things: either the receipts are too low, or the costs are too high. Either will equally make a price unremunerative, and our complaint about the right hon. Gentleman is that he is not thinking about the degree in which he may be raising costs of production above what they need be.
The unremunerative prices of the farmer are largely due to the fact that you have been raising the prices of the raw materials of agriculture and fertilisers above that which they otherwise would be. Consequently, the Government, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Melton (Mr. G. Lambert), who is a keen supporter of the Government, has stated in this House have injured the farmer by a policy of restriction of supplies, taxation and so forth, such as has caused the prices of commodities needed by the farmer to be higher than they otherwise would be. That is one cause of the unremunerative prices. We can help the farmer to get remunerative prices by making things easy for him to buy as well as by making the things which he sells dearer. The Minister of Agriculture has, therefore, I submit, made a false point. His speeches are always interesting, but this was an occasion, if he will permit me to say it, when his speech, like so many of his speeches 554 in Parliament, was fluent, was confident, was plausible, but was unsound.
Now I will say a few words about the Labour Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS:" Hear, hear!"] Well, I followed the Minister for Agriculture, who also spoke upon this same Amendment. In this Amendment there is very much of which we approve and with which we concur, but we have our own Amendment on the Paper, to be moved to-morrow, which expresses the situation in the way in which we would desire to see it expressed. Therefore, we shall vote against this Amendment. [Laughter.] Well, if it were accepted it would naturally exclude our own. We prefer to move our own Amendment, in our own way, in our own terms, and that is the one which we shall recommend to the House. The right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment said, in commenting on the King's Speech, that it was remarkable not only for what it contained but for what it omitted. The same observation applies to this Amendment. Why is there no mention of the means test—not a word? 1 will venture to tell the House what may be the explanation. For my own part, I agree completely with the Leader of the Opposition that there must be some form of means test. Labour Members may complain of the form of the present means test, its principles, or the methods of administration, but they are not entitled to say that there should be no means test, they are not entitled to say that the means test should be abolished. At by-elections and in the Press hon. Members call for the abolition of the means test, but they do not do so in this House.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
Will the right hon. Gentleman permit me to direct his attention to the language of the Amendment:and to ensure a proper distribution of purchasing power, failing to reverse the unjust economies enforced upon the unemployed.We cannot write essays in drafting Amendments, but those comprehensive terms are inclusive.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
—but I was referring to the Leader of the Opposition, and I should very much like to know whether that is his position.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If the right hon. Gentleman had done me the courtesy of saying he was going to refer to what I had said on this subject I should have looked up the speech that I made here on this subject subsequent to my own statement, which I expect the right hon. Gentleman has by him, in which I said that I would not go on giving people money for ever without knowing what their position was. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Certainly. Excuse me.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On a subsequent date I stood at this Box and said that the national executive of the Labour party had met and decided that the interpretation of our resolution at Scarborough was that there should be no means test, and that the only test that should apply to a man or woman was an offer of work. I made that statement here subsequent to the other, and as I am a loyal Member of the party—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] While I remain a Member of the party I accept the majority decision of the party. I have done what very few Members have done. I walked out of this House in 1911 or 1912 because I disagreed with my party on a question connected with women's suffrage. If to-day I thought this was so important I should do so again. The party having made that decision, I took the first opportunity of telling the House of Commons about it.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Then the right hon. Gentleman, although he may think it is wrong, accepts the decision of his party—
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
—even against his own judgment. I must then read to the 556 House what the right hon. Gentleman did say here as to the means test:The hon. Member knows as well as I do what is our attitude on the subject. I am not prepared to give people money year after year without knowing what is their personal position; that is to say that if a person has gone out of ordinary benefit and has means of his own to maintain himself, I am not prepared to pay him State money.Mr. BATEY: That is new.Mr. LANSBURY: That is not new. At any rate, whether it is new or old, I am stating it. The question put to me was whether we are in favour of a means test, and I was asked what means test the late Minister of Health referred to when he spoke at this Box. It has nothing to do with the Anomalies Bill; it has to do with the transitional benefit of people going to the public assistance committees. My right hon. Friend made it perfectly clear then that the only means test that he or any of us would support was that if a person on transitional benefit was found to be possessed of his own means of living we were not going to vote for the continuance of public assistance. [Interruption.] Other hon. Members may disagree.Mr. BATEY: Of course we do.Mr. LANSBURY: That is all right. If it is said that a person who may have a business or who may have invested money and has an income, is to be maintained for ever after he has run out of benefit for which he has paid, then I do not stand for it and never have stood for it."— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 13th November, 1931; col. 446, Vol. 259.]Apparently now the light hon. Gentleman will stand for it.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman has not done me the honour of listening to what I said just now. I said the test which this party would apply would be the test of offering a man a job. That will be sufficient test to prove whether a man really needs public assistance or not. If the man takes the job, that settles it, and he is entitled, whether he has money of his own or not.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
But is the right hon. Gentleman certain that he is able to offer a job to every man who applies?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Yes, I am perfectly certain myself that if we want to test a man because we think he is cheating us it will be perfectly easy to offer him a job. [HON. MEMBERS: "Test work!"] No, not test work. I am not going to allow the right hon. Gentleman to put words into my mouth. I said, "If you want a test, offer him work"—not test work. On this matter, I can point to a 557 very long record. I have fought test work all my life, and I shall now. What I mean is work, ordinary work, at ordinary wages, under ordinary conditions.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I am afraid it would not be practicable in the present circumstances for the local assistance committees, who now have to deal with these particular cases, to say in every instance, "Here is work which is available for you," Let the House mark certain cases which have, in fact, occurred. I agree that there are many respets in which the present means test needs amending, but I have never said it ought to be abolisher, and I am perfectly convinced that if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen were to have responsibility for these matters they would find it perfectly impossible to abolish it. Here are some cases which were given by the Minister of Labour in this House a few months ago. They concerned people who were no longer in insurance and had asked for transitional payments—actually applied for public money. There was a married man with £240 in the bank and £240 in War Savings Certificates and his wife had £1,100 in the bank. Another case was that of a single man with £1,500. In another ease the applicant for transitional payment had over £1,000. A single woman had £1,700 invested. A single man was residing with his father and two brothers and the total income of the household was £14 a week. Two or three other cases were also quoted by the right hon. Gentleman as having come officially to his knowledge. How would hon. Members of the Labour party deal with such cases? Not one of them would say that such persons ought to be able to dip into the public purse and receive the full, or even any, unemployment allowance week by week at the expense of the general taxpayers.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
Would the right hon. Gentleman apply the same test to industries in receipt of money from the State?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
There is no relevance whatsoever in the observation of the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith). I have given instances of people possessing sums of money, and, if there were no means test they would be legally entitled to claim the allowance, and hon. Members are reduced to introducing irrelevancies in order to try to obscure 558 a perfectly plain point. Would hon. Members desire that those persons whose cases I have named should receive public money in perpetuity, or for any length of time? They would not. If they are not to receive public money what means would be adopted in order to eliminate such cases? The Labour party say they would offer all of them a piece of work, but we all know, as practical men, that that could not be done, and that if the. means test were abolished the consequence would be that such persons would, in fact, be receiving vast sums of public money, or sums of public money, at the expense of the general taxpayer.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
I understand, then, that the right hon. Gentleman and his party still adhere to the means test, of which they were one of the chief architects in 1931?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I certainly say there must be some test. Hon. Members of the Labour party will also be obliged to agree that there must be some means of distinguishing among people who are out of insurance those who require public assistance and those who do not. As to the details—whether the present means test is on right lines or whether it requires modification, those are matters which will be raised in this Session of Parliament on the Unemployment Bill, and that is the time when we shall be able and be required to express our opinion.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Is it not a fact that the Government have not in the past given the unemployed anything at all, that the money that has been advanced is recognised to be a loan, and that in the new Unemployment Bill, provision is made for repayment?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
That is an entirely irrelevant matter. The reason why this Amendment contains no reference to the means test, although at by-elections hon.
559 Members of the Opposition have made it a conspicuous feature, is that they could not put down in simple terms "abolish the means test" because every one of them knows that that would raise gross abuses in the disposal of public money. They could not put down an Amendment in terms to approve the means test, because that would be in contradiction to all that they have been saying at by-elections and elsewhere. Therefore, they have been reduced to silence on the matter and have not been able to put their position on the means test before the House. For reasons which I have given, we, on our part, shall move our Amendment to-morrow, and my hon. Friends will speak to it, and will state the definite constructive proposals which we wish to make. For those reasons, we do not support the Amendment now before the House.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. MACMILLAN
There is one form of quota in the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House appears to believe, and that is the quota which allots him not only a day of his own, that is, to-morrow, for his party's Amendment but also the opportunity to make a speech to-day attacking both the Government and the Official Opposition. In the first part of his remarks, he referred to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture. It is not for me to defend the figures which were given to us on Friday last. Judging from what I have seen in the public Press, and from what the right hon. Gentleman conveyed. the figures for the consumption of food concerned volume and value. I think the Minister of Agriculture spoke about the volume of food production carried on by 1,000,000 people working on the land, but when he spoke about 20,000,0000 people, he was speaking in terms of value. That was relevant to his argument on the total value of foodstuffs, and the effect which it will have upon the export trade. I think that it would be found, upon examination, that. his figures in that connection were absolutely correct.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir II. Samuel) said that he hoped that the policy of land settlement, to which he and his party were committed, and which they would explain on a more suitable occasion, would add very 560 greatly to the settlement of smallholders and the like, and he gave instances of the type of food production which he hoped to obtain in that way—eggs, milk, vegetables, fruit, etc. Many of us are anxious to see people settled on the land, but is he going to allow free imports of all those commodities into this country, in competition with those producers? Is he going to permit the free import of vegetables, fruit and milk into this country again? It seemed that the whole of his argument was based on what many of us now believe to be a complete fallacy, which is, that purchasing power is increased merely by the expansion of production. He failed to recognise that it is true of agriculture, as it is true of industry and commerce, that the increased capacity to produce which the science and invention of the nineteenth century has brought about, must be regulated, and guided into proper channels if it is to be of service to mankind. He proposed to assist production by reducing costs. What are costs? In the production of almost any article, 75 per cent. of the cost of production is represented by wages. Is it the policy of the right hon. Gentleman to reduce wages, because, by that means, he would reduce purchasing power again, and the vicious circle would begin anew. I agree with the very interesting speech made by the opener of the Debate to-day, that a general cure is required, if we are to deal even with such specific evils as the housing problem.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) spoke about the slums, and I will not attempt to reply to the points which he raised, because I understand that they are to be dealt with later in the Debate by the Minister who is in charge. The hon. Gentleman made no specific proposals, but he related the general difficulty of bad housing conditions to poverty, and that of purchasing power to the general depression. It is by finding a general cure that we shall find the means to finance both the building of new houses and the putting of money into the pockets of the people who pay for them when they are built.
In this Debate upon the Address, the Amendments have been drawn rather widely, as this is a recognised opportunity for a wide discussion of the political situation. In the third year of a Parliament, that discussion is more 561 important than at any time. It is well known that the third year of a Parliament is an important year. Members who sat in the Parliament of 1924 to 1929 will remember that that Parliament was fatally compromised by the year 1926, from which it never recovered. The third year is the period when strains begin, and stresses begin to show themselves. A party government can live without a policy, on the impetus of its own machine, and many parts of our history will show that that is true. But the only raison d'etre of a national Government is the set of circumstances which brought it into being. It must have a policy, or it must collapse.
Paradoxically, it is not the failure of the last two years but the success, which is the main source of danger to-day. The danger is lest some relaxation of pressure should make us relax our efforts. I venture to recall to the House the conditions of 1931. The great majority who sit in this House are here as National, non-party Members. Except of course the Official Opposition. That is why they are so few. If the crisis which we were called upon to meet is over, then this Administration ought to come to an end. I take it that that is the Liberal view—not that it matters very much, because they were equally unhelpful either in calm or stormy weather—but I gather that that is not the view of the Official Opposition. From the Opposition Benches, a reference was made to the Government's mandate to promote the welfare of the country, and from the brilliant cross-examination conducted by the Foreign Secretary of the Leader of the Opposition, it would appear that the Opposition believe that the crisis still exists.
The truth is that the short-term crisis is relieved, but the long-term or basic crisis remains. None of us wish to be croakers. Do not let us minimise the gain of the last two years. That there should be another 700,000 people in employment is an immense step, but do not let us exaggerate. There are other considerations which should be borne in mind. We still have 2,250,000 people unemployed. When you take the industries specifically, the unemployed averaged, in September, 1933, over 18 per cent. of our insured population. There were 32 per cent. in the coal-mining industry, 26 per cent. in building, 22 per cent. in engineering, 20 per cent. in transport, 22 per cent.
562 in cotton, 29 per cent. in iron and steel, and 54 per cent. in shipbuilding. Careful examination of the progress of business would show that the crisis is only raising slightly and slowly. There was a very careful article in the "Economist" of last month, which came to the conclusion that, if business activity continues to increase at its present rate, it will lead us back to the 1924-1929 level somewhere around the year 1939. That is a long time. The year 1929, to which we are now looking back, is a peak level of prosperity for a whole decade, but in that year a Government was flung contemptuously from Office because there were over 1,000,000 people unemployed, and that was regarded as intolerable. We might get the same level of business activity as in 1929 but with a smaller level of employment.
We have had a moderate internal expansion of trade, caused in two chief ways, the first of which is the non-payment of international debt, both public and private, which has resulted in less pressure upon foreign countries to export goods at any cost in order to collect foreign currencies to meet their foreign obligations. The second way is the tariff policy of the Government, which has given us the opportunity of expansion of the home trade. This tariff policy has two dangers. It may stimulate credit without order and without organisation, and there is the danger of over-production, resulting in the fall in the price-level, and all the circle of events which follow from that. I will venture to quote, because I think it is an important point, what was said by the President of the Board of Trade when these tariffs were first instituted. Writing in the "Newsletter" on 28th May, 1932, he said:The Government, while recognising that it cannot itself undertake the reorganisation of industry or dictate the precise lines on which reorganisation should proceed, attaches the greatest importance to this aspect of national reconstruction. The Import Duties Advisory Committee are specifically charged under the Act with the duty of watching the interests of industries and trades which use goods on which additional duties are imposed, as well as those which -produce them, and may at any time recommended the reduction or discontinuance of any of the additional duties. Further, the Board of Trade were given powers to collect compulsorily a large amount of information from protected industries which should enable a watch to 563 be kept upon the effects of the new duties. 'the Government do not mean to allow the consumer to be exploited or the tariff to be used as a shelter for inefficiency. The simplest way to avoid these results would be to reduce or remove a duty. The Government have full powers to do this.We hope that the reorganisation, which we understood was to accompany the tariff, will not be too long delayed.
As well as a moderate internal expansion, there has also been a moderate external expansion, mainly due to depreciation of sterling since we left the Gold Standard. This may be threatened by the depreciation of the dollar or of other foreign currencies. It is interesting to note that, in terms of sterling value American exports have already risen by 21 per cent. in the month of October, over October of last year. The underlying depression and its causes remain. The second wave of crisis, which was caused by the financial collapse of 1931, has been met. That has rolled back, but the basic crisis, caused by those maladjustments in the processes of the modern capitalist system which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen seems unable to understand, remains. To put it in a word, the period of salvage is over, and the period of reconstruction must begin. The Government seem to me to be in this logical dilemma: If the crisis is over, it is time that the Government came to an end and we returned to party government. If the crisis is not over, then a policy must be produced immediately. So far as it deals with economics, the King's Speech is suitable to ordinary, but not to extraordinary, times. It is a fair-weather King's Speech. The chief legislation it foreshadows, the Unemployment Bill, is palliative of the effects, not curative of the causes, of unemployment. Apart from the suggestion of fresh marketing and trading agreements, and housing policy—about which I am not sure some people are not be-corning rather uncertain—there is a Bill about beet sugar, a Bill about gambling, a Bill about illegal trawling in Scotland. These are not the Measures for a King's Speech in these times.
Signor Mussolini said recently, in a speech about the capitalist system, that it had three phases the dynamic, the static, and the decline. I hope that that may not be true of this Government. It 564 certainly had its dynamic phase—the balancing of the Budget by fresh taxation and economies; the correction of the trade balance and protection for British industry; the conversion of debt; and, above all, that brilliant agricultural policy which I believe is one of the Government's chief claims to success. But it has had its static period, the period of last year, when we were told to wait for the World Economic Conference—a blessed word, like "Mesopotamia." That was to cure all our ills, and it was used to obstruct every constructive idea. It has now passed into the limbo of forgotten things, more fossilised than all the exhibits in that famous Museum.
Why did the World Economic Conference fail? Not because of any original sin on the part of the delegates, as some people appear to think. On the contrary, a more amiable set of gentlemen London never entertained. It failed because it was bound to fail, and it is vitally necessary that its failure should be recognised and proclaimed, for, while there remains any lingering feeling, such as seems still to exist on the Liberal Benches, that there is any possibility of the world ever returning to the old trading system, no realistic or determined planned action will ever be undertaken. The Conference approached its problems on the assumption that, if agreement could be secured with regard to stabilisation, tariffs, price policies and debt reduction, the larger problems of the flow of world trade would all solve themselves. It was on the assumption that, if the superstructure of impediments in the way of the old economic system could be removed, it would revive. I believe that that was wrong, and that the Conference failed because it was studying symptoms and not causes—that all these things to which I have referred were merely symptoms that production in the world to-day exceeds what can be absorbed. Until the problem of suiting production to the market can be faced, there can be no stability in the market, for there is no method of distributing purchasing power except in the form of profits or wages. Therefore, I say, until that problem can be faced, there is no method of returning to prosperity.
Very few people to-day would maintain that the free automatic adjustments, as they were called in classical economics, of the capitalist system of the old world, 565 Can return. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen maintains it, but probably, like many collectors and connoisseurs, he would fancy any doctrine if it were sufficiently antique. The Lord President of the Council certainly could not maintain it. He made a series of very interesting speeches on this change which is coming in our whole economic system. I will quote a passage from one of them. He said the other day:We have passed into an entirely new system the end of which no man can see.The Prime Minister could not maintain it. The author of "Socialism and Common Sense" could not do so with-out stultifying his whole career. His whole life has been an effort to lead us out of the wilderness of free, uncontrolled competition, into the promised land of order. Certainly the Minister of Agriculture would not maintain it. On the contrary, he has done splendid service in the direction of control and order. He has been Aaron and Hur rolled into one, holding up the hands of a sometimes rather fatigued and uncertain Moses. I am not so sure about the President of the Board of Trade. Sometimes I have hopes of him, but sometimes he seems to have been consorting with old friends, or, perhaps, turning the leaves of forgotten text-books. If the Government admit that this cannot happen of its own free volition, but needs control and effort, they must produce a policy for industry as well as for agriculture, and do by conscious and co-ordinated effort in the twentieth century what in the nineteenth was left to uncontrolled and automatic forces.
It seems to me that something more is needed even than the present tariff policy, the financial policy, and the agricultural policy. If we cannot have a complete system of planning, there are at least special problems that can be dealt with. There is the iron and steel problem; there is the coal problem; there is the textile problem. These problems cannot be allowed to drift, but there is no mention of them in the King's Speech. In addition to dealing sectionally with these problems, we need a general co-ordination of industrial, fiscal and financial policy to restore and maintain economic equilibrium. This is not the occasion on which to develop my own view of how such a policy might be devised and to 566 do so would be tedious to the House. I welcome, above all, the agricultural policy, because I think the man that haft been behind it is just the kind of man we require in our industrial world. There seems to me to be something almost, funny about the position of some of our industrialists when they see that the old agricultural system, which we all thought was behind the times, has gone miles ahead of our other industries. As I have said, this is not the occasion on which to develop at length my own views. I have tried from time to time to give them in outline in this House and outside during the last two years, and, if I may be so daring as to say so, I hope to publish a book shortly setting out those views. I cannot promise hon. Members that they will do themselves any good, but they will do me a modest service if they care to expend the modest amount of 3s. 6d. upon it.
To sum up, I would say that I think my position is like that of very many back-bench Members in this House. I am loyal to the Government; I am loyal to the national idea. I believe from the bottom of my heart that for many years to come a, combination of men of moderate opinions and good will of all parties will be needed to solve the tremendous problems that we have before us. Ministers have a splendid record of two years. Do not let them fall into the dangerous fallacy, so flattering to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who compose all Governments, but so remote from the truth, that their mere presence on the Treasury Bench is a cure for all economic ills. Do not let them, by timidity now, endanger the work they have done. If the pendulum were to swing back, all the work that has been built up would be largely destroyed. The recent indications of popular opinion are not too favourable. I regard them not so much as a vicious stab in the back, but as a friendly spur or stimulus to the Government. The Government have, I think, the support of the country as a whole; they certainly have the support of a large majority in this House.
I have used the phrase before and I will venture to repeat it: The period of salvage is over; the period of reconstruction must begin. If, during the three years that remain of the lifetime of this Parliament, Ministers can devise and 567 carry through a comprehensive series of Measures calculated to deal not only with the secondary but with the primary causes of depression, then I believe they can look without fear to the renewed confidence of the people. Be that as it may, they will have done their duty, they will have accomplished and carried out to the full the mandate of 1931 and they will go down to posterity as a great British Administration, as a Government not Merely of all the talents but of all the achievements. But if, through a revival of party spirit, or a lack of intellectual and moral effort, they fail to exploit to the full the vast opportunity that now lies before them, then, surely, they will be arraigned, and not without justice, at the bar of history.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)
I am sure the House will feel that, if the little book which the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan) has written is up to the sample which we have had to-day of his views, it will be of very great interest, and I am quite sure that the sixpences which we may spend upon it will not by any means be wasted. [HON. MEMBERS: is 3s. 6d."] The hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow him very closely over the wide sweep which he has given to his observations, because I have specific criticisms and a specific attack to reply to. In the Amendment which has been put forward officially on behalf of 'the Opposition, the attack with which I am dealing to-day is on the ground that we have failed to restore and develop the social services in this country. There is one thing that I note with much pleasure, and that is that there has been no attack on the public health services, because I believe that as regards those great national services no criticism is possible against the present Government on the ground that it has not fully maintained and developed them.
In the second place, it is said that we are impeding the activities of the local authorities, and refusing to initiate or finance public works calculated to develop our national resources. Let me, in the first place, deal with the last subject of attack, which was also the last subject dealt with by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), namely, that of 568 public works. I have but to reiterate what has been said on behalf of the Government on previous occasions, namely, that there is no truth whatever in any accusation or suspicion that there is any policy on the part of the Government to prohibit or in any way hinder the normal development of useful public works. I quote but a, single figure to illustrate that that cannot be alleged against the Government. In the course of the past two years the total loans sanctioned for public works, excluding houses, amount to £46,000,000. They show at the present time an increase rather than a decrease. As I have previously explained also, the percentage of loans put forward by local authorities which have been refused by the Government approaches negligibility.
The fact is that, in so far as there has been a falling off in the total amount of public work loans, as a measure of the total amount of public works achieved, that has been due to two causes:—in the first place the cessation of the artificial stimulus, the Exchequer grants, and, in the second place, the realisation by the local authorities themselves that it is their duty in such times as these not to impose any unnecessary burdens upon the ratepayer, as it is the duty of the Government to impose no unnecessary burden on the taxpayer. On previous occasions in dealing with this matter I have said it is the policy of the Government to promote all useful productive public works, even to go out and look for them, and I wish to deal to-day with one such object of policy in which the search for a public work that might be done has been rewarded with success, and which it is the intention of the Government to promote.
We have dealt on several occasions with the rural housing problem and, in connection with that, the question of rural health looms very large indeed and, in connection with rural health, there is no subject of more urgent importance than the question of a good water supply. I have been giving very close attention to this subject—so has the House—and on the annual Estimates of my Ministry I said that, if I were able to say, "Here is public money to spend on some public purpose for the benefit of the public health and the improvement of conditions," I think there is no purpose on which money could be better spent than in improving the rural water supply.
569 Since May, drought has shown that the urban supplies are mostly adequate, but, at the same time, has shown us the serious position of numbers of rural parishes. A good deal has been done since the War in rural areas, and loans have been sanctioned amounting to several millions, but many more schemes are needed. Are such schemes likely' to be undertaken without help'? I sent a circular in May to county and rural district councils urging them to utilise their powers under the Local Government Act, 1889, of making contributions to the cost of rural water schemes. An increasing number of local authorities are making use of those powers, but, nevertheless, the Government has decided that sufficient use is not being made and that something further must be done. The provision of water supplies in rural areas is primarily a question of cost. Even after the county and the rural district councils have made every contribution that we can expect from them, and the consumer has made his proper contribution, there must remain in a good many areas a great deficiency which it is beyond the power of the parish to supply.
In view of that burden, the Government have decided that further assistance should be given. The provision of this assistance is necessary in the interests of rural life and, above all, in the interests of public health. We propose that the Government assistance should take the following form. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed to put at my disposal for the purpose £1,000,000. This sum will he used to make grants towards the capital cost of water schemes in rural areas prepared and initiated within the next few years. I shall shortly introduce a Bill, the terms of which I need not anticipate, except to say that each case will have to be judged on its merits. In order to make the capital sum go as far as possible, it is essential that all the local authorities concerned, including county and district councils and the consumers of water, should bear their fair proportion of the cost. 'Where, after such contributions have been allowed for, the water schemes will not be promoted because of the prospect of a heavy charge on the parish rate, the Exchequer grant will be used to mitigate the local burden. Consideration will be given to the level of the existing rates and the prospective rate that the provision of an adequate 570 water supply will involve. 1 should like to make it clear that the provision of Government assistance in this matter is in no way a weakening of the Government's general policy of abstention from any form of any unremunerative relief work. It stands on a different basis altogether. The water scheme stands upon its own basis of merit as an essential scheme for the public health of the country. I am confident that the Government provision will be welcomed as a real contribution to a very urgent need. I regard this constructive work as the complement, on the rural side, to the work, to which I shall refer later, which we are doing in respect of the abolition of the evil of slums.
Now let me turn to the principal attack that has been launched upon the Government, the attack upon their housing policy. The first impression that I have about this is that there is no difference whatever about the end in view. We have the same end, in the first place the provision of an adequate supply of houses for wage-earners, and particularly small houses to let, and in the second place not only the provision of an adequate quantity but the raising of the standard of quality, particularly by tackling the grave evil of the slums. The difference is not in object but in method. Putting it against myself as clearly as I can, the criticism of the hon. Member for East Woolwich is that we are not getting the houses for the wage-earners, particularly houses to let for manual workers, as fast as we might because we have abolished the subsidy. I am confident that attention to the actual facts and figures of the existing state of affairs will satisfy the candid inquirer that those criticisms are not justified. Since the abolition of the housing subsidy last year, we are overtaking the shortage faster than we were before. To listen to the hon. Member for East Woolwich and to other critics on the front Opposition bench one would suppose that all the expectations that were formed when we abolished the general subsidy last year have been falsified. That is not the case. On the whole they have been justified.
The policy of the Government then was, and now is, that you can at present take advantage of the great fall in the cost of building to get rid of the subsidy and thus remove from the path of private enterprise the competition of subsidised build- 571 ing, with the result of restoring the supply of this essential commodity. Have those expectations been justified or not? The first consequence that was expected from the abolition of the general subsidy was a fall in the cost of building. That has happened. At the time the subsidy was abolished, the economic rent of a three-bedroom house built by a local authority was 8s. 2d. It has now fallen to 7s. 7d. owing to the continuing fall in the cost of building. I am not arguing now, any more than I did at the time, that that is a necessary consequence of the abolition of the subsidy. I only observe that in history the abolition of a subsidy has always been followed by a fall in the cost of building, and, of course, in proportion our hopes of an improved supply are raised. The financial argument for the abolition of the subsidy, which was strong then, has been strengthened to that extent at present. In the present state of the national Exchequer there could surely be no greater impropriety than to use public money for subsidies which are not required, and if the figures are carefully considered they will show that the subsidy, which was on the point of becoming unnecessary when it was abolished, has since been exhibited to be actually unnecessary for the margin of safety to which I have referred.
What was the other expectation from the abolition of the general subsidy? It was that competition would increase the normal supply by private enterprise. Since the abolition of the subsidy we have seen something in the nature of a house building boom. In the 12 months to the end of September last, 218,000 houses have been built, a larger number than was provided for in the original programme of Mr. Wheatley for the year 1933. The original expectations have actually been exceeded owing to the stimulus received by housebuilding. Of those houses 169,000, an increase of 36,000 on the previous year, have been provided by private enterprise. This good result, at any rate, has been obtained, that we have broken all previous records for the construction of houses by private enterprise. I am glad to say that at present that rate of building is actually being maintained. We have watched with incessant scrutiny whether the rate has been maintained or not, ready for 572 the danger signal of it falling off. It is not a situation that can be dealt with by anything but ceaseless vigilance. At present, judging by the number of plans passed for houses, that rate of building is being maintained. The hon. Member for East Woolwich gave many figures on the subject of employment in the building industry. The one fact that he did not bring out was that, since the abolition of the subsidy, unemployment in the building trade has been decreased by 77,000. It is not enough—we hope, and he hopes, that it may continue—but it is a good sign. I have been dealing with signs and not with final achievements. It is still in process, and we are watching to see whether the movement is in the right direction.
I come to the next subject of criticism. It is said, "Yes, the number of houses being built has increased, but they are not houses for the manual workers; they are not small houses to let." Let us see what they are. 86 per cent. of those houses are houses of less than £26 rateable value, or in the Metropolitan area. That means, in the ordinary acceptance of the term, that they are houses for wage-earners, either black-coated or manual workers. They are not all houses for manual workers—certainly not. But remember that the more houses that are built for some class of wage-earner, even the black-coated wage-earner, the more it will relieve the pressure upon the lower type of accommodation to let. Hon. Members will hear in their constituencies in the great cities of the "moving-up" of tenants of the municipal houses into new houses built by the building societies for sale, thus releasing accommodation for this purpose. Assuming that all these 86 per cent. of the houses are not small houses to let for the manual workers, the vital question is, is there an increase of the provision of small houses let to manual workers by private enterprise? You cannot get it from the published returns, but, in order to provide the House with the information it should have, I am having a test examination made by the Department of the private enterprise houses built in the last 12 months. It is now in progress, and at the present time it has covered 14 per cent., a pretty big sample distributed over every type of area. I learnt, judging by the sample, that 38 per cent. of these private enterprise houses built 573 in the course of the last year were houses of below £13 rateable value, or £20 in the Metropolitan Police district. What does that mean? It means that they are "C" class houses within the acceptance of our classification for Rent Restriction. In general they are houses of the type that can be occupied by manual workers subject, of course, to exceptions, but generally of that type.
§ Mr. McENTEE
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is 38 per cent. of the whole, or 38 per cent. of the 218,000 houses?
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I will have it worked out. 38 per cent. of the private enterprise houses for wage earners are houses of the "C" type. But even more interesting still—and I acknowledge, to me, a great surprise—is that 19 per cent. of the houses so built are houses to let, and not houses to sell. What shall we say about this'? What does this give us? I am not saying that the great bulk of these new houses are small houses to let for wage earners; they are not. They are houses to buy, and most of them are appropriate only to the black-coated wage earners, but the figures which I have given to the House clearly show that we have here a substantial and unexpected increase in the amount of attention which is being paid by private enterprise and the private investor to the small house to let for the wage earner. It is a sign, a tendency, a most interesting consequence, of the abolition of the subsidy.
Another feature which I want to put against myself is that at the time of the abolition of the subsidy the building societies proposed to me a scheme for the building of houses to let under a guarantee scheme which is familiar to the House. Seeing in it an opportunity for a valuable auxiliary in the provision of small houses to let, I accepted their suggestion and incorporated it in the Act. The beginning of the working of that scheme has been very slow indeed. I think that the reason is plain, because building societies up to the present time have had full occupation for their activities in the provision of small houses for sale. That is their business, and 574 naturally and intelligibly so. As long as their proper business is available, as it has been in the past year, it is natural that they should not take much interest in the new guarantee scheme. I shall not expect as much use to be made of the new guarantee scheme as we might hope for until the demand for small houses to buy and sell is nearer saturation point than it is at the present time. But there are strong indications in the more expert quarters that at the present time the demand for small houses to buy and sell is near saturation point. When that comes it will be natural to expect the increased activity of the building societies and the investor in the provision of small houses to let. Let me make it clear to the House once more that in giving the facts and figures of the present position I have not been assuming anything with regard to the future.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Will my right hon. Friend allow me to put a question before he passes to another part of the subject? Has he any information, or can he give the House any indication, of the type of landlord to whom he looks to produce the small houses to let, and who is actually producing that number of which he bas spoken as being produced at the present time?
§ Sir H. YOUNG
There is no single type. It is possibly the beginning, if my expectations are realised, of the return of several types to the business. There is the small investment trust—the big investment trust is not yet in the field—run by a few specialists interested in house building. The local tradesman who has saved money and who desires to invest it in something concrete is also beginning to return. But principally it is the building society at the present time.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
As I have said, I do not want in any respect to exaggerate the tendency which I have described with regard to actual building at the present time. The majority of private enterprise building has consisted of the building, through building societies, of small houses to buy, but there are these interesting indications from an unexpected quarter of a sort of building which is 575 more in accordance with the special needs we have under consideration.
But this criticism will be made, and should be made, of the Government policy. It is said that in all this there is too much reliance placed upon what may or may not happen in the future. It may be asked, "What is happening in the meanwhile? Are not we going short of the proper supply of small houses to let for the manual worker?" As regards that matter, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and misapprehension. The fact is that at the present time the special need of the country for small houses to let for the manual worker is still being provided by subsidised building. Let me make this clear. I do not mean the building of houses for the replacement of slum houses owing to slum clearance under the Act of 1930, but subsidised building still going on under the Wheatley subsidy. The House will remember that we have power to continue a big overlap of subsidised building by the local authorities in order to cover what I used to refer to as the transition period. That has been in progress during the past 12 months, and is actually in progress now.
There is a misapprehension in regard to this subject, and how deep it may be is shown by the speech of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), who said that housing has been closed down as far as the municipalities are concerned. There could be no more profound misconception. In the course of the 12 months to the end of September last the municipalities built 44,000 subsidised houses of the type for the manual worker, and at the present time there are 40,000 such houses still to complete. Those figures, I am confident, will convince the House that, at the present time, partly owing to the increase of private enterprise and partly owing to the continuation of the subsidy, we are maintaining adequately the supply of small houses to let, and that, with the 40.000 houses which remain to be built under the subsidy, we still have a good margin to run off before we come to the end of the effect of subsidised building.
You may say, "What then?" I will outline what I think to be the attitude of common sense upon that point. Private enterprise at the present time 576 has a great opportunity of stepping into the field and providing the nation with this essential service of the small house to let. It has the ability to do it, and the best means to obtain the supply of that commodity is to encourage it to do it, and to bring into relation once more the natural forces of supply and demand on a commercial basis. There is no reason in the nature of things why this one great essential service should be the only one in which we cannot secure a supply of houses without a subsidy. It may be—and no man can foresee the future—that private enterprise may not do so, and in that case we shall have to seek other means. We are maintaining no abstract theory of the way in which the supply should be obtained. We shall take whatever means are necessary for the purpose. We have the second line of insurance, namely, the obligation and duty of the local authorities to meet the housing needs of their inhabitants. have shown the House already that owing to the fall in building costs they can now do so without subsidy. It is their duty to do so, in so far as private enterprise does not. They are as free to do so as ever.
Let me turn to the other aspect of criticism which has been made against the housing policy of the Government on the subject of slum clearance. As is always the case, I think, when there is any action in progress, we find two types of critics—those who think that we are going too slow, and those who think that we are going too fast. I will deal to-day in particular with the criticism expressed by the hon. Member for East Woolwich that the programmes of slum clearance are inadequate, and will not meet the case. Let us see the actual state of affairs. We have requested the local authorities to hold a grand review of their slum conditions, and to prepare their programmes for dealing with the evil within five years. The local authorities have done this under the influence of a wave of public opinion upon this subject which, I think, is almost an unexampled expression of public opinion on any matter connected with housing within our memory. They have prepared their programmes, and they are now sending them in.
Let me report progress to the Hone on the state of those programmes. There are 1,717 local authorities, the greater 577 number of them country districts not so particularly concerned with slum questions as others. Of these 1,717 authorities, all but 45 have now either submitted to me their programmes or satisfied me that they are taking action and that their programmes are coming along. There are 45 laggards, all of them, I think, in country districts. As to these I have only to say that the sands are running out and we must have a time limit within which if the programmes are not submitted we must proceed to inquiry under the Act of 1930, which is the first step to putting into force my authority as Minister of Health to secure that they do take action.
I may be asked: "What about the programmes I have received? Are they in all cases adequate?" It may be asked: "Have you accepted them all on their face value?" That is not the way on which administration must proceed. Anyone acquainted with the practical business of administration in such a matter will be well aware that there is ample scope for persuasion, exhortation, and all those forms of negotiation which can be put into effect when one is not satisfied prima brie with a programme submitted by a local authority. After that, I am still left with a small class of local authorities whose programmes are inadequate. Negotiations with them are, of course, being actively continued. There, again, I will only say this, that we cannot allow an indefinite extension of time for these negotiations. We are entitled to expect that all local authorities should follow the example of the best and that they should all start down the course together; and it is our business to secure that by the application of a time limit there is such a general start.
What is the result of these general programmes? The programmes are for the clearance of some 200,000 houses and more. On previous occasions when I have spoken in the House I have had to give that number as an estimate based upon the programmes received. I am glad to say that I can now give it as a firm figure based on the programmes actually received or known to be coming in. We are assured of that figure. Is that figure enough or is it not? Will the House remember what it is we are dealing with? We are dealing with houses which are unfit for habitation, which have to be 578 cleared away, and cleared away without compensation to the owner; a specific class of house, susceptible, in the judgment of practical men, of a clear definition. Other estimates have been put forward for a much larger figure—4,000,000, 1,500,000, and 1,000,000. By taking a quite different class of house, which is capable of improvement, which is capable of reconditioning, you may, if you put those in, get a larger figure than 200,000 houses. But we must not lose our path. If this slum campaign is to be such as will give us success we must concentrate, in the first place, upon the clearance of that class of house unfit for habitation, for which the owner may expect no compensation. Therefore, I say that this figure of 200,000 is the considered judgment of the local authorities, who are the best authorities, with the greatest knowledge on the subject, having made the most complete, the fullest and the most strenuous survey of their slum problems that has ever been made in this country. That is a far better basis for action than any other estimate of slum clearance that we have had in our time, and it is an adequate and full basis for our action.
On the other hand, there are those who say we are going too fast, and apprehensions are expressed lest injustice should be done to the owners of these slum houses. I think there is no difference about the basic principle that where a house is unfit for habitation it ought not to be inhabited, and if it cannot be inhabited, no compensation should be paid, because it has no value. Reasonable doubts and apprehensions come from a different reason, and that is in regard to the house which is fit for habitation or business premises which are included in a slum area and which under the Act of 1930 may be cleared away without compensation. Most of these apprehensions I think will be removed if we realise the conditions. They can only be so cleared away where they are dangerous to health for some reason or another, by too much crushing together, and so on, and, as 1 have said before, and it is my duty to repeat it, careful administration will be required both from the local authorities and the Minister of Health to avoid injustice in this respect—to avoid injustice to the owner of premises fit for habitation or the owner of business pre- 579 mises in a slum area which are not in themselves dangerous to health. That shall be the spirit of the administration under the existing law.
In order to give a complete account of the policy of the Government in respect of the slum clearance campaign, I must deal with reconditioning. In the Gracious Speech from the Throne, reference was made to the work of reconditioning and the approaching legislation on that subject. In one respect I agree with the hon. Member for East Woolwich that we should be wasting our efforts and the slum campaign would die away if we looked upon the reconditioning of houses as a substitute for clearance. The core of the problem is clearance. There are rotten sores in the great cities. There is no doubt that they must go, and we must not weaken our hands by allowing it to be thought that tinkering with them is any substitute for eradication. It is not, and for that reason His Majesty's Government have taken this matter in two stages. They have dealt with the clearance problem first in order that that should be clearly defined before we get on to the second stage of reconditioning.
There may be criticisms of that method, but the intention I think was sound, that of making sure that you can define the clearance programme before you come to the reconditioning programme. But I do not agree with the hon. Member for East Woolwich when he belittles the whole work of reconditioning, as if there was nothing in it of worth. That is not a right judgment of the problem. There are existing slums and there are also slums in the making, not modern houses, not houses built in this century. The slums in the making are houses built 40 to 50 years ago which are beginning to drop back. We should be making a feeble and temporary effort if we took no steps to prevent the creation of fresh slums, and an effective way of preventing that is by stimulating the work of reconditioning.
The House will not expect me this afternoon to anticipate the actual terms of legislation which will be introduced, but I may say that we have had a most interesting inquiry by Lord Moyne's Committee, upon which many Members of this House, of great knowledge and authority, 580 have served, which has produced for the consideration of His Majesty's Government, the House and the country, a series of recommendations of the greatest practical importance and interest. The legislation will deal with the matters covered by the Committee and it will be the policy of His Majesty's Government to further that legislation with these ends: to strengthen the hands of the local authorities to deal with reconditioning in their areas and to promote that reconditioning by ordered programmes. I mean by that, programmes in which they shall classify their houses and say that such and such a class of house shall be reconditioned at once and will last for 20 years, and another class of house shall be taken up next, and when they gradually deteriorate, recondition them. I do not see how any true value can be got out of this work unless the reconditioning programme is as much ordered and established as the clearance programme.
In the second place, it will be the policy of His Majesty's Government to promote a work second to none in importance—the improvement of management conditions. There is no stronger force for saving houses from going downhill than encouragement and education of the tenants in keeping them nicely. Some local authorities have set a good example in this work in the past. The public utility societies have a fine record in work of this sort, hut on the whole as much as might be done has not been done, and any measures that can be taken in order to improve conditions in that respect will certainly be taken on a practical basis. Further, it will be an object of the policy of His Majesty's Government to foster and increase the activity of voluntary work for better housing conditions organised in the public utility societies. In the past their efforts may have been in a small field, but any man who has made himself acquainted at first hand with these efforts must know that they are the seeds of promise for the future, and that we have there forces which are well worth while enlisting and reinforcing as auxiliaries for the housing of the country, and anything that can be done for that purpose should be done.
Such is the main outline of the situation which I have to lay before the House. I would summarise it in a few 581 words. We are engaged as regards the slum campaign upon the biggest effort and on the surest basis that is possible that the country has ever seen. If I may say one final word it would be this, that it would be a matter of infinite regret if needlessly this question of a national effort against the slums were to become over much embroiled in party controversy. Criticism is welcome, criticism acknowledging 'a common end, and designed to promote and increase that end, but I am sure that no Member of this House and nobody acquainted with the conditions so feelingly described by the hon. Member for East Woolwich would ever desire to make use of this question as a mere means of destructive criticism or party warfare. Such, indeed, shall not be the desire of His Majesty's Government. We believe that the basis for our action is sound. We believe that this is the surest and safest path of progress, and we welcome for that purpose all the help that can be obtained, trusting that we may continue along this path, recognising the common object and not Allowing our efforts to be wasted in unnecessary dissension.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
The right hon. Gentleman, in his last remarks, urged that the question of the housing of the people, particularly those in the slums, should not be used for party purposes, and I am sure that everyone who heard the speech of the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks) will agree that his criticisms were moderate and constructive in character and that it was not a speech made merely for party purposes. In regard to the question of slum clearance, I congratulate the Minister of Health on having the good sense to see the importance of the criticisms which have been levelled against his policy. In the first place, "the estimate was for some 12,000 houses per annum—
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I know that the hon. Member does not want to misrepresent me, but 12,000 houses per annum was 582 never given as the actual number; it was mentioned as a provisional figure for the first year.
§ Mr. McENTEE
If it was only meant as an estimate for the first year, then the Government were not very emphatic in saying so.
§ Mr. McENTEE
In that case I misunderstood him, and I accept the correction. At any rate, the belief in the country was that the policy of the country was based on 12,000 houses a year, which was strongly criticised, and we are pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has now come up to the higher standard of 40,000 houses a year. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that one or two things have happened recently. One has been the fall in the cost of building. There has been a fall in the cost of building material as in the price of everything else, but it cannot be argued that it has been the result of the 1933 Act or the housing policy of the Government generally. There has been a general fall in prices. But while the right hon. Gentleman rather gloried in the fact that there had been a fall in the cost of building materials, he and his colleagues in the Government are endeavouring to raise the price of other materials. What the Minister did not tell us and what the public ought to know is that, although there has been a fall in the cost of building materials, the rents of houses have increased. That is the important factor. The rents of houses which have been built before and after the 1933 Act generally speaking have increased. As a matter of fact, you cannot take a subsidy away suddenly without increasing the rent, unless the price of building materials and the cost of labour fall far more than they have, in fact, fallen.
What has been the result of these increases in rents? Obviously, people who desire to move consider first of all the rent, and if they find, as a consequence of the policy of the Government, that the rents of similar houses are now higher, they cannot occupy as good a house as they did before. The result has been that many people have been compelled to go into smaller houses rather than live in one of the houses about which the Minister has been talking. Does the Min- 583 ister or any Member of the Government or any Member of this House imagine that the average mechanic can live in a house which is assessed at £26 a year the provinces? He cannot do it. There is scarcely one of the mechanic class living in any part of the country who can possibly live in a house assessed at £26 a year, and in London the position is worse, as the assessment would be £35. The Minister says that 38 per cent.—I suppose that is 38 per cent. of the 86 per cent.—of the houses are assessed under £14 a year, and that 19 per cent. are houses to let. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman as to whether it was 38 per cent. of 86 per cent., and by the same process of reasoning I assume that the 19 per cent. which are to let is la per cent. of the 38 per cent. If that is the case surely the Minister has nothing about which he can be proud; that is, if as a consequence of all the public advertisements and the expenditure of public money only 19 per cent. of 38 per cent., or of 86 per cent., are houses to let.
I have taken the trouble to find out just what the boom in regard to building societies amounts to. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman that he has had many consultations with building societies, who are acting as a sort of union to help the Government in their housing problem generally. We have heard in this House about the good will of building societies in lending money cheaply. How many have, in fact, lent money cheaply? I have a list here, it is three weeks old and the figures may have altered a little, but I find that only five out of all the building societies in the country have been operating the Act and lending money under it. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman as to the number of houses that had been guaranteed by local authorities under the 1933 Act, and in reply was told 13,000. And the Minister of Health wonders why we criticise the slowness of the programme; and the Foreign Secretary gets quite indignant because we suggest that the Government are complacent.
It is all very well for the Minister of Health to tell us about the reports he is getting. If the country had received any benefit from all the reports made to the Ministry of Health all our problems would have been solved half a century 584 ago. Some of us remember these reports and their effect. We also remember the promises which were made by the right hon. Gentleman himself in regard to the 1933 Act, and I am justified in wondering whether we shall get any results from the present policy. I believe I am justified in saying that we shall not get '200,000 houses under this slum clearance scheme; and that the Government know perfectly well that they will not. Is it possible to get 200,000 houses under the terms the Government are offering? Ordinary building will go on in the same way as it is now; and that is not much to boast about. It is proposed to build 200,000 houses under slum clearance. I should like to know, and local authorities would also like to know, whether there is going to be any change in policy between now and the end of the five years in regard to the subsidy. Will the subsidy be continued for the five years? Suppose you build 40,000 houses under slum clearance and also go on with your ordinary building programme, is it possible with the present number of men in the building industry, and with the present facilities for manufacturing materials, to carry out that programme and at the same time carry out the ordinary building programme? I suggest. that it is not. I say definitely that it is riot possible with the present supply of building materials to carry out anything in the nature of a big slum clearance scheme and also build ordinary houses for working class people.
The Minister has said that there has been something in the nature of a boom in the building industry. That is true. He did not tell us the cause. I will not go into that matter myself, but what was the result of that boom? Many of those who were building the type of house we want to see built could not get materials to go on with the building of their houses, and when this small boom was on the natural result was that prices went up. The Minister is doing nothing whatever to control prices—a very important thing if he intends to carry out his slum clearance.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
It is a very important point. In what way does the shortage of material prevent building in co11nnection with slum clearance? Of course the clearance of slums means that a large amount of old material will be available for rebuilding. The new houses 585 that replace the slums will not require so much material as new houses built elsewhere. Why should there be any reduction in the number of houses built?
§ Mr. McENTEE
I would like to oblige the hon. and gallant Gentleman by answering him, but I do not quite know what he means. Is be saying that old material that comes out of the slums is to be used up?
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
Yes. Every builder knows that that will be the case to some extent. I did not understand the hon. Member's point that because of shortage of material there would be less building in consequence of slum clearance.
§ Mr. McENTEE
If the hon. and gallant Member desires to see old. material taken out of the existing slums used in the new houses, I do not agree with him. We desire decency in the new houses and do not wish to see much of that old material used.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I am trying to make my point and the hon. and gallant Gentleman can make his later. I say that there is a definite shortage of building material. A month or two ago there were people who desired to build ordinary houses for the working classes. Here I am speaking of something I know about, because I was one of those who took some part in building those houses. Two or three months ago it was almost impossible to get bricks to build houses. The shortage has been made good to some extent, but even now it is not easy to get bricks for houses. The same statement applies to many other things besides bricks. If there is a really big increase in building, what is called a big drive, unless the Minister is prepared to induce manufacturers to increase their output of building materials, the drive will not be effective. With regard to the men employed I have figures showing that there are 313,000 building trade workers employed. Some of them are mechanics, but most of them are labourers. A few weeks ago it was impossible to get a plasterer for any money. In June last only 4,000 plasterers in the whole country were out of work. Envisage the position which the Minister put before us to-day, the building of 40,000 additional houses per year.
586 Imagine that the increase in ordinary housebuilding continues as the Minister hopes it will continue. I say definitely that unless some provision is made for a greater supply of materials, and of the workmen in some trades, it will be utterly impossible to get those houses built. I want the Minister to consider that point.
The Minister said that if private enterprise does not succeed in building the houses the monicipality has a duty. It is extraordinary to me that all the plums are always left to private enterprise, and that if private enterprise does not succeed—it never does—then the municipality has to come to the rescue and the ratepayers are to make up the deficit. Yet the Minister says he hopes there will not be any increase in rates or taxes generally. I believe it will be necessary to come back to the municipalities again. I do not mean that private enterprise will have to be put out of business, at any rate not in the near future, though I hope that ultimately that will happen. I am not contemplating that within the next five years, however. Meanwhile, I am glad to see every possible means used to get houses built—private enterprise, building societies and municipalities.
I have a letter here. It is broadly about the King's Speech rather than the housing problem. It is full of abuse of me personally. That is something that I am not altogether unacquainted with. Unfortunately for myself I am associated with another Member of this House, the Prime Minister, who has a prefix similar to my own. This correspondent gives me the budget of his household, and he asks me what he is to do. Frankly, I cannot tell him, nor can any Member of the House. We can make speeches here, and make laws and regulations, and inflict conditions on people, but there is no Member of this House who can tell a man how to live. I know the house in which this man lives. I was responsible with others for the building of it. It is a municipal house, owned by the municipality. I with others took part in an agitation for the Ministry of Health to reduce the rent to what it is now, but we cannot get any further reduction. This man has a wife and child. He says:They give me at the Labour Exchange £1 5s. 3d. each week. Out of that the municipality, for rent, takes 16s. 6d. from me. Under the terms of my agreement with the municipality I am not allowed to sub- 587 let. If I do I may be evicted from the house. If evicted there are no other houses available and nowhere I can go, except, of course, to the workhouse. That leaves me 8s. 9d., out of which I pay for electric light to the municipality ls. That is not excessive. I pay to the gas company, for cooking stove, ls. also, to cook for the family for the week. I pay for 1 cwt. of coal a week, 2s. 3d. Insurances I do not pay, although I am insured. They are in arrears; I cannot pay. I have no amusements. I spend nothing on anything else but rent, electric light, gas and coal, and I have 4s. 3d. left to keep a wife and child and myself for a week.He asks me how he can do it. I cannot tell him, and there is no one in the House who can tell him. But the King's Speech says it must be done, and the Government policy says that the man has to live. If I were in his place I would say publicly, as I say now, that I should get a living for myself and wife and child honestly, if I could, but I would get it. If I did not do that I should feel that I was less than a man. I do not believe there is a man in this House who, if he had a wife and child for whom he had any regard and he were compelled to endeavour to live at a standard such as that, who would do otherwise than get a living somehow, even he had to steal to get it. After all, what is a man to do? I have been in a position somewhat similar to that. Fortunately for me I was able to get out of it reasonably early. But there are men in that position who have been in it for a year, two years, three years and even four years. Do hon. Members wonder that the British Medical Association reported the other day that the standard of the health of the people is deteriorating day by day because of starvation? How can they do otherwise than starve? The hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) may differ from me, as I differ from him. I would not have done what he did. But the hon. Member is referred to in this letter as one who had done a service to his countrymen.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I want to raise my protest against that condition of things in a different way from that adopted by the hon. Member for Shettleston. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was terribly concerned that if 588 there were no means test a few people might get away with public money to which they were not entitled. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman has thought at all that there are hundreds and thousands of men who are in receipt of transitional benefit and Poor Law relief. He seems to wonder whether he would be able to pick out perhaps six, or perhaps 100, or perhaps even 1,000 people who, in his judgment, would not be entitled to the benefit. I would much rather see a condition such as he was so anxious not to see, a few people getting away with public money in circumstances such as he thought might occur if the means test were abolished, than see the terrible hardship and misery and suffering that exist to-day as a consequence of the means test. One would imagine that it was something new in our British story for people who are not entitled to it to get away with public money.
I interjected a remark, when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, about a certain member of the police force who, according to the answer to a Question on Thursday, is drawing £1,660 in pension from the public purse and at the same time drawing his salary as the Chief of the Police Force in the Metropolis. Nobody raises the question that he is getting away with that public money; nobody applies or desires to apply a means test to him. I want to know why they should not, and why a means test should not be applied to anybody in this House or outside it who is getting public money. If the principle is right in one case it is equally right in another, and it is just as much a scandal to give public money to people in high places with incomes not twice, but 10 or 50 times as big as the incomes of some of the people who, the right hon. Member for Darwen is so afraid, might get away with a few shillings of the public money every week. I am more concerned about men like the one I referred to in my letter. I say that the Government are complacent. In spite of all that was said by the Foreign Secretary on Friday, he adopted the practice which is said to be adopted by lawyers—a saying in which there is a good deal of truth—" If you have no case yourself, abuse the other side." He certainly took every opportunity of abusing my hon. Friend who is sitting below me, instead of dealing with the actual case presented against him. He did not touch 589 on one bit of it except for a small reference to foreign policy.
I hope that the Minister will succeed with his housing policy. Everybody in the House who has the welfare of the country at heart—everyone, whatever his political views may be—will desire to see our people reasonably and decently housed. If the Minister can succeed, of which I am doubtful, I will not because of our political differences begrudge him that meed of praise to which he may be entitled. But the Government stand condemned because they have been two years in office and cannot point to anything more than they have presented in the King's Speech. The Gentleman who spoke before me regretted that we should be dealing with pettifogging little things while the people are starving. Private enterprise has shown its inability to manage industry, and there is no industry in the country to-day that is not going to the dogs as a consequence of that inability—shipping, coal, agriculture.
I am old enough to remember when we Socialists used to meet in the early days of our propaganda. I was one of the earliest, and I see one or two other early Members sitting opposite me on the Government Benches. I was speaking of them only to-day when putting question Number 40 on the Paper, referring to black rats. They used to be with rue in those days in our criticism of the existing state of society, and we were always met by the reply that industry was perfectly well able to manage itself and that it did not need any assistance from the State. Private enterprise was said to contain people who in those days were described as "captains of industry," who were able to manage all the industries in the country. They used to say, "Keep the hands of the State off industry; do not interfere with it; let it manage its own affairs." There is not one of those captains of industry who is not applying for the aid of the State to-day, and there are very few who are not receiving it.
The right hon Gentleman spoke of the possibility of a working man getting away with a few shillings weekly when he had a few pounds in the bank. He does not talk of those industries that are getting away with millions of pounds annually as a consequence of what is given them by this Government and has been given them 590 by previous Governments. They all want public help and are all getting it. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to forget, when he talks about the dole, that the Government are doling out millions of pounds to their friends to keep industry from collapse entirely. The beet sugar industry and the farming industry, to take only two examples, are being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in his regenerate or unregenerate days, I do not know which, before he joined his present party—or came back into it before going out and coming in again; at any rate, in one of his transition periods—referred to "shovelling out public money by the bucket." That is what the Government are doing to-day. Do not concern yourselves too much about a few shillings which may overflow into the pockets of that section of the unemployed which has a few pounds in the Post Office Savings Bank or in War Savings. It will not matter very much; at the most it cannot represent more than a few thousands of pounds in any one year. You are shovelling out hundreds and thousands of pounds to numbers of people who object to a means test, but who ought not to get the money that they get to-day.
The Government two and a-half years ago, intended to do a number of things which they have not done. The country is no better off to-day than it was then; It is in very many respects worse off, and the public are finding that those messages that were sent to them over the wireless and through the Press were all, as we described them at the time, false and untrue. The result of the Government's failure to carry out their policy generally is coming home to them in the results of the by-elections.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I intend to confine my observations to one passage in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I think the matter can be raised in the terms of the Amendment. I do not see any Minister whom it seems immediately to concern; as far as I am aware it affects Scotland, but perhaps the Under-Secretary will be broadminded enough, if it does not, to convey the complaint of a Sassenach to the proper quarter. The passage to which I allude is to the effect that a Measure regulating the hours 591 of employment of young persons and other conditions in the distributive trades will be submitted to this House. I hope the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan) will not think that matter too insignificant to be included in the Gracious Speech. Those of us who served on the Standing Committee which dealt with the Children and Young Persons Bill, now on the Statute Book, are "once bit, twice shy." Successive Governments have made pledges on this matter that have not been redeemed in full. Section 19 of the Act embodied a Bill that was introduced in another place by Lord Astor, to whom I should like here to pay a tribute for his consistent championship of the cause of the young worker. But that Act is insufficient to obviate a large amount of sweating which is now going on in shops, warehouses, refreshment rooms, restaurants and the distributive trades. The Act of 1933, it is true, enables local authorities to frame regulations dealing with youthful employés such as van boys, errand boys and what is called non-resident daily service, but it expressly excludes employment in shops, and Section 19 cannot be operated unless there is a Draft Order made by the Secretary of State and approved by both Houses in the same Session.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I think we might. Many Members of the Standing Committee desired to press matters much further than they went, and were only deterred from doing so by the views expressed by the Under-Secretary—now the Minister of Transport—who told us that a general statutory restriction would be more effective than local restrictions, but that it was outside the scope of his Bill and alien to some of its provisions. We were also deterred from pressing the Government further by the Under-Secretary's very definite pledge that the Government would introduce a Measure on the subject at the appropriate moment. So I am one of those who hope that this passage in the Gracious Speech acknowledges that this promise is likely to be fulfilled.
At present those for whom I am solicitous, if they derive any protection at all, derive it from the various Shops 592 Acts. Some of the provisions of these Acts are very complicated, and hon. Members sitting below me are probably more familiar with them than I am. I think, however, that I am right in saying that they make no provision for a restriction of opening hours or for the hours that adults may work, except for some provision with regard to meal-times. They provide for the restriction of hours of young persons under 18, to the effect that no youth under 18 may work for more than 74 hours a week. I am afraid that that provision, as I hope to prove, is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. In spite of all the recent well-meant legislation, there is a great deal of sweating in these trades, and this is all the more reprehensible for the fact that there is so much unemployment. Statistics revealed by the Fourth Report of the National Advisory Council for Juvenile Unemployment bring us close up to a problem which I believe is exercising the minds of those in authority, namely, the more equitable distribution of labour. We are confronted with an absurd anomaly: on the one hand, we have a set of individuals who are working excessive hours to the detriment of their well-being, and, on the other, we have a set of individuals who contrary to their will and intention, are totally out of employment.
At first sight I thought that there was nothing simpler than to readjust this state of affairs so that, for example, instead of a youth working 14 hours a day, two youths should work for seven hours a day. But I have discussed the matter with those addressing themselves to the problem and I now realise that the readjustment of the quantity of employment bristles with economic difficulties. Nevertheless, nothing shall tempt me to believe that it is beyond the wit of statesmen to devise a solution which will be to the benefit of the community and will reduce unemployment.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member must know that that is not a point of Order.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that the matter with which my hon. Friend is dealing directly concerns me in relation to Scotland. I cannot say at the moment whether it is a subject which will be dealt with in a separate Bill as regards Scotland, or whether there will be one Bill covering the conditions in both countries. I am, however, concerned with a II these topics, and I shall carefully note my hon. Friend's remarks on the subject. It will be realised, I am sure, by hon. Members opposite that, while I am pleased at my hon. Friend raising and discussing this question, it does not arise on the terms of the Amendment which is before the House.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I have already pointed out to hon. Members that no point of Order arises, and I would ask that the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) be allowed to proceed.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I am sure that if I had not been in order you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would have ruled accordingly before now. I took the opportunity of discovering from you, Sir, beforehand whether I would be in order or not in raising this question. I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland for his statement that he is taking a note of my observation. He will, on the other hand, remember that a Minister will wind up this Debate and that if a back bench Member asks a question which is considered of sufficient importance, he naturally hopes for a reply. I wish to adduce four cases in support of my arguments. Doubtless any number of such cases can be culled from blue books, but these came within my personal ken, arid, so far from being isolated cases, I believe they are typical.
The first is that of a youth who serves in a public-house in the East End of London as a pot boy. He works 78 hours a week and has one week's holiday in a year. He works on Bank Holidays, even on Christmas Day, and his hours are from 8 a.m. to 3.15 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10.15 p.m., with an hour or two off each Wednesday. This lad was once a keen and successful athlete, but now he tells me that the very short time he gets off work he has to spend in rest. Apart 594 from the cruel effect on the moral of the victim of such treatment, would it not be better, instead of one youth working almost 80 hours a week, for two youths each to work 40 hours a week? The majority of these young workers get far too little recreation, while the unemployed get far too much. Would it not be better to readjust recreation and employment?
The next case, also a London one, is that of young men who work at the making of wireless cabinets. They work 60 hours a week, and polishers earn only 3d. an hour. Then there is the case of boys who work 60 hours a week at night work in fancy paper mills earning 19s. 4d. a week, insurance deducted. The firm employs a staff of about 90, the majority under 21 years of age. Some of the girls earn 12s. a week, and the conditions under which all work are disgraceful. My last case is that of a contractor who-employs young men and boys as lorry drivers at 3s. a day, insurance deducted. As I say, I wish I could believe that these are exceptional cases.
I wish that the Lord President of the Council were in his place because he is in the habit of making appeals to the youth of the country. These appeals will have to go far beyond the confines of Cambridge and St. Andrew's Universities if they are to be of any effect. The vast mass of the youth of the country do not belong to the privileged class which hear and read these appeals. If youths of the type of the boy who has to work 78 hours a week had the opportunity or the time to read these appeals they would doubtless reply, "What is the use of appeals of this kind from the Ministers of a Government who tolerate the abominable conditions of overwork and under-pay endured by us?" The Lord President's appeal to youth has a long way to travel before it gets down to the vast youthful community whose interests ought to be our first charge. I think I know something of the way in which they live and the way in which their minds work. Unless the Government are more solicitous than they appear to be for the physical and moral welfare of these young people, a generation will grow up to manhood embittered and disillusioned and determined to adopt any course rather than allow the conditions which they have endured to be inherited by those who come after them.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Major Sir HERBERT CAYZER
I should like to congratulate the Government on the great revival in the trade and industry of this country during last year. I do not think there can be any question but that that revival is due, first and foremost, to the policy of Protection. At the same time in a great many instances the rates are not high enough and far too great a quantity of foreign goods is coming into the country to-day. If we had higher protective rates our unemployment figures would be considerably improved. I am glad to see that cotton is mentioned in the Gracious Speech. The question of Japanese competition is very difficult owing to the low standard of living in Japan, and while the position here in this country calls for immediate measures, I am not at all certain that the position in our Dominions is not even worse. South Africa, Australia and India are being flooded with Japanese goods, and not only are the Japanese taking orders which used to come to this country, but we are also losing the carrying trade which used to be occupied in shipping our goods to the various Dominions.
It is about shipping that I principally wish to speak this evening. I ask the House, "What about it?" The shipping industry appears to be a forgotten industry. In the Gracious Speech there is no mention of it. At the Ottawa Conference, as I pointed out last year, the shipping industry appeared to be over-looked. It is to-day in a deplorable condition, and I should like to give the House a few figures which appeared recently in the "Times" relating to the net tonnage of ships with cargoes entering and clearing from the United Kingdom in the first 10 months of this year as compared with two years previously. In the 10 months ended October, 1931, 32,000,000 tons of British shipping with cargoes came into this country. In the first 10 months of this year that figure had fallen to 29,500,000 tons. It may be said that trade has decreased, but on the other hand the foreign tonnage coming into this country which was 18,500,000 in the first 10 months of 1931 has increased to 21,000,000 tons for the first 10 months of this year, an increase of 2,500,000 as against a decrease of 2,500,000 in the case of the British tonnage. Taking ships with 596 cargoes clearing from the United Kingdom, the British figure in October, 1931, was 32,000,000 net tons and in October, 1933, the figure was 28,500,000 net tons or a drop of 3.500,000 tons in two years. Again it will be said that trade has decreased, but the foreign tonnage leaving the United Kingdom increased from 16,800,000 net tons in 1931 to 18,200,000 tons this year or an increase of 1,380,000 tons. The British tonnage clearing and entering this country has fallen by 6,400,000 net tons whereas the foreign tonnage has increased in the same period by 3,900,000 tons. In other words British shipping shows a fall of 10 per cent. and at that rate it will only be a very short time before there will be no such thing as British shipping.
The position is very serious. After agriculture, the shipping industry is, I believe, the largest in this country and is certainly one of the most important. It supplies one of the chief factors in the invisible exports which go so far to balance our trading account. It constitutes one of the links of Empire. It may be likened to the arteries through which flows the life-blood of trade. It is essential to the safety of the country. We are unable to grow our own food and we depend on shipping to supply us with food and raw materials. It may be said that there are plenty of foreign ships to do it. That is quite true, but while that might be all right in peace time, what is going to happen in time of war? If we are dependent on foreign ships for supplying us then in our hour of need those facilities might be withdrawn from us and certainly enormous freights would be demanded for the use of foreign ships.
In the Great War we had a much larger merchant fleet than we have now and it was not sufficient for our needs. The Blue Book rate given the British shipping requisitioned during the War was lls. to 13s. 6d. per ton, but we had to pay from 42s. 6d. to 100s. a ton for foreign ton. Further, the merchant fleet is an important auxiliary to our Navy. Now that our cruiser strength is so depleted it is quite impossible for the cruisers that we have to protect our trade routes and it would be a great' help if we had a strong merchant fleet to act as auxiliary. The fact remains that British shipping to-day is unable to compete against foreign subsidies. Foreign 597 countries are subsidising their shipping to the extent of £30,000,000 a year and in a great many countries, they are paying lower wages, they have a lower standard of living and they do not conform to Board of Trade rules or international conventions. Under those conditions British ships would not be allowed to run for one instant, yet we have to compete against subsidised boats run under conditions that, quite rightly, we are not allowed. I am often told by people who go to India, "I always go on an Italian liner, because it is more comfortable, there is better food, and it is cheaper and faster." I agree—it is probably right—but if we were given subsidies for building, subsidies on our gross tonnage, mileage subsidies, and coal subsidies, even the British could produce just as good a liner as the Italians. We waited, hoping for the Ottawa Conference, but nothing happened there. Then we were told that we must wait for the World Economic Conference, but that has come and gone, and nothing happened there. Foreign countries are, in fact, deaf to all our entreaties with regard to their subsidies, and why should they listen? They also refuse in many cases to agree to international conventions and Board of Trade rules.
What is the remedy, if there is one, to put British shipping once again en its feet? To-day there are two schools of thought in the shipping world, one known as the Free Trade school, that of our hon. Friends below the Gangway opposite, none of whom are here now, and the other known as the Protection school. The Free Trade is the older school, and in the past it had the larger voice, hut there is no doubt that views are rapidly changing with regard to the necessity of doing something in the way of Protection. What have the Free Trade school been urging? They had for many years more or less control of organisations like the Chamber of Shipping, which principally voices the views of shipowners. These Free Traders urged that British shipping depends on the free interchange of goods, but they forget altogether that there is no such thing as that to-day. Then they say that it depends on the restoration of the freedom of the sea and the removal of trade barriers, but how? Foreign countries simply laughed at us when we asked 598 them to lower tariffs, and they do the same now with regard to subsidies. Why should foreign countries give up this very successful policy of subsidies—uneconomic, I admit—which is rapidly, not gradually, ousting British shipping from the trade of the world? Without some weapon whereby we can protect ourselves or retaliate, these requests on our part lead nowhere.
Then again they say, "Go in for laying-up and scrapping schemes," but unless you can get foreign countries in agreement with you, that is quite useless for British shipowners. I know that Lord Essendon said the other day that he was hopeful of bringing foreigners into line, but I do not share his view. In my view, we shall wait many a long day before the foreigners will be willing, in conjunction with Britishers, whom they are downing now, to scrap or lay-up ships. I am certain too that if we did get them into line, at once the foreigners would demand to be given the right to trades which they have only acquired in the last few years, and largely because of these uneconomic subsidies; and you would have more restrictions and limitations than ever.
Lastly, they say that foreign countries will get tired of paying uneconomic subsidies, and all will then be well, but I am afraid the death knell of British shipping will have been sounded before then. It appears to me that this laissez faire policy leads nowhere, and under it there is no hope. I wish some of our Free Trade friends were present. To-day Free Trade is like a ghost, often talked about, but never seen. Again, people who hold Free Trade views are always afraid of retaliation. They say that if you protect British shipping, you will be up against foreign retaliation. Exactly the same thing was said when we protected industries in this country. Free Traders predicted fearful consequences if we ever did such a, thing, but those fears have failed to mature. It was only when we adopted Protection that foreign countries suddenly became keen to make trade agreements with this country.
Take the other side, that of the newer school who say that our shipping requires some weapon, some form of Protection, to be able to counter these foreign subsidies and unfair conditions under which they consider we are trading. There are four or five methods, either single or col- 599 lectively, by which you can achieve this end or at any rate improve matters somewhat. First, we can do a great deal under trade agreements. Take a country like the Argentine, with whom we have just made a trade agreement. They sell us a great amount of goods over here and buy a very small amount from this country. There is a large adverse balance of trade against this country, and I should like to see an amendment made to that trade agreement and a clause inserted in it and in any similar agreements in future to the effect that if countries like the Argentine or Denmark will not buy more from this country and thus reduce the adverse trade balance, they must use 75 or 100 per cent. of British shipping in which to ship their goods to this country, according to the adverse balance of trade against us.
The second way in which we could help matters would he by the reservation of the coasting trade and Colonial and Empire trade. The third way would be by restricting the Empire-foreign trade to British ships and ships of such foreign countries with which we were trading. The fourth way should be to employ countervailing dues on ships, cargoes, and passengers of countries which are employing subsidies or giving lower wages and not conforming to Board of Trade rules or international conventions. I believe that such methods would be most effective. There would be no need to reserve trade in that case at all. You could leave your trade, Empire, coasting, or Colonial, open to the world, but you would say that if foreign countries wanted to trade with us or with the Empire, they must do it on the same conditions as British shipowners, and if not, they must pay the dues. We are not afraid to compete with any country in the world provided it is on fair and level terms, and I believe that the mere threat of bringing in measures like this would do a great deal towards making foreign countries realise that they cannot go on as they are to-day. The results of such retaliatory action would be as successful to British shipping, I believe, as it has been to our industries in this country.
To go a little more closely and more deeply into this question, one has to divide the shipping trade into three sections. First, you have your Empire section, trade between one Empire port and another; then you have Empire- 600 foreign trade, as between a port in the Empire and one in a foreign country; and then you have foreign-foreign trade. Empire trade constitutes about 15 per cent. of the trade of the world, Empire-foreign trade about 40 per cent., and foreign-foreign trade about 45 per cent. These figures are those of 1929, which is four years ago; and they only refer to net tonnage and to ships clearing and entering ports, so they must be taken with a certain amount of reserve, but I can produce figures more up to date, to show how far foreign boats are coming into Empire trade. I took the daily freight registers to get them, and they show that 54 foreign ships were chartered to this country in 1930; that number rose to 66 in 1931 and to 81 in 1932. In 1930, 307,000 tons deadweight cargo was brought in by foreign ships; in 1931, 386,000 tons; and in 1932, 460,000 tons. Therefore, in spite of a great decrease in the trade of the world during that period, foreign shipping chartered to this country increased in two years from 300,000 tons to 460,000 tons; and that again shows how we are losing ground, even in our own Empire trade.
What risk would this country run if we adopted this policy of Protection f As regards Empire trade, which constitutes about 15 per cent. o the trade of the world, we are entirely immune from attack. As regards Empire-foreign trade, it is true that we are 'fable to retaliation at one end, but foreign countries had already got over half, namely, 52 per cent., four years ago, and they have more to-day, of Empire-foreign trade, and they are steadily increasing their hold. In some trades it is very unprofitable, owing to foreign subsidies, and many British shipping companies have had to retire. Take the trade from America to South Africa and back, or from America to India, or America to Australia. These trades were largely, almost entirely, in British hands before the War, but they are now to a great extent in foreign hands.
The reason is that when the War came, British shipping was withdrawn from these trades and put into the war zone to carry American goods, munitions, and troops over to France. America built a great fleet, ostensibly to help us in the War, but she took care to employ those boats, not in the war zone, but in those trades from which British ships had been 601 withdrawn. After the War we went back and said to America, "Now we are prepared to resume our trade, which we built up and which was created by British lines." But America said, "No, these are now American trades," and they refused to quit. Ever since then the British lines have been fighting the Americans to try to recapture some of the trade which they took from British lines during the War. The American Government and nation have spent, one way and another, £600,000,000 on their shipping, and it has cost British shipowners millions of pounds to try to recover the trade which America took, plus the loss of a great deal of those trades to the Americans.
With regard to foreign-foreign trade, it is true that we are vulnerable at both ends, but this trade amounts to 45 per cent. of the trade of the world, and already foreign countries have got three-quarters of it, and we have only a quarter left. That was four years ago, and I do not think we have as much as that today. Again, these trades do not pay, on account of the enormous number of subsidised foreign boats which are now engaged in them. Take, for instance, the America to the Plate trade. I know of a, British shipping line which had to retire because they could not face the losses, and this is another case where a trade agreement would help to get more British shinning employed in the Argentine trade.
After all, retaliation, of which some people are so afraid, is not all on one side. Many foreign countries have a great deal to lose, as well as we have. Take the Empire trade. They stand to lose what share they have of it to-day. Four years ago it was 10 per cent., and it will be more to-day. In the Empire-foreign trade they also stand to lose a great deal, because if you take the wool trade from Australia to Italy, that to-day is entirely in Italian hands. They therefore would stand to lose part of that. Foreign countries also stand to lose where they are engaged in trades which are not to or from their own countries, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Retaliation is a weapon of defence, which every man has the right to use when he is unfairly attacked. The Chamber of Shipping, although they have put a report before the Government, have never 602 gone whole-heartedly in favour of any particular policy of Protection, but they state in their report of 17th November, 1932:Having regard to the extent of its overseas trade, the United Kingdom would lie in a stronger position than any other nation to impose restrictions on or discriminations against the subsidised shipping of other nations; whilst the British Empire, if it acted together and were driven to face the consequences, would be able to exclude such subsidised shipping from all participation in more than half of the total overseas trade of the world. To sum up the general position: The power of the United Kingdom acting alone would be considerable, and the power of the Empire acting together would be very great, if it comes to the taking of retaliatory measures against subsidised shipping by way of reservation, restriction or discrimination.That shows that the Chamber of Shipping, at any rate, thinks we have a very strong position. I have not mentioned another thing which is often put forward, namely, subsidies, because I am not in favour of them. By subsidies you very often help one industry and hit another. The sugar beet industry gets a large uneconomical subsidy and the shipping industry, in common with all of us, is taxed to provide that subsidy. It is worse than that for the shipping industry, because if the sugar industry had not been subsidised in this country our shipping would be carrying the sugar to a large extent from our own Dominions. So that by subsidising the sugar industry we have done away with the carrying of sugar by ships and taxed shipping as well. Again, if we start subsidies they go on increasing, and very soon we have the same race as there is in armaments.
Only the other day the owners of tramps met and unanimously declared for Protection. The President of the Board of Trade knows that all his fellow tramp owners are unanimous in asking the Government to give some form of Protection. I believe that a great many cargo liners would also join in the demand for Protection. Only the large passenger lines are to-day still dubious, but even they are beginning to alter their views and many of them are realising, I think, that something has to be done. Another industry which hangs on shipping is ship-building. Many people are advocating giving subsidies to that industry. I hold the view that that is starting at the wrong 603 end. If we want to get shipbuilding prosperous we must have our shipping industry prosperous. When the shipping of this country is down and out, shipbuilding will be down and out. When we get our shipping on its legs again there will be an enormous and immediate revival of the shipbuilding industry. If the Government will consider the measures I have put forward, they will then have the right to ask ship-owners not to sell their old tonnage to foreigners, but that when ships are too old and unfit for the trade they are in, they should be broken up and scrapped. The first step we have to take is to call the Governments of the Empire together. This is laid down actually in a resolution of the Imperial Economic Conference of 1923, which says:That in the event of danger arising in future to the overseas shipping of the Empire through an attempt by a foreign country to discriminate against the British flag, the Governments of the Empire will consider together as to the best means of meeting the situation.I believe that the Secretary of State for the Colonies was largely responsible for that resolution. People sometimes forget, when they are so afraid of retaliation and wedded to the idea of Free Trade as regards shipping, that the prosperity of shipping was not due to Free Trade at all. We secured our supremacy under the highest form of Protection ever known, which was established by Cromwell. The Acts of 1650 and 1651 prohibited the importation of goods into England or into our Colonies except in British ships, and at the Restoration these measures were re-enacted by the famous Navigation Act, with the addition that the master and three-quarters of the crew had to be British subjects. There could not have been more stringent Protective conditions than those, and it was under those conditions that British shipping was built up. Eighty years ago British shipping was supreme throughout the world. It is not so to-day. After all, in this life we achieve nothing without risk, and I believe that if the Government would try to adopt some of the measures that I have outlined, which would afford protection and give some power of retaliation, if necessary, to the shipping of this country, the results would be as beneficial and the revival of British shipping as great as Protection has brought to the industries of this country.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
I should like to make an appeal for the restoration of the cuts to the unemployed men and to submit evidence, notwithstanding the attempts of some hon. Members to prove that there is no suffering among the unemployed, that, having regard to the conditions under which the cut was made and the change in those conditions since, something ought to be done to restore the cuts. I was much interested in an observation of a pious character made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who displayed greater interest in the statements alleged to have been made by the Leader of the Opposition than in an examination of his own past political record. He stated that many persons were not in a position to purchase the necessaries of life. That does not come with very good grace from the right hon. Gentleman, inasmuch as he was a Member of the Government when the cuts were made in the benefit of the unemployed. He referred to a Member of the Government as an individual who is facing the wrong way. All I can say is that if I had to choose among Members of this House who are facing the wrong way, I should prefer him to a man who is facing all ways and in addition facing both ways, and upon whom we can rely to change his political views in accordance with the number of times he changes his seat in the House of Commons.
I know that in dealing with the restoration of the cuts of the unemployed I shall be told that they were made because there had been a decrease in the cost-of-living figures. There is, however, every indication that the cost of living will rise and is bound to rise as a result of the policy of the Government, Members of which will be surprised if it does not rise. On the 1st of this month the average retail prices of food, clothing, fuel and light were up by 2 per cent. as compared with the 30th September of this year. For food alone the increase is 3 per cent. To put the position in another form, food, clothing, fuel and light are 43 per cent. above the prices obtaining in July, 1914. In May and June this year the average level of retail prices of these items was 36 per cent. above July, 1914—a difference on 1st of this month of seven points as compared with May and June. When we discuss 605 the cost-of-living figures we must remember that some of the statistics which constitute the basis of calculation made by the Ministry of Labour were collected in 1904 and no allowance is made for changes in the standard of living.
Are not our people entitled to some improvement in the standard of existence, or are they always to be content with a standard, upon which these figures are based, that existed in 1904? I was surprised to read a speech delivered by a person who has not, so far as I am aware, made application for membership to the party to which' I belong, namely, Mr. J. Gibson Jarvie, chairman and managing-director of the United Dominions Trust. He stated at a meeting recently that the standard of living had no possible limit. He said there was never seriously suggested a more economically fantastic contention than that we can become wealthy by restricting the production of wealth. With the high standard of living, he said, there must be greater amenities. The Government must give the lead, but the Government must State its creed. It must. translate its creed into an effective plan, which was definite and which did give us something to work on. I would like to know whether the Government are under any obligation to restore at least half of the 10 per cent. cut in unemployment insurance benefit in view of the fact that the cost of living is within three points of the figure operating when the cut was made. If not, are the Government prepared to restore the whole cut when the cost of living has increased by another three points? Every hon. Member is aware that some provision has to be made by the 'employed members of a family to support the unemployed members, but how long do the Government expect that that is to be possible when the cost of living is continually rising and wages are continually being decreased?
In 1931 the reduction in the rate of wages in this country was £20,000,000. In 1932 our people suffered a reduction of £12,000,000. It is true that this year there have been increases during some months, owing to the operation of a wages agreement, which is based upon a variation in the cost of living figures, but nevertheless, up to November there have been increases in wages of £56,500 per week for the 10 months. That is at the rate of nearly £2,725,000. Many of us on 606 these benches have found considerable difficulty in persuading the Government that there is suffering among the unemployed in this country. I have here a copy of what might be considered to be an impartial survey of Hull, undertaken by the Health Community Council. It is a social survey undertaken by the council with the object of organising a citizens' advisory bureau for the assistance of any citizen in difficulty or distress and the study of social conditions in Hull to see how, by concerted effort, the life of the city can be enriched. Towards the end of the report or survey it says:Two facts emerged from this survey; first that the unemployed were inadequately cared for by the community, and that no real attempt is made to remedy the evils of unemployment.My reason for again raising the question of the mining industry is that, as is the case with other Members on these benches, practically all the pits in my Division are closed and that the Government are doing little to promote the welfare of the country, especially the mining part of it; and in my opinion unless we have a prosperous mining population we cannot claim to be developing our national resources. In view of the statement made in this House quite recently that every other industry appears to be flourishing, it is interesting to consider the position of the mining industry. The output of coal in Great Britain in 1029, when our people were in office but had no power, was 258,000,000 tons. Last year the output was 208,000,000 tons, the figure for 1932 as compared with 1929 thus showing a reduction of no less than 50,000,000 tons. The output last year, compared with 1930, shows a reduction of 36,000,000 tons, and if the output is compared with 1931 there is a reduction of no less than 11,000,000 tons. Whatever compliments may be paid to the Government for the slight indications of an improvement in trade generally, they must also accept credit for the fact that, under their administration, the output of coal in 1932 was the lowest in this country for the last 34 years.
If we take the exports of coal from this country—I am relying upon the figures supplied in the Annual Report of the Secretary for Mines—we find that exports in 1929 amounted to 60,000,000 tons and last year to 39,000,000 tons, showing a reduction of 21,000,000 tons. The exports 607 last year, compared with 1930, show a reduction of 16,000,000 tons, and, compared with 1931, a reduction of 3,000,000 tons. If we compare 1932 with a year conveniently used by lion. Members opposite, that is, 1913, we find there has been a reduction in exports of no less than 35,000,000 tons. The reduction of 21,000,000 in 1932 as compared with 1929 cannot be explained by variations in the price of the coal, because in 1920 the average declared value of the coal that left this country was only 16s. 2d. per ton f.o.b. and in 1932 it was 16s. 3d., one penny per ton more. Therefore, increase in price cannot be the explanation. If it were; then the reduction of 3,000,000 tons exported in 1932 as compared with 1931 can only be explained by a decrease in price, because the price per ton f.o.b. in 1931 was 16s. 8d. and in 1032 it was 16s. 3d., a difference of 5d. per ton to the advantage of the foreigner. According to these figures, we cannot create a demand for coal merely by reducing its price. We sold to the foreigner in 1927 51,000,000 tons of coal and in 1932 only 39,000,000. There was a reduction of 12,000,000 tons, although the price f.o.b. in 1927 was ls. 7d. per ton less than in 1932.
If we take exports of "coal, including coke, manufactured fuel, coal shipped for use of steamers engaged in foreign trade" we find that the amount of coal sent abroad for this purpose in 1929 was 82,000,000 tons, and last year only 57,000,000 tons, a reduction of 25,000,000 tons. If we compare 1932 with 1913 there is a. reduction of over 41,000,000 tons. The same tale has to be told if we look at the figures of coal for inland or home consumption. In 1929 we were consuming in this country for all purposes 173,000,000 tons of coal, and in 1932 only 150,000,000 tons, a decrease of 23,000,000 tons. Compared with 1930 the decrease in 1932 was 16,000,000 tons, and compared with 1931 the decrease was 5,000,000 tons. Comparing the home consumption of coal last year with 1913, we find a reduction of over 34,000,000 tons.
Next I wish to direct attention to the position in South Wales, which is even worse than for the whole of the country. In South Wales, in 1913, we had an output of no less than 57,000,000 tons of coal, and last year only 36,000,000 tons. By the way, that was under 12 months of 608 Tory administration, though I am not disposed at the moment to blame the Government for that reduction. Even in 1929, when people were in office who are now blamed for the reduction, we were producing 48,000,000 tons of coal in South Wales as compared with 36,000,000 tons last year. If a comparison is made between 1932 and 1913 we have a reduction in Wales alone, of no less than 21,000,000 tons. The year 1929 was the best year of the post-War period in South Wales. In 1932, as compared with 1929, there was a reduction of more than 12,000,000 tons of coal.
The export figures for South Wales tell an almost similar tale. In 1913 we exported 29,000,000 tons of coal and in 1929, 24,500,000 tons, while last year the amount was only 16,000,000 tons. As compared with 1929. last year's export of coal from South Wales shows a decrease of no less than 8,506,000 tons of coal. This year, according to reliable authority, the position wit be worse than in the years to which I have referred, and I am anxious to know what the Government propose to do. I hold in my hand a letter sent me by the Town Clerk of Newport. In Newport, as most hon. Members know, are the docks from which are exported a very large proportion of the coal sent from South Wales. It is quite true that this letter was not sent by him in his capacity as Town Clerk. He is the secretary of what is called the Newport Trade Committee, which, he states in his letter, is representative of all the interests in Newport. I am quoting it because he does not happen to be a member of the party to which I belong, and some importance may be attached to his letter in view of that fact, and in view of the fact that he is Town Clerk of Newport. He says:Shipments of coal from the United Kingdom to the Irish Free State fell from 2,424,699 tons in 1931 to 1,929,803 tons in 1932, while at the present rate of shipment the 1933 figures are not likely to exceed 1,275,000 tons, roughly half of the 1931 total. Monmouthshire has a special interest in Irish shipments in view of the large quantity of locomotive coal required by the Irish railways. In 1931 shipments to the Irish Free State from South Wales amounted to 482,000 tons; this year the total is not likely to exceed 210,000 tons. Newport's share of these shipments is roughly two-thirds, and the decline is from 309,000 tons in 1931 to 132,000 tons for the 609 full year 1933, on the basis of 1U months' returns. the decline represents a loss in shipments of 3,400 tons a week to the Port of Newport. 'Trade between Germany and Poland and Southern Ireland is expanding. Shipments from Germany average 47,000 tons per month and from Poland 33,000 tons per month this year against none prior to the imposition of the Os. per ton duty on British coal by the Irish Free State. Fixtures from Danzig and Gdynia with Polish coal to the South Irish ports are at the rate of 10,000 tons a week and there are regular fixtures from Bremen with German coal. It is certain that the longer the Irish Free State continues to import German and Polish coal the more difficult it will be for British coal to regain its old customers when normal relations are resumed. Close business connections will be established, furnaces will be adapted to the requirements of the new fuel, shipping lines will have adapted their services to the new conditions, and South Wales coal exporters will find the task of selling their coal extremely difficult. It should be emphasised that a large share of the burden of paying the holders of the Irish land annuities is falling upon the South Wales and particularly the Monmouthshire coal trade, and the railways, docks, shipping and labour dependent upon it. In Ireland it is understood Mr. de Valera is meeting by means of subsidies, the extra cost of getting their dairy produce into Great Britain, and if the dispute between the two countries is to continue, then the Monmouthshire coal and dock interests have a strong claim for compensation or for subsidies from the British Government for compensation for the losses they are at present called upon to bear.Some of us are anxious to know what the Government propose to do to break through the deadlock that exists between the two nations. In addition to the reduction of output of coal from South Wales, we read in the newspaper last week that another heavy blow has been dealt at the coal trade of this country by the action of the French Government in deciding to restrict their foreign coal imports by another 10 per cent. That means that about 1,250,000 tons of coal a year less will be taken from Great Britain. As South Wales supplies 50 per cent. of this, the blow will be felt most severely in South Wales. We are naturally interested in what the Government propose to do, and whether they propose to leave the matter to the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, in order that the latter may use the bluster and bounce which he used in connection with most of his negotiations, 610 when he was a respectable and reliable trade union negotiator.
We hear a tremendous lot of talk about Protection. I have been informed that we are importing oil into this country at the rate of 1,900,000,000 gallons per year. I am giving the average for a number of years, and that will be sufficient for the Government to go on with. I am informed that something like 980,000,000 gallons of that are petrol. We are informed, upon reliable authority, that that amount of petrol, expressed in terms of hydrogenation, represents 49,000,000 tons of coal. If that coal could be obtained from the closed mines, it would bring considerable happiness into ale homes of the unemployed miner. All that the Government propose to do is to subsidise Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, to permit that company to extract a miserable 30,000,000 gallons of oil per year.
Rates of wages of our people are being considerably reduced by this Tory Administration, while, alongside that, there is a considerable increase in the number of hours that they are called upon to work. In 1931, the increase in hours worked by our people was in excess of 7,000,000 per year, and in 1932 there was an increase of 364,000 hours for the year, which gives a total increase in the number of hours worked by our people in the two years of over 7,748,000. Our people have already suffered a reduction in wages. Whatever might be said about the advantages of a Tory Government and of the two years of Tory rule, there has been that increase in the number of working hours, compared with the decrease in the number of working hours, during a Labour Administration, by over 45,000,000. That is the policy of the Government—lower wages, longer hours and increase in the cost of living.
Like other hon. Members I have had the benefit of reading two articles on slum clearance in the "Evening Standard," which considers that the Government are simply tinkering with the problem. I am inclined to think that that is the proper term for what is characteristic of the entire policy of this Government. From the unemployed they have taken—I never like to use the word "robbed," but they have appropriated—something like -255,000,000. An hon. Member occupying one of the benches 611 below the Gangway last Tuesday made an observation, suggesting that it is time that the Government got their Publicity Department into working order. I do not know whether it is proposed to issue a pamphlet from that Department upon the things that the Tory Government have done, but I would like to propose a title for that pamphlet. The title has been suggested by what the Secretary of State for the Dominions said at the annual dinner of the Chamber of Commerce held in Derby in March: "We are a much better team than we are given credit for being." I should not have thought that the Government would have been able to get sufficient satisfaction from the result of the recent by-elections.
I suggest a few things that we might put into the first pamphlet, which ought to be of interest to the people of this country. in the first place, it should emphasise the importance of low wages and of longer hours and an increased cost of living since they have been in office, and the denying of 235,000,000 to the unemployed in two years. Since this Government has been in office there has 'been the greatest number of persons in receipt of Poor Law relief. On 21st October this year there were no less than 1,106,871 persons in receipt of Poor Law relief. In addition, this Administration have the credit of having the largest number of unemployed that has ever been known in this country, something like 2,877,000, the highest figure for the last 28 years. There has been the lowest output of the export of coal for the last 34 years. The degree of peacefulness among the unemployed in this country is without parallel in any country. I say that, having regard to the figures which I have submitted, the Government are not entitled to a continuation of that peace which exists among the unemployed in this country—that the unemployed, when the Bill that will be discussed this week is under consideration, ought not to be expected to remain peaceful, tranquil, and simply vegetating. In many instances in towns in Monmouthshire they are absolutely derelict. The continuation of a spirit of acceptance of the insidious measures that are discussed from time to time in this House cannot be expected. To ask for a continuation of peace among the unemployed is to ask for the im- 612 possible, and I submit, being associated with a large section of unemployed in my Division, that the Government are not entitled to ask for it unless they considerably change their policy with regard to the unemployed.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The speech to which we have just listened is at any rate in keeping with the temper and tone of the official Amendment which has been moved on behalf of the Opposition. In many respects it is a farrago of hopeless inaccuracies, and states the position in a way which the common sense either of this House or the country will not accept. I will not analyse the figures which the hon. Gentleman purported to put before the House, but as he spoke I was following him with regard to two or three of them. If he goes down to his constituents and tells them, as he has told the House of Commons, that the cost of living has risen under the administration of this Government, he will be telling them something Which, if he avails himself of the ordinary statistical machinery, he will find to be entirely untrue; and it is unworthy of protagonists for a particular cause to disseminate to their constituents subject-matter which is entirely and absolutely inaccurate.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman, but the figures I have given are to be found in this month's issue of the Ministry of Labour Gazette. He will there find that the cost of living figures are increased by seven points as compared with May and June of this year. In addition, I mentioned that the figures supplied in that paper were up by 2 per cent. on the 1st November as compared with the month before. Taking coal, rent, food, light and so on, they are up by 2 per cent., and for food alone they are up by three points as compared with the month before.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
—and he has, as I have said, hopelessly inaccurately represented the situation. The official figures of the Ministry of Labour show that, between October of last year and September of this year—I have not the figures for 613 October of this year, because I have the collected figures published at the beginning of November—there was a fall of two points in the retail cost of living index—
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
—and taking the price of food alone there was a fall of two points. That there has been a consistent fall in the retail cost of living index, whether you take the figures of the Ministry of Labour, of the "Economist" or of the "Times," is, upon the index figures, altogether beyond dispute. That kind of dissemination of propaganda is wholly unworthy of the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs. As he spoke, I checked him in regard to one or two other figures, but the country as a whole is alive at least to this fact that—-:whether the Government are entitled to complacency or not on this account I am not going to discuss for the moment—the position at the present moment is radically and fundamentally better than it was two years ago, when the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had shaken the foundations of our economic life more successfully than the German armies did in four years of war. One has not to search very far under the surface for facts and figures to support that statement.
It is easy enough to "get away with it" at a by-election, or perhaps in a thin House of Commons during the dinner hour, but when one looks underneath the surface, as impartial and non-political observers in the country are doing, there are many facts which point irresistibly to the conclusion that our economic position is fundamentally better than it was at this time a year ago, or at this time a couple of years ago. I propose to give a few of them. If you take our imports of raw materials—which are necessary imports as we are a manufacturing nation —they have risen by £9,000,000 in the last 10 months as compared with the corresponding period of last year. Our exports of raw materials and manufactured goods have similarly risen by £5,000,000 over the same period of time as compared with the corresponding 10 months of the previous year. The percentage of unemployed to employed.
614 which is a vital figure—the percentage of idle men to men who are is the area of employment—has fallen from 21.9 to 18.5 in the last 12 months; and retail prices, in spite of the hon. Gentleman, who, I am glad to see, has availed himself of the opportunity of disappearing from my banter, have fallen by two points in the course of the last 12 months. Wages, if you take Professor Bowley's Index of Wages, have been entirely steady since February, and show a drop of only 0.8 per cent. since October of last year.
When, however, one looks at indices which are perhaps less noticeable, and which are not observed with the attention with which they ought to be observed, the economic position of the country becomes clearer. In postal traffic there has been an increase, and an enormous increase in cash-on-delivery transactions. The railways show mounting figures for the delivery of goods—not passenger traffic, but goods delivered—just in those very areas which have been most depressed and have been least sensitive to the policy of successive Governments. There is also an increased output of electricity and gas—not including the House of Commons, of course; and, last, hut not least, when hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about the lowered standard of living, the increased hours of employment, and the reduced amenities of the people, we are assured this morning that the payments of Entertainments Duty through the Post Office constitute for this year a record, which shows that, side by side with mounting economic activity, there is at any rate an increased opportunity for leisure.
Looking at a couple more figures which give one some cause for satisfaction, the-acceptances of the great clearing banks have increased by £27,000,000 in the 10 months of this year, an increase of 33⅓ percent.—[Interruptior.] If the hon. Gentleman who laughs so gaily, and displays such complete nonchalance about that figure, would apply his mentality to it, he would appreciate that the acceptances of the great clearing banks are one of the finest indications of an improvement in trade, a development of confidence, and an increase of industrial activity throughout the whole country.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
That, of course, is merely rude. I should have expected it from some quarters, but not from the hon. Member. There is another thing which I think ought to be a matter for congratulation, even among hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is that in the last three years, when taxation has been at unprecedented heights, when all people have been called upon to effect enormous sacrifices, the savings of the small wage-earners have increased by no less than £77,000,000, that is taking only the quota of national savings which are attributable to the really small wage-earners and small property owners in Post Office deposits, trustee savings banks, National Savings Certificates and Government stocks bought through the Savings Bank and trustee savings banks. At this time of unparalleled depression the procedure of the transference of wealth is still going on and the procedure of saving by the small capitalist and by people in the humblest walks of life is still going on in spite of the economic difficulties through which we have been passing.
The one wise thing about democracy is that it does not give any support to a Government which merely looks back, and I hope that this Government, realising that it has a record of that kind behind it and that it is entitled, perhaps, to a little complacency, will not in this critical second Parliament forget that democracy always looks ahead and that people are wondering what they are going to do now that they have really consolidated the ground and repaired some of the damage that was done between 1929 and 1931. It is when one turns to that aspect, which is vital to the fortunes not only of the Government but of this country, that one has one or two questions to ask. I want to ask them, not in any critical sense and not in any disparaging sense, but because I want to know, in what direction we are going. The first question I want to ask is what is the Government's policy in regard to hours of labour. The material prosperity of any industrial country must be measured by two things. I think it ought to be measured by the increasing cheapness of goods and by the increasing leisure of those who produce the goods. Where we went wrong with out laissez faire system was that cheapness must be symmetrical. A fall in prices must be symmetrical; otherwise, the unbalancing 616 becomes very obvious; the primary producer cannot buy the products of the secondary producer. The Government have done a great deal to correct that by their price-raising policy in regard to raw materials, but what is their policy in regard to hours? I. said on a previous occasion that the index of scientific advancement is the extent to which you unemploy people and that the whole progress of industrial and scientific activity ought to be aimed to unemploy people and not to find them jobs, and that those engaged in industry and labour would have good cause to feel dissatisfied with the progress of mechanisation and rationalisation if it did not bring them correlative and corresponding leisure.
What have we at present? Largely, as I think, owing to mechanical and scientific advance, we have the leisure which our forefathers were crying out 'or but we have it, not distributed, but heaped up in the idle bodies and souls of the unemployed. What are we to do, and what is the Government's policy, to redistribute that leisure so that something of the advance of industry may accrue to the benefit of the workers themselves? A most interesting experiment was seen the other day in South Wales, the Blaenavon miners agreeing, employed and unemployed, to distribute what work was available among themselves, coming together in order that you should not have leisure heaped up on the one hand and toil heaped up on the other. That example ought to be investigated and it ought to be seen whether something of the kind cannot be applied in, perhaps, selected industries chosen by the Minister of Labour for the experiment. I should like to see a survey of the labour needs of different industries. The State cannot stand by and look at overtime as being a normal and usual appendage of industry, the State now pays for overtime because it is paying those who are prevented from having their share in industry owing to the fact that overtime is being worked, and it has become a matter for the taxpayer, and, therefore, for the Government, to make some careful investigation into the question in what industries overtime is being worked, and why should it go on being worked as a regular matter. The trade unions ought to be brought into consultation in an attempt to find the best method whereby the available labour 617 in industry can be spread in reasonable hours in the different occupations. If the trade unions say they will not involve themselves in an inquiry of that kind, if I were the Government I would fight them tooth and nail because I believe it would be a case of the employed having a policy hostile to the unemployed and a policy which any Government which had courage could face with perfect calmness because they would have a great body of public opinion behind it.
What is being done about the savings of the people? They have accumulated and are accumulating in very large proportions. The President of the Board of Trade gave figures the other day showing that the aggregated small savings of the people now amounted to over £3,000,000,000 distributed among 15,000,000 or 16,000,000 wage-earners, an aggregate of about £200 per head. What is being done to encourage that volume of saved capital to find its way into the economic machinery of the country? Is it always to remain idle in the deposits of the savings banks? Is it always to be sterile money or money lent to Governments? Something ought to be done to enable the small capitalist to come into industry and play the part that the great capitalist is never going to be able to play again, because by the taxation and predatory legislation of the last 25 years he has been effectively prevented from ever doing so. But you must not ask $Le small capitalist to come in and face the disturbance of confidence that we have seen during the boom from 1923 to 1929. To my mind the Government ought to be paving the way for the entry on safe terms of the small private capitalist into the industry of the country by a revision of the Trustee Act, by a new and better Companies Act which will prevent the dissipation of the savings of the people and the underpinning of confidence in the joint stock companies, for example, by giving the organised opposition of shareholders some definite status in regard to companies' affairs so that it can coma before the courts if necessary and demand that its voice should be heard at the expense of the companies themselves. Is something going to be done about that?
I should like to see in the King's Speech, instead of the bald assertion that "My Ministers will continue their efforts to create favourable conditions for the export trade," something said 618 about what is going to be done about the exchange restrictions in foreign countries.
A trader with foreign countries has to take risks. No one suggests that the State should undertake those risks for him, He has to take the risk of the solvency of his customer and the solvency of the country. The sort of risk that he ought not be required to take is that, having been paid by his customer, the Government of the nation with which he is trading should put its foot down and say," That money shall not be released." In every industry we are meeting with that state of affairs where solvent importers trading with concerns in this country pay their money into blocked accounts and we cannot get it out. The worst of the situation is that in the main it is countries which have a favourable trade balance with us which are the worst offenders. The Argentine, which imports from us five times as much as we send her, Costa Rica, which sends us 10 times what we-send her, and Uruguay, which sends us twice what we send her, are typical countries where only Government action can realise the frozen credits and where, if the export trade, which is the life-blood of the country, is not to be throttled entirely, the Government must intervene and give some security and safeguard to the merchants in the export market. Although it may be said that they are really administrative matters, I think that in fact they need legislation, and I hope that the fact that they have not been specifically mentioned does not mean that they have been overlooked, or that steps have not been taken to deal with the export trade situation.
I turn to the last and most vital part of the difficulties which concern the Government at the present time, namely, the question of the international situation. I believe that in a very short time it will be found that we have proceeded as far along the line of domestic recovery as is possible, and that no real advance can be made in our prosperity until in the international field the situation is more serene and easy than it is at the present time. It is when one looks abroad that one really feels the greatest possible anxiety as to the future not only of this country, but, I believe, of the whole of Europe and the whole of 619 civilisation. I feel so strongly that the Disarmament Conference is the most garrulous, futile face for dealing with the position with which Europe, and indeed the world, is faced, that you might just as well call a conference of Harley Street physicians to discuss the value of the clinical thermometer because people are running temperatures. People do not arm for fun. It is no earthly good talking about cannon, warships, aeroplanes and tanks, and one weapon after another, when these things are only the indices of the real root causes—fear, insecurity and lack of safety—which exist all over the Continent of Europe. These are the things upon which we want to concentrate. Let us forget about the question of arms. Arms will dissolve like the frost before the morning sun if once you have a grip of the real, underlying causes which compel people to arm. I am left entirely cold when I am told, as one is by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), that it is under capitalism you will always have great armies. Those indices of insecurity and fear are the greatest enemies of the capitalist system.
What is the commonplace man's point of view, the view of the man-in-the-street in this country, of the situation in which we find ourselves? I think that he would probably put it, if he put it logically, in a sequence of points, something like this. France by the Treaty of Versailles and by the policy which she has been pursuing ever since the War has been creating next door to her 'a sullen, resentful and bitter neighbour. To that extent he would throw the blame upon France. He would say, "I have to look at the situation as it is at the present time." France has armed herself against Frankenstein. The past is irrelevant, because we have to be realists and see what the position is at the present time. Surely, the fact that Frankenstein is there and is ready to arm to the teeth makes it of no use talking about the responsibility of blame in the past. Nobody in this country really can blame France for being armed. A strong French army, much as I regret her failure to disarm or to implement her pledges in the past, is the one thing which is preventing war in Europe. I believe that if it were not for the fact—which Europe 620 knows, and nobody better than Germany —that France could walk through to Berlin like walking through a pat of butter, the great resurgent nationalism in Germany would spill over the frontiers and envelop the whole of Europe in bloodshed. That is why France will not disarm at the present time and why, if she did disarm, the peace of Europe would be in grave danger.
What is our position in regard to that? The British people, irrespective of party, are hopelessly and completely divided as to where their sympathy lies. I have taken the trouble to pay careful attention to speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, 'and you can see the cleavage running through them so that they do not know whether to blame France or Germany. The only thing certain is that the sympathy of the whole nation is divided in this matter, and that public opinion does not offer its guiding force to the Foreign Secretary and to the Government in the matter of international affairs. In these circumstances, it is essential that we should try to forget the dispute about arms. We should get it out of our focus, and go back to root causes. If I say something which may sound revolutionary and dangerous, it is because really and deeply in my heart I believe that it is important to say it. We must go back now and revise the Treaty of Versailles. I do not think that there will be any peaceful outlook for Europe until we have revised the Treaty which has caused the difficulties in which Europe is now involved.
We must go hack to the Polish Corridor, back to the situation in Hungary and back to the situation of the Saar. I welcome the fact that the Foreign Secretary has made it clear that we are to go back to diplomatic exchanges rather than to the futile phase of talking over the number of guns we, each of us, are to keep. I appeal to the Opposition in this matter. The Opposition of the day have almost an equal responsibility to that of the Government for the peace of Europe. Niggling may be legitimate and perhaps in one by-election it may win a vote here and there, but the matter is too serious to adopt a niggling position upon the question of disarmament. A constructive effort to try to get a radical revision of the conditions in Europe which make armaments 621 necessary would be a help not only to the Government of this country but to Europe as a whole.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite do not know what they would do. They have no policy, because they are divided by cleavages at least as deep as those felt on this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would call a general strike if there were a war in any circumstances whatever, and the right hon. Gentleman who so gracefully leads the Opposition at the moment is much more logical—if I interpret his views rightly—for he would throw in the armed might of this country to support of the collective peace system. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, after he had finished shooting the capitalists, would also throw in the armed forces of the Empire in support of the collective peace system, as he calls it. In fact, every country in Europe knows to-day that we are in such a position of doubt and hesitation that we could not throw an army corps overseas if we wanted to do so, and that public opinion in this country would force any Government in power to stand aside and escape from its commitments on one excuse or another. In the words of perhaps the most peaceful of all the poets, Cowper,Violence can never longer sleepThan human passions please.I have suggested what is perhaps rather revolutionary, that we should go back on the Versailles Peace Treaty. I do so with the greater confidence because this Parliament has never yet spoken. The voice of this Parliament has never yet been heard. We are the emblems of the greatest democratic revival that there has been in this country. The country spoke, but Parliament has not spoken. We have been doomed to sit here and to listen at great length, at interminable length, to the wiseacres and the Privy Councillors on both sides of the House, but this Parliament is as mute as the day it was born. This Parliament is very largely composed, if not of youth, at any rate of the generation that went through these things. This is a Parliament the rank and file of which is perhaps more akin with the German Government, with Hitler and with those who went through it, than our leaders in any Parliament that we have had since the War.
622 This is a Parliament that has a chance, if it can make the voice of its rank and file effective of exerting a very great influence in the affairs of Europe. Irrespective of party, because there is no party on the subject of peace arid war, we who were hustled from school and college to the tumbrils are not going to wait indefinitely for the leadership of those who have never heard a shot fired in anger. This Parliament by coherent talk, irrespective of party, must keep in front of the Government the need for a revision of all those forces that make difficulties and produce the dangers which beset the peace of Europe at the present time. Let them, in Heaven's name, not worry about pride. Let them not argue that this would be a diplomatic victory for Germany, but let them go forth and hold out a hand to Germany, prepared to discuss with her the difficulties that she feels are a hurt to her national pride, because it is only in that way that we can get at the root causes and do something to get rid of the menace that really stands before u3 at the present time.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. LEVY
I have sat on this seat for exactly five and a-quarter hours. I have listened to every hon. Member and right hon. Member that has spoken, and up to now, with the exception of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, not one has mentioned the question which is so vital to this country, namely, the water supply. If hon. Members would only carry their minds back a few moments and try to think of this country during the drought I am sure that they would not fail to realise the need of Government action to put right this important problem, which is so fundamental not only to the health of the people but to the revival of agriculture and to the general structure of the nation. The Minister of Health has told us that he has arranged with the Treasury that £1,000,000 shall be set aside to help to solve the water problem. He also said he was coming to the House in the near future for legislation, but, if I understood him rightly, he still says that the primary responsibility must rest with the local authorities concerned.
I hope that any criticisms that I may make will not be considered of an un- 623 friendly character. They are intended to be helpful. If the Minister interprets them as unfriendly, that is not my intention. When approaching the water problem we must realise that there are four fundamentals of the utmost importance, (1) is there ample first-class water in the country, and the answer is, yes. (2) Is it properly conserved and distributed? The answer is definitely, "No." (3) Is an adequate and proper water supply essential for the welfare of the country? The answer must be "Yes." (4) Can any other system but a national system adequately supply these needs? That is the question that we have to ask ourselves and try to examine. This problem is not new. It is over 100 years old. I have researched back for the past 80 years. I will not go further back than 70 years, when a Royal Commission was set up in 1866, under the Duke of Richmond. I have read the report and the recommendations, and I have read nearly all the reports of the committees that has been set up since that period, but as I have promised to be brief, and I do not intend to break the promise that I have given, I must skip over a good many things that I should have liked to put before hon. and right hon. Gentlemen.
I hope that I shall not be thought egotistical if I say that I claim to have some knowledge of this subject. During the summer I made several tours round the waterless areas. I found a number of local authorities competent, and I found a number incompetent. I say, without fear of contradiction, and the results will speak for themselves if we wait longer. no little local authority and no group of little local authorities are able to tackle this probem. We find that where local authorities are competent, self-interest predominates. We find local authorities drawing water from many miles away, while round and about and in between their pipe lines the districts are arid and waterless. At the present time, in this year of progress, water is still sold by the bucket. For my illustration, I will take the case of Birmingham. A more efficient local authority it is impossible to find. I take off my hat to their efficiency, but self-interest predominates with Birmingham.
624 Birmingham draws its water from Wales. Their pipe lines come many scores of miles and the areas round about and in between those pipe lines are arid and waterless. Birmingham uses 30,000,000 gallons of water a day. They estimated for a 56 point rainfall per annum, which is equivalent to 75,000,000 gallons per day consumption. When they laid their pipe lines and monopolised the source of supply they found that they had underestimated their rainfall, which was 62 points, which means that they have 100,000,000 gallons per day. It was arranged that 7,000,000 gallons compensation water should be returned to the River Wye, but to-day they are returning 27,000,000 gallons of water to the Wye, which causes flooding. To-day they only need 30,000,000 gallons of water per day for consumption, and there are 70,000,000 gallons which might well be used in other places which are not used at all. It is not an oratorical flourish to say that you have famine next door to want and waste alongside plenty. We are all well aware that £50,000,000 has been spent on a national electricity supply; but not a shilling on a national water supply. You can have electricity for your farm, but your stock still have to drink muddy contaminated water, and dairy farmers cannot get a sufficient water supply.
I contend that this problem can only be solved by a national scheme. I have not the time to explain the scheme which in my opinion is necessary to deal with this great problem, but I hope to have the opportunity of doing so on some other occasion. For ordinary villages to have to buy their water by the pailful or draw it from the pump, which in most cases is alongside the church graveyard and of doubtful purity, is something which is really abhorrent. If we are to have pure water, of which there is plenty, let us have a scheme which is going to give us pure water. Take one-third of the area of England. Hon. Members will have the geography of England in their minds. From the Wye in the West to Boston in the East, and from the Humber in the North to the Bristol Channel in the South, you have a huge triangular area with 16,000 square miles, and nearly all the water that is used within those 16,000 square miles, where there is water at all, is of second-class quality and has to be filtered and treated with chloride. There 625 is plenty of first-class water available if the system is arranged to make it available.
I believe that I was the first Member to raise this water question in this Parliament. I have pressed it again and again on the Minister, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on going so far as he is to-day. But in dealing with the subject I dealt with the rural areas, I eliminated the towns and cities. They can no longer be eliminated. I know of many cases where, during the drought, there were restrictions on water in cities and towns. They closed down from 5 o'clock at night until 8 o'clock in the morning, because of the insufficiency of the supply. What was the result 1 Mills and factories which did not have an adequate reserve supply of water also had to close down because they could not keep their boilers going; industrialists who could have run on overtime, on a double shift, were forced to close down. I made some extacts during my researches into the history of this matter which I shall just have time to read to the House. In 1839 a Royal Commission on Water recommended that when water is brought from a distance care should be taken to include in the scheme the supply of places along the route. Nothing has been dune. To-day some of the great municipalities bring water scores of miles through areas which are parched in a dry season.
In 1870—I want to bring hon. Members along with me from 1866 to 1933 in order to show to the House that no appreciable progress has been made—papers were read before the Society of Arts urging that the country should be divided into water-shed districts under Commissioners, and urging also the creation of a central authority to superintend water supply. In 1901, in 1908, and in 1910, there were further reports dealing wholly or in part with this matter. Nothing has been done. There have been questions galore in Parliament. It was stated on behalf of the Ministry of Health in 1923 that a survey of the water resources and requirements of the country was then being undertaken with a view—and this is very important—to the adoption of a general policy in the general interest rather than specific areas. What has become of that survey, and of the policy? We have had in- 626 quiries and surveys for years and years and years. Every inch of the country has been surveyed time and again, and these surveys must be in the archives of the Ministry. In 1924 it was stated by the then Socialist Minister of Health that the question of new legislation in connection with water supplies was being considered by the Advisory Committee on Water. In 1928 the Ministry of Health issued a booklet on regional advisory water committees, and in 1929 the Socialist Minister of Health said that the whole question was under constant review, and he urged neighbours to help one another. He said that four regional advisory committees had been set up. In 1930 the Minister said that primary responsibility for water supply rested with the local authorities; and it still does. In other words, we are substantially where we were in the midlle of the last century. If talk would solve the water problem it would have been solved years ago. Local authorities cannot solve it.
In conclusion, let me quote from one of the latest reports on the subject, Sir John Snell's Committee in 1923, because it summarises the position and points to the remedy. It says:There is no department charged with the duty of exercising genera] control over the use of water in the interest of the whole community. Notwithstanding the fact that such control in relation to specific purposes, such as water supply, has been recommended as essential by numerous Royal Commissions, Select Committees and other bodies during the last 50 years, no remedial legislation has been passed. In our opinion such control should now be established in relation to all uses of water. The water resources of the country cannot otherwise be properly conserved and fully and systematically used for all purposes, and there is real danger that at no distant date some of our communities in England and Wales may not be able to provide themselves with proper and adequate water supplies unless such control is established. The provision of adequate arid proper public water supplies must, of course, always be the primary consideration, but it is also of great importance that the requirements of the community for water for power and other purposes should be met as far as practicable. The allocation of water has become too serious a matter to be left solely to a succession of Parliamentary Committees which are constituted from time to time to deal with particular Bills and have no continuity of existence, and which are unprovided with machinery by which schemes can he con- 627 sidered in relation to and co-ordinated win; national resources and needs for all purposes.That is a report of 13 years ago, and today we have the first effort—I congratulate the Minister—the first real effort being made to tackle this problem. This is a great matter. It is a difficult matter and it cannot be dealt with in any piecemeal or haphazard way. I hope that the Minister is now going definitely to tackle the question in a comprehensive way. I would like to see him become the Minister of the National Government who goes down to history as the Minister who not only cleared away the slums, but also provided the countryside with the great blessing of a sufficient and pure water supply.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
Like the last speaker I have been sitting here for some hours, and he has made me feel quite thirsty. Seriously though, I entirely agree with a great deal of what he has said. I have some association with parts of Yorkshire which suffered very severely during the last drought, and I sincerely hope that the contribution which the Government are making, and the effort they are now directing towards this problem, will have very speedy and successful results.
But I desired to address myself to the Gracious Speech, which in principle we are discussing to-day. I would like to say, in the first place, if I may without presumption, that I think it is time an alteration was made in the terms in which King's Speeches are put into His Majesty's mouth. I have had the curiosity to look up a number of King's Speeches of the past, and I have seen how much they all observe the same traditional style, how they are all to the same degree full of pious hopes and good intentions. That remark applies even more to the Gracious Speech under consideration to-day than to some of the Speeches of the past. One has only to look at the King's Speeches during the time of the present Government for references to one subject, namely, disarmament, to appreciate how little relation the Speeches have to the situation regarding peace and disarmament, or to the immense difficulties, and the great poverty and destitution which are now faced by so many of our people. I looked up the Speech which was delivered on 10th November, 1931, and I 628 selected the paragraph on the subject of disarmament and the Disarmament Conference. I there read:My Government intend to pursue the policy of promoting peace and good will, and to continue their active interest in the work of the League of Nations. Particularly, they are giving close attention to the preparations for the approaching Disarmament Conference.That was over two years ago. In the King's Speech of 22nd November, 1932, I read:My Government will continue, in full co-operation with all the other members of the Conference, to work for an international convention which will be a foundation for a lasting peace.Only last Tuesday we had a Speech in almost identical terms:My Government will continue to co-operate with other Governments in endeavouring to reach a satisfactory solution of the complicated questions of disarmament in order to achieve a settiement acceptable to all, and to attain fruitful results from the prolonged labours of the Disarmament Conference.Surely it is not sufficient year after year merely to pay lip service to peace and disarmament or to the League of Nations, and at the same time to let almost every action belie the words which are put into the King's mouth. His Majesty's Government state in the Gracious Speech that they propose to promote peace in the world, and to co-operate with other Governments in upholding the League of Nations, and they have done none of these things to the extent that they might have done them. They have opposed suppression of the private trade in arms, which Lord Cecil considers essential to progress. They initialled a Four-Power Pact, behind the League's back which can only lessen the League's authority, and all the time, whilst the Disarmament Conference has been meeting, they have, with other Governments, been arguing, quibbling, objecting, each trying to get its own way; our own Government and other Governments have been putting up tariffs and embargoes and quotas and they have been strengthening reaction and rearmament certainly in the last few weeks by their example. At the end of it all I submit that we are precisely where we began over two years ago. Indeed, it is very questionable whether we are as far advanced in this matter of disarmament and peace as we were two years ago.
According to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who spoke on Friday last, 629 we are now engaged in preliminary diplomatic negotiations, discussions on procedure, parallel and supplementary action. Meanwhile in the last two years Japan and Germany have left the League, conditions in many respects have become worse, and the whole original impetus of the Conference has been lost. I notice that in the speech of the Foreign Secretary on Friday the very word "disarmament" almost disappeared from his vocabulary. He now speaks of regulated or unregulated armaments, and speaks but little of disarmament at all. I often wonder whether some of us have not forgotten already the death of so many thousands of our comrades—certainly many of mine—and the desolation which the last War brought about. I wonder whether what happened in that War, and what may happen of a much worse character in the next war, is sufficiently present in our minds and in the minds of those on the Government Front Bench. Surely that inferno, from which some of us did manage to escape, should have impressed all of us with the necessity for doing something drastic and definite in the matter.
We are told by all the experts—I read an article only to-day—that the next war will be far worse than the last, that it will be riot merely a slaughter of the innocents, but an absolute massacre; that we ourselves possess a poison gas which is terrible in its effects and which no gas mask so far discovered can provide against. If we think of these things, why do we not throw aside all the pettifogging bartering that has been going on at Geneva in the last two years, bartering as to big guns and little guns, cruisers and submarines; this secret diplomacy on which we are about to embark again, this playing off of one country against another, this signing of pacts and agreements and making of secret arrangements outside the League of Nations. Why do we, professing as we do to have great influence and prestige throughout the world, not take the lead in this matter? Why do we not say what we are prepared to do; that we are prepared to abolish all the weapons which were forbidden to Germany under the Versailles Treaty; that we are prepared to abolish air bombing, to agree to inspection, to suppress the private manufacture of and trade in armaments, and to take a share 630 with others in securing by a collective system the peace of the world? Alternatively, there is a suggestion in the "Times" which might well be considered and adopted by His Majesty's Government: that we should put forward our view in this country of a fair deal to the Germans and to the French in a circular dispatch before all the nations of the world, and our suggestions for a basis on which to work, which should deal with principles and not merely with the claims of the various nations to different degrees of armament which have hitherto taken up a great deal of the time at Geneva. Unless the Government take some action of that sort they cannot complain if we in this House and the country outside think them either insincere on the one hand or bunglers and blunderers on the other. My hon. Friend says that some may think them both, but I should like to think that they are sincere and wish with all of us that disarmament may come about.
On the home front the realities of the situation are no more realised than they are internationally. In 1932 the Government, in the King's Speech, promised to do everything in their power to stimulate the recovery of trade. In 1933 they hoped, by the creation of favourable conditions, to afford opportunities for the development of cotton, coal and other trades; at the same time they refused to take the action which is necessary to create trade themselves by public works, by increasing purchasing power, by restoring the cuts, by coining to an agreement with Russia, and in other ways suggested by those who urge this policy upon the Government. Meanwhile a great proportion of our people simply exist; they do not live. In my own large working-class constituency this is true of a great majority of the people. I wonder what the Government have to say—because we have heard nothing so far—-as to the report of the British Medical Association, or as to the report of the Save the Children Fund and the comments of the "Lancet" upon that report:There are many thousands within the danger zone and a residuum whose health is already impaired and whose future as citizens and parents is being imperilled by the conditions under which they are now compelled to live. The Save the Children Fund comes into actual contact with that residuum and it is quite legitimate to point out that the rata of malnutrition per 1,000 school children was 11.2 as against 10.6 in the year before and 9.5 in. 1925. As these 631 are average figures the incidence of malnutrition in the worst areas must be materially more severe.That is very substantially confirmed in my own town by recent reports of the medical officer of health.
The comment of the Leader of the Opposition the other day on what was said in the Gracious Speech about the problem of poverty and destitution under the conditions in which the people live was a just one. He said:Nowhere in the Speech is there a message of hope for the masses, for the millions of workers who live in conditions under which none of us would choose to live, or for the unemployed generally."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1933; col. 18, Vol. 282.]I joined the Labour party in 1916 for one main reason; other reasons, other arguments, it is true, have since confirmed me in that resolution, but at that time I was in France. 1 had recently been on leave, and I appreciated for the first time how the nation had been and was then being organised for war, how almost every interest was being subordinated to a successful prosecution of the War; how our resources in almost all respects except wealth were being put into a common pool. Then it first came home to me that if the country, for the purposes of war, could be so organised, why could it not be equally well organised for the purposes of peace, so that poverty and destitution might be abolished? I still believe that until such a planned organisation is brought about in this country and in many other countries, if not, indeed, in all countries, we shall continue to have misery, destitution and war with us. It is because I see nothing in the Gracious Speech which indicates that even a glimpse of this truth has reached the Government, that I support the Amendment which has been so ably moved by my hon. Friend.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Mr. SOPER
Like previous hon. Members who have spoken, I have been several hours awaiting my turn, and I have promised to sit down as soon as possible, and not later than 9.45 p.m. I object especially to the Amendment of the Opposition in two respects. The first is the phrase:their mishandling of international and Imperial affairs…and neglecting their mandate to promote the welfare of the country.632 I will take the second objection first. Three-quarters of a million people fewer are unemployed to-day than 12 months or two years ago. At this season of the year, at Christmas time, we know that so many more men, women and children will have those necessaries which every Member of this House also hopes to have. I also want to remind the Opposition that in the West Riding of Yorkshire there is more employment to-day than there was 12 months ago. Hon. Members from my own county know that girls are required from other townships because there is a scarcity of girls in Bradford and other cities. I believe that this goes to show that the Government have certainly fulfilled that pledge in regard to the West Riding. I should also like to remind right hon. and lion. Members opposite that the coal trade of this country has benefited through the action of the present Government_ Trade agreements have been made, and though perhaps in my own constituency of Barnsley we have not felt the benefit at present, yet I am sure that we shall de so shortly.
The other point I want to mention briefly is that I am glad to see that in the Gracious Speech international affairs have the leading place. It is the most important subject which the House has to face at the present time and, unless a satisfactory solution of it is found, we cannot expect to see a restoration of the cut in the unemployment benefit—which I as the representative of an industrial area would like to see restored first—or any of the other cuts, nor can we hope to secure many of the things which we require in connection with our social services. The hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) said that disarmament was not a party or a political question. if it is not either of those—and I agree with him—it is a Christian question.
Although this point is not made in the House of Commons as it ought to be, yet no greater disservice can be done to the cause of peace than to suggest that this country is not sincerely pursuing it. The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs deserve the gratitude of the House for the stand which they have taken on the question of peace and disarmament. It is our duty to refrain from any step which would suggest that 633 there was any responsible body of opinion in this country which doubted the sin- cerity of our Government's intentions in this matter. If, indeed, other countries are anxious to re-arm, hon. Members opposite have given them a ready-made excuse by declaring that this country is not honest in its declarations about disarmament.
Look what is happening in Germany. We have to face the fact that the enthusiasm of this newly-risen generation has been harnessed to the old spirit of jingoism, carefully disguised. They have been taught that they have hereditary enemies. In the name of heaven, can there be such a thing as an hereditary enemy? How can an 18-year-old youth in Picardy be the hereditary enemy of an 18-year-old youth living in some obscure village of the Rhineland I They will be- come enemies if care is not taken, but it will be art enmity imposed upon them and not one which they have inherited. One way to impose enmity is by that over-emphasized nationalism which instructs its youth more in the achievements of the nation on the battlefield than its achievements in the pursuits of peace, in its cultural, industrial and civic pursuits. That is why I rejoice that we have made Armistice Day what I hope it will always be, a day of remembrance rather than rejoicing, a day on which we dwell on the terrible toll which war took from us, rather than on the territorial gains which victory gave to us.
I said a moment ago that this question of disarmament and peace was a Christian question. I wish from the bottom of my heart that the religious bodies would tackle it more directly and more effectively than they are doing now. It is of little avail for them to bombard us with resolutions. They must show themselves that they are prepared to act. They must demonstrate to the world that Christianity has no frontiers. In my opinion a Christian cannot be a nationalist. I do not mean that he cannot be as sincere a patriot as any sabre-rattler, but he must visualise one Christianity and not a number of little Christianities, marked off in different colours on the map. Peace is the message of Christianity and war is anti-Christian.
A ministerial friend of mine showed me a letter recently which he was sending to 634 12 British journals. Translations of that letter were also being sent to representative papers in Paris, Berlin and Rome. In that letter, which was entitled "How can Europe be saved?" he suggested that emphasis should be laid on the international and all-national character of Christianity and that we should stress the fact that the Christian message which we give and receive is the same Christian message for every part of Christ's kingdom here on earth. If we can get that conception of one Christianity pervading the whole globe, we shall get the spirit of brotherhood which is the first essential to a just appreciation of international problems. My friend wished to suggest another conference, a conference of the heads of all the churches of Christendom, and that, from such a conference there should go forth a message condemning war on every pretext and declaring it to be the duty of Christians everywhere to work for utter and complete disarmament. T believe that no Government could resist public opinion thus reinforced. I venture to suggest that by such means the Christian churches would make a greater contribution to the cause of universal peace than they have ever made in the whole of church history.
I believe it is one of the faults of our Parliamentary system that people attempt to make debating points on a grave question like this and tount each other with holding this view or that view, and that the newspapers seize upon the few points of difference rather than the manifold and important points of agreement. Why will politicians not realise that to represent to the world that there is any party in the House of Commons desirous of war is a sure means of provoking war? Speeches made to secure debating points here have a far greater significance when they are read abroad in those countries which are anxious to put before their peoples reasons why armaments should be increased or at any rate not further reduced. The greatest service that can be rendered to the cause of peace by the House of Commons is that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary should be enabled to speak in the name of all the Members of this House without distinction of party and to declare that it is our honest intention to go every inch 635 of the way with those countries which desire, in the language of the old Book. tobeat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks.I am convinced that if party and political prejudices were put on one side, peace would come.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. COVE
Apart altogether from the question of time, it would be presumption on my part if I were to endeavour to cover the whole range of the subjects which have been raised in the Debate on the Address. Indeed, it would be presumptuous for a private Member to deal even with all the questions raised in the Amendment now before the House. I shall, therefore, confine myself to a relatively few and, I hope I might add, important points that I wish to address particularly to the Government. We have in office at this moment probably the most powerful Government that we have had in modern times, a Government which received the sanction of the overwhelming majority of the citizens of this country, a Government which, therefore, is not and has not been restricted by democracy in any shape or form. I think I can say, without fear of contradiction and probably with the approval of the whole House, that never in the history of Parliament, except perhaps during the War period, has there been a Government that had behind it such a sanction from democracy as this Government has. I can but admit that in the last election the Opposition was reduced to very small numbers. We were returned in such small numbers that we could not, even if we so desired, impede or obstruct any of the policies which the Government liked to bring forward.
In brief, this Government has power, given to it by the democracy of this country. This Government has not been limited either in numbers or in policies by the citizens, the voters, of this country; and it is in relation to the power that democracy has given it that democracy will judge its actions. I think it is reasonable to say that the greater the power, the greater the freedom, the greater the democratic sanction that the Government of the day has, the greater will be the impeachment of democracy for the failure of that Government. Therefore, my first observation is that the Gov- 636 ernment cannot come along and say, as the Labour Government quite recently said, "We were impeded by lack of numbers in the House of Commons." Whether you call it a false or a true plea, the fact remains that while the Labour Government was in office it not have a majority. The present Government has an overwhelming majority and, therefore, an overwhelming power to carry its policies into effect.
Let us first of all judge the Government by this test: Has it decreased appreciably the poverty which exists up and down the length and breadth of this land? Has it removed from the homes of our people the terrible menace of insecurity in employment, the tragic fact of not being able to feed and clothe themselves, their wives, and their children? Has it appreciably removed all those disabilities 1 I venture to assert that this Government has not done so, that this Government, in spite of the fact that it has immense power, that democracy does not stand in its way, that there is no need for a dictatorship of any kind, has not done anything appreciably to remove the facts of poverty in the homes of our country. I will turn to one or two reports. Let me. first of all refer to the children. I hope the Lord President of the Council, who, I understand, is going to reply, will be able to reassure us on this matter, but I must say that I am becoming dubious of the reports which have been issued with regard to the physical condition and the malnutrition of the children of this country. I am not satisfied with the conclusions to which they come, and I believe there is some justification for my suspicion. I will read from the report called, "The Health of the Schoolchild," issued by the Board of Education, on page 130 of which I find these words:It is almost impossible to understand why the malnutrition figure among the elementary school children does not rise under existing circumstances.That seems to suggest that there is not appreciable malnutrition and that they cannot understand why it is not there. In the very next sentence it says:There is no doubt that large numbers of children are carrying on to-day in this county without adequate food.Further on, the report goes on to say:Apart altogether from the question of food, there is no possible doubt that very 637 large numbers of the children in the county have gone about this winter very inadequately clothed. Under these circumstances it is difficult to understand why the number of malnourished children is not very much larger than it is. It is, therefore, safe to say, however surprising it may be, that there is no general incidence of malnutrition so far throughout the school children of the county.I am reading from the county report of Cumberland. Then comes the significant statement:Many children are, of course, below par.I want to emphasise two of those sentences:Many children are, of course, below par.andThere is no doubt that large numbers of children are carrying on to-day in this county without adequate food.The whole powerful National Government must hear the responsibility for that state of affairs. There is no doubt that the investigations under the "Save the Children" Fund have proved conclusively that there is malnutrition, as my hon. Friend who spoke last but one pointed out. There is under-feeding and bad feeding, and there are thousands and tens of thousands of our children who go without boots and who are inadequately clothed. As a matter of fact, if the Prime Minister would only go down to his old constituency, which I now have the honour to represent, he would find up in those valleys children ill-nourished, badly clothed, without any thick boots. If he would go over the road that he was so proud the Labour Government had constructed—he once told me it was the Labour Government road—over the mountains down into the Rhondda Valley, he would find that at this moment collections are being taken, bazaars organised, and all sorts of things done by teachers in the schools and other charitably minded people in order to get boots and clothes for thousands and thousands of children in the Rhondda Valley.
Take the adults in the Prime Minister's own constituency. I am speaking about what he knows of those men and women who worked their fingers off to get him returned when he was despised and rejected of men in the political life of this country—those men and women who tramped over those valleys for him in order to get him back because they be 638 lieved that he was a true Socialist, and that he of all men would stand by them, whatever happened; because they believed in the gospel that he preached and that he was associated with a movement through which he himself would bring about a more abundant life for them. Down in that valley what will you find? Men and women who have to keep themselves warm at night by the newspapers that are rejected from the library. They cannot afford to purchase proper bed clothes or any renewal of the furniture in the home. Hon. Members tend to forget that as the years of unemployment roll on, more and more inadequate becomes the unemployment benefit. It may be true that the unemployment benefit in the past kept men and women from day to day in the necessaries of life, though on a low standard, but when any capital re-equipment of the home was wanted, when any new piece of furniture or clothes was needed, when, if you like to bring it down to details, a saucepan or a bucket required renewal, there was nothing in the unemployment benefit to enable them to be purchased. The National Government with all its power and with its sanction of democracy still allows to exist in this country a sea of misery and poverty.
I want to go a little further and refer to a report which has been mentioned in this Debate, namely, the report of the doctors. As I understand it, the doctors did not sit down to prove that there was a vast amount of malnutrition or to give statistics as to the number of people who are below the poverty line. They sat down to say quite simply what was absolutely essential for a normal life to enable a man to enjoy health so that, when work came, he would be in a position to accept it. What did the doctors find? I do not think their standard was too high. These are the items in a working man's weekly ration: 1 lb. of beef, 6d.; ½ lb. minced meat, 2½d.; ½lb. bacon, 3d.;½lb. corned beef, 3d.;¼lb. liver, lid.1¾lb.; ¼lb. cod, l¼d.; one penny a day for fresh fruit and green vegetables over and above the one penny a week allowed for cabbage; and ¼lb. tea, 3d. Basing their estimates on such prices, the committee showed that a minimum diet for a man, wife and three children, whose ages ranged between 6 and 14, would, on the average, cost 22s. 6½d. per week. Would anybody say that that is a luxury diet 639 or that there is high living in it? Would anybody say that there is the maximum amouut of free enjoyment in meals of that kind? I t is a mean, miserable level of diet.
§ Mr. COVE
And the hon. Member would not like to live on it. I am sure that he will agree that neither of us would like to live on it. I wonder if any Members of the Front Bench would like it. If not, then I am going to ask the Lord President of the Council to say that the Government denounce that standard. If he does denounce it, he is bound to denounce the rates of unemployment benefit which are paid a t this moment. With this diet five or six shillings are left out of the unemployment pay with which to buy boots for the children, for the husband and for the wife, and to buy clothes and furniture. It cannot be done. The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) told us be was asked by a constituent, after the constituent had given him his income and his budget, "What can I do about it, how ran I live?" I ask the Government to-night in the name of the unemployed how they can live on the present rates of benefit. Of course, you will say this is sentiment and sob stuff, but it happens to be the stark reality of the lives of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens.
§ Mr. COVE
But this is a National Government with an immense power, with the sanction of democracy. This is a National Government impeded by no one to do what it likes. The National Government inflicted the 10 per cent. cut on the unemployed. This National Government was given a doctor's mandate to heal the sores and wounds of the unemployed, but what are they doing? I want to give one other quotation. There is every sanction for our attitude in Government reports. I have read not only the final report, but most of the minutes of evidence, taken before the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance, Part 3, and also the report of an investigation in eight industrial areas on the subsequent history of persons who had been disallowed benefit. There are 640 about eight reports here, and I am now taking quotations from the summary of those reports made by a gentleman called Mr. J. Connison, of Glasgow University, appointed, as I understand, by the Ministry of Labour to make that summary. Talking about the men who, for one reason or another, were thrown off unemployment benefit on to other people, he says:Where all are poor, and there are no reserves to fall back upon, and relations cannot help there is, however, a darker side to this picture of the mutual help rendered by members of a family group to one another. All the reports bring out the fact that the burden of maintaining the disallowed persons was, in greater or less degree, usually the muse of hardship to others. Often the subsidy had to cow out of the earnings of a casual worker, or out of the benefit drawn by some other wage-earner in the home. This way the burden was not removed, it was only spread. The picture is not in the main a cheerful one. There is ample evidence of suffering. Some is bound up with the pre-existing state of poverty, some of it directly due to disallowance. Half of the married men in the sample fell into destitution, and generally the other half only subsisted under -grave economic difficulties. Relations and friends were a, stand-by for all classes in the sample: but in that case the trouble was not always banished; again it was only spread.There is not a doubt that there is dire poverty. To-night I hear such paeans of praise from the Government Benches as made me imagine that we had got clean out of our difficulties. Trade is on the upgrade, it was said and unemployment is being reduced; but there are still more than 2,000,000 unemployed.
§ Mr. COVE
But this is a National Government! The Chancellor of the Excheqner mid we must look forward for 10 years to having 2,000,000 unemployed. Trade is on the upgrade, it is said. Let use see. Take the November issue of the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," page 403 —again a Government document:Mining and quarrying. In the coal-Mining industry employment continued to Improve, but was still bad.Pig-iron, steel and tin-plate. In the pig-iron industry employment showed improvement, but was still very bad.Iron and steel industry. Employment showed a slight decline and continued very bad.641Engineering, shipbuilding and metal industries. In the engineering industry employment showed a further improvement but continued very slack.Textile industry. In the cotton industry employment was still bad, though there was some improvement.Going through the whole issue, what do we find?
§ Mr. COVE
The fact of the matter is that hon. Gentlemen opposite are content to be satisfied with a very little improvement, and I am inclined to think that even that is due more to their luck than to their deserts, because the main factor in the improvements was a thing which they said they could stop—our going off the Gold Standard. Looking at the realities of the situation we find that we have 2,000,000 to 2,500,000 people unemployed and the number of people on poor relief increasing. It may be said that we are out of the crisis. The crisis! I will not say about the crisis what the right hon. Member for Epping said. I heard him say here one day, "The crisis which was greatly exaggerated and largely manipulated."
It may be that we have passed the crisis, but the depression is still here. I ask the Government what they are doing and what hope they can give us that we shall get out of the depression. I will ask the Lord President of the Council one or two questions which I hope he will be good enough to answer. As I understood it the unemployed suffered a cut, and other classes suffered cuts in their wages, in order to balance the Budget. The cuts were inflicted in relation to a Budgetary crisis. I understand from the Chancellor of the Exchequer—from reports that I have seen —that the Budget will now balance, that there will be a surplus, money to spare. I want to ask the Lord President of the Council "Has he sufficient confidence tonight that the crisis is passed and that we are so far out of the depression as to restore those cuts to the unemployed, and to the cut classes"?
§ Mr. COVE
I agree—to the unemployed first. Have the Government such confidence in themselves, in what they have done and in the full fruition of their policy, that the Lord President of the Council can get up and say, "The crisis is over. We are masters of the depression. Trade is improving to such a degree, and we have such confidence that it will still further improve, that we can say definitely that we shall restore the cuts to the unemployed and to the cut classes." To the people outside that would be better evidence titian anything else, and would be positive proof that the Government were satisfied that the depression had passed.
I have taken up my time. I hoped to say one or two words about that meek and mild revolutionary, the Minister of Agriculture, but I cannot develop the argument, because I have promised to allow the Lord President of the Council his time. So far as. I understand Government policy for dealing with poverty and giving an increase in trade, it is shown in the method that is being followed by the Minister of Agriculture, that is, the creation of scarcity. That Minister relies upon getting an economic price, but the wonderful thing that happens is that, as soon as he gets near to an economic price, he is swamped by over-production. Immediately he gets a price for pigs, he gets too many pigs, and immediately there is a price for milk, he gets too much milk. What does that mean? It means that by no method of planning, under Capitalism, can you solve the problem of employment and poverty. It is impossible to control and plan the anarchic system of Capitalism, and that is a task in which the Minister of Agriculture must fail.
The Lord President of the Council in a speech last week said that force would be met by force, and that, in a struggle between extreme left and extreme right, the right would win. I am not so sure about that. Even if it is correct that the right would win, that would mean the triumph of reaction and the desolation of the civilisation which we now know. [Interruption.] Oh, yes. Upon the Government rests the responsibility and the duty of justifying the democratic system of this country, and that system can only be justified by the efforts of the Government in removing poverty, pro- 643 viding employment for our people and, in general, in providing a higher standard of life for the citizens of this country.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
With the last words of the. hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) I am in cordial agreement. With regard to his speech, I am not one who would call it sob-stuff. He gave us extracts from various reports that show us what the position of the people still remains in many parts of the country. It is because of the position of our people that I have the misfortune, if it be a misfortune, to be in public life at all. After the War, when I had every intention of leaving public life, I determined to devote the rest of my life to doing what I could to help the people of this country. As a Government, we do our best, and I hope to explain in a short time to-night, having listened to most of the Debates of the last few clays, what we have done to fulfil our mandate.
Listening to the Debate, I must say that the Opposition, on the whole, seem to me extremely like the chorus in a Greek play. They keep up a running fire of complaint against everything that happens. When I first read this long Amendment, including, as it does, everything, I thought of what the tired mother said to the nurse: Go up and see what Tommy is doing, and tell him not to do it." I shall confine my observations to the last sentence, which really contains the whole substance:neglecting their mandate to promote the welfare of the country.Before I do that, there is one thing that I want to say. I see my right hon. Friend—if he will still allow me to call him so—the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). For sonic time I have not been able to see him without turning round. I owe him an apology. I left the House soon after he rose this afternoon. But I am not ashamed of a manly emotion. My heart strings were torn, when I remembered how, only two short years ago, I urged my supporters in Darwen to vote for him, and this is the first occasion on which I have heard. him speak from his present place.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
If I may compare small things with great, I felt like the Papacy, which, having in a moment of enthusiasm, and in the face of all Christendom, created Henry VIII Defender of the Faith, found a short time afterwards that he was nothing of the kind. I have referred to that monarch because I understand that. his personality is now a familiar figure to millions of my fellow-countrymen. I hope, indeed, that posterity may enjoy a film of the Parliamentary system under King George V, bearing the title, "The Public Life of the Member for Darwen," when I have no doubt that the Hollywood of that day will depict him in one of the final scenes in his old age writing the concluding chapters of the Descent of Man."
What, after all, was the object of this Government when it came into power, fortified, as the hon. Member for Aberavon said, by a democratic mandate? We acknowledge the mandate, we acknowledge that we shall have to refer some day to the judgment of that same democracy, and we await its verdict. I think I may put it in this way: We wished to create conditions, which did not then exist, in which industry and agriculture could be profitable; or, as it was put much more succinctly by a party who usually take longer words and periods in which to elaborate their thesis, to make agriculture pay. After all, it is an economic fact that, unless you get a surplus on what is produced, you cannot get an expansion of business. In the same way you will not maintain your standard of living, and a continuation of production at a loss must depress the standard of living, and that elementary truism is true equally whether you are speaking of private or of State enterprise. We believe that we can produce more economically by private enterprise and that under private enterprise we are more likely, in equal conditions, to get that essential surplus than under State enterprise, and we are not encouraged to take a contrary view by watching, so far as one can watch through the mists that hang over the whole of that great Russian empire to-day, the effects of State agriculture in that country.
We began, it is quite true—the hon. Gentleman referred to it—by balancing the Budget, to do which sacrifices were made by all classes of the community.
645 To balance the Budget is the first step in financial stability, and I share the hopes expressed in the answer to a question by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the question of the restoration of cuts, but I can add nothing to what he said. We must await, before we can further consider that matter, the result of the year's accounts. In addition to a balanced Budget we decided on Protection, a word that I do not use in its technical but in its widest sense, that is to say, the defence of our trade and our agriculture, whether by a tariff or by restriction of imports and a quota or by prohibition. We also intended, as we have done, to go further in that direction by making agreements with the Dominions and with India, as we did at Ottawa, and with other countries.
I may just remind him incidentally, because I know the right bon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition is the last man who would like to remain under a misapprehension, that there is no trade agreement that I ever heard of between Russia and the United States nor, so far as I am aware, has any credit been granted, but there has been an agreement by which they enter into the normal diplomatic relationships which we enjoy, if that is the right word. Trade is going on without a trade agreement just as at the moment it is going on between Russia and Great Britain. The period of two years which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of had not elapsed since there was any agreement but only a period of six or seven months, and what we are trying to do in making the present agreement is to see that there shall be more of an equality between the trade of the two countries than there has been in the past, and I have every hope that our skilful negotiators will be able to effect something satisfactory to this country.
Then we have secured the great benefit for trade of cheap money, and the result of these various things that we have done has been a return of confidence through the whole business community which no one two years ago would have believed to be possible. That confidence is shown by certain facts which no one can deny. The improvement lately—I say lately because it was perfectly obvious when the change of fiscal system was made, and when the agreements were made at Ottawa, that it must be some time before the effects of these great changes could be seen. I be- 646 lieve the effects have been seen from the spring of this year. The railway traffics, which have been stagnant or declining for a long time, are improving, and they are not improving at the expense of motor traffic, because motor traffic is improving too. The provincial bank clearings are important. I mention them apart from the Metropolitan because they are almost entirely trade clearances, whereas the Metropolitan do largely financial dealings, which may or may not upset your calculations.
With regard to the unemployment returns, I wish to say little on them, because much has been said during the Debate about them, and the figures are familiar. But the point you have to look at if you want to be cheered—and I am not sure that everybody does—is that there has been an increase month by month for many months past, a remarkable phenomenon considering what trade has been like, and having regard to the fact that we are now getting well into the autumn. I should like to make one observation, not to correct the statement of my right hon. Friend, because he is a very fair controversialist, but he did say something in his broadcast which might lead to the wrong inference being drawn. He said that unemployment was increasing in certain trades. Those were not the words he really used. I will give the words he really used to define more clearly what he meant, but that is what the Press report said. Of course, it is a fact correctly stated, but there is nothing from which you can draw a more incorrect inference than a fact correctly stated. It is the naked fact, and nakedness is still held to border on the indecent and to require clothing, and I propose to put a little clothing on it. What he said is a fact, but you have to remember that there is a large group of industries in this country which, of course, show an increase in unemployment during the second half of the year, and the satisfactory feature—I apologise for all these satisfactory features—of the figures is that while there is an increase in unemployment among these groups this year, an increase of 62,000 between June and October, it compares with an increase of 103,000 in 1929 and 96,000 in 1927 when things were fairly good and when we were trying to pull ourselves together after the unhappy events of the year before.
647 What my right hon. Friend really said was, "The building and contracting trades." Of course, again that is a perfectly correct statement of fact, but in case his statement depressed any of my friends, I would remind him that in the building and contracting trades, according to the figures which I have obtained from the Labour Ministry, the unemployment has increased by only 9,700, as against an increase of 42,000 in 1929 and just under 47,00C. in 1927. I quoted that only to show, even in those industries where unemploment normally, and I may say invariably, increased, that although that unemployment has increased this year it has been incomparably smaller than similar increases in previous years, which shows how well trade is holding itself together at this time.
Then there is the satisfactory increase in the import of raw materials. For the 10 months ending October they are up 7 per cent. in value, but for the second and third quarters of this year 14 per cent. in value over the corresponding period of last year, showing that the marked improvement began with the spring of this year. That is still going on, and we have every reason to hope that, with the momentum that has been acquired and with the 500,000 or more who have been added to those in employment, the improvement will continue. There has been a steady rise, too, in recent months in the export trade. Undoubtedly there is, although I admit nothing like to the extent that we would all of us like to see, a real improvement in purchasing power, due to the increased numbers of those at work and those on full time as compared with last year. So far as world conditions go, it is true to say that in the Southern hemisphere, which has been very backward commercially, there is an improved purchasing newer in Australia, in New Zealand and in South America.
I apologise for having to hurry over so many of these important points, but they have been debated for several days, and there will be another Debate to-morrow. I will do the best I can to cover as much ground as I can in a limited space of time. I should like to say a few words in regard to agriculture. The House will remember the delightful speech of the Minister of Agriculture on Friday. He explained the manner in which we are 648 attempting to create the conditions of a profitable agriculture, and pointed out that it was being done largely, principally, by control. It was that, I imagine, that made the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), in a very interesting speech to-day, say that in his view and for the moment agriculture was far ahead of industry in modernising its methods.
Our desire is to find out—it has hitherto been almost impossible to get accurate statistics—what the real productive capacity of this country is in agricultural produce, and having got that, to support it by quotas. In time we hope gradually to increase that productive capacity until this country is really producing what she can. We all believe, I think the House as a whole believes, that the capacity of this country for production in rural products is enormous. We have chosen that method because we do not believe in get-rich-quick methods applied to economics. We believe that those methods get you into more trouble than you gain from them. We believe in feeling our way, step by step, especially in a country like this, with so large an urban population and still so dependent on imports for a large amount of our foodstuffs.
The Minister of Agriculture pointed out, with great frankness, that you cannot have it both ways, and that agricultural produce must be made to pay. It cannot be made to pay so long as the produce is sold at the cut price at which it has been. Therefore, 'agricultural products will cost more. In that way we are taking a leaf—I am never ashamed of copying what I believe is a good thing—out of the copybook of hon. Members opposite. They tried to do the same thing for the coal industry that we are trying to do for agriculture, and I hope we may be successful. Let me remind the House that ls. in 1926 went just as far as ls.2½d does now in its purchasing power, and that there is a margin in which we may hope to bring back prosperity to agriculture during these years. [Horn. MEMBERS: "It is the other way round."] I am sorry. I put it the wrong way; money has grown in purchasing power. What I want to say is this: that the urban population have gained during the last decade at the expense of the country workers, and I am certain that when the town workers realise that many of the 649 hardships which the country workers have suffered in recent years have been owing to insufficient prices for the products of their labour, they will support the Government in their policy.
Whenever I speak on agriculture I always think of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I most warmly congratulate him on being one of the few I know who is a prophet in. his own family. When he rises in this House and talks on agriculture he is perfectly certain that the echoes of his horn will be heard and repeated in the Welsh hills from Pembroke to Anglesey. I wish I had had the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) play on the paternal harp in the House on Friday, but I cannot help sympathising with the right hon. Member for Darwen when she touched his shield with her spear. I felt that he must have said to himself In the words of Falstaff:Heavens defend me from that Welch fairy.I have touched all too briefly on what we have tried to do, what we are trying to do, and yet there are many problems of which we have not yet touched the fringe. Many great industries must demand further attention and further consideration of the Government; the coal industry, the cotton industry, the iron and steel industry, and shipping, the last of which presents one of the most difficult problems which this country has ever had to face, and upon which the industry itself to-day is concentrating its skill and experienced attention. But beyond these there are two problems of the greatest importance and, I think, of some urgency. I hope and believe that the new Unemployment Insurance Bill, which will embark on its Second Reading on Thursday, will lead the way to a humane and enlightened development of the treatment of the able-bodied unemployed, but, quite apart from that, there is that great core of unemployed, we do not yet know what the numbers may be—all we know is that there may be 1,000,000 men, or a million and a-half, or possibly something fewer than a million men, but there will be a vast number—for whom there is but little hope of employment being found in this country. The gates of emigration are closed against them. What can we do? That is a problem which has baffled this country 650 completely up to now, but it is a problem which any Government will have to face and must face. I hope it may be that we are moving into conditions in this country, largely owing as, I believe, to the policy we have pursued and are pursuing, when we may be able by study and thought and sympathy to find some means of dealing with this vital problem.
Then there is the problem of land utilisation and settlement. On that I will say no more than that I am in cordial agreement with the Minister of Agriculture. I think, I am convinced, that the first thing you have to do is to get your agricultural industry in a condition in which it is profitable. I think we shall get to that; I am confident that we shall. In the meantime I hope that this question will not be lost sight of by Members of the House. We shall be only too glad to hear from Members any observations or suggestions they may have to make for dealing with the subject—not an easy subject, a difficult subject and one of great importance to the welfare of our country.
Now I would like to say a few words on a subject which was discussed last week and on which the Foreign Secretary made, as I thought, a very powerful speech. I have nothing new to say, 1.ut I feel that it is time, that it is fitting, that the Minister who winds up the Debate should say a few words, and I do not think it is any the worse thing that those few words should fall on this occasion from one who has not and never has had the direct responsibility of conducting the affairs of the Foreign Office.
The present positions are extremely difficult. The absence of Germany from Geneva, her notice to leave the League, the notice given by Japan to leave the League, the knowledge that Germany will not discuss disarmament at Geneva, all make the position one of extreme difficulty. I think it is well that we should look at facts, and that we should realise that there are three possible ends to the discussions that have been taking place. You may have a disarmament of all countries to the level of existing German armaments; you may have a limitation of armaments at a point which excludes all large offensive weapons. Their size cad quality are very well known to those who are familiar with the technical discussions. In that event, you would have the heavily armed nations disarming to a 651 point. You would have Germany in time re-arming to that point. The third alternative is competition in armaments.
Those are three possibilities. What I say is that in no circumstances must that third alternative be reached. gathered from the speech of the Foreign Secretary, arid particularly from the cheers that greeted various parts of it, that it is not the opinion of this country that you can keep any other country in a permanent position of inferiority of status regarding armaments. You cannot expect the country in that position to have the will to remain there. Military students will remember the limitation of numbers that was imposed on Germany after the battle of Jena, and within a few years, at the battle of Leipzig, that country had a large, powerful and well-equipped army. It is interesting to remember that at that time Europe viewed France very much as she has viewed Germany, and yet in the years immediately preceding the War, and to-day, and for years, France has been the most pacific nation in Europe. A real change came in her, and what we have to hope for is that such a change may come in Germany, not when she is in a position of conscioas inferiority of status, as she was after Jena, but when she is once more—in the words of the Foreign Secretary—" a partner in these matters." She has vast problems at home to settle, fearful problems; she has vast masses of unemployed. She needs peace; does she want it? We hope so. We have to find out. We, the French and the Italians must all get into direct touch with her and find out where we all are, and see what can be done and on what lines we may hope to progress.
Whatever may be accomplished, I see no reason at all why it should not. be brought ultimately and before final agreement into the four corners of our Convention; that it may be brought back once again into the League of Nations. If that should be the happy result, then, after a few years, if perfect loyalty and agreement are shown by every nation, then there might again be every hope inside the League of getting further reductions, and so proceeding step by step until some day we may see that ideal disarmament that all men would like to see, but which hardly any but a few enthusiasts believe to be possible in the 652 immediate future. Of the French I would merely say this. They and we are the inheritors and the possessors of a, great and an ancient civilisation. If what we have preserved and what we have to give the world is lost, in my view the world would not be worth living in. Our interests are very close; our friendship is tried and is secure, and I hope that they may be side by side with us in this struggle for a secured peace, which they want from their souls as much as any man in this country.
I have three minutes more, and I would say this to you. It is quite a normal procedure that we should he censured. We have tried to prove that we are doing all in our power to fulfil the mandate which was entrusted to us. We shall be prepared, when the time comes, and not before, to render an account for that mandate. All Governments have their enemies, and National Governments are no more immune than any other. There are many foes who would like to pull us down; there are many foes who would like to change us. But for my part, and T am sure I speak for my colleagues, we entered with no light hearts on the election of 1931. We realised fully, most of us having had experience in office before, the difficulties of the situation that we had to face if we were returned, and we were determined to spend ourselves to the last ounce to fulfil the mandate if it were entrusted to us and to do all we could to set our country right. We are but half way through that course. We believe that with the help of this House and of the country—let us never forget that—with the help of the country and of everybody in it, we have made considerable headway. We believe we can make more. We want to make more. There is much to be done, much to be settled yet. We have no idea of separating or relaxing our efforts, whatever may befall us, until such time as we feel that we may return our mandate to the hands of those who gave it and ask them whether we are worthy of a renewal of their confidence or not.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 63; Noes, 424.655
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M (Poplar, South)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Milner, Major James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Groves, Thomas E.||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Buchanan, George||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Kirkwood, David||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Dun Valley)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lunn, William|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. John.|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McGovern, John|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Castlereagh, Viscount||Elmley, Viscount|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Cayzer, Mal. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.)||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard|
|Albery, Irving James||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Alexander, Sir William||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J.A.(Birm., W.)||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Christie, James Archibald||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Clarke, Frank||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Clarry, Reginald George||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Clayton, Sir Christopher||Fermoy, Lord|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Astor, Maj. Ho. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fleming, Edward Lascelles|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Colfax, Major William Philip||Ford, Sir Patrick J.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Colman, N. C. D.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Conant, R. J. E.||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Balniel, Lord||Cook, Thomas A.||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Copeland, Ida||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Bateman. A. L.||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon, Sir John|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Cranborne, Viscount||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Craven-Ellis, William||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Crooke, J. Smedley||Goff, Sir Park|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cross, R. H.||Granville, Edgar|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Crossley, A. C.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard||Graves, Marjorie|
|Bossom, A. C.||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Boulton, W. W.||Curry, A. C.||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Davison, Sir William Henry||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Bracken, Brendan||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Z'tl'nd)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Denville, Alfred||Hammersley, Samuel S.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Dickie John P.||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Donner, P. W.||Harbord, Arthur|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Doran, Edward||Harris. Sir Percy|
|Buchan, John||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Drewe, Cedric||Hartland, George A.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Duckworth, George A. V.||Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)|
|Burnett, John George||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Haslem, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Duggan, Hubert John||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Dunglass, Lord||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Eales, John Frederick||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Eden, Robert Anthony||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Edge, Sir William||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O J. (Aston).|
|Cassels, James Dale||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Hornby, Frank||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Moreing, Adrian C.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Morgan, Robert H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Hewitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Slater, John|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Morrison, William Shepherd||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Moss, Captain H. J.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Hunter-Weston. Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Smith, Sir J. Walker-(Barrow-In-F.)|
|Hurd, Sir Percy||Munro, Patrick||Smith, Louis (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Smithers, Waldron|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Soper, Richard|
|Janner, Barnett||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Jennings, Roland||North, Edward T.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J,|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Nunn, William||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||O'Connor, Terence James||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Spens, William Patrick|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Peake, Captain Osbert||Stevenson, James|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Pearson, William G.||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Peat, Charles U.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Penny, Sir George||Stones, James|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Storey, Samuel|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Knight, Holford||Petherick, M.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Potter, John||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Power, Sir John Cecil||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Leckie, J. A.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Lees-Jones, John||Purbrick, R.||Templeton, William P.|
|Leigh, Sir John||Pybus, Percy John||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Thompson, Luke|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Levy, Thomas||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Lewis, Oswald||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Liddell, Walter S.||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Lindsay, Kenneth Martin (Kilm'rnock)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Train, John|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Rankin, Robert||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Ray. Sir William||Wallace, John (Duntermilne)|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Rea, Walter Russell||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Warn, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Reid, William Altan (Derby)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Remer, John R.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Mebane, William||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U||Weymouth, Viscount|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Rickards, George William||White, Henry Graham|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecciesall)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Robinson. John Roland||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradestan)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Magnay, Thomas||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld, B'tside)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Womersley, Walter James|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Meller, Sir Richard James||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wragg, Herbert|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Milne, Charles||Scone, Lord||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Selley, Harry R.||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
§ Main Question again proposed.657
§ It being after Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.