§ 11.9 a.m.
§ Mr. HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, at the end, to insert:(ii) to any society registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts or to any public utility society; or.This Amendment is to allow societies registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts or any public utility society to receive assistance from the Commissioners. The particular instances which I have in mind are referred to in the Report of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster upon West Cumberland and Haltwhistle. It is clear from the two appendices in which these schemes are dealt with that they made a great impression on his mind, and hon. Members will see from Appendix I and Appendix II of that Report that the right hon. Gentleman was very much struck by the experiments in training at Mealsgate and in poultry keeping, and secondly by the activities of an undertaking called the Miners' (Industries) Trust, Ltd. I have here a memorandum, a portion of which I propose to read to the Committee, supplied to me by a gentleman who has been largely to thank for the undertaking of these valuable works. In the case of the Miners' (Industries) Trust, Ltd., as the Report says:This public utility society was formed by some public-spirited persons in and about the village of Brampton….Capital was raised publicly, and….a considerable number of men have been kept in work and five per cent. interest has been paid each year.The activities which this Trust undertake are four in number. They have a brickworks which is now successfully working, they have a manufacture of lime, they also have what is called the 1978 Mealsgate experiment in training for poultry farming, and they undertake the raising and marketing of coal. There is a small colliery which, as the report says:when fully developed will produce 300 tons per day for which the Trustees are confident a ready market can be found.In the memorandum furnished me by Mr. Charles Roberts, who is responsible for this extremely valuable undertaking, he says:In addition the Commissioner should surely be able to assist or make loans to co-operative societies or public utility societies. So far as co-operative societies go, you cannot without straining language say that they are now carried on for gain. The profit they make is the collective gain of their members, nor could an allotment society organised on a co-operative basis he said to be an undertaking carried on with the primary object of taking men off the dole.That is the difficulty which I think a number of hon. Members last night found about the specific use of the word "primary." He goes on:Its primary object must be to grow potatoes or other vegetables for the gain of its members. I imagine therefore they would be outside the Bill. Public utility societies (originally defined in the Housing Acts) are, or may be, limited liability companies with a dividend limited to say 5 per cent.;"—It is less now—they also seem to be excluded from grant or loan under the Bill. They do make profit, though it is a limited profit. But there are precedents for helping them. Housing Act, 1925, sec. 70, allowed assistance to such as are organised for housing purposes: and Government subsidies may be paid to them. Section 29 of Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919, enables Public Works Loan Commissioners to advance money to them for the purchase and development of land (in connection with housing). The Unemployment Relief Works Act, 1920 (which is suspended), gave powers to local authorities to contribute to such bodies.It would be a great help if such undertakings could qualify for grant under the Bill.To get men on to the land through smallholdings requires at the very least £200 per man say for 3 acre plots, organised for small poultry farmers—and that only if the future tenants will contribute their labour in building poultry houses, fencing, drainage, etc.Then he goes on to speak about co-operative effort, and says:Suppose you organise ten of these men into a co-operative society, you have to trust a group of ten men, none of whom 1979 perhaps have had any capital at all to manage, with £2,000 or £3,000 worth of plant, utensils and livestock. You may make what arrangements you can for loans, but in case of poultry farming, the assets which serve as security for part of the loan are boilable. It would be much easier to have the ten men as employés (with some interest, bonus or share of profit) under a public utility society, which, if it would offer 4 or 5 per cent., would find it possible to raise the capital, and which would retain ownership of plant and livestock.We hope to be able to develop the bacon-pig industry here. There is a bacon-pig factory at Carlisle in existence, which cannot get half the pigs it wants. One difficulty is that the amount of capital required to provide the number of sows which one man and a boy can look after is rather large; taking into account necessary housing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Debate on depressed areas said he contemplated an agricultural corporation, which would find a remedy for the unemployed 'somewhere on the land.' I suggest he might find it on these lines. Individual small-holdings, where one smallholder would rear pigs as a cottager does, would not be economic for bacon pigs, where a pig house on Danish lines accommodating; a considerable number would save cost. Would not a partnership between private capital raising part of what is required and grants or loans from the Commissioner be a reasonable and defensible way of meeting this difficulty?That is the opinion of the gentleman who is responsible for the schemes mentioned in these appendices, and I recommend hon. Members of the Committee to read Appendix II on page 58 of the Report. It is a remarkable example of what the enterprise of two or three men have been able to do. It is not on a very large scale, but it is on the largest possible scale which is available to keep little industries going to employ men who would otherwise have no work whatever. I cannot help thinking that the money which the right hon. Gentleman contemplates spending on starting fresh schemes for employment could not be better spent than in this way. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster mentions in his Report the question of small industries. He mentions one in particular which he thought could be developed—he does not say by the Commissioner—and it needs development. It is the gypsum industry which could be developed by this means. In addition, there is the poultry keeping training scheme which with the help of the Pilgrim Trust, is doing extremely valuable work towards training 1980 men to become independent. As Mr. Roberts says in his letter, it would probably be very much simpler if at the end of their training, instead of being set to work as individual poultry farmers, they could be formed, with the assistance of the Commissioner, into a co-operative poultry farming organisation. They would in that way have a much better chance of survival than if they were on their own, although, as the Commissioner says in his report:No formal co-operative society has been set up among the men to date, but there appears to be a clear understanding that, once they embark on their own account, if one has bad luck, the others will help him—on paper an unsatisfactory arrangement—but in fact one that will, no doubt, operate successfully with the type of men in question.That is a tribute to the men, but it is not the most business-like form of arrangement. If the Commissioners could assist in finding the capital for co-operative poultry keeping or pig keeping on these lines, it would be of real use. The general objection to assistance on these lines is in regard to utitlity societies, that it is the lending of money to a body organised for private gain. It is true that those who lend the money draw a dividend, but it is a limited and risky dividend. I doubt whether, except for philanthropic reasons, people will be found to invest their money at that rate of interest in such undertakings. It is generally agreed that the capital has been advanced for that kind of undertaking, not for motives of gain or profit, but simply from philanthropic motives. With regard to co-operative societies, the argument is that you cannot encourage them at the expense of private industry. That may be true in general terms, but there are exceptions, and the kind of exceptions that I have in mind are those which can be discriminated in the opinion of the Commissioner, and which are definitely set going for the purposes of relieving unemployment in one of the depressed areas.
Finally, there is the general objection to lending money to industries of any kind namely, that all you are doing is to provide cheap capital at the expense of the taxpayer to industries competing with other industries and that you will thus cause as much unemployment as you cure. That is an argument which the Government, at any rate, ought not to 1981 put forward. Their whole economic policy is the transformation of British industry and agriculture from one basis to another. They despair on the whole for the export trade, and they desire the transformation of British industry from a large exporting industry to one that is principally or indeed wholly, devoted to the home market. That involves great changes. It is abundantly clear that if you cannot attract capital in the home market—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Gentleman's Amendment is a very slender peg on which to hang that argument.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I do not think it is as slender as it may seem, because the argument is that by Protection the Government are setting up under the scheme new industries and increasing old industries in this country. In that case, the new industries, both agricultural and otherwise, would be supplemental to and not in competition with those already in existence. I do not think that that is an unreasonable argument. The general argument against the schemes I am advocating is that they would throw men out of employment by the provision of cheap capital to competing industries, but that is destroyed by the Government's contention that their whole economic policy is to give our industries a monopoly in the home market, and develop agriculture by restricting imports from abroad. In such case, any new industries would be selected with care, and a new industry which the Commissioners chose to assist through public utility societies or co-operative societies could be supplementary to and not in competition with the industry of the country as it is at present and become part of what the Government hope is to be the general alignment of industry in the country as a whole.
In these circumstances, it would not be stretching the proposal too far to allow the Commissioners to take some part in helping to start an enterprise of this kind. The examples with which I happen to be familiar are examples from Cumberland. I do not see why the same activities should not be extended to all the depressed areas. They would have the most wholesome effect upon the men who take part in them, who would be rescued from unemployment and given the 1982 opportunity of earning wages, and I very much hope that the Minister, in spite of the theoretical objections which may exist in his mind, will consider the Amendment and perhaps bring forward something to meet the case on Report Stage. I am sure that he wants the Commissioners to have as wide a scope as possible for their activities, because if the scope is too narrow the whole object of the Bill will be defeated.
Finally, may I point out that if industries are developed on these lines, with the help of capital from the Commissioners, the estimate of the number of men employed will be immensely increased. The estimate generally given, and that given by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), is that £2,000,000 wil employ only 8,000 men. That may or may not be actually correct, and while I do not suggest that the whole of the £2,000,000 should be spent in that way, if £1,000,000 were devoted to assisting the development of schemes like this, not by providing the whole of the capital, but giving, say, 25 per cent. towards making a start, that would increase three or four fold the number of men who would be put into employment by the money used by the Commissioners. I think I have said enough to give an outline of the kind of thing which we would like to see done, and I hope we shall receive some encouragement from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 11.28 a.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I want to say right off that we support the Amendment, but we are not unaware of the risks, which are obviously in the hon. Gentleman's mind, attending the recognition of this principle. No one who has had to examine the question of the use of public money for the purposes of trade and general activities can lightly accept a proposal of this kind, unless he can be quite sure that it does not work out in the interests of private gain, and one thing that I was pleased to notice in the Bill was the very definite reference to the exclusion of undertakings run for private gain. Anyone who has been in the Ministry of Labour or who has had to examine this question knows just what value to put on the views held by some people who argue that the unemployment 1983 benefit and other allowances should be used to assist this, that and the other work schemes.
After such an examination one comes to the conclusion that we cannot give public money by way of subsidy without running the danger of doing more harm than good, and that the only way to do anything of real value is to make quite sure that aid is given only to public activities in which there is not as a rule, any possibility of private gain. But here we have what one might frankly call a borderline case. These are useful organisations which are struggling to get on their feet. Many parish councils have tried to do much the same thing in assisting to put people on their feet, and while those who, like myself look with some favour on the proposal, particularly as it affects organisations in remote parts which are often outside the scope of public activities, we are not unaware of the risks. With that reservation, I myself am inclined to say that this Amendment ought to be looked upon kindly by the Minister.
§ 11.32 a.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I rise to support the Amendment. I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the tremendous amount of useful work done already by public utility societies, particularly in the direction of housing, and that the experiment which has been carried on hitherto in this particular area has been attended with considerable advantages and has enabled a large amount of capital to be utilised. A good deal of work has been done by an industrial council in South Wales and Monmouthshire. They have pointed out the value of introducing fresh industries which are not necessarily competitive with but can be made to be supplementary to those already in existence in the depressed areas. It is clear that if we can get those industries established the incidence of rating and taxation in those districts will be considerably assisted, that additional services can be provided in those districts at a reasonable cost, and that the ratepayers will be relieved of much of the burden at present on their shoulders. By accepting this suggestion the right hon. Gentleman will give an opportunity to the Commissioners not only to supply funds, small or large as the case may be, 1984 but it may very well be that large amounts of capital at present lying idle will be brought into use through the medium of these societies and ensure work and employment to those in the distressed areas.
The Commissioners will be in a position to examine thoroughly every case which comes before them. We should not be making a haphazard throw; it would be a case of bringing into the areas industries which will be of value in the judgment of the Commissioners. It is not a question of private gain in the sense that one usually understands private gain, because the amount of profit can be limited. An hon. Member on the Opposition benches is smiling at what I say. I think if he could get money for helping his area at a rate of three per cent. or four per cent., money which is at present lying idle in the banks and available in plentiful supply for providing industries, he would be only too glad to avail himself of the opportunity. Here is a chance of such an opportunity being obtained and of exercising the advantages of using some of that money.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
I would like to read to the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Janner) a passage from page 57 of the Appendix to the West Cumberland and Haltwhistle section of the Depressed Areas Reports, which is:The most optimistic estimate of returns will not leave the holders with a big income. 30s. to 35s. per week is a reasonable prospect, but after years of unemployment and having been without prospect of ever re-entering industry, the moral effect has been considerable and the men now have—or soon will have—their fortunes in their own hands.Does the hon. Member think that 30s. or 35s. per week is a fortune?
§ Mr. JANNER
I do not think the interruption really affects the argument which is being put forward. I am not concerned about the figures which were given. By the utilisation of money in this way a much larger sum would be available for the unemployed in industries which might be put on foot, and the people in the localities would benefit in consequence of the opportunities that were given. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will concede this point now that he has heard the arguments from the front 1985 Opposition bench as well as from my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone). I believe very few hon. Members would disagree that the encouragement of industries in the way suggested would be of advantage to all the communities in those areas.
§ 11.37 a.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
The Amendment is rather difficult to understand. I have one or two instances in mind, and I am wondering whether it would apply to them. During the Recess I was invited, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald), to visit a little colony started near Upholland by the Society of Friends who have got together a number of unemployed men and one or two women in what is called a self-contained colony. The Society agreed to pay those people the same amount of money that they were receiving from the employment exchanges and to divide the product of their labour among them. The Society have taken 11 acres of ground—bought it or leased it, I am not quite sure which—and have set about the production of goods, potatoes and tomatoes and that kind of thing, for the purpose of distributing them among the families whose members were unemployed and are working now on the estate. We were assured that none of the produce would be allowed to go to outside people. There was a rather strange way of calculation. They first took the cost of the seeds and the implements and added it to the value of everybody's time, and payment was based on the cost added to the hours of labour required to produce the goods. Men and women who wanted, for example, a certain quantity of potatoes, had to pay in accordance with that principle. There was a pig, a cow from which milk was obtained, and a hen to provide eggs.
The scheme appeared to us to be sound. I visualised that as it develops one result would be to make it difficult to get people to go into the mines after experiencing a life like that. The wages were nothing like equal to those of the mine worker, but the life was far better than underground, and it appealed to me from that point of view. Those men were getting for their own use what they had produced, and that gave me a higher ideal of life. I asked myself how it would work out upon a greater scale. It seemed to be perfect for the small colony, but 1986 what would happen if its development were much greater Let me ask the Minister whether a scheme like that would be allowed to have any of the money provided under the Bill, in view of the fact that none of the produce is allowed to go outside? I agree that difficulty would arise if they were allowed to sell the produce. I was not able to follow closely the speech of the Mover of the Amendment. If the people in the colony try to sell their produce outside, would that prevent the inclusion of the scheme under the Bill? If the people are not getting standard rates of pay in the work that they are doing it might have certain consequences. Take, for instance, two girls who were tailoresses, and who were producing clothing which all went into the families. If they produced all the clothing required by all the families, and then wanted to sell some outside, that would, I suggest, cut across trade union rates of pay. I want to be quite sure whether the scheme would in that case be allowed to have any of the grants that are made, even though the profits that were made as a result of such outside sale went back to the self-contained colony. I think it would lead to difficulty.
I would also ask the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) to answer the same point later on. I may say that I am always a little bit suspicious of Amendments from the Liberal benches. I know their theory of private enterprise always having its own way and that makes me wonder where I am being led. That attitude has no position in politics, I think, because there are only two definite phases, the clean-cut policy of the Conservative party and—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I cannot allow the hon. Member to go into general political theories upon this Amendment.
§ Mr. H. JOHNSTONE
The hon. Member asked me a question, and I should like to reply. So far as I am aware, the public utility scheme which I have mentioned pays ordinary trade union rates of wages in the industries run by them. Schemes which are run with the assistance of unemployment pay are training schemes and not the ordinary commercial schemes. Men get two years' training, and afterwards start in the ordinary commercial scheme under the public utility society for the ordinary trade union rates of wages.
§ Mr. TINKER
I accept your Ruling, Captain Bourne. I am afraid that in my enthusiasm I went rather outside the Amendment. I gather, however, from the hon. Member that in all cases he would insist that trade union rates of wages should be paid, and, of course, if we get the Minister to agree with that there will be no doubt about our supporting him, but I have some doubts as to whether that will be the case. Apart from the experiment I have mentioned, it seems to me that the result of giving grants in any other case might be rather doubtful, and I should like to have an explanation from the Minister before deciding whether to support the Amendment or not.
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
If for no other reason, I am grateful to the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) for having moved this Amendment, because it has given an opportunity to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) to pay a tribute to what I think may prove in the long run to be an extremely important development, that is to say, the Upholland scheme to which he referred. Although perhaps it is not strictly within the terms of the Amendment, I should like to take the opportunity at once of answering the hon. Member's question. It is quite clear that, so long as such a scheme puts nothing on the market whatsoever, the Commissioners are entitled to help it. The whole reason for the insertion of the paragraph which we are now discussing was that there is always the obvious chance that, however carefully you work a co-operative colony which is largely dependent on agriculture, you may at some moment have a temporary glut of a particular product which it is not possible to distribute among the members of the colony themselves, and, therefore, there may be occasions—I agree that they would probably be very rare—when they might wish to exchange their surplus for the produce of someone outside. It was in order that the case of such occasional gluts might be met without the Commissioner having to withdraw his subsidy that I inserted this particular paragraph.
Actually, the Upholland scheme and schemes of that kind are not covered by the Amendment. The Amendment would 1988 cover two different types of organisations, the one with the co-operative society, which, of course, is registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, and the other the public utility society such as may be formed under the Housing Acts, and which is registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, the dividend being limited, I think, by a Treasury regulation in force for the time being. Whatever may be the opinion of hon. Members opposite, my view—which I do not think will surprise them—is that it would be wholly unfair to give to the Commissioners a power to subsidise the co-operative wholesale societies, with their factories, and at the same time withhold that power from the ordinary industrial society. The whole basis of the matter is that the co-operative societies are able to maintain themselves on an equal basis of competition, and, therefore, they do not wish for a privilege of this kind.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The hon. Member has had a clear run himself, and, if he will allow me to develop my speech step by step, I think I shall be able to deal with all these points. I was saying that there are two kinds of societies covered by the Amendment, the one being the co-operative society and the other the public utility society whose dividend is limited. Admirable as these schemes are, and, much as I agree that the people who lend the capital probably lend it, not from any motive of financial gain, but with a desire to assist the unemployed in the neighbourhood, the fact remains that they are entitled to a return, although it is quite true to say that it is probably a return which bears no relation in the ordinary sense to the risk which is involved. If, in addition to the ordinary possibilities, they knew that they had the Commissioners behind them with power to use public money to help them, surely 5 per cent. would become a very reasonable return indeed.
§ Mr. STANLEY
Although in my view these organisations have done excellent work, and are entitled to public support, I know that my hon. Friend himself will feel that, in this question of giving public 1989 money to undertakings carried on for the purpose of gain, even if it be a limited gain, there are grave inherent dangers. Let me take the Miners' Industries Trust Limited. One of the things that they have done has been to lend money, or advance money—they do not say whether it is on. loan or by way of grant—to colliery companies, and the money is used to enable these small collieries to continue production. That may or may not be to the advantage of the neighbourhood, but it is productive of great competition with other colliery companies elsewhere, and, although it is fair that a voluntary body of this kind should assist, grave difficulties would arise if a public utility society were given public money which in turn it passed on to a colliery company, enabling that colliery company to continue production in competition with another colliery company working on its own account and to which the Commissioner is not entitled to give any assistance at all.
The hon. Member also devoted a considerable part of his speech to subjects like that of co-operative pig-keeping and so on, which I think would be unaffected by his Amendment. The whole reason for the paragraph is to enable the Commissioners in certain cases to help these schemes provided that the object is that defined in the paragraph. I am inclined to agree with my hon. Friend that it may be possible between now and Report to find a better wording for the paragraph, and to eliminate some of the objections to it, and I will undertake between now and then to see what alternative form of words I can find. But, much as I sympathise with the efforts of societies of this kind, I feel that the risks that would be inherent in giving the Commissioners power to assist them financially would be so great that it is impossible for me to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
In view of what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The following Amendments stood upon the Order Paper:
§ In page 3, line 6, leave out "by way of grant or loan."—[Mr. Lawson.]
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I beg to move, in page 3, line 19, after "will," to insert:(without prejudice to the employment of unemployed persons in the district where the measures are being prosecuted.)The Sub-section provides for the transfer of people from what are known as the scheduled areas to areas outside, and it is because we have some apprehension with regard to the possibilities of such transfer operations that we have put down this Amendment. We are not against the idea of transfer altogether, as I think has been made perfectly clear from this side of the House on many occasions, and we shall not advance that view in connection with any of the schemes that may be brought about under this Bill. But there are objections to the indiscriminate removal of men from one area to another. There may be in close proximity to scheduled areas—within the distance of a mile or two, or perhaps five or 10 miles—possibilities for such schemes as are contemplated by the Bill—but the ratio of unemployment does not vary very much between centres inside the areas and centres immediately outside which may receive attention under the Bill. For example, in the scheduled area in South Wales there is probably 35 to 40 per cent. of unemployment, but it covers localities where the unemployment may be as high as 60 or as low as 20 per cent. In close proximity to the scheduled locality there are areas where the average of unemployment is very much higher than the minimum figure within the scheduled area, and, unless very careful precautions are taken, we may find men being moved from an area of relatively low unemployment and obtaining employment to the prejudice of men already unemployed in areas where unemployment stands at a higher level.
The employment exchanges came into operation nearly 25 years ago to prevent, the unnecessary movement of labour in search of work, and it was then recognised as a great evil that men should walk about in unnecessary numbers on reports 1991 of employment available elsewhere and move from one district to another and that there should be a surplus of labour offering itself when jobs were notified. We shall come back to that again if we neglect to take precautions and move labour from these scheduled areas to find employment where there is already a large mass of labour awaiting employment, and it will cause very bad feeling indeed. When men were brought from industrial areas to the South very bitter feeling was caused, and we ought to be very careful that we do not repeat that mistake in relation to these schemes.
We find large numbers of men unemployed within the scheduled areas in Glamorgan and Monmouth, and equally we find large numbers without employment in contiguous areas which are not scheduled. At Llanelly a few months ago nearly 80 per cent. of the available insured population was without work, and that area is not scheduled under the Bill. The constituency that I represent is scheduled. Some localities within the area are so subject to depression that it would be a crime against the people if men were to come from any part of the scheduled area to be employed on schemes where already such heavy unemployment exists. Such cases can be multiplied in very large numbers indeed. It is not a very large point, but one that ought not to be overlooked, and I should like to have an assurance that the matter will not be overlooked when the Bill is finally put through. We believe that the Amendment will save the Minister and ourselves from further trouble in the matter.
§ 12.1 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPE
Adjoining the depressed area from which I come there are many good building sites and many buildings which could easily be turned into small factories, and it would not mean men in the depressed area having to leave their present homes. I have no objection to schemes being started in instances of that kind, but, when it comes to transferring men from the North to the South and finding themselves in areas where there is already unemployment, the position of the transferred men is very awkward and distressing. Lots of miners belonging to my Association were transferred a few years ago to coal mining areas in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. 1992 To their amazement, they found many miners unemployed in the villages to which they had been sent. There was a spirit of dissatisfaction against the newcomers which made it very unpleasant for them. In the end, they were prepared to go back to their own locality as soon as they could and even suffer the six weeks' penalty rather than take bread out of someone else's mouth.
There are many instances of that kind. In the area that I represent there is a. dead set against transference unless there is a guarantee that there are no other people in the new localities who are prepared to accept the jobs. I can visualise men being transferred from the North to the Midlands or the South and being in jobs for a few weeks or months and then out of employment again, but in worse conditions than in their own place of residence. When they are among their own friends, there is always an opportunity for sympathy to be expressed to them and for help to be given to them in small ways. When they are among absolute strangers they find themselves cut off from the small social amenities which they enjoy in their own locality. We should like the Minister to accept the Amendment so that the men transferred would be given an assurance that they were not going to a place where they would be doing other men out of a job.
§ 12.6 p.m.
§ Mr. GORDON MACDONALD
I wish to raise a small point with which I know the Minister will sympathise. We in the depressed areas which are not included in this Bill are naturally concerned when we find that Sub-section (5) of this Clause extends the area of initiating and organising schemes into other areas not scheduled, but only in order to provide work for those inside a scheduled area. The Minister knows that we have a scheme practically on my doorstep in connection with which a small number of people are employed at the moment, and that it is the intention of those who have promoted the scheme to extend it substantially—in fact, to more than double it. I realise that the Wigan area is well removed from Cumberland, and I do not think that it is likely that the Commissioners will think about that scheme as a means of finding work for the Cumberland unemployed, but the Sub-section makes it possible. It is very 1993 unfair to suggest, after excluding Lancashire from the Schedule in which, I think, it ought to be included, that in Lancashire it may be possible to organise and initiate schemes not for Lancashire unemployed, but for Cumberland unemployed.
I should have welcomed Sub-section (5) had it ended with the word "Act", and the remainder had been deleted. It would be a good thing to enable the Commissioners to look into the non-scheduled areas in case it might be possible to initiate schemes in the interests of the men in those areas. If the Minister cannot accept the Amendment, I hope he will instruct the Commissioners to have regard to the fact that where there are large numbers of unemployed they ought not to initiate schemes if the men in those areas are not to be allowed to work in connection with those schemes. In that case, they ought to leave the initiation of schemes in those areas to the people who have already initiated schemes. The extension of the Upholland scheme would provide work for those outside Lancashire under this Sub-section. I am sure that the Minister does not regard Lancashire from that point of view. We know his sympathy for Lancashire. He expressed it on the Second reading of the Bill, and has done so since. The Sub-section would be better if it were limited in the way I have suggested; the latter part of it ought not to be allowed to operate against the unemployed in the area where the scheme is in operation.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I should like to bring the case of greater London to the attention of the Minister in considering this matter. We have had illustrations of what may happen in the event of the Sub-section being brought into operation without taking into consideration the Amendment.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I would remind hon. Members that we must keep this discussion as short as possible, so as to enable them to have a greater opportunity to speak on the motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." Hon. Members are talking about transference, but this Sub-section has nothing to do with transference. The power to deal with transference is contained in the first Sub-section of Clause 1.
§ Mr. JANNER
It is my intention for a moment or two to bring to the notice of the Minister instances which might occur in other directions in order to help him to come to a conclusion with regard to this matter. For example, in building work which is going on in the vicinity of London, there is often a considerable amount of misunderstanding between individuals from different districts and those who live in London or Greater London who cannot find employment. It may well be that when schemes are put into operation there may be similar trouble of a more aggravated nature, concerning those who may feel that they will be able to come from neighbourhoods a short distance away to undertake work in a district where a scheme is to operate. In view of the fact that we shall be unable to expand the areas which come within the confines of the Act, or to ask for any specific area to be taken out and another to be put in, it will mean that areas with a considerable amount of unemployment may have brought within their own fold, or possibly to within a short distance, certain schemes which may aggragate rather than improve their position. In these circumstances, the suggestion in the Amendment might well be taken into consideration and agreed to by the Minister.
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE GRIFFITHS
I support the Amendment. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in the Report of the Commissioners and stated that there were to be two Commissioners appointed and that £2,000,000 was to be granted up to the 31st March, 1935, I interjected rather nervously and asked him what he was going to do with the semi-depressed areas. The Patronage Secretary frowned upon me—"There they are; they are wanting more still". When I first saw the Sub-section, I thought of my own area. I am very pleased that the Amendment has been put down. It says at the end of the Sub-section:will afford employment or occupation for substantial numbers of persons from those areas.There are 174,000 unemployed in Northumberland and Durham, and 12,000 odd in Cumberland, but the people of Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland can, by the provisions of this Sub-section, be 1995 transferred to the adjoining county of Yorkshire. If the Commissioners extended their works to the county of Yorkshire, substantial numbers of unemployed from Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland would come into the scheme. Although I do not wish to attempt to prevent the people in those areas from getting all that they can out of the Bill, very great danger will arise under the provisions of the Sub-section if the Commissioner attempts to extend the work for the people in the area to outside areas where there are already thousands of people unemployed. The answer given yesterday by the Minister of Labour to the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) showed that in the mining industry alone in Yorkshire on the 22nd October, 1934, there were 23,725 miners totally unemployed. If the Commissioners should make an attempt to extend the benefits of the £2,000,000 in this way, it would be like putting a flea on the back of an elephant in order to push him out of his stable. I think the Government themselves will find that that is so.
Beside the 23,000 miners, there are thousands of other people out of work. Another figure was given by the Secretary for Mines showing that since 1924 in West Yorkshire 73 pits have been closed, and in South Yorkshire 15. Can one wonder that I should ask across the Table, "Are no crumbs going to fall from the rich man's table to the poor man's table in Yorkshire?" The answer is "No". Although some of my friends say that this Clause is only a small one, I contend that it depends upon the eyes and the glasses with which you look at it. If the Commissioners attempt to bring a substantial number of unemployed men from other areas into South and West Yorkshire when there is this great number of unemployed there, I am afraid that there will be trouble as far as our people are concerned.
I have some other figures here which I quoted in the Debate on the King's Speech. I quote them again because I want the Minister to get hold of them. He handles millions to such an extent that they pass quickly from his mind until some of us try to revive them in his mind. Take South Kirby. In 1929, there were only 924 men recording at the Employment Exchange. In June, 1934, there were 6,261. Take the Barns- 1996 ley area where a large number in my division sign. In 1929, the figure was 3,785; in June last it was 14,000. In the Wakefield area, the other side of the division the figure in 1929 was 5,147, and in 1934, it was 9,311. That is a total number of unemployed of some 29,000 odd in the immediate area. If the Commissioners extend out of the distressed area of Northumberland and Durham into our county substantially, their unemployed must come into Wakefield, Barnsley and South Kirby, and the unemployed who are there at the present time, 23,000 odd miners, have to stand with their hands in their pockets.
Though some of our friends say it is only a small thing, I say that this is the most dangerous Clause as far as the Bill is concerned. I want to quote one or two other figures as to the state of the industry at the present time in the county. In 1927, the wages paid to the miners in Yorkshire amounted to £21,586,531. In 1933 the figure was £14,833,972—a reduction in twelve months of one-third, and yet I am told that this is not a distressed or depressed area. It is an El Dorado as far as the Government are concerned, and when I go to my division and say, "The Government have done wonders for you," I shall be told "Why, George, you want to be medically examined." Our output has gone up by about 14 per cent.—
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I am sorry. I was trying to show that we are still a distressed or depressed area, and I am hoping that the Minister, in view of these figures, will amend the Clause, which otherwise will be the most dangerous Clause dealing with this £2,000,000 scheme, and instead of being a triumph for the Government, it will be their funeral.
§ 12.22 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I hope that the Minister will pay attention to what is said on these benches, because this is a dangerous Clause. Many of the areas which are not scheduled are on the border of being what are termed distressed areas. It is only a border line to that extent. Think what is going to happen if the Commissioner finds some spare ground in one of these areas and decides to set up some scheme for the unemployed in the 1997 scheduled area. Can any one imagine any more bitterness than that which will be created in a place almost as bad from an unemployment point of view as the district where the men come from? To my mind, it would be one of the worst features of the whole Bill, and it would be as well if it were made clear in the Clause what was to be the percentage of unemployed where these schemes are initiated. That is why we have protested. It would not be right for us to allow anything to pass to-day of the kind without raising our voices in protest as to what is likely to happen. Nothing makes unemployed people who are all eager for work more bitter than to think that the work they could have done has been handed over to other people.
Figures have been given. Let me quote one from Liverpool, where 1,059 out of every 10,000 of the population are on public assistance. Just outside Liverpool there is a lot of spare ground, and it is within the range of possibility that the Commissioner may decide that this land could be utilised for some scheme under the Bill, although in the districts of St. Helens, Leigh, and Wigan there is a vast number of unemployed. That does not redound to the credit of anybody. I am not now referring specially to the present Government, but to everybody who come here engaged in the task of government on behalf of the people. We want to stress the point to the Minister in the hope that it will be conveyed to the Commissioners that when they set up schemes outside an area they should be very careful where they put those schemes into operation. We want them to take care to establish the schemes where there is very little unemployment, and not to go into any area where there is a vast number of unemployed. If this Amendment does nothing else except draw the attention of the House and the country to that danger it will have done good.
§ 12.26 p.m.
§ Mr. E. WILLIAMS
There are areas in South Wales not scheduled as depressed areas within the meaning of this Bill, but we know that those districts are suffering consequent upon the depression of the industries in the depressed areas. There is, for instance, the district of Barry, which is a huge dock area. Barry is dependent upon the coal which comes from the Rhondda Valley and Taff Vale, 1998 and large numbers of people are unemployed in the Barry area. Contiguous to Barry we have the Vale of Glamorgan, one of the beauty spots of Wales, and it is conceivable that that district might be developed on agricultural lines, not perhaps exactly within the meaning of these schemes, but something of that nature may have to be done if depression in South Wales is to be tackeld seriously. One could well imagine that miners might be taken to engage in schemes contiguous to Barry itself which would materially affect persons unemployed within the Barry urban area. That certainly would cause an enormous amount of friction. I hope that the Minister will accede to our suggestion, in order to avoid friction. If these schemes are to be successful, psychology is as important as economics. Unless decent psychology is exercised in the choice of the areas where the schemes are to be started, friction is bound to arise. In this matter we are dealing with perhaps the most difficult of all materials in the world, human material. I hope the Minister will accept the Amendment.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I have listened very carefully to everything that has been said and to the expression of the fears of hon, Members that the Commissioners, with my sanction, may enter upon certain schemes. I can only say that if a Commissioner proposed any such schemes and I sanctioned them I should expect that a large number of people would address to me the same question that was addressed to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) by his friends. I agree that the idea of taking a large number of unemployed, say, from Durham, and putting them somewhere near to the constituency of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) in Lancashire, would be a fantastic thing for the Commissioner to do. The object of the paragraph is nothing of that kind.
The only reason for inserting it was the possibility that you might have a built-up area within the limits of your depressed area, and just over the border, in a rural district which does not come within the Schedule, there may be suitable land upon which you might put people from the town, whereas inside the built-up area there is no land avail- 1999 able. The adoption of the Amendment would deprive the Commissioner of power to assist the unemployed people in that town, simply because he could not go 100 yards over the border and use agricultural land available there. I will certainly bear in mind what has been said. I can assure hon. Members opposite that I realise as well as they do that to bring large numbers of men from these particular depressed areas and to set them to work in areas that are almost as badly off would only result in ill-feeling and damage to the prospects of the scheme itself. I hope hon. Members will believe that I, who have a greater interest than anybody else in the success of the Commissioners' schemes, would be the last to adopt any procedure that would be likely so to damage it.
§ 12.30 p.m.2000
§ the Amendment. The fears that have been expressed are very real. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has just informed me that near his constituency there are 5,000 acres of land vacant and that it is possible that an area like that might be used for experiments. He sees great danger that might arise in that way. I sometimes think that antagonism arises in connection with what is called transference because transfer is used to do things which it was never intended to do and which can only in the long run lead to trouble. As we are desirous of getting on to a general discussion on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," we are prepared to go to a Division at once on this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 43, Noes 97.2001
|Division No. 18.]||AYES.||[12.32 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Attlee, clement Richard||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Banfield, John William||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Paling, Wilfred|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Bevan, Aneurln (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Cape, Thomas||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Janner, Barnett||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davles, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davles, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davles, Stephen Owen||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wilmot, John|
|Dobbie, William||Lawson, John James|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lleut.-Colonel||Denville, Alfred||Magnay, Thomas|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Doran, Edward||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Duckworth, George A. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Elmley, Viscount||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Ganzonl, Sir John||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Belt, sir Alfred L.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Munro, Patrick|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Graves, Marjorie||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)|
|Bilndell, James||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Potter, John|
|Bossom, A. C.||Grimston, R. V.||Powell, Lleut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Jamleson, Douglas||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Levy, Thomas||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Lewis, Oswald||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Cobb. Sir Cyrll||Liddall, Walter S.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Colville, Lleut.-Colonel J.||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Copeland, Ida||Locker-Lampson, Com.O. (H'ndsw'th)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral sir Murray F.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.||Worthlngton, Dr. John V.|
|Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Wallace, John (Dunfermline)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Sir George Penny and Captain|
|Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)||Austin Hudson|
|Ward, Sarah Adelalde (Cannock)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
§ 12.40 p. m.
§ Mr. JOHN WILMOT
I beg to move, in page 3, line 20, at the end, to add:Provided that if a Commissioner proposes to exercise any functions under this sub-section in any area outside the said areas he shall, before exercising any such functions in that area, consult the county council or county borough council whose area includes the said outside area with respect to the proposal and take into consideration all representations in regard thereto which may be made to him by the county council or county borough council (as the case may be) within two weeks after such consultation.I want to make an earnest appeal to the Minister to accept this Amendment. I take it that there is no doubt that the Commissioners, in pursuing their functions within the areas in the Schedule, will have the closest relations with local authorities, but, in taking the action which this Sub-section contemplates in areas outside those in the Schedule, a whole number of problems, with which the local authority of the area is concerned, will or may arise. There is the question of housing and of the general plan out of the area. If the scheme has any value at all it is only if it does something to provide a general plan which will be the basis for further action and development. In that case it would be desirable that the Commissioners, before starting on any plan of work outside their area, should take counsel with the local authority. The most suitable authority is the county council or the county borough council. In drafting the Amendment we have been careful to provide that the local authority has no power to hold up the Commissioners. That would be undesirable and, therefore, the Amendment provides that the Commissioners, before taking action outside the area, shall consult the county council of the area, that the county council shall have two weeks in which to make observations on the scheme of the Commissioners, and that the Commissioners shall be bound to take some notice of the views of the local authority of the area in which they propose to operate. Unless the county council makes their observations within two weeks the Commissioner goes ahead. 2002 That is a reasonable and a necessary provision. Consider for a moment the greater London area. The right hon. Gentleman on Second Reading indicated the newer industrial areas of greater London as one of the places where the powers under this Sub-section might be used.
§ Mr. WILMOT
If he does not, if I am mistaken, it is nevertheless true that wherever it may be the housing situation is a vital question, and there are other matters, like schooling, in which it is essential there should be co-operation between the Commissioners and the local authority of the area where they propose to exercise these powers. I make the most earnest appeal to him that for the purposes he has in mind he should accept the Amendment.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I desire to support the Amendment. Apparently, the hon. Member for Fulham East (Mr. Wilmot) was not present when the Minister explained that his idea how the schemes would be operated in regard to areas adjoining depressed areas which are not scheduled as depressed areas, and there is no reason to believe that the Minister has any intention of going outside that declaration. But that does not detract from the importance of the Amendment. Let me take as an illustration the reference which was made by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) to Barry, which is close to an area scheduled as a depressed area. In Barry unfortunately there is a considerable amount of unemployment, owing to the fact that shipping has received a very severe blow because of the unfortunate attitude adopted by the Government in respect of tariffs. However, that is beside the point. The fact remains that Barry is in a very unfortunate position to-day in so far as unemployment is concerned.
I would ask the Minister this question: Suppose that he intends, or the Commissioners intend, to institute a scheme in the Barry area. Would it be 2003 a proper thing for them to institute that scheme without entering into consultation with the county councils, who would, of course, have on their body members elected by that particular district? In my view it is highly necessary that such consultation should take place. It may be that the Minister will reply, as he replied on the last Amendment, "We are not going into other areas; you must take our word for it." But this is rather more important. I think that a definite injunction should be placed on the Commissioners, in a case of that kind, to take into consideration the opinions of the local council or county council before taking any further step. Again, there is the question of the personnel in that district being affected by what is to take place under the scheme itself. The way in which the minds of the unemployed in the districts will be affected is of particular importance. It may be that the Commissioner will send someone who does not know the district as intimately as those who live in it, and if he happens to be one of the officials of the Commissioner in an adjoining district, the people in the district will know the position better and will be better able to say whether or not the scheme would be of advantage.
§ 12.47 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
Every one will agree that it is desirable that the Commissioners should consult with the local authorities into whose area they step, and I should in any case of course give a pledge that that would be done. But if hon. Members look at Sub-section (3) they will see that it is the statutory duty of the Commissioners to co-operate with, among other people, the local authorities who are concerned with matters within the functions of the Commissioners, and when they see that Sub-section (5) extends the functions of the Commisssioners to the initiation of schemes in those areas, they will see that the local authorities of those areas are brought within the definition. Therefore, there is an equal amount of statutory obligation on the Commissioner to co-operate with the local authority, even if outside the area, as to co-operate with those inside the area in the normal case.
§ Mr. WILMOT
If I understand the Minister aright, it is his intention to 2004 place a duty on the Commissioners to do what this Amendment desires should be done. If that is so we shall be happy to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 12.49 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
It is as well at the onset that I should say that we intend to vote against the Clause. We realise, of course, that it is the most important part of the Bill. As a matter of fact, the very long discussion we have had in Committee upon the various Amendments are an indication of the importance of the Clause. I do not think that the Minister can complain about the temper of Members of the Committee in those discussions. But he must not misunderstand the position. It is not that hon. Members representing the distressed areas, and other Members in every quarter of the House, have not very strong feelings upon the inadequacy of the Bill. When the Commissioners were appointed in the first instance we thought that some little good would come out of their efforts, and the unemployed living in the depressed areas fully expected that some drastic action would be taken by the Government to deal with what is admitted on all hands to be a deep-seated disease. Unfortunately, when the Report of the Commissioners was published there was a good deal of disappointment and disillusionment. It can be said of all the Reports—I do not single out one of them—that they do not get down to the root causes of the difficulties. It is, therefore, as well that I should bring the Committee back to the conditions which exist in some of these areas.
Take the district of South Wales which I know best. In that portion to which the Commissioner directed almost the whole of his attention, he found a number of areas where 70 per cent., 65 per cent., 60 per cent. and many areas where more than 50 per Dent. of the male insured population have been unemployed for a long period—so long that it is said that 75 per cent, of the unemployed resident in the Eastern part of Glamorganshire have been unemployed for a period of more than 12 months, 50 per cent. unemployed for more than two years, and 30 per cent. for more than three years. I 2005 ask hon. Members to visualise the hopeless condition of men who have been out of employment for such a long period. In the division which I have the honour to represent and in which I have lived all my life, in two urban district areas no less than 45 per cent. to 50 per cent, of the male insured population are unemployed.
It cannot be said that the Commissioners—I say this for the three of them, whom I know—did not go into the districts with a genuine desire to win the confidence of the people and to create an impression that it was the intention of the Government to bring about an amelioration of the great difficulties with which these people were confronted. I feel that even to-day the Government do not realise the very serious situation which has developed in these districts. Not only elderly men and middle-aged men, but young men, are faced with a life of utter helplessness and hopelessness. There is absolutely no future for them. It may be my innocence, but I did rely upon the promises made by the then Minister of Labour, for whom every one in the House has a profound regard, that something would be the outcome of the appointment of the Commissioners and the effort of the Government. Now, as the result of all of this work, all that we have is this Bill. I ought to say—here I express the opinion of all on this side of the Committee—that we do not want to make a party matter of this question in any way whatever.
We are anxious to do what we can to assist any Government that is prepared to bring about an alleviation of the conditions under which the people are living in these areas, but the more one sees of this Bill and the more one hears of the discussions upon it, the more useless it appears to be for dealing with the problem. I listened with great interest to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Motion to take the investigators' reports into consideration, but I was disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out forcibly the conditions of these districts, and referred to the appointment of these two Commissioners. He then dealt with the limitations to be imposed on the efforts of the Commissioners to deal with the problem and said: 2006I want to make it quite clear that the work of the commissioners is not intended to overlap but rather to supplement that of Government Departments or local authorities. Accordingly, we shall not ask the commissioners to do work which could be done under existing powers by those bodies, nor do we desire to regard them merely as a channel through which the bounty of the general taxpayer can flow into these districts.What does it mean. We have in some districts local authorities who for ten years have been doing all they could to persuade Government departments to give them the necessary assistance for works for which grants can be made or for works which come within the category of public works. I think we might say that practically all the efforts of local authorities fall into one or other of those two categories—either public works or works for which some Government Department is responsible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went further. Having said that the taxpayers money could not flow into these districts he added:They"—that is the Commissioners—will have to be furnished with funds. They will need money, but their primary function, as we see it, is rather to enlist local effort and to make use of voluntary assistance from whatever source they can obtain it in order to initiate and prosecute schemes which lie outside the ordinary scope of our public administration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1934; col. 2003, Vol. 293.]I wish the Minister to state definitely to the Committee what work the Commissioners can initiate and what work the local authorities can do in co-operation with the Commissioners. Is it the case, that all the Commissioners will do will be to issue appeals for voluntary contributions to supplement Government grants or to ask organisations like the Society of Friends—which has done some work in some areas where centres have been established—to carry on the work which they have been doing for the last ten years, and which has proved to be futile as a means of dealing with the problem. Not only am I concerned with the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Minister himself on Second Reading, referring to the limitations placed on the Commissioners' powers, said:The first limitation is the one which prevents them either themselves starting an undertaking, or giving financial assistance to an undertaking, which is carried on for the purpose of gain. I think hon. Members 2007 will agree that a limitation of that kind is essential.He then referred to the instance of a boot factory in Durham as an illustration and proceeded:The other limitation—the most important one—is the limitation which is put upon the financial assistance which the commissioner may give to the local authority. It was never intended, and it is not intended now, that these commissioners should act as a sort of channel for giving money to the local authorities for the ordinary run of public works.Later in the same speech the hon. Gentleman said:But I would point out to the House, that although we prevent the commissioners from giving this financial assistance to local authorities when they are doing works for which a regular grant is provided by the State, yet we allow them to give such financial assistance to a local authority for any works they may wish to undertake, and can undertake, where there is no specific grant payable by a Government Department, subject only to the permission of the Government Department concerned. We want to prevent the commissioners simply acting as men pouring out money on regular statutory work."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1934; cols. 1254–1257, Vol. 295.]When asked by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) to give a specific description of the work which local authorities could carry out in conjunction with the Commissioners, he merely referred to the question of small holdings—in regard to which, of course, county councils and county borough councils have already the power to get certain grants. I raised the same point last night on an Amendment, and the Parliamentary Secretary simply referred to recreation grounds and a few things of that kind. I would impress upon the Minister that if this is all the Commissioners can do in co-operation with the local authorities, we might as well admit at once that their efforts are going to be of no effect whatever. In the first instance, the Commissioners ought to set out to get the co-operation of the local authorities and the local authorities ought to be informed definitely now of what is expected from them in the preparation of schemes to be submitted to the Commissioners and through the Commissioners to the appropriate Government Departments. We are within three weeks of Christmas—of midwinter—and unless some expedition is shown in conveying to the local authorities what is expected from them, not a penny of this £2,000,000 will be spent 2008 before March of next year, except what is going to be spent on official salaries—and that is not going to assist the people in the distressed areas.
Clause 1 indicates that the Bill is not carrying out the recommendations of the investigators. They were definite in their opinion that something should be done to alleviate the heavy rate burden on local authorities, and I was surprised to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer in an earlier Debate suggesting that heavy rates in the depressed areas had little or no effect in regard to the question of inducing industries to come to those districts. I do not wish to be other than respectful to the right hon. Gentleman but I suggest that he cannot understand the problem of the local authorities. Does he suggest that a new industry coming into a district like Merthyr Tydvil where there is a rate of 27s. in the £ would not have to face a heavy rating burden? Even with the allowance of 75 per cent. given to productive industries, it would have a rating burden of 6s. or 7s. in the £, whereas in other districts where the ordinary rate is about 10s. in the £ the same productive industry would have a rate of only 2s. 6d. or perhaps less in the £. Industrialists are not going to bring new industries into the distressed areas unless there is some inducement for them to do so.
There is nothing in the Clause which deals with that problem of rates. There is nothing in the Clause which suggests that local authorities, if they desire, can make any concession in the matter of rates to any industrialist who desires to establish a factory in a distressed area. The more we see of this Bill, the more we dislike it, and it must also appeal to hon. Members in all parts of the House in that way. The figures that we had in the last division are an indication of the apathy and indifference which even the supporters of the Government themselves feel with regard to the further provisions of this Bill. Some 97 out of 470 or 500 Members are all the Government can muster on a Friday morning to discuss this matter, or less than one-fifth of their supporters.
§ Mr. HALL
I am surprised the right hon. Member has suggested that they are disinterested in a matter which is of vital 2009 concern to all. I am not even so certain that the right hon. Gentleman himself is much in love with the Bill. I think he would prefer that it should go very much further than it does, or else his opinions have changed considerably. I remember some of his speeches when he sat in opposition, and I would like to see what would be his attitude to any Government to which he would be in opposition which introduced a Bill of this kind, with such flimsy provisions for dealing with this great social sore. I am satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman's private opinion is that of 90 per cent. of the Members of his party, namely, that this Bill will be of very little use whatsoever.
Let me now deal with one or two of the schemes which have been recommended by the Commissioners—not only the schemes in the scheduled areas, but the schemes outside those areas. The right hon. Gentleman and the Committee generally are acquainted with almost all the recommendations which have been made. I do not know what instructions the Commissioners had from the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he met them before they were sent out, but there was a reference in his speech that he gave an indication of the lines on which they were to report. I do not know whether their recommendations are in accordance with that indication of the right hon. Gentleman. There is one scheme with which we in South Wales are vitally concerned. It is a scheme which comes under Sub-section (5) of Clause 1, which reads:The functions of the Commissioners shall extend to the initiation, organisation, prosecution and assistance of measures outside the areas specified in the First Schedule to this Act in so far as they are satisfied that such measures will afford employment or occupation for substantial numbers of persons from those areas.I would that the Minister would take note of one of the recommendations of the Commissioner for South Wales. In Section III, on page 155, he recommends "that the South Wales Coalfields Drainage Scheme should be proceeded with," and suggests that it would "provide work for approximately 2,000 men for about four years." This is a very important scheme, and I will mention briefly what it is. Most hon. Members know that the South Wales coalfield is almost like a saucer, with the coal cropping out to the 2010 surface at various points of the rim. In the very early days of coal working there, the coal was worked from these outcrops, and in some instances it went to a gradient until they got to the lower measures. That was the method adopted in the early days. The further they worked the outcrops into the coal, the deeper were the seams, and finally they had to sink a number of shafts, because of the depth of the seams.
It must be remembered that owing to working under the surface they had to deal with a considerable amount of water. A great deal of credit should be given to the Divisional Inspector of Mines for a portion of South Wales, Captain Carey, for bringing this scheme to which I am referring into operation and to the notice of those who are keenly interested in the matter. I feel sure that all my colleagues from South Wales would agree in paying that tribute. Not having any technical knowledge, I do not know sufficient about the scheme to say that it is the scheme which ought to operate, but the principle of it is that there is a number of abandoned levels and collieries on the outcrops of the South Wales coalfield where, when those collieries were working, it is suggested that no less than 763,000,000 gallons of water per year had to be dealt with. With the abandonment of these collieries and the dismantling of the pumping plant and machinery, the water was allowed to accumulate in these old, abandoned collieries, with the result that you have a whole area now which is faced with a great deal of difficulty.
In the old days they kept very few plans of the workings, and those collieries which are now working very near the barriers where there is this huge accumulation of water have to incur a considerable expense in boring to ascertain how near they are to the water. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) will know that in his own division some two or three years ago, owing to some of this water being tapped, several miners were drowned, and it is the constant fear of a number of miners that they will penetrate into some of the old workings and possibly strike one of these abandoned mines, where there is a very heavy accumulation of water. It is therefore in the first place a question of safety, with which the miners of South Wales are very greatly concerned. Then 2011 there is the question of pumping. This water gradually finds its way down into the lower levels in the basin, and it is causing the owners considerable concern. One owner, as a matter of fact, is spending something like £75,000 a year in pumping water which has accumulated in one of these abandoned mines, simply to protect his own works.
The principle of the scheme which has been outlined by the Divisional Inspector and his staff is that you can, owing to some of these seams being at a very much higher level than sea-level, drive in two adits, one going around what may be regarded as the eastern side of the coalfield and one penetrating almost to the centre of the coalfield. It is possible that, as a result of driving in these adits, the water may be drained off naturally into a river or into the sea, with the result that a good deal of the pumping which is now being carried out can be obviated. As to the cost, the scheme has been submitted to a committee of mining engineers, and the coalowners have appointed their own sub-committee. They have not adopted this scheme of Captain Carey in its entirety, but they have, as a, result of calling in an expert to advise them, a scheme which they are satisfied will carry out a considerable amount of the work for which Captain Carey's scheme was designed. The estimate of Captain Carey is that the whole scheme can be completed for £1,500,000, and it is suggested by the South Wales Commissioner that it would provide work for 1,000 men for four years. It is the kind of work for which the miners of South Wales are suited. It involves the driving of levels and the sinking of shafts, and it would mean employment for the very men who are available.
The Minister of Labour will at once say that there is a difficulty about finance; that this scheme would relieve the colliery owners of a certain amount of expense for pumping; and that it would save millions of tons of coal for the royalty owners. If the Secretary for Mines acting with the Commissioner would go into this matter and give the necessary assistance to the colliery owners, royalty owners and all the interests concerned, it might mean that owing to the impoverished condition of the industry, they could get money, at a 2012 very low rate of interest. It is a scheme which would be eminently suitable for the Commissioner to encourage. It would be of interest to the Minister of Labour in that it would absorb a certain amount of labour, and the Secretary for Mines would be interested from the mining point of view. It would, too, be of interest to the miners from the point of view of safety. This is the one scheme which, I think, might come under the first part of Clause 1. I have no doubt that Government Departments, knowing the importance of a matter of this kind would, whether this Bill were introduced or not, do all they could to bring pressure to bear on the interests concerned to promote a scheme of this kind, but in this discussion it is important that it should be mentioned.
As I told the Minister at the onset, he cannot complain of the temper of hon. Members in debating this matter. I want him to understand that the Debates do not really express our feelings upon it. I am sorry to have to say that I regard the Bill as of very little use in dealing with the great problem with which the distressed areas are confronted. I have seen in South Wales the growing disappointment of the tens of thousands of unemployed people who really thought nine months ago, when the Commissioners were appointed, that at last the Government were going to do something for them. They were disillusioned with the presentation of the Reports and of this Bill. When they read the Debates on the Committee stage and the Third Reading, I am afraid that the hope which they had nine months ago will give way to greater despair and hopelessness than existed then. I beg hon. Members and the Government to try and understand the problem of the distressed areas. It is evident that even after 10 years of it we cannot get the Government to realise what the problem means.
Tens of thousands of the best men in the country, upon whom the industrial greatness of the country has depended, who have always been ready to come to the assistance of the country when the country desired it, have looked to this Bill to provide them with work. They dreaded Part II of the Unemployment Act coming into operation because their treatment under it will be worse than under Part I. They feel that the 2013 Government do not appreciate that the longer a man is unemployed the greater he is in need of sympathy and assistance. I hope I am wrong, but I am bound to express my feelings and the feelings of these men who thought that they were going to get some benefit under the Bill. I hope that between now and the Report stage the Minister and the Government will reconsider their attitude upon some of the Amendments which have been moved by my hon. Friends with the object of improving it so that it could bring some hope to these men. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make the Bill what it really ought to be, namely, the means of laying the foundation of a system for providing work. No one is more deserving of it than the tens of thousands of men who have been uno employed for such long periods.
§ 1.21 p.m.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I understand this Debate is supposed to be a continuation of the Second Reading Debate. I do not, however, propose to offer observations on the broad aspects of the Measure, partly because I did so on the Motion for the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, but partly because I know there are many other hon. Members who wish to speak in the short time available. I will only say that we regard the Bill as woefully inadequate to deal with the problems with which the House of Commons is confronted in the depressed areas. If it were part of a comprehensive policy for dealing, on the one hand, with the strangulation of our export trade, and, on the other hand, with the need for important public works; if it were a supplement to a broad and comprehensive policy of that kind, or, indeed, if the Government were telling us that, in addition to this Bill, there would be other measures dealing with such proposals as are made in the Reports of their investigators, such as important public works, the raising of the school age, the unification of mining royalties—
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The Civil Lord referred to it as a matter about which he did not like to make a recommendation, as it would touch on matters of policy which he considered beyond his purview, 2014 but as a matter which should be considered.
§ Mr. STANLEY
It is only fair to the Civil Lord that when hon. Gentlemen refer to his recommendations they should refer to what he said. The Civil Lord said that he did not recommend the raising of the school age, because he thought the institution of junior instructional centres had met the purpose.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I cannot quote exactly what he said, but the mere mention of the raising of the school age left on my mind the impression that he thought that was a matter that ought to be considered in connection with this scheme. I will, for the purpose of my argument, gladly withdraw the reference to the raising of the school age and refer to the other matters with which the Civil Lord undoubtedly dealt, such as the unification of mining royalties, a tunnel under the Tyne and a number of other recommendations of specific and very great importance, far greater importance to that area, I cannot help thinking, than the proposals in this Bill. If the Government were introducing a series of measures of that character in addition to this Bill, we could feel far more enthusiasm for their policy. But, having said that, I agree that there is something in this Bill; some effort is being made; and I, for my part, am not prepared to take the responsibility of opposing any measures which may inure to the benefit of the people in the depressed areas. We approve whole-heartedly of the appointment of Commissioners and are glad they are to have sub-commissioners in all districts. Those are proposals which we have long advocated, and we hope that useful spheres of work will be found for the Commissioners, and that the Bill will go at any rate some distance towards fulfilling the objects which we know that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have dearly at heart. Not only are we not going to take the responsibility of opposing the Measure in this House, but in our public and private capacities we will gladly give the Government every help in carrying it into operation.
A point to which I wish particularly to draw attention this afternoon is the difficulty we have been in over the discussion of this Measure and important Amendments which we had wished to put 2015 down. The feature of the Bill which I most dislike is its rigidity, the fact that for a period of three years the depressed areas are, I will not say defined, but scheduled, and that unless the Government bring forward fresh legislation they will be unable either to include or exclude any areas during that period. The reason, I understand, why the Government adopted the course of scheduling the areas in the Bill and in the Financial Resolution was to restrict debate, a most unfortunate reason. In a speech at an earlier stage the right hon. Gentleman made a most eloquent appeal to hon. Members in all parts of the House to come forward with constructive suggestions, and I think they have tried to respond to that appeal, but we have found ourselves crippled by the way in which the Financial Reslution was drawn. I think we shall have to find other opportunities of raising the question of the drafting of Financial Resolutions. Mr. Speaker has already indicated—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can pursue that subject now.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Of course, I bow to your ruling, Captain Bourne. I was saying that there must be found, and I know that we shall try to find them, other opportunities of raising this very important question of the way in which the Financial Resolution was drafted; but I am sure I shall be within the scope of your ruling if I draw attention to a matter of very great importance which we have been unable to discuss, and that is the limits of the areas within which these Commissioners will act. In the Scottish Report reference is made to a particular organisation and to the admirable work which it has done. I have a letter from the secretary of that organisation in which he says:It seems to me the weakness of the whole scheme is its application to certain areas only, and in particular the exclusion of places like Glasgow (unemployed 105,000) and Dundee (unemployed 18,000). If some modification can be made in the Bill authorising expenditure in areas other than those classed as depressed it would help matters.I know that such an authorisation is provided for, but only in so far as such expenditure will help the areas classified as depressed. What my correspondent means is that there ought to be 2016 authorisation for expenditure on behalf of these other equally depressed areas outside the scope of the Bill. There is a series of areas to which I wish to draw attention, the fishing towns of Scotland. Sir Arthur Rose was commissioned to go to Scotland and examine the position there, and instructed that his inquiry should be devoted primarily to Lanarkshire, but he found his attention drawn irresistibly to the very grave problem of unemployment in the fishing towns. He tells us in the second paragraph of his Report that the problem of unemployment there is so grave that:In view of the special nature of the questions involved in these cases, it has been considered desirable to deal with them separately.He has dealt with them separately in Appendix IV, and, apart from the magnitude of the problem, the following points emerge in that Appendix. The first is that, as is known to those of us who represent fishing constituencies, but may not be known to all hon. Members, share fishermen are not included in the figures of unemployment. The reason is obvious. A fisherman can hardly ever be said to be unemployed in the ordinary sense of the word. The sea is always there. The markets may be so low that it is impossible for him to fish at a profit, or there may be storms on the sea and he may not be able to go out on a particular day, but he has his boat, there is the sea and the fish are in it; and, therefore according to the definition of unemployment, however, serious, and it is terribly serious, the position of the fisherman in the fishing towns may be, we cannot accurately say that there is what is known in other industries as "the evil of unemployment." But those who suger from unemployment are the people who depend upon his activities, those in the ancillary trades, women workers and others, and the second point which emerges from that Appendix IV is that the situation has been getting steadily worse since 1928. The third point is that the whole credit structure of the industry is affected, and that credit facilities both for the fishermen and for curers are freezing up.
As to the magnitude of the problem, I will give the House the figures for the two counties which I have the honour to represent, Caithness and Sutherland, taken from the "Board of Trade 2017 Gazette", and I ask the Committee to remember always that the share fishermen are not included in the figures. I shall not take the worst areas; I am not choosing the worst areas, but am taking my own two counties. As my standard of comparison I take the distressed areas which are scheduled in the Bill. In Dumbartonshire the total number of unemployed among the insured workers, in October of this year was 30 per cent. In 1933 it was 21.4. Dumbartonshire is a scheduled area. The figures for men only for Caithness and Sutherland are 40 per cent. as against 30.1 per cent. and the total is 34.5 per cent. as against 30 per cent, in Dumbartonshire. In 1933 the total was 31.3 per cent. of the insured population, as compared with 21.4 per cent. in Dumbartonshire.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Certainly, if I can get any help for these people. I do not intend to take the responsibility, as apparently the hon Member does, of rejecting any help which is proferred for these depressed areas. He supported a Government which would not bring in any Measure at all.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am sorry, but I was interrupted and was therefore drawn aside from my argument. I will take another area scheduled in the Bill—Renfrewshire. The total unemployment among the men is 32 per cent. as opposed to 40 per cent. in Caithness and Sutherland. The unemployment among men, women and juveniles is 28.4 per cent. as opposed to our 38.5 per cent. Last year it was 25.2 per cent. as opposed to our 31.3 per cent. A number of districts in Ayrshire are scheduled in the Bill, and of all the districts for which official figures are given that of Kilwinning is the only one with a higher percentage of 2018 unemployment than Caithness and Sutherland. When I look at the scheduled districts Stirling, Linlithgow and Midlothian, not one is higher in its percentage than Caithness and Sutherland. I come to a point which was raised by an hon. Member below the Gangway as to the total figures. He may have in his mind a picture of Wick as a kind of rural village in which there are hardly any people employed in industries in which unemployment is widespread. As a matter of fact, the population of the town is 7,500 and the actual number of unemployed in the last few months has been fluctuating round about 1,200 and 1,300. Of the whole population, the insured unemployed amount to about One-sixth.
I do not regard the inadequacy of the Measure as a reason for voting against it, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the resources of the places which are scheduled in the Bill are greater than the resources of the very remote districts in the far North of Scotland of which I am talking. There are powerful corporations and associations of wealthy people who are doing their utmost to help in the scheduled areas, but it is the remote areas that need help far more. This is a test of the Government's sincerity. If the Bill be not merely an electoral sop but a genuine effort to help people who have been suffering from terrible unemployment for many years, surely the Government will not exclude the fishing towns which have been suffering so badly. The Government's own investigator, Sir Arthur Rose, although he was not asked to do so, drew attention to this matter of his own accord.
The Prime Minister made a speech on the Motion for the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne, and in it he said:I see that the political complaint is being made that our plan is not going to apply to the country as a whole.Then he went on to explain why not. He said:The Government are taking an area, a specially defined and examined area; they are going to take an experimental area, and not to begin and end there, but, just as a scientist takes his test tube into his laboratory, works out his results and their reactions, so we begin with that area for the purposes of discovering from the experiments cures, methods of handling, ways of spending public and private money, 2019 approaches to unemployment, and, having got these things out from a limited area, which nevertheless is representative in its problems of the whole country, we are going to extend the results of our working the moment that those results have been established.But you cannot, in this Bill. You have to wait two years. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give elasticity to the Bill if the pledge of the Prime Minister is to be carried out. The Prime Minister said:We want, not a nice tight little snug section which we have selected, but we want an area which gives us in sufficient intensity the complicated problem of unemployment, and then, dealing with that area intensively, drawing deductions from what has happened in that area, extend our methods and experience elsewhere."—[OFFICAL REPORT, 20th November, 1934; cols. 29 and 30, Vol. 295.]I ask the right hon., Member to take into account the claim of the fishing towns for inclusion in the Bill. We cannot promote that claim because we have been debarred from putting down the necessary Amendment to the Financial Resolution. We did put down an Amendment to the Financial Resolution, which would have had this effect, but it was ruled out of Order. We cannot amend the Bill, but the Government can, and I hope even now that they will do so, in order to extend to the fishing towns the assistance which they so badly need, and which would fulfil the undertaking given by the Prime Minister that, the success of this Bill in the scheduled areas will lead to the extension of the area of experiment.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I am very much in doubt, after all the discussion we have had, whether the implication of this Clause has been made clear. There seems to be an opinion that this is more or less a machinery Bill because it set up machinery; whether it offers any real help to the depressed areas is a matter of very grave doubt which has been expressed from all parts of the House. In Clause 3, the Bills says that the Commissioners shallact in association with the Unemployment Assistance Board in matters relating to the promotion of the welfare of persons to whom the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, applies; and"—What has been at the back of my mind and probably of other hon. Members is that we have not yet seen a copy of the 2020 regulations under which the Unemployment Assistance Board will act. I very much fear, and I think many other Members of the House fear, that somehow or other the Commissioners, linking up with the Unemployment Assistance Board, may make the position of the unemployed in the depressed areas considerably worse, because they may tend to put the unemployed persons in a distinct class by themselves, to separate them from the rest of their fellow-men in the areas, and, in short, to regard unemployed persons in a depressed area as persons who must be dealt with in a particular way simply and solely because they are unemployed. Further, as a trade union leader I am very much concerned with Sub-section (5) of the Clause, which states that:The functions of the Commissioners shall extend to the initiation, organisation, prosecution and assistance of measures outside the areas specified in the First Schedule to this Act in so far as they are satisfied that such measures will afford employment or occupation for substantial numbers of persons from those areas.The Minister has refused to accept any Amendments to the Clause. We have had a discussion this morning on the point that we were anxious to ensure that men are not taken from a depressed area and put to work in a district where there are already unemployed men. I cannot understand why the Minister should not have accepted that Amendment. I very much fear that Sub-section (5), left as it is, may enable the Commissioners to say that a particular area is not a depressed area, the proportion of unemployed to the insured population being not more than about 20 per cent., so that unemployment there is not particularly severe, and that they will transfer certain people there, and take certain measures to find work there for people from the depressed areas. I am very much afraid that in certain circumstances there will be a temptation to employers to use the economic position of men and women from depressed areas to reduce the basis of wages in areas where employment may be a little better. Nothing causes more bitterness than the possible importation of people from a certain area whose economic position is bad, and who are pleased to accept work at almost any wages and under any conditions, with the inevitable result that, in the absence of strict trade union 2021 organisation, there is a general lowering of the standard of the conditions of life; and, incidentally, because of that and because of the reduced spending power in that particular area, unemployment there may be ultimately made considerably worse. I wish it had been possible for the Government to do something to safeguard us in that respect.
I notice that the speaker for the Liberal party, after proving pretty conclusively that there was very little if any good in the Bill, and after complaining quite bitterly about most of the provisions of the Clause, has now declared that the Liberal party are going to support the Measure. That, of course, is characteristic of the general tendency of the speeches made from below the Gangway. But one of the most amazing things that the right hon. Gentleman said was that he thought that possibly this Measure might be an electoral sop. In other words, he suggested that it might have been brought forward by the Government for the purpose of getting votes at the General Election when it comes. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman must realise that, if ever there was a Bill calculated to lose the Government such little popularity as remains to them, it is this Bill. Here we have a Bill which on the face of it is going to bring hope and assistance to the depressed areas, but which as a matter of fact can. only prove a terrible disappointment to the people in those areas. The general provisions of the Clause, the machinery set up, the limitation of the potentialities and possibilities of what the Commissioners may do—all these things will mean that by the end of 1935, if the Government are rash enough, as I hope they will be, to go to the country, the population in the depressed areas will be utterly disgusted with the results of any promise that the Measure holds out.
It is all very well for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in the House to say that, if the Bill will do anything at all, they will support it. The honest way of treating it is to say that it would be impossible for the Bill to bring any material benefit to the depressed areas, and to urge the Government to do what I would urge them to do, namely, to bring in a Bill which would really be of some assistance. The Bill provides for the appointment of two Commissioners, but Members in 2022 all parts of the House are asking what hope is there that these two Commissioners, each covering such a large proportion of the country, will be able to deal in any adequate way with the depressed areas? I suggest to the Government that this Bill may very well be described by some of us as simply eyewash and whitewash—as some attempt to suggest to the depressed areas that something is being done, and that the Government are really in earnest about these matters. But, if this is the best that the Government can do, it is very poor tribute to their intelligence, their efficiency, or their ability. I am satisfied that it would have been possible to do far better. For all these reasons I shall have the utmost pleasure in going into the Lobby against Clause 1, and I have no doubt that in the long run the majority of the electors of the country will support us in the position that we are taking up.
§ 1.54 p.m.
§ Mr. KENNETH LINDSAY
I think the Committee are agreed that, while the unemployment in scheduled areas cannot be divorced from general unemployment, there are certain important remedial measures which can be taken in special areas and in special cases. We now have two Commissioners, armed with exhaustive reports, equipped, at any rate at the start, with some money, with staff and with new powers, mainly, as it seems to me—and I should like to get a very definite answer from the Minister on this question—mainly, as it seems to me, in connection with land. I must make it perfectly clear that sooner or later, as a Member of the House, one has to make a decision on a question like this and vote according to one's conscience, and I have no hesitation in saying that, unless there were a provision such as I referred to yesterday, like that in Sub-section (3), under which the Commissioners can make suggestions to Government Departments, I should be compelled to vote against this particular part of the Bill.
I want to know precisely what are the powers of these Commissioners in connection with public works. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) and the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) put several pertinent questions yesterday trying to elucidate 2023 the problem of what is a local authority and what are the particular kinds of public work that can be assisted. I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, after the most careful study that I can give to the Bill, that it is dealing very largely with work connected either with the land or with various voluntary societies, remedial schemes, schemes in connection with recreation, and that very vague phrase of the Under-Secretary yesterday, certain aspects of public health. I think we are entitled to know in some greater detail what this means. I should like to quote a few lines from the Commissioners' Report:Hence the effect of surplus labour in the coal industry will be that men above 45 years of age are unlikely to be re-employed and the demand will be almost entirely for younger and more active men. The Ministry of Labour has already carried out the experiment of attempting to train those older workers but, in spite of the keenness of the men, the experiment failed.Later they say, speaking of Scotland:The remaining 20 per cent. that is 12,000, consist of older men who by reason of their age must be regarded in many cases as verging on the unemployable.You can go through these four Reports and analyse the figures by age groups, and no independent person can come to any other conclusion than that, unless you deal with this problem of men over 60 in a specific and definite way, you can make no impression. I am convinced that sooner or later a Government will have to deal with it. After examining various pension schemes in private industry, I have come to the conclusion that the time has arrived for an emergency scheme to be put forward. I suggest that the Government should make an offer to all men over 60 of a pension equivalent in the first place to unemployment benefit, with appropriate dependant's allowances, on condition that the labour market is left. This is only a beginning. I wonder how many Members are aware that in the mining industry in France there is an autonomous pension fund for all persons over 55.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member must leave out proposals like that on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I was only trying to adduce arguments for my sugestion that 2024 the most important words in this part of the Bill are that the Commissioners may make suggestions to Government Departments. This is one of the practical suggestions. If it were done, and 100,000 men who were employed and 200,000 who were unemployed, married in each case, took advantage of it, the cost, after deducting the benefit and assistance that would be paid to younger men, would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £4,000,000. If we can relieve the unemployment problem to the extent of some 300,000 men at a cost of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, it seems to me that we are approaching the problem with some sense of reality. You cannot get these men back into normal industrial work in coal, iron and steel or any of the basic industries. The Commissioners admit it in so many words. They do not recommend a pension scheme. They do not go into the details of any specific scheme, because it is too big. We are living in a world in which we have grown up with this problem. I heard the Leader of the Opposition say yesterday that he had been with this humdrum business of unemployment for 30 years. He mentioned Hollesley Bay. I have been to Hollesley Bay. and analysed every person there. That is not going to help the unemployment problem nor will any of these agricultural schemes.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) yesterday spoke about a survey. We are dealing with the lives of people for the next five years, and the whole point, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, was that we were going to cut through the red tape of Government Departments. Do we or do we not mean some sort of action? I believe the Minister of Labour would like to do a great many things. If this Bill were an answer to the Reports of the four Commissioners, I should vote against it, and I hope everyone else would, but at last, thank Heaven, we know that it is not. Those who have been dealing with the depressed areas can see that you have to go slowly in re-employing these men, because they have gone so far back. I cannot go back to my constituency, where there are seven villages scheduled under the Bill, with this as the last word on re-employment in Scotland. No one would dare to do it. He would resign his seat first. It is bad policy for the Opposition to think they can make 2025 capital out of this Bill as the only answer from the Government's point of view to the Commissioners' Reports.
We are dealing also with the problem of nourishment and food. I want to thank the Minister of Labour for reversing the decision of last Session and extending cheap milk to the junior instruction centres. The Minister of Agriculture made an admission in a speech the other day which was passed by by the Opposition and by everyone. I realise that that was not a simple thing to do. He also blessed the whole conception. I want to ask him whether in the terms of this Clause he cannot go a little further. To quote the "Manchester Guardian" on this point as showing something of the mood of the country outside,If such is the Government's proposal it will receive a warm welcome even though it may appear a belated imitation of certain efforts of De Valera and Hitler.This is an attempt to deal not with restriction but with expanding consumption. Immediately it strikes a note in the country, because that is the mood of the country. The "Times" further suggests that this cheap milk must be extended to all maternity and infant welfare centres, that is the population under school age, and also to the unemployed adolescents in the junior instruction centres, which my right hon. Friend has already done, and all clubs and centres run on approved lines in the distressed areas, either direct or through the retailer. This is another practical scheme which my right hon. Friend could introduce immediately. I am not dealing, at some far off day, with the revival of international trade. Heaven knows that this is a most complicated problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison), who has been in a previous Cabinet, knows how complicated and difficult it is to deal with the hard core of unemployment. I am suggesting that within the four corners of this modest Bill it is possible and practicable—ask Sir Percy Jackson or anybody who knows the facts in the north—to raise the school age by areas. It has been done in seven areas, and why not do it in depressed areas straight away? Why not introduce some scheme on pension lines in the mining industry immediately, and why not extend cheap food and milk to all organised consumers? We are to have a million consumers 2026 organised under the Public Assistance Board, and we have a Milk Marketing Board to organise production. Hon. Members opposite talk about plenty and poverty. Cannot we bring these two things together now in this very simple way?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the hon. Member that this is a Motion to the effect that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill, and that we are not dealing with the Second or Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
Once again I apologise, but I am trying to suggest certain practical things which can be done within the four corners of this Clause and which are recommended to the Government Departments. I am all for any of these schemes, nurseries for smallholdings and all the rest of it, but when all that is done we still have a very big unemployment problem unattacked by this Bill, and a certain amount of definite suffering. I suggest that these things can be done by the Commissioners, by Mr. Forbes Adams in the North East, by the South Wales Commissioner, and the suggestions can be made direct to Mr. Malcolm Stewart or Sir Arthur Rose in Scotland and put into practice within the next six months. If the Government do not take some such steps within the next six months or the next year, I believe that the mood of the country will turn against them. I say this with what little responsibility I possess, but I say it none the less seriously, because I feel that no Government in a civilised community can go on permanently supporting 2,000,000 people, many of them in the prime of life with children. Let us apply all these subsidised leisure schemes to the people between 14 and 18 and to those who are over 60 and 65, and concentrate upon the provision of labour for those who are in the prime of life between 18 and 60. That is the beginning of an employment policy which, I believe, my right hon. Friend would wish to support, and it is on these grounds alone that I felt justly entitled to vote for this Clause of the Bill.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
In the earlier part of his speech the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) made a very elaborate attempt to justify his support of the Bill, and, in so doing, he 2027 claimed a far more intimate acquaintance with the mind and judgment of the Government than we on these benches could possibly have. He rather went out of his way to suggest that if this were the last word in regard to what the Government are to do in connection with the Reports of the Commissioners on the depressed areas, he would not have very much to do with it. He suggested that he would be far more critical if he really believed that to be the case. I am certain that we on these benches would be prepared very largely to agree with some of the general sentiments which he has expressed. The proposals he has made for translating the sentiments which ran through his speech into action seem to be inadequate for the purpose he appears to have in mind. I cannot understand how a pension scheme, as suggested by the hon. Member, applicable to Hien over 60 in a depressed area or even in a particular industry, could work out satisfactorily at all. I would suggest, if I am in Order, that if the hon. Member considers that earlier old age pensions, or the placing of a more adequate sum of money at the disposal of pensioners would provide a way out of the difficulties for the depressed areas and the general problem of unemployment, he had better join hands with us rather than try to—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that that was one of the points upon which I interrupted the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay).
§ Mr. BROWN
I bow to your Ruling, Sir Dennis. I was merely replying to what I considered to be the unsatisfactory argument of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. Whatever may be the outcome of the setting up of these Commissioners and the machinery associated with these appointments with which we are to deal in Clause 1 of the Bill, it is obvious that the Government want to create the impression that they are going to do something for the depressed areas. I am certain that they will not succeed by means of the proposals in Clause 1 of the Bill in creating that impression at all. It has long been known that these areas have presented a problem of first-rate magnitude, and I cannot for the life of me believe that the Commissioners concerned have not for a considerable time 2028 been considering the problems presented by the depressed areas. I read With a great deal of interest in 1931 and in 1932 the industrial surveys which were published by the Board of Trade at that time concerning the depressed areas. There was one in connection with the north-east coast, another in connection with South Wales, one in connection with the south-west of Scotland, and I believe others in connection with Lancashire and Merseyside. At the time I read the Reports very carefully indeed as I have read the Reports of the Commissioners. In the Reports recently published there does not seem to be anything fresh which has been brought to light by any of the investigations which have been made.
The problem with which the Government are now seeking to deal was very well known to them. All the essential facts have been very well known to them from 1931 onwards. I remember the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer some two years ago when he spoke about 2,000,000 unemployed being the likely figure for the next 10 years. I know that there was some modification of the phraseology, but it did not remove the impression conveyed by the speech which he made on that occasion. I also remember the unfortunate phrase of the Prime Minister some short time afterwards when he spoke about us having in this country 2,000,000 whom we might describe as industrial scrap. Those speeches were made, because the right hon. Gentlemen concerned had knowledge of what the industrial surveys of 1931 contained. The figures in those industrial surveys in 1931 as to the surplus labour in those respective areas were all carefully set out, and I am quite certain the speeches to which I have referred were made because the appropriate Ministers were conversant with the facts. It did not therefore seem to me that it was necessary to send along these special Commissioners at a later stage. The facts were all known, but the Commissioners were sent along, and they have made their Reports. They have made it quite clear to everybody who reads their Reports that there is in these areas a problem, as I say, of the first magnitude, occasioning widespread distress and suffering among large numbers of human beings. Yet all we get now is a 2029 proposal to set up these two Commissioners, as outlined in this Clause, with certain new machinery to deal with the problem.
We on these benches feel that the new machinery proposed is quite inadequate to deal with the areas concerned and the numbers of people involved. For that reason we shall have no hesitation, I am certain, in opposing the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." We do so on the grounds of its gross inadequacy to deal with the problem with which we are faced. Sitting through the discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill and listening to the speeches which have been made in Committee up to this point, I have been very greatly interested in some of the things which have been said. I have been particularly interested in some of the replies which the Minister has given to various points raised in the Course of our discussion on this Clause, and I listened this morning with a great deal of interest to a very vivid description given by my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) of an experiment which is being carried on somewhere in the area of Wigan, I take it. I think that the Minister would call this the Upholland experiment. I could not help thinking when the Minister gave his approval to this experiment to which my hon. Friend referred and similar experiments, that we were indeed in a curious situation, because here we have a Minister of Labour giving his approval to an experiment of a kind which seems to me to be an attempt to establish here and there a sort of island inside the capitalist society which are more or less a form of primitive Communism.
It seems that we have now reached a stage where the ruthless working up of the State capitalism which the Government are establishing and fashioning will have such disastrous effects that a large section of the working class population in this country will be thrown out of employment and their standards of life lowered, and that the only thing you can do to deal with the new situation is to attempt to set up here and there throughout the land these islands of primitive Communism. Would it not be infinitely better for hon. Members opposite, visualising what is actually taking place in this country to-day, to say quite frankly that this system with its cruelty, 2030 its oppression and unemployment, can no longer go on as it is going on at the moment. If instead of these trivial, trifling experiments for which the Government are going to find money, hon. Members opposite would join hands with us in completely changing the economic foundations of society, they would do much more than they will by the machinery of this Clause to improve the conditions of the people.
§ 2.22 p.m.
§ Sir THOMAS ROSBOTHAM
I would like to remind the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) that the powers with regard to smallholdings are vested in county councils. Our difficulty is that many of these county councils have done nothing at all, and further powers are needed. I would like to suggest to the Minister and to the Government that if they put into operation the Land Utilisation Act we should lay a sound foundation for helping to carry out some of the remedies suggested throughout this discussion. The smallholder to-day is suffering from lack of money and equipment, and that needs to be provided for before land settlement can be a complete success. Much has been said about slag-heaps. They are of no value. We want good land. Slag-heaps contain poisonous matter. Something more of a permanent character should be done, and if we could only put into operation the Land Utilisation Act, I am sure it would greatly help these distressed areas.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Like many others, I have experienced a good deal of disappointment as the discussion has proceeded. For a moment I had hoped that the spirit of revolt had entered into the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay), but it was only a twitter after all. He had all kinds of objections to, and not a good word to say for, the Clause, but he is going to vote for it, so that the right hon. Gentleman may take comfort. Really, when one considers the sterility of this proposal, the administrative isolation in which these Commissioners must necessarily find themselves, and the complexity of forms, reports, consultations and all the rest of it which will have to be undertaken when they want to do anything either with or through local authorities Government Departments I cannot help 2031 saying, though I do not want to be more generous in the use of adjectives than usual, that this is the most pretentious imposture I ever remember having been brought before Parliament. It is a proposal to deal with the problems of unemployment in the extraordinarily distressed areas, but it boils down to two Commissioners being appointed to function in the way defined in this principal Clause of the Bill.
May I examine for a minute what the Commissioner's powers are and what they are not? The right hon. Gentleman gave me a full answer yesterday to the query as to what was meant in the Bill by "local authorities." He told us that the expression not only included the ordinary administrative self-governing local authority, but also other bodies such as drainage boards, catchment area boards, special commissioners for sea defences, forestry commissioners and all sorts of other statutory bodies, and that by the Provisions of the Bill the Commissioners are excluded from performing any of the functions properly attaching to those bodies. As an administrative proposal, of course, that is quite sound. It looks quite right that you should not pay somebody else to do the administration. What is necessary is that the Treasury, who have the purse strings, should enable the different authorities to do the work which many of them, I am quite sure, would gladly do.
These Commissioners cannot deal with roads, because there is a special grant from the Road Fund for that purpose. We are well aware that many of these distressed areas suffer from the difficulties of old-time roads, the difficulties of communication, the interposition of slag heaps, of which we have heard so much, but Roads are debarred from the purview of the Commissioners. They cannot replan a town because grants for roads come from the Road Fund and for housing the grants come from the Minister of Health. Among the chief difficulties and disabilities of many of these places are the slums and the dilapidated buildings. The Commissioners are debarred from helping the local authority in the matter of housing. There is another great class of work which is debarred, which is clearly required and might provide a great volume of employment.
2032 Take, for example, the drainage work which has been planned by the Catchment Area Boards, under the Act for which I was responsible. The Catchment Boards have plans ready for work urgently required. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman lifting his eyebrows. What I say is true. I have seen the plans. I saw them before I went out of office, and I know that they have been elaborated in great detail. The authorities are willing and anxious in lots of cases to carry out extensive schemes, and the reason that they do not carry them out is because the Treasury has tightened up the purse strings and they are not allowed to have any grants. Here and there, where you have a very pertinacious chairman of a Catchment Board, certain grants have been made, but in the main nothing has been done. All these things are shut out from the operations of the Commissioners.
Last year we had a water famine. To meet the situation the Minister of Health has stepped in with a scheme for £1,000,000. So far as the provision for water supply for rural areas is concerned that is shut out from the Commissioners because the authorities may receive grants from the Minister of Health from the £1,000,000 Fund. Whether the Commissioners would be debarred from giving assistance in regard to a reservoir I am not sure. I suppose that would depend upon the character of the proposal. Some of these water authorities are statutory bodies, and if they are statutory bodies then the Commissioners are not able to help them. It is only when there is not a statutory body in operation that they can do anything. The whole question of local internal drainage Boards also is shut out. Direct grants for field drainage, which is urgently required in many parts of the country, are also shut out, because it is possible for the Minister of Agriculture directly to give grants for that purpose.
Every enterprise of this kind is carefully excluded from the sphere of operations of the Commissioners. The whole subject of afforestation is ruled out. They cannot give help in that direction because you have the Forestry Commissioners on the ground. There are many other development schemes of a semi-national kind which are helped by grants from the 2033 Development Commissioners; schemes that are helped by State grants. If the definition of the right hon. Gentleman holds good, and I question it, these would also be ruled out from any form of assistance by the Commissioners. When you exclude the provision of water supplies, drainage, afforestation, roads, houses, schools and the rest of it, what in the world is there left for the Commissioners to do?
There are a few things that are left, but some of them would be excluded under the right hon. Gentleman's definition if there happens to be a statutory body dealing with them. There is the question of providing open spaces. The Commissioners might perhaps he able to assist with footpaths. They might, except in a few special cases where there are statutory bodies, be able to help in the provision of sewers. They might be able to do something in regard to slag heaps. They might also be able to help in the provision of cemeteries. These are a few of the activities from which the Commissioners are not debarred by the provisions of the Clause as it stands. The exception is the case of smallholdings and allotments. I am glad that the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir T. Rosbotham) referred to this subject. There is joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and I had real joy when I heard the hon. Member say a good word for the Land Utilisation Act of 1931. The provision of smallholdings is very desirable and the Act to which I have referred makes it possible to provide them on a very great scale, to give training to applicants, to select them with great care. By cooperation with the county councils, and the education authorities the Act enables assistance to be given in organisation and the rest of it for those who are on allotments and smallholdings.
One of the worst things that this Government did—I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for the atrocity—within a few months of coming into office, was that the present Home Secretary, then Minister of Agriculture, shut down the very cheap and excellent organisation which Sir William Waterlow had developed, with the assistance of the Ministry and the county councils, under which 60,000 men had been put on to allotments and had been trained at a trivial cost of 7s. per head per annum. The first thing the National Government did was 2034 to shut that down. Now the thing is to be resuscitated under a system of charity, instead of doing the thing properly. There is the machine in existence, and I know that the plans are there, too. The whole thing was elaborated in great detail. It is in the pigeon holes of the Ministry of Agriculture. Schemes and plans for organised settlement on the land, of which the hon. Member opposite spoke, were worked out four years ago to my knowledge. There are men keen as mustard from one end of the country to the other who are anxious to go on and there is the machine for doing the work. Why do not the Government use it? There is only one reason, and that is because they are forbidden by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they are, by a certain amount of charity, trying to make up for the neglect of their own Department. Why do they not use their own Department? It could do ten times more than the Commissioners, who have to refer to half a dozen departments before they can decide anything.
When you exclude the land and the cultivation of it, this scheme is a feeble substitution for the exercise of the powers of the Government which they already have in full. There are plenty of anxious and skilled helpers ready to assist in most of the counties of the country. Instead of that you have this pettifogging proposal, which will run athwart the efforts and plans of county councils. Why not run the organisation through the properly appointed bodies? They have the machinery already, and will do it much quicker than the Commissioners. They have all the survey officers and the valuation officers, in fact, everybody at their disposal, whereas the Commissioners will either have to duplicate this staff or go cap in hand to the county councils. Why not do the sensible thing and tell the county councils to get on with the job? That is the proper thing to do. The right hon. Gentleman will not find anyone from Lands End to John O'Groats who knows anything about it who will not say that I am right. Of course I am right. It is the only way to do it.
The Bill is a legislative imposture. What it comes to in the long run is that beset with all these innumerable geographical, administrative and technical difficulties, the Commissioners will have to go to the expense of duplicating staffs 2035 and will not be able to do anything unless first of all it goes through the local authority, from them to the Minister of Labour, from the Minister of Labour to the appropriate Government Department, and then, finally, it must have the sanction of the Treasury I have some knowledge of what it takes to get anything through when you are dealing direct with an authority and have only to send a chit across the street to the Treasury. I know what patience has to be exercised and what trials we have to go through, even on that short route, but when one considers what the Commissioners will have to do, it is impossible for them ever to get on with the job. They will be smothered with correspondence. It is the bankruptcy of policy.
It is our case that this, which is suggested as a remedy, does not deal with a single cause of the trouble. The Bill is put before the country as some sort of remedy, but when you subject it to a close analysis as to how it will work, short of invoking the aid of charity, and excluding those things which competent bodies are already charged with the duty of performing, it comes down to footpaths, open spaces and slag heaps, and the rest. It is some comfort to realise that where there do not exist statutory bodies they will at least be able to help with sewers and cemeteries. Notwithstanding the good will of the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) this Bill is no remedy whatever for the causes and difficulties of unemployment.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The right hon. Gentleman in his powerful speech has used the phrase "legislative imposture" three or four times. When I survey his record of the past that criticism coming from him strikes me with redoubled force. Any measure is an imposture in the eyes of people who deliberately misrepresent its intentions and its scope. Of course, you can say that it is an absolute imposture to say that the Bill will provide bigger and better subsidies for local authorities for carrying out the statutory duties for which they receive grants. But it has been plainly declared from the start that the Government do not intend to use these Commissioners as a roundabout method of increasing the normal 2036 grants made to local authorities to carry out their normal statutory duties. There is nobody who will challenge the proposition, that whether you think it right or wrong for the Treasury to give 75 per cent. or 80 per cent., or 90 per cent. of the expenditure on roads, instead of the 60 per cent. or the 70 per cent. which they give now, or give bigger subsidies for housing, or larger increases in assistance to local rates—
§ Mr. STANLEY
That is exactly my point. You do not need Commissioners for that, and, if it is decided that the policy is a good one, it is not necessary to bring it within the scope of the duties of the Commissioners. There are certain local authority functions for which no specific grant is payable. The right hon. Gentleman laughs at them; in his view they are quite unimportant. It is true that there are such things as sewers and sewerage, but they are not a very important matter to a district. There are baths and washhouses, bathing places. You cannot spend as much money on them as you can on roads, so that they are not an important matter according to the right hon. Gentleman. They are only amenities of the neighbourhood. Mental hospitals and sanatoria—
§ Mr. STANLEY
The right hon. Gentleman has had a much longer experience of these matters than I have had and I can only put before him what is given to me on the authority of the Department concerned—the Ministry of Health. But that is a list which indicates useful opportunities for the assistance of local authorities if the Commissioners should so desire. The right hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), speaking yesterday, amid the cheers of hon. Members opposite, was the only person who attempted to acknowledge the purposes of the Bill. I agree that, if you look upon it merely 2037 as a work-giving Bill, the whole merit of the Measure is just the amount which is spent by the Commissioners in wages and the amount of temporary employment it gives, and that, although it may result in useful things being done and a number of people receiving wages for a time, yet in comparison with the total figures of unemployment, it is a small thing.
We have tried to impress upon hon. Members our belief that results may flow from the work of the Commissioners which are quite out of proportion to the actual amount of money which may be spent at any one time in a particular area. The right hon. Gentleman, I know, has a most profound desire to see a better utilisation of the land. It may be true that various plans are in the pigeon-holes of Government Departments which the Commissioners may use, but he will agree that in connection with group settlements on the land, or holdings which are associated with part-time industrial employment, a mere formal planning does not give us all the knowledge we require. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) referred to the scheme at Upholland which he went to see in which some 11 people have been very successful. But there is no experience on which we can say: "if you have 50 people, will it be equally or more successful?" Let us put 50 people in a group of that kind and find out. It may be quite true that it would not cost the Commissioners very much. It may be true that it would cost only a few thousand pounds to find out. But if the experiment is successful, if we find that we can to a large degree extend the benefit which the hon. Member says flows from the scheme, will not that expenditure of a few thousand pounds have a much bigger and more permanent result than £10,000, £20,000 or £30,000 spent on making a road which, as soon as the work is finished, means that the unemployed fall back into their former state of unemployment?
Nor am I at all pessimistic about the effect that the Commissioners may have on the industrial development of the area. It may be that in some of the lighter and more fashionable industries there is a definite economic advantage in coming South, not only in being near to a large centre of the consuming population—after all if you take an area such as 2038 Tyneside and Wales there is a big enough consuming population to be found there—but also in being near a centre where you can sense the changes of fashion which you have to follow in those light industries. But in the vast range of heavy industries there is no such economic attraction, and I believe that the reluctance of the heavy industries to go to South Wales and Tyneside is largely an illusion. It is the survival of an idea which I believe to be quite unjustified, that the labour, in those areas would be difficult or would cause some trouble or would not work. I believe the truth to be exactly the opposite. I believe that every labour organisation in these depresed areas is fully prepared to co-operate with any employer and to guarantee him industrial peace, provided, of course, that he keeps proper conditions for his workers. There is also a feeling that these areas are down and out, that there is a spirit of hopelessness and that there is no one with any enterprise. I believe that if only we can get a small start we shall make a tremendous change. If only as a result of the operation of these Commissioners in the early days we can get a few industries to begin in these areas, I believe that their example will be followed by a number of others. I may be told that it is of no value because it is a matter of opinion expressed to me, but a man of great experience in one of these areas told me that he thought there was a very considerable source of industrial development in the areas themselves, that there was quite a number of people there who were ready and willing to develop new industries if only they could get the idea out of their heads that these areas were done with and dead. I believe that a determined attempt by the Commissioners to develop certain selected areas suitable for industrial development, and their personal efforts—a great deal must depend on personality—to induce a certain number of industries to settle there, might have reverberating effects on those industries. So I beg hon. Members who criticise this Measure, and do so quite sincerely—though in their hearts, whatever their views may be, I believe they wish it well—to realise that, even if they think that the objects we have in mind will not be attained, it is not fair to measure those objects merely in terms of the money expenditure. If the Commis- 2039 sioners succeed, as I believe they will—hon. Members opposite think they will not—they will give not only these areas but the rest of the country benefits quite out of proportion to the mere financial expenditure.
A right hon. and gallant Friend raised the point of the restriction of the areas. I do not think he was here at a very late hour the other night or a very early hour the other morning when I gave, some explanation of that point. We considered that if it was to be an experiment, if we were to deal quickly with these various ideas that have been put up, we must have a defined and concentrated area in which it could be done. After all, the machinery for the extension of a large part of these fields to other areas in the
§ country exists already. The Unemployment Assistance Board is charged with the welfare of the unemployed, and it is possible, without any legislation and. without setting up any new Commission, for them to adopt any, of those schemes which have been proved to be a success by the Commissioners in these particular areas, and to extend them to the country as a whole. I do not want to detain the Committee further. It seems to me that I have been speaking almost continuously for days upon this question. I hope it will be possible now for the Committee to come to a decision upon the Clause.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 118; Noes 36.2041
|Division No. 19.]||AYES.||[2.53 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. p. G.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Potter, John|
|Albery, Irving James||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Powell, Lleut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Pybus, Sir John|
|Balllie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Jamieson, Douglas||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Janner, Barnett||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Bilndell, James||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Knight, Holford||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Braithwalte, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Levy, Thomas||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Lewis, Oswald||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Liddall, Walter S.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Burghley, Lord||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Llewellln, Major John J||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||McCorquodale, M. S.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Cavzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Copeland, Ida||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Crossley, A. C.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tufnell, Lleut.-Commander R. L.|
|Denville, Alfred||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Enwys-Evans, P. V.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morgan, Robert H.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeouf|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Herlf'd)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Munro, Patrick||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nunn, William||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Hales, Harold K.||O'Donovan. Dr. William James|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Patrick, Colin M.||Captain Austin Hudson and|
|Harris, Sir Percy||Peake, Osbert||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)||Penny, Sir George|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Cove, William G.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Daggar, George||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Groves, Thomas E.|
|Banfield, John William||Davles, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Davies, Stephen Owen||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Edwards, Charles||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Lawson, John James|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Thorne, William James||Willlams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Tinker, John Joseph||Wilmot, John|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||West, F. R.|
|Parkinson, John Allen||Williams, David (Swansea, East)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)||Mr. John and Mr. Paling.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Financial provisions) ordered to stand part of the Bill.