HC Deb 19 February 1934 vol 286 cc149-54

10.42 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 31, line 41, to leave out "with the approval of the Minister," and to insert in accordance with regulations to be made by the Minister. This Amendment seeks to ensure that Parliament will have an opportunity of considering regulations dealing with these courses and of making objections to them if necessary. This is a very serious part of the Bill. It brings us right up against the question of the training centres and the difficulties which the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have experienced in finding the best method of dealing with the young men who are unemployed and particularly those who have never done any work. The question of what to do with these young men has caused serious concern and several Governments have attempted to deal with it. At present we have training centres in different parts of the country and I remember taking a deputation of engineers to the Minister of Labour in the Labour Government protesting against those centres because we were able to adduce evidence from the executive of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to show that young men from those centres were under-cutting engineers.


On a point of Order. The hon. Gentleman appears to be raising the whole question of training centres. Is it your opinion, Sir Dennis, that we should take a general Debate now, or that we should deal with the Amendments in the regular fashion and take the general Debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"?


I am watching that point, and I think it would be to the advantage of the Committee to keep to the Amendments on the Paper and leave the general discussion of the Clause till we come to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


I was saying that the question of these training centres has engaged the attention of several Governments, and, that being the case, it is essential that we should face up to what is implied in this Bill in this connection. We do not want the Minister to have a free hand here, and that is what the Amendment is for. We wish him to put his regulations before this House so that we may discuss the pros and cons of those regulations. As far as I understand, that is the idea of this House of Commons, that we should come together here in order to discuss things. We are supposed to be here to make our imprint on the laws of our native land. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] We on these benches have a native land. We are not like some individuals on the opposite benches that have no native land. We come here, as I say, in order to put our imprint on the laws of our country, and that is why we are so anxious to take advantage of our rights as Members of Parliament to argue out the point here on the Floor of the House.

There is no doubt that there are not only Members of this House but there is a spirit abroad to-day with a view of not allowing us the right to give expression to our point of view. There are individuals in this House who take a delight in trying to keep us from expressing our point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Time and again we have to do it under the greatest difficulty. They are trying to do it at the moment, and we have just to do the best we can in these trying circumstances, in order to stand up not only for our own right but also for the rights of the people who have sent us here to represent them. We want through this Amendment to get the Minister to come here and put his regulations before us. With all due respect to the Minister and those who are assisting him, and the draftsmen who drafted this Bill, this is something in which we on these benches can assist them, of which we have actual experience; that it, of working with our hands. Plenty of hon. Members in this House have never worked with their hands in their lives, and it is their ambition to keep away from working with their hands. They ought, therefore, to encourage us who are, as they are always pretending to be, looking after the interests of the country first. This is something in which we can render human service, and about which they know nothing.

It is because we feel that the Minister would make a mistake; because he has no personal experience of what it is to work in a mine—[An HON. MEMBER: "Have you?"]—or in an engineering shop; I have experience of that and I look the part. I bear the marks of where I came from. Neither the Minister nor his understudy knows anything about this matter, but we do, and we know perfectly well that the kind of work in which until now the Minister of Labour and his Parliamentary Secretary have propounded for these individuals to be trained has no outlet. It is only a waste of time. They send these persons to the training centres to train them to work along certain lines. Suppose it is engineers. They never attempt to train 25,000 unemployed engineers, and there is therefore no use in training them to be engineers. They never attempt to train them to be colliers; it is no use training them as cotton operatives, and until very recently there was no use in training them to be agricultural workers. We cannot employ them under the present regime. In every one of our key industries, a super-abundance of labour is lying idle. In every big industrial centre and in the coalfields there are tens of thousands of young men who have never worked in their lives. Only a fortnight ago I was negotiating with three of the biggest shipbuilding employers in Britain, and they agreed with me that there are thousands of young men who have finished their apprenticeship in all branches of skilled shipbuilding who will never work as shipbuilders. We have to find an outlet for them.

All these facts have been placed before the Minister of Labour. He has had the benefit of being at the Ministry before he was in complete charge, so that he has had years of experience. He has sage experience to guide him in this work. Yet at this time of day he comes forward with the suggestion that he is to be free to bring in whatever he thinks fit, and he has shown no idea that he will put into force anything that will really be worthy of this great nation. We see no indication that the Government will adopt any other method than that which they have adopted up to now—the method of drift and doing things in a haphazard, patchy fashion. If the Minister came before the House, as I suggest in my Amendment, with the regulations for training centres, we would be able to place before the House our experience of dealing with actual facts. We see a new idea abroad, even in this House. Formerly men on every side of the House said that they did not want the unemployment allowance, but that they wanted work. Every Government since I came to the House 12 years ago and every statesman have been looking for work, but they were looking for work for the other fellow. They cannot get that work. We are producing more wealth to-day than we did before and carrying 2,000,000 unemployed——

It being Eleven of the Clock The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.