§ Order for Third Heading read [Allotted Day].
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Henry Betterton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
I do so, I am sure the House will realise, with feelings of relief that our prolonged discussions have come to an end, but I do so also with great satisfaction, because the meticulous and most careful scrutiny to which the Bill has necessarily and properly been subjected has shown, I think, beyond all doubt that what I claimed for it on the Second Reading was abundantly justified. This is a great constructive piece of social legislation, and it is one of the greatest contributions to social progress that we have seen in our time. I believe that in spite of attempts, which have been wholly unsuccessful, to misinterpret and to misrepresent its objects and effects it has been welcomed by the country and not least by those who will benefit by its provisions. When I introduced the Bill, I said that I would welcome constructive and helpful criticism. I claim that I have kept my word, and our prolonged Debates have certainly been enriched by the searching and informed criticisms of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I am sure that at this stage the House will permit me to acknowledge with gratitude the infinite and invaluable assistance I have received from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.
We have spent 27 days in all in discussing this Measure. This is by far the longest time that has been spent in discussing a Measure on the Floor of the House for very many years—certainly since before the War—and I do not regret a single day of it. But before I say a word or two about the Bill itself—and I am not going to delay the House very long to-day—I want to mention one other matter. Since 1920 there have been 35 Acts of Parliament dealing with unemployment insurance, and this makes the thirty-sixth. Some of these Acts are in full operation, some are wholly repealed, 1472 and some are partly in operation and partly repealed. That is a situation which is neither fair to my Department, which has to administer them, nor to this House, nor to the country. In my view, there certainly should be a Measure consolidating existing Acts, and it is my intention, as soon as I can, to present to Parliament a consolidating Bill, which, of course, after the usual practice, would be considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses and should pass through all its stages without difficulty.
May I recapitulate in a very few sentences what this Bill does? In the first place, we have restored to the full the cuts in the rates of standard insurance benefit, and these rates are now higher, having regard to the cost of living, than they have ever been in our insurance history. We have extended from 26 weeks to a possible 52 weeks the period during which a man may draw benefit without inquiry as to means, and of right. We estimate that something like 650,000 persons will benefit by this provision in the course of a year, at a cost to the fund of about £7,500,000. We have done what every council, what every commission, and what every committee which has considered the matter, and what every person of authority who has made individual inquiry has also recommended, namely, we have closed the gap between the age of leaving school and the age of entry into insurance. In our view, that is a measure which was long overdue. The Bill also for the first time makes it the duty of local education authorities to provide courses of instruction for unemployed boys and girls and gives the Minister of Labour power to compel the attendance of boys and girls. I regard these Clauses as among the most important in the whole Bill, and to me it is a matter of great personal satisfaction that it has fallen to me to be responsible for them. I am gratified also by the general approval which these proposals have received, so far as I can judge, in the country, and certainly in the House.
Such criticism as has been directed against them has, I think, been due to a complete misconception of their intention. I have never considered that the junior instruction centres carry on education in the ordinary sense of 1473 the word. I have never suggested any such thing, and I have been most careful in this Bill, as I have pointed out more than once, to ensure that the question of the raising of the school age shall be left—and it is deliberately left—entirely unchanged and unprejudiced. What the centres do is to ensure that boys and girls out of work do not wander about the streets in idleness and that those who attend the centres will have an opportunity of acquiring knowledge which may make them better workers and better citizens. I claim that the Clauses relating to juveniles will provide a service which will be a great advantage both industrially and socially, and a great improvement on anything that has preceded it. I believe that it is a service which the country as a whole wants and insists shall be provided. I am glad to say, and I have every reason for stating this, that the education authorities will loyally co-operate with the Government in seeing that these Clauses are put into operation as efficiently and wholeheartedly as possible.
We have secured what every Government in the past, including the last, have declared to be a matter of paramount importance, namely, the solvency of the Insurance Fund. In addition, we have provided machinery to maintain its solvency, and we have done as much as we can to make it impossible for any future Government to delude itself or the country in the matter of solvency without the deception being at once exposed. That safeguard, I consider, is of immense importance to the employed contributors themselves. We have devised an expeditious method of securing that the advantages of a surplus may be enjoyed by the contributors as soon as possible, subject to the approval of Parliament. No one who knows anything about this matter can for a moment be oblivious of the great burden which the existing rate of contribution imposes on both industry and the contributors, and I have no doubt that the Statutory Committee, should they find themselves in the position of having to deal with a surplus, will consider the possibility of a reduction in the rate of contributions. We have provided machinery whereby the insurance of agricultural workers and other classes of workers outside the scheme may be considered by this Committee. It is clear, I think, from suggestions and comments that have been 1474 made in the course of our discussions, that the importance and usefulness of the Committee set up by the Bill was and is being increasingly recognised. Where we have, as we have here, a great social system of insurance affecting no fewer than 12,000,000 persons engaged in a great variety of occupations, the scheme should be susceptible of being adjusted to the changing needs of industry. I intend to make the fullest use of this Committee, and I am confident that the Committee will be able to make an effective and continuous contribution to the development and evolution of our unemployment insurance scheme.
With regard to Part II of the Bill, we have recognised that the responsibility for unemployed industrial workers outside insurance is a national one. Having accepted that responsibility, central administration and central direction of policy inevitably follow. The former will be placed in the hands of an independent board, and the latter will rest with the Minister of Labour and Parliament. This ensures—and I attach the greatest importance to this—that the problem of unemployment is treated as a whole under the one central responsibility, that is, the Minister of Labour. I want to say a word in reference to what has been said about the scope of the scheme, particularly in the course of our recent discussion on Amendments moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte). I am aware that some apprehension has been felt by the local authorities as to the extent of the burden which will remain with them when the Act comes into operation. The financial arrangements made with the local authorities have been made on the basis that this burden will be of a limited character. I can assure them that, in drafting the Bill, we have kept this point very much in mind, and I am advised that the Bill gives effect to the arrangements made with the local authorities as to the scope of the Board's activities.
For many years the Labour party has demanded that unemployment should be made a national responsibility. I am interested to find that when, for the first time, a real constructive attempt is made to secure this end, that party professes to have discovered many hitherto unsuspected virtues in the local administration 1475 of public assistance. While paying my tribute, as I desire to do, to the manner in which the local authorities have carried out for years past a very often thankless and difficult task, I think it is clear that the efforts made by 200 or more varying local authorities must necessarily be unco-ordinated and inadequate. The Bill recognises that the unemployed may need more than cash assistance. It was not by chance that the first Clause under Part II of the Bill emphasised that one of the functions of the board was the promotion of the welfare of the persons who come under the board. It will be the object of the board to ensure that, so far as possible, those who need opportunities to keep themselves fit for employment or to maintain their employability, shall have them.
This problem must be dealt with as a whole, and it is not sufficient in every case merely to provide cash assistance. The work of the Ministry of Labour in this direction has, I think, been far too insufficiently recognised, and I am grateful for the increasing interest which is being shown by Members of Parliament in all parts of the House; and I will, if I may, include specially among them my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson). I would like, at this stage, to state categorically that it is not the intention of the Government or the board to take over the various voluntary occupational centres which are doing such valuable work. State action can never, and should never, entirely exclude the possibility of voluntary effort. In the provision of training facilities, the board will, no doubt, proceed experimentally, and their policy will be subject, of course, to the approval of the Ministry of Labour.
Shortly, those are the main provisions of this long Bill. I think I have considered—I have tried to do so, at any rate—on its merits any Amendment, from whatever quarter it may have been moved, which had for its object a constructive improvement, and which was not, obviously, merely destructive. But I confess that I have never been able to understand why the Liberal group voted against the Second Beading of the Bill. The majority of the provisions are those for which 1476 they have been pressing for years—the closing of the gap between school age and insurance, the solvency of the fund, the maintenance of the insurance principle, the principle that relief is a national responsibility, that those outside insurance should be treated as an industrial and not as a Poor Law problem. The means test, I gathered the other day, they still support, though they do not like its present administration. Had they succeeded when they voted against the Second Reading of the Bill, none of these vital changes would have been made, and incidentally, the Government which proposed them would have been destroyed in the process. They have, it is true, indicated in the course of these Debates certain points of disagreement, and on these slender differences they found their justification for attempting to defeat the Government they deserted, and which they were, with the aid of thousands of Labour and Conservative votes, elected to support. Their reason, no doubt, they will explain in their constituencies, but they have been wholly unsuccessful in explaining it to the House of Commons.
With regard to the Socialist party, their objections are reflected in the official Amendment. It is, of course, fantastic to assert that Parliament, as the Amendment suggests, has no longer a responsibility for the unemployed. Its responsibility, first of all with regard to Part I, is, in fact, increased, because it is now provided that Parliament shall be brought face to face with the financial position of the fund. No longer will the taunt in the Royal Commission Report be possible that,each successive Government has made changes in the scheme which have been determined less by the need for the careful balancing of income and expenditure than by a desire to attract or to do as little as possible to repel electoral support.With regard to Part II, for the first time in history Parliament will be asked to take responsibility for the standard of maintenance of the able-bodied unemployed, and to approve a standard which will meet the household's needs. The Amendment refers to "a vicious means test." Since when was a means test necessarily vicious? Until recently it was the accepted policy of the leaders of the Socialist party. Since this matter 1477 has been raised by the Amendment, I must refer to what was the position of, at any rate, the leader of the Socialist party. Just after the election, on 13th November, 1931, we find, in the OFFICIAL REPORT of that date, that he said :As to the means test, the hon. Member knows as well as I do" what is our attitude on the subject. I am not prepared to give people money year after year without knowing what is their own personal position; that is to say, that if a person has gone out of ordinary benefit and has means of his own to maintain himself, I am not prepared to pay him State money.What is that except a defence of and a justification for the means test? Then he said :My right hon. Friend"—that is, the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood)—made it perfectly clear then that the only means test that he or any of us would support was that if a person on transitional benefit was found to be possessed of his own means of living we were not going to vote for the continuance of public assistance.What is that except a complete justification for the means test by the right hon. Member for Wakefield and the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury)? I will give one further quotation from the same speech :If it is said that a person who may have a business or who may have invested money and has an income, is to be maintained for ever after he has run out of benefit for which he has paid, then I do not stand for it and never have stood for it, and I represent a division quite as poor as that of the hon. Member for Gorbals, a division in which I live, where I go morning and night, and where I have told the people exactly what I have told the House this afternoon."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1931; col. 446, Vol. 259.]I hate to refer to the right hon. Gentleman in his absence—and nobody regrets his absence more than I do—but I do feel that I might ask this question, if it ever reaches him, whether he is going to repeat that speech either in his division, in this House or anywhere else? I think it is a pity, perhaps, to leave out one reference from the speech, on 14th September, 1931, of the right hon. Member for Wakefield, who said in relation to the means test :I was prepared, and I am prepared, to agree to-day to a national scheme which involves the investigation of the question, but not under Poor Law auspices, for remember what this means. It means 1478 that these people will still receive the Poor Law taint."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th September, 1931; col. 534, Vol. 256.]As the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street told us, with that complete candour that always distinguishes him, hon. Gentlemen opposite—I am quoting from memory—desire to abolish the means test "lock, stock and barrel." Abolish the means test lock, stock and barrel if you like, but what will they put in its place I They will put in its place nothing except a policy of perpetual, unlimited and indiscriminate dole. Nor is that all. We have made it clear that we hope to develop opportunities for occupation and training, so as to give as many as possible a chance. That policy has been received among hon. Members opposite, with hardly an exception, with undisguised hostility and with calculated misrepresentation outside. Now, apparently, the indiscriminate dole is to be linked up with hopeless and despairing idleness. That is the policy which the Socialist party hopes to commend to the country. The Government, as shown by the Bill, recognise and accept their responsibility to the unemployed. This legislation looks beyond the life of a particular Government or of a particular Parliament. It is, as I said in other words when I moved the Bill on Second Reading, a genuine attempt to establish a sound and an enduring scheme which will bring new hope and opportunities, and, at the same time, ensure that the State fulfils its obligation to the full.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof :this House declines to assent to the Third Reading of a Bill which removes from Parliament its direct responsibility towards those who are denied employment as a result of the present industrial system, fails to recognise the disquieting evidence of malnutrition and to provide adequate maintenance for the unemployed and their dependants, confirms and perpetuates a vicious means test originally imposed as a temporary expedient, throws upon a section the burden of a debt which should be borne by the whole community, and, by exacting a contribution from local authorities in aid of a national service, inflicts hardship upon areas where, through national neglect, industry has been allowed to decay.The right hon. Gentleman said that he was relieved that he had come to the 1479 end of his, what I may term, long and heavy task, and I am sure that the House does not begrudge him that relief and a little leisure after putting through a Bill of this kind. If I may say so, the right hon. Gentleman has worn well. He has maintained an equable temperament. He has been always friendly to the House. He has yielded on minor points. But, in spite of his kindly smile and gentle dealings with the House, we have always been conscious, not only on this side but in the House generally, that beneath the velvet there was the iron; that the right hon. Gentleman, while he has yielded upon minor points, has not budged a fraction of an inch from the main principles of this Bill, which, he claims, is a great constructive effort.
We have got to remember what this Bill aims to meet, and the problems with which it has to deal. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that we have had something like 35 Bills since 1920, and if some of us have attained some knowledge of the detail points as well as the principles, it is not because we have sat down meticulously to study them. It is because we have had to do it in view of the Bills which have come before this House continuously. Unemployment insurance was first brought into being in 1911. The aim then was to meet the sort of seasonal unemployment mainly of the crafts. There was a certain amount of unemployment outside of that, but, generally speaking, the unemployment did not touch the great basic industries of the country to any extent.
The conditions in which unemployment insurance was introduced before the War look like those of a long-dead age by comparison with the conditions which prevail to-day short as is the interval. New forces have come into operation, a great industrial revolution is in full swing, and millions of men are now unemployed-masses of them have been so for many years; and yet the greatest constructive proposal which the Government can make by this Bill is to divide the unemployed into two sections. By that division the greater number of the unemployed—more than a million at the present moment—men, in the main, from the great industries, not the unemployables of whom we used to speak before the War but 1480 some of the finest craftsmen the world has ever seen, will, in the future, be counted as inferior citizens of this country. At a time when they most need financial consideration, because of the corrosion of their resources which has been going on for many years, they are to be submitted to a test which practically makes them subjects of the Poor Law. This division in the main affects the men in the great basic industries, because the greater part of those people are found in the areas which in the past played the chief part in building up the great financial, industrial and commercial structure of which we were so proud in days gone by.
The Government have set up a Statutory Committee for those coming under Part I of the Bill, and an Unemployment Assistance Board for those coming under Part II. The right hon. Gentleman said to-day, as he has always said, that in the case of the Statutory Committee the responsibility of Parliament is maintained, but though the Statutory Committee is not removed from the control of the House to the same extent as the Unemployment Assistance Board we say that even there the Government have handed over to a small body of persons functions and powers which Parliament ought never to have parted with to any outside body. They are great powers—sweeping powers to recommend the amendment of various Acts. I have not counted the number of Acts which they can amend, but they can deal with quite a lot of important matters. It is quite true that they have to report to the right hon. Gentleman and that the proposals have to be passed by both Houses. It is quite true that they have to issue a report which can be discussed in the House. If the procedure worked out in practice exactly as the right hon. Gentleman has said, it would not be quite so bad, although it would not excuse Parliament for having parted with its responsibility, but the right hon. Gentleman and all the older Members of the House know very well that whatever Debate there is on these recommendations will be very limited, and that it will be a case of Parliament merely giving its formal assent to them. In the past we have been able to deal directly with the Minister every day the whole year through—sometimes in his own Depart- 1481 ment—but now he hands over all the responsibility to a body of persons who are almost beyond the control of the House.
When we come to Part II the position is worse still. The members composing the body set up under Part II are to be on the Consolidated Fund, and just how far we can deal with them personally remains to be seen in actual experience. To those half-dozen persons we are handing over the well-being, the livelihood, and practically the whole personal and social life of 1,000,000 people; with their dependants those concerned will number, perhaps, not less than 5,000,000. This body will be given complete power to deal with them, as laid down in the Act, under the test of the household. We perpetuate the means test and give this body complete power to operate it. My hon. Friends have said repeatedly that on the votes given at the last election this House has no right to make the means test a permanency in the life of the unemployed. I dare say it may be said, "We did not say that it would be temporary," and nobody can point to any particular statement which was made, but we are certain of this : if the people, particularly those in the great distressed areas, had known that this means test was to be made permanent, there are Members here to-day who would never have been in this House. During the past two years the unemployed have suffered a loss of £26,500,000 a year—£21,000,000 by the people under Part II and £5,500,000 by people under Part I. I think the right hon. Gentleman really missed what might be called a political point when he refused the shilling for the children. It would not have cost him or the Chancellor of the Exchequer very much, only £1,700,000 a year.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Yes; that was the answer I got from the Minister. But, as a matter of fact, it is not for lack of that shilling that children have been suffering malnutrition, as I shall show they are, but for lack of the £21,000,000 a year. We would have helped the right hon. Gentleman to accede to the request to give that shilling. We were prepared to use the small numbers we have in this House and to act in unison with any body in order to get that small additional amount for the homes of the people. But the real loss has been the large sum of £21,000,000 a 1482 year. I do not remember that the right hon. Gentleman alluded to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's £3,600,000 a year which is supposed to go to these people. The Chancellor does not say definitely that it will go. I have seen so much of unemployment insurance in operation and of the working of this Department generally, that although I am not eager to make prophecies I will venture to say that when this Bill comes into operation the Chancellor of the Exchequer will save more than £3,600,000 under it. I am judging from our experience of what has happened in those areas where there is a Poor Law Commissioner. As I have said before, £300,000 a year has been saved by the Commissioner in Durham since he was established there, not because he is an evil person—he is not, but a very efficient Civil Servant—but because of the operation of the means test.
The right hon. Gentleman said on one occasion that the administration had to be taken over in Durham because there had been, from the Government point of view, a too generous administration of the law by the public assistance committee. He quoted some 48 cases, and, when challenged, said he could give some more. Let him multiply his 48 by 10 if he likes, which is as far as even he dare go, and that will make 500 cases. At its highest the average payment has been only about £1 a week. Five hundred cases would mean £500 a week and, roughly, £25,000 a year. By accepting the wildest statement the Minister dare make and saying that 500 people had been getting relief to which they were not entitled, we get an expenditure of £25,000, whereas the Commissioner has taken £300,000 a year off the people. The means test was not designed to, and does not in fact, take from people who have too much coming into the house. The means test affects those who have scarcely anything to begin with. That is evident from its results. If the Commission in Durham is any example, much as we have criticised the operation of the means test by public assistance committees, we believe that when it is operated by a body outside the control of the House of Commons and with complete power, there will be suffering upon a wider and deeper scale. The new body will be completely independent of the local authority. We are putting a mass of people under 1483 officials with very great power who are not only independent of the local authorities, but may be quietly but firmly dominant over them. If our public assistance committee of the local authority have desired to give half-a-crown extra to some families because of special circumstances, it has been within the power of the Commissioner, as it will be within the power of the new body, to say "If you give that money, whether it be one shilling or five shillings, we will reduce to that extent the amount that we grant."
The means test administered by local authorities has led to great malnutrition; that is, I think, undeniable, although in the earlier stages of the Debate upon this Bill the Minister of Health denied that there was want, particularly among children. The Medical Officer of Health came to his assistance in the earlier stages, and since that time there has been a great deal of debate between the British Medical Association and the Minister of Health. The former, consisting of eminent people, were alarmed at the state of the people in various parts of the country. I would remind the House of the report which I read from Newcastle, where a serious investigation was conducted and showed that people were living much below the standard set by the British Medical Association, or even by the Minister of Health. Dr. Smith made some very serious statements as to the condition of the people and of the families whose position was investigated. I do not know whether it is necessary to read the report or to use any more of the information, because most hon. Members are not quite satisfied with the results of the operation of the means test. I have a list of local authorities among which are Wolverhampton, Sheffield, Southampton, Birmingham and Bethnal Green, in whose areas it was stated that signs of disease among the children were directly attributable to local unemployment and to malnutrition. There has been want, as the result of the operation of the means test during the past two years even if it has not always been observable. In almost any part of the country it would be difficult to say, unless you knew the people, how they had deteriorated in appearance. When we remember the reductions that have taken place in the incomes of people, we 1484 must admit that there is physical undermining by disease and general lowering of physical standards, and any hon. Member who is in close touch with the position would be able to give evidence from personal knowledge of the facts.
This is an evil Bill, because it perpetuates something that has been evil during the past two years. The right hon. Gentleman has a Clause upon which he depends to a great extent to amend that state of things, with which he has not been satisfied. The means test will be in operation in full blast in a few years, and this Bill will only make more widespread the evils that have been apparent from the means test during the past two years.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that he will make this a solvent fund. I have never been able to understand how the right hon. Gentleman can reach this wonderful solvency. The right hon. Gentleman has asked for a few million pounds, and has not exactly seemed to enjoy doing so. I gather that the fund will be solvent in about 40 years. A debt is laid upon it of £106,000,000. We have argued a lot about that, and I will not repeat the arguments, but I will say that that debt ought not to be laid upon the fund and that it is unjust to do so. The present methods are not responsible for the debt, part of which was due to the fact that masses of people after the War were only temporarily in industry. From the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, it will be bad business making this a solvent fund. If the right hon. Gentleman wanted to do that he should have given us the big, bold, constructive measure of which he has spoken very often. He should have brought within the compass of the Bill people who are still outside, and he should have raised the income limit of people to be insured. There are millions of people who ought to be within the Insurance Fund, if the fund is to be made solvent. The debt is like a big, heavy chain round the necks of those who are responsible for carrying the fund.
The Amendment says that the local authorities have had a wrong inflicted upon them. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Bill contains that for which we have been asking for years, that the State should be completely responsible for unemployment. It is true that the Labour party have been asking 1485 for that, but nobody desired that when that principle was accepted by the State the wealthiest authorities should be relieved, and that there should be left upon other authorities, in the very areas which require help, a Poor Rate which would stagger authorities in more fortunate parts of the country. After the Bill comes into operation, Durham, in addition to its rate of about 8s., will still have to pay 1s. in the £ towards the maintenance of unemployed for whom the people of Durham have no responsibility. That is the case in other parts of the country where a large number of people are unemployed.
We object to the violation of the principle of representation where there is taxation. There is no representation of the local authorities upon the Unemployment Assistance Board and those authorities will have no influence over the board. It will be quite impossible for them to carry on alongside the board. The Bill not only perpetuates the means test, but it makes it worse in operation. It fails to meet the new circumstances, because there is no attempt to visualise the needs of the areas where people have been suffering for years and it does not attempt to meet the financial responsibilities which the local authorities in those areas have to face. We shall therefore vote for the Amendment.
The operation of the Bill will give permanence to poverty. I think that it will deepen poverty, and I only pray that, before more evil is wrought, some Government will give as much thought and time and work to finding work as has been given to this far-reaching and, I believe, socially devastating Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has great hopes for it, but it is very easy to hope when we are living here in the centre, where we cannot visualise the actual effect of the operation of a Bill of this kind. I trust that this apparent permanence will not materialise. I think that the country has already had more than enough experience of the operation, particularly of Part II of this Bill, in the past two years, and I am sure that time will justify our criticisms and our outlook. I hope, myself, that my worst fears, and the fears of those of us who have put down this Amendment, will not be realised, but, because we believe that the Bill is going to have a devastating effect on the lives 1486 of people who need more consideration and who are worthy of more consideration, I beg to move the Amendment.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Sir PERCY HARRIS
I want to congratulate the Minister on having reached the end of his long and arduous labours in connection with this Bill. For 27 days he has sat in his place with commendable diligence, a model of how a Minister should guide through the House of Commons a long, complicated and involved Bill. I have had many years of Parliamentary experience, and I can say generally that no Minister whom I have known has been more conciliatory in his manner and deportment and apparently more desirous to meet criticism, and, according to his own ideas, anxious to disarm opposition. If personality and character could have got a Bill on to the Statute Book, certainly the right hon. Gentleman's would have done so. I am sure I am speaking for the whole House when I say that we all recognise his sincerity of purpose and his desire to justify the occupation of his difficult office by a monumental Bill that would solve this most complicated problem.
I recognise, as we all recognise, that it is a complicated problem. It has broken Minister after Minister of Labour. I am very much afraid that not one Minister of Labour has left that office without his reputation being more or less tarnished and injured. Dr. Macnamara, the right ton. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland), Mr. Shaw, Miss Bondfield, all of them struggled with this complex problem and all of them introduced their Bills, but none of them up to the present has succeeded in solving the problem. When I criticise, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise—and I believe that this will apply to almost every critic—that the criticism does not arise from want of respect. The fact that he has made an attempt is something. When I first saw this Bill, with its 82 pages and 65 Clauses, I was, I say frankly, impressed. I felt that at last here was a Government apparently going to tackle, with a comprehensive Measure, a most difficult problem. But I have sat through most of the Debates in Committee, and particularly on Report, I have heard the 1487 discussions, and I have examined the Clauses, many of them extremely involved and complicated; and, the more I have scrutinized, the less I have been satisfied.
I was prepared to take the Bill on its merits. I agree that Part I starts well by recognising the responsibility of the State to the adolescent, and for the first time fills that gap; but I hope the Minister will not think I am indulging in carping criticism when I say that he is doing a right thing in a wrong way—or rather, I would say, that his Government are doing a right thing in a wrong way. We have consistently insisted that the responsibility for the training of the young should be on the Board of Education, and that, if it is really to be successful, it should be in spirit and in fact part of the general education of the country. I will give the right hon. Gentleman this credit, that he has stepped into the gap left by the President of the Board of Education. The President of the Board of Education, through his Parliamentary Secretary, has been an interested spectator in nearly all of these proceedings. He has sat by, an idle passenger, leaving the right hon. Gentleman to carry the burden which the Board has been only too willing to neglect. I can speak with some feeling on this subject, for I myself made an attempt by taking the first opportunity in this Session of Parliament to introduce a short and very simple Bill to put on the Board of Education the responsibility for taking out of the labour market at the very beginning, before they were drawn into the vortex of industry, these young people, and keeping them at school. That would have saved the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of putting the early Clause into this Bill.
In-and-out education may be better than no education, but it can never be a substitute for the completion of an educational course. Anyone who gives a moment's thought to our policy in regard to education must recognise that principle. In so far as the Ministry of Labour has to shoulder a responsibility which should have been that of the Board of Education, we pay the right hon. Gentleman a tribute and are grateful to him, but the blame for failure must be with the Government. On the other hand, I think the 1488 step forward in the training of young persons between 16 and 18 is a good one, although, of course, it introduces no novel principle; it was established by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office, Miss Bondfield, who introduced three or four years ago a measure of compulsion for juniors out of employment and on insurance to go through some course of education.
While, however, we accept that principle for young persons under 18, we on these benches take great exception to introducing compulsion for able-bodied men grown women, or married men as a condition of receiving benefit for which they have paid their contributions and to which, under the insurance scheme they are entitled, not as a favour, but as a right, because that is the very principle of insurance. We regret the introduction of compulsion as regards attendance at courses for insured persons. That, of course, is quite different from the case of persons who have exhausted their right to benefit and are outside the fund. We take no exception to training being offered; on the contrary, there is every argument in favour of reconditioning people who have been out of work for a long time; but, to be successful, it must be on a voluntary basis, the persons concerned freely submitting themselves to attendance at some course of education. Otherwise, it is bound to lead to irritation and trouble, and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to accept an Amendment to eliminate the compulsory aspect from these particular courses.
It is very important to separate Part I of the Bill from Part II, because the Bill really consists of two Measures, dealing with two separate problems. It is true that they are interconnected, but, nevertheless, they are separate, and largely self-contained. As regards Part I, we take special exception to the financial side—to the saddling of the fund with a debt that is going to handicap it from its very beginning. Here again I think we can absolve the right hon. Gentleman. I am only too glad to throw him a bouquet, and it is due. I believe that, if he had had a free hand, if he had his own way, he would have given the fund a clear start by putting it on a sound financial basis. But, unfortunately, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the evil 1489 genius, and he was sitting by the Minister's side trying to push the Insurance Fund on to the contributors, employers and employed. That is a liability which we submit rightly and properly belongs to the Treasury and to the State. We consider this to be a fatal blunder. We attach immense importance to it, because we still believe in the principle of insurance. We claim what credit or discredit there is for the introduction into our social system of the principle of unemployment insurance. We made the great experiment, and it was a successful experiment, of applying insurance to public health. That, of course, is now recognised to be a complete success. We then embarked, admittedly as an experiment, on the application of the same principle to unemployment, and we therefore attach great importance to the Insurance Fund being solvent and being efficient in achieving its purpose of providing insurance against the risk and danger of a man or woman being out of work.
Therefore, we are sorry to see this new attempt at putting the insurance system on a sound solvent basis. The system is being handicapped from the very beginning by being saddled with a debt which, as the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has quite rightly said, can by no means be described as a liability of insurance, but was created when very large numbers of workmen came out of the Army and, flooding into employment, created a problem quite outside the practical realm of any insurance scheme. We are sorry that this great and, as we think, fundamental fault in the insurance side of the Bill has been retained, in spite of pressure from every quarter of the House. We believe that, if the fund were free from debt and properly administered, it would enormously decrease the importance of Part II of the Bill, for it would then be possible to give longer benefit and to give more generous allowances, and it might have been possible to meet the claim that was made from every part of the House for an increase of the allowances for children—a claim which, I would remind the House, expressed the feeling of the whole nation. It is true that the Minister argued with a good deal of force and reason that the new Insurance Commissioners will be able, if the fund permits, to increase these allow- 1490 ances, but we should have implemented it by first removing this dead load of debt from the fund, and secondly, if possible, by putting words into the Bill expressing the opinion of the House of Commons.
I come to Part II of the Bill. I agree it is an accepted principle of all political parties that the able-bodied should be a national and not a local charge. In fact, it has been argued up and down the country for three or four years that the unemployment of the able-bodied has nothing to do with local policy or local government, but is caused by State policy, by the absence of tariffs if you like, or the imposition of tariffs, by international trade, by War debts, by national causes brought about by good or bad government by the State, and that it should therefore, be dissociated from local government and local responsibility. The first weakness in this new departure, in so far as it is a new departure, in policy is that it has meant requiring local authorities to contribute to what is now recognised as national responsibility. It sins against the very first principle of sound taxation. To ask one elected authority to hand over public authority to another authority to spend without any control or supervision is a departure from policy.
It has been common for Parliament to hand over money to local authorities to spend, but there has always been this very vital difference, that the central authority, through a Government Department, could control the expenditure, see that the money was spent on right lines and that a standard of efficiency was maintained. Here you have for the first time the principle of local authorities, town and county councils, raising money from their ratepayers and handing it over to a State Department, to a board, to administer according to their own standards, their own methods and their own ways without having any say in the method of administration, good, bad or indifferent, extravagant or economical. It may be a convenient way of meeting the financial difficulties of the time. It may be that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has disarmed some of the criticism of the local authorities by giving them some financial help, but the principle remains there. It is unsound, it is resented by the local authorities, it makes 1491 a bad precedent, and the House of Commons ought to resist this attempt of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to hand over the responsibility of finding money for a State Duty to a local authority. It may be argued that that is a purely theoretical objection. The hon. Member seems to think that it does not matter whether the taxpayer or the ratepayer finds the money. I beg to differ. There is a principle at stake and, if the ratepayer is to find the money, he should have some control over the expenditure.
A second and more fundamental objection in our view is that, while it takes away the responsibility for the able-bodied from local authorities and hands it over to a Government Department, it leaves the old Poor Law and all that it stands for intact. I thought when I looked at the Bill that here at last was the funeral of the Statute of Elizabeth, that we had done for all time with the old Poor Law and all 1ts unpleasant associations and were starting with a new approach to the problem of unemployment. But it goes out of its way in Clause after Clause to re-establish it, if only to transfer the Poor Law from local areas to a central department. Very unkind things have been said in the past of the Poor Law guardians. I think they have very often be, en grossly libelled. They performed a difficult task very often with infinite tact and devoted service, and, what is perhaps more important than anything else, with great personal knowledge of those who came to ask for assistance. When the transfer was made from the guardians to the larger authorities, that was done because of the difficulty of fairly distributing financial responsibility, but in the light of experience in most parts of the country it has meant, even with that comparatively small area, the divorce of administration from human understanding and personal contact.
I am afraid that this new experiment will inevitably, with the best will in the world, even if you get the most competent administration, mean the restoration of Bumbledom, red tape, fixed rules, and standard rates which cannot be adapted to local conditions, because conditions throughout the length and breadth of the land vary enormously. In one part rents are high, in another they are low. Conditions and circumstances are so variable 1492 that, when you endeavour to run a big service like this through a Government Department and a board, it is almost impossible to avoid hardships, officialism, everything unfortunately associated with a great machine—bureaucracy trying to govern a country of over 40,000,000.
There is one fatal blot that is retained in the Bill. It retains the old doctrine of chargeability associated with the Statute of Elizabeth. In my various studies of local government I have had opportunities to refresh my memory on the first initiative of local responsibility, the vestry and the parish and the care of the poor. It was inherited from the old monasteries, which were dissolved, leaving behind them nothing to provide help for those who found themselves out of employment. It is one thing to make the family responsible where the unit of economic, industrial and agricultural life was the village, or even the family. It was quite another in our modern industrial system, complex and involved, with very little of family occupation. In the ordinary family in the ordinary industrial town half-a-dozen vocations are followed. A principle that was good in the time of Queen Elizabeth is vicious and bad and indefensible in the reign of George V. That fundamental weakness is retained in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman grew quite eloquent on Thursday about the wickedness of a man owning 12 houses being allowed relief from public funds without any inquiry. Of course, that is an example that you could not justify. A man in that position who claimed public money would be guilty of fraud, and I would give him short shrift. We have never said a man of that kind should have public money.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
If the hon. Lady will possess her soul in patience, I hope I shall carry her with me in my objection to the law as it will be administered unless amended. What I object to is the 1493 lumping together of the family income. We made every effort to get Amendments in Committee. We put our views on the Paper, hut, owing to our ancient, traditional procedure, it was not possible for those Amendments either to be discussed or moved. We say that this principle of son being required to keep father and daughters being required to lump together the whole of their income before the father who is out of work can receive assistance from the State, far from cementing the family must inevitably break it up, cause friction, irritation and bad blood. You are twisting the Biblical phrase. You are visiting the responsibility on the first, second, third and fourth generation. You are trying to make families responsible for the economic condition of each other. It has stirred the soul of the people as nothing else has done for years. There is real public feeling about it. While before the War the Poor Law only affected a small section of the community and the great majority of people would have a reasonable chance of being employed after a comparatively short period of unemployment the Poor Law through the machinery of transitional payment, which is only another form' of the Poor Law, has spread its net so much wider that it has reached families which less than a generation ago would never have thought they would have to suffer the indignity of going to the guardians to seek help from the State, who would have felt that it was degrading and was something outside their ken. Now there is hardly a working class family in a great industrial town of which one member has not been forced to come on to transitional benefit or to ask for assistance.
Therefore, there is a resentment against the Poor Law which before the War was negligible, because the Poor Law affected only a comparatively small section of the community. With unemployment on a scale unknown before the War, it is unsound in principle and bad policy to build up an Unemployment Bill on the foundation of the old form. The old machine should have been altered and the old tradition swept away. If the right hon. Gentleman wanted to signify his occupation of office he should have had the Minister of Health associated with him, and the two of them should have remodelled the whole conception of the responsibility of the State for unemploy- 1494 ment and the able-bodied men out of work. The mysterious Public Assistance Board have a gigantic task. I do not envy them their duty. We do not know who they are to be. Much depends upon the appointments. If some super-men, men of large outlook, exceptional ability, and bold views take on this great work, it is conceivable that many of these faults may be removed. But it all depends upon them. The House of Commons will be divorced from any responsibility. The board will have to work on their own. They are to be a law largely unto themselves. They are to issue their orders and make their regulations, and all that the House of Commons can do is to say "Yes" or "No." We cannot amend, alter, add to or initiate.
Incidentally, this is another chapter in legislation which is open to great and fundamental objections. It is the creating of a dangerous precedent which may be used by Governments of different character and principle, and with different ideas from the present Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] My hon. Friends above the Gangway say "Hear, hear," and I am not surprised. If they desire in a few years' time to carry out revolutionary proposals against the wish of the people, here is provided a convenient method embodied in a Bill which forms a precedent. I am afraid that in their heart of hearts the Government are afraid of democracy. On reading the Report of the Royal Commission one sees running through it a suggestion that Parliament cannot be trusted to administer duties of this kind. I believe in trusting democracy. They may do foolish things from time to time, and so do oligarchies and dictators, but democracy, on the other hand, whet it does foolish things has to suffer the responsibility of its mistakes. If you are to have a wise and sound democracy, the right thing to do is to trust it; to accept it and let it take responsibility. The present Government are the last Government who should be justified in showing mistrust of democracy. They owe their majority to the votes of democracy. Rightly or wrongly, the people gave this Government—not, it is true, for this Bill or for tariffs—an immense majority when they found the financial position of the country was in danger. Yet through the whole of this Bill there are provisions and safeguards against Parliament and 1495 the people setting up abnormal machinery to remove responsibility for the expenditure of public money from Parliament to boards and committees.
I think that I have given sufficient reasons to convince the House—I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not here in order that I might have convinced him—that, as a result of our 27 days of hard labour in going through these 80 pages, the Bill contains such fundamental faults that we shall not be justified in voting for it. We are convinced that it attempts to deal with this great problem on wrong lines. If instead of setting up an assistance board, it had set up an employment board to deal with the whole problem of unemployment by means of a policy of reconstruction and using the machinery of the Employment Exchanges——
§ Sir P. HARRIS
It is a greater pleasure to build roads than to give Poor Law relief. If the hon. Gentleman opposite will exercise a little patience, I shall not detain the House for more than two minutes. Instead of having an assistance board there ought to be an employment board upon whom the responsibility should rest of dealing with the problem throughout the length and breadth of the land, where possible helping to get men back into industry or occupations. If we were assured that that was not possible because of world conditions or changed occupations, then by all means we should get them into work of public utility or social reconstruction whether it be constructing roads or building houses.
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that upon the Third Reading of a Bill he must discuss what is in the Bill, and not what is not in the Bill.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I agree with that Ruling, and I recognise it and will not labour the point. I was challenged by the hon. Gentleman opposite, and I accepted the challenge; I can labour it on another occasion. I have been asked whether we are going to vote against the Bill. I should have thought that I have said enough to show my view and intention. I am going to vote against the Bill, and so are my hon. Friends. We 1496 shall vote against it because it perpetuates the old Poor Law and all for which it stands, because the Bill is undemocratic in its character and Clauses and is likely to be bureaucratic in its administration, because it is wholly illiberal in its spirit and its attitude, and because it proves, if there is anything else wanted to prove it, that the Government are Tory at heart, and do not trust the people.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. JAMES REID
The House, I think, must have been astonished at the speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Baronet. In finding some reason to vote against the Government, he has been reduced to the last of all possible reasons for opposition, that the right thing has been done in the wrong way. He is perfectly entitled to do his best to get his way of doing things during the Committee stage, but surely when he admits, as he does, that the greater part of the proposals is aimed at the right object, it is better to have those proposals, such as they are, than to remain in the present chaotic condition.
§ Mr. REID
The hon. Gentleman made it quite clear. As I understand him, with regard to the insurance part of the Bill, which, after all, is much more important, because it affects five for every one affected by Part II, he is in general agreement with the principles underlying the Bill. With regard to Part II, he is in general agreement that there should be a means test of sorts. He agrees that the man with 12 houses should not get Government money, and the difference between him and us is as to the precise nature of the means test to be used. Further than that, he has completely left out of account the Government themselves. No one on these benches is satisfied with the means test as it exists at present, and the Minister stated during the Report stage that the means test, as it is approved and the regulations come before the Minister, will be something very different from the means test which exists at present. That it is going to be very different is obvious from what was said by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). The hon. Mem- 1497 ber based a great part of his opposition on his fears that things in future would be just as they have been in the past.
§ Mr. REID
Or even worse; I took him to say that they would be at least as bad, but he went on to say that on that assumption he was sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not spend all the money that he has estimated to spend. Therefore, it is obvious from the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which, on the hon. Member's own assumption, is far in excess of what would be necessary to carry on the present system, that a very distinct change in the present system is contemplated. I should like to deal with Part I in a little more detail because of the great importance of that part of the Bill, which has, I think, been overshadowed in the course of some of our discussions. Part I does what every Government since the War have aimed at doing—Socialist, Coalition, Conservative or National. It aims at setting, and does set, the Insurance Fund on a solvent basis. It supports the principle of insurance which has been supported by every Government since the scheme began. It is now said from the benches opposite that unemployment is not an insurable risk, that you cannot insure and, therefore, let us get rid of the pretence of insurance altogether. That was not the view of hon. Members opposite when they sat on this side of the House. I will cite one or two passages from speeches of Members of the Labour Government speaking for their party. Miss Bondfield——
§ Mr. REID
I knew that somebody was going to say that, and therefore I anticipated it, and was going to deal with it in advance. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) has raised the point. Miss Bondfield spoke year after year from that Box in the name of the Labour party, and the Labour party were only too glad to shelter behind her when there was trouble about. Now when they are free of the incubus of the past and free to indulge their propensity for some gloomy prophecy in order to deceive the electors, they say, "We never 1498 agreed with Miss Bondfield." The point is that they voted with her. Miss Bond-field, on 1st December, 1930, said :I think there is general agreement that there should be a national unemployment insurance scheme on a solvent basis."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1930; col. 1831, Vol. 245.]That has never been disclaimed by the Labour party until the last few months. It has now been disclaimed. The disclaimer is only a few weeks old, and, I venture to think, for the recent agitation only. She said on 21st November, 1929 :I differ fundamentally from the party opposite on many things, but unemployment insurance is not a matter of party politics,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1929; col. 762, Vol. 232.]It was not a matter of party politics so long as the Labour party retained their original beliefs. It has only become a matter of party politics because the party opposite choose to make it so for their own purposes. I do not need merely to refer to Miss Bondfield, because the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Law-son), who is here to answer for himself, was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour. What did he say on the 8th December, 1930? I would ask the attention of the House to what he said, because it seems to foreshadow almost exactly the proposals of the present Bill. He said :The piling up of debt cannot go on; the scheme must be put on a self-supporting basis. That is agreed.Then he said :There is also agreement that able-bodied employable workers who fail to qualify for insurance benefit must be provided for outside the existing arrangements. These things are agreed upon."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1930; col. 265, Vol. 246.]I wonder if the hon. Member will say "Hear, hear "to the second sentence as he did to the first. I understood him to say to-day that one of the things he really objected to was the distinction which was being drawn between those who were being provided for under Part I and those who were being relegated to Part II. Yet, in 1930, when he had all the knowledge of the Ministry of Labour behind him, when he was speaking with a full sense of responsibility and on behalf of his party, he said that there was agreement. It was not merely his opinion but those who fail to qualify for insur- 1499 ance benefit must be provided for outside the existing arrangement. Therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that on that question as on the other the party opposite have completely changed their views, or their apparent views, for what object the House will determine. It may well be that hon. Members individually have not changed their views, but we all know that under the arrangement which prevails on the benches opposite an hon. Member is not entitled to express his own views.
§ Mr. REID
Whether it was the true view they then expressed or whether they are the true views they now express one cannot be quite sure, but we have heard nothing from hon. Members opposite to explain why the party as a whole have changed their views. It is extraordinarily difficult to understand why insurance was a good thing when insurance was going from debt to debt and why when the fund is steadily mounting up and prospects are ever so much better, insurance has become a bad and unworkable thing. It would be interesting to know how hon. Members opposite are able to reconcile those two positions. I do not want to dwell on quotations from hon. Members opposite. It is clear that the only Members of the Labour Government who have been consistent are the Prime Minister and those who follow him, because throughout they have held firmly to the scheme adumbrated by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street when in office. Some delay, of course, has occurred since the Prime Minister and his colleagues enunciated those views, but that was due to circumstances over which the Prime Minister had no control, and one is only too glad that we are able to help him to bring about the result which we all desire to achieve.
§ The question of the debt has also been raised. It is open to hon Members on this side to say that the debt should be taken off the fund but it is not open to hon. Members opposite to say that. They were besought time and again by Members of the Conservative party not to put the debt on the fund. It was suggested that they should put it on the Estimates and vote the money, but that they should not put it on the fund. But they insisted in putting it on the fund. It is, therefore, not open to them to say that the debt should not have been put on the fund, seeing that they put it on. I do not know how the hon. Baronet the Member for Bethnal Green South-West (Sir P. Harris) voted. One is never certain how a Liberal votes individually unless one make definite inquiries, but it is clear that his party supported the Labour Government in the attitude they took. Therefore, it is not open to his party any more than it is open to the Labour party to say that the debt should now be taken off the fund. They put it there, or they stood by and allowed it to be put there. On Part I, I say that the Bill has restored the cuts with complete security for the future and with a probable surplus which will be available for the benefit of all concerned. If this Bill had been passed five years ago there would never have been any necessity for the cuts in 1931.
§ Now I pass to Part II, and I should like to deal with the means test. I am totally unable to understand the attitude of hon. Members opposite. We have been told time and again in these Debates that a man who is unemployed should get all that he needs, because it is not his fault that he is unemployed. How are you going to discover what a man needs unless you make inquiry? Is it to be said that every man on every occasion always needs exactly the same? Otherwise how are you going to justify a flat rate? Is it the principle enunciated by hon. Members opposite that which is to be paid is what the man needs and that every man always needs the same? Or are they going to say, we will not pay a flat rate but something different? They must say one thing or the other. I should be interested to know whether their proposal is a flat rate or a sum assessed according to the man's needs. From 1501 what they have said up to date they have indicated that it should be a sum assessed according to the man's needs.
§ It has been made plain by many hon. Members that it is at the end of six months that the man's needs become greater. Boots may be wearing out, clothes may be wearing out, and he wants more household utensils. Is there to be no provision for meeting that additional need when it arises? If you have a flat rate and no inquiry as to needs, you cannot meet that situation. The proposals of the present Bill can meet and do meet that situation, because it is at the end of the six months which, by common consent of hon. Members opposite, is the critical time in the home, that the Bill steps in and says that the man may receive according to his needs, and there is no maximum. We are no longer to be limited to the sum that the man gets under Part I. Hon. Members opposite smile. They do not believe that anything so good is ever going to happen. Again I would use the argument of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer's estimate is all going to be spent, something like that is going to happen.
§ Mr. REID
The hon. Member does not believe that as much is going to be spent as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has provided for. He does not believe it, because he refuses to believe that the Minister of Labour is so going to draw up his regulations as to allow what he has promised to allow. Even on the assumption of hon. Members opposite, the proper way to approach this problem is to have an inquiry of some sort. What does a man need? Are we to inquire into what he needs in the circumstances in which he finds himself at the moment or into something quite different, something that he would need if he was living alone or if he was living in some other town away from home? Many hon. Members have said that it is accidental whether a man is living with his family or by himself and that it is unjust to take that circumstance into consideration. Surely, the contrary is true. What you are trying to find out is what the man will need next week, and what he will need next week depends entirely 1502 on the circumstances of his household, whether he is living with his parents or in lodgings, or whether he has to pay rent and things of that kind. If that is to be the real test, you must take the man's family circumstances into consideration.
We hear a great deal about the State paying the money, and it does not seem to matter how you fix it up so long as the man gets plenty. It always occurs to me that a great part of the excesses of Socialism on the one hand and nationalism on the other is due to people personifying the State. If people would cease to use the word "State" and would use the word "people," and if instead of saying that the State is going to pay, they would say that the people are going to pay, I think we should get down to something much more like rational views on this question. Hon. Members opposite say that a certain number of people are taxed in a certain way, and others say that they should be taxed in another way. However you put it, at the end the allowance, or whatever it may be, will be paid by the people and not by the State.
Let me approach the matter in this way. Suppose there is a decent man, such as we all know in our constituencies, and he has means of his own. Is he going round to his next door neighbour or to the next street to ask others to contribute to his support, or is he going to spend his own means first It is simply because he thinks that by going to the Employment Exchange he is going to some illimitable purse, that he is quite prepared to do that, even if he has ample means of his own. I am certain that if he realised that he was really calling upon his next door neighbour to contribute when he applies for payment, he would never apply. I do not say that that should be pressed to its logical conclusion, which would mean that a man who has put aside money for a rainy day, should spend it on the rainy day. We want to encourage thrift as much as we can, and therefore we say : "It is good to save, and we do not want to be hard on you; we shall not insist on your spending all you have got before we give you anything." I think most people would consider that a fair compromise between two different principles which are in conflict. Let me come to the family, which is the crux of the question. I entirely agree that on this point the 1503 present means test is not a good one and should be considerably modified in order to do justice to the various aspects of this problem.
§ Mr. REID
If the regulations do not provide for some modification, I think the House will be extremely slow to accept them, but we have been assured by the Minister that they will not perpetuate the present means test and, therefore, the hon. Member's question is purely hypothetical. I have always looked at this question in this way. Take a concrete case. If a man and his wife and eldest son are considering the matter between them and the son has a job at 35s. a week, what is the ordinary arrangement that a decent man and a decent son are going to make? You will have something of this sort; it happens every day. The son will say, "I will pay £1 a week and keep 10s. in my pocket." That is the kind of arrangement which is made in households all over the country, and it is the kind of arrangement which must be borne in mind when this part of the means test is being considered. It will be fair in those circumstances, if a son is contributing £1 to the maintenance of the family, for that amount to be considered as family income and allow the son to keep the 10s. or 15s. It is on those lines that the regulations are to be drawn up. If the son gets an increase and his salary goes up to 50s., what normally would the family do? They would probably split the difference, and say to the son, "You can afford to pay another 10s.," or, if the family is hard pressed, another 12s., "and keep the rest for yourself." That is the kind of thing which in my view ought to be kept in mind and dealt with when the regulations are framed and when they are administered. I have no doubt that if that kind of principle is borne in mind there will be no one who will have any quarrel with the means test once it is in full operation.
The opposition to the Bill has been more and more based on prophecy. I have noticed in the speeches which have been made during various stages of our discussions, and particularly in the speech of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) to-day, that it is not so much what the Bill does as what hon. 1504 Members opposite fear might be done under the Bill. It is true that there is a certain amount of vagueness—we do not know what will be done under the regulations—but if we take the Bill plus the Minister's assurances, and plus the sum estimated for by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I have no doubt that it will produce a much better state of affairs than exists at present and that the prophecies of woe, so frequently uttered by hon. Members opposite, will recoil on their heads and that they will be rather sorry for the attitude which they have taken up on this Bill.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I support the rejection of the Bill. We are now discussing the most important Bill which this House will be called upon to debate. I agree that the Minister of Labour has been able to overcome many of the difficulties by the manner in which he has approached this question, but I also agree with other hon. Members that really no concessions at all have been made. I regret the absence of the Leader of the Opposition, and I hope that he will be speedily restored to his place with his usual ability and vigour. I should like to have seen him present when we are debating this Measure. But personal likes and dislikes will not make or mar the Bill. We must discuss the Measure as we find it. As regards Part II, really there is no Bill at all; it is only a carcass. We have only the framework of the Measure so far as Part II is concerned, and it will have to be filled in, not by this House, but by a body entirely outside the control of Parliament. It has been said that on Part I we have received certain concessions. It is true that on two or three matters the Minister has given way—he has taken away the holiday disqualification, and eased matters in one or two other points—but they are not concessions from the Government; they are concessions out of the Unemployment Fund. The Minister can quite well do these things and give concessions so long as they are done out of the fund, as it only means that there will be less to give to somebody else. The fact is that the concessions are merely a little juggling, giving something to one person at the expense of somebody else. There-tore, I do not think that we have received any concessions at all under 1505 Part I, which is simply an insurance scheme and a question of what allocations shall be made.
There has been a great deal of discussion as to its insurable basis. I take the view that it is impossible to insure in relation to this problem. The position now is that the fund is solvent : it is paying its way. The Government have handed over to the Statutory Committee certain powers to investigate the finances of the fund and to make recommendations. That Committee may, and the Minister agreed, reduce contributions, which means that the income comes down and that the amount available for the unemployed is less. A year afterwards the unemployment figures may go up; no one can say that they may not increase to a point far in excess of anything we have seen; what is going to happen then? Under an insurance scheme, the needs of the unemployed do not matter, it is the solvency of the fund; the claims of men, women and children are not to be taken into account; it is the actuarial basis of the fund. We have not an actuarial basis for disease. When disease comes we grapple with it, and smash it. This is a disease, the most serious disease which the working classes of this country have to face, the disease of poverty. They can see it, and while you are grappling with the actuarial basis of the fund, balancing accounts, considering income and expenditure, you have millions of decent folk demanding that they shall receive an income sufficient for their daily needs. I acknowledge no actuarial basis upon which the fund can be worked.
I agree that responsibility in this matter is shared by all Governments, although I must enter a defence as regards the Minister. The hon. Members opposite said that they would not vote against the rejection of the Bill, because that would mean the defeat of the Measure. That is not an accurate description. If the Bill is rejected on a major issue, it means that the Government have to take it as an instruction that a better Bill must be introduced. We are not debating the issue as to whether the debt-should be put on the Estimates or on the fund. The Government asked for a £20,000,000 loan, and the argument was that the money would have to be found in any circumstances, and that those who did not agree to it meant that for a 1506 period of time the unemployed would not receive any money.
§ Mr. J. REID
I happen to have a quotation here from the present Minister of Health, who was speaking on behalf of the Conservative party and also from the present Foreign Secretary, speaking on behalf of the Liberal party, and both said that the money ought to be put on the Estimates and not borrowed.
§ Mr. LAWSON
No one with authority on this side of the House put that particular point and recommended it definitely to the Government.
§ Mr. REID
May I read what the present Foreign Secretary said as representing an influential section of Liberal opinion. Speaking on the 1st December, 1930, the right hon. Gentleman said :The Committee and the country at large would be very well advised if we all avowed openly and publicly that this is not a loan at all, that there is not the slightest chance of the money ever being paid back out of the fund."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 1st December, 1930; col. 1854, Vol. 245.]And the present Minister of Health said :Vote money on the Estimates rather than borrow. Frankly, I should consider that an improvement. … It would be an abandonment of the pretence of borrowing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1930; col. 167, Vol. 246.]
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am sorry to correct the hon. Member. The Minister of Labour and the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) speaking officially for the party did not put forward the view that it should be put on the Estimates.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I am not going to enter into that question. The point is, if you want to do it what is the obstacle to doing it now?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
My point is that when hon. Members now on the Government side sat on the Opposition side they put the money on the Estimates, but 1507 when they sit where they are sitting now, they say, "Put it on the fund." To-day we are dealing with the lives of millions of people, their health, their happiness, their comfort. The Debate has been made up largely of quotations against the Members of the Labour party for what they did when they sat on the Government side, and counter-quotations from Labour Members, but between those two sets of quotations there are millions of men who are the subject of these scoffings and sneers by one party against another. It is unworthy of Parliament, unworthy of any party. It has been one of the most humiliating spectacles I have ever seen in this House, the bandying about of all these quotations. Each one of the quotations means the blood and suffering of very many common people. There is no party that does not share responsibility for these proposals. I am not going to read quotations from the speeches of hon. Members sitting on either side of the House. The party conference is above the Labour party here. At the last party conference of the Trades Union Conference it was decided to bring forward no proposals regarding the unemployed, but to submit the subject to a joint committee of the Trade Union movement and the Labour party for consideration. To-day the Labour party have no proposals—none. The proposals are in the cold storage of a joint committee. I would have liked to have heard the party's plan, but so far the joint committee has not stated what proposals it will make, and to-day we are discussing this subject without that guidance and help.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
I understand that on the Third Heading of a Bill we are not entitled to go outside and quote reports such as that.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I repeat what I said. During all the speeches to-day we have not heard anything about the Labour party's proposals to guide us. In dealing with this problem it would have been well to have had the advice of the Labour and Socialist and trade union movement, but we have not had it. In the Amendment put down to the Second Beading of the Bill reference was made to the underfeeding of the children. Everyone who knows the unemployed realises the truth of the statement about under-feeding. It 1508 is true now, and it has been true for years. There is no one in the House who can deny that the unemployed have been under-fed for years. In 1924, 1925 and 1926 they were under-fed and to-day the under-feeding goes on. The responsibility rests on each successive Government. Proposals have appeared on the Order Paper to make the payment for a child 5s. instead of 2s. I have never yet seen any Leader of the Labour party associated with a 5s. Amendment either here or in the country. When the leaders of the Labour party ask for 5s. in opposition I trust it means it will be 5s. when they are the Government. I do not want to see in politics again what I have seen before, people pleading for 5s. when in opposition and then when in the Government finding a hundred excuses for ot giving them 5s. I say to the Labour party, "If you mean 3s., I prefer that to 5s. which you do not mean."
In these matters practice is much better than theory. To-day the London County Council, the body that administers the means test, is controlled by a majority of Labour members. They have power to make the allowance for a child 3s., to-morrow. Glasgow, with a Labour majority, has done it, to its credit. I would like to see the London County Council give the 3s. now rather than hear about 5s. from Labour Members of this House. I say that because there is a belief shared by many inside and outside Parliament that though Governments change, practice and reality change but little. I trust that those who are making themselves responsible for Amendments will view the matter in that light.
The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid) sought to make a case for the means test. I would like to reason with him. My case against the means test is this : It has been urged by Labour speakers and others in the past that there is no excuse for giving public money to a man when he has thousands of pounds. They say, "You would not give such a man public money if it were Poor Law relief. You would apply a test. Why should the public give money to people who have large sums at their disposal"? Others say, "Well, that is right. Cut those people off, but do not apply a family test. The family test is wrong." Abolish the family test to-morrow and you have no means test. For what reason? The number of people 1509 among the unemployed who possess means is infinitesimal. I asked the Glasgow people to make some inquiries. Birmingham also has inquired, though in Birmingham unemployment is not so widespread or so severe as in Glasgow. The Birmingham public assistance committee examined the applications to see how many applicants had personal means bringing in more than £2 a week. They found that the number was almost nil in Birmingham. In Glasgow the people applying for transitional payment who have an income of £2 a week are practically non-existent.
What does that mean? You set up elaborate machinery and hold investigations which bring the Government into contempt; you give yourself worry and trouble and you catch practically no one. The number caught does not recoup you for the cost of administration. But it is said that we must have a family test. The family test is no test. It is a test that is taken at random, with no theory behind it, no sense of responsibility behind it. It means simply taking a certain family group that exists for the moment. As has been said, the place of a man's work is an accident. Once he becomes an adult member of a family it is accident where he stays. It is accident whether he is married or single. It is very often accident that will determine his whole, future life. On such an accident you group him with the family for the family test. The family test is wrong. Families are not responsible for unemployment; it is the community that is responsible. Therefore, the community, instead of asking that the family should bear the burden, ought to bear the whole burden itself.
It is said that that would mean giving benefit to men who may possibly have large sums of money at their disposal. That reminds me of the Anomalies Act. The reason given for that Act in "Forward" and by the right hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. A. Henderson) was "Ah, we know a dentist's wife in Burnley." I have tried to find that dentist's wife, but have never succeeded. It is very peculiar that in all the statistics which are given to us, the Minister of Labour has never given us any figures to show the number of people who claimed transitional payments and were found to have large sums of money 1510 at their disposal. He has never attempted to do so. If the Minister could come to the House and say "There are so many people who have applied for transitional payments and who have been found to be in possession of thousands of pounds," he would have done so. Imagine the glee with which the right hon. Gentleman would have come to the House and produced the evidence. But he has not done so, because those numbers of people simply do not exist.
There may be a number of workmen, here and there, who have amassed £1,000 or £2,000, but even taking that into account I would not apply the means test, because it would be costly and troublesome and the return would not be worth the expense. But under Part I there can be wholesale anomalies. Under Part I a person who pays 30 stamps gets 26 weeks benefit. One of the things which makes me laugh about this administration is the fact that the man whom the Government are out to catch, is the man who will always be able to bring himself within the standard of insurance benefit. He is the man who belongs to a certain social caste, who knows people, who has influence, and he is the man who will be able to get jobs. I belong to a family which has the Scottish characteristic of saving. Though we had little or no income at all, yet my family saved—how they did it I have yet to learn. However little money was coming in my mother could save, but when she had saved her social position was somewhat improved, and that was the time when her saving was least needed. It gave her standing and influence and other things followed. Similarly the man who has £1,000 or so of capital is the man who can always bring himself within the insurance standard.
As I say, the arguments in favour of the family test have already been demolished in a very capable speech by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). As he has said, it means breaking up of family life. It puts a penalty on decency. The man who sticks to his family is punished for his generosity to his brothers and sisters. It means hounding the (members of the family apart. It means something which is repugnant to every decent man. There is another aspect of this question. Why should we 1511 apply a means test first of all to the unemployed? It was said by the hon. Member for Stirling that if the ordinary man thought he was taking money from his next-door neighbour he would not do it. But Army officers draw pensions for long years when they are perfectly fit and capable of work, and no means test is applied to them. They do it without any thought for their next-door neighbour. Indeed they do it with a great deal of pride. They often come to Parliament and they regard themselves as distinguished citizens. What is wrong with the ordinary working people in this respect? The truth of the matter is that hon. Members regard the unemployed as different from the rest of the community, and one of my most serious criticisms of this Measure is that sooner or late it will tend to segregate the unemployed.
Under Part I you are to have the insured. Under Part II you are to have those who are not in insurance. What does that mean? Once the Bill becomes operative the people under Part II will get all kinds of tests. You will have training schemes and so forth, and in verious ways every form of test will be applied to them. So far as Part I is concerned, not-genuinely-seeking-work has little effect. Those who come under that part of the Measure will get their insurance benefit. You have practically no test, but under Part II nearly every kind of test that you care to apply will be possible. Under Part II you will separate these poor people and single them out for various tests : you will harass them and drive them until they practically cease to be chargeable on the fund at all. That is the reason for Part II. The hon. Member for Stirling suggests that at the end of a certain time, say at the end of six months, they will get more than they get at present. He says that this Bill gives power for the first time to allow them more. I say that it is not intended to give them more.
What will be the position? Am I to be told that each locality and each family will be judged according to need? The hon. Member for Stirling knows that it cannot be done. Imagine trying to run a scheme like this and judging each family on the merits of the individual case. The Glasgow Parish Council could not do it. Each local authority must 1512 set up a scale. The theory of the Poor Law is that each individual case is to be examined, but a scale has to be set up because the case of each family cannot be examined. Therefore this new board will set up a scale and that scale will be determined by what they regard as the minimum standard to which a working-class family can be subjected. The minimum will become the maximum as well. The hon. Member suggests that they will make the allowance in respect of a child 3s. instead of 2s. If the Government had any intention of doing that, it would have been in this Bill. Will anybody with a knowledge of politics and a knowledge of human nature tell me that if the Government had that intention they would not have declared it when they were fighting by-elections in the country and put it into the Bill? Of course they would have done so, unless they are devoid of any political sense or capacity.
The fact is that they do not intend to make the children's allowance 3s. If they had intended to do so, what a great political score it would have been for them. To-day we have heard the right hon. Gentleman, so good, so innocent if you like, but is he so innocent that he would hand over to this board the joy and the credit of raising the child's allowance to 3s. if he could have had the joy and the credit of doing it himself? It is because they are not going to do it that this board is to be set up, and when we come here later and ask for 3s. for a child, they will tell us that the board, having taken all the facts into consideration, have decided against it. It may well be that in some cases here and there they may give 3s., but if that is done it will be at the expense of the adults. They may juggle with the allowance and reduce the money coming to the father or mother in order to increase the amount for the child. But the gross amount paid will remain the same.
What is the purpose of putting matters in this position? It was well expressed by the hon. Member for Stirling, who said that it was done in order to take the question out of politics. We are told that this subject has been bandied to and fro between parties, that each party has tried to score party points on it and that, accordingly, we must take it out of politics. If the Government intended to treat these people generously, they would 1513 keep this question in politics, because the number of votes cast for them would then increase. It is because the Government do not intend to treat the people generously that they are taking the question out of politics. They are afraid. The party opposite does not contract out of anything which it believes will be popular. It does not contract out of the use of the red, white and blue flag. That is the kind of thing on which it lives. But it contracts out in this case, because this is one of the most costly things which any Government could undertake. Accordingly the Government say, "No more shall the House of Commons examine this problem; we shall get another body to do it for us."
The two bodies to be appointed under the Bill will have great power. They will have the power almost of life and death over the people. I say that it is degrading for the House of Commons to hand over this task to a comparatively small outside body. It is said that the House of Commons has not time, and that our procedure does not allow us to deal with these matters. So we are to hand oer millions of people to the care of a small committee. From every angle it is indefensible. If one were to come to this House of Commons to-morrow and say that the House was no longer to have any say in the affairs of one of the Colonies and was to have no right of criticism and examination, the House would not stand it for a moment. But the millions of unemployed people and their dependants are as important, in my opinion, as the affairs of any colony or any question of foreign affairs which we have ever discussed.
I wish to make one further reference to the question of training. The right hon. Gentleman made great play with the fact that he Was going to train the unemployed between the ages of 14 and 18 and also those over 18. For what is he going to train them, and what is the training to be? People have been trained in the past because there was a need for them, because somebody was likely to need a joiner or a patternmaker, but to-day nobody needs them. There is no demand. I could understand the Government undertaking training if there were a clamant demand for a class of workers that was not there, but that is not the case. The right hon. Gen- 1514 tleman says it is to make them fit, but I do not believe in this idea of training them to make them fit. Give the unemployed man and his wife money, and they will train themselves. One of the remarkable things about the unemployed is not how they have deteriorated, but how fit they have remained. Look through your great cities at the present time. To-day the unemployed go out into the country and enjoy themselves. They get the fresh air.
In my division, I have possibly a population of 12,000 who have not worked for seven, eight, or nine years. True, they have deteriorated, but not through lack of training. They have deteriorated because they have never had enough money to feed themselves properly. These men keep themselves as physically fit as they can. Go where you like, and you will find that to-day the unemployed keep themselves trained and fit as few people can. This guise of training is merely to bring them within the camp, in order that you may extract from them a discipline that you cannot get now; and there is this further reason : I do not believe that the Minister intends to work training over much, because he will not know what to do with them after he has trained them. Training is a means of getting them off the unemployment roll. The average human being hates the camp, hates being pulled away from the rest of civilisation and segregated into a camp. He rebels against it. This is a new device, a new means by which to save money.
It is claimed that the Bill restores the cut. It does, but that is not satisfactory to me, because it keeps the benefit at a cruel, callous level that ought not to be maintained. This Bill does nothing at all, really, for the unemployed. It leaves them outside, practically speaking uncared-for. I do not blame the Government for not looking for schemes of work, because I do not think they can be found. I say that if the Government were doing their duty, they would say that the unemployed are all the same, that there is no difference whether a man is idle a week or idle a year. Indeed, if a man is idle a year, he needs all the more help, sympathy, and encouragement, instead of having the means test applied as if he were something apart. I would greatly prefer the means test applied at the beginning of the unemployment to its being applied at the end. If you must 1515 have it, it would be better not to apply it after a man has been driven down and down. He can be likened to a ship that is floating. His head is above water, and he is managing to float, but the right hon. Gentleman says, "See that he is made to sink, like the rest of them."
My division will be less hit by the means test than many other divisions, because they have had it for all these years, and the means test will not operate the worst in the great poverty-stricken areas. To-day the Government are engaged in a foul conspiracy to make other areas as poor as those that have been suffering so badly for years past. This Bill does nothing to solve the problem of unemployment. The Government should see that every unemployed man is given a decent income, every unemployed child a decent income, and every unemployed wife of an unemployed man a decent income. If they do that, I am certain they will be repaid by getting a decent, capable body of men. It is said you cannot afford it, but to-morrow, if you embark on another war, as some Cabinet Ministers seem to think possible, you will spend more money in six months on killing people than you would in giving to the unemployed to-day a decent income, not for death but for human life.
§ 6.36 p.m.
I should like to congratulate the Minister of Labour upon piloting through the House with such patience and open-mindedness this great Unemployment Bill. I notice that the Opposition Amendment states thatby exacting a contribution from local authorities in aid of a national service,the Bill inflicts hardship. Most of us have had a communication from the Association of Municipal Corporations regretting that the Minister has not set a time when the provisions of the Bill shall come into operation, and urging that we, on the Third Reading, which is impossible, should urge that a time limit be set. They say that postponing the operating of the Bill is very prejudicial to local authorities, who are anticipating relief in the administration of public assistance to the able-bodied unemployed. Therefore, this Bill apparently is going to do something contrary to the views that have been expressed by the Opposition this 1516 afternoon that the Bill will inflict greater hardships on certain areas.
I believe that the Bill, as the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) stated, is perhaps the most important Bill that we shall discuss while the present Government are in office. It vitally affects the lives of millions of our people, and I welcome the Bill as a genuine effort on the part of the Government and as a bold advance toward social betterment for those unfortunate people who find themselves without work. First of all, the first principle of insurance is established. I do not believe that hon. Members of the Opposition or hon. Members in any part of the House really disapprove of the principle of the means test. I do not believe that responsible citizens can stand up in working-class constituencies and justify to a working-class audience the paying out of sums of money to people who are not really in need of them. It is not an individual person who subscribes this money. It is subscribed by ordinary working men and women, and if public money is to be paid out, it should be paid out only to people who are really in need of it. I do not believe that, deep down in their hearts, hon. Members are feeling too easy about denouncing the idea of a means test.
There is not a Member in this House, however, who has not looked with anxiety in his constituency upon the way in which the means test is at present administered. I have oftentimes in my constituency come up alongside real hardships, cases of the means test being administered in a way that has been nothing short of demoralising to a household. I have oftentimes found cases in a mining area where men come out of the pit at 50 or 55 years of age, men who are really in the prime of life, and have not a chance of work, and they find, when they have exhausted their 26 weeks' benefit and go before the public assistance committee, that they are told that enough money comes into their house, contributed by their families, so that they can get nothing more. I consider that for the head of a household to have to be totally dependent on his children, even for his pocket money, is demoralising to the last degree. I have also had cases in my constituency where there has been overcrowding, with several families living together, and where the income of the whole household has been 1517 taken into account. I have had cases of young married men with a wife and perhaps one or two children having to live upon their parents, and that again, I think, is demoralising.
There is not a Member of this House, I suppose, who has not looked upon cases such as these with grave anxiety and who has not longed for the time to come when this condition would be altered and done away with. In this Bill we are going to do away with it. We are grateful to the Minister of Labour for inserting the words in Clause 38 :due regard being had also to the personal requirements ofthese people; and in carrying out this Bill in the spirit and the letter, they must take such cases as I have mentioned into account. I think it is most unjust for us in this House to assume that those people who are going to compose the Unemployment Assistance Board, charged with a vitally difficult and humane task, will be heartless, hard-hearted, and cruel. I say that hon. Members on all sides of the House are looking to this board, in the administration of assistance to carry out its duties not only efficiently and justly, but humanely.
There are many points in the Bill that are very commendable. We all welcome the principle of taking children into insurance from the age of 14. We all of us deplore that young persons between 14 and 18 have been almost lost sight of. Under this Bill, surely for the first time, juveniles between 14 and 18 will never be lost sight of, because they cannot be discharged without notice of their discharge being given. That is a very valuable contribution to the juvenile labour problem in our country, and I believe it will prevent the creation of blind-alley occupations for children such as have existed up to the present. Hon. Members deplore the means test and talk about security and insecurity, but we all know that the fear and spectre that haunt the working classes are the fear and spectre of becoming unemployed. The working population to-day do not feel secure; they cannot, in the nature of things in a transitional period, feel secure.
What is the best service we can render to the working population in order to give them a feeling of security? It is to enable them to feel certain that when they become unemployed they shall draw their 1518 benefit as a right without a means test and be certain that the money will be there for them; and, when they have exhausted that right they shall be able to feel that they will be treated humanely, justly and fairly according to their needs. If we are going to hand out public money indiscriminately, we shall create the conditions that we had in 1931 when the position of the working-classes was far more insecure than it is now and will be under the operation of this Bill. I commend it again from that point of view. I believe it will give greater security to the working population. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) said that we were creating inferior citizens. Surely he has forgotten the case of the agricultural worker who, until now, has had to go to the Poor Law for relief when unemployed. Yet the man who had exhausted his right to statutory benefit and received transitional payment was able to draw his money. It all came from exactly the same source; yet the agricultural worker had to go to the Poor Law while transitional payment was paid out in a different way. That has been a great hardship in my constituency where there are numbers of farm workers—respectable, decent citizens—who, because they were unemployed, had to draw Poor Law relief. This Bill does away with that—[HON. MEMBERS : "No!"] It is doing away with the difference between those who receive poor relief and those who receive transitional payment, and it is putting them into the same category in Part II of the Bill. Another factor that seemed to me a great hardship was that the man who was unemployed and had to draw poor relief had to do test work. This Bill does away with that——
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The hon. Member is misrepresenting the object of this Bill, Any recipient of unemployment assistance can be subjected to a form of training and of incarceration in camps, and to any sort of work that the board may impose on him.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Under the Scottish Poor Law we never had test work at all, and now they are making test work necessary in order to bring it into line with this Bill.
That is not my point. I am afraid I was not explicit. What I meant was that in the past the farm worker alone had to do test work because he drew Poor Law relief, and the man who received transitional payment was not subjected to the same treatment, but under this Bill they will both be treated alike. They will both be taken away from the Poor Law, and will not be treated differently in any way at all.
There is another point in the Bill which is a great advance, and which will tremendously improve the position of the unemployed. For the first time, not only in this country but in any country in the world, the problem of the unemployed is being dealt with comprehensively under the Bill. It has not been dealt with merely as a problem of relief; the Unemployment Assistance Board is not only to administer relief, but is to be responsible for training and for helping the men to find work again. In the past the public assistance committees have been local in their outlook and could not see beyond their own specific districts. They were merely concerned in administering relief. Under Part II of the Bill the problem will be viewed as an economic and industrial problem, and men will have greater hope of finding new jobs than they ever had before the Bill was introduced. I appreciate the way that the Minister has tried to meet the difficulties and suggestions which have been pointed out from every part of the House.
I have listened to a large part of the Debates on this Bill, and I have been amazed at the way some Members take unto themselves the view that they are the only people who have any sympathy with the unemployed. As one who comes from a coalfield and an industrial area where unemployment, though perhaps not as bad as it is in some other coalfields, is a great problem mostly because of part-time unemployment, I would say to hon. Members that they have no monopoly of sympathy. Hon. Members on all sides of the House have great sympathy with the unemployed and are anxious to treat this problem humanely, justly and fairly, and to do the best possible thing. One cannot be in touch, as I am, constantly with an industrial constituency and watch the courage, the fortitude and the patience of the people 1520 who are unemployed, without a feeling of anxiety and sometimes almost with despair that things are not getting better more quickly. One cannot see it without feeling strongly that it is our bounden duty to do all we possibly can to help these people. It is not a good thing in this House to talk platitudes or sob-stuff, but it is well to remember that, although we are constantly talking of the unemployed men, we seldom think of the wives of the unemployed. As a woman, I would like to pay my tribute to them and to welcome this Bill, because I believe it will help them, and make their lot better and brighter than it has ever been before. The wives of the unemployed have to bear the biggest brunt of the burden of unemployment; they have to eke out the meagre money and to cheer up the despondent husbands and sons who are unemployed.
The National Government, and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour in particular, have brought forward this Bill sincerely in the belief that it will help solve this problem in a humane way. I believe that hon. Members in the Opposition and below the Gangway will find it very difficult to oppose this Bill if they are really sincere. The whole House, with perhaps the exception of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan)—he, at least, is always consistent, and we always know for what he stands—is in sympathy with this great Measure. I am sure that those who oppose the Bill would really have liked to be part of the Government that is responsible for it. For my part, I thank the Government for it, and I feel that it is a Measure which will bring greater security to the working population of the country, and will help to make very much better the lot of those unfortunate people whom we are all anxious to help.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
It is not my intention to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) except to make one observation. We on this side have never claimed a monopoly of sympathy for the unemployed. Our criticism is of the manner in which the hon. Member and her party express their sympathy. It has taken the form of denying the unemployed in two and a half years of no less than £60,000,000. If that is the manner in which she proposes to deal sympa- 1521 thetically with the unemployed, we do not envy her in her monopoly of sympathy for these people. No one can be displeased with the assurance given by the Minister of Labour that the Government propose to introduce a consolidating Bill to deal with unemployment. I make that statement after being for nine years previous to coming to this House engaged in acting as a member of a local employment committee, in attending courts of referees, and in hearing cases discussed and argued before the umpire. The Minister said that this Bill had been misrepresented outside the House. There is no evidence that any Member who occupies these benches was guilty of misrepresenting the Bill. In reply, I would say that it is no worse to misrepresent the Bill outside the House than it is for Members of the Government to misrepresent the attitude of those who occupy these benches and those who represented the general Labour movement before committees of inquiries and commissions which have dealt with various aspects of the Unemployment Insurance scheme. I shall have occasion before I resume my seat to deal with some of these misrepresentations.
No one would say that this Bill has not one good feature. I refer to the first Clause, where it is proposed to reduce the age of entry into the insurance scheme. But that is not original. A similar provision was put in the 1929 Measure which was introduced by the Labour Government, but that was dependent upon the school-leaving age being raised. We have been accused of changing our views in regard to some provisions of this Bill. It is interesting at this stage to recall certain statements that were made by right hon. Members who occupy the Government benches when the Measure which provided for lowering the age of entrants into the scheme was before the House. When the Bill was introduced the Tory party put down an Amendment which stated that they declined to give a Second Reading to a Bill which cast an unfair burden on the proposed new entrants into insurance by its proposals with regard to juvenile unemployment. That Motion was supported by no less an authority than the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of Agriculture, and his name is attached to the present Bill. In the 1522 speech that he made on that occasion these words are to be found :The proposals which she brings forward with regard to the lowering of the age of entry into insurance … are proposals which are novel in the insurance system of this country.Another gentleman, who is no longer a Member of this House, Sir John Bower, made this observation :I gather that the sole reason for bringing children of 15 into the Bill at all is in order to make a profit out of them. There is no other reason, for the children are going to get no benefit themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1929; cols 767 and 810, Vol. 232.]If that can be said of a Bill which provided benefit to the extent of 5s. and 6s. a week, what can be said of this Bill, which makes provision for payment to be made to the fund and gives no benefit to those who pay unless the father happens to be a member of the unemployed army? I have wondered whether the Lord President of the Council had this in mind when, in his recent broadcast speech, he made this statement :The very mention of the word 'politics' is enough to make many listeners switch off their wireless immediately.Probably he thought, as many other persons outside this House think, that politics is simply a game. I have never held that opinion of politics, but I have always held the opinion that there are some politicians who are gamesters. In view of the optimistic speech delivered by the Lord President of the Council last night, I had begun to form the opinion that the Minister of Labour would have had no need to introduce this Bill. As far back as October of last year—and things have considerably improved since then—we were told by the Lord President of the Council that in the last nine months unemployment figures have been reduced by 500,000, and that in the iron and steel trades one out of every three of the unemployed has obtained work; in the general engineering trade one out of four has obtained employment; in the woollen industry unemployment was reduced by one-half; the same is true, he said, of the hosiery trade, and there are no fewer than 46,000 more miners at work. Finally, he said, during the time the Tory Government have held office, there have been no fewer than 700,000 additional persons brought into employment. If that is true of the state of this 1523 country in October of last year, and things have been improving ever since, I very much doubt the wisdom of introducing this Measure.
Criticism has been directed against the Bill by Members of the party to which I belong on the score of the hardships which have been caused by the operation of the means test, provision for which has been made in the existing Bill. I consider that the test regarding the needs of an applicant is accurately described as "mean," and, in my opinion, nothing could be more mean. It is the difference that will exist in the treatment of sections of the unemployed to which we object. No hon. Member has stated the case for and against the differential treatment in such a clear manner as the Minister of Labour. In this Bill one class or section of the unemployed will be dealt with under the insurance scheme while the other will be, in our opinion, under an extended system of Poor Law relief. That is not all the truth. One section of the unemployed will receive insurance benefit, regardles of need; to the other an allowance will be made if in need. For such an obnoxious principle we claim that there is no justification. Such a method is based upon the assumption that the unemployed are responsible for being without employment, and that the Insurance Fund should be kept in a financially sound condition. As a Member of the Tory Government stated a dozen times in a speech recently, "financial stability" must be secured. I repeat that unless it is assumed that responsibility for being unemployed is to be borne by an applicant for financial assistance, there is no justification for the difference in the treatment meted out to unemployed persons. Even if it were the fact, and not an assumption, you cannot defend a system of relief for the unemployed by compelling an employed member of a family to maintain another who is without employment. If it is admitted that persons are unemployed because of circumstances over which they have no control, then you have no right, at the end of a particular period of idleness, to allow one person to draw benefit and another to seek an allowance under a means test condition. Surely you do not do so upon the ground that one has exhausted some legal right or claim.
1524 Take a person who when at work pays 10d. a week to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. At the end of the year his contribution amounts to £2 3s. 4d., and then he becomes idle. He is entitled to draw 26 weeks' payment at the figure now recognised of 15s. 3d. a week, which is equal to an amount of £19 16s. 6d. Another man who pays the same amount but who is idle a week longer has to be differently treated, but both are held not responsible for the condition of enforced idleness. Common sense would declare that the longer the period of unemployment the better should be the treatment. The fundamental principle of this Bill is, however, that the longer the period of unemployment, the less you want and the less you get.
We have been told on more than one occasion that unemployment is due to world causes. If that be true, why treat the unemployed as if they were responsible? We have been told on innumerable occasions that unemployment is not so bad here as in other countries, and that trade is continually improving. You can test the reliability of your own observations and statements by removing the means test and treating the unemployed people as individuals entitled to live decently. Sir William. Beveridge, who, as far as I know, has not applied for membership of our party, has said :Reasonable security of employment for the breadwinner is the basis of all private duties and all sound social action.If you are unable to give reasonable security of employment, you ought to provide reasonable security against starvation. The Lord President of the Council has said on many occasions that this Government will be judged upon its attitude towards the problem of unemployment. I submit that it will also be judged upon its treatment of the unemployed man and woman. Harsh treatment of the guilty can be defended, but harsh treatment of the innocent can never be defended. I question whether, even at this stage of our discussions in this House, every hon. Member realises the daily struggle of the unemployed in this country. Without claiming a monopoly of sympathy with the unemployed, we have emphasised this phase of the problem. On more than one occasion, by the courtesy of the British 1525 Broadcasting Corporation, we have had broadcast statements from the actual unemployed in this country, statements that can be accepted as being reliable because they are free from political theory or bias. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour stated that the unemployed are better off to-day in view of the decrease in the cost of living. I want to challenge that statement in the light of observations made by those who are actually in the struggle for existence.
I have read part of the speech delivered by one such person in the official organ of the British Broadcasting Corporation known as "The Listener," and I make no apology for reading an extract from that speech. It was headed in the newspaper "Too Old at 33" :Perhaps you'd like to know how we live. Well, I'm on transitional payment—that means 27s. 3d. for four of us. We pay 11s. for rent 1s. for gas, 1s. for electricity, 1s. 1d. for health insurance, 3s. for coal; other sundries—such as soap, washing powder, polish, matches, etc., 1s.; then 1s. 1d. a week to the Service Club at the Friends Occupationa I Centre for membership and towards anything I've been able to make there for my home. That leaves 8s. per week for food for four of us, which works out at about 3½. per head per day. This is how we spend it. We have three tins of milk—the cheap 3½d. stuff—half a pound of tea, four pounds of sugar, one and a-half pounds of margarine (the very cheapest kind), two pounds of loose oats, half a pound of pastry lard (not the ordinary lard; that's too dear), one pound of jam (and you ought to see the kiddies dive into this), half a pound of cheese, and half a pound of pearl barley. Now we come to the main article of an unemployed man's diet, which is white bread. We can't afford wholemeal—it's too dear. Three bob a week for bread. That brings the total up to 76. 2½d. Bread. I hate the very word. The sight of bread makes me feel sick. Many a time my wife and I have looked at the bread and carried on without the meal.Another unemployed man in a broadcast speech from, the Rhondda Valley states :'I myself haven't worked for eight years, and all I get is 23s. 3d. for myself and my wife.' His daughter, he added, worked in a grocery shop and earned 7s. a week. They had to pay 11s. rent and half-a-crown for coal, and after providing for light, insurance, etc., there was 12s. 6d. left for food. 'The food' we get for this is pretty poor stuff. It was, however, the wife upon whom the chief burden fell. If she could buy anything a halfpenny cheaper from a shop half a mile away she walked to get it. I sometimes think that we waste more on shoe leather than we save'.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
May I interrupt the hon. Member? I presume that before he quoted these various cases—I know that he is only reading from a publication of the British Broadcasting Corporation—he has taken some responsibility for his statements, and has taken the trouble to make certain that these are typical cases of unemployed men. I have taken the trouble myself to make inquiries, and I can assure him that the whole story was not given.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
I am reading from the official organ of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the "Listener." I quoted my authority before making the observation. I should like to know whether the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will controvert that statement?
§ Mr. HUDSON
All I have to say is that in neither of those two cases, the man from Birmingham or the woman from Sunderland, was there any need for there to be any tragedy at all.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
In any case I submit that if you doubled the 33s. it would not be enough to enable a family to live decently.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The hon. Member has made certain assertions against a particular organisation, because that is what it amounts to. Does he question the amount that this woman or this man got, or the number of children?
§ Mr. HUDSON
I said both those people had not told the whole story of their circumstances, and that if the whole story had been told a very different complexion indeed would have been put on both those oases. In neither of those cases would it have been possible to say that they were very hard cases. In fact, the whole story was not told.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
In any case the statement is made that they had 3½d. a day for food. There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed in this country who are living on meals that cannot cost much more.
§ Mr. HUDSON
That would be so if the story were true, but the fact is that they are not living on that.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
Will the Parliamentary Secretary take exception to this statement, which is found in the same issue? It is a reprint of a speech delivered by the Rev. George MacLeod. The report in the "Listener" is headed "A new Social Order : The only way out" :But whether we get down to the larger cure or the smaller sedative, do we realise the problem is neither doctrinaire nor academic? When a big ship started work again, five skilled men who had left a particular job in one corner of the ship were called back to finish it (it was a firm famous for not forgetting their old hands). But do you know what happened? When the whistle blew and work started—only three of them turned up. The other two had committed suicide. The two years' idleness had been too much for them.If two years' idleness was too much for those two who committed suicide, Heaven knows what must be the condition of those who have had a period of eight years' idleness. I would like next to make a reference to some of the dishonourable methods employed by the Ministry in their defence of the means test. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour made this statement on the 5th December :Even the Minority Report was unable to reject the means test altogether. It is true that they hedged it round with certain conditions about it being an individual test, but the principle of the test they were unable to reject, and had to accept."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1933; col. 1614, Vol. 283.]That statement was controverted afterwards by one of the signatories of the Minority Report, and the letter is to be found in the "Times" of 8th December of the same year. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman has been too busy studying the alleged humourous observations of the Prime Minister, who said in this House :There is one kind of truth and there is another kind of truth. They may both be true, but it all depends upon how they are meant to be used."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1931; col. 1912–3, Vol. 260.]
§ Mr. HUDSON
As the hon. Member has called my statement in question, I will read the report. He accused me——
§ Mr. DAGGAR
I will read the report myself, in order to show that the Parliamentary Secretary is not quite correct in the statement that he made. In paragraph 82, on page 415, of the Minority Report, it states :It is contended in some quarters that, if a claimant continues to draw benefit for more than a limited number of weeks, he should be subjected to a means test and his benefit adjusted accordingly. We cannot accept this suggestion. In our view it cannot be justified either in theory or practice. Unemployment benefit should be regarded as compensation for loss of wages due to unavoidable unemployment, and there is no reason why compensation, like wages, should not be paid regardless of other resources.In view of that observation, how any hon. Member, much less the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, can accuse persons responsible for the Minority Report of believing in the means test passes my understanding. But that is not all. On page 417, at the bottom of paragraph 87, he will find these words :We repeat, therefore, that the reasons against the imposition or a means test on the unemployed wage earner appear to us conclusive, and we do not advocate it.Further, it says on page 489, paragraph 9, that the scheme that they propose :
they had intended to do so, what a greatWould continue to pay benefit at a fixed rate to the unemployed worker for as long as he remained unemployed and was free from disqualification or disallowance. There is no reason for the imposition of a means test at the end of a specified period.I have read those extracts from the report because the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary was obviously made with the view of discrediting the members of the Commission who signed the Minority Report, simply because they claim to be members of the party to which I belong. Were it possible to deal with the original Clause C in the Bill it would be equally easy to prove that observations of members of the General Council of the Trade Union Congress and members of the Parliamentary Labour party have been distorted as effectively as the distortion of the statement to which I refer. It ill becomes the Minister of Labour to accuse some of us here—and 1529 the accusation was made against no one else—of misrepresenting this Bill in the country when his own Parliamentary Secretary does not hesitate to distort the views of Members of our party who happened to sign the Minority Report.
Finally, I want to submit that this is a bureaucratic Measure, because it gives too much power to the Minister of Labour. It is a surprise after all that we heard about bureaucratic government from the Tory party in 1929–30 and the recent observations of the Lord President of the Council about dictatorship. No man in Great Britain is as capable of performing a nasty bit of business in a nice easy manner as is the Minister of Labour. It is an insidious and subtle Bill, because what it proposes to do is not to be found in its Clauses but will only appear in the regulations which are to be submitted to this House, and even that will be a farce with a Tory majority of 500. The Bill will also create further pauperisation of the unemployed. When the rejection of the 1929 Bill was moved in this House the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of Agriculture and has his name attached to this Measure spoke from this Box, and in a manner which reminded one of a combination of the histrionic art of George Robey and Matheson Lang, with a dash of the spirit of Cromwell, used words which are very appropriate to this Bill :We say of this Bill, 'Take it back, we do Hot like it Hon. Members opposite do not like it. The country does not like it. If you pass this Bill as it stands, you will go a long way to break the heart of the country'."—[OFFICIAT, REPORT, 21st November, 1929; col. 767, Vol. 232.]I cannot speak with such confidence as he displayed on that occasion and predict that this Bill will break the heart of the country, but what I can say with confidence is that it will break the backs of the unemployed.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Sir LUKE THOMPSON
In rising to support this Bill I should like to say, in the first place, that often the House of Commons appears to me to be as strange a place as it does to other people. In my mind I depicted an enthusiastic House assembled for the Third Reading, and felt that we should hear reasoned arguments advanced on behalf of the Opposition in support of their Amendment against the 1530 Bill. I think the House will agree that so far we have had no really valid arguments against the Bill or in support of the Amendment. There has been a certain amount of criticism based upon mistrust, a certain amount of fear, a certain amount of misconception and, I hesitate to say, a certain amount of misrepresentation. I add that last observation because when the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) was speaking, in a very admirable way, she was challenged by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). They suggested that under this Bill we were going to set up a form of military camps, for segregation purposes. I ask the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who is as well informed as most people in this House, where he can point to a single word suggesting any such thing happening under the Bill.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
It would, of course, be improper to introduce Committee arguments on Third Reading, but this point was argued very fully in Committee and if the hon. Member will look at the eases of special difficulty and the training conditions and the arrangements under which individuals can be employed by local authorities, he will see that under Part II anything may be done which the board itself desires.
§ Sir L. THOMPSON
I challenge that entirely. I challenge it in this House, because I have challenged it outside. There is a certain amount of misrepresentation concerning the training camps. There is no such implication in the Bill as that to which I have referred; there is no penal code attaching to anything; and for hon. Members to get up and to suggest such things is to speak in contradiction of the provisions of the Bill. Those allegations ought not only to be combated here but throughout the country. I cannot understand the position of the Opposition. Certainly I cannot understand the position of the Liberal Opposition regarding this Bill, because they stand for nearly all that is in it, and I do not know how they can legitimately pose as critics of the Bill. Shorn of the small criticisms and petty issues that have been raised to-day the Unemployment Bill places unemployment insurance in a more superior position.
1531 Last week I had a conversation with a very important American citizen who asked me for my opinion regarding this Bill. I tried to place before him as clearly and fairly as I could what it was, and then, in very expressive terms, he said to me, "I wish we had something like this in my great nation." Nowhere in the wide world, and certainly not in the great industrial areas on the American Continent or among the European nations is there anything approaching our unemployment insurance legislation in its application or its provisions. I have been privileged to be in this House for the whole of the time that this legislation has been before us, with the exception of 1929, and I know something of the significance of it. The House should appreciate the fact that this is the first Unemployment Bill which has been solidly based upon the assumption of 2,500,000 people unemployed, and in which the financial provision has been made sound. Not only that, but it is the first time that we have come to some form of general agreement as to the statutory conditions under which unemployment benefit may be drawn.
I know the difficulty of trying to find statutory conditions for drawing benefit. I have been through the not-genuinely-seeking-work Clause, and the Clause for which the party opposite was responsible and which will be wiped out to-day. It is of very great significance that the Minister, in his wisdom, altered or withdrew the original Clause 6 of the Bill, and we are effecting in Part I of the Bill statutory conditions which find general agreement, not only on this side of the House such as we have asked for through a series of years. It is a great thing that there is a satisfactory basis for the drawing of unemployment benefit. The Bill extends benefit and makes provisions for the instruction of young people from school age to manhood and womanhood. It is so balanced financially that it not only restores the cuts, but it has increased benefits and makes provisions for the liquidation of the debt without the necessity for increasing contributions That has not been mentioned
Under the supervision of a responsible committee whose recommendations will positively have such an effect in the near future, I maintain that the scope of insur- 1532 ance will be large and that many people who are now outside insurance will be brought in. Within a short time of the Bill becoming an Act, we shall have as complete an insurance compass as has ever been attempted. That is a remarkable achievement, and one that is worthy of the National Government. It reflects the greatest credit upon the Minister of Labour and his associates, and I therefore welcome very heartily Part I of the Bill.
I want to say something with regard to Part II of the Bill. A great deal of criticism has been launched upon sectional points. I will speak a little later about the training centres, but I would say now, in regard to the general aspect that Part II of the Bill is a great, humane attempt to deal with the volume of unemployment which is outside insurance. It is a great thing for the State to have recognised the carrying of the able-bodied unemployed, and to free the municipalities from responsibility. A great deal of criticism has been advanced on this point, and to-day an hon. Member said that a shilling on the rates had been imposed upon a municipality without representation. Surely that is wrong. No consideration has been taken as to the adjustment of the block grant.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I was the Member who made that statement, and it concerns Durham. Consideration was given to the block grant, and the figures they gave me worked out roughly to a shilling.
§ Sir L. THOMPSON
I accept the statement of the hon. Member, but I could give him cases in my own constituency and in many more constituencies in which, after provision is made for the block grant due to the extra social services consequent upon unemployment, municipalities will pay nothing towards the cost of the unemployed.
§ Sir L. THOMPSON
By reason of the Local Government Act, 1929, certain constituencies that I know very well, received a grant of 2s. 3d., and, instead of that resulting in a relief of 2s. 3d. on the rates those rates went up. There are other circumstances in which rates can rise other than those of unemployment. Taking into consideration the nature of 1533 the block grant, and the basis on which it is made in the majority of cases, I think that it can be proved that the industrial centres and particularly those who receive the £300,000 grant, will come out on an equitable basis and will have no cause whatever to grumble.
Part II of the Bill removes all statutory conditions regulating transitional payments, which are based upon statutory conditions. It is a great thing for a Bill to sweep away altogether those conditions and to wipe out all the conditions that were laid down under the Act of 1924 for extended benefit and under arrangements which have been among the greatest difficulties experienced in transferring men to the Poor Law. The Bill will make it possible for any man, because of need and by the fulfilment of a simple condition, to obtain assistance from the board which is being set up. The Bill is a very great advance upon anything which exists today, and it should command the support not only of Members on this side but of the Opposition, and, if I had been on those benches, I would have accepted the principle of Part II of the Bill with open hands. The Bill embodies a great deal of that for which the Opposition have been contending for many years. After their wild opposition has settled down, it may be that, in their wisdom, the Opposition will be able to agree with what I am saying.
The Opposition may legitimately advance the comment that the Bill can be termed an experiment. It is, to some degree, but it is upon the right lines, and is one which can be a real success and which is well worth trying. I thought I would deal with two cases arising out of Part II of the Bill, but I will refrain from the first of them because I have it marked down here "means test," which has been adequately dealt with. One hon. Member spoke in excellent terms regarding the defence of the means test, but there has been no violent opposition from the Members opposite. They would not take the same point of view in regard to a means test in connection with their trade unions, and their objection in this case is to the administration. Some test must be in existence, whether it is called a means test or not.
1534 The last point is as to training courses, which are to be set up under Part II of the Bill. At a meeting in a certain part of the country a very well set up man said to me : "Under the provisions of the Bill it would be possible to send me to a form of military camp." He used the word that was used by a Member opposite; he said that he would be "segregated." I said to him : "I would be pleased if you could point out what part of the Bill suggests any such thing." Another worthy man said to me : "I am getting on for 50 years of age, and I am a skilled mechanic. Are you going to send me to a training centre?" I answered him : "I do not know that there is any provision in the Bill that suggests anything like that." I challenge the Opposition to show me, in any part of the Bill, from Clauses 37 to 39, a penal provision which suggests any such thing. I am prepared to accept the interpretation of the Minister that it will be possible for training courses to be set up which, instead of being repulsive, will be attractive.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was responsible under his Government for the setting up of training courses. I believe that he agrees with them, and that he pressed them to some considerable extent. Training centres must necessarily be regulated by financial considerations and by the number of trainees who can be put into employment. Any attempt on the part of a Government Department to press this scheme to an undue extent would cause the scheme to break down. Like other hon. Members, I have followed the course of the Bill exceedingly closely, and I trust the Minister regarding the provisions which will regulate the conditions for assistance. If the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street will allow me to say so, I thought that last Wednesday, when we were discussing the means test, he was a little unfair in the course of what developed into an attack on the Minister. I do not think that the hon. Member meant it unfairly, but, speaking on the means test, he quoted part of the provisions of the Act of 1931, and then he said :I take no account whatever of those words and I place no value whatever on them."—[OFFICIAI, REPORT, 9th May, 1934; col. 1217, Vol. 289.]1535 I felt inclined at the time to get up and draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that the Minister did issue a circular which went far beyond the regulations regarding Poor Law relief, and I think the hon. Member will recollect that, when we were discussing that issue, the question was whether transitional payments should be based strictly on payments for Poor Law relief or whether there should be some extension, and that the Minister, in response to requests from various quarters of the House, gave an undertaking in terms which have been quoted here, that, so far as he was concerned, he would implement his intentions in a sympathetic way. I do not know what the experience of others may be, but in my constituency it was interpreted in that way, and from 74 to 77 per cent. of those who applied for transitional payments got full determinations. I am prepared to accept the statement of the Minister, and to believe that, when the regulations are formulated which will define the payments under the Assistance Board, the provision of £360,000 which has been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be utilised, notwithstanding what has been said; and I look forward to those provisions under Part II as a satisfactory conclusion. We may criticise this Measure as we like in this House, and I, for one, never object to candid criticism; I think it does good : but the final criticism will rest, not with us here, but with the people outside who will have to pass judgment on the administration, and I shall feel very much disappointed, as I am sure the Minister himself will, if in that final judgment the people do not say that the provisions of both Part I and Part II of the Bill are considerably superior to anything that we have at the present moment.
§ 7.50 p.m.
Mr. E. J. YOUNG
The hon. Member for Sunderland (Sir L. Thompson) has expressed surprise at the unwillingness of the Liberal party to support this Bill. He has told the story of an American who was amazed at the wonderful system of insurance that we have in this country, and I presume from his speech that he thinks we ought to be very pleased with ourselves because we are better off in that respect than America or than Con- 1536 tinental nations. It may be that this Bill is better than anything that they have in America, or anything that they have in any other industrial country. The first Liberal Insurance Act was better than any similar Measure in any other part of the world, and so were the Old Age Pensions Act and other Measures that we passed. But, because we have something now which is better than anything that exists in any other country—
Simply because we think that it ought to be better still, that this is not so good a Measure as we ought to have in a great pioneer country like this. We do not accept the Bill as it stands because we have legitimate reasons for criticising it. We criticise the heavy burden that the local authorities will have to shoulder without having any voice in the dispensation of the bounty which the poor people are to receive. I think that some time last year the hon. Member himself took a prominent part in the work of the deputations who came from the North of England to interview certain Ministers here, and he will remember that those deputations went back to their various towns quite convinced that the burden of maintaining the unemployed would be borne by the State hereafter. They were not allowed to visualise the mirage for very long; they were speedily disillusioned; but the first impression gained in those days was that the unemployed would be maintained by the State, and that the burden would not fall upon the rates, as it did in the past to a great extent, and as it probably may to a, greater extent in the future. The hon. Member represents an industrial area, and he knows how grossly unfair the present rating system is, and how the burden upon those depressed areas is out of all proportion to their ability to bear it. Not only is that burden to be continued in the future, and in even heavier ratio on those districts which are least able to bear it, but the people who have hitherto taken the responsibility for providing for the unemployed will be helpless in the future in the hands of a small body of people whom they themselves have not elected, and whom their own representatives have no power to control. We believe, as the hon. Member believes, in the principle of a Liberal Insurance 1537 Act, and we also believe in another old Liberal principle, namely, that the people who have to provide the money shall at least have some voice in the spending of it.
With regard to the means test, we know that we cannot alter it now, but can only express our last protest, as we are now doing on the Third Reading. We are not opposed to a means test in principle, just as we are not opposed to an Insurance Act in principle; we oppose a bad Insurance Act, and we support a good one. We believe that the means test, as it will be applied under the provisions of this Measure, will be a bad means test. If it had been a better and more humane and more logical means test we should probably have supported it, but we cannot commit ourselves to supporting it without knowing exactly what it will mean. The hon. Member for Sunderland quoted a statement in the House about the difficulty of assessing the benefits to which these people are entitled. I myself pointed out that difficulty, and asked the Parliamentary Secretary whether account would be taken of the fact that, at the end of six months of unemployment, people would need assistance more than they did at the beginning of their six months' unemployment. I should have liked that question to be answered. The hon. Member for Sunderland has raised the same question to-day, and I think that he, as a Conservative, should appreciate our position when we say that we have no idea whatsoever as to what kind of benefit these people will be entitled to; we are not sure whether the administration of the board will be humane or not. The experience of boards of various kinds in the past has led us to believe that they have not been so humane and generous in their treatment as private bodies of individuals who could be dispossessed of their position.
Another criticism has been raised during the Debate this afternoon with regard to the big charge which local authorities will have to carry. Ordinary insurance societies have a bonus system, and, if their profits exceed certain figures, they give bonuses or grants in some way or other to their members. Something should have been done, and could have been done, in the same way under this Bill if this heavy charge had not been thrust upon it—a charge which really should have been carried by the community as a 1538 whole. I think that there is as much criticism on that point as on any point connected with the Bill, with the possible exception of the means test. We adhere to the principle that the responsibility for maintaining the unemployed is a national responsibility, rather than one that is restricted in the sense in which it is here. The burden which will have to be carried will prevent for a very long time any extension of benefits such as an insurance society can, as I have pointed out, confer upon its members. It would be a very small thing for the nation as a whole. Just as the rating system falls unequally upon one section as against another, so will this charge, which would more fairly be borne by the Exchequer as a whole. We have in London and in the surrounding parts people who pay comparatively small rates compared with the heavy charges which have to be borne in the industrial areas, while they have very little unemployment because they have scarcely any industries, and they will not contribute their fair share in the future towards the maintenance of these less fortunate people.
The three important points on which we oppose the Bill are that the incidence of the charge is unfair; that the Measure is to be made to bear a burden for which it has no responsibility and which will handicap and cripple it in the future; and that the means test is vague and uncertain—we do not know what the recipients are to get, and, if they do not get what we think they ought to get, we shall have no means of protestation against the parsimony of the people who administer it. I would suggest to the hon. Member for Sunderland that to base oneself upon a precedent such as he mentioned, that in this country we have a better insurance system than they have in America or anywhere else, is not really a proper position to take up. Whether the system that we have here is good or bad, or whether it is better than any other, we, as a pioneer nation in social reform, ought to aim, not merely at getting something better than someone else ever had, but at getting something better than we have had ourselves in the past, and something that will confer a certain measure of justice upon the people who deserve it in these very hard times through which we are passing, and through which we shall continue to pass for the next three or four years.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. JOHN WALLACE
The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. Young) has left me, at any rate, in considerable doubt as to his reasons for opposing the Bill. He has laid down as a principle that the Bill ought to be better, But, surely, we have got beyond the stage of rejecting a Measure merely because it is not as good as we should like it to be. If the hon. Member's attitude is that he must reject anything in any department of life that does not come up to his particular standard, I think he will feel the disadvantage of that in the years to come. I support the Bill because I consider it to be a great step forward in this complex and difficult subject of National Unemployment Insurance, I have heard a considerable number of Bills introduced into this House, but I have never heard so many gloomy prophecies as to-day. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) started the gloomy ball rolling, and speaker after speaker, by quotation and otherwise, has attempted to imitate that venerable and respectable prophet Jeremiah. But Jeremiah really had a much better case, and I feel that there has been about a good many of to-day's speeches a certain sense of unreality. I believe hon. Members are rather sorry that this is such a good Bill. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), who cheers this perfectly honest sentiment, is, I am sure, a secret admirer of the work of the Minister of Labour.
A Member on the Labour Benches said that one of the most serious positions that the Government would be faced with was the fact that they would have to be judged in the country by this Bill. I am not sure that that test will be a very severe one for the National Government. When the history of this period comes to be written, one thing that will stand to the everlasting credit of this Government is their treatment of the unemployed. There is no country in the world which has attempted, with the same breadth of view and with the same sympathy, to deal in a practical way with this very serious question. I admit at once the difficulties of the means test. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale last week told us that the family as a unit no longer existed. So much the worse for the family. I do not know what in- 1540 cursions modern conditions are making upon family life, but I shall regret very sincerely if the days when the more fortunate members of the family are willing to help the less fortunate are over. The hon. Member seems to think that day is gone. In a great country like Wales I think family sentiment still exists, and it would be a sorry day for Wales if that sentiment should pass away and every man want to live for himself independently, quite indifferent as to the fortunes of other members of his own family.
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has said several things about the Bill and with some of his conclusions I did not agree. He contended that it was not upon an actuarial basis, but any actuarial basis must depend upon reasonable probability. He suggested that the unemployment figures might rise to a dizzy height, and he asked, where then was the actuarial basis of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. All these actuarial bases, whether in the department of unemployment or life insurance, must depend upon reasonable probability, and any future sharp rise in the curve of unemployment which would throw the fund out of gear is something which we all hope will not occur.
I have said that some of us have considered the means test to be unfortunate, but that has not provided us with an excuse for going into the Lobby to demonstrate against the Government. I think it is very hard indeed that in such cases as were cited by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. J. Reid) the total income of all who are employed should be included in reckoning the family resources, and I am more than glad to see that the Minister of Labour has made provision for dealing with that. [An Hon. Member : "How?"] I am very glad to see these words introduced :Due regard being had also to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
How does the word "requirements" add anything to the means test at all? What is a requirement if it is not a need? I should like to know what difference has been made by the insertion of these words? Needs have always been taken into account.
§ Mr. WALLACE
I understand the hon. Member's difficulty if he is looking at this concession in a prejudiced way. I am looking at it from the point of view that the Minister of Labour means what he says. In the clearest possible terms he said he wished to introduce the element of flexibility and that those words were inserted in order that a more generous view should be taken of the cash resources of any member of the family who was employed and that his requirements had to be taken into account before they were reckoned towards income for the family. I am not sure that I am capable of conveying a clearer impression to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I am giving him my own interpretation which, I am sure, will be accepted by the great majority of the House.
I have some misgiving so far as the rules to be put into operation in Part II are concerned, and from some points of view I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not accept the Labour Amendment to have those rules approved by the House of Commons. To me the gradual delegation of the powers of this House is somewhat dangerous. Not very long ago the Lord Chief Justice of England wrote a book entitled "The New Despotism," in which he pointed out in very clear terms the dangers of Government by bureaucracy. That is one part of the Bill about which I am not particularly happy. Even so far as the first rules are concerned, they should have been brought before the House and approved before coming into operation, and I shall be very glad indeed if, as hinted by the Solicitor-General on Thursday, a connecting link of some kind is provided between this House and the Unemployment Insurance Board so far as raising those rules on the Floor of the House is concerned. I should like very sincerely to compliment the right hon. Gentleman on the way he has piloted this Measure through the House with the assistance of his very competent Parliamentary Secretary.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I can feel for the Minister in his opening remark to-day when be said he was glad the Bill was nearing its close. One can well understand his position. He has been here for 27 days on and off trying to meet all points.
§ Mr. TINKER
Whatever our differences may be in trying to get the Bill improved, one is bound to recognise the amount of work that he and his colleagues have put in, being as courteous as they could to us. Naturally, in dealing with a Bill of this kind, when the principles are laid down we cannot very well expect them to be altered, and all that the Minister will do in the passage of the Bill is to try to meet our point of view on smaller matters and, with all his courtesy and good wishes, that is all that we have been able to get from him—a few small points. So we remain to-day in practically the same position as when we opposed the Second Reading. The fundamental objections to the Bill then are here still. We have embodied four or five points in our Amendment. The first is that we feel very much upset that we are losing control of governing the unemployed, that that control which has always been in our hands is now largely passing away, and it passes away under two Parts of the Bill. In the first Part the fund itself is being put under the control of a certain body of people who will report to the Minister as to its solvency—whether it can meet the liabilities upon it—and, if it is solvent and has any surplus, they will suggest to the Minister by recommendation what he shall do. But the control will pass away from us in Parliament and will be manoeuvred—I use the word advisedly—by this committee and by the Minister so that the House will not have an opportunity, as they would like to have, of dealing with it. That is part No. 1.
Control of the section of the unemployed dealt with in Part II is also passing. We desire Parliament to have control over them, and also the local authorities to have something to do with them. But that is now passing away. Whatever we may say about the control of the fund under Part I, the alteration with regard to Part II is far more grievous to us. We believe that we shall have very little choice in regard to what may be done under Part II of the Bill concerning those who have passed from statutory benefit. The House has failed to recognise fully the evidence of malnutrition and the need for provision of adequate maintenance for the unemployed and their dependants. It is true that after 1st July the 10 per cent. cut will 1543 be restored, but emphatically that is not entirely satisfactory, as it will not enable the unemployed to be provided with the rate of maintenance to which they are entitled. It is no use hon. Members opposite arguing that those under the means test will get better treatment than those on statutory benefit. In our view, that cannot be possible. The means test will be governed by the statutory rate of benefit. The question of malnutrition which exists in various parts of the country will not be met at all by the provisions of the Bill. It may be argued from the benches opposite that, as the surplus of the fund increases, it will be possible to increase benefits. I wish that I could believe in that possibility. I do not think that there is any intention of raising the standard benefit for the unemployed. The present rate of benefit, even with the 10 per cent. increase, is inadequate.
The third point in our Amendment is that the Bill confirms and perpetuates a vicious means test originally imposed as a temporary expedient. I have listened to the whole of the Debate to-day, and I do not think I have heard a single Member on the other side who has been wholeheartedly in favour of the means test. They have tried to arrive at a point to which the means test should go. Several Members pointed out that it was impossible to defend men with an income or property receiving benefit, but all agreed that some alteration was required, and that it was not fair to bring in various members of the family, or, if they were brought in, at least the scale of allowance given to members of the family should be higher than it is at the present time. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid) stated that, when the needs of the family were taken into account, they should be somewhat higher than at the present time, and an hon. Member from the Liberal benches who tried to defend some kind of means test spoke about the man who owned 12 houses as not being a person who should receive benefit from the State. From every side we have evidence that no one is satisfied with the means test as it at present exists.
I want to follow up what was said by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I have held the view all the time, and have tried to emphasise it many times, that if you applied the means 1544 test to individuals, the question would arise as to how many could be found with sufficient means to be considered independent of any support at all from what is termed the dole. There would be very few indeed. In fact, I believe that their number would be so small that it would not be worth while appointing State officials to examine into the means of everybody. The means test was introduced in 1931 largely for the purpose of getting hold of some money for the State. The Unemployment Fund was taking too much money from the State, and the object was to prevent it from taking so much money. To do this the means test was applied, and it brought in all members of the family. It was because of this that so much money was brought into the fund. If hon. Members opposite really believe that the position requires altering, and that members of the family ought not to be introduced in the way in which they were being brought in now, or that a certain standard ought to be given to each member of the family, they must be driven to consider the position of the individual who applies. They would have to recognise the amount of money they would save to the State if they were only dealing with individual persons. Against that there would be a whole army of officials, the payment for whose services would more than account for what would be saved to the State. If hon. Members opposite would recognise that fact, rather than point out certain cases such as, for instance, the solicitor's wife from Birmingham, or a married woman or some person who had a banking account, they would see that it is not fair to apply the means test. On this point we are justified in bringing all the opposition we can against the passage of the Bill.
The fourth point in our Amendment is the carrying of the burden of the debt of this fund. I expected when we started off with the Bill that we should be able to prevail upon the Government to wipe out that debt. I was buoyed up in that hope by the arguments used on the benches opposite. Many hon. Members, in criticising the Bill on Second Reading, argued that it would be better to let the fund start off free from debt. They put that point of view to the Government benches, but it has not been accepted. The fund is to be burdened by the repay- 1545 ment of debt. It will take about 40 years. All the concessions we have got amount to about £250,000 a year. A sum of £5,000,000 is to be found every year from the Unemployment Fund. I know that we shall be challenged that we did not attempt to keep the fund solvent when we were in office. Be that as it may, we only accumulated a portion of the debt. Other Governments helped to accumulate some of it. It was used for the good of the unemployed people and to tide over certain difficulties.
This is called a big and comprehensive Measure to keep the fund solvent in the future. If that is what is in the minds of hon. Members opposite, why not wipe away the accumulated debt? Why not start the fund with a clean sheet? It has to be remember that many of the people who will be called upon to help to pay back the money will have had nothing out the fund, and also that those at present paying into the fund are paying increased contributions. Since 1931 the workmen's contribution has risen from 7d. to 10d. The working-men are contributing to the fund every year £6,500,000 more than in 1931. They will have to go on paying that amount until the debt on the fund is cleared off. If that were done we should be able to say that we would lessen the contributions. That ought to appeal to hon. Members opposite. They say that they want the circulation of money. Threepence for each contributor each week would mean something to the household. It may seem a small sum, but it would mean something in every household. The equity of the thing ought to appeal to everyone, I mean the equity of being able to say to the contributors, "We are going to start a new unemployment system." Hon. Members opposite believe that it will put the country on a proper footing and that it will keep the fund solvent in the future. In that case it would be fair, if not generous, to say to every contributor : "We are going to start off with a clean sheet. We will wipe off the debt, and we hope that you will recognise what we are doing."
We have been told by hon. Members on the other side that we have used no argument against the passing of the Bill. One wonders what argument we could use other than the arguments we have used that would appeal to those hon. Mem- 1546 bers. I would ask hon. Members to examine the Amendment on its merits and not to say that we have put forward no arguments why the Bill should not pass. Let them examine our arguments and meet them one by one and stage by stage, and if they can satisfy us that we have no arguments, then reason ought to prevail. We shall go into the Lobby against the Bill, believing that the country will be behind us in our efforts.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. CONANT
I am very sorry that the hon. Member has not answered the rather important question which was put to him and his party by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk and Stirling (Mr. J. Reid), as to whether the party opposite prefer that those who are unemployed and outside insurance should be assisted on a fixed basis, by a fixed payment, or whether they should be assisted according to the requirements of each individual. That seems to me a question of such importance that it does require an answer from the party opposite. Do they desire that payments for those outside insurance should be on a fixed and definite basis, the same for everybody, or do they prefer that it should be given according to the individual requirements in each particular case where application is made?
I should like to deal with some of the items in the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill moved by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). First, in regard to the continuance of the needs test, I notice that hon. Members opposite when they are faced with their past record in connection with the test of needs invariably refer to the fact that the needs test which they supported in the past, at Scarborough and other places, was on a different basis from the needs test which exists at the present time, or which they believe will be established by the Bill. They have said on many occasions that they are opposed definitely to the needs test on a Poor Law basis. I agree with them that it would be most unjust that any section of the unemployed should be compelled to submit to a test of need on a Poor Law basis and should be treated as if they were paupers. The provisions of this Bill establish the test of need on an entirely different basis, a basis which is far above that which has been established for many years under the Poor Law.
1547 If hon. Members will look at Clause 39 in the reprint of the Bill they will see many requirements in the guiding rules which are laid down for the Assistance Board, which puts the test of need, however it may be changed by the regulations that the board may make, on an entirely separate plan from that of the Poor Law. Allowances for disability pensions, maternity allowances, workmen's compensation, the question of the treatment of capital assets, and the fact that the board are compelled to take into account the personal requirements of the individual who applies, bring the needs test established by the Bill on to an entirely different basis from the destitution test of the Poor Law. To-day, as hon. Members know, there is a very large section of the unemployed, those who are outside insurance, whose only source of assistance is the Poor Law itself, and who are therefore bound to submit, when the need arises, to a needs test on the Poor Law basis.
One of the main provisions of the Bill and one of the main arguments in support of the Bill is that it definitely takes this large section of unemployed, those who at the present time are not within the insurance scheme, out of the Poor Law altogether. That was the position during the whole of the time that the hon. Members opposite had charge of the country, and the only practical step which they took to deal with the matter was to set up a Royal Commission, one of the terms of the reference to which was to look into the arrangements that could be made for those outside insurance. I have never suggested that hon. Members opposite were in any way bound to support the recommendations of their Royal Commission, because they need not do so, but it is interesting on suitable occasions to compare the recommendations of that Commission with the proposals in this Bill. I notice that one of the items in the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill is, that it fails to provide adequate maintenance for the unemployed and their dependants. In that direction I should like to compare briefly the recommendations of the Royal Commission in regard to unemployment benefit with the provisions in the Bill.
1548 The Bill provides an increase for a single man from 15s. 3d. to 17s. a week, for a single woman from 13s. 6d. to 15s., and for an adult dependent from 8s. to 9s. The Royal Commission set up by hon. Members opposite, although they are not bound in any way by their recommendations, recommended reduction in the case of single men from 15s. 3d. to 15s., and in the case of single women from 13s. 6d. to 13s. When one considers the period during which the benefit is to be paid, the Bill provides that the benefit for the minimum period shall be 26 weeks and that it shall be raised, according to contributions paid, up to a maximum of 52 weeks. On the other hand the Royal Commission recommended that the minimum should be reduced from 26 weeks to 13 weeks, rising according to the contributions paid to 39 weeks. Therefore, whether the proposals in the Bill are adequate or not, they are at least considerably greater than those which were recommended by the Royal Commission set up by the party opposite. I have never pretended that these rates of benefit can possibly be adequate in every instance. There are clearly a large number of cases where the rates will be quite inadequate, but the Bill provides that where the rates are inadequate and the necessity arises they can be supplemented from other sources.
The Amendment for the rejection also suggests that the Bill is undemocratic because it takes away from local authorities the duty of administering assistance to the uninsured unemployed when they have need of it. I admit that the centralisation of this form of assistance is a very great step indeed. It has many disadvantages, and a great many dangers; it is a step which requires the gravest consideration. At the same time it hardly lies with hon. Members opposite to criticise this centralisation when one of the most important factors which made it inevitable was that members of their party on local authorities actually refuse to perform the task for which they were elected in a large number of cases. That fact made some form of centralisation a matter of certainty for any Government. Hon. Members opposite claim that it is undemocratic. I wonder sometimes what their real opinion is of democracy. The Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) 1549 when he was speaking on the 19th February said :All democratic representation is a tug-of-war, where coat-tail pulling goes on, either by the poor or the Income Tax payer. That is the whole meaning of democracy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1934; col. 82, Vol. 286.]
I can only say that if that was my opinion of democracy I should certainly join with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) in his efforts to set up some other system. I believe that the opposition to the Bill is based on a complete misconception of the character of the British working man. The British workman does believe in insurance, he does not desire the minute he loses his job to be thrown on the charity of his neighbours. He likes to feel that he can fall back on an insurance scheme to which he himself has contributed and can live for a time, it may be for six months or a year, on his own resources. I believe also that he recognises the real justice of a means test. He feels that when assistance is given to those who need it that it should be based on the individual circumstances of each case; and it seems to me that whatever hon. Members opposite may say now as to their future action in regard to unemployment insurance and the means test it will be a long time before the country will ever permit them to change the main principles of this Bill to any material extent.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
We believe that a man is entitled to work or to maintenance. I listened to the speech of the Minister of Labour to-day with interest. I disagreed with him, as I often do, but yet I admired the kindly way in which he recommended the Third Reading of the Bill to the House. When I went outside I met an hon. Member who is supporting the National Government and the Minister had made such a real impression upon him that he thought the Bill was a decent Measure; he said so to me. When I told 1550 him that I thought it was a rotten Bill he was surprised. That was due to the kindly way in which the right hon. Gentleman had recommended the Bill to the House. He gave me the impression of a burglar dressed in a clergyman's suit, collar as well, pretending to be so pious and so good. He used two arguments. He said that one of the strong reasons for the Bill was that it closed the gap between juveniles leaving school and entering insurance. He boasted of that as something wonderful, but really instead of doing that he has widened the gap between juveniles leaving school and drawing insurance benefit. Under existing conditions they are able to draw benefit six months after entering insurance, but under the Bill they will have to wait for two years. In one General Election the Tory party charged us with robbing the children's money boxes. If this is not robbing children's money boxes I do not know what is. The Bill makes juveniles pay 2d. per week for two years before they can draw benefit.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
There must be some confusion here. Under the present law benefit is payable on attaining the age of 16 years and 30 weeks, but under the Bill benefit will be payable not at 16 years and 30 weeks but at the age of 16. There is, therefore, an advantage.
§ Mr. BATEY
That is just what I am saying. Juveniles under the present law enter insurance at 16 and draw benefit at 16 and a-half. Under the Bill they enter insurance at 14 years of age and do not get benefit until they are 16. At the present time they can draw benefit six months after entering insurance, under the Bill they will have to wait for two years. And that is what the right hon. Gentleman calls social progress! The Minister also said that they had secured the solvency of the fund. How have they done so. They have raised the contributions from 7d. to 10d., a very substantial increase, and in addition have cut down the weeks of benefit from 72 to 26. By these means the Minister boasts that they have secured the solvency of the fund. There is not a fund in the world whose solvency could not be secured on the basis of raising contributions and cutting down benefits so drastically. That is all that the Government have done to secure 1551 the solvency of the fund, and it is nothing to boast about. If the Ministry had thought out some new way of helping the fund they might have deserved some credit, but their present boast is unjustified.
The Minister criticised the Amendment, but I do not think that the Labour party has ever moved an Amendment with which I so whole-heartedly have agreed. The Amendment covers all the ground upon which we have argued against the Bill. Its six indictments are, 1, that the Bill removes from Parliament the direct responsibility for the unemployed; 2, that it fails to provide adequate maintenance; 3, that it perpetuates the vicious means test; 4, that it throws out a section a debt which should be borne by the community; 5, that it compels distressed areas to contribute to the maintenance of the unemployed; and 6, it emphasise the national neglect which has allowed industry to decay. Those six indictments are true in every word.
On the hoardings this week-end in London I saw posters in which the National Government was advertising what it had done. It is time the Government advertised what it had done, for unless it advertises no one will ever know that it has ever done anything for which it deserves any credit. I do not know who is paying for these great posters. I saw one containing a boast that more men were being employed. [HON. MEMBEKS : "Hear, hear!"] I wish that those Members who cheer would come up to the North of England and cheer there. The Government boast about more houses having been built. The six items of indictment included in the Amendment might well be placed on the hoardings side by side with the claims made for the Government. They would be a spendid set-off to the things for which the Government claim credit. No one can question the truth of those six indictments.
To-day I have heard hon. Members congratulate the Minister upon this Bill. I have heard a good many unemployment Bills introduced into this House. The Minister told us to-day that there had been 36. In my opinion there was never introduced a worse Unemployment Bill than this one. Start at the first page, 1552 and go through to the end and you cannot find one good point in the Bill. I have read the Bill and I have been present at most of the discussions in Committee. I ask any hon. Member to tell me of a good point in the Bill.
§ Mr. CAPORN
Does the hon. Member include the restoration of the cut in unemployment benefit as a bad point?
§ Mr. BATEY
The Bill has nothing whatever to do with the restoration of the cut. The Budget had nothing whatever to do with it. The cut could have been restored and ought to have been restored six months ago. The restoration was kept back for the Budget so that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to say that he had given £3,500,000 to the unemployed. If the Government had been fair to the unemployed they would have restored the cuts on 1st January, because the Minister must then have known the surplus there was in the fund and that the income was exceeding the expenditure. The interest of the unemployed is completely neglected by the Bill. The chief consideration in the Bill is the finance of the fund or the finance of the Treasury, and the unemployed are left out in the cold. I heard a speaker to-day say something about the Bill taking the unemployed outside Parliament. The Government may succeed in doing that, but they cannot take the unemployed outside politics. They may remove the unemployed outside the House of Commons, but in the country the unemployed will be keener than ever about politics; they will make their numbers felt in every industrial constituency, and many hon. Members will live to regret the part they have taken in pushing this Bill through the House.
The new machinery to be set up by the Bill consists of two new statutory committees and an appeal committee. There was no need at all for the Statutory Committee to deal with the fund. The Minister and the exchange officials ought to have been quite sufficient to deal with the remodelled fund. It is difficult to understand what the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary are going to do when the two new statutory committees are set up. It seems to me that the Minister is going to reduce the Ministry of Labour to the same level as the Ministry of Pensions. It will only be possible to put one or two questions in 1553 the year on the Order Paper regarding its work. It will be no use asking the Minister questions in regard to the treatment of the unemployed, because he will shelter himself behind the Statutory Committees. I object to this new machinery for another reason. At the present time the cost of administration is between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. These new committees and the appeal tribunal are going to increase immensely the cost of administration. Money will be spent in that way which ought to go to the unemployed. Personally, I stand for the money going to the unemployed rather than in paying for this new machinery. Further, I hold that the work could be better done by the Ministry. These new committees will not be in touch with the unemployed. They will probably sit miles apart from the unemployed, whereas the Ministry, through the Employment Exchange officials throughout the country, is in touch with the unemployed and is much better fitted to deal with the administration of the fund.
The Unemployment Assistance Board is to operate Part II of the Bill. It is to consist of a chairman, a deputy-chairman and not more than four other members. Those six persons are to be paid £12,000 a year or £2,000 a year each, for what? For enforcing the means test and for forcing men into training camps. I notice that this body is to be appointed by the King. That was a brain wave on the part of the Minister. It gives this body such an air of respectability. They will be able to say, "We are members of a committee appointed by the King," and they will be able to hold their heads high on that account. The Minister in his interesting speech said that the duty of the board would be the promotion of the welfare of the unemployed. How are they going to promote the welfare of the unemployed? By applying the means test so that thousands of people will scarcely get enough on which to live. That is how we are going to promote the welfare of the unemployed—by starving the unemployed. They will have the power of saying to a man, "We think you ought to go to a training camp and it does not matter where the camp is." That gives them a chance. If the man refuses they can say, "If you do not go, there is no national relief for you. You have to go the workhouse." If that is to be the work of the new board, God help the unemployed.
1554 We did not get much chance of dealing with the appeal tribunal either in Committee or on the Report stage. It is to consist of a chairman, one member representing the workers and one appointed by the Unemployment Assistance Board to represent that body. One can imagine that the appeal tribunal will have its headquarters in London and will operate from here. What will be the position? An unemployed man who is dissatisfied with a decision as to whether he comes under the board or not or who is dissatisfied with the amount given cannot appeal unless the chairman gives him leave to do so, and the chairman cannot give his permission unless the means test has not been carried out in accordance with the regulations. It really means that when the chairman gives permission for an appeal the case is tried before it goes to the tribunal. Of course, I am not dealing with cases of special difficulty. The unemployed man coming under Part II who wishes to appeal is terribly handicapped as compared with the unemployed man on standard benefit. The man on standard benefit has an immense chance in that he can appeal either to the court of referees or the Umpire. The man under Part II has to be satisfied with an appeal to the tribunal and, as I say, the chairman has to consent to the case going to the tribunal which simply means that the chairman decides the case before it goes to the tribunal.
We discussed the means test last week and I do not want to repeat any arguments already used in regard to it. I would only point out that under Part II there is given to the Unemployment Assistance Board immense powers over the unemployed, powers which simply mean that they will decide the kind of life which an unemployed man and his family are to live. They have the power to decide the amount of relief that shall be given to provide food, clothing and housing for that man and his family. Coining from distressed areas where thousands and thousands of our people are suffering, we see in this Bill machinery which will further demoralise our people. We do not see in it any hope of any good. We believe that when it comes into operation it will make the conditions, which God knows are bad enough, immensely worse and because of that we oppose its Third Reading.
§ 9.5 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel CHARLES KERR
The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) referred to the fact that the cuts ought to have been returned six months ago. I do not suppose anybody here will remember it, but it was about that time that I made an appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to return the cuts—if not all of them, half of them. I am reminded of certain episodes in my own life when, if I had only known what was going on behind the scenes, I should not have taken the view that I did about my superior officers. I feel great confidence that the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows what is going on behind the scenes, and therefore he knows the difficulties and the dangers of embarking on extra expenditure unless you are certain that you will be able to carry it on for an indefinite period. I am content to leave this matter with him, and I am sure that he, like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, has the welfare of the unemployed at heart.
I am a little doubtful whether the hon. Member for Spennymoor will get the approval of a great many of the unemployed when they find that their cuts are restored. I think that, if I had been unemployed for a very long time, I should feel very grateful for the little extra help that would be coming into the home. We all want to see unemployment benefit increased a great deal more, and we all want to see all this distress wiped away, but there is always the question as to whether you can do it and go on doing it indefinitely. The world is in a very disturbed condition, and if you got a return of the crisis here, it would be a dreadful thing, having given something back to these people with one hand, to have to take it away from them again with the other because of the distress in the country.
I most heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend and also the Parliamentary Secretary on this Bill. I do not think any of us in this House need have the slightest qualms about the future. I am certain in my own mind, and judging from observations which have fallen from them and the nice things which they have said about the Minister, hon. Members opposite in their heart of hearts know that, although there may be some things in this Bill of which not all of us may absolutely approve, every effort will 1556 be made to make the working of the Bill a success as long as we have my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. Why should we presuppose that the Statutory Committee and the Unemployment Assistance Board are going to be composed of a lot of "hard-hearted Hannahs" who are going to do the very worst that they can for the unemployed? I cannot understand that point of view. They will be chosen for their qualities as men of understanding and knowledge, and they will have, what the hon. Member for Spennymoor did not seem to think they would have, all the knowledge and experience that the Minister and his officials at the Ministry can give them to help them in their work. I feel that it is pressing it a little too much to presuppose that everything will be very badly worked in every way. I cannot believe that.
There is one thing about this Bill that attracts me very much, and that is its flexibility. There are certain Clauses in the Bill which seem to me to enable the Statutory Committee and the Minister to deal with every conceivable kind of case that it is now impossible to deal with, and I want to mention the case of seasonal workers. There are cases in the country of men who have worked for years and years, who have plenty of stamps to entitle them to some definite benefit, but who to-day are not entitled to draw any benefit at all if they get out of work. I believe that in this Bill the Minister has power, together with the Statutory Committee, to deal with those eases, and I welcome that possibility and am certain that the Minister will take these hard cases into consideration.
I want to say a word about the children. I was one of the Members on this side of the House who voted against the Government on the question of the 2s. and the 3s., but I must say that since then, having thought the matter over and having listened to the Minister on the subject, I have come to the conclusion that I did not do a very wise thing. I rather feel that I have committed myself now to this, that 3s. a week is enough for a child, and I do not consider that that is so. I believe the Minister was right when he said, "I do not want 3s. to be looked upon as a maximum in any circumstances." I say now that this Bill does enable the Unemployment Assistance 1557 Board, if they consider that 3s. is not enough, or 4s., or even 5s.—there is no limit to what they can give, and that is just what I like about the Bill, that its flexibility enables the needs to be adequately dealt with.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), whom I am sorry not to see in his place, because I have a great affection for him, has really been the greatest possible help to me during these Debates because he has taught me a very great deal with regard to the whole of this question. I heard him this afternoon refer to under-feeding. We all of us know that it does not matter what any of us may do, whatever Bill is brought into this House, we shall always have these persons of a certain type, and we shall always have a certain amount of under-feeding through the stupidity or the almost wickedness of some of these people dealing with the cases. Therefore, we shall never be able to wipe all that away, but I feel that in this Bill a great opportunity is given, and I believe that it will be taken, to assist the children to be properly fed. The power to do it is given in this Bill.
The House will be glad to hear that, although on my notes I have a word about the means test, I do not intend to refer to it, as it has been adequately dealt with, but I want to say a word or two on the subject of the debt. Hon. Members opposite know that I never like controversy if I can avoid it, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that two-thirds of the debt on the fund, or £75,000,000 of it, went to the insured unemployed, and about the remainder he did not say anything. I say that the remainder was entirely due to the maladministration of the Government which was in office at that time, and in that case I am very sorry indeed that the Government did not see fit just to take that amount out of the liability of the fund. I feel that if only hon. Members in the Opposition, instead of always thinking the worst would try and think the best of people—— [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but why not? Hon. Members opposite have said over and over again that we on this side are trying to do our best. Why not, therefore, think the best of this Bill instead of trying to pick holes in it all the time? I sit down with this thought in my heart, that I am certain that, whatever the unemployed are to-day thinking 1558 of this Bill, they will in a little while thank my right hon. Friend and the Government for bringing it in.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
I have been in the House for the greater part of the Debate, and I shall be within the recollection of the House when I say that the principal charge that has been levelled at the Opposition is that we take a very gloomy view of the future of the Bill and that there is nothing in it to entitle us to our gloomy prophecies. I should like to rebut that charge by saying that gloomy as our prediction is, it is nothing like as gloomy as the view taken by the Government. The Bill itself represents the triumph of the pessimists over the optimists in the Cabinet. The Unemployment Bill was promised in the first Speech from the Throne in this Parliament. It was also promised in the second Speech. It took two years to incubate. There were violent discussions—so we are told—within the Cabinet, and, although it is impossible for me to say what occurred, I venture to suggest that what probably happened was that some Members of the Government said, "Why on earth have a big Bill of this sort; why not leave things as they are? "
I should not be surprised if the Prime Minister was found in that party, because he has been saying for years that a trade recovery is round the corner. He probably said to his colleagues in the Cabinet, "Why have so highly controversial a Measure as this? Why not leave things alone? After all, confidence will be restored by the National Government, and employment will increase, and, as a consequence, the burden of unemployment will fall so low that it will be unnecessary to have a major Unemployment Insurance Bill." I can almost hear the Prime Minister addressing his colleagues in those terms. He addressed us in those terms for two years. Then there were some other Members of the Cabinet, and probably the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the leader of them. I can imagine him saying : "Unemployment is going to be with us acutely for 10 years, and therefore we must have a remodelling of the insurance system in order to deal with it." The gloomy prophets are not on this side of the House at all, but among the Mem- 1559 bers of the Government, because no Government would have brought in a Bill so experimental as this one, making such far-reaching changes in the relationship of the central Government and local government, unless they felt that a long spell of unemployment was going to exist in this country for many years to come.
As a matter of fact, therefore, this Bill is first and foremost an admission by the National Government that the worst feature of unemployment, that is, long-dated unemployment, is too stubborn, that they cannot overcome it, and that legislation must be devised to deal with it. Part II of this Bill would be entirely unnecessary were it not for the fact that the Government anticipate a large volume of long-dated unemployment. If the Government and their supporters really believe what they say in this House and the country, namely, that the National Government are well on the way to solving the unemployment problem, we should not have had this Bill. Indeed, it would not be justified. It would not be proper to make such fundamental changes in our constitutional machinery for what is a temporary problem. It is, however, a permanent one. Everybody knows that. Our first indictment of the Government, therefore, is that they are taking steps to have a permanent unemployment insurance scheme of this kind, because they know full well that the solution of unemployment lies entirely outside their hands.
There is a further point I would like to make in this connection. I do not propose to deal with the first Part of the Bill, because it is not a revolutionary part at all. It is the second Part which is revolutionary, and therefore what I have to say will be said about that part. In his speech to-day the Minister said we ought to have welcomed this Bill—and indeed hon. Members opposite have said it—because for the first time it makes unemployment a national charge. If the right hon. Gentleman will examine the figures, he will see that the burden of maintaining the able-bodied unemployed nationally reached its highest point in 1930–31. The Poor Law authorities were almost entirely relieved of the able-bodied poor by the legislation of the Labour Government. The figures, which have been quoted over and over again, show that the the number of able-bodied poor 1560 who went on poor relief contracted until 1930–31 when it was the lowest for many years. It was low in 1924–25, and it started to rise slowly during the years of the last Conservative administration. I have before quoted the figures, and they have never been denied.
§ Sir L. THOMPSON
The hon. Member cannot deny the fact that the increased number of able-bodied unemployed men on the Poor Law was due to the existence of the Labour Government's Act of 1924 and to the genuinely-seeking-work Clause.
§ Mr. BEVAN
Everybody has admitted in the course of the Committee discussions that the whole essence of the genuinely-seeking-work Clause was the administrative significance given to it. No steps were taken to deal with it, but the Labour Government in 1930 wiped it out, and the result was effectively to make unemployment a national charge.
§ Sir L. THOMPSON
I will ask the hon. Member another question. The incidence now is due to the not-normally-in-insurable-occupation Clause, which was instituted by the 1924 Government and was not altered by the 1930 Government. The incidence is felt to-day; why did they not wipe it out in 1930?
§ Mr. BEVAN
My hon. Friend ought to adopt towards legislation a very simple rule; that legislation is what legislation does. The not-normally-in-insurable-employment Clause was on the Statute Book for many years before the Umpire gave the present interpretation to it. Everyone who follows the history of unemployment insurance legislation in this country knows very well that a piece of legislation remains on the Statute Book with a certain significance for years, and suddenly by administrative accumulation, an entire change is given to it. Now people are being thrown off unemployment insurance benefit under the not-normally-in-insurable-employment provisions for the same reasons as not- 1561 genuinely-seeking-work. That is the position. Nevertheless, all that the hon. Member says in reply leaves my central point unshaken, and that is that unemployment was made a national charge by the Labour Government of 1930. Despite all the other criticisms laid against that Government, that central fact remains, and it is in the history of this Government that the unemployed have been unloaded on to the local authorities, and that now something has to be done with them.
If the conditions of unemployment insurance existing in 1930 were again revived, there would be no need for this Bill and its administration—no need for Part II. Part II is made inevitable by two things : (1) the administrative neglect of the Government to repair the misinterpretations given to the law, and (2), the necessity for saving money. Hon. Members have said that they are quite sure that when Part II starts to operate, our worst prophecies will not be fulfilled, and that the unemployed will be better off. They never quote figures. I have never seen the Government supporters so shy of the facts as they are now. The Chancellor of the Exchequer makes provision in his Budget for only £3,600,000 addition, leaving him still £17,000,000 to the good. Consequently the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Estimates gives the lie to the optimistic phophecies of hon. Members opposite. The hon. Lady shakes her head.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
May I ask the hon. Member if he is calculating on figures of unemployment as it was, or as he thinks it is going to be?
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
If unemployment in this country were to decrease even more than the hon. Member expects it to decrease would he think that there would be fewer people to receive assistance from the assistance board under Part II, or more?
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
Is my hon. Friend making his calculations on the understanding that there is to be an increase in unemployment? If there is more work and the people get more employment, I presume he will agree with me that not only will there be fewer people on transitional benefit, but also on Part II altogether.
§ Mr. BEVAN
It does not necessarily follow, as I have been trying to point out, and as is ominous for this country, that a reduction of those unemployed will necessarily be accompanied by a reduction in those on transitional benefit. There can be an absolute reduction of unemployment and yet an increase in those on transitional benefit. A lamentable feature of unemployment statistics is that this appears to be the tendency. If the hon. Lady will look at the figures, she will see that this is true. I started off my speech by pointing out that it is the Government who take the gloomiest view of the future of transitional payment in Great Britain. I suggest to hon. Members in all parts of the House that no Government would have embarked upon legislation of so revolutionary a character if it had not expected to have to carry a very large number of people on Part II for a long time to come.
My third point is fundamental in the minds of my hon. Friends who belong to my own party. Hon. Members, in carrying this Bill, are betraying their constituents. It is an act of treachery. They are, in this Bill, divesting themselves of every responsibility to their constituents. When hon. Members say that they are as much interested in the unemployed and as sympathetic as we are, I should say that they are not telling the truth. I should put it more bluntly, if it were not for Parliamentary decencies. The reason why they are not telling the truth is that after this Bill goes through they are not leaving themselves responsible to their unemployed constituents. The statement has been made often in Com- 1563 mittee and has never been challenged, and that is the reason why I could not understand the speech of the last hon. Member who spoke. He talked as though the Minister of Labour were going to be responsible. The Minister is divesting himself of responsibility, too. This Bill prevents the right hon. Gentleman from representing his constituents on the Floor of this House.
Surely, as I understand it—the hon. Member will no doubt correct me if I am wrong—if the Statutory Committee makes a recommendation to the Minister, the Minister will then consider it and put it before this House—if it is anything drastic—and it will also be debated in another place; then it will either be passed by both Houses of Parliament or not. In that way I do not consider that the House is losing control.
§ Mr. BEVAN
The hon. and gallant Member's hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. J. Wallace), in his speech, disagreed with his right hon. colleague. He said that he wished that the Labour Amendment had been accepted which made it necesary for the Rules to be approved by the House. Hon. Members know that the essence of Part II is the relationship, not between the House and the general regulations, but between the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the unemployment allowance. It is the diversity in the allowances as between one home and another that counts. We carry general scales in this House, just make the framework. The picture will be filled in by the unemployment assistance officers and the Minister will have no responsibility.
§ Mr. BEVAN
Never before in the treatment of the poor. Never in matters of public assistance has the poor man been entirely deprived of the right of appeal to elected persons—never in the history of the country. The reason why this change has been made is a very simple one. I do not want to enter into Committee points, because the Bill has been scrutinised microscopically in Committee, but would simply say that there is a fundamental contradiction in the 1564 fact that to-day the House of Commons makes itself responsible for unemployment assistance but refuses to make itself responsible for employment. We cannot have the two situations existing side by side. Either this House must make itself responsible for employment, or it has to divest itself of responsibility for assisting the unemployed. That is what hon. Members mean when they talk about "taking poverty out of politics," and protecting democratic institutions against the onslaughts of the poor. They will be able to reconcile the political responsibility of the House of Commons to the unemployed only if the House of Commons goes on and takes the responsibility for providing employment; but if it refuses to take that responsibility its next logical step must be to disfranchise the poor and the disfranchisement of the poor is what happens under Part II of this Bill; and that is why we take serious exception to it.
The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Lieut.-Colonel Kerr) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay), an hon. Member for one of the Sunderland divisions, and the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. J. Reid) have all said that they anticipate that under Part II the unemployed will be better off than they are at present. One hon. Member said that the reason why he regretted voting for 3s. for the children was because he did not think 3s. was enough, but it is more than 2s., and that is the statutory limit under Part I. Hon. Members must make up their minds on which leg they are going to stand. Is unemployment insurance to be made more attractive or less attractive? If 3s. is inadequate for a child, and 2s. is the maximum for a child in the case of a man who is still drawing benefit to which he is entitlde by reason of his contributions——
§ Mr. BEVAN
Under Part I the maximum benefit for a child is 2s. and the Ministry resisted an Amendment to raise it to 3s. The hon. Member said that he was sorry he voted for 3s., because he thinks 3s. is too little, and that under Part II more can be given. Hon. Members in all parts of the House have said that under Part II it will be 1565 possible to give more. Of course; but there is nothing more improbable. [HON. MEMBERS : "Why?"] I will go on to show why. If that is so, why is the Bill in two parts?
§ Mr. BEVAN
That is precisely the point I am making. The Bill is based upon the assumption that a man receiving benefit in respect of his contributions ought to be in a more advantageous position than a man who has exhausted his benefit. If Part II deals with unemployment in a more generous way than Part I it destroys Part I.
I am not entirely ignorant of the Bill, although I do not suggest that I know so much about it as the hon. Member, but I do understand Part I to this extent, that although 2s. is mentioned the Statutory Committee, under Part I, have power to increase it.
§ Mr. BEVAN
If hon. Members consider that under Part II the board ought to have power to give more than 3s.—and certainly more than 2s.—why, when the power was in their hands did they not insist upon 3s. being inserted in Part I? Hon. Members have the power now; why do they not insist upon it being done? If they really want to protect the unemployed man under Part II, the very least they can do is to make the allowance not less than 3s. under Part I. We are perfectly entitled to assume that under Part II the board will not treat an unemployed man as well as the unemployed are treated under Part I. The Parliamentary Secretary took exception to what my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) said about certain broadcast statements by unemployed people, and spoke as though those instances were exceptional—as if those people could have had more if they had gone the right way to work about it— 1566 that is how I understood it. They are representative instances—not exceptional at all. Take rents at 10s. to 14s. a week, take all the other incidentals, coal and light and insurance and things of that kind, and they are exactly representative cases. I did not do so because I thought that the facts were already well known. I had some cases put in my hands from the north of England the other day, one of which showed that five people, four adults and one child, were refused transitional payment because their total income came to £2 0s. 6d., which was 6d. over the maximum. In my own county, owing to pressure from the Ministry of Health, the rates of public assistance were lowered in 1931, because the rates of unemployment insurance benefit had been lowered. That happened all over the country. What is the use of hon. Members getting up and lying—deliberately lying—about the facts.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must ask the hon. Member not to accuse other hon. Members of lying.
§ Mr. BEVAN
One really loses patience with hon. Members who make general statements in face of the established facts. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has pointed out that, under the benign and benevolent Minister of Labour, £300,000 is being taken from the poor people of Durham, not from 40 or 50 exceptional cases but from the normal cases. That is an example of the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Board and of the National Government as against that of the local authorities. It is of no use for hon. Members to run away from the facts, when their own Ministry of Health have insisted that the maximum rate of public relief in Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire shall be below that of unemployment benefit. That is the fact. Hon. Members say that 3s. is inadequate, and yet their own Government insist that not more than 2s. shall be paid in Monmouthshire. What is the use of hon. Members, in the face of those facts, making the statements that they do?
Hon. Members want to have it both ways. They want to be relieved of immediate personal responsibility for the unemployed man—[HON. MEMBERS : "No, we do not."]—but that is what they are 1567 doing by this Bill. The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) shakes her head. When her constituents in future make a complaint against their treatment by the Unemployment Assistance Board she will not be able to raise it anywhere.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
Has the hon. Member ever thought that there will be a great many less complaints under the new board?
§ Mr. BEVAN
That is idle conjecture. Hon. Members have not the right to make their own fatuous optimism a basis of legislation. All that we know is that when any constituent of the hon. Lady makes a complaint she will not be able to represent that constituent because she will have handed him over to the board. She will not be able to raise the case here, because the Clerk at the Table will refuse to accept a question, or the Minister will say : "I cannot answer your letter, because I am not responsible." She cannot write to the board without laying herself open to a snub. She can take no other step to represent that constituent. If she is sincere in her desire to see that unemployed people are treated much better under Part II than they are now, why does she not keep the power to do so upon the Floor of the House of Commons? Why should hon. Members divest themselves of that power? They want to have it both ways. They want to be saved the trouble of having to answer the unemployed man's complaints, and they want to take this business out of politics.
§ Mr. BEVAN
But it is true. Hon. Members must not abuse the courtesies of the House of Commons, but that is what they are doing. They know very well that what I say concerning the Bill is true, and, if they want to act in a responsible manner they will keep their powers and their responsibility to their constituents unimpaired by keeping control of the matter upon the Floor of the House of Commons and not hand them over to non-elected people in order to have somebody to blame as shock-absorbers between themselves and the complaints of the poor. That is what is happening by this Bill, which is a be- 1568 trayal of hon. Members' constituents for which they will be answerable when those constituents have the opportunity.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN
The objections of the Opposition this afternoon have been concentrated upon the question of whether the Bill will provide adequate maintenance for the unemployed and their dependants. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) argued that the Bill would not provide maintenance because of the continuance of the means test, which his party have now decided resolutely to oppose. We have had many Debates on this point. I hope that I should be the last person to criticise any Member opposite for changing his opinions, but it is a little difficult not to do so especially when the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street told us that we should not have been elected to this House if we had said in October, 1931, what his own Leader said in the following month.
§ Mr. LAWSON
What I said was that hon. Members would not have been elected if they had informed their constituents that the means test was going to be permanent.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR-WEDDERBURN
We thought then that the opinions of the Leader of the Opposition were going to be permanent. There has been one reasonable and consistent argument against the means test, which is that the State has a moral responsibility to provide work for its citizens and to compensate them for loss of work. That is not a principle which I would permanently rule out from my calculations, but I believe that it is not practical politics yet. The only comment I would make is that, if it were established, it would give the Government an absolute right to determine what kind of work the citizens should do, and that would be very little different from conscription of labour. It is a far more important question to consider the method of administering the means test.
Sometimes the opposition of hon. Members opposite to the principle of the means test has weakened the force of their criticism against certain of the hardships and inequities of which they complain. What happened when the means test was applied to transitional payments 1569 2½ years ago? Public assistance committees were instructed to administer payments in the same way as they would have administered payments to applicants for Poor Law relief. That inevitably led to a great deal of variety between different districts, and caused dissatisfaction. Transitional payments have been administered upon a Poor Law and a destitution basis. When I spoke on the Second Reading of the Bill, I entered at some length into what I considered to be some of the hardships arising from that administration. I shall not repeat now what I said then, but I think it has been quite evident since the Bill has been brought in that in every section of the House there is a universal desire that the administration of relief under Part II shall be both different in its principles of assessment and more liberal in its scale than has been the administration of transitional payments for the last two years. I think that the best definition of the purpose of Clause 38 of the Bill is that which was given by the Parliamentary Secretary, to the effect that, whereas the purpose of the Poor Law was to relieve destitution, the purpose of Clause 38 is to prevent people from becoming destitute.
The House will remember that during the Committee stage of the Bill a great number of Amendments were put down to Clause 38, all designed in one way or another, either by proposing some more rigid definition or by establishing some minimum figure for some particular class of dependant, to restrict the freedom of the board in its duty of assessing need. Those of us who resisted those Amendments sometimes found it difficult to do so without laying ourselves open to misrepresentation. We were told by some that our real motive was to depress the standard of life of the unemployed, and to remove the responsibility for doing so from our own shoulders to those of the board; and we were told by others that we were very simple people who had far too much faith in the generosity of the board, and who were meekly handing over the interests of our constituents to these modern kings of Somerset House. I am not going to wrangle now about what the board will do, and it would not, of course, be in order to discuss any of those Amendments, but with regard to those Amendments in general I will say this, that if any one of them, or all of them, 1570 had been accepted by the Government, I should not have felt that we had done anything at all to make our intentions any more plain than they were already, while at the same time I should have had grave apprehensions lest the figures which we should have introduced might have restricted the amount of allowances payable under Clause 38.
I have only one further observation to make before I sit down. This Bill In all its stages has been attacked from the benches opposite, as is only natural, with the greatest vehemence, and, if we have not invariably replied to those attacks with equal vehemence, it is not because we are reluctant to defend any part of the Bill. We recognise, of course, that there must be many parts of the Bill which would not be acceptable to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and we shall always be prepared, either here or in the country, to defend it against any reasonable criticism that may be brought forward. But I do not think that the time and labour which have been expended on the Bill would be at all justified if it were merely regarded as a means of improving the administration of financial relief to those who are out of employment. I have always regarded the greatest purpose of the Bill, or, at least, of the machinery set up under Part II, as the foundation of a new function in government—not merely to relieve the necessities, but to promote the welfare and plan the re-employment of those who have suffered most severely from the effects of industrial depression.
We hope to see the economic life of our country planned in accordance with modern industrial developments. Surely, the most central feature in our design must be our treatment of those who are the victims of these modern developments, and no design whether it be for the reconstruction of an industry, or for the far more difficult problem of reconciling the mechanical advancement of industry with the superfluity of manual workers, can ever hope to succeed unless it can enjoy some support, or at least some co-operation, from representatives of organised labour. I am not suggesting that we ought to abandon any party differences, and I do not expect any abatement of the volume of criticism against which we shall have to contend, but I am venturing to hope 1571 that the constructive possibilities of the Bill will not be prejudiced by the rancour of political conflicts. On one could take anything but the most melancholy satisfaction in a Measure which seemed to contemplate an indefinite continuance of the most persistent and most burdensome of our social evils, which has been the unhappy preoccupation of every Government for the last 14 years; but, as the number of unemployed diminishes towards less unwieldy proportions, and as the financial position of the country becomes stronger, the hope begins to appear less fantastic that we may be able to devise some permanent means of relieving those who have been most ruthlessly excluded from the field of industrial employment, from the idleness and the despair that they have endured for so long.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
We have now reached the last stage of the long-drawn-out proceedings on this Bill, and I am sure the Minister will be very glad when he has seen the last of it on the Floor of this House. One may say that almost everything that can be said has been, said, but I find on the benches opposite a singular inability to realise that we on these benches, who are opposed to the principle of the Bill, are not opposed to it from some factious party point of view. In our view the Bill marks a definite step backwards in social policy as regards the unemployed; it is a step back towards the underlying principle of the Poor Law. I want to make good that statement. This afternoon the hon. Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) expressed just the contrary view. The hon. Lady said that it was so nice now that you had separated off those who were on statutory benefit; then you could bring all the rest in together. Our comment on these benches was, "Yes, to a Poor Law system." What is that principle? The essential principle in 1834 was the "less eligibility" test. The hon. Member who spoke just now said that this could not be the Poor Law, because in the Bill there are certain modifications—modifications, that is to say, of the absolute destitution test.
Let us see what the Bill really does. First of all, there is the position of the 1572 man in work, and the principle is that a man who is unemployed must not be as well off as a man who is in work. It is difficult enough to do that, to start with. It is one of the things that the less eligibility test has always broken down on. Then you come to the next point, that a man who has paid for something by direct contributions must not be worse off than a man who is on transitional payment or is coming under Part II of the Bill. There you get two steps down in the "less eligibility" scale. Then you come to the means test, which is really a great step back and is an essentially Poor Law device. The insurance that we had before the War was the first big breach in the individualistic conception of unemployment. It was a recognition that unemployment was a social evil and that it did not depend solely on the deficiency of the individual. Those of us who can look back can remember that it took a very big fight to get that recognition at all on the Floor of this House. Keir Hardie was the first man to get that recognised at all, and the first Government that ever recognised it was a Conservative Government. Mr. Walter Long recognised it.
You had the Unemployment Fund as we knew it before the War. Then came the War and you got extensions of unemployment benefit, and immediately after the War you had a rush of people. You could not put them on the Poor Law because people were afraid of the unemployed who had fought in the War. We had better face the fact frankly. It has been said over and over again that the unemployment system saved the country from violent revolution. You had a potentially revolutionary situation and you swept away the Poor Law as regards the able-bodied man simply because of that situation. Insurance broke down actuarially. You got these various extensions, and then you had the panic of 1931. The opportunity was taken to get back to the old system and the means test was introduced. It is all humbug to talk about giving public money without any test. In the last three years we have had money shovelled out without any means test. What about the gentlemen who are receiving the wheat subsidy and the meat subsidy? What about the people under de-rating? There was no means test. Almost every night there is something in 1573 the form of a grant or subsidy, and we never find economists like the hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) asking whether there is a means test. As a matter of fact, it is only because Members have good hearts within the limit of their class outlook. They are still under the idea that there is one class that has the right to come to the House and get anything it can and another class that must exhaust its resources before it is entitled to anything at all.
We have here Part I and Part II. I do not intend to say much about Part I. I have always believed ever since insurance was introduced in 1911 that the system of contributions from employers and employed was fundamentally unjust. I agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) that to make persons pay for unemployment in accordance with the number of people that they employ is not just. It has no relation to ability to pay, and it may have very bad repercussion. I object equally to the contributory principle on the unemployed man, because it is in the nature of a poll tax. But I think the worst feature of Part I is probably the saddling of the cost of the world economic breakdown of 1931 on to the employers and the employed. An hon. Member has suggested that the whole of that was due to the iniquity of the Labour Government. That was all very well in 1931, but, after the slump continued for another year and got more and more intensified, it was dropped by all the more responsible Members of the party opposite. As a matter of fact, you are going to make a section of the population pay for the breakdown of the world economic system.
In Part II we come back to the centralised Poor Law system. It is very funny how we get a repetition in each crisis of the same kind of device. It is just the same kind of device as they tried a hundred years ago in the setting up of the Chadwick Poor Law Board which was to rule the whole matter, and the reason was exactly the same. When you try to apply the Poor Law test and the "less eligibility" test, human nature revolts. I do not say that it is only Labour human nature. It is Conservative human nature, too, which has revolted from carrying out the behests of a central authority which tries to apply anything in the nature of a destitution 1574 or a means test. Throughout this Debate we have had the hardship of the means test admitted over and over again by hon. Members opposite. As a matter of fact, you have found it difficult to enforce, and it has been reviled by councils of one kind and another. That is precisely what happened a hundred years ago, and they had to get away from their centralised Poor Law Board which was not to be amenable to public opinion.
I suggest that the same thing will happen now. You call it a public assistance board and think you have something which will smell a great deal more sweet than the boards of guardians. In its origin the "guardians of the poor" sounded perfectly splendid, but in course of time the expression "guardians of the poor" got to stink pretty badly. We suggest that it will be just the same with your public assistance board.
Hon. Members opposite say, "Why judge this board as harsh? You do not know what they will be like or what they will do." Well, we have had considerable experience of what happens. We find, as a matter of fact, that wherever Labour gets inconveniently strong the rules of the game are always changed. Boards of guardians were all right until Labour began to capture them, and then, of course, they had to be superseded. Then you transferred to the county council, and the county council were all right until Labour began to capture the county councils. Now we have Labour capturing the London County Council. We notice that the people who get pushed off by popular vote always creep back again by little changes in the rules. For the last 25 years or more I have been fighting as hard as I can against the influence of the Charity Organisation Society which for many years ruled us in East London. They were swept off boards of guardians and they reappeared on the County Council committees, and now the London County Council has been captured by Labour, and, no doubt, they will reappear on this public assistance board. We shall probably see again the same class of women put on and the same self-righteous clergy to whom we have been used for so many years who will, as the late Canon Barnett said, "Wrap themselves in the filthy rags of their own self-righteousness," and they will again be judging the workers according to their standards. Those are excellent people, but they 1575 represent essentially the interests of their class. I have no doubt that they will creep in upon this board, and all the nice talk we had of training and so on will all be twisted, just as every other such training has always been twisted by these people, into instruments of cruelty for keeping the poor in their place.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
We have had plenty of experience of it. I have for many years been working in London and know these people quite well. Every time that anything has been done they have always wanted to bring in the Poor Law. I remember when the feeding of school children came along an amiable clergyman moved that we should provide burnt porridge for children at an inconvenient hour as a deterrent. I saw the same thing right away through London, and other hon. Members from London have seen it. Eventually that class of self-righteous person has always been beaten by popular election, but they come back again because they really are a necessity for capitalist society. It is not because hon. Members are inhuman, but because hon. Members are too human. As a matter of fact, we have had protests in the course of Debate because hon. Members revolt against cruelty of regulations laid down and enforced by bureaucrats. The whole device of the Bill is to take this matter away from the control of people who are liable to be affected by constant human contact. The system set up here is just the same system which led to a revolt of the people 100 years ago, which, let me tell hon. Members opposite, was led by none more vehemently than Members of the Conservative party. Disraeli was one of the people who led the revolt against the centralised Poor Law. This system is essentially a centralised Poor Law. What will happen to it depends entirely upon its administration, but the whole method whereby certain people are under Part I of the Bill to be treated in one way and certain people under Part II are to be treated worse, means that under this Bill your centralised organisation will follow in the lines of the old Poor Law Board.
I do not suggest that we could expect much different from this Government. I 1576 think it is based on an entirely false conception of society. It is based on an entirely false conception of the whole trend of the economic system. It might be put forward as if it were merely a transitional provision for exceptional unemployment for the time, but everybody knows that with rationalisation going on we shall constantly have the trouble of masses of people being thrown out of employment. We see no vigour whatever on the part of the Government in dealing with the causes of unemployment or in dealing with the real problem of the distressed areas. After three years we are going to have an inquiry. In the meanwhile, this system is devised whereby the whole subject of unemployment is to be taken away from Members of this House and from Ministers and handed over to a board. I prophesy that the Government will find that the general rising of unpopularity against that board will be as effective as, and even more effective than, was the rising 100 years ago.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. HUDSON
We are now within half an hour of the end of 28 days during which this Bill has been under discussion in the House, and I think we can fairly claim, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, that, despite some early complaints, not only was the time allotted for Debate ample but that the Debate itself has been ample. I think that the Bill has been improved in the process. There has been hardly a point of principle or of detail which has not been fully canvassed. Hon. Members on all sides have given of their knowledge and experience. If I had to pick out anyone I should like to be allowed to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid) on having laid the foundation of a Parliamentary reputation which I am sure will go much further yet. The contributions of the junior Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) have been most valuable. On the benches opposite, the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), as was to be expected, with the assistance of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), has borne most ably the brunt of the discussion. The detailed, practical knowledge of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has been in a class by itself, but I could not help being amused 1577 at his new role, on occasion, of Father Confessor to a large section of the Tory party.
When the noise and dust of battle has died down, this Bill is going to be regarded as their charter by some 17,000,000 of our fellow citizens, and it is important that we should briefly review the form in which it is going to emerge. It is divided into two parts. Part I endeavours to ensure that when an industrial worker suffers the misfortune of temporary unemployment he shall be assured as of right, without inquiry into his means, a weekly sum which will enable him to tide over the period until he can find work again. It sets up an impartial body charged with the duty of ensuring that the fund is in a position to meet its financial liabilities, removes from this House the detailed day to day Amendments necessary in the light of changing circumstances, and makes certain financial provisions. All these aspects have been attacked. Hon. Members opposite have alleged that the provisions which Part I makes are wholly inadequate. The hon. Members for Chester-le-Street stated that the condition of the unemployed was far worse to-day than it was two years ago, and the Committee has been criticised as not being a suitable body and on the ground that it removes from this House the cherished right of discussion.
Let me deal with these criticisms. First, as regards the provision that is made. It is worth while noting that hon. Members opposite have entirely changed the ground on which they are asking the House now to reject the Bill from that which they put forward on Second Reading. I pointed out on the Second Reading, in reply to a challenge by the Leader of the Opposition, that the insurance principle was a satisfactory one provided that we could show that the insurance provision we were making covered by far the larger proportion of the risks. The House will forgive me for reminding them that I then showed that the provisions in Part I cover the whole unemployment risk of 85 per cent. of the insured population in any one year, and a very considerable portion of that of the remainder. Hon. Members opposite may not like these figures, but at all events they have not challenged them and, therefore, we may assume that they are accurate.
1578 Now as regards rates. As far as men on standard benefit are concerned, the statement of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street is palpably inaccurate. The present rate for a man, wife and two children is 27s. 3d., and that represents in purchasing value at least 10d. more than did the rate of 30s. when the hon. Member was in office in 1930. It also represents 6s. more in purchasing value than the rate of 27s. when he was previously in office in 1924. When one also remembers that the rate of 30s. will be restored, it is clear that as far as a man on standard benefit is concerned he will be at least 3s. 6d. a week better off than he was in 1930. It is also not unfair to claim that a provision of 26 weeks' benefit at a rate of 30s. is not an ungenerous provision when you remember that we are dealing with a man under the insurance scheme, that is a man who has not had his resources reduced through long continued unemployment. If you add to that the fact that he gets £39 in 26 weeks in return for a contribution of 10d. a week, and that in the following benefit year he gets, if he can show his 30 stamps, a further payment of £39 in return for a minimum of 10 contributions, a cash expenditure by him of 8s. 4d., I think the criticism to which I have referred is not well founded.
I turn now to the Committee. It has been said that we are removing from the House of Commons powers of discussion. That again is a totally inaccurate statement, when one remembers not merely the very large number of occasions for debate still remaining at the disposal of the House but that all important alterations which the Committee may desire to make will have to receive after full discussion the approval of this House and the other place. What is the alternative? My right hon. Friend the Minister said this afternoon that this was the 36th Bill dealing with unemployment insurance since the War. I have a list here of the most important ones and the House will forgive me if I mention one or two dates, in 1929, 1930, and 1931, when the House passed Bills. There were 27th March, 1st April, in 1929 and 13th March, 15th April, 1st August and 19th December in 1930. In 1931 the dates are 3rd March, 8th July, 31st July, 5th October, 8th October and 12th November. Does anyone seriously suggest that that is a state of affairs which ought to be allowed to continue 1579 when you have an alternative? Then hon. Members opposite said that the Statutory Committee was not a suitable body for its job. I am prepared to accept the description of the committee made by an hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite when it suited his purpose. The House will be interested to hear this description of the Statutory Committee :If we are to have the question of insurance looked at … the Statutory Committee is the body to do it with calmness. They can do it without any party prejudices, …without any class prejudices, and at least without any guillotine to curtail the discussions and force them to a decision without being able to give the matter the calm consideration that it ought to receive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1934; col. 345, Vol. 289.]That was on 2nd May, and the speech was made by an occupant of the Front Bench opposite. I could not describe the Statutory Committee better. [HON. MEMBERS : "Who said it?"] It was the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean).
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
The Parliamentary Secretary is reading matter about an entirely different subject. I spoke in the hearing of all the Scottish Members who were here, and I did not refer to the Statutory Committee at all.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I am reading from the OFFICIAL REPORT and here are the words :The Statutory Committee is the body to do it with calmness.That was on the occasion when the hon. Member was trying to get the House to agree that the question of the inclusion of black-coated workers ought to be referred to the committee.
A great deal of play has been made in this Debate with the debt. The hon. Member for Chester-Ie-Street said that the debt ought never to have been laid on the fund. One might imagine that the debt was invented by this Government out of the blue and imposed malice prepense on the fund. But ever since uncovenanted benefit was first invented in order to meet an emergency in 1921 the principle has been adopted that increased benefits as a whole were to be repaid out of future contributions as a whole, and the Minister of Labour in 1922 said :I was compelled to pay benefit in advance of contributions that will be paid 1580 hereafter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1922; col. 1374, Vol. 152.]There is nothing new in the principle that the debt incurred in respect of benefit paid at an earlier date should be repaid out of contributions that are levied later. The right hon. Lady, Miss Bondfield, who was Minister of Labour in the Labour Government, when urging the House to grant her increased borrowing powers in June, 1931, said this :Borrowing when you know you have no opportunity to repay is a dishonest course."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1931; col. 1237, Vol. 254.]At present the fund has accumulated a surplus. Unemployment has decreased and is decreasing. The fund is in a position to repay. Do hon. Members opposite seriously suggest that, now that the fund is in a position to repay, we should follow a course which their own Minister of Labour characterised as dishonest? If they do, they convict themselves of dishonesty in June, 1931, in having adopted that attitude of high moral rectitude involved in the right hon. Lady's statement. It is worth while also to point out, when they speak of the inadequacy of the Exchequer contribution and the small share of the burden of unemployment borne by the Exchequer, that in the two years when they were in office the Exchequer only bore 18 per cent. of the total expenditure on unemployment and the fund bore nearly 80 per cent. In the last two years, since we have been in office, the share of the expenditure borne by the Exchequer has risen to 42 per cent. and, although it is impossible to predict what the experience of the next few years will be, it is fairly certain that under the Bill the proportion which the Exchequer bears will rise to about 50 per cent.
The final point which they made about Part I is that the unemployed man is being treated less generously than the taxpayer. As I said before, unemployment is decreasing. Sacrifices have been made all round, but I would like to remind the House of one or two of last year's figures. Increased contributions from workpeople at work amounted to £6,000,000. Increased contributions from industry amounted to £4,000,000. Increased contributions to the fund from the Exchequer amounted to £5,000,000. The total expenditure by the Exchequer on transitional payments was £52,000,000. Increased contributions by the taxpayers 1581 amounted to £57,500,000 and reduction of dividends to holders of Government securities as a result of conversion represented £40,000,000. Contrast with these figures the fact that the unemployed man on standard benefit has had the whole of his cuts restored and in addition has had the maximum number of weeks for which he can draw benefit increased from 20 weeks to 52, and I venture to suggest that this accusation by hon. Members opposite is not well founded.
Now I turn to Part II of the Bill. As regards its scope, I would only say that it is the widest we have been able to invent consistent at present with administrative practicability. The nett effect is that it includes practically every able-bodied man who normally seeks his livelihood in a wage-earning occupation. In the course of my speech on the Second Reading, I ventured to try to analyse present conditions in industry in this country and to show how the provisions of the Bill met those conditions. Hon. Members opposite have not challenged my analysis nor attempted to invalidate the conclusions. We may therefore assume that, even though they do not agree with them, they cannot upset them. But they have argued in the course of the general Debate and again to-day, first, that unemployment is not the fault of the individual, and, secondly, that unemployment as we know it to-day is largely, and in the future will be increasingly, the result of increased mechanisation and rationalisation in industry. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) said no attempt had been made by us to visualise the needs of the distressed areas, and it was argued that the provisions of the Bill did not attempt to meet, in the hon. Member's own words "new present needs." I think we should all agree that in the great majority of cases unemployment is not the fault of the man, but surely that is an argument in favour of trying to do something, such as we are doing in this Bill, to help him to overcome the trouble, and not an argument in favour of leaving him, as would hon. Members opposite, entirely without any guidance or assistance.
Let me deal with the argument about mechanisation and the point made by the hon. Member for Limehouse that this Bill does not fit modern conditions. The number of people that any one country can maintain at any given time is dependent 1582 not merely on its own natural fertility and resources, and not merely on its own individual achievements of industrial technique, but on how in each of those matters it compares with other countries. In the heyday of our early industrial start we went successfully into all kinds of businesses in which as a country we had no permanent advantage. Providence did not concentrate in this country the whole of the coal and iron resources of the world, and as our competitors entered the field, we came under growing pressure to seek out and try to maintain those branches of industry for which we had the greatest aptitude, and to withdraw from the rest. A process of challenge and adjustment occurred, and was bound to occur, and it set up certain strains and stresses.
Much of that adjustment has taken in recent years the form of increased mechanisation and rationalisation, and it has become the fashion to say that the greater part of modern unemployment is due to those two factors. Instances are continually quoted of factories where new machinery has been introduced and men displaced, and statistics are quoted showing industries where an increase in the average output per head has been accompanied by a reduction in the total number of persons employed. That may have happened in individual establishments, but I hope to show in a moment that it is false to assume, on the basis of that evidence, that increased mechanisation necessarily means a reduction in the total volume of employment. On the contrary, it may and does often mean an increase in employment, not merely in the individual industry, but in other industries that are indirectly benefited.
We saw that the invention and adoption of labour-saving machinery in the old-established industries resulted in increased competitive power and increased employment, and that process has had its counterpart in the newer industries which have developed of recent years, which owe their progress to their success in continually improving their methods and their machinery. Take the motor car industry. There you have a case of increased mass production, great reduction in costs, and corresponding increases in consumption and in numbers of people employed. But it does not end there. 1583 Development of the motor vehicle industry has resulted in an enormous expansion of motor transport, with increased employment in that one industry that more than compensates for the drop in the numbers in railway services and horse transport, to say nothing of the employment given in motor garages, petrol filling stations, and in the various branches of the distributive and catering trades throughout the country that minister to the needs of the travelling public. Then take the case of wireless. There you have an industry which is preeminently known for its methods of mass production and improved organisation. The result has been decreased prices and increased consumption, and an industry that 15 years ago employed hundreds of operatives, to-day employs as many tens of thousands. The whole electrical industry, and, in particular, the manufacture of cables, is well known again for an industry that is up to date, and yet, in spite of increased machinery, employment in the decade 1923 to 1933 increased by no less than 68 per cent.
The final example I would quote is the classic example of the glass-bottle industry. The glass-bottle manufacturing industry was quoted by the Balfour Committee in 1926 as the best example they could find of men being displaced by machines. What do we find? Taking 1923 and comparing it with 1933, we find that in those 10 years, in spite of the enormous improvement in machinery, there was an actual increase in the number of persons employed of some 26 per cent.
There arc, of course, certain industries where an increased output per head has been accompanied by heavy reductions in the numbers employed. That is notably the case in the coal trade and the iron and steel industry, but the increase in the average output per head in those industries may well be the result of the closing down of inefficient mines or works, and the reduction in employment may be due to entirely different factors, such as the loss of export markets, overseas competition and trade depression. It is, therefore, false to assume, as hon. Members have done in the course of the Debates on this Bill, that increased mechanisation necessarily leads to a 1584 decrease in the total volume of employment.
There is another side to this problem. As long ago as 1926 the eminent statistician, Professor Bowley, pointed out that despite the temporary bulge in the number of school leavers which would occur in the next three years, industry in the period now before us will have to learn to work with 88 men and 12 boys as against 85 men and 15 boys. That, he pointed out, would have the effect of seriously reducing the average natural mobility of labour by decreasing the proportion of young and adaptable men who are not weighted with family responsibilities; and he suggested that it would result in an increase of unemployment. In so far as the increase of unemployment to-day is due to fundamental changes in the industrial structure, involving changes of location of industry, it seems to us that it is more important than ever before to secure a greater mobility of labour between industries and between localities, and less possible than ever before to leave men without guidance and training in their search for work. I call this a process of challenge and adjustment, and it is for that reason that we have put in the forefront of the duties of the board under Part II the words which hon. Members will find on page 33 :The improvement and re-establishment of the condition of such persons with a view to their being in all respects fit for entry into or return to regular employment.What astonishes me is not so much that we should be setting up this new piece of machinery for this purpose, as that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have always been preaching the merits of State control, should now be opposing the advantages of centralised guidance and assistance.
I turn to the remaining details of Part II. Most of them have been discussed ad nauseam, and I will do no more than refer to them in broad outline. I would remind the House, as the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) did, that this year sees the centenary of the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834. That Act was based on the destitution test, and it proceeded on the theory that if you made things unpleasant enough, every man could find a job. It did 1585 nothing to help the unemployed to help themselves, and it did nothing to promote their welfare. The right hon. Gentleman was, I think, correct in saying that there has been very little fundamental change in the approach to the problem in the interval.
This Bill, despite everything that has been said from the benches opposite today, marks a definite cleavage from and abandonment of the principles of the destitution test of the Poor Law. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) mentioned to-day two cases of unemployed persons who had broadcast, and I suggested that in the broadcast, from inquiries I had made, the whole story had not been told. The hon. Member used those two examples as a condemnation of existing conditions, and, by implication, of the provisions of this Bill. I could not have chosen two better examples of the difference that this Bill makes. Those two people, if my information is accurate, had neither of them taken advantage—no doubt through pride—of the facilities which were at their disposal for getting supplementation from the Poor Law. They preferred to suffer in silence without incurring the stigma of the Poor Law. They would have received considerable sums in supplementation. The wife of the man in Birmingham, when he was in hospital, received 33s. 6d. for herself and her two children. It is quite clear that, if the man had chosen, he could have had substantial assistance. Under this Bill both those men could have gone to the board with no stigma, and what the hon. Member calls the "tragedy of their existence" would have been avoided. That represents the real difference. For the first time in our history we are regarding the industrial worker as part of the industrial problem. For the first time in our history the general standards of public assistance are coming under central review, and, contrary to what hon. Members opposite have maintained, Parliament in this Bill is accepting far more responsibility for the detailed conditions of the life of the unemployed than it has ever done in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, whose presence we have missed from the Debates but whom, I am glad, and I am sure hon. Members 1586 on all sides of the House will be glad to hear, we may soon see back again, moved a Vote of Censure on us in October, 1932, and the gravamen of his charge was this :that there is no use touching the present means test or any means test unless we take the unemployed out of the Poor Law away from public assistance committees, and deal with them as a national question."—[OFFICIAL REPOBT, 25th October, 1932; col. 833, Vol. 269.]That is precisely what we are doing in this Bill. For the first time we are abolishing the segregation of the long unemployed under the Poor Law and regarding them as a potential part of the general community of workmen. For the first time the needs of every wage-earning household in this country, when they arise, will receive proper consideration at the hands of the community as a whole.
Perhaps it would be asking too much of human nature to expect hon. Members of both Opposition parties to be enthusiastic in public about this Bill, whatever their private views may be. The hon. Member for Limehouse talked about the doctrine of lesser eligibility. It is news to us, and I am sure it will be noted with interest by the House and the country that the Labour party have adopted a new doctrine, that of greater eligibility. In reply to that, I would read out the words of some evidence given by Mrs. Sydney Webb before the Royal Commission. No one would accuse her of being a member of the Tory party.
§ Mr. HUDSON
She said :The nearer the unemployment benefit approaches the amount of customary earnings in employment, the greater becomes the insidious temptation to 'slack.' It is doubtless true that the great majority of workmen, for the greater part of the time, much prefer to be at work than to be unoccupied and idle. But most men in their weaker moments—and probably all men at some time—succumb to the temptation to be indolent. … If anything like the same sum as the employer offers could be got merely by attending daily to sign at the Employment Exchange there would certainly be not only a ruinous increase in 'voluntary unemployment' but also such a progressive deterioration of character as would be fatal to the community.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I said that it would be perhaps expecting too much of hon. Members opposite to ask them to praise this Bill in public, but I think we are entitled to ask, and to claim the right, that once it is passed all parties should contribute to the task of its administration on behalf of the people. It is a task that transcends the lifetime of a single Parliament, and a task that extends far beyond the administration of a single Minister of Labour. But if by any chance that appeal were to fall on deaf ears, then I would refer to a statement made from the benches opposite in the course of Debate the other day, that the whole meaning of British democracy is that the man who has the greatest pull gets 3s., the man who has less pull gets half-a-crown, and the man who has no pull at all gets either 2s. or nothing. I hope that is not the considered opinion and ideal of the Socialist party although it is noticeable that that statement went unchallenged. If one admits the validity of such a political theory I am free to confess that the hostility of the Socialist party to this Bill is well founded, but all I can say of it is that it is a Transatlantic conception of democracy which we utterly repudiate. We prefer the definition
given by a great statesman of the 19th century, in words which were referred to by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council the other day :
All who are entrusted with any public function are trustees not for their own class but for the nation at largo.
§ It is because we believe that the institutions we are setting up under this Bill are in the line of that tradition, and that their members will be at once both incorruptible and eager in the performance of their duty towards those entrusted to their charge, that we are asking the House to give a Third Reading to this Bill. I do not believe that at any period in our history the people of this country have been more conscious of or more alive to their neighbourly obligations towards those who have been, through no fault of their own, a long time out of work; and I think it is a source of legitimate pride that we should be the first not merely in the world, but in this country to set up machinery to give expression to that national spirit.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided : Ayes, 421; Noes, 67.1591
|Division No. 255.]||AYES.||[11.2 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bossom, A. C.||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Boulton, W. W.||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Christie, James Archibald|
|Alneworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer|
|Albery, Irving James||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Clarke, Frank|
|Alexander, Sir William||Bracken, Brendan||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Clayton, Sir Christopher|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Brass, Captain Sir William||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Colfox, Major William Philip|
|Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Apsley, Lord||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Browne, Captain A. C.||Cook, Thomas A.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Burghley, Lord||Cooke, Douglas|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Baillite, Sir Adrian W. M.||Burnett, John George||Copeland, Ida|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Courtauld, Major John Sewell|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Butler, Richard Austen||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Butt, Sir Alfred||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry|
|Balniel, Lord||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Calne, G. R. Hall.||Craven-Ellis, William|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Crooke. J. Smedley|
|Bateman, A. L.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Carver, Major William H.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Cassels, James Dale||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Cross, R. H.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Crossley, A. C.|
|Bonn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Culverwell, Cyril Tom|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Davison, Sir William Henry|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Dickle, John P.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Kurd, Sir Percy||Munro, Patrick|
|Drewe, Cedric||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Nicholson. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Peterst' ld)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Jamieson, Douglas||Normand. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid|
|Dunglass, Lord||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||North, Edward T,|
|Eady, George H.||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Nunn, William|
|Eales, John Frederick||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Ker, J. Campbell||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Eillston, Captain George Sampson||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Elmley, Viscount||Kimball, Lawrence||Pearson, William G.|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Penny, Sir George|
|Emryt-Evans, P. V.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Ouinton||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Petherick, M.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Latham. Sir Herbert Paul||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||Law, Sir Alfred||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Potter, John|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Leckle, J. A.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Lees-Jones, John||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Leigh, Sir John||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Pybus, Sir Percy John|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Levy, Thomas||Radford, E. A.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Lewis, Oswald||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Liddall, Walter S.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Gllmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Liewellin, Maor John J||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Ray, Sir William|
|Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n)||Reed, Arthur C, (Exeter)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Locker-Lampeon, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Remer, John R.|
|Graves, Marjorle||Loftus, Pierce C.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Greene, William P. C.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Rickards, George William|
|Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Grigg, Sir Edward||Mabane, William||Robinson, John Roland|
|Grimston, R. V.||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Hales, Harold K.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Hamilton, Sir George (llford)||McKle, John Hamilton||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)|
|Hammersley, Samuel S.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Hanbury, Cecil||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian||Salt, Edward W.|
|Hartland, George A.||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Magnay, Thomas||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Maitland, Adam||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Martin, Thomas B.||Scone, Lord|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonal John||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Milne, Charles||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'fl'd & Chisw'k)||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Mitcheson, G. G.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Hornby, Frank||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Smith, R. W.(Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Horobin, Ian M,||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Moreing, Adrian C.||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Morgan, Robert H,||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Soper, Richard|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Templeton, William P.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour.|
|Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Thompson, Sir Luke||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Spens, William Patrick||Thorp, Linton Theodore||Williams, Herbert G. (Craydon, S.)|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Stevenson, James||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Train, John||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Stones, James||Tree, Ronald||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Storey, Samuel||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Stourton, Hon. John J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Strauss, Edward A.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Summersby, Charles H.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sutcliffe, Harold||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.||Captain Margesson and Mr.|
|Tate, Mavis Constance||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||Blindell.|
|Taylor. Vice-Admiral E. A. P'dd'gtn, S.)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Banfield, John William||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Groves, Thomas E.||Milner, Major James|
|Bernays, Robert||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Harris, Sir Percy||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Buchanan, George||Hicks, Ernest Gsorge||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C' thness)|
|Cape, Thomas||Holds worth, Herbert||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Janner, Barnett||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Curry, A. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||West, F. R.|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Dobble, William||Logan, David Gilbert||Wilmot, John|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McGovern, John||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||McKeag, William|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —|
|Mr. John and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.