§ [FOURTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [20th November.]
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as fulloweth:—
MOST CRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. Noel Lindsay.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It may very well be that the Cabinet has some very special business, for I notice that the Members of the Government have all fled. Unless, however, some Minister representing the Cabinet itself is to be present, I would ask you to allow me to move the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
The right hon. Gentleman has made an announcement that the Members of the Cabinet have left the Chamber. It is merely for a moment. I am quite sure that the President of the Board of Trade will be here in a moment or two.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
With your permission, I will, to put myself in order, move the Adjournment of the Debate. May I be allowed to speak on it? I wish to give my reasons. I see that the President of the Board of Trade has now come in. I do not therefore move.
§ 11.13 a.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:But regret that, heedless of the changed economic conditions in the modern world due to the application of science to production and transport and ignoring the inability of capitalism to distribute abundance, Your Majesty's advisers accept as inevitable the existence of mass unemployment and of poverty in the midst of plenty, continue in their efforts to buttress the system of private profit making by subsidies, tariffs, and other devices, and have no constructive policy for establishing a collective peace system and 394 for replacing by international co-operation the competitive economic anarchy which leads to war.Our Amendment challenges the whole basis of Government policy. It really puts into form the complaint which came from all sides of the House yesterday. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) and the hon. and gallant Member for King's Norton (Major Thomas) made extremely interesting speeches dealing with the general economic position and the special economic position of certain industries, and they complained of a lack of planning on the part of the Government. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) made similar complaints with regard to foreign policy. I am proposing to confine myself this morning mainly to the economic side of the Amendment, although I wish to touch on foreign affairs. In our opinion, the Government are failing to deal with causes, only tinkering with results. Their policy is hand-to-mouth, and there is no security at the present time, either for peace or for prosperity in the world. There is an uneasy equilibrium, depending upon very fortuitous circumstances. In our view, the world is far from being out of the economic crisis, and some event, such as the leaving of the Gold Standard by one country, may suddenly bring us face to face with an enormous unemployment problem or other economic crisis.
It seems to us that the policy of the Government is based on the idea that it is possible, under capitalist competitive anarchy to attain peace and prosperity, but we utterly deny it. It is noteworthy that the Government have changed their ground since they came in. In the latter part of 1931 and during 1932 it seemed as though the Government realised the importance of the economic factors. They appeared to realise that there could not be prosperity abroad with world anarchy, that we could not have peace without some economic reorganisation, and they called the World Economic Conference. That conference met, it accomplished nothing except to register the failure of capitalism, and it dispersed. It is supposed to be alive, but, if so, it suffers from an extraordinarily deep coma, because we hear absolutely nothing of it.
I want for a moment to consider the broad facts of the situation. The one 395 fact which faces us all to-day is that poverty is not inevitable. Despite all the destructiveness of the world war there is no doubt that the world came out of it with increased potentialities of productivity. Industrial progress was more widely diffused, and that, of course, in a competitive world, had its effect on the older industrial countries. Industrialism spread to and grew in countries where it had hardly started, resources which had been untapped were opened up, the efficiency of labour was increased, and many sections were drawn in to productive effort. The external borrowing of the war period increased world purchasing power. One could compare the stimulus of the great War to the stimulus produced by gold discoveries in the past. There was an immensely increased demand, and that stimulated a great increase of production. As a matter of fact, we carried on the war with a great improvement in the standard of life of our population. If we compare that state of affairs with the pre-war period, I think it is true to say that the manufacturing and producing capacities of the chief countries of the world had not been anywhere near fully developed. There had also been restriction, because capitalism depends upon profit and profit depends upon relative scarcity. Neither human power, nor natural resources, nor science and invention were fully utilised before the War.
I have soon figures giving the extent to which productive capacity was utilised in the United States of America in prewar days, and in this country, and, as a matter of fact, throughout the big developments of the nineteenth century the industrial machine was only kept going by lendings to undeveloped countries. The home market was always starved, because of the failure of the capitalist system to distribute purchasing power widely enough. Since the War we have come to a different stage. We have had an enormous increase of productivity and the development of countries has gone on apace, and at the present time we are almost at the end of that nineteenth century Imperialist capitalist development. The last great country remaining to be exploited is China, hence the tension in the Far East. Economic history since the War is a 396 record of the frantic endeavours of capitalists to check the production of wealth and not to utilise it. In this country we did utilise our power of production during the War, and for many people in this country the War was, unfortunately, the most prosperous time they had ever had.
I am not referring to armament manufacturers, but to the ordinary mass of the people, who found themselves fully employed, and to-day one finds perfectly well-meaning and pacific business men saying, "Well, of course, if we had another war it would be good for trade." It is a damning indictment of the whole system if the only way in which, we can distribute purchasing power so as to evoke full production is by having a war. This Government find no serious difficulty in providing money for rearmament, although the same amounts, expressed in purchasing power for the poorer sections of the community, and properly distributed, would set at rest the minds of those who are interested in the heavy industries, would mitigate our coal troubles, and mitigate also our cotton troubles.
This state of affairs is one of the biggest factors in the unrest of the world. The post-War unrest of the world is not entirely due to the blossoming of the seed sown for many years by the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) and many others, not entirely due to Socialist propaganda, but is due to the workers' realisation of their power, which was insisted on very strongly during the War. Men who before the War and now are told, in effect, "Your country has no use for you," were told then, "Your King and country need you." Secondly, it is due to1 the realisation of the enormous potentialities of scientific production. The world knows to-day that a higher standard of life is possible, but since the War, whenever the workers have got into power, as in 1929, they have always been stopped from effective action to utilise abundance by the system of production for profit and by the vested interests of finance. That has been true in this country and in other countries, and in our view the unrest at home and in foreign affairs is very largely due to the failure to solve economic disharmonies. The ugly fungus growths of Fascism, Nazi-ism and anti-Semitism have 397 flourished, really, on the dungheap of a rotten economic system. In our view, the fears of war are not caused so much by the ambitions of individuals as by a mass hysteria due to insecurity and the scramble for an artificially restricted amount of wealth. There is a danger that despots who are powerless to solve the difficulties of trying to run a scarcity system in a world of abundance may go to war because they cannot settle their own internal difficulties. We regard the position of the world as extraordinarily dangerous.
I was very much surprised that the Prime Minister, in speaking in the Debate on the Address, said:There is a doctrine, with which. I never agreed, and I agree with it less now than ever I did, and that is that history has an economic basis."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1934; col. 24, Vol. 295.]It is an amazing statement. I do not think he could have meant what he said. He could not have meant to deny economic facts. I think what he meant was that he objected to the current misrepresentation of Marxian doctrine which lays down that all history is based purely upon the play of economic forces. I do not believe in that, nor did Marx, as a matter of fact. The Prime Minister made that remarkable statement in endeavouring to minimise the play of economic forces, and he was followed by no less a person than the Foreign Secretary. They were sitting on the Front Bench side by side. The Foreign Secretary followed with a denial of the economic causes of war, and he produced an amazing example, the Chaco dispute. He explained that there was no economic quarrel there, because all the trouble was concerning a large piece of land and a port on one of the great rivers. To my mind land and ports, and the struggle for them, are eminently economic.
While there are any number of immediate causes of war, the underlying cause is the economic struggle. Years ago you had a struggle for existence in a world which was supposed to be one of scarcity. We believe that there is no reason for struggle to-day in a world of abundance. The Prime Minister went on to suggest that until there is peace you cannot have economic prosperity. That is a statement which may be a long-term truth, but not a short-term truth. There are business men who think that 398 the way of economic prosperity is to have a good war somewhere. He put the cart before the horse, because the failure to obtain peace is mainly due to the failure of the economic system. Between 1929 and 1931 there was a tremendous fall in world trade. Imports went down, in millions of gold dollars, from 35,601 to 12,483; exports went down from 33,040 to 11,697. Look at what that means. The world's needs had not grown less nor had its ability to produce and transport. That represents an enormous reduction in the exchange of goods and services, and an enormous drop in economic well-being.
That fact is realised to-day, because we are living in a world where people read and listen in, and consider these things. What is the effect on the mind of the masses of the victims of this utterly unnecessary misery of millions? The same is true in regard to the fall in trade and the increase in unemployment at home. There was no lack of demand, and there was money idle in the bank. There was no true saving in the economy campaign. We have been making a mistake by carrying into a new age the ideas of an old one. The old idea of saving was that you put something that you did not immediately require away, for future use in an emergency or when you wanted it. In our present conditions that is merely refusing to produce in exchange for a right to share in future production. It actually means that in saving you produce less wealth in exchange for a right which may never be honoured in the future.
What is the broad policy which the Government have to put forward to deal with world conditions? We claim that this Government should lead the world. I know that it is said sometimes by representatives of the Government showing what I might call a kind of defeatism or inferiority complex, that they cannot do anything because other people will not agree, and the assumption is that this country has not the leading position which it had. We must realise that for good or for evil we are the leading country. We do hold a very big responsibility, especially in the world of economics. The world is accustomed to look to this country for a lead. The present Government have been following a policy of restriction and scarcity. The tendency of the Board of Trade has been 399 in the direction of limiting and canalising trade. The Minister of Agriculture attempts to produce wealth. He goes round the world finding something of which there is too much and trying to make arrangements to produce it here.
There is a difference between the policy of the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the Board of Trade which runs right through. The Minister of Agriculture would go a lot further if he were not yoked to an unbeliever. He has not only to work in harness with the President of the Board of Trade, but also with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. You see the Minister of Agriculture working to produce more and to increase wealth in this country, and you see his colleagues working against the increased consumption of wealth. Whereas he is mainly interested in people who own land or work on it, there is a different interest represented by the President of the Board of Trade who represents the rentiers who lend money abroad. There is that amazing example of policy in which at the same time the Minister of Agriculture tries to secure a home market for meat by subsidies, and the President of the Board of Trade is going to subsidise shipping in order to bring meat here from abroad.
The Government believe in raising prices but do not seem to believe in increasing consuming power. It is powerless to utilise the wealth produced. Let me take two of the problems mentioned in the King's Speech. There is the problem of herrings. I do not want to start a herring on a Friday, because it is apt to be followed by quite a large pack of hounds drawn from the Members representing all the ports on the East Coast; but we must remember that the herring industry is a very important industry. What is the trouble about the herring industry? I was looking at the speech of an hon. Member who sits for a herring constituency, and I gathered that the problem consisted, not in catching herring, but in finding a market for the herring when caught.
Then we have the problem, also mentioned in the King's Speech, of the derelict areas. There must be masses of people in South Wales, Durham and Scotland who cannot afford a herring for their breakfast. Again, one finds that our railways have not the traffic that 400 they used to have; there are plenty of trucks coming along empty, and plenty of trucks lying by in the sidings. There is in this country all the apparatus for bringing herring to the people who want them, but this system stands in the way. This winter many herring fishermen will go without fires, or will go short of fires. There are plenty of miners willing to get coal, but the two cannot be brought together. At the same time, how much purchasing power is lying idle at the banks? It is shown by the position of gilt-edged securities. The Government will give subsidies to businesses of all kinds, subsidies to this and that interest, while the same amount, properly distributed among people whose purchasing power is too small, would effect quite big results in business, for greater results in human well-being, and far more direct results on those industries which the Government want to help and whose trouble is that they cannot find a market.
I will give one quotation to show what is going on in this country. It refers to the effect of rationalisation. We all know of the experiment made by Messrs. Boots Chemists in the adoption of shorter hours. That has been reviewed by a very distinguished man, Sir Richard Redmayne. He points out that the principal effects of rationalisation are two—it cheapens the production of commodities, and it also entails a reduction in the employment of human labour; so that, unless it is accompanied by a reduction of working hours without a reduction of wages, the result, if it is nationally applied, might not only prove grave, but dangerous. We are all well aware that that is what happens. The more we help to produce commodities, the more easy it is to produce commodities, and at the same time we restrict the field of consumption because the wage method is the only method of distributing purchasing power.
These complaints against the general policy of the Government are reflected in their attitude to the reports on the distressed areas. The vital fact in those areas is the position of certain industries—coal, iron, steel, and shipbuilding. A variety of admirable suggestions are put forward for dealing with effects, but there is no proposal for dealing with, say, the question of coal. I would like to see the Government putting forward a really genuine proposal to deal with the fuel 401 problem—not the coal problem, but the fuel problem, because you cannot deal with coal by itself. At the present time the remuneration of the miner is allowed to depend on the play of supply and demand in world markets. That might have been defended in pre-War days, and I am sure it would have been defended by the President of the Board of Trade, because in those days he was one of the best exponents of the happy certainty of the nineteenth century. He believed in the old individualist, competitive system, with its self-acting mechanism. Now, howewer, he has thrown that over entirely. I do not know what his theories are, but as a fact he does not claim to-day that remuneration in a particular industry should depend on prices, either in the home market or in the markets of the world. He has gone in for a system of subsidies and tariffs, but it is applied very unequally.
Take the question of coal. You have coal, and you have its derivatives, gas, electricity and chemicals. You have its competitor, oil, and you have a mass of industries depending upon its use. At the present time the coal miner is sweated by the rest of the community. I have been looking at some interesting figures of the profits for the year ending on the 30th June, 1934, published in the "Economist." In the case of iron, coal and steel, the rate of dividend is 1.5 per cent. In electricity it is 6.9, in gas 5.7, and in oil 8.3. There is money in fuel, light and power, but the basic industry on which that depends in this country—the coal industry—gets off worst in the deal. To my mind you cannot look at the rehabilitation of the distressed areas until you take in hand as one whole subject the question of fuel.
You have also the heavy industries and shipbuilding. Shipbuilding depends on world trade, and, if you are going in for economic nationalism, you cannot expect to have a big shipbuilding industry. If you let your world trade shrink, as it has shrunk, obviously you do not need ships to carry it. We have now a shrunken world trade, and, in competition with other countries, we are going to subsidise our people in a scramble for it. That, however, does nothing to increase world trade, which should be so much greater. It is, in fact, following the Capitalist fallacy of considering that 402 there is only a limited amount of wealth, for which we have all to scramble, instead of there being a potentiality of immense wealth if we will all co-operate.
I suggest that the Government have no clear economic policy at all—that their policy is one applied in patches here and there, and depending on the play of vested interests, while all the time you have in the background the interest of the City of London, acting through the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe it has been one of the tragedies of the post-War epoch that we have never had at the Exchequer a Chancellor who could really stand up to the City interests. I think the present holder of that office is as helpless as his predecessor, Viscount Snowden who in turn was as helpless as his predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). You have the same kind of trouble elsewhere. They have dealt far more drastically with the banks in the United States than here.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I was expecting that. President Roosevelt has taken very drastic steps with regard to the banks, but I believe that until you grapple with financial interests you will never make abundance available for the mass of the people. At any time we may be facing conditions as bad as in 1931. I think the Government are living in a fool's paradise. To my mind a home policy of expansion is needed, a policy of utilising all our resources, and a foreign policy of prosperity. I do not think it is possible to go back to the old so-called fret competitive ideas that still hold a precarious position on the benches below the Gangway. We have moved away from that altogether. I do not want to see an intensification of world rivalry. I shall be told the Government have always wanted to co-operate, but it is the wicked other countries that go in for extreme economic nationalism. There may be a measure of truth in that, but, because all one's neighbours have gone into the asylum, that is no reason why we should follow them. That, I fear, is what the Government have done.
I am very sceptical as to the possibilities of peace and disarmament apart from world economic recovery. I think this country has got to set a lead by 403 going to the world with bold plans for co-operation. You have at present two great experiments in economic reconstruction going on. There is one in Russia, where they are hampered by starting from zero, and are also hampered by a lack of technique, but at any rate there you have an endeavour to plan in such a way as to make production reach the consumer. There, again, they are up against the primary difficulty that is facing the world, not how to produce but how to distribute. I suggest that the Government have not tackled the question of distribution at all.
I will touch on one other point, and that again is on the question of rationalisation. I stated with regard to the coal trade that there was this disparity in the remuneration of the persons engaged in various branches of the business of providing light, power and fuel. If you look at the returns of profits, you will see the same disparity. You will find that the remuneration is very low in the primary industries and overwhelmingly high in the distributive interests. I said that we were profiteering at the expense of the workers in coal. I find that the all-over return on the capital invested in shops and stores is 12.7 per cent., so that it is clear that at present the distributive trades are taking an undue profit out of the community. I want to know what the Government are going to do with regard to that. The organisation of distribution enters just as much into the problems that are dealt with in the commissioners' reports as regards coal and so forth as it does with regard to the question of herring, and until the Government are prepared to grapple seriously with the over-plus that is going to the distributive trades you will have that continued profit at the expense of the community.
Finally, these returns show a very lively increase of profits at a time when wages are going up. That may be satisfactory to a Chancellor of the Exchequer who deals with figures relating to the channels from which he is going to get his money, but it is most unsatisfactory from the point of view of the country as a whole, because in the last three years we have seen a steady dislocation of purchasing power. It is going into the wrong channels. It is not going to the masses of the people. We ought not to be 404 pleased at the success, say, of a motor show, because it means that too much money is going to the class of people who buy motors and not enough to the others. The Government are at present possibly holding some kind of equilibrium, but they are not pursuing a policy calculated to rid the world of the two great fears that beset it to-day. One is the fear of almost every individual of economic insecurity and the other is the fear in every country of the danger of war.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I want to deal with the part of the Amendment which regrets that His Majesty's advisers accept as inevitable the existence of mass unemployment and of poverty in the midst of plenty, because that is, after all, a matter that concerns the everyday life of the vast majority of our people. One can theorise from time to time on political and economic matters, but our constituents are primarily concerned with their everyday life and the things that touch their life. In spite of all the claims of the Government as to the improvement in trade and employment and their progress in stabilising currency and balancing budgets, the fact remains that in an ever increasing degree, not only in the ranks of the manual workers, but among the lower middle-class and the middle-class there is more insecurity to-day than ever before in the history of our country. Masses of people, who only a year or two ago looked upon unemployment as something which could never touch them, but which could only happen to certain classes of skilled and unskilled workers, find to-day that, because of the ever increasing scientific discoveries and of mechanisation not merely in actual industry, but in offices, counting houses, banks and so on, they are faced with the dread of insecurity. It might even be worth the very serious attention of the Government to remember that in the main this class of people have been the backbone of the Conservative party.
Yesterday I listened to a most interesting address from the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan). It was one of those "Bitter Sweet" addresses which dealt rather faithfully with the Government. He said a good many things which I imagine the younger Members who support the Government have been thinking for a long time. My only regret is that the hon. Member for Stock- 405 ton, having gone so far, baulked, as he always baulks and hesitates, at the last fence. If he really wanted to carry his argument to a logical conclusion, he must of necessity have declared that he could no longer support the Government on its present policy at any rate. I will quote a passage from a speech delivered by Mr. J. Gibson Jarvie, who is a banker and said a few words which are of vital importance to us in considering this matter. He said:There never was a time in our history when coherent logical, concerted planning was so vitally necessary if we are to reach the standard of living which we desire, and which is available.Changes which are revolutionary in character are needed. The very tradition of gradualness which did much to make us a great nation is one of our handicaps now.In no department of our industrial life is planning more necessary than when dealing with unemployment and distressed areas.He finished with a very significant statement:Economy is not necessarily a virtue. It may be just as false and as wicked as the most reckless extravagance. We want expansion of business, not restriction.Those words of an eminent banker, who is certainly not a Socialist, are worthy of our attention. At the beginning of this week I did what I suppose many hon. Members of this House sometimes do. I went round my constituency from door to door, and I asked my constituents: "Are things any better with you? Is there more work? Is employment better? Is there any material change in your every day life?" I like to speak of the actual experiences of ordinary men and women whom I meet, among whom I live, and who tell me just the things which are affecting them most. I was almost surprised to find that, in spite of the number of people who are now in employment compared with the number, say, 12 or 18 months ago, men of 50 years of age who have brought up a family and are still the head of the family and the bread winners, in the vast majority of cases, had failed to get back into employment, and that men who had been out of employment for one year, two years, three or even four years, still had little or no chance of getting back into employment. Their story to me was, "You see, Mr. Banfield, there are more and more machines in our factories than there used to be even three or four 406 years ago. There is a great demand for our children when they come from school. We have no difficulty in getting Billy a job as soon as he is 14, but I, the head of the family, who should be supporting my wife and children am unable to get a job at all."
We are turning the new generation into machine minders, and only for a limited number of years. A woman with whom I conversed the other day said: "My boy started in the firm when he left school at 14. He is now 20 years of age and has been told that he must leave because they are unable, they say, to pay him any more than a boy's wages." At 20 years of age this young man is to be thrown upon the streets to stand at the street corners, and, perhaps, to rot in idleness because the system produces that sort of thing. It is useless for anyone to deny that, unless we are prepared to have new ideas and new vision and a different method of dealing with the old problems, this nation, instead of continuing towards prosperity, is likely almost in the immediate future to be faced once again with more and more, unemployed.
The terms of the Amendment which I have already quoted are proved by the actions of the Government. They are, in effect, making provision for a permanent army of unemployed of no fewer than from 2,000,000 to 2,500,000. It is suggested, by inference, at any rate, that they always expect a tremendous unemployment problem. If we were to sit down and say: "After all, the only thing we can do is to make provision for a couple of million of unemployed, and that is the best we can do," it would be a confession of an absolute bankruptcy of ideas. It would be a terrible thing if we were only prepared to look at the matter from that point of view. I would emphasise this point, because 1 believe that it is the crux of a great deal of our difficulties.
My point is, that we are refusing to adapt ourselves to the ever-changing conditions of industry brought about by improved scientific methods and the increased use of machinery. Let me give another quotation. Recently, the Engineering Union approached the Engineering Employers' Federation and asked for a reduction in the hours of labour. They asked that the hours should be reduced to, say, 40 a week, so 407 that more employment might be given to those who are unemployed, and, incidentally, that the benefit of the machine should be given to the worker as well as the employer. In the course of the conversations some figures were quoted -by the Engineering Employers' Federation. These were the figures. To make a motor car in the Austin Works in 1922 required 55 men, in 1927 it required 11 men, and this year, 1934, it requires only eight men. There has been a reduction since 1922 from 55 men to eight men required to make one motor car.
Those figures are significant. Are we to become once more a great exporting country? Are we to bring prosperity back into industry? You may be able to do it so far as dividends and profits to the companies are concerned, and yet have a greater unemployment and poverty question than before. Obviously, unless there is some alteration in our present system the more efficient we make industry the more manual human beings we are going to put upon the scrap heap.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade shakes his head. I dare say he has some pleasant theory to give to us to show that the fewer people you employ the more work there is as a consequence. I doubt it. I am speaking from practical knowledge and experience. It may be all very well for the Minister to put up a case on theory, but we have to face facts. I invite the hon. Member or any right hon. Member opposite to go with me, not to a school of economics, but to two or three streets in my constituency, to knock at the doors and to get first-hand knowledge of what is happening, and they will find that theory and actual practice are two entirely different things.
This argument might be developed a little further. My hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) drew attention to the low wages that are paid in the primary industries as compared with the rather high dividents made in the distributive side of industry. We are told by the Government that work has been found for 900,000 more people. It is not sufficient only to find work. The people must have decent wages for their 408 work. One of the things that grieves men like myself is when they visit their constituency and say to a wife: "Is your husband working?", and she replies: "Yes. He has got a job, but all that they pay him is 37s. 6d. a week." The labourers in my constituency under the best circumstances are only paid £2 a week. Rents are still high. It is impossible for people to get above the poverty line if they are only to be provided with employment at wages from 37s. 6d. to £2 or £2 and a few shillings a week. Poverty is not to be cured in that way. Hard grinding poverty goes on in millions of homes in this country, poverty which is almost incredible to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who do not inquire into the conditions under which men and women live.
There is a new generation coining into industry. During the past week I have come into contact with the lower middle class people in the Putney Division of Wandsworth. There you have a class of people who want to do the very best they can for their children They skimp themselves, they sacrifice themselves and do unheard of courageous actions in order to give their children a decent chance in life. They keep them at school as long as they can, but what is happening in this typical lower middle class constituency? Men and women come to me and say: "Our position is this. We have sacrificed for the sake of our children, but when we want to put them out into the labour market there is nothing for them. The employer says: "If you had brought your boy or girl at the age of 14 we could have put him or her on to a machine, but you have given your child a certain class of education and there is no opening to-day." Surely, some prospect, some hope should be held out to the children of this generation that when they come to manhood and womanhood at least some employment at decent remuneration, with some security, should be open to them.
A tremendous amount of the unrest in the country is due to the fact that for the first time almost there is this dreadful feeling of insecurity among all classes of men and women who labour, either by their hands or by their brains. The man who gets £1,000 a year to-day has no more security in the main than the man who only gets £2 a week. It is because of 409 this insecurity that there is this feeling which is definitely running against the Government. It may be argued that the Government have done their best, but the fact remains that the great mass of people are against the Government at the moment and are inclined to say: "There must be something in these Socialist theories; there must be something in this Socialism of which we hear so much, and we are inclined to believe that, in the main, our condition might be immeasurably bettered if we took our courage in our hands and gave the destinies of the country over to men who would act with new ideas and new methods." I wish we could shake the complacency of the Government and make them realise that it is not sufficient to wait for the day of judgment because they have put 900,000 more people into work.
Has the Minister ever considered that, in spite of its unemployment figures being down to 6 per cent., London to-day is more definitely Socialistic than it has ever been in its history? It shows that the Government are not going to be saved because some thousands have found work, though they might be saved if they could show that it has brought increased purchasing power into the homes of all classes of people. The hardship, of course, is, that in spite of the increased number of people employed, their wages have steadily gone down, and are lower than ever. There is another point. I know that a great deal has been done with regard to housing, but have the Government ever thought of the shameful exploitation so far as housing is concerned? It is a mad system. Let me give one case in point which appears to be the height of lunacy. In my constituency there is a great deal of tuberculosis. People suffering from it are sent by the local council to sanatoria for three or four months at the expense of the taxpayers and ratepayers, and then they return to live in back-to-back houses with one little room below and one above with a little landing for a bed, and in from three to six months those people are dead and buried. Is it not foolish? It makes me almost weep sometimes when I see the everyday lives of men and women. This is one of the things which, in supporting this Amendment, I am anxious to drive home.
410 There is one further point. It is surprising that to-day the cost of distribution in many instances is so much in excess of the cost of production. Let me give an example in my own trade. As most hon. Members know, I am connected with the baking industry, and have been all my life. The wage paid to produce a 4 lb. loaf, which is sold at between 7d. and 8d., is about 1d., and it costs from 1½d. to 2d. to distribute that loaf. Is it not time that the Government considered that what might have been quite all right even five or six years ago, is not right at this time? Is it not obvious that the old individualism has got to go? Even the Minister of Agriculture has to declare that competition, instead of being a good thing, is a very bad thing. He has to declare that unrestricted competition is bad. The right hon. Gentleman opposite knows as well as I do that in dealing with industry he finds precisely the same thing, and he is anxious to get employers together to stop this system of "each one for himself and the devil take the hindmost." Is it not obvious that this system of individualism, of competition for private gain is breaking down, and that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite will have to realise that the only hope of salvation for this great country of ours, of which we on this side an; just as proud as are those on the other side, is to scrap our present system, and do our best to institute a new system based on common ownership and a co-operative commonwealth?
§ 12.21 p.m.
The hon. Member who moved the Amendment this morning gave us a comprehensive survey of the situation as he sees it. His criticisms appeared to fall into two categories. They were directed against the policy of the National Government. His first criticism lay against us on the ground of our foreign policy, and his second criticism lay against us on the ground of our economic policy. After having spent a considerable portion of the Parliamentary Recess in Europe, I venture to say that the opinion of the world is very congratulatory of the present national policy of this National Government. Never in the whole history of our country has our prestige in Europe stood as high as it does to-day. Also from the point 411 of view of our economic policy I think that there is not a country in Europe which would not willingly change place with the position as we know it to-day in our own country.
There is only one other point in the hon. Member's speech to which I would refer, and that is with regard to the experiment of economic planning which is taking place in Russia. I am one of those who very sincerely believe that our Government might move forward quite considerably in economic planning, but I do feel that if a policy of economic planning is adopted, it should have a response in the depressed areas. Indeed, in the whole Debate of the last two days and the Debate on the depressed areas, the point has been put by Members of my own party. The whole idea of economic planning is to try to improve conditions in the depressed areas, and I think that that also is probably the view which is held by hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway.
I paid a very brief visit to Leningrad, and I would say that in commenting on the position in Russia, one cannot even attempt to judge of the Russian experiment from the point of view of Leningrad. Everyone realises that, in order to get a real appreciation of what Russia is doing, one should go to Moscow. If I may draw this parallel, Moscow represents in Russia the more prosperous parts of this country, and Leningrad represents the depressed areas here. If the effect of the economic planning of Russia has been to increase prosperity in the prosperous areas, then surely it is not a policy which is to be recommended for the depressed areas. Looking at the condition of the ordinary people in Leningrad as I saw it when I was there last year—I am not qualified to pass any opinion on what the position may be this year—I would say that there is not a Member in this House of any party who would care to see economic planning applied in this country if it results in the creation of conditions similar to those in Leningrad to-day. It would be much better to concentrate on a system of economic planning which would give us something worth working for, as distinct from the form of economic planning which is the subject of experiment in Russia to-day.
I do not want the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) to run away 412 in a spirit of cheerful optimism with the idea that the winning of so many municipal elections in London is a triumph for the policy of Socialism. It may be a triumph of Socialist promises during the municipal elections, or the promises which the Socialist party may possibly make during the next election. I represent a constituency which is extraordinarily depressed. At the municipal elections in November, 1933, the Socialists obtained for the first time a majority on the council; they captured eight seats. That gave them for the year a Socialist majority, with a Socialist mayor, and they accordingly had an opportunity of showing to the rest of Wallsend what Socialism in practice, could really achieve in municipal life. The extraordinary thing is that at the last municipal election the Socialists failed to capture a single seat. In fact, we were one of the only boroughs in the country capable of maintaining the position of the Moderates. I mention that as an illustration of what Socialism in practice may do for the party when the electors have an opportunity of registering their opinion on their administration.
I desire this afternoon to make one or two remarks on the subject of the depressed areas. Many compliments have been showered on the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, and, while I may be a little late, I should like to add my congratulations. Speaking for the people in my constituency, we feel very appreciative because the Civil Lord has produced a report which embodies what the vast majority of the people have been thinking for a long time past. At the same time I must confess to a feeling of disappointment that we have had no definite statement from the Cabinet as to what their policy is to be. I appreciate the fact that questions of great principle are involved and that it may be impossible for the Government to make a clear and concise statement as to what particular portions of the report they are prepared to put into operation.
My chief criticism against the Government is this: I think it would be very much easier and simpler for those who support the Government if, instead of just ignoring the recommendations in the report, the Government would say that they were going to consider all the 413 propositions and that at no far distant date they would tell us their policy. The Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary will not misunderstand me when I say that it gave me a feeling of great disappointment that during the Debate on the distressed areas the Minister of Labour, replying on the first day and the Parliamentary Secretary on the second day, only gave us admirable administrative speeches. There was nothing in those speeches, as far as policy is concerned, which could not have been carried out easily a year ago. We do not desire to hear purely administrative details, however excellent and good they may be; we want to know definitely the Government's answer to the critical suggestions put forward by the Civil Lord in his report.
Let me come straight away to a matter which interests me and my constituents more than anything else—the question of shipbuilding. The Civil Lord suggests that we should in our training centres endeavour to train skilled men in the electrical welding industry, that is, those men who are going to be thrown out of work through changes in the processes of manufacture. That is a most excellent and interesting suggestion, and I was particularly disappointed that the Minister of Labour made no reference to it. The training of these men is to be started early next year, and it gives skilled men in the shipbuilding industry a hope that in the future they may find themselves absorbed in the electrical welding industry. The Government said that they were so impressed by that suggestion that they have lost no time in putting it into operation. In that case their publicity campaign is extremely bad. As the experiment is to be tried in my area, I welcome it whole-heartedly and hope that it will prove a success. Let me turn to another point which is particularly mentioned by the Civil Lord. He says:Shipbuilders have on several occasions issued an emphatic warning that should conditions again demand any marked degree of activity in that industry there is likely to be a definite shortage of skilled labour.Later on he points to the fact that our shipping policy, with which I am in entire agreement, may have the effect of putting back for a certain period of time a revival in the shipbuilding trade. If that be so, if shipbuilders have issued a warning, as they have on more than 414 one occasion, that the greatest help the Government can give to the shipbuilding industry is to accelerate the building of the naval programme, then I should like to ask whether it is not possible to accelerate the building of our naval programme. As I understand, we are entitled under the London Treaty to build up to 150,000 tons, as far as destroyers are concerned, and that this will be accomplished by the end of 1936. At the same time there will he 60,000 tons of obsolete destroyers. If it not possible to bridge the gap between now and the revival of shipbuilding, which I hope will be brought about by the Government's policy, by accelerating the building of our naval programme and thus keep alive our skilled and expert craftsmen in our shipbuilding yards? I have listened very carefully to the speeches made on behalf of the Government, but, as far as I can remember, we have had no indication of their intention in this matter. No mention has been made of the important point of trying to maintain our skilled shipyard workers for the time when shipbuilding revives.
Let me refer briefly to the question of coal mines re-organisation, about which we have talked and in which the majority of us believe. Those of us who have any knowledge of the mining industry know that there is room for a great deal of improvement in that organisation. As it happens, the particular point in the Civil Lord's Report which refers to coal mining refers particularly to the county of Durham and not to Northumberland, but as we are trying to put forward points for the whole of the northeast coast I shall trespass for a moment on the Durham mining area. Referring to reorganisation the Civil Lord says:A scheme for the unification of royalties appears to be an essential preliminary to any concerted action. It might by itself enable such action to be taken but it is clear that without it nothing effective can be done.Yet to the best of my recollection the Government has given no indication whatever as to whether or not it means to tackle this problem. Quite apart from the recommendation in the report, many of us have very strong views on the subject of royalties, and I am certain that if the Government did decide to act in the matter it would have the wholehearted support of the majority of Con- 415 servatives behind, it. Then there is the question of the financial proposals. The Civil Lord makes some very pertinent propositions with regard to the condition of finance in the county of Durham. He makes special suggestions with regard to Sunderland and West Hartlepool. I need not say this to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, but anyone who knows the condition of Sunderland at the present time would do anything that was humanly possible to alleviate the conditions in that town. What is the Government's answer to be to the proposition that has been put forward by the Civil Lord? Again the Government has left us without any suggestion, without any answer to the proposition.
I come finally to a recommendation that has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan) on the subject of the economic planning of industry. I will read what the Civil Lord says:It is suggested, therefore, that the time has come when the Government can no longer regard with indifference a line of development which, while it may possess the initial advantage of providing more employment, appears upon a long view to be detrimental to the best interests of the country; and the first practical step which could he taken towards exercising a measure of control in this direction would seem to be some form of national planning of industry.I do not want to embark on the controversial question of the action of National Shipbuilding Securities, Limited, but as my right hon. Friend knows I am one of those people who believe in the control of industry in the most efficient way, whether it be coal mining or shipbuilding, and I do not think that anyone or any Government has any right to allow shipyards or coal mines to be closed down unless steps are taken to deal with the social consequences. Let me put it in this way: National Shipbuilding Securities, Limited, represents the shipbuilders' organisations. It is their job to make the shipbuilding industry as efficient an organisation for the building of ships as possible, and they have in their make-up, so to speak, no responsibility for social consequences. Surely that is not the position of the Government? In my own constituency we have had three shipyards closed down in the interests of the river. I have made in- 416 quiries time and time again. As to the orders which are being taken by Swan Hunter's, whether for cruisers or destroyers, orders placed on the Tyne, for which we are overwhelmingly grateful, I have made inquiries whether any of the men displaced in those yards have had an opportunity of getting work in the yards that are left open because those yards are the most efficient and the most economical so far as the building of ships is concerned. The answer is that from that portion of Willington Quay which represents the area of the shipyards no man has had an opportunity of obtaining work in the other yards.
There is another aspect. Not only does the closing of shipbuilding yards reflect on the industry. It is true that it may bring more orders to the efficient yards, but one has to consider the question of the other industries which are ancillary to shipbuilding. I refer to one, the iron and steel industry, and in making this comment I have behind me the whole of the iron and steel makers on the north-east coast, who feel very strongly that when there have been more yards with a greater aggregate tonnage capacity closed on the Tyne in comparison with the Clyde, they themselves have been put in a more unfavourable position so far as the production of iron and steel is concerned. So it is not only a question of considering shipbuilding. There is the question of the iron and steel industry and of the coal industry. If one looks at the figures for Scotland, the figures of unemployment in iron and steel and coal and shipbuilding, one finds that in the whole of Scotland unemployment in these industries is not as great as on the north-east coast.
On the Clyde National Shipbuilding Securities, Limited, closed 46 berths representing an annual tonnage of 328,000. On the Tyne they closed 80 berths, which represented an annual tonnage of 627,000. As far as iron and steel are concerned, taking the year 1927, I am told that the amount of iron and steel that one firm supplied to the Clyde was 359 tons and to the north-east coast 17,385 tons. So that actually it has its repercussions not only in shipbuilding but in iron and steel and coal mining, and the iron and steel makers on the north-east coast as a whole view with very great alarm what appears to be the closing of 417 more yards on the Tyne than are closed on the Clyde. I would remind the House that when it came to the setting up of the Central Electricity Board, the public utility companies' men were paid compensation because in the altered circumstances they lost their work. Why should not the same thing be done in the case of National Shipbuilding Securities, Limited? With regard to the economic planning of industry I say that if we can plan for the working of the more efficient yards, the more efficient coal mines and the more efficient iron and steel works, then let us do so. But let us make some real attempt to deal with the social consequences. That is one of the points I wish to make in relation to the proper economic planning of industry.
There is one other point and that is in connection with the possibility in future of setting up hydrogenation plants or low temperature carbonisation plants. I appreciate fully that it is impossible, when foreigners come here to set up factories, to insist on their setting them up in a particular area. I have taken some pains to find out the facts. So far as I am aware quite often, when these foreigners come over to this country, they think that they are not going to employ alien labour. They do not want any permits to get specialists into this country. So the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour have no cognisance of where they are going to set up their factories. By the beginning of next year we shall know definitely whether the experimental plant which is in operation at Billingham is going to be a succes or not. Suppose that it is a success, suppose it is found that from a commercial point of view it is going to revolutionise the production of oil from coal, will the Government then consider backing the companies which desire to lay down plants of that character? We all know that a tremendous capital outlay will be involved in such undertakings. Will the Government indicate to certain companies that if those companies are prepared to establish plants in certain given areas, which would be depressed areas, the Government are prepared to give guarantees similar to those given in the case of the Cunarder. Will the Government bring in legislation to provide for companies who desire to find capital for 418 establishing hydrogenation and low temperature carbonisation plants similar facilities to those which they have already given to the Cunard-White Star Company, on condition that those, plants are laid down in areas where the work is wanted? I happen to know from inquiries I have made that the coal mining area of Wallsend is a suitable place for carrying out the low temperature carbonisation treatment, and I am sure that many other hon. Members know of places where tests have been carried out satisfactorily. If the Billingham experiment results in success, this is a matter in which the Government can move and move quickly.
We have had from the Civil Lord of the Admiralty a report which has given us a vision. All I am asking is that the Government should take action to transmit that vision into reality. Will the Government say that they are prepared to give attention to the very pertinent points which are raised in the report? Even if the Government cannot, say "yes" or "no" at once on all these points, if they could say that they are considering the report that they are impressed by the Civil Lord's statements and that they are prepared to bring forward a real and national policy on those points which are of practical value, I assure them that those of us who had to fight in the depressed areas and who know what the depression means to our people will be whole-heartedly behind them. If the Government want Parliamentary time for such a- purpose, there is not one of us who would not be ready and willing to sit up many more nights over such legislation than we had to do over the Betting Bill. Though I had to vote for the Government in connection with that Bill, I did so in the hope that by remaining loyal to them over that Bill, which I did not want and which my constituency did not want, I might help to produce some real results as regards a national policy for the depressed areas.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Mr. SUMMERSBY
I am sure the House has been glad to hear why the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) voted for the Betting and Lotteries Bill. I experience some little hesitation, as one who seldom intervenes in Debate, in following such a very fluent speaker. I have very little faith in talking, and it is often the case that where there is 419 a lot of talking it is difficult to get anything done, but the hon. Member for Wallsend has gone very thoroughly into the various subjects on which she touched in the course of her speech and has been able to give the House a considerable amount of information. I also think that there was a considerable amount of information in the speeches from the Opposition, and my colleagues and I also desire very strongly to see action taken in regard to these matters. There was one remark by the Seconder of the Amendment with regard to the number of men employed in the manufacture of one motor car which I think must have impressed the House, but it would have been fairer if the hon. Member had also given figures to us to show that, notwithstanding the fact mentioned by him, a larger number of men are employed at the present time in manufacturing motor cars.
He also referred to a particular trade with which he himself is associated. I am not here to represent that particular trade in any way, but I do think that before the hon. Member and others talk about it so glibly and suggest that fortunes are being made in it by robbing other people, it would be better if they informed themselves of the facts. If they did so they would never make such statements. Do they realise how much of the cost of bread and foodstuffs is made up of local rates, rents and other expenses of that kind? In fact, in places where the Socialists have acquired control on the borough councils the rates in some cases have gone up to 20s. in the £. One now finds rows and rows of empty shops where formerly prosperous businesses were carried on, and it is the working men and private residents who have to pay the rates which those business people formerly paid. I Was glad that the hon. Member for Wallsend referred to the recent municipal elections. Many of us view the result of those elections in some ways with regret, but in other ways with satisfaction, because the electors will now have an opportunity of seeing how far those who promised so much are able to carry out their promises. I suggest that by the time the next election takes place the public will come to the same conclusion as it did three or four years ago.
420 This Labour Amendment to the Address is a sort of cornucopia and it provides an opportunity for introducing almost any subject into the Debate. I do not suppose that even the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) could recite it and it has to be read to be appreciated. It gives me an opportunity of referring to a subject in which the people of North London are deeply concerned and in regard to which they are deeply disappointed to find no reference in the King's Speech. I refer to the electrification of the London railways and the extension of the tubes. I think hon. Members know something of the great difficulties which large numbers of people in North London experience in getting to and from their daily work. Attempts have been made by various bodies to deal with this subject. It would involve covering far too much ground if I endeavoured to tell the House of all the efforts which have been made in this direction, but I propose to state briefly what the actual position is. For 12 or 15 years all the local authorities of North London have combined to press for better travelling facilities. Enfield, Barnet, Hornsey, Edmonton, Finchley, Friern Barnet, Wood Green, Southgate and Tottenham joined in persuading the Government Department concerned to hold a public inquiry into the matter. The inquiry was held in 1925. It lasted several days and an overwhelming mass of evidence was given to show the need for better travelling facilities for these areas. The public inquiry was held by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee and a report was issued which advised the adoption of a scheme for co-ordinating traffic facilities in Greater London. Eventually as everybody knows a scheme of co-ordination was carried into effect by Parliament and the London Passenger Transport Board was created. Everybody in North London then hoped that at last they would get some improvement, but it is most unfortunate that the board has not been able to effect some improvement of the suburban main lines.
The electrification of those lines is still a crying need for the travelling public in this area. The omnibuses and tubes are managed by the board, but not the suburban main lines of the London and North Eastern Railway. The people of North London see both capital and labour 421 idle, and it is no satisfaction at all to people who have to stand for half-an-hour in rain, snow, fog or cold in the morning to get to their work, to see miles and miles of beautiful country being dug up and destroyed in order to send tubes into new districts where they are not wanted. People say, I am afraid with a certain amount of truth, that these tubes are sent where they are not at present wanted because those "in the know" make vast sums of money out of the erection of tubes. There is no reason whatever why the already densely populated parts of London should not be served properly by tubes and railway lines. A sufficient return on the capital laid out would be made, and no loss would be risked, though, of course, no one could get rich very quickly out of it.
I regret very deeply that some reference was not made in His Majesty's Speech to this very crying need of North London. In a district near where I live there is a tube which goes to Highgate and within two or three miles is Muswell Hill, where over 12,000 people live. The tube is already bored part of the way to Muswell Hill. Those 12,000 people, or, rather, their husbands and sons, and in many cases their daughters, every night and every morning suffer inconvenience and exposure to all kinds of weather, to which very few of us would like to subject any animal of which we were fond. After waiting half-an-hour the other morning, on purpose, I went down on one of the omnibuses, and out of the 12 females in it, no fewer than five of them had lost their voices and could not speak clearly to ask for their tickets, on account of the state of their throats, due to waiting in the morning in all weathers for these vehicles.
I am no artist at exaggerating or drawing a picture to break Members' hearts, but everything I say as to the great urgency of the need for, at any rate, the extension of this part of the tube railway is true. It would be so easy to do, and yet it is so hard to get anyone to move in the matter. One of the great London evening papers referred to the whole question very ably one night this week, and pointed out that there are no difficulties in the way at all. It is not necessary to blast through solid rock, and there are few underground springs. It is simply a question of somebody getting a move on. 422 If the Opposition had blamed the Parliamentary machine instead of attacking the Government, I should have been whole-heartedly with them. Many of them are very experienced in local government, and I think they will agree that the Parliamentary machine is rather like a very powerful motor car being driven on its self-starter. There are many of us here who can be likened to idle cylinders. There are very few of us who are able to work, and yet those in the Government who have to work are considerably overloaded and find it almost an impossibility. At the same time, as I say, there are large numbers of others who, like the unemployed in the country, are eating their hearts out and wanting to get on with the job, but owing to the constitutional machine it is impossible for them to do so.
With all respect to the Opposition, I should have thought that during the time they were in power everybody would have worked and everybody would have secured a very high wage. One only regrets that that was not the case, and one only fears that if and when they are in power again, they will get to much the same state as they were in when, happily, the National Government came along and were able to make the improvement which they have made. I beg for action. Action is due, action is needed, and action is expected of the National Government with regard to the electrification of the suburban main lines and the provision of tubes for Londoners to get to their work. Transport to and from their work is almost as essential to many people as are food and air, and I see no reason why it should be delayed. I believe that the continuance of the National Government is necessary for the well-being of this country and nation, but I am sure also, judging from the feelings of the people in my part of the world, that the National Government will not continue unless definite action is very quickly taken.
§ 1.2 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
Whatever else our Amendment to the Address may have done, it has served as an opportunity to the last speaker to air a local grievance, and I congratulate him on taking the opportunity of the Amendment to achieve that purpose. Probably he will find a way out of his difficulties in regard to transport in his area if he 423 will support us on these benches in the concrete socialisation of transport. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward), who, I regret, is not now in her place, began her speech with a defence of the Government and told us that every country in Europe would gladly change places with us, that we were in a better position than anybody else. I am not disposed to contend against that argument, but that is no reason why we should not continue to keep in the vanguard of pro-press and why, if we on these benches see causes which are likely to lead to a deterioration of the situation in which we find ourselves, we should not point them out, so that we may keep this country, of which we are equally proud with hon. Members opposite, really in the vanguard of progress and pioneers of all that is best in the social life of the masses of the people.
The hon. Lady found a certain amount of satisfaction in the result of the local elections in the borough of Wallsend, and she was very glad that a Labour majority there had been got rid of after a year of office. She evidently expected that a Labour majority in Wallsend in one year would make a transformation of that borough, and she expected more of the Socialist majority in Wallsend in one year than she expected of the National Government in three years. I too, like her, can find satisfaction in the results of the municipal elections. In the chief town in my division, the town of Mansfield itself, we have had a Labour majority on the town council for about seven years, and we have managed to reduce the rates, in spite of what the hon. Member opposite has been saying about rates; we have cleared a lot of slums, we have built a lot of houses, we have made a great deal of progress in education, and we have built three elementary schools which are models to the country. The residents of Mansfield show no disposition whatever to get rid of their Socialist majority, and we on these benches, as I say, find a great deal of satisfaction in the results of the municipal elections, so that I am very glad the hon. Lady finds some satisfaction also in her part of the world.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) made some caustic criticism the other day with regard to the difference in the attitude of the supporters of the 424 National Government now and their attitude three years ago when we debated the first King's Speech from the present Government. He called attention to the fact that there had been a great evaporation of enthusiasm on the part of Members who support the National Government, and that there had swept over them a wave of pessimism which contrasted with the complete optimism that existed three years ago. What the hon. Member said on Tuesday can be said with added force this morning, because it does not appear that the supporters of the National Government now think it worth while to come to the House of Commons and sit behind the few Ministers who make their appearance. My two colleagues who have addressed the House this morning have referred to a remarkable speech which was made yesterday by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan). Some of the most definite criticisms of the Government which have been advanced in the Debates this week have come from the Government's own supporters, and not least has been the criticism from the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees. The President of the Board of Trade was not here yesterday when he spoke—
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
Yes, I was. I always listen to speeches which are worth listening to.
§ Mr. BROWN
The right hon. Gentleman was among those who were referred to as a row of extinct volcanoes and slag heaps. I am rather inclined to think that the extinct volcanoes have sunk beneath the sea, for they are not here at all to-day. There is only one representative of the Cabinet in the House. The speech of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees was a telling indictment of the Government. It is true that he congratulated them on having done what he called some effective salvage work, which, he said, was necessary because of that for which the last Labour Government were responsible. He gave his entire case away when he made clear that the last Labour Government were the victims, as the present Government were in the earlier stages of their office, of worldwide economic forces which they could not control. Now that there has been a change over a wide area of the world and this country is sharing some of the benefits which have come from that 425 general improvement, the Government are boasting that it is entirely due to their actions that we are getting a larger share of prosperity than anybody else. That is the contention they put forward now, but in the first two years, when things were not going so well and when unemployment was still mounting, they attributed the increasing unemployment to bad world conditions. Now that things are a little better and world conditions have improved, they do not tell us that the improvement in this country is due to those improved world conditions, but they say it is due to the virtues of the Government. Scarcely anybody believes that.
I know it is some consolation to the President of the Board of Trade, but the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees made it clear that to the minds of many people this improvement is likely to be only temporary in character. He concluded his speech by telling us that if something vastly different from what was being done at the moment was not done, and if the Government continued merely to mark time, as it was indicated by the contents of the King's Speech they were doing, the system would break down. I think there is every justification for our moving this Amendment because of the paltry character of the contents of the Speech. There is the new Constitution for India, some suggestion for the erection of tenement houses in overcrowded areas and a subsidy for tramp shipping, but it seems to me that none of these things will do very much to relieve the harassed unemployed or make easier the lot of the housewife whose husband is out of work and who has a perpetual struggle to make ends meet even when he is in work. I do not deny that these may be desirable things for which we may be justified in occupying Parliamentary time.
There is another matter referred to in the King's Speech, namely, the experiment in the distressed areas. It seems to me that the Prime Minister wants a lot more information about the unemployed, and I cannot understand why he should lay such stress upon this intensive experiment, as he calls it, which is to be carried on by the commissioners in the distressed areas. The Employment Exchanges have been accumulating information about the unemployed for more than 20 years. The pigeon-holes of the 426 Ministry of Labour are full of data of all kinds about the unemployed, and there is going on regularly a classification of information of every kind, but apparently the Prime Minister has an insatiable desire for more and more information before he or his Government can do anything else about unemployment. He seems to think that intensive experiments must be carried on in the distressed areas. I would like to know precisely what kind of experiment it is intended to carry out, and what kind of information the Government want to collect about the unemployed. Do they want to find out whether the unemployed can dig a spit of soil properly, or sow lettuce seed to the required depth so that it will germinate, or are able to plant potatoes, or get up early enough to feed poultry so that they will lay the maximum number of eggs, or can build wooden houses with galvanised roofs so that they can live on their holdings? What sort of information does the Prime Minister want about the unemployed? What further information is necessary before you can do something in regard to this most pressing of our social problems?
My hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) called the attention of the House to the remarkable statement of the Prime Minister the other day, when he said that there was a doctrine with which he never agreed, and with which he agreed- less now than ever he did, namely, that history has an economic basis. The hon. Member for Limehouse suggested that when the Prime Minister said that he made a mistake and did not really intend it, and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) agreed and said that we placed a wrong interpretation on what he said. I do not think we did. I think the Prime Minister meant what he said because it squares completely with the ideas which he has always held and put forward.
In view of that statement, the Prime Minister might very well want the men in the depressed areas to grow roses and live on the scent, or write poetry and satisfy themselves with the music of the lines when they are quoted, or paint beautiful pictures and clothe themselves with the beauty. It would not be much protection from the icy winds of the North Sea blowing over Durham and the North-East coast.
427 I am not surprised that the Prime Minister talks about having no economic basis, or of the economic basis not being important. We all agree that there are other factors playing their part in history—social, psychological, aesthetic and cultural. It may be we all talk nonsense sometimes, but I think the Prime Minister talks columns of nonsense, and the most amazing thing I have heard him say recently was this statement which he made the other day. If the Prime Minister would only grasp clearly the fact that the fundamental basis, the foundation stone, of society is economic, there would be more clarity in his ideas and more definiteness in his action. When he tells us that history has no economic basis he wants to make us believe, presumably, that the trend of history is decided by cultural forces—by educational development, by social instincts and by cultural processes, and that economic and political motives and factors play very little part. Has he been deaf during the lifetime of this Parliament? May be he is unaware of some of the things that have been happening, particularly as he has not been here very often. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) chastised him the other day, but, out of a sense of loyalty, the Lord President of the Council defended him.
During the whole lifetime of this Parliament we have had men speaking on behalf of industry, of agriculture and of all kinds of enterprises, and making one insistent demand, "Give us some help," and the response has been subsidies. The Prime Minister is at the head of a Government—I hope he is proud of the fact—which has established in this country a system of Protection, which has set on foot a body which is building up a scientific tariff wall round the country. Does he not know that from the very beginning of this Parliament all the voices which have been clamouring for him to do things have been voices demanding that he should do something not in the realm of culture but in the sphere of economic activity? The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but does he deny that subsidies have been given, that tariff walls have been erected, or that there have been those clamant demands for assistance from industry and agriculture, and that the Government 428 have given assistance? I am not saying that it is wrong or right, but only calling attention to the fact. Is it not true that during the whole lifetime of this Parliament all that we have been concerned about has been the economic demands of certain sections of industry and agriculture, that the major portion of our time has been spent in dealing with those matters?
I wish to make some economic demands on the Government. They have listened to interests of all kinds, and have tried to satisfy them, but they have not satisfied them, and never will by the methods they are pursuing. The more they give the more will be demanded of them. I, too, want to make demands. I want certain other aspects of our economic life attended to. The Prime Minister, when he told us that history had no economic basis, probably wanted us to understand that he personally finds a great deal of pleasure in music, in literature and in the drama, that he likes to engage in cultural activity. We know, too, how interested he is in political activities. Judging by recent events, he is certainly a master of political intrigue, and has brought about very desirable results, from his point of view, because he is so expert in that business. He knows equally well that none of the cultural activities to which he attaches importance, and none of the political activities in which he has played such a conspicuous part, could go on at all were it not for the fact that tomorrow morning there will leave their homes in this country some 16,000,000 human beings, men, women and children, to work on the land, in the mines and on the railways, to work in shops and factories and stores and offices. Who is it that maintains the fabric of this civilisation of which we boast? It is those millions of ordinary people. Not only are these 16,000,000 doing their daily work, but 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 others are standing idly by, only waiting for a chance to make their contribution to our communal life. The tragedy of the present economic situation is that although these people are ready and willing to help we will not let them work.
The hon. Gentleman has made one intervention already this morning in which he has told us that during the lifetime of this Government 900,000 more 429 people have been put to work. Does he or any other Member of the Government think that by merely pursuing the line they are now following there is the slightest possibility of any considerably larger number of people being absorbed into industry? Do not all the facts point in an opposite direction? Did not the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees call attention to the fact that within a measurable distance of time we may pass out of this temporary boom and into another period of depression? It may be that a certain number of people above the 900,000 will be absorbed even if nothing very different is done, but all the facts point to the conclusion that we have got to carry a large number of unemployed for a considerable time to come. Indeed, the Government take credit for the fact that they have made provision for it, because the new Unemployment Insurance Act was drawn up an an actuarial basis of 2,500,000 people being unemployed. It may be that that was only a wise, precautionary measure. The Parliamentary Secretary assents to that; but, also, those words may have been inserted because those most familiar with all the facts fear the possibility of the figures going up to that level when we do pass into another depression. The point I am trying to make is that the Government are doing nothing to deal with that standing problem.
§ Dr. BURGIN
May I interrupt the hon. Member for one moment?. He is speaking to an Amendment to the King's Speech regretting that there is not some word in that Speech about the subjects to which he is referring. His suggestion that the Government have not a policy, or are not doing something else, is an assertion for which, of course, he alone is responsible.
§ Mr. BROWN
I gladly take the responsibility for making the assertion, and shall be only too pleased to learn from the hon. Gentleman that the Government have some policy other than the policy disclosed by what they have already done or what is embodied in the King's Speech. It is sometimes said that the two key positions in the Government are those of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If that be so, we have very little hope from either of those two Ministers of a fresh handling and of a new outlook in relation to the changed economic conditions that need 430 to be dealt with. The Prime Minister repudiates the idea, that society and history have an economic basis. He does not believe that any miners are out of work because an ever-increasing percentage of coal is being cut by machinery, and conveyed by machinery instead of by a boy with a pony taking it to the pit bottom. He does not believe that miners are out of work in the depressed areas because owners cannot make a profit out of their pits. That is not the motive that actuates industry according to the Prime Minister; industry is actuated by entirely different motives.
On the surface, there seem to be few points of mental contact between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is a mental tidiness about the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which is utterly absent from those of the Prime Minister, but when I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer make his speech the other day in regard to the depressed areas I came to the conclusion that he had become infected with the Prime Minister's muddle microbe, especially when he began to talk to us about men of light and leading. That was one of the most amazing things I have heard in this House in recent times. I could not follow his argument that the depressed areas no longer contained men of light and leading. If to have wealth is to be a man of light and leading, God help the country. Surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not mean that. I can hardly think that he is as bad as that. I could not follow the argument. It seemed to me to mean that as the men of light and leading had left those areas there had come about this great depression, and that if you could get the men of light and leading to go back to the depressed areas those areas would be revivified, and prosperity would be restored. The Prime Minister must be having a serious effect upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Chancellor begins to talk like that. I could understand the Prime Minister saying that the depression is due to the absence of men of light and leading; that would be characteristic of him. When it comes from the Chancellor of the Exchequer it is deplorable, and it shows the steady deterioration of Ministers who are associated with the Prime Minister.
It is obvious that in many respects the material aspects of our civilisation in 431 these islands need drastic change. They are ripe for change. There was a short Debate last night on housing. I am glad the Minister of Health has now entered the House. One "extinct volcano" has disappeared, and another has taken his place on the Treasury Bench. We are always talking about making up the shortage of houses. Slums are to be cleared away, and now we are to deal with overcrowding. Very much more needs to be done in regard to housing than is put forward in any proposals yet outlined by the Government. Is it not correct, in view of what is possible in the realm of housing for the working classes, that about half of our towns need completely rebuilding and the other half need rebuilding by half, certainly in their centres and other crowded places? The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Caporn) says "Not Mansfield." If Mansfield does not need it, certainly parts of Nottingham City do. Many towns need completely rebuilding.
I am surprised that the Prime Minister has been reluctant to do very much for education. He was talking to us about the insignificance of economic factors; surely he ought to be stressing the cultural factors to which he attaches so great an importance. If economic factors do not matter, culture does, in the view of the Prime Minister. What is he doing, therefore, in regard to education? Are there not all over the country classrooms that are not fit for children to be in, because they are damp, dark and in-sanitary? I can find thorn all over the country. If culture is so important, why are the Prime Minister and the Government not doing something to take those children into a better environment where they will have better schools which will not affect their health and better opportunities for education?
What about roads? I know these things have been talked about before, but there is no reason why we should not talk about them again. Much of our road policy since the War will probably turn out to have been all wrong. Modern transport developments will, within a relatively short time, necessitate special motor roads from which all other forms of transport will be excluded. If we are to allow this new development to have its way and work itself our properly, the whole of our road policy such as has 432 been pursued since the War is wrong, and will turn out to be a great mistake, and it will need completely changing. Is anything being considered in that connection? I am arguing that there are ample opportunities for considerable changes in the material structure of our civilisation. Money and materials are available. The Government are, nevertheless, merely treading along more or less orthodox pathways, and are not striking out in any new direction. They are making no new impression on the fundamental economic problems of the day in which we are living.
I would like now to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade apparently does not like that speech. Apparently, he does approve of it; I hope be may therefore approve of the things which I am going to say. I am not going to criticise to any extent the speech of the hon. Member, who began by expressing a certain amount of satisfaction with the reports of the commissioners in regard to the distressed area. He expressed great delight with the report of one of the commissioners, and he passed on to a scathing criticism of the Government for ignoring what he regarded as its revolutionary proposals. When I read those proposals, they did not seem to me to be very revolutionary, but what a progressive Conservative regards as revolutionary and what I regard as revolutionary are apparently very different things.
The hon. Member for Stockton regarded these proposals of one of the commissioners as very revolutionary. He ended his speech with a prophecy, and this is more or less a paraphrase of what he said. It was to the effect that, if this King's Speech contains the last word of the Government on the economic problems that confront the nation, then—I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with this; he has given his general assent to the hon. Member's speech, and I would ask him if he agrees with this prophecy that the hon. Gentleman made—the breakdown and collapse of this system are almost certain, he said, because of the problem of the surplus, which is now appropriated by the owning and possessing classes from the labour of the million; and he argued that the only justification for insuffi- 433 ciently paying the workers is the reinvestment of that surplus so that more may be employed and the material content of our civilisation may be expanded and further developed. That, really, was the hon. Member's argument. He contended that we had reached a stage where those who appropriate the surplus can neither spend it nor invest it, and, therefore, he asked whether, if they can neither spend it nor invest it, they arc justified in taking it, because the taking of it impoverishes those who otherwise could spend it on commodities and services that would enrich their poverty-stricken lives beyond measure.
What are the Government really doing, when we get down to brass tacks? They are merely shoring up a cracking, creaking system, as our Amendment says, by tariffs, subsidies and other devices of a similar kind. Indeed, the Government have already revealed very clearly to close observers the fact that they are played out, that they are bankrupt of ideas, that they cannot meet the situation which faces them from a new viewpoint and handle it in an entirely different fashion. The justification for our Amendment does not lie merely in the fact that as an Opposition we embrace a body of ideas different from those which dominate the minds of His Majesty's Ministers. It is also justified because, in the ranks of the Government's own supporters, there are those who clearly see the folly of continuing the present anarchistic character of capitalist production, and are demanding—I use their own words—direction, planning, organisation. These are the words that they use. All that I would ask them is: What do they propose to plan for? What is to be the purpose of their planning? There is a widespread feeling that something must be done. Our Amendment demands a complete break with the present economic order, a new orientation in economic life and activity, the impregnation of the productive system with a new motive. The widespread feeling that something entirely different is demanded by the changed circumstances and conditions will, I am certain, at no distant date place on those benches a Government which will undertake the task which the changed economic conditions demand, and bring to that relative poverty which prevails the abundance that lies to our hands.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present. House counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ 1.41 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN PYBUS
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for having gathered for me a House, which, however, is unfortunately disappearing as rapidly as it came. I listened with the very greatest interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown). He has given us his review this morning, as he always does, with good temper and ability, and I heartily wish that I could follow him over some of the points which he made but on which I cannot agree with him. After the very broad basis on which he has placed the Debate, possibly the point which I am raising may appear to be a small one, but when I tell the House that it concerns a very worthy class of brave and skilled men who are in my opinion being unfairly treated under the unemployment regulations, I know that no one will feel that it is a small question, but one which should have the generous attention of the House.
I am referring to a class of men who have recently been classed as seasonal workers, namely, the seamen employed on yachts. There are a great number of these very fine fellows up and down the coasts of this country. They are a splendid and loyal class of men, and when the country was in danger, and when our shores were threatened, the Government knew very well that they could safely depend on them for mine sweeping and other dangerous and hazardous enterprises. I have in my constituency two of these ports, Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe, and I have had the opportunity of examining very carefully the case papers of a great many of the yachtsmen affected. I am sure that if the President of the Board of Trade had been here, or any of the numerous yacht owners in this House, they would agree with me that from Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe some of the greatest yacht crews in existence have been recruited. These men are now faced with a situation which I consider to be definitely unfair, and which I would like in a very few words to explain.
Their occupation is classed as a seasonal occupation, the season being six months, and after the expiration of the season they must work 25 per cent, of the off- 435 season days or they cannot receive a penny of unemployment benefit. Unlike those in many casual occupations which are ranked as seasonal, these men are in the main employed by the owners of yachts continuously from the beginning to the end of the season. Many of them, in fact, are employed the whole year round, and how any official of the Ministry of Labour can class a man as belonging to a seasonal occupation when he is employed in that occupation the whole year round, and can prove that he has so been employed for many years, is difficult for me to understand. I am not, however, concerned so much with the men who are so employed—I am very glad that they are—but with what I think is an extraordinarily unfair anomaly. The Anomalies Bill and the regulations arising out of it were passed with a view to removing anomalies. In truth some of the anomalies that I have examined are much greater than any of those which the Bill sets out to remove—an absurd situation. These men are now placed either in the position that they must go to the Public Assistance Committee or, in the six months in which they do not go to sea, compete in getting another 40 days' employment against people who have been ashore the whole time. How can they fulfil the condition? I can prove that they have tried very hard to get employment and have failed. Many of them, unless the regulations are altered, are, I think, justified in refusing to go to sea at all.
May I give one example of what happens to a man when he goes to sea and what his position would be if, being a a good workman and a man who an employer would be glad to have, he obtained occupation as a labourer, working in a non-seasonal occupation? Here are the facts. A yachtsman who has been working and has his card stamped for 52 weeks in two years as a yachtsman cannot get unemployment benefit unless he has worked 25 per cent, of the working days in each off-season from 1st October to 31st March—and those are not easy months in which to get occupation. On the other hand, if unable to face the winter privations he had not gone to sea but had secured employment as bricklayer's labourer, with only 30 stamps on his card for two years—15 stamps a year—he could get full unemployment benefit 436 without the addition of any further stamps. Surely a condition of that sort is defeating the very object that is sought to be achieved. If these men decided not to go to sea and joined the ranks of unskilled labour, it is not unlikely that by virtue of their sobriety and industry they would secure shore jobs, and the only effect would be to swell the ranks of the unemployed who remain all the year round in insured, and non-seasonal occupations.
Then we come to the next difficulty in which these men are placed. When they go before the court of referees their case cannot be put by their own representative. They go there without anyone who understands their case and generally lose. They leave with a very great sense of grievance. Had their trade been one in which trade unionism was strong, their representative would have been there putting their case. I am glad that trade union members have this representation, but why persons skilled in knowledge of the yachting business cannot represent the men is most difficult to justify. It may be said that they get a fair hearing, but they put it to me in this way. Ten men went before the court of referees and their cases were disposed of in half-an-hour. They feel strongly that this is because there was no expert member to speak up for them.
It may be asked if yacht owners cannot make some contribution to the men in the winter. It might be said that if a man be rich enough to have a yacht he is rich enough to make some contribution to his yachtsmen. But, apart altogether from the question whether that would be charity, which the men do not want, any amount paid in the form of a weekly allowance would be taken into account when the men go before the public assistance committee. I have been informed that at the time of the last revision of the regulations representatives of employers and employed were consulted, and the inference is that these regulations arose out of that, but in my opinion neither these men nor their employers were represented in any way. We want to see fair treatment meted out to a class of men even if they arc small in number and have not a trade union to put their case for them. I ask the Minister of Labour to look into the matter and to review the position and do something for people who proved their 437 loyalty in the War and have proved ever since that they are exceptionally good citizens. They deserve fair treatment, which they are not receiving now. It is only common justice.
§ Mr. GROVES
What does the lion. Baronet want with regard to unorganised labour? Does he suggest that they should have some unauthorised representative or that they should join a labourers' union and so become entitled to representation by an organised representative?
§ Sir J. PYBUS
That is a fair question coming from the Labour benches. We debated that at great length when the subject was last before the House as a whole, but I do not think that common justice should depend on whether a man joins a union or not. There is no union, as far as I know, which particularly represents seamen of that type, and, if there is, I am not out to coerce the men to join it. It is not my business to ask for privileges for organised labour which are denied to the organised non-union man. I want to see that these very worthy yachtsmen in my constituency are fairly treated whether they are members of a union or not. I want the same privileges for everyone.
§ 1.52 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPORN
The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) covered a very wide area in his speech. In the course of it, he said that Mansfield had for a considerable period been governed by a Socialist council, and I was amazed to hear him say that, as the result of that government, a half of Mansfield needed rebuilding. I could not believe he meant it, and I interrupted him, and said: "Surely not Mansfield?" But he repeated it. I am not in a position to challenge the accuracy of his statement, but, when he turns to my own city, I am perhaps in a position to say something from first-hand knowledge. Nottingham has been governed for many years now by a Conservative majority. We have endeavoured in between municipal elections to govern on what I might perhaps call a co-operative basis so far as party politics is concerned, with the result that I challenge the hon. Member to come with me and see the housing conditions that exist there. They are as good as, perhaps better than, and the slums that exist are fewer probably than in any comparable part of the country. Where 438 the worst slums still exist, they are in almost every instance under condemnation under the scheme that has been brought into force by this Government.
But it is not my purpose merely to accept the hon. Member's challenge. The Debate on the Address has ranged over a very wide area, but, with the exception of one or two interventions upon purely local matters, every speaker has been concerned chiefly with two aspects of Government policy—the international, on which question I do not propose to offer any observations, and the domestic, mainly relating to the policy and effort of the Government to restore employment in general and to deal with unemployment in its more concentrated form with regard to what is commonly called the distressed areas. The problem of unemployment has many sides. Sometimes when we are dealing with it, especially is it the case on the Opposition Benches, we are apt to overlook the fact that but for the closing of the avenues of emigration throughout the Empire there would have been little or no unemployment problem at all in this country. I am glad to note, at any rate, that the long-term policy of the Government includes an attempt to bring into effective play the Empire as a whole. That part of the policy was inaugurated at Ottawa, and will, in the course of the next year or year and a-half, have to be reconsidered, and, I hope, revised and renewed.
I have listened with very great care practically to every debate which has taken place upon unemployment since I came into this House to ascertain what practical policy Members who sit on the Opposition Benches had to deal with unemployment which really differed from the efforts which the Government are making. I listened, as I always do, with great care to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), because I am certain that if any hon. Member on those Benches could make any practical suggestion he, of all, would do so. He suggested that as far as the Welsh coal fields were concerned some 300,000 tons of extra coal might be used if the Minister of Transport would alter his regulations with regard to the use of steam wagons upon the road. I recollect that when that matter was debated in the House a number of hon. Members very strongly urged that some preferential 439 treatment should be given to the steam wagon on the ground that it would be using home produced fuel. I cannot pledge myself, but I believe that there was a Division upon it and that I was one of a small number of Members who even voted against the Government on that matter, because I believed that it should be the policy of the Government—and I hope it is—to make every effort to find employment for our own people by utilising the sources and possibilities of our home market. I hope that the Minister of Transport will feel able to do what he can by means of the revision of his Regulations to encourage the use of British coal as a fuel even in the road transport system of the country.
The hon. Member for Aberdare made what I think from him was a very halfhearted attempt to show that the changed fiscal policy of this country has been responsible for the loss of the coal export trade. I think the hon. Member knows that the real loss of the export trade, the start of it, goes back to at least 1912 when the miners, and the Welsh miners in particular, decided to adopt a policy of agitation with the definite and declared purpose of ruining the coal industry, and refused probably one of the best men that the mining industry has ever produced—Mr. Frank Hodges—and elected Mr. James Cook as the instrument to carry into effect their declared policy. They have succeeded, or nearly succeeded, in that they have very nearly brought the coal industry to ruin, and they are perhaps now realising that the people who suffer first and who suffer most and are likely to suffer longest are the workers concerned in the industry which has been brought to such a state. There is no evidence which any tribunal would accept to show that the policy of the Government has had a detrimental effect upon the export trade of coal. I suggest to hon. Members on those benches that in attacking the tariff policy of the Government they are really dropping the bone and grasping at the shadow, because the coal industry has gained as much as any industry in this country from the improved manufacturing conditions which have taken place as a direct result of the changed fiscal policy of the Government.
In rising to make a few observations in connection with the difficulties of the de- 440 vastated areas, I hope that I need offer no apology because of the fact that my division is not within what is commonly called a distressed area. The problem of the distressed area is in essence a National problem, and though difficulties are concentrated within those areas, those of us who represent any number of workers in the mining industry or any of the other industries centred within the distressed areas are intimately concerned with the proposals of the Government to find relief. The real difficulty is due to the lack of employment created by the fact that industries such as the mining industry, the iron and steel industry and other industries cannot absorb to-day all the men whose only skill and training lie within those industries. I am glad that the Government have started upon a policy under which they are to make a series of new experiments for the purpose of endeavouring to overcome what the Chancellor of the Exchequer described as the stagnation and listlessness of those depressed areas. I am glad to note that the commissioners need not be afraid to make any experiments which they think will help us and need not fear that the Government or any of us in this House will charge them with wasting money merely because the experiments happened not to be successful. It is along the line of experiment that we may, perhaps, hope for the best results. The policy of the Government has resulted, undoubtedly, in a considerable increase in the purchasing power of the people of this country. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but it is shown in the increased output in our home industries and in the very large increase in the imports of raw material, food and manufactured goods, which do not come here merely to be stored, but are introduced for the purpose of being bought. They are bought as a result of the increased purchasing power of the ordinary man and woman in the street.
My main purpose in rising was to ask the Government whether some help in their policy in regard to the devastated areas might not be obtained through the Import Duties Advisory Committee and by Government action in increasing the openings for new men in industry, men who could be trained for those industries, if we did something to deal with the considerable increase in imported 441 manufactured goods. In the ten months of the present year there has been an increase in the quantity of imported manufactured goods, the greater bulk of which could be made in this country, economically, under efficient conditions and at reasonable prices. If it were possible to increase the home production of these goods by, say, £50,000,000, would not that provide a real opening for workers in existing trades and give real support to the commissioners in training, transfering and finding new occupations for so many of the men who are to-day unemployed in the distressed areas?
I will take one or two items. I have been struck by the fact that we imported 269,000,000 bricks and nearly 1,000,000 cwt. of tiles during the last 10 months. The increased activities of the Minister of Health for the purpose of dealing with overcrowding and slum clearance, as they become more effective, will mean that we shall require larger quantities of bricks and tiles. It may be said that as the increase will be merely for a period of five or six years, it would not be exactly an economic proposition for private enterprise in this country to provide for all the increase of bricks and tiles required. I would ask the Government to consider whether something might not be done along the lines of what was done by the Ministry of Munitions during the War. We then needed a sudden temporary increase in the production of armaments. The Ministry of Munitions was not a great Socialist organisation but a great capitalist authority, which merely guided, focussed and directed the efforts of the capitalist firms throughout the land.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
Did not that show that capitalists had neither initiative, ability nor energy to do the thing properly?
§ Mr. CAPORN
Nothing of the kind. I spent a little time at the Ministry of Munitions, a longer period than I liked, and I was only too thankful to get out. The Ministry of Munitions focussed and directed all the brains, the engineering and manufacturing facilities of the country into the service which was required by the Government at the moment. The great national factories, which the right hon. Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) boasted so much about the other day, which were built 442 and equipped, were managed by the people who had been running armaments in other firms for many years before the War, Vickers, Cammell Lairds, and the great armament firms in Sheffield. It was through their management and their skill that these great national factories were made the wonderful success that they were. I wonder whether it would be possible for the Government in connection with their building schemes to start something of the same kind in regard to bricks that they did in regard to munitions. Could they not get some of the great brick-producing firms, if they were not prepared to extend their plant because the period for which it was likely to be wanted would only be for five years, to operate, say, on a costing basis, so that we could have national brick yards or tile yards, which would provide employment for which men who have been accustomed to mining or shipbuilding could be trained.
Let me come to iron and steel. The 500,000 tons of iron and steel which are imported would mean a demand for more than 1,000,000 tons of extra coal if that steel were manufactured in this country. That is a much greater quantity than the 300,000 tons of coal of which the hon. Member for Aberdare spoke. I would ask hon. Members to take interest in securing a greater output of iron and steel in this country in order that more coal might be consumed, largely from the distressed areas. Many millions of pounds are expended in the importation of glass, machinery and electrical equipment. Let me take the case of an industry in which my division is more interested. It strikes me as a very remarkable thing that in the course of 10 months we should have imported into this country over £6,500,000 worth of ordinary wearing apparel. Surely, the men, women and children of this country could find a better way of clothing themselves, seeing that we have 2,000,000 unemployed, than by spending £6,500,000 in buying the ordinary clothing that we wear. I notice in the figures of imports 1,500,000 pairs of boots. Here is an item which will be interesting to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. We imported 22,000,000 hats during the past 10 months. It looks as though almost every person in this country is wearing one foreign hat in the 443 course of the year. It may well be that Luton has little or no unemployment—
§ Dr. BURGIN
If the hon. Gentleman refers to straw hats or hats in which any element of straw is used, he may like to know that the entire straw availability in this country would last two days of the entire hat-making year. So that there is a good deal of necessity to import, not the manufactured hat, but the straw from which the hat is manufactured.
§ Mr. CAPORN
I am only taking the 22,000,000 under the heading "Hats" from the figures produced by the hon. Gentleman's own Department, and if that does not mean "Hats," at least I am not responsible for having used the figure. But I would put it to the hon. Member that there is scope here in the hat industry for employment for some of the unemployed people who might be trained, and who at present are registered for employment in other industries. I would direct attention for a moment to hosiery. In the course of 10 months I find that we imported more than 2,500,000 dozen of hosiery, and over 700,000 dozen of underwear. There is £1,250,000 worth of outer garments. The total is £6,500,000. I would venture to suggest that the Import Duties Advisory Committee could come to the aid of the Government, could add their quota to the efforts of the Government if they would go through this list with a view to considering whether by cutting, say, £30,000,000 of the imports of highly manufactured goods they could allow a further opportunity, perhaps, for some 150,000 to 200,000 people at present unemployed to take their place in the wage-earning class. I am very glad to know that in the course of his speech to the House the Minister of Labour told us that an effort was to be made to get the employers and employés together for the purpose of dealing with the question of hours. A great-deal, perhaps, might be done, with good will on each side, with regard to not merely shortening hours, but in considering questions of bringing into each industry more elasticity both in regard to hours and in regard to wages, because I think we shall never succeed in getting any really satisfactory solution if we endeavour to deal merely with hours with- 444 out endeavouring, at the same time, to correlate that question with wages.
There is one other matter to which I would like to refer very shortly. I believe that the Government might introduce some hope in the near future of a larger number of the unemployed in the distressed trades being brought into relation with the land by means of some scheme of land settlement. One thing that has filled me with complete astonishment has been the successful way in which unemployed miners have worked allotment gardens. In the Nottinghamshire and Derby coalfield we have many miners who are really right from the land. They are sons of very small farmers; they have got a love of gardening and the land bred in their bones. I have been amazed at the very great success of some of these men whom I have persuaded to take up an allotment, and who, when they first took it up, told me that they had had no experience at all, and were doubtful whether they could work even an allotment. I have been amazed to hear and see at the end of the season that, with the help and advice of people more skilled, what a great success they have made of the 600 square yards which they have been working. I hope that the Government will encourage men to make experiments along the lines which have been worked for some time now by the Society of Friends, and which, in various parts of the country, have produced extremely interesting results.
I have a very strong feeling that ultimately some scheme of small holdings and allotments should be linked with all the great mining districts. All the mines have to carry a certain amount of land, and I would suggest that they might link up with the mining industry a scheme by which men., having spent their younger years in the mines, could, by some form of putting aside a small amount year by year, when they come to a retiring age, have the possibility of owning for themselves a small holding. They would have something to which to look forward as a sort of retiring occupation. It is the declared policy of this Government, which the Minister of Agriculture is doing so much to bring to fruition, to make it possible for people to farm, grow vegetables and fruit successfully in this 445 country, and I think we might do a great deal to prevent future distressed areas in the mining districts if we could now take steps which would result in the young minor of to-day feeling that he had some retiring occupation to which to look forward.
I would remind my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in all, or most, of the speeches of his illustrious father, he always explained that the object of his policy was to secure more work at fair wages. I remember that in one of his great speeches he said that is the only thing for which it is worth while to labour. I hope that the Government will stick to their task. I can assure them that if they do that, notwithstanding the municipal elections, they will receive the overwhelming support of the nation when they come to face it. In conclusion, may I quote a few words from another speech delivered in 1885 by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, in which, after referring to the fact of the large amount of eggs, poultry, vegetables and fruit which had been imported into this country, he concluded:So we come back to what after all is the most urgent and pressing need of all, that we shall, so far as may be, come back to the old system and re-establish the peasants and yeomen as one of the most prosperous, the most independent and the most comfortable, of all classes in the community.I commend those words to the worthy son of a great Englishman, and hope that in conjunction with the Minister of Agriculture and the Government as a whole he may yet live to see a great system of smallholdings introduced and thousands of unemployed finding useful occupation on the land.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. GARDNER
I rise to support the Amendment, which I consider to be very necessary. The Gracious Speech just lulls the nation into a sense of false security. All that we are doing is to go round and round in a circle, which becomes from day to day a more limited circle. The old industrial ways are becoming choked and closed, and the best minds we have should be called in to try and find a remedy for what is happening not only in this country but all over the world. Instead of this, the Government seem inclined to go on without taking any notice of what is happening 446 in the world. In the words of our Amendment:Your Majesty's advisers accept as inevitable the existence of mass unemployment and of poverty in the midst of plenty, continue in their efforts to buttress the system of private profit making by subsidies, tariffs, and other devices, and have no constructive policy for establishing a collective peace system and for replacing by international co-operation the competitive economic anarchy which leads to war.The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) referred to the Prime Minister's speech of last Tuesday and the doctrine he enunciated. My hon. Friend referred to it rather casually, but, of course, we have our own sense of values. To me the speech of the Prime Minister was a matter of personal, political and academic importance. It was a matter of personal importance because from 1895 onwards the Prime Minister and I journeyed together, he in the van and I somewhere in the rear. In 1931 we parted company. It is of political importance because the Prime Minister is the head of the Government and what he says may indicate the Government's line of thought. I hope it does not, indeed I am pretty sure it does not because the Government is composed of men who do look at things that are under their noses. It is of academic interest because of its socialist doctrine, in which he claims he still believes.
The Gracious Speech indicates that the Government intend to stand still. May I point out that industry cannot, even if it would, stand still. It has to face not only internal competition but competition from outside. Invention will not stand still. Unfortunately for the people I represent, those who work by hand and brain, invention is not only applied to new processes but is being constantly applied to old ones, and its effects are visible and often lamentable. All the time we are shutting down shipyards, mines, and cotton mills, the industrial world is shrinking; and the industrial world is our means of living. I notice in the report of the commissioner regarding the area of Jarrow that the Jarrow shipyard is to close down for 40 years. This will affect thousands of working people and to them it means the end, because in that time most of them will have passed out.
There slipped into the Prime Minister's speech last Tuesday a passage which seemed to me to have nothing to do 447 directly with the case to which he was referring. It may have been a bit of an old speech which came up quite subconsciously. He said that he did not agree that history has an economic basis; and that such a doctrine was not Socialism. Hon. Members know that economic factors are dominant factors of history. The Prime Minister said that he did not believe it; that it was merely a Socialist theory, explaining past events. I agree that it does not explain all events, but it does explain most events; and certainly to-day we are making history on an economic basis. Is there any other basis for economic nationalism than an economic basis? There can be none. Capitalists must be protected against each other's economic aggression.
That is the position. The whole thing is economic, and there is no other basis for economic nationalism. At the moment there is great interest in the Pacific Ocean. One country is making history there. No one will pretend that they are making history for wholly religious reasons or for Asiatic racial reasons. There is only one reason. They profess no love for or antipathy to any other nation; they are simply seeking industrial expansion. The whole thing has an economic basis. They are dreaming of an industrial domination, and they are securing the ships and guns which are necessary to that economic domination. We have armed capitalism; and capitalism cannot continue to exist without armaments. That is as true to-day as ever it was. Japan can use the Prime Minister's own words and say that they are doing it as a Government in order to promote the industrial and economic interests of their country. They are dreaming of industrial domination. They are dreaming that Japan will become what this country once was. It used to be said that we were the workshop of the world, but what is possible at the beginning of an industrial revolution is hardly possible at the end, and I think the cycle is now getting near to being closed. Therefore, the Japanese cannot do what we once did, nor can we ever get back to the position we once occupied.
But the Government go on as though they believed we can get back if we only just sit still and wait. By their policy of subsidies, quotas and tariffs they attempt to buttress up the present 448 industrial system, and then at the end, the promised land. The Government boasts of the improvement in trade and in the credit of this country. It boasts about the position of Government securities. I can remember when Consols were high. I was not in the House then; I was in the industrial market. My experience at that time, when the prices of Government securities were high, was that the position of the workman, from the standpoint of employment, was very low. The high price of Government securities merely indicates that capital is seeking cover. It does not know where to find investment. But that is small consolation to me and to workmen who are affected by what is happening. There is to-day a spell of better world trade. That is a common experience under the capitalist system. We have bad spells sometimes and then good spells. The story of capitalist development is not a story of "up and up and up," but the story of something that goes up and comes down again. There is nothing new in the fact that there is an improvement in world trade at the moment.
What I always complain of as a member of the Labour party is that the capitalist system lacks permanence. You cannot build all the time, for the foundation shifts and shifts, and capitalism falls to pieces inside the boundaries of its own operations. I returned here as a Member only last May, and ever since I have heard appeals for help from hon. Members around me. They are appeals from people who are interested, not in the working people, but in investors, those who are owners of capital. Only on Monday last a question was put about British investors in Chile, and on Tuesday another hon. Member complained of the treatment inflicted by local and national authorities upon British investments in Brazil, Argentina, China, Germany, Greece, Rumania, and other foreign countries. I never heard such a comprehensive confession of capitalist impotence made in any question during my membership of the House. There is no Socialist government in any one of the countries mentioned. They are all capitalist governments, and what they do is to refuse to meet their obligations to their capitalist colleagues in this country.
449 A few words with regard to the policy of attempting to buttress the present capitalist world. There is a continual but steady sapping and mining going on all the time underneath. In the Government's own publication; the report on the depressed areas, it is said with regard to West Cumberland that three blast furnaces now produce what nine produced previously. There is a reference to coal-mining in Jarrow, where 30 per cent, of the men have been displaced. All the mines are being steadily changed over to mechanical processes. There is no hope for the working people in the system as it is being carried on to-day. The commissioner himself remarked, in relation to this, that it is improbable that scientific advance in this direction has reached its limit. There is no end to it. Examples have been given this afternoon from all parts of the House. In my own constituency of West Ham there is a firm that is about to revolutionise production. It is not because that firm is making small profits, for it declared 22½ per cent, dividend for the year. But it is going to put up new factories, 230 feet high, with 14 floors, a kind of industrial tower of Babel. It is not because it fears immediate competition, but it knows that if it does not keep in the forefront it will be superseded by some other capitalist organisation. It is going to be undoubtedly a "process" building that will call for less manual labour and more machinery than before. What I have always argued is that there is no permanence in capitalism.
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
I have been following the hon. Member with great interest. Is he now arguing that under Socialism he would stop all such progress?
§ Mr. GARDNER
No, I am not arguing that. I do not believe it; but at the moment what is called progress is used all the time against one class of people, and there is nothing that will stop this continual nibbling at the employment of the working people. I have taken an interest in this question for a very long time. I remember that in the early days, when we used to criticise, we were told "Stand back and give the capitalists room. They will beat the world." Yet in this House every day capitalists are asking for protection or for quotas in order that they may get a monopoly. 450 They ask the Government to collect debts from other capitalists abroad, and they ask for stimulants in the way of Government subsidies. They do not know what to do. They want someone to prop them up. I ask the Government to tell the nation that the time has come for someone to supersede them.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. RICHARD LAW
Before I come to the Amendment I would say a word or two in support of the very brief speech made earlier in the Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Sir J. Pybus), who described the melancholy condition in which yacht hands find themselves to-day. This House ought to have a special interest in the condition of all who go down to the sea in ships, whether they are big ships or small ships. I am sure that the subject raised by my hon. Friend is of special interest to the President of the Board of Trade, and I hope that the Government will pay special attention to the points which he raised. I would like to add, while on this subject, that if there be one class more than another which has suffered from the existing trade depression it is the class of merchant service officers. I do not think any class has suffered more or has had less help. I hope that the Government will turn their attention to that class and do what is possible to help them.
The Mover of the Amendment made a speech which was extremely interesting, as nearly all his speeches are, and a speech which was extremely well-intentioned but to my mind totally unconstructive. I listened attentively to the hon. Gentleman and I could not find a single constructive suggestion in what he said. He described with a great deal of exactitude the troublesome and unpleasant symptoms from which society is suffering, and I am sure that in no quarter of the House is there any disagreement with his description of the symptoms. We all know that there is a great deal of poverty in the midst of what seems to be abundance. We all know that there is a great deal of unemployment on the one hand and a great deal of over-production on the other. But the hon. Gentleman does not seem to get any further than that stage of the argument which is familiar to all of us, and is just as familiar to Members on these benches as it is to Members on 451 the Opposition Benches. All that the hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues ever does is to say, "Here are the symptoms; the cause of them obviously is profit-making." But he never advances a single argument which could convince an impartial person that there is any connection between profit-making and these distressing symptoms. If the hon. Gentleman devoted his interesting speeches to proving that the weather was responsible for these disagreeable symptoms he would be quite as effective and convincing as he is when on his more normal tack.
I do not think the Government have much to fear from the Amendment. I do not think that the country will be much impressed by an Amendment of this kind. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) said yesterday the country does not want a return to Socialist Government. The country had a Socialist Government a short time ago and knows what it means. The country is well aware that a Socialist Government gos us into a most unholy mess and that the National Government, whatever shortcomings it may have, has got us out of the mess. It will take a great many speeches of the kind to which we have listened from the Opposition this afternoon to convince any reasonable person in any other sense.
§ Mr. LAW
I am just coming to that point. The Government is, I believe, in a great deal of danger but I do not regard the danger as coming from the Socialist party which sits here. If the Government should die at the next election, which is to my mind by no means an impossibility, I do not believe that the dagger will be wielded by the genial assassins who sit here. I believe that it will be a case of suicide. If the Government die it will die by its own hand. I do not believe that anyone else in the country to-day has the power to kill it. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees yesterday made what was generally admitted to be a most remarkable speech and it would be disastrous if the Government were to have the idea that the mood of that speech—apart from the arguments and expedients submitted by my hon. Friend 452 —was confined to my hon. Friend himself. Even to-day one Member of the Government, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has confessed that he is in hearty agreement with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary is not unique in the Government. I assure him that he is by no means unique in that respect as a Member of this House. There is a very strong feeling in this House and, I believe, an even stronger feeling in the country that the Government ought to be pursuing not so much a better policy than it is pursuing to-day, but a more radical policy, that it ought to give the impression rather more than it does that it is really trying to dig down to the roots of our economic and social distresses and to remove those distresses by the roots, instead of merely shopping off the weeds as they appear above the ground.
An hon. Member just now interjected a remark about the elections. On that point I think it is a matter of extraordinary interest, if nothing else, to observe how the Congressional elections have gone in the United States. They have taken a course which is unprecedented in that country or, I believe, in any other country. It has been as if the National Government here which was returned by such enormous majorities in the General Election of 1931 had received at the by-elections not only equal but even greater support. It is very difficult for us to know what is the cause of the personal success of President Roosevelt in the United States. There are a great many who take the view, which I believe is rather a shallow one, that anyhow all Americans are mad and it does not much matter what they do. That is a very common view of the recent Congressional elections. There are others who say that it is because President Roosevelt is such a consummate showman that he has been able to achieve that result. I daresay there is something in that view, but I believe that the main cause of his success has been that he has interpreted correctly the mood of the people of his own country. The mood of the people of the United States is neither Socialist nor Conservative. It is radical, They want to see whoever is governing them getting right down to the roots of the troubles which beset them. I believe 453 that is the mood of the people, not only of the United States but of the world to-day and especially of the people of this country.
It is all very well to talk about the showmanship of President Roosevelt. It seems to me that we are inclined to talk a lot of nonsense about showmanship. Virtue so often expresses itself in a dull form that we are inclined to believe that dullness is in itself a virtue. When the Government are criticised they are always inclined to say, "There is a great deal of truth in what you say. We are losing ground; we are not giving the lead that we would like to give, but we are not showmen." A confession of that kind, which confesses a fault but imputes an even stricter virtue, is not very convincing. I have a feeling that when any particular plan or policy is put forward by the National Government, they are much more concerned to show that it is not spectacular than to show that it is effective.
I have never attended a Cabinet meeting of the National Government, but I have often wondered what goes on there. I imagine that something like this happens. The Minister of Labour or the Minister of Agriculture comes along with some wide comprehensive scheme and the Cabinet like the scheme. Then somebody, probably the President of the Board of Trade, whom I regard, perhaps unjustly, as the staunchest Conservative in the Cabinet says, "I admit this is a grand scheme, but we cannot possibly do it because it looks too good, too interesting."
Then the Cabinet turns it down, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer perhaps gets up and says, "While it is true that this is a good scheme, I believe that, if only we set our minds to it, we can present it to the country in such a way that we can make it look a dull scheme, a bad scheme, a much worse scheme than it really is." The Cabinet seem to have a morbid fear of doing anything spectacular and of taking anything that may look like a short cut. There is the old proverb that says "The longest way round is sometimes the shortest way home," but the emphasis, I think, is on the "sometimes," and it is a great mistake to elevate an axiom of that kind into an absolute truth in the way that the Government seem to do.
454 The Gracious Speech as a whole is a very comprehensive document, and it foreshadows an enormous burden of legislation and of work upon Members of the Government, and to a less extent upon Members of this House. But there is one thing in the Gracious Speech which I regret very much indeed and that is the enormous place which the Indian constitutional problem has perforce, in the circumstances of to-day, to fill in the Speech and in the work of the Government at the present time. In an historical sense the Indian problem is no doubt vaster than any problem with which we have dealt in this House for a great many years, and from many points of view it is a more difficult problem, but it is not really, in the minds of the people of this country, at all the predominant problem which faces us to-day; and I would suggest to the Government that it is not really, from their own point of view, the most difficult problem which faces them.
There is now enormous activity in Government circles to see that the forces of unrighteousness, in the shape of the hon. and right hon. Members who follow the Tight hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) into the Lobby, are defeated. There are obviously enormous efforts going on to secure the defeat of that section of the Conservative party, and I would suggest to the Government, what I believe to be profoundly true, that the danger of the Conservative party is not coming from the forces which follow the right hon. Member for Epping. The real danger will come from the progressive elements in the Conservative party, here and in the country, and I think the Government woud do well to pay a little more attention to placating those elements in the House and in the country, and to giving them a definite lead, which, after all, is all that we are asking, than just to fight what is really, if I may say so without offence, an unreal peril.
I do not believe that the House of Commons is prepared to reject the proposal for Indian constitutional reform, which has been put forward by the Joint Select Committee—I am sure the House has too much good sense for that—but if I am wrong and if the House does reject it, I am still more certain that, if the right hon. Member for Epping did find himself in a position to have his own policy adopted, it would resemble far 455 more closely than he suspects the policy which is recommended by the Joint Select Committee to-day. I would once again implore the Government to try to give a definite lead to the enormous progressive elements in the country, and to remember that the mood of the country to-day is really radical, that it is not afraid of anything spectacular or of short cuts, and that after three years of the most valuable salvage work, which is admitted on every side, it wants to see the Government getting a little more move on than they seem to have at the present time.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
I am certain the Government cannot feel too pleased at the criticism which they have had from the last speaker, from the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), and from the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) during the last few days. The Government, in their policy during the last two years, have failed to satisfy their own followers. I have not heard one speech this week in which some criticism has not been advanced against the Government by their own supporters. I hope the Government will realise that the Amendment moved by the Opposition to-day is to meet a case put, not from these benches only, but from every radical thinking man and woman in this country. There is hardly an economist of standing who is not criticising, in some form or other, the apathy and apparent indifference of the Government to the state of this nation and of world affairs.
I have no desire to advance now the many statements that are coming from eminent economists, and it would seem to me that the essence of that criticism may be summarised in a few phrases. They see the world with a productive capacity to satiate the needs of every man, woman, and child throughout the world, and they see that a stranglehold is being placed upon production by monopolies, trusts, and cartels, and that there is an endeavour to maintain prices at a height which will give to industrialists a good average rate of profit. It would seem, from other economists, that the problem confronting the world is really a problem of markets, that the problem of production has been solved, and that the world has to set its mind 456 to disposing of what has already been produced. That seems to me to be common ground to all the critics of the Government and others whom one hears on the wireless, in this House, and outside.
There is an immense capacity to produce, and we on these benches say there is an immense capacity to consume. There is no attempt, however, on the part of the Government really to meet the capacity to consume which is evident if one examines the state of affairs in one's own constituency. It is difficult in this Debate to get away from the distressed areas, and let me cite the problem which confronts us in South Wales. In a decade 242,000 people have migrated from South Wales, and we are still confronted with the problem in the eastern portion of South Wales, which was referred to in the commissioner's report, of an average unemployment percentage of 35. In Glamorgan it is more than 39 and in Monmouth more than 40, even after 242,000 people have migrated, mainly from those two counties. In 1921 the average output per person employed in South Wales was 14.56 cwts. and the annual wage paid to the miner for that daily output was £223. The last figures available reveal an output of 21.96 cwts. per person employed and the annual wage £109 a year.
That is the problem facing not only the coal trade, but all the main staple trades of this country. It means that the miners have lost practically 50 per cent, of their purchasing capacity compared with 1920, but have increased their output by 50 per cent. They require just as much to-day as they did in 1920, but no attempt is being made to see that the necessary increased purchasing power is coming to areas like South Wales. That market is available. What amazes me in all the criticisms that I hear from speakers who put the case for the progressive Conservative viewpoint in this House is that they look upon the market as if it were something abstract, something in the Pacific or the Atlantic, something a long way off, instead of looking at it as the need of the average household. That need is, in fact, the effective market in this country and likewise, in other parts of the world, it is the average consumer. That market can only be satiated through wages, and only by increasing wage levels or unemployment benefit is it possible 457 to increase the consuming capacity of the people or to provide a market adequate for the increased productivity with which the world is faced to-day.
Instead of doing that, the Government have set themselves deliberately to restrict the market. They have done so by tariffs. I am hoping that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade can convince me that it is possible to increase prosperity in this country by impoverishing other countries, that while refusing to take their goods and to that extent impoverishing them we can still maintain, or obtain, prosperity in this country. It seems to me a fallacious argument to say that we can put up barriers to prevent them from sending their goods here—and to that extent obtain revenue for the goods—and at the same time expect them to purchase more coal, iron, steel and manufactured goods. The world problem conclusively proves how fallacious it is. Two-thirds of the people in the world live by growing things and one-third by making things, and it is admitted that owing to the impoverishment of the two-thirds who grow things the other third is unable to sell its products. The general impoverishment of agricultural communities is reflected in all that is happening in the United States of America. President Roosevelt is dealing with precisely the same problem, only in an aggravated form, as that with which we are confronted in this country and in Europe. The whole world can look to the United States and see there a precise replica of the problem confronting the countries of Europe.
President Roosevelt is trying by a system of planning, by schemes and by the application of politics to economics, to bring to the people of that country the products of industry. We from these benches say that it is quite impossible for the problem to be solved unless he takes complete control of the industries and of the financial machine—complete control of the means of production. That is our criticism of the Members here who from time to time attack the Government's apathy. They charge us with not advancing any constructive proposals for solving this problem, but neither do they put any forward. We had no constructive suggestion from the last speaker. It is true that they desire that the Government should put more drive into the 458 business, it is a point reiterated by every Government critic, but beyond that they suggest nothing, and when it comes to the Division Lobby we see no evidence of their readiness to become rebels by voting against the Government.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
But there are times when that is not the only choice. In any case, if hon. Members are sincere they will certainly vote against a Government which is not fulfilling their expectations. They can put down their own Amendment for the purpose. We look upon the problem of industry generally in this country as comparable to the problem facing the mining industry. I have pointed out that in South Wales alone 242,000 people have left the mining industry in 10 years. There is a similar situation in iron and steel, shipbuilding, textiles and the other staple industries of the country, and we see no attempt on the part of the Government to face up to that enormous problem. The fact that commissioners were apopinted for the areas that are called distressed, and that those commissioners embodied in their reports something that was antithetical to the policy of the Government, is a serious indictment of the economics of this order.
Time will not permit me to follow the comprehensive and splendid economic analysis of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) who opened this Debate, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will try to reply to that very constructive criticism of the activity—or inactivity—of the Government and of the economics of the capitalist system. Criticism comes not merely from the Opposition, although hon. Members may say that that criticism is very little and may be nothing else but discursiveness, but it comes also from informed persons in economics and scientific spheres outside. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will face those criticisms and that he will realise that planning is essential; in other words, that schemes will have to be propounded for industry generally comparable to those that are propounded for agriculture. The whole of industry will have to be visualised from an entirely different angle. When planning for an 459 industry the Government will be faced with vested interests, as the present Minister of Health is faced with the landlords who are now demanding compensation for rotten dwellings. They will be faced with the position that only by taking complete control can they hope to carry out their plans successfully. That is the substance of our Amendment.
I always like to believe that other Members of the House are as honest and sincere as myself, and as anxious as myself, when looking at this problem, to remedy the poverty of this island, and I put the best interpretation upon their speeches, but, if poverty is to be removed, surely the causes of poverty, which are attributable to the economics of this order, must be attacked. In the transfer of commodities from place to place, vested interests are the main obstacle, and in everything that has been attempted by this House vested interests have stood in the way. Those vested interests will have to be removed.
I do not want to talk at length about the discussions that I have from time to time with industrialists. It is true that they may be in depressed areas like South Wales, but they cannot open out upon any venture—they are just hamstrung by the banks. It is impossible for them to satisfy the banks and obtain credit from them, even for putting forward schemes which they, with their business capacity, believe would prosper. Unless the credit machine is seriously attacked by the Government, and unless the landlord interests are seriously attacked—which I can never hope will be done by this Government—it will be impossible for industry to provide employment for what I believe will be an ever-increasing number of persons unemployed. We find that, although more persons are in employment, they are mainly persons who are normally intermittently employed, and not persons rendered idle for long periods of time. It is the case of those who are rendered idle for long periods that reveals, in my estimation, the acuteness of the unemployment problem.
I should like to see the Government take up some of the recommendations in the reports of the commissioners. What are they going to do as regards the school-leaving age? I should like to see them face the question of pensions, not 460 only for aged miners, but for aged workers anywhere. There is no prospect, as far as I can see, for junior labour to have a chance unless aged people are taken out of industry and given some sense of security. In South Wales we have about 13,000 persons over 60, and we have about 13,000 young persons who are just idling their time away. Can the Government face up to that situation by providing a pension of, say, at least 30s. a week for these people in the depressed areas? If that were done, it would partially ameliorate the problem. But we on these benches see no hope at all unless the financial machine, industry generally, and the land of this country, are brought under common control, in order that credit may be advanced to do the necessary planning and to abolish the poverty which is causing grave hardship and mental perturbation to many thousands of persons in our distressed areas. For these reasons we support the Amendment. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, when he replies, will meet, not the disconnected remarks which. I myself have made, but the constructive speech with which this Debate was opened, and the criticisms of the eminent specialists in this country who from time to time criticise the apathy and lethargy of the Government.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
There is, of course, nothing to be imputed to me in the fact that this Debate has happened to fall on a Friday, and I at once express my regret to the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) that his well-informed speech should not be replied to at the end of the day by either the Leader of the Government or the Leader of the House. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will not impute that in any way to me. This is not the place to discuss the nature of the King's Speech. I would only say that by convention it is not the practice to set out in the King's Speech the entire Government policy. It has over a long period of time been the convention merely to refer to certain items.
I propose to deal with the Amendment as I find it on the Paper, though it is one which for debating purposes seeks to find fault with the Gracious Speech because it does not contain items which normally would certainly not be found within it. In the half-hour that is allowed for reply it would not be possible to cover more than a tithe of the number of inter- 461 esting topics which have been raised by Members on all sides of the House. As usual, we have found that a certain number of them appear to cancel out. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) has just been saying how necessary it is to have complete control of the financial machine. The hon. Member for the Upton Division of West Ham (Mr. Gardner), who preceded him, referred to the fact that there was a boom in gilt-edged securities because money did not appear to be flowing into industry. I wonder whether he thinks that money would flow into industry any quicker if there were, as a prelude to its doing so, a first-class financial crisis. I wonder whether that system of complete financial control would in any way assist or bring about what the hon. Member wants to do.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Is the hon. Gentleman referring to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that in the event of the taking over of the banks he would withdraw his overdraft?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am in the recollection of the House, and I think the House knows well enough who is the author of the words "first-class financial crisis." The hon. Member for Ogmore proceeded to say that you must have some plans. He emphasised again and again the necessity for plans. In the earlier part of his speech he had inveighed against tariffs and spoke of the necessity of keeping up the wage level of the wage earners of South Wales. Does he think he can do that by the principle of unrestricted imports? Does he think there can be a maintenance of the wage level if goods are allowed to come from anywhere, manufactured perhaps under Asiatic conditions? If he is going to have planning, is not part of his planning going to be regulation? Is not part of his regulation going to be control? Tell me how you can control goods coming into our ports unless it is partly by tariff and partly by quota, or a combination of both. The first part of his speech and the latter part cancel themselves out. He said we must go to the roots of the problem of poverty before we can deal with it. He ended his speech on a note of criticism because the Government had sent commissioners to the depressed areas to look into the very roots of the problem. We must not expect to find that this Debate differs from any other in that a 462 large number of the speeches that are made cancel out.
What does the Amendment do? It objects to the Gracious Speech from the Throne because His Majesty's advisers accept as inevitable the existence of mass unemployment. That is a gratuitous assumption for which no shadow of evidence has been called. The Government accept the existence of mass unemployment not in the least degree. There never has been any suggestion to that effect from this side of the House. It is entirely a fiction and figment of the imagination of His Majesty's Opposition. The only point made in respect of it was that in the unemployment assistance proposals the actuarial calculation has been based on 2,500,000. Who would have been the first to complain if there had been no basis of calculation of financial conditions? Would it not have been His Majesty's Opposition? We are entitled to take a figure and point out that it is an estimated figure. The Amendment proceeds to say that the Gracious Speech is regretted because it seems to show that His Majesty's Government appear to continue in their efforts to buttress the system of private profit. Is the improvement of transport a buttressing of the system? Is any stimulus to export trade a buttressing of the existing system? Is the economic development of Overseas Dependencies a buttressing of the existing system? Is the improvement of the condition of agriculture a buttressing of the existing system? Are the encouragement of the fishing industry and the improved marketing of farm produce the things which hon. Gentlemen have in mind in referring to the buttressing of the existing system?
§ Dr. BURGIN
If so, I will say a word about it in a moment. The House will not expect me to deal with the latter part of the Amendment which deals with a constructive policy for establishing a collective peace system, having regard to the Debates on foreign affairs which have taken place recently. I will refer for a moment or two to the very well-informed and interesting speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse who moved the Amendment. I will pass over some of the less fortunate references in that speech to the effect that the stimulus 463 of war was rather the equivalent of the stimulus of the discovery of gold in its effect upon increasing the purchasing power of the people. I think that those were unfortunate words, particularly at this time, and I do not propose to follow them up any way whatever. The Mover of the Amendment chided the Government upon the fact that they appeared to have no difficulty in finding money for armaments. He said—and I took down the words—that the money that was used for armaments would do much to mitigate the condition of the herring industry, the coal industry and the cotton industry. What did those words mean? Did the hon. Gentleman, mean that there was to he a subsidy to those three industries, because, if so, it appears to be contrary to his own Amendment? If he did not mean that the money was to be used as a subsidy, what did he mean?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I would answer that the hon. Gentleman has misquoted me. I said that a similar sum of money which went to increase the purchasing power of the consumer of herring and coal and so on would be a far better stimulus.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The hon. Gentleman has revised very considerably what he said, no doubt, quite unintentionally, but the impression he gave to the House, on which alone I can speak, is that these moneys distributed in those industries would mitigate the sufferings among the producers in those industries, but not at all among the consumers.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I accept what the hon. Gentleman intended whatever may be the impression which he conveyed, but I would remind him that a little later on in his speech he went on to say that these moneys, distributed in another way would greatly alleviate human suffering and do far more good than if employed in another direction. Again, I ask what is the method by which those moneys are to be distributed to these industries? I confess that if all that is meant is that the consumers of the products of those industries would be helped by having increased purchasing power, it was not a very good way of doing it. The next point 464 of the hon. Member was that the Government ought to have a bold policy and that Great Britain ought to lead the world. Is not that precisely what Great Britain is doing and what has been done? When in the year 1931 we found the world in chaotic political and economic conditions, the salvation of this country from that morass was the first appearance of solid ground from the swamp and it was on that solid ground that the world could commence to build.
It is a singular economic fact that the prosperity of a single country does help to bring prosperity to the entire world, and the prosperity of the Mother Country brings prosperity back to the entire Empire. In a lesser degree the prosperity of a single industry inside a country helps a large number of satellite industries. The hon. Member tilted at the Motor Show. It does not follow because you have a successful Motor Show that the only result is that there is more money going into the pockets of those who use motor cars than ought to be the case. It does not at all follow that the money is not going into the pockets of the workers who make the cars. One of the great features of the annual motor show at Olympia is that when that show is successful an immense number of industries which thrive upon the prosperity of the main industry, the industries which make spare parts, gadgets and all the fitments that go to the make-up of a modern motor car flourish and batten upon success of the main central industry. The parallel is absolutely true. A single industry carries other industries along. A single country carries others along, the Mother Country carries the Empire along, and the Mother Country and the Empire help to carry the world along. If we wanted evidence of Great Britain giving a lead, surely that is evidence.
The hon. Member spoke about letting international trade sink. Who is talking of letting it sink? What about all the efforts that are being made to stimulate international trade? What is all this talk which gives the country to understand that international trade has been abandoned? What help is there in that? Where is there anything attractive in the suggestion that it would be to the interest of anybody to allow international trade to sink? The hon. Member referred 465 to the banks in the United States, and said that a very different method had been employed by President Roosevelt in regard to the banks in the United States compared with what has been applied to the banks here. Thanks to Heaven that is the case. At least in this country the depositors who apply to the banks have been able to withdraw their deposits. The Mover of the Amendment further said that what was wanted in this country was a home policy of expansion, using all our resources. Is there anyone in the House who represents an industrial constituency who will dare affirm that there was ever a larger proportion of the home market available for his industry than now?
One of the great things that has happened has been that there has been an expansion of the home market, not perhaps to its fullest extent. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Reiner) takes the view that it is possible for the expansion still to continue. I only hope that he may be right. It certainly is the policy of His Majesty's Government that there should be expansion, using all our resources. That is what we intend and desire to do. The Mover of the Amendment went on to draw a picture of herring which were unable to be distributed at the port at which they were caught, of railway trucks empty but unable to carry the herring to the people of South Wales, who could do with herring added to their diet. He used the observation: "Look at the railway traffics." I wish the House would look at the railway traffic figures. They have been continually increasing since 1931. One of the most gratifying signs of expansion has been the regular and progressive increase of heavy haulage and the long-distance traffic on our main line railways. You can measure trade expansion and trade improvement by a certain number of tests. There is no yard stick. One of the signs is not merely the extra 900,000 people employed but the very large increase, as the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. Caporn) said, in the importation into this country of raw materials and semi-finished materials for processing here. None of those things are imported by philanthropists. They are imported to go into industry. What has been the experience of the textile trade? We find that immense quantities of cotton and wool exceeding recent 466 years' figures have been imported into this country, and have gone straight into spinners' and dyers' hands in order to be at once devoted to process use.
A good deal has been said during the Debate about the whole problem of distribution. I think the House ought to be grateful for the fact that so much prominence has been given to it. It may well be that the cost of distribution in the modern age is excessive. I do not quarrel with the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), who gave us some interesting personal experiences. He told us, in particular, that the wage of the maker of the loaf was three-farthings out of a retail cost of 7d., and that the cost of distribution might be three-halfpence or even twopence for the same loaf. But then, of course, there is nothing comparable between the production of the unit and its distribution to a point at which it may be of use. I would like the House to remember the old aphorism that "Waste is matter in the wrong place." It is not the slightest bit of use producing at a centre of production unless you can bring the article you have produced into the scope of activity and distribution. It may be that the cost is excessive. That is a matter which, perhaps, requires investigation, but the factor I would like to mention is this In the modern development of industry one of the things which perhaps requires careful control is whether there is not too big a drift from production to distribution.
We have, approximately, 12,500,000 insured workpeople earning under £5 a week, and therefore coming within the National Health Insurance system. Of that 12,500,000 insured workpeople over the whole of industry, production and distribution, something like 2,000,000 are in the distributive trade, that number having very largely increased in the last two or three years. The reason is not far to seek in a world of glut. When there is a great deal of activity, there is naturally more distributed, and consequently there are greater opportunities in the distribution world. The level of unemployment in distribution has been round about 11 per cent., whereas in productive industries it is more nearly 20 per cent. Many a mill-girl from Lancashire has found that it is more profitable for her to go into a big town and serve behind a counter where there are nine 467 chances out of 10 of employment as compared with remaining somewhere where there may be only four chances out of five. That is a problem we have to consider. The whole question of distribution undoubtedly is one of the great problems. But I think it is a mistake to limit production merely at the works' door. Production can only be effective when the unit produced is rendered accessible.
One of the matters that has received a good deal of attention this afternoon has been the speech which the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan) made yesterday. Several hon. Members have made reference to that speech, and I was asked earlier on whether I objected to the speech and I said at once "No, certainly not." There are many things in it which I whole-heartedly applaud. But I would remind the House that the essence of that speech is not criticism. It reveals certainly a mood, a desire for definite action. I entirely agree, but the basis of that speech is a series of very pointed interrogatories to which, of course, the House would not expect me to give answers, because they rather more appropriately belong to the Minister of Labour. I have a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT, with a series of questions marked. They are very direct questions, very proper questions, but it is a mistake to assume that the asking of a question necessarily supplies the answer, or criticises the Government's answer. It is premature to make that assumption. If within a certain number of weeks there is no indication that there is an answer to these questions they can be put again in a much more pungent form, but for the moment they are quite proper questions to put and the answers will be forthcoming in due season. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that a promise?"] It is a promise within limits.
Quite a number of speakers have referred to the reports of the commissioners who went to the depressed areas, and a number have asked questions as to what is the Government's attitude towards certain matters which are found in these reports; and incidentally in the questions of the hon. Member for Stockton. The proper thing to say at this stag—I am not one of the Ministers in charge of the depressed areas—is that every suggestion, every problem, every inquiry suggested by any one of the four commissioners is 468 under the closest examination and scrutiny. The making of that statement will, I think, suffice for the moment. There was one specific question put by the hon. Member for Harwich (Sir J. Pybus) and the hon. Member for South West Hull with regard to the position of yacht crews in connection with casual labour. That problem is specifically under discussion between the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour at the present time.
May I come back to the speech of the hon. Member for Wednesbury. It will be remembered that he made great play with the reduction in the number of men in the Austin works now engaged in the production of Austin cars. I understood him to say that a certain number of years ago the number of men producing an Austin car was a given figure, that a few years later that figure was much reduced and that now the figure was lower still. He drew from that set of facts the sugestion that the workmen in the Austin works had suffered in that the introduction of modern machinery had provided less opportunities for the workmen in the Austin works; and that it was a matter for some misgiving. How wide of the mark is the hon. Member's deduction?
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I made no suggestion that it had resulted in the number of men at the Austin works being less. I suggested that you may get prosperity by means of machinery and still have more people unemployed.
§ Dr. BURGIN
If the hon. Member thinks his explanation does him any good he is quite welcome to it. It only confirms my point. The facts are these. The more men you have to make a car the dearer is the cost of the car; the more cars you have to the men the cheaper is the cost of the car. The cheaper the cost of the car the more cars you export, and the greater the prosperity you bring into the industry. Take the figures; I have them from the Chairman of the company. In 1924, 5,300 men were in the Austin works making cars. In 1933 there were 15,000. In the industry as a whole, not merely taking the Austin Company, the head of which is an extremely progressive industrialist, but in the industry as a whole, in 1932 there were 200,000 workpeople engaged, in 1933 the number was 223,000, and in 1934 it was 240,000. 469 The export figures of complete private cars and commercial vehicles show that in 1931 there were 19,000, in 1932 there were 29,000, and in 1933 there were 36,000. So that the point that the number of men engaged in making a particular car has been reduced has only shown how there have been modernisations of the methods of manufacture introduced into this new industry.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I was not proposing to deny that in any terms of that kind. The truth is that there must necessarily be dislocation, and when methods of manufacture are drastically changed there must very naturally be a tendency to reduce. I think that in the long run the more production is rendered capable of being handled by fewer men or in shorter time, the greater advantage it must be to the community as a whole. The difficulty is to overcome the time lag and to make as far as possible arrangements that the introduction of the new machinery does not come so abruptly as to cause a real break in the method of manufacture.
I want to make two other points. Underlying the speeches in support of the Amendment have been two things—that if you have a Government assisting industry it is in some way associated with the assisting of profit-making, and that, broadly speaking, the conditions of industry in this country are due to economic causes. Those two underlying arguments seemed to emerge time and again from the speech of the Mover of the Amendment and from those that followed. It is quite obvious, and very little reflection will make it clear, that the intervention of Government in business is not necessarily connected with profits at all. You have only to look at Russia to see that where there has been complete intervention of a Government in industry, it has not been directed towards profits in the least. The idea that trade and industrial conditions in this country are due to economic causes in my judgment is a mistake. I think that the real reason is political causes, not economic. I think the political aspect of present-day economic difficulties is due to national 470 political situations, and, whether it is owing to exchange conditions or to an excess of supply of primary products, the salient feature in recent years of international trade has been the urge of nations towards self-sufficiency in providing the necessities of life. That is political, and I do not believe it to be economic at all. But I make the point and pass from it.
I asked at the outset of my reply to this Amendment whether the words in the Amendment—that the Opposition regretted that the Government continue in their efforts to buttress the system of private profit by buttressing the existing system—and whether the various matters that I have read out were instances of buttressing the existing system. I shall not go through the list again. There are such things as the improvement of transport. Some hon. Members said, "Yes, that would be an instance of buttressing the existing system." This list of methods of buttressing the existing system was not taken by me at random but found a proper documentary origin. What is the origin to which I referred? It is the King's Speech of the Labour Government in 1929. In that Speech there are these words:Schemes are being prepared for the improvement of the means of transport, for the stimulation of the depressed export trades, for the economic development of My Overseas Dependencies; for the improvement of the condition of agriculture; for the encouragement of the fishing industry; for the improvement of facilities for the marketing of farm and fishing outputs.Does anybody suggest that on those particular lines of investigation His Majesty's Government are not taking measures? [HON. MEMBERS: "Five years afterwards!"] Here is an Amendment to the Address suggesting that all the efforts of this Government have been directed to buttressing the existing system. Yet those very efforts find their reflection in the King's Speech of the Labour Government. In 1930 the King's Speech of the Labour Government said:Economic depression unfortunately continues to dominate the markets of the world and the accompanying restriction of international trade is felt with particular severity in those industries which are essentially dependent on export. My Government will persist in its efforts to develop and extend home, Imperial and foreign trade.471 Does anybody suggest that this Government have not taken measures to extend home, Imperial and foreign trade? Anybody who knows that these are the facts will have little difficulty in resisting the Amendment.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLSON
We have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade one of those comprehensive and well-informed defences of the policy of the Government to which we are accustomed from him. Attention has been drawn to the fact that some of my hon. Friends have lately spoken in criticism of His Majesty's Government but I think my hon. Friends who made those speeches will find nothing to disagree with in what the Parliamentary Secretary has said. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in emphasising the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) yesterday afternoon began by paying a great tribute to the National Government for the work of salvage which they have so successfully performed. When my hon. Friend propounded certain questions to the Government and asked what attitude the Government were going to adopt with regard to the recommendations of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, it was not with any desire to criticise His Majesty's Government but rather to express the hope that, successful as they have been up to the present time, they will not weary in welldoing. In fact he emphasised the point that during the first two years the Government have been in office it had been necessary for them to carry out a policy of salvage and that it was only when the 472 finances of the country had been restored and a general improvement had been effected in trade conditions in the country, that it was possible for them to adopt any forward policy.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) pointed out that the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), the hon. Member for Stockton- on-Tees and the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) have all, during the course of this Debate, made certain criticisms of the Government, not of what they have done, but rather in order to encourage them to continue in the good work that they have undertaken. When he went on to say that those who are criticising the Government ought to have the courage of their convictions and to vote against the Government, he surely misunderstood the position. We are entirely satisfied with what the Government have done up to the present time, and we are asking them in the future to adopt a more active policy. To suggest that because we do not feel that enough progress is being made—
§ It being Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Four o'Clock until Monday next, 26th November.