§ [FIFTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [23rd November] to Question [20th November]
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. Noel Lindsay.]
Which. Amendment was, 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 for replacing by international co-operation the competitive economic anarchy which leads to war."—[Mr. Attlee.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLSON
When the House adjourned on Friday afternoon I was protesting against the argument put forward from the Socialist benches that because my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) had made some criticisms of His Majesty's Government that was a reason why we should join the Opposition in their Lobby. We have not forgotten the circumstances in which we were elected to this House in 1931. A wholesome constitution enabled the body politic in this country to react against the Socialist party as against an emetic. On the 27th October the country was able to rid itself of the poison, and the National Government which is now in office is the wholesome and healthy food which has taken its place.
510 The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) made certain statements in his speech which I cannot allow to go un-contradicted. He referred to the fact that there had been a decline in the wages of the working-classes of this country. That is one of those half truths which is so useful in the country, but which is less useful here where there is an opportunity to reply. It is perfectly true that there has been since 1931 a small fall in nominal wages, but during the same time there has been a far greater fall in the cost of living and, therefore, the purchasing power of the working-classes is now greater than it was before. In the last report issued by the Ministry of Labour it is shown that during last month there was a rise in wages of £28,000 per week as against a fall in wages of £100 per week. But what was even more remarkable was when he referred to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and the rest of the Government as representing the rentier class.
What are the facts? When we had in office a Government which claimed to represent the interests of the working classes, any capitalist who lent money to the community to be used for housing or roads or any other of those beneficent activities we hear so much about was able to exact a rate of something like £4 10s. or £5 a year for every £100 that was used. Now that we have a National Government in office the value of money has so fallen that local authorities and the 'Government are able to borrow the money that is needed at a lower rate of interest. Whereas local loans returned, when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office, £4.63, now, in 1934, the return is only £3.14. We are told that when they come into office again they anticipate a further financial crisis. What will the effect of that be? Will it be to facilitate the carrying out of those works of public utility which they are so often talking about?
The hon. Member said that the only way to distribute purchasing power was by increased wages. That is true, and it cannot be done more effectively than by the return of those who were previously out of work to employment in industry. In addition to that, and because of the relief which has been afforded the Unemployment Insurance Fund, we found it was possible in the last Budget to 511 extend more generous treatment to the unemployed. Two millions who are still out of work will in future have £200,000 a week more to spend, 1,500,000 of those employed will have £100,000 a week more to spend, and 3,500,000 Income Tax payers will have £24,000,000 a year more to spend. The hon. Member for Lime-house said there has been a great dislocation in purchasing power during the past few years; it is true that there has been a greater reduction in the return in interest to the rentiers. A most typical argument was put forward by the hon. Member when he said that in the United States they had dealt more drastically with the banks than we have dealt with them in this country. No wonder. It would indeed have been strange if the National Government had treated those British banks, not one of which has failed during a time of unprecedented economic difficulty, in the same way that President Roosevelt treated those American banks which had closed their doors. The fact that we reject the Socialist programme and deny the truth of the arguments they put forward does not mean that we do not recognise that there are great problems to be faced, nor does it mean that we are entirely satisfied with the progress that is being made at the present time under the National Government.
Many of us feel a great uneasiness, which we believe is shared in the country, because we feel that in both foreign and industrial affairs the National Government have surrendered the initiative, and I would say to my right hon. Friend, with all respect, that I do not feel that the Government have fully accepted the logical implications of the fact that nowadays Parliament and the Government have accepted responsibility for the employed. They have accepted it both financially and politically. They have accepted it financially, directly through the Unemployment Assistance Board, less directly through the Unemployment Insurance Fund. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council accepted that responsibility politically in 1923, when he went to the country at a time when there was no political need for it, but because he wanted to have a free hand to take those tariff measures that he thought necessary to prevent the growth of unemployment, and he said in a speech recently that this Government 512 would be judged, as others have been judged, upon their employment record. If we claim, as we do, the gratitude of the 900,000 men who have gone back into work, we cannot logically deny some responsibility for the 2,000,000 who are still out of work. I would respectfully suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that it is not logical for us to accept responsibility for unemployment without accepting some responsibility for the organisation of industry, which alone can give employment.
My right hon. Friend has quite clearly accepted this responsibility in two individual cases. When he decided to give a high protective tariff to the iron and steel industry, he made it a condition of that assistance that they should carry through a scheme of reorganisation, and I would like to pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend's courage two or three years ago. At that time his position was not as well established as it is now, and it cannot have been altogether easy for him to face the opposition and hostility of the extreme Protectionists in my party when he stood out firmly for what I believe to be the sound principle that where public assistance in the way of protection is given to an industry, that industry should be called upon to organise itself upon efficient lines. I can congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the courage that he then showed, but I am not quite so sure that I can congratulate him to the same extent upon the pertinacity he has shown since then. I have an uneasy feeling that the considerable measure of reorganisation on paper, and the more restricted reorganisation in fact, which has been carried out in the iron and steel industry is the nicely calculated minimum which is necessary to satisfy my right hon. Friend and the Tariff Advisory Committee and to retain the tariff, and that it has interfered as little as possible with the vested private interests.
My right hon. Friend took the same attitude in the case of tramp shipping, when he proposed to pay a subsidy to that industry to assist it, adding as a condition that it should set up some kind of self-governing organisation in order that the money found by the taxpayers should be used in the interests of British shipping as a whole and should not be dissipated in internecine competition. My right hon. Friend has shown 513 flexibility of mind and realism in outlook enough to recognise that some of his most cherished economic principles had to be modified in the changed conditions of to-day. I would ask him to show the same flexibility and the same realism in recognising that there is now a greater responsibility resting upon the Government to exercise some sort of supervision over industry than there was in the past.
That argument is very much strengthened by the actual policy of the National Government. They have introduced tariffs, subsidies, and marketing schemes, all in the interests of producers in this country, and surely therefore they are entitled to demand that those industries that are receiving their assistance shall put themselves into a position to make the fullest use of that assistance. Iron and steel and shipping are not the only two industries upon the prosperity and efficiency of which the employment of our fellow-countrymen depends. They are not the only industries which benefit by the fact that the State has undertaken to provide for employment. They are not the only industries which have received special assistance from the National Government. My right hon. Friend, by his tariffs, has given to almost all industries in this country a greater share of the home market, and by those trade agreements that he has negotiated with so much skill he has given them additional scope in foreign markets. It follows from that that he is entitled to exact from them such measure of efficiency as he considers to be necessary.
I hope he will not misunderstand the suggestion that we are putting forward. We are not asking for some external interference by the bureaucracy of the Board of Trade. Quite the contrary. We are merely asking that the helping hand of the State shall be extended in order to enable the more enlightened of those engaged in an industry to reorganise it themselves. I would like to take an example from the United States of America of what we do not and of what we do want. President Roosevelt held that it was necessary to regulate the Stock Exchange of America and the investment banks. For certain political and other reasons it was decided in the case of the Stock Exchange to proceed by a Bill in 514 Congress, and a Bill was drafted by politicians and doctrinaire economists. It was passed through Congress. Parts of it are ineffective for their purpose and parts interfere unduly with legitimate trade practices. The whole Bill is regarded by stock brokers as an imposition from outside and will not be loyally observed or worked.
In the case of the investment banks they proceeded under the National Recovery Act. A committee was set up consisting of the best and most representative investment bankers who prepared a code under which it was made obligatory on all investment banks to observe those principles of sound banking and honest business which the best investment banks in America had always set before themselves as an ideal, and which they had practised except when the unfair competition of their less scrupulous rivals had compelled them to depart from their own principles. That is the kind of thing we ask the President of the Board of Trade to accept as a policy in this country. Let me quote from my hon. Friend the Member for South Bristol (Mr. Noel Lindsay) in a speech which, I think, impressed the House:You cannot localise economics, and what you have already done for the field you may one day have to do for the factory."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1934; col. 13, Vol. 295.]Let me take a concrete example, the example of the cotton industry. I take that example not because I am familiar with the cotton industry but because I can make the points I wish to make entirely out of the admissions of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. When my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Crossley) asked him to give a lead to the cotton industry to carry through a great scheme of reorganisation, his answer was:I do not think that I was responsible for the industry declining to undertake it, That was their doing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1934; col. 194, Vol. 295.]Are we at this time of day really to leave the fate of a great industry, once the greatest exporting industry of the country, upon which the livelihood of thousands of working men and women depends as well as the wealth of a whole county, entirely to the initiative of a few hundreds of millowners. What kind of men are these millowners. What did the President of the Board of Trade say: 515We are paying the penalty in Lancashire, as in some other parts of the country, of the rampant, mad, financial boom that came after the War."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1934; col. 193, Vol. 295.]Are we wait until those who, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, are in a large measure responsible for the position in which this industry finds itself to-day, are prepared to carry through a measure of self discipline and re-organisation? The right hon. Gentleman complained that 25 per cent. of those engaged in the industry did not even take the trouble to vote one way or the other on the schemes put forward, and he added helplessly:It is not my fault that they will not look after their own interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1934; col. 196, Vol. 295.]I do not ask him to look after their interests. I ask him to look after the interests of the great county of Lancashire and the interests of one of the greatest industries in this country. My right hon. Friend's attitude reminds me of the Prime Minister who, speaking at Southampton in defence of the Government's foreign policy, said:I claim for my colleagues and myself that, whatever we have done while we have been colleagues we have never done a thing that makes that day, the day of peace and security, further off than it was before.May I approach this matter from the angle of the depressed areas. What is the record of the National Government in that matter? It was on the 14th April, 1932, more than two and a-half years ago, that I myself raised this matter on the Vote of the Board of Trade. I mentioned certain facts similar to those mentioned by the Minister of Labour the other night, but no attention vas paid to them. The Minister who replied did not even refer to the remarks I ventured to make. For many months after, for two years after, the representatives of depressed areas went on pressing the Government to adopt some policy with regard to that problem. Not until March was anything done, and that was because "The Times" newspaper, with a sympathetic understanding of a great economic problem and a great human tragedy, published some eloquent and moving articles upon the condition of the county of Durham. After that we had a Debate in the House and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of 516 Trade replied. Great Parliamentarian as he is he completely failed to appreciate the point either of "The Times" articles or of the Debate, which was that while you have a great broad stream of British industry you have beside that stream certain stagnant pools, and that it was impossible to imagine any spate in that stream which would flush out and refresh those stagnant pools.
The President of the Board of Trade in his reply spent a great deal of time showing that the broad stream of British industry was now flowing faster and more freely than when the National Government came into power. We were perfectly well aware of that. He did refer to the depressed areas. I remember that he talked about poultry farms in the Rhondda Valley and growing flowers in Cornwall. After that the pressure of the representatives of depressed areas was renewed and "The Times" expressed its dissatisfaction. Sometime after commissioners were appointed to go to the depressed areas, but we were told that their reports were to be kept confidential and would not be published. The pressure was renewed, and then at last we got the reports into our hands, and we heard that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was going to announce the policy of His Majesty's Government. It was a great Parliamentary occasion and we all came down to the House. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke it was, of course, an anti-climax. I do not despair on that account, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer is getting in this House rather the reputation of a Dean Inge. We recognise that his performance is always a good deal better than his promise. The jest which has been made by one Member of the Cabinet about another might very well be applied to him, that if he had made up his mind to give a chap half-a-crown, he would try to make it look like two bob. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour, I think, intend that something positive shall be done about the depressed areas, but we have an uneasy feeling that they have opposition in the Cabinet to overcome. When we recall the speech of the President of the Board of Trade earlier this year I wonder whether the remark of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) is not true, that he is the strongest Conservative of them all. Of the reports 517 of the commissioners we attach special importance to that of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. He is a Conservative Minister, universally respected and popular, and not previously suspected, as far as I know, of holding radical or unorthodox opinions—if he had been suspected perhaps he would not have been appointed. He made an investigation and makes some very remarkable and far-reaching recommendations. Since the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has given a promise, within limits, that the pertinent questions asked by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees shall have an answer from the Government. I will say nothing more on that point, except in connection with coal mining royalties, as that is a matter in which my own constituency is specially interested.
At the present time that great industry which, by universal consent, is as much in need of reorganisation as any in the country, is controlled under Part I of the Coal Mines Act, which spreads the whole disposable tonnage over all the pits which are in existence, and because the cost of production is thereby inflated, that cost of production is covered by, at any rate, nominally fixed prices. Anything so completely the opposite of rationalisation could not, obviously, commend itself permanently to the Government, and the fact that they have announced through the Attorney-General that they intend to keep the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission in existence, and desire that it shall carry out its task to a successful conclusion, shows that they recognise the need for reorganisation and nationalisation of royalties.
It is, therefore, all the more unfortunate that 2½ years after the Attorney-General made that announcement on behalf of the Government, and very nearly four years after that Commission was set up, we still have no authoritative definition of its powers. My right hon. Friend will say that there is a test case still pending before the Railway and Canal Commissioners. I know that he has done nothing to delay it. I can, however, imagine some Governments which would have taken measures to see that a decision of such great national importance should have been arrived at sooner. But I pass from that. That Commission has, at any rate, presented a report to the 518 Secretary for Mines. It was presented to this House no less than 11 months ago, and in that report the Commission stated in plain and unequivocal terms that, in their opinion, it is impossible for them to carry their task to a successful conclusion unless the coal mining royalties are unified. They say:Even if those structural changes were successfully made, the present system of mineral ownership would stand in the way of effective and lasting reorganisation. This weakens incentive to face the difficulties of making them. 'What,' we are asked 'is the use of doing all these troublesome things to eliminate waste, secure planned development, and get rid of superfluous units, so long as so much still depends on the accident of mineral ownership of mines, and our plans may always be stultified by the opening or reopening of mines without regard to corporate efficiency or national need'? We can only answer this question by saying that Parliament will, presumably, remove sooner or later—whether by nationalisation or by some less sweeping form—an impediment that so seriously obstructs the fulfilment of its policy.That was 11 months ago. Now the Civil Lord, who approaches this problem with no preconceived notions or prejudices, and with an impartial mind, makes the same recommendation to the Government. I do not wonder that the Government require some time to consider the adoption of so far-reaching a policy as this, but I would say, on behalf of some of my hon. Friends who sit for coal mining constituencies, that if in the end the Government do not decide to take action on these lines, we shall feel the most profound disappointment.
The burden of our complaint is that the vigorous flow of original ideas and of bold, constructive action from this Government seems to be over. I see my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. He is the one exception to what is otherwise a, true generalisation. There was a time when we found it breathless work trying to follow our leaders-. We now find it a back-breaking task trying to push from behind the inertia of the National Government. I can only say, in response to the cheers, which I do not want, from the Socialist benches, that if anyone were to contrast the record of decline and decay when they were in office, and the steady improvement which has taken place since the National Government have been in office, he would despair of ever seeing a Socialist Government galvanised into any 519 kind of activity such as this Government showed in the early days, although there now may be need for some infusion of fresh blood.
Lately we have been asked to spend much Parliamentary time upon the Prevention of Disaffection Bill and the Betting and Lotteries Bill. They may be good, bad, or, as I think, indifferent, but, at any rate, they are not great national tasks worthy of a National Government like the rehabilitation and resuscitation of national industries such as coal and cotton. Just as in foreign affairs the Foreign Secretary's anxiety at all costs to avoid any commitments has meant that the prestige and power of this country have not been used to the fullest effect in the interest of collective security and disarmament, so in the case of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, we have an uneasy feeling sometimes that he is:Like the poor cat i' the adage,Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would.'I am sorry that these criticisms have been directed against two Liberal Members of the Cabinet. I assure the House that there is no vestige of party feeling in it, and I would say in all sincerity that, so far as my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is concerned, there is no Member of my own party whom I would like to see in his place. Under his guidance this country has changed over from a policy of Free Trade to one of Protection. We have seen the courage and moderation with which he has carried through these tariff changes. We have seen the enterprise and the patience with which he has negotiated trade agreements, and when he has these great qualities, all that we are asking is that he will apply those same qualities to the not less important task of the reorganisation and rehabilitation of our national industries.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
I support the Amendment which was moved on Friday by my hon. Friend the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken opened his speech in a very delightful way by saying that they had got rid of the poison of a Labour Government some time ago. I have no desire to 520 describe my opponents as poison, although I am anxious to get rid of them, and to put in their place a Government of the type he described, but with greater power than the Government we had three years ago. But where does the hon. Gentleman stand? I would like to ask any Member of the Government whether he would consider the hon. Member as a supporter. He said that the National Government had surrendered the initiative in both foreign and home affairs. During the last few days we have listened to a great number of speeches of qualified support of the Government by would-be supporters; in fact, it is very difficult to know whether there is a whole-hearted supporter of the Government on that side of the House off the Front Government Bench.
It does appear to me that the National Government are burst, that there is no loyalty to the Government, that there are millions of people in the country who have lost all confidence in the Government, and I, like most of them, see no possibility of rejoicing at the programme of the Government or the proposals in the King's Speech. There is not a single item that I can see dealing with our home affairs in which there is any hopefulness for the mass of the people of this country in their present unfortunate economic circumstances. After three years of this Government, out-and-out supporters of it are very difficult to find, and there is great discontent and disappointment with everything that they put forward. We have had from the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) and the hon. Member who has just spoken, vehement criticism of the whole policy of the Government, and while declaring that the Government have had a greater opportunity, as one after another has declared, than has ever been given to any other Government to better the lives of the people, they have hopelessly failed to do so.
But my difficulty is not only in listening to their criticisms, but to find any remedy in any of their proposals, or any real remedy for the conditions under which the people are living to-day. We all know that there are more than 2,000,000 of unemployed in the country to-day, and they are not all in the de- 521 pressed areas. We have more miners unemployed to-day than ever before. In Yorkshire, which is not a depressed area, we have something like 80,000 miners unemployed. In my own division, a large number of pits have been closed, and we have thousands of men who are terribly described, in my view, as "redundant men." There are hundreds of thousands more on the Poor Law than there were three years ago. There are scores of thousands who, under the policy of this Government, are losing their right to benefit under the National Health Insurance scheme. In all our productive industries there are miserably low wages being paid, and the Government are making poverty more widespread by the continuance of the means test.
I sincerely believe that when Part II of the Unemployment Act comes to be applied, it will be a greater evil to the unemployed than the position is at the present time, and we have no suggestion of legislation by the Government to deal with the awful conditions under which our people are living. There is no new Factory Act suggested, although it is long overdue. There is no new Mines' Regulation Act suggested, although there are still 1,000 miners killed and another 150,000 maimed every year. Even such a disaster as that at the Gresford Colliery does not wake up the Government to its necessity, nor do I find any suggestion of a new Workmen's Compensation Act, which is much needed. We have the reports of the commissioners in the depressed areas, but we have heard a good deal of criticism of those reports up to now, and I am satisfied that we shall hear a good deal more.
There is one matter mentioned in the reports to which I would like to call attention. In paragraph 64 of the Civil Lord's Report on the North-East Coast there is a reference to migration. Let me say that there is nothing possible in that suggestion. If all the recommendations of the commissioners are no better that that one, they are fatuous. Take the position as it is. The excess number of British migrants who returned to this country in 1931 was 26,030; in 1932 it was 33,020; and in 1933 it was 23,882, or a total of 82,932 more who returned to this country than left this country during those three years. I am satisfied that many of the unemployed will be dead 522 before there is any possibility of a restart of migration. I am not saying that with any pleasure, because I am one of those who have done a good deal on that subject, and I should be very pleased if the conditions were such and if opportunity could be provided for the people to take advantage of any scheme of that sort at an early date.
But I am satisfied that there is no cure for unemployment and poverty under the capitalist system. Nor does anyone suggest that there is any cure, as far as I know. There can be no cure short of the application of the Labour party's policy of Socialism. The opportunity to apply that policy is coming nearer and nearer every day. But I want to suggest that even under capitalism the Government could do more than they propose to do to mitigate the evils of the present position. They could do something almost immediately. Why not raise the school-leaving age and compensate the parents for the loss of earning capacity? Why not reduce the hours of labour, abolish overtime and establish a five days' working week? Why not reduce the pensionable age and increase the amount of pension, and encourage aged people to accept retirement? These things could be done under the capitalist system, but, good as they would be, we do not for one moment agree that they would carry us far in the direction in which we are to go when we get power to implement our Socialist policy. In the Amendment we express our regret that the Government are—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.We are all aware that we have been able to increase our productive power ten-fold, 100-fold and in some cases 1,000-fold. We know that the shops never were so full as they are to-day; the factories never bulged with so much produce as now; and our pitheads, as everyone knows, are overstocked with coal. We have everything in abundance to feed us, to clothe us and keep us warm, but although we are all aware of the abundance the Government are taking no steps to see that it is distributed to the people who are in need of it. There is great need for an increase in the purchasing power of the people. 523 Let me point out one thing with regard to our productive industries. During the 10 years from June, 1923, to June, 1933, in coal mining, general engineering, shipbuilding, iron and steel and cotton and wool manufactures, the staple and most important industries of the country, we have had a decrease of 984,220 in the number of people employed. Yet with that lesser number of workers we are producing more goods of all kinds than ever we were.
We know these things, but the Government seem to be heedless of them. We know that our productive power is increasing and will continue to increase, but capitalism has failed and is failing to distribute the abundance. Take one instance mentioned in the King's Speech—the herring industry. Although the herring is a delectable fish and a cheap one, we fail to get it in our shops, and on occasions we hear that it is even thrown back into the sea. Profit comes before use, individual greed and gain before the welfare of mankind. We can ensure for every child an elementary education. Why cannot we ensure for every child bread and clothing? There can be no challenge to the argument of our Amendment that the Governmentaccept as inevitable the existence of mass unemployment and of poverty in the midst of plenty.Nor can anyone challenge the suggestion that the Government have done what they couldto buttress the system of private property … by subsidies, tariffs, and other devices.We have only to look at what has taken place during the last two or three years, with regard to the millions of pounds that have been given for the production of sugar-beet, wheat and meat, without any conditions being laid down that the workers in the industries to which we have given the millions shall have improved conditions. But, whatever is done, we cannot patch up the system under which we are living to-day. Our command over science and machinery should be used to abolish poverty and not to create it. We believe that by the application of the Labour party's policy those things could be achieved without violence, within our democratic system. The Government have failed and Labour policy is the only alternative. We are 524 going to get our opportunity before very long. The by-elections, the county council elections and the municipal elections are all showing the way the wind is blowing. On some borough councils in London there is not a single Tory left. I would like to see every one of the 615 divisions represented in this House fought by a Socialist at the next election and to see a similar clean sweep. If we should get a majority I would not allow any institution to prevent the application of those measures on which the will of the people has been obtained. In the last part of our Amendment we say that the GovernmentHave no constructive policy for establishing a collective peace and for replacing by international co-operation the competitive economic anarchy which leads to war.We have seen that during the last few days. We wish for international co-operation to establish a collective peace system. The Labour party has never ceased to work for it. I am opposed to war, direct or indirect, and I would like to see the whole nation support the peace ballot. I feel sure that the result of that ballot will be a welcome revelation to the nation. Meanwhile I express my confidence in my own country as a great country and an influential one in the councils of the nations, but I am satisfied that our prestige has been lowered during the period of office of the National Government. I believe, with millions of the people of this country, that the greatest danger to the peace of the world is our present Foreign Secretary. I know that he is clever. He is perhaps one of the cleverest of men. In fact the other day he was so clever in dealing with the question of an inquiry into the private manufacture of arms that after he had made his speech not a Member of the House knew whether there was to be an inquiry or not. The right hon. Gentleman had to get up later, in reply to another hon. Member, in order to make it clear that there was to be such an inquiry. We do not know now what kind of inquiry it is to be, but we should like to know at the earliest possible moment. We wish it to be clearly understood that the Labour party desires the abolition of the private manufacture of arms, the prohibition of the sale of arms to any other country, the strengthening of the League of Nations, disarmament, and the establishment of a peace system which will guarantee that war will be no more.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
Now that "deep has answered unto deep," now that Rothwell has answered Doncaster, perhaps it is not inappropriate that a modest Scotsman should take some part in the Debate. I have listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), and I would say of it that at least he devoted his attention to the question of the Amendment. I am afraid that some of the other speakers have somewhat digressed from that particular subject, and for a time I wondered indeed how my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) was going to vote upon the Amendment. But let us keep in mind that the Amendment makes certain very definite criticisms against the Government. It asserts that the Government regard it as inevitable that there should be a continuance of mass unemployment, that there should be a continuance of poverty amid plenty. It goes on to add—let me quote textually from the Amendment—that the Governmenthave no constructive policy for establishing a collective peace system and for replacing by international co-operation the competitive economic anarchy which leads to war.It must have required a powerful emetic to bring up that last paragraph. I take note, of course, that the Amendment is introduced by a somewhat grandiloquent preamble, on which I say nothing except that I congratulate the draftsman on the vividness of his imagination and the colourful exuberance of his phraseology. Nor do I intend to dwell for any time upon the allegation of the Government's failure to establish a system of collective peace. I notice that the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) who introduced the Debate on this Amendment made no reference to that particular topic, while my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell declared that he was against every form of war direct or indirect. But if the hon. Member for Limehouse had expounded the views which he holds with regard to collective peace and which he has enunciated in other quarters, it would be obvious that he was in absolute disagreement with his colleague on the Front Opposition Bench. While the hon. Member for Rothwell objects to all war, direct or indirect, the hon. Member for Limehouse supports the view of those who believe in various nations joining 526 together in arms in order to make war upon those who break the peace. Accordingly, we see at once a complete division of views upon this matter in the Labour party—a divergence of views which as far as I have been able to observe runs through all the speeches they deliver, whether at conferences, or upon political platforms throughout the country.
I should have been much more interested if these hon. Gentlemen had taken advantage of this occasion to expand to us the root proposition of their foreign policy. I notice that there was passed at the Labour Conference a resolution which was endorsed very strongly by the hon. Member for Limehouse, and since he is the originator of this Debate it is right that I should quote the precise words in which he put forward his policy. They run in this way—and this, understand, is the meaning of the resolution passed by the Labour Conference at Southport:We mean to put on the Statute Book a law which will make people in this country citizens of the world before being citizens of this country"—I ask hon. Members to mark the words "on the Statute Book."The executive had actually abandoned national allegiance. It was the first time that a responsible Socialist party had taken that stand.I should rather think so. But hon. Gentlemen do not seem to realise that if our allegiance were separated from our country it would equally be separated from our country's laws, including the law creating the severance. This seems to show an amazing confusion of thought. But the hon. Gentlemen forget something much deeper. They forget that there are allegiances and loyalties which cannot be destroyed by any Statute. This is the last country—although the hon. Gentleman proposes to make it the first—in which patriotism could become a punishable offence. I, for my part, belong to the Scottish race, a small people—at least in numbers—but one which has been enabled to play a not inconsiderable part not only in our own country and in the United Kingdom but in the wider circle of the Empire and the more extended sphere of the world. How have we done it? We have done it because we have never ceased to be conscious of the immense sacrifices that 527 were made for subsequent generations by brave-hearted Scotsmen and Scotswomen who have preceded us; because in any task to which we have been called the greatest incentive to us has been the pride which we have in our country and our devotion to the race from which we have sprung.
The hon. Gentleman will appeal to us in vain to adopt this kind of slushy, impracticable sentiment. In making such an appeal he does violence to one of the noblest passions and one of the most profound inspirations of the human race. It is in vain for him to attempt to clothe with any appearance of reality the fantastic feeling, fundamentally false, that people can be induced to discard the love which they have for their own country, for their native land and for their own people in order to adopt amorphous ideas about planning for the world. One service at least the hon. Gentleman has done. He has let us know where the Labour party stand on these matters. We now know that any distressed district in any part of the surface of the world, from Archangel to Timbuctoo, will equally command the sympathy of the Labour party with the Clyde, the Tyne, Cumberland and South Wales. We know now that as far as the money of the British taxpayer is concerned, hon. Gentlemen of the Labour party will as readily dispense it on a slum in Leningrad as on a back court in Limehouse.
I turn to the attack which is made in the Amendment upon the Government's attitude towards unemployment. The Amendment states that the Government take the view that mass unemployment is inevitable. From where is that idea derived? I could find in the Debate nothing which seemed to indicate a foundation for that point of view except this, that the Government in making their arrangements for unemployment benefit had calculated upon a figure of 2,500,000. But who says that the Government believe that that figure will continue? They have started with that figure in order to establish the financial foundation of the scheme, but they have also appointed commissioners who will be in a position to consider the situation from time to time and having regard to the number of people unem- 528 ployed to fix the rates of benefit and also the rates payable by the workman, the employer and the State. The whole scheme is founded upon the idea that we can look forward to a lesser number of unemployed and, of course, if we are optimistic we look forward to a period in which the number will be very largely reduced. But who are the Labour party to make reproaches upon the question of unemployment? What is the record of their performance in connection with this matter? The difference between them and the Government is this, that whereas under their regime unemployment steadily increased, under the present Government unemployment has just as steadily decreased. I readily concede that the Labour Government were operating in a time of great depression.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I am not suggesting that the Labour party were responsible for the depression. That is why I am making this concession. I say further that the present Government have not thought of any remedy which has not been announced already by the Labour Government which preceded them. Of course, none of these remedies are new. They go back even to a dimmed and more remoter past when I myself was a Minister. There was not a single one of these schemes that had not been thought of then. The whole point is to create the conditions in which those schemes can be put into operation and in which they will work successfully. The Labour party made it impossible for any scheme to work successfully. The avalanche of distrust which they created by everything they said and did swept away any good which they could perform. They succeeded in shaking British credit to its foundation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Does anyone doubt it?
§ Sir R. HORNE
As I say, they succeeded in shaking British credit to its foundation. Business went down and unemployment increased. The present Government are in a better position because they are on a rising market: but they created their own rising market. 529 They have instilled confidence not merely in our own people but throughout the world and it is upon that basis that they have been able to make so great a change as they have made in the figures of unemployment. I do not urge any reproaches against the Labour party for their failure, but I do say they might at least have learned something from it. It was said of the Bourbons that they learned nothing and forgot nothing. The difference between the Labour party and the Bourbons is that the Labour party learn nothing and forget everything. You have only to look at their speeches. What is announced to us as part of the programme of the Socialist party by one of its chief spokesmen, the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)? He says he cannot imagine a Labour party coming into office without creating a first-class financial crisis. That is the very thing which destroyed employment before. How are you going to build up employment, and what gives you any right to complain about the present Government's record in regard to unemployment, if that is your policy?
It is not merely the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol who holds that view. That current of opinion runs through all sections of the party. I take the opinions expounded by the latest pet economist of the Labour party—Professor Laski. In a speech which he made at Moscow—where he seems to have made a sort of half apology that we could not have as bright and bloody a revolution here as they had had in Russia—he said that as soon as a Labour Government came in it would have to produce emergency measures to prevent the currency from collapsing. But if a Labour Government came in upon the programme which has been announced, the collapse in currency would have taken place as soon as the figures were announced and long before Parliament could pass any emergency measures whatever. There would be a run upon the banks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, a run upon the banks which no subsequent emergency measures would be able to stop.
If those Members of the Labour party to whom I have referred are thought to represent an extreme view I would advert for a moment to a person who is generally regarded as more sober minded, namely, Sir Charles Trevelyan. His announcement is that when the Labour 530 Government come in, the workers must be conscious of the fact that the police and military can be used to put through great economic changes. Why are the police and military to be required to put through great economic changes? Are we being threatened with civil war? Is that to be the result of the advent of a Labour Government? Do you suppose you will do anything to help employment in this country if you begin your operations under conditions such as have been indicated? The hon. Member for Rothwell referred to his party's great expectations for the next election and mentioned the successes which they have had in some of the municipal contests. I think it is a good thing that we have learned some of the methods adopted by his party in connection with those contests. For example, the false propaganda issued on leaflets that the Unionist party wants war. We are grateful that we have had these guns unmasked in time. I venture to make this prediction; that if the Labour party goes to the country on the progamme which has been defined by the speakers to whom I have referred they will meet with the same contumely and the same fate as they did in 1931.
I turn to the other matter which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the question of poverty in plenty. He seemed to say that that was the result of the capitalist system, and, indeed, that is the suggestion in the Amendment which we are discussing. I am not for a moment saying that anybody is content with the conditions which we find to-day. There is a great anomaly, which everybody recognises, between the wealth of the world and the apparent inability to make those exchanges which will enable the people who desire commodities and have need of them to take advantage of them. But that does not at all arise out of the capitalist system. It would arise under a. Socialist or any other system. It is perfectly obvious that it emerges from a very large number of international difficulties which no one country can solve, an example of which we can find in my hon. Friend's speech. After all, one of the greatest difficulties about coal is that coal is not being purchased abroad by the customers we used to have. But no Socialist Government could compel Italy or Argentina to take coal in the same quantities that they used to take it. This 531 anomaly arises out of a whole series of impediments which are world-wide, and has nothing to do with the particular form of administration that you may have in any one country at any one time.
The capitalist system has on a fair review not done so badly as some people would suggest. I look back over the span of my own life; it does not seem a long time but a vast number of great changes has taken place during that period. Wages are much better than they were when I was a boy; hours of labour are much shorter; there was no free education, no free books in schools, no workmen's compensation, no old age pension, no widows' pension, no unemployment benefit arrangements, no health insurance for the people. All of these things have been done in that short span. If you look at it from the point of view of money you will see what a great redistribution of the wealth of the country has taken place. Why, social services which, when I was young, did not cost more than £11,000,000 in a year to-day cost over £400,000,000 in a year, derived from the produce of the capitalist system. When I look at the savings of the working people to-day, the amount which they put in the banks is perfectly startling. The savings of the humble people in the country amount to-day to so large a sum as £2,543,000,000. Well may Mr. Herbert Morrison at a Labour Conference warn his brethren to go slow in their attack on capital because the workman was as careful about defending his capital as was the rich man. Theses illustrations give to the House some indication of what has been done by the capitalist system during the last 50 years.
With what are you going to contrast it? Is there any country in this world to-day where people are as well off as they are in this country? There is not one. You can say if you like that most of them are capitalist countries. If you choose to say that, let us turn to the one country which, as the hon. Member for Limehouse reminded us, is carrying through a great social change, the vast country of Russia. Poverty in the midst of plenty! That is the attack which is made on the Government here. When you take the only great Socialist Government in the world what do you find in their area? You may say that they have not 532 acquired so much technical information in regard to machinery as other countries, but take the thing in which they are richest, richer than any other country, the means for the production of food. What is the position of their people with regard to food? It is common knowledge that vast masses of Russians to-day are starving for want of food. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not true."] I am told that that is not true. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) made a recent visit to Poland. He said:When I asked Ukrainians why they did not join their fellow nationalists in Russia they replied 'We would rather live in Poland under political tyranny and economic freedom than in Russia. We have bread to eat but they have not.'
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
Is not that evidence of Ukrainians in Poland merely hearsay on their part and on the part of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), and not established by fact?
§ Sir R. HORNE
Ukrainians know very well what is going on in Russia, and, if conditions were better in Russia than where they are, they would choose the better place. I will not elaborate this matter, but recently there was a young gentleman, Mr. John Brown, of Ruskin College, who went on a visit of investigation to Russia. He came back wholly disillusioned and said that it was a country of queues. All the people queued up seeking to get their rations. That does not seem to be an excellent example of distribution reaching the consumer. He adds what I think it is worth while to remember:The standard of living of the higher paid Russians was definitely below that of a man on the dole in England.I do not think that, having in mind, these results of Socialistic views in other parts of the world, we are likely to come to the conclusion that we should be better off under a Socialist Government. I admit that under a Socialist Government distribution would be easier, but for this reason only, that there would be no plenty to distribute.
I turn to the last of the suggestions which is made in the Amendment, which is that the Government has no policy for international co-operation. We all believe in co-operation. Everybody would be willing to co-operate with other Gov- 533 ernments in making the condition of the world better. But with whom are you going to co-operate and upon what basis? I notice that the hon. Member for Limehouse said that we must put bold plans before the other nations of the world. Perhaps I ought to use his exact phrase in order to be just to him:I think this country has got to set a lead by going to the world with bold plans for co-operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1934; col. 402, Vol. 295.]But he never indicated what the character of any of these bold plans would be. He never suggested what he is going to propose to any one nation or to all the nations; no indication whatever. And he never indicated what nations he would propose first to approach. It is very good to talk about co-operation. We all believe in the institution of marriage. But you do not always find ladies who are ready to co-operate. And even after you have got as they say, an agreement in principle sometimes difficulties arise over the settlements which create a complete disruption. It is perfectly ludicrous to come here and talk about co-operation unless you are prepared to say what your design is and what country you propose to put it before.
Let us keep this in mind. We held an Economic Conference here two years ago at which we put forward what I believe to have been a very excellent series of propositions for the consideration of other nations. The whole House is aware that the Conference was a hopeless failure. The United States, which we had expected would have been willing to consider some of the largest and most important of the financial topics which were pressing the world made it plain in the first week of the Conference by a sudden change of opinion, that they refused to go any further, and the failure of that Conference set back the chances of co-operation far farther than they would have been if it had never been held. It is perfectly obvious that if you are going to hold any Conference about co-operation you have got to prepare the ground beforehand, and arrange your plans, and you must see a chance of it being carried through before you invite those with whom you are going to confer.
If that be so, how can you make any complaint about this Government with regard to this matter? Is it supposed that there would be unanimity among the 534 countries of the world at this moment? What is the situation in Europe? You have a gold bloc, France, Belgium, Holland and Italy, with their currencies all based on gold; on the other hand, you have this country, which is divorced from gold, surrounded by a large number of countries which carry on their commerce on the basis of sterling. What hope at the present time have you of any co-operation between the nations when you cannot even arrange a successful basis of currencies? It is fantastic to suggest it. While you may hope in the future, if conditions change, that you will find a common basis on which co-operation may take place, at the present time no wise man can see any possible basis on which you can bring the nations together to co-operate in commerce and finance.
I wish now for a moment to take up a topic upon which I find myself more in consonance with the hon. Member for Limehouse. He referred to the question of coal, and I am one of those who believe that the whole future prosperity of this country is dependent on what happens to coal. Coal is the one indigenous asset we have. It is the one great natural element of wealth which we have to give to other nations in exchange for what they can give us; and in addition, of course, it has proved a source of great profit to those in the past who have had to carry it to foreign markets. Lack of exports at the present time is one of the conditions from which shipping is suffering most. All our prosperity has been built up on coal. I do not know whether it has been noticed during the Debates on the distressed areas that everyone of those districts is in exactly the same position, and is suffering from exactly the same causes. Each one of them is a district in which there is coal near the seaboard; in each one of them an iron and steel industry has been built up on coal; in each one a shipbuilding industry has been built up on iron and steel, although it is of course greatest in two of these areas, the Clyde and the Tyne. We have there a great trinity of industries, and when shipbuilding suffers from lack of prosperity in the shipping industry, iron and steel suffers and coal suffers, and they all go down together. We cannot make coal prosperous unless iron and 535 steel are prosperous, and unless shipbuilding is prosperous.
We have in the soil of this country vast sources of wealth which would become entirely useless if it could be assumed that the day of coal is over. I for one do not take that view. I think that if only the country puts forth the proper effort in order to make these coal measures once again of the value they had in past times, we can not only win through to prosperity, but be in as advantageous a position as we have ever been in the world. But we have to be active upon the subject. What form can our activities take? I have mentioned the dependence of coal upon the prosperity of certain industries, but there is another element which I would just mention in passing since I see the President of the Board of Trade in his place. We would like again to see a great increase in our export of coal. That is essential to the prosperity of the industry. My right hon. Friend has made certain trading agreements with Scandinavia which have been a great advantage to the coal trade in so far as it operates from the north-east coast of England, but we all know that these agreements have been of no advantage to other parts of the country. In fact, they have been of certain disadvantage to South Wales. I have noticed some very embarassing figures which show that Italy has been purchasing more coal this year than previously, but it has ben entirely derived from Germany and Poland, while her imports from South Wales have decreased. The reason for that circumstance apparently is the fact that since the Polish and German coal has been driven to some extent out of the Scandinavian markets owing to the benefits we have obtained for the coalfields on the north-east coast, that foreign coal has gone down to the Mediterranean markets and has undoubtedly had a certain adverse effect upon the chances of South Wales in that area.
I know that my right hon. Friend has been very active over a long period in trying to remedy this situation. I do not know how far he is in a position to say that he has succeeded or on what conditions any negotiations in which he has been engaged are likely to emerge, but I am sure I need not press upon him the prime importance to the South Wales 536 coalfield of some arrangement by which more coal would be taken to Mediterranean shores than has been taken in recent times. The whole prosperity of South Wales depends upon some prosperity of this kind beginning to arise. The Argentine is a great market, and my right hon. Friend made an agreement with that country, but owing to exchange difficulties she has not been able to purchase as she used to, and she has been trying to do with as little coal as she can get on with. We can only hope for benefit from that quarter when the general trade of the world begins to increase, when the Argentine will no doubt benefit like other countries, and perhaps to a greater extent than most.
Having said that with regard to export coal, I turn to the other question which faces everybody who takes a keen interest in this matter. Many people say that the day of coal is over because the natural oil which gushes out from the ground in many other parts of the world has taken the place of coal. If I believed that that was so, I should despair of this country, because I could only envisage a shrivelled and impoverished Britain as compared with the great country that we were in past times. But there is no need to come to that conclusion. We can develop the uses of coal—perhaps our adversity will make us develop them—to far greater advantage than we have ever done in the past. I take for example the question of pulverised fuel. There is a great deal to be done in that direction. I see in the report of the Fuel Research Committee this morning that experiments are being made with pulverised fuel in ships. I, along with others, was a party to an experiment in one of the large ocean-going ships, where the burning of pulverised fuel answered very well and effected a diminution in fuel costs. The times, however, have been adverse to ships, and that experiment has not been proceeded with.
This is the time when a Government Department, which is in a position to carry on these experiments further than we can, might be of use to the coal industry, and I for one am hopeful that a great advance can be made along that line. Sir Harry McGowan, as President of the Fuel Institute, made an interesting revelation a few nights ago, when he said that Diesel's original idea in 537 building his engine was not to use oil for it, but to use pulverised fuel, and he suggested that the scientists of our time might devote themselves to seeing how far Diesel's original idea can be put into practice. If it can, it will make all the difference in the world, because those who used to buy our coal in the old times are turning to the use of the Diesel engine for transport in preference to the ordinary engine, intending in those circumstances to use oil. If we can demonstrate that pulverised fuel can be used as efficiently and at cheaper cost than oil, we shall do a very great thing to the coal industry.
There are two other things which I should like to mention. When it is said that oil can be got from coal, there always remains at the end the possibility of producing oil out of our own coal. The Government have given great encouragement to the setting up of a large plant in the north of England, under the auspices of the Imperial Chemical Industries by which oil is to be produced from selected coals. I have some comparatively recent information with regard to that great experiment. I am told that it has gone far beyond the region of experiment now and that there is every possible hope that this great enterprise will be completely successful. If that be so, there will obviously be an opportunity for carrying this experiment further throughout the country, and I am certain that His Majesty's Government will be willing to give every help and encouragement to such a spread of enterprises as will greatly help the coal industry.
There is, however, another method of using coal which is familiar to people in the coal districts, many of whom I see on the benches opposite. I refer to the method of low temperature carbonisation. There is no opposition between between that and the hydrogenation process, already referred to and there is room for them both. In this country we ought to develop both of them. The low temperature carbonisation process has certain attractive features which do not belong to the other. For example, it yields a residual coke which can be burned in domestic grates and also in furnaces. It is, of course, smokeless, and if it came into universal use in a place like London, we should get rid of those great palls of smoke which not merely 538 obscure the sky, but are of great detriment to health. That in itself would be something worth achieving. There are already in existence certain establishments where that process is being used and has been used for some time. I am not in a position to speak of the commercial results. There has recently been established another installation in the Midlands of England which has got a factor hitherto unknown. If the views I hear in regard to it are correct, undoubtedly a tremendous advance has been made. I venture to suggest to the Government that their Fuel Research Institute should make a complete investigation into the results that have been obtained by these various enterprises in this country, and to come to a considered conclusion upon the best lines to follow. If they give that lead to the coal industry we may be able to get along very much faster and without any of the unsuccessful experiments we have had in the past. I hope the Government will take that matter in hand.
I wish again to emphasise the fact that this country cannot be prosperous unless call is prosperous. I cannot exaggerate the point of view which I hold, that this country is doomed if all our coal measures are to be useless or valueless. It is the most important thing we can do to develop the best uses of this great asset which we have—indeed, the only asset which we have. No money spent on that purpose is wasted, and I would beg the Government to be generous to the last degree in providing their Fuel Research department with funds, in order that these necessary investigations may be made. I beg them to do it quickly. Time is of the essence of this matter. The coal industry is languishing. The figures which the hon. Member for Rothwell gave show that while many other industries are increasing in numbers, the miners are decreasing in many districts. We cannot afford to see that go on. I entreat the Government, with all the vehemence which I can command, to act quickly in this matter, and to act generously. It is a topic which I have taken up to-day only because it was started by the hon. Member for Limehouse and followed up by the hon. Member for Rothwell. It is obviously not at all germane to the Amendment, which we have been discussing. All that remains for me to say about the Amendment is, that its 539 terms put an amazing strain on the credulity of Members of this House, and that, if adopted, they would constitute a colossal fraud on the confidence of the country.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. KENNETH LINDSAY
I rise for a few moments only to try to drive home one special point, and I think I could illustrate that point by the speech of the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). We listened for I suppose some 25 minutes to the first part of his speech simply and solely because he had to answer the speech from the other side—at least somebody had to answer it—and we forfeited 25 minutes of the right hon. Gentleman as the first leader of industry who has taken part in this Debate. We have had this irrelevant Amendment submitted to us, which has about as much to do with poverty and plenty as the nationalisation of armaments has to do with the great, profound problem of peace and war, and have been led off on by-paths, and in consequence the right hon. Gentleman has had to devote a very large part of his speech to exposing once more with great skill and amusement this old, undergraduate, adolescent motion about Capitalism versus Socialism.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I was not only listening to the right hon. Gentleman but noticing what was happening on Labour benches during the speech. It is no accident that a Debate on the depressed areas has merged into a Debate on poverty and plenty. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) that here is a very real problem, and the people know it. They listen in, they read and moreover they feel it, they do not need to be told that there is a very genuine problem, and my only complaint with the Amendment is that I have no sort of confidence—otherwise, I should cross the House this minute—that the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange are going to make any fundamental difference to that problem. I want to object also to the treatment of it by the Minister of Labour and the Prime Minister in their speeches last week. I do not agree with them that we can isolate 540 the depressed areas from the whole unemployment problem. I believe that to be a profound mistake. It is all very well to have a little laboratory treatment, as the Prime Minister suggested, to isolate one portion and say, "We are now going to deal no longer with unemployment but we are going to deal with the unemployed. We are going to give special treatment." I can only say that one-fifth of Scotland is living on unemployment insurance or on public assistance of some kind and that if we do not, for example, relate the price of milk, which is an agricultural question, to that problem, in other words unless our policy is a whole policy, we shall find that it is quite futile to attack the main unemployed problem.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) said he wanted a lead, and I suggest that the right hon. Member for Hillhead has given the Government a lead on one thing—coal. There are many other directions in which some of us on these benches want a lead to be given. We want a lead on financial policy and on industrial reorganisation—not that I have, for one moment, any great faith in the Government conducting industry, but we listen to hon. Members who, like myself, do not know the first thing about industry making at times, wild idiotic speeches from different quarters of the House, while outside the leaders of industry are not telling the country and the Government, what is needed to be done. The reason for that is our political machinery in Great Britain is out of date. I do not necessarily agree with all that is happening in modern Italy, but I do say that Mussolini is one of the few modern statesmen in the world who realises that if people are to discuss a problem they must have some knowledge of the subject. I do not stand up and talk about India. I have listened to hon. and right hon. Members on the subject, and I very often think they are talking nonsense. I do not know, but I do know other subjects, and when I hear hon. and right hon. Members talking complete nonsense on the question of industrial reorganisation I feel that we are not getting a lead. On the question of a policy as regards hours and conditions of labour the Minister of Labour told us that he was going to treat with industry, going to see the trade unions and the employers. What is he 541 going to say to the employers? This has happened a good many times before. How is he going to answer my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees on what is a well-known fact, that the conditions and wages in some areas round London for men who come from the depressed areas are definitely low? Is he going to tackle that question? This is the first opportunity he has of putting forward an employment policy instead of an unemployment policy. Unless he does that he is not going to make the contribution which a lot of us expect from him in his new office.
I come back to the Minister of Labour. He is going to set up two commissions, and is going to subsidise the location of industry and subsidise leisure. He said he was going to clear away this psychological depression which consists of slag heaps and other things in the depressed areas. Very good. But how is he going to attract fresh industries to those areas? I want to be very concrete. What is he going to do with the 30 Industrial Development Councils which exist and which, I am told, meet four times a year at the Board of Trade? Is this salvage work or is it reconstruction? I agree with, at any rate, this part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees, that we have to distinguish between salvage and reconstruction. I see that Newcastle has given Spillers £27,000 on condition that they will settle a new factory there. I see that Manchester has advanced £4,000 on condition that a factory is moved out to the suburbs. I see that Glasgow has turned down a coke-oven scheme which my expert friends tell me would reduce the cost of production by something like 25 to 30 per cent. I see factories growing up on the Great West Road which are indirectly being subsidised by the State, and trading estates like Slough, The Hyde, near Hendon, and Park Royal. Is there any method, apart from the clearing away of slag heaps, which the Minister of Labour is going to use to correct this dislocation in the siting of industry? I suggest to him that the time has come for taking this matter in hand and not letting the 30 separate Development Councils deal with it on competitive estate value terms.
The question of coal has been mentioned. In the report of Sir Arthur 542 Rose on Scotland one thing stands out. There is no constructive suggestion in that report, its great value being in its detailed analysis of the problem, but he says that it is a problem of a heavy depression and not a problem of a derelict area, The worst village is not derelict. The girls are working and bring home £2, £3 or £4 a week, but the men have been left without work for seven years, and there they are derelict; but now the Scottish Motor Traction Company is taking these men out to other mines. It is not therefore a derelict area, but a general heavy depression and, as the right hon. Member for Hillhead said, it is based on coal. What machinery have the Government for dealing with this problem? Are there not three or four Members, an inner organ of the Cabinet, whose job it might be to do something beside the salvage work? India and defence are two matters which have to be dealt with, and there are other Members to the Cabinet to deal with them; but is it not possible to second not only the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Agriculture, but the Minister of Labour, with, possibly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and certainly the Secretary for Mines, to the work of concentrating on this constructive and practical job—not on salvage work?
The Minister of Labour talked about subsistence experiments. For whom is the subsistence to be provided? There are only two classes of people to-day who need this subsidised leisure, those between 14 and 18 and those who are over 60, or at least over 65. I do not think it will help the situation to create Upholland experiments in different parts of the country—if he was referring to such experiments—for men in the prime of life between 30 and 55 to be trained for potential work whether as agricultural labourers or skilled men. If we are going to subsidise leisure, to subsidise hostels, let us do it for the 2,000,000 persons between 14 and 18 or the more than 750,000 occupied persons over 65 in this country. I know that it is easy to say, "Keep the children at school," but I do not ask for any simple way out of it. We have 2,000,000 unemployed persons, and whether or not we have a scheme for pulverising coal 543 or for hydrogenation and the rest of it—whether or not Sir Harry McGowan brings off a great coup in the next two years to employ more men in the coal mining industry—still this problem remains. It has been emphasised by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) and other Members during the last two or three days. We say therefore that we would like to distinguish between this problem and salvage work. It is salvage work to put a bottom in agricultural prices, but what about it expanding consumption of agricultural products? The Minister of Agriculture has successfully done the first part of his job. It seems to us that he cannot tackle unemployment unless we approach it from five different angles on the Government side—trade, agriculture, mines, the exchequer, and the Ministry of Labour—and make a concerted attack on the problem.
I have spoken too long, but some of us on these benches are listening for an authentic voice. Our attitude has nothing to do with party. I do not care whether the Conservative party or the Labour party get the credit. We want to hear a voice that is above party and above nostrums. It is confusing the issue for us to have to decide between Capitalism and Socialism, between "Eppingism" and pacifism, when the great need is for new machinery. On this question of new machinery may I say that I am profoundly glad that the Government have decided to set up two commissions. I have come to the conclusion that new machinery is wanted to-day in our political structure. The right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley and other Members of the Labour party tell us frequently of the enormous changes which are taking place in industry, and I agree with them that we have to make political changes to meet those economic changes. Is it an accident that there is a Soviet system in Russia and a corporate State in Italy and the N.R.A. in America? Is this a madcap movement sweeping across the world? No, the fact is that these things are simply devices to meet an entirely new situation. The President of the Board of Trade and his Department, the Minister of Labour and his Department, and the Minister of Agriculture and his Department are not competent to tackle the problem of bringing back 544 to work this second million of people, because the attack has to come from many different sides. It is not a question of planning or not planning; those are omnibus words which have very little meaning unless you give them some machinery.
When we say that we want a lead—I believe the Liberal party call it a vision and other people call it something else—we mean that we want to see, from four or five different angles, an alternative approach from the somewhat sloppy approach that is mentioned in this Amendment. It is perfectly possible to put into plain language a policy which, if it came from one of those whom we regard as our leaders on these benches, would catch fire in the country and put the whole economic problem in a different way. We believe also that behind what is called a lead there must be the necessary governmental machinery. That is why we lay more stress than others upon that machinery. The old charms of Protection or Free Trade and Capitalism or Socialism and so forth are finished. People outside are tired of hearing them. There is a third policy, and a third voice which the masses of the people are waiting to hear. We ask the Government to let them hear it.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
I support the Amendment. Friday was largely occupied in an attack upon the Prime Minister, and, if a stranger had entered, he would have concluded that the Prime Minister was nothing short of a modern political Judas. The similarity is not quite correct, because the Biblical character did one good turn before he died, and that was to hang himself. We have no indication at the moment of the intention of the Prime Minister to commit such a spectacular and pleasant task.
May I be allowed to correct a statement which was made by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson). He accused hon. Members on these benches of only speaking half truths, and contended that the assertion had been made from these benches that wages had not improved during the administration of the present Government. He said that last month there had been an increase of something like £12,000 in the rates of wages paid in this country. He might have been equally honourable and given the figures 545 not only for last month but for last year, and for 1932 and 1931 also. I never claim to be an individual who condemns the Government or who gives them credit for an increase or a decrease in the wages of our people. In view of the fact that the hon. Member made that a point in his criticism of the Amendment which I support, the House may be interested to know that the decrease in the rates of wages in this country for 1931 was at the rate of £401,000 per week. For 1932 there was a weekly decrease of £249,200, and for last year £65,250 per week. In addition, he might have been honourable enough to have mentioned another fact which is to be found in the Ministry of Labour Gazette. In 1931, notwithstanding the enormous weekly decrease in wages of the working population, there was an increase in the working hours of 142,000 per week. In 1932 the weekly increase in the working hours was 7,000, and last year there was an increase in the working hours of no less than 36,000 per week. How can the hon. Member make reference to what he considers to be incorrect statements from these benches and then reply to them by making equally inaccurate statements?
I assume that not all hon. Members will support the Amendment. On every occasion hon. Members opposite object to the criticism that we make against the existing system. It is sufficient for us to mention the word "Capitalism." Why do they take exception to our criticism of the system? We have never on any occasion held the Government responsible for the existence of the system. We hold the Government responsible for its perpetuation and continuation. Surely no Tory Member will deny that charge. Neither will any Member deny that they seek to perpetuate its existence by propping it up and buttressing it with subsidies and tariffs. A return has been issued, as the result of a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring), showing that no less than 42 industries or processes are receiving financial aid or subsidies—an enormous list. Public works are the only industries that are receiving no financial assistance from this Government. Subsidies are not a monoply of this Administration. Since 1920, various Governments have subsidised industries to the extent of over £217,000,000.
546 The Amendment deals with the inability to distribute abundance. Surely that is sufficient comment to those who seek to perpetuate a system which is responsible for permitting children to starve, and at the same time permiting a man to die and leave a fortune of £40,000,000. If those facts can be cited as a justification for the continuation of the present system, those who defend it are entitled to do so. When this phase of the problem was under discussion on 19th December, 1932, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour made one or two pertinent observations. He said:So far as this country is concerned, what we can say is, that rationalisation of heavy industries tends to produce a disproportionate reduction in the number of men employed. … I only mention these tendencies in modern industrial organisation because I think that the time has come when serious consideration will have to be given to seeing whether some solution, either national or international, can be found for the definite human tragedies that are involved.The resolution does not contain language equally strong with that used by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. He also made another observation to which we take no exception. After dealing with the enormous increase in the productivity of other countries, he said:Although no exact figures for Great Britain are available, it seems probable that the increase in productivity per person in this country rose to a considerable extent, although not to the same extent as on the Continent, and that that increase in productivity has continued, even during the depression of the last year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December, 1932; cols. 868–69, Vol. 273.]I do not agree that we have no exact figures in this country and that no exact statistics are available. The statistics are not quite as reliable as those obtained in the United States, because in that country, in addition to the very elaborate and comprehensive statistics issued by the various State departments, it has been asserted on very reliable authority that if the whole adult population worked four hours a day and four days a week, America would be assured a standard of living 10 times above that of 1929.
Let me give some figures from the report of the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance. In that report 547 was a considerable amount of evidence that while there has been an enormous increase in the productivity of different articles in this country, there has also been a corresponding decrease in the number of persons employed. I do not propose to deal with all the statistics, but to give a quotation from the "Times" Trade Supplement of 23rd July, 1932, in which this statement is found:Between 1913 and 1928, the increase in output per head of workers employed in 30 principal industries in Great Britain was 33 per cent., but the increase in employment was 2.2 per cent., or less than the increase in population.Even if there were no figures, there are plenty of facts available. It is certainly a fact that nearly 2,000,000 persons are unemployed in this country, because there is no demand—not need—for their products. There are also thousands of unemployed in Leicester and Northampton who could provide boots and shoes for unemployed miners in South Wales, and thousands in the textile and woollen industry who are prepared to exchange their products for boots, shoes and coal.
Why do such transactions not take place, unless it be because of the existing economic system? There is another phase of this question of abundance which is of considerable importance and should not be ignored. It is to be found in the Ministry of Labour Report for 1933, to which reference has already been made, and it shows that, compared with 1923, there has been a displacement of labour in the productive industries or a contraction in employment for over 1,000,000 persons, while in the services, or distributive industries, there has been an increase in employment of approximately 1,300,000 persons. We cannot exist permanently in this country upon a distribution of the articles that are produced, and those facts clearly demonstrate the extent to which there is ability in this country to produce sufficient to maintain the population. They prove also that productive capacity under our present economic system is sufficient to maintain an increased population, with a decreased number of persons directly employed in productive industry, if that would satisfy the right hon. Gentleman who recently delivered a speech in this House. We, like him, can justify the existence of the present system in so far as it has solved the problem of pro- 548 duction, and that, in my opinion, is its justification. Without it we should have had poverty instead of plenty. The problem now is, how to guarantee a continuance and increase of that abundant production, and also to distribute the abundance produced. The process of contraction in employment because of improved methods of production is bound to develop, with the result that we cannot rely on expansion in those other industries which are known as the service industries, because even those industries will, at some period of their expansion, adopt improved methods of distribution. Hence the urgent need of planning, about which we hear so much.
Reference has been made to the depression in the mining industry. In my opinion there is no hope of absorbing all the unemployed miners in the mining industry, either in South Wales or in any part of England. According to the Annual Report of the Ministry of Labour, in 10 years the number of persons employed in the mining industry has been reduced by 537,400, and I repeat that I see no hope of these people being absorbed, not only because of improved methods of production, but because of the adoption of more economical methods of consuming coal by the industries into which that product enters as an essential factor. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), when he was Secretary for Mines, made this statement, which is to be found in the "Times" of 14th June, 1932. He said:Owing to improvements in methods of manufacture, an increase of 45 per cent, in the output of gas since 1913 required an increase of only 8½ per cent. of coal, and an increased output of 139 per cent. of electrical units required an increased use of only 35½ per cent. of coal Had the amount of coal used for these purposes increased in the same ratio as the output of gas and electricity, 12,000,000 tons snore coal would have been required.The present Secretary for Mines, in a statement recently made in this House, indicated that the figure of 12,000,000 tons must now be increased to 20,000,000 tons, so that, if the demand for coal in these two industries were in proportion to their increased output, at least 20,000,000 tons more coal would be required. To-day, the Minister of Transport pointed out that the number of units of electricity generated in 1933 showed an increase, as 549 compared with 1921, of 206 per cent., while the increase in the quantities of coke and coal consumed was only 64 per cent. The powers of production are now enormous, and I repeat that in my opinion our problem is one of distribution. We have reached a stage in the development of our economic system when poverty is caused by abundance or over-production—not over-production or abundance in relation to the needs of our people, but over-production and abundance in relation to the ability or capacity of our people to buy what is produced. Millions are idle because there is no need for the articles which they could produce if they were employed, and neither this Government nor any other Government, under the present system, dare employ those people to produce articles for which there is no demand.
I am not alone in expressing that opinion; it is held by no less an authority than the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. He stated in this House, on the 2nd June last year, that to allow production to go on unchecked and unregulated in modern conditions, when it could almost at a moment's notice be increased to an almost indefinite extent, was absolute folly. The "Times" has also pointed out in its Trade Supplement that, if the 2,500,000 unemployed were absorbed in factory occupations, the national output of manufactured articles would be on such a scale that the available buying markets would be inadequate to absorb it, and that hence, if such a method of labour absorption could and did take place, it would only precipitate a new crisis. That problem is not our problem; it is the problem of the Government, and for the moment it is their legislative responsibility. In my opinion they cannot solve it within the structure of the existing economic system, and the belief that it cannot be solved within the confines of the present system is one of my reasons for supporting the Amendment.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) has dealt with some very wide subjects in his speech, but he did not deal with what seems to me to be the most unfair portion of the Amendment. At the end of the Amendment the Government are accused of having no con- 550 structive policy for establishing a collective peace system. I should have thought that very nearly everybody would have agreed that the Government have done their utmost to secure a collective peace system, but I think the time has come when it might we well for the Government to define rather more clearly what their particular policy is going to be in the future. I should like to raise once more in this House the question—I ant sorry to say I am the only Member who seems to raise it—of the reform of the Covenant of the League of Nations. I believe that this question is going to become a live issue at no very distant date, and I am very anxious that the Foreign Office and the Government should be prepared, that they should have formulated a policy and made up their minds in certain directions before this question becomes not only a live issue, but, if there is too much delay in the matter, very possibly an insoluble problem. That is my only excuse for intervening in the Debate this afternoon.
I do not rise in any way to criticise the Government or the Foreign Office in this matter. In existing circumstances they have really been presented with a problem of disarmament which will continue to be insoluble unless some kind of reform is undertaken, or unless some alternative to the League of Nations is found. I submit that the world will never see general disarmament until all the great Powers are got into a league At the present moment, I suppose, everyone will agree that our Foreign Office is the most influential Foreign Office in the world. If the Lord Privy Seal of the Foreign Secretary take up a suggestion or support some kind of line of action, it is very nearly certain that that suggestion will be immediately taken up for international consideration; and if the Lord Privy Seal or the Foreign Secretary can be persuaded that general disarmament is impossible under the existing scope, procedure and rules of the League of Nations, it will go a very long way towards a serious study of this problem. Without the combined assent of the great Powers to general disarmament, secured peace in the world will never be obtained. I do not believe that there will be any dissentient from that proposition, and perhaps I can get assent to the following proposition, that, unless the great Powers can be got into a league for the 551 purpose of peace, that combined assent will never be obtained.
Is there any doubt in the mind of anybody in this House to-day that the League has become greatly weakened during the last year or two, in spite of the fact that Russia a short time ago gave her adhesion to it? In the first place, we are continually witnessing important international arrangements made without the slightest reference to the League and without any participation by the League. I need only mention some of the more recent ones, like those between Germany and Poland, Austria, Italy and Hungary, France and Russia, and, one of the most recent, the so-called proposed Eastern Locarno—a regional pact. Really, I do not see very much difference between these so-called regional pacts and the old pre-War alliances against a possible aggressor. We see once more arising on the Continent of Europe old-fashioned blocs, alliances and ententes—a state of affairs characteristic, in some cases in their very details, of the state of affairs before 1914. In the second place, we see colossal and increasing armaments all over the Continent, in Asia and in America. Except so far as this country is concerned, we do not see any real intention to disarm anywhere. In spite of the fact that Great Britain decreased her expenditure on armaments by 16 per cent. during the last eight years, we find the following increases of expenditure among the other Great Powers, according to figures given by the First Lord of the Admiralty two months ago. Italy has increased her expenditure by 9½ per cent. in the last eight years; Germany by over 12 per cent.; the United States by over 10 per cent.; Japan by over 80 per cent.; France by over 100 per cent., and Russia by 197 per cent. For every brick added to the huge Palace of Peace at Geneva, we have seen one more gun or rifle added to the armaments of the world; for every stone laid on another in Geneva, we have seen one more uniform.
What is the cause? I submit that the cause lies in the Covenant itself. The Covenant, which guarantees the existing boundaries of Europe, is incorporated textually in every single one of the great Peace Treaties, and every single one of the great Peace Treaties is more or less incorporated in the Covenant. Like the 552 Siamese twins, they have been joined together since birth; but, unlike the Siamese twins, the umbilical cord between them can be severed without any fundamental injury to the health of either. To my mind, so long as the Covenant is interlaced with the great Peace Treaties, we shall never get a revision of those treaties, for the simple reason that unanimity in the Assembly and in the Council is required for any revision of treaties to take place; and it is perfectly clear that you will never get that unanimity. Time and again the rule has been taken advantage of to hinder revision. This, I believe, will always prevent Germany from co-operating willingly with the League of Nations and it will also always prevent the United States joining the League. They refused to ratify the Peace Treaties. How can you, then, expect them to sign a Covenant which guarantees those very Treaties?
Another aspect of the Covenant which, to my mind, prevents the great Powers from joining is the punitive sanctions in Articles 16 and 17, which commit members of the League to make war in certain circumstances upon other members of the League in any part of the world. As long as those punitive sanctions remain in the Covenant, you will never get the United States to join. After all, the United States long ago repudiated punitive sanctions, and they are completely excluded from the Kellogg Pact. Moreover, with the United States and other great Powers outside the League, these punitive sanctions are quite impracticable to carry out. If we used our Navy to put these punitive sanctions into force by preventing United States goods from entering the territory of an aggressor, there would at once be war between this country and America. Therefore, as long as these punitive sanctions remain, there is always the risk of a double war. I, therefore, submit that it is urgent that amendments to the Covenant should forthwith be considered. After all, very important amendments have been made, and amendments were suggested by the last Labour Government which went even further and were far more important. They were devised to bring the Covenant into line with the Kellogg Pact but, as a matter of fact, they went much further than that. They really incorporated the Geneva Protocol 553 into the Covenant with all its increased sanctions and commitments. For instance, instead of eliminating punitive sanctions in accordance with the Kellogg Pact, they increased them. They proposed an alteration of one of the Articles which widened the power of the Council of the League, and in another Article they suggested the same thing. These amendments would have enormously increased the power of the Council and made it into a sort of super-State. I merely mention these amendments to show that proposals have already been made by a British Government very drastically to amend the Covenant.
I am not asking the Government to consider an increase of punitive sanctions and, therefore, an increase of commitments. I am not asking them to consider making the Covenant infinitely more difficult to work. I am simply suggesting that the cords which bind the Covenant to the Peace Treaties should be severed. I am asking them to consider alterations for decreasing our commitments and diminishing punitive sanctions. I am asking them to consider Amendments which will make the Covenant far easier to work, and make it far more probable that other great Powers will join the League. So far as the geat Powers are concerned, the League of Nations is a League of certain great European Powers, with perhaps the most important one outside. That does not make for peace. All that it does is to encourage the formation of similar alliances in Europe and elsewhere and, if we once get back to balances of power, triple or dual alliances and ententes, we shall be back precisely where we were before 1914. To my mind, the League as at present constituted is not an instrument for peace. You have only to look round the world to see that something very different is required. Is it beyond the wit of man or the Government to save civilisation from the horrors of another great war? If the Covenant fails, something else will have to be thought out, and without delay. It may be that in that event the Kellogg Pact will be found the best foundation for a new peace superstructure. The whole world signed the Kellogg Pact—every great country and every little country in the world. There are no sanctions embedded in the Kellogg Pact. It is wholly divorced from the Peace Treaties. There is no council embedded 554 in the Kellogg Pact swayed by political rather than by judicial considerations, and in the Kellogg Pact there are no hard-and-fast clauses insisting upon complete unanimity. It may well be that, if the Covenant fails, we shall have to turn to this Pact as the eventual solution of our difficulties.
An effort was made to graft the Kellogg Pact on to the Covenant, but it can never be grafted on to a Covenant which is full of punitive sanctions and is linked up with the Peace Treaties. If the Covenant fails it may be much more possible to use the Kellogg Pact as a basis and to utilise the experience of the League. Before the. Covenant breaks in the hands of Europe, I hope the Government will do its utmost to avert that catastrophe, and I believe the only way is by way of reform. After all, the Covenant is not sacrosanct. Every human institution is perishable and in need of repair from time to time. However well built a house is, the time comes when certain repairs are necessary. The roof leaks, the walls crack, and the foundations subside and, unless repairs are made in time, it will fall about your ears. In the same way the Covenant was made by human agency. It is also perishable and, unless repaired, it will only fall to pieces and be no more good to the world. I wonder whether the Lord Privy Seal or the Foreign Secretary can tell us whether there is any other way of dealing with this question of general disarmament. Does he think that, with three great Powers outside the League, it can effectively carry on and establish general disarmament? Does he believe that with the League in its present form he can get the other great Powers to join?
These are not rhetorical questions. They are in urgent need of an answer. I realise that the Foreign Office always has to take extreme care, inside the House and outside, how they shape their replies and phrase their statements in regard to international matters. There are always mischief-makers about only too ready to distort and misrepresent what is said. But in this case a candid lead from the Government can do nothing but good. Of all countries in the world this country has the greatest weight in international counsels to-day. Does the Government really think that the League can go on effectively as at present? Do they believe that, as at present constituted, it can attain general disarmament? 555 If not, are the Government soon prepared to tell the world, and to set about devising some scheme of reform which will be the first step to any hope of success in the future?
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE STRAUSS
I hope that the right hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow him in his very interesting speech on the foreign affairs side of the Amendment. I want to deal with the home affairs side. The Amendment is an indictment not only of the proposals of the Government for the present Session, but of their whole attitude and approach to the present economic situation. We say that they are attempting in a half-hearted manner to patch up the cracks in the economic structure of our society instead of attending to its foundations, as they ought to be doing, and that this failure will, if continued, bring about the situation that was described by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) as one in whichthe whole system itself may collapse under the strain to which in the coming years it will be inevitably subjected.After an absence from this House of three years, my dominant impression is of the gloom that pervades the benches of the Government supporters. Why is that? I do not think it is entirely because of the knowledge that many, perhaps most of them, will not be returned again to Parliament, and I do not think it is because they complain that the Government are bringing in insufficient legislation. It is not the quantity that is wrong; it is the quality. Hon. Members on the Conservative benches are beginning to realise as much as anyone that it is no use, if we are to make a proper attack on pressing evils, to tinker about with various devices and reforms. Subsidies here and there and tidying up the depressed areas by removing slag-heaps are no use. They are realising that something much bolder and bigger is necessary, and so we have had speeches asking for the Government to take a hand in some form of national planning. I think they realise—and this is really the cause of their discontent—that the Government will not, and cannot, take any definite line in that direction, because to be effective it would involve such 556 measures of coercion as to be unpopular and resented by their industrialist supporters. To be effective it would involve not only national planning, but national ownership upon which, as a Conservative Government, they are, of course, debarred from entering.
The discontent which is evident in this House is even more evident in the country, and as one who has recently come through the experience of a by-election in which the candidate inevitably comes for some period into close contact with public opinion, I am amazed at the complacency of the Government. According to the opinion of the Government, as expressed by their Ministers, they are one of the best Governments that ever existed, but in the opinion of people in the country that is not so at all. The spokesmen of the Government put forward on every occasion the argument that, after all, they are responsible for increasing the numbers of those employed in industry to-day by many hundreds of thousands, but the people outside remember that the Prime Minister when he was Prime Minister in the Labour Government repeatedly told the electorate that the increase in unemployment that was then going on had nothing whatever to do with any Government action in this country, and I think he was right on that occasion. Therefore, it is inconsistent to argue that the present increase in employment is the result of anything which he or his colleagues have done.
That argument simply does not go home. What does go home, however, is the fact—which, unfortunately, tens of thousands of people in the country realise—that there are to-day more than half a million more of the population dependent for their existence on the Poor Law than there were when the Government took office. If you take the figures for Scotland as well as for England and Wales—the hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he will find my figures are correct—it will be found that that increase is directly the result of Government action. The Minister of Health is very hopeful in regard to his attack on the slums, but that satisfaction is not shared by the millions who are still deprived of the first condition of civilisation—a decent home—and are forced to bring up their families in the knowledge that they are being deprived of the mental and physical stamina which will 557 see them through life, and that until the day of their death they will suffer as a result of the conditions under which they are being forced to live to-day. People outside realise that that is very largely the result of Government action in stopping the Wheatley subsidy and in discouraging, in its early days, the initiation of local authority schemes on the ground of national economy, and they also realise that the number of houses under construction by the local authorities which had risen to 45,000 at the time the Government took office, has fallen gradually month by month to less than 20,000 now.
The area of discontent goes far wider than the people affected by those questions. The main cause of discontent is the absence on the part of the Government of any big constructive schemes to deal with the situation. The position of poverty in the midst of plenty, as is quoted so often both outside and inside the House, is beginning to be realised by the people as a whole to be a hard fact, not just a political argument; and further that its continuance is unnecessary, and that it can and should be removed. The chief dissatisfaction in the country is that the present Government take no steps whatever in that direction. Inside the House, with the exception of the Mover and Seconder of the Address, and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke a little time ago, I do not think that there has been an hon. Member who has given unqualified support to the Government. Some of the attacks have been almost unfair because the Government, as a Conservative Government, cannot be responsible for many things which happen. The Government cannot be responsible for the fact that the scientists and engineers in this country are devoting the knowledge they have gained and the skill they have acquired in devising labour-saving machinery and methods which are putting people out of work. These methods and machinery were devised in the hope and belief that they would result in more goods being produced for the enjoyment of mankind with less drudgery, but their effect under our present system is, without question, to increase unemployment and to lower the consumptive demand of the people. The fact that to-day there are nearly double the number of unemployed in this country than there 558 were in 1929, while the industrial output of the country has reached the 1929 figure, is largely due to these processes.
The present Government cannot accept the responsibility for that. The Government, being believers in the competitive system, plainly cannot plan nationally in a way that would make the extra production available to the people and give leisure to those who are now overworked. Attacks come from hon. Members of this House which, I think, are unfair. The Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), spoke of the large surplus industrial savings which are now available but which are not being put into consumptive use or into new investments. That speech coming from a Conservative caused quite a little sensation. If it had been delivered by a Socialist, he would have been accused of being very unoriginal, for Socialist economists have been asserting over and over again for many years past that one of the inevitable ultimate effects of the capitalist system was an accumulation of a vast surplus of industrial moneys which could not be put into consumptive use and could not be re-invested in new industry, and that the growth of that accumulation was merely a sign of the decay of the system. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockton-on-Tees appeals to this Government—a Conservative Government—to do something about it. That is grossly unfair. How can a Government who believe in the capitalist system do anything to eradicate a factor which is inherent in it?
The hon. Member and other hon. Members who criticise the Government for not embarking upon national planning on a large scale, are also being very unreasonable indeed. The real difficulty in which the Government find themselves, is that the mood of the country is for big and courageous action. The Government cannot embark upon big and courageous action, because it would mean control of the sources of production, some sort of control which would, in the first place, be resented by the industrialists because it would have to be coerced control. They know that such control cannot be obtained. And secondly, any such control to be effective would mean that the Government would have to own the industries in question in order to control them. The Government have got into such a 559 situation that they cannot do anything to please the people. Having passed their protective measures and having carried out a number of small reforms which have had little effect on the life of the people, they have come to a state of affairs in which they must inevitably be unpopular because they cannot, as a Conservative Government, do anything further. They therefore make the best out of the small fry and jumble of little things which are proposed by their Ministers, and they attempt, by the vehemence of their speeches, to make up for their lack of action.
Take the case of the depressed areas, for example. We were told practically nothing as to what is to be done. The Ministers in question spoke with great enthusiasm and great vigour. But they tackle these matters in a small way. They set out to inquire into the conditions in the distressed areas and to see how far and how successfully they can experiment with the people in those areas. They do not set out to find why there should be any distress in any area in this country when this country is so wealthy and has abundance of all the goods which are needed. They are tackling the small things and refusing to tackle the fundamentals. It is no use at all attempting to alleviate the suffering which exists to-day, and is so widespread, by any half-hearted and isolated remedies. They are certain to be abortive and will not increase in the slightest the respect for the Government in the country. The country wants big things, and the Government have not given, and cannot give, the country the big things that it wants. The suffering which exists to-day is the result largely of poverty, and poverty has no right to exist in our society. The only possible method of attacking the situation, is to make a determined onslaught on the root causes of poverty, and this, of course, the Government refuse to do because they believe in the system which creates poverty. Unless an onslaught is made, the cracks in the existing system will get worse, and in the course of time there will be inevitably a serious lowering of the standard of life of the people as a whole. If such an onslaught is to be made effectively, it must be made by a Government who believe in the fundamental remedies of Socialism.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
On personal grounds many, if not most of us, welcome the return of the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) to the House of Commons. I confess that when he rose to speak I felt a little satisfaction that perhaps, at last, we should find, from one who has come so freshly from the hustings, some attempt at reality infused into the Debate. He, at any rate, ought to know what has given him his three years' holiday. He should know the forces that lifted him from the purlieus of this House into the wilderness outside, and yet I confess to a grievous disappointment in listening to his speech to find that he had nothing better of which to inform us than the old nostrums which were utterly discredited during the years he was a supporter of the party which then represented the Government. He began by speaking of the King's Speech as being only an effort to patch up insteading of attending to the foundations. I suppose that Guy Fawkes was attending to the foundations of the House of Commons, and in that sense, and only in that sense, it is true that the Amendment put forward by the official Opposition is attending to the foundations.
As one reads through this jargon, this collection of phrases, which we have heard read over and over again, it is abundantly clear that the unreality of the discussion is because this does not represent the frontiers at all. These are not the frontiers across which people are looking in the country as a whole. They are the frontiers of party and party here, but they are not really the frontiers with which the country is concerned. What is the use of chiding the Government because they ignore "the inability of capitalism to distribute abundance?" If that means anything at all it means that it is no use the Government doing anything unless they alter the capitalist system, and as the country as a whole is not disposed to do so, and hon. Members opposite only made a mess of it when they attempted to do so, what is the use of putting a pious matter like that into the Resolution? What is the use of saying that they "have no constructive policy for establishing a collective peace system?" What is the constructive policy of hon. Members opposite The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who leads it 561 so gracefully, would abolish force altogether, and have no Army, Navy or Air Force, but his more militant colleague, the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), would maintain a vigorous and efficient army, if only to shoot the capitalists. How can they seriously challenge the lack of constructive policy in the Government without courting the amusement of the public, if they have no constructive policy of their own?
It is because these frontiers in this House are so unreal that the country is impatient, and it is because the frontiers that we find here are different from those in the country, that we have speeches in this House like that from my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), who ventured to criticise the Government in a constructive way the other day. The hon. Member who spoke last was surprised at that, but we are not governed by any Trades Union Congress. We do not take our marching orders from outside. We do not come down to the House of Commons with our platform and our programme laid out for us. That is what brought about the downfall of hon. Members opposite, and it is because we maintain independence here that we occasionally seek and hope to improve the health of His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Is it any more wrong to consult our friends outside than it is for the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council on, I think, the 4th December next to consult the Conservative people before he can come and stand here and tell us what the Indian policy of the Government is?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands the point. There is no objection to consulting anybody. The point is that the right hon. Gentleman opposite took his marching orders from a body outside, and because of those marching orders turned his back upon the country in one of the greatest predicaments which it ever had to face. Those are the circumstances that hon. Members opposite sometimes forget when they hear some of us on this side venturing to administer robust and, we hope, well-received criticism to the Government of the day. One thing that on this side also is sometimes forgotten is that the manifestation of the electorate in 1931 562 was not a Conservative reaction. I said just now that the frontiers which separated parties no longer existed, and I think that is profoundly true, but it operates as an argument equally against those who profess Conservative views as against those who maintain the views that find expression in the official Amendment to the Address.
When the people rose up with a lavish splendour and invested the Government with powers almost equivalent to a dictatorship, they were fed up, to use the popular parlance, with weakness, inefficiency, and bad personnel. They indulged the Government with a vast power of selecting personnel and with no arbitrary limitations as to policy, and they demanded of that Government, first of all, that they should really consolidate the foundations, that they should remove some of the mess that two years of muddle have left behind; secondly, that they should make certain that the social structure of this country, the social services that have been built up with so much effort and energy over the last 50 years, should not decay owing to bad management; and thirdly, that the Government should plan, not upon any narrow lines, but upon broad and generous lines, eliminating the old party divergencies of opinion, for a future which was recognised to contain problems that were entirely novel.
As regards the first part of that programme, there is no question that the Government have done their work. They have consolidated the position, and they have made the social services as efficient and safe as they were unsafe in 1931, and, be it noted, they have done that mainly at the expense of the hated capitalists and rentiers. If you take one item alone in the national balance-sheet, the issues for debt service and management, in 1930 hon. Members opposite were spilling out £312,000,000 in interest and management of debt, and in 1934 this Government paid the people who were said to be its main supporters only £216,000,000, a saving of £96,000,000. Add that fact to the national balance-sheet and see where we stand. Add that £96,000,000 back and see what the predicament of the social services would be to-day if the wild-cat finance of hon. Members opposite had been persisted in. It would have wiped away all chance of 563 the 6d. off the Income Tax—£24,000,000—the cuts on salaries could not have been restored—£5,500,000—the unemployment cuts could not have been restored—£3,500,000—and in addition to those £33,000,000 the adding back of that £96,000,000 would have been equivalent to the whole of the expenditure on old age pensions, widows' pensions, and the Government contribution to health insurance; in other words, unless that £96,000,000 had been saved at the expense of the rentier, you would have had either to curtail those services to that extent or to indulge in hopelessly uncontrolled inflation in order to meet the bill.
§ Mr. WILMOT
Will the hon. and learned Member tell the House the total increase in the deadweight Debt during the same period?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Nobody knows better than does my hon. Friend that the deadweight Debt, postponed illimitably, as regards payment, is of no consequence to a great nation at all. The expansion of the mere capital increase, which is repayable at the will of the State, practically subject to its discretion, is of practically no consequence at all; and does not the argument hoist the hon. Member on his own petard, because the increased deadweight Debt is being carried at an interest burden which is £96,000,000 less than it was on the smaller deadweight Debt three years ago. Not only so, but as regards the vast Unemployment Bill which we have just passed, as regards the slum clearance scheme which we have carried through, greater in its extent than anything attempted by any previous Government, it is impossible to say that up to date the performance of the Government has not been adequate, and more than adequate, to carry through the first part of the trust that the electorate reposed in them.
But democracy never looks back. As I have said over and over again, the past 34 years are littered with the relics of Governments that looked hack. It is not always realised in this country that there has never been a Government in toe last 34 years which has not been practically rejected by the electorate at the next election—Liberal, Conservative, Coalition, Labour, Conservative, Labour again, Con- 564 servative, National; and what it will be next time is on the knees of the gods. But many of them, I am convinced, have been so rejected because they have displayed that tendency of old men—and when a, Government reaches its fourth year of office it becomes an old man—to look back, like old men licking their lips at the amatory conquests of their youth. I need not say that that remark carries no personal implication upon any of my hon. or right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, least of all upon any who are occupying it at this particular moment. But that it is that causes a feeling of normal dissatisfaction, if I might so call it, in the case of any Government which is approaching the end of its allotted span.
We have all known of Ministers pointing to a great record of achievement, getting up and saying so on every conceivable occasion, and naturally and normally public opinion says, "Very well, now tell us something about what you are going to do in the future." It really has come to that part of the Government's history when many of us feel a certain uncertainty and disappointment. We are frankly wondering whether this strange amalgam is going to hold for the building of the new age that we are hoping for. Will the defence troops be adequate as storm troopers? There are many reasons why some of us feel some hesitation about the attitude of mind which seems to have been displayed in some recent speeches as regard the problems that the future holds. We recall that that strange phenomenon which brought this Government into being also saw the obliteration of old party allegiances, that the Liberal party is, with apologies to the two hon. Members who maintain its dignity on those benches, finished in the country, but the Liberal tradition and opinion are alive—and few of us would be foolish enough to ignore them—perhaps more vividly and strongly than they have ever been in this country, finding their way into new channels, and often pestilentially so from Conservative points of view.
The more one reflects upon current political life, the more one comes to the conclusion that it is the tide of public opinion that flows on all the time, and that parties align themselves alongside the tide, hoping to guide it and to keep 565 touch with it, and I think perhaps we flatter ourselves in political life in the value we accord to the work of the political parties in actually forming the tide itself. It is the tide that flows on, and we have to keep our place in it, we have to recognise its strength, and we have to recognise its direction. In what direction is the tide of public opinion flowing at, the present time? That is the vital thing to decide. I am sure the nation is avid for great and fundamental changes, as the hon. Member for North Lambeth said a moment ago. There are several things that have captured the public imagination and that it is necessary for the Government to do something about, to recognise at any rate, if they are not to lose the public imagination.
The very first thing that has really staggered the imagination of the public is this scandalous antithesis between ample credit and a clamant demand for the use of credit. The Government by their success in stimulating credit—that could not be said when hon. Members opposite were in office; we had no credit then—have emphasised this opposition between ample credit and idle men and idle factories. What are the Government going to do about that? It is a problem on which everyone wants to hear some considered policy. We want to know whether the time has not come for an amendment of the Trustee Act to enable funds to be diverted, suitably protected, so as to enable the enlivening flow of new capital to find its way into industrial development. The country has had a series of shocks and crises, and it is not easy to get money flowing back into the normal channels as it did 25 years ago. What are the Government going to do about that?
What, too, are the Government going to do about the suggestions made by the commissioners which involved large-scale loans? Not one word has been said about them. The one sentence in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech which sent a chill down my back was not his reference to the £2,000,000, but his statement that the funds which the commissioner is to manage are to be found out of revenue. The whole thesis of one of the reports was that there must be this vast capital expenditure in order to restore these areas to any- 566 thing like prosperity. The second matter which has captured the imagination of the public is the threatened ascendency of the machine over man. Wherever you go you will find this at the root of all people's thoughts. What are the Government going to do about that? Have we a policy? If so, I have not heard of it. Have we any definite policy about hours? I welcome more than I can say the statement of the Minister of Labour that he was instituting an inquiry into hours, and inviting representatives of the employers and men to co-operate. Nobody can wish more heartily than I that it may be a success; and if hon. and right hon. Members opposite are really serious about assisting to dissolve this problem, and are not merely anxious to keep it alive so as to enable them to throw bricks at the Government, they will use all the influence that they possess with the Trades Union Congress—in these matters influence must be reciprocal—to induce them not to be hidebound by any narrow point of view.
I will not enter into the question of the depressed areas. It is a large subject, and I have the good fortune not to represent a distressed area. But all the reports of the commissioners raise one or two questions of prime importance. They raise the problem of the mobility of capital and the immobility of labour, the ease with which capital can flow from one part of the country where it is no longer fruitful to another, and the difficulty with which man power, which serves the capital, is dispelled when it is no longer useful in the neighbourhood. In a sense, the social services which we have created have intensified that problem because they have tied people to areas and made it more difficult to solve the problem. Lastly, as an imaginative, captivating factor, what about leisure? Have the Government, apart altogether from hours, considered what is to be done in regard to the huge problem of the right use of leisure, which is looming on us and which will have to be faced within the next few years? The question of the raising of the school age is one which is ripe to be considered. An extension of adult education is also ripe to be considered. Unless we can utilise wisely the leisure which science has given us, there will not be much benefit to man from an advance into the machine age.
567 Let me add, finally, a word on a matter of procedure. The short answer of the Government to all these matters is, "You have already got a King's Speech that forecasts an immensity of legislation which will take the whole time of the House of Commons to carry through." I agree that on paper that is certainly true. I regret it very sincerely. I do not think the Government are right in forecasting, quite so deliberately as they do, that so much time ought to be occupied on the Floor of the House by discussions on India. Democracy cannot survive unless it can delegate to a very large extent these overwhelming problems. It has delegated now for seven years discussion of the general principle of a solution of the India problem. For seven years one committee after another has been discussing it. We have had people of the greatest possible experience serving on these committees, and if it is to be said that the result of all these labours is to come down to the House of Commons to be discussed line by line and Clause by Clause, by 615 people who are the least fitted to draft the constitution even of a local authority, then I think democracy will be rightly impatient that this great issue—and it is a great issue—should take up such a disproportionate amount of Parliamentary time. Nobody underestimates the importance of this issue, but it has been crystallised into certain big questions of principle which can be discussed on the Floor of the House as copiously as you like, and then as regards the rest of the 300 odd Clauses they should be dealt with by some body which can more efficiently dispose of the task. The country will not be content with the answer made by the Government to the appeal which is being made every day by public opinion outside for a real programme of domestic legislation, and I believe that the Government are imposing a strain upon democracy if they persist in the programme which is contained in the King's Speech.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. JOHN WALLACE
A variety of subjects have been dealt with by hon. Members this afternoon, and I do not propose to follow the hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) in his observations regarding the India Bill. I gather from his speech, and also from the speeches of other hon. 568 Members who are supporters of the Government, that there is a genuine desire not to rest upon the achievements of the past, but to take into account the particular form of endeavour for the future. The Government ought to welcome such a spirit. It is clear that economically and industrially we are living in a time of transition, when labour is being more displaced than ever by rationalisation, and we shall want all the wisdom which can be brought to bear on the new relations which have come into existence. I want to offer one or two observations on the Labour Amendment which we are now considering. I am a little sorry for the Amendment; it is now such a poor battered production that it has no sting or meaning left to anyone in the House. The greatest mistake one can make is to build up a case on a false premise, and the Labour party have fallen into that cardinal error to-day. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) has dealt with the Amendment, and incidentally has anticipated a good deal of what I proposed to say in criticism, but there are still one or two things left which I might usefully add.
I do not propose to go into figures about unemployment. Let me put the plain and simple issue to the House. The hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham wondered whether what he called the strange political amalgamation which now exists was competent to deal with the economic and industrial problems which face the country and, indeed, he seemed to have some doubt as to whether this particular amalgamation was desirable. I ask, what is the alternative? The alternative is shown in the Labour Amendment. Apparently hon. Members on the Labour benches have learned no lesson from the past. Until the Labour party gets thoroughly into its mind the fact that the only hope for the working classes of this country is a sound financial policy there is no hope for the future. All through the Amendment runs the idea that the only possible alternative is Socialist State control. There are references to private enterprise, which is the pet aversion of the Socialist party; that bee always seems to buzz in the Socialist bonnet. In my view, this country owes everything it has to private enterprise and initiative and it will be an ill day for the country when we begin to tinker with the solid foundations of 569 our economic structure, so well and truly laid in the past.
The Labour party seems to forget that State control has already been tried and discredited in many countries. The President of the Board of Trade knows as much about shipping as any Member of the House and he is well aware that State control of shipping has been tried in various countries. It has been tried in America. What was the result? From 1916 to 1930 the total losses on State controlled shipping was nearly £670,000,000 sterling. After that long experience of inefficiency and State control, Mr. O'Connor, Chairman of the United States Shipping Board, as reported in "The Times" of 30th May, 1929, said:The United States Government is definitely going out of the shipping business as shipping owner and operator. In the future the only interest it will take will be strictly along the lines of promotion, regulation and support of private shipping under the American flag.Canada and Australia had exactly the same experience and their shipping adventures under State control were among the most disastrous political experiments they have ever tried. In France the same fate overtook the French merchant fleet, which after some years of service was sold and a loss of some £43,000,000 incurred. In whatever country we look for the results of State control we find its record one of first-class disaster. Not only in shipping has this happened. In New South Wales this policy was tried some years ago over a wide variety of industries and resulted in losses to that particular State of about £6,000,000 sterling. I do not know whether Socialists in this country consider themselves any more able or clever in the management of industry than Socialists abroad, but I am certainly not inspired by the wisdom which they have shown up to the present time. I will not refer to the days of 1931. That matter has been referred to sufficiently in this Debate, but I cannot help remarking that one of the most responsible leaders of the Socialist party, and one who by his legal training would be regarded as reliable and certainly cautious, has made several most extraordinary statements regarding what will happen when the Socialist party gets power. Socialism is to be ushered in with a great financial crisis—a first-class financial crisis. Well, we had a financial crisis in 1931, and I do not know whether 570 the Labour party or any responsible politician wishes to have a repetition of that unfortunate event.
I do hope that in the face of opposition and threats of that nature we shall hold together as a National Government and approach the great problem before us in a national spirit. That to me is our only hope, and it is a, hope which one holds far more strongly when one looks round and compares our own position with that of other nations in Europe and abroad. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well that if they had the power today they would not change their domicile for any other country in the world. I hope that this National Government will go on as it has done with the same courage and that in so far as economic policy is concerned it will negotiate further trade agreements. If this matter is left in the courageous hands of the President of the Board of Trade, I feel sure that the results we have already achieved in the direction of industrial improvement will be maintained for a long time to come.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Lord WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY
I rise to give my whole-hearted support to the Government and my whole-hearted opposition to this Amendment. I hope that by so doing I may bring a little ray of sunshine into the gloom that the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Strauss) has noticed so much on his return to the House after three years, because of the supposed lack of enthusiasm for the Government among its own supporters. I also intervene because in the speeches which I have heard from hon. Members opposite those Members seem to imagine that they alone are concerned that in an economic sense the world to-day should appear to be topsy-turvy, or, as Americans so aptly put it, "cock-eyed." By this I think they mean that you do find absurd paradoxes of scarcity in the midst of plenty. This regrettable fact is not the sole concern of hon. Members opposite. It is one which constantly worries Members like myself on this side of the House and which no doubt causes sleepless nights to the President of the Board of Trade. It is rightly the concern of every right-minded man in this country,
Hon. Gentlemen opposite when debating this problem are in a very strong 571 position. They can indulge in theories and luxuriate in the contemplation of extravagant policies without being called to account for their necessary consequences at the next election. The Government, on the other hand, are in a different position. They are responsible for running the affairs of the country at the present moment, and they have to face up to facts as they find them. The facts in international trade are not always quite as reasonable and pleasant as hon. Members opposite seem to imagine. The main fact we find in international trade to-day is that we do not trade in a Utopian world. The dominant thought in international trade, as in all trade and commerce, is still not always brotherly love and a keen desire to do what is best for the world as a whole. Men and nations in business do not always behave as perfect gentlemen. In fact, during the past few years trade has become increasingly insular and increasingly self centred. This is regrettable no doubt, but these are the facts which the President of the Board of Trade has to face.
Hon. Members opposite—as did the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), in his opening speech—then say: "Why does not this country give a lead to the rest of the world along the path of righteousness." Well, that is a magnificent conception, but to give a lead without support from behind is often suicidal. As the Frenchman commented on the charge of the Light Brigade:"C'est magnifique, vials ce n'est pas la guerre."We are entirely dependent for our prosperity on our export trade, and we stand to lose more than any other nation in the world if other countries do not follow our heroic example. Where we can give a lead land where we ought to give a lead to a far greater extent is in international conferences. We are constantly hearing that the prestige of our country stands higher now than ever before in the eyes of the rest of the world. It often strikes me as curious in view of the tremendous sacrifices we have made to secure this admirable position that we put it to such little use.
From talks I have had with foreigners I am conceited enough to believe that we are looked up to by other nations to give a lead. I am also tempted to believe 572 that possibly if we adopted a less modest and a less defeatist attitude when entering these conferences and used to a greater extent our prestige we might arrive more quickly at some agreement for collective action which would bring about much improved conditions in world trade. Very often we hear it said that America is much more progressive in her economic policy than we are. Unlike America, we have not that large home market with which to experiment and tinker about. We are dependent on our export trade, and the first duty of this Government when coming into office was to create conditions in which we could maintain our industrial position—a position of confidence in which industry could flourish. The fact that we have not always worked on the wrong lines is surely proved by the great increase brought about in our export trade and by the fact that to-day we find close on 1,000,000 fewer unemployed in this country. The hon. Gentlemen opposite twit the Government on the smallness of this figure. I think they would do well to remember the reply which the schoolboy once gave when asked what a million was. He replied, "A hell of a lot."
In agriculture, we were faced with a different problem. There we did have a home market to deal with. Thanks to the vision and boldness of the Minister of Agriculture, a progressive policy of planning and regulations has been put into operation, and there is to-day a sense of security throughout the whole industry which was previously absent. While I am on this subject there is just one point which I should like to mention. I feel that the time has arrived when there should be a little clearer thinking on our agricultural problem. We all realise that the interests of agriculture often conflict with those of the exporting industries, and we ought to realise that no country can hope ultimately to be prosperous without a prosperous agriculture. With new plans for the relief of the distressed areas, we may very likely see more men resettled on the land, and I feel that it is only fair to all agriculturists and to any men who may be resettled on the land that some clear indication should be given as to what extent we are going to rely in the future on foreign imports for our foodstuffs and to what extent on our home produce. I should have thought that a clear line on this policy would 573 have made much easier the task both of the President of the Board of Trade and of the Minister of Agriculture. I in no way agree with the accusations that the Government have been following the wrong course. To my mind they have followed the only course along which we could have maintained our industrial position and by which we could work our country back towards prosperity, as we are doing. In conclusion, I should like once more to press upon the Government that at international conferences, to which we look so much in the future, they should not be merely contented to voice their own views but should use that prestige which we have bought so dearly to bring other nations into line and work towards greater international co-operation in all matters.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. SOPER
I rise to oppose the Amendment. Notwithstanding all that has been said by the Opposition as to the work of the National Government, I believe that they have done good during the last three years, and, as stated in the Gracious Speech, it is hoped that the coming year will be marked by a continuance of the spirit of confidence which has enabled this country to take the lead in world recovery. I need not remind the House that we are the envy of the world because of the way that the National Government has faced up to its difficulties and has gone a long way towards overcoming them. The facts speak for themselves. The whole country knows of the great advance which the Government has made since it took over the reins of government in 1931. I am going to contend that this is no party Government. For all that Opposition Members say as to its being a Conservative Government, I say that it is a National Government, and that there is more at stake than the question whether this or that party is the friend of the people. The stake is the happiness of the people, the maintenance of our institutions, the preservation of this nation as a world Power and the preservation of those social conditions in which this country has led the world for a century.
The immediate problem of the Government was to restore confidence, to bring back the trade of the country, or rather the trust of the people in steady and sober administration, and the faith of other 574 countries in Britain's ability to put her affairs in order. I contend that this has been done, as the Budgets of 1932 and 1933 and 1934 prove without question. Budget deficits have disappeared, many of the cuts have been restored, and the House, and the country realises that although in 1930 Britain had fallen to third place among the exporting nations of the world, last year she recovered her rightful place, which was first.
A lot has been said about the unemployment question, but I would remind the Opposition that during the last Socialist Government the number of unemployed increased by over 900,000, and that during the three years of the National Government it has decreased by nearly the same figure. But never a word of praise from the opposite benches. I think that, as one representing a mining constituency, I must thank the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary for Mines for the trading agreements which have been made with other countries. We have heard very little of them during this Debate on the King's Speech. With Denmark, France, and in fact almost every country in Europe, trading agreements have been made, and we hear that shortly there will be one with Poland. I am much interested in these agreements because they touch the centre of industrial constituencies like mine. An increase of 4,000,000 tons of coal exports per year is no small figure, and I am sure that the people of the mining constituencies realise that at last great good has been done by these agreements.
These mutual bargainings—that is what I call them—are the real strength and value of the agreements. What have they replaced? The old restless competitive scramble for markets, which has been replaced by planned and ordered agreement which gives to each a fair share of the world's markets on mutually advantageous terms. I say without fear of contradiction that the National Government has adopted as its motto the principles laid down by a great statesman many years ago. "Our object," said Disraeli, "is the maintenance of our institutions and our religion, the preservation of our Empire and the improvement of the conditions of our people." The National Government has improved the condition of our people and has gone a long way towards restoring 575 prosperity. That, no more and no less, is the motive power behind every piece of legislation which the Government has brought or is bringing into force.
I am also glad to see that the Minister of Health is pressing forward with the task of clearing the slums. I say deliberately that the housing programme of the National Government is a justification for a continuance of co-operation with the National Government. The Government aim is not only to see that the slums are replaced by healthy dwellings, but that where healthy dwellings exist they shall not be vitiated by the evils of overcrowding, with their dreadful menace to mental, physical and moral well-being. The Government are also going to see that overcrowding disappears. We may put a man into a house in the most delightful surroundings, but if he is permitted to overcrowd that house he will be face to face again with the same evils that beset him before he went into the new home.
I want to speak chiefly on the question of the distressed areas. As one who represents a hardly-hit industrial area in the county of Yorkshire I want to express my thanks to the Government for the practical sympathy shown with the people of Cumberland, Durham, South Wales and Scotland. I happen to know Durham very well. I was born in that county, and for many years I lived amongst the miners in that county. I also know from first-hand inquiry what they have suffered in the last few years. I know, too, that the programme of the Government, the Government's determination to help distressed areas, has awakened hope in their hearts. If I do offer a word of criticism it is not a criticism that they are dealing too well with the distressed, but that there are other areas which have a great and immediate claim on the Government's sympathy. The £2,000,000 the Government has promised is a step in the right direction, and it has been conclusively proved that it is not the last contribution which will be made to those areas. I believe that more will be required not only for the depressed areas but for others. Members of the Opposition should give the Government credit for the £2,000,000 on account, knowing as they do that it will mean a further sum later.
576 I do not want to be understood as urging that one penny less should go to those areas, but I do say that other areas in other parts of the country should be considered. I do realise that the need of those areas, especially in the county of Durham, is greater than ours. We do not want any relief to come to us if it means less relief going to them. But I do feel that the occasion has arisen for the Government to tackle the whole problem of the distressed areas and not simply those covered by the reports of the commissioners. The problems revealed in those reports exist in varying degrees in every industrial area in the North, and I believe that the same solution can be applied. If the schemes can bring relief to them they can bring relief to us. I urge the Government, if they can do so, without delaying for one moment the work of re-invigorating those other areas, to apply their remedies to cover all distressed areas. If that cannot be done immediately, I hope we can have an assurance of the possibility of the Government giving similar attention to other areas.
I believe that, apart from that, there lies ready to the hand of the Government a means of easing distress in every area and at the same time removing a very keen sense of injustice in industrial areas—an injustice which still remains—and that is by an equalisation of the rates of the country. We who live in industrial areas feel it entirely wrong to be called upon to hear such a heavy share of the cost of maintaining an industrial army. I contend that the maintenance of that army in a state of physical fitness and mental alertness is as much in the interest of the people of Blackpool or Bournemouth or Brighton as it is in the interest of the people of Barnsley or Manchester or Liverpool. There would be no Blackpool if there were no Manchesters or Barnsleys. Will anyone dispute the larger proposition that a fit industrial army is at least as much a necessity as the maintenance of an efficient Navy, Army or Air Force? We have no more right to ask the industrial areas to bear the major cost of maintaining the industrial army that we have to ask the people in the naval ports to maintain the Navy, or the ratepayers of Aldershot to pay more than anyone else to maintain the Army.
577 I know there are objections which hon. Members who represent the seaside constituencies will raise. They will say that they should not be called upon to finance the wild-cat schemes of extravagant authorities in the North. Apparently the only time that the people of the North are considered capable of spending money wisely is when they are buying Blackpool rock or paying pennies for the illuminations at Bournemouth or Brighton. On the whole, there are more prudent spenders of money than the local authorities in the industrial North. It is true that we have many schemes in progress, but they are necessary schemes, dictated by interest in the health of the people. Those at the seaside have nature at their very doors, but we have the face of nature seared and scarred by the inexorable march of industrialism. Do you begrudge us getting a park here or a park there, so that our hard-worked people when their day's toil is done can get away for an hour or two from the grime and grit of their streets into the pleasantness of green fields and shady trees? The justification for our demand for equalisation of rates seems to us irresistible and where it is denied, I believe it is only denied from motives of self-interest and through an entire failure to realise the responsibility of the nation towards the workers in the industrial areas.
I again express my hearty concurrence in the general work of the National Government, but my last words must be on the question of peace. The Opposition in this Amendment suggest that the right steps have not been taken by the Government to bring about disarmament and peace. Personally I stand for peace and disarmament but, speaking frankly, if I am asked whether the first step to take is to sink the British Navy, I answer "No." Would the Opposition go to the country on such a slogan as "Sink the British Navy"? I believe that the National Government have made an honest attempt to lead the way towards disarmament. Hon. Members have already heard the figures given from the Front Bench. They have heard how we have curtailed our armaments in order to give a lead. It may be said that the Government might have gone further, but a substantial number of peace-loving people, not only in this House but in the country, consider that further steps would 578 be attended with grave risk unless other nations move in corresponding stages with us. As soon as they show a willingness to disarm, I am sure that this country and this Government will face the issue.
I believe that this is an hour when not only the British people but all peoples should call upon their Governments to honour their pledges, and to take further steps towards ridding the world of the curse of armaments. But are other peoples doing that? We are living in a matter-of-fact world and in what nation to-day would a Government be returned to power which was pledged to scrap all that nation's fighting forces immediately and without reference to what other nations were doing? I believe that the will for peace is growing in every country but only to the extent that it grows can Governments move. I am not not afraid to declare once again in this House that the question of peace and disarmament is more than a political question. It is a religious question and it is up to the churches in all countries to use their great influence among their several peoples and with their several Governments to see that peace and disarmament are achieved.
I state emphatically my belief that the National Government have done great work in the last three years. If there is one criticism to be made it is that they might have adopted a bolder policy for the last months of this Parliament. The country is behind them, whatever hon. Members opposite may say, and the bulk of the Members in this House are with them. They ought to give a very strong lead and I believe that the people of the country, recognising what has been done and realising the importance of the Measures which are outlined in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, will keep this National Government intact for many years to come.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Sir GEOFFREY ELLIS
The Amendment seems to offer no real or practical contribution towards the solution of the difficulties under which we are suffering to-day commercially and industrially. We are asked to replace "by international co-operation" what is described as "the competitive economic anarchy which leads to war." Is not one entitled to argue that the suggested remedy could 579 only be applicable if you had international Socialism. So long as you have a measure of Socialism in some countries, and a measure of independence for commerce and industry in others, the suggested remedy is inapplicable and in those conditions those who have the measure of independence will probably achieve the best results. During this Debate illustrations have been taken from Russia and I think those illustrations have only gone to show how difficult it was for a Government even in the midst of plenty to exercise the unlimited control which some hon. Members advocate.
The real problem to-day, and it is one which people are facing very bravely, is: What kind of industrial world are we going to have in the future? A considerable amount of planning, both public and private, will have to be done. Possibly the main difference between Members of the Labour Opposition and Members in other parts of this House is that while the Members of the Labour Opposition believe in the panacea of Government control of industry, out and out and in every possible way, the rest of us, while admitting the necessity for a good deal of regulation, some regimentation and a great deal of planning, believe that there is sufficient in industry for industry to be able to run itself effectively if properly controlled. That is, broadly, the difference between parties, and it will probably be the difference in the future.
How does this problem appear to the ordinary people in the country who will be called upon to give a decision at the next election? My hon. Friend who has just spoken referred to the opinions which are held in the country, and I would agree that there probably never was a time when people thought so little of party politics or cared so little about what happens to parties. What they really feel to-day is that we must look to the future, and that we must take an ordered view. They are, naturally, keenly anxious for security for themselves and their children, and you cannot have that security without a considerable amount of planning, both public and private—private in the sense of industries having a good deal more power of controlling themselves than they have 580 to-day. If one looks at what the Government have done and are doing, one is bound to take certain factors into consideration. Let me call them conditions precedent to any real planning which can be done privately. One is that the Government should see that certain things are put into order which affect the whole cost of industry materially. I may call that public planning.
I have often wondered whether there exists anywhere in Government circles, I do not say in the Cabinet, but anywhere round about it, any co-ordinating mind, or set of minds, trying to get into some sort of ordered perspective all the problems which the Government have to face in commercial and industrial matters. From time to time Ministers answering questions are careful to point out that they can reply only for their own Departments. If anything outside a Minister's own Department is involved the questioner is referred elsewhere. We cannot get along in that way any more. If our planning, whether Governmental or private, is to be effective, there must be some definite co-ordination throughout all Government Departments and throughout the whole of industry. Let me give one or two instances. If I were to raise the question of the school-leaving age and apprenticeships, I should be told at once that the school age was a matter for the Board of Education. But it is not only a matter for that Department. It goes much further. There is first the question of keeping children at school in order to avoid juvenile unemployment. It also raises the very important question of whether sufficient apprentices are available, for instance, in skilled engineering, in order to keep the engineering trades going until business comes back, as we all hope it will.
There also arises the question of whether we have not had too much education of the bookish type and too little of the kind which would prepare children for the technical and scientific work which will be called for increasingly in the future. Surely in respect of that, instead of training all children up to a certain age to memorise certain things it would be better to recognise quite frankly that a great number of them will never make good clerks but would make very good scientific mechanics. What prevents apprenticeship in nine case out of 10 is 581 the poverty of parents, and instead of spending all available money on clerical scholarships, why not have some sort of maintenance scholarships to facilitate apprenticeship? But that is a problem which would affect two or three different Departments, and would have to be considered by them all.
Then, in connection with the discussion of the distressed areas the Ministry of Health has been, I will not use the word "attacked," but has been to some extent hauled over the coals. It has been said indirectly that certain combinations of local authorities ought to be made in the distressed area of Durham on the ground that there are certain things which they could do much better together than separately. Possibly the time has come when all the local government units from the point of view of efficiency, ought to be looked into, and a number of the smaller units combined and made to work together whether they liked it or not. In several services including education, so much is being demanded from local government units to-day that only units of a certain size and rating value can do the work properly. Therefore, we must put aside this pretence of local democratic rule and do that for the local authorities which his best for them, namely, combine them regardless of what Ray be said locally, into units which are best fitted for the purpose and best able to bear the burden.
§ Sir G. ELLIS
Certainly to the country generally, and not only to the depressed areas. Again, who can say that under any system of Government planning the present water supplies throughout the country would be regarded as efficient. I am not going to say that there should be a great grid like the electricity grid—which is not altogether successful—so that on the turning of a tap in Northumberland, the water would hit one in the eye in London or any nonsense of that kind. But the whole question ought to be reviewed, not from the point of view of whether Leeds or Birmingham or Sheffield or any other place likes a particular thing or not, but from the geographical point of view, arranging the catchment areas to the best advantage, availing to the greatest extent the natural conditions, and organising a 582 system of regional boards on a proper plan. Thus it would be possible to supply a good deal more water than is available to-day at much less cost and incidentally, it would open up opportunities for expenditure which would repay itself a great deal better than much of the expenditure in which we indulge.
The housing question is to be debated later. That again is a question of national planning; it has to be looked at entirely as a national question. Then look at the question of transport. The railways and the roads have practically a monopoly of transport to-day. If there be one thing needed in this country it is that the railways should take counsel with one another and consider not only what they will spend over the next five years on repairs of their permanent way, but how much of their own manufacture they are going to carry out. They should consider how much is to be delegated to the private manufacturer and the big company, and what is to become of a number of their establishments which at present are working only half time. All those people who are, to be subject to great changes by the transport companies ought to be in a position to know what their future is to be. It is unfair to them and their families never to know whether a week's notice is going to terminate their position, break up their home and upset the work they have been doing in the neighbourhood. You may say that that is a question for the railways. It is a question for the Government to impose on the railways the need for them to look to their own future. The same thing might be said with regard to some of the docks, and the competition which goes on in connection with them.
Then there is the question of private planning. A good many of my friends and myself tried to work this question out for ourselves, and we realise what the difficulties are. There is in every industry to-day not only a certain amount of planning going on but a very firm disposition to plan in the future. Whenever this is done you arrive at a certain point in your procedure where you are defeated by a very small majority which always takes advantage of all the benefits that combination up to that stage has brought about without ever having paid any contribution in 583 time or money. Perhaps the best plan would be for the Government to pass some kind of general enabling Bill which would give an opportunity for any industry to work out its scheme, bring that scheme to the Government, and ask the Government to make a full inquiry into it through out of the Departments, a Select Committee or a special body, on something like the basis on which the Import Duties Advisory Committee examine these things. They would find out whether there were any real possibilities in the plan, and perhaps after one or two industries had managed to get through successful schemes these could become some sort of model for other industries. But private planning is no use at all unless the Government, first of all, will see all these other problems which are their concern in proper perspective, and see them, not only in terms of one department, but of all the departments together; they should make the departments take a proper co-ordinated view of the various problems.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. HAMILTON KERR
My hon. Friend, in a most interesting speech, outlined the general conception of an enabling Act. I shall not attempt to follow him in this particular sphere, in which he has far more expert knowledge than I have myself; but I would like, with extreme brevity, to stress one or two points. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) retold us in the happier simile of amatory triumphs, the parable of Lot's wife. Governments, like individuals, who look back and rest on their records, will most certainly be unable to maintain their position. We plead for a decisive and creative policy which will both inspire and attract the imaginations not only of hon. Members in this House but of all parties in the country.
We have heard Labour Members paint, in harsh colours, the evils of capitalism, capitalism the ogre who comes and preys upon the sufferings of mankind. I will not attempt to enter into a discussion of that age-long issue, but I would, in terms of hard facts, like to ask myself: What does the average working man in this country demand from any Government? I believe that he asks for security— 584 security from long terms of unemployment, security from long bouts of ill-health, security from the rigours and the hardships of old age when earning power fails. The law, as it stands at present, gives him a certain amount of security from unemployment and ill-health, but I believe that it fails to do so adequately from old age. At the present moment a man leaves insurance at 65 and receives a small pension. Let me give one particular instance drawn from the division which I have the honour to represent. The figure for out-door relief this year was calculated at £56,000, an increase of £11,000 over last year. Now it becomes apparent that even this figure will be too small by £6,000, and so we shall have an increase of some £17,000, or a total expenditure equivalent to a rate of 2s. in the £. I cannot quote the exact figures, but I am told that a considerable amount of this increase is due to people passing out of industry at 65, and their 10s. income having to be augmented from the public funds. I am not aware how much Part II of the Unemployment Act will operate, when it comes into force next year, to relieve the situation, but the question certainly requires the most active consideration. Badly stricken areas cannot bear this burden. There is a second point. With the growing amount of ring spindles in Lancashire woman is becoming more and more the breadwinner. When mule spindles are in operation three women worked to two men. With ring spindles six women to one man are engaged. Therefore, women are becoming more and more the breadwinners, and the problem is to find work for the men. We could wish that active and expert minds were considering these problems. All these facts show that Lancashire is just as much a distresed area as those areas which have received the attention of the Government already.
I would like to pass on to that part of the Amendment dealing with foreign affairs. The Opposition claim that the Government have no concrete policy for a collective system. What substance underlies this charge. It seems to me that two policies present themselves for active study, the policy of isolation and the policy of active co-operation in European affairs. There is no halfway house between these two. The success of a policy usually depends on the vigour with which we pursue its main idea. The 585 problem of whether cosmetics tallied with a life of impeccable virtue once troubled a French lady of the eighteenth century. She went to the santly bishop of Amiens to ask his advice. He, being a man of moderation, said, "I shall allow you to use rouge on one cheek only." We must know definitely what policy we are aiming at. If we follow a policy of isolation, we must vastly increase our forces, so that we may impose our will in time of necessity, and intimidate possible aggressors. We must surround London with a network of aerodromes, from which fast interceptor planes may race into the air at a second's notice and block the passage of invading bombing planes. We must likewise maintain huge fleets of bombers able, with incendiary and gas bombs, to overwhelm the capitals of enemy countries. We must increase our number of cruisers to protect the many thousands of miles of our trade routes and build big battleships, at £7,000,000 each, whose terrific gun-power can overwhelm any possible adversary at sea. We must maintain a small but highly mechanised Army, able to prevent the establishment of advanced air bases from which an enemy could bombard our shores. What result would such a policy have on our financial structure? All hope of social amelioration, all hope of tax remission and of remedial legislation, would disappear for a generation.
What is the alternative? A policy of active co-operation in European affairs. Many of us listened with interest last week to the eloquent plea of M. Pierre Cot for an international police force. Hon. Members on the Labour benches think that the decrees of justice must be reinforced with the sword. History contains many surprises and the next half century or so may well see such an international force in being. But can anyone at the present moment, in the present state of world opinion, with America, Germany, and Japan outside the League of Nations, believe that such a, force will come into being in the next five years? What is the alternative? At present various plasters cover the sores of Europe in the form of security pacts. The pact which intimately and vitally concerns us is Locarno. I believe that we must rigidly give our adherence to that Pact. Then we must recognise the demand for equality of status of Germany. French opinion may be alarmed, and famous 586 journalists such as "Pertinax" thunder against "Perfide Albion" in the Paris Press: French military engineers may even redouble their labours on the Maginot Line. But what is the logical alternative to the present policy of doing nothing? The preventive war advocated by certain French military experts—a sudden armed incursion into the industrial area of the Rhineland, a sudden blow at the half-equipped German army, and a humiliating treaty which would render Germany impotent for years to come. But France has refused to move, and now Germany, in spite of the Treaty of Versailles, is actively rearming. If we do not attempt to save her amours propre or cure what General Smuts called her inferiority complex we may well see an uncontrolled armaments race between the great Powers of Europe.
In the light of these problems, how much better it is that Germany should not combine with that other great Power Japan outside the League of Nations in any common cause against world peace. I think that a United Europe is the best seidlitz powder for the disturbed nerves of the Far East; and a disunited Europe the greatest incentive to the imperialistic ambitions of Japan. Perhaps there are two benefits which the growing aims of Japan have inadvertently brought to the world. Alarmed for the safety of the maritime provinces and Vladivostock, Russia has been induced to enter the League of Nations. With the prospective renunciation of the Washington Treaty by Japan, American opinion, intent on security, may well look towards greater co-operation with Geneva and the League of Nations. We should pursue a policy of more active co-operation, given the present temper and attitude of opinion in America.
These three policies seem to me to offer the most practical forms of co-operation in world affairs—honouring our obligations, recognition of equality of status for Germany, greater co-operation with the United States. George III once wrote to the aged Chatham, "You name alone has enabled my administration to proceed." His Majesty's Government enjoy great moral prestige, and any policy to which they give their consideration is bound to receive, if not the acceptance, at least the active consideration, of countries abroad. We are in a position to give a definite lead towards a policy 587 in foreign affairs like that which my right hon. Friend the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) so eloquently advocated the other day. We would, I think, by these means not only reinforce European peace, but give a lead to opinion in this country which so genuinely and devotedly desires the cause of peace.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. PALING
During the time I have been in the House I do not remember having heard so much criticism of a Government from its own members as I have heard since the new Session started a week ago. I have heard a large number of the speeches, and nearly every one from the Government side started with a very mild criticism of the Socialist party, and then proceeded to an attack on the Government. They have described the Government in all sorts of ways, from gentle adjectives to, as one hon. Member described them, disused slag heaps. When Members on the Government side do that, there must be something vitally wrong or it may be that Members discern the signs of the times and are afraid of the results of by-elections and municipal elections and of what may happen within a year or two. On previous occasions when an Amendment like this has been put down for discussion, Government supporters have almost torn their hair in their frenzied endeavours to pull it to pieces. Very few hon. Members opposite, however, have made any attempt to analyse or criticise the Amendment. Indeed, after listening very carefully to their speeches, one finds that nearly all have accepted the policy laid down in the Amendment. The only criticism that one hon. Member had to offer was that its terms were rather sloppy. He agreed with the policy, but, as far as I can make out, he wanted some sort of Mussolini in this country to carry it out. I do not know whether the hon. Member admires Mussolini, but I would like to remind him that Mussolini said a few weeks ago that he thanked Providence that the Italian workmen had not learned how to eat three or four meals a day.
We had some criticism from the hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor), but he accepted the principles which we lay down in the Amendment. It states: 588But regret that, heedless of the changed economic conditions in the modern world clue to the application of science to production and transport and ignoring the inability of capitalism to distribute abundance.The hon. and learned Member's whole speech was on the lines that we had abundance, that we were unable to distribute it, and that the Government were showing no disposition in the King's Speech or in anything they intended to do to distribute the abundance. He illustrated it by saying that we had in this country plenty of cheap credit, and he said the man in the street was asking why there should be plenty of cheap money when he himself was unemployed and factories were standing idle. I do not know whether the man in the street is asking that question in exactly those terms. I think he is asking a question of that kind, but in a different way. The unemployed man in the cities and towns this winter is asking why he should be without coal and unable to buy or to get coal, and why he should be suffering the rigours of a cold climate when at the same time he is told that coal exists in this country in superabundance, that the machinery for getting coal is more efficient than ever it was and that the colliery and railway yards are stacked with coal. When he is told of the low price at which coal is sold at the pithead, he wonders why, if coal is in such abundance, it is not distributed a bit more fairly, and why he should be denied the right of a fire. When he is told in addition that he has to pay from £2 to £2 10s. for a ton of coal and that the pithead price in Yorkshire in last month's ascertainment was less than 13s., he begins to wonder, in terms of coal, why the Government, with all its power, influence and supposed ability, are unable to find a way of distributing the abundance. One could apply that lesson to everything. It could be applied to boots, clothes, woollen wear and food. There is an abundance everywhere, not only in this country, but in the world; yet some of our Ministers have been busying themselves in trying to keep it out and trying to create a scarcity.
Then the unemployed man would go on to the next part of our Amendment, in which we say:Your 'Majesty's advisers accept as inevitable the existence of mass unemployment and of poverty in the midst of plenty.589 I have never heard a Member on the Government side attempt to disprove this. The only Member whom I have heard put up any kind of criticism of the Amendment is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). Every other hon. Member who has spoken seems to have accepted the statement in the Amendment. When one looks at the measures that are to be taken by the Government according to the King's Speech, does it not seem that they accept the mass of unemployment as inevitable? They do not appear to be making any particular attempt to remove it. The President of the Board of Trade spoke the other night when the question of Lancashire was brought up. Somebody argued that depression was not confined to the poor areas where an examination had been made, but that Lancashire was also depressed. Special reference was made to this fact by Members of these Benches and by numerous supporters of the Government. I listened to the President of the Board of Trade, who is an able man, and is supposed to know all about big business, in order to see whether we should get any indication of how the Government would deal with Lancashire. All I heard was a discussion on spindles. Apparently the employers recognised some time ago that there was a redundancy of spindles, and they wanted to get rid of 10,000,000, but they could not agree even to do that. The President of the Board of Trade devoted all his speech to this point, and at the end merely expressed a pious hope that the employers would be able to agree between themselves and get rid of the 10,000,000 spindles. Even if they do, it will not make much impression on the mass of unemployment.
That kind of thing has been done in the coal industry. The employers have rationalised coal mining; they have put machinery in and closed old, redundant and relatively uneconomic pits, and one would not be far wrong in saying that from the point of view of efficiency in producing coal, the pits are probably better off to-day than ever they were. But it has not helped the coal miner at all. An hon. Member on this side quoted figures showing that within the last few years the number of miners has been reduced by 500,000. We are not against rationalisation or action being taken with regard to redundant spindles, but it is 590 no cure for unemployment. When we listened to the President of the Board of Trade, hoping that at last we were going to get something from that great expert which would tell us that the Government were hoping to do something to reduce unemployment, we only got a disquisition on spindles and a pious hope that the employers in Lancashire would find a solution to their troubles. We had another statement on the question of hours and overtime from the Minister of Labour. I am sometimes amazed that hon. Members who support capitalism have not from their own point of view seen the necessity of reducing hours and introducing a short working week in order to try and make an impression on the mass of unemployment. They have done nothing of that sort and the Government have not done it.
§ Mr. PALING
Give us the same power as the hon. Member's Government have, and we will then show whether we will do it. The Minister of Labour said he is inviting employers to discuss the question of overtime. He did not say whether the Government had a policy on this question. They have not. The only policy is that of the Lord President of the Council, of appealing to the magnanimity and generosity of employers to deal with the question on their own initiative. He is an expert in making these appeals, but I have never seen much result from them. One of the commissioners reported that appeals had been made to employers in areas where boy labour was wanted to take boys out of the depressed areas. Those employers had been approached by the Ministry of Labour and asked to pay those boys at a slightly higher rate than the average wage in the district, because those boys, being away from home, would have to pay board and lodging. One of the commissioners admits that the proposal had turned out to be a failure. The employers would not do what was asked, and I am pretty sure that they will not respond to the appeals made to them about overtime. At this conference the question of a shorter working week or a shorter working day is to be discussed. When the Ministry of Labour were asked whether they, as one of the three parties to this conference, had a policy and were prepared to recommend it, the answer 591 was, "No." They are calling the conference in a Micawber-like spirit, hoping that something will turn up. As a rule things do not turn up unless people are prepared to do more to make them turn up than the Government are doing.
Commissioners were sent to the depressed areas to examine conditions and make a report. We have had similar reports before, and they tell us only the things that most of us knew, but in one or two instances the investigators have dared to make suggestions. Every suggestion that was likely to make some impression upon the problem has, however, been ignored by the Government, and in one or two instances we have been plainly told that they are going to do nothing. The commissioners are to be given certain powers to remove slag heaps. I think the Minister of Labour, when addressing the House last week, realised the target the Government would make when we on these benches went into the country and appealed to us: "Do not go out to the country this week-end and tell the people that the only thing the Government are prepared to do is to remove slag heaps." I do not know whether they have done so—I have not said much about the matter—but it appears to be the truth, and the more we discuss this matter the more evident it becomes.
I wish to know whether the question of raising the school-leaving age in the depressed areas is to be taken in hand. Is the Durham area to receive a subsidy from the Government to relieve the present huge Poor Law rate? Is anything to be done in the matter of mineral royalties? Royal Commissions have made recommendations time after time on the subject of those royalties, and two, if not three, of the commissioners who drew up the reports on the depressed areas make recommendations about them. The Government tell us nothing about that. In face of all these things is it any wonder that we have put in our Amendment the statement that His Majesty's advisers seem to be impressed with the inevitability of mass unemployment Another thing I want to know is whether we are to go on with the policy of subsidies. We say in our Amendment that the Governmentcontinue in their efforts to buttress the system of private profit making by subsidies, tariffs and other devices.592 It has been indicated that there is to be a subsidy for tramp shipping. Do the Government think that a subsidised industry is a prosperous industry? Do they remember that it is much easier to give subsidies than to withdraw them if ever the time should arrive when it is possible, in their opinion, for an industry to do without them? Have they thought of the terrific fight the subsidised industries will put up in order to retain a subsidy? In short, are they sure that the position of industry is so bad that it can only be made prosperous by subsidies; and, if so, how far do they propose to go? If the Government are going to do no planning, going to do none of the things suggested in the reports on the depressed areas, are not going to raise the school-leaving age or reduce the age at which pensions are given, are they going on with a policy of subsidies? Is there to be a subsidy available for any industry which comes along to ask for it? If so, it is plain that the Government recognise mass unemployment as inevitable and have no scheme to meet it. I read this week an article in a newspaper by a man who once used to call himself a Socialist, and at the end he wrote:I am old and tired, and I am seeking peace in the twilight of my old age.I think he should have written that of the Government rather than of himself. Never since I have been at Westminster have I known a Government so complacent in face of the problems which beset them. They are so apathetic that even their own supporters are disgusted with them. I do not know whether they are suffering from old age, but in view of their record and the little which they propose to do next year it is no wonder that the electors are showing their disgust with them whenever they get an opportunity to record their votes at elections.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Captain FULLER
The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) made a very powerful speech, and one which was characteristic of him, to which I listened with great attention. I was particularly interested in his reference to a man whom he termed an old Socialist, and felt that it was rather unfortunate that he should have read to us only the last few words of the article and not what preceded it. If the House will bear with me 593 I will make good that defect. The article said:I remarked to my oldest friend, who is a real old Socialist stalwart that I do not like to see Labour men and Socialists begrudging in a party spirit the credit due to the National Government. The National Government have done well. They have restored the nation's prestige and are gradually but surely pulling us out of the mess the Labour Government had helped to plunge us into. It will be a calamity if their work is hindered or suspended. It will be a calamity if the Labour party is entrusted with power until it has grown up.It was most unfortunate for the hon. Member that I should have been in the great city of Manchester yesterday, because I bought that paper, and regarded it as a very good twopenny-worth. I think hon. Members on the Labour benches will agree that Robert Blatchford is a man who, all his life, has been respected in the Socialist movement, and, so far as I am concerned, what he says is listened to with a good deal of respect. The hon. Member for Wentworth criticised supporters of the Government for levelling at them a good deal of powerful criticism on what is contained in the Gracious Speech. That is the purpose for which we are here. It is unfortunate that when I speak I usually manage to hand out some of the same criticism. I do not come here to pat the Government on the back, because I have an industrial constituency to represent, and I am going to represent it even if that means that I have to hand out a fair amount of criticism of the Government. The Government understand that.
The hon. Gentleman went on to "emphasise," as he said, some of the criticisms which have been levelled at the Government, instead of telling us what exactly he and his party would do in similar circumstances. I am justified in making that point, because I have sat here since last Tuesday, and most of the speeches from the Opposition benches have been a reiteration and emphasis of the difficulties. I have been waiting to hear what solution hon. Members propound. One hon. Member this afternoon was bolder than his colleagues, and did suggest at the end of his speech that the solution was Socialism.
§ Captain FULLER
I am glad to hear another of his hon. Friends agree that 594 that would be the solution to the difficulties. May I then ask: What is Socialism? Perhaps we might be told that before we come to a decision on the Amendment. I have spent a certain amount of time reading works on the subject. I remember a, criticism made by M. Guyot in his book, "Socialist Fallacies." He said that as soon as you attempt to discuss with a Socialist what Socialism is he turns round and tells you that you have got it all wrong, that you do not understand it and that that is not what it is at all. Another gentleman who is well known in this country, Sir Lynden Macassey, said that Socialism is too amorphous to admit of any workable definition. Before the people of this country are asked to change their ideas on this subject I suggest that we might be told what Socialism is. The French newspaper "Le Figaro" opened its columns to an extensive examination of this same question some years ago, and was able, at the end of the investigation, to produce no less than 600 definitions on the subject. A gentleman who is well known to hon. Members of the Opposition, Mr. Dan Griffiths, in a book in 1924 entitled "What is Socialism?" gave us a choice of 263 varieties. Before we offer any word on the subject under discussion to-night, we ought to be told to which of the varieties hon. Gentlemen refer.
I hesitate to speak on the subject of the Gracious Speech now, because I have heard over and over again in the last few days what I wanted say, but I would like to deal with two matters which are not definitely in the Gracious Speech, although they may be there by implication. The first is closer development and co-operation within the Empire; the second is what I prefer to call chronic unemployment, as distinct from general unemployment. The question of the development and expansion of the Empire is a great and majestic problem indeed, and one which we should make it our business to undertake. That is a duty which we owe to our forefathers, who handed down to us such a rich heritage, of which we are justly proud. Whenever the question is raised we shrink before it. We are told by the Ministers of the Crown that we must wait until things improve and until the economic depression has passed, because conditions are similar in the Dominions, and it would be futile to launch out on 595 any schemes for amelioration. I do not accept that view, but I would ask the Government to approach this problem once again in a much more vigorous frame of mind than they have shown for the last 18 months. The British Empire is the greatest bulwark against disorder in the world and the greatest power for world peace. It offers the greatest prospects for trade expansion and development, and it cannot fail to be of benefit to our own people and to our kinsmen beyond the seas.
The second question is that of chronic unemployment. I am particularly sorry that it had no mention in the Gracious Speech except in distressed areas. It bears most heavily and most continually on the lives of our people, and its omission is sad and very serious. It seems that until areas become distressed or derelict no measures are contemplated to deal with the chronic situation that may exist within them. What is a distressed area? In Lancashire are many districts where unemployment ranges from 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. of the working population. By no stretch of imagination can those areas be called depressed or derelict. They are not depressed, mainly because of the characteristics of the Lancashire people, although one sees those characteristics in almost every part of this country; they are common to the race. Those areas are not derelict, because even in the county of Lancashire, where there are some 2,500,000 wage earners, there are bright and prosperous spots as well as bad spots with large percentages of unemployment. Over the whole, the prosperity spots are able to ameliorate conditions created by the bad places. By no stretch of imagination can the county of Lancashire be called depressed or derelict.
But if such areas are not distressed or depressed, they are certainly hard pressed, and it is to that aspect of the matter that I ask the Government to turn their attention once again. In the county of Lancashire is one-fifth of the whole unemployment of the country. To emphasise it arithmetically, I might say that out of every five men unemployed in the country one is found in Lancashire. Since the War, over 100 pits in the mining industry have been closed, which has 596 added some 50,000 miners to the total of the permanently unemployed in this country; and yet we see in the Gracious Speech no mention of any desire to extend not only investigation, but any measure which may be contemplated for the distressed areas, to deal with this problem of chronic unemployment. That is a very real and live issue. It transcends even questions like that of India. The working man is not greatly interested in India. In Lancashire it may be said that his difficulty is to know what the problem of India is. I can go down there and sway my audience in my usual fashion—that is, if I am allowed to speak; and another Member may come down and do the same from the opposite point of view. Then the audience are left in a quandary, and know no more about the Indian problem than they did before either of us went. It is a problem which must be solved on the Floor of this House if it is solved at all. It is the waiting that these people have experienced for so many years, for the fulfilment of what they have convinced themselves might be, that is causing a good deal of the indifference and apathy which exist to-day. The Government would be well advised to look at this problem once again. They must extend their influence and activities beyond the distressed areas. We do not want any more inquiries; we know already what the conditions of the people are; we want the problem dealt with.
What is the problem? That is a question which Marshall Foch always urged his students to ask themselves before they proceeded to draw up a plan of compaign. I think I cannot do better than quote a small excerpt from an article which appeared in the "Times" a few weeks ago, headed "An Experiment in Self-help," because I think this excerpt emphasises very well what the real problem is. The writer says this:Has not the time come to recognise that a large number of men may be tied to places, or, by reason of loss of adaptability after middle life, tied to industries, which can offer them no hope of future employment.That is the problem—no hope of future employment because of their lack of adaptability after middle life. I am well aware that that is another way of referring to the "hard core" of unemployment which, as I have said, exists in parts of Lancashire, and is 597 chronic in the great city of Manchester. It is not only a question of mill operatives and miners; it is also a question of black-coated workers, artisans, small tradesmen, and those who were so well described, I thought, in the article to which I have referred, as average men, who are passed over in any local trade revival. There are many other things that I should like to have said, but I am grateful to have had the opportunity of saying that. I want the Government, not to dismiss this matter from their minds, but to look at it again and see if they cannot extend the measures, which they are bringing in for the distressed areas, to deal with this chronic unemployment problem.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
I was much interested by the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr). Although the hon. Member has now gone away, I think it is only due to him that some answer should be made to the arguments which he so very ably put before the House. He gave a description of the terrible results which must follow from an arms race—he put that as well as I have heard it put in this House—and then he asked: What is the alternative? We know what the alternative is. We believe that the alternative is a security system—a fortifying of the League of Nations system, by which all these disputes should be settled by arbitration, and anybody who broke that system should have against them, either the international police force if that were established, or the forces of the united law-abiding nations of the world. But the hon. Member dismissed that. He asked, who can look at the world to-day and think that such a system could possibly be erected, at least, he said, for five years? I am sure that we shall not get such a system for 50 years unless we change our Foreign Secretary and our foreign policy. As long as our foreign policy is directed by one who is unanimously agreed, anyhow on these benches, and the opinion is shared by Members of other parties, to be the worst Foreign Secretary this country has ever seen since the time of Ethelred the Unready—until that is changed there will not be such a system as I have suggested.
598 The hon. Member for Oldham, as I understood him, said that, that being the case, what we must do is to try to conciliate Germany—we must recognise that Germany has not been well treated in the past. I quite agree. I think that the policy which the hon. Member suggested of trying to appease the indignation of the German people should have been utilised years ago. But he said that what is happening now is that Germany is suffering from an inferiority complex, and that we must remove that by treating her justly and generously now. I am sorry to say, however, that, although I have the greatest respect for the German people themselves, I do not think that the German nation to-day is suffering from an inferiority complex at all. Some years ago the German Government might have come to the other nations and said: "We were beaten in the War. We surrendered on certain terms "—the points of President Wilson, for example. "We do not think that those terms have been carried out in the Treaty of Versailles, and we do not think we have been fairly and justly treated." The Socialist Government in Germany, and even the Government of Herr Bruning, might have said that; but Herr Hitler has not made that particular appeal—he has not made, if I may say so, that particular mistake. The whole basis of his policy is not that the Germans were beaten in the last War and have been unjustly treated; the whole basis of his policy is that Germany won the last War—that her armies were on foreign soil, in Russia, in Roumania, in France—that she was not defeated at all, but was betrayed by Socialism and pacifism within. That is the whole policy that Herr Hitler has been preaching in Germany, and that is why he has behind him now, not a, country suffering from an inferiority complex, but a country for the time being feeling that it was done out of its victories in the last War by German pacifists and Socialists who have now been put into concentration camps or murdered. The policy of Germany is to re-arm again, not in order to get equality, but to get back the things that she lost in the last War—her Colonies, and other countries which are inhabited by her own Teutonic stock. I feel that that is the policy of Germany to-day, and that is the danger of Germany to-day.
599 My answer is not that we should abandon hope of a security system; and at this point may I say how much I was disappointed by the speech of the Lord President of the Council in Scotland the other day. I have heard him make speeches that made me feel that he believed himself that we must have international law supported by an international force. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) once said that the Lord President of the Council very often stumbled on the truth and then picked himself up and went along as though nothing had happened at all. It seems to me that that is what he did when he was in Scotland. Having seen that we must have a collective system if we are going to prevent war, he says you cannot have a collective system as long as Japan and Germany are out of it. Whatever may happen in the future the present Governments of Germany and Japan do not believe in a collective system at all. It is no use trying to get a Government which does not believe in a certain principle inside a system which is founded on that principle. You might as well try to get a burglar into Scotland Yard. I feel that if England to-day could give a lead to the world, bring all the law abiding nations together, all who are willing to agree to arbitration among themselves, that is to say, give a lead to the League of Nations as it exists to-day (because those two nations are not in it now) a League of Nations which consists of ourselves, France, Italy, Russia and others, with America outside taking an additu attitude of friendly neutrality—it is only by strengthening that system that we shall be able to avert the danger of war.
I was interested again in the interesting and amusing speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ardwick (Captain Fuller). He asked us what is our constructive policy. I believe it is the function of an Opposition to find fault with the Government and not to put forward its policy until it gets on those benches. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that only one Member had stated what our alternative was and it was Socialism. He asked what was Socialism. He spoke of many definitions and mentioned Yves Guyot. I should like to ask him what Yves Guyot said 600 about Protectionist theories and about Tariff Reform. There have been many definitions of Socialism, just, as there are many facets to a diamond. A simple definition which always satisfies me is that goods should be made for use instead of for profit, and that the motive power of human beings working under that system should not be mere greed or ambition to get on—to get wealthier—but service to their fellow beings.
§ Mr. COCKS
Honour, of course, especially to-day, as in the services that are nationalised—the Army and the Navy. No one wants to get on there in order to get more money but to get honour and to render distinguished service to the Crown and to the country. I feel that that is the motive which would animate the world in the new society which is bound one of these days to come about.
I am speaking in a rather funereal atmosphere to-night. It seems a pity that in an important Debate on the King's Speech Government supporters should not have come in greater numbers even in the capacity of mourners. We all know that the Government is meeting the House under a sentence of death. The doctor who gave the mandate three years ago is now giving the verdict and the verdict is that, if they can get over a certain important date next month, they may live for 12 months, but probably not longer, and then they will pass into the great silence, unmourned by the millions whom they have disappointed. Having met in that condition, they have produced their programme. It is a very short one, one of the shortest on record. The Government, which was so voluble and loquacious in its youth, has become very laconic in its old age. They have very little to say for themselves. But, however short the King's Speech, there is a great omission. There is no mention of the general question of unemployment. They mention the necessities of the depressed areas, but they could hardly help doing that. I suppose the omission is a pure oversight on the part of the Prime Minister. In the exalted circles in which he now moves, with so many interesting and varied social engagements, he has not always the time to remember the problem of unemployment which is facing the country. Still I feel that a Govern- 601 ment like this should recognise in some way the great problem which is facing not only this country but the whole of modern civilisation.
I have heard it said that there is only one member of the Government who realises the nature of the problem and that is the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. They say he has a modern mind, which I suppose means that he has all the modern fallacies. I often think of him sitting in his room at the Ministry. I suppose he has on the wall a great picture by some famous artist of the Sahara Desert, which I suppose is his ideal agricultural area. There is a waste of sand and a few date palms and a few dates—the fewer the better, because the price would go up the fewer there are. Probably on the horizon there would be a vision of fountains, orange groves and palm trees—prosperity in the future, a mirage, upside down, of course, as mirages usually are, I often think that the right hon. Gentleman when he is engaged in making one blade of grass grow where two grew before must despair when he considers the other part of his Ministry—Fisheries—and when he considers how difficult it must be to stop production in the deep sea, and when he considers the enormous prolific power of the herring, and what happens as the result of the sex appeal of the cod. I think he must despair when he thinks that the policy that he may be applying for a certain time to the land he will never be able to apply to the sea.
We must all recognise the existence of extreme poverty and of unemployment in the midst of abundance. That has been the theme of speeches to-day and on Friday which have not been answered at all, because, after all, this is a new problem. That is why I call it a modern problem. It did not exist in the olden days. The whole history of the world until quite recently has been the problem of poverty in the midst of scarcity, when there was not enough to go round. The First Commissioner of Works knows that for many generations people living in this country, and in other countries, suffered the extremes of starvation. He knows that wars have been fought and dynasties have fallen in search of food and nothing else. Even in this country in Saxon days millions of people died merely because the harvest failed and there was no alternative to the harvest. There was a time 602 when people could not keep their cattle through the winter. They could not even feed them. But all those things have gone.
The point—and it is a serious one—is that people are ready to acquiesce in the situation when it is the work of Nature and nothing can be done more than to ameliorate their circumstances. If they feel that their poverty is an act of Nature or of God, they will grin and bear it, and will die without any manifestation of revolt—on the whole they would do that—but if they feel that scarcity is due to a deliberate effort on the part of certain people running the system in order that their profits may be maintained, they will not acquiesce in that fatalistic spirit. They will revolt. And then, as Professor Blackett pointed out in a very remarkable speech over the wireless in the spring of this year, those people who make this artificially-produced scarcity will come out against democracy and seek to bludgeon the people into acquiescence. That is probably the economic reason for the rise of Nazi-ism in Europe. We say that we are not going to have it because our democratic spirit is too strong and our nation will not stand such a system. I hope that that is so. But that is the economic push which is leading to the development of the Nazi system in Europe.
Take the question of machinery. I interrupted the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade on Friday, and asked whether he really took the view that the invention of labour-saving machinery did not cause unemployment. He rather took the old Manchester view 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1934; col. 469, Vol. 295.]It was the old idea that if you brought it in gradually, so that there was not such a break, there would not be any permanent increase in unemployment, but in fact there would be more employment. That was true 100 years ago, and at the beginning of the industrial age and right down almost to the time of the Great War, as long as you had new markets to 603 develop to which to send your surplus products, and as long as you were the only country in the world supreme in manufacture and possessed all the latest processes. But once, either by your example, or because you sold your machinery and taught other countries to do exactly the same thing and compete with you in other markets, your markets have been closed down, that is surely not the case. Moreover, it has been rendered more difficult by the machinery which is so much more labour-saving than any of the old machinery. I read in a paper the other day that there has been set up recently a machine for producing electricity and providing electric light and power for 300,000 people in New York which does not require a single attendant—not even a machine-minder. I challenge whoever is to speak for the Government to say that that can result in increasing employment. I am not quoting statistics from people of no authority.
I invite the Prime Minister, the Under-Secretary, the First Commissioner of Works, to read some of the reports issued by the American Government, including the report issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, where it is stated that, as a result of mechanisation on the farm, about 2,000,000 people or more have actually left the soil. I do not see how anybody can say that this is only a temporary thing, and that they will find work in other ways as a result of that new production. I do not think that they will. As a result of the great increase in machinery, less work will be required, and under the present system—and it would be only a temporary expedient—the only thing is shorter hours. The Government should lay down a scheme for shorter hours and more leisure—not only for shorter working hours but a shorter working life. The worker should start in industry later than is the case at present, and as late as some hon. and right hon. Members I see opposite, and retire at a very much earlier age. But that would be merely a temporary expedient.
The other point was made by the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) for whom I have great respect, the son of a famous Prime Minister of this country, who said that although he had heard that it was impossible under the 604 present system that profits could only be made in times of scarcity, he had never seen any attempt to prove it. The proof is a simple one. You cannot make profits in any kind of commodities unless those commodities are rather scarce and are wanted very badly. I take a simple illustration. If nobody grew potatoes for themselves, the person who grew potatoes would make a profit on them. He would sell them to the other people and make a great profit. But if in the village in which I happen to live in Sussex, everybody had enough land to grow their own potatoes and nobody ever bought potatoes, it would be impossible to make any profit at all on this harmless and succulent vegetable.
It is the same with everything. I f a thing is scarce, you can make a profit but when you have abundance and no one wants it, it is impossible to make a profit at all. That is the reason to-day that in Brazil they are burning coffee which used to be one of their most important and profitable products. They are shovelling it into the sea. We find that in some States of America they are deliberately deciding to plough in a great deal of their cotton, and agreeing not to grow or produce as much cotton as the year before. In other words, they are making a deliberate scarcity in order to maintain their system. As a result of creating that deliberate scarcity, they are perpetuating poverty and creating unemployment, and as far as I can see the only way of altering that system is that those machines of which I have been talking should be owned by the community and that they should then be used, not for making profits, but for producing the various things that people want in order to make themselves happier, better, and richer. I should be very happy indeed if anybody from the Government benches should venture to say a few words in answer to that argument.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHERICK
I should have been greatly disappointed if the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) had spoken without making some reference to the Prime Minister. He appears to be suffering from incipient persecution mania, and although I had to wait for some considerable time on this occasion, at last it emerged. I agree with a good deal 605 of what the hon. Member said in the earlier part of his speech, particularly with reference to Germany and collective security, but I will not go into that question now. In the last three or four weeks I have been somewhat critical of the Government, not of their record or their policy, but merely on account of certain, as I think, errors of tactics, but to-night I am sure it will rejoice the heart of the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Paling) to know that the Government are going to get one supporter from these benches. It is not uncommon that Members of the House of Commons who are in support of the Government and lucky enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye should have particular policies to put forward, programmes to recommend, or "grouses" to air, and therefore, there is not so much necessity for those who have been, and are, in support of the Government's policy to get up and defend it.
The hon. Member for Wentworth deplored the fact that hardly any Member on the Government side had anything critical to say about the Amendment which he and his hon. Friends have put on the Paper. I think one of the reasons is that the Amendment is almost precisely the same as practically every Opposition Amendment or Motion on any Vote of Censure that we have seen in the last, not three years, but perhaps 15 or even 20 years, but as he is so anxious that the Amendment should be subjected to criticism, I will say a few words about it. They begin by saying that theyregret that, heedless of the changed economic conditions in the modern world,and so on. Only this morning I was reading a very interesting pamphlet by a certain vicar of a country parish in, I think, the year 1758, and he said precisely the same, except, of course, that he was not advocating Socialism, as the hon. Members have been doing to-day. He deplored the appalling condition of the country and begged the Government and the upper classes to do something to remedy it. All the way through in the history of the last century hon. Members will find that the advance of machinery was looked upon as the great bogey, that owing to the then economic conditions, the Government must take immediate steps to stop the use of machinery. So much for the preamble of this Amendment. Then they say something about: 606ignoring the inability of capitalism to distribute abundance.I notice they do not say to produce abundance, but to distribute it. I suppose they would say that Socialism could distribute abundance. There is only one country, however, in which Socialism has been tried out on a gigantic and complete scale, and that is Russia, and there is no question that owing to the system there introduced, I will not say that scarcity has had to be organised, but that scarcity has organised itself, with the result that, according to what are, I believe, reliable figures, last year in Russia no fewer than 3,000,000 people died from starvation. Then hon. Members of the Opposition talk about the Government'sefforts to buttress the system of private profit-making by subsidies, tariffs, and other devices.We have admittedly buttressed the position by the use of these various devices, but it was not merely to produce profits for capitalists, but to put our own people back into work; and we have been successful. During the course of the present Government's term of office no fewer than 800,000 people have gone back to work, not to make profits for capitalists, although we are very glad if the manufacturers should also make some profit at the same time as they got their men back to work. I do not think the Amendment is really worth the paper it is written on. The hon. Member for Broxtowe, I think, and the hon. Member for Wentworth mentioned the question of hours and asked what the Government proposed to do with regard to lowering the hours of work. I believe that eventually that will be the true solution of the problem of unemployment, but one has to go very carefully. As long as we compete with foreign nations, we have to watch our standards, and we cannot lower our hours of work too freely in this country, except in the highly protected industries perhaps, when we are competing with foreign countries, without disadvantage.
The Government have, I believe, treated the various problems confronting them largely in a practical and businesslike way. Their first object was to restore the finances of the country, knowing full well that trade and commerce could not possibly prosper unless we had the basis of our structure right, and that the financial affairs of the nation would com- 607 mand general confidence in this country and abroad. I believe also that by imposing tariffs, quotas, and in some cases subsidies, it has been possible, by getting a large/ production in the various industries in this country, to reduce costs and thus make it more possible to compete in the oversea markets. This has also been helped by the many and, in some cases, rather valuable trade agreements which have been carried through by the Government.
I should like to say a few words regarding some of the main criticism which has been levelled at the Government from hon. Members on this side of the House. There have been several Members speaking to-day who are very interested in the idea of planning. We had a most powerful speech from the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) the other day. I listened to his speech, and I read it very carefully several times over. I believe that he is advocating a policy which it would be very unwise of this country to accept at its face value, however earnestly it is put forward. During the last few years it has become customary to say that the State must do everything. Surely individuals have a responsibility! The Government are urged to bring in Measures for dealing with the cotton industry, the steel industry and many other industries. I do not think it is right for the Government to intervene in the case of industries which are too stupid or too selfish to do anything for their own reconstruction. If there be a small minority, then I agree that it is useful for the Government to intervene and to pass legislation, but generally it is up to any industry to produce their own plan and it is not the duty of the Government to be constantly introducing legislation in order to get the industries of the country out of a mess.
The many Measures which some hon. Members of the Conservative party are urging upon the Government really boil down to this: spend more money. The Government during the last three years have inflicted hardships on the people by the measures which were necessary to restore financial stability, and they are now being constantly asked from various quarters to spend more money and produce the same state of affairs again. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees in his speech seemed to claim 608 that the only Member of the Government who was doing his job properly was the Minister of Agriculture. He said that he did not mind how many mistakes were made provided that the Minister was engaged in a bold and imaginative policy. That nearly always means spending money. I deplore the attitude which exists among some members in the Conservative party of urging what I may call news value legislation, that is to say, legislation to please the populace whether it be good for it or not. We should certainly adopt any Measures which are necessary looking at them from a business point of view, but I do not believe in this bribery of the electorate by the expenditure of money—the question of pensions has been mentioned—nor in the bribery of the electorate by encouraging them to believe that you have a great and vast policy which it would be inadvisable and dangerous to carry out. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees drew loud cheers from the Socialist Members but I noticed that now and then he remembered that he had been returned as a Conservative and bit the heads that cheered him.
In all the speeches on this particular line we have rarely heard any positive details. It has all been planning, with a big "P"; very rarely has it been carefully worked out. It is a beautiful building of bricks, but if you look into it you find that the nails are not driven into the wordwork and that there is no cement between the bricks. We want to hear more details before we adopt this wonderful policy of planning. The hon. Member asked the Government all kinds of questions, sometimes in a rather hostile way. He asked what they are going to do about pensions at 60. What about the school age? What about reform of local government? In all these questions he seemed to accept the implication that they would mean an expenditure of more money. He said that he did not approve of a policy which was neither the jungle on the one side nor the hive on the other; he approved of a middle way. We all approve of a middle way. It is merely a question of what the policy of that middle way should be. His policy, while rejecting the jungle on the one side and the hive on the other seems to be something like a zoological garden in which the animals are allowed a certain 609 degree of liberty in their own little cages and are ministered to by a large number of intellectual, ingenious and clever keepers, who provide them with everything necessary and are thus able to organise their lives. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not present at the moment. I warned him that I was going to discuss his speech and in the circumstances I hope he will do me the honour of reading my speech in the OFFICIAL RETORT to-morrow.
I think that the Government are on the right line. There is much less tendency nowadays, as a result perhaps of the system of government under which we are living, for an hon. Member to ask himself whether any Measure proposed is in strict accordance with Conservative, Liberal or Socialist principles. He asks himself whether the Measure is a good one, and if so he supports it; if it is a bad one he votes against it. I think this is much more the attitude adopted to-day. It is a form of business government which may in the future lead to some interesting developments. I do not criticise the Government to-day as I have done sometimes recently, and I am glad to be able to support them in the policy set down in the Gracious Speech. The hon. and learned Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. O'Connor) said that the India Bill ought to be sent to a Committee upstairs. We have had the report of the Joint Select Committee of both Houses, and the Bill, of course, should be taken on the Floor of the House. As a result of this Bill there is only room for a certain amount of social legislation, but that social legislation which is in the Gracious Speech will be of great value. I shall be pleased in the coming Session to support the Government in the Measures they are proposing, and I believe that the electorate, when it comes to consider the programme that is put before it, will not be unmindful of the blessings which the National Government has conferred upon the country.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MAYHEW
As this is the first time I have had the honour of addressing the House I hope that hon. Members will be so good as to give me that indulgence which is always accorded to a first effort. I am rather concerned this evening with the Amendment on the Order Paper, because I think that the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) 610 and Members of the Socialist party are quite definitely unaware of the changed economic conditions of this country during the past three years. I will not go into that in any further detail as it might lead me to transgress the rules of debate. There is one point which I consider of vital interest; particular reference is drawn to it in the Gracious Speech; and that is the question of housing. I am gratified to see that the Government are now going to make a very definite effort to grapple with the overcrowded conditions which exist in many parts of the country.
My own borough is a progressive borough, and we perhaps do not feel the slum problem so acutely as surrounding boroughs do. In 1921 we had a population of 146,000. By 1931 that population had gone down to 142,000, and up to this year the population has been still going down. During those years we have had built something like 3,000 houses, which gives us an approximate total of 33,000 houses. That gives us a reasonable proportion of houses for the population, but actually some of those houses were built during the third quarter of last century and many of them are in a very dilapidated condition. While one could not say that a progressive borough like East Ham would not be quite capable of dealing with the problem of its housing within the next few years, I should still like to know from the Ministry what their proposals are and what they have got to put forward to enable my borough to deal with its rehousing problem and such overcrowding as does at present exist.
Another point which is, perhaps, of greater importance is that in that list of 33,000 houses are houses of two other grades. The one grade is that type of house which, while it is not in a very bad state of repair does definitely need reconditioning, the other urgently needing repair now. The owners of those houses for the most part are small men, and the whole of their capital is tied up in those houses. I think I am right when I say that the tenant definitely fears to make known anything that requires to be done to those in authority, because he fears that the rent may go up. When the rent is already very much higher than he wants to pay he is the last man to do anything which will mean that the owner of the house will have to undertake new 611 expenditure on his house and may have to charge the tenant an increased rent.
I should like to know whether there is anything the Minister can do with a view to financing the owners of such property—those who have not got the necessary capital themselves to recondition their houses, and to recondition them now without any raising of rents. If these houses are not reconditioned now, they will become the slums of the future, and it will be in the very near future in many cases. I should like to ask the Minister of Health whether it is possible to bring forward some mortgage loan—something upon the lines of the Agricultural Credits Act, 1928—whereby the moneys necessary could be given to the landlord under the direction of the local authority or the Ministry and recovered over a long term of years? I think, perhaps, of all the subjects brought forward in the Gracious Speech none affects so much the individual as the house and the home. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend, when he is considering the Bill which the Gracious Speech tells us is to be brought forward, whether he would be good enough to give some little consideration to the points I have just raised. May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the House for the gracious consideration shown to me in my first effort?
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
It was quite a change to hear the last speaker but one begin his speech by saying that he was going to support and defend the Government, and it was rather a pity that the President of the Board of Trade was not here, for I am certain it would have cheered his heart. On Friday and again to-day he had a really had time in listening to his own supporters. There was none of them to defend him. They naturally said as little as possible about our Amendment, but they certainly said nothing in favour of the Government. Before referring to the Amendment let me express the pleasure which I am sure, the whole House felt in listening to the maiden speech which has just been delivered. It was a pleasure to every one of us. One of the things which I cannot understand and which always puzzles me is why some of the Members who speak so well speak so seldom in this House. I hope we shall have the pleasure of listening to the hon. Member many times in the future.
612 I want briefly to support the Amendment, because the hon. Member below the Gangway, while criticising our Amendment, left out of consideration one important part of it, namely:Your Majesty's advisers accept as inevitable the existence of mass unemployment.The hon. Member said nothing about that, and I am not surprised. I believe that statement to be true. Ever since the present Government took office they have put forth no efforts to provide employment. Their policy has been a policy of waiting and hoping for a trade revival. The Prime Minister, on 12th April, said:I have every hope that the trade improvement … will continue and extend to many of the places now counted as depressed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1934; col. 462, Vol. 288.]That was an answer to a question asking him what the Government were going to do for the depressed areas—and that statement of the Prime Minister's followed a previous statement made not long before in a letter to Bethnal Green when he said:The Government has directed its policy towards the revival of ordinary industrial activity.That has been the policy of the Government, or rather that was the policy of the Government up to 12th April. On 19th April the Minister of Labour announced that four commissioners were to be appointed. That seems to have been the time when the Government were prepared to change the policy. What surprised me last Tuesday was that the Prime Minister in this House said:We desire to get some real solution, and not merely a stop-gap solution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1934; col. 30, Vol. 295.]I do not know what the Prime Minister meant by that. If the Government have made up their minds to change the policy so far as mass unemployment is concerned, and to get a real solution of the problem, I am prepared to accept even what the Prime Minister will not accept, that is a stop-gap solution. I would accept any solution for the unemployment problem. But a stop-gap solution does not seem to satisfy the Prime Minister now, and I take it that when he used those words he was speaking not only for himself but for the Government, and that what the Government are now looking for is a real solution. How do they propose 613 to get that real solution for unemployment? They have appointed two commissioners whom I shall not attempt to criticise. Rather am I prepared to sympathise with them, especially with the English commissioner, who has taken on a giant's work in dealing with the depressed areas of Durham, Northumberland and South Wales. That is not work for an ordinary man but for a superman.
We are told that the English commissioner is going to sit in an office in Westminster, and from there is going to uplift the thousands of unemployed men in those three depressed areas. When speaking on this question the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it would be unfair to expect the commissioners to perform miracles. So far as unemployment is concerned we need a miracle to be performed, and if the English commissioner can find a solution for mass unemployment in those three distressed areas, then certainly he will be performing a miracle. If the English commissioner is to provide a remedy for the distressed areas, what he wants first of all is power to do something. Let me examine what are the powers given to the commissioners. First of all they have to be under the control of the Minister of Labour and of the Secretary of State for Scotland. If the English commissioner is to be under the control of the Minister of Labour, God help the commissioner and God help the unemployed, because the very fact that he is under the Minister of Labour and has to go to that Minister for all the money that he wants, means that he will not be able to do any more than the Minister of Labour himself is able to do now.
But the commissioner has also to work with the Unemployment Assistance Board. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that one of the functions of the Unemployment Assistance Board was to promote the welfare of the unemployed. But some of us cannot forget that one of the functions of the Unemployment Assistance Board is to apply the means test, to starve the people as much as they can. When the commissioner has to work with that board one cannot see much to hope for. But the commissioners have no power to do anything that a local authority can do. That is a bitter disappointment to the local authorities. When the four commissioners went to the distressed areas the local authorities rushed to them to lay their schemes before 614 them. At a meeting that was held in Durham on 26th October to consider the question of unemployment, the Durham County engineer and surveyor said this:Recently when Commissioner Captain Wallace was making his survey of the North-East Coast I submitted a schedule of work to him concerning road and bridge schemes estimated to cost over £4,000,000. If moneys could be made available and the work was spread over four years unemployment would be given to 5,000 men. If the men were only allowed to work 18-week spells, as is the County Council's current practice, 15,000 men per annum would receive 18 weeks' work.Now we are told that the commissioners cannot do anything that the local authorities can do. Therefore, all the schemes of the local authorities as laid before the commissioners are of no avail. The commissioners simply raised the hopes of the local authorities, and those hopes are doomed to disappointment. I want to direct the attention of the House to what I believe to be the only remedy for mass unemployment in our distressed areas. That is by restoring the old industries or establishing new industries. There is this rather strange fact which emerges: The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech said, in regard to the appointment of the commissioners:We asked them to try to form some idea of the prospects of improvement in the condition of the old industries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1934; col. 1992, Vol. 293.]That seems to have been an instruction given to the four commissioners. Yet rather strangely, when one reads the reports of the commissioners one cannot find in the reports any suggestions that the commissioners made for the restoring of the old industries. I want to put a question to the President of the Board of Trade. We know that the reports of the commissioners as given to us were not complete. Did the commissioners recommend, in regard lo the old industries, something that was omitted from the reports? It would be interesting to know, because one cannot imagine the commissioners receiving an instruction like that and then nothing appearing in their reports.
I suggest that in our distressed areas the only way in which mass unemployment can be solved is by restoring the coal trade. I was glad to-night to hear the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) tell the House of several 615 remedies for the coal trade difficulty, such as pulverised coal, hydrogeneration, and low temperature carbonisation. I believe that along those lines lies the solution for unemployment in the coal industry. But the Government seem prepared to wait until private enterprise can slowly grapple with the question. I submit that the State should take a financial interest in the question, and that until it is prepared to do that there will be no progress made. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that no improvement in the condition of the coal industry was likely to come quickly enough to make any great difference in the near future. That is no reason why the Government should not make a start in trying to solve the unemployment question in connection with the coal industry.
In regard to the new industries it seems to me that the commissioners have no powers to plan any such industries. I was amused to hear the Minister of Labour when he spoke about new industries referring to subsidies. We never asked that new industries should be subsidised and it is not for a Member of the present Government to raise the subsidy bogey at the present time. No Government has given more subsidies of one kind and another than the present Government. As the President of the Board of Trade himself is responsible for the tramp shipping subsidy, I should be surprised if he attempted to argue against subsidies for new industries in the depressed areas. But, as I say, we have never asked for such subsidies. We believe that the Government ought to determine upon a system for planning new industries. They ought to say that new industries must start in certain areas and not just wherever they like. We have heard a great deal in recent years to the effect that industry ought not to be left to its own free will, that industry in this country ought to be planned and controlled in the interests of the mass of the people and that private profit ought no longer to be the determining factor.
We know from our experience how indifferent and selfish employers of labour can be. In the Durham area to-day we see an exhibition of selfishness on the part of the coalowners. There is a case in which they want to alter a certain classification of workmen, and because 616 the workers will not agree to the change a colliery where nearly 2,000 men and lads were employed has been stopped for nearly four months. There is danger of that action on the part of the owners developing into such a dispute in Durham that nobody knows where it might end. I submit that the time has come when all industries, old and new, ought to be planned and controlled. Employers of labour ought not to be allowed to do as they please. We heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer deploring the lack of local leaders, but what we need to-day is a national leader bold enough to take charge of industry and control it. It is along those lines alone that this problem can be met. The Government will not get a real solution by any of the tinkering methods which they are employing or by the small powers which these commissioners have been given. Schemes for beautifying the depressed areas for land settlement, for transference, for training camps, and so forth, all these are only tinkering with the problem of mass unemployment, and the Government can only deal with it by grappling with the question of controlling both the old and the new industries.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I want in the few minutes that remain not to deal with criticisms, but to make one constructive suggestion which I believe would do a great deal of good and which I hope the Government will include in their programme. The speeches in the Debate have largely turned on the well-known fact of poverty in the midst of plenty. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) and others who have followed him have stated that this cannot be remedied unless you have an adequate supply of purchasing power, and that this cannot be achieved by capitalism, either in times of plenty or in times of adversity. I would like to make a suggestion which I would address particularly to the Lord President of the Council, as he is in the chair of the Committee of Scientific Research. It is perfectly possible, in my opinion, within the bounds of capitalism to provide a cure for poverty in the midst of plenty. The hon. Member for Lime-house said that there never was an adequate distribution of purchasing power, either in a slump such as we have 617 at present or in times of plenty, and, referring to the United States, he said:The home market was always starved because of the failure of the capitalist system to distribute purchasing power widely enough."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1934; col. 395, Vol. 295.]That is not true, and the hon. Gentleman should be the last person to make a statement of that kind. He ought to know that that is not the case. What are the facts? A most exhaustive and careful analysis has recently been made in the United States, and it appears that from 1925 to 1929 in a time of plenty, purchasing power in the United States was 80 per cent., not of the production of the United States, but of the whole productive capacity of the United States which means a lot more. Further, in 1929 it rose to 83 or 84 per cent. When we realise that that includes seasonal industries it means that, normally speaking, in prosperous times there is no lack of purchasing power. In other words, the result of that most recent inquiry is to make the old doctrine of purchasing power a museum specimen to be put aside with the dodo and other creations which have become extinct.
I admit at once that in a time like the present, in a slump, you have a problem but, it is of quite a different kind from what has been suggested. Once you find a cure for these recurring booms and slumps you can get sufficient purchasing power and that within the bounds of the capitalist system. It may be said that that is quite visionary. The people who say that are people who claim to be practical but are often shortsighted. It was exactly what was said with regard to discoveries like that of the great physician Koch when he said that he could prevent the spread of typhoid. He was ridiculed; yet on the basis of the work which he did measures were taken to prevent the spread of disease. What is true of medicine is true to-day in the sphere of economics. Why has it not been done already? It is only recently, in the sphere of economics, that data has been sufficient, and that methods have been sufficiently improved to enable people to go on on the same lines that they have gone on in other departments of science. The facts can now be obtained and it is possible to go forward to find 618 the cure to prevent these recurrent booms and slumps.
The hon. Member for Limehouse referred to the United States of America. If he had carried his inquiries a little farther, he would have found that in New York and elsewhere they are analysing what occurred in the booms, and it is long odds that the true nature of the facts that caused those booms will be discovered just as soon as a commercial method of low temperature carbonisation or a cure for cancer is found. There is no question that as the years go by the true nature of a cure for cancer will be found. The finding out of the other is just as clear and just as certain. What I would say to the President of the Board of Trade, if he would represent it to the Lord President of the Council, is that there is a real need for an effort here as well as in other countries. We have had brilliant economists doing brilliant work—Mr. Keynes and others. What we have not had is a combined effort in order to solve practical questions like this.
Some may object that the cure would have to be international. I would say that if we found it out it would be useful in this country alone, quite apart from other countries. To carry out an inquiry of this kind in this country—and this is what I would put to the Lord President of the Council—will have this additional advantage. The ups and downs of trade which are at the root of these problems have different manifestations according to the different conditions of different countries. If you get attacks on the problem undertaken in more countries than one, there will be a real chance of those making the inquiries in different places being able to communicate with one another and either to correct or to elaborate the conclusions that the others have reached. In that way before many years are out a solution of this problem could be found.
I appeal to the Government to set this work in hand. In the first place, it is not visionary. It is just as little visionary as the finding of low-temperature distillation or a cure for cancer. Is it a small thing? I undertake that for £12,000 or £15,000 a year the inquiry could be adequately undertaken in this country. From that point of view, it is a small thing, but the result would not be small, and 619 because the expenditure is small it is no reason for not attempting it. It is a real test of statesmanship. It is looking ahead and looking at the size of the problem and trying to get the cure. I ask the Government to put it on their programme. It would be good politics to put it on their programme. The capitalist system is on its trial and I admit it freely. The solution can be found within the limits of the capitalist system. It can be done, and it would have these two effects: In the first place, the misery that is caused by these slumps, by poverty in the midst of plenty, is enormous. Great as it has been in this country, it is not half as great here as it has been in other countries. In other countries the misery throughout the whole of industry has been as great as it is in South Wales or Durham in this country. But it is not only misery that it would prevent. When you get unrest and disquiet in different countries, it is the breeding ground of the insurrection and wars that may take place. You would never have had the change over from Bruening to Hitler in Germany if it had not been that the people were so miserable. Therefore, I say put this on your programme, put this in hand, because I am certain that great as the benefit may be from many things, this will prevent an amount of misery and an amount of international trouble which will make him among the greatest benefactors not only of this country but of the world in our generation.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
I do not think that my hon. Friends on this side of the House would object to such an inquiry as the right hon. Gentleman suggests. We are always prepared to stand by independent inquiry into the economic condition of this country and the world, and, if the right hon. Gentleman can persuade his friends to undertake such an inquiry, we shall be delighted. It is no part of the mission of the Labour movement to stand in the way of the development of knowledge. I had meant to make a speech to-night replying in detail to the speeches which have been made against the Amendment which was put down in the name of my hon. Friends. I find that the Debate has gone along two lines. Members of the House who criticise our Motion also criticise 620 the Government. Indeed, the Motion which we put down with the intention, as my hon. Friend said, of challenging the Government has been used by supporters of the Government to criticise their own administration. All the speeches which have been made which were relevant to the discussion were speeches which, at the best, gave very modified support to the Government's policy. Hon. Members of this House, not merely on this Amendment but in the Debate on the King's Speech before Friday and indeed in the Debate on the distressed areas, and not only Members of this party, have spoken critically of the Government.
I draw one conclusion from that. It is perfectly true that a large number of Members have not spoken. The inarticulate majority remain inarticulate. If they had been articulate no doubt they would have been as critical as those who have been articulate. I shall be surprised if I am challenged when I say that there has been, after the formal opening of the House, no speech from the Government benches which has been 100 per cent. complimentary to the Government. The vast majority of Members who have spoken, while they may have handed a rather withered bouquet to the Government, have on the whole been critical. That indicates that even Members of the Government, perhaps because of the speeches that they have heard or read, are themselves a little critical of the existing order which they are really trying to sustain. We shall have other opportunities of dealing with the programme of the Government this Session. The point I wish to make at this juncture is that speaker after speaker, and especially younger Members of the House, on the Government side, have been very serious in their condemnation of the inactivity of the Government. They have felt that something more ought to be done. They have professed their loyalty to the Government, as the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) did in opening the Debate this afternoon, but at the same time there was a feeling that the Government are not dealing with the fundamental problems which are facing the country. With regard to those speakers who have criticised our Amendment and those who spent their time criticising the Government and us, we have heard no new arguments from them. Had the 621 Prime Minister been here, I think he would have heard no new argument against our case.
I do not propose at this stage to go into detail in criticising the speeches which have been made during the Debate on the Amendment. It is a definite and specific challenge to the Government. We say that the Government have for the last three years been fumbling with the symptoms of economic decay and have not dared to touch causes. We say that the whole psychology and outlook of the Government is that of the existing order. It may be perfectly true, as the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) said, that British credit has been restored. It may be true that the Budget has been balanced, and that newspapers like the "Daily Mail" feel that the Government is one that ought to be supported. But whose credit is it? Not the credit of the ordinarly people, but the credit of the people who have control of the whole of our economic life. My charge against the Government is not that they have not rescued the nation, but that they have rescued the people whom they thought were the nation—the big financial and established interests.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
That is the old argument that if you only reduce the Income Tax there will be more employment.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I defy any hon. Member to prove any kind of relationship between the amount of Income Tax in the £ and employment. There is no such relation. The fact that what is called national credit is restored means that, in the eyes of the so-called important people of this country and of the newspapers that control certain sections of public opinion, credit is restored, but not from the point of view of the people of the country. It may be true that more people are at work now than in 1931, but there are more people employed than there were 20 years ago or 50 years ago or 100 years ago or 300 years ago. There are more people in the country, and it would be surprising if there were not more people employed. Since I have been challenged on this 622 question, I ask—and we really ought to have an answer from the President of the Board of Trade to this question—if the system fortified by a National Government with an unparalleled majority has been so successful as to put more people into work, why is it that there are over 500,000 more people on the Poor Law than there were three years ago? It was not my intention to raise this point, but when I am challenged about the number of people who are being employed, I am entitled to ask why there are more destitute people than there were three years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Anomalies Act!"] This Government is an anomaly.
We have put down this Amendment specifically to challenge the Government. The Government have had three years. At the end of that period they have satisfied the people who support them, they have satisfied the big interests, but they have left this country with a larger volume of sheer destitution—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members had better send for the Minister of Health, who knows the figures better than I do. In spite of our vaunted progress we now have more sheer, stark destitution than we had two years ago. There are 553,000 more destitute people in England and Wales. No challenge to that! There is no answer. Our Amendment challenges the whole basis of our economic system. I am glad the Prime Minister is here, because he understands—at least I think he does—the case that we have to put. It has been said more than once in this Debate that the position of working people in this country is better than it was. Let it be admitted. Let us agree that it is better than it was 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I am resting my case on that of the right hon. Member for Hillhead, who spoke about his own lifetime, which is longer than mine, and spoke of the enormous improvement in the position of working people. I want to deliver, not perhaps for the first time in this House, a simple propaganda case. During the past 150 years the capacity of the human race to produce to satisfy its own needs has been multiplied beyond the dreams of anybody who lived 50, 30 or 20 years ago, and yet in this country, 623 still intrinsically the richest country of the world, we have poverty. We have great riches represented in this House. We have a nation which says that it is democratic, which in a time of war would call upon its citizens to forfeit their lives, which puts upon the citizens, irrespective of wealth or class or social status, the final responsibility of citizenship; and yet within a stone's throw of this House there are thousands of people, just as good as anybody in this House, living under conditions of grinding poverty which are a disgrace to a Christian civilisation. The machine works—of course the machine works; the machine has ground out a certain standard of life for the people of this country. It is true that the standard of life is better than it was, I do not deny that, but what I do say is that in this year of Grace 1934, with a developing democracy, with two generations of people who have had compulsory education and have been taught an increasing standard of life, the present situation is intolerable.
In view of all this enormous capacity to produce is it too much to ask that the needs of the people should be satisfied? Our view is that it is not too much to ask. The right hon. Member for Hillhead asked in his speech, "Who says that unemployment is an insoluble problem?" and then he left it. He did not try to answer it. Unemployment is an indication of the cancer of society, ever present and now intensified, now chronic, and admitted to be so by the Government. I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been present to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead speak, because the Chancellor would have got up and said: "I have said that unemployment is inevitable." The right hon. Member for Hillhead put a question and did not answer it. We believe that with willing labour ready to produce, with technical ability and with the skill which is available, it ought to be possible for the people of this country to satisfy the whole of their physical and material needs without unemployment. The way we are driving now is obvious. You may get higher technical efficiency in the capitalist system and you may grind out more rent, interest and profit; you may provide an even higher standard of life for a certain number of working 624 people, but you intensify the problem of unemployment. Every unemployed man, wherever you meet him, is a man who points a finger at our existing civilisation. The unemployed people are of two kinds—those who do not want to be employed and those who do. Those who do not want to be employed consist again of two categories. There is a very small section who really do not want to be employed, and there are those who are so rich that they have never learned the desire for employment. The mass of the people of this country would prefer to work. The price that we are paying now for increased productivity—a problem which Capitalism has solved—is a larger proportionate stagnant pool of labour than we have ever known before. We say that that is wrong.
Hon. and right hon. Members believe that if you try to modify this system and give a little more assistance to the unemployed, another 6d. per week on wages and, perhaps, through force of circumstances, raise the school-leaving age a little bit, reduce the pension age a little bit and try to deal with the situation by bending to the will of public opinion which Members on this side of the House reflect, the problem would be solved. Our view of that is—and this has been borne in upon our minds in the last three years—that that will not do, and we have come to this conclusion: Complicated as our civilisation now is, with millions of people and with all the organisation and industries that there are, we have to get back to something simple, and to the simple fact that those who are prepared to produce should be able to produce and to enjoy the fruits of their labour. I do not see any hon. Member denying that as a simple fundamental truth—that those who wish to work should work and enjoy the fruits of their labour. I know that financiers and business men will say that this is all very difficult. It may be difficult. It is the problem of government to solve those difficulties. A moral truth is a moral truth, however difficult it may be to put into operation; an economic truth is a truth, however complicated your mechanism may be; and we have never had exposed a fundamental criticism of the case for which my hon. Friends stand. We believe that in this age of plenty—we did not devise that formula; it was devised by orthodox economists, sup- 625 ported by Members of the Tory party—we believe that in this age of plenty it is not beyond the wit of mankind to see that plenty comes to the multitude.
It is our view, and that is why we put this Amendment on the Paper, that the Government are wasting their time in trying to bolster up an old system which is no longer workable, to bolster it up by recourse to old methods long discarded; to bolster it up by methods which have always been near to the hearts of the Tory party—tariff, preferences, quotas, levies, every industry on the dole, industry after industry applying for public assistance—no means test for them—millions of money poured out to them—for what? For the purpose of trying to rehabilitate a system which, on its own confession, is finished. Had I the time I could have made quotation after quotation, and hon. Members know it, from speeches of industrialists, from speeches of bankers and financiers, who know that this system is wrong, who have admitted it time after time, who have said that the bogey of the Gold Standard which this Government have followed was foolish, who have said that purchasing power is restricted and ought to be expanded. Everybody who has followed the business Press of this country day by day knows that this system is condemned by the people who support it. Every argument that has been used in the Debate since last Tuesday has been an argument for doing what Members on these benches want to do. The Government have not had many thanks for their King's Speech; they have had many criticisms. Why? Because Members in all parts of the House know in their hearts that the programme of this Government is not meeting the economic situation to-day. They know that, but they have not the courage to take the plunge. We have no need to be disheartened about this two days' Debate. We have every reason to be encouraged by it, because this has happened—a little praise for the Government and implied acceptance of the case that we have tried to put. I say no more except one sentence. This is not the first time that I have been jeered at in this House, and it will not be the last. I do not mind the jeers. Men have stood in this House and been jeered at, and before many years were over the jeers were changed to cheers.
§ Sir R. HORNE
May I intervene to make an apology to the House and to my right hon. Friend that I was not here to listen to his speech? In fact, I had a long-standing engagement to speak elsewhere.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
In order that we may be sure of the ground on which we are debating to-night, I think it is as well without any further delay that I should refer to the point the right hon. Gentleman made in explanation of the fact that over 900,000 more individuals are at present employed in British industry than there were three years ago. He denies that.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
No, I do not deny it, but I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would explain What this Government has done to help that.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
We start on one piece of firm ground. There are now 900,000 individuals employed who were not employed three years ago. That, surely, is something to be thankful for. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that that is the result of the working of the very system which he condemns? I think I know what was in his mind. It was the figures of poor relief as they were affected—he did not mention this—by the Anomalies Act. The Anomalies Act was responsible for a decrease in the numbers in receipt of unemployment benefit, and an increase of those in receipt of Poor Law assistance. But there are many who are in receipt of both to-day. The Poor Law figures include, moreover, dependants, so that it is quite possible for one additional man to be responsible for five of the individuals counted in poor relief. All but 13,000 of those receiving relief on account of unemployment are registered at Employment Exchanges. What a different complexion that puts on the version given of our industrial position by the right hon. Gentleman.
But merely to bandy discussion across the Floor of the House on the subject of the doings of the Labour party when they were in office, or what has happened during the last three or four years, is not really my business. I am concerned with much more important matters. While hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have been discussing with great acuteness the 627 theoretical questions that interest them most, I have been thinking all the time how their proposals bear upon the problem, what effect are they likely to have on the export coal trade, and would they be able to apply their principles to the industry of shipping? If we take those in succession, it will give us a chance of testing not only the economic theories of hon. Members opposite but also some other suggestions which have been made in the course of the Debate. Let me take the case of cotton first. Any Lancashire Member can tell you right off that the main reason for the depression in the cotton industry is to be found in competition in India by Japan, and in the growth of the cotton industry itself in India, which has resulted in many districts in the exclusion of British cotton goods from these markets.
What can be done? The other day, when speaking on the subject, I drew attention to what I still regard as a very ugly episode in the history of Lancashire, but that has nothing to do with the problem which is now facing us. What we, the Government, have to do is to try to find a chance of getting employment for our people through the sale of their goods abroad. That is the main problem. In what way would a Socialist system help us in that connection? Assume that the private individuals engaged in the cotton industry were disappearing, and in their place you had a most excellent and well-drilled team of Civil Servants. What must they do? Find customers abroad for the cotton goods which we desire to make and sell in Lancashire? Are they going to find it any better than those at present engaged in manufacturing those goods, whose livelihood depends on the fact that they are working under the same stimulus of profit? I do not think that Civil Servants, however admirable, would be able to excel those at present engaged in assiduity, skill and good temper, which counts for a great deal in the East in the sale of British goods. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think that unless we hit the bull's eye every time we never get on the target. The trouble is that they never hit the target.
I come to the second great industry with which we are concerned, and which really is of paramount interest to the constituents of a great many of my hon. 628 Friends opposite. In South Wales they are not thinking so much about the doings of the Government as they are about their day's work. They are more inclined to pay attention to the obtaining of orders for coal in Italy and Spain and in the coaling stations than to what actually happens on the Floor of this House. What is to be done by those who run the Socialist State when they come to the placing of coal orders? The reason that we do not get more orders abroad is because our coal is too dear. It is higher in price than coal supplied from some other coalfields, and it therefore becomes urgently necessary to do what we can to reduce costs. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about royalties?"] I am not prepared to exclude that subject from consideration, but if you are to consider royalties, you must also consider other items in the cost of getting coal. You have your standing charges, and you can only get rid of these by repudiation or confiscation, or by some other proposal which would wipe them out entirely. I do not think that that is proposed. I have never heard it proposed in any reasonable miners' conference.
Then there is the cost of carriage in order to reach the markets. Is it proposed that there should be a lowering of the cost of carriage? Surely freights are low enough now without being made lower. What about profits? Are profits so high that you can get much out of them? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) said that the profits in the iron, steel and coal trade are down to 1.5 per cent. There is not much margin there out of which to lower the price of coal in order to enable us to get back into the markets we have lost. One of the real troubles which we have to face at the present moment is that, in so many of these markets, we have been losing trade owing to change of fuel. While, in fact, a good many industries burn nothing but oil, all the attempts which have been made to manipulate and to change fuel so as to make it more attractive have not amounted to very much, although they deserve encouragement.
What is to be done under a Socialist system which cannot now be done far better under a capitalist system? Will your commercial travelling be more successful than ours? I do not believe it. Is it possible that the system by 629 which you carry through contracts in Government Departments would operate with greater facility or speed than in the ordinary private transactions of the coal exchanges of the world? Is it possible that those who would be in complete control, without any of the incentive of making a profit and without any of the knowledge that if they failed there would be nothing for them but bankruptcy, would be better if we hand over that great industry, with so very many delicate adjustments about it and such great problems to solve abroad, into the hands of experimenters? They have never succeeded; indeed, they have not had the opportunity of making an experiment. It is only nowadays that they are pleading for the chance of dealing with our industries in this way.
I think the House will not too easily be persuaded to play ducks and drakes with the employment of our citizens. [Laughter.] These are serious matters to those engaged in them. A number of other industries are dependent on foreign markets. In the course of this Debate we have heard a good deal about plenty and poverty, in close proximity, even existing very near this House. It is certainly true. [An HON. MEMBER: "Thanks."] I do not need the hon. Member's thanks—I know it of my own personal knowledge, and I think most other hon. Members of this House know it also. It is about time we were given credit for some knowledge of these matters. I am only pointing out that we have as good a knowledge of these matters as hon. Members opposite have of their constituencies.
I would like to point out, I hope without inaccuracy, how much the condition of our people has changed for the better in the course of the last 25 or 30 years. This is not to be put to the credit of any one political party alone. The party in which I have spent practically the whole of my life is very proud of its connection with social reform, but I do not forget that, before we were taking a very active part in social reform, Lord Shaftesbury and the Young Englanders and Disraeli were all playing a very large part in factory legislation, which was opposed by the Manchester school; and when in course of time the numbers of the Labour party in the House of Commons were on the increase, 630 they also had an honourable record in their support of social reform. These social reforms have been a blessing to our people, and it is absurd to say that our people are as badly off as they were. Nothing of the kind. They are better off. That does not mean that we have come to the end of/our social task. Of course we have not, and we never will until the regeneration of mankind.
I am quite prepared to admit that hon. and right hon. Members opposite have as their ideal the improvement of the world. So have we. Their ideal is to give people better homes and conditions. So is ours. Their ideal is to make the conditions of life more humane. So is ours. They wish to see labour well paid and leisure well spent. So do we. It was not uncontrolled capitalism that brought about these miseries which still exist in, I am glad to say, a diminishing degree in our great towns. It was very largely uncontrolled industrialism, which is quite a different thing. There are hon. Members opposite who talk about capitalism who do not know Karl Marx's definition of capitalism. They do not read their own text books. Capital is not restricted only to the rich, far from it. A small amount of capital is none the less capital. There are millions of people in this country who 50 years ago had no possessions at all, but who are now little capitalists, and I would remind hon. Members opposite that they will guard their possessions just as fiercely as the very rich.
Let me refer to one or two aspects of the discussion which have given rise to a good deal of misgivings in the minds of some hon. Members. I am not referring now to the fact that we have a pretty good record of three years of work. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) closed his speech on Thursday by asking whether we were going to the country at the General Election on our record or on our programme. The answer is simple; we are going on both. We have every reason to be proud of our record. When we came into our present position we found the country in a sorry plight, and it has taken three years of hard work to deal with the position. In these three years we have succeeded in supporting a much larger number of people in honest work than had been the case for many years past. These are 631 facts which should be remembered. If they are not known in the country, then it is largely our fault. Perhaps we have not been blowing our trumpet loudly enough.
Let me deal with some of the more immediate industrial questions raised in the Debate. Hon. Members have deplored the extension of machinery as one of the facts which has led to a good deal of social and personal misery. That is one of the most difficult problems we have to face, and we shall have to face it whether we work under a capitalist or a Socialist system. We shall have to face the question whether the use of machinery shall be extended. Hon. Members opposite must not imagine that they will get away from dealing with that problem merely by saying that they do not like the capitalist system. Under whatever control industry is worked you will have to decide whether you will extend the use of machinery.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
An abuse of machinery should be stopped like any other abuse. But what is an abuse of machinery? Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that it is an abuse of machinery to equip a coal mine with electricity, instead of the rather deplorable old methods of getting coal? As far as coal is concerned, the right hon. Member would like to see the use of machinery extended and, therefore, if there is any extension he must be aware that it is likely in the first instance to displace a certain amount of labour. As machinery is extended so the use of labour must directly be reduced. Is it worth while? From the point of view of the country as a whole, it may he worth while, but there should be great efforts made, I think great efforts ought to be made, by those who are responsible for the installation of machinery to let the change over fall with as much harmony as possible into the delicate organisation of our mines, factories and workshops. That is one of the problems with which we are faced, and I am afraid that I do not know the reply to it now. You must take each case on its merits and take every means you can within your power to alleviate the distress which may be caused in some quarters.
632 Let me now turn to the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees and those associated with him. I have no doubt that he has a very sympathetic feeling for those engaged in industry and he has a great impatience, to which lie has given expression, with those who do not accept his exact form that the re-creation of industry should take. I would beg the hon. Member to believe that a good many of these ideas have been discussed over and over again. The most recent example is that of the cotton trade, a trade in which you find most of these problems in a most acute form. What has happened there during the past two or three years? Under planning proposals it has been suggested that it would be very much better for us and for the cotton trade as a whole if we were to govern the whole of that industry under one or a group of organisations, and that the association should be the expression of the industry. Now there is no industry that is so difficult to unify as the cotton industry. Though so nearly agreed they yet seem to be a long way apart. We had an example of that only this year. Many Members will remember that there was an agreed scale of wages for weavers in Lancashire, and that breaking through the undertaking which had been given were not only some employers but also some employés. The reason for that I need not go into now, but it was impossible to get that advance and to avoid blacklegging on both sides short of an Act of Parliament.
I know that my hon. Friend takes a keen interest in anything done on these lines. Does he remember what we did with regard to this matter? We introduced and passed an enabling Bill which makes an agreement between employers and operatives carry with it the force of law, so that whichever side breaks it is subject to penalties. That is what I submit to be a reasonable kind of planning. I have no objection to that, but I say, quite frankly, that I have a very great objection to turning over the organisation of a great and extremely delicate industry to people who know very little about it. And I would point out that there are a few of these very difficult industrial problems which are so complicated that even those who have spent a lifetime in handling them know only one aspect of them.
633 I have no doubt that there are many improvements which can be made in the organisation of trades. There is no exception to that anywhere. Let us by all means keep an open mind in dealing with them; but do not let us decide that merely to have control somehow, similar to that practised in the United States during the last 12 to 18 months, means that we have come to the end of our problems and that we can see our way through. I hope the House will believe that we are open-minded in these things as on other questions. There have been many difficult problems to be solved within the range of import duties and the like, and we have not shown ourselves at all obstinate in considering these methods, and we have not been without enterprise in dealing with some of them. We are trying to do the same thing with regard to many of these industries, and we will examine them at close quarters. I hope it will not be necessary to say that we are not unsympathetic and that we are not "a row of extinct volcanos." [HON. MEMBERS: "Disused slag-heaps."] Well, I will not concern myself with bandying nicknames about the House. What is of real importance is that we should get and persuade those engaged in our industries to do everything necessary to keep them up to a high moral standard. Let that be done, but do not let us overlook the fact that unless our people are employed and unless our industries are making profits—which lies at the root of this problem—it will be absolutely impossible for us to support 40,000,000 people in this country.
My final word, therefore, is on the subject of profits, I would point out how much of the proposals which have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite has been based upon a dislike of profits.
§ Without profits it would have been impossible for us to have provided an incentive to enterprise and expansion and exploration of markets.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am speaking for myself. I say without the least hesitation that without profits as an incentive industry would certainly not flourish in this country, that profits are an essential part of the organisation of civilisation, and that there has been no record in any country or any period of advance being made along the lines of the development of this earth, above ground or below ground, or on the sea, except under the stimulus of profits. When profits are wiped out we can put up the shutters. I really am surprised at some hon. Members thinking that the making of profits has something sinister about it. There is not one of them who would not indulge in a profit if he had an opportunity. I go further than that and say that there is not one of them who, if he had money to invest, would not rather put it into a privately-managed concern than under the control of any State Department.
§ Mr. WILMOT
Before the President of the Board of Trade concludes I wish to ask him, are we to understand that in the closing sentences of his speech he was speaking for himself or for the Prime Minister and the Government?
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 46; Noes, 400.637
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Milner, Major James|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Attlea, Clamant Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Paling, Wilfred|
|Banfield, John William||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Groves, Thomas E.||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Buchanan, George||Hicks, Ernest George||Thorne, William James|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Cove, William G.||Lawson, John James||West, F. R.|
|Daggar, George||Leonard, William||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Dobble, William||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wilmot, John|
|Edwards, Charles||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Maxton, James.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. John and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cooke, Douglas||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Ainsworth, Lieut-Colonel Charles||Cooper, A. Duff||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Albery, Irving James||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Alexander, Sir William||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Allen, Col. Sandeman (Birkenhead)||Cranborne, Viscount||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Craven-Ellis, William||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Appiln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Critchley, Brig.-General A. C.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Apsley, Lord||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Crooke, J. Smedley||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Assheton, Ralph||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Crossley, A. C.||Hopkinson, Austin|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hornby, Frank|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Davison, Sir William Henry||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Balniel, Lord||Dawson, Sir Philip||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Denman, Hon. R D.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Dickie, John p.||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Donner, P. W.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Bateman, A. L.||Drewe, Cedric||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Drummond-Wolff, H. M. C.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hurd, Sir Percy|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Duggan, Hubert John||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)|
|Bernays, Robert||Duncan, James A. L.(Kensington, N.)||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Dunglass, Lord||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Eales, John Frederick||Jamieson, Douglas|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Eastwood, John Francis||Jennings, Roland|
|Borodale, Viscount||Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Edmondson, Major Sir Albert||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Bower, Commander Robert Tatton||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Eimley. Viscount||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Easenhigh, Reginald Clare||Knight, Holford|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Everard, W. Lindsay||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fermoy, Lord||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Flint, Abraham John||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Fox, Sir Gilford||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Leckie, J. A.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lees-Jones, John|
|Burghley, Lord||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Ganzoni, Sir John||Lewis, Oswald|
|Burnett, John George||Gilmour. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Caine, G. R. Hall||Goff, Sir Park||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Goldie, Noel B.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Gower, Sir Robert||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Graves, Marjorie||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Greene, William P. C.||Mabane, William|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.)||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Grigg, Sir Edward||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Grimston, R. V.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hon.Sir J.A.(Birm, W)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (l. of W.)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Gunston, Captain D. W.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Guy, J. C. Morrison||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Clarke, Frank||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hales, Harold K.||McLean, Dr, W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Maitland, Adam|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hanbury, Cecil||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Hanley, Dennis A.||Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Harbord, Arthur||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Hartington, Marquess of||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hartland, George A.||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Meller, Sir Richard James||Remer, John R.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Milne, Charles||Rickards, George William||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Robinson, John Roland||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Mitcholl, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Ross, Ronald D.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Summersby, Charles H,|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Runcimen, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Moreing, Adrian C.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Templeton, William P.|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Morrison, William Shepherd||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Moss, Captain H. J.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Munro, Patrick||Salt, Edward W.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H,||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|North, Edward T.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Tree, Ronald|
|Nunn, William||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Savery, Samuel Servington||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Selley, Harry R.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Wallace, John (Dunfermilne)|
|Orr Ewing, I. L.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Pearson, William G.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Peat, Charles U.||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv, Belfast)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Penny, Sir George||Skeiton, Archibald Noel||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Smiles, Lieut-Col, Sir Walter D.||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Petherick, M.||Smith, Sir J. Walker (Barrow-in-F.)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Pets, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dlne, C.)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Smithers, Sir Waldron||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Somervell, Sir Donald||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Pybus, Sir John||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Radford, E. A.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Soper, Richard||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Ramsbotham, Herwald||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Ratcliffe, Arthur||Spens, William Patrick||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Reid, David D. (County Down)||Stevenson, James||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
|Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Storey, Samuel|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.