§ [FIFTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [6th December] to Question [3rd December],
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. Wakefield.]
Which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words:
But regret the failure of Your Majesty's advisers to indicate any effective policy for the restoration and maintenance of peace, the reduction of armaments by international agreement, and the removal of the economic causes of war, the failure to recognise the need to plan the economic life of the country on the basis of public ownership in order to abolish poverty in the midst of plenty, and the omission of any adequate proposals for dealing with unemployment, including the abolition of the means test, the distressed areas, and the just claims of the miners for an immediate increase in wages."—[Mr. D. Grenfell.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I rise to support the Amendment which was moved so ably on Friday by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell). In the course of the Debate on the Address we have had an unusually large number of good maiden speeches, which contributed a good deal to our Debate. I think the House can congratulate itself on its new Members. We have also had very good contributions from the older Members. It seems to me that the House has taken to heart the words of Mr. Speaker with regard to carrying on a Debate. I noted on Tuesday in the King's Speech the absence of what I consider to be any real indication of constructive policy. I had hoped that that deficiency would have been made up during the discussion in 576 the speeches from Ministers of the Crown, but I have been disappointed.
The Prime Minister in his speech really dealt with details. He simply elaborated certain points of immediate business. He did not lay down any policy. His speech did not seem to me like that of a man who had just received a mandate from the electors for a further period of power. We had speeches from the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for League of Nations Affairs, but they dealt only with the immediate dispute over Abyssinia. Those speeches gave us a good deal of information on the immediate points at issue, but they did not deal with anything like general foreign policy. I hoped for rather more from the Minister without Portfolio, but it seems to me that he did not need a Portfolio because there is nothing to put into it.
I did think that the Home Secretary would have given us something, but he confined himself to dealing with the General Election. He seemed to be trying to repair the rather crumbling national facade that has been put in front of the Conservative building, and explained at some length why there are Liberals in a Conservative administration. It was quite unnecessary. The history of the last 50 years has shown a steady disintegration of the Liberal party. The more radical elements come over to us, but on every critical occasion there has been a wave of Liberal Members who find that they are really supporters of leaving things as they are and they join the Conservative party. That is perfectly natural. The issue has changed. The issue has changed from political democracy to economic democracy. The right hon. Gentleman took the older line of swinging this way and that, talked about the defence of things as they are, and about the normal dead centre. The real point is that to the right hon. Gentleman capitalism is the issue, and it is proper, therefore, that he should be supporting capitalism. As to the dead centre, I thought that was quite a good description of the Liberal supporters of the Government.
But the real issue is now emerging, and it brings a cleavage between hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on these benches. It is no good for the Home Secretary to suggest that the present Government are supported by people of 577 various opinions. They are all of one opinion on the main issue, which is the organisation of society, whether society is to be based on profit or on service, whether it is to be based on class privilege or equality, whether it is to be based on Capitalism or Socialism. It is precisely for that reason that we have put our Amendment on the Order Paper. We challenge the whole position on which the Government stand. I do not intend to deal much with the past; I want to consider the future.
The Government's programme gave us very little clue to the future. It is mainly a confession of past delinquencies and rather vague intentions of amendment. Confession, it is said, is good for the soul, and an intention to improve may be commended, but the two together do not make a policy. There is no policy whatever either in the King's Speech or in the speeches of Ministers to indicate that we are facing to-day very grave issues, that there are outstanding problems facing our civilisation and that what is needed is constructive statesmanship and a broad view of the tendencies of the times. That is what I miss particularly in the speeches we have had. Members of the Government seem content with such success as they have achieved; they are content just to carry on and do not seem to have any long view for the future.
Let me take foreign affairs first. We are all agreed that we want to see this war in Africa stopped. We are all agreed that we want to see the authority of the League of Nations established. We all recognise the gravity of the situation. The Italian-Abyssinian War is casting a cloud over the whole world, but there are other clouds on the horizon. We have to face the fact that there are other dangers looming ahead even if we get over the present trouble. Italy is not the only armed dictatorship in the world. There are other potential aggressors, and there are other actual aggressors at the present moment. In the Far East aggression is steadily going on, and everywhere you have a feverish and desperate world. It is quite impossible to treat the Italian-Abyssinian affair as if it were something quite isolated. It is a symptom, a symptom of a sick world, and we hold that the sickness of the world to-day is far more due to economic than to political 578 causes. It is the great economic maladjustments that cause these extraordinary movements which we see abroad, the extreme nationalism, and feverish talk of war and domination. We know that the mass of people abroad, like the mass of the people in this country, do not want war, but still we see a drift towards war.
We have to consider some of the repercussions of this affair in Africa. Whatever be the upshot of the present dispute, it is going to have the gravest effects right through that Continent, and we as ruling over millions of the black race must look to the future. I have been impressed by the interest with which this struggle is being followed throughout Africa, and not only throughout Africa but by men of the African race all over the world. The question of what shall be the relations between the black and white races is hanging in the balance. We have to-day far more intercommunication in Africa than ever before, and it is rapidly increasing. In Africa you have every kind of different relationship between white and black, and you have instances of very grave oppression sometimes, I am afraid, under the British flag. I think that the black race, like the brown race and the yellow race, is becoming self-conscious and demanding its position in the world. If the present struggle is to be dealt with on lines of Imperialism, if the upshot of the struggle is to be the parcelling out of Africa in which portions will be handed over to this Imperialistic Power and that, in which the inhabitants are to be treated as part of the land, you are going to have an extremely serious position. That position will shake all Africa.
Whatever be the decision, the vital question of the relation of white and black races is one which is now quite close to us, and will come up for decision in a short while. We on this side of the House think it is time it was made perfectly clear that the old Imperialism has got to go, that no longer are the African races to be treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the white races, and that any attempt to bring up again the kind of Imperialism we have had in the past is bound to fail. The defence of what has been done by Italy is that Italy is doing just what we did in the past. Well, it was done by us and by 579 other races in the past, but we say that the time has come when you have to give up the idea of Imperialism; the time has come when the black races must have their chance of development, and until then they have got to be dealt with by the white races, who must act as trustees, not as trustees for particular Imperialist Powers but as trustees for the world. I say this because I think that the issue which has to be faced in the Italo-Abyssinian struggle is much wider even than as it affects the League of Nations. It affects the whole future of the world. To our mind Imperialism is only capitalism writ large, and the solution is not coming by building up a number of great Imperialist Powers contending among ourselves, but by recognising that Africa, like the other Continents, must be brought into harmony with the rest of the world and developed for the people of Africa and for the whole human race. We claim that a mandate principle should be applied.
Let me glance for a moment at Asia. It is very little we are told about what is happening in the Far East. There you have the steady progress of Japanese Imperialism. China is being stripped of province by province, first Manchuria, then Jehol and then the five provinces. I would like to hear from the Government what is their policy in the Far East. Are they going to acquiesce in the whole of the Far East coming under Japanese hegemony? There again we are accessories to the invasion of China by Japan, and you have there too the relationship between the yellow race and the white race; and there one sees the gravest danger for the future.
Then we turn to Europe, an armed camp. It is all very well for the Government to say "Yes, we support the League of Nations." Mere support of the League of Nations is not enough; it does not deal with the causes of the present unrest. We ask the Government whether they have any policy for the next four years. We are not asking merely for a policy for the next few months, but for the next four years. After all, this country holds something like one quarter of the world and we are not utilising the resources of the world. It is no good our wrapping ourselves in 580 a cloak of virtue and saying "We are all for peace." We are all for peace. As I see it there is a danger of the world slipping back into war. Although none of the nations really wishes for war—I do not believe that our Government wish for it in the least—there is a danger, simply because of the narrow adjustment caused by bad economic circumstances. We have a typical picture of the world to-day, in hungry Germany piling up armaments. Is this country also going to become a hungry country piling up armaments?
We do not think that you can exorcise the war spirit by piling up armaments. You have to deal with the economic causes of war. It is curious how at one time the Government were quite ready to face up to the need for dealing with economic causes. It is curious how soon they forgot about the economic troubles. I heard them say in this House that unless we had an Economic Conference we could not have disarmament, that everything turned on that Economic Conference. But then it was allowed to pass away. I believe that the weakness of the League of Nations is not a question of its strength in armed forces. The weakness comes from disunity inside the League. Until you can build up the League as a, League of prosperity, a League which is resolved to combine in using the resources of the world for the people of the world, you will not make it strong. That is the only way in which you can prevent the drift to war, by the positive action of building up a League of prosperity. The other course, I believe, is fatal.
Upon that I would ask the Government whether, before this Debate ends, they will tell us something more about their armaments proposals. We are simply told of an increase of armaments. We have no information as to the amount, or rather the only thing we have as to the amount is the curious suggestion of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), who drew a picture of the League as a kind of Christmas club in which there were certain contributions to be paid and certain benefits to be drawn. We gathered from him that China had run out of benefit and that Abyssinia was in benefit. We want to know whether we are in benefit, 581 and how much we have to pay to get into benefit. Although the Government tell us that we need increased armaments in order to do our duty to the League, we have never had a word from them as to how that amount is decided, who decides it or what it is.
I would say one word on that. If the Government are embarking on these armaments, what is being done with regard to co-ordination of the Services? The hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) raised that point in his interesting speech. I think that the Services are quite unco-ordinated still, despite all that we are told. We should like to know something about it. We were told that there will be no profiteering in the piling up of Air Forces, yet we know that of the money raised from the public ostensibly to be spent on purchasing aeroplane plant and aeroplanes half nearly went into the pockets of City financiers and that only a tiny portion is actually being used for the industry. We challenge the Government, then, on foreign affairs to give us some kind of a survey of the future course of events, some indication that they are thinking of the very grave perils that are facing the world, something to remove the fear which the whole world is beginning to feel.
Turning to home affairs I find just the same lack of any co-ordinated plan, any sort of policy. It seems to me that after the worst of the crisis of 1929 to 1932 had passed away the Government sat down and said, "Now everything is all right." I think the position is very precarious. We are told to-day—it may be news to those who come from distressed areas—that we are enjoying a boom, but that that boom has about reached its highest point. There are indications already that a decline will set in. Already it is quite probable that house building, which has kept the boom going for some time, is on the decline—the middle-class house building. The Government, of course, may spend large sums on armaments and endeavour to keep the boom going, but the boom is declining and is bound to decline, because the 1929 to 1932 crisis was not the only storm. Under capitalism you have a succession of booms and slumps and when 582 the slump comes you have conditions just as bad as they were before. But we are in a boom now, and it is worth glancing to see what are the conditions of the boom to-day.
We had a boom in 1922, and that boom meant that we had 850,000 unemployed. We had another boom in 1929, and it coincided with 1,200,000 unemployed. We have a boom to-day and it carries with it something like 1,900,000 unemployed. Therefore, at the present time, at the height of a boom, you still have this army of the unemployed for which no provision can be made. I do not know whether the Government have any proposals for dealing with the present unemployment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to look forward to a period of many years in which unemployment, even in good times, would be round about 2,000,000. If that is so, it is a condemnation of the system of economics prevailing. The fact is that capitalism cannot distribute purchasing power.
We have stressed the point of poverty in the midst of plenty. On Friday there was a very interesting discussion on that subject, and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) made a most interesting speech. He stressed that as a problem that had to be faced. The noble Lord the Minister without Portfolio dealt with it, but he did not offer any real suggestions. I want to ask the Government whether they have any policy at all for dealing with this permanent unemployment. Let us glance at the facts. One fact is the enormous increase in productive power. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) mentioned in his speech the productive efficiency of the miner in getting a ton of coal. The productive power of each individual seems to have increased something like 15 per cent. between 1924 and 1933, and it is said now by good observers that we have added another 17 per cent. in the last two years; but during that period money wages have fallen, real wages have increased less than productive power, and all the time the distribution of income remains practically constant. In the last 25 years the proportion of purchasing power going to the wage earners has not increased. It remains at about 40 per 583 cent. Death Duties tell the same tale. Only one in five of the population leaves any property that it is worth the while of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's minions to look at. Of the remainder, 8,000 people leave two-thirds of all the wealth that is left at death. The maldistribution of property to that extent utterly prevents the absorption adequately of the products of modern industry.
I ask, what would a real National Government do, a Government that really cared for the nation? It would see that we used our wealth production to the full. It cannot do it. Our economic activities to-day over the widest part of the field are not carried on for the good of the nation at all; they are carried on for rent, interest and profit. At the present time it is quite impossible for this Government, under the principle that it holds, to distribute adequately the wealth that is produced. The reason is that it holds to the philosophy of the means test. The philosophy of the means test is a typical capitalist philosophy. The Government, whatever their supporters may say about the hardships suffered in the distressed areas, dare not use the production of this country for giving a fair standard of life to the unemployed because, if they do, they reflect so much upon the wages of those who are in employment. It is the old dilemma that arose under the Poor Law when they tried to apply the principle of less eligibility. I have no doubt that one reason why the Minister of Labour is so long in his gestation of a system of unemployment relief is that he has to try to make adequate provision for the needs of the unemployed without, at the same time, showing too frank a contrast with the wages that are paid to the miner, the agricultural labourer and other workers in industry. We say that this problem cannot be solved under a system of private profit based on scarcity.
I want to ask the Government to consider in that light the problem that immediately faces us, the problem of the coal industry. From the community point of view it is quite simple to say what ought to be done. We ought to use our national resources to the best advantage. We ought to serve the needs 584 of everybody so that, while we have the coal and the miners to work it, no one should be without fire; so that we use it industrially to the best advantage and develop the industry in such a way as to give an adequate reward to those who serve us in it. Not one of these things is done at the present time. What is the reason? There are rival interests at all the various stages of production, utilisation, transport and distribution. A few of these are under public control, but most of them are under private control. Some, such as gas, electricity and other undertakings are in a privileged position. The miner is exposed to foreign competition. There is no earthly reason why the miners wage should be dependent on the international price of coal, any more than the reward of any other servant of the community—the policeman or the transport worker.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Or the Minister of Health, or any of them. I believe that the coal industry now could afford this small demand of an extra 2s., but I am quite sure of this—that the group of industries concerned with power, light and heat could certainly afford it. I am certain that if this business of providing for our light, heat and power were taken in hand and organised as a national service we should be able to give a fair reward to those who take part in it at every stage; that we could cut out waste and that we could protect the consumer. But the Government have just two proposals to make and those proposals cannot achieve the object I have indicated. A great undertaking such as the fuel industry is like a long line of communications. You must protect it at all points or it will be raided. If you organise one part of it and leave the rest open to the raider, your service will suffer. Precisely the same thing applies in the case of agriculture. We say that there is a clear duty on the Government in the national interest and in the interest of particular areas of the country, that of organising this great coal industry on the lines of service. To-day the whole country is living on the blood and poverty of the miners and their families. We are all profiteering. To my mind it is as disgraceful as the fact that 100 years ago 585 the country profiteered at the expense of small children in factories and mines. It is useless to think that anything can be done by a vague appeal to the kindliness of employers. The Prime Minister made such an appeal with regard to the distressed areas. He suggested that those people who had been beneficiaries by this Government's action should, in return, do something for the distressed areas. I thought it was pathetic. It belonged to a past age.
The right hon. Gentleman pictured a kindly paternal individual employer. That is not the way industry is organised to-day. The mass of industry is organised by limited companies and you cannot appeal to the hearts of limited companies. The directors, whatever they may be in their private capacity, are not trustees for the community. They are trustees for the shareholders. Their job is not to help the Prime Minister to organise the industries of this country or even those of particular areas. Their job is to produce profit and they cannot depart from it. I think the Prime Minister is too fond of asking other people to do his job. He asked the young men to deal with the air menace and he has asked the capitalists to deal with the distressed areas. It is his job to deal with those problems. As regards the depressed areas we have no real proposals at all from the Government. The depressed areas are not solely the coal areas, but the biggest thing you could do for the depressed areas would be to deal with the coal industry and to see that the workers in that industry got a fair share of purchasing power.
There is exactly the same trouble, as I say, in agriculture. All the efforts of the Minister of Agriculture have not brought prosperity to the agricultural labourer. All the subsidies and grants and the rest have not filtered down to the man who really needs them. You have in this country an immense productive power and a starved purchasing power. How can you expect to take up the products of this country when you have the mining population and the agricultural labourers and the unemployed living on a bare subsistence?
I would ask the President of the Board of Trade, when he speaks in this Debate, to say why he cannot press for effective action for the better distribution of purchasing 586 power, because that is what is required. In these days of mass production you must have mass consumption. That means effective purchasing power among the masses. No doubt, five years ago the President of the Board of Trade would have answered me in terms of the Manchester School. He would have told me that it was all a matter of supply and demand and that it must be left to the blessed interplay of competition. He cannot give that answer now. He and his colleague the Minister of Agriculture have been doing little else during the last four years but re-distributing the purchasing power of this country, taking from this group and giving to that group. The shipowners, for instance, have had their income made up out of the profits produced by the rest of the community. If you can do it for the shipowners, why not do it for the miners? It all depends on what your idea of our present society is. The right hon. Gentlemen opposite have abandoned the idea of an unplanned society quite as much as we have abandoned it, but they are seeking to plan it on a class basis. They consider it essential that the property claim should come first.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
If the hon. Member disagrees, then he must alter the present economic system by which mining royalties come before mining wages, by which rent comes first, by which interest comes first. The whole system is built up on the priority of profit. We are here to challenge that view. We are here to say that the miner should come before the royalty owner, the agricultural labourer before the landowner, the worker before the rentier. We make this claim as a claim of justice and human right. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was very airy about what he described as the falling away from the old Socialist enthusiasm but he was quite wrong about that matter. Our demands are made with passion. Our Members come from areas where they see the working out of the present system. They see its cost in human life. We base our argument on justice, but we base it equally strongly on expedient. We say that your industry will not work unless you can get 587 more equality into the distribution of purchasing power. You cannot do that without organisation and you cannot do that without getting the right intention. You cannot get service if your whole industry is based on private profit. We say to-day that it is capitalism that is on trial. Right hon. hon. Gentlemen opposite have to answer the question what they are going to do about the politics of progress and poverty, of poverty and plenty. There are masses of people in this country who realise, more and more, the futility of the present system—not merely people who directly suffer, like the wage-earners, but the men who organise industry, the technicians and the rest. They feel that when they have devoted their lives in trying to make more perfect our material organisation, at the end of it all they have only increased the sum of human misery.
We have, therefore, put down this Amendment not in any spirit of faction, but because we believe that this Government and any Government has to face the really big isue. Abroad we see a tragic drift towards war. At home we see a precarious position in which some slight change may take place somewhere in the world, which would plunge masses of our people into poverty again. We believe that it is only by the adoption of the principles of Socialism both in home and foreign policy that you can get rid of this paradox, the paradox of all the world wanting peace and steadily moving towards war, the paradox of want everywhere in the midst of abundance.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
No one regrets more than I do the absence, through indisposition, of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and indeed also of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am almost minded to ask in these circumstances for the indulgence of the House when I take upon myself the burden which might have fallen upon their more responsible shoulders. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has asked for a great deal of information, not only as to the detail of the Measures mentioned in the Gracious 588 Speech, but as to the Government's policy. Indeed, he went so far as to invite whoever was going to reply to give to the House what he called a four-years' survey of the probable course of the nations of the world. I am afraid that, if I were to attempt to answer even that one point, I should make, not a speech, Mr. Speaker, which was after your own heart, short and concise, but such a speech of four or five hours' duration as our ancestors used to tolerate in the House of Commons.
But it is worth while perhaps for a moment pointing out that the very advantage which the right hon. Gentleman enjoyed of questioning the Government of the day as to their policy is one which, if rumour is right, will be withdrawn by the next Socialistic Government. I observe in a book, one of those informative books to which many leaders of the Socialist party have given their approval, and in this particular case the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), that "the 1936 Labour Government"—and note "the 1936 Labour Government"—would decide that a Debate on the Address was waste of time and would not be allowed. I note apparently, after listening to four days—and this is the fifth day—of Debate on the Address and the encyclopaedic information which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has invited me to give, that the abolition of the Debate on the Address is not a practical policy to be put into operation until the Socialists come into power. I may congratulate them on postponing this proposal, and I may assume that it is kept in cold storage to be produced whenever "the 1936 Labour Government" becomes a reality.
The official Amendment is drawn on the generous scale of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. It was so generous, so comprehensive, that I cannot but feel a little surprised at one omission from it. There was no reference to a question which bulked very large in a great many elections, namely, the question of old age pensions—the increased amount and the anticipation of the age. I daresay this House remembers the terms of the manifesto, so artfully drawn: "The Labour party favours"—not "will propose"—"an increase in the amount of the old age pension." I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, 589 at any rate in this Amendment, which obviously has been drafted so as to include everything that is likely to help them on their voyage, would have nailed his colours to the mast at the earliest moment. Perhaps it was an election point, not a serious proposal. The right hon. Gentleman has charged the Government with vagueness. He says that we have no real grasp of the position and that not much information has been given in the King's Speech. I have a full experience now of King's Speeches, and I should have thought the Gracious Speech on this occasion was more elaborate, more full, and more detailed than most of those with which this House has been acquainted.
But let me contrast the Gracious Speech on this occasion with the policy which, to go back once more to the next Labour Government, will be the policy of that Government. We should now be discussing—and here I borrow language to which the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has given his assent—not the King's Speech or the Address in reply to it and the proposals of the Government in detail, but we should be debating—should we be debating, because the Debate is only to last one day?—an Emergency Powers Bill, wide enough in its terms to allow all that will be immediately necessary to be done by Ministerial Orders. Well might the right hon. Gentleman, when he came to write this chapter in the book, say that he was in favour of taking "the strong points of the Russian system" and of applying them to this country. We are still allowed the privilege of debating our proposals one by one, instead of having to take them ready-made from Ministers under an Emergency Powers Act. I mention this, not merely as a debating point, but in order to point the contrast between the well tried Parliamentary, constitutional method of the National Government and the somewhat curt dictatorship to which the right hon. Gentleman has committed himself; and I take leave to say that those who are best acquainted with the Saturday and Sunday night meetings of the party opposite will be familiar with the fact that the proposals which evoke the loudest cheers from their well trained audiences are those that are most agreeable to gentlemen like the 590 hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and the right hon. Gentlemen who are in favour of "the strong points of the Russian system."
Happily, Parliamentary Debate is still one of our privileges, and I have no complaint whatever to make of the right hon. Gentleman's desire to probe and search the Government's spokesmen in order to see what is really intended. He began by some reference—and let me assure him that, from one point of view, I do not quarrel at all with the reference—to the anxiety connected with the war in Africa. I am sure the whole House will join with him in deploring a lamentable chapter in the history of the modern world, but when the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that if the Government would only deal with the economic causes of war, and invited me to declare what the Government's policy for four years would be, I cannot help asking him, How would his plan of Socialism help what is going on at the present time? I listened with great interest to a speech which, apart from one or two points, I most sincerely admired from the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) two or three days ago. He referred with truth to the fact that two-thirds of Europe at the present time was nationalised. He pointed to Italy, to Germany, and finally to Russia. He was, of course, careful to point out that in none of these cases had the Socialism or the nationalisation of those countries a very great attraction for the brand of Socialists which we produce in this country. He did point out, with truth, that two-thirds of Europe is nationalised to-day or socialised to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I do not know whether I can put my finger upon it at the moment, but I have no hesitation at all in saying that what I have said about the hon. Gentleman's speech is right. Let me, as I have been challenged, see whether it is I who am wrong or hon. Members opposite. I see I am right, as I thought I was. The hon. Member for Gower had mentioned Italy and Germany, and he went on:There is a Socialism in Russia which is very removed from the Socialism of Italy and Germany. So already we find that two-thirds of Europe is under some kind of Socialism or part-Socialism."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1935; col. 452, Vol. 307.]
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It is no good hon. Members saying, "Read on." I am too old a bird to be caught with that kind of thing. Hon. Members really must try to make some observations material to the point which I am making. The next paragraph begins to deal with private ownership and the example of coal, quite a different matter. Let me come back to the point which I was trying to make when, most incautiously, hon. Members opposite disputed the accuracy of my statement about the speech of the hon. Member for Gower. The hon. Member for Gower pointed out that two-thirds of Europe was under some kind of Socialism, and it is the case that the most socialised countries in Europe are the most nationalised. Whether in Germany, or in Italy, or in Russia, you get the national feeling, a feeling that places boundaries between other nations and circumscribes trade, and you get that fact most present in the socialised countries. How would it add to the prospects of peace to this country to become nationalised, possibly under a different brand of Socialism? The right hon. Gentleman was very anxious to persuade us to adopt his particular scheme of Socialism, but he did not produce a single argument from first to last to show that if we adopted Socialism, the causes of war in the world would be any less than they are at the present time.
I do not propose to say anything about the question of armaments, because it was debated the other night, and I am not competent to undertake an examination of the Government's policy at the moment, but the right hon. Gentleman did make one reference to armaments to which I must refer. He suggested that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) was wrong when he suggested that we should bear our part in defending—
§ Mr. ATTLEE
No. I have always said we must all bear our part, but I said that no one had yet told us what the amount would be, and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. 592 Chamberlain) was the only one who made any suggestion, which he apparently had worked out as some kind of Christmas club.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, aware that if I misunderstand him, it is my misfortune and not my fault, but he certainly did say that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham proposed a sort of Christmas club in which this nation or that nation might be out of benefit. The right hon. Gentleman apparently contemplates a sort of association of nations in which we shall be non-contributors to collective security in so far as sufficiency of armaments is concerned.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That is the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and if he did not intend it, no doubt he or some of his friends will correct what he has said. I pass to matters which concern us at home. The right hon. Gentleman complained that the Government had not put into its policy proposals for transforming the system of this country from a Capitalist to a Socialist system. I am not going to repeat election speeches—I get too tired of my own to attempt to repeat them here—but I think I am justified in saying that at every election in the country where there was a contest the issue between Socialism and Capitalism was put before the electors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, it was put to the best of hon. Members' ability. I assume that they made the best case they could for Socialism, and I am entitled, without going back upon the past, to say that the country gave its verdict against Socialism. There may possibly be a time when hon. Members opposite can compose their differences as to their peculiar brand of Socialism when the country may give a different verdict, but in view of the verdict at the last Election how could the Government honourably put in their policy a proposal to adopt Socialism? The right hon. Gentleman speaks about a mandate, and refers to the mandate which the Prime Minister has. At any rate, this Government has no mandate to introduce this country to Socialism or Socialism to this 593 country. The electors took a different view. The right hon. Gentleman refers to the futility of the Government's policy and says that after they settled the crisis or the difficulties of 1931 the Government went to sleep. Does anybody suppose that if the Government had gone to sleep for four years after 1931 they would have won the last General Election?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Gentleman, in repeating a well-known gibe, has done scant credit to the intelligence of the electors. I always suspect that on this side we understand the psychology of the electors much better than hon. Gentlemen opposite, who always complain when the verdict goes against them. Let us see where we stand at the present moment, because I am not going over the past. There is no doubt that we have at the present moment more people in employment than ever before; there are 10,500,000 insured persons in employment. If the Opposition prefer to look at the number of unemployed persons on the register over 14, namely, 1,916,000, these figures will be found all the more remarkable, because in the last two years there has been a large increase in the number of juvenile persons coming upon the register. There were 80,000 more juveniles in 1934 and 60,000 more in 1935, and, in spite of it, the figures are those I have mentioned. With regard to the special areas, I am not going to paint a rose-coloured picture, but it would be a complete misapprehension, even though one recognised the severity of conditions in the special areas at the moment and the necessity for concentrated attention upon their difficulties and sorrows, to suppose that the Government's efforts have so far been useless. Whether it is due to the Government's efforts or not, I need not go into the question, but the fact is that as compared with October, 1931, whether you take the north-eastern districts, or the north-western districts, or Scotland, you find a substantial improvement.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It is no use the hon. Lady denying what I say. It may be, of course, that it is because people who are out of work have moved 594 to other areas; to that extent the improvement is eloquent of the success of some policy or proposal; but it is no good disputing facts like this, for instance, that in the north-eastern area, as contrasted with October, 1931, there are 420,000 insured persons on the register as unemployed as compared with 567,000. In the north-western area there are 425,000 as compared with 630,000. In Scotland there are 297,000 as compared with 369,000. Although there has been a drop of 1,000 in Wales, the figures are practically the same. There is not the same improvement in Wales.
§ Miss WILKINSON
What about the excess on public assistance? You take them off unemployment benefit and put them on public assistance.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I should have to repeat—what I promised not to do—some of my election speeches to attempt to deal with that—I do not want to use a harsh word—misapprehension of the facts. If these are the facts, showing that there has been an improvement, will the right hon. Gentleman opposite take upon himself the burden of showing that Socialism would make a greater improvement? I ask the party opposite and the country what public ownership has to do with these distressed areas? What has the proposal to nationalise the mills, the shipyards, the blast furnaces and the pits to do with them? One of the most remarkable features of this Debate is the bland assumption by hon. Members opposite that if you nationalise these units of industry, somehow or other you will improve anybody's lot. They do not produce a single item or tittle of evidence for that proposition.
I will not repeat what has been said on a thousand platforms lately as to the crisis that might be produced in any industry by a rapid change-over to Nationalisation and Socialism. Let me take two concrete cases and put a question to right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Take the case of the north-western area and the contraction in the cotton industry. Everybody knows that that is the result of competition from Japan and the growth of India's cotton industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "And speculation!"] I do 595 not think that that is so. The diminution in employment is mainly due to the two causes I have mentioned. I should like to ask the party opposite what measures would a Socialist Government in control of the industry take to maintain or to recover the cotton markets of the world, with the commercial traveller setting out from Whitehall instead of from Manchester, especially if, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) has prescribed, it is deprived of the incentive of private profit.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That has nothing to do with cotton. The hon. Gentleman illustrates more than my poor words can the divorce between argument and assertion. If the party opposite would seek to convince the House, let alone the country, that Socialism has something to say to the economic troubles of the present generation, they would do far more good by producing evidence than by depending upon mere assertions. Let me take the iron and steel industry, which is the other example I would quote to the party opposite. Under the influence of the Government's fiscal policy, the leaders of those industries have been able to make plans for allocating markets here and abroad. I should like to hear anybody suggest that more favourable arrangements could have been made by a group of Socialist politicians. What reason is there to suppose that if you took charge in the name of the State of all the mills and blast furnaces, you would increase by a single item the orders coming to this country or find an easier entrance into the markets of other countries? I should think, on the contrary, that the probability is that if we became a nationalised country it would be, on the whole, more difficult to penetrate the nationalised markets of Europe.
§ Mr. WALKER
Is it not a fact that the iron and steel manufacturers of this country, after having made an arrangement such as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggests, have had to bring in over 100,000 tons of steel, which could have been manufactured in this country under a national ownership system?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
My difficulty in answering that question is that it does not seem to matter much to my argument whether I answer it "yes" or "no." The hon. Gentleman must develop his own argument in his own way, and in such a way as will commend it to the House. All I can say is that, although the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me was full of phrases, such as "the necessity for taking a broad view" and "exhibiting a capacity for constructive statesmanship," he did not advance any reasons. I am lost in wonder at the improvement this country has achieved under the present system. The immense burden borne by the groaning but proud taxpayer has raised the standard of living of this country to a level to which no other country has been raised. I know nothing about Socialism, partly because hon. Gentlemen are not very intelligible when they expound it. If only they would compose their differences with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol who, I see, is now upon the scene, I should have greater facility in understanding what Socialism really means. But whether it is fitted to other nations or whether it is not, of one thing I am certain—it is unfitted to the genius of our race. It is no more likely in this country than it has been found in Russia to add to the happiness of the lot of any worker.
Let me try to give a little more explicit information about one or two matters, first, as to the special areas. The £2,000,000 which was originally granted by the Government has sometimes been described as the limit of the Government's contribution. The Government, however, are already committed to grants amounting to £3,750,00. Broadly the problem is not only that of replacing old industries by new ones, but of getting back the old industries. Both policies are being pursued. Trading companies are being established with the duty of equipping factories, land settlement societies are being proposed to establish families on the land, public utility societies in the shape of the North-Eastern Housing Association will enable houses to be built without contributions from the rates, grants are being made to local authoriteis for the construction of new sewers, water supplies, hospitals, land drainage, etc. I could multiply these details many times, and I quote them to 597 show that it is not a fact that the Government or the Commissioners are idle in their anxiety to find new channels for the trade of these hard-pressed districts.
Let me say a word about the means test. The right hon. Gentleman has asked for information as to what the Government propose to do with regard to it. One or two hon. Members opposite declared in their speeches that they had fought the Election upon the abolition of the means test, and that they had been returned to power. I cannot imagine any policy more easy upon which to fight an election in certain districts, just as in some districts they tried to fight the Election on the promise to increase old-age pensions. There is no difficulty at all in going to a hard-pressed electorate and telling them that you will abolish the means test. The question is whether it is right to do so when everybody knows that it is impracticable. The abolition of the means test involves a right for an indefinite period to draw public money at a fixed scale irrespective of need. Does the party opposite commit itself to that? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Of course, I do the party opposite the credit of saying that no responsible leader, certainly not the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the London County Council, would assent to that proposition. The question is, what do you mean by the means test?
The Government policy is very clear-cut. They have to consider the permanent arrangements that have to be made in connection with what is an indispensable feature of public assistance. They place in the forefront maintenance of the uity of family life. The measures will be carried out in full association with local opinion. The problem is an important one and much information is becoming available as to the working of the present system. The Government will bring forward their proposals at an early date, but I may say here, for the purpose of the rest of this Debate, that if the Opposition pledge themselves to the proposal which I mentioned a few moments ago—the right of any individual without any limit of time to draw public money at a fixed scale, irrespective of need—then I think the House and the country are entitled to have it stated emphatically by some responsible person.
598 There is one other point, and then I have finished. The Government have been asked what was meant by unification of royalties, and the right hon. Gentleman said that royalties should not be considered before miners' wages. The Government want there to be no mystery with regard to this matter. What is meant is the purchase of these royalties by the State and thereafter their control by the State. It will involve a change of ownership and direction from something like 4,000 private persons to a single public ownership and control by the State in the interest of the community. It has been the subject of discussion continually. It was recommended by the Statutory Commission of 1919 and by the Royal Commission of 1925. It was recommended again by the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission. Hon. Members opposite may, if they like, tell me that that is Socialism. I could not give a more outstanding example of one of the consequences of the National Government than this proposal which the Government are putting forward. The effect of the proposal of a policy of this sort, as long as Governments are framed on purely party lines, is bound to be opposition from one side or the other. If one side proposes, the other side objects. I admit that parties are represented in the Government who would have been opposed to this policy before, but here it is, the policy of the Government to-day. It will be elaborated on other occasions by persons of more responsibility in the Government, but I hope I have said enough to leave no doubt as to the intentions of the Government.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I asked this question myself in the course of my speech last week. I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say now that it means national ownership of royalties. Therefore I ask this question. If nationalisation of royalties, in his opinion and the opinion of the Government, can do good, why does he then complain about the principle of nationalization?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Gentleman's interruptions sometimes make me despair of the party opposite. In a speech which has been already too long, I cannot answer a purely debating question of socialisation and nationalisation, and I do not propose 599 to attempt to do it. For the moment I was giving information for which the hon. Gentleman himself asked a few days ago.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I may say in conclusion that the Government will always welcome, especially in these debates, constructive criticism. They may not agree with all that has been said. Speaking for myself I have, while listening to some of the speeches opposite, found myself in a great deal of agreement. Points of view must be expressed in this House, but certainly I may say that the Government are not satisfied with what they have done, nor are they complacent about what they are hoping to do. At any rate we are entitled to point to four years of work which seem tolerably to have satisfied the electors. We need not feel obliged to engage in the uncertain adventure of a complete transformation of the industrial and economic system of the country. We have the confidence of the majority of the electors, and we believe that by well tried methods, while recognising the new conditions of a changing age, we shall be able to accomplish for the people of the country far more than the Socialist party will ever accomplish by a first-class financial crisis.
§ 5.8 p.m.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
I do not propose to follow either the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just resumed his seat or the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the exchange of pleasantries. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary who reminded us last week that in the first week of a new Parliament we have to put up with a good deal of that from both sides. I feel entirely excused from taking part in that kind of exchange, because I was opposed by both a Socialist candidate and a National candidate at the election. 600 I would rather say a word or two about the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman. I can say on behalf of my hon. Friends that as far as the indictment of the Government is concerned we are on the whole in agreement, but we cannot support the Amendment, which suggests a remedy with which we wholly disagree. While we are entirely agreed with the indictment, we are not at all satisfied that the remedy suggested is one that will bring about what we all desire. To-morrow we shall have an opportunity of putting our suggestions forward, but I would like to say this, that no one can tell how long it may be before hon. Gentlemen on those benches come into office, and we consider the situation far too serious and far too urgent to await some possibly dim future date when the economic system of this country may be changed. We find the present situation of so urgent a character that we think that, without waiting for such drastic changes, a great deal should be done to benefit the people of this country.
I want to deal with that part of the Amendment which refers to the omission from the Gracious Speech of references to proposals for dealing with unemployment and the special areas. The Gracious Speech itself sand speeches of Ministers, notably the one to which we have just listened, give tire the impression that on the whole the Government are satisfied with the speed at which recovery has been brought about. The facts of the situation do not in my judgment support the contention of Ministers, that on the whole they have done pretty well in the last four years and that if they go on all will be well in time. It is patent to me and to many Members who were in the last Parliament that the Government then did not realise the true nature of the problem with which they had to deal, and it is perfectly evident from the speech to which we have just listened and from the Gracious Speech that they do not now even understand the true problem with which this country is faced. The Prime Minister speaking in the country said that the one problem that had so far defeated them was the problem of the distressed areas. Surely if the Government understood the problem with which they are faced they would not treat the distressed areas as presenting a problem separate from the 601 problem of unemployment in this country, because with one or two exceptions the distressed areas are not the trouble but the symptom of the trouble from which the country is suffering.
Unless the problem of the distressed areas is attacked with far more energy and far more vision than has been the case in the last four years, that problem is likely to remain with us for many a long day to come. If I may put it simply, I would say that the trouble with which the country is faced at the present time is due to the fact that, having built up a large and on the whole prosperous population by an expanding export trade, we are now faced with the situation that, things being as they are, we are unable to maintain that population. Whether we like it or not that is the problem which faces us to-day. I think every Member of the House will agree with me when I say that the one single cause more responsible than any other for that inability to maintain the population is the loss of our export trade. That is the trouble from which this country is suffering, and the special areas or the distressed areas are purely the symptom of that trouble, because they are mostly concerned—or have been concerned in the past days of our prosperity—with exports. If anyone should doubt that, all he has to do is to note the location of the districts which are described today as depressed or special areas. He will see that practically all of them have been primarily concerned in the past with export trade directly, or with trades concerned indirectly with exports.
In 1931 I disagreed with the Government and I did so because I thought that the change that they were contemplating in our fiscal system was one which they were rushing into without sufficient examination of the trade of this country and the effect that such a change might have upon the industries upon which the greatness of this country depended. I thought the remedy which was proposed would not succeed because it ignored the true cause of the depression. Nothing that has happened since then has caused me to alter my opinion, because even with the small things to which the right hon. Gentleman referred you will find the improvement to be a very small one, and as far as my constituency, which is a special 602 area, is concerned, unemployment is greater to-day than in 1931 when this Government took office. In other distressed areas the change is so little that I think it is perfectly fair to say that the remedy which the Government proposed and adopted in 1931 is not one that has any relations to the facts of the case.
The situation with which this country is faced to-day and has been faced for many years has not come upon us without warning. There were signs long before the Great War that the country was losing that supremacy which it had held in export trade for so many years. It is true that the War accelerated that process, but it had been going on for a considerable time. Therefore the situation did not come upon us without warning. I think I am stating what is a fact when I say that the trouble which started before the War and has been accelerated since the War is gradually increasing and not decreasing, despite the improvement that has taken place since 1931. A Government committee appointed under the Unemployment Insurance Acts have given a resumé of what they consider to be the future trend of unemployment and a record of the past. I said just now that in my judgment the position was gradually getting worse, and they show quite plainly that the average unemployment in this country, which in the last 10 years was 14.9 per cent., was in the last five years 19 per cent. They predict—I do not know to what extent their prediction can be relied on, but they do definitely predict—that between now and 1940 there will be a further increase. Though there has been a recovery—nobody denies that—to a certain extent, I think it would be a grave dis-service to this country for Ministers to assume, as some of them do, and state it in their speeches, that the recovery is practically confined to this country. In my judgment that is a real dis-service, because the longer Ministers believe that the longer will it be before they tackle the real problem without the solution of which we can never get prosperity back to this country.
Industrial production in this country, according to the same committee went down after 1929. They put the datum line at 100 in 1929 and said industrial production fell to 83 just after that time, 603 through the depression. World production fell to 78, and last year was back again to 76. Recovery is not confined to this country, but obviously extends to many other countries throughout the world. World trade fell from 100 to 81 in the last period of depression. It has now recovered to 86. Export trade fell to 63 and is now only going back to 70. Recovery is slowing down. The Prime Minister told us last Tuesday from that Box that recovery was slowing down. The committee here state that recovery in 1934 was slower than in 1933. In 1935 it gives every indication of being slower than in 1934. There we have the problem—recovery slowing down and the problem a little worse than it was after the last depression.
The last Government decided that they would concentrate on the home market. A good many people pointed out that that would never be a substitute for what was lost elsewhere, and facts have shown that that statement was justified. Again I quote from the report of the Government Committee:If exports did improve this would be much more effectual in reducing unemployment than an improvement in the internal market, since an improvement in the export trades would absorb large numbers of unemployed workers who were already available for work; whereas in the home market we have nearly reached the point where expansion will be retarded by shortages of certain types of labour.But I will come back to this fact, that we are back, as far as industrial production is concerned, to the figure of 1929 a little more—and yet unemployment in 1929 was 10 per cent. and this year it will average something like 16 per cent. Again I emphasise that recovery is slowing down, and the position, with recovery slowing down, is a very much worse one than it was in 1929 when we had, after all, what was a comparatively short period of prosperity. After hearing what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said just now regarding what the Government are going to do with this problem in the distressed areas I say that this problem is not going to be cured by a patch here and there. The cure has to be on a national basis, as, indeed, their own Commissioners pointed out quite plainly in the reports which they issued after their investigations in the special areas.
604 I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that there are exceptional places in the distressed areas which will not be affected by any recovery in the export trade. I make no apology for referring to the constituency which I represent, one part of which is one of the most distressed areas to be found in this country. The Prime Minister told us that there were areas where men could find no work in their own district and no alternative work, and said that was a principal cause of the despair which is inseparable from prolonged unemployment. I represent a place of that character, where the figures of unemployment are almost worse to-day than when the Government came into office. I ask the Government what they propose to do? Here we have an area—I refer to Pembroke Dock—for which the Government have a special responsibility. It was created by Government for Government service and its present position is due entirely to Government action, so I think I am not claiming anything too much when I say that the Government have a duty to bear that responsibility. I think that area fulfils the description which the Prime Minister gave in his references to no alternative employment and the despair resulting from those conditions. For the last nine years the average unemployment among the insured population in that place has been 50 per cent. and it continues to-day very little below that figure.
The Prime Minister mentioned in his speech that they were considering the transfer of certain defensive works to areas less likely to be open to trouble than the areas in which they are at present situated, and I ask, in that connection, that every consideration should be given to the place I am referring to, particularly because the Government were responsible for it in the first instance and its present condition is also a Government responsibility, and, further, in order to give some hope to a people who have borne their trials during the last nine years with a patience and a courage which cannot be surpassed in the whole country. That is one of the exceptional areas, and I refer to it because it is one with which I am particularly acquainted. With regard to the other areas it is obvious that the greatest hope for improvement must lie in the improvement of our export trade.
605 The Prime Minister told us that the Government were constantly watching for additional outlets for our exports. I would ask what steps they have taken to create new outlets? They will tell us, I expect, about the trade agreements and about the Ottawa Agreements. I think the less said about certain aspects of those agreements the better, but, so far as the trade agreements are concerned, I do not know that the improvement, as compared with 1931, in the trade with some of the countries with which we have made agreements justifies the hope that, at the present rate of progress, we shall ever make up what we have lost. If the Government compare the figures with those of 1929 they will find that there has been a very serious drop despite what they have done. I notice in the Gracious Speech a reference to a naval conference for the purpose of limiting naval armaments. I am sorry that I do not see in the Gracious Speech a reference to a conference to limit economic armaments. It is all very well to say, as hon. Members opposite say, that it would not be the slightest use in any case. I would remind the Government that there has been an enormous change in the last few years. Not only here, but all over the world, people are beginning to realise that if we go on as we are doing to-day prosperity will never return to this country or any other. I would quote one observation I saw the other day. Sir Arthur Balfour, who had just come back from a congress in connection with the International Chamber of Commerce at which 39 nations were represented, said in an interview in the Press:The Congress has for the first time shown serious concern at the present state of trade barriers.He went on to say:The proceedings of the congress have revealed a momentous change, from every point of view, in the attitude of producers in Protectionist countries.That change can be noticed in many countries which hitherto have been highly Protectionist, and I would urge upon the Government to lose no opportunity—to accept any invitation that may come or any hint that may be thrown out—to concentrate on this line of action along which, I think, lies the greatest hope for 606 an improvement in conditions in this country. Of course, that will take time. In the meantime, work must be done at home. I do not propose to traverse questions which will be raised to-morrow when, through circumstances which are unfortunately beyond my control, I shall be unable to take part in the proceedings, but I would say this: The Government tell us they are doing all they can in home development. That statement I cannot possibly accept, nor can anybody else accept it who has any knowledge of conditions in this country. That is an absolutely impossible assertion. They tell us they never turn down anything that is any good, never. Those of us who have had practical experience of schemes which have been turned down know that a great deal more can be done which would be advantageous to the country and would put people into employment.
The Prime Minister begged us to make our common contributions to this problem. I personally, and I am certain that I can speak for most Members of this House, would be quite willing to make a contribution to the solution of the problem, but the attitude of the Government to contributions offered in the past does not encourage people to go on with them. I refer in particular to the reply made to proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). As far as I can summarise the replies, they are to the effect that everything which was worth while in his proposals was already being done and that everything the Government were not doing was not worth while bothering about. The reply was much more like an attempt to score political points, and I have a sort of feeling that the date of the election was decided on very much earlier than the Prime Minister led us to believe from that Box. I beg the Government to give us a little more encouragement if they do want common contributions. During the election hon. Members opposite made a great cry about putting nation before party. I hope they do not forget that plea now that they have come back to the House, because everybody, in every quarter of the House, would like to see something done to improve conditions in the areas with which many of them are intimately acquainted.
607 We have been told by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that 1,000,000 more men are in work. There may be, there are, but I would remind him that there are still 2,000,000 people who have not got work. That is the problem, for the Government to tackle. Instead of being so pleased with having 1,000,000 more men in work, they ought to realise that the problem is to deal with 2,000,000 people unable to find employment. Figures cannot convey what that position represents; they are getting so large that nobody can really comprehend their meaning. The Government talk about depressed areas. There are 2,000,000 depressed areas in this country. The other day I had a letter from a constituent in which he Old me that he had been out of work for some time, and added: "I see you have debates in the House of Commons on depressed areas. The day I lost my job my home became a depressed area as far as I was concerned." That is what we always ought to keep before us, considering the matter not geographically but from the point of view that we are dealing with 2,000,000 areas. It does not matter whether there is only one unemployed person in a place; he will be in the lowest depths of depression.
It is a gigantic problem, and nobody has ever suggested that it is not. It is not a problem that can be tackled without taking very great risks. This is a country which as a rule does not shrink from taking risks. His Majesty's Government at this very moment, with the approval of the vast proportion of the people of this country, are taking enormous risks in connection with the war in Abyssinia. What for? In order to protect the independence of a backward people in a far land. The country is entitled to demand that the Government should take proportionate risks in order to secure the independence of hundreds of thousands of their fellow-countrymen.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
I rise to claim the indulgence of the House for the first time. I understand that it is the tradition of this great assembly to encourage new Members to speak now and then for ever hold their peace. I will therefore avail myself of the opportunity to consider the proposals in the Gracious Speech with a 608 view to making some slight contribution to the deliberations upon them. I cannot very easily comply with Mr. Speaker's injunction that we should observe the cut and thrust of debate, and still crave the indulgence of the House. It behoves me, therefore, to stick to practical proposals of my own.
I could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that nothing is proposed in the Gracious Speech in regard to unemployment. My constituents will have read with particular gratification the unequivocal reference to unemployment insurance for agricultural workers, and when that subject comes to be debated in the House I hope to have an opportunity of discussing it from the point of view of its application to South-West Norfolk, the part of the country which I have the honour to represent. I should like to turn at the moment to the wider issue of unemployment. While I welcomed the proposals in the Gracious Speech foreshadowing a substantial reduction in the numbers of the unemployed, the core of the problem remains unaltered. So long as the problem remains, there will be no plan for dealing with it which any Government would consider themselves too proud to investigate.
Here we are confronted with two alternatives; either we must provide some more permanent cure of the unemployment problem or, if we recognise the existence of the unemployed as unavoidable, we should provide the unemployed with some more satisfactory status in the community than that which they enjoy at present. I have endeavoured to evolve a plan for dealing with unemployment as it is. I submitted that plan to a right hon. Gentleman, a Member of this House, and his answer justifies me in outlining the proposal. He wrote to me and, if I remember his words exactly he said: "There are very few mails which do not bring me some plan to cure employment, most of them futile. Yours is somewhat different. It embodies an original idea and I think a fruitful one, but I should want to turn it over a little more in my mind before I could commit myself definitely to its advocacy."
The plan did not seek to cure unemployment but to deal with unemployment as it is. If the Government admit the presence in the State for a long time to come of a considerable volume of unemployment, 609 we ought to make the unemployed feel more at home in the State than they are made to feel at present. If you regard the unemloyed from the point of view of their normal position in the State, they appear not as an unwanted surplus of labour to be kept at arm's length by the dole, but as a reserve of labour to be taken on as soon as the processes of recovery allow; and the pay which they receive appears not as a dole but as a reserve pay, comparable to the half-pay which officers in the Services receive when they are waiting for a new appointment. As soon as you have recognised the unemployed as a reserve of labour and the pay which they receive as an honourable form of reserve pay, you have gone a long way to rehabilitate the self-respect of the unemployed in their own eyes and in the eyes of the nation.
To give effect to this change I would propose the organisation of the unemployed into a body comparable with the British Legion and to be called the National Labour Reserve. This organisation would not in any sense be a military or a disciplinary body—unless you are of the type which regards the Boy Scout movement as a military organisation of sinister purpose. On the contrary, it would be an organisation to which it would be an honour to belong, and inspired by the highest leadership available in the land. It would seek in its corporate capacity to employ, to the fullest advantage of its members, the enforced leisure which they enjoy. I would propose that the members of the National Labour Reserve be encouraged to join in athletic sports, football matches, and so forth, in order to foster esprit de corps among the branches of the National Labour Reserve. I would further suggest that its members be encouraged to make for themselves, under skilled supervision and at cost price, a warm overcoat and thick leather boots to protect them, as a whole body, against the hardships of winter.
I further suggest the development of existing organisations, such as the Personal Service League, into an official organisation parallel with the National Labour Reserve, to mobilise all those supplies of surplus food which, although perfectly wholesome, are discarded daily from restaurants, hotels and so forth. The ramifications into which one might 610 enter when considering such a body as the National Labour Reserve are endless and I will not trespass further upon the patience of the House. I would only point out that such an organisation, being inspired by a worthy leadership, might become a source of support to that confidence which is necessary for the smooth working of our Constitution instead of what it is at present, a hotbed for revolutionary propaganda.
I pass to those proposals in the Gracious Speech which deal with the safeguarding of our Empire. It is my opinion, and I am not ashamed to voice it, that the British Empire is the cement of the world. If that cement crumbles the world collapses. If the Empire is to play its part in world revival and in the preservation of world peace, that cement must become reinforced concrete. I welcomed as much as anybody in this House the proposals in the Gracious Speech for safeguarding our Empire by increasing the defences of the Empire. I would suggest that the time has come when we ought to consider some measure for the further consolidation of the Empire. Here I speak with diffidence, but with an interest in the subject which is natural in one who has been in all the Dominions. I have lived for five years in Australia, I have been twice to South Africa and I have been in Canada and New Zealand.
Those who are acquainted with the Dominions will not deny that the two main factors which keep the Empire together are the personal influence of the Crown and the cash benefits of inter-Imperial trade. So long as the Empire is largely dependent upon those two factors its solidarity is not assured for ever. We cannot expect that the Crown will always exert the same personal magnetism over the Empire as it does today. We must look generations ahead, and prepare additional ties for the day when existing ties may be weakened. Other countries may seek to entice away parts of our Empire by reckless trade proposals which we might not be in a position to offer. We must envisage at least the possibility of a situation in which those two main factors which hold the Empire together to-day are weaker than they are now.
It becomes apparent that what the Empire lacks are institutions of an Empire 611 character. The Dominions share no institutions with this country or with the other Dominions except that of the Crown. This House cannot be considered as an Empire Institution, even as much as it could have been 20 years ago. The sovereignty of Dominion and State Parliaments has made great strides in recent years. Therefore I would suggest that the time has come to consider some form of institution, in which the Dominions could share an interest with this country and with each other. The kind of institution which I have in mind is simple. I am not going to suggest anything so unwieldy as an Empire Parliament.
What I have in mind is that we should invite the Dominions to share with us in the responsibility of administering the Colonial Empire. The Colonial Office is at present a purely English institution. If it were developed into an Empire institution where there would be a field for the legitimate Imperial ambition of young men in the Dominions not only would the Empire gain in solidarity, but the Colonial Empire would gain from such administration. Many of the Dominions, in the process of their evolution, have acquired valuable experience of administration of native races. I submit as my humble opinion that the possibility of inviting the Dominions to share with us in the administration of the Colonial Empire should receive the favourable consideration of the Government.
There remains the question of preserving our own Constitution in face of the increasing strain which is being placed upon it. If democracy were to fail in this country, that would be a death-blow to democracy throughout the Empire, which is the greatest stronghold of democracy in the world. I was privileged to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs give it as his opinion, in his recent speech, that the time had come to consider the introduction in this country of the compulsory vote. The compulsory vote is in force in the Commonwealth of Australia, and I am not sure that it is such an effective safeguard of the Constitution as another constitutional device which is also in operation in Australia, the referendum.
It seems to me that the figures of nonvoters and so forth at the last election 612 in England are very misleading. It is pointed out that no less than 29 per cent. of the electorate did not vote, but hon. Members of this House will know that many names appear on their registers of people whose names appear, for one reason or another, on more than two constituency registers, and, since no person can vote in more than two constituencies, and very few do even that, it becomes apparent that many names appear on registers from which no vote can be obtained. Add removals and out-voters who cannot be fetched to the poll, and you whittle away to a considerable extent the 29 per cent. of non-voters.
The referendum, on the other hand, does provide a means of appealing to the electorate in an emergency on any single issue of sufficient magnitude. It would be possible to say to the electors, for example, "Do you or do you not want the banks nationalized?" and whatever answer you got, you would at least know where you were. It may be of interest to mention that in Australia in 1911 a referendum was carried out on the subject of nationalisation. The Government asked the electorate, which had put it into power, to give it authority to nationalise any industry which it thought in need of nationalisation, and the electorate denied it the authority to nationalise industries which it thought fit to nationalise.
At the beginning of my speech I asked the House to be indulgent, and I must thank hon. Members for the incredible patience, and, indeed fortitude, with which they have heard me out, but there is just one more point which I feel it my duty to my constituents to voice before I sit down, and that is to draw attention to the deplorable condition of the housing problem in some rural districts. The Government have broken all records in the matter of housing and slum clearance, and nobody welcomes more than I do the assurance in the Gracious Speech that that programme is to be continued with undiminished force but this wave of progress has not yet passed across the agricultural districts. This is not for want of legislation. The Act of 1926 provided that there should be a grant of one-third of the cost from the Government and one-third of the cost from the local council to any landlord wishing to renovate housing property; but the 613 councils have shown some reluctance to subsidise the landlords, as they see it, in this respect; and there is the further difficulty that in many cases the rent of cottages is as low as 1s. 6d. or 2s. a week and, since this can never return to the landlord more than a fraction of interest on the value of housing property, he cannot easily be induced to spend even the third of the cost necessary to renovate the property. It needs only a departmental inquiry into the working of the Act to bring it into line with existing requirements. In Scotland full advantage has been taken of it. That may be due to the fact that Scottish lairds are more canny than their Southern counterparts; I do not know. I must thank the House for its indulgence, and only hope that hon. Members will not have been reminded of the young curate who preached his first sermon on the past, present and future of God, man and the Universe.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I am sure the House would wish me to congratulate the previous speaker, the freshness of whose maiden speech is only equalled by the white flower of a blameless life with which he has adorned his first appearance in this House. He has been an ornament to the Conservative speakers' class which has trained him so well, and I congratulate him—
§ Miss WILKINSON
It will, however, be rather sad to see the progressive disillusionment which will attend his attempts to get through his party some of the new ideas of which he has produced such a fresh and charming growth this afternoon. Now I am going to deal with the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General gets across certain generalisations which we are expected to deal with as facts, but I want to ask the Attorney-General to look again at the figures which he gave to the House. I should be the last to suggest that so conspicuous an ornament of the legal profession would not give perfectly accurate figures, but he spoke, for example, of the North-Eastern area as though that were synonymous with a special or distressed area. The North-Eastern area, however, 614 covers certain districts that have never been considered as distressed except at the very worst times, and technically they are not distressed at all. If the Attorney-General will look at the figures for those areas in the North-East which are scheduled as special or distressed areas, he will find that the figures are very different.
Last week—in fact, on the day of the opening of Parliament—the Lord Mayor of Newcastle called together a body of industrialists, trade union leaders, big employers of labour, and Members of Parliament, and laid before them some figures which I commend to the attention of the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General has said that there is an improvement, and he challenged me when I said that what he had gained on the figures of unemployment benefit were more than counterbalanced by those of the public assistance committees. The figures which the Lord Mayor of Newcastle laid before that conference are perfectly astounding. He said, for example, that the latest figures of Poor Law assistance for Newcastle were £169,887 more than in March, 1931. He said more. He said that able-bodied relief was more than three times the amount that was being paid in 1931. He gave the figures, namely, £58,000 in 1931, and £176,000, the last figure obtainable in 1935. Is the Attorney-General proud of that record of his Government? He gave figures for the North-Western area, but his Government is being bombarded with figures, the difference between which and the figures he quoted is costing Liverpool, for example, £270,000 a year. Are the Government proud of that record?
When the Attorney-General came to the means test, he simply excelled himself. If it were not the Attorney-General, I should be inclined to make some reference to tight-rope walking, but he carefully skirted round any idea of what the Government were going to do. He seemed to suggest, in the challenge that he threw out to the House, that Members on this side are asking for unlimited benefit for people who are already in possession of an income, but I would remind him that that is what his side of the House gets, and not ours. When the Government are forking out subsidies by the million, they do not ask 615 for a means test. They do not ask for a means test when they are deciding what shall be done under the De-rating Act or when they are giving millions to this or that industry, or to the Columbia Gramophone Company, which has already made profits of over 100 per cent. It is only when they are dealing with men who are on the barest level of subsistence that they wonder whether, by a means test, they can cut them down by another shilling. It is pretty difficult for some of us who are dealing with these distressed areas to hear about the means test quite calmly, when we realise what it means to men and women in our districts.
I do not ask for sympathy from the Attorney-General; I only ask him to look at figures. I will take the case of Hebburn-on-Tyne, which is one part of my constituency. There the maternal mortality rate—and I commend this to the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor)—rose in one year from 86 to 108 per 1,000 live births. There was no epidemic; the medical officer of health gave it as his opinion that it was due to the increasing severity of the means test. That is what the means test did.
I am not a new Member of this House, and I know that the last thing that the House wants to have inflicted on it is what it usually considers to be "sob-stuff," and so I will deal with some more figures. The Attorney-General has spoken of the improvement that this Government has made in the industries of the country. I ask him to look at the Jarrow area. I know that we are all bringing before the Government our own constituencies, but, after all, that is our job. I ask the Attorney-General to look at the Jarrow area, with its 72 per cent. of unemployment. In Jarrow town the percentage is nearly 80. I want to suggest to the Attorney-General that the Government have a very special responsibility in areas like this, because they have been hit by the policy of this Government—if not directly by the actual political policy, by policies which this Government is backing. Jarrow is a victim of ruthless rationalisation, which is being backed by the Government. Its 616 two main industries are shipping and steel, and the rationalisation of these industries is being carried out under the auspices of this Government, and with the backing of this Government. Its other main industry is export coal, and coal and shipping are suffering directly as the result of the tariff policy of this Government.
This Government, and I can only refer to the Prime Minister's own words, has helped by its tariff policy to create monopolies in these industries. But there is another side to monopoly. If monopoly is to be created as a definite Government policy, then the Government ought to insist on the social responsibility of the monopolies which they create. Here you have combines with no social responsibility at all, with responsibility only to their shareholders, and they are laying vast areas of this country derelict. Palmer's shipyard at Jarrow was an up-to-date shipyard. It was not derelict or out of date. It could build, and was building when it closed down, ships of the biggest kind. The steel mills, though not so up to date, were not derelict; they were working and in good order. But the tragedy at the present time is that the recovery of an area like Jarrow is being blocked by the big interests which this Government is backing. There are Members on the Attorney-General's own side of the House who can bear' out what I am saying, and no one knows it better than the Prime Minister himself.
Take the case of the steel mills in Jarrow. An attempt has been made to get them reopened. Orders were in sight, and an attempt was made to meet the Bank of England to get capital for the reopening of those steel mills. But the steel combine made it perfectly clear that that capital would not be given, and all attempts to get the steel mills in this distressed area reopened are being blocked by the steel combine. I refer the Attorney-General to the speech in which, the Prime Minister said that many men have made large fortunes out of the policy of this Government. He indicated—I am sure we agree with him—that he thought they ought to do something in return. What is the steel combine doing in return? Taking very great care that there are no other competitors with the monopoly which they themselves have created.
617 When you come to the shipyards, that is another matter that raises a very grave question of public policy. Palmer's shipyard was not sold as a going concern. It was bought up by National Shipping Securities, Limited, which, I understand, has considerable backing from the Bank of England, and it was sterilized for shipbuilding for 40 years. That is to say, a restrictive embargo was placed on it that whoever bought it could not build ships there for 40 years. Does not the Attorney-General realise what that means psychologically to a town which lives entirely on its shipyards? You not only cut its throat, as it were, but you tell the shipyard that in the living memory of any of the men who are employed there they will never see ships built there again. It has been done so callously.
A speech was made at the local Rotary Club by one of the directors of National Shipping Securities when he was giving the reasons and the method by which they did this. He said that by offering a price substantially above the scrapping value, National Shipping Securities offered an inducement to those who were tired of the struggle to get out. The workers cannot get out and they get no share of the substantial inducement. They are thrown on the local rates of an area which is waterlogged by the appallingly high rates that have to be paid. This director calmly admitted that no national plan was followed in closing the shipyard. It is obvious that, if the Government's tariff policy is in fact making a third of our shipping superfluous, something ought to be done. At least I might suggest that some rational plan should be followed rather than the offering of a sufficient inducement to particular firms which are sufficiently tired of the struggle to get out. The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke throughout as if it were we who should be on trial. It is the capitalist system that is on trial and I ask him to look at the result. In St. Paul's Cathedral there is a memorial to Sir Christopher Wren which reads: "If you seek a monument look around." If the Attorney-General wants to see a monument to the capitalist system that he is so proud of, I will take him to Jarrow and show it to him.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
Some of the facts that the hon. Lady has given have staggered me. Is she certain that National Shipping Securities Limited, was not formed before this Government came into power?
§ Miss WILKINSON
I do not know the exact date of the formation of the Company. If the hon. Member wants the figures, I have here the speech of the director and I will give them to him.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
This is a very distressed area and it hurts me as it hurts the hon. Member. My information—I am open to correction—is that it was in 1930 that Shipping Securities Limited was formed.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I am not concerned with the actual date of formation. I am concerned with the date at which it started operating in this distressed area. That is all I am arguing about. The particular financial details of it are not my job. I do not think it is too much to ask that the Attorney-General should discuss with the Prime Minister whether we could have a public inquiry into what National Shipping Securities Limited have done so far in regard to shipping, the inquiry not merely to concern itself with the financial side of the question but to take into consideration the social results. For example, the President of the Board of Trade, in reply to an inquiry from the Chairman of the North-Eastern Development Board, said that if shipping revived sufficiently he thought something might be done about the embargo on Jarrow shipyards. I want to know, and my constituents want to know, whether the President of the Board of Trade was merely being polite to Viscount Ridley or whether he really meant it. Within the last eight weeks orders for something like 330,000 tons of merchant shipping have been placed, and an area like Jarrow has had no share at all. Might not the destruction of social values as the result of National Shipping Securities' operations be taken into consideration by the Government? A good deal has been made in the Press, and no doubt in the House, about the work that the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir J. Jarvis) has done in regard to Jarrow, and I want to pay my tribute to his work, but this matter is too big for private hands, and the hon. Member when he comes to speak will, I am sure, say that he finds that with all 619 the good will in the world his endeavours to do anything for the steel mills and the shipyards are all spoiled by the fact that he and his friends are up against these enormous vested interests.
After all, I think the Attorney-General ought to be nice about it. I am not even suggesting nationalising. The way to deal with the whole of the Tyneside area is to have a rational replanning of it. The suggestion that I am making is merely to get him to run the capitalist system better than it is being run at present. The Government dreams a dream and produces a lovely picture in the air of these new trading estates, but it has not done anything yet to make these dreams realities. Unless you do something about the burden of rating, however you lay down these trading estates you will not get new industries to go there. How can they go there when the rates are 19s. 6d. in the £? You say there is the De-rating Act, but it really is not fair that these areas should bear so very large a proportion of public assistance. It is a crippling millstone round their necks. Then I would ask again that the Government should read some of the reports that their Commissioners send them from time to time. Whenever this matter is raised, the Prime Minister says in the most charming way, "We will send a commission." If my constituents could live on commissions they would be the best fed people in the world. But they cannot. How much has even been begun of the recommendations of the Commissioner for this area? A Minister to-day in answer to a question said he could not put any specific date to the "near future," but these people have suffered so long and all their resources are being drained, even their physical resources. These are skilled fitters, men who have built destroyers and battleships and the finest passenger ships. They are very good stuff. The years go on and nothing is done. Might I plead with the Attorney-General at the very beginning of this Parliament that he personally should do something to bring before the Government the fact that this is a desperately urgent matter and that something should be done to get work to these areas which, Heaven knows, want work?
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Colonel ROPNER
I am sure we have all listened with very great sympathy to the hon. Lady's speech. More than most Members, she has been brought very close to the tragedy of unemployment, but I think our sympathy should not blind us to the facts, and I should like the House to know that a great deal of what she has said, particularly with regard to the shipping and shipbuilding industries, is simply not true. Hon. Members opposite have pleaded during the last few days for the nationalisation of industry. We are often told that rationalisation is the first step towards nationalisation. I really cannot follow the hon. Lady's argument when, on the one hand, she advocates Socialism and, on the other hand, condemns rationalisation. It may be true that the process of rationalisation may bring in its train suffering which it is our duty to alleviate, but that must not blind us to the present or the ultimate benefits of rationalisation by private enterprise. We have heard a great deal during the last few days from hon. Members opposite of the claims for greater assistance by sections of the community which they assert they represent. But there have been very few proposals, if any, for an increase in the national dividend from which this assistance must ultimately be derived. I agreed whole-heartedly with the learned Attorney-General when he said that hon. Members opposite have been completely silent with regard to any measures calculated to help distressed areas.
The broad assertion that Socialism will help or that Capitalism has failed needs substantiation. We have had no attempt from hon. Members to substantiate these words during the course of the Debate. I do not represent an area which has been scheduled as "depressed" or "special," but I have many miners in my division, and for a very large part of my life I have lived in an area which is now scheduled as "distressed." Unemployment is always distressing, but the tragedy of unemployment is accentuated when a man is unemployed for a long period. The trials of a week or two of unemployment may be great, but the trials of a year or two or more are almost unbearable. Another condition which makes unemployment so difficult to bear is when everybody, or nearly everybody in an area is unemployed; when, as the 621 hon. Lady the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) said, some 75 or 80 per cent. of the men and women are suffering from unemployment, when there is no life in an area, when no one has any friend who is in work, and when no one can speak a cheery word. Another condition which makes unemployment almost unbearable is when there is no hope, the hopelessness such as existed between 1929 and 1931 when hon. Members opposite were in power. Not only did they fail to cure unemployment as they had said that they would, but hundreds of thousands of men joined the ranks of the unemployed and those who had been out of work were in complete despair that work would come their way.
All those three conditions are present in the distressed areas. Villages and towns are derelict, dilapidated and desolate. It is not very long ago that one could have expected men living in those areas to find work elsewhere. It is not very long ago that a considerable amount of courage was needed to go and look for work in other parts of the country. Education was poorer then, and towns and villages were more isolated. Perhaps few Members who do not know the mining villages of the north can appreciate how isolated a mining village could be, how a visitor was made to feel almost a foreigner, and how men who had never left a village felt like foreigners when they sought work elsewhere. But it is easier now. Education is better, and the levelling influence of the wireless and the cinema, and, perhaps most of all, of the homely motor omnibus, has done a great deal to break down the isolation of many of our mining villages. Men and women in those areas are less isolated and feel less strange when work is found for them in other parts of the country.
It is not very long ago that men who could not find work in other parts of the country could emigrate, but then parents saying fare well to a son going to one of the Dominions had to say "Good-bye" and not "Au revoir." They went away for ever, and considerable courage was needed to go abroad under those conditions. Now things are easier in that direction. Transport is quicker and the mail is more regular. I have often thought that a mother with a son abroad must experience a feeling of comfort at the sight of a telephone 622 box, for though the expense is great a mother can feel, even if her son is in the farthermost parts of the world, that she can step into a box and hear his voice coming to her from New Zealand, Australia, America or from almost any part of the world. So too the aeroplane has made the world smaller. As a nation we are less insular in a smaller world. But in these days a man cannot find work at home, and moreover he cannot emigrate. There is, therefore, a different and a very human problem which must be tackled by the Government of the day. The distress in the distressed areas is too great to ignore.
I cannot for a moment agree with hon. Members opposite that the plight of the distressed areas has been caused by the capitalist system, or perhaps it would be fairer to say that I do not think there is any other system which would bring so much good with so few evils. If we were to embark upon an extensive policy of Socialism we might indeed find that the whole of the United Kingdom would, in a short time, have to be scheduled as a distressed area. It is the duty of the Government to provide work for the men and women who to-day live in the distressed areas, but I submit for the consideration of the House that that work need not be provided in those areas. The problem is there. We are apt to think that the solution of the problem must be in the same area, but the Government will have gone a very long way in solving the problem of the distressed areas if they can bring about still greater prosperity in other parts of the country. After all, the only excuse for the existence of an isolated mining village is the mine, and if the seam has been worked out or the pit becomes uneconomic for one reason or another, then there is no reason why you should expect work of perhaps an uneconomic nature to be brought to that area.
What the residents in distressed areas have a right to expect is that as soon as it is possible work will be found for them somewhere in the country. No man has any right to sit back and expect work to be brought to his doorstep. The very urgency of the problem and the sympathy which it calls to our mind bring two dangers. One is that the help given to distressed areas may be such as will kill 623 enterprise and initiative, and the other is that the help itself may be wasteful and ultimately do more harm than good. I have often thought that one of the basic differences between those of us who sit on these benches and hon. Members opposite is that they see in the State some super-nurse to make life comfortable for all from the cradle to the grave, to relieve men of responsibility, to teach the electorate that the State has some bottomless purse out of which it can constantly give. Those of us who believe in initiative and private enterprise believe that it is, in fact, a much finer thing to provide men with an opportunity of earning higher wages than the certainty of receiving State pensions.
§ Colonel ROPNER
I believe that there is a real danger that too great an extension of our social services may lead to the pauperisation of the nation and may limit the efforts which we can make to provide work at decent wages because of the burden which it places upon the taxpayer. I would much sooner tell a man that he can with justification look forward to earning a higher wage, providing himself for his old age and giving his family a better start in the race of life, than ask him to believe that the one duty of the State is to look after every single soul in the nation from the cradle to the grave. As to assistance which would be wasteful, I should deplore any tendency on the part of the Government to embark upon a policy which one might describe as moving slag heaps from one end of Durham county to the other. The problems which would be created by keeping men in uneconomic employment in those areas would ultimately be greater than the problems we have to face to-day. The encouragement of new industries is the real solution of the problem of the distressed areas.
In my humble capacity as a back bench Member I must express disagreement with some of the words which the Prime Minister used a day or two ago and with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) disagreed this afternoon. The subject was the gratitude which the Prime Minister said was due to the Government 624 from the industries which had been assisted. He claimed that the iron and steel industry or the shipping industry should pay special attention to the problem of the distressed areas. That is an extremely dangerous argument, and although I do not like mentioning shipping more than is necessary, I think I can put my point of view in what may seem the most ungrateful form, and therefore illustrate me point best, by mentioning the help which is being given to the shipping industry and which has undoubtedly been of very great assistance. The assistance has been given not from any kindness of heart on the part of the Government, but simply because it was justified by the facts.
It was not the Government which gave £2,000,000 to the shipping community, but the taxpayers of this country. The taxpayers have been asked to help that industry, among other industries, because the Government were persuaded that the facts justified assistance being given in that direction. It is hon. Members opposite who constantly proclaim that the Government should give; it is they who ask the electorate to believe that the Government give, and not the taxpayers. I hope the Government will not attempt to justify any help that industries may be able to render in distressed areas by any claim that assistance has been given to industries by past Governments or the present Government. I do not consider that an industry which can justify assistance owes any debt to the Government. We in this House, including the Treasury Bench, are here to legislate for the benefit of the whole country.
§ Miss WILKINSON
The hon. and gallant Member is connected with the shipping industry. Does he not admit that the shipping industry has a responsibility, in return for the help that the taxpayers have given?
§ Colonel ROPNER
That is scarcely the point with which I was trying to deal. I am perfectly ready to admit and I gladly admit that we have a responsibility to those who are engaged in the industry. The point that I was trying to make is that we obtained assistance because the facts justified the help being 625 given. If it was only a matter of sympathy on the part of the Government, I should ask for that assistance to be discontinued at once, because there could be no justification for its continuation.
The establishment of new industries in the distressed areas does meet two very great handicaps, and they are very largely the making of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. First the high rates, which are usually the legacy of Socialism. Secondly we find in the areas which are now seeking assistance that a very large percentage of the population have been taught by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that their chief object in life must be to smash the capitalist system. I would ask hon. Members opposite how they can expect industries to establish themselves in areas where the men who should be employed are out to smash the industries which ought to give them a livelihood.
I remember what was perhaps the most pathetic event in my life. I went to talk before an audience which consisted of miners, in a place where I was not known. Perhaps it would have been different if I had been known. I went on to the platform representing the Conservative cause, private enterprise and capitalism. The first two or three rows of the audience were children, the next 10 rows or so were mostly women, and the back of the hall, which was dark, was occupied by men. There was hardly a pair of eyes in that hall that did not regard me with the most deadly hatred, because I stood for something which they had been trained, these miners and miners wives, to hate. How can you expect industries to establish themselves in these areas where there is this unhappy feeling, this class hatred, this determination to smash the capitalist system?
The nature and extent of the help which we must bring to the depressed areas will depend very largely on the comparative prosperity of the rest of the country. The National Government have done something to solve the problem of the distressed areas, by bringing prosperity to others. For the depressed areas the only solution must be along the lines of encouraging those industries which exist there to-day or bringing new industries to the spot. I was glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave 626 an assurance that the Government will only be interested in schemes which will prove to be useful and valuable. There is only one other, and perhaps a comparatively unimportant, contribution which might be made to the solution of unemployment in the distressed areas, and that is the recommendation which I think was contained in the last report of the Commissioner for England and Wales, that encouragement might be given to unemployed men to join the fighting forces.
I have had 20 years' experience of the Territorial Army and I know that the sentimental pacifism which is preached by hon. Members opposite has done much harm to recruiting for the Territorial Force. If we have learned anything during the last day or two from the speeches of hon. Members opposite it is that the Labour party is determined to maintain an adequate force. Why do not those same gentlemen give encouragement to the recruitment of our Army, Navy and Air Force up to the point which they consider adequate for the defence of the country. At the present time the whole of the fighting forces are very sadly below establishment. In conclusion, I hope the Government will not attempt to embark on any aid in the distressed areas which might fairly be described as artificial. I believe that with the return of general prosperity in the country and the encouragement of existing and new industries in the depressed areas we may soon see a solution of this very depressing problem.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. E. DUNN
I rise with a good deal of embarrassment to address the House for the first time. I am sure that my feelings at the moment are feelings which have been experienced by other new Members who have addressed the House. If I do not confine myself to the strict order of events I hope that hon. Members will extend to me the same charity that they have given to others when speaking for the first time. Had I not been associated directly with the Socialist party and come from a mining area similar to the one represented by the previous speaker, and had I listened in the country to the speech that he has made he would have convinced me that I am in the right party in seeking to achieve proper ends. I will say no more 627 on that subject. I wish to direct my remarks to one phase of the industrial difficulty from which the country is suffering at the present time—the mining question. I have been associated with mining all my life and, as a new Member, I feel that the House is not giving that attention to the mining problem as an immediate national problem which we have a right to expect.
I was interested to discover that this problem secured a place in the King's Speech, and to hear this afternoon the Attorney-General's explanation of what unification of mining royalties actually means. Frankly, I looked upon the suggestion of the unification of mining royalties as something totally different from the explanation which has been given by the Attorney-General. When that explanation was given it was intriguing to me to notice that the reference to the unification of mining royalties came immediately after the attempt had been made in this House to explain Socialism. I wondered whether there was a change of heart on the part of hon. Members on the opposite benches, because the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman was totally distinct and apart from anything that I expected him to say. Now we know what the Government's policy is on that subject. If that policy is as indicated by the right hon. Gentleman then, as far as I and many Members in my party are concerned, and I think as far as the country as a whole is concerned, the statement that has been made on behalf of the Government with respect to mining royalties will be welcomed.
I want to deal more explicitly with the mining dispute with which we are concerned at the present time. The mining crisis and the case for the miners has, I think I should be correct in saying, never been stated with greater clearness than it has been stated at the present time, and the support of the miners' case has never been more pronounced. What was it that accounted for the strange psychology which was produced in this country between 1924 and 1930? I suppose I should not be overstating the position if I said that at that period the country was divided into two or three sections of people. There was one section of 628 people who regarded the leadership of the miners' movement as of an extremely dangerous and revolutionary kind. Many hon. Members opposite and certain people in the country regarded to the men who were leading the miners' movement at that time, particularly in 1926, indulged in a general chorus of condemnation of the leadership. When the change took place in 1930 and immediately afterwards the same hon. Gentleman who had condemned the leadership of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain in 1926, and also the Press of the country, and many people said: "Now that a change has taken place in the leadership of the miners, we shall get sanity in the leadership."
We have had that change of leadership in the Miners' Federation of Great Britain but what has been the position since the change of leadership? The Government of the day and the industrialists in this country are now treating the leadership of the Miners' Federation as if it were at a discount. In fact, hon. Members opposite have suggested that the miners of the country are not behind their present application and not behind their leaders. The answer to that statement is that a ballot vote has been taken which clearly proves where the miners are. New leaders have been appointed, and it will be a strange thing if this House, after the change of leadership of this great movement, treats the present leaders as incompetent to lead the miners correctly and to state the case on behalf of the miners correctly.
I will deal with another aspect of the situation. I was much intrigued by a reference of the Prime Minister in his speech to the coal mining industry. As I listened to that speech I could not help feeling that the Prime Minister was speaking with his tongue in his cheek and was not stating a case other than a case for the mineowners. If the Government are of the opinion that the miners of this country are not in deadly earnest on this question, if hon. Members opposite feel that they can be treated in a way which is not just and honourable, they will be making a very serious mistake. I ask them to reconsider the matter and give proper support to the miners at the present moment. The question of mining royalties has already been dealt with and I will only say that out of the mining 629 industry since the war £120,000,000 has been taken out of this industry in royalties. If I accept the figures given by the Attorney-General, over £120,000,000 has been divided among 3,758 royalty owners of this country. I want to put only this one point. I have come directly from a colliery. A fortnight ago I was working at the colliery, and in one shift alone—the country I think should realise this—the royalty owner took more out of the pit than the 150 men who were working in that pit on that particular day.
I invite the House to examine two or three simple matters. I want to ask hon. Members if they fully appreciate that the miners are in dead earnest on the question of a modest 2s. a day increase in wages. However much some people may attempt to jockey the figures and mislead the country with regard to the money the miners are receiving, according to the Government return the wages of the miners are only a modest 9s. 2d. per shift. That is the average wage of the miners of this country, and I am quite entitled to take the average wage just as much as the average wage of Members of Parliament. The case we are putting forward is for an increased wage of 2s. a day. What answer have the owners and the Government given to this claim, and how have the coalowners treated the Coal Mines Act, 1930? Hon. Members opposite must realise that not only are the miners united behind this demand, but that there is a united Press and a great volume of public opinion, greater than we have ever had before. Every national Press in the country agrees that the miners are entitled to an increased wage, and a majority of that Press is agreed that they are entitled to a 2s. increase per shift. The big religious denominations are also behind the miners in their effort to improve their standards, and when I listened to the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) with a despicable sneer on his face referring to the children at the front and the women behind them and the miners at the back, I should have liked the miners to have seen that exhibition. It was unworthy of this House and of an hon. Member who represents a mining area.
How are the attempts to improve the miners' wages being met by the owners? It is not untrue to say that on every 630 occasion since the passing of the 1930 Act the Mining Association, and the coal-owners of this country, have not been prepared to consider a wages question at all with the miners. They have refused to do that. We have met the President of the Board of Trade and Mr. Isaac Foot when he was Secretary for Mines, and the right hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) when he was Secretary for Mines. We have had discussions with the late Prime Minister on wages machinery, and in no single instance—there is no record anywhere—was there any indication on the part of successive Ministers or the late Prime Minister that they did other than take the side of the mineowners, indeed actually acting as the spokesmen of the mineowners. It is not right, it is not good enough, and we enter our strong protest against it. For three years it, has not been a question of asking for more wages but only for machinery, so that in the final analysis an improvement in wages might get back to the men through the ordinary channels of trade, but on every occasion when we have met representatives of the late Government, and this Government, they have acted as the spokesmen of the mineowners.
But how have the mineowners operated the 1930 Act? It is not too much to say that not a single Section in that Act has been operated by the Mining Association or the coalowners in the spirit of the Act, We offer the strongest protest. It is not too late for us to remind the Government that the machinery which is now being proposed to be operated, in order that the revenue of the industry may be improved, has been at the disposal of the mine-owners since 1930. While the miners are asking for their wage standards to be improved, it is not too much to say that as the negotiations now stand—hon. Members should realise it—in the operation of the selling agencies to be set up there is no indication at all that the first fruits of these selling agencies will immediately find their way into the wages of the miners in order to improve their standards.
I am interested in three points. The first is this. I put this to the Government and to hon. Members opposite. In the event of selling agencies being established with a central co-ordination of prices, is it to be assumed that the increased prices to be charged to the consumer, whether for domestic or industrial 631 fuel, or increased prices anywhere, are to be reflected in increased wages to the miners? My answer to that question is that every indication given by the Government has been in the negative. The second point is, that under the district selling agencies which are to be set up with national co-ordination of prices, and all the trimmings, this bold fact emerges, that the coalowners will be entitled to receive an average profit of is. 8½d. per ton before the miners are entitled to receive a single fraction in increased wages. If that is true, and I think it is, then there is no immediate hope for the wages of the miners being improved.
This is my third question: Does this House, does any hon. Member or anyone in the country, think it is right that the coalowners in every coalfield should be entitled to receive an average profit of 1s. 8d. per ton on every ton pulled out of the earth, a bigger amount than the miners receive for getting the coal? Is that elementary justice to the miners? There is one thing I want to say before I sit down. If the Prime Minister in his declaration the other night is as anxious about the mining question and is as afraid of a stoppage in the mining industry as we are on this side of the House, it is singular—I put it no higher—that up to now there has been no indication at all that the Prime Minister of this country, with a first-class industrial crisis on our heels, is going to take an immediate hand in the dispute. I hope that the Prime Minister is going to live up to the traditions of Prime Ministers. I appeal on behalf of the children, of the women and on behalf of this country for the Government of the day to give some clear indication of what their policy and programme are. There are clear lines along which this dispute can be settled. The Prime Minister spoke about an accommodation. The Minister for Mines, who is now present, spoke about a stimulus. What they meant I really do not know. They may know, and if they know what their stimulus to the mining industry is in order to avert this stoppage, this country ought to know, and the miners in particular ought to know.
There are two suggestions that might be made. One is, that instead of the 632 Government of the day taking the side of the royalty owners and the mine-owners, their clear duty is to see that common elementary justice is done to every citizen in this land. The Government ought to indicate—because this country intends it—that the full claim of the miners will be met, and met without any disruption or stoppage of the coal trade. Industrial fuel has been raised in price all over the country. The revenues are now in the industry with which to meet the miners' claim. Failing that, there is no reason why this strong National Government should not bring a short Measure before this House and pass it before Christmas, guaranteeing to the miners their modest request and putting the responsibility on the trade to see that the revenues come into the industry. If that is done, it will be the greatest instrument for bringing about industrial peace and preventing a stoppage.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
It falls to my happy lot, as a comparatively new Member, to congratulate the last speaker on his maiden speech. Those of us who are comparatively new have not forgotten the experience of the first speech, and what an uncomfortable experience it is, but I am sure that I am voicing the sentiments of the whole House when I say that I hope the hon. Member will have many opportunities of expressing as well as he has done to-day the views of his constituents to this mother of Parliaments. I am glad that I have been called on to speak, because I was afraid that it might be thought that there was no one left from the special areas on the Government side. As most of the Members of the House know, I come from number 1 of the distressed areas, and I know full well all the hardships that are entailed in having continued unemployment through a long, bitter succession of years. I had to jump a six-barred gate before I was on the course. Ten thousand of my constituents are on the means test. That is to say, there are 20,000 votes which one might reasonably expect to be against me before I was "alive."
But I quite frankly said at every meeting—and it was the first question I was asked; and my ancestry and destiny were stated in the frankest English, in the 633 vernacular—I said, without making any bones about it, "I am for a means test. If you want a 'Yes-yes' man go to the other chap, but where public money is expended there must be public inquiry. You come to me, as your fathers came before you, for advice when in difficulty, and you come because you expect me to say what is the wisest thing to do. There must be a means test, but not a humiliating one. It must be one that will safeguard the family." I am glad to think, in reading the manifesto which was promulgated before the Election and the speeches which have been made in the last four or five days, that the suggestions which we of the Northern group made to the responsible quarters in the House are going to be honoured, if I am any judge at all. There are some of us who may be saved as by fire, but we have come from depressed areas to express for distressed people, but politically-educated people like my constituents, that we must have some sense exercised in the administration of the finances of the country.
§ Mr. GEORGE GRIFFITHS
Did the hon. Member believe in a means test for the farmers and for the shipowners during the last Government? I ask him how he voted.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I do not know that that has a great deal to do with what I am saying. I was talking about the means test, because it was the main plank of the platform of the Labour party in constituencies like mine.The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.If you please, I will confine myself to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Sea-ham. (Mr. Shinwell) in his place, because I heard his speech the other day in which he said that the Labour Government were unable to improve the conditions of the mineworkers. And then he complained that the late Government failed to improve not only the conditions of the mineworkers but the conditions of the mining industry as a whole. If his own Labour party, of which he was a bright and shining light, did nothing to improve the lot of the mineworkers, he scarcely had room to complain that the National Government is the same.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. Member has been good enough to refer to what I said. I was making a special reference to the Coal Mines Act, 1930, and demonstrating that in spite of that Act, because it was administered by the coalowners, the Labour Government were unable to improve the conditions of the workers.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I am sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman say that, because he was the responsible Minister for the working of that Act. I am sorry that he has walked into that trap. I am going to give the facts, which cannot be disputed. In 1934 the saleable output of coal was 13.6 million tons greater than in 1933, and in the first nine months of this year it was greater by 150,000 tons than in the corresponding period of 1934.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Although 13,000,000 tons more coal was produced in 1934, were not 1,000 fewer miners employed?
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I agree that machines and modern appliances are having their effect. I welcome the fact that the brutal, hard, laborious work of the hewer is more and more being done away with, and that the electric cutter is coming into more use. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is getting to his feet; it seems that I am hitting the bull's-eye. The trade agreements have benefited the north-east coast by a 2,301,997 tons increase in 1934 compared with 1931. In addition, the coke industry, by the stabilisation of the markets for coke, particularly Denmark, Norway and Finland, has increased and benefited the wages of the miners. All these measures have stopped the fall in production, and therefore in wages. The hon. Member did not say a word about the benefits there have been to the miners.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
Before the hon. Member leaves the question of the trade agreements, will he look up the annual report of the Secretary for Mines, and there he will find that the Minister himself declared that the increase in the coal trade almost exactly balanced the loss of the trade in countries where the coal trade has gone out of existence?
§ Mr. MAGNAY
Is not that just the same as saying to me, "Your breakfast is not what you should have, but you would have been even worse off if you had not had any dinner." The earnings 635 of the miner per shift in Great Britain are almost the same as in 1930–9s. 3½d. compared with 9s. 2¾d. But this is important, and not to be forgotten by special pleaders such as the hon. Member for Seaham, who made a clever and adroit speech, but one which was purely special pleading. In fairness to my own country—whether it is his or not, I do not know—I must point out that for the same period German miners' wages have been reduced by 20 per cent. in the Ruhr and 18 per cent. in Upper Silesia. The wages of miners have been reduced by 20 per cent. in the Netherlands; the wages of Polish miners by 20 per cent., of French miners by 12 per cent. and of Belgian miners by 29 per cent. We are not as well as we would like to be, but as we say in the North, "It might be warse." We are very glad that it is no worse than it is, much as we would like to see it better. If we take the total annual cash earnings of the British miner we find that in 1913 they were £113 8s. 2d. and in 1934 they were £115 11s. 6d. There is another fact which is easily forgotten. It is not popular to say so, but the cost of living has come down 12 per cent. I know that my own wife does not agree with that statement but it is the case nevertheless. The significance of these facts in relation to competition in the open markets of the world can easily be gauged and ought never to be forgotten. For the better position of our miners, compared with the miners of other countries, we are very thankful—at least I am. But we all want to see an improvement in the industry and a rise in the level of wages and on that point I most heartily and sincerely agree with hon. Members opposite.
I shall take my life in my hands and make a suggestion. I made it in 1928 when I debated this matter with Mr. Will Lawther in his own yard. I suggested it then that the main thing wrong with our coal industry was the fact that the foreign markets were no longer ours as they used to be. We lost foreign markets, some of them irretrievably, owing to the dispute of 1926. In 1912 it was the same. There is only a certain world demand. Assume it to be 250,000,000 tons. Why should we and Poland and Germany and France and the others cut each others throats for 636 the contracts which the world is bound to give. Why cannot we rationalise them and say to Poland, "What are you going to have for your quota?" and the same to Germany and to France. Cut up the market—I do not mind the phrase—and rationalise it and automatically you raise the price and automatically you raise the wages. I would have an international conference for that purpose and re-organise the selling side of the industry.
Finally, or this aspect of the matter, I say that there must be peace and good will in the industry. It is amazing to find that men, including hon. Members of this House, who are not averse from preaching peace and good will in other spheres and on other platforms, never do it in relation to the coal industry. I suggest that those concerned ought to meet in good will and amity round a table. We know what happened in 1912. I was challenged the other day in the public Press in the North as to accuracy of a statement of mine. I said that the beginning of all the strife in the mines was "The Miners' Next Step," a little twopenny pamphlet written by two ex-students of Ruskin College. I said it was written by the late Mr. A. J. Cook and, I believed, by Mr. Noah Ablett. I was challenged as to whether it was the late Mr. A. J. Cook or not. That was the cause of all the strife in the mines since 1912, fomented in order to make the mines an unworkable proposition, so unworkable that the mineowners would gladly get rid of them. It is my opinion that that pamphlet was the cause of all the trouble.
We have heard a number of assertions from our friends on the other side, but in all this Debate I have heard no practical proposition from them. I make bold to offer one suggestion which I have embodied in an Amendment to the Address. The problem of the special areas is wrapped up with the problem of the coal industry and is clamouring for solution. I do not need to tell the House that coal has been the main cause of our industrial success. For the last hundred years we have lived in a coal age but, whether we like it or not, we have to recognise that we must get out of the coal age. The world is out of it altogether. At one time we could send our raw coal abroad and tell the world to like it or lump it. Nowadays it is the derivatives of coal 637 which matter. This is the oil age. Coal can only serve its purpose in this age if it is used for the production of oil, petrol and other derivatives. The present trouble between mineowners and miners cannot be settled in my opinion except by national help. The industry must be made remunerative to both sides. I ask the House not to think that the mine-owners, those in my part of the country at any rate, have not a just case to put before any board or tribunal. National help must be given, not merely because there is the possibility of a strike but because this is a matter of national economic importance. We must take better care of this wasting asset. We must make better use of this most valuable raw material. We must do so, having regard to employment particularly in the special areas, having regard to health and the abatement of the smoke nuisance and having regard to national safety.
In this connection there is one point which I wish to emphasise. We have a mechanised army. We have a navy which requires oil fuel. We have developed a large air force and commercial air services. Road transport is increasing amazingly year by year. These essential services rely almost entirely upon imported oil and petrol. The figures astounded me when I ascertained them. I find that we imported 2,752,000,000 gallons last year. At 6d. a gallon that equals £68,000,000 last year for imported oil and petrol. Even if it was only 4d. a gallon the amount would be £46,000,000. The amount of oil and petrol manufactured by us out of coal is negligible. Only 38,000,000 gallons were manufactured in the United Kingdom in 1931 and last year the amount was 54,500,000 gallons. I suggest with some sense of responsibility, as one who comes from a coal area, that the home production of oil must increase and foreign supplies must decrease. It is not without significance that three men in London can not only determine the price of petrol and oil but can say—whatever right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench say—whether the United Kingdom shall go to war or not and whether essential supplies shall be available or not.
When I visited Broadcasting House some months ago with other Members of Parliament I waited behind until the 638 others had gone, having suffered all my life from the gravest malady that can afflict a man, namely, an inquiring mind. I asked those in charge how they carried on in the event of a failure of power. They told me that they had a reserve which would last for two hours. Then I asked them what they did when that reserve was exhausted. They told me that they had an engine which generated enough power during the two hours to enable them to carry on. We want to have a reserve. Without it it is idle to talk about our defence forces, our huge battleships, our air force, and all that is required in the armed services. What good are they without spirit? Here, in more senses than one, it is the spirit that giveth life. We are in the hands of the most powerful vested interests in force to-day, the oil companies—I am speaking with a sense of responsibility, deliberately and advisedly—some of which are of alien origin and administration. They spare no effort or expense however hidden—and these are efforts of which the public have little or no knowledge—to prevent, by the sheer weight of power and of their immense capital, any intrusion upon or interference with their businesses and profits by the home production of oil.
I will not weary the House with any further details, but I have here a document which I believe to be correct, and which is at the service of any responsible Minister who would like to see it. It all boils down to, or I should say it all distils into, a question of cost. According to the figures which I have here, this production can be made at a cost which is economic in all the circumstances. I suggest that the Government did a wise thing in regard to the Billingham experiment. There are others able and willing to try experiments. I will be told, probably from responsible quarters, that it means huge costly experiments, but what about it. Who is afraid of the big black wolf of the cosmopolitan financiers who nearly had us down and out in 1931? These people have no country at all and look for half of half per cent. benefit each week. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are they."] He who runs may read. Some may say too that these plants will become obsolescent and practically useless in five years time. So does a dreadnought. I suggest that the Government must back 639 any proposition of this kind which offers fair promise of success.
From this spot less than two years ago I spoke on the Palestine Loan. It will be remembered that although the Pales-tines budget was balanced and was I think about £1,500,000 to the good, the Government were asked to back a loan of £2,000,000 for Palestine. I said that while I had every sympathy in regard to that loan with the misplaced Arabs and unplaced Jews—those were the terms used in the Preamble to the Measure—I wanted the misplaced labourers and the unplaced miners in my constituency to have the same backing:Till we had built JerusalemIn England's green and pleasant land.If an experiment cost £5,000,000 that is precisely what has been paid in what is called "the dole" in Gateshead during the last 10 years—for nothing. I suggest that the economic utilisation of coal in the manufacture of oil spirit is a sensible and practical way of getting better methods adopted in the coal industry, and is worthy of consideration, rather than the "airy nothings" to which we have listened for so many days in this House.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. WALKER
I want to draw the attention of this House to an industry which has only been mentioned on two occasions so far in this Debate upon the King's Speech. The Prime Minister on Tuesday last made a very brief and casual reference to what he expected the iron and steel industry would do because of what the Government had done for it, and to-day we had a statement by the Attorney-General that the iron and steel industry had shown that under private ownership it could do very much better than under a system of public ownership such as the Labour party is agitating at the present time. I am willing to admit that the Prime Minister stated that the iron and steel industry was prospering to-day and that the output of iron and steel in this year of grace will equal the peak output of the year 1929, a year when there existed no tariffs, when there was no agreement with the European cartel, and when a Labour Government was in office; but to-day, even with that peak output of iron and steel, there are still over 20 per cent. of the iron and steel 640 workers of this country unemployed, and the iron and steel employers are making no efforts whatever to try to reorganise this industry, which is of such paramount importance to this country.
In an interpolation that I made this afternoon to the Attorney-General, I suggested that the steel trade employers had made arrangements for the additional import into this country of 100,000 tons of iron and steel which could have been manufactured in this country and would have given employment to iron and steel workers had there existed a national organisation controlling the industry in this country. To-day, while we have applications from certain steel companies asking, because of their order books, that they should be allowed to work overtime, we have a number of steel works that have been lying idle, not only for the whole of this year, but for a number of years, and because of the individualism that exists in the iron and steel trade on the employers' side, there is no point in passing on part of an overcrowded order book to those firms which have their plant lying idle; rather would they pass the order out of the country altogether.
The Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, which represents the workmen's side of the industry, has put forward a scheme for the public ownership and control of the iron and steel industry, and I may say in passing that I know of no industry, outside mining, to which the principle of either public ownership and control or of the public utility corporation could be better applied than to the iron and steel trade of Great Britain. It lends itself to it, it is operated in well defined geographical areas, and because of that fact, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation bases its scheme upon geographical areas, controlling every section of the industry in each area with a national corporation controlling all the areas coming within the purview of the iron and steel industry. The employers' side has never at any time put forward any criticism of that scheme, but has accepted its organisational idea and principle, and the only objection it has put forward so far is to the idea of public as opposed to private ownership.
When a committee of the owners went into the question of organising the industry, it came forward with a scheme which was based upon the scheme put 641 forward by the workmen's side, but when it went before the full meeting of all the owners, the scheme was turned down. The committee was told to try again, and it has now come forward with a scheme which merely means a glorified employers' federation, with a chairman appointed at a very high salary indeed, in order to give people in the industry advice on how to run the industry, by a gentleman who has never been employed in it at any part of his life. When the Prime Minister asks what he is going to get from the iron and steel employers in the country's interests so far as organisation is concerned, I would say to him, "Blessed is he that expecteth little, because he will not be disappointed."
I want now to deal with another aspect of the case, from the point of view of making a contribution towards solving part at least of the unemployment problem that exists in our midst. Since the tariffs went on in the iron and steel industry, they have operated in a way that, I think, was not expected by most people. They have actually resulted—whether or not they are the cause of it I am not prepared at the moment to say—in a reduction in the price of steel instead of in the rise that everyone thought would take place. That probably arises from the fact that under our capitalist system the strange paradox is seen that when trade is good, when all your mills and furnaces are running full time, you can produce goods at the lowest price and sell at the cheapest price, because your overhead costs are generally lower, but under the competitive commercial system that is the time when you are allowed to charge the highest possible price. On the other hand, when the trade is bad, when your furnaces, mills, or machines are only running half time, when your costs go up and you need higher prices, that is the time, under the commercial system that hon. Members opposite so admire, when you get the lowest possible price and what has been happenning during the past 18 months or two years is that, because they have been able to run the works at full time, they have been able to keep their bargains with the Government and keep prices down, while at the same time profits are going up.
Now the price has fallen, at least in the heavy steel industry, about 10s. per 642 ton, and we have a problem confronting us at the moment of over 20 per cent. of the iron and steel workers unemployed. The labour cost in the making of a ton of steel is round about 20s. or 21s. per ton in the ordinary modern plant, and I suggest that the Government would be well advised not only to take a keener interest in the doings of the iron and steel industry so far as the organisational side of it is concerned, but also to take some interest in it from the point of view of the hours of labour of the men employed. We could absorb, with a six-hours day or a shortening of the working week in the iron and steel industry, over 25,000 more men if we had given to us an agreement from the employers for that shorter working day, but are we likely to get it or are the National Government likely to do anything in order to stimulate the interest of the employers in that problem? At Geneva, when the question of the shorter working week in the iron and steel industry was being discussed, the iron and steel employers' representatives opposed the idea by every possible method, and the National Government representatives backed them up in their opposition.
To introduce another 25,000 people into the industry, which is practically 25 per cent., would mean, even if the workmen contributed nothing at all, as they did in 1919, when the eight-hours days was introduced, a cost of something like 5s, per ton on a ton of steel. I have already said that steel prices have been reduced in the heavy section about 10s. a ton during the period when tariffs have been in operation under the National Government, so we ask that, in order to deal with a number at least of the unemployed, the iron and steel industry should adopt a shorter working week. Remember that the iron and steel industry generally operates in what are known all over the country as the depressed areas and that the unemployment problem which exists in our midst is in the iron and steel, the mining, engineering, cotton, and shipbuilding industries, all of those five industries finding their place in practically the same districts all over the country, so you can see that any contribution that is made by any one trade out of those five is bound to have a repercussion upon all the other trades connected with those areas.
643 We have discussed unemployment from time to time in this House. Statements are made by hon. Members on the other side of the House that things are better to-day than they were, say, 12 months or two or three years ago. The learned Attorney-General to-day said—a very bright thought—that we have more people employed in industry to-day than we had a matter of two or three or 10 years ago. There are more people living than there were two, three or 10 years ago. It is no answer to say that because more people are employed in industry to-day things are, therefore, coming along all right. I heard the other day a speech from the other benches by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in which he nearly threw himself into the camp of the Social Credit people when he advocated an expansion of purchasing power. One of the things we have always claimed on this side is that the people have never had sufficient purchasing power in order to deal with the products of industry under mass production as it exists to-day. We are asking the National Government to deal with the industry where the problem can be to some extent solved. It is no solution of the problem of the iron and steel trade for one company to shut down because of financial difficulties, to close down one of the most modern works in the country, and to break it up for scrap while at the same time proceeding to lay down another plant about 30 miles away to produce the same kind of product.
That is the kind of thing that is going on—wastage in every corner of the industry. I appeal to the National Government to deal with the iron and steel trade as a national unit because it is one of the industries to which they could apply even the principle that was fathered to-day by the Attorney-General when he spoke about the unification of mining royalties. I am not going to argue with him and say that because he believes in the nationalisation of mining royalties he should believe in the nationalisation of the iron and steel trade, but I will submit to him that the very reason why the Government have adopted the ideal of nationalisation of mining royalties is a reason why we ought to have nationalisation of the iron and steel industry. There is such a tremendous conflict of sectional interests going on in the industry all the 644 time that it requires one supreme national control in order to conciliate or abolish, if possible, those conflicts that are constantly going on under private ownership. If we can get the industry on to a vertical basis, whereby from the top to the bottom through all the ramifications of the industry there will be one supreme control working for the benefit of the industry and, therefore, under national ownership and control, working for the benefit of the whole community, we shall be able to put the industry on a basis which will enable it to meet the competition of the whole world and enable it to do without the assistance of tariffs, as it does to-day, in order to carry on.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN JARVIS
I want to crave the indulgence of the House for this my maiden speech. I have been particularly interested lately in a practical example of what can be done in the distressed areas. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) for the kind references she has made to my work. I do not believe that this problem is ever going to be solved solely by Government action. Had that been possible surely it would have been cured in 1929 or 1931. We must face the fact that it is difficult for any Government to create work or to influence materially the course of trade. What a Government can do is to create an atmosphere of good will and confidence in which industrialists would be encouraged to take business risks and to remove obstacles which may hinder the normal course of trade. With this help I believe that individualists and industrialists can do much to assist the Government in grappling with this urgent internal problem, which is one of the worst problems with which we have to deal.
May I beg the House to bear with me if I touch upon personal matters? Unfortunately, I have to do so if I am to explain a movement which I believe could be imitated in almost all the distressed areas. As High Sheriff of Surrey last year I looked round for the most difficult job in which I could help my fellow countrymen, and I found it on Tyneside, in Jarrow, the worst hit town in England, where three out of four men were out of work, many of them having been workless for years. It was a strange country to me because I had never been in either Durham or Northumberland before. 645 Although I saw all the difficulties, I recognised also the possibilities of success. I, therefore, appealed to my county to start a fund in the interests of Tyneside in general, and of Jarrow in particular. So far Surrey has subscribed £36,000—a small sum, it may be said, with which to deal with such an immense problem. Perhaps the House will bear with me while I say what we have done in the last year with less than half that amount. The aims of the Surrey scheme were to bring hope to these men, to give them happier surroundings, to enable them to rise to a greater state of physical fitness, and ultimately to find them permanent work. We sought to achieve these aims not by charity, but by co-operation, neither funds nor materials being given except in return for some gesture from the north.
We have provided materials for the redecoration of 1,811 homes of unemployed people. This scheme has been very successful, and where, owing to age, sickness or infirmity, unemployed men have been unable to decorate their own homes, other unemployed folk have come forward and done it for them—"helping hands" we called them. We offered them some consideration for this work in the shape of a midday meal or clothing, but they said, "No, you are doing enough; we do not want it," which shows the fine spirit of the men in the north. We paid wages to 973 unemployed men in laying out a public park with sports grounds, paddling pools, bandstand and shelters, no man being employed for less than a month. This work provided a much-needed lung in this crowded town. Then we provided materials for decorating institutes, clubs, welfare centres, scouts huts and the building of sports pavilions. We have sent 40,000 garments, bed coverings, bedding and infants' clothing and have provided 900 pairs of boots for men working in the park, for which, to their credit, they voluntarily offered to pay part of the cost. We have supplied wood for the men with which to make furniture for their homes. We have given them a boat for fishing and done many other things to help them in the difficult times through which they have been passing.
We have taken the lease of a large disused sportsground providing facilities for football, athletics, cycling and games. The men have laid it out by voluntary labour and we have started a 646 football league in which twenty-four unemployed men's teams are competing and, thanks to the generosity of readers of the "Times" and sportsmen in Surrey, we found them the necessary equipment so that they could be properly clad. We have converted the public baths into a gymnasium for the winter so that the younger men can be taken off the street corners and given useful exercise. So successful has this been that no fewer than 1,400 attendances have been made during the first two months and many sessions have to be held during the day. We have, too, provided children's playgrounds so that the children can play in safety, at a cost of something over £500, all of which was provided by the halfpennies and pennies of the children in the elementary schools of Surrey. I believe that this collection was first suggested and inaugurated by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). Our movement, therefore, is entirely nonpolitical. We have in addition financed a boys' club and found the labour costs of the first nursery school in Jarrow. We have paid the expenses of training boys and girls for industry and have found quite a number of unemployed men jobs in various places.
That is the first part of our scheme, and I believe it has been hastened by my council giving to me an entirely free hand to make quick decisions within the limits of the appeal. Useful as these remedial works have been, I have realised all along that upon the provision of permament work depended the success of our scheme. Hitherto Jarrow has looked to Palmers' great shipyard and steelworks to provide work, and 10,000 men have been employed there in the old days, but, alas, Palmers is no more, and except in exceptional circumstances shipbuilding cannot be carried on there for another 40 years and the steelworks are in the hands of the breakers. However, we have made some headway already. Two new industries have been started. The first is a ship-breaking industry. Last summer I bought a small Greek steamer and sold it to a firm of ship-breakers as an experiment, thereby reversing the usual process of selling our steamers to Greece and leaving the Greeks to break them up. The result was so satisfactory that I bought the "Olympic" the largest British built ship that ever sailed 647 the seas, for just on £100,000. I bought it in competition with foreign buyers, and the sellers told me that had my bid been refused this great ship might have been sold to Italy for use as a transport, or to be broken up for munitions of war. Surely, it was a far better thing to keep that fine old ship in England to give work to hundreds of Jarrow men for the next 18 months. Luckily, I was able to sell her to the ship-breakers for the same price, so that the cost to my fund was only half the cost of dredging the dock, which I shared with the Tyne Improvement Commission. At a cost of just over £1,000, therefore, we have been able to employ hundreds of men for 18 months. That this work will be permanent seems certain, as a great deal of capital has been sunk by the ship-breakers in equipping the yard with new plant.
The second industry which we are starting before Christmas is that of furniture making. The fund has purchased the old joinery works of Palmers and done the necessary repairs. It has been let on lease to an old-established firm of furniture makers which is engaged in the manufacture of a special article consuming a considerable amount of steel. They expect to employ 250 workpeople at once, and 1,000 next year. These two industries will give Jarrow a good start, but more is needed. I visualise a far greater scheme in which the ships broken up will provide the raw materials for a modern steel works, those works in turn finding the raw material for several suitable finishing processes, preferably those which have never been done in this country before or have not been done so efficiently. We have searched the world for such new industries. I have flown 3,000 miles this year in search of some and we have found them all. We are ready to start them forthwith, subject to one small difficulty being overcome. The capital needed is forthcoming; the men trained for these heavy industries are ready. The hub of the wheel is, of course, the steelworks. Jarrow men, as I have said, have been trained to build ships or make steel. If they may no longer build ships, surely no obstacle should be placed in the way of their making steel. The proposed new steelworks have been planned to comprise one of the most modern steel plants in the world. 648 There can be no question of their efficiency or of their economy in production. They would be built beside the deep waters of the Tyne, where our 46,000-ton ship now lies, where there is a net-work of railway sidings—I am told there are 18 miles of rails there—where there are good road connections and ample coal supplies available on the spot. All that is needed to start these further industries is the benevolent approval of the Government to remove one trifling obstacle, in connection with the steel works which now delays the fulfilment of our plan. It is for that approval that I plead to-night with all the earnestness I can command. May I quote a few passages from the speech of the Prime Minister last Tuesday to which I listened with great interest. He said:A great many people and a great many industries have benefited by the protection given to them by this Government, and there are many industries to-day—I instanced the steel industry particularly—which, had the conditions of 1931 been allowed to go on, would have been bankrupt at this moment and are now enjoying great prosperity. No one grudges them that prosperity. … There can be no better work for the men who have received well at the hands of the State to pay back their debt to the State, to those who are most in need.The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say:I believe that help in that way and help that can be given would do more than anything else to make a change, not only a material change but a veritable spiritual change, in those neighbourhoods, and such work would be a blessing to the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December 1935; cols. 75–76, Vol. 307.]That is my point, although it is not so much help that we want as the removal of hindrances. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman especially as to the importance of finding new industries. That is exactly what we have done. If, in addition to the two industries we have started, we can add the steelworks and two or three new finishing processes we can bring work to every fit man in Jarrow and the worst distressed town in England would be a distressed town no longer. Think what this would mean. It would mean the employment of still more thousands of men to provide for the increased consuming power of the people of Jarrow, for more food, for more furniture, for more clothing, more amusements. It would mean work for the mineworkers, 649 work for seamen, work for the transport workers, work for the shipbuilders, and work for others connected with the needs of these new heavy industries and it would mean the creation of new purchasing power for which so many hon. Members have been pleading in this Debate. Last but not least it would show the world that the industry of Tyneside is neither dead nor sleeping but vigorously and profitably alive. What would the employment of these thousands of men cost the State? Hardly anything at all. On the other hand the State would immediately benefit by the saving of £300,000 which is now paid in unemployment relief in the town of Jarrow alone.
That is our plan. It does not compete in any way with the work of the Commissioner for the special areas for whose efforts under very considerable difficulty I have the very highest regard. He has done his best to help us. I do not pretend that it will find a remedy in every case, but it could be tried inexpensively in many areas, and it has the advantage of bringing work to the men where they live instead of trying to migrate them, which is always very difficult. Thus this small Surrey mouse offers its help to free from the toils these fine workmen of Britain caught in the cruel net of permanent unemployment.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. EDE
It is a matter of great delight to me to have the honour of offering to the hon. Member who has just spoken congratulations upon his first speech in this House. I owe him some small gratitude because in a communique which he issued to the northern Press when he started this scheme he conferred upon me the honour of knighthood. I am very grateful therefore for this opportunity of congratulating him. He has made a speech which shows welcome independence of thought and some constructive attention to the greatest problem that confronts this country. I understood his speech to be delivered in support of the Government, and I can only hope that the Government will show their gratitude by giving him a measure of assistance for the steel works for which he has asked. The hon. Member has dealt with one of those areas which the Noble Lord the Minister without Portfolio claimed the other afternoon to be his area.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY (Minister without Portfolio)
No. What I meant was that it is the area from which I come.
§ Mr. EDE
The Noble Lord is too wise, like the hon. Member who has just sat down and myself, to live there now. Like us, he has chosen a far more pleasant spot in which to dwell. May I say that the speech which he delivered on Friday would sound a great deal more real if it were delivered in the place from which he came rather than in the place to which he has come. I sometimes think that if instead of meeting always in Westminster, Parliament could occasionally meet in other parts of the country, we should have a great deal more reality in dealing with the actual state of affairs instead of indulging in some of the logic chopping which has been heard in the House during this Debate. We have had a speech this afternoon from the Attorney-General. It seemed to me that it was a speech that was drawn up on the sound advice given to learned counsel for the defence when he looks into his brief and finds there is nothing there—"No case; abuse the plaintiff's attorney." No speech that I have heard in this House ever lived up better to that advice. I wondered while he was speaking why he was continually comforted by the presence of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Towards the end of his speech I realised that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies is a Member of a Government which he has persuaded to do something Socialistic. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, after lifelong service to the cause of Socialism pure and undefiled, must have felt great relief to find himself a Member of a Government that is going to nationalise coalmining royalties. I can only say that I shall examine the Measure which proposes to nationalise coalmining royalties with very careful attention, because while nationalising royalties may be very good policy, it may be carried through at a price which will take a very great deal of the gilt off this particular piece of gingerbread.
In my own constituency, for instance, there are four coalmines. The royalty owners are the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I wonder exactly how it is proposed to bring about unification in that district and the amount of compensation 651 which it is proposed to pay for the acquisition of the rights of that particular area. When the hon. Gentleman was speaking of Tyneside, I could not help comparing the attitude of the men of Tyneside with the attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) on Friday morning with regard to agriculture. The hon. Member seemed to me to be almost in the direct line of descent from William Cobbett, a member of the House 100 years ago, in the certainty that he was right and that everybody else, friend and foe alike, was wrong. He spoke with the same pride that Cobbett did of the delights of handling the livestock and of viewing the sights of the countryside, while the men of Tyneside in days not so very distant have crowded the piers at the mouth of the river so that they might see going out or coming in the great vessels that were the production of their hands. They had as great a pride in those tremendous results of the human mind applied to modern industry as any agriculturist has ever had in the beasts or the crops with which he has been connected. Is it not an irony that the best that can be said to-day for the greatest shipyard this country has ever seen, the result of the triumphing of one man's achievement, is that in future it may be used to break up instead of to build the pride of British shipwrights? Could there be a greater accusation brought against this great maritime country, which ought still to be the great carrying power of the world, than that as a result of policies here and abroad we shall be faced in the future with the work not of building these great ships but of breaking them up?
I noticed that the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner), in attempting to reply to the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson), said that her statements with regard to National Shipbuilding Securities, Limited, were not true. There was a time when those would have been fighting words, but since I have been back in the House I have heard them spoken two or three times and the subject has then been allowed to drop. I can only say that I wish the hon. Member, who after all knows something about shipbuilding, for his family name has been connected with ship 652 building in County Durham for many years, had specified the particulars in which the statement deviated from strict truth. I want to suggest as some justification for this Amendment the plight in which the shipbuilding industry finds itself at this moment. When National Shipbuilding Securities, Limited, decided that no ships could be built at Jarrow for 40 years, they decreed the industrial death of a community as skilful as any that this country has ever produced. The population of that district was attracted to it during the lifetime of one man, a former Member of this House, Sir Charles Mark Palmer. He started the town with 700 persons and left it—one of the triumphs of Victorian individualism—a town of 30,000 people.
§ Mr. EDE
Of course their works were legion. It means a loss in dignity to that town which it is only possible for those who have visited it to realise. If rationalisation is, as the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash said, inevitable, and a proper process in industry, then the people who inflict such a penalty on a particular town ought to shoulder some responsibility for the state of affairs that they create. I cannot imagine that, if rationalisation were carried out on the basis of national responsibility, we should be allowed to get away with anything like that. What happens now is that this private combine, meeting in secret, decrees the death of these shipyards, and leaves the nation and the locality to shoulder the burden of the distress and unemployment which it has created. If there be any case in which rationalisation should be carried out not by private enterprise—or, rather, by the private denial of enterprise—but by the State, the shipbuilding industry furnishes surely the best example of it.
The policy of the Government—and, in my belief, this is the greatest disaster that has overtaken the country—is a policy of isolation. There is a policy of economic isolation within the country that makes the solution of these problems almost impossible. The hon. Member for Guildford, the Noble Lord the Minister without Portfolio and I live in a county where the poor rate is 1s. 2½d in the £, 653 and the chairman of the county finance committee never presents it to the county council without alleging that it is going to bring about the speedy ruin of the richest county in England. I live in a house rated at £60 a year, and when I have paid £3 12s. 6d. for public assistance the law says that I have discharged my duty towards my fellow citizens who have to come upon public assistance for the means of subsistence. If I paid a poor rate in my constituency, instead of paying £3 12s. 6d. I should pay £15 7s. 6d. If I lived on the other side of a few dots on the map, in the borough of Jarrow, or any other part of the administrative county of Durham, I should pay £27 instead of £3 12s. 6d.
That is an example of the way in which the closing down of Jarrow shipyard and similar enterprises on the part of those who are rationalising industry are throwing upon the shoulders of those already depressed the burden of their own poverty. Those are the difficulties that are created for them by people outside the constituency. The Attorney-General asked this afternoon, "What has public ownership to do with the state of the distressed areas?" as if public ownership had been established. I have just shown what private ownership does in throwing upon the distressed areas not merely the burdens that ought to fall on them on any general average of the population but the tremendous burdens placed upon them by the special difficulties created by private enterprise. He went on to say that the Government are going to nationalise mining royalties, as if they had something to do with the problem of the distressed areas, and if that is an answer to his own question I can only say that I do not follow the kind of logic which was working in his mind at the moment. He was interrupted by an hon. Friend of mine—I think it was the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams)—with the remark, "Give the miners more wages." We were assured that that had nothing at all to do with the problem.
It reminded me of a meeting which I addressed when I was a Member of this House in 1923 in the quaintly named village of Indian Queens, in Cornwall, on the edge of the clay-mining district. I had been trying to develop the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore, and at the end the chairman, 654 who apparently despaired of my efforts to make economic reasoning plain, said "I will now tell you exactly what our speaker has been trying to say." He said, "You will remember that during the War, when wages were good, especially in the mining areas, the demand for china clay was unexampled, because when a woman knocked the spout off a teapot she threw the broken pot into a dustbin and bought a new teapot. Now that things are bad in the mining industry, when she knocks the spout off the teapot she runs round to the shop and buys a penny rubber spout, and we do not make her a new teapot." That may be too plebeian and proletarian an argument to appeal to the Attorney-General.
§ Mr. EDE
Apparently you now boast of abolishing one of the few decorative features of the working-class home, the really artistic teapot. We are now to put up with these futurist, modern things. I am sure the Noble Lord will realise that, bad as they are among the aristocracy, they ought not to be allowed among the working classes. I notice that at Question Time to-day the Minister of Transport was questioned by an hon. supporter of his who desired to have the financial accounts of the Central Electricity Board divided up into areas, and he made quite an appropriate reply—if I may be allowed to say that of a gentleman so capable of taking care of himself as the Minister of Transport—that as electricity was now generated on a national basis the accounts must be presented nationally, and if dissected at all must be dissected technically. That is precisely what we are pleading for with regard to the whole of industry, that it should be treated as the generation of electricity is treated, and as the Government themselves are considering the distribution of electricity.
The other afternoon I had the pleasure of giving evidence before Sir Harry McGowan on the Departmental Committee considering the distribution of electricity, 655 and am well aware of the problem being considered there. Although I cannot claim to be an authority on electricity I have had some experience of its distribution, for as chairman of the London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority I have now to deal with the distribution of electricity, on a public basis, over an area of 190 square miles which down to five years ago was being administered in the area of 17 local authorities under 29 different Orders. By a series of negotiations we have been able to get the whole of that area, from Twickenham in the north to the south of Surrey, under one authority for distribution purposes. The first effect has been that we have been able so to reduce the charges that in the period for which we have been responsible we have taken £1,300,000 less from consumers than would have been taken by the companies operating before we were there. We have made a reduction of 1.7d. per unit.
The Noble Lord asked us on Friday to show instances of where nationalisation had had any beneficial effect and I reply that surely electricity must be one that must occur to everyone's mind. So impressed are the Government with the success of the nationalisation of the generation of electricity that, obviously, they are now considering at least its large scale distribution. With regard to large-scale distribution, I take the view which the senior Member for the Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) put some years ago when he spoke of monopolies. He said that once you establish a monopoly you bring the era of Socialism much nearer for, as he rightly added, you have to cut only one man's head off and, like Henry VIII, you have got what you want.
I hope that this is to be a Parliament that will deal with the realities of the daily life of the people. I trust that we shall be able to bring home the facts of the situation to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. The learned Attorney-General this afternoon spoke with pride and said, "I am lost in wonder at the standard of living of our people." The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), in his final sentences on Friday afternoon, said much the same thing: "We can afford this race in 656 armaments because of the improved standard of living—"
§ Mr. EDE
Well, "We can afford the armaments that the Government intend to propose." They do not intend a race because they wish to be so far in front that the people behind need not worry about it at all. There are undoubtedly parts of this country where the standard of living is very high, but if the Noble Lord has not visited the part of the country from which he came, I could only wish that he would spend a few days in South Shields and Jarrow, or in Hebburn and Felling, outside the doors of the elementary schools at 12 o'clock when the children come out. I assure him that neither he nor the Attorney-General would be lost in wonder at the height of the standard of living of the children whom he would see coming out.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. ERRINGTON
I hope that the House will extend to me the traditional indulgence which is so kindly extended to Members who are making their first speeches. I would like first of all to refer to the point made by the Mover of the Amendment on Friday, that the means test was not dealt with by National Government candidates at the last Election. I represent a part of the country that can be truly described as a distressed area. It has actually been fortunate enough to obtain a distressed area grant. At every meeting which I addressed the one subject which was required to be dealt with, when question time came round, was the means test, and the fact that I obtained a substantial majority as the result of the questions that I answered and the meetings that I held, indicates that at any rate one candidate was successful in satisfying the electors upon that subject.
In 1931, the whole of the country could have been truly described as a distressed area, but, since that time, action has been taken by the Government. Tariffs have been scientifically applied and the Government have been able to initiate an era of cheap money. The result has been immediate benefit to parts of the country around London and in the Midlands, but in the parts of the country from which I come the benefits are of a slower character. There is no question that those benefits will and must come, because 657 now-a-days we hang together as a nation and the prosperity of one part of the country is essential to the prosperity of another part. It is not sufficient for the Government to allow the natural operation of those benefits to take place at a slow rate. We are grateful for the distressed area grant; it is only a small sum, but it will materially assist in the administration of the Borough of Bootle. The Derating Act, which so many hon. Members on the other side of the House were willing to decry, has provided us with a considerable sum by way of block grants.
In spite of that position, however, the difficulties in Bootle continue. I would refer to three sets of figures to illustrate the point which I am making. In 1931, the cost of able-bodied relief was 3d. in the £. I am ignoring fractions. In 1935, the cost of able-bodied relief in the Borough of Bootle was roughly 2s. 6d. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Perhaps hon. Members on the other side will allow me to complete the point I am making before they say "Hear, hear." I am going to show that the Government subscribed over 90 per cent. of the grant that has been paid in that regard. Unfortunately, that is not the only form of relief. The ordinary relief has gone up from 1s. 8d. in the £ in 1931 to 2s. 5d. in 1935. In addition to that are hospital costs. It is suggested that hospital costs should not be considered in comparing unemployment figures, but the plain fact is that the only people who use the hospitals, which are paid for by the municipality, are those who are unable to afford to pay for themselves. That involves a rate of about 1s. 10d. in the £.
In 1931, the total rate was 11s. in the £ and that included 4s. 1d. public assistance rate. Now, for the year ending March, 1936, the rates are 13s. 9d. in the £, including 7s. 8d. for public assistance rate. The result is that the whole general rate has gone up by 2s. 9d. and the public assistance rate has gone up by 3s. 7d. It cannot be said that there is any question of bad administration because the increase is due to the pure exigencies of the economic blizzard from which this area is suffering. We who come from that part of the country take the view, rightly or wrongly, that unemployment and its consequences should be a national charge. But we are not content to say that that is 658 sufficient; we believe that it is essential to find work for the people who are living in that part of the country. We are not satisfied with road schemes; we do not think that the craftsman of England, who is and has been the backbone of our industrial life, will be able to find work in which he can continue in road and other schemes that must of necessity come to an end when they have been completed.
We do not think that the transference of labour to more prosperous parts of the country ought to be encouraged unduly. I cannot see why people who have lived, and whose people have lived before them and have been able to earn a living, in one part of the country, should be compelled by economic conditions to move from that part of the country to another, and I do not think that the Socialist idea of planning as exemplified in the Amendment would be any solution at all. I think that that compulsion would not only drive away possible workers, but would also drive away those people whose capital would set the wheels of industry in motion. We have heard about Russia, and I have actually been to Russia, and I know that the system there of compulsion and driving the nation by the Soviet to certain classes of work is something that would not appeal to the people of this country. I believe that, the Socialists as a general rule do not realise the feelings of the country, and that is one idea in which I think they would not represent the feelings of the country. I can give another example. At the time of the Jubilee celebrations, it was decided in Bootle, which is ruled over by a Socialist council, that there should be no celebrations, but the only result was that the people of Bootle had their own celebrations in the streets.
It seems to me that there is something on the lines of what the Prime Minister said, that those who have gained something should give something back to those who have not been so fortunate. There is a wonderful opportunity before the Government. There is confidence in the country, a confidence that you would never get under a Socialist Government. There is stability, which will last at any rate for four or more years, and in that time much can be done. The idea of the trading estate seems to me to be one of the greatest importance to Lancashire. We know that in Slough they have 179 659 industries. There is no reason why that cannot be done in Lancashire, if the Government are prepared to support and help us. Diversity of industry is of tremendous importance. Heretofore you have had a coal-mining district, a shipbuilding district, a cotton district; and, when those industries have gone badly, there has been nothing to which the people displaced by the bad condition of industry could go. Would it not be much better to have industries of various kinds—[An HON. MEMBER: "Planned"]—yes, but not planned by the Government; assisted by the Government, but not planned by it. Industry must work out its own salvation. But we cannot get away from the fact that the Government, by its measures, creates industry, and moves and, to some extent at any rate, controls industry. If it does that, we ask that it should control industry to help us as well as to help other parts of the country. Another important point, as it seems to me, is that industry should be correlated with housing. It should not be necessary for people who need and desire work to go many miles to get that work. Some of the best housing schemes that I know are in the city of Liverpool, but one of their gravest disadvantages—and the hon. Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby) will bear me out in this—is the considerable distance between the housing estates and the place where people can get work.
These are general considerations that I ask the Government carefully to consider. I believe that, if you lead and guide industry, you are likely to get the best result. But the Government cannot wash its hands of everything; it must face the position. To take an example, the 14,000,000 tons of coal supplied to Norway was unquestionably a godsend to the North-East Coast, but the effect of that agreement was that France and Italy, which had previously supplied coal to Norway, had not that market, and it may well be that they would have to supply some other country, and would possibly—I do not say they did—affect South Wales. If that be so, the Government must face the position. We realise that the time is ripe; we realise that we have a Government that could do it; we ask them to guide industry to us, and to give the people in Lancashire the chance to work for which they wish.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Major Sir JOHN BIRCHALL
I desire to begin my few remarks by alluding to a speech made by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Simpson) one day last week, in which he referred to the slum clearance that is going on in the city of Leeds, part of which I have the honour to represent. In the election last November there was a change of government in that city, and a small Labour majority has given place to a small Conservative majority. Alluding to that change, the hon. Member used these words:Because of a slightly shifted balance of power in a municipal council, continuity is to be broken down, and members representing the party opposite are hindering, obstructing, and completely destroying the good work that had been done in that direction."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1935; col. 219, Vol. 307.]I have no hesitation whatever in saying that that description of what the Conservative party are prepared to do in the city of Leeds in connection with slum clearance is not only misleading and grossly exaggerated, but absolutely untrue. There is no attempt to hinder or prevent the carrying out of slum clearance in Leeds. The main difference between the Conservative and the Labour attitude is that Labour promises all sorts of things which cannot be performed, whereas the Conservative policy is to carry out what is practicable, and that is proved by the fact that while the Labour policy, which I admit I originally supported, was to produce 2,800 houses this year, the actual number produced so far—and we are within two or three weeks of the end of the year—is 750. That, obviously, is a very great failure to carry out what was promised.
I am reminded that I have failed to recognise that my hon. Friend who spoke last made his maiden speech. I am sure we enjoyed it. He showed a knowledge of the facts of which he spoke—that is always attractive—and I am sure the House will look forward to hearing him on future occasions. I apologise to him for not mentioning it before.
The Conservative party in Leeds do not mind if propaganda goes down so long as houses go up. I desire to emphasise what was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) the other night, as to the urgent necessity that in all these new estates there shall be proper provision 661 for community assembly. It is not enough to move people from slum areas to new estates simply to improve their bodily condition, the health of their families, and so on. We have also to think of their minds and their mentality. Slum mentality is a fearful problem, and perhaps the best way of dealing with it is to erect on every one of these estates a proper community building, thereby improving the mentality of those living in the neighbourhood.
The King's Speech has rightly been praised in every direction on this side of the House, but I think there is one striking omission. There is no allusion to the great necessity of redistributing the population. That is at the bottom of a great many of our problems and, unless it is to receive careful consideration, many opportunities may be missed in the most important matter of populating the Empire. Before the War people were leaving the country to the tune of 242,000 in excess of those who were coming in. The vast majority of them were going to our Dominions. In 1933 there were 33,000 more coming in to the country than went out. The balance had gone completely round. An easy calculation shows that if you multiply 240,000, leaving out the years of the War, had that rate of emigration continued something like 3,200,000 people would not be in this country to-day but would be scattered throughout our Dominions leading a new life, with greater hope of future prosperity. The matter is urgent. The doors of emigration are closed at the moment and the whole matter is in suspense, but this is the very time when plans should be made and collaboration with the Empire should be carried out so that when the doors re-open there will be an opportunity at once to take advantage of it. It is important that those who go should carry with them the various rights of pensions and insurance which they enjoy here. That is one of the subjects which I hope the Government will bear in mind. I hope that a real effort will be made to meet the problem of too many mouths to feed at home and too few in the Dominions. That is one of the greatest questions of the future and I hope the Government will have time to deal with it.
§ 8.52 p.m.
Mr. W. JOSEPH STEWART
As a new Member of the House I claim its indulgence. I represent an area in Durham where there are roughly 60,000 fewer men employed in mining than there were 10 years ago, where iron, steel and shipbuilding are in a very bad way indeed, and where many thousands of men have been out of work for three, four and five years. With many of them hope is going and despair is taking its place. The mothers have grown prematurely old through the hard economic struggle that they have to face day by day. I have evidence, as a member of a local public assistance committee, that in many instances the education of children who by sheer merit have won their way into secondary schools is being interrupted through lack of boots, clothing and other necessaries of life. I have been more than surprised at the suggestion from the other side that under the beneficent rule of the National Government the industrial areas to-day are better than they were when the Government took charge four years ago. There are 73 per thousand of the population in Durham in receipt of Poor Law relief against an average for England and Wales of 24.9.
Since this Government took over, the money spent in Poor Law relief has gone up by leaps and bounds. In 1931 the number of people in receipt of ordinary relief in the administrative county was 41,835. The numbers gradually increased until in 1935 they reached a total of 49,976. The amount spent in 1931 was £576,000, in 1935 £776,000, and the estimate for 1936 amounts to £842,000. In 1931 we had 6,184 able-bodied poor, and in 1935 11,853, caused to an appreciable extent through the tightening up of regulations at the local Employment Exchanges. Those people have been deprived of Unemployment Benefit, and instead of being a national charge are chargeable to the local rates. Altogether in 1931 our expenditure for able-bodied and ordinary cases was £661,000, and our estimates for 1935, £1,023,968. In the face of those figures hon. Members on the other side of the House tell us that during the four years that they had hold of the reins of the Government of this country, the condition of our people was infinitely better than it was under the Labour Government.
663 We may be told that on the Second appointed day the National Government will be responsible for the able-bodied unemployed of the country, but even when that date arrives and they take over the responsibility, the residue that are left will be the responsibility of the county authorities and will cost that authority £25,000, plus the contribution to the Unemployment Assistance Board of another £75,000, making a permanent charge to the local authority, which is striving under adverse conditions, of approximately £100,000 a year. We wonder whether or not in the near future any succour is coming to this particular area to help our people who are depressed, unemployed and losing hope through no fault of their own, but owing to the faults of the capitalist system that has failed to meet the needs of our people, and is really tottering and bringing despair into the lives of tens of thousands of those who are looking to this Government for help.
We live in an age of investigators and commissioners. The Government in 1932 or 1933 decided to send an investigator into the northern area to find out exactly the conditions in regard to our industries. I have been interested in the report which has been compiled and submitted to the Government, because in it there is embodied certain matter which is of vital importance to us as a county. We are told that as long as the rates are what they are in Durham County, we shall never have new industries introduced, and we cannot hope for any salvation or for anything worth while being done in the best interests of our people. I also read that according to the Survey of Industrial Development in 1933, issued by the Board of Trade, the new factories opened in the years 1932 and 1933 provided employment for 83,250 persons, of whom only 4,900 found work in Northumberland, Durham and the North Riding of Yorkshire. One of the reasons set out in this report as the cause for those industries going in other directions, was the heavier burden of rates prevalent in the northern counties. This investigator suggests, in the interests of the depressed areas, that the Government ought to give to Durham an annual subsidy of £700,000 so as to make their poor rate commensurate or comparable with the poor rates of the rest of the country.
664 I was interested in an interview which was given to Northern Members of Parliament in the closing stages of the life of the late Parliament. They had approached the Chancellor of the Exchequer and had asked him what he was prepared to do on behalf of the depressed areas, whether he was prepared to give extra grants so as to help to put industry upon its feet, and whether or not, as the responsible Minister, he was prepared to give them a message of hope when they had to go and face their constituents at the last Election. His words to them were: "I have done what I could for the depressed areas. If I do more it will be tantamount to the equalisation of rating." Why not? We in the North are not responsible for being domiciled in the hard-pressed areas. We are Britishers there just the same as those who live in the Southern counties of England, and if war were to break out to-morrow the northerner would just be as valuable an asset to the nation as the man who dwells in the Southern parts of Great Britain. In Durham not so long ago, as the responsible authority in the administrative county, we dealt with the question of an equalisation fund. We went into the figures for 1931 and 1932, and we found that the amounts spent in Poor Law assistance in the country reached a total of £37,000,000, and that if we could spread the burden of the poor over the whole country and levy a penny rate generally, the proceeds of that penny rate would bring in £1,008,000.
If we could spread the burden for the maintenance of the poor over the whole country it would mean that instead of Durham's poor rate to-day being in the region of 9s., it would be brought down to 3s. 1½d. If that were so, I have not the least doubt that we should have coming into Durham County new industries to help us as a distressed area and to give to our men, who to-day are depressed without hope, something to live for. They do not want charity. They do not want the Government to lift them up. They want the opportunity to lift themselves up. They want work. Surely it cannot be an impossibility—at least it ought not to be an impossibility, in this great nation, of which we boast so much, by the introduction of new machinery or new industries, and by sound planning and reorganisation, to provide that which is so necessary in the lives of our people.
665 After we had had our investigations, there came the appointment of a Commissioner for the depressed areas, and I watched with keen interest the Debate in this House, through the newspapers, not being a Member of this House then, in regard to that most comprehensive report. I got the idea that when that report was presented here the responsible officers or Ministers were so bankrupt of ideas of a constructive nature that they decided to have nothing to do with the report, and that they went home for three months in the hope that at the end of the three months something constructive would present itself to their minds and they could come back and debate it. Among the many things that the Commissioner said in that report, he said that he believed in nationalising mining royalties. We have heard much about that subject this afternoon. I am a miner. Not long ago I worked at the coal face in Durham. I hewed coal for a less price per ton than those people were getting for sitting at their firesides. Those people who neither toil nor spin took in 20 years £150,000,000 out of the blood and sweat of the men who work in the most arduous calling in our country. The Government have made up their mind at long last that justice shall be done so far as the mines are concerned in regard to royalties, and that they shall be State owned instead of remaining in the hands of private individuals. I went through a list of figures not long ago and I found that certain royalty owners had been taking out of the industry for a number of years approximately £140,000 a year, more than the average miner would get if he worked 1,000 years in the industry.
The Commissioner did not finish there. He suggested that the lads should be kept out of the industry until they were 16 or 18 years of age. I wonder whether the Government are going to deal with that side of the report. He also said, let us shorten the working week, and so help to solve the unemployment problem. Are the Government going to deal with that? He said also that there are 700,000 men in the industry to-day bordering on 65 years of age, and suggested giving those people adequate pensions, taking them out of the industry and bringing in the young energy that is standing wasting at the street corners, and thereby give a fillip to the industry. 666 It is time that that side of the report was considered by the Government. We in the hard pressed industrial areas are up against it. Every day we see the youth of our land wasted. We see personality rotting at the street corners. Although you may build your capital ships in the near future, if you are not careful you will not have capital and capable men to man them.
During the War I was interested in the findings of the medical boards. It was proved conclusively then that we were a C3 nation. What did we do when we found that that was so? We saw to it that the medical and surgical skill of the country was brought to bear upon our C3 nation in order to make it an A1 nation, because our backs were against the wall and the enemy were hammering at our gates. Through the neglect of the distressed areas and the apathy of the Government we are fast going from an A1 standard down to a C3 standard. It will cost this nation many millions of pounds to raise our manhood to the level that ought to be on if the Government do not rise to their responsibilities and carry out the pledges that were made to the electors at the last General Election, and seek by wise planning, the introduction of new machinery and new industries to bring succour to the distressed areas, and to bring that which is the right of every Britisher, a fuller and a grander life. Let me finish with a quotation from the Man of Nazareth. I am a Christian, and I am not afraid to say it.I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.I sincerely hope that the Government will realise that. It has been said in certain quarters by right hon. Gentlemen that the Labour party in this country has lost its spiritual force. We have not. It is our grounding in Methodism in the remote villages of our counties that has made us what we are to-day, and we are not afraid to be identified with the churches of our land. Give us the fuller life which is ours and help the children that are looking to you as a Government, remembering this, that you may boast of your position in the world of commerce and industry, you may boast about your position among the nations of the world, but the most valuable asset that any nation can possess is a healthy, virile manhood and womanhood.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. MUFF
I count it a real privilege to be permitted to congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down for a moving, eloquent and well-informed speech, in which he brought home to every Member of the House that there are in this country to-day two nations. Disraeli in his great novel showed us the beginnings of our industrial system, and to-day we have the sequel. If you draw a line from the Humber to the Mersey you will find two nations. Those of us who come from the North, without shouting about our sufferings, come to this new Parliament hoping that the Prime Minister, who imbibes some of his inspiration from the statesman I have mentioned, will implement very quickly the promises made at the last General Election. I should like to compliment the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Errington). I come from the Eastern End of Yorkshire while he represents the Mersey, but we have this in common, that we are ground down by high rates, and most of the righ rates—in the case of Hull over 7s. in the £—is being spent in unemployment relief. We say that it is the duty of the Treasury no longer to postpone its proposals for helping these distressed areas or what the Chancellor of the Exchequer euphemistically calls special areas. From the Trent to the Tweed you will find these special areas. In my own division of Hull about 40 per cent. are on the Poor Law. The late Government was a self-complacent Government. I am told that in the Cabinet Room there was, at least, until the present Prime Minister took office, a motto "Never do to-day what you can do to-morrow." Seeing that the present Cabinet will not come to Prayers in this House I think they should have special prayers of their own to be delivered from the sin of self-complacency. When the time comes to write the history of the 1931–1935 Parliament it will be called the Self-Complacent Ministry, and if the Prime Minister wants a chaplain he has one to his hand in the Secretary of State for the Colonies who would make a most admirable chaplain.
The Prime Minister has said that those who sat in the 1929 Parliament had bad memories, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in the Gracious Speech we are told that the present Government 668 are going to implement an Act of Parliament, or part of an Act of Parliament, passed by the Labour Government, Part I of the Coal Mines Act. But it is nearly five years too late. I appeal to the Government to consider the silent sufferers from high raises. The Government, or at any rate the Conservative party, gave the De-rating Act to the Federation of British Industries and Associated Chambers of Commerce, and left the people who live in our cottages to pay the high rates. It was a Conservative Government which passed the Equalisation of Rates Act for the City of London. I want the Prime Minister to act up to his word in foreign policy and not be afraid of amending treaties. Whether he is orthodox or unorthodox, I hope he will come to the aid of the North and help us to contribute our full share to the life of this country.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. ERSKINE HILL
It is not without diffidence that I attempt to speak in this House so shortly after I have entered it, but I have been encouraged by the very considerate treatment which other Members who were also making their maiden speech have received. One of the things that has impressed me more than anything else during the Debate is the apparent failure of hon. Members opposite to realise that the Gracious Speech must be taken together with its background and the background of the Gracious Speech is the four and a-half years of effective constructive work by the National Government. It is only in relation to that background that you can get a proper perspective of the Gracious Speech. It seems to me as though the General Election of 1931 had so much effect on hon. Members opposite that they got concussion, and have forgotten what has happened during the last four years. Let me give one example—the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham Harbour (Mr. Shinwell). He made a bitter attack—I do not think he will mind my calling it a bitter attack—on the Government in connection with their attitude towards the coal mines dispute. The speech of the hon. Member would have been mare effective if he had not been in such close association with the Ministry of Mines at a period when the condition of the mines was worse than ever before.
669 Another criticism which hon. Members make is that there is no reference made to the means test. For reasons I will give, I do not think this criticism is reasonable. I agree with hon. Members opposite that the question is most important, but I say that the main way in which this House and any Government can tackle the unemployment question is the positive way of trying to increase the amount of work available, and in that way the present Government have made it clear in the Gracious Speech what they are going to do and will be able to do it, because they have a record second to that of no other Government. I do not think that any Member of the Government would suggest that no mistakes have been made, but all of us would agree that something definite has been done, and it is in that spirit that the National Government are prepared to tackle the unemployment question. It is based in the Gracious Speech on fostering the general recovery of trade, industry and agriculture, and special effort to help the special areas. How does the National Government propose to foster industry? By encouraging trade, by a sensible and sane use of tariffs, so that not only will those industries directly affected benefit, but other industries will also benefit by the bargaining power of tariffs.
I think, too, that positive good is to be effected by the continuance of a sound financial policy. Hon. Members opposite are apt to forget the importance of sound financial policy, and fail to realise that various reforms which now may be carried out by any Government, and which will be carried out by this Government, are based alone on the sound financial policy of the last four years. The Government have indicated their intention, by well thought out schemes, to absorb a greater number of the unemployed. These schemes are only possible because the country is in a position in which it can afford to pay for them.
It has been suggested that hon. Members on this side, in the course of the election, said they would favour no means test at all. Speaking for myself, and for every National Government candidate with whom I discussed this question, there is no truth in that. What we did say was that some means test was necessary, but that there were anomalies in the working of the present means test 670 and that we would favour their removal. A promise has been given by the Prime Minister which will be greatly welcomed in my constituency of North Edinburgh, as it has been greatly welcomed on this side of the House—a promise to deal at no distant date with the question of the family means test, and I should like to say that we would welcome at the earliest possible date a statement of what and how the alterations are to be made.
It has been suggested that the Gracious Speech contains only 35 words dealing with Scotland. I think that the weight of words is not gauged by their number, but I would like to say that although there were only 35 words dealing with Scotland in this King's Speech, there were 35 words more than in 1929, under a Socialist Government. I think that the National Government have the interests of Scotland at heart, and I am certain that they will tackle our national problems in a way to suit Scotland's needs. I hope that I shall have the opportunity before long of speaking to the House again without that protection which the House has so generously afforded me to-night.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT MORRISON
Hon. Members will, I am sure, join with me in congratulating the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) on the admirable speech which he has just delivered. I remember my own maiden speech some years ago, in which I did not ask for any indulgence, and from the hon. Member who followed me I got none, and I can sympathise with all hon. Members making their first speech. I feel something in the nature of having to make a maiden speech at the moment, but I crave no indulgence. I am sure the House will congratulate the hon. Member on the excellent speech he has just made, and will look forward to hearing him again.
The Debate on the Address has lasted nearly a week, and much of the time has been spent by representatives of the Opposition in asking Ministers for information on what various statements in the King's Speech mean. It has been said from this side that the King's Speech is a vague and uncertain document, and we have been anxious to receive from the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government a more precise definition of the prospective legislation and 671 administrative matters to which reference is made. The Government has given very little detailed information. We have asked for some reasonable indication of what various matters mean, but we have not had that information, and the Government seem to be extraordinarily secretive about what they mean to do, and how they intend to implement various proposals indicated in the Gracious Speech. There are two possible explanations of this reticence—either the Government do not wish the House and the country to know, or, which I think is more likely, the Government themselves do not yet know what they mean by the statements which are made.
The Prime Minister in his speech on the first day of the Debate said that he did not like post-election investigations, and that he did not think it was appropriate to the Debate on the King's Speech that the Election should be examined. The Home Secretary took another line, and, despite the Prime Minister's guidance and leadership, the Home Secretary deliberately flouted his advice in a way which I thought was not altogether respectful, and instead of dealing with the King's Speech and what it meant, the leader of the Liberal Nationals or the National Liberals—I can never remember the proper way round—dealt with very little other than experiences during the Election. I want to make a few references to the Election, and to draw the Prime Minister's attention to some of the literature so called, distributed by the Conservative Central Office. For all that Election literature the Prime Minister must, of course, accept responsibility. I know he did not write it all. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman's literary style would have been better than the style of most of the productions of the Central Office but, as I say, he must accept responsibility for it and for the statements made in it.
First of all, I would say that the Government have no reason to come here this week and talk about a great victory. I know they are surprised that they did not lose more seats. I know that they expected to lose more seats. I know and the Prime Minister knows that they deserved to lose more seats. But they had some good fortune. We did not get as many seats as the Government expected, and I confess I thought we would 672 get a few more seats than we actually did get. I am perfectly honest with the House. But the real historic significance of it all is that the Liberal party in Opposition did not do as well as they have done or former occasions and, for the moment, we are in part paying the price. The country is moving to the two-party system. I have seen the same thing happen in the London County Council elections where the weakening of the Liberals for the moment strengthened the Tories, but within six years there was a Labour majority on the council. I think Mr. Garvin was much more sensible in his final estimate of the significance of the Election than the Home Secretary and other Members of the Government.
What the Home Secretary has to shout about I really do not know. He did get back here it is true, and I am sure, for him, that is something to be thankful for, but he only just got here. I think somebody else ought to have made the speech of rejoicing. What is there to rejoice about on the part of the Government? The fact remains that there are fewer Tory Members of Parliament in this House than in the last one. There were fewer votes, by millions, cast in the country for the Government at this Election than at the last Election. There were more Labour votes cast in the country this time than the last time and the majority of votes against Labour—giving the Government or the opponents of Labour the advantage of every non-Labour vote—was much less than the majority against us in 1931 and much less than the majority against us in 1929. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is still very good!"] By all means let the hon. Member keep cheerful. As the years pass, he will need all the cheerfulness he can command.
I say, as a Labour party politician, who has had something to do with electoral organisation that, as long as that majority of votes of all other parties put together, against Labour, is contracting, I am happy. As long as that process goes on, I know the time is not far distant when there will be a clear majority of the electorate for Labour, and I frankly tell the House that that is the only thing with which I personally will be satisfied, because that is the only thing that can really give us power. This Election, fundamentally, has been healthy from our 673 point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I heard the same kind of ironical cheers in the County Hall in 1931 and I can take those ironical cheers with the greatest composure. I say again that this Election has been fundamentally healthy for the Labour party and that we are within reasonable distance of political power. Hon. Members opposite may be assured that before many years have passed and in their own lifetime I hope—because I would not like them to miss it—there is going to be another Labour Government and a Labour Government with a clear Parliamentary and electoral majority behind them.
I call the Prime Minister's attention to some of the electoral methods which were pursued. I have here a leaflet about German pencils and I have no doubt that some hon. Members opposite circulated it. It complains that the London County Council placed an order for pencils in Germany and it mixes that matter up with the question of the boycott on German goods. On that point, I have always made it clear that the-boycott was an individual boycott and did not extend to State or public authority action. This leaflet says:Socialists buy German goods.and finishes up with the words:For a square deal, vote National.It has been issued by the Conservative Central Office, for which the Prime Minister, as leader of the Conservative party, is responsible and he must answer for this leaflet. What are the facts? It is said that we placed this order. The entire responsibility is placed on the Socialist majority of the London County Council. The Supplies Committee of the Council on 20th July, 1933, under the Tory Council, decided to invite on the next occasion of tender quotations for pencils of foreign as well as British manufacture. That was the decision of the Prime Minister's own friends, with which we concurred. The acceptance of the quotation for German pencils was unanimously agreed to by the Supplies Committee on 24th April, 1934, under our majority. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It was unanimously agreed to by both sides on the committee and this is what the chairman of the Supplies Committee, Mr. Emil Davies, said in answer to a question last Tuesday:I regret the necessity of referring to proceedings in committee but I must add 674 that the acceptance of the quotation for German pencils was both moved and seconded by members of the present minority party.That is to say, by the Conservative party on the Council.The proposal to purchase foreign pencils was submitted for the concurrence of the General Purposes Committee of which leaders of both parties are members, and was unanimously agreed to by that Committee.Finally, he said:It has been the practice of the Council for many years to purchase foreign goods where the British price has been substantially in excess of the foreign price.That leaflet of the Conservative Central Office was an absolute disgrace. They knew it was untrue or, at any rate, they could have asked their friends at County Hall whether it was safe. I beg the Prime Minister, who is responsible for the Central Office, to rap them over the knuckles for it and not to be involved in a position which, I venture to say, is humiliating when the facts are given to the House in the manner in which I have given them.
Then they brought out the story of danger to the houseowners from a Labour majority. The head of the propaganda department of the Government is the Minister of Health. For the moment, he represents West Woolwich. He had a better escape than the Home Secretary, but nothing to write home about. We shall get him yet. He knows that his own Labour borough council at Woolwich has advanced more money to people to buy their own houses than any other Metropolitan borough council in London. The Government know that the London County Council, under Labour, made the facilities for house purchase known for the first time. Why, therefore, are we accused of having policies which we have not had and which in fact we do not operate? There again the Prime Minister is himself personally responsible for a leaflet going out which he knows to be untrue, as he knows the other one to be untrue, and I ask him at some time to tell the House either that in his judgment it was true, in which case, why—and he cannot know it is true, because it is not—or, secondly, to repudiate the action of the Conservative Central Office.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was almost conducting an election leaflets class himself when he 675 spoke the other day, and he referred to a speech that I made at the Labour party conference in 1934 on the question of compensation for the socialisation of industry. He pointed out that in that Debate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and I did not altogether agree. It is quite true—I say it more in sorrow than in anger—that sometimes I do not agree with my hon. and learned Friend and, what is still more sad, there are other occasions on which he does not agree with me. But, after all, are we the only people who are not permitted to disagree with others on some question of party tactics from time to time? What was the Home Secretary, who raised this point, doing in the election? He was sending letters, as was the Minister of Transport, to Tory candidates where Liberals of his own party were standing—because they all officially belong to the Liberal party—begging of them to vote against hon. Members who sit upon the Liberal Benches on this side or who would have been sitting on those benches but for those letters. For him to talk about disagreement in the Labour party, when he was not only disagreeing with hon. Members of the Liberal party, the same party to which he belongs, sitting on this side of the House, but actually trying to assassinate them politically in the election itself, is really a little bit thick and ought not to be done.
As a matter of fact, the Members of the Government themselves during the election were disagreeing with each other, and we shall have them disagreeing again. Indeed, they have been disagreeing during this Debate, and if I had time and wanted to weary the House, I could produce a whole lot of extracts from Ministers' speeches during this Debate in which they contradict each other; and if they disagree with each other in public on the Front Bench, how much more they must disagree with each other in their own rooms and behind the Chair. It is a dreadful state of affairs. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary tried to prove that I was a confiscationist. He did not succeed, and he carefully refrained from quoting this passage from my speech, which is in the official report of it: 676We must be realists upon this particular issue. This report has been agreed with the Economic Committee of the Trades Union Congress, and we have gone upon those general lines, and the broad view we take is this, that we are not going to socialise all industries at the same time. Not even the quickest of us are going to do them all at the same time, not because we would not wish to, but because"—I am very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary come in—the right hon. Gentleman who never disagrees with another Member of the Liberal party. I am quoting something which he did not quote to the House the other day, and I resumebut because it is not physically practicable so to do. This is the only ethical point I will introduce into a discussion which is really about business; it is not just, and the people will not regard it as just, that a railway company that is taken over shall be confiscated, or partially confiscated, and some other industry which may be luxurious, useless, and pernicious shall be left in existence, possibly for a very long time, and that the capitalists in that industry shall go on making big profis. It is not a square deal. You have got to treat them all the same as far as you possibly can.The right hon. Gentleman knows that that was in that speech. He had the official report of the Labour Party Conference. He knew, when he was quoting what he did quote, that he was not quoting the whole story, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman suppressed that part of my speech for the specific purpose of doing his best to create a wrong impression of where I stood. I specifically resisted proposals of confiscation and urged that compensation should be paid. But I went further.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Simon)
I did not suppress anything. I had not, in fact, read the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I do not understand that the passage that I did read is in any way repudiated.
§ Mr. MORRISON
Is the right hon. Gentleman any better off? He admits now that he had not read the whole of my speech. He has no right to quote part of my speech without reading the whole. If the right hon. Gentleman has been relying upon extracts prepared for him by the Conservative Central Office, for which the Prime Minister is responsible, he ought to know enough as an ex-Liberal, 677 and indeed as a Liberal at the moment, of the Conservative Central Office not to rely upon their completeness or accuracy. It is perfectly true that I went on to say—this is what I was meaning, and what I think I made clear—that if you are asked whether a system of society or of industry can go on for all time, even after the State has substantially socialised it, under which an idle rich class—[Laughter]—yes, they are still there, and some of them are here. I beg of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) not to ask for it. I say that if the House asks me, or if my constituents ask me, whether I am prepared to tolerate, when the State has substantially socialised industry and substantially become a Socialist commonwealth, that for all time we are to maintain in idleness a section of the community that lives without useful labour on rent, interest and profits, I tell you that I am not prepared to tolerate it, and that as soon as ever I and my friends can do it we will lift from the backs, not only of the working class, but of the middle class and of the professional classes as well, every one of those idle, parasitic elements of society who are now living upon the productive labour of the workers by hand and by brain. And that is what the fight is about. That is what the difference is between us and hon. Members opposite. They are the political champions of economic parasitism, and we are the political champions of honourable toil.
Having secured the agreement of the House so far, I want in particular to deal with these words in the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) moved on Friday:the failure to recognise the need to plan the economic life of the country on the basis of public ownership in order to abolish poverty in the midst of plenty.I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies is to follow me in this Debate. He from his numerous attendances at trade union and Labour party conferences in the past, and as a result of the many card votes he has given in favour of this very point in the Amendment, will be able to give the House an impartial statement on behalf of these words, and he will certainly not be able to defend railways and all other great industries being for all 678 time owned by private capitalist undertakings. Where it refers to industrial matters at all, the King's Speech goes right over the surface of the problem. It is tinkering with the whole economic issue. There is to be something done about selling agencies in the mining industry, but we would be wise to add that it will be done if the Tory mine-owners permit the Government to do it. There is a reference to royalties, to which I will come later. There are one or two other references to economic matters, and somebody has mentioned a trading estate. What it is we do not know; it is an absolute mystery. I have a sort of feeling that it will look like a Chinese bungalow town, or something like a bazzar where people may go and buy, if they like, a sort of open air Woolworths. Nobody has told us what this estate is, and no Minister has told us because they do not know. Therefore, I do not propose to question them in any way about it.
Our complaint is that, there is not the slightest indication in the Gracious Speech that the Government intend in any way fundamentally to face up to the basic economic problems which are facing our country. The speech of the Attorney-General, indeed, itself indicated that he himself has given no serious attention to these economic problems. Here is Socialism, the big issue of the day—he himself said so. He said that the Election was fought about it, and then he went on to say that he did not understand it. He added some qualifying words when he saw the humour with which his statement was received on this side of the House, but if he had not admitted that he did not understand it, it would have been perfectly obvious in any case. What can you do with a right hon. and learned Gentleman who assumes that, because a public corporation has been set up for the cotton industry, we are going to be so respectful to the tradition of Whitehall that every commercial traveller will be ordered to start out, not from Manchester, but carefully to take a train to London before he does any business. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman believe that, or was it said humorously? If so, he should have said so. After these silly things he should say "Joke," and then we should know.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also said that the capitalist system was 679 all right, that there was nothing wrong with it. Had it not made us the finest country in the world, and were we not better off than anybody else? I agree that British economic conditions, compared with the world as a whole, are not bad relatively speaking. I should never hesitate to pay even a relative compliment to my own country if my country deserved it, but I would say this, that Sweden under a Socialist Government has been much more successful in dealing with unemployment than this country under a Conservative Government. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that there is nothing the matter with Capitalism and that in our country things look pretty good. But are they? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied with practically 2,000,000 unemployed? Is he satisfied with the fact that not a boy of the working-class goes out to work at the ordinary time whose parents do not wonder whether he will ever have a permanent job. Is it not a fundamental disgrace to the whole economic body that many a working-class woman gets married to a workman, and on her wedding day wonders to herself whether his job will last? Is it not a disgrace to us that in this age of plenty there are nearly 2,000,000 of our people without employment, that the bulk of our working and middle class population can feel no sense of economic security, that they are always in danger of unemployment, and that the majority of the working class proper have a standard of life which nobody in this House would say is a full, civilised and decent standard of human existence? Is this system so wonderful that has given us the slums of London and the provinces, that has given us the disgraceful planning and lay-out of the miners' cottages in South Wales and the County of Durham, and so on, that has given us those industrial abortions like the potteries in the Midlands?
I cannot understand the satisfaction with which hon. Gentlemen view a social system which has planted us into these conditions of poverty, economic insecurity and industrial muddle. It is even said that the competitive system of industry is the only possible system on which to conduct our affairs and that the motive of private profit is the real motive which should be behind economic conduct and industrial activity. Indeed, as an illustration 680 of how Members of the Government disagree, the Minister without Portfolio, in the contribution which he made to the Debate on Friday, rather indicated that point of view. For myself, however, I prefer the Prime Minister, who indicated another point of view which was totally different from that of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister without Portfolio. The Prime Minister indicated a point of view with which, I think, hon. Members on this side of the House will agree. He said:I would like the House to remember what William of Wykeham, that great Churchman, said in the reign of one of the last Plantagenet Kings towards the end of the fourteenth century, that benighted century as I suppose many of us moderns would call it now. He said:'The duty of men was to bend the shoulders in compassion, and prepare to spend all their might, their will, their work'—For what? For themselves?That was a good Socialist statement. It is a complete reproduction of the kind of idealist Socialism that Keir Hardie would be preaching if he were in this House. The Minister without Portfolio says, "Hear, hear." Anybody would think that if Keir Hardie were in this House now, the right hon. Gentleman would be among his supporters. The Prime Minister's statement was a Socialist sentiment, essentially so, whereas the doctrine that is preached by most hon. Members opposite is the doctrine of capitalist competition and the devil take the hindmost, and not a doctrine of helping one's fellows. The Prime Minister also said that he disagreed with some competition. He was referring to the intentions of the Government in dealing with the mining industry, and here he repudiated the very capitalist competition which is—or was—the fundamental economic faith of the Conservative party. He said'for the health and relief and benefit of their fellow men.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1935; col. 75, Vol. 307.]We all know, of course, that the coal-mining business is carried on in many districts and in a very large number of separate units—a method of industry which cannot conduce to economy, and which undoubtedly tends to depress the general wage level."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 3rd December, 1935; col. 69, Vol. 307.]That is almost exactly what I said at the Durham Miners' gala this year. I am denounced for it. The Prime Minister 681 said it, and the Prime Minister is cheered by his party for in principle applying to the mining industry the very criticism that we on this side of the House have been making for years past. Do not let the Prime Minister think that I am complaining. I am glad that he shows signs of seeing the light, and I look forward to the day when we on the National Executive or the Parliamentary Labour party will have gravely to consider an application from the right hon. Gentleman to receive the Labour party Whip. I promise him that in view of this statement, although at the end of the day we may turn it down, it shall receive careful and sympathetic consideration.
I must not forget that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General is beginning to have a case for consideration as a member of the Socialist party as well. He has told us today what unification means. Unification of mining royalties means nationalisation. Well, where are the cheers? Did hon. and right hon. Members when they were preaching this unification of mining royalties know that? The Government kept it a secret. They had all heard of unification. Did they know what it meant, that it meant socialisation, that it meant nationalisation? We have got it to-day. It means socialistion. And if it is right to unify royalties on the basis of public ownership, if it is the case that economic anarchy among royalty owners because of the competitive self-regarding spirit behind it is wrong, why is it that private ownership of the collieries is right? Whilst I am glad that in principle the Government has stood for nationalisation of royalties, I am bound to say that I think they were guilty of the most shameful deception of their own followers in not telling them so. I think it was a most shameful piece of deception of the members of the Conservative party that members of the Government went about the country using the word "unification," when all the time they knew that they meant nationalisation. Why did they not tell their friends that they had pledged themselves, without their friends knowing it, to a Socialist plank in the Conservative party's platform? I suggest to the Prime Minister that he has been guilty of (shall we say?) a little slickness in having now declared for nationalisation when he did not say so at the time of the Election itself.
682 We believe that our industries ought to be planned upon the basis of unification, co-ordination, systematic organisation. Just as the Government have found that the handling of the royalty problem is impossible upon the basis of hundreds or thousands of separate conflicting ownerships, we believe that the organisation of transport, the organisation of mining, the organisation of other great industries is not going to be successful and effective except upon the basis of a similar principle of unification, co-ordination and public ownership and public management in some appropriate form or another. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, having regard to the frequent occasions on which he has held up his hand at party conferences and Trade Union Congresses in favour of this principle, will tell all the members of the Conservative party to-night that he still believes in the socialisation of industry.
It is our firm opinion, genuinely held, that unless the industries are brought together, unless there is a consolidation of ownership and co-ordination of management, we are going to have very serious disadvantages. What is the case against these competitive, profit-seeking capitalist motives in industry? It is that it fetters freedom of management, especially in the physical changes which are necessary for the well-being of the industry. It increases overhead costs. It has an evil effect on the collective problems of the industry as a whole. For example, it is admitted that it is almost impossible to deal collectively with the problem of the iron and steel industry, the cotton industry and the mining industry, because of the vast number of separate conflicting private ownerships that exist in those industries, and repeatedly this Government and other Conservative Governments have almost had to go on their knees to employers and capitalists in the cotton industry, the iron and steel industry and the mining industry in order to carry through some perfectly obvious economic modification in the organisation of the industry, and it has taken them months or years to persuade the owners to do it, and even then they have not always been successful. That arises from these thousands of separate and conflicting profit-seeking ownerships in industry as 683 a whole. It produces difficulties in the export and import trade.
If our industries were publicly owned the controversy about tariffs would go. We should control our import and export trade as a nation. If we wanted to import we should import, and if we did not want to import we should not import. That would be an infinitely more straightforward way of doing things than tariffs and quotas and subsidies or agreements between capitalists themselves. We believe in the wise bringing together of industrial organisations in a common economic plan, and we believe that it is only when the nation is the master of its economic resources as a whole that we can plan the organisation of our labour, that we can plan the organisation of purchasing power, and that we can do for the first time what we ought to do—namely, as a nation collectively own the material resources of our country, so that Britain shall really belong to the British people and so that we can use those material resources sensibly and wisely in an organised fashion for the benefit of the country as a whole.
§ Mr. MORRISON
No, as in Britain. I have been to Russia, and I have a great respect for much of the economic work that Russia is doing; and if you ask me whether the British are more competent in industrial management, under a potential Socialist State, more competent in the arts of public administration, I say that we certainly are. [An HON. MEMBER: "Impossible."] But we have done these things. Birmingham, Tory Birmingham, has public ownership of water, gas, electricity, transport and, in addition, a municipal bank—all largely done by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was a Conservative Government that planned and socialised British broadcasting.
§ Mr. MORRISON
There are disagreements sometimes about the programmes, but there is no more perfect example of a Socialist institution than the British Broadcasting Corporation, none, and it was created by a Tory Government, under the present Prime Minister. The Central Electricity Board is another 684 example of public enterprise. The telephones are publicly owned, and will anybody say, since the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health sang the praises of the telephones to such good effect—and, I am bound to add, advertised in the newspapers, at proper trade rates, with very great effect—that the British telephone system now is not better managed than it was under the old National Telephone Company? [HON. MEMBERS: "That was years ago."] They will not say so, and if they did the first to repudiate the statement would be the Minister of Health.
Finally, the Government, very obligingly, though doing some bad things in the process, actually completed the passage of my own Bill dealing with London transport, although they had moved its rejection on Second Reading when they were in Opposition because it was a Socialistic Measure. I am grateful to the Government for what they did—up to the point that they did it well. All this indicates that the Tory party do not eternally reject the principle of public ownership, but only reject it as long as they can, as long as it is politically possible to reject it, and when it becomes politically impossible to reject it they give way.
Let me say this to the House in conclusion. We have our disagreements. We have had a good few days' debate and argument and contest about these matters, but I would beg hon. Members opposite, at any rate would beg the country, to realise that while we on this side sometimes seriously criticise our country, and have some hard things to say about it, about its economic problems and the social condition of its people, we love our country as much as any Member on the other side. I was singing its praises in Paris on Friday last, with very great sincerity. I have an enormous admiration for the political capacity of the British people, the way in which they have maintained democracy when, in other countries, it has fallen away, and an admiration for their competence in public administration, in this House, in the Government, and on local authorities. That competence is not confined to members of one section of the community. I have seen the chairman of a baths committee of a metropolitan borough council who 685 could not sound his aitches, whose grammar was even worse than mine, and that is saying something, who had little or no education, who was a railway ticket collector and a very humble man, and I say that man was one of the finest public administrators I ever met.
We have a genius for public administration, we have a genius for orderly administration, we like to see a public job done tidily, cleanly and well. What we like to see in political government this party, rightly or wrongly, wants to see in the economic affairs of the country. We hate the economic untidiness of the present order. We hate to hear stories of a million oranges having been thrown into the Black Sea because the price level would have been "busted" if they had been brought to land. We hate it every time our brave fisherman get fish and have got too many, and they take them back and put them into the sea. We hate it that those miners of ours, some of the finest gentlemen that you want to meet, some of them highly cultivated men—you have heard them talk in this House—go down into the mine—not a very nice job—none of them knowing whether he will see his wife and children again. We feel it not only a, wicked thing for those men, but we feel in our souls that it is a disgrace to our country that those men should have bad conditions and should not earn a living wage.
Every bit of this poverty, this insecurity, this misery, this feeling that we do not know whether we shall have a job for life or an income for life, the ugliness of our towns, the bad planning of our towns, the badness of our slums and the economic misery of the agricultural labourer is to us not only a shame but is a blot upon the good name of a country we love. So we have dedicated ourselves to what we believe, rightly or wrongly, is the only real hope of our country, namely, Socialism. We believe in it passionately. We know that the Government are opposed to it and that, so far, the majority of the people of the country are opposed to it; but when we began we were small and our numbers were negligible. We shall continue to preach the word and to hold out the ideal until a majority of our fellow-citizens, in the interests of the country that we love no less than any other section of the community, will give 686 us a mandate for the reordering of our economic life, for planning our industry and for the bringing of Socialism to a green and happy land.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
Whatever differences there may be as to the result of the Election, there will be common agreement that it has enabled this House once again to hear one of its most brilliant advocates. We all welcome the return of my right hon. Friend who to-night has given us a remarkable illustration of how to put it over. We know that there have been differences on that side of the House and in the right hon. Gentleman's party as to whether he was at heart a true Socialist, and we know that it has been asserted that he has been too mild in his propaganda; in other words, that he has not been true to the faith. Therefore, he says, "My task in addressing the House of Commons must be not to bother about that side, but to convince this side that I am a better Socialist than they thought I was." I think he has done it fairly well.
He opened out with a lead pencil. He said: "If any evidence were needed to prove what sort of Election it was, and how the people of this country were deceived, let them remember that we were accused of buying German pencils, and that that influenced the electorate." Having made that the first ground of his complaint, he said of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister: "I ask him as a decent, honest man, will he repudiate it?" I am within the recollection of the House when I say that he quoted the circular about lead pencils; I am within, the recollection of the House as to the importance he attached to lead pencils; if he had said pen and ink I should have been more impressed. When he said lead pencils, I assumed he meant to attach importance to lead pencils. But, when he wound up on lead pencils, he had to admit that the real cry was that he and the Conservative members of the London County Council both voted for lead pencils. And that, he asked us to believe, influenced the General Election. It will not quite do.
It is true that he said deliberately to us, "You on that side of the House did better than you expected"; and he said: "I did worse than I expected." 687 What he really meant to say was not that at all. What he really meant to say was: "If my side had listened to me, you would have done worse and we should have done better." That is not only what he really meant to say, but what he intended to convey to his "pals" behind him. Therefore, at the last moment, after a minute's consideration, he said, "I had better drop lead pencils and put a bit of soft stuff in." Here I would remind him that he has no right to assume that it is only one section of this House, or one side of this House, that is mindful of the hardships of others. There may be legitimate differences of opinion as to the remedy, but nothing is more unfair in this country of ours than to assume that either sympathy or humanity is the monopoly of any class or party. We can all draw the picture of the bride going to the altar and saying on that memorable day: "My only thought is, will my man have a job?" Those are my right hon. Friend's words, not mine. We can all be sympathetic with the bride at the altar, but we are very doubtful whether she, or any other bride, thought of that.
I am not quite sure whether I ought to defend or otherwise the Prime Minister. I can summarise my right hon. Friend's speech in a sentence. He says, "My complaint is that here we have a Socialist Prime Minister in disguise. He has deceived all these people. He has diddled them." Well, are you happy or discontented with that? If the latter part of the speech was sincere, as I believe it was, that my right hon. Friend wants this promised land, what is he grumbling about? I can only conclude that this winding-up speech of the Opposition is a contribution made not for the benefit of the House or the country, but for the benefit of my right hon. Friend's own friends. Therefore, I am content to deal with the Amendment and the speeches.
The Debate was opened by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) in not only an interesting but a great human speech. When he dealt with the special section of the community in which he is interested, to which he has given his life, there was no Member on any side of the House who was not deeply touched and did not re-echo many of his sentiments. 688 The hon. Gentleman opened out by saying that after four years of unfruitful administration he looked upon the Gracious Speech from the Throne as giving no hope. That could only have one object. It was to convey to the House, or outside, that from 1931 to date the administration either gave no benefit or went back. There can be only one interpretation of that phrase. Could the hon. Gentleman or anyone else on that side of the House go conscientiously to any constituency and justify that statement? Could you say it was an unfruitful administration that in four years had put a million more people in work?
§ Mr. THOMAS
We do not help our case by denying facts. No one can deny that during the unfruitful period that my hon. Friend mentioned there were put into employment over 1,000,000 people. It may well be that that is not all that we should like. You may well say, rightly, you will never be satisfied until all are put into work, and I should agree with that, but I am dealing with the facts of the case. Is it a true statement that it has been an unfruitful period of four years when 1,000,000 more people have been put into work The statement was made and is repeated now, and it was made during the Election in many constituencies, that, in order to reduce the number of unemployed, people were transferred from the unemployment register to the Poor Law. No leader on that bench dare repeat it. The only difference between the House of Commons and the platform is that when statements are made here they can at least he challenged, and they are accepted often outside because they cannot be challenged. When I state that there were a million more people employed in that period of four years, no one can say that it had to do with Poor Law relief or assistance of any other kind. I follow that up again by asking: Is it an unfruitful period of four years that enabled the Government to restore every cut that was imposed?
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL
May I define my expression for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman? What I meant to convey by "unfruitful administration" was that in this period of four years the general condition of the country had not 689 improved, and that the proportion of the nation's income allocated to the wage-earning population was less than it was before.
§ Mr. THOMAS
It is not what you intended to convey. I am merely dealing with what you said as recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Therefore, you will admit that I quoted your words accurately.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I do not want to give way again because this was an agreed time. I again ask: Is it an unfruitful period for over a million more people to have been found work, or the cuts to have been restored, or more houses to have been built than during any other previous Administration, or for Socialist majorities in municipalities to have availed themselves of the Government's credit, enabling them to reduce their interest charges from 5 per cent. to 3½ per cent., and for every Socialist majority on councils of this country to have utilised that four years' period in order to do it? Therefore, I am entitled to ask this House to judge fairly as to whether, with those facts that cannot be challenged, it is a fair statement to make that it was an unfruitful period. I say "No." It was right to use the appropriate phrase—it was "rare and refreshing fruit" during that period.
Coming to the second part of the position, I would ask this further question. My hon. Friend in the same speech dealt with the Colonial Empire. He said:World territory is parcelled out, not by a plan to secure the world's interest, but for the exclusive profit of nations who have gone far from home to conquer and colonise in the past."—[OFFICIAL RETORT, 6th December, 1935; cols. 449–50, Vol. 307.]That was a broad, general statement, which was supplemented to-day by the Leader of the Opposition. He added to it by asking what was going to be the position of parcelling out—I am quoting his own words—of Africa between white, black and brown. I want to know who suggested anything about parcelling out. Whatever faults may be found in British administration it will be admitted that we have set an example to the world. We have proved that no people are better colonisers than ourselves. We have proved, whether it be in regard to white, black or brown peoples, that no 690 one has had a better chance than under the administration of the British Empire. I am entitled to ask, when we hear phrases about aggressors, dictators and an armed Europe, what do hon. and right hon. Members opposite mean when they talk about parcelling out the British Empire? We are entitled to know. We are entitled to say to them that so far as this country is concerned we do not believe that there would be any support of any kind for a policy that hands over to dictators—using their own phrase—parts of the British Empire.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The right hon. Gentleman will not find that phrase in anything that I said. I never said "Parcelling out the British Empire." I said "parcelling out Africa" between rival Imperialisms, as in the past.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I have yet to know that Africa is not part of the British Empire. If we are to be told now that Africa is not part of the British Empire—[Interruption]. Hon. Members may interrupt, and it may be uncomfortable for them to bring the facts home, but that will not prevent me from bringing them home.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The right hon. Gentleman asked for facts. The fact is that the Continent of Africa does not entirely belong to the British Empire.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I did not say anything about entirety. I merely used the phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon when he talked about the parcelling out of Africa. I answer it by saying that so far as we on this side of the House are concerned we have never heard of any parcelling out except from speeches from the other side of the House. [Interruption.] There is a time limit. No one interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not think that I am taking more advantage of the House than he did. He dealt, as I propose to deal, with other phases of the General Election. I want to deal with something that played even a bigger part in the Election than lead pencils or the means test. Am I putting it too high when I say that of hon. Members on the other side of the House there is not 10 per cent. who did not pledge themselves, first, to the abolition of the means test and, secondly, to the statement that the means test was imposed by the National Government. 691 [Interruption.] The House will observe that the acquiescence is from the back benches opposite, not from the Front Bench. When talking about the meanness of the General Election I put it to the House that there was nothing meaner than responsible leaders of the Opposition conveying the impression that they themselves were opposed to any means test. There is no leader sitting on that Front Bench who was a Member of the Labour Government with me who dares to say that he opposed the means test. Therefore, if that statement be true, as it is [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Mr. THOMAS
It is a most remarkable thing that any statement, any abuse of any kind, can be hammered at this side of the House, but immediately we come back it is wrong. In this House we can be called up for any misstatement of fact. The House will meet again and any statement of mine can be challenged, but let us at least have the fairness to face the truth and the facts of the situation. I challenge denial. It is admitted that an overwhelming majority of hon. Members opposite pledged themselves to the abolition of the means test. [HON. MEMBERS: "The family means test."] No, the means test. That interruption clearly demonstrates what I wanted to point out to the House. How many hon. Members opposite had the courage to say to their constituents, "We want to differentiate between a means test and a family means test"? Had you done that it would have been an honest statement. You not only did not do that, but you conveyed the impression deliberately that the National Government was responsible for the means test. [Interruption.] You may stand by that, but you are standing by something that is not true. I will pass from that.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman would pass. He promised to read that statement, and I want to ask him three questions—first, what is the date of the circular; second, was it not the intention of the Government at that time to humanise the Poor Law as it was; and third, whether that 692 circular has anything to do with unemployment insurance?
§ Mr. THOMAS
So far as the Scottish Members are concerned, they have not as much complaint against my right hon. Friend as the English Members. This is the circular:In assessing the amount of relief—"[Interruption.]
§ Mr. THOMAS
—the general principle is that income and means from every source available to the household must be taken into account.Very well, "every means available" must mean a means test.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not understand how hon. Members think that the Debate can be conducted in this way. Hon. Members must remember that they gave the cuts, and they must expect the thrusts.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman is implying that I was responsible for legislation and administration which was new. He knows that is untrue.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The House will observe that my right hon. Friend interrupted me by saying, "Since 1603." I accept for the purpose of this argument that statement. If, therefore, it is true that the means test has been in operation since 1603, how can he put it upon the National Government? I put it to the House that hon. Members opposite cannot have it all ways. Many of them said that this means test was due to the National Government. They now have it on the authority of one of their leaders that it goes back to 1601. I pass 693 from that matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Running away!"] I knew perfectly well that this would be uncomfortable for hon. Members opposite, but however hard they hit they, at least, were given an opportunity of stating their case. I am well within the recollection of the House when I say that I declared my readiness to answer not only points raised in this Debate but also this point which was raised during the General Election. I would refer to one other point made by the speaker for the Liberal party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Running away!"] The House will judge as to the fairness of hon. Members opposite. When a time limit has been agreed upon, they have taken a large proportion of my time and then they accuse me of running away.
I repeat the statement that I have already made, namely, that this "unfruitful union" has in four years put 1,000,000 people into employment, restored the cuts and given the country a housing and slum clearance programme unexampled in British legislation. As far as the claim of the miners is concerned, I put it to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that at a period when negotiations are taking place, Debates in this House do not tend towards a settlement.
§ I express on behalf of all sections of the House the hope that a settlement will emerge which will benefit the miners, but equally I want the miners to be consistent. It is no good for them to go to their constituencies complaining of the cost of living and blaming British agriculture when at the same time they are saying "We do not care what the price of coal is; we want a living wage." [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said so?"] Many of those who sit on the other side of the House have condemned British agriculture and at the same time said that wages must be maintained regardless of the cost in their particular industries. I answer that by saying that I hope there will be a settlement in the mining dispute satisfactory to all, and that from now on we shall conduct our debates without passion, and forget lead pencils when we are dealing with subjects such as we have been dealing with in this Debate.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 140; Noes, 382.697
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Leonard, W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Frankel, D.||Logan, D. G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Gallacher, W.||Lunn, W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Gardner, B. W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Garro-Jones, G. M.||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Gibbins, J.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||McLaren, A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Maclean, N.|
|Barr, J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)|
|Batey, J.||Grenfell, D. R.||MacNeill, Weir, L.|
|Bellenger, F.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Benson, G.||Groves, T. E.||Marklew, E.|
|Bevan, A.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Maxton, J.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Messer, F.|
|Bromfield, W.||Hardle, G. D.||Milner, Major J.|
|Brooke, W.||Henderson, A, (Kingswinford)||Montague, F.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Muff, G.|
|Cape, T.||Holland, A.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hollins, A.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Chater, D.||Hopkin, D.||Paling, W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jagger, J.||Parker, H. J. H.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Compton, J.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Potts, J.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Jones, J. J. (Silvertown)||Price, M. P.|
|Daggar, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Quibell, J. D.|
|Dalton, H.||Kelly, W. T.||Riley, B.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Ritson, J.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Kirby, B. V.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, D.||Rowson, G.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Day, H.||Lathan, G.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Dobbie, W.||Lawson, J. J.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Leach, W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Ede, J. C.||Lee, F.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Simpson, F. B.||Thorne, W.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Thurtle, E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Smith, E. (Stoke)||Viant, S. P.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||Walkden, A. G.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Walker, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Watkins, F. C.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Stephen, C.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Welsh, J. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Westwood, J.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Gledhill, G.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Cobb, Sir C. S.||Gluckstein, L. H.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Cochrane, Comdr. Hon. A. D.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.|
|Albery, I. J.||Colfox, Major W. P.||Goldie, N. B.|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P.||Goodman, Col. A. W.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Colman, N. C. D.||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Granville, E. L.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Assheton, R.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.|
|Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Craddock, Sir R. H.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Craven-Ellis, W.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Critchley, A.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Balniel, Lord||Crooke, J. S.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Cross, R. H.||Guy, J. C. M.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Crossley, A. C.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Crowder, J. F. E.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Hanbury, Sir C.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Culverwell, C. T.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Hannon, P. J. H.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||Harbord, A.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Davison, Sir W. H.||Harvey, G.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Dawson, Sir P.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||De Chair, S. S.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||De la Bère, R.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan|
|Boulton, W. W.||Denville, A.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Dodd, J. S.||Herbert, Captain S. (Abbey)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Donner, P. W.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Bracken, B.||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Hopkinson, A.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Duggan, H. J.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Duncan, J. A. L.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Dunne, P. R. R.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Eales, J. F.||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Bull, B. B.||Eastwood, J. F.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Eckersley, P. T.||Hunter, T.|
|Burghley, Lord||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Hurd, Sir P. A.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Edge, Sir W.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Jackson, Sir H.|
|Butler, R. A.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.|
|Butt, Sir A.||Ellis, Sir G.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall||Elliston, G. S.||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Elmley, Viscount||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Emery, J. F.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Cary, R. A.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Entwistle, C. F.||Kerr, J. G. (Scottish Universities)|
|Cautley, Sir H. S.||Errington, E.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Erskine Hill, A. G.||Kimball, L.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Kirkpatrick, W. M.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Everard, W. L.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Fildes, Sir H.||Lamb, Sir J. O.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br. W.)||Fleming, E. L.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Channon, H.||Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Freemantle, Sir F. E.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Furness, S. N.||Leckie, J. A.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Christie, J. A.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Clarke, F. E.||Gibson, C. G.||Leigh, Sir J.|
|Clarry, R. G.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Levy, T.||Patrick, C. M.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Lewis, O.||Peake, O.||Somerset, T.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Peat, C. U.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Penny, Sir G.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Little, Sir E. Graham||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)|
|Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Loder, Captain Hon. J. de V.||Petherick, M.||Spender-Clay Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Pilkington, R.||Spens, W. P.|
|Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Plugge, L. F.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Lyons, A. M.||Porritt, R. W.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Power, Sir J. C.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.||Pownall, Sir A. Assheton||Storey, S.|
|M'Connell, Sir J.||Procter, Major H. A.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Purbrick, R.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Radford, F. A.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|McKie, J. H.||Ramsbotham, H.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Rankin, R.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Magnay, T.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Maitland, A.||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Reid, D. D. (Down)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Maxwell, S. A.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Touche, G. C.|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Train, J.|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Ropner, Colonel L.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Rowlands, G.||Wakefield. W. W.|
|Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Wallace, Captain Euan|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Salmon, Sir I.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Moreing, A. C.||Salt, E. W.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Morgan, R. H.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Sandys, E. D.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Wells, S. R.|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Savery, Sorvington||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Scott, Lord William||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)||Selley, H. R.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Munro, P. M.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Nall, Sir J.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Simmonds, O. E.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|O'Connor, T. J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Wragg, H.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.