Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,190,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1935, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including sums payable by the Exchequer to the Unemployment Fund, Grants to Associations, Local Authorities and others under the Unemployment Insurance, Labour Exchanges and other Acts: Expenses of the Industrial Court; Contribution towards the Expenses of the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations); Expenses of Training and Removal of Workers and their Dependants; Grants for assisting the voluntary provision of occupation for unemployed persons; and sundry services, including services arising out of the war.
§ 11.7 a.m.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
Hon. Members will perhaps excuse me if I take a little time in explaining the rather complicated provisions which appear in this Supplementary Estimate. The first sub-head, "A—Salaries," is one which requires little explanation. The increase of £5,000 in. the salaries at headquarters is due entirely to the restoration of part of the cuts in salaries. The sum of £260,000 which is required for the salaries at the outstations is made up of three separate items. The sum of £45,000 is required for the restoration of the cuts, £15,000 is due to the new scale of pay for employment officers and clerks which came into force on 1st January, and the remaining £200,000 is due to the extra cost of staff, largely in respect of the additional duties which arose out of the Unemployment Act, 1934. The chief causes for that increase were the new procedure, including the much more complicated ratio rule, which required more staff to work out, the change over to the unemployment assistance allowances, which began on the 7th 1470 January, the expansion of the authorised courses for juveniles and the increased number of juveniles who entered insurance in the new group, 14–16, which was the result of last year's Act. In addition to the results of the legislation extra money was required because we had, during the year, largely increased the activity of the employment exchanges in connection with placing and transference work both for adults and for juveniles. I am sure the Committee will not cavil at any increased expenditure for what I regard as the primary and most important function of employment exchanges, finding work, and not merely the payment of benefits.
The next item is a rise of £300,000 under the heading G.1 as a contribution to the Unemployment Fund for insurance benefit. Here, again, is an increased contribution which ought to be welcomed by everybody in the Committee, because it is the result of increased employment during the year. The contribution of the Exchequer to the Unemployment Fund is regulated by the payments made by employers and workpeople, and that, again, is regulated by the number of people who are in work. In this case there is also the additional reason that the number of juveniles who became insured as the result of the Act of 1934 was greater than was estimated, and there, again, the contribution of the Exchequer is larger.
The next sub-head, G.2, is considerably more complicated. The original arrangements for the transference of some of the functions of the Ministry to the Unemployment Assistance Board were as follows: that transitional payment, even though, after the first appointed day, it was being administered by the Board, would be paid out of the Unemployment Fund as hitherto up to the second appointed day, and after the second appointed day the Unemployment Assistance Fund would be responsible not only for those who had hitherto been on transitional payment but for the new class which, on the second appointed day, would be brought under the Board—that is, the new class of able-bodied who had not been on transitional payment but on public assistance. Hon. Members will recollect that I did introduce a Supplementary Estimate which provided for the expenditure of the Board after the second appointed day, which it was then assumed 1471 would be 1st March. The result of the postponement of the second appointed day is that not only will the able-bodied who were on public assistance not be brought under the scheme, but that those who are on transitional payment and who are now receiving their allowances through the Board will be paid for not by the Unemployment Assistance Fund but by the Unemployment Fund as hitherto.
The real result is that the finance of those on transitional payment will be as was put forward in the Estimates presented last year, because there the calculations were based on the -Unemployment Fund being responsible for transitional payment through the whole year, with a note that if before that time the Fund ceased to be responsible then the balance would be surrendered.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman how the £5,000,000 Supplementary Estimate has been disposed of?
§ Mr. STANLEY
I intended to explain that, but I first of all wanted to make plain what was the machinery both before and after the appointed day. As the hon. Gentleman says, the Supplementary Estimate which the House of Commons passed for the Unemployment Assistance Board, that is to say, for the Unemployment Assistance Fund, was £5,000,000, of which about £4,250,000 was for the payment of allowances after the second appointed day on 1st March. As against that, it was stated in the Estimate that there would be a surplus on the Ministry of Labour account, as opposed to the Unemployment Assistance Fund and of £3,100,000, which would be surrendered. The effect of the postponement of the second appointed day, with the result that the Unemployment Fund of the Ministry of Labour account will bear the cost of transitional payments throughout March, is that there will be no surrender of the £3,100,000 which we thought would be surplus, and, secondly, that I have to ask the Committee for this additional sum of £1,000,000.
The reasons for this increase above the original Estimate of last year depends upon a certain number of factors of none of which it is possible to calculate the precise effect, but which, put together, give a general picture for this increase. 1472 There are three factors which have led to an increase of expenditure on transitional payments and one factor which has led to a decrease. The three factors which have led to an increase are, first of all, that even before 1st July, when the restoration of the cut took effect, a slightly higher average payment was being made to those on transitional payment than had been estimated at the time that the Estimates were prepared and put before the House in the spring of last year. Secondly, there was the factor of the restoration of the cuts after 1st July, and thirdly there was the factor of the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) Act, which embodied the standstill agreement and which, of course, increased the cost of transitional payments by giving to those of the transitional class not only the benefit of the transitional payment that they had before but the benefit of any advantage due to the Board's scale, if, in their own case, the Board's scale was more favourable to them.
The total effect of those three factors which led to an increase in the expenditure on transitional payment during the year is about £4,600,000. The factor of the decrease was the lower numbers of people on transitional payments during the year than were estimated, and that was due to two factors, first of all to a lower number on the live register of unemployment, and secondly to a rather bigger effect of the transfer of people from transitional payment to full benefit than had been anticipated. The amount of decrease of expenditure due to these causes is estimated at about £3,600,000, and, deducting that from the £4,600,000 of increase, we get the figure of £1,000,000 as the net increase, which figure. appears in this Estimate. With regard to the question which the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) asked me, the House has sanctioned, of course, the expenditure by the Board of the £4,250,000 during March on allowances to the two classes of the unemployed. Owing to the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) Act and the postponement of the second appointed day, they will be unable to spend that money, and it will be available for surrender at the end of the year.
Now I will pass to the next item of the Estimate in regard to grants to public 1473 assistance authorities in connection with their work on transitional payments. This is purely an accountancy increase, due to the fact that hitherto when the arrangements for the local authorities have been continuing, the claims which they make have been inclined to be considerably in arrear, and it was estimated that a larger proportion of these claims would not fall to be paid until the next financial year. The fact that the arrangement terminated on 7th January has obviously had some effect in accelerating the putting forward of these claims, with the result that we shall pay a rather bigger proportion in this financial year and consequently a rather smaller proportion in the next financial year.
The next increase of £20,000 deals with loans and grants to facilitate transfer of adults and juveniles. A greater number of advances has been made to workers for their fares to take up employment, and the figure is increased from £24,000 to £30,000. A higher number of grants has been made towards removal expenses of workers and their families transferred from depressed areas, amounting to £17,000, an increase of £7,000. There has been an increase in juvenile transference which involves an increase in fares and an increase in maintenance towards the cost of living, accounting for an extra £7,000. In the next item, an additional sum of £13,000 is required as a contribution of the Exchequer to the National Council of Social Service. In the original Estimate, provision was only made for this contribution until the end of the calendar year, 31st December; this Supplementary Estimate deals with the grant made for the three months between the end of the calendar year and the end of the current financial year.
I turn now to the anticipated saving which has to be deducted from the £1,648,000 of additional expenditure. The principal part of the anticipated saving which has to be brought into account is in regard to courses of instruction for unemployed juveniles. There, the Committee will see, £170,000 less has been spent than was estimated. The reason for the decrease in the anticipated expenditure is threefold. The first reason is that the Act was brought into operation rather later than was originally anticipated, and therefore less time was available for getting the 1474 courses started during the financial year. The second reason was that greater difficulties were encountered than were anticipated in getting centres started in South Wales. The chief difficulty in almost every case has been the finding of suitable premises for the courses, because we have taken the view, with which I think the Committee will agree, that to start these courses in unsuitable or improper premises would have a most deleterious effect, and that delay is worth while if it means in the end that more suitable premises will be found. Thirdly, some of the decrease has been due to the fact that juveniles leaving school have been absorbed into employment at a better rate than was originally anticipated, and, therefore, fewer of them have been under the necessity of attending these centres. The other item of saving, namely, that of £88,000 under Sub-head M (Training of young unemployed men), is due entirely to a smaller average attendance at both training and instructional centres than was anticipated when the Estimate was framed last year.
The only other point with which it is necessary to deal is the item of £200,000 for appropriations-in-aid, which, deducted from the £1,390,000 at which we have arrived, gives the final figure of £1,190,000 for which this Supplementary Estimate asks. The appropriations-in-aid are increased by £300,000, as a result largely of the increased expenditure under Sub-head A (iii) and under Subhead H.2. The increased expenditures which in the first place are borne on this Vote are repaid to the Ministry out of the Unemployment Fund, and account for £300,000. From that we have to deduct £100,000, which would have been the contribution of the Fund to the provision for junior instruction centres and for the training of young men both in instructional centres and in training centres. Owing to the fact that the expenditure in these directions has been less than was anticipated, the appropriation-in-aid from the Fund has been less than would be expected, and, therefore, this £100,000 has to be deducted from the increase of £300,000, leaving a net increased appropriation-in-aid of £200,000, and a total Supplementary Estimate of £1,190,000, which is the sum that I now ask the Committee to sanction.
§ 11.29 a.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The Committee have by this time been led to expect that, when the Minister of Labour is explaining estimates or supplementary estimates, it is no light task for him. The Supplementary Estimate which is now before us is perhaps the most complicated one that the Minister of Labour has ever been asked to explain to the House, and I think the Committee will have very great sympathy with him in his task, which he has performed, if I may say so, with distinction. I think, however, it is very unfair of the Government to ask the Committee to sit and listen to an explanation like that at this early hour of the day. I do not know what the rest of the Committee felt like, but I felt as though I was undergoing a kind of mental surgery. Complicated as was the state of finances in relation to the Ministry of Labour before the time of this Government, it was as simple as the alphabet compared with what it is now.
As I have said, We have much sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman in his task; he must have put in a lot of work in order to try to help us to understand this Supplementary Estimate; but really the finances connected with this matter of Ministry of Labour administration have got into a hopeless tangle—there is no other word for it. I am sure that, if a Labour majority had been sitting on the other side of the House, and had got into a position where they had to add and subtract, to give and to cancel, in the way that the right hon. Gentleman has had to do this morning, the Government would not have lasted two minutes. I can imagine the right hon. Gentleman himself sitting here on an occasion like this, and the Postmaster-General too. They would have had all the array of talent out in order to use the knife upon the Government; and, what is worse, the Press, which is present at our discussions, would certainly have had something to serve up to the public in the morning newspapers, and they would have served it up in such a way that it would have led the public to ask, "Well, did you ever know such a Government to rule the country as this one?"
The Estimate that we are discussing this morning is not a very large one, but is a very important one; it deals with many very important points. The additions of £5,000 and £15,000 which 1476 are due mainly to the restoration of cuts are welcome as far as we are concerned; they are payments to the staff; but the item of £200,000 for new legislation is one that must give the Committee food for thought. The right hon. Gentleman explained in detail, and we appreciated the detail of his explanation, what the £200,000 was for; but this item compels one to ask just where we are going with this new legislation, which was supposed to simplify everything, and to deal directly in a newer and more thorough way with the unemployed both juvenile and adult. This is a new item. I should like to know just how much ultimately we shall have to pay for this new legislation.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The hon. Gentleman will note that this £200,000 is not brought about by the operation of new legislation, but by the development of the existing function of the Department in placing and industrial transference.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Yes, I agree with that. I do not know that the right hon. Gentleman told us what was the exact sum for new legislation, but it is an indication of what is to come. I wonder whether we are going to be told the cost of this new administration? We were told that the finances of the administration connected with unemployment were going to be put on a firm foundation. I think that was one of the items on which the election was fought. The sliding about and the uncertainty in conection with the finances of unemployment was to be ended and we were to know just where we were. I will give the Committee this warning. Some day we shall have an opportunity of examining meticulously the finance of these new schemes, that is the new Act and all the methods that have been put into operation in order to put the unemployment finances on what is called a firm foundation. While the unemployed have been punished because of reductions and embarrassed in many ways as the result of all this new method it will be found that, instead of placing the unemployment finances upon a firm foundation, it is very possible that they are on a much more sandy foundation than ever they were before. The third item, G.2, among other things deals with the standstill arrangement. I am glad to see the item for the restoration of the 10 per cent. for the transition people. I think that is one of the proofs 1477 of the position that we took up during the discussions on the Bill. We could not get anything definite—the Minister did not know what the position was—but the 10 per cent. has been restored as far as it was possible with such shifting amounts. To that extent, of course, we welcome the item.
There is also the item for the extra allowance under the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) Act. That is to meet the needs of the standstill arrangement. As far as the standstill arrangement is concerned, there are complaints. I think a good many of them are due to the difficulty to the ordinary layman of understanding standstill arrangement. I get cases sent to me. I have had one or two this morning. They pour in regularly. Most people in the 20 odd divisions in the North-East seem to think that they elected me, because they send their cases on to me. They set me a puzzle. I wish, when I am working them out, that I had some of those gentlemen, who are mainly conspicuous by their absence to-day, who made those very elaborate calculations on those benches during the time the regulations were being discussed. We had them putting up imaginary cases which would have done credit to a senior wrangler. I scratched my head and wondered if I had been properly schooled in arithmetic in my young days. If we do not spend too much time over this arrangement to-day, it must definitely be understood that we are not only against the regulations which have given effect to this kind of thing, but that the hostility that we expressed during the passing of the Act, of which this is the result, has been underlined and emphasised by time and by experience, and we shall certainly not let up one bit until there is an end of Part II of this Act.
I want to draw attention to the item for junior instruction centres, on which there is a saving of £100,000. The Committee might well give some attention to this matter, because the right hon. Gentleman said that the cause of this position generally was that the Act had come into operation late and that they had not been able to get under way at the proper time. That is a very ingenuous explanation of the situation. The question is, as it was originally, will his junior instruction method meet the 1478 need of dealing with the juvenile unemployed.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman cannot raise that point on the Supplementary Estimate. No doubt he will be able to develop the argument on Monday.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I only wanted to gay that it is a strange thing that there is a saving on this particular item. There are large numbers of children who are not in juvenile instruction centres, and therefore there is some need for the Minister to explain why there is such a saving. According to the latest figures published, there are 45,816 boys and 43,000 odd girls between 14 and 16 who, according to the Ministry of Labour Gazette, are unemployed, a total of 89,000. The Minister told me yesterday that during the week ending 6th February there were 32,000 boys and girls who attended classes at juvenile instruction centres and that the average daily attendance was 27,000, but according to the published figures there are 89,000 of these juveniles unemployed, and, in fact, if we take those from 14 to 18, there are 149,000 unemployed. That is a very serious fact. We were told that this was one of the means whereby the Government were going to deal with unemployment among juveniles, which is concentrated particularly in given areas, and which is the worst of it. I understand that about 75 per cent. of these boys and girls are concentrated in about four of the eight divisions in the country. This is not due merely to the late coming in of the Act, but to the fact that the Government machine is not working as it was thought it would do and is partly due to the general breakdown.
There are other items that hon. Members will raise during the discussion this morning. It is a pity that in the case of such a complicated Estimate we have not more time to discuss it, as there are other matters to come on after this one. Here are several items which touch many activities of the work of the Ministry, which is the most important Ministry in the whole range of government as far as the internal affairs of the country are concerned. A good many items, at any rate, could be dealt with under this Estimate, most of the items of expenditure of which we certainly welcome, complicated as they are, but when Estimates 1479 of this description are submitted to the House in the future, there ought to be more details given to hon. Members who sit here and try to understand them. The Minister has been very useful this morning in making the difficulties as simple as possible, but, when it comes to items amounting to £1,190,000 touching the main parts of one of the most important departments in the Government, the Ministry might well consider giving more detail in the Supplementary Estimate submitted to us. If it happens than this Estimate to be passed on a Friday does not receive a long discussion, the Minister and the Government can take it for granted that later on we shall pursue the application of this finance and the immediate results so far of the legislation of the Government.
§ 11.49 a.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May I ask for your guidance, Captain Bourne, before going any further I Will it be in order to discuss and object to savings on page 4 of the Estimate or any other savings. I call your attention to that matter, because of the:Anticipated savings on Sub-head L.2. (Courses of Instruction for Unemployed Juveniles) £170,000 and Sub-head M. (Training of Young Unemployed Men) £88,000.Are we not entitled to discuss questions concerned with those savings and argue that in our judgment the savings ought not to have been made or even that the provision is not sufficient? Cannot they come in for general discussion, seeing that we are asked to sanction savings? I would like some guidance on that point.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Of course, the Committee are obviously entitled to criticise the savings that appear on page 4 as such, but I would point out that where, for instance, the establishment of juvenile instruction centres is based on a policy, we cannot now discuss that policy. We are perfectly entitled to discuss whether the amount of the savings is excessive or is too little, but we must not go into a discussion as to whether these things are desirable.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Thank you, very much, Captain Bourne. I was not raising the question of whether we might discuss the principle of the establishment, but only the user of this or the non-user, as the case might be.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Obviously, on the question of the savings that the Committee are asked to sanction, hon. Members are entitled to say that the saving is either too great or too small.
§ 11.52 a.m.
§ Mr. COVE
I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the very point which has now been raised. The Minister in his statement, as I understood him, said that there had been a saving of £170,000 on the provision of juvenile instruction centres, and that it was due to one or two facts, that employment among children had been better than was anticipated and that new buildings were not being erected at a pace that even he would desire. He seemed to emphasise—and with this I agree—the necessity of new buildings rather than temporary buildings, which will be inadequate for meeting the problem which has arisen with regard to the juveniles. I have been in touch with one or two areas and have obtained the impression that the real reason for the saving is found in the delay of the Ministry of Labour themselves.
I have had consultations in one or two areas in South Wales where the problem is rather large, and I formed the impression there that the Ministry are not providing any drive with regard to the erection of juvenile instruction centres and that delay is taking place. I was informed by the Director of Education in one particular area that the plans had been sent up a very considerable time ago—but perhaps I had better give the right hon. Gentleman the information privately. I was in touch with that area when the plans were first being formulated, and both the officials and the education committee concerned were tackling the problem in as big a way as possible under the provisions of the Act, but so far no sanction has- been given. I was informed very specifically and definitely that the emphasis and concern of the Ministry. for the time being was not to extend and improve the provision in those areas which were depressed, which already had one or two juvenile unemployment centres and others were desired, but that they were holding those areas back where there was some provision and emphasising the need in some areas where there is no provision.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I can well appreciate that the hon. Member does not want to give me the names of the particular instances, but if he would tell me the sort of area he has in mind it would be helpful.
§ Mr. COVE
It is a mining area in South Wales, with a very large population. I was there within the past ten days and I was assured by those responsible that they have been ready for sonic considerable time, but that there was delay at the Ministry in sanctioning the plans that they had sent up. The right hon. Gentleman said that there had been a saving owing to the fact that juveniles had found employment in greater numbers than had been anticipated. I do not think that ought to provide an excuse or even a reason for no further extension of education facilities. It is not only a question of the number of the children that are going into employment, but there is the vital significance as to the kind of employment they are going into.
When we have had Debates on unemployment and we have been criticising the industrial system, hon. Members opposite have said, "Look at the growth in the number of people who are being continually employed. As our population is increasing the number of people who are employed has also been increasing. That has been indicative of the general health and strength of our industrial system."
§ Mr. COVE
The point that I want to make is this: The Minister assumes that these boys have got employment, and I am trying to show that the fact that they have got employment is not a sufficient reason for the savings embodied in this Supplementary Estimate. In reading the Ministry of Labour Gazette for last month I was staggered by the list of children from 14 to 16 who had entered various occupations. I found that out of a total number of boys who had entered into various occupations, namely 499,492, some 155,969 had entered the distributive trade. One-third of the children going into industry, roughly speaking, are entering trades and occupations for which there is no future; blind-alley occupations. A Government that was alive to the reserves of skilled workers that will be necessary would have been concerned 1482 not to save money on the erection of these juvenile training centres but would have been concerned in providing educational institutions of this character or some other character which would have supplied the skill necessary if Britain is to progress along her industrial path.
When one looks at this problem and reads the reports of the university surveys that have been made, one cannot help being struck by one or two grave and important facts. In certain areas there is a shortage of juvenile employment, but in some areas, even in the staple industries, such as coal mining, there has been an actual shortage of juvenile labour. But anyone who has given any attention to the problem must realise that there is, generally speaking, a surplus of juvenile labour, while any one who has studied the reports will have realised that in the last ten years or so even in our staple industries, such as cotton, coal mining and shipbuilding, employment for children has become a blind-alley occupation. There is no hope for continued occupation in those industries.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have looked at the Act and I discover that the condition of entry into these classes is that the person has no work to do. The fact that it is, in the opinion of the hon. Member, undesirable that young persons should take up a particular form of work, is out of order on this occasion, because that would require an alteration of the Act.
§ Mr. COVE
I know that it is an extremely difficult problem. The Minister has ridden off with satisfaction on the point that these children are going into work and that we have saved this money for that reason and because of the difficulty of building. I have formed the impression that the Government in regard to the juvenile instruction centres and the raising of the school age have fallen between two stools. They have no policy in regard to either of those subjects. There is no drive one way or the other. There is a sort of vague idea, which has been given by the vague phrases of the Prime Minister, that we may have the raising of the school age. I am afraid that the real reason for the non-extension of the juvenile instruction centres is the lack of definite policy in regard to the juveniles. The Government are 1483 allowing them to drift. Anyone who has seen the children in the depressed areas knows the tragic plight that they are in. In my area, and it is common to other areas, I have been appalled at the wire pulling for the most paltry little jobs. One would imagine from the way that parents try to bring influence upon people that there was a job going like a town clerkship, with a good salary, when it is only a paltry little job. There are many boys unemployed between 14 and 18 and up to 18. The problem is not envisaged unless we go beyond the age of 14–16. There are many reasons for believing that the problem lies beyond that age. The Ministry of Labour have investigated this matter and have issued two or three reports, and they find that the heaviest incidence of unemployment is from 18 to 24.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now going into a general debate on the question of juvenile employment. That is appropriate to Monday's Estimate and not to to-day's.
§ Mr. COVE
The savings that have been effected seem to bear out the general impression that the Government are not keen about the erection of these juvenile instruction centres. The delay seems to me to be thoroughly unjustified.
The Minister cannot say that education authorities have not been keen to help. There has been no delay on their part; they have been anxious to get on with this job. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for having the idea of good buildings. I pressed that more than once during the progress of the Unemployment Bill in 1934, and pointed out the disgraceful buildings which exist in some parts of the country. I do not blame the Minister for wanting good buildings, but the desire for good buildings must not be made the excuse for doing nothing so far as juveniles are concerned. I hope he will not be satisfied with having saved £170,000 on these juveniles. The whole problem of juveniles wants reviewing. I understand that in some trades there is an actual shortage of skilled labour, but the extent of the shortage is not known, and the Government are doing nothing to provide the training which is necessary for obtaining this skilled labour. This is one of the big problems of modern 1484 society, it goes to the heart of our progress in the future as an industrial nation. Our hope is to train skilled juveniles and ensure that their skill is used in the various industries which are springing up. I am surprised at the apathy of the right hon. Gentleman. We all appreciate his good qualities, but we are surprised at the apathy of his Department with regard to the whole problem of juveniles. I protest against the saving embodied in the Supplementary Estimate.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
We have pointed out various defects in these Estimates, but I have been wondering what a heyday it would have been for the Postmaster-General if he had been in opposition and was criticising this Estimate. It is somewhat difficult to understand the Estimate, and I hope that some other method will be adopted which will enable us to understand it a little more easily. As one gets on in life arithmetic does not come quite so easy. I am speaking for myself, there may be supermen in the Committee who are just as clear on arithmetic to-day as they were when they were 30 years old. My mind is not so clear, and that is why I should like these Estomates to be made a little more easy to understand. I want to raise a point with regard to loans and grants to facilitate the removal of workers and their dependants. There is some difficulty in this matter. Those people who remove from one district to another, having accepted employment somewhere else, are not quite clear as to their position if they fail in that employment or if it ceases. They are not clear as to the means available to them for getting back home. I have made inquiries from the Ministry, but have never been able to get satisfaction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) wanted to deal with the question of juveniles in a fuller and more comprehensive manner than the Estimate allows. I should like the Minister to explain what kind of occupations these juveniles go into when they are removed from one district to another. I was reading the "Colliery Guardian" this week in which it was stated that there was a dearth of juvenile workers in various localities, that there was not sufficient juvenile labour in the mines in some parts to carry on the work. That is quite true. In some places there is a feeling against young persons going into 1485 the mines, and there are many mine workers who do not like the thought of their children going into the mine. I should like to know whether the removal of juveniles from one part of the country to another is for employment in the mines. It is rather important, because our future depends on the question of juvenile labour. Adults tend to fix themselves in a certain groove and the nation has to look to skilled juvenile labour for the future. It is no good putting juvenile labour into blind-alley occupations. The productive is the important side, and unless we can give the young a decent future there is no hope for them when they go out in life. I hope that we shall have a fuller and more exhaustive statement on the question of the removal of adults from one part of the country to another and on the question of juvenile labour, because it would help us in next Monday's Debate if we had some idea of the line to take in that Debate.
§ 12.13 p.m.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is satisfied that the standstill order in collieries is being fairly worked. During the past few weeks I have had a number of letters from various parts of Yorkshire stating that in their opinion the standstill order is not being worked fairly. It may be that changes and circumstances are the main causes for the complaint, but I want the Minister to request his officers to explain to every applicant for assistance who feels aggrieved the exact position as far as the individual case is concerned. If that is done it will convince the applicant that he is getting a, square deal under the standstill order. The Estimate, I notice, is for £20,000 more for loans and grants to facilitate the removal of workers and their dependents. I should like to know whether there has been any change in the conditions attaching to the loans and grants to people who are transferred from one district to another. I notice that the hon. Gentleman's annual report for 1933, on page 29, says:The general arrangements for transfer remained substantially unchanged, but at the end of the year some modifications in the household removal scheme were on the point of application.1486 Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to tell the Committee what change has been made in the household removal scheme, and whether or not some of the families have been removed. I wonder whether there has been any change with regard to the limitation to people who live within a depressed area. Let me give a case with which I have had to deal, and one which shows the anomaly. A certain colliery is shut down, and large numbers of people are thrown out of work permanently. A number of these men have to appear before the court of referees, and it is suggested to them that there is some work some miles away, and that if they are prepared to remove they will be assisted by the household removal scheme. This anomaly cropped up. One man lived within the depressed area, and he was able to get the assistance of this scheme by virtue of the fact that he lived within that area, but a number of other men, who were thrown out of work at the same pit, because of the fact that they lived over the border of this depressed area, though they were quite willing to try this work, they could not be assisted by this scheme, simply because they lived outside the depressed area. There is certainly an anomaly there which ought to be looked into, because unemployment to-day is not confined to certain depressed areas. You may have what, after all, is a comparatively prosperous geographical area, but in a particular corner of it there may be acute unemployment, where you may have men just as keenly anxious to be transferred to permanent work as men in another area. I hope, therefore, the Minister will look into that matter.
I do not want to transgress the limits of debate, but I would say that there is a great deal of nonsense talked about industrial transference as a cure or remedy for unemployment. I remember a former Minister of Labour, not a Labour Minister, assuring a deputation from the Miners' Federation some years ago that by industrial transference he could reabsorb all the unemployed in the mining industry. I thought at the time he was either speaking without full knowledge of the facts or had been misinformed. I am satisfied that industrial transference cannot solve the unemployment problem.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member, as long as he was asking questions on these points, was perfectly in order, but I think he is now going beyond that.
§ Mr. SMITH
I bow to your ruling, but I was finishing that point. I was trying to show that while industrial transference is desirable, it is not going to be that great benefit in solving the unemployment problem that some of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors used to argue.
The next point to which I want particular attention to be paid is in respect of the employment exchanges when they propose transferring men from one district to another. It is no earthly use transferring unemployed men from one area to another if in that other area there are other unemployed men able and willing to do the work that is going in that area. It is a source of great irritation. It is true that when they have brought this matter to the notice of the unemployment exchange managers they have done their best to—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think, again, the hon. Gentleman is going beyond the point of merely putting a question.
§ Mr. SMITH
I would like to ask the Minister, then, whether he would take good care to see that none of these men from the unemployment areas are sent to places where there are large numbers of people out of work. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that in a certain part of Norfolk a great deal of irritation was expressed because a group of young miners from the North-East were being imported into that county for sugar-beet work, while in that area there were at least 400 agricultural labourers out of work who were willing and anxious to do this work. Those men coming from that area to do the work not only caused irritation to the people in the locality, but left the young chaps themselves in rather an invidious position, and built up in their breasts false hopes which had to be shattered. I hope that the Minister will look into the whole question of this industrial transference, and will remove any anomalies which he finds.
§ 12.21 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
We are discussing to-day a most important Supplementary Estimate, and one can only regret that the 1488 discussion is confined within such narrow limits. There are one or two of the items to which I am definitely opposed, and about others I would like some more information. On page 5, there is the item G.2—grants for transitional payments and administration, £1,000,000. It says:The Estimate now submitted provides for the increase in the average rate of payment during the year and for the extra cost of allowances under the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1935, for the period 7th January to 31st March, 1935.As this is such an important item, I would like the Minister to tell us how many of the recipients of transitional payments did really receive an increase in the average rate of payment during the year. Will he also tell us—because he ought to be able to tell us to-day—what has been the extra cost of allowance under the standstill arrangement. The Minister ought to be in a position to-day to give us information on those two points. One asks the question for the reason that when the Government. decided to increase the benefits, some of us were very doubtful as to whether there would be much increase to the men on transitional payments because of the means test. We have not the figures for 1934, but in the Ministry's Report for 1933 one notices that the transitional payments allowed at benefit rates for renewals and revisions was £4,083,137, while the amount at lower rates was £2,793,821. One would have liked to have had the information to-day as to how many who are in receipt of transitional payments really received any increase of payments during the year. Then the Estimate says:Saving due to the smaller number of persons in receipt of transitional payments, etc., as compared with the number assumed for the original Estimate.I confess that it puzzles me how the Ministry, in framing their original Estimate, could have made such a mistake as to estimate for £3,600,000 more than has actually been spent. It seems to me that the Ministry ought to have been able to get far nearer to the amount of money that they would need. One questions whether the saving has been made because of a mistake in the number that would need payment. Having in mind the report of the Ministry for 1933 one would naturally 1489 think that the Estimate would have been based on the experience gained in 1933. One notices that on 1st January, 1933, the numbers receiving transitional payment were 1,097,102 men and 76,687 women. On 18th December, 1933, the numbers were 957,554 men and 55,519 women. So that there were really from 140,000 to 150,000 fewer men and 21,160 fewer women receiving transitional payment at the end of the year than at the beginning. As the Ministry of Labour had this information it is difficult to understand how they can say that in the Estimate to-day the saving of £3,600,000 is due to the lesser number drawing transitional payment at the end of 1934 compared with the number at the beginning of the year.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I do not follow the hon. Member. I do not see what the figures for 1933 have to do with the figures for 1934.
§ Mr. BATEY
They have this to do with the matter: When the Minister came to form his Estimate for 1934 and had before him the experience of 1933, one would not have expected him to make such a mistake as has been made in the Estimate for 1934. The Minister has saved £3,600,000. It makes one suspicious and makes one wonder as to what really are the lower numbers receiving payment. My suspicion is that the saving is not so much due to smaller numbers as to the more rigorous application of the means test. One has that suspicion in the absence of figures as to the numbers drawing transitional payment at the end and at the beginning of the year respectively.
I now turn to the item relating to the National Council of Social Service. There is a figure here of £13,000. I am strongly opposed to paying another shilling to the National Council of Social Service. I say nothing against the organisation. It may be and I daresay it is a worthy organisation, but I object to public money being given to these outside organisations, money that could be better spent if handed to the unemployed. One has the feeling that the more money we give to these outside organisations the stronger is the argument of the Government for cutting down unemployment benefit and giving as little as possible. What surprises me is how the amount of money that we are paying 1490 to the National Council of Social Service has jumped up. I remember that in 1932 the then Minister of Labour came to the House and said it was proposed to give to the National Council £10,000, and the House, thinking that there was no likelihood of any further vote, agreed to the payment of the, £10,000. In 1933 the amount jumped to £25,000, and in 1934 to £40,000. What surprised me was that when that £40,000 was voted for 1934 it was only voted until 31st December.
I believed in 1932, 1933 and 1934 that when we were voting the huge sums of money to the National Council we were voting them for the whole of the financial year. To-day we find that we have to vote another £13,000. I object to the huge jumps in the amounts that are being given to the National Council. If the Government has money to spend let them give it to the unemployed to feed and clothe them. That would be far better than giving it to the National Council in order that unemployed young men may attend dramatic classes or physical culture classes. Of course the Minister will be able to say, "Ah, but there are lots of young men who are always prepared to go to these classes." Of course there are. I do not care what the colliery village is, but if someone starts a physical culture class and there is boxing the young men will attend.
One or two of my colleagues have raised the question of transference, and I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) was not allowed to proceed with the discussion of that question, because it is a sweet morsel to some of us. We like to discuss it because we regard transference as absolutely useless. We are proposing in this Supplementary Estimate to grant a sum of £20,000, which is to carry us up to the end of the financial year, in respect of loans and grants. I noticed that the Minister referred to this item as being in respect of loans and grants to workers and their families to enable them to take up employment elsewhere. If this item were in respect of grants alone I do not suppose that we should complain of it although we feel that the transference of men is a poor solution of the problem of unemployment. This item, however, represents both loans and grants and I would like the Minister to tell us in the first place how much has been spent and 1491 how much it is proposed to spend on loans, as compared with grants.
I have in mind the case of a young electrical engineer who was sent from Durham into Northumberland and had one or two weeks work there. He was given his train fare and now he has to pay back that train fare out of his benefit week by week. That kind of thing makes the position worse for the men concerned. It is no use for the Minister to say that the Government are doing a lot for the unemployed in this respect and that they are prepared to grant railway fares in order that these men may find employment outside their own districts when, in fact, these are really loans, and not grants and the men have to repay these loans, often when they are far from being in a position to do so.
I would also like the Minister to tell us what are the real prospects of finding employment for those who are to be transferred with the aid of this £20,000. I would remind him that the opportunities for finding occupations for the men whom they are transferring are becoming less and less. In the year 1930, 30,000 men were transferred from the depressed areas. In 1931 that figure had dropped to 19,000; in 1932 to 12,000 and in 1933 to 8,000. It seems to me that the market is becoming saturated and that there is less possibility than ever now of finding jobs for these young people who are transferred. We have not yet got the Ministry's report for 1934 and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us how many were transferred during that year and what are the present prospects of further transfers? Before requiring us to vote this £20,000, I would suggest that the Minister should look again into the report made by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty who visited the North East and especially to read page 93 of that Report in regard to transfers.
I leave the question of transfers there, and I come to one item which the Minister himself said required a little explanation. That is the item of £5,000 to meet the cost of restoration of cuts as from July, 1934—half the emergency reduction made in 1931. I oppose this increase. I know that in doing so I am opposing an increase to the Minister himself, but I want to say that I intend no personal reflection whatever upon the Minister. In my opinion, if there is any 1492 Minister in charge of any department of the Government who is entitled to £5,000 a year it is the Minister of Labour. I want to make that position clear. I consider that the Minister of Labour is worth far more than a lot of other Ministers in charge of other Departments. But, as a matter of principle, I oppose this increase to the officials for this reason. In my opinion before we agree to restore any cuts to well-paid officials—and I am dealing more at the moment with the well-paid officials in the Ministry of Labour—we should first restore to the unemployed what they were called on to sacrifice. They are entitled to first consideration, and only when they have received that consideration are we entitled—
I think the hon. Gentleman is now getting perilously near a question of general policy.
§ Mr. BATEY
I was afraid of that and I do not propose to go further into the matter. I only wanted to refer to some of these well-paid officials in the Ministry because in my opinion we are spending money on officials which ought to be given to the unemployed. When the National Economy Act was first applied, it was applied to the unemployed and they are stil suffering from it, in spite of such restorations as have been made. They are stil suffering under the means test and, while that applies to them, and while I have the opportunity of doing so, I shall oppose any restoration of cuts to officials. In my opinion this is one of the most important Supplementary Estimates with which the Committee will have to deal. It raises very important questions and the pity is that, being a Supplementary Estimate, we are confined in our discussions upon it and are not allowed to debate the principles involved in it.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE GRIFFITHS
I desire to put one or two pointed questions to the Minister. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) asked him to look into some cases in connection with the standstill order. I would like him to look into paragraph 6 of the Unemployment Assistance Board's scales in relation to the standstill order. This paragraph is to the effect that when assessing any exceptional expenses etc. 1493 the Board shall take certain matters into account and in that connection I wish to put to the Minister a case from my own division which is astounding to me. There are over 100 men there on transitional payment. The practice in my district has been to pay a weekly contribution to a "club doctor" he is called. When these men were under the National Health Insurance medical benefits they had the club doctor for the family for 5d. per week. They have not now those medical benefits and the doctor does not now get their panel fees and the doctor has raised the amount of these men's weekly contributions to 9d. from 5d. One of my hon. Friends is asking if the doctor gets it, but if he does not get it, he does not attend, and the unemployed man has either to pay the 9d. or to lose his family doctor altogether. I want to know whether in the standstill order he will instruct the officer who is assessing the needs of this household to take into consideration even these few coppers.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I do not think I have made myself plain. Under the standstill arrangement the man is entitled to the same assessment on transitional payment from the public assistance committee as before the 7th January. Therefore, it is important to know whether, before the 7th January, in a case of this kind the public assistance committee made an allowance for it or not.
§ Mr. STANLEY
If it was done by the public assistance committee before the 7th January, then, of course, the man is entitled to it under the standstill agreement, but I understand it would not have been done.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
This is a new factor that has come into the case now. These men have been told by their private doctor that they must now pay 9d. a week. When they were employed at the pit they only paid 5d. a week for what we call medical services for the 1494 family. They are not employed now, but they are drawing transitional payment. They have drawn it for over two years and nine months, and they are now out of medical benefit under the public health service, and the doctor is saying, "I have not got your panel card now." That is, I think, 8s. 6d. or 9s. a year, and the doctor says, "Not having that card, I cannot doctor you and your family now for the same amount as when you were in work." This means that they have got to pay 9d. a week as against 5d., which is an increase of 80 per cent.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but what happened to the 5d. a week which they were paying before the 7th January? How was that taken into account by the public assistance committee?
§ Mr. LAWSON
I think the right hon. Gentleman is overlooking this fact, that it is definitely laid down that under the board reasonable expenses have to be allowed.
§ M. STANLEY
That is an argument, and I am sure the hon. Member could give me an answer to my question.
§ Mr. STANLEY
When these men were paying 5d. a week before the 7th January, did the public assistance committee take that payment of 5d. into account when assessing transitional payment?
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I could not definitely state what they did. The only point that I wanted to emphasise was that now that they are not paying their panel fee to the doctor, the doctor says, "I must have from you now, as an unemployed person who is not in medical benefit under the National Health Insurance Act, 9d. a week instead of 5d." I hope the Minister will look into the question under the standstill order.
Under item H 2, it states that the additional sum required for grants to public assistance authorities in connection with the transitional payments scheme is £50,000. As a member of a public assistance committee which has carried out this work since the 12th November, 1931, when it came into operation, I 1495 want to say that the Ministry of Labour has not been paid the full equivalent for the services which have been rendered to it all along the line since transitional payment has been in operation in this country. There are hundreds of very important officers belonging to public assistance committees who have worked hundreds of hours for years, and they have been paid a paltry honorarium—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think that question must arise on the main Estimate. This is merely an increase.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I will try it down another channel, Captain Bourne. The £50,000 is not sufficient to meet what ought to be paid out to people who do not belong definitely to the Ministry of Labour but who are in the department of the Minister of Health. I hope that the Ministry of Labour, when the applications come forward, will consider them more favourably in the future than it has done in the past, as far as these honorariums are concerned. To turn to another matter, I see there is a saving of £88,000 over the training camps. Personally, I am pleased that there is this saving. The workers in the country are up against these training camps entirely. They do not call them training camps; they call them conscription camps, and they look upon them with very great disfavour.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member now appears to be going into the general merits of training camps. He must raise that on Monday.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
Thank you, Captain Bourne, but I want to congratulate the Minister on saving £88,000, and I hope he will spend no more on these training conscription camps, because just as he came to the Table about three weeks ago and said, "I am sorry for so-and-so", if these camps are carried on, some of the hon. Members from the other side will come as they did on the 28th and 29th January, and they will plead with him to abolish these conscription camps entirely. Therefore, I congratulate him on not having spent so much money in these camps.
§ 12.53 p.m.
§ Sir GEOFFREY ELLIS
I want to say a few words with regard to juvenile in- 1496 struction. I understand there is a shortage of juvenile labour in several skilled trades, and that it is a growing shortage. I think there is a shortage in what corresponds to apprenticeship too, and that is due in many cases to the inability of some parents to let their children go to work because they cannot afford to maintain them during apprenticeship. Has my right hon. Friend considered whether he could not, in certain circumstances, take juveniles into these instruction courses, and make some arrangement for a maintenance grant where he is satisfied that if the child is put to work at what corresponds to an apprenticeship, there is good prospect, in two or three years' time, of that child taking to the particular skilled industry and eventually being able to become an efficient member of it?
We may be told that that would be regarded as a subvention in aid of industry, but let me put it in another way. There are to-day, so far as clerical education is concerned, considerable subventions for industries which are already overcrowded, and I suggest it is not unfair that we should begin to consider the needs of other industries, and give an allowance of some kind to make an opportunity to people who cannot afford to put their children to apprentice work and are therefore obliged to send them to blind alley occupations.
§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Mr. LECKIE
I want to say a word in favour of the grant of £13,000 for the National Council of Social Service. I was surprised to hear an hon. Member on the Labour benches criticise that grant with such severity. I know something about the national council and the work they are doing in my area, and I venture to say, after a great deal of knowledge of it, that no money in the Estimates is better spent or is bringing in better value than the money voted for this cause. It is a comparatively small sum and trifling in many ways, but it is doing a great deal of good in connection with occupational centres. I know some of the officers and I cannot too highly praise their splendid work throughout the Midland area. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member say that if the Government had money to spend they ought to give it to the unemployed. I can imagine the horror with which the Opposition benches 1497 would receive an announcement that £13,000 was to be distributed among the unemployed. They would say it was a ridiculous sum to give for such a purpose. Given to the national council, this this money is doing a great deal of permanent benefit to many unemployed men and women, and I hope that the Minister will continue to encourage the national council in their splendid work.
I was also sorry to hear the objections which have been raised to the transference scheme. It may be true that this work is not going on with the rapidity of past days, but there is no doubt that that is very largely owing to the attitude of labour to the scheme. The Labour party says "no" to everything, and nothing constructive comes from the Opposition benches with regard to the unemployed. It is distressing to some of us who are anxious that more should be done that no constructive suggestions are made by them. When the Government try to do anything they are at once strongly opposed by the Opposition benches. I hope the Government will continue to do all they can to encourage the transference scheme because the transference of young people from the distressed areas to better areas is of the greatest benefit.
§ 12.59 p.m.
§ Mr. GROVES
I would like to ask the Minister whether the standstill order has been forwarded to my area? I would also like to know whether the Minister has perused the forms which are issued to persons under the Unemployment Assistance Board. I should have thought that, as far as possible, they would have been made 'simple and easy to comprehend. I wonder whether the Minister will assist the Commitee to appreciate these wards, which appear in the opening paragraph of the form:The actual amount payable to you will be based on the rate in Col. (2) or Col. (3), whichever gives the higher amount payable for the week (see 1 overleaf) ".On looking at "1 overleaf," we find these words:Adjustment of your allowance in respect of earnings and unemployment benefit will be made as follows. Each week two calculations will be made at the local office.
s. d. for every day in the week (excluding Sunday) on which you are not unemployed, and (ii) one-sixth for any day of unemployment benefit in a week for which an allowance is paid.
- (a) On the basis of deducting from the amount shown in Col. (2) overleaf—(i) an amount equal to half your earnings in the week or the amount by which the earnings exceed five shillings, whichever sum is
1498 greater, and (ii) any unemployment benefit in respect of any week for which an allowance is paid.
- (b) On the basis of deducting from the amount in Col. 3 overleaf—(i) one-sixth/The sum actually paid in any week will be the larger of the two amounts so ascertained.I have given this careful thought, but I cannot understand what that means. I understood when the standstill arrangement was made that the people who were affected would be no worse off and that, providing there had been no changes in their households and that nothing had been previously withheld from the committee, there would be no change. I do not expect the Minister to be able to deal with every isolated case, but I have, from my huge pile, brought three cases here to-day. I have satisfied myself after careful inquiry that there have been no household changes in these three cases. I would like the Minister to explain how it is that in one case before me, that of a woman living with a very ill mother who was previously getting 24s. a week is now receiving 14s. There is another case, dated 20th February, of a man previously receiving 26s., who is now reduced to 9s. 6d. How can we justify such reductions after what has happened in the House in the last week or so? It is difficult for me to tell these people that they can make an appeal. An appeal may take a week or two, and it is a serious thing for a man with a household to sustain himself on such a reduction.
I am always moderate in the way in which I put my view, and I do not frequently bother the House. I shall be glad if the Minister will tell us about these cases, which are typical of many we have received. This does not appear to be a standstill arrangement, but a gallop, and I feel sure that the Minister, with his usual courtesy, will say something to assure us that those determinations which are obviously harsh and contrary to the spirit of the statement he made in the House some time ago will receive attention. I will hand over the cases to the Minister with great pleasure. Something may have gone wrong; but in any case I must stand up for the people in my area. If the standstill arrangement is to apply it must apply 1499 all round, and in that area as well as in any other, and I therefore would beg his attention to these grievances, which are very serious ones.
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Mr. PALING
I have one or two questions to ask and one or two points to put. With regard to the itemJ.—Loans and Grants to facilitate the removal of Workers and their Dependants.the Minister had so much to say on one head or another that I could not keep in mind all he did say, and I am not sure what he told us with reference to "J". May I suggest, in passing, that these Supplementary Estimates should contain more information than they do, because that would save a lot of trouble. Among other things he mentioned that additional fares had been paid to adult workers and others. I would like to know whether there has been a more generous scale of fares and grants to people who are transferred, and, if so, how much of that does this Supplementary Estimate account for. On the other hand, we have had a statement that the number of workers transferred is actually less. I do not know whether that is true or not, but I should like to inquire whether the market is getting saturated and whether there are fewer opportunties each year for the transfer of workers. The Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary stated some time ago that a special appeal had been made to employers in the case of boys and girls who were transferred. The position was that the wages paid, even though they were trade union rate wages, were too low having regard to the fact that the boy or girl had to pay for lodgings, and it was stated that employers had been asked to take this into consideration and to give more than the trade union rates to these transferred boys and girls in order to meet the extra cost of maintenance. I wish to know whether anything has been done in that direction, and, if not, what steps the Ministry take to assure themselves that if the boys and girls are not getting extra wages they are paid sufficient from some source to allow them to have decent board and lodging.
With reference to the headingO.—Grants for Assisting the Voluntary Provision of Occupation for Unemployed Persons.1500 I find on reference to the Vote itself that in 1935 £75,000 was allocated for this purpose, being an increase of £22,000 over the year before. I understand that the money paid to these people was paid only to the end of December, but so far as the Vote is concerned there is nothing to indicate that. I want to ask whether, when this Vote went through, it was indicated that that £75,000 was only to be paid up to the end of December, as has been stated this morning.
§ Mr. PALING
Oh, yes. I beg pardon. That probably explains it. But with regard to this sum of £13,000 under Heading "O.", has the Ministry any control over it, because at the bottom of the page there is a footnote which says:Expenditure out of this Grant-in-Aid will not be accounted for in detail to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Any balance—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member is really dealing with next year's Estimate. I have turned up the Estimate for 1934–1935 and no such footnote occurs. I think we had better leave next year's Estimates alone.
§ Mr. PALING
I agree that that is so, but I want to know whether that observation applies to the money provided in this year's Estimate. Further, I should like to ask whether the bulk of the work in connection with this service is done voluntarily or what salaries are paid. How far does this money go in providing what are called occupational centres, and how much goes in providing extra clothing, etc.? A few weeks ago I saw an advertisement in the "Radio Times" with the statement at the top "Men cannot work without trousers."
§ Mr. PALING
It went on to explain that so many people in the poorer districts were so short of clothing that charitably-minded people ought to send them whatever they could out of their wardrobes. I think that appeal has a relation to this matter.
§ Mr. PALING
Probably it was, but in any case I am asking whether that appeal had any relation to this work. Then there is the last item:S—Appropriations in Aid.I am surprised to see that there has been a saving of £170,000 here. Sonic people may take the view that it is rather less necessary to spend money upon education than in other directions, but I think all would agree that money spent on those unfortunate children who have left school but cannot get a job is money well spent, and I am surprised that it should have been possible to save £170,000 in that direction. I think the Minister mentioned as one reason that in some cases the buildings were unsuitable, and that perhaps it would be better to wait until suitable buildings were obtained than to put children into unsuitable buildings. That might be right, but, if there be nothing in a locality but what the Minister terms unsuitable buildings, how long have the children to wait before a building is placed at their disposal? I am rather suspicious that, if suitable buildings cannot be found, that may be made an excuse for waiting an unconscionably long time, or perhaps for doing nothing at all. Suppose that there be only poor buildings: is it not better to educate children in poor buildings than for the children to have no education at all? I am afraid that the latter is what is actually happening.
I should have expected that the increase would have been swallowed up to a, larger extent than has been the case. The Ministry knew that a larger number of children would be coming out of the schools and that, for that reason, the demand for instruction would probably be greater. If that be so, it appears to me that the Ministry have not made very good preparations to provide instruction for the children, and I Am sorry that the Minister has not found it possible to spend this money. I am inclined to think that a cheese-paring policy, a policy of economising in pounds, shillings and pence, is one of the reasons why the money has been saved. I should have thought, after the experience which the Ministry of Labour has had, above all Ministries, and especially during the last 12 months, that this would have been the 1502 last way in which they would have endeavoured to save money. If the authorities responsible for initiating schemes were not doing so, the Ministry should have been on their track, asking them what was being done. I suppose I am right in assuming that those authorities have to make a report to the Ministry of Labour and that the Ministry are always well aware of what is being done. The Ministry must, therefore, have been aware that this money was not being absorbed, and the Ministry must take the blame. I hope that the Minister will give us some good reason, not An excuse, why these things have happened. In any event, if they have happened, and if they could not have been helped this year, I hope that matters will be speeded up next year so that these things do not happen again.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
Let me deal at once with the last point raised by the hon. Member, because it is by far the most important topic which we have to discuss on this Supplementary Estimate. Nothing could have given me less pleasure than to have to announce a saving on the amount which we hoped would have been expended on junior instruction centres during the course of the year. It is only fair that I should state plainly what may already be known to hon. Members opposite, but which has not always emerged clearly from their speeches. The duty, or the power, of providing these centres is not placed upon the Ministry of Labour, but upon the local education authorities, and the Minister of Labour approves, and gives a grant. Hon. Members must, therefore, realise that the rate of Government expenditure must be conditioned by the speed with which proposals are put up by the local authorities.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The hon. Gentleman knows that the duty is upon the local authority to, submit proposals to the Minister, and it is my duty to speed up 1503 those proposals and to give every encouragement to their being put forward. Let me categorically deny what the hon. Gentleman says, that there has been any attempt on the part of the Ministry of Labour to hamper or restrict local authorities in putting up proposals. On the contrary, no effort has been spared to spur the enthusiasm of the authorities who, on some occasions, had not displayed quite the enthusiasm which the hon. Gentleman has attributed to all local authorities, but rather more of that laggard spirit which he has chosen to attribute to the Ministry of Labour. The speech which the hon. Gentleman has made this afternoon may be useful from the point of view of speeding up these proposals. I do not think that the idea has ever got about that the Ministry of Labour were not keen upon the provision of junior instruction centres, but the idea certainly has got about, no doubt without foundation, that the party to which he belongs and the scholastic profession which the hon. Gentleman represents, are in many cases not at all enthusiastic about the provision of these centres. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's speech, giving such a glowing tribute to their use and urging so enthusiastically their acceleration, will do much to show that the whole of his party and the whole of his profession believe in the utility of these centres and would like to see local authorities and the Ministry developing them to the fullest extent.
§ Mr. COVE
The right hon. Gentleman has said that I represent the scholastic profession. May I say that I represent here the Division of Aberavon? I say categorically—I made my position perfectly clear—that I believe that this scheme is only a substitute, but the Ministry has got it on the Statute Book. I have been in touch with certain areas, and the information which has been given to me from responsible people, not from political parties, is that the—
§ Mr. STANLEY
I gave way because I thought the hon. Member wanted to ask a question. I certainly repeat that the speech of the hon. Member for Aberavon—he speaks as the Socialist Member for Aberavon and as an ex-member of the teaching profession, and in our educational debates I have often heard him 1504 claim to speak for teachers as such—coming from him, will have very great weight with both Socialists and teachers and will, I hope, add to the enthusiasm for the provision of these centres. I cannot answer his charge with regard to the particular area that he mentioned, as he said—I quite appreciate his motives—that he preferred to tell me privately what it is. When he tells me, I certainly will investigate the matter and will let him know. Out of 30 schemes which have been put up for approval in Wales, 22 have already been approved.
As I said in introducing this estimate, one of the first difficulties was that the Act was unfortunately passed just before the holiday season in local government as in national government, and there was considerable delay in beginning the preparatory work. Secondly, there have been quite unexpected difficulties in many areas, and in South Wales among those, in finding satisfactory premises.
§ Mr. STANLEY
Yes, if necessary. The increase in the average number of juveniles attending these courses is now going up very rapidly. The average for the quarter ending on the 30th September was 11,154; for the quarter ending on the 31st December it was 17,629; and the latest figure for February is 27,000. That is an indication that this work is now proceeding rapidly, and that the initial difficulties are being overcome. I can give the Committee the assurance that I believe nothing to be more important than the provision of these juvenile instruction centres, and that the whole weight both of myself and of my Ministry is thrown on the side of their provision at the earliest possible date.
Considerable discussion took place on the item which deals with transfer and removal. It would, of course, be out of order, Major Milner, for me to deal, as some speakers have attempted to deal, before they fell under the eagle eye of your predecessor, with the general policy of transfer and training. I explained the reasons for the small increases, and the one question of real substance was that put to me by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), who, I know, has had to go away. He wanted to know whether there had been any change in the scheme since 1933. There has been a 1505 change during this year. It is in favour of the transferred worker. It is rather long and complicated for me to detail to the Committee now, but I will consider the most suitable manner in which I can give the House particulars of the alteration which has been made in the scheme.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), dealing with the question of juvenile transfer, asked if I could give him some instance of places to which these juveniles were transferred. I can give him an example which has happened quite recently. Birmingham is a city where the placing of juveniles in work is not a matter for the Ministry of Labour, but is run by the local education authority. As a result of what I may describe as an appeal to the local education authorities who were undertaking that work, they have now entered into an arrangement with Liverpool whereby they take from Liverpool a certain number of juveniles at regular intervals and place them in employment in Birmingham. Arrangements are made for the after-care of these juveniles, and I desire to emphasise the fact that the greatest care is taken, wherever the Ministry's transfer scheme for juveniles is in operation, never to transfer a juvenile to any employment, however good it may seem at the moment, if it appears to be of a blind-alley kind. No juveniles from depressed areas are ever transferred through the machinery of the Ministry of Labour except to employment which we believe will be permanent employment, and not merely temporary.
§ Mr. TINKER
Is a record kept and sent to the head office of the transfer of juveniles, showing what has happened, say with regard to transfers from Liverpool to Birmingham, and into what occupations they go I I think that that would be very useful.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I will certainly look into that question, because, the more facts we have about this scheme and the fewer misconceptions there are about it, the more, I know, I shall get the support of hon. Members opposite. One or two speakers, including the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), dealt with the National Council of Social Service. Clearly it would be out of Order to discuss, on this Supplementary Estimate, the policy of the Government in giving 1506 these grants to the National Council, but I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the work which is done in the country by the very many hundreds of those who assist the National Council in purely voluntary work on behalf of the unemployed. The hon. Gentleman says: "You have £13,000 here; why not have given it to the unemployed?" Giving it to the unemployed would mean giving them about 2d. each—
§ Mr. STANLEY
That might mean 10d. each; but that money, devoted as it is to the work of the National Council, brings, I believe, a much greater value to the unemployed than would the distribution of such trifling sums in themselves.
§ Mr. STANLEY
Because the financial year of the National Council of Social Service was a calendar year, from January to December. Up to now the grants have been paid in that way to fit in with their financial year. In future, I understand, they are going to be paid to fit in with our financial year, and the original estimate for the year will contain the estimated provision, not for nine months, but for the whole 12 months.
The hon. Gentleman also expressed some surprise at its being possible for the Ministry of Labour in their Estimates of last year to have made such a gigantic mistake in estimating the number of people drawing transitional payments as would result in a saving of £3,600,900. That may sound a large amount, but he will realise that, when you are dealing with the cost per year of the unemployed man, quite a small difference in the number of people will mean a very big difference in the annual amount of, the payments. In the case of last year, the Ministry had to estimate two figures which it was quite impossible to foresee. The one was the number of people on the live register, and the other the actual number of people who would be transferred from transitional payments to benefit by the alteration in the ratio rule; and I think hon. Members will realise that, in making an estimate of such in- 1507 calculable factors, a difference of only something like 50,000 or 60,000 in the numbers unemployed is a difference that might well have been made either way. In any case, I can give the assurance that there is no sinister motive behind it.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I have not the figures here, but I will certainly get them for the hon. Member. He could find them for himself by looking up the unemployment return, say, for February last year and the monthly return for December. That gives the percentage of those who are drawing transitional payment. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Griffiths) raised a point about the standstill arrangement in his constituency which I will look into. Before he was called to order he delivered certain remarks upon the saving on training camps. He was given enough time by the Chairman to denounce these training centres for the unemployed as slave camps. I hope the Chair will give me enough time to say that such a description of these camps is so grotesque as hardly to merit contradiction. I wondered that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who was sitting just under him, could have sat still when he heard that description being applied to one of these centres. I think the hon. Member went on to say slave-like conditions. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, who takes the greatest interest in these centres, knows well that such a description is quite grotesque, and I do not believe that anyone who has ever visited one of these camps, who has ever seen the arrangements there or talked to the people there could ever have repeated r: statement of that kind. I hope that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, who was responsible in his time for running these camps and has kept up his acquaintance with them since, will take every opportunity of telling his own people what a misrepresentation that is both of his policy and of mine.
The hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) raised one or two individual cases under the standstill agreement with 1508 which I am sure he will realise I could not possibly deal without knowing the facts, but I will certainly take up the matter with the Board. The hon. Member for Winchester (Sir G. Ellis) raised the question of apprenticeship. One of the matters that I hope to go into in my talks with various industries is this question, which I believe is becoming a pressing one, of the real shortage of skilled labour in certain industries in order to see what arrangements can be made within the industries and what assistance can be given by the Government for improving that state of affairs. I think I have dealt with most of the main points that have been raised. If there are any that I have omitted, I will look through the report of the Debate and will communicate with hon. Members.
§ 1.39 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Friday is always regarded as a dull day in Parliament, but the intervention of the Minister and the Debate that we have had to-day has made it little brighter than usual. The Minister appeared to be a very unhappy man. He has probably the most distasteful task in the Government, but he does it well. Today he was called upon to clear up the mess of the Government. If any co-operative society, trade union, friendly society, approved society or local authority carried on its business as this Government has done, there would be howls from the Tory Press as to its incompetence. If the Government were in private trade and conducted its business on these lines, it would have been declared bankrupt long ago. It is bankrupt of ideas. This Supplementary Estimate is really a reflection of the conflicting interests in the Government itself. You have a Prime Minister who calls himself a Socialist and you have ardent free traders who are working a tariff system.
§ Mr. DAVIES
It comes under the letter "L". The Minister blamed more or less, as I think he was entitled to do in part, the local authorites for not doing their duty in providing junior instruction centres. Only about a fifth of the juveniles who ought to be catered for are attending instructional centres. When the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the local 1509 authorities ought to do more, with which we agree, I would call his attention to Clause 13 (2) of the Act of 1934, which provides that where a local authority fails to do its duty under this Clause, the Minister has powers of compulsion.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I never suggested for a minute that any local authority has any intention of failing to do its duty under that Act, but these negotiations with local authorities often take a certain amount of time, and on our part we are speeding them up as much as we can. I should like to take the opportunity of making it clear that I am certain, whatever the delays are, every local authority will carry out its statutory duty in the matter.
§ Mr. DAVIES
That does not destroy the fact that I stated. The Act was passed in June, 1934, and it is now St. David's Day, 1st March, 1935. It is time the Minister took upon himself the authority that he possesses to pursue the matter further. I notice that, as usual, the Government have had only one supporter in the whole of the debate. The hon. Member for Winchester (Sir G. Ellis) was as critical as we are.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I was a little astonished. I hope I do not misinterpret what the hon. Member said. If I remember rightly he said that parents nowadays could not afford to send their children out to work.
§ Mr. DAVIES
May I revise my statement, that some parents could not afford to send their children out to work as apprentices. That is a very damaging statement against the employers of this country, because, in my view, employers should not employ even apprentices without paying them something for their upkeep. I would query very much indeed the suggestion contained in that question that the State should subsidise the em 1510 plover where children are employed as apprentices.
I will pass on to the point with which I really want to deal. We have been told something about this standstill arrangement. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that it was anticipated that in the Lancashire County Council's area every person who fell to be dealt with under the Unemployment Assistance Board would be better off under their scales simply because the Lancashire County Council public assistance authority was always the meanest in the land. I hardly thought that would be the case, and that I would have cases from my constituency where, under the standstill arrangement, some able-bodied men would receive less than they used to receive from the Lancashire County Council public assistance authority, the meanest of all public assistance authorities. But I have a batch of letters here to-day, and, quite frankly, like my hon Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves), I cannot understand what they mean. When the right hon. Gentleman is looking into the administration of this standstill arrangement, I should like to ask him to inquire, not why persons are receiving less than they used to do, as in the case of South Wales and Durham where the Labour party is in a majority, but how it comes about that there are people in the County of Lancashire, where the public assistance scale was about the lowest in the whole of England, and where some of the amounts, paid in my division now are still lower than that.
There must be something wrong with the whole of the administration under this Government, and I repeat that the Supplementary Estimate to-day is not only a question of money and figures but a reflex of the conflict of interests among members of the Government themselves. We have riot heard the last about this business, and it is not the last word that we shall say on the matter. Although the right hon. Gentleman has done his level best to explain away this Supplementary Estimate, he made one remark about which I am a little doubtful. He told us that the increase of £300,000 in connection with one part of his Supplementary Estimate was consequent upon increased employment. Naturally, I am not as familiar with this problem as he is, or even as my hon. Friend the Mem 1511 ber for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) is, but it will be very interesting to know whether the contributions of young persons from 14 to 16 are included in the £300,000, and, if that be so, there cannot be the claim that the £300,000 is a reflex of the increased employment among the people of this country. I should like to ask him—I do not know whether he will be able to give the answer to-day, but perhaps he may at some future date because it is a very interesting subject—to find out how many young persons from 14 to 16 have actually come under the new scheme.
Finally, I would say that the following facts have come to my notice with astonishment. There was a time when young people brought under the unemployment insurance scheme were dismissed at 16 years of age because of the cost of the social services. Now, however, I hear the same
§ tale told again, and that they are dismissing not because of the cost that comes about consequent upon unemployment insurance at 16 but because of the extra cost of paying contributions under the National Health Insurance scheme. If that is the case then indeed we have reached the stage when the Government ought to tune up the mentality of the employers of this country and ask them in the negotiations which the right hon. Gentleman is now carrying on with them that they should play the game towards these young people whom they employ.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,189,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 23; Noes, 132.1513
|Division No. 74.]||AYES.||[1.53 p.m.|
|Batey, Joseph||Groves, Thomas E.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Wilmot, John|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William|
|Edwards, Charles||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gardner, Benjamin Walter||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. John and Mr. Paling.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Elmley, Viscount||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Assheton, Ralph||Fox, Sir Gifford||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton. E.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Ganzonl, Sir John||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Blindell, James||Goldie, Noel B.||North, Edward T.|
|Bossom, A, C.||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Nunn, William|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Grimston, R. V.||Ormsby-Gore. Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Hacking, Rt Hon. Douglas H.||Penny, Sir George|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney amp; Zetl'nd)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(Wverh'Dt'n,Bilston)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hanbury, Cecil||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hartland, George A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Chorlton. Alan Ernest Leofric||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Collins. Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Ker, J. Campbell||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Cooke, Douglas||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Knight, Holford||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Davies, Maj, Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovll)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Denville, Alfred||Llewellin, Major John J.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Dickie, John p.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Mac Andrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Duncan, James A. L.(Kensington,N.)||Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Sinclair. Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||McKie, John Hamilton||Skelton, Archibald Norl|
|Eills, Sir R. Geoffrey||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Smithers, Sir Waldron||Tate, Mavis Constance||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Somervell, Sir Donald||Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Spens, William Patrick||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||Wood,Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Stones, James||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Watt, Major George Steven H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Sutcliffe, Harold||Whyte, Jardine Bell||Sir Frederick Thomson and Dr.|
Resolution agreed to.