HC Deb 03 March 1936 vol 309 cc1204-335
Ministry of Labour 9,500,000
Unemployment Allowances 17,400,000
House of Lords Offices 25,000
House of Commons 110,000
Expenses under the Representation of the People Acts 70,000
Treasury and Subordinate Departments 145,000
Privy Council Office 5,000
Privy Seal Office 1,300
Charity Commission 13,200
Civil Service Commission 8,500
Exchequer and Audit Department 52,000
Government Actuary 12,400
Government Chemist 26,500
Government Hospitality 3,000
Import Duties Advisory Committee 19,600
The Mint 25,000
National Debt Office 500
National Savings Committee 35,000
Public Record Office 13,000
Public Works Loan Commission 10
Repayments to the Local Loans Fund 37,000
Royal Commissions, etc. 16,900
Miscellaneous Expenses 7,000
Secret Service 100,000
Scottish Office 35,000
Foreign Office 62,000
Diplomatic and Consular Services 650,000
League of Nations 130,000
Dominions Office 17,300
Dominion Services 200,000
Irish Free State Services 1,118,000
Oversea Settlement 5,000
Colonial Office 55,500
Colonial and Middle Eastern Services 260,000
Colonial Development Fund 350,000
India Services 405,000
Imperial War Graves Commission 70,000
Home Office 340,000
Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum 23,700
Police, England and Wales 5,906,000
Prisons, England and Wales 550,000
Approved Schools, etc., England and Wales 75,000
Supreme Court of Judicature, &c 10
County Courts 10
Land Registry 10
Public Trustee 10
Law Charges 40,000
Miscellaneous Legal Expenses 34,000
Scotland: —
Police 225,000
Prisons Department 53,500
Approved Schools, etc. 20,800
Scottish Land Court 3,600
Law Charges and Courts of Law 14,850
Register House, Edinburgh 10
Ireland: —
Northern Ireland Services 4,500
Supreme Court of Judicature, etc., Northern Ireland 16,100
Land Purchase Commission, Northern Ireland 1,190,000
Board of Education 17,500,000
British Museum 85,000
British Museum (Natural History) 45,000
Imperial War Museum 4,100
London Museum 1,950
National Gallery 13,850
National Maritime Museum 2,500
National Portrait Gallery 2,950
Wallace Collection 3,800
Scientific Investigation, etc. 105,000
Universities and Colleges, Great Britain 980,000
Scotland: —
Public Education 3,200,000
National Galleries 5,000
National Library 1,050
Ministry of Health 6,000,000
Board of Control 60,000
Registrar General's Office 32,000
National Insurance Audit Department 55,000
Friendly Societies Registry 16,000
Old Age Pensions 16,100,000
Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions 6,500,000
Grants in respect of Employment Schemes 1,350,000
Commissioner for Special Areas (England and Wales) 10
Unemployment Assistance Board 630,000
Special Areas Fund 1,000,000
Scotland: —
Department of Health 1,250,000
Board of Control 5,150
Registrar General's Office 6,200
Commissioner for Special Areas (Scotland) 10
Board of Trade 84,000
Mercantile Marine Services 125,000
Department of Overseas Trade 150,000
Export Credits 10
Mines Department of the Board of Trade 66,000
Office of the Commissioners of Crown Lands 12,000
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries 1,000,000
Beet Sugar Subsidy, Great Britain 90
Milk (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) 400,000
Cattle Fund 1,065,000
Surveys of Great Britain 105,000
Forestry Commission 200,000
Ministry of Transport 60,000
Development Fund 300,000
Development Grants 200,000
Department of Scientific and Industrial Research 185,000
State Management Districts 10
Clearing Offices 10
Scotland: —
Department of Agriculture 190,000
Milk 50,000
Fishery Board 38,500
Herring Industry 18,000
Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain 115,000
Houses of Parliament Buildings 40,000
Labour and Health Buildings, Great Britain 95,000
Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain 59,000
Osborne 4,000
Office of Works and Public Buildings 180,000
Public Buildings, Great Britain 431,000
Public Buildings, Overseas 46,000
Royal Palaces 29,000
Revenue Buildings 516,000
Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens 67,000
Rates on Government Property 1,200,000
Stationery and Printing 750,000
Peterhead Harbour 11,000
Works and Buildings in Ireland 10,000
Merchant Seamen's War Pensions 93,000
Ministry of Pensions 15,500,000
Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions, etc. 635,000
Superannuation and Retired Allowances 800,000
Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, England and Wales 15,000,000
Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, Scotland 1,975,000
Total for Civil Estimates £136,240,000
Customs and Excise 2,100,000
Inland Revenue 2,550,000
Post Office 25,000,000
Total for Revenue Departments £29,650,000
Total for Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments £165,890,000"

4.0 p.m.


I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

I move this reduction in order that the Committee may be seized of some of the aspects of the problem of unemployment and the administrative work of the Ministry of Labour. I can recall the years when there was no Ministry of Labour. They were years of agitation for the establishment of such a Ministry. Labour interests were prejudiced by the absence of a State Department which definitely would be answerable for labour and industrial interests to a degree never previously known. We looked forward to the establishment of such a Department and felt that its work and development would be of immense social and industrial service. We have been greatly disappointed by the result. There has been a lack of the spirit for which we hoped, and of the imagination and the vision which we felt should be applied to the administrative service of labour interests in this country. I do not mean solely the interests of the wage earners, but I do mean that the wage earners have a first claim upon the work and duties of a Ministry of Labour.

As yet that Ministry has not raised itself above the level of a second-class Department. I think it is officially recognised as being no higher than that. But it is first in point of cost. What the total now is I cannot recall, but I know that it runs, in respect of its administrative work, into a charge of some millions of pounds. It must, of course, do much which cannot be compared with the work of any other Ministry, and it has an immense network of administrative services, buildings, offices and premises, all over the country. So I agree that it is different. But it is like in many respects to other Ministries which are worked at much lower cost. Unfortunately it will have to be admitted even by the Minister himself that its main function has descended to that of doing no more than a glorified insurance office. It collects large sums of money and it pays out as little as it can. It is not regarded as being fitted either by spirit or culture for the general direction of the interests of industry in this country. It recognises that there are millions of people unemployed whom it cannot put into a job, and that it must keep them alive by paying them benefits for which they largely have paid contributions.

Even Ministers themselves in this Department may scarcely be said to be in the enjoyment of regular employment. It is an office of frequent change. In the last two or three years there have been at least three different Ministers of Labour. It is a Department, ever changing in its chief supervisor. I suggest to the present occupant of the office that his predecessors were not moved because of their great success, that they did not step down because they were too good any longer to fill their posts. What the fate of the present occupant may be is still not revealed to us. I can only say that I wish him well, and that as long as the present Government is allowed to last, he may last in its service. But I put it to him that he has lacked much of the human touch which is necessary to make his job successful. It is a big job that confronts the right hon. Gentleman. If the Ministry of Labour is to take its proper place in relation to the problem of unemployment that problem must be recognised as still being unfortunately the greatest of our internal preoccupations.

The condition of the unemployed becomes worse and worse as their period of unemployment is prolonged. Many social, domestic and other problems are engendered merely by the fact that men and women are out of work for prolonged periods. I shall quote very few figures. It is known that generally the present figures of unemployment show very little change for the better in recent times. They are sometimes up and sometimes down. The unfortunate central fact of the position is that the Government seem to accept unemployment, even in its present degree, as having become a permanent feature of the industrial and economic life of the country. I do not see in any of their speeches or writings anything that precludes that conclusion. It is a pitiful thing that after their long term of service as a Government, with their great numbers, with facilities that their predecessors never possessed, with a majority in this House ready to do their bidding and to make it easy to overcome opposition—with all these unrivalled facilities it is a lamentable thing that the Government still regard unemployment as en enduring condition in the economic and social life of our country.

The first thing I would allege against the Government is that some of the little but none the less substantial things that might have been accomplished have not even been attempted. In yesterday's Debate we had some reference to the advisability of placing in the distressed areas certain of the new industries and opportunities for work that lately have arisen in this country. Yet that has not been done. The only defence or explanation given was that when we could disentangle from the jumble of words uttered by the Lord President of the Council, when he said that the reason for not diverting some of these newer industries to the distressed areas was that employers of labour gave a lot of little reasons which, taken together, made a sufficient cause for taking no particular action.

I happen to be associated with a county which has nit been classified officially as a distressed area. But Lancashire for a dozer or more years has suffered, in point of trade losses, in point of general decline of opportunities for work, as badly as some of the worst of those areas which are classified as distressed. The Government ought to be aware of the censure that repeatedly and in increasing degree of late has been hurled at them by the employers of labour in Lancashire, because of the neglect of the interests of that great county. All that we have yet had submitted as a practical remedy by the Government is the Bill now being considered in Committee, a Bill which it is known—I challenge denial of this statement—must have the effect of throwing more people out of work, by deliberately closing mills by processes of purchase through the medium of a levy to be imposed on the trade itself. We do not deny that the processes to be followed in that Bill will be good for some, will give financial relief to the banks and others in need of money, but its effect upon the cotton operatives of Lancashire will be to add to the number of those thrown out of work.


The right hon. Gentleman has challenged a denial of that statement. There is the other side of the case—that there will be much more full-time employment for other operatives, much more security of employment, and quite possibly better wages in future as a result.


I do not object to the hon. Member's intervention, but my answer to him is that the one thing is a certainty and that the other thing is not. What I have said is certain to happen, that mills will be closed and operatives will be thrown out of jobs, and the two or three consequential conditions named by the hon. Member are purely speculative and just guesses at what may result. So I put my certainty against the hopes that the hon. Member has expressed. I have already said that the longer men are out of work the more hopeless they become and the more the country suffers. I read recently a statement by Dr. Lindsay, the Master of Balliol, who is actively associated with social services of different kinds and who lately has been pressing on the attention of the Government newer forms of assistance. Dr. Lindsay says: Many unemployed men had lost their social background and as their hands got softer they had less and less likelihood of getting back into jobs. They felt like ghosts. It is clear that not only do they feel like ghosts, but they look like ghosts, for those who have witnessed the queues of men lining up for pay at the Employment Exchanges must regard them as human material largely wasted to the State. That simple point has not yet been recognised. There is no wealth made unless it be by work of hand or brain.

Having referred to Lancashire, let me deal with the City of Manchester. From the latest returns I find that there are still, as officially scheduled, 45,000 persons out of work in that city. The figures of unemployment have never covered the whole of the unemployed in this country, and we know that outside the margin of statistics there is a very large number indeed who never get a job. Liverpool is in no better case. Lesser centres than these two great cities also reveal lamentable proof of the mishandling or non-handling of this great problem in counties like Lancashire. I read a statement of the Lord Mayor of Liverpool in the latter part of last year. He was speaking at a great gathering of ex-service men, and said he regarded it as pathetic that at that time there were 30,000 ex-servicemen in Liverpool out of work. They went out to fight for their country and they came back to find themselves not only out of a job, but many of them kept out. They saw these men off at the station and they were told that when they came back they would get the full support of a grateful country. The number of the ordinary civilian population out of work nearly equals that of the ex-service men. It seems that through insurance and relief of one sort or another we must continue to prop up and supplement this idleness by large sums of public money. A few days ago Mr. John Braddock, presiding at a meeting of a Liverpool public assistance committee, said: Liverpool would have to find £531,000, representing a rate of 1s. 10d. in the pound, to meet the cost of the able-bodied unemployed in the coming year. He added this statement, which I hope the Government will notice The Committee had to find a total of £1,358,520, so it was obviously useless for any Member of the Government to declare that the Exchequer bore 95 per cent, of the cost of maintaining the able-bodied unemployed. There we have a small picture at least of the consequences of unemployment. Let me emphasise by a further reference another consequence. We are seeing that the effect of many years of prolonged idleness is not only loss of spirit, but loss of skill. I lately found a statement of the manager of a considerable unemployment office stating that it would pay the Government to select the best of the engineers and give them six months' training in the higher spheres of their trade. The longer men with skill in a craft remain out of a job, the more they deteriorate and become less fitted for work if any opportunity should arise. We have never yet had revealed to us the plain meaning of any of those organised endeavours made at considerable expense by the Government with a view to retaining, if not of increasing, the degree of craft upon which money and labour were spent when men were younger. We have, therefore, this pitiful condition of men reared, trained, cared for, seeking for work if it can be got, but living a life which is all the greater wastage because of the care and money expended on their training.

Another effect is the frightful moral results of continued unemployment, particularly in the case of the young. To prove my case, if there be any dispute about it, let me take a short statement from the last report of the Chief Constable of Manchester. It is better that we should not call in Labour witnesses to prove our points. The moral and social effect on the young of prolonged unemployment are expressed by the Chief Constable in his last report in these terms: The industrial conditions which have prevailed during recent years do not permit the employment of all young persons on leaving school, and to this cause, I think, must be attributed a great deal of the increase in the number of youthful offenders. Employment, engendering as it does discipline, mental occupation, and, to a great extent, contentment, must result generally in a decrease in the number of youthful offenders. It is, I think, a very consoling thing that in many respects the more violent and revolting causes of crime have tended to diminish in this country, and it may be said that the whole administrative and prison system have responded to help in that regard. On the other hand, the young are increasing in number as law breakers until even a prominent chief Constable of a large city must express his regret that enforced idleness is a cause of this increase.

After these general remarks on the main problem, I will touch on one or two of the administrative acts of the present Minister. The Ministry is assisted by innumerable committees, some statutory and others of a different composition. We are apt to sneer at committees in relation to Government, but one can say that to a very great extent the world is governed by committees and that must be so in order that the public conscience may be focussed through some assemblies of men and women. The Statutory Committee has been considering the contribution for unemployment benefit, and I regret that a decision has been reached by which it would appear that there is to be in many cases a reduction of 1d. a week. I agree the result will be that some people will have to pay less, and that many will regard it as a national economy, which it is not. It will not have the slightest effect in reducing the total sum of money paid by the State, either in the form of its share of insurance contributions or in the form of public assistance which the State must provide.

I put this view to the Minister. Can the Government or the employer better afford a continuance of the present contribution than the unemployed workmen can afford to do without the increased benefit which these conditions might very well have provided? The effect will be to relieve those who are not in need of relief and not to give additional assistance to those who require greater assistance because of the duration of unemployment. Thousands, therefore, will suffer for lack of the greater aid which they ought to have received. One of the consequences of prolonged unemployment is to lessen the value of the fixed sum that the unemployed man receives. In the first month he has a little reserve which supplements the income from his benefit. When he has been out of work two months, he has slender reserves, and in the third month he has none. The longer he has to suffer the receipt of unemployment benefit the less value that benefit becomes to him. Particularly is that so in the case of a home that has to be maintained by what he receives. These increased reserves in the Unemployment Fund should be used for making additions to the benefit, particularly in the case of those who have to endure long unemployment. If there is anything that the right hon. Gentleman can do to deal further with this matter before this fatal change is made, I trust that it will receive his closest attention.


Is the right hon. Gentleman arguing in favour of a longer contribution at the same rate, or a somewhat higher contribution for the same period as now?


For a higher contribution. The longer a man is unemployed the less valuable his weekly sum becomes to him. It will not go as far as it did in the first few weeks or the first month or two, for his needs grow greater, and he cannot meet them. He has not the margin for replacing clothes, or clogs or other things in his home, and he gets more and more into arrears in obtaining his necessities. This is an opportunity which no other Government has ever had of increasing the benefit, even if it were only increased after a particular period of unemployment. It is an opportunity I am sorry that the Government have missed.

A matter which has obtained great prominence is possibly still subject to the administrative review of the Ministry of Labour. I refer to the way in which the means test has been allowed to creep into the homes of the unemployed because of the recent increase in miners' wages. We all welcomed, during the last week of the controversy prior to the settlement of the miners' claim, a change in the attitude of public opinion towards the claim of a great group of wage earners. Formerly public opinion was not very interested in these questions until they were greatly inconvenienced. Until some actual loss was suffered individual members of the public just let these things happen and took their chance. That was not so in this case. Public opinion, I hope, will become more and more an effective instrument for good government in the country, and will be alive more and more to the consequences of industrial tendencies and possible stoppages. We, for these stoppages in one form or another. Therefore, we were glad that prominent employers of labour who are great coal consumers said that they were willing to pay more for their coal if that were necessary to meet the miners' claim, and if it could be made sure that the miners would get the increase if the higher price for coal were paid. All that was very warmly welcomed.

Now we find it admitted that this increase to the miners has been the cause in certain miners' homes of a reduction in the benefit. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman dare not say that they contemplated any such thing. I am certain that if he were questioned directly on the matter, he would agree that this reduction is not a, defensible or humane proceeding, and that the Government have no right to benefit from the public readiness to pay a juster rate of wages to the miners than they formerly received. In those circumstances I think the right hon. Gentleman has shown a. complete lack of any human touch in the terms of the replies given by him to questions addressed to him on this subject. This is one of the answers given by him recently in this House: Under the Unemployment Assistance Acts and Regulations the resources of the applicant's household must he taken into account in determining his unemployment allowance, and it follows, therefore, that where the household income is increased, the allowance may be affected. Is there a spark of humanity, is there any sign of a real understanding of the problem in an excuse of that kind? I think the right hon. Gentleman might well have said that he was sorry for this decision, that it was a matter to be gone into and that, if the Regulations were wrong, he would do something to right them. These Regulations were framed before there was a thought that the miners would secure this advance. It is indefensible that the State should seek to gain, because a ready-made Regulation enables them to do so and should, virtually, take away a part of the wages increase which has been granted to the miners. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman on the same occasion concluded with this sentence: It is open to any applicant who feels that his case has not been properly dealt with to exercise his rights of appeal under the Acts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1936; col. 1942, Vol. 308.] The applicant well knows what his chances are. He knows what would happen if he pursued his case to the point of seeking an appeal. The Regulations are there and the right hon. Gentleman, instead of saying that it was open to a man to appeal, might have said that it was open to him as Minister to make a just response to the grievance raised by those associated with the miners. There are many other instances of maladministration and of failure to apply the human touch in these recurring cases. Regulations and committees are well enough, but we ought not to sub-let the higher work of human administration to these committees and leave it there. Nor should we be content to frame answers in this House in the finest language to the effect that what has been done has been done. Ministers ought not to seek to rid themselves of the obligations of Ministers and to place these questions in the hands of whatever committees may have been created in connection with them. I have one other instance here of a case which has been the subject of correspondence between the aggrieved parties and the Minister of Labour. It is a case in which the Regulations disqualified a woman from receiving benefit when she married and the argument is that she was not disqualified on the ground that she had married but on the ground of child-birth. Are we to have these distinctions drawn so finely? Can anyone justify a procedure of that kind? If the Minister is not in possession of the facts of that case, I can easily refresh his memory upon it.

Speaking generally, I cannot detect a glimmer in the Government policy, of an effort on broader and higher lines, of any executive or legislative action, to deal with this condition of unemployment. Of course there is some prospect of men and women getting more work in this country. Huge sums are to be spent. Millions of money will be involved in discussions which are to take place in the House of Commons during the next few days. Indeed yesterday the unemployed of one distressed area, not named, were assured that a factory would be planted in their midst where men and women could find employment in making munitions for defence purposes. This is not the time to argue that question. But, at best, it means this that men may find work and, as a result of that work, other men may shortly find death. We cannot therefore look with any great composure upon that plan for lowering, by internal methods, the present high level of unemployment.

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in his place let me conclude with this reminder. Throughout years of debate on the question of whether our fiscal system ought to be modified or changed, we have had endless assurances of the certain beneficial effect upon work and wages in this country of a tariff policy, of quotas and restrictions on trade of various kinds. It was said that such a policy would result in employing so many hundreds of thousands here and so many hundreds of thousands there until there would be no unemployment problem. That was the conclusion of the arguments of those who proposed that method of assisting the trades of our country. We turn to-day to the results of that policy and what do we find? The figures justify those of us who always said that, whatever else tariffs might be good for, they never could be a solution of unemployment—that as fast they found work for one group, other groups were put out of employment. The figures to-day, particularly in the great centres which have shipping interests, extensive dock services and so forth prove that we were right. Evidently, I cannot appeal to the Minister to promise us any legislation. Therefore I limit myself to repeating my appeal to him for the application of a more human touch in the administration of the services of the Ministry. If the Ministry has so far failed to meet our hopes and aspirations, I trust it has not gone too far along the road to ruin to permit of the Minister doing a little more in justification of the great hopes that were aroused when it was first created.

4.39 p.m.


As I listened to the very temperate and good-natured speech of the right hon. Gentleman I asked myself what is he aiming at, and what am I as a Conservative aiming at in connection with this problem of unemployment? I have come to the conclusion that there is not the breadth of a gnat's toenail between us. We both regret profoundly the hardship and misery which is being suffered by so many of our fellow countrymen owing to unemployment. We both ardently desire to reduce that unemployment and the suffering consequent upon it. It is only on the question of method that we differ. At the beginning of his speech the right hon. Gentleman complained that the Government had missed an opportunity of placing new industries in the distressed areas. As he knows, I have been connected with manufacture since I was a, child and, speaking with some practical experience, I suggest that in putting forward a contention of that kind, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to take stock of their own position and responsibility. As I say, both the right hon. Gentleman and I are anxious to reduce the unemployment misery which saddens our country. But I saw in his place a short time ago the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) who has persistently talked about financial crises and has almost, I think, suggested, though I do not wish to put the case too strongly, the idea of expropriation of private enterprise. He has at any rate preached a violent anti-capitalism and a violent hatred of private enterprise.

That is the basis of the economic theory upon which hon. Gentlemen opposite proceed at elections and that is what they have been teaching to their supporters for a generation past. In view of that fact, I ask them to think for a moment of the position of those who are being asked to establish industries in the distressed areas. Put it, if you like, not on the ground of philanthropy or public spirit but on the lowest ground of material or monetary benefit. Suppose that a man has money to venture in industry. Here are the distressed areas and, available there, are cottages for workers, water supplies and all the amenities necessary for extending an existing industry or introducing a fresh industry. He sees a chance of making a success of a venture. But who is going to venture his money in a distressed area when he is told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that they do not believe in private enterprise and that if they are ever returned to power again they will do all they can to destroy private enterprise.




I understand that to be the form of Marxian Socialism preached by hon. Members opposite.


But the Minister of Labour has nothing to do with Marxian Socialism.


The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity presently of answering this and, if he will allow me to make my speech, he can make his own speech later.


The Minister of Labour cannot do anything about Marxian Socialism. It is the Minister of Education that the right hon. Baronet ought to be at.


On a point of Order. Shall we be permitted to discuss Socialism and other remedies for unemployment from this side of the Committee?


In so far as they do not involve legislation.


Socialistic proposals certainly will not involve legislation. The public have on several occasions in the last few years been invited to support Socialism and have refused at the polls to authorize Socialistic legislation. Consequently Socialism is not likely to reach the stage which you, Captain Bourne, have indicated. The point with which I was dealing, however, was this. How do hon. Gentlemen opposite expect men to go into the distressed areas, to open new factories or extend existing industries, when they are told plainly that the theory of the party opposite is that private enterprise should be brought to an end? How can they expect men to go into undertakings of the kind which has been desired by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) when those men are told that if they make their undertakings successful the enterprise or the profits or the benefits will be taken away from them? I notice that an hon. Member opposite shakes his head. Let him, then, go into his constituency and tell the people there that he does not believe that private enterprise is wrong.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite have always claimed that their remedy is Socialism in place of private enterprise. Enterprising manufacturers or even sporting adventurers who wish to make some money are not going to do what the right hon. Gentleman opposite has suggested and try to start new industries in the distressed areas if all kinds of threats are thrust down their throats as to the abolition of private enterprise. Does that help to reduce unemployment? I ask hon. Members opposite to think over that aspect of the question and to ask themselves in all seriousness whether they consider the theories which they advance are an encouragement to trading people to start industries in the distressed areas. Furthermore, if private capital is invested or a company is formed to open a new factory, or to revive an existing factory which has not been doing well, and if a prosperous result is achieved, what will happen? You will find that the Socialist party which lives by agitation and by advocating strife—without which it would not get votes—will have its representatives creating grievances and standing at the factory gates calling out "Down with the employers; they are blackguards; come out on strike." Employers are human beings.


Not at all.


Very well, but you will find that they will not submit to personal treatment of that kind. What do they do? They do the very thing of which the right hon. Gentleman has complained. They do not go down to those areas. They give excuses to the Government why they will not go to those areas. They say, "We are afraid of ill treatment."




Will the hon. Member explain why we have distressed areas?


I do not understand the relevance, or the question. It is said that the distressed areas want new industries. What does the term "new industries" mean? Does it mean that we require new textile factories, new collieries, new shipyards? We have plenty of collieries and do not require new ones. We have plenty of cotton mills and do not require new ones. We have plenty of shipyards. What we require are new inventions and new types of industries based upon those inventions. An immense volume of wealth was brought to the country in our lifetime by the invention of such things as coal-tar products, by the soya bean, the internal combustion engine, radio, the various uses for the products of the rubber tree, artificial silk and so on. Before those inventions were brought to fructification and profit large sums of money were lost. Although great wealth has been yielded by the gold mines of South Africa and great fortunes have come to individuals it is doubtful, although the gold mines have made the prosperity of South Africa, whether the aggregate total of money invested in the mines since 1905 or 1901, after the Boer War, has paid 5 per cent. per annum interest.

The point that I want to make is that you must encourage new inventions. If you want to experiment with them and develop them, large sums must be spent and perhaps lost and those who expend those sums ought to have the assurance that if they make money out of their venture they should be allowed to keep most of it. A man uses the spirit of adventure in putting these large sums into the development of invention. Let me illustrate my point by an everyday allusion. If a man sees six horses running in races and he puts money on them he does not mind if he loses on five so long as he gets his money back more or less on the sixth, but, if he loses all his money on five and is stripped of his winnings on the sixth he refuses to risk his money.


Or a point of Order. Does the Minister of Labour keep horses?


The hon. Member seems to forget that we are on the Vote on Account.


If money is to be made it has to be risked first and a large amount may be lost before profits are made. Quite apart from the Socialistic attacks upon private enterprise, you do not recover your losses out of your ultimate profits. Taxation has reached such a point now that if you embark on enterprise a considerable portion of your profit is taken, you have to pay 4s. 6d. in the pound taxation in Income Tax, plus Surtax, and on the top of that if a man can save something it is taken away by a method which was laid down by Viscount Snowden, as the redistribution of wealth by the weapon of taxation, including vindictive Death Duties. Men will not venture their money in new industries in areas, distressed or otherwise, if they are not allowed to keep a reasonable proportion of what they make if or when they do make anything. They bear all losses. One hon. Member interrupted me by asking about expenditure on armaments. The answer given by Adam Smith, "Defence rather than opulence." We have to protect our selves from being murdered by any aggressive foreign country. It is no use having either profit or loss if you do not still live. We must protect ourselves.

I have listened to-day to many quotations. References has e been made to pompous pamphlets which talk about planning. What do the authors of these pamphlets know by their personal work of the difficulty of producing goods and selling them? The text books and pompous pamphlets are often written by young people who have not had experience in making goods or trying to sell them. I notice that the Master of Balliol gave platitudinous utterance to some flummery about the deterioration of workless people. It does not rest with him to discover and teach us that. We knew and felt that before he was born. We see in our own cities how the poor suffer. We could almost tell him the old story of grandmothers and sucking eggs. Nor do we need to be told in text books that we must plan. Planning does not sell goods abroad in competitive markets. It cannot replace energetic personal contact. As was stated by our lamented friend, the late William Graham, one-third of the population in this country lives by our export trade. We must go out ourselves in order to sell our goods. Planning is not selling. Here we have 45 million customers, and overseas there are 1,400 million more possible customers.

We must realise that a great change has come over some of the staple industries of this country. The Repeal of the Corn Laws wrecked the staple industry of agriculture. It took us 50 years to realise it. I remember that in 1896 in my native county of Norfolk wheat was sold at 20s. per quarter, and it could not be grown at less than 45s. a quarter. The cotton people, certainly the Manchester people, were prepared to see corn sold at any low price. The result was that we were startled that agriculture was ruined. To this day it cannot unhelped subsist as a paying concern. We must realise that two more changes have happened; I am afraid that the country does not grasp the fact, and that is that our monopolies of coal and cotton have gone. We must face that fact in relation to unemployment. The monopoly in indigo went when coal-tar came. Cotton was our monopoly until the middle of the War, when other countries introduced methods of producing their own cotton goods. The people of Manchester have only gradually realised that a portion of their trade before the War was based upon monopoly and on nothing else. That monopoly has gone and they will never get part of the cotton trade back. It is useless to think that they will.

So in regard to coal. Our coal monopoly has gone. I am not going to say anything contentious on such a sad thing as the unemployment problem. But every time there has been a, coal strike here people abroad have said, "We will not put up with the inconveniences of these strikes. Let us see whether we cannot find other products that will serve our purpose." Therefore, they developed the use of oil and other power giving materials. They have sunk more pits, and although they obtained inferior coal they have used it. The net result has been that our export trade in coal has been seriously reduced and every strike has increased the loss of trade. The use of coal for the production of power has been and is being displaced more and more by the use of other things such as oil and water electricity. And more inventions will follow. I am afraid that the coal position will become worse and worse. Hon. Members opposite who think that they can rehabilitate the coal areas must face the eventuality of the sale of coal becoming less, and we must look to new ideas that will help us in our trade as did in the past, rubber, artificial silk, coal-tar, the soya bean, radio, the motor industry.

Hon. Members opposite ought to take stock of what they have done to discourage trade. Let them search their consciences. They discourage the establishment of new enterprises. Let them go to their constituents and say, "We have been wrong. We have prevented employment. We are going to drop these attacks on private enterprise and capitalism. We are going to say to the resourceful men of initiative who might come here to establish industries We welcome you, we will work with you. If private traders wish to employ men and help us to get rid of this hideous spectacle of unemployment we will do what we can to keep peace. We will encourage traders to put capital into industry here. We will help traders to get rid of the fear that has hitherto agitated their minds. If they make a success of their venture we will not injure it.'" If hon. Members will try to get fears out of the minds of those who might invest in new industries, they might come down to the distressed areas and bring forward new inventions upon which money might be lost or gained. Good will, encouragement and peace are essential. They might establish new factories or branch factories and they might be induced to go into the distressed areas where there are already empty factories available and other facilities. Let hon. Members cease their continual abuse of the manufacturers. Let them cease frightening them against putting down new factories. Meantime the attack on private industry by socialistic public men is preventing men securing employment. Hon. Members opposite had better reconsider their position and realise the mischief for which they are responsible.

4.53 p.m.


I feel the utmost gratitude to the hon. Member. I never hoped that it would be my good fortune so early in my membership of this House to come across so perfect—I say it without disrespect—a museum specimen of all those ideas from which the world has long departed. I do not, however, despair for the hon. Member. It became clear in the course of his speech, in response to an interjection from this side, exactly why it is that he has gone so hopelessly and so completely wrong. It is clear from what he told us that he has never even begun to ask the right questions. You cannot possibly get the right answers on the social problems if you never ask the right questions. The key to the hon. Member's mind is to be found in his statement when he was asked: "How do you account for the fact that there are distressed areas?" He replied: "That does not seem to me to be relevant."


I could not hear the question.


Then why did you say that it was irrelevant?


I am bound to accept what the hon. Member says, but if he did not hear the question which was addressed to him let him be a little more cautious and prudent in future in answering so categorically a question which he does not hear. What he said was that the question was not relevant. Let me in all humility and with the greatest respect suggest to the hon. Member that if once he turns his very intelligent mind to the fundamental question why distressed areas exist, he may find that he is at he beginning of his conversion, and that he may in the end adorn the Socialist benches in some future House of Commons. I accept his statement that he realises the depth of misery and suffering to which so large a proportion of the working population of this country is subject, and I accept it from him that he is as anxious as we are that that suffering should be relieved. Is it his view that this suffering is inevitable under capitalism?


Did not my hon. Friend answer that question when he said that coal no longer had that virtual monopoly which it at one time used to enjoy?


The view that we on this side have advocated for so long, and the view that is winning such increasing acceptance everywhere in the world, is that that suffering is the direct consequence of the capitalist system, and that under capitalism that suffering is inevitable. If we are against the capitalist system, it is not due to any a priori reasoning or dogmatism on our side. It is a view which may be erroneous, but it is our view that these things are inevitable under capitalism, and that is why we want the industry of the country to be planned by the community in the interest of the community, not by private individuals in the interest of making a profit.


My answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that while hon. Members opposite hold those opinions, they will never allow the country to recover itself.


I understand the hon. Baronet takes the view that what we think in that respect is wrong, otherwise he would not invite me to alter the view, but if it is mistaken to believe, as we believe, that these things are inevitable under capitalism, I infer that it is the hon. Baronet's view that these things are not inevitable under capitalism. Well, if they be not inevitable, why do you tolerate them? If we ace wrong and these things are not inevitable, then I say that to tolerate them is a much graver charge against capitalism.

Viscountess ASTOR

Does the hon. Member think we should get better conditions under a Communistic system? He knows as well as I do that the real alternative to capitalism is to have Communism. Does he think we can get a better system under Communism than under capitalism?


I hope the Noble Lady will permit me to develop my own argument in my own way, and I am certain, from my own observation in this House, that the Noble Lady is quite capable of following a reasoned and connected argument if she makes the effort. I hope I take the last speaker with me when I put it that if these things can be remedied under capitalism, then, for Heaven's sake, you have what you call a National Government, and you have power to enact in this House anything which you choose to enact, so get on with your remedy. If, on the other hand, these things cannot be remedied under capitalism, I invite you to come over here and to assist us and the Noble Lady to devise some other system, be it Communism or anything else, under which these undeserved miseries and tragedies will in fact be removed.


Perhaps the hon. Member will now perceive how illogical his argument is. Bad as conditions may be, and much as we do wish to alter them under capitalism, we say they would be a great deal worse under Socialism, and, what is more, that hon. Members opposite, by their Socialistic attacks on private enterprise, are preventing recovery in employment.


Will the hon. Baronet then accept it from me that if he chooses to substitute speculation for argument, the unreasoning dogma of which he complains does not lie on these benches, but on those? Let me draw his attention to some of the facts. I represent in this House the division of Nelson and Colne, which are two small towns linked together. One of those towns is as old as any township in this country. Its records are to be found in Doomsday Book, and it has a known history prior to that. Nelson, on the other hand, is the creation, in the last 50, 60, or it may be 70 years, of the cotton industry. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to some figures which have reached me to-day, and I will take first the township of Colne. It has a total population of 23,700 men, women, and children. I take it that it would be a fair estimate to say that the normal working population of that town would be 6,000 or 7,000 people. There are, on the live unemployment register to-day, 1,500 people and on outdoor relief 560 people, making a total of over 2,000 out of the total working population of perhaps 6,000 or 7,000.

Of those who are employed we have only the figures of the earnings of 1,833 weavers in Colne. They are weavers who are employed normally for a full 48-hours week, and these are the most highly skilled operatives in the country. What do they earn? Of the 1,833, there were just 23 who earned more than 50s., just 76 who earned between 45s. and 50s., and 203 who earned 40s. In other words, less than 20 per cent. of these most highly skilled operatives in the country earned 40s. or more, and 80 per cent. of them earned less than 40s., nearly 50 per tent. of them earned not more than 30s., and more than 80 per cent. earned less than 35s., in an industry which has been in the past the backbone of the prosperity of this country.

Take Nelson. I am not going to give similar figures, but figures taken and viewed from another angle. In the week ended 15th February last the wages of 6,048 weavers totalled £10,264, an average of just under 34s. These figures are a public scandal. The hon. Gentleman was saying that you cannot expect people to put their money into an industry unless they can see some prospect of a profit out of it. I have no doubt he is right. Under the existing system nobody can and nobody will blame them for that, but will the hon. Gentleman not take the one logical step farther Does he expect that rational beings shall invest their whole lives in an industry which cannot produce for them a living wage? If capitalism encourages profits, is it not at least equally reasonable that the workers should say of any industry which the community decides to be necessary in the interests of the community that it shall pay them a living wage first?


The answer to that is, you must remember that for export trade goods have to be sold competitively and that if goods are not sold, no wages can be paid.


There may be all sorts of good reasons, but I say that we on this side are entitled to make it plain for labour that they will not invest their lives in an industry unless that industry can give them a living wage, and we say that under the existing system, whether it be due to that system or due to some other cause, this industry has completely broken down, because it has demonstrably failed to pay a living wage to its workers. It is said that this is not a scheduled area, and indeed it is not, but am I wrong if I suggest that here you have a Special Area in the making, and in this field as in other fields it may be that prevention is better than cure?

What do the Government propose to do for this Special Area in the making? They have a Cotton Spinning Industry Bill. This is neither the time nor the place to make a Second Reading speech upon that Measure, but it will not be denied that although the Bill deals with only a section of the cotton industry, the ideas behind it are the ideas which the Government propose to apply to the industry as a whole, and their idea of the removal of redundant spindles will, when the time comes, be equally applicable to the removal of redundant looms. Is it denied that that must result in further unemployment? It may well be that it will mean more employment for less people, or less employment for more people, but what it cannot mean is more employment for more people. It is obvious that if you take the view that this industry has too many spindles and looms, if the spindles and the looms are redundant, it follows that you take the view that the labour is redundant too, and we are entitled to ask the Minister of Labour what he proposes to do to deal with the redundant labour which his Administration proposes never to employ again.

It may be said that if Lancashire becomes a Special Area, the ordinary remedies will apply. They will talk to us about the transference of labour. Everybody knows that transference is no solution of the unemployment problem until you find some part of this country, some industry in this country, in which there is a shortage of labour which transference can satisfy. It is no good talking about transferring people from areas of high unemployment to areas of low unemployment. If there is any unemployment at all in an area we have no right to import labour into it. The other remedy offered was the remedy of armaments. I suggest to the Minister that never in history was there a more bitter jest than that. Of old there was someone who sold his heritage for a mess of pottage. Here we are apparently asking people to sell their lives in order that they may carry on a temporary and bitter livelihood. That is no remedy.

If we have now reached the time when unemployment is inevitable, why cannot we treat that unemployment not as a disease to be cured but as something to be welcomed. Why should we continue to penalise leisure which is forced upon people in this way? Why cannot we make the leisure dignified instead of penal? I suggest there are many ways in which the Special Areas, and areas which are becoming Special Areas, can be treated. We can take people out of industry at an earlier age and give them pensions on which they can end their days in peace and dignity. We can say that our children, so long as they are children, are not fit to engage in beneficial employment, and keep them out of industry. Then we can divide the remaining work among the remaining labour, and pay it a minimum wage sufficient to support decent, dignified, human existence. Only in that way can we secure for the benefit of the people the advantages which civilisation has achieved. But while we continue to look at these problems as they were looked at by the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel), while we regard human lives and industry purely as opportunities for the capitalist to invest his money and make a profit, we shall achieve no solution of any human problem, and make inevitable the final catastrophe which may wipe out extern civilisation altogether.

5.18 p.m.


The right hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion referred to the wastage due to long unemployment and the consequent loss of technique, and with that we must all agree. I shall follow on the same line of thought, and bring to the notice of the Minister the very serious diminution in the numbers of insured persons in various most important industries. I find from the official figures of the Ministry that in the shipbuilding and ship repairing trades in the Tyneside area there has been, in the last five years, a diminution of more than 30 per cent. in the number of insured persons registered, a most striking fact when one considers the importance of that industry. It is a process of attrition which is still going on, because in the year up to the middle of 1935, there was a further decrease of no less than 6 per cent. In the same area, and for the same period, there has been a decrease of 25 per cent. among those employed in marine engineering, and of 18 per cent. among those employed in general engineering. These figures seem the more significant when compared with the position in coal mining, with all its difficulties, because one finds that in Northumberland there has been a decrease of only 2 per cent. and in Durham of 11 per cent.

I bring this matter to the attention of the Minister and the Committee, because several industrialists of wide and practical experience have expressed apprehensions on the subject, and have indicated a serious fear that in certain branches of these industries in the stress of a national emergency or even of considerable industrial expansion there might be a shortage of skilled labour. It is a matter not merely of great importance to the Special Areas but of great national concern. I ask the Minister to inform the Committee whether he has this matter well in hand, whether he is satisfied that the conclusions of the gentlemen to whom I have referred are correct, and, if so, what steps the Government in general and the Ministry of Labour in particular propose to take. It is a matter of deep concern, and any expression of opinion from the Minister will be welcomed.

The figures I have mentioned are also most illuminating as indicating that the position in some of the depressed areas is far worse than any conclusions deduced merely from unemployment percentages seem to indicate. To take the shipbuilding trade in the area to which I have referred, the unemployment percentage at the end of last year was 56.6 per cent., but if one relates the number of men at present employed in the industry to the numbers who were engaged in it only five years ago one finds that last July the unemployment percentage would have been 80, and at the end of last year over 70. This bears out the statement made by some hon. Members opposite yesterday that in many directions there has been no improvement whatever in the conditions in the Special Areas. The circumstance to which I have referred is not due to transference, beyond a small fraction. This problem of transference is one which is always in our minds in our depressed areas. It is a most important problem and one which the Minister ought always to be keeping under review, because transference is a double-edged weapon and in many directions is positively mischievous.

With things as they are, and with the Government's policy as it is, some transference is no doubt inevitable and one must appreciate that it is of definite advantage to some of the men who are transferred, because it enables them to earn wages, but from the point of view of the areas they have left one sees also that transference enlarges the wages pool in Greater London and the South and thereby enables the South to compete more effectively with the Special Areas, and acts as a deterrent to the establishment of new industries in the Special Areas. It also has the effect of diminishing the purchasing power of the Special Areas, which is a factor of great importance, because they cannot afford any diminution in their purchasing power. It is their lack of purchasing power which is the hall mark of their depression. It is essential that every possible means should be adopted to increase their purchasing power, and that can only be done either by a larger wages pool or by greater spending power among those out of work. It is well worth the most serious consideration of the Minister whether it would not be desirable to have differential treatment of the Special Areas in the matter of unemployment assistance, not only because of the vast body of unemployment in those areas, but on account of the long periods during which so many of the people have been out of work, a circumstance quite exceptional among those prevailing in other parts of the country.

The problem of the drift of industry to Greater London and the South is increasing all the time. I find from the Census of Production that whereas in 1924 the percentage of the total net output of the country which emanated from the South was 37 per cent., by 1930 it had increased to 43 per cent., and the position has been intensified in every year since then. That leads, essentially, to the consideration of the location of industries, which has been referred to by several hon. Members to-day. I agree that the question of location is one of the most essential factors in dealing with the problem of unemployment, and it deserves far more serious consideration than the cavalier treatment it received from Ministers yesterday. It must be recognised, as it is being recognised, as being probably one of the most vital features of future development within the arena which the right hon. Gentleman has under his control.

I venture to remind him that the North-East Development Board, of which Lord Ridley is the chairman, and which has upon it some of the leading industrialists of the area, presented a report, which has been sent to the Government, in which the conclusion is set forth that the location of industry is one of the most important aspects of any attempt to improve the balance of industrial activity in the Special Areas. They call for a declaration of policy by the Government, and suggest that the policy should have the effect of promoting the establishment of new industries in the Special Areas and discouraging their continued concentration elsewhere. In the face of that very positive pronouncement by the North-East Development Board, the Minister should, I submit, devote his energies and attention at the earliest moment to preparing all the necessary data within his Department which bear upon the matter, and that he should submit them to his colleagues and publish them, so that the House of Commons may take an early opportunity of arriving at some definite conclusion upon this most important subject.

I observed that my right hon. Friend said yesterday that it was true that the Government give preference in placing their contracts, all other things being equal, to the Special Areas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1936; cols. 1143–4; Vol. 309.] That statement, it is recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT, was greeted with laughter. There is some justification for that ribald mirth. Lord Ridley at a recent meeting of the North-East Development Board stated that only 3 per cent. of Government contracts were allotted last year to the whole of the North-Eastern area. If that is the fact, we are still treading in this matter along the road which is paved with good intentions. I ask the Minister to use his energies in translating those good intentions into better deeds.

My right hon. Friend also referred to the fact that grants had been made in certain Tyneside towns for the assistance of unemployment. The city which I have the honour to represent has made numerous applications within recent months for grants for matters of the greatest local importance, such as sewerage schemes and the improvement of the Town Moor and all manner of town development.


What are your local rates?


It is not a matter of local rates but of rateable value. Everyone of those applications has been turned down on the ground that the circumstances of the area did not warrant the grant. If the circumstances of the area with an unemployment percentage represented by the figures which I have given to the House do not warrant grants, it indicates either a want of sympathy or a lack of appreciation of the difficulties under which we labour. I hope that the Minister will take action and will review the desperate position of our areas and that he will use his best energies and efforts and all the courage and determination which he certainly possesses in order to endeavour to bring some brighter hope to the people of our area.

5.35 p.m.


The Committee should be grateful to the hon. Member for Newcastle East (Sir R. Aske) for bringing this Debate back to realities when we were in danger of being switched off into what I think would have been a meaningless discussion of the principles of Marxist Socialism. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate began by saying that, in his view, the Ministry of Labour was a second rate Department. He went on to say flat he hoped the present Minister would remain at that Department as long as the Government lasted. I will not demur from the last observation, but I venture to differ from him as to the first. Particularly in the last year or two, the Ministry of Labour has had powers and responsibilities at least as great as those of any other Government Department. I want to point out the way in which those responsibilities are being discharged.

I would like to put to the Minister who is to reply a point about the operation of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee. Can he tell us what the future activities of that body are to be? The Committee will recollect that their function is summed up in Section 57 of the Consolidation Act, where it was laid down that the Minister— may from time to time refer to the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee for consideration and advice such questions relating to the operation of this Act as he thinks fit (including questions as to the advisability of amending this Act). That gives the Committee considerable scope. We have seen an example of their work in the recent report on insurance for farmworkers, to which the Government are giving statutory effect. Perhaps the Minister would tell us to what subjects the Committee are to turn their consideration in the future.

When the Unemployment Act of 1934 came into effect, many Members in all parts of the House stressed the view that the present limit of insurance of £250 a year was much too low. There is a general feeling, not only in the House of Commons but in the country, that the risks of unemployment are not confined to those with incomes below £250 a year, and that it would be a great blessing if the class that we call black-coated workers could be brought within insurance. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether the Statutory Committee are going to apply their minds in the near future to that question. He might also indicate, what would be of interest to some Members of this Committee, whether he intends to refer for the Statutory Committee's consideration, the question of insurance for share fishermen. Those are two questions in which we are interested.

There is another question to which I would direct the Minister's attention. Would he consider referring to the Statutory Committee the question of appeals to the Umpire and the present system of appeals? Hon. Members, particularly above the Gangway, will be very familiar with that system. When a decision has been given by the Court of Referees, the insurance officer may appeal in any case, while an applicant may appeal if the Court of Referees is divided, or with the leave of the chairman. Unless one of these conditions is present, he may not appeal except under the terms of Section 44 (1) (b) of the Act which states that an appeal shall lie— at the instance of an association of employed persons of which the claimant was a member on the last date on which ho was employed before the claim subject to the appeal was made and has continued to be a member until the date when the appeal is made, in any case. Those are the words of the Act, the sort of words which are usually used in Statutes of that kind. We all realise that it means that if a man is a trade unionist he has a right of appeal, and if he is not a member of a trade union he has no right of appeal. That may seem a small matter to some hon. Members, but it raises a point of first-class principle, that of equality before the law. It has always been a blot upon our unemployment insurance system that you should give a right of appeal to one man and deny it to another who may have just as good a claim.


Does the hon. Gentleman who has called my attention to the Statute propose that it should be altered by legislation?


No, Sir. I suggest that it should be referred to the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, under the terms of the Statute to which I have referred. I have already pointed out that the question of the desirability of amending the Act should be referred to that Committee, and I suggest that that should be done also in this case. I know that we, in this part of the Committee, are in a rather isolated position, because when the question was last raised we had against us an unholy alliance of the two Front Benches, and all their followers. I remember that on that occasion we made the appeal which I am making now, and a speech was made above the Gangway by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in which he said, if I remember rightly—I have quoted his words a good many times outside this House—"We, in the trade union movement, have a certain amount of privilege and we mean to keep it." I have always thought that an extraordinary sentiment to come from the party above the Gangway. It is no doubt the sentiment expressed by those who opposed the Reform Bill in 1832 or by those who wanted the exclusion of the dissenters and Catholics from the universities. I have no doubt that they all said at that time that they had a certain amount of privilege and meant to keep it. It is rather remarkable that the same sentiment should now come from the party above the Gangway.


Would the hon. Gentleman take the responsibility of advising any workman in this age not to belong to a trade union?


Certainly not, but I say that it is a matter for him to choose, and that if he chooses not to join a trade union he ought not to be deprived of a legal right which is open to members of a union. I am not making any attack upon the unions, but am saying only that their members should not be in a privileged position before the law. That is an anomaly in our present law which might very well be referred to the Statutory Committee.


Why is that question raised by the legal profession?


That is the kind of question which has always been raised by the legal profession, to its credit, right through the history of this House. This Debate should not be allowed to pass without some reference to the complete breakdown of Part II of the 1934 Act. Those who were in the last Parliament will remember that we spent the whole of one session debating the 1934 Act, and many of us recollect clearly the almost exuberant prophecies that were made when the Measure was first brought in. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was a Measure which would greatly improve the lot of the unemployed. We particularly remember the Third Reading, when the Minister of Labour at that time turned on us and delivered a bitter attack on the Liberals in this House because we had dared to oppose this great and beneficent Measure. I do not think many people would say much for Part II now. Let me recall to hon. Members one or two of the salient features of Part II of that Act, and let us see what has become of them.

This question has been debated recently, so I do not want to enlarge upon it, but the Committee will remember that advisory committees were to be set up in every district, so that the Board might have the advantage of local knowledge and experience. We were told only a few days ago in this House that throughout the length and breadth of this country not one advisory committee had yet been set up. We were told on the Second Reading of the Bill in the beginning of 1934 of the great number of able-bodied unemployed who were to be taken off the Poor Law and put under a national service. I might refer again to a speech which was made then. I remember listening to Sir Henry Betterton when he spoke of the humiliation of the Poor Law and said that a man who had to go to the Poor Law felt that he was moving in a whispering gallery of gossip."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1933; col. 1088, Vol. 283.] That was two years ago, and the able-bodied unemployed are still moving hopelessly in the whispering gallery. The main features of Part II of the Act was that allowances were to be administered in accordance with regulations. The Act became law in July, 1934, and the regulations are still undecided. I will not go over matters which are already familiar to Members of the House. We all know that nearly six months was taken by the board and the Minister to decide these these regulations in the first place, and we know that it only took about six days to find out that both the board and the Minister had been utterly wrong as to the way in which the regulations would work. Now we have the standstill arrangement. I think that when it was brought in most Members of the House thought that it would be a temporary arrangement to meet an emergency for a short time; but the standstill arrangement was introduced 13 months ago, and, as far as I have been able to gather from replies given at Question Time, the Minister is still unable to tell us when the fresh regulations are to be brought in. I wonder if he could be a little more explicit now.

Would he give us a little information about the part of this document which deals with unemployment allowances? We are asked to vote £45,000,000 for unemployment allowances for 1936, as compared with £50,000,000 for 1935. Is the Minister able to say how much that sum is greater than it would have been because of the standstill arrangement? I think that the Committee, and also many people outside, would be interested to have that information. Will he tell us exactly what the difficulty is? There is the board, with its very competent officers in every part of the country; there is the Ministry of Labour, also with offices in every town and district; but, with their joint resources, after 13 months, they are still unable to decide what permanent amendments are needed in the regulations What inquiries are being made, and what inquiries have been made in the last 13 months that were not made before the original regulations were introduced? I think that that also might be a matter of some interest to the Committee.

The standstill arrangement is a temporary measure. It was, of course, based on no sort of logical foundation, and although, naturally, it was a considerable improvement on the regulations as they first stood, I think that most Members with any experience of its working would say that it is still very unsatisfactory in many respects. It was brought in in a hurry, and it has produced serious anomalies. I will mention one case, which I raised just before the General Election. It is, I think, the most striking case that I have come across. In my own constituency there was a man who was drawing the transitional payment rate for himself and his wife, namely, 26s. After they had been drawing that for some time, their son, who had been for two years at an industrial school in Edinburgh, came home again. The board examined the fresh circumstances of the household, and decided that the son was not eligible for transitional payments. Therefore, there was no transitional scale for the three of them, and they had to be assessed, not on the transitional payment scale, but on the scale of the unemployment regulations. That being so, whereas the man and his wife had been getting 26s., the man, his wife and their son of 16 were awarded the sum of 26s. 6d. We realise, and the Minister will realise, how that came about, but all that the householder knows in that case is that he is getting the sum of 6d. extra with which to keep for a whole week a growing boy of 16.

That is an example of the way in which this standstill arrangement is working. It seems to me that, when there are anomalies of that kind, which I do not think any Member would defend, the sooner we get a permanent and more satisfactory and logical arrangement the better. The Ministry of Labour and the board have had 13 months in which to consider this matter. It is over 18 months since the passing of the Unemployment Act, a Measure on which we spent practically the whole Parliamentary Session, and which was hailed at the time as one of the greatest legislative achievements of the present Government. Part II has not produced very many results yet; perhaps the Minister would tell us what results he expects from it in the future.

6.51 p.m.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. Ernest Brown)

I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I reply now to the general statements which have been made, and then my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be at the disposal of the Committee for any points of detail that may be put later. Although I have not been without activity in the House during the last day or two, I thought it would be convenient if I dealt with the general speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). [Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), if it had been the other way, would have made an objection also.


We are not standing for your making statements like that.




I always try to meet the convenience of the House in replying to questions which are raised. The right hon. Gentleman said a word or two about the Ministry over which I now preside. He said that there have been a number of changes there, and that there has been a good deal of disappointment as to the work of the Ministry in the course of its career. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should hold that view, but I think that anyone who reflects on the ramifications of the work of the Ministry of Labour must agree that it is a very wonderful institution, and, whatever views may have been held before its inception, I think that anyone who reflects on its work day in and day out, week in and week out, will agree that, however high were the earlier hopes, nobody would like to be without the Ministry of Labour and its activities in the year 1936. I can imagine that, if any opponent of the right hon. Gentleman proposed to abolish the Ministry, there would be very strong protests from many of his friends, not merely inside but outside the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman expressed the hope that I should have a long stay in my present position, and that I should do all that I could to improve the Ministry and bring a human note into it. I should always pay very careful attention to the desires of the right hon. Gentleman in that direction, but I must leave that to the future.

I would point out to the Committee that what is very remarkable in connection with the work of the Ministry of Labour is, not the number of complaints that are raised about its everyday work, but their comparative fewness. Here is a machine consisting of about 25,000 officials, covering the whole of Great Britain, with thousands of exchanges, responsible on the insurance side for the insurance of 13,000,000 souls, and now having to handle a situation in which we have a live register of about 2,000,000; yet it performs its work so accurately and so well that every man who goes has his needs met at the exchange with a regularity and swiftness that are a marvel to those who come from abroad to look at this machine. I have been led to say this because of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. The House does not often get a chance of hearing a word or two said about the Ministry of Labour, and I think it is due to the Ministry to say what I have said.

Let me take one side of the Ministry's work—the work at Kew. If there is considered to be any doubt at any exchange in the country about the claims of any particular applicant, the case is immediately remitted to Kew, and in the space of between two and three days it is settled, save in exceptional cases; that is the average as a rule. Down there at Kew there may be at any given time some 700,000,000 documents and cards which may have to be referred to in order to do justice to the insured persons. I think it will be agreed that, on that side of its work alone the Ministry is a very wonderful institution. In recent years complaints were made that very little constructive work was remitted to the Ministry. Indeed, while in Debates of this kind and in general Debates on unemployment the Minister often had to act as spokesman for the Government as a whole about things over which he had no control, yet he himself was given very little power to do constructive work. That is not quite the case now, as is shown by the details of the Vote. A great deal of constructive work is being done by the Ministry, especially on the side of training and transfer.

The right hon. Gent leman called attention to the general situation, and of course it is quite true that, as he said, the number of people unemployed to-day is very large, and the se large unemployment figures have gig et: concern to successive Governments in the last 15 years, and must give concern to every succeeding Government. But I think the House will be well advised, when looking at these figures, to remember that there is another side to the question. The general impression is—not, of course, among Members of the House, but I find that outside the House it is the general impression—that there are 2,000,000 people who are wholly unemployed. The fact is that in January, 1936, the number registered at the exchanges as unemployed was 2,160,000, the average figure for 1935 being 2,037,000. I want to make a further analysis of these figures. The figure in January included 82,000 people in casual employment, 345,000 who were temporarily stopped, and 141,000 juveniles. The total number of adults wholly unemployed was 1,601,000. Of these, 229,000 were women and 1,372,000 were men. In recent months, over 40 per cent. had been unemployed for less than six weeks, more than half had been unemployed for less than three months, about a third had been unemployed for six months or more, and less than a quarter had been unemployed for a year or more, the number of these latter being estimated roughly at 450,000. Nearly 400,000 are over 55 years of age, more than 100,000 of them being over 60 years of age.

Coming to the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting as to the state of some particular areas, he referred to some of the Lancashire cotton towns, to Manchester and Liverpool, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Newcastle (Sir R. Aske) has referred to towns on Tyneside. The facts are that 14 industries—seven exporting industries and seven not—account for 70 per cent. of the unemployment. In the seven exporting industries, with one exception, the figure averaged over 20 per cent. In the seven non-exporting industries, with one special exception, it averaged less than 20 per cent. Roughly half the industrial population is in Scotland, Wales and the North of England, and the other half in the Midlands and the South of England. In the first unemployment is over 20 per cent., and in the latter about 10 per cent. The numbers on the register are 1,442,000 and 718,000 respectively. I thought that that analysis might be useful to the Committee and to the country. It shows the measure of the problem not merely as a whole but in some detail, and it also throws into relief the difference between some parts of the country and others. I was very interested the other day, in pursuing some investigations into the Unemployment Insurance Acts, to come across this quotation from the first report on the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1913, Command Paper 6965. Unemployment has not by any means been equally distributed throughout the country. Generally speaking, in the whole of the South of England there has, trade by trade, been markedly more unemployment than in Wales, Scotland and the North of England. The mean percentages of unemployment books remaining lodged to books issued for the past six months are, in the London and South Eastern Division 5.8 per cent. and in the South Western division 4.4 per cent. No other division has a percentage above 2.6. Two of the most important, Yorkshire and the East Midlands and Scotland, and Northern have a percentage of 1.9 and 2. In the latter districts there has been in many directions an unsatisfied demand for labour. In the former, while trade has on the whole been good, there have always been far larger numbers of men unemployed. The possibility of assisting men to move from the less prosperous to the more prosperous districts needs careful consideration. That is a very remarkable comment on the change that has taken place in 23 years. [Interruption.] I do not think the hon. Member will charge any particular Government with the result. I should go a good deal further than it is my intention to detain the Committee if I were to discuss now all the causes that have brought about that change. That report throws light on some of the problems that the right hon. Gentleman raised. He said that little had been done, and he desires to know what can be done about new industries. I spoke about that at some length yesterday. It is a matter that has given the Government very great concern. I will not add anything to what was said by the Lord President of the Council yesterday about the comparative lack of answers to the Special Commissioner from those to whom he applied to know whether there was a prospect of establishing new industries. It was a very proper step to take but the result was disappointing. The Special Commissioner is interested in the matter but, as I said yesterday, means of doing it short of compulsion are not easily to be found. The Government; at any rate, is going to show that it does not share the views taken by some industrialists. There is to be in South Wales an establishment for the Air Ministry and we are taking into account, in planning for the defence programme, doing our share to lead industry back, as far as we can, by setting up a Government establishment.

Further than that, although the hon. Member said that the laughter yesterday about contracts was justified, I do not think that that was so. There has been a practice for some years of giving preference to a scheduled list of what were known in the old days as depressed areas. The term "other things being equal," which rather aroused laughter, refers naturally to quality, price and availability. Given equal quality, equal price and equal availability of goods for Government contracts, it has been the practice for some years to give a preference to towns where there was heavy unemployment in the scheduled depressed areas. Recently we were pressed on all hands to do something about Special Areas. The Government has laid down the law in regard to the railway contracts and the London Passenger Board arrangements, and it is now required, again other things being equal, that preference shall be given in these cases to the Special Areas. I was moved to comment on the laughter for this reason. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) has been at the Ministry with a deputation and I have had representations from Glasgow, Bolton and various other towns that some contracts that they thought they were going to have are not coming to them. It is a proof that this is working effectively, at least from the point of view of those who think they are being hardly done by because the work is going to the Special Areas and the depressed areas. These facts being brought to my notice caused me to go over the schedule of areas, to which a preference is given, other things being equal, in placing Government contracts, with the result that, having regard to the present unemployment situation, we have revised the areas included in the schedule. I will not give a long list of towns now, but we have included some large towns and cities which were not included before.


Will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that these towns are inserted in the OFFICIAL REPORT?


If the hon. Member will put a question down, I will see what information I can give him. The three towns that I have in mind are Glasgow, Liverpool and Middlesbrough. They were not previously in the list and they are in now. I think that will alleviate some of the feeling of those who thought that they were going to have work under the Railway and London Passenger Transport Acts but find that it is not coming to them because they are not in Special Areas. That is the difficulty of trying to do something special for the Special Areas; the more effective it is, the more other people want to come within the ambit of the definition.


Does that mean that in those districts price, quality and availability must be the same as any others, or will it mean that, if you give those places more, places like Newcastle will get less?


We really cannot make two contracts out of one. What we are trying to do—[An HON. MEMBER: "And failing miserably!"] That is a matter of opinion, which was debated yesterday. I should not have mentioned it except that it has been raised and I thought the Committee was entitled to the information. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting says strong things in the mildest manner that any Member ever did. I read his speeches with great care. That mild manner can cover very decisive and strong statements. For instance, he said we had done nothing for the cotton trade. In the Session before last there was passed, at the instance of the Minister of Labour of the day, an Act which is unique in our industrial legislation, to compel the keeping of agreements about wages. It is regarded in Lancashire as an important contribution to the life and history of the industry.


Did not the Government wait until wages were at a shockingly low level before they passed this legislation?


No. There was no question of a level of wages. The problem was there and it was grave and urgent. Although the thing was unique, it was done.


That Act applies to a few thousand people out of 7,000,000 in the county.


It is a very important Act and I thought I was entitled to put it into the scale when the suggestion was made that nothing had been done.


Does the right hon. Gentleman regard the figures of wages which I read out as a worthy result of the legislation to which he refers?


That is another issue. The hon. Member's leader has answered it in advance. The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the recent report of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, and the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) added some inquiries. I will not discuss it now. I shall have to discuss the merits of it on the proper occasion. The views which were expressed so strongly by the right hon. Gentleman to-day were put before the Committee. They are in one of the notes of dissent, but they did not convince the majority. It remains to be seen in the course of the Debate, which must take place before the Order becomes effective, whether its terms meet with the approval of the majority of the House.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we are likely to get that Order?


The report has been presented, and it is not a question for me but for the two sides of the House to come to an agreement through the usual channels as to when a day will be available.


Is the majority of the Committee with you?


I said so in answer to a question. As to the future procedure in respect of black-coated workers, I remitted the matter to the Committee some months ago, and I have received a report which I am considering, and shall shortly lay. I have also remitted the case of the share fishermen, because, as the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) know, this is one of the most difficult and complex problems to be examined. This matter is being examined by the Committee and is receiving their attention. There are one or two smaller points which I cannot carry in my mind now, but with regard to appeals to the umpire, and I speak now subject to advice, I can understand all that it is desired should be laid before the Committee. That is why I will say no more, except that I will read what the hon. Member has said and give it consideration.


I have noted what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the difficulties of the share fishermen being complex. Will he give an indication to the Committee of those difficulties. I know them pretty well, but would like the Committee to have some knowledge of them.


The hon. Member knows that I cannot agree to do that now because the matter is before the Committee, but if he or others interested in this matter—I happen to be the son of a fishermen and am naturally interested—wish to put any point to the Committee, they should get in contact with it at once, and their evidence, or that of any one interested, will be heard.


I am anxious to know whether the Minister has responsibility in this matter.


I cannot see how the hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Marklew) will do any good to share fishermen by suggesting to the Minister that he should put ideas into the mind of the Committee. We do not want objections to be raised to bringing them in; we want to bring them in rather than that there should be the possibility of objections being made.


The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) knows that in asking the Minister to consider the difficulties, it is not with the idea of doing any damage to the fishermen but to help them.


I cannot answer, because it is not a proper thing to do, I have remitted the subject to an independent Committee, and my officials at the Ministry will give evidence about insurance which only they can give. All persons concerned or interested who answer the advertisements displayed everywhere, either organisations or individuals, either by word of mouth or by writing to the Committee, will be able to put any point they wish, so that the Committee may have the fullest evidence before them. It would not be proper for me now to enter into the details of the difficulties. The hon. Member for East Newcastle pointed out, what is very true, that it is a matter of very great concern that attrition has taken place in certain great trades. Naturally part of it is due to reorganisation in industry, and part of it is due in a double way to people going out of industry owing to age and to non-entrants. Those parents on Tyneside who, in the normal way in pre-war days would have thought of apprenticing their sons to the shipbuilding and engineering trades have not been doing this because the prospects have not been considered by them to be good enough. As my hon. Friend knows, things are slightly better in the shipbuilding area, and in some shipbuilding districts a good deal better. It is also obvious that the future holds more for shipbuilding in some directions than previously. I can assure him and all the industrialists with whom he has spoken that this problem is very much engaging the attention not merely of the Ministry of Labour, but of those who are concerned to see that the right men are in the right place and have the right skill.

There is one particular part of the problem immediately under my administration—the training of men. It may be possible to set up refresher courses for skilled men. In the ordinary way the skilled man is far better trained in the workshop, factory, shipyard or engineering shop, but we have now a series of what have been called Government training centres. I think that a better description would have been "handymen centres." They are remarkable institutions where men are undergoing a six months' course. They are given a knowledge of how to handle tools and instruction in various crafts. It has been suggested that after a man has obtained his training there has been no job for him. He has come up full of hope. He has been encouraged by his instructors, and has had a feeling that things were right with him, and yet, afterwards, no work has been found for him. He has gone back to his home perhaps more depressed than before he began his training. That does not apply to these handymen centres. At these Government training centres these young men have a planned training. We regulate the inflow of men for semi-skilled work according to the jobs that we see ahead for them. Since we started to operate this scheme over 90 per cent. of the men in the training centres throughout the land have been placed in jobs as semi-skilled craftsmen in the trades in which they were trained.


How many workers have been displaced so that they might have these jobs?


The hon. Member need have no alarm for them. Here was the point which he made, and I may as well put it at once. He was drawing a distinction between areas of high unemployment and areas of low unemployment, and making the general observation, that it was no use transferring men from areas of high unemployment to areas of low unemployment, because it would put people out of work in those areas. His statement of the case is not accurate. There can be, side by side with the unemployed in a particular town, a number of demands for quite a different type of labour. The fact is that in the Midlands, in the South, and in other parts of the country there are industries which are eager for workmen, and that is why, during the last six months, we have been able to plan this course. There is a demand for this labour such as we have not seen for some years in this country. We hope that it will continue, and indeed, I believe there is every prospect of it doing so.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there are any guarantees of employment for a. certain length of time and how many men are involved under the new Scheme which he has mentioned? I ask that question because, although he is stressing the point about a planned scheme, there is only a planned scheme to find employment and no guarantee of a particular length of time.


It is quite impossible to guarantee a job. We train the man, and then put him into contact with the employer through the Employment Exchange. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who is the father of the Employment Exchanges will appreciate this fact. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] This is sometimes forgotten, and I thought I would remind the Committee that this is so. We cannot guarantee that an, employer will at any time give employment. The Committee know that the employer must decide whether he engages a man or not. The fact I have given that over 90 per cent. of the men have found jobs within the last seven months, as the training is now being worked, is probably the best assurance that, if training is done, jobs will be there. The number of men with whom we hope to be able to deal in these handymen centres is over 10,000 per year. That will make a very considerable road into the problem of the Special Areas, because I intend that the young men between 18 and 25 from the Special Areas shall have the preference at these handymen centres in connection with this planned transfer system, so that we may be able to meet the point which is made so often by those who look at the tragedy of these Special Areas, and see in it probably the greatest of all tragedies, young men who have gone for work and cannot find a job.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the scheme also applies to the camps like Kielder, or whether it is merely one to deal with Government training centres? I always understood that the difficulty was not to place the people from the Government training centres but from camps. I was under the impression that there was a very high percentage of placements from the Wallsend training centre.


These are training centres for semi-skilled men, and I cannot at the moment see my way clear to apply it to others. I shall watch the experiment with great interest, and the Committee may rest assured that, if we can do more for those who come to our training camps, every effort will be made to see that they obtain the full advantage of employment after they have had help and training in the various camps and centres. The hon. Member for Dundee asked about the unemployment regulations, and pointed out, what is quite true, that there has been a long period of standstill. I would point out to the Committee—and I will only say two things about it—that it was made quite clear in the Manifesto of the Government before the General Election, that any attempt to apply uniformity throughout the whole country would be premature, and that whatever alterations were made will have to be made in the light of previous practice and in full association with local public opinion. The attempt on the part of the board and the Ministry to do that very difficult thing, to keep to the permanent arrangements contained within the framework of the original Act, to maintain the authority of the board and to replace the standstill by a permanent arrangement, avoiding hardship on the one hand, and in full association with public opinion on the other—that has necessitated long discussions and long inquiries. These have been made in every way by the Ministry and by the board.

I was glad to hear an hon. Member speaking in high terms of praise of the officials of the board. That confirms my view, and I assure the Committee that by the spring I hope that we shall not have much longer to await the production of the new scheme.

6.30 p.m.


I want to bring the Committee back to a point which has not been raised in the Debate—the question of part time work—and to deal with the lads between 14 and 16 years of age, secondly with the waiting period, and, thirdly, to say a few words on the recommendations in the report of the Statutory Committee. These lads between 14 and 16 years of age are paying unemployment contributions but receive no benefits. A question was put by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) as to how many boys of this age were working in the mines, and the answer was 30,800. They are all contributing to the fund, but the majority of them are receiving nothing. It is a case of the State throwing up a penny and saying, "Heads I win, tails you lose." The Act says clearly that these lads cannot draw any benefit in their own right unless their fathers are unemployed. The father on part time may be drawing unemployment benefit for himself but he cannot draw benefit for his lad unless the lad himself is out of employment at the same time. If the lad is out of work and his father is in work, the lad cannot draw unemployment benefit; if the lad is in work and the father is out of work the father cannot draw benefit. If the lad is working in the mine he may be on an opposite shift to his father, and it may be that the father will get work one week when the lad may be out of work, and the lad may get work one week and the father be out of work. The father cannot draw any benefit at all for the lad when he is out of work. These boys are paying for two full years without receiving any benefit at all.

It has been said that the recommendations contained in the report are to be discussed later, and it has been indicated that the Government are backing the recommendations of the majority. I want to put before the Committee the point of view in the minority report of Mr. Shaw. It is not a point of view that the contributor shall have his penny back. Our people do not want the penny back, but they do want an increase in the benefits when the lad is out of work. If the men were balloted on the matter there would be an overwhelming majority to let the penny stop where it is, but that when they are out of work, the rate of benefit should be raised from 26s. to 28s., with an additional benefit for the children. It is very diplomatically stated in the report that the penny is an increase in wages amounting to about £40,000 a week. If that is the case, then it is also a reduction in Treasury payments of £40,000 per week. It is pointed out in the report that this means that £6,500,000 less is going into the fund. If you divide that by three, representing the one penny of the employer, the one penny of the employé and the one penny of the Government, it means that the Government are saving over £2,000,000 per year. These 30,800 boys who have no statutory right to draw benefit are helping to pay off the debt at the rate of £250 per week, or £13,000 per year, and we are told that it will take 35 years to pay off this debt.

In regard to the waiting period, Mr. Shaw in his minority report, suggests that it should be reduced from six to three days. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite understand the waiting period, but as far as the part-time employé is concerned, there is no more conspicuous instance of part-time employment than the miners. I have miners who are sharing the work at the pit and instead of 2,000 men being at work 4,000 are working. Some of them only work for three days in a fortnight, and some work one day and play the next. The work is spread over, and naturally these men are desirous that the six days waiting period shall be reduced to three because it means something to them. Take an extreme example. A man can play 128 days in any financial year and not get one penny piece in benefit. He can play his first six waiting days, and until he plays three days in any six, he cannot draw a single penny. He can play for the next nine weeks two days in each week; that is 18 days. He has played 24 days in ten weeks, and at the end of 10 weeks, unless he has drawn some statutory benefit for part-time, he has again another waiting period of six days. He can do that five times in twelve months. It is possible to do it; it is possible for a man to play two days every week and not be entitled to any payment. I am asking the Minister to see that the waiting period is brought down to three days.

Then with regard to the Unemployment Assistance Board's scales. This is not some theory which I have read in a book but something which has actually happened. Last Saturday morning in Barnsley a man came up to me and said: "George, I am glad to have seen thee"—that is how we talk to one another in Yorkshire—"dos't know what they have done across me last week." I said "No." He said: "They have stopped me 13s. 6d. that I were getting on the Board's scale.We were en- titled to 29s. and they have lowered us down to 13s. 6d., and now that my lads have had an increase of 1s. they are cutting the 13s. 6d. off altogether." I have another case of a man who lives in the same street as myself, and another of a man who worked three days at the pit a fortnight ago. He should have been entitled to three day's unemployment benefit, but he had run out of benefit as he had drawn his 156 days statutory benefit. He had to appear before the Unemployment Assistance Board's Committee. He should have drawn for his wife and one child, 29s. per week, but for three days the allowance was 14s. 6d. He had some stoppages, and when he went to draw his unemployment assistance benefit he got 4s. instead of 14s. 6d., which with 22s. made a total of 26s., which he took home and upon which he had to find 10s. a week for rent and the necessaries of life for himself, his wife and child. That is why I want to put the case for part-time employment.

The distressed areas have had their chance. They are called Special Areas; we call them special starvation areas; but so far as part-time employment is concerned there are many people in other districts working slack time who are as badly off as those in the Special Areas. In the Statutory Committee's Report there is a statement that £5,000,000 has been taken this year to help to reduce the debt and that it includes £4,769,279 paid in interest. We owe £105,000,000. We owe £105,000,000 to the Treasury and the interest alone is £4,769,000. It is stated in the report that this debt will be paid off in 1971, that is in 35 years' time. It means that wile these lads are helping to pay off this debt now their grandchildren will also be working to pay off the debt. We do not serve our foreign debtors in this way—oh, no. When the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was at the Treasury, Italy owed us after the War £640,800,000, and the right hon. Gentleman got a dishcloth and wiped out £524,000,000 of that debt. Italy now owes this country £86,000,000. We wipe off the debts of the Italians, but we will not wipe off anything in the case of the workers of this country, who are to be charged interest at the rate of £5,000,000 a year. What did we do in the case of France, which owed us £600,000,000?


The hon. Member had better get back to the subject.


I was trying to drive right home that point regarding debts. France owed this country £600,000,000 and we have forgiven her £400,000,000. I want now to appeal to the Government to wipe off this supposed debt as far as the Unemployment Fund is concerned and to give an advance. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will make a note of this. I do not write shorthand, nor do I speak shorthand; I generally write and speak longhand.

6.46 p.m.


I want to raise one or two specific points regarding the report of the Special Commissioner, but before doing so I would like to refer to the North-Eastern Housing Association. I have been very much impressed by hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway who, during the whole of the Debate, have quite rightly pressed for special treatment for the Special Areas; but when we do get special treatment for the Special Areas, the local representatives on the local councils—not so much hon. Members in the House of Commons—take very grave exception to the establishment of this special board to deal with the housing needs of the North-East Coast. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, speaking in the House yesterday, made a very strong appeal for public support to enable the North-Eastern Housing Association to deal quickly with problems arising in connection with housing in that area. I suggest to hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway that if they really want to obtain what help is available from the Government for the Special Areas, they might urge the local representatives on the local councils to support the North-Eastern Housing Association, and urge the local authorities to make early appeals for the grants in order that overcrowding on the North-East Coast may be dealt with as rapidly as possible. [An HON MEMBER,: "Why not give grants to the local authorities?"] The point I am trying to make is that if it is desired that the Special Areas should be dealt with in a special manner, then when they are so dealt with the help given should be gratefully received. Grants given to local authorities would not be special treatment for the Special Areas.

I listened with great interest to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour concerning the arrangements he had been able to make for placing trainees from the Government training centres, but I would respectfully direct the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to Part VI of the report, where reference is made to the men going to the training camps, such as Kielder, because I think that raises a very important issue. In the first place, there are a great many young men between the ages of 18 and 25 who are not in the best state of physical health, and I know from experience that if these young men take advantage of a three months' course at such camps they come back in a much better physical condition and are better able to cope with normal work in industry. When I have asked some of the lads who have been to these camps what they thought about them, their replies were always on the following lines: "Well, if we do show the Government voluntarily that we are willing to leave our homes, to spend three months in a camp, to go through quite a strict course of discipline"—which I think is very good for them—"and if we do show that we are willing and able to accept work if it is offered to us, ought we not to have the encouragement of knowing that we shall get preferential treatment when we return to our homes?"

I notice that Mr. Malcolm Stewart suggests that the Government should undertake a limited amount of national work for the purpose of giving these particular young men the chance of a job when they leave the camps. I do not want to be unduly critical of the Government, but, speaking from the point of view of my own particular area, I feel that it is very disheartening that we are unable to obtain any specific reply to any specific point which we may raise. I appreciate and realise—because I try not to be unreasonable in these matters—that sometimes the suggestions made by back bench Members and possibly even by the Commissioner himself, may not be practicable; but if I may respectfully say so, it would be much better tactics from the point of view of the Government if they could explicitly state the reasons why they are not able to accept these recommendations. I put to the Parliamentary Secretary that specific point concerning these young men, in whom I take a very great personal interest, because I have interviewed dozens of them myself, I have inspected the camps and I fully appreciate their point of view. I want to have a specific answer to the specific suggestion made by Mr. Malcolm Stewart, that the Government should undertake certain works of a national character which would give these unskilled young men an opportunity of obtaining work for at any rate a year.

I had always understood—and I am afraid I must have been in error in doing so—that it was not difficult to place trainees from Government training centres. As far as the Wallsend training centre is concerned, I was always under the impression that a very high percentage of the men who passed through it could be placed, but I could quote to my right hon. Friend many cases of young men who, when I asked them whether they had been to a training camp, replied in this way: "I have been to four or five training camps and I have never yet had the opportunity of a job at the end."


Are the centres to which the hon. Lady is referring those centres which train men from the special areas to be waiters, printers and so on?


I am referring to training camps such as Kielder. The position is dealt with in the Report of the Commissioner, where it is definitely stated, on page 70: If there is to be hope for these youths, then training must definitely lead to work, and the provision of this is so urgently needed that I feel the institution of the relatively small amount of national work required to be fully warranted. I would emphasise that Mr. Malcolm Stewart does not advocate a large national programme of public works, but asks for a small amount of national work. I should be very grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary would inform the Committee whether the Government are going to lay out the necessary money to encourage these young men, because I think that one of the most urgent necessities in the Special Areas at the present time is to encourage young men to take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded them. I think it is extremely hard on these young men, who are in a very depressed state of mind, that we do not give them the attraction which would neces- sarily be theirs if they knew that at the end of the three months' period at one of these training camps they would be able to get some work at any rate for a period.

The next point I want to raise concerns a matter which is dealt with on page 71 of the report of the Commissioner, where he states: I have been much impressed by data obtained regarding tae low medical standard of boys and young men in the areas. I know that the Government never like to discuss physical standards of health, but I should not be doing my duty if I did not call the Government's attention to that specific point, for—if my right hon. Friend will forgive me for being personal again —it must be six or eight months since he told me that he was in consultation with the Minister of Health to see whether something could not be done in cases where men are in a state of health inadequate for the work which they are called upon to perform. It is all very well to prepare openings in training centres and training camps, but there are many young men, who, while willing to go to these camps, are not accepted because their physical condition is not such as to warrant their undergoing the necessary training. Mr. Malcolm Stewart asserts in his report that in most cases there is not a great deal wrong with these young men and that some form of treatment would put them into a sound physical condition. The Minister of Labour has apparently been working on this matter for a very long time, and I know with a very great deal of sympathy but I should be very grateful if we could be told whether a decision has been arrived at as to whether these young men are to be dealt with, because I consider this to be a matter of the utmost urgency and of the very greatest importance. If these young men are put into a thoroughly sound physical condition, there will be no lack of volunteers for these training centres and camps, and when they are in such a condition they are much more likely to be keen and enthusiastic about looking for jobs, and employers are much more likely to give them jobs.

Another point I would like to raise concerns the location of industries, of which we have heard a very great deal. The North-East Coast Development Board have made the specific allegation that the difficulty of attracting new industries to the Special Areas is due to the lack of finance, and I would draw attention to the following statement in Mr. Malcolm Stewart's report: I came to the conclusion that, if the areas were to be given a good chance of partaking in the general economic recovery of the country and in the advantage of the present abundance of cheap money, it was essential that further facilities should be provided and that a fund should be created and used for the express purpose of stimulating the establishment of new industries and expansion of existing industries in the areas. The North-East Coast Development Board do not seem to be seized with the feeling that there are not proper factory sites and they do not seem to be obsessed by the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) in his speech this afternoon. I must say that the hon. Member's speech left me in a profoundly depressed condition. It seemed to me that he thought that the people of this country were taking Socialism seriously, and I am sure that the last Election proved that the people were not taking Socialism seriously.

This question of finance is an important point in relation to our area. I notice that Mr. Stewart said that he had referred the suggestion to the Government as long ago as 26th July last year. We do not expect Government Departments to be quick, and we know that in the interests of the nation they must examine all problems in all their aspects. But I suggest that when the proposal is made by a man of the experience and capability of Mr. Stewart, who has had the advantage of discussing the problem with experts in all areas and has come to a definite conclusion, that it should allay some of the fears which we might expect the Government to express; and that when the North-East Coast Development Board also make a similar suggestion we might reasonably expect the Government to come to a decision at no distant date. If the Government wanted to make a real contribution to this problem they would find a means of doing so if they came forward in the way suggested with regard to the special finance of these areas, and I press for a definite answer on these points.

All of us, on both sides of the House, have put forward over a period of years a large number of suggestions, some practicable and some impracticable. Any criticism which comes from supporters of the National Government in the distressed areas is in this direction—that we find it so difficult to get a definite negative or affirmative answer from the Government on the suggestions which we put forward. Because of the rules of the House it seems to be impossible to have a debate on these questions. The Government make a statement of policy. We put forward suggestions in debate. If the Minister does not care to reply to our suggestions we have no remedy. I suggest that, from the point of view of the areas themselves, it would be to the advantage of all of them if the Government could take the suggestions that were made, item by item, examine them seriously and say, "This is not practical; we turn it down," or, "This has the characteristics of possible usefulness, and we will consider it."

One suggestion has been made repeatedly in relation to the process of extracting oil from coal. We have had the experiment at Billingham, and we understand that it is a commercial success. We want to know whether, as soon as it is announced beyond doubt that it is a commercial success, the Government will have the coal-fields surveyed with the idea of ascertaining which coal-fields are most suitable for the production of oil from coal, and whether, when they have finished that survey, they are prepared to finance the establishment of plants in those areas. If the suggestion is not practicable I hope my hon. Friend will say so. But speaking with all the emphasise I can command, I hope that the Government will make up their mind to give us a specific declaration of policy.

7.6 p.m.


I want to draw the attention of the House to one matter in particular, and it relates to cases similar to those referred to by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Griffiths). He was concerned with part-time employment and the hardships experienced by individuals in that unfortunate condition. I want to put the case of part-time employed men who are confined exclusively to one port, and on whom grave injustice is inflicted. At Grimsby a good deal of Danish produce is discharged. The boats come twice only a week, and when they do come now their cargoes, owing to the Government's restrictive policy, are much less in bulk and in value than they used to be. There is a class of men who have acquired skill in the expeditious discharge of these goods, and they are very much in demand by the railway companies. They are always on the look out for employment on these boats on Mondays and Thursdays when the boats are discharged. They have come to be known as "butter boat men."

Because the boats only come twice a week, and the opportunities for obtaining employment in other parts of the dock are so small, they are now classified by the Ministry as people normally engaged only two days a week. A good many of them would be thankful to be able to say that they were at least certain of employment on two days a week. These men, although brought under Regulation 3 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1930, are ordinary dockers who at one time, when trade at the port was brisker, found frequent opportunities of working on the docks discharging other boats. They are men who have what in the transport workers world is known as a docker's ticket. That is an indication that they are available for and capable of performing any ordinary docker's work. Not only are they capable, but they are constantly out four days of the week, at varying times according to the state of the tide, taking their chance in the queues of an opportunity of work that all too frequently does not come to them.

Because of their peculiar misfortune which allows them to be employed on two days a week but does not give them the opportunity for employment on other days, they are classed as men not normally employed more than two days a week. I cannot induce myself to believe that the anomalies regulation in the Act of 1930 was intended to apply to a case such as this; but it has been stretched until it does apply, with the result that their position is becoming worse. They find themselves frequently in the position that for months on end they are lucky if they can get one day's work. If they do, they have in addition one day's unemployment benefit. If they do not get one day's work they have two day's unemployment benefit. By the action of the Department they are excluded from drawing any other benefit.

The Ministry of Labour may pride itself on relieving the Department of some small financial burden that it otherwise might incur if these men were allowed their normal benefit. It may go further and say that these men are not unemployed because they are employed one or two days a, week. But if the Department only understood the bitterness with which these men realise their position, and understood the serious injustice that is done to them—because, unfortunately, such is the administration of public assistance, when they get their one day it is little use their going to the public assistance department for something to supplement their one days work and one day's benefit—they would realise that here are men who, if they are out of work for the whole year, cannot draw more than 104 day's unemployment benefit for that year. That seems to mo to require serious consideration.

I am aware that the Ministry is fully cognisant of the facts that I am stating. I want to press on the Parliamentary Secretary and on the Minister that these men have now a stronger claim than when first their case was decided by the umpire, for that consideration would regard them not as men normally only occupied two days a week, but as men who are constantly seeking work in other departments and even then have not sufficient to qualify them for ordinary benefit. There is no justification for keeping these men out of the normal scheme of unemployment insurance and normal periods of benefit except meanness of the worst kind on the part of the Department.

I have listened with considerable weariness to the talk that has been indulged in from both sides of the Committee, dealing with proposals that might do something for unemployment in the afflicted areas if only those proposals were applied, or applied more efficiently. I listened to the hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) harping on the same string on which so many Members have harped, namely, providing employment subsequent upon training for some of the young men who are bursting with the desire to get a job. One would almost come to the conclusion that the reason these people found work was because somewhere there was a shortage of skilled labour that could only be remedied by certain individuals receiving a certain measure of training and being fortunate in obtaining the good offices of someone capable of putting them in touch with localities where skilled labour was required. Could anything be more preposterous as a suggestion to those who know anything about the unemployment problem? Is it beyond the minds of hon. Members to conceive that every scheme of training that has been devised, in so far as it has been successful in putting any trainee into a, job, has only done so by depriving of the job some other individual who would otherwise have got it Training is no remedy for unemployment. We have the men who are capable without any further training to adapt themselves to almost any job that is available. To urge training is to show a gross misconception of the needs of the situation.


Is the hon. Member aware that there are more people in employment to-day than have ever been in employment before?


I am not concerned with the number of people in employment, but with the number of men, women and youths who are out of employment and who cannot get work in any circumstances. It is no consolation to a man who is out of a job to tell him that there are more men with jobs than at any time before. Why do hon. Members try to delude themselves and other people that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds by looking through rose-tinted spectacles which conceal the sordidness of the actual conditions.


Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the training of men is not necessary? Has he had any experience in industrial centres? I can tell him that there are hundreds of jobs waiting for skilled or semi-skilled—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?") In Sheffield.


The hon. Member has not a very good opinion of my intelligence when he asks me whether I consider training necessary for the pursuit of an industrial occupation. Of course it is necessary, and I am not arguing that it is not. I am arguing that those who think that passing our youths through training camps or special centres and giving them a partial training that equips them with much less skill than hundreds of men who are out in the labour market looking for jobs is a cure or even a partial palliative are grossly deceiving themselves. I am obliged to take up a similar attitude towards transference. One would think that there are any number of jobs waiting for people in excess of the number of people who are out of work, and that the difficulty is that the people who are wanting jobs are in one section of the country and the jobs are in another. Hon. Members must know differently from that. I do not place so mean an estimate on their intelligence to think that they really believe there is any palliative much less cure, for unemployment in taking people from one quarter of the country to another. It must be obvious that if there is work and men are fortunate enough to get it, it is because they are on the spot. Others are not fortunate because they are living in another neighbourhood. If men are transferred from the neighbourhood where there is no job to the neighbourhood where there is a job, what about the chances of the people who are living where the job is? Obviously you do not cure an evil such as unemployment by transferring the consequences of it from one individual to another. You cannot cure a distressed area by moving so many people from that area to a prosperous area, and thereby turning the prosperous area into a distressed area.

Let me ask the Committee to consider why we have distressed areas at all. Why have we any unemployed at all? The hon. Member for Wallsend says she was disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel). I imagine she was not the only Member who was. Her disappointment is due to a different cause from the cause of the disappointment of some of my colleagues. She imagined that the hon. Member was becoming infected with the fear of Socialism. If she imagined that, why need she in turn appear to be afraid? Perhaps on some other occasion I may join issue with the hon. Member for Farnham or any other hon. Members opposite who wish to raise that question. The hon. Member had not sufficient knowledge of the question to state it in its proper terms. His suggestion was that Socialism was the antithesis of private enterprise The antithesis of Socialism is capitalism. He suggested that the antithesis of Socialism was individualism. It is nothing of the kind. There is no keener individualist in the House than I am, but, on the other hand, no keener or more deeply convicted Socialist.

I am one of those individuals who think that my individual life to me, however it may appear to others, is the most important life that is manifested in the universe just now. I conceive an equal right to anybody else to think that about his individual life. I want to develop and express that life by the best that can be afforded by this universe with all its boundless resources. I cannot get the best for myself by pursuing an exclusively individual line of my own in competition with others. I can only get the best for myself so far as I identify my interest with the common interest. Capitalism has utterly failed to do that. Only in so far as I seek to co-operate with others, can I get the best for myself and for the community at large. Yours is a spurious individualism that does not seek to promote the good of the individual in common with the good of the community. Yours is an individualism that seeks to promote your individual good regardless of the good of the community.


I would not like the hon. Gentleman to finish his speech without answering the question which he propounded as to why there is any unemployment.


It is not because of any lack of will on my part, but, since you ask it, I will try to answer it. Unemployment is not due to the location of industry, and therefore cannot be cured by any transference of unemployed. Rather I should say that unemployment is due to the objective of industry. The objective of all industry under capitalism is not to satisfy the needs of the community engaged in industry. That is the last consideration. The only consideration is the amount of profit that can be made out of industry. The objective of industry is wrong, and as long as it is run for profit it means that the worker does not have wages comparable to the amount of wealth he has created and is unable to buy back the wealth that he has created. His wages are never allowed to reach that point. Consequently, you have what you in your confusion of ideas call over-production and which some of you are beginning to realise—


I hope the hon. Member realises that he is supposed to be addressing the Chair.


I am afraid I have transgressed through inexperience as a new Member. I shall try not to trespass in the same way in future. I convinced myself many years ago, and each succeeding year has strengthened the conviction, that there is no cure for unemployment in capitalism, and hon. Members opposite know that. In Socialism there would be no opportunity for idleness and there would be no voluntary idleness on the part of those who fail to make their contribution to the world's necessary work. There would be no over-work, no under-work, no need for transference, no need for foolish, half-baked methods of training, which succeed in doing nothing but teach people how to do jobs in a way that could best be done by people who have had proper training. Hon. Members opposite have no remedy available, and if there is anyone who can accomplish the task of being a masterpiece in the way of covering up their own inadequacy to deal with this problem it is the Minister of Labour.

7.31 p.m.


I am glad, Sir Dennis, that you called upon the hon. Member who has just sat down to address himself to you and not to me. Now you will have to bear the responsibility of being described as an utterly selfish individual who pursues his way remorselessly without any regard to the interests of the community. I never did adopt that attitude and I do not think that hon. Members on this side adopt it. If the hon. Member was disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) I was just as disappointed with his speech, because it was completely devoid of any practical or constructive suggestion from the first word to the last. The reason why I welcome this Debate—which up to the last 20 minutes has been conducted in a very quiet atmosphere, which rather differs from the atmosphere which pervaded the Debate yesterday on the Vote of Censure—is that hon. Members have the opportunity of putting forward as briefly as they can some definite and constructive suggestion for the consideration of the Government.

I sympathise very much with my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward). She complained bitterly that all the practical suggestions made to the Government were either avoided or they received evasive replies. She said that she never got a definite "yes" or a definite "no" to anything she ever said. If she had been a Member of this House as long as I have she would not worry about that. Let me say to her that if from any speech delivered in this House she begins to see results from any Government in office within five or 10 years after it has been delivered, she will be fortunate. I do not expect to see the slightest result from any suggestion that I make this evening, until 1943, and I do not expect the Parliamentary Secretary to make any concrete reply to any suggestions that l am about to make. The Minister of Labour will make a great mistake if he thinks that, hon. Members on this side were satisfied with yesterday's Debate. They were not at all satisfied. They were profoundly dissatisfied, because they felt that the Government had really not taken any effective action to deal with the problem of unemployment in the distressed areas. The Government appointed two Commissioners, and each of there has issued two reports, quite apart from the reports of the Government's own Commissioners, who were sent to the distressed areas—may I stress particularly the report of the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade—none of whose recommendations have been adopted by the Government. They give us their reports, and then nothing happens. It is too bad to tempt us with the reports if they are not going to do anything.

It is no good the Government thinking, and it is no good hon. Members on this side thinking, that we can for a moment dissociate this problem of unemployment from the general economic policy pursued by the Government. What I want to try to emphasise is the continuing danger which is involved by the absence of any central direction of economic policy. There has never been, to my knowledge, any central direction of the economic policy of any Government since the War. Nobody knows that better than the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan).


That is not quite true. The Economic Advisory Com- mittee was set up by the Labour Government.


The Lord President of the Council when he was Prime Minister set up, what the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) described as a brain storm, an Economic Advisory Council consisting of every known and unknown economist, of every political persuasion, but so far as we know they have never met, or very seldom. Some of them would not be on speaking terms if they did meet. We do not know whether they have ever produced a report. Certainly, there is no definite direction or control over them. I discovered the other day, to my amazement, that they are still in existence. Nobody would think that they were in existence, because we never see any results from their activities.


Unemployment has fallen.


If the hon. Member thinks that the fall in unemployment is due to the activities of the Economic Advisory Committee, he is welcome to that thought.


I am not sure who claims the credit for it. The figure fell, and then it went up.


I do not wish to pursue the thoughts of the hon. Member; they are not mine, and seldom are. I think there is necessity for a revision of the machinery of the central government in regard to the question of economic policy. There is just as great a need for that revision as there is for revision in the region of defence. We are reorganising the whole machinery of government so far as defence is concerned because we are under severe pressure. The pressure of Hitler is greater than the pressure of unemployment. That should not be so. Both problems are equally great. There is as great a need for the same sort of activity in regard to economic policy as there is in regard to defence policy. I wish hon. Members opposite would join some of us in trying to galvanise the Government into some sort of activity in regard to unemployment just as we have galvanised the Government into activity in regard to defence. Both problems, curiously enough, can be resolved and tackled largely on the same lines.

I do not believe that if any hon. Member applied his mind to this question he would not agree that there should be far more co-operation in designing and putting through a long-term economic policy between the Treasury, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Scottish Office than there is at the present time. I do not believe that any hon. Member would cavil at the suggestion that there should be a Minister in the Cabinet without Portfolio, to co-ordinate Government activity in the economic sphere, a Minister with exactly the same task that it is proposed to give to the new Deputy-Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I cannot conceive that there has been for years in this House the necessary co-operation and consultation between the different departments of State, each one of which has an absolutely vital contribution to make not only to economic policy but to the welfare of the unemployed. I do not believe that the Government have ever sat down and surveyed carefully what we call the special areas and said to themselves: "Which of these areas is capable in any circumstances of revival and which must be abandoned in the long run?" I do not believe that any body or Committee of the Government, such as I should like to see sitting almost daily, has ever said: "Having decided which of these special areas can be revived and which cannot, what vigorous, constructive action are we going to take to revive the areas which we think ought to be revived, and what steps are we going to take to transfer—here I disagree with many hon. Members opposite—the younger people from the areas which cannot recover?" I believe there are such districts. If that be the case it would be far better to face that fact here and now and to transfer the younger people from those derelict districts to others where there is hope, and to provide some benefit scheme of pensions or allowances, together with vacations of a non-permanent character, such as market gardening for the older people who are left in those districts. I do not believe that such a survey of the special areas has ever taken place. It ought to have taken place years ago, and it ought to have been revised every year.

We have heard a great deal to-day, as we did yesterday, about industrial planning, particularly in regard to the location of industry. In this connection I entirely agree with what was said by my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) last night. We lay down a lot of conditions of every sort and kind before we allow a manufacturer to set up a factory in any particular district. I cannot see why the Government should not lay down some direction in regard to the location of new industries which are proposed to be set up. It is absolutely within the prerogative of the State to do that, but I do not agree with the statement that if they laid down that condition they would be responsible for the profits of the industry. That is not so at all. There ought to be an advisory committee both for England and Scotland sitting on this question, and any single individual manufacturer wishing to set up a factory in this country ought to interview that authoritative body and satisfy them as to the desirability of the factory being set up, and he ought to agree with them as to the locality. The Government have a great opportunity to make a start in their reorganisation of munitions and armaments, and they have announced that to some extent it is their intention to do that. In addition to munitions and armaments work, for which the Government are directly responsible, they ought to follow the report of the Commissioner for Scotland, his second report—nobody can call him a revolutionary—in which he says: In my previous Report I only ventured upon two suggestions for the consideration of the Government, the possible formation of an authoritative Scottish body to assist economic planned development and research. I think it is essential that such a body should be set up at the earliest possible moment. The Commissioner has referred to this authoritative body in two reports. Over six months have elapsed between the publication of the first and second report, but nothing has been done. What is the Minister doing to set up for Scotland a committee of that kind, with adequate powers to direct industries into special districts and, further, to quote from the Commissioner's report, with powers as to such questions as the siting for new housing in relation to industrial development, the clearance of industrial sites, the problem of clearing unsightly waste bings, and the provision of such services and facilities which do not fall solely within the functions of existing authorities. The Commissioner goes on to say: This and similar questions might well form part of the duties of such a body as I have suggested, as well as the need for the orderly planning of new industrial developments. I feel that the setting up of such a body would be of such immense value that I beg the Government to give the matter urgent consideration. Hon. Members who represent distressed areas in England and Wales will agree with me that such a body, representative of leading trade unionists and industrialists as well as local authorities would be of great importance. It is not only industrial planning that is wanted at the present moment. There must also be some grip and some control over the fantastic housing development which is going on all over the country at the present time. There ought to be some form of central control. We have been pressing the Government on this point for years and years, but nothing has been done and all the time we see this monstrous and hideous ribbon development going on everywhere, without any attempt being made to deal with the problem effectively from the centre.

I do not particularly blame the Government in this respect. I believe the reason for this is to be found in the problem which I raised at the outset. That is the problem which arises from the fact that there is no adequate machinery of Government for conducting the economic policy of the country. I believe that that problem is fundamental. It covers such questions as that of public works. For instance, we have an agitation in Scotland with regard to a Forth Bridge and Tay Bridge and road communications in that area. That is a particular development for which, at present, the Minister of Transport is solely responsible, and on which he answers questions in this House. Is a, question of the linking up by road of the whole of the East of Scotland a matter to be settled by the Minister of Transport alone? Surely it is a matter to be settled by an economic advisory council which is effective and efficient and which acts. A proper representative advisory council with a coordinating Minister at its head is the sort of body to which a question of this magnitude ought to be referred. It is not the duty of the Minister of Transport to answer questions in this House on such a development as if it were only a question of the immediate necessity of building a bridge over the Forth or over the Tay. He regards it purely as a departmental matter, but it is not a departmental matter but a national matter of the most urgent importance.

In connection with these questions of regional planning, I believe that in addition to an economic advisory council, there ought to be also an advisory housing committee. The voluntary housing committee to which various hon. Members on this side belong frequently stresses that point in its reports. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have travelled abroad in recent years, and those who have visited foreign countries—America, France, Germany, or even Russia—must have been struck as I have been struck by the pride with which the local inhabitants, in town after town, point out the amenities of their neighbourhood and show visitors the latest housing schemes, whether they are under capitalist or Socialist administration. I defy anyone to feel proud of the appearance presented by the centre of Scotland at the present time. How can one be proud of a slag heap? The time has come when this problem ought to be cleared up. Somebody ought to tackle the hideous waste of ugliness which stretches between Edinburgh and Glasgow at the present time. That district is like Abyssinia after an air raid. The ironical thing is that if we look back over past years we find that British capital has been used lavishly for planned development in every corner of the globe—in South America, in the Dominions, in the the Colonies. We find in Buenos Aires and in Rio and in many other of the lovely cities of the world, British capital has played a part in development and planning. The only place where we have no use for our capital apparently is at home in Great Britain for planning the general development of our own country. I think it shows an extraordinary lack of imagination on the part of the Government of this country.

With regard to the social service side of the problem which is also of great importance, we must, I think, await the report of the Advisory Committee before coming to any decision. I would only say to the Minister that if he touches family allowances too closely he is playing with fire. The further he keeps away from the family means test the more satisfied will hon. Members on all sides be, because we do not want a repetition of the mess which we had a few months ago. With regard to instructional centres and the desirability of extending them, I do not agree with hon. Members opposite. I think these centres are of enormous value. One has only to read the report of the Commissioner to realise how valuable they have been, and if I had time I would quote from Mr. Malcolm Stewart's remarks on the necessity of extending instructional centres for those who are not qualified to take the full course of training at the Government training centres and of providing employment for at least a year for those young men who go through the instruction centres.

The whole idea of training camps, instructional centres and the centres of voluntary physical culture for young unemployed which have been established in Scotland is worthy of consideration. I direct attention especially to the success of the voluntary physical culture classes in Scotland. I think that idea might usefully be extended. I ask the Minister whether it would not be possible, in connection with the new military training, to set up, in conjunction with the War Office and the Air Ministry, purely voluntary military camps where some of the younger unemployed could get a rough military training and could subsequently be embodied in the Territorial Force, so that they could go to camp every year. That would provide them with opportunities for keeping physically fit and leading an open air life. I believe in this connection that you might get some money out of the War Office and it is the money that I am after in this matter. The War Office is going to get a lot of money in the near future and the Air Ministry will probably get even more. Could not the Minister of Labour get something out of it so as to help some of these young men and give them a period of decent training in camp once a year?

There is one further point that I wish to raise, and on which I appeal to hon. Members on all sides to back me up, because I believe it to be most important, and, indeed, fundamental, and that is the question of nutrition and the actual health of the people. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend quoted from a report of Mr. Malcolm Stewart. I would quote the following passage: I have been much impressed by data obtained regarding the low medical standard of boys and young men in the areas. The percentage of rejections on medical grounds for the juvenile transfer centres and for the men's instructional centres is alarmingly high. Then we find this significant passage: That the school children have received great benefit by attention at the children's school camps is shown by the fact that their weights increase on average by about 2 lbs. each whilst in camp. That shows the condition which they are in when they get to the camps. After all, is it not scandalous that between 1932 and 1935 over 50 per cent. of Army recruits were rejected on physical fitness grounds alone? I beg of the Minister to direct attention of the Government to the researches which are going on in this field, and particularly to those which are being conducted by the Rowett Institute and the Empire Marketing Board. The results are very interesting. They prove, among other things, that while the consumption of bread, flour, potatoes and tea rises very slightly from the poorest and then remains constant—and they are the less nutritious articles of food—milk consumption in this country rises from less than one pint per head per week to 5I pints. The average in milk consumption in the United Kingdom is only 2.7 pints per Lead per week as against five pints in the United States and Scandinavia.

Fruit and vegetables follow almost exactly the same curve. Sir John Orr and a great many medical experts have reached the conclusion that the average expenditure on food in the United Kingdom is 8s. 9d. per head per week, while a really first-rate diet, capable of giving adequate nutrition ought to cost about 10s. per head per week. They estimate that 10 per cent. of the population of this country cannot, in existing circumstances, afford more than 4s. per head per week, and another 20 per cent. do not average more than 5s. 9d. per head per week. They further estimate that over 30 per cent, of the population is suffering in some degree from malnutrition, and that conclusion is confirmed by almost every clinical test. This is a subject of tremendous importance and one which I hope we shall be dealing with constantly during this Parliament. If the standard of health of better-off families in this country be taken as a test, the evidence of widespread malnutrition particularly among the children of the unemployed in the depressed areas is overwhelming.

What is the total cost, I wonder? What is the bill to the Government and to the nation, every year, of this ill-health? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) put a question the other day on this subject to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. He tried to get some information as to the total cost of ill-health in this country, but the Parliamentary Secretary said he could not give the information. I think it is his business to find out, and I believe if the House knew what the cost was they would be staggered. I am informed that it represents something over £100,000,000 sterling a year. I believe that by a very small comparative expenditure it would be found possible to bring about what Sir John Orr has described as the marriage between agriculture and health, by closing up the gaps between retail and wholesale prices, by using subsidies if you like, but instead of giving the money to individual producers for individual commodities, by using the money for the purpose of bringing better food within the reach of the poorer classes of this country. We ought to make it possible for them to use fresh milk and good nutritious food instead of the tinned stuffs which they now eat. We ought to see to it that adequate supplies of free milk are made available for school children and nursing mothers and very young children.

The Government ought to go much further in this direction than the policy upon which they have already tentatively and very timidly embarked. If they did so, they could accomplish much, not only for the health of the children but for agriculture and, in the long run, for the benefit of the country as a whole. We are considering to-day the whole problem of defence. Are we to do nothing about the health of our people? I believe that the health of the people at the present time is rotten and that there is much to be done to bring it up to the satisfactory standard. I wish to say that it is only in a constructive spirit that I have made these observations, and I beg of the Government to take them seriously into consideration.

7.59 p.m.


I have listened with great interest to the Debates of yesterday and to-day. They have centred round three main points, namely, the question of large scale transference from the depressed areas, the question of the introduction of new industries and in some instances the question of the equalisation of rating. As regards transference, I am in favour of it to an appreciable extent, but I wish to point out that owing to our present transference schemes many villages and hard-pressed county areas are being depleted of their youth and energy. In many instances only the sick and infirm are left and these in the near future will become a permanent charge on the local authorities concerned. To me, that in itself is a very serious question and a question that ought to be considered by the responsible Government Department.

Then there is the question of the breaking up of the home life in our villages. We talk glibly about transference schemes, but many of us who are here do not realise what it means to tens of thousands of our homes, and I have thought that, instead of concentrating so much upon transference schemes, we ought to seek as far as possible to introduce new industries into our Special Areas. I remember as a new Member of this House listening, on the 3rd December last, to the speech delivered by the Prime Minister in regard to the Government's scheme for dealing with depressed areas, and I remember that he said, among other things, that the Government contemplated setting up trading estates. He also said that he anticipated that out of some consideration—I do not know exactly what it was—that the Government had given to certain industrialists, they, out of sheer gratitude for what had been done for them, would come along in all probability and start new industries in the depressed areas. I anticipated, as a new Member, that the Government, through their spokesman, had in some way or other found out that there were industrialists who were able and willing to come to the Government's. aid in time of need, and I was interested in listening to the Debate yesterday, and in reading the report compiled by Mr. Malcolm Stewart for the Special Areas. to learn that he sent out forms to 5,829 industrial concerns, of whom 4,099 sent no answer. His suggestion, in his report, is that industrialists are indifferent to the conditions prevailing in the distressed areas and not willing, whatever representations may be made to the Government of the day by those whom they have appointed to inquire into the conditions prevailing in the various counties of England and Wales, to come to the Government's aid in this our great time of need.

I come from a coal-mining area, namely, Durham county, and I was reading a monthly return from the Durham Miners' Association this week. There I found that in Durham there are 71,000 fewer miners employed than there were in 1924. There is no hope for a large number of those men being absorbed into the mining industry again. Mr. Stewart, in his report, on page 29, I think it is, states that mining can never be what it was in so far as absorbing labour is concerned and that, owing to mechanisation and the cutting of coal by machinery bringing an increased output, it will not be necessary in the years to come to absorb the great numbers of men who have been engaged in mining in the past. Bearing those things in mind, and realising that in counties like Durham coal mining is the staple industry, and that that is in a bad way, I ask the representatives of the Government what they are prepared to do to seek to bring a measure of prosperity to counties or to areas which are depressed through no fault of their own.

The Commissioner in his report talks of the young men who are wasting in our colliery villages, our adolescents between 18 and 21. He says that in these areas there are approximately 11,000 of them, and that they are reaching a point where they realise that they are being kept out of public or national funds and that in many instances they are not willing to work even if work is presented to them. I do not blame the young men. I blame the system under which we are living, because, through the apathy of the National Government and their do-nothing policy, they are allowing our young men to waste in our colliery villages and they are helping to breed a race of unemployables.

We in Durham county have been very much disturbed owing to the fact that we are getting from bad to worse. I would like to quote some figures which set out in no unmistakable way the conditions prevailing in Durham. For this year we have had to budget for Poor Law purposes £1,336,000 and for ordinary outgoings £843,000. We have had to levy a rate of approximately 9s. in the pound to help provide bread and butter for those people who in many instances ought to be a national charge. In Durham county—and I have quoted these figures before—73 persons per 1,000 are receiving public assistance, against an average of 25.4 per 1,000 for the administrative counties of England and Wales. The burden to be borne in respect of outdoor relief is therefore sufficiently formidable in itself.

When it is realised that only 3 per cent. of the dwelling-houses in the county have a rateable value exceeding £20 and that 76.5 per cent. are rated at £10 or under, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that this burden constitutes an almost insurmountable barrier to economic recovery. The local government bodies in Durham county who are responsible have asked the Government time and time again to take into consideration the fact that they are hard pressed areas and to come to their aid, either by reorganisation of the block grant system or by Captain Euan Wallace's suggestion of annual subscriptions from the Exchequer of approximately £700,000, so as to make their poor rate comparable with that for the rest of the country. Up to now the whole of the representations of the county have been practically ignored. Last week in Durham, when we had a quarterly meeting of the Durham County Council, a wave of indignation passed through that council chamber, owing to the inaction of the National Government and the fact that they, as the responsible people, fail to realise their great responsibility and fail absolutely to come to the aid of an area that ought before now to have been substantially helped from the National Exchequer.

In conclusion, I ask the Government this: We have had two Commissioner's reports, and we have had a survey by Captain Wallace of the industrial areas. Captain Wallace suggested—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—I am sorry. I did not know be was a Member of this House, at the moment. The hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Wallace) compiled a report in 1934 and made certain suggestions to the Government to help the depressed areas. What are you going to do about it? He did his job, he compiled his report and gave it to you, and yours is the responsibility. Since then we have had two reports from the Commissioner for the Special Areas. In the report prior to this last one he suggested a shorter working week to help to absorb numbers of our unemployed. He also said that the figures which had been compiled suggested that there were 700,000 people in industry bordering on to 65 years of age. His report suggested that the Government ought to reorganise the contributory pensions scheme, and make it worth while for older people to get out of industry to make room for the energy which is running to waste at street corners. Again the Government ignored that recommendation. They had done nothing, and now that this latest report has been submitted to the House speeches from the Government Benches suggest that they are bankrupt of any idea of what they are going to do with it and whether in the near future, these hard-pressed areas can expect any measure of relief from the National Exchequer. In conclusion I would say that the patience of our people in the distressed areas has been wonderful. For years they have gone through Gethsemane, but their patience is about exhausted, and unless something is done speedily in the interests of those people something may occur in many counties in England and Wales which will have far-reaching effects as far as we as a country are concerned.

8.16 p.m.


The hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) described a part of the country with which he is specially familiar but which I know only in a most cursory manner, and therefore it would not be right for me to attempt to follow- up his remarks. I would offer only this observation upon them, that I think he takes rather a pessimistic view of what is to come. He reminded me, even in the tones of his voice, of the old prophets who used to foretell doom. I hardly think we are likely to meet our doom as quickly as he suggested. I should like, rather, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in the very interesting speech which he made and to examine in somewhat closer detail the problem in Scotland. There are one or two very good reasons why the Scottish problem should be examined carefully by this Committee. First, the incidence of unemployment in Scotland is very much higher than in England. In England as a whole 15.2 per cent. of the insured population are registered as unemployed, but in Scotland the corresponding figure is no less than 24.6 per cent. That is to say that North of the Tweed the incidence of unemployment is more than 60 per cent. higher than it is in England. That is a very important point. Again, because of its history, because of its geographical situation, I might almost say, because of the psychology of the Scottish people, it has been the invariable custom of this House to legislate for Scottish affairs not separately but at least in a particular manner, and this is a case in point. When to these reasons is added the third, that the character and administration of the Special Areas in Scotland are peculiar to our country, I suggest that it is right that we should examine that problem in some detail.

In spite of the eloquent addresses from hon. Members opposite and on this side I am not sure that the Committee appreciates the special character of unemployment in Scotland. Broadly speaking it is true to say that acute distress arising from unemployment is in England confined to the Special Areas. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I said, "broadly speaking." Just before this Debate I looked up the figures. In the two Special Areas of Durham and Cumberland the average of unemployment is 33.3 and 33.6 per cent. There are only 12 towns in England, and they are nearly all smallish towns, where the rate of unemployment is higher than this. In Scotland it is a very different story. In Scotland there are not merely 12 towns but actually eight whole counties in which the average rate of unemployment is much higher than is to be found in the Special Area of Lanarkshire. That does not mean that there is a vast multitude of people, but that over the greater part of the area of Scotland there is a higher incidence of unemployment than is to be found even in Lanarkshire itself. In individual towns there is a rate of unemployment as high as in any town in England, even in the County of Durham. In Peterhead it is 50.3 per cent., in Buckie 52.8, in Wick 47.3—towns that are dependent mainly upon fishing. Other towns, dependent mainly on the prosperity of agriculture, have suffered less severely, but even in my own County of Fife the mining town of Cowdenbeath has a percentage of unemployment almost as high as I have quoted. The report of the Special Commissioner for Scotland, issued the other day, indicated, and I am sure we were all glad to see it, that there was a distinct change for the better in these Special Areas.


Since he was appointed.


That change for the better is explained partly by the activities of Sir Arthur Rose, who has worked with great zeal, but I should say it is explained mainly by the general revival in the steel and shipbuilding industries throughout the country and in the West of Scotland. There are signs, slight but quite definite, of a steady improvement in the Special Areas, and if the rearmament programme goes ahead, as we understand it will, then I can see those areas enjoying a comparative measure of prosperity in the years immediately ahead.

The areas described as "special" are the areas on which the Government concentrate practically the whole of the State's financial aid and energy at the present time, but what about the areas outside? Alongside the Special Areas there is a steady, a deadly, and, in some cases, a growing weight of idleness which gives cause for very deep concern. No direct steps are being taken by the State to deal with it and the dwellers in those areas all suffer from that distress. Growers of oats, growers of barley, producers of meat and the men who work for them, line fishermen, herring fishermen—all these classes, and general labourers, are feeling the pinch at the present time. I ask the Government, and especially the Lord Advocate, who, I see, is present representing the Scottish Office, whether they are fully aware of the facts as I have stated them. Do the Government know that opinion in Scotland is becom- ing increasingly critical of the present method of dividing the country into two distinct areas: the Special Areas and the others. It is being strongly criticised in Scotland by members of all parties.

When the Special Areas Act for Scotland was introduced I was prepared to give it a fair run. In these days we do things by the method of trial and error, a phrase which will live for ever in the memory of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture. We have tried this method, and I think we have perceived the error. I have come to the conclusion that to limit State assistance —for all practical purposes—to a small, officially isolated, corner of Scotland is not only bad politics. as we can hear from the other side, but very much worse business from the point of view of Scotland itself.

I am driven to that conclusion by a variety of reasons. First of all, in segregating and concentrating all your attention on one particular part, you are neglecting large numbers of unemployed in other parts of the country and are deliberately ignoring opportunities for urgent, useful, and valuable work of development for Scotland. For example, in nearly every county in Scotland there ought, by every test of public health, to be started a wide development of water and drainage systems. My own county of Fife have come to the conclusion that we need two such schemes in order to advance our housing programme. There are at least a dozen villages in the east of Fife in my constituency, beautifully situated and probably the most attractive spots in Scotland. Each of them could develop into a well-known summer resort or might become the site of a thriving industry, but not one of them can be developed and not a house can be built because there is no water supply. What applies to Fife applies to many other counties in Scotland.

The drainage scheme in the county I represent has been recognised by everybody as being needed for years. The Department of Health for Scotland have approved both schemes in principle, but they are, and will be, held up, may be for years, because the country is not able, without imposing an unbearable burden upon the ratepayers, to meet the cost of these schemes, and there is no fund in the Scottish Office which could do so. I have no doubt that other parts of Scotland are in the same position. Two years ago a water grant was provided for Great Britain. Scotland received.£100,000 for water supplies in that country. There was a little trickle, and a sprinkle here and there, which fertilised very little. I am not unappreciative of such small mercies as come our way. I am grateful for them, but no one suggests, least of all the Government, that a paltry sum like that can be of any value. Having consulted those who should know, I am certain that we need a sum in the region of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 for the provision of proper water and drainage systems in Scotland.

We are spending large sums of money in the Special Areas on the clearance of slag heaps and the making of playing fields. The Commissioner's report shows that a very large sum of money has been spent in that direction. Surely good reasons can be adduced for spending equal, if not greater, sums upon health-giving work for such areas as I have described. Let us not imagine that if such schemes were carried out they would be to the sole advantage of the non-Special Areas. Not one of the schemes would not be of direct advantage to Lanarkshire, about which county we are so anxious. I can mention a case which I know best, the drainage scheme that we wanted for Fife. We went to the Special Commissioner and we said, "Will you help? Will you give us a grant? We undertake to employ your men. We will invite hundreds of miners to come from Lanarkshire to do this work. We will keep them." The future of the mining industry in Fife is brighter than probably in any other part of the country, and we felt that we should be justified in bringing in a number of miners and giving them jobs not merely temporarily but for a whole life. Sir Arthur Rose was very sympathetic, and had he been a free man I suppose he would have responded, but he was tied hand and foot by the Special Areas regulations, and nothing has been done. What applies to that project must have applied to dozens of schemes in Scotland during the past year.

This is an occasion when every hon. Member is expected to make a constructive contribution. I suppose it would be out of order for me to suggest that the Special Areas should be extended. That would also be against my own wishes. I have no desire that Scotland should be known throughout the world as one vast distressed area, because that would not be true. There are parts of the country, those that I know best, that are not in the least distressed, and which have enjoyed more prosperity in recent times than they have for years. A port within a stone's throw of my constituency is enjoying a record period since the War. I do not wish Scotland to be regarded as one distressed area, but I urge the Government to regard it as one development area. Let us be done for ever with this segregation of the Special Areas. Let us have one development area for Scotland. Scotland is a special case. It is a comparatively small country; the interests of every corner of it are linked with those of the other corners. A Council should be formed that will be a real development council for Scotland. It is bound to come. We are being asked for a Highland Development Council. If you grant that we should want an East Scotland development council, a Gorbals development council, and so on. The place would be full of development councils. Is it not right to take the whole country as one and make one real try to put it in order? There is at the present moment a Scottish National Development Council. I am a member of the London Committee. I have done my best to make the council a, success. It has done a good deal; it is a wonder it has achieved as much as it has, considering the difficulties confronting it. But I confess my own disappointment at the limitation of its activities in the last few years. It is due mainly to a complete lack of funds.

The constitution and the financial basis of the Scottish National Development Council should be completely reorganised. I welcomed the statement of the Secretary of State for Scotland the other day that he was considering the appointment of a new committee. I hope that there will be no boggling about that committee. I hope it will be strongly manned and strongly financed, and will take the place of this Scottish National Development Council. This time we must take a firm and strong grip of the development of Scotland, otherwise we shall merely be wasting time. Such a council, manned in that way and financed adequately, firmly and securely, with a permanent and highly qualified staff, would get rid of those silly local politics that hold back so many developments in Scotland. The Forth road bridge should have been built years ago; it should have been examined by experts years ago and proved a sound economic proposition. Instead it has been made the plaything of local squabbles from one side of the Forth to the other, in such a way as to make me, as a Scotsman, ashamed of the whole thing. There have been complaints by some of our public men and in the newspapers in Scotland at what they call "this snub" because the Minister refused his sanction to the scheme. But it is our own fault, we have never settled down to work out that scheme. The same applies to water, drainage, housing and other transport schemes. Let us have from the Secretary of State for Scotland a real national development council, with the requisite finance and a proper staff. Then we shall see some development. Not only must it have these qualifications, but it must, above all, have authority, and I myself would like to see the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland made the chairman of that council. Then it would have authority and would be able to achieve results. This is the constructive contribution which one Scotsman offers, with the best will to be loyal to the Government and to serve his native country.

8.37 p.m.


I am glad to associate myself with the suggestion that the specification of particular districts will not be a good thing for some districts. It may be that what are known as the Special Areas will benefit, though I find that many hon. Members deny that; but, whatever benefits accrue to those areas, we who represent areas portions of which are just as distressed as any of the Special Areas feel that our areas have been neglected. I remember that, during the discussions on the Bill of 1934, my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and I tried to get Lancashire included. We failed, though we got some consolation from the then Parliamentary Secretary, who told us that: Lancashire is not being disregarded, and no doubt any of the experiments made by the Commissioners which are successful, and which can appropriately be extended subsequently to Lancashire in order to meet the difficulties of individual towns, will be so extended when the time comes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1934; col. 2049, Vol. 295.] That was some satisfaction at the time, for it caused us to think that later on certain areas in Lancashire would be considered. But we have waited for 15 months, and as yet we have not seen any such extension. Has the experiment so failed in the distressed areas that it cannot be applied to any portion of Lancashire?

I was very pleased, as many other Members no doubt were, to hear from the Minister of Labour that Liverpool, for contract purposes only, would be regarded in future as a distressed area. I have been surprised that it has been neglected for so long. I question whether any town has suffered more, mainly owing to the Government's policy, than Liverpool has suffered. But while the Lancashire ports have suffered, so has the interior of Lancashire. We have three main industries—cotton, coal, and engineering—and all three are in a depressed condition to-day. I wish, in giving figures, to follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) in not quoting figures from Labour sources. I have here a set of figures given by the President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce with regard to the cotton industry. He states that the average number of persons unemployed in the cotton industry in 1935 was higher by 40,000 than it was in 1933. The productive capacity of the Lancashire cotton industry has not been reduced over much, mainly because of the loom system, but we find that the cotton operatives have suffered a very substantial reduction in wages. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) has stated that in his district, which is one of the best districts in Lancashire as regards wages, 80 per cent. of the operatives are getting less than 35s. a week. We could quote much worse figures than that in the Bolton and Blackburn areas. The cotton industry, whether it is regarded from the point of view of unemployment or of wages, is a depressed industry.

Last night the Minister of Labour made some reference to the coal industry, and rather suggested that the policy outlined by us would in some way handicap the miners. We realise that possibly some of our suggestions might result in unemployment for miners, and we have felt all along that what he said last night was true. He said that the coal industry was the crux of the economic problem in the Special Areas, and it is the crux of the problem in Lancashire, too. He stated that any concentration of output would mean the displacement of miners. In the coal industry, Lancashire has taken a lead. It was the first to adopt substantial amalgamation, and the first to adopt a central selling scheme, but, in spite of that, it has suffered a 40 per cent. reduction in employment in the last eight years. Here we have an industry which is depressed, and we are beginning to feel that it would be better, instead of specifying Special Areas, to specify distressed industries. Why should a miner in Lancashire, who has experienced as much distress as any unemployed miner in Durham, South Wales or Scotland, receive different treatment from unemployed miners in those areas?

Miners in my division tell me that they have relatives in Durham who have been unemployed only half as long as they have, hut who are receiving very different treatment from the Government, and they want to know why that is so. I have in mind a case in my own town, that of a miner who is unemployed, who has a daughter, a cotton worker, who is unemployed, and a son, an engineer, who is unemployed. There was a time in Lancashire when, if the miner was unemployed, the cotton worker or the engineer was in work, but to-day we find that all three industries are distressed. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what is being done for Lancashire? Is anything being done by the Department to deal with unemployed miners, cotton workers and engineers in Lancashire?

We have heard about the location of industries. What is being done for Lancashire Is it being disregarded altogether? The hon. and gallant Gentleman's predecessor told us that Lancashire would not be disregarded. That was how he avoided the question of including Lancashire in the Bill. We have heard much about development councils; I would like to know what they have done. As regards transference, we have heard of suggestions being made to young men that they might be transferred to other areas. Lancashire men have no very strong objection to transference if it can be shown that it is going to improve their position, but what has happened in some cases is that, although they have been transferred to work, they have lost their jobs. They have found, after losing their jobs, that they were in a worse position than before being transferred. Transference of that kind does at appeal to miners, cotton workers or engineers. It is not a case of Labour being opposed to transference. We have no objection to transference if it can be shown that it is a contribution to a solution of the unemployment problem, but we do not believe that it is. When we come to the handyman scheme, what skilled industry is there which has not some number of unemployed? What is the use of taking a semi-skilled man in order to make him a skilled man when there is no industry that needs skilled men? Every industry has all the skilled men it needs and some unemployed. We fail to see that that is a contribution.

There is one special question that I want to put to the Parliamentary Secretary. We have had some difficulty of late in the cotton industry owing to the decision of an umpire. Cotton workers working four looms are being reduced to two, earning in six days what they ought to earn in three days. He has told us that they cannot qualify for unemployment benefit. Other men working three days a week and earning exactly the same wages get their benefit. We consider that a very unfair way of sharing out the work. These men were taken on as four-loom workers. If an employer can play about like that with his workmen, it is an unfair way of victimising some of them. The regulations ought to be re-arranged so that, where a person has his earnings reduced by the action of his employer, he ought not to be deprived of unemployment benefit. The average wage in the Blackburn area for working four looms is 38s. When a man is put on to two looms they are 19s. We have cases of men with wife and two children on unemployment benefit who draw 32s. in a week and others who only draw 19s., and the Umpire says they are not qualified for unemployment benefit. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to go into the matter, which is causing serious disaffection. If these men are reduced to two looms, there is no reason why they should be penalised as they are. I can quite appreciate the difficulty of the Government in dealing with this question of unemployment, and I appreciate the difficulty of dealing with Lancashire in the way we expect, because. Lancashire is not a specified area. I ask that the promise given us in Committee on the Bill, that Lancashire would not be disregarded and that certain benefits would accrue to them as the result of experiments in the specified areas, shall be fulfilled. It is very unfair not to give Lancashire the same treatment that other areas get.

8.49 p.m.


The Debate, from my point of view, has not been of as definite a character as one would have liked. I have lived in a distressed area during the time it has been distressed, that is mainly since the termination of the War, and I have listened to previous Debates, not from where I stand now but from the Gallery. I have been impressed by the sameness of this Debate and previous Debates to which I have listened. I was hoping that we had arrived at a stage where we should have had something of a much more definite character from the Government than we have had. I well remember hearing the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell the House what the Commissioners were likely to do when they were appointed. That is more than a year ago, but very little has been done. I do not want to criticise the Commissioners, because I think they are brave and optimistic men. I think the Commissioner for South Wales has done everything that lay in his power, but he has been limited in his power. He has not been able to do anything that was likely to bring in new industries. Whatever else he has been able to do, he has not been able to find very much employment for the large number of unemployed in that area, I think round about 60,000. Wherever you have unemployment you have poverty. Where you have it in the mass it is worse than where you have it individually. It looks worse and it is worse, because it has the effect of reducing your local government authorities to a position in which they are incapable of rendering the services that they are called upon to perform. One of the Members from Durham said that the public assistance rate in his county was approximately 9s. Let me make one comparison. The public assistance rate of Middlesex is 1s. 4d. In the County of Monmouthshire it is about 8s. 6d., and a similar figure in Glamorgan. It is not only public assistance, it applies to other services as well—and the medicinal treatment that it is necessary to apply to the families of the unemployed. It is true that the Government has done something in the arrangement whereby local authorities now get 40 per cent. of the cost of the unemployed, but even that is unfair to the areas where the incidence of unemployment is high. You may have a liability in Middlesex but it is very much below what it is in the distressed areas. A penny rate in Monmouthshire produces about 4,000. -Until we had the 40–60 arrangement the maintenance of the able-bodied was a cost on the rates equal to £100,000 a year, £50,000 by way of direct payment to the able-bodied and £50,000 by way of other benefits that had to be given to them. What is true of that county is true of the whole of the distressed areas, and the tragedy of the whole thing is that the position in those areas has year after year been getting worse. It is still getting worse.

I have been chairman of the distressed areas committee in South Wales for a number of years. It has been my business to head deputations to various Ministers, including the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and the late Minister of Health, who was then Sir Hilton Young, and on those occasions we have always appealed to the Government not to bring money and relief to us. We do not want that sort of thing. We want industries and work, but nothing has been done. As the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) pointed out last night much of the distress in South Wales is due to Government action, to tariffs restricting the export of coal. That has played a very important part. Trade agreements have had the effect of reducing the amount of coal produced and supplied from South Wales. For many years past 65 per cent. of the coal produced in South Wales has been sent away for export. We have depended on the export market in the main. Competition in that market has been particularly keen, and because of this keenness prices have been low, and as the result, the wages of the people who have been fortunate enough to have employment have been very low. The maintenance of that export coal trade is a matter of serious concern for the economy of the nation. How far does it help to give us a favourable balance of trade? Is it fair that those areas should be called upon to bear the burden of maintaining a trade of that kind at the cost of those areas? That has been the position.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) referred to the need for making some constructive suggestions. One of the most interesting speeches to which I have listened during the course of the Debate was that delivered by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). It was a speech with much of which I could agree. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Government should at once take steps to determine the location of industries. Suppose that had been done years ago in the prosperous days of the Welsh coal trade. It is not very many years since the whole of the iron and steel trade was removed from Dowlais to another place. Dowlais and Merthyr comprise an area which has produced as much, if not more wealth than any other part of the country. Go to it now. It has more poverty than any other part of the country. I am reminded of that very wonderful book of J. B. Priestley which he calls "An English Journey," where he refers not to Dowlais, but to Shotton in Durham, and says that it was good for England that coal was discovered in Shotton, but was it good for Shotton? I carry that thought a step further, and say that it was good for England that iron and steel were produced in Dowlais and Merthyr, and coal too, but was it good for Dowlais and Merthyr? Go there and look at the people at the present time. I am glad that the Prime Minister has come into the Chamber, because I wish he would go to Dowlais and similar areas to see the people in such circumstances. Suppose we had had planning of industry prior to those areas being reduced to poverty. There was a time when it was easy to turn South Wales coal into gold. Much of it was turned into gold and the people who gathered the gold from it have gone to live elsewhere, and the people who produced the coal are still there, poverty-stricken. They are asking the Government to take some steps in order to bring new industries there.

The Lord President of the Council told us yesterday that we are to have an aerodrome and a munition works in South Wales. When I heard him say that I thought of Henry Richards, the apostle of peace, and of Keir Hardie, and wondered what they would have said to South Wales if it had an aerodrome and a munition factory. I am not going to ask the Government not to bring those industries to South Wales. We want industries, we want work, and I hope that the Government will adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen. Let us have that council to plan industry. Mr. Malcolm Stewart in his report tells us that there were 477 new factories started in this country in the year 1934, and that there were 144 factories reconditioned and extended. How many of those went into the distressed areas? Only seven. The Prime Minister made an appeal some months ago to the people who had benefited from the application of tariffs in this country. That is the response to the appeal of the Prime Minister, and since the appeal of the Prime Minister has not really been responded to by the industrialists of this country, I ask him to take such steps as are necessary in order to see that these areas get their share of the industries that are being created. We ought to have in South Wales, a plant for the extraction of oil from coal. On the eastern side of the coalfield, and on the southern side I understand that the coals are most suitable for hydrogenation. Why is it that we cannot have a hydrogenation plant? Is it because of the shortage of capital, or because there is no desire on the part of the owners of the patent rights to come into South Wales? Can that which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) said to-day be true, that those areas are prejudiced and that industrialists will not come there because of industrial disputes? We ought to face the question along that line.

I have been a trade union leader all my life, and I say to the Government that, while industrial disputes have been rather more plentiful than we desired in the mining industry, the other industries of South Wales have not experienced more disputes than any other industries in the country. Therefore, one has to examine the cause of those disputes. I do not want to do this to-night, but I am certainly not accepting the full responsibility for the disputes which have taken place in the mining industry, and I am not prepared to admit that the workmen should be given the whole responsibility for them. To do so would be most unjust to the workmen. Therefore I agree with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen that the proper thing to do is to so direct new industries that they will be located in the areas where they are most needed.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

If I might make an observation now it might help the course of the Debate. I entirely agree with what the hon. Member has just said. It is a fact, although I did not hear the speech to which he has referred, that there is a certain prejudice on the grounds he mentions among industrialists. I have come into personal contact with them, and I have told them what the situation is in my own opinion. In my experience of the heavy industries in South Wales there has been less trouble in the steel trade and in the tinplate trade than in any trade with which I am acquainted, and I have pressed them to go down, and said that anybody who goes there will get perfectly fair play.


I am indeed obliged to the Prime Minister for that observation. I should like to press him to go a step further, and, if he still finds that there is opposition to going to these areas, that the Government should take the steps which are necessary in order to get new industries located in these areas. Everything the Prime Minister has said will lead him to the same conclusions that I have reached. Instead of taking our young people away, thereby losing the Exchequer grants in respect of them and making our local authorities poorer and still poorer, it is far better to bring new industries, new work, new rateable values, new life into these areas. The Debate has rather depressed me in the course of these two days, but I hope that my depression will not really be the true position, and that the Minister of Labour and the Government will take this matter in hand quite seriously, recognising that these areas are decaying and becoming derelict, that a large body of people are becoming depressed, dejected and dispirited. I want them to counteract all that. It can be done by bringing new industries, into the areas; and it is no good for the Government to say that they have not the power.

9.9 p.m.


I agree with a great deal that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. A. Jenkins) has said. I feel that the Government should try to do something to bring trade and business into the depresed areas. I represent an area of Lancashire which is in a very bad condition at the moment, and I hope the Government will consider what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, East (Mr. Boothby) has said and will take power to persuade, or force if you like, some of these industrialists, certainly the people who are going to produce things of the lighter kind, into these areas where the people are at present unemployed. If we look at this matter from another point of view it is very serious indeed. In these areas are settled people who own their own houses, and if you are going to take away all the younger people and place them in other areas you are going to make these depressed areas even more depressed than before. Instead of building new houses in new areas, and putting up new factories in new places, we want to put up new factories in places where the houses and the people exist already. That could be done by some form of registration and I hope the Government will take power to be able to do this.

I want to make one or two suggestions to the Minister of Labour. A suggestion has been made that there should be a reduction of the penny contribution. I represent an industrial area where there is a good deal of unemployment, and it would be much beater, instead of reducing the contribution of a penny owing to the surplus in the Unemployment Insurance Fund, to increase the benefits. I would urge this on particular grounds. If the benefits in the case of children are increased you will do a great deal of good. Contract the position of people who are on ordinary benefit with those who are on transitional payment. You have two families of like circumstances and the same number of children of the same age. When on ordinary benefit the amount given for each child is 3s., that is the maximum laid down in the scheme. But on transitional payment the benefit, quite rightly, for children is different, it is 3s. 6d., 4s. 6d. and 5s. 6d., according to the age of the child. Consequently in a family where everyone is out of employment you get a different amount going to the people who are on ordinary benefit from those who are on transitional payment, although the children are the same in number and age. When there is a surplus in the Fund, as at the present time, the first thing to do is to increase ordinary benefits for children in order to bring them into accord with the transitional payment. I do not think it is fair that people who are on ordinary benefit should have to ask for the extra amount as if they were on transitional payment. That is one suggestion I want to make.

Then with regard to the new regulations. I do not know when the new regulations are coming out. They have taken a long time, and I hope the Government are taking care. The last regulations were certainly not satisfactory in my constituency or in any other part of the country. Let me make this suggestion, although I agree that most suggestions made to Ministers are perfectly useless and that it probably takes at least five years for a proposal to percolate through a Government Department. But I am going to risk it all the same, and I suggest to the Minister of Labour, who I am sure has a very absorbent mind, that in making these regulations he should make an experiment in certain areas. I suggest that the best regulations that can be produced should be made by the Minister and that they should be sent to various parts of the country as an experiment, without any payments being made to the people. Clerks would be sent to different parts of the country with the new regulations and they would work out on the spot, with the new regulations before them, what would be the result if those regulations had actually been brought into force in those areas. In this way it would be possible to see whether the regulations would create hardships in the areas concerned. This would enable the Minister to satisfy himself on the important point as to whether or not he could bring in the regulations on a national basis with the different conditions which obtain in various parts of the country. If the regulations were not satisfactory when worked out in the different areas, the Minister would be able to see exactly where they were wrong and where they created hardships, and he would be able to make better regulations.


How would it be possible to measure the degree of hardship if the regulations when applied in that way did not contain provision for the payment of benefits to the individuals?


I will give the hon. Member an example. If the last regulations had been submitted to my constituency before any payments were made, the Minister would have found that the result of the regulations would have been that the assessment rate was quite wrong. He would have seen that great hardship would be caused to a very large number of my constituents if the regulations were brought into force.


I can recall the hon. and gallant Member making some very good speeches on the regulations and I understood that he and a large number of hon. Members were opposed to the family means test. Has he changed his point of view in that respect?


I would like to refer to that matter if I may, but for the moment I would like to develop the argument on which I have started.


Before the hon. and gallant Member develops his argument, I would like to ask him whether he made a statement in this House on 17th December, 1934, that the scales would give satisfaction to every man in his constituency?


No, I did not say that. I pointed out that the scales in the new regulations brought out by my right hon. Friend the late Minister of Labour were higher than the Lancashire County Council scales in operation at that time, but I did not say they were satisfactory. I want to make an appeal to the Minister regarding these regulations. I think it is most unfair, as I have said time and time again in this House, that the younger earning member of the family should be penalised in the way in which he or she is at the present time. I think that is wrong in principle. In their manifesto to the country at the last election, the Government said that Great importance will be attached to maintaining title unity of family life. I thought that in saying that the Government meant what I have been trying to press the whole time, that the younger earning member of the family should be able to retain in his or her possession sufficient to keep himself or herself in normal comfort. I put forward an Amendment to that effect to the present Act when it was going through the Committee.


Would the hon. Member define the younger earning members of the family as being everybody apart from the breadwinner himself?


It is rather difficult to define exactly who they are. I am not talking about the head of the family, but about the younger earning member of the family, and the great thing is that he or she should be able to retain sufficient to keep himself or herself in normal comfort. I think it is right that the younger earning member of the family should be treated in a fair and proper manner. Another question to which a great deal of reference has been made is that of the signing on in the Employment Exchanges. Some time ago I approached the Minister with a view to getting some uniformity in the signing on at the exchanges, and I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say to-day that the exchanges exist for the purpose of trying to find jobs for people, because that is not always considered to be the reason for them. In my constituency I find that people have to sign on without having any chance of getting a job. I would like to give an example of what takes place. In Blackburn, which is within two or three miles of my constituency, the people have to sign on two days a week. The position is the same in Accrington and in Burnley, and throughout the whole of that area. In Great Harwood, which is one of the most depressed areas in that part of Lancashire, the people have to sign on three days a week. I asked the Minister why it is that people in Great Harwood have to sign on three days a week, whereas in every other big town of a similar character in that area they have to sign on two days a week? The only answer he could give me was that in Great Harwood the exchange is big enough for them to sign on three days a week.

It seems to me perfectly ridiculous that people should be made to sign on three days a week simply because the exchange is a little bigger in one town than in another. The right hon. Gentleman must think again, and he must ask himself whether it is not time that the Employment Exchanges were used for the purpose for which they were originally created, namely, the getting of jobs for people. The only other answer he gave me was that there was a departmental inquiry investigating the whole question. I understand that that inquiry has concluded its work, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will tell the Committee what were the terms of reference of the inquiry, and give us some report concerning it, in order that we may judge for ourselves how many times a week people in the various areas should have to sign on. It is only right and fair that I should ask the Minister that, because he is building a bigger exchange in this place, and if he can build one big enough for six days a week every one will have to sign on six days a week. I hope that as a result of my representations to him he will see the fairness of my argument. These are the suggestions I have to make to my right hon. Friend, and I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies he will give me some sort of satisfaction, which I have not got up to the present.

9.26 p.m.


I wish to put the point of view of the country boroughs of England —we must have heard a lot about Scotland—where the rates are over 18s. and 20s. in the pound. These are necessitous areas and they are anxiously wanting the Minister of Labour to give them explicit information as to the appointed day when they can look forward to his Department and to the Exchequer for some relief. I listened to every word of the Minister of Labour and he was as disappointing as the Lord President of the Council was yesterday. His figures with regard to 1913 were as germane to the subject which we are discussing in 1936 as what a distinguished Parliamentarian in that very seat, the late right hon. Member for Midlothian, said in 1868. What we want to know also is what the right hon. Gentleman is going to do in refunding the money which the county boroughs lent him or his predecessor from October, 1934, to February 28th the following year? Scores of thousands of pounds were lent to the Exchequer in order to pay out unemployment transitional benefit.

Take the case of the city of Kingston-upon-Hull. Hull itself lent to the Exchequer £24,000 in paying out this form of benefit, which is equal to a 4d. rate. We have a right to ask the Under-Secretary, seeing that the Minister was so disappointing, to give us some answer to this question and to tell us when we are going to get our money back. I want also to remind the Minister of Labour that on 12th April, 1933, this House, which was a Conservative House, passed a Resolution expressing the opinion that the able-bodied out of work should be a charge upon the national Exchequer, and not a charge on the public assistance committees. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would honour that solemn Resolution the Government would be giving real aid to necessitous areas, the county boroughs who do not enjoy the fierce spotlight of the Special Areas. Hull in one year expends £196,000 in the giving of benefit to the able-bodied poor. It was £196,000 last year, which is equal to a 2s. 8d. rate. It is evidently the Government policy that the able-bodied out of work should receive relief from the Exchequer, and we want the Chancellor to honour his promise and the resolution to which I referred. We want him to honour also the resolutions which have been passed by committees in the necessitous areas. In Hull 49½ per cent. of the expenditure on public assistance is for the able-bodied men and women who are out of work.

The Minister devoted most of his speech to glorification of his Department. Everybody who has anything to do with that Department admires the courtesy of its officials. I think that the House is entitled to learn from the Under-Secretary to-night when these belated regulations are going to be put into operation. Is the Minister going to allow the Exchequer to have more money during the new financial year? We want to know the date and we want our money back. It is money that has been taken from us. When hon. Members talk about new industries going into a locality they always say that it is high rates which keep industries out, notwithstanding the Derating Act. The Minister of Labour can reduce the rates of Kingston-upon-Hull by 4d. in the £ by giving us our money back. If he will honour the Resolution to which I have referred he can reduce our rates by 2s. 8d. If he will do that I will promise him, not a monument, but the warm thanks not only of the citizens of my own constituency but of every county borough in England—I emphasise England as the Cinderella of the Union—while he will do justice to us.

9.33 p.m.


I want to stress a point that has been touched upon earlier in the Debate. It is a point in connection with those people in Lancashire about whom, I think, the Minister knows something, because deputations have been to him from the operatives connected with the cotton industry in Lancashire and also from various authorities in the county. It has to do with the position of the operatives. They do not suffer from unemployment in the ordinary way but from what we call under-employment. They are people who are working a full 48 hours a week but are receiving only half rates. There has been a census taken of the wages paid to weavers in the cotton industry. In 14 districts where 22,000 forms were returned, 10,000 were from weavers earning less than 30s. a week. In one area where there are 41 mills, 3,000 operatives got less than 30s. a week and only 23 were getting more than 50s. There was a case of one weaver who manufactured over 800 yards of cloth and received 31s. There was another case of a man whose highest wage in 12 months was £1 9s. 10d., while another man who got less than £1 a week had a family of six persons to keep. That is the kind of unemployment which, I suggest to the Minister, wants tackling.

There is also another great problem in Lancashire. That is the most distressing problem of the unemployment of young persons. With the failure of the cotton industry to maintain its markets year after year, there is a steady flow of young persons from school who can find no employment. In 1924 the number of new entrants into industry in or about Burnley was 156,000. In 1931 the number had been reduced to 112,000. It is true that a number of people have transferred from that area into other areas, but our contention is that transference is not the correct way to solve the problem. It does not deal with the problem swiftly. All it does is to over-weight prosperous areas about London and the south by bringing in people who can work at cheap rates and taking extra spending power to the south.

The whole problem is to throw the weight of industry back again to the north. It has been suggested that certain areas are not acceptable to the industrialists for various reasons. The Lord President of the Council told us yesterday that one of the big jobs was to clear the way for industry and to make sites. In Burnley the sites are already cleared. Only last week I saw there a mill that is being pulled down in the centre of the town. It has been a landmark in Burnley for close on 100 years. When we see that mill being carted away stone by stone we have to remember that we sec being carted away as well the livelihood of hundreds of people. In addition to having the sites ready in Burnley, there are the social amenities which the local authorities have set up. It is obviously foolish to establish new villages and new towns in the south and go to all the cost of canals, railways, lighting, streets and so on, when in the north the local authorities have spent thousands of pound on lighting and good housing estates—not the kind of shoddy estates and cheap jerry-built houses there are in the south, but really good houses. There are power and water also. In addition, there is an industrious population technically well trained for any kind of industry that might be brought north.

I do not know any other town in the country that has done more to educate its population than the constituency I have the honour to represent. It has spent lavishly on the education of the children. It has a wonderful technical college, and the people are there ready trained in their own homes. We suggest that, instead of trying to transfer people, we should transfer industries. It has been a traditional policy of Governments in this country for centuries to protect British investments abroad. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) spoke about British investments in various parts of the world. I suggest that as our foreign policy has protected British investments abroad, we might try in our home policy to turn investments in the north into areas where they can be used. During the short time I have been in the House I have seen millions of pounds voted for sugar, ships and milk. I suggest that the Government might do for cotton some of the things they have done for ships, milk and sugar. If that were done, there is still in Lancashire a source of great wealth for the community and an industry which can still be a great national asset. I want the Minister, in addition to considering the problem of the under-employed person, to consider ways and means of providing industries up North where there are all the social amenities for the people.

9.42 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel C. KERR

I have heard during this Debate a great deal against the system of capitalism. Is any hon. Member in any part of the Committee wishful to change the condition of the people of this country into that of any country which has adopted any other system? Evidently not, from the silence of hon. Members. It seems to me that in those countries which have abandoned the capitalist system the people are really in a very troubled world with terrible problems to face. The people in the non-capitalist countries are not as well off as the people here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which countries?"] Hon. Gentlemen know quite well what I mean. There have been many instances where people have been given the opportunity to go there to live but they have not gone, and when some people have gone they have come back very quickly. It is said by some people that men and women who have been out of work for a very long time are handicapped, and cannot start work again. In my own division I have had some remarkable instances lately of men who have been out of work as long as three years and, when the opportunity has been given them, have got a job and made good. That hat occurred in the case of men who were of a certain age and had learned a trade in the past.

A great deal of very useful work could be done in giving to young people much greater facilities than there are to-day to enable them in the time of unemployment to learn some trade and to keep themselves fit. I know that hon. Members opposite will say "concentration camps." That is not really facing the situation. My proposal is that we should give them every opportunity of voluntarily learning something which may be useful to them when, later on, times improve and they are able to take up some job that may be offered to them. The great difficulty that I see with so many young people is that they are unable through want of knowledge to take up situations that may come within the possibilities of their lives. I feel very strongly that an opportunity should be given to the young people when they leave school to do what in the early days of our lives we used to do, and that is to apprentice themselves to some industry. That system has gone and they are not able to do that. I should like to see the Government spend a. lot of money in this direction. I am told that at the present time, with the increased business there is in the country and—I am sorry that the necessity has arisen—with the rearming and the making good of the gaps in our defences, great difficulty is experienced in finding men who are capable of taking jobs. If what I suggest had been done in all branches of industry there would be to-day many young men who would be able to come in and take on the jobs.


Will the hon. and gallant Member give us an instance where there is a shortage of skilled labour?

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

There are many jobs in which there is a shortage.


Can we have one definite instance?

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

Yes, particularly in the iron and steel and shipbuilding industries. I have men in my own division who say that in the past they were thoroughly efficient in the shipbuilding yards but they are not today.


Come to Jarrow and we will find you all the men you want.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I have no doubt that in the hon. Lady's division that is so. That leads me to give a personal instance. I have a friend in my division who tells me that he would willingly take a job but that he is behindhand in know- ledge of the present day system of building ships and other things. Here is a man whom I know particularly well. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not jeer, because they must know of instances in their own divisions of people who to-day are not in a position to take on a job for the reason I have stated. Moreover, it costs money to take up a job. I am thinking of the particular case I have quoted. He said to me the other day: "Look at my clothes and my boots. I cannot go to work with these clothes and boots. It will take a sum of money that I cannot afford to equip myself to take the job." Hon. Members may laugh, but it is not a laughing matter. We are often accused on these benches of laughing at these poor men who are in this condition, and I am sorry to see the hon. Member opposite, who is, I hope, an hon. Friend of mine, laughing at what I have said about this poor man.


I am not laughing about him.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

There are many men in that condition.


Has that particular individual brought about the horrible condition described by the hon. and gallant Member by drinking, betting or misbehaving himself? Why is he in that state?

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I am sorry that the hon. Member should immediately take up a very low view.


The hon. and gallant Member is taking up the low view.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I am not taking a low view. I am merely saying that this man, who is in the unfortunate circumstance of having a large family, is in this condition. He is perfectly respectable and there is no question of drink. There are many men who are in the same condition, and I am surprised and distressed that the hon. Member opposite should suggest that because a man is in distress he is a drunkard or bets. Shame on him.


I was not casting any aspersion on anyone, but the hon. and gallant Member is trying to make us believe that here is a condition which obtains and for which those who support the system which he supports are not responsible. Is it not a fact that it is the industrial conditions which have brought the hon. and gallant Member's friend to that condition, and thousands of others also? Is it not a fact that he supports the system which is responsible for that condition of things?


I must remind both hon. Members that they are getting rather wide of the Vote in question, that of the Ministry of Labour.

Lieut.-Colonel KERR

I was merely suggesting that here was a case where a little help through the Employment Exchange would enable this man to equip himself so that he could take up the job. He has been offered a job but he cannot take it because it would cost him money to take it. I am only speaking of what I know. Would it not be possible in some way or another to collect the younger people and say to them: "What do you want to do: what job would you like to take," and enable them to receive instruction in the direction in which their mind wants them to go. Some of us when we were young said we would like to be an engine driver and some of us preferred to be a soldier or a sailor. There are many young people to-day who do not know where to go; they are lost. The Government might spend a great deal of money in equipping the young people in the way they want to go. Then there would be no doubt when the time comes that we want these men they will be able to take on the jobs that come to them. It would be money well spent.

Now I come to an old subject, on which I am very keen. Hon. Members opposite will say: "Yes, you want to drive the people from their homes." I should like to see instruction and information given to young people with regard to the life they may get overseas. I speak as one who knows, having gone overseas as a very young man and worked very hard for a good many years overseas. I do not believe, and never have believed, that we shall ever have other nations populating the British Empire. I cannot believe that Britain has sunk to such an extent that our young people will not face the ordinary hardships of pioneer life in the Colonies. I suggest that instruction in these matters ought to be made available. I hope that the Government will take note of what I have said and see whether something cannot be done in the directions which I have indicated.

9.57 p.m.


I wish to deal for a few minutes with a subject to which some of my hon. Friends have already referred namely those areas which are not classified as Special Areas but are nevertheless very distressed. As representing such an area I feel bound to say something about its case. In tie Estimates which we have been discussing there are votes for training and for grants to various authorities and associations including the National Council of Social Service. Is it not possible that some of the grants which go to these bodies could be used for the development of areas which are really distressed but yet are not scheduled as Special Areas? I maintain that there are opportunities for assisting those areas, both by the establishment of new industries and by the encouragement of existing industries. Much could be done in various ways to solve the difficulties in which those districts are now placed.

The Forest of Dean which I represent has had unemployment setled upon it for over 10 years and figures which I got out recently show that the percentage of unemployed persons in insurable trades is 21 per cent. over the whole area. Taking the figures for various districts we find that in Cinderford the figure is 22.9 per cent., in Coleford 20 per cent., in Lydney 15.8 per cent. and in Newnham 29 per cent. In the areas which are scheduled as Special Areas there are districts with about that level of unemployment and no worse, although there may be other parts of those Special Areas which are worse. The difficulty in the case of areas like the Forest of Dean is that there is no Special Commissioner to whom application can be made for assistance. We can only appeal to the warmhearted Minister of Labour, if, indeed, his heart has not cooled as he suggested to us earlier.

I know that some districts like that which I represent, are not supposed to be very distressed because industry in them is scattered about in the midst of forests and tracts of agricultural land. It seems to be imagined that because the Forest of Dean is a beautiful area it cannot be very distressed. But any one who knows it as I do, is only too well aware that beautiful as it is, with its picturesque houses upon the hillsides, it contains a social and economic problem no less serious than the problem which is experienced in many parts of the distressed areas. I appeal to the Minister therefore to tell us to whom shall we apply for assistance in the bringing of new industries into those parts of the country which are not Special Areas but where there is a real need for such development. There is the possibility—and we must take long views in this matter—that the coalfield in the Forest of Dean which is comparatively small, may soon be worked out, but there are also possibilities in the development of oil from coal in that area. Some of the coal seams are suitable enough for that. Owing to the system of working the mines there we have large abandoned areas which represent to a considerable tonnage.

What I wish particularly to emphasise however is the possibility of opening up this part of the country as a tourist resort. An inter-Departmental Committee was appointed some years ago to inquire into the possibility of developing national parks and the Forest of Dean was one place mentioned in that connection as being suitable for a tourist and holiday centre. There are, of course, complications because it is a Crown forest and is under the administration of the Forestry Commissioners and I should not like to think that the forest resources of the district would not be developed. That is also a source of employment. I submit, however, that it should be possible both to develop and even to extend the forest resources and also to introduce and develop the tourist traffic without neglecting the further posibility of industries in connection with the utilisation of coal. Unfortunately the local authorities have not the resources to do much in these directions. There is a very active development association in the Forest of Dean which is trying to work along those lines, but, again, lack of funds makes it difficult to accomplish much without assistance from some national source. That is why I appeal on this occasion for some special consideration for areas which although not scheduled really come within the category of distressed areas.

10.5 p.m.


I wish to make the briefest possible intervention in this De- bate, and for that reason I will not follow the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) or even my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel C. Kerr) in the observations which they have addressed to the Committee, although my hon. and gallant Friend in particular made a number of exhilarating suggestions which it would be tempting to follow. Certainly when he spoke of the difficulties of entry into industry he touched on an exceedingly important topic. There is nothing to which we could better devote our planning energies than to having some consistent scheme of entry into industry. At present, however, we have a cat-and-mouse clause dealing with juvenile instruction centres, and now we are threatened with another in the new Education Bill, and what the situation will be when we are through with it, I leave it to the imagination of Members to picture. Certainly my hon. and gallant Friend raised a topic which is of great importance to the youth of this country and consequently to the future of the country as a whole.

I really rose to draw attention to a particular matter of administration and to ask a question of my right hon. Friend. As one of the Members for the Merseyside district, I was very pleased to hear my right hon. Friend state that he had decided to put Liverpool on the preferential list so far as contracts were concerned. Liverpool, of course, has been a special area in everything save technical classification for a long time past. The numbers of the unemployed have ranged from 90,000 to 100,000 for very many years, and the financial disabilities of Liverpool are well known, but the question which I wish to address to my right hon. Friend is whether the preferential treatment will apply to the whole of the Merseyside, because while on the Lancashire side conditions are bad, on the Cheshire side they are equally bad. Last Monday we had 10,200 people unemployed on the Cheshire side, and there are in that area a very large percentage of long-term unemployed. Therefore, I do not think it would be either logical or wise for the right hon. Gentleman or the Government to confine the preferential treatment to one side of the port only, and I hope he will include the Cheshire side, particularly Birkenhead, which is equally afflicted with Liverpool on the other side of the Mersey.

The other matter to which I wish to draw attention arises from the regulations which have recently come into force on the recommendation of the Statutory Advisory Committee in regard to periods of inconsiderable employment. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) introduced a short discussion on this matter quite recently, when a number of interesting statements were made as to the possible consequences of these regulations. I do not know whether the hon. Member was over-stating the case when he said that it might be possible for a man to work for four hours on four separate days of the week and yet not have a stamp. Hon. Members might think that that is not very likely to arise, but from inquiries which I have made since, I think the matter is of greater importance than is generally recognised, and that the circumstance indicated by the hon. Member for Gorbals is not unlikely to happen. It would affect particularly riverside occupations, and dock labourers were particularly mentioned on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman said he would give this matter his careful attention and that if anything was found to be wrong, he would put it right. I want to ask if he will be so good as to extend his inquiries, not merely to dock labourers, but particularly to shipwrights, because owing to the nature of their employment, which is dependent upon weather, tides, and so on, they are likely to suffer more than dock labourers from this regulation. Then there are the week-end occupations, which no doubt my right hon. Friend has in his mind, but I wish to be brief and will not say more than these few remarks.

10.11 p.m.


My right hon. Friend who opened the Debate based the greater part of his speech on the unemployment problem generally, and he did so to indicate that it was the desire of the Opposition to discuss the wider aspects of unemployment as distinct from those of the Special Areas, for we realise that there is a great danger in the public beginning to believe that the unemployment problem in this country is limited to the Special Areas. I do not know whether the Government meant the kind of thing to happen that has happened, but really the creation of the Special Areas as a legal entity has turned out to be a very subtle move on the part of the Government. The Special Areas as laid down in the Act contain something over 300,000 unemployed. How the Government arrived at the classification of the Special Areas I have always failed to understand. As a matter of fact, some of my friends who are far outside the Special Areas are under the impression that they have been hardly dealt with. Let me tell some of them that within a few hundred yards of my home, which is in Chester-le-Street, the West Stanley area, which I have always understood was one of the worst hit areas, is not a Special Area, and so you have instances of that kind.

There are, as I say, just over 300,000 unemployed in those areas, and I do not mind telling the Committee that while we were non-committal when the Special Areas were established by Act of Parliament, I am certain that the legal establishment of the Special Areas has not brought one little bit of good to those areas. I think they have been in existence for nearly two years, but I do not know where 10 men have been set to work in the areas, and the kind of things which the Lord President of the Council and the Minister of Labour talked about yesterday with great satisfaction have no basis in fact and really offer no hope. The Minister of Labour made some play with the North East Development Board. I am a member of that board and I want to give credit to sonic very gallant people who are doing their hest to try to create some hope in that area, but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that he is more optimistic about that board than are the members of it or than is the chairman. As a matter of fact, there is no one who is more dissatisfied with the Government's conduct in this matter than the present chairman of that board. It is a board which is trying to do something but has done nothing. It only hopes the Government will help it to do something. If the Government will supply some money something may be done, and I want the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us, in concrete terms, what the Government are going to do for that board.

Then there is the trading estate: that is in the same category. The right hon. Gentleman complained that we on this side were using it for political purposes, but for some time the Government had never heard of the trading estate or of the North East Industrial Board—except as of something that is in existence in a small way. When they did hear about them they laid hold of them with both hands, like a drowning man clinging to a straw, and they have since made a great deal of palaver about them. But they cannot claim credit either for the name of or for the creation of those organisations, and up to the moment they cannot claim credit for doing anything for them. Members of this House and people outside constantly ask me whether things are getting better in the North, because they are under the impression that in the North East, in Wales and in Scotland the Government have, somehow or other, been doing something. Things are not getting better. All that this Government have done for us is to make us the subject of charity mongers; really, no concrete work is being done such as would give hope to anyone who desires to see an improvement in the present position.

After all, these Special Areas contain only 300,000 of the unemployed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he introduced this legislation, said that the Government desired to attack unemployment on a narrow front. I wonder whether the Committee are aware that those Special Areas are located in three separate divisions—in the North East division, in the Wales division, and in Scotland—and that in those three divisions there are a million unemployed. In the North West division there are 450,000 unemployed. Liverpool has 95,000 unemployed. I know there are people who register from outside the city, but it is a city which is not supposed to be a Special Area and depressed, and yet it has about 95,000 registered unemployed. In Manchester, 50,000 unemployed are registered, and in London 230,000, at this moment. There are other places in England that in themselves could be called Special Areas. The reason that I am dealing with this question in this way is that I have come to the conclusion that nothing effective will be done for the unemployed, and that the Government will not do their duty to the people of this country, unless they realise that the Special Area problem is rooted in the general unemployment problem, and until the unemployment problem is attacked as a whole.

The unemployment problem is becoming even more serious than it was. I do not know how many hon. Members have read the report of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, but it merits the attention of every Member of this House because it contains serious statements. I wonder whether hon. Members are aware that the Statutory Committee, in arriving at their decision in connection with the reduction of unemployment contributions, based their calculations on the advice of the economic sub-committee of the Cabinet. That sub-committee is composed of eminent economists and social thinkers, and their advice was to the effect that for the next eight years in this country we shall have a percentage of 16¾ of our people unemployed. At the present moment there are 2,200,000 people unemployed, and that number is 16.3 per cent. Taking a rough estimate, the Statutory Committee, on the advice of the chief advisers of the Government, calculate that during the next eight years there will be about 2,250,000 people unemployed. That is a statement which ought to demand the very serious attention not only of the Government but of this House.

I ask the Committee to mark the fact that the Government, having tried all kinds of resources to deal with the Special Areas, now cling to the fact that there is to be an increase of armaments on a vast scale. We have been told by the Minister that one of the factories is to be in South Wales and that the Government, all other things being equal, propose as far as possible to plant the factories in the Special Areas. They hope that that will absorb a great part of the unemployed. Probably most Members think that that is going to happen. But when this Committee calculated that there would be an average of 2,250,000 unemployed for the next eight years, they had before them the knowledge that there was going to be an increase in the manufacture of armaments. This is no news to them. It is obvious that in their calculations they have taken it into account in arriving at the conclusion which is the basis of their report dealing with contributions. If that be the case, the outlook is very black for this country.

In making that point I ought to say that unemployment gets worse for the same numbers. The right hon. Gentleman told us to-day that the unemployment figures did not represent a standing army, that is to say, that they were not the same people all the time. That is true, but I do not think he would deny that there is an increasing number of long-period unemployed as time goes on. It would have been staggering to a Minister of Labour a few years ago to find that there were 375,000 men who had been unemployed for over a year, but that is the present figure; and the numbers of those who have been unemployed for nine months, six months, and three months are increasing in proportion. Therefore it can be demonstrated that nearly half the people who are unemployed at the present moment are in a worse position than the corresponding half were four or five years ago. The position of the unemployed is really getting worse.

That is one of the reasons why the Unemployment Statutory Committee might have hesitated before suggesting a reduction of contributions rather than an increase of benefits. I wonder why the Committee arrived at that decision. Was it in the best interests of the unemployed, or was it in the interests of the Treasury? This decision of the Statutory Committee to reduce the contributions from the employer, the worker and the State by ld. a week in each case reduces the total income by £6,500,000 a year; that is to say, it saves £2,150,000 for the workers, £2,150,000 for the employers, and £2,150,000 for the Treasury. It has been demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that the workers do not want a reduction of the contribution. It is certain that it will not confer any advantage on the employers, but the Treasury is going to be over £2,000,000 a year to the good. It would certainly have been more human if the Statutory Committee had granted increased benefits rather than reduced contributions.

The Government have had placed before them in the last two days suggestions from both sides of the House. They have had Statutory Committees to consider the whole range of contributions and benefits and they have appointed an Unemployment Assistance Board to consider how far they can take something from the unemployed. Even the increase of wages to the miners was an occasion to take advantage of the families concerned through the means test. If the Government does not take some steps to set up some responsible body for work finding, for planning, for directing industry, for dealing with its location, the time is coming when the public will have something very strong to say of its neglect. This is not merely a human problem. The Government is going in for increased armaments for the purposes of defence. If they do not take steps to deal with the unemployed, and provide them with work and proper maintenance and deal with them as human beings, they may get their machine but they will soon lack the human elements that are necessary for the purposes of defence. There was a time when I used to be asked in my constituency, what are the chances of work? They do not ask that now. They have lost hope. They do not believe there is any hope. All they can do now is to worry themselves as to how to get a few shillings to keep them going. I used to lament at one time that men's clothes were getting thin and old and they were lacking food. In the last few years they have lost any driving force that they had. We move this reduction deliberately, because we believe the Government has no conception whatever of its duty in this matter of handling the unemployed. I believe that not only Members on this side, but Government supporters will find no satisfaction unless they are found in the Lobby against the Government. It may be said that we are using this question for political purposes. I think that it will be found, particularly after the Debate yesterday, that public opinion will soon assert itself in this matter, and that we are justified in moving this reduction.

10.36 p.m.


The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Marklew) remarked that he was not concerned with those who were in employment but with those who were unemployed, and the remark earned one of the loudest cheers of this Debate. I know what the hon. Member meant, and what the hon. Members meant who cheered, but I think it was a pity that the hon. Member made that remark, because employment and unem- ployment are merely two facets of the same question. I do not want to make merely an academic point, but it is a point of emphasis. It would be a very good thing if, included in the Debates on unemployment, we could have a Debate on employment, and if it were not out of order, it would be a great compliment if some- one would start the ball rolling by moving an addition of £100 to the salary of my right hon. Friend. The policy of this country to provide employment must be at the very foundation of the whole question. That is the first consideration of the Government. I do not want to remind the House of what they know already, namely, that in December the figure of 10,599,000 people in employment was the highest recorded employment figure in the history of this country.

On that basic foundation the next consideration of the Government is to see what they can do internally in the way either of training and transference, or of bringing employers and employés into contact with each other. Let us see how the Government face the second half of this task. I will start with the question of the Employment Exchanges which, after all, are run on lines which command general approval. They are run on those big, broad lines for which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester-le- Street (Mr. Lawson) pleaded at the beginning of his speech. The development in the Employment Exchange procedure and machinery during the past few years has been extraordinary. When we were discussing a Supplementary Estimate a short time ago, I do not think attention was directed to the fact that £14,000 of the increased amount of money needed was for telegrams and telephones due not only to the improvement in trade, but to the whole machinery of the Exchanges being speeded up, so that there should be no avoidable delay, and none of the five-year procedure to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) referred, in bringing employés and employers into contact with each other.

I do not want to weary the Committee with statistics, but in 1935 the number of vacancies notified to the Employment Exchanges was 2,910,000, an increase of 283,000 on the previous year. The number of vacancies filled was 2,500,000, an increase of 207,000 on the previous year. The scope of the Exchange machinery is perhaps wider than many people imagine. A post carrying with it a salary of £2,000 a year was actually filled through one of the Employment Exchanges. That is equivalent to the salary of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and is, in fact, £100 more than the Minister of Labour would receive this year if hon. Members on the other side have their way to-night. Really, when I think of it in those terms an entirely new vista arises in front of my eyes. We may see a Prime Minister of the future getting his entire Cabinet through the medium of the Employment Exchanges and perhaps vacancies in the ranks of junior Ministers being notified to the junior instructional centres.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour dealt with the question of Government training centres or "handyman" centres, as they are sometimes called. He pointed out that there is no intention of these centres relieving industry of its main responsibility of looking into these matters themselves, but in 1934 5,000 people were put into employment through these centres. In 1935 the number was 7,000, and we anticipate there will be about 10,000 in the current year. There has been a great deal of discussion as to whether these centres are needed, whether the men can be supplied without them, but really the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Lieut.-Colonel Kerr) hit the nail on the head when he laid emphasis largely on the freshness of the people coming from these centres compared with those who through misfortune have got stale and somewhat out of date. At any rate, we have been able through these centres to place between 98 and 99 per cent. of those who complete the course direct in employment through co-ordination between the centres and the Employment Exchanges. When people say that these places can be filled without going to these centres at all, I take up the phrase used by the right hon. Member for the Platting Division of Manchester (Mr. Clynes) that he was going to deal with certainties and leave the possibilities to other people. That is a remark which I adopt in regard to the placing of people from these centres. We are not going to stop there. We are always trying to adapt our machinery to meet needs which are constantly cropping up, and we have at Merthyr Tydfil started a centre at which people living in their own homes can take a preparatory course, and during the first stages of this centre we have had an attendance of between 80 and 100 people each day, half working in the mornings and half in the afternoon. I mention that in order to show that we are not sitting down and saying that this is all we need do. We are constantly planning our ground and adapting our methods to meet needs as they crop up. I come now to the question of instructional centres, where people go for a 12 weeks' reconditioning course. I use that phrase because it now seems to be of common use, and we know what is meant. In 1935, 18,500 men passed through those centres, of whom over 3,000 went directly into employment.

It was said in the Debate, particularly by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) that one of the disadvantages of the centres is that there is not sufficient machinery or opportunity for placing people when they have been through the courses. It is quite true that the number placed seems very small, but let me say at once that the point raised by the hon. Member for Wallsend has my entire sympathy, because in going round one or two of the instructional centres I can assure her that the first thing that struck me, after seeing that the centres appeared to be well run, was this. The whole object was to take a man who might perhaps be falling into a depressed state of mind, to sharpen him up and to give him a desire for employment. Yet, having achieved this, we did not in a large number of cases, have any job to offer him. I am not going to make any promises about how many jobs we may be able to get for people from these centres, and all I can say is that that is a point which has not only been realised by me but by my right hon. Friend. We are considering every possible way of improving the chances of employment for people who come from these centres.


Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves that point, will he give an answer regarding the specific recommendations made by the Commissioner in this matter?

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

The recommendations made by the Commis- sioner on this point or on any other point will be very carefully weighed by us. His recommendations and any other considerations which may be brought before us will be included in the thought and care we are giving to this matter with a view to seeing how the prospects of employment can be improved.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman explain how he proposes to avoid, in so far as he succeeds in providing employment for trainees, displacing men already employed?

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

I think the hon. Member will excuse me if I do not pursue him on that point. There is little time at my disposal and I have many points to deal with which were actually raised in the Debate. The hon. Member for Walsend also raised the question of medical treatment. That point was raised the other day and my right hon. Friend said that it would have due consideration. It was pointed out that he had had it under consideration for a very long time, but I think hon. Members are too prone to imagine that careful consideration is an alternative for doing nothing. Careful consideration is very often a preliminary for doing something, and it is far better to do something after careful consideration than to do something without careful consideration.

A considerable number of questions were raised in the Debate and I will try to deal with them in the short time I have at my disposal. An hon. Member raised a variety of questions concerning the report of the Statutory Committee. A draft Order will have to be made before this House and oil that occasion all the points raised, together with any others, can be fully debated; and I think it would be more appropriate to await that occasion than to deal with them in advance. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Marklew) raised the question of people engaged in unloading butter at Grimsby. It can only be said that those people are dealt with under the Anomalies Act, for which the hon. Member knows this Government, although it has operated it over a number of years, has no responsibility.

The hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) raised the question of the block grant system, and that was referred to also by the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) and the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull East (Mr. Muff). The revision of the block grant system is now being undertaken and a new system will begin on 1st April, 1937. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) and the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) both referred to the recommendation of the Scottish Commissioner that there should be an economic body for Scotland. The proposal is receiving the sympathetic consideration of the Secretary of State, who hopes to make a statement on the subject at an early date. The statement cannot be anticipated, but the proposal deals with far-reaching considerations, and it is therefore extremely desirable that every aspect should be gone into before a definite statement is made.

The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) voiced effectively and moderately the case for Lancashire, and he referred me to a pledge given by my predecessor that some of the blessings which have been given to the Special Areas should be given to Lancashire. It is bad enough to be faced with one's own promises without having to be faced with the pledges of a predecessor. What my hon. friend said on the Committee stage of the Bill was: Lancashire is not being disregarded, and no doubt any of the experiments made by the Commissioners which are successful, and which can appropriately be extended subsequently to Lancashire in order to meet the difficulties of individual towns, will be so extended when the time comes." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1934; col. 2099, Vol. 295.] The work which has been carried out in the Special Areas is largely experimental, and it has always been made clear that we want to be convinced of the success of the experiment before extending it elsewhere. The fact of the inclusion of Liverpool in the depressed areas for purposes of contract preference—and the Committee now understands well the difference between the Special and the depressed areas—does show that we are keeping the case of Lancashire before us. To that extent I think that the pledge of my predecessor is being fulfilled.

The hon. Member for Ince and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) raised the question of under-employment in the cotton industry. My right hon. Friend the Minister recently received a deputation on the subject and discussed the matter with them. He promised that he would look into it, and he is looking into it. We do not want to raise extravagant hopes, but I think people know that when my right hon. Friend looks into a thing he looks into a thing. The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) raised the question of signing on at the exchanges. I should like by the way to take this opportunity, the first which has occurred, of thanking him on behalf of myself and I am sure of the whole House also for the present he has so generously given us. With regard to the Departmental Committee which is considering the matter, it has not issued any final report. It has come to some conclusions, but as they are only provisional the hon. and gallant Member will not expect me to make them public to-night. The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose raised the question of juveniles very forcibly. As he knows, we have a considerable organisation dealing with juvenile training, care, transference and employment. In the week ending 5th September, 1934, there were 112 Junior Instruction Centres and classes with an average daily attendance of approximately 15,000. In the week ending 12th February, 1936, there were 221 Junior Instruction Centres and classes with an average daily attendance of approximately 37,000. In regard to juvenile vacancies, 633,000 were notified last year and 501,000 were filled.

People may have different views on the value or necessity of transference, but I om sure we are all interested that when a juvenile is transferred he should be looked after, cared for, and given as good a start in his new job as possible. In 1933 we transferred to London 4,000 juveniles and in 1935, 11,000. I have made it my job recently to visit two of the hostels set up for these transferred juveniles in London. I do not want after a cursory glance of the hostels to dogmatise on the whole of the transfer system, but I was enabled by looking at these boys to form a pretty good impression how they were being looked after. A few go home but the vast majority of them remain in their employment. I am sure that hon. Members for Wales will be pleased to know that I was given the benefit, which I enjoyed, of some admirable Welsh songs from juvenile transferees. I spoke to one of the cheeriest boys in the whole crowd, and he told me that he would sooner be at home. That was the right thing to say, and I have no doubt it was true. That left me with the impression that these transferees were combining a love and affection for and belief in their native land with the determination to make the very best of their new jobs and surroundings. That is a combination which goes very well together; it has carried British people to success, not only within the confines of the British Isles, but throughout the Empire and the world far and wide. The right hon. Member for Platting said we wanted humane administration. The hon. Member for Colne Valley said in a very human fashion that he considered his life to be the most important life in the universe.


To me.

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

It is true that when one is dealing with big problems one is apt to forget the indi

vidual. We say that a man does not see the wood for the trees. Occasionally in this world of ours we do see the wood, and are apt to overlook the trees of which it is composed. I hope that the review which I have given and the review which my right hon. Friend gave before me showing the basis of improved employment in this country which this Government has brought about, the foundations on which we are working, as well as the details of the various things we are doing specifically for the unemployed, will show that at all events we can view the big problems and the needs of the individuals at the same time.

It being Eleven of the Clock, The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote.

Question put, That a sum not exceeding £165,889,900 be granted, on account for the said Services.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 150; Noes, 242.

Division No. 83.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Acland, R. T, D. (Barnstaple) Gardner, B. W. McEntee, V. La T.
Adams, D. (Consett) Garro-Jones, G. M. McGhee, H. G.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) MacLaren, A.
Adamson, W. M. Gibbins, J. Maclean, N.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.) Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) MacNeill, Weir, L.
Ammon, C. G. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Mainwaring, W. H.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Grenfell, D. R. Marklew, E.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Marshall, F.
Banfield, J. W. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Maxton, J.
Barnes, A. J. Groves, T. E. Messer, F.
Barr, J. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Milner, Major J.
Batey, J. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Montague, F.
Bellenger, F. Hardie, G. D. Morrison, Rt. Hn H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)
Benson, G. Harris, Sir P. A. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Broad, F. A. Henderson, A. (Kingswintord) Muff, G.
Bromfield, W. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Naylor, T. E.
Brooke, W. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Oliver, G. H.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrsh're) Hicks, E. G. Paling, W.
Buchanan, G. Holdsworth, H. Parker, H. J. H.
Burke, W. A. Holland, A. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Cape, T. Hollins, A. Potts, J.
Chater, D. Hopkin, D. Price, M. P.
Cluse, W. S. Jagger, J. Pritt, D. N.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Quibell, J. D.
Cocks, F. S. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Compton, J. John, W. Riley, B.
Cove, W. G. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Ritson, J.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Daggar, G. Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Dalton, H. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Rowson, G.
Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd) Kelly, W. T. Salter, Dr. A
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Seely, Sir H. M.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Kirby, B. V. Sexton, T. M.
Day, H. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Shinwell, E.
Debbie, W. Lathan, G. Short, A.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lawson, J. J. Silverman, S. S.
Ede, J. C. Leach, W. Simpson, F. B.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Lee, F. Sinclair, Rt, Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Leonard, W. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Leslie, J. R. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Logan, D. G. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Foot, D. M. Lunn, W. Sorensen, R. W.
Gallacher, W. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Stephen, C.
Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng) Walker, J. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.) Watkins, F. C. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Watson, W. McL. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Thorne, W. Welsh, J. C. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Thurtle, E. White, H. Graham Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Tinker, J. J. Whiteley, W.
Viant, S. P. Wilkinson, Ellen TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Waikden, A, G. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore) Mr. Mathers and Mr. Charleton.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col, G. J. Edmondson, Major Sir J. Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Aibery, I. J. Ellis, Sir G. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Elliston, G. S. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Elmley, Viscount Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Apsley, Lord Emery, J. F. Mitcheson, Sir G. G.
Aske, Sir R. W. Emmott, C. E. G. C. Moreing, A. C.
Assheton, R. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Morgan, R. H.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)
Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton) Everard, W. L. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Flides, Sir H. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Findlay, Sir E. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Fleming, E. L. Munro, P. M.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Fox, Sir G. W. G. Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Fraser, Capt. Sir I. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm`h) Fremantle, Sir F. E. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.
Belt, Sir A. L. Furness, S. N. Palmer, G. E. H.
Bernays, R. H. Ganzoni, Sir J. Patrick, C. M.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Peat, C U
Blindell, Sir J. Gluckstein, L. H. Penny, Sir G.
Boothby, R. J. G. Goldie, N. B. Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.
Borodale, Viscount Goodman, Col. A. W. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Boulton, W. W. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Pilkington, R.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Gridley, Sir A. B. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Grimston, R. V. Porritt, R. W.
Boyce, H. Leslie Gritten, W. G. Howard Procter, Major H. A.
Bracken, B. Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Radford, E. A.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Brass, Sir W. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Ramsbotham, H.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Gunston, Capt. D W. Ramsden, Sir E.
Brown, Cot. D. C. (Hexham) Guy, J. C. M. Rankin, R,
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Hamilton, Sir G. C. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Hanbury, Sir C. Rayner, Major R. H.
Bull, B. B. Hannah, I. C. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Bullock, Capt. M. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Harvey, G. Remer, J. R.
Butler, R. A. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hepworth, J. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Cartland, J. R. H. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Ropner, Colonel L.
Carver, Major W. H. Holmes, J. S. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)
Cary, R. A. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Castlereagh, Viscount Horsbrugh, Florence Rowlands, G.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Howitt, Dr. A. B. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.) Hulbert, N. J. Runciman, Rt. Hon. W.
Channon, H. Hume, Sir G. H. Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Hunter, T. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Chorlton, A. E. L. James, Wing-Commander A. W. Salmon, Sir I.
Christie, J. A. Jones, L. (Swansea, W.) Salt, E. W.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Keeling, E. H. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Clarry, Sir R. G. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Sandys, E. D.
Colfox, Major W. P. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Scott, Lord William
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Lamb, Sir J. Q. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Latham, Sir P. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'burgh, W.) Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Craddock, Sir R. H. Leckie, J. A. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Crooke, J. S. Leech, Dr. J. W. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Lees-Jones, J. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Cross, R. H. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Crossley, A. C. Lindsay, K. M. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Cruddas, Col. B. Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C. Lloyd, G. W. Spender-Clay, Lt.-CI. Rt. Hn. H. H.
De la Bèere, R. Loftus, P. C. Spens, W. P.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lyons, A. M. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)
Denville, Alfred Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Dodd, J. S. MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Storey, S.
Drewe, C. McCorquodale, M. S. Stourton, Hon. J. J.
Dugdale, Major T. L. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Duggan, H. J. McEwen,-Capt. H. J. F. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Duncan, J. A. L. McKie, J. H. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Dunglass, Lord Maclay, Hon. J. P. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Dunne, P. R. R. Magnay, T. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Eastwood, J. F. Maitland. A. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Eckersley, P. T. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Tacker, SIr R. I.
Tate, Mavis C. Walker-Smith, Sir J. Wise, A. R.
Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) Ward, Irene (Wallsend) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Thomas,.J. P. L. (Hereford) Warrender, Sir V. Wragg, H.
Thomson, Sir J. D. W. Waterhouse, Captain C. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Tree, A. R. L. F. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Turton, R. H. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin) Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert
Wakefield, W. W. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G. Ward and Major George Davies.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported on Thursday next; Committee to sit again To-morrow.