§ [FIFTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [6th November] to Question [3rd November]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament"—[Miss Horsbrugh.]
Which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words:
But regret that Your Majesty's advisers fail to recognise that under the existing capitalist system the present improvement in trade and industry, largely stimulated by the world race in armaments, can only be temporary; that, whilst making tardy acknowledgment of the deterioration in the physical fitness of the nation, due mainly to long-continued unemployment, low wages, and consequent malnutrition, they are continuing to enforce a means test which intensifies this deterioration and to neglect the problems of those areas which have been most severely affected; and that they have no proposals for making the fundamental changes in the basis of society which are necessary in order to create a Socialist commonwealth in which the full resources of the nation shall be utilised for the benefit of the community as a whole."—[Mr. Arthur Greenwood.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
This Amendment has been criticised on account of its terms. I wish to examine it at some length this afternoon, and to suggest that it fulfils the purpose, well known to this House, of submitting the grievances of the King's subjects to the attention of Parliament. It calls attention, among other things, to the question of unemployment, the question of the Special Areas, low wages and the means test; and it also goes on to note the absence of a plan for the stricken areas. It declares, further, for an alternative system of industrial and economic organisation. We on this side of the House have been taunted by several speakers who have 534 said that the Amendment is too wordy and too vague, while others have said that it agrees too closely with the terms of Amendments moved in previous years. The House recognises your authority, Mr. Speaker, and we claim some credit for having produced an Amendment in a form acceptable to you which permits Members to debate their differences in this House without unseemly or disorderly behaviour.
The present Government represent, in the main, the rich and comfortable classes in this country, while we represent mainly those whose share is least, those who, generally speaking, do not own. The Government, representing the existing order of society, and with a majority which they are entitled to have according to the procedure at our elections, are expected to safeguard the interests of the owning classes, but they must not flagrantly and persistently abuse the confidence of their poorer supporters, for I think it may be admitted that there are many poor people who put their confidence in this Government. On the other hand, the majority of the people who support us are people who do not profit from the existing system, and do not generally own. We dispute the contention that any system for the encouragement of individuals can bring permanent advantage to the country. It is there that this House is divided, as it has been divided for many years past, and on that question the House will be divided for some time to come; but we gladly note evidence from the opposite side of the House, and, indeed, from all parts of the House, in this Debate and during the course of recent years, that no one is prepared to stand up and defend all the inequalities of the capitalist system. There are all kinds of explanations, all kinds of excuses, and all kinds of efforts to present that system as a kind of permanent institution, which is in accordance with human nature and one that is likely to remain in existence for all time; but in the Debates in this House doubts are expressed, even on the opposite side.
As I have said, the House will not readily acknowledge the defects of the capitalist system, but we witnessed an exceptional exhibition the other day, when petitions from Jarrow were presented to the House by two Members, 535 one from this side and one from the opposite side. The hon. Lady (Miss Wilkinson) who now represents Jarrow, and whom I might describe as an ardent and fiery Socialist, made her statement to the House. It was followed almost exactly by a statement made by the hon. Member for North Newcastle (Sir N. Grattan-Doyle), who might be described as a typical complacent and self-satisfied Tory. It is, indeed, most remarkable how similar in phrases and in sentiments were the petitions presented by these two hon. Members, both calling attention to the defects of the capitalist system as exemplified in the problem of Jarrow. I am sure that both hon. Members will agree, and that the majority of the House will agree, that the spectre of decay in Jarrow which prompted this happy unanimity among those who signed the petitions is not more than a hundredth part of the aggregate of desolation which exists in the Special Areas in all parts of the country. It is this widespread condition of distress, and, in local instances, of complete collapse of industry and of industrial existence that encourages us to invite the attention of the House to Amendments in these terms.
It has been urged, in the Debates last week, that speeches from this side of the House failed to draw a distinction between the Special Areas and other parts of the country where conditions are better, but really that charge cannot be brought against us. This afternoon we have witnessed the insistence of my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), who has not let a week pass during the last four or five years without calling special attention to the conditions in these areas. We draw the distinction, and it is that distinction which we wish to mark to-day. We are willing to admit that there are bright spots in the picture. Certainly there are, but those bright spots only serve to show in deeper gloom the sombre patches to which the contents of this Amendment are more appropriate than is the substance of the King's Speech. We call attention to the Special Areas, and we do so with a. view to getting relief where it is most urgently required. The Government turn the spotlight on the brighter spots, thus distracting attention from the 536 Merthyrs and Jarrows, where urgent salvage work has to be done under national auspices because local resources are exhausted or inadequate.
We protest in the Amendment against the neglect of national interests in the pursuit of private gain. We begin by declaring that employment on expanded armaments is not likely to be permanent. Does the House divide on that assertion? Do the Government expect to increase permanently the number of men and women engaged in the manufacture of armaments? We all know that the Government do not expect it; we know what will happen to those who are now employed, or who are shortly to be given employment, when the programme of expansion comes to an end. Then why cavil at the allusion to the temporary character of such employment? The Minister of Education on Friday suggested that only Germany is increasing armaments. It may be true that Germany leads the way and is ahead of us for the time being, but we are accelerating to catch up. The right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for the defence programme will not tell the House how far or how fast we have travelled. We shall have to wait and see.
We come next to the question of the physical condition of our people. The House will waste valuable time if it ignores the existence of poverty and the relation between poverty and physical fitness. It is a fact that fully one half of our people cannot afford to buy 9s. worth of food in a week, which represents about 1s. 3d. a day. With the utmost skill it is impossible to provide a rich and varied diet on that amount. But the most tragic fact is that 20 per cent. of our people cannot get more than 6d. worth of food a. day. Many millions are under-fed; there is no doubt at all about it. Millions are badly housed. There is further evidence of poverty. We have nearly 4,000,000 people receiving unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance. They are kept below the poverty line by the means test and governmental niggardliness. Under capitalism we find an extreme disparity of opportunity. That is the essence of our Parliamentary grievance. Indisputable evidence is found in official publications.
I would refer, in the presence and with the attention of the Minister of Labour, to page 133 of the Annual Report of the 537 Unemployment Assistance Board. On that page are quoted cases of four families in County Durham. Family No. 1 consists of a man and wife and seven children, aged one, three, seven, nine, 14, 16 and 18; nine persons in all living in one low-roofed room with one standing bed. Family No. 2 consists of a man and wife with four sons, aged 21, 17, 14 and seven, and three girls aged 12, nine and two; nine persons in all, living in one room. Family No. 3, consists of a man and wife and three sons aged 11, two and 11 months, and seven daughters aged 21, 18, 15, 14, nine, six and five; 12 persons in all, and they have lived in two rooms for seven or eight years. Family No. 4 consists of a man and wife and four sons aged 19, 12, nine and five, and two daughters aged 16 and 13; eight people in all; the mother and eldest son bedridden with tuberculosis and all live in two rooms with one entrance.
That is a revelation which ought to convince everyone here that the poverty of the people of this country cries aloud to heaven for redress, and that this House is unfaithful to the best interests of the nation as a whole if it allows this crying scandal to exist for any further time. What is the explanation of our immense increase of social services? It is the greater subservience and dependence of the individual. For whom does the State provide Health Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, unemployment assistance and free or assisted education? There is only one answer. Last week we had speeches from the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke). Lancashire is not a Special Area; it is an industrial area but is not deemed to be a Special Area. Yet the hon. Member for Burnley told us that the average wage per man employed in the weaving industry is 31s. 8d. a week; and the hon. Member for Leigh the next day gave figures showing that only 2 per cent. of the weaving workers in Lancashire earn more than 50s. a week, that just over 17 per cent. earn 40s. or more, and that more than 40 per cent. receive less than 30s. a week in wages.
That is why we have to provide for people when their day's work is done. Who else is to provide for them? They cannot make themselves independent. Why does not the employer maintain his 538 employes when they are on slack time? The truth is that capitalism does not discharge its social obligations, and these social services, indispensable yet inadequate, serve as an assessment of the injury caused to the personnel of our industrial system. The Minister of Education on Friday told us that he did not defend a rigid capitalist system which refused to adapt itself to the circumstances of the time. I assume that this is a capitalist Government, or shall I put it that this is a Government of capitalists, for capitalists, by capitalists.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I have tried to be most moderate. Will it be denied that the Government freely consults industry and finance in all matters connected with trade and financial affairs? The workless have no such contact with the State. If through inefficiency in industry or Government policy trade is lost and production ceases, it is the community that has to drain the dregs of the bitter cup; it is the community that suffers the worse degree of punishment for any failings of the capitalist system. The strongest indictment we can make against our industrial system is on account of the terrific profligacy and waste which we see all around us. Special Areas are found in every country. I do not blame this Government for that. But it is true that there are periods of devastation and waste and destruction in which the people suffer immensely. The last five or 10 years have been a, period of intense and terrible suffering the world over, on account of industrial disorganisation. There are Merthyrs and Jarrows everywhere. Ruthless pillage of national resources in the United States of America, by which land has been denuded of timber and grass, has threatened the food supply of that young country. Timber, coal and oil have been exploited without regard for anything but the satisfaction of "get rich quick" men, who are void of all patriotism and sense of responsibility.
The story of our own coalfields is not pleasant reading to those who know it close up. It is exceedingly interesting now to see the royalty owners favouring the unification of royalties. They rely upon their friends in the Government to 539 buy them out at a price which ought to cover the purchase of the whole coal and the equipment of that industry. The United States election results may be explained as a realisation by the American people that they have to mind their own business in the future. All the vested interests in the United States were anti-Roosevelt. They called him Bolshevik and Socialist and other non-Parliamentary terms which I dare not repeat here. But Mr. Roosevelt was really trying to do something very far short of Socialism. He nevertheless is compelled to institute public control over the utility services and large-scale conservation schemes. Those who boasted of prosperity in the United States ignored the existence of 10,000,000 unemployed and the immense surplus of industrial equipment, which will only be used again if America goes to war. Germany and Italy are so busily occupied with war-like preparations as to hide the weakness of their industrial position.
Capitalism is not delivering the goods anywhere. Governments have to improvise auxiliary methods of distribution. About one-fourth of this nation's income is required by taxes and local rates to provide public services and to repair the ravages of the present system. Parliament is now, as it always has been, concerned with the use of public money, striving to maintain equilibrium in a contest where the subject resents the claim of the community on his private means. I would like to believe that we shall have a Chancellor of the Exchequer quite as ruthless and unsympathetic as the present Chancellor, in the further action that has to be taken in this country to achieve that balance at a more reasonable level. Taxation has soared to immensely higher levels, yet the rich are proportionately richer and the poor are as numerous as ever. The Merseyside Survey reports that out of 6,780 families in a typically working class population 16 per cent. of the families and 25 per cent. of the children were living in poverty. Is it surprising that they have physical defects? Both the Minister of Health and his predecessor have enthusiastically taken up the question of the development of physical fitness. The first essential of physical fitness is good food and plenty of it. Fresh air, rest, and knowledge of the rules of health are other essentials.
540 The Minister of Health said something about providing moral leadership for the young. I want to look very closely indeed at his suggestion to provide moral leadership for the poor. Why not a little moral leadership for the rich as well? Is poverty a proof of moral delinquency? The right hon. Gentleman will have to consider that again before he asks us to join him in this grand enterprise of building up the physical and moral standard of the people. I should much prefer trusting the healthy lad to develop initiative. I want him to trust to himself, and not be coddled by some system of moral leadership which the right hon. Gentleman has in his mind, which is a grandmotherly way of treating the splendid manhood and womanhood that we have in the country. I want our people to learn to work and to do work. There is no boon as great, and nothing so helpful in the building of character. This House has the responsibility for having failed to raise the school age to 16, and for omitting to provide continuation schools for all boys and girls unable to obtain work in the additional school years. In those years the fundation of physical fitness and physical pride could be laid.
Now we come to the means test. I hardly dare trust myself to speak on this in the presence of the Minister of Labour. The means test represents exactly the opposite of what is proposed in the suggestion to improve the physical condition of the people. The Minister of Labour is working as hard as he can, with his tremendous energy, to reduce the standard of physical fitness in the homes of the country, though he may not realise it. I should like him to see the problem as I see it. He is going to South Wales next week. There is the evidence in every valley of the undermining of the physical constitution of the people who live there. What does he think is responsible for it? No deterioration, they say. Certainly there is deterioration. Our people were equal to the best in physique. When the War broke out, a larger proportion of the recruits that went from South Wales passed Class A than from any other part of the country. We can look after ourselves and our children if we get the means by which it can be done, but the right hon. Gentleman is cutting down our resources with the means test. He is reducing the physical standard very much 541 faster than any combination of his colleagues can build it up.
I do not know anything more likely to defeat the campaign for fitness than the perpetuation of a low standard of subsistence. If that is not the object of the means scale and regulations, what purpose have they? Are they designed only to save money? Is it purely a financial matter? Has it no regard for the condition of the people? If you cut down the people's incomes in these homes, do you not automatically reduce their power to purchase food? Of course you do. In the face of this physical deterioration, and having a surplus in the Insurance Fund which works out at about £30,000,000 per annum, will they not now abandon the means test and give equal recognition to all unemployed persons regardless of the period for which they have been employed? Hyde Park is a long way from the effects of the means test. Hyde Park is simply an incident, the bringing together of people who wish to protest. They are protesting almost in vain in their homes. They protest and their local authorities protest. Great demonstrations in the areas of distress apparently do not reach the right hon. Gentleman's ear. They came to Hyde Park yesterday, and I am surprised at the patience that they show, and I marvel at the indifference of the Government which pays no heed to them.
The means test is destructive of the best in family life and of personal habits of thrift and independence. There is nothing that has caused more class consciousness in recent years. Those who are employed are saddled with the maintenance of their workless relatives. They resent the action of the Government. The present Government will never secure the confidence or the affection of the toiling masses of the country. They have sacrificed it by the imposition of the means test. The reduction in payments is a heavy loss to the community, whose spending power is largely derived from these funds. There is resentment all round. There is, further, a sense of dismay that no substantial assistance has been given to the Special Areas. Will the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman challenge this statement, that the means test has taken more away from South Wales in the last five years than the Special Area Com- 542 missioner has brought in? We have been made poorer, and poorer and poorer. We are receiving no assistance at all from the Government in our period of trial and difficulty. I should like to know whether the Government are going to do anything to settle new industries and to give employment in the mining areas and others similarly affected. The people are waiting with pathetic and tragic anticipation for alternative employment of some kind. What shall the answer be? What is the answer that we shall have in this debate? What will the right hon. Gentleman say next week when he goes to South Wales, to be received as courteously as he would be in any part of the country? Those people have not forgotten their good manners even in these days of distress, but let him not mistake that courtesy for effusive affection. They distrust him, and whoever accompanies him will share their disfavour. Can the Government not spread its orders so as to give work where it is most needed?
There is the question of training. In the Debate before the Summer adjournment I pointed to the loss of export trade in coal. Our trade is declining. The right hon. Gentleman is, perhaps, more familiar with the figures than I am. We are told of the difficulties in the way of trade—currency adjustments, licences and subsidies. We do not expect the impossible. But what is the reason for the importation of coke into the Thames? There must be someone responsible. In an article in the November issue of "Colliery Engineering" it is stated that provision is being made for the immediate delivery of 100,000 tons of Belgian coke. Who is responsible? Is anyone responsible at all? Has anyone any authority at all? Is the Government quite powerless to direct that the coke, or its equivalent in smokeless Welsh anthracite coal, shall be produced at home. It is not disputed that we have the best coal in the world and we have large numbers of pits idle and 250,000 miners out of work. Cannot the Government pass the word round that trade should go to the home market, and that no miserable messing about for private gain shall deprive our men of work and wages?
I have wandered over the field on which the Amendment is based. We are sent here, and we shall continue to come here 543 to fight the battle against poverty. That is what we are here for. There is no other purpose in my presence here. We want to build a healthy nation and to bring happiness to our homes, but I want to warn hon. Members. Perhaps we judge each other sometimes too narrowly in the House. It is sometimes suggested that we do not love our country. There is no man on that side of the House, and no man who can lay claim to large possessions, who carries in his breast greater pride of country than I do. It is not necessary to have a private fortune to love your country. Our people love their country. They want to make it worthy of their affection. No one has a monopoly of national pride. No one can evade a share of responsibility for the evils endured by my fellow-countrymen. There are varying degrees of influence and opportunity. The Government have influence and power. They have been given very great power indeed. We private Members come here with a message to deliver, and I should like to deliver mine. I should be content to be regarded as a modest yet unflinchingly loyal envoy of the unemployed people in my division. I want to be nothing more for this purpose.
I want to make an appeal to the Government not to impose further cuts upon the people in South Wales. I want to appeal to the Minister and the Minister who is to accompany the Sovereign to South Wales next week. Go there with a word of encouragement to these people. Do not go there indifferent to their sufferings. Do not go as if you were making a tour of inspection of some derelict institution. Hope is the foundation of our courage, our energy and our activity. Will the Minister take with him not only words but the substance of hope and encouragement? Do not be prejudiced against Socialism. Do not allow the fact that we are Socialists to prejudice you against us. We are just as good Britishers as anyone on that side of the House. We are as keen on building up the national credit and honour of the country on sound foundations as they are. We shall all be dishonourable if we allow the present conditions to remain one day longer than is necessary. We are all mutually and equally responsible for the conditions that exist to-day. The Government have a 544 special responsibility to those who suffer the most from the inequalities and injustices of the present system.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. RADFORD
I had not intended until a few minutes ago to intervene in this Debate, but the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) has impelled me to rise for a few moments. He is a Member of this House who, I can safely say, has the respect of every hon. Member and I, with some little knowledge of the men in those colliery valleys of South Wales, can understand how strongly he and the other representatives of those areas feel and speak when they see the undoubted hardship and suffering that exist there. I have had some little experience of these men. I had occasion to go among them a good deal a few years ago under such conditions as really made me anticipate that I should be received with discourtesy and black looks. I was the Receiver for the debenture holders of a colliery there, and I had occasion to carry it on for about a couple of years. Obviously, under expert advice, I had to eliminate at the outset all the unprofitable parts of the mine, which had the effect of putting a number of men out of work, but during my visits to that mine I never heard a discourteous word or had a discourteous look shown to me. I was treated with as much respect and as well and courteously as though I had come there as a benefactor instead of one whom the men might reasonably regard as an enemy. Although that is five or six years ago, I feel that it is a privilege for me to be able to-day to testify to the character of those men and their attitude towards me when I came among them as one who was apparently doing them all the harm and ill that were possible.
I want to say a few words in answer to what the hon. Member said on the family means test. He asked—I have no doubt quite honestly—what was the purpose of the means test. Was it niggardliness on the part of the Government? It is obvious that when you get outside the covenanted benefit for unemployment there is a charge upon the taxpayers, whether rich persons or poor persons, to provide the money for those who come under the Unemployment Assistance Board. I should like to tell the House of a little experience which came to my 545 memory prominently during the discussions on the means test although the incident took place over 40 years ago. The facts which I am going to give are equally true to-day as they were at that time. It was before there was any national insurance or old age pensions.
I was skating when a boy—I mention this because there may be the members of colliery divisions who know it—near the collieries at Poynton, in Cheshire. At any rate the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), whom I see opposite, will know where Poynton Collieries are situated. I and my boy friends went to have tea at a little cottage near the lake where we had been skating, which was kept by the widow of an old collier, who eked out her existence by keeping a little shop and doing a little catering, as she did for us that evening. I remember conversing with her. She was in no way complaining and only mentioned what she told me as a matter of interest. She said that in the next cottage there were a father and three sons working in the pit, and that they brought home about £12 a week. As my income was sixpence a week I thought that £12 was a good income to be going into that cottage. There may be similar cases to-day. If a father and three able-bodied sons were bringing in £12 a week and one of them fell out of work—and there was no household means test, then—when he had exhausted his statutory benefit he would be enabled to come on the Unemployment Assistance Board. I ask hon. Members opposite whether they could justify from any point of view that a poor widow should have to pay even the equivalent of only a penny a week in taxes in order to provide additional money to go into a house next door where £12 a week was taken when the men were all working and where £9 a week was still coming in. The incident of that poor widow was recalled to my mind when the discussion on the household means test first began. That is one broad answer in justification of it.
§ Mr. GARRO JONES
Why does the hon. Gentleman assume that we are suggesting that the burden should be cast upon the widow? We suggest that the burden should be cast upon the wider shoulders of those able to bear it, and who are making millions in the City, or on the Stock Exchange, or in industries throughout the country.
§ Mr. RADFORD
When the party to which the hon. Member who has just intervened were in power taxation was spread over all classes, direct taxation mostly on the rich and the well-to-do, and indirect taxation on all. Their own Chancellor of the Exchequer and their own Government levied the national taxes in that manner and on that principle. Such has been the principle from time immemorial in this country and I have no doubt that if they were in power tomorrow it would continue to be the principle that part of the revenue would be raised from direct taxation and part from indirect taxation. [An HON. MEMBER: "How much?"] We are not now debating what percentage exactly should be raised by direct and by indirect taxation, but to the hon. Member who interposed, that is the answer. There are indirect, taxpayers some of whom are very poor people, and it does not matter if such a widow had to pay only a penny per week, there would be no justification for calling upon her to provide money towards the unkeep of a family next door with a large income still coming into the house.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rushholme (Mr. Radford) in his observations about the family means test, because it is a subject upon which we all had ample opportunity to express ourselves at the end of last Session, but it would be pertinent to remind him that the Government of which he is a supporter have increased the proportion of indirect taxation as against direct taxation more than any Government in British history. I do not think that any Member of this House could have listened unmoved to the appeal that was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell). I have not heard the hon. Member, during the last five years I have been in this House, ever deliver a more powerful speech from that Box. My hon. Friends and I who sit in this part of the House would agree with almost everything he said about the present position and about the poverty which exists in a great many parts of this country. If there is one criticism that I might make of the speech of the hon. Gentleman it is this. He was speaking to the Amendment which stands in the name of his party, and he 547 had scarcely any reference to make to the suggested remedy. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) made it clear on Friday why we for our part cannot go into the Lobby in support of this Amendment. I would only add to what he said, that in this Amendment there is not the slightest definition, nor have we heard in the course of this Debate, either on Friday or to-day, the slightest attempt at a definition as to what is meant by the "Socialist Commonwealth" which is there referred to.
Do hon. Members above the Gangway simply mean an extension to some degree of public ownership and control That was all that they suggested at the last General Election, when, in their manifesto, they set out the range of industries, and said that they were in favour ofschemes of public ownership for the efficient conduct in the national interest of banking, coal and its products, transport, electricity, iron and steel, and cotton.That was all that was included in their Election manifesto, though, of course, we all realise that that list was open to local variations. In my constituency they advocated the nationalisation of the jute industry, and I have no doubt that similar additions were made in other constituencies throughout the country. Is it suggested—because there has been no answer to this as yet—that public ownership is going to involve public management I Are we to have industries responsible to Whitehall, or public corporations on the lines of the London Passenger Transport Board? Most important of all—and the question which is of great interest to many people throughout this country when schemes of public ownership are put forward—what degree of workers' control do they contemplate in the industries to be taken over by the State? Again, there has not been the slightest attempt in this Debate to inform us what is intended. In our submission it is complete nonsense to suppose that there is no alternative between unregulated private enterprise and complete Socialism.
You can have many forms of State. You can have the kind of community such as there is in Soviet Russia where there is practically no private ownership, except a man's ownership of his own 548 personal belongings. You can, on the other hand, have the sort of society which existed in the United States before Roosevelt began his New Deal. But there are many other systems. There is the kind of system which exists in Denmark, which seems to be very much more desirable than either, under which you have a community of owners, most of them small agricultural owners, who, nevertheless, submit to a good deal of regulation and control of the selling of their products. The question of a. Socialist commonwealth and of universal or large-scale nationalisation is entirely remote from the actualities which we have to discuss to-day. In our opinion, for what it is worth, when you are dealing with the question of private enterprise against public enterprise, it is a question in which each case has to be decided upon its merits. We do not regard it as a matter of first principle at all. For years, for example, we have been in favour of such a measure of nationalisation of royalties as is now proposed. In the last Parliament all parties joined together in order to put the whole business of transport in the Metropolis under a form of public ownership. Each of those questions has to be decided not by the application of any rule-of-thumb, but simply on its own merits.
Lately in this country we have been making the very worst of both worlds. There is nothing whatever to be said for a system which destroys private enterprise without putting any form of public enterprise in its place. That is what has been happening in a good many parts of the country. We have had a great many references during the course of this Debate to the condition of Jarrow. There was a reply given a day or two ago by the President of the Board of Trade when we were told that the shipyard at Jarrow could not be reopened because of a restrictive covenant entered into between private interests. I entirely agree with the comments made upon that by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). To take another example, there was the case in the last Parliament of the Red Star proposal to run a new line of steamships across the Atlantic. Some of those ships were to be built in British shipyards, but because the Government had advanced money to one Atlantic shipping concern, they discouraged, and 549 managed to prevent, the establishment of a rival concern. It seems to me a perfectly impossible position that private enterprise in so many cases is not allowed to function. What is the position of the derelict areas which we have been discussing, when the Government, in effect, say: "We will do nothing for you by way of public enterprise, but, on the other hand, private enterprise will not even be allowed to come to your assistance"?
The fact that we in this part of the House cannot vote for this Amendment does not mean, and must not be taken to mean, that we regard with anything like satisfaction the series of proposals set out in the Gracious Speech. I pass over the references to that part of the Gracious Speech which deals with foreign affairs, because it has already been discussed, and I probably should not be in order in discussing it now, but if I might make one observation in passing it is this. It seems a pity that when the Gracious Speech is printed for our convenience we do not follow the customs observed in the Trade and Navigation Returns of printing in parallel columns the Gracious Speech of a year ago. That would be of particular advantage in that part of the Gracious Speech which refers to foreign affairs, because just opposite the glowing reference to the League of Nations in the Gracious Speech of this year we should find these words from last year:At the same time they will continue to exert their influence in favour of a peace acceptable to the three parties in the dispute, namely, Italy, Ethiopia and the League of Nations.We were not told on Thursday whether the Government are still endeavouring to exert their influence in that direction.
There are various proposals under the general heading of domestic policy, and I should like to make a few observations riot so much about what is included in that policy but what is not included. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) got into a great deal of trouble recently because of his reference in the public Press to Germany, but it seems to me that my right hon. Friend was at any rate correct in one point, and that is, and it has been repeated in this Debate, that the authoritarian States do offer a challenge to our Parliamentary system. Parliamentary 550 government, in the long run, will stand or fall not by academic considerations but by its capacity to meet the burning problems of the day. I do not admit for a moment that the authoritarian States are any better at solving these problems. I do not think there is any evidence that the level of wages or the standards of living has been rising in Italy or Germany. I should have thought that all the evidence there was was very much in the other direction.
Although I do not admit that the authoritarian States are better at solving these problems, they are certainly very much better at appearing to solve them. In Italy or Germany there is scarcely ever a case when a marsh is drained, a road is opened or a new building erected that there is not a fanfare of trumpets and when it is not announced to the whole country as a great triumph of the system under which the people live. Therefore, they are very much better at appearing to solve things. Under the system under which we live it is not so easy to do that, because the alleged successes, from whatever side they come, are open to critical analysis from the other side, while our failures are always published to the world by our political opponents. Therefore, it is necessary that we should not merely appear to be successful but that we should in fact be successful in solving our problems.
In the Gracious Speech there is a catalogue of Measures, many of them useful and most of them non-controversial, but I submit that at a time like this, when we are faced with the sort of challenge which I and other speakers have tried to describe, this programme is ridiculously inadequate. When we are faced with the urgent necessity, not only in our own interests but in the interests of the whole world, of restoring international trade, of rehabilitating our depressed areas, of finding work or in the alternative providing relief for over 1,500,000 unemployed, and of bringing the growing surplus of the necessaries of life within the reach of 20,000,000 people in this country who, we are told, do riot receive sufficient or proper nourishment—when we are faced with urgent problems of this kind it seems to me that a programme such as that which is contained in the King's Speech bears no relation whatsoever to the needs of the time. When we look on the one side at the magnitude of the 551 problem, and on the other side at what is proposed as the whole work for this Session, we can only recall the dictum of Sydney Smith 100 years ago of a statesman of his day when he said:In the crisis of Europe he successfully brought the Curates' Salaries Improvement Bill to a hearing.We have had a good many references to the Special Areas. Apart from the small Measure that we had last Session to give financial assistance to small concerns setting up in those areas, the only Act of Parliament that has been passed is the Act of 1934, and every report that has come from the Commissioners has been an implied criticism of that Act. Every report which has come from Mr. Malcolm Stewart has contained a complaint as to the limitation of his powers, either imposed by the Act itself or imposed by the Government Departments with whom he has had to deal. The only proposal in the Gracious Speech which refers to those areas is the proposal to renew under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill the Measure which, as we all realise, falls very far short of what is actually needed in those areas. The Special Areas are not a problem by themselves. We sometimes forget that they were selected in an entirely arbitrary fashion. When the four Commissioners were sent out to make their inquiries in the autumn of 1934 they were not told to pick out the blackest areas. They did not select areas. According to the report of the hon. Member who was then Civil Lord of the Admiralty, he did not carry his investigations further, and he did not go into other areas because he had to produce his report within a reasonable time. Yet when the Measure was produced in December, 1934, its operation was confined entirely to those particular areas, selected, as I suggest, in an entirely arbitrary and haphazard fashion, which had been visited by the four Commissioners a few months earlier. Some of us endeavoured to provide machinery by which the scope of that Measure if it should prove successful might be extended, but we were prevented from doing so because of the tightness with which the Money Resolution was drawn, a Resolution upon which Mr. Speaker had certain comments to make.
The Special Areas are not, as I have said, a problem by themselves. They 552 are only examples of what has happened in a good many other parts of the country. Depression in Wales, or unemployment in Scotland, or industrial stagnation on the North-East Coast is not confined to those districts which are scheduled in the Act of 1934. Before I came to this Debate I had been looking at the index of local unemployment, not dealing with the Special Areas particularly, and it is possible to see the enormous disparity there is in the unemployment figures between different parts of the country. In the last return, for September of this year, while the figure for England was only 11.1 per cent. of the insured population unemployed, and while in Greater London it fell to as low as 6.1 per cent. and in Middlesex to 4.3 per cent., in Scotland it rose to 19.4 per cent., in Dundee 23.2 per cent., in Glasgow 21.7 per cent., while further North at Wick it was 36.7 and in Montrose 32.6. There are areas none of which are included in the schedule of the Act of 1934, yet all of them are suffering from precisely the same processes which affect the Special Areas.
We frequently refer, particularly in Scotland, to the drift of industry to the South. I have always thought that that is a somewhat misleading phrase. I do not think that there is a great deal of evidence of the actual drift of existing industries away to the South, but what is happening is that the older industries which are necessarily declining are situated in Scotland, in the industrial districts of Northern England and Wales, while the newer industries which ought to be taking their places in any progressive society are confined almost entirely to London, the Home Counties and the South of England. Unless we are prepared to dragoon the consumer to tell him exactly what he shall take and to fix his tastes and requirements for him, the process of one set of industries declining while another takes its place is bound to go on.
It is interesting to see the way in which the new ventures are being more and more confined simply to certain favoured areas. I do not want to worry the House with statistics, but during the last Session I put a question to the President of the Board of Trade about the number of factories in Scotland and England respectively which had been opened and closed during the last three years. In the reply that I received, the figures for 553 1932, 1933 and 1934 were given. Taking the figures for those three years, 1,511 factories were opened and 1,249 closed in England, leaving a balance on the right side of 262 new factories. In Scotland during that period 53 new factories were opened and 89 factories were closed, representing a decrease of 36. We are sometimes told about the foreign factories which have been established in this country in recent years. The number of foreign factories established in England in the three years in question was 191, and in Scotland two.
Let me give one further set of statistics to the House, because they bear on the question that I am discussing. I recently came across figures showing the distribution of wealth in this country, and in particular the percentage in different parts of the country of households with incomes with more than £10 a week. The figures for Great Britain as a whole were 5.3, for London and the South Eastern Counties 6.4, for Bournemouth 14.5, for Surrey 10, for Sussex 9, but when you come to the other end of the scale you find, to take a few examples, Durham, Preston, Gateshead, Middlesbrough and Glasgow with only 2 per cent., and the whole of Scotland only averages 3.4 per cent. I give these examples to illustrate the process which we know is going on. It seems to me that London and the Home Counties are very much like Jerusalem in the time of Solomon, sucking in all the wealth and industry of the provinces.
I have never advocated any form of interference in industry for its own sake, but we have to face the question of what inducements we can provide for new factories to go where they are wanted. A small Measure was brought forward last Session; but surely we are not going to stop there. If that Measure is successful the principle will have to be applied a great deal further. The proposal has been made, I think it was by Sir Harry McGowan, that the Government should make a grant towards new industries setting themselves up in the Special Areas and that it should be a percentage grant towards capital expenditure which went in the form of fixed assets. That would not be a recurring subsidy but an initial grant. There is no evidence that this suggestion has ever been considered by the Government in relation to the Special 554 Areas. There is another suggestion which is worth attention, in this week's "Economist," that there should be a Special Areas Marketing Board. We remember the success achieved a few years ago by the Empire Marketing Board. Is there any reason why we should not have a similar Measure to assist and encourage our own people at home? Whatever we may think about the remedies we are all agreed on the cause of the decline in the Special Areas. It is the decline in international trade. When I got my copy of the Gracious Speech I looked with particular interest to see what reference there was to that question. This is the passage:My Ministers will continue to foster industrial activity at home and, in the belief that the attainment of general prosperity here depends on further expansion of our overseas trade, to maintain their efforts to promote the freer exchange of goods throughout the world.I want to emphasise only the word "maintain." The only contribution we have had from the Government in recent years towards the enlargement of international trade has been a series of trade agreements. It must be obvious that this particular process, whatever it may be worth, has gone about as far as it can go. I am speaking from recollection but I do not think there has been a single fresh trade agreement within the last 12 or 18 months. In 1933, and to a certain extent in 1934, we made a series of agreements with countries which had to agree with us because they were singularly dependent on the British market. Whenever a speech is made from the Front Bench or by Government supporters on general trade prosperity we are always told of the value of these trade agreements. What is the value of these trade agreements? I have not the most recent figures but I am sure I am not putting it too low when I say that the increased trade which comes from the whole of these trade agreements with foreign countries cannot reach £20,000,000 a year, and we have to set against that a loss of £440,000,000 in our foreign trade in 1935 as compared with 1929. Are we to understand that the Government have definitely ruled out any other form of trade agreement; and that they have ruled out the expedient of multilateral agreements? Many of us no doubt read with interest 555 this morning an article in the "Times." Let me give one short quotation:It is becoming realized that a developed or developing country with increasing consumption must dispose of more and more produce to pay its way; but the bilateral pacts which recognize this need tend to cramp trade by balancing items against each other piecemeal, and by ignoring the much greater opportunities created by, triangular or multilateral arrangements allowing for the goods and services intended to pay for the imports of a consuming country to be spread fanwise throughout the world. Hopes placed in an extension of bilateral pacts with most-favoured-nation terms may be disappointed through the cramping effects of bilateralism.That is a point of view which we have been urging on the Government for a very long time. Even the President of the Board of Trade has ventured on occasions to remind us of the importance of multilateral trade, but it is precisely for that form of world trade that the Government have never made any particular provision. We had a reduction in tariffs and quotas by the French Republic a few days ago but instead of giving an eager response, instead of indulging in some reciprocal gesture, all we had from the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury was an ominous hint that the Government of this country might not be able to resist the pressure for still higher tariffs against imports from other countries.
I want to make this point. It is generally agreed that we are now at the height of a boom. It may go on a little longer. The apologists of the Government tell us that there is no reason to believe that the boom is over yet, but there is no economist and few business men who believe that it is going to last for a great number of years. The Government may have abolished a great many things, but they have not succeeded yet in Abolishing trade cycles. So far the trade cycle has assisted them, but before the end of this Parliament it may be to their detriment.
What preparations are the Government making to grapple with that emergency, and what lessons have they learned from the last depression through which we passed? There were, of course, many causes for the last depression. There were a number of accidental causes, the collapse in Austria and the Wall Street panic, and a number of other reasons which were peculiar to the last depression, but most people will agree 556 that there were also other reasons which are common to almost all trade depressions. And one of them is this: When you have a boom period profits tend to rise very much more quickly than wages and salaries, and when a certain point has been reached profits tend to go more and more into the provision of fresh capital equipment. One of the results of any boom in modern times is that your capacity to produce is vastly increased as a result of increased profits, but at the same time there is no equivalent increase in consuming power because there is no equivalent increase in wages and salaries. One eminent American economist in dealing with the American situation said that "profits killed prosperity." That was one of the reasons for the depression in the United States, and was one of the reasons for the depression in this country.
What measures are being taken to meet a situation of that kind? What measures are being taken to raise the consuming power by raising the level of wages and salaries? There is not a single measure of that kind contemplated in the Gracious Speech. Before the War we instituted a system of trade boards, but for several years not a single new trade board has been established in this country. There is no Measure in the Gracious Speech to raise the level of wages and salaries. For these reasons, while we on these benches feel that we cannot support the Amendment it must not be supposed that we approve of the list of small Measures set out in the Gracious Speech. If this list which has been presented to us is a specimen of the kind of legislation we are going to have during this Parliament and is a specimen of the way in which the Government propose to grapple with our domestic problems, then when this Parliament comes to an end it will be found that they have been as unsuccessful in fighting poverty at home as they have been in combating an aggressor abroad.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. CARTLAND
Many Members who have listened to the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) will be in agreement with much of what he has said. The hon. Member gave us a quotation from Sydney Smith. Let me give him a quotation from George Canning:Black's not so black; nor white so very white.557 As I have listened to the speeches of hon. Members of the Opposition I have felt inclined to remind them that not all the virtue and intelligence are to be found facing hon. Members who sit on these benches, and that not all the 11,000,000 people who voted for the National Government at the last election were devoid entirely of foresight and common sense. But while it is stupid not to recognise what has already been done, it is dangerous not to recognise what still remains to be done. The hon. Member put a number of questions regarding the Socialist Commonwealth. We should like to hear a little more about the Socialist Commonwealth. But while at least we have a general idea of what it means, it is somewhat difficult to get any idea as to where the Liberal party stands. In the latter part of his speech the hon. Member said that he had to choose and, therefore, he would not choose—a strange climax to what I thought was a very interesting speech. The hon. Member referred to the fact that we are supposed to be living in a boom period and it is on that matter that I want to say a few words.
There is no real sense of security in the present prosperity boom. I have the good fortune to represent one of the most prosperous areas in the world to-day, but even there there is a questioning as to how long it is going to last; is it just another boom, or is it really a foundation upon which we can build permanent prosperity, and will there be no setback? People are asking whether the Government have in mind a levelbeween prosperity on the one hand and depression on the other. If they have such a level in mind would it not be well to take the country into their confidence and tell them how they propose to raise the depressed areas to that level or indeed to raise the level itself as prosperity increases. The question is one also of the standard of living. Many people are concerned that the Government seem to regard the employment and unemployment figures as the only standard by which to judge the prosperity of the country, and when they say, that the standard of living has gone up it seems to me that, taking the employment and unemployment figures, their conclusions are based on somewhat unstable ground.
People are asking whether it is not possible to have a definite standard of 558 living, and to come to some unanimous conclusion as to how we will judge that particular standard, and whether or not we are in fact making an advance. Employment is only a very small factor in the standard of living. I would say that security of employment and rates of wages are just as important. On Friday last, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health gave some figures as to wage increases, but those figures dealt with total wage increases; I think it is wage rates that are important and which are concerning the industrial population. The question of savings and their security is another factor which must be taken into account in considering the general standard of living. Moreover, the prices of foodstuffs and fuel, rents, and so on, should also be considered. These questions are disturbing the country at the present time. The Government have given us no lead, nor have they even said whether or not they are considering those questions.
People are thinking of the future. They are not very much concerned about the year 1931. They would prefer to hear the Government say, "This is the legislative programme for 1936–37, but it is 1937–38 that we have really in mind." The hon. Member for Dundee suggested that we should print the Gracious Speech in parallel columns with those of previous years. No doubt the National Publicity Bureau will be very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. We have nothing to be ashamed of in the Government's record, and I think that if the record were printed in that way, it would be found that a great deal has been done by the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "It would not take much space!"] I disagree with the hon. Member. Perhaps he is not aware of the achievements of the Government, but there is none so deaf as those who will not hear. The important thing is the future. The prosperous areas of the country are taking a burning interest in the depressed areas, because they are saying that although they are prosperous at the moment, it may be their turn next. It is natural that they should have that fear. We have had from the Front Bench a number of statements on the reasons for recovery. The hon. Member for Dundee referred to the causes of the collapse, but it is owing to there being a difference of opinion as to the 559 causes of recovery that these questions are, I feel, disturbing the country.
Last Tuesday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to the building boom, and on Friday my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health gave figures concerning it, but at the end of July, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said that he anticipated a falling-off in building. Moreover, the chairmen of three big banks—I do not particularly quote them, but people read the reports of the big banks even if they do not read any other reports—said the same thing as the President of the Board of Trade, that they anticipated that a slackening off in building would begin fairly soon. The people of the country are asking what is to happen if building slackens down, seeing that our prosperity is so much bound up with the building trade. I feel that hon. Members on the Back Benches have the right to ask the Government what level they have in view. How much further do they think the building boom will go? It has already created a record. What will take its place when it is gone? It is nonsense to pretend that armaments will take its place, for the armaments programme is infinitesimal when compared with the general industry of the whole country; hon. Members will see that the production figures bear out my statement.
It is true that the Government have done great things with regard to unemployment, and it would be foolish of anybody to deny it. The problem of normal unemployment has been almost solved, but people are concerned by the fact that wherever there is a big increase in employment—wherever there is a great increase in the numbers employed in any trade—there is a proportionate increase in unemployment. Let me take the distributive trades, for instance. During the last nine years there has been a 30 per cent. increase in the number of people going into those trades, but unemployment in them has gone up by 100 per cent. That is so throughout the expanding trades, upon which the recovery that is to-day taking place depends; in every ease a proportionate increase in unemployment to the rise in the insured in those trades. We must pay our respects to the Government for what they have done in regard to chronic unemployment, where the men have been out of work 560 for 12 months or more. The figure has been reduced by 100,000 during the last four years—and it is right that we should offer our congratulations to my right hon. Friend for what he has done—but when that figure of unemployment is compared with the figure in 1929, it is seven times as great. I believe it is the long view which is really disturbing the country at the present time.
There is the question of wages, in connection with which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, on Friday last, gave us a number of figures, and said, quite rightly, that wages have begun to go up during the last two years. That is true, but they fell continuously from 1924 to 1934, and during that period of 10 years, food prices were falling equally. The position now is that wages are going up and food prices are increasing too. It is no use disguising the fact that the cost of living is increasing more than the rates of wages. I put forward these facts not in any spirit of hostility to the Government, but because they are questions that are being asked all over the country, just as much in the prosperous areas as in the depressed areas. I am putting them because the people would like a lead from the Government on these long-range questions.
In the Amendment submitted by the party opposite, it is suggested that we should make fundamental changes in the basis of society. I do not think the country requires that. The people do not desire—and our presence on these benches shows it—any fundamental changes in the basis of society; but I believe they want very considerable alterations in the structure. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) said that no one has a monopoly of national pride. That was well said, but let is also be said from these benches that no one has a monopoly of progressive measures—no one has a monopoly of progressive ideas. If hon. Members opposite are inclined to suggest that we on these benches try to make a monopoly of national pride, then we may well say to them that whenever we put forward any progressive ideas, they immediately say we are Socialists and suggest that we cross the Floor of the House. I wish to see no fundamental changes in the basis of society, but I wish to see a great number of considerable and vital alterations in the structure. If I may say so, common 561 wealth is far more compatible with capitalism than with socialism; and State control is very different to State ownership.
In the Gracious Speech it is stated:that there is good ground for expecting that there will be further improvement.My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, speaking last Tuesday, said:But I am glad to think that, so far as we can see, the prospects are for the continuance of good trade."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1936; col. 33, Vol. 317.]A large number of people would like to know how solid is the ground upon which we are standing, and how far it is that my right hon. Friend's Government are able to see. Those are questions which I feel must be answered, and answered now, if there is to be any confidence in the future. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education said, on Friday, that:Every Government must be thinking not only of the present but of the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1936; col. 469, Vol. 317.]I agree, but unfortunately my right hon. Friend led up to that statement by saying "I am not so certain"—about trade cycles—"I am not sure"—about the Gold Standard—"I am not sure"— about managed currencies. Those are precisely the things on which the Government ought to be sure. It is that lack of knowledge which is seriously disturbing industry and those concerned with it. I ask the Government to try to give us some sort of lead. Let them take the country into their confidence. If they do not know things, let us have inquiries in an endeavour to find them out; but if the Government do know, then let us be told what is in their mind, and let us give some knowledge to the people who are working in industry at the present time.
I believe the people of this country are intensely patriotic and intensely progressive. The hon. Member for Dundee said that when people look abroad and see the remarkable achievements in the totalitarian States—
§ Mr. CARTLAND
The hon. Lady interrupted me too soon—the remarkable achievements in Russia. Does the hon. Lady now wish to interrupt me?
§ Mr. CARTLAND
The hon. Lady naturally has far greater knowledge of Russia than I have. When people look abroad and see the remarkable achievements in foreign countries—in Russia, in Germany, in Italy—they are very much concerned, because in this country they see exactly the same problems and they find no solution to them. I believe those problems are not merely problems for democracy or for a National Government: if the party opposite came into power, they would be faced with precisely the same problems, and I would be asking them for answers to precisely the same questions. There is cheap money; I think the influence which cheap money has had upon recovery has been grossly exaggerated. This cheap money seems, on the face of it, to have led to accumulation of savings and increased deposit accounts. On the other hand, there are the depressed areas crying out for money to be spent. Why can the Government not bring those two together—the depressed areas crying out for money and idle money crying out for proper investment?
There is apparently chaos in the distribution system. Hon. Members may remember that this afternoon I asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he would initiate a census of distribution, and his answer was that it would cost £500,000. But every year millions of pounds are spent in distribution, poured out in. Government subsidies of every kind, all of them having connection with the distribution system. The sum of £500,000 is a small one when it is a question of finding out how that money is being spent. There is a lack of skilled men. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will raise that very point to-morrow. Why were 100,000 skilled men allowed to leave the country during the five years after the War? Naturally people are concerned over these questions. They are asking the Government, not in any spirit of hostility, but because they realise that unless they have an answer to these questions, they cannot give the answer which they wish to give in their hearts and in their homes to the totalitarian States and to the dangers which surround us.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. BARNES
I feel that I am voicing the opinion of the whole House when I express the hope that the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) will intervene in our Debates on many future occasions. He began by admitting that there was widespread uneasiness in all circles, even in prosperous areas, concerning the character of the present improvement in trade, and he proceeded to level what I considered to be a very effective indictment against the Government's ineptitude, inaction, and incapacity, in grappling with our modern problems. I would like to follow on the lines of his speech by pointing out that the very relief that is being experienced in many parts of the country only indicates the real danger of the position. After 16 years of unemployment and industrial chaos it is only natural that those who have suffered the brunt of our industrial difficulties should grasp at any improvement but while we are encouraging ourselves with assurances that our trade position is improving the deputation from Jarrow to this House last week and the visits of marchers from all parts of the country serve to remind us that there are still well over 1,000,000 people who cannot find employment even under this improved trade position.
When one examines the facts of the present trade improvement I suggest that the real basic cause of it is to be found in the enormous expenditure on armaments which has proceeded with increasing momentum during the last three or four years. I entirely disagree with the hon. Member for King's Norton in his statement that this expenditure is infinitesimal in relation to our whole industrial system or as a cause of general trade improvement. One has but to examine the condition of affairs in this country and throughout the world between 1920 and 1936 to find, in the coincidence between this trade development and armaments expenditure, irresistible evidence in support of the view that the armaments expenditure has been the real motive force in the trade improvement. Because armament expenditure has been the motive force in that improvement, I suggest that there is real danger in the situation and it is to that danger that we draw the attention of the House in this Amendment.
564 The fall in prices which caused the collapse of our industrial structure in this country and throughout the world commenced in the spring of 1920 and was intensified in the years from 1930 to 1932. Since 1932 there has been a recovery in prices and that recovery has been largely responsible for the improved trade position. In order to get a real test of our trade position we must, I submit, examine the causes of that improvement in prices. The index figure of primary commodities, such as copper, iron, lead, tin, cotton, hides, linseed, rubber, and wool, was 100 per cent. in September, 1931. That dropped to 96 per cent. in July, 1932, and recovered to 147 per cent. in April, 1936. It is interesting to trace the expenditure on armaments during that period. In 1931 world expenditure on armaments was, in round figures, £1,000,000,000. In 1933 when the rise in prices began to disclose itself, that expenditure had risen to £1,100,000,000. By 1934 expenditure on armaments had increased to £1,230,000,000, and by 1935 it had increased to £1,500,000,000. When the figures for this year are published I anticipate that they will not fall far short of £2,000,000,000. You cannot pump into the purchasing market an artificial expenditure amounting to £830,000,000 in four years without influencing in a very decided way the commodities in which it is expressed, and the rise in primary commodities has been followed by a rise in wholesale and retail prices.
The hon. Member who has just spoken pointed out that once you stimulate an artificial rise in prices, you automatically increase the turnover of business, reduce overhead charges, and increase the release of profits in industry. At the same time, the increase in prices depressed real wages, and it is admitted that real wages do not advance to the same extent as prices and profits. So you get an increase in the division between wealth and poverty in the community. At this stage I would emphasise the fact that the poverty side of the problem ought to be considered with more generosity than the Government have hitherto displayed. The evidence shows that this trade boom is merely a repetition of the experience of this country and the world from 1914 to 1918. The same kind of inflation commencing in the community as that which was created by the War and, apart from the total figures 565 which I have just quoted, if one turns to national expenditures one finds further corroboration of that view.
The United States in 1932 were spending 774,000,000 dollars on armaments. By 1936, that expenditure had risen to 1,216,000,000 dollars, an increase of 57 per cent. In Russia the rise in expenditure has been phenomenal. In 1932 Russia's expenditure on armaments was 1,412,000,000 roubles, and by 1936 that had grown to 14,815,000,000 roubles or an increase of 977 per cent. in four years. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has given figures with regard to Germany showing a comparable increase of expenditure there. In Great Britain the cost of armaments has increased from £102,000,000 to £188,000,000, an increase of 84 per cent., while a similar process has been going on in France, Italy and Japan. It is only necessary to point out that this is repeating the experience through which the world and this country passed 20 odd years ago to bring out the gravity of the present situation. I turn to the annual report of Mr. Harold Butler, Director of the International Labour Office, issued on 22nd May, 1936, and I find that this is his considered view of the present situation:It is notorious that a great expansion el armaments manufacture is taking place in all the principal industrial countries either for their own account or for that of foreign customers. How much, for instance, of the remarkable increase in the output of pig iron and steel which may be noted in Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is to be attributed to this cause? How much of the fresh activity in the chemical, automobile, clothing, and coal industries is traceable to the same origin? In so far as industrial prosperity is founded on warlike preparation it is not only sinister but hollow and unreal. The manufacture of arms adds nothing to the national wealth. As a form of national expenditure it is sterile and unproductive. Though its effect on the economy of a nation may be more stimulating that that of public works in proportion, as the outlay is greater and more variegated, its economic consequences are far less beneficial, as nothing is added to the nation's economic assets.The Governor of the Industrial Bank of Japan used these words:It is plain that the present prosperity enjoyed by the United States, Great Britain, and our own country "—that is Japan— 566is due to the national policies of which the principal object is to strengthen their national defence.The Economic Committee of the League of Nations in its report for 1936 says that economic recovery prompted by mass production of armamentsis both illusory and precarious. … It means an increasingly heavy burden on the taxpayer who is already bent double.We claim that there is nothing in the improved trade position of this country on which this House can congratulate itself, although the improvement brings relief and perhaps welcome relief to hundreds of thousands of victims of the industrial chaos which followed the last War. If that improvement depends on armaments expenditure, and I think there is plenty of evidence to show that it does, the conclusion is inevitable that we are living in an artificial situation and that we shall have to confront further difficulties in the near future. Yet while a situation of that kind exists, the Government allow such expenditure to continue and a great deal of it to be dispersed in excessive profits to those who are manufacturing arms in the hour of the nation's difficulty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister gave specific assurances to the House and the country that profiteering in armaments would be avoided. In October, 1935, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that any item of expenditure would be scrutinised by the Treasury to make sure that there was neither waste nor undue profit for the contractor; and on 20th February the Prime Minister said in this House:Appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that excessive profits are not made in the orders that will be placed to make good deficiencies in the defence services." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1936; col. 1962, Vol. 308.]I think we are entitled to ask the Government to state whether they are honouring the pledges given by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have information here which shows that in reference to the shares of five firms, namely, Messrs. Vickers, Cammell Laird, John Brown and Company, the Fairey Aviation Company, and Rolls-Royce, five very typical armament firms which are enjoying large orders from the Government's armament programme, the Market value of their share capital has increased from £7,000,000 odd in 1933 to over 567 £29,000,000 in 1936; in other words, the £100 war share in these companies in 1932 is now worth £444. We are entitled to ask the Government why their representatives give assurances that they will avoid profiteering in their armaments programme and yet allow things of that description to go on. As a matter of fact, Vickers distributed on 10th March over £2,000,000 in capital or bonus distribution, Fairey Aviation distributed on the 17th March over £700,000, Short Bros. on 20th May £75,000, Hawker Siddeley on 27th May £272,000, and Handley Page on 1st July £500,000. Those facts do not suggest that the Government are carrying out their promises to this House and the country. All that represents at least some evidence that the present trade improvement is not due to any economic stability of the present system of private enterprise, and it holds out no hope to the people of this country that there is any very imminent sign of recovery. It is merely repeating the errors of the past and holding still greater disasters possibly for the people of this country in the future.
We have had as yet no statement from the Government Bench which has destroyed the effectiveness of the case which we submit in our Amendment. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health answering this indictment on Friday last, and I now invite the Minister of Labour or the Home Secretary to address their minds to what we state in this Amendment, namely, that the present trade improvement is due to armament expenditure and that they cannot solve, through the normal working of the capitalist system, the poverty problems that are enumerated in the centre of the Amendment. Therefore, we invite the House and the country to determine whether, after 20 or 30 years' continual chaos, the system of a Socialist Commonwealth would not give more permanent economic security to the people.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, in replying to this indictment, turned to the social services of this country as a justification for the capitalist system, but I should like to carry my analysis one step further. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out what was being done in the slums. Slums are the products of the capitalist system, and the 568 action of local authorities in removing slums is not one of the assets of that system. It is a Socialist-inspired effort to remedy the defects and shortcomings of the capitalist system. The Minister of Health proceeded to point out the steps that are being taken to remedy overcrowding, and he pointed to the improvement in the death-rate and in the unemployment figures, but the latter, I think I have substantially proved, is due to the armaments expenditure. He pointed out the improvements in nutrition and matters of that description, but all these services upon which the Minister depends as some justification for the Government's inaction are social services and represent community efforts as against the efforts of private enterprise.
The right bon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) said it was costing the community £200,000,000 a year to provide an ambulance service to the capitalist system. I desire to go even further than that and to state that that is an under-estimate. Since the War the community in this country has had to put forward over £3,000,000,000 of public effort for the purpose of bolstering up the present system of private enterprise. The long-continued period of unemployment from 1920 represents the failure of modern capitalism to adjust itself to post-War conditions. What steps have the community taken to deal with the disease? We have had to promote unemployment insurance, we have had to expend public money through public assistance, we have had to build up our labour exchanges, and we have had to engage upon expenditure on public relief works. Insurance, public assistance, and the cost of the labour exchanges and relief works amount to over £2,000,000,000 which the community has had to find in order to remedy the defects and disastrous operations of the industrial system under private enterprise.
In the post-war period capitalism in this country, functioning through individual concerns, has been unable to carry on the normal work of our international trade, and the Government, through export credits and trade facilities, have had to assume over £100,000,000 of guarantees on behalf of private contracts because the individual employers and concerns were unable to 569 discharge their obligations to the community under the capitalist system. Agriculture, under private enterprise, has been unable to maintain our food supplies, and again the community, through marketing boards, subsidies, de-rating relief, levies, and matters of that description have had to spend between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 of public money a year to hold the private system of agriculture together. The Minister of Health stood here last Friday and had to admit that private enterprise had only now commenced to build houses for letting, after 16 or 18 years. Private enterprise is only just beginning to function after many millions of pounds of public money in the form of subsidies to local authorities have had to be spent to meet the need of houses for the people. Private enterprise has failed to maintain the maritime supremacy of this country. We could not even build a ship under the modern capitalist system to win the blue riband of the Atlantic until the State stepped in and paid for that ship.
Therefore, I say that you have only to consider the operations of the coal industry, cotton, iron and steel, house-building, shipbuilding, aviation, transport, agriculture, and industry generally to see that they have all had to be propped up by doles, de-rating relief, financial guarantees, levies, tariffs, quotas, and so on. Even the Bank of England could not discharge its financial obligations to this country until the State found a sum of £375,000,000 as an Exchange Equalisation Fund. In every direction, if you examine the post-war period, you will find that the capitalist system in fact is already a patient in the Socialist hospital. We are advocating that the capitalist patient should be allowed to die. He is too expensive to maintain, and we propose, if we get the opportunity, to proceed to build up a different system. The alternative apparently is a kind of monkey gland restoration of the capitalist system. In Germany, Italy, and countries of that kind capitalism, to be restored, has had to take on a Fascist outlook, and what does that mean? The restrictive capitalism of the authoritarian States represents a mechanised political system, a mechanised industrial system, a mechanized social system, and a mechanised religious system. We suggest 570 that the experience gained from 1914 to 1936 proves that if you want economic prosperity at home and international peace abroad, you can only secure them by destroying the present system and replacing it by a Socialist or cooperative commonwealth.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. Ernest Brown) rose—
§ Miss WILKINSON
On a point of Order. Can it be stated why the Minister of Labour is speaking now, instead of following the Front Bench speaker from this side at 4.30? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that the greater number of the people interested in these questions have to be at a meeting in connection with the marchers?
§ Mr. BROWN
I am trying to meet the convenience of the House, because various subjects have come up under this very wide Amendment, and, indeed, the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) has proved that, because he began with a very long discussion of the armaments issue, to which he desired a reply, and, as the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is to reply at the end of this Debate, so that this seems to be the most convenient point At which I should say a word or two about the questions of labour, special areas, and the means test, which have come up in the last day or two. I think the Debate this afternoon has been very interesting indeed. The first speech, that of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), and the last speech show, I think, the weakness of the Opposition case, because they both deal in abstractions, and when they come to apply abstractions to realities they are bound to draw conclusions that are not warranted by the facts. One of the abstractions is this: They refer in their Amendment to some abstract Socialist State, but nobody knows what that is—
§ Mr. BROWN
—not even the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson). I have studied the Abstract statements on the Socialist State since I was a lad, and I have seen at least four principal changes of theory and of the application of theory, and I have no doubt whatever that in the next 10 years there will be 571 another orientation. There have, been four principal changes in my lifetime, and—
§ Mr. BROWN
No, but we make ordered change, and we make it very successfully, and I would go SG far as to say that the troubles with which we are preoccupied in this nation are, from some points of view, much more due to the successes of the capitalist state of society than to its failures. They are successes which can be illustrated in one particular way. Take the issue with which I will deal a little more at length later in my remarks, namely, the location of industry. What is the demand from the benches opposite? It is one of two things—either that there should be a system whereby those who are successful capitalists establishing new industries should be compelled to go to certain areas instead of the areas to which they are now directing their industries, or, more modestly, other people say they should be prevented from going where they desire to go. What does that mean? It means that on one side, at any rate, the capitalist system of society is working with tremendous energy and speed—
§ Mr. BROWN
If the hon. Lady will only do me the honour that I always do her, of listening while I make my speech, perhaps I may be able to do it with greater convenience to her and the House. There is a whole range of industries not covered by anything that the hon. Member for East Ham said. It is not true that the great improvement which has taken place in the last three years is entirely due to expenditure on armaments in this country. The expenditure on armaments over the major field has only just begun to make its presence felt, except in the aircraft industry, where it began earlier. The great bulk of the improvement, which hon. Members opposite cannot deny and yet always strive to belittle, is due to the energy and initiative of new development. The fact is that a great many of our troubles are due, not to the failures of capitalism, but to the successes of the scientist, the inventor and the engineer. Perhaps the 572 successes in the realm of science, invention and engineering have been made too quickly to enable the world adequately to digest these great new gifts, but they are now being directed with immense energy by regulated individual enterprise.
The idea that this is a state where there is unregulated private enterprise is a pure theory and has never had any relation to the facts since the mid-Nineteenth Century. The hon. Member for East Ham South sees the perplexity in which he is. He cannot deny that we have built up in this country a magnificent series of social services. When my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is able to bring evidence, as he did on Friday, to prove that this system of society under a series of Governments has built up a great and wonderful range of social services, the hon. Member says, "This is not individual, but community effort." Are we to understand that there would be no Employment Exchanges in the Socialist state of society, no need for Unemployment Insurance, no unemployed, and no need for health services or pensions of any kind? The only logic of the speech of the hon. Member is that in a Socialist state of society, in some miraculous way which the hon. Member never did us the honour of explaining, if there were the change which is advocated in the Amendment, we should not need the wonderful system of social services which has been built up, not by Socialist effort, although Socialist propaganda has helped to prepare the atmosphere, but by the efforts of Government after Government of more than one party in the last century. More than that, so successful has private enterprise been in the last century and a-half, that it would be safe to ask in spite of our present distresses and troubles, whether any thoughtful man who measures our history would wish to live in Great Britain in 1736 or 1836 rather than in 1936.
The Socialist case in this country has been a kind of three-card trick which has worked in this way: You pick out everything that is undesirable, that offends the social conscience, that touches the heart-strings of our people, and say, "That is capitalism." You take everything that people desire in the way of beauty, orderliness, comfort and happiness, and say, "That is Socialism." 573 When, however, you ask them to produce the third card to show how the transition is to take place, and on what basis, from one to the other, we never get any details. We have had no more details in this Debate than we have had in the last 35 years. The moment they are asked with regard to a particular industry to put their card on the table, the situation that they had envisaged when they made their sketch has dissolved, for industry is not static, is not dead; it is a living organism and it changes before they have set up their committee to solve the problem. The fact is that they like to claim everything that is desirable under the abstract creed of Socialism and they like to label capitalism as a system in which there is nothing but black spots. For the rest it is a case of, "Put us here with a majority and open your mouths and shut your eyes and see what some branch or other of the Socialist party will send you." The country is well aware of that and it is why the country in the last two General Elections has returned a National Government with an overwhelming majority. This Debate leads me to believe that on the basis of the speeches we have had from the other side and the conference recently held at Edinburgh, the country is likely to continue to repose its confidence in the National Government not merely at the next election but at the election after that.
Let us come down to the facts. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) said that it was not wise to under-estimate improvement. It is not, and I hope to say a. heartening word or two on that matter. He also said that it was not wise to forget the other side of the problem. We do not do that. The Minister of Labour, standing at this Box in 1936, is in a different position from one standing here in any year from 1929 to 1934, even when dealing with those areas which are defined in the law as Special. When the Minister of Labour stood here up to two years ago, he was concerned with certain trades. They were the trades which were concerned mainly with industries which were over-expanded during the War and were bound to contract in time of peace, industries which had to adjust themselves to industrial production in other lands. which were largely dependent on export trade, and which suffered most 574 severely from new scientific developments, new inventions and the overwhelming gifts of machinery which the engineer has given us in the last quarter of a century. They were industries which suffered also most severely from currency fluctuations and from trade barriers of one kind and another. The Government have never pretended that there was any easy cure for the situation of those industries. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he introduced the Special Areas Bill pointed out that the factors underlying the change—I will not say the decay—of fortune in these industries were factors that could not be cured by coining a slogan or by some single plan, but would yield only to treatment over a wide range of effort and by various means.
A Minister of Labour standing here two years ago, even 18 months ago when I first stood here, dealing with this issue, was in a very different position. He had to deal with a very different position in the iron and steel trade three years ago. He had to deal with a different position in regard to shipbuilding even two years ago. In the Debate of the last three days it will have been noticed that the area of depression which Members are able to bring to the notice of the House is getting smaller and smaller, except in one part of Great Britain, namely, South Wales. Clydeside is in a very different situation, and Tyneside is in a very different position from that of two years ago or even a year ago. Even Jarrow is in a very different position from the point of view of employment—I do not mean in Jarrow and Hebburn, but of the unemployed citizens registered in Jarrow—than it was three years ago. Whereas three years ago the figures were 7,600, a special return which I have had made of the Jarrow exchange itself shows that at the end of September the number had dropped to 3,897. These facts are rarely brought up, and I intend to go a little more closely into that situation later. Shipbuilding, I claim, is much better. The result is that there are prominent members of the local authority of Tyneside who are exhorting their followers and friends not to describe Tyneside any more as a depressed area.
We come to the crux of the problem, which is due mainly in the Special Areas proper, apart from bad areas in certain cotton districts, to the misfortunes that have befallen the coal trade, not over the 575 whole range of the trade, but more particularly over the export side of it. When the hon. Member for Gower called attention to the fact that two Members joined the deputation on behalf of Jarrow, he was only pointing out what is well known, that there is no monopoly of sympathy or desire for betterment on the part of Members of any party. There is no lack of desire here on the Government Bench. It is interesting to me who have to follow these things in detail through speeches delivered in the House and in the country, in meeting deputations from various parts of the country, individual local authorities and others, to find that seven-tenths of the information brought to my notice is produced from Government documents or from documents produced by special commissioners appointed by the Government and financed by the Government. The information about the state of the areas is mainly due to the collation of this information. The Government are well aware that the country desires action to be taken in this matter if action can be taken.
I wish I could say about the coal trade, as I can about shipbuilding and iron and steel, that the position of the Minister of Labour or the Secretary for Mines is easier than it was two years ago. Hon. Members opposite do not want me again to go over the ground that they know. There has been a tragic alteration in the fortunes of the coal trade. One fact will bring that out. It is only as recently as 1861 that the distressed town of Merthyr Tydvil was the largest town in South Wales. South Wales saw a tremendous influx, saw men come from Somerset, Devon, Gloucestershire, the Midlands, Ireland and Scotland, and a hectic increase of population in the great time of development up to 1913.
South Wales is now suffering from three main things. First, the fortunes of the community were mainly bound up with coal, and that export coal. Second, the fortunes of that industry have been affected by a whole mass of changes, some of them changes which no thoughtful collier would seek to set back. We talk about the better scientific treatment of coal and about the use of machines, but I fancy most miners feel with Thomas Wilson, the Northumbrian poet, who wrote that wonderful poem at the end of the eighteenth century when complaints 576 began to arise about the use of metal plates in mines:God bless the man with peace and plentyThat first invented metal plates;Draw out his life to five times twentyThen—slide him through the heavenly gates.That was a broad-minded, clear-sighted view, and at the time he was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) knows, in a minority. I am pointing out that when you have these great successes of capitalism, for they are great successes, the harnessing of machinery to a trade and its scientific development, and when one part of the community engaged in that industry, such as the people of Durham on the one hand and of South Wales on the other, suffer a complete reversal in the fortunes of their industry, we have a problem which is not solved by slogans and is not to be solved by hasty action. It will be solved only by facing the facts as they are and taking such action as is practicable at a given moment.
Something has been said about the revival of the export trade, and that what has been done to stimulate it has benefited the North-East Coast and the East of Scotland more than South Wales. It has been said in this House, not I think with as much truth as is generally claimed for the statement, that these trade agreements might slightly disadvantage South Wales, but when policies are asked for which would alter the situation the answers are not so readily forthcoming. Those who study the international and export marketing trade know that the situation is not that of a market where there is an unlimited demand for coal if the right coal is available at the right price. There is a whole range of markets in Scandinavia where, through our trade agreements, we have won all that can be won. Then there is a whole range of countries in Europe, coal exporting countries, which have themselves, for their own economic purposes, by quota and by licence, limited the amount of coal they are prepared to receive. It does not matter at what price coal is offered in those markets, it will not be received, because they have made their decisions for their own economic purposes. I would remind the House that the first decision of the kind 577 was made before the National Government came in. It was made in July, 1931, by France, and when the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who was then Secretary for Mines, stood at this Box and was challenged by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey)—if my memory serves me rightly—he said that France had imposed a quota because they had their own industrial and economic needs in the industrial and coal areas of France.
§ Mr. A. JENKINS
The right hon. Gentleman should go back a little earlier. There were about 10 years of unbridled competition by the coalowners and the Governments of the day in the foreign markets to which this country sent coal. I would like him to deal with the period from 1921, when the first coal stoppage took place, as a result of that policy, and with what went on up to 1926.
§ Mr. BROWN
The hon. Member is asking me to take on too much now. He is asking me to bolster up my own case. I am pointing out that it is just that policy that would not work now, except in a very limited section of the whole circle of international trade in coal. I put these considerations before the House because the whole House knows how the Government have been tackling the problem of the Special Areas. I do not intend to deal with the report of the Special Commissioners, because we shall have an opportunity of debating that in a few days' time, when hon. Members will be in possession of the report, which I have seen and they have not. But let me say that one tale goes out from the platform, a tale which has been told over and over again for many months, and that is that the steps we have taken have been only a niggling series of measures. I was surprised to see in the "Times" newspaper a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in Hyde Park. I can only assume that it was the circumstances in which he found himself that led him to make that statement. He said:There had been no effective action in regard to the distressed areas. The Labour party had demanded that in the interests not only of humanity but of the nation these running sores in the body politic should not be allowed to continue, but what had been done? Commissioners had been appointed, paltry sums have been handed over, and the Commissioners found it neces- 578 sary to resign because they knew their work was futile.Perhaps I may be allowed, in advance of the issue of the report, to quote a passage from a letter from Mr. Malcolm Stewart, the Commissioner, sent to me in forwarding the report. He is a Commissioner who has done great work for the distressed areas, and given great service to the nation, and a man to whom the Government and the distressed areas and the House as a whole are very grateful:With regret I lay down my office and am grateful for the opportunity given me of doing something to improve the lot of the unemployed and assist in the development of the Special Areas. The strain and anxiety of my responsibilities have been considerable, and now that the work is running smoothly, and perhaps most of the major measures possible under the Act inaugurated, I feel justified in seeking a rest.He has given two years of voluntary service, his whole time:Finally, may I add that my interests in the Special Areas will not cease with my resignation, and if either the Government or my successor think I can, with regard to any matters of which I have special knowledge or experience, render help or give any advice, I shall be only too pleased to do so if called upon.The Leader of the Opposition would have done better to wait until he had read the Commissioner's report before he made that statement on Sunday. Let the House observe the reference to "a paltry sum." I remember saying that it was very nearly £2,000,000, and I know that it was said that was not accurate. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Spennymoor, although a progressive in slogans, is always 100 years behind the times in appreciating a situation, or at least 100 minutes. It has been said over and over again that the £2,000,000 was only a token sum, and that the Commissioners would not be held up in promoting any sound schemes which could be defended on the Floor of the House. When Members get the report of the Commissioners on Wednesday night—and if they add the position as regards Scotland—they will find that at this moment the Commissioners have spent,£1,666,000.
§ Mr. BROWN
One moment. They have already made commitments for future expenditure on schemes of every kind, both for the economic and social welfare of the distressed areas, totalling 579 £7,000,000 extra, and more money will be found as they come forward and recommend schemes to be approved. I do not know what the standard of judgment is nowadays, but I imagine that if a Socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer had to face a Bill for the areas called "Special Areas" for £8,600,000 he would not regard it in any sense as a paltry sum.
§ Mr. LAWS0N
No, it is not doing it, and if you knew anything about it you would not stand there and say so. It is a disgrace to the Minister to make a statement like that, a perfect disgrace.
§ Mr. BROWN
These are the facts, but I will go further. I will point out what we can argue in detail when the report is before hon. Members. I have given this general statement. If hon. Members will take the trouble to analyse the demands for action in the distressed areas which have been made in all parts of the House in the last four years, and compare what has been advocated with what is stated in the report, they will find that point after point made by private Members or by the Official Opposition has been met and that action has been started. I remember many Debates about trading estates. It is easy to say "Set up a trading estate," but it is not so easy to lay the plans, procure the ground, equip an estate and then induce industries to come. Both in South Wales and near Gateshead, however, a start is being made. As regards South Wales, inquiry has been made for a factory, on that particular site, which it is hoped will employ 600 men when it is complete.
Demands were made, I remember them from the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward), about the necessity to meet the special needs of housing in the Special Areas not covered by the Housing Act. The report will point out that the 580 North-East Housing Association is busy and is meeting a felt need. All up and down the area works of a social and ameliorative character are being carried on under the Commissioners with increasing velocity, and these commitments will begin to make themselves felt. But, of course, I understand the feelings of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street and other Members. The hon. Member for Gower referred to a visit to South Wales. I have been to South Wales many times, not merely in recent years but throughout my life. He knows quite well that I know South Wales very well, and that I do not refer to it from the point of view of Blue Books or statistics. We have to face difficulties there, and if I judge the situation rightly the whole issue is away from fanciful schemes, many of which have been examined by the Commissioners and good reason shown for calling them fanciful. There is the scheme for filling the gap by providing capital for small capitalists and for setting up a trading estate. There is also the land settlement activity in Durham, Cumberland and South Wales. All these things being at work, the issue really narrows itself down to one, and that is, the location of industry. As I hinted a moment ago, the issue is, as was suggested late one night some time ago by the Noble Lord the hon. Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), licensing and control.
I rather gather from recent speeches to which I have listened, including the admirable speech by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont), that the balance has shifted. In considering the granting of a licence to set up a factory, the question now is this: should the Government tell the prospective factory owner where the factory shall go, or take the negative attitude and, having regard to the over-swollen district around London, tell him where he may not go. I say nothing about that issue to-night. It will have to be debated on its merits. I will say this, however; the Commissioner has tried in every possible way to influence industries to come to these Special Areas. I have read also speeches containing a suggestion that other inducements of various kinds should be held out. We shall have to examine those suggestions on their merits. The other side of the problem is whether or no we can do anything to locate factories for defence purposes 581 in. the distressed areas. From the statements already made in previous Debates in regard to what is being done, the point emerges that the problem cannot be stated in general terms.
There are three kinds of Defence works. There is what is called a shadow works, which depends mainly upon skilled labour. Obviously, not in areas like Merthyr, where there is a tragedy of rather more than 12,000 unemployed, with a handful of skilled workers, can that kind of factory be probably established with success. There is the explosive and filling factory where, of course, processes are carried on requiring a good deal of unskilled labour. That is the kind of factory which a deputation from the Chamber of Trade of Merthyr asked, when they came to me last week, might be considered in these areas. There is what is known as reinsurance for defence, where the situation in regard to the quality and kind of labour available is one of the factors that have to be taken into consideration—as indeed it has to be considered by an ordinary private firm which is asked to go to one of these areas. The House may be assured that those who are projecting new factories in private industry are well aware of the sites available, because development councils in the areas have been financed by the Commissioner, and, in regard to Defence, we have already shown our willingness, in four different decisions, to do all we can to help these areas with work made possible by the Defence programme.
Let me add two other things. Hon. Members, especially those who have recently been to South Wales, will realise that the situation in various distressed towns is entirely different, from the point of view of labour available. I would like to say a word about Jarrow and then about Merthyr, in order to show the House the kind of problem which is ahead of the Government on the one hand and of private industry on the other, in trying to rehabilitate those areas. Let me sum up the situation in regard to Jarrow, which has a population of 35,500. The insured population in July, 1935, was about 7,550. In. July, 1933, it was 11,300, and at the peak of the last decade was 9,610. Those figures probably underestimate. Many who live in Jarrow are employed elsewhere, and their books are 582 exchanged elsewhere, where their work is. The estimate I give the House is of persons in the scope of insurance resident in Jarrow, about 8,500 persons. The House is well aware of the familiar story of the special efforts made by the Commissioner and others to induce new industries to come to Jarrow. I want to put before the House the facts, with regard to the labour there for which work is desired.
I had a sample taken in Jarrow, which shows—and this does not mean Jarrow and Hebburn, but Jarrow—that on 28th September, 1936, the total was 3,897 unemployed. The House will be glad to know that, bad as the figures were, they indicated a great improvement over the peak of 7,600, even though the hopes of new industries for the town are not at the moment being realised. That is, of course, due to the fact that there has been an improvement in the locality of Tyneside. It is general to the Tyneside, and confirmation of this is given by the joint figures of Jarrow and Hebburn. Let me take the intervening months. In December, 1935, the unemployed in the joint exchanges numbered 7,433. In July, 1931, they were 5,744 and in September, 1936, 5,201. When analysis is made of the position of the live register and of the books exchanged by residents in Jarrow, one finds, in regard to employment, that 2,259 were employed by Jarrow firms and 1,831 were employed by firms within daily travelling distance of Jarrow. In Jarrow there were 1,259 people employed in various distributive trades, utility services and local authorities, and 1,000 in ship repairing, ship breaking and building and in miscellaneous industries. Those employed outside Jarrow and living in Jarrow were nearly all employed in some section of shipbuilding and repairing in Hebburn, Walker, Wallsend and Heaton.
I had a special analysis made of the live register. It shows that 268 were casuals, 69 men and 20 women were ternporarily stopped, and wholly employed were 3,540, of whom 102 were women. The woman problem is not a serious one. There were 72 juveniles—again no problem of difficulty. Among school leavers, the unemployed between the ages of 14 and 15 numbered 493. Having regard to the recent history of juveniles there, there may be a special problem, but I express no opinion. Omitting 583 women and juveniles, the wholly unemployed men in Jarrow at the end of September numbered 2,863. These form the unemployment problem. Not only so, but they reveal the prospective labour supply, where new industries can be started. They also explain the keenness and intensity of desire on the part of all who are concerned to see new industries started. I ask the attention of the House for one moment, while I carry the analysis a little further. I ask them to bear it in mind, when I turn for a second or two to the very different problem of Merthyr.
In the age distribution between 18 years and 25 years, the proportion is 14 per cent., or 402; between 25 and 45, 1,354, or 47 per cent.; between 45 and 55, 587 or 21 per cent., and 56 years and over, 513 or 18 per cent. The industrial classification shows that there are 1,185 shipyard workers, 270 building trade operatives, 101 engineers, 100 coalminers, or people attached to the coalmining industry, 81 in the metal trades and 818 general labourers, with 351 miscellaneous.
§ Mr. BROWN
No, I will deal with Merthyr in a moment or two. I am trying to make it clear that there is a different problem to deal with in Jarrow from the problem in Merthyr. These are the figures for Jarrow. The final figures I would give to the House are: Skilled workers, 1,059 and wholly unemployed and unskilled, 1,797. The situation reveals itself in the following way: Live register, 3,897, a noticeable improvement over one point in 1933, when there were 7,600 unemployed. There are now 4,000 of them at work and just under 4,000 unemployed. There is little problem of juvenile and female labour, apart from school leavers. The problem is one, therefore, of wholly unemployed men, almost wholly ex-employés of one firm. Of these, shipbuilding workers and general labourers come out at 70 per cent. I venture to lay these facts before the House. In the light of them, all who study the 584 problem in Jarrow have to view the industrial possibilities in terms of the industrial labour of that town. Now I turn to Merthyr.
§ Mr. EDE
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves Jarrow, may I remind him that my constituency adjoins Jarrow, and ask him whether he has directed his mind to the further point that when Palmer's were working they imported labour from the surrounding boroughs, and that it is therefore quite wrong to take Jarrow as a self-contained town? He should have regard to the number of people living around Jarrow who regard Palmer's as their natural place of employment.
§ Mr. BROWN
I am quite aware of that, and in the early part of my statement I made that point. I pointed out that the general improvement on Tyneside was responsible for what was happening at Jarrow. I can only be asked one thing at a time. I knew that this matter was naturally in the public mind and I thought it my duty to the House, in discussing this matter, to give these figures. We are not here to serve party politics; we are all united in our desire to see something done. The Special Commissioner working under the Government, has done his utmost, as he is doing at this moment, to meet the situation revealed in that analysis.
On the other hand when I turn to Merthyr the situation is entirely different. There you have a town which was, up to 1861, the largest in South Wales, showing at the moment a number on the register on 29th September, 1936, of 12,697. That figure is almost precisely similar to that at the depth of the slump. In September, 1932, that figure was 12,715. The task of restoring some measure of industrial activity to this town, afflicted as it is with heavy unemployment, presents a difficult problem which is causing the Government, as it has caused successive Governments, a great deal of anxiety. If you look at it, you find that the great bulk of the wholly unemployed in Merthyr are in these categories: Out of a total of 11,824 insured males unemployed at September, 1936, 8,458, or 72 per cent., were registered in the coal mining industry and public works contracting—mostly in the coal mining industry; 1,281, or 11 per 585 cent., in iron and steel, and 58 only were registered in engineering. The number of men among them accustomed to any kind of skilled work is very small indeed, and this fact has to be taken into account when industrialists have been approached by local councils, the local development committee; the South Wales Development Committee and the Commissioner in an endeavour to get industrialists to come to this very distressed area. The Government are having regard to these areas in connection with the development of their defence programme, and, as I have indicated, the situation in Merthyr is one of the most difficult and one of the hardest to be found in South Wales. I should like now to say a word about the means test, because one of the statements made by the hon. Member for Gower would lead the House to believe that less money was being paid in South Wales—
§ Mr. LAWSON
Why does not the right hon. Gentleman give the numbers unemployed in the mining industry in South Wales and in Durham? He knows he is not giving a true picture of the case.
§ Mr. BROWN
Perhaps I may be allowed to make my speech in my own way. The Commissioner's report is to come, and it has a whole series of schedules presenting the complete picture. I have been anxious to deal with the points raised in the Debate; we shall have plenty of time to survey the whole field. I have done my best to furnish the House with facts, figures and arguments about the points raised in the Debate, and the hon. Member knows that he will find in the report every single up-to-date figure about the whole of the areas.
§ Mr. BROWN
I did not want to take up too much of the time of the House. I will say a word about the means test, and then, perhaps, if the House is good enough, I may come back to the other point. In South Wales and Monmouthshire, during 1935, the amount of unemployment benefit paid was £2,276,000, while unemployment allowances, including transitional payments, amounted to £5,624,000, or a total of £7,900,000. In the same area, from January to June, 1936, £1,213,000 was paid in unemploy- 586 ment benefit, and £2,826,000 in unemployment allowances, making a total of £4,039,000 for the six months. The suggestion of the hon. Member for Gower was that since the means test there had been a diminution of payments, but that is not so in fact. It is true that the total paid is down—it is down over the whole country, and not alone in South Wales—but there has also been a drop in the number of recipients, from the board since the board took over two years ago.
The first figure that I have for the number of recipients is 735,000. When the regulations went through the House in July it was 620,000, and the last figure I have shows that it has fallen to 590,000. The total number is steadily decreasing—a sign of the very real recovery that is going on over a large part of the country. In the year ending on 30th March, 1935, 988,000 applicants received payments, and the charge on the Exchequer was £50,000,000. In the year ended 31st March, 1935, when the number of applicants had decreased to 761,000, the expenditure was £42,199,000. In the following year, ending on 31st March, 1936, the expenditure increased by £200,000, notwithstanding the fact that the number of applicants had decreased by 56,000. The progressive increase in payments can best be seen by comparing the average weekly payment. During the year ending on 31st March, 1933, the average payment was 19s. 3d. per week. In the following year, ending on 31st March, 1934, it was 19s. 7d.; in the following three months, 19s. 9d.; and in the three months after that it was 21s. 6d. It has since been increasing steadily until, at the end of the month of June, the last figure that I have, it had gone to 23s. 7d. While, therefore, the total has gone down, the average payment to each person since the means test came into being is now not less but more.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I think the latest figures available show that there are 183,000 people unemployed in the Wales division, and I assert that those 183,000 people and their dependants have received less because of the application of the same area, from January to June, received had they all been getting standard benefit.
§ Mr. BROWN
The hon. Member is now raising an entirely different issue—the issue of what would have happened if there had been no national taking over of the able-bodied unemployed, and they had all remained on the standard of the local authorities concerned. That is a very different issue; it is an entirely different calculation; and it shows that the moment you begin to come down to the facts of the matter, the general statements made outside do not bear investigation inside this House. It is true to say that there is a general improvement, and the fact that there is a general improvement naturally throws the ever-smaller areas in which there has been little or no improvement into darker relief. It is for the Minister of Labour and all concerned to see whether it is necessary to carry out the measures prescribed with more energy, or whether it is necessary to devise fresh measures. We shall see in the report the recommendations of the Commissioner, and instant consideration will be given to what he recommends.
With regard to wages, the hon. Member for King's Norton suggested that the cost of living has gone up more than the rate of wages. He is in error. He alleged that in recent years the rise in wages had been accompanied by a rise in the cost of living greater than the rise in wages. That is not the case. Comparing the third quarter of the year 1931 with the third quarter of 1936, covering a period in which there were first of all three years of decreased and then three years of increased wages, my hon. Friend will find that the index figures issued by the Ministry of Labour show an advance of 2½ per cent. in respect of wages, and an advance of less than one per cent. in respect of cost of living. That is very remarkable, and I am glad that my hon. Friend called attention to this issue. There was, as he said, a progressive decrease over the 10 years 1924–33, not in the total of wages, but in the rate of wages. Figures covering not the whole field, but the trades making returns to the Ministry of Labour and information affecting certain other trades, show that an increase began to take place in 1934, and over those trades—which do not represent the whole story by any means—the gain in rates of wages amounted to £91,000 per week in that year. In 1935 the gain had increased by £190,000 to £281,000 per week. In this 588 last year the figure has risen again, and now it is over £360,000, so that there has been a gain in the rate of wages, covering millions of our workers, in the last three years, of no less than £640,000 per week. That, surely, is a fact in which the whole House will rejoice.
§ Mr. CARTLAND
May I ask the Minister whether he has the figures showing the rate at which the cost of living has gone up between 1934 and 1936? That was the point that I was making.
§ Mr. BROWN
I think that what I have said covers the whole point. If my hon. Friend will follow it, he will find that we have taken the period when the cost of living figure began to make a difference. I cannot be expected to reply at once to a question asking for figures of that kind, but I tried to get a fair quarter which would give a fair comparison, and I am indicating what has been the general trend. To-morrow there will be revealed the fact that in the last year of our returns we under-estimated the number of those in employment. To-morrow's returns will reveal that at the end of September the number of insured workers registered as employed between the ages of 16 and 64 was no less than 11,103,000—the highest figure ever achieved since we began to keep a record. It will also be revealed to-morrow that the number of people unemployed has gone down by no less than 12,500. This indicates a progressive improvement. I cannot prophesy, but I feel reasonably sure that the underlying currents in the domestic market will make it possible that the Minister of Labour may stand with much more pleasure at this Box in the next two or three years than his predecessors have been able to do.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. JENKINS
I think the House will agree that we have listened to a very remarkable speech from the Minister of Labour. In the course of it he continually advanced numbers of figures of unemployment but offered no suggestion as to how they should be dealt with. Perhaps one of the most remarkable parts of his speech was his reference to Merthyr Tydfil. He said that there were 8,458 unemployed in the coalmining industry, 1,281 in the iron and steel trades, and 58 engineers. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that problem of Merthyr has been in existence for a 589 number of years, and no action at all has been taken to mitigate it. At the end of his speech he said that the general picture was heartening, but I am sure he will not say that after his visit to Wales next week. If he could go upstairs at the present moment he would find proceeding a meeting of a large number of people who have marched from distant parts of the country to protest against the harshness of the means test. The Minister says he has been to South Wales on numerous occasions, and no doubt he has, but I am sure he has not seen the conditions that obtain in those areas. There are 10,000 or 11,000 people unemployed in Merthyr, and 160,000 unemployed in the Wales area.
The Minister talks about the problem of coal, and what the Government have done. This Government and preceding governments are mainly responsible for the state of things in the coalmining districts. In 1921 the Minister was on this side. At that time what happened with regard to reparations and the Versailles Treaty really knocked the bottom out of the export coal trade. There was little left of the export coal trade after what took place then. The result was that from then onwards there was a series of industrial disturbances and disputes all arising from the action then taken. In 1921 there was a three months' lock-out and that was successful from the point of view of the Govern- ment and the coal owners. They then imposed on the miners an average reduction of £3 a week per person in their wages. The coal trade has never recovered since then; it has gone on getting worse.
All the way through the years up to 1926 nothing was done by any Government in order to bring about an improvement in the coal trade. We came as far as 1931 before any real action was taken. The Minister was then sitting below the Gangway and opposed what the then Government desired to do in order to bring about an improvement in the coal trade. I remember the 1930 Act and the treatment it got from Members at present sitting on the other side of the House and below the Gangway. They were not prepared to allow any real action to be taken in order to bring about an improvement in the coal trade. Later than that the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary for Mines. We then 590 saw some efforts being made in order to improve matters, and he himself had to confess in this House that there had been numerous evasions of the 1930 Act by the coalowners. There have been substantial difficulties in bringing about any co-ordination as far as the coal trade is concerned, and what I want to point out to the Minister is that throughout the whole of the period from 1921 to 1931, and perhaps later, the policy of the coalowners of this country was to drive down wages and increase hours of labour. Members opposite were responsible for increasing hours of labour. These things were done in order to make the coal of this country more competitive in foreign markets than it was. The result is that foreign countries have built up all forms of subsidies. German export coal is being subsidised to the extent of 5s. or 6s. a ton. So is Polish coal. Later the present Government imposed tariffs which had the direct effect of reducing the amount of export coal from this country. The Government are to a large extent responsible for the state of things which exist at the present time in the export coal areas.
The Minister will come next week to see things in South Wales. I hope that he will see the conditions as they are. My complaint against the Government is because of the refusal to do anything effective in those areas. Many years have passed and nothing of any consequence has been done. Hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite have been responsible for a period of five years, and those who reside in those areas have seen little or nothing done. To-night the Minister has passed very lightly over the state of affairs existing there. He has referred to the land settlement schemes in South Wales. I happen to be a director of the association concerned. It is a very good piece of work. But all we have done is to settle 66 families. That is all that has happened so far. The Commissioner has done everything in his power, but his power has been so limited. He has been able to make grants to certain unemployed boys to make a football ground for themselves. He has been able to make a grant to local authorities to build a hospital which they could not build out of their rates. He has been able to make grants for a sewerage scheme. That is as far as he has been allowed to go. He himself has complained very bitterly that 591 he has never had any real opportunity to carry out effective work.
In the county of Glamorgan a grant has been made for the purpose of providing a hospital which was badly needed and could not be provided out of the rates, which were particularly high. The grant was made and the effect of that is that the administrative costa of the hospital after this will increase the rates by 6d. in the £. The same thing has happened in my own county, Monmouthshire, where we were unable with our own finances to open a maternity home. We got a grant from the Commissioner, which enabled us to do it. The result is to increase the rates. The Government have never taken any action in order to try to relieve these local government bodies of the high rates they bear at the present time. The Government could have done that very well. Years ago, when the Government were discussing what they then called their long-range scheme for dealing with unemployment, I remember the then Minister of Health saying that it was the intention of the Government to take over the full responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed. They have never done it. There are great injustices existing between authority and authority on that matter. I might refer to Glasgow and Birmingham, with similar populations. In Birmingham they are prospering. Their contribution under that scheme is £40,000 a year, but the contribution of Glasgow, where trade is not so good and the rates are high, is £400,000. These injustices with regard to rates are so obvious that the Government could have taken action. They have not done so. Action should have been taken to deal with that situation. At present they are burdened with heavy rates, liabilities due to a high incidence of unemployment, sickness consequent on unemployment and low rateable value. The rates in those areas are twice as high on an average as they are throughout the country. Why have not the Government taken steps to see that those authorities are relieved of the liability arising directly out of trade depression and unemployment? That would be comparatively easy. On the contrary they have resisted every step by those local authorities to get relief. It is no use for the Minister to come and glide so easily over these things.
592 No effort has been made to establish industries there. He talked to-night about what the Government might do. They will not say that industry shall not come to London; they will not say that it shall go to Wales. I was left in great doubt as to what the Minister meant on that point. I want to quote from a leading article which appeared in the "Times" of 27th October. I think that it is an adequate reply to the nature of the speech to which we have listened from the Minister. The "Times" said of the distressed areas:It is not easy to trace, in the areas as a whole, the irrigating effects of the large sums which the Government are pouring into industry. … The transfer of the young and the fit and the establishment of trading estates are to a certain extent rival policies; for, if transfer goes far enough, it will remove from the areas the best types of workers and deplete them of the supplies of labour which they can at present offer. … More good would be done by establishing a works to employ a hundred men in one of the areas than by moving a hundred men out of the areas. … Benevolence, however, is not enough; it must be reinforced by energetic efforts to provide not merely palliatives"—and that is all that has been done so far—but the remedy of employment. … It is not to be admitted that the machinery and resources of the modern State are incapable of removing the reproach of the distressed areas. Concerted action by the Government could not fail.That, I think, is a useful statement and something that the Government should have noticed long since. But instead of taking any action, the Minister glides very lightly over the difficulties. When are we going to have definite action on the part of this Government in dealing with this problem? There was a reference to Jarrow. Two thousand five hundred unemployed. Not so bad, the Minister said. But what is the position for those 2,500 people? The Minister shakes his head. I felt while he was speaking that he could not have been so concerned about the position of these people as, on occasions, I thought he was. I hope I was mistaken. But the position is that no action has been taken in order to bring about an improvement in Jarrow or South Wales. At Blaenavon we used to have three blast furnaces producing pig iron in substantial quantities. They have not been in operation for years, but on Friday there was a statement in the local paper that one 593 of the three blast furnaces has been dynamited and no longer exists, and in a few days the other two will be dealt with in a similar manner. Is that due to concerted action on the part of United Steel Trusts? We have heard that Jarrow is due to the action of Shipbuilding Securities, Limited. One of the Blaenavon steel-workers was interviewed. He said: "While the furnaces were there we had hope; now they have been blasted to the earth, now they have been rased to the ground, there is no hope left for us." What is the Minister going to do with regard to that? This Government stood by and saw the Dowlais Ironworks transferred. No action was taken.
The Prime Minister talked some time ago about the moral obligations of the industrialists who had benefited by the Government's policy. Mr. Malcolm Stewart issued 5,000 letters to industrialists asking them if they were prepared to take any steps to establish industries in those areas. He got a paltry dozen replies or something of that sort. That, I suppose, was the moral obligation of those people who have benefited by the Government's policy in these areas. On that occasion I thought the Prime Minister would have taken some stand with regard to it. In April last the Chancellor of the Exchequer complained that we were critical of the Special Areas Association. On Thursday I put a question to him as to the number of applications that have been granted in South Wales, and only nine have been granted. The Minister to-night says they have already had one application for a factory to be established on a trading estate. There are 80,000 people unemployed, and that is all that has been done. That is not good enough for these people.
The Government must take a much more definite stand with regard to the matter than they have taken so far. The Minister comes to Wales next week. He will see, as he has seen before, plenty of evidence of industrial distress and human decay. When are the Government going to take the step that the "Times" leading article suggests? It is time that industry was established in those areas, instead of allowing it to spread out in the Midlands and in the South in the way it is doing. The Minister's speech to-night will give no satisfaction at all to the people in these 594 areas, nor, I think, to the people of the country. Those 2,000 men who marched from one end of the country to the other have been met sympathetically in every town they entered. They gathered a great deal of support. If they are not careful, the Government will be standing between the people of England and something being done for the distressed areas. I cannot but express my very great disappointment at what the Minister has had to say. As far as I gathered, he has not given the slightest hope to these people. If that is going to be the attitude, the Government would be much more honest with these people if they said definitely, "We agree that the position is bad, but we cannot do anything to bring about an improvement." That would not be an unfair summing up of what the Minister has said. If that is to be the Government's attitude, it would be much more honest to make that declaration quite definitely to the country.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. CROSSLEY
I am not cognisant of the problems of South Wales, and the hon. Member will excuse me if I do not follow him very far in his very interesting and moving speech. I should like, however, to say one thing. The Minister said that the subject of the location of industries would be discussed on its merits, and that is the first time that undertaking has ever been given. I think that constitutes some definite hope for the hon. Member. For many years I and a number of others have advocated the location of industries. The Minister appears to be willing to promise a frank and free discussion on the subject. Wonders never cease. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) got up on Friday. A miracle had happened. Apparently the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) had been in his constituency and made a speech; immediately he fell from his high estate, and came to the House and himself made a speech which really might have been made by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan). He recommended the regimentation of industry into certain areas, nationalisation of rates and other proposals which one might have expected to come from the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees, but certainly not from my hon. Friend. I welcome his conversion, because I believe the progressive forces 595 of the Right, if I might use that phrase, will really gain immensely by at once a convert and an advocate so sincere, so eloquent and so forcible as my hon. Friend.
Very few Members opposite have really talked about the Amendment that they have put down and, reading it, I do not wonder. They have made in it a tardy acknowledgment that there has been an industrial improvement. Of course they put it down to armaments, but it was going on for years before the more recent armaments drive. The Amendment appears to be a contradiction in terms. At one point it recognises the improvement that has taken place, and the Minister has made it clear that the improvement has meant a greater aggregate amount of wages spent. The Amendment at the same time refers to deterioration in the physical standard of the people. Hon. Members opposite have always argued that, granted the money, the housewife knows how to spend it, and there are few people on any side of the House who would disagree with them, although I hate the modern preoccupation in favour of tinned as against fresh food. If there has been an improvement in wages, and if at the same time there has been a physical deterioration in standards, that must argue unwise spending, and against that hon. Members opposite have always argued themselves. They cannot put it all upon the means test, because in the same Amendment they say the means test only intensifies the deterioration. According to the Amendment deterioration exists outside the means test altogether. After that, it trails off into Socialism—snowclad and rather rarefied peaks, and I do not think hon. Members opposite, like Moses, will even stand and view that promised land from afar. Of course, there has been no tardy acknowledgment of any deterioration. They have made one tardy acknowledgment themselves, and they might make others. They might make tardy acknowledgment of the steady expansion of the social services that there has been in the last five years. [Interruption.] You said so, but you did not put it in the Amendment. There is housing, slum clearance, milk in schools, financial stability, and an extraordinary improvement in unemployment. From the way hon. Members opposite talk, one would think that their 596 record on unemployment was one of which they should be proud. They are always talking to us as if we do not care about unemployment. I have no doubt they care deeply, but it was not a happy spectacle to see unemployment increase as it did when they were in office.
I wanted to address myself to the rather narrower point of the physical well-being of the country. The Minister of Health on Friday referred to the fine work of boys' and girls' clubs and of many great voluntary organisations and added:The fact does remain that the numbers who can take advantage of these provisions cannot be regarded as satisfactory if we are to be, as;we desire to be, an Al nation."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November. 1936; col. 409, Vol. 317.]Boys' clubs have three functions. One is to enable young people at a very important stage of their life, in which there is a hiatus in social legislation, to get away at week-ends to places where they can play games in the open air. Another is to provide facilities for recreation and gymnastic training on weekday evenings in club premises. More important than either of those is to dovetail in with the schools and to make really good citizens of our young population. Young people are not always faced with a happy prospect when they get away from their work, often after very long hours. When they have had their tea they may be able to go to a cinema and see a trashy picture of what Americans consider high life in England or on the Continent to be. They may be able to go to dog racing, and that is worse, because it is most demoralising. They may walk up and down the streets and look into the shop windows, or stay at home, where they are not always wanted. This may sound like a propaganda speech, but it is not much use to make it when the Government proposals have actually been introduced. It is only of use now if it is to be of use at all. But it is a subject which is worth a little propaganda.
Boys' clubs have made immense developments during the last few years. There are now some 1,200 of them in the country with over 100,000 members, 80 per cent. of them between 14 and 18. They have the active co-operation of the education authorities and, I believe, of the Ministry of Labour in their efforts to set up special clubs for transferred boys. 597 They had many active pioneers, people like the late Lord Desborough, Sir Charles Wrench, Mr. Arthur Villiers and an ex-Member of this House who, whenever he was not engaged in sallies with the late Minister of Agriculture, spent his whole time in running a boy's club—Mr. Ian Horobin. Most of these clubs are ill-equipped. For lack of space half-size billiard tables are the rule. There is a lack of ground for their games at week-ends, and the green belt which London boasts is very rapidly receding. The proposal which the Government intend to put forward—we do not know what we are in for, but we are pretty sure that it will be good—may have two effects upon boys' clubs. It may actually withdraw members from some of them by providing facilities in other places close by, or it may, as we hope it will, have the effect of giving them tremendous encouragement. The boys' clubs want to be consulted.
There is a real obligation on the part of the country and of industry towards boys of between 16 and 23. It is an obligation which has not been very generally recognised. There are three kinds of industries in this country, taking it broad and large. There are the old industries with relationships between masters and men, and very often, as in the cotton industry, they more or less live together, and understand each other. There are the very large combines, and they are fully aware of their social obligations whatever else one says about combines. Messrs. Boots, Imperial Chemical Industries, Metro-Vickers and many other large firms have realised to the full their obligations to their younger employés. Finally, and what I particularly want to say a word about, there are those new industries which have, unfortunately, been allowed to develop in the south, mostly in London. They have gone there for various reasons. The main reasons were that it was much easier to find a market there, and also, I think, they were able to exploit labour in those districts better than in districts where trades unions are stronger. I have always been a strong believer in trade unionism. There is at the moment among that newly springing up industry extremely little consciousness of its obligations. I want to read from a document prepared by a man who is well known to some hon. Members in this 598 House—I do not wish to quote his name—and who knows a particular part of London very intimately and has gone into all its problems. It was written some two years ago, and it applies perfectly to-day. It comes from a memorandum on why the National Government did not obtain more support in certain municipal elections while the Socialists obtained so much support at that time:Ignorance as to the good deeds of the National Government is a more difficult point with which to deal. It is probably true that the average voter does not give the Government credit for improving the financial situation of the country.And he goes on to enumerate many other benefits which the National Government have provided, as we know:What he does know is that the late Sir John Ellerman and numerous other individuals have managed to amass immense fortunes in recent years despite wars and crises, that the West End restaurants are very busy, that Woolworths, Marks and Spencer, breweries, and similar businesses are making immense profits. Likewise, he has friends who work for low wages and long hours in hotels, and also he has friends who work for low wages and long hours making cheap goods for multiple stores and furniture shops.And I am bound to say that one of the principal causes of anti-Semitism in the East End is that the furniture trade is practically entirely in Jewish hands at the moment. The hours they have to work are disgracefully long, and the wages they are paid are very low, and I hope that this matter will be dealt with in the new Factory Bill.—[Interruption.] I am not anti-Semitic.He has friends who work seven days a week on behalf of these breweries and who work incredibly long hours for some other firms. There are many causes of why industry has drifted to the suburbs, but one of them is that labour is less organised and will, therefore, put up with worse conditions.Then he goes on to say, and this is really what I particularly want to read to the House:The writer has lived for over 20 years in the East End and is always amused about people talking of the borough in which he lives as a poor district. It is true the people are poor, but the district is rich. Within a mile or so there are firms of immense wealth and highly prosperous. Many of these make the district unpleasant during the day by their smoke and smells. Their directors and managers live elsewhere, and the shareholders get the dividends. It is not suggested that many of these factories do not pay good wages and 599 treat their employés well, but that is not enough. If big money is made in a district, it is not enough to say that the firm pays the rates or looks after its own employés; it is essential that firms should take an interest in the local life of the district.I ask the Government whether they cannot inspire into industry a greater regard for what, I believe, is its duty, especially towards the younger people. That memorandum was written, not by a Socialist, but by a very big business man indeed, with vast financial interests, and who knows intimately the district with which he is concerned. He is in daily touch with the people who provide the sort of views which are therein expressed. I, too, am to some lesser extent in touch with those ordinary opinions, and the people who give them have no faith in Socialism as a remedy. What they have, however, is a sense of social injustice, and it is impossible for anybody on this side of the House, or on that side, to deny that there is a real cause for a sense of social injustice in a district where the works take no interest whatever in their local conditions. I ask the Government whether they cannot inspire into those newer firms which they are allowing to spring up like mushrooms in the South a far greater sense of their social obligation to the district, and more specifically whether, before they bring in their proposal for physical well-being, they will, in particular, take the National Association of Boys' Clubs into their confidence and consultation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in a speech in Sheffield on Saturday said that he found that it wasa suspicious circumstance that this new idea of physical wellbeing should coincide with the rearmament programme.The right hon. Gentleman is always on the look-out for suspicious circumstances. He spends his life that way when he is out of office. It may be that the National Government do, as my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland) said, think a little slowly. They do, however, always think against a background of stability, and their thoughts are translated into action. Hon. Members opposite may have had wonderful thoughts during the time they were in office. No doubt they did, and I give them full credit, but it is not much 600 use having wonderful thoughts against a background of steady financial and industrial deterioration. I do not prefer, like hon. Gentlemen, to think that this physical wellbeing is a new idea at all. I prefer to think of it as one further stage in the steady development of the services for the social betterment of our people.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. QUIBELL
I want for a, few minutes to draw the attention of the House to another phase outlined in the Amendment. It occurred to me when my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) was saying that no one in the House was satisfied with the statement of the Minister to-day that he was making a mistake. If there was anyone in this House who was satisfied with the statement, it was the Minister himself; he seemed delighted with the statement that he had made. I do not see a representative of the Liberal party here at the moment, but I want to refer also to the speech delivered by the representative of the Liberal party who criticised very severely the nature and character of the Amendment that had been moved from these benches. I gathered that not only did he not like our Amendment—he said it was a very small one—but he did not even like the King's Speech. He announced that as far as his party was concerned, they did not intend to support the Amendment to the Address. He said another very significant thing—that in America profits had killed prosperity. That was a very remarkable statement for a Member to make, the main outline of whose speech had been an attack upon what he considered to be the Socialist theories held by the official Opposition.
This country is not quite as prosperous as we have been led to believe from hon. Members opposite. I suppose that if there is a town in England that can be called prosperous, it is the town of Scunthorpe, the centre of the Division which I represent, and the town in which I live. They are working well, and as far as orders are concerned I understand that the books are full, but despite that fact there is a residue of unemployment in Scunthorpe. In some of the works immediately a man attains the age of 65 he is given his card and they say goodbye to him and he draws his pension. 601 That is the position in the big firm of the United Steel. In many cases the wife of such a man is several years younger than her husband, and out of the 10s. pension the man has to find rent and rates, and as far as he is concerned he is left body and soul to the generosity of the public authority. The man is landed on the local authority of which I have been a member for many years. Employés in most cases in our council are given three days a week in order to help to augment the small pension these men are getting.
When we talk about anxieties, worries and malnutrition we must not forget about the anxiety of the man at 60 who knows that every year he is coming nearer to the time when he will have to depend on 10s. a week until his wife also reaches the age when she can obtain 10s. Often these people are dependent on Poor Law relief. Only to-day I have written with respect to two cases where the recipient only gets 10s. a week, and the rent of the house is more than 10s. One writes to the public assistance officer and there is great difficulty in getting the public assistance committee to make a grant sufficient to keep body and soul together. I would ask the Government to look carefully into this subject and to take into serious consideration the amending of the Pensions Act. I should be delighted if they would bring in a Measure remedying some of the shortcomings of the Contributory Pensions Act. If they did so they could have all the credit and honour and even some of the seats if the people liked to elect them, providing that something is done to alleviate the sufferings of these unfortunate people, who are affected in their thousands.
I gathered that the Minister of Labour is not much in sympathy with the limitation of hours. I should like him to look at some of the time sheets which I have in my possession, which show that in a town where there is unemployment men are working even up to 116 hours a week. It is a scandal that a man should be allowed in these days to work such hours. It ought to be remedied, and it is the duty of Government to remedy it. They have a very serious responsibility if they do not tackle this problem. I could multiply by the hundred time sheets of this kind.
The steel industry. It is not because the labour cannot be got. There are other reasons. I have carefully preserved the time sheets, because I do not want the House to take my word for it. I do earnestly hope that the Government will consider this matter. One of my colleagues on these benches spoke of the tragedy of some of the ex-service men. Many of these men are the victims of very real tragedies. On many occasions I have endeavoured to help them. The other day the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Markham) said that there was no difficulty in approaching the Pensions Ministry. He said that he had often done so and found them very sympathetic, and that whenever he had taken a case it was given consideration. Usually the letters that I have received when I have approached the Pensions Ministry not only since I have been a Member of this House but during the years 1929–31, have started with the words: "I very much regret." I knew immediately what was going to happen to the case.
We all of us know of cases where men who are now walking on crutches went out on war service physically fit, but the medical man now says that their disability is not due to war service. They are not definite in their opinion that it is not due to war service. It may be or it may not. In regard to one case I had to bring to this House and take to the Ministry a piece of shrapnel 1½ inches long and ½ inch thick, which had been taken out of a man's head, before the Ministry would believe that his mental condition was due to war service. That man was seven years without pension, and his injury was affecting him mentally. Eventually, the doctors had to admit that when they took the shapnel out of his head it must have got in, otherwise they could not have taken it out.
There are cases in which it is difficult to prove that the man's condition is due to his war service, but when people have seen some of the most physically fit men go to the War and have seem them come back broken in health, they are naturally surprised that the doctors will not certify that the disability is due to war service. Some machinery ought to be put into operation to prevent these men 603 from having to become paupers. I suppose that every hon. Member has cases of this kind in his constituency. Hon. Members opposite have sympathy just as we have, and I appeal to them to help us. The trouble that I have discovered is that when the first doctor who sees a man declares that he is not suffering from the effect of his war service, the doctor above him confirms it, and the man above him also confirms it. I could give many concrete cases of that kind. I do hope that these matters will be sympathetically considered and that some machinery will be set up for dealing with them.
The Minister of Health talked about housing, and seemed very proud of the achievement of the Government. I admit that so far as private enterprise is concerned they have built an enormous number of houses. They have done that in my own district, but they are houses to sell at about £550, and so far as the average workman is concerned the repayments are more than he can afford. About a thousand houses of this kind, at an average price of £550, have been put in my constituency. The man, by some means, pays a deposit of something like £50 and is left with £500 to pay to a 'building society. The repayments to the building society are 3s. per week per £100 borrowed, which amounts to 15s. a week. The rates perhaps amount to 3s., which brings the total payments to 18s. a week out of a wage of perhaps £2 3s. or £2 4s. In my district in some cases there are stoppages of about 3s. 6d. out of the wages, so that with the 18s. it means that half the total earnings of the man have gone. In pre-war days we considered that one-fifth or one-sixth of a man's wages was all that he could afford to pay in rent.
The Minister ought to encourage the councils to speed up their work of housing. We as a municipality build and are letting houses at something like 9s. or 9s. 6d. per week clear. I hope therefore that the Minister will urge upon the local authorities the necessity of providing homes for these men. Under present circumstances they are putting themselves in pawn for 20 years, and when distress comes along or when dilapidations have to be dealt with, they are in a fix. Although much progress has been made in housing there is room for greater pro- 604 gress. I hope the Government will encourage the municipalities in every way to go forward with more speed and provide houses at cheap rents for the working classes. It has been the boast of the Government that they intended to do that. Therefore I hope they will fulfil their promise, so that we may solve the difficulty of housing in the countryside and the problem of providing houses at cheaper rents for the urban districts.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. ALLAN CHAPMAN
I trust that the hon. Member who has just spoken will forgive me if I do not go in detail into the substance of his well-informed speech. I only propose to touch in a general way on some of the points that he has raised. In opposing the Amendment I should like to say how much I appreciate the speech of the hon. Member who moved it. His sincerity and restraint always have an appeal, because we on this side of the House feel equally deeply about those who are in distress and poverty. One regrets that the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) has hitched his wagon to the one star which, to my mind, is losing its lustre. I think the evidence of that is seen in the fact that hon. Members opposite have not had a very easy task in bringing forward criticism against the National Government. Whichever stick they take up to beat us with breaks in their hands. I should particularly like to convert the hon. Member for Gower to our way of thinking. I can assure him that I stand on this side because I believe that in our system, slow working, if you like, but sure, we shall achieve a diminution; of poverty and of things like malnutrition, whereas the political theories of hon. and right hon. Members opposite can only end in chaos and disaster. They must, inevitably, by their economic theories, kill the only goose that can lay the golden egg.
Before coming to the main substance of my remarks I should like to touch on one or two other things. The whole House desires that there should be reduction in unemployment. Therefore I cannot understand why hon. and right hon. Members opposite do not look upon the Ministry of Labour's training centres with more enthusiasm. These centres are the one agency I know of which passes 98 per cent. of its people into employment. I saw recently in a report that 605 over 98 per cent. of men going through the labour training centres passed into employment. Therefore, it is an agency which is well worth supporting by hon. Members opposite.
The hon. Member touched upon the question of the reorganisation of the coal industry. As I represent a constituency in which there are a considerable number of mines I am naturally interested in that problem, and I hope that re-organisation will mean greater stability for the industry as a whole and better wages for the miners. I confess that I should want to receive a considerable sum of money per week in order to spend one-third of my life underground. At the same time, we have the economic situation hanging over the industry, and hon. Members will admit that the responsibility for it is not all on one side, and that there have been errors on the other. They must carry their share of responsibility. I want to say one word on the question of strikes. There has crept in an unofficial method of striking, known as the stay-in-strike. During the recess we had a stay-in strike in my constituency, and I can assure hon. Members that during that week-end the situation was very serious indeed. When you have 15,000 miners at the pit-head on a Sunday afternoon, who know that there are men down the pit with very little food and little water, one can realise the possibilities of civil commotion. One felt most keenly for the women and children at the top who always get crushed between the strike and those who have to meet it. I suggest that if necessary, legislation be brought to make these strikes illegal. They may be illegal under the present law of trespass—I do not know, not being a lawyer—but I should like to see legislation brought in making it illegal to promote this particular type of strike. The miners' leaders do not want this sort of thing. The strike in my constituency was entirely unofficial. It had all the earmarks and methods of Communist inspiration. The people I should like to get at are not the men, but those who promote this sort of thing. There could be the most awful disaster in a strike of this nature, and I do not doubt that if the Communists were behind it, nothing would have suited them better than to have had a martyr down the pit, and that would have lit up the whole country.
606 I congratulated the lion. Member for Gower on his speech, and more particularly so because I wished he had a better Amendment to move. If I were asked to classify this particular Amendment I should describe it as a Woolworth Amendment—a little of everything. The only difference is that whereas the products of that great firm are usually genuine, I cannot say as much for the substance of this Amendment. The only genuine thing about it is the punctuation marks, and I am not quite sure that they are all in the right place. In fact, I may say with some certainty that the Amendment as it has been put down shows that hon. Members opposite are suffering from political malnutrition, and we must try to help them out of that condition by giving them a little of the right diet.
The question of malnutrition has been referred to. I have in my hand the report of the Committee on the Scottish Health Services. I admire the courage of hon. Members opposite in rushing in on this subject where even experts have found it desirable to tread gently. In this admirable report, one of the best State documents of recent years, I find this statement:Another, and perhaps the major difficulty is that there is not available any objective measure of degrees of nutrition or of malnutrition. There is much to be said for the view of Dr. Robert Hutchison that nutrition is a clinical conception. The skilled clinical eye can assess the state of nutrition of a patient, but the assessment is largely subjective; it is impossible to put it on record so that the state of nutrition at one examination can be directly compared with that found at another, whether by the same or by a different observer.That is an extremely important statement from a very balanced document. The report does not rush in and commit itself on the subject of nutrition and malnutrition, but takes an unbiased point of view. I sincerely believe that hon. Members opposite are doing a great disservice to a very important matter when they take a clinical conception and use it as party propaganda. One of the things which I admired in the hon. Member for Gower, was his restraint on this subject. He left us in no doubt as to his feeling about under-nourishment, but there were none of those grotesque statements to which we have listened from some hon. Members opposite. Probably the true 607 situation is revealed in another statement in the same report:The fact that there is no evidence of widespread and gross malnutrition does not imply that there may not be a considerable amount of under or wrong feeding that does not manifest itself either in specific disease or in other recognisable ways.That is the true picture.
I have one home in my own constituency in mind where, living in two small rooms, are 11 children of two different families. In one small bedroom are two beds jammed in head-on, the door can only be partly opened, and in one bed there are four boys, say, from 18 to 10 years of age, and in the other bed four girls from 20 to 13 years of age. In the kitchen in the box bed are the father and mother, and two or three children. In going into a home like that one feels sick at heart to think that such things can exist. They are conditions which must be and are being swept away. When the hon. Member for Gower criticised the Government I fancy his criticisms would have come much better had his party possessed a clear and definite slum clearance programme and an overcrowding programme to put into operation when they had the opportunity. The two periods of office of the Socialist Government are not very creditable on the subject of slum clearance and over-crowding and, therefore, we take it as a little less than just when these shots are fired at us from such a doubtful rifle. There is still under-nourishment and still malnutrition; but it is less now than when hon. Members opposite were in office. There are certain factors which show this. We have had figures from the Minister of Labour giving various details, and it seems to me an important contribution to the question of nourishment that the cost-of-living index figure has fallen by 21 points since hon. Members opposite left office. Income has increased a little and the price of food has come down, and these are definite contributions towards easing under-nourishment. There is also this interesting fact that in 1935 2,350,000 workers got increases in their weekly wage, while in 1931, the prime year of the depression, although the policy of hon Members opposite was a contributing factor as well, over 3,000,000 workers got a decrease in their weekly wage. There is undoubtedly more money about now 608 The only way in which to consider the question of nutrition and malnutrition is to compare ourselves with other countries. I find that in Great Britain we are consuming more milk, butter, beef and mutton than other countries with a coin parable population like the United States of America, France, Italy and Germany. That is a most interesting point, and we should remember these facts when we make speeches about malnutrition. At the same time, we on this side are not satisfied that poverty should exist and are not complacent about it. We believe that the capitalist system will gradually eliminate it; not some catastrophic gesture, such as is implied in Socialism.
Neither do we know all there is to be known yet about nutrition. I think we are on the eve of a great step forward in social progress, and that the time is ripe for more research. I was disappointed to learn that there was not to be any census of distribution. That is an important matter in reference to the question of food prices. I should also like a quinquennial census of population. It always distresses me to think that we are one of the countries in Europe which does not have a quinquennial census. Populations move very rapidly in these days, and one really wants a closer check on the movement of populations. When it was seen, after the 1931 census, that for the first time the population of Scotland had fallen, the news came as a shock to the people of Scotland. Had there been a quinquennial census, it would have been possible to see the indications earlier. I think there are certain steps that could be taken in the matter of population. We ought, for instance, to have a closer insight as to how to get people back to the countryside and stop this dreadful drift to the towns. When there are, for instance, eight people to the square mile in Sutherland and 1,777 to the square mile in Lanarkshire, there is something wrong. I think that a census of population every five years is an important matter. Under the Census Act, 1920, we can, by Order in Council, have a quinquennial census. I hope the Government will seriously consider that; because the statisticians tell us that in the course of 20 years or so the population of Great Britain will drop at first slowly, and then more rapidly. We have only 20 years in which to investigate and apply remedies for these problems.
609 I have said that we are not complacent about poverty, and I challenge hon. Members opposite to prove from the pages of history that the capitalist system has been the negation of progress. In the very able book which he has written, my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) pays a very fair tribute to the way in which conditions have improved. I do not say they have improved sufficiently to give him satisfaction, but at least his book indirectly gives a measure of praise to the capitalist system. There has been progress, and I believe that the public conscience is such that social progress will have an accelerated velocity in the future.
What is the alternative to National government? The alternative system which is to overcome poverty is Socialism, According to the Amendment. I would like to ask hon. Members opposite whether there is no malnutrition in Russia. Having read a considerable number of books on the subject of Russia, including Sir Walter Citrine's, I have come to the conclusion that there is very considerable malnutrition there, and indeed some millions have even died from starvation. There you have the first big experiment of Socialism on a wholesale scale, a full-blooded experiment—and I use the word "full-blooded" with a deep sense of all that it means. After 19 years of Socialism in Russia, surely we ought to see something better than the things which are credibly reported. Sir Walter Citrine's book, to my mind, is a very valuable contribution to the subject. I believe he went to Russia quite fairly to see what was to be seen, And took the very greatest care with the details which he set out and which, I think, are pretty conclusive that the Russian experiment is nothing but a colossal failure. Indeed, my own reading of the situation is that that country is rapidly becoming much more nationalistic, and that what success there has been is largely due to the re-importation of certain capitalist ideas.
The only clever thing about Socialism is its name, because any step in social progress can instantly be claimed as Socialism; but if hon. Members will go back to the speeches made in this House in 1872 by Mr. Disraeli, they will find references there which might almost have appeared in speeches made in this Debate 610 during the last few days. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, in their Amendment, offer us an instrument with which to commit hara-kiri; they offer us a colossal failure to correct the ills of to-day. In the 19th century there were 80 experiments in Socialism throughout the world, and they all failed. I understand that most of them failed for want of capital, which seems to me to be very indicative and to tell its own story. I hope hon. Members will read of some of those experiments, and they will see that there is very little difference between wealth and capital.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), at an earlier stage of the Debate on this Amendment, said that the National Government had failed to rise to the level of great events. Well, the level of unemployment has sunk, the level of employment has risen; and I would like to ask hon. Members opposite to what levels did they fall or rise in 1931? That is the answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough. In conclusion, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, incommoded as they are by the crinolines of an outworn political philosophy, are trying to ride the motor-bicycle of modern progress, and from the criticisms which they have endeavoured to make in this Debate, I have a very strong suspicion that their skirt is caught in the back wheel.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
The Amendment now before the House affords another opportunity of indicting the existing economic system and emphasising the need for a change. Of that opportunity, although the temptation is great, I do not propose to avail myself this evening, for I cannot forget or ignore the fact that I represent a depressed division. As the Government will not assist us to abolish or destroy the existing system, I must press the demand that it is incumbent upon them to make it work. Before dealing generally with some of the points mentioned in the Amendment, I will take the opportunity of asking the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of the manner in which the means test, of which we heard a great deal from him this evening, is administered in some parts of South Wales. On the last occasion when an opportunity similar to the present arose, I referred to two cases, which were not 611 openly accepted by the Minister as being true, but he made inquiries and found that my statements were correct. The cases were then settled, although the right hon. Gentleman had not the courtesy to inform me that he had made the inquiries and settled the cases that I had raised.
Many hon. Members on these benches are familiar with the custom that prevails in the mining industry, particularly in South Wales, according to which, if a man starts work on a Monday, he does not get any pay until the week or fortnight following. That is what is known as the employers keeping a week in hand. The result is that many of the men have to make an appeal to the local officer in order to get some allowance. There have been cases in my division in which the investigating officer, either a man or a woman, was sent to the applicant's house, and went into what is called in South Wales the pantry, or the larder, as it is known in other parts of the country, to see whether the applicant was actually in need. I have the names and addresses of persons in whose homes the very tea caddies have been inspected, and in other cases the butter-dish and the bread-pan have been examined. What does the Minister think of such methods? What do Members of the House think of such treatment of persons who have been suffering unemployment perhaps for years? I consider that such methods are mean, cruel and indecent. Yet those are the methods employed by the Government at a time when it proposes to improve the conditions of some of its own members who are now simply vegetating on incomes of £36 and £96 per week. Those methods are being employed by the Government at a time when they propose to improve the physical condition of the younger members of the community.
It is also proposed in the Speech from the Throne to extend the life of the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1934. In my opinion something must be done in connection with the other Measure known as the Special Areas Reconstruction (Agreement) Act before it can be of any assistance to those areas which are scheduled are depressed or Special Areas. I know of the case of a gentleman who owns a small undertaking in my division and who is prepared to extend that industry. But when 612 he makes application to the authorities, who according to this Measure are supposed to assist him, he is informed that no assistance can be given to him unless he erects a factory on the estate, the land for which has not at the moment been acquired. He informed the authorities that if a factory were erected outside Abertillery, it would be no good to him, but that if it were established in Abertillery, it would provide employment for something like 100 persons at present unemployed. Unless something is done to meet that kind of situation these areas in South Wales will always remain Special Areas. The South Wales and Monmouthshire Council of Social Service in their annual report for 1935–36 say:In 1935 there were 212,000 or 34 per cent. approximately of the insurable population unemployed in South Wales. In 1936 there were still—in five South Wales counties—183,000 or 36 per cent. of the insurable populaton out of work, 137,000 of whom were concentrated in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. There are 27,000 workless men over 45 whose prospects of re-employment seem remote. Every third person in South Wales is either unemployed or dependent on the home whose breadwinner is out of work. Savings are exhausted, clothes and furniture, the replacement of which is impossible, become threadbare. Each succeeding year of economic depression is another stage in our decay.That is not a statement by Members of the party on these benches. It is a statement of persons who form an organisation which receives financial assistance from Parliament, or in other words from the present Government. South Wales is being left to solve this problem of unemployment by transference of unemployed men and their families. In three years, 1933 to 1935, and two months of this year—January and February—18,315 persons have left South Wales but as the "Times" stated in a leading article on 18th August:Slow depopulation should not be accepted as a tolerable means of escape from intolerable distress.When the subject of the Special Areas is raised in this House, we are always asked what are our proposals. That question was put by an hon. Member opposite on Friday. He must have known that scores of suggestions have been made by Members on these benches on scores of occasions. I mention one or two. South Wales, I submit will, unless something is done to revive the mining industry in some form or another, eventually become 613 a depressed area itself. We believe that afforestation would palliate the conditions in some parts of South Wales. That is a proposal which has been recommended by the Commissioner, Mr. Malcolm Stewart. We say that new industries should be established in those areas; that there should also be an alleviation of the existing burden of local public assistance and that power should be conceded to the Commissioner to implement his own recommendations. Finally, the means test ought to be abolished.
Take for a moment the question of public assistance in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. I quote from a report which my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) suggested should be printed and circulated among the Members of the House. It is the report of the public assistance officer of the Glamorgan County Council for the three years 1st April, 1933, to 31st March, 1936.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
Glamorgan. I am using these statistics because they apply to Monmouthshire as well, though there is much to be said in regard to other parts of South Wales, if you exclude the position in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, as far as industry is concerned. The public assistance officer in this report gives the average over the six years of the total county rate and the public assistance rate in seven counties of England and Wales in order to arrive at a key figure for the whole period. I am not going to weary the House with statistics relative to all the seven counties, except to point out that the public assistance rate in Surrey is 1s. 3.85d. and in Middlesex it is 1s. 10.60d., whereas in Monmouthshire it is 6s. 10.34d. and in Glamorgan 8s. 2.57d The average cost of public assistance in these seven counties for the last six years was 3s. 3¾d., whereas in Glamorgan it was 8s. 2½d. and in Monmouthshire 6s. 10d.
We suggest that there is nothing Utopian or Socialistic about the suggestion that something can be done to relieve those areas where the rates are extremely high because of public assistance. Take the question of new factories. We have now an opportunity of examining the latest survey, and what do we find? In 614 1934 the number of new factories opened in this country was 520, employing 46,550 persons. I am ignoring the number that were closed during the same period. Anyone would expect the Government to take steps to see that some of those factories were established in South Wales, but we find that for that period in South Wales and Monmouthshire only five factories were opened, employing a paltry 950 persons. In 1935 there were 510 factories opened in this country, employing 49,750 persons; in South Wales and Monmouthshire four factories were opened, employing 300 men. If you take the two years, the number of factories opened was 1,030, employing 96,300 persons; in South Wales and Monmouthshire during those two years nine factories were opened, employing 1,250 persons. Those are the facts, after the observation made by the Prime Minister in a place not considered to be a distressed area or Special Area, when he said:But you will not be right in South Wales until you have new industries.The "Times," in making reference to this suggestion, said:The list of possible obstacles to the transfer of industry to the Special Areas shows that, broadly speaking, planning that would provide adequate inducements is a wider task than the Commissioner could undertake. It is a task for no authority less than the Government.That is the opinion that we hold. Take the question of afforestation. We have been told by the Minister of Labour this evening that we must await the final report of the Commissioner, Mr. Malcolm Stewart, who has now retired; but in his first report he stated:Within or immediately adjacent to the Special Areas in South Wales alone it has been suggested that there are large tracts of land amounting to 300,000 acres which are prima facie suitable for afforestation.It will be interesting to know how many acres have been planted with trees in South Wales since that report was issued. I observe that the Minister of Labour has been giving us some of his views, to which I desire to refer, especially in connection with the administration of the means test. They appear, appropriately enough, not in the "Liberal Magazine," but in the November issue of "Home and Empire," which I understand is the Conservative party publication. He indulges, I notice, in another prophecy. He says: 615… when there is another Socialist Government"—so he has not lost faith and is not without hope: two Christian virtues which he still claims to possess—it will, I confidently predict, maintain a means test.Some of us on these benches recollect the prediction of the right hon. Gentleman when he was Secretary for Mines, when he predicted that there would be no more large mine explosions in this country. I suppose he made that prediction then because he was head of the Mines Department, and yet in the very month that he made that statement we had at Gresford the largest explosion known in this country for 23 years and, with the exception of one, the worst, explosion we have had in the mining industry for over 40 years. The stages of development in the public career of the right hon. Gentleman are well marked—first preacher, then politician, and now prophet. I suppose that the next stage will be either that of a poet or a painter, either of which would require more ability than he has shown in his capacity of prophet. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that many of us here are more interested in the prophecies to be found in the publication called "Old Moore's Almanack." I expect we shall have a modern edition of that work which will be entitled "Old Brown's Almanack" or "Old Brown's New Nonsense." He also writes:When the Regulations became known in July last there was no protest, either spontaneous or otherwise, and the efforts to organise one fell as completely flat as did the criticism and protests of the Labour party during the three days' debate in the House of Commons.I want to know what he thinks of the petition that he has recently received, signed by no fewer than 70,000 persons in South Wales. Is not that a form of protest? I have one sent me signed by several hundred people in my division, which I have sent to him, and that petition, strange as it may appear to hon. Members opposite, was undertaken by the Blaina Council of Evangelical Churches, which declares:The undersigned hold the Government responsible for the failure to deal with the depressed areas and for the continuation of widespread unemployment and poverty in South Wales. It has not helped to resuscitate existing industries nor develop new ones.616We declare that existing allowances operative under the Stand-still Order are inadequate, and regard the reductions which will be enforced under the new Regulations as a crime against the whole South Wales community.We call upon the Government to withdraw the Regulations and the family means test, which places unbearable burdens on the unemployed members of the family and destroys the unity of family life, and to provide all unemployed persons with work or adequate maintenance.That, surely, constitutes a protest. Is the Minister unaware—and, if he is, he deserves to be dismissed from his office—that over these new Regulations in South Wales the largest meetings ever known have been held? Does he deny that we have had larger demonstrations of protest over the new Regulations than we had over the old Regulations? Does he not consider it a protest to have had nearly 2,000 marchers in London last week, or is it an invitation that we should have acts of violence in order to persuade him that there is a protest against these new Regulations? I submit that there is only one word in the English language with which to describe that statement made by the Minister of Labour. I am not permitted to use the word here; I will merely say that it contains three letters. Yet another statement for which the Minister is responsible is this:The means test as now framed is fair, considerate, and helpful in its requirements, and every one of the changes it embodies is directed to easing the position of the applicant.Is that statement true? What of the reduction in the case of a single man over 21 years of age from 17s. to 10s. per week? What is the position of the young girl who will have her allowance reduced from 15s. to 9s. per week, and other reductions well known to most Members of this House? It is no consolation, in my opinion, to such a man to write, as the Minister does:It may be added that the means test in practice concerns only one applicant of every three. The others, having no resources that come within the Regulations, are not affected. It is a point which the Socialists have taken care to forget.Neither is it of any advantage to inform such an individual that the new Regulations areestimated to involve an additional expenditure of approximately £750,000 a year.617 We heard a similar statement made it this House by the ex-Labour Minister when the old Regulations were introduced, and the present Minister's estimates may prove to be equally reliable as some of his predictions. I contend that the comparison is not between the payments provided in the new Regulations and those in the old, but between what is now being paid and what will be paid under the new Regulations. In spite of what has been said in the House and outside, the Minister of Labour defends the means test which, since its imposition, has robbed the unemployed of £60,000,000. According to information submitted in reply to questions put in the House, from November, 1931, to January, 1935, our people have had their allowances or benefits reduced by £45,000,000, which is at the rate of £15,000,000 a year. In view of the fact that 12 months have expired since these figures were submitted, we are justified in stating that they have been robbed by no less than £60,000,000. I want something done for South Wales where the position is gradually but certainly getting worse, a position which demands immediate action, action in an area which has made its contribution to the one-time prosperity of this country, in an area where the policy of this Government and its predecessor has not touched the fringe of this problem of unemployment.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. LYONS
I hope that I shall show no personal discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat if I do not follow him in all the points which he has raised. I want, however, to make an observation with reference to one of his last remarks, in which he objected very forcibly to the operation of any means test; that it would have been much better if he had thought a little of the speech that was made at the beginning of the 1931 Parliament by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who was then the leader of the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs. The right hon. Gentleman then made it clear that he stood expressly and explicitly by the operation of some form of means test in order to stop public money being given indiscriminately to those who had no real claim to the receipt of public benefit. We realise, however, that over and over again there have been acrobatics by the party 618 opposite not only on the question of the means test, but on the questions of sanctions and armaments. Upon every vital national issue they have never had any one opinion very long held. It therefore ill becomes those who stood by the operation of the means test in 1931 to try and condemn its operation now when they know perfectly well that, if it were not in operation, there would be no means by which transitional benefit could be given.
I want to pass from that to what was said just now by an hon. Member opposite about Special Areas, and to say, as one who has the honour to share the representation of an area, that happily has never been so characterised, that none of us regards this question as a local matter to be considered only by those concerned with the representation of those districts. We all hold the view, without questioning the sincerity of those hon. Members who have spoken for those areas, that this is a national matter which should be discussed nationally and which cannot be set aside as one affecting only some particular districts. Let us look at this thing in its proper perspective. Let us ask for some co-operation from those gentlemen who criticise what has been done by the Government in recent years in the development and formulation of schemes in those areas.
The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) asked why the Government did not get some new industries into South Wales. I do not know whether it is suggested that the Government ought to license new industries or that they should control the location of new industries. It would be a dangerous thing for a Government to say to any industry about to extend its works, "You shall only extend your works provided you go to an area that we nominate." I hope that the Government, on consideration of the report which is about to be issued, will be able to make still greater strides in the increase and promotion of work in those areas which are most affected. Let us not overlook the needs of the distressed areas because of the greater prosperity that has come over the country generally in recent years. It may well be that this has focussed attention on these areas.
After reading the terms of the Amendment I wonder whether anybody really thinks that we should tinker about now with some of these new-fangled ideas 619 which are called Socialism, which were referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour when he blew skyhigh the nebulous claims made for this undefined system? There would not be a single piece of benefit given to any section of the community if we attempted to put into operation a scheme which its pioneers have said would bring about the greatest financial crisis this country has ever known. We recall the condition of affairs in 1931, when those who were then whispering Socialism were in office. No confidence existed then. The hon. Member for Abertillery referred to the large numbers of new factories which have come into this country during the last four or five years, and complained that they have been erected in various parts of England and have not gone in sufficient numbers to South Wales. I wish that he had given the Government the benefit for this expansion and realised that it was by the creation of confidence which the Government have brought about that these new factories have come to this country. Without the control of imports which the Government introduced, without the creation of confidence out of the chaos in which the last speaker and his friends left the country, no new factories would have come to our shores. The real benefit that has come to trade and to employment in the last four or five years has come through the confidence which the Government have created and upon which industry has been promoted and has expanded.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and some of his Friends have tried to make out in the Debate in the last few days that the increase in employment is solely due to the increase in the Defence forces and armaments. That cannot be fairly said now that it has been exploded to-night and during the Debate. The increase in employment due to rearmament is a negligible incident in the real course of industrial output. The increase in employment is really due to the prosperity and expansion of trade caused by the confidence which the Government have created since 1931 when they saved the situation. I realise that to those who put on the Paper the Amendment dealing with this fantastic idea of Socialism, which has never succeeded anywhere, these facts are not pleasant to consider, 620 because they go to the very root of the Amendment. We look round and ask, "Does anybody really think that any transition period before the introduction of some scheme of Socialism, to which hon. Gentlemen opposite are committed, will bring about anything except a complete break-up of confidence and complete ruin of the social system that we have erected?" Those who seem to be dissatisfied with the development and the orderly progress that have come to this country from the system they term capitalism should realise that it is through that system and because of it that there has been a greater improvement in the standard of life of the people of this country than there has been in any country in the world.
In the last five years the Government can take credit for a great deal—unemployment has been enormously reduced, new records made in the numbers of employed people, and wages rising in their volume. The expansion of industry which has brought this about is a consequence of the confidence created by the sound and orderly progress which this Government brought into being. Through the restoration of confidence, this sound finance and a whole series of balanced Budgets, our position to-day is, without doubt, the envy of the world. I hope this confidence will continue because, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer reminded us some time ago, it is only confidence which can beget enterprise. We have seen greater facilities opened up in the matter of education, and more development of social services and all records broken in the erection of new houses and in the attack upon the slums and overcrowding, and I hope it will be said that during the lifetime of this Government we entirely abolished slums from the national life.
A good deal was said by the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) about working hours. We are all grateful for the fact that the Minister of Labour has spent a lot of time, in consultation with representatives of industry and representatives of the trade unions, in order to report on the whole question of the shorter working week, and his report, I believe, will be ready in a few days. I take the liberty of urging on the right hon. Gentleman that the time is now ripe for some recommendations to be made 621 for shortening the working week. I believe the next great step in social progress must lie in shortening the working week and regulating the amount of overtime done in any particular industry. In my own constituency some firms have voluntarily adopted the five-day week, a step which has been attended with marked success, and in each case where it was started as an experiment for a short time it has been continued. One of the greatest chemical manufacturing concerns in the country has operated the five-day week for a long time now and does not intend to revert to the old system.
I was talking the other day to the proprietor of an industrial concern in my constituency, who told me that in the three or four months during which the five-day week had been in operation in his works the difference had been most marked. There had been no reduction in wages, no reduction in output, there had been better team work and no sickness or illness, and he said that the five-day week would be continued. Of course, we cannot lay down a general rule and say that because the five-day week works well in one industry it will work equally well in every industry, but I believe the difficulties in the way of the five-day week are far more superficial than real, and I hope that when we get the report of the Minister of Labour in the next few days we shall see that we are to have a real attempt to put the five-day week into operation in this country wherever it is possible.
Control of imports has existed for some four or five years, and I do not believe that anyone can suggest in the present state of the world that our control should be lessened. When there is a move towards the complete withdrawal of all the barriers and restrictions against trade among the nations this Government will, I believe, be the first to lead in the attempt to bring about freedom of trade between all countries, but until that occurs we must set our face against any system of one-way-traffic in imports. By a higher level of tariffs in some of the trades which are still suffering from unfair competition I believe we could still further expand employment. The industries in the Division which I represent have been benefited by the control of imports. There is greater and more 622 secure employment in the City of Leicester and bigger spending power among the people engaged in industry than at any time before the control of imports was introduced, and I think we can increase that spending power and the numbers of employed.
I am sure the whole country will welcome the time, which I hope will be soon now, when we shall see the introduction of a scheme under which a man in a small business may volunteer to come inside the national scheme of insurance and pensions. I hope that hon. Members opposite will realise that we have a system of social services better and more comprehensive than any that exists anywhere in the world. There is a standard of life for those engaged in industry, a standard of education for their children and housing provision for the whole people of the country such as, taken together, put the workers of this country in a better position than has ever existed anywhere else. If that has been done by the system which is termed "capitalist," let us not tinker about with it unless and until we have something better and proved to put in its place. Let us not give to those gentlemen who can never define what their nebulous Socialism means the opportunity of wrecking the very foundations upon which our social system depends. Let us not place in the hands of the destroyer something which will put an end to the years of orderly progress which this country has enjoyed, and that at a time when we have running side by side with it a greater liberty than exists anywhere else in the world.
I hope that the vote against this Amendment will be overwhelming, because we on this side do not hesitate to say that the Government have met and overcome our national difficulties. They have never run away from a position of danger in the national or international sphere, and at a time of great international complexity have never arrested social progress at home. I hope that progress will go on, and I hope the items referred to and adumbrated in the Gracious Speech as being in the programme of future legislation will be made operative by a Government which, I believe, has the confidence of almost the whole of the community.
Mr. J. J. DAVIDSON
On a point of Order. May I ask your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to whether there is any method whereby the House can draw the attention of His Majesty the King to the decided insult shown by the Members of the Government by their continued absence while his speech is being discussed?
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. E. DUNN
I sat on these benches all day on Friday and have sat here all day to-day listening to the speeches which have been delivered by hon. Members on the benches opposite, and I have been struck by the fact that the bulk of those speeches have been almost as direct in their opposition to the Government as the speeches from this side of the House. But all those supporters of the Government have said that although they disagree with the Government's policy they will go into the Division Lobby to support them. I listened also to the speeches by the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health, and I could not help thinking, while the Minister of Labour was speaking, that all that he said in his speech was certainly not untrue. A great deal of what he said was true in many respects. I want to direct my remarks to one or two of those true statements.
The Minister of Labour said that many of the changes that had taken place in the country, and which had affected the problem of unemployment, were due to three causes, among many others. One was the inventor, another the scientist and the third the engineer. With that statement the whole House will, I think, be in agreement; yet the inventor has been the most badly remunerated for his invention and the engineer is very largely in the same position. The same applies to the scientist. If, as a result of the combination of the efforts of those three classes, all the requirements of the country can be produced on the industrial side, but thousands of men are thrown out of work, we are entitled to ask what is to become of the men who are thrown out of work. The point that impresses me is that, as the result of the efforts that are made, large numbers of men 624 are being thrown out of work and, whatever may be said to the contrary, we who are in industry see that process operating day by day.
Another thing which the Minister of Labour had to say, and which struck me as important and true, was that part of our problem of unemployment was due to the over-expansion which takes place in time of war. He went on to say that the problem of unemployment, in which we are involved in this Debate, contracted in times of peace. Every hon. Member must be brought straight up to the problem of poverty, which is the real problem, underlying the Amendment which we have submitted from this side of the House. The Minister of Labour claimed very great things for the National Government. He said, as I understood it, that wages had increased by £360,000 per week in 1935–36 and he claimed that to be due to the activities of the National Government. I am prepared to concede that point and not to dispute the figures, but when I measure that figure against the number of people who are in employment, it is seen that the remarkable boom in trade has actually increased the wages of the people in industry at the present time by less than sevenpence per week. When I measure the figure of £60,000 against 11,000,000 or 12,000,000 men and women in industry, it is amazing to discover that the increase in wages which the boom has brought is very small. Some speakers have indicated that we are nearly at the end of the boom. Whether it be due to increased armaments or otherwise, the fact remains that, on the figures submitted by the Minister of Labour tonight, the increase in wages to the men and women in industry is round about 6d. per week.
The further point is that, as a result of the efforts of the engineer, the inventor and the scientist, production has increased all round; I think no hon. Member will dispute that statement.. No one will dispute also that, as a result of the introduction of those people large numbers of men have been thrown out of work, or that the revenue of the country as a whole has considerably increased. If the inventor, the scientist and the engineer have not, in the main, received the benefit of their efforts, while, on the other hand, thousands of men have been thrown out of work, we are entitled 625 to ask that those who have been thrown out of work should be maintained in a reasonable standard of decency within the country.
Hon. Members will remember that the Minister of Health painted a very glowing picture in this House on Friday and it has been taken up by many hon. Members on the opposite benches. I am just as interested in boy scouts and girl guides, and the moral guidance of the nation, as is anybody else, but, coming from a constituency such as mine, I am impressed with the fact that thousands of children in that area are hungry and want to be fed. I have listened to the statements made by hon. Members from Jarrow and South Wales, and to the pictures which they have painted, and I know, so far as South Wales is concerned, that it is true, because I have visited the valleys myself and seen the situation. In the Speech which we are debating this week, this House is brought up against the most important fact that there are very few references in the Speech to this all-important problem of poverty and hunger. I have read the Speech very carefully, and while I am impressed by His Majesty's references to "My Ministers" and "My Government" doing this, that or the other, I would have liked him to have finished his Speech by saying, "My people in this country are hungry and poverty-stricken, and they are entitled to be fed at the hands of this rich State." That has not been said, and we are therefore entitled to offer a protest on that account.
The Minister of Health called attention to the number of houses which the National Government claimed had been built during their term of office, in the late Parliament and in the present one. He made the statement that we were pouring out houses at the rate of 100,000 per year, mainly to let. The Government have been responsible for stopping local authorities from building houses at rents which people could pay. No one can deny that the Government have played into the hands of building societies and bankers. The repercussion is that people cannot keep up their weekly or monthly payments to building societies and others, and the problem of poverty is not merely one of the people who are permanently out of work, but applies just as much to the people who are in work. The Minister of Labour has stated that 626 over 11,000,000 people in this country are in employment. Will the House look with satisfaction upon the fact that the average wages of all these people to-day are just over £2 a week, and that, for these houses upon which the Minister of Health prides himself, they are called upon to pay 18s. and £1 a, week in order to keep their houses? In these circumstances there is poverty, and the repercussion is a fall in the birth rate, so that it will not be a question of girl guides and boy scouts and moral leadership, for, if we go on as we are going, there will be no youngsters in this country at all in another ten years' time. I want to call attention to the following important statement in the Gracious Speech, which is interwoven in this question:You will be invited to consider proposals for the furtherance of reorganisation in the coal industry, and for the unification of coal royalties under national control.The first part of this statement means further unemployment in the coalmining industry. There cannot be this intensive mechanisation of the coal industry of this country without throwing people on to the labour market, and, therefore, the problem of unemployment will become, not less, but greater. The Minister of Labour made an amazing declaration tonight about the repercussion from the War period, when the unemployment figures went up. We are entitled to ask, if the numbers unemployed are going down in consequence of the defence programme of the Government, what is going to happen at the end of the period? At the end of the period the numbers unemployed in this country will be, not less, but greater than they have been before. With regard to the unification of coal royalties, we asked last year what it meant. I cannot forget the spectacle in another place, where we saw people in scarlet and fine linen listening to this declaration from the Throne. By that declaration, if we are to take the statement of the people who are likely to know, this country was committed to an expenditure, for the purpose of buying out royalties, of from £100,000,000 to £150,000,000. I would have liked the statement to go on and say:for the unification of coal royalties under national control and for pensions to miners at 55 years of age in this industry.We are entitled to ask that the men in the mining industry, which is the hardest and most difficult and dangerous of all 627 industries, should have pensions at 55 years of age if the State is going to be asked to pay from £100,000,000 to £150,000,000 to the people who have been drawing fabulous sums since the date quoted by the Minister of Labour, namely, 1861. When these people have been drawing royalties at the rate that they have, we are entitled to ask from these benches that the men who give their lives within the industry should be considered before a single penny is paid out to royalty owners, and I make no apology for putting in a claim for a reasonable pension for miners. The Gracious Speech also says that:Measures will also be submitted to you to reduce the age limit for the award of pensions to blind persons and to make further provision for the superannuation of local government officers.I do not begrudge local government officers their pensions. Teachers, policemen, and nearly all other sections of the community who are in sheltered industries are entitled to pensions at the present time, and I have made my contribution towards making it possible for them to have their pensions. But I am entitled to ask, on behalf of the people who are not in sheltered industries, the people who work below ground in the mines of this country, who have not the office or the protection that these others have, that there should be some declaration, either from the Throne or from the Government Benches, with regard to them also. Taking the people in various professions and industries in this country, I find that 50 per cent. of them are in sheltered trades, employed, either professionally or otherwise, by municipalities, and 50 per cent. are not; and the people in the sheltered trades are the people for whom provision has been made, while those who are not in sheltered trades are left derelict and alone. I know that some generous employers of labour are prepared to look at this matter sympathetically, but I am entitled to call attention to the fact that no reference is made in the Speech from the Throne to those on whose behalf I am speaking, although it makes reference to mining royalties and the payment which is likely to be made in respect of them.
Some reference has already been made to the fact that the Minister of Labour appears to be unaware of the protests 628 which are being made in the country with regard to the Unemployment Regulations and the household means test. I cannot understand the Minister of Labour making a declaration of that description; he must be well aware of what is taking place in the country. In my own division alone, 129 different organisations have passed resolutions protesting against the regulations and the means test. They include every kind of organisation—churches, chapels, and all other organisations within the Division; while, in addition, 20,000 people have signed an individual petition with regard to this matter. It may be that the present Minister of Labour will not make the same mistake that his predecessor did. His predecessor made a very important miscalculation 18 months ago. He not only miscalculated the feeling of the country, but he was honest enough to admit in this House that he had made a miscalculation with regard to the amount of money that was likely to be involved; and, when he perceived the feeling in the country upon the matter, and found that he had made a mistake in his calculations, he was honest enough to retire.
The Government of the day make a remarkable demonstration on that occasion. The previous Minister of Labour was good enough to admit that he had miscalculated the position, that his arithmetic was wrong, and he gave up his office. The Government said, "You have made a mistake in your calculation, and therefore you are calculated to be the Minister of Education for this country." But when the Minister of Labour speaks as he does regarding the indignant feeling which exists in the country, let me tell him that the West Riding County Council, which is the largest in the country and is a Tory council, has passed this resolution of protest, as well as all the smaller authorities in the West Riding. I ask the Government to withdraw the Regulations, and also the means test.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE
In the last two days we have listened to many moving, and in some cases misguided, speeches on a variety of subjects, but few of them dealing with the Amendment on the Paper. One speech with which I was struck was that of the hon. Member for 629 Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). He argued that the fact that there were 1,500,000 unemployed was due to the capitalist system, and totally ignored the fact that five years ago the United States of America, under capitalism, had no unemployment arid yet to-day, under the same capitalism, have 11,500,000 unemployed. How does he reconcile those two positions? Let us go to the States that do not practise capitalism—Italy, which is a totalitarian State, and Russia, which is Communist. Both of these had its unemployment problem, but they settled them in different ways, neither of which would appeal to any hon. Member in Otis House. Italy made a war to absorb her unemployed, and Russia exterminated hers.
§ Mr. JAMES GRIFFITHS
The hon. Member clearly admits all that I said on Friday. My whole point was that the Government are partially solving the unemployment problem by the same method as Italy, if not by declaring war at least by preparing for it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE
That is easily dealt with. The prosperity of this country started with Protection, developed under the Ottawa Agreements, and was consolidated in the great housing drive of the Minister of Health and the confidence which this Government has instilled. These are the things that matter, not the silly, stupid statements of the Socialists that it has been due to the rearmament programme. If I were a Socialist my heart would bleed for the Socialist party. The unfortunate position in which they find themselves is that they are trying to devise a means of attacking the Government without any weapons with which to do the job. Having failed, they are trying by misleading allegations to dupe their own followers that the Gov-eminent is wrong simply because their leaders say so. As a realist I have tried to take this Amendment honestly and candidly, and find out what it meant and on what it was based. In making that analysis I was sorely reminded of the statement of the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Herbert Morrison) that the Labour party was in process of intellectual transition. If he had used the phrase "intellectual disillusion" he would have been nearer the truth, because, judging by their arguments and counter-arguments at Edinburgh, it would appear that 630 they have lost the confidence not only of the country but of their own followers.
The swing of the pendulum is bound to come sooner or later—I hope it may long be delayed—and hon. Members on the Opposition benches will be found one day with the responsibilities and opportunities of government again. We can only hope that for the sake of the country they will have learned sense, and will discard these silly, stupid, unbelieving philosophies expressed in their Amendment. They know that unemployment has decreased under this Government; that the social services are the best in the world; that more houses have been built than were ever contemplated by them. Yet, knowing all these things, with a signal disregard for truth, they frame this Amendment based on platitudes and clichés which are two generations out of date, and try to deceive their followers into the belief that there is a Socialist philosophy. They start this stupid and ridiculous Amendment with the perennial jibe at Capitalism—the missed target at which they have thrown their darts in every attack since the days of Karl Marx.
They have not even troubled to study what the word "capital" means. I have. Capital is wealth appropriated for reproductive employment. I ask any Socialist Member how he can be against a system which is going to do the very thing he is constantly urging us to do, to create productive employment, the one system that according to the real meaning of capital means something good for the people they are supposed to represent. But there is a reverse side to the picture. How can this be called a truly capitalist country, taking capital to mean what I have described, if to-day a fifth of the annual income that a man makes is put on one side and taken not to reproduce employment but for the safety and protection of the people and to secure their social wellbeing? It is the same in regard to Death Duties. In some cases 50 per cent. of the accumulated savings of mankind is taken, again not for productive employment but simply for the purpose of making the lives of the people happier and safeguarding their conditions.
The first effort of hon. Members opposite to make capital out of the Government's policy ends as usual in a flop. Their second effort is, of course, 631 that stupid statement about the improvement in trade and industry depending on armaments. That I will not take any notice of. The third is a sort of belated recognition that the Government, in deliberate contrast to anything that the Socialist party did when in office, is trying to make the physical condition of the people better. We all hope that they are going to succeed. The Socialist party in their time contributed to the physical condition of the people £100,000,000 to be spent on roads, railways and telephones. How muscular development is improved by using the telephone I do not know. The third wild swipe in their Amendment, to try to secure some attention to their statements, is that the physical condition of our citizens, of which they complain, though at the same time they recognise that the Government is improving it, is due to unemployment, low wages and malnutrition. That is so inaccurate that it is hardly worth while replying to, but I would draw attention to the fact that in the recent Olympic games the United States, with 11,500,000 unemployed, were first, and Germany was second. Wages are lower in Germany than in this country. Why, then, was Germany able to win so many contests at the Olympic Games?
The trouble with the Opposition is that they make exaggerated, ill-considered and sweeping statements with little relation to the truth. Just as their national campaign on the means test was a flop, so their national campaign in regard to the distressed areas will fail, because people will not contribute from their wages and salaries for the assistance of others unless they are convinced that the need exists, and that is exactly why there is a means test. As regard the Special Areas, we must all feel the same sympathy with those tragic parts of the country which have not yet come into line with the general march of the improvement that is taking place, but at the same time we know, and they should know, but they do not say anything about it, that even in the Special Areas conditions are becoming better because of the mere fact that industries which came South to get lower rates and better facilities are being driven back to the Special Areas because of the skilled men that they need for the increased trade that the country is doing.
632 I would ask the Socialist party one thing in regard to defence, which is mentioned in the Amendment. What are they aiming at? They know that the Army is 11,000 under strength and that a lower standard of physique has to be accepted, yet they use their influence, through their local councils and in public, to hinder recruiting. The trade unionists are the realists of their party and they know that a defence force has to go on if what they have won for their men is to be preserved. They are for adequate defence. The trade unions agree that the Army must be enlarged, but we cannot find men of the right physique. Are not hon. Members deliberately driving the country into universal service? It seems to me very likely. I should like the party to pause and think exactly what they are doing when they discourage recruiting and try to prevent us getting adequate money to put our defence forces into proper order.
I thank the Government for what they have done in creating an atmosphere of confidence and encouraging the large measure of prosperity which is attending their efforts. I ask the Socialist party, as a favour to the country and for some benefit to themselves, to study the old saying that "honesty is the best policy" and so create for themselves a standard of conduct which may be of some use to the country the next time they have a chance.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT MORRISON
I am sure I shall speak for all quarters of the House when I thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving us a very interesting and amusing quarter of an hour. We have listened to him with a great deal of pleasure. We are feeling in some ways more cheerful than when he began, even if in other ways we recognise that we have a long way to go before we make him understand what Socialism is and what it is not; but we will do our best. This Debate is about the social condition of the British people, and the way in which it may be improved and made secure. Running through the speeches that have been made on behalf of the Government are certain arguments which appear to be arguments in common both on the part of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench and those behind them, and the defence takes this form that, since what is known for some 633 curious reason as the National Government has been in office, trade has improved, that the development of social legislation is greater and more comprehensive than in any other country in the world and that, finally—it is in any case true—the standard of life in this country and conditions generally bear favourable comparison as a whole with those of any other country in the world and, that being so, there cannot be a legitimate and conclusive case against the capitalist system which has produced those conditions. That, I think, fairly summarises the case of the Government. Apart from their additional claim that they do not know what Socialism is, they have not had a definition of it given to them, and, in any case, they do not believe that it would work.
I want to examine as briefly as I can the argument of the Government in defence of the social order in which they believe, in which the Conservative party believe and which it is the primary purpose of the Conservative party to maintain. It is true—I do not want to boggle the fact—that the state of employment and the condition of British trade is better than it was some few years ago. I am not going to dispute it; it is always foolish to dispute facts. I agree, but I do not agree that that improvement in trade is accounted for by the actions and the policy of His Majesty's Government. I do not believe that trade under the capitalist system is made either entirely good or entirely bad as a result of the actions of governments. I believe that trade under a condition of private ownership and production not for social ends and purposes, but for private ends and purposes, must not entirely but to a considerable extent be outside the influence of governments, whether they are Labour or whether they are Conservative. Indeed, it is because of the fundamental anarchism of the capitalist system of producing wealth that I want to alter it, in order that the economy of our country, and the general production and the distribution of wealth, instead of being a series of accidents outside the effective control of the State and of the organs of public administration, should come within that control.
But even if it is the case that there is an improvement in trade and in employment, it is a characteristic which is 634 not true of this country alone but of many other countries as well. This has to be recognised. I suggest that hon. Gentlemen opposite do recognise it in their hearts, that there is nothing secure about this improvement of trade, and that, if the history of industry teaches us anything at all, it must teach us that, if we can be sure of one thing more than another, according to the industrial and economic history of the 19th century, it is that if we are passing through a relative state of trade boom—and I believe that that is what we are passing through—we can be sure that we are moving either sooner or later to a state of relative or absolute trade depression. That is not a very great defence for the capitalist system. It is not a defence to have a condition of boom, relatively speaking, one year and a condition of depression a few years afterwards. Surely, it is the case that there is hardly a political economist of repute who is not now guessing, calculating or trying to work out the time at which the trade depression will come.
Hon. Gentleman opposite know that trade depression will come; the only uncertainty is when it will come. If there is any continuance of political bad luck, I imagine that it will come about the time of the return of another Labour Government, though that will have nothing to do with it. [Laughter.] I hope hon. Members will permit me to have a joke. I am just talking about luck, and, as a matter of fact, it was luck in 1929. [Interruption.] Really, the hon. Gentleman opposite should not laugh, because it was admitted by Members who then sat on this Opposition Bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) put the point quite properly when he said that we had sailed into a world economic blizzard. When the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister came into office and trade continued to get worse during the first 12 or 18 months of the period of office of this Government, although his friends had been critical about the depression when we were in office and some of them had suggested that it was our fault, he said that it was the result of world causes, international causes outside the separate control of the British Government. Fundamentally I am not going to dispute the fact that that was a reasonable de- 635 fence. But are we to believe that political economy has such a principle of political spite against the Labour party? Do hon. Gentlemen opposite seriously believe that the laws of political economy and the policies of Labour and of Conservative Governments are such that, if a Conservative Government is in office, the depression is the result of international and world causes, and if a Labour Government is in office, it is the result of the policy of that separate individual Government? The thing is ridiculous. It may be good enough for Bournemouth, Streatham, Hampstead and places like that, and I expect it to be exploited on those lines, but it really is not good enough for the House of Commons, and it ought not to be good enough for anybody seriously interested in economic affairs.
So your better trade will be paid for by depression. That is the history of the working of the existing economic and social order, and unfortunately depression will in all probability come. If anything can be done to avoid it, nobody will be more pleased than we shall be, but history tells us that the relative boom will pass in due time, and that depression will come. But let us have a look at our relative boom. Let us see whether it is anything to write home about or to boast about. Let us see what kind of economic and social conditions the relative boom produces for the masses of the British people. After five years of office by a National Government who consider that they are the best possible Government, and that they are effectively solving the economic problem, and have given all these better conditions of which Ministers and hon. Members opposite have been boasting, they give us to-day over 1,500,000 of unemployed. It is a very big number, and it is not only 1,500,000 actually unemployed, but literally millions of others of the working and of the middle classes have a terrible feeling of economic insecurity which is almost as bad as, and in some ways worse than, the actual blow of unemployment itself. Moreover, it is the case that a large proportion of the working people who are employed receive wages which do not give them a reasonable standard of human comfort, which deny them even a reasonable minimum of the luxuries of life. It gives us 636 a physical condition of the people as the result of which the Secretary of State for War is complaining that a shockingly high proportion of potential recruits have to be rejected on grounds of physical unsuitability.
Notwithstanding this so - called prosperity and the long time the boasted capitalist system has operated, there are many slums throughout our country. It makes me a little tired that the Minister of Health should be claiming the credit for all the housing that has been carried out in the country, when he ought to know that in regard to a very large proportion of it the credit for better housing and slum clearance rests not upon His Majesty's Government but upon Labour local authorities and Labour councillors who, although in a minority, have shamed Tory majorities into action. [Laughter.] That statement is perfectly true. Hon. Members opposite may take the whole field of their social legislation and the whole field of the advances in the standard of municipal administration, and I say that the great bulk of it has not been done willingly by the Conservative party. They have been forced into it as the result of the pressure of public opinion, educated by the Labour party. They have done it for fear that if they did not do something the country would go Labour faster than it was going. In short, they have followed the old doctrine of dishing the Whigs; although in this case it is not the Whigs.
Large areas of our towns and our industrial districts are badly planned. There is a great deal of insecurity. Despite any defence that may be made about the situation of Jarrow and Merthyr, such as was made by the Minister of Labour to-night, this is a basic issue. Jarrow, fundamentally, has been hit because capitalism instead of promoting plentiful production and output has said to the town of Jarrow: "We are producing too much wealth, and you must stop it; we are going to close you down." That is the economic operation. It is a deliberate, conscious plan of restriction of the economic productivity of the shipbuilding industry. Do hon. Members tell me that the fundamental way to make a country rich is to diminish its industrial output? Where are the capitalist 637 economists of the nineteenth century who would urge such a doctrine? It was only a few years ago that there were posters on the walls, after the War, and Labour leaders were invited to sign them, urging more production in order to make the people better off; but to-day your economic system is in such a ramshackle state that Jarrow is the victim of an artificial, deliberate, conscious capitalist restriction of the production of wealth. It is the victim of capitalistic ca'canny. Hon. Members opposite cannot deny it.
What of the rise and fall of Merthyr? The Minister of Labour told us how in 1861 industry was attracted to Merthyr in great quantities, population was attracted there, but to-day the process is the other way. Industry has gone, employment has gone, economic depression has descended upon that town. Is it a rational system which brings expansion to a great industrial area and then condemns it to ruin? Expansion was brought to that borough, as a result of which the town spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on schools, drainage, highways and public buildings and now, after 70 years, the same system that made the town expand and be prosperous is condemning much of this social capital to lack of productivity by putting it out of use, and condemning a high proportion of the population of the town to poverty, unemployment and depression.
All this is happening under so-called prosperity. The facts are the Minister of Labour's facts. This is happening under conditions of better trade. It is happening under a capitalist boom. I say to the House with all the earnestness which I can command that a social order which in a time of relative boom in trade produces these conditions is a social order which in the light of our scientific knowledge should be condemned and transformed into a better social order as quickly as we can find time to do it, That is what we believe.
Now I come to social legislation. It has been pointed out that much of this social legislation is ambulance work, made necessary by the very system that hon. and right hon. Members opposite are advocating. At least three-quarters of unemployment benefit and Poor Law relief is that. As to the standard of this relief, there is always a row, and always 638 will be a row. I wish there were no need for Poor Law relief or any relief at all. None of us wants to have to administer it, and I am sure that the Minister of Labour wishes he had not the job and the anxiety of administering it. In the main, the necessity for this relief, destitution, is created by the social system that makes the destitution, and the only way out of the nasty problem that the Minister of Labour and the local authorities have to face in the administration of public assistance is to evolve a social order of security and comfort under which the dispensation of relief will no longer be substantially or systematically necessary as it is to-day.
While much of this social legislation is required because of the imperfections of capitalism, much of it also arises from the socialistic principle that the community must exercise some responsibility about the economic conditions of the people. It is argued that we are the finest country in the world, with all our deficiencies. It is not enough to say that we are the finest country in the world. I will not say that Great Britain is better than any other country, because that is perhaps going too far, but I certainly agree that in its social legislation and its social provision, outside the Soviet Union, which is not analogous for this purpose—[Laughter]—when time permits I am perfectly willing to argue about the Soviet Union with hon. Members. It is doing a better economic job for its country than you are doing for this country, relatively speaking. I leave out the Soviet Union, because it is not a fair comparison from our point of view, and I do not wish hon. Members opposite to be put at a disadvantage. I agree that of the big capitalist countries of the world, in social provision ours is the best, and I am proud that that should be so. I am still more proud of the fact that we of this party have had a big influence in making it so.
But we should be foolish to be satisfied because of that. I have given the House some indisputable economic facts, and I suggest that any hon. Member who is satisfied with these conditions and believes that notwithstanding these conditions we have the best social and economic order we possibly can have, is too modest about the situation, and is lacking in that proper degree of patriotism which wants to make Great Britain much finer and 639 much better than it is, to make it without disputation the finest and most glorious country in the civilised world. That is our ambition. Notwithstanding the fact that we have a good deal of social legislation and reform, and notwithstanding the proud boast of the Minister of Labour that already there has been expended by the Commissioners for the Special Areas 21,600,000, and that there is a contingent committal of £7,000,000. What a revolutionary action on the part of the Ministry of Labour ! We cannot be content with the present situation. I seem to remember that the right hon. Gentleman, when sitting below the Gangway used to attack the Labour Government, although it was spending millions and millions more than £7,000,000. He scorned us for not doing more. He was once almost a left-winger. I never knew who was the most trouble to the Labour Government, the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). Now the right hon. Gentleman who used to taunt us with not doing enough, comes to the House, a Liberal, and says, "We are bold and brave. Our Special Commissioner has already incurred an expenditure of £1,600,000." We voted almost that sum last week at the London County Council for housing alone. The right hon. Gentleman says that there is a contingent liability of £7,000,000. Really, it is childish in relation to the problem of the Special Areas.
Let me submit to the House a series of economic and financial facts which cannot be disputed, facts which have been admitted in Conservative newspapers and by Conservative politicians. One is that the productive powers of labour, the productive powers of industry, are enormously greater, unrecognizably greater, than they were 100 years ago. That is not disputed. Secondly, that we are so plentiful in our production that we have already reached the point of a false satiety. We have not only got poverty in the midst of plenty but we have poverty directly as the result of plenty. The agricultural labourer in our own and other lands is underfed and under-nourished, not because there is not food enough, but, on the contrary, because there is too much food. The late Minister of Agriculture, the present Secretary of State for Scotland, 640 has been spending quite a lot of his time in restricting output.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Elliot) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. MORRISON
Let us not be too hard upon the right hon. Gentleman. After all, he is but a poor capitalist politician. But these things have happened all over the world in every capitalist country. America under its capitalist system was at one and the same moment having long queues of destitute men waiting for bread whilst the Federal Government in Washington was paying farmers public money not to grow food. These are indisputable facts. We ourselves throw fish back into the sea.
§ Mr. MORRISON
The denial of the Secretary of State for Scotland is amazing. Have we not read in our newspapers of fish being dumped into the sea—I do not say by the order of the right hon. Gentleman—because otherwise the price level was disturbed?
§ Mr. MORRISON
Then we must agree to differ. Why should the newspapers report these things if they did not happen? It is the case all over the world that production is restricted and wealth is even destroyed, quite intelligibly within the capitalist system, for the purpose of preserving the price level. Plenteousness means that the price level goes. We have poverty not only in the midst of plenty but as the direct result of plenty. There is in existence an idle rich class which is relatively secure, and a productive working and middle class which is always relatively insecure. Millions of them experience unemployment from time to time. These are economic facts, and they are not disputed except by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
What is the matter? It is this. Individual men have invented things. The Minister of Labour was almost complaining of the speed and the intensity of scientific invention. It comes along with such speed that it is bound to be a disturbing factor in industry. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right, and I can understand his concern. The genius of man has increased enormously the productivity of labour, but—and this is the 641 kernel of the whole business—the ownership of these increased means of production is not a social ownership but a capitalist ownership; it is an individual ownership, an ownership within industries which splits ownership among hundreds and thousands of separate proprietors. It is an ownership which in management has no social purpose but seeks the private and personal advantage of those who own the means of production. Consequently, there being no social purpose in production, no public purpose, it follows that the more productive we become, the greater the output there is, as long as the output is for the economic advantage of the owning classes and as long as it is without plan or national supervision, it is bound to accentuate the economic problem, and to intensify sooner or later the economic insecurity arid employment insecurity of the British people.
For that reason we say—and we are very patriotic when we say it—it is time that Great Britain belonged to the British people. [An HON. MEMBER: "It does."] If Great Britain already belongs to all the British people, there can be no objection to our passing a small Act of Parliament one day next week, when we have an hour, saying that that is the case. [An HON. MEMBER: "Everybody has the opportunity to buy shares."] The hon. Member who said that forgets that it is not much good telling the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) to buy shares. That recalls an incident in history—if you have not got bread, buy shares. We and the Government ought to be deliberately, consciously and with all practicable speed—I know it cannot be done in a week-end or a happy fortnight—moving towards the public ownership of the soil of Great Britain and the public ownership of all the great industries in Great Britain with a view to their effective and efficient management in the national interest and for the public good. [Interruption.] The conceited self-satisfaction of hon. Members opposite about the management of private industry is positively amazing. Is their iron and steel industry efficiently managed? Are the British railways even yet efficiently managed under private ownership? Will they compare for 642 efficiency with the management of the telephones and broadcasting under public ownership? It is really a case of hon. Members opposite putting their heads in the sand when they assume that, because they are on a board of directors, the show is well run. Just as right hon. Gentlemen opposite are largely dependent upon very efficient civil servants for the running of their offices, so are hon. Members opposite who are directors of companies dependent upon the expert brains which they employ. We say that the State can employ these brains, that the public corporations we can organise can employ these brains, that the municipal economic undertakings can buy these brains—and do buy them—and very good brains a high proportion of them are—and that the cooperative societies, in so far as they make their contribution, can do the same. It is preposterous to assume that only a capitalist undertaking can employ bright brains. They can be employed by the community just as effectively as, and even more effectively than, they can be employed under private ownership.
When these things are owned communally, when they are owned by public authorities, and planned and managed for the public good, then, and only then, in our judgment, can the advantages of the increased productivity of labour be shared among the whole people. If it be the case, in those circumstances, that science and machinery enable us to produce more, then we can reduce hours of labour, we can increase the reward of labour, or we can spend the surplus in destroying some of the more miserable of our towns and redeveloping them and making them beautiful and a credit to the country as a whole. That is not an unholy ambition. We believe it is a proper ambition. We believe it is the only way in which economic security can be brought to the masses of the British people. In short, we want the nation to be master of its economic resources.
At the moment a large proportion of the population are almost the slaves or victims of technical improvement and economic development under private ownership. We believe that the system under which we are working at present is a system which inevitably means poverty and insecurity for the masses of the people. It may mean riches, comfort, and security for the few. We be- 643 lieve that it is because it does mean riches, comfort and security for the privileged few that the Conservative party exists to defend that wrong and bad system of society. That is the cleavage between us. We think of the needs and the interests of the masses of our fellow-countrymen while the Conservative party thinks about the privileges and advantages of a few of our fellow-countrymen. It is, we believe, the political instrument of the rich and the privileged in the land and for that it exists. So, the fight will continue and the issue will be determined by a people who will have to choose between the nation becoming the master and controller of its economic life, or the victim of a haphazard system, that has meant repeatedly poverty, misery, and insecurity for the masses of our people.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Simon)
The official Amendment to the Address tabled by the Opposition at the beginning of every Session is, of course, designed to define the fundamental issues which divide the two sides of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has clearly indicated that there is some fundamental issue which he wishes to raise, and I gather that there is some solution which he would like to apply. But I am just as much at a loss to understand now, after the closing passage of his speech, what exactly it is that he wants to raise, as I was previously. I may remind the House that in the course of the speech made on Friday by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland), a very interesting speech if I may say so, he hazarded early in the Debate the speculation that the reason why the official Opposition put down an Amendment in these terms was really because "hon. Members above the Gangway are not agreed upon any immediate practical step," and, therefore, they wished to raise in the widest and vaguest form the issue of Socialism.
We have no reason at all to complain of that, and if the House will allow me, in the short time that remains, I will do my best to examine some of these propositions. I note, first of all, in the Amendment a concession for which everybody ought to be grateful. The language of the Amendment concedes that there is an improvement in trade. It is curious 644 to recall how many different positions have been adopted on this subject by hon. Members opposite during the last few years. First of all, when their figures went to show that there really was an improvement in trade, they denied it altogether, and not only that, but they declared that there never would be a revival of trade, and that we could never hope to recover. The next stage was that we were told that the reason why the figures looked better was because the Minister of Labour had arranged them in a new way, that there was some sort of trick about it. Next we were told that, after all, it was merely an inevitable and automatic share in a general world improvement. Then came the explanation that it was all due to the building boom, and now, at this very late stage, we are informed that the real explanation is the programme for defence.
Of course, it is obvious to everybody that in point of fact this improvement, whatever may be the cause of it—and I certainly do not claim that the whole merit of it rests with the politicians—does exist. And I am sure we all, in all parts of the House, are equally glad that it is so and that there is at present a considerable indication that trade is substantially improving. Then, it seems to me, the right hon. Gentleman opposite makes a very odd assumption. He warns us that this period of improvement in trade may be followed by a decline. It is said by those who moved the Amendment that they fear that this improvement may be only temporary. Well, most things are only temporary. But what is the ground for supposing that, if we were transformed to-morrow morning, say, into a Socialist State, somehow or other that fact would secure that the improvement in trade should be everlasting? I do not myself in the least understand what is supposed to be the connection between the establishment of this rather vague and visionary new order of society and the permanent assurance of good trade to this country for ever and ever.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who moved the Amendment on Friday, told us that he wanted to bring the House of Commons to consider the fundamental question. He said that what we wanted to accept was a fundamental change in the basis of society in order to create the 645 Socialist commonwealth. It may be a misfortune on my part to feel, but there are a great many people who are not violent partisans about this who also feel—that it is an enormous assumption, perfectly unproved, that this recipe, this rigid simple formula of nationalisation of all the means of production, distribution and exchange is somehow or other going to bring to this country or to the world so surprising, so well-established and so certain a transformation for the better. Certain improvements have admittedly taken place.
May I refer to one comment made by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. E. Dunn), who made a speech which everybody will recognise to be a real debating speech? He took the speeches that had previously been made and examined them, and everyone must admire that performance. May I correct a mistake which he made but which I am sure he would not like to go out? He caught the figure which had been given by the Minister of Labour, namely, £365,000, as the weekly increase to date in 1936 in wages, and he assumed that if he could divide that by 11,000,000, or whatever the figure of insured persons employed is, he would get the average weekly increase per person. That is not correct arithmetic. He said something very amusing about the former Minister of Labour being appointed to the Ministry of Education because, as he thought, he had made a mistake in arithmetic in another connection. The hon. Member's arithmetic is not right either. The reason is that the figures which were published in the "Labour Gazette," and which gave the increase of £365,000 in weekly wages so far this year, are not the figures for the whole of the employed wage-earning population, but cover only certain industries which make regular returns to the Ministry of Labour. He will find that the figure represented by the returns is just over 3,000,000 workpeople. Consequently, if we are to do the arithmetic, the conclusion is, so far as these figures are concerned, not an increase of 7d., but an increase of something like 2s. 2d. a week. It is desirable to mention that and, while the point sounded very attractive, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the reason for the correction.
May I put to the House, with every desire to speak reasonably and fairly of 646 things with which I do not agree, a difficulty which some of us find in this general argument? It seems to me that the whole argument put from the other side involves two fallacies, or, at any rate, two assumptions, which no prudent man will accept as true. The first assumption, which was inherent in the speech of the right hon. Member for Wakefield, and has appeared in the speeches of hon. Members supporting this Amendment, seems to be that because there are, undoubtedly, instances in which the municipalisation of some service or the public ownership of some form of industry proves to be successful, therefore it has been made clear that the application of what is called Socialism can be wisely and safely made over the whole field of industry. It may be so or it may not be so, but I earnestly beg that we should consider whether that is, in fact, a sound argument.
§ Mr. H. MORRISON
I think the right hon. Gentleman is rather missing the point. The illustration I gave was for the purpose of refuting the idea, generally held by hon. Members opposite, that a public authority cannot efficiently manage any enterprise. The examples given were put forward to prove that that is not true.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I was referring particularly to what had been said at the beginning of the Debate by the right hon. Member for Wakefield. I should never suggest, and I do not think there would be many people in this House who would suggest, that there is nothing which the London County Council, for example, can manage properly. What I do say is that there is no sound argument to be based on this view, that because there are some things which are well managed under a system of State ownership or municipal control, therefore everything would be. I do not see that that argument follows at all. It is sometimes said that whenever you do get a case of municipalisation or State control, there you have got Socialism. That is the sense in which Sir William Harcourt said long ago "We are all Socialists now." I do not know of anybody who does not at once admit that there are cases in which this is the best system, but the real question is not whether in some selected cases—the list may perhaps be extended—it is the best, but the perfectly different one 647 of whether or not it is a sound principle to say that you should extend over the whole field of industry and of trade this abolition of private enterprise, this ending of competition, and substitute for it a system of State ownership or State control.
The right hon. Member who moved the Amendment even went so far as to say that whilst it was a Socialist principle that, there should be State administration of these things, it was a curious fact that, really and truly, the application of this principle had almost invariably been made by Liberals or Conservatives. The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Herbert Morrison) claimed—I hope he will forgive me for saying, without any foundation—that in the great majority of these cases it was due to the action of himself and his friends. Perhaps hon. Members will listen to these words of the right hon. Member for WakefieldIt is not a new principle.That is, the Socialist principle.The principle of public ownership, while it has always been part of the theoretical basis of the policy of my friends on this side of the House, in practice has almost invariably been brought into being by people of the respectable political parties."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1936; col. 403, Vol. 317.]On this first point, all I ask is that the House should realise that in discussing this issue we do not want to falsify it. If the question is simply whether there is some case or other—and more cases than now—in which you may substitute State ownership or State control for private enterprise, that is a perfectly fair question for discussion and debate, and a good many people might be disposed to go with you in this case or in that. But that is not the real point and it is not the real point of this Amendment. The real point of this Amendment is, Is it or is it not a wise proposition that, over the whole field of industry and trade, over the whole field of production and distribution and exchange in this island, there should be a wholesale application of the Socialist doctrine? This, it seems to me, is the first fallacy that is involved in a great deal of public argument on this subject.
The second, which I think hon. Gentlemen may not have considered as maturely as I think they should, is that it seems to be assumed that, if you 648 can apply this Socialist method over certain selected parts of the whole field, you can equally apply it to the whole field; whereas I believe it can be shown very simply that the success with which you can apply it in certain cases depends upon its being applied in a society which, in other respects, preserves the stimulus of private competition. Let me give a very simple instance. You may have, of course, some particular enterprise which is managed by public ownership but which does not make a profit. I am not going to say that municipal enterprises do not make a profit; some of them do. There are many services which are taken over by the State because the State thinks they must be maintained, even though they do not make a profit. You have to keep them going by subsidies. It may be that the people engaged in those industries continue to be employed, even though the things which they produce cannot be sold in the market. All that is quite possible. How can you do it? You can do that only if you give support to that industry out of public funds. You can do it only if you leave private property, and if you leave private enterprise to fructify and produce a source of taxation.
You cannot proceed to go over the whole field and take one thing after another until they have all gone, and then expect that the rich people of this country will still be there to be taxed, and that you will still be able to subsidise those industries as a result of taxes laid on private property. [Interruption.] That consideration may be novel to some hon. Gentlemen, but in all good temper I would really invite them to consider it. At the present we are spending something like £350,000,000 a year upon social services, and we raise a revenue of £800,000,000. How is it done? A very large part of it is raised because the rich man is required to pay, and I think quite rightly, out of his private pocket, about 50 per cent.—
§ Sir J. SIMON
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to put my point. When the rich man dies, his estate will bear, and quite rightly, a burden of 40 or 50 per cent. I heard the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D, Grenfell) say just now that he was working for an ideal in 649 which they would abolish the system which involved the enrichment of individuals. Let me look at that statement. Suppose that you established a system which abolished Altogether the enrichment of individuals; how are you going to tax them? It is perfectly obvious that you cannot. It is a fallacy, and I think that it is a very serious fallacy to suppose that because, in certain cases, you can apply this principle, therefore you can apply it over the whole range of industry.
I take another point. Is it a fair accounts of the effects of the so-called capitalist system, as it has existed here, at any rate, for the last 200 years, to attribute to it this long list of evils and not to recognise that it has been accompanied by an immense raising of the level of life in all sorts of directions? It does not seem to be a fair account of what the system has done. I am perfectly willing to listen to those who believe that it can be modified and who have suggestions to make, but it is not encouraging to begin by listening to this denunciation, much of which, it seems to me, does not state the fair balance-sheet of the matter. If you take the facts which were put before the House early on Friday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health—the improvement in the standard of life, the lengthening of the average age of life, the enormous increase of our social services, the undoubted improvement, when all has been said and clone, in the condition of things as compared with what they were—is it quite reasonable to attribute everything which remains unsatisfactory, and which we should like to see improved, to the wicked influence of Capitalism, and every improvement that has taken place to something which is not Capitalism at all? It does not seem to me to be a fair statement.
I will give an example. The right hon. Gentleman referred to overcrowding. I think it is fair to say that overcrowding is being very effectively dealt with, but I do not admit that overcrowding conditions in the centre of towns are the inevitable concomitant of a capitalist system. I should have thought that a fairer account would be that they had arisen in the old towns of England very largely because of the impotence of local authorities long ago, and their want of control of town planning. I should have 650 thought, also, that another great factor was the slowly developing social conscience, which recognises that that was a state of things which should not be permitted and which could be prevented. But I cannot see the smallest connection between this denunciation of Capitalism and dealing effectively with town planning. No one who has ever seen Bournville or Port Sunlight could ever seriously suggest that the two things are necessarily connected.
Then I put this question to myself: It seems to be assumed that, if we were willing to go in for this transformation, somehow or other we should be quite certain to secure continuous effective employment and trade such as we can never secure under any other system. Why? How are public ownership and State control going to increase the effective demand for commodities and services; and, in particular, how are they going to increase the export market? Is it really supposed that that will be so? There may be a case in which you have to face all the risks and adopt this modified system, but those who suggest, with no more material than has been put before the House in this Debate, that we should rush to do this over the whole field of industry, seem to be taking a very great responsibility. As regards the export trade, and there are many Members in all parts of the House who know it very well, its carrying on depends on the constant exercise of the finest judgment on shipping and values, insurance and transport, supply, and all the rest of it. In other connections we are always being told that we should not discuss abstract things, but the things which affect men's lives. Surely, the lives and homes and fortunes of hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens depend on our not playing silly tricks with our export trade.
I should like to put one other point, which is never mentioned by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but which impresses me very deeply. It seems to me that the price of adopting this system is the sacrifice of reasonable personal liberty. I know very well that sometimes we have to accept some restrictions; there may be something of the kind that will be accepted in a Bill that is now coming on. Let me give an instance—the right to strike. I do not myself see how, if this all-over Socialist system were estab- 651 lished, that right could survive. How is the exercise of a man's right to say whether he will work for his employer consistent with the sole employer being the community? I cannot see how it is, unless it be held that this new system is going to produce such a paradise that no one will ever want to take such an attitude again.
How under this imaginary system can there be any opportunity for the expression through the Press of free opinion? Every newspaper, even the "Daily Herald," is a capitalist newspaper. You cannot start a newspaper except with capital. Is it to be supposed that capital is going to be provided by a Socialist Government for people to be able to circulate, every day, violent attacks on them? As far as there is any anology—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we must not push analogies too far—I do not know any case where this system has been thoroughly tried where it has been possible to maintain a free Press. I heard somebody say, "We shall have the B.B.C." That is all very well as far as it goes. What I mean by a free Press is not the supply of some careful, tepid balanced account, but all the fierce attack and counter-attack which we know goes on in our newspapers to-day. I cannot see how that is to be secured by adopting the Opposition's proposal.
There comes at last this practical point. It is all very well wishing for the moon. It is all very well to describe what wonderful things are going to happen when you get there. How do you get there? [An HON. MEMBER: "Orders in Council !"] In the old days when there was a great Debate on this general subject, in 1923 I think, when Lord Snowden was the protagonist on one side and Sir Alfred Mond on the other, I recollect that we were assured that the great thing was that it would all happen quite slowly. The great phrase was that we might rely on the "inevitability of gradualness." The "inevitability of gradualness" has gone, and we know now that they intend to do it if they get the chance, as quickly as possible by passing an Emergency Powers Bill and by Orders in Council. [Interruption.] The abolition of Capitalism sounds very well if presented in those rolling sentences with which the right hon. Gentleman 652 finished his speech, but, after all, the abolition of Capitalism ignores the fact that most of the capitalists in this country are very humble people. As a result of their own thrift they have accumulated their savings and made small investments. Let me comfort the hon. Member by giving him a quotation from his own leader:One of the facts we have got to face is that the workers in some ways are more concerned about their little investments than some of the capitalists are about theirs.No doubt that was the reason why the right hon. Gentleman gave the advice to the Socialist party, in order to avoid frightening people too much, that the best thing would be to declare that they would pay "fair compensation" but, as some of us remember, he went on to explain that, as soon as a Socialist Government were "masters of the economic fabric of the community and of the means of production and distribution," then would be the time "to take the big decision" and to make "a clean sweep." All this was before the country a year ago, and there was much argument on one side and the other, and the country took the view, I think, that they did not desire to try this experiment. As was said in an admirable speech to-night, it is stupid not to recognise what has been done by the capitalist system but it is dangerous not to have regard to what remains to be done. As for us, we were elected and put into power to pursue practical plans for the improvement of the people and to resist the nebulous and impracticable ideas which the Opposition advanced and which the country rejected. In those circumstances I do not feel any doubt that those who were elected on that basis will reject this Amendment and support the Government.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
We have heard from the Home Secretary a very interesting dialectical speech. If what he has said is correct, that the country is more prosperous now than it was a few years ago, Members on this side of the House want to know why the National Government perpetuates the means test. If unemployment is tending to be reduced week by week, how is it that the Government impose the means test upon those who are most defenceless and have been idle for a period of years?
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."654
§ The House divided: Ayes, 125; Noes, 369.657
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Potts, J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hardie, G. D.||Price, M. P.|
|Alexander. Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Henderson, A. (Kingtwinford)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Quibell. D. J. K.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hicks, E. G.||Ridley, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hopkin, D.||Ritson, J.|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Bellenger, F.||Jenkins, Sir w. (Neath)||Rowson, G.|
|Benson, G.||John, W.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Bevan, A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Shinwell. E.|
|Brooke, W.||Kelly, W. T.||Silkin, L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Kirby, B. V.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Buchanan, G,||Kirkwood, D.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Cape, T.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Chater, D.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R,||Lee, F.||Sorensen, R, W.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leonard, W.||Stephen, c.|
|Cove, W. G.||Logan, D. G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-sp'ng)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lunn, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Daggar, G.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McEntee, V. La T.||Thorne, W.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McGhee, H. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, H.||McGovern, J.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobble, W.||MacLaren, A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Walker, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mathers, G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Maxton, J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Messer, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner. Major J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Muff, G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Oliver, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Paling, W.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Charleton.|
|Groves, T. E.||Parker, J.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Brass, Sir W.||Colfox, Major W. P.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S.G'gs)|
|Apsley, Lord||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Bull, B. B.||Craddock, Sir R. H.|
|Assheton, R.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Burghley, Lord||Critchley, A.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Burton, Col. H. W.||Crooke, J. S.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Butler, R. A.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Caine, G. R. Hall-||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Cross, R. H.|
|Baineil, Lord||Cartland, J. R. H.||Crossley, A. C.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Carver, Major W. H.||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Cary, R. A.||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Culverwell, C. T.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Davies, C. (Montgomery)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.)||Davison, Sir W. H.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||De Chair, S. S.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Channon, H.||De la Bére, R.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Denville, Alfred|
|Boulton, W. W.||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Christie, J. A.||Dodd, J. S.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Clarke, F. E.||Doland, G, F.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Dormer, P. W.|
|Bracken, B.||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.|
|Drewe, C.||Jackson, Sir H.||Procter, Major H. A,|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||James, Wing-commander A. W.||Purbrick, R.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Jarvis. Sir J. J.||Radford. E A.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Ramsbotham. H.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Keeling, E. H.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Dunne, P. R. R.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Rankin, R,|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Kerr, I. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Edge, Sir W.||Kimball, L.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Remer, J. R.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Latham, Sir P.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Emery, J. F.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Leckie, J. A.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Entwistle. C. F.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Errington, E.||Lees-Jones, J.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Erskine Hill, A. G.||Leigh, Sir J.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rowlands, G.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Everard, W. L.||Lewis, O.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Liddall, W. S.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Fleming, E. L,||Llewellln, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Foot, D. M.||Lloyd, G. W.||Salt. E. W.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Furness, S. N.||Lyons, A. M.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sandys, E. D.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Savery, Servington|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Macdonald. Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Scott, Lord William|
|Gledhill, G.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||McKie, J. H.||Selley, H. R.|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Goodman, Col. A. W.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Macquisten, F. A.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Granville, E. L.||Magnay, T.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Maitland, A.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st),|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Makins, Brig.-Gen, E.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Markham, S. F.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Maxwell, S. A.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Somerset, T.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Sumervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Mills. Major J. D. (New Forest)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Spens, W. P.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Morgan, R. H,||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Harbord, A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Clr'nc'st'r)||Storey, S.|
|Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Munro, P.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Neven-Spence, Ma). B. H. H.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F,|
|Hepworth, J.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Owen, Major G.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Patrick, C. M.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Peake, O.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Holmes, J. S.||Peat, C. U.||Touche, G. C.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Penny, Sir G.||Train, Sir J.|
|Hopkinson, A.||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Perkins. W. R. D.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Petherick, M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Pilkington. R.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Plugge, L. F.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Warrender. Sir V.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Porritt, R. W.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Hunter, T.||Power, Sir J. C||Wayland. Sir W. A.|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Wells, S. R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.||Wragg, H.|
|Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Williams, C. (Torquay)||Wise, A. R.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Willoughby do Eresby, Lord||Womersley, Sir W. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wilson. Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley||Captain Margesson and Sir James Blindell.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. KELLY rose—
§ It being after Eleven, of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.