§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The House has had to deal with successive Unemployment Insurance Bills since the introduction of the first Measure in 1920, some of them of greater importance than this Bill. But I hesitate to say that this is not an important Bill because every Unemployment Insurance Bill, whether it is a major Measure or not is important as affecting that section of the community to which it applies. This is not one of the major Measures like some of those which we have had in past years, but I think it is a Bill which, on the whole, will be welcomed by the House and the country. It is another indication of the variety of work which is possible under our system of social services and the diversity of the character of the work carried out by the Ministry of Labour. It is another instalment in the improvement of our social services. It does two or three useful things in that direction, and there is one important consideration in connection with it which, I think, is unique. I believe I am the first Minister of Labour to come to the House with a Bill containing a Clause which affects the debt, and which proposes to give the statutory committee extended powers of borrowing, not because the debt has grown rapidly, but because there is at the moment, and there is likely to be next year, as far as we can see, a large and increasing balance. I use the word "balance" because the word "surplus" is used casually, and is apt to mislead and, indeed, confuse. The post-war insurance problem became acute in 1921. I do not know of any previous occasion when the Minister of Labour of any party has had to face a problem such as that of which there is a solution in this particular Bill, and to which we ask the House to agree.
The Bill falls into four parts. I need not say much about three of them, because I think they will be agreed to generally. I know that there is an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill, 2290 but I rather gather that it is put on the Paper not so much as a frontal attack on what is in the Bill, but for the purpose of raising other issues germane to insurance. The right hon. Gentleman opposite may disabuse me later, but that is what I suspected when I read the terms of the Amendment. I observed this morning when reading the news on the poster of the Opposition's principal journal the announcement, "Coupon Filling made Easy," and I was confirmed in my view that there was no great excitement about the actual proposals of the Bill, as there would have been if there had been real feeling against those proposals. Clauses 1 and 6 carry out the recommendations of those very powerful and admirable bodies, the National Advisory Councils on Juvenile Employment, with regard to three things. I would have said very little about that but for the phrase in the first sentence of the Amendment. The Amendment says:Whilst this House welcomes the belated recognition that many unemployed juveniles are suffering from lack of foodI will say a few words about that, because I think that the phrase as it stands is liable to a good deal of misconstruction. The junior instruction centres are recognised by all who have studied the problem of juvenile unemployment and its social effects as most excellent institutions, admirably run by the local higher education authorities, with the close cooperation and the financial assistance of the Ministry of Labour. The answer to a general statement of the kind found in the Amendment is of course that the National Advisory Councils did not make their statement in these terms at all. They discussed the question of under-nourished children. They went to the centres and brought to bear their own experience in administration—they are very representative and very powerful bodies—and they said in their reports what I shall now state. The report of the council for England and Wales said that they had come to the conclusion that there was a certain number of under-nourished children. The Scottish report made a similar statement in not quite the same form; they said that after their investigation, on balance they had come to the conclusion that there was a certain number of under-nourished children.
Perhaps I may be able to put the problem as I see it after having visited about 2291 one-third of the 175 junior instruction centres in the last 2½ years. There are now in Great Britain 175 centres, and of these 139 are in England and Wales and 36 in Scotland. Many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House and hon. Members opposite have taken a close interest in the work of their local centres, and they will agree with me that it is a very heartening thing to inspect and take an interest in the daily work of the centres. That is so whether it is a magnificent centre like that of Glasgow, which I was able to visit the other day, or that in the coalfields of Lanark, where at Burn-bank there are 500 boys and nearly 300 girls; or that in Liverpool, where there is a centre in which I take a particular interest because they did me the honour of calling it by my name. It is a most admirable centre and typical of the way in which this work is done. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ernest Brown Centre."] Yes, Ernest Brown; it is a very good name surely, and it has the advantage that at times it is not known whether the name is Scottish or English. As my Scottish friends know, that is sometimes an advantage. Then there is an admirable centre at Doncaster, and another in Cardiff, both of which I have seen. No one can go to any of these centres without being struck by the fact that the standard of the young people is very remarkable in this sense—that so many of the centres are in areas that have suffered badly from heavy unemployment, and yet the findings of the National Advisory Councils is that it is not true to say that the overwhelming majority of these young people suffer at all from under-nourishment, or lack of food. What I have quoted from the council's reports is confirmed by my own investigations. It is true, however, that there are some children who give evidence of lack of nourishment.
The councils recommended three things: First of all that enabling powers should be given to the higher education authorities on lines precisely similar to those enjoyed by the elementary education authorities for the provision of meals. This Bill gives that enabling power.
The Ministry of Labour itself made an interesting experiment in its adult physical exercise classes for unemployed men. For the last couple of years we have been conducting in various parts of the country most successful physical 2292 training classes for adult men. They are much appreciated and very successful. One of the items that has been most helpful is that during a break in the middle of the morning the men are provided with milk and biscuits free. In the investigation of these centres, in making comparisons with the junior instruction centres, members of the National Advisory Councils were struck with the good effects which this provision produced. They recommended in their reports that in addition to giving the higher education authorities power to provide meals on the same terms as those enjoyed by elementary education authorities in the elementary schools, that in the juvenile instruction centres the authorities should have power to provide free milk and biscuits with an appropriate grant from the Government. That is in Clause 1.
The third recommendation applies only to Scotland, because at the moment the English and Welsh authorities have the power not merely to have medical inspections but to give medical treatment and there is no such power in Scotland. What we propose in Clause 6 is to bring the law with regard to juvenile instruction centres into conformity with the law with regard to children attending schools. That is the first set of propositions in the Bill, and I believe that the proposals will be welcomed, even if there may be Members opposite who think that they ought to go a good deal further than they do. The proposals carry out the recommendations of the advisory councils, and I believe they will be welcomed by all the superintendents and teachers who conduct these centres with such amazing skill and understanding of young unemployed life.
The second part of the Bill, Clause 2, is of a very different character. I believe it also will find general acceptance in the House and in the country. When I had the honour of introducing unemployment insurance for agricultural workers a number of my hon. and Noble Friends made the suggestion that it was time to consider the question not merely of the agricultural workers in rural areas but of the whole circumstances of the employment of outdoor domestic servants. Special emphasis was laid by the Noble Lady the Member for West Perth (Duchess of Atholl) upon the desirability of trying to 2293 include the gamekeeper and the groom and other classes of outdoor domestic servants. I remitted this problem to the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee for their consideration. They have had it under investigation for some time and have come to four conclusions: One, that, as is shown in the Report that is in the hands of hon. Members, the private chauffeur ought to be insured. But it is not necessary to include him in the Bill because we already have powers to do by regulation what is necessary to bring him under the general industrial scheme, and that I propose to do as early as the House will allow me to do it.
With regard to the other classes, the thing was much more complicated, because there is such a wide variety of circumstances. There are 13,000 gamekeepers and 12,000 grooms who ought to be insured under the agricultural scheme, and it is recommended that that should be done. It is proposed to do that in this Bill. The fourth recommendation is more miscellaneous. It is calculated, as far as investigations have gone, that some 5,000 other outdoor domestic servants of all kinds, boatmen, lodge-keepers, gatekeepers and a whole series that I need not enumerate at length, ought also to be drawn in under the agricultural workers' scheme, but the Statutory Committee are not satisfied that their information about them is sufficient to give the Government a clear line on the subject. But in advance of that, just as the Minister has power, under the general Act, to bring in classes akin to these by regulation under the industrial scheme, so I ask in the Bill for general power to bring these other classes of domestic servants in by regulation, of course with the approval of the House.
That is the second proposition in the Bill. The third I will leave until last, because it concerns an interesting proposal about extended powers on a recommendation to be given by the Statutory Committee for the Treasury to make advances to the Unemployment Fund when required, if payments have been made out of the reserves of the Fund in reduction of the debt. Before I deal with that I will just mention the other propositions in Clause 5. The normal rule for ex-regulars who serve their time in any of the Forces is that a contribution is credited to them for each week of ser- vice in the Forces; it is piled up for their 2294 benefit when they are discharged. But this has never applied to men who on their own account or at the request of others leave the Forces before they have fulfilled their full time. Such men have had no credit, and there are numbers of hon. Members who have recommended to successive Ministers of Labour that this is an anomaly that should be removed, while some have said that it is an injustice which ought to be put right.
Clause 5 proposes to do that in this way: In future those who leave the Services on their own account or as the result of conviction by a court will have their contributions credited according to their weeks of pay and will get the advantage of those contributions if they should unfortunately become unemployed later on. But there are two exceptions, and they are these: If a soldier is dismissed the Service on account of conviction, in either a military or a civil court, he will be subject to a period of disallowance somewhat similar to that imposed in the case of a civilian—not quite, because in the case of the civilian it varies—of six weeks, approximating as far as we can the law with regard to the civil insured person and the military insured person under penalty for misconduct. The other exception is this: We do not propose to give these contributions, under Clause 5 of the Bill, either to those who fraudulently enlist or to those who desert. That proposition also, I think, will be generally acceptable to the House.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "fraudulently"? Does he mean mis-stating age and things of that sort?
§ Mr. Brown
No. I mean "fraudulently" as that term is used in military criminal law, that is, as I understand it. Now may I bring the House to the problem of the debt and the balance, dealt with in Clauses 3 and 4? It is indeed a pleasure for any Minister of Labour to shave to deal with an unemployment situation which does not mean asking Parliament to provide more money. The outcome up to the moment, as far as we can see, under the new arrangements of the Act of 1934 has been thoroughly good, good from the point of view of the nation and from the point of view of the insured contributor, good from the point of view 2295 of all who have to administer unemployment insurance and especially in regard to the solvency of the Fund and the balance of contributions and benefits.
May I recall to Members' memory, in a sentence or two, what the arrangement is? The arrangement under Part I is that there is a Statutory Committee, with Sir William Beveridge as chairman. They have several duties, but the major one is this, that at the end of every calendar year they make a report to the Government and to this House. That report must show the state of the Fund, and they must determine, in the light of their information, what the deficit, on the one hand, or the balance, on the other, is at that moment. They are then under statutory duty, after hearing evidence from all persons likely to be affected, to propose such alterations in the finances of the Fund, either by way of increase or reduction of contributions or alteration of benefits, as will produce a state of solvency in the Fund. Then the Government, through the Minister, must either accept the recommendations of the Statutory Committee or, if they do not, the Minister must come down to the House, state his reasons to the House, and propose alternative suggestions, either, in the unhappy case of a deficit, to meet the deficit or, as has been my happy case, to use the disposable surplus decided by the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee as not being required to maintain solvency.
The House will remember that in February last the Committee made a report on last year's working. I need not trouble hon. Members with details of the interesting paragraphs, in that Committee's report of February last, on the debt, but the gist of the matter is that the Committee reported that there was a considerable balance in the fund. They reported also that there was an anomaly, and the anomaly was this: Having regard to the rate of interest and redemption on the debt, then standing at about £105,000,000, and having regard to the fact that they had then nearly £40,000,000 in the bank, if they recommended to the Government, and the Government accepted the recommendation, that in addition to the £5,000,000 a year now paid regularly under the funding arrangement ending 1971, any part of the disposable surplus should be allocated to the reduction of 2296 debt, the only effect of that would be to shorten the years by the amount so recommended; so that if, in addition to the £5,000,000, they had recommended, for the sake of illustration, paying off £10,000,000 extra out of the disposable surplus which they might have had, the only difference would be roughly to shorten the period of payment by six years.
That, of course, the House will see at once, is an entirely impossible proposition for the Committee and for the House, because it would be quite unfair as between present contributors and future contributors. A situation whereby—and that is my case now—the chairman of the committee and I are trustees having a debit balance at the bank of £103,000,000, on which we are paying principal and interest at just under 5 per cent., while at the same time, at the end of the year, we shall have just over £60,000,000 balance in our current account, on which we are getting just under 2 per cent., is not a business proposition and, indeed, is not fair to the unemployed, in that there is a gap of 3 per cent. If under the present law, without these extended powers which I am asking the House to give to the Statutory Committee to recommend to the Treasury for action, they were to pay off debt, the only saving would be to those in later years, according to the sums that were paid off in addition to the regular £5,000,000.
The problem that we had to face was this: Could we find a way of giving the Statutory Committee powers to recommend to the Government a payment of debt which would do two things, which would, first of all, enable us to have—whether the experts will agree or not, I do not know, but this is my way of putting it—a small conversion of a certain amount of money from a 5 per cent. to a 2 per cent. basis, a saving, that is to say, of 3 per cent. on the average, on such sums as the Statutory Committee may recommend to be paid off in addition to the £5,000,000, whether £10,000,000, £20,000,000, or any other sum? I do not know any more than any Member of the House what will be in the mind of the Statutory Committee when the accounts are made up at the end of the year, and after they have heard the evidence which, following the notice which they have now given, they will receive from the various important bodies 2297 and individuals who will go to tell them what they think ought to be done with the balance.
First, our object is to benefit the present contributors to the Fund by making an arrangement that is fair between them and the future contributors by lowering the rate of repayment throughout the period; second, we have to do this in such a way that we shall safeguard such reserve as is necessary to meet any bad times that may come in the future. This is not a matter for this Government alone. It is a matter of prime importance to all who look to govern in this country, and a sound solution of this problem, I think, ought to be welcomed, apart from all political feeling in any part of the House, except on the part of those who have taken the position from the beginning, which the House has rejected, that the debt ought not to be on the Fund at all. That is a point of view that has been urged, and I have shown the House that I recognise that it is there, but Parliament has more than once decided not to do that; and, indeed, when hon. Members opposite sat here, their own arrangement was not that. Their arrangement was almost what we have got now, namely, to sort out the able-bodied who have been long unemployed and have run out of benefit, and put them on what was then called, in the days when the late Lord Snowden was Chancellor of the Exchequer, transitional benefit, but to retain the debt on the Fund. I will not argue that now, because I do not want to be drawn into controversy on this Bill, which ought not to be controversial, but to give the House information as to how it will really work.
The problem was this, How could we pay off the debt so that we might get this change of interest and a saving of three per cent. according to the amount paid off, and at the same time make sure that if there should come a period when we might need to borrow again because of some unforeseen circumstance, we should be able to do so.
§ Mr. Brown
I shall be pleased to listen to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and I am sure the House is very glad to see him back and hopes that he has had a full recovery from his recent accident. We shall be able to gather from the vigour of his form this afternoon whether or not he has made an absolute recovery. The Bill proposes to give the Statutory Committee power to recommend when they have had regard to two things, first, the reserve necessary for bad times and, second, and more important—and I would ask all hon. Members to give me their attention on this point, because there has been a good deal of misconception outside—to secure that the improvements which we have made in the last three years in the Fund are financed. It is sometimes not realised that the improvements which we have made in the last three years—the is. extra to the children, the abolition of the three days' waiting period, the additional weeks given to those who have five years' good employment experience—are an annual liability for all time on the Fund.
§ Mr. Brown
Not quite that, because we took off a penny on the other side and in so doing not merely added a liability but incurred an annual loss of revenue of £6,500,000. I am glad that the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) made that interjection, because it has enabled me to put the thing in balance. The fact is that whoever makes an improvement in the Fund now does one of two things. He either incurs for himself and his successors an annual liability, recurring, or an added loss of revenue which has to be met if the Fund is to he kept financially sound. The Statutory Committee recommended, as a fair solution of this problem, that it should be spread over an eight years period, and what the Statutory Committee has to do and what the Government have to have regard to in any solution is that the amount paid off the debt shall not jeopardise any necessary reserve or any moneys necessary to finance the improvements that have been made in the last two-and-a-half years, so that our successors, if and when they take our place, will not find us embarrassing them by commitments which we did not foresee.
2299 Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill will give to the Statutory Committee power, if they so desire, not only out of disposable surplus, but out of any moneys to pay off debt and to reborrow under certain conditions in time of need. They will, therefore, the House will see at once, save on the interest according to the total sum paid off in addition to the £5,000,000 which they ordinarily pay off, and they will have a lien on money in case of need in future days. There is one other thing that I should say. The House must understand that the Committee will have power to recommend re-borrowing, not up to the total amount paid off, but up to the amount of the difference between the debt at the date when the reborrowing is effected and the debt as it would have stood at that date had not extra re-payment been made out of reserves. I think that is a clear explanation of the financial meaning of the debt Clauses. From one or two quarters I have heard sinister rumours about these debt proposals, but I can assure the House that this is a business proposal which has great social meaning for the unemployed people. It will work out in this way, that for every £10,000,000 that the Statutory Committee recommend to be paid off we shall be saving the contributors to the Fund £300,000 a year. That amount will be available in addition to any disposable surplus which the Committee may find at the end of any financial year for additional benefits. If there are any hon. Friends of mine who are still perturbed about the matter, perhaps I might quote the last sentence from a remarkable article in the "Manchester Guardian" of yesterday, which puts the matter very clearly:There is nothing in the Bill or in what is known of the policy of the Committee to justify the belief that it will sacrifice the unemployed to debt redemption, and unless the Committee is made up of gross deceivers there is no reason to suppose that the more flexible finance now proposed will be to the injury of the unemployed.That quotation is from a remarkable article which is critical in the real sense of the word in that it gives a just appraisement of the proposals that I now recommend to the House.
§ Mr. Brown
It would be a Yorkshire-man who would make a jest of that kind about this great paper. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is not a Yorkshireman."] At any rate, the hon. Member sits for a Yorkshire seat, and I think he follows Yorkshire at cricket. Therefore, he will have his own views about the "Manchester Guardian." I believe this Bill to be good business. I believe it to be good sociology, and I believe that it will lead to even better administration. Therefore, I recommend it confidently to the House.
Let me say a few words about the Amendment. I understand the keenness of the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Lathan) about the insurance of the black-coated workers, which is-one of the three reports now before me from the Statutory Committee. I shall listen to the hon. Member to-day with the greatest interest and also to other hon. Members to discover what is the range and depth of the feeling on this matter, but I cannot think that because I have not done something else, he would wish to deprive the young people in the instruction centres of the help we propose to give them, nor the contributors to the Fund of the benefit that will come to them under the new extended debt provisions and the additional moneys that will be probably available at the end of the year to meet the recommendations of the Statutory Committee for the betterment of the conditions of the scheme.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question with regard to Part II in relation to men working at the Miners' Welfare Convalescent Home as groundsmen. Will they be in Part II? They are what one might call out-porters or groundsmen.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:whilst this House welcomes the belated recognition that many unemployed juveniles are suffering from lack of food, it cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which, whilst bringing within unemployment insurance certain limited classes, ignores the 2301 recommendation of the Statutory Committee for the inclusion of non-manual workers, and leaves upon a section of the community a national burden incurred in time of depression instead of devoting the surplus in the Unemployment Fund to raising the standard of life of the unemployed.There was not in the Minister's speech that resounding note that we have often heard from him. Like the lady whose child was born in difficult circumstances and who explained it away by saying that it was "only a little one," the right hon. Gentleman explained that this is not a major Bill. By that statement, no doubt, he was seeking to disarm criticism and to suggest that the Bill might be welcomed by the House. He went on to explain that it was another instalment in the scheme for the improvement of social services. Where the Bill does not consist of peddling proposals, it is positively mischievous.
It is true that there are certain proposals in the Bill which we welcome. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has agreed to provide meals for young people in the juvenile instruction centres. It is a recognition of the fact that there are under-nourished children in those centres. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman bears out what we have said, that many unemployed juveniles are suffering from lack of food. There is sufficient evidence to show that in these centres there are ill-nourished and ill-clad children, and inevitably so, because many of them have been for so long unemployed, and come from homes where there are unemployed. That does not, however, carry us a very long way. I have never accepted the idea that juvenile instruction centres should be run by the right hon. Gentleman. There are too many cases in the industrial areas where promising boys and girls have had to leave the secondary schools because of the poverty of their parents and, having been unable to find work, have not been allowed to go back to the secondary schools, but have had to go to the right hon. Gentleman's training centres for juveniles. The right place for those children, if there is no work for them, is under the care of the educational authority. That is where they ought to have remained.
This great business man, who used to be a most enthusiastic social reformer, makes a business out of his unemployment centres. When the Unemployment 2302 Bill was before the House a White Paper was issued by the Government Actuary, which estimated that the income in respect of the contributions of young persons from 14 to 16 years of age would be £760,000 a year. Against that there was certain expenditure for benefits and administration amounting to £400,000, leaving a balance of £360,000. The Actuary also estimated that the course of instruction in the juvenile centres would cost £850,000, of which one-half, £425,000, was to be met by the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Those courses were to be available not merely for youngsters between 14 and 16, but young people between 14 and 18. There is a credit balance in respect of children from 14 to 16 of £360,000. From that it is perfectly clear that these unfortunate juveniles are themselves paying for such education as they get at the juvenile instruction centres. As was pointed out at the time, under the curious social system that we have, these youngsters are taken from school and pushed on to the labour market to compete with their elder brothers, and if they do not succeed in doing that, they are sent back to school at their own expense. That is the way the system is worked. It is unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman tries to bring these juvenile instruction centers into the orbit of his empire. I would rather have left them to the mercies of the Board of Education.
The right hon. Gentleman now wishes to make a new provision which we on this side of the House welcome very much, because we have pressed for it a long time. I am glad that he is proposing to enable local authorities to provide meals for children at these centres, with additional milk and biscuits, to which he attaches an enormous amount of importance. If the children had four square meals a day, they would not need milk and biscuits between-whiles. It is a recognition that there is hunger among these young people. The right hon. Gentleman's conscience pricks him so badly that in the Bill there is provision that some contribution shall be made by the State to the cost of approved schemes of this kind, but under the Bill there will be a substantial sum left for the local authorities to pay. Unfortunately, it is the educational authorities in the most hardly-hit areas that will have this new power thrust upon them; authorities 2303 which are much less able to meet their obligations than the better-to-do districts. It has been claimed that unemployment should be a national responsibility. It is also claimed that the Unemployment Act, 1934, made unemployment a national responsibility, but I do not believe that is so. If it be so, then there is an obligation on the right hon. Gentleman to leave not one penny of expenditure to be met by hard-pressed local authorities, but to meet the whole cost of this scheme out of national funds, thereby making it really a national responsibility.
The right hon. Gentleman told us about his gamekeepers and his chauffeurs. He spoke of his 13,000 gamekeepers, his 12,000 grooms, his 5,000 lodge-keepers, and so on. It seems to me to be a list of the personal retainers of the aristocracy of this country. It does not seem to be a serious proposal for dealing with the problem of unemployment. I can see some case for bringing in stablemen and grooms who are concerned with horsebreeding. To bring them into the agricultural scheme is right, but I have doubt whether gentlemen's gentlemen, such as gamekeepers, should be allowed to come into the agricultural scheme. I am reminded that when this proposal was before the Statutory Committee the National Union of Agricultural Workers opposed gamekeepers coming into the agricultural scheme. They felt that they were entitled to come into the general scheme, but they opposed their inclusion in the agricultural scheme, on the ground that they were not agricultural workers, but really were a tax upon the industry. That seems to be true. If the right hon. Gentleman's heart bleeds for gamekeepers and the employers of the gamekeepers, will he not see that there is a far stronger case for the non-manual workers and for the seasonal workers who are the sheer victims of industry? They are not the servants of people who live because of the sportsmanlike qualities of the well-to-do. They are an entirely different problem, and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not pay a little more attention to this part of our Amendment dealing with the inclusion of non-manual workers.
I would remind the House of the history of this matter. When the Unemployment Act was before the House at 2304 the end of 1933, and during the first part of 1934, we on these benches made many efforts to extend the scope of unemployment insurance. There was a Motion down which is referred to in the report of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee published last year. It said:A Motion had been made for the insertion of a new Clause, requiring the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, as soon as might be after the passing of the Bill, to make such proposals as seemed to them practicable for the insurance against unemployment of 'persons employed in occupations other than manual occupations receiving a salary of not more than £500 per annum' and of several other classes of persons. The insertion of the Clause was resisted by the Minister of Labour, on the ground of the pressing duties already imposed on the Statutory Committee, but an undertaking was given that the Minister would do all that he could to ensure, as soon as possible, that the case of the non-manual workers and the other cases had the full consideration of the Committee.It was in consequence of that undertaking that the Minister of Labour took this matter to the Statutory Committee, who went to the trouble of issuing a report of 36 pages, in which they came to the conclusion that unemployment insurance ought to be extended to non-manual wage-earners from £250 a year up to a limit of £400 per year. That was in the early part of last year, and yet on the first opportunity when the right hon. Gentleman might have blown his trombone to some effect, he comes forward with only this little scheme and tries to put off my hon. Friends with a few kind words. The claim of these people is as strong as that of people in personal service. Before the War, as I pointed out when the 1934 Measure was before the House, the black-coated worker thought he was far above any possibility of unemployment, but he is not now. The suburbs of every town are full of black-coated workers, non-manual workers, whose economic outlook is just as desperate as that of manual workers. Surely at this stage, with this enormous balance in the Fund, about which we have heard to-day, the right hon. Gentleman might have done a little more.
The numbers of people who may be brought in under this Bill are 50,000 chauffeurs, 13,000 gamekeepers, 12,000 grooms and 5,000 lodgekeepers, but what is the position with regard to the non-manual workers? This is a far greater problem than that with which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt. The report of 2305 the committee suggests that if we were to raise the non-manual workers' limit from £250 to £400 a year, it would affect 400,000 people, and there would be a contribution of £800,000 from each of the three contributors, making an addition of £2,400,000 to the annual income of the Fund. That problem has been fully explored by the Minister's own committee, and they have reported in favour of it. Yet with this enormous balance at their disposal, the right hon. Gentleman does not think fit to bring in this large class of people who are suffering from the insecurity of our economic life. I am not objecting to gamekeepers or anybody else coming in. I welcome, also, Clause 5, for I think that there the right hon. Gentleman is doing something in the interests of men in the fighting services. We are thankful for these small mercies, but in thanking him for these things, on which he himself laid stress, we would point out that he is placing a moral obligation on impoverished local authorities which they will not be able to resist, and he is neglecting the largest single class of worker which is left outside the scope of unemployment insurance.
I come to the question of the debt. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman's primary preoccupation in this matter was to leave the Fund sound when we take it over. He showed a tender regard for the future, for which I thank him from the bottom of my heart. His other main preoccupation was to prove himself to be a big business man, and he preened himself on the balance that there was in the Fund. My hon. Friends and I were always opposed to the repayment of the debt by the contributors to the Fund. When the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance was sitting, the "Times"—which is always friendly to the Government, and no doubt assumed that the Government would see the wisdow of what it said, otherwise it might not have said it—supported the view that the unemployment insurance scheme should not be saddled with this debt when it was re-established. In moving the rejection of the Unemployment Bill on 30th November, 1933—I seem to have more rejections to move than anything else—I referred to this question of the debt and made quotations which, I think, will bear reciting again. I said:The proposal is to put the responsibility for the debt on the contributors to the Fund. 2306 That has been described by the 'Economist,' not a representative of the red Press, as a piece of 'Treasury pedantry.' It says:' The only criticism which can reasonably be brought against this financial scheme is the heaviness of the debt charge, equivalent to nearly TO per cent. of the income from contributions.'The charge is to be £5,500,000 for 40 years.That has since been reduced to £5,000,000.The 'Economist' goes on to say:'It is surely both unwise and unreasonable to charge upon the Fund the services of amortisation of the £115,000,000 debt incurred during a period when all pretence at actuarial solvency had been abandoned by successive Governments'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1933; col. 1106, Vol. 283.]Never has unemployment insurance in this country been a business proposition until we had a business man at the head of it. We have accumulated this enormous total, which has now been partly liquidated, and is in process of liquidation by the contributions of the State, the employers and the employés. Under the Statute the repayment is at the rate of £5,000,000 per year. Latterly, they have made these yearly payments off the debt and the Fund is now increasing. Sir William Beveridge says in his letter to the Minister, which was published as Command Paper 5603, that it is now accumlating rapidly. At the end of this year he says—and the right hon. Gentleman agrees—it will be over £62,000,000. At the end of next year it will have amounted to £82,000,000. Sir William Beveridge is suffering from an embarrassment of riches. He has this enormous Fund, and is a little troubled as to what is to be done with it. The proposal he makes is the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman has explained. He makes a strong case—and I anticipated he would make that case—that with this difference in the rate of interest and the paying off of additional capital, more money would be available for beneficiaries under the scheme. Let us, however, look at the facts.
The Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, over a seven-year period from 1936 to 1943, are setting aside each year certain sums for reserve to meet the benefits during that period, and the committee anticipate that those reserves will be absorbed in that period. Sums over and above that amount are available as a disposable surplus, but they have to be 2307 spread over the same period as well. That is obviously right, for it would be wrong if a disposable surplus were got rid of in a year. It follows that if the amount of the disposable surplus available for this year, whatever it may be, is to be paid to the Treasury, it cannot be spread over that period of seven years, and the amount which will be available, instead of that capital sum spread over that period of years, will merely be the annual interest which would have been paid to the Treasury. That means that between now and 1943 there will be, if these large sums are to be paid, far less money available for improvements than otherwise would be the case. That, I think, destroys the right hon. Gentleman's case.
Then the right hon. Gentleman makes a song and dance about his power to pay back. What would be the first reaction on the minds of Members on the other side of the House if he asked for that? There would be demands for increased contributions, demands for reduced benefits, and demands for everything except borrowing money back again. There is no virtue in that proposal. The only reason there can be for it would be their lack of faith in the solvency of the Fund and their fear that they might perhaps pay a little more back than they ought to do, and than would be justified in ordinary circumstances. I do not want to thrash this question of the debt too much, but if the right hon. Gentleman calls this business, I have not much idea of what he regards as business. It may be good financial business, but it does not follow that it is good national business. We have a rapidly accumulating surplus, with another £20,000,000 to be added next year. How has that surplus been obtained? By imposing harsh conditions on those who have applied for unemployment insurance benefit, by thrusting hundreds of thousands of people outside unemployment insurance and throwing them on to the backs of the Unemployment Assistance Board.
The means test is part of the price the workers are paying for these bursting coffers of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. We have got the truth about this Statutory Committee from the horse's mouth. When that committee was set up I said that it would be a business proposition. It was set up to produce 2308 a balance sheet—I am glad the right hon. Gentleman called them balance sheets—and it is one to make company directors in this country green with envy. He has produced his balance sheets, and the company are so prosperous that they do not know what to do with their ill-gotten gains, because these new arrangements for spreading it up to 1971 are not letting the children of a generation ahead profit by the position. That proposal would not have been made unless the Government had had at the back of their minds a definite intention to recommend that part of this surplus should go to the reduction of debt, and they are setting out now on a calculated policy of debt reduction, of the debt which that Fund never ought to have borne. Every penny taken out of that Fund is a penny out of the pockets of the unemployed. There cannot be any simpler arithmetic than that. There are the necessary administrative charges and a reserve fund is necessary, but, beyond that, any money in the coffers of the Fund which goes to the repayment of debt is money being taken away from people who are suffering from unemployment.
What is the motive behind all this? The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think we should greet him with paeans of praise to-day. I am sorry, but my relations with the people opposite have made me very suspicious, and I look for a motive. The motive is this—and if I am misjudging anybody I hope we shall have the reply: They are intending to unload these gains which they have got, and thereby to limit their possibility of improving benefits and conditions for the unemployed. They are going to do that because the right hon. Gentleman is the chief partner in another firm. If we improve—save beyond microscopic amounts—on what we do for the people in receipt of statutory benefit, we shall have to do something more for the people who come under the Unemployment Assistance Board. This is a fine form of investment for the right hon. Gentleman. If they dispose of the surplus by this noble plan of paying off debt, they cannot do much more for the unemployed. Had he done anything for them there would have been repercussions, and he would not have been able to resist the demand for more generous treatment from those who come under the Unemployment Assistance Board.
2309 There are strong claims for using this surplus for improving the lot of the unemployed under Part I of the Act. Harsh conditions remain which ought to be removed. If the right hon. Gentleman is having to provide food for juveniles in instruction centres, he might do something, by increasing benefits, to provide a little more food for adult workers. It is no good blinking the fact, and the right hon. Gentleman has admitted it to-day, that in spite of all that is being done under the social services and under unemployment insurance there is still a body of people in this country who are not getting sufficient food, and they ought to be on the right hon. Gentleman's conscience. I should have liked the Statutory Committee, as I believe it is supposed to do, to consult with other people about its proposals before taking them to the Minister. They have not done so. Had they done so, the right hon. Gentleman might not have been as enthusiastic about them as he is.
We have not moved our Amendment for shadow-fighting purposes—I was astonished that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest it. This is a serious Amendment, put down to challenge the whole policy of the Government in their treatment of the unemployed. As regards the Bill itself, I welcome some of the proposals, which will bring some relief, but one of the capital defects of the Bill is the failure to deal with the non-manual workers. Finally, we object fundamentally and very strongly to the proposal that the resources of the fund should be diverted from the people for whom they were intended into the pockets of the Treasury.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham White
In his introductory sentences the Minister referred to one of the minor virtues of the Bill, namely, as an example of the diversity of services which we are able to render under the general system of our public social services. At the same time it is fair to point out that the introduction of this legislation is a very good example of the piecemeal way in which we add to the foundations upon which our social services are laid. This Session we have already added one or two further storeys to the edifice of our social services, but the time has come when it is very necessary indeed that this unrelated system of legislation on a purely depart- 2310 mental basis should cease, and that all our social services should be closely related the one to the other. Yesterday, we had an interesting discussion on pensions, and later I will make one or two general observations on the relation of that to the general structure of our social services. To-day's discussion has one happy feature which was absent from many previous discussions on unemployment, whatever our differences of opinion, we are discussing the disposal of a surplus, always a happier event than trying to find out how to deal with a deficit.
Like the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), we on these benches welcome the proposals in Clauses 1 2 and 6. The new precedent, as I think it is, of giving free meals to those at the juvenile instruction centres is one which, I hope, will be followed wherever necessity calls for it. It will give great satisfaction to those directors of education and others who have been anxious for that step to be taken. I pass from that to the new categories of employment which are to be included within the scope of the Bill. So far as my knowledge goes those changes, small though they are, are acceptable to the classes of people concerned. They are not claimed as great reforms, but they do give satisfaction to those people; but, like the right hon. Member for Wakefield, I must turn to the consideration of the black-coated workers. While the gamekeeper, the groom and, in a short time, the chauffeur, are to be brought within the scheme, the 400,000 black-coated or non-manual workers are to be left out. I was interested in the brief history which the right hon. Gentleman gave of this matter. It did come up in the course of the discussions we had on the Unemployment Bill of 1935, and I have a lively recollection of the Motion we put on the Paper. It stood in the names of myself and the hon. Members for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), Dundee (Mr. Foot), Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), South-East Leeds (Major Milner), and Govan (Mr. Maclean). It invited the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committeeas soon as may be after the passing of this Act to make such proposals as may seem to them practicable for the insurance against unemployment of persons employed in occupations, other than manual occupations, receiving a salary of not more than £500 per annum.2311 It asked that a report should be made to the Minister, and that any recommendations they made should be laid before Parliament. The argument with which that Motion was rebutted was that this was pre-eminently a matter which should be considered by the Statutory Committee. In due course it was considered by the Statutory Committee, and they made their recommendations. When introducing this Bill the right hon. Gentleman referred to the Manchester Guardian," and quoted an article which appeared there yesterday. In my sketch of these proceedings I too will again call in aid the "Manchester Guardian." The proceedings since the committee reported have been very remarkable; in fact, I think they have been unique in the history of such matters. The "Manchester Guardian," having put their research apparatus into motion, found that some 30 interrogations had been addressed to the present Minister of Labour and his predecessor. They tabulated those questions with the answers, which disclosed the fact that for the last two years every conceivable grade of Ministerial attention, consideration, contemplation and, apparently, active consideration, had been devoted to this matter. Nevertheless, up to the present moment, what has been in the mind of the Government has remained a complete secret, a sort of Pandora's Box which in due course may be opened. The Government seem to have made up their minds that they will break every conceivable record in procrastination. There has been nothing like it since the days of Fabius Cunctator and Aethelred the Unready.
The great army of black-coated workers, who have been tremendously interested and keen in this matter, and all their friends in this House who, let me say, are not found in only one section, are entitled to feel aggrieved and concerned on this occasion, when it seemed that this major task might have been undertaken. If, on second thoughts, the Minister should think that he can take his courage in his hands and reveal the designs and intentions of the Government, which I cannot think are unfavourable to this project, he will get his Bill through the House with very little discussion. It is disappointing when a Bill has come before the House, that this pro- 2312 posal, long considered and long recommended and urged upon the Government from all quarters of the House, should not be welcomed, and an opportunity taken to place it upon the Statute Book, I will not ask any further questions on this subject. I have had my share in the 30 which have been put to the House, and I quite despair of receiving any further light on the matter.
I pass now to the consideration of the proposal for varying the arrangements with regard to the debt. Hon. and right hon. Members who sit on these benches made our position and our views on this matter clear in the discussions on the original Bill. They were recognised by the right hon. Gentleman. We made them clear again in the discussions which took place in March of this year when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield asked for an assurance from the Minister of Labour that nothing which would be inimical to the benefits which were being received by the unemployed should be done by disturbing this debt. At that time we said that we would not be parties to a reduction of the debt that was not in the immediate and practical interests of those who were contributors to the Fund. I find myself in substantial agreement in principle with what has been said in regard to the debt by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, but there is one aspect of the matter on which he did not touch specifically, and upon which I should like to ask for information.
The view we took originally was that this debt should not be foisted on the Fund at all. In their last report, the Statutory Committee took the same view which we took with regard to the people who will come on the Fund in future. It seemed to us to be a monstrous thing that the debt should be paid by contributors to the Fund, whether employers or employed, who were not yet born. One of the reasons which the Statutory Committee now adduce for making the modifications which they suggest is the very reason, that those who, in 1960 or thereabouts, will be contributing to the Fund, should be entitled to get such relief as they can. However it is done, it is better to be out of debt than in debt, if it is done honestly. In the circumstances, perhaps that is the most favourable state- 2313 ment which could be made on the problem, so far as we understand it.
If I rightly understand the present position, the Statutory Committee may make a recommendation for the payment of debt, and that debt can be repaid without any consideration by or intervention of Parliament at all. If it comes to the Minister, the Minister can, of his own will, make that reduction in the debt. It is unnecessary to come and ask Parliament for approval, or even to consult Parliament in the matter at all. I think I am stating the position rightly, and, if so, it makes the present proposal more serious than appears on the face of it. A few moments ago I mentioned that we had an interesting Debate here on the subject of pensions. The attitude of the Government in general was simply one of non possumus. Suppose this Fund is made up at the end of the year and the Statutory Committee make their report. It may very well be that the House of Commons may say they prefer that the contributions to the Fund should be reduced in order that the contributory power of the community may be transferred to the Health Fund for the carrying out of a contributory pensions scheme. I am not saying that that is the course which Parliament would adopt, but it is a possibility.
If we were not so hopelessly departmentalised and working in vacuo with these different propositions, if there were, as I hope there will be some day, a general staff reviewing these matters so that the Departments might relate their activities one with the other, it might be possible for the House of Commons to make up its mind and say: "We would like to have the contribution to the Fund reduced rather than the Fund repaid, in order that we may put another 2d. on to National Health Insurance contributions and make all the medical benefits available to the 20,000,000 dependants of insured people who are outside medical benefit altogether. If the Statutory Committee were so minded and the Minister agreed with them, they could say—although I should not think they would be so unwise—that £50,000,000 of the £80,000,000 surplus should be used for the reduction of debt, and the House of Commons would have no say in the matter at all. I ask the Minister whether he will accept an Amendment, which would enable the House of Commons to 2314 consider these matters when they arise, and I should be glad if he would let us have an answer to this proposition. Failing that, would he himself see that the House of Commons has an opportunity of considering whatever recommendations are made? The House is entitled to know about the matter, to discuss it and, if it is so minded, to reject it.
The Minister is proposing to take power to deal with debt. This is a matter which affects not only the contributors to the Fund but the unemployed, and also the Unemployment Assistance Board. This body does not work in vacuo. During the last three years, the recommendations of the Statutory Committee have definitely favoured the Unemployment Assistance Board. There was the reduction of the waiting period and the increase in benefit. Those recommendations were in relief of the taxpayer as against the contributor to the Fund. It is excellent that the taxpayer should be relieved, but I am pleading here that the whole matter should be related together, and that justice should be done between the various systems of social service to which we are accustomed in this country. The whole principle of the debt is challenged in the Amendment, and we therefore shall associate ourselves with it. When the proposals which may be made by the Statutory Committee come forward, we shall consider them on their merits. We shall also have regard not only to these individuals but their relative value in the social order, having regard to the necessities of the social services as a whole.
I sincerely hope that we are leaving the day in this country when the various Departments function in vacuowithout relation one with the other. I was very pleased when the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) advocated during yesterday's Debate something in the nature of a general staff to review the whole of our social services. There is nothing in our domestic concerns more important than that at the present. There is a multitude of competing claims for the money that is available, and we need some authority which shall give guidance to the House of Commons, so that we may keep these things constantly in perspective. We want somebody who can say that the 2315 money which is being raised, from whatever source, is properly expended. If we had some such body, we could immediately draw the attention of the House to the scandal of the rapidly increasing administrative expenses of the Unemployment Assistance Board. The number of cases with which it had to deal when it came into being was 800,000. The number now is of the order of 500,000, but although the volume of cases to be dealt with has decreased the expenditure is steadily rising, and not in the payment of additional benefits to the unemployed. The purely administrative expenditure is rising rapidly. This is the tort of thing upon which Parliament should have enlightenment, and should be entitled to call into question.
I hope that we shall have no more Bills of this piecemeal kind, but Bills which will have regard to the priorities and the competing claims of the social services as a whole. A headquarters staff, a Statutory Commission, should not in any way interfere with the functions of the existing Statutory Committee or any similar body, and could give guidance on the basic principle underlying the whole of our social services and the relationships of those services one to another. They could continuously consider the lines of administrative reform and the financial structure of the schemes as a whole, in order that the resources of this country, such as are still available, should be best expended for the benefit of the people as a whole.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), recently speaking close to my constituency, though not in it, deplored the small attendances of Members in this House at about this time of the day. I cannot help thinking that the occasions on which this House is sometimes poorly attended are occasions when there is really no opposition on matters of principle. If there had been serious opposition on matters of principle to-day, I think that the hyperbole of the hon. Member and the rhetoric of the right hon. Gentleman might really have become noble metaphor and oratory, but, as it was, the right hon. Gentleman's speech rang hollow in the ears of the House—
§ Mr. Crossley
It rang hollow in my ears and in the ears of most of my hon. Friends, because everyone in the House knows that both were trying to excuse themselves for putting down a Motion saying that they do not want a Bill which gives them four pieces of concrete benefit. Incidentally, the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) took two rather unfortunate instances in Aethelred the Unready and Fabius Cunctator; because Fabius Cunctator was an exceedingly successful general, and as regards Aethelred, whatever he did not do, he certainly did not improve the social services of this country, which my right hon. Friend has steadily occupied himself in improving ever since he stepped into the office in which he has been such an enormous success, as all hon. Members know.
I want to address myself for a few minutes to the subject of the debt of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. I was one of those Members who in my murky past voted against the Government in the last Parliament on the question of putting the debt as a burden on the Fund. I did so at that time because I thought that if hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they were the Government of the country, had faced the facts, removed the uncovenanted benefit cases from the Fund altogether, and put them on a means test, the Exchequer would have had to pay, in the form of direct relief, a very large part of the debt which had been accumulated. We were out-voted, and that is a decision which Parliament has taken in the past. It appears to me, however, that this transaction which the House is here to discuss to-day is from every point of view most desirable, and is especially desirable from the point of view of the unemployed themselves. The present yearly wastage on the Fund is very nearly £10,000,000. There is an annual debt amortisation service of 5,000,00, and there is an administrative cost of £4,750,000. It is exceedingly desirable to reduce the former, so that the present contributors can enjoy some benefit from the reduction.
The effect of these two items is not, I think, as the hon. Member for East Birkenhead has put it, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) made one fundamental mistake in discussing it. It is not the disposable surplus which under this Bill is to be used in repayment of debt. It can be done out of the general 2317 credit account of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. There is a huge difference. The Unemployment Insurance Committee have two statutory duties. They have the duty of determining what is the disposable surplus, that is to say, the amount over and above what they may put into general reserve; and, when they have determined what is the disposable surplus, they then have the duty of presenting to the Minister a report suggesting what he should do with that disposable surplus.
But, in addition to the disposable surplus, they have a general account. Let us suppose—it is a pure assumption; it will depend on what they decide—that they declare a disposable surplus of £15,000,000, as they did last year. They will then have to the credit of the general account of the Fund £45,000,000. But they have a debt of £100,000,000 on which they are paying interest, the Minister said, at the rate of nearly 5 per cent. I thought it was 3⅛ per cent., but at any rate it is a considerable rate of interest. At the same time, on the Fund itself, they are receiving interest at the rate of 1⅞per cent. As to the disposable surplus they will make recommendations to the Minister, which may include increases of benefit, or reductions of contributions, or anything else they may care to recommend. But it is not that disposable surplus which will be used for the repayment of the debt. This Bill expressly empowers them, if the Minister sees fit. to set aside towards the repayment of debt any portion that they may recommend out of the general credit account of the Fund. It is a purely banking transaction, when all is said and done. They reduce their overdraft at the bank, on which they are paying 3⅛ per cent. or more, out of money on which they are only receiving 1⅞ per cent. Therefore, even from the point of view of the unemployed themselves, it is an extremely desirable transaction.
There is a sentence in the report of the Statutory Committee of last February which, I think, is worth quoting. Their whole object is to benefit the unemployed, and I do not feel that the Committee, from their previous record, can be under the slightest suspicion as to their good intentions towards the people whom they have under their care. They wrote—this was when they could only apply their 2318 disposable surplus to the reduction of debt:If we were now to use the £16,500,000 accumulated by recent contributions to pay off debt, the only effect would be to relieve the three contributory parties of a charge of £5,000,000 in each year from 1964 to 1971.That is to say, only people in the distant future would benefit. If we do not pass this Bill, but let matters stand as they are, the only money that could be applied to the reduction of debt would be the disposable surplus, and that, of course, is money on which they can make recommendations to the Minister for other purposes with regard to which they are now taking advice. I should like to say a word on two other subjects raised by the Amendment. I think it is particularly hard for hon. Gentlemen opposite to have to put up to the House over and over again the same sort of case—that they will not have four things which they do want because they cannot get at the same time two other things that they would like. That is an exact simplification of the Amendment.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Does the hon. Gentleman say that this Bill is an adequate substitute for the bringing into unemployment insurance of the black-coated workers?
§ Mr. Crossley
That is not the point at all. The Bill provides great benefits for several classes of people. It provides free meals at junior instruction centres; it provides unemployment insurance for gamekeepers; it provides concessions for people leaving the Services; and it makes an important financial provision which I believe is generally agreed by the House to be necessary. These are four great benefits which are given by the Bill, but, because in this particular Measure hon. Members opposite do not get insurance for non-manual workers, and do not get something—
§ Mr. Crossley
It may be, and I will speak about that in a moment. I can make my own speech about it, and no doubt the hon. Member will be able to make his afterwards if he wishes. It strikes me that I am entitled in some ways to sympathise with the sort of case that the right hon. Gentleman has to put before the House. I wanted to make a few observations on non-manual workers. I 2319 have a great many in my constituency. They are mostly people who have been thrown out of jobs in the shipping section of the cotton trade, people who have occupied high-salaried posts in merchant firms in Manchester, who very often bought rather expensive houses out of their incomes in the past, and some of whom to-day are literally living on unemployment assistance relief.
I have for a long time regarded the case of the non-manual worker as a most important case to be dealt with by the Government. I do not think, with some hon. Members opposite, that it is an extremely urgent case; there are far more non-manual workers going into than coming out of employment at the present time. Even those depressed industries which have left high and dry so many non-manual workers are at the present time rather more active, and are taking some few of them back; and those who have been left high and dry will not, of course, enter into insurance. But, having regard to the future, say 10 or 15 years hence, I think it is important that this Government should deal with their case before the end of the present Parliament, and I hope the Government will not hesitate to do so. There are many deserving classes which have all been anxious to be taken into this scheme, including journalists, architects, printers, textile managers, shop assistants, actors, musicians—theirs is often a very hard case—and life assurance workers. I do not want to be guilty of hyperbole myself, but it would be the culminating event of this Government's social record if they were to fill up that last great gap in our unemployment insurance scheme. The Committee said in their report—and I wish to make this point particularly—We do not agree that this change should depend upon making a corresponding change at the same time in National Health Insurance.I ask the Government to remind themselves of that particular recommendation in the committee's report. I cannot help feeling, at the back of my mind, that this is one of the causes for a rather long delay. While I agree with the hon. Member for East Birkenhead that the coordination of social services is most desirable in many respects, I do not think the fact that compulsory national health insurance stands at an income limit of £250 should stand in the way of unemployment insurance being provided for 2320 non-manual workers with an income up to £400, as recommended by the committee.
Hon. Members opposite have not discussed to-day, as I thought they perhaps would have, benefit rates in general, and I will not embark upon that subject, except to say that I am glad that, under their statutory duty, the Beveridge Committee are now receiving evidence from all types of people who are affected by what they may propose to do with their disposable surplus next January. I think it is rather a pity that January should be the statutory date on which they have to begin writing their report. I think it would be much better if it came before that time of year, when there is almost invariably a seasonal rise in the cost of living. There is usually a seasonal fall in the spring, when the Government has had time to consider the report, and a seasonal rise in the autumn; and this autumn it has been sharper than usual. When they consider what they are going to do with the surplus—it is futile to attempt to prophesy what they may recommend—but I hope they may have some regard for keeping the benefits of the funds flexible to the conditions of the day. The whole of the framework of the 1934 Act was, I always thought, extremely good, although I disagreed with certain parts of the Act. Everything seemed to allow flexibility in the future, and I believe the Insurance Committee has performed its functions with extraordinary success; and that the Unemployment Assistance Board also has had great success, with the general consent of the country and the unemployed.
§ Mr. Crossley
I do not see the indignation against the Minister of Labour that one used to see years ago. It is true that I am in a very prosperous district, unlike that of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), but I find that in my district the unemployment assistance officer is really regarded as the philosopher and friend of the unemployed, and that he does extraordinarily good work for them.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Quite seriously, is the lion, Member going to tell us that the unemployed really want a means test? They may be forced to take it. Does he really tell us that they want it?
§ Mr. Crossley
No, I do not think most of them want it. That was not my claim. I say that this system is being worked extraordinarily smoothly, and to their general satisfaction. I think it is right that there should be a means test for people who have passed out of insurance. I have always thought it right. I supported it from the moment I came into this House, as the hon. Member for Gorbals knows perfectly well. I conclude by saying that I welcome this small Bill. I hope the Minister will give attention to the question of non-manual workers, and I hope the House will emphatically reject the Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood).
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Hayday
I cannot follow the philosophy of the hon. Member who has just sat down, because I cannot bring myself to the belief that the unemployed can look upon the conditions that have to be administered by courts of referees or public assistance committees with any measure of satisfaction and contentment. That was not my purpose in rising. I rise because I cannot help feeling that in this kind of switchback arrangement of successive Unemployment Insurance Acts we do tend somehow or other, to become a little dizzy with their rapidity, and to lose sight of the fundamental and larger points when we are dealing with the uttle ones as they come before our review. I do not know whether any hon. Member can tell me—I have lost count of the number—how many Unemployment Acts have been placed on the Statute Book since 1918. I am sure that I am not far out if I say round about 30. I am told by other hon. Members that it is more.
The Minister, in introducing the Bill, laid great stress, and used these words, in dealing with the surplus, or balance, as the case might be. He said that it would be unfair to present and future contributors not to pay a considerable amount of whatever may be available for the redemption of debt. How many of us can remember the actual circumstances surrounding the creation of what is termed the debt? We have always contended that this was no debt, that it was incurred at a time of national emergency, and that the Government of the day itself was 2322 directly responsible for its creation, as I hope to be able to show.
It is well within the recollection of the House that, under the press of Unemployment Insurance Acts, there accumulated a considerable surplus. In conjunction with that, in 1916, in addition to the added numbers brought within unemployment insurance, there was also created by the State an out-of-work donation fund, and in 1918, when the returning Service men came back, they insisted upon, and the Government of the day had to acquiesce in giving a measure of sustenance to those returning Service men. It was considerable, and so loud were they in their demands, that the measure of payment far exceeded the payment under Unemployment Insurance. By 1920, when people began to forget what their pledges had been to men who had served and their dependants the Act brought on to the Fund of the Unemployment Insurance Acts up to that date those whom the Government had itself been directly responsible for paying out of the national funds from the Exchequer. One of the conditions of the 1920 Act that brought in some millions was that it was a sufficient qualilcation for benefit that they had, or would have, worked in those trades then covered by insurance for a period, and, although they had never paid a contribution, they were at once placed on the funds that had accumulated out of the contributions of those who had been in early insurance. Further, the ex-service men returning from Service, receiving money out of the donation payments, were gradually transferred to the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Surely it is well known that not only was there that act of the Government of the day, in easing itself of its payments and liabilities by transferring them to the Unemployment Fund, which had a balance, but early in 1921 there was a continual succession of measures placed before the House of, Commons for permission to borrow £10,000,000, £10,000,000, and again £10,000,000; and, by the end of 1921, there was no surplus, but a considerable debit account, placed against the Fund, which had been robbed by the State to meet responsibilities that properly belonged to the State.
Now we have had that long successions of Acts. We had the see-saw arrangement that reduced benefits, on 2323 the ground that the debt was great and no further borrowings could be allowed. A surplus now accumulated, or a balance, and it is desired by the Government of the day, and the Treasury influences, that that should be used for the redemption of a liability for which the unemployed have no responsibility at all, and, therefore, we get the Minister to-day saying it is not fair to the present or future contributors that that debt should go on without using any surplus, or balance, available to wipe it out before 1971.
The evidence given before the Royal Commission by the British trade unions, as the representative body of the industrial workers of this country, suggested that the debt never should be taken into account in the 1934 Act, but that the debt should have been liquidated by the State. It should have been crossed off in view of the extension arranged for in the 1934 Act, and we should start with a clean sheet. Should a Labour Government again take office, one would imagine that that would be among their first acts. They would repudiate the debt which has been fastened upon the unemployed and the industrial workers of this country. We assert that any surplus or balance available standing to the credit of contributions should be used to reduce contributions and lighten the load of industry, and, at the same time, to abolish the three days' waiting period, to increase the benefits payable and to extend the time during which benefits might be drawn. Those points should have first consideration, otherwise, what might be the effect of it all?
At a time when there is a rise in the cost of living, and an increased handicap is placed upon those who are unemployed because of the so-called sustenance allowances, it is assumed that a figure of £30,000,000 might be placed at the disposal of the Treasury and the Government for the manufacture of so-called Defence armaments, at the same time denying increased sustenance to the unemployed. Hon. Members opposite would put guns as against food, munitions as against distress, and use the contributions of the victims of unemployment to assist them to obtain this extra amount of money to be handed back to 2324 the Treasury to be used in the direction I have indicated. I would remind hon. Members that in 1920 everybody was being scooped in for benefit without contributions. They should keep that fact in mind, because at that time serving men had come from the Services with a valuation on life which had been cheapened in consequence of the conditions associated with the War period. Something had to be done for them because they had been promised so much, and so little at that time was forthcoming. They were all embraced in unemployment insurance together with other workers who had been engaged on munitions. They were all brought in without contributions. In the process of time and owing to the shortness of memory, 1934 found exclusions—inclusions in 1920 and exclusions from the Fund in 1934. Men who to-day are on the public assistance committee side instead of the unemployment side served so well, and were promised so much during the War period, and by reason of their handicap, either in consequence of age or disability, they have not found the employment they deserved and have run out of State unemployment insurance benefit by reason of stamp exhaustion. They are now on public assistance allowances, and have drifted down to the lower strata of all the beneficiaries during a period of unemployment.
This is a small Measure, and includes a further small section of people within the ambit of unemployment insurance, but it leaves out another important section, the black-coated men. We have tried times out of number to get these people included. There are a great volume of very deserving citizens who, by reason of modern methods, find themselves threatened more than ever by periods of unemployment. In order to hide the very serious sore of stealing from the Fund a surplus of £50,000,000 or £62,000,000, which is estimated to be available next year, the Government say that they now propose to give authority to the local authorities to give food to young persons between 14 and 16 while they are coming into unemployment insurance. Would it not be much better if provision could be made for the whole of the contribution to be met by the State and the employer, who likes to have this cheap source of labour made available? Would it not be much better also, if it were possible to 2325 recommend that there should be the payment of benefit to those young persons besides the provision of purely medical benefit, should they find it difficult to obtain employment?
There are 101 purposes to which available balances or the increased healthy state of the Fund might be put. Certainly these accumulations do not belong to the State, and the debt does not belong to the contributing members under unemployment insurance. Whatever sum is available should go towards the easement of their poverty and towards extending the time before they are shunted over to the public assistance committee. If that were done, the Minister could come down with a complete and comprehensive scheme to include all within the ambit of unemployment insurance and not cover up his shortcomings by means of a small Measure such as that before the House to-day. He should obtain powers to enable the allocation of a large proportion of the balance of the Fund for the benefit of unemployed persons.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Clifton Brown
It was interesting to listen to the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), and, in fact, to the other Opposition speeches, though I think they have been somewhat outside the scope of the Bill. I also listened to the very serious criticism of the spokesman from the Liberal benches, and it would appear that the Liberal party agree so much with what he says that there is not now a Liberal Member on the bench below the Gangway.
§ Brigadier-General Brown
I only rise to address the House for a very few minutes from the point of view of the agricultural landowner. I am grateful to the Government for having put the countryside upon a better basis on the question of insurance. According to the very interesting White Paper, it was found, from exhaustive reports upon whether gamekeepers, grooms and chauffeurs should be insured, that nearly all the employés were in favour of insurance and nearly all the employers also. I want to tell the Government that at an executive meeting of the Central Landowners' Association, which represents be- 2326 tween 12,000 and 13,000 agricultural landowners, this morning we were nearly unanimous that the insurance given us in the Bill was a great boon, and well worth any sacrifices that either side had to make in extra payments. We feel that as landowners the security that used to be given to these outdoor domestic servants has very largely vanished. We have to face the fact that owing to the high Death Duties, estates are constantly broken up, and that the security which these outside domestic servants used to have—they were well treated on the whole on the bigger estates—has very largely gone.
That is one reason why we feel that in this small Bill gamekeepers and grooms are being fairly treated. As far as chauffeurs are concerned, there are more of them, and they can get jobs outside domestic service when out of employment as lorry drivers, and in other ways. Therefore, I think that it is quite right that they should be put upon the 9d. insurance instead of upon the agricultural 4d. insurance. I think that as a rule they can afford that, and it is likely to profit them more, where they get employment without breaking their insurance, than if they were only on agricultural insurance. I would point out that in case of war, as in the last War, the outside domestic servant is not indispensable. If he is under 40, he is taken for the defence of his country. There were 1,000,000 outdoor domestic servants who fought for their country in the last War, and from the defence point of view both grooms and gamekeepers are worth thinking of and encouraging in regard to insurance. They ought to be well looked after because they are a valuable reserve of able-bodied men.
What we want at the present time in agriculture is more labour. How it comes about that there are 20,000 men unemployed I do not know, because in most parts of England more agricultural labour is required, and also more men are needed for forestry work. Gamekeepers and grooms are just the people who would fit into rural work, should they lose their employment as gamekeepers and grooms. They have a rural bias, they have lived in the country, and no doubt they would be able to get employment on the farm or in the woods. I think it is time they came under agricultural insurance.
2327 There are one or two questions I should like to put, and the first relates to the provision of milk for children. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education will take note of what I am saying. He knows that under the regulations made by county medical officers of health and by the Ministry of Health, a great many children cannot get pasteurised milk in the country districts. They can get raw milk. I hope the Minister will make regulations whereby the children in rural training centres will be able to get raw milk. At any rate, I hope he will go into this question and bring some common sense into it. I should like to know whether the term "groom" includes huntsman. Then there is the question of the ex-Service men. Their insurance when in the Army was on the 9d. scale, but when they came back to the land, as many of them did as grooms and gardeners, they went back to the 4½d. insurance. It may be that I am wrong but I should like to know why if they paid the 9d. they have to come back to the 4d.?
§ Brigadier-General Brown
I am glad to know that. I have asked recently several questions as to how many people are in the agricultural insurance scheme. I do not think the number has come up to the 800,000 which the Minister expected, but there is no doubt that the inclusion of grooms, gardeners and chauffeurs will help the insurance scheme rather than otherwise, because they are good lives. They will strengthen the Fund rather than weaken it. I hope I may have some reply to my questions, and I congratulate the Government on introducing the Bill.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I rise to examine the provisions of the Bill. It is an important Bill; everything which deals with unemployment is important. I am not going to criticise the Government for introducing another amending Bill, but I would remind them that a great man now associated with the Government walked into this House with a whole stack of Bills dealing with unemployment insurance and pleaded with the Government to coordinate the law. They have done so in a recent Act. Now within less than 12 2328 months they are starting a whole series of amendments again. I do not criticise them because in unemployment insurance you must be constantly amending and changing the law. There is not likely to be anything permanent in an Unemployment Insurance Act. The Bill proposes to deal with a number of problems, grooms, gardeners and similar persons, people who have been in the Army, with juvenile instructional centres and also with the debt question. The Amendment in addition raises the question of black-coated workers. I am not going to deal with the black-coated workers. I agree that they should be included, but I have other problems to face with which I am more closely interested, and I leave that particular problem to those people who are more closely associated with black-coated workers than I am myself.
Let me deal first with the junior instructional centres. I confess that occasionally the Minister of Labour irritates me. I do not know whether it is his fault, but his very smugness irritates me. He always seems to rise as if he alone can solve these problems; other Ministers have failed but I, the great Ernest, alone am successful. He is smug and happy, and in describing these junior instructional centres he claimed far too much for them. I represent a district which was a distressed area long before they were known as such. I do not approve of these junior instructional centres as now constituted, and I shall oppose them. What you are doing with the children is almost a form of torture. A child leaves school, you allow it to leave school, and it goes into industry and becomes a worker, a unit in the industrial field. It is thrown out of work, and you put it back into school. The child does not want this. The school has gone out of its life, it has been cast aside. You should never have allowed it to leave school, you should have continued its schooling longer but, once having allowed it to leave school, it is criminal in my opinion to force the child back into school.
I have been to two great centres and I admit they are well built and well equipped, but if you took a census in Glasgow to-morrow you would not get one in five who would desire to attend. Indeed, if you made the same conditions for the juveniles as you do for the training of adults I question whether you 2329 would get one in 40 to attend. They go there because they have to, and the amount of learning they get is very little. I say that the Minister should tackle the raising of the school age, should continue the child at school and not play this cat-and-mouse business, putting the children into industry and then pulling them back. The Bill also proposes to give them food at these centres. The Minister led us to believe that food was to be given to all who attended. That is not the case. Free food is only being provided subject to the education authority's regulations, which means that every person with an income over a certain standard cannot get food. Those whose parents are on Poor Law relief will get food, but the provision of food is taken into account in the amount of Poor Law relief. Consequently you will have two classes who will gain nothing, the very poor and those who happen to have an income which puts them outside the Bill.
I think it is a terrible thing to have, in a class of 40, 50 and 60 young girls and boys from 14 to 16 years of age, the possibility of one child walking in and saying "My father is on unemployment assistance. I get my food for nothing." The child next, whose father happens to be working and earning some kind of a wage, is not to get food. You have two young children sitting next to one another, and there is no defence for the proposal that one child should have food and the other child not. The Minister of Labour should see that every child attending these centres is supplied with food irrespective of the position of its parents. Let me say a word about chauffeurs coming into unemployment insurance. I agree with what the Mover of the Amendment has said, but I would remind him that this was to be expected in connection with unemployment insurance, and to some extent hon. Members above the gangway must accept a share of the responsibility, for when unemployment insurance was extended to agricultural workers the proposal was accepted by the Labour party. Although a chauffeur has nothing to do with agriculture, he is hauled in under this Act.
§ Mr. E. Brown
That is not so. He does not come under the Act. When he is insured by the Order, he will be in the general scheme.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I agree with the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that 2330 the Minister should tackle the problem as a whole. In my division, which is in the heart of a city and nowhere near the country, I have been shocked by the number of people covered by the agricultural insurance scheme. I am surprised at the number of people who are supposed to be agricultural workers, but who have practically no connection with agriculture. It is time that the right hon. Gentleman linked up the two schemes, because in essence there is no difference between one worker and another, and there ought to be no distinction in the schemes.
On the question of ex-soldiers, I frankly admit that the Minister makes an improvement. In the past, the man who was bought out, or who left the Army for any reason, was not entitled to standard benefit, although I always understood that he was entitled to unemployment assistance. However, does the right hon. Gentleman think it is fair to disallow for six weeks men who have been guilty of offences in the Army and have been discharged? Such men are tried for the offence by the military authorities and are discharged, but after that it is proposed to punish them in a civil court. The Minister ought at least to allow the statutory authorities of his own Department to decide such cases before the six weeks disallowance is operated. If a man is guilty of an offence, he ought not to be condemned by the military authorities, but to be tried before a civil court, seeing that it is a civil judgment that will operate. I am not sure what the Minister means when he speaks of men who join the Army with fraudulent intentions.
§ Mr. E. Brown
It is an offence against the law for a man to desert one regiment and then join another.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I was not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman meant a boy who joins the Army at the age of 17, and says that he is 18.
§ Mr. Brown indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am glad to see that the Minister indicates dissent. If a boy joined at the age of 17 and did five years' service in the Army, and if he was found out at the time of his discharge, I think it would be wrong for it to be said that he had joined fraudulently. In order to be sure on that point, we shall move Amendments on the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Buchanan
We shall take steps to see that it is quite clear when we reach the Committee stage. Moreover, I do not see why a man who deserts one regiment to join another should be punished by never being allowed to get benefit. If a young man joins the Cameron Highlanders and finds out that a pal of his is in another regiment, and if he deserts so as to join his pal's regiment, in the same service, and is found out, he may be discharged and get no unemployment benefit for life. The punishment is far too extreme for what is not considered to be a serious criminal offence, and I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter.
I would like now to say a few words about the debt plan. If hon. Members cast their minds back to the history of unemployment insurance, they will recognise that by this Bill, we are giving the Minister and the Committee power to repay the debt to a larger extent than they are now allowed to do. When the debt refund was made, the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed that it should be £5,500,000 per annum, but pressure was brought to bear by hon. Members opposite, particularly by Viscount Home, when he was a Member of the House, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), both of whom attacked the Chancellor; and it was largely at their request that the sum was reduced to £5,000,000 per annum. Their contention was the same as that of one of my hon. Friends who has spoken, namely, that the people who are now in the Unemployment Insurance Fund did not contract the debt, and therefore should not be called upon to repay it. I think that this debt should be cancelled. Hon. Members opposite cancel debts to Germans and to Italians, and they do not pay their own debts to America, throwing millions of pounds aside as though they did not matter. They do not meet their own obligations and they cancel millions of pounds of debts of Germany and certain of the thug governments in Europe, but when it comes to their own unemployed, men and women of their own kith and kin, they have to meet the debt, and the interest charges to the last possible pound that can be taken. I cannot understand 2332 the mentality of hon. Members who cancel every penny owing by foreigners and refuse to meet their own debts, yet who insist on this debt being paid by the poorest section of the community.
It is said that there are available surpluses which enable certain alterations to be made. I would remind the House that the unemployed are the one section of the community which has never had the economy cuts restored. Teachers, Members of Parliament and others suffered cuts, but they have been restored. The unemployed suffered a number of cuts, the benefits being reduced, the period of standard benefits being considerably curtailed, and the contributions of those working increased. Before the economy cuts were imposed, an applicant for unemployment benefit who had 30 stamps in two years could draw, on an average, one year and four months of standard benefit, but under the economy cuts the period was reduced to six months, and with one exception it remains at six months, the exception being that a person with five years work is now able to get standard benefit for 12 months. But nine-tenths of the unemployed have had to lose no less than ten months of standard benefit because of the economy cuts, which have been restored in the case of every other section of the community.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I was referring to the cuts made by the Economy Act. To-day the unemployed are being told that the cuts are not to be restored. The restoration of those cuts ought to be the first charge on any surplus in the Fund. With regard to the means test, the right hon. Gentleman said that no means test applies to standard benefit: that is almost true, but it is not entirely true. I wish to make a plea for one section of those on standard benefit who are subject to a means test. A young man living with his widowed mother, sisters, and brothers is entitled to claim benefit for the mother, but he can claim it only after he has undergone a form of means test. If the mother is receiving a widow's pension, they count up what the boy gives into the household, what the sisters give, and the mother's pension, and if what the boy gives does not come to a certain 2333 proportion above the mother's pension, the boy cannot get unemployment benefit for his mother. That is a device which very few can understand. The time has come when a son who is unemployed ought to be able to claim benefit: for his widowed mother on the same terms as a man claims for his wife on standard benefit.
I wish also to make a plea for another section. To-day a man who is single or a widower may claim for a woman, although she may not be his wife, if she has children; but if the man lives with his sister, who may be keeping house for him, he is not allowed to draw benefit for her if he is unemployed. Hon. Members know that it is a common occurrence that when a maiden sister and a single brother have lived with their parents, they continue to live together when the parents die. The widower who takes in a housekeeper to look after his children cannot draw benefit in respect of the housekeeper once the children are over 14 years of age. But, curiously enough, if he walks out into the street and gets a woman to live 'with him and has an illegitimate child, he can then draw benefit in respect of that woman. He cannot draw in respect of the housekeeper unless the children are below school age. I have already mentioned the case of the unmarried man who lives with his sister. I hope it is no offence for an unmarried man to keep his maiden sister for a period of years, and I think that in unemployment insurance the case of that type of man should be considered long before we consider the interests of the bondholder and long before we repay millions only in order that we may spend more millions on armaments. That type of man has a better claim upon us than the repayment of debt.
In these days one is apt to become rather cynical. We see millions being spent on arms and we are told that the country must defend itself, but if war broke out to-morrow, and even without war breaking out, the raw material for your Army is composed of men from among the people whose case we are discussing to-day. If you took a census of the British population to-day, what would you find? Among the doctors and the teachers and the other people of that class how many have sons in the Army? A former Secretary of State for Scotland and myself were speaking together after last night's discussion, and he said a thing 2334 which appealed to me—that Glasgow Members, like the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. T. Henderson), myself and others, have more photographs of soldiers in our houses than Members from any other place. That is because we represent the poor, and it is they who, in the main, go into the Army. These are the men we ask to fight for the nation, and yet we are discussing, in the meanest way, how little we can give them.
I put this case to the Minister. We pay now to a single woman 15s. a week. Take 6s. off that for rent, and divide up the remaining 9s. in any way you like, and you cannot make it work out at more than 3½d. per meal. That is for a woman of 25 years of age who needs to dress, who needs to keep clean and to be able to mix with others. Why, it is not sufficient to keep body and soul together. Yet while we are paying women that pittance, we are talking about repaying debt, about saving half a million here or half a million there. The first thing we ought to do is to see that that woman is remunerated de cently—not to give her pleasures, not to give her any surplus, but to give her enough for a decent living. This House will in due course be discussing Service Estimates. We shall be flinging millions about as if they did not matter. Is it too much to ask in this great country, with all its wealth, that those decent women should at least get the minimum requirements of life? I have stopped asking Governments for too much. I ask from this Government only what I asked from their predecessors. When we talk about making plans and about reconstruction and about looking ahead, I ask that this country, with all its wealth, should at least see to it that the more bestial forms of poverty are taken away from the very poor people, the people whom I regard as the best in the world.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Boulton
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has criticised certain aspects of this Bill with his usual force and directness. I understood him to criticise the finance of the Bill on the ground that the debt ought not to be a liability of the Insurance Fund, but Parliament has already decided otherwise and I do not therefore see any good purpose in pursuing that argument. The hon. Member in an interesting and impressive 2335 manner put forward a plea for certain classes of people who are among the poorest in this country and with whom we all sympathise. We all wish to do our best to see that they are not forgotten if there is anything to be given away, and those of us who represent great industrial areas and who know the circumstances of these people, will sympathise with the hon. Member in his plea for them.
This Bill will have the unanimous support of all who sit on this side of the House, and I had hoped and expected that it would also receive the support of hon. Members opposite, for it is a further step towards consolidating this Fund and placing it on a sound foundation, and I should have thought that, if for no other reason, hon. Members opposite would have been the first to welcome such a step, in view of past experience. The Statutory Committee have great responsibilities. They are the trustees for tens of thousands of contributors, and their first duty surely ought to be to try to build up the Insurance Fund as opportunity offers and place it on a sound basis. We must all agree that the committee's reports have shown great clarity and a progressive spirit, combined with a deep sense of humanity which must appeal to us all. It is only due to the Statutory Committee that that should be said.
The most important proposals in this Bill, in my view, are those dealing with finance. No one, not even the least intelligent person, would -say to invest money at 1⅔ per cent. and to borrow at 3½ per cent. with a debt of £100,000,000 was good business. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) I wondered whether he thought that would be good business for the company of which he is a director; I do not think so, but the right hon. Gentleman admitted, that though this might be bad business, viewed as an ordinary business transaction, it was not bad business considered as a national transaction. I must say that I cannot understand that logic. Surely now is the time to rectify the position in relation to the Fund. I, for one, welcome the proposal of the Statutory Committee to use part of this large surplus for repayment of the debt, while at the same time, taking powers to reborrow to the extent of the 2336 amount repaid, thus reducing the annual debt charge and making a considerable saving in the interest charges, as well as setting free a considerable sum for disposal. I think no method of dealing with the situation could better serve the interests of contributors and beneficiaries.
The people want security, and look to Parliament to give them that security. A large reserve against the possibility of bad times is essential, and we must always keep our eye on that. Even a large reserve would be wiped out in a very short time if we had heavy unemployment, but I am glad to think that from all the indications that is not yet apparent. The chairman of the Statutory Committee has indicated that proposals will also be made for using a further part of the surplus for improving benefits. We all realise that the higher cost of food to-day bears hardly on those who are not in employment, and any proposal for increasing benefit will be most welcome to all who are unfortunately compelled to draw upon this Fund. There are various directions in which this surplus could be applied, and we have heard 'different views on the subject.
I have great sympathy with the plea which has been made for the non-manual worker. I believe he has a good case. He belongs to a class who suffered heavily during the late depression. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will bear his case in mind, and that before long he will be able to present some proposals to this House for bringing that class into the insurance scheme. There are one or two other directions in which this money would be welcome by large numbers of people owing to the rise in the cost of living. If there was sufficient to go round I would suggest an increase of benefit rates when food costs rose above a fixed percentage figure, say something like 40. When prices fell below that fixed percentage the rates of benefit could be reduced again by the same amount thus protecting the Fund against future eventualities. Another proposal which would affects a large number of people is that of increasing children's benefit rates say by is. for the first two children, and grading it down in respect of the others. There are also those for whom the hon. Member for Gorbals spoke, namely, insured men with dependants. They ought to receive consideration.
2337 Attention must also be given to the case, though it is not quite as pressing as the others I have mentioned, of the man who has paid into this Fund for eight or ten years, and has a break in his employment. Could not an easing of the conditions of Clause 22 of the 1935 Act be made by linking up past years, as long as he can prove that he has paid not less than five years' contributions and thus enable him to obtain extended benefit. Another class of man who feel a certain sense of grievance are those who have paid into the Fund for many years and have never drawn out anything and who have retired from work. They have a sense of grievance in that they have contributed and have got nothing out of it. Theirs, I admit, is not as sound a case as the others. It is not as pressing as the others, but if the opportunity occurs some time, I hope that they also will be considered.
I put forward these few suggestions, which are probably already in the minds of the Statutory Committee and the Minister because I believe that they are proposals, particularly the first two, which would be welcomed by very large numbers of people who urgently require additional benefits. I think the other changes in the Bill are all in the right direction, and will give general satisfaction, although hon. Members opposite are prepared to destroy the Bill to-day and to deny improved benefits to those who come under it, because they say it does not go far enough to-day, but is that any argument for destroying the Bill? If it does not go as far as they and we would wish, w hope the time may come when it will go far enough. Let us not forget that this Bill could never have been introduced had it not been for the sound finance and practical common sense methods that have been followed by the National Government. It is another proof, if such is needed, that it is only by such methods that you can hope to improve the position of the people. It is for that reason that I, representing a large industrial area, congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on taking a further step forward in helping to better the conditions of the people but which, after all, is only in line with the traditional policy of the party to which I belong.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Lathan
I do not think the Minister and those associated with him have any 2338 doubt in their minds that our desire to support the extended provision that the Bill makes is as great as theirs. The right hon. Gentleman seems almost to resent reference to the position of the non-manual workers and I can well understand how he takes that view. This claim, which has been so consistently disregarded by the Government that one might almost say they have treated it with contemptuous indifference, must be very unwelcome in their ears when reference is made to it. While the Minister disparaged any reference to it, he had no indication to offer to those who have been pressing it for six or seven years how or why the Government were refusing to do anything to meet this much deserving body of citizens. The scheme is by no means a new one. It dates back to 1930. In that year the question was remitted to a Royal Commission, which said:We consider that, so far as unemployment insurance is concerned, it is desirable on general grounds to raise the income limit to £350 per annum.It is a singular but an undoubted fact that both majority and minority reports endorsed that proposal. The attention of the Government was drawn to that recommendation by deputations, by representations of an appropriate character and by discussions with Ministers and heads of Departments. We had on those occasions, as we have had in the House to-day, and as I suppose we shall get again until something more satisfactory is done, abundant expressions of sympathy, but nothing more. In the Debates on the Bill of 1934 the then Minister of Labour and his Parliamentary Secretary spoke sympathetically, and promised that consideration should be given by the Statutory Committee with a view to some definite action being taken. The committee reported unanimously in favour of lifting the maximum salary limit to £400 a year, and they indicated that not only would between 400,000 and 500,000 persons be beneficially affected by such proposals as they advocated, but their inclusion in insurance would not necessarily involve the Fund in an additional heavy charge. They anticipated that in the main the only charge that would fall upon national funds would be the contribution that they would make equally with employers and employed. This claim has the support of practically every organisation 2339 representing non-manual workers. It has been the subject of conference and discussion, and conferences representing no fewer than 750,000 people affected directly or indirectly by the proposals have declared unanimously in its favour. The Trades Union Congress has repeatedly endorsed the claim and has made representations, which have been sympathetically received, to the Minister and his predecessors. Still there is no indication why this deserving body of workers is not treated on terms of equality with others.
The Minister cannot deny that there is grievous and unfair discrimination as between manual and non-manual workers. It has been demonstrated to him over and over again that you may have in one industrial or commercial institution two employés, one coming within the category of manual and the other of non-manual worker, receiving precisely the same rates of pay, but one is deprived of the opportunity of making provision for unemployment while the other is permitted to come within the range of the scheme. Over and over again we have invited the Minister and his predecessors—he is not the only sinner—to say why there should be this discrimination. There are many cases where the manual worker is receiving a higher rate of pay than the non-manual. The non-manual worker has to bear all the responsibilities of citizenship, and frequently accepts responsibilities which other sections of workers do not, yet there is no consideration for him. The Minister cannot deny either, although the records are incomplete and nothing can be gathered in regard to their conditions as to unemployment except through the organisations which represent them, that the incidence of unemployment has been very severe upon them, not only during the slump period but even now. There is more than justification for the statement that has been made that in many suburban villas there are tragedies because of unemployment. All the developments that have taken place in recent years in the matter of amalgamation, rationalisation and such like, and changes in the structure of industrial and commercial undertakings, have affected a much larger number of non-manual than of manual workers.
2340 Not only in suburban villas do you find signs of tragedy. You can find them, if you choose, in the main thoroughfares of our streets and cities. You will find today in Oxford Street and Regent Street men who have occupied responsible positions as departmental heads, commercial travellers, and men engaged in the mercantile marine standing by the roadside begging or selling matches. Until the whole of their meagre resources has been exhausted, until they are literally deprived of all that they had, no assistance is forthcoming for them from any quarter. I invite the Minister to say how and why it is that this section of the community should be continually disregarded. Does he desire to provoke these people into what he would regard as extreme courses? When they learn, as they inevitably will learn, that under such persuasion as we have heard from the back benches opposite to-day from landowners and others, gamekeepers and chauffeurs can be provided for, while these other members of the community must go unprovided for, what other conclusion can they reach than that a measure of class distinction or discrimination is being perpetuated for which there is no justification whatever? We have begged and prayed, as the representatives of the non-manual workers, that the Minister should give some indication as to why this benefit is withheld from them, but so far no answer has been forthcoming. It is true that there has been procrastination in excelsisin regard to it, but I invite the Minister once again to say why provision should not be made and why this deserving class of the community should be treated in the way in which it has been consistently treated by him and his predecessors.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
We have had, in response to criticisms from this side of the House, the same kind of speeches that we invariably get from the supporters of the Government on any and every subject that is discussed in this House. One of the last hon. Members who spoke from the Government benches gave the unemployed unlimited sympathy, and, judging from the sound of his voice, his heart seemed about to be torn to pieces. He urged the Minister to do something in respect of increasing the benefits and easing the difficulties of our unemployed army. The hon. Member has now left 2341 the House, but he made those kindly suggestions to the Minister after he had approved of the destruction in a sense of this huge surplus of money. We have also been criticised on the ground that much that has been said from these benches has been outside the scope of the Bill. Even the Minister, optimistic and generally wide and grandiloquent in his exposition of anything that he presents to this House, however miserable in substance it may be, was only able to tell us that there may be two or three useful things in this Bill. When the right hon. Gentleman describes in language of that kind anything that he presents to the House, inevitably those of us who know him immediately become suspicious as to the substance of the Bill that he fosters in language of that kind.
I have no objection to the little gibes in which the Minister indulged in respect to the placard that he saw this morning advertising an easy way of filling coupons. Personally, I do not know anything about the technique of filling coupons, but I am certain that filling a coupon would call for no less finesse than the Minister has shown in the raid that he has made upon this Fund. This Bill is about the most stupid and one of the coarsest things that I have known presented to this House, and that is saying a great deal, and it is ridiculous that hon. Members opposite, in their efforts to support the Bill, should talk about the sound finance that is revealed in that brutal and calculated raid upon funds that have been accumulated out of the poorest paid and the hardest working section of the country.
The Minister made a great dear of play on the visits that he had made to the junior instruction centres. I think he told us that he had visited about a third of them, and, in order to impress us as to how keenly he had observed the work going on at these centres, he said he had found the youngsters attending them to be of a remarkable standard of, presumably, physical well-being—an observation based, as the observations of the right hon. Gentleman are characteristically based, upon the most superficial association with measures of this kind. Did he pay much attention, I wonder, to the manner in which these young persons were clothed. Did he look at them at the end of their day's work or physical exercises putting on the clothes which 2342 they were to wear on the streets? Did he notice them in Merthyr Tydfil? I do not wish to emphasise Merthyr Tydfil more than any other part of the country, but did he question them as to the circumstances in their homes, as to how long their fathers might have been unemployed, as to what degree of strain their mothers had been subjected to? Incidentally, may I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the reference to the tragedy of the mothers in some of the distressed areas, in the latest report of the Commissioner for those areas?
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) put his case rather strongly as to the conditions under which these young persons were to have the meals that are to be provided under this Bill, but if the hon. Member were now here, I would tell him that he did not put the case strongly enough. The Bill itself tells us that these meals are to be supplied to these poor young people on the same basis that meals are supplied to the children in our elementary schools. What is that basis? The Minister was very careful not to attempt to explain what that part of the Bill meant. It means that in our elementary schools no child is permitted to have a free meal unless that child, after it has been medically examined, is found to be suffering from malnutrition, and these young people, who will presumably be the fathers and mothers of children in the future, will not be supplied with any meals unless, after medical examination, they are found to be suffering from malnutrition. What a generous, what a sensible thing to do!
The Minister goes along and talks to these young people, knowing the terrible difficulties in the background from which these cases come, and he comes along here and tells them, "I know, and the Government know, how horribly difficult and disappointing your lives are to-day; I know, and the Government know, of the struggle in the homes of tens of thousands of you people, but I will not even supply you, not in these days, when money is being doled out by tens of millions of pounds to the class that has more than enough to-day, with a decent square meal until you have been medically examined and found to be suffering from malnutrition." What a splendid, courageous, and generous thing it is for the Minister to stand up at that 2343 Box and pirouette, indulging in his customary rhetoric, and expressing his vast sympathy with the poor people of this country, and then in his peroration, in a mean, selfish anti-climax, to say that these youngsters will not get a meal unless they suffer from malnutrition. The other evening, when the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health was putting up his fight on behalf of an increased population in this country, I knew, and so did my hon. Friends here, that if there was one Member in this House who was determined to double-cross the Minister of Health in all the efforts that he was making in that direction, it was the Minister of Labour, the champion of malnutrition and of the means test in this country.
A great deal of play has been made about the new classes that are to be drawn into insurance under this Bill, and we notice that the great benefits that are to be offered them are just those that are being given to the agricultural labourers. Assuming that a groom or a stable-hand was brought within this provision, living, say, in London or an urban area, and he became unemployed, would he receive benefit on the same scale as an agricultural labourer or as an ordinary industrial worker who became unemployed and who lived in an urban area? I should like to have an answer to that question from anyone who may reply on behalf of the Government this evening.
Reference has been made to the sound finance underlying this Bill, and some arithmetic has been indulged in. The Financial Memorandum tells us that the total cost to the Treasury of these new changes will amount to £125,000, presumably at the cost of tens of millions which are to be taken from the Fund, which is to be raided. This is a Fund which has been accumulated by the insured contributors. It is said that to take anything from the Fund only affects that section of the unemployed who are in receipt of statutory benefit. I am glad that the hon. Member for Gorbals has dealt with that point. We cannot draw a distinction in tens of thousands of cases to-day as far as circumstances and conditions of the unemployed workers are concerned, whether they are under the Unemployment Assistance Board or whether they draw statutory benefit. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to 2344 visualise the circumstances obtaining in the South Wales coalfield. There are tens of thousands of unemployed persons there in homes where there are one or more of the other members of the family at work. Side by side in the same home you have one unemployed person drawing unemployment assistance pay and another drawing unemployment insurance benefit. Where can you draw the line in cases of that kind? As long as there is one person in a house in receipt of unemployment assistance that presupposes that all the income in that house is pooled, and no distinction can be made for practical purposes.
This Bill is a fraudulent transaction. It is taking money from the Fund in the teeth of the conditions which exist to-day; in face of the means test, which strikes the employed person as harshly as it strikes the unemployed person if both are members of the same household. Meanwhile, the Minister perpetuates the sharp practice which is carried out under the Anomalies Regulations. I remember a speech which the Minister made when some small alterations were being made, particularly with regard to seasonal workers. I intervened, and he told me bluntly that I was wrong. I knew that I was not wrong, because I knew of seasonal workers going to courts of referees after they had had six, seven and eight months of employment and finding that they were deprived of any benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act. How can the Minister justify this financial ramp while such conditions obtain?
Hon. Members opposite are proud of what is being done in this Bill. Our suggestion is that a great deal of the money that is being taken could be distributed for the purpose for which it has been accumulated. The Minister ought to use it in order to destroy the harshest thing which has been perpetrated against the unemployed, and that is the means test. He could use the money to put an end once and for all to the Anomalies Regulations. He could use the money in raising generally the unemployment pay, whether on the statutory side or on the unemployment assistance side, and in so doing he would be doing something which would reflect to his credit. He might at the same time raise the benefit rates for agricultural workers.
I should like to warn hon. Members opposite not to indulge in language such 2345 as that used by one hon. Member opposite, who said that he had not noticed much ire being aroused in opposition to the right hon. Gentleman. When it is realised that this big sum, which might have been used to remove much of the poverty and suffering from the unemployed, is being used for other purposes, and that it is being done by a Government which has doled out tens of millions of pounds in subsidies, and has ignored hundreds of millions of pounds which have been lent to other countries in Europe, it will not be necessary for me to make any speeches to my constituents who have had five, ten or twelve years of enforced unemployment, in order that they may realise that these things are being done by a Government which leaves them subject to the means test and to poverty. No speeches will be required from Members of Parliament to bring home to the people the mean action that is being perpetrated by the right hon. Gentleman, in addition to the very many mean actions which he has perpetrated in this connection.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
The hon. Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. Boulton) said that hon. Members opposite would be unanimously in support of the Bill. We need not be surprised. They are easily pleased, for they will support a Bill however anaemic it may be. The hon. Member also expressed surprise that there should be any objection to the Bill from this side of the House. We do not object to those who are included in the Bill but we complain about those who have been omitted. We say that the Bill does not carry out the recommendations made by the Statutory Committee last year. Many workers who have a better claim than those who are being covered by the Bill are being excluded. The Statutory Committee held an exhaustive inquiry, and strong and conclusive evidence was given as to the hardship suffered by non-manual workers when unemployment overtakes them. I had the privilege of giving evidence before that committee, and was able to show how many of the so-called black-coated workers or non-manual workers employed in the distributive trade, by reason of the basis of their remuneration, were outside the Unemployment Insurance Act, and that when unemployment fell to their lot they were not entitled to benefit.
2346 A shop manager may be earning at the rate of under £250 a year in one week, and next week when trade improves his commission may go up and that may last for six months, during which period he is out of the Act. Then by reason of the competition of a rival firm he may lose income again for a time, and he comes back again into insurance. Naturally, he feels a grievance. Every now and then he contributes to unemployment insurance, and when he is unemployed he finds that he is not entitled to benefit. Through rationalisation, amalgamation of firms and centralised buying, many buyers and departmental managers have been thrown out of work in recent years. Their savings have soon gone, many of their homes have been mortgaged, and, finally, they have been forced to sell up and resort to public assistance, because they were not entitled to unemployment benefit. Representations were made to the committee on behalf of other sections of non-manual workers, such as journalists, textile managers, coke-oven managers, colliery under-managers, marine engineers, chemists and life assurance workers, who are not eligible because they happen for the time being to be in receipt of over £250 per annum.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Statutory Committee in reference to the inclusion of these workers stated that it was safe to assume that their inclusion would strengthen rather than weaken the Fund. Therefore, I cannot understand why the Government persist in excluding these non-manual workers. Why should they forget the claims of these people and put forward the claims of gamekeepers, grooms, stablemen and others who have never contributed at any time to insurance? I do not object to the inclusion of these people, because I think that every worker should be included, but surely the black-coated workers have a prior claim, particularly those who have been contributing at times, and who afterwards find that they are not entitled to benefit. They are a class hitherto neglected by politicians, probably because they are inarticulate. They have suffered. in silence, but when they realise that the Government have deliberately flouted the recommendations of the Statutory Committee to include them in the Insurance Act, they will be silent no longer. The Government have traded on their patience far too long. They will want to know 2347 why a class of workers who have never contributed should now be included while they are left out.
Other workers who have a just complaint are those classed as seasonal workers. I have come across men working in coal hulks during the busy season who have contributed to the Fund, and then they have found that they are only seasonal workers, and when unemployment comes they are not entitled to benefit. We find working at seaside resorts waitresses who come under the same category. To-day the cost of living is rapidly rising. It is 15 per cent. above what it was when the House last considered the Statutory Committee's report. The recommendations of the Committee on that occasion was that the contribution should be reduced by one penny per week. The Government readily grasped at that, but refused to accept the finding of the one trade union representative on that Committee, Mr. Shaw, who recommended that benefits should be increased by 2s. for adults and is. for dependants. The Fund could have stood that very well, and it was a proposal that would have been welcomed by the workers. They would certainly have preferred it to a reduction of id. a week. The real reason why we object to the Bill is that we consider it is entirely inadequate, and leaves out a class of workers which ought, in justice, to be included.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
I was pleased to hear the Minister pay tribute to the high standard of the juveniles attending the instruction centres. I do not know whether he meant in physique or in dress, but in whatever respect they were of a high standard, it was not to the credit of the Minister, but largely to the credit of the people at home who are living on very small wages or unemployment benefit. The person to whom I would give the highest tribute for this high standard, both in physique and dress, is the mother of the boy or girl at the juvenile instruction centre. I represent a Special Area and I know how the mothers, the wives of the unemployed, are suffering silently so that their bairns may go decently dressed and fed. Boys and girls from 14 to 16, in that critical period of life, that wonderful period, the period of adolescence, when the human bud is opening and unfolding into the 2348 human blossom, ought not to be in juvenile instruction centres, but kept at school where they would receive lessons in music, art and literature and carry on from their elementary education the scientific lessons which were suddenly broken at 14 years of age. They would be in a better environment in school than in the juvenile instruction centre, because some of the buildings and the surroundings of the centres are anything but good for adolescent boys and girls. If the Board of Education had taken over their care, it would have been a good deal better for them.
We would not then have had the sight we have to-day of many teachers who have just left training colleges and are unable to find jobs. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board told us this afternoon that nearly 2,000 teachers have left training colleges this year and have not found employment. If these boys and girls had been kept at school from 14 to 16, we should have been able to engage those teachers who are now walking the streets eating out their hearts and adding to the number of the black-coated workers for whom no provision is being made. Theirs is a lot of misery and mourning, and they will join this great army of black-coated workers who have been driven out of employment by rationalisation and mechanisation. As we see some of these old faithful servants of the black-coated army going about the streets, we know that their black coats hide aching hearts. They thought at one time that they were safe for life, but rationalisation and mechanisation have driven them out, and their black coats are now shiny with wear.
In Clause 2 the Minister proposes to include several classes of people such as game-keepers, grooms, chauffeurs and the like. I am glad he is doing that, because these people are liable at the whim of their employers to be dismissed at a moment's notice. I do not say that these men are in the best kind of work or in productive employment, but they are workers, and therefore I am glad they are to be included. I wish they could have been brought into the general scheme, and that there never had been an agricultural scheme, for the general scheme is meagre enough without giving them the reduced benefits of the agricultural scheme. Clause 2 talks about persons employed wholly or mainly out of doors in 2349 domestic service. I wish that the words "out of doors" had not been included, and that we could as quickly as possible devise means of bringing in the ordinary domestic servant. When these girls leave their work they cannot get another engagement unless they have references. In my opinion in 90 per cent. of the cases the mistresses ought to give references, and not the girls. When these girls get thrown out of work they often have nowhere to go except the miserable life of the streets in our towns and cities. I am sorry when I see these girls standing about the street corners. I know that many people look down on them, but I try to visualise these women, these painted ladies as they are called, when they were a year old, because I know that then they were somebody's canny bairns, somebody's darlings, and that it may not be their fault that they are on the streets now. If we could get domestic servants under unemployment insurance many of these disasters would be avoided.
Clause 3 deals with the debt. There is great concern about the solvency of the Fund, but what about the solvency of the unemployed? Are they free of debt? A single man is given 17s. a week. I know many of these men who are in lodgings paying 25s. When they are unemployed they have to run into debt to the extent of 8s. a week. During the 26 weeks they run up a debt of Eros. 8s. and then fall on the Unemployment Assistance Board, when they are reduced to 16s., and sometimes to 155. Then their liabilities for lodgings mount up at the rate of 9s. a week. I wonder when such men will be solvent:. They will not be solvent until death dissolves them and all their debts. We talk about the reduction of debt to the bondholders. Is there no other debt that deserves repayment besides that of the moneylender? What of the thousands of men who fought for the country and are now walking the streets? We have a debt to repay to them which we can never really repay in money. The money paid for the reduction of the debt means a reduction of the benefit to those under unemployment insurance, and the consequence will be to keep down the scales under the Unemployment Assistance Board. Small meagre gifts have been given to us, but we believe that something larger and nobler should have been done, and we are, therefore, opposing the Bill.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill is a very fortunate Minister of Labour—much more fortunate than many of his predecessors. It is fortunate for him that he has been Minister of Labour at a time when, in common with general world improvement, there has been an improvement in trade in the United Kingdom. Had he been faced with some of the economic difficulties of previous Ministers of Labour, he would not have been so happy as he was at the Box today. He has been fortunate in being able to report for some time that the scheme which has been in operation for a few years has proved most successful. The Unemployment Fund has been made solvent, and it is the intention of the Government to keep it solvent. It is a happy contrast to the unhappy time when the Government was in the hands of the Labour party, who so mishandled things that we have a considerable debt to face in regard to unemployment. That is a fine picture, but when we take into consideration the fact that all those who are on the means test are being provided for out of another fund, it does not make the case of the Government so rosy. The Fund is not quite so solvent when you consider the whole amount that is being paid out in unemployment assistance.
How has this Fund, which is troubling the advisory committee and the Government, become solvent? It is because the National Government limited the period during which standard benefit would be paid. They increased the contributions at the same time. In this way they have been able to create a Fund which the country is assured is solvent. I agree with my hon. Friends who have maintained that the surplus, or balance, as the Minister prefers to call it, has been acquired simply because, through this arrangement of limiting the time during which standard benefit would be paid, they have been able to throw on to the means test men and women who ought to have been receiving standard benefit for a longer period. It shows that those who were advising the Government were wrong in their assumption that particular things would happen during the years that were to follow. We are always told in the House to be most respectful to the 2351 actuaries, to men who advise the Ministers in drafting their Bills and framing their schemes. We have to be respectful to them because they take acount not only of the immediate situation, but of the situation that is likely to develop over a period of years. Today the Government find themselves in a difficulty because they have a Fund to dispose of, and do not know how to dispose of it without creating fresh difficulties.
I am prepared to admit, as other hon. Members have, that there are good features in this Measure which have hitherto been withheld from the unemployed, but which have been urged from this side on previous occasions. When the Unemployment Insurance Measure was before the House in 1933, arguments were advanced from this side for the very things that are now in this Bill. It seems that although proposals we make from this side are called impracticable, the National Government find in the course of two or three years that they are practicable, and they include them in their Measures. I welcome the provision for feeding juveniles who are to attend these training centres. It was remarkable to have the Minister of Labour appearing at that Box this afternoon, and frankly confessing that some of those juveniles—it does not matter whether the number is small or large—were suffering from want of food. From the other side of the House we have hitherto always been assured that our charges in that connection were stretched, and that neither the juveniles nor the unemployed were suffering in that respect. If these children had an opportunity of getting decent meals at home they would not require meals in the instruction centres; it is because they cannot get proper meals at home that we have to make this provision.
I come now to the disposal of the surplus. We are told that we had better dispose of it by paying off debt, that debt which was piled up at a time when the economic conditions in this country and throughout the world were at their very worst—worse than they had ever been during a generation. That was when most of this debt was created.
§ Mr. Rowlands
Is it not a fact that £65,000,000 was borrowed during the 2352 period when the Labour Government were in office, between 1929 and 1931?
§ Mr. Watson
I have not denied that. I was drawing attention to the fact that not only in this country, but throughout the world, there was the worst economic blizzard known in our lifetime. I have not denied that during the time the Labour Government were in office—it was a most unfortunate time for the Labour Government to be in office—a considerable part of that debt was created, but not the whole. Part of it was created before the Labour Government came in, and after they went out the debt was still mounting, so long as the economic blizzard lasted. We on this side have maintained that that debt ought to have been added to the National Debt, not charged on the Unemployment Fund. That is our claim to-night, and that is why we have put down this Amendment. That debt ought to have been liquidated in some other way than by making those who are contributing to the Unemployment Insurance Fund responsible for it. Not all those who are contributing to that Fund to-day were receiving benefits during the time the debt was created, and before we get rid of the debt children who are not yet born will be contributing towards wiping it out. Why should future generations be charged with a burden of that kind? Neither the present nor future contributors ought to be called upon to pay a debt which was created under very special circumstances and ought to have been liquidated in a different fashion. That is the main objection we have to the Bill.
I want to tell the Minister of Labour that in the country from which he and I come—well, I do not know where he comes from, but, at any rate, he represents a Scottish constituency—we have just about as bad an unemployment situation as is to be found in any part of the country. What is called the "hard core of unemployment" still remains in Scotland. Despite all the efforts of the Minister of Labour, nothing has been done which makes any impression on that hard core. We are supposed to be in a period of great industrial prosperity, and yet in the district from which I come, which is not a depressed area, we have thousands of unemployed persons, unemployed miners, who are never likely to be absorbed again by the mining industry.
2353 Those men may have got some advantages at the time when this debt was being created, because many of them have been out of work for many years, a statement which is true of every mining area. We have that hard core of unemployment, upon which even this very proud and successful Minister of Labour has not been able to make any impression.
Like others, I frankly confess that I am disappointed to find a Measure such as this before us, and I join with those who have drawn attention to the position of what are called the black-coated workers. Here, again, we on this side are putting forward a plea. I do not know whether it will be next year or the year after, but if the right hon. Gentleman is still Minister of Labour and this Government are still in office I suppose that at some time they will come forward with another unemployment insurance Measure, to include black-coated workers. Why do not they deal with their problems in a decent respectable way and make an endeavour to solve them? This is only a paltry, niggling Bill dealing with a few details. Apart from that there is nothing of any consequence in it.
I join with the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) in saying that part of the surplus available should have been used to get rid of many of the anomalies to which he referred. There are still many anomalies which will cost a good deal of money which it is within the power of the Minister of Labour to remove, and he ought to have taken the opportunity of embodying in this Measure the necessary Amendments to deal with them out of the money that is available. But the Minister thought it would be an exceedingly dangerous thing for him at the moment to increase benefits to insured workers. I dare say he would have a fit if anybody suggested that the money should be used to increase the benefits of those on standard benefit, because he knows that if he did so he would have to increase the benefits to those who come under the means test, have to level them up also. I suppose it is because he sees the possibility of mounting costs that he is not prepared to use any part of the surplus to increase benefits. If he is not intending to increase benefits before he begins to reduce the debt in the way proposed in this Measure he should have been prepared 2354 to wipe out many of the existing anomalies which so adversely affect the unemployed.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Our experience of recent years ought to make us feel that this Debate is taking place at a very opportune moment, and I welcome the opportunity to make a few observations on this Bill out of my experience since I came into the House, and from what I have learned by reading the Debates on the Bills presented to the House a few years ago. The Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee has to make a report at the end of every financial year. It is true that it invites evidence from any one who desires to submit evidence, but all our experience has shown that the evidence tendered by certain people always weighs more with it than the evidence submitted by the people whom we represent in particular. Therefore, I feel that this Debate is taking place at an opportune time, because it enables us on this side to put forward ideas, principles and suggestions which will be published in the record of our proceedings, and the Statutory Committee will have the benefit of considering that record.
I oppose the Bill on principle, and I shall submit evidence to prove that our principle is the correct one. I oppose it also because, as is stated in the Amendment, itleaves upon a section of the community a national burden incurred in time of depression instead of devoting the surplus in the Unemployment Fund to raising the standard of life of the unemployed.The key to this Bill being submitted to the House may be found partly in a speech made by the chairman of the Unemployment Statutory Committee in Blackpool about 18 months ago. Sir William Beveridge was addressing the British Association Economic Section, and he took a very pessimistic view of the future of the Insurance Fund. As a result of my experience and of taking a deep interest in these affairs, I share Sir William Beveridge's view to a great extent, but I do not share his pessimism as indicated in that speech. We have stated from our Front Bench time after time that a slump is bound to come. As a result of our scientific analysis of the contradictions in the present social system we say that a slump, although it may 2355 not come next month, next year, or the year after that, is bound to come. Sir William Beveridge said at Blackpool that it would come in 1938. He declared:A slump is coming, and the armaments boom is not going to stop it. The Statutory Committee is preparing for at least 2,200,000 unemployed.In my view that speech gives the key to the introduction of this Bill and the reasons why I oppose it.
I am interested in trade council work. A circular has been issued to us asking us to refrain as far as possible from taking part in political activity. Political and industrial activity are inseparable, and it is possible for certain organisations to carry it on, within certain narrow limits. Certain organisations in this country have been trying to carry on in their localities without being charged with taking part in political activity. They have been desirous of obtaining the maximum amount of benefit from the opportunities of representing their fellow trade unionists at the local Employment Exchanges, upon the local municipalities and in other ways. Sitting here, I have been thinking that something which is taking place this evening is very significant. Our benches are occupied with Members who are keen to take part in the Debate. I met others in the Library and in the Lobbies who said to me: "Is there any chance of getting in?" They would rather be here than doing their correspondence. The most significant feature is that while our benches are showing such interest in this matter, not one supporter of the National Government has got up to speak from the benches opposite during the past hour.
I know it can be said that scores of Members on the other side represent working-class people as much as many of us do, but my reply to that is that if hon. Members opposite had the interests of their constituents and of the unemployed at heart, and of the men and women who have contributed to unemployment insurance week by week, they would be sitting in their places to-night taking some interest in the question before us. I refer not so much to Members representing southern constituencies, certain areas in the industrial constituencies or those which, generally speaking, are occupied by middle-class people, but to 2356 those who represent great industrial centres.
I have said that I oppose the Bill on principle. I have in my hand a letter addressed by the chairman of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee to the Minister of Labour stating that, arising out of a conversation which he had with the Minister lately, he was ad- dressing the letter to him in the desire that legislation would be introduced to deal with this question. The letter states:There is now an almost certain prospect that, by the end of 1937, the Fund will be £62,000,000, and there is a reasonable likelihood in the course of the next year of adding at least another £20,000,000, bringing the total to £82,000,000 or more.That letter also provides a reason why the Bill is being introduced. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he remembers another huge surplus that was brought into being. I belong to an industry in which, from 1912 to 1919, men and women contributed millions of pounds towards building up a huge surplus in the Unemployment Fund. There were very few such industries at the time of which I am speaking. In 1919, how was that surplus spent? Not for the benefit of those who had contributed since 1912, but in order to stave off what might have happened in this country if the returned soldiers had not been looked after. Millions of pounds were paid out in what were looked upon as doles, to which we objected and which we did not recognise, because unemployment should have been a national charge and obligation. We now say that if it was right in 1919 to use that surplus for the benefit of those who had returned from the War and were unemployed, it is right to use the present surplus to increase the benefits of people who have contributed to bring that surplus about.
If I remember correctly, although I speak from memory, the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance recommended that the Fund should not stand this debt. The Royal Commission was composed of people who were competent, and who had been specially selected because of their great experience in these affairs. I believe the Commission recommended that this huge debt should not be dealt with as it has been dealt with, but should be wiped off, in order that the Insurance Fund could be put on a proper 2357 basis. Our opinion is that unemployment is a national responsibility, and that the maintenance of the unemployed should be paid for whether the unemployed people live in Cornwall and Devonshire or in the North of England, Durham, North Staffordshire, Lancashire, and certain parts of Scotland. The Minister gave a few extracts from a leading article which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" yesterday. I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey): "I read that article, Joe, and he has only given out of it the extracts which suit him." I looked up the article. It is a critical analysis of the present Bill, but the Minister did not quote this from it:By the Act of 1934, the Unemployment Fund is saddled with the repayment of a debt of £100,000,000, the legacy of the borrowing of successive Governments between 1922 and 1931Nor did the right hon. Gentleman quote this:It has always seemed unfair that this charge should be put upon the Fund.The article goes on to say:How much of the surplus should be allocated to debt redemption is a separate matter. In face of the rising cost of living, clearly the first duty of the Committee will be to revise the benefit scale.The Minister did not quote that from the article in the "Manchester Guardian" of yesterday. I have always been opposed on broad grounds to the principle contained in this Bill. First of all, I have always contended that it was impossible to put unemployment insurance on an actuarial basis. Is there anyone in the House, whether Minister or otherwise, who will say that it is a business proposition to put unemployment insurance on an actuarial basis? I have had the benefit of reading a number of books and pamphlets that were published by a large insurance company in America a few years ago. I am sorry to say that I lent them to a very well-known official employed by the Minister of Labour, and have never had them returned. That large American insurance company, as a result of its investigation, came definitely to the conclusion that it was impossible to put unemployment insurance on an actuarial basis. To doubt that is surely to underrate the business capacity of the large insurance companies in this country. If it were possible to put unemployment insurance on an actuarial basis, we can depend upon it that the Prudential and 2358 the Refuge would have been in this business long ago.
I consider that this surplus should be used for the purpose, first of all, of increasing the benefits of the unemployed. I know scores of unemployed men and women, and I know their children. Most of those men and women are as good as any of us; most of them would run to a job to-morrow if a job could be offered them. Many of them are unemployed through the mechanisation, electrification and increase of production in the mines; many are unemployed because of the speeding up that has taken place on the railways and in the engineering, pottery and other industries. The enormous increase of production that has taken place in this country has increased the competitive power of British industry, so that British industry, so far as competition is concerned, is in a relatively advantageous position in the markets of the world, but at the cost of those who are unemployed as the result of this increased production. Instead of submitting to the House a Bill such as this, the Government ought to examine the whole position. They ought to get the Statutory Committee together as soon as possible, in order that the surplus which has been brought about as a result of the relative improvement in trade for the time being may, in view of the great increase which is taking place in the cost of living, be used for the benefit of those people who ought to benefit from it.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Ritson
First of all, I should like to remind the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands), who intervened some time ago, that when we were £60,000,000 in debt—a fact for which I have never apologised—we were threatened with expulsion from this House. I was highly interested by the speech of the Minister. He always reminds me of an indiarubber man. He bounces to the Box with a confidence, a determination and a political conceit that make me green with envy. He declares that this is a beautiful little Bill, that we cannot possibly object to it, that there are in it some most magnificent ingredients for the future benefit of the race. But no Minister, whoever he may be, can come to that Box and boast that he has a £60,000,000 surplus while he allows the means test to operate in this country.
2359 While people here are boasting about a £60,000,000 surplus, I see fathers walking round the streets and coming to me with tears in their eyes, and saying, "Ritson, my life is finished; my children look down upon me because, owing to the means test, I cannot receive anything because they are getting something." And yet hon. Members opposite are always telling us to keep our chests out and our heads up, because, they say, that is a great asset to any nation. As long as a state of affairs exists when parents are suffering the ignominy of having to be kept by their sons and daughters because the Minister imposes upon them a means test, while at the same time he boasts of his £60,000,000 surplus, I have no regard for the sincerity of any Minister, whoever he may be.
The language used on the opposite side of the House is getting ridiculous. The other day a Member used language which, if I had indulged in it in my Division, would have lost me my seat. He is from Oxford. What has gone wrong with Oxford? I remember the day when Oxford sent us the scion of a great house who was potentially religious enough to be a Pope, but now it has sent us a loose-box comedian. My right hon. Friend who opened this discussion pointed out that there are 450,000 black-coated workers without help at all, but the Minister does not relieve them; he relieves hon. Gentlemen opposite in respect of 12,000 gamekeepers. I have a great regard for gamekeepers, but I wonder, if 12,000 gamekeepers marched down Whitehall, what the people of this great city would think if they were told what they were for. It is a sad reflection that, while we have to complain of the means test, someone can afford to keep 12,000 gamekeepers to feed pheasants and other things of the kind.
Now the Minister comes along, and neglects 450,000 black-coated workers, and goes on to relieve gentlemen of the responsibility of keeping their gamekeepers to the tune of 12,000. I want game-keepers relieved, but I never thought there was, and never will think there is any need for game-keepers when there are 450,000 black-coated workers not being provided for. We were told by an hon. Gentleman on the back benches opposite 2360 that the grooms were losing their jobs. If they have lost their jobs with horses, they have generally picked them up with motor cars. People are not only making them work as grooms now, but they are making them work as chauffeur-gardener-grooms, so that they are giving three services instead of one.
With regard to the treatment of juveniles, the Minister seemed to think it a very nice thing that he was going to feed our children, but he found that there is not a newspaper of any colour that has not had to admit that the children of the unemployed are not properly fed. The children coming into the mines are not fit to do the exhausting work they have to do under the machine pressure of to-day. These children are to be given milk and biscuits. I am a great believer in milk, though I am not an example for it, as I have not had much, but I am very anxious about this, because we have some very large families in Durham. We have the record of the greatest number of births in the country, in spite of Oxford. It is a terrible strain, this continual unemployment; and it should be remembered that people have always got to have something to carry on the house, apart from food. There is all this strain upon us, and when these boys go along for training, I would to Heaven you would give them a good round meal. I would prefer your giving the £60,000,000 surplus through the kitchens of the mothers, rather than sending the boys along to training centres in order to get the Minister's milk and biscuits.
I do not take part in these Debates very often, and naturally I get a little muddled; but I never will be content, and I hope my friends on this side never will be content, and there are Members on the other side who ought not to be content, while our population are suffering under the means test to-day and the Minster comes here and boasts of havng a £60,000,000 surplus, and juggles before our eyes with figures. When I hear the Minister juggling between 3 per cent. and 5 per cent., I get lost, but I am not lost on the practical side of it, and as soon as the Government realise that the first necessity is to build up our youth and give it a suitable moral and spiritual outlook, the better. The Minister sits there as a man who preaches the Gospel, and he has not the foggiest idea where charity 2361 begins. I know nothing about Latin quotations, but I know something about the Minister of Labour. He is kept here, and was appointed, for the purpose of taking over the dirty work nobody else on that side would do. The honours that are left to him, he is welcome to. I would rather die in poverty and despair and be forgotten than rise on to a pedestal at the expense of the blood and suffering of the people.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I am supporting the Amendment for the reasons contained in it. There are one or two things I. would like to say with regard to this Bill. Like most of the National Government's legislation, it does contain some little good. The first part of it, which gives to higher education authorities the right to provide meals for children receiving juvenile instruction, is a step in the right direction; but there would be more credit to the Government if they were to tackle this question of juvenile employment in different ways. I think it is a scandal that in the twentieth century we should have so many juveniles out of work. If I had had my way, I would have kept these children at school and given the parents maintenance grants.
When we turn to insurance for gamekeepers, grooms and stablemen, that might be acceptable in some parts; but let us understand what we are doing. The hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) said that the Central Council of Landowners had declared almost unanimously that they were in favour of this portion of the Bill. We are putting these men under the scheme of agricultural insurance. As one who took some part in the Debates on agricultural insurance, I want to say that that is not satisfactory. We are saying to stablemen, grooms and gamekeepers that they come into insurance, not like anybody else in the country, not getting a grade like the ordinary industrial worker, but coming into a scheme that is lower, both in regard to its contribution and benefits, than the unemployment insurance scheme. We say to these grooms, stablemen and gamekeepers "When you are out of work, it matters not how many children there are in the family, fie most that you can get is 30s. a week—14s. for yourself, 7s. for your wife and 3s. for 2362 each child." It is to the shame of the Government that they imposed on the lowest paid members of the community, namely, the agricultural workers, an inferior scheme of insurance to that which has been given to the workpeople in the various industries. I am hoping to see the time come when this inferiority of countryside workers will be abolished, and when they will be given a fair crack of the whip with regard to unemployment insurance, wages and conditions of labour generally. Do not let us boast that we are giving a great amount to the men who are engaged in domestic service.
Perhaps the greatest objection that we have to the Bill is that it treats the surplus of the Unemployment Insurance Fund in a way that we do not like. I am astonished at the complacency of the Government, and particularly of the Minister of Labour. I did expect that with this huge surplus they would have got down to deal with some of the real problems of unemployment. What have we to-day? We have unemployed men receiving 17s., with 9s. for the wife and 3s. for each child. Do any hon. Members on the opposite side of the House admit or argue that that is adequate and sufficient to maintain a man and his family as they ought to be maintained? If they do, they ought to try and work out how the money has to be spent, and how to live on it. I do not wish to see people coming down the scale but I should like to see the people at the bottom going up a bit. But that is not an adequate payment.
What the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour has to keep in mind is that to-day local authorities of all kinds are passing resolutions with regard to the increased cost of living, and how it is affecting not only unemployed men, but citizens generally. There are resolutions being passed by local authorities protesting against it, and still there is no sign of any action from the Government that they are going to do anything. I would have thought that in these days they would have got down to the problem and done something to ease the situation for the unemployed. But it is more than one can expect from a Government of this kind. This is one of the few occasions upon which we can voice our protest against the inadequacy of the Bill. We say that some at least of the surplus ought to have been used to make the position 2363 of the unemployed in the country easier than it is at the present time, and without the slightest hesitancy we shall go into the Lobby to-night and vote for the Amendment.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
I have sat through the Debate and I hope that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will not take exception to the fact that I have just been called. I hope that the country will note the attendance in the House to-day, not only during the last hour or two but throughout the whole proceedings. We have the spectacle at this moment of the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Sir W. Allen) and the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Harbord) representing more than 400 Members of the National Government. The other four Members who are present are compelled to be in attendance by reason of their official duties. There are to be found in the whole of the National Government but two Members who are interested enough to take part in the promotion of this Measure now before the House. This position is not new. I can remember many discussions upon unemployment insurance and upon matters affecting the general life of the working people of this country when we have seen in this House, as far as the Members of the party opposite are concerned, little greater attendance than that which is present at this moment. It is difficult to understand that there should be in this country any individuals who are not taking an interest, particularly when they are engaged in public life, in this matter of employment and unemployment.
The tragedy of this Measure is that we have to speak. of unemployment among juveniles. One would expect, with this country boasting of its cheapness and of its regard for the homes of the people and the families of this country, that at least their system would not have failed in the regard to young people, who, being forced out of school, are compelled to be in the position of being unemployed. The country says "We are not going to educate you in our schools. We are not going to keep you there and give you a maintenance grant. We are going to drive you out of the schools in order that you may"—alas in too many instances—"join the great army of the unemployed." It is a tragedy even in the South as much as 2364 in the North. I know something of it in both parts of the country. Even in what is termed London, with its demand for labour both from the young and the middle-aged, it is a tragedy to find young people without employment. There were many of them on the list with which I have had to deal as a member of the Juvenile Advisory Council for London in the last few weeks.
The position is that we say that we will set up not educational establishments, but training centres. The training centres have been there all the time, but it is only now that the National Government have discovered that some of these young people require feeding. These families—and there is never a surplus in any of these families—have not an adequate income to enable the young people to be fed in the way that, I am sure, every parent in this country would like to feed his children, if the opportunity was his. The National Government do not take upon themselves responsibility for seeing that the children are fed. They say, We shall provide the same meals, in like circumstances and in like conditions as obtain under the Education Act," with, as an hon. Member pointed out earlier in this Debate, all the case-paper work and all the investigations which take place before these young persons can be fed. I remember that when the Act for the feeding of necessitous children came into operation in this country I was one of those who had to operate it, and, without any feeling of committing something that was illegal, I refused, in one of the great centres of this country, to continue with the investigations, but fed many hundreds of children and conducted the investigations afterwards. It is unfair, unjust and inhuman that you should make children wait for their meals until you have spent a few days investigating the conditions of the children and of the families.
The Government say, "We are not going to undertake the whole responsibility; we are going to throw 25 per cent. of the cost upon the local rates." Really, the meanness of the method adopted, the way in which it is being done by the Government, would alone warrant our opposition to the Measure. If the Government really had the interests of the young people at heart they would not only see that they were fed but would pay the whole of the cost. From the way in which 2365 the Bill is drawn, so far as the refreshment which is to be given to children in the training centres is concerned it would appear that it is intended that no square meal shall be provided for these young people. What is going to be the penalty if anyone happens to give some bread which does not come under the term of biscuit, or if they provide for them some liquid other than milk? Biscuits and milk are the only refreshment which may be given at these centres to the young people under training, waiting for employment. This portion of the Measure is so poor and small in character that it is really impossible to understand the minds of individuals who can come forward in the twentieth century and suggest that this is the way in which our young people should be treated.
I now come to the introduction of those people—I have never been able to understand why they are to be called domestic servants—who are to come under insurance. They are to be placed under the same conditions as an agricultural worker. One would imagine that in some parts of the country agricultural workers can live more cheaply than people in the towns. That is the impression which is abroad, but I would ask the Government to consult the industrial court which has considered so many arbitrations with regard to wages, and they will find that in many instances those who have had to deal with these cases before the industrial court have shown clearly that it costs more for people to live in some of these districts than it does for people in urban districts, other than the large cities, including London. Yet the Government say that the agricultural worker must be restricted to a figure of is. below that which is paid to people living in the town. Agricultural labourers are noted for having families not of one or two but of many more than that, but in order to inflict greater hardship on these people they are to be restricted to 30s. and are expected to carry on.
With regard to the debt, it is impossible to understand the outlook of people who are throwing on to the workers in industry the whole responsibility—I say the workers in industry advisedly—for repaying the debt. The debt has been incurred. We know that the people who received the benefits were people who had no other opportunity for an income, although many of them were insured for 2366 many years. One hon. Member reminded the House that during the period the Labour party were in office they borrowed £65,000,000. What would the hon. Member have done? Would he have left these people without any benefit at all, or would he have borrowed the money at the enormous rate of interest which had to be paid? Really, the loaning of that money to the Insurance Fund was a great advantage to the Treasury, who have received a huge interest for it ever since. To-day the Government say that not only must the insured pay the whole of the money back, but must pay the enormous interest which is demanded by the Treasury for a loan made for the purpose of paying the benefits. The country is shirking its responsibilities. The country is throwing the whole cost of this on to the working people.
I know there is an impression abroad that the working people pay but a small portion of the unemployment insurance. That was so during the first period of 1912. But the employers have thrown the whole of their responsibilities on to the working people; every penny, so far as the contribution of the employers is concerned has come out of wages ever since the first six months of the operation of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Employers have imposed reductions of wages to a greater extent than anything they have ever paid, or have refused to give any advances. In many cases employers in big industries have made a profit for themselves out of what is paid to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The whole cost on that side comes out of wages, and now on the top of it the Government say that the whole of this £100,000,000 must be paid out of the wages of the working people. I cannot understand anyone who thinks in terms of equity and justice agreeing to such methods and such ideals as are included in the Bill.
Then again the Measure is utilised for imposing penalties upon people. I have always imagined that the law courts of this country, the criminal courts and the police courts, were the places where people must be tried and penalties imposed, but now we find, under the Unemployment Insurance Act, that through the court of referees penalties are to be imposed for so-called misconduct on the part of people, whose behaviour in the works does not happen to square with the 2367 opinion of the manager or directors of the particular concern. I know of one case where it was believed that a man might have done his work better, and it was said that he had spoiled a few pounds worth of material in the establishment; and not only was he discharged, although he had given 38 years' service to the employer, but the court of referees decided that it was an act of misconduct and deprived him of his benefit for six weeks, thus using the Act as a means of penalising a workman. Now the Government say, by this Measure, that if men in the Army, the Navy, and the merchant service have at some time offended and have been deprived of their wages during a certain period, they are to be penalised. This Measure will impose a second penalty upon them, and will deprive them of their insurance benefit for a certain period or in some cases for all time, as far as that service is concerned.
Reference was made this afternoon to what is termed fraudulent enlistment. Why, men have been applauded in this country for having deserted one regiment, because the officers refused to discharge them from it, not in order to run away from the Army or Navy, but to join another section of the same Service. Now the Government say that if a man continues in the Service in a way that does not square with their opinions, they are going to punish him, even though he is inclined to serve in the Army or the Navy in the way in which he thinks he can best serve. I know of many cases of those who, at a youthful age, have declared that they were much older than they were in order to enter the Army and the Navy. The Government say that that is not fraudulent; but if a man finds that he can render service in another regiment, it is to be looked upon as fraudulent enlistment, and he is to be penalised. I had hoped that even this Government might at this time have dealt with the young workers of the country and the unemployed in a more humane way than is suggested in this Measure. One would imagine that men and women who are unemployed had committed some offence against the community. One would imagine that men and women threw themselves out of work. Hon. Members know full well that it is not the fault of these men and women, but the fault of the method of production, the system, that 2368 they are told on a certain day, "We have no further use for your labour power; we can do the world's work without your assistance."
Now the Government intend to penalise those men and women and their families. Because the system throws them out of work they are compelled to fall on to a lower standard of life and to have all the insecurity and hardships from which the unemployed are suffering. This Measure will continue that state of affairs. It will not remedy any of the evils. It will not remove the means test, it will not give adequate benefits, and it will not help the families of this country. We are asked to pass it as of being permanent advantage to this country. It is not so. I hope that the Government, even in the small way in which they deal with these matters, will have some regard for the citizens of this country, who have a right to a standard of life which enables them to keep fit, to use the term which the Government are handing round the country at this time. This Measure will not enable the unemployed to keep fit, and the responsibility upon the Government is such that it will be to their discredit if they do not deal with this matter in the near future.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I wish to say a few words concerning the remarks made by one hon. Member opposite about the debt of £65,000,000 contracted on account of the unemployed. During the few years which I have been in the House, we have been dealing with industries by and large. One industry after another which has broken down under the present competitive system has been appealing to the House, as the Secretary for Mines said about the coalowners a few nights ago, "Please put a penny in the old man's hat." There have been other hats going round during the last few years. The difference between the hats which have been going round and the hats which the working men who have become unemployed have been wearing has been that the hats of the industries have had bottoms in them and have held the subsidies that have been poured out, whereas the hats of the unemployed have become ragged and shabby during the time that the National Government have been in office.
One hon. Member opposite twitted us for having borrowed £65,000,000. I see 2369 that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour is smiling. I intended to commiserate with the right hon. Gentleman, because he does not look too well, but perhaps I had better not pursue that subject. When I look at the right hon. Gentleman, words fail me. I cannot describe the sham which he represents in telling the House of the contentment that he has brought to the unemployed and to the Unemployment Assistance Board men. However, I do not wish to get away from the subject of these subsidies. I have not the whole of the figures with me, but I remember that last year alone the shipping industry received £1,500,000. Is that a debt? Will the shipping industry pay that money back to the State? We have had several Debates recently about Imperial Airways. If I remember rightly, the subsidy which Imperial Airways were to get was to finish this year, but they had it renewed for 17 years. They are to get about £1,500,000 a year, which ought to total up to about £25,000,000. Is that a debt? I understand from one of the hon. Members opposite that during the process of receiving that subsidy, the directors of Imperial Airways have been increasing, even doubling, their fees. And what about their dividends? We have a state of affairs in which Imperial Airways ask the Government for subsidies with which to pay their dividends.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member is in order in referring to these subsidies arid asking a question about them, but he must not go into the details of the failings or otherwise of the different industries which have received the subsidies.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am not going into details. I do not want to probe these matters too deeply. I only ask the Minister whether that is a debt and whether it is going to be repaid? Then what about the beet-sugar subsidy? Is that a debt? We had Debates here upon it and hon. Members opposite voted for it. Thus one could go on from one thing to another but when it is a question of keeping the working-man alive, it is regarded as a debt which has to be paid hack by the working-man.
§ Captain Heilgers
Does the hon. Gentleman deny the fact that the beet- 2370 sugar subsidy has kept a great number of men in employment?
§ Mr. Taylor
I am sorry I cannot reply to you, because I think I could have wiped you off the face of the earth.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am sorry that I cannot reply to the hon. and gallant Member. I would like to do so. This Bill is like several other things which the Government have done. They are trimming their sails with a view to the future. Some time ago the noble lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) told us that the social services could not go on increasing owing to the expenditure which was required for armaments. He told us that we could not have our cake and eat it, and the Prime Minister has told us the same thing. I notice that in the Blind Persons Bill and in the Bill for insurance of juveniles between 14 and 16, the Government say the same thing as they say in this Bill. They are throwing some little sop but are not giving the full measure of justice required in either case, because, they say, they cannot afford it. But they have something with which they can go to the country and say, "Look what we have done." I could not describe as accurately as my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) has done it how the Minister came down here this evening with this Bill. But I have a recollection of how the right hon. Gentleman came to us some time ago when there was a surplus and how jubilant he was. He told us that he was going to distribute it by making a penny reduction in contributions and a little donation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was even more jubilant to-night because of this large surplus, but just as the Government are niggling in the Blind Persons Bill by not bringing the age down to 18, and in the other case by not paying the contributions for the juvenile worker between 14 and 16, so are they misusing this surplus.
Let us look at the cost of living. What is the first and most important thing for the Government to do with this surplus? I believe that with the present rise in 2371 the cost of living the standard benefits should have been raised, first and foremost, because until the standard benefits are raised the people under the Unemployment Assistance Board cannot get any benefit. The Government are bound to know about the rise in the cost of living and the effect it is having upon these people who are being steadily depressed by it, but I will give four items. In 1932 a pound of bacon cost 9¾.; it costs Is. 2½d. now. In 1932, a half-stone of flour cost 11½d.; it costs is. 4½d. now. A pound of tea which cost is. 8¼d. costs 2s. 2d. and a loaf which cost 7d., costs 9½d. No further argument is needed to show that the cost of living is bearing hardly on our people. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) has already very adequately dealt with another point to which I wish to make reference by way of emphasis in connection with other Measures which the Government are parading before the country. I welcome the fact that boys and girls between 14 and 16 are to receive milk and solid meals at schools, but surely the Government ought to recognise the crushing burden of public assistance on local authorities. The important thing to remember is that the rate burden on account of Poor Law relief is pressing most hardly on the depressed areas and the areas where we have the hard core of unemployment.
§ Mr. E. Brown
May I relieve the hon. Member's mind? Under the scheme, it is possible for the Minister in cases like that, to make a 100 per cent. grant.
§ Mr. Taylor
That may be so, but this Bill does not seem to say so. Even if it can be zoo per cent. in some cases what does the Bill say? It is to be a cost to the Exchequer of £40,000 a year, but 50 per cent. is to come out of the Unemployment Fund.
§ Mr. Lawson
May I, with my hon. Friend's permission, put this point to the Minister? He says that it is possible to give 100 per cent. grants in some cases. The explanatory memorandum says that Exchequer grant towards the expenses of authorities will normally be 75 per cent. and my hon. Friend would be right in saying that, normally, the local authority would have to pay 25 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman would render a service to the House by telling 2372 us, under what conditions will local authorities get zoo per cent. I suggest that my hon. Friend's argument is right except as regards some rare exceptions.
§ Mr. Taylor
It does not make me happy to know that there are to be rare exceptions. I have had some experience in dealing with the Minister of Labour, and it is remarkable how he is able to distinguish between claims for benefit. I have put in two cases which I thought were exactly the same, but the Minister could see a tremendous difference between the two. I raised a question some time ago with the Minister in regard to bath attendants in connection with welfare, who are not under the scheme for unemployment, and the answer that I got was that I should have to wait for legislation, and perhaps the legislation would be coming along soon. I suppose this is it. I should be pleased to be told whether this category comes under the Bill.
There is another point in regard to anomalies. What a splendid opportunity this would have been for the Minister to deal with anomalies, especially under the Unemployment Assistance Board. What a splendid opportunity it would have been where there are workers in a house who are having to keep the whole family because their income is sufficiently high. We have cases to-day where there are two anomalies. The first is that a young man's earnings are sufficiently high to enable him to keep the family. He pays Income Tax and they assess him on what he is supposed to get at a colliery, but he cannot get it back after he has kept the family. There are a tremendous lot of anomalies as far as the workers are concerned, and there do not seem to be any on that side at all. There is one especially to which I want to draw attention. A soldier receiving a pension on account of war wounds is excused the first and there are certain allowance for sickness. We are making a tremendous fuss about getting people into the Army, but if there is a war how valuable working men are. You promise them anything, and we are soft enough to believe it. Here is an anomaly that ought to be removed. Men who have served in the Army as a profession during the best part of their lives and have been in Africa, in India, in the Great War, if they have not been wounded, if they only have a service 2373 pension, that is taken into consideration for unemployment assistance purposes.
Is it not a scandal and a shame that honourable men who have come out with distinction, for whom there is no work, and who go on to unemployment assistance, who have served their country in cold and heat and danger, are scaled down at the end of the quarter when the pension comes and there is no unemployment assistance scale for them at all? With all this surplus at our disposal and with these anomalies, with the rising cost of living and the ever-increasing load on the shoulders of our people that is bearing them down, the Minister leaves these festering sores in the body politic. If he would make that adjustment it would have a tremendous effect in this sense, that the grievances of these men would be satisfied, and they would believe that at last they were not in the land of forgotten men.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Henderson
I wish to appeal to the Minister in the hope that something will be done which will put an end to these anomalies and bring some benefits to the unemployed workers in the next stage of the Bill. I would reinforce my appeal by reading a letter written by the Minister of Labour himself which appeared in a publication called "The Rising Tide." I am sure every Member of the House is in possession of a copy. He says:They are insisting upon the necessity for listening in to God, to find His plan for ourselves and the world.Human ingenuity and human intelligence have not found solutions for the heavy problems resulting from conflicting interests and passions which the statesmen of the world are facing to-day.There are to-day, more, graver, and more complex problems than men have ever been called upon to face.Do hon. Members know any problem more complex and difficult than the problem that faces the housewife in the humble working-class homes of the country? Is there a greater problem. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in difficulty, he can always levy a tax on the people of this country, but if your housewife in a working-class home is in difficulty, there is no place for her to go but to suffer. Therefore, I hold that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, no matter who he may be, is not as able a person as the humble 2374 housewife. It is your duty as the Minister of Labour, if you believe in the letter that your yourself wrote, not only to do the things that are necessary, but to fight the Treasury for the necessary amount of money to give the benefits required by the unemployed, and I appeal—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must remind the hon. Member that this is one of the occasions which shows the good reason for the rule that hon. Members must address the Chair and not a Member of the Government or any other hon. Member.
§ Mr. Henderson
I apologise if I have done anything wrong, and I hope that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, know that I should not wish to do it under any circumstances, but I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, if he believes, in this great Christian principle that he says he does, to use the power that it must give him, not only to give what is just, but to fight his Government and his Treasury for the necessary money. If he does not, he is failing in his profession, and he ought to retire either from the one or the other.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Dunn
We on these benches have often been charged by hon. Members opposite that we are not the people who represent the unemployed of this country or, indeed, the working classes in the main. I do not know that I shall raise any violent objection to those charges, but I think the people in the country as a whole should know that this Debate has taken place now since early in the afternoon and that during practically the whole of the time the Government supporters have been conspicuous by their absence from this Chamber. I think it is as well that we should place it on record that throughout this Debate the speeches, with about one exception, have been made from this side of the House, and that largely, with the exception of four or five, Members representing the National Government who are claiming to represent the unemployed and the workers of the country have not considered it worth their while even to sit on the benches at all.
I have read the correspondence, the two White Papers and the Bill with a great deal of interest, and if there are in the Bill any crumbs at all that may fall from the master's table—in this case from the table of the right hon. Gentleman the 2375 Minister of Labour—on behalf of any section of the community, I am grateful for every crumb that falls. It is interesting to know that grooms, chauffeurs and others will benefit as a consequence of this Bill, and to that extent I am grateful for the Bill. Correspondence has taken place, and replies have been received by the Statutory Committee from some very important organisations, such as the Trades Union Congress General Council, the British Hospitals Association, the Royal Eastern Counties Institution, the Mental Hospitals Association, the Mental Hospital and Institutional Workers' Union, the Universities of Oxford—I notice that the hon. Member who interested this House on Monday night is not here; I do not know whether he has gone into the section of grooms or not, in consequence of the speech that he made on that night—Cambridge, London, Liverpool, and Manchester, and all these various organisations, including the last, in which I am rather interested, namely, the National Golf Club Protection Association. I take it that that association represents the caddies who collect the balls on the greens of the golf clubs, and I presume that they are among the people who are going to benefit.
§ Mr. E. Brown
That is a misapprehension. That is in another White Paper, which I have laid as a result of issuing draft regulations, about domestic servants employed in institutions. That is now for consideration by the House and for any representations from those same quarters or others to be made to me. It does not arise to-day.
§ Mr. Dunn
I hope that, as a result of what I have already indicated, they may be in next time, a second instalment. My criticism with regard to this Bill is, I think, the major criticism of the country. If there are surpluses which have accrued, and they have, in the region of £60,000,000 or £61,000,000, rising to £80,000,000, it is as well that we should realise who are the people who have paid this money and on whom has been the charge. Unfortunately, many people who are unorganised in the country have not the opportunity of being supplied 2376 with knowledge of the way in which the finances of their industry are made up. We in the mining industry happen to be in the fortunate position of knowing every item which makes up the balance-sheet of the industry, and it is as well to realise that the £61,000,000 surplus is definitely made up of the contributions of the workmen on the one side and of the owners on the other side of the industry.
I myself, apart from this House, have the honour to run a small business, very small, I admit, but it is at least a business which runs into a figure of about £2,000 a year. It is not my own, but I am running it on behalf of an organisation of men, and contributions are paid to the Fund by the workmen who are engaged within that small scheme, but at the same time the contributions also paid by the employer are indeed earned by the workmen themselves. My point is that the £61,000,000, rising to £80,000,000 over a period of years, is an accumulated surplus which has, in its initial stages, been a definite charge against the men who arc in industry, whether in mines, factories, workshops, or elsewhere.
The second point is this. Having read through the White Papers and the correspondence which has been issued from the Vote Office, it is interesting to note that there is a real fear in the minds of the people who have corresponded with the Department about the unfortunate incidence of the unemployment which may overtake them. If I may take all the organisations referred to in the White Paper, am I to assume that any written replies given to the Department from the various organisations have only been concerned with the distribution of the surplus? I cannot conceive that the Trades Union Congress has only been concerned with the distribution of the surplus.
§ Mr. E. Brown
A special set of draft regulations was prepared by me and was submitted to the Statutory Committee for examination. The Committee called for evidence from those interested or affected who were entitled to give evidence. The Trades Union Congress, as was their right and duty, among other organisations gave evidence. What is happening now is that the Statutory Committee will carry out their major statutory duties after the end of the year, but before that comes they 2377 will hear evidence from the various organisations, including the Trades Union Congress, as to their desire in regard to what ought to be done with the sums surplus to their needs. The notice asking for evidence of that kind was issued by the Statutory Committee of 24th November.
§ Mr. Dunn
I hope that the very important organisations which have been called upon to give their evidence will read the views and the expressions of opinion in this House, and will take note of the fact that the expressions of opinion have mainly come from this side. That is very important. If this is a question of disposing of the surplus, then I want to make my position quite clear. I do not regard 26s. a week for a man and his wife to keep a home together and pay rent as being an adequate weekly sum for people who are unemployed. If there is a surplus to be disposed of, a surplus which has been contributed in the main by the workers themselves in industry, I am sure that the people of this country, having regard to the rising cost of living that is taking place, would rather see the surplus of £61,000,000 being used in increasing the rates of benefit to the people who are on the Unemployment Fund.
Something has been said with regard to fraudulent enlistment. What I regard as the biggest anomaly in the Bill is the stark fact that people who are unemployed cannot possibly live on the payments that are being made to them from the Fund. If the surplus is to be used, it ought to be used to increase the benefits. With regard to fraudulent enlistment, I was surprised to hear the Parliamentary Secretary correct an hon. Member on this side of the House, in the absence of the Minister of Labour. I want to say something not so much on fraudulent enlistment but in regard to fraudulent discharges of men from the Army. It seems to me a very strange thing that while there is an appeal to the country for enlistments we should be faced in our constituencies by men who were taken into the Army in their full strength and with their full powers, who were migrated to foreign soil, contracted illness while out there and who, with a good family record—
§ Mr. Dunn
I hope that the Minister will have regard to the ex-service men and the men who have been discharged from the Army. I can only think that this manoeuvring with the surplus is in order that the Department may be in a stronger position when the slump comes. While grateful for all that has been put in the Bill, I hope that the Minister will reconsider my main point that 26s. a week and 3s. for a child, with the rising cost of living, is totally inadequate, and that people cannot live in decency and respectability upon it.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Captain Heilgers
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member on his various points, but I noticed that he said he was a member of the mining industry and that he referred to the cost of living. That is undoubtedly a serious thing, and I would point out, incidentally, that the Co-operative societies are refusing to increase the wages of their employés because the cost of living is still not as high as it was in the not very distant past. I have intervened for only one purpose and that is to thank the Minister of Labour for having introduced insurance for gamekeepers. At the last two meetings of the Gamekeepers' Association I have had the privilege of presiding, and I can assure the House that the main feature at those meetings has been that the gamekeepers wanted unemployment insurance, above everything. I told them that I hoped it would come in time, and I am exceedingly glad that it has come so quickly. There is very considerable unemployment among gamekeepers. That may sound a reflection on the private employers. What really happens is that generally the gamekeepers who are employed by private people keep their employment, but in shooting to-day there are a number of syndicates, which vary from year to year. One syndicate is formed and then another and they are broken up and in the meantime the gamekeepers are left high and dry, without employment. The introduction of insurance will bring a great measure of succour to these gamekeepers.
2379 I wish that this insurance was extended to all domestic servants. In a very short time probably we shall see them all being provided for by the State in the matter of insurance. I am glad that the warreners have not been left out. They perform a very valuable service in the countryside in keeping down vermin and so forth, and are as much entitled to consideration as the gamekeepers. I know that the hon. Member who will reply for the Opposition wishes to speak soon, and I shall not detain the House any longer. I would like to express my gratitude to the Government for having done something to bring security to a class of men who deserve consideration.
§ Captain Heilgers
The wage varies from district to district, and I can only say that in my part of the world the average wage is between 45s. and 60s. a week.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
Will the hon. and gallant Member use his influence to get the gamekeepers organised in a trade union as Co-operative employés are, and bring their pay up to the Co-operative standard?
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
We on this side of the House were delighted to hear that there was one Member behind the Government who was prepared to support the Bill. During the last three hours there has not been one speaker except the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and there have not been more than half-a-dozen Members, including the Front Bench, present on the other side. Apparently the one Member who has spoken during that period is under the impression that the only thing in the Bill is the provision to give the Government power to bring gamekeepers and ghillies into unemployment insurance. He apparently, like the rest of the Members behind the Government, does not know that this Bill deals with the great mass of unemployed.
§ Captain Heilgers
The hon. Member might give me the credit of having said that I was intervening for only a short 2380 time for the specific purpose of thanking the Government on behalf of the gamekeepers.
§ Captain Heilgers
May I then say that if I had gone on speaking about the rest of the Bill, about which I confess I do not know much, I should have kept the hon. Member from delivering his speech?
§ Mr. Lawson
That is exactly our point, that a small provision in the Bill affecting a very small class is about the only part of the Bill in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is interested. He goes out of his way, however, to make an attack upon co-operative workers, of which he has apparently vaguely heard something. This Bills deals with vast numbers of people and with one of the most serious sides of our social life. During the past few weeks we have dealt with air-raids and Defence, and on each occasion the House has been well attended. We have dealt with foreign affairs and there has been a good attendance; but when we deal with one of the vital social problems the House is practically empty all day. Some of us know why that is. A few of us, not merely in the north and Wales but in certain areas in London, are compelled to live in the midst of the bulk of the unemployed, and those who live away from it lose all sense of social justice and responsibility for the people who are afflicted.
It was said in 1931 that the General Election was fought on the question of keeping unemployment insurance out of politics. We heard the same story in 1934, and the 1934 Measure was put through with the ostensible purpose of keeping unemployment insurance and the unemployed out of politics. As a matter of fact, they have been anything but in politics ever since. The most signal instance I have seen of playing politics with the unemployed is this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has certainly played politics in introducing it. He is asking the House to swallow a very bitter pill with a certain amount of jam on it. It is fairly thick jam for people like the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. I thought at first that there was something in the other provisions in the Bill, until I tasted the jam, when I found that it was the old-time plum and apple.
2381 I can easily understand what took place in the Department when the right hon. Gentleman was framing this Bill. He said, "We have got to take some millions and get this through, and we must get some enabling power to use this balance to clear off some of the debt. If we do not, the result will be that the unemployed will be yelling for some of the surplus. If we have to raise the unemployed's standards, it will be difficult to get them down later on. We have got to do this rather adroitly." He therefore introduces something that will quieten people on his own side first, and he deals with classes of people in which a small number are interested. What does the great mass of the people of the country care about gamekeepers except to get rid of them? I know a few friends of mine who spend a night near to the soil and would like to be rid of the gamekeepers. They are original characters and I am proud to be their friend. I do not mind saying that they taught me a point or two in the old days. Such people as gamekeepers have been taken into insurance and it eases the consciences of some well-to-do people.
On the other side, the Bill deals with juveniles. It does not really do much, but I am grateful for the small amount that it does. The purpose of the Government apparently is to see that the old barrier against giving boys and girls in the juvenile training centres some food through the local authority, if it can get the necessary sanction from the doctors, is removed. The right hon. Gentleman says that he visited a lot of these industrial training centres during the autumn. I wonder whether he was really satisfied with what he saw. He will not charge me with being prejudiced on this matter. I represent a constituency in a. county where the local authority was among the first of those to undertake juvenile training. A great many local authorities in other parts of the country were prejudiced and would do nothing, but the Durham County Education Committee undertook the training in rather a big way, and I personally was somewhat proud of what they were doing. I did not like the idea of these boys and girls going away afterwards, but I wanted to see them get some training in preference to spending their time leaning against street corners.
2382 From what I have seen in different parts of the country I feel that a system has developed, under recent Acts, of compelling boys and girls to go to the centres, and I feel that that has not improved the situation. The common term for these centres now is, "The dole school." That is a very sad development in our national life. Boys and girls are allowed to leave school and are then compelled to go into all kinds of places for training and for a certain amount of teaching, and from what I have seen the results are not as good as they would have been if they had been left at school, and certainly not as good as if they had been at work. I have been alarmed in the last year to see what I should say is the positive degeneration in many cases, as far as the juvenile training centres are concerned. What I want the right hon. Gentleman to understand is that, whatever is the Government's solution of the problem, this juvenile training centre system as it is operating now is not by any means the last word on the subject, and ultimately either this Government, or some other Government, will have to come round to the idea which we have advocated for some time of keeping these boys and girls at school unless there is work for them.
What is the object of the training centres? In our case we know that, in the main, the boys and girls are being trained to go to other parts of the country. That is a sad comment on the social system. I dare say my hon. Friends from Wales can tell the same story as we who come from Durham. The extent to which whole villages are being denuded of their boys and girls is tragic. Though it is not possible for me to enter now into the larger question of location of industry, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that we shall not continue indefinitely to give our support to a system of juvenile training if the only result of it is that we have to lose our boys and girls. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) pointed out, we have been urging the Government since 1934—we actually moved Amendments to the Bill of 1934£to undertake what the right hon. Gentleman is now proposing to do, but our Amendments were then refused. Now, three years after, when the statistics relating to malnutrition have become so 2383 alarming that a vast body of public opinion has grown up on the subject, the right hon. Gentleman comes along to permit the provision of meals, in a somewhat limited form, for these children.
The position is the same with regard to the black-coated workers. Nothing has astonished me more to-day than the attitude of Members on the Government Benches towards the question of the black-coated workers. In 1934 it was my duty to move an Amendment for an inquiry—which was accepted—or rather an Amendment to include the black-coated workers in insurance. At that time there were nearly 3,000,000 unemployed people in the country, and Members on the Government Benches were very much concerned about this special class of workers. Anyone who looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT will see that Members supporting the Government were almost tumbling over each other in their eagerness to speak on the subject of bringing the black-coated workers within the ambit of insurance. There was a great body of public opinion outside in favour of it, and there were leading articles and letters in the Press. The Government were compelled to do something. I am astounded that there has been such apathy on the Government Benches today, when there is such an opportunity of dealing with the black-coated workers. Who is in a more miserable position than these black-coated workers? They cannot organise themselves thoroughly, although some of them have courageously sought to do so and have been rewarded for their courage by being sent to this House as public representatives. But the great mass of them are so placed, either by intimidation or otherwise, that they are not organised. When unemployment comes they are greatly handicapped, because they have to live in a certain standard of house. They pull themselves to pieces in order to pay mortgages and they pay premiums and sometimes school fees for their children. It is admitted that among the most lamentable portions of society in this country are those black-coated workers.
As a result, there was an investigation. Inquiry was made and the same Statutory Committee agreed, practically unanimously, to those people being insured. But nothing has been done by the Government. Moreover, not a single word 2384 has been said from the Government benches to-night on behalf of the black-coated workers. If anyone in this House was likely to speak for them I should have said it was hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Lawson
I apologise to the hon. Member. He did. His was the still small voice, the single voice, on the Government benches, and his claim but emphasises the point that I have been making that the remarkable thing about the Debate has been the silence of hon. Members opposite on this all-important matter. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on a very important matter. His Bill is all bits and pieces. It is the worst kind of legislation I have seen in my time in this House. I am sure he would not blame my hon. Friend who spoke last from these benches for getting mixed up in his various subjects. The right hon. Gentleman sent a circular round dealing with the regulations, and the reason why he could not blame my hon. Friend for getting mixed up is that the right hon. Gentleman has got some here and some there. I want to ask him the exact position of the men who are engaged in welfare work of various kinds, including miners' welfare. Are they to be included in the 200,000 who are to be dealt with by regulations later on? This is not a matter of pit-head baths. A whole mass of people deal with the various kinds of welfare. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give an answer on that point.
Has the Minister noticed that he is about to create another small but rather pointed anomaly? The Bill says that a seaman, marine, soldier or airman who has been discharged or dismissed in consequence of having been convicted or anything like that,shall he disqualified for receiving benefit …during the period of six weeks next after his discharge or dismissal.He shall be; that is to be rigid and is to be laid down by the law. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that while the practice is to disqualify for six weeks a man who has been guilty of misconduct at work, yet it is not the law to do so. As a matter of fact, it is possible for a court to disqualify a man for a week. They do not make that variation as often as they should, and I 2385 have been rather astounded that they have been so rigid about it, but they still have the power to do it. In a summary of his proposals published by the right hon. Gentleman it is stated that it is proposed to disqualify from receiving benefit for a period not exceeding six weeks. That gives point to the claim of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who suggested that a soldier should be allowed to go to the ordinary court. I think so too. The right hon. Gentleman will have some difficulty later on, because you may have two people living next door to each other, or even in the same house, suffering different penalties for a like form of misconduct.
The real reason for this Bill is, of course, that the surplus may be used for the purpose of paying off the debt. All the other business has just been roundabout, decorative. The object is to make the debt payable by a body of men who are really under no obligation to pay it. If any hon. Member opposite wanted to argue that any portion of the unemployed was responsible, it would the long-term men, but the Government accept responsibility for these men, and it costs them about £50,000,000 a year, without any contributions. To the other men they say that, if they pay their contributions and get the Fund into a good condition, then, when funds are good, they will benefit, though when they are bad the men must take the consequences. All through the 1931 election and ever since that time speech after speech was made to that effect. If an indefinite time had been available to-night, I could have brought in speeches from the present Prime Minister, the Minister of Labour, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which they urged the country to put the Insurance Fund on a firm foundation and reward those who were in it, when the funds had been built up, with higher payments, good conditions. and all the rest of it; but, now that the Fund is in a good condition, the Government immediately take steps to confiscate that money for the purpose of paying off the debt for which those men are not responsible.
No one on the Government benches has ever attempted to make out that the people who are to pay this debt are responsible for it. Of course, it is good finance, they say in general terms. My hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. 2386 R. J. Taylor) has given some examples of the way in which the Government have given great chunks of finance, of money, to all kinds of interests. But that is not called a debt; it is not charged as a debt; it is just given. You have, however, great masses of people subject to the fluctuations of industry, who are in the lamentable position of losing time or working part-time, and, when there is something going that would make their position a little better and a little softer, the only contribution the right hon. Gentleman can make is to confiscate the money which would improve the lot of those workers.
Who are these people? We often forget that there is a large number who seem to be engaged to work short time. They may get £3, or even £4, a week, but they are off for one week or two weeks, so that, although you may meet a man who will tell you he is getting a good wage, because he is having a good time for a week or two, if you take his earnings over the year they probably would not amount to 30. a week. Very often the people affected by these conditions are part-time workers, and some of them may have been out of work from 6 to 12 months before they got part-time work. One would have thought that the Government would have taken some steps to alleviate the lot of these people. But, as a matter of fact, the confiscation of this money is done deliberately. The Government have refused to allow any money to accumulate on a big scale, because they know that ultimately they would have to raise the scales of the unemployed, and if they raised the scales of the unemployed that would affect wages. There is no doubt about that. The Federation of British Industries, not for months but for years, have continually insisted that Governments should bring down the standards of benefits, because they were affecting wages; and when Labour was in office there was a very well-known pamphlet published by them which put the whole facts in brutal terms.
I think the Government have never, during the whole of their lifetime, performed any act which makes it clearer that they are the servants of, not only high finance but big business as well, than by the introduction of this Bill today. We have been dealing with the subject of unemployment. We are prevented from dealing with the other great mass of people outside, but if the 2387 Government had used this money to real advantage, surely it would have had concern for that great mass of men, numbering 80,000 in limited areas, and, perhaps, 200,000 in the whole country, who range from 45 years of age to 60 and are the most lamentable portion of humanity in this country. Any of us on this side who are mining Members might have had the same lot as those people. They are the best class in the community, the finest type that has been produced, men of mental and moral backbone; and we have seen that portion of our countrymen decaying before our eyes. There is nothing in this Bill which deals with that section of our citizens.
I can only say that a Bill which makes gifts to landlords, which does very little for the juveniles, which gives millions of pounds practically to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the repayment of the debt, might pass this House. The Government might get away with it for once. But I trust that in the Lobby to-night we shall have support for this Amendment, which makes it quite clear that there is neglect of the great social issues. I do not know whether in the next year or two we shall be over on that side of the House, but if we continue on this side, it is a fact that the Government will be made to recognise that it cannot remain blind to the facts of our national life.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Butler)
This has been called an omnibus Bill, and, indeed, it is an omnibus. It is driven, in the first place, by a chauffeur, who has been informed that he is to be included by regulation under the general scheme. It includes as its passengers certain sections of the workers, gamekeepers and others. It carries, as a precious freight, young people from the junior instruction centres who may be fortunate enough to receive some of the benefits which are proposed in its Clause, and it carries soldiers, sailors and airmen, who are to have increased benefit opportunities as a result of a certain Clause in it. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have adopted a course, which they very often do, in order to get the best of both worlds. They wish to try to show the country that they like certain portions of 2388 this omnibus, and they wish also to show the country that they do not want other portions, and, therefore, they are deciding to throw out the Bill altogether or to overturn the omnibus. That is a procedure well known to the highwaymen of old, who, when they saw a coach carrying a precious freight along the roads, were only too glad to get a portion of it, and, being fairly kind-hearted, as many highwaymen and passengers are, wished to let a portion of the contents or passengers of the coach proceed upon their way, but they usually found that by destroying the coach, they destroyed all that it contained. Therefore, it is a source of regret to us that the party opposite have decided to oppose the Second Reading of a Bill carrying so much in it that is good.
I want to try to deal with the various contents of the Bill bit by bit. The first content is that the young persons at the junior instruction centres are to have opportunities in certain circumstances for receiving meals, and in other circumstances for receiving milk and biscuits. I had, like my right hon. Friend, an opportunity of seeing the need for these provisions during the course of our tour this autumn. I was, in particular, impressed by the need for these provisions at Whitehaven, which has been specially mentioned by the Special Commissioner. When we visit the Boys' Club at Whitehaven and see boxing in progress, we might think that there is no need for extra nourishment, but when we read the medical reports of some of these centres and visit them, and with one's own amateur eyes see the obvious need for extra nourishment, we begin to appreciate the need for such provisions as are included in this Bill. I have not, I am sure, had as much experience as some hon. Members opposite, or as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, but from what I have seen I naturally welcome the contents of the Bill in that respect.
I have been asked in what cases the Exchequer is ready to give 100 per cent. grants. The words "normally 75 per cent. of the cost" are included in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. The answer is that certain education authorities who are to administer this scheme have received grants in excess of the standard rate of 75 per cent. of the approved expenditure on their junior 2389 instruction centres. These are, in particular, Sunderland, Merthyr Tydfil, Barnsley, Gateshead, Monmouthshire, Durham County, Glamorganshire, Anglesey and Lanarkshire. Under Section 79 of the Act of 1935 we have power to assist these authorities, and to the extent that these authorities use their powers, they may receive the extra grant.
The Debate in connection with the juvenile instruction centres has ranged over the whole ground of juvenile training and educational opportunities. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education has heard the whole of the Debate, and I shall not dream of poaching on his preserves by referring to the question of educational opportunities. The hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) referred to increased opportunities for providing raw milk for young people. The Government welcome the opportunity of providing fresh milk for these young people engaged, as they often are, in active work and exercise at these centres. It will not only help them, but help the farming community as well.
Then there is the question of the outdoor domestic servant. I am pleased to notice the resolution passed by the executive committee of the Central Landowners' Association, and also the resolution passed by the Gamekeepers' Association, referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers). These gamekeepers form a considerable class in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's constituency, and I am glad that he has paid a tribute to the Government for introducing them into unemployment insurance. Some hon. Members have jested at employers of gamekeepers and grooms, but I am sure that those who are fortunate enough to work with such pleasant members of the community as gamekeepers and grooms will be ready to pass off any such jests. They are quite capable of looking after themselves. But I would not like the House to jest at the work of any class of workers in this country, and in particular at gamekeepers and grooms. To put it at the lowest, if the gamekeeper was not there to preserve the game, the friends of hon. Members opposite, the poachers, would not be able to exist. By destroying the flourishing and noble profession of game- 2390 keeper, you would be destroying the equally noble profession of the poacher. Our countryside would lose a type of character which is typical of it.
There is another serious aspect of this matter. In an age of increasing industrialisation, mechanisation and increased destruction of natural and wild life, it is the work of these men to keep and preserve natural and wild life, and to that extent they are performing a useful duty. I have been asked a question about the hunt servant—whether the hunt servant is included in the Bill. The answer is that to the extent that he performs the duties of groom he will be included under the terms of the Bill. To the extent that he does not perform the duties of groom, he could be included under the further regulations which can be brought in for the other outdoor domestic servants referred to in Clause 2, Sub-section (2), of the Bill. To the extent that they are, for instance, huntsmen and draw salaries over and above the income limit, they would not, of course, necessarily come in as insurable persons. I think that answers the question about the different types of hunt servants. The strappers and other people connected with the horses will be included under the heading of grooms. It has been said from the other side that grooms very often leave horses and go to motor cars. We have taken considerable care to find out the circumstances of grooms at the present time, and we find that there does tend to be an unemployment period in the summer. A groom is only too unhappy without his horse, and we find that grooms who have a love for horses hesitate to leave them and seek the more odious motor car.
I was asked a question by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) on the subject of bath attendants at welfare centres in connection with the mining industry. As the hon. Member said, they are just as important, and I want to treat the work of all these sections of the population with equal dignity and importance. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that a bath attendant will not be included under the provisions of this Bill, but he will be a domestic servant to be included under the draft regulations upon which the Statutory Committee has reported. That report was published, and was before the House last Monday.
§ Mr. Lawson
This question has been raised so often that I do not want there to be any mistake about it. It is not only the bath attendants that we are concerned about, but all the attendants at the varied types of welfare centres in different parts of the country.
§ Mr. Butler
I am informed that in different ways they are completely covered by the list of 200,000 domestic servants for institutions. The hon. Gentleman may be assured that they will eventually come under regulations to be made by my right hon. Friend. We fully appreciate the importance of the work they do.
I come now to another category to which reference has been made during the course of the Debate, that is, the black-coated workers. As the House realises, the needs of this section of the community have been closely considered and have been reported upon by the Statutory Committee. I think I can best express the position in this regard by saying that the Government cannot deal with everything at once. We have already included the people in the categories mentioned in the Bill. We have still to deal with a total of about 200,000 domestic servants, working in the institutions to which reference has been made, who come within the insurable income limit of under £250 a year. Surely it is better for us to deal with them before we come to the category above that income level. There is another aspect of the matter to which the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) referred, when he spoke of the need for relating one Department to another. He said that we must not act in a piecemeal fashion, that we must have a general staff, and that we are all hopelessly departmentalised. My answer is that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health arc not hopelessly departmentalised, but work together in these matters. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has introduced a voluntary pensions scheme for the black-coated workers which will come into operation on 3rd January next. It will be extremely interesting to those of us who are interested in black-coated workers to watch the operation of this voluntary pensions scheme. The hon. Gentleman will thus see that the Government do work as a general staff, and do not act in a piecemeal manner. On an important question, affecting the 2392 pensions or insurance of the black-coated worker, they desire to watch the operation of the scheme to which I have referred.
§ Mr. Lathan
But does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the two questions are related? Has he not overlooked the fact that the Statutory Committee said that unemployment insurance could be effected without any relation to the other question?
§ Mr. Butler
I am aware of that, and I am also aware that the interests of the black-coated workers are affected very closely by the voluntary scheme which has been proposed by the Minister of Health. I come to another category—that of soldiers, sailors and airmen. In dealing with them it is important to realise that in almost every particular the provisions of this Bill are an improvement upon Section 96 of the Act of 1935 which related to this subject. Therefore, we ought to be careful about criticising the contents of the relevant Clause in this Bill. The situation is made much easier for soldiers, sailors and airmen and in particular for that class who hitherto, it they left of their own free will, were deprived of benefit rights.
Various points have been raised which are more Committee points than points for Second Reading, and the Government will give them close consideration. I would like to comment on one or two of them. We note the point of the hon. Gentleman opposite on the subject of the six weeks' disqualification period. We also note the point of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) which we have looked into and which presents great difficulties, but which perhaps can be considered later. We have considered the point about fraudulent enlistment. That is nothing new. It is included in Section 96 of the Act of 1935, and is merely re-enacted here. But it has no deep or sinister significance. If a soldier wishes to transfer from one unit to join his friends in another unit, which is a very human wish, it is possible for him to do so with the leave of the commanding officers of the two units. This phrase "fraudulent enlistment" applies only to cases in which a soldier, sailor or airman takes French leave and leaves one unit or one arm, to join another unit or another arm. However, that is a point which it will be interesting to pursue at a later date.
2393 I now come to what has been regarded as the main proposal of this Bill. It seems to me that there is suspicion on both sides of the House. It is clear from the speeches of hon. Members opposite that they suspect our intentions in what we propose, and it may become clear as I proceed that we suspect their intentions in what they propose. I think it is extremely difficult to decide in this case which side of the House represents the gamekeeper and which side represents the poacher, or, in other words, which side are the raiders and which side are the defenders. We maintain that we are the defenders or keepers of the orthodoxy of the Unemployment Fund. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to have summed up their case by saying, "We would not attempt to pay off the debt, but would distribute the balance." I think that is a fair description of their case.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) used this phrase in reference to our proposals: "It may be good financial, but not good national business." That is his view which we must respect, but we regard good financial business and good national business as being coincident, and these proposals are not only in the interest of the nation, but in the interests of the many persons who pay into the Fund, and who wish to be assured by the National Government that that Fund is run on sound, businesslike lines. This is proved, I think, by the success of the 1934 debt settlement. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) referred to certain phrases in an article in the "Manchester Guardian." Like my right hon. Friend, he read certain portions of the article but he did not read others. He read, for instance:It always seemed unfair that this charge"—that is, the debt—should be put on the Fund.But he did not go on to read the next phrase which is this:But it is there, and it is not likely to be altered.I propose to take the advice of the "Manchester Guardian" and say, "It is there, and it is not likely to be altered." Therefore let me not plunge back into the discussions which took place when this debt settlement was made. Let me examine whether the principles of sound finance enshrined in that settlement have been 2394 successful. I maintain that they have. That settlement has resulted in the accumulation of reserves for the object of maintaining over a trade cycle the present level of benefits. That is in itself a distinct benefit. Then there have been the recent improvements, namely, the increase in children's allowances, the reduction of contributions, the reduction of the waiting period and the extension of the benefit period for persons with a good contribution record. These have all followed upon the 1934 debt settlement. They all make me believe that it is wise to accept that advice to stick to sound finance, and not to reopen that question.
The hon. Member for Gorbals, as usual dealt, with great knowledge of the subject, with several interesting cases. He referred to the length of the benefit period. Another was the question of dependants. Another referred to the man who lives with his maiden sister. Other instances were brought forward of matters in which it was thought that the benefits might be improved. We shall look at those suggestions with respect, as we always do. When the Statutory Committee consider representations, as they are now doing, and as the chairman mentioned in his letter it is his intention to do, I feel sure that they will pay attention to the valuable points that have been put on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield asked whether the Statutory Committee would consult people and bodies generally. They are at present consulting, and are intending to consult, persons and bodies with a view to hearing their views.
The chief feature of this debt settlement is the accumulation of this balance which hon. Members opposite say should be used for increased benefit. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield said that as the result of our proposals there would be far less money for improvements. We maintain that the exact contrary is the case, and that there will be actually more money available. The Statutory Committee will have a chance to reduce the present debt charges, which consist of the payment of principal and interest, and so more money will be available, as the chairman says, for possible increase of benefits. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) said he did not quite understand how we 2395 managed to save as much as 3 per cent., because in a concluding paragraph of his letter the chairman of the Committee referred to the difference between 1⅔ per cent, on a large reserve and 3⅛ per cent. on a still larger debt. How we manage to get the 3 per cent. saving is that there is about 1¾ per cent. repayment of principal, which brings the total charges on the debt to 4⅞ per cent., which makes the difference of 3 per cent. from the roughly ⅔ per cent. which we are receiving on the balance in the Fund. That is how my right hon. Friend reached this figure of a saving of £300,000 per £10,000,000 of debt repaid. The House will, therefore, be interested to know that my figures and those of my right hon. Friend are the same, which is something of an achievement in so complicated a subject for calculation.
The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) said there was no sign of our doing anything to relieve distress and in particular to deal with the question of rising prices. I would refer him to those remarks in the antepenultimate paragraph of the chairman's letter in which he refers to the possibility of having extra money available to deal with benefits; I would refer him to the intention of the Statutory Committee to review the Fund at the end of the present financial year, which it is their statutory duty to do; and I would refer him to the action taken by the Unemployment Assistance Board in issuing a circular to their officers to take into consideration the needs of families in the coming winter and the present rise in the price of commodities. The House will, therefore, see that this statement that nothing is being done is an exaggeration, and there have been many exaggerations on the other side of the House.
In conclusion, I cannot allow to go by the suggestion that the surplus in the Fund might in some way be used to do away with the means test. We maintain—and perhaps I may he thought to be speaking the pure gospel of orthodoxy when I say this—that the Unemployment Fund should be a separate actuarial fund for the benefit of contributors and those who draw benefit, and that assistance should be a separate grant from the Exchequer. We on this side must draw that clear distinction between the two cases, and we must adhere to the financial ortho- 2396 doxy which has produced such very successful results with the Fund.
I think we are right to maintain that this Bill indicates that the Government have taken another step on the road of social progress. It is also an indication of the maintenance of prosperity under the National Government which makes it possible for us to be dealing with a large balance in the Unemployment Fund instead of a steadily recurring deficit. It indicates the difference between the numbers of the unemployed in such a year as 1933, which amounted to a figure of 2,845,000, and which last month amounted to a figure of 1,390,249. Those figures show the progress that has been made under this Government, and they show that we have a happy and fairly contented picture to put before the House, but we are not self-satisfied, and it is not in the spirit of self-satisfaction that we ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ 10.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I have been in the House all day, and I have been up on every occasion. The benches opposite have been empty, and now the Members opposite have the impudence to come here and try to shout me down. Why did the Prime Minister decide to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule? I have been trying to get in because I am very specially interested in a particular feature of this Bill that is being put across this House without any proper explanation of what is going to happen or where the money is to go. I have neither the experience nor the knowledge in framing a Bill, nor the volubility of the mercurial Labour Minister, and therefore I am in difficulties when it comes to a question of food for youths, insurance for gamekeepers, and insurance for soldiers, and associated with them there is a very important financial proposal which affects the whole of the insured workers.
The Minister says that the Bill is an omnibus which contains a valuable cargo of youth, gamekeepers and soldiers. it is a valuable cargo of gold that will go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and will be used for war purposes. The youths, gamekeepers and soldiers are only there 2397 as a sort of jam for the financial pill. Let the right hon. Gentleman take away the youths, the gamekeepers and the soldiers and we shall see what is left and how he would fare in the House and the country if he tried to get the Bill through.
With regard to the instructional centres, I challenge the Minister. In the instructional centres there is a minimum of instruction and a maximum of compulsion, which not only affects the youths but the homes. Hon. Members opposite have had no experience of it. There is no question of an inspector going to see why the boys and girls in the homes of hon. Members opposite are not at the instructional centres. I have seen inspectors going round and I have seen the mothers harried. The mother has to look after the children and to prepare food for the husband and the children, and then there is an inspector who wants to know why the boy or girl is not at the instructional centre. Make it voluntary and the instructional centres will do good, but compulsion and irritation are imposed upon working-class youths and working-class families and should not be tolerated. Therefore, I am opposed to the instructional centres. If the boys and girls are taken out of school they will find their own matters of interest and education much better than they will find them in these instructional centres.
I regard the insurance of gamekeepers as a subsidy for the landed gentry. I challenge hon. Members who claim to know so much about gamekeepers and warreners to deny that they are in tied houses. As soon as they become unemployed their wages stop and their houses go, but if they get unemployment insurance they will have to pay rent for the tied houses. Most of the money paid to unemployed gamekeepers and warreners will go into the hands of the landowners. I suggest to the Minister that if he is going to include gamekeepers, warreners and grooms, the only condition on which they should get unemployment benefit should be that they are outside the tied houses. I am opposed to them being brought in when they are in tied houses. This is a fraud that is being perpetrated not only on these people but on the people of this country.
With regard to the black-coated workers, we were discussing in all 2398 seriousness the other night the population of the country, and here we have the black-coated workers suffering as the result of the breakdown of the system. Are they to blame because they are out of work? Will any hon. Member say that they are out on the streets, deprived of employment and the right to live, because of some evil they had done? How easy it is for hon. Members opposite to sit and laugh when they have great bank balances which they never worked for, and when they have been lucky in choosing their parents. If you go along Piccadilly or the Strand you will see some of these black-coated workers in all kinds of weather trying to get a living.
§ Mr. Crossley
We are not laughing at what the hon. Member is saying, but at the danger of the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) in front of him.
§ Mr. Gallacher
It matters not what pretence is given for laughing, but the fact remains that those with heavy bank balances can laugh easily when the tragedy of other people is discussed. It is bad enough for the black-coated workers to have no insurance of any kind. Any Member can tell of terrible experiences of homes where there is a measure of insurance and where there are no bank balances or margins of any kind. Imagine the position, then, of the black-coated workers with no insurance at all. It is all right for hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been petted and pampered since childhood and brought up with every comfort and consideration, but in London and every part of the country to-night there are men and women, fathers and mothers, who have not a penny. Is that something to laugh about? Then you discuss the decline in the population, but what can you expect except a decline when there is such insecurity among great masses of the people?
Every penny of this money, however much there may be of it, should be used to make the people of this country more secure. As has been said already, the subsidies are not debt. Therefore the subsidy given to help the unemployed over a difficult period should not be a debt either. This debt should be cancelled and every penny that is left over should be to increasing standard benefit and 2399 bringing the black-coated workers into insurance, giving them at least a modicum of security. There is so much trickery, sham and fraud about the Bill that I shall be very happy to go into the Lobby against it.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 198; Noes, 118.2401
|Division No. 38.]||AYES.||[11.12 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. C. J.||Eckersley, P. T.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Orr-Ewing, I L.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Ellis, Sir G.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Apsley, Lord||Everard, W. L.||Petherick, M.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Fleming, E. L.||Pilkington, R.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Furness, S. N.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gledhill, G.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Gluckstein, L. H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Grimston, R. V.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Rowlands, G.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hannah, I. C.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Harbord, A.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Salt, E. W.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Savory, Sir Servington|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Scott, Lord William|
|Bull, B. B.||Heneage, Lieut. Colonel A. P.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Butler, R. A.||Higgs, W. F.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Holmes, J. S.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Spears, Brigadier, General E. L.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Spens, W. P.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Keeling, E. H.||Storey, S.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Latham, Sir P.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Colfax, Major W. P.||Lewis, O.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Lindsay, K. M.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Lipson, D. L.||Touche, G. C.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Lloyd, G. W.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Loftus, P. C.||Turton, R. H.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Lyons, A. M.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Crossley, A. C.||McKie, J. H.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Wells, S. F.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Markham, S. F.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|De la Bère, R.||Marsden, Commander A.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Denville, Alfred||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Dorman.Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Moreing, A. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Muirhead, Lt.-col. A. J.||Wragg, H.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Munro, P.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Neven-Spence. Major B. H. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Captain Hope and Mr. Cross.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Banfield, J. W.||Bevan, A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Barnes, A. J.||Brown, C. (Mansfield)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Bellenger, F. J.||Buchanan, G.|
|Burke, W. A.||Holdsworth, H.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Cape, T.||Jagger, J.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Cove, W. G.||Kelly, W. T.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Daggar, C.||Kirby, B. V.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lansburv. Rt. Hon. G.||Shinwell, E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lathan, G.||Short, A.|
|Day, H.||Lawson. J. J.||Silkin, L.|
|Dobbie, W.||Leach, W.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lee, F.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Ede, J. C.||Leslie, J. R.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Logan, D. G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Lunn, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||McGhee, H. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fletcher, Lt-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacLaren, A.||Stephen, C.|
|Frankel, D.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Gallacher, W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Marshall, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maxton, J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Gibbins, J.||Messer, F.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Milner, Major J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Montague, F.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Walker, J.|
|Griffith. F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Morrison, R C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Naylor, T. E.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Oliver, G. H.||Westwood, J.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Owen, Major G.||White, H. Graham|
|Hardie, Agnes||Paling, W.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Parker, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Quibell, D. J. K.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hayday, A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Riley, B.|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ritson, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Adamson|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Monday next.—[Captain Margesson.]