HC Deb 24 June 1938 vol 337 cc1411-98

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £14,837,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 3rst day of March, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Labour, including sums payable by the Exchequer to the Unemployment Fund, grants to local authorities, associations and other bodies in respect of unemployment insurance, Employment Exchange and other services; grant in aid of the National Council of Social Service; expenses of transfer and resettlement; expenses of training of unemployed persons and, on behalf of the Army Council and Air Council, of soldiers and airmen for employment; contribution towards the expenses of the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations); expenses of the Industrial Court; and sundry services." —[Note.—£19,750,000 has been voted on account.]

11.7 a.m.

Mr. Parkinson

May I ask for your guidance, Captain Bourne? Will it be in Order to have a general discussion on this Vote and the Unemployment Assistance Board Vote, which have been put down to-day?

The Deputy-Chairman

I am in the hands of the Committee. It would be somewhat difficult to keep the discussion very watertight on each Vote, but if we take the two Votes together, it would be better for the hon. Gentleman not to move a reduction until the end, otherwise it would limit the debate to the Vote in respect of which the reduction is moved.

Mr. Parkinson

This is the second day's discussion on this Vote, which was first debated on 17th May. During that discussion many important factors were dealt with, particularly in regard to the payments to unemployed persons under the regulations of the Unemployment Assistance Board. The discussion was a very beneficial one, because there have been many complaints with respect to the payment of these allowances. We find when we go into our constituencies every week that there are two or three people who come to see us about their position. I do not intend to deal with that side of the question to-day, but to direct the attention of the Committee to the unemployment in Lancashire. Lancashire has a population of about 5,500,000, and I should think that something like one-fifth of the male population are unemployed. I may not be quite accurate there, but it is certainly a big figure, and reveals a very sorry state of affairs throughout that great county. The last debate revealed the importance of the duties of the Ministry of Labour and dealt principally with the Board's report on which very much more will be said in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) was the only Member who dealt with the position of Lancashire, doing so from the point of view of under-employment in the weaving section of the cotton industry. He pointed out some very hard cases of people being compelled to attend at the mills every day of the week and only recording about one-fifth of their working time owing to working one loom or two looms instead of four. Consequently, they have to go home at the end of the week with a very small amount of money upon which to subsist. I do not consider that the Minister's reply was a very effective one, and I hope that he will give further consideration to the matter. He said: In reply to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) regarding underemployment in Lancashire and the difficult circumstances existing there, I do not care to raise any false hopes, but, as he knows, I have given a lot of thought to this matter, and there is a Lancashire problem in connection with it as well as a Ministry problem. I am having another look at it from the benefit angle, and I will pursue my inquiries further because I do agree that it is one of the cases for the giving of aid if we can find a way of doing it in the circumstances of the industry." —[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 17th May, 1938; col. 363, Vol. 336.] I do not think that that could be accepted as a very satisfactory reply. There was no promise. It was really a false survey of the position. I do not see any great difficulty. Where weavers work only one-fifth or half time, a certificate that they have been under-employed during the week ought to make it possible for the Ministry of Labour to make payments to these people. It is for the Minister to give further consideration to the matter, about which, I have no doubt, more will be said in the Committee today. I am not going to deal with any particular industry, but to give a general survey of the whole of the county, with a view to getting the Ministry to do more than has already been done for this very congested county. When Parliament re-assembled it was stated in the "Times" that there was a certain amount of unrest, and it pointed out that in part it was due to the international situation, but that: another obvious cause is the decline of in-industrial prosperity, which is not masked even by the huge expenditure on armament. It must be understood that even though we are expending this huge amount of money on armament, the welfare and the well-being of our people as a whole ought to be quite a serious consideration of the Government. I am quoting from the "Times" and not the "Daily Herald." The Prime Minister quotes the "Daily Herald," so that I suppose we have the right to quote the "Times." In a leading article in the "Times" on 31st May, 1937, commenting on the change of Premier, it was declared that the country expected Mr. Chamberlain to produce a constructive national and imperial policy, and it added: The country will not tolerate the idea that we can have a five years' plan for rearmament but no such comprehensive plan in the more constructive branches of national administration. That was a fair statement even for the "Times," and I do not think that any one will complain about the reports given in the "Times." That is not all that the "Times" says. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour has recorded yet another increase in unemployment, which amounts to 1,750,000, an increase of 382,000 as compared with a year ago, and the "Times" now suggests that what is needed is more new blood in the Government, thought it admits that the field of selection is not very extensive. It warns the Government that they will be short-sighted to allow the future to take care of itself. That is precisely what the Government have been doing. They have never met any of the labour Debates on this point with seriousness and determination to get at the bottom of the matter in the way that we would expect. I think we must charge the Minister with being very complacent, or if he is not complacent he is not sufficiently lively in the Cabinet to our interests in regard to the things that are taking place in the country.

I have mentioned that there has been a great increase in the number of the unemployed in Lancashire, and I should like to point out where that increase has taken place. The first is in regard to cotton. Practically all the cotton operatives who have become unemployed during the past 12 months are from Lancashire. The increase in the number of unemployed cotton operatives has been 77,734; in the engineering industry, over 18,000; in the distributive trades, 18,000, in the iron and steel trades, over 17,000. The most deadly comparison is provided in the figures of May of this year, compared with April. The increase of unemployment compared with April was, in coal mining, 24,991—that is practically 25,000 people, although I am not claiming that they are wholly Lancashire figures—in cotton, 19,839; and in iron and steel, 7,070. These figures indicate an industrial condition which requires the help of the Minister in order that something may be done to bring greater hope to the industries concerned.

We have spoken many times about Lancashire. Although Lancashire is not classed as a special area it has in some of its districts a higher rate of unemployment than in any other part of Great Britain. I may be wrong, but taking some of the small areas we can point to an unemployment percentage of 75 to 8o per cent. That will take a lot of beating. I do not know the number of insured workpeople among the 5,500,000 people in Lancashire, but I should say that it would be something like one-third, and nearly 300,000 people, including noninsured workers, are unemployed. The depression which has been going on, like a creeping paralysis, during the last 10 or 12 years, has had very dire effects in Lancashire. In the last 12 years the cotton industry has lost one-fourth of its workers. No fewer than 125,000 people have gone out of employment in the cotton industry; 37,000 in the coal mining industry, representing one-third of the greatest number ever employed in the mines of Lancashire; and in general engineering, something like 32,000. These are serious figures that cannot be ignored, and they must grow in importance as the enormity of the question presents itself to the minds of hon. and right hon. Members.

A large number of great industries have been closed down. A certain number of small industries have come into the county, but they have not anything like compensated for the number of people displaced. Of the 58,000 unemployed cotton workers at the end of September, 1936, 41,000 were wholly unemployed and only 17,000 were temporarily stopped. On Merseyside, at the end of November, 1936, 61,700 men were wholly unemployed, 15,700 being unemployed casual workers, while only 865 were temporarily stopped. Those figures give some idea of what is taking place in the main industries of Lancashire. should like to deal particularly with the Lancashire mining area, which is an important portion of South West Lancashire. This area has been punished very much more than a large number of other areas. The unfortunate thing for the mining community is that when they become unemployed they are not particularly fitted to take up other employment, and the result is that if they are 50 years of age or over they cannot get other employment unless they manage to get it at some other colliery.

In the Lancashire and Cheshire coalfield output fell from just over 20,000,000 tons in 1923 to 14,000,000 in 1935 and between 1924 and the middle of 1936 employment fell by half. There are many reasons for that. Mechanisation and rationalisation have had serious effects upon unemployment, but it is very difficult to separate the causes from the general depression in trade. It cannot be said that between 1927 and 1936 the miners did not do their duty. Ca canny is a word that has gone out of existence so far as the mines are concerned. There never was a word more misapplied to the mine workers, because during these particular years the output of the Lancashire miner has gone up by three cwts. Per man-shift worked. A portion of that increased output will, of course, be due to machinery, and so on, but, at any rate, the output is there. Between 1924 and 1935 the proportion of coal cut by machines in Lancashire rose from 15 to 52 per cent. and the number of con- veyors in use at the coal face increased from 76 to 448. These figures are illuminating as showing that the miner is being displaced by mechanical processes in coal mining. The unfortunate thing is that there are not other forms of employment coming into the county where these men can hope to find work.

In Wigan, with a population of 85,000, over one-third insured workers are unemployed. Our unemployment rate has at times ranged from 30 to 32 per cent., and down to as low as 21 per cent. I do not think it can be said that that is a wrong statement. I have given the exact figures for my own area on more than one occasion. We have in our area districts which are more hardly hit than any other districts in Great Britain. There is Aspull, a small village, where the unemployment is as high as 85 per cent., and I believe it has been higher than that, but I do not wish to exaggerate. Being a small area and included in the Wigan area the Aspull figures do not have any great effect on the figures of the larger area. In the employment exchange area of Westhoughton at the end of June, 1937, the unemployment was 38.5 and in the middle of May, 1938, the unemployment among the male workers was 42.9 and among the females 28. In Hindley the percentage of unemployed males in May, 1938, was 46.9 and of females 65.4. In Upholland, a small district within five minutes of my home, the number of males unemployed is 18.88 and of females over 90 per cent. At St. Helens, with a population of 108,000, they have about one-sixth of their workers unemployed. In Stalybridge, with a population of 24,00o, nearly one-fourth of the male workers and one-sixth of all their workers are unemployed. Between 1928 and 1936 the population of Great Harwood fell by nearly one-fifth, and over one-fifth of the workers are now unemployed.

There are other areas like Blackburn, which is a large centre, where the percentage of unemployment is 26 in the case of males and 42 in the case of females. In Golborne, another mining village not far from where I live, the returns for 16th May show that 47.1 of their male population and 21.3 per cent. of their women were unemployed. In the case of Darwen, which has a population of 33,000, there were 65 mills, including II spinning mills and 37,00o looms in 1920. In 1936 there were 28 mills, including one spinning mill and 16,750 looms. The number of cotton operatives employed fell from 12,000 to about 6,000, and over one-sixth of their workpeople are unemployed.

Another great problem in Lancashire is the state of Mersey-side. The Minister will be aware of the great problem he has to face there. There are about 400,000 insured workers and over one-fifth are unemployed. The total unemployment is 90,000. In the employment exchange area, including Bootle, at the end of June, 1937, there were 70,000 people unemployed, and the number of persons in receipt of poor relief was 56,000, or 6.5 per cent. of the population. I am sure the Minister will agree that these figures show that there is a problem which deserves the fullest consideration of his Department. On many occasions he has said that it is always before him; that he has it under consideration. If it is to be always under his consideration, that leads us nowhere, and he should really come to some decision at some time, in some way, to do something to bring about a better state of things in this area than exists at the present time. I do not need to remind the Minister that when the President of the Board of Trade was at the Labour Office, deputations from Wigan and district waited upon him and discussed their various problems. They have also sent deputations to the present Minister of Labour, who has himself been to Wigan to examine the proposals which have been placed before him with a view of finding work for the people in this area. Nothing has been done, and we are in exactly the same position as we were years ago.

There is another problem not directly concerned with the Department, but I feel that I must mention it because it may ultimately become a serious problem for the Department. A question was put down some time ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) about the flooding of pits in the West-houghton district. We have suffered heavily from such flooding, and recently we have been notified by our people that there has been a tremendous rise in the water which may eventually find its way to other collieries miles distant. This problem has been long neglected. Flooding has closed pits in this area and also in other areas, and we are living in some anxiety as to what is going to take place. If it is said that there is no immediate danger, and that nothing will be done until other pits are affected, if the Government take no action whatever, more people will be thrown out of employment, and the question will resolve itself into a problem for the Minister of Labour. Over 90 per cent. of the pits in Wigan district have gone out of production in the last 12 years.

The Minister of Labour in the Debate on 4th April said that 279,000 people had been unemployed for over 12 months or more, and of these 114,689 were over 50 years of age. That is one of our great problems in the Wigan district. We have at the moment, and have had for some time, something like 5,000 miners who have been unemployed for more than five years, and they are men mostly over 50 years of age. There is no hope of these men getting work in their industry again. We have been doing all we can to help them, but we do feel that the Minister has not been helping us as much as he ought to have done. He has fallen lamentably short in this matter of trying to provide employment for the Lancashire area. He has not done all that he could have done. I put some questions—I think it was in March of this year—about the number of persons employed at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Chorley, and the answers I received were unsatisfactory. I asked how many people had been taken from the exchange areas of Preston, Chorley and Wigan and the answer I got was: The number of persons employed at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Chorley, by the main building contractor and his sub-contractors on 16th February, 1938, was 6,354. At that date 2, 120 persons had been recruited through the employment exchange service since the commencement of the work, including 251 from Preston, 785 from Chorley and 215 from Wigan. Wigan, which has an unemployed population of something like 10,000, is permitted to get employment for only about 200 people in this factory, and I know that there are hundreds and thousands of people who have walked from Wigan to Chorley, a distance of about seven miles, to get employment, but have not even had the opportunity of being interviewed by the management. Where have the other 4,200 workers come from? Do these figures satisfy the Minister? In a further reply on the same question he said that his Department had no right to tell the contractor whom he shall employ. Do these figures help unemployed workers? The balance has come from somewhere, and the Minister should know where. I followed this up with a further Question, to which I received this reply: Although the contractors are encouraged to make the fullest possible use of the employment exchange services it would be contrary to the policy of my Department to limit their freedom to engage labour in any other way. I do not want to lay it down as to where they shall get their workers, but we say that they should go to the local exchange services as far as possible. If it is contrary to the policy of his Department to limit their freedom to engage labour in any way, why does the Department use the Fair Wages Clause, and why do they lay down conditions for local authorities who engage unemployed workers? They state full specifications to contractors who tender for work. Therefore, why should there not be the condition that all suitable labour should be employed through the employment exchanges where that is possible? The Government are supposed to be trying to find work for our people, but they are taking people from areas where there are no unemployed to places where there are unemployed people who ought to receive that employment. In Lancashire, there are scores of thousands of unemployed people who would be suitable for this work, but who have been passed over and not considered. Another Question which I put to the Minister of Labour was as to what steps were being taken to relieve unemployment in South-West Lancashire and in other Lancashire districts where unemployment is heavy. The Minister said in the course of his reply: I would also remind the hon. Member that Lancashire is sharing to a very considerable extent in the employment afforded by the Defence programme and that three government factories, together with four agency factories, have been or are being erected in the county. This is in addition to the large number of contracts that have been placed direct with Lancashire firms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1938; col. 1256; Vol. 332.] The contracts are not being placed with Lancashire firms. I have in mind a firm in my own area which has been there for about three years and which is now on the point of having to close down because it cannot get contracts. That firm is on the list both of Admiralty and War Office contractors, but it has not yet been able to get a contract of any kind from them. Although that firm did very well for the first 12 months, it has at the moment something like 250 of its workers unemployed, and has closed down one mill, the Pemberton Mill, which is fully equipped with the latest machinery necessary to do the work, particularly work in connection with air-raid precautions. Another thing I want to ask is whether the districts in which Government factories have been placed have any connection with political representation, or whether the factories have been placed in those districts with a view to helping areas which are hard pressed. I do not complain about their being placed in Blackburn and Liverpool, both of which are hard hit, but what about Chorley, which is on the verge of the most prosperous part of Lancashire, and which has practically no unemployment, and has had none for years? I would not complain if the works there employed our own people. No provision, however, is made for the depressed area which lies between Chorley, Ormskirk, Wigan, Leigh and Bolton, where the people are waiting for something to be done. The Government should place factories in areas where they would relieve the position, and help the country as a whole. The people in the area to which I have referred are just as worthy as those in any other district, but nothing is done for them. I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to do something to help that great area and that great population which has not yet been catered for. On 10th February, 1938, my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) put a question to the Minister as to what progress was being made consequent upon the formation of a site company for Lancashire. The reply which the Minister gave was: I have received formal representations from five areas in Lancashire and Cheshire for the application of Section 5 of the Special Areas (Amendment) Act, 1937, and I understand that other representations may be expected in the course of a few days. Steps will be taken to deal with these representations as expeditiously as possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1938; COI. 1222, Vol. 331.] What has been done by the site company in Lancashire? Have they yet been able to get on with the work which lies before them? Have they been able to begin building factories in any area? As far as I know, that site company has not laid a single brick in the county, but still, it is held out as a promise to us and we are told that it will find employment for our people. In one area which extends from Bolton to Liverpool, and which probably has a population of 2,000,000, nothing has been done by the Development Board with a capital of —240,000, I believe. Such a sum to find employment for 500,000 or 750,000 people is absurd and ridiculous, as no one knows better than the Minister. To my knowledge, not a brick has been laid by the site company. There is no initiative from the Government to help in finding work for these people. On 17th February, my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. j. Griffiths) put the following Question to the Minister: How many applications have been received for the certification of areas under Section 5 of the Special Areas Act, 1937; what areas have made such application; how many site companies have already been formed or in process of being formed; and whether he is satisfied that the provisions of the Act of 1937 can be of assistance to those areas? The Minister replied: A total of 36 applications, all of which are from local authorities in Lancashire or in adjacent parts of neighbouring counties, have been made for the certification of areas under Section 5 of the Special Areas Act, 1937. One site company has been formed—under the aegis of the Lancashire Industrial Development Council. I have no information as to the formation of other site companies, but the matter is, I understand, under consideration in other areas. With regard to the last part of the Question, I am confident that the provisions of this Section can be of assistance to areas in which there is sufficient local initiative to profit by the advantages which they offer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 17th February, 1938; col. 2041; Vol. 331.] Where is the initiative of the Government? Have they done anything to help or to encourage the local authorities? It is easy for the Government to slide out by the back door when they ought to come in boldly by the front door. It is not a question of there being a lack of initiative on the part of the local authorities, but of there being a lack of initiative on the part of the Government. All the Government are doing is to ask the local authorities to do that which they ought to do themselves. The opportunity has been with the Minister and the Government, but they have failed lamentably in their task. It is suggested that a new aircraft factory should be built in Birmingham to employ 15,000 work-people. Why should that factory not be put in some part of Lancashire? Birmingham is a place which is prosperous and its people are fully employed, and, moreover, in a war, it would be more easily accessible to bombardment from the air. It would be better to put this factory in some part of Lancashire instead of in Birmingham, for there it would be more remote in case of air raids, and it would give work to a large number of our unemployed people. I feel sure that we should be able to find the engineers required for that particular work. It is of no use the Minister pulling a face about this. He does not know Lancashire, or the Lancashire people. I will conclude, as I began by quoting from the "Times." The Minister is not a fully accredited Conservative, but surely he will take notice what was said in that great newspaper which represents the Government of the country. In 1937, the "Times" said: There are still places without a future into which nothing that has yet been done has brought a single industrial heartbeat, whereas migration has taken away from them youth and energy and almost the last hope of a revival. They are derelict spots, patches of economic desert. It went on to say: Distressed areas of the future may be now in process of creation by reliance on single industries. Some places are visibly decaying, and industry is threatening to leave them. Amid many evidences of industrial improvement, there are, therefore, the unimproved black spots, and here and there, further signs of decay. What is going to be done about it? Nothing of an effective character has yet been done. It appears to me that we are pushing at a door which is barred on both sides. I want the Government to remove the bars, to open the door and provide opportunities for these people. As matters stand at the moment, the Government, practically speaking, have only three courses open to them. One is to provide work for these people in their own areas, and it is not impossible to do so. The second is to remove unemployed people to areas where employment can be shared so that they may have an opportunity of living their own lives under decent conditions and developing in their own way. The third is to leave them where they are to die out. Is it the intention of the Govern- ment to take the third course? Are they going to leave these people where they are to die out, or are they going to take some action which will give these people some hope?

These are people who desire work. They do not want to live on the Unemployment Assistance Board's allowance; they are not that kind of stuff. They have always been accustomed to hard work and are willing and anxious to work. They do not want to live in idleness dependent on these contributions. There are no more loyal subjects within the Empire than these hard-working people who are being condemned to poverty and pauperism. Are the Government going to help them? Are they going to do anything to make life brighter for those who have given their all in the building of the Empire and who have run risks equal to any undertaken by any other people in the world? Remember the part which our people played in 1914 when they rushed to the Colours in such numbers that many of them had to be sent back into civil life to follow their ordinary employment. Are they now to be discarded and left pining and decaying in a wilderness—a wilderness, shall I say, which has been created by the inactivity of the Government?

11.48 a.m.

Mr. Amery

The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) will forgive me if I do not follow him either over the broad issues which he raised or over the minor issue as between Birmingham and Lancashire. If, instead of that, I raise directly one matter which is, I believe, of vital concern to the future health of the nation, it is because it is a matter which arises in a very definite form out of the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board and, as the Chairman of that Board has pointed out, is a matter beyond the power of the Board itself to decide and one with which Parliament and my right hon. Friend the Minister are vitally concerned. The Board point out that in a considerable proportion of the cases with which it has to deal—in over 30,000 cases or about 6 per cent. of the whole—the applicant for unemployment assistance is receiving an allowance from the Board which is within four shillings of his normal wages. Making allowance for certain items of expenditure which an employed man must necessarily incur, the Board point out that in these cases the applicant is as well off on the Board's allowance as he would be in employment. The same, of course, applies also to the case of such a man before he comes to the Board and when he is in insurance. Lord Rushcliffe comments on this state of things as follows: This position is one which must give rise to anxiety. The Board's obligation under the Act is to provide for the needs of applicants and their families…The applicants whose allowances approximate most closely to the amounts they would earn if in work are mostly men with large families of children. The needs of such households are not necessarily less because the father's normal wages are low having regard to his domestic responsibilities. While the Board are aware of the importance of maintaining a reasonable relationship between allowances and wages, they cannot disregard their primary duty of meeting need. I think it right to draw attention to these facts and considerations, as they have far-reaching implications and obviously raise questions of very serious social consequence which go beyond the problems which the Board alone are in a position to solve. The Board then proceed to give figures and an account of their own action with regard to the figures, showing clearly how incapable the Board itself is to deal with the matter. I will give a single instance—the case of an applicant with a wife and eight children of ages ranging from one to 13 years; rent, 12s. 6d.; scale allowance, 54s.; applicant's normal wages, 38s.; allowance paid after full consideration of all the circumstances, 45s. The Board has imposed on it by Parliament two duties. One is to provide adequately, on a minimum scale it may be, for the needs of families of this kind. The other is to see that its administration does not create an incentive to people to leave work and come under the Board. Yet what is it that the Board is compelled to do? It is, as a compromise, to pay 45s. in the case which I have quoted. If its duty is to maintain the incentive to work, clearly it is wrong that the Board should give a man who is out of work 7s. more than that man can earn when he is at work. On the other hand, if the duty of the Board is to provide for the minimum needs of the family how is that duty reconcilable with a decision which reduces by over one shilling a week the allowance given for each of the children in that family? Clearly the matter is one in which we are up against a deadlock of two irreconcilable principles which only Parliament can solve.

The question is: Are we as a nation, regarding the interest of the growing generation, to decide that our wage system for men when employed, as well as our payments to those who are out of work, shall take some account, at any rate, of the minimum needs of a family, or that it shall be governed entirely by the value of the work to the individual employer and labour treated simply as a commodity the price of which is to be settled by higgling in the market, without any regard to the family responsibilities of the worker? I may be told that when I suggest that the only fair solution of that problem is to make some provision for the children of the nation, irrespective of the wage earned by the parent, that I am introducing something which amounts to a revolution of our whole system of industrial wages, and that it is wrong to suggest that an employer should pay his workers on any other scale or on any other priciple than the actual value to him of the work paid for, or fix wages by any other means than direct negotiation with the man himself or with the trade union which looks after him. I submit that I am not suggesting any such thing. I am not suggesting any interference with the ordinary system of negotiation between capital and labour with regard to the value of wages as such. I would, however, point out that Parliament has long ago decided that there are social needs which cannot be met by the worker—the parent—alone, for which the State in its own interests is responsible.

We have long ago decided that the intellectual development of the growing generation of our nation is a matter for the State and not merely for the individual parents. In principle, I see no difference between considering that intellectual development and considering at any rate the minimum conditions of physical health for our children. We have long ago decided that it is in the interests both of the State and of industry that the Government, employers, and employed shall make contributions to a large number of social services, and nobody suggests that because, indirectly or directly, employers, employed, and the State contribute to the maintenance of the worker's children when he is dead, that is a revolution in industry. Why should it be any more incompatible with the maintenance of our existing industrial system to make some allowance for the sustenance of those children while he is alive, if his wages are inadequate to sustain them? I think the issue which I am raising is one, the consideration of which, in these days, when we are talking about physical training and physical fitness, can no longer be postponed. What is the good of giving physical training to growing children unless you provide them at any rate with that minimum of decent food, decent clothes, and decent access to light and air which lay the foundations of bodily health? Without that, training may possibly do as much harm as good.

Let me put to the Committee what the present uncorrected fiat-rate-of-wage system means in its social aspect, where-ever you have large families of children. It means that the coming of every additional child is a hardship, not only to the parents, but to all the rest of the family and to itself. The larger the family the fewer the rooms they are crowded into, the less food they have for each child. It is a serious thing that surveys of milk consumption in working-class households have shown how rapidly the consumption of milk per head falls in the larger families: in other words, how rapidly it falls just where the need of it is greatest.

The whole burden of poverty falls hardest upon those children who come into existence in large families and is itself a cause of the creation of poverty. Children are both the creators and the sufferers of poverty in large families. It is a very striking thing, for instance, that in a recent survey made in four of the main boroughs on Merseyside, taking something like 7,000 families at random, it emerged that 16 per cent. of those families were living in what the report set down as primary poverty, but that those 16 per cent. of families included 25 per cent. of the children. Again, Sir John On, in his survey, "Food, Health and Money", dividing the population into four classes, pointed out that the poorest class, the class whose income per head was less than nos. per week, included only 10 per cent. of the population, but nearly 25 per cent. of the children. In other words, the problem of poverty is one which affects most disastrously a large proportion of the children of the country, and the result is undoubtedly that that very large proportion of our children is to-day underfed.

Mr. Cove

You deny it over there all the time.

Mr. Amery

I do not think there is any difference between one side of the Committee and the other in our anxiety to deal with this urgent and grave problem if we can find ways and means of dealing with it. I was going to remind the Committee that in this matter of nutrition we have learned a great deal in recent years. We have learned that mere bulk and mere chemical content, such as was considered sufficient for nutrition some years ago, does not meet the needs of the growing life, but that there are certain foods, the protective foods, as they are called, with a high vitamin content, that are essential to all of us, but essential above all to those who are in process of growth. At the same time we all know that those foods are on the whole relatively dear. That point is one that Mr. Seebohm Rowntree brought out very well in his recent survey. What is the result of that? It means that this very large proportion of our children is underfed and starts life with all the odds weighing against it. I should like to read to the Committee a quotation from a statement made by the medical officer of a large industrial concern, in which he says: It can be said without hesitation that the majority of the physical disabilities on account of which a girl or a man is refused a job would not have been present had they received adequate and sufficient food from birth. The relation of the physique of the young worker to the available food supply stands out clearly when one examines the only child of a family. It is astonishing in my own experience how these stand out as physically superior to the adolescents in a family of more than two or three children. Working-class parents have come to the unhappy pitch where they can have only one or two children if they are to afford an adequate diet for them. That is a major national catastrophe. It is, and it is a catastrophe that is perhaps much nearer to us than we generally realise. After all, thinking not only of themselves but of their children's chances in life, all but the most in-provident elements in the community are increasingly yielding to the obvious inducement to restrict their families. There is another aspect of it, wider perhaps than the purely industrial aspect, and that is that apart from conscious, deliberate restrictions of families, it means that those who would otherwise have small families have the best chance, and the leadership of our country more and more is taken over by infertile stocks that cannot transmit such qualities of responsibility, citizenship, and leadership as they have acquired. Surely that is something in the nature of a major national catastrophe.

We have had previous debates in this House which have drawn attention to the serious trend of the whole population problem. Our birthrate is already 25 per cent. below what is required to maintain our present population, and in another three or four years that population will begin to diminish. It has been calculated that by 1975 our population will be down by over 10,000,000, from 41,000,000 to 31,000,000 in England and Wales alone; and in 60 years it will be down to 18,000,000. In addition to the actual shrinkage we are faced with a complete change in the character of our population. Today out of every 100 persons in this country there are 23 below the age of 15 and 12 above the age of 6o. By 1975 there will be only seven below 15 and 3o above 60. If the present progress goes on unchecked, in 60 years there will be only four children under 15 and 44 persons above 60. That is going to present us with very great national and social problems; an ever-increasing burden of old age pensions which will have to be borne by a smaller industrial population; there will be an ever-contracting circle of consumers upon which our industries will have to live, and an ever-contracting circle of taxpayers to support the tremendous overheads of social reform and national defence.

Surely it is essential that my right hon. Friend and Parliament should consider some remedy for that situation. It may be said that the obvious remedy is to provide an all-round wage which would meet the needs of a workman with at least three children. According to Mr. Seebohm Rowntree's investigations that would be impossible in industry today. In the present condition of the coal and agricultural industries and certain other industries even that standard would not be attainable without disastrous effects upon industry itself. Moreover, if that were done it would involve, as the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) has pointed out, payments in respect of 19,000,000 nonexistent children and would still not pro- vide anything in respect of the large number of children who are in actual existence in families of over three. Surely the right remedy is to meet the actual difficulty itself and not to attempt to do something which is beyond our reach at this moment. I am not arguing, of course, against a general increase in remuneration. Let us come at once to this urgent difficulty by providing through some State mechanism, as other countries have done outside and within the British Empire, for the immediate need and to meet the deadlock with which the Unemployment Assistance Board is faced.

Mr. Buchanan

What deadlock?

Mr. Amery

It is a deadlock that involves neither the maintenance of the incentive to obtain work nor the adequate feeding of the children.

Mr. Buchanan

That may be a deadlock for the Government, but not for the Assistance Board.

Mr. Amery

My whole point was that the Unemployment Assistance Board, as its Chairman has pointed out, is incapable of finding a proper solution for the difficulty. That is why this matter can only be decided by Parliament after my right hon. Friend has given to it that investigation and careful scrutiny which it merits. I hope that he will do it as a matter of urgency. This problem has been faced in other countries. It was faced first in France at a time of very high cost of living after the War. It was faced by voluntary arrangements with industry, and it proved so successful that, on pressure from the Socialist party in Parliament some four years ago, it was made universal or, at any rate, it was made universal in principle and gradually applied to one industry after another. It is in force over a wide range of industries in France, and the latest figures I have are that something like£20,000,000 in our money was paid out to 5,250,000 workers in 1935. The Belgians and the Italians have similar systems. The Germans have a system under which high rates are paid only in respect of children after the first three. The parents of a family of six get something like £5 a month additional to the wages. In New South Wales 5s. a week is paid for every child after the first and the money is found by a levy of 5d. in the £on employers' wage bills. Certain private in- dustries in this country have done it and in all these cases it has been found to be an enormous relief and help to the families concerned.

Mr. Cove

Is there a case which the right hon. Gentleman has examined which does not involve a contribution from some of the wage-earners and where the total wage bill has been increased? Is it not a fact that it has resulted in a smaller total wage bill and a greater spread over of the total?

Mr. Amery

I think not. It is true that that was the fear which was at first expressed in France when the system was introduced, but experience of it convinced the leaders of Labour organisations and their representatives in Parliament that the system was right. It was under their pressure that a scheme which was originally voluntary was made enforceable by law. It is now, in fact, in practice in the great bulk of industry in France. The argument referred to by the hon. Member, if it were an argument, would be equally applicable against national education, health insurance, unemployment insurance, old age and widows' pensions. In each of these cases something is contributed by the worker and an equivalent amount by the employer and the State, and the national economic strength is brought to bear upon the point where the need is greatest.

I suggest that the time has come when we should consider the introduction of this reform. It is not my business to urge any particular legislative measure. That is for my right hon. Friend to take into consideration. I would only say that it seems that the methods already in existence in other forms of insurance could no doubt be adapted to this case. Nor is it for me at this stage to go into the financial cost involved. That again is a matter for legislation when the time is ripe. I would only point out that the cost involved in meeting the greatest measure of hardship is an infinitesimal part of the cost involved in anything like a comprehensive payment of allowances for children all round. I have seen figures worked out in a survey of a typical industrial factory in the north. The calculation is that for every thousand adult male workers employed it would cost £120 a week to provide 5s. a week for every child. It would cost £;90 a week to provide 5s. a week for every child after the first; £43 a week to provide 5s. a week for every child after the second; and only £15 a week to provide 5s. for every child after the third. In other words the greatest hardship, which is that of the family of over three children, can be met by one-twelfth of the expenditure involved in providing allowances for all children, and little more than one-third of the expense for providing all children after the second. I suggest therefore that it is not a matter which necessarily involves enormous sums of money.

I believe it is quite possible that this peculiar hardship, which is most grievously felt and causes this difficulty to the Unemployment Assistance Board, could be met by a very moderate levy on employers, employed, and the State. It would add no serious additional burden to the great burdens which are now borne. I would remind the Committee that the Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government do not intend to let social reform stop because we have great commitments in other directions. I believe that in the way that I have suggested the most urgent issue can be solved, not only from the point of view of the Unemployment Assistance Board but from the point of view of building up the fitness of the nation. Whether or not a measure of that modest character is likely to affect the general problem of population is outside the province of the issue that I wish to raise at the present time. That is a matter which has to be gone into and seriously gone into. For the moment I am raising this case only from the point of view of justice to that large proportion of our children who, through no fault of their own, are under present conditions destined to grow up underfed, weakly, stunted, unable to play the part which we would wish them to play as citizens of a great nation.

12.18 p.m.

Mr. Graham White

In the important and, I think, vital speech which the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has made, he has taken for a text those few sentences in the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board in which they state in terms that they are unable to carry out the duty which Parliament laid upon them of meeting the needs of their applicants and their dependants. That is a problem which is not to be solved by speech-making in this House but by action, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, I believe it is a matter which is well within the range of what is practicable for the people of this country. This is not the first time that attention has been drawn to this matter. About three months ago we were called upon to consider the Report of the Statutory Committee of the Unemployment Fund, presided over by Sir William Beveridge, in which he declined or failed to recommend that an increase should be made to children's allowances on the ground, amongst others—I think it was the chief ground—that the giving of increased allowance to children would bring the payment in the case of many of the recipients above the wage level.

That is the problem. It is impossible for the Unemployment Assistance Board to carry out its duties so long as that bar remains or nothing else is done. It is not a sufficient answer, and it would be a most deplorable thing to say—I have heard it said by way of palliation for this horrible state of affairs—that a very large percentage of the people who are actually in employment are no better off and their children little or no better nourished—[HON. MEMBERS: "Worse off!"] Or worse off, as hon. Members say. It is no answer to this matter simply to say, with the chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board, that it raises very grave and far-reaching implications or that great social consequences will arise from dealing with it. Here we are met in Parliament on a Friday, too often considered an off day, but this Committee should here and now make up its mind that this is a problem to be dealt with and settled by action. This is not the first occasion, and I hope it will not be the last, on which we shall consider the Ministry of Labour Vote. There will be further opportunities, even this Session. Is it not possible to-day to have some indication of a line of policy which can be pursued in order to put an end to a state of things which we believe is intolerable, and which is all the more intolerable because we believe that a solution can be found?

The Unemployment Assistance Board illustrates the difficulty in which it finds itself by quoting a number of individual cases. The right hon. Member for Spark- brook has referred to the researches of Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, who pointed out that anyone with wages of 50s. or less and more than three children, over some period of his life was obliged to live with his children at a level below reasonable subsistence, That is a state of continuing misery and one which is highly undesirable if we are to make any use at all of our natural physical capacity. There is what I might call the horror of extreme cases. In my constituency I have a friend who has 11 children. He is a heading driver. His ordinary remuneration when occupation is to be had, is something between£5 and£6 a week. For some time past this unfortunate man has been out of work and he, and his wife, and 11 children have been assessed by the Unemployment Assistance Board at £3 3s. 6d. per week. This is a case which has received very careful consideration. When I first became aware of it I pointed out that it was in the public interest that this man should be found proper occupation. The insurance officer said "Oh yes, I could find him work tomorrow at 5os. a week." If he were put on to that work his family would starve. So he must go on, and in default of some better arrangements his family will remain underfed and unprovided with essentials. The man will, in fact receive from the State an inadequate pension of£3 3s. 6d. a week, until his family get off his hands.

I do not know whether all hon. Members realise the cumulative effects of poverty in a large family such as that. Think of coming down in the morning with the knowledge that there are 13 pairs of boots or shoes to provide. It is catastrophic. Think of the rate at which bed-clothes wear out when there are three or four children in one bed. We have only to think of these things to realise what is going on; and apart from these more spectacular cases which have been mentioned there are a multitude of other cases, because as the right hon. Gentleman suggested a very considerable proportion of the whole population of the whole country is affected. I have in the past supported the plea of the Statutory Committee of the Unemployment Assistance Board for a complete inquiry into the relationship of benefit rates and dependants' allowances to the lower rates of wages in industry, and also to the question which the right hon. Gentleman introduced, of family allowances in some form. It is not for me to say whether an inquiry is essential before something can be done. I do not like to suggest an inquiry, because it is so often synonymous with delay and very often means the same thing as shelving the question.

Mr. Amery

I did not mean to suggest a long inquiry. I meant that my right hon. Friend should inquire into the matter with a view to prompt action.

Mr. White

I associate myself without any reserve with that request, and I think that an authoritative inquiry into the whole field would be of very great value, but concurrently with such inquiry there should be another inquiry or another effort to ascertain not only what are the minimum standards of existence—such as Mr. Rowntree, the British Medical Association and others have devised for us, doing a great service in that way; telling us the smallest amount on which we can hope to exist—but what are the proper standards of consumption for the people of this country. Then we should endeavour gradually to bring the whole population up to those standards, not merely in food, but in clothes, furniture and recreation. Let us have an economic ideal, set forth in practical terms, towards which we can work, as an example to set before the whole country. I do not think that task is beyond the capacity of this country; in fact, it is well within its capacity, because when we make up our minds upon what we want there is little that we cannot do. So without any reserve—though, of course, without committing myself to every detail—I associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman's appeal to the Government.

I had intended to make one or two observations in general with regard to the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board, but the problem raised by the right hon. Gentleman is the most important one before the nation at the present time. I am glad that this year we have had the Report in June. Last year it was issued within a few days of the Recess, when it was impossible to have any discussion upon it. When Parliament has given powers without parallel to a Board such as this, it is an intolerable thing that we should have to wait until June to know what it has been up to. However, this year the appearance of the Report has been advanced by a month, and I hope that next year we may have it even earlier, because I see no reason why it should not be ready in April. It is not only what is in this Report which requires careful consideration by Parliament; there are also the tendencies which it reveals as to the lines along which action is likely to develop in the future.

I am going to ask, not for the first time, by any means, for some form of inquiry into the structure of the whole of our social services, which should include an attempt to define with some precision the duties of those who at present are competing in the same field. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the report upon unemployment assistance in Liverpool, which I would commend to all hon. Members as a valuable addition to our knowledge on this subject, and as indicating very clearly the special problem which the operations of the Unemployment Assistance Board have created, because whatever problems they may have solved they have also created some problems in relation to all the other social services, statutory and voluntary, which are already operating. I need not trouble the Committee with expressing any opinion about the Unemployment Assistance Board, because my views are well known and have often been stated but I think their Report this year shows that they are making a valiant effort to establish what I would call "squatters' rights" in the field of social service, which is already occupied partly by local authorities and partly by voluntary bodies or by other statutory bodies with concurrent powers.

A great deal of our effort is being frittered away because the present structure is wrong; there is not sufficient precision in defining spheres of action. It is a matter which calls for urgent attention. The views of those who have given some study to this matter are crystallised in a sentence dealing with the relations of the Board with statutory committees which is to be found in the report of the Committee which was appointed by the University of Liverpool, at the request, I may add, of the Unemployment Assistance Board. Speaking of the field in which these various bodies are operating, they say that in practice there are three courses which may be taken. On the one hand, they say, the field may be solely occupied by the local authority, who may have express duties or be given permissive authority to do the work; on the other hand the field may be occupied jointly by the local authority and the Board, or, thirdly, in extreme cases, where a local authority refrain from making use of one or other of their permissive powers, the work may be carried out solely by the Unemployment Assistance Board. What does Parliament really mean to do? Is this a matter to be left to chance, or is some scheme to be worked out? After reflection, I say that the inquiry need not take very long, but it will have to be a competent inquiry because it will be one of the most urgent of our investigations. It would not only have to ascertain how the work in being done, whether properly and efficiently, but also to make clear the present position in order that we might make up our minds as to the order of priority for the next advance in the social services.

I would now address an inquiry to the right hon. Gentleman whether he would be good enough to make some reference to the financial aspect of the work of the Board. In reply to questions in earlier Debates, figures have been given which have caused us some anxiety and alarm with regard to the apparent growth of the administrative expenses of the Board. The expenditure for 1937 solely for administration was £4,680,000, of which £2,645,000 or 56 per cent., was in respect of service rendered by the Ministry of Labour and, to a smaller extent by other Departments. More than £2,000,000, 43 per cent. or 44 per cent., was devoted to salaries and other expenses. So far as I have seen there has been no comparative statement of expenses, but I hope in subsequent reports there will be a table showing that the expenses of the Board are not capable of this interpretation.

When a comparison is made of the figures officially given by the Board of the average number of cases they have dealt with per week against the same number of cases under the transitional payments system, there is apparent, in the way in which the figures are officially given, an increase which seems to be difficult of explanation, although there may be some explanation. For the year 1932–33, the actual payments on the transitional basis for an average number of 988,000 cases per week was £3,385,000. Taking a more recent year, 1936–37, the average number of cases had fallen to 600,000 per week but the expense had risen to £4,430,000. That is to say, the average cost of dealing with them has risen from something over£3 to some-thing over per £7 case. I should be glad to hear some explanation of that increased cost. Is there some system by which, under the Unemployment Assistance Board, certain charges are made which were not debited in the other case? If we are comparing like with like, and, so far as I know, we are, the position certainly calls for investigation.

I concur with the important speech made by the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson), who has earned the gratitude of the coal trade of Lancashire by the statement which he made of the difficulties that are suffered by that county at the present time. The hon. Member speaks with authority on these matters. The position in Lancashire generally is very bad, and I am told that the position in the cotton trade has never been as bad as it is. In regard to conditions on Merseyside, to which he referred, if it were not for the volume of shipbuilding which is proceeding there, they would indeed be parlous. The hon. Member referred to the coal trade and to the difficulties of the men for whom there is no further hope. On Merseyside we have the same problem. One problem is that of the old hand-rivetter, for whom there appears to be no hope at the present time. In the report of the Board, indications are given of the directions in which, if we move with determination and vigour, some relief may be given in respect of those problems. The Board refer to the valuable experiment in cottage homesteads the Minister should investigate what is happening at Ham-borough where the casual labourer problem is being dealt with on new lines by relating the needs of the docks to that of agricultural production, coupled with rapid transport. In that direction there might be some relief for a problem which has baffled Merseyside for a long time.

We have before us grave and vital problems, but no one would say that they cannot be solved. What we need is resolution and determination. If this Debate has started a movement which will insist that the problems raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook brook no delay, an important result will have been achieved. I hope that today may see the beginning of a movement that will push that point home on every possible occasion, until a solution is found to the problem.

12.43 p.m.

Mr. Harold Macmillan

The hon. Member who opened the Debate very properly made a speech dealing with local problems which confront him and his colleagues, and I do not think he will expect me to follow closely that part of what he said; except that I would remark that many of the pleas which have been advanced for Lancashire are equally applicable, have been advanced with equal energy and have met with equal lack of success for the North-East Coast. The speech which set the tone of the Debate was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who gave a diagnosis with which almost everyone would agree. His was a formidable scrutiny, if not an indictment, of present conditions, and I hope he will not think me discourteous if I say that I wish those revolutionary views were developed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen not only when they are on the benches below the Gangway but when they occupy the Front Bench. While he was speaking—and I agreed with almost everything he said—an hon. Member on this side remarked that some of the facts were denied by the Government Front Bench. observed to him sotto voce that any Front Bench will deny any proposition and also believe any proposition. As the White Queen advised Alice to practise believing and denying things for an hour each day, so they exhibit an extraordinary degree of scepticism and credulity.

I wish to bring the Committee back to the facts in the hope of assisting to make this Debate a useful and memorable service to the study of these problems. I was very much struck by a passage in the speech of the Prime Minister on Tuesday relating to a wholly different topic, namely, that of foreign affairs. Speaking of the terrible conditions in certain parts of the world, he used these words: Indeed, if it were not that China is so far away and the scenes which are taking place there are so remote from our everyday consciousness, I think the sentiments of pity, horror and indignation which would be aroused by a full appreciation of those events might drive this people to courses which perhaps they have never yet contemplated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1938; col. 936, Vol. 337.] Distant events far removed from our eyes cannot move us with the same force as those which are near to us, and yet, in these home problems, it is not a question of mere geographical distance, but of the wide chasm made by the lack of imagination on the part of a portion of the people who have never been able really to have brought home to them (as we have in this House) the problems that confront large masses of our fellow-countrymen. Those of us who attended Church last Sunday will have heard read, in the Gospel for the day, the wonderful words of the parable of Dives and Lazarus—terrifying words—and besides all this, Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed. That great imaginative gulf, that incapacity to bring home to people the true realities of what is going on in this country in the 20th century, is the problem which confronts the Government, who cannot solve our problem without methods which would seem revolutionary to many people, and for which, they fear, they could not get adequate support. To paraphrase the words of the Prime Minister, if it were not that the circumstances in which one half of the population of this country live are so foreign to the average experience of the other more comfortable and more influential half, and so remote from their everyday consciousness, such pity and horror and indignation might be aroused as to drive us to a course of action sufficiently effective to solve these problems. This remarkable report is full of individual and detailed cases, and I will not burden the Committee with great numbers of figures, but, if any hon. Member will turn to page 170, he will find the record of a family living in a three-roomed house. It is as follows:— Room I.—Applicant (householder), wife and two applicant sons, nephew (applicant), wife and six children. (Total in room, 12.) Room 2.—Sublet to—Man (applicant) wife and five children. Room 3.—Sublet to—Man (applicant) wife and five children. Total for three rooms=26. The House of Commons is pressing forward the Government day by day to a solution of the problems of rearmament and the dangers that may face us from foreign invasion. I wish the House would show the same enthusiasm to solve the problems of protecting the people against the insecurities of peace. It may be said that these are isolated problems; let me take the more general statement. Lord Rushcliffe tells us in his report that roughly one-half of the male applicants for assistance declared normal wages of 50s. a week or less, but I would have the Committee observe that that figure of one-half does not, of course, mean one-half of the 600,000 which is the average number of persons with current applications; the total number of different applicants in the course of a year is 1,250,000. Making a generous allowance for the number of women, and taking them at ¼million, that means that the total number of people to whom his observation applies is 1,000,000, or, in other words, there are 500,000 people—heads of families, workers —who are normally in receipt of 50s. a week or less. This, curiously enough, is very near to the calculation of one of the most distinguished of modern statisticians, Mr. Colin Clark, who estimates that 23 per cent. of the total male workers of this country receive wages of 45s. or less, and 47 per cent. receive 55s. or less. It also bears out the conclusion, quoted by my right hon. Friend, of Sir John Orr, published in a book, not yesterday but two years ago, which has been consistently depreciated by the Government of the day in all its departments, who have set up special enquiries to try to disprove its conclusions.

This evidence, which can be piled up on the income side, shows that we have not yet achieved anything like a wage structure sufficient to keep a proper standard of nutrition and health for at least one-third of the working population. I would beg the House and the Government to form ourselves today into a committee of inquiry in the spirit of obtaining a solution. Let us not exclude the measure which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook has developed; the possibility of a scheme of family allowances should certainly be reviewed. The financial burden of it, and its effect upon the wage fund, of course, depend upon how it is financed and to what degree, if at all, it falls upon the wage fund; but let it certainly be developed as one of the immediate questions for consideration.

There are other methods also which are equally possible and equally important. I have quoted the income side in reference to these people, but what about the expenditure side? On what are these poor people who come under the Unemployment Assistance Board and in the lower wage ranges spending their income? They are buying their vital essentials from a retail distributive system which needs 750,000 separate outlets—retail shops—in order to supply these ordinary necessaries of life. The wholesale and retail distribution of consumers' goods creates a levy of the order of £650,000,000 a year. The whole trade of the mines and the railways together is only £150,000,000, and the whole trade of the cotton industry only £41,000,000.

Mr. H. G. Williams

How many of these are post offices?

Mr. Macmillan

I have gone into this matter in great detail in a recent publication of mine. My figures do not include post offices at all.

Mr. Williams

My hon. Friend suggests that there are 750,000 retail shops. That is a very large number, but one business alone, namely, the Post Office, holds many thousands of these shops.

Mr. Macmillan

Of course, but there is a very large number of separate entities each serving a few people, and I think it is perfectly clear that, as long as people have and demand the right to choose a wide range of consumers' shops, retail distribution will always be very expensive. But when you are dealing with articles like milk, bread, and other vital necessities of life, in the case of which the range of the consumer's choice is very small, because there is no variation, it should be possible to organise a system of distribution which would enable these people to buy more with the money which they now have at their disposal.

It would be out of Order today to debate the policy which would be essential to develop a solution of the problem on these lines; you would not allow us, Captain Bourne, to deal with the legislative measures which would be necessary if a much more broad-based attack is to be made on the problem, but I am convinced that it is possible, or would be possible with a proper organisation of monetary and industrial systems to pay a legal minimum wage which would com mand at least the minimum necessities of life. I agree that, added to that—perhaps preparatory to that—some such system as has been put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook should be brought into play. I believe we can cheapen the distribution of vital commodities to the people, and I believe it is an essential corollary to the policy of this Government, which has, in my opinion, quite properly, demanded that the production of these commodities should pay a decent return to their original producers. But it will not be possible to keep on with the policy of getting a better return for the producer of primary commodities, agricultural or otherwise, if it is not combined with a system to reduce to the greatest possible extent the cost of them to the people. Otherwise, there is bound to be a great reaction.

Finally, there is the terrible problem, which I think has not been mentioned today but was referred to in this report, of the demoralisation—and we have to face it—of a certain number of people who find that living on this low standard, just keeping body and soul together, is producing a kind of degradation, for which they are not responsible, but for which we are responsible. It is a grave social problem, of which we have to take account. We might give them work, as well as doles. All these methods must be brought into play if we are to produce any policy which is of any use at all. The House is familiar in these Debates with figures which are produced, it is said, to break up the problem, or analyse the problem, of unemployment, and which leave us, by some kind of conjuring trick, with the idea that there is not any unemployment at all. A properly organised system, under whatever party, whether capitalist, Socialist, or a mixture of both, should be able to see that the necessary reserves of unemployed labour for industry should not be 13, 15 or 20 per cent., but something like five or six per cent., or seven per cent. at the highest figure. I cannot believe that after this Debate the House will not demand as serious application to these problems as we are giving to others in the realm of Defence and Foreign Affairs.

Lord Rushcliffe has given in this report, which, I say, is a remarkable State document, an indication of the serious social consequences, which go beyond those which the Board alone are in a position to solve. In other words, he appeals to the House and the Government and to the united efforts of people of good will of all classes to see that this cannot go on in the way it is going on. It is the stock-in-trade of all of us, of whatever party, to end with the same peroration about the superiority of democracy over any other form of government. But democracy will not, in the long run, be protected by speeches, but by action. In the long run, the peoples now subject to the pagan dictatorships of the world will be dissuaded or converted if they can see that now, in this Christian country, by the universal effort of men of all parties, it is decided, if not to build to-day, to make at least some attempt to lay the foundations of the Commonwealth of God.

12.59 p.m.

Dr. Haden Guest

I should like, first, to say that anything I have to contribute to the discussion today is going to be said against the background of the problem sketched by my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) in his opening statement. It was a masterly statement of the situation in its application to the particular problems of Lancashire, which have also repercussions in every part of this country, and indeed of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It gives, as it were, the background against which we can discuss this matter. I was surprised this morning, when I opened a copy of a certain organ which I read in addition to the "Daily Herald," known as the "Times," to see an article by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, on which he has, if I may say so, partly spoken this morning. I was extremely interested, because I had already made up my mind, if I got the opportunity, to speak on something of the same lines in this Debate. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has also come into this field, and I hope to bring into it a little of my own individual knowledge and experience and training, from my own professional point of view.

The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken referred to the great ignorance there is in this country, on the part of those who are in more comfortable circumstances, of the conditions in which many of the people live. But it is an ignorance which has been in process of being actively dispelled by the efforts of the party to which I belong, since the beginning, at any rate, of this century. The Labour party has concentrated, by its propaganda and instructional work, on the dispelling of this ignorance and the compelling of people to realise problems as they are. I venture to say that a speech such as we had this morning from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) would have been entirely impossible in the earlier years of this century, when politics were thought to have something to do with Home Rule and things of that description, but nothing to do with economic affairs. That, I am glad to say, is completely changed, and we are now dealing with economic affairs; but people still do not realise the appalling conditions in which so many of their fellow-citizens live. That is partly because the contemplation of those conditions is so exceedingly painful. I have noticed that invariably in the course of elections one goes to the committee rooms and finds canvassers who say, "I have been to such and such a house, and I did not know that such conditions existed in this country." You can find these places within 10 minutes' taxi drive of this Palace of Westminster. [An HON. MEMBER: "Five minutes."] Five minutes if you like. [An HON. MEMBER: "Five minutes' walk."] Five minutes' walk. You will find them in any constituency in London. In my own constituency there are conditions as tragic as anything revealed in this report. I had, only yesterday, a letter from a woman asking if she could get assistance, as she has eight children, is expecting another, and, in her despair, does not know what to do to meet the conditions of life.

I rose to draw attention particularly to the complete inadequacy of the Unemployment Assistance Board's allowances for those families in which there are young children, and to the effect of prolonged unemployment in families where there are numbers of children. When, two or three years ago, I was a prospective candidate for a division in South Wales I made it my business to examine the actual statistics of the condition of the people coming from two separate areas of that constituency of 2,000 square miles. I made it my business to examine statistics of children in two parts of that area, one where there is practically constant unemployment owing to the exhaustion of the pits, and another—the Ystradgynlais area—where there is, up to the present at any rate, a considerable amount of employment, though my hon. Friend the 'Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who lives there, tells me that the conditions are now beginning to get worse. This was the result. In the area where there had been constant unemployment for a long period and a considerable portion of the population were on Unemployment Assistance Board allowances, the condition of the children was very noticeably worse than in the other part of the area, as one would expect. The children were showing a larger proportion of rickets and of all the diseases which are directly or indirectly attributed to malnutrition.

It was also interesting in that particular area to notice another social effect of this underpayment and malnutrition. The Breconshire area has in it a part of the South Wales coalfield, and also a very large part of the South Wales agricultural area, in which one of the main industries is dairying. One of the things which the children in the worst unemployment area required was milk, and one of the things most produced in the area half a mile from their doors was milk, but the thing which the children were not able to drink was the milk produced from the farms immediately underneath the villages in which they lived. The villages are on the hills and the farms are in the valley. You had this ridiculous state of affairs that, in the Breconshire area, they were actually producing a large amount of milk which was sent away, and the unemployed miners' children were not able to consume that milk but milk was imported, very often from overseas.

It was ridiculous and a grotesque situation. The effects of the malnutrition were obvious, and in this very valuable report of the Unemployment Assistance Board we have a statement that in the country there are 629,050 chidren under 14 living in dependent households. Whether the figures are exactly correct or not, there is, at any rate, a figure of well over 500,000 children in dependent households, where the amount of income being received from the Unemployment Assistance Board is inadequate to support health arid the children are in consequence being permanently injured. I say "permanently injured," because a child who is inade quately fed and who develops rickets, which is merely one of the grossest forms in which malnutrition shows itself, can never recover in the future whatever the conditions may be. If you have a young child, especially one under seven years of age, constantly underfed over a period of some years, whatever you do in the future, whatever you may pay the father, and whatever allowances or treatment you give, you can never undo the injury which has been caused to that child. In consequence, all the children of those who are on unemployment assistance are being permanently injured by the lack of adequate food because the State does not provide their parents with allowances necessary to buy it. There is a permanent injury, a permanent handicap, a reduction in their productive capacity, in their intelligence, and in their nervous stability, and a reduction in the most vital asset of the nation, which is, the children of the nation.

The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Sparkbrook, drew attention to this matter and had his own remedy, which certainly is worth trying, but I will suggest to the Minister of Labour something else which he could do immediatly. He could call for a report on the physical condition of all children of families on unemployment assistance. A medical report on their condition should be rendered at least once a quarter as long as a family is receiving unemployment assistance. I make that suggestion. because I am quite convinced that, if in fact he received these reports, it would be impossible for him to resist the physical argument which would arise from those reports of the urgent necessity of increasing the allowances to an amount adequate to give those children proper food.

That raises a very important question which was raised the other day in the Debate on the Board of Education Vote, and I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman, the Parliamentary Secretary, on the Front Bench opposite. I refer to the question: What is the standard of malnutrition? I suggest that we should abandon the effort to find this elusive standard of malnutrition altogether, and should say that, if a child does not come up to a reasonable standard of health and nutrition, it should be treated as under-nourished. Speaking as an old consultant medical officer of the London County Council that, I can assure the Committee, is an easier way, technically, of dealing with the problem. I also suggest to the Minister that he should take into consideration whether he could not have under his authority a cheap milk scheme such as exists for the schools, but on a bigger scale, so that cheap milk could be provided in the home. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. H. Macmillan), spoke about the cheapening of the distribution of milk and of other commodities, and that is certainly one way of tackling it. In Ulster they have managed to discover how to reduce the price of milk by about one-half in comparison with the price in this country by more reasonable and common-sense administrative measures. I suggest that the Minister of Labour might take into account how he could increase the supply of milk and other foods at cheap prices. Other foods are equally necessary, but milk is certainly an essential food for children.

What is needed in this matter is really a complete change of attitude. Indeed, it is one of which I begin to see dawning signs, for when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook can make a speech such as he made this morning, I do not despair of some of the right hon. Gentlemen who habitually occupy the Front Bench, although some of them are perhaps past hope. They may get glimmerings of the simple proposition that the real way to tackle the question of feeding the children of the nation is to calculate how much food the children require and then set to work to provide it. That change of attitude would be welcomed by very respectable authorities. I have in my hand a report of the Advisory Committee on Nutrition, an extremely respectable committee appointed by the Government. There is a statement here signed by the former Minister of Health and by the present Minister of Health, and it deals very truly and fully with the various questions which bear upon nutrition. Among other things, it draws attention to a very considerable decline in the consumption of milk, although the report itself lays emphasis upon the extraordinary importance of the consumption of milk to the health of the nation.

I should like to quote from another report, because it has a bearing not only on the nutrition of children but on the other problem which concerns the Minister of Labour, namely, the provision of work. It is the report of a mixed commission of the League of Nations on the Relations of Nutrition to Health, Agriculture and Economic Policy, published at Geneva in 1937. This is what the report has to say with regard to the United Kingdom, on food consumption: For the United Kingdom it has been calculated— That is, in the book on "Food, Health and Income" which has been quoted by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook: that if the food consumption of the whole population were raised to the level of the top 10 per cent. this would involve an increase in the demand for milk of 80 per cent., for butter of 41 per cent., for eggs of 55 per cent., for meat of 29 per cent., and increased expenditure on fruit and vegetables of 124 and 87 per rent. respectively. For other countries somewhat similar figures are given. I want to point out what that means. If we undertook to feed the child population of this country adequately—we will leave out the adult population for the moment—we should require to have a very large increase in the number of dairy cattle. I have made a calculation from the figures of Sir John Orr to ascertain the number of dairy cattle which would have to be added to our herds in order to provide the amount of milk required for the child population, and it would mean no fewer than 1,000,000 extra dairy cows. If we had 1,000,000 more dairy cows and the land was put under cultivation to provide all the extra commodities which are referred to in the increased percentages which I have quoted from the report of the League of Nations committee, we should at once put agriculture on its feet, and we should be providing a very large amount of employment. If the Government did that, they would find that the social economy of this country would be in a very different condition from its present state. It would not be a question of paying money constantly out of the public purse and allowing it, as it were, to run away uneconomically by merely keeping people alive and allowing children to grow up half starved and injured. It would be definitely constructive expenditure if spent on those lines.

The limitations of the Debate will not permit me to enter into that question in any great detail, but the facts that I have given indicate that there is a con- structive way out of this problem which could be taken by the Government, and one which is very considerably larger in its scope than that suggested by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. I realise that vast sums are involved in this matter, but vast sums are involved in the present administration of the Unemployment Assistance Board. Vast apparatus of administration and sometimes of maladministration is involved in the Unemployment Assistance Board. There is a great labour power of people in the country who are at the present time unemployed, and there are certainly in the country adequate and liquid material resources available for the work that might be done in these directions. If the Minister would take steps to investigate the matters that I have suggested, I think he would find himself inevitably impelled towards a greater constructive effort than anything he has at present in contemplation. It is possible for this country adequately to feed its children, even those whose parents are unemployed and even those whose parents are in receipt of Unemployment Assistance Board payments. Not to give the parents adequate means to enable them to feed their children is merely to pile up for the future a burden for which we shall have to pay in the future.

Let me remind the Committee and the Minister of Labour that in this country there is expended at the present time £300,000,000 a year on medical and surgical services. A very large part of that money is paid because of diseases and bad conditions which have arisen out of under-feeding, especially of the poorest section of the community, in childhood. We could reduce that expenditure and at the same time improve the physique of the people, and it would be common sense and in line with the general feeling of the Committee and with the constructive speeches that have been made today that something along those lines should be done. If we can have a five years' plan for armaments, why not have a five years' plan to improve the nutrition of the children of this country, and also employment in this country. I believe that we could do that, and that it is on those constructive lines that the problem ought to be tackled. If the problem is tackled on those lines, I believe that it can be solved.

1.22 p.m.

Miss Ward

There are always many points that one might discuss on the Ministry of Labour Vote, but I want to confine myself to one particular point referring to the position of the unemployed men drawing credits for holiday pay. I know that when I put the case before my hon. Friend I shall receive sympathetic consideration, because ever since the Minister of Labour took office we have made much constructive progress in improving the conditions of the industrial workers of the country. I am convinced that when an injustice occurs to a body of men over whom his Department have a considerable amount of control, the injustice has merely to be stated to be remedied. I am not unreasonable, and I do not think that any of the people who are involved in holidays with pay this year will expect to have provided in the first year, when the principle has really made great progress, a complete scheme giving everyone benefits which we hope may finally accrue from the establishment of this principle in all branches of our industrial life.

There are certain aspects of the case which require very careful consideration. The Committee will be aware that since the beginning of this year various voluntary agreements for holidays with pay have been entered into between big groups of industrial organisations and their employés. Those agreements differ widely in their interpretation and organisation. Perhaps the Committee will forgive me if I confine myself to the agreement affecting one particular industry, because by giving this illustration I can best make my case. The agreement entered into between shipbuilding employers and the various trade unions working within the scope of that organisation for payment of holidays was based on a wage basis, that is to say, that if a man was employed at a certain rate of wage so much per week was added by the employers and held by the employers until such time as the annual holiday was taken, when the credits accruing to the individual were paid over by the employer to the man concerned.

At the time when this agreement was entered into negotiations were taking place between the shipbuilders and their employés for an increase of wages owing to the improved conditions of the shipbuilding industry, but instead of giving an all-round wages increase, it was decided that there should be a more restricted wages increase and that a proportion of the money available should be devoted to the establishment of the principle of an annual holiday with pay. That is the background of my case. But a certain proportion of the men engaged in the shipbuilding industry since the conclusion of these negotiations have fallen out of work, or have worked only for a month or couple of months. During the period they were working this year certain credits have been given to them, and the first big annual holiday which is known as Race Week at Tyneside, commenced on Monday of this week. A great many men who were in full employment have received a portion of the week paid for the first time in the history of Race Week, but a considerable number of men who are unemployed have received from the employers credits, some of them amounting to very little money indeed because of the small amount of time worked.

Suddenly last week forms were issued by the employment exchange asking every man to declare to the employment exchange the amount of credit he has received from his employers for the purpose of the annual holiday week; and here I must enter a somewhat emphatic protest. I regret that I was not present in the House when there was raised yesterday by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) the question of the issue of these forms. I regret that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour rather evaded the issue. He said that he would have inquiries made. That is all very well, but I thought that I had myself made quite a sufficient fuss last week in the Ministry of Labour at any rate to have an inquiry into the circumstances on Tyneside. All I can say is that I was rather ashamed of the intensity with which I pleaded my case over the telephone from Newcastle to London and at the Ministry of Labour, and also by asking a private notice Question last Monday. I should like to say that if representations of an urgent character do not call for an inquiry immediately on the part of the Minister of Labour, I am afraid that next time I shall have to redouble the intensity of my words, and I blush to think what the result of my representations may be. But I really do deprecate, as this is such a serious matter for the unemployed on Tyneside, that an instantaneous inquiry was not instituted. At any rate, my right hon. Friend had two days' notice of the intended question, and I think he should at least have been in a position to give an answer.

Let us visualise the position. These forms were issued, and the unemployed immediately appreciated the difficulty of their position, whether they were to be allowed to draw standard benefit or were to be deprived of standard benefit because of the credits which they were due to draw. I am not going to develop, because I am not entitled to do so in this debate, what action might be taken by the introduction of legislation to put this matter right, but I say with all the power I can command that when we have established a new principle of payment for holidays, in order to provide an additional social amenity very long overdue, and which we hope before very long will be available to every man and women in the industrial world in this count y, that if an unemployed man may possibly be worse off because he has a credit due to him, requires very serious and urgent action.

My complaint is this. It must have been very well known to the Minister of Labour that this position would arise, and I cannot understand why a proper and accredited statement giving the whole of the facts of the case did not appear in the Press or was made in the House of Commons. Employment Exchange officials had no information, and trade union leaders had no information. Even I, as a Member of Parliament, with the rights and privileges I have of inquiring from departments, though very courteously and generously treated by the staff as I always am, could not get a satisfactory answer. It is not treating either the industrial population, the employment exchange officials or the trade union officials as they should be treated, to allow this matter to develop right into the middle of the Race Week holiday itself, because when one is unemployed and has not very much privilege with regard to making inquiries, one wants to make quite certain that anxieties are not unnecessarily increased. I really think that the treatment meted out, quite apart from the general aspect of the situation, de- serves condemnation. I want to go one step further. Surely under this agreement, encouraged by the Ministry of Labour, to set aside a certain portion of the proposed increase in wages for the purpose of payment for holidays, the employers do not expect that their money will be used to save expenditure by the Unemployment Insurance Fund or by the Unemployment Assistance Board. It was meant to be an extra payment to the workers, and it would have been far better if the increased wages had been given, than as a result these credits are going to the two funds to which I have referred.

I do not want to be unreasonable and I may be speaking rather heatedly, but I feel this matter strongly, and I think that anyone who represents an industrial constituency will feel as strongly as I do. I went down into the area where there is the greatest amount of unemployment. Nobody knew what the position was. Everybody feared that their benefit was going to be stopped. It is true that the court of referees have given decisions, one in favour by a majority, which will be contested before the umpire, and one which disallowed. The umpire's decision is not to be expected for a week. All the people concerned are left for a whole week without any knowledge as to what will be their position after the umpire's decision has been given. I think that the Minister of Labour should have given more consideration to this and should have been prepared to explain the situation so that we would have known what the position was.

In coming to the next point with which I want to deal, let me say that I agree that one cannot negotiate an enormous number of voluntary agreements with widely differing terms and expect to produce everything perfectly within the space of six months, and I appreciate my right hon. Friend's action in submitting the whole of this question of holidays with pay in relation to the Unemployment Fund, to the Statutory Committee; but as far as I can see, there is no adequate reason why instructions should not have been issued to the Unemployment Assistance Board to use discretionary powers in order to see that no unemployed man was worse off as a result of this than he would have been if he had not received any credits. I very much regret that when I asked my right hon. Friend for this assurance last Monday, he was not able to give it. I have outlined the case briefly, and I hope that when he replies this afternoon, I shall be given that assurance.

There are two other points with which I would like to deal before I conclude. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. H. Macmillan) referred to the protection of democracy. There is a section of the community which thinks that small points affecting the lives of individual men and women are of small importance in comparison with the vital problems with which the House of Commons has to deal, and that those small points ought not to be raised and discussed by hon. Members. I deprecate that view, for if we are to make democracy a living thing to the individuals who gain less from democracy than some of use who are more fortunate, we have to let them know that any legitimate grievances which they may have are just as important to the British Parliamentary institution as the wider problems with which more responsible people have to deal from day to day. I am proud and glad to have had this opportunity to raise the position of these men, and to say that I think it deserves the protection of the Committee, and that not a single man should be worse off because of the introduction of this new scheme and the lack of organisation in regard to it.

The other point is this. There are people who hold the view, "My party right or wrong." Again, I deprecate that attitude, and I do so for the reason that when one is elected to the House of Commons, one has to try to represent the views of all sections of the community. Inevitably there is sometimes a clash, and I do not see how that can be avoided; but when one is privileged to represent a community, one is in the position of being able to estimate, sometimes, perhaps, more accurately than Whitehall itself, which section of the community requires representation at a given time. I say that, in view of the knowledge which I have in regard to this matter and the interest which I have taken in it, if every hon. Member were against me today, I would still fight, because I believe that an injustice has been perpetrated and that it demands a remedy. I conclude by saying that if I cannot obtain the assurance, which I feel almost certain I must obtain, on the case which I have laid before my right hon. Friend, I shall, regretfully, have to record my vote against the Government this afternoon.

1.40 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan

I wish at the outset to say a few words to the hon. Lady for Wallsend (Miss Ward) about the position which she has taken in regard to her duties to her constituents and to her party. The hon. Lady has told us that she will fight alone, but I warn her to think again before she embarks on that course. Many years ago, I embarked on such a course, and I know that it is no easy road to take; and if the hon. Lady wishes to make for herself a place in the House, she had better take care lest she make a serious mistake. In days gone by, my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and I were characterised in "Punch" as having scored a duck when, in a Division, we were the tellers and our supporters were nil. There were other occasions when we stood alone in the House. I confess that such a position has its advantages, but over a long period of years, I question whether there is anything much to be got from it.

I hope I shall not appear to be lecturing the hon. Lady, but I wish she had taken up this matter a little earlier. As the Under-Secretary knows, it is now many months since I raised it, and at the last Friday sitting when we discussed the matter, I devoted 10 or 15 minutes of my speech to it; and the only answer I obtained from the Minister was that he intended to send the whole matter to the Statutory Committee. That is now the position. The question which the hon. Lady has raised is not a new one, for it has been before us for years, although I agree with her that it has now reached greater dimensions than formerly. In my own locality there were people who had holidays with pay years ago. On the general question of holidays with pay, I feel that the position which we have now reached is that there is some sort of holidays with pay for the worker who gets 50 weeks of work in a year, and as far as this agreement is concerned, it is not bad for such a worker, for he at least gets a week more. The people for whom I want to plead are the men who do not get 50 weeks' work in a year, but who frequently get not more than four, five or six months; and who today receive only a very small payment indeed in the holiday period and are, moreover, frequently penalised by the employment exchange as well. I would say to hon. Members and also to trade unionists in regular employment that they ought not to forget the less fortunate workers who equally need holidays.

I come now to the report that is under discussion today. After listening to the speeches that have been made, I must confess—and I hope that this will not be taken as a criticism, of you, Sir Robert Young, or your predecessor in the Chair—that I wonder where we get in these Committee debates. We have heard what everybody says was a powerful speech by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). In listening to his remarks, I wondered how it was that the question which he raised could be debated, for if ever a subject needed legislation, it is the one that he raised. I do not criticise the Chair for its tolerance, but I wonder how the things which the right hon. Gentleman wanted could be done without legislation. I am not going to follow him because not being a right hon. Gentleman, and having a rather notorious reputation in regard to my relations with the Chair, I might not be treated in exactly the same way. I would only say, that my colleagues aria I when we were inside the Labour party long ago propounded a system of family allowances. The question was discussed inside the Labour party and we had the strong support of one of the greatest men the party ever had, the late Arthur Henderson. But the subject rent the party in twain. Speaking for myself, I am still a supporter of the principle of family allowances, and I trust that the subject will be ventilated again on another occasion when it can be raised without the limitations which attach to the present discussion.

I turn now to the general issues raised by the report. Of the Unemployment Assistance Board I wish, first, to enter an emphatic protest against the whole attitude which is being adopted towards the Board, and indeed the whole trend of this policy. I ask the Committee to bear with me while I examine the question of why the Board were appointed and what were the duties laid down for them. They were appointed because it was felt that the old system of paying benefits had broken down, and that a new system was wanted which would separate the recipients of standard benefit from the recipients of unemployment assistance. The Board's duties were confined to administering unemployment assistance. Subject to regulations laid down by Parliament, they were, through their officials, to go into the needs of each applicant in the various districts and areas throughout the country and they were to pay to each applicant a certain amount of relief for himself and his dependants. But what do we find now? We find that there has been arrogated to this Board the right to inquire into wages and such questions as, which members of a household are or are not working. That is not the duty which Parliament gave to the Board. It may be desirable; it may be right or it may be wrong, but Parliament gave the Board their job and Parliament never instructed them or gave them the right to make such inquiries. They are undertaking functions far outwith their proper domain. The question of who works or who does not work, arises in relation to standard benefit as well. It arises in relation to public assistance as well. If it is to be raised in isolated cases in regard to unemployment assistance, is it also to be raised in regard to these other matters? Parliament never asked the Board to do this. Parliament laid down certain regulations and duties for the Board, but the Board are now entering into the field of work of a Royal Commission without any of the limitations of a Royal Commission.

I am sorry that there are so few Conservative Members here to-day, because I want to appeal to their sense of fairness. When I came to this House I was told that there was a certain public school feeling which meant that an Englishman would not do a dirty trick consciously, and I thought that there was something in that theory. I have never found that spirit very much in evidence, but I have never given up hoping that some day I would see it. I will make another effort and I will address to hon. Members opposite a plea for fair play in this matter. There is a certain set of people who are characterised here as "work-shy." I am not arguing as to whether there are or are not such people. I think I know the poor as well as any man in Great Britain. I have lived with them always. I have been apart from them hardly one day in my life. I have been unemployed. I have had the feeling of not wanting to work. I often wish that those who sit in criticism upon these poor people, had to live their lives for just a month. Their outlook might be changed. But I ask hon. Members to use their sense of fairness and decency on the proposal that there should be a committee to enquire into the case of the work-shy. It is true that at the beginning the inquiry is to be limited to those who are under 30, but that is only the start.

If a Royal Commission were appointed to inquire into this question, what would happen? The Minister would draw up, and the House of Commons would approve of, the terms of reference to which the Commission would be bound to adhere. Every witness would be examined publicly and allowed to make his case. The evidence would be placed on record and everything would be public, but what is to happen here? I ask hon. Members to note that this body is to be both judge and jury. Is that in accordance with a sense of fairness? The inspectors are to make these inquiries. I know practically all the inspectors in my native city and a good many outside and I put this position to hon. Members who claim to have a sense of fairness and decency. Along comes one of these poor fellows. Call them if you like workshy. This miserable shrinking devil may be underfed. He may be in the condition described by the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Sparkbrook. He may have been four or five years without employment. This miserable devil of 29 is examined—by whom? By an inspector, a fellow in receipt of £500 or £600 a year, well fed, well clad, with a modicum of education and usually a certain amount of arrogance, the sort of man who recently produced a form wanting to know the religion and politics of applicants. That is the type, and that inspector gets this poor fellow in a private office and puts questions to him. Hon. Members who are lawyers will agree that that is a procedure which would not be allowed in the ordinary law courts in relation to the worst criminal in the country. But that is how the work-shy are to be dealt with. That is the report on which we are asked to act.

I put it to Conservative Members in the name of common fairness and decency: If you have a case, appoint a Commission to go into it. Give that Commission terms of reference and enable it to examine these matters, and to see whether there is any justification for your case or not. I represent men who have not worked for 10 years, indeed who have not worked practically in their lives, but I do not agree with all this talk about demoralisation. I am going to be quite frank. I often get angry with hon. Members about references which are made to the House of Commons. I once got very angry with the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter), because I thought he sneered at certain people in the House of Commons. I do not say that he meant it, but that was how it appeared to me. I am angry when I hear people sneer at Parliament. A man has no need to be ashamed of being a good House of Commons Member, any more than he need be ashamed of being a good bricklayer. It is a job to do, and to do well. But these people come, and these poor devils, 10 years unemployed, are hailed before them.

I remember that away back in the old days we had the Blanesburgh Committee. A very distinguished Member of the Labour party was a member of it, but there was only one thing that that Committee did. It examined the alleged work-shy. Hon. Members will remember that certain newspapers at that time carried on a terrific campaign to show that a large number of people were drawing unemployment benefit who neither wanted to work nor did work. Sir James Price, now a part-time Director of Imperial Airways, then held an important office in the Ministry of Labour, and he went down to the Blanesburgh Committee. Certain people had told them about the "work-shy" and the "won't works"—philanthropic societies—and he, as an official, asked them for every case they could give. At the end of the day, when every case had been submitted, not one in 100 could bear any stigma either of not wanting to work or of being in any way bad, and that demolished the whole case. The Blanes-burgh Committee, in their report, immediately discounted all that kind of thing, and to their credit be it said that, whatever else they did. they made some attempt to overcome that kind of criticism.

I represent men who have been in the' Army and who have never worked a day since they came out of the Army, although they have been out for years. I have seen men at this House, some of the so-called work-sky, pleading for a day's work counting votes at a General Election. I have seen other men who have refused jobs, and I will tell the Committee why. It was because they were decent men, because they felt they could not do the job. Have hon. Members ever stood and watched, shivering in front of them, a man who has hardly worked for years and heard someone say to him, "Go and work in a shipyard?" Have they realised that when such a man is asked to go to work with men with whom he has never worked before, he thinks he cannot do it, and so he does not go? It is not because he is bad, but because he cannot do it; he feels that it is beyond him. Have any of us been asked to do a task that we could not do, that we knew it was impossible for us to do? Then is it not better to say so, rather than to go on to a job that you know you cannot fulfil? I ask the Minister, whatever inquiry he may hold, to show sportsmanship and decency. Let him have a proper inquiry, with terms of reference, and with witnesses, and with the indictment clearly placed before it.

This work-shy business reminds me of another thing about which I want to say a word or two, and that is the means test itself. What was the excuse for the Unemployment Assistance Board? Nobody ever defended that Board on the ground that it was absolutely necessary. This was the defence—and it came, I am sorry to say, from some quarters on this side of the House—that there were certain people drawing unemployment benefit who had immense means and who therefore had no right to draw it. An ex-member of the party wrote to "Forward" in an attack on me, pointing out certain people with thousands of pounds who ought not to be drawing unemployment benefit. That was the defence for the Board, that people with money should not be drawing what they were not entitled to. I turn to this report, and I find that on page 80, Appendix V, they blow skyhigh this rich man story. They show that, outside earnings, only about £3,750,000 ought to be taken into account as other resources, but Appendix V shows that only a matter of £80,000 out of all test cases, out of millions, is really covered by so-called savings and so on, and we spend £4,500,000 on a machine to discover £80,000. That is the stage they are at, chasing up and down, inventing every kind of cruel machine, to find out every penny of earnings, and they spend £4,500,000 to get less than £100,000.

I heard the powerful speech of the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. H. Macmillan) on malnutrition, and I would plead with the Minister—and this is one of my indictments of this report—that in it they sneer at the workshy and at So-and-so, but not one word does Lord Rushcliffe say in it about the problem of people getting less than they need. It is practically the whole background of his report that he is preparing an attack either on the employed or on the unemployed. I never write to the Minister. I stopped it long ago. I conduct correspondence of an immense kind with local officials. I gave the right hon. Gentleman up, and I gave up all the Ministers, because I came to the conclusion that if you could not get a thing done by coaxing or bullying local officials, these fellows were only the gramophones for the local officials. I have a letter in my pocket about a man who pays rates and rent amounting to £18 10s. a year. They are good at calculating; that is 7s. 3d. a week for 52 weeks. He has 32s., that is for a man, wife, and two girls, and with 7s. 3d. off that leaves him 24s. 9d. with which to buy food and clothing and to pay for insurance and everything. That is 8s. 3d. a week each, on the basis of taking the two children as one adult. That 8s. 3d. means about is. 3d. a day on which to live, and after deduction for insurance it leaves less than 10d. per head for meals. I wrote to the local officers and they replied that there were no special circumstances and they regretted they could not give any more.

This Board talks about work-shys, but never says a word about such a case as this. I came across a case of a man who works on the railway and earns 45s. a week. He lives with his wife and a son of 20, who is unemployed. The son gets nothing and the 45s. has to keep the three of them. If the case had been reversed and the son had been working and the father idle, the father would have re ceived 12s. per week. There is not a word in this report about meeting anomalies of that sort. The Board take the attitude that, after all, there are 1,500,000 of these people and they are only just a nuisance to everybody. You come here and talk about Defence and the defence of our great Imperial interests, yet I was reading the other day about an occurrence in the division of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton where people had to sit up every night for a week, and decent folk could not go to their beds because rats invaded their houses. And you are asking Bridgeton to come and help defend your Imperial interests. You spend millions of pounds upon a battleship, but you cannot provide £10 to keep the rats away from the homes of these poor people. You talk about saving the nation, but you cannot clear away the miserable pitheaps that smell and foul every part of Lancashire, Yorkshire, the North-East Coast and Scotland.

This report of the Unemployment Assistance Board is a contemptible, shocking thing written by well-to-do men who have every comfort in life, and who now libel people for being work-shys. Why do they not try to speak to these men as human beings? I ask hon. Members to forget that they are Conservatives, forget party divisions, and think of these people as human beings. Above all, let them remember the children. Treat the adults, if you will, as bad as you like, but let the children be given a chance to grow up healthy and happy. A country that is spending millions on Defence ought to be able to increase children's allowances. I appeal to the Minister to take steps—and in this rich country he can do it if he wishes—to see that this bestial poverty is abolished from our land.

2.10 p.m.

Major Procter

I will not follow the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), but I would point out that we on this side are just as sympathetic to the children and the poor as anyone on the other side. If there is an invasion of rats in Bridgeton, surely that is not the responsibility of the Minister of Labour so much as the responsibility of the Socialist Council of Glasgow.

Mr. Maxton

Is it not primarily the responsibility of the owner of the property?

Major Procter

Possibly, but the sanitary inspector and the corporation have a responsibility.

Mr. Buchanan

If the Unemployment Assistance Board paid these peoble decent money, they would not have to live there.

Major Procter

I do not wish to enter into any controversy on matters of that kind, because the background of the debate is the condition of Lancashire. As the hon. Member who opened the debate said, we in Lancashire are passing through a very hard time. No blame can be attached to the Minister of Labour for the unemployment in that county, for the function of the Minister is to help those who are suffering from unemployment. His policy is not concerned with causes, but with the results of certain policies in the past. He has to bear the consequences of what the Labour opposition used to call the world economic crisis. Lancashire is deserving of the consideration of the Minister of Labour in order that he might pass on to the President of the Board of Trade and his other colleagues the suggestion that there are certain conditions in Lancashire which might be helped by a different policy. Lancashire has contributed a great deal to the economic strength of this country. It is the most densely populated county in England. It has as its inhabitants, perhaps the most highly skilled mechanics and cotton operatives in the world. They can make machinery that will run with the precision of a planetary system, and they can knot a thread of cotton so swiftly that the eye cannot follow the process.

The importance of this country has not been fully realised by the House. Lancashire, and not the industrial Midlands, should really be the prosperous area, because it has a great population. Within 50 miles of London there are 11,695,000 people. Within 50 miles of Manchester there are 10,405,000. Within 75 miles of London there are 14,000,000 and within the same distance of Manchester there are 14,713,000. Within 100 miles of London there are 16,000,000 people and within 100 miles of Manchester, 18,000,000 people. There are 45 towns in Great Britain with a population of 100,000, and sending goods to each those towns necessitate their being carried a total dis tance of 8,487 miles. If these goods were sent from Manchester to each of these towns including London, it would necessitate carrying them only 5,220 miles, thus saving 3,267 miles. Lancashire has cheaper ports, cheaper labour, cheaper electricity, a large supply of coal and great abundance of chemicals.

Why then is not Lancashire the prosperous area instead of the Midlands? The answer, I think, is to be found very largely in the decline of two great industries that were particularly indigenous to Lancashire. One industry is cotton. It was thought that because Lancashire had a peculiar climate, it would have a perpetual monopoly of the manufacture of cotton. Unfortunately science, or fortunately as some may regard it, has supplied a synthetic atmosphere and now it is possible to make cotton in any part of the world. If other countries want to establish industries the first thing they do is to start a cotton mill. From Lancashire we have sent out every week for the last 30 years a complete cotton mill. The export of that machinery has carried out possibly the good spirit of internationalism. We have sent out these cotton mills and we have established a cotton industry elsewhere, and those who were our customers in the past have become our competitors today. For many years past the cotton industry has been carrying out in actual practice one of the great Socialistic principles, that is to say, the entire industry has been run for use and not for profit, and with disastrous effects.

Mr. Silverman

From his extensive knowledge of Lancashire would the hon. and gallant Member mention any occasion, even when the cotton industry was booming and Lancashire was the workshop of the world, when the operatives got anything but the barest necessities and when their standard of living was higher than it is today?

Major Procter

If I had time I could give a complete reply to that question. All along, if there has been any fault to find with the wages of the operatives a contributory factor has been the great number of trade unions in the industry, and the additional reason that the unions have not stood up and wisely represented the wage-earners as they might have done. But I have no time to develop an argument on that subject. The cotton trade undoubtedly has suffered. While it is true that there is rather more unemployment to-day than there was six months ago, the greatest period of decline in the industry was during the operation of the Free Trade system. The decline cannot be attributed to Ottawa or—

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Robert Young)

I must ask the hon. Member to get back to the Ministry of Labour Vote.

Major Procter

I was trying to show the contributory causes of declining trade so that I might suggest a remedy. The loss of world markets has put out of employment a great number of Lancashire cotton operatives.

The Temporary Chairman

The purpose of the discussion is to deal with the administrative powers of the Ministry of Labour.

Major Procter

I fully agree. Having pointed out some causes of declining trade I want to show in what way the Minister of Labour can help. We have lost, for instance, a great deal of our trade through the loss of the Indian market. Whereas formerly we used to export a great deal of sheeting to India, that trade has been lost through the policy—perhaps it was a Liberal policy—of giving India fiscal control, with the result that such imposts have been put on our goods that we are not getting a fair deal in India. For instance a duty of 4s. 8d. on 48 yards valued at us. in Manchester.

The Temporary Chairman

We cannot have a discussion on Free Trade and Tariff Reform. We must keep to what is within this Vote. The hon. and gallant Member may give illustrations to show what has happened, but we cannot discuss them.

Major Procter

We have lost the India market and that has resulted in unemployment. We have lost a great deal of the neutral markets through Japanese competition. The Japanese compete with us unfairly by means of cheap labour—a shilling a day for their spinners and 10½d. a day for their weavers. A great opportunity of doing beneficial work is offered to trade union leaders if they could only raise the standard of life of these Japanese workers. Could the Minister of Labour not put before his colleagues a suggestion that representations be made to the Japanese Government with a view of preventing this unfair competition with us and the copying of our designs and catalogues?

The Temporary Chairman

We are not discussing the question of the Minister of Labour speaking to anyone else, or anything of that kind.

Major Procter

If I am prevented from dealing with the real causes of unemployment, I will come immediately to one or two suggestions whereby, through administration, the Minister of Labour could help our unemployed people in Lancashire. First, I would direct his attention to what has already been mentioned, and that is the' problem of the men and women who have reached the age of 55. I know that the Minister is searching for some way to remedy the problem. We all know that when a man gets past middle life he wonders what is going to happen to him. He has the fear of to-morrow, the fear of old age and sickness. When he applies for a job, often it is given to a younger man. I know that the Minister of Labour has been giving a lot of study to this problem, and I would ask him whether he has made any progress towards a solution. Can he make any pronouncement that will give hope to these men of 55 and over? Let me remind the Committee of what has been done in Accrington. Our local employment exchange and unemployment committee made a canvass amongst the employers of labour, with the result that over 100 men were found jobs. Could not this plan, with encouragement from the Minister, be extended to other exchanges? Would it be possible for him to establish a King's Roll for those who are assisting these casualties of industry? If he could help them it would give them some hope.

Again, in the weaving-sheds there is the problem of under-employment. The position is that women or men who are working only two looms instead of the full complement of four looms get less while they are at work than they would receive if they were not working. Would it not be possible to make arrangements with the employers so that a person could work four looms one week and "play" the next, or to make some arrangement whereby a person when at work draws a fair rate of pay for what he does? A definite promise was made—and I thank the Minister of Labour for his efforts in the matter—that certain parts of Lan- cashire should be regarded as Special Areas and receive special consideration in connection with Admiralty and War Office contracts, but, unfortunately, when new establishments like that at Chorley are put up the bricks do not come from Lancashire. Some sub-contractor is employed and the bricks come from the prosperous area around Birmingham.

The Temporary Chairman

I do not think the Minister has any power to say where the bricks shall come from.

Major Procter

I would urge him to make a friendly appeal to his colleague to ensure that when any of the Departments put up new buildings in Lancashire, the work should be given to Lancashire men. That is all I want. He should see that as far as possible the sub-contracts are given to the areas in which there are a large number of unemployed people and in that way find work for Lancashire. I am grateful for what the Ministry of Labour have done, and I am glad to note that there are signs that Lancashire is moving towards a return to its old prosperity. I am glad that over 2,000 new reconditioned or extended factories have been established in Lancashire through the operations of the Lancashire Development Association aided by the Government's policy of making foreign firms come to England and set up works.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where"?] If hon. Members will get the Report of the Development Association they will see that what I have stated is correct. I repeat that 2,000 factories have been built, or rebuilt, and I am glad to know that through the tariff policy of this Government the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) has a fine new rubber factory from Germany to his constituency.

Mr. Silverman

But we got that ourselves.

Major Procter

I wish to conclude on this note, that we on this side have just as much sympathy with the unemployed as hon. Members opposite, and we believe that this Government will never bring about such a disaster for Lancashire as arose in the days of the last Labour Government. We hope that side by side with the social developments which are being carried on by the Minister we shall get a reopening of our markets and a better deal in the markets which rightly belong to England and the county of Lancashire.

2.3o p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

We have heard four or five remarkable speeches in this Debate, and in two or three instances the desirability of considering family allowances has been put before the Committee. I was interested in those speeches, and in the main agreed with them, but what struck me as surprising was that this relationship between wages and families has only just dawned upon some hon. Members. This question, even though it has only just been brought to a head, as it were, by this report, has been a serious one for a long time in the homes of the workers. I was one of a family of seven. My father received a wage of 26s. to 27s. a week in those wonderful mills about which the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) has been speaking, and that was before the depression, in the heyday of the Lancashire cotton industry, when the owners were making money hand over fist. The problem of family allowances was there then, because the large families were there. As a youngster of seven I had to go to work on Saturday afternoons to help to make carpets for better-off people in order that we might be able to live, because, as this Report has just discovered, it was utterly impossible for us to live on the money that my father could earn.

It came from the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) as a new discovery that the needs of the people are sometimes not met by the wages they receive. I hope that question will be investigated, though I am not so optimistic as the right hon. Member, nor am I so optimistic as the hon. Lady who suggested that she had full confidence in the Minister, because a much smaller question, one to which the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington referred, has been before the Minister now for two and a half years. It was a question of much more vital importance to the people concerned than the larger question which he raised and to which the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. H. Macmillan) also referred, and though they are fewer in number those people are in a far worse position, because with them it is not a question of a week's unemployment now and again but of long spells of unemployment.

I want to discuss the report and to refer to the position of Lancashire, particularly the cotton industry. I know something of that industry. I was brought up in it. I have engaged in those operations about which the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington spoke, which are done with such facility that you scarcely see the threads moving in your fingers. We had to work at that pace if we were to earn a living at all, because of the miserable wages we were paid for what I consider was a difficult job. There is a feeling to-day in the County Palatine that it is so far removed from the centre of Government here that we are not concerned about it. That is a feeling which is growing, and I believe there is some justification for it, because whenever we endeavour to bring conditions in Lancashire before the House and to show what exactly is taking place there an attempt is made to side-track us or to pretend that it is a problem which cannot be treated separately. The Report itself refers to the striking increase in unemployment, and yet it touches only a portion of the problem, and not the most important portion. In many districts in Lancashire the problem of unemployment, bad as it is, is not nearly so serious from the standpoint of nutrition as the problem of under employment, which has been sometimes hinted at in this House, but which, I am sure, is not properly understood and can only be understood by those who have had experience of it. One would not imagine that people would put up with such a condition of affairs week after week unless one had seen it. The tragedy of the situation is that in so many places these people not only put up with these conditions but have absorbed a philosophy which enables them to vote Tory while they are suffering.

Major Procter

Is it not true that the Tory party have done more for the workers than the Labour party ever did?

Mr. Tomlinson

"Done them more" is a good phrase. I am not blaming the employers, but, in that instance, the workers, for the representatives whom they have sent to the House of Commons. I am amazed at the complacency with which Tory Members from Lancashire—remember that there are 43 or 44 of them—

Mr. Rhys Davies


Mr. Tomlinson

Yes, but 43 or 44 National Members. I think they are all Tories. They are so to me. Why are they not interested? I have endeavoured to find some spirit of indignation among them at what is taking place. If they visit their constituencies they must know what is taking place and of the tragedies being enacted under their noses, if they are prepared to look for them; yet we hear nothing about the matter from them in the House of Commons. Week after week employers of labour, members of the Tory party who have been among its most stalwart members, say to me, when I go home at the weekend: "For God's sake try to get Lancashire talked about in the House of Commons. Let them know not only that we are here but that we are suffering. Try to get something done." One would think that the 40-odd Members of the National Government who represent Lancashire and who pride themselves upon what the National Government have done, would have made themselves heard in the councils of the Government in London in an effort to improve the lot of our people.

During the Board of Trade Debate we heard something about the recession—that delightful new word that has been coined to cover up tragedy—in the cotton trade. It is not a recession but a calamity. It is a slump—a real slump. In Lancashire in 1930, there were 800,000 looms. In. 1937 there were 500,000, that is to say, 300,000 fewer looms in commission upon which the operatives referred to by the hon. Member for Accrington are able to earn their living. In 1913 there were 60,000,000 spindles; to-day there are less than 40,000,000. What does that mean? Some people say that it means a recession in the cotton industry, but it means, at any rate, that one-third of the industry, on the spinning side, has gone. In 1913, there were 600,000 operatives. I mentioned the looms and the spindles to show the effect upon the operatives who are spoken of in this report. to-day there are 350,000 operatives. We are back where we were in 1865, 73 years ago, the last time that the cotton industry in this country was in such a position in value and in volume. Since the end of 1937, another great change has taken place. Bad as those figures are for Lancashire, they are by no means the worst. Out of the 350,000 operatives in the cotton industry, 35 or 40 per cent. are either unemployed or partially employed.

Major Procter

During the Labour Administration the percentage was 45.

The Temporary-Chairman

We cannot discuss what has happened years ago. The Ministry of Labour Vote is before the Committee now.

Mr. Tomlinson

A trade union secretary, who commands the respect of all people in this House and who speaks with some authority, points out, respecting the depression which has been taking place since the beginning of the year, that the Ministry of Labour Gazette for May announces a total of 102,112 persons, normally employed in the cotton trade, as being either totally unemployed or temporarily stopped, of which number 44,286 are totally unemployed. That means that in the contracted industry which now engages 350,000 operatives, as against 600,000 a few years ago, about 100,000 are now stopped. In every line and in every numeral those figures reveal the human problem. We have all heard what the problem means in respect of nutrition.

One could imagine that the problem cannot be solved. Towns and villages which once were prosperous are to-day lying almost derelict. In the village in which I live, houses are empty and unpainted, and shops which were once looked upon by their owners with pride, stand empty. Mills are becoming derelict. The whole place presents an appearance, especially to one who has been to London, of something nearly dead and done for. The tragedy is that the people who are to-day walking the streets unemployed are unable to leave those places. It has been suggested that they should be transported from one place to another as work becomes available. That has been part of the Minister's scheme, and the attempt has been made, no doubt upon humanitarian lines, but it has meant that the young people have gone from those towns and villages and that the older folks remain, unable to leave even if they would. They have bought their houses out of their hard-earned coppers. The houses are still there, but have probably been re-mortgaged, so that those unemployed people cannot be removed.

Let hon. Members think of Blackburn. Let us take the problem in townships so that we may realise it better. Think of the people who are unemployed. Blackburn is one of the largest weaving centres in the world, and a few years ago there were 90,000 looms. To-day there are only 42,000, or less than 50 per cent.

During one week, a fortnight ago, 17,000 of those 42,000 workers were stopped, which means that the industry is contracted to that extent. In my village, there were 7,200 looms 10 years ago; to-day there are 3,200. In the week following Whitsuntide this year, a fortnight ago, fewer than 1,000 of those looms were running, and there are 6,000 people in the village who are dependent entirely upon the cotton trade. The one paper mill has closed down. The whole village looks not only derelict but cast down. Many of those people, suffering as they are through no fault of their own—God grant that they do not see this report—have suffered all the kicks of outrageous fortune, but are spoken of as work-shy people who do not want work; but that kind of person is not to be found among the cotton workers, nor in Lancashire.

In my constituency of Farnworth, 16 mills have been closed, apparently for all time, and in addition there is the problem of under-employment, at which I have already hinted, where time after time men and women going to the mills work a full 48-hour week, and receive at the end of that time less than £1. I will give the Committee two cases taken from the wage books last week, and I would ask hon. Members to ask themselves what they would do if they were in the same position. The first case is that of a man with a wife and one child. The man is working. He is a four-loom weaver, but two of his looms have been stopped, and two beams have been added. He is not unemployed; he is underemployed. He cannot sign on at the Exchange; the Ministry of Labour will not allow him to do so, because he has 5o per cent. of his work available. At the end of the week his gross wage is 15s. 6d. I could give the number of the loom, the type of cloth he is weaving. and the name and address of the man himself, so that I can vouch for every figure I am giving. His gross wage is 15s. 6d. Out of that, 10d. is stopped for unemployment insurance, to provide for the time when he will be unemployed. He himself has to pay for that. If he were unemployed, he would receive a frank at the Exchange, and would not be called upon to pay his 10d., but, because he is employed and receiving 15s. 6d., 10d. has to be paid for his unemployment insurance stamp. Then he has to pay a contribution of 10d. for National Health Insurance; that is to say, for insurance alone he has to pay is. 8d. in all. He has also to pay 6d. for the sweeping of the two looms that have beams. Thus he has to pay a total of 2s. 2d. Further, with the generosity of the Lancashire weaver, he has also agreed to pay his rd. towards the local infirmary, and that is stopped out of his wages. He therefore receives 13s. 3d. net per week. He pays 7s. 8d. rent. What do you think he is going to do with the rest? Come down to London and have tea on the Terrace?

The other case is that of a man and his wife, the wife an invalid receiving 5s. a week disablement benefit. He works a full week, and he, too, is a four loom-weaver and his looms have two beams. He gets 12s. 11d. a week; he is weaving a different type of cloth. He has to remain there, and cannot sign on at the Exchange. His net wage is 11s. 2d. He pays is. 8d. for the two forms of insurance, and rd. for the infirmary. He sweeps his own loom, so he has not to pay for that service. He is living in a mortgaged house. It is true that he has not to pay rent, but he has to save up his rates, which is a difficult task, and, if he is not ready with the interest on the money for the buying of his house, the co-operative society will be on to him. I ask the Minister, what is he going to do about it? He can do something, though it is suggested that he cannot. There are thousands of cases of the type I have mentioned. This is not something that is just happening this week, and has not been happening before; it is not something that has not been brought to the notice of the Government. The Minister received a deputation on this subject two years ago, and with him was the Minister of Health. These people cannot receive public assistance committee relief, because that would be subsidising wages, so the Minister of Health says he is helpless. The Minister of Labour says that they are not unemployed, and, therefore, cannot receive unemployment pay. I have heard of people being between the Devil and the deep sea, but I only know of one analogy that fits the position of the Lancashire weaver to-day, and that, singularly enough, occurs in the history of a man named Tomlinson, of whom some hon. Members may have read. He was neither good enough to go to Heaven nor bad enough to go to the other place, and consequently he was left roaming about unable to find a place in which to rest.

It seems to me that from the standpoint of the Minister of Labour our people are being left high and dry. This problem affects 60 per cent. of the manufacturers in Lancashire at the present time. It is not a question which affects only a few people; it affects thousands, and I meet them when I go home at week-ends. They ask me what the Government are prepared to do about it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook has suggested an inquiry into the question of nutrition. An inquiry is already being conducted here. This is the only place I know of where people do not realise immediately that there is a definite relationship between the nutrition that comes to the children and the money that comes into the home. It is a question of pounds, shillings and pence, and these people who are carrying out so faithfully the work about which the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington spoke are being called upon day after day to attend to their work on bread and jam and margarine, at breakfast time, dinner time and tea time. Sometimes even before the end of the week the bread and the margarine run out, and I know of people who have gone without food for a couple of days while working. What are the Government going to do about it? An inquiry is suggested. I suggest that we should see that the people are fed, and inquire into the conditions afterwards.

2.50 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies

My first duty, I presume, so that I may be in Order, is to move the Amendment that stands on the Paper—

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)

On a point of Order. May I put it to the hon. Gentleman that, if he does that, he will prevent me from making certain replies on wider issues? I assure him and the Committee that, if he does not move his Amendment now, I will sit down in plenty of time to allow him to move it.

Mr. Davies

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I have listened to the whole of this Debate, and the first thing I ought to say is that those of us who represent the county of Lancashire in the House of Commons are agreed on the whole that the problems of the County have to-day been put on the political map. That is an achievement, because we have tried to do it on several previous occasions and have not succeeded. I should like to refer, in the first place, to one or two points which have been raised in the Debate. I wish the right hon Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) were present, because I want to refer to the observation he made to the effect that one of the ways of dealing with the problem of wages is by way of family allowances. I wish he would distinguish between family allowances that may come from industry and similar allowances that may be paid by the State out of taxation. That, of course, is fundamental to an argument of this kind. Today is not the time to deal with a problem of that kind, but I should like to say one thing about that proposal. Hon. Members from South Wales will bear me out when I say that in that part of the country there was for some time a form of family allowance paid by the coal industry itself, but it was discarded because it was not regarded as satisfactory by the workers.

Mr. J. Griffiths

That is a mild term.

Mr. Davies

We shall have an opportunity, I suppose, of discussing that problem later on. Then the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) wanted an inquiry into the whole of the social services. I take some little interest in the social services of this country, and I feel that, if a Royal or any other Commission were appointed to inquire into the whole of the social services of this country and their relationship to one another, it is doubtful whether they would complete their work in three, four, or even five years, and consequently I do not think that would contribute to getting on with the task which is before us to-day. I was very interested, however, in what the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) said. Whenever he speaks in this Chamber, he provides us with a great deal of food for thought. His speech to-day was more provocative than ever. I will deal with only one of his statements. Where he got his information about 2,000 factories from I do not know. I have been in close touch with the Lancashire Development Council and the formation of the Lancashire site company, and I am sure that Council would be very pleased if they had secured the building and renovation of 2,000 new factories in the county. I should be astonished if they claimed that they had built and renovated no; 5o would be nearer the mark I suppose. It is not for me to say a word about Japanese compensation, because that, too, is beyond the point at issue to-day.

I suppose that in doing my duty in the House of Commons I have as unenviable a task as any representative here, because in my constituency the industrial depression is gradually becoming the worst in the whole of these islands. I have said these things before, but may be pardoned if I repeat them. There were 17 collieries operating in my constituency 10 years ago, employing 10,000 men and women. They are all closed down now, and I see no hope of any of them opening again. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour came to Westhoughton not long ago to open a new miners' welfare centre, and three months after the pit was drowned. That is a comment on the activities of the right hon. Gentleman in almost every case. I am not going to say that happened because he came; all I am saying is that the pit was drowned after his visit. I do not like to speak too strongly about him on that score, because he delivered a wonderful speech; the crowd listened attentively to what he said, and, quite frankly, they thought a hot gospeller had come among them at last.

The percentage of unemployment in my constituency is very alarming, and the right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, will know that it is increasing. While there is a slight improvement, consequent on migration, in the Special Areas, the situation in my constituency is becoming really appalling. Might I say to the right hon. Gentleman if I can, without being partisan for the moment, that I consider that any Government or any party, in the State that admits men and women to be out of work for 5, 10 or 15 years, and allows their physique to decay is doing offence to civilisation itself. I have preached this to my people dozens of times, and I say it here, that any group of people in this country who become satisfied with living on little when there is so much to be got, do offence to human nature itself. I am told sometimes by my critics that the working classes are better off than they were. Of course they are. I speak with some little authority when I say that.

Mr. Buchanan

I would not say that the Welsh miners are better off than they were.

Mr. Davies

Wait a minute. The measurement of poverty is not a comparison as between to-day and 50 years ago. The proper measurement is, what is the poverty of to-day by comparison with the riches of the land we are living in? Putting it that way, the working classes of this country are poorer than ever they were.

I have made representations on behalf of my constituents to the right hon. Gentleman and to Government Departments from time to time, and they say, "You get advantages by Government contracts in your depressed area although it is not a special area." The right hon. Gentleman has given me that reply more than once, but what is the use of telling the people of a town of 24,000 inhabitants like Hindley that they can get contracts from Government Departments when there is no local works left to tender for contracts? In the township of Aspull, in Lancashire, with 6,000 inhabitants, there has not been a stroke of work done of any kind for nine years, except for a small textile mill employing 120 people, of whom 110 are women. I have intervened on social grounds with Government Departments, for Government contracts and what do I find? There is no compassion at all in Government Departments when they deal with firms in depressed areas. They deal with them just as they do with Birmingham. There is no advantage given to that Aspull mill, although it is in one of the depressed areas. I am not accepting it from the right hon. Gentleman that Government Departments look kindly on de- pressed areas when they give out contracts.

Let me come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward). When this practice of holidays with pay is growing, it is reasonable, I think, to ask that the wages paid in respect of those holidays shall not be included when assessing income in regard to the relief of the family. That would be indeed monstrous. Take the case of a Lancashire girl operative of 20 to 24 years of age earning 10s. a week. She goes to Blackpool for a week in the year; that is all the holiday she gets. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that 10s. a week wages in respect of that girl should not be included in the assessment under the means test.

I feel sometimes when I read the Blue Books issued to us that a very strange thing is happening in the land. The social services have been expanded. When I was a coal miner there was no compensation, unemployment insurance, health insurance, no old age pensions or widows' and orphans' pensions. I have a feeling that, with all that we have done in that sphere, the rich are richer to-day than ever they were, in spite of all the social services. One of the criticisms which I have—I am not committing my party to this—of family allowances based on industry is that all they will do is to equalise the poverty of the poor among themselves. That is a criticism that those who propose that idea will have to meet.

I will now say a word or two on things as I see them in the county of Lancashire. I have promised to give way to the right hon. Gentleman, and I will carry out my promise. I do not think that the Government are taking sufficient notice of what is happening in Lancashire. I hope I do not give personal offence when I say that, unless there has been a change in Government policy nothing will come out of this Debate. They change in this Government so often that we never know who is a Minister and who is not; the right hon. Gentleman is a sticker, for his voice helps him very much; he makes things appear glorious when they are rotten and decayed. The speeches of the right hon. Gentleman on the public platform are so very different from what appears in his own "Ministry of Labour Gazette." I have been reading the current issue, and if any Member of the Government comes forward to-day and tells the people of this country that everything is going on sweetly in respect of industry and commerce, he had better study the reports of the Department presided over by the right hon. Gentleman. Turn to shipbuilding, engineering, steel, iron, leather, printing, textile, coal—they are all going down under the regime of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not want to be too critical of him. He has some good points. I must pay him tribute for one thing; he is doing a good turn by inquiring into the conditions of employment in the licenced trade, and when he has fathomed that he will have another eloquent sermon to preach in the pulpit. I need not dwell, therefore, on the general question.

It is not generally known that the population of Lancashire is greater than that of the whole of Scotland, including Leith, by the way. The population of Lancashire is twice that of Wales. There are as many people—I want the right hon. Gentleman to take note of this—on public funds to-day in the cities of Liverpool and Manchester alone as there are in the whole of Wales. That is the case, and the right hon. Gentleman takes not the slightest heed of what is happening. I will tell him why, and I want the people of Lancashire to know this. They are too satisfied with their poverty. In South Wales, Durham and in Scotland they protest, and then the right hon. Gentleman makes a move. He schedules their areas and provides a sum on paper of £12,000,000.

Mr. J. Griffiths

On paper.

Mr. Davies

Yes, on paper. That is as far as he goes. Not a penny piece of Government aid comes to a district like mine. The Quakers made a splendid effort to establish a farm just outside Wigan for the unemployed, some of whom were from my division. It was a very excellent effort. Men were working there and producing their own commodities, and the Minister of Labour happily took no account at all of the value of the produce. What do we find now? There is no official financial support of any kind going to them, but in South Wales, I am told, there is a similar farm. The Special Commissioner and the Government officially keep that form going, and it is the same in Cumberland. I protest against this distinction between one part of the country and another in dealing with the same type of people.

We passed an amending Act in March of last year, and the right hon. Gentleman gave us to understand that a new heaven and a new earth would emerge in Lancashire—on £250,000. A new heaven and a new earth, quoted from Revelation, I suppose. You cannot buy a decent colliery for that. £250,000 is a mere fleabite in Woolworth's business. The right hon. Gentleman has not equalled Woolworth's yet on this job. What has become of that Act of Parliament? He promised a lot of things. I will tell him what has come out of it. A Lancashire Sites Company has been established, with £250,000 capital, and the Government have not found a penny-piece for it. What has that company done for Lancashire? It has divided the county into zones. I love the word "zone"; it sounds musical enough to make it a political trickery. They have zoned Lancashire. That is all that has been done. The hon. and gallant Member for Accrington thanked the Government for all that it had done for Lancashire. There are over 5,250,000 people in Lancashire, thousands of whom live in the hon. and gallant Member's Division, and their personality is being withered by unemployment and poverty. What is there to thank the Government for in that respect?

Major Procter

I thank them for what they have done in comparison with what the Labour Government did, when unemployment in the cotton trade soared from 70,000 to over 200,000, and yet no ameliorative thing was done for Lancashire by that Government.

Mr. Davies

I can only speak for what I see in my own constituency. I do not think the things that I am describing have ever happened before in the industrial history of this country. What was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) is true. The instances which he gave are not the exceptions but they are almost the rule. I went into a house in my constituency where there was a man, his wife and a child, and the man brings home for a full week's work, 17s. 3d. Can you thank this Government that there are tens of thousands of instances of that sort in Lancashire to-day? What has the hon. and gallant Member to thank the Government for, except for his seat in Parliament?

Major Procter

This is not a new thing. The same people were subject to the same conditions before, and the Labour Government did nothing for them.

Mr. Davies

I would not thank even a Labour Government for allowing this sort of thing to go on. The right hon. Gentleman has stood at that Box many times since he has been in office, but to-day he must tell Lancashire something better and more concrete than he has told them before. The people of Lancashire may appear tame, they may not demonstrate, and the right hon. Gentleman has therefore assumed that they are a little bit more ignorant than other people. They are not. They know what is happening. They are as good as the people in Scotland or South Wales except at demonstrating—I know South Wales as well as most people—and I tell him that it is not sufficient for him to-day merely to make promises of what will happen four or five years hence. We want to know from him to-day whether the Government intend to do something, in order to try to stem the degradation, poverty and decay going on in parts of that great county. I hope the Committee will pardon my being rather strong on this issue, but there are people I knew 20 years ago in my own division who were dressed as well as I am to-day with nice little homes to live in who are now walking the streets in abject poverty, and I protest against that poverty when I know of the colossal wealth of this nation.

3.16 p.m.

Mr. E. Brown

Very many points have been raised in the Debate, which has not been the least interesting of the Debates we have had on the Ministry of Labour Vote. I had prepared in advance in the usual form a paper putting down the points which I naturally expected would have been the subject of comment by hon. Members in the course of our discussion about the administration of the Ministry of Labour and the Unemployment Assistance Board. A very remarkable fact emerges. We are considering the administration of a key domestic department, and the powers of a Board established within recent years, whose origin and early circumstances were the subject of one of the most heated controversies this House has known. When I am asked to review this Debate I must point out that there has been an absence of administrative criticism. It may be that in the course of the next four or five weeks we may have one or two more occasions on which to consider the activities of the Ministry of Labour and the Unemployment Assistance Board, and I shall be quite ready to give my answers, but up to the moment any fair-minded observer of this great and complicated machine, the Ministry of Labour and the Unemployment Assistance Board, must have been struck with the impression which has been in my mind throughout the Debate, and that is, the lack of detailed administrative criticism.

Mr. James Griffiths

The right hon. Member will bear in mind that as we thought Lancashire should have an opportunity of discussing its own particular problems, those who represent other areas and are more in touch with the unemployment problem have refrained from speaking.

Mr. Brown

I shall be quite ready to reply on the appropriate occasion. I have now had four years' experience of the Ministry of Labour, and it is clear to my mind that that Department is increasingly winning its way in general acceptance in the House and the country as a magnificent servant of the public, and particularly of working people, in whose interests especially it exists. I make that point in order not to be under the charge that I am unaware of the range, complexity and value of the services of the Ministry of Labour.

Various administrative points have been raised. A matter which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward), and also referred to by the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr Rhys Davies), was the problem of administration arising out of the rapid extension of the holidays with pay movement. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend asked me a Question the other day and requested me to make a statement on the matter in definite terms, bearing in mind the criticism which she made that this difficulty should have been foreseen. In reply to my hon. Friend, I think the charge contained in the latter part of her Question is unfounded. What has been happening during the last two years in the realm of holidays with pay has been one of the greatest social and industrial movements of our time. Since the Committee on Holidays with Pay was appointed, what has been happening in the industrial sphere, in contact with the Industrial Relations Department of the Ministry of Labour, has been that we have had collective agreements between employers and employés affecting no less than 1,750,000 workers.

Looking at the matter from the point of view not of one industry, but of the whole range of industries, what stands out in my mind is that there is no single type of agreement that is possible for adoption by any two industries, and that each industry has to deal with its own affairs in the light of its industrial structure and agreements. As to the point which the hon. Lady raised, I feel that she was a little unjust to us when she said that these difficulties were not foreseen, because months ago I remitted to the Unemployment Statutory Committee the whole problem of the administrative difficulties that were likely to arise out of the relation of the new agreements for holidays with pay with the insurance law. That problem is now under examination by the Committee. As to the particular case which the hon. Lady raised, and which I have no doubt will be raised in other districts, the engineers are now in one of two positions, either they are men who are normally employed and have never been unemployed, and they will get their wages, or they are men who have been intermittently employed in the trade since the period when the agreement was come to and they will receive, under the holidays with pay agreement affecting the engineering industry, a credit note or credit notes for various sums. When the hon. Lady asks me to give a judgment as to what will be the legal position, I think she is a little unfair, for it is quite impossible for me to foresee precisely how it will work out in any given trade until a test case arises.

Miss Ward

My right hon. Friend was not in the Committee when I made my speech. I did not refer to the legal position, but simply asked for an assurance that no man would be worse off under the auspices of the Unemployment Assistance Board, which is a very different thing from asking him to give a verdict on the legal position.

Mr. Brown

The hon. Lady does not solve my problem by asking for that. She asks for a judgment in advance of the legal decision. What we have done has been to arrange with the Amalgamated Engineering Union to bring forward typical cases and when I receive the judgment of the umpire on them, I shall then, in the light of the sympathetic desire of hon. Members and the country to see this movement go forward, have to do what is necessary in the light of that decision. At the moment, I can give no further assurance. The hon. Member for Gorbals and the hon. Member for Westhoughton dealt with the problem for the other side, and raised the question of unemployment assistance. They asked what was to be the position in the matter of holidays with pay in regard to the Unemployment Assistance Board. Here I speak with reserve in advance of the facts, but as I understand the facts at the moment, the position is this. The amount received during the holiday weeks will be treated not less favourably than earnings. If the holiday pay is received by a working member of the applicant's household, the amount allowed for personal requirements may be increased according to the circumstances of the case. If the worker actually goes away on holiday, the holiday pay may be ignored altogether. That is as far as the Committee will expect me to go to-day.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Does that mean that he will still get it?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Member will not expect me to add anything at the moment. I have done my best to explain what is understood by those who administer it to be the position now. The rest of the Debate has turned upon two problems, one of them affecting the great county of Lancashire and the other raising wide and far-reaching issues in terms of our own interior sociology on the effects on industry of our present wage structure and the possibility of making improvements in that wage structure. That was raised in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. H. Macmillan). His suggestions could not be amplified by me in constructive terms because most of them would demand legal or statutory action and some of them are very drastic.

Let me deal first with the question upon which the Opposition desired to focus the mind of the Committee, namely, the position of Lancashire. The hon. Member for Westhoughton knows that the story which has been told here to-day is not the whole story of Lancashire. It is the story of the very hard-hit parts of Lancashire, but it would not be true as a picture of the whole of that great county. I do not for one moment want to belittle the tragedies which are inherent in the distressed conditions of townships like Hindley, Westhoughton, Wigan and Farnworth and the other Lancashire towns to which reference has been made. But what has been said about them, is not to be taken as a picture of the whole of Lancashire just as the particular problem with regard to the unemployment benefit position of under-employed weavers is not, the Committee will have noticed, a problem with which I as administrator of the Unemployment Insurance Fund can deal in terms of the Lancashire spinning trade, because it does not arise there. It does not arise there because the industrial structure of the spinning trade in Lancashire is entirely different from the industrial structure of the weaving industry in Lancashire. Other arrangements are made there which I will detail later to the Committee. The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) suggested that the whole of this problem could be solved by me as an administrator, but I cannot accept that view.

Mr. Tomlinson

I did not suggest that the whole problem could be solved, but I suggested that you could help.

Mr. Brown

I think when the hon. Member looks at his speech he will find that he went a good deal further than that, but if he did not intend to do so, I will take the will for the word. The hon. Member knows that this is not the first time that we have discussed the question in this House or on deputations, and that this is a problem which does not attach only to the Ministry of Labour and the insurance department. It is a problem in terms of insurance law also for the employers and the trade unions, as they have frankly admitted on deputations, and as long as the industrial structure of the weaving industry remains as it is, it seems almost insoluble. I have in recent weeks stated to the House of Commons that up to the present time we have found no administrative or legal way of getting over the difficulty. I have said that I would look into the matter again. I am doing so, and I cannot go further than that now. The hon. Member opposite referred to the poem about Tomlinson who was not good enough for Heaven nor bad enough for hell, and had to go wandering back around the earth, but I would remind him that Kipling, the author of the poem, sends Tomlinson back to Berkeley Square, which is not quite the same thing as roaming about the earth or even going to Lancashire, whether to Farnworth or to Wigan. As a matter of fact, he will find, if he looks the poem up, that he had better be cautious in mentioning Tomlinson again in a debate like this.

I will give some figures for the North Western district. I am sorry to have to do so, because I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton sometimes thinks that by breaking things up into figures I am trying to evade the issue. I am not. What I am trying to do, in putting forward accurate figures, is to put the problem as it is. The hon. Member for Stockton referred to various reports, but without the work of the Ministry of Labour those reports could never be produced. Well, what is the position of the North West area as a whole? It is that this area contains one-sixth of the total insured population of Great Britain. It has suffered a serious degree of unemployment over a long period of time. At present, out of an insured population of 2,122,000, the unemployed number 393,000, or 18.5 per cent., as compared with an average for Great Britain as a whole of 12.7 per cent. There has been a small decline in the insured population, and the numbers actually in employment are now about 150,000 more than six years ago, when there were nearly 27 per cent, unemployed.

Member after Member has told the Committee that the principal factor in this situation is the cotton industry. I could not, as you, Mr. Chairman, have already told several hon. Members, discuss the constructive remedies for that industry, but I would point out that it is not at all accurate to say, as several hon. Members have said, that the Government have ignored the problem. I do not believe, apart from the coal industry, that there has been a single industry in the whole range of our industries that has had more discussion, and rightly so, both in the county and in the industry, between its various branches and the Government Departments concerned, than the cotton industry.

Mr. Rhys Davies

They cannot live on discussions.

Mr. Brown

But they are glad to take part in them, because many fruitful results have come out of these discussions, and I think the hon. Member was unwise to say that, because he knows quite well that he claims to have done a very great deal in his political life by discussion. Indeed, I think he claims that it is the discussions raised by hon. Members opposite for over 50 years that have been responsible for all the improvements that have been made. I think, however, that that is a slightly exaggerated statement.

Let us look at the facts in this industry. Since 1932 the insured population in the industry has fallen from 494,000 to 362,000, a decrease of 132,000, but in spite of this fall in the numbers seeking work in the industry, its unemployment figure has only been reduced by 63,000, and the rate of unemployment remains over 30 per cent.; in other words, the amount of employment afforded by the industry has fallen by nearly 70,000. That is to say, side by side with the great coal industry which is undergoing a process of contraction, this is one of the few outstanding contracting industries of our land. Let me take some of the principal towns. Blackburn has a very heavy rate of unemployment, namely, 34 per cent. out of an insured population of 51,000; Wigan, 28 per cent. out of 43,000; Burnley, 28 per cent. out of 42,000; Accrington, 25 per cent. out of 25,000; Farnworth, 26 per cent. out of 25,000; and Oldham, 24 per cent. out of 77,000.

Mr. Silverman

Do these figures take any account of under-employment?

Mr. Brown

If under-employment means temporarily stopped they do. I am now making the point that there are other towns in Lancashire, great towns, and that their record is not the same. I will take two, one good and one bad. Liverpool has an insured population of 338,000 and 21 per cent. Manchester, the greatest manufacturing city in Lancashire, with a population of 381,000 has a very favourable rate. It is II per cent., which is 2 per cent. better than the national average. The fact is that what has been happening is that in the process of this contraction, both in cotton and coal, certain areas, the figures of which I have given, have suffered excesively as, indeed, have other parts of the country where coal especially has in recent years shown a great contraction.

Mr. Maxton

What is the cause of Manchester's improvement? In the contraction of cotton as in the contraction of coal certain towns have suffered excessively, but a place like Manchester has apparently improved. What is the reason for it?

Mr. Brown

The answer is really a searchlight on the whole of our problem, which is the distribution of industry. Industry in Manchester is so infinitely varied as compared with other towns that it is in the favourable position of being 2 per cent. below the national average, while other towns, whose industries are more concentrated in one or two classes, are hard hit. It was suggested that I had been inactive in this matter. I cannot agree. I can say without hesitation that I have done everything administratively possible on every occasion to call the attention of all those desiring to establish new industries to town after town in Lancashire. I have done this not on one occasion, but on many occasions, and as a result there are a great many industrialists who would not otherwise have had the advantage of sites in Lancashire and of the wonderful capacity of Lancashire industry and who are now settled in Lancashire. I shall so continue to do, as I shall do it in regard to other parts of the country which my figures show ought to have new industries if they can be attracted.

Not only have I done that administratively, but the Government have taken into consideration, in establishing Government factories which are their responsibility, the needs and advantages of Lancashire. Let me, in order to put the thing in an accurate perspective, show what we have done. It is true to say that Lancashire has shared to a considerable extent. I am often told either that I have done nothing, or if I have done anything that I have done it wrongly or done it in the wrong place. The fact is that three Government factories have been or are being erected in the county—the Blackburn respirator factory, the Blackburn fuse factory, and the filling factory at Chorley. The erection of the last-named factory is now giving employment to 9,000 workpeople in the building and ancillary trades. Also there have been four agency factories established in the county for the Defence programme—Rootes air frame factory at Speke, Liverpool; Hobson's carburettor factory, Oldham; De Havilland's air screw factory, Bolton; and the Magnesium Electron Company's factory at Clifton, Manchester. That list does not bear out the charge of neglect of Lancashire.

Mr. Parkinson

Will the right hon. Gentleman state the number of people employed in the whole of these factories, excluding Chorley?

Mr. Brown

I cannot say at the moment without notice, but a very considerable number of men are employed and more will be employed in these factories. I will go further. Hon. Members like the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) have said that in his town contracts have not been given. But that statement does not do away with the fact that contracts for millions of pounds have gone or are going to Lancashire for those who are on equal terms get preference in terms of the list of depressed areas. The contracts amount to millions. One particular question has been raised and it refers to Chorley. I was asked about the engagement of labour through the employment exchanges. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) raised the same question in connection with Wales. I pointed out to him in answer to questions—and this is the answer to the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson)—that there are practical difficulties in adopting the suggestion they make, that we should compel contractors to engage workers from the employment exchanges. Any employer under that proposal would be compelled to take on and continue to employ men whom he might not consider to be the best adapted to the work to be done. Surely the Committee will see that to impose a condition of that kind on con tractors is quite impracticable. The problem is to get these factories going competently and at the earliest possible moment, and if the hon. Member's proposal were adopted it would be quite impossible to hold a contractor responsible for failure to carry out his contract properly. If a contractor does not complete a contract by a certain date he and he only must be held responsible. We have secured that at any rate the men available at the Exchanges shall be considered by the employers. That has been the rule since January.

Mr. Jenkins

There are two Government factories that are in process of being built in Wales. The contractor has overcome all the restrictions that the Minister inserted in the contract by bringing in people from an outside area, getting them registered at the local exchange and then employing them. Why does the Minister not agree to lay down the condition that as far as suitable local labour is available the contractor shall be compelled to employ it? That is what we ask the Minister to do and it is perfectly reasonable.

Mr. Brown

I can best answer that by giving figures as to the position at Chorley which have been prepared for me by the Office of Works. The total number employed there is 9,351, and half of them are building trade workers, skilled and unskilled, and the remainder are constructional engineers of one kind or another. A large number of the constituents of the hon. Member would not fall into either of those categories.

Mr. Parkinson

Does the Minister mean to say that there are no general labourers, that they are all constructional workers? Surely the preponderance of workers are labourers?

Mr. Brown

I have done my best to get the hon. Member the figures, because I am as keen as he is, and it is always the practice of the Ministry, that the exchanges should find local men whenever possible and give them the preference. That is our administrative practice. Out of that total of 9,351 men at Chorley, 3,326 have been engaged through local employment exchanges and though I can not say definitely, without making detailed local inquiries, we can fairly assume that the majority of those 3,000 are local men or come from nearby districts. In the early stages of the work there was a great deal of heavy manual labour to be done, and that is work for which unemployed cotton operatives are not generally well suited. The demand now is mainly for building trade workers, and the number of those who are registered as unemployed in Chorley at the moment is 116. The Committee will see, therefore, that there are other facets to this problem. There is one other point concerning Lancashire with which I wish to deal, although I wish I had much longer to speak.

Mr. Buchanan

Is not the Minister going to say anything more about the other things in the report?

Mr. Brown

I desire to say a great deal about those other matters—about family allowances, and about the constructive speech of the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. H. Macmillan) in regard to the relation of human need to the wage structure, and I hope to do so on some other occasion, but I would observe now that a good deal more has been happening in recent years through administrative action and collective agreements in the trades than some of those who talk about it have appreciated. We have so little time to discuss these huge problems that whenever an opportunity does arise we have to compress a whole mass of material into an inadequate time, but if there is another day—

Mr. J. Griffiths

There will be.

Mr. Brown

The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) knows that I always welcome an opportunity. I was sorry two years ago when I did not get a day at all. [Interruption.] It may be that I do not speak with perhaps the same charm as my hon. Friend, who also likes to talk, but it may be that since he is over there and I am here that I am able to talk and at the same time to do quite a good deal besides making speeches.

Mr. Maxton

My feeling is that both the Minister and I have talked for so many years that I have got to the stage when I think a little quietness would be of advantage.

Sir John Haslam

On a point of Order. Can something be said about Lancashire? This is all very interesting, but we want to hear something from the Minister about Lancashire.

Mr. Brown

This would not happen, perhaps, if Ministers were not interrupted so much as they are, but I may say to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) that I do not share his pessimistic view. There is a good deal of room for silence as well as for speaking. There is also some very vivid wording in a great classic, which says: There was silence, and I heard a voice.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Some voice.

Mr. Brown

The hon. Member for Westhoughton spoke about what he described as the glowing comments I made when I put Section 5 of the Special Areas Amendment Act through the House of Commons, but I ask him to turn up my description of that Section and to note the cautions I gave to the Committee on that occasion. He will find that he has not stated my speech in accurate terms.

Mr. Rhys Davies


Mr. Brown

Let me remind him—I have only another seven minutes to speak and I have a lot more to say, and a lot more that I shall not be able to say—that he overlooks the fact that the origin of this idea was not London or the Ministry of Labour, but Lancashire. It arose from the deep desire of Lancashire not to be branded as a Special Area. It was a Lancashire suggestion. We worked it out, and what has happened is that Lancashire has now nine areas which are scheduled as certified areas. When he talks about the £250,000, that was money raised in Lancashire by Lancashire people. There are funds available under that Act for building, if they desire. I will not mention any particular place, but in a particular town in one of these areas, if they acquire a site and a factory there are funds available under the Financial Resolution to a larger amount than £200,000. The hon. Member made other remarks which I cannot follow now.

I must refer to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) who is not here now—he gave me notice that he was bound to go—so I hope he will not think there is any discourtesy on my part. An hon. Member opposite suggested that the speech of my right hon. Friend showed a new interest in this subject, but that is not the case. The right hon. Gentleman has taken a keen interest in this problem for some years. I have had a good deal of correspondence with him about it, and I brought some facts to his notice which were laid before the Committee in the speech to-day. From the point of view of the Minister it is difficult to discuss his suggestion without being out of order. There is only one point which brings the matter into order and that is that there are three ways of carrying out his suggestion. You can do it, by direct State grant, but it would be out of Order to discuss that method. You can do it, and this would also be out of Order, if you adapt the insurance system to provide for an extra allowance for families of a certain size, and assured the families that they would be paid whether they were in work or out of work. That course would be out of Order for me now. The way which is in order is by industrial arrangements, with the assistance, if necessary, of the Ministry of Labour Industrial Relations Department. Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) asked me at question time whether I would initiate a discussion, but I was bound to give a direct negative. I was bound to warn him and the House that if I were to do it administratively I should not forward the cause.

Let it not be thought that the trade union leaders who have taken a strong view about this, as they are doing and as they did during the discussions in the Trade Union Council in 1930, when it was last discussed, have taken that view because they are reactionaries; rather they took that line because they are progressives and are seeking to keep alive the progressive and collective system of wage agreements. My right hon. Friend and others who are concerned about this matter can be assured that I have carefully studied it in the light of the report of Sir William Beveridge, the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board, the remarkable report of the Pilgrim Trust, and a host of all kinds of pamphlets and books, like the book published this week by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, of which I have a copy here. I would point out that the trade union opposition was not because they are reaction- ary. Anyone who has studied foreign experience will know that one of the instincts on the Continent was the desire to keep the general wage level low, and that is an instinct to which the House of Commons must not pay any heed whatever.

The hon. Member for Gorbals takes the Board to task because, he says, they ought not to do these things. I cannot agree. It is very interesting to note the two strains of opinion on this matter, the one held by the hon. Member personally, which I respect although I cannot agree with it, and the other held by men who are taking a very active sociological interest in this matter. The hon. Member said that they ought not to make inquiries, but others are welcoming the light that is thrown by the inquiries on a great problem of human need. I ask the hon. Member to believe me when I say that the Board are not concerned to pry into these people's affairs; they are doing these things in pursuance of the duty placed upon them by Sub-section (2) of Section (2) of Section 35 of the Act of 1934, to provide for the well-being of those to whose needs they have to minister.—[Interruption.]—Since I am challenged, perhaps the hon. Member opposite will allow me to read, not my judgment on the Board, but the judgment of a friend of his own, and, I believe, a supporter of the Socialist cause in which he believes. These are the words used by that very wonderful man, the Archbishop of York, in his introduction to the remarkable report of the Pilgrim Trust on their work: In this part of the undertaking our investigators received invaluable help from the officials of the Unemployment Assistance Board, and here I should like to interject a word of warm appreciation of the spirit displayed and the methods followed by the Board and very many of its officers in the discharge of what is essentially a great social service, but might easily appear to its own beneficiaries as a bureaucratic machine. Every effort is made to render its activities not only humane but human; and the results are beginning to be apparent. I regret that I have no time on the present occasion to pursue this very vital question.

Mr. Parkinson

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

Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £14,836,900, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 97; Noes, 200.

Division No.249.] AYES. [4.0 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Groves, T. E. Parkinson, J. A.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Pearson, A.
Adamson, W. M. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Poole, C. C.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, J. H. (Whiteohapel) Ritson, J.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hardie, Agnes Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Harris, Sir P. A. Rothschild, J. A. do
Banfield, J. W. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Seely, Sir H. M.
Barnes, A. J. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Shinwell, E.
Barr, J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Silverman, S. S.
Bellenger, F. J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Simpson, F. B.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Benson, G. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Smith, E. (Stoke)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Smith, T. (Normanton)
Buchanan, G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Sorensen, R. W.
Chater, D. Kelly, W. T. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Collindridge, F. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Stokes, R. R.
Cove, W. G. Lathan, G. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Leslie, J. R. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Daggar, G. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Thurtle, E.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) McEntee, V. La T. Tinker, J. J.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) McGhee, H. G. Tomlinson, G.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) MacLaren, A. Viant, S. P.
Dobbie, W. MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Walkden, A. G.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) MaoNeill Weir, L. Walker, J.
Ede, J. C. Maxton, J. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Montague, F. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Frankel, D. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gardner, B. W. Naylor, T. E. Wilson, C. H. (Attereliffe)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Noel-Baker, P. J. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Oliver, G. H. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Grenfell, D. R. Paling, W.
Griffiths, J.(Llanelly) Parker, J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. John and Mr. Mathers.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. De la Bere, R. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Albery, Sir Irving Denman, Hon. R. D. Hulbert, N. J.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Denville, Alfred Hume, Sir G. H.
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Doland, G. F. Hurd, Sir P. A.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Hutchinson, G. C.
Assheton, R. Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Duggan, H. J. Joel, D. J. B.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Duncan, J. A. L. Keeling, E. H.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Dunglass, Lord Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Eastwood, J. F. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Barrie, Sir C. C. Edmondson, Major Sir J. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Ellis, Sir G. Lennox-Boyd, A. T, L.
Beeohman, N. A. Elliston, Capt. G. S. Lindsay, K. M.
Birohall, Sir J. D. Elmley, Viscount Lipson, D. L.
Bird, Sir R. B. Emmott, C. E. G. C. Llewellin, Colonel J. J.
Boulton, W. W. Errington, E. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Loftus, P. C.
Brass, Sir W. Findlay, Sir E. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Fox, Sir G. W. G. McKie, J. H.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Fremantle, Sir F. E. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Bull, B. B. Furness, S. N. Macquisten, F. A.
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Fyfe, D. P. M. Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Cary, R. A. Gluckstein, L. H. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Goldie, N. B. Marsden, Commander A.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.
Channon, H. Grant-Ferris, R. Maxwell, Hon. S. A.
Chorlton, A. E. L. Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Gridley, Sir A. B. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Gritten, W. G. Howard Mellor. Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Colman, N. C. D. Guest, Lleut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Mitcheson, Sir G. G.
Colville, Rt. Hon. John Guest, Han. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Moreing, A. C.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Hambro, A. V. Morgan, R. H.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Hannah, I. C. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Morrison, RT. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Cox, H. B. Trevor Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Palmer, G. E. H.
Crooke, Sir J. S. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Patrick, C. M.
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Peak, O.
Crossley, A. C. Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Peters, Dr. S. J.
Cruddas, Col. B. Holmes, J. S. Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton
Davidson, Viscountess Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Procter, Major H. A.
Davison, Sir W. H. Horsbrugh, Florence Purbrick, R.
Dawson, Sir P. Howitt, Dr. A. B. Radford, E. A.
Raikes, H. V. A. M. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich) Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Ramsbotham, H. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Smithers, Sir W. Wardlaw-Mitne, Sir J. S.
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald Warrender, Sir V.
Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury) Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Reid, Sir D. D. (Down) Spears, Brigadier-General E. L. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde) Wayland, Sir W. A
Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Ropner, Colonel L. Stourton, Major Hon. J. J. Wells, Sir Sydney
Rowlands, G. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Russell, Sir Alexander Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Samuel, M. R. A. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Sandeman, Sir N. S. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Wise, A. B.
Sanderson, Sir F. B. Tasker, Sir R. I. Withers, Sir J. J.
Sandys, E. D. Tate, Mavis C. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P. Taylor, Vioe-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Scott, Lord William Touche, G. C. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Selley, H. R. Tree, A. R. L. F. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D. Walker-Smith, Sir J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Munro and Mr. Grimston.

Original Question again proposed.

Mr. J. Griffiths


It being after Four of the Clock and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.

Adjourned at Eight Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 27th June.

Back to