§ [FOURTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracie is Speech which Your Majesty has a addressed to both Houses of Parliament."— [Mr. Hely-Hutchinson.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:But regret the absence of any reference to the serious problem of unemployment as represented by nearly two million men and women who cannot find work, and the failure of Your Majesty's advisers to recognise that the real strength and prosperity of the people depend upon the full use of the resources of the country, human and material, and upon an u distribution of wealth, thus ensuring the maintenance and improvement of the standard of life for active and retired workers and the development of the social services.Up till to-day the general Debate on the Address has been concerned mainly with international questions. The events of the last few weeks and their consequences have occupied our principal attention, and very rightly, for the place of our country and of the whole British Commonwealth inside the comity of nations must be a vital question for our people. The Government have been criticised, not merely from our benches but from all parts of the House, for their foreign policy and for their policy or lack of policy in home defence, and their replies have left the House very much in the dark as to the future course that they propose to pursue. The fresh events which have happened in Germany, to which reference has just been made, cast a lurid light on the ideals of the rulers of that country and compel Members of this House to examine afresh where they stand in the matter of an approach to Herr Hitler. But it is not of these matters that I propose 526 to speak to-day. Our Amendment focuses attention on the home front. It brings us back to the condition of our people, their unemployment and their standard of life, and we look in vain to the words of the King's Speech for any sign that the Government have any far-reaching, constructive policy such as the times demand for dealing with these matters.
Democracy is our proud boast in this country and is the heritage of centuries, but we must not blind ourselves to the fact that it is being called in question throughout Europe to-day. We can only defend it from challenge if we can show that it is more fitted than autocracy to solve the great issues of the health and happiness of our people. But it is not only democracy that is on trial. All over the world the economic system is being challenged, in Germany, in Italy and in the United States of America no less than it is in Russia at the present time. Even in our own empirical country, which eschews theories and glories in practical common sense, the logic of hard facts is forcing people to see that it is not only inhuman but ridiculous that unemployment and malnutrition can coexist in this twentieth century with abundance well within our grasp. The totalitarian States decide their policy on these matters in their own way, without criticism and without discussion, and once they have embarked upon a course of action only shipwreck or the threat of shipwreck can deflect them from their course.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
When the right hon. Gentleman refers to "the totalitarian States" does he mean to include Russia and the Soviet system?
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Certainly; I have said so. Democracy has the prime advantage that it enables open discussion to be engaged upon and informed minds to bring their knowledge and effective criticism to bear on the subject. The purpose of this Debate is not primarily to wage a wordy battle with the Prime Minister and the forces of the Government. Still less is it for the purpose of recording a vote to-morrow night, which is, of course, as we all know, a foregone conclusion; but, as I see it, it is to cause a searchlight on the defects in our economy to be brought to bear and the inaction of the Government to be made clear. For that reason I hope that there will be constructive suggestions from all 527 parts of the House and that we shall bring the effect of public opinion, both inside this House and the wider public opinion outside, to bear in order to compel those who are in power to-day to act. The words that the King has spoken in his Speech refer to the cancer campaign of the Government, and we welcome that, but we say that more urgent still is it for them to take drastic steps to cure the cancer in the body politic, in the State itself.
What are the facts? They are so well known that it is not necessary for me to mention more than a few of them. First of all, with regard to unemployment, I think it is recognised by us all that whereas short periods of unemployment may be to some extent met by unemployment benefit, long periods, where men and women for months and perhaps even for years remain out of work, are certain to result in loss of vitality, in degradation, and in demoralisation which only the bravest and the strongest can resist. But it is not only a question of the unemployment of individuals; it is a question of the unemployment of whole districts. We have not only men, women, and families, but a whole township and a whole district sinking slowly but surely into squalor. We have nearly 2,000,000 unemployed to-day, and with the exception of a slight improvement during last month, the number has been steadily growing during the whole of this year.
Not only have we men and women unemployed, but we have capital unemployed, we have artificial shortage, we have the restriction of supplies from abroad and the limitation of the home output, and we have in some cases the deliberate destruction of food. I had an illustration of that in my own constituency, where some fishermen in Mussel-burgh came to me, almost with tears in their eyes, to say that of the last catch which they had been able to take they had been obliged to put a great quantity back into the sea, and they knew at the same time that large numbers of people were short of food. If this policy is to go on, we are going to render the inventions of science and the increased command over nature which man has acquired, and the potential abundance that these should bring, a curse instead of a blessing to mankind.
528 At the same time that we have this terrible problem of unemployment we have continually brought more definitely before our notice the facts with regard to malnutrition. I would like to pay my tribute to the scientific men who have brought this question to the front. They have done valued service for mankind and they have made a lasting contribution to the progress of the world. The facts that they have brought forward are also so well known that it is not necessary for me to spend time in describing them at length, but I will put forward what, it seems to me, are typical and striking cases. First of all, ill-health. Dr. M'Gonigle, the medical officer of health of Stockton-on-Tees, was engaged in a study comparing the position of the better conditioned classes and what he called the city children, and he shows how in all cases the city children are far more subject to disease. I shall pick out only two special cases. He refers to anaemia. The city children are five times as great sufferers from anaemia as the children of the professional classes. When it is bronchial trouble, the same children are 10 times as liable to disease as the children of the professional classes. These facts and other facts which go with them are matters which the people of this country cannot afford to forget.
I will now turn to a somewhat different aspect of the same question, that of stunted growth. I confess that I was amazed when I read the statistics of Sir John Orr. He has shown that if you compare the average heights of a large sample of boys taken from what we call our public schools and a similar large sample of boys taken from the elementary schools of the country, there is a difference in average of no less than six inches per head between the one and the other. He gives a middle figure relating to Christ's Hospital, half way between the two. Take mortality figures as given in a book recently published by the League of Nations. The figures for this country are given, and it is shown that when the mortality figures are corrected the prosperous districts have an aggregate death rate 3o per cent. lower than the average, while the poorer districts show a figure 40 per cent. higher than the average. These are facts which, related in terms of human life, are matters for our very grave and careful consideration.
529 I do not think that anyone denies that it is largely malnutrition which is responsible for these differences. I listened with attention to what the Prime Minister said in this House only last Tuesday with regard to malnutrition. As I want to represent the right hon. Gentleman carefully I shall read the actual words that he used. In answer to the Leader of the Opposition he said this:The subject of nutrition … is one that has been in my mind for many years, since a conversation which I had when I was Minister of Health with the late Sir Walter Fletcher. He said to me that by a comparatively small expenditure on teaching people how to feed themselves and their families, we can do more to improve the health and physique of the nation even than by the great efforts which we were then making at the Ministry of Health to improve their housing.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1938; col. 29, Vol. 341.]I have no wish to misrepresent the Prime Minister, but if those words mean anything they surely mean that one of the main causes, if not the main cause, of malnutrition, is not the lack of purchasing power, but ignorance and possibly negligence—I shall not put it too high—negligence on the part of the mothers who have to spend on food the small sums they receive. The Prime Minister's words suggest a very comfortable doctrine—that people arc badly nourished, not through any fault of society, but because of their own ignorance and stupidity. But when I look to see what medical officers think about this subject I do not find that case substantiated. I refer now to a statement by Dr. M'Gonigle in his book "Poverty and Public Health," in which he says:The statement is frequently made that more advantageous spending of small incomes is possible, and that much of the existing under-nourishment is due to ignorance of marketing and of food values, combined with lack of skill in cooking. Careful analysis of family budgets shows that such statements are, to a very large extent, wide of the mark.And referring to a particular area in Stockton-on-Tees Dr. M'Gonigle says:Examined from the point of view of a dietician the food-supply of the Mount Pleasant families was woefully deficient, but, after careful analysis of all relevant factors, it did not appear possible, except in a very small minority of families, to improve their food intake either in quantity or quality, unless purchasing power was increased.Of course no doubt the poor, even the very poor, do have some cheap pleasures and expend on them a few coppers which 530 could have been used in buying more calories or whatever is most required for their animal existence. But man does not live by bread alone. He is not a robot to live on a purely fodder basis. There is psychological malnutrition. A lack of every form of fuller life drags down the mind and the spirit of the poorer section of our people and prevents them from giving that contribution to the progress of our race which is so essential. God knows we need all the courage and brains of all the people to solve the knotty problems that confront us. I do not think that the Prime Minister, who has taken a large part in international affairs recently, will deny that he needs the help and counsel and judgment of large numbers of thoughtful people in this country to enable him to solve the problems which he has to face. Both here at home and abroad there are problems more complex and more difficult than ever before, and we cannot afford to allow the great bulk of our people, by lack of nutrition, whether physical or psychological, to become unfit to help in that way. But even if the people gave up every penny of this external expenditure and devoted every farthing they had to pure physical nutrition, it would still be short, according to these authorities, and their physical malnutrition would be marked.
What is the attitude of the Government and of the party opposite to these questions? In the Gracious Speech from the Throne there are one or two indirect references to unemployment. There is a mention of the Special Areas. I do not propose to deal with that very important question, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) will have something to say later. There are one or two other indirect references to employment, but no one will suggest that they take us very far, or that they represent any constructive ideas of the Government. As I understand the position of the Government, this is how they look at it: "The improvement of the condition of the people is an expense. This includes the expense of unemployment and old age pensions, the expense of education, the expense of the standard of life generally and the expense of the social services. At the same time, there is to be the expense of rearmament. Therefore, it is necessarily a conflict between guns and butter. "The Prime Minister put the matter in very 531 careful words in the speech from which I have already quoted. He said:With regard to social services, it is not to be expected that we can at one and the same time embark upon the enormous armament programme, the full cost of which we are not yet in a position to estimate, and vast projects of social improvements which would lay on the taxpayers fresh and impossible burdens.After dealing with the Minister of Health the Prime Minister said:There is no foundation for any suggestion of the kind (that the Government are contemplating any cuts in the existing social services). Nothing that has been said by any Minister gives any just foundation for such an accusation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1938; col. 29, Vol. 341.]The Prime Minister will forgive me if I do not bank unduly upon his promises. I do not suggest, of course, that he does not keep his promises.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
When the Prime Minister said that there was no foundation for any suggestion of the kind, that is the suggestion that there was to be a cut in the social services, I should have thought that that was in effect a promise. Any reservation of the Prime Minister makes it worse from his point of view. I was assuming that the right hon. Gentleman meant a little more, but the Prime Minister's interruption serves to illustrate my point, that I should not bank unduly on his pledges. I am not, as I said, suggesting that he does not keep them, but I am suggesting that he puts on his words an unexpected interpretation that confounds a simple-minded person. He has said that we on these benches are unduly suspicious, but certainly in the matter of the Anglo-Italian Treaty and the settlement in Spain, I think that we were too simply-minded, because we did think that the Prime Minister meant what he appeared to the ordinary man to say. We never supposed, we were never suspicious enough to suppose, that what has actually happened would be construed by the right hon. Gentleman to be in fact a settlement in Spain.
Let me come back to the home front. Let me deal with the Minister of Health. At a meeting in Kent on 27th October he made a statement. I do not think he can have been as discreet as the Prime 532 Minister in the speech to which I have referred because I have here a report from the "Times." It will not be suggested that the "Times" would be "inventing alleged stories for electioneering purposes," as the Prime Minister said, for the "Times," above all the newspapers of the country has a reputation—perhaps the only newspaper at the present time in the country—for being a wholehogger in support of the Prime Minister and his Government. The Minister of Health, according to the report in the "Times," stated:It may be that we shall have to make inroads in these great social services. We should do that with great regret, because we shall be hindering the things we want to preserve.The report also said:Replying to a question about old age pensions, Mr. Elliot said that the National Government was prepared to raise them when there was money to do it, but while so much was wanted for arms d would be sonic time before they could be raised.So, at any rate, the old age pensioners know where they stand. We are to have a reply to-day from the Minister of Health and he will no doubt tell us precisely what he did say. That is very important because, as far as I know, every newspaper from the "Times" to the "Daily Herald" had roughly the same version of what the reporters present thought the Minister of Health said. Whatever he said, no one doubts that in the mind of the Conservative party—we hear it inside this House and we hear it in the country—it is a question of guns or butter, and in spite of what the President of the Board of Education said the other day, the recent circular of the Board does point to a curtailment of prospective expenditure on the progress of education. Perhaps the most charitable view of the Government's attitude is expressed in the latest version of the Sixth Commandment—Thou shalt not kill, but thou need'st not strive officiously to keep alive.At any rate, if the social services are not to be cut, their growth is to be seriously impeded and not allowed to go forward. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hastings (Mr. Hely-Hutchinson), to whose speech on the Address we listened with so much pleasure, said something more. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in complementing him, said that whatever he had done he had 533 not dropped any bricks. I am not sure that I agree with my right hon. Friend, because, if the Government get away with the line they are now taking, what he said will not be very palatable. He said:As we consider the huge cost of the rearmament we are compelled at the same time to consider whether it will be possible to maintain our social services, and so we are drawn into making an invidious distinction between guns and butter."—[OFFICIAL REPO.RT, 8th November, 1938; col. 16, Vol. 341.]Elsewhere the hon. Gentleman made it clear that the financial aspect was the criterion that entered into his mind and that a State must balance its budget or the country would drift into bankruptcy. Though this would seem to prove too much in view of the budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, yet it is no doubt what is, in effect, the view of the party Opposite.
It has been my fortune or misfortune in the course of my life to have to make a considerable study of finance, and I have learned to discount the prophecies which wiseacres are wont to base on financial arguments. I remember that in 1914 the wiseacres in every country said that the War could not last more than a few months because not one of the countries in Europe could afford to finance it. I remember that in 1919, or thereabouts, even Lord Cunliffe said that because the total capital wealth of Germany ran into over £20,000,000,000, she could therefore be made to pay indemnities running into thousands of millions. The prophecies of alleged financial experts were shown by subsequent events to have no significance of any kind whatever. The real fact is that it is not finance but the economic situation behind the finance that really matters. Crude finance sometimes leads into grave error, rather like the man who had a placard which said, "Battles 4, wounds 3, children 7, total 14." "Can we afford it?" is not a question of money but a question of things. Can our economy produce what we require? If it cannot, that is conclusive, but if it can, the financial apparatus can be adjusted.
When we examine the economic facts of the country we get some startling results. I have been reading the analysis of the figures of the census of production carried out by Cambridge economists of the first rank. They show that between 1930 and 1935 the physical output per 534 employé increased by no less than 20 per cent. in five years, or at the rate of 4 per cent, per annum. It is true that the advance is not the same in all fields, but it is considerable in all the essentials, and there is no reason to suppose that there will be an insufficiency of food or raw materials to sustain the superstructure. There is no suggestion that this potential increase has come to an end. In the second place, this vast production is being carried on with a great army of unemployed and at least a corresponding amount of capital which is either idle or is not employed to its fullest extent. It is a commonplace in business circles that it is not production but sale that holds up output. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that the productive output of this country could be increased quite soon by 15 or 20 per cent. and could after a little while be increased by 3o to 40 per cent.
What prevents it? I have already said that it is what the business world calls markets, or, put in other terms, it is purchasers and purchasing power. The productive apparatus is clogged up and chocked because goods as fast as they are made cannot be carried off by consumption. That is not my view alone, because I find in the League of Nations production, from which I have already quoted, this significant sentence:It is difficult to think of any technological improvement in industry, in agriculture or in communications which does not ultimately, either directly or indirectly, require increases in human consumption. Most of these improvements' result in an increased capacity to produce and they remain museum pieces of in-interest only to the scientist who pursues knowledge for its own sake, unless the increased production which they make possible is carried off by corresponding increases in consumption.There is an immense gap between our consumption to-day and the potential consumption if production resources were utilised to the full, and the main reason for it is the very limited income of the great masses of the people. Low purchasing power means not only a low standard of life but a poor market for the producer. The curtailment of the social services will not only be of no assistance to the country, but a handicap to recovery. May I recall to the House what happened in the United States? When I went there some 10 years ago the Americans laughed rather contemptuously at what they called the "dole" in this country, and they said it was the 535 cause of a great deal of our trouble. When they were faced with the recession which took place a few years back they found that there was no bottom to the fall of markets and that it was our social services that provided that bottom. They have had to reconsider their whole policy and to start social services, partly for the sake of the people themselves, but partly to give some resting place for the markets of the country so that they could not fall indefinitely. Therefore, the continuance and expansion of the social services are one of the essential conditions of closing this gap between production as it is and production as it might be. Another essential is the intelligent planning of the whole economic field, carrying with it the adaptation of the financial structure. It is here where the Government not only have no policy, but, as far as I can see have no thought that there is any requirement of a policy. That is just where this House can, I think, perform a useful function. We must first impress on the Government that there is need for a policy, and then, from all parts of the House, make constructive proposals which will help this Government and future Governments to solve the problem.
I have spoken nearly the whole time that I intended to address the House, but I should be lacking in my duty if I did not end with one or two observations of a constructive character on what seems to me to be the way to tackle this problem. The Government are fond of quotas, the limitation and restriction of supplies, and reduction of imports. We had several examples of this from the Minister of Agriculture in answer to questions only this afternoon. They are trying to create artificial scarcity in order to achieve a certain price level. That is not the policy that commends itself to these benches, nor I think to a large number of Government supporters themselves. We here believe not in quotas and restrictions but in bulk purchase of goods abroad, and through that means the wide supply and assistance of the whole people and their industry.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a commodity of which we in this country are almost wholly producers. We do not import 536 coal. I was talking of bulk purchases from abroad, and I thought the right hon. Gentleman was quite well aware that that was my idea.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I think I had better make my speech in my own way. If the right hon. Gentleman has a question to put, I am quite willing to answer him. I was making one or two constructive suggestions, and I hope they are valuable in spite of the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman. I said one of the methods we advocate is bulk purchase, and I mean by that the bulk purchase of goods from abroad. We advocate also bulk marketing. We want to organise markets for the sale of British goods. When I come to a subject which I have already mentioned, the fishing industry in Scotland and other parts of the country, I find that the Government have done almost everything except help to secure markets. We were told this afternoon of the ways in which the industry has been assisted, but as far as I can make out the Government are gradually assisting the industry to its own decay.
When the last Labour Government were in office one of the matters we took up was the canning industry. We found a good deal could be done for fruit marketing by promoting canning on a large scale. I speak on this point with some diffidence, because I am not an expert, but I believe new methods for preserving fish fresh have been put forward, and I commend the investigation of those methods to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries with a view to seeing whether a great deal of the large fish catch which he told us was difficult to sell could he made available in different parts of the world by adopting some of those methods. I do not see why there should not he an interchange between Scotland and the fishing ports of England and the West Indies, an exchange of fish for fruit if proper methods of preservation are adopted. We here believe in the unification of the distribution of essential foodstuffs, and in particular I mention milk. I am glad to see that a Milk Bill is mentioned in the King's Speech, but I warn the Government that unless the effect of that Measure is to reduce the price of milk substantially to the consumer they are not going to achieve very much. In Sweden the price of milk is something like half what 537 it is here, and the consumption per head something like double.
We on these benches are Socialists and believe in Socialist methods, and we see a very effective beginning being made in dealing with some of these problems in one of the busiest and one of the brightest of the British Dominions, namely the Dominion of New Zealand. We know that our Government are opposed to these methods and still support the old economic system. If they choose to do that let them face up to the ridiculous contrast we find in our society at the present time. We have co-existent malnutrition and potential plenty. We have co-existent luxury and extreme poverty. We have co-existent unemployment and shortage of output. If the Government are not prepared to solve these problems in our way, I invite them to put forward drastic proposals by which they may hope, at any rate, to solve them in their own way. I remember some 15 years ago Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, making a very important speech as Prime Minister, a speech which had important subsequent reactions, and I commend it to the attention of the present Government. He said:I have come to the conclusion that if we go pottering along as we are doing we shall have grave unemployment with us to the end of time.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
For many weeks and, indeed, many months the House has been pre-occupied with foreign affairs, and it has scarcely been possible to divert attention even to the great question of trade and industry, and even when a day was given to trade and industry a great deal of it was taken up by discussion of foreign affairs. We must, therefore, all welcome the signs of returning concentration upon home affairs, and certainly none more than those of us on this side of the House, because it is the real strength and the real resources of a nation which determine the main lines of its foreign policy. Chief among these strengths and resources are the condition of the people, the feeling of security—not only military but economic—and the sense of justice in the conduct of day-to-day affairs. These things are not only preeminent but paramount.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman my colleague from Scotland the Member for 538 East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). I was a little astonished at his peroration, in which he quoted with the utmost approval the words used by Mr. Baldwin when going to the country on the protection issue, in which he was attacked horse, foot and guns by the party opposite and in which he lost his power to conduct the affairs of this country. We hope we shall be able to convert him to a belief in other ideas of Lord Baldwin, as well as that to which he has just given his approval.
§ Mr. Elliot
He did not approve? Very well; that shows how many-sided truth is, because it is a remarkable fact that he should have quoted the observation if he quoted it to disagree with it. I thought he was quoting it to agree with it. It is true that while the condition of our people at home is the most important of all things, it becomes more and more difficult to disentangle the tasks of peace from the tasks of war, even with the great peaceful Ministry which I have the honour to represent. A striking example of that is provided by the task of taking precautions against war risks to the civilian community. The new range of fighting activity, which extends now across hundreds and, indeed, thousands of miles instead of scores, has brought new problems in its wake. One of them, which is of great importance in this crowded island, is the possibility of large populations moving, or being moved, from areas which are in danger of intensive air bombardment—what is known as the problem of evacuation.
Whose task is it? The task of the Home Office, the office of law and order, or the Ministry of Health, the office of housing and sanitation? This problem was investigated by the Anderson Committee, and a report was recently submitted to the House. I think it may be of interest to say that the Lord Privy Seal has invited me to collaborate with him in this matter, and that the Department over which I have the honour to preside will—subject, of course, to full consultation in particular with the Board of Education and with the other Departments and interests concerned—have the duty of giving effect to the scheme. That is, of course, in addition to the hospitalisation of casualties which has 539 already been announced to the House. It is my intention to work in this matter in the closest touch with the local authorities, who are so closely concerned, and with the general public, and I have embarked forthwith upon discussions, both regional and central, with the local authorities. As for the general public, the members of it who are most immediately and vitally concerned are the women, and I hope to get into touch at the earliest possible moment with their representative organisations.
§ Mr. Elliot
It was my intention, in conjunction with the Board of Education, to undertake the carrying out of the scheme. The Board of Education are of course, more concerned administratively with the children.
§ Mr. Elliot
No, Sir, not at all. It means, as I say, that the Lord Privy Seal has asked me to undertake the duty of giving effect to the scheme. Of course, as I say, it will require the closest consultation and liaison with the other Departments and interests concerned, of which the Home Office is one of the greatest.
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly with the local authorities—the education authorities, of course, are part of the local authorities—and the teachers also are closely concerned with the matter. It is our intention to confer with the Departments and interests concerned, and to our best in a non-party spirit to work out a scheme which will be effective for the nation. I have taken this opportunity of mentioning the matter to the House at the earliest possible moment. It was only in the last two or three days that the Lord Privy Seal handed the task over to me and to my Department.
§ Mr. Elliot
It is not merely a question of sending the children out but of receiv- 540 ing he children at the other end, and you cannot receive the children without having houses or some other shelters in which to put them. It is a dangerous thing to regard evacuation as merely a problem of despatch. The problem of reception is ten times as great. We are as closely concerned with the places they go to as with the places from which they come. But many more opportunities Will arise for considering these matters.
What we are discussing to-day is the condition of the people arid how it may be improved and not, thank God, on this occasion, how they may be assaulted and destroyed. So I listened with great attention to the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh, because he is not only the spokesman of the Opposition to-day but, speaking here in this House, he is a representative of democracy, and has exercised rights here which are only possible in a democratic State—the right to support a campaign, even a violent campaign, against the authority of the community in peace; and the right to remain personally neutral, when the community of which he is a member was involved in war. Those rights carry with them great responsibilities, and in view of that fact I feel that the terms of the Amendment have been loosely drawn. To say that there is aserious problem of unemployment as represented by nearly 2,000,000 men and women who cannot find workis scarcely worthy of the right hon. Gentleman's high scientific reputation. No one would underestimate the seriousness of the problem of unemployment, but its real seriousness is the long-term unemployment, the state of those who are out of work rather than those who are changing jobs. The right hon. Gentleman may know that, but no one would have gathered from his speech that more than half of the problem as represented in the Amendment is that of people who have been out of work for six weeks or less. The Employment Exchanges represent not only a social service but one of the greatest of social services. There are 14,000,000 people in our country covered by the scheme, and democracy may well take pride in that achievement —but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will be closing tins Debate, and he is well able to take care of himself.
§ Mr. Elliot
That my right hon. Friend is well able to take care of the unemployed is shown by the fact that the General Council of the Trades Union Congress passed a resolution thanking him, and of that he may well be proud. I want to examine other reasons given in the Amendment for voting against the Government, relating tohe maintenance and improvement of the standard of life for active and retired workers, and the development of the social services.On those points the Government can point to not only the Gracious Speech, but the policy underlying the Speech and the figures backing up and confirming the Speech, as proof of an intention and an effort which can well refute both the vague assertions of the Amendment and the arguments and examples brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh. The Gracious Speech gives proof of the effort to produce both guns and butter, an effort which has not been surpassed or even equalled by any of the great States to-day, either totalitarian or democratic. Indeed, it is not with other States that we can make comparison. It is only with our own records, the records of our administration and the administrations of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. So sure were the Opposition that we could not, or that we did not, intend to make this effort that they trumpeted it all down the Thames Valley, and indeed across all the world.
I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman to refute the statements made far and wide in the Dartford Division that the Government intended to cut down the social services. The Gracious Speech itself is the most crushing and effective rejoinder to that contention. If words are riot enough, let us take arithmetic.
§ Mr. Elliot
I said, as the right hon. Gentleman himself quoted, that we might have to make inroads on the social services and that if we did, it would be with the greatest regret because we should be injuring the very thing that we set out to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Very well then, but since hon. Gentlemen Lave thought that was too much to say, let me quote a strange example of divergence of opinion between Members on the opposite Front Bench; not, in this case, between the Front Bench and the back 542 bench. Let me quote from one of their own speakers in this Debate, one who is not under any shadow of accusation of not being a strong democrat, a Left-winger, and a champion of democracy, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston). He differs a little from the right hon. Gentleman opposite because he is not standing again at the next election. He said in this House on Tuesday of last week—
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that my right hon. Friend used those words because he is not standing at the next election?
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not, but I think that some of the statements which are made from the other side are made because hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are standing again and hope to make the same misrepresentations in the future. But let me quote from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling. He said:If we are going to spend our resources in preparing to blow civilisation to bits, even in self-defence, then there cannot be the same resources available for raising the standards of the old age pensioners, bettering the conditions of the unemployed and improving the public health services of this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1938; col. 124, Vol. 345.]He said that there was no occasion for the Minister of Health to apologise.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman has been charged with making a statement; surely he should be allowed to answer the charge.
§ Mr. Elliot
The statement which I have made, the comment upon it by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling, and the words from the Gracious Speech from the Throne, show most clearly what we have in mind. There is nothing more dangerous to democracy than the suggestion that no honest but hard words can ever be placed before the people, but that we must do all in our power to conceal from the people the possibility that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling said 543 if we are going to spend our resources on preparing to blow civilisation to bits there cannot be as much available for the constructive tasks of peace. It is intellectual dishonesty of a most disgraceful type to try to run away from that dilemma. I do the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling the honour of saying that he faced that dilemma boldly and sincerely.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
As my right hon. Friend is not at present in the House, I think it is only fair that I should rise to say on his behalf that the statement attributed to the right hon. Gentleman opposite by the "Times" newspaper is totally different in character from the statement which he has made as coming from my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling said that there was no occasion for the Minister of Health to apologise. If that expression does not convey anything to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh it has some connotation in the mind of another colleague of mine from Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling. To pretend to our democracy that there is not a danger to our standards in the enormous outgoings of wealth upon the preparations for war is a pretence to which I, for one, shall be no party. Nor would any Member opposite. Now that we are all agreed upon that point perhaps we can pass—
§ Mr. Elliot
Well, I will leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to settle the matter with his right hon. colleague, who will carry more conviction to him than I shall.
I shall now give details of some of the work which is being done by the Ministry of Health, and which may prove to hon. Gentlemen opposite that in performance the Government have no reason to apologise or to bow their heads before any other Government for the work which is actually being done. Take housing. It is very interesting to notice that we had no word on this subject from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Elliot
He did not refer to housing not because there is not a great deal to say but because what there is to say is favourable to this Government's record.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I occupied three-quarters of an hour, but I thought I would not take any more time.
§ Mr. Elliot
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that his right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) took up a good deal of time last year in putting this matter before the House. It might be worth while, and of interest to the House when an attack upon the social policy of the Government is being made, to give figures relating to one part of the social service where the Government's policy has admittedly been triumphantly successful. The progress of housing continues unabated. For the first nine months of this year, over 70,300 houses were completed by local authorities, as compared with 54,500 houses during the corresponding months of last year. The number of houses completed within the last three months is 24,770. This time last year there were some 66,400 houses under construction. This year there are some 77,000 houses under construction. I think, therefore, that the phrase in the Gracious Speech that we shall press forward with housing, both urban and rural, has a foundation in the figures of housing as well as in the aspirations of the Government.
The figures for last month just received show that the number of new houses completed by local authorities is 8,600 and the number of houses in clearance orders confirmed by the Minister during the month is 6,510. Both those figures are records—absolutely the highest figures on record. The original slum clearance programme covered 267,000 houses. We have nearly doubled that. The latest figure is 465,000, and the figure is still rising. Of these 218,000 have actually been completed, and we have now approved for slum clearance purposes the building of 309,000. There remains plenty of slum clearance work to do, but we are doing it faster than ever. Over 1,000,000 people have been moved out of the slums, and we are now moving people out of the slums at the rate of 1000 per day.
§ Mr. Marshall
Will the Minister tell us under what Act the greatest progress has been made in housing, and whether some of the credit is not due to the local authorities?
§ Mr. Elliot
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that I am attempting to take credit from the local authorities? I am giving the figures and mentioning the local authorities at every step. As to the Acts under which all this is being done, there are a great number and variety of Acts, but the finance for them has to he provided by the Government who are responsible for that finance. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
I must ask hon. Members to allow the right hon. Gentleman to make his speech without so much interruption.
§ Mr. Marshall
On a point of Order. I was asking the right hon. Gentleman whether the Act under which the progress Las been made was not a Labour Act?
§ Mr. Elliot
I have no objection to the hon. Member giving information to the House, although it might be more fitting if he gave it during his own speech, and not during mine. I am pointing out that slum clearance is proceeding at a rate hitherto unprecedented, that people are being moved out of the slums at the rate of 1,000 a day and that that is proof, if any proof were needed, that what we say in the Gracious Speech we mean. This is an answer to the suggestion that our promises are not being carried oat in practice. This is practice, and an ounce of practice is worth a ton of promise. Though the building of new houses has been concentrated mainly on slum clearance, a great deal has been done in the abatement of overcrowding. The appointed day when the creation of fresh overcrowding becomes a statutory offence has been fixed for the whole of England and Wales, and from that day every movement of an overcrowded family is a movement into a house in which they will not be overcrowded.
I wish I could say as much for Scotland. We all know that there is a great lag in housing in Scotland and we all know where that lag occurs. Local authority housing is proceeding actively 546 in Scotland, but it has been impossible to get private enterprise going in Scotland as actively as in England. The difference between the two countries shows the terrible difficulties which come to a country when it attempts to solve a problem by local authority activity alone. By the end of 1937, the latest date for which medical officers' reports are available, overcrowding revealed by the survey of 1936, had been reduced by some 20 per cent. in county and metropolitan boroughs, 30 per cent. in other urban areas, and 35 per cent. in rural areas. Since the end of 1935, that process of abatement by the interchange of tenants—and local authorities, as the owners of 1,000,000 houses, play a pretty big part here—has been extended by the development of new building proposals specifically for the abatement of overcrowding. Despite the prior concentration on slum-clearance houses, houses for the abatement of overcrowding are being approved and completed at the rate of 1,000 a month. Under the new Act, as we know, proposals for the abatement of overcrowding and slum clearance will form one pool. Building progress has been accelerated this year and has reached a very high level.
What is important now is that local authorities should look forward to next year's programme and ensure that there is a continuity of building operations. We want continuity in the interests of better housing; we want continuity in the interests of regular employment in the building industry. I think it is evident that local authorities are looking forward, because proposals for the erection of over 7,000 houses were approved by me during October. I want, however, to get it home to the building industry that, despite all that has been done and all that is being done, there still remains a great building programme, and it is the intention of the Government to carry that programme to completion. We hope to have general support for that.
The acceleration of municipal building has been accompanied by the maintenance of a very remarkable output of houses by private enterprise. The figures are not yet available for the half-year ending 30th September, but I have reason to think that they will still be at a high level, though not, of course, at the peak point which we have seen in previous years. The output of new houses in rural areas 547 has been accelerated by the subsidy under the Housing Act, 1938, which, as hon. Members will recollect, provides for a subsidy of £10 for each house built by a local authority. It is perhaps unnecessary to say that there is no intention of cutting down that subsidy; I can give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. The amount of reconditioning that is taking place in rural houses is also increasing. Progress in England and Wales was admittedly much slower for many years than in Scotland, but it is an error to suppose that that progress is decreasing; on the contrary, it shows a steady increase, as is indicated by the fact that, in the last year for which the figures are available, some 4,000 houses were approved for reconditioning, as compared with 2,900 in the previous year. Those of my hon. Friends who have been a little anxious about the use of the Reconditioning Act as well of the New Construction Act in rural areas will be reassured by these evidences of continually increasing use.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House any idea of the number of houses that are being erected in rural areas for agricultural labourers?
§ Mr. Elliot
No, Sir; I certainly could not give that figure without notice. I shall expect the figures to show a considerable increase, but, as the hon. Member knows as well as I do, the Act has not been long on the Statute Book. I have done my utmost to bring it to the attention of the local authorities, and they have expressed their intention of using it, but, as the hon. Member knows as well as I do, it sometimes takes a little time to get local authorities in the rural areas to work. I hope that this will not be taken as, a reflection upon local authorities, as some of the things I have said about urban authorities have apparently been taken.
§ Mr. Silverman
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the slower progress of rural housing in Scotland as compared with England has been due to the fact that in Scotland they have relied too exclusively on the efforts of the local authorities; and, if so, will he tell the House why it is that in the case of urban houses the progress has been greater in Scotland than in England?
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly. It is because the grants to private enterprise for reconditioning have been taken up in Scotland to a very much larger extent than in England. I only wish it were possible to get at the same time in both countries the Scottish conditions as to rural housing and the English conditions as to urban housing. I must pass on, because the right hon. Gentleman covered a wide field, and it is my desire to deal fairly—[Interruption]. I do not see anything humorous in that.
§ Mr. Elliot
I may have mis-pronounced a word, but I think I said that the right hon. Gentleman had covered a very wide field. He asked specially to be reassured on the subject of education, and particularly with regard to a circular which he alleged was cutting down the building of schools. There has, of course, been a steady improvement in material conditions in schools; in fact, it has been one of the most striking developments of recent years. The list of 1924 showed 2,827 schools on a defective list. Of that total, 1,950, or more than two-thirds, have been removed. A very large number of new school buildings have been erected in that time, with spacious, light and airy premises, and in the last two years these building developments have been greatly assisted by a Government grant of 50 per cent. towards the cost of new senior schools. The period during which this grant will be available has recently been extended until 1943.
It has been said that the limitation placed by Circular 1464 on certain types of secondary school buildings constitutes a curtailment of the social services. The extension by three years of the period during which the Board's grant will be available will involve the Board in heavy additional expenditure. The Board's primary concern—I am not quoting myself, but my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education—is to avoid any curtailment of the educational services. That has been said before; let it be said again. The only respect, said my hon. Friend, in which the freedom of authorities in regard to secondary schools is limited, is by the temporary embargo on the replacement of existing buildings, and that does not 549 apply where the circumstances are exceptional or conditions of health call for such replacement. The best comment on the question whether we are cutting down or not is the fact that we are passing plans at present at the rate of £200,000 a week, which is out of all proportion to the rate at which plans for new school buildings have been passed before.
As to medical care, I need not quote the work of the school medical services, or go at great length into the field of nutrition. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the necessity for adequate nutrition, and paid tribute to the eminent scientists who have done a great deal of that work. I gladly pay tribute to them, because the first beginnings of that work were in the Market Supply Committee set up under the Agricultural Marketing Act which was passed by this House, and Sir John Orr has worked in close harmony with the Government, who are most grateful to him and the other scientists and the Nutrition Committee who have done so much to elucidate our knowledge of this subject. What are we going to do about it? The number of free solid meals provided by local education authorities has been more than doubled in the last 10 years. The milk-in-schools scheme, with the initiation of which hon. Gentlemen opposite had nothing to do— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—I do not think they would claim any credit for initiating it—was put through some years ago, and I think we may say it has proved a triumphant success. We can say, also, that in the last year 200,000 more children have been drinking milk under the scheme, of whom some 50,000 or more have been getting it without any charge whatsoever. We are entitled to quote these facts when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite claim that we are cutting down the social services, or failing to develop the social services, or that we do not appreciate just as much as they do the desirability of a sound physical foundation for the coming generation. Apart from this question of sufficiency of food, there is also the question of the wise choice of food. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh, who carefully prefaced his statement by saying that he did not intend to misrepresent the Prime Minister, read out a phrase which the Prime Minister had used in conversation with Sir Walter Fletcher. What Sir Walter Fletcher said was that a great deal for health could be 550 done by the wise choice of food. Does anyone deny that?
§ Mr. Elliot
Does the hon. Member claim that there is a single Member here who has not done damage to his health by a bad choice of food? Have we not all known well-to-do men who have done themselves damage by wrong eating? Hon. Members are too apt to suppose that any statement made by any scientific man is meant to cast some reflection upon some class or other in the community. The injudicious choice of food has done great damage to many sections of the community, and not the poorer sections alone. Nothing in the world will make up for not having enough money with which to buy food, but great harm can also be done by an injudicious choice of food, even by those who are incapable of buying sufficient supplies of it. I do not think the hon. Member will deny that. Why, therefore, should he interrupt?
§ Mr. Elliot
It is a little difficult to carry on one's speech when hon. Members, who are so keenly interested, insist on having a duologue instead of the monologue which all speeches in this House are intended to be. I say without hesitation that a knowledge of the right kind of food, how to choose food, and how to cook food, is a very important factor. None of us would deny that in private conversation, so why should we seek to deny it when we are carrying on a public debate on a subject of such importance?
As regards physical education, new schools and new playgrounds are growing up all over the country. These developments are being carried out in the middle of our other great pre-occupations, and the whole democracy, whether on the one side or on the other, is entitled to take credit for the efforts that are being made. The National Fitness Council has now allotted grants amounting to nearly £750,000 to schemes of one kind or another—schemes for youth movements, schemes for developing leadership, schemes for doing by voluntary means what other nations are doing by compulsory means; and the nation as a whole should take pride in this achievement, and not seek to deride it.
551 I need not go at any length into the work that has been done in connection with the "educational ladder" which has been set up. It will be sufficient for me to state that 81 per cent. of the children in grant-aided secondary schools are drawn from public elementary schools, and that 360 State scholarships are granted each year, in addition to those awarded by local education authorities. There is, of course, a great deal of ground to be covered, but it is worth while to bring forward these facts when the phrase in the Gracious Speech has been challenged which says that:My Government will press forward with better housing … and will proceed with the development of the educational services.When that is challenged, it is desirable to give chapter and verse showing that these words mean what they say.
It is perhaps necessary also to say a word about the cancer campaign, although the right hon. Gentleman indicated that that meets with the approval of himself and his friends. We are arranging to introduce a Bill which will make provision for extended arrangements for the treatment of cancer, and we anticipate that modern methods of diagnosis and treatment, either by radium, by X-rays or by operation, will be made available to all who suffer or—and there is an even larger number of these—who fear that they suffer from this disease. I am assured that at present only one-quarter of the cases which might benefit by such treatment do in fact receive effective treatment on modern lines. That is a figure that none of us can tolerate. That three people out of four do not receive the benefit of the applications of the knowledge which we have gained is a blot upon our public health which I am sure all sections of the House will co-operate in removing.
There is much knowledge to be acquired about the causation of the disease. I have received assurances that the great research organisations will not only continue, but increase, their efforts. How to persuade early cases to attend the centres is one of the problems that the Ministry will have to face; but, just as public opinion has altered in regard to tuberculosis and other diseases, we hope that sufferers from cancer will learn that an early visit to one of these centres may make a complete cure possible, and will not hesitate to avail themselves of these facilities. Money will be made available 552 to enable the National Radium Trust to acquire more radium, so as to enable the necessary treatment to be given. An option on this radium was purchased before we made the announcement, so as to avoid any danger of profiteering. I am glad to say that I have been able to assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the life of radium is about 2,500 years, making it a fit subject for a small loan. I am at present closely engaged in discussions with the various bodies and organisations concerned. We hope to be able to submit the Bill before Parliament rises for the Christmas vacation; and I am sure the House, therefore, will not press me for details.
I would now like to say a word about maternal mortality. That affects not only mothers, but also the younger generation. I would like to pay tribute to the spirit in which the local authorities have received and acted upon the recommendations of the Ministry and to the way in which they have co-operated with my Department. We have kept in close touch not only with local authorities, but with the British Medical Association and the Central Midwives Board, and I am now receiving reports from the local authorities and comments on the Circular that we sent out. I do not under-estimate the importance of other methods of approach to the problem of maternal mortality. I have followed with interest the spectacular results which have been obtained from the newer methods of treatment, particularly in cases of puerperal sepsis. I realise, however, that the number and complexity of the problems which still face us call for further efforts. We are making good progress under the Act of 1936. Nearly 7,500 full-time midwives are now employed by local authorities in England and Wales under the Act and it has been possible already to make orders prohibiting any person who is not a certified midwife or a registered nurse from acting as a maternity nurse in 44 areas out of 188. It is also worth while to note that in 1937 the maternal mortality rate came down to 3.13, which is a low record.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am afraid I have not the figures for Scotland. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, conditions there are 553 different. The Act for Scotland was passed later than the English Act, and the circumstances differ in other ways also.
These are particulars of what is being done for the health and strength of the people. The great security services are also being enlarged and strengthened. First, I would refer to the Voluntary Pensions Scheme, which is now coming into force. The importance of this point is that the preliminary period of entry is now drawing to a close. The preliminary period is, as hon. Members will know, so favourable that a woman of 54 joining before 2nd January next gets rights which would require 8s. a week for a payment of 6d. a week. A married man of 54 joining before 2nd January will acquire for 1s. 3d. a week pension rights which would on an actuarial basis cost 15s. a week. That offer closes on 2nd January, and I am anxious that that should be widely known. I want to thank hon. Members in all parts of the House who have done their utmost to make this known to their constituents. I am glad to say that these efforts are showing results. The House may like to hear the weekly figures of applications before and since the intensive campaign started. In the week ended 10th August we had 1,000 applications; in the week ended 26th October, 2,400 applications. On 30th October the figure went up to 3,317; and in the week following we had 4,728 applications. So the work that has been put in in disseminating information on this subject is showing good results.
It is well to recall, when discussing the benefits of democracies, that 19,000,000 people, men and women, are to-day insured, and that 3,000,000 people are to-day enjoying pensions and allowances under the main schemes. It is also well to remember that these schemes have not sapped but fortified the habits of thrift and foresight among our people. Looking up the record of sums paid out in social services since the War, one finds that it reaches the colossal figure of £7,500,000,000 sterling. That represents a redistribution of wealth for which I think there is no parallel in any other State, totalitarian or democratic. People have said, "This will destroy the spirit of thrift in our people."
§ Mr. Elliot
It has been said in more than one part of the House. [Interruption. ] I beg the hon. Gentleman to allow me to develop my argument. It has been said. But I would like to point out that during that time the thrift of the nation has been such that there is in the savings banks like the Post Office and in National Savings Certificates some £1,433,000,000. Also, since the War investments amounting to £1,000,000,000 have been made in house property through the building societies.
§ Mr. Elliot
But it comes more from small people than from others. When I am paying a tribute to the thrift of small people, I think it would be a pity to minimise that. The fact that people have continued to save speaks well for the morale and fibre of our people.
§ Mr. Maxton
I was not challenging that, but I was wanting a complete picture. I just wanted to be assured that the big fellow was doing well.
§ Mr. Elliot
It is reported that the Talmud took 600 years to compile, and that at the end it contained everything. I have not had so long. This has been accompanied in the last year by a fall and not by a rise in the cost of living. It now stands at 55 as against 58 this time last year, and the cost of foodstuffs at 39 as against 43 last year. We were upbraided last year by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). He said:I grieve to think that the Government are so neglectful of the interests of the masses of our people that they do not think this problem of the rising cost of living worth one word of notice in the King's Speech.I grieve to think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh East has not mentioned the cost of living figures this year.
§ Miss Wilkinson
The right hon. Gentleman last year was to be complimented on his under-statement of figures that were misleading.
§ Mr. Elliot
What the hon. Lady has said is that the figures were misleading. I say that, in so far as they are misleading this year, they were misleading last year. I do not think anybody denies that the cost of living has fallen since August. The hon. Lady will not deny that the figures which were quoted last year against the Government were calculated on the same basis as the figures I have given for this year, and that I am entitled to quote them in favour of the Government. The fall in the cost of foodstuffs is coincident with a level of agricultural wages higher than they have ever been since the Agricultural Wages Act came into force. This picture of the social conditions of the nation calls for no complacency, but equally it calls for neither despair nor disparagement. Our main task in the future must be to ensure that the generation growing up, the generation upon which will lie in its turn the furtherance, and let us hope in some cases the completion of these tasks, will have the best possible chance. I am as anxious as anyone to see an improvement in old age pensions, a lowering of the qualifying age for pensions, an extension of the sickness benefits, a furtherance of all our insurance and social schemes. But the only true insurance for the older generation is the younger generation.
This task on which we are engaged—the moulding of a new commonwealth which shall yet retain the distinctive, the national, features of the old commonwealth—is the task not merely of importance to our own people. It is the task of a democracy—a pioneer democracy—and as such is of interest to the world. We can claim to have made some progress, shown some understanding of each other in the past. That is more than ever necessary now, in the strain of the tremendous, reckless, and furious age in which we find ourselves. We must, on this side of the House, try to realise, to grasp, to know, the argument and grievances put forward by the Opposition—grievances which brought them into existence as a party—insufficient incomes, monotonous or sordid conditions of existence, problems of the old folks' pensions, problems of the young folks' up-bringing, 556 problems of housing, problems, in short, of full citizenship. In return I would ask from them an understanding, even a sympathy, with the problems of employers —problems of those who have to find and keep markets, who stand on guard against insolvency, problems of those who watch the exchanges, whose business is the purchasing power of the pound, who scrutinise and carry through all that intricate come-and-go which keeps a nation of 40,000,000 at nearly the highest standard of living in the world, in an island which unaided could barely feed 20,000,000.
We have made great progress in this country, both spiritual and material. Let us not under-rate it. But the greatest progress, and never more than in recent years, has been in a growing sense of confidence in each other, a reluctance to fly at each other's throats about differences, an attempt to see each other's point of view. There is a danger to that attitude to-day. Here is a field where we can avoid it. Here is a field where we all mean the same thing. Here is a field where we, most fortunate, can leave the desperate problems of killing and come to the problems of living, and this field, I submit, is not unworthily dealt with in the proposals about to be laid before Parliament, and the policy of which they are an expression.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Miss Megan Lloyd George
The right hon. Gentleman devoted the greater part of his speech to the work of his Department and to an assurance to the House that there is no intention at the moment of cutting the social services. He raised once again that statement which he made in the country. As far as I can make out the position now is that he repudiated that statement in one part of his speech and defended it in another. It seems to me altogether a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. The right hon. Gentleman quoted some very interesting figures about the amount spent in this country on social services. I would like to bring the House back to same other figures which are not nearly so encouraging—the figures of the unemployed at this moment, which stand at over 1,700,000. Last night, in a very remarkable speech, M. Reynaud, the Finance Minister of France, quoted as one of the factors which, in his judgment, pointed to the seriousness of the situation in France, the 557 fact that there were 40,000 more unemployed this year than there were last. That to him was one of the main factors in the critical situation in France. We have had an increase of over 300,000 in the same time in this country. I should like to know not only that our Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the whole Government felt that that was a factor which should seriously be taken into consideration and dealt with.
Seventeen per cent. of the people out of work have been unemployed for 12 months or more, and a very high percentage—I think about 8o per cent.—of the people are wholly unemployed as distinct from temporarily stopped. These are not very encouraging figures, particularly when the Government are spending great sums of money on rearmament. I believe that had it not been for the rearmament programme the figures of unemployed in this country would have been very nearly 3,000,000, the highest figure ever recorded in this country. There is no doubt that the rearmament programme has served to obscure the depth and the extent of the trade recession. A very interesting comment on the adverse as well as on the stimulating effect of rearmament on trade has been made in the "World Economic Survey," which has just been made by the League of Nations. It says:For it may react unfavourably on private expenditure and private enterprise by underlining the sense of political uncertainty and by holding out the prospect of heavy and rising taxation, quite apart from the fact that it draws men and capital into economically unproductive uses.That passage was written before the Munich Agreement and before the intensification of the rearmament programme not only in this country, but in every other great country of the world, which was the first result of the appeasement of Munich. The right hon. Gentleman in the concluding passage of his speech —a very moving passage—asked that we might have confidence in each other. It is a little difficult for those who represent distressed areas in this House to have great confidence in the Government.
§ Miss Lloyd George
That is perfectly true; I agree with the hon. Gentleman The situation is not a very new one, and the Government have had a great many 558 years in which to tackle it. What are the Government going to do in face of this situation? The Prime Minister, in reply to a complaint made by the Leader of the Opposition that there was no mention of unemployment in the Gracious Speech said:It is rather to the encouragement of employment that I think we should look with the greatest hope of dealing with the situation as we find it to-day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1938; col. 27, Vol. 341.1]I find it very difficult myself to understand what is the difference between these two things. But what are the Government going to do? Early next year, the one specific Measure which the Government have introduced to assist the Special Areas is due to expire. I have seen it suggested in the Press that the Government are not going to give it another lease of life, but if the Government are to withdraw it, I hope it is only because they are going to widen its scope and bring before the House something which is infinitely more comprehensive in scale and more commensurate with the problem that it seeks to solve. Particularly, I hope that the whole Schedule of areas in the Act is going to be widened.
I make no apology at all for mentioning my own particular area, where the unemployment figures were, for the whole island of Anglesey, over 37 per cent. of the insured population out of work, and for the town of Holyhead 35 per cent. These percentages are far higher than in a great many of the areas which are included in the Schedule. How can the right hon. Gentleman or the Government justify excluding an area of that kind? There is no justification, no reason an no common sense in it. There is no principle behind the drawing up of these Schedules. The Government have been very critical in recent days of certain boundaries in Europe that were drawn up 20 years ago. All I can say is that—I am not going to defend them at the moment—I only think what they would have been if they had been drawn up by the present Government, particularly if one takes this analogy. It is infinitely worse than even the post-Munich boundaries.
The right hon. Gentleman will say, "It is perfectly true that I have extended the provisions of the Bill as it first appeared in this House. I am now prepared to certify some of the areas which are not 559 included in the Schedule, and they may have some of the benefits." If it had been the intention of the Government to make it difficult, if not impossible, for some of these areas to qualify, particularly small areas, then, they have had a triumphant success, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. It is true that the Treasury have agreed to assist the Lancashire Sites Company and to give them a loan, but, apart from that, I believe I am right in saying that that is the only sites company that they have promised to assist, and not a single factory has been erected under this provision; not a single foundation stone, I believe, of any factory has been laid. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he really has no hope at all to hold out to areas like Holyhead—and there are many of them in the country—except these provisions which it is almost impossible to satisfy. The right hon. Gentleman will say, as he has very often said to Members of this House: "You criticise this Bill. You say that it is inadequate and yet you want to extend its scope." It is perfectly true that a crust is better than no bread, particularly if the crust is distributed in our own area. But it certainly does not mean that the provisions of this Act are adequate in any sense of the word. What benefits are even those areas getting which are included in this Schedule?
I woud like to deal with that point. How successful are the inducements that the right hon. Gentleman has given to industries to settle in the Special Areas? The Government are engaged at this moment in plans for the evacuation of the population in time of emergency. The right hon. Gentleman—and I am sure the House was very glad to hear it—said that he was going to collaborate with the Home Office for the purposes of air-raid precautions, but have the Government considered, as part of that problem, the continuous migration of the population to London? In 14 years the insured population in the Greater London area has increased by 42 per cent., nearly twice as fast as in Great Britain as a whole. In 1935 and 1936 alone 39,000 people got employment in the Greater London area. That is, that, with their families, a population of about 150,000 were settling in the danger zone. In the same time nearly 500 factories were established in 560 this area, while in the Special Areas, 122 factories have been erected, and, I think, 52 are under construction. Even in the last year, 1937, 233 factories were established in Greater London at a time when the Government had really been considering air-raid precautions with a degree of seriousness. The industrial concentration there is increasing and the target is becoming larger and our capital city more vulnerable, and the possibility of serious industrial dislocation much more probable.
That is the result of the inducement that the right hon. Gentleman has given. Factories infinitely prefer to come down to the Greater London area. I do not think that these inducements have been much worth having, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into that matter. We have had a commission sitting for 12 months. I believe that it started 15 months ago and it has been in session for a year, and it has not, as far as I know, produced an interim report or given any sign at all of life. I hope, at any rate, that it will produce some report before the next emergency comes. The Prime Minister once said in a State document that, in discussing this question of national development, it was not so much a matter of finance; finance was not so much an obstacle, but it was a question of finding schemes which could be justified on grounds of national importance. We on these benches have continually advocated various schemes of national development, which are familiar to the House, but it has been in vain that hon. Members on these benches and above the Gangway have advocated those schemes.
I should like to put forward one or two proposals on which a different interpretation might be put. I am hoping that the Government may be a little more interested in them, because they are, or they should be, part of the effective defences of the country. There is the problem of A.R.P. A good deal of employment will probably be given in that direction. We are to have splinter-proof shelters. I do not know how effective such shelters have been found to be in Spain, but I know that the greater part of the defences there are bomb-proof shelters, because they have found them to be far better. Something will have to be done to provide parking grounds in the Metropolitan area. The congestion is becoming appalling and the number of cars 561 is increasing every day. Why is it not possible to construct, as has been suggested, large underground garages, which could be used as bomb-proof shelters? Something has to be done about the congestion and I should have thought that something of that kind would have been practicable.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to housing. We were glad to hear of the progress that is being made and we hope that the efforts will be intensified. I should like to say a few words about rural housing. I agree with him that in the last Act, which was passed last Summer, there were better financial provisions for the erecting of houses in the rural areas than in any other Act. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pursue with energy a campaign to get the local authorities not only to know that that Act is in being but to make use of it. He would fulfil a very useful function if he would do that. There is another problem, which was touched upon by my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate, and that is the problem of agriculture and malnutrition. The Prime Minister said that what we really want to teach the people is how to feed themselves and their families properly. I will not go into the diet of hon. Members in this House, as my right hon. Friend did. We are faced with a very fundamental problem. One of our Welsh poets once wrote a famous line about the difficulty of sharing the need of one between nine. That is the problem with which the country is faced to-day. Here is a tremendous opportunity not only of reviving agriculture, which is still the greatest, most fundamental and most vital interest in the country, but of doing an immense service to the great mass of people.
In a report of the League of Nations, in which they discussed the relation of nutrition to health, agriculture and economic policy, it is calculated that if the food consumption of the whole population of the United Kingdom could be raised by 10 per cent. to the level of the top 10—and why should it not be?—that would involve an increase in the demand for milk by 80 per cent., butter 41 per cent., eggs 55 per cent., and meat 29 per cent. There we have a market at our own door. We should not have to go out seeking a market among the 562 impoverished nations of the world, where we are not likely to get it at the moment. Here we have a market actually at our own door. I hope therefore, that from the point of view of the nutrition of the people, the Government will have more to say than the right hon. Gentleman said to-day.
There is another aspect of agriculture which is very important in this connection. It is the fifth line of Defence, and provides the greatest opportunity of providing permanent work for the unemployed. There is no doubt that at this moment food is the greatest gap in our defences, and we should like to know what is being done to fill up that gap. It is not the kind of thing that you can improvise, as you can, to a certain extent, A.R.P. It is a matter which you have to plan years ahead. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence told us that he is storing a year's supply of wheat. What is he going to do at the end of that time? We had 4½ years of emergency last time, and I should like to remind the House that in 1916 the Shipping Control Committee reported that the Wheat Commission of that date had purchased 700,000 quarters in North America. But they added: "There are no steamers to bring the wheat to England."
That was in 1916, when our total tonnage of shipping available to carry food to this country was infinitely greater than it is to-day. At that time we had 14,000,000 acres of arable land; now we have only 12,000,000. Submarines are being built in ever greater numbers by the great countries, and we have added to the menace to our shipping, the bomb, which is not only a menace on the high seas but, as has been shown in Spain, a most formidable menace in the ports and harbours. Therefore this matter of food has become a critical factor in the situation in Spain. In the coming months it may be the most critical factor, and it is well that we should realise that what applies to Spain now, and what applied to us in the Great War, may yet apply to us if another emergency should arise. What is being done about it? I cannot understand why the Government do not take into account the really critical position that we were in during the last War. Cannot they make an attempt to face up to this problem? There is only 563 one mention in the Gracious Speech about increased food consumption, and that is milk. There is no other passage in the Speech which refers to any attempt to increase the production of food—production which would inevitably give a great deal of employment.
There is another point, and that is the question of the Port of London. The foreign trade which comes to the Port of London has increased by 14 per cent. since the War, while in the ports on the West Coast, which strategically are in an infinitely safer position, the trade has decreased by if per cent. I would ask the Government whether they are making any attempt to review the situation and to adapt the ports on the West Coast—if the right hon. Gentleman wants the names of ports on the West Coast, I can certainly oblige him with one at once—for use in war time. Lord Baldwin, when he was Prime Minister, announced, I think it was in 1936, the establishment of a committee of three to consider immediate measures that may be taken to provide home-grown food supplies as a matter of national emergency. I do not know what happened to that committee, but I feel sure that it was pursued with characteristic energy. We should like to know whether in this matter of the increased production of food, which is a vital consideration and a vital gap in our defences, the announcement of policy which the Prime Minister made at Kettering still stands, or whether the Government really intend to increase the production of home-grown food. Neither the bombers, the fighters, nor the anti-aircraft defence which we may have will save us if our food supplies are threatened. Our defences cannot be sure unless our food supplies are sure. Mr. Christopher Turnor said in 1916:The fundamental mistake has been made that food has not been considered as a munition of war, and that the farm has not been treated as a munition factory.It is certain that in that field there is much to be done, and a great measure of permanent employment could be given. Everyone who wishes to see this problem of chronic unemployment—juggle with the figures as you may it still is a problem of agricultural unemployment—tackled, are very glad that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) has raised his influential voice in an appeal to the Government for action. We 564 on this side of the House have been pleading with them for years. I hope that the right hon. Member's efforts will be more effective, particularly if he is supported by hon. Members on the other side of the House. When we are asking for a great national voluntary effort of service, before we ask men and women to give their services this time we should see to it that those who gave their services in the Great War have been given the opportunity for work independence and security in this free and democratic country.
§ 5.59 P.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr
The hon. Lady has delighted the House, as she always does, with a well-balanced speech. She is as formidable in oratory and debate as was her famour ancestor, Owen Glendower, in the profession of arms. I shall therefore hasten to sign a pact of non-aggression with her and turn to less controversial subjects than those with which she has dealt. There was one point she made with which I am in complete agreement, and the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate from the Opposition Benches stressed the same point. That is the importance of the home front. The home front is perhaps the most vulnerable of all the many war fronts. It was the home front which collapsed first both in Russia and in Germany. It was the street processions in St. Petersburg. and the factory orators, which undermined the confidence of the people even while General Brusiloff was marshalling the last Russian armed forces in an offensive against the enemy. I believe it was also the long winter of a diet of turnips in Berlin, and the letters from home to the soldiers in the trenches, which undermined the morale of the German troops even while they were retreating in good order before the onslaught of the Allies. It is, therefore, very important that the home front should be made as safe as possible from the social and economic point of view.
What is the problem which confronts us? It falls into two categories. First, it is a regional problem, and secondly, an age problem. It is the problem and tragedy of the great exporting industries, the tragedy of the valley of the Clyde, the tragedy of the Cumberland towns on the Solway Firth, the tragedy of the Tyne and Tees, the problem of the great 565 Lancashire towns which lie between the Pennines and the Irish Channel, the problem of the coal-mining valleys running from the Bristol Channel into the Welsh hills. That is the problem of the great exporting areas. Secondly, it is a problem of the older workers who, through the course of years, gradually lose their competitive value with younger workers, and who, at the same time, have to support a wife and family, and see no future for themselves. We have to realise that the problem is partly brought about by the fact that we are in a state of transition between two periods, the period of nineteenth century economy and twentieth century economy. In the nineteenth century workers flocked from the agricultural areas to find a livelihood in the grime and soot and crowded houses of the great industrial cities. Agriculture was neglected at the expense of industry, and to export became the fundamental objective of British economy. Nowadays, in the twentieth century, we find that the slogan, "Sell as much as you can and buy as little," prevalent throughout the whole world. We find ourselves in a period of tariff barriers, self-sufficiency and closed economies, and naturally this nation, the greatest export nation in the world, finds its economy temporarily dislocated.
Now what are our assets. We have a splendid asset, the asset of the national income, which has been variously estimated as roughly £4,000,000,000 a year. We draw that national income not only from our exports, from our invisible exports and from investments overseas, but from a splendid home market which, even in times of depression, is fortified by the social services ensuring a minimum purchasing power for the poorest of tthe poor. I think in these days it is not so much a question of objective, as of method, which divides us. Hon. Members opposite think that they can achieve their objective by nationalising the resources and industries of the country. Hon. Members on this side believe that the best method is to allow the individual to make his profit and then distribute the wealth of the nation by a carefully graded Income Tax. But at any rate we have tremendous assets with which to face this vast problem. What are the methods by which we should try to face this problem? There are the social services. But the social services, splendid as they are, have grown up in a 566 very haphazard way. They are administered, as far as one can see, by three authorities—by the Central Government, acting through various Ministries, by the local authorities, and by various voluntary organisations and approved societies.
Let me go briefly through the life of a working man or woman and see with how many authtorities they may be brought into contact. A mother both before and after the birth of her child can receive treatment at a maternity welfare centre under the Ministry of Health. If her child is fortunate to be one of the 5,000 it can go to a nursery school between the ages of two and five and when it reaches the age of five will join one of the 6,000,000 children in the elementary schools which come under the Board of Education. It will be medically examined by a doctor approved by the Board of Education. If he is a boy and goes to a factory he will be examined by a doctor under the Home Office. If he injures himself he will come under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. If he is unfortunate enough to be unemployed he will receive certain insurance benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Board which will cover his dependants. But if he falls ill and receives a cash benefit under the health schemes, he will not be able to receive benefits for his dependants as under the unemployment insurance scheme. At the age of 65 he receives a pension under the health insurance scheme, towards which he has contributed, and at 70 years of age he receives a pension to which he has not contributed, administered by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise.
I believe that these many authorities show us one thing, and that is that the time has come when a far greater coordination of the social services should be carried out. Their haphazard development in the past has left two or three gaps. The first gap is between the ages of two and five. At the present moment only some 5,000 children are able to attend a nursery school and some 170,000 to attend nursery classes in the ordinary school. The second gap which should be covered is this—that the dependants in national health benefits do not enjoy the same rights as dependants in unemployment insurance. Finally, I believe there is still a great deal to be considered regarding the question of old age. At the present time it is true that about 500,000 567 people who are receiving old age pensions are still in work. The 10s. per week was not intended originally as a living allowance, it was meant to implement savings. In those areas where the great exporting industries have suffered so much, there are unfortunately no savings; and it is a fact which we cannot refuse to face that the pride and self-respect of old age pensioners are gravely injured when they have to go to the public assistance committees to implement their pensions.
May I make one suggestion? It may sound revolutionary, but I think it is well worth considering. Is it not possible to have a comprehensive social security Act which would make it possible for the worker to pay his contribution towards unemployment or health or old age to one central body? If that is not possible it would be very valuable to have a permanent social services statutory committee modelled somewhat on the lines of the Unemployment Insurance Board. Such a statutory committee would be able to go over the whole field of the social services and see where co-ordination was practicable, and whether a greater equality of benefits should not be paid over the whole field of the social services. We are now faced with a time of great stress. We see countries arming themselves feverishly with all the most terrible equipment that modem science can provide. But it is equally true that the health and happiness and fitness of the people are just as much their strength as are their armaments. It is the health and the security of the people which give them confidence and sound nerves to face any situation, however formidable.
§ 6.9 p.m.
In rising to address this House for the first time I am confident that I shall receive the indulgence of hon. Members. I feel that I want to take part in this Debate because I have a mandate from the electors of Dartford. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) on Thursday said:I have noticed it said in the Press and in every by-election lately that the issue today is foreign policy. I wonder whether that is right? I wonder whether the question is not a little different; whether the main issue should not be the building of a better and stronger Britain, which alone can make a stronger foreign policy? … So it seems to me that in this country we have two tasks of overwhelming importance, the security and 568 well-being of our people, the strengthening of our home defences and the creation of a condition of life that is tolerable for all, a life that will give work and interest to every section of our community. These problems, I believe, are being obscured."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1938; col. 377, Vol. 341.]It is quite true that the recent by-election at Oxford may have been fought entirely on foreign policy, but I claim that we fought the election at Dartford not only on foreign policy, but on the condition of the people of this country. I, as a Socialist, placed peace right in the fore-front of my programme. I told the men and women electors of Dartford that we desired a real peace, a lasting peace, peace with honour and peace with security, because I realised that if we had to use the wealth of this country and mortgage the wealth of the future in a mad race for supremacy in armaments we could never hope to better the conditions of the vast masses of the people at home. My Conservative opponent did try to confine it to one issue—namely, that as the Prime Minister had kept the country out of war they ought to pass a vote of thanks to him and send a Conservative to this House. I fought the election not only on peace, but on the great poverty problem, the condition of the people, unemployment and the maintenance of the social services, and indeed, an extension of the social services. I brought forward the questions which have been referred to today, the questions of maternal mortality and infant mortality, the urgent need for further social reforms, the great need for the economic reorganisation of the life of the community as well as a more equal distribution of the wealth of the country. In fact, the issues upon which the verdict was given in the Dartford Division were the great human problems which confront us as a nation, poverty or plenty, war or peace. In my judgment there is a lack of vision and little hope in the King's Speech in regard to the future development of the economic life of our community.
I want to refer briefly to the unemployment problem To-day we have 1,750,000 registered as workless. That is, I believe, just under 500,000 more than a year ago, and yet we see literature and posters on the hoardings at election times in which we are told that we are now enjoying a boom period, a period of prosperity. I do not represent a 569 depressed area, but even in a busy industrial constituency there are still unemployed, and I am well aware of the condition and plight of people in the depressed areas. These depressed areas still remain in their tragic stagnant state, and I know, too, the conditions of large sections of our working classes, those who are not totally unemployed, but who are under-employed, who have a terrific struggle to keep the home fires burning, a terrific struggle to buy even the necessities of life. In fact, I go so far as to say that many of the under-employed sections of the community are just as badly off as the men and women who are totally unemployed.
We have had these conditions in the depressed areas for a considerable time. I do not propose to traverse the ground that has been covered by other speakers in referring to the depressed areas, but I am concerned about the abandonment of hope by the people who live in those areas. In my constituency, we are faced with the problem that where work is perhaps a little more plentiful, there are large numbers of young people coming from the depressed areas to find work there. That means that there is a breaking up of family life in the depressed areas. It means that there are middle-aged and elderly people who are left alone in those areas. I feel that is not good for any community.
Many eminent economists have prophesied that in the immediate future there will be an acute economic depression. I would like to ask the Government whether they have any development plans to meet that oncoming economic depression. It seems to me that, as we still have this huge army of workless men and women at the present time, the question of what is going to be the situation when this economic depression comes, arises more acutely. I believe that the best policy is to keep our people in work. I feel it is better to do that, and to pay them trade union wages, thus enabling them to maintain their homes and standard of life, and to buy the necessities of life, instead of having them thrown out of employment and drawing unemployment benefits, or, if they are out long enough, public assistance—and as is known by anyone who knows anything about unemployment and about how far money goes in the purchase of the necessities of 570 life, these amounts are totally inadequate for the immediate needs of the people. As a housewife, I know all about unemployment. I have experienced unemployment in my life, and my sympathy goes out to the wives and mothers in the homes. Even if her husband is working full time, on the miserable wages which the average workmen gets in this country the wife has to be very careful in handling the income if she is to maintain her family in decency and comfort; and her plight is rendered more difficult if she has a reduced income, with a reduced spending power, because of her husband being unemployed. My sympathy goes to the women-folk of this country, who manage so well even in these difficult times. I wonder whether the Government have studied the development plans of the New Zealand Labour Government, the Swedish Labour Government, and even the American Capitalist Government, which have done so much to mitigate the problem of unemployment.
I want now to say something about the social services. I gave great prominence to the question of maternal mortality and maternal morbidity during my campaign, and I was pleased to note that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health dealt with these important problems in his speech to-day. While I appreciate that there has been a slight decrease in maternal mortality, as a mother I do not feel satisfied with a state of affairs in which the maternal mortality is such that about 2,000 mothers pass over each year in bringing life into the world. I know from experience of working-class conditions throughout the length and breadth of this country that the majority of the mothers that pass over are working-class mothers. They pay the toll. I was glad to hear the Minister of Health state that the Government and his Department are exploring all the newer methods whereby they might save the lives of mothers. It is a tragedy that in this country, the richest in the world, we should have such a high maternal mortality rate.
I have heard many of the great medical experts of this country lecture on this question, and I have heard the statement made that between 6o per cent. and So per cent. of these mothers' lives could have been saved. I think that is a terrible indictment of our social system. I do not feel complacent when I realise that 35,000 babies under the age of one year 571 pass out every year. Surely, we out-Herod Herod in this day of so-called civilisation. As a social worker, I have been brought face to face with the terrible scourge of tuberculosis. There are in this country 30,000 deaths from that disease every year, and I know that there is a connection between that disease and poor housing and poor nutrition. I hope the Government will bear these facts in mind, and do everything humanly possible to try to deal with this disease in its early stages.
I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health is in his place. I want to refer to a question arising out of the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made in my constituency. I regret the necessity for doing this, but I want to quote a statement that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in the Debate in the House last Tuesday. Now, I was very grateful indeed to the Government for sending the Minister of Health to speak in my constituency. My only regret was that the Government did not send a Cabinet Minister down every day, because it would have made it very much easier for me. As an old campaigner, I checked up the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in all the great national newspapers, and all of them gave a report of the exact words. The right hon. Gentleman declared:Opponents of the Government said that not enough money had been spent on arms. They must remember that it was because it had been spent on housing, health and pensions. 'It may be that we shall have to make inroads in these great social services. We should do so with great regret because we should be hindering the things we want to preserve'.That statement was made at a meeting in Crayford on the Thursday evening, and I checked it up in every national newspaper on the Friday; I also checked it in the local newspapers; and there was a remarkable unanimity amongst all shades of political thought in the place. Naturally, people wanted to know what all this meant, and as I believe in getting down to brass tacks, I took up the questions of housing, health and pensions. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health just came down and dotted the "i's" and crossed the "t's" of everything I had been saying, except that I had not dared to include the question of pensions. Naturally that 572 speech created a great deal of interest and a great deal of consternation. Therefore, we were entitled to ask whether we were going to have a new economy campaign in which there would be a drastic curtailment of the social services. On 8th November the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said:With regard to social services, it is not to he expected that we can at one and the same time embark upon the enormous armament programme, the full cost of which we are not yet in a position to estimate, and vast projects of social improvements which would lay on the taxpayers fresh and impossible burdens. [Interruption.] I have always said that. That is a very different thing, however, from inventing stories of alleged statements by members of the Government for electioneering purposes, to the effect that the Government are now contemplating cuts in the existing social services. There is no foundation for any suggestion of that kind. Nothing that has been said by any Minister gives any just foundation for such an accusation. Not only have we not suggested for one moment that existing services must be curtailed, but, as the Gracious Speech shows, we are still making further extension of social services and provisions for public health."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1938; col. 29, Vol. 341.]I did not expect that the Prime Minister would be pleased with the result at Dart-ford, but I do resent the imputation that we inventedstories of alleged statements by members of the Government for electioneering purposes.I feel we ought to have some explanation. I tried to fathom out the explanation that was given this afternoon, but like other hon. Members, I am afraid that I have difficulty in getting to know what is the exact position. We have also had a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport, in which, during the same week, he gave a similar hint of retrenchment. Speaking at Bristol, he said:The enormous cost of preparations during the crisis and the programme the Government is carrying out means that it will not he easy to maintain our standard of living.I want to say that the mandate which the electors of Dartford have given me is that they demand that there shall be no curtailment of the social services. As a matter of fact, they demand an extension of these great humane services. We want, not a curtailment of pensions, but a higher standard of life for the widows and their children, and for the old people, many thousands of whom have to seek public assistance or help from relatives 573 in order to live; and, I would add that we do not desire to see any curtailment of the pensions of ex-Service men either. When these statements by members of the Government are reported in the Press, it seems to me that they are simply saying to the people of this country what Dr. Goebbels is reported to have said to the people of Germany, "You cannot have guns and butter." We say that you cannot have great expenditure on armaments and maintain even our present standard of life.
I find great concern among the women. Already, they have to bear a great burden of indirect taxation which makes it impossible for them to do justice to their children and their homes and the burden is ever-increasing because the tendency is to shift it from direct to indirect taxation. The women say, "Surely you do not ask us to sacrifice to-day's bread for to-morrow's war?" We want to put the burden on the shoulders best able to bear it and we can give hints to the Government on how to find the money to pay for rearmament and readjust their finances. We regard the reorganisation of the economic life of our community as a fundamental necessity. We believe that the workers, who create the wealth of the nation, ought to have a fairer share of the good things which they produce. Our women, particularly, want good homes. They want security against poverty and they want better and happier lives for their children, as well as peace on earth and good will to all men. To achieve those ends we must have economic planning. We must have a Government of vision, of courage, of determination, who will realise clearly the need of reconstruction for the real strength and prosperity of the people.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
It is my privilege to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) on a speech which, I think, genuinely interested the whole House. She need not fear that her future interventions in debate will not be warmly welcomed by all parties in the House, and not only by her own. She has just come here from one of those conflicts in which the issues of politics are, naturally, divided as clearly as black is from white. She may discover here in the House that, after all, we are far more united in our aims than may sometimes 574 appear on the platform, and that even as regards method there is a pretty wide field over which all parties can agree. I wonder whether, listening to the Minister of Health this afternoon, the hon. Lady was not, to some extent, reassured that the creature was not as wholly black as she may have painted him a week or so ago. There really is no considerable section in this House which believes that our effort at rearmament to-day should be at the expense of our social services. The Prime Minister has, clearly, brushed that suggestion aside. On the contrary, I believe there is a large and growing section of all parties, which is convinced that the very dangers we have to face outside are only an additional argument for getting ahead more boldly and more swiftly with those social reforms which are essential, if in the long run, we are to hold our own in the world.
The two things are not contrasted and separate. They are part of one national effort. Indeed, if I thought that our effort at rearmament was to stand by itself, I should despair of it saving the country. It is only by regarding it as part of a wider effort for national regeneration that we can hope that it will see us through not only the present and the immediate future but what lies ahead. How can we afford at a time like the present, when the danger that confronts us is from a nation of 80,000,000, fully engaged in production, to have the best part of 2,000,000 of our people not playing their part in production but actually subtracting from it? Again, when we are faced with the competition of a people who lay stress on the healthy development of their young manhood and womanhood, how can we afford a situation in which something like 25 per cent. of the children of our country are growing up under-nourished and likely to belong to the C3 rather than the A1 type when they grow up? How can we, confronted by dangers not of to-day and to-morrow but of the generations which lie ahead, contemplate with equanimity the prospect of our population, already small as compared with some of our competitors, steadily dwindling, above all in the younger spheres of life? I should have thought that, clearly, the call to-day would be for a national effort to lift us on to a new plane not merely of strength in relation to the outside world, but of what 575 goes with it and cannot be separated from it—greater health, greater unity, greater effort.
I come to some of the particular topics which have been raised in this Debate, and there is one—national fitness—with regard to which rather high hopes were encouraged in some of us a few years ago, that we should really have a bold and comprehensive policy of physical training. My right hon. Friend referred in passing to the fact that something like £750,000 had been allocated or spent in various ways under that head. Frankly, as compared with the scale of the national need, that seems to me to be very much of a half-measure. Something far bolder and more comprehensive is wanted. It is now something like 18 years since this House passed a great educational Measure, the Fisher Act. In that Measure it was contemplated that the whole youth of the nation from the school age to 18 would be given full facilities for part-time education. I think it included in that education the possibility of physical training and if it did not, a one-Clause Act could remedy the deficiency. Has not the time come when that Act, which has been dormant over practically the whole country ever since, might be brought into effect, not only for the education of our growing population to greater efficiency in industry and a greater capacity for enjoying culture, but also on the physical side bur building up a healthy manhood and womanhood?
Personally, I would go even further. I should like to see instituted at the end of that period of physical training some continuous period of training for national service of some kind or other. That would, naturally, include service in the Home Defence Forces, but I should like to see it also include service in such things as agriculture and merchant shipping—in those branches of national life where in. peace and even more in war, we are losing some of the finest of our people and some of the finest qualities of the race. There is great scope for something of that sort. It would be well worth doing on the ground of education in the responsibilities of citizenship, even if it were not, as it is in my opinion, essential from the point of view of Defence. I believe that even if we had no external danger to face for 50 years to come, it would still be worth while introducing something of that kind 576 both for the actual training which would be given and for the sense of citizenship, of duty, of doing something beyond one's own immediate personal interests.
It may be that what I have said will not commend itself to hon. Members opposite, but there is something else which, I think, will commend itself to all of us. It will be said, and very truly said, that physical training can do little good if it is applied to bodies which, for lack of nourishment, are not in a state to take full advantage of it. That brings me to what is, in my opinion, the gravest national problem on the social side at this moment. That is the terribly large proportion of our growing children who are not nourished as they ought to be. My right hon. Friend referred just now to Sir John Orr. According to Sir John Orr, something like 25 per cent. of the children of the country are fed on a diet which is lacking in every one of the protective constituents essential for real health and vitality. In his opinion, barely half the children of the country enjoy an adequate diet. Possibly that may be an overstatement. On the other hand, a number of social inquiries in recent years have brought out, with most deplorable identity of results, the extent to which undernourishment prevails among the children of our working class.
The Mersey-side inquiry into some 7,000 families showed that while under-nourishment affected something 16 per cent. of the families, it affected nearly 25 per cent. of the children, all of whom were below the British Medical Association standard of nutrition. A similar inquiry in Sheffield showed under-nourishment prevailing among something like 27 per cent. of the children. Another inquiry in Southampton showed that it prevailed among 30 per cent. An inquiry in Miles Platting, one of the poorer districts of Lancashire, showed a figure as high as 39 per cent. When we come to the distressed areas, or to that greatest of our distressed areas, our agricultural working population, the figure is even more serious. I have seen the returns of an inquiry into the condition of the children in four rural schools in West Sussex. These showed that 75 per cent. of the children were not adequately nourished, and when the children of families whose parents were not earning 4os. a week—and in agriculture few of them to-day are earning that—were segregated, the 577 figure was 85 per cent. of those children. Surely that is something that we ought to face frankly. One thing emerges beyond all doubt from the recent inquiries, and in particular from the remarkable inquiry conducted on behalf of the Carnegie Trust, by the authors of that valuable book, "Men without Work," and that is that under-nourishment goes side by side with larger families. I say "larger" and not "large," because it is an extraordinary fact that with the children of to-day under-nourishment tends to begin whenever the family is of more than two or three children. I would like to read out one or two extracts which I have marked in the course of reading that book. Here is one, on page III:One other thing which the figures bring out must he emphasised, that the incidence of poverty is progressively greater according to the number of children under working age in the family concerned. The age group where most large families are found is 35–44. Table B4 shows that 50 per cent. of the cases in this age group were living below the George poverty line,' and these include the vast majority of men with families of two or more chillren.There is a passage on the following page:If we take the Liverpool situation as an example, it becomes at once apparent how serious things are. Of the 97 families with two or more children under 14, 83 were living below the 'poverty line.' The progressive figures illustrate the facts even more vividly. Of the 38 families where there was only one child of school age, 20 were living below the poverty line; 21 of the 31 families where there were two children of school age; 24 of the 26 families where there were three children; all 13 families where there were four, and 25 of 27 families where there were five or more children below school age.It is not only the children who suffer, because the natural self-sacrificing instincts of mothers often tend to make them bear the heaviest burden of suffering on their own heads. On page 139 is the opinion of a medical officer whowas emphatic in stating that the most serious effects of unemployment were to be found in the wives of unemployed men. It was a matter of daily experience to observe the obvious signs of malnutrition in the appearance of the wives of unemployed men with families. They obviously did without things for the sake of their husbands and children.I am not sure that there is not some connection between that fact and the maternal mortality of which the hon. Lady spoke so feelingly just now. That is serious enough when we think of the prospect in life of those children, but it 578 is also serious when we think of the effects upon national life as a whole. Those effects are becoming more and more marked year by year. One of them is that those who have any regard for the welfare of their wives and their children hesitate before they allow more children to come into the world. We are faced by a steady, progressive shrinking of our population, one which may become terribly serious from the point of view both of defence and of employment, because it means steadily contracting home markets at a time when, with economic nationalism in every direction, the home market has become increasingly important in every country. It is difficult to criticise those who care for the children they have at the expense of the children they might have. I will not say anything on this matter from what may be called the religious point of view, but at any rate, from the point of view of any moral standard, surely it is wrong that the natural instincts of parenthood should be frustrated to the extent to which they are in England to-day and that that best of all education in youth and happiness in after-life which comes from membership of a large family should be increasingly denied.
What is the remedy? It is essentially to be found in the sphere of wages. Our attention was drawn to it recently by the difficulty which the Unemployment Assistance Board have felt in adjusting their scale, not an excessive scale, to their other duty of not giving an incentive to the unemployed man not to work. That is a serious but still minor aspect of the problem. The real question is, How is our wage system in this country to meet this crying and urgent need? If we could, by a wave of the wand, bring the wage level of this country all round up to what is required for a large family, that would be the most obvious and the most desirable thing to do, but frankly that is not possible to-day. To do it even if it were to provide for three children is, in the opinion of so progressive and sympathetic a social reformer as Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, entirely out of the question and, as has been pointed out, to provide a wage level to cover three children would be in fact to make provision for 19,000,000 non-existent children, and yet not to meet the need of those children who are in larger families. Of every 100 men engaged in industry above 579 20, only 40 per cent. have any children, and only 13 per cent. have three or more children. That shows that a comparatively small effort would deal with the most urgent need.
What I would urge is that the Government should give serious consideration to some scheme or system of family allowances, such as is already in force with very beneficial results in very many countries. I need not detain the House by going into any particular scheme, because that, after all, is the Government's responsibility. Personally, I think it could easily be added on to those schemes of insurance which already work so smoothly and with which we are so familiar. It could be added on, at any rate to meet the most urgent need, at a comparatively small cost. The other day I was given a pamphlet, in which it was stated that the late Lord Snowden unhesitatingly rejected the idea of family allowances because he calculated it to cost £115,000,000 a year. I believe that if we did give 5s. a week to every child in this country, it would be something not far off that figure. It is a fact, however, that the cost goes down with almost geometrical progression according as you begin with the first child or only with subsequent children. I have had the figures of one large industrial undertaking in the north from which it appears that to give 5s. a week to all their children would cost £180 a week; to begin with the second child would cost £90, to begin with the third child would cost £43, and to begin after the third child would cost only £15. In other words, to deal with the really grave problem, the family with over three children, would only cost one-twelfth of a scheme for dealing with all children. The most urgent problem, and the one that would get over the difficulty of the Unemployment Assistance Board, could be done, on the basis of the calculation made by Lord Snowden, for something well under £60,000,000, (Mr. Rowntree puts it at £6,000,000), and that on the lines of our insurance scheme, which surely ought not to be beyond the capacity of this country.
All that I would ask of hon. Members opposite is not to reject this offhand as a device for shirking the fundamental and broader question of general wages. I would only say to them that if that were an objection, it would have 580 been an objection to every social reform of the last generation. I leave it at that. To the Government I would say, Why not have an inquiry? After all, they have never shown themselves wholly averse to inquiries, and if the inquiry produced a result about which they felt some hesitation, they could always appoint another commission, with terms of reference so framed as to be sure that the second commission would show that the proposals of the first were impossible.
May I turn for a moment to the question of where these social reforms are to come from? If we think of that merely in terms of money, of drawing upon a certain fixed sum, we shall never arrive at a conclusion. We have to think of it, as the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) spoke of it this afternoon, in terms of production. We have to get away from the Nineteenth Century outlook and to get down to fundamental matters of production and the objects of production. If I may say a word, first of all, on the purely human aspect, it seems to me a very poor second best to think an unemployed man should be drawing money instead of being given, by training or in some other way, facilities to do some work that will call out his natural abilities and give him that satisfaction which every man feels in the exercise of those abilities. We have gone on year after year with what is essentially a makeshift system of dealing with unemployment. Is it not time to make a much firmer effort to cope with it on the basis of training the unemployed?
At the same time, behind that we must create a national policy of production. I agree entirely with what the hon. Member for Anglesey said about the possibilities of greater food production. We have to look at that problem directly. Is it or is not a good thing that the land of England should be unused? If it is a bad thing, then questions of international free trade or tariff reform ought not to stand in the way of our making the fullest use of our own land. It is the same with our industrial production. I may not have the assent of hon. Members on the other side of the House, but hon. Members on this side who are convinced of the desirability and the benefit of a protective tariff cannot really be satisfied with a situation in which every year something like £175,000,000 worth of competitive 581 manufactures is entering this country. Even if you said that we should admit £75,000,000 of that in order to keep alive a spirit of competition, a reduction of those imports by £100,000,000 would afford additional employment in industry for over half a million workers. At any rate, that is the case on the principle in which our own Government believe. If the Government believe in it, why do not they walk boldly forward? I appeal to them to get away from the whole atmosphere of tentative half measures in which we have been living in recent years in every aspect of our life. I would bid them be bold, and again be bold, and again be bold. Let them take their courage in their hand and, above all, let them not be frightened of their own people. The people of this country are to-day only too anxious for a lead, and there is no more fatal mistake that a Government can make than to underestimate the patriotism of the British people.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I would like to say, first of all, in regard to the discussion that took place between the Minister of Health and my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate, that I am quite certain that when the bill comes to be paid, either for armaments or for war, the only people who will pay it, and pay it with suffering, are the very poor. I have a very vivid recollection of 1931 and of the mariner in which many years after the close of the War the poor were penalised—the old age pensioners, the widows and everybody else who was poor. It is quite true that we were told that there would be equality of sacrifice, but that must always be measured by how much a person is left after he has made the sacrifice. Therefore, I do not want to argue with anyone as to whether the cost of armaments will bring about a reduction in social services. I am quite certain that if we go on at the rate at which we are going now, and if in the end those armaments are used, the people who will suffer most are the poor, and the poorest of the poor. Many people in my division are suffering now from the results of what was clone in 1931.
With regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery), when you are dealing with the question of child-bearing and large or small families there are other 582 considerations than those he mentioned. The chief consideration is what is to be the future of the child that is to be brought into the world. When they read all the speeches and the newspaper articles to-day I think many women are feeling that it is not right to bring a child into the world to face the sort of conditions which may be brought about by the piling up of armaments. But there is the other question, and perhaps the more fundamental one, because it runs all through life: What occupation is the child to follow, what is to be the position of the child when he goes out to work? I have often spoken on this subject in the House. The thing that appals me is that we spend many millions a year and the lives and energies of many thousands of men and women to train young people, and when they are 14 years of age they are tumbled on to the labour market, which will employ many thousands of them till they are about 15 or 16, and then tumble them on to unemployment insurance. If I were a young man again I certainly should consider very long and deeply before I became responsible for bringing a child into the world without knowing that either I or society would give that child the right to a full, decent, wholesome life. And when the right hon. Gentleman says that we should offer five shillings per head for the third child, all I can say is that I never knew that my third child cost less than the first child. Children have all cost me the same, and this reduction on a quantity did not prevail in my time.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Yes, but there is never enough for the first—that is the point. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to try to start all over again on 3os. a week, and to live at Barking and work in the City and have to pay fares, as many do. But I do not want to follow the right hon. Gentleman further. I have risen to say something about what I consider are the true issues before this country and every other country in regard to the condition of the people. I would point out, in passing, that the great countries of Europe, and even America, are slowly becoming more or less totalitarian in their 583 administration. It was rather amazing to listen, as I did the other night, to the broadcast speech of the French Finance Minister, and as I sat with one of my family I said, "This is extraordinary. The French Government has persuaded the Parliament to adjourn, and now far-reaching decrees are being issued by and on the authority of the Cabinet, but really on the authority of one man chosen by the Cabinet to represent them on these issues. "I thought to myself," There in France they are facing a condition of things similar to that which the German nation and the Italian nation had to face, though the conditions that prevail in France to-day are much more favourable than those that prevailed in the last two countries."
But the point is that in each of those countries they are now having to tackle the question of the condition of the people by extraordinary means. I may be told that they are forced to do it because of armaments and the fear of war. Whether that is so or not I will not argue, but I am quite certain that the situation would have arisen sooner or later if they had gone on living from hand to mouth, as they have done in the past. When I listen to speeches in this House and read speeches delivered in France and in other countries and see the sort of devices to which the Governments are reduced in order to balance their budgets, I am reminded of Carlyle's description of France just previous to the French Revolution, when Minister after Minister tried to put off the evil day by all kinds of extraordinary devices that never worked, until at last the explosion took place.
I suppose I ought not to expect that this House would be very much concerned with the actual administration of affairs in France, except perhaps that she is our ally, but it is the similarity of conditions in our own country which worries and perplexes me. We are now living in a sort of way that passes all understanding if you start from the ordinary economic conception of national life and national finance. We are spending huge sums of money for non-productive purposes. It is not merely that money is being expended; that is only the symbol. The real thing that is being spent is the skill, the scientific knowledge, the inventive genius of the nation. They are being 584 spent in that one direction while we still have 2,000,000 unemployed. I believe that the figure would be very much larger if you took the people who are not insured, and who do not come within the Act. I take no comfort from the fact that someone may say, "Well the number who are permanently out is so many" and I think the cruellest thing of all is the number of young people unemployed for whom nothing is being done.
Let me just touch on another point. Much play is made with what is done by the Minister of Labour in providing centres for reclaiming people who, because of unemployment, have sunk to such a level that they are unemployable. I take no comfort from that, because the terrible thing is that even when you have reclaimed them, as a distinguished person said to me the other day, what you do is to give them a sort of preference over other men who need a job as much as they do; but you recondition them—a horrible word to apply to human beings—and therefore, they must be found jobs. What I am trying to point out is that no new employment is caused by this system. One of the greatest supporters of social service in this country, a gentleman who spends no end of time visiting one centre after another, and who is enthusiastic in doing the job, said to me the other day, "Every time I visit one of those places I am depressed for days afterwards, because of the hopelessness of it all and because we are not doing anything really constructive."
It is time the House took this question in hand. I have heard speeches from my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan) and from my hon. Friends above the Gangway, and speeches like those we heard last week from the opposite benches ever since 1923. They are the same speeches over and over again, and all that Governments do is to repeat the same sort of dope. The Government of which I was a Member did it. Members cheered Mr. Thomas when he said we were going to have bigger railway trucks and new ships to take coal to Canada and bring wheat back, and heaven knows what miracle was not going to happen, but it was always to-morrow and never to-day. Tonight again we have the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, and I would ask anybody what there was in the speech that appertained 585 to the fundamental issue of to-day. What single word did he say which showed that the Government had the least conception of what it is we are facing?
We are living in a new world. When I look back over my lifetime I can hardly understand the conditions of to-day. If I had not grown into them, as it were, I could not understand them. Many a man of my age and younger does not understand that he has lived through a revolutionary period of human society, a period of greater revolution than that which took place after Waterloo. In the last 25 years electricity has come in, and we have had the knowledge that men can speed round the world in a few hours and can speak to the world in a few minutes. We have, too, this greatest knowledge, that the countries that were formerly our customers, like America was when I was a young man, and like the Dominions and Colonies, like Japan, India and Europe were, are to-day our competitors in the world market. All of them, even the Dominions, now want secondary industries and want to supply their own needs. What is the use of fooling round with the sort of talk, every word of which is true, that the Minister of Health used to-day, and what is the use of the House of Commons saying that it is going to uphold democracy and do this, that and the other, when it means doing nothing whatever?
I want to make an appeal to the House. I have been wanting to do it for days, but I would not try to do it last week because it seemed we were in the midst of a dog fight most of the time. We on this side are Socialists, and I believe that I am more dogmatically Socialist in my thoughts than ever, but I am living in a society that does not accept it. This House does not accept it. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook that every one of us wants the best for our fellow-men and women that we can give them, but we disagree how it is to be done. When I sat on the Front Opposition Bench as leader of the Labour party, I said to the young men in the party, "For God's sake, get together and try to hammer out the problem of how to meet the new economic conditions we are living in." Since those days things have become much more difficult. Germany, Italy, Russia and America are all, as I have said, 586 struggling in a totalitarian way. I want the young men of this House to get together—not, however, to form a new party. I do not think it is possible to do that, because of the great division between us on fundamentals. What the hon. Member for one of the Lancashire divisions said is true, that while many hon. Members opposite still adhere to the private enterprise theory of production, they are now willing that a bigger share should go to the workmen. It is a great step forward to have got men to see that far along the road which I would like us to travel, but we have to-day to face things together, and I should like to see a committee set up, not by Parliament, but from Parliament by Members themselves. I should like to see them demand from the Government the facilities by which they can get all the knowledge they require in order that they may study this problem—what are we going to do with regard to the export trade? How can we, if it is at all possible, restore that trade or develop it in some way which does not seem possible at present?
We are now at a deadlock. When figures are thrown across the Floor of the House about the income of the country and so on, I beg hon. Members not to forget that our invisible exports are nothing like what they were a few years ago, and nobody has the least confidence that we shall be able to get back to the pre-War situation. I should like to see the younger Members especially get together. I am probably in age second to my hon. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne); we are probably the two oldest Members in the House, and I think he would agree that we want to see the young men have their chance. I would like to see the younger men in the House get together, to forget the smoke-room for a few nights, and to devote, say, two nights a week—Tories, Liberals, and Nothingarians together—to hammering out the problem of what we are to do with this country. We cannot go on in the old way. I am certain of that. There will be a crash in Europe and a crash here unless there is a change. The only change is to find a means of lifting the load of poverty from our own people and from Europe. As it is true that no individual can live to himself, so it is true that no nation can live to itself. Some means have to be found—not tariffs or quotas, for these have been tried. If any- 587 one still has faith in them I beg them to read the speeches and to recall the jubilates that were sung when the Prime Minister came home from Canada with the Ottawa Agreements. The Government smothered us on this side with what they were going to do, and yet we are in the position in which we find ourselves to-day.
I cannot subscribe to the appeal of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), for, as I understood it, a new sort of alignment of parties. My appeal is for a coming together of the men and women who are in earnest, which means that they ought to be the younger men and women in the House, and that they should get from the Government all the information which a Royal Commission would have at its disposal. They should not have any advisers from the Treasury or anywhere else to advise them what to think. What is needed to-day is a little original thinking. If we want to save democracy the only way is by getting rid of poverty and destitution, by dealing with the hungry millions throughout Europe—the eternal disgrace of this civilisation—starving in the midst of plenty.
§ 7.27 p.m.
I am sure that all hon. Members have listened with deep interest and sympathy to the human appeal which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). All I can say is that if the younger Members of the House and the younger people in the country had half the vigour of the right hon. Gentleman, many of our problems would be solved. I have also listened with great interest to the vigorous speech of the Minister of Health. I, for one, feel satisfied that our social services are not only not to be curtailed, but are to be increased in many directions. The Prime Minister said last week that the ultimate aim of this Government is the improvement of the standard of living of the people. We all agree that if our democratic system is to be maintained and flourish we must be ever moving forward at a reasonable speed with all our social services.
I am particularly glad that the education service has been mentioned in the King's Speech. I have been privileged during the last few years to visit schools 588 all over the country, and I am sure anyone who has done this will agree that one cannot fail to be deeply impressed and thrilled by the new spirit of vigour, enthusiasm and happiness which pervades all the schools, especially the new senior and central schools. I was glad to hear the Minister of Health deal with Circular 1464. I have heard hon. Members opposite begging the Government to adopt a policy of priorities. It seems to me that this is exactly what has been done in issuing this Circular. The main object of that Circular is to encourage local authorities to do everything they can to provide the maximum amount of senior accommodation by the time the school-leaving age is raised next year, so that the greatest benefit may accrue to the children who are to stay an extra year at school.
I should like to make one or two remarks on the subject of unemployment, we are all agreed that it is not only in the interests of the individual but in the interests of democracy that we should tackle immediately this tragedy in our national life. It is essential to make unemployment as much a priority as armaments, and I ask the Minister of Labour whether it would not be possible to lay down some definite programme, some time schedule, under which a certain number of the unemployed would be given work in a specified time. The Minister of Labour has already, very wisely, by statistics divided up the whole problem of unemployment. We have now the most detailed and valuable information on this subject, and, in addition, I suppose there is no Government Department which has not an enormous amount of information available. Dozens of schemes and reports, and probably hundreds of suggestions, have been issued on this question, and I wonder whether it would not be possible for him to set up at once some non-political unemployment commission for the sole purpose of submitting a programme of suggestions and a time table for dealing with this important matter.
On all sides to-day we hear people saying, "If only we could retain the wonderful spirit which was apparent during the crisis"—the spirit of service, the desire to do something for the country, the breaking down of class distinctions and class barriers. I think the class consciousness which still exists 589 in this country, and is not confined to any particular section of the community, is a great source of weakness in our national life, and ought to be recognised as such and broken down. In times of crisis and emergency it disappears, and largely through its disappearance there emerges a real sense of unity, a unity based on a real equality between human beings arid which should always exist in a democracy. Lord Baldwin said the other day in another place that if only we could keep that spirit of brotherhood which was so apparent during the crisis it would go a long way in solving all the problems of the world to-day. Why cannot we resolve to keep this spirit in peace as well as in war? As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said the other day, this is a testing-time for Great Britain. To-day we have to prove many fundamental things about democracy if we hope to retain our great position in the world. To my mind it is not by any system of compulsory service that we shall retain our greatness, but by taking a far harder course, that of inflicting on ourselves, each individually, the most severe dictatorship from within. I think that this way lies far the greatest national service that we can render in helping to make this country a land fit for heroes to live in before, and not after, a future war.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan
The hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) made, as always, a very useful contribution to our Debates, following upon the notable appeal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) who, as usual, has intervened to stimulate our minds and our enthusiasm. I am not sure, after having had some experience, that I have the same hope in the institution of what might be called inter-party study groups that my right hon. Friend still retains; but it is a sign of his youthful vigour that he thinks we can still make profitable use of that instrument. The Minister of Health gave us some impressive figures of the present state of our social services, and nobody can or would question them. Nevertheless, the right hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) and many other speakers have put something of the other side of the picture. The question mainly at issue, as regards the social services, is not any denial that great progress has 590 been made but at what rate progress shall continue. Despite my race and upbringing I do not propose to enter into the argument which was submitted with such dialectical skill as to the exact meaning of what my right hon. Friend did or did not say at a by-election, but I should have thought the plain fact of the matter was this, that whether or not the social services can be maintained in face of the rearmament which is now accepted as necessary depends upon two things, partly upon the financial policy which is pursued by those in control and partly upon the extent to which rearmament can be carried on by increasing production of existing men and plants and by bringing into production whatever labour, plants and capital are now idle. Surely it is on the answer to those two points that this, matter will finally be settled.
The Amendment to the Address, although dealing mainly with home affairs, is, I think, well timed, because, as the Minister for Health said when starting his speech, it is impossible to-day to dissociate home questions from foreign affairs. The present power of Great Britain and her rearmament in the future depend upon the solution of these home questions. They depend partly upon our capacity to organise the foreign trade upon which the employment and prosperity of many millions depend, and partly upon the improvement, physical, material and moral, of the people as a whole and, particularly, the unemployed. In all these problems Ministers latterly have displayed a curious duality. Those Ministers chiefly concerned with home affairs have during the last four or five years displayed a complacency which I might describe as amounting sometimes to a certain smugness. From 1931 to 1937 they trusted to the stimulating effects of tariffs, of currency depreciation, of the normal rise of the trade cycle, and did not think it worth while to bother about doing very much. It has been what I might call "the slag-heap period" of our policy. A few minor Bills, little tinkering Measures, to deal with the problem of the Special Areas and the unemployed were considered to be sufficient, and the chief anxiety of those Ministers has been directed towards not carrying out the recommendations of their own Commissions.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has shown a remarkable degree 591 of dexterity with, a sort of conjuring with, the figures of unemployment. Unemployment is explained away by breaking up the figures—I think that is the phrase. In other walks of life if we conjure too much with figures we can get into great difficulty. The Minister has tried, like Mrs. Partington, to sweep away unemployment, but with a graph instead of a mop. If he had been Secretary of State for Air he would have told us that what with those aeroplanes which Germany has completed and which are therefore obsolescent and those now under construction and therefore not available, there really is not any German air force at all. That is one side of the Government's attitude towards this great problem, the complacent, happy, pottering-on method which Ministers mainly responsible for home affairs acquire. The Defence and other Ministers have adopted an entirely different technique, the policy of the frank avowal. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to it the other day as the growth of a sort of political Buchmanism, by which people get up and testify what frightful sins they have committed and how badly they have conducted the affairs of their Departments. The "Times" used this charming expression of the Secretary of State for Home Affairs:The Secretary of State, whose frank avowals were well received by the House, as such avowals always are.We understand from theology that after confession and absolution should come penance.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I would suggest that the two Ministers chiefly concerned to-day, the Minister of Labour and the Minister for Health should do some penance, and I suggest that they might be incarcerated for a few weeks in a Trappist monastery. I have said that I think the solution of this question depends not only upon solving the problem of foreign trade on the one hand but of solving the problem of the poverty and insecurity of our people upon the other. Let us see what it is that we are up agaist. What has been the effort of Germany in recent years? In the first place, according to the best calculations, she has spent upon her military Budget alone, at a conservative figure, £750,000,000, 592 and probably £10,000,000, this year. That is more than our total Budget. One-fifth of the national income has been devoted to the sole purpose of defence. What has it been able to provide—I am not saying by methods which we should like to see here, but that makes it all the more important that we should realise what we have to face?
Let me give some examples. Take the conquered Sudeten area. Before the occupation by Germany, owing to the depression, that area, under a free economy, was working to 65 per cent, capacity. To-day it is already working to nearly 100 per cent. Another example. At the end of this year the Siegfried Line will be completed. It is reckoned that in the creation of that line 750,000 men must have been employed. There were 250,000 directly employed upon the building of the line and we can reckon that work would be found for two other men for every one so employed, seeing that it is a line of steel with much electrical work. When that work is finished this year those 750,000 men will not pass to be dealt with under Part I of an unemployment insurance scheme or on to the "dole"; they will go to other work. The strange irony of the situation is that there are many parts of this country that, apart from patriotism, liberty and freedom, would—quite honestly—not suffer so very much by the introduction of a totalitarian regime, because instead of being unemployed they would at least be employed. Coal would be taken out of the ground. We are in the terrible position that after all our efforts we have not been able to solve the problem, to the extent that we still have 2,000,000 people out of work on any given day.
What are the financial methods we have to meet? It is all very well to say "unorthodox finance," but it is very successful finance. We have to consider whether we shall have to alter, to some extent, the Victorian methods of finance and trade which have hitherto been satisfactory. How can we avoid price inflation and a rise in prices, and how can we compete, with the immense prior charges that we have, against companies that have largely written off their prior charges and to some extent actually the expenses of manufacture? Shall we be able to go on without an import and export control system? In the organisation of our trade we are still trying to operate without industry 593 trading as a whole, with a single firm. The individual buyer is up against countries who have a national representative for both buyer and seller. The operations of Dr. Funk must have made us feel that our trade organisation will have to be remedied and strengthened if we are to have any hope of maintaining successful competition in markets such as those.
We have heard a lot about industrial reorganisation and we have done something in some industries, such as coal and steel. I was very sorry to see that the promotion of Measures to assist the cotton industry is not to be proceeded with. I do not believe that we shall be able to go on with our old system of competition in the great major trades of this country. It was admirably suited to a period when price and quality were alone the test and when the individual buyer and seller could be brought together through the method of the market, but it is not so suited to a system in which trade is used as a political weapon and by which the whole machinery and character of foreign trade are changed. Moreover, I do not believe that we can make the kind of effort that will be required, with the present condition in which we have 2,000,000 out of work—1,000,000 of them for a long period and the rest of them, it is true, from time to time—with all the insecurity created by unemployment, idle plant and so on. I do not think we shall be able to make the enormous effort—far greater than most people conceive at the present time—which is required if we are to undertake the double task of rearmament upon a scale commensurate with our needs and the promotion of conditions and standards of life which will make the country worth fighting for. Those are tremendous tasks and they are not to be faced with the machinery and methods, and with the attitude of mind, which have so far characterised the Government when trying to deal with them.
You cannot make armaments in Lancashire or in the West Riding. You cannot put those men back into work in the armament trade. Have you considered whether you will not have to put them back to work at their own trade and to sell their products in the markets, perhaps without regard to profit, like the people against whom you are competing, and whether export subsidies will not have to be far more strongly used, to an 594 extent of which I do not think we have yet dreamt? All those points must be studied, not the mere tinkering with machinery to deal with unemployment, with a few twopenny-halfpenny methods, such as we have to-day. We are already congratulating ourselves upon the great strides which we have made—and it is obviously true—in the development of our social services. True as that is, that alone would not be sufficient to support us in the enormous struggle which, as I see it, lies before us.
One question which has been referred to is the location of industry. It is now doubly important because of the danger of air attack. The matter has been debated not for months but for years in this House. The report upon this subject of the Commissioner for Special Areas was originally made three years ago. A Royal Commission, which asked me to give evidence before it, has been sitting now for over a year, while all the time the question which it is considering is becoming more and more pressing, because of the increasing rapidity with which the Metropolitan part of the country is drawing people into it and because of the greatly increased danger of air attack.
When I turn to the second part of our problem, not the technical one of organising trade and industry but that relating to the condition of the people, all of us know the conditions existing in large industrial towns which suffered heavily in the depression. Those conditions are not merely reflected in the figures of trade but are harassing conditions which continue to apply to a great part of our population, particularly to the older men in some of our depressed areas. Their opportunity for finding work again is very small. Old age and sickness are approaching. Many men are now finding that they will not get their pension at 65 years of age because they have not had enough stamps during the last two years. Even that hope which was held out to them has suddenly been removed, and a sense of insecurity and of despair is overwhelming them. Have we made the progress that we should like in pensions, medical services and nutrition? Sir John Orr's Report was published two and a half years ago. What has been done since? What has been done to connect our educational system with our industrial system, in respect of apprenticeships and the like. What has been done in regard to public works?
595 We have a great programme and record in housing, but that is only one thing. Can we really go into this struggle with an unco-ordinated system of transport and an enormous amount to be done even to make our present organisation effective? We have both a technical and a psychological problem. We have first of all to get a sense of national unity which can be based only upon a foreign policy that unites people and brings them together to make sacrifices. We have to look to the technical operation of our plans at home and to develop a real sense of unity and a willingness to make sacrifices. Those sacrifices must be made by all. We must beware of recommending those sacrifices which do not fall upon us and of objecting to those that do. All this will be very difficult. It will be difficult to get the new spirit and the new methods that are necessary, but it will not be impossible. It means minor sacrifices of political philosphy, and there is a responsibility upon all of us as well as upon the Government. Some people would not accept an admission card to Paradise, signed by Saint Peter, unless it also had a counter signature from Transport House or Palace Chambers, but in these days we must not argue about these minor divisions when, in my sincere opinion, the whole of Christian civilisation is being threatened.
When I used that phrase three years ago somebody said that it was exaggeration, but what has happened in the last two or three days in Germany shows that the whole civilisation of 1,500 years is threatened. We shall not have to bother about the precedence of one party over another and whether somebody's influence may be lessened slightly by taking this or that course. Minor vested interests may be affected in looking after the major interest of the survival of the whole of civilisation itself. I say with absolute sincerity that the Government have attacked no part of this vast problem with the vigour and effort that it requires. We have to organise a national movement right through this country, and I think we shall be better employed preaching it on the platforms than in this House. But it has to be organised. Otherwise we shall go down under the pressure which is developing upon us.
It would not be out of place here—because I feel this matter deeply and sincerely—to quote the words and the mess- 596 age, applicable to-day, of the great Apostle to the Gentiles:For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
Whenever we have a discussion in this House upon the condition of the people we always get sympathy from all sides, and to-day has been no exception to the rule. Very interesting speeches have been made by Members on the other side, but it makes one wonder exactly where we are going when we hear an hon. Member opposite asking for a non-political commission to examine this problem of unemployment, after we have had seven years of National Government with a majority big enough to enable the Government to do anything they want. We had an interesting speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who almost persuaded me that he had suddenly become a social reformer. He talked about hon. Members on this side not concerning themselves too much with the question of wages, but concentrating upon some kind of system of family allowances. He delivered the suggestion with earnestness, but I wondered how long it was since he changed his outlook. In the days when he was attached to the Government he and his party used to advocate that the only solution for unemployment was work at reasonable wages, but we have gone a long way since then.
It is refreshing that we can forget foreign policy for a day or two and can discuss home affairs. I want to ask the Minister of Labour one or two questions about the Speech, and the first of them is whether he will give a clear indication to the House of what is meant by the suggestion that the Unemployment Insurance Act should be amended. I put that question to him because I was asked last night by someone who is very close to the administration of unemployment insurance to ascertain what was meant. Does it mean that there is to be a weakening or an improvement of the Unemployment Insurance Act, from the angle of the unemployed? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to indicate the answer.
597 Another item in the Gracious Speech is that the Government are now likely to amend the Miners' Welfare Act in order to restore the ½d. cut. I do not know whether the Minister of Labour will be in charge of that matter, but I say that the cut ought never to have been taken off. When one looks at the condition in the mining districts one feels that it was a scandal, even in the depression of 1932, that the miners' welfare levy should have been cut from from 1d. to ½d.
Having said that, I want to put one or two points to the Minister with regard to the unemployment situation. It has been argued that it does not matter so much about the 2,000,000 who are out of work that there are more men working to-day than ever. We are trying to forget the unemployment figures and say that there are now more people in work, but there are nearly 2,000,000 people in this country who are out of work, many of them in some of the depressed areas—in areas that are almost as bad as the Special Areas. The right hon. Gentleman has the reputation of having a great, big heart, and he must know that all that could have been done has not been done for the unemployed in the Special Areas and elsewhere. Like most hon. Members here, I spent the whole of my working life in a working-class atmosphere, in semi-poverty. During the crisis I spent some time in one of the Special Areas, almost at the time when the crisis became acute. Looking at the people in that Special Area, I thought to myself, "Of all the drab, god-forsaken conditions that can exist in civilisation, they are here." But how different would have been the attiture of the powers-that-be towards these people in the Special Areas if war had been declared. How important would these middle-aged and young men have become. They would have been told by posters, by wireless and by speeches that the country needed them; they would have been fine men, possessed of that patriotic fervour which existed during the years 1914–18. The King's Speech says:The policy of My Government will continue to be directed to improving conditions in the Special Areas.There is not a word in the Speech about removing or revising the household means test, which is one of the most damnable pieces of legislation ever put on the Statute Book, and which, as long as I am in this House, I will, with my 598 colleagues, do my best to smash. One of the worst features of the means test is that it stabilises poverty in the household, and never allows people to get beyond the poverty line. The more a lad works and earns, if some adult happens to be in the house, the more his allowances are cut down, until they are on the same old level. There are candidates in by-elections to-day, supporting the Government, claiming that they stand for a new means test. I wonder whether they are standing for a new means test on information supplied by the right hon. Gentleman or by the Government? If so, we should like to know what is taking place. There is a lot that can be done if we had the desire and the will to do it. We could increase the maintenance of those who are out of work, for, after all, whatever may be the causes of unemployment, the unemployed themselves are not responsible for the fact that they are out of work. They have a perfect right to work or reasonable maintenance, and they are not getting it to-day.
What can be done by way of remedy? I have listened to hon. Members sincerely putting forward very novel and interesting suggestions. I believe we have not made the most of our opportunities to try to get hours of work reduced in the various industries, and I would like some information on that point. One of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors told us from that Box a year or two ago that he was initiating discussions between organised workers and organised employers with a view to getting agreements to reduce the hours of work, but that seems to have fallen by the way; we have not heard much about it lately, and I would like to know exactly how it stands. I think it would also be a good thing if this country, industrialised as it is, kept pace with the more progressive countries in having a legalised working day. There are, in the distributive trades particularly, so I am told by those who know, tens of thousands of men and women working excessively long hours for comparatively low wages. We have in the mining industry to-day a 7½-hour day, plus one winding time, making eight hours. Would it not be some contribution to a solution of our unemployment problem if we had a limitation of hours by Act of Parliament or agreement, so that some of the younger men who are now out of work could be absorbed into those industries?
599 Would it not also be a simple act of justice to make our pension schemes worthy of the name? It is not necessary to argue about the cost; we could find the money for it if we wanted to do so; but we have never yet attempted to put the Pensions Acts in this country on a basis that was anything like just or commensurate with the problems they had to solve. Take the case of the elderly men. Many of them are out of work, and there are those who, at 65 have to apply for public assistance in order to live. Every Saturday morning I see old age pensioners almost worried to death, old age pensioners who come to one almost with tears in their eyes, begging one to urge the Government to do something. They have 10s. from the State, with perhaps 2s. 6d. or 3s. from the public assistance committee, and it is just not good enough. I say that something ought to be done. Whether the Government appreciate it or not, there is a demand outside, among all classes of the community, for an amendment of our Pensions Acts that will give something more to the recipient. That demand will grow, and we shall have something to say on it at by-elections and at the next General Election.
There is a section of the House who seem to have found another remedy for the unemployment problem. I wish the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) had been in his place, because in every paper this morning we are told that arrangements can be made to send out to Canada 10,000 experimental British settlers and their families. In the report referred to it is pointed out that our Government cannot fail to be alarmed at the fact that we have at least a million fit and capable men permanently unemployed. Our present unemployment figure is 1,800,000, and, allowing for the fact that one-half are married and have an average of two children, that means that some 4,500,000 persons are dependent upon unemployment benefit or other relief. May I tell the House that I could not find one responsible man in Canada who could say that there were any opportunities there for migrants from this country, while from 8 to 10 per cent. of their population of 11,000,000 are drawing public assistance in one form or another?
§ Mr. De Chair
Has the hon. Member read the report published by my hon. 600 and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), which quotes the good will of the Prime Minister of British Columbia for the scheme?
§ Mr. Smith
I have not only read it, but, if I may say so without boasting, I have been compelled during the last 18 months to read every report that has been printed dealing with migration. I have been inundated with schemes and letters from all parts of the Dominions for and against it. I am not making these statements without having read the report, and I say to the hon. Member that it is misleading both to this country and to the Dominions to suggest that you can place 10,000 persons and their families in any part of the Dominions and make a success of that community settlement. I say here and now that responsible people in Canada, of a different political persuasion from myself, have told me that they could find no opportunity for migrants at the present time in that Dominion, and yet migration is being advocated as a solution of the unemployment problem. It is just not playing the game. Anyhow, that will be followed up later.
We have heard a great deal about nutrition, and the Minister of Health this afternoon seemed to lose his temper a bit about it. I do not know whether it was cause and effect; perhaps the cause was the speech he made before Dartford, and the effect the result of Dartford. At any rate, he seemed to be very much annoyed. As I understand nutrition, there are at least two problems connected with it. You have the problem of the person or family having sufficient money and able to buy the right kind of food, who. if they select the wrong kind of food, will not get a properly balanced diet. I am not for the moment concerned about them, but about the problem of the housewife who has to carry on the family, who wants food, and has not the money with which to buy it. That is the problem we have to face. It is no use quoting cost-of-living figure variations of three or four points to the housewife who has only 20s., 25s. or 30s. on which to keep her family. That woman just cannot buy in accordance with calories and a diet scale; she has to go to the cheapest market. If we are sincere about this problem of nutrition, we shall start to revise some of our legislation. Take, for example, the 601 article in the "Lancet" a few weeks ago about the condition of children on the countryside, and remember that this Government of all the virtues, with the right hon. Gentleman in charge in this day and generation, left the unemployed agricultural worker with five and six children a maximum of 3os. a week as the most that can go into his household. I challenge the Minister to deny this statement, that no diet scale has been settled by any nutrition committee whereby a man, his wife and four or five children can be adequately fed and housed on that maximum of 30s. a week. It just cannot be done.
Then we have to have some regard to what s known as the wages stop in connection with unemployment assistance. There must not be more going into the household than the man would normally get if he were at work. The wages system in British industry was never related to human needs. The employers paid little as possible, and would do so to-day if the men were not organised. If you are to deal with nutrition, and to talk about the proper food necessary in order to maintain good health, you will have to start to alter those allowances, and treat people on the basis of human needs. The right hon. Gentleman can take it from me that I have been well nourished, or I should not have the physique that I have today. In the days when we lived in the village, worked hard, and had no money, even if the rabbits were not all on our own land we managed to keep the stewpot going.
I believe in physical training, though perhaps not in the same way and for the same purpose as some hon. Members advocate. I believe in physical culture, because I believe that the ideal at which we should aim is the best development, both mental and physical, of every individual in the country. But when you talk about physical development, do have some regard to the fact that you cannot have a good muscular development unless the body has a proper amount of food. Ii we are going to talk about physical fitness and to deal with the problem of nutrition, we have to shed some of our old ideas, and realise that there is more than enough fir everybody, and that the only reason why people cannot buy the things they need is that they have not the purchasing power. If this Government will not deal with these problems, 602 the sooner they make way for a Government that will the better it will be for everybody concerned.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Major Oscar Guest
I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) say that he would approve of any form of promoting physical fitness, because I agree that unless you develop the physical fitness of your people they are not in a condition to do the work and create the prosperity that we need. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) gave us a very good speech on foreign trade. I would suggest that what made our foreign trade in the past was the inventive genius of our race, as shown in the invention of the steam engine, the spinning jenny, and so on. I would like to see the Government encouraging invention in every form of industry and business. That could be done by some remission of taxation on firms engaged in research or invention. If we are to be successful in trade one of our best methods is by producing new and better commodities. We have done it in the past, and I believe we could do it now.
When one considers the question of unemployment, one's mind naturally turns to the Special Areas and those which feel unemployment most. As one who has tried in a small way to assist in one of the Special Areas, I would say that the efforts of the Government are deserving of special praise. One hon. Member spoke of them as tinkering efforts, but that is not a fair criticism. You must start in a small way and see your effort grow. There are one or two things which I think would help the development of industry in those areas. One is the training of labour, and especially young labour. When a manufacturer is considering establishing a factory in a new area, he asks what sort of labour will he get there, to what extent will it be trained, and what form of housing and other accommodation will he find for those he sends down to train labour? One of the best forms of encouragement we could give would be to increase the facilities for training in those areas, and to give some accommodation for key men, managers and others who have to go, to run those industries locally. One of the difficulties that managers have come up against is in finding accommodation for the men they 603 have to send to those areas. After all, great sums have been spent in clearing these sites.
There is one further inducement which will be necessary if we are to see industry moving in a large way to the more distressed areas. That is some Measure for regulating the location of industry. When you are considering that problem, you must remember that industry is divided into two categories: the heavy industries and specialised industries, which must go to certain places, and light industries, which can go to any part of the country provided they can find labour. They are induced to go where it is easier to go. The reason they crowd around the large cities, like London and Manchester, is that they take the path of least resistance. We shall have shortly to take steps for regulating the location of industry if we are to have some return of prosperity in these areas. I think, however, that the Acts relating to the Special Areas and the Government's action in the matter have made a great beginning in inducing industry to go to those areas, and I hope that those Acts will continue to be operated with even more vigour in future. I was very interested to hear what the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said on the subject the other night. Although I do not agree with all his remarks, I agree with some of them very much. I do not think it is possible to transfer labour in large numbers to industrial centres, but I do think it possible, if the scheme is carefully worked, to transfer a considerable proportion of industry, at any rate light industry, to areas where labour is already available.
In considering this question, I suppose all employers are wondering what the position will be when this armaments boom dies down. No doubt, many fear that it will be followed by an industrial slump. It is rash, I know, to prophecy, but I would suggest that that may not be the case. After the War we did not have a great slump in industry, but the reverse; and I am inclined to think that after this armaments manufacturing boom dies down we shall see a great increase in the manufacture of commodities which all our citizens want. Therefore, these employers, in establishing industries where industries are wanted are doing not only a good thing but a wise thing.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove
We have listened to a series of very interesting speeches but I do not propose to-night to follow them, however much I would have liked to have an argument, particularly with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). He seemed very greatly concerned about the wages going into working-class homes and the scale of nutrition, and so on, and he urged that the Government should do something. He must have great faith indeed that the Government would do something when it is remembered that the present Government are the authors of the means test, and that they have an immediate chance of doing something to alleviate conditions in working-class homes, if only by giving a maintenance allowance to children who next year will have to remain at school a year longer, but that they have resolutely turned that down. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be based on the same old theme, that it is the poor who should maintain the poor. I cannot support any scheme of family allowances of that kind.
My immediate task is a roost specific one. I want to raise an issue in a concrete form of immediate active economy being practised by the Government. I think that what the Prime Minister meant when he spoke was that we shall not have any terribly drastic economies all round at the moment, but that when the next election is over he will be able to say, "I told you that you cannot have arms and extended social services.'' As to the general application of economy, we shall have to wait and see when the general election is over, particularly if the Government happen to win it. Then I am certain we shall see a very rigid economy campaign carried out by the Government. The Government have already started. The Minister of Health was put up—I hope he will pardon me for saying this—I thought very ineffectively, to deal with it. He had a brief from the Parliamentary Secretary, but he wanted something more than a brief in order to defend his circular. Frankly, the Minister of Health did not understand what he was talking about.
A rather remarkable circular has been issued. Some time ago the Government said to the local education authorities, "you build schools for the purpose of 605 reorganising the educational system, providing senior schools and so on and a better system of education, we will help you by changing the 20 per cent. grant into a 5o per cent. grant. We will provide you with more money from the Exchequer." It appears that a certain number of authorities have got on with the job, and in a number of areas I gather that reorganisation has not taken place. Here is a situation in which some authorities have got on with the job and others have not, and now the Government come along, and in this circular say: "Look here, you laggard authorities. As you have not put energy into reorganisation we are going to do you a favour. We are going to extend the period when you will get 50 per cent. for a few years. You have been slow and have not done what you ought to have done. You have failed to erect the buildings and to reorganise, but we will not condemn you, but will extend the time during which you will get 50 per cent." In order to provide the money for the laggard authorities, the Government are going to penalise the authorities in the realm of secondary education. Was there ever such economy suggested before? It is a countervailing economy. That is the meaning of the circular. It says quite definitely that they will extend the periods for authorities who have not reorganised and have not built schools during which they may have half the cost involved. But at the same time they say in the last paragraph of the circular that:It will be appreciated that both in the interests of Authorities themselves and also of the Exchequer it will be desirable during this period to reduce other forms of educational expenditure on capital projects.There you have a countervailing economy. We are to have a curtailment of education facilities in the secondary school world. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. I have a letter sent by a director of education—I will give the hon. Gentleman the name privately—to the head of a secondary school. I will read the whole letter and the House will see how directors of education are interpreting this circular:Dear Mr. So-and-So, in view of Circular 1464"—that is the circular to which I have made reference—from the Board of Education with regard to suspension of improvements of secondary 606 schools, I have approached the Board of Education personally and have attempted to get them to agree that, as the proposed work at your school is an extension of facilities, it should be considered as if exempt from the ban imposed by the Circular. When this plea failed I suggested that they should at least agree to the suggestion of the provision of a new gynasium, as there is so much pressure on the present building, but even upon this they were adamant.What becomes of all this cry about physical fitness when a director of education comes to the Board and asks for a gymnasium because the school is overcrowded, and is told that upon this they were adamant? I am reading from a letter signed by a director of education. There is no doubt about the authenticity of the letter. I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary will get up and say that he has misunderstood the attitude of the Board and that they can have their gymnasium.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
A question has been put down on that very point, and I would only say to the hon. Member that proposals for the provision of gymnasia will in each case be looked at on their merits. There is no question of curtailing any possible extension of facilities for physical education.
§ Mr. Cove
We want an assurance from the Government that when they talk about physical fitness they really mean it. Here you have a case of youths from 12 to 17 or 18 years of age, just the period when you want to develop physical fitness, and yet when a director of education goes to the Board and asks for a gymnasium in order to provide for that physical fitness the Board of Education says, "No you cannot have it." I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will make a statement to-night about the whole position. The letter goes on to say that in view of their attitude,there is nothing I can do but report to the governors that until the ban has been lifted no further action is possible.That impression has been created in the mind of a director of education after 607 direct personal contact with the Board of Education. There is no circular about it, no interpretation of his own with regard to the Board's policy. He is keen enough to come up and to find out exactly what the position is.
Undoubtedly by that Circular—and I have further evidence which I could quote—the Board have given an impetus for economy, not only in the realm of secondary education but in the realm of elementary education. I am not saying that the Government have had these economies before them or that the Board have cut down these things, but what I am saying is that there is already evidence that this Circular and the general attitude evidently coming from the Board have caused local authorities to review other expenditure. I have an account, which happens to be a private document, of a county which has already set up an economy committee, where there has been a special meeting of the education committee called, in order to cut out items of capital expenditure, particularly for new schools, not merely in the secondary realm but in the elementary realm. You cannot start a thing like this without its spreading.
I want to ask why education should be the first point of attack. Is it because the Government feel that they can attack and cut down there without having a counter-attack so vigorous as that which would come from some other Services? I promise the Government that if they pursue an economy campaign like this in education they will get strong counter attacks. The country will be organised in defence of the education system. We have heard the plea to-night from the other side of the House, and we have heard it many times from hon. Members opposite, for national unity. They want us to work in a spirit of unity, to get nearer together and to get greater equality among the various classes. The hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet), who is the Parliamentary Private Secretary of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, has just told us that she wants a great effort to be made to abolish class consciousness in this country. She said that in war time there was no class feeling, and—I reciprocate the spirit—she said that we ought to try to get rid of it. Is it the 608 way to get rid of it by increasing educational inequality? How can you have any approach to democracy unless you have some approach to equality of opportunity in your educational system? I fail to see how it can be done. How can you have national unity behind your foreign policy when you have this class discrimination at home, this cutting down of educational opportunities, not for the upper classes—this does not affect the upper classes who go to Eton, Harrow and Winchester; the well-to-do people can afford to pay at least £200 a year for the education of their children there—but the working classes? The Government say that the educational opportunities for these working-class children shall be cut down.
I do not want to go into too much detail, but, as a matter of fact, this country does not provide sufficient secondary education. There is no national system of education. There is no approach to equality of opportunity in the various areas of the country. A child in one area has substantially greater chances of getting secondary education than a child in another area. That is wrong, and this Circular will accentuate those inequalities. I ask briefly and bluntly for the withdrawal of this Circular. What justification is there for it? I do not want to stop the giving of the 50 per cent. grant, but why should that 50 per cent. be paid to certain authorities out of the money saved from secondary education? What justification is there for that, except the justification that is stated in the Circular that the authorities must have regard to the interests not only of the authorities themselves but to the interests of the Exchequer? Economy in finance is the only justification. There is one further point in regard to the Circular. Those authorities who reorganise to get the 50 per cent. do not get it as an automatic right. It is not certain that they will get the 50 per cent. There is a great deal of uncertainty about it, because the Board have made it perfectly clear in paragraph 3 that:The Board desire to impress upon authorities that this extension of date will not apply automatically, and that the eligibility of any scheme for the special rate of grant after the end of 1940 will be conditional upon the Board's being satisfied that the authority have made all reasonable progress with the work of reorganisation before that date.609 Therefore, it is not certain that these local authorities will get the 50 per cent. The best thing the Board can do is to withdraw the Circular and redraft it, take out the provision for curtailing expenditure on secondary education and give the money for the purpose of reorganisation.
There is only one further matter to which I would refer. I have been looking at a large number of Press cuttings of reports of leading medical officers of health upon the nutrition of our childen, and I must confess that I got an overwhelming impression that a large number of those reports could give no confidence to anyone that they know the real condition of the nutrition of the children. It may be unfair and unjust to say that but, quite frankly, one gets the impression that is some cases at least some of the reports are written to please the authority for whom they are writing. I should like to challenge the Government on this point as to whether they have any national objective survey of the state of the nutrition of our children. If so, where is it? Where is there a national standard? Where is there any systematic national report? We have the area reports, but you cannot from them, with confidence, draw any picture, of the national state of nutrition.
When we look at some of these reports, they are simply amazing. Conditions change from area to area. We have had a new system introduced by the Board of Education in the last year or two—the A, B, C and D system. Here are some of the results. Middleton reports 24 per cent. children sub-normal or bad; Accrington less than r per cent. Middleton has more than five times as many excellently nourished children as has Bootle, almost five times as many as St. Helens, and two and a-half times as many as Sheffield. Smethwich has seven times more pupils classified "excellent" than Northampton, and 28 times as many as Reading. Carlisle shows a sub-normal return of 18.9 per cent.; Northampton and Reading 3 per cent. and 4.9 per cent. respectively. The returns from county areas show a similar remarkable variation. For example, Wiltshire shows over 27 per cent. sub-normal or bad, the Isle of Wight 20 per cent., Berkshire less than 6 per cent., and Essex 4 per cent. Gloucestershire is said to have six times as many pupils classified as "excellent" as Essex. How can you form standards from those 610 figures? The fact is that this clinical movement is thoroughly unsatisfactory. It is mere observation at certain points of time in the child's life in a large number of areas. In a publication "The Workers' Nutrition and Social Policy," there is an article pointing out the consumption of protective foodstuffs increases with an increased income, whereas the consumption of cereals remains constantly on the decline. Workers' families with low incomes cannot afford to buy protective foodstuffs, and therefore the question of income is at the root of the nutrition problem. There is, says the article, a question both of malnutrition and undernourishment.
Emphasis has been laid by hon. Members opposite on mal-nourishment—people eating the wrong kind of food. The social problem which this House has to deal with is under-nourishment. I do not think that we can make much of a contribution to the kind of diet people ought to have. I cannot. I only know that what is good for my own children is a plentiful supply of varied foods, meat, butter, eggs, milk, fruit and green-stuffs. There is no ignorance about what children ought to have. A reference has been made to an interesting experiment in the United States where children were allowed to take what they liked, and, apparently, they were better fed than the others. There is something in that. We have been born with an appetite, with a taste, and if there is money enough we need not worry very much. I happen to know a few doctors and it was rather a surprise to me to hear them pooh-pooh the provision of milk in schools. They say that too much emphasis is being placed upon milk, and I am afraid that we are drowning the public conscience in a halfpenny worth of milk. It is a very monotonous drink after all. It is not exhilarating. I know that the Minister of Labour can get on with it.
§ Mr. Cove
It is no good thinking that you are solving the problem of nutrition by merely supplying milk. You have to use the educational system to feed the children properly. There is no need for any committee to sit on the question of the feeding of these children. Get on with the job, feed them, give them a varied midday meal. The whole thing ought to be organised. It ought not to 611 be thrown on those people who have to teach other subjects; it is not their job. You can use the educational system to give free meals to a much greater extent than you are now. I am afraid that we are speaking to a hard-hearted Government. This is not an insuperable problem; and they have not to deal with Herr Hitler. It is a problem within their hands, and I urge the Government to see that there is not to be this economy in education. I urge with all the sincerity I possess the feeding of these children. There is no shadow of doubt that malnutrition exists. Feed the children. The system by which you can do so lies ready to hand if the Government only have the will to do what they ought to do for these children.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I intervene for a few moments because I should like to answer the points raised by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). I will not go into the question of nutrition in any detail because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will deal with it in his closing address. I am quite as aware as the hon. Member that very different standards are being adopted, but what he calls mere observation—the clinical method—has so far held the ground with the most experienced doctors in the country, and it is only because of the great difficulty in producing a really sound method that we have not been able to eliminate what I quite admit are the differential standards in different parts of the country. Everything the hon. Member said towards the end of his speech makes the issue of the Circular even more important. A question of priorities is involved in the Circular, and the priority is that we really should go as fast as possible with reorganisation in the country, and reorganisation means, among other things, applying the standards which attach to the most up-to-date authorities to what the hon. Member calls the lagging authorities, but which I prefer to call the difficult authorities, difficult because they are faced with large rural areas, with great difficulties of transport and with the presence of a majority of non-provided schools. There is not an educationist who will not agree with me that these difficulties are very much greater than in the towns where many of the schools are provided schools.
612 The second difficulty which the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) knows, is the difficulty in new housing areas. It has been perfectly obvious to the Government for some time, and is now obvious to the whole country, that we are not going to have the schools ready by 1939 or 1940 because of the enormous leeway to be made up in rural areas and in certain other areas. In their wisdom the Government decided to extend the 50 per cent. grant for another three years. May I make it absolutely clear that the provision about the Circular not applying automatically is to make quite certain that the scheme is watertight. In fact, it applies in quite the opposite direction to that suggested by the hon. Member It is inserted to make sure that no scheme put forward can be withdrawn by the authority. It is in the nature of a time and progress schedule. Therefore, the criticism which the hon. Member made in the earlier part of his speech, that elementary education would also suffer economies, is specially safeguarded by that very clause in the Circular. I notice from the evening newspaper that my Noble Friend the President of the Board of Education has made a speech to-day repeating that—
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The present President of the Board of Education or the one who sent out the Circular?
§ Mr. Lindsay
The present President of the Board. In a speech to-day he has repeated that we have no intention of making any cuts in the educational services. I have already said that myself, but coming from my Noble Friend at the present time it should be crystal clear. There is a reference to countervailing economy. There will be a very large additional capital expenditure from the Exchequer due to the extension of the 50 per cent. grant on reorganisation. That is true.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am not sure that the word "countervailing" means an equal economy. Certainly the intention of the Circular is clear. There are three safeguards. The first is where there is a new housing population where new facilities 613 are needed. That covers a very large area where secondary schools are being built at the moment. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) knows that.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The second case is where for health reasons there is any question of the existing premises being unsatisfactory for secondary education; and the third safeguard is exceptional circumstances. The temporary ban is on the replacement of existing buildings. Therefore, I was entitled to say that no facilities for secondary education would be curbed by this Circular. No lesser number of children will receive secondary education because of the Circular.
§ Mr. Lindsay
On the contrary, as the population in pew areas increases, new schools can, and, no doubt will be built to meet the increase. That is obvious. But as the Circular also makes clear, these three exceptions to the Circular cover a very large part of secondary education. I may say that it is particularly in this age group at the moment that there is the greatest diminution in the school population. If hon. Members will look at the figures, they will see that it is among the children of secondary school age that there is the most significant fall in the school-age population. It was in the elementary school children, but now it is in the children of secondary school age, and yet the figures for those receiving secondary education have beep increasing during the last two or three years, and will still increase. My final proof to hon. Members opposite, if it be needed, is the amount spent on education in this country. The Estimates which I had the honour to introduce this year were the largest Estimates ever introduced in the history of education. They are bound to be larger in the coming year, and it will be for a smaller number of children than ever before. In the face of these facts, I am sure it must be clear to every hon. Member that by no possible interpretation of words or of this Circular can there be said to be a cut in the educational services. The hon. Member raised the question of gymnasia. I am very glad that he raised it. My first intervention was not all that I could say on the matter. There is no 614 intention whatsoever of economies being made in gymnasia in secondary schools. I said that in particular cases a gymnasium has to be considered in relation to the school, but there is no intention—I say this categorically—of cutting down the facilities for physical education in relation to secondary schools.
§ Mr. Lindsay
It applies to the girls as well. My last word is this. If there were a question—I am not sure I would be a party to it in any circumstances—if there were any question of making any cuts in the educational services at such a time in our history, the place where I should be more inclined to make them—would be in this particular field. The reason is this. In the elementary schools reorganisation and the provision of those meals to which the hon. Member referred is increasing every month and every year. The possibility of providing good meals in the middle of the day is dependent to a certain extent on there being a reorganisation of the schools. Certainly I would rather spend more money in making up the enormous leeway in technical education. If there had to be a cut, it might be in the more academic forms of secondary education. I am glad to say that there is in this Circular no question of cuts. There is some redirection in the expenditure on education. I think most hon. Members will feel that it is in accordance with the needs of the country.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Will the hon. Gentleman make one matter clear? He said that the ban was not to be applied to schools that called for any modifications or extensions for health reasons. Will he explain what he has in mind when he uses the phrase "health reasons"? Does it mean more than overcrowding? Does it refer to other hygienic reasons?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, as many hon. Members wish to raise a large number of other issues. All I will say is this. The word "health" is used in the Circular and will be interpreted in the most liberal and generous way.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Cartland
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), in opening the Debate 615 this afternoon, said that he thought the best purpose of the Debate would be served if hon. Members were to direct a searchlight on to unemployment and the various aspects of the problem. In the course of the Debate, the searchlights have wandered far, and I sympathise with my right hon. Friend who is to reply to the Debate in that he will have to cover so wide a field. I must also express regret that so few hon. Members have been in the Chamber this evening. I thought that by now it had been recognised and generally accepted on all sides of the House that the question of the condition of the people, and particularly of unemployment, is largely bound up with National Defence, in which the whole House takes such a burning interest. When there are Debates on Defence, the House is full, but this afternoon, on both sides, the House has been nothing like as full as it would have been if the Debate were on Defence or as it ought to be for a Debate on unemployment.
I found the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) a little depressing as he pictured the long series of Debates which we have had since 1923, with hon. Members putting forward suggestions to the Government and always receiving from the Government more or less the same sort of reply. That is a little depressing. One thing at least is clear now, and it is that the Government have no unemployment policy as such. If we want an assurance of that fact, we can get it from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who said last Tuesday:The principal and proper function of Government in relation to trade and employment is to try and create the conditions under which industry itself can carry on its enterprise with confidence and success, and it is to that end that the policy of the Government has been consistently directed.Later he said:I am sure that our industrialists … will take every opportunity which may present itself to them to increase their enterprise and to restore if possible, that international trade to which we must look forward in the future, largely for the resources to meet the demands which will be made upon us by our Defence programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1938; cols. 27 and 28, Vol. 341.]The Prime Minister was merely saying then what has been said over and over again, namely, that we have no unemployment policy. We are relying on the 616 natural course of trade to solve the problem of unemployment. Then I think we are entitled to ask how far is the problem of unemployment considered by the Government in the operation of their trade policy. Their trade policy must be examined in that light. And trade policy is not made up only of relations with foreign countries. It is also very seriously concerned with operations of policy at home. I propose, therefore, to put some questions to His Majesty's Government. First, I ask what are they doing to ensure that improved conditions of trade, if they arise in the next few years, will be immediately reflected in increased employment? What are they doing to see that this improved trade will result in better conditions of life for our people? What are they doing to increase production, to expand exports, to raise the purchasing power of the people at home? These are questions which arise immediately out of the trade policy upon which the Government are relying to solve the problem of unemployment. It also seems to me that the logical outcome of relying upon trade is that industry's first duty must be to the community. If we do not accept that principle, then, quite frankly, I think if we rely upon trade to solve the problem of unemployment, we are bound to be disappointed.
I do not wish to bore the House with figures, but I would ask them to accept one or two facts. Take the case of production which is vital at the present moment. According to the index production is less in 1938 than it was in 1936 or 1937. There is a very considerable falling off in the building trade, and everybody knows that the building trade has an immense effect on every other trade. There is serious concern about the future of commercial shipbuilding. One has only to speak to a representative of a shipbuilding constituency, or to anybody connected with that trade, to find that that is the case. Then take the state of our exports. There is a heavy fall in the volume of exports of 1938 both as regards the total figure and also in manufactured goods. There is also what seems to me to be a very serious factor indeed, namely, that the price of exports has risen by over 24 per cent. in the last 10 years, and let it be remembered that we are relying on the sale of goods abroad to solve our unemployment problem. There is a 617 heavy decline in the import of raw materials and a heavy rise in the quantity of imported foodstuffs.
In studying the variations in the unemployment figures from one period to another one finds that the figures are affected solely by changes in the middle-age group, that is the group between 25 and 45 years of age. It is the change in that group which sends the figures either up or down each month. The dangerous age, the age where you get very little variation except a gradual rise, is from 21 to 24. From the age of 45 onwards, of course, the rate of unemployment progressively increases. I wish to pay a tribute to the Ministry of Labour for their inquiries into this aspect of the subject. We find from the returns that unemployment is not only a question of areas, or even of industries which vary. It is a question of age groups within the separate industries and from the variations in these age groups one can draw certain deductions. One is forced to this conclusion, that just as we have recognised the Special Areas problem, so we have to recognise that there is a special unemployment problem and we cannot expect the normal course of trade to solve that special unemployment problem. The normal course of trade will do a great deal, but we shall always be left with "the hard core of unemployment," quite apart from the Special Areas. We have to recognise that special problem and seek to solve it by special methods.
It is not a problem of industries or individuals. It is a problem of both. It is a problem which affects every area in the country. In the last 12 months in Birmingham, which is the very centre of prosperity, unemployment has gone up by 20,000, and the hard core there has remained perfectly consistent over a series of years. I ask the Government, what are they going to do about it? When we consider the history of the past two years, it is useless to expect to solve this special unemployment problem by trusting to an improvement in trade. If this special problem has not been solved in that way in the last two years, it is not going to be solved in that way in the near future. There are two vital facts which we have to recognise. The first is the loss of markets. Let us face the fact that the loss of any market will seriously affect our power of purchasing foodstuffs and raw material and, as "The 618 Economist" said the maintenance of our foreign trade is an essential measure of Defence.
I believe that what is really necessary is that we should harness and direct both industry and finance so as to maintain our markets abroad and extend our markets at home. We should utilise to the full the inventive genius to our people. I should like to have inquiry made into the Patent Office. I wonder how many patents are buried there which, if unearthed, would enable us to increase production and lead to an extension of employment. We cannot afford any waste either in industry or in social life. The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) mentioned transport. I was astonished at some of the figures which were given the other day on this subject. The average London family—I am not talking about private cars or taxicabs—spends £16 a year on ordinary daily transport. That is what it costs merely to bring the working members of the family to their places of business and home again. In Birmingham the average family spent £9 a year. That is an appalling waste and of course we know the waste that is involved in the way of ill-health. It must be something like £300,000,000 a year. We cannot afford it.
Therefore, the first factor in the situation is that of harnessing industry and finance to maintain markets. The second factor is that of men. It is no good talking about markets unless we do something about men. Frankly, I think we must face the fact that, in order to solve our special unemployment problem, we shall have to recognise that, at one end of the scale, work is no solution for unemployment. The only solution at one end of the scale is savings. The old age problem is not one of unemployment and work, but one of savings and the ability to retire. At the other end it is a problem of the recruitment and training of labour.
I am not suggesting that machinery is all-important, but it is very important, and I think we have neglected machinery far too long. It is very interesting to note the tendency of the authoritarian States and to contrast it with the tendency in the democracies. In the authoritarian States there is no distinction between politics and economics. Economics is there viewed as an instrument of foreign policy. There is no distinction at all in governmental machinery. But in the democratic 619 States as soon as we are up against a difficult economic problem, we say, "We must take this out of politics. We must set up a statutory board, and remove it from the sphere of the House of Commons." I frankly believe that you cannot have, in the present state of the world, faced with the dangers of the authoritarian States, the economic problems of democracy removed from the political sphere. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Harold Macmillan) pointed out in a sentence that you cannot hope to leave individual businesses to meet the competition of nations. But that is what we are expecting them to do, and we are expecting the individual business men in their businesses to solve our unemployment problem.
I do not mind whether you call it an economic general staff or a Ministry of Economics, but you have to have some form of central direction for the whole of the economic life of this country. Unless you do that, you will not solve the existing problem, and you will add considerably to that which already exists. It seems to me that there are four urgent problems which such a Ministry ought to look into. The first is that there is no question at all that slumps are considerably intensified by excessive stocks piled up and, having been piled up, got rid of without the renewal of equal stocks. Anybody who remembers what happened from September, 1937, to May, 1938, will find that the slump was very considerably intensified because of this using-up of excessive stocks. The second is savings. Anybody who looks at the possible sources of investment must be very seriously concerned as to whether they are not going to dry up in the future. You have an increasing number of savings, which are a source of capital investment seeking security and not going into private enterprise. Thirdly, how far can you go on increasing your imports without a corresponding expansion in exports? Fourthly—and this was touched on by the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey—what are we really doing to link up industry and agriculture? We are doing nothing at all. You have only to think of the Departments that are concerned. The Foreign Office, the Board of Trade, the Department of Overseas Trade, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health, the Colonial Office, the Dominions 620 Office, practically every Government Department in some way is connected with unemployment and industry and, of course, vitally with the recruitment of men. Instance after instance can be produced of the Departments pursuing a haphazard and inconsistent policy.
It is only a few years ago that the Macmillan Committee said:There has been little conscious direction of national activities to definite ends.I want to ask the Government once more, as I am afraid I have asked them before, What are the definite aims which you have in view? What is your aim? What sort of country do you want to make? Quite frankly, unless you can answer that question, you will not get any great national effort, and, believe me, unless you do get a great national effort, you will not merely not solve the problems which exist, but you will not stand up to the dangers which seem to me threatening us from abroad and from inside. There is a book which many people have read, entitled, "Poverty and Population." What is your answer to it? Six and a-half million people have 10s. a week or less to live on. Do you really think you can still go on under the old system, as the hon. Member for Stockport said, with a little tinkering here and there? Is your idea still to keep wages and profits at more or less the same level? I take the bottom year for wages, 1933, and the bottom year for profits, 1932, and compare them with what has happened in 1937–38, last year. Wages have gone up 13 per cent.; profits have gone up 70 per cent. Frankly, in a democracy people know of these things; they have sources of information, and they say, "What is it that you are going to do? Do you still want to preserve conditions of this sort, or do you want to alter them?"
Reference has been made to the speech made last week by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), and people have asked, "What does he mean? What is behind it?" There was a speech on Saturday made by the President of the Board of Education, in which he said he believed that there had been a tendency to complacency in this country during the last few years, but he believed also that the real and only lasting answer to the challenge was to rebuild, not only our armaments, but our whole social and industrial life. He understood what my 621 right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington meant. There is no real confusion. What I feel vitally is that we are all to blame, every Member of this House and everybody who has had anything to do with public life, because we have stressed always the negative side of democracy and of what Parliamentary government means. We have never stressed the positive side, and I believe that the positive side does mean at the present time immense sacrifices. But in order to get sacrifices, in order to translate that positive side of democracy into action, you must have leadership. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington made the sort of speech which we ought to have had from the Front Bench. When you get leadership, you will get the country responding to sacrifices, but unless you face up to your difficulties and make an appeal, and the right one, and unless people know what you are aiming for, you will go down to disaster and destruction.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Burke
The hon. Member for the King's Norton Division (Mr. Cartland) has made a very interesting speech, and today day we have heard a number of speeches, none of which has been at all enthusiastic, even when they have come from the opposite benches, about the Gracious Speech and the policy of the Government as outlined therein, or as omitted therefrom. The hon. Member for the King's Norton Division talked in general terms about the planning of our industrial and economic life. I want to draw the attention of the House to one specific question that has not so far, I think, been touched upon in this Debate, the question of the cotton trade and the lack of policy on the part of the Government in regard to that trade, the question of unemployment arising therefrom, and the condition of the people, particularly the people in Lancashire, who, although that trade is declining, are still very largely dependent upon it for their livelihood. The problems before this House are becoming more and more economic and less purely political. Even the problem of peace is to-day recognised as an economic problem, and those of us who are disappointed about the Gracious Speech are particularly disappointed that even at this time, when there is obviously a widespread and expressed desire by all peoples everywhere for peace, there is not in that Speech any message that would 622 lead the people of this country to believe that the Government were seriously embarking on a programme that would bring peace to the world. It has been suggested that a world conference should be called to discuss the economic grievances of nations. If that had been done I think there would have been more enthusiasm for the Speech in the country than I have so far noticed.
But I want to deal with the question of the Government's trade policy, or lack of trade policy, and the question of unemployment connected therewith. Because of that lack of any policy in the Speech large numbers of our people are left without any hope of an improvement in their condition. There are two sections of the people whose claims for consideration have very recently been advanced from all sides of the House. First of all there is the class who can do absolutely nothing for themselves. The employed man can perhaps obtain some improvement in his wages. Even the unemployed man in winter time gets some little bit extra allowed to him, and if his unemployment pay is not enough there are within definite limits ways and means by which he can improve his condition. But there are in this country large masses of people living on fixed incomes—the old age pensioners, who receive 10s. a week, and we have asked over and over again in this House, from this side particularly, if something could be done to improve the lot of those people. There are 317,000 of them who have to go to the Poor Law authorities for some help. Ten shillings a week is by no means sufficient to enable those people even to exist, and as a consequence the Poor Law authorities have to increase the amount. If that 10s. a week were increased to 15s. it would, we are told, cost something like £35,000,000. That is not a great deal of money for a Government which is apparently so wealthy as this Government; and, spread over those people, it would give a considerable amount of satisfaction, besides doing something to improve trade.
The other section of the people whose claims have been strongly advanced in this House are the ex-service men. There are about 1,000,000 of these men and their dependants, and they are costing the Treasury something over £40,000,000 a year. A few years ago they numbered 2,500,000—the numbers are gradually 623 going down. Those of us who were in our constituencies on Armistice Day remembered former Armistice Days when many more men came to those services, and realised how many of them have fallen by the way. A total of £81,000,000 was spent on these people a few years ago; at the present time the amount is only half of that. Surely something might have been said in the Gracious Speech in recognition of what the country owes to those men.
I come now to the question of unemployment in the Lancashire cotton trade. For years there have been in this country nearly 2,000,000 unemployed, and over 1,000,000 getting Poor Law relief. In Lancashire most of our unemployment has been connected with the cotton trade, while in the country as a whole most of our unemployment has been connected with the older and long-established induties—those concerned with the export of manufactured goods. Indeed, the Report of the Unemployment Assistance Board points out that the problem of unemployment in this country is largely a problem of unemployment in our great export industries. What has the Government done about that? Two years ago I moved a Resolution in this House calling attention to the unemployment in Lancashire and the drift of population to the South. As a result a Commission was set up to inquire into it, but we have had no report yet. As a matter of fact, as I pointed out then, no Commission was necessary. There are 29 Commissions at the present moment inquiring about things in regard to which a good deal of the information is already in Government Departments. The routine of Government Departments provides for the collection of information day by day. We all know the population of Burnley ten years ago, five years ago or last year; we all know the population of London; we all know the number of unemployment books taken in at the various exchanges. A good deal of the information is therefore available if there were a willingness to act upon it.
A large proportion of the insured population of this country is in Lancashire, and there there has been for years widespread and heartbreaking unemployment, but this year it is worse than ever. The hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) spoke of a rate of unemployment 624 of 33 per cent. in her constituency. Let me state what it is in parts of North-East Lancashire. In Darwen it is 44 per cent., in Nelson 45 per cent., in Blackburn 33 per cent., and in Burnley 29 per cent. You have on the average over 30 per cent. unemployed in the whole of the cotton industry. In Burnley a few years ago we had 100,000 looms; we have now fewer than 50,000. We had 98 mills, with an annual value of £72,000; the figures are now down to 52 mills, with an annual value of £39,000. Every figure that you touch relating to the social life of this community carries the same tale of distress. The population of Burnley in 1931 was 98,000, to-day it is 89,000. We are now down to the same population in Burnley as we had in 1892. We are 20,000 fewer than the estimate for 1914.
The country at the present time is very much concerned about the decline of the birth rate. In Burnley the birth rate has been declining year by year, and to-day it is 11.7, while in 125 other large towns of the country it is 14.7. The number of people that we have regularly on Poor Law relief in that area is between 2,000 and 3,000, costing the community £50,000. There is an idea abroad that the Government have shouldered a good deal of the responsibility for the poor. That is not so. As a matter of fact out of £44,000,000 which is expended every year in Poor Law relief £36,000,000 is paid by the local authorities and, in the main, paid by those local authorities which can least afford it. For instance, the number of people seeking poor relief in Burnley is 245 per 10,000. In Bournemouth, where they could afford to pay very much more, the number is only 147 per 10,000. It is the derelict towns with the closed mills on which the greatest burden is being placed at the present time.
The Ministry of Labour had an interesting experiment in July this year, and this is the reason why I say there is no need to wait, because the information is to hand. They examined the books presented at the London and south-eastern area Employment Exchanges and found that there had been an increase of 10 per cent. in the number of books that had come from outside the area; 177,000 extra books were presented in the London area, while at the same time in the north-western area 40,000 fewer books were presented. That is an indication of the drift of the population 625 south. Another interesting trend was revealed by a further investigation of the Ministry of Labour in regard to the ages of the men employed. In the newer industries, like electrical equipment, 44 per cent. of the men are under 24 years of age, whereas in the older industries, like coal mining and cotton, 40 per cent. of the men are over 45 years of age. That means that the older industries are left with the older people, while the newer industries congregated round London are drawing the youth.
For years we have been asking the Government to do something with regard to the cotton industry. Deputation after deputation has been to the Board of Trade with regard to various aspects of the cotton trade, and we have been told over and over again that the Government were considering the matter. In May this year they told us that the matter was still under consideration. The late President of the Board of Trade said that the Government might do something if only we could have unity in the cotton trade. We got a measure of unity, which, I suggest, is not likely to be achieved again. The Government make a suggestion in the King's Speech that they are still examining the question of the cotton trade, but they do not say that they are going to introduce any legislation. It is a vital matter to the people in Lancashire. Suppose it be true that the Government cannot get unity among all the elements in the cotton trade. What are they going to do? Are they to allow the industry to go on as it is, one section competing against another and spoiling the market? The scheme which the spinning section had for price control has broken down and no element can restore it unless it has some legislative force behind it.
The conditions in the cotton industry are fairly weal known, but it might be as well to remind the Government that in the last year they have again slumped alarmingly. Our previous exports abroad were about 7,000,000,000 square yards. Last year they slumped to 2,000,000,000 square yards. In other words, we have lost about two-thirds of our trade. In 1938 the position was even worse than in 1936–7. In the nine months of 1938 our export trade in cotton piece goods was valued at £24,500,000. In the same period of 1937 it was valued at £34,000,000. The average amount that we were sending abroad monthly was 626 306,000,000 square yards. In 1936–37 it had dropped to 160,000,000, and last August it dropped to 108,000,000. In other words, it is only one-third of what it was in 1929, which itself showed a serious decline upon 1923. That is a position which calls for immediate recognition by the Government.
May I say a few words about the foreign trade policy of the Government? We have asked the Government to take a line in their trade agreements which will insure for Lancashire and the cotton trade fair treatment in the markets abroad. A couple of years ago we were sending 20,000,000 yards of stuff to West Africa. It is now down to 5,000,000 yards. In two years 15,000,000 yards have gone from that market alone. That is equivalent to employment for a year for 1,500 looms, 300 operatives, 300 weavers, and a good deal of employment for other people. The same is true of Central Africa. Our trade there used to be worth £1,300,000. It is now down to £207,000. Japan has taken a good deal of that trade, and we are told that we must stand by the Congo Basin Treaties. I hope that in the negotiations which the Government are carrying on with India and Burma they will be able to do something to repair the damage that has been done in that great market. The tariff of 20 per cent. which has been put against Lancashire piece goods has brought down our exports from 3,000,000,000 yards to 300,000,000. Egypt increased her tariff and two-fifths of our trade went away. Then there are the markets in Palestine, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Ceylon—where, for political reasons, we were told an agreement had to be made which did great harm to the Lancashire trade—Australia, Canada, Irak, and the Irish Free State, where, until the last agreement was made, we did £700,000 worth of trade, which has gone down to £500,000. In all these markets we have lost a considerable portion of our proper trade. I have here letters which I received this morning from employers and people in Lancashire telling me of two well known mills which are closing down this week. One employed 1,500 looms and the other 646. Last year a great number of mills closed down and the same thing has been happening this year. I urge the Government to take this matter in hand at once 627 and to see that something is done to restore prosperity.
Let me say a word with regard to the competition that we are feeling abroad and the competition that is now coming from Japanese goods. For years we have been asking that something be done to prevent these goods coming here, being finished here, and then going into our protected market. A few years ago only about 124,000 yards of Japanese goods were coming in. It was then of no consequence, but in the course of a few years it has risen to 20,000,000 yards. That amount would mean employment for 2,000 looms for a year, and 500 weavers, plus other people. It means that £1,500 per week in wages is lost to these small towns, with the consequence that shopkeepers and all classes of the community are feeling the pinch.
There are two lines on which the Government should act. They should give the industry power as quickly as possible to put itself in order, to pool its resources and its information, and to unify itself. When it has done that the Government should give it better treatment in the markets abroad. In these days, when in the markets of the world industries are unified and backed up by their Governments, it is not possible for the Lancashire man to go out on his own. He must have behind him a unified industry, and even with a unified industry there must be the support and backing of the Government giving him better conditions in the markets of the world. Lord Baldwin told us we must concentrate on our export trade. We cannot do it under the conditions at present obtaining. The only way in which it can be done is by the Government taking a firmer line in trade agreements. We have 21 of these agreements at present, and under only three of the 21 do we really get any favourable trade balance. I urge the Government to take note of the fact that Lancashire is expecting to hear from them, and quickly, that they intend to do something at home to reorganise the industry and abroad to safeguard us in the markets of the world.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. De Chair
The speeches this evening, owing to the presence of the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health, have dealt rather more with the aspects 628 of consumption, but food production is equally important, and I am sorry not to see any reference to it in the Labour Amendment. At the present time in particular, agriculture produces an essential munition of war—food, and it seems to me incredible that we should not be straining every nerve to increase agricultural production to its maximum. I would ask the Government to undertake a really comprehensive survey of the agricultural field. I do not believe that it would take very long, because the bulk of the information is already available. The Land Utilisation Survey has been proceeding for some time, and has accumulated already a wealth of information on the subject of the capacity of the land to produce, and ordnance maps on which are superimposed the various crops in the areas in which they are grown are already being prepared. If the Minister could coordinate these he would get a very fair idea of the scope of the agricultural problem and our capacity for production.
What we need is an immediate remedy for these difficulties, and that is why I hope the Minister of Agriculture will pay serious attention to the very thoughtful and constructive memorandum produced by the National Farmers Union on this subject. They have suggested the extension of the price insurance plan, to be reviewed by a board, and I believe that to be worthy of the attention of the Government. The Ministry of Agriculture have given some interesting information as to the amount it would cost to supplement the prices of certain commodities in order to bring them up to other guaranteed prices. To bring the average weighted price of wheat received by growers last year up to 50s. a quarter would cost £1,500,000. To bring barley up to 36s. which ought to be the minimum price would not have cost anything on the basis of last year's price. If the price of beef were guaranteed at 50s. per cwt. it would cost £1,400,000. If the price of mutton were guaranteed at 1s. per lb. it would cost £1,800,000. The minimum price for sugar beet should be 43s. a ton and butter 1s. 6d. per lb. To guarantee all these prices on the basis of average prices received by growers between July, 1937, and July, 1938, would cost £6,000,000 a year. As a farmer said to me, "That is not a gold mine, but it would enable the 629 farmer to expand his production with confidence," and I believe it would be money well spent if the Government could see their way to guarantee these prices. At the same time we want to see the standard of life of the people on the land raised. There have been many references in the Debate to the low standard of nutrition among people in country districts. If the prices I have suggested were guaranteed under a five-year plan I believe it would be possible to readjust the minimum wage so as to be able to give a minimum of £2 per week in place of the present minimum, which is in the neighbourhood of 34s. or 35s.
Turning from the agricultural field, let me say a word about the situation with which we are confronted to-day as a result of events in Germany. I feel that with the pogroms which have been started against the Jews a challenge is given to us the British Empire, with the largest land surface of any one commonwealth of nations in the world, to find an asylum for Jewish refugees.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is not in order in raising that subject under this Amendment, which deals with the prosperity and the resources of this country.
§ Mr. De Chair
I apologise. I was under the impression that the range of debate was equally large under the Amendment and the original Motion. I will not develop that subject further on this occasion, except to say that I do believe there are parts of the Empire where that could be done. Turning to the speeches which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and the right hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) on these general questions of the condition of the people and the need for national unity, I should like to ask the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington whether he is really contributing very much to national unity by speeches of that kind. He asks for unity, but—
§ Mr. Speaker
That subject also does not arise. It would be in order on the general discussion but not on the Amendment.
§ Mr. De Chair
In that case I am afraid that I am rather hampered in what I wish to say, and I will not detain the House 630 very much longer. On the subject of unemployment, which is the general subject of the Debate to-day, I feel that what we need is the organisation of the unemployed into a National Labour Reserve, to change the whole status of the unemployed so that they can feel that they are not thrown out on the scrap heap by society. I believe that an imaginative Minister of Labour could provide the unemployed with useful work, at no great cost to the country, by establishing an organisation for them on the lines, rather, of the British Legion, so that everybody who was momentarily put out of work could feel that he belonged to an organisation which was a real reserve of labour and which was preparing him for any vacancies that might arise in the future. It would be a new approach to this problem. It would give a new hope to people who are momentarily out of work. I believe that a great deal of physical recreation could be provided for people in such an organisation, and that their cultural interests could be met, and some of the leisure which they themselves would regard, and rightly so, as unfortunately possessed by them, could be utilised to better advantage. Such an approach to the problem would give to the unemployed man a new feeling of importance, a new status. At the moment he feels that he is not wanted, that for some reason society has thrown him out, and that it is no fault of his own. If we were to provide an organisation in the form of a National Labour Reserve we should be going a long way to removing one of the stigmas of our present social system.
§ 9.55 P.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
My right hon. Friend who opened this Debate dealt with the subject in a broad spirit which was worthy of the gravity of it. He did so in the belief that his attitude would be reciprocated, but the right hon. Gentleman who followed him—I say this in his absence—devoted the first half of his speech to making mere party points rather than attempting to deal with the subject in the spirit which we were entitled to expect. If he had delivered the last half of his speech first we should have been more benefited by what he said. I intend to spend the time at my disposal in dealing with the unemployment side of the Amendment.
We have now some 1,800,000 men, women and youngsters, unemployed. We were glad to see that last month there 631 was a reduction of some 17,000, and the most was made of that fact by the Press. I am glad that the Press takes that line now-a-days and that the most is made of every little advance. I wish that had always been the case. I remember the days when 17,000 or 1,700 would have had headlines. I am entitled—I think I am bound to do so—to draw the attention of the House to a very grave feature of the figures. If I am wrong, the right hon. Gentleman has a staff at his disposal that will put me right—and I shall be very glad to be put right. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has noticed that while there was a reduction of 17,000 last month, there was an actual increase of 80,000 in the wholly unemployed. The improvement was in the temporarily unemployed, the numbers of whom were reduced, as compared with the previous month, to the same extent as the wholly unemployed increased. All that has happened is that the Christmas trade has been responsible for a reduction of 17,000 by absorbing some of the temporarily unemployed. At a time when we are spending hundreds of millions of pounds upon armaments it is very significant and ominous that, when great masses of people are engaged temporarily for Christmas trade purposes, there should be an increase of 80,000 in the wholly unemployed.
There is a worse feature than that. The figures given by the Minister of Health were rather misleading. He gave the impression that the wholly unemployed and the temporarily unemployed were about half and half, but, as a matter of fact, three out of every four unemployed is wholly unemployed. The figure for wholly unemployed is 1,400,000. These people are in pools up and down the country. They are not only in Special Areas, but in areas which are special although not recognised as such. Indeed, it would be possible to find in the London area very bad pools of unemployment. I have not been able to get any local records, because they are not in the Library. I am going to say something deliberately, or rather repeat what I once said and what caused a great deal of criticism. There are on the other side of the House hon. Members who are deeply concerned about unemployment, and we have heard some of them speak to-day, some from areas in which there is no unemployment. 632 It is to their credit that they are so deeply concerned from the national point of view as to what is happening to the country. The great bulk of hon. Members on that side of the House are not in the least interested in unemployment. They do not care, because it is the other people who have to face those sufferings.
The remarkable thing about the unemployment situation is that no one is responsible for the handling of our labour resources. No one is responsible for that section of our workers which is surplus to the normal needs of industry. No body or person is responsible for their re-employment. There are 300,000 people who have been unemployed for over a year. That is just a polite way of saying that they have been unemployed for years. The Minister himself informed me the other day that no fewer than 600,000 people had been idle for three months at least. There are 1,400,000 who have been unemployed for six weeks. They have had no employment at all. It is a significant, and perhaps the most ominous, feature of all that that wholly unemployed section of the workers seems to increase with deadly monotony. The great bulk of them are in that 400,000 increase as compared with last year.
I know that the Minister of Labour is not responsible for the unemployed. He receives the criticism. He always reminds me of one of those fairs attended by the young and healthy, and at which there are certain figures representing old gentlemen. You hit the old gentlemen with wooden balls. If you hit them fairly between the eyes they go over, but they come back again as though there was nothing the matter. The right hon. Gentleman gets the criticism. Facts and figures are thrown at him, but he comes up smiling. He is a good shock absorber. He is put there and maintained by the Government because he takes it all and keeps smiling. He is industrious, he is genial, but he does nothing for the unemployed, because he has no power. The Unemployment Assistance Board has no power and does nothing. I think it has made things worse. A right hon. Gentleman here this evening was proposing to give family allowances in order to enable certain workers to have more. I should be much 633 more encouraged if the right hon. Gentleman were concerned about the means test. I am much more enthusiastic about that than about family allowances. So the Unemployment Assistance Board is not responsible; the Statutory Committee is not responsible; it is a remarkable thing that there is no member of the Government and no organisation in the Government that is responsible for work-finding for those who have been out of work for years. I do not know when the Government are going to face that question. We can criticise, we can be eloquent, we can handle the facts and figures as we like; it will make no difference whatever as long as there is the present lack of organisation to deal with the question of unemployment.
There are those who talk in this House nowadays about a national register, but as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, they ignore the national register of men and women for whom no Minister is really responsible, who want to give service, who are left to live a bare existence and are denied the right to play their part in the service of the nation. No one who knows what this means in terms of the deterioration of large masses of our manhood and womanhood, no one who realises the price that the nation is paying for the neglect of the unemployed, could honestly assent to a claim for a national register while the Government of the day refuse to shoulder responsibility for those who have no work. This House ought to understand that no discipline is equal to the discipline of regular work. I have not seen attention drawn to it before, but it is an ominous and dangerous fact that a great part of these unemployed are in industries from which, when the last test of the nation took place in 1914–18, it drew, if I might say so without making invidious distinctions, its most fit and strong men. Mining, heavy engineering, steel, the sea and fishing—it is just in those industries that there are great masses of unemployed men, who must certainly deteriorate because of their enforced idleness.
What are the Government going to do about this? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to tell us to-night? A Commission is sitting; a kind of grand inquest is being held. There is evidence from Departments, which is very useful indeed, but the outstanding evidence of all before 634 that Commission is that one Department does not know what another Department is doing. The ignorance of Departments as to the activities of the others is most amazing, and time after time the Commission has had to send back representatives who have come from various Departments and ask them to take counsel with other Departments on certain points. What are the Government going to do about that? When the Commission reports—it has been sitting for some 12 months—there will still be a need for some drastic averhauling of Government organisation in order to give effect to any proposals that it may make.
At the present time, no matter how fruitful in proposals the average Member of this House is, he has no one to whom he can go with any proposals with the certain feeling that they will be carried into effect. Take the question of water resources and of drainage. That question has not been touched; no one has visualised it; no one is responsible for the resources of the country in that respect; yet I venture to say that, if they were overhauled, the employment of tens of thousands of men would be required to meet the needs of the country in that one respect alone. The evidence before the Commission has made that quite plain, and the need is obvious according to the questions that were put.
Again, take the international situation. There are those of us who are deeply concerned as to what would happen in the event of a conflict, and some of us hold very strongly the view, which seems to me to be elementary, that, if unfortunately we should get into conflict with any foreign country, one of the things that will have to be done will be to put aerodromes underground. Some of us hold that some of the chief factories in this part of the country—for instance, in London, the aeroplane factories—would practically as soon as we got into war, have to go underground in some way or another.
I could give very definite evidence, if I wished to use the evidence here, but I would not; but it is within my own knowledge that one Department is very much aware of that need. Already, within my own knowledge, there is one arm of the Defence Forces which has gone underground. It may be said that to a certain 635 extent munitions have been put underground, but I venture to say that, if we were in conflict to-morrow, serious attention would have to be given to that matter. Here we are, however, with tens of thousands of men highly skilled at the job of going underground—digging and delving and making wonderful places underground—who are now at our disposal but who, if we were in conflict, would be wanted for other tasks at once. I may be wrong, but I know that many people hold the same view. Indeed, in the report on the Special Areas made by lion. Members on this side of the House after their investigation, that proposal was put forward. But I have gone to the Departments. I have spoken to this, that and the other of them, but nobody is responsible. Is it not time that we coordinated our social defence through the various Departments?
Take the question of the Special Areas. We have been discussing day after day, all day, and we have had this House full as a rule when we have discussed it, the evacuation of London in case of war. But is this House aware that, when we are considering the removal of millions of people, as many employers as like to do so can plant factories in this part of the country? Surely, that is stupid. Have we to wait another 12 months, until this Commission reports, or until the Government give us a chance of considering its report, before we can discuss this question of the location of industry? Here is the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman's own Department. I will say this for the right hon. Gentleman and his staff, that if the Board of Trade had been as efficient and as effective in their evidence as his Department, something might have been done. The Board of Trade gave evidence in the spirit of the early nineteenth century economists: "You can do nothing, and you must do nothing, or everything will go wrong." Mr. Humbert Wolfe, in giving his evidence, said:The present unregulated determination of the location of industry has given rise to a number of unfortunate consequences.My word it has. We know in our areas that healthy and virile young people are leaving the areas, and leaving great problems for us. He continued:The problem of dealing with unemployment is difficult enough when spread over the 636 country as a whole, but it is much more intractable when it is concentrated in particular districts. … Where migration has taken place from the older industrial areas, it is, in the main, the more vigorous sections of the population which have tended to leave.There is a whole string of statements of that description, of the most grave kind; yet it looks as if it will he a long time before we get any chance to consider this matter; and even when we do get the chance, unless the Government are going to have some kind of reorganisation—that is, if this Government stay in power, of course—there is no hope of dealing with the problem at all. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in the investigation he made on the North-East Coast for the Government in 1934, was quite blunt about it. He said:Consideration of which form such assistance should take inevitably raises the question of general policy, which, at first sight, might seem to be outside the scope of this report.Then he went on to say that the first practical step towards exercising a measure of control should be the planning of the location of industry. That does not come from the Opposition or from a mere back bencher, but from a Member of the Government, who made the recommendation four years ago. There is very grave disturbance in the minds of people in the Special Areas about the Special Areas Act. It is rumoured—and there is some reason behind the rumours —that it is in the mind ct the Government to let the Act go alit of existence. We have our complaints to make about the Act and about its shortcomings. We do not say it has done too much. In fact it has not done too much at all. In the Trading Estate in my own area the most optimistic statement is of 10,000 being employed at some time, and that is only a fraction of the great mass of unemployed. Are the Government going to amend that Act? Are they going to give the Commissioner more power, or are they going to increase the schedule, or to continue the Act at all? I wish the right hon. Gentleman would give us an answer on that point.
Take the position in my own area in the North-East, which is the most concrete example that I can give at the moment. Can the right hon. Gentleman say that there is this or that improvement? I hope 637 that he will listen to these figures. In the first six months of this year there were on the shipbuilding stocks 102,400 tons, and during the same period of last year there were 422,000 tons. There is about a quarter of the tonnage being built now on the Tyne, the Wear and the Tees compared with what there was last year during the same period. In the first seven months of 1938 the export of coal from the North-East ports was 2,750,000 tons less than last year. Anyone can see, wherever he turns, that the pits are being closed. In the division of my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson), a pit has been closed affecting nearly 2,000 men, and indeed seams and pits are being closed right and left. There is a great deal of apprehension in every one of these Special Areas at the very meagre contribution of the Commissioner, but we would very much regret, and there would be a very great disturbance of thought, if the right hon. Gentleman or the Government were responsible for letting that Act slip out of existence.
On the general question, this state of things, as far as the unemployment of great masses of men is concerned, cannot continue without disaster of the worst kind to this nation. Observing men in the crisis tell us that there was a great deal of muddle. I never saw anything more pathetic than the confessions that were made about a week ago. It was good to make confession, but it was a tragic thing that those confessions had to be made. If we come into conflict and, unfortunately, have to face another crisis, with the situation as it is on what is called the home front, and in view of the unemployment and the deterioration of men and of the existence of poverty and want in great masses of homes, it will indeed be an evil thing for this country. Therefore, we think that we are rendering a service to the country in moving this Amendment, and we say that, unless the Government are minded to do something drastic, the country will take note of the fact that no one but the Government is responsible for the present situation in which, speaking in terms of defence, from external evidence, or from domestic evidence, it is indeed a lamentable record that they can show.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) is always 638 disarming in his fairness and candour in Debate, but he will not expect me to agree with the last sentence he uttered, because the Government record certainly contains much more than the things which he castigates and, to which other hon. Members have called attention. It is a good thing in a democratic country that both sides of a case can be stated in open Debate, so that the nation can make up its mind. The trouble is that when we come to deal with a Debate of this kind, the Minister who is asked to reply in 35 minutes must have the pity of all hon. Members, when they consider the number and the complication of the subjects that have been raised.
I have heard the whole of the Debate, with the exception of three-quarters of an hour of it, and I have been asked to deal with many questions. I have been asked to compare what is done with labour here with what is done with labour in Germany. I have also been asked to state the attitude of the Government in regard to some vague, bold and undefined central direction and control of industry which, to my mind, represented words, words, words. The hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland), who has spoken this evening, has been very busy telling me over and over again what I ought to be doing. If he will apply himself to that very bold, vague and wonderful sentence, if he will put it down in black and white, in terms of what he would have to do if he were in office and responsible for the direction of practical affairs in this country, he will find that his conclusion upon his own policy would be my conclusion upon it, namely, words, words, words.
I have been asked also to give my opinion about theology. The hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Harold Macmillan) is constantly accusing me of being complacent. I am not aware of it. Will he allow me to say to him that he is in danger of being pontifical? In addition to giving all kinds of political views in writing and in speech about the whole finance of the nation and the world and the organisation of every industry, he talks about the Government of the day as if it had been only tinkering with this and that, but when he gets up to tell the House what is or what is not sound theology, I think he will find it harder to get unity about that than about finance or the central direction of industry. 639 Having listened to him in many Debates, I am sure he will not mind my saying that to him in a perfectly frank way. [Interruption.] Yes, and I find that there are people who think that I have not done so badly here, although the hon. Member may think that some of his constituents have not benefited as quickly as they may have thought they would three and a half years after I assumed the responsibility of this very heavy office.
Let me say another friendly word to him. He is very interesting when he talks about unity. Everybody desires unity for a great purpose, and certainly everybody desires unity in the best interests of this great nation and this great people, but when he comes to dealing with any practical proposition I do not find him quite so pontifical, nor do I find his statements quite so satisfactory. He was drawing conclusions as to what they do in Germany with the unemployed and what we do here. Then the hon. Member was not so direct in his statement. What does he say? He says that there are so many thousands of workmen working on a great defensive line and that when the job is over they go elsewhere. Does he think that that is an accurate statement of what happens? Would not a better phraseologist have chosen a different word, and have said not that they go elsewhere but that they are sent elsewhere—a very different thing altogether. And we are asked to imitate that kind of unity.
I gather that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) is asking for all kinds of compulsory powers and that some of these ideas are spreading. I suggest that the country with which we should have to deal would be a very different country. It might be neater and tidier, but it would not be the country which our fathers helped to make; and I suggest that we would much rather have a little untidiness and great freedom than thousands of speeches in support of the extraordinary idea about central control. But that is material for a whole Debate. The hon. Member for King's Norton said that we were doing nothing to help to put the results of production into wages. The hon. Member does not understand what we have been doing. One of the greatest things happening in the last 20 years in this country has been the tremendous development of the 640 democratic system of co-operation and free bargaining between organised labour and organised capital. Indeed, so marvellous has been the spread of co-operative effort in industrial relations that even the leaders in the United States were pleased to send a commission here last July to inquire into the reasons for the success of the industrial relations in this country as carried on now.
The fact is that never in the history of this island, despite the gravity of the problem raised in the Debate and on a score of other occasions, have the relations between employers and employed been more satisfactory, nor can you find many occasions in the history of this country when the actual results to the workmen concerned in production have been more satisfactory than recently. Hon. Members opposite will give me this credit, that I have always been and still am, whether in office or out of office, a real believer in collective agreements and in every employer being a member of his organisation and every worker a member of his trade union. I have always tried at the Mines Department or at the Ministry of Labour to hear the case put without any bias, and to try arid meet a case which has been proved. I am dealing with the hon. Member for King's Norton because a reply on this matter is a little overdue. We are a little tired of being lectured by people like the hon. Member. He says that we know nothing about wages and production. May I point out to him that we have infinite faith in the democratic organisations and that we are not so fond of this extraordinary centralised control, which is so vaguely stated. Let me point out that since the turn in the trend of wages at the end of 1933, the weekly wages bill, assuming full-time employment—I am speaking now of wage rates—was £1,786,000 higher at the end of September, 1938, than at the end of 1933. That means that nearly £100,000,000 were gained in annual wage rates. That does not by any means represent total earnings, for a number of industries in the last four years have been working more than full time, so that the gain in total earnings is much larger than the figure I have given.
I think my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton and his friends, before pressing the idea that some pontifical person or persons dignified by the name 641 of economists or some other name would be able to do better for this nation, for industry and wages than this system has done for many years, ought perhaps to give a little more attention to the strength of our present system and talk less in vague terms. I have been called a shock absorber. I have been called many things. The other day I was called the apostle of common sense. I will say this to my hon. Friend, that before he will get acceptance among working men even in his own division of these ideas, he will need to get away from vague phrases and put them down in actual terms as they will affect, this, that and the other industry, and the employers' federations and trade unions concerned will have something to say; and he will find in the end that the men he accuses of not doing anything to ensure that this added production goes into wages are perhaps more successful, in their democratic faith in these democratic organisations in this democratic State, than he and some of his friends who itch after centralised control might be, although they make out paper cases.
Let me go further. In addition to those ideas of centralised control, there has been a wonderful series of speeches, but very few about the social services. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health must have been interested to see how the Debate on the whole switched off the social services—[An HON. MEMBER: "We shall have more to say about them."] If what is said is accurate, the Government will welcome it. Never in the history of this country has a greater contribution been made—not even in that great period from 1906 to 1910, when the real work was done—never in the history of this island has there been a chapter giving greater gains in reforms in the realm of the social services, than during the last six years.
Hon. Members may take any test they please. I will take only one. I have here the last Returns of the Social Services. The social services are dealt with one after another, and it would take ten minutes to deal with each one; I will take the total. When it is realised that the last return, for the year 1936, shows £503,000,000, covering a whole series of some 20 separate social services, when it is realised that in every one of these fields improvements have been made in the record of this Government during the last six years, 642 then hon. Members opposite, if they are going to talk in the country about the social services, had better be very careful, because there is a very great story to tell, not only from the point of view of the Ministry of Health, but also from the point of view of the Ministry of Labour, and I will say to my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street that the shock absorber will be needed, not on this Bench, but on the other side of the House. When I went down to speak at the by-election in Doncaster, I was asked, whether I knew the story about the rabbits and the hat. It was a story of a predecessor of mine in the Labour Government who was so hampered by this problem that he said he could not produce rabbits out of a hat. I understand that there is another story which I do not know, but I could not help thinking of a little rhyme of my own:You go to the bees for honey, and forkittens you go to the cat,But where do you go for the 'bunnies'that won't come out of the hat?I suggest to hon. Members opposite that when they talk so largely about hold and wonderful schemes for putting 100,000 men to work—I have even heard them talk about 500,000—they had better remember the story of the rabbits and the hat in 1923.
§ Mr. Brown
Not much is said about the means test nowadays, but if my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) wants me to say a word about it I will do so. Indeed, I will say two words about it. The first is this, that the means test is working much more satisfactorily than either hon. Members opposite or any Member of this House anticipated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I do not say that hon. Members opposite are satisfied with it, but that is the case. My second word on the means test will be a prophecy. Whatever hon. Members say about it now—and what they say is growing less and less—if they ever get the chance they will be the last people to abolish it. This is a very interesting Debate. We are having a real Debate to-night. Let me then come to a point which has gone through all the speeches, a point of great gravity about which all the House has been concerned and that is the point of nutrition, references to which have been made from all sides.
§ Mr. Brown
I thought hon. Members complained that we were complacent, pompous and dull. We can never please them. When we are grave they say we are dull; when we sit quiet, they say that we are complacent; when we show that there is another side to the question and that there is a good deal of virility in the Government's response to their criticism, then they are not happy either. With regard to nutrition I would say just this one thing. It has been most interesting to see how statements made by eminent scientists are taken out of their context and given without the reservations which those scientists put upon them. [Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Members opposite will allow me to make my speech in my own way. I am dealing with the evidence. This is the process which is followed. First, you set up a particular theoretical standard. Then you investigate a certain number of cases. Then you draw large conclusions by quoting the words of various reports. Fortunately for me, one report has been named to-day. It was published by the firm of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees two years ago, and before he quoted the report itself he might have quoted the preface. I will do so now: This is what Sir John Boyd Orr puts in the preface, written from Aberdeen and therefore to be taken with great seriousness, as a warning to all who are going to use the body of his report. It says this:Moreover, both the technique of investigation and the standards of dietary adopted are new and must be regarded as still on trial. There is need for further investigation and further discussion of the whole question in all its complicated relationships, in order that the measures taken to deal with the situation may be based on generally accepted facts and well informed public opinion.I would issue that word of caution of Sir John Boyd Orr's to all who have taken part in these Debates, and if they fully read that report, they will find that what I have said is justified. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street said I was a shock absorber because hon. Members threw figures at me, but he was not complete. 644 What he means is that they get figures from me and then throw them back at me, so that I am not only a shock absorber, but a provider of the shocks to be absorbed. It is very interesting to see how this thing has been tackled. It has been a serious problem in the minds of all parties for many years. There was first of all the committee set up by this Government in connection with the Agricultural Marketing Act, and there was secondly the committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, now Lord Kennet, when Minister of Health, and I know something about that, as I was Parliamentary Secretary when the thing was being discussed in the early days. That committee, together with the inquiry set up under the Marketing Act, has done more for the collection of facts in this matter than any other single thing that has been done. Therefore, it is not in the mouths of hon. Members opposite to charge the Government with not being aware of the seriousness and the gravity of this problem.
The fact is that I have gone even farther, because although it is true that a good deal has been said about the cost of living, we have taken the constructive step of having the most exhaustive investigation into the present-day cost-of-living basis that has been made, not only in this country, but in the whole world, and so great has been the popular enthusiasm behind it that we have had help from Members of all parties, in all areas, in connection with every exchange, with the result that perhaps in a year from now we shall know more about how the housewives of this country spend their money, on a basis scientifically and statistically accurate, than not merely this land has ever had, but any other country in the world either. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why have we not got the results yet?"] The hon. Member always wants quick results, but you do not get actions and big results by asking for them to be done too quickly. If he asks me that, I will refer him to the trade union members who sat on the Advisory Committee, and they will tell him why.
We set out to get at least 10,000 household budgets four times in a year, in the autumn, winter, spring and summer. We have got in the first quarter 13,000 and in each of the successive quarters 12,000, and in addition to that we have 645 no fewer than 3,000 housewives voluntarily keeping a weekly account of the expenditure that they have made on clothing, every week for the year. To have got that done is to have done something which will again throw light, not merely on our own problem of the cost of living, but on the problem in other countries too. It is not true to say that we are complacent. It is the action taken by this Government that has helped this problem in a way in which it has never been helped before.
Before I deal with the question of the 2,000,000 I will answer the only two definite questions I have been asked in this Debate to-day. The first was put by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), who asked me, since the King's Speech said that among the other Measures that Parliament would be invited to discuss would be a Bill to amend the Unemployment Insurance Act, whether this was to strengthen the Act or not. The answer is, Yes. He will have noticed that the Beveridge Committee have reported on the very difficult and complicated problem of holidays with pay, and its relation to unemployment insurance. Whatever conclusions the Government come to about that, legislation will be necessary, and we propose at the same time to include one or two small reforms, which I need not deal with now, and all of them will be improvements in the unemployment insurance system.
§ Mr. Brown
The Bill will, of course, deal with the unemployment insurance law in so far as it affects the Unemployment Assistance Board. The other specific question was put by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street about the Special Areas. I was very pleased to hear the warm terms in which he spoke about what was being done in the Special Areas under the Special Areas Acts. I know that he qualified his remark and that he said they had not done all that he wished them to do, but I gathered that he had heard rumours that the Acts were going to expire, as they are due to expire, in 1939. Let me answer the question and announce the Government decision. While the House may defer a general Debate on this 646 subject until the reports of the Commissioners have been received and published, it will perhaps be convenient for me to indicate at once generally the Government's intention. We have been giving very careful consideration to the problem of the Special Areas, and have decided to ask Parliament to continue the present Acts for a further period. They will, therefore, be continued in the Expiring Laws Bill. This is not all. The House will remember that these Acts include provisions for encouraging the establishment of new industrial undertakings, not only in the Special Areas themselves but also in certain areas outside. Experience has shown that some modification of the present conditions applying to the outside areas is desirable in order to make loan facilities more readily available for new undertakings, and the Government propose to introduce legislation in due course for this purpose. I am sure that in that we should have the support of the whole House. I now come to the question of the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams).
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Before the right hon. Gentleman passes from the Special Areas question, which is most important, would he indicate whether any other amendments to the Act are contemplated?
§ Mr. Brown
The statement I have made makes it clear. We propose to so continue the present Act in the Expiring Laws Bill, and not only that, but to meet the point that has been made about the nature of certain restrictive powers under that Act. Since the Commission's Report will be available very shortly, the House will have ample time to discuss the whole thing before the Bill is introduced.
§ Mr. N. Maclean
Can the Minister say if the conditions which the Government conceded to Glasgow regarding contracts will also be continued?
§ Mr. Brown
To deal now with the question of 2,000,000 unemployed, instead of trying to conjure away the Unemployment figures, as I have been accused of doing, I have done nothing of the kind. What I tried to do was to avoid making general statements and to deal with the facts of the problem itself. The fact is that in the real sense of the word there are not 2,000,000 unemployed. Anybody who 647 thought he had a scheme for dealing with 2,000,000 unemployed would find that they were not there to be dealt with. It is perfectly true that at any given time in the last year and a half there would have been between 1,500,000 and 1,800,000 on the register. The registered unemployed and the real unemployed are not the same thing. I am twitted with analysing the problem away, and I may perhaps re-state the case. The fact is that underneath the same total figure the problem may be changed, and changed vitally. That is what is happening now, and in spite of the recession of last year, on the whole it is changing for the better.
The facts are that, in spite of the areas which suffer from the tragedy of the international scene—for it is the international scene which finds its reflection in the dark parts of the home scene—there has been going on regularly for the last four years a change in the character of the unemployed. That change is mostly shown in the comparative numbers of those who have been unemployed a long time. I will only trouble the house with three figures out of a number I have here. In September, 1932, there were on the unemployed register 2,500,000. Of that number 1,063,000 had been unemployed for three months or more. In September, 1933, there were 2,000,000 on the register, and on the Monday when the count was taken 933,000 had been unemployed three months or more. When I analysed the claimants for 12th September this year, I found that of the 1,650,000 claimants the number who had been out of work for three months or more had dropped to 610,729.
This means that the character of the problem has been changing, not merely because there is another side to the question, the employment side, which has not been discussed to-day, but because the various constructive measures of the Government, including the magnificent training schemes, are having their effect in this direction—that as old men come off the register their places are not being filled to the same extent by men who have been out a long time as their predecessors were. Debates of this kind are valuable in this free democratic country, for they enable the Government not merely to be attacked, but to defend themselves.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Sir Charles Edwards.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.