§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Colonel CLIFTON BROWN in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed.
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to continue certain expiring laws, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such expenses, and the payment into the Exchequer of such receipts, as may be occasioned by the continuance of the Debts Clearing Offices and Import Restrictions Act, 1934, until the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, and by the continuance of the Special Areas (Amendment) Act, 1937, until the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and forty, being expenses or receipts which, under or by virtue of either of the two last mentioned Acts, are to be defrayed out of such moneys or paid into the Exchequer."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[Captain Wallace.]
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I want to begin by making a protest against this Resolution being taken at this late hour of the night. I feel that I should be disloyal to the large number of unemployed men in my Division if I did not take this opportunity of bringing before the Committee the policy of the Government with regard to the distressed areas. I represent a Division right in the very heart of the distressed area in the county of Durham, and the Government have done nothing for that area. Some of my hon. Friends will be angry that one is raising the question at this late hour of the night, but I am certain that if they could see the people in my Division as I see them so often, with the stamp of poverty on their clothes and on their appearance, they would not be angry with me. I oppose this Resolution on several grounds, and I would be prepared to carry my opposition to it into the Division Lobby because of the way the money is being spent on the distressed areas and because of the failure of the Government to find sufficient money for dealing with unemployment in those areas; and although we need all the money we can get, yet, because of the way in which the money is being dealt with and because of the insufficiency of the money, I would do as we do on education and unemployment benefit and many other things, I would 1676 be prepared to carry my opposition into the Division lobby.
I oppose this Resolution because the amount spent by the Commissioner, £10,000,000, is ridicuously small to solve so serious a problem. Four years ago the Commisioner was appointed, and during those four years he has spent 10,000,000, an annual average of 2,500,000, to cure the disease of chronic unemployment. The result has been that the policy of the Government has been just as ineffective as if a patient were given two Beecham's pills to cure a broken leg. The Financial Memorandum printed on the front page of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill says:The total provision made to date for payments into the Special Areas Fund established by the Act of 1934 is £16,000,000, and such further Estimates as may be necessary will be presented on exhaustion of that sum.Meanwhile, up to the 31st October, 1938, payments by the Commissioners for Special Areas have amounted to about £10,230,000…There follow these staggering words:The amount of expenditure to be incurred in, future by the Commissioners and the Treasury will depend on the extent to which they exercise their functions.That is cold comfort for the distressed areas. They may spend anything, they may spend nothing. They may simply spend next year as much money as they have spent this year. Can the Minister tell us how this £10,000,000 is being spent? We are asked to vote this Financial Resolution, and there is not one Member in the House who knows how the money is being spent. Before we pass the Resolution we have a right to know how that £10,000,000 is being spent. The Minister of Labour, speaking to the House on 14th November, said: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.What did the Minister mean by that? Did he not mean that before the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill was introduced and this Money Resolution was before the House, the Commissioners Report would be issued? There is no sign of the Report, which is the only thing that can tell us how the money has been spent. Before the Resolution is passed we ought to have the Report so that the House can judge how the money has been spent. 1677 The Minister of Labour made another statement which I should like him to explain: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1938; col. 646, Vol. 341.]We have been told that we should not discuss the Special Areas because of the proposed legislation. The only construction that one can put upon the hon. Minister's words is that there is no intention of dealing with the Special Areas in the future, that the new legislation will not touch the Special Areas, and that it will deal only with outside areas, and these only in order to give them loan facilities. It is not sufficient for the Government to say they are going to bring in new legislation, and then for that legislation to mean so little to the Special Areas, to the outside areas and to where-ever unemployment is so bad. The Prime Minister on Thursday made a statement that rather puzzled me, and perhaps the Minister of Labour will explain what he meant.We want to keep the present Act in existence by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, but that does not mean that it is the end of the matter. As I explained before, further legislation is contemplated and will give an opportunity for further discussion."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1938; col. 1061, Vol. 341.]What further discussion can there be—
I would remind the hon. Member that this Financial Resolution is confined entirely to the present Act, and we cannot discuss other legislation that there may be in future. He must confine himself, therefore, to the present Act.
§ Mr. Batey
I was not going to talk about future legislation. I should like to know what the Prime Minister meant, and who had advised him, because 1678 clearly he was under a misapprehension when he made that statement. I submit that the proposed legislation will make no difference to Durham, or anywhere else. What we want is to be able to voice our claim to be free to make Amendments in the Special Areas Act. There are members in the House who want to add other areas to the list of Special Areas.
That, I am afraid, is quite out of Order. We cannot go into the question of other areas now.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
If a Bill is presented for Second Reading—and that is really what inclusion in the Schedule to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill means—surely it is competent on the Money Resolution for such Bill, for an Amendment to be moved, or for comment to be made, expressing a desire for the money to be applied to other areas as well?
But not under this Bill. We have to confine ourselves entirely to the Measures which are included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.
§ Mr. Benn
Do you rule that the inclusion of a Bill in the Schedule to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill is different procedure from the presentation of a Bill in the ordinary manner for Second Reading?
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
It is not proposed to add to the amount of money which Parliament is to find, and as it is not proposed to do that is it not in Order to argue that the same amount of money may be allocated to a number of different areas? I remember that this point was raised before, Mr. Speaker, and Mr. Speaker at that time said that it was not in Order, because the recipient of the money had been indicated by the King's Recommendation. That is a disability under which we do not labour this evening. We are discussing whether we should find certain sums of money and not His Majesty's Recommendation as to who should be the recipient of them. My hon. Friend is not arguing that the 1679 amount of money should be increased, but that there should be a redistribution of the money, and I submit that he is in Order.
When we are discussing the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill we are limited to the Acts in existence and whether they should be continued or not. We cannot allocate the money to different objects.
§ Mr. Bevan
We are not arguing that the money should be spent in any different way, because the way in which the money is to be spent is, obviously, limited by the language of the Act itself. We are discussing the amount of money; we are not adding to the amount of money. Surely it is open to my hon. Friend to argue that we should alter or add to the recipients of the money, because the recipients of the money were not defined by the Bill but by the King's Recommendation.
§ Mr. Silverman
Further to that point of Order. I notice in the Schedule to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill certain other Measures—the Public Works Facilities Act, 1930, the Cotton Manufacturing Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1934, which would be continued if this Bill were passed.
§ Mr. Silverman
I appreciate that, but would it not be in order in discussing a Money Resolution which is:for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to continue certain expiring lawsand to devote certain money to two Acts in the Schedule, to comment on the failure of the Resolution to provide money for the purposes of other Acts continued by this Bill?
Certainly not. The discussion must be entirely limited to the subjects covered by the Resolution.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
While recognising that the Money Resolution covers certain specified areas, I would point out that there are Members from other areas which may be affected by the conditions and the smallness of the money granted. Is it 1680 in order for such other Members to raise those points?
Certainly not, because we are limited by the Existing Act, and we cannot go further.
The existing Act affects not only the Special Areas. The Minister of Labour and other representatives of the Government have recognised that the existing Act dealing with the Special Areas affects other parts of the country. Surely we are in order in putting our point of view with regard to the operation of the Act?
It is in order to comment on any moneys spent under the existing Acts, but we cannot go outside the existing Acts.
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
May I recall to your mind that there was a very long discussion on this very point about the Special Areas, that Members complained bitterly that they were not able to move any Amendments about the allocation of money and that a Select Committee was set up to examine the point, under the chairmanship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert)? I was a Member of that Committee, which clearly laid it down that whereas it was impossible to permit Members to move Amendments which increased the public charge, it was at the same time clear that the proper time for Members to express dissatisfaction with the allocation or the insufficiency of the money was on the Money Resolution. Now you rule that because this matter is in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill it has acme special merit. I submit that it has less merit on that account. This is the first time that a Money Resolution has been connected with the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and it is a novelty, but I hope that the Government are not getting a Money Resolution through under cover of the Bill in such a way as to deprive Members of their rights to express their grievances. I submit that it is in order on the Money Resolution to criticise the Government both as to the adequacy and as to the distribution of the funds so provided.
It is in order to criticise the Government for any act done under the Special Areas Act, but 1681 the time for doing what the right hon. Gentleman suggests would be on the Money Resolution or the Second Reading of such new Bill as the Minister may introduce.
§ Mr. Benn
That is precisely the point where we criticise the cunning of the Government. They take the old Act, clap it into the Schedule of the Bill and then claim, under your Ruling, special privileges which restrict discussion, saying that we have no right to criticise the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I submit that we are not deprived under this Resolution of any privilege of debate or criticism which we should enjoy were it the Money Resolution of an ordinary Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. There is no new Bill. He will be fully entitled to criticise the Government for any action that they have taken under the existing Act, which is included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, but he cannot go outside that.
§ 11.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
This is the first time a distinction has been made between one Bill and another-between an old Bill and a new Bill. A Bill is a Bill, and I know of no Standing Order in which a distinction is made between one Bill and another. We are about to pass a Money Resolution for a Bill which must be a new Bill. At the moment there is no Bill. We are about to enact a Bill and I submit that the fact that such a Bill has formerly been the subject of an Act of Parliament has no bearing on the matter, and that what we are entitled to discuss is whether or not this amount of money should be added to or subtracted from, or whether the beneficiaries should be altered. The fact that it is in the Expiring Laws Bill does not, in my submission, endow the issue with any special privileges under the Standing Orders.
I am afraid the hon. Member is mistaken. We are discussing the question of continuing an existing Act, and the scope of that Act cannot be extended by discussion on the Money Resolution.
§ 11.36 p.m.
May I put a specific case? Supposing that Leith came under this scheme, and that it were an area that received a certain proportion of the 1682 £10,000,000 spent; and supposing that Glasgow Members of Parliament were informed that the expenditure of this money was taking certain areas from Glasgow—from another constituency; do you then rule that Glasgow Members cannot criticise this expenditure as applied to Leith, or refer to a constituency or area that is outside the Special Area?
That is beyond the scope of the Bill, and therefore out of order. I have given my Ruling, and must adhere to it.
§ 11.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I understand, Colonel Brown, that you now rule that we can discuss the money that is being spent under this Bill. May I remind you that the money spent under this present Bill includes money spent both by the Commissioners and by the Treasury, and also includes money spent both in the Special Areas and in the areas outside? I was going to argue for more Amendments in the Bill, or more freedom in the Bill, so that money might be spent more freely and so that we might know where it was going to be spent in the future, both in the Special Areas and also in the outside areas. That was the line of argument that I was going to take, but I will leave that and come back to the point of the money spent by the Commissioners.
The Government's policy seems to be to say, through the Commissioners, that the only remedy for unemployment is the trading estate, and I want to deal with the money that has been spent in connection with the trading estates. One finds that this Special Areas Bill has been put into the Expiring Laws Bill, not at the request of this House, but at the request of the development boards. They went to the Minister of Labour and asked him to put this Special Areas Bill into the Expiring Laws Act, but they did not understand that that would prevent Members of this House from moving any Amendments to the Bill.
I submit that Members of this House ought to be free to move any Amendments they wish for the purpose of improving the Bill, both in regard to the Special Areas and the outside areas. The only policy the Government have for dealing with unemployment is that of the trading estates. We have three trading estates in 1683 the Special Area of Durham. In one the Commissioner has spent £1,500,000. There are employed on that estate 1,603 persons, of whom only 585 are men of 18 years or over. What we want in the distressed areas is work for men. The Government's policy is one of finding work for boys and girls, but not for men. There is another trading estate in Durham where 282 persons are employed, and of those only 42 are men of 18 or over. We have in Durham trading estates to find work for men of 18 years and over to the number of 627. That is after the trading estates have been in existence four years. We are not going to solve the unemployment problem at that rate. There is something to be said, also, about the employment of the girls on these estates. Only this week I received a letter from the Amalgamated Society of Leather Workers. It says:Enclosed please find a few particulars of a firm which has been started in the depressed area of Durham. We are sending in a request to the Ministry of Labour for an enquiry to be made into the conditions of work and wages paid by this firm. We would very much appreciate your support in this matter.Here are the particulars:A few months ago a firm, trading under the name of Alligator Leather Goods Co., Ltd.,' was started on the new trading estate, St. Helen's, Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham. There are five directors, all of German birth, though two are now British subjects.… This district, as you will be well aware, is part of a distressed area. The firm, for the present, are taking advantage of it. We have, as stated, ho members and, so far as we can ascertain, not one is receiving more than 8s. a week. Some are getting less.Of course, there has been a fire this week at these leather works.
§ Mr. Batey
No. But a firm which pays girls 8s. a week or less ought not to exist. The Government should be ashamed to put up a factory with public money in order that Germans may employ girls at 8s. a week and not let them be organised.
That is one way in which the money is being spent. My chief reason for raising the question to-night is that, in that part of Durham, things are simply getting worse, in spite of all that the Government claim to have done and to have spent. In the Spennymoor Employment 1684 Exchange the index of unemployment shows that in January of this year there was 20.5 per cent. of unemployment, and that in October it had jumped to 26.4 per cent., and in another employment exchange in my Division the figure in January was 21 per cent. and in October 31 per cent. Things are really getting worse and we are dissatisfied with the present policy of the Government.
Pits are being closed continually in the county of Durham. I put a question only yesterday to the Secretary for Mines, in which I asked him how many pits had been closed in Durham since 1924, and the answer was that there had been 91 pits closed in that county and that 16,455 persons had been thrown out of employment. That is a staggering condition of things, which we cannot allow to continue without raising our voices in this House and protesting against it. Since the Commissioner was appointed in 1934 there have been 22 pits closed in Durham, throwing out of employment no fewer than 4,377 persons. Already this year 10 pits have been closed, and only recently a pit was closed in my Division which had employed 695 persons, one was closed in a neighbouring division which had employed 1,305 persons, and another in the Bishop Auckland Division employing 531 persons. We shall not be satisfied unless the Government are prepared to do something that they have not considered doing up to the present time. We want to be satisfied that they are not merely putting the Special Areas Act into the Expiring Laws Continuance Act in order to close the mouths of Members in this House. We talk about Hitlerism preventing free speech. The Government are preventing free speech in this House. They are trying to prevent Members from discussing the distressed areas, as we would have the opportunity of doing in a Distressed Areas Bill. The Government should seriously consider whether their policy up to the present time has not been an absolute failure. Certainly it has not been a success. The time has come when the Government should seriously reconsider the position and see whether they cannot get a new policy in order to help the distressed areas.
§ 11.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
I would like to ask the occupant of the Chair to recall the fact 1685 that the occasion upon which acute controversy arose in the House about the status and scope of Money Resolutions was on the Special Areas Bill and the establishment of a Committee. Now, on the first occasion that the same subject is up for discussion again, we have the unusual feature of a Money Resolution preceding the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. We should therefore like to know from you, Sir, what is the scope of the discussion that arises on this Resolution. Are we going to say that we can discuss the merits of the Bill and then, when it comes to the Bill itself, are we to be stopped from discussing them because we have discussed them already or are we to he limited on the Resolution because we are to discuss the Bills afterwards? One of the issues raised was that it was quite improper to have two discussions on the same issue—that you could not discuss the merits of the Bills on the Resolution and on the Bill itself. Then, if we are to discuss the merits of the Bills—and you, Sir, have allowed my hon. Friend to discuss many features of the Special Areas Bill—ought we to discuss them at ten minutes to eleven, because this is a very important issue which we have been waiting to discuss for some time? If we are not to be allowed to discuss the merits of the Bills, can we get an assurance that when we come to the Bill itself we shall not be prevented from discussing the merits of the Bills because we have already passed the Money Resolution? This is for us a very important matter. If we can get some guidance it will help us to determine our course of action.
I think again hon. Members are confusing the situation. The Bill itself is merely a question whether or not we are to continue certain expiring laws, of which the Special Areas Act is only one. The principle of the Bill that the hon. Member wants to discuss is outside the Money Resolution entirely. It is simply a question of continuing certain laws which are about to expire. It is out of Order now to discuss the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
I submit that the Committee has now been put in an absolutely absurd situation. What are we now being told? If it is impossible to discuss the merits of any of the Bills contained in this Bill on the Money Resolution, my hon. Friend 1686 should have been pulled up long before he concluded his speech, When we come to the Bill itself we shall be prevented, by the same Ruling, from discussing the content of any Bill continued under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Hon. Members opposite may think that very desirable, but for us it is wholly undesirable. This is the subject that gave rise to acute controversy and held the House up for three days some months ago. The House ought to be adjourned in order to give the two sides an opportunity of discussing the matter and coming to some compromise on it, because we are deeply suspicious that we are being tricked and that the Chair is once more being used as an instrument to prevent the House from discussing the matter. [Interruption.] You may say "No" as much as you like but hon. Members opposite have long ceased to represent their constituencies on this matter, They ought not to shelter behind the application of the Rules of the House to prevent the proper discussion of an important matter of public interest. I submit that we ought to have a reply from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury.
The hon. Member put a point of Order to me and not to the Parliamentary Secretary. I must adhere to the Ruling I have given. Hon. Members cannot go outside the administration of the Act.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
On a point of Order. Is it in order for the Patronage Secretary to instruct you to put the Question?
§ 11.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
May I ask whether you can see your way to express your opinion about this practice of taking substantial Acts which require a Money Resolution and sweeping them into the scope of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill? May not this be taken as a precedent which might enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to put the Finance Bill into the Schedule of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill? There must be some limit to this. If it involves a limitation of debate then it is not right to put into the Schedule of the Bill a Measure on which many hon. Members feel keenly and upon which they wish to express their opinions.
§ Mr. Benn
May I ask what precedents there are for the inclusion in the Schedule of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, Bills which involve a Money Resolution?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I have several important matters to raise before the Minister speaks, but I think the point of Order should be cleared up first.
There are precedents—of course I cannot carry them in my mind—for such Acts being included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.
§ Mr. Benn
I submit that there are only one or two precedents and that they are quite recent. I submit also that this practice of putting a Money Resolution on to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill really amounts to an abuse of the procedure of this Committee.
May I point out, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, that I and some of my hon. Friends clearly heard the Patronage Secretary in a very arrogant voice tell you to put the Question, and may I ask—
May I put a point of Order? In view of the fact that many hon. Members heard the observation, I am asking whether the Chair heard it and if the Chair has any comments to make upon such undignified action?
§ 11.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn
This is only one of several matters which arise on the Money Resolution. The trouble arises because many matters which should be the subject of separate discussion are wrapped up in one parcel. For example, there is the question of debt settlement. I was amazed that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said nothing about the Debts Clearing Offices. We do not know the countries affected or the amount of the balances. I suggest to the Patronage Secretary that at this late hour he should permit further discussion to be adjourned so that we can clear up the whole matter amicably.
§ 12 m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)
I am always very willing to fall in with suggestions from hon. and right hon. Members opposite, but they know full well that the effective stage for the discussion of Bills contained in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill is the Committee stage. A whole day has been set aside at the beginning of next week for the discussion of the Committee stage of the Bill, but that cannot be taken until the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution has been passed; the Committee stage of the Bill is not vitalised until that has been done. In view of the fact that the Government wish to proceed with this piece of legislation at the beginning of next week I must ask the Committee to let us have it in order that there may be full time for discussion of the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ 12.1 a.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
I take it that when we discuss those matters in the Committee stage we shall be permitted to discuss not the contents of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill but the contents of the Acts proposed to be continued under the Bill. We have had it from the Patronage Secretary, but not from the Chair. All that we desire to do is to safeguard our rights to raise the contents of the Special Areas Act. It has been argued in the past that the only matter which can be discussed in these circumstances is the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill itself. Year after year we have had this matter discussed in the House, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. I ask for an assurance from the Chair that when we come to discuss the contents of the Acts proposed to be continued we shall have a full opportunity to discuss what the Government have done in respect of them, the scope of them and, other matters relating to them. If we have that assurance the position is made much easier, but we are suspicious, because we have been tricked before.
§ Captain Margesson
It is exactly for that reason that I made my suggestion, but I must point out that, as Patronage Secretary—as the hon. Member called me—I am not responsible for what is in Order. Perhaps the hon. Member will put his question clearly and specifically 1689 to the Chair. I feel that an answer will be given which will be perfectly satisfactory.
§ Mr. Bevan
I have asked it three times, but I will ask it again, Colonel Clifton Brown. Are we to have a discussion? If this Money Resolution is passed tonight, shall we have an opportunity, when we discuss the further stages of the Bill, of raising the contents of the Act proposed to be continued by the Bill, with regard to scope, past administration and matters of that sort?
That is perfectly correct. The hon. Member can move to omit from the Schedule the Special Areas Act.
§ 12.4 a.m.
§ Mr. Benn
That is exactly what the Government knew when they put the Act into this Schedule. I submit to you, Sir, that this is the only opportunity on which hon. Members can put in a plea for more money or better distribution of money. The Government know that if hon. Members move to omit from the Schedule the Special Areas Act in order to discuss grievances, the Government can say to the country that the Labour party wish to deprive the Special Areas of any assistance whatever. Therefore, that is the reason the Government have adopted this novel procedure of popping into the Schedule of the Bill an Act which requires money and, almost in an unprecedented way, has required a Money Resolution to the Expiring Laws Committee Bill. Now the whole plan is clear.
§ Mr. E. Brown
May I point out that the facts are not quite as the hon. Member has stated. He spoke as if the Financial Resolution limits the amount of money to be paid out. That is not so. The sum is a flexible sum, and it never has been fixed.
§ 12.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I should not be doing my duty towards the people I represent here if I did not raise one or two questions on another issue arising out of the Money Resolution. Hon. Members will see that on the first page of the Financial Memorandum it is stated that up to 31st October, 1938, payments by the Commissioners for Special Areas amounted to about £10,230,000, and the Memorandum goes on to say:And in addition the Treasury have paid out £316,208 in assistance to site companies and to industrial undertakings under Sections 5 and 6 of the Act of 1937.The first point I want to raise is this. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how many site companies have been formed, and what the site companies that have been formed have been doing? I think a site company has been established in Lancashire for about 12 months, but it has done nothing. What is the use of passing a Bill and providing money for a company that does nothing? Later in the Financial Memorandum, it is stated:These payments by the Treasury are additional to the payments out of the Special Areas Fund.There is then this statement:Further commitments (provisionally or finally) entered by the Commissioners amount to about £11,680,000 and by the Treasury to £747,458.I think it is fair to ask what is meant by this additional sum of £747,458. What site companies are in contemplation? If the Government proceed to establish site companies with the aid of Government grants, and these companies do not do better than the Lancashire site company, then the Government might as well give up the whole of their policy in this respect. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that it is about time he revised his attitude towards the whole of this problem.
My hon. Friend was saying that things are bad in Durham. Let me tell him that a township in my division, having 6,000 inhabitants, has had a permanent unemployment rate of 70 per cent. for seven years. In the towns of Westhoughton and Hindley, for the last seven or eight years, the official unemployment rate has been about 45 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman ought to tell us what he intends to do about these 1691 areas that are not scheduled. When we were told about site companies at the time the Bill was passed, everybody expected that something would be done. We expected trading estates on the lines the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. What has happened? Not a brick has been laid anywhere, not a stroke of work has been done, and patches of Lancashire are indeed in a worse position than any of the areas that are scheduled. Before we pass this Resolution, we want to know what site companies have been established; what they have been doing; what other site companies are in contemplation and whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks it worth while to proceed with a policy of this sort, in trying to solve the unemployment problem?
§ 12.10 a.m.
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I would like to put another view of this problem, speaking as a Scottish Member. If any distressed area can be said to be completely neglected under these provisions, it is the Scottish distressed area. So much is that the case, that I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that in Scotland, in his own constituency, there is a growing movement which is determined to see some action taken, in this matter, against the right hon. Gentleman himself. This is not on the part of members of the official Labour party, but on the part of an organisation of men and women of all sections in the community, who are appalled at the continued loss of trade in Scotland and the continued degradation of the Scottish people in the distressed areas. If the right hon. Gentleman examines carefully his own replies to Questions put by me regarding unemployment and loss of trade in Scotland, and the increasing poverty in those areas, I think he will be far from satisfied, and it may help to remove that complacent, smug countenance for which he is so well known in this House.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order !"] If there is anything un-Parliamentary in referring to hon. Members opposite as "smug and complacent," then I am afraid, Col. Clifton Brown, I have been out of Order many times during my Parliamentary career.
There is one other point on which I should like the Minister to give us some information. It is a point which will 1692 probably be raised later by my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) in reference to another part of Scotland farther North. How much of this money has been allocated to areas in Scotland which depend largely on their agricultural produce? Within the period of the right hon. Gentleman's career, even during his term of office and under the scheme which he has initiated, huge tracts of land have been depopulated. In some places there are six or seven people to-day, where formerly there were 400 or 500 or even 1000. I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman for some information regarding the type of employer who is to take over the Hillingdon trading estate. It seems to many people in Glasgow very remarkable that, in the case of this subsidised estate, the chairman should be a man who is well known as one of the greatest anti-trade unionists in Scotland, and the man who was responsible for dismissing a bank clerk who wanted to marry on less than £200 a year. These are factors which the right hon. Gentleman must confront, and I would be very grateful if he would give me and my Scottish colleagues some information as to when some new move, is to he made to improve the conditions of the workers in Scotland.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Sir Henry Fildes
I would like to join in the request for more information. What is it proposed to do in many districts which are not at present scheduled as distressed areas? The town council of Dumfries, within the last fortnight, have called attention to the fact that in Dumfries now, out of a population of 23,000, there are some 2,300 unemployed. The average of unemployment there is greater than it is in many of these distressed areas, and I, for one, would like to see a little less attention paid to these so-called distressed areas, and a little more to the districts which have for years borne uncomplainingly very unfair treatment. I would like to hear from the Minister what is to be done in those other places which are suffering most acutely, and have received no assistance whatever from the Government in solving their problem?
§ Mr. Bellenger
May I submit that the right hon. Gentleman, the Minister, earlier told the Committee that the amount of money dealt with here is flexible. Therefore is not the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Fildes) in order?
The amount is flexible within the administration of the Act, but it is not in order to raise matters which are outside the Act.
§ 12.18 a.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
Suppose the Committee felt that the Resolution made a completely inequitable distribution of the money as between one part of the country and another, what method is open to hon. Members to make their criticisms and to appeal to the Government for a more equitable distribution? It seems that the whole function of this House depends upon the right of this Committee to determine how public money is to be spent. We are being asked to vote a flexible amount of money and we are told that, even though we think the money is to be inequitably distributed, we cannot discuss its distribution. If that be so, I should like to know upon what occasion we can discuss these inequities and seek to remedy them?
§ Mr. Silverman
It may be that this is is not the occasion but if this Resolution is passed without the opportunity for such discussion, is it conceivable that no other occasion can possibly arise on which we can deal with the inequities of what has already been done by this Committee and the House? It would, indeed, seem to be a monstrous abuse of the procedure of the House if we cannot discuss these inequities upon the present occasion, and, if, when we sought to raise them subsequently, we are told that this was a matter which the House had already decided.
§ Mr. Silverman
With all respect, I am afraid I must press the point. There are, 1694 no doubt, all sorts of occasions on which all sorts of grievances may be raised but here we are dealing, once and for all, with the raising of certain sums of money and with the distribution of those moneys between one part of the country and another, and between one set of beneficiaries and another. You are dealing with it once and for all, and I ask you to say, if there be indeed no other opportunity, that it must follow that the opportunity is now.
§ 12.20 a m.
§ Mr. Ridley
I am sorry to pursue this point, but hon. Members are entitled to some reason and explanation. If it be true, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman, that the amount covered by the Bill is flexible, then presumably the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman in the distribution of the amount of the money is itself flexible. Is it not open to hon. Members to argue that that flexibility has not been properly exercised?
I understand that there is no flexibility so far as the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman is concerned. It is confined to this Act.
§ 12.21 a.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
In this discussion I find myself torn between conflicting emotions. I want to retain in the Schedule the Cotton Manufacturing Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act because it is of very great importance to the people whom I represent and I am therefore particularly anxious that the Bill should be passed; but I am called upon at the same time to vote for something which, in my judgment, is inadequate to meet a problem that the Government are seeking, or pretending to be seeking, to solve. I am called upon to vote for that Act because I want the other; yet the two are not in any way connected. A vote for these financial provisions must be given and I must appear to sanction the spending of the money and to say "Aye" to the Government's method of dealing with unemployment, simply because I want a guarantee that the weavers in my constituency are paid a reasonable rate of wages. There is no possibility of getting this unless the Cotton Act is continued.
It is strange, but true, that the one arose out of the other. Until we had 1695 unemployment and depression in the cotton industry the necessity for the provisions of this Cotton Act did not arise. This Act, which we are continuing for another 12 months by the passing of the Bill, is based upon the legalisation of a scale of wages which the Government insist upon the employers paying. Only because the industry became depressed were the workers not in a position to enforce the payment of a standard rate of wages, and they had to seek legalisation in order that the employers should be honest. I am not suggesting that they are acting honestly now, because I know that in many instances they are not living up to the Act. In many districts weavers are so badly paid that they are not in a position to enforce the Act but, that Act being on the Statute Book, we can take employers into court, and that acts as a deterrent. For that reason I am particularly anxious that the Bill should be passed to-night. I see an hon. Gentleman in front of me turning round as though I am making a rash statement. I am speaking with full knowledge of what is taking place in the industry day by day, and I could not sit here—
The Cotton Manufacturing Industry Act does not come within the terms of the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The necessity for it arose out of the unemployment in that area and the Money Resolution we are discussing deals with unemployment but does not touch that area. It may be said that I am not in order in discussing it because that is not a Special Area. I ask the Minister "When does an area become a Special Area?" Some one suggested that it is when it is dead. I want to refer to two areas within the bounds mentioned by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), which are experiencing distress.
The hon. Member cannot discuss areas which he would like to see placed within the Special Areas Act.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
What I want to find out is whether there are any means by which money which is being voted under this Resolution can be made available to meet the problem which we are endeavouring to deal with. If there are not there ought to be. If by continuing this Special Areas Act we are doing no more 1696 than, as the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) said, fiddling with the question, then we ought to consider whether it is worth while to pass the Money Resolution. I know all the implications of voting against the Money Resolution. I know what it would mean to us in Lancashire if, through losing the Bill, we lost those Acts which have been referred to, but I ask how long it will take us to deal successfully with the problem we are considering. The hon. Member for Spennymoor suggested that the £1,500,000 spent by the Commissioner upon the trading estate had found work for 500 men. According to that calculation I estimate that it will cost about £2,700,000,000 to find employment for the million now unemployed. Is that the proposal of the Government? Is that the only way in which, through this Bill, they are dealing with the problem of unemployment? If it is they ought to tell the country so, and there ought to be some opportunity for Members on this side to raise the matter in the House. My constituents are constantly saying to me "The Special Areas are being dealt with, and yet there are scores of townships in Lancashire which are in a worse position than those areas." Before we pass this Resolution we ought to have an assurance from the Minister that some way will be found in which the House can deal with those people who are looking to us for help. They point to the areas in which the money is being spent and ask "Why there, and not in our place? I am repeating their questions here to-night. I am told it is out of order to attempt to bring in other districts. Why is it out of order? How can these people be dealt with in legislation if not in this legislation?
§ 12.31 a.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
Several hon. Members have come under the muzzling order. I shall try my very best to keep within the narrow limits which have been laid down. It does not seem very much use wondering why only the small sum referred to here has been appropriated to the Special Areas, because the people there have been condemned to penury and they have no hope of anything from the National Government. They have no hope that the National Government will do anything to lift them out of their slough of despond. They have no faith 1697 in this financial proposition, because it is all too meagre in amount. We have been told that it is flexible. I suppose a better term for it would be "elastic"—spread out and thinned out all over the countryside. Why, the money which has been already spent in these areas has not touched the fringe of the problem. As the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) said, there are so few adults being employed in these trading estates that it will take 80 years in the County of Durham at the present rate to satisfy the unemployed there, 50,000 in number, 18 years of age and over.
I wish to reinforce what has been said by the hon. Member for Spennymoor about these trading estates. It is true they have found work for a number of young people. In fact, very largely they have become factories for bairns. One of them is very appropriately called "the alligator factory," and when you consider the wages mentioned by the hon. Member, I think that is a very apt term for the firm to be called. The hard core of unemployment has not been touched at all, and will not be touched by this financial proposition. The people in the north of England and in South Wales and in all the Special Areas have been entirely ignored by the National Government. The trading estates have had no effect at all in the rural areas of these Special Areas. I represent the Barnard Castle Division of Durham which is very largely a rural area. I do not want to enter into competition with other hon. Members about the percentage of unemployment, but in the west of Durham, in Teesdale and in Weardale especially, we have from 80 to 85 per cent. of unemployed. It is true there are not many of them in the aggregate but the percentage stands as high as anywhere in the country.
Out of this financial proposition of the Government nothing has been spent for these people at all. They are only small in numbers and they are modest people, but they are just as worthy, even if they are inarticulate. I dare not go back to my Division and allow my people to say to me that there was a Debate on this financial proposition and that I had not taken part in it to say something on their behalf No money is being spent in these country areas. The only money that is being spent is not by the Government but that which is spent by the unemployed themselves in travelling to 1698 and fro—six miles—to sign twice a week for the meagre 14 shillings from the Unemployment Assistance Board. They have to spend 18 pence or two shillings in travelling to sign on. The only financial help in those districts is what they have to pay from their own meagre pittance.
I do not know whether I shall be in order in referring to the money spent in this country by people flying to Munich. There has been nobody flying to the Special Areas, and there has been no money set apart under the Special Areas Act to provide for some Cabinet Ministers or for the Prime Minister himself to fly to these Special Areas—and not only to fly there but to live there and try to live under Unemployment Assistance Board conditions such as the people there have to live under. Therefore, I would have been failing in my duty to my people in the Barnard Castle Division if I had not stood up here and raised my voice against such a meagre proposition from the National Government.
§ 12.35 a.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I fully understand now that I am not entitled in discussing this Resolution to refer to areas that I think ought to have been included under it. I will not go as far as to say that I understand why I am precluded from doing that, but I do understand that I should not be allowed to proceed if I were to attempt to do it. On the other hand, what the Committee is being asked to decide and what I, as a member of the Committee, must decide, is whether or not I, representing certain people in Lancashire, ought to vote for the provision of this money or to vote against its provision. I think it is only proper, in considering that question, that I should address myself to the question, "Would my constituents lose by it supposing this Resolution were defeated"? I am bound to conclude that they would lose nothing. They do not benefit by it in any way, and from that standpoint it is a matter of complete indifference whether the money is provided or not. That being so, they ought to consider, I suppose, and I, as representing them, should consider, whether there are any grounds on which I ought to support the provision of this money that does not inure to the benefit of themselves.
In doing that, one has to consider comparative conditions. If it were true 1699 that in the areas which would benefit by the expenditure of this money people are suffering to a degree greater than those I am representing, then it would be proper for me, as their representative, to vote for the expenditure of that money on those terms. But if, on the other hand, it appears that the condition of the people in my own constituency is no better than, and in many respects is far worse, than that of those who would benefit by the expenditure of this money, then it would be doing my duty as their representative to vote against it. That is the position. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, in a Debate a day or two ago claiming—and I am sure he was sincere in making that claim, whether other people would concede it to him or not—that there had never been made out to him a case whose justice he himself would concede that he had not endeavoured to meet. I challenge him on that. I say it is not so. If he examines again his own recollection I tell him he must agree that it is not so.
It is nearly three years since I and others represented to him the case of certain weavers in Lancashire and the method of payment whereby they got very very small sums indeed, pitifully small sums, fantatiscally and ridicuously small sums—sums which were only a fractional part of what those people would get from public assistance committees or from the unemployment exchanges if they had not been employed at all. They were debarred from earning wages or receiving public relief or unemployment benefit. He admitted, as he admits to-day, because he knows the facts are true, that the case had been made cut and that it was unjust. But has he done anything about it? Not one thing. Deputation after deputation, speech after speech, and question after question—and always the smooth sympathetic reply from the Minister. Always the concession that their case was a good one and that he had every sympathy with it, but no practical help. Not one attempt has he made. Not a finger did he raise to meet the case which he himself knows and has readily admitted to be a good case. Are his resources so limited? People talk with ridicule of a former member of his office who said a good many years ago.…
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Milner)
The hon. Member must confine himself to the Special Areas. As I understand it, he is dealing with other cases. If so, he is out of order.
§ Mr. Silverman
If I may say so, I am not attempting to deal with those other cases at all. I am addressing myself only to the question of whether I, who do not represent a Special Area, within the meaning of the Act, ought fairly to be called upon to vote for the provision of this money or could equitably vote against it. I know I am not entitled to ask for any benefit under this resolution for those other areas. I am not asking for it, I am comparing case for case with the object of showing that if I have an opportunity, as I hope I shall, of going into the Lobby against this Money Resolution, it will be done, not because I want to deprive any member of the working class of this realm of any advantage that might conceivably come to him under this Act or this Resolution, but as a protest against the callous and long-continued neglect of other cases which are no whit less deserving than those which benefit.
In giving my reasons for voting and urging other members of this Committee to vote against this Resolution, I am, strictly subject to your ruling, within the Rules of Order. I was about to say I had heard ridicule cast from time to time on a remark made by a former occupant of the right hon. Gentleman's office who said that he could not get rabbits out of a hat. May I suggest that if he is unable to do more than he has done for the Special Areas, then he gets rabbits out of a hat every time he takes his own hat off. That, I think, is the position of the Government as a whole. I appeal to him. He knows the case has been made out. He knows we are right: he said so himself. Now we are asked to believe that nearly three years afterwards his own personal resources and the resources of his Department were completely helpless to rectify an injustice which he admits, and an injustice which has become a public scandal. I say than is the record not of a Ministry of Cabinet Ministers, but a ministry of rabbits. This is the only opportunity of saying that. I might modify my views with regard to the Money Resolution if the Minister of Labour could give me any assurance even now that he proposes at some early date to deal with these matters effectively.
1701 May I respectfully say, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not waste any time to-night upon expressions of sympathy. We know he is sympathetic. We have every reason to know it because he has told us so repeatedly for a very long time. What we want to know now is what practical help he can offer. If lie can offer none, he cannot complain if we vote against this Money Resolution as being a fraud upon the public, and a disgraceful commentary upon the inadequacy of His Majesty's Government as at present constituted to deal with even the elementary injustices that are brought to their notice from time to time.
§ 12.44 a.m.
§ Mr. Burke
I want to ask the Minister one or two points about a Special Area which is covered by the 1937 Act. One point is in reference to the £700,000 which is down here to be granted by the Treasury for the purpose of site companies. My own constituency is one of those areas which can come under that particular allocation. I want to ask when the Lancashire site company was formed. If my information is correct, it was in the early part of last year, and I want to know at what date the Treasury passed the money over to them to enable them to get on with their work. I think, if I remember rightly, that there was a very considerable lapse of time between the two dates, and during all that time, of course, the problem of unemployment in Lancashire was getting steadily worse. There is another point. The local authorities in these Special Areas have for some considerable time been endeavouring to get various firms to come into these areas.
The incidence of the Lancashire site company in one particular area only has not helped these authorities, because all that has happened in the expenditure of that money has been that firms which might have gone into the areas have been drawn into other places, and, as a matter of fact, the expenditure of this money has not really helped the problem of unemployment at all. It has not produced any more work for the unemployed. We understood when this money was first voted that it would contribute to the unemployment problem in those areas. As a matter of fact the unemployment problem has got steadily worse. An hon. Member to-night spoke about an unemployment 1702 problem in Scotland of about 10 per cent. As a matter of fact, in the areas around my own constituency it is about 40 per cent.
The Minister, in considering the expenditure of this money upon site companies—we have only one in Lancashire—should bear in mind not merely that one company, but the dangers and difficulties in driving the worst kind of employment into certain areas in Lancashire, which does not really contribute to the fundamental problem at all. I ask him to hear in mind that in allocating this money he will also have regard to those areas, special though they are, which are outside the purview of the money which is being spent on the various site companies. I would like information about the lapse of time that occurred between the setting up of that company and the granting of the money by the Treasury, and an explanation as to why the length of time happened.
§ 12.47 a.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Sexton) referred to the recent flight of the Prime Minister. I am only going to refer to that in relation to what I consider the not altogether unconstitutional, but rather unparliamentary action of the Government. The Prime Minister came back with a fait accompli, and presented it to Parliament. The Government tonight are endeavouring to slip out of criticism by putting before us for a few minutes a subject of very great importance to hundreds of thousands of people, and to hundreds of thousands of others who ought to be covered by the Special Areas Act. They are trying to avoid criticism, and discussion as well, because they know there will be criticism. They have tried to present to the House what would amount to a fait accompli almost without discussion. That is not unconstitutional, but it appears to me to be rather unparliamentary in spirit at least.
The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) said certain things about the Minister himself, and he took no exception, possibly because he recognised the truth. It is wise to tell the whole truth. I do not know what I should have to indulge in in the way of—I had almost said expletives—but I shall say adjectives, or perhaps even explosions, in order to express which I think of his 1703 lack of works. Last year it will be recalled that we had to force the issue to discussion. The Patronage Secretary attempted, I believe, on that occasion to move the Closure on the financial discussion altogether. I think I am right in saying that the occasion of that all night sitting was much the same as the occasion tonight.
I am very much surprised that the Minister and his friends did not learn any lesson from that occasion. After all, it hurt them just as much as it hurt us to sit up all night, and they seem to be quite as numb and immune to feeling at both ends on this occasion as they were on that occasion. I do not hope to make any impression on at least one end of the right hon. Gentleman, and Parliamentary procedure would prevent anyone from attempting to make any impression on the other end. On that occasion there was ruled out for all purposes of administering the Special Areas Amendment Act many areas which, as my hon. Friend has said, are just as badly hit as many of the areas I want to discuss tonight. On that occasion I proved beyond all doubt that we had satisfied all the conditions as to sphere and prolongation of unemployment and in regard to the fact that the industries must be expected to expire, like some of these laws will do unless we protect them, unless the Government took action in these areas. I think that we proved that all these conditions had been more than satisfied and that the House was satisfied that they had been fulfilled and that the House was thoroughly dissatisfied with the action of the Minister on that occasion in ruling them out from the definition of what are Special Areas.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If the hon. Member is asking that other areas should be included, that is out of Order.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I accept your ruling without any hesitation. Far be it from me to try to create any Special Areas which do not exist. The Minister of Labour and his friends would see to that. The Special Areas which already exist are wide enough in scope and deep enough in distress to give us sufficient subject of discussion without going out to look for more. Dealing with these Special Areas themselves, I understand that I am not permitted to discuss the effect on adjacent areas of the mal-administration of the 1704 Government inside these areas. I am not, apparently, permitted to discuss the effect in any area adjacent to Special Areas which come within the scope of the Act.
§ Mr. MacMillan
Let us look, then, for a moment at the administration of the Special Areas themselves in relation to the expenditure which forms the subject of to-night's discussion. Because we are so limited by the Government to-night, to the detriment of the Special Areas and so as to save the Government's face, we must limit ourselves to considering the very limited things which the Government have accomplished within these areas. Practically, that limits the scope of the Debate to the question of trading estates. My criticism is that these trading estates have in some cases been established at the expense of other areas. I should like to ask the Minister how far they are nationally beneficial. It is an exceedingly important question.
After all, if the setting up of these trading estates in these areas in a hotchpotch way is going to damage another part of the country, we have a right to an explanation on whether the trading estates are nationally beneficial. Can the Minister tell us how many factories have been established in these trading estates, the owners of which have later closed down established factories in other parts of the country? In every one of these cases I should say that if the factories established in the depressed area employ a certain fixed number of persons we should expect that if the same company, in order to avoid taxation through the de-rating advantages of the trading estate, have closed down another and older established factory elsewhere, about the same number of people are thrown out of employment in the old factory as are employed in the new. Therefore, I think it about cancels itself out. It is a very new and attractive form of avoiding taxation. You set up a factory under ideal conditions from a taxation point of view, under the blessing of the Ministry of Labour, which is in itself well worth securing, to the possible detriment of a competitor who does not enjoy these advantages because he is not in an area coming under the Act. You are, possibly, merely transferring a certain number of employés from an area which is without 1705 the official blessing into an area which has it. I should like some information on the subject.
I am sorry that I cannot discuss the damage which has unquestionably been done in the areas adjacent to the Special Areas by the mal-administration in the areas themselves. After all, the country must be considered as an economic unit. You cannot divide it into all sorts of regions for official blessing or official neglect. I should like to know how far the long-term viewpoint has been taken in relation to the possible damage attached to this sort of temporary setting up of new industries. I want to know, also, to what extent the production of certain commodities has been increased by the setting up of these trading estates, and whether, in certain of these commodities, the question arises now of the protection for the manufacturers producing these commodities against competition on unfavourable terms from abroad, which is now less necessary than it was before this extra production of these commodities was undertaken. I want to know how much has been added to the supply of useful commodities in this country. I would like to know because of the low wages paid on some of these estates at the expense, very often, of workers with no choice but between the low wages in these factories and sometimes the still lower pittance from the Unemployment Assistance Board, and who have to travel long distances in some cases to these estates.
I want to know whether the Minister has considered seriously, between elections, subsidising out of the Funds available the wages of these employés? I want to know chiefly whether, to a large extent or not, young girls and women have not been attracted or abducted to these trading estates—I could hardly say seduced—because that has an element of temptation, and I do not think it is really a matter of attraction, but virtually coercion, because of their believing that their unemployment allowances will be discontinued as an alternative to accepting a miserable pittance in exchange for doing the work. I hope the Minister will tell us what value we get for the money spent, and what value these trading estates are to us and to the country, and whether they are of any value at all. How far, taking a long view have they 1706 contributed to the solution of unemployment? Can the Minister say whether the work so far undertaken on which much money has been spent is likely to continue to be nationally useful and to continue, and whether the employment of these people is likely to continue with it?
I have asked a number of questions which might lead to a little clarification of some issues which have been raised, and which the Minister has so nimbly attempted to avoid. I hope he will, with all his nimbleness, give an answer to some of these questions. They are, after all, of very great importance not only to the unemployed people in these areas but as a pointer and indication in view of a possible extension of the policy of these Acts and to unemployed people outside who have some hope of their being taken into the Special Areas and given an opportunity for working in the trading estates and being taken out of the distress of continuous unemployment over a number of years.
I can only say it appears to some that the Special Areas provisions have done some good. I am not going to say they have not. We are better with them than without; but we have not very much on the "with" side in terms of a solution of the problem of unemployment by the creation of these trading estates. The chief advantage has gone to people who want to start factories cheaply and to close them down somewhere else. I would like to see provision to prevent that—a kind of guarantee; but I do not see that at the moment the Minister can give a guarantee. The Minister has accomplished in this connection very little indeed. What has been accomplished will ultimately be found, I think, to be partly to the disadvantage of areas which should be Special Areas but are not. The Minister has put the bowl of advantage nearer us, but he has given us a much shorter spoon.
§ 1.5 a.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) has shown great nimbleness. In his speech his argument went one way, but his conclusion was entirely different. A great many people have been asking the questions he has been asking, pot merely outside the Special Areas but in other 1707 areas, too. One problem which the Government had to solve before making up their mind on the present procedure was the answer to these very questions. The hon. Member knows that while the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) takes the view that we have done wrong, yet he admitted in his speech that we are now answering the questions of people who have worked harder than anyone else for these areas, that is the Development Councils, who waited on me and asked me to do this very thing because they thought that although the Acts were meant to be temporary and as an experiment, they ought to go on a little longer. Therefore, they asked me to adopt the procedure we have adopted.
There are several question I cannot answer. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) knows that I cannot answer his question about underemployment in the weaving trade. It is not germane to the discussion tonight; but there are other occasions, no doubt, when that can be raised, and perhaps he will put those questions when I am able to answer them within the confines of the Rules of Order.
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot discuss the issue. I was only saying that, in order that he should not think that I was discourteous in not going into it in my speech.
There are one or two words I want to say about parts of the Special Areas Acts which affect the areas not inside the boundaries, that is Sections 5 and 6, about which questions were asked by the hon. Members for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and Burnley (Mr. Burke). One site company has been formed with capital and one with nominal capital only, in Wales. In Lancashire an effective site company has been formed. It has capital and has selected various areas inside Lancashire in which it proposes to operate. The hon. Member for Burnley was not quite correct in saying it was formed 18 months ago. The company itself was actually formed early this year, and I then proceeded to apply Section 5 to several areas. Hon. Members are well aware of the names of the areas and I need not detain the Committee at this time of the morning by giving them all, but I may say that the Lancashire site 1708 company has a capital of £250,000, of which the Treasury is providing £62,500. That is the answer to the question.
§ Mr. Brown
It advanced the money at the earliest moment it was necessary. Hon. Members who spoke from Lancashire know that the idea of site companies was a Lancashire idea. The House will remember that when we discussed it I was very careful to warn Members against excessive hopes in that matter. The company is now in being, and money has been forthcoming from the Treasury as required by the company for the functions it is going to undertake.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I gathered from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in the House last week that the Government proposed to bring forward legislation shortly to provide additional facilities for those areas outside the Special Areas. What will happen to Sections 5 and 6 of the Act of 1937 when new legislation is brought in to deal with those areas outside?
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot answer that to-night because it would be out of Order. We shall have an appropriate occasion to discuss it later.
The hon. Member for Spennymoor said he was not aware of how much money was spent and he asked for an explanation of how it had been spent. He knows the Commissioners report from time to time, but I have a small table here dealing with England and Wales. In regard to industry in England and Wales, for which I am responsible, payments have been made of £3,225,000 and further commitments entered into of £2,115,000. For public works, hospitals, child welfare centres, sewerage, etc., payments have been made of £1,385,000, and further commitments entered into amounting to £4,715,000. For housing, payments have been made amounting to £1,060,000 and further commitments total £90,000. In regard to land settlement, payments have been made totalling £2,010,000 and further commitments amount to £1,240,000. In regard to schemes of social improvement, payments amount to £910,000 and further 1709 commitments to £170,000. For miscellaneous schemes of welfare there have been payments amounting to £160,000 and further commitments amounting to £20,000. This makes a total for England and Wales in payments of £8,750,000 and a total in commitments of £8,250,000, making altogether £17,000,000.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question regarding the Unemployment Grants Committee?
§ Mr. Brown
I think the hon. Member will find that he is wrong. The Unemployment Grants Committee was wound up several years ago, and all that we are doing now is liquidating the commitments entered into years and years ago. The works now being carried on have nothing whatever to do with the work of the Unemployment Grants Committee.
The hon. Member for Spennymoor is always concerned with painting the picture in order to make it as black as possible. I have noticed that this last year or two things in his district were getting much better, and that in August last year the unemployment figures had fallen to 18 per cent. Of course, we all regret that, owing to the effects of the international situation, there has been a rise in unemployment, but let me give him the total figures of the area. Allowing for the rise, there has been a remarkable improvement in those areas as compared with the figures before the Special Commissioners commenced operations. In the middle of 1935 the insured unemployed totalled 391,000, and a year later 345,000. In the middle of 1937 the figures were 252,000, and in June, 1938, they were 274,000. The latest figures are 277,000, but at the same time they are a very remarkable improvement.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how much of this reduction is due to the provision of work and how much is due to transference of men?
§ Mr. Brown
Hon. Members want the figures on the narrow footing. If the hon. Member wants the Durham figures I can give them with regard to the coal trade in the Durham and Tyneside areas. These are the figures: In October, 1935, in the coal trade the unemployed registered numbered 37,049. Eleven months after, in September, 1936, the number had fallen to 24,488. A year after that, in September, 1937, the number had fallen to 13,429. Even now, with the regrettable closing of pits, in October, 1938—the last figures which are available—the total in the coal trade is 20,127, as against 37,049 three years ago.—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Spennymoor made his speech very vigorously, as he always does, and he will have plenty more opportunities to-morrow and next Monday to add to it. He must allow me to reply to it, and put the picture in rather a fairer perspective, so that you can judge the work of the Commissioners in the areas as such. It would be perfectly easy for me inside these areas of Durham and Tyneside to pick out particular individual areas where there is a much heavier drop than this. There are some places which have made a most remarkable recovery.
Let me say a word about the trading estates. It is very interesting to notice—
§ Mr. Brown
I am not responsible for the hon. Member's misunderstanding. There was once an hon. Member who said it always took two to tell the truth—one to speak it and one to hear it. Complaint 1711 is made about young people finding employment. Let me point out that the whole issue here is a basic one—an issue raised by hon. Members opposite for many years past. It was raised acutely by the Commissioners for the Special Areas. It is this. What was wanted in these areas, which had been hit because of the contraction of certain great basis trades, was to find the means of attracting industries of a different character and, indeed, a whole number of light industries. That very plea has been answered, and answered with some success. If I am told, as I am by the hon. Member for Spennymoor, that out of 1,600 now employed on factories in Team Valley there are 585 or 600 under 18 years of age, that is true, for I gave the figures. But surely the hon. Member would know, as every mother and father in the areas knows, that the problem of these areas was greatly accentuated by the absence of opportunities for these young people. Light industries are to be established in these areas with heavy unemployment, and especially areas which had depended one one or two great industries. Let the House take the trading estates as an illustration. There is a trading estate which has been working twelve years in this country, and in this period the working population grew from 6,000 to nearly 20,000, and 8,000 of that increase were men. I would ask hon. Members who make this point not to stress it because as these estates develop, as I am sure they will, it will be found that not only will young people find employment but adults, too, as, indeed, they are now doing.
Another point made by hon. Members was that we had spent £1,500,000 and had employed only 585 persons. Of course, that figure of 585 relates to adults over 18 years of age. The real number employed in Team Valley is 1,600 workers. To take that in the way that hon. Members have done is a completely fallacious argument, because anybody who has had any part in planning great industrial undertakings like these knows that the really heavy expense is in the early stages—laying out, training, putting up factories, and so on—and that the amount per capita, as you add to the estate, will go down very heavily with each year of development. So I hope the hon. Member for Spennymoor will not use that fallacy again, because I know the 1712 people of Durham do not like such fallacious arguments.
I think I have answered all the questions put to me and I only want to say this other thing. There can be no doubt whatever that there has been very great good done in these areas by these Acts. The Development Councils from the whole of the areas waited on me with the earnest plea that, while they realized the Acts were meant to be temporary and were due to lapse in 1939 by the will of Parliament expressed two years ago, these Acts should be continued in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill for another year. This fact is an answer to the House and the country as to the reasonableness of the action we have taken.
§ 1.27 a.m.
§ Mr. Paling
I want to put a point about the site companies. I listened with some amazement to the answer as to what had been done with regard to this particular part of the Bill. I think the Minister said, among other things. that he would not expect too much from them. There have been only two attempts to do anything in this regard. One was in Lancashire where a company has actually been set up, and the other was in South Wales, though there nothing has been done, I believe, but only talked about. Is this a satisfactory conclusion and is the right hon. Gentleman going to rest satisfied with that? I am interested in this because I am in an area where they are trying to take the opportunity of this Section of the Act. I approached the Secretary of the Labour Ministry some months ago about this business. Inquiries had been put to me from a place in my constituency which has been hard hit for a number of years.
§ Mr. Paling
I was given all the information by the Secretary, who was very helpful, but my experience was that when we had all the information and with all the good will in the world, the people who tried to do something for the unemployed people found the circumstances such that they were just able to do nothing That 1713 has probably been the experience of a good many other people who have made inquiries under this Section. There is talk about a company being set up and then nothing is done. We do not know if a site has actually been purchased; at any rate, no factory has been put up, and there seems no prospect of any factory.
In view of the increasing number of unemployed I ask the Minister if he is satisfied with this position? Is nothing going to be done in order to enable this part of the Act to function, so as to give some assistance to the people outside the Special Areas? It was put in the Act, I suppose, to help them. Time and experience have proved that they cannot get any help from it, and that it is practically a failure. Is the Minister going to do nothing in this regard?
§ 1.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Poole
Earlier in the evening it was with some trepidation that I contemplated speaking in this debate, but seeing that we have reached this hour I do not think it would be out of place if I make one or two observations. I was somewhat alarmed before the Minister spoke because I saw a very grave look upon his face as members rose and criticised from this side of the Committee. I have been even more alarmed at the somewhat complacent way in which he has accepted the criticism and has refused to deal with many of these material points raised by members on this side. He suggested that the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) was painting the picture too black. With all due respect to the Minister I doubt whether it is possible to paint too black a picture of the Special Areas. I wonder whether there is any shade of black which is too deep to picture the misery and the poverty of the people in those areas. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of some areas which had accomplished a remarkable recovery. I have had some experience during the past few years of several of these areas and I know of none of them in which one could suggest that there is a vestige of a remarkable recovery taking place. He quoted various figures from 1935 downwards to show some improvement in the employment figure.
The point was rightly made by a speaker, and the Minister admitted it, 1714 that bound up with that is the question of transference I want to have a word tonight on the expenditure of this money on the transference of labour from these Special Areas. I represent an area, not a Special Area, but an area which is affected by the transference of labour from the Special Areas. I find that in the period in which the Minister claims that remarkable recovery, no fewer than 42,975 men were transferred from these Special Areas. I wonder whether the Minister really appreciates exactly what it means to nearly 43,000 families to be taken out of their environment and transferred to areas which to them are almost foreign lands, to be called upon to take their wives and children there and settle. I can claim some measure of responsibility for personally having taken one or two men from the Special Areas and found them work in other parts of the country. I cannot say that any experiment I have made on those lines can be called an unqualified success. You cannot uproot men and take them away from their homes and traditions and plant them down among people where they are aliens, and then expect them to be happy.
I am concerned particularly with the transference of juvenile labour. There may be some argument for transference from the Special Areas. Quite frankly I know of no justifiable argument for the taking of young children from the Special Areas and bringing them to the industrial midlands. The Minister claimed an improvement in juvenile employment in the Special Areas, but either his figures are wrong or mine are wrong, and mine are taken from the last report of the Commissioner. They say that in September, 1937, the total number of juveniles unemployed in the Special Areas was 20,306, and in November, 1936, it was 21,772. There is a decrease of about 1,470. One has to have regard to the fact that during the year ending September there have been transferred from the Special Areas no fewer than 9,216 juveniles.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I am sorry to interrupt, but as a matter of fact the transference does not come within the Special Areas Act. It is outside the Act.
§ Mr. Poole
I was speaking of the use to which this money is being put, and this money surely is being put to finance the transfer of men from the Special Areas. If not, then the Minister was undoubtedly in order in claiming that the transference of labour from the Special Areas was one of the factors that had reduced unemployment.
§ Mr. E. Brown
The hon. Member has misunderstood me. It was in reply to an interjection which was made.
§ Mr. Poole
I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, and I only regret that it is not possible to pursue that point. I hoped I was in order in raising the matter, but I saw the difficulties which met hon. Members earlier in the Debate, when they had to steer their ships through very narrow channels. I hesitated to speak, but being assured that this Debate had to go beyond the hour of 1.30 I had to make suitable provision.
I am concerned with another condition that still prevails in the Special Areas in spite of the best efforts of the Minister. I am concerned with those men who have passed the age of 45, the old unemployed who are still left in those areas and for whom there appears to be little hope. I am appalled to find that in West Cumberland 42.2 per cent. of the unemployed are over 45 years of age. On Tyneside the figure is 43 per cent., and in South Wales 50 per cent. of the unemployed are over 45. I wonder what exactly the Minister proposes to do with those men who have passed the age of 45 and for whom there is no place. Many of those Special Areas have now become areas in which there are only old men who have grown old before they should because of the ceaseless burden of unemployment year in and year out. When we find a Special Area such as South Wales—of which other Members are more competent to speak than I—with 50 per cent. of the unemployed over 45, what measure is going to meet the needs of those people? What special provision does the Minister envisage to meet the case of the man who has been unemployed for many years? This is a serious problem which is not met by the expenditure of £10,000,000 or £12,000,000. Then there is the question of the location of industry.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The location of industry certainly does not come within the purview of this Act.
§ Mr. Poole
Perhaps I expressed myself wrongly. I was concerned with the trading estates and the location of industry on the trading estates. I am sorry I expressed myself in an unfortunate way. I cannot believe that the advantage which has accrued in the solving of unemployment in the Special Areas has been greatly enhanced by the provision of the trading estates. You have created new factories and works on your trading estates, and you have simultaneously closed down the same factory in another area where the rates were probably very much higher. In so doing you have merely called upon your Special Areas Fund to take your labour from one part of the country and employ it in another part of the country. Therefore something more vital than trading estates has got to be done. I have yet to find that the trading estates have solved the problem of the old unemployed man, the man of over 45. The only labour required on the trading estates is the labour of boys and girls. It is regrettable it we are going again to see the spectacle of employment being available for boys and girls of 14, 15 and 16, who are perhaps going to displace their own fathers and elder brothers. While we may be capable of being misunderstood if we oppose this Measure to-night, it is totally inadequate, and I regret that there has not been greater opportunities for us to express ourselves more fully and along broader lines than we have been able to do to-night.
§ 1.42 a.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
I should like to express my regret that so important a matter has been discussed at this hour of the morning. My hon. Friend, the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Poole), in his last sentence said that perhaps we would be misunderstood in the country if we voted against this Money Resolution because it might be assumed that we are against spending money in the distressed areas. I do not think we are exposed to such a misunderstanding. Earlier in the evening the Minister told us that the Money Resolution did not limit the sum to any amount, and that he could spend on this matter as much money as he liked.
§ Mr. Bevan
Has the right hon. Gentleman spent to the maximum of his Parliamentary powers? The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. Does he, therefore, suggest that the amount of money is the amount which ought to be spent in relieving this problem of the distressed areas, or are there powers which he obtained which he has not exercised? He says that he has spent a certain amount of money. There is still acute, grave distress in the distressed areas. There is an unused amount of money which he has not spent. Does the right hon. Gentleman admit that he has not spent it? We should like to know. Is it because there are no ideas upon which he could spend it or because he is reluctant to spend it? The Committee should ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer this question. Some time ago the House generously gave to the Minister elastic powers of expenditure. It took so grave a view of this matter that it did not put a specific sum in the Money Resolution. The Prime Minister, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, persuaded the House to accept this Measure on the ground that no limit should be fixed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that any amount of money which would be needed he would have found. We, therefore, want to know whether the powers which we are asked to renew to-night have been adequately used. The right hon. Gentleman knows that he could have spent more money than he has spent. Why has he not spent it? Will he answer that? Of course, he will not. He has not refrained from spending it because there has been a lack of power and lie has not refrained because there has been a lack of ideas. He has refrained from spending it because of a lack of desire to spend it. He can take which position he likes. Does he say that it is lack of ideas? If so, hon. Members on these benches could provide first-class ideas as to how to spend money usefully in the distressed areas. We know that there is no limitation of the amount, so that the 1718 only conclusion we are driven to is that the right hon. Gentleman suffers from a lack of desire to spend the money.
Is there a fourth alternative—that he has not disclosed to the House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer misled the House and the Treasury has in fact prevented him from spending any more? It is not the first time that the House has been misled from the Treasury Box. If he is suffering from any restriction from the Treasury, perhaps he will tell the House, but if not, then we are bound to form the opinion that he thinks he has spent all the money he can usefully spend on this matter. I find myself in some difficulty in understanding the position which the right hon. Gentleman has taken up this morning, because he has told us in the course of his statement that a certain amount of money has been spent—I think he said it was £17,000,000 to £18,000,000. He does not say "spent," but there is a new phrase—the amount they are "committed to spend." We do not know whether that is to be spent over the next year, over the next hundred years or thousand years. It merely means that they have been committed to spend a certain amount of money. On what?
The right hon. Gentleman is the luckiest Minister in the Government. He is really the darling of the political gods. if there are any. He entered office under the most auspicious circumstances. He has now made them into suspicious He had no bother at all with unemployment insurance benefits; they were dealt with by the Unemployment Assistance Advisory Committee. He was relieved by the Unemployment Assistance Board of dealing with a vast mass of people in receipt of unemployment assistance, and here we have an industrious and energetic Minister who is able to devote all his resources to the one problem left to discuss. He has not got to discuss unemployment any longer. We have not had any Debates about those things. They have been taken from us. The Minister has been left only with the problem of the distressed areas. He is regarded by his colleagues as a highly successful Minister. He is regarded by them as one of the Ministers who has saved them a great deal of political embarrassment, very largely because Conservatives think that because water comes through a tap it comes from it.
1719 The Unemployment Assistance Board have removed from the Minister any direct Parliamentary obligation. They assume that the absence of controversy about his office is the result of the pertinacity of the Minister of Labour himself. As a matter of fact we know that that is not so. But in regard to the last problem, where his ingenuity could extend itself, what is the answer he makes to-night—that he has committed himself over these years to a miserable £17,000,000 or £18,000,000 in dealing with a problem that the whole country admits to be the most acute problem of the day. We are asked to renew these powers to a Minister who has used them in this incompetent and mean manner. We desire to vote against the Minister because we say he has not used those powers at all. Parliament has given him a confidence that he has failed to discharge; it has given him powers he has not used and opportunities he has not exercised.
My hon. Friends would be perfectly justified in saying that a renewal of these powers in the hands of the Minister is wholly unjustified having regard to the way in which he has used them. They ought not to be under any misapprehension as to how this vote will be regarded. It will not be regarded as a vote against a Government having power to spend money on the distressed areas. Has any hon. Member any doubt as to how he should vote? Or does he think that his constituents will say he has voted for no money being spent on the distressed areas? We have urged again and again that more money should be spent. This figure of £17,000,000 to £18,000,000 he knows to be a sleight of hand and entirely unrepresentative of the real position. The Patronage Secretary yawns, but he has never had any responsibility.
§ Mr. Bevan
He has never had any administrative responsibility at all. There are Members on this side of the House who have spent very many years in local government. He has had responsibility for whipping up his herd now and again to go into the right fold, but social responsibility—none. There are Members here who have sat on local authorities for 1720 20 years. The Minister of Labour said something unforgivable this evening—that it is not true to say that the Unemployment Grants Committee discharged duties many of which are being discharged by the Commissioners for the Special Areas. Does he adhere to that? He really ought, before he speaks, to acquaint himself with the facts. The Unemployment Grants Committee make grants of 100 per cent. for many of the services now included in these estimates. He has, in fact, misrepresented the expenditure on the distressed areas entirely. Take the case of sewage or hospitals. Does he say the Unemployment Grants Committee never make any contribution towards the cost of additional sewage? I should like to know. Does he say that the expenditure to which the Commissioners for the Special Areas have committed themselves is expenditure in addition to other forms of expenditure for which already legislative sanction exists? That is what we were led to expect—that we had a new instrument that was going to deal with this problem in a novel way.
The Prime Minister, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, told the House that existing forms of financial machinery were too rigid and that we wanted something more flexible, something novel not circumvented by Treasury usage, but something experimental. What have they done? In the first Special Areas Act it was forbidden to anybody to spend any money on matters that would be undertaken by the local authorities. Under the amending Act you have transferred to the Special Commissioners a large number of duties originally discharged by the local authorities and have regarded them as new expenditure by the Commissioners. You have made the country believe that the £17,000,000 to £18,000,000 are special moneys found for the relief of the distressed areas whereas much is repetition of expenditure already found by local authorities outside the Special Areas. The right hon. Gentleman has irritated me in his reply by entirely misrepresenting the position. If he had said he was in a difficulty in finding new ideas for expending money we might have sympathised at the poverty of his mind and come to his assistance. But it is too much for him to say he has exercised these powers so well that they should be renewed. Hon. Gentlemen will be perfectly justified in going into the Lobby to refuse to arm a 1721 Minister with powers he has used so inadequately that he ought not to have them renewed.
§ 1.58 a.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
Reference has been made in the course of the speech by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) to the low wages being paid under the Special Areas grant and he mentioned rates of pay of eight or nine shillings a week for boys and girls. He referred to trade union rates. Has the Minister any power to say to the people who take advantage of the grants made to set up works and factories that they shall fix a particular rate for those people? It does seem to be ridiculous that in a Special Area where a factory is set up and advantage is taken of their plight they should be paid inadequate rates. It is very hard on people who we know are sometimes ready to take almost anything. Will he make a statement as to whether we have protection for these poor people who have die right to a decent rate of wages?
§ 2 a.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
I am sorry that I failed to answer that point in the speech of the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey). I have not heard of that case. No representations have been made to me. If the hon. Member will let me know about it I will look into it. I believe there was a case referred to the Commissioner. I do not know whether it is the same case but I understood the question was settled to the satisfaction of the trade union concerned. It may not be the same case.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
I did not hear the word Scotland in the Minister's reply and it seems to me that surely there should be some reference to it.
§ Mr. Brown
I am very glad to do that and to give some details to the Committee. In regard to the Hillington Estate, the number of tenants is 36 for factories of sixty standard units and there are 41 nest units with 30 tenants. Three factories have been built to order and the estate is feuing five acres of land each to two tenants. The total number of tenants is 73 and the total number of factories is 105. The total number of tenants in occupation is 51, and the total number of factories is 75. The number of employed is 520 men and 190 women, a total of 7ro. It is estimated that the total number to be employed by firms in the future is 469 men and 670 women making in all 1,139. This will make altogether a total of 1,839 men and women either employed or to be employed. In the Lanarkshire estate there are two prospective tenants for the factories.
The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) has raised the question of unemployment in Scotland. The position in Scotland as a whole, compared with England and Wales, was once accurately described by a Member of this House as grey as compared with the black and white patches in England and Wales. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to give some figures. The percentage of unemployment in all the four Special Areas is 21.6 per cent., while in the Scottish area the percentage is 18.5 per cent. There has been a very great improvement since the period when the Scottish Special Commisioner started to operate. I hope these facts will satisfy the hon. Gentleman.
§ 2.4 a.m.
While thanking the Minister for his speech I should like to refer to his figures relating to the Hillington estate. He has stated that there are 710 people employed there with a prospect of employment for a further 1,139, but can he give us a definite statement as to when these other 1,100 people will be absorbed. Surely they must have some idea when they are going to fulfil these schemes, and it is hardly good enough to say that we have done this and we might do that or we are in the process of doing this, but taking all in we have a rosy picture now. The Minister knows the position in Glasgow, with its grave unemployment problem 1723 and the grave burden on the local authority, and he knows that something must be done there. I maintain that the Minister ought to come here fully equipped with all the necessary information, and if he has not got it now he should have it fully worked out and should circulate it to Scottish Members. I would remind him that Scotland is an important part of Great Britain and we have 74 Members in this House. I would ask him to consider this very important fact and to give Scotland its proper place.
§ 2.7 a.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Euan Wallace)
We have got under this Clearing Act four clearing arrangements at the present moment. These clearings are with Italy, Rumania, Turkey and Spain; the operation of the Spanish clearing is suspended for the present. We have not got a clearing with Germany, since we have a Payments Agreement which is working very satisfactorily. However, I should not be in order in dealing with that. I cannot say what the amounts of the balances are in the Clearing Accounts at the present moment; in the three cases in which the clearing is working, not like the Spanish clearing, the money is being paid out as it comes in.
§ Captain Wallace
The present Agreement was concluded with Italy this spring. I want to be frank and I cannot say that the position of that clearing is altogether satisfactory at the moment. The receipts of the clearing have not come up to expectations, while British exports to Italy have come up to more than the full quota provided for in the Agreement; the result has naturally been an increased delay in payments from the Clearing Office on this side. The Government is initiating discussions with the Italian authorities for meeting the situation and we have also drawn the attention of exporters to the dangers of exporting more 1724 to Italy than they were likely to be paid for. I can assure the House that the matter is under the consideration of the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Captain Wallace
No. It is not contemplated at the moment. We regard these clearing arrangements as a pis aller not to be used unless it is necessary. It is only with the greatest reluctance that they have been put into operation, with the consent of the Governments concerned, as a practical means of clearing debts on this side.
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to continue certain expiring laws, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such expenses, and the payment into the Exchequer of such receipts, as may be occasioned by the continuance of the Debts Clearing Offices and Import Restrictions Act, 1934, until the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, and by the continuance of the Special Areas (Amendment) Act, 1937, until the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and forty, being expenses or receipts which, under or by virtue of either of the two last mentioned Acts, are to be defrayed out of such moneys or paid into the Exchequer.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Thursday.