§ [FOURTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [28th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."— [Captain Marsden.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:But regret the absence of any proposals for organising to the full our human and material resources in the national interest for the effective prosecution of the war, for the provision and maintenance of an adequate standard of life for all, and for the solution on the basis of social justice of the problems which will arise on the return to peace.The Amendment falls into three parts, and I do not propose to deal with them in detail or in the order in which they are on the Paper. What I have to say is governed primarily by what the Prime 500 Minister said in his speech on Tuesday last. On that occasion the Prime Minister dismissed, as I thought somewhat cursorily, that part of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in which he looked beyond the war. In a somewhat contemptuous reference to the Ministry of Reconstruction after the last Great War, the Prime Minister spoke offancy plans which were developed by students to give us a new world, a sort of demi-paradise, after the war was over.The Prime Minister went on to say:I remember the disillusionment that came afterwards. It was not good intentions that were wanting, for everybody had good intentions, but conditions did not turn out to be what they had been expected to be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; col. 30, Vol. 355.]I regret to have to say that the Prime Minister's diagnosis is totally inaccurate. It was not the planning which was wrong. Those who planned were not to be described as students, for they were men of varied experience in all walks of life, men who understood international, economic and social problems at home, and men who have since played a great part in the national life. The weakness, therefore, was not in the planning; the weakness was in the Coalition Government elected in 1918, a Parliament of hard-faced men, so described by people who had originally supported it; men who were less concerned with the remaking of the world and of Britain than they were with revenge against the late enemy and with their own selfish interests. Nor, let me say, did those who were concerned with reconstruction in those clays offer "a sort of demi-paradise." They realised that, notwithstanding the enormous difficulties which confronted Britain, the Allies and the world as a whole, the break with a bad past steeped in outworn traditions offered a great opportunity to open a new chapter in human history. There was nothing wrong in that objective. But those aims and those plans unfortunately, 20 years ago and since, were passions of hatred and greed. Some of those plans then formulated and worked out in detail have since emerged, somewhat truncated and emasculated after the expiration of 20 years.
I ask the Prime Minister, is this to be our fate in the future when this struggle is over? In this, the greatest of all struggles for human liberty, in this great 501 hour of world history, are we to contemplate at the end of it the continuance of racial hatred and of nationalist, imperialist and capitalist ambitions? Are we to be expected, at the end of the war, to degrade our great purpose and to leave the future to anarchy because we have refused to face and solve the problems which lie before us? To win the war we must win the peace. To win the peace means far more than the planning of a peace treaty. We shall not have won the war if after hostilities have ceased we are beaten by the political, economic and social conditions created by the war-itself. The Prime Minister's view, according to his submission only a week ago, is that we must wait until the war is over before we can even begin to think about the future. I suggest that such a course would be a betrayal of the highest interests of this people and of mankind. It would be the sacrifice of the peace, progress and prosperity which ought rightfully to be the outcome of this struggle against the dictatorship system, which has betrayed peace, which has betrayed and hampered human progress and postponed the return of the peoples towards prosperity and security.
The Prime Minister holds that we do not know what the conditions will be when hostilities cease. It is perfectly clear, and every Member of the House knows quite well, what the major conditions will be. We shall look out on a bleak world impoverished and scarred by war, shaken to pieces by the thousand and one repercussions which have flowed from the war. I ask the Prime Minister whether the hundreds of millions of people who have been directly involved in the fight, the many millions whose rights and liberties havev been for the time quenched by tyranny, whether the rest of mankind whose life has been twisted out of its normal channels because of the major maelstrom and the minor eddies of a great war, are to be left to fumble their way in the future into further futilities, a s happened 20 years ago, and it may be into later disasters such as, we now know, flowed from our lack of foresight 2o years ago? Are we to face that future because of lack of thought now, and of active, enlightened and constructive leadership after the war has closed?
No one will deny that when the war ends every belligerent nation will be infinitely poorer. The whole world will be- 502 immeasurably poorer because of the tremendous wastage of men and material on destructive purposes. Does the Prime Minister deny that? Is it not obvious to all that we shall have to pay the cost of this war not merely in expenditure now of treasure and of human life, but by an enormous impoverishment in the future? Is not this the post-war condition that we can foresee to-day? Moreover, the transition from peace to war conditions, in the case of a modern war, is no easy problem. We have made criticisms of the Government in this respect. One of our criticisms is that in this transition the Government has not been as effective as it should have been. But there is this point about the transition from the easier ways of peace to the harder tasks of war. It is a developing process, under the stress of urgent pressure and necessity. But when this process has worked itself out, when war has given way to peace, the reverse process of transition from war conditions to peace conditions is entirely different; it is without this terrific pressure of war dangers hanging over our heads day by day. We shall face it with the minds and spirit of the people of this and other countries tired, worn by the struggle and without any inspiring motive for the future, which it is the business of the Government of to-day to provide.
Before this war is ended great changes will have taken place in the organisation of industry. The country's efforts will, as pressure increases, tend more and more to be directed to serving the ends of the war. When hostilities cease, when the men are demobilised from the Defence Services, and when war production comes to an end, what is to be the situation? The Prime Minister, or his successor, is then to consider the conditions prevailing at the time. That will be too late. To-day, with increasing war efforts, there are nearly 1,500,000 people registered as unemployed, a number which the Minister of Labour, not for the first time, has tried to spirit away—at least to explain away. In addition to those, there are scores of thousands of professional men and women now derelict, anxious to give service but denied it. There are also scores of thousands of businesses derelict, and the people concerned with them are, strangely enough in war time, redundant.
If this be the situation at the end of three months of war after three years of 503 preparation, what is to be the position after three months of peace without any preparation? I hope we shall receive from the Government an answer to that question. There has been mighty preparation for a long time, and yet the output is not what we want and not what we need. We have not yet mobilised our resources, after three years of preparation and three months of war. If this negative attitude of the Government continues I dread to think what the prospect of the people of this country, in all classes of society, will be after three months of peace. There will be millions of people out of work. If, with the efforts which the Government have put forward, wenow have the situation reported by the Minister of Labour, and in addition to that the shattered lives of the scores of thousands of people who never register at the Employment Exchanges, at the end of the war there will be many millions of people out of work and many, many thousands of businesses immobilised and frozen, and growing economic stagnation, because the engines have not been reversed. There will be incalculable misery in an impoverished country and a Europe where the wheels of industry will have been slowed down to zero. I do not believe that after the war life will be easy in any event, but I am certain that unless we think out our plans now the war will have been lost, even if we win on the seas, in the air and on the land. The freedom for which we are fighting, a fight which my hon. Friends are supporting, will be again imperilled by undeserved poverty and insecurity at home and by the prospects of new struggles abroad by some other nation that wants to win a place in the sun. That is not a prospect that we on this side of the House can contemplate.
Newspapers have fastened upon me the American term "Brains Trust." I have never used it. I think it a crude and not very expressive phrase, and I am not asking for a brains trust, but there ought to be a body of men and women of knowledge, experience and foresight, from all classes and walks of life, seconded for the special purpose of being a sort of general staff to prepare, so that the Government of the future may have plans which will enable it to tackle the foe which will rear its head when Hitler-ism is vanquished. That foe, as terrible 504 in its way as Hitler is, is political, economic and social chaos, and the war will have been lost if, having destroyed the spirit of tyranny, we fail, through lack of heart and of the imagination of the possibilities which lie ahead, to prepare for the future so that the freedom of the people henceforth will build an impregnable bulwark against tyranny for ever in the future. I do not pretend, nor would any hon. Member of this House pretend, that it is possible at this stage to foresee all the problems which will face us at the end of the war, but what we all know, and what no Member can deny, is that after the devastation of the war will take all the efforts of our people to restore its ravages and to establish ordered, decent developing human society in this country.
The Prime Minister believes that the first task is the prosecution of the war. I agree, and I should myself be prepared to take more drastic steps in that direction than the Government have yet taken, but, as I have already indicated, the conclusion of the war is not the end of our problem. It is the beginning of another stern struggle to make military victory effective and, what is vital to me and my hon. Friends, to realise the ideals for which the war is being waged. There will be differences of opinion as to how this can be done. I detect them already on the opposite side of the House. I thought the Prime Minister ungenerously and unfairly sneered at my right hon. Friend when he said last Tuesday:Coming nearer home, the right hon. Gentleman made a number of observations which I might summarise by saying that he suggested that the war was a good time to introduce Socialism and that the hest way in which we could win it would be by ourselves all turning into Socialists."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th Nov., 1939, col. 29, Vol. 355.]Well, I am a Socialist, and I shall not desert my faith. A dictatorship might enchain my body, it might deprive me of opportunities of self-expression, but it could not make me change my mind, nor could it make any difference to the minds of my hon. Friends. There are others in this House who do not share our views. They are fully entitled to their opinions. After all, this is one of the issues which is at stake to-day; but the future will not be hammered out on any small anvil by people using small political weapons. The future will be hammered out on the great 505 anvil of reason, justice and experience. The world of to-morrow cannot be fashioned on a simple pact, though I believe it must have a governing design and it will be the creation of a Parliament like the Parliament we have to-day, improved, I hope, in personnel. It will be the creation of Parliament by people with knowledge and imagination and possessed of the spirit of public service. I believe myself, and I have said it publicly, that whether it be war or peace, Labour's programme is essential to the national interest. I withdraw nothing from that. In my view time will show that the greater the urgency of the national situation the more the public interest must dominate, and the more the community unity must take charge of the general direction of its affairs, utilising to the full the services of all those who possess knowledge and experience and have that good will which is necessary to a real co-operative community.
This war will, I believe, shake many strongly held views and uproot many ancient prejudices and privileges—that, I imagine, is one of the inevitable results of all great struggles of this kind—and after the war we shall have to face an entirely new situation, a situation created by the determination of the democratic Powers to stay the onward march of dictatorships, and it must therefore, whatever may be our schools of thought, be the endeavour of all who have supported this call to freedom to ensure that the object of the struggle shall be fulfilled. But the fulfilment of the fundamental purpose for which we fight depends upon the preparation of plans now, indeed, it depends upon action now. I would say that during the progress of the war, in order to prove our faith in the national cause, the obvious social injustices ought to be remedied. Old age pensions, dependants' allowances, workmen's compensation, the lot of the lowly-paid worker and the professional man, the shopkeeper fallen on evil days, ought to be our special care as an earnest and frank admission that the life of the people as a whole is at stake, that what is the concern of one is the concern of all, and that injustices at home are as intolerable as injustices abroad.
Moreover, to achieve these aims, to show the world that we believe in justice and to secure the most active and effective prosecution of the war we must organise our resources, human and 506 material, far more fully than we have yet done. The full organisation of all our power now would not only help to terminate the struggle with success in the minimum of time, but would undoubtedly enable us to achieve some measure of social justice during the ordeal of the war and would prove to be the indispensable foundation on which to build the future after the war.
I believe that the final triumph of democracy depends as much on the fight against post-war evils as upon the fight against the present evils. It is for this reason that we ask that men and women with forward-looking minds, knowledge and imagination should be invited now to explore the deeps and the shallows which lie ahead of us, and to put on the stocks a seaworthy craft which will ride the perils of the deep seas and avoid the hidden dangers of the shallows. We do not raise this question in any narrow partisan spirit. The conduct of this party during the war, whatever differences of opinion there may have been, proves that it has acted with one eye, and one eye only, upon the national interest. We raise this issue to-day because it is vital to the interests of the people who will survive the war and of the generation which will follow it. We do not expect to see eye to eye with others of a different political faith, but we are satisfied to let the lamp of reason and the beacon of honest experience of life guide the future. We cannot permit the people of to-morrow to stumble into the darkness of a new blackout, towards a future which they cannot see. For those reasons I move this Amendment.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Samuel Hoare)
The right hon. Gentleman spoke, as he always speaks, with great vigour. I hope it is a sign that he is entirely restored to health. We on this side of the House have always listened with interest and a great measure of sympathy to the series of impressive speeches that the right hon. Gentleman has addressed to this House during the war. I shall attempt, in the short time during which I shall occupy the House, to address myself not only to his speech but to the Amendment that it was intended to support. It seemed to me, while we listened with admiration to his eloquence, that we did not hear much about the Amendment 507 itself. I shall try to deal both with the speech and with the three considerations that are specifically urged in the official Amendment of the Labour party. The right hon. Gentleman's text was that if we did not win the peace we should not win the war. I agree with him, but I would prefer to take that text a little bit further. I would prefer to say that we cannot win the peace unless we win the war. I would prefer to say, still further, that our objective must not only be winning the peace or winning the war, but winning them both.
I propose to deal, first of all, with the suggestion in the Amendment that we are not making an effective war effort. The right hon. Gentleman made a suggestion of that kind in the course of his speech. I propose later to deal with our future plans for the peace and to show that there was no justification for what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Prime Minister sneering the other day about planning for peace, or that we are indifferent at this or any other time to the great issues, and the very difficult problems, that will be raised when the peace comes.
We have now had three months of the war, and I think the time has come to look at our war effort and to judge to what extent it has been effective, and to what extent we ought to improve and to accelerate it, if we are to achieve the 100 per cent. war effort that is, I believe, the desire of every hon. Member in this House. I propose to say a word or two about the three chief activities of this war effort and to ask the House to consider how we stand at the present moment. These chief activities are—as it seems to me—the field of man-power, the field of supply, and the field of finance. Let me begin with a word or two about manpower. I am old enough to remember the state of confusion in the field of manpower in the early months of the war of 1914. The arrangements were haphazard. The wrong men were taken into the Army and the right men for the Army were left in civil life. It took us many months—indeed, it ran into years—before we had that early confusion tolerably remedied.
I am by no means complacent as to the condition of man-power to-day, but I can claim that the picture is a very different picture from the picture in 1914. 508 Let me give the House an illustration. At the present moment there are something between 1,250,000 and 1,500,000 men under arms, a number that will be swiftly increased in the months before us. There is, unlike 1914, side by side with this great body of the fighting Services, a great citizen army engaged in air-raid precautions and running, suppose, into something like 1,500,000 or 1,750,000 men and women. This gigantic recruitment has, I claim, been carried out in an orderly and methodical manner. For instance, the list of reserved occupations has, on the whole, been effective in keeping the essential men in industry. There may have been exceptions and we are going to see that those exceptions are put right.
Speaking generally, that list has kept the great body of key-men in industry while a new analysis, that has never been attempted before, of the skilled labour that is necessary in the Army has enabled us to see that skilled men, when they come into the Army, go into the tradesmen's jobs. I claim that, so far at any rate, we can be not dissatisfied with our war effort in the field of man-power. I am coming in a minute or two to deal with the manner in which it should be improved in the future, but, at this point of my argument, I am drawing the attention of the House to the fact that this great recruitment of men and women to war work has been carried out methodically and sensibly and with the least possible dislocation of the normal life of the country, in view of the magnitude of the problem.
I come next to the field of supply. There, again, hon. Members with long memories will remember the confusion in the early years of the last war and the fact that it was months and years before the organisation of the Ministry of Munitions was really in effective operation. To-day we can feel some satisfaction in the fact that we have already in being an organisation for the purchase of raw materials and for bulk purchases. It is a very necessary organisation if we are to avoid inflation and excessive rises in the prices of raw materials. The House will not expect me to go into any details. Hon. Members themselves are going into details in the Secret Session next week, on this question of supply. All I would do this afternoon is to give hon. Members one or two illustrations to show the 509 magnitude of the progress that we have already made in this field.
Here are some illustrations, to give the House examples of what I am trying to bring to its notice. The value of the contracts which have been placed by the Ministry of Supply for munitions and equipment since the beginning of the war is £195,000,000. The figure for the week 21st to 28th November was £12,000,000. The present number of Ordnance factories now actually in production is 13, in addition to a further 16 in various stages of completion. The number of private factories, known as "agency factories," which have been built, or are being built, at Government expense, is 23. In addition, in 301 factories, extensions to accommodate new plant or additions of plant have been added at the public cost. Here is another illustration, dealing with tanks and transport. The forecast of the production rate for wheeled vehicles for January, 1940, is 10 times that for the Services for January, 1939, while for motor cycles it is 60 times and for trailers six times. Here is another illustration. The production of woollen goods for Government purposes is now equal to two-thirds the production reached during the peak period of 1917–18, which, of course, took three years to achieve.
There is another side to this problem to which I would draw the attention of hon. Members. One of the most difficult problems in the last war was to create not only unity of front in the military sphere between our Allies and ourselves, but unity of front in the economic sphere. I can claim that after these comparatively few weeks of this war unity on the economic front has been created between ourselves and the French. The question was raised at the very first meeting of the Supreme War Council. It was taken a long step further at the last meeting of the Supreme War Council, and I can claim to-day that the basis of this organisation has now been securely built. There is a co-ordinating body at the top with a very able and distinguished Frenchman, M. Monnet, in the chair, and beneath it there have been created permanent executive committees each consisting of an equal number of British and French officials dealing with questions connected with air production and supplies, munitions, raw materials, oil, food, shipping and economic warfare. In 510 addition, the Anglo-French Coal Acquirements Committee has been set up to deal in particular with all matters concerning the buying of coal from Great Britain by France. I could give the House a number of other details all to the same effect, showing that here, at any rate, in the comparatively early weeks of this war we have created unity in the economic field in regard to the difficult problems of supply.
I have almost finished my survey of the present position, but I would like to bring into this part of my speech the other side of the supply problem. It was suggested in a supplementary question this afternoon that the supply problems go much further than the supply questions arising actually in the Ministry of Supply, for instance, the supply questions connected with aircraft production. There I can claim, without giving information that would be of value to the enemy, that we are now doubling our air production. I will now pass to the other field of activity, the field of shipbuilding. There again, as the House will remember we have a programme—
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
Could the right hon. Gentleman say since when have we been doubling our air production?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I cannot, and, obviously, the right hon. Gentleman would not press me on that point.
In the field of shipbuilding the House will remember that before the war we had a programme for building 1,000,000 tons of new merchant shipping. I can tell the House, without giving specific figures, that we are greatly extending that programme. I claim that these illustrations go to show that we are making a gigantic war effort. I admit that it has not reached 100 per cent, which we all wish to see achieved. I will tell the House of two directions in which, I hope, we shall see definite improvement in the 511 future, and I would add in the not distant future. I will take, first of all, these supply problems. I hope very much that we shall see a great extension in the number of smaller firms brought into the ambit of the national effort. I think it was inevitable in the early part of the war in the interest of speed, and because of the fact that they were better organised in many respects than smaller firms, that the great body of the work was bound to be given to the bigger organisations. I hope now that we shall be able to see a considerable extension in this field and in the number of these smaller firms brought into it. I am encouraged in that hope by the fact that we have now in being an area organisation, the organisation of the Area Boards and the Area Committees, in which I am very glad to think the leaders of organised labour are actively and effectively co-operating; and I should like to pay a tribute to the great value of their co-operation and to say what is certainly my own view, that the success of this effort will depend to a great extent upon their co-operation. We have these local organisations now coming into operation, and I hope that as a result of that the number of companies and small businesses and small industries engaged in the armament programme will be very greatly increased in the future.
There is another direction in which I hope to see an improvement, and a definite improvement, in the immediate months before us. The right hon. Gentleman pointed to the fact which we all deplore, that there are nearly 1,500,000 unemployed. He did not go into the reasons why since the war the number, at any rate in the first two months, tended to rise. I do not think I need labour those reasons this afternoon, because I think every hon. Gentleman is aware of the dislocation that war brought about, the difficulties in connection with evacuation, the black-out, the difficulties of shipping, of transport and so on. I am inclined to think that the surprising facts after this great dislocation was not that there were 200,000 more men and women unemployed at the end of the two months but that the number was so small.
Whether that is so or not, I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman that we must absorb into this national effort the great body of the men and women 512 who are employable, who may now be registered amongst this 1,500,000 unemployed or who may not be registered at all—private citizens, men and women who are yearning with a great fervour to play their part in the national effort. I am so bold as to believe that we shall see in the early months of next year a very great change in this respect. We must do our utmost—I readily admit it—to expedite this change. The Ministry of Labour, for instance, must extend its training facilities. We must push on as fast as we can. We must get this huge number of contracts which we are pouring out every day of the week into actual concrete operation, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and every hon. Member that we shall not spare our efforts at all. I believe that in the early months of next year a prophecy which I ventured to make two months ago will be fulfilled—that the job will be looking for the man and not the man for the job.
I hope I have not wearied the House with this general survey of the present position, and I hope I have not given to any hon. Member the impression that we are complacent and that we wish to go on sleepily and inefficiently with business as usual. Nothing is further from the case. We are anxious to push this effort on as quickly and as effectively as we can and make it what the Prime Minister three weeks ago said it would be—an effort in which all the resources of the nation are brought to play.
This brings me to the third part of the Opposition Amendment and to the main theme of the right hon. Gentleman's speech—the plans for peace.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Before the right hon. Gentleman passes to that, I understood he was going to refer to the subject of finance. So far he has not done so.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me. I was going to say a word or two about finance as the third of these great war efforts which we are making. What I was going to say about finance was to point once again to the magnitude of our efforts, the necessity of raising £2,000,000,000 in the course of 12 months and raising £1000,000,000 by taxation. The only comment I would make about this tremendous effort is the comment which has been made time after time, namely, the willingness of all classes 513 of the country to bear these gigantic sacrifices. I am sure the country will make an equally patriotic response to the campaign that is now being made in the field of national savings and with regard to the war loan, which began with the smaller sums and which will inevitably lead to greater sums later on. I am sure in the field of finance we shall show to the world that, great as this burden is, we are prepared to bear it and we are able to bear it.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but this is an important matter. A very large number of people are asking, what voice of the Government are they to follow with regard to spending and saving? I think the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised if he would induce some advice to be given to the people of this country precisely where their duty lies. I am not suggesting he should answer the question now, but I would like him to assure me that the Government will consider this matter and will really put forth some constructive ideas, because, if he wi11 allow me to say so, the question is being asked on every hand and the people are finding the voice of the Government is contradictory and conflicting.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I think he has in mind a speech which I made some weeks ago. I will take the opportunity of clearing up once and for all the doubts which are in many people's minds. There is no contradiction between the speech which I made two months ago, in which I told people to spend wisely, and the speech which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the other day when he told people to save rigidly. Indeed, my argument was actually passed by the Treasury. It went through that very fine sieve of orthodoxy. I think the right hon. Gentleman will say, if he looks back to the early weeks of the war, when so many people were foolishly dismissing their staffs, when so many people who had money to spend were taking up an extremely unreasonable attitude towards the support of their dependants, that my speech was necessary, but to-day I think the emphasis has somewhat changed. I think the need now is for saving; but saving wisely, saving exclusively for the purposes of the National Loan. I will 514 certainly take into account the suggestion he has made, however, that an authoritative statement should be made on this subject.
I come back to the plans for the future. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that none of us was thinking about the future at all. I can assure him that that is not so. I can assure him that we are just as anxious as he is to have our plans for peace, when it comes, based upon social justice. I can assure him that we want to have those plans carefully worked out, upon the basis, as he said, of reason, justice and experience. Where, however, I part company with him is that I do not believe that at this very moment, when we are so completely concentrating on war problems, when the time of Ministers and officials, and of nine out of 10 people in the country, is almost exclusively concentrated upon war problems, we can give that full attention to peace problems which he seems to desire. Further, I think it is very difficult to make the precise kind of plans that evidently were in his mind, when the war has been going on only a few weeks and nobody can say what will be the conditions at the end of the war, except that, as he said himself, the world will be much poorer than it is to-day. But we are not indifferent to these post-war problems. We have them in mind, and in due course we shall undoubtedly have to concentrate a great deal of attention upon them.
The second observation that I will venture to make to him—and I think he will agree with me—is that it is essential that when we come to make our plans for the peace we should do our utmost to take advantage of the lessons that war has to teach. I remember very well a saying of Emerson's that "wise men make good use of times of adversity." War, with all its horrors, has lessons to teach of the greatest value for the future peace. War telescopes experience and experiment. Changes that would otherwise take generations are carried through in days or weeks. The last war taught us the value of industrial welfare. Before the last war very few people in the country paid much attention to it. How immensely better things are since employers and workers have concentrated their minds on the many problems connected with industrial welfare. The last war made great progress possible in 515 surgery and medicine. It started the Ministry of Health. Although it destroyed millions of lives, its lessons have enabled succeeding generations to save life and mitigate suffering. In the political field, it brought womanhood and manhood suffrage into the immediate programmes of all parties.
So must we act with this war. We must treasure any experience that may be of help for the future. I will give the House a single example—the lessons to be learnt from evacuation. Let us retain the lessons of this great dispersal. Let us bring country and town better together in the future. Let us insist upon higher standards of health in the more backward town areas. Let us, above all, retain the community of feeling that, in spite of temporary irritations and inconveniences, has grown up between town and village and class and class. It is in this spirit of community of interest that we must face the problems first of war and then of peace. It is in this spirit that we shall retain our liberties and social standards. It is in this spirit that we shall endure the great sacrifices—far greater than those that have faced us in the last 12 weeks—without which we shall not pass from the tragic black-out of war into the light and joy of honourable peace.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I did not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but in regard to this question of spending I was not quite clear as to his meaning. Does he think that wise public spending is preferable to foolish private spending?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I would have no foolish spending, nothing but wise spending. I would have no spending on private or public extravagance.
§ 5.10 p.m.
Mr. Graham White
We learnt with concern recently that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) had been advised to take some rest from political activities. We are very glad to have seen from the speech that he made to-day that he has returned to the House, I will not say with renewed vigour, but with his strength and capacities quite unimpaired.
516 With regard to the Amendment before the House, I should like to say that it represents a feeling of anxiety among a multitude of people who are only too eager to see the maximum effort made with regard to the mobilisation of our manhood and materials—and, indeed, are ready to take part in that work and believe that there is a great deal more that might be done towards that end. We have heard from the Lord Privy Seal many things of a reassuring nature, and everybody must have heard with satisfaction his accounts of the arrangements made for complete economic co-operation between ourselves and our Allies, the French. I hope that this co-operation will survive the war, and that we may find in it some nucleus for wider cooperation with other members of the European fraternity.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield spoke about the election of 1918 and the spirit which prevailed at that time. I think he did well to recall the sentiments and passions of that time. What he said leads me to say that, in my conviction, we have an even harder task than postwar reconstruction, or even than the making of plans now which can be put into operation after the war. That task is to keep alive the spirit in which it will be possible to make these plans and to bring about a decent peace. I believe that, hard though it may be, and harder though it may become as the war goes on from year to year if it does not come to an end sooner the hardest task before us is to keep alive those qualities of mercy and justice and truth which are in danger of being destroyed, and whose existence is a condition of a tolerable peace.
I listened with attention to what the Lord Privy Seal said about the difficulty of working out constructive plans at present, but one remembers that in the last war a good deal of social policy was evolved and put into practice. I always regarded the Fisher Act as something in the nature of a miracle, produced during the war. Social services were considered during the war, and extended after the war. The practice of industrial welfare, to which the Lord Privy Seal referred, was considered, and given practical application after the war. I see no reason why work of that kind cannot be carried on now. I am glad to notice the 517 Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education here. I hope that the Government will see that our ruined education shall be restored at the earliest possible moment. I hope that, like Mr. Fisher and those who worked with him during the last war, those at the Board of Education to-day will be engaged in making their schemes. I would urge them to give their minds to the possibility of international educational schemes, such as the exchange of students, which will have a good effect on international reconstruction.
There are two reasons why it is essential al that we should give our minds to reconstruction now both on a national scale and also on those aspects of reconstruction which concern the international sphere. I do not think it will be possible to organise the defenders of democracy, wherever they are to be found and in whatever country they may be, to the maximum amount of energy and their maximum effort if they are merely to look forward to going back to conditions as they have been. We are fighting in this war to preserve what we have got; to preserve the conditions we have now as a building ground for something better. That is quite clear. There is another reason, not so much a human as technical reason, for considering various aspects of reform, economic, social and political, whenever the peace may come and on whatever terms it may be brought about. I agree with those who say you cannot discuss peace terms now, because you do not know the conditions when war will come to an end, but when peace does come the conferences and the international bodies who may consider the terms and conditions of that peace can do no more than consider and put into final form the schemes already considered in full detail, and approved by the advisers of those countries who may be represented at the international conference. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see flat, within the limits of what is possible, there shall be full consideration, both technical and economic, of that preparatory work necessary to make a better country and also a better Europe.
There is one aspect of work which ought to be undertaken at the earliest possible moment. It is the simplification of the social services of this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the 518 Government are at this time concerned in considering an addition, and the possibility of giving some relief to old age pensioners. I hope that in doing that we are not going merely to add another limb to the very unshapely tree of social services we have in this country. It is a matter of importance and urgency that something should be done on this matter at an early date, but I very much doubt whether we are going the right way about it in having an inquiry on the lines suggested.
Some rather remarkable suggestions have been made by Mr. Keynes with the idea of strengthening our taxation proposals whereby he suggests that it is possible to raise a sum of £400,000,000 a year. If it is possible by means of deferred payments to raise some £400,000,000 a year, why should not we connect it up with a scheme of social security as has been done in America, which would go a long way to solve our difficulties of pensions and many other aspects of our social services? If it is possible to raise £400,000,000 a year by deferred payments, it might well be that those entitled to take those payments would prefer to draw them in the form of social security pensions.
There are many fields in which, even at the present time of war, we can consider extensions and improvements in our services. I said that the Amendment represented a feeling of anxiety in the minds of very large numbers of people. All those who are engaged in trade and industry are feeling unhappy at the present time. Everybody knew that at the outbreak of war there must be a period of transition and dislocation, and that in all probability there must be a good deal of unemployment. The first month and the second went by. People were tolerant and said, "We realise that we are at war," but now the third month has gone and they are becoming increasingly anxious as to the position. The reason is, I think, not far to seek. It is to be found in the fact that all the pre-war planning was, of necessity, repressive and negative in its character, and controlled in some measure, and in many fields it is recognised now, that it is not so much control that we have to fear as a process of strangulation. They are wondering how long it will be before the 519 period of transition passes away, and whether, in fact, we have not reached a period when there are so many drags upon one's activities in many directions that, in effect, it is not so much control as strangulation from which we are suffering.
There are delays, some of which are inevitable, but there are accumulative delays in nearly every process of industry to-day. The delays in shipping we understand; but there are delays in transport, and in the clearing of goods through. Customs which ought not to be allowed to continue for a day. At every stage there is delay. There are delays in seeking permits for this and that, and, in addition, things are being done to-day which are causing needlessly a great amount of exasperation. There are, for example, the difficulties arising and besetting many people owing to the over rigidity with which the import licences are being exercised in regard to transactions which took place before the outbreak of war, or about the time of the outbreak of war. Contracts made in August before the war have not been allowed to be fulfilled. There are people who are having goods reaching the shores of this country for which they have to pay and for which the Defence Regulations of this country are no defence in a foreign court. If they have to fail in their obligations it will produce the worst possible effect in countries with which we wish to be on good terms and continue our trade relations.
The Lord Privy Seal mentioned that he hoped before very long a large body of contractors in this country of one kind or another—the engineers, builders and the like—would be drawn into a general scheme of providing for our war effort. I hope that something will be done in the committees to which he referred. The original boards, I gather, have done very little; certainly those which have come under my observation have done very little, nor were they likely to do very much, because they were constituted of people with little knowledge of the locality and not a very wide knowledge of general engineering and employment at all. Now that committees are to be formed in the various localities, if they are drawn from people of experience and of industrial capacity in the district, as in the last war, there is no reason why industry cannot be mobilised with good will. That 520 has not been done at the present time. The additional machinery which was brought into operation at the outbreak of war was carefully drawn and planned, and, in so far as it was the work of one Department, probably the work was done as well as it possibly could be done, but where it was a question of contact with other Departments it produced an air of uncertainty and indecision which is most mischievous at the present time. The article in the "Times" on "Real Economic Warfare" summarised the feeling of everybody conversant with this matter. It said:We need, in addition to the old negative of blockade and rationing, the positive, militant technique of pre-emption. We must not be content with preventing Germany from buying the materials over which we can exercise physical control. …There is obviously only one way of meeting this changed situation. …What in fact are we doing to win the war on the economic side, and in particular, in its external competitive aspect? A special Department has indeed been set up, entitled the Ministry of Economic Warfare.They go on to say that there should be a central authority with power to control and co-ordinate the competing activities of the various Ministries. These things are urgent. They must be organised if we are to make our maximum effort in any quick time. When we look forward, as did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, to the end of the war, we must be prepared with clear ideas as to what we are going to do then. As he said, every country will be impoverished. The store and reserve of Government credit will be exhausted, and the only way we shall be able to maintain a reasonable standard of life, let alone improve it, will be by various countries of the world being prepared to reverse the policy they have pursued ever since the last war and enter a co-operative society in Europe instead of a purely competitive society, and if they are prepared to regard their neighbours as good neighbours and potential friends, and not as certain enemies. That is essential, if there is to be the plan necessary to rebuild a decent state of society. We in this country can build a satisfactory standard of life provided the means of production are not shattered physically by the process of war which is the only thing which can prevent the adaptable nature of a nation like ourselves from building up a proper standard of life and existence.
521 These are the things which have to be done. There is an immense amount of work to be done, and I ask the Government, in carrying out their plan, not to refrain from carrying out those investigations which will be useful after the war. I hope that they will enable local authorities throughout the country to continue their reports on expenditure which it is impossible to carry out now, and which it is very important to have at hand and available when the war is over. I hope that the Government will set to work in some Department to draw up proper standards of consumption of the people in this country. We have in the past been too apt to give a man and woman just the minimum upon which they can live, but we should reverse the process and see what is the proper amount and standard of consumption, and gradually work up to that as steadily and as quickly as possible. These are some of the lines and directions we have to pursue.
§ 5,29 p.m.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
There was no doubt that the Debate last week was of a high quality and exceptionally interesting throughout, and I think the House will agree that the effort of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), whom we welcome back with his vigour unimpaired, has sustained that high quality and interest. I am going to endeavour to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the problems of reconstruction rather than to address myself to the Amendment which his Party have put on the Order Paper:The prosecution of the war"—so says the Gracious Speech—commands the energies of all my subjects.With that, we all in this House and in the country, with very minor exceptions, agree. The successful prosecution of the war can only be carried out by a united people. While I listened to the right hon. Gentleman I could not help thinking how strange it was that he should be keen to tell the Government what they ought and what they ought not to do when planning for the end of the war, and how strange it was that he and his friends refused to join the Government at the Prime Minister's invitation at the beginning of the war. I could not help thinking that that fact vitiated the whole argument which the right hon. Gentleman attempted to address the House. Personally, I 522 greatly regret in the national interest that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends did not join the Prime Minister and the Government in helping to carry on the prosecution of the war and to face the problems of reconstruction after the war in an official and executive capacity.
I agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I do think that he completely travestied the great speech of the Prime Minister on Tuesday last. The Prime Minister in no way pushed off the problems of reconstruction as something not to be considered now, but something that must wait for some dim and distant future. The Prime Minister did not indicate any such view as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. May I quote the notable peroration with which the Prime Minister ended his speech?When we have achieved that aim,that is, the aim of defeating the enemy,then, indeed, we may find that we require an even greater vision, an even stronger will to win the peace than it has taken to win the war. I do not doubt that when that time comes there will be those who will have that vision, who will have that will, and I only trust that they may have greater fortune in fulfilling their own ideals than those who were left to win the peace after the war of 1914."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; col. 31, Vol. 355.]I believe that we all in this House and in the country agree with the words of the Prime Minister on that occasion. How can we help in the prosecution of the war? If the Opposition, or Members of the Opposition, wish to preach Socialism in this House or outside, they must realise that we shall be forced to combat and counter such party propaganda. Such party warfare would not help in the efficient prosecution of the war. I never was very keen on party warfare even in peace time, and I am sure that the country is not keen on it at the present time. I would appeal to the party opposite not to embark on such a course. So far as one hears, the measures of Socialism and the public control that have been introduced during this war are not very popular in the country at this moment. The public are getting too much Socialism and are expressing disapproval in letters to most of us.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Does the hon. Member think that the present system of control mostly of capitalistic industry has anything whatever to do with Socialism as preached on this side of the House?
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I think that interjection might be left where it has been made. I would say that the public at large, according to my post-bag, are getting too much of control by the State, and they would much rather have more freedom if they were allowed it. We must be prepared to consider every problem that faces us now and will face us at the end of the war, with absolutely unbiased minds. We must not have hide-bound rigid theories either of Socialism, completely out of date, or individualism, out of date also. We must face the appallingly difficult problems with fresh minds, determined to rule out no solution because of preconceived ideas but to apply the best solution, irrespective of label, to meet every difficulty. We may want, I believe we shall want, a mixture of Socialism, of co-operation and of individualism if we are to provide the best possible answer to every problem that will face us during and after the war.
I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his diagnosis of the severity of the difficulties which will face us. I believe that the League of Nations in the economic sphere will be able to help us greatly to face up to these problems, and I hope that it will be given the chance to do so, as, indeed, the Prime Minister said in his speech the other day. Let us determine to safeguard the rights and liberties of the individual against the State. Let us remember that we are the heirs of the greatest political heritage in the world, and that in the preservation of that heritage we have heavy responsibilities. Let us determine that just as we are throwing the whole of our resources into the prosecution of the war so we must be prepared to throw our whole resources into facing up to the difficulties of reconstruction after the war, remembering always that our especial care must be for the poorest and most helpless of our fellow citizens.
In the confused days of last Spring I ventured in this House to express my absolute confidence in, and my devotion to, the Prime Minister, and my confidence and devotion have not been 524 diminished but rather enhanced and fortified by recent events. He has my unqualified support now and will have it so long as he desires it. In that way I am convinced that I can best help the prosecution of the war. We have had in the last three or four days of debate many admirable definitions of our war aims and our peace aims. In regard to our peace aims I would say that I was reminded of an Old Testament text:What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?We want to see conditions in the world in which not only men and women, but States and nations shall do justice, shall walk humbly and shall love mercy. Then I believe we shall have a civilisation which is fit for our children to live in.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
If I do not follow the hon. Member in what he has just said about the reason for the Opposition not joining the Government, it is because I want to deal with another phase that is deal with in the Amendment. The Amendment is divided into three parts. The first portion regrets the absence of any proposals for organising to the full our human and material resources in the national necessity for the effective prosecution of the war. I think the Government would be the first to agree that since the war started there has been in the country overwhelming support for getting the war through to a successful issue. Those who remember vividly 1914 will agree that there has not been quite the same enthusiasm as at that period, but there has been, and there is, a keen determination to sec this war through. In seeing the war through we have to remember that there are two fronts, those who are in the Services and those who are at home, both essential for victory and both needing consideration.
The last time I spoke on the question of dependants' allowances, I asked the Government not to be so niggardly in their attitude towards the human factors in war. It is true that to-day the soldier, the sailor and the airman are treated far better than was the case in past wars, but that is hardly the point. They are entitled to the best the country can give them. During the past two or three weeks I have had conversations with many men 525 in the Services and, on the whole, while they are not what might be termed grousers or grumblers, they feel that they are entitled to a little more consideration, particularly in regard to those they have left at home. That being so, I want the Government to remember that it is essential that we should have unity at home if we are to do all that is necessary to bring about victory, and one of the first things the Government have to do is to pay more attention than they have shown since the war started to certain classes of the population who have no means of pressing forward their demands through organisations.
It would be not only a generous gesture on the part of the Government but a simple act of justice if we were to give the old age pensioners more than some of the Sunday papers have said the Government are considering. When we talk about equality of sacrifice I find it extremely difficult to convince old age pensioners that there is such a thing. An old miner said to me the other day—he is a man who has spent the best of his life in the industry and is far from being a spent force: "Tom, when are you going to do a bit for us?" I said: "The Government are considering it," and he replied, "They have been considering it for a long while." If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been in his place I should have reminded him of something lie said last week when winding up the Debate. He talked about the great prewar Old Age Pensions Act.
I make this assertion without fear of contradiction, that this House has never willingly conceded anything either to the aged or the injured. The Minister of Health, who knows a good deal of political history, knows that the first Old Age Pension Act gave 5s. a week at 70, and I believe there was a pauper disqualification to it then. There were people on the other side of the House and in another place who fought that very modest pension proposal almost to the death. Today we give l0s., under an Act which is full of anomalies. I should like the Government to take a pattern from what some of the Dominions have been able to do in the treatment of old people. In Australia, I think the pension is £1 at 65 for the man and the wife. In New Zealand it is even more than that. Here it is 10s a week at 65 and 7o. The most 526 that can be got is £1 a week. If Members of the Government would pay some attention to certain industrial areas they would find a good deal of suffering, especially because there has been an increase in the cost of living. If we had an inquiry into the cost of living we should find that it has increased since 3rd September more than is reflected in the cost-of-living index figure. There is a good deal of hardship, and I would urge that if those in authority desire to maintain unity they must show to the people at home that they are giving them what is somewhat like a square deal.
As to workmen's compensation, I represent an industrial constituency and I see industrial derelicts in most parts of it, nystagmus cases and men who have been injured, and feel that nobody wants them. It cannot be the cost which prevents the Government bringing in an amending Bill, because the cost is not borne by the State but by industry. Does anybody mean to tell me that industry now cannot afford to finance a more adequate Workmen's Compensation Act? In 1897, when we had the first Workmen's Compensation Act, we got something of value, but it was not generous. The most you could get in whatever trade you worked was a maximum of £1 a week, and you had to be off for three weeks before you got the first week's money. When I was buried by a fall in the pit I had to be off three weeks before I drew my first pay of l0s. 3d. From 1914 to 1918, what did we do for the injured worker? We never raised benefits for total disablement above. 35s. per week, and in 1923, when Mr. Bridgeman, as he then was, forgot to include two Measures in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill he reduced the workmen's compensation maximum from 35s. to 30s. I believe that is the first time any Government has reduced benefits.
What are the industrial workers of this country to do? Have they to remain silent and put up with all these injustices, or have they to agitate as they did between 1914 and 1918, and threaten to down tools in order to get the Government to do something? If we are to keep unity we shall have to tackle these social and industrial problems, and I say that it is a scandal that in 1939 we should have the poorest Workmen's Compensation Act in any part of the British Em- 527 pire. I ask the Government definitely to declare that they intend as speedily as possible to bring in amending legislation and give these people who have spent their time in industry, and who went through the war from 1914–18, a little more than they have at present.
I want to deal with the second part of the Amendment which refers to plans for meeting the situation when the war is over. He would be a bold man who would predict when the end will come, but whenever it comes there will be certain problems which will have to be faced. We hope to see these problems faced in a different manner from what was the case in 1918. I thought the Prime Minister was a little facetious last week when dealing with plans for the conditions when the war is over. He said that in the Great War there were people promising all kinds of things. That is true, but who were they? I remember some of the promises which were made to the country. We were told that schemes of reconstruction were ready to be put into operation. What happened? When the war was over, in November, 1918, there were no plans to deal with the men who were demobilised from the fighting Services and the munition workers. In the city with which I have something to do we had masses of men demobilised from the Army and from industry, and no work of any kind for them to do. They had to draw on the Unemployment Fund or the rates, and there was a gap of six weeks between payments.
There were strikes and threats of riots in some of our big towns in 1920. Instead of reconstruction, the Coalition Government of that day swung industry back from public control to private enterprise. When hon. Members opposite criticise hon. Members on this side let them have regard to the facts of the situation and the history of their own party. Who was it who declared that this country had neglected agriculture and had not given farmers security of tenure, and who, four years before the Corn Production Act was to come to an end, repealed it and at one fell swoop decontrolled agriculture? Scores and scores of tenant farmers went into bankruptcy. It was not the Labour party who did that, but the Coalition Government. Take the coal mining industry. It was decontrolled in 1921, six months before the Act of 528 Parliament said that it should be decontrolled. We were told that the mining industry should stand on its own feet, and as a result wages in the industry dropped from £6 l0s. per week to £3 l0s. We had to go through hell after the Armistice. All these strikes and lockouts not only broke men's hearts but their pockets as well.
I want the Government to turn their attention to these after-war problems now. Let them consider whether our present wage system is a system at all. We have wage agreements made by trade unions, but thousands of workers have been taught by experience that unless they are organised they do not get a fair wage, and that at the moment they are disorganised conditions at once become worse. I should like to see some committee set up to think out these problems. An hon. Member opposite and I some three years ago were in another part of the Empire. In Australia we saw the result of an arbitration court system and how trade unions and employers had the right to go before these courts and secure what they called a basic living wage through negotiation between trade unions and employers. In Australia to-day the lowest basic wage for an adult male over 21 years of age is £3 16s. a week and £4 in some cases. I should like to see some committee consider whether we cannot improve the conditions in this country. The only way in which we got a minimum wage in the mining industry was after a national strike of six weeks in 1912. The first time I came into this House was in company with the late Herbert Smith, when the House was discussing 5s. a week for men in the mining industry and 2S. for boys. So bad were the conditions in mining in Yorkshire, which produces 40,000,000 tons of coal a year, that when we secured a minimum wage of 6s. 9d. per shift for an eight-hour day we thought we had secured a great victory. There were thousands of men in that county coming home with 2s. and 3s. per week.
The moral of all this is that the workers are entitled to a better standard of life and a better state of affairs and that we must do something about it; we cannot allow things to go on in a haphazard way. In this war you are taking the young men, and when the war is over and they are demobilised, the average employer will discharge older men and 529 absorb the younger men. You will have the same problem of what to do with the elderly men. We are an old country which has a good deal of which it can be proud; a country which has had many social problems to face and has on occasion faced them. To-day the problem of wealth production is solved, and as a result of this war productive capacity will be increased. Yet, despite the fact that we have solved the problem of wealth production, we have had Ministers for years organising scarcity, deliberately restricting production in order to keep up prices. It has been said that a man who can make two blades of grass grow where one used to grow is a benefactor. There have been times when the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said that that was a danger to the State. The Government have deliberately organised scarcity.
§ Mr. Smith
I think that some of them are obvious. An hon. Member has suggested to me potatoes; and what about imports? What I am saying is that today we have solved the problem of wealth production, and what we have to deal with is how to distribute the wealth better. I say that, although we are at war and want to see it brought to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible, we ought now to be making plans to meet the problems which will have to be faced when the war is over. We have never yet got down to the problem of a better distribution of wealth, or to the problem that hours of labour in many industries are far too long, and that more men should be absorbed in industry. This Amendment had been put down in order to focus attention on these problems, and I think that as time goes on it will be found that we have done the country good service in so doing. I hope that we shall not get from the Government a blank negative with regard to the Amendment, but that some committee or commission will be set up to think out these 530 problems so that when the war ends they will be handled very much better than were the problems in 1918 and 1919.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Sir Walter Smiles
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), and I feel sure that many hon. Members agreed with very much of what he said. The hon. Member's speech recalled to my mind a speech made last week by the chairman of the Tube Investments Company, in the course of which that gentleman, who is an independent thinker, said that he did not want to see that company have a large stock of expensive material which it would not he able to sell in the markets of the world after the war, and he also mentioned that his first care would be to see that the company was able to give steady employment to the workpeople who supported it during the war. I refer to this speech for the purpose simply of showing that already, after three months of war, some directors of large industrial undertakings are thinking on exactly the same lines as the hon. Member for Normanton.
I do not consider myself qualified or clever enough to talk about the peace that will be made when the war is finished, for we do not yet know what other nations may be in the war either for or even against us. I want only to refer to that part of the Gracious Speech which refers to the financial provisions. Further taxes are suggested, and I think the people of this country will be prepared to accept those taxes. It is right and proper that everybody in the country, and the wealthy people most of all, should contribute as far as possible towards the cost of the war. There is, however, one thing which I should like to point out to my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench. It is that, for the first time in their existence, there will be many limited liability companies which will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to meet the Income Tax demands next January. The reason is that, for the first time in their existence, they have sold goods direct to the Government. Although I agree that the delay in Government payments is not as important as the delay in a soldier's wife getting her allowance, and that it is far better that these companies should have their payments held up for a year than that there should 531 be a delay of a week in the soldier's wife receiving her allowance, nevertheless I want to refer to the delay in Government payments, and to the importance of remedying the position.
Everybody expects a delay when he deals with a Government or a municipality. Naturally, when one deals with private companies, who are one's steady customers, one gets satisfaction and fair dealing on both sides. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I suffer from some sort of nonconformist conscience, which may be the result of my having Radical ancestors. Although I do not always pay my debts promptly, when I do not pay them my conscience pricks me, and I do not feel comfortable about it. I very much doubt whether any right hon. Gentleman on the Government Front Bench has ever lost much sleep on account of the fact that some part of his Department—it may be the Air Ministry, the Admiralty, or the War Office—owed millions of pounds to their contractors. It does not pain them in the same way as it does a private person. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is supposed to have a nonconformist conscience, and I have never heard of any complaints about there being a delay in his sending his demands for Income Tax.
The first charge upon industry is to see that the men who produce the goods are paid promptly every Friday afternoon. The first charge on the budgets of all companies is the weekly wages. There are now many companies which have large overdrafts from their banks, simply for the reason that the Government do not pay their debts promptly. I have heard banks accused of many crimes in the past, of manipulating currencies, of buying and building expensive buildings on corner sites when shipbuilding and engineering firms were losing money day by day; but at any rate, since the war started, the banks have come to the rescue, and many companies which have never before had an overdraft from their banks, are now indebted to them. What is the procedure in paying debts in big limited companies in private life? First of all, the weighbridge clerk weighs the goods; then the foreman and the assistant manager check the quality of the goods, the cashier checks the amount, and the managing director puts his initials, E. 532 and O.E., and on the Friday at 11.30 the directors sign the cheque for that amount; the cheque is sent out, and the following week the money is in circulation again. What is the procedure with the Government? Companies which have complained to me wonder what the Government are doing, whether they are sitting on these bills, trying to hatch them out into something bigger, brighter and better.
In a Debate last week, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) told a story about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I also would like to tell a story about the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, which may be nearly as accurate as many of the legends we hear about the last war. The story is that when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was Minister of Munitions, and was going through his Department after one of the big breakfasts which he gave to the Allied statesmen and members of his Cabinet, he went into room after room in which people were working, with papers piled on their desks, shades over their eyes, and with their heads down, scribbling away for dear life. Then, he went into one room where he saw a man sitting at his desk, his arms folded, and staring into space; with not a paper on his desk, and only a fountain-pen and a pencil lying upon a clean sheet of blotting-paper. The right hon. Gentleman went out of the room quickly, because he thought that the man was at his prayers, and then later, he went back and asked, "Who are you? What are you supposed to be doing?" The man replied, "My name is Eric Geddes, and I am supposed to be looking after bicycles" The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs then asked, "But what are you doing here? You seem to be doing nothing." The reply was, "Oh, my work was finished off an hour ago." It shows something of the vision of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that he did not say, "Well, if you can finish your work as early as that, we will get rid of you." Instead, the right hon. Gentleman gave that man promotion after promotion, and Sir Eric Geddes became First Lord of the Admiralty, a general in the Army, and eventually looked after all the railways in France. He went from strength to strength. A motto on those lines might 533 well be over the desk of every civil servant to encourage them to deal promptly with papers on their desks.
Many firms are afraid to write to the Government calling their attention to the non-paymènt of their debts. When I have suggested to these firms that they should do so, they have said to me, "We do not dare to do so; the persons in charge of these accounts might then, out of pique, take our account which is somewhere near to the top of the pile and stick it away at the bottom of the pile and still further delay payment; we prefer to do nothing, but we do not mind your calling the Government's attention to the matter provided that you do not mention our names." I should not mind giving the names to the Minister if he wished to have them.
Another matter to which I want to call the Government's attention is the insurance of cargoes. There are two rates for the insurance of cargoes, a Government rate, which is cheaper, and the rate quoted by Lloyd's, which is more expensive. The people at Lloyd's say that one can insure with the Government or with them, but that if one insures with them, they will guarantee payment within seven days, whereas under the Government scheme, goodness knows when one will get the money. There are cargoes which were lost in the very first week of the war in respect of which the money has not yet been paid. I ask the Government to look into this matter, for it is a very serious thing to the people concerned, to have waited, not for seven days or 30 clays, but for 100 days without there being any sign of payments. It is for these reasons that I begin to doubt whether in January many firms will be able to pay their Income Tax as promptly as they have been accustomed to do.
I do not like pointing out these faults without suggesting a remedy. There are in the country many clerks who are used to paying out money promptly for minor operations. I saw in one of the newspapers to-day that 1,500 clerks who were engaged in the football pools are unemployed; these clerks are used to paying out amounts promptly every week, although many hon. Members think those activities should be closed down during the war. Why cannot the Government transfer to some other Departments higher civil servants from the Income Tax 534 Department, for they are used to getting out accounts promptly, and they know how to put in demands promptly. Perhaps they would infuse some energy into the Government Departments and get them to pay their bills promptly also. If the Government did this, what an example they would be setting. If they paid their bills before Christmas, perhaps other people would follow the example, and do likewise. There are many people who, quite rightly, give a guinea to a hospital but go on owing money to the doctor—20 guineas, perhaps—to the dentist—10 guineas—to the nurse who attended them in their last illness. They are prepared to give to the hospitals before they pay their debts. What a wonderful world this would be if everybody in this country paid his debts before Christmas to all his tradesmen, medical advisers, and so on. It would light such a fire in this country as would not be lightly extinguished. I suggest that if the Government would pay their debts promptly, or as promptly as a Government Department can, it would certainly help and not hinder in the successful prosecution of the war.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
The hon. Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) referred to the Nonconformist conscience, and said that he has some sort of Nonconformist conscience. I am not quite sure what that is, but I think that there was some substance in his remarks about the delay in the Government making payments. I have received complaints from certain companies which are experiencing difficulties as a consequence of the delay in Government Departments paying their accounts. I think it is only fair to state this, and I urge Government Departments to do whatever they can to speed up these payments, as this would help very considerably the business of the whole country.
The Lord Privy Seal, in replying to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), complained that my right hon. Friend did not speak to the Amendment. I think I am equally entitled to say that the Lord Privy Seal's speech did not reply to my right hon. Friend's speech. I think that is a fair criticism, for the right hon. Gentleman referred to many things that are not in the Amendment and many 535 things that are not in the Gracious Speech. The King's Speech is both wide and narrow, but it makes no definite proposals for dealing with the problems with which we are confronted. It says:The measures which will be submitted to you are such as seem necessary to My Advisers for the welfare of My people and the attainment of the purpose upon which all our efforts are set.Those words may mean anything or nothing, and the danger is that they mean nothing. There is no definite statement in the King's Speech of what the Government propose to do. There is no statement that they intend to bring about an improvement in old age pensions, or in workmen's compensation, or in sickness benefit, or that they intend to attempt to raise the standard of living of the many people in this country who are, to-day, below what can be considered a reasonable level. Since I have been in this House, repeated attempts have been made to prevail upon this Government to introduce Measures to deal with the various social injustices which exist in this country, but on every occasion the Government have resisted those attempts. By speech, by resolution, by petition we have tried, time and again, to bring about an increase in the rate of old age pensions, but it has been delayed and delayed, and even to-day we do not know what is to be done with regard to that matter.
The Minister of Health who is, I understand, to reply this evening, knows the problem which confronts local governments in this country as a result of the liability which it has to bear in respect of old age pensions. This represents a cost to local authorities at the present time of at least £6,000,000 a year, and the cost is increasing rapidly. This liability should never have been imposed on the local authorities. The terms of reference of the Royal Commission which inquired into the possibility of establishing old age pensions in this country, required them to ascertain whether or not a system could be devised by which poor people who were unable to work in consequence of age or infirmity, could be taken out of the Poor Law. The commission recommended such a scheme but now the old age pensioners are drifting back into the Poor Law and the state of things has become as bad as if not worse than it 536 was before the old age pension system was established. The Minister of Health knows that representations have been made to him by local authorities asking him to deal with this question. We have been considering it recently in South Wales. In Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire there is a rate liability at the present time of something over 2s. in the £ which has been made necessary in order to supplement old age pensions. That is a terriffically heavy burden. I noticed a statement somewhere in the Press recently to the effect that 59 per cent. of the liability for public assistance in the city of Birmingham represented payment made to old age pensioners. But there is no reference in the King's Speech to indicate that this question will be dealt with by the Government. I ask the Minister whether he can to-night indicate that the old age pension rate will be raised to a higher level. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) referred to workmen's compensation. That is another example showing that the attitude of this Government has always been one of resistance to improvements in our social services.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I say that always, without exception, that has been their attitude. I withdraw not a single word of that statement. The attitude of the Government has always been one of resistance to the establishment of our social services on a level that can be considered adequate. What happens under our present system of workmen's compensation? If a man is injured in one of our industries and is unable to work, the maximum rate of workmen's compensation which he can receive is 30s. a week. The average rate paid to an injured workman is 25s. a week. On the very day that a workman in this country is injured in industry, poverty enters his home and the more serious his injury the greater the suffering and hardship entailed in that home. We have tried by introducing Bills, in this House by submitting resolutions and by various other methods, not during the war but when there was peace, to prevail on the Government to raise the standard of compensation but every time the Government have resisted our efforts by all kinds of subterfuges. They have said that the Bill which we proposed was too 537 long or that it was too short; that it was too comprehensive for a private Member's Bill or that the subject was one with which the Government alone ought to deal. All kinds of excuses have been advanced but never has anything been done. What is the position in regard to the sickness rate. If a man falls ill in one of our industries, he is at once reduced to 15s. a week sickness rate. After he has been ill for 26 weeks, that is reduced to 7s. 6d. The Government have always resisted any improvement in this respect also.
I put this to the Minister of Health and I hope he will reply to it later, that none of our services are anything more than half measures. They are only half sufficient to enable families to live on a reasonable standard. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton referred to the position in New Zealand. There, the old age pension rate at present is £3 a week for a man and his wife at 65 years of age and similar rates prevail in respect of workpeople who are injured or sick. The extraordinary thing about this position is that New Zealand to-day owes this country not less than £60,000,000. They are anxious to pay it off. Difficulties have arisen in connection with the taking of goods from them, but the finance houses of this country have £160,000,000 invested in that little Dominion and that Dominion is now paying rates of benefits in its social services which are approximately 100 per cent. in excess of our own.
§ Sir Annesley Somerville
Is it not the fact that the ability of New Zealand to pay those rates in their social services is due to the fact that they get such help from this country and, therefore, it means that we in this country are less able to provide better social services here?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am obliged to the hon. Member for that intervention. Before the present Government in New Zealand came into existence, the old age pensions rate there, under a Tory Government, was 10s. a week—the same as ours—and the sickness and compensation rates were, approximately, the same as ours. These new rates have been established under a Labour Government in New Zealand. That Government did not adopt the Tory policy of 1931 of reducing everything, nor did they apply a means test. They extended their services and the result is 538 that New Zealand is infinitely better off. It seems to me that if this country had been wise enough in 1931 and in 1935 to have accepted a Labour Government we might now be free of some of the problems which confront us. Indeed, someone recently was bold enough to state, I think with a considerable measure of truth, that had it not been for the crisis of 1931 and the Ottawa Conference, the probability is we should not now have been in this war. However that may be, I do not wish to argue the point to-night.
I wish to refer not only to the position of the sick and injured and the aged in this country, but to the hardship suffered by millions who are in work and in receipt of wages. Recently I have seen coming into my own division, people who have been evacuated from Birmingham. Some of them show the ugly stamp of poverty in a very marked form. Birmingham is one of the richest cities of this country. The Prime Minister represents a division of that city. It is more free of unemployment that the average city in this country. Indeed, owing to the multitude of industries in that area, its rate of unemployment has been lower for 15 years past than the average rate in this country. Notwithstanding that fact, there is appalling poverty in that city, and wretched conditions of living. As I say, I have seen some of the people from that city coming into my own district where unemployment has been acute for 10 or 15 years. I have seen the sympathy shown by the residents of that district who are poor themselves, towards those even poorer, who have come to them from this great city.
Has the Prime Minister taken any steps to remove those conditions? He has lived in Birmingham nearly all his life. He knows and boasts of its riches. He must know of its poverty. What has he done to remove it? Has he taken any definite steps? None at all. The Government are like the Prime Minister. They do not see these injustices, they do not attempt to right those injustices, until they are compelled to do so. I believe that had there been a General Election in November, the old age pensioners of this country would by this time have had an increase. It is this political trickery, this refusal to face real solid human injustices that I dislike so much in politics. I think there is no doubt an effort would 539 have been made to increase the old age pension in order to safeguard to some extent the political future of hon. Members opposite had there been an Election.
Sometimes I wonder whether or not the Prime Minister and hon. Members opposite can feel these things—whether they understand the position, whether they feel for the people who are suffering these hardships at the present time. I have a feeling myself that the Prime Minister and his colleagues do not understand these things. This was put to me in a letter which I received recently from a friend. She was comparing a recent broadcast speech by the Prime Minister with the broadcast speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). This is what she says, and it is full of meaning:I congratulate you on your connection with the giver of last night's broadcast. It roused and thrilled me profoundly. It put into words what I feel deeply. Can you let me have a copy of it; the newspaper reports are not complete?She goes on:The other broadcast (the Prime Minister's) left me stone cold.That is precisely what the Prime Minister does, and he gives one the impression that he does not feel these things. If he did feel them, I do not think he would tolerate them; having lived in Birmingham all these years, with the power that he has had there, I think he would have used it in order to remove a great deal of the poverty that does exist in that city. But it is not only in Birmingham that poverty exists. I have the report of an investigation conducted in the City of Bristol by the University, of that city, showing that there are no fewer than 20 per cent. of people resident in Bristol whose income is insufficient to enable them to live at a reasonable standard. That applies pretty generally, and the tragedy of this thing is brought out very forcefully in a book that was written by Richard M. Titmuss some time ago. If hon. Members will only refer to it, they will see a summary there of what has happened as a result of the poverty of the distressed areas, and this is what he says:The cited facts which illustrate poverty resolve into the unnecessary and untimely death in the North and Wales of 150 men, women, and children each day for the last 10 years, culminating in a total social waste of over 500,000 human beings.540 That book is called "Poverty and Population," and that statement can be found on page 301. Then we get the complacent attitude on the part of the Government when we try to press upon them the need for dealing effectively with this appalling poverty. In my judgment, that state of things exists because of the inequalities of wealth ownership in this country. According to Mr. Colin Clark—and I do not think it has ever been disputed—there are about 17,000,000 people, or just about the number of working-class incomes in this country, who own property of less than £100 each, a paltry sum, while 6 per cent. of the population own upwards of 80 per cent. of the property of this country. What is more, the distribution of wealth in this country, grossly unequal as it is, is not improving. There have been changes and a gradual increase in the number of property owners among the middle class, but apart from that the distribution of wealth in this country to-day is as unequal as it was 50 years ago. There is no improvement, generally speaking. There has been increased production, and the standard of life has been improved, but, taking the great wealth production of this country, it is as unequally distributed now as ever it was before.
The great Disraeli, Tory as lie was, speaking in this House, referred to the two British nations, the rich and the poor. Those two nations are in this land to-day just as when he spoke. No one has ever attempted to dispute Sir John Orr's statement that there are 4,500,000 people in this country whose income for food purposes is less than 4s. per week each. That, in my judgment, shows an ill-balanced and unfair state of things. It shows what an unfair state of society we live in. These things ought to be righted. There is no justification for continuing these inequalities of wealth. Speaking in this House on Wednesday last, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said,Our own social provision is better, I think, than that of any other country in the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th Nov., 5939: col. 165, Vol. 355.]That is probably true, except in the case of a number of our Dominions, but it is also true that we are richer and more capable of providing social services than are other countries, but we have never maintained those services at a level that 541 has been within our ability. In any case, the distribution of the wealth of this country is absolutely indefensible, and I believe that if the public could fully understand it, they would take steps in order to compel an improvement. Then the Chancellor tried to give us a feeling of contentment by saying that he was "soaking the rich." That is not the whole picture. During the last war the rich had to face increased taxation. Income Tax rose from 1s. 2d. to 5s. 6d. in the £, and there was in addition the Excess Profits Tax, but is it not a fact that the rich grew richer every day in that war?
§ Mr. Jenkins
At the end of that war there was more personal wealth owned by the rich of this country than ever before; there were more millionaires. According to a Government paper that w as issued, the people of this country were richer by £5,000,000,000 than they were at the commencement of the war. That kind of "soaking" will not be very effective, and I challenge disproof of this statement. The principle that I am trying to establish is that taxation has never caught up with the increasing wealth of the rich. The rich have always grown richer, and what guarantee has the Chancellor given us that even this war will not be used in order to make the rich richer? In any case, there is no justification at all for allowing this appalling poverty to continue, and there is no justification for allowing this unfair distribution of wealth. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member has something to say, I will give way to him or he can take part in the Debate. I would not mind intelligent intervention, but all the way through my remarks I have noticed that he has been muttering without any intelligent observation.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I have already said that I would not mind intelligent intervention, and the House can judge of how intelligent that was. In my judgment, the attitude of the Government is merely the attitude of most of the world, an attitude of refusal to right wrongs until compelled to do so. That applies not only to this Government, but to a very large 542 extent to the international world as well. The Government have had before them the Labour party pension plan, and one of my hon. Friends moved a Resolution on it some months ago. That has never been effectively criticised from the Government's side. As a matter of fact, it was spoken of rather highly on the day when the Resolution was moved in this House, and there was some indication that it would be investigated and checked, but never since then have we heard anything about it. It is this regrettable refusal to right an injustice when it is known to exist that we complain of; it is the lateness of the decision that gives rise to a great deal of trouble and suffering. Sometimes we arrive at the stage when, if a decision were made 12 months previously, it would have been a good one, but as it is not made until there has been compulsion to make it, it is generally a bad one.
The social injustices to which I have referred exist indisputably, and appalling poverty exists. The King's Speech gives no promise on the part of the Government to deal with these wrongs. Are we to go on indefinitely while these people suffer? Can the Government be allowed to rest complacent while these things go on? Is there never to be a state of things in this country when we shall have something like equality of opportunity? Are all the joys of life to be confined to the homes of the rich? Are the working people of this country never to be given an opportunity to enter the portals of a better life? Are you always determined to exclude the working-class child, the child of the poor home, from the better schools and universities and the better things of life? Is that to be your policy? If it is, I think you ought to state it in a clear and honest manner. What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman appealing to us to abolish the distinction between the classes, as he did a moment ago, when we know that this state of things exists? Does the right hon. Gentleman deny the existence of these injustices? Does he not know that there is appalling poverty among our people? In view of that, how can he come to this House and appeal to those of us on this side, who have been through it and understand it and see it every week-end, to be content while these things are allowed to continue?
Now I want to say a word or two about last Tuesday's Debate. My right hon. 543 Friend the Leader of the Opposition told the House that the Prime Ministerwas Utopian, because he envisaged the end without indicating the means.He said too:A statesman must not merely see visions, but must satisfy himself of the practical steps to realise those visions.What did the Prime Minister say in reply? He said:None of us knows how long this war will last, none of us knows in what directions it will develop, none of us knows, when it is ended, who will be standing by our side and who will be against us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; cols. 19 and 27, Vol. 355.]We all know these things perfectly well, but they are not the reasons for not making known our peace aims. They are indeed sound reasons for proclaiming our peace aims aloud. I believe the neutral nations will play a very great part in the result of this war. I believe they will perhaps go a long way to determine what the result will be, and if they could be convinced that our peace aims are legitimate, are aims that would tend to the betterment of mankind generally, they would be much more likely to give us their support than they otherwise would be. We are very concerned, and always have been, about the better elements, if there are better elements, as I believe there are, even in Germany. I am concerned about those better elements. I want to see the present German Government changed—the Government which has destroyed every vestige of liberty in that country. We all remember the conditions that obtained in Germany after the last war. We know the appalling suffering, and we know what the German people would do if they were convinced that they had to go through a similar period. If they thought that, they would line up behind their rulers and make Germany more united than she otherwise would be.
It is all-important that we should do whatever we can to let the world know what our peace aims are. The Prime Minister gave me no hope. It is not often that I interrupt, but I did so to ask him to state the principles. I got no satisfactory reply, and the right hon. Gentleman, speaking from that side tonight gave us no more satisfactory reply. Can we not have a clear indication? Let us remember that in the last war 544 £70,000,000,000 was spent over the four and a half years and 7,000,000 lives were lost by the belligerent nations. Are we to repeat that without stating our peace aims? There must be a fundamental distinction between peace and war aims, and I want them stated clearly. The Prime Minister does not desire to state them, but the people of the country desire that they should be stated, and the time is not far distant when compulsion will be brought to bear on the people who hold power to make clear the peace aims that they have in view. Mr. Liddell Hart said some time ago that the best ending to a war was a draw because everybody went into the peace conference as equals. The result was that there was a negotiated peace. It was not a dictated peace; it was a peace that was more lasting than other kinds of peace. I have a vivid recollection of sitting almost in my present position some time ago when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was speaking, and a Member from the other side challenged his responsibility for the Versailles Peace Treaty. He replied to the effect that when he was attending the Peace Conference in Paris he received a round robin signed by two-thirds of the Members of the House of Commons making it clear to him that if he signed a generous peace he would know what to expect. That meant that his Government would be defeated. Some of the Members of the present administration put their signatures to that round robin. Now we are asked to trust these people to continue the war without indicating their peace aims. I am not prepared to do it.
The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that we had better win the war before we laid down the conditions of peace. I do not accept that view, and I do not believe the majority of the people take that view either. What we had in 1918 was a peace in keeping with the nature of the victory. If we had a similar victory at the end of this war, following great sacrifices and suffering, there would be the same tendency to make an unsatisfactory peace. Those making the peace would be buffeted about by every ultrapatriotic wind that was blowing. We would be exposed to the coupon type of election. All the men who believed in a just peace would run the greatest risk of being defeated as they were in the 545 election of 1918. The seeds of future wars would be sown and would immediately begin to germinate. The Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister whether he accepted the principle of the sacrifice of our sovereign rights compatible with the settlement of disputes by arbitration, and if he were prepared to give the right unfettered to nations to determine their own form of government in India, Africa and our Colonial Empire. I add to those questions by asking whether the Government are prepared to do all in their power in this country to give our people equality opportunity and protection against the appalling poverty which is ever present in so many of our homes. To these questions the Government have given no answer. The day is not far distant when an answer will have to be given. It would be better not to wait for that day when the decision is compelled. A decision that is given under compulsion is not as good as a decision which is given voluntarily.
§ 6 51 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has covered a wide field, even wider than the scope of the Amendment. He traversed a large area of ground, and I hope he will not think it discourteous of me if I do not make any detailed reference to the many points which he raised. I rise to cover a much more limited field. The Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, in moving the Amendment, made as usual an eloquent and impressive speech; but at the end of it he used a phrase which hardly did his speech justice. He said that the Opposition since the war had had one eye and one eye only on the war. I thought that was unfair to the facts. If it were so, I take it that the one eye which drafted the first part of the Amendment is the eye looking at the war, and the other eye which drafted the second part is the eye that is looking forward to the political situation after the war. I propose to direct my observations to the first part of the Amendment which deals with organising to the full our human and material resources in the national interest. In all conscience that is a large enough subject, and I mean to deal with only one or two minor points which I think may be of some practical use.
The Lord Privy Seal, who made the first speech for the Government to-night, 546 was, I thought, on a little dangerous ground when continually making comparisons between 1914 and the first year of this war. Surely, the right comparison is between 1918 and the beginning of this war; because the experience of the last war must be and is of enormous value in making the necessary organisation for this war. When the last war broke out there had been no great European conflict in which we had been engaged for 100 years of that scale and magnitude. We should be fair to the people of that time and make our comparisons with the end rather than with the beginning of the war. The Lord Privy Seal made a review of the three main parts of the great economic problems that confront us and he told us a good deal that was very encouraging and, I think, very hopeful. On the question of man-power, I was not sure that he gave full weight to the essentially deflationary character of the beginning period of the war over a great part of industry and commerce. The very fact that there are 1,250,000 people in the Fighting Services and, in addition, the enormous number of men who have been taken on in war manufacturing businesses and the large number of men who are employed and paid for in A.R.P. services, makes more serious the revelation that there are still 1,500,000 unemployed, not including all those black-coated workers who are not registered in the unemployment returns.
Then the right hon. Gentleman referred with pride, and, I thought, with just pride, to the work that has been done by the Ministry of Supply since the war started. He was, indeed, careful, with all his experience, to give no figures. He gave instead some of those examples which are easy to preface by saying that he is not going to tell us anything that will be of use to the enemy; but he went on to tell us what is of very little use to us. You think of a number and double it, then take away the number you first thought of, and that will give you the number of aeroplanes we have. That is part of the mechanism with which a skilled Parliamentarian makes his case. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was a little ungenerous in referring to the work of the Ministry of Supply not to mention the fact that during the three years when it has been clear that we were in the twilight between peace and war the Government of which he is so distinguished 547 a member did everything possible to prevent that Ministry coming into being, and that sometimes two or three Conservative Members alone had entered the Lobby in support of it. I am proud to say that I was among those who supported the present First Lord of the Admiralty; but if the Prime Minister had had his way that Ministry would not have been in being when the war began. The right hon. Gentleman gave us some observations on finance and the delicate balance between saving and spending which has occupied so much of the attention of the country, and on the various pieces of advice given by himself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did that with great skill. I can assure him that if there is still an oracle at Delphi, and if there is a vacancy by the death of the present holder, I would have no doubts in recommending him for the position.
My real object in speaking was to raise one or two points to which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention. It is always difficult for private Members to know what they can say and cannot say in the House, because they recognise that what they say is watched and reported. I make it a rule whenever I can spare the time to listen to the remarkable broadcast of the gentleman known as "Lord Haw-Haw," to whom I listen at 9.15 if I can find the right place on the machine. I find it safe to say anything that he has told us, because if it is on his broadcast we know that the Germans must know it. On these broadcasts one obtains a great deal of information about England, and we know that it is safe to speak about it because it is already known to the German authorities.
With that governing consideration, I come to the main point I want to bring to the attention of the House. At the beginning of the war important and large-scale plans were made for moving out of London, not merely children, but parts of Government Departments and large businesses, such as banks and insurance companies. I think there is general agreement that, given the conditions at the beginning of the war, and the possibilities of sudden attack upon us, that was a wise decision. I do not think it is up to anybody who was not himself in a position of responsibility to criticise it. It is very easy to criticise 548 when one has not the responsibility. At the beginning of the war we had not fully mobilised our voluntary services; obviously our gun-power and aeroplane-power are much more developed now than then, and we have in addition the A.R.P. organisation working more or less in good order. Therefore, without in the least criticising the decision both of the Government and of large private enterprises to leave London I think that time has come when it should be seriously considered whether we ought not to lead a return back to London and the other great cities.
There are very great disadvantages in this evacuation from London. In the first place, obviously, there are great technical disadvantages; it is causing great confusion in business and a great loss of efficiency. I remember the morning when the Government's war commodities scheme came out, a scheme which affected everybody who dealt in any kind of commodity. The particular insurance company with whom I insure, and who admirably carry out my affairs, had bought a property near me, curiously enough, in Sussex. To this property they had moved themselves and their staffs and there they were carrying on their business. I may add that since they settled there the Army has also moved into their part, and with two or three detectors and two or three anti-aircraft batteries in position I am not sure that they would not be better off in the middle of the City. They forgot that there was only one small village telephone working there and on the first day of that war commodities scheme, when no doubt 8,000 or 10,000 of their clients all over the country were trying to ring them up, the position was hopeless, and the manager and the heads of the office had to come back to London to see their clients and do their business.
There are great disadvantages in the evacuation from the point of view of efficiency. We have practically every class of production under some form of Government control. I am not one of those who complain about control. Of course there have been mistakes, but if we had not had a system of control we should have had a much worse situation, with inflation of prices and wild speculation. Taken as a whole control has played an essential part in keeping things steady in the early stages of the war; but business is rendered difficult when there are 15 controllers of primary commodities 549 all living in different parts of England, north, south, east and west, in remote cities and country places; and one cannot get hold of them personally to do one's business, because many things, after all, are much more easily settled by a conversation than by letter writing.
Apart from imposing difficulties upon the conduct of business, the flight from London has had a very serious effect upon property. I do not know what will be the ultimate value of many leasehold and freehold properties in London, nor the financial effect upon those very institutions which have, by leaving London, depreciated the value of their properties. What is going to be the value of the mortgages which are held by the building societies, the insurance companies and the banks themselves if great parts of London and other great cities are losing their value? There will be great difficulty in collecting rents, in addition to the effect upon trade. So far as the distributive and semi-luxury trades are concerned we are creating new depressed areas in some of these cities, and that is a serious matter both for the shopkeepers and their employés. Again, it will have a very serious effect upon the revenue which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is trying to collect, revenue based, of course, upon the profits of the preceding years. I think that many people will find it very difficult to pay when January comes, in view of the experience they have gone through in the past four months. Lastly, it must have a very serious effect upon the rateable value of the large cities.
For all these reasons I think it is worth while for the Government to consider whether they should not give a lead for the return to the great cities of the ordinary business enterprises and of some parts of the Government itself. There are other disadvantages arising from the evacuation. In one enterprise with which I am connected there is the Gilbertian situation that the head office has gone to a remote country district, but all the clerks and other employés, being settled round London, where they have their houses, partly paid-for in some cases, prefer to stay in London. They go down by train to work in security by day at the office in the country, and come back at night to live—no doubt in danger—with their wives and families in London. That is fantastic. It also calls for a great deal 550 of unnecessary effort and causes a good deal of ill-feeling, because in the present state of the railway services the journey to the office takes much longer than at other times. In other cases, and this is very much true of Government Departments, the wife is left in the city and the civil servant is sent off to a billet in some remote watering place. He wants to come back to London at the week-end and crowds the trains. He comes back to London to spend the week-end in danger with his wife and returns on Monday to work in safety. This was all right as a temporary measure at the first onset of the war but it now calls for serious review.
Lastly, the question has to be considered from the human point of view. This may be a very long war. I remember that last time we all thought that the war would be over by Christmas but four Christmasses went by before it was ended. This, too, may be a very long war and I do not think the state of affairs I have described can go on in addition to all the other pressures and difficulties of life—all those things which, so far as the Army is concerned, have not yet begun to press upon us, because great armies have not yet been engaged in the war, and we have not yet got that daily pressure upon us which the older ones remember when every day brought a great casualty list and every day more families were bereaved. I do not think we can add to all that the breaking up of family life under conditions in which the father and mother and family are not allowed to live together. Human nature just will not stand it. We cannot keep people under conditions where the husband is away billeted in a camp and the wife is at home, or vice versa. That system will really break down. People would rather take the risk—a reasonable risk—of air raids than be subject to this pressure month after month during a long period. Nobody will ever say that it is absolutely safe—no Service Department will guarantee absolute safety—but I do ask the Government sincerely to reconsider the present position.
What was done at the beginning of the war was obviously right, although unpalatable. It was an unpleasant feeling that this House might leave the capital—it was not a very pleasant thing to think of leaving 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 people 551 in London and going away one's self. But be that as it may, even if it was necessary then although unpalatable, I think that if the Government would now give the lead back they would find that a great number of other people are waiting for that lead. If there were a return to London and the great cities we could still maintain the policy of the evacuation of children. We should free a certain amount of accommodation for the evacuation of children by units in schools which is much the most satisfactory way. We could give up a great part of the accommodation which has been used by adults and we could maintain it as a service additional to that of saving the lives of the children. It is necessary that children should be brought up without being subjected to the conditions and to the terror caused by air raids and air-raid warnings. That is the main purpose, as well as that of reducing the risk to their lives.
I think the Government should weigh this matter up and decide whether, in the conditions of to-day, they can give a lead back to the people. It would be welcomed by trade and, I think, by business, as well as by staffs who are now employed outside London and the big cities. There are some Government Departments and some departments of great businesses who need never come back to London. They need never have been in London. Some of the statistical and record departments might be permanently left outside the centre if proper conditions were available for the housing of their staffs without billets or camps. The Government would do well to let it be known that banks, insurance companies and great commercial enterprises should give a lead back to London and the great cities. With the immense increase in our powers of defence and the greater arrangements that are made for securing not only defence, but offensive power, the Government will be doing the right thing, and I ask them to consider this as a practical contribution to the huge problem of organising ourselves more efficiently to carry on the war.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
I hope that the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his most interesting speech. I would, however, like to make an observation on the subject of evacuation of 552 Government Departments, private businesses and others. As the hon. Member said, there is pressure upon a considerable number of people as a result of the process of evacuation. The attention of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and that of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education was drawn to the thousands of school teachers who have been evacuated on the basis of an allowance of 5s. per week. That might be tolerable for a week or a month, but it soon puts an intolerable strain upon the financial resources of a number of small-income people.
The Lord Privy Seal stated that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) did not address himself to the terms of the Amendment. I listened to what I thought was the totally inadequate speech of the Lord Privy Seal. I would say to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education that I have watched with admiration the constancy of his attendance during the Debate this afternoon. I have witnessed also the complete absence of other Members of the Administration. I wonder whether the Secretary for Mines understands that the words of the Amendment,organising to the full our human and material resources,must involve a complete reorganisation of the mining industry. If lie understands that, why is he not here? If he does not understand it, why is he the Secretary for Mines? This kind of organising of our material resources must involve the co-ordination of our unplanned and chaotic system of transport and distribution. If the Minister of Transport understands that, why is he not here? If he does not understand it, why is he Minister of Transport? The Board of Trade has been totally unrepresented during the whole of the Debate, and the Minister of Agriculture has been conspicuous by his absence. One or two references have been made during the course of the Debate to the conditions of the world at the end of the war, but the fact that we do not know exactly what they may be is no excuse for not doing anything. If wealth be natural resources transformed by human energy, we need not, except by the will of man, be any poorer in material resources at the end of this war than we were before.
553 My right hon. Friend amplified this afternoon an observation which was made in one of those earlier war speeches to Which reference has been made. He said that the war would be followed by great social changes. It is important to recognise that those social changes will come, not as a result of propaganda from the top, but because of insistent popular demand from the bottom. The Lord Privy Seal said that he remembered 1914; so do I. I remember those four years, when, like many other hon. Members I had experiences which will come to hundreds of thousands of men in this country. They will sit round camp fires or braziers talking of all sorts of things, and their minds will be broadened by contact and by travel. They will discover that when men are vitally needed by the State, as soldiers are, there is a good supply of food and clothing. In the officers' mess men will find a standard of luxury unheard of before by them. These things will work changes in the minds of millions of men and women, and we shall be wise in our day and generation it we anticipate that levelling process, in sense of preparing for the great social changes that must inevitably come out of the war.
In this House last Tuesday, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said:The fact is that if you want to win this war you will have to have a great deal of practical Socialism. Go into it with a good heart, and not grudgingly. It would be best if it were done by Socialists."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; col. 22, Vol. 355.]One or two hon. Members on that side of the House laughed a little immoderately. I have often observed that the loud laugh is sometimes regarded as a satisfactory substitute for what Professor Laski has called the difficult burden of thought. The needs of the existing situation cannot be laughed away in that way. The fact is that, even the Government realise that a war cannot be successfully fought with the unco-ordinated and chaotic financial and industrial instruments of peace, and they become afraid, in war, of the very thing in which they profess to believe in peace time. They become afraid of their own Capitalism. Sometimes they seem even a bit ashamed of it, and so they rush into a multitude of controls. Some they abandon, and to some they cling with a 554 tenacity worthy of a better cause. If a prize were offered to the Administration which had abandoned the most purposes to which it had set its hand, this Administration would surely win the prize. It has jettisoned agriculture, electricity, and criminal justice, and a whole range of first-class measures have been accepted and then abandoned by this Administration. An Administration of this kind can have no settled convictions. Conservatism is not a political philosphy. It is a political retreat which is constantly abandoning its outposts and retiring to new defences. To-day it is attempting to use an outworn machine which is incapable of serving the State in the fashion which the State now desperately needs.
I wish, in particular, to say a word or two about an industry which nearly everybody in this House knows must inevitably move to public ownership. The only question between the two sides of the House now is when that move shall be made. I refer to transport. I raise the question in this Debate because, in my view, a co-ordinated publicly-owned transport system is essential to a well planned and well organised society in either peace or war. The present position in this matter, which I believe to be a very serious position indeed, and in regard to which there is growing a very bad atmosphere in this House, is a very unsatisfactory position in the sense that it presents the community with the advantages of neither system—neither the system of competition on the one hand, nor the system of public co-ordination on the other hand. I could argue, at least in a debating society, in favour of a competitive system, but in the field of rail transport all the supposed virtues of competition have gone. They have been abandoned by the very people who, years ago, professed to believe in them almost as a religion. In my early days it was believed that the more train services were wastefully duplicated, the more money that was spent on covering hoardings and employing rival agents for over 100 companies the better the public would be served.
The history of those and earlier years would not bear examination. The industry became grossly overburdened with capital; the employé was starved and the community had a shockingly inefficient service. Then there suddenly came a 555 complete reversal of policy. By the Railways Act, 1921, 120 companies were turned into four. Competition disappeared between over 100 of them. It went further, because ten years later, by the pooling arrangements between the four group companies, competition disappeared altogether, and the railway companies now do not care if you travel to Edinburgh by the L.M.S. or by the L.N.E.R. The so-called private enterprise in the railway history was torpedoed a second time by the establishment in 1935 of the Railway Finance Corporation.
This industry is grossly overburdened with capital. It has a total capital of £1,100,000,000. The capital obligation is several hundred million pounds in excess of its present Stock Exchange value. No attempt has been made to repay it, redeem it or convert it. In times of abounding prosperity—in the pre-war years up to 1913—in one year the industry made a profit of £51,000,000 and every halfpenny of that in that year and of the abounding prosperity of preceding years was grabbed for profit distribution, and nothing was put by for a rainy day. Seven or eight years ago the position became impossible because of falling revenue arising out of the decline in trade; in some cases the profit would not even cover the obligations on prior charges, and the companies certainly had no money for expansion and modernisation. They dare not raise capital if they could, and they could not raise it if they dare, so they came like mendicants to this House and to the State who, through the medium of the Railway Finance Corporation, very obligingly lent its first-class security in order to raise £26,500,000 at 2½ per cent. and lent it to the companies at the same rate of interest. The moment private enterprise or private industry has to do that it must become a public corporation. The then chairman of the London and North Eastern Railway Company, Mr. William Whitelaw, saw that was the case. Further, he said:My reasons for wishing to see State ownership are as simple as would be the actual transaction. Perhaps the chief advantage would be the elimination of wasteful competition between road and rail systems which is often detrimental to both interests. I have also no doubt that eventual State ownership is inevitable. There has never been a time when there has been greater need for a general reconsideration of the whole transport problem. And this, as it affects both road and 556 rail, must be regarded not in a piecemeal fashion but as a great national responsibility.I believe at this desperate moment the time is ripe for a drastic re-organisation of railway capital on the basis of public ownership and public control. In saying that, I make no criticism of the modern railway officers. They have inherited a burden they cannot carry and a problem they cannot solve. Many of them would be far happier in the service of the community than the body they now serve. If the Minister of Transport were here I would like to congratulate him on having the services of such a distinguished man as Sir Ralph Wedgewood as chairman of the Railway Executive. There should be a co-ordination of rail, road, air and coastwise shipping, too. Until that comes this unhappy atmosphere which I detect in this House between the rival financial interests of road and rail will get steadily worse.
The delay in settling railway compensation is most unfortunate and undesirable, and nobody in particular is to blame except those responsible for the present half-hearted policy. I believe that in organising the material resources of the nation it is imperative that we should step forward in transport, in electricity, and in mines to new forms of co-ordination and public ownership, and I am satisfied that from the point of view of transport organisation the community will be efficiently served only when transport is publicly owned and organised. It is trying to use an outworn system of organisation when it ought to be a planned industry including within itself the components which will be required to play their own special parts instead of attempting to play parts for which they are ill-fitted. Then alone, in my view, would transport be making a first-class contribution to that kind of organised society for which the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend expresses a desire.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Samuel
So far, I have heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite no constructive ideas about the prosecution of the war. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) complained because, he said, things might happen after the war that would result in our having the same kind of difficulties as we had at the end of the last war. But in a great many ways we are, as everybody 557 knows, already far in advance of the conditions that prevailed at the end of the first two years of the last war, so I do not see why people should despair. But despair is, apparently, one of the things that give hope to hon. Gentlemen on the other side. I listened, also, to a very long 20 minutes' speech—I suppose it was very nearly 45 minutes—by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. A. Jenkins). If he had been here I should have liked to have asked him whether he really believed that a speech of that kind in war time is going to help the people whom he loves so well and whether it is fair that he should speak in such disgusting terms—at least, they disgusted me—about the Prime Minister? What good does that do for the people who are living in conditions which we all know are very far from happy? I should have liked to ask a Scotsman the correct pronunciation ofO wad some power the giftie gie us,To see oursels as ithers see us!I am going to give hon. Members opposite the advantage of seeing how I interpret the terms of their Amendment. The Amendment takes one back to the controversial days of peace. It is true that the Amendment pays lip-service to the effective prosecution of the war; that is thrown in as a sort of makeweight; but once more it infers the same flabby, facile generalisations about the millennium which is now on our doorstep. In the Amendments that we have in peace time the new world always appears to be around the corner—first on the left, you might say. Surely in war time the Opposition might have spared us their usual flatulent regrets and generalities, and spared us a repetition of their usual political nebulosities, instead of merely embroidering them upon a new background. They have constantly jeered that the last war was a war to end war, yet they want to advertise the present conflict as a war to end every sort of economic, political and international evil. They harry the Prime Minister [Laughter]—they try to, anyway, though it is a hard job—because he will not produce a set of peace aims similar to Rousseau's "Rights of Man"—
§ Mr. Samuel
—or the modern version of it by Mr. H. G. Wells. The hon. Member 558 for Pontypool told a story, which I suppose was true; about an old lady who so much enjoyed the speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) and hated the speech by the Prime Minister. The right hon. Member for South Hackney, of course, quoted H. G. Wells. That is one of the reasons why I mention H. G. Wells and Rousseau. Talking about "The Rights of Man," I should like to quote from an article in the "Daily Telegraph" by Mr. Oswald Villard. I ask pardon of the House if it is rather long, but it expresses the position very well. Mr. Villard wrote:Fortunately, it is in the finest English tradition that criticism is still heard in the British Parliament. The very impatience with war restrictions, the widespread disapproval of phases of the evacuation and of the compulsory billeting, the vigorous opposition to Mr. Keynes's scheme for a forced levy on wages for saving, the great desire to keep Parliament in session—all these are signs of health; signs that the finest thing in British life, its jealousy of its rights and privileges, is still intact. I have every reason to hope that this vigilant guarding of the rights of the Englishman will continue, for they are the Rights of Man. Never was there a period in the world's history when it was more necessary to stress those rights and to preserve them in the face of those who declare that the individual has no rights whatever that the State is bound to respect; that he lives only to be ready to die in prison or concentration camp or on the battlefield, as the dictator may decide.Those are the rights of man that we have in this country already, and for anybody to talk on the wireless about the rights of man without saying that this country already possesses those rights in a greater degree than anywhere else is to use mere claptrap. Unfortunately the old lady enjoyed it, because she did not understand the truth, but that cannot be said about the Prime Minister. Cannot the party opposite leave off playing the party game until some other time when the energies of the Government are not concentrated on winning a life-and-death struggle? When we are fighting for our existence it should not be too much to ask hon. Members opposite to refrain from carrying on a guerilla warfare on their own account. Even one or two of the leaders opposite have made use of public occasions not so much to rally support to the Government to whom the nation has entrusted the conduct of the war, and whom they themselves are backing up by not voting against them in this House, as to slip in arguments for 559 Socialism. In spite of the fact that we are in the early days of a long war, "political business as usual" seems to be the motto of the Socialist party. The Leader of the Opposition for his speech last week appeared with what might have been a handful of pages from "Labour and the Nation." He was all for proclaiming our aims before we have half started the war. He wanted the Prime Minister to elaborate more than he has done, and more than he could do within the realm of reason, when the Prime Minister very rightly said:Let us not try to tangle ourselves by going too closely into schemes which it may be quite impossible to put into operation when the time comes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; col. 31, Vol. 355.]To-day we have had the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition wanting us to declare our post-war claims for economic and social reconstruction. He seems to think that the Government should be able to throw off a wordy programme with the same nonchalance as his party can. During the past week we have seen the most remarkable revival of purely political activities—a sort of crazy week. "Socialism in our time" appears to have been the appeal that has been made by the principal speakers of the Socialist party. Some of them seem to have gone as far as "Socialism in wartime" if one may listen to the speeches to-day. The hon. Member who first spoke on this side asked why did not they accept the offer, which everybody knows was made to them by the Government, to come in? But apparently we can see through it now. It was so that they could do a bit of electioneering in and out of Parliament whenever the fancy took them away. Of course the Prime Minister does not see eye to eye with these gentlemen in peacetime, but that is no reason why they should take advantage of a horrible war in order to preach their doctrines. It is simply wartime political profiteering. That is what they are doing.
As I said at the beginning, I try sometimes to see ourselves as others see us. I am giving them the advantage of that. When the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), for instance, made some remarks in peacetime to the effect that it might be a good thing for the British working man if we were to go to war with Germany and the Germans 560 were to defeat us, he may have been expressing his own opinion; but since the war started we have heard from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). We heard him say in this House that if, as a by-product of the war, contrasts between wealth and poverty are destroyed as well as Hitlerism, then, over and above this major achievement, the war would have been worth while. It is a startling thought that the hon. Gentleman should think that a bloody war is worth while as long as it brings about certain changes which he favours in our economic system. I can quite understand that it is difficult for opponents opposite to restrain habits of a lifetime, but, in preaching class hatred and animosity, a Debate on the King's Speech during wartime is hardly the occasion on which to try to further their political aspirations. I was almost surprised even that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was speaking, did not want us to stop the war to discuss with him what was going to happen after it. As far as I can see, he only just fell short of that. A typical example of how hard these habits die is the present Debate in which old age pensions, workmen's compensation, the means test and all sorts of claims on our social services are discussed.
There is not a Member on this side of the House who is not quite as anxious to provide improved benefits in the social services as any hon. Gentleman opposite, but this is not the moment for adding hundreds of millions of pounds to our annual taxation. It is a moment when we must work together so that we may win the war first and foremost, and as soon as possible. Then we can make a fresh start if the country is in a position to do so. The argument presented for all-round increases in the social services is that, if we can spend £6,000,000 a day on war, we can spare a little for this, that and the other again and again. It is a blatant fallacy to talk like that. Will Members of the Opposition pause to remember that £3,000,000 out of the £6,000,000 a day that we are spending is borrowed money? It is fortunate that pre-war taxation has not so damaged our financial position as to make this borrowing impossible. I will not go into details, but if we had been spending at the rate adumbrated by the party opposite in their promises, we should already have had to 561 borrow about £8,000,000,000 before the war started, so that I do not know how we could borrow anything to-day. Be that as it may, half the present cost of the war is being borrowed.
I am amazed at the futility of the argument which says that, because in a dire extremity the country can spend thousands of millions of pounds, partly borrowed money, it is therefore able to undertake additional large-scale annual expenditure. One might just as well say that because a man pledges all his resources and borrows £1,000 on loan, it shows that he could afford to rent a better house and enjoy a higher standard of living. It is simply ridiculous. It is a specious appeal to the unthinking, and it has a propaganda value which some people do not disdain to use. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition last week said that in his view it was essential that there should be world economic planning. He also said that we ought to be moving towards a more equalitarian society. When he next makes this point, he should add the corollary referred to by Lord Stamp in his book, "The Christian Ethic as an Economic Factor," namely,that the British worker should forego his advan1 ages and share and share alike with France and Italy or even the lower standards of the East.Before I close I will say one thing, and that is that industrial labour and the trades union chiefs have done the right thing, but I do not believe that political Labour has in this case since the beginning of the war. I do not believe that in bringing forward these political things they are doing the right thing at all. My object in intervening in this Debate is to urge the Socialist Opposition to co-operate more genuinely and generously in the tasks of the hour and to reserve, until a more appropriate date, their advocacy of mere party objectives. If they persist in their untimely opportunism they will find that their panacea will create nothing but nausea, and it will give hope and sustenance to the Germans and so prolong the war. I shall not be surprised when I go home to-night to hear "Lord Haw-Haw" reproduce a great deal of the speech of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. A. Jenkins). It may do a lot of good to get these things off one's chest, but I doubt whether it is the fair or right thing to do to-day when we all of us feel 562 so much sympathy with people who are hard put to it to make a living and who have hard times on unemployment pay. The Government have already expressed not only the desire but the will to do what they can to alleviate these difficulties, and I do think that members of the Opposition should in some way modify their speeches, which can do no possible good. I should be delighted to see an all-party Government, so that hon. Members opposite could give strength in the prosecution of the war. My view, up to date, is that the Socialist party, although they have not hindered have not helped to the extent they could. I believe that the country wants their help and that the country would welcome it.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Collindridge
We have been astonished at the speech which we have just heard from the hon. Member opposite. In listening to what he would term as witty epigrams, I felt that if those statements were made in the constituencies that we have the privilege to represent, they would not be epigrams but the "epitaph" of his party. There has been some wisdom in listening to his speech, because it has taught us that it is well that our party should not be brought into closer contact with the Government. Who brought the war into being? It was not a Government of the Labour party but a Government consisting of the party represented by the hon. Member.
§ Sir Henry Fildes: Does the hon. Member deliberately say that it was this Government that brought the war into being?
§ Mr. Collindridge
Can the hon. Member opposite and his friends wonder at my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) suggesting that we should have one eye on the prosecution of the war and one eye elsewhere, and that we should be on the look out for a change in the policy of the National Government. The hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. H. Macmillan) made reference to that situation in his speech. I have quoted the hon. Member for Stockton at public meetings. I well remember quoting a speech that he made in September of last year, when he suggested that his own party were trying to make this House of Commons somewhat similar to the Reichstag—a rubber stamp assembly. Is there any wonder, then, that we 563 of this party, while we want to keep one eye on the prosecution of the war, must also have an eye on the turns that the Government' are likely to take, even while the war is being prosecuted?
I am certain that when the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. M. Samuel) reads his speech to-morrow and endeavours to focus his mind on some practical contribution towards the successful prosecution of the war, he will realise that there is not one utterance of his that will have assisted his own Government. As to bringing this party closer to the Government, his speech has satisfied a good many of us that if the views he has expressed are the views of his party and of the Government, we should do well to keep free and unfettered from the Government, and to pursue our own course. It is his Government that has turned turtle, and not the Members of this party. I was not inclined to deal with the past, because I hold the view that the successful prosecution of the war is the important thing to-day, but when we listen to speeches such as that of the hon. Member, we ask ourselves who was responsible for the circumstances which have brought about the position in which we find ourselves?
Less than a year ago Members of the Government were throwing about chunks of appeasement, in the shape of sacrifices of democratic countries, to the dictators, and after that weakening tendency we find ourselves in the throes of war, and now it is the Opposition and not the Government that are chided for this situation. I suggest to the hon. Member that he should go to his own party meeting and indulge there in the form of propaganda in which he has indulged to-day. I was not surprised to hear during his remarks that at the last election he contested, his majority was reduced by many thousands. I have anticipations and hopes that at the next election we shall diminish it still further.
§ Mr. M. Samuel
At the last election my majority was increased by nearly 11,000. The hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) reduced my majority at the previous election, but that was during a raging campaign in which she made maternal mortality a political issue. When that passed away, my majority went up by over 10,000.
§ Mr. Collindridge
I thank the hon. Member for his intervention and I apologise to him and to the House for any wrong that I may have done him in connection with the 1935 election; but I gather that at his by-election in 1934 his majority was reduced by 18,000. We have not heard many speeches of the kind delivered by the hon. Member. I suggest that when he talks about having confidence in the Prime Minister, he should read the speeches of Members of his own party during the last 18 months, and he will see whether they share fully the views of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. He will find that speeches from his own party in the Debate on the Gracious Speech, differ from the terms of the Gracious Speech, which represents the legislative tendencies of the Government. I sat in the House last Wednesday evening and heard a good many hon. Members on his side of the Chamber dissent from the point of view expressed by the Government Front Bench. We on the Labour Benches stand solidly by our party policy, and we shall continue to do so.
The policy outlined in our Amendment would better enable the country successfully to prosecute the war than the policy of the Government. We ask that all the material resources of the country should be used in the national interest for the effective prosecution of the war. If the country had the opportunity of reading fully the Debates in this House and could pass judgment by their votes, instead of Members of this House doing it, on the Gracious Speech, which represents the Government's views, or on the Amendment, can there be any doubt as to how the country would vote? Members of the Government pay lip service to the view that we must prosecute the war and win it, but they allow 1,400,000 people to be out of work and to be a levy on the State instead of an advantage.
I represent an industrial constituency. In Barnsley we have machinery, engineering, mining, building and glass works, and we have only slightly improved our unemployment returns; we have placed in employment, since the war commenced, 65 people. Even in the year 1938 we placed in employment during a similar period over 1,000 people. I wonder whether a test could be taken of what the country thinks at the present juncture of this position. Among the numbers of 565 unemployed people, nearly 6,000 in a small town the size of Barnsley, we have 800 mine workers unemployed at a time when we are asking the mining industry to produce 30,000,000 more tons of coal a year. I can point to a mine which was recently closed near my own constituency, in which a good many of these unemployed miners used to work, a mine quite fit to resume normal working operations immediately, with practically all its machinery intact and with the human material ready and willing to go back to work. But there is no effort at the moment on the part of the Government or of the people who run the mining industry to get pits like this working again.
Those of us who represent constituencies like mine complain bitterly of the non-recognition in the Gracious Speech of better terms for the workers and the maintenance of improved standards of life for all, which are expressed in the Amendment. I wonder whether hon. Members like the hon. Member for Putney are similarly affected by these questions in their better-class constituencies. The unwillingness on. the part of the Government to give better old age pensions reacts in the first place very harshly on the individual, and in the second place it limits a progressive tendency on the part of the districts concerned. My own division of Barnsley is in this position. In 1935 we had 609 old age pensioners who had to go to the local public assistance committee to have their 10s. a week supplemented by public assistance pay. In 1939 that number had increased to 956, and the amount of money we are paying to old age pensioners in supplementation of the State payment represents 28 per cent. of our total payments to public assistance recipients.
We have decided—and I am glad of it, because I think it shows that even in the very poor districts like the one I represent our hearts are in the right place—to recognise the position of the old age pensioner, to recognise that he is entitled to something more, although we are in a state of war. After investigation our local public assistance committee have increased the payments to old age pensioners by a shilling or two. I have said "after investigation." The public assistance committee has had regard to the increased cost of living, and in their inquiry into this matter they have gone not to the 566 standard which is represented in Government speeches from the Front Bench—that only 7¾d. per week is necessary, according to the Financial Secretary of the Treasury, to augment old age pensions in order to make the standard equivalent to the rise in the cost of living—the Barnsley Public Assistance Committee have had regard to the essential and cheap articles which only the meagre pittances of old age pensioners can buy. They declare, among these commodities, that the half-stone of flour which was bought before the war at 8½d. has now risen to 9½d., cheap tea which was 1s. 1d. per half-pound before the war has now increased to 1s. 3d., and sweetened milk, margarine and lard have now increased in cost. It is evident that the public assistance committee has had regard to the very cheap commodities. Six eggs, which before the war could be bought for 7½d., they state are now costing 8½d., and hon. Members will realise that these are eggs at a price which could not have the added description of "Fresh" or "New laid."
There is a clear indication that the Barnsley Public Assistance Committee consider that to the very poor there has been an increase in the cost of living, not of 10 or 12 per cent., but of 25 per cent. We suggest that even during the war an improvement of old age pensions would have an advantage not only to the recipients and to the districts, but would strengthen the morale of the men who are fighting the country's battle. These men are the sons or grandsons of the old age pensioners, and when this war is over these sons and grandsons will become the workmen of Britain again and will in their turn become old age pensioners. When the hon. Member for Putney wonders what "Lord Haw Haw" will say to the speeches which are made from these Benches in criticism of the treatment of our people and our fighting men and their dependants, I would put this point to him. We want to win this war just as much as anybody in this House or in the country. We have seen the triumph of Fascism take away from the working classes institutions which we hold dear, the right to vote, trade unionism and the cooperative movement. But although we want to win the war we want our people on the home front to be well treated during the progress of the war.
567 I put this point to hon. Members opposite and to the hon. Member for Putney in particular, that the broadcasts of "Lord Haw Haw" regarding the conditions in this land are only the effects. The real cause is the fault of the National Government in not rectifying this state of affairs. I finish by asking this question. Although the Government have largely indulged in generalities and platitudes, I ask them to have regard to the fact that if we are to wage a successful struggle, they must not only appeal for patriotism of a spiritual kind, but must show that the resources of the country are going to be fairly and equitably distributed. I ask the Government to make some declaration, before this Debate ends, that they intend not merely to speak of high ideals, but to get down to practical things and improve the material position of the people of our own land as well.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Sir George Broadbridge
It is my desire to raise only one question, which is a vital problem closely associated with any return to peace. It is a problem which so far has not received that treatment which is due to its importance. I refer to the war risks insurance in respect of property on land. There can be no proper or complete reconstruction when peace comes unless real property in this country, should it suffer material damage or even devastation, is in a position to be fully restored. To many people the property which they possess, whether it be small or considerable, is their sole means of livelihood, and in the event of its destruction, it means to these people nothing more or less than ruin. This not only affects individuals who may own property, but it seriously affects also the building trade, together with all its ancillary industries, which at the present time is at a complete standstill. Moreover, the mortgage market is equally dead because of the want of a full Government cover. I am confident that legislation for a full and proper war risks scheme during this Session is essential, and the want of it is causing widespread disappointment, as well as dissatisfaction.
The Government scheme, as it stands at present, is most unsatisfactory. Under it, should a property be destroyed or damaged, unless, of course, it is a very 568 small property, it is simply a case of tossing up and seeing whether you are lucky enough to get any compensation at all. The Weir Report is merely a faithful endorsement of the Government's proposals. It is widely felt that a grave mistake has been made in the attitude adopted towards owners of property in respect of a Government guarantee against war risks. The Government have insured every commodity which it is thought may be affected by the war, and as we know, millions of pounds are being voted almost daily for various war purposes. Strangely enough, shipping, which has been fully covered, has suffered severely, whereas real property, for which no adequate cover has been arranged, has suffered no damage. The estimated value of real property in the United Kingdom is £10,000,000,000, and it is one of the nation's greatest assets. It is to the owners of this vast property that the Chancellor of the Exchequer looks for a substantial contribution towards his war loan. It does seem that the policy and the scheme which are at present before us are rather killing the goose that lays the golden egg. I would not for a moment suggest that the Government have paid no attention to the Government scheme for war risks insurance. On the contrary, I know they have; but the gravity of the problem has not been fully appreciated. Real property owners cannot possibly allow this serious matter to remain as it stands at present, and therefore, I press the Government to reconsider the matter and, as far as property on land is concerned, to put it on an equal footing with other Government guaranteed insurance.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks
I wish to return to the effective prosecution of the war. It is admitted on all sides of the House that our country is at the present time confronted with the greatest danger and the most difficult task of its long and victorious career. As the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said the other day, we must not under-estimate the terrible power of our enemies or their staying power. I think this is particularly true in the sphere of munitions. In this sphere, a terrific effort will be necessary on the part of our country before we can obtain victory. Germany had a long start, for she began to rearm and to increase her armaments long before we did, and at the 569 present time, the whole of the German engineering industry is organised, as ours is not yet completely organised, for the purposes of war. It is admitted also on all sides of the House that the expenditure we shall have to make on munitions will be colossal, and that it will far exceed even the peak point of expenditure on munitions production in the last war. The question I want to put to the House is, how are we preparing for the demand that will be made for munitions next spring and I am afraid in other springs to come? In a speech which he made in the House on 21st September, the Minister of Supply admitted the magnitude of the problem. He said that it isone which literally knows no limitHe defined his task as being,the extraction from the sources of production within the country, both actual and capable of being created, of every ounce of endeavour and every ton of output likely to be of service to ourselves or our Allies, present or future.He said:The whole national effort must be organised for production on a scale and at a tempo, limited only by the maximum extent of our national resources.He said further:The basis of planning must be bold, must be created with vision and with due regard to the unexpected in war to the possibility of mishap, and to the possibility of enemy interference, and with the note always before our eyes of the essential necessity of there being enough of everything at the only time when it matters.Later on, he said there must be along-term organisation for manufacture on an almost illimitable scale.He also said:It will be absolutely essential to have elasticity of mind, great daring of conception and vision, and absolutely no hesitation on the ground of size."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21ST September, 1939; cols. 1085–1102, Vol. 351.]It is to be seen from those quotations that there is no doubt in the mind of the Minister of Supply as to the magnitude of the problem. It is, as he said, almost illimitable. How is it to be tackled and how is it being tackled at the present time? The Minister of Supply has, of late, made certain very optimistic statements. In an interview with him which appeared in the newspapers the other day he said:I am not in the least uneasy about the position on the supply front.570 He was asked whether he was alarmed by talk of shortages and replied that he was not, and he concluded by saying:I am satisfied that our supply organisation has delivered the goods which have been called for and provided the reserve of materials and manufactured articles accounted to be necessary, and will deliver what is required in the future.I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's optimism there is fully justified. I hope that he is not following the example of Dr. Goebbels, who stated the other day that optimism was as important as guns. What we require from the Minister of Supply is guns rather than optimism. There are some who think, from certain information what they have acquired, that his optimism is far from justified. I do not want to go into that now. It is a matter for next week. But even if what the Minister said were absolutely founded on facts beyond dispute, I do not like optimistic utterances of that kind. They remind me too much of the statement made by the Minister of War of Napoleon III in 1870 who boasted that the French Army was ready and equipped to the last gaiter-button, whereas, when the army took the field all was chaos and confusion. The Minister of Supply has also made some very optimistic, indeed rather exuberant, statements on the question of expenditure on the amount of money which he is spending and the volume of the orders which he is giving. He said the other day that in the first 8o days of the war his Ministry had placed orders amounting to £183,000,000, or an average of £2,250,000 a day. As the "Times" said on the following day:The first question everyone asks is whether we are getting full value for our money.The "Times" also said:As we learned in the last war, orders may be one thing and deliveries another.I hope that in the Secret Session the Minister will be able to justify all those optimistic and exuberant statements. On certain points, I hope he will be able to support them by figures. Some of us will wish to put detailed questions to him on certain subjects. Those are questions which, obviously, cannot be asked and answered in public. I have no intention, nor has anybody in the House any intention, of aiding the enemy or of having our statements broadcast by "Lord Haw-Haw" of Hamburg, but certain doubts must be resolved and certain criticisms 571 answered. I trust that in the Secret Session this will be done. But in regard to the general policy of the Ministry of Supply certain matters can safely be mentioned.
There are in this country three main sources from which armaments and munitions can be obtained. First, there is the Royal Arsenal which can be expanded enormously and there are 27 other Royal Ordnance factories which are being set up. I do not know how many of these 28 Government factories are in full production, but I am satisfied that work on them and in them is proceeding as rapidly as possible. Secondly, there are the great armament firms of which the largest and most important is Messrs. Vickers Armstrong. There, too, I am satisfied work is proceeding as rapidly as possible. The third source of supply of munitions is one which is very essential to develop in times of war. It is the general engineering industry of the country, comprising thousands of firms, large and small, ranging from businesses employing hundreds, and even thousands, of hands down to small garages, but all capable of making munitions, or of making tools or parts of tools necessary in the manufacture of munitions.
Here, in our great engineering industry, there is an immense reservoir of skill, energy and power which must be fully organised, developed and utilised if munitions are to be produced on the scale required in order to win the victory. Some doubts are expressed by certain people who understand engineering organisation and who had experience in the last war of developing munitions productions, as to whether the Government, in regard to this third part of the programme, are going the right way to work. The Minister of Supply admits the supreme importance of this part of the work, because he said in his speech in the House:Everybody who has a contribution to make … has a part to play. … This task is one for the whole of industry and the man-power of the nation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st September, 1939; col. 1085, vol. 351.]In another speech outside the House he said:This miracle of creative effort, steered into proper channels by productive engineers, whether in the small shops or the large works … called for the output of all classes of people.572 He add that he was convinced that the time was rapidly approaching when the entire output of the great mass of producers would be required for the defence of the State and the prosecution of the war. Yet I feel some doubt still whether the Government are taking the right steps to secure this output. It is rather significant on this point that men who had great experience during the last war in producing munitions have not been asked for their advice, their assistance or their co-operation. I refer to men like Lord Aberconway, chairman of Messrs. John Brown and Company, who played a very important part in the production of munitions in the last war; Sir Holberry Mensforth, chairman of the Manchester Arms Output Committee in the last war, and afterwards for several years Director-General of Factories under the War Office, and even former Ministers of Munitions, like Lord Addison. They have offered their assistance or their advice if required, but their offers have not been accepted and the reason is plain. It is not a question if discourtesy. One or two of them have been spoken to and interviewed courteously but their assistance has not been asked and their advice has not been accepted. They have not been asked to give detailed advice.
The reason, as I say, is plain. It is because the Ministry has adopted another system different from that which gave such splendid results in the closing years of the last war. It has adopted another policy altogether and it is here that some people think it will fail. The Government policy of organising the engineering industry of this country, broadly speaking, is that the industry should be organised from Whitehall. They have made, they say, a survey of about 9,000 firms. That means an enormous number of forms have been filled up and sent to Whitehall to be examined. In many cases I have no doubt the premises themselves have been surveyed by inspectors, who have also sent in reports which have been sent up to Whitehall to be dealt with by some Department. All this enormous number of reports by inspectors and forms filled up by industries, great and small, have accumulated there, but no action has been taken on many of them. As anybody can see, it all means a tremendous loss of time.
The right horn: Gentleman the Minister of Supply said the other day that in the 573 week ended 21st November, one director-general's section alone had more than 4,000 new firms under investigation and that in that week he had added to the standard list of contractors 252 new names. A number of these, he said, had undoubtedly received orders. There were 4,000 under consideration, but only 252 were added to the list, and only some of these had received orders.
Then there is a statement issued by a department of the Ministry which was given in the "Daily Telegraph" last week, dealing with firms which have never received any orders at all, although they have applied for them. It said that if a firm in some provincial town thought it could make munitions, its duty was to seek out some contractor and make arrangements with that contractor in order to supply some part of the material required for war. If he failed to make arrangements with some local contractor, he could apply direct to the Ministry, and the matter would be investigated by the Ministry. I submit that that is not the way to get production, and certainly it is not the way to get production as speedily as it is required at the present time. After all, we are now in December, and the spring campaign is not so far off.
In addition to these papers and reports and so on, the Ministry have appointed 13 area officers, well-known Engineer-Admirals and majors who have been mentioned. I have nothing to say against naval engineer officers, because my father was one of them, but I do not think this is the way to get production. In nine of those areas, in addition to these officers, committees are in process of formation. They are to be composed of representatives of the employers and the trade unions, with the function of advising the area officer, but I would point out that these committees have not been given executive or administrative powers. Their functions are advisory only, and I submit again that that is not the way to get production from these areas, even if they do open an office at which samples can be exhibited. I consider that the Government should treat the matter in another way. As I was saying, there are a great many small firms which are not receiving any orders. What is the attitude of the Ministry towards these firms? What is the reason given why many of them have not yet received any orders? The Minister said, on 21st September: 574Hon. Members kill appreciate the desirability of ascertaining in the first instance whether the firms in question have real manufacturing capacity or knowledge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st September, 1939; col. 1094, Vol.351.]In an interview which appeared in one of the public papers recently, he said:We have to satisfy ourselves that the capacity for production of any factory is a genuine capacity for war purposes and not an imaginary capacity. Offers made in good faith may prove on examination to be less substantial than the factory owners believe them to be.In a speech in this House later on, the Parliamentary Secretary said:It is no good a small man with a wayside garage, with half a lathe and a few spanners and things of that sort, thinking that he can contribute very much to the munitions production of this country.I submit that that again is the wrong way of looking at the problem. It overlooks the British genius for adaptability. It overlooks the fact that if British industry were allowed to organise and were given executive and administrative powers, it could get production from sources which Whitehall officials, after a cursory or careful inspection and long delay, decide have no real manufacturing capacity. Even small garages in the last war played their part in winning it. Lord Aberconway gave a very interesting example of that the other day in my presence. It was in a little place where you would not think munitions could possibly be made, namely, Portmadoc. There, in a slate quarry, was a clever engineer who had a friend who kept a garage with a lathe. He went to him and got hold of a building which was lent to them. I believe it was a Sunday school, and there they put up their little plant, they adapted the lathe for munition purposes, and soon they were making shells which were accepted by the Government. Then again, in the china clay district of Cornwall, they did the same thing and made munitions and shells. I have been told that they have filled up their forms and sent them up to Whitehall, but nothing whatever has happened yet in regard to them.
What was the procedure followed in the last war after the reliance of the Government upon the great armament firms failed to produce what was necessary? There were not 13, but 44 area committees set up, with executive and administrative powers. Let me give one 575 example, that of Manchester. In Manchester the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made a speech, in which he pointed out the seriousness of the position, and said that one shell now would be worth ten shells in the future, and that he wanted Manchester to do what it could. The engineering employers, federated and non-federated, and the trade unions got together, and they formed a big committee. An executive committee of five members was appointed, two of whom were appointed by the Ministry and three by the committee themselves. The committee were unpaid, as far as the higher officials were concerned. The Manchester School of Technology placed a hall at their disposal, and they had a staff of 70 clerks, and a quarter of 1 per cent. on all contracts given out was taken to pay for the clerical staff.
This committee was not advisory at all, but was acting as agent for the Government, and it was both executive and administrative. It had 300 contractors under it, and it placed orders itself and indented each week to the Government for the money that it required, which amounted to about £500,000 a week. The committee consisted of local men, men who knew the locality and the capacity of all the firms round about. They knew the manufacturers by their Christian names in many cases, and they utilised and improved existing machinery that had been set up for other purposes, and kept men employed at their own works, where they were accustomed to go, and living in their own homes. If a manufacturer thought he could not make munitions, they showed him how he could. They were not content, as the Minister apparently is content, to tell a manufacturer they were not satisfied as to his capacity, but they helped him to become efficient. They adapted his machinery and showed him how his costs could be cut down. They saw that all requisite drawings were forthcoming, and as for the production, the quality was guaranteed by inspectors from Woolwich, and the standard prices were agreed upon by the Government. There was no question of profiteering or bad work. By this means they utilised the full productive power of the district. They developed local esprit de corps and, I am told, even friendly competition be- 576 tween various districts, such as Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, as to which area could help the country most. I am told by many of the business men I have met that this can never be done under the system of trying to direct this production from Whitehall. Until we give industry itself self-government in the areas we shall not get the munitions necessary to win the war. To quote what the "Times" has just said:A good deal of productive capacity, both in small undertakings and in large undertakings, still remains unused. The lull in active operations on land is fortunately giving those now in charge of supply a chance to make good previous defects. They cannot take advantage of this chance too largely or too swiftly, for the greater the flow of munitions and equipment the more speedily can the nation's man power he organised and the nation's war effort become decisive in scale as well as in spirit.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Sir T. Moore
I think the House was most pleased and surprised to hear at last one of the Opposition Members make some reference to the Amendment put forward by his own leaders. I will, therefore, try and rectify the omissions of the supporters of the Amendment and will deal with the Amendment as it stands. A casual study of it gives the impression that it is reasonable, far-sighted, patriotic and forceful in tone, but closer consideration makes one wonder why it was put down. If the Gracious Speech is read in conjunction with the various pronouncements of the Prime Minister, both as to policy and intention and with the other statements by Members of the Cabinet, it is apparent that the Amendment need not have been put down and is, in fact, unjustified. It is an illustration of the danger of putting down any Amendments during this time unless there is urgent need, because they may rouse the suspicion in the public mind that they are put down for party gain and not for public advantage.
§ Mr. Tinker
Surely the hon. Member is not charging the Labour party with not doing all that is possible to help the Government to win the war?
§ Sir T. Moore
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I said, "in the public mind," not in the minds of Members of the House. That is a different matter. We do not want to raise any suspicions in the public mind that the party above the Gangway are not in every 577 way loyal and sincere in their common service to the prosecution of the war. The House will not be influenced in that way, because we are essentially a balanced, sane body. We easily sift the gold from the dross, and we can distinguish the difference between helpful, constructive criticism and the niggling, nagging criticism that leads us nowhere. I must admit that most of the speeches to-day have been interesting, informed and, in many ways, constructive, but they suffered from the one defect that they did not deal with the Amendment. There are two or three phrases in the Amendment that merit analysis and consideration. First is the reference toorganising to the full our human and material resources.Are we doing that? I am not sure. I may be convinced when the reply is made for the Government, but certain doubts suggest themselves to my mind as to whether we are actually united in a common determination. How can our resources be organised to the full when they are split up and spread throughout the country? Our resources, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan) said, and as I want to repeat, are large business concerns, insurance companies, banks and, indeed, to some extent, the Civil Service. For instance, as was put to me the other day by a retailer, how are retailers who wish to replenish their stocks to go and see the show-room displays? They must go in many cases to the West Country or Wales, and even then, having tracked their quarry clown, they may not be successful in seeing what they want. Again, how can business people and members of the public make financial arrangements for, say, paying their Income Tax and for realising securities to enable them to do it, or for making money provision for expanding external or internal trade, when the very organisations that are essential to enable them to do so are tucked away in some Gloucester village or Devon moor? I appeal to the Government and the Home Secretary to bring them back. London and the big cities are the centres of finance and commerce in this country, and business, finance and trading houses should be in the cities where they can be found and where they can provide the services for which they exist. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees said, 578 it is somewhat ridiculous that employés should live in the alleged danger zone of London and sleep there, and spend hours in travelling to, say, Reading, where they work in a safety zone.
I appeal to the Government, not in any spirit of fractious criticism, but because I believe it is in the best interests of the country, to bring these big concerns, these necessary organisations, back to London, where, after all, there is probably the best protection in the country. Let the children remain in the country. Indeed, I would make evacuation for them compulsory. If our trade is to be maintained, however, let alone developed, as we are told it must be if we are to live, we should make the circumstances as favourable as possible. It is little good the Chancellor and the President of the Board of Trade calling on the country to stimulate business, both internal and neutral, unless the Home Secretary and the Government and public opinion cooperate. Trade, as the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees and other Members above the Gangway have said, is undoubtedly being strangled. Everyone knows it, and the right thing to do is to face it and deal with the problem with courage and sanity.
That brings me to the question of the black-out. I agree, as everyone else does, that a certain amount of black-out is necessary and must be maintained, but not such a degree of blackness as makes either business or pleasure practically impossible. What is the good of keeping shops open when either there are no people in the streets to buy or they cannot see what and where they want to buy? I understand that there is a change coming, and I welcome it. I hope that it will supplement the encouragement to us to buy by allowing our people to see what they are going to get. Further, I think we must consider the social conditions involved in the black-out. We have to remember that the criminal classes still live in London and the other big cities, and, to my mind, we are making their career more easy and making the lives and property of law-abiding citizens increasingly vulnerable.
It seems to me that the Government have been inclined to overlook the fact, which has been established for generations, that we are essentially a people gifted with the genius for improvisation 579 according to the needs of the moment, and that possibly in their anxiety to have everything prepared for every eventuality the Government have over-organised and over-regulated us. No doubt the answer will be, and it is probably the true answer, that war inevitably brings dislocation into life, but that if the threatened war had come, if the threatened aeroplane attack had been experienced, we should have been relieved that the Government had taken the precautions which they did. But I say, let the Government weigh things out, let them balance the pros and the cons, the advantages and the disadvantages, and then arrive at some compromise which will enable our people to live, to work and to play with the minimum of danger and with the maximum of enjoyment.
I have not referred to the dislocation caused by commandeering houses or hotels, but I would mention one particular case which came to my notice only this morning. A house in Ayr which had recently been completed was commandeered at the beginning of September. It has not yet been used. Any house which has just been built naturally needs airing and heating. That house has been neither aired nor heated, and consequently has deteriorated, and, therefore, of course, the claim for compensation will be increasingly high. I believe that to be unnecessarily wasteful.
Next I come to a topic upon which much has been said and about which there is very little I can add, but there is certainly one lesson which we should learn, and that is that the citizen of this country has not done enough when he has contributed, with hope, or resignation, or with ordinary disinterest, his £300,000,000, or whatever it is, to the education, the sanitation and the hygiene of the people—that is, to the social services. When the war is over we must ensure that that money is spent to better advantage. The present position is almost a parallel with the case of a man who buys a loaf of bread and is satisfied when he gets his loaf without making sure that the ingredients are clean, wholesome and palatable. It seems to me that we have approached the problem of education from the wrong angle in the past. That is, from the angle of the children, not realising that children take their habits 580 and their atmosphere from the home and not from the school. In future we must attack the problem first from the angle of the parents. As I see it, there are three factors in education—the children, the teachers and the parents. We want closer contact, closer understanding, closer friendship even, between the teachers and the other two factors. The country as a whole will welcome the experiment of evacuation for that reason if for no other. We have learned a great lesson, a lesson from which the children of the future will, I hope, be the greatest beneficiaries.
In conclusion, I would ask for more concentration upon economic warfare. The "Times" had a very important and useful leading article on the subject a few days ago, but I think, from the information I have gathered, that we do not pay enough attention to getting hold of business men in neutral countries, finding out what the Germans are seeking to buy, and then over-bidding them with cash. I believe that by some such method, more fully developed than it is at the present, we shall more quickly and with less loss of life bring this dreadful tragedy to a conclusion. I would ask, too, whether some definite word of guidance can be given as to the conflicting instructions one receives from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and from my right hon. Friend.
§ Sir T. Moore
On the one hand we are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to save, in order, no doubt, that we shall be able to pay our increased taxation and to contribute to the war loan when it comes. On the other, we are told by my right hon. Friend and the President of the Board of Trade to spend—of course wisely—so that trade may be stimulated and developed and the financial position of the country may remain strong, whatever the stresses which may be put upon us. We cannot do both. I cannot spend and at the same time leave myself with money to pay my taxation and save. At the same time if we pay our increased taxation there will be no money for us to save, and we shall soon all be living on an overdraft, and all come rapidly to that level of poverty above which we have tried to raise our poorer brethren in the past. But whatever the position, and whatever attitude we have to adopt 581 in regard to this matter, let it be made clear and unambiguous not alone to Members of this House, but to the constituents whom they represent what it is that the Government want them to do, and I am certain that, with the patriotism which is inherent in the character of every one of us, we shall all do it.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill
The hon. Member has dealt very fully with some of the problems that are foremost in our minds, but I am sure that he will forgive me if, at this late hour, I do not follow him in those considerations. I wish to discuss another matter, and to appeal to the representative on the Government front bench who deals with that matter to give me a careful hearing and later on to convey what I have to say to the Minister of Health. I wish to deal with the planning after the war of our medical services. We have had a Debate upon the economic and the industrial planning of the country but, so far, very few hon. Members have touched upon the planning of our social services. Probably because of my work I am biased, but I believe that the most important service to the community is that which contributes to its health.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I feel that, after I have finished, the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) will not be saying "Hear, hear." I welcomed it, when the Lord Privy Seal said that as a result of the last war the Ministry of Health was set up and that great contributions were made during the war to medicine and surgery. Perhaps what I shall say may seem almost revolutionary, but I know perfectly well that when the next war comes the scheme which I am anticipating will be in operation. I want the Ministry of Health to consider what they are going to do with the vast reorganisation of medical services which has come about during the last three months. I want the Ministry to consider seriously the lessons which they have learned. Perhaps mistakes have been made, but I would ask them to consider instituting an entirely different form of medical service for the public. In fact, to put it very plainly, I ask them to plan in future, and after the war, a service which will eliminate entirely private profit from the 582 treatment of disease, and to institute a State medical service.
During the last three months, those who are in contact with the medical service have seen a tremendous change. We were warned by the Minister of Health that during the first week of hostilities we might have 500,000 casualities. As a result of that warning, during the first week there was a tremendous change in the medical profession. Harley Street and its district were practically emptied. For the first month or two Harley Street looked like a country lane. Not only the physicians and surgeons but the patients had gone, as well, and perhaps for the first time in their lives the best-paid and wealthiest physicians and surgeons—in our profession we regard that as meaning the most successful—were being paid by Whitehall. Not only had a revolution taken place in the hospital service; we found for the first time the voluntary hospitals co-operating with the municipal hospitals, and from London right down into the country we found a chain of hospitals, from the voluntary hospitals to the base hospitals, with physicians and surgeons who had practised only in voluntary hospitals, stationed in municipal hospitals.
Perhaps some hon. Members may say: "Yes, and what chaos there is in some of those hospitals." Of course, I agree that the service has not functioned smoothly, partly because there have not been, fortunately, those 500,000 casualties in the first week of the war. In the hospitals there are surgeons who say that their fingers are getting rusty because they are not able to operate. In some places the hospitals are getting over-staffed and we find an inefficient medical service. One tragedy which is not fully realised is that of doctors in evacuation areas whose practice has disappeared with the war and who are sadly in need of some kind of relief. We find among patients those who are tubercular and who have been sent away from sanatoria back to their homes, to infect their poor helpless relations. Cancer patients have been deprived of radium, and patients suffering from eye trouble have been deprived of treatment in ophthalmic hospitals. All those difficulties can be smoothed out in a very short time. Let us make a very careful examination of the position, and I believe 583 we shall find that, in spite of those difficulties, for the first time in the medical history of the country we have in being the framework of a State medical service.
I ask the Minister of Health seriously not to be daunted by the difficulties which he will have to face in introducing a State medical service in this country. If there is another war—I hope there will not be—some equivalent of the present Lord Privy Seal may get up, as the right hon. Gentleman did this afternoon, and remind us of what happened in the present war when very great progress was made which might have taken many generations of peace-time work to achieve. It will then be pointed out that as a result of our lessons in this war we have realised that the only efficient form of medical service was a State medical service. Let us look at this framework. We have, for the first time in this country, unified control. We have State remuneration of our doctors. Doctors are giving full-time service at their hospitals instead of rushing to and fro between the hospitals and their private practice. We have hospitals earmarked for special work and, for the first time, young doctors in hospitals throughout the country are being paid an adequate salary instead of the £100 or £150 they would get as house physicians or house surgeons in our voluntary hospitals. If the State has decided that the only right way to treat civilian casualties in war time is this way, why not perfect the system and treat civilians in the same way in peace time?
I must here say something which has never been said in this House before. These things are extremely difficult to say, and I believe that I am breaking new ground and going against all sorts of traditions which are regarded as part and parcel of our social life. Look at the voluntary hospitals. An hon. Member said this afternoon that he had a Nonconformist conscience or almost so, and during his speech he said that many men did not pay their doctors 20 guineas, their dentists 10 guineas and their nurses something less, but would pay the voluntary hospitals a guinea. I do not know how that fell upon the ears of other hon. Members, but there is a new school of thought in medicine, and I belong to that school. We believe that the voluntary hospital system, which has served this country for generations, is now out 584 of date and has completely failed. Let not sentiment blind us to realities. I agree that the system has done good service in the past, but why should the voluntary hospitals, which are doing the finest work in the country in the service of the community, have to finance themselves by going round cap in hand and asking for a guinea from anybody who might be charitably inclined?
Why do they have to go around the country collecting silver paper? Why do they have to go around collecting rubbish, and why do they have to ask their students to go out into the streets and blacken their noses in order to collect pennies for the hospitals? Has it ever occurred to the Ministry that this is not the way to conduct the health services of the country? Do we send the teachers from the schools to collect pennies in the streets? Do we ask the student teachers to blacken their noses and collect pennies for the education of the teachers? We would say that to support our educational system in that way was stupid and ridiculous, but that is the way in which the voluntary hospitals are supported and the time has come when that should go on no longer. They cannot obtain the finest equipment in these days of scientific progress. Look at their personnel. The most brilliant men in the country who should be adequately remunerated give part-time service for nothing at their hospitals, and then have to go back to their private practices and in some way collect enough money to pay for their commitments. The result, as many of us know, is that in a hospital you have a brilliant young man struggling until he is nearly 50 before he can get upon the staff of the hospital and demand big fees. It is quite common for physicians and surgeons without private incomes not to dare to marry until they are 40 because they cannot afford it.
With regard to equipment I challenge anyone to look at the latest municipal hospitals equipped wish the latest scientific apparatus, and then to look at our voluntary hospitals struggling along. They cannot even supply linoleum for the floors. With regard to the out-patient system, to tolerate such conditions to-day seems utterly absurd. We have outpatients to-day sitting in our voluntary hospitals in London, not far from this House, for sometimes five, six and seven hours, and they are patients suffering not 585 from influenza or from a cold or chill, but from very bad diseases such as cancer or diabetes or complaints which make a person, irritable, unhappy, depressed and certainly not in a condition to sit for hours in a hospital out-patient department.
Outside the hospital what is the position of the rest of the patients? The dependants of the workers to-day have no medical service at all unless they can pay for it. The middle classes are given what I consider is often an inferior service, and in this connection it is interesting to read the report of Sir Arthur Macnalty. You will see that the death rate among middle-class mothers is proportionately higher than that of the working-class mothers. In London we find one out of three working-class mothers goes into hospital for her confinement, whereas the middle-class mother, perhaps, puts up with some nursing home which is inferior to any of our hospitals and very often she puts up with inferior service. The wealthier classes, I agree, get the finest service in the world, but unfortunately many of our doctors have their time claimed by many wealthy people who have nothing wrong with them. Wealthy women who are bored with a surfeit of bridge and gossip claim the doctor's time while the out-patients in the voluntary hospitals have to wait until the physician or surgeon can come and attend to them because that, after all, is the only way in which they can receive attention.
The Minister of Health has a wonderful nucleus on which to work. He has the National Health Insurance Act: the machinery of that can be used. In 1919, as a result of the war, maternity and child welfare clinics were introduced. In 1920 the tuberculosis clinics were introduced—a full service to the people—and in 1938 we gave them cancer clinics. It is rather interesting to observe that the Government have been forced to step in in matters of disease such as tuberculosis and cancer, whereas with regard to the problem of maternal mortality they are forced to step in when better interests fail. I suggest that now is the time to plan. I know what the Minister is up against, but this will be a wonderful cause with which to identify himself. His name will go down to posterity as the man who has changed the whole of medical life.
586 I know that my friend the Member for St. Albans will attack what I have said. I do not blame him because he belongs to a different generation, a generation which has made a wonderful contribution to the social service of the country, but times are changing and we must change with them. I suggest in making this plan the Minister should realise that now is the time because the specialists are already being remunerated by the Government. If they all came back to London the specialists would find they have lost their patients. They are beginning to realise the value of economic security as represented by Governments abroad. Surely, those specialists who have had to prostitute their science to so many neurotic patients must find it rather wonderful to be in a hospital, to know that they are economically secure and are able to follow their particular work, be it medical or surgical work, without the realisation that later on they will have to hold the pulse of some woman who has nothing wrong with her except that she has not enough work to do.
The doctors and the industrialists will welcome this because they will know that in State medical service they will have security and they will be able to have for the first time in their lives an opportunity for post-graduate study. Their hours will be limited and they will be sure of holidays. As far as the voluntary hospitals are concerned, many of them are nearing bankruptcy and are having to cover their facade with advertisements like "Guinness is good for you," in order to get sufficient money to carry on. These hospitals realise that this is undignified, and they will welcome Government support. But with Government support there must be Government control and also every man who is paid by the Government must give full time service to the hospitals. So far as the patient is concerned from what I know of patients—and I am thinking of the 80 per cent. of people who earn under £4 a week—I am certain they will welcome this service because there can be no happiness without health. It is the duty of the State to care for the bodies of its citizens as it is to educate their minds. I know what I am asking is a very great thing. I know the Minister will reed vision and courage, particularly courage. He will need courage to assault a citadel entrenched with sentiment and buttressed by tradition.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland
I have to apologise to the hon. Lady because I cannot follow her on the point with which she has dealt so well, as I want to deal exclusively with the second point of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. M. Samuel), in a powerful speech, told us that we should not express any views which have any sort of political content. The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Collindridge) dealt with that argument, I think, quite well; but I must confess that that view has its attractions, except that it means that, whereas it would be quite right to go down into the country in order to explain why the Government could not pay higher old age pensions, it would be quite wrong to go down and express a view as to why higher old age pensions should be paid. Following that up, it would be wrong to express any views with which the Government disagree, and right to express any views with which the Government agree. But, broadly, the views with which the Government have agreed have ruled the world for the last eight years, and some of us hope that when we get out of our present position we shall live under a different set of opinions. Therefore, I do not hesitate to say something which has quite a large political content.
I, personally, do not believe that we are going to get out of this slaughter and destruction of the war and construct a system for the full development of our resources unless we decide that the time has come for us to hold everything in common, which seems to me a quite Christian doctrine. It seems to me surprising that our forefathers succeeded so long in reconciling Christian tenets with the doctrine that man should seek his own exclusive private advantage without reference to the well-being of his fellows. And, of course, there is no way in which we can, in effect, own all the means of production in common unless these means of production are in law owned by the State through whatever machinery we may devise. As this is a thing which I have not said before in this House, perhaps I might be allowed a very brief word of explanation. During the time when I and several others were trying to unite all those, of several parties, who believed in collective security against a Government which did not, I naturally discussed the matter with Members in 588 different parties, both Left and Right, who agreed with me and disagreed with the policies of the parties to which they belonged. I used to say to those people, among other things, "Why on earth do you not say in public what you say in private?" I got various replies. One was that they had particular loyalties to particular leaders in this House, and did not want to go against those loyalties. I feel like that, too. Some said that they owed a debt to those who had worked for them in their constituencies, and did not want to go against them. I feel like that, too. Then some said: "I would lose my seat if I came out openly and said what I really believed, and I think I have more influence working privately behind the scenes." With that I do not agree. I cannot allow any considerations of this kind to prevent me from saying what I believe.
I think it is better, in the end, to be quite definite in saying what we mean about solving post-war problems on a basis of social justice. We may gain temporarily in conviviality, but in the end we run great risks if we hide sincere differences of purpose under a comfortable vagueness of phraseology. We talk about the need for people to be generous in making sacrifices, but some of us have very different ideas as to whom we expect to be generous, whom we expect to make the sacrifices. For instance, I notice the tendency for some to assume that the Super-tax payers are actually making greater sacrifices than the working people of this country. I wonder whether they will expect the workers to make greater sacrifices after the war.
It seems to me that sacrifice is a physical, and not a financial, thing. I can write a cheque for the largest sum to the Chancellor of the Exchequer without feeling any physical pain whatever. The physical pain begins when I cannot buy what I would have bought if I had not written that cheque. A man whose income is £30,000 a year would be disturbed if it was suddenly reduced to £2,000 a year, but he would not feel any physical pain. You can really live the same kind of life, in all essentials, on £2,000 as on £30,000 a year. It is true your house is not so large, but everybody in it sleeps in a different room. It is true your staff is not so large, but you have somebody to bring up your tea when it is wanted. You cannot send your sons to 589 such expensive schools, but what of it? It is said that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but if it should turn out that Eton were lost on the minefields of the North Sea I should not worry about it. On the other hand, if you reduce the income of a man living on 40s. by so much as 10 per cent., this reduction is immediately reflected in privation suffering and pain—in other words, in sacrifice.
When we come out of this war we shall have to give up the system under which all the means of production are in private hands and effective control is passing more and more into the hands of an elusive coterie of gentlemen of whom we know nothing, over whom we have no control, and who have been running this world for years, not in our interests but in theirs.
§ Sir R. Acland
That is exactly what I made clear at the beginning, and I gave my reasons. I made it clear that, whatever consequences it might have for me among my friends in my constituency or in this House, I meant to say what I believe. I think I made that perfectly clear. In my view, if you continue to patch up the existing system you will be condemned to witness the spectacle all over the world of literally tens of millions in want, because the owners of the means of production cannot see their way to profit by employing those men to make the things of which they stand in need. I ask hon. Members to consider very seriously whether this system must not be fundamentally changed if we are to establish any prosperity again? In order that there may be employment for all the people all over the world, it is essential that the money not spent on immediate consumption shall find opportunities for investment in new capital investments on terms which yield a profit to the investor. If that does not happen, men are thrown out of work. I appreciate that there are still many opportunities for new capital investment in the world to-day, but, in relation to our present assets, will anyone dare to compare the opportunities for profitable new investment to-day with those which presented themselves to the world at any time between, say, 1820 and 1900?
590 There is a myth that this system of ours has always worked, and that therefore, if you play about with it a little, it always will work again. That is not true. This system of ours worked for 150 years only, and it worked in these 150 years because in these years something very special was happening which cannot be repeated. Between 1770 and 1920 we built all the industrial towns of the world from nothing. The industrial towns of the world did not exist in 1770, not one of them, and we had built them all by 1920. [An HON. MEMBER: "By private enterprise."] That is so. We built all the railways of the world out of nothing in these 150 years. We built the whole merchant navies of the world out of nothing in these years. New developments will still take place in the future, but nothing of that order will ever happen again. We are now an industrial community, and some day we shall be a more efficient industrial community, but the change from an agricultural community to an industrial community can only happen once and cannot be repeated, and this particular change happened on this planet between 1770 and 1900. This change, by its very momentum, kept private capitalism alive and kept all its resources employed so long as there were all over the world great and ever greater new and ever newer opportunities for profitable investment. Now this process is slowing down and fading off. Opportunities for investment fall away and unemployment rises, and, whaetver you do, will rise. Profits will fall.
What will happen then? What happened in Germany? Employers, particularly in the heavy industries, defended themselves in the only way they could by an attack on wages. The rise of Hitler, the sudden meteoric spurt from the position of an unknown Bavarian local chieftain to a position of national prominence, coincided with the opening to him of the money bags by big, heavy industrial owners, and it is from that origin that we are now engaged in this war. Differing in this respect from the owners of our own country, the German owners had not succeeded in achieving a mass basis for any party under their own control, and they did the next best thing and financed somebody else's party in power on the one condition that the workers' organisation and workers' standards should be beaten down by all 591 the resources of the State. I wish hon. Members opposite would disabuse themselves of the idea that you can promote disloyalty to Hitler by offering to the Germans either a nice little Conservative monarchy or even a nice little pseudo-Liberal democracy in Germany in which, none the less, everything is going to be owned and controlled by the opposite numbers of the Federation of British Industries. The German people have had that before. If you are going to make an appeal to the German people you must offer them relief from both their tyrants, the Nazi Gestapo and the giant capitalists and monopolists of their country.
In my view, which I am expressing in this House for the first time, private capitalism has had its day. It has been a glorious day, and in that day the world has seen changes which have never been seen before and will never be seen again. It is literally true that Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror and even Noah would have been less surprised by the world of Queen Anne than she would have been by the world only two centuries after the comparatively recent announcement of her death. Some of those who draw the richest prizes from our present system will try to carry on their merry-making far into another day, even though their system is in its night. What are the rest of us going to do? Are we just going to sleep, are we just going to suffer what we may have to suffer, in order to make it possible for them to continue to draw incomes so much larger than our own, or are we, on the contrary, going to say, whether they like it or not, whether it is war or whether it is peace, that a new day has in fact dawned, and that the world must now move on?
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I hope the hon. Baronet will excuse my saying that, while we all realise its sincerity, his speech differed little in principle from the speech that went before it. It was really a proposal of Socialism in the extreme. Many of us on these benches sympathise with that point of view to some extent. We know perfectly well that in the advance of modern times there is ever greater need of national co-operation, of the utilisation of national resources and the promotion of national services, and we are seeing the 592 result of that put into operation, as the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) said, in the medical service at the present time, during the war. But we on this side of the House distinguish very clearly and definitely between Socialism and social reform. Many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House recognise that what they are after is really the same thing that we desire, namely socialised reform but not Socialism, although they toe the line to the doctrine of Socialism.
Social reform is a matter of common interest, in which we are all agreed. The question is whether you are going to socialise your services and nationalise them. I like to remember the dictum of Lord Snowden, when he said that he wished the word "nationalisation" was out of the dictionary now, because what he believed in was what we were getting round to in our industrial development—a system practically of public utility services. I have, fortunately, this year taken part as a director in a small way in a water company, and I realise the position of the public utility service, where you have very largely what might be described by Socialists as a nationalisation scheme, without its disadvantages. Under the public utility system you still have a great deal of individual enterprise put forward; you choose your best people, and not necessarily the people who are represented by democratic votes, and you are subject to what may be described as Parliamentary control.
I should like to make a few remarks from the point of view raised by the hon. Member for West Fulham on the question of medical services, although I do not want to confine my attention to that particular point. The hon. Member has referred to experience in these matters as though she was producing a new bantling, a new child, and delivering it to the House as if it were entirely new. The idea of a national medical service is nothing new. The hon. Lady seemed to think that this was the first time the idea of a really public medical service had been suggested. She does not seem to realise that the Poor Law was the first time the idea of a public medical service was brought into existence, and as a wonderful advance on the old Poor Law system. The Poor Law medical service ever since it was instituted has been at 593 the command of every citizen in the land either through the medical officer of the district or through the Poor Law institutions.
We have to recognise that it is now necessary to link up in an organised scheme the medical services, whether they are personal or whether they are in an institution, more than is the case at the present. We have been working in that direction with wonderful effect, but have not got to a completed scheme yet. One way is through the medical officers of health scheme, another through the insurance scheme, unfortunately introduced as a separate organisation, and we have voluntary hospitals working together much more in the way of a public utility service. We have the King Edward Hospital Fund for London, which has done a wonderful work during the last 20 years in organising the hospitals on a uniform basis, and there was also the scheme of Lord Dawson's Committee about 17 years ago for organising and uniting hospitals together in a scheme, with base hospitals and advance hospitals down to hospitals in the village. That has not been adopted. There have been discussions in the medical professional Press. It has been discussed most violently from both sides.
The line advocated by the hon. Member for West Fulham, the definitely socialistic scheme, has called forth very vitriolic views in the "Lancet" from doctors who see nothing but harm in it from the point of view of the patients themselves or the advance of the medical profession. I am afraid that if any Government tries to socialise the medical profession, whether that is right or wrong in theory, will be very sorry. It will undertake an impossible proposition. What you can do and what you must do is to help to build up the present scheme, to help it forward in the direction in which it is going now. You must guide its development, and you can guide it. I am certain that the advance which has been made during the last 20 years, and which is now being made in the war, will help us materially in that direction. The Inter-Departmental Committee on the Nursing Services, which published an interim report before the war and was to have introduced its final report at the end o this year, shows the great advance in the direction of bringing help from the 594 State for the nursing services, but the difficulty was not to interfere with the system of voluntary hospital organisation. It would have been a big move by the Government if they had undertaken what seemed to the committee, in their interim report, to be absolutely inevitable, that is to say, State support for the voluntary hospitals.
I am certain that no Government would dare to do away with the voluntary system and municipalise the whole of our hospital system. They would not get the support—and rightly they would not get it—of the people. I will tell the House why. The suggestion of the hon. Member for West Fulham was that under such a system the doctors would be delighted to have a definite income, definite hours of work, and definite holidays. If that were so, then God help the patients. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] for this reason, that doctors like other people, are human; there are good doctors, bad doctors, and indifferent doctors. There are those who would say that they had done their eight hours' work, or that their week-end or holiday was due, and they would make their arrangements and go. If difficulties in connection with the patients arose, they would say, "It is up to the authorities to arrange for that." I want hon. Members to consider this matter clearly. If the doctors were under State control, they would, as is the case with officials in any walk of life, insist on their rights, their duties, and their privileges, and they would feel that it was the duty of the authorities to provide for the rest.
One cannot deal with the life and death questions of medicine in that way. That is why we must continue the voluntary arrangements and the voluntary control of one kind and another as long as there is a State system going on side by side. However good a State system might be, one would never get people to abandon the voluntary system, and in some places the voluntary system would continue and for some individuals the voluntary services would continue. I am satisfied that, whatever uniform public system might be established, there would still be a large number of people who would prefer to go to their own doctors and who would make it worth while for doctors to carry on private practices and their own little clinics, which would be private hospitals. It would be against 595 human nature and against the facts of the case to socialise the whole of the profession and its institutions. To my mind, that is a parable of the way in which we must approach the whole of the development of the present time which is under discussion on the Amendment of the Labour party, to which the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) made so little reference. There are three parts to the Amendment. In the first part, the Amendment reads:Regret the absence of any proposals for organising to the full our human and material resources in the national interest for the effective prosecution of the war.As regards the medical profession, that cannot be said to be the case. The right hon. Member for Wakefield said that, practically speaking, it is only during the last three months that the Government have made any serious attempt to organise the national resources of the nation. As a matter of fact, it was almost three years ago that the Government and the British Medical Association came to an agreement, and the British Medical Association said that they would organise the arrangements for the whole medical profession in the case of an emergency, and the Government allowed them to do so. There has been a gradual development in that matter. It is true that the results have not been entirely successful, least of all in the view of many of the medical men, especially the consultants. Looking back, I think one can say that if we had this time over again we should make different arrangements. I certainly consider it much better to keep our hospitals going as in peace time, but to arrange with the medical men concerned to be at the disposal of the civil emergency services as and when required. That is the arrangement to which we are returning and to which we have already pretty well returned, by the adaptation which has been announced by the Minister of Health, as a result of his meeting with the Central Committee a week or two ago. The point is that we have in this case done the right thing. The Government have, in good time, approached the profession and the members of the profession have done what they could themselves. Therefore, from that point of view, I believe the Amendment fails.
There are certain things, I agree, which have to be considered. I believe there is 596 still a lack of co-ordination between the civil and the military medical services. I do not think anything serious has so far resulted but it might prove serious in the event of a real invasion, or raiding of this country. I believe that there should be a better provision of women medical officers in these services. I will not develop these points. I merely mention them. I believe that there ought to be a more definite, active and keen support by the Government of the services in connection with contagious disease and especially propaganda by films, which will help young people of both sexes to realise the dangers to which they are subject and from which they can, to some extent, be saved by education. There have been inevitable hitches due to the emergency, but the fact is that the way to improve matters is by using the organisation which we have and making the best of it.
The second part of the Amendment calls for the provision and maintenance of an adequate standard of life for all. What is an adequate standard of life for all? The difficulty of a catch phrase of that sort is that it begs the question. What is the standard? There is too much tendency in speaking of the standard of life, to take the purely material standard and to ignore the higher standard which is involved. What is required is to impress on people, not the absence of the material standard but the necessity for a higher spiritual standard. The material side is, I admit, essential and must be constantly under our consideration, but enough emphasis is not placed on the old doctrine, "The Kingdom of God is within you." People have been shown by poets, by writers, by thinkers of all kinds that contentment depends above all on the will of the individual and not upon his conditions. I do not want to underrate the importance of the material side, but in the attempt to build up a material system of Socialism there is a tendency to impress the material side to the exclusion of the spiritual side, which is equally important. Finally the Amendment regrets the absence of proposals forthe solution on the basis of social justice of the problems which will arise on the return to peace.What can possibly be meant by the "solution"? You can make suggestions for the working of a system but the solution can only be found in the event. It is absurd to suggest that the Government 597 should lay down a solution at the present time. What they can do is to make suggestions as to the tendencies, objects, and ideals, that we have before us, and they could not be better expressed than has been done already by the Prime Minister. He put them under four different headings, and those are the peace aims and ideals of us all.
Let me utter one or two warnings as to the ideals that we have before us regarding the internal development of this country. Take the question of housing. We have undoubtedly much to think out beforehand as to how we shall deal with housing after the war. That was done in the last war. It began in 1917, but it was impossible for the local authorities and die builders to envisage what they would be able to do, until 1919, when Lord Addison, then Minister of Reconstruction, eventually managed to succeed Lord Fulham as Minister as Health and bring in a solution. That is a parable of the difficulty of providing what is called a solution now. You could not do it then, because the building industry was all broken up, and the local authorities did not know what they would have to deal with. Therefore, you could not get your solution before the end of the war, and I do not think you can at the present time, but you can prepare for it, and I have no doubt that in due course these matters will be thought out in one way or another.
§ Mr. John Morgan
Is it not a piece of Socialistic materialism that the hon. Member is talking about?
§ Sir F. Fremantle
No, it is very much more than Socialistic materialism. It is a definite object of social reform, if the more material side of social reform. I am quite certain that the Government and the Government Departments during this war are so engaged up to the hilt in prosecuting the war that it is impossible to get the Government machine to consider the problems that will appear after the war—as a machine, that is. It is impossible for us in Parliament to undertake it, because what does it mean? If you put a Government Department on to considering the future and any of these problems after the war in the ordinary way, you are really thinking of a Government Department, with a Select Committee, and the work must largely be done by Government officials and by 598 calling upon other people for evidence from all over the country. But they would not get that evidence from all over the country. The could get some little bits of evidence here and there, but they could not get the evidence necessary to make a scheme. Then, if you could appoint one or two Government officials in order to undertake some such inquiry, you could not get a representative inquiry. It is not possible for Government Departments and Government officials, or for Parliament, to undertake these inquiries in detail at the present moment.
That does not mean to say, of course, that we cannot do anything about it. This is the time when private enterprise, which is so much belittled by hon. Members opposite, in the form of individuals and in the form of associations and companies of one kind and another, can be thinking out the problems; and just as the medical profession have been thrashing out the possibilities of a hospital service—I do not think they get much nearer a real and practical solution, but still they are thrashing it out—so, in the same way, I think these companies, associations, and societies of one kind and another can be thrashing out these problems. They can be thrashed out also in the Press, as is being done, and by degrees, I think, we shall get nearer the position of being able to know after the war what are the possibilities. That is the nearest approach that we can make towards the actual solution of the problems that will be before us then.
I am glad that this Amendment has been moved and that the discussion has taken place. It is good to ventilate these subjects, and there is no reason why we should pretend that we are on opposite sides as regards the general aims towards which we are working. Some emphasise one side and others emphasise another side, but we shall be like the lawyers in the law courts, and eventually get justice. I feel that meanwhile the general tendency of the whole country under the pressure of war is a definite advance in learning to co-operate, to understand to to sympathise. Let us remember that every day when we meet here we begin with Prayer for this Parliament for:Uniting and knitting the hearts of all persons and estates within the same in true Christian love and charity one toward another.That is the lesson which is being im- 599 pressed on us from all over the country during the war, and it is in that sense that we must approach the many problems that will arise after the war.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague
If I understood the last speaker aright, I am extremely surprised to learn that medical officers of health, because they are public servants, lose interest in their professional duties and drop them at the end of an eight-hour day. I was not aware of it.
§ Mr. Montague
I am inclined to think that the hon. Member is not aware of a great number of things he ought to be aware of.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I did not suggest anything of the kind. The hon. Gentleman knows I did not suggest it, and I wish that he would really understand the line I was taking, because that is the tendency of a national system. He knows perfectly well that that is what I meant.
§ Mr. Montague
To use a colloquialism, I evidently touched the hon. Member on the raw. I will leave him and deal with that part of the Amendment which has been followed by the last two speakers, namely, the question of planning, as it has been called in the Debate. The Prime Minister described the suggestions of the Labour party as fancy plans. I imagine that he would call a plan suggested in the execllent speech of the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) a fancy plan. When Archimedes jumped out of his bath in puris naturalibus and went into the market place in order to shout "Eureka," it was no doubt said that he had a fancy plan. Every pioneer, every scientist, every discoverer, every thinker and idealist has always been taunted by the wise owls of past ages with possessing fancy plans that will not work. I believe, and we believe, that it is really necessary to consider the question of the post-war problems in time. The war may end very quickly. We all hope so. In any event, when it does end there will be a great amount of dislocation and many problems to be solved. The speech of the Lord Privy Seal seemed to be rather a hopeless one. In it he quoted Emerson. I think I can quote Emerson also to some purpose in reference to that speech, when he wrote about being "wrought in 600 a sad sincerity." We can get other inspirations from Emerson. He said also:So nigh is grandeur to our dust,So near is God to man,When Duty whispers low 'Thou must,'The Youth replies, 'I can'.He speaks of the counsel he once heard given to a young person: "Always do what you are afraid to do." Dr. Schacht is reported to have said to Hitler when advising him against a certain course of action, "We are financing from the future." I have no doubt that that was intended to convey a disturbing truth, but the idea conveyed implies a great fallacy, although it seems to be the idea of the Chancellor of the Exchequer about post-war problems. He has said much the same thing with the design of conveying some sobering impression. He tells us that at the end of the war we shall be faced with mountains of debt, and that there will be an imperative call for greater economies than ever before, and the necessity to tighten belts as they have never been tightened before. I not only think there is a great deal of fallacy in that, but I say further, that if that line of thought is carried to the extent of destroying or injuring the social services and a lowering of the standards of life of the people—and I use that phrase in spite of the hon. Member for St. Albans—there will be disaster, unparalleled unemployment, if not open revolt on the part of vast numbers of people. If we are not prepared to plan for what is likely to happen after this war, which shall produce greater problems than the last war, 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 unemployed people will not be content with the misery that will be imposed upon them.
The Minister of Labour made a very good broadcast speech last night, in spite of his cold, but in the course of that speech he said that the total man-power of the country was to be employed in the fighting Services, the manufacture of the materials of war, or in the industries which must be kept going in order that the nation shall live. When I heard that I thought it was a pity that the Minister of Labour and his friends do not realise what a statement like that means. If it is possible to employ the whole man-power of this nation during a time of war it ought to be possible to do so in time of peace—it ought to be more possible, for reasons which I will give. Some of the fundamental elements 601 of this problem are generally overlooked. It is not a question of finance from the future. Wars are not made in the future, they are made now. I believe that philosophers are rather doubtful about the essence of time, but I do not imagine that any philosopher has suggested that there is any metaphysic or fourth dimension which will enable us to make war or do anything else upon the proceeds of the next generation or generations after that.
Wars are made by aeroplanes, by shells, by warships, by boots, khaki clothing, bully beef and all the rest of it, and those things are made and maintained from day to day. They do not come from the future. Experience shows that, apart from any outside interference, a country like Germany to-day, even in the blockade, finds it possible for the nation to live and to maintain for the time being the standards it has reached, while at the same time making war upon an unprecedented scale. There is no magic about it. The secret is that, in order to make war, His Majesty's Government, as any other Government would have to do, whatever its philosophy or its political complexion, have substituted the economics of abundance for the economics of scarcity. Some people imagine that we live upon gold and upon paper, but we do nothing of the kind. We live, and we make war, upon things that are produced from day to day and that come out of current labour.
The second consideration which I want to put to the House is that the labour which is connected with making these thing now is not financed from the future. Wages are paid now. Factories are built now. Plant is laid down now and raw materials are bought now. The people who are doing these things, making that vast and miraculous product, will be available at the end of the war to produce material for human life and human expansion just as they are to-day for making materials for the prosecution of the war. When the Lord Privy Seal said that we should all be much poorer after the war—
§ Mr. Montague
I expected that interruption. My right hon. Friend was referring to, and he built his case on, the assumption that these fundamental questions are not likely to be considered. It 602 is true that, if the principles of capitalism are maintained and we revert to private enterprise, then the war will leave us much poorer. When the right hon. Gentleman says that, he takes no account whatever of the economics of the modern world. He relies upon outmoded economics, upon those of restriction and not organisation. In Germany, in spite of economic difficulties and of approaching bankruptcy, it is possible to produce vast wealth in the form of engines of destruction. This is done by people who are working to-day, and who can work for peace just as well as they can work for war. It proves the Socialist contention that we are living in an age of abundance and that we can produce fully the wealth, which we are producing at the present time under the capitalist system of restriction. Under capitalism because you cannot make profit out of plenty. You have to restrict your production, whatever mankind's power and resources may be, but under war conditions you have to discard those principles. When you make war you realise that you are producing for use in order to achieve something that you would not be able to achieve. We are spending £2,000,000,000 a year or something at that rate at the present time and it may be more. What does that mean? If we are spending it we are producing it. You cannot spend without producing, and if you can produce that amount in a year of war you can produce it in a year of peace. For the right hon. Gentleman to say that the world must be much poorer shows the bankruptcy of modern capitalism and of the economics that he represents. If development is slowed down, if this idea of economy and tightening belts is to be the dominant note or the only note of post-war consideration of these problems to which we have referred in this discussion, then we shall have nothing but tragedy and discontent.
Of course, there will be an extra financial burden, but the point I wish to insist upon—and I want hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side to consider this carefully—is that you cannot finance the war or anything else out of reduced production, and reduced expenditure means reduced production in the long run. It is an absurdity in itself. You have to expand production in order to pay for a war costing, as it is costing, such a huge amount. We are spending 603 to-day at the rate of £2,000,000,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer after the war may have to budget for anything between £200,000,000 and £250,000,000 or more in the form of interest and redemption payments on loaned money. Even under capitalism during my own lifetime we have expanded production six and seven times that amount. They say that you have to expand production in order to pay for the war; you have not to pursue a policy of economy in the narrow sense of the term—the term in which it is used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others.
I wish to ask if anyone will argue that it is impossible to finance the war out of new wealth after the war. With all the science we have at our disposal, with all the possibility of scientific development on top of the experience of the war, does anyone argue that it is impossible to raise £200,000,000 or £250,000,000 without lowering the standards of the people and without touching social services? Of course it is possible to do it, but it is not possible to do it on the basis of private enterprise. It is only by retaining for peace the same principles of planning that are applied to war, with the same scientific method, that you will be able to handle the problem of post-war finance without bringing about the disaster to which I have referred.
Expansion, after all, is not an automatic thing. It is not mechanical, like filling a tank with oil. Expansion grows, like an organic thing, on what it feeds upon, just like the reverse policy with us—on what it does not feed upon. When we ask that a council of men should consider this problem—the best scientists, leaders of industry, representatives of the workers of the country and people who can get down to this problem—I am surprised the answer is that everybody is too fully taken up with the actual prosecution of the war itself.
We have to get this thing done, and we have to get those brains applied to the problem of dealing with the unemployment, dealing with the dislocation of industry, and dealing with the financial problem by expanding industry in the way I have suggested. I know we have the bogy of inflation, but inflation is purely a capiţalist phenomenon. Inflation cannot occur if you are scientifically pro- 604 ducing for human needs. It occurs only under the same economics of scarcity which bring poverty and maintain poverty in conditions which are potentially plentiful. I can imagine that after the war we shall go back, in spite of the Anglo-French example, in spite of the pooling of economies, with all that it might mean in the development of a new, united Europe, to the old capitalist economy, the old capitalist competition. I can imagine the Chancellor talking about "getting back to normal finance." He will be tempted to say that taxation is "onerous on industry, and must be lifted." We shall hear a great deal about the encouragement of investors—who hardly need encouragement—and getting back to the old road of development. The burden of taxation is great, but not as great as all that In a time of expansion—and war does mean expansion; fortunes are made— the burden of taxation can be borne. And I suggest that it might be borne a little longer than during the war itself. The war may last three or four years, we are told. Let us, for the sake of this argument, assume that it lasts not four, but five. Let us have some chance of a year of peace expansion. I beg the Chancellor and the Government not to put on the brakes so precipitately, for it will not be all right when we get back to the ordinary, self-interested methods and principles of private enterprise.
If Stalin and Hitler can do a deal, so can I. I do not believe in soaking the rich. I am not much concerned about that; I am more concerned about preventing the rich from soaking the poor. What I am about to say may interest the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland), who has made an exceedingly interesting speech, and who, I suppose, we may expect to see on the Socialist benches before long. The case for Socialism does not depend on the personal consumption of a few rich men, and the Socialist who bases his argument on the "deadly parallel" does not know the case of Socialism at all. The "deadly parallel" has to be put; people have to understand that we have a system which produces grave and unnecessary inequalities in the distribution of wealth; but that has to do more with the question of amelioration than with the fundamental principles of Socialism. The evil that these rich idlers do is not a matter of the length of their cigars or of the champagne that they 605 drink; it is a question of the monopoly that they control. It is a question of their power to prevent, and the necessity they are under to prevent, undue production, in spite of productive power, in order to keep going the system on which they depend. Someone said a little while ago:If all employable labour were worked a reasonable number of hours the world would have at its disposal a volume of commodities and services that would enable the whole population of the world to live on a higher level of comfort and well-being than was ever contemplated in the rosiest dreams of the social reformer. The urgent task of the world is to bring about the adjustments necessary to bring production and consumption into proper relationship.That was said by the Duke of Windsor, and if the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are prepared to accept as much as is implied in the Duke of Windsor's statement, I am prepared to let the success of that policy speak for itself. I am not a revolutionary. The only certain thing about violent revolution at any rate is that it is a sham. It is a most uncertain thing which will end in nothing that corresponds to the nature of Socialism. But I do believe in the gathering impetus and that but for fools we ought to have been in this country at least as far advanced as the Scandinavian countries and some parts of our Dominions, and as advanced as we are in many municipalities in this country, where we have the collectivist development and social control. The success speaks for itself. I am prepared to depend upon that because I believe in the principle of gathering impetus. We believe in equality. The people who will only give of their best, provided they have all that is necessary for their body and soul in return, or will only give of their best at the expense of exploiting other people and reducing them to humility, are the people who ought to be kicked.
We do not agree that equality is a thing that can be produced by Act of Parliament. If you accept the fact that we can produce wealth in abundance to-day, it cannot be done under private enterprise, but upon the principles I have enumerated. I believe these things will come naturally. There is no struggle against nature to-day. The battle has been won. The economic struggle is fratricidal. It has ceased to have any social or biological advantage. We learn from biology that instincts which are no longer 606 functionally urgent must be sublimated or the body dies. The struggle must be lifted to a higher plane or civilisation perishes. Jungle ethics must give way to the advance of science and co-operation or they will involve humanity in disease and death.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
The Debate has gone on for the full length of an ordinary Parliamentary sitting, and we have had an interesting but rather discursive series of speeches from various quarters. At times the Debate has concentrated upon certain practical and immediate questions, such as war risks insurance, raised by the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir G. Broadbridge), and the necessity for the return to London of the business communities, which was raised in an admirable speech by the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Harold Macmillan). Then we have had speeches such as that of the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland), which I suppose will mean, as the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) has said, his immediate crossing of the Gangway to the benches opposite, where I suppose he will find his spiritual home in the future.
§ Sir R. Acland
The hon. Member for West Islington made the only speech which was at all attractive to me from that point of view. All the other speeches from other hon. Members above the Gangway conveyed nothing to my mind at all. We shall have to wait and see how "above the Gangway" develops.
§ Mr. Elliot
I understand that the hon. Baronet has not found the spiritual allegiance above the Gangway entirely pleasing to him, and so we will wait and see what more attractive spiritual offers are made to him before he identifies himself with any party in his true faith. We shall watch with interest the future political orientation of the hon. Baronet. The idea he put forward was that our difficulties would be swept away if we had the ownership of things in common. That seemed more likely of acceptance a week or ten days ago than to-day: since we have seen in the meantime one great Power, where things are owned in common, act in a way that would not be approved by hon. Members in whatever quarter of the House they sit. Finally, we have had a very powerful plea from the hon. Member for West Islington for 607 an expansion of production. He made an excursion into prophecy as to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer might or might not do five years hence, when the whole of those five years have been spent in a devastating European war. I fear that my prophetic vision does not range over such tremendous distances.
§ Mr. Elliot
That may be so, but I say frankly that if it were left for me to say what the state of Europe will be after five years of devastating war, my planning would be of a very sketchy nature. One fact has, however, stood out in the Debate, and that is that hon. Members, wherever they sit, and without any exception, are whole-heartedly in favour of the prosecution of the war to victory. That fact has been made clear in every speech, from whatever quarter it came, and that is the fundamental fact on which we have to consider the whole discussion. Points of great practical importance were raised in the Debate. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) was very anxious about certain questions, such as improvement of old age pensions and workmen's compensation. These questions were also raised by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) and several other hon. Members. The Government will, of course, continue to strive to maintain the standards of living at as high a level as war-time conditions, and postwar conditions, will permit. There is sufficient earnest of that in the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last Wednesday, that the question of increased unemployment allowances, having regard to the cost of living, was being considered, and that new unemployment assistance regulations would be brought before the House before Christmas. A memorandum has been laid to-night explaining the proposals. That is sufficient evidence that these proposals are not being treated merely in an academic manner but are being translated into fact as far as possible.
There was also the Chancellor's statement that the Government would be prepared to increase the rates of noncontributory old age pensions—which are payable wholly from the Exchequer—to correspond with such increased rates of contributory old age pensions as may be 608 made possible by increased contributions from employers and workers as the result of the discussions the Chancellor had initiated with the Trades Union Congress and the National Confederation of Employers Organisations. But the Chancellor also gave a very clear message in that same speech. He said:The truth is that we cannot attain our war aim—and I know I am justified in assuming that the House is at one in being determined to attain it—without producing for the time being an adjustment in the standard of living, which touches people of all sorts and kinds."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1939; col. 164, Vol. 355.]At this time when we are planning for a three years war and spending at the rate of £2,400,000,000 a year in the process, at this time when Hitler is compelling the Germans to work longer hours and Goering is telling them that they will have to tighten their belts and will be all the better for it, it is worth recording that we in this country are contemplating some expansion in our social services. This would seem to be a sufficient earnest of the Government's intention to maintain our standard of living at the highest practicable level. But let it not be forgotten that our social services are the finest in the world and that in the current year we devoted to them £50,000,000 more out of revenue than in 1931. And in 1931 they already cost the Exchequer and local authorities over £490,000,000. It is quite true that the expansion of wealth can be conducted more efficiently under a totalitarian system than under our system. The hon. Member for West Islington seemed to me to be treading perilously near the dangerous slopes of totalitarianism in his panegyrics of what is possible under a completely planned and controlled State.
It is true that under those conditions many things are possible. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) had some experience of production under a totalitarian system in the last war, and these brought him under conditions which he would not willingly undergo again for any kind of expansion. In fact, a certain amount of liberty is desired by the people of this country provided that supreme efficiency of production is not prejudiced thereby, and the people will not give up these liberties for any totalitarian state however efficient it may be in its production.
§ Mr. Montague
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Government are establishing totalitarianism in this country? Does he admit the statement that some people are making, that there is a lot of Facism about the Government?
§ Mr. Elliot
No, it is the hon. Member who is trying to establish totalitarianism in this country by pressing upon us the way in which our personal liberties have been surrendered. I am saying that these conditions are temporary, that the people of this country will always strive to retain these liberties, and I hope that we shall have the support of the hon. Member when we come to restore these liberties which the people have temporarily surrendered.
§ Mr. Elliot
Industrial, civil and military. All the liberties which have been handed to the State will be handed back unimpaired to the people as soon as the emergency is over. It is true that people are inclined to complain now and again of the large sums which are spent on our social services. The money is well invested. It has provided an excellent return. At the end of the last war, in 1919, the general death rate was 13.8 per 1,000 as compared with 11.6 per 1,000 to-day. The tuberculosis death rate was 1,261 per million as compared with 602 per million to-day. The infantile death rate was 89 per 1,000 live births as compared with 53 in 1938. The maternal mortality rate was 4.37 per 1,000 live births compared with 3.08 in 1938. These things did not come about by accident; they came about as a result of hard work, foresight and the expenditure of public money—by all the things which the hon. Member for West Islington and other hon. Members desire. They show that progress can be made and has been made, and that the planning for which the hon. Member calls was done after the last war, and is, I can assure him, being done even during the present war; and certainly, we do not intend to be behind our forefathers who planned to bring about these great reforms even after that devastating war.
Before the outbreak of war, we had worked up to a faster and faster tempo. Our system had given us a lower infantile mortality than Germany, a lower maternal mortality than Germany; it had given us not only a freer but a stronger people 610 than Germany. These are things which, at this time of audit of our public affairs which takes place in the Debates on the Address, we have a right to remember, for we must see the credit items as well as the debit items, otherwise we become disheartened and dis-spirited, and feel that no progress is being made. We have a right at such a time as this to remember the great progress that has been made, and to take from it hope for the future. As I have said, we had worked up to a faster and faster tempo. The national service of midwives set up by the Midwives Act of 1936 was settling down to full-time work. The first steps had been taken to set up the comprehensive arrangements for the treatment of cancer for which provision was made in the Cancer Act, 1939. Over four million houses had been built since the war of 1914–18, and we were hard at work on the fifth million. It is a great disappointment to me that that enormous climb in our housing position, which was one of our prides, is being held up. It is said that there is a great expansion of wealth production in war. I am inclined to think rather dismally of the work on 300,000 houses a year which has been switched off, and necessarily so, because of the diversion of materials and effort to the purposes of the war. There is no doubt that the war means a diminution in wealth production and not an increase, and that the war is being financed not by an increase in wealth production, but by a switching over of services from useful production to production which will have no lasting benefit in this country.
It is true to say that not a year passed after 1919 without at least one Act of major importance being added to the Statute Book to extend and expand our social services. It is true to say that the war of 1914–18 brought all classes closer together and reminded each of its obligations to the other, to the nation, and to civilisation. Some people may think that despite these remarkable efforts, we still have not attained to very high standards. The evacuation scheme, for instance, caused a good many shocks to the inhabitants of the reception areas. There, too, we are trying to make good come out of evil. The President of the Board of Education and myself hope shortly to complete arrangements for a far greater concentration of medical effort on the 611 school children than ever before. Indeed, we have hopes that, instead of requisitioning the schools for A.R.P. posts, we may be able to requisition the A.R.P. posts for the schools, and to use, for instance, the excellent bathing provision made for decontamination of gas cases, to restore to the school children some of the facilities they have lost by reason of the extensive use of schools and bathing premises for purposes connected with the war.
In the preface to the Twentieth Annual Report of the Ministry of Health, I wrote that, although in each of the last five years we built over 300,000 houses—a total of 1,500,000 houses, equal to the complete rebuilding of the six great cities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds—although over a million men, women and children had been moved from the slums—although in 1919 there were only 8,000,000 houses in the whole country, while since then we have already built more than 4,000,000—despite these achievements, I said, we have still a long way to go. We did these things in spite of the dislocation of the last war, and given comradeship and unity, we shall be able to do them again.
We have heard to-night of the Industrial Revolution. If we go back to a period about 20 years after the Napoleonic Wars, if we go back to 1837, when the Industrial Revolution had been in full swing for some years, we can see the distance we have travelled since then. Then housing was neither controlled nor planned; there were no arrangements for necessities such as drainage or baths, or even proper fresh air. Paving, sewerage and scavenging were only to be found in a few places. The conditions of the farm worker was no better than the town dweller. He lived in a house of one or two rooms with naked walls—the bare brick or stone, and often a mud floor. There was no organised nursing, no clinics, no health visitors, no effective control of infectious disease. What was the result? It was not the healthy, vigorous, robust nation which we are assured would result if we swept away all the modern molly-coddling services.
In 1837 the average age at death was 20 years in Manchester, and 17 in Liverpool. Contrast those figures with the present expectation of life at birth: 59 years for a boy and 63 for a girl, or with 612 the results of the medical examination of the militiamen called up under the Military Training Act—90 per cent. fit, and all of them at an age at which people in Liverpool and Manchester were getting ready for their graves 100 years ago.
§ Mr. Elliot
No. These figures refer to the whole country and they differ from town to town. They refer to the country as a whole. They give the measure of the improvement we have been able to make. We have been able to wipe out cholera and typhus and almost extinguish smallpox; and the work is still going on. The present statistics show that we are adding inches in height and nearly a stone in weight to our school children. All these things are actually in progress, and these are the things that we have to remember when we are going into the battle of Armageddon, as we are doing to-day.
Reference has been made to-day to the standard of living, as revealed for instance in Sir John Orr's book "Food, Health and Income." As the result of these and other studies a good deal has been done in supplying free milk or cheap milk, cod liver oil and other supplements, particularly to children and nursing mothers. We have recently had a further survey of over 1,000 families throughout Great Britain in which Sir John Orr has again collaborated. These studies show that in the last three to five years there has been a notable increase in the consumption of the most nutritious foods—for instance there has been a 33 per cent. increase in the bone-forming element—calcium, a 20 per cent. increase in the consumption of iron, the blood-forming element, and a 16o per cent. increase in Vitamin A, one of the disease-resisting vitamins. That has all been done in the years between 1932–35 and the year when the last survey was made. That is all worth remembering as an instance of progress.
During the war our aim must be to keep in working order this vast machine, improving it from time to time as conditions permit. We have our eyes open to the need of adjusting it to whatever conditions may prevail when the world returns to sanity and peace. Nobody can foretell how long that return will be delayed or the circumstances in which we 613 shall find ourselves when it comes. Therefore we cannot plan in full detail but we must do what planning we can. Take for instance the problem of the hospitals. We had an interesting speech from the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) and in the course of further debate we had another very powerful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (sir F. Fremantle). The problem of co-ordination, and grouping and organisation of hospitals, both London and provincial, obviously is a matter of the greatest moment and importance to us just now.
Only this morning I got from Lord Nuffield the offer of 1,000,000 ordinary shares in Morris Motors, Limited—of the value of some £1,250,000—as a gift to a Central Fund for the co-ordination of hospital finance and policy in the provinces. Needless to say, I accepted forthwith, and to-morrow's papers will show another great step forward—a great piece of planning and funds to plan with, given, it is true, as a result of private enterprise in other directions. But I hope that no hon. Member in any part of the House would reject it on that account.
Time is short, and I do not wish to dilate upon that, but even in the midst of war and of these great preoccupations, we are still able to obtain these princely donations for the purposes which we all desire, namely, the forward-look, to see and plan, to organise the proper relationship of the voluntary hospital to the municipal hospital and the co-ordination of the hospital system as a whole. All these problems will require our closest attention. But it would be quite unfair for me, having asked the collaboration of all sections of the community, whether those who believe in State medicine or those who believe in private medicine, to co-operate with the emergency medical services, to take advantage of them, to impose upon the profession some system with which it was not wholly in agreement.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Following on that, in 1911 the profession was not in agreement with the National Health Insurance Act, which was imposed upon it, and the right hon. Gentleman will admit that perhaps as a direct result of that Act he is able to announce these figures ef the lower death-rate. Would he say that to-day 614 the profession would be without the National Health Insurance Act? I suggest that the profession would fight to keep it.
§ Mr. Elliot
That may be so, but I hope the hon. Member will also go with me thus far and agree that that was done in full peace time, when the profession was able to argue the case out one way and the other. I must be sure that I play fair and honourably with those who have handed over great powers to me in an emergency. I would not be justified, I think, in taking undue advantage of those concessions which have been made during the period of war. It would be unfair to presume upon them.
I spoke of the building industry. Many things have to be done. It is true that the building of houses by private enterprise has fallen away, but at present local authorities in England and Wales are engaged on the completion of more than 30,000 houses. That has only been made possible by close daily co-operation between the Departments concerned with building, the local authorities, and the trade unions. I hope we shall be able to assist the local authorities to secure the materials which are necessary to enable them to complete at least the bulk of the houses which they had begun when war broke out.
§ Mr. Elliot
The difficulties include Scotland. The review covers Scotland, as it covers the other part of the United Kingdom. Certainly, we have to keep in touch particularly with the building industry, because we have to consider other materials, which, it may be, will enable us to proceed with our plans. There is a shortage of certain key materials, such as timber. The trade union Members of the House will understand better than others that it may well mean some alteration of those lines of demarcation which are closely guarded in peace time by the unions concerned. But our aim must be to use all sections of the workers; otherwise we shall run the risk of a shortage of highly skilled trades later on.
The same kind of action is being taken in other Departments. I would say in general about the planning for the postwar period, that we must remember we 615 have a great social service machinery, much of which will only require adapting. We shall not require to build from new foundations, as we had to do in so many cases after the last war. In November, 1918, there was no contributory pensions scheme and no Unemployment Assistance Board; the local authorities had no direct responsibility for an efficient hospital service, and the destitute had no alternative but to go to the Poor Law authorities. The Ministry of Labour had hardly begun to function. Only a few trade boards existed, and the valuable structure of Whitley Councils had not started to develop.
Even the Trades Union Congress did not exist in its present form, and individual unions had not begun to coordinate their policy. To-day a great deal of machinery exists. What we have to be assured of are the good will and comradeship necessary to operate that machinery.
I believe that that good will and comradeship exist. We have seen the nation accept without demur the taxation of nearly £1, 000,000,000 in a single year, and we have seen the remarkable acceptance by the community of all the difficulties and hardships connected with the evacuation scheme. In particular, the reception areas have shown a spirit for which the naiton must always be deeply grateful and have evinced a spirit which, in itself, is the best testimony to the fact that we shall win the war. Who could have said that the national unity would have been sufficient to allow us to find homes in other people's households for over 1,500,000 people, entirely as a matter of good will and without the use of compulsory powers? Without the spirit of desiring to share one another's burdens that great movement could not have been carried through. Given a con- 616 tinuance of that spirit there is nothing that can prevent us successfully coping with our post-war problems and circumstances, however grave they may prove to be.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Sir Charles Edwards.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.