§ MINISTRY OF LABOUR.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £14,514,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Labour, including sums payable by the Exchequer to the Unemployment Fund, grants to local authorities, associations and other bodies in respect of unemployment insurance, Employment Exchange and other services; expenses of transfer and resettlement; expenses of training of unemployed persons and, on behalf of the Army Council and Air Council, of soldiers and airmen for employment," contribution towards the expenses of the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations); expenses of the Industrial Court; expenses in connection with national service; and sundry services."— [Note.— £9,750,000 has been voted on account. ]
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee to deal on the first Estimate with the various questions that arise on all the Votes with which the Ministry of Labour is concerned.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
I also think it will be for the convenience of the Committee that that course should be taken, and it will certainly be for the convenience of the Minister. The number of subjects for which the Minister of Labour is responsible is constantly growing and it is becoming increasingly difficult to give a thorough exposition of the whole of the work of the Department in one speech, in anything like the time which under modern conditions is generally desirable to be taken up. I must, therefore, do my best to cover as much ground as may be, and as briefly as possible. I welcome the opportunity of explaining my actions to the Committee for one or two special reasons. First of all, this Debate is 62 taking place on the morrow of the completion of one of the most swift, brilliant and successful administrative achievements in the history of Government, namely, the registration which, by the willing co-operation of the men concerned, the help of the Press and the British Broadcasting Corporation and the competence of the staff of the Ministry, was carried through on Saturday in connection with the new responsibility which is mine under the Military Training Act. I am sure the whole House will desire to pay a tribute to the manner in which that operation was carried through, an entirely new operation, without incident or difficulty, throughout the whole of Great Britain.
From my personal point of view this is an interesting week in which to present the Estimates, because to-day the figures are issued for publication of the last month's count, and they happen to show two things, first, a very large increase of employment and a large decrease in the registered unemployed. I also find it interesting to debate the Estimates this week, because on Thursday next I shall complete four years as Minister of Labour and begin my fifth year in an office which is not regarded as over long-lived for any individual occupant, or easy.
§ Mr. Brown
And not tired. The Committee will expect me to say a few words about the administration. The administration is carried on throughout the country by a staff of about 29,060 in nearly 1,200 Employment Exchanges, branch offices and local sub-offices. The Estimates show that the expenses under subheads A to F for the year ending 31st March, 1940, amount to £6,875,000 compared with about £6,317,000 in the previous financial year. For the year ending 31st March, 1940, the amount to be recovered from the Unemployment Fund, on the one hand, and the Unemployment Assistance Fund, on the other, is estimated to be £4,286,150 in the first case and £1,861,209 in the second case; a total of £6,147,359. The expenditure involved is estimated at £51,000,000 in the case of benefit and for unemployment allowances £39,000,000, a total of £80,000,000. The balance of administration expenses, £727,641, shows an increase of £130,256 over last year. I 63 need not detain the Committee long as to the reasons for this expenditure, but I will just mention them. In the first place, the Ministry has been operating the National Service scheme since the beginning of the year and the expenses of the 275 committees and sub-committees which have been set up under the scheme are included in the Estimate. We are also compiling a register of persons with administrative and scientific experience, and we have also to meet additional cost owing to the operation of the Road Haulage Act and the tribunals set up in connection with that Act. We have also certain administrative expenses in connection with the holidays-with-pay legislation which the House passed last year. These are the main items which are responsible for the increase in the amount of the Estimate.
Looking at the picture of the work of the Department as a whole the first thing which strikes anyone who attempts to make a survey of the administrative operations of the Ministry is the variety, complexity and importance of the operations which are carried out from day to day throughout the year. The services rendered by the Ministry of Labour and its staff are many and varied. We are concerned, in the first place, with placing men in employment, the problems of employment and unemployment, the training of adults, the training of juveniles, the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Acts and in meeting the demands of the Unemployment Insurance Board for allowances made under the Act of 1934. We also, of course, play a large though mostly a silent part in the conduct of industrial relations throughout the country, which I would point out have never been on a more satisfactory basis than they are at present. The number of disputes, most of them very small, which took place last year and the fact that we had the smallest number of days lost through trade disputes since 1934, apart from two particular years, are facts which indicate the effectiveness of the work done by the Industrial Relations Department of the Ministry, and are also indicative of the growing value of collective agreements between organised employers and trade unions throughout the ever widening range of our industrial life. We have also to deal with the administration of 64 the 47 trade boards, and last year we had also to consider a series of new problems arising throughout an Act which gave these bodies together with the agricultural wages committees power to enter upon schemes for instituting holidays with pay. We are also concerned with the operations of the International Labour Office. Last year it was our privilege to have as chairman of that organisation Mr. Leggett, who is a most able member of the Ministry of Labour staff. These are only a few illustrations of the scope of our work.
§ Mr. Brown
I have already said that we work with the Unemployment Assistance Board and that includes a test of need and a test of means. The test of need is much more important than the test of means. It is need which is met. I do not want to be controversial to-day, and although interruptions often provoke me I will only say this, that those who feel most strongly about the means test have been surprised at the smoothness with which the administration has worked during the two years since the original discussion took place in an atmosphere not so good as the atmosphere this afternoon. All the work of the Department has to be judged in relation to the whole setting of trade, industry and employment. What I want to do, if I can, is to ask the Committee to consider whether our administrative actions are in line with the needs of the times. It is an important question, and I think it must be answered in the light of a passage to be found in the report recently published of the new director of the International Labour Office, Mr. Winant. There can be no doubt whatever that the main direction of policy has been right. I welcome the opportunity of speaking to-day, since with the downward trend of unemployment and a sharp upward turn of employment, it is for the benefit of the whole Committee, not of one particular section, to concentrate, when things are going well, on the problems which remain to be solved and dealt with. Figures such as we were dealing with four months ago mask the real problem, and it is the real problem which faces the country which should be considered at a time when the figures are going in the way we all desire. The passage to which I refer in the report of 65 the Director of the International Labour organisation will be found on page 39. Mr. Winant is referring to the efforts of governments all over the world to deal with the problem of unemployment and he says:The insufficient results which these measures have had- from the point of view of remedying unemployment has led governments to make a close study of the structure of unemployment. This study has shown that the difficulties are largely due to the fact that the supply of labour is not adapted to the demand. Increasing attention has therefore been given to the question of the employment of elderly workers, the vocational training of young people, and the vocational retraining of the unemployed.
§ Mr. Tinker
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not quoting that passage for the purpose of hiding behind it.
§ Mr. Brown
That is the last thing I desire to do. Indeed, long before investigations were made by any other bodies into the problem of elderly and young men in employment, I called public attention to these two matters. I have always been keen not to mask the real problems but to face them. If it means inconvenience and serious debate it is right that these problems should be fully and freely discussed. I quoted the passage only in order to point out that the main lines of approach to the problem of the structure of employment have been lines which we ourselves have pursued for some years. That is an interesting and important fact. It brings me to the primary work of the Employment Exchanges. I do not think it is sufficiently realised that in placing men in work the Employment Exchanges are doing a great social work. In the early days it was on a small scale, but I want to put on record the view which we have to-day, after 30 years' experience of this work. What are its objects? In the first place it is to render the organisation of the labour market more efficient by assisting employers to get the best qualified workpeople available. That is the fundamental objective of the exchange system. Secondly, it renders it less necessary for unemployed men and women to endure the hardship of fruit- 66 less visits to firms who do not want their labour.
In order to carry out these two objects we have developed an increasing intercommunication between the centre and the divisional offices and between the divisional offices and the local offices. In 1938 the demands made by employers showed no general shortage of skilled labour, although there were a number of local shortages of skilled labour and it showed also that the exchanges had difficulty in meeting demands for certain types of skilled workers who possess highly specialised qualifications. I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that the demands made upon the exchanges by employers were slightly higher than in the previous year. The figures for the last calendar year of the number of vacancies notified was 3,152,816 and the proportion of these vacancies to the number of industrial engagements is very interesting. I have called attention in recent Debates to the fact that the demand for labour moves quickly. The fact that last year the exchanges had to handle over 3,000,000 vacancies shows how many jobs come to an end and how many jobs begin in the course of a year. We cannot, of course, tell what proportion this is of the number of new jobs that open up in the course of a year, but we have this indication.
We know the proportion of unemployed on the registers for whom the Employment Exchanges are able to find posts. The proportion last year was 28.3 per cent., which means that, since the exchanges filled 3,000,000 jobs for unemployed men themselves, there must have been, quite apart from those not coming on to the register at all, 9,000,000 changes of jobs. Of course, this does not mean-9,000,000 persons. It is this fact which makes a good deal of theoretical talk about planning ahead very difficult of acceptance by those who have to deal with the structure of industry, and it is this fact that has made me, during the last four years, consistently assert, when dealing with the total registered figure, that we do not deal with the problem by merely taking the figure registered on a given day as the number of unemployed at a given time. The fact is that a very large percentage of those on the total register at a given moment are men and women who are changing from one job to another.
§ Mr. Brown
Not necessarily. Every week there are hundreds of thousands of jobs that come to an end and hundreds of thousands of jobs that begin. It is not a question of insecurity in that case. There are men and women who were on the register when the figures were last taken who, by this time, are in other jobs in their own trades.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member is making a fallacious comparison, unless you assert that you have a system which deals with an industry which is of a routine or administrative character, instead of a dynamic industry, and unless you have some system, which no man can explain, whereby men can go immediately from one job to another. I think that on reflection the hon. Member will see that his comparison is a fallacious one.
§ Mr. Daggar
Are we to understand that the vacancies filled by the exchanges amounted to 3,000,000, whereas the persons who found jobs of their own accord amounted to 6,000,000? If so, does not this conflict with the observations made by the Chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board in the last report to the effect that there are numbers of unemployed who are not anxious to get employment?
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member is making a comparison over a narrow field. I do not accept his statement of the case. The Report was very carefully guarded, and pointed out very clearly that the great proportion of those who come to the Board for allowances are men and women who are eager and anxious to find jobs. There is no conflict at all. This is a comparison made for the guidance of the Committee and the country as to the real problem of unemployment, especially in that part of industry which is not static or regular, but dynamic in its very nature, because of the difference that there is from day to day in the demands of those who order the goods or services which, of course, provide the opportunities for labour.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I should like to ask the Minister two questions before he leaves this aspect of the matter. First, will he give figures as to the skilled labour available which he mentioned, and secondly, has he considered, and if not, will he consider, giving instructions to the managers to make a periodical analysis of the applicants in order that preference may be given, if practicable, to applicants who have been signed on the longest?
§ Mr. Brown
I will deal with those points later on in my speech. I have explained to the Committee the general lay-out as regards the work of the exchanges. Of course, the more the employers of the country are able to co-operate with the exchanges, the larger will be the proportion of jobs registered with the exchanges, and the more effective will be their work.
The Committee would like to have a statement of those registered up to date. It is as follows: On 15th May, insured persons between 16 and 64 in Great Britain at work were estimated to be 12,667,000, or 156,000 more than on 17th April this year, and 440,000 more than on 16th May, 1938. It is also 365,000 more than in May, 1937; 920,000 more than in May, 1936; 2,487,000 more than in May, 1932, and 2,611,000 more than in January, 1931. The improvement is a general one, and is especially marked over a wide range of industries and businesses —building, public works contracting, the iron and steel trade, tinplate— those concerned with the problem of West Wales will welcome this— engineering, shipbuilding, metal goods manufacture, textile, tailoring, dock and harbour services, distributive trades, hotel and boarding houses. All these show increases. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about the mining industry?"] There was not a big improvement in the mining industry, although there was no setback. I am now speaking of those industries which showed a marked improvement. I have never allowed myself, in the House or outside, to forget the mining industry, nor, in view of my three years at the Mines Department, have I any desire to forget it. I will add, in connection with these figures, that the numbers on the register last reached the 2,000,000 mark in January, 1939, when they were 2,039,026. There has been a fall of 546,744 in the numbers on the register 69 between January and May of this year and the numbers in employment increased between January and May from 12,079,000 to 12,667,000, or by 588,000. I have dealt with the employment side, which I wish to stress, and I will now deal with unemployment.
On 15th May, in Great Britain there were registered 1,234,001 fully unemployed persons, 198,617 temporarily stopped, 59,664 normally in casual employment—making a total of 1,492,282, which was 152,112 less than on 17th April, when the previous count was taken, and 286,523 less than on 16th May, 1938. I may add that unemployment was at its lowest recorded level since the end of 1929 on 21st June, 1937, when it reached the low figure of 1,356,600, or on the revised procedure, 1,308,000 out of work. The present total is 184,000 more than the figure for June last year, which was the lowest figure since 1929. I ought to mention that 1,354,812 applied for unemployment insurance or unemployment allowances.
Perhaps the Committee would like to look at the problem more closely in order to see what is happening in regard to the length of time the men and women are out of work. Of the total number, 275,000, or 20 per cent., were out of work for 12 months or more; 906,000, or 67 per cent., for less than six months; 731,000, or 54 per cent., for less than three months, and 564,000, or 42 per cent., for six weeks. The numbers on the register for 12 months or more reached the highest point in May, 1933, when it was 483,000. This month's figure shows a drop of 208,000 as compared with six years ago, and compares with the lowest previously recorded figure, which was in October, 1938, 275,367. The Committee will see that we have now reached a slightly lower figure than that. From this, hon. Members will be reassured as to whether or not the recent upswing of business is affecting the long-term unemployed; there is no doubt whatever that that operation is on its way. I may be asked what is happening in the various areas. Therefore, I will give a few more figures, although I will give as few as I can. The Committee will be glad to know that in every division there has been a substantial decrease. The largest was in the North West of England—an unusual experience of recent months—where there was a drop of 25,862. In 70 Scotland, there was a drop of 20,056; in the Midlands, 20,596; in Wales, 18,537; in the North East, 12,635. In the next largest area, the Northern area, there was a drop of 13,435. There is not a single division of the Ministry of Labour which does not show a large decrease in the latest returns.
§ Mr. George Hall
Can the Minister give the figures of unemployment in each of the areas to which he has referred?
§ Mr. T. Smith
Can he also say whether those figures refer to those unemployed or temporarily stopped?
§ Mr. Brown
I am doing my best, as I always do when I have a mass of figures, to take out the relevant figures in order to give a picture of the position. In every case I have given, it is a major case of a drop in the figures, no matter in what area. I could give the Committee a comparison of the drop in different industries, but the Parliamentary Secretary will try to give the actual figures of unemployment in the areas before the end of the Debate, if the Committee desires to have them.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I point out that the relevance of my hon. Friends request is that if we are without the actual figures of unemployment in each area for the remainder of the Debate, we shall not be able to discuss the question on a satisfactory basis and to discuss why it is that, in spite of rearmament and the boom in trade in particular areas there remains a large measure of unemployment?
§ Mr. Brown
I could not do that now. What I was offering was to do it before the end of the Debate to-night. If the House desires the percentage from last month's Gazette, I have it and all that needs doing is subtraction of the actual figures that I have given from the figures last time. But the Committee could not expect me to do that now in answer to a question.
Mr. West wood
It ought not to be difficult to get the actual figures, especially in view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has promised that the Parliamentary Secretary will give them in winding up, but it must be borne in mind that he will be winding up the Debate. He will be the last speaker and there will be no possibility of dealing with the points that we desire to emphasise in dealing with the problem.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
It is no good the Parliamentary Secretary giving us that at ten minutes to eleven. We want it now, so as to follow up the Debate. The Minister could give it us if he desired.
§ Mr. Brown
There is no question of "if I desired." I always desire to give the maximum of information. In fact I am accused of giving too much information and too many figures. Nevertheless, I will see what can be done before the end of the Debate. The hon. Member need not be quite so forthcoming about the issue, because this is not the last Debate that we shall have on the subject. It is not like a problem which has not been with us for years, the outlines of which we do not know. If I had the percentages worked out I would gladly have given them to the Committee.
Of course all this takes place in relation to the international background, and I 72 have to report that, as usual, a full delegation was sent to the International Labour Conference in June last year and a Convention on the subject of hours and wages was adopted with the full consent of our delegation. We also sent delegates to a conference on road transport held in March of this year, and last week to a preparatory technical conference on labour inspection. The Government has been represented at all the sessions of the Governing Body, the work of which has been closely followed. At the Government's invitation the October session of the Governing Body was held in London to mark the conclusion of the chairmanship held for the previous 12 months by Mr. Leggett of my Department. Amongst the many subjects dealt with by the Governing Body there were the questions of discrimination against elderly workers. I have promised the full co-operation of the Government with the International Labour Office in the examination they are now making on an international basis of this most important and difficult question and I am at this moment in communication with the National Federation of Employers' Organisations and the Trades Union Congress General Council on the subject with a view to making our aid as effective as it can possibly be made.
With regard to Conventions and recommendations adopted by the International Labour Conference at previous sessions one Convention relating to the recruiting of indigenous workers in 1936 has been recently ratified, while a detailed inquiry has been made by officers of my Department, in collaboration with the Board of Trade, in some of the principal ports in this country in order to determine what steps may be desirable to carry out the recommendation on seamen's welfare which was adopted in 1936 and which the Government has declared its intention to accept. If hon. Members will possess themselves of the report by the present Director of the International Labour Office and turn to the chart of the total number of Conventions, together with ratifications, they will be gratified to find the very high place that Great Britain takes in the number of Conventions which have been ratified in connection with the work of the International Labour Office. The number is 30. The largest number of ratifications was by Spain— 34—the next largest by 73 Chile, 33, the next by Belgium, 33, and apart from Nicaragua, which has also 32 and which has since left the International Labour Office, Great Britain has the highest number of Conventions ratified.
§ Mr. Brown
Of course, the Government which was recently the Government in Spain. It is no small claim that we can all make, irrespective of party, as patriotic citizens desiring to play our full part in the development of international action against evil conditions in industry and social life when we consider that several Conventions have not been ratified because as a matter of fact they do not fit in with our trade union social structure, though our standards may be higher than those laid down generally in the international Conventions. When hon. Members study the report they will have cause for great gratification.
I have already spoken about industrial relations but I should like to add one or two words. It is interesting, looking back upon the administration of the Ministry of Labour for the last year, that the increase in industrial activity during the past 12 months resulted in numerous claims for revision of wages and working conditions, and it is very satisfactory that that should have been accomplished with the maximum of good will in industry and with a more effective use of collective agreement than has ever been the case previously in our history. It is a tribute to the joint machinery that exists in a large majority of our industries. The Ministry has given consideration to various industries in which there is no joint machinery or in which the machinery has not up to the moment proved effective. In the case of the road haulage industry, legislation was found to be necessary, and an Act received the Royal Assent in July last.
In connection with Part I of that Act a central wages board, working in consultation with the local area boards, has been established to regulate the wages and conditions of some 200,000 people employed in connection with goods vehicles used under A and B licences. Meetings of the board have already been held, and I am awaiting proposals from the Central Board which, if acceptable, will be given statutory force. In the case 74 of workers employed under C licences, to the number of some 300,000, machinery has been provided by Part II to deal with complaints made by or on behalf of any workers who consider that the remuneration is unfair. If the complaint is found to be justified, statutory remuneration may also be fixed. Among other industries where the regulation of wages and working conditions has been under consideration are the distributive trades, the licensed trade, the cinema industry and the furniture and glove making trades.
In regard to holidays with pay, under the Act of 1938 wage-regulating authorities and the Road Haulage Central Wages Board were empowered to make provision for holidays with remuneration for the workers whose wages they regulate. It also enables the Minister to help voluntary schemes, and during the past 12 months a considerable number of new collective agreements has been reached. It is estimated that at present the number of persons covered by existing arrangements, or by the legislation under which holidays can be given, is over 11,000,000, and each day brings new notice from industry or from trade boards of action taken.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Can the Minister give exact figures of the number receiving holidays with pay who are paying for their holidays out of their wages?
§ Mr. Brown
I could not be expected to give a figure of that kind. I know what the hon. Member has in mind. It is the mining industry. But he must understand that the agreement is between the two sides of the industry, and it is for those two sides, on the review which takes place periodically of all the circumstances concerned, to decide whether or not they think the arrangement which they came to was wise or not. There is no industry in the land comparable with the mining industry in its structure, in its variety in different districts, or in the extraordinary number of grades affected. It is not quite as simple a problem as is sometimes suggested by these innocent questions thrown across the Floor.
§ Mr. Brown
I have not claimed any credit, although I might very well have done so if I had been making party points. I might have claimed that I was the Minister who removed the legal disqualification on the trade boards and agricultural wages committees. If that had not been done, they could not have made those agreements. What I am rejoicing at is the steady social improvement in this reform, and on this occasion when I am reviewing my administration I am entitled to point out that this is really a great social reform in administration, as each successive report that I give shows. That is also true with regard to the trade boards themselves. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), if he were present, would welcome my next point. New trade boards have been set up in, among other trades, the bakery trade, with the active co-operation of the organisation of the hon. Member for Wednesbury. I do not wish to make any party point in connection with these matters. The less attempt there is to score party points in connection with these questions the better. This is a question of co-operation between the employer, the workpeople and the Government and that, in my judgment, is the most suitable way to approach these problems. Where the Government can help with its technical and expert advice and assistance it is only right that it should do so, and that it should, in cases where it judges it wise to do so, come to Parliament to ask that these bodies should have authority which they did not previously possess. That the Government have done in several cases.
I am, therefore, glad to say that with the co-operation of the trade unions and the employers trade boards have been set up and the trade board for the bakery trade in England and Wales and in Scotland is now in active operation. The English board has published proposals in regard to minimum rates. It is to meet shortly to consider those proposals again, in the light of objections which have been received and it is my confident hope that its further deliberations will result in an agreed solution of the difficulties and misgivings which have been submitted to it. In the case of the Scottish board the first meeting has been held and I understand that rapid progress is being made in the constitution of district committees. Investigations made by my Department in 76 consequence of representations from some of the principal firms concerned, showed that the application of the Trade Board Act to the rubber manufacturing industry was desirable. That view was accepted after discussion by the representatives of both sides in the industry, and at their request a trade board was established. It met recently for the first time and my latest information is that it has formulated proposals which will be published in due course. These are remarkable tributes to the efficiency of the machinery provided by the Trade Boards Act which now regulates the wages of 1,300,000 workpeople, employed in 106,000 establishments in 43 trades.
With regard to the actual movement for holidays with pay inside the scope of the Trade Boards Act, the Committee will be glad to have the latest figures which show that full use has been made of these powers. There are 47 boards actually operating and of these all but three have made use of their powers; 36 have decided to frame schemes intended to become operative this summer and 12 of these have been actually confirmed and will be in operation by 12th June while four await confirmation. There are 20 schemes still in the proposal stage, all of which will become operative in the course of the next five or six weeks. One board has adopted a scheme which is not to operate until next year. Three have adopted the principle but have not yet settled details, while two have accepted the principle of paid holidays but prefer to proceed on a voluntary basis without regard to statutory powers.
§ Mr. Stephen
Will the Minister tell us the names of the trade boards which have not taken advantage of these new powers in regard to holiday schemes?
§ Mr. Brown
I will make inquiries and let the Committee know later. In addition, as I have said three have accepted the principle but have not settled the details while two have accepted the principle but prefer to proceed on a voluntary basis. I think that indicates that in the short time since the Act was passed last summer very satisfactory progress has been made. In regard to enforcements under the Trade Board Act, last year the inspectorate examined 18,700 establishments out of the 33,000 establishments which were on the list at the end of 1938, and brought under review the wages of 252,000 people. Out of every 100 persons whose wages were examined 97 were found to be receiving the proper minimum rate or more. Of the three workers in each 100 who were found to be underpaid, two were only slightly underpaid owing mainly to accidental misunderstandings or oversights. Only one in each 100 was found to be seriously underpaid, that is to say receiving less than 90 per cent, of the minimum wage which was legally due. These figures show a standard of compliance which is higher than may be generally realised.
Turning to the unemployment figures I shall be glad now to give to the Committee, not the actual percentage but figures which will enable hon. Members to see what the actual percentage is. In London the number of unemployed on 15th May, 1939, was 206,824, a drop of 19,000. In the South-Eastern division it was 86,944, a drop of 12,000; in the South-West division, 68,486, a drop of 9,000; in the Midlands, 155,390, a drop of 20,000; in the North-Eastern division, 168,807, a drop of 12,000; in the North-West division, 316,510, a drop of 25,000; in the Northern division, 143,902, a drop of 13,000; in Scotland, 221,645, a drop of 20,000, and in Wales, 123,774, a drop of 18,000.
I must apologise for having taken so much time but there are one or two other subjects to which I wish to allude before I finish. One thing which has emerged from our experience of recent months is that my protest against assuming that the total figure on the register is the standing army of unemployed, has been fully justified by events. In such a short period as four mouths we find a drop of 500,000 in the number on the register which proves that that is not the standing army. The standing army is a very 78 different thing. It is inside the total figure and it is a much smaller figure and it is focussed for us now, because we have the advantage annually of, not only the report of the Minister of Labour on the work of his Department, but also the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board on their administration. The establishment of the Board has enabled us to look at the problem much more clearly, in detail, than was possible before. The visitations to the homes of the unemployed enable the Board to be of increasing assistance to those who have not had the opportunity of work in recent days and especially those who have been unemployed for long periods.
It is clear that the total number of long-term unemployed is much smaller now in 1939 than the figure which was anticipated when the Board was set up at the end of 1934. Then we were talking about a register of 800,000 whereas recently the Board has been dealing with 600,000 and at the moment it is dealing with 581,000, but inside that figure there are two problems which stand out and which are not exclusive to this country but are common to other countries as well. One is the problem of the younger unemployed. The Board has made an investigation of 40,000 cases and they have also prepared a distribution by districts of the total number of male applicants under the age of 30 in receipt of unemployment assistance. That number in Great Britain is 106,800. That is the total number of those under 30 who are under the care of the Board. The second problem is the fact that two cities, outside London, have a disproportionately high number of these younger unemployed who are under the care of the Board.
§ Mr. Brown
No, I would not say definitely that they are long-term unemployed. If you use the expression "long-term" in the sense of meaning unemployed for 12 months and over, they are not; but if you use it in the sense of meaning those who have run out of benefit and are therefore unemployed for six months or more, then they do come within that category. The overwhelming majority would not be under the care of the Board unless they had got out of benefit. But I would prefer not to describe them as 79 "long-term" unemployed. As a rule, we mean by "long-term" those who have been unemployed for 12 months or more.
§ Mr. Westwood
Would it be possible to give the number in this total of 106,800 who have not been employed for more than six months during the last three years, because that point is dealt with specifically in the report.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not think the Board has power to give it in that way. I am calling attention to these facts because they are of real interest and may elicit constructive suggestions which we shall be glad to hear from all sides of the Committee. The Minister of Labour at this time is more vitally concerned than any other Member with finding a constructive solution for this very grave problem of the young men who are out of work. I was about to point out that two cities have a disproportionately large number of these younger unemployed. The first is Liverpool which, of this 106,800, has 11,900.
§ Mr. Brown
I was just coming to that. The other is Glasgow (1) district, that is the city of Glasgow proper as distinct from Glasgow (2), which includes districts rather outside the city. Glasgow (1) has 12,400 and when that is compared with the whole of Wales which has a figure of 13,000 it will be seen that in describing the returns for these two cities as disproportionately high, I did not exaggerate. It is the contraction in the great industries which has been mainly responsible for this and the absence of allocation of the supply of labour to meet demand. There is still need for hon. Members opposite as well as hon. Members on this side, to face the fact that one great problem in connection with the younger unemployed is the lack of inclination on the part of many of them to move away from their home areas.
§ Mr. Daggar
I resent the observation made by the Minister. It is a similar statement to that made by Lord Rushcliffe. I represent a division where over 11,000 people have migrated within the 80 last seven years. The right hon. Gentleman is paid £96 a week and is telling me these men do not want work and have no intention of finding it.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
Would the Minister tell me why he says that? Have these men not a right to resent being carted away from their homes? Have they not the right to resent the breaking up of their homes?
§ Mr. Brown
The whole policy of the Government has been to do everything possible to find work in the neighbourhood of a man's home, or failing that in a district near his home. I am now talking only about those men for whom work is not available in their own districts. I am analysing the facts which are to be found in these figures which hon. Members use for their own purposes and which I am entitled to use. When I am constantly asked inside and outside the House to increase training facilities and to find new instructors, I am entitled to ask those who make great demands of the Ministry to assist us by creating the sentiment which will enable us to solve the problem by getting the maximum of movement from areas where there is no opportunity for employment to those where there is opportunity.
§ Mr. Daggar
You did not say that. You said there was a great disinclination on the part of these men to seek employment outside their areas. I say there is one word in our language, of three letters, which fitly describes your observation.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Is there not a reason why unemployed men do not take advantage of these facilities? Should not the right hon. Gentleman look at his own Department before he starts blaming others?
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member must hold his own views. I have the responsibility for telling the Committee from my own knowledge of the situation what are 81 the facts. Whether it is in the location of new factories, or the allocation of Government contracts to depressed areas, or a forward movement of training juveniles, or providing training centres for semiskilled workers, or making a new experiment of local training centres for men who have not the aptness or the fitness to attend Government training centres, I assert that the story of the work done under the powers granted to the Minister of Labour in the last four years is one of remarkable progress. There have been in the last four years over 50,000 men placed from the Government training centres and the figure since the scheme started is over 100,000. All the time we have to have regard to the ebb and flow of industry not only in general but in particular trades for which we are able to train workers. The machinery is provided and none are more keen to take advantage of that machinery than the younger men.
I had intended saying something in regard to unemployment insurance in the last few years but I must apologise for having already taken too much time. I will only add one thing. The powers given to deal with unemployment in the last eight years have not only been used to give increased financial benefit to the unemployed. We have been able to concentrate on the real problem created by this total of some 600,000 souls that come under the Unemployment Assistance Board. I have every confidence that unemployment will drop and that more and more men will be provided with what the overwhelming majority of them desire— productive work.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Hall
We have listened with considerable patience to the last portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and with that part of it I propose to deal very fully before I sit down. The figures which the right hon. Gentleman threw across the Floor in the early part of his speech reminded me of the story of the boy who applied for an increase in wages. The employer almost proved to the boy that he was not employed by him at all. The right hon. Gentleman with the number of figures he gave almost seemed to indicate that there was no unemployment problem. He has explained that unemployment is not so bad if you look over it and round it and underneath it, rather 82 than at it. His speech was a profession of hope for the future but it was not a call to action to deal with the problem. Rather it was an excuse for inaction. I agree with him in some respects as to the efficiency of the administration of his Department and as to the efficient work that is done by the Employment Exchanges. They have become part of our national life. It may be that the registration which took place last Saturday was carried through very efficiently. At any rate I have received no complaints from my own area, and one can assume that it went through efficiently.
I would, however, like to mention some of the forms which young men had to sign, particularly those who expressed a preference to go into the Royal Air Force. I am told that they were asked to sign forms which if they had signed them would have placed them on the Reserve for five years. It was understood that they would be six months with the Army, Navy or Air Force and three and a-half years in the Reserve. With regard to administration generally I think that it can be admitted that the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act is running very smoothly, but we still have to complain that men who are unemployed are not getting sufficient benefit, and we still have to complain of the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Board, particularly with regard to the operation of the means test. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the reduction in the numbers of the unemployed. Who is there in the country who did not expect that announcement?
Whether it was the result of the efforts of the publicity branch of his Department, or only intelligent anticipation, we have been told for over a week that there was likely to be a reduction in the number of the unemployed. One South Wales paper told us that the right hon. Gentleman would have great news for the House to-day. We all welcome this reduction, but on this side we are not blind to some of these reasons for the reduction upon which the right hon. Gentleman did not touch. He has been busy lately with the Military Training Bill and other Measures not connected with his Department; otherwise he would know that it was not only the finding of work which was responsible for the reduction in the number of the unemployed. He must 83 realise that from the time rearmament started there has been a very large increase in the number of entrants into the armed forces. In the Air Force from 1936 until this year the number of entrants has increased by 70,000. If you take the armed forces together, there has been an increase of no fewer than 150,000 in the last few years. Conscription will probably make another reduction in the numbers on the live register, and if the right hon. Gentleman carries out the suggestion of starting labour camps we shall cure unemployment by adopting the policy Herr Hitler has adopted—conscription, labour camps and concentration camps.
§ Mr. De Chair
Will the hon. Member also mention the very successful experiment in concentration camps carried out by President Roosevelt in America?
§ Mr. Hall
I am simply dealing with Herr Hitler at the present time. I rather expected the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that we should pass a vote of thanks to Herr Hitler for enabling him to give the figures which he has presented this afternoon, for it must be remembered that rearmament is entirely responsible for the favourable employment and unemployment position in this country. But, notwithstanding the expenditure upon rearmament, there are still 1,500,000 persons unemployed—let the right hon. Gentleman divide the figures up as he may. He has told us that 1,230,000 are wholly unemployed even at the present time. There are one in eight of the insured workers unemployed There are 600,000 persons in receipt of unemployment allowances. Those figures represent the fatal casualties of our industrial changes. We readily admit that there has been an improvement in trade, but, as I have said, we are not blind to the cause. We know that the improvement is not such as to nourish confidence in the future. The Minister knows why there is this recovery. The Government are using much borrowed money and are spending freely on arms and on Civil Defence. This work is being carried through with a policy of credit expansion which is pushing production and employment upwards all along the line.
The intensification of Defence programmes has stopped the trade depression 84 of last year and early this year, when the unemployment figure reached more than 2,000,000. We expected a substantial fall in the figures and there are several reasons why the fall should continue. It must be remembered that less than two years ago, in September, 1937, the figure was 1,340,000. Since that time we have been committed to an expenditure upon war preparations and Civil Defence amounting to not less than £2,000,000,000, one quarter of what we spent in armaments during the Great War. No wonder the "Economist" last week described the trade recovery as a distorted boom. It is a distorted boom in that sense. I saw it estimated recently that the amount spent upon Defence in the first three months of this year was 25 per cent, higher than the amount in the last quarter of last year, and 50 per cent, higher than the average for the whole of last year; and defence expenditure this year will be more than half as much again as in 1938–39. In other words, the increase in expenditure expected over the whole year is nearly £250,000,000, approximating to nearly £5,000,000 a week. There are the reasons for the increase in the number of persons in employment and the reduction in the numbers of those unemployed. The expenditure upon armaments this year as compared with last year accounts for the total fall of our export trade in 1938 as compared with 1929—nearly £300,000,000.
The Minister himself will not deny that this huge expenditure has had considerable effect upon industry and employment. An increasing number of trades benefit—iron and steel, engineering, shipbuilding, munitions of all kinds, the motor car industry, the aeroplane industry, cotton, wool, boots and shoes. All these industries are receiving a stimulus from Government contracts, which are a set-off against the shrinkage of normal business. Last year the output of steel in this country was 2,500,000 tons less than it was in 1937, when we had a record output. This year, if the production of steel goes on at its present rate, it is likely that every steel works in the country will be working at full capacity and the output of steel will be round about 13,500,000 tons, nearly half as much again as the output in 1929. One has only to refer to some of the reports 85 coming in from various centres in the country.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the reduction in unemployment in Scotland. What is happening in Scotland? Shipbuilding and other armament contracts amounting to £150,000,000 have been carried out in the Clyde area. Four new armament and aircraft factories costing together about £10,000,000 have been erected at Scotstoun, Bishopston, Abbotsinch, and Hillington. Those four factories are expected to employ 25,000 men and several thousands in ancillary services. Notwithstanding this there are still more than 100,000 persons unemployed on the Clyde. The same story can be told of South Wales. We have had huge Government contracts, for which we are thankful. If the work is going we are pleased to have it. At Bridgend, at Pembray, at Glascoed and St. Athens there are between 15,000 and 20,000 persons employed. In addition, the orders for steel which have been coming to West Wales as a result of the work necessary for A.R.P. total something like 250,000 tons. We can quite understand why there has been a reduction in the number of unemployed. The marvel to us is that the reduction has not been greater.
There are still a number of unemployed in each of the industries referred to. In the coal-mining industry there are still 118,000 men unemployed, in the allied industries of steel production 45,000 men, in engineering, all branches, 61,000—I am giving the figures of the April return—shipbuilding and repairing 66,000, textiles 172,000, building and contracting 262,000. All this notwithstanding the intensification of the arms programme and spending on a scale which this nation has not known during peace times.
Let me come to the Special Areas. Durham has 20 per cent, of its insured persons unemployed, South Shields 30 per cent., Sunderland 28 per cent., the Hartlepools 29 per cent., Gateshead 27.3 per cent. In Wales, Merthyr Tydfil still has 40 per cent, of its insured persons unemployed. Does the right hon. Gentleman take any credit to himself in regard to this matter, at such a time as we are passing through? I have described him as the most fortunate Minister of Labour we have had since the War. He himself referred to the favourable position with regard to industrial disputes. He mentioned that in only two years since 1926 86 has the number of days lost through industrial disputes been less than the total for last year. I think he can go back to 1903 and say that in only three years during the whole of that period has this nation been so free from industrial disputes as it was last year and as it is at present. Therefore, as a result of the expenditure upon armaments and the calmness of the industrial population, the right hon. Gentleman has got something about which he can pat himself on the back. He mentioned also that Thursday of this week will be the fourth anniversary of his appointment as Minister of Labour. He has had the easiest task of any Minister of Labour since the War. Of course he has had to work hard, and he revels in it, but the fact that he still retains his job while there has been a change in almost every other Cabinet position indicates that he does his job so well for the Government that they are not anxious to transfer him.
I have given figures about the Special Areas; now let me come to the other districts. In his report for last year the right hon. Gentleman referred to the growth of London, the South-Western and the South-Eastern districts. Not only is there a growth of insured persons but there is a growth of unemployed persons in those areas. The figures I have are not quite up to date, but they are the latest I could get. In June, 1937, there were 137,000 unemployed in London, and in March, 1939, 217,000 unemployed, an increase of 70,000. In the South-Eastern district there was an increase of 51,000 in the unemployed, in the South-Western district an increase of 28,000 and in the Midlands of 43,000. When this expenditure upon armaments stops, as it must some day, there will be new problems for the Minister of Labour at that time, through the gradual creation of new special areas. In London the number of persons unemployed for a period of more than 12 months has increased by 5,000 during the last year, in the South-Western district the increase is over 1,000. In almost every district the number of persons who have been unemployed for more than 12 months shows a marked increase. This expenditure cannot go on. A few days ago the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said:This ruinous race of armaments now carries whole populations into the military machine. That cannot possibly continue for 87 five years, nor for four years, nor for three years. It may be that it will not continue beyond the present year.There is at the moment a consensus of opinion that war has at least been postponed, if not averted. We have a breathing space and we all hope and pray that the world will be spared war, which would be an indescribable tragedy and bring economic chaos, but if there be no war there must be, and possibly before long, a liquidation of this tremendous expenditure upon armaments. That will be no easy matter, for unless steps are taken now it must mean an army of some millions of unemployed, more distressed areas, and a financial stringency such as the country has not previously experienced. I think a new economic structure is inevitable to deal with the problems likely to arise at that time. There can be no return to the old economy. Otherwise, there will be the misery to which I have referred. One writer aptly put it in these words:It is literally true that the more rapidly we solve our unemployment problem by present-day methods the more obstinate it is likely to be in the future.I am concerned about the very indifferent way in which the Minister himself treats this problem of 1,500,000 men unemployed at the present time. Before we can solve the old unemployment problem we shall be faced with a new problem with which it will be impossible to deal.
The right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech to the taking of new industries into the Special Areas, which we know will not solve the unemployment problem; it will transfer it. Speaking as one who represents a Special Area I certainly feel that not sufficient has been done by the Government to induce industrialists to go down to the Special Areas. Let us take the position of the trading estates. There are three trading estates which must have cost, or will cost by the time they are completed, between £2,500,000 and £3,000,000. There is one in Wales, one in Durham and one in Scotland. In those three trading estates there are 289 different industries, and the total number of persons employed in those factories, which are all small, is 5,679. The average number of persons employed on the Team Valley Estate per factory is 27 persons; in the Treforest Estate the 88 average is 23 and in the Hillington Estate in Scotland, 18. You could have a trading estate of that magnitude in each of the Special Areas and in each of the urban areas in this country before the unemployment problem would be fully dealt with. The closing down of one colliery throws out of employment more persons than are employed on all the trading estates. Moreover, the labour employed on the trading estates is very largely juvenile labour, and there is the possibility of our being faced with the same difficulty which is referred to in the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board, the difficulty with which they are faced in Dundee at the present time. Sufficient has not been done to assist the Special Areas in the inducement of new industries.
A reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman to the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board which has just been issued, but that report is itself a condemnation of the Government's policy for dealing with the problem of long-term unemployment. No one who reads the report can fail to see how miserably the Government have failed to do their duty by these men. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that there has been a reduction in the number of applicants for assistance from the Unemployment Assistance Board by 600,000 persons under the control of the Board, but 50 per cent, of them are over 45 years of age. He referred also to the troubles which have arisen in connection with the young unemployed. The Unemployment Assistance Board have dealt with that matter and we know that of the 100,000 youths or young men under 30 years of age 50,000 have done little or no work for the last three years. What a commentary on the action of the Government. For eight years the Government have been in complete control of the Government machine. The Minister himself admitted that he has been responsible for four years for the policy of the Ministry of Labour. Even the Unemployment Assistance Board themselves have to complain about the inactivity of the Ministry of Labour in this matter. If there are unemployables, lack of opportunity for work is breeding them. The large majority of these men do not wish to live in idleness. They want work and are anxious for it. The Special Areas of this, country can give proof of that.
89 South Wales has been denuded of its youth, who have been taken or sent away. During the past 10 years, more than 300,000 persons have left the valleys of South Wales in search of work. Almost as many insured workers have been taken as have been left in that district. If you go to London, Slough, Luton and the Midlands you see large communities of people from the Special Areas. They have established themselves, in many cases under very great difficulty because of the hostility felt in the localities and the feeling that they were taking work away from others. Many of the men returned home for the reasons that they could not live in the conditions which they found in those districts. Very few fit men do not want work. Many men are suffering from a physical disability. Some have domestic reasons. I could give a case in point with which I had to deal on Saturday last of a young single man, the only son of a widowed mother. The mother was an invalid. He was asked to leave the district and he said: "If I do, the only alternative for my mother is to go into a public institution." After the use of some persuasion that man was allowed to stay. I take it that he would be one included in the list referred to by the Unemployment Assistance Board as reluctant to leave the district.
Many men are so deteriorated in efficiency that they have lost heart. They feel that there is no niche for them at their young age. Long unemployment is a crippling handicap. They are not to blame. They never should have been allowed to drift into such a condition. There is nothing better for the youth of this or any other country than work. The remedy is not training. You will find that many who have had training are still without work and possibly are included in the numbers referred to by the Unemployment Assistance Board because they can see the futility of being trained. Many who want training cannot get it. Last year only 11,600 men, apart from serving soldiers, entered Government training centres. After leaving, only 50 per cent, of them were able to obtain employment within six months of concluding their training. If additional training centres are required—I refer to vocational training centres and not to juvenile instructional centres which are quite all right to keep boys and girls from the street and their usefulness cannot be 90 described in better terms than that—I would remind hon. Members that the right hon. Gentleman and his Department have provided 8,600 places for vocational training. Four thousand of them are set aside for soldiers and airmen, who can attend during the last three months of their training. The places being provided by the Ministry of Labour for the single unemployed persons in this country are something like 4,600. The Unemployment Assistance Board have called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the point that greater facilities should be provided for the purposes of training.
A statement recently appeared in one of the South Wales papers on the question of training, in which was advocated what I and my hon. Friends advocate. Why should these vocational training centres be at Bristol, at Birmingham and at Park Royal, London? Why should they be in those prosperous areas, making it easier for an employer to get labour? Why should they not be in the Special Areas, which would then form a magnet to industrialists to come to the Special Areas to get their labour on the spot? This point was dealt with in a leading article which appeared in one of the South Wales papers and which said:It is difficult to make relevant to the plight of these men the proposals of Lord Rushcliffe in the introduction to the Report. Let them be trained and conditioned. For what? Let them be drafted to various parts of the country as contractors' conscripts to help erect the numerous Government factories in the course of construction. What is to become of their homes, their people, the social unit of which, despite a long ordeal, they are still members? Training and transfer are all very well for Southern England, where the average per 10,000 is 35.What of Merthyr where they have 889 per 10,000 under the Unemployment Assistance Board? What of Blain a where they have 763 per 10,000 of the population, or the Rhondda, where they have 754 per 10,000 of the population? If there are to be training centres, let those training centres be brought down into the Special Areas. That is not a newspaper representative of the political opinion of myself and my hon. Friends. It is a newspaper which gives unstinted support to the Government of the day, the "Western Mail."
We are not satisfied that the Ministry of Labour is doing all that it should to provide work for the unemployed of this 91 country. The Minister and his Department have really forgotten that they were brought into existence for the purpose not only of administering Unemployment Insurance but of acting as a kind of economic spearhead to find industrial opportunities and to see whether it is possible to find work for the men who are unemployed. The Minister and his Department have failed in their duty at a time like this when, even with this heavy expenditure, 1,500,000 persons are unemployed. The last time I spoke on unemployment in this House I said that if an accurate estimate were made of the number of men employed on munitions of all kinds in this country directly and indirectly, it would amount to about 2,500,000 persons. Had it not been for this expenditure that would be the story which the Minister of Labour would have to tell this afternoon. He has tried all the devices possible to a Tory Government: derating, tariffs, quotas, subsidies, training, transfer, trading estates and conscription. Now it is suggested that he should try compulsory labour camps. Nothing which the Minister or the Government have done, apart from extended credits and expanding taxation to spend money upon armaments, has touched the fringe of the problem of unemployment. That is why I propose that there should be a reduction of this Vote by £100.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. De Chair
I should like to draw particular attention to one or two paragraphs in the report to which the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) referred in his concluding observations, dealing with the question of training and instructional centres for the young unemployed. I should like to speak on this question partly because two of these centres are in my own constituency of South West Norfolk, and partly because I feel that there is a misunderstanding on the part of the Opposition about this question of labour camps for the young unemployed. If I may be allowed to give them some idea of the success of the experiment that has been made in America, I believe they will realise that it is possible in a democracy to carry through an experiment in providing work of vital national importance which can at the same time be of immense benefit to the unemployed themselves. It is customary in this country to proceed by 92 trial and error. We do that in nearly all departments of our lives. In the case of unemployment, one would not have minded if the trial had been spectacular and the errors very small, but it is difficult to resist the conclusion, viewing our unemployment problem, that the trial has been inconspicuous and the errors have been very considerable, because unemployment remains with us as a problem, in spite of the temporary reduction of the figures due to the purely fortuitous rearmament expenditure. Therefore, we have to see whether it is not possible to deal with this problem in a more spectacular manner than has hitherto been attempted in this country.
I think it was the Labour Government of 1929 that started instructional and training centres for the young unemployed. They were started in 1929, and have now been in operation for ten years, but I understand that during that period of ten years only 140,000 young unemployed have been provided with training in those centres. That does not seem to be a very considerable figure for a period of ten years, in relation to an unemployment problem of some 1,500,000 people. The Minister of Labour, in his speech this afternoon, referred to the fact that there are to-day 106,000 young unemployed under the age of 30 who have been unemployed for six months or more, and I think the majority of the House will agree that, where these young men have been out of work for six months or more, if employment could be found for them in healthy surroundings such as we already have for the training and instructional centres that are working in connection with the Forestry Commission in Norfolk, it would be desirable both from the point of view of the physique and morale of these young men and from the point of view of the nation that they should be able to undertake useful work. I am particularly interested to notice the reference to this problem in the Report of the Unemployment Assistance Board. On page 49 of the Report they say:The fact that an unemployed man who is leading a dreary and aimless existence is indifferent to the opportunities held out to him is often an indication of his need for that fresh outlook on life which it is the aim of the instructional centre to provide.On the following page they go on to say:It was with these considerations in mind that many of the committees recommended 93 in effect that payment of allowances should be made conditional, in certain cases, on the acceptance of training. The Board have no power to impose such a condition. They have, however, no doubt that, if any such permissive power existed, it could be so exercised that, with the assistance of advisory committees and subject to appeal to the appeal tribunals, all proper interests of applicants would be reasonably safeguarded.While the Minister was speaking this afternoon, an hon. Member opposite interjected that the only thing that remained for him to do was to adopt the practice of Herr Hitler and put all the unemployed into concentration camps. I took the liberty of intervening, during the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare, to remind him of the experiment carried out in America, where President Roosevelt set up civilian conservation camps, and the junior Member for Dundee immediately interjected that those camps were voluntary. I quite agree that they are voluntary in the sense that they are not like the German concentration camps, where a man is taken by the Gestapo from his home and placed on camp work whether he wishes it or not. They are, however, only voluntary in the sense that the man, if he does not want to attend them, has to forego the relief; to that extent they are compulsory. If the applicant is not willing to go to a civilian conservation camp, he does not get State relief. So I think it will be agreed that, if it were possible to ask these 106,000 young unemployed who are under 30 to attend instructional or training centres as a condition of receiving relief, they would be in precisely the same position, they would be precisely as voluntary, as are the civilian conservation camps in the United States. I think it is scarcely realised in this country how succesful those civilian conservation camps have been. President Roosevelt started the experiment in 1933, and the "Times" of 31st March last year, in a very interesting article on the subject, said that the purpose was:to relieve widespread distress by unemployment, particularly among youths, by ' advancing an orderly programme of public works, and to arrest the destruction of fields and forest.The "Times" went on to say that in the opinion of all sections of the community in America, even those most hostile to the Roosevelt administration, this experiment of civilian conservation camps has been an outstanding success. A hostile Congress continued its life for a second three 94 years. It would not make it permanent, as the President desired, but did not dare to kill it.
The original scheme in America was that 300,000 young men should be given work in outdoor camps, each camp having 200men. They were to be employed for six months, and were to get 30 dollars a month, four-fifths of which was to go to their dependants so that the young unemployed man in one of these camps merely retained a sum equivalent to pocket money, while the bulk of the pay received went to his dependants. During the first four years of the scheme, some thing like 2,000,000 idle young men were given work in these civilian conservation camps, and accomplished a huge amount of useful conservation work. It may be of interest to mention that all these young men gained in weight by, on an average, 9 lbs. during the first six months —
§ Mr. De Chair
The actual camps were built of wooden hutments by the War Department, but there was to be no military training of any kind. The administration of the camps was to be under the War Department, but the work done in the camps was to be of a purely civilian character. There was to be a certain amount of discipline. The young men got up at six in the morning and made their beds, and did a day's work of eight hours, but the spirit in the camps has been one of universal enjoyment. I believe that throughout these civilian conservation camps the young men thoroughly enjoyed their time there. Educational facilities are provided for them in the evening if they desired them, and all those who passed through the camps came out at the end of the time very much better citizens and feeling very much fitter in themselves. Of the 2,000,000 who went through these civilian conservation camps during the first four years, 400,000 found jobs before their term of training was completed, and here I would like to make it quite clear that it was never intended that these young men should be conscripted for the whole period of six months. If, while they were in the camp, they could get employment, they were entitled to take it and go off, and employers found, when they were considering candidates for jobs, that, as between the young fellow who had been in a camp and was fit and well 95 and the one who had not, invariably the man who had done the training was the better man for the job.
It seems very difficult to understand why, if 2,000,000 young men could be found employment in four years in these centres in America, such a small measure of success as regards numbers has attended the experiment in England. I think one reason is that the period in England is only three months, which is hardly sufficient time for the young man to get accustomed to the surroundings and learn any useful work. In these civilian conservation camps in America, young men are allowed to re-enrol up to a period of two years, and they frequently do so. In England, if the period were six months, and if it were made obligatory on all young unemployed men, as a condition of receiving relief, that they should attend one of the camps, I believe they could be set to do work of importance to the nation, so that the country would benefit both from the social point of view by a contribution to the welfare of the unemployed and also from the point of view of benefit to the land.
I know it is argued that there is a tremendous difference in climatic conditions between this country and the United States, and that, while it was possible in the United States to put the 3,500,000 young men who have been through these camps on to work of a forestry nature, it would not be possible in this country. The work actually done in America comprised forest culture; forest protection; erosion control; flood control, irrigation and draining; transporation improvement; structural improvements; range development; wild life conservation; and landscape and recreational work in parks and forests. During the four years they planted more than a billion trees and built 3,000,000 check dams. I do not suggest that there is work on that scale to be done in this country, but no one who knows the land of this country can pretend that there are not vast areas which to-day are in a neglected and uncultivated state, which are suitable for afforestation, and which could with benefit to the country be subjected to afforestation.
I asked my right hon. and gallant Friend who represents the Forestry Commissioners in this House how many acres of land there are in this country, too 96 derelict for agricultural use under present economic conditions, which would be suitable for planting with trees, and the answer I received was very startling. I was told that, assuming I had in mind land such as rough pasture which is not now cultivated, the Forestry Commission estimated that there were some 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 acres in Great Britain which might be suitable for the production of timber, and I believe that a vast quantity of that land, which is not now producing food, could be putdown to timber. In this country only 6 per cent, of our land is under forest, as compared with 18 per cent, in Belgium, 26 per cent, in France, and 40 per cent, in Sweden. If there is that amount of scope for afforestation surely these young men could be put on to that work.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
May I ask the hon. Member, whose remarks interest me very much—he has been gripping me so far— whether he would propose to pay these young men the trade union wage, or to pay them the 10s. Unemployment Assistance Board scale while they are doing this job? What is his solution there?
§ Mr. De Chair
The present position with regard to these young men in instructional centres is that they get pocket money and send the remainder of their pay to their dependants, and I think that a scheme similar to the one adopted in America would have to be adopted here.
§ Mr. De Chair
I agree with the hon. Member, and am glad to have interested him up to this point. I can assure him that I would like to see these young men getting a fair amount of pocket money while in camp and being able to send to their dependants in the Special Areas a considerable amount of relief. The Minister of Labour, in his reply to me, said that he understood that it cost about £1 per head over and above their allowances to maintain these young men in the instructional centres. That amount would have to be taken into consideration but I do not think that that is an insuperable problem. Obviously, if 97 they are doing work of national importance, such as afforestation, which ought to be done, they are entitled to an adequate amount of public relief for their dependants.
Here we come up against a very conservatively-minded Forestry Commission. They are thinking in terms of forestry; not in terms of the human problem. They are thinking that these young unemployed men would not be able to plant trees with sufficient accuracy for 100per cent, of the trees to survive, and they are thinking that their rotation of trees might be thrown out of place. But the Forestry Commission must not be allowed to prejudice the mind of the Minister of Labour on this point. We have to approach these questions of afforestation, coast erosion and drainage from the human point of view. If these young men were allowed to be in these camps for six months of the year I believe they could do just as useful work as is done by the young men in the civilian camps in America. They do not worry in America whether every tree comes to maturity in 90 years. Possibly half the trees do not come to maturity at all; but the fact remains that a great deal is being done—a belt of forest 1,000 miles long and 100 miles wide has been planted —and there is nothing that the young unemployed in America can do that cannot be done by the young unemployed here.
I know that the Forestry Commission say that if we were now to embark on an experiment we should not obtain the young seedling trees for another four years; but they ought to have thought of that four years ago, and then we should have had them now. In the meantime, there is the field drainage of this country, which could be brought into a state of perfection, and vast stretches of our coast line are annually being washed away by the inroads of the ocean. Much could be done to deal with these matters by young men working for six months of the year at work of national importance.
I ask the Minister not to be deterred by the conservative attitude of the Forestry Commission. I know that in the past Ministries have changed their minds. We have seen in this country frequent changes of mind. I have never attended a Cabinet meeting, but I know what happens. Some Bill which has been having a rough passage in the House 98 of Commons comes up for discussion. The Prime Minister says, "Who is responsible for this Bill?" Some young Minister pipes up, and says, "I am." The Prime Minister says, "Is this a good Bill?" The Minister says, "You bet it is" or words to that effect. Then they send for the Chief Whip and say, "Is this Bill likely to cause trouble?" He says, '' Trouble! You never saw such trouble. "And then they say," We are all strong men here; we can afford to change our minds. "I remember the Unemployment Assistance regulations on one occasion. They said to the Minister of Labour," Are these regulations good regulations? "He said," You bet they are, "or words to that effect. Then they said to the Chief Whip," Are they likely to cause any trouble? "He said, "You bet they are causing trouble" So they said, "We are all strong men here; we can afford to change our minds"; and the regulations were withdrawn. So now I ask the Government to embrace the idea of National Labour Reserve camps for providing useful employment which will be of lasting benefit to the physique and moral of the young unemployed.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
We recently set up a Select Committee in this House in order to inquire into the application of the Official Secrets Acts to Members of Parliament. After the authentic account we have just had of what goes on at a Cabinet meeting, I am sure that the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) will be the first test case. I am tempted to follow him, but I refrain because of the advice which Mr. Speaker gave us the other day, and because I know that many hon. Members want to take part in the Debate. The only way the House can review the work of the Unemployment Assistance Board is on a Ministry of Labour Supply day or on the Motion for the Adjournment. It is very necessary that we should exercise whatever degree of Parliamentary control over the Board is now left to us. But this is not a very satisfactory method, because there are many issues raised in this report which cannot be discussed without suggesting legislation—which is not permitted on a Supply day. It would be, to my mind, far better if a day were set aside in each Session when the report of the Board could be brought before the House on a substantive Motion, either 99 "That the report be considered" or "That the report be approved." But there are three aspects of the work of the Board to which I want to call the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary and the Committee. A considerable amount of space is devoted in this report to that class of persons who are described, in typical official English, as "separated dependants." Pages 13, 14 and 15 are devoted to this problem. I want to draw attention to two passages. First, there is a passage on page 13, where the Board prove that they have no power to pay money to an applicant in respect of his wife or children when the wife has obtained a separation order against him. They set out their reasoning, and say:It follows that if an applicant's wife or child has ceased to be a member of his household the Board cannot, in assessing the allowance to be paid to the applicant, include the needs of the wife or child.That is clear enough. They say they cannot do it. But on the next page they proceed to consider the case of men against whom separation orders have been made while they were in work or receiving standard benefit, and they say:The Board came to the conclusion that in such a case it would be proper for them to treat such a case exceptionally and to exercise their discretion to enable him to continue to make such remittances as he had made while in receipt of benefit.There seems to be an obvious contradiction between those two passages. Either the Board have power to make the payments, or they have not. After all these months, we have received a report which contradicts itself. I want to remind the Committee of the memorandum that was laid before us when we considered the unemployment regulations two or three years ago. Not only were the regulations given to us, but the Board issued an Explanatory Memorandum telling us how the regulations were expected to work. On page 24 there is a paragraph headed: "Personal Requirements. Adjustment of allowance for special circumstances." The paragraph contains these words:A wage-earner may be under the necessity of maintaining a relatively high standard of personal appearance or have some special personal liability such as a Court Order.It is precisely that liability that the Board now say they are not in a position to meet. That seems to me to be an odd 100 situation. If it is so clear that the Board may not make payments of that kind, why was it not clear at the time that the memorandum was drafted and at the time when it was presented to the House of Commons? That memorandum, which was presented for our enlightenment, was definitely misleading—I do not say that it was meant to be so, but it did mislead the House—and some explanation ought to be given.
I want to refer to one case which arose quite recently in my constituency and was considered in the Dundee Sheriff Court. I have given notice to the Parliamentary Secretary that I want to raise this matter, because it was in the nature of a test case. It was the case of a Mrs. Brown. On 16th December last year she had obtained a decree against her husband on grounds of cruelty. The order was that she should receive 15s. weekly for herself and 4s. weekly for each of her three children. The Unemployment Assistance Board declined to pay the money to the husband to transmit to the wife and children, holding that they were not liable to pay because, in their view, the wife and children were not members of the applicant's household. On 26th November the public assistance committee refused to pay the woman relief, on the ground that the Board were liable on a proper construction of the Act. Mrs. Brown not unnaturally appealed to the sheriff court, and on 26th February the sheriff-substitute gave judgment. He was, of course, precluded from exercising jurisdiction over the Unemployment Assistance Board, because, by Section 39 of the 1934 Act, the question of allowances is to be decided only by the tribunal set up under the Act, and there is no appeal from its decision to a court of law. That is, in my judgment, an obvious flaw in the Act.
But the sheriff-substitute did give his opinion on the construction of the Act. It would be presumptuous of me to extol the opinion that he gave; but I think the arguments he used—and expressed very forcibly—should receive the very serious attention of the Board and of the Ministry of Labour. I think I can make the substance of the judgment quite clear by giving two quite short passages. On the construction of Section 38, Sub-section (2), of the 1934 Act, the sheriff-substitute said: 101The ruling provision of the Sub-section is contained in the words ' shall be determined by reference to his needs,' which provision and words govern the whole of the Sub-section. It is the needs of the applicant that are to form the basis of assessment in determining the allowance to be granted to him. What follows is ancillary to that provision, and—what is of the utmost importance to observe—so far from detracting from or limiting the scope of the main provision, it amplifies it. ' Including ' means ' additional to,' not ' in limitation of.' The determination of the Board seems to have been based on the use of the word ' household,' the conclusion being that no allowance has to be made in respect of persons other than the applicant unless they are actually resident in his household. The Sub-section does not say so and such, I think, is not the intention.Later on he said:Can it be doubted that the obligation and duty which the law places on a husband of supporting his wife and family who are in need of support constitutes part of his needs?The reasoning there will be fairly clear to the Committee. He could not deal with the matter in the sense that he could not give judgment against the Board, but the issues which are raised in that judgment ought to be considered by the Minister. Will the Board agree to join with the Dundee Corporation, or with any other local authority for that matter, in presenting a special case to a court of law for its opinion of the correct interpretation of Section 38 of the Unemployment Act? This is a very important matter. I do not give the details of this case simply for the sake of this case alone, but because these cases arise in a great many places. The Unemployment Assistance Board are placing a very narrow construction on some of the terms of the Act.
The following is another case which arose recently in my constituency. There was a boy aged seven years, son of an applicant to the Board. The boy was slightly abnormal and he attended the Child Guidance Clinic where a recommendation was made that he should receive psychiatric treatment. As there was no psychiatric specialist in Dundee, an arrangement was made for the boy to be boarded in a dwelling-house near Aberdeen for about two months, in order that he might receive the necessary treatment. The Dundee Education Committee, to facilitate the treatment, agreed to contribute a sum to supplement the allowance in respect of the boy and thereby provide for his maintenance during his residence 102 in Aberdeen. This is the point I want to bring to the attention of the Committee. The Board reduced the parent's allowance as soon as the boy went to Aberdeen on the ground that the boy was no longer a member of the household. That is putting on the Act a construction which I do not think that this House ever intended when the Act was passed.
As the Committee know, during the last Parliament, when we had very heated debates upon the means test, a great deal of attention was devoted to the question of disability pensions. It will be within the recollection of many hon. Members that many speeches were made on this subject in the years from 1931 onwards. Eventually it was laid down in the clearest terms in the 1934 Act that, in assessing the allowances to be paid by the Board, the first £1 of any wounds or disability pension should be disregarded. What has happened? If you take the case where £1 is going into the household because the pensioner was wounded in the War, it frequently happens that that £1 is divided into two sums—the disability pension that is made to the man, and the supplementary allowance that is made for his wife. There are cases where 16s. is paid to the man and 4s. in respect of the wife. Each of those sums is paid in respect of the man's disability. If the man had not been wounded in the War, neither the 16s. or the 4s. would be payable. The Board ignores the man's allowance in the case of the 16s. and proceeds to take the wife's 4s. into account. Again, I believe that that was something which was never in the contemplation of the House of Commons when the 1934 Act was passed. No doubt the Board is acting on advice, but that is a matter which should be reconsidered both by the heads of the Board and by the Ministry.
I was glad to see one feature of the report, that special attention was devoted to the problem of blind-alley employment. There is a passage on page 168 of the report which is of particular interest to me because it refers to the position of blind-alley employment in the East of Scotland, and in particular in my constituency. No one who knows the city of Dundee can fail to be aware of the gravity of this problem. It frequently happens—I am sure the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) will agree with me in this—that in Dundee you meet a 103 young man who is perhaps 24 or 25 years of age who went into the jute mills at the age of 14,worked there until he was 18, when his employment in those mills came to an end. From then on, year after year, he goes on, occasionally getting an odd job or some casual employment, but there is no work for him in the mills. There is no place for him in the only industry for which he has had any training whatever. The Board in its report draws attention to this problem in the East of Scotland particularly in the most forcible terms and points out that:The Angus and Kincardine (South) Committee established that 72 per cent, of the young men interviewed were in their earlier years connected with the jute industry, which offers attractive wages to boys of 14, but retains only a small proportion when they reach the age of 18.The Minister objects to the use of the phrase "standing army" in connection with unemployment. But when you have conditions like those which prevail in Dundee, and, as he said in his speech, in certain other towns in Scotland and in England, you are creating in those districts what is indeed a standing army of unemployed because there is very little prospect of their getting any continuous employment after they are thrown out of the mills at the age of 18. I notice that in the preface to the report Lord Rushcliffe, on page 4, makes special reference to this matter. He says that:Experience of these limited efforts clearly indicates that the whole question of blind-alley employment should be brought under immediate and intensive examination.I take it that there he has envisaged an examination far more thorough and far wider in its scope than the Board can possibly undertake. It would be welcomed by the whole Committee if we could have an announcement from that Box to-night that such an examination and inquiry is to be undertaken in the very near future. There should be the inquiry that he suggests. It is necessary to do far more in the way of providing training facilities for those young men when they leave the mills. Though it sounds like a truism, in districts like the constituency I represent, and in similar districts, it is no use in the long run providing even training facilities, unless you provide work for them to do after they have been trained.
104 That brings me to the last point I Want to make. The Minister referred in his speech to-day to the position in the Special Areas and to all that has been done for the Special Areas under the 1934 and the 1937 Acts. He knows perfectly well—and it is a point which many of us have frequently emphasised in recent Debates—there are many areas nowadays which are worse off in the matter of unemployment than some of the scheduled Special Areas, and yet they receive none of the advantages which are available under the Acts. When the 1937 Act was passed, Sections 5 and 6 were included in order that loans might be made in these other areas suffering from heavy and prolonged unemployment, but the Minister knows that, except in Lancashire, these Sections have been practically a dead letter.
The advantages given to industries going to the Special Areas are such that a new industry in any district or region is almost bound to be drawn into the pool of the Special Areas, and the inducements given under Sections 5 and 6 of the 1937 Act cannot possibly compete. At the beginning of the Session last year, on the Debate on the Address, an announcement was made on the subject by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. He told us that the Government had been reconsidering the matter and decided to bring forward fresh proposals under which loan facilities would be made more readily available for new enterprises in these other areas. That was in November. Since then many of us have constantly been putting questions to the Minister, and also to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, as to the details of the scheme. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has asked the Minister about it on three or four occasions, and I have myself put a series of questions both to the Ministry of Labour and the Treasury on this subject.
We are now at the beginning of June, and nearly eight months have elapsed and we have not had the faintest inkling of this new plan which the Government are to produce to help these areas which are suffering from prolonged unemployment. It took 18 months to produce the set of unemployment Regulations, but surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to be able to do this in rather a shorter time. 105 I have been describing the position existing in certain areas which receive no special assistance under the Special Areas Acts and whose position is injured to some extent by those Acts. I do not blame the Government for the existence of this state of affairs, but I do blame them for their tardiness in producing measures to meet it.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Butcher
I feel that this is one of the occasions when the Ministry of Labour can congratulate itself upon being the centre of the picture. As recently as last Saturday there was the very significant and historic occasion of the enrolment of young men between 20 and 21 under the Military Service Act. The fact that it passed off so successfully is due not only to my right hon. Friend in steering the Bill through this House, but even more—and I know he will agree—to the actual work of administration carried out over the counter by the rank-and-file officers of the Ministry of Labour up and down the country. The personal contact which exists between the Ministry of Labour and the people, for it is now not only the unemployed population making use of the offices of the Ministry, should be extended. I am going to ask the Minister if he will, therefore, during the next few months, before unemployment becomes heavy in the agricultural districts, endeavour to secure that the services of one of the permanent officers of his Department are available in some of the outlying districts, where at present the Ministry is only represented by an agent. The number of people registering in some of these districts is too heavy except for a skilled and experienced officer to deal with if the Minister is to do the justice to the workers that he desires.
This, I think, is the first time that the work of the Ministry has been reviewed in the light of the conditions imposed on this country by recent developments in foreign affairs. It was very noticeable in the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) that his mind was directed to the reaction of current affairs on the Continent of Europe on the problems of employment in this country. He suggested that the improving and satisfactory figures of unemployment were largely due to the expenditure on rearmament. That may be so, but the very need for this rearmament has also a negative effect 106 on the figures of unemployment. Factories may be extended in order to provide munitions, while building contractors may be deliberately curtailing their commitments for the provision of private houses until they see how the international situation will shape in the next few years. It is, therefore, not fair to give all the credit for the increase in employment to the rearmament programme, and not be prepared at the same time to make substantial allowances for the difficulties which this country and the world as a whole are facing as a result of the international situation.
There is another thing with which, I think, if we are to maintain a fair balance, we must be struck, namely, the fact that there are available, as can be seen from the advertisement columns of many newspapers, jobs for skilled men, while at the same time we have large numbers of unskilled men for whom jobs are needed; and I hope that, before this subject is reviewed again a year hence, the Ministry will concentrate its attention on providing these men of good will with the skill that they need to fill some of the jobs that are available. In this the Minister may require the assistance of the trade unions. I believe that it will be forthcoming, because the last thing the trade unions will wish to be told by the workers is that they are preventing men from getting jobs. I realise that during the last War serious problems of dilution were created, particularly in the engineering industry, and this question must be closely watched, so that the rather acrimonious backwash from that controversy does not occur again.
We must also maintain the balance in this country as between one citizen and another. Through the agency of the Ministry of Labour we can hardly approach all the young men who are under apprenticeship in an engineering works, or are training to be doctors, or developing a position of responsibility in a retail business and say, "The needs of your country are such that you must forsake your present occupation and undertake six months military service," and at the same time have a large number of men, separated by only a few months from them, who have been, continuously idle for a very long period indeed.
We are now at a period of time in the history of the world when there is a new 107 spirit of migration in action, not only in this country. There has been migration from certain parts of the Special Areas to the more prosperous South, but also there have been forced migrations. They are taking place in Germany, where the Jews and the non-Aryans are being expelled, and there is a migration of Italians and of Czechs into the interior of the Reich. These migrations are organised by a dictator. I would like to see us take this opportunity, while we are reviewing the work of the Ministry of Labour in the special conditions that obtain to-day, to see how we can best use this natural tendency to migration. I think that the Ministry of Labour, for example, in co-operation with other Departments in these present circumstances —which are not quite peace, and not quite war—might push forward the development of the efforts to produce industrial spirit from our own coal resources. I know I should be out of order if I developed that point further, and therefore I will leave it.
I think I shall be on stronger ground if I point to one item in the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board, where it is mentioned that some of the miners of the Somerset coal industry have taken up rough agricultural work close to their homes. I believe that if many men who have been out of work in industrial areas could be transferred nearer to the countryside there would be a greater opportunity of their finding work of their own volition. I do not want to follow the observation of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) on the subject of conservation camps, except to say that in these days there is much to be said for ensuring the production on our own soil of the maximum amount of food, and idle fields should be brought into touch with idle hands. I feel that the Ministry have done much, but I hope they will not rest on their oars, but realise that, with every fall in the unemployment figures, the problem becomes more and more easy of solution.
I would like to support the appeal made by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) for a most searching inquiry into the problem of the blind-alley employments of young people. The Minister is faced with an impossible task if, having trained and restored to industry some of 108 the old applicants of the Unemployment Assistance Board, their places are taken by young people who become unemployed after a few years employment at relatively high wages. I believe that if we can once stop this blind-alley employment we shall have gone a very long way indeed to master and overcome the problem of long-term unemployment.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Daggar
I hope that the Government will pay no regard to the suggestion just made, that we should have another survey or inquiry. If there is any subject upon which this Government is well informed it is that of unemployment. Apart from the difficulties which confront the mining industry there has been no problem which we have had so many commissions and reports and so many surveys and inquiries, by representatives of the Government and by private individuals, as this question of unemployment. I think there is a lot to be said for the observation made by Professor Keynes that immediately a Government is well informed it has to confront the difficulty of dealing with a problem upon which so much information has been gathered. I very much regret that the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) is no longer present, because I wanted to assure him that, far from being thrilled by his observations on the proposed camps, we were almost bored to death, because we have had similar observations from that hon. Gentleman when he has taken part in previous Debates. And this is not the first time he has had a brain wave. The first contribution he made to a discussion on unemployment was a suggestion that the food that was left unconsumed in the restaurants of London should be collected for distribution among the unemployed in this country, and if an hon. Gentleman, after coming back from America, cannot make more intelligent observations on unemployment, I suggest that his time is wasted in addressing Members on this side of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour has made a speech in his usual glowing terms, but to us it was a speech of no importance, apart from the gloom that he cast upon those of us who represent the distressed areas. I may be permitted to say, with all the respect that he deserves, that in the parts of his speech 109 which lacked sense he made up for that defect by plenty of sound. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) reminded us that the right hon. Gentleman was about to begin his fifth year in office as Minister of Labour. The right hon. Gentleman holds that office because his predecessor, a self-respecting Tory, would not undertake the duties that renegade Liberals on that side of the House are always prepared to undertake. It is obvious that if there is any political work of a dirty character to be done, it is done by renegade Liberals on the Front Bench opposite. They can be relied on to carry it out with complete satisfaction to their employers.
I want to refer briefly to two matters. The first is in connection with a passage in the Unemployment Assistance Board's Report for which the chairman is responsible. He says that applicants who would probably accept work if it were offered to them have fallen into such a condition of mind or body that they make no personal effort to obtain it. I want to say that the unemployed in this country resent that observation, and so do we who sit upon these benches. Does the chairman of the board desire to introduce the "not-genuinely-seeking-work" condition? If he does, he will find it is a task beyond him, and beyond the Government. The Government's treatment of unemployment is certainly not above reproach, and I want to give an example of what I mean. I have asked the Minister of Labour to deal with this case. I have a young man in my division who found employment, not provided by the Ministry of Labour. He came to London, and after being here for some months, he was informed that the pit in my division at which he was previously employed was about to be reopened, and he was asked to return in order to take up the kind of work upon which he was previously engaged. He made an application to the Hackney Employment Exchange for financial assistance to enable him to return home. It was refused, and had it not been for the opportunities afforded to this young man of getting back to Abertillery, he would not have been able to take up the work on which he was previously engaged before coming to London. He is one of the 100,000 young persons mentioned in the report as physically capable of work, and he was refused assistance from these very people in order 110 to help him to take employment when it was offered to him. In view of that instance, and there are many more, this scandal-mongering by the Unemployment Board against the unemployed ought to cease.
Every hon. Member who represents a Special Area is aware of the thousands who have migrated from the division he represents. I intervened during the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which is a thing I rarely do, because I think that if a Member of this House cannot listen to a Debate he ought not to be permitted to take part in it. Therefore, I rarely interrupt, but I did resent what was said by the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the fact that, according to the figures supplied by the right hon. Gentleman himself, over 12,000 of my people have left my division in eight years. It does not become the Minister, who is paid £96 a week, to accuse the unemployed in my district of not being disposed to accept employment or to look for employment outside the areas in which they have been born.
There are Members on these benches who represent divisions where no fewer than 50,000 people have left within the last eight years. Many of them have left those localities in order to find employment; they have not waited for employment to be found for them, but have secured it for themselves. Homes have been broken up and families are scattered all over the country, while the children of those who make and defend these unwarrantable attacks upon the unemployed are permitted to live in comfort and peace. The sum of 3s. is allowed to an unemployed man to maintain his child, but in the event of evacuation being carried out in this country you are prepared to pay the person who takes charge of a child 10s. a week. Unless you desire to make tramps you have the cure. If it be true, as stated by the Board, that there are men who will not accept employment, then offer them employment, and make it a condition of refusing allowance if they do not accept. Until that is done the Minister has no right, and Lord Rushcliffe has no right, to make these charges against the unemployed and to indulge in such mean and cowardly attacks on unemployed men and women, especially in view of facts similar to those I have quoted.
111 Let me give another instance. The Government have decided to establish an industry in the Pontypool division, and they have asked the Minister to extend the area from which the unemployed can be drawn in order to go to the area in Pontypool. That has been done, and there are bus loads of men from my own division going to Pontypool, and it can be proved that they are worse off now than they would be if they had remained unemployed. In view of these facts, I do resent the observations made by the Minister and his insults of the unemployed. If the Unemployment Assistance Board have nothing better to do than to make charges against the unemployed, the Government ought to give the members of the Board a holiday or, better still, put them on the dole.
I want to deal with another passage in the report of the Board, which is relevant to this point. The chairman says, on page 5:Experience shows that many men refuse to consider offers of training because they no longer have any inclination to take steps for their own betterment.My experience shows that many men refuse to consider training because there is no guarantee of employment after training has been completed. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) made reference to an editorial which appeared in a Tory newspaper, the "Western Mail," the only Tory daily newspaper in South Wales. This is what the editor said:It is difficult to make relevant to the plight of these men the proposals of Lord Rushcliffe in the introduction to the report. Let them be trained and conditioned. For what?To listen to some hon. Members one would think that men are unemployed because they have not been trained and cannot take the work immediately. If the hon. Member who believes in collecting spare food from the restaurants will find me 100 jobs, I will find 100 men to fill them, wherever the jobs may be. The editorial proceeds:Let them be drafted to various parts of the country as contractors' conscripts to help erect the numerous Government factories in course of construction. What is to become of their homes, their people, the social unit of which, despite a long ordeal, they are still members.To be fair to the editor, I might say that he believes in training, but he does not 112 believe in transferring our own unemployed to other areas to be trained but that they should be trained in Wales itself. Men would accept a course of training if it were undertaken in order to fill a vacancy. Others in authority share my views. I should like to read part of a letter which appeared in the "Times" on 14th March, which states my point of view. It is written by a gentleman who signs his name as John Benn. He says:Experience at a new factory in South-West Durham shows that youth without work —and older men, too—respond wholeheartedly if a chance is given. Eighteen months ago you allowed me to appeal for Crook, where my friend Dr. Lishman was trying to attract a new industry, and this letter brought an inquiry from a timber firm requiring a branch in the north of England. The proprietor, Mr. C. J. Savill, was so impressed that on his first visit to Crook he took an option on a 10-acre site, and not long after the factory was built by local labour in the short space of six months. Pending its completion some ex-miners were brought south for training at the parent works, and to-day, five months later, some 50 men and boys are working successfully at a new trade. To see these young men at work is a sufficient answer to the charge that labour in the Special Areas is difficult. Comparisons are invidious, and I believe the longing for work makes for even better service when the opportunity comes than is sometimes to be found in more prosperous parts of the country. Compulsory training for youth may be preferable to idleness, but most lads do not shirk work if it is available.That letter is an effective answer to the chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I am disposed to think that the chairman of the Board is either too dependent upon his officials for advice or he is too busily engaged in writing letters to the "Times" in support of the Prime Minister's inept and effete foreign policy;
As far as Wales and Monmouthshire are concerned, the recently issued report of the Unemployment Assistance Board is not a cheerful one, because last year, although the number of applicants for allowances showed a decrease compared with 1937, of 1,295, in Glamorganshire the number was 60 per cent, of the total for Wales; in the County of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire it was 78 per cent, of the total of Wales; while in the Rhondda urban district the number of applicants for allowances represented a rate of 754 per 10,000 of the population; in Merthyr, 889 per 10,000, and in Abertillery and Blaina in my division the rates were 399 and 763 per 10,000 113 of the population, respectively, compared with 299 per 10,000 of the population for the whole of Wales and 98 per 10,000 of the population for the whole of Great Britain.
If there were no other facts and figures to warrant us in the statement we have made on more than one occasion that unless the Government change their policy or resign the whole of Wales will ultimately become a depressed area, these are the facts. This is the position after all the talk about trading estates and new undertakings established in the areas. The officer for the Welsh region says:As yet the effect of the estate upon unemployment due to depression in the older industries is small.He is the officer who is paid to make a report to Lord Rushcliffe, the man who lives in the area, and in reply to the Minister of Labour, who gloats about the effect of the trading estates, this regional officer says that the effect on unemployment so far as the Treforest Trading Estate is concerned, is small.
If the Government believe in the principle of trading estates, why do they not extend the principle into areas which are not affected by the trading estate at Treforest? My men in the Abertillery Division live 60 miles away. What is the use of the trading estate at Treforest for my unemployed men? If the Government believe in the principle, why do they not establish trading estates in other areas so as to bring some relief to people who have been idle 10, 12 and 13 years? Such trading estates are no solution for our unemployment problem. Of course, I believe in bringing new industries into old areas and, contrary to the Government, I would use compulsion to make people bring their factories to the old areas. Why not? They talk about the mobility of labour. These industries are equally as mobile. New industries in the depressed areas would preserve and maintain social capital; but they do not cure unemployment. That is a point that we ought to stress on every occasion. To bring a factory into my division would mean that my men would be employed, but when factories are established in London the Londoners are employed and men in my division are unemployed. By this method you distribute the unemployed but you do not permanently solve the problem of unemployment. The Board's officer realises this because he says: 114As far as Wales and Monmouthshire are concerned, the steel sheet and tinplate trade has suffered a severe setback and in some localities the outlook has become more serious through the setting up of the new mills at Ebbw Vale.This means more employment at Ebbw Vale and less at Morriston, Neath and Llanelly. These are the conditions when the country is engaged in a considerable rearmament programme. When this is completed no one knows what will happen, but we can anticipate the deluge unless something is done to meet the inevitable slump. The regional officer knows the cause of our trouble. He says:Docks and shipping, which one time thrived on the export of coal, cannot hope for a return of prosperity until foreign markets are regained.That is a much more illuminating passage than many found in the Unemployment Assistance Board's report, and, in my opinion, much better than attacks on the unemployed and inconsequential monologues from the Minister of Labour himself. I admit borrowing the phrase "inconsequential monologues" in the following circumstances. A reader of the "Daily Mirror," sympathetically disposed towards the Minister of Labour asked the editor whether he could "confirm the view that there was any kinship between the Minister of Labour and our old friend Billy Bennett." The correspondent said that in his opinion they were remarkably alike both in appearance and in speech, and if this is a good photograph of Billy Bennett the correspondent is quite correct; there is a similarity. But the editor of the "Daily Mirror" replied in this manner:We are afraid not. As a matter of fact, Mr. Ernest (almost a Minister of Labour) Brown has very little in common with Mr. Billy (almost a gentleman) Bennett. Mr. Bennett is paid for delivering highly inconsequential monologues to audiences who have paid hard cash to occupy their seats. Mr. Brown is paid for delivering highly inconsequential monologues to audiences who are paid hard cash to occupy their seats. Mr. Bennett has been roaring his act for many years, but realises the value of variation and new ideas. Mr. Brown has been roaring his act for many years, but realises nothing. They are alike in one respect. We grant you that both are ridiculously funny. Mr. Bennett intentionally so.It is true that the Minister of Labour in one of his saner moments did give us the real cause of unemployment in South Wales. He stated that the backbone of the industrial prosperity of South Wales 115 was coal mining and that it was the depression in that industry which was the root cause of unemployment in the area. He knows what is the cause of unemployment in South Wales, and yet the industry is getting worse year after year. It has been in a state of decadence since 1929.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter
I do not want to interrupt the interesting speech of the hon. Member, but is it not true that the industry is doing much better now?
§ Mr. Daggar
I suggest that the hon. Member should wait until I have finished and then we may realise an advertisement which I saw only this morning:What does Mr. Beverley Baxter say?We may realise that after I have finished. The Minister of Labour knows the cause of unemployment in South Wales and in view of his knowledge I am tempted to follow the example of an hon. Member of this party who interspersed his remarks with the question, "What about it?" I ask the Government what do they propose to do to retain the mining industry in South Wales? The exports of coal are down again this year. In fact, the decrease in the exports of coal last year as compared with 1937 for the whole of Great Britain was no less than 4,500,000 tons. If you compare the exports of coal last year with the exports in 1929, when the Labour party were in office without power, and were responsible for everything disadvantageous to the country but the weather, the exports of coal in 1937 are down by no less than 24,000,000 tons on those of 1929. If Labour means ruin to this country it was not responsible for the ruin of the mining industry. The exports of coal from South Wales and Monmouthshire for 1938 as compared with 1937 show a decrease of 1,645,000 tons, and the exports of coal from the whole of South Wales as compared with 1929 are down by no less than 10,000,000 tons.
§ Mr. Baxter
I think the hon. Member is unconsciously using figures which are true in themselves but which may mislead the Committee. It is a fact that a great many collieries in South Wales have sold out completely for months ahead. That is true, and I think the hon. Member is giving a very false impression.
§ Mr. Daggar
What I cannot understand is that there should be so much publicity 116 given to the articles written by the hon. Member in view of the observations he makes when he leaves his seat. The figures I have given are official figures for 1937 and 1938.
I submit, finally, that there is no solution of the unemployment problem in Wales and Monmouthshire unless something is done to revive the basic and fundamental industry of coal production. Trading estates have found employment for only a few people, and no one will say that they will ever become a permanent feature of our industrial life in South Wales or make any substantial contribution to a reduction in the number of unemployed. This will be done only by reviving the basic industry of coal-mining, which has made its contribution to the prosperity of Great Britain. We ought not to be under the obligation of having to listen to repeated attacks upon the unemployed that they do not want work. Offer them work. You cannot do it, and, unless you can, you have no right to slander and malign people who have made such a contribution to the prosperity of this country. While I am a Member of this House I shall persist in opposing any of the dirty attacks which are made by renegade Liberals upon the people I represent.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Trevor Cox
The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar), who has just addressed the Committee, has directed some scarcely complimentary appellations to the Minister of Labour, but I do not think they will dislodge any of the solid and reliable facts which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the Committee. The Minister made it clear that there has been a substantial improvement in regard to the general problem of employment. He told us that there were now 2,611,000 more workers in employment than when the National Government first came into office. That is a very substantial improvement and will no doubt be welcomed in all quarters of the Committee. I was very glad to hear that there was recently an improvement in the textile trade, as many of my constituents are engaged in that important industry. The Minister also gave the Committee the encouraging news that there are now 286,500 fewer persons unemployed than there were this time last year. That again gives us considerable cause for encouragement. I also 117 welcome the statement made by the Minister with regard to the improvement in industrial relations. There have been, as he said, fewer labour disputes in this country than for many years—a very satisfactory report. I also welcome the statement with regard to the collective agreements in connection with holidays with pay. All these statements show that there has been a steady improvement in the policy of social reform and the Minister's speech showed that remarkable progress has been made in all these respects.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) spoke as if the Government had taken no steps whatever to assist the trade of the country and indirectly to assist in reducing unemployment. That, of course, is quite untrue. The most realistic and practical way to help those who are without work is to encourage the development of industry so that its expansion may draw back men and women to their former trades or encourage them to enter new industries. By fostering improved industrial conditions, by encouraging a higher level of industrial and commercial efficiency, by promoting better business organisation; by such measures the unemployed are assisted in a practical manner. That has been the policy of the Government during the past seven years. Much important legislation has been placed on the Statute Book during those years. Coal, cotton, shipping, agriculture, iron and steel, and many other important industries, have benefited by this legislation. A series of trade agreements with foreign countries, numbering I think about 20, has helped to find enlarged markets for our manufacturers and producers. In this way industry and employment have been given facilities for expansion.
Will the hon. Member tell us what agreement has been ratified by the Government with any foreign country in regard to the export of coal or textiles?
§ Mr. Cox
I am quite prepared to deal with that point. Take the textile trade; the Anglo-American Trade Treaty is a notable example. Let me give the Committee one or two details with regard to the concessions which have been made by the United States to the United Kingdom. On £23,000,000 worth of dutiable goods exported to the United States by this 118 country reductions were secured on £11,000,000.
The Temporary Chairman (Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward)
I do not think that that comes strictly under the Ministry of Labour's Vote. The hon. Member may refer to it by way of example, but he must not go into the details of the trade agreement.
§ Mr. Cox
I shall not continue on that subject except to say that the total imports of the United Kingdom in 1936 amounted to about £40,000,000, and the concessions to the United States cover trade valued at some £27,000,000, or about two-thirds of the total. That shows that industry did benefit by the agreement which was made with America.
Now I wish to turn to the very valuable work that has been done by the community councils in assisting the Commissioner for the Special Areas in his work. These councils have established social and educational clubs; they have set up instructional services to encourage an interest in handicrafts, physical training, drama, music, and other educational subjects; they have promoted facilities for sport, holiday homes and camps, and also organised schools and training courses for these purposes. Recently, I was discussing some of these questions with a prominent social welfare worker, and he pointed out to me that the unemployed man, as soon as he loses his work, is isolated from the community; he is able to take no part in community life, and, worst of all, he feels he is making no contribution to it.
Large numbers of men, when normally employed, are members of political, social and sports clubs, and religious organisations, and one result of unemployment, with all its unhappy concomitants of poverty, shabbiness and inferiority complex, is that they abandon their old interests and withdraw into a segregated life. The social welfare worker with whom I was discussing the matter said, "We believe that our major task is to break down that segregation, to attempt to restore to unemployed persons something that approximates to normal social community life, to build up their self-confidence, to restore their self-respect, and to rekindle old interests and stimulate and awaken new interests." I cannot pay too high a tribute to those community 119 councils in encouraging the setting up of social welfare centres which have accomplished such useful work.
The Minister made reference to the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board. That report gives cause for some disquiet. The chairman, in presenting his report for the year, examines certain aspects of unemployment. He draws attention to the fact that there are something like 4,700,000 insured workers who are of the age of 30 and under, and points out that about 2 per cent., or something like 100,000, of these men have suffered from long unemployment. That is a very serious problem, and Lord Rushcliffe draws attention to this grievous question. He also mentions that an inquiry carried out by the Advisory Committee showed that numbers of young men fail to obtain work because of certain physical defects, chiefly relating to the eyes and teeth, which could easily be remedied. Although the approved societies and some local authorities have been able to assist these men, it does appear that our public health services could be enlarged to cover such cases, and I do not believe the cost would be very great. I ask the Minister to consider making these small alterations. There are also numbers of young men who are victims of blind-alley employment. That question has been discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Butcher) and other hon. Members. As these boys lack skill or experience, once they are unemployed they have the greatest difficulty in finding any other work. The technical training of youths is, it is true, directed and carried out by some of the large employers, but that is not always the case. This is an important question which needs attention.
There are one or two other points with which I should like briefly to deal. The Chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board pointed out in his report that many men who have drifted into the back-waters of industrial life are potentially good and efficient workers, but that the immediate necessity is to restore them to that physical condition and habit of work without which they are unlikely to keep any reasonably paid and regular employment. That is where the instructional centres play a very useful part. But only about 23,000 men out of a possible 120 135,000 went through the centres, and of those, some 5,700 got back to work within six months of finishing the courses. Out of those numbers, something like 22 per cent, of the applicants were rejected as being unfit. I think the Minister was right in making the general suggestions which he did with regard to this problem. This is another important question that calls, for consideration. The report says that, as regards many of the men to whom allowances are being paid, if their idleness is not to be indefinitely prolonged, special steps should be taken to secure employment for them and give them a fresh start. This applies particularly to the younger men, and I suggest to the Minister that, where possible, and bearing in mind all other necessary considerations, many of these 100,000 young men who are without employment could be given first choice in regard to work on the armament and Defence programme. I hope my right hon. Friend will give consideration to that suggestion, especially as the Defence plans have now reached such vast proportions.
I want now to make a few remarks on the general question of land settlement. The Special Commissioner for England and Wales has supervised some extremely interesting land settlement schemes during the last few years. The original plan was to encourage unemployed men from the Special Areas to undertake training courses so that they could become independent smallholders working as master men. Only those who have been long unemployed and are between the ages of 35 and 50 are eligible for these land settlement schemes. Thus, a young man of 29, who has been without work for some 10 years or longer, could not apply for entry into these schemes. I should have thought that some of these 100,000 unemployed men under 30, who are physically capable of work, would have wished to join in land settlement schemes. Their youth and energy would give more impetus to these various land settlement plans.
I see from an article in the "Times" that the Land Settlement Association is the largest producer of foodstuffs in the British Isles. Last year, when its holdings were about one-third developed, the purchases and sales of the marketing department amounted to no less than £750,000, the output being 44,000 pigs, 121 14,000,000 eggs and over 1,000 tons of tomatoes. This experiment has made substantial strides and has experienced a measure of success. The annual turnover when the estates are fully developed will be something like £2,000,000. It is a unique experiment which has never been tried before. It is no easy task to train men who have been without work for many years; it is no easy problem to settle them for a new life on the land. However, hundreds of families have been settled and are leading useful and happy lives in entirely new surroundings in the fresh air of the English countryside.
It is true that difficulties have arisen and numbers of families have returned, during the period of training, to their former homes. The figure that was given, in the article to which I have referred, was as high as 40 per cent, of the total; but very few of them have left once they have settled on holdings. If the scheme is to be a success as a whole, then it should include the younger unemployed as well as those who are almost unemployable through no fault of their own, and also men from areas other than the Special Areas. It seems that this scheme might be enlarged so that the other category of workers which I have mentioned could be included, and it seems also that rapid progress could then be made with these land settlement plans, in spite of the recent setbacks. In conclusion, the Minister's speech was encouraging, and showed that remarkable progress has been made. In every part of the Committee, hon. Members want to see everything possible done for those who are out of work. We want to see them with a high standard of life and labour, with as much money in their pockets as industry can pay. Above all, we want to see them with a greater measure of happiness and security in their homes.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
Certainly, the Minister has a very optimistic supporter in the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Cox). We always listen with interest to the hon. Member, for he has ideals which, if they were carried into practice, would do a great deal of good; but what we are concerned about is what is happening now. We on these benches do hot get the same hope as the hon. Member does from the Minister's statement. That statement was a very interesting one, and indeed, on every occasion when the 122 Minister speaks, even though we do not agree with him, we gather from his speech an idea of the immensity of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman gave some figures that are worthy of repetition. For instance, he hold us that there are 29,000 employés in the Employment Exchanges. I did not think there were so many. He told us that there are 1,200 exchanges, a remarkable figure which enables us to grasp the importance of the matter. He told us that there has been an expenditure of £6,875,000 during the year by way of administration expenses. These figures certainly bring us up against a very great business, and it is the work that is being done by the exchanges with which I want to deal first of all, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will follow my remarks closely.
From time to time, we receive complaints from people who go to claim benefit and then find out that they are not in insurable occupations. In many cases, it is very hard on them, having paid for a long time, to find that when their claim is made, some objection is raised so that they cannot get benefit, even though a long period has passed. I have in mind a recent case. There were two young women employed in a public house. They had been there for four or five years, and had been paying contributions during the whole of that time. Then they lost their employment, and applied for benefit. They went before the court of referees to establish their claim, and the court granted payment. Then the officer in charge of the Employment Exchange expressed a doubt as to whether they had been in insurable employment or not, and said that he could not make the payment until the matter had been inquired into. Then a strange thing happened. The question was put in the hands of the Ministry of Health, to find out whether their employment came under the heading "insurable employment." After about three months' examination of the question, the Ministry of Health passed it on to the Ministry of Labour. This happened during the latter part of last year. On 1st June, I received a reply from the Ministry of Labour which, after making the usual apologies for the delay, regretted to express that payment could not be sanctioned. It appears to me that this is a matter that requires careful consideration by the Minister of Labour. I suggest to him 123 that, when a person pays contributions and the card showing the contributions is handed in, it is the duty of the Employment Exchange officials to determine very early whether or not that is eligible employment, and that they ought to decide quickly whether payment can be made, if any doubt arises. If it goes beyond a certain point and contributions are accepted, it ought to be possible to claim benefit even though it may be discovered afterwards that it is not insurable employment. I would fix a period of, say, six months when it should be the right of the applicant to obtain benefit.
I have a case in which two girls have been in employment for five years, believing all the time that they were working in insurable employment. When contributions have been accepted over such a long period one can understand the feelings of these people when they are told they cannot have payment. I believe they have a right to be recognised. If a mistake has been made, it is not their fault, and the Ministry ought to meet whatever difficulty there is. It cannot stop there. It is not sufficient to say that payment cannot be made but some consideration will be given to a return of contributions paid. I trust that the Minister will put someone in charge at each Exchange to watch as to what is insurable employment, so that it cannot go on so long. Applicants are told they are sure to get it from the Court of Referees, but I have a case where they have gone to the Court of Referees and there was no payment at all. I will supply the details immediately the Debate is over, so that the Minister can verify the statement.
Another point is in reference to training. I met a young man during the Recess who has been to Bristol for training, but he came back in a very up-set frame of mind. He told me that when trainees pass out they have to take situations in which the wages are very low indeed. I do not state it as a fact. I can hardly believe that it is so, but the position has been put to me and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will examine it and reassure me on the point.
My last point is in reference to the aged unemployed. Lord Rushcliffe says in his report:Others are past middle age and find themselves unwanted after years of steady work.124 That is a grievous charge against the present system. Further on he says that the concern of the Board is with that section, some 600,000, whose unemployment is chronic and many of whom have no hope at all of ever getting work again. He adds that the view that at 45 or 50 a man is past work is one that cannot be held with complacency and that the problem of the older man who has been long unemployed is one of importance and urgency. We all agree with that and we ask what the Minister is doing about it. I have pressed the matter on many occasions and I have asked for figures bearing on these aged men, but I have never been able to get any definite figures. Is it not time that in Government contracts, in the present emergency, there should be a stipulation that a number of aged people ought to be taken on? The question cannot be shelved indefinitely. How can the Government expect private employers to engage these men if they will not recognise their own duty? In many cases municipal authorities are trying to find a little work for them. In Leigh they are trying to find them occasional work for periods of six or 12 weeks realising that there is very little hope of private employers taking them on, yet when we ask the Government to make a stipulation in their contracts they say they cannot do it. They apply to the Exchanges and take whoever suits them. Once or twice the Minister has got away from it by saying that the International Labour Office are to examine the question, and to-day he read a passage from the report. I asked him if he was trying to hide behind the report and was going to wait till they come to some decision before attempting anything? He replied, "No, we intend to tackle it." It is not fair that we should leave these old people as we are doing. Unless we press this very strongly, I am afraid that the optimism of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde will not help us in our difficulty. When he gets the chance, let him try to provide some work for these people, who are certainly entitled to it. I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary will bear these points in mind, especially the last one.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Boulton
As I am going to try and follow the very wise advice given us by Mr. Speaker to curtail our speeches, I hope the hon. Member, to whom we 125 always like to listen, will forgive me for not following him in his different arguments, although with one part of his speech I very much agree. As I listened to the Minister I could not help contrasting the position and conditions of unemployment to-day with that of some 20 years ago. Although Parliament would have deserved to be condemned if it had not attempted to attack or alleviate the most unsatisfactory conditions that prevailed over that period, yet it is only in quite recent years that any real and substantial progress has been made. I think it is well for us sometimes to cast our minds back so as to get a better perspective of the position. In reading the Board's report, perhaps one of the most important that they have issued, we can visualise what a great change has been and is taking place in this country with regard to unemployment. For upwards of 20 years I suppose unemployment has been the foremost issue in our domestic politics. I think it is true to say two Governments were driven from office for failing to grapple with the problem. For a year or two after 1931, when the National Government assumed power, we can all remember the organised marches from the stricken areas, but as the measures taken by the Government began to bear fruit, first of all confidence, a gradual improvement in employment and more humane and sympathetic methods in relieving necessitous cases by increased allowances and in kind, a marked change came about.
I mix a great deal amongst the unemployed and I believe they fully appreciate the close attention that is being given to individual cases and the discretionary powers that are being largely used for their benefit. The intelligence officer of to-day by his method of approach is not regarded with the fear and anxiety in which he was held a short time ago. A better and friendlier understanding is showing itself, and that is why I think we hear so much less about the hardship of the need test, except perhaps in this House and on certain platforms, and it is only right that, when our experience shows that these improved conditions prevail, it should be stated and credit should be given to the Board and their officers for the great social work that they are carrying out with no little success. But in spite of the improved conditions to which I have referred, and in spite of 126 however good trade may be, we have got to face the fact that, owing to modern and up-to-date methods of production, the chances of a considerable number of unskilled men getting employment is growing smaller.
The report again draws attention to and emphasises particularly two classes of unemployed, namely, those who are under 30 years of age and those of 45 years and over. The position as regards these, is, I must admit, disquieting. The case of the under-30 class is, I think, the most serious. The majority of them I know are, beyond doubt, desperately anxious for work but the fact that they are unskilled is the reason why they do not get work. The need of the nation is more and more for skilled workers. What, then, are we to do about it? What is the most sensible thing to do? Skill is a question of education. We have a compulsory system of education to-day. I believe every boy leaving school, and every young man who cannot get a satisfactory job and who has to call upon the nation for assistance, ought to undergo training in some form or other. That is an education which will assist him in his future welfare. But the training centres must be developed and established in close proximity to the great industrial areas so that these young people can live at home, if that is found to be necessary and desirable.
I do not see how we are to overcome this great difficulty except by some means such as I have indicated. It is appalling to think that out of 100,000 such cases, there are 50,000 who have either had no work at all or only six months' work in the last three years. The Board's remarks, too, about those who give up jobs without good reason or who show unwillingness to work, are still more disquieting. Those of us who represent industrial areas are bound to admit that we come across such cases but they are a small minority. It is, however, a problem which we must try to solve in the interests of these young men themselves and the Board's serious warnings and recommendations should not go unheeded. We in this House are responsible for the welfare of these young people and we shall not be doing our duty to them or to the nation, unless we do take measures to give them a better sense of responsibility, and a better opportunity 127 in life and to lift them up out of the nit of idleness and demoralisation.
Turning to the problem of the older men, the unskilled men of 45 years and over, we find another difficult problem awaiting solution. It seems to me that a much larger and bolder effort must be made if we are not to have a large permanently unemployed population on our hands. I agree with what has been said by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and with the recommendation in the report that the Government when giving out contracts or local authorities when getting grants from Parliament, should take some steps towards employing a certain number of men in the district where the work is situated through the Employment Exchanges. I think that is one good recommendation of the Board. They also draw attention to various land settlement schemes that have been inaugurated. It seems to me that the cottage homesteads plan is proving the most successful, but that has only been tried on a small scale in connection with the Special Areas.
My right hon. Friend the Minister may have forgotten that some time ago I sent him an outline of a scheme for building cottages in groups of, say, 10 or less, in selected villages all over the country with sufficient ground to each cottage to enable a family of, say, five, to grow sufficient vegetables for their own use. One object of that scheme was to meet the growing need in the country districts for casual labour. Casual labour is becoming very scarce in the country and in some districts is very hard to get, a fact which has been referred to in an article in the "Times" to-day on this question. We hear of the drain of the younger men from the land. With an improving agriculture, to which we all look' forward, labour will be in greater demand than ever in the country. Why not give these middle-aged men an opportunity of undertaking some of this casual labour which they could easily perform? Any of us could do it with very little experience; help and at the same time enable them to produce for themselves some of the necessities of life that they require. In a time of crisis this might be a very valuable national asset. The children, too, would more easily get permanent and healthy employment in those districts.
128 In spite of the reluctance of some people to leave town life, I cannot help thinking that a large number of these men would welcome such an opportunity. By such means a considerable number of middle-aged, unskilled men who are out of employment, could be placed in healthier surroundings and given a far brighter outlook. I had some figures drawn up with regard to this scheme but I do not propose to trouble the Committee with them. I hope, however, that my right hon. Friend will find time to give consideration to this suggestion which, I believe, goes far beyond any of the land settlement schemes yet produced and offers a real chance of settling a considerable number of men in the country districts.
Of course it is in good trade and employment, as has so often been pointed out, that the main solution of our problem will be found. Trade and employment are bound to have their ups and downs; that we can never solve but today the spectre of idleness, which has haunted our industrial areas and is still haunting some districts, is withdrawing into the background. Even in these days of international anxiety, apart from defence work which, I admit, is assisting largely to improve conditions—and, incidentally, the pay packets each week —our domestic trade is showing a welcome improvement. If any reliance is to be placed an the forecasts of those who are in touch with industrial affairs in this country and abroad, we may expect in the near future such an improvement as will cause the true unemployment figures of to-day to pale into insignificance. I am not forecasting that but that is what we must all hope for. Much must, of course, depend on the sanity of nations being maintained—if it has not been already lost—and upon peace being preserved. I am not blind to the fact that there is yet much to be done to improve the lot of the unemployed, but do not let us minimise or underrate the great progress that has been made by the efforts of the Board and of my right hon. Friend, who will be able to congratulate himself on having gone far to break the back of what almost seemed to be an insoluble problem.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Simpson
In spite of any disappointment we may feel on these benches with the present situation and the causes 129 lying behind it, one would not like to deprive the hon. Member who has just resumed his seat of any comfort he can extract from the immediately improved figures in regard to unemployment. One can appreciate also the consistency and enthusiasm with which he himself and the hon. Member for Hyde and Stalybridge (Mr. Cox) pursue their proposals in regard to land settlement. But, on the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that the agricultural problem is still with us and that there are very good causes for people leaving the land. It seems somewhat extravagant, therefore, to expect in those circumstances that we can solve the problem of unemployment by artificial efforts to get people to go back to the land under these schemes. I am certain that we would all rejoice in any improvement in the situation that gives hope to the unemployed, that gives hope to those seeking to support themselves and win back that independence we hear so much about on occasion but which is denied to the people who lack work.
Though we dislike some of the forms of industrial development that are helping to improve the unemployment figures, again one would be churlish from the point of view of the unemployed if one did not appreciate the hope and advantage that these forms of activity, undesirable though they may be in some directions, offer to these people in the way of providing jobs. We must recognise, however, that the expenditure on defence in peace time is phenomenal. It is bound, of course, favourably to affect the figures of employment at the moment, but, even so, the figures are exceedingly disappointing and we cannot conceive that these forms of employment will become permanent and continue to provide employment to the extent that they are doing now. Therefore, in spite of the improvement that is registered, for which credit has been taken on the benches opposite, that improvement offers no cause for satisfaction, much less for complacency. Our general indictment in regard to this problem continues. and I think we should inquire what will be the position when this exceptional movement contracts or ceases. We must remember that this is no net gain in regard to industry at the present time. The figures of employment represent a certain diversion from normal industry, and in some cases they represent diversions which affect our export trade in a way 130 that will permanently damage it. Therefore we have a right to look to the future as well as to express our dissatisfaction with the present. These figures seem to me to emphasise all the more definitely the need for a scientific review of this problem, and they emphasise the need for industrial planning generally in relation both to production and social problems.
I desire to mention one matter in particular in regard to new factories that are being planned at the moment. The constituency which I have the honour to represent suffers from the general depression in the cotton industry that is likely to continue, and the effect on employment is certain to be permanent in so far as mills are either derelict or have disappeared altogether. Only a week ago I learned that there is under discussion the establishment of some huge new factory on the Lancashire coast. A figure of £6,000,000 is mentioned in connection with it. Curiously enough the corporation and local interests of Morecambe are actively resisting the proposal that this factory should be established. I am not in a position to speak with any authority in regard to the nature of the factory. There are references to Imperial Chemical Industries and to the Air Ministry, but for reasons, good or otherwise, there is some secrecy in regard to the nature and purpose of this factory.
It does seem somewhat ironical, however, that when there is a very considerable outcry in that seaside place that the advent of this factory would be very prejudicial to their interests as a health resort, so far as the neighbourhood of Ashton is concerned, I should regard it as being very beneficial in regard to employment. I do not know whether the industrial or productive needs of this new factory demand that it should be planted in that spot, but in a place where population is declining, where unemployment is rife, where trade and industry are being cumulatively affected disadvantageously, where local rates and liabilities are increasing, in Ashton and other places near, such a factory would, obviously, bring very substantial benefits. I would say very definitely that if the difficulties are not insuperable and any reasonable opportunity presents itself for the erection of this factory in a district where employment is urgently required, the objections of the health resort might easily be 131 dealt with and we might be given the advantage of this factory development, temporary though it may be. I earnestly submit that suggestion to the Minister as a means of giving employment to men who have been very adversely affected by industrial conditions for a considerable time.
One further, and perhaps unusual, observation in conclusion. Having regard to the disappointments and exasperations to which many of the unemployed are subject, they may very well be critical of the administration of the Ministry of Labour, and while it may be the case that from time to time there are tactless, unsympathetic or though less officials, it is due to the staffs of the Ministry who have to deal with these tens of thousands of people who are denied the right to work and are subject to feelings of exasperation, to say that where the staffs perform their duties with tact, sympathy and understanding we should give them a word of encouragement. While offenders ought to be dealt with, those who do their duty well should be given every credit, because I feel that the staffs are much to be sympathised with on occasions, and are entitled to this recognition.
§ 8.38 p.m.
I should like to preface my remarks, as it is a ministerial birthday, by wishing my right hon. Friend many happy returns. Even though everyone in the House does not always agree with him, I am sure that we admire his energy, his efficiency and his courage. I must say that I thought he gave a most interesting survey, and the record of achievement he gave is one upon which he can congratulate himself and of which he has every right to be proud. At the same time, I must confess to some sense of disappointment that he did not go on to tell us what plans he has to deal with the hard core of unemployment which still remains to be tackled.
I would not agree with my hon. Friend, because the right hon. Gentleman has had many plans, and in some instances they have proved very effective. I particularly noticed that my right hon. Friend mentioned that the question of the older men had now been sent for discussion to the International Labour Office, 132 and that this country had offered its advice and the benefit of its experience to those at Geneva who are going to deal with this all important subject. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I say that I wish the benefit of our experience could be used in this country first of all.
§ Mr. E. Brown
The hon. Lady has mistaken the position. We examined the problem long before it was raised at Geneva and we have been dealing with it. It has been raised at Geneva by other countries, and we are going to try to help those other countries as well as help ourselves.
I did not really misunderstand my right hon. Friend. I know that on many occasions he has referred to the question of the elderly unemployed men and I am certain that if he could get assistance from some other Government Departments he would be only too willing to help in placing those men in employment. What somewhat surprised me was that he should emphasise the fact that we were going to give Geneva the benefit of our experience, because I cannot really agree that the steps we have taken in this country have been as effective as we had hoped they might be. [Interruption.] I do not want to be deflected from my speech, but I am certain that I shall get more out of my right hon. Friend than I should get out of any Member of the party on the Opposition benches if they were in office. There is one more point to which I wish to refer. On page 25 the report says:The Board, having in mind the recommendations of many of the advisory committees, hope that under the permanent policy of the Ministry the claims of long unemployed men, wherever resident, may be kept fully in mind.I want to develop that point in relation to the married men. As I see the problem, the difficulty we are now faced with as regards the hard-core of unemployment is that the relation of the unskilled men to the skilled men has got out of balance. In other words, during the period of depression we have built up such a residue of unskilled men that, un less we can help them to find employment in this time of comparative prosperity we shall be faced with a very much worse position in the future when the trade re cession arrives, and it will certainly come in the areas which are dependent upon armament work.
133 I hope that my right hon. Friend will do me the credit of believing that I have always supported the training schemes, the Governmental centres, the instructional centres, the vocational training centres, which have been so successful a part of my right hon. Friend's policy. But on many occasions I have found that married men of between 30 and 40 with large families who have applied for training have been turned down on the ground that they are married men with dependants. When a man from a small mining village or industrial area has been rejected he always circulates among his friends the story that he has been rejected because he has too many children. The official language which is used does not always make it easy for a man to appreciate that there was something more behind his rejection than the mere fact that he had a large number of children. Nevertheless, the fact was impressed upon his mind that that was why he was rejected. It was most regrettable. I understand that the real cause of the rejection in a large number of cases is that at the end of the training these men would find themselves drawing improvers' wages which in many cases would be less than the amount which they are at present drawing from the Unemployment Assistance Board, and that it would be some considerable time before they found themselves in the category of skilled men drawing a wage appropriate to the class in which they were working.
This is most regrettable from two points of view. First of all, from the human point of view. When a man is anxious to obtain employment, takes a pride in his family and represents all the best that we know in life, when he wants to get on in the world and, as one woman told me most pathetically the other day, does not want his children when they grow up to refer to their father as a man who was never able to get work, it is deplorable that you should create a category of married men who, through no fault of their own, and probably after serving an apprenticeship, have lost their skill during the period of the depression and have thus become permanently unemployed. Probably they were originally in the category of skilled men, but now they are shut out from any kind of scheme for getting them back into employment. Even if these men accepted transference they would still be transferred only to a job which would 134 be in the ordinary labouring category and would certainly not give them the wages which they feel they would be justified in earning after they had served their apprenticeship.
I would emphasise to my right hon. Friend that he might try to find some method of dealing with the position of such married men as I have described. It should be possible to find some way by which married men would not be debarred from the privilege—and not merely the privilege but the right—of obtaining training to enable them to earn a livelihood for their wives and families. That is putting the matter from the human point of view, but there is the point of view of the nation. Surely it is not a good thing that a married man, in a time of comparative trade boom, should have to live on allowances from the Board, and be dependent on the Board for the rest of time. I know the sympathy which my right hon. Friend has extended to this problem, and I cannot think that he will not be able to find some way out. If the Treasury is the trouble, I suggest he tell the House, and I am certain that we could make such representation to the Treasury to the effect that it was not in the national interest that we should continue to pay out money when a man, by being sent to a training centre, could fit himself to earn, in times of ordinary trade, a livelihood for himself and his family.
Sometimes my right hon. Friend thinks that I am unreasonable, but I would say one thing to him. As was so delightfully pointed out by the speaker who preceded me, I believe that the officials of the Board and of the Employment Exchanges do everything they can to assist the unemployed. I believe that the administration is as efficient and human as possible, but however efficient and human the administration may be, the unemployed, the workers and Members of Parliament regard the officialdom of the Ministry of Labour and of the Unemployment Assistance Board—and indeed the relations between Members of Parliament and the Minister—as in a different category to the relations between the Member of Parliament and a constituent. As Members of Parliament we see the human strain on the man and the tears in the eyes of the woman, and we realise that men do become difficult to handle sometimes through no fault of their own. 135 Simply because a man has once been unpleasant at an interview, or because he has not responded to the suggestions put forward by the Employment Exchanges or by the Unemployment Assistance Board, on one occasion, does not place him in the category of those who are to be regarded as difficult for the rest of time.
A man in whom I happen to De interested applied last October for training at the Wall send training centre. He is a man of very high character and he has carried on in the most amazing way. He is anxious to obtain training to get himself out of the abyss of unemployment into which he has sunk. In his early days he served his apprenticeship and, while at the shipyards, fell into the hold and had a very bad accident. When he applied for training he was turned down on the ground of his disability. I am not in the least criticising the selection committee which dealt with the case, but the curious thing is that in January of this year, some four months later, he obtained work. In view of the compensation laws in this country, his injury cannot have been very great, otherwise he would not have been able to obtain that employment. I think I am right in saying that it was a little hard that he should have been turned down and the chance for which he sought taken away from him. I subsequently wrote to my right hon. Friend and asked whether he could do something about this man, who, I thought, had had a rough deal. My right hon. Friend replied that he was very sorry that he could not do anything, because the man's industrial record was such that nothing could be done. Being unreasonable, I suggested that the case might perhaps be re-examined, and my right hon. Friend very kindly had it re-examined. Nine months after the man's original application, he was offered the training for which he had been rejected last October.
I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind the kind of reaction that kind of treatment would have on a man who had a genuine desire to obtain work and a genuine desire to get himself and his family on in the world. I have not given up hope that we may be able to do something for that man in future, and I use his case as an illustration of the point which I really rose to make, and which is 136 this: Can we not, in this training centre system, devise some scheme which will ensure that married men, however many children they may have, may be granted the same facilities as are granted to single men? It is very much easier for a single man to fit himself to earn a living than for a married man who has responsibilities. It is much easier for a single man to transfer, or to earn his living in a thousand different ways. Where you have a married man, proud of his wife and family and wanting to get on in life, surely it cannot be beyond human brains to find some way to fit him into the scheme whereby he can do what he has a real and honest desire to do.
What I am saying to-night represents the views and feelings of many people who are working in the kind of area that I represent in this House. They know the heartbreak of unemployment, and I am told frequently on the North East Coast by industrialists and others who are supporters of the National Government that we Members of Parliament have no right to sit down as we are doing under the burden of unemployment that we are carrying at the present time. I trust, therefore, that we shall have, not merely an expression of hope that something will materialise, but some definite plan which will enable us to look forward in the future to finding employment for these men who have had a rough deal in the industrial field.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I have read with great care the Report of the Unemployment Assistance Board, and, while I disagree with many of its conclusions, I am bound to admit that it is interesting and full of information. I should like to refer particularly to this statement of the Chairman on page 4:One definite group to which attention needs to be given is that of men who are handicapped in obtaining work by physical defects, often of eyes or teeth, which are remediable. …Medical needs are not within the range of the Board's responsibilities, but I call attention to this matter as indicating a direction in which some extension of our public health services might profitably be considered.I should like to ask the Minister whether it is his intention to consult with the Minister of Health on this matter and see whether something cannot be done to bridge that gap in our essential social services. There are among the un- 137 employed a good many who have run out of insurance, who have no benefit from the approved societies in case of illness, or who are members of approved societies which have no additional benefits. I and my hon. Friends have called attention many times to this aspect of the matter, and it appals me to think that in the twentieth century so many of our young people are suffering from defects of the eyes, and particularly of the teeth, and have no adequate means of getting those defects remedied. What does the Minister intend to do? Are we merely to have these reports from year to year, but nothing concrete done? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to answer that question when he comes to reply.
A few weeks ago I had on the Order Paper a question regarding an allegation that in some parts of the West Riding there was a shortage of female labour in the ready-made clothing trade. I should like to hear from the Minister what is the extent of this shortage, and, if there is such a shortage, what provision is the Ministry making for supplying the necessary skilled female labour? I represent a constituency from which hundreds of girls and young men, by bus, train and cycle, go to Leeds and other places to work in some of the big clothing factories, and, if it is true that there is a genuine shortage, some attempt ought to be made to remedy it. I wish the hon. Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. Boulton) were here now, because he made reference to the change which has taken place in the manner of dealing with the unemployed as compared with 20 years ago. At that time I had a good deal to do with the unemployed in the hon. Member's constituency of Central Sheffield. It was just after demobilisation had taken place, and there were as many as 17,000 able-bodied unemployed in that city who were drawing, not unemployment benefit, but many of them Poor Law relief, and many of them out-of-work donation benefit. I think I am right in saying that it was largely due to agitation by the unemployed themselves that many of the improvements in their treatment were brought about. Then we had what used to be called the hiatus, the gap in unemployment benefit, and every six weeks or so we, as guardians, used to be absolutely flooded with applications for Poor Law assistance.
138 When there is talk of sending young unemployed people to training centres and making it a condition of their receiving unemployment assistance that they must go to a training centre, I am a little suspicious, because I remember those good, kind-hearted old souls who were members of boards of guardians in those days and who would never give an able-bodied man any relief unless he did task work. At one time men used to be started at one end of a field to turn it over, and, when they got to the other end, they had to turn it back again. That is not an exaggeration, but the literal truth. We had to break down that kind of thing, and I do not want to see it introduced again in any shape or form. I want to say as emphatically as I can that the average unemployed man in this country, whether young or old, is not work-shy; he is not lazy by temperament; he would much rather have a job on straightforward and above-board conditions than receive either unemployment insurance benefit or unemployment assistance. I want to see this problem of finding work tackled in a way in which it has not been tackled hitherto.
The Minister spoke glowingly about the work of the International Labour Office. I do not belittle that work; indeed, I read the reports of it with great interest. They are excellent documents, and the discussions at Geneva are excellent. But what concerns me is that, although discussions take place year after year, we see very little result in this country by way of new legislation. One of the Dominion representatives at the International Labour Office said he often felt that the British Government's spokesman there was nothing more or less than the spokesman of British employers. I could tell the right hon. Gentleman who it was that said that, and I believe he put it in his report to his Dominion. I am bound to say that the discussions with regard to the mining industry have been followed by very little in the way of results.
I am very pleased to see the statement which Lord Rushcliffe makes as to the smallness of the number of those who are unwilling to work. If anyone doubts that statement, let them remember that, when county councils and urban district councils are in a position to proceed with public works, they want nobody better than unemployed miners, who are used to hard 139 work and prefer it every time to getting relief. I represent a constituency in one part of which there is a large amount of what is termed long-term unemployment. Anyone who knows that part of the country knows that these men are not either idlers or wasters. At Castleford, 646 per 10,000of the population in mid-1937 were drawing unemployment assistance. That compares with 53 in Halifax, and 143 in Dewsbury. This 646 absolutely stands out. I am appalled at the figure being so high in any part of the country. It is largely due to the position in the mining industry.
I ask the Minister what is being done to follow up what his predecessor started, namely, making some attempt to get the employers to agree to a reduction of working hours? I know I am debarred from suggesting new legislation, but the Minister's predecessor, who is now President of the Board of Trade, told us a few years ago that he intended calling together the employers in various industries to see what progress he could make in persuading them to agree to a shorter working day. We are proud of this country, but we are not making the progress we should in regard to reducing the working day. The right hon. Gentleman some time ago visited a number of Employment Exchanges in this country in order to ascertain the position in regard to elderly men—he went to Doncaster; I do not think he went much further in the West Riding—but I have not seen anything of a concrete character done as a result. Scores of questions must have been put in this House on this subject, and no definite answer has been given.
The right hon. Gentleman almost compels me to think that if one only talked long enough unemployment would be done away with. He is a master of debate. When he talked this afternoon he seemed almost to have forgotten the mining industry, but he knows a good deal about that industry; I think that when he was at the Mines Department he did his best to understand it. A good deal of this talk about unskilled men is all nonsense. Some of the so-called unskilled men are jolly good craftsmen—that is the tragedy of it. In most districts we have human derelicts. Huge profits have been made out of their labour, and they are no longer needed. They cannot be transferred; but if we had a Government 140 worthy of the name, efforts would be made to get a reduced working day. I am sorry that the Government and the Unemployment Assistance Board have given no indication that they intend to modify the present household means test and the regulations. I will be frank, and say that the present regulations are better than those that caused a storm a few years ago and were withdrawn. But the means test is working out very unfairly, and causing a great deal of hardship. My chief complaint against it is that it stabilises poverty. It does not give people a chance to get above the poverty line.
I talked yesterday with men who are on the means test, and they said that when a man has a son who is on piecework, if he works hard and earns good wages that reflects itself in the amount of assistance that comes in to the father. That causes a good deal of discontent. When young men desire to get married and to enjoy a bit of leisure, as they have a right to do, they are not like being penalised to the extent that they are when the father happens to be out of work. I hope the Minister will see his way to modify the means test. Many members on the other side, I know, would like to see it modified; we go further, and would like to see it abolished. I hope the Minister will tell us what he intends to do with regard to elderly men, and that he will not be content with fobbing us off every Thursday—the right hon. Gentleman can laugh, but that is what happens. If he will do his best to get the employers to agree to a shorter working day and absorb some of these men into industry, he will be working on better lines.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am sorry that the Opposition Liberal Bench is vacant and that the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), who alone occupied it for some time, has left, because I thought that one of the most encouraging moments in the Debate was the cheer which greeted his reference to an inquiry into blind-alley employment. Neither can I understand why, later on, the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) poured scorn on that suggestion. He was performing a very poor service to his fellow-citizens by so doing. If I may say so, the Opposition Liberals, as often happens, were not in the van of progress on this occasion, because it must be some time now since my right hon. 141 Friend actually set up that inquiry into blind-alley employment for which the hon. Member for Dundee was asking. Had the hon. Member been in the House at Question Time to-day, he would have heard the answer of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to a question which I put on the subject, in which he assured me that the inquiry that had already been initiated was well devised to carry out the recommendation made by Lord Rushcliffe in his preface to the Unemployment Assistance Board's Report. That incident seems to me to symbolise much of the course of this Debate, because time and again Opposition speeches have actually lagged behind what the Government was achieving.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), who opened the Debate for the Opposition, said that the remedy for the unemployment situation is not training, but work. Wise words. But, for reasons best known to himself, he gave no sort of credit to the Government for the reduction by more than 500,000 which has taken place in unemployment since January of this year. He spoke of this as a distorted boom, as though he almost wished that employment had increased more slowly, and in fact we had to listen for some three hours, until the very sincere speech from the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), for any constructive suggestions to the Debate from the other side of the Committee. Hon. Members opposite seemed to be concerned solely to blacken the situation. The hon. Member for Aberdare quoted figures of unemployment percentages in various parts of the Special Areas—31 per cent, in South Shields, 27 per cent, in Gateshead and 40 per cent, in Merthyr; serious figures —but he did not mention the figures in those places at the time when his own party went out of office, and it would have been more honest to do so. The figure for South Shields at that time was not 31 per cent, but 46 per cent., the figure for Gateshead was not 27 per cent, but 45 per cent., and the figure for Merthyr was not 40 per cent, but 66 per cent.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
In comparing these figures, I presume that the hon. Member refers to the Labour Government in 1931 and to the present time, but can he tell us to what extent transference from places like Merthyr is responsible for that situation?
§ Mr. Brooke
I know that there has been some transference from Merthyr, but there has been relatively little transference from South Shields.
Mr. W. Joseph Stewart
Is the hon. Member aware that since 1932 over 49,000 persons have been transferred from the county of Durham and that a large percentage of those people have been transferred from South Shields?
§ Mr. Brooke
I hope the hon. Member will not think that I am speaking without any knowledge of the county of Durham or the county of Glamorgan. I was in Merthyr this day last week. Merthyr appeals to my heart more than almost any other place in the country. It seems to me like the extinct crater of an artificial volcano, surrounded by its old slag heaps, which, in spite of years of heavy unemployment, no one locally has yet done much to improve.
I want to make it clear to the Committee that I do not want in these remarks to be challenging. I would like to join with the hon. Member for Aberdare in paying high tribute to the managers of the Employment Exchanges and their assistants, and to the officers of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I do not believe that there is any other country in the world which could produce a body of men and women so well qualified to maintain official rectitude and yet mingle it with human and sympathetic understanding of the personal problems with which they are dealing every day.
I would pay my tribute too to another class of person. I have not heard this tribute paid yet, and I have been sitting here for five hours. I would like to pay tribute to the great body of the unemployed, honourable men and women, who hate and detest the state of worklessness which hangs round them. I regret that one or two hon. Members opposite have made bitter personal remarks about a former most respected member of this House, the present chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board, as though he had invented derogatory statements about the average unemployed man or woman. If these hon. Members had read the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board they would have seen that these statements about 25 per cent, of the unemployed were based upon the findings of the local advisory committees, which, as all hon. Members know, are composed 143 of impartial local people of every shade of opinion. These findings in the report are based not on any generalisations, not on platform oratory, but on personal interviews with 40,000 people, and that fact should be publicly stated and put on record in this Committee.
I invite the attention of the Committee to two matters arising out of the report of the Board. No one yet in this Debate has mentioned the very startling figures given there relating to domestic service. Some 30,000 women were interviewed with a view to the possibility of their training for domestic service, and 20,000 of these refused to consider it, 3,500 expressed themselves at first as willing, and, in the end, only 812 were actually admitted to home-training centres. That situation, however one looks at it, seems to be a national disaster, because hon. Members in all parts of the Committee know that the home structure of this country is going to be very seriously undermined unless we can make a better attempt at lessening the shortage of domestic servants than we have done hitherto.
I am very glad indeed to see in the report that a new kind of training centre is being considered, a training centre of a general character which girls will be permitted to enter without undertaking at the outset an obligation to enter domestic service at the conclusion of the course. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us that that centre, or more than one centre of that kind, will very quickly come into existence. I would dearly like to see a new, thorough and vigorous inquiry into the whole subject of domestic service. I am holding in my hand the report of the last inquiry of that character, and it is dated 1923. I am firmly convinced that the situation has developed since that time and that a new inquiry would bring forth fruitful ideas of importance. If my right hon. Friend thinks that the time for such an inquiry has not yet come, then I hope he will be able to tell the Committee that, whenever vacancies occur on the Central Committee for Women's Training and Employment — the committee which manages the training centres for domestic service—opportunity will be taken to fill those vacancies as they arise with young women from all classes of the community, 144 keen to see this problem successfully attacked, with a vigorous type of mind brought to bear upon it. I hope the senior members of that committee will take no offence at my words. They have borne the burden and heat of the day in this matter. I most strongly feel that the younger women, from homes of all sorts, have in these days a positive contribution to make towards the solution of this very serious national problem.
Lastly, may I refer very briefly to the matter of policy involved in the instructional centres? I do not think anyone in this Debate has fully brought out the significance of the figures quoted in the Ministry of Labour's report as to the experience in instructional centres during the past year. Of the 23,000 young men admitted, not more than 25 per cent, obtained work immediately, or soon after, they had completed their course; 30 per cent, were dismissed or voluntarily left the centres before finishing their course; and of the remaining 45 per cent, there is no evidence that they obtained work within a reasonable time. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not think that I am offering merely destructive criticisms in this matter. I am perfectly certain that all Members of the House, in all parts of the House, wish to help him and my right hon. Friend in improving and perfecting the voluntary training system, which is one of the bases of the right hon. Gentleman's policy. But those figures are seriously unsatisfactory. I feel sure that my right hon. Friend will do all he can as a matter of Government policy to increase the number of men placed after completing their course and passing out of the centres.
I venture to suggest to my right hon. Friend that he might draw the attention of local authorities to the potentialities of Section 37 of the Act of 1934—the Section whereby local authorities can enter into an arrangement with the Board, and obtain a contribution from the Board in respect of men on the Board's register whom they will arrange to take into employment for a limited period of time. I have been a member of a local authority for the past four years, and I do not remember at any time that provision being brought to our attention. I cannot help thinking that, either by a circular to local authorities or by some other means, my right hon. Friend might see 145 his way to interesting local authorities more actively in that provision.
Finally, and most strongly of all, I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he will consider appointing a committee of inquiry to examine and review the working of the instructional centres as they exist to-day and to include in that review a practical examination of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the United States, which has been referred to earlier in this Debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair), and of any other oversea experiments which seem to have achieved some success in training or reconditioning, and have secured greater national popularity than the instructional centres in this country have done. I feel that this might be the crucial moment when a committee of that kind, on which perhaps hon. Members from all parts of the House might be invited to sit, could do a really valuable piece of constructive work for improving the training system which this Government has already built up for the benefit of the nation.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I do not want to quarrel with the hon. Member for Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), although I thought it was rather peculiar of him first of all to attack the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) and pass strong strictures on him, and then, when somebody interrupted him, to say, "I do not want to be challenged at all." In this Debate I think we have had a mixed grill, if ever we had one. I do not know what the subject of discussion is, whether it is the Board's report, or hours of labour, or training, and I have been struck by the fact that nine-tenths of the speeches delivered to-day have dealt with matters that need legislation to bring them into effect
. The first question I wish to raise is one which was introduced in the report of the Board itself, and which formed one of the challenging features of the Minister's statement. I mean the question of these young men who somehow are not being properly trained. I confess I could not quite follow the Minister in his reference to Glasgow and Liverpool, which he picked out as being very bad and as having a larger number of these young men than other places in the country. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies to say what these figures from 146 Glasgow and Liverpool mean. Are they intended to prove that we have more young men who are worse than others in other parts of the country; if not, what is the reason for bringing these two cities into prominence?
The Board seek to condemn young men for not going for training, but I think the last speaker gave the answer, and the Board themselves give the answer. What is it? When men have been trained for any occupation, whether it is to serve their time at trades or to train themselves for any calling, what is their object? Their object is to get a job at the end of the training for which they equip themselves. If that is not the purpose, then the training is wasted. And the reason why young men are not taking training is supplied by the Board, who inform us that something like 45 per cent. of them have got no jobs at the end of their training. If you are not going to give the person who undertakes this training some chance of a job at the end of it, then obviously he would say—as I would say —"I am not going to transfer from the City of Glasgow away down to the South of England for six months' training in a Ministry of Labour centre unless at the end of the training I can have a reasonable chance of securing some kind of employment." That is the answer. The Board talk about the large number of young men who have not taken on training and do not desire to do so.
May I say a few words about the inquiry to which reference has been made? We are told that the people who have been engaged in the inquiry are impartial. There is more nonsense talked about impartiality than about anything else. In these matters none of us is impartial. I am not impartial. We start with certain preconceived ideas. It has not been a real inquiry at all. When I hold an inquiry into a problem, I expect the persons who are involved in it to be examined in public. I expect that the people conducting the inquiry will be publicly known. I expect that the findings will be signed by the people who conduct the inquiry. Nothing like that has been done in this case. What happened? These poor people, these alleged bad people, are taken, or a certain percentage of them, into a room, so that a so-called advisory committee may examine them. Certain questions are put. What are the ques- 147 tions? I do not know, nor does the hon. Member know, nor does the Minister know. The questions can be put in any way.
After an inquiry of that kind this advisory committee issues a report, saying they have found that such and such a thing has happened. That is not an inquiry; it is a modified form of star chamber. The Minister can say what he likes about it, but that is what it is. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), a Member of the Government, is present. In his days on the back benches he used to be a critic of this Board. Let him try to imagine himself not a Member of this House but an unemployed man, five years out of work, 30 years of age, and taken before this committee. He is hauled up before this committee, consisting of three members, and he is there himself. Would the hon. Member deem that to be a fair inquiry? Of course, he would not. Yet that is the inquiry on which the Board's statements have been founded.
If I am going to have findings, I want findings on public facts, not the findings of some secret body, which may or may not be impartial, and the members of which may or may not be fit for the job of making the inquiry. I do not praise exchange managers, because if I started praising them I might also run them down. Therefore, they are best left alone. They are well paid, most of them, for doing their job, and they are not entitled to special thanks. They get their wages, and I only wish the unemployed could get wages. If, however, I have to choose between having a report from members of an advisory committee, most of whom are busybodies, and a trained civil servant, give me a trained civil servant every time. The trained civil servant by his training has an idea how to get at facts. Therefore, I would prefer the report of a civil servant to the report of this advisory committee.
With regard to the means test, I support one of my colleagues from Yorkshire in the desire for its abolition. Let us look at this question without prejudice. Let me strip myself of my dislike of the means test, and let hon. Members opposite strip themselves of their defence of the means test and think it out as a business proposition. What do we find? The 148 Board is costing, roughly, from £4,000,000 to £4,500,000 to run. It is an expensive system, and the cost is rising. It cannot be a cheap machine. Anything that involves constant inquiries not simply into the position of the application but into questions affecting the applicant's family, is bound to be costly. We have never taken into account the full cost of this system. We have only reckoned the cost of the Board. There is the increase in crime attached to this matter, certain costs of the police, and so forth.
Nobody now comes forward with the ancient tale that the Board was established to keep people with money from drawing unemployment benefit. The Board in their own appendix show that hardly anybody with money claims means test benefit now. Therefore, that fallacy has gone, and we are paying this large sum in order to reduce benefit by calculating the means test in regard to the income of the household. How much are we saving? We are spending from £4,000,000 to £4,500,000 on ruuning a Department for the sake of saving less than a similar sum. If unemployment goes down the saving is bound to be less. I anticipate that unemployment will go down. You cannot go on increasing your expenditure without decreasing unemployment in some form or other. When the number of the unemployed has fallen to 1,250,000, as it is likely to do, the figures of the Board must fall more rapidly than the standard benefit figures fall. Out of a total of 1,500,000 unemployed you may have one-third who are applicants to the Board, and when the figure falls to 1,250,000, then the applicants to the Board will be 250,000 or 300,000. You are spending on the administration of the Board £4,500,000. Instead of keeping this machine running it would be far better if the Government abolished it completely and gave the unemployed the money which they are spending on this useless Board. The time has arrived when we should revise our outlook and see whether it is not possible to abolish it completely. If the Minister of Labour is not prepared to do that I hope he will look kindly at one or two matters.
I notice that the Board are modifying their views on reserved men's pay. The longer I am in this House the more amazed I am at what the Government can do. Only the other day the Minister of Labour ánnounced that in connection 149 with military training the 26 weeks of a militiaman is going to be 30 weeks, and this is to be done without an Act of Parliament. The Government by some form of Order in Council are going to make 26 weeks into 30. I confess that it is amazing to me the way in which they can do a thing if they want to do it, and I am amazed that without any Act of Parliament, merely by an Order in Council, they are going to turn 26 weeks into 30. In connection with the reserve men may I raise this point? What is going to be the position of men whose allowances are to be paid to their mothers? Their mother is, I understand, going to receive an allowance of 17s. per week, that is the same as a wife, and 3s. 6d. from the son, which will make £1 0s. 6d. What is to be the position of that £1 0s. 6d. if either the mother or some other member of the household is an applicant of the Board? Is the £1 0s. 6d. to be calculated as part of the family income, and if so how is it to be calculated? Is it to be exempted on the same scale as earnings are exempted, or is it to be dealt with in a different way?
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will also look at another anomaly in connection with this matter. That is the case where the father is working and the son is unemployed. I have raised this matter before. In the case where a son is earning say £2 a week,£1 of his income is exempt and then only 12s. of the remaining £1 is taken into account. In the case of the father the position is different. If he is earning £2 a week all that he is let off is 8s. a week, the result being that 32s. of his income is taken into the family account. I do not say that the son is getting too much; he does not in my view get enough, because he may be saving up to get married; but my impression is that all the family income goes among all the members of the family, and I think the time has now arrived when the father of a family should be in exactly the same position as the son in regard to his earnings. If the Minister cannot go the whole hog and abolish the means test I hope he will look kindly and sympathetically on these points. My opposition to the means test still continues, not merely because of its effects from the monetary aspect but because of its moral effect, the breaking up of the family, and causing dissension and quarelling in the family, which in my view outweigh any financial 150 consideration. If for no other reason than to give the family life of this country a chance I shall still retain my opposition to the means test.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir George Courthope
Earlier this evening a speech was made by the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) on the possibility of finding employment by afforestation and he based his argument on the very interesting and apparently successful experiment of the American Conservation Corps. I do not know what prolonged preparation was made for that successful planting work, but I feel that the hon. Member's speech was made under a misapprehension of the facts so far as afforestation in the British Isles is concerned, and it is undesirable that any Member of the Committee should get any false ideas on the subject. That is my excuse for intervening for a few moments in the Debate. Personally, I have the greatest confidence that, taking the long view, the work of the Forestry Commission and, I hope, also of the owners of private woodlands, will make a very great contribution to the employment of the country. But forestry is not an industry which lends itself to sudden spurts; it does not lend itself at any moment to any great sudden increase.
Let me try and explain why that is so. In the first place, the amount of land that can be planted and consequently the amount of employment that can be given, is limited by the supply of young trees in the nurseries, and the supply of young trees is limited by the supply of seed. If this House suddenly wished the Forestry Commission to make a great increase in our planting programme we should be obliged to send out expeditions to different parts of the world to collect seeds. We should be singularly lucky if we got all the seed that we wanted in one year, because trees do not bear seed every year. Suppose that we did get all the seed we wanted, we should then have to put it in the nurseries, and five years would elapse—four years from the time of sowing in the nurseries—before any material expansion of planting in the plantations could take place. That, however, is not the only point. One of the most essential features of afforestation is that the employment given should be stable and permanent, and a very brief description of the life of a young plantation will show 151 how stability of employment would be impossible if there were sudden increases of planting followed by a slackening off.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and gallant Baronet, but a detailed explanation of afforestation would hardly be in order under this Vote. He may not go into the question of afforestation in too much detail.
§ Sir G. Courthope
I apologise, Colonel Clifton Brown, for having gone into the matter at too great length. Perhaps the Committee will accept it from me that while the work which the Forestry Commission are doing steadily year by year will cause a steady and progressive increase in employment, at the same time it does not lend itself to the sudden employment of a very large number of people. In justification of the statement I have just made, that the increase of employment is likely to be progressive, let me say that while young plantations may employ only about two men per 1,000 acres, a fully matured forest—and we have some, notably the Forest of Dean —gives permanent employment to 25 or 26 men per 1,000 acres. Therefore, as the woodlands of the country grow, we may look forward to their making a progressively increasing contribution to the employment problem.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Magnay
I do not know that I would have spoken in this Debate had it not been for the fact that my constituency has been mentioned at least three times, particularly in connection with this disease of the body politic, which we all lament. In listening to the Debate, I have noticed that scarcely anything new has been said on this matter, and certainly nothing that has been said in the way of criticism has been new. Hon. Members have gone to the bedside of he patient and said the same old thing; there has been a variation in the language, but they have lamented that the patient has not been getting on to his feet, and a thousand and one consolations, pious or otherwise, have been uttered. But really nothing new has been said, for the simple reason that there is nothing new to say. Nor have I anything very new to say, but I think my remarks will be pertinent to the subject. [Interruption.] I am 152 very glad to hear that hon. Members of the Opposition Liberal party can make comments even at this late hour.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) said a great many things about the trading estates, and on most of his remarks I have no comment to make, except to say that the trading estates, certainly as far as the one in Gateshead is concerned, are a long-term experiment, and we do not expect things to be done in five minutes, or even in five years. The trading estates are making some progress, and in the North we support them for the obvious reason that we have suffered as a result of putting all our eggs into one basket, or, to be more accurate, into three baskets—engineering, coalmining and shipbuilding. These industries are the first to feel the bump of bad trade, and the last to recover. What we have endeavoured to persuade the Government to do has been to spread these industries and to make the Tyne-side more like Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester, where the are a hundred and one industries, and, without any doubt, the scheme is succeeding in an amazing way.
There is another point that I want to make. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will altogether like it, but we are old enough friends to talk quite frankly to each other. I always think that it is unfair on him to have to sit on the Front Bench and answer a Debate on unemployment. In my opinion, the persons who ought to be there are the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the President of the Board of Trade. As I see the matter the Minister of Labour is there as an auditor, to give statistics on trade and unemployment. He has nothing to do with the partners, so to speak, and he has no part in settling the policy of the firm. [AN HON. MEMBER: "He is the office boy."] If the hon. Member knew more about business, he would know that there is all the difference in the world between an office boy and an auditor. I happen to be an auditor for many companies, and it is a very responsible office, but it is not a partner's job.
§ Mr. Magnay
He makes recommendations on the balance sheet and profit and loss accounts. He sees how trade has 153 gone and prepares and balances a balance sheet; he can make recommendations to the partners, but he does not settle policy. It is the Foreign Office, the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer who are responsible for anything that is happening in regard to our trade.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Will not the hon. Member move to Report Progress so that we may have these partners in?
§ Mr. Magnay
I promised to be as brief as I could, and therefore, I will keep to my word. If other hon. Members had not been so lengthy in their remarks, I should have had more time in which to talk. As my schoolmaster used to say, "When studying geography, always do so with the globe in front of you." "Study large maps," said the great Lord Salisbury. We do not understand geography until we see the globe and see everything in true proportion. I say that because, in discussing unemployment, we are talking about results instead of causes. A tyro in these matters knows that the causes are mainly international. Before the War, we never heard of currency depreciation, quotas or shipping subsidies given by other countries which make it impossible for our shipping to work at remunerative economic rates. We have heard of rationalisation at home, making whole districts, such as Jarrow and the Tyneside, derelict, with the result that we have no proper apprentices, and therefore, no skilled men to take the places of their fathers. All these things, and many others, are the causes of unemployment. As to the rest of my speech, I am going to move that it be read this day six months. I promised to take five minutes and I will take five minutes and no more. I am obliged to hon. Members who have made it possible for me to make this interjection. I hope we shall see that this lopsided unemployment position can be solved. With the multiplied power of the machine we can make anything. What matters now is the question of distribution, and there is no reason why we should not have a shorter week, a shorter working day and a shorter working life.
§ 10.6 p.m.
Mr. West wood
I am amazed at the conclusion of the speech that we have just heard. The hon. Members seems to be on the wrong side of the House. He has admitted that it is possible to do anything and everything in the way of 154 production and that there is no limit to the ingenuity of man except a solution of the unemployed problem. This is a subject that has been debated oftener than any other, even foreign affairs. Unemployment is to home affairs what debates on foreign affairs are to the problem of international peace, and until we have solved the problem of unemployment there can be no real home peace. The Minister of Labour prided himself on the great achievement of his Department in carrying through registration for military purposes. We were told about the great improvement in employment and we were told, as if it was something for which we ought to be thankful, of the total of benefits and allowances, which amounted to no less than£80,000,000. Looked at by itself that seems a gigantic figure, but compared with the expenditure on rearmament and preparations for war it is infinitesimal. If we had put the same efforts into the solution of the unemployed problem as we are putting into the effort for defence, I am sure that we should have been nearer a solution of the unemployed problem than we are to-day.
We have been told of the variety, the complexity and the importance of the work of the Department, and the Minister particularly emphasised the work carried through in dealing with improvements so far as collective agreements are concerned. because he prided himself on the fact that we had had the smallest number of industrial disputes with the smallest loss of working time that we have had almost in the history of the country, certainly in the last 20 years. But that achievement is not entirely due to his Department. It is mainly due to the good work of the trade union movement. It would have been absolutely impossible to get that success if it had not been for the collective efforts on the part of the great trade union movement itself, and what amazes me is that the machinery of the Department is not used more often, and more effectively, for the purpose of bringing about satisfactory arrangements for the shortening of hours and the improvement of labour.
The great productive power which has been referred to is surely an argument for the reduction of hours of labour and for negotiations between employers and employed, and the Minister can rest assured that if he calls conferences of the employers for the purpose of discussing 155 the shortening of the hours of labour there will be no objection of any kind lodged by the great trade union movement, for which I think I have authority to speak in dealing with this problem. What is to hinder these negotiations going on? If legislation should be necessary afterwards, we can discuss that but you must apply the same to this problem as applies to our great local administrative machinery. It has become a great success because it has been built up on voluntary legislation. Every piece of legislation which is of real value in dealing with local administration started with the word "may," and you only applied the word '' shall'' after you had a majority of local authorities in favour of progressive legislation and you made it apply to the minority to compel them to fall into line. Why not carry the same arrangements through the Ministry of Labour to bring about a shortening of hours? Call these conferences and make it possible to discuss these problems. If you induced the majority of employers to concede the legitimate demands of the working class for a shortening of hours, it would become the duty of the Ministry to introduce the necessary legislation to apply compulsion to the minority.
The Minister said he would do his best to avoid dealing with more controversial subjects. He almost stumbled on to one when he said it was not a question of money that they considered when dealing with the means test but the needs of the applicant. He was on dangerous ground and he quickly slipped off it. New regulations could be introduced which would at least minimise some of the hardships associated with the means test. It is not the needs of the people that are met under these regulations. It is merely an existence standard that is required. It is not a question of meeting the legitimate and moral needs of these people. Then we have had quoted to us the success in connection with the International Labour Office. It may be true that we have approved of certain conventions, but there is nothing greatly to our credit in that. We are the wealthiest race on the earth and we ought to be able to give a lead to other countries. Many more conventions which would have granted advantages to our people have not been accepted by the Government. It would be interesting to know what those 34 con- 156 ventions were. If they were small pettifogging things, which meant no loss or injury to the capitalist system as such and very little advantage to the workers as such, the fact that they were signed, accepted and given effect to is no great credit to the Government.
I was amazed at the statement made by the Minister in his special reference to the number of changes that take place year by year in transferences from one class of work to another. The right hon. Gentleman said that this made theoretical planning ahead a very difficult job. But surely that is no reason why it should not be tackled. We have been told, indeed it has been suggested by the Minister himself, that he is the man to tackle difficult jobs. Why then does he not tackle this problem? Why does he not try to plan ahead in this case? It is, I think, admitted on all sides of the Committee that, as and when rearmament is slowed down, as the international race in armaments comes to an end, not only this country, but every country in the world will have problems to face. Our problem will probably be the greatest of all, because we started last in the race and we have intensified our efforts. If we succeed, as everyone desires, in avoiding war, if it is possible to bring about international peace, we shall have to meet a terrific problem of unemployment. Surely it is not wise to wait until we are faced with that problem and that tragedy before we begin to plan. Surely we ought to be planning now the method of dealing with a situation which will be inevitable if we succeed in establishing international peace. I cannot understand the Minister's statement about the difficulty of planning ahead. I cannot understand his suggestion that this is something which cannot be tackled now.
In various reports which have been discussed and particularly that of the Unemployment Assistance Board, special attention has been drawn to the tragedies of unemployment. I suggest that the greatest tragedy of all is not that of the man who is intermittently unemployed, but that of the victims of chronic and prolonged unemployment. According to the report, they number, approximately, 6000,000. The figure given us to-day was one of about 580,000. The position is particularly tragic in relation to the chronic unemployment of men over 45 or 157 under 30 years of age. There is practically no hope for the man over 45 and there is very little prospect of employment, for the reasons given in the report, for the man under 30 who has no trade, and has undergone no apprenticeship, who is, in most cases, a member of the untrained section of the working class. His labour is, practically speaking, unwanted. The man over 45 years of age who, for many years, has had no prospect of employment, is in a hopeless plight. In the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board this particular problem is dealt with. Here is a quotation from the report:It is vitally necessary to any unemployment policy that steps should be taken to check the employment of lads under conditions in which they reach the age of manhood without acquiring any qualifications that would make them employable at a man's wages.What are the Ministry doing to deal with that problem? There has been no word of encouragement from the Minister, no hope for dealing with this particular problem, a problem to which special attention is drawn in the report. Then, again, I find this passage in the report:The cumulative result of the casual and thoughtless practices which now prevail is at once demoralising to the individual and costly to the nation.Again, I ask, what are you going to do to deal with that particular problem? Yours is a responsibility for at least something in the way of planning for the purpose of dealing with that tragic aspect of the unemployment problem. Special reference is made in this report to the mining areas in Scotland. May I submit that that is a special problem, and may I respectfully suggest that so far as Scotland is concerned, there are ways in which you can deal with that problem? There are fine fields waiting to be developed that cannot be developed through lack of houses. I know of two areas in the county in which I live where there might be development which would provide employment for from 3,000 to 4,000 miners, and taking into account the necessary complement of other industries there would be employment for at least 5,000 persons. That development cannot be carried through because no provision is made for dealing with the normal housing requirements of the population. In foreign affairs we ask for collaboration with the military staffs of 158 France, Russia and Poland. Is it not possible to have collaboration in dealing with this problem between the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health and the other Ministries that are dealing with and to help to deal with this particular problem? Is there any reason why there should not be a monthly confab or a quarterly confab between the heads of those Departments for the purpose of seeing what can be done?
This problem is more keen in Scotland than in almost any part of Britain. Consequently, it requires special treatment in regard to which there ought to be consultation as between the Ministry of Labour and the Secretary of State for Scotland and his Department. The problem of unemployment in Scotland is far more tragic than it is in England, more tragic even than it is in Wales. The unemployed in Scotland are living under more intolerable conditions as is proved by the report from which I have quoted. So far as overcrowding is concerned, 2.1 per cent, of the unemployed in England live in one room, whereas in Scotland 24.5 per cent, of the unemployed live in one room. The problem in Scotland is 12 times greater. In England and Wales 13.8 per cent, of the unemployed who are dealt with under the Unemployment Assistance Board live in two rooms, but in Scotland the figure is 41.6 per cent. That proves that the standard of living of the unemployed in Scotland is far worse and requires far more attention than in the case of England.
As regards the main problem we have been discussing are we simply adopting the Micawber-like attitude of waiting for something to turn up? We have heard no definite proposals for dealing with the problem. What is to take the place of rearmament when that comes to an end? Are we going to plan for peace as we are planning for defence? Are all the things we are doing to-day of real use in dealing with this problem? Many references have been made to the Special Areas and to the trading estates, and I think speakers on both sides of the Committee have emphasised the point that trading estates can be no solution of the problem. I would go further and say that they will intensify the problem of certain areas in Scotland. Take the Hillington Estate. According to information given by the Minister of Labour to the hon. Member for Maryhill 159 (Mir. Davidson), 17 of the companies which have taken factories at Hillington are engaged elsewhere in Scotland or in England. All that is happening is that they are taking advantage of the facilities offered in connection with these trading estates, which will place them in the position of being unfair competitors with other concerns in Scotland and England.
§ Mr. Westwood
I am going to prove it. On the north-east coast there is a trading estate which has been taking trade in the light castings industry from the Falkirk and Stirling area. It has taken the trade because of the conditions which have been laid down that wherever light castings can be ordered from within the Special Areas they must be obtained there, and there is unfair competition by reason of the additional de-rating proposals in connection with the trading estate. If it were possible to get the figures it could be shown beyond doubt that unemployment is increasing in the Falkirk area, although a little more employment may have been created in that trading estate on the northeast coast. The trading estate system is not creating employment but merely spreading employment. I wish I had time to develop that point, but there is still time for me to deal with the problem of domestic service. Plea after plea has been put up for the training of domestic servants. Is that the only avenue of hope for unemployed women? I am glad that the Secretary of State for Scotland and a representative of the Ministry of Education are here. The health services require many trained persons. Nurses are scarce. Why not provide adequate maintenance grants for the purpose of enabling a full course of nursing to be provided for many of our unemployed young women? Why not give us the necessary grants for the training of home helps, or health visitors? There are three arguments and illustrations of the way in which you could deal with unemployment as it affects women.
Two great schemes ought to be considered in your problem of planning, with which I have tried to deal as we shall have to face it when rearmament stops. There is the question of the Forth Bridge. Surely it is time that the Minister of Labour took some action. He ought to 160 be keenly interested, as a Scottish Member, knowing all the arguments in favour of a Forth Bridge and the lack of transport facilities which now handicaps Scottish industry. I am wondering when we can get collaboration among the Departments at least to have the plan ready for going on with the bridge. Secondly, there is the Forth-Clyde Canal. I have a mass of statistics to prove the enormous amount of trade that would be usefully carried by such a canal. A proper Forth-Clyde canal would have its military and naval advantages, and would help to deal drastically with the problems of unemployment now affecting the midlands of Scotland. Those two problems ought to be considered when planning for the unemployment that we shall face, and which must be solved, once we have finished rearmament. I have but one other word. Statistics are very dry, but unemployment is a human problem which is biting deeply into the lives of our people. The progress of any Government can be measured by the success attained not merely in carrying through temporary arrangements for reducing the numbers of the unemployed but in the success permanently attained in their efforts to deal with this great human problem.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)
I assure the hon. Member that I much appreciate his sitting down at the time we agreed upon together, and also that I shall give way to him in time for him to move a reduction of our Vote. I assure him also that the questions which he has raised in regard to Scottish mining areas and Scottish housing problems are now under the very active review of the Scottish Housing Association who are, not for the first time, showing a lively and practical interest in matters concerning unemployment in Scotland. On one other issue, the hon. Member mentioned in his speech that he thought he could speak for the trade unions as a whole. I hope therefore that I am not taking him in vain if I ask him to agree, on this subject of unemployment, with the general dictum of the Trade Union Congress that there is no single, simple cause of unemployment and no single, simple remedy. This ought therefore to enable all of us on both sides of this Committee to approach the problem in an attitude, not only of 161 common humility but of mutual understanding.
Although the hon. Member painted a very gloomy picture of the prospects and the situation in Scotland at the moment, he lost sight of the fact that there has lately been very real progress, not only in that trading estate to which we all wish the best fortune in the future but in other parts of Scotland. The unemployment figures which were presented by my right hon. Friend gave a reassuring picture of all parts of the United King dom. And so naturally in Scotland there has been a drop in the unemployment figures in the last month alone from 241,000 to 221,000. Taking the general period since this Government have been responsible for the administration of the nation's affairs, there has been a fall of unemployment in Scotland by nearly 150,000. If it is suggested—the hon. Gentleman did not do so, but I think it has been suggested by other hon. Members —that the Special Areas have not shared in this improvement, I must point out that there has been a decrease in unemployment in the Scottish Special Areas from 94,000 to 62,000 since 1934. If I may give one other figure, the number of unemployed in the Scottish Special Areas who have been out of work for 12 months or more has been reduced by about 50 per cent, in the course of recent years. This leads me to another figure, which was asked for in an interjection while my right hon. Friend was speaking, both by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) and also, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury)—I thought I heard the right hon. Gentleman ask that the 1937 figure also should be given —
§ Mr. Lansbury
I do not want to do either myself or any other Member an injustice, but I really did not do that.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I quite thought that the words "Hear, hear; give us the 1937 figure" came from the right hon. Gentleman. We are not afraid to give the 1937 figure; it was 1,484,000, and the figure announced to-day by my right hon. Friend is 1,492,000. I think it will be agreed on both sides of the Committee that we are not unduly optimistic in thinking we are set for a period of still further decline in unemployment. I can answer 162 a number of the points that have been raised, and will do my best to deal with them as shortly and concisely as possible.
One of the first requests made was that I should deal with the question of those trade boards that have not made arrangements for holidays with pay. As my right hon. Friend said, there are 47 trade boards in existence. Of these, 36 have decided to frame schemes. In 12 cases those schemes have been confirmed, and it is hoped that they will be in effective operation in the near future. Four more await confirmation, and 20 are still in the proposal stage. It is hoped that all of these will be completed and in operation within the next six weeks. As to the boards which for one reason or another have found it impracticable to come to definite arrangements, one, the Linen and Cotton Handkerchief Board, has come to a decision and proposes to put it into operation next year. Two others have accepted the principle but have not yet finished settling the details. These are the Fustian Cutting Board and the Cutlery Board. Two others—and this may interest the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot)—have accepted the principle of paid holidays, but prefer to proceed by voluntary means. These are the Jute and Flax Boards. Two others, the Retail Hosiery Board and the Button Board, have partially considered the matter but have come to no decision. There remain only three boards—the Cotton Waste Board, the Drift Nets Board, and the Lace Furnishing Board—which have not considered the matter at all. I apologise to the Committee for reciting the names of these boards, but I was expressly asked to give the names of those which have not yet come to a decision.
The very general point was raised by the hon. Member for Aberdare, and by others who followed him, that the question of unemployment centres round the part which has been played by the rearmament programme in improving employment, and gloomy prophecies were made as to what will happen when the happy day comes when the rearmament boom recedes. I would point out that the recovery in our industrial position did not begin with rearmament. There was a steady improvement long before it became necessary for us to join in an armaments race, and, when questions are asked as to what will happen after the rearmament programme has receded, 163 I think we are entitled to point to the example of the early part of this year as an illustration of what the return of confidence means. For a very short period in February and early March this year, there was a real slackening of tension, and during that period the improvement began to increase. When the hon. Member for Aberdare drew attention to the order for 250,000 tons of steel for A.R.P. purposes in South Wales, and suggested, perhaps unintentionally, that when orders like that are withdrawn South Wales may suffer, I think he was losing sight of the fact that all past experience seems to suggest, that, with the return of confidence which will come when rearmament is not so necessary as it is now, there will be an increase in ordinary peaceful, industrial purposes which we hope will more than make up for the employment that has been lost.
The hon. Member dealt with the question of the Special Areas, and it is incumbent on me to give the Committee, very briefly, the general Special Area figures. I am conscious that some part of the improvement in the Special Areas is due to transference from those areas to other, and in this sense happier, districts. I do not believe that the whole solution of that problem can be found in that way, but there are very few districts in South Wales or other parts of industrial Britain which three or four generations ago were not drawing into them men from the agricultural areas, whose descendants may be now leaving these districts and going back to those from which their families first sprang. Allowing for that fact, the unemployment figures show a startling improvement in the Special Areas. In February, 1935, there were in the Special Areas of England and Wales 337,000 insured persons out of work, and in April, 1939, 201,000. I am not in a position to say what the May figure is in the Special Areas, but I am confident that it will be below the 200,000 mark.
The hon. Member for Aberdare also referred to training centres, and inquired why it was that they were placed in areas of prosperity, and not in South Wales, which naturally grasped every prospect of increased prosperity. The reason is that indicated in the remark of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), that unless work can be found for these men 164 at the end of their training the great value of the training course is lost. The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) made a speech which was in part answered by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope), but which, quite apart from that, raised the interesting question of the experiment of civilian concentration camps now being conducted in the United States. This is an experiment which only a very short-sighted person would dismiss without sympathetic consideration. It has had considerable results, not the least being the change in the opinion, public and political, of those formerly opposed to it. This question must be viewed in the new light likely to be thrown upon this problem by the Military Training Bill.
The hon. Member for Dundee asked me one or two questions which I would like to answer in some detail. I must apologise to the rest of the Committee if I do so, but I think they raise questions of more than local importance. He spoke first of a case of a constituent of his whose husband has had a separation order from her, and of the question of separated dependant's allowance. He quoted from a Memorandum, and suggested that in this Memorandum there were some words which showed that an applicant might be entitled to claim when an order of a court was given against him. But the Memorandum deals with wage-earners other than the applicant, and so it has no particular application to this case. The Board can include persons similar to that mentioned by the hon. Member for the purpose of allowance in respect of dependants only if the dependant lives in the household, and I do not think that anyone can argue that a wife who has a separation order can fairly be regarded as being in fact a member of the household. It is true, as the hon. Member pointed out—and I will come in a moment to his case—that what would appear at first sight to be an exception to this principle has been conceded, but it is not really an exception.
A man on unemployment benefit may go on to the Board and then back on to benefit, and then perhaps come again on to the Board, change from benefit to Board, and back again from Board to benefit. Such a man may have had a separation order from his wife and he might have been shown to have wholly 165 or mainly maintained his wife and have got dependant's benefit for her. It seems a little unreasonable, and also administratively difficult, to say that in this case no allowance should be granted because the wife told you that she was separated legally from her husband. But if that particular and difficult case is met, we should not so stretch the discretion of the Board as to meet the needs of other members who are not members of the household, and, by attempting to meet what the hon. Member thinks is a genuine case, override the provisions of this part of the Act. If the needs of the wife who has an order for maintenance given against the husband are considered in all circumstances there is no logical reason why the debts incurred by the applicant should not also be met by the Board.
The second case which the hon. Member raised concerned a person suffering from some complaint which at first sight rather surprised me. I did not recognise it under the hon. Gentleman's pronunciation. The complaint is psychiatrac. I call it syke-e-atric. He called it psychiatrac, and I was puzzling what the hon. Member meant when another right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench here who was at Oxford with the hon. Member and myself remarked to me that it reminded him of the poem about the flower border:The Oxford man with Brows so high Sternly says Glad-eye-o-lie.So far as I can make out, it concerns the child of an applicant who not being quite normal is sent to a special school where the whole cost is borne by the education authority. If I am wrong, I would like him to write to my right hon. Friend or myself and we will endeavour to furnish him with the information, which, I hope, will reassure him that justice is done in this case. With regard to the third case which he raised, I think that if he will look at the original Act and at the Finance Act, 1919, he will find that what he has stated was stated in error. The matter of blind alley employment has been committed by my right hon. Friend to the National Advisory Council for Juvenile Employment, and I cannot overestimate the real importance of proper guidance at the start which a young person is likely to need.
I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Butcher), the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyme (Mr. Simpson), and my hon. 166 Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) for their tribute which I think was a very proper tribute to the work of the Ministry of Labour not only in their administrative work, but also in the particular case of the Military Training Act, and the registration and calling up of the men under that Act. I know something of the real strain upon officers of our Department not only at headquarters, but in the country as a whole. When I tell the Committee that in many Employment Exchanges of which I have personal knowledge through my right hon. Friend's visit to them last Saturday, every member of the staff without exception insisted upon turning up to assist in registration, even though a smaller nucleus could have done the work, it will be seen that some appreciation is due to those public-spirited men. In regard to the other point raised by the hon. Member for Holland and Boston (Mr. Butcher) I can assure him that we will go in detail into the suggestions he made; and in reply to the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) my right hon. Friend will in fact consult with the Ministry of Health on the subject which interested him. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) spoke in terms of some violence, not only of my right hon. Friend but also of that part of the report which deals particularly with men under 30. He said he was not going to stand slandering and maligning of the workers. It seems to me that the term "slandering and maligning" cannot fairly be laid to the charge of the Unemployment Assistance Board, which in its report expressly says that only a very small percentage indeed of the men who come within their scope could in fact be accused of "adjusting themselves to unemployment." The term "slandering and maligning" would rather apply to those people who try to suggest that a general charge has been made against all the unemployed, when in fact that is totally untrue. The hon. Member no doubt forgot, when he spoke about the way in which the unemployed are treated, that to-day—or rather last year, taking the average for the whole year—there were 125,000 fewer people out of work than in the year 1930, and that no less than £9,000,000 more is being paid to the unemployed. And the facts do not bear out the suggestion that the cost of living has offset that improvement.
167 The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Trevor Cox) asked that the first charge of an unemployment programme should be an obligation to employ a percentage of young men. He no doubt remembers that in the recently proposed Camps Bill provision to that effect has been included, and he will also no doubt recollect the real difficulties of getting Parliamentary approval, even for this modest advance—difficulties that by no means came only from one side of the House. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) raised the question of the older unemployed, a problem which "is not in the least diminished in importance by the quite proper attention that is now being paid to the problem of the younger unemployed. I can assure him that, by administrative action and in every possible way, His Majesty's Government will attempt to do what can be done to help in solving that part of our unemployment problem. We are really succeeding in certain districts by drawing the attention of employers to the needs of older men and obtaining an amelioration of their condition. He asked a particular question about two women who were employed in a public house, I imagine in his constituency. I do not think he got the facts quite correctly, and I should be glad if he would send to me or my right hon. Friend his exact complaint. I do not think he can have got the facts correctly because under the 1935 Act in all cases in which a court of referees allows benefit (except for trade dispute cases) the benefit must be paid even if the matter is under appeal to the umpire.
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) complained of what he regarded as an undue censure passed on the great cities of Glasgow and Liverpool. No such censure was passed or intended. Attention was drawn to the fact that in those two cities there is a particularly acute problem of juvenile unemployment, and the hon. Member will do a good service to the great City of Glasgow if he will let this fact be known and clearly understood, in order that attention may be directed to finding a solution of it. The recent inquiry before the Advisory Committee has brought some facts to light which may well result in an improvement in the condition of the younger unemployed, and a number of them in the city he represents have benefited. The hon. 168 Member has no right to suggest that these advisory committees conduct their work in an atmosphere which which suggests the Star Chamber. I do not believe that any of the people who attend the proceedings or any members of the advisory committees will endorse that theory. When he suggests that their inquiries should be held in public I wonder whether those who appear before them would prefer that. He suggested that the people on these committees were unknown, but that is wholly contrary to the fact. He asked one particular question which I would like to answer, and then I shall give way in order that a reduction of the Ministry of Labour Vote and, I suppose, in the salary of the Minister of Labour, of my salary, will be moved. He asked me what would happen to an allowance for dependants given to young militiamen under the recent Act. The question of the treatment of allowances to the dependants of militiamen, where a person in the household is an applicant of the Board, is one which the Board now has under serious consideration. A problem like this may arise. A son earning £1 a week is now regarded as not paying anything towards the support of his parents. Under the militia scheme, his mother will get 17s. Is the Board's allowance to the father to remain unchanged? That is one problem, and there are others. The matter is being considered, and the Board have no intention whatever of taking any course which will in any way weaken the purpose of these allowances. I hope that I have dealt with all the points raised. If I have left the observations of any hon. Members without comment, I can assure them that what they have said will receive the earnest consideration of my right hon. Friend, myself and the Department.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £14,513,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 129; Noes, 207.171
|Division No. 155.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Paling, W.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Grenfell, D. R.||Pearson, A.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Price, M. P.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Groves, T. E.||Ridley, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Ritson, J.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Batey, J.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Sealy, Sir H. M.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Ballenger F. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Shinwell, E.|
|Benn, Rt. Hen. W. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Benson, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefra[...]t)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Bevan, A.||Jagger, J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Brawn, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Bu[...]hanan, G.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Burke, W. A.||John, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Stephen, C.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Chater, D.||Kirby, B. V.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lathan, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawson, J. J.||Tomlinson. G|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafferd||Leach, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Daggar, G.||Leslie, J. R.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dalton, H.||Logan, D. G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Watson, W. M[...]L.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McEntee V. La T.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Day, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Dobbie, W.||Maclean, N.||Westwood, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Mainwaring, W. H.||White, H. Graham|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Marshall, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Maxton, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Messer, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Montague, F.||Wilmot, J.|
|Foot. D. M.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Dontaster)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Frankel, D.||Morrison, R, C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gallacher, W.||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Naylor, T. E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Oliver, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Owen, Major G.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.|
|Asland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Adams, S. V. T, (Leeds, W.)||Colfox, Major W. P.||Gluokstein, L. H.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Colman, N. C. D.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Goldie, N. B.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandaman (B'knhaad)||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garratt (C. of Ldn.)||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Cox, H. B. Trevor||Grimston, R. V.|
|Apsley, Lord||Craven-Ellis, W.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Assheton, R.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Crowder, J. F. E.||Hambro, A. V.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||De Chair, S. S.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Barnays, R. H.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Denville, Alfred||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Dodd, J. S.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Heneag, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Boyne, H. Leslie||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Hepworth, J.|
|Bracken, B.||Duggan, H. J.||Horbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buekrose)||Duncan, J. A. L.||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Dunglass, Lord||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Eastwood, J. F.||Holdsworth, H.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Ellis, Sir G.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Bull, B. B.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Errington, E.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Hunloke, H. P.|
|Cary, R. A.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Hunter, T.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Fildes, Sir H.||James, Wing-commander A. W. H.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Fleming, E. L.||Jennings, R.|
|Channon, H.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Jonas, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Furness, S. N.||Keeling. E. H|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Mentrose)||O'Connor, Sir Toren[...] J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir W. F.|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univ's.)||O'Neill, Rt. Han. Sir Hugh||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Kellett, Major E.O.||Palmer, G. E. K.||Taskar, Sir R. l.|
|Lancaster, Captain C. G.||Poke, O.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Latham, Sir P.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., s.)|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Petheri[...]k, M.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Titchfield, Marques of|
|Levy, T.||Procter, Major H. A.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Rankin, Sir R.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Liewellin, Colonel J. J.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Lyons, A. M.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Remer, J. R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A, L. (Hull)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P, (Isle of Wight)||Ropner, Colonel L.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|McKie, J. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Salmon, Sir l.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Magnay, T.||Scott, Lord William||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Selley, H. R.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Marsden, Commander A.||Shuts, Colonel Sir J. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Medlicott, F.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Wragg, H.|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||York, C.|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Spens, W. P.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Storey, S.|
|Munro, P.||Strickland, Captain W. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Captain Waterhouse and Captain|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.