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.]
§ 11.11 a.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I think I shall be expressing the opinion of all Members of the Committee in saying that we welcome this further opportunity, on this Friday morning, of turning away from the feverish anxieties and the preparations involved in them, connected with the international situation, to discuss again one of the gravest of our domestic social problems. If any justification were needed—I do not think it is—for returning to this problem it will be found in the speech made by the Minister of Labour to which we listened on 5th June, when we debated this matter on the last occasion. In that speech there was a complacency about this problem, a failure to realise its real nature and real gravity, that was alarming. I wish to quote one or two sentences from that speech because I think that for the right hon. Gentleman to view the matter as he did was alarming. He said: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 804 Committee, not of one particular section, to concentrate—and these are the words to which I want to refer—when things are going well.…From the emphasis which the Minister gave to the final words in that quotation he, apparently, believes that things are now going well in the country. Let me put that belief to the test so that we can get clear in our minds the right hon. Gentleman's conception of a country that is going well. In the same speech the right hon. Gentleman gave us the latest figures that were available to him and to us of unemployment in this country on 15th May. He said: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.Does the right hon. Gentleman say that things are going well when there are about 1,500,000 unwanted people in this country? It seems to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government—this has been made clear not only in the speech to which I have referred but in other references in this House and in the country—believe that we have now to regard an unemployment figure of 1,500,000 as normal and inevitable. Apparently when things are going well, according to the Minister's conception of going well, it is to be normal that one-tenth of our insured population should be out of work, with all that that means in tragedy, as hon. Members on all sides of the Committee ought to know. In another part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman used figures to confirm that impression. In comparing this figure of 15th May last with previous unemployment figures, he used these words: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"—I would emphasise the word "low"—of 1,356,600,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th June, 1939; cols. 64–69, Vol. 348.]That, I think, is a clear indication that the Minister of Labour regards an unemployment figure of nearly a million and a half as a low figure; he appears to think that, if we keep it at that level, things are going well, and therefore, presumably, we need not bother very much about the problem. That is a state of mind which 805 we on this side of the House cannot accept, and which we must challenge. We think that an economic system which fails to provide opportunities of work and wages for over a million people in this country ought to be swept aside, and that the Government which regards it with complacency deserves the defeat which I feel it will get when it goes to the country.
I want to direct the attention of the House to some of the more permanent features of this problem, and later in the Debate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) will speak about the problems of unemployment that will face this country and all others that are now engaged in rearmament when that rearmament comes to an end. In this generation we are passing through an industrial revolution. A century and a half ago in this country there was an industrial revolution which changed the whole life of the nation. I have read many times, as other Members will have read, about that industrial revolution. It is now generally considered that that tremendous change in the life of this country was completely uncontrolled and unplanned, and that it brought in its trail immense suffering for large numbers of the population. Sometimes, when we look back upon those days and read of those events, we say to ourselves that we manage these things very much better now. I wonder if we do. I wonder whether we are really controlling the great forces that to-day are changing the face of this country any better than our forebears did a century and a half ago. I have very grave doubts.
The industrial revolution through which we are now passing seems to me to have three great underlying fundamental features. The first is that it is making very substantial changes in the industrial distribution of our population. In the second place, it is making very great changes in the geographical distribution of the industrial population of the country; and, thirdly, a very important and fundamental problem is created through the displacement of labour by mechanisation, rationalisation, and all the other things that accompany this industrial revolution. I want to refer briefly to each of these features.
806 Taking first the changes in the industrial distribution of the insured population, the 19th century industrial system of Britain was built on the basic industries of coal, iron and steel, and textiles. They were the old heavy industries. Most of them grew up in that period, and they became tragically enough as it turned out, almost entirely dependent on the export trade. They were the industries which formed the backbone of the industrial life of the country, and which provided a very substantial portion of the employment of its workpeople. In 1923, they provided employment for 2,041,000 persons, or 21 per cent. of the total insured population of this country. Between 1923 and 1938 they suffered a tremendous shrinkage, and the number of persons employed in those old basic industries in 1938 was 777,000 less than in 1923. That is an enormous change, as tremendous and as important as any that took place in the early part of the 19th century. It is true that other industries have grown, and that between 1923 and 1938 they have shown an appreciable increase in the number of persons for whom they provided employment. This brings me to the second feature to which I want to refer.
There has been this shrinkage in the older industries, and, although there has been a growth in the new industries, these new industries are not located where the old industries were, so that we are left with an enormous problem of community unemployment which in these days we call the problem of the Special Areas; and these are still, in the sense in which that word was used, special areas indeed. The old industries to which I have referred and whose decline I have noted were clustered round the coalfields of the country. Coal was their magnet. The location of coal determined the location of practically every other industry. I have often said in South Wales that, if Nature had not buried the coal in those valleys and under those mountains, and if it had been possible in the last 20 years for the financiers and industrialists of this country to take the coal away, they would have taken that too.
The rich deposits of coal in South Wales, Durham, Northumberland, Scotland, Lancashire and Yorkshire were the magnet that drew industries to those areas, but the fundamental fact about the modern industrial revolution is that coal 807 has now been replaced as a magnet by oil and electricity, and, therefore, there has been a redistribution geographically of the industrial population, which has created immense problems and is one of the factors in the creation of some of the features of this permanent problem of unemployment to which I have referred. Between 1923 and 1938, the number of persons in insurable employment in Wales declined by 18 per cent. In the Northern half of Britain it increased by 4 per cent., and in the Southern half of Britain it increased by 40 per cent. That indicates a drift of industry and of population which has had two results. It has created vast pools of poverty in the North of England, in Wales and in Scotland, and it has created in the South of England, and particularly in London, new towns, new cities, new communities. On the one hand we have an enormous waste of social capital, and on the other hand we have, from the point of view of the national interest, an equal waste through the building of new communities while the old communities are left to die. One of the worst features of this shifting of population, this drift of industry which we are allowing to go on unplanned and uncontrolled, sacrificing the national interest to individual greed, sacrificing the welfare of the whole people to individual greed, is the way in which we have allowed it to occur.
In the 15 years which I have used for comparison, the years 1923–38, the insurable population in London increased by 821,000. That increase is 1½ times as great again as the whole of the insured population of Wales. There is this great industrial web of London, which must be giving many sleepless nights to the Defence Ministers of this country; yet we have allowed this enormous drift of industry and population to take place uncontrolled, causing enormous suffering for so many people, and, if the words which the Minister used the other day in this House are to be taken as an indication, we shall have to have another Government before this problem is tackled in the fundamental way that is necessary.
I want to refer to another series of problems connected with this new industrial revolution. These problems, which so far have been almost completely untouched, need serious consideration, and 808 require a Government that will plan to deal with them on correct lines. The problems to which I refer are those created by the displacement of labour, by mechanisation, and by rationalisation. It is estimated that, over the whole field of industry, the increased output per head between 1923 and 1938 was in the region of 30 per cent. If, during that period, there had been a general rise of 30 per cent. in the standard of living the influence of the machine, particularly in displacing labour, might not have been so seriously felt, but we are witnessing an ever-growing disparity between the productive power and the consuming power of the country. That is at the root of the unemployment problem to-day.
Hon. Members will forgive me if I refer only to the industry with which I am connected, but I believe it to be best to take illustrations from the industries about which one knows most. Similar tendencies are to be found in other industries, and I have no doubt that other hon. Members, connected with other industries, can give examples even more startling than those that I am about to give. Between 1928 and 1938 the amount of machinery used in the mining industry of this country doubled. The economists tell us that a period of depression is always a period of intense mechanisation. What is the result of mechanisation in the mining industry? We can now, in this modern mining industry, heavily mechanised, produce 5,000,000 tons of coal in a week with 176,000 men fewer than it took to produce that quantity in 1928. That constitutes an enormous problem. Read the reports of the Ministry and of the Commissioners for the Special Areas. Compared with the problem that exists, the efforts that we have so far made are puny and trivial. Between 1923 and 1938 the number of pits in Great Britain was reduced by 781. There you have mechanisation actually displacing 176,000 men in 11 years, and closing 781 pits. Only those who know the mining industry can fully appreciate the significance of what the closing of pits means. It is infinitely more than a matter of putting so many hundreds or thousands of men out of work: whole communities are affected by it.
Let me give another example. I quote this example because it was given to the 809 Minister some time ago when he received a deputation from South Wales, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) and I were members. This statement was not made by us, but by an industrialist who has studied this problem very seriously, and who said to the Minister that it was a conservative estimate. That gentleman is connected with another industry which is concentrated very largely in South Wales, the tinplate industry. That industry is going through a period of intense mechanisation with Government help. The Government, indeed, say that it is one of the biggest contributions that they have made towards the restoration of South Wales, to establish this enormous tinplate industry. The estimate that I heard given to the Minister—which I am sure he would not like to challenge, as it came from the source it did—was that, if there is no increase in the demand, the erection of the new plant means eating into the old market, and not creating a new one. This would displace, directly and indirectly, 7,800 workers. One new plant would close down at least a dozen old plants.
Let me deal further with an argument which has been used often before. I have read it in books by economists, and it is sometimes put forward by people on the other side. They say, "That is a shortsighted view. What has happened in the past, and what we are sure will happen in future, in regard to machinery is that, although for a short time there may be displacement of labour, things in the long run will adjust themselves; so that in the end everything will be all right." I have heard this argument many times, and I believe it is entirely fallacious under modern industrial conditions. The trend of the argument is that when old industries are mechanised there comes into existence a demand for new industries to produce the machines which the new mechanised industries require. I accept that as being true, but the Minister knows perfectly well that the men in the old industries who are displaced by the machine do not get a chance of employment in the new industries, and therefore that does not solve in any way the problem of unemployment. The other part of the argument put forward is that, by lowering costs of production and cheapening prices, the products are brought within the range of a wider market, and that, therefore, within the 810 range of the wider demand, it rights itself in the long run.
I want to ask the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary this question. Does he contend that in modern conditions that is true? It may be that in the free, competitive capitalism of the nineteenth century that may have been roughly true in the long run—and at an enormous cost in human suffering—but it is not true now. We are not now living in the free, competitive capitalism of the nineteenth century, but in modern times. We have mechanisation, rationalisation, control of production, control of prices, and privately-financed and controlled capitalism. What is the whole purpose of all these arrangements? It is to restrict production to maintain the price level and the profit level. In short, it is to prevent mechanisation reducing prices. That is the purpose of it. Therefore, if modern mechanisation, plus modern rationalisation, takes away from the people the advantage of lower prices of production by the machine, where is the demand to come from? These two forces together—the mechanisation of labour and the rationalisation of capitalism—are a barrier to the products of mechanisation being enjoyed by the consumers in this country.
We have this enormous problem of unemployment—this "low figure" which the Minister talks about of 1,350,000 unemployed. That is one-tenth of the insured population. As far as I can see—and the Minister will correct me if I am wrong in tiny details as I am not substantially wrong, during the last 14 years there have been only two months when the percentage of unemployment in this country has been below 10 per cent. There has not been a single month since the party opposite came into power when less than 12 per cent. of the population of this country were unemployed, and they accept that fact complacently. They say that it is normal—even a low figure. What the figure will be one of these days when we have to make enormous changes and pass from a wartime economy to a peace time economy, I cannot say. During these 14 years there has never been less that 10 per cent., scarcely ever less than 12 per cent. of the population unemployed even when the capitalist system has run its full cycle of boom, slump, boom. The difference between a slump and a boom now is not the difference between 811 employment and unemployment, but the difference between 1,000,000 unemployed and over 2,000,000 unemployed. It always leaves 1,000,000 unemployed and, even at the peak of employment, with all the money that the Government are pouring into armaments, it is only just below 1,500,000.
That is the problem to which I want to direct attention, and upon which I want to address one or two questions to the right hon Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary. Do they recognise that this is a permanent problem for the solution of which they have produced no plans? Do they accept the view that nothing needs to be done to reduce the unemployment figure below 1,000,000? Do they accept the view that we have now reached the stage when 1,000,000 unemployed people are to be left unwanted? If they do not accept it, what are their plans to deal with it? So far we have seen no plans and have heard of no plans. All that has been done so far has left the problem untouched. I believe that something other than what we have been doing, something far more fundamental, has to be done, if we are even to begin the solution of this problem. I know that the limitations placed upon the debate in Committee of Supply are that we must not refer, except incidentally, to things that call for legislation, but I hope that I shall not be out of Order if I indicate briefly some of the things that have to be considered, and which, we believe, have to be done.
There is the geographical distribution of industry which is sacrificing our national interests to private profit. I would like to see a balance sheet drawn up showing the gain to the industrialists who believe that they make more profit in the south of England than in the north, and, on the other side, the loss to the nation. It would show that we have sacrificed enormously the interests of this nation to the profit-greed of financiers and capitalists in this country. What are the Government doing to try to control this? If they had other than capitalist interests they would have issued an Order in Council long ago stopping the building of any more factories in the South. We have a greater population in this country now than we can look upon with any degree of satisfaction. A Commission has been engaged for some years considering 812 the geographical and industrial distribution of population? When is their report to come? We say on this side that some day—soon, we hope—the nation will have to take into its own hands the control of the location of industry, and that industry must be planned and located where it is in the national interests and not in the interests of a small group of financiers in the City of London.
We believe, also, that the time has come when we ought to consider in relation to this problem of unemployment as well as other things, a reduction of the hours of Labour. Let me put this question to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. In the circumstances that I have described, which I believe are correct and a fair description of the conditions under which we live, how can we prevent the machine displacing labour unless the hours of labour are reduced? I see no other way of solving the problem in the conditions that I have described. Unless we reduce the hours of labour, then every new machine must push somebody out. Therefore, we must consider a reduction of the hours of labour, and a reduction of the working life. There has been no substantial change in the period of the working life during the whole of this industrial revolution. I used to work in the pit with a man who began working at nine years of age, and I began at 13. I believe that in modern conditions it is a greater crime to allow boys and girls to go into industry to-day than it was to let me go at 13, and him at nine. We still allow our boys and girls to go into the industry when we have 1,500,000 people unemployed. I see, from the report of the Ministry of Labour for July, 1938, that there were 2,063,000 young people under 17 employed in industry in this country, 75,000 of these being employed in coal mines. Of the total, 865,000 were boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 15, and 26,420 of that number were engaged in coal mining.
Is it not a senseless system to put our boys and girls into industry at a time when we have 1,500,000 able-bodied men unemployed? It is a waste of child life and a waste of adult life. This is a problem to which we shall have to come. It is a problem which we shall have to solve. We must raise the school-leaving age. Why should children go to work at 813 14 and 15 years of age in these days? Why should they not have opportunities for training, for education, for culture, and to prepare themselves for life? We are entering upon an epoch in which we must either face a continuance of colossal unemployment, which has become unshared leisure, or we must reduce working hours. We must reduce the working life more in conformity with the needs of the mechanised rationalised system under which we live.
There is the other end of the human scale—retirement and pension. We of the Labour party have produced a pensions plan which is actuarily and economically sound, and which is in the best interests of the nation. The proposal is to take the older men out of industry, place them safe above need, about want, give them comfort and security in their old age and leave their room in industry to those who are young and who are pining their lives away unemployed on the streets. The South Wales coal mining industry, by the co-operation of both sides, drew up a retirement pensions plan. It is perfectly true that the failure to carry through the scheme is in some respects due to the Government; but if it had been possible to carry through the South Wales miners' pensions scheme it would have put more men into employment in the Special Areas than the number so far directly employed as the result of the Commissioner's efforts at one-tenth of the cost to the State. We read in the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board that on the date on which they completed their report there were on their books 132,810 applicants of the ages of 55 to 64, and of these 62,000, nearly one-half, had done no work for the last three years or more. What are we going to do about it? What is the Minister going to do about it? Can he give us any hope to-day? Is he going to face up to the implications? Are the old folk who are unemployed going to eke out their lives until they are 65 and then get a small old age pension? The problem of the retirement pension must be considered. I have tried to indicate some of the ways in which we think the problem, the permanent problem of unemployment must be faced. It is an intolerable situation that these people should be unemployed and in want in these days when we can produce plenty. This is an age of plenty and yet we have this unemployment and mulnutrition. It is a challenge to us, it is a challenge to our 814 system, it is a challenge to the Government, and it is a challenge which I hope the Government will take up.
Let me conclude by quoting from the Report for 1938 issued by Mr. M. J. G. Winaut, Director of the International Labour Office, a statement which I hope will be fully appreciated by the House and the country.The great mass of mankind still live in a state of intolerable poverty. With modern methods of production, with access to raw materials, and a ready market for their goods it is possible for people at present sunk in poverty to attain a civilised standard of life, but it can only be brought about as a result of co-operative action.Again I ask, what are we going to do about it? These men are needed by the nation. It is capitalism which does not want them; it is capitalism which leaves them on the dole. They are there because we refuse to face up to and find a solution for this permanent unemployment problem. I hope that to-day we shall hear from the Parliamentary Secretary, who is to follow me, and from the Minister, whether they recognise this problem and whether they have any plans to deal with it. If they have no plans, and they fail to deal with the problem, then the country will soon have an opportunity of dealing with them.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I take it that it will be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss all the six Votes together.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)
The hon. Member started his speech with what seemed, no doubt to him, an accurate analysis of our unemployment problem. He then went on to advance one or two of the fundamental causes of unemployment, and addressed a few questions to me which I shall do my best to answer. I should like to thank him for his courtesy in giving me some idea of the general line of approach to this problem that he proposed to adopt—a procedure which, although it may rob the answer of some of its ineffectiveness, adds to the vigour of Parliamentary debate. When the hon. Member gave what he thought was an accurate analysis of the unemployment problem, he was scarcely fair to the efforts of the Government and of the Commissioners for the Special Areas which have brought fruitful results in the course of the last few years. In 815 dealing with the problems of employment he forgot to point out that there are at present, while we are discussing this matter, more men and women at work in this country than ever before. There are this morning 2,500,000 more insured workers at work than there were when this Government was first elected in 1931. There are 1,500,000 more insured workers at work to-day than there were at the height of the 1929 boom.
I do not want for one moment to minimise the gravity of the problem that still remains to be dealt with, but we ought to get it in proper perspective. To let it go out from this House that no efforts whatever are being made by the Government to absorb into profitable employment large numbers of new entrants who come along and are anxious to be given work; that the Government are still indifferent to the problem of unemployment and that their record is one of gross incompetence, is surely to deny the facts of the situation and to give an impression which on investigation would call for a very complete denial. Nor is it true to say that the improvement in employment is confined to a few of the less important industries, which have been attracted to South Wales and elsewhere in the course of the last few years. The figures published a few weeks ago were encouraging and the figures that will be published in a few days time will, I think, tell even a better story. The figures of unemployment in mid-May of this year show a remarkable improvement in some of the basic industries. In pig-iron and smelting, unemployment has been halved in one year. The unemployment figure to-day is 20,000 compared with 40,000 this time last year. In the coal industry, which still remains one of the basic industries of this country, the reduction in unemployment in one year has been 44,000. While this time last year unemployed coal miners totalled 17.3 per cent. of those who were insured, the number has fallen this year to 12.4 per cent.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The hon. Member has referred to the fact that there are 2,500,000 more people at work in insurable employment than when this Government came into office in 1931. Can he tell us what proportion of that figure is due to bringing into insurable employ- 816 ment certain classes who were previously outside insurable employment?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I will have an accurate analysis made for the hon. Member before the close of the Debate, but the overwhelming proportion, at any rate, is not due to the inclusion of new occupations and trades in insurable employment. In regard to other figures which I propose to quote, an attempt has been made to bring the two sets of figures into relation with one another by making allowance for new industries and occupations. In shipbuilding and ship-repairing there was a drop last month of 2,800 in the number of unemployed, due no doubt to the confidence given by the recently announced plans of the Government for the industry. Even in the districts where the industrial distress has been great, in Wales for instance, mentioned by the hon. Member, there has been a decrease since May last year of some 53,000 in the number of those out of work. The hon. Member drew attention to the changes in industrial distribution and geographical distribution of industry, both of which he recognised had brought great hardship to old industrial areas like South Wales. The Government recognise the real gravity of this problem, and the story of what has been done over the last three years gives the answer to the charge of indifference.
It has been our desire to bring new industries to those areas which are almost entirely dependent on the coal trade, and I claim that those efforts have resulted in a large measure of success. The rearmament programme has brought to what are called the Special and Depressed Areas orders to the tune of some £160,000,000 in the last three years, and it has been the constant effort of the Government to divert to these areas, with the heaviest unemployment and old industries, as large a share as possible of the Government rearmament programme. As a result of this effort, together with the efforts of the Commissioners and of bodies like the National Industrial Development Council for Wales and Monmouthshire, substantial improvements have been achieved. I should like to say, however, that the recovery that has taken place in South Wales and in other distressed areas could not have taken place without the collaboration and willing response of the men and women workers themselves. Hon. Members will, no doubt, have read with 817 interest the recent supplement to the "Times," in which a number of remarkable articles appear. There was a joint letter from the Commissioner for the Special Areas of England and Wales and the Special Commissioner for Scotland, in which a tribute was paid, and it is only fair that this tribute should be made public. I hope that employers and industrialists will bear this tribute in mind:Those employers who have already started new enterprises in the areas have testified to the enthusiasm and adaptability of the work-people.The hon. Member knows some of the great achievements that have taken place in spheres other than industrial development, as the result of the efforts of the Commissioners. In hospitals, maternity and child welfare work, in the realm of water supply, and other social improvements, schemes to the value of some £3,000,000 have been sanctioned in the South Wales Special area in the course of the last four years alone, and further schemes have been accepted in principle to the value of some £600,000. It will not be long before it will be possible to say that in some of the very worst places from the unemployment point of view the social services and amenities are as good as those in other parts of the country. In fairness to the Commissioner and to the Government these facts should be made known. As for unemployment itself, in the Special Areas of Great Britain there has been a drop since the Commissioners were appointed of some 200,000. In May of this year unemployment in the distressed areas totalled between 230,000 and 235,000, as opposed to 425,000 in February, 1935.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Is the hon. Member taking into calculation those who have migrated from the Special Areas?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am going to deal with that point because it would be an illusory picture if I made no reference to that fact. Transfer has undoubtedly helped, but, taking the distressed areas as a whole, the insured population has actually gone up slightly, and it still remains true that employment has actually increased by at least 200,000 since 1935. The hon. Member dealt chiefly with the facts relating to South Wales because he speaks with knowledge and authority of that district, and I should like to reply to the points he put.
§ Sir Reginald Clarry
When dealing with South Wales does the Parliamentary Secretary include Monmouthshire?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am not going into the quarrels of South Wales and Monmouthshire. I have had an analysis prepared with two sets of figures which I think will answer the hon. Member's questions. For the Special Area of South Wales, including Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport, the insured population in 1935 was 414,000; to-day it is about 414,500, almost exactly the same. Unemployment in those areas has dropped from 155,000 in 1935 to 79,000 in May of this year. If you take unemployment in the exchange areas wholly in the Special Area unemployment was 110,000 in November, 1934, and 57,000 in May, 1939. I am glad to say that the same sort of return applies to the constituency which the hon. Member represents, for while there has been an actual increase, during the period of the operations of the Commissioner, in the insured population in Llanelly, from 16,100 in November, 1935, to 16,700, the unemployment rate in Llanelly has dropped from 24.5 to 11.9 per cent. in the same period. I do not suppose, however, that these figures will lead to any change of political opinion in the hon. Member's constituency.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell the Committee the reasons for this drop? Is it not due to Government work on air-raid shelters? What is going to happen afterwards?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is necessary to protect ourselves against a foreign enemy, but when this is over there will be a revival of ordinary civil and commercial trade.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
Is not the reduction in unemployment in Llanelly due entirely to this armament work?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Member must not understand that. Let me give one or two more figures, although I do not want to weary the Committee with them. With regard to those industries which are concentrated around the home of the hon. Member, in the tinplate industry, which has had a very bad time but which has had a good deal of work in connection with air raid precautions, unemployment has fallen from 10,117 in April, 1934, to 3,399 in May of this year, 819 and in the steel industry unemployment for the same period has fallen from 8,667 to 2,545.
The hon. Member who opened the Debate made no reference to the real and courageous efforts of the Government and the Commissioner in setting up the trading estate in South Wales. It is easy to belittle the work which was done in the early stages of this experiment, but at the present moment as a result of the direct efforts of the Commissioner, in South Wales alone, some 3,000 people are now getting regular and remunerative work on sites and in factories provided as a result of the work of the Commissioner. Hon. Members who represent other constituencies know full well the really remarkable success of the Team Valley Estate and the Hillington Estate in Scotland, both of which, in a few years' time, will confound any critics there may still be of the trading estates. Although I do not deny that the partial recovery in South Wales is largely due to Government armament orders and the needs of Civil Defence, there has also been considerable recovery in the more purely commercial sphere.
One of the questions asked by the hon. Member was about the effects of mechanisation and what steps the Government, presumably, are taking in order to see that those undoubted initial difficulties are overcome. I am somewhat puzzled to know whether great ventures like the Ebbw Vale experiment would be rejected by a Socialist administration and whether, if they were faced with the need to recover or maintain markets in a fiercely competitive world, they would not rationalise plant to overcome the difficulties of disorganisation, whatever human hardships might unhappily result. If human hardships arise, they are ameliorated in the most sympathetic way, and I think the record of the Government in this respect compares very well with what happened during the Labour party's brief tenure of office. Although hon. Members opposite will no doubt not accept this, I am not afraid to say that there is a growing enjoyment of the increased national wealth secured by the wage-earning population. If that is challenged, I would ask hon. Members to look up the files of the "Daily Herald" for the close of last year, for one of the last days of December, and read the 820 article headed, I think, "Poverty, the great public enemy, is at last giving way." This demonstrated that last year, as compared with the year before, there was an increase in wages of some £60,000,000 enjoyed by the wage-earners of this country.
Although I do not deny the hardships caused by mechanisation, I do not think the hon. Member for Llanelly would ascribe the main cause of the difficulties in the coal trade, for example, to mechanisation, or the difficulties in other great export industries to the scientific ingenuity of man. Indeed, I am afraid I must fall back upon the argument which the hon. Member scorned, but which to many of us appears to be perfectly sound. Although at the start mechanisation obviously causes a tragic displacement of labour, at a later stage, not only in that industry but in other industries, the springing up of new needs will give fresh opportunities of employment, as a result of a reduction of costs brought about by new processes. Increased trade leads eventually to increased employment.
§ Mr. Maxton
The Parliamentary Secretary is speaking at a breathless speed. Nobody is rushing him. I think it is the view of the Committee' that it would rather have an adequate answer than a brief speech.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I apologise if I am speaking at a breathless speed. I am afraid it is an inherent fault of such oratory as I can command. I am also anxious to hear as many speeches as possible from other hon. Members. One example known to me, and known also to hon. Members, concerns the motor-car industry, and was given in a published statement by the head of one particular motor-car company. He said that while in 1922 it took 55 men, last year it took eight to build each motor car. He said that at the time that change first began to become apparent, there were fears among the men employed, but he pointed out that whereas in 1922 he was employing 3,000 people, to-day he is employing 16,000. Although the taking of every step in the direction of mechanisation may 821 unhappily cause some human hardship at the outset, he would be a very rash Parliamentary Secretary who would commit His Majesty's Government to any drastic interference with the natural processes of mechanical improvement. The hon. Member for Llanelly referred to the tinplate industry and the natural fears aroused in West Wales by the coming of a great new company to the old Ebbw Vale works. I put this question to the hon. Member. If he had been charged with governmental responsibility when the first approaches were made, would he have rejected them out of hand?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I want the Parliamentary Secretary to be clear as to what I said. I said only what has been said already to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary by various authorities in industry. However beneficial this may be, it will mean the displacement of 7,800 men. What is to be done with those men?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
In the Special Areas Supplement of the "Times," there were references to that problem which coming from such a source must be treated with respect. I have fortified myself with a quotation which I will give to hon. Members. In that article the fears aroused in other parts of Wales were commented on, and the reply of the investigator was as follows:Strangely enough, however, although the tinplate section of the Ebbw Vale works, with its quota of 3,000,000 boxes a year, is now operating to something like 70 per cent. of its capacity, the tinplate industry is so active that 50 additional mills have been started since the end of December, and the percentage of production for the industry as a whole has gone up from 60 to 75.He added:It is worth noting that when the old Ebbw Vale works closed down in 1929, nearly 5,000 steel-workers were registered at the local exchange as wholly unemployed—: for the week ending 15th April last, 5,200 men were on the pay-roll of the new works and the number of wholly unemployed in the same month was just 101.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
All our discussions are bound, to some extent, to be in the nature of a short-term picture. I would say to the hon. Member that I think there is a very genuine hope that the district to which he refers will not suffer from this rationalisation.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Perhaps I may interrupt the Parliamentary Secretary, as I am sure he would like a "breather." Does he make any allowance at all, in giving that quotation, for the enormous amount of stuff that is being put into stocks? Is not the tinplate industry receiving quite a fillip as a result of meeting the Government's demands for supply?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not deny the extraordinary demand for certain commodities at the present time, but my contention is that we should never have held our share in the world market as we have done without some such reorganisation as this. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) also asked a question with regard to shorter hours in industry. Certainly, the future to which we are all looking forward is one in which there will be a continual increase in the leisure of all classes. The attitude of the Government towards the problem is that it should be considered industry by industry, and that the examination must include not only the hours of work, but the wages earned here and, to a certain extent, the wages in competing countries. But we claim that during the last four years, through agreements that have been made in the industries themselves, some 700,000 workers have enjoyed shorter working hours, and a great increase in paid holidays, for which the efforts of the Government have been more responsible than anything else, has also added to the amount of leisure.
Another question put by the hon. Member for Llanelly related to the shorter working life. He drew the attention of hon. Members to what has been recognised as a rather ironical situation, that young men may be in employment while their fathers, in the middle of a vigorous middle age, have no work. The hon. Member did not mention the changes in the Education Act, for which the Government are responsible, and which will shortly come into operation. In regard to the retirement of older workers, I think the hon. Member rather skipped over the undoubted difficulties of a compulsory retirement scheme. Figures were adumbrated in this House when the matter was discussed some time ago. It is our view that it would probably be impossible, at all events extremely difficult, to administer a scheme of retirement pensions that are conditional 823 on actual and continued withdrawal from industry, and if such a condition was not made obviously the cost would be fantastic. Nor do we think that the hope that the hon. Member had would necessarily be satisfied.
When this question was debated in 1934 there were some 635,000 people over 60 working, and at the present time there are in this country, as far as we can see, some 300,000 men and some 66,000 women over 65 in insurable employment. How many of these would in fact be attracted by a pension even on the scale of the Labour party's pension scheme, when many of them feel that they are at that stage in life more fitted than ever before to render an effective week's work, it is impossible to say. How many of those older people who are unemployed in South Wales and whose plight is undoubtedly tragic would regard themselves as treated well if they were forced to withdraw even from a labour market in which they have not in the last few years found a settled job, we do not know. If they did not leave their employment is it suggested that the contributions should be demanded at the high rate now necessary under the revised Labour proposals—demanded from tens of thousands of these people who have no intention of retiring from industry? Of course, if they did not leave their employment there would be no advantage in the scheme.
On the question of the cost of retirement pensions I shall not weary the House except to say that our present pension scheme costs some £95,000,000, and the cost will rise in the course of the next 40 years to some £147,000,000. The Exchequer contribution is actually £64,000,000 at the present time. The cost of the scheme, as I say, will rise to £147,000,000, and the net cost to Exchequer to £113,000,000.
The hon. Member has asked me various questions and I have done my best to give effective answers to them. I shall close by referring to one more problem with which we at the Ministry of Labour are confronted. It is a very real problem indeed. It is the problem of seeing whether, with the great amount of Government work now being given, the older and the young unemployed can get their fair share. In the case of Government 824 contracts there is compulsory notification of vacancies to the employment exchanges. There is no obligation on contractors to take their labour from the exchanges, but to many people it appears not unreasonable that when millions of public money are spent in giving new employment, the people who need that work most should be given preference for it. The Ministry of Transport in regard to contracts for roads make it a term of the contract that labour should be engaged through the employment exchanges, save for a limited number of workpeople who must not exceed 10 per cent. in all, of a supervisory character. In the case of A.R.P. work carried out by local authorities the Home Office in recent circulars have brought to the notice of authorities that it is the policy of the Government that engagements should (except in the case of supervisory staff) take place through the employment exchanges. Recently exchanges were instructed that the long unemployed younger men should be given a chance of this work. In the recent Camps Bill there was a provision made for a certain percentage of the vacancies to be enjoyed by the younger men.
§ Mr. Jenkins
That does not apply to big Government contracts. In South Wales there are probably 15,000 people employed in these works to the total exclusion of men of middle age and upwards.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not accept that view at all. This is a problem that confronts His Majesty's Government and will confront equally any Government to which the hon. Member may give his support. It is said that the Military Training Act, which incidentally is leading to a great amount of building, may bring within its provisions some 4,300 young men who are helped by the Unemployment Assistance Board at the moment. We hope also that as a result of the temporary withdrawal of some young men from the labour market, some of the 62,000 odd unemployed workers between 18 and 20 may be given work. It is not wholly unreasonable, I think, to express the hope that in the building of the camps necessitated by the passing of that Act, the claims of the young unemployed who have been out of work for a long time will not be forgotten.
§ 12.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham White
I take part in this Debate with some reluctance and some diffidence, because I thought it was going to take quite a different form from that which it has followed up to now. I listened with the greatest interest to the very wide survey of the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and to his recital of many remedies for the contingent evils which he sees. His conclusions were, on the whole, rather pessimistic. He referred to 19th century conditions. We are not in the 19th century to-day and we are not going back to it. We are, in fact, gaining a great deal of new experience and learning many valuable lessons at the present time. Whereas it is impossible to feel optimistic with regard to the future of employment, taking a long view, as long as the world remains in its present state of anarchy, it is of the utmost consequence that we should take into account what is likely to happen when we have a demobilisation and change-over from the armament industry to peace-time occupations and I see no reason why we should take an unduly pessimistic view about that.
The hon. Member ranged over a great many fields and suggested a considerable number of practical steps which can be taken. He referred to a shortening of hours. That is not a new suggestion. There is no reason why mankind should not have a properly organised leisure so that machines do more work and man does not work less, but does more work of the kind he wants to do and enjoys doing. Those are proposals on lines which in a sane world we could arrange for ourselves. I also listened with much interest to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, and in particular to his description of what is being done in the Special Areas. I remember that we had a debate here in November last when we discussed, not the Special Areas, but the extra-Special Areas, those areas outside the Special Areas which have worse unemployment than some of the special areas. The Government at that time foreshadowed certain steps which they had in view, certain plans for bringing help to these areas. I should be grateful if to-day we could hear something of what is intended in that connection, after seven months.
The hon. Member for Llanelly referred to unemployment arising from rational- 826 isation. One thing which we ought to have in this country and which, as far as I know, we have not at present, is an organisation to consider the impact of new inventions. In the United States they have such a body, and it is time we had one here. It is fatal to wait until somebody comes along with a revolutionary invention, which, within a few weeks, throws many people out of work. That is a disastrously haphazard method; it is, in fact, inhuman. We ought to have a body which will take these matters into account and see what can be done to ensure that the impact of new inventions does not fall on a large number of helpless individuals. We have, of course, at present many economic organisations. A body such as I suggest could either be an adjunct to an existing organisation, or a special body organised to deal with this particular subject.
I am impressed with the immediate difficulties which are likely to arise from the great expenditure of public money which is proceeding at present, in connection with the rearmament campaign. I can foresee difficulty in obtaining the necessary kind of labour to carry out the programme. I agree with the observations which have been made with regard to the necessity for trying to extract some good out of the evil of armament expenditure—because we must regard it as an evil—and in considering this problem my mind goes at once to the lamentable condition of affairs on the Merseyside where we have such a large number of unemployed under the age of 30. There was an interesting article in the "Times" the other day—referring to a letter from the Warden of Toynbee Hall—which said that we ought to take the opportunity to give some of these people a new start. The article was in some respects not quite accurate. On the Merseyside, at all events, it is not a question of giving some of them a new start, but of giving some of them a first start. There are many unemployed of that age who have never yet had employment. I think the precedent of the Camps Bill, which authorises certain advantages to be given to contractors on condition that they employ a certain number of men of this category, is one which might be followed and I hope it will be followed. I hope that steps will be taken to see that both the long-term and short-term unemployed are given the opportunity to have a fresh 827 start, or a first start as the case may be. I certainly think that the machinery of the Ministry of Labour working, through the Employment Exchanges, is capable of resolving any difficulty which may remain as between the right of employers to employ the men whom they consider suitable and the necessity for doing justice to those whom we wish to help.
I would like to take this opportunity of asking some questions with regard to the Unemployment Assistance Board, the trend of the development of its work and its general policy. In the first place, I would like to have a statement with regard to the expenditure of the Board. I have often asked why the purely administrative expenditure of the Board is so much higher now than it was when a greater volume of work was being done under the system of transitional payments. There may be a good answer on that point but it certainly requires an explanation and I do not think we have had one up to the present. Last year the purely administrative expenditure of the Board was of the order of magnitude of £4,500,000 of which £2,900,000 was paid to the Ministry of Labour for accounting services by other Departments of the Government. The Unemployment Assistance Board has been in operation for four-and-a-half years. It has been given a semi-independent standing, and Parliament ought to devote constant attention to it in order to see how it is going on, how it is settling down into the social life of the country, whether the service which it is rendering is worth the money which is being expended upon it and whether the machine is not so rigid that it must become increasingly expensive in relation to the work which is being done.
It is not as if the people who are employed in doing this work were extraordinarily well paid. The front line of the administration of the Unemployment Board is manned by investigating officers. These are the lowest grade in the Service and they receive, in the London area, anywhere between £161 and £215 a year. I ask hon. Members to bear in mind that it is upon that kind of administration, that the whole information upon which the structure of the Board is built up, depends. It is true that they have to refer to their area officers and to their district officers and so on, but con- 828 sider for example their position in the North London area. These servants of the State are expected to deal with and in fact do deal with 25 cases, on the average, every day. They are expected to furnish standard information on all those cases. Would any hon. Member here contemplate setting out to consider in one day the circumstances of 25 families so as to be able to give a full account and a detailed analysis of those cases, and present reasonable replies to all queries concerning them, having on his mind and conscience the fact that upon his report will be determined the standard of existence of those families? Let us also remember the size of the areas. In the North London area a man may have to go 25 miles on a motor bicycle in order to pay a visit to somebody who is under the review of the Ministry. If I were setting out to investigate matters of that kind the last thing I would wish to do would be to travel 25 miles on a motor bicycle through any part of the London area. If I did that, I should probably be incapable of making the examination at the end of my journey. I certainly should not be in the frame of mind necessary to an impartial and sympathetic investigation of anybody's circumstances. In far-flung areas such as the West country, the investigator may have to travel 50 or even 100 miles on a motor bicycle to investigate the affairs of a family. I ask hon. Members to consider whether a system of that sort is one to which we can entrust a large number of impoverished families. I have always taken the view and so have my hon. Friends that all these matters ought to be dealt with by the Minister responsible to Parliament.
If I have, generally, to speak in a critical way of the Board, I do not want the Committee to think that my eyes are shut to the good work which is being done in some areas by the Board itself. I have known of many difficult cases which have been dealt with and given encouragement and help. These are matters which Parliament ought to take into account. As this is probably the last opportunity that we shall have in this Session of raising these matters, there is one other question that I should like to mention. I think that, after four and a half years of service by the Unemployment Assistance Board, Parliament 829 ought now to ask itself what is to be the policy of the Board with regard to those specialised social services with which the Board is in some sense in competition. There has never been any line of demarcation between the specialised social services run by local authorities and by voluntary associations and those in which the Board also compete. It is true that the Act makes reservations of certain powers and duties to the local authorities, but they are in fact in many cases permissive, and the question whether they should be exercised by the local authority or by the Board has never been finally decided. I can imagine the Unemployment Assistance Board, at a meeting, asking themselves, where in a given area, a local authority is not carrying out fully, say, its maternity or child welfare services, whether they should draw public attention to that fact, or whether they should set about doing it themselves, or, again, whether, as they do in some areas, they should seek to co-operate so that some part of the work is done by the local authority and some of it by the Board.
These are very important questions. The Board themselves have definitely made it their policy to maintain existing specialised social services intact, and one can easily understand why they should wish to do that—I think it is in the Statute, as a matter of fact—but at all events the level of income of their clients is so small, when all is said and done, that they must wish to co-operate, and in fact they do co-operate in many districts with a measure of success, with existing authorities. But there is overlapping. In some cases the Board are subsidising the Board of Education in this part of its work, and the Board of Education, on the other hand, is subsidising the Unemployment Assistance Board by taking over part of the school meals work.
What is to be the future of the Unemployment Assistance Board? I think that is a question that we are entitled to ask and a question to which we have got to have an answer. As employment increases, as we hope it will, will the Board simply become a residuary Poor Law authority reintegrating the Poor Law for a special section of the stricken people of this country? These are questions which, so far as I know, have not been asked in this House before, but I think it is high 830 time that they should be asked, and answered. Is there not need for consideration of the part that the Board should play in those services to the people, whether medical, dental, or ocular treatment, which are very unsatisfactory at the present time, especially in regard to the provision of dentures? Some people are unable to get work or to attend training centres because of lack of dentures, and there is nobody to help them. The Board themselves are helpless in the matter unless they can persuade some local committee or body to give such people a small grant to enable them to carry on. In all these things the past four years' experience has brought us to the point where it is necessary to come to a decision in Parliament and to make up our minds where we are going and what more requires to be done in the line of demarcation between the different authorities—what, in fact, is to be the future and the aim of the Board.
There is another matter that I should like to mention, in which the Board are unable to carry out their statutory duty on account of two fundamental defects. There is, of course, the old question of the family means test, in which the Board have no power to enforce the assessments which they make. This, leads to great hardship in cases where the Board assess the payments of various members of a family to the family pool, but they have no means of knowing whether those members of the family do actually make those contributions to the pool and no means of enforcing payment if they do not. It is, of course, an inherent and a fatal defect, in the system. I wish to say a word or two now about the question of "the wages stop." The wages stop prevents the Board from carrying out their statutory duty of relieving the needs, apart from the medical needs, of the families which come under their care. This again is a matter which is inherent in the system, and the Board are not to be blamed for it. The Unemployment Assistance Board have pointed out the difficulty and are aware of it, and the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee have also pointed it out and asked for an inquiry into the matter Clearly it is outside the competence of either the Statutory Committee or the Board to deal with it. It is also outside the competence of the Board to propose a system of family allowances which 831 would bridge the gap between a relief system which takes account of dependency and a wage system which does not. These are matters which call for immediate consideration and action, because in this country it is not enough that the law should not be used harshly; the law ought to be incapable of being used harshly. I am not sure whether I ought to apologise for having taken the Debate out of its original course, but this is the only occasion on which we are likely to have an opportunity this Session of raising one or two matters which I think ought to be constantly in the minds of hon. Members.
§ 12.43 p.m.
§ Major Oscar Guest
I will not follow the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) into the question of the organisation of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I would like to go back to the main question of employment in this country, and I will confine myself to the position as I see it at the present time. We seem to me to be in a period when we need the work and the help of everybody who can possibly give them, and yet we find ourselves with a very large number of people who are still unemployed. The figure of 1,500,000 is not really a fair picture, because a great number of those are moving from one job to another, and a great number also are perhaps too old to be able to adapt themselves to the work that may be required, but there is a considerable section of young unemployed, and it is with regard to that section that I would like to say a word or two.
I have been reading, as I suppose every other hon. Member here has been reading, the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board, which calls attention to the number of something like 100,000 boys and men under the age of 30 who are unemployed and who have been unemployed for considerable periods of time during the last three years. On page 46 it goes on to discuss the question of blind-alley occupations, which fit them for no employment. At present our trouble in industry is the lack of skilled men. If only those young men had skill in some trade they would not be unemployed another day. I ask the Government to consider the question of apprenticeship in this country. Apprenticeship would train the youth of the country to be fitted for the work for which we need them. In 832 countries which we know in Europe there is no question of men being unemployed. There do not seem to be enough men in those countries for the work they wish to get done. Germany is one of the countries in which, we notice, they are short of men. Why is it that at a time when in this country we are making this great armament effort there should be men to whom we are not able to give work? I think the answer is that we have not trained them as we should have done in the occupations for which they are required. Instead of young men being paid the dole or unemployment assistance I should like to see them apprenticed to firms, so that they could be of use to the country. What machinery we should require for that system I do not know, and no doubt there would be difficulties and problems to be faced, but I do not believe they would prove to be insoluble.
§ Mr. Maxton
I am interested in the education of young people, and the hon. and gallant Member has raised the interesting point of why employers are not taking on apprentices. Is he suggesting that the Government should compel employers to take apprentices?
§ Major Guest
I think that if we could have some State-aided apprenticeship system inaugurated we should get a great many more trained men.
§ Major Guest
I am suggesting nothing of the kind. I am suggesting that apprenticeship should be encouraged by the Government. I believe it could be done. It is done spasmodically by certain firms, and I should like to see the system extended, because I believe that if we could get our young men trained we should not have any young unemployed people. I listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for East Birkenhead, but I would join issue with him on the question of rationalisation. I do not believe that an increase of rationalisation is the bugbear which he fears. After all, if we do not improve our processes how are we going to compete with other countries? When he fears the effects of increased mechanisa- 833 tion I think he is harbouring an unwise fear. Unless we can improve our methods of manufacture so as to compete with those of other countries we shall have more unemployment at home.
One other subject to which I wish to refer is the location of industries. I think we ought to move faster in that direction. A Commission on the subject has been sitting for a considerable time, and I should like to know when we shall have the result of their labours. During the rearmament period there has been a tremendous growth of new factories throughout the country, and this would have been a favourable time in which to make some attempt to deal with the location of industries. The problem is not really so complex as it may appear. To my mind it is not a question of saying where industry must go but of saying where industry can no longer go unless there are special circumstances attaching to the case. I should like the Government to take early action in this matter, without waiting until the Autumn, or the Spring of next year, for the findings of the Commission.
I read the other day of a district, I think it was near London, which was no longer to be used for agriculture, and was to be turned into an industrial district. That is happening all the time. The big cities are growing and growing, and industry is accumulating in certain restricted centres. The difficulty of obtaining labour in a place like London is well known, and unless some action is taken industry will continue to grow up near these big centres, not, I think, through any greed on the part of employers but more for the sake of convenience than for any other reason. It is necessary that the Government should take early action to prevent the over-accumulation of industry in over-industrialised districts.
§ Mr. Montague
Referring to what the hon. and gallant Member was saying a few moments ago, docs he suggest that there are a million jobs vacant to-day which are not filled either because there are not trained men for them or the men live too far away?
§ Major Guest
I think it would be overdoing it to say that. At the beginning of my few remarks on this point I was saying that there are up to 100,000 young 834 men in this country who ought to be working in industries at the present time, and that I thought the main reason why they were not working was because they were not trained for those industries.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Could the hon. and gallant Member give us some information as to the industries in which there are these 100,000 vacancies for young men if only they were trained? We should like to have some details.
§ Major Guest
I am certain that there are a great number of industries throughout the country which want skilled labour but do not want labour that knows nothing. I have been in two large industrial centres in the last fortnight and heard the same statement in both: "If we could get more trained men we could set them to work tomorrow morning." There is a lot of work about, a substantial amount of it no doubt due to rearmament. What is wanted is skilled labour, and that is why I should like to see some form of apprenticeship launched in this country. I do not feel confident to suggest how it should be done. It is only by apprenticeship that labour can be trained. The Ministry of Labour has training-centres all over the country, and very excellent institutions they are. Men go there for three, four or six months to learn a trade, but you do not learn a trade in a training-centre in the same way as you do in the works where industry is being carried on. I should like to see a proportion of apprentices learning trades in all factories whether private factories or Government factories. If we had had that system we should not now be in the position of being in sorry need of trained men,
§ Major Guest
I do not want to be diverted to the question of what is to happen when rearmament is over, but when we do get to that stage, and if confidence returns to the world, I do not believe there will be any lack of opportunities for industry in this country or any other.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Brown
The main burden of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech was a complaint that the young unemployed exist in considerable numbers because they are not trained, and he 835 attempted to create the impression that if you have trained workers they will always find employment. But surely he must know that there are times when employers do not even want trained workmen. There have been times when trained workmen have walked the streets for very long periods.
§ Mr. Brown
So we understand that at a time when it is possible to give employment to what he calls trained workers employers are very ready to do it but, if conditions change, they will throw them once again on to the streets as ruthlessly as they did in the days that are gone. I think it is quite fair to draw that inference from the interjection.
I should like to make one or two observations on the Parliamentary Secretary's speech in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). Naturally he attempted to tell us all about the Government's efforts during their long period of office to mitigate the evils of unemployment. He was quite entitled to pursue that line of argument, and any satisfaction that he and the Government can get out of it I would not deny them. He told us, amongst other things, that, even in what are called the heavy industries which have suffered so severely, there are now signs of improvement and that coal, shipbuilding, and cotton are better, but what we complain about most is that these efforts on the part of the Government, one of the most powerful Governments of modern times, are so feeble and tiny. He called our attention to the fact that £160,000,000 worth of rearmament has gone to the Special Areas, which he said had considerably mitigated the problem of those areas, but unless he expects that rearmament process to go on indefinitely, surely he must envisage the time, when the mitigation which comes through the placing of that work in those areas ceases, when the problem will be much more greatly aggravated. Surely he is not without sufficient imagination to see that effect in the not distant future, if he does not anticipate a world in which this process of rearmament is going on and on and on indefinitely. It may be that, if it continues, you may solve your unemployment problem for the period 836 during which it is progressing, but about that I should like to express a doubt.
The hon. Gentleman also told us, that me trading estates were something of which the Government could be proud, and he said that ultimately they would confound the critics. He reminded me of a phrase which the Minister of Labour used on a recent occasion when he talked about these trading estates being the great romance of the 20th century in the world of industry. It does not seem to me that the trading estates have as yet played a very important part in mitigating the problem of unemployment. They have played a small part I agree, but there are certain dangers in them. The hon. Gentleman seemed to accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly of putting forward an argument which indicated that we on these benches were up against what is called the mechanisation and the rationalisation of industry, because we did not want to see those processes go on at all. He is quite wrong about that. Everyone on these benches wants to see more of the burden of work thrown on to machines. We want to see mankind, and the workers particularly, having far less to do than they have at the moment in the sense that the burden of work presses very heavily on the shoulders of many of them, but at the same time we want to see the product of those machines more equitably distributed amongst the masses of the working class population.
It would be silly for us to deny that the conditions of the working class have improved. Surely, when the Parliamentary Secretary makes that point, he does not want anyone to think that this improving technique is not likely to confer improvements on all sections of the working class population. Our complaint is that in relation to the improved technique, which has gone on for such a long time now, the relative position of the working class in relation to that improvement is worse than it was at the earlier stage. When technical knowledge was not so highly developed as it is to-day their conditions, I agree, were bad but, with technical knowledge, the improvement of technique in every branch of industry has gone to such lengths that productive capacity has been improved to an amazing degree and, relative to our powers of production, the conditions of the working classes are worse than they were. That is the essential point. It is not that we want 837 to prevent the introduction of machinery. We welcome it provided that, when it is there, the product of that machinery goes increasingly to the improvement of the standard of life of the workers.
The Parliamentary Secretary went on to point out that these ameliorative processes to which my hon. Friend referred had gone on to some extent. He said that 700,000 people now had shorter working hours and a number had a shorter working year because of holidays with pay, and he had something to say about a shorter working life if you gave earlier and better pensions. We do not deny that these processes are going on. What we complain about primarily is the pace at which they are going on in relation to the other processes to which I have been making reference. The pace is too slow in regard to these matters. If they are really ameliorative processes—we are all agreed that they are—my hon. Friend is right in stressing them and calling for action on the part of the Government which would speed them up. In speeding them up you at least narrow the gulf which exists at the present moment between this amazing productive capacity that we control and the standards of life of the people. It is that pace about which we are primarily concerned.
I wish the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) had not left his place. He began by saying something about the scope of my hon. Friend's opening speech, and he made a remark to the effect that we could do an amazing amount of things in a sane world. The world does not seem to be very sane at the moment, but perhaps some of the suggestion that we are making here this morning may be regarded to an attempt to bring it back to sanity. The point is, can we create in this island social and economic conditions which will assist by example, if in no other way, in restoring sanity to the world? I rather think we can. The Government have damaged the prestige of this country in one way and another in recent times. After all the mistakes that they have made in foreign policy it might be well if they turned their attention for a short time a little more enthusiastically to domestic affairs and, by a rearrangement of our social life, restore in that respect, at any rate, the prestige of the country to a higher point 838 than it has ever occupied. I agree that it occupies a fairly high place now in that respect, but as the Government have damaged our prestige externally they might do all they possibly can to raise it internally.
The opening speech of my hon. Friend admirably called out attention to the social and industrial changes which have taken place in the post-War world, and in view of the facts and figures by which my hon. Friend substantiated his arguments I think all the Committee will agree that social and industrial changes are inevitable. We cannot conceive the possibility of a static society; in fact, paradoxical as it may seem, nothing is constant but change. We know that change is inevitable, but what most of us on this side deplore at the moment is that, although we know more about the laws of social change than men knew in the past, we do not try to control those processes of change in such a way that they will bring the maximum degree of happiness and blessing to the great masses of the people. That is the burden of our complaint on these Benches. I hope hon. Members opposite will not take it too hardly, but one does not often detect in their speeches, although there are isolated instances, any imagination in regard to the social order that is possible in this country. It is generally absent from the speeches of Ministers.
I want to make one or two observations about certain special points. There is a passage—I do not want to read it at the moment and weary the Committee—in the report of the Commissioner for the Special Areas on the problem of the employment of the older men. The hon. and gallant Member talked about the older men, but in my area the problem is that of the younger men. It is more acute than the problem of the older men. The Special Commissioner has assured us that this is a national problem and that it occurs in more acute form in the Special Areas; it certainly exists in mining areas, which are neither special nor distressed areas, and sometime in a very acute form. I want to call the attention of the House to the fact that when it exists in such areas as I have in mind, it gives rise to a very great deal of friction in family life. I wish that attention could be paid to this matter in such a way as to obviate some of the points that I am now going to stress. I do not know, in view of the increasing length of human 839 life, whether we ought to call many of these men old, because they are only 50 years of age or slightly older. It is probably wrong to do so, as they are well below the pensionable age. Very often they are on the means test and live in homes where unmarried sons and daughters are the wage-earners of the household. Physically the father is often strong, robust and healthy, but no one wants him. That is one of the greatest tragedies of our social life.
I know some cases of this kind. A man may have worked in one colliery for 30 or 35 years and then, because the district has had to be closed down or because machines have been introduced, he has lost his job and there has not been any further use for him. The local authority may find him occasional work on the roads, but if there are many such men as he in the area his turn probably does not come round for two years. That is the period in my area. That position is not good enough. Perhaps for 20 years of the allotted span of human life the man has to live feeling that he is a social outcast. Surely we have reached a stage in social evolution where we ought not to permit such a condition of things to continue.
Is this the best that a Christian civilisation can do for these men? I ask that question in all earnestness. I know that what may be termed general trade improvement has made some impression on the problem, and I shall probably be told that there has been a fall of 6 or 7 per cent. in the number of those who had been unemployed for three years or more in 1938, but that is not good enough either. I stress that individual human life is relatively short and these ameliorative processes of change are slow, and I make the same observation that I did earlier, that the pace is too slow in dealing with these matters, while the lives of the men concerned, strong, robust, active and vigorous though the men may be now, are fading away. Occasionally you find men in a local dam or a river or you hear other stories about them, which you trace to their source and find they have something to do with the friction in family life. It may be argued that these things would occur if the position were different, but I do not think so. In any case, such things should not exist in the civilisation in which we find ourselves
840 Statistics are collected very laboriously; great pains are taken about their accuracy; but what good is all the information if you do not use it at least in some attempt to solve these problems? Nobody quotes figures, with great effect sometimes, more frequently than the Minister of Labour, but when he quotes those figures let him always remember—perhaps he does; perhaps I am unjust to him—that behind all his figures there are these intense and real human problems, and, however accurate his data may be, let his turn his attention more vigorously and actively to the solution of some of these questions. Statistics afford little if any satisfaction to the older unemployed men to whom I have referred if you do not lift them out of the situation in which they find themselves. Statesmanship is brankrupt if it can do nothing at all to solve this problem.
Nearly eight years have elapsed since the National Government was formed. It has made some tentative efforts to deal with this problem, but they have been attended with very meagre success, and meanwhile the older unemployed men in many areas are still without hope. Therefore, we must write down the National Government as having completely failed to deal effectively with this intensely human question. I am not denying that they have mitigated it to some extent, but I say they have failed completely to deal effectively with this real problem. I do not want to strike a merely political, partisan note; I would rather appeal to the Minister along the lines I have already indicated; but it does seem to me that Members of the Government and many of their supporters regard this human wastage as a necessary part of the present economic organisation, and that they are not really prepared to do very much about it. I do not think that that is an attitude which should be taken. These people have feelings, hopes and aspirations just as Members of the House of Commons have, and we ought not to treat them merely as human wastage, thrown on one side by the ruthless functioning of an economic system.
I want to refer to another point, which I have raised incidentally in questions and which concerns trading estates. We have good reason in some ways to bemoan the fact that whole areas are dependent on one industry, especially when that industry has passed into a period of 841 adversity, and I quite recognise that, if there is to be a change in those areas, new industries have to be taken into them. But there are specific industries which have developed in particular areas, often with some vicissitudes. They have flourished for relatively long periods, and then they have had periods of depression, as is common with all industries, but they have managed over a period to build up standards of life, hours of labour and rates of wages, by efforts and organisation of which the workers in the industry have a right to be proud, because they have not been given those conditions as a result of the philanthropy of the employers; they have come as the result of organisation and effort. In such places the workers have by organisation established certain standards, but the workers as such have very little control over capitalist expansion and development.
I may be wrong—I hope I am—but it seems to me that Governments of the modern type are much more concerned about the employers than about the workers. Capital seeking investment naturally gravitates to those industries in which the best profits can be made, and in which security is reasonably likely, and, if that capital is to be employed in an industry where skilled workers are needed, the new undertaking must either be established where the skilled workers live, or, alternatively, must in some way attract the skilled workers to the new area to which it goes. In practice it does both. There are in my constituency, in the industry to which I am now referring, modern up-to-date hosiery plants which have taken the place in some degree of the older concerns. These older concerns were largely individual businesses, partnerships, or small private companies, but a great change is coming over the industry. It is rapidly becoming a mass production industry, and those who are now finding the capital for it have a very marked tendency to establish their new works outside the area where recognised standards have been built up. Then they come to the area where these industries have developed, take a few skilled workers to the new factory which they have established, and pay them the recognised rates.
I have a case in point which I raised in a Question in the House some weeks ago. One of these factories took, from the area in which I live, about 35 men, whom 842 they classed as A men, to operate very expensive hosiery machines, which need a high degree of skill. Then, from the town itself in which the new factory has been built, they have come to employ about 270 men belonging to the town, whom they class as B men, and they pay the B men 30 per cent. below what they pay the A men. The A men in the factory have now come to the conclusion, after four or five years, that the skill of the B men is equal to their own, and they have stopped work so that the B men shall be paid the same rate of wages as the A men. The A men in that concern are not only acting very loyally towards their organisation, and with a firm desire to preserve their standard of life, but at the same time they are trying to do everything they can to preserve the rates of wages in the industry generally. But the firm concerned refuses to recognise the union.
I want to ask the Minister whether in a case like this his officers, who arrange meetings—sometimes very effectively—between the managements and men, cannot function? I do not want to do the firm any harm by saying who they are and what brand of stockings they put on the market, though I probably could do them a great deal of harm in that way. The Minister knows who they are. Will he do something about this, or, if he has already done something, will he tell us precisely what he has done? I could mention other instances in the same industry. When you take new industries to these trading estates, or when they develop there, will the Minister see that the standards of wages and hours which have been established in other areas after long effort are preserved, as far as possible, in these new areas? I think my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly has done the Committee a great service by raising the question of unemployment in the way that he did this morning. This survey of the problem was complete and, I think, eloquently put. I only hope that it will have the effect of making Ministers look with a little more imagination on this great social and industrial problem that faces us, and which I do not believe it is beyond the wit of man to solve.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Trevor Cox
The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) has once more given us an informative speech. He 843 complained that the Government had shown very little imagination in dealing with the great problem of unemployment. That is quite untrue. That argument was entirely demolished by the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. The hon. Member for Mansfield put forward the only alternative proposal, as far as I could see, to the Government's policy, namely that attempts should be made to bring the world back to sanity. I am sure that in that vague effort he would receive the enthusiastic support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) gave us an interesting and somewhat academic discourse, but he, also, put forward no constructive proposals. He complained that the puny and futile efforts of the Government had in no way assisted those people who were without work. That, again, is entirely untrue. The hon. Member did not seem in the least pleased that a great new steel works has been put in South Wales. Nor did he approve of the expansion of industry in the South.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
That is quite wrong. I mentioned those developments, and I tried to indicate, both from my own knowledge and the knowledge of those in the industry, what the consequences would be, and I asked the Minister to deal with that position. It is untrue to say that I complained about industrial expansion in the South.
§ Mr. Cox
I quite appreciate the hon. Member's argument, but he did complain that, as a result of these great works in South Wales, unemployment would be increased. As the Minister has told us, there has been a remarkable improvement in the position in regard to unemployment. In the middle of May there were over 12,500,000 insured persons at work, the highest figure ever recorded in this country; and it is encouraging to note that the city editor of the "Daily Herald" holds the view that unemployment will probably fall to 1,250,000 by the late Autumn. This would be the lowest figure for 10 years. He also points out that the increase in employment in April last was heavier in the seasonal distributive trades than in the armaments 844 industries, and holds the view that this is an additional reason for expecting the expansion to continue. That disposes of the argument put forward by the hon. Gentleman opposite that this improvement is entirely due to the rearmament programme.
The position in the Special Areas is encouraging, and the number of unemployed there has fallen by 130,000 since 1935. There has been an improvement in the Scottish Special Area, and the reduction in the number there, has been from 94,000 to 62,000 since 1934, while the number of persons unemployed for a year or more has declined by about half. The number of workers covered by existing agreements in regard to holidays with pay or by legislation under which holidays can now be given has reached the remarkable figure of 11,000,000. All these facts which cannot be disputed, give cause for general optimism in regard to the industrial position. The Minister was about to give to the Committee some figures showing that there has been an improvement in regard to wages received by various categories of workers in the country to-day. Perhaps when the Minister of Labour replies he will give us some indication as to the improvement that has taken place in this respect. In regard to industrial production, also, there has been an improvement. For the first quarter of 1938 the figures were 3 per cent, lower than those for the last quarter of 1937, while the figures for the first quarter of 1939 were 4 per cent. above the best quarter last year. We find, again, that the "Daily Herald" and the "Economist" are both rejoicing in the general improvement in trade. The "Economist" says that the latest report and statistics for the end of last month show that Britain is in the midst of a vigorous trade recovery. The "Daily Herald" at the beginning of June said that we were now past the worst of the trade depression which began to yield in the early Spring of this year. It was a notable tribute from this great capitalist organ to the Government that it stated that the improvement is due to the Government's spending programme, which creates jobs and increases purchasing power. I hope that the hon. Member who complains of the puny efforts of the Government will bear in mind the advice given from that important quarter. The Minister has reminded us that there has 845 been a substantial drop in the number of elderly unemployed persons since May, 1933. The number who have been out of work for a year or more has declined by well over 200,000. That is the most difficult aspect of this whole problem, and the improvement will be welcomed in all quarters of the Committee.
In regard to the Government's general efforts to assist trade and reduce unemployment by signing commercial agreements and carrying out trade negotiations with foreign countries, it is to be noted that the Anglo-American Trade Agreement, which was signed recently, has resulted in a considerable expansion in exports of United Kingdom goods to America. The increase for the first two months of this year, as compared with the same period of 1938, exceeded £1,000,000. That is a substantial advance in the right direction, and must have meant employment for a considerable number of workers. The Danish Government have made an offer which has been accepted by the Government to provide facilities this year for increasing by about 23,000,000 Kroner their imports of a wide range of United Kingdom goods.
As to the question of the Special Areas, there has also been a remarkable drop in unemployment there. The figure has declined since September, 1931, by over one-half. The Commissioners' commitments at the end of last month involved an expenditure of no less than £35,000,000. In view of the great benefits which must have accrued to large numbers of working-class people from the spending of such large sums in the Special Areas, we know that the contention put forward by hon. Members opposite this morning is quite untrue. Perhaps I may refer once more to the remark of the city editor of the "Daily Herald" who had some information to give us with regard to the position of the Tyneside. He said that the district is now enjoying the nearest approach to prosperity for the last 20 years at least.
§ Mr. T. Cox
I read this capitalist organ with interest on many occasions, and I am rather surprised that the hon. Member is not familiar with all the arguments which are constantly put forward in this important paper. This editor says that 846 in the shipbuilding and coal trades almost boomlike conditions prevail. He is also optimistic with regard to the future of South Wales. I am sure that the hon. Member for Llanelly heard that statement with particular pleasure. That editor says that business and employment in South Wales have revived significantly during the last few weeks. He noted in the middle of May that, quite apart from the general improved prospect of steel and shipbuilding, the demand for tinplate and coal has expanded rapidly. The Minister gave some figures for tinplate, and if I may re-emphasise what he says, the tin-plate output is now about 75 per cent. of its capacity, and there are 22,000 tin-plate workers employed and only about 2,000 unemployed. The position a year ago was very much worse. Twelve thousand were working and a similar number were without work.
§ Mr. Cox
That does not affect the existing position. I am sure that we welcome the simple fact, which no one can dispute, that many more workers are now in employment in this important industry.
The trading estates in the Special Areas are expanding. The vigorous and progressive policy of the Commissioners has resulted in the employment of about 10,000 more persons on these trading estates. Work has been provided by the new industry in the Special Areas for about 20,000 persons excluding those employed on these trading estates. One hundred and fifty-four undertakings have been assisted in other districts, and the funds have helped about 58 undertakings on these estates. With regard to the efforts of the Commissioners to bring in light industries to the distressed areas, the Commissioner's report draws attention to the progress which has been made. I was particularly glad to see that since 1932 no fewer than 14 new industries have been established in that part of North-East Cheshire which I represent. Unemployment has been reduced by no less than 65 per cent. since 1930 in that division. These new industries manufacture gloves, artificial silk underwear, waterproof clothing, boilers and hot-water cisterns and other products. That, again, is a welcome improvement in the right direction.
847 In conclusion, I would like to pay a tribute to the valuable voluntary work done in the Special Areas and elsewhere in regard to social welfare services. Social and occupational centres have been established, and much other useful work has been organised to help the unemployed. Waste lands have been cleared and levelled for use as playing fields, open-air swimming baths have been built, and boys' and girls' clubs have been set up and furnished and work given to unemployed persons. The remarkable activities of the Carnegie and Pilgrim trusts and the work of the National Council of Social Service cannot be too highly praised. I was particularly interested in the reference in the "Times" Supplement to the appointment of special instructors in art, music and drama and physical training to assist these clubs and social centres. In my Division we are engaged in similar plans to assist the two unemployed social centres.
The "Times" article, to which reference has been made this morning, reminds us rightly that as a result of all these schemes to help the unemployed, men were able to resume work when offered suitable opportunities, whereas if they had not had the advantage of these facilities that would not have been the case. In the second place, the occupational centres and the allotments which have been set up have enabled men to make quite substantial supplement to their household resources. Thirdly, they were able to make permanent and in some cases notable additions to the amenities of their towns and villages; and, lastly, many of them were able to turn their enforced leisure to good account.
I have given the Committee one or two straightforward arguments which show that the Government have done a great deal in their comprehensive and far-sighted programme to assist those who are without work. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are considering setting out on another political campaign by the sea-side similar to that which they held last year, I hope that they will give the British workers some of these arguments. I hope that they will repeat them especially to those workers who, because of Government action, are enjoying holidays with pay. Then the result of any test which may be made as to the attitude of public opinion 848 either now or in the future will be even more decisive in its conclusion.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Parkinson
I am sure that the Committee is delighted to know that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Trevor Cox) is so assiduous a reader of the "Daily Herald." I am sure that he could read many worse papers, but I hope that he reads the whole of the contents and not just the particular part of the paper that deals with the finance of the things about which he spoke. It also shows at least a tendency to obtain a more enlightened view point. I was pleased to hear the statement he made that 14 new industries had been established in his particular area. I am sure that the whole Committee was delighted to hear that, but in my area there has not been a single new industry established, and we have been trying to get one established for a very long time. The Minister says that things are going well. It would have been a sad commentary if, after spending £1,000,000,000 on armaments during the last four years, the number of unemployed had not been reduced. I do not know whether the Minister is taking it for granted that 1,250,000 is going to be the minimum number of unemployed persons in this country. If that is so, he is basing his view upon something which is a curse in itself. There ought not to be so large a number of people unemployed. Evidently the Minister has taken the figure of 1,250,000 as being a figure that cannot be reduced.
§ Mr. Parkinson
Nobody said so, but we have to infer that from the remark made by the Parliamentary Secretary, and by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech in the last Debate. I may be a pessimist, but if the Ministry of Labour deal with other places like they have dealt with Lancashire, or South West Lancashire, we shall never get below the present unemployment figure. They have done nothing whatever in that particular area to reduce unemployment.
I am not going to deal with the problem on a wide basis. I shall confine my remarks to the position in South-West Lancashire. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out what had been done by the National Development Council. 849 Well, we have been trying ever since 1935 to get new works established in the Wigan area—I mean the area in South-West Lancashire outside the boundaries of Bolton, Warrington, St. Helens, Ormskirk and Chorley, districts within a radius of eight to 10 miles from Wigan. It is the worst area in Lancashire. In 1935, we sent a deputation to the Minister of Labour, now the President of the Board of Trade, with a view to trying to get something done in that particular area, and since then there have been deputations and communications, but we have not made the slightest headway. The present Minister of Labour has been to Wigan and he promised to do all he possibly could to help us. The Parliamentary Secretary also came along, and we showed him what we wanted doing, but nothing has been done.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde spoke of the clearing of ground for playing fields. That is one of the things that we have been stressing since 1935, but there has been no move in that direction. There is no area which could be cleared with greater advantage to the community than my area. I put down a question some time ago asking what had been done in respect of the industrial development of Lancashire, and returns were sent to me of surveys of industrial development for 1935, 1936, 1937, but, on going through the reports of those three surveys, one was filled with disgust to realise that in the whole of that time there have not been sufficient new industries introduced into the Wigan district and the South-West Lancashire area to employ 200 people. In 1933 three industries were brought in—two small brickworks and a coke drying and grading works. In 1936 we had another brickworks, an extension of a locks and hinges works and the setting up of a dog biscuit factory, which is little more than a fairly big shop. In 1937, there were opened a paint, varnish and enamel works at Hindley and an extension of a cardboard-box factory at Wigan. These are the only industries brought into the Wigan area during the whole of that time. It is not because inducements have not been offered to people to come, and not because the local authorities in the area have not done their best to get something done. In 1935 a conference was held of the whole of the urban authorities in the 850 Wigan area, and they sent a resolution which was passed at the conference and also a deputation to the Ministry with a view to getting something done. Nothing has been done, and we are in the same position that we have been in for a number of years.
I have said that we are the worst area in Lancashire. That is true. There is no part of Lancashire, according to the map published in the "Manchester Guardian," which is anything like so badly placed as this area. The next badly placed area would be Blackburn and Great Harwood. We are still there struggling and asking for something to be done. The National Industrial Development Council was set up in 1938. In reply to a Question that I put on 17th February, 1938, I was told that one site company had been formed under the aegis of the Lancashire Industrial Development Council. In reply to a Question on 13th June of this year, 15 months later, I was informed that no factories had yet been built. For what purpose, then, was the Council set up? Was it not formed with a view to helping people to create new industries? If so, what has it been doing during this period? Fifteen months have gone by and not a single brick has been laid in Lancashire, including my own area. If that is all that can be done, then it appears to me that the Industrial Development Council had better go out of existence. Whether they are doing something in the area to which the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde referred, I do not know, but the reply I got from the Minister was that not a single factory had yet been built.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the trading estates set up in South Wales and other districts. I have seen the trading establishment at Treforest, and I think it is a credit to all concerned. They are going on pretty well there. It is stated that work for 3,000 people has been found there. I want the Minister of Labour to try and visualise the difference between areas like that and the area of which I am speaking. In the Wigan area there are between 250,000 and 300,000 people. They are struggling there and we have large numbers of people who have been unemployed for years, with no opportunity whatever of getting employment. It appears to me that they are going to live on public funds so long 851 as they do live, and then we are not going to be much better off, because succeeding generations will follow them on the same lines. I will not go into the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), but there can be no doubt that mechanisation is playing havoc in the industrial areas, and we are finding it very difficult to provide work for our people. In Wigan at least two-thirds of our people go outside the borough area in order to find employment. That is not very helpful. We have been a very intensely populated industrial area. We have had a great industrial past, but it appears to me that we are not going to have any industrial future.
There is another point to which I would direct attention. I find that in regard to the buildings that have been put up in particular areas in Lancashire the contractors have not provided that employment for local labour which they ought to have done from local employment exchanges. On 16th February, 1938, I put a Question to the Minister asking how many people were employed at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Euxton, near Chorley, and where they had come from. I mentioned a number of employment exchanges in the area and asked how many people had been supplied from those exchanges. He replied that 6,354 people were employed and the exchanges had supplied 2,120. That left a balance of 4,234 who had come from somewhere else. I put another question this month, and I was informed that the highest number of people employed at Euxton was 14,000 and the highest number that had been recruited through the local employment exchanges was 4,353. That means that 9,645, two-thirds of the total, came from somewhere else.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that in future the Minister had decided that labour must be employed from local exchanges. I do not know why that has not been going on all the time. I do not understand why the employment exchanges have not been made much more use of. Within eight or 10 miles of Chorley there were all the general labourers that were required for the Royal Ordnance Works at Chorley, but they had been passed over and other people have been brought in. I asked why contractors were not compelled to recruit the 852 whole of their labour from the employment exchanges, and I was told that they had no authority over the sub-contractors, who had the right to employ the men from whatever source they desired. In both these cases about one-third of the total number of people employed on the particular work have been taken from the employment exchanges and the other two-thirds have been brought in from outside. On that point let me quote a comment which I have had from a correspondent in the area:I notice that you were given the following figures regarding the number of men employed at Euxton from the local exchanges, Preston 763, Chorley 2,226, Wigan 1,206, Bolton 127, Leyland 30. That is a total of 4,353. Where did the other 9,645 come from?There is one further point. Of course, unemployment is lower than it was. We cannot expend all this money without breaking into the numbers of the unemployed in some parts. In the Wigan district there are 250,000 persons, and unemployment is between 20 and 25 per cent. of the insured population. In Westhoughton and in Golborne over 25 per cent. of the population are unemployed. It is absolutely the worst area of Lancashire, and a part which at one time was the home of industry and industrious people. Last night I found that Wigan had suffered another blow:Hard-hit Westhoughton, one time prosperous mining town, has suffered another blow. Although no official information was available I learned to-day that the Blackrod Pit of the Westhoughton Coal and Cannel Co. had closed down. The closing comes just when Westhoughton people are preparing for their holiday, which begins on Saturday. About 150 men will lose their job.I want to appeal to the Minister to see whether it is possible for something to be done. We have been hard hit, and we have done all we can with the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor. We had hopes when the right hon. Gentleman came to Wigan that something really was going to be done. We have been carrying on correspendence with him and sending deputations to him, but nothing has been done. The Parliamentary Secretary came along and we had great hopes. I believe he has tried his best to do something, but he has failed. I hope it will not be long before he has better success, and that these men, who are amongst the best in the whole of the country, who have been suffering hardships for six, seven or eight years, through no fault of 853 their own, and who are still suffering very heavy burdens will be able to get employment. This area of 800,0000 people has been absolutely neglected by the Minister during the whole period of our adversity. If the Government can get things done in other districts, I am sure that they can do the same thing for us. We have put schemes before the Ministry but have not yet received any reply. I know that we cannot expect a reply every other day, because the national situation interferes with ordinary business, but we are hoping that the Minister will do something, that we shall get some help—help which is due to these people in this particular area. Workless colliers who saw the Parliamentary Secretary some time ago told him quite candidly that it was not charity they wanted, but work. That is the spirit we want to maintain, but at the moment opportunities for using that spirit in any commercial activity does not exist. I appeal to the Minister to do something for this area which has been so hard hit by unemployment.
§ 2.1 p.m.
I want to deal with only three specific points. The first relates to instructional centres. Anyone who has been in contact with matters of employment must regret that it has been so difficult to find employment for men who have voluntarily gone to instructional centres, not once, but two or three times, and who at the end of their instructional period find that there is no work for them. I have asked the Minister on more than one occasion whether he is quite certain that the big firms, who are in a position from time to time to take on men, have been approached with a concrete plan for co-operation between the large firms and the men who go to instructional centres. I have asked whether it was made known to large employers of labour that there are bodies of young men who are going to instructional centres and who are very depressed when they find that no work is available for them on their return. The right hon. Gentleman has always assured me that every possible step is taken and that the suggestion I have made for a more intimate contact between the managers of employment exchanges and the heads of industrial firms is not necessary.
I am rather a persistent person, and so I undertook a survey on my own account. I have lived all my life on the 854 North-East Coast. I have lived there for more years than I care to remember. I claim that I have the confidence of the large employers as well as of the small employers. This scheme is very close to my heart and I wanted to discuss it with them. So I sent a questionnaire to two large shipbuilding firms on the Tyne, one engineering works, two railway companies and a big iron and steel works. I put the question point blank, whether if they were approached with a concrete proposal which would, if developed, allow them to give an opportunity to these men who had shown their willingness to go to an instructional centre, they would consider employing them if work was available on their return. I have had replies from five out of the six firms, and in not one single case do the big employers seem to have any real knowledge of instructional centres at all. It is true that two of them refer to contacts which they have had with training centres as distinct from instructional centres, but none of these firms have been approached, and, therefore, I want to suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he might consider my plan and see whether it is possible to increase the amount of work available for men who go to instructional centres.
May I develop the point a little further? I think if we set our minds to it we could devise work of national importance which would employ many of these long-term unemployed. There is a great difference between planning, when employment is rising, works of national importance which can be used in connection with a specific body of men who have been out of employment for a long time, and embarking on a policy of public works when unemployment is rising. I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the difference that there would be in considering the possibility of introducing works of national importance at the present time. It is true that in relation to the making of roads, for instance, the local authorities have been empowered from time to time to make new roads, and it has always been popularly supposed that the men who got a chance of working on those roads were the long-term unemployed. That is a complete misapprehension. The men who are employed by the local contractors are unemployed, but for the most part they are short-term unemployed, 855 because it is almost impossible for a man who has been out of work for a long period to be taken on by a contractor to do hard physical work on the roads. Under the scheme which I visualise, and which could be worked out with the appropriate Departments, plans could be put into operation for the building of the very necessary roads which this country still needs, and the labour to be used in building them would be drawn from the long-term unemployed who have also had an opportunity of making themselves physically fit to undertake such hard and strenuous labour. I think this is a very important point and one that might very well be developed.
The second point to which I want to refer has reference to the married men who are refused training at the training centres for the reason that, when they have finished their period of training, they are unable to earn sufficient wages to keep themselves and their families. I will not go over the whole case again, but on the last occasion when I dealt with the matter, my hon. Friend did not see fit to answer the question I put to him. I raised the matter in the House at Question Time, and with a little pressure I got my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to say that he would re-examine the position. But I want something more than that. What is the Government's policy with regard to those men? Have they, or have they not, got a policy? Personally, I think it would be far better for them to state that there is nothing they can do—for then we should know where we are and what sort of action to adopt—than simply to ignore the matter. That is not my way of doing what ought to be done by the country for this particular class of the community. I should like to have a specific answer. At Question Time, my right hon. Friend said that it is true that married men with large families who apply to go to the training centres are refused on the grounds of their large families and the rate of wages that would be available to them in the months immediately after they left the centres. Those men can never be trained. That is a specific and direct statement made by the Minister of Labour. What are these men to do? Are they to be a charge on the State for the rest of their time, or are we to devise some plan by 856 which they can be trained and given a decent livelihood in future? I should be sorry if, with all the brains available in the Government and in the party to which I have the honour to belong, we could not devise some scheme. I want to know what is the answer on this matter.
The third point I want to raise relates to the holiday pay drawn by men under the Unemployment Assistance Board. I give full credit to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for the persistance with which they have pursued the policy of making holidays with pay available to every member of the community. I do not think anything has given me greater pleasure since I became a Member of the House than, when the annual Tyne-side holiday came this year, to find many men coming down with their wives and families and saying, "What a grand thing it is this year to have our annual holidays with pay." It has made all the difference to their lives. The principle behind holidays with pay is that every man should have the benefit of the holiday pay. I fail to see why, if a man is unemployed when the holiday comes, and is on statutory benefit, unemployment assistance or public relief, he should be denied the pleasure that is given to those who are in work. If he has done all the work to give him the holiday credits, the simple fact that he is unemployed ought not to disfranchise him, so to speak, from obtaining the benefit of his holiday credits. We have been able to provide, to a certain extent, for the men who are on standard benefit, and I am very glad that we have been able to do so. I suggest to my hon. Friend that, in doing that, we have created a precedent that an unemployed man shall be entitled to standard benefit as well as holiday credits. Therefore, there is no reason why the more unfortunate members of the community, the persons on unemployment assistance, who have been longer out of work, and the people on public relief, who are, after all, the sick poor, should not have the same benefits as men who are only short-term unemployed.
I have gone very carefully into this matter, and I think that my right hon. Friend ought to issue some further instructions to the unemployment assistance officers. I should like them to be on the lines that, where a man who is an applicant for unemployment assistance has got 857 holiday credits due to him, he should be told that, if he likes to take himself, his wife and family to the seaside or the country for a day, or for a couple of days, whatever fits in with the amount of money he draws, that allowance should be disregarded, and no account should be taken of it in the weekly assessment of the man's allowance. If that were done, it would give a tremendous stimulus to all these men who, after all, if they are on unemployment assistance, have very little to make their lives bright and happy. Moreover, it would materially benefit their health. I see no reason why there should be a differentiation between one man and another. We are saying that every man should have holidays with pay, and if at the time of the holiday he is unemployed, then some special arrangement must be made for him. Again, I see no difficulty in devising a plan. I should like to have an assurance from my hon. Friend that this point will be discussed and that, if possible, a satisfactory solution will be found.
In conclusion, I should like to say a word or two about the longterm unemployed. I listened with very great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Cox) who spoke about the improvement on the Tyneside and the North-East coast, and in South Wales. Of course, I could not be better pleased than to know that the unemployment figures were going down and that a vast amount of employment was being given to men who have been out of work for many years. But there does remain a vast number of people who have been out of work year after year and at the peak of our re-armament programme there is no chance for them to get work. If they do not get work now, let us face the fact that they are not going to get work when the peak of our re-armament programme has been passed. It does not seem to me that there could be a more opportune moment to face the problem which my right hon. Friend so picturesquely describes, when we know the difficulties with which we have to deal and we have a chance of getting down seriously to them.
The Unemployment Assistance Board have done a great deal of work. They set out a whole policy and plan to be followed by the Board. The Unemployment Assistance officers are well versed in their task, 858 and plans, as far as they have been made in detail, are working out satisfactorily. Why cannot the Board now turn its attention to making specific proposals to the Ministry as to what they should do to provide work for this hard core of unemployment? We have had speeches from people who are interested in the problem. We had one yesterday from Sir Luke Thompson, who for many years served in this House, who has a great experience of this problem and is doing a great work in Sunderland. He proposed yesterday, with the support of many friends on the North-East coast, a resolution urging the Government now to consider work of national importance for dealing with these men. There is not one of us here who does not wish to do everything possible to make democracy work satisfactorily so that we can challenge the totalitarian States on the fact that the democratic system in infinitely superior to any system that they can put forward, but there is no doubt that on the one point of unemployment democracy shows itself to be weak. It is up to us, particularly those in the great and grand party which has now got charge of the government of this country, to prove that democracy is best. [Laughter.] Hon. Members above the Gangway like to jeer at that statement, but I represent an industrial constituency and I know the difference now compared with the time when their friends were in office. I say most emphatically that unless we tackle this problem now we are not doing our job satisfactorily by this country and by the people who have the right to expect support and a policy from us.
§ 2.18 p.m.
Mr. W. Joseph Stewart
I listened with interest to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. As he went on I thought that he had served his apprenticeship very well indeed under his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. He painted a very beautiful picture of what the Government have done towards solving the unemployment problem, and as he went on I was almost persuaded, if not quite, that the unemployment problem did not exist. I come from an area where the incidence of unemployment is very great indeed and where percentages are persistently high. The Government may have done much work towards a solution of the unemployment problem but in many parts of 859 Durham their efforts have had very little appreciable effect. I would like to quote a few figures to prove my point. In. South West Durham and the Bishop Auckland area we have 31.1 per cent. of the insured population unemployed, a figure higher than it was a year ago; in Cockfield, 36.2 per cent., which is 7.6 per cent. higher than it was a year ago; in Shildon, 33.9 per cent., or 2.6 per cent. higher than it was a year ago; in East Baldon area, 24.4 per cent., or 5.5 per cent. higher than a year ago; in South Shields, 28.2 per cent., a slight decrease over May of last year; and in Sunderland, 26.1 per cent., an increase of 1.3 per cent. over last year. In Durham as a county there is one in five of the insured population unemployed, and in the two large county boroughs of Sunderland and South Shields one in four is unemployed. This is in a time of so-called national prosperity.
I received a letter this morning, and perhaps other hon. Members have received a similar letter from the town clerk's office of the Borough of Hartle-pool. The letter contains an appeal for something to be done for the borough of West Hartlepool. The writer cites this fact, that in the borough 36 per cent. of the insured population are unemployed. This percentage is calculated only on the basis of the insured population, and it is stated that there are many others unemployed who are not registered at the employment exchange. The writer points out that the borough council are particularly concerned about this matter "because of the apparent lack of interest on the part of the Government." The letter goes on:Some time ago the Middleton shipyard owned by Messrs. Irvines Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. Ltd., was acquired by the National Shipbuilding Securities Ltd. This shipyard formerly employed approximately 1,500 men, and as the result of the purchase is to prevent the yards ever being used again for shipbuilding, it would appear there is little, if any, hope of the men formerly employed there ever finding work again locally.Recently it came to the notice of the Council that the Warren Cement Works, a local firm employing about 120 men, was about to be acquired, with a view to its being closed down, by the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers, Ltd. Intensive efforts were made to prevent this happening and several appeals were made to Government 860 Departments for assistance but none was forthcoming. Consequently, the works have now been closed down and the men paid off. Here again, a covenant has been imposed preventing the works being used again for cement-making.If the Government have been appealed to by this borough council to do something to prevent Shipbuilding Securities, Limited, and this large firm of cement manufacturers closing down these works surely they ought to respond. Surely they ought to do whatever is in their power to help these people in a time of need. It has been said during this Debate that the Government are dealing, as far as possible, with long-term unemployment. Some figures given to me this week from the Ministry of Labour show that in Durham the total number on the register is 87,664; the number of applicants for benefit and allowances, 77,742; the number of applicants who have been continuously on the register for one year but less than two years, 9,314; the number who have been on the register for two years but less than three, 4,561; the number who have been on the register for three years but less than four, 3,752; and the number who have been on the register for five years or more, that is from five years to ten years, 6,406. There is a total of 25,999 people in Durham County who have not worked for more than a year.
The Government ought to be able to do-more than they have done towards the solution of this problem. Owing to the fact that they have not done their job as they ought to have done it, Durham County is suffering. They have adopted two principles for the solution of their unemployment problem. The first is the introduction of trading estates, and the second is transfer. I would refer particularly to the Team Valley Trading Estate. I have nothing against this estate being introduced into Durham, in fact, I welcome it, because I think that, through time, it will do a certain amount of good, but my attention has been called to a paragraph which appeared in the "Newcastle Evening Chronicle" on 7th June last. I find from this that there has been an inquiry at that trading estate into the sytsem of transport provided for the operatives. During the inquiry it was pointed out that the whole of the labour employed on the estate came from outside and in many instances from considerable distances. Many of those 861 employed, it appears, are juveniles who earn small wages and cannot afford to pay the fares which are being charged. The part of this statement which interested me most was as follows:Colonel Methven, general manager of the North Eastern Trading Estates said, that of the 3,170 persons employed on the estate 942 were under 17. Many of these were learners. 'I am sorry to say' he added 'their earnings are as low as 8s. 6d. to 9s. per week out of which they have to pay for lunch.'I am as much concerned about the continuance of these estates as anyone in this House, but I am also desirous that the operatives engaged on them shall be paid reasonable remuneration. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, are those wage rates fixed by trade boards? If these boys are working either a 44-hour or a 48-hour week then they are working at rates of 2¼d. or 2½d. an hour. If the trade boards are responsible, I suggest it is time they were getting down to their job and introducing more remunerative scales for these juveniles.
Now I come to the question of transfer. This is one of the ways in which the Government hope to solve the problem which has faced Durham County for so many years. From 1932 to 1938 there have been transferred out of our county 23,908 men, 9,406 women, 6,957 boys and 7,935 girls, a total of 48,206 persons. This method of dealing with the problem is not being received with enthusiasm in Durham County. It is interfering with home life, and it is taking away the best of our people. Our county services, administered by the county council at a cost of millions of pounds, are used to bring up these boys and girls from infancy to the age of 14 or 15 years. At that age they are taken away to areas which have never spent a penny on the social services necessary to bring up those young people to the age of 14 or 15 plus. I asked this week for figures from the Board of Trade to find out whether or not the Government were doing anything to deal with the location of industry. I find that in 1938, the latest year for which I could get figures, 168 new factories were set up in the Greater London area and 44 existing factories extended, giving employment to 18,750. In Durham, Northumberland and the North Riding of Yorkshire 28 new factories were opened and there were eight extensions, giving employment to 2,450 persons.
862 I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Can nothing be done by the Government to deal with this most momentous question and to see that industries are brought to the Special Areas, where labour is available, instead of transferring your labour from the Special Areas to areas which are already congested? During the Debate on air-raid precautions, I was struck with the fact that the Minister responsible for Civil Defence in this country who, do what he likes, will not be able to evolve a plan that will deal effectively with London in a time of extensive air raids. London is growing tremendously, and the Government are doing nothing to prevent it, but are, rather, creating a menace with which they themselves have already said they will not be able to deal if ever the occasion arises. I read a few paragraphs in the "Sunder-land Echo" of 26th June dealing with the report of the director of education for Durham County, and in citing them I want to point out the devastating effects of long-term unemployment. Figures were given showing that 16.8 per cent. of our secondary school pupils in Durham were suffering from under-nourishment, and the director suggested that the time had arrived when, owing to the general factor of economic depression, something should be done to provide solid meals for those children. He quoted a recent comparison between secondary school pupils at Spennymoor (in Durham) and Surbiton (in Surrey), in which the conclusion was reached thatSpennymoor pupils are approximately one year behind the Surrey pupils in physique, and there was an appreciable difference between the nutritional condition.I submit that when those conditions are prevailing in Durham, and when there is that difference in physique between an area where the percentage of unemployment is 5.8 and an area where it is 18.1, the Government, who are responsible for dealing with these matters, should get down to the problem and do something worth while, if not in their own interests or in the interests of the adolescents and adults, at least in the interests of the little ones who are attending our elementary and secondary schools. The school medical officer's comment was:In my opinion, the returns are indicative of a deterioration in the nutrition of a proportion of the children formerly classified as normal. This deterioration has occurred in spite of the fact that the number of children 863 receiving free milk in the secondary schools has increased each year since the scheme was inaugurated, and, as in the case of the elementary schools, I am disposed to recommend the provision of solid meals in the secondary schools.In spite of the beautiful pictures that may be painted by the Parliamentary Secretary or his chief in regard to what has been done by the Government to deal with the problem of unemployment, our people in the Special Areas are gradually deteriorating, and I suggest that it is through the neglect of the Government, who have power if they wish to use it, to do something worth while on behalf of the children, who are not in a position to help themselves. Durham County this year has had to spend£63,000in feeding elementary school children, £30,000 on milk for nursing and expectant mothers, and another £30,000on liquid milk meals. In 1937 we spent in Durham on public assistance £962,788 and on unemployment benefit and allowances £3,613,233, making a total of £4,576,021. In 1938, when we are told that things are improving generally so far as the Special Areas are concerned, we spent on public assistance £1,619,728 and on unemployment benefit and allowances £5,063,256, a total for last year of £6,682,984, and that, in a country highly industrialised which the Government tell us is now on the way to prosperity.
We do not mention these facts merely to criticise the Government. We say what we do because we are interested in our people, and if you are not going to do anything worth while for the adolescents and those who are getting on in years, I would ask you to do something worth while for the men and women of tomorrow. We may boast as a nation about our position in the world of commerce and industry, but I venture to suggest that the most valuable asset that any nation can possess is a virile manhood and a healthy womanhood, and you cannot have them unless you start with the children. Give the children a chance, find employment for the parents, give them that right to the fuller life which is a heritage of every British citizen, and when you have done that, you will have done your job and done it as it ought to be done.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey
Although I think we are all glad that the Committee has 864 the opportunity of considering this great subject in the quiet and calm of a Friday afternoon, we must feel regret that a problem that weighs so heavily on so many of our fellow-citizens should fall to be considered by such a scanty attendance of Members in this House. It surely does call for a deeper interest, and on all sides of the Committee I think we must feel that it is a matter for regret that a larger number of representatives should not be able to listen to some of the earnest and impressive appeals that we have heard, as well as to the statements that have been made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. The subject is so large that it is impossible for any one of us to deal with more than a fraction of it, but I wish to speak about one side which has been brought to the attention of the Committee by quite a number of Members already, and that is the question of the younger unemployed. I think the Parliamentary Secretary did, at the close of his speech, deal with that, but in view of the immensity of the importance of this question, I could have wished that he had been able to give more time than he did to developing the position of the Government with regard to this subject. The report of the Unemployment Assistance Board really lays down a challenge to the Government on this point. I think Lord Rushcliffe's words in the introduction are most significant:The prolonged unemployment of 100,000 young men who are physically capable of work, and for the most part are anxious to obtain work, is a matter to which I am bound to call the most serious attention, with a view to such steps being taken as will remedy or alleviate the position.We have not had from either the Minister of Labour in the past or the Parliamentary Secretary to-day any full indication of the policy of the Government in approaching this great human problem. I recognise the value of the contribution which is being made by the Camps Act. The Parliamentary Secretary has mentioned that there will be some 4,000 unemployed young men of this age who are coming under the Military Training Act for military service, and the healthy conditions of life will, no doubt, improve their physique, but what is a contribution like that when there are 100,000 young men? There is this very large number who, as Lord Rushcliffe points out, have been unemployed for a con- 865 siderable period. Sometimes they have continued for three or four years since they left school without obtaining employment.
The Minister has been reminded already that this problem does not exist in Germany. I do not want him to yield to any temptation he may feel to follow the example of that State. I would ask him to turn westwards. As has already been suggested, I think he ought to take the opportunity of making experiments along the lines of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which has proved so successful in the United States. When I was in the United States last year I heard a great deal of criticism of some aspects of the New Deal, but I heard no criticism of the value of the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It has provided young men with useful work for the public service, work that would not otherwise have been done. They felt they were doing something worth while, their physique and their morale were built up, and they were continually passing out of the camps of the corps into ordinary employment. It is inevitable that if young men have no work after leaving school, and thousands of them are in that position, it would not be merely physical deterioration that will ensue, there will be moral deterioration also, and if we could make provision for them on a wider scale than is already done in the training camps it would prove of great benefit to the physique and morale of these young men. It would be a help to their families also if it were done in the same way as in the United States. There, they are able to send substantial help home to the family in addition to being maintained themselves and having pocket money while they are at work.
There is an ample field of work waiting to be done. There is the possibility of great expansion in the work of the Forestry Commission. There are more than 2,000,000 acres of rough land which could be afforested, and, as the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) said, there is work to be done in road construction, work to be done in transforming pit heaps and dumps into beautiful places. In the West Riding of Yorkshire such a work is being done by the unemployed near Ingleton, but that is because a charitable society has raised funds for the purpose. Why should not the country undertake such work instead of leaving it to charity? 866 I would commend that to the Minister as an example of work for the public service which is useful and valuable but which yet would not be done through the ordinary channels of industry. It might be done by these young unemployed men with immense benefit to themselves and their families and to the community as a whole.
It is not merely a matter of economic wastage to leave things as they are. Almost every week I have the opportunity of going into prison as a prison visitor and meeting a number of young prisoners, and I have been deeply impressed by learning how many had got into trouble when they were unemployed. Again and again I have found that they had been unemployed for months. When we think of the straitened home life and the limited opportunities that so many of them have had, being left at a loose-end for week after week and month after month, can we wonder that they have got into trouble? We have fewer than 10,000 people in prison on any day in the year, and with 1,250,000 unemployed the wonder is that so few of the unemployed have yielded to temptation; but the temptation is there for these young fellows and it will increase if we leave things as they are. Surely it is our duty to encourage the Government to take action on a far larger scale in the experiments they are undertaking to widen the basis of their training and instructional centres, going forward with bigger and bolder schemes for the benefit not only of the young unemployed but of the nation as a whole.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Brooke
I think the Committee have listened with great sympathy to the powerful plea made by the hon. Member on behalf of the younger unemployed, just as they listened to the plea made by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) on behalf of the older men who have been left on the books of the employment exchanges. At this time on a Friday afternoon I wish to ask my right hon. Friend only three questions. The first is whether he is able to say exactly what instructions are now given to the managers of employment exchanges in regard to sending to employers the names of elder men available for work. We know that it has been the established and traditional practice of the exchanges to give the names of the men on the books who are most 867 suitable for the job in question, irrespective of length of unemployment and other considerations. Now, in one respect or another, that policy is clearly being modified. In connection with Government contracts, for instance, it is now understood that long unemployed young men are to have the preference. Does that apply to older men also, and has it been made crystal clear by my right hon. Friend to all his hundreds of hardworking and responsible exchange managers throughout the country, men anxious to give effect to the most helpful policy in this matter, that they are to make special efforts to secure employment for the older men on the books?
My second question relates to the very important matter raised by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who opened the Debate. He drew attention to the movement of industry about the country. He called the attention of the Government to it. He made, I think, a very interesting analytical speech but it was two years too late, because the Government, alive to the supreme importance of the matter two years ago, had already at that time appointed a Royal Commission on the subject, and when he asked when that Commission was to report, I had understood that we were informed only yesterday that the report was expected in September. I would ask my right hon. Friend whether the Ministry of Labour is in constant touch with the Board of Education on questions of educational administration and educational facilities arising out of this movement of industry. Whether it is a good or a bad thing, the movement is going on and there are going to be fewer facilities in certain parts of the country for employment in what were the basic industries of those areas in the past. The Ministry of Labour is the Department best able to foresee and forecast the future trend of employment available to juveniles. Is that information being constantly transmitted to the Board of Education so that it may bring it to the notice of education authorities and so that the provision of technical education is being constantly adapted to the new needs of localities as they arise?
Lastly, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether attention is being directed by his Department 868 to the special needs of young men between, say, 17 and 20 in these days. The position has been radically altered by the passing of the Military Training Act. Until a few weeks ago there was no forward point in a boy's history on which his training could be focussed. You could offer him training, if under 18, in a junior instruction centre and, if he was older, in a Government training centre or in one of the reconditioning instructional centres, but at any rate in the latter case there was uncertainty as to what he could find to do at the end of it. Now every boy knows that, when he reaches 20, he will have his military service to do. That is going to affect his interests and his state of mind very closely in the years immediately before that critical age, and it seems to me that in principle and in detail it calls for reconsideration by the Government and the House of the training facilities available during those three years. I have always regretted that a boy is compelled to leave the junior instruction centre at the age of 18. In many cases they are unwilling leavers. I can visualise the possibility of a new and very valuable training system being devised for the years 17, 18 and 19, a training system more exciting than anything at present available at that age, a training system in the construction of which we might certainly gain very useful information from the American experience which has been referred to. It seems to me more than likely that that training system could be further improved if it was directly relating to the probability that individual boys, having their militia service ahead of them, would like to do it in some particular branch of the Army, so that it would be more valuable both to them and to the State through their having been able to use any period of unemployment in the years immediately beforehand in a definite and not in a vaguer training. I should like to raise one or two other points. Challenging things have been said by hon. Members opposite, but I know the Committee is waiting to hear the Front benches again, so I will content myself with these three questions to my right hon. Friend.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson
Whatever differences of opinion may exist in the Committee there will, I think, be general agreement as to the vital and urgent im- 869 portance of this problem of unemployment, involving as it does the happiness and welfare of every individual who suffers from its scourge. Even to-day, at a modest estimate, there are at least 12,000,000 unemployed in the world, including roughly 1,500,000 in our own country. I notice that of the latter number, 275,000, or 20 per cent., have been unemployed for 12 months or more, and the Committee have had figures given it to the effect that a considerable proportion of that 275,000 have been unemployed for more than three years. That is a terrible fate to overtake any man who is willing to work, and these unfortunate men are willing to work. It is possible to get some idea of their poverty because, according to the last report of the Unemployment Assistance Board, out of 561,000 households subjected to the iniquitous means test, 286,340 were completely without financial resources. This presents a condition of human misery which it requires very little imagination to realise.
I think a visitor from another planet would find it difficult to understand why there should be any unemployment problem at all. The potentialities of production were never so great as to-day. The potentialities of consumption are even greater and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said earlier in the Debate, the solution of the problem of unemployment lies in the correlation of production with consumption. For example, the low standard of living of the many millions of people who inhabit Asia, Africa and even parts of Europe affords a tremendous field for expansion in consumption and for an increase of purchasing power by raising their standard of living. It is true, of course, that at the present time in our own country, and perhaps in other countries, the number of unemployed is considerably less than it was a few years ago, but that is largely because of the direct and indirect results of the rearmament programme. If we look ahead we realise that the future is full of menacing possibilities.
To-day the world is spending £3,000,000,000 a year in armaments. Industry in almost every country in the world has been mobilised on a war basis. World economy to-day has become a war economy. The world is, indeed, a universal munitions factory. It is estimated 870 that there are more than 20,000,000 men and women engaged directly or indirectly in producing weapons of war and in preparing the world for a further war. For how long can this continue? Some months ago the Prime Minister stated in this House that if present world expenditure on armaments continued it would eventually break the back of our civilisation. There must come an end sooner or later to the present world armaments race. Moreover, the feverish activity which characterises that armaments race is producing goods which do not contribute to-human welfare, but are to be used to destroy life. Even if war be averted, as we all hope it will be, those armaments will not make any contribution to human happiness or to economic prosperity. The world will have to face economic readjustments whether in peace or war which must appal every thinking man and woman.
What is likely to happen? It is calculated that there are more than 60,000,000 young men serving in the various armed forces of the world. What is to happen when those armies are demobilised and those millions of young men have to return to civilian life? Presumably, jobs will have to be found for them. What will be the position when armament production slows down and when guns, tanks, shells, aeroplanes, warships and all the other materials of war are no longer required in the gigantic quantities in which they are to-day? Many millions of men and women who are now engaged either directly or indirectly in producing them will have to be given other occupations or will have to be discharged from their employment. The transfer back from a war economy to a peace economy will produce the dangers of serious political and economic upheaval unless the Government of our own country in conjunction with other governments look ahead and plan for such an eventuality.
We are entitled to ask the Minister a number of questions relevant to this issue, and first I would ask him, What is the Government's policy? Are the Government looking ahead? Are they in touch with other Governments with a view to securing some kind of concerted action to solve this vital problem? Both national and international planning are essential. We have had in the past abundant evidence and experience of the application of particular remedies, 871 independently and indiscriminately, which have failed to provide a solution of the unemployment problem—tariffs, quotas, marketing boards, subsidies and other quack remedies. Obviously, there is no single simple explanation of the present unemployment situation as a whole, and, equally, there is no single simple remedy within the framework of the capitalist system for solving it. But on the basis of the present capitalist system it may be possible to do something. What is needed? I suggest, for the consideration of the Minister, that there is need for a systematic planning of industrial and commercial activities based upon a thorough survey of both national and world economy. I think the time has come for the establishment of an economic general staff for this purpose. I realise that that smacks somewhat of a militaristic suggestion, but of course my idea is that the functions of this economic general staff should be similar for peace purposes to those of a military general staff for war purposes. Therefore, I suggest that a kind of economic general staff should be created. The members of it should be persons with wide practical industrial or commercial experience, and, of course, they should work in close consultation with the representatives of industry, both employers and employed. I suggest that the functions of this body should be, first to make a careful and detailed investigation of the unemployment problem in all its aspects; and, secondly, to draw up practical proposals for dealing with the problem as revealed by its investigation; and, in addition to making specific proposals, this body should be given the responsibility for ensuring that such of its proposals as may be approved by the Government are effectively carried through.
To those who ask what could be done, I suggest—it is not a new suggestion; the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) made it a little while back, and it has been made on many occasions in the past, and no doubt will be in the future—that a great programme of national and international public development schemes should be inaugurated. After the experiences of the Labour Government during the years 1929–31, no doubt there will be many objections to such a proposal. Most people who criticise public works schemes seem to com- 872 pare the direct money cost of putting and keeping men and women in employment with the direct money cost of maintaining them during their unemployment, but such critics, in my opinion at any rate, entirely fail to take into account the economic and social consequences to the nation of allowing the skill and physique of the unemployed to undergo progressive deterioration such as is characteristic of hundreds of thousands of them at the present time.
Another proposal I would put forward is that a policy of credit expansion should be carried through, on a basis of international co-operation. I realise the limits of a policy of credit expansion, so far as foreign trade is concerned, if it is carried out in one country alone, but I believe that such a policy, if carried through on a basis of co-operation with other countries, could be made a very effective method of helping to solve world unemployment. Even in our own country, the very fact that the Government have provided some measure of employment in recent years through their armaments policy—a policy based on credit expansion at a time when trade was bad—proves that Government policy can, to a large extent, control the trade cycle. The problem to-day is far too immense, in my opinion, to be dealt with by one Government alone. It is true that unemployment in a particular country is a problem for that country, but I, for one, do not believe that the problem of unemployment can be put into a watertight compartment in any one country and dealt with apart from the situation in other countries.
Unemployment has now become a world problem, which must be tackled internationally as well as nationally. I do not mean that it should be dealt with periodically by world economic conferences. I would suggest, for one thing, that the economic section of the League of Nations should be given far greater powers and responsibilities than it has today. It should be allowed to function as a real live executive authority on all matters affecting trade and finance, at the same time working in close consultation and co-operation with the International Labour Office. This body should, at the same time, be responsible to the Council of the League. We have had a very unfortunate example in recent weeks of the mischief which can be accomplished by 873 an international body which is not responsible to the various Governments. I am referring to the activities of the Bank for International Settlements. Therefore, if we are going to give greater powers to the economic section of the League at Geneva there must be responsibility to the Governments represented at Geneva, so that the various Parliaments may in their own turn be able to have some control.
Hon. Members on this side of the Committee do not look at the problem of employment in any partisan spirit. We realise only too well that the fear of unemployment is the spectre which haunts every working-class home. It is for this reason, above all others, that we ask the Government to look ahead, to plan ahead, to make their preparations ahead, so that when the time comes for the world to emerge from its present madness it will be possible for the workers of all countries to look forward to an era of peace which will bring, not despair, economic insecurity, and unemployment, but security and happiness for themselves and their families.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Brown
I am sure that Members of the Committee will welcome the contributions of the hon. and learned Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) to our discussions on unemployment questions. When I deal with his particular suggestion later on, I may be able to ask a question or two of him as he has asked a question or two of me. Before doing so, I want to say a word about the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who quoted a sentence of mine from the last debate in which I stated that when things were going well we should concentrate on problems that had not been solved. I stand by that statement. I would tell the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) that I have at no time stated that there were always going to be 1,250,000 unemployed.
§ Mr. Parkinson
I did not say that the right hon. Gentleman had said that, but that was the inference to be drawn from his statement.
§ Mr. Brown
All I can say is that such a statement was not made, and that the inference is untrue. When I said that 874 things were going well, they were going well as compared with the situation discussed in the first debate on this subject this year. When we debated this subject in the early days of February, I was accused of being indifferent. I knew then that although we were debating a figure of 2,000,000 on the register we were dealing with a situation which had already passed. The information from the employment exchanges had shown that since January there had been a rapid decrease of unemployment and an increase of employment. When I said that things were going well, I meant it. The Parliamentary Secretary hinted that this month's figures will be better than those of last month. He is quite right. I have no doubt whatever that when hon. Members discuss this matter next time they will have to revise the total figure again, just as we have had to revise it already in the last four months. We have not heard anything to-day about the "standing army" of unemployed. That phrase has gone. Instead of that we have had the phrase "an unwanted army of 1,500,000." I do not accept the phrase "standing army ", but when the hon. Member opposite talks about "an unwanted army of 1,500,000", such a phrase is equally incorrect. What is the fact concerning the total figure registered on any monthly Monday and recorded by the Ministry of Labour? It is that at least 40 per cent., and probably 50 per cent., of that total figure relates to persons who are either changing over from job to job repeatedly, or will be in new jobs within a few weeks. When it is sought to draw that picture of the problem, I regret that I must enter my challenge as Minister of Labour and say that that figure is not a picture of the problem. It only detracts from discussion of the genuine problem, which is the long-term problem inside that figure.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that I based the figure of at least 1,000,000 on the fact that there never has been at any time for 14 years in any month fewer than 1,000,000 persons unemployed in this country.
§ Mr. Brown
I would not say that. That is much too general a conclusion. Large numbers of men are only out for two or three days, so rapid is the change in industrial conditions. There are always jobs ending and jobs beginning, and it happens that on a given Monday, when a count is taken, there are large numbers of men, say in the building trade in one particular district, who may register, but it may be that on the following Wednesday they are in another job.
§ Mr. Maxton
The right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that half of the total men are in the process of moving from one job to another, whereas, as a matter of fact, you can only get that 50 per cent. on the basis of counting those who have been unemployed for six months.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member's impression is not justified by anything I have said. If he reads the Official Report he will find that I have said two things: First, that there are men who are rapidly changing from one job to another and, secondly, that there are men who get jobs inside a few weeks. I say that any analysis of the figures will show that 40 per cent. is about the average figure. I know that these statements are not helpful to hon. Members opposite because they destroy the general picture. I always find that when I try to bring the 876 problem down to the actual facts there are always interruptions which I do not think I have provoked at all.
§ Mr. Maxton
I want to get a true picture of the case. To take three weeks between one job and another is not a true story. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the actual figures of those who are out for six months or less and give us the figures of those who are out for one month or less? A month is a reasonable time to change over from one job to another, but six months is not a reasonable time. He said that 50 per cent. of the total are only changing over.
§ Mr. Brown
I am not concerned with six months. I am concerned with three month at the outside. Of the total unemployed there were 564,000, or 42 per cent, who have been unemployed for less than six weeks. There were 731,000 or 54 per cent. who had been unemployed for less than three months, and there were actually 906,000, or 67 per cent. who had been unemployed for less than six months. The Committee will see that rather than over-stating, I have understated the case. It is possible for hon. Members to check these figures, because they are presented in full each month in the Ministry of Labour Gazette. We regularly give the analysis and the period during which the men have been out of work. Therefore, when the hon. Member for Llanelly talks about the unwanted 1,500,000 unemployed, he is not giving the true picture. It is a distortion of the facts and of the problem. [Interruption.] If he said that at the last count there were 1,500,000 who registered at the Exchanges, that would be a correct statement, but it is not true to say that they are an unwanted 1,500,000. If that statement were made on the platform, it would not go down quite as well.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that in any case there are nearly 600,000 who have been unemployed so long that they have exhausted all their benefits?
§ Mr. Montague
I do not often interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I do not think I have ever interrupted him before in an unemployment debate. Let me put this question. Suppose we accept as true that, say, 40 or 50 per cent. represents the people who are either changing over from one type of employment or another or have not been unemployed for a long period. Does it not follow that if you are sustaining a figure of 1,500,000 unemployed throughout all the period, the number affected by unemployment throughout the whole of the year must be, not 1,500,000, but nearer 5,000,000 or 6,000,000?
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member makes an entire misstatement. What has been happening is, that every time we improve the registration by adding to the insured population of this country, we make the average of the numbers registering on any given date higher. That is bound to be so. When we were dealing with the total insured population of about 9,000,000, a percentage of 10 per cent. is less than 1,000,000, but when you are dealing with a figure of 14,000,000, a percentage of 10 to 12 per cent. is an entirely different figure. What I am concerned with is the phrase that was used more than once by the hon. Member for Llanelly, that these are unwanted men. They are not.
An interesting point of the Debate was the contrast between the speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) and the speech of the hon. Member for Llanelly. I do not say that the hon. Member for Llanelly condemned rationalisation, but I do say that anyone who heard his statement, with its analysis of the conditions which are under his own eyes in South and West Wales, would never have gained the impression which the hon. Member for Mansfield gave that hon. Members opposite welcome and rejoice in the increase of rationalisation. There was, indeed, a very marked contrast between the attitude of mind of the two hon. Members. I refer to this because it has a great bearing on other problems that have been raised.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with the major problem of rationalisation. The hon. and learned 878 Member for Kingswinford talked about industrial changes, but one cannot consider the problem of the coal industry, for instance, merely in terms of industrial change and mechanisation. One has to think in terms of international change and scientific change, as well as machine change, when dealing with that problem. When the hon. and learned Member talks about the appalling results that may come in two or three years' time, I will give him this bit of heart, that at any rate we shall not have to deal with problems of the same magnitude as we have had to face in this country during the last 12 years with regard to the coal industry. What has happened in that industry? There has been a contraction from 1,100,000 on the colliery books to between 760,000 and 780,000. All these factors—scientific, industrial and international—have contributed to that contraction. Whatever changes may come at the end of the period of feverish rearmament, they will not take quite the same concentrated form, because I think there is no industry that occupies quite the same position as the coal industry in terms of our national economy as it was in pre-War days as compared with the present.
When discussing the problem raised by the hon. and learned Member for Kings winford, we have to think also of other industries which are expanding industries, and which have been expanding industries during this period. What are they? They are two major industries, engineering and building. Hon. Members have said that we must do everything possible to look ahead. They have asked the Government to look ahead nationally. We have been doing that. I need only refer hon. Members to our circulars to local authorities asking them to plan their local expenditure on public buildings and such things over a five-year period. I need only refer hon. Members to the answer given by the former Minister of Transport about such big projects as the Severn Bridge, the Firth of Forth Bridge and the Humber Bridge, to show that we have those things in mind. The hon. and learned Member suggested that when the rearmament programme comes to an end, there will be nothing but gloom to face —
§ Mr. A. Henderson
I did not use the word "gloom." I said that we should be faced with dangers of a serious social and political upheaval.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. and learned Member used the words "alarming" and "appalling," and the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) interjected a cynical and sarcastic remark about "when peace breaks out." I do not intend to adopt the idea that when peace comes at the end of the rearmament period, there will be nothing but inspissated gloom before this country and the world. It is clear that, while there is a gain in employment as a result of feverish rearmament, there is another side to the picture, which has been clearly shown during the last three years. At every time of extreme tension in the world, there have been setbacks which have had nothing whatever to do with rearmament, and there can be no doubt that there is another side of the matter. In this discussion, we are, it seems, in the realms of prophecy. It is interesting to find that when the Minister comes to discuss unemployment, hon. Members are much more concerned about speculating as to what will happen in two and a half years' time than in considering what is happening now. I venture to put the other side of the case. I suggest that the coming of peace will release forces that will make, not for poverty, but for plenty. Certainly, if the hon. and learned Member wants the international economic conferences under the League which he has suggested, he will not get them except in that atmosphere. Has he forgotten that it was on the initiative of the French Government and of the British Government that M. Van Zeeland made his report? It is true that no action has been taken on that report and the House knows why. It was because that report declared that it was useless to go on with the propositions laid down there unless the political conditions of the world were favourable to carry out that policy. When the hon. and learned Member for Kings-winford talked about an economic general staff I got alarmed; I certainly did, and I will state why. The hon. and learned Member compared the functions of an economic general staff with those of a military general staff.
§ Sir Richard Acland
The same comparison is made in the book which the right hon. Gentleman signed a little while ago.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not mind that at all. But I am not dealing with that point. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) heard the 880 speech. I shall read it to-morrow with interest. There was in that speech a comparison drawn between the functions and the executive duties of an economic general staff and those of a military general staff. I tremble to think what would be said to me if I came forward in this House and suggested a decision of that kind in the realm of industry and economics. Of one thing I am certain, that within a month of suggesting that proposition, on that basis, I should have more industrial trouble than we have had in the whole of the last four years. These ideas are so simple to put out in general phraseology but they are not so easy to work out in terms of actual industrial relations in this country. I would remind the hon. and learned Member of this fact: When hon. Members opposite talk about the haphazardness and the lack of planning in capitalism, this is true, that there is in this country under that system a steady and progressive improvement not merely in the sum total of employment but in the sum total of human happiness and welfare.
I shall turn from these general observations, because nine-tenths of the Debate has been about general propositions and it is wise to face the facts. Like the hon. Member for Mansfield I would ask, is there a single Member of this Committee who would not like a sane world? Of course we would like a sane world, and we work for a sane world. At the same time there might be multifarious definitions of sanity. Now I come to the other problem, a more detailed and more mundane and perhaps not so interesting a problem, but one which is probably of more value. In a magnificent sentence the hon. Member for Mansfield begged me to use imagination with regard to the social order of our action. I will do my best to answer his exhortation in the affirmative. But I will also say this, that a Minister of Labour does not find always, when he does use imagination with regard to the social order in a particular case, that the members who pleaded for that particular action back him up in the particular case. For instance, one of my troubles is in carrying out what the majority of the House desire me to do. namely, to influence those who arc establishing new industries, as far as it is within our power to influence them to go to areas where such industries have not been based and where they would be new.
881 Some hon. Members who call for bold and imaginative treatment ask what is to be the effect in the areas that they represent, some of them fairly prosperous areas, because directly we begin to do this we have the other side of the policy brought up, sometimes in terms of criticism.
§ Mr. Brown
Directly we are called upon to deal with the social and economic problems involved in the establishment of industries, directly we get the factories built and get them occupied by people who are running industries, it is quite a common occurrence to find, the moment the industry is established, complaints coming in from other areas—some even from hon. Members here who never cease exhorting the Minister of Labour to exercise boldness and imagination and to strike out on a new line. [Hon. Members: "Who are they?"] The hon. Member for Mansfield himself was discussing the hosiery trade and he pointed out that the hosiery trade has been located, just as the coal industry has been, in certain areas of this country and by co-operation and agreement very high standards have been built up in that trade. The hon. Member's fear is that, if we carry out what the House of Commons wants us to do and what we are carrying out, if we advise or help those who are establishing new factories in areas, where there have not been such factories before, then there is a double danger. First, there is the danger to the established industry itself, and second, there is the danger to the established standards of life and living conditions of the workers.
In connection with that the hon. Member asked me about a particular case. I understand that he was not referring to his own area, but to an area in another part of the country which he knows very well, namely, Liverpool. I can tell him about that particular matter, that we received a deputation at the Ministry of Labour only the day before yesterday and I shall be prepared to give consideration to suggestions made to me, in order to see whether the stoppage can be overcome with good results to all concerned.
The hon. and learned Member for Kingswinford has been a great blessing to me to-day. I found it very useful to 882 have a new voice in these Debates when the old hands have all had their say. The hon. and learned Member did not quote, but referred to the statement of the Economic Committee of the Trades Union Congress about this problem. When in a recent Debate I ventured to quote the same sentence, I can assure the hon. and learned Member that it was not received with any approval on the Benches opposite. It is true that there is no single cause for this problem, nor is there any single remedy for it. That is the answer to those who challenge the Government on this subject. We have said so from the very beginning and we have acted on that principle in the realm of international trade, in the agreements bilateral and otherwise which have been made; in backing industries making arrangements with the industries of other countries, such as the arrangement about which the hon. Member for Llanelly knows, between the Polish and the British coal trades several years ago, and in the recent agreement referred to by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 9th June. When the Committee see what has been done in these respects during recent years they will understand why it is that, even if it is said that rearmament has a great deal to do with the present decrease of unemployment, it would be fallacious to assume that it is the only reason for the betterment that has been seen in this country in these last four months.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough before he concludes, to say whether he can give some hope to those areas not scheduled as Special Areas which are more depressed than the areas which are scheduled as Special Areas?
§ Mr. Brown
I shall. It is here now. It is true, as the hon. Member for Wigan said, that there are areas which have not had the advantage of new industries and where our efforts have not for the moment met with success. There are particular difficulties in those areas. Several of them are areas where coal mines have shut down and where very grave problems therefore remain. I do not know 883 whether he has been to Wigan recently, but those who have been there know that the local corporation did plead several years ago for expensive schemes for filling in flashes, so as to get a great development, but for the moment the Government have not seen their way to do it. I can, however, assure the hon. Member that we have consultations with all new industries and that never in the last two and a half years since they began have we failed to put to the heads of firms which are going to establish new industries the needs of areas like Westhoughton, Wigan, and so on.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Can the right hon. Gentleman say anything about the Bill promised to give further assistance to depressed areas outside the scheduled Special Areas?
§ Mr. Jenkins
Does that mean that the Government will make an attempt to carry the Bill this Session?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting on 30th June that, after promising for 12 months that a Bill will be brought forward this Session, and after putting it in the King's Speech at the opening of this Parliament, he cannot now say more than that he has promised to introduce it? This is really a betrayal of the country.
§ Mr. Jenkins
On a point of Order. The undertaking given to this House by the Minister of Labour was that a Bill would be introduced and carried through this Session. To-day we are told that a Bill will be introduced, but we can get no reply to the question as to whether it will be carried through this Session.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member for West Lewisham applied his mind to the problem of the younger men and asked what we were doing with regard to the fundamental practice and whether we were endeavouring to find the most suitable men for the job. The answer is, "Certainly." He also asked whether I had taken the opportunity of consulting the individual managers at the employment exchanges. Again the answer is, "Certainly," because, as a matter of fact, I did make a tour of our Ministry of Labour areas and brought the problem to the notice of all the members of the staff. [Interruption.] It is not easy to conduct Debate on these lines, and I am afraid that some hon. Members will find themselves with their questions left unanswered. I want to add one thing in answer to my hon. Friend, because he raised two other problems. First of all, we are in contact with the Board of Education about technical education, and indeed I am considering the problem afresh, together with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. As to the training of youths under 18, we are taking power in the Bill now going through Parliament to make training facilities in the Government training centres available for youths at as early an age as 16, if we find lads of that age suitable for the training. Up to the moment the age has been 18, but it is our intention to take them as young as 16 in exceptional cases.
The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) raised the issue of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I did not quite follow him in regard to his choice of London when giving the illustration about officers who did 25 miles a day on motor cycles, unless he was thinking of the extra-London area, going out to such places as Luton and Chelmsford. There is no officer of the Board who uses a motor cycle for a distance of 25 miles a day in London. The 25 cases a day is an average, and when one considers the circumstances of different districts. some of which are scattered and some close, I do not think that 25 cases is an excessive average to maintain. He asked me about the cost of administration under the Board. I am afraid it would take me 30 minutes to give him an answer, because it is a very interesting 885 and important subject, but I will undertake to send him a detailed analysis of the changes in the last three years, together with my comments and the reasons for the increases.
§ Mr. Brown
There has been an unfair comparison between the conditions during the transitional period when things were being taken over from the local authorities and conditions when the machine was running on a national basis. I assure the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) that I will look again at the correspondence that she has had on the question of holidays and earnings. I understand she has given the Parliamentary Secretary some correspondence she has had with a firm.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Lady will understand that we have not yet reached the position where every employer in the British Isles uses the employment exchanges, although that is becoming the general practice. To conclude, I will say that we shall look ahead and face the problems that come, and in the meantime let us rejoice that things are going well and assure ourselves that for the next month or two they will go better.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
In order to show the Minister that we do not share his rejoicings, I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £14,513,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 100; Noes, 118.887
|Division No. 209.]
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)
|Grenfell, D. R.
|Parkinson, J. A.
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)
|Pritt, D. N.
|Grovea, T. E.
|Bellenger, F. J.
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.
|Seely, Sir H. M.
|Harris, Sir P. A.
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)
|Silverman, S. S.
|Broad, F. A.
|Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)
|Smith, E. (Stoke)
|Charleton. H. C.
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
|Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
|Sorensen, R. W.
|Cocks, F. S.
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)
|Isaacs, G. A.
|Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
|Cove, W. G.
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
|Tinker, J. J.
|Davies, Ft. J. (Westhoughton)
|Viant, S. P.
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
|Lawson, J. J,
|Walkden, A. G.
|Welsh, J. C.
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)
|White, H. Graham
|Ede, J. C.
|McEntee, V. La T.
|Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)
|McGhee, H. G.
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)
|Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
|Foot, D. M.
|Williams, T. (Don Valley)
|Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doneaster)
|Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
|Gardner, B. W.
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)
|Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
|Garro Jones, G. M.
|Naylor, T. E.
|Young, Sir R. (Newton)
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
|Noel-Baker, P. J.
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)
|Oliver, G. H.
|TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
|Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.
|Albery, Sir Irving
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John
|Barrie, Sir C. C.
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.
|Bennett, Sir E. N.
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)
|Crowder, J. F. E.
|Bernays, R. H.
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)
|Do Chair, S. S
|Bossom, A, C.
|Bullock, Capt. M.
|De la Bère, R.
|Denman, Hon. R. D.
|Kerr, Sir J. Graham (Scottish Univ.)
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.
|Russell, Sir Alexander
|Duggan, H. J.
|Lancaster, Lieut.-Colonel C. G.
|Samuel, M. R. A.
|Duncan, J. A. L.
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.
|Sandeman, Sir N. S.
|Eastwood, J. F.
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.
|Shakespeare, G. H.
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.
|Lipson, D. L.
|Shaw, Captain W. T. (Fortar)
|Ellis, Sir G.
|Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)
|Llewellin, Colonel J. J.
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
|Fyfe, D. P. M.
|Loftus, P. C.
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
|Lyons, A. M.
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
|Gluekstein, L. H.
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
|Smithers, Sir W.
|Goldie, N. B.
|McCorquodale, M. S.
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald
|Gower, Sir R. V.
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
|Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)
|Gridley, Sir A. B.
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
|Guest, Mai. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)
|Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.
|Macquisten, F. A.
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)
|Hambro, A. V.
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
|Hannah, I. C.
|Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
|Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
|Tasker, Sir R. I.
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
|Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
|Tate, Mavis C.
|Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)
|Peters, Dr. S. J.
|Thomas, J. P. L.
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.
|Procter, Major H. A.
|Thorneycroft, G. E. P.
|Holmes, J. S.
|Raikes, H. V. A. M.
|Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Haek., N.)
|Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
|Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)
|Rankin, Sir R.
|Waterhouse, Captain C.
|Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J.
|Rayner, Major R. H.
|Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie
|Hume, Sir G. H.
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
|Williams, C. (Torquay)
|Hutchinson, G. C.
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
|Joel, D. J. B.
|Remer, J. R.
|Kerr, Colonel C. l. (Montrose)
|Ropner, Colonel L.
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
|Mr. Grimston and Mr. Furness.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Bellenger: rose—
§ It being after Four of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.888
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2
§ Adjourned at Eight Minutes after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 3rd July.