|Customs and Excise||2,100,000|
|Total for Revenue Departments||£33,900,000|
|Total for Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments||£191,580,000|
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Shinwell
We offer no apology on these benches for once more raising the subject of unemployment. That duty is imposed upon the Labour Opposition because of the tragic plight of the unemployed. Nor can we ignore the persistent complacency of the Government, and their refusal to provide a planned and constructive policy which would absorb in useful and productive work our unfortunate fellow-citizens, or, alternatively, to provide an adequate standard of maintenance which would raise them above the level of dire poverty. Hon. Members in all quarters of the House cannot be unmindful of the evil effects of unemployment, whether of short or prolonged duration, and of the reaction on every aspect of national life. We should, therefore, be guilty of criminal neglect if we failed to exert the utmost pressure on the Government to exorcise this problem with the utmost expedition.
In the Debate on the Labour Motion of Censure, several constructive proposals were placed before the Government, none of which evoked more than a faint response. Many of the suggested schemes would have involved legislation. On this occasion, we are precluded by the Rules of the House from making proposals of that kind; we must confine ourselves to those matters which come within the scope of the Ministry of Labour and which arise from existing Statutes. But that is sufficient for our purpose. In this 59 Debate we shall afford the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour the opportunity which, no doubt; he has long awaited, to enlarge upon his proposals for finding work for the unemployed. As we are all aware, his time in previous Debates has been fully occupied with other matters. We shall also ask a few questions which may involve the use of statistics. This may seem like tempting Providence, but we shall not flinch from the task, however objectionable may be the outcome. Personally, I have no objection to the use of figures if they are accurate and relevant, but I am bound to take exception to a speech which is cluttered up with a mass of figures, which leave hon. Members in a state of complete confusion.
I will lead, therefore, with a question which seems to me to be vital. Does the Minister endorse the view that it is the function of his Department to find work for the unemployed? He may decline to accept that interpretation of his functions. In that event I put the obvious question: Which Department of the Government is responsible? Or, perhaps, there is no Department which is called upon to accept responsibility. That would be a strange condition of affairs. The fact is that the provision of work for the unemployed is nobody' s business. There is no Department of State where a responsible Minister, who examines the problem as a whole, with an expert staff and the essential power, is in a position to take action. I assert that to be the measure of the Government' s complacency and their callous neglect of a problem which is capable of solution if they possess the will. But perhaps they have no desire to remove this problem from our midst. After all, the Government represent the manufacturing interests of the country. If those interests believed that there was any possibility of solving the unemployment problem, they would be in a condition of blue funk. To paraphrase a saying attributed to Voltaire, if there were no unemployment they would have to invent it. We have only to imagine a position in which there were more jobs than men to appreciate what effect it would have. An unemployment reserve is essential to a free capitalist economy, and it is extremely doubtful whether any Government like the present one would ever make the effort to cut themselves 60 away from the past and make a real attempt to remove a problem which is a natural corollary of Capitalism. In a previous Debate the hon. Member for King' s Norton (Mr. Cartland), whom I am glad to see in his place—he will no doubt make a contribution to our discussion—declared that an army of unemployed was not such a bad thing. He was preparing the public mind for the day when, owing to excess of production, we should find our problem to be one of utilising leisure. This is all very satisfactory and consoling; but what about the unemployed now? Does the hon. Member agree that in the transition period the unemployed should receive as much as when they are working? If not, why not?
In previous Debates much time was spent in discussing the statistics of unemployment. Can it be urged that in our last Debate we were enlightened as to the actual facts of the situation? The Minister juggled with figures until we were unable to say whether there was any unemployment at all. But a change has occurred in the last week. The unemployment figures have declined by rather more than 100,000. Does the Minister accept those figures? If he does, it at least shows that there was some unemployment. But what we do know is that on a particular day there was in this country a registered figure of 2,039,000 unemployed, and nothing the Minister can do or say can alter the fact. Nor does it matter whether the persons unemployed have been out of work for three months or three years. The state of a man who has been out of work for upwards of three years is very tragic, but the insecurity of a man who has been out of work several times in the course of a year, although only for short periods, is just as tragic. Whether unemployment is of long or of short duration, it remains an indictment of the system, and a condemnation of the Government, who, in spite of all their bragging about prosperity, have neither the courage nor the ability to deal with the problem.
Because of this, it is not surprising to find the Government' s thoughts turning in another direction. The Minister has failed, so it is necessary to find a scapegoat. It will not be the Minister; he will be left at his post, or, at the worst, sent to another Department. No Cabinet Minister is to be impeached, so charges, 61 mild at present but gathering strength as the accusers gather courage, are being levelled against the young men who are unemployed, who, it is alleged, are refusing to avail themselves of the golden opportunities for acquiring knowledge so as to equip themselves for the numerous jobs which await them in the country. The Minister was asked on 2nd March what alterations he proposed to make in the Government' s policy with regard to the treatment of young persons who are unemployed. He informed the House that, while he was not yet in a position to amplify the statements made by the Prime Minister, it was clear that an indefinite continuance of unconditional assistance for young men who decline to do anything to equip themselves for employment is not in their interest or in that of the nation.
Upon that I ventured to ask the Minister whether he will produce statistical evidence that young men are declining to do useful work or to go into training camps, to which the Minister replied that the question was entirely hypothetical. Why it was so described is beyond my comprehension. But one fact did emerge, and that was the complete absence of information which could in any way support the charge that young men were refusing either work or training. In view of these questions and answers we are entitled to inquire what the Minister means when he speaks of unconditional assistance to young men who decline to do anything for themselves in their own interest. These statements are certainly oblique, but in view of many speeches in this House and the statement made by the Prime Minister himself, and the confessed failure of the Minister of Labour to find work for young men, we on these benches are not afraid to express the disquiet felt not only in labour circles but throughout the country at these alarming tendencies.
I desire in these circumstances to recapitulate the facts, and also to make our position in this matter abundantly clear. There is no evidence that young men are refusing work unless it is of an unsuitable nature. On the contrary, they show the keenest disposition to accept work, often a long distance from their home, if it can be found. Where is there any evidence that they refuse training unless in special circumstances to which reference is made by the Ministry itself, for example, when they are married and find 62 it difficult to leave home because of their financial position? Here I ask hon. Members opposite whether they have ever inquired about the pay during training or the conditions during the winter season, or the fact that after a period of training only a small percentage are found work? I beg the Minister to enlighten us upon these matters. But, say hon. Members opposite, "It is all wrong that these young men should get something for nothing; it is highly improper, if not immoral, and ought to be stopped" Is it, then, such a strange doctrine that some people should get something for nothing? Has such a thing never been heard of? Have we never heard of unearned income or excessive profits or the many dubious devices of certain persons to maintain themselves without rendering any service to the community? Are we proposing to force those people to accept work or training under penalty of being deprived of their incomes? Will the Minister give me an answer to that question.
It is argued by hon. Members opposite that we must make these young men fit so as to enable them to undertake work or service. That is the ostensible reason behind the demand that young men should be sent to camps for physical training. But we all know that the basis of such physical training is a supply of nutritious foodstuffs, and is there any reason why the Minister should not relax the means test regulations or raise the scales of relief so as to enable the men to buy more food in which their families can share? Besides, we ought to know from the Minister what it costs to keep and feed a man while in training. Perhaps that will furnish a clue to the amount required to perform the same service while the man is at home. It would be a pity if this Debate ended without a conclusive answer on these points.
The fact is, that all this talk about the young men and the need for training is just a mean device employed by those who have not enough courage to demand universal compulsory service. Moreover, they think, how nice it would be if the young men from the coalfields of Durham and South Wales, with the thousands from the textile industry and the shipbuilding industry who happen to be unemployed, could be inveigled into a form of compulsory service without interfering with the privileges of the young men of 63 the more fortunate classes. It is time that the Minister made a firm declaration on this subject. What is he up to? Is there some scheme on the stocks? If so the right hon. Gentleman had better beware, because any attempt to impose a form of compulsion on young men who are out of work through no fault of their own, under penalty of losing their miserable few shillings a week, will bring on to the right hon. Gentleman' s head all the hostility of the trade unions, to say nothing of the great mass of public opinion. I warn hon. Members opposite not to play fast and loose with our liberties in this subterranean fashion. They will encounter more opposition than they imagine.
So far as actual work schemes are concerned anything undertaken by the Ministry is done through the Special Areas Commissions. To that subject I invite the attention of hon. Members. It has become increasingly evident that all the efforts designed to promote work in the Special Areas have done no more than touch the fringe of the problem. That is the view of the Commissioner himself, and it was the opinion of the gentleman who preceded him. That useful work of an ambulance character has been accomplished cannot be denied. There has been some spring-cleaning in the more desolate parts of the Special Areas, which no doubt the local authorities find very useful, but in the main the work does not lead to the absorption of many men. The most substantial feature of the Special Areas legislation was the provision of funds to enable the Commissioner to promote trading estates. Whenever the Minister is challenged to say what has been done for the Special Areas he proudly points to these factories and dilates with pride on their possibilities. Well, the whole of the estates put together do not employ more than 4,000 persons, and the bulk of them are young women and juveniles earning scandalously low wages.
When we debated this matter some time ago the Minister of Labour, and the Prime Minister, who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, both declared that work would be found for many of the men who could not be absorbed into their old industries, and certainly that was understood to be the position by hon. Members in all quarters of the House. What has happened? A debate was recently conducted by the B.B.C., in which two 64 prominent persons connected with the North Eastern Trading Estates participated. One was Colonel Appleyard, chairman of the North Eastern Trading Estates Company, and the other was Alderman White, of Gateshead, the well-known trade union leader. The question discussed was, what was the purpose of the estate? Alderman White asserted that the estate was established because it was near Gateshead and in the midst of an area much distressed by unemployment, mainly of those who had been employed as craftsmen in the engineering, shipbuilding and allied trades, and it was anticipated that a fair number of those unemployed would secure employment on the estate as the factories developed. But this was not the view expressed by Colonel Appleyard, who found himself unable to subscribe to what Alderman White had said. He stated:The estate was started to bring new types of industry which would employ particularly girls, women and juvenile males rather than find employment for unemployed older men in the heavy trades.That is a significant declaration. It puts an end to the silly assertion, for which the Minister is as much responsible as anyone, which conveys the impression that the trading estates would succeed in absorbing many of the men who can no longer find work in their old occupations. Moreover it was found, as a result of an independent investigation, that no fewer than 35 per cent. of the workers employed on the North Eastern Trading Estate had previously been employed by the same firms in Newcastle, which goes to prove that much of the labour is not new but merely transferred from one district to another.
Not for one moment do I suggest that estates of this kind can do no good. My case is that all the estates so far produced have made no real contribution to the easing of the unemployment problem. Furthermore, the total commitments of the Special Commissioner amount to£16,000,000. That may be increased in due course, but it is far from satisfactory, and sums far in excess of those yet allocated will be required if the problem is to be seriously tackled, and the question arises as to whether there is any longer any justification for keeping up the pretence that there is any essential difference between the so-called Special Areas and the areas not so designated where the volume of employment is as large and 65 the situation is just as tragic. The difference is a false once, because unemployment of a chronic character is in almost every industrial area in the country. The boundaries ought to be swept away at the earliest opportunity and some form of regional organisation established, working in conjunction with the local authorities under the supervision of some Government Department, with power to act promptly when an area is suddenly overwhelmed by a wave of depression, and also to deal with normal unemployment. But there is little hope of such a scheme being adumbrated unless the Minister himself evolves a plan. Preceding a constructive plan there must be some agreement on the facts of unemployment.
There is the problem with which we are trying to deal. Is it a long-term unemployment problem of men who have been out so long that they have become almost unemployable? Is it a problem of those men who have become wedded to certain industries and are unable to adapt themselves to a new occupation? Is it a problem of those casuals who through no fault of their own are unable to retain a job for more than a few weeks at a time? Is it a problem of unemployment thrown up by modern changes in production? Is it a problem of the young men who, after a few years of work as juveniles in blind-alley occupations, are thrown on the scrap-heap, or who lose their employment because employers will not pay more than a juvenile wage?
Perhaps these and cognate problems have been carefully examined by the Ministry' s experts, and if so, the conclusions should be made available to hon. Members. But if they have not yet been examined it is time they were. Perhaps the Minister will inform us. There must surely be some expert at the Ministry who has inquired into the causes of unemployment. To judge by the observations of the Minister, that seems unlikely. He has lately been harbouring a bee in his capacious bonnet, and seems to think that the trouble is due to the fall in primary prices. But what was the cause of the fall in primary prices? Was it due to an absence of purchasing power, or was it due to over-production, or under-consumption? These are all important questions upon which the Minister should be able to make up his mind, and upon which he should be able to give guidance 66 to the Committee. Unless the right hon. Gentleman has clear ideas on these subjects, it is hopeless to expect a plan, or a set of proposals, which are calculated to lay the foundation of a policy capable of removing unemployment. Furthermore, we are entitled to ask whether the scales of relief are related to needs which are based on a correct standard of living, or whether they are related to wage rates in the worst-paid industries? I suspect the latter, but I am willing to be corrected.
No doubt the right Gentleman will avail himself of the opportunity, and now I beg of the Minister to inform the Committee whether he has any idea of what is going to happen in the future when the armaments boom is tapering off. The boom cannot last for ever, and even if it did, the amount of unemployment would not seriously be affected, for even now at the height of the boom large numbers of persons are unemployed in those major industries which have derived most benefit from armaments production, like steel and iron, engineering, and shipbuilding. I have no desire to weary hon. Members by quoting figures, but I wish to place on record a few relevant figures which I think will impress the Committee in this regard. In January of this year, at the very height of the armaments boom, in the pig iron industry 25 per cent.—I use round figures—were unemployed; in the the steel smelting, iron puddling, iron and steel rolling and forging industries, 21 per cent. were unemployed; in tin-plates, 38 per cent were out of work; in shipbuilding and repairing—and I beg hon. Members to take note of the large amount of naval shipbuilding now being undertaken by private yards—23 per cent. were unemployed; in iron founding, 16 per cent. were unemployed; in general engineering, engineers, iron and steel founding, 8 per cent. were unemployed, the lowest percentage of all, but, nevertheless, very remarkable in face of the fact that there is still a demand for skilled labour at this time. In coal mining, 12 per cent. were unemployed. Does the Minister believe that when there is no longer any need for armaments there will be a terrific demand for other goods, and that will more than make up for the loss in armaments production? If so, that is not optimism: it is sheer lunacy, having regard to the existing situation.
67 We are entitled to ask the Minister whether, in the event of any further difficulty in finding work for these men who constitute the hard core of unemployment, he has any remedy of his own, or is he just leaving it to chance? Here I. should like to quote from a speech delivered by the Prime Minister himself in 1934, when, in this House, we were considering the reports of the investigation into the depressed areas. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said:Although in the present case we need not describe the disease as desperate, it certainly is sufficiently exceptional to warrant exceptional treatment. What we want here, as it seems to us, is something more rapid, more direct, less orthodox if you like, than the ordinary plan, and if we are to do what seems to me even more important than the improvement of the physical condition, if we are to effect the spiritual regeneration of these areas, and if we are to inspire their people with a new interest in life and a new hope for the future, we have to convince them that these reports are not going to gather dust in some remote pigeonhole but that they will be the subject of continuous executive action." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1934; cols. 1995–6, Vol. 293.]These were great words uttered by the Prime Minister, but, unfortunately, when he was asked a question in this House in February, 1938, on the subject of unemployment and the Government' s intentions, in view of the fact that there had been a considerable increase in the volume of unemployment at that time, this is what he said:The increase … is largely due to causes of a seasonal character, and is not of such a nature as to call for the initiation of measures, other than those which the Government are continuously applying for the stimulation of employment." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1938; col. 1232, Vol. 331]Gone are the great words, the unorthodox planning, the direct method of approach, the spiritual regeneration of the depressed areas. What had happened in the interval to cause the right hon. Gentleman to change his mind? Why not a continuity of executive action, a speeding up of processes, a readiness to face up to this problem with courage and ability? These two statements—the speech to which I have referred and the answer to a question—ought to be reconciled, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour will be able to perform that task.
68 There may be a disposition in certain quarters to regard my observations as couched in a party spirit. That does not disturb me in the least, and I shall tell hon. Members why. For several years 1 have listened to unemployment Debates in this House. Hon. Members opposite have frequently addressed eloquent appeals to the Government to adopt original methods, and to import to this problem some measure of imagination and courage. It is true they failed to fortify their demands in the Division Lobby, but, in spite of all they said, nothing ever happened. We have had our non-party appeals repeatedly but without avail, and I have reached the quite natural conclusion, however unpalatable it may be to hon. Members opposite, that the policy of the Government is not dictated by the more brilliant Members on the Government benches, but by the safe men who are the backbone of the Conservative party, and who in reality determine its policy. So at the risk of being described as a partisan, and as one who makes no apology for raising unemployment as a party issue, I declare without any qualification or reserve, that the Government seem to have no intention of dealing with unemployment, but that, in fact, they prefer to have a surplus of labour within reach as an insurance against excessive wage demands.
I say further, that the Ministry as a work-finding department is a dismal failure, that the Minister is allowing himself to become the tool of the employing class, that he has no remedies of a constructive nature, that he does not possess a vestige of a plan which can safeguard the workers against excessive unemployment when armaments are no longer produced in large quantities, and that for the past few years he has done nothing more than juggle with figures in order to conceal the gravity of this distressing problem, while in the meantime thousands of men, women and children have been doomed to suffer the anguish of poverty associated with unemployment.
That is a charge against the Minister which is amply justified. It is borne out by all the facts; it is increasingly recognised by the unemployed, and it is a state of affairs which can no longer be tolerated. The Minister can, of course, seek to disprove the charges. But if he is to satisfy public opinion he must do more than bandy figures, or indulge in slogans like, 69 "Trust the Government" or "Trade is showing signs of recovery," or rely upon the number of persons in work, as if that were a benefit to those out of work, or, for that matter, seek to reduce the hard core of unemployment by a deft manipulation of statistics. These are all excellent political devices, particularly when the Minister is fortified by a substantial majority on the Government benches. But they fail to banish the spectre of unemployment, or satisfy thinking members on his own side, or provide any measure of confidence for the future. Nor will the Minister' s strategy prevent the Labour Opposition from returning to the attack, for as long as the problem exists we shall regard it as our duty to press the Government either to provide useful work or the alternative of proper maintenance.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham White
I hope that some answer may be given to the questions which have been addressed to the Minister by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), in the course of a speech characterised by a number of interrogations and denunciations. I cannot, however, follow him in so far as to agree with the suggestion which he made that the Government, perhaps, have no desire to solve the problem of unemployment. I cannot go as far as that, because I think that the question of self-preservation would make them wish to solve that problem, for if the problem of unemployment is not solved in this country, it will certainly destroy the Government. But much more important than that, I feel that, when we are discussing the question of unemployment at these times, we are, in fact, discussing a matter which is just as vital to the defence of this country as any of the matters we discussed on the Service Estimates last week. It is clear that democracy will survive only if we can make it efficient and if the people who live under the democratic system believe it is worth saving, and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to save it. As long as we have 2,000,000 unemployed, we have that number of people who cannot feel that democracy is worth saving. We have that constant brake upon the economic resources of the country and, consequently, there is in our midst a constant mass of frustrated energy and disappointed lives. There- 70 fore, the question of unemployment is closely related to, and is as important as. any other aspect of the defence of this country.
The hon. Member made reference to what, perhaps, is the most tragic aspect of unemployment, and I want to reinforce some of his arguments with regard to those members of the unemployed class who have been out of work for long periods, more particularly the younger members who are in the lower age-groups of long-term unemployment. I would make particular reference to the speech of the Prime Minister at Blackburn, on 22nd February. He drew attention to this matter. My hon. Friend said there was no evidence on which to found the charge that there are young people who prefer to live in idleness rather than enjoy the golden opportunities of learning and to prepare themselves to take work. He was perfectly right in saying there is no evidence which can support a charge of that kind, because there is no one who knows what is in the minds of the individuals who are in the position in which they may be charged with not wishing to take up work or to avail themselves of the opportunity of learning. That is a state of mind, on which there can be no evidence.
On the other hand, there is a great deal of evidence of the possible size of the problem. Lord Rushcliffe, speaking last week in another place, mentioned that of 146,000 individuals who had been unemployed for periods between six months and five years, 80,000 were in the lower age groups. There is further evidence. I would quote, because it is strictly relevant and indicates the size of the problem, the figures revealed in the area of the advisory committee of the Unemployment Assistance Board on the Cheshire side of the Mersey. A careful examination showed that of 6,562 applications to the Unemployment Assistance Board, and taking the age groups 16 to 30, there were 89 who had been unemployed for periods of from two to five years, and 105 who had been unemployed for five years or more. That is the sort of thing that is tolerated in a democracy. An examination in regard to these younger people disclosed the fact, according to those who have had dealings with them, that 62 were apparently suitable for training and were unable to 71 advance any sound reason against it. The comment by the observer was that of this number 55 were apparently resigning themselves to a life of idleness. On that point I would refer to what the Prime Minister said at Blackburn. He was talking about our social insurances, and said:They were not framed only to encourage deliberate idleness at the expense of the community, and though I am not prepared now to say what the remedy should be, I think it right to call attention to the existence of an evil, even though it affects only a small proportion of the population, because if it is not checked it is bound to result in the deterioration, moral and physical, of those who allow themselves to become subject to it.That is not a correct statement, because in the stage to which these unfortunate people have come it is not a case that they are going to become subject to deterioration, moral and physical, or that they have allowed themselves to become subject to it, because before they reached that stage they had already become demoralised mentally, and perhaps physically. For that reason compulsion can never be a cure for whatever condition these people find themselves in. There is plenty of evidence as to the lamentable condition of the unemployed. We can verify that from the experience of those who have lived their lives in industrial constituencies for the last 10 years, and who are familiar with the process. Many of us have had the misery of seeing the process carried out in the lives of single individuals. We have seen men come out of the Army and go down to the Employment Exchange, walking briskly, with their shoulders well back, and we have seen the process going on for months, perhaps years, until finally hope is driven out of them. Therefore, compulsion is no remedy at all. There must be an awakening by some process, a new interest in life must be created, ambitions which have been driven out of them must be brought into their lives anew, and it is for the House to consider how this is to be done.
I notice in connection with the proposal for the building of national camps for use in peace or war that it is suggested work might be found for a considerable number of these unfortunate people who are in the standing army of the unemployed at the present time. I trust that too great hopes will not be built upon that particular scheme, at least upon the 72 scheme which has been outlined. It is not a very courageous or a very big scheme. One is led to the conclusion that the number of persons of the unskilled type who will be employed in work of that kind will be measured in hundreds instead of thousands, because the work of building camps which can be pleasant homes for school children in peace or war is a highly skilled occupation. If the House of Commons is determined that this scandal of men being out of work for two, three and five years is to end, they must make up their minds that on some terms or other it must be done. Preferential terms must be given to these individuals. They cannot have a chance in the open market for labour. Whether the right hon. Gentleman has powers at the present time to make provision for that, I am not sure, but it can only be in the way of some preference being given to them, work made for them, that this lamentable problem can be cured.
There is one thing which, I think, is perhaps more promising in this connection than has been the case for some time past. According to my observation there is a greater interest in and a greater desire for training than I have ever known before. That is because men having been in the rut of casual occupation—in work one week and out another, perhaps getting a good spell of work for six weeks and then being out for two months—are anxious to get out of the rut, because they realise that as they get on to 35 or 40 they will still be in the same rut, unless there is a change in their circumstances, and as the years go by they will be less able to fend for themselves. For that reason, I notice a much greater inclination to seek the possibility of going through a course of training. Having regard to the enormous expenditure of money that is going on at the present time and the new camp schemes, the Government ought to be in a better position than before to say to a man: "If you will go into a course of training you will get a job." If the Government go to work on those lines they will make some impression upon the problem.
When youths have been through the soul-destroying process of unemployment, the ineffective search for work, and all that that means, for some years, it is small wonder that, as the Prime Minister said, they abandon hope. It may require a good deal of encouragement to get them 73 to make a fresh start, but the lines I have indicated seem to me to be the only lines on which the problem can be settled. I am glad that the Minister is starting preparatory training. He is opening new centres which should be most useful. One has been opened in Liverpool and others are being opened in Blackburn and Manchester. They are a first step in the process by which some of these youths who have been subject to long-term unemployment can be rescued. I will leave the matter there. I have referred in particular to the speech of the Prime Minister because, if I may say so with respect, he stated the problem the wrong way about. It is not seeking to live in idleness upon the dole that is going to break the spirit to which he refers; the demoralisation, the breaking of the spirit has already taken place.
This is the occasion when we deal with the Estimates and points of administration, and we have the privilege of dealing with some of the details. I should like to pay a tribute to the work that is being done by the Minister' s representatives in all parts of the country in the administration of the Unemployment Act. I have opportunities of seeing that work. Contrasting my post-bag and my information with that of previous years I have evidence that the work is going on very much more smoothly than formerly. I do not say there are no difficulties, because there are, but there are fewer complaints in some directions, not because there are no causes of complaint, but perhaps because they know it is no good bringing them up. On the whole, however, the work goes on satisfactorily, within its limits.
There are one or two matters which may seem small, but they are of great importance to the individual. The first is in regard to administration between the Unemployment Assistance Board and the Ministry of Labour in regard to those cases in which men are disallowed benefit and they subsequently apply for and obtain allowances through the Unemployment Assistance Board. I am told that there is an attempt to make a penal distinction in the cases of men who have been disallowed benefit. I should like to know whether that is so. For example, if a man loses his job for blacking the foreman' s eye, is he penalised by being given a smaller allowance? If so, it means that the Unemployment Assistance 74 Board are not carrying out their statutory duty of relieving the needs of the applicant and his family. But I want to go a little further than that. As the Minister knows, there are many people who lose their unemployment benefit for other reasons, it may be because they have not been able to obtain a doctor's certificate or for some technical reason. If there is any attempt to reduce the allowance they should get when they go to the Board, for reasons over which they have no control, it is something, I think, which the Committee would not wish to continue.
There is another matter relaing to training. When men make an application to go into a Government training centre they are naturally subjected to some inquiries as to their health and physical condition, and their fitness for the course. A considerable number have been turned down because of bad teeth and it seems that there is no one whose business it is to help these men to obtain dental treatment. In the case of the Unemployment Assistance Board, medical needs are supposed in the Statute to include dental needs, and the Unemployment Assistance Board cannot give a man this exra benefit. The same applies in the majority of the cases to public assistance committees, and there are a considerable number of men in the country who have been denied the benefit of training simply because they are unable to obtain the assistance of a dentist. It is bad enough not to have any teeth, but it is considerably worse to be told that because you have no teeth you cannot undergo a course of training which might put you into a more comfortable way of living. I came across the other day a case of a shipyard worker with six children, and I regret to say that his wages are only 45s. a week net. He had no teeth and there was no organisation which could help him in the matter. I tried every means. The public assistance committee refused point blank because the man was not penniless, but it was practically certain that in the course of two or three years the public assistance committee would have upon their charge not only the man himself but his wife and his children.
§ Mr. Charles Brown
Can the hon. Member tell the Committee what kind of teeth he thinks a man would require who is earning 45s. a week?
§ Mr. White
That question should be addressed to someone who is defending 75 a wage of 45s. a week. The point which I am making in all seriousness is that this man and his family will probably become a charge on the public funds. The hon. Member above the Gangway inquired what the Government were going to do when the armament programme is tapering off. That is a question which should be addressed to the Government, and which hon. Members should keep always in mind. There is one consideration which is worth thinking about now in this connection. We are spending on public works of a negative character sums which have never been expended before, and the gravest apprehension must be in all our minds as to what is to happen to those who are now employed in making munitions. We must not forget the simple fact that the very process of spending all this money on armaments in this and in other countries engenders a feeling of insecurity, lack of confidence and unrest, which neutralises and minimises the ordinary normal energies of mankind and the normal processes of manufacture. If anyone doubts that proposition, he is not sufficiently aware of what is going on in the industrial life of this country. There is no doubt that if by some fortunate circumstance we were relieved from the threat of war there would, by that fact, be released a great stream of other activities which might possibly do something, but they would not do enough.
The hon. Member above the Gangway referred to the large number of people who are unemployed in the shipbuilding and engineering trades. It is a very significant and disturbing fact. I think we should be making an inquiry into the growing difference in prices between the importations into this country of raw materials and the prices we are charging for our exports. In particular such an inquiry is desired in the case of steel. Prior to 1930 the relationship between the average price of our imports and exports moved on a common plane, but since 1932, since the steel industry has enjoyed what is in effect a monopoly, the divergence of steel prices, and of the prices of products which are made from steel, have been advancing more rapidly than the rest of our exports. The right hon. Gentleman is well aware that the price of steel is a conditioning factor in many of our exports. Take shipbuilding. It was said last year that even if prices were 76 reduced it would be unlikely that consumption would increase. That would be an effective argument if we did not know that very important orders for shipbuilding are being held up because the prices are too high, and if we were not aware that ships which normally would have been built in this country if prices had not been too high are being built in continental ports. These are considerations which must be taken into account.
The hon. Member above the Gangway also referred to the general efforts of the Government to cope with the problem of unemployment and exhorted them to exorcise the problem with the greatest expedition. I prefer to tell them to get on with the job, and speedily. The Minister has told us from time to time what the Government have tried to do in regard to the great volume of unemployment. If in a country there are immobilised in idleness 2,000,000 people on any given day, it is clear that whatever has been tried has been, if not an unqualified failure, at all events, a qualified failure. It is abundantly clear from the last two or three years that whatever has been tried has not been enough, and that something else should be tried. We have spent vast sums of money in subsidising producers, I think we should now consider whether we ought not to subsidise the consumers to ensure that an adequate standard of consumption is available. We require greater imagination, and certainly greater courage. Across the North Sea is a country which, with no resources at the time, by organisation has spent itself in efforts which have substantially reduced unemployment. I hope that no hon. Member will take me up and ask whether I wish to see the same methods carried out in this country. But there are some lessons which can be derived from the processes of organisation which have been carried out over there. Let us make no mistake: we are here dealing with a thing which will in time destroy not only Governments, but democracy itself if we cannot find a solution. I ask the Government to devote themselves to that task.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Errington
The remarks of the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) with regard to false teeth may seem a very small thing by itself, but it is an important matter to the people who are affected. I feel that in dealing with a large subject like unemployment it is 77 sufficient for a private Member to deal in the Debate with those aspects of it which particularly appeal to him, although the Government must look at the matter from the standpoint of the whole country. I should like, first of all, to pay a tribute to the Minister for the foundation of the training school for unskilled workers in Liverpool. I am only sorry that the training school was not made available long ago. I believe it will be a success, and that people who go from the school will have an excellent opportunity of getting work after they have been through the course.
There is one criticism I desire to make in regard to unemployment administration to-day. It is this. There is a lack of supervision of the employment of imported labour in areas where there is prolonged unemployment. That applies particularly to unskilled labour. As soon as it was known that there were to be a number of factories in Lancashire in connection with rearmament work, we looked forward, in Lancashire, to a period when our unskilled labour would be employed, but it is, to say the least, doubtful how far the unskilled labourers have benefited from the Government works. Important works have been begun at Chorley and Speke, but in both cases the labour employed, to a large extent, is not Lancashire labour.
There is a particular matter to which I want to refer, namely, the building of a new balloon barrage depot at Fazakerley, near Liverpool. I asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour a question about this, and he informed me that of 271 men employed there, 76 were employed through the Employment Exchanges. When I asked the reasons for this, I was told that the position was being investigated. It seems to me to be a very grave position if 195 of the 270 men were not employed through the Employment Exchanges. It is true that there are big notices about that particular works saying that labour is engaged only through the Employment Exchanges. I cannot believe that the 195 men are key men who are necessary for this work. It is said, in our area in Lancashire, that there are only two ways of getting employment; the first is to know the foreman, and the second is to come into the district with the contractors from wherever they come. The worst way of getting work is by going to the Employment Ex- 78 change. One realises that there are certain difficulties in the matter. Naturally, the contractors want to employ the best labour they can get. But surely, the Government have the responsibility of putting into work people who have been out of work and who, consequently, may not be as fit to do the job as they might be. In areas where unemployment has been prolonged, that is a responsibility which the Government ought to face and with which they ought to deal. The right hon. Gentleman ought to use his influence, which I am sure is very great, with the Government Departments as well as with the Employment Exchanges, and to insist that clauses shall appear in the contracts which will ensure that work will be obtained by local men, and that contractors, even though they may suffer to some extent in the quality of the work, shall do this because of the fact that so many man have been out of employment for such a long time. That is the general issue that I want to put to the Minister.
I want now to raise a particular issue, namely, the question of Southern Irish unskilled labour. I want to say at the outset that I wholeheartedly support the agreement which the Prime Minister made with Ireland last year, but at the same time, there are certain measures of administration which I submit it would be proper for the Government to take with regard to obtaining information that would allay the feelings, whether they be right or wrong, of people in Lancashire, at any rate. The question of Irish labour is not limited to Lancashire. It is a question which concerns Lancashire mostly, but other parts of the country are involved to a lesser extent. A great many allegations are made in regard to this matter, and I suggest that the Government ought to give us some information as to the nature of the problem. The other day, in answer to a question, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said that there were about 16,000 migrants into insurance from other countries. If that figure is known, there seems to be no reason why we should not have information as to the number coming from Southern Ireland. We have no information as to how many go on to the public assistance committees, the Unemployment Assistance Board and unemployment insurance. The only way to allay the strong feelings that are held in this matter 79 would be for the Government to give particulars and details.
The other day, my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Pilkington) asked the Minister of Labour whether he would give particulars as to the nationality of people coming on to the unemployment books, and my right hon. Friend said he was not prepared to do that. I hope my right hon. Friend will reconsider that matter, for most serious suggestions are being made; whether they be right or wrong, I do not know, but they have a great deal of currency among the unfortunate people who are unemployed, and they ought to be dealt with. The sort of suggestion that is being made is that a large number of Southern Irish people were employed at Speke aircraft factory, that they left their jobs during the crisis, that local labour was employed in their place, and that after the crisis they came back and were re-engaged, and the local people were dismissed. Another allegation is that they are in work for six months in various parts of the country and then come back to Liverpool and go on to either unemployment insurance or the Unemployment Assistance Board. A further criticism is that there is no check on their addresses, and that accommodation addresses are used. I was informed that in one case 12 people came from a common lodging house and that that was the address given; and that in another case, five or six people gave the address of a cafe and, apparently, were engaged, on the strength of that as being Liverpool people. There is also the suggestion that there is a traffic in employment cards. I do not know how far my right hon. Friend will be able to say whether that is so or not. I do not think I can do better, in epitomising what is said, than to quote from the report of the Economic League, which was summarised in the Press on 2nd March. Dealing with the difficulties of Liverpool they stated:This surplus is further increased by the arrival of unemployed workers from towns where trade is bad. These men go on the road in search of work and finally arrive at the docks in the hope of picking up odd jobs. To these must also be added many Irish labourers who find their way to Liverpool. They often arrive in Lancashire, or some other part of the country, to work as navvies or general labourers on some contract job. There are many Irishmen engaged on these contract jobs in Lancashire at present, to the annoyance and indignation of the local unemployed workers. When a job is finished 80 these Irish labourers usually stay here and drift to Liverpool, where many of them have relatives and friends in the large Irish population. Their work on a contractor' s job has qualified them for unemployment benefit, and if they can obtain some casual work at the docks, they may become fairly regular recipients of the dole. There is little doubt that the dole provides them with a better standard of living here than they could obtain by wage labour in Ireland. In any case, they appear to prefer remaining here on the dole, with occasional jobs, to returning to their own country. Once here they tend to say, and in many cases are said to bring relations over from Ireland to share their good fortune at the expense of the British taxpayers and ratepayers"—and, one may add, the unemployed.
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Member has strung together a large number of allegations, and I think the Committee ought to know whether he has repeated them because he believes them, or only because they are allegations he has heard.
§ Mr. Errington
I was about to make clear why I have repeated them. These allegations are being talked about in my constituency and around the Merseyside, and I maintain that the Government ought to deal with the position. I have not the information to be able to say whether the allegations are correct or not, and I do not propose to attempt to do so; but the Government ought to deal with the matter. There is among the unemployed a feeling that they are not getting a square deal in regard to this matter. I consider it to be important that information should be available. As the right hon. Gentleman has said on one occasion, statistics are not always the same as facts, but sometimes they do enable us to get at the facts. Therefore, they should be available. It would then be time to consider whether the problem should be dealt with and if so, how; and then people would have no reason, in my particular area, when the facts were known, to make complaints which are so difficult to substantiate.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Before concluding my remarks, 1 shall have a few words to say regarding the attack on the Southern Irish labourers that has been made by the hon. 81 Member for Bootle (Mr. Errington); but at the outset, I want to comment, as did the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shin- well), on the fact that we have had any number of Debates on unemployment. Roughly speaking, in the Debates on unemployment we take three lines. First, there is the Debate which deals with the aspect which we are discussing to-day, and which may be summed up as being a discussion of schemes of work and the development of various methods of helping the unemployed. Secondly, there is the Debate which comes on Motions of Censure, which is, in the main, a condemnation of the Government for lack of policy with regard to unemployment. Thirdly, there is the Debate which deals with the maintenance of the unemployed and their day-to-day conditions. I confess that when the hon. Member for Seaham chided hon. Members opposite about their criticising the Government on this matter but never voting against the Government, I had a great deal of sympathy with those Conservatives whom he was chiding. I remember that I used to vote against my party when it was the Government, and I confess that, looking back over the years, I did not do myself much good by voting against them. I confess that in these days of strong party machines, when the party machine, indeed, seems to be all-powerful, it would appear that Members must more or less move with the particular party to which they belong. [Interruption.] I think nobody has found that out more than the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams). He was a rebel until the West Perth by-election—
Mr. Vyvyan Adams
I was not interrupting the hon. Member or laughing at him. I was amused by a demonstration on the part of one of the "usual channels" on the Government Front Bench.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I was only saying that I do not think that rebels nowadays can do very much, and, for my own part, I never felt that it got us much further. At least it never got me much further. We bandy about in this House statistics of unemployment, but what I feel is that behind all those figures lies a great mass of human suffering. I cannot say that I am terribly struck by the schemes of work about which we hear, and for this reason. At present we arc spending, I do not 82 know how many hundreds of millions of pounds on a rearmament programme, and with all that public money being poured out, there are still some 2,000,000 unemployed. I question very much whether schemes of public works, even on a great scale, do anything more than merely touch the problem.
I remember when I thought, in my innocence, that a great deal would be done for the unemployed in the West of Scotland by the construction of the Glasgow-Edinburgh Road on which the Government and the local authorities between them spent, I think, about£4,000,000 of public money. The late John Wheatley went to a meeting in connection with that work at which there were bitter complaints from all sides, from Tories, Liberals and Labour men, that the number of men employed on it was not as large as it ought to be. It was found that instead of the work being done as it used to be done by manual labour, it was being done by machinery. They had steam navvies and other machines, and instead of some thousands of men being engaged in the work there were less than 1,000 actually at work. In that connection a suggestion was made at the meeting by an Irishman. Incidentally, I feel that I should almost make an apology for mentioning Irishmen here, because Irishmen seem to have got into the position that we are almost becoming ashamed of them, although when war comes we never say to the Southern Irish, "Do not join the Army" They are welcome as recruits; they would be welcome if, tomorrow, you wanted an Army to fight as in 1914, and I question very much whether your Army could have been anything like as successful as it was then if it had not been for much of the ungrudging help given by the Southern Irish who are now being spurned.
However, on the occasion to which I refer this Irishman suggested that a deputation should go to the contractors and ask them to abolish the machines and to go back to the use of the pick and the shovel so that thousands of men instead of hundreds would be employed on the work. The chairman of the meeting, John Wheatley, said he did not think that that suggestion went far enough. He proposed that the deputation should ask not merely for the abolition of the machines, 83 but also for the abolition of the picks and shovels and that they should go back to lifting the mud and the sand by hand, and in that way find employment for everybody in the West of Scotland. That seems to illustrate the position into which we get as far as public schemes of work are concerned.
We have always to remember that a road is like a machine. A new road enables people to travel faster than they travelled before. A great arterial road is in itself a new machine, because it enables other machinery to work faster, and when you have made the new road all you have done is to have created a new machine which allows wealth to be produced faster, and while you have given temporary work to some men you do not know how many others there are, to whom you have done permanent harm. Take the building of a great liner like the "Queen Mary" and her sister ship. When the building of this liner was projected it was held out as a great scheme of work for tens of thousands of men. That ship is now built and it sails faster than any other ship on the seas; it carries more passengers and more cargo, but at the end of it all, this ship which, over a period, gave temporary work to a certain group of men, has meant probably the elimination of some smaller ships and has meant that other men have been permanently thrown out of work. I say frankly, as a Socialist, that most of these schemes under the capitalist system seem to have that kind of effect.
Whatever may be the cause of unemployment, whether it be the growth of the machine, or movements of currency, or, as the Minister of Labour himself thinks, the price of primary products, or any of the countless other factors which we hear mentioned, the big fact remains that there are 2,000,000 unemployed people. Whatever the causes of unemployment may be, those men are not guilty. They are not responsible; they have not created monetary difficulties; they have not raised the prices of primary products; they have not caused the international situation; they have not made the machines. The human mass who suffer from unemployment are not responsible for it, and the community has a right to maintain them in decency until the problem has been solved. Whatever else may be done—whether you go on with schemes of public work, whether you 84 develop your currency or seek to deal with the international situation—the first demand I make is that these people, not being responsible, should not be held to be responsible and treated as if they were responsible. Because that is what happens to-day. Let hon. Members not forget it. We hold the unemployed responsible for the problem because we punish them for it and we would not punish them for it unless we regarded them as responsible. We reduce their maintenance, and the longer they are unemployed the worse they are treated. If they are only unemployed for three months there is no means test, but if they are out for six months, then there is a means test and their families are punished.
As I say, I am not hopeful about these work schemes. I will say this to the credit of the last Labour Government, that whatever shortcomings and faults they had, they wanted to solve the problem. It is the case that they put on their best men to go into it—the men who at that period were held to be the best men in the party. The right hon. Gentleman who was then the Member for Derby; Sir Oswald Mosley, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) were looked upon as outstanding men, but with every effort which they made they could not solve the problem, and I have no great hopes of these immediate schemes achieving anything but a tinkering with the problem. But one thing which I insist upon is this. While we may examine the reasons for unemployment, while we may bandy about figures and arguments in this House of Commons, while we may wait for evidence, there is one duty upon us and that is to see that there is no human suffering that can be avoided while the problem is being examined.
I turn now to the hon. Member who spoke last and his reference to the Irish. One of the present features about unemployment is that it makes all of us, including the unemployed, jealous of one another. I have seen it in this House. Do not think that I stand here in sackcloth and ashes for my own part, but we have all seen what goes on. When the building of the "Queen Mary" was proposed I saw the hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward), quite rightly, making every effort to get the contract 85 for the North-East Coast. Naturally she wanted to get the work for her own constituents. I saw the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) demand it for his constituency. The other day when the question was raised of a new Royal yacht being built, again the hon. Member wanted it built at Clyde-bank, while the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) wanted it built at Govan. Each one is out to get the work for his own constituency. If I get a little job for my own division I can go down there and say "I am the king of the castle; I have got something" but the other fellow who has not succeeded in getting the job goes back to his constituency and finds that they have hung out mourning flags.
What does it all mean to a Socialist, or to anybody else? Are we going to solve the problem or do any good at all by providing one man with a job at another man's expense? One thing I would say is that I see growing up these efforts to get something for one's own district. You hear one shouting for a trading estate for his district, and another for something else, while all the time, as the hon. Member for Seaham rightly said, to a very great extent this is no solution at all, but merely the transfer of labour from one locality to another. One of the things which I would say about the Irish is this, that it is not merely a case against the Irish but a case against others in all parts of the country. People come to-day from Wales to London. One of the things which I have remarked recently is the tremendous growth of the Welsh population in London. It used to be the Scottish who were said to come here and never go back. Now the Welsh are following suit.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Anybody who knows the Highlands knows that the Highlanders were driven as much as any other section of the people. As a matter of fact, those who left the Highland clearances, were not merely driven off the land like the Welsh, but were burned off the land under terrible conditions. But, as I was saying, if you go about London, particularly on a Saturday night, in 'bus or tram or tube train, or if you stand in a theatre queue, you will meet young Welsh people. I am not blaming them. They are right to 86 search for work wherever they can find it, to maintain themselves. But why this bent against the Irish? The hon. Member who spoke last read a statement, and from the way in which he read it, and the authoritative tone which he gave it, I thought that it came from somebody worth while—that it was from a Government committee, or at least a local advisory committee in connection with the employment exchanges. I waited to hear that there was some real authority behind it, but where was the document from? It was from the Economic League. Now the Economic League are the people who employ Tory speakers. If you go round the West of Scotland you will see meetings at corners with a sign up, "The Economic League" It used to be employed very much against the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. But when you see the sign "The Economic League" at a meeting, it means that that is a Tory meeting, and yet the hon. Member produces this kind of evidence and asks us to accept it.
§ Mr. Errington
It is not a question of accepting the evidence. I say that that sort of evidence raises a prima facie case which ought to be dealt with.
§ Mr. Buchanan
If I were an official Labour speaker and if I proposed to quote the "Daily Herald," for instance, I would say that what I was quoting from was the organ of the Labour party.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The hon. Member ought to have added the Economic League. The other thing that he mentioned was the traffic in unemployment cards, as though that was a criminal thing, and without any evidence he comes here and talks about this traffic in cards, which is not an indictment against the Irish, but rather against the criminal authorities because of their not stopping it. The right hon. Gentleman who is now Colonial Secretary had an inquiry into the Irish question and after that inquiry he found that the position was so small, so negligible, that he decided to take no further action. What are the figures involved? The hon. Member said that 16,000 was the number —and that, with a problem of 2,000,000 unemployed. But who are the 16,000? 87 A large number of these are what are called potato diggers, and I am told that the farming community, who are all Conservatives, want the Irish potato diggers. They come regularly each year, and they form the big basis of the 16,000. Take away the potato diggers, and you get less than 10,000 out of a total problem of 2,000,000. The thing is contemptible, and it is an attempt to lead this House of Commons off discussing the main issue and get it on to a trivial thing that does not matter. It is too contemptible for words.
What angers me most is that it is the Southern Irish, not the Northern Irish, who are mentioned. The Northerners are not mentioned. It is a racial thing. I must say that I have been pleased with the Tories in this House pleading for toleration for the Jews. I thought it was an evidence of decency in this House that Labour people, Liberals and Tories all pleaded for toleration for the Jews in Germany and for them not to be persecuted. What lies behind that persecution? It has meant the same drive that the hon. Gentleman is raising against the Irish. He intends to deprive them of their livelihood, to drive them back and persecute them in the same way, only he substitutes the Irish for the Jews. If the hon. Gentleman really wishes to do that, he has a simple way open to him. Let him come and say, "We do not want the Southern Irish here" Let him tell Mr. de Valera that we want to make Southern Ireland into a hostile State. Let him do that if he has the courage, but let him not pick out a poor unfortunate section of that community for special attack in this House.
§ Mr. Pilkington
It is not a question of racial persecution. It is only a question of whether or not our responsibility should be first and foremost for our own people.
§ Mr. Buchanan
If the hon. Member feels that, why does he not include all Ireland and not pick out the Southern Irish?
§ Mr. Errington
The hon. Member must realise that the people who come in here, other than the Southern Irish, are under very definite restrictions.
§ Mr. Buchanan
No. The hon. Member does not know, but I could give him a 88 lecture about unemployment insurance. The Northerners have no restrictions under the scheme for reciprocation; they can come in without any restrictions, but the Southerners have every restriction. They have to get 30 stamps: and let me say about the public assistance committees, that they do not give a penny relief until people are qualified as ratepayers.
§ Mr. Maxwell
Surely the hon. Member does not forget that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Buchanan
Northern Ireland remains in the United Kingdom, but if you have a Colony—[An HON. MEMBER: "And it remains friendly!"] The Southern Irish people do too and anybody who wants to see the international situation improved and makes an enormous object of a situation like this, does not know the international situation. The figures given by the hon. Gentleman, a miserable 16,000, with a total unemployed of 2,000,000, show how trivial the matter is.
The hon. Member spoke about young men in training camps, and I think he met my point, but I trust that the Minister of Labour will not develop this idea of compulsory camps, but will turn his eyes in another direction. I am concerned, as is everyone, about the young men who are learning little or nothing. I am not so much concerned about the men in training, but I feel that there is a growing practice among employers of employing boys and girls until they are 18 years of age and then throwing them on the scrap heap. I am terribly concerned about that, for this reason, that when you become 18 you cannot go and learn a trade. The confidence in you that you know a trade is a very good thing in your future life, and camps are no substitute for that. I want to make an indictment against camps. You send in men to train there, and it is no use taking them to training centres and training them for six months unless at the end of it you can give them some kind of job. All your efforts are wasted unless you can connect them with a job. You train men at bricklaying, and at the end of the day not one of them can get a job in Scotland. Not one man whom you have sent from Scotland to learn bricklaying can ever get work afterwards. What is the use of training them if at the end of the day they 89 cannot get work? The Minister' s attention should be turned in other directions.
One of the things that I am alarmed about is the question of the shipbuilding apprentices. On the Clyde we used to have a great pride in our craft and skill as craftsmen, but to-day, I am sorry to say, the apprentices on the Clyde are diminishing in numbers. Instead of training camps, I think there ought to be much more development in throwing the universities open to the unemployed in that direction. Why should we always turn to training in a manual sense and send young fellows to London to dig a hole in something? Why not throw open the universities more for the unemployed and have training centres there? There could be a greater outlet for working people in the undeveloped professions than in the already overcrowded professions, and I have always thought that we ought to try and see whether we could not give maintenance grants at a decent standard and allow the young unemployed men to get their training in universities, to learn the better professions there. One of the things that I want to see done is to see how far the Minister of Labour can go in co-operation with the education authorities, by giving maintenance grants equivalent to what the training at a centre would cost to the education authorities to retain a lad at school and then at a university. Why should not that be developed? I think that that would be a much better line than this training-camp business and all its uselessness at the end of the day.
I want the Minister to see whether he can make a new approach to employers in regard to hours of labour. I have come to the conclusion that leisure is not necessarily bad, provided that one man does not get too much and another man too little, and one of the things that we ought to turn our minds to is to see whether we cannot divide the leisure that is given to those who have too much among those who are getting too little. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will make a start and see whether he cannot approach the matter on two lines—first, by extending the holiday period, which seems to me to be all too miserable. One week' s holiday in a year for an engineer is too little. Why should not the holiday" be much longer and the work as a result spread out further? I hold that the hours of labour to-day are not shorter than they 90 were in previous days, because, unfortunately, to-day the hours are taken up by travelling to and from work, and the cutting down of the hours of labour has only meant the building of great estates outside the cities and constant travelling to and from work. The Minister of Labour ought to turn his attention to seeing how far he can reduce the hours of labour and extend the holiday period, and instead of compulsory training camps throw open an inducement for university training for the unemployed.
The unemployed to-day, so far from being attacked, ought to be praised, and so far from decaying, in many respects I think they compare well with past generations. Speaking for my own city, you have a nearly crimeless town in Glasgow as compared with my boyhood days. Crime is rapidly disappearing, and so far from attacking the unemployed and venting our anger on one or two Irish people, who ought not to be attacked, but sympathised with in their misfortunes, we should turn our attention to the more human side of the problem and see how we can help to solve it. If this House would apply its mind to that problem in the same way as it has done in the last year to the problems of defence and armaments, I am certain that in another 12 months' time we should have made a great human step forward in easing the sufferings of the people.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Butcher
When this subject of unemployment is under discussion in this House, I often think that this time next year we shall probably be discussing exactly the same problem again, and unless there is some great change in the international outlook, the figures then will not be very different from what they are to-day. I feel that, as the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) said, the fear, the possibility, of international disturbance is one of the prime causes, and perhaps the greatest cause, of this great problem of unemployment. It hampers and hinders enterprise of all sorts and it is one of the things which is in the mind of every industrialist before he dare make a step forward in any direction. I think it is possible to exaggerate the figure of unemployment. It has been said that there are nearly 2,000,000 unemployed. That is technically correct, for it is the number which is counted on a particular day. It must 91 be borne in mind, however, that on the same day there are certain jobs waiting to be filled. Therefore, the number is not as high as 2,000,000, but a figure less than that by the number of vacancies which the Employment Exchanges have waiting to be filled. I wonder whether those figures could be published at the same time as the number of unemployed. On the other hand, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that 1,000,000 have been out of work for six months or more and 289,000 for 12 months or more.
The latter number is, as the Minister has said, the real hard core of the problem. What is being done for them? Are our plans on a sufficiently large scale to bring these people into employment? There are 16 training centres with 8,739 training places. Of these places, 4,000 are reserved for soldiers on discharge. This means that nearly half of the training centres are not being used for dealing with this hard core. There are also instructional centres with 26,000 places. I wonder whether these two provisions are adequate in view of the limited amount of technical education that is available at the present time. The resources of our technical education are really not adequate to fit men as skilled craftsmen. Whereas in the past a standard of average skill prevailed throughout large sections of industry, at the present time we want the most intense skill from one small section and almost unskilled labour from the majority of workers. What is it that prevents the extension of the training schemes? I believe that, first, it is the fear that a job will not be available at the end. I think that that can be over-emphasised. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was right in saying that there is value in training and learning a trade, but that remark was in contradistinction to his remark that there was no use going through a training course unless it was linked up with a job.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I have never taken the view that training was learning a trade. Learning a trade is going into a shipbuilding yard or a shop for a period of five years.
§ Mr. Butcher
I was not suggesting there was anything like the same value in a short course, however good, as there is 92 in going through a shop and learning a trade. I was endeavouring to point out that there was some definite advantage in learning a trade and equally an advantage in any field of human endeavour, and that a man who has undergone a course of training and has put forward some effort has already made some contribution which will prove of value to him.
The other reason which prevents an extension of the training schemes is, as the hon. Member for Gorbals rightly said, the fear of over-filling the ranks of industries to the detriment of those employed in them. Speaking in the House on 16th February last, my right hon. Friend dealt with Scotland and said that, although we had a training centre at Springburn, trainees were not accepted because there was so much prejudice against them, and they were placed over the Border when they had completed their course.
I wonder on whom the responsibility for that prejudice rests. I cannot conceive that it rests in the ranks of the trade unions.
If it does, I appeal to my hon. Friends opposite to co-operate in breaking down any prejudice that may exist. I am one of those who would not wish to keep out of this country or any trade union any person of good character, be he southern. Irish or a trainee from a camp, because when a man finds work he also provides work, and in the end the two things pretty well balance themselves out; it depends entirely on the quality of the man who is employed.
What other factors are there which are liable to cause unemployment? One of the great factors is the casualness of so much employment. The Minister has said that the machinery of the Employment Exchanges filled nearly 3,000,000 jobs last year—a creditable piece of work on the part of the administrative machine. Frequently, however, the same man is placed time after time by the machinery of the Ministry of Labour, and it may be that he fluctuates from short periods of employment at high wages to long periods of unemployment when he receives a much lower scale of unemployment benefit. I often think that there was much to be said for the days when employers engaged men by the year, for it flattened out the curve of unemployment. I am surprised to find myself so- 93 much in agreement with the hon. Member for Gorbals. I, too, think that the employment of juveniles is one of the problems to which the Minister should be asked to give his serious attention. There is a declining birth-rate in this country. The number of young people entering industry will shortly begin to decline, and we cannot afford to allow them to be passed into occupations where they will for the time being receive comparatively high wages and then be thrown out at the age of 18 or 21. It may be necessary to impose on employers some limit on the number of juveniles they can accept, or to balance that number by requiring them to employ a certain number of people over the age of, say, 45.
I feel that, as we look forward to the year that is coming, we may count on my right hon. Friend not only to use his great personal exertions but to endeavour to enlist the good will of all sections of the House in dealing with this problem. I end as I started by saying that there is no one factor which can cure unemployment. Everything that may be suggested by me or by hon. Members with much greater periods of time in the service of the House will not cure the problem unless there is confidence between man and man, between class and class, and between country and country. It is to that that my right hon. Friend, in conjunction with his colleagues, is, I believe, working and tending, and I wish him God speed in his efforts.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) referred to the fact that unemployment is a tragic problem. To that there will be no dispute in any part of the Committee. It has been one of our greatest social problems, and because of its effect on life and character, and because of the distress which is associated with it, it is one that must command the attention of all who care for their fellow-men and for the common weal. There is a good deal more knowledge about the actual problem than there used to be in the early days, to which the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) referred, when our post-war Debates took place. I wish to say at once, in answer to the hon. Member for Seaham' s charge of complacency, that that is common form, but it has no relation whatever to the 94 facts. An examination of the constructive work which has been done by the Government during their period of office will show that, so far from having been complacent about the problem, they have made great and, in some connections, very successful efforts on certain sides of this problem.
I have noticed another thing in the Debate. Whereas the hon. Member for Seaham had a general phrase about not being able to solve this problem under capitalism, he did not take the step which the hon. Member for Gorbals afterwards took of being positive and saying that he would have a cure for it under Socialism. That did not happen to-day, and I do not wonder, because I was very interested to see in the Press a few days ago the fact that the economic committee of the Trades Union Congress at the end of a long investigation of the issues and the facts, and the conclusions based on the facts, have put it on record—and we may as well put it on record here—that,if there is no single simple explanation of the unemployment problem as a whole, there is equally no single simple remedyI understand that we are agreed there. Perhaps the hon. Member for Seaham will not now ask so much from Governments, either this Government or a Government of his own party, as he seemed to be asking to-day.
§ Mr. Buchanan
What about the book of the Liberal party "We can cure unemployment"? I always thought that the right hon. Gentleman was loyal to his party.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member is wrong. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T Williams) made a statement about this the other day and said that I was signatory to that book. It is not so. If hon. Members will look at it they will see certain acknowledgment was made to me for work on certain sub-committees, but I did not sign the book. Hon. Members had better get their facts right about that book. Since that book was published we have also had the experience of efforts made along the lines of public work by 95 the hon. Member for Seaham and his friends, and they were not so conspicuously successful as to ratify some of the conclusions; and I have no doubt, as I said last Thursday, that if a new edition of the book were called for it would need a great deal of revision. At any rate we have got as far as this, that there has been no repetition of the assertion which was made in the last Debate that there is a standing army of 2,000,000 unemployed. As my hon. Friend the Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Butcher) has said, to talk in terms of the registered figure on a given day is to evade the real issue of the very real and tragic problem contained in those figures. We have to relate the figures to the jobs. He quoted the figure which I gave the House last year, that in the course of finding work—not providing it—for unemployed men, women and juveniles, which is a primary function under Statute of the Ministry of Labour, we have placed nearly 3,000,000 persons in jobs. That is true; but there is a much larger figure than that. I think no one could give a precise figure for the number of changings of jobs in the course of a year. As near as I can get to it, I should say that the relation of the number of vacancies filled by the exchanges to the total number of vacancies filled in any one year is as one to three.
§ Mr. C. Brown
Is the Minister saying that in this country there are 9,000,000 people a year who change their jobs?
§ Mr. E. Brown
No, it means that there are 9,000,000 changes of jobs, which is a different thing. One of the fallacies of hon. Members opposite is to talk about this problem as if it were a static problem, capable of solution by some static plan. The fact is that industry is a dynamic thing, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are available, they are ending and beginning every day of the working year, and the very fact that the machinery of the exchanges fills nearly 3,000,000 in the course of the year shows that to discuss the total registered figure is to evade the real problem. I am the last man to desire to evade the real problem, whether it is one section of the problem or another. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] Hon. Members cheer that, but the Committee will remember that at a time when there was no sign of a recession, in the Summer of 1937, in the course 96 of a planned administrative tour of the Ministry of Labour divisions, it was not some outside person, but the Minister of Labour himself, who called attention to the specific and definite classes of unemployed about whom he thought inquiry should be made and special action taken, and one of those sections consisted of the younger unemployed. That was done not because the Minister or the Government was complacent about the matter, but because the Government has, from the beginning, tried to approach this problem from what it considers to be the practical end.
The first line of approach is along the major line of Government policy, namely, the relaxation of tension in the world, and the enlargement of international trade, and the other is along all constructive lines which take men—for whom the hon. Member for Gorbals pleaded—who have no skill, and, while not training them fully —for the Ministry never claims to do that in its training centres—gives them the beginnings of skill, so that they may have a chance to be trained in the factories and workshops, which are the only places where they can be trained. In the last four or five years there has been a great development all along the line in this constructive effort of the Government, whether it be in junior instruction centres, or the actual Government handymen training centres where men are trained to a point of semi-skill, or the instructional centres which are centres for unskilled men and mainly centres where men have a chance of regaining fitness if they are not fit; or local centres to which reference was made by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. G. White), where preparatory work is done, as it is proposed now to do in Liverpool and will be proposed in Manchester in a few days.
All those represent a considered, constructive, definite plan carried out in practice, so that we may in 20 years from now have no repetition of what we had 20 years ago, of men who have had some skill being among the long-term unemployed because they then lack skill. When we deal with the long-term unemployment problem the first two facts which stand out are these; first, the number of men who lack skill, and second, the number of men who lack fitness. I would ask every hon. Member to look at the reports of the Ministry of Labour, particularly the last report, to see how far we have gone 97 with our constructive efforts in our attempt to stem the tide that was always making towards the big pool of long-term unemployment, I venture to assert that under no Government, in a space of five years, has more constructive work been done to give these men their chance than has been done in the last five years under this Government.
§ Mr. Brown
That may be so. We do not pretend that all this can be done by a wave of the hand, and we shall be glad to have the assistance of the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey). The local centre which I set up in Spennymoor itself is not at the moment fulfilling the hopes I had formed of it, and perhaps he will assist mo with that work in that neighbourhood. I was heartened to hear from the hon. Member for East Birkenhead that there was never so great an interest in this work of training as there is at the present time.
The hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston put his finger on the real task when he spoke of the importance of finding jobs. In that respect we have had to have regard to three major considerations. First, we related our training facilities to the jobs we could see at the end of the period. The second consideration was that we found it easier to use our handymen training centres than the instructional centres for unskilled men, because there is a higher proportion of unskilled men among the long-term unemployed than of skilled men, and therefore, the problem is not of the same magnitude. Third, and most important —and here I agree with the hon. Member for Gorbals—all the time we are making this effort we must have regard to the men trained in industry who have served their apprenticeship, in order to see that the training facilities are not so widely extended as to produce effects such as the nation would not desire upon those who really have undergone the full period of training necessitated before one can follow any skilled craft. Those considerations have always to be borne in mind when we are talking about the extension of training.
I claim that what we have done is definite, straightforward, hard, constructive work, and it is therefore a great 98 pleasure to me to hear from all over the Committee to-day evidences of a much more friendly feeling towards this great effort, and if on the industrial side, and especially in engineering, we could get to the point where we had improvers' rates agreed, it might be easier to relate actual apprenticeship in the craft to the semiskilled training which we are able to give in our Government training centres.
The difficulty is much more serious when we deal with the long-term unemployed who volunteer for training in the instructional centres. Over the whole period we have placed from the Government training centres about 89 per cent, of those who have gone there for training. At the moment we are placing a little less.
§ Mr. Brown
We have placed nearly 80,000. That is over a period of 15 years, but the bulk of them have been placed in the last seven years, because this movement was of slow growth finding great difficulties in its way, and there were prejudices to be borne down, but I am happy to think that the course of this Debate shows that those prejudices have been overcome. Of the 80,000 more than 13,000 were placed in the last year. When we are dealing not with the 16 Government training centres but the five preparatory training centres which prepare the way for our semiskilled training, and when we are dealing with the instructional centres for unskilled men, it is another story. Out of every 100 who go for training there we are able to place only about 30. Therefore, the Committee will see the force of the contention of the hon. Member for Gorbals that it is not enough to train the men, for the problem is at the end of the training to get the maximum number of jobs for those men. It is a problem of jobs. Before the end of my speech I will say something about the point raised by the hon. Member for Seaham in connection with the Prime Minister' s speech about young men.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Will the Minister at the same time—or perhaps he would care to do so now—say something about the pay and conditions of the men while in training, and what it costs to feed and keep the men?
§ Mr. Shinwell
But does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the conditions for the men while they are undergoing training make all the difference to overcoming the prejudices?
§ Mr. Brown
I understand that there has been considerable progress in breaking down the prejudices, and that there is a great deal more agreement that the conditions are fair and reasonable. But my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will give the details. I did not want to divert debate from the general lines of policy which the hon. Member himself had adopted.
§ Mr. Brown
And they will be given later. The hon. Member for Seaham is not generally quite so unreasonable. I hope now that I have made it clear to the Committee what the difficulties are and how far we are at present overcoming them. But the hon. Member for Seaham went further than that. He said that we ought to do a good deal more with regard to allowances and maintenance. Perhaps I might be allowed to point out to the Committee what the facts are and what we have been doing about them. I doubt whether, since the first start of the Insurance Acts, there has been a period when more improvements have been made than in the last few years. First we brought into insurance agricultural workers to the number of 600,000. Secondly, we reduced the general scheme contributions for persons 18 and over by one penny. Thirdly, be brought in 100,000 private gardeners under the Agricultural Scheme. We have brought in the Additional Days and Waiting Period Order, 1937, under which the waiting period under the general scheme was reduced from six days to three, and the ratio rule, which governs the amount of benefit men get by the amount of their stamps, is more generous than it had been before. Previously the allowance was based on the previous contributions reduced by one day of benefit for every five days of benefit over the previous five years. Under the Order, the rate of re- 100 duction was one day' s benefit for every eight days' benefit.
Then, in April, 1938, we extended unemployment insurance to 193,000 institutional domestic servants and 27,000 private chauffeurs and brought into the agricultural scheme 20,000 gamekeepers and other outdoor workers. In 1938 also we took action in regard to the needs of the juvenile unemployed. We provided for the provision of meals and milk and biscuits at the junior instruction centres and medical treatment in Scotland, and we took powers to pay off a large proportion of the previous debt, amounting to£20,000,000. We improved the conditions of crediting contributions to members of His Majesty' s Forces.
§ Mr. Brown
Because I want to inform all members of the Committee and the readers of the country what the actual facts are of the constructive work which has been done. Then we brought in the Additional Benefits Order, 1938. This Order improved the ratio rules by altering the deduction of one day for each eight days' past benefit to one day for every 10 days and increased the rate of benefit in respect of adult dependants from 9s. to 10s. The Committee will remember that in 1935 we increased the children' s allowances from 2s. to 3s. By the Aditional Benefits and Reductions in Contributions (Agriculture) Order, 1938, we provided that the 10 contributions re-qualifying condition should apply only where 300 days of agricultural benefit had been drawn out. We also reduced the waiting period for agricultural benefit to three days and reduced the rate of contribution for persons of 18 and over by a halfpenny per week, and increased the rate of benefit for young men from 10s. 6d. to 12s.
I will not refer to the Bill which is at present before the House, but the Committee will see that the list I have given 101 is not the end. It has been done as a constructive effort to make Unemployment Insurance not only sound but possessing a balance in hand against any bad days that may come. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. E. Smith) asked me what about the means test for those who are out of benefit. [An HON. MEMBER: "In the fat years"] I will deal with the lean years first. In the calendar year 1930, to be accurate when the Labour Government was in office, the average number of unemployed was 1,915,000.
§ Mr. Brown
I agree, but let me present the figures. The amount they received in benefit and transitional benefit was£78,000,000. That was the lean year. In the calendar year 1938—I would not call it a bad year but a better year—the average number of unemployed was 1,790,000 and the amount paid in benefits and allowances was£87,000,000. In other words, in 1938 there were 125,000 fewer unemployed over the average of the year than in 1930 and£9,000,000 more was received. I do not think either the hon. Member for Seaham or the hon. Member for Gorbals, when they are talking about work and maintenance, will be able to overlook this fact, which is a major fact and I think will be of interest to the Committee.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Whatever the right hon. Gentleman's argument may mean, at least he has disposed of the allegation that the Labour Government were extravagant.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member has forgotten the whole of the story. We are paying our£87,000,000 with a fund which not only pays more out but is anchored to the rock of solvency. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not face their problems. They were paying money out of a fund which was insolvent and was, as a matter of fact, running into debt at the rate of£1,000,000 per week when their period of office terminated.
§ Mr. Attlee
Surely the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten that we were not at the same time borrowing£1,000,000,000 for armaments.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I do not propose to go into the merits of the two Governments but to ask the right hon. Gentleman about his figures and comparisons. It would not be fair if he did not mention that large numbers of men do not get any benefit at all at the present time, owing to the means test. Would he say how this affects the figures which he has brought forward? I am calculating that in the days of the Labour Government a large number of people qualified who would not qualify now; if the right hon. Gentleman brought those into the calculation would they not alter it?
§ Mr. Buchanan
I think there are 100,000 persons refused benefit now. If the right hon. Gentleman were to add that figure to his total it would reduce the average amount paid now.
§ Mr. Brown
I am not taking back a word that I have said on a matter in which the Committee seems very interested. Let me give the Committee the averages. In 1938, there were 125,000 fewer unemployed than in 1930. Look at the average amount. In 1930 it was not on the same basis as now. It was benefit and transitional benefit an arbitrary sum, but the average was 17s. 10d. over all. The average for 1938 was 16s. 11d. for benefit (general scheme) but for unemployment assistance it was 24s. per annum. That shows that the improvement is not a fancied one over the average total but that the figure is an actual one, especially for those who have nothing and who have been unemployed longer. If the hon. Member for Seaham is going out on a campaign for maintenance he will have some formidable comparisons to meet and I do not fear for those comparisons.
I have been asked for information about Irish labour, and one or two fierce things have been said about it.
§ Mr. E. Smith
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade in Manchester recently that the problem of unemployment has been solved by this Government?
§ Mr. Brown
I have not seen that statement, but I should be surprised to find that it was stated in those words. If he will send me the reference I shall be glad to look at it and to consult with my right hon. Friend, who will probably deal with the matter on a future occasion. A question was raised by an hon. Member, who thought that men ought to have the jobs that were going in their localities whereas immigrants from Eire were get ting those jobs. I do not understand that there is any anti-Irish feeling, but the feeling is, when you have an area like Bootle or St. Helens with large numbers of local men unemployed—
§ Mr. Buchanan
In Glasgow we often get men coming from the Highlands, but nobody ever tells them to go back to the Highlands.
§ Mr. Brown
I was asked for some facts and I am always glad to give them, if I can. There was a report by an interdepartmental committee on immigration, published in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 3rd December, 1937, in the form of an answer by the Dominions Secretary to a question by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). It was about Irish labourers, and was based, in the main, on the Board of Trade figures. As I have explained in this House more than once, the Ministry of Labour is unable to provide figures on a national basis because we have never had nationalities stated on the insurance cards. The statement is, "British" and not a reference to Scottish, Welsh, English or Irish. The figures given at that time were 11,000 in 1934, 14.000 in 1935 and 24,000 in 1936. Information was not available at that time as to the number of immigrants from Eire into insured employment in Great Britain, but I have some figures now to show that the number of such persons during the nine months April-December, 1937, was 20,977, while for the whole of 1938 the number was 18,953.
It seems, therefore, that the movement of labour from Eire to Great Britain showed a decline in 1938 compared with 1937. Of the 19,000 who entered in 1938, 8,000 or 42 per cent, settled in London, 3,400 or 18 per cent. in the North-Western Division, 2,350 or 12.4 per cent. in the 104 Midlands and 1,750 or 9.2 per cent. in Scotland. The main industries in which these men found employment were: building and public works contracting, 7,400, or 39 per cent.; hotel, restaurant and public house service, 4,300, or 23 per cent.; distributive trades, 1,200, or 6 per cent. In addition, 2,300 found employment in agriculture, but of these nearly 1,700 were non-domiciled temporary seasonal workers, and it is reasonable to assume that the great majority of these latter returned to their native land on the completion of their seasonal employment. With regard to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Errington)—
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Has the right hon. Gentleman any figures regarding the number that came into South Wales?
§ Mr. Brown
I am coming to that point. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle to give some facts about Chorley, and I will try to give some facts with regard to Bridgend at the same time. Every effort is made by the local officers of the Ministry to induce employers to engage their workmen through the Employment Exchanges, and, where this procedure is adopted by the employer, it is the invariable practice of the Exchange to give first consideration to local applicants, and afterwards, so far as is practicable, to suitable qualified persons from areas of heavy unemployment in this country. In connection with Government contracts arrangements are now in operation whereby a clause is inserted in the contract making it a contractual obligation that vacancies for additional labour shall be notified to the Exchange.
§ Mr. Brown
It means additional to a large contractor's normal staff. All great public works contractors in this country have very considerable normal staffs, who in normal times go with them from job to job, and they would not be prepared to undertake the large contracts that they do undertake unless they were assured of at least a nucleus of labour for the purpose.
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend is now using terms that I do not care to use in connection with public works contracting. Navvying work is sometimes spoken of as being unskilled work, but the contrary is the case. A good deal of public discussion on this point goes wrong because people think that anyone can do a heavy navvying job, but that is not so. When hon. Members sometimes express the wish that preference should be given on jobs of this kind to young men who have been unemployed for a long time, they are really asking that, in the early days of the work at any rate, preference should be given to men who may not be as skilled at the job as those who are already doing it. That is a problem which must be faced by the Committee and by the Government.
Having described the general practice, I come to the specific points with regard to Chorley and Bridgend. When the Chorley contract was placed, the procedure I have described was not in force, and it was not then the practice for Government contractors to be required to notify vacancies to the exchanges. Since then we have made arrangements whereby they do notify vacancies, and it may be that the House will wish further steps to be taken in that direction. Unquestionably Chorley attracted a large number of immigrants from Eire—over 1,100. We do not know whether all these men are still employed on the site. When work was commenced on the site, the contractor was notified by the Office of Works that they desired that he should make use of the Employment Exchange service for the engagement of his labour, and, to facilitate this arrangement, an out-station of the Employment Exchange was placed on the site; but only a proportion of the vacancies was notified, although efforts were made from time to time, in co-operation with the representatives of the Office of Works, to obtain an arrangement with the contractor as regards notification. In the case of Bridgend, also, the first contract was placed before the procedure I have mentioned came into operation. There are 3,500 men employed on the site, and of these it is estimated that 400 are Irish, but a considerable number were employed previously by the same firm on a contract at Ebbw Vale. We estimate that 200, or one-half, of the Irishmen em- 106 ployed at Bridgend have been resident in this country for over two years, and that of the remaining 200, who have come here within the last two years, only 20 have come within the last two months. The later contracts contain the notification of vacancies clause, and I am glad to say that the firms concerned have generally observed this provision. The total number of men employed on the southern portion of the site is 2,644, of whom 2,356 were recruited through the Exchange. As regards constructional works in Scotland, the total number of men employed at Bishopston is 1,294. A considerable number of men employed have Irish names, but many of them have been resident in this country for a prolonged period and have become merged in the local population.
§ Mr. Hicks
Do I understand the Minister, in speaking about notification of vacancies to the Employment Exchange, to mean that all local labour has to be absorbed before any other labour can be employed? If so, I would remind him that that is totally contrary to the policy of the trade unions. We do not regard any one area as being a closed shop; our view is that members of our union are entitled to go to any part of the country, and that, if a contractor wishes to employ them, there should be no ridiculous restrictions imposed for purposes of political propaganda.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member must not read that into anything I said. I am trying to give the Committee the facts on which they can form their opinions.
The hon. Member for Seaham raised two major issues. The first was the question of the young men and the Prime Minister's speech. The hon. Member has put several questions to me about them, and I have answered him, as I always try to do, fully and accurately. But it is not to be supposed that, because the figures asked for cannot be given in a definite form in answer to a particular type of question, there are no figures and no 107 facts. With regard to training, out of a total of 54,600 young men applicants for unemployment assistance between the ages of 18 and 25 who were interviewed in 1938, about 43,000, or 79 per cent. were unwilling on various grounds to apply for admission to an instructional centre. About 14,700 of these were men with dependants, and I want to make it clear that in a large number of cases the grounds advanced by the applicant were substantial; but similar figures in the case of claimants for unemployment benefit are not available, as I informed the hon. Member in answer to a series of questions—
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Is not the main reason for the large number of refusals the fact that the men were asking, "If we go to an instructional centre for two, three or six months, what then?" and they were told, "Well, you just have your chance"?
§ Mr. Brown
I was pointing out that that is the real problem of the instructional centres for unskilled men—what prospect of a job is there for the unskilled man after the training he has voluntarily undergone? Through our machinery we have been seeking all the time to increase the percentage, and we have done so, because, while in the earlier days it was less than 20 per cent. it is now up to 30 per cent. But even now, out of every 100 who volunteer for training and avail themselves of the admirable facilities at these centres, 70 go back without jobs. That makes the problem very difficult from the recruiting end. Part of the reasons why prejudice against training centres is beginning to break down is due to the fact that we are placing a larger percentage of those who go through the centres. Every man that we place is an advertisement for the centre, while everyone that we do not succeed in placing goes home disgruntled, and is a bad advertisement for the work.
§ Mr. Shinwell
With regard to the question I put to the right hon. Gentleman earlier as to the 14,700 who refused to accept training for, in the words of the Minister himself, substantial reasons, may I ask whether he has found any remedy for that difficulty?
§ Mr. Brown
If the hon. Member will be a little more patient, I will give him an answer on that point. I have already pointed out that there is a long series of instructional facilities for youths, beginning with instructional centres and going on to the training centres, but more remains to be done. I would call the attention of the Committee to page 144 of the report of the Pilgrim Trust, entitled "Men Without Work," and especially to the tables on pages 436 and 437. I am encouraged to do this because in the last Debate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) quoted with approval some very powerful passages from that report. I hope that, whatever partisanship we may display in regard to other matters, we shall not display any in considering this matter, because it does not serve any good purpose to deny the fact that, as the Prime Minister indicated, there is a serious problem here, and that problem, in my judgment, is summed up in these tables. They deal with the cases of men who freely gave information to the investigators of the Pilgrim Trust with regard to their employment, training and other matters. I will deal only with youths regarding whom there are four tables which deal with the following:
- 1.Attitude to new employment by age (men only).
- 2.Attitude to new employment by occupational status (men only).
- 3.Attitude to new employment by degree of fitness (men only).
- 4.Attitude to new employment by employability (men only).
At the moment I would call the attention of the House to only one set of figures—very remarkable figures—namely, those in Table A at the top of page 436. The cases of 753 men were investigated. of these, 108 were between the ages of 18 and 29. There are three categories:
- 1.Still thinking in terms of work.
- 2.Beginning to accept state of unemployment.
- 3.Adjusted to state of unemployment.
This last category, of course, is the tragedy. The reasons for these three 109 categories are given on page 144 of the report. Out of 108 of the 753 who were in that age group, the investigators reported that 39 were "still thinking in terms of work," 38 were "beginning to accept the state of unemployment" and 31—that is 29 per cent. of the 108—had "adjusted themselves to the state of unemployment."
I wish to make no further comment, except to say that an investigation of that kind is on only a small scale. The Unemployment Assistance Board made it plain months ago that they were making a special investigation, and I have been asked more than once whether the House is to be told of the results. The answer is that the Board, having nearly completed the investigation, are proposing to publish the results in their next report. Then, on the top of these individual investigations, we shall have a wider investigation. The Committee will know more clearly the size and nature of the problem, and I hope we shall then be able to discuss it, not in any party spirit but with the sole desire to remedy—I use the phrase of the hon. Member for Seaham —that tragic state of affairs. The hon. Member for Seaham asked me whether anything is to be done about it. Hon. Members have been told already that we are proposing to make an unorthodox experiment with regard to the new camps for evacuation. The arrangement will provide for the employment of a certain number of younger men who have been long unemployed. I cannot discuss that now, because it would be out of order, but I will give the Committee the indication that the first practical step will be contained in that Bill.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I understand that within the rules of the House we cannot now discuss impending legislation, but surely the right hon. Gentleman can give some outline of the conditions in which these men will work?
§ Mr. Brown
The Committee will see from my description of the instructional centres what we propose to do in that respect; and that is, perhaps, as far as I can go now. In connection with A.R.P. work, the Government are also arranging with local authorities that such additional labour as is required shall be obtained through exchanges. These works are the construction of trenches, the strengthening of basements and the 110 erection of steel shelters. With regard to road work, it is now a condition in the Ministry of Transport contracts that firms should engage labour through local exchanges, with the exception of the staff for supervision. A question which is for consideration is whether the principles that underlie this arrangement for giving preference to the younger long-term unemployed ought not to be extended more widely, so that steps might be taken to secure that the younger long-term unemployed have the opportunity of employment as well as training. That would involve a preference for these younger men. I hope to make a statement about that at an early date.
§ Mr. Cartland
My right hon. Friend forgot the young men engaged on A.R.P. work. Has he any estimate at all?
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that in the construction of these camps preference will be given to the younger long-term unemployed? Is he proposing to say something about the elderly men? Are we correct in understanding that there will be a condition by which these camps will be used for instruction, and that the Bill will contain an outline of the conditions on which these men would be employed?
§ Mr. Brown
There will be no need for that. They will be engaged in the construction of these camps, which is a definite job of work. The hon. Member for Seaham asked whether the Ministry of Labour is responsible for finding work for the unemployed. He knows that that is a rhetorical question. He knows, from his own experience as a member of the Labour Government, what the powers of the Ministry of Labour are. It may be worth considering that when the Labour Government were out to provide work they did not do it through the Ministry of Labour. Their failure was a very grave one. I do not wish for a moment to claim that the result would have been different if the Ministry had been favoured with the task, but the point I wish to make is that the Labour Government did not consider that the Ministry of Labour was responsible for providing work. The hon. Member asked me what the Government think about it. He asked what is going to happen when the work now being done on 111 Defence comes to an end. The Government's opinion has been stated quite clearly. The only way that employment can be provided on a permanent and healthy basis is through the channels of trade and industry. The experience of the last Labour Government shows that money can be lavished on providing work, and the number thrown out through declining trade may be greater than the number of those artificially given work.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Will the right hon. Gentleman cease defending the last Labour Government, and say something about the present policy?
§ Mr. Brown
I am doing it by way of example from something which is a constant warning to me. I am asked what will happen after the rearmament boom. The underlying cause of rearmament, in this country and in others, is the feeling of insecurity. That feeling of insecurity is the major cause of the mass of our unemployment, especially that which is rooted in the various exporting trades. The efforts of the Government are directed towards relieving this feeling of insecurity, and if we succeed in that effort the improvement of trade may be confidently expected to do much more than counterbalance any reduction of employment on armaments.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I have been interested in the Minister's statements, and particularly in his concluding statement. It is a surprise to me to learn that if only the insecurity which has sprung up and developed during the period of the National Government could be dispelled everything would be all right in the cotton industry. It is a new interpretation of modern economics to say at this stage that the reduction of employment in the exporting trade is due entirely to the insecurity which has led to the need for rearmament. This insecurity must have been growing rapidly during the right hon. Gentleman's term of office, because of the way the figures have gone up constantly in Lancashire. Listening to the speeches this afternoon, I have wondered what is wrong with the mathematics I was taught at school.
Two Members have endeavoured to explain away 2,000,000 in terms of what is not 2,000,000. We have not a standing 112 army; they may be there one day but they are not there the next, and, therefore, they are not there at all. It reminds me of the story of a man who worked in the pit. He was given the job of moving some dirt in the pit. He moved it for a time, and then he said to the foreman, "I cannot get any more of that dirt into the pack" The foreman said, "It has to be shifted" "Then where shall I put it?" said the man. "I do not know," said the foreman; "muck it about a bit until you lose it" That is what happens to the unemployed. The 2,000,000 have been mucked about, and some people think that in the process they have been lost. That may bring satisfaction to the Minister and those on the Front Bench with him, but it brings no satisfaction to the men we meet when we go home.
The Minister referred to the number of men who have been unemployed for less than six months. I wonder whether he realises all that that can mean. I know two men in my district who each received a fortnight's work at snow-shifting, just before Christmas. It was the only work they had done in six years. They were engaged for some portion of two weeks in that job, and now they are among those whom the Minister speaks of as having been unemployed for under six months. It seems strange, but it is perfectly true that figures can lie, or at any rate they can create a very wrong impression. The hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Butcher) spoke about casual unemployment. I have heard about casual labour, but I have not heard much about casual unemployment. I am not particularly concerned about casual unemployment. I do not think casual unemployment would hurt anybody. I am concerned, however, about the casual labourer who has long periods of unemployment, and if that is what the hon. Member is talking about it is not casual unemployment at all but a pretty regular thing.
The hon. Member suggested that the unemployment figures might be improved if we took more care with regard to juveniles and the necessity for training juveniles. I agree with him about the necessity for training juveniles, but I wonder whether he remembered that he was a supporter of the Government which, in its Education Act, introduced exemption clauses. It seems strange that we 113 should see the necessity at this stage for training children, and yet we should want to take them away from training by introducing them into employment when we. cannot find employment for older people. The whole problem has been approached from a casual standpoint, and it seems to me that we shall never solve it along the lines that have been suggested.
I want to call attention to the position in the County Palatine. I am seriously disturbed at the position of things in Lancashire at the moment. The figures for the North-West Division show a progressive increase, and have done over a number of years. But you do not need the figures at all. It does not need the report of the Minister of Labour to tell any man in Lancashire what is taking place. The symptoms are so plain that they can be seen by the casual observer as he walks down the street. Empty and dilapidated houses and shops bear testimony to the fact that work is not available. Houses are standing to let for the first time for many years. Mills stand stark and empty. There is a silence as of the grave in places where previously one had heard the din and bustle of industrial life. Talk to the people you meet and what is their plea? Work, which is not available. They are dejected, dispirited and dismayed.
The Minister quoted some figures relating to 108 individuals between 18 and 29 years of age. He said that 39 of them are still thinking in terms of work, 38 are just thinking in terms of casual work, and 31 are adjusted to unemployment. That is the greatest indictment of the present system that has ever been made from that Box. I know something of what that means. I know men in all those categories, and it is not difficult to find them, and not difficult to find the explanation of their being in those categories. The first 39 are probably from good homes and in the first six months of unemployment. I have seen them time after time falling out of work and coming out with a smile, imagining that they would be back in work again inside a month or two, thinking that the holiday would do them good. I have seen the same men in 12 months beginning to look as though they were afraid. I have seen them in two years' time looking helpless and dejected; and long before they have reached the age of 29 they have adjusted 114 themselves to unemployment—were bound to do, because they have no hope of ever finding a job. I spoke just now of men who had had only two weeks' work—snow-shifting—in six years. Is it any wonder that such people become dejected?
Then think of the effect of these training schemes, about which the Minister has spoken. He said there was some opposition to the schemes in many places. Is that surprising, because what is the effect of it? Take any one of these small industrial districts in Lancashire, and who are the people sent to the training centre? The best of the unemployed, the young people, those between the ages the Minister has spoken about. And when you have trained them, or partially trained them, they must, of necessity, leave the town in which they have been brought up. You are leaving that town with an aged population, with an increasing rate burden, with a constantly increasing poverty problem; and with every young man and young family that you send out of the town you are depreciating the value of the town in the eyes of the people who remain. That is the reason why they object to the training scheme, which is sending the young life out of the district, and it is not to be wondered at.
Let me give the House a few figures relating to one small town in Lancashire that is typical of a score of small towns. The population in 1888–50 years ago—was 5,050, in 1913 it was 7,800, and in 1938 it was 5,900. It had got back at the place it started from 50 years ago. It had an insured population in 1925 of 3,500, and has an insured population to-day of 2,400–1,100 insured people fewer in that little township than there were 14 years ago. This is a weaving district, and not only have they had an average unemployment figure of 32 per cent. over the last five years, but, in addition to that, there has been an underemployment problem of 31 per cent. during the same period.
I want to call the Minister's attention to this problem of under employment, which seems to me to be peculiar to Lancashire—people working with less than the normal complement of looms. In a recent census we found in five districts in East Lancashire that 31 per cent. 58 per cent. 73 Per cent. 47 per cent. 115 and 39 per cent. of the insured workers were under-employed, and most of them have been under-employed for upwards of 12 months. I, myself, know personally scores of men who have not drawn a full week's wage for the last two years. The Prime Minister came to Blackburn a week or two ago, and had something to say about this problem. He used these words:I think there is something else which is quite as tragic as unemployment in the cotton trade, and that is under-employmentI want the House to realise that we have not only got under-employment, it is under-employment plus unemployment. It is not a question of it being equally bad; we have got them both. We have the percentages of unemployment that are looked upon as qualifying other districts for being classed as distressed areas, and in addition we have very high figures of under-employment, which the Prime Minister said are equally tragic. I know that there are many for whom there is not sufficient work for them to be able to operate the normal number of looms; consequently they are working, but only working at reduced rates, and only able to earn a much reduced weekly wage. The Prime Minister certainly got his facts right on this occasion. He added:I think the fact that there are many—as I know there are many to-day—who prefer to get up early in the morning to go to their work to earn this meagre wage, when they could actually draw, perhaps, more money by being idle and taking unemployment benefit for themselves and their families—I do think that is a most moving and wonderful demonstration of the courage and spirit of independence of the Lancashire worker.The only thing the Prime Minister got wrong about was the "perhaps" He says perhaps they could get more money. There is no question that they could get more. And he went on to say:That exhibition of quiet heroism—for it is nothing else than that—does make one feel, if one did not feel it before, that they are people who are worthy of any effort we make to help them in their distress.The Prime Minister says it is an exhibition of quiet heroism. I am beginning to wonder whether it is or not. I question whether these men, particularly in Lancashire, have a right any longer to be heroic at the expense of their wives and children. There is nothing heroic about letting the family go short of food because the Government is not finding sufficient for them to live on.
116 The Minister in his statement to-night, I will not say boasted, but called attention to the fact that the Government were paying out more money than they had paid out before, and than was paid out under the Labour Government, even with fewer applicants. He seemed to think that the justification of the National Government. Well, I want to draw his attention to the Unemployment Fund receipts and payments for the year ended 31st March, 1938. In that statement of accounts I discover that there was paid by the worker and the employer an amount of£42,500,000, and then on the reverse side I discover that the payments in unemployment benefit, plus all the administrative charges, come to£1,000,000 less than is actually being paid by employer and employed, and the Government's contribution goes to the clearing up of a debt that is supposed to have been contracted some time or other by the unemployed. How in the world the unemployed could ever have got into debt I do not know, but they are to be penalised for all time because some capitalist in the years 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932 could not find them employment. It does seem strange to me, not only that the poor should be compelled to keep the poor, but that your methods of book-keeping should be such that you even compel the people about whom the Prime Minister speaks to contribute. For those unemployed people in Lancashire, for whom the heart of the Prime Minister seemed to bleed when he was at Blackburn, are being compelled to pay out of their meagre earnings week by week their contributions to the Unemployment Fund, from which they are not allowed to draw.
In conclusion, may I call the Minister's attention to one or two administrative difficulties that have arisen and that I think he could help with, and I think they can be dealt with without legislation. They all refer to the type of person of whom I have been speaking, the cotton worker who is receiving kicks and not getting the ha'pence. The Umpire dealing with these cases, I know, has come to a decision that "just cause" for not signing at a given time must be interpreted in a certain way, but I am perfectly sure that the Umpire's decision can be so administered that real misunderstanding can be taken into consideration, for penalties ought not to be 117 inflicted upon individuals simply because there has been a misunderstanding.
I have here four or five cases which have happened within recent months, and in every instance the individual has been penalised because of the fact that there has been a change in the circumstances in which he was working, and when he went to sign on at the Exchange the fact that there had been a change in the circumstances deprived him of the benefit which should have been his. In one instance a young woman who had been working regularly at a mill was called upon to lay off, and during the time she was unemployed someone asked if she would go to another mill. She went, to meet the requirements of the manager at that mill, and worked for a week. The fact that she worked that week took her out of the category of the individuals who were employed by the management at the previous mill, at which she had worked for 30 years. The result was that she lost four days' benefit as a consequence of being anxious to work. I wish we were as anxious to do other things in Lancashire as we are to work. I wish sometimes that something of that heroic spirit of which the Prime Minister spoke when he visited Blackburn could be turned in other directions, and that we could think as much about the needs of our people as we think about our work requirements.
I was interested yesterday morning. It is not often that I read the "Sunday Chronicle"—and I am not giving them a cheap advertisement—but I read in yesterday's "Sunday Chronicle" an article by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), in which she says:I am a supporter of the Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain. Why shouldn't I be? Anyone who knows anything about him will tell you that, for knowledge of the problems and wisdom in solving them, there is no one can beat the Prime Minister.But on the same page the Noble Lady was answered by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), who says:Last week a man came up to me after a meeting I had been addressing on behalf of the Liberal National Member of Parliament. He was middle-aged. He walked with a stick. His toes had been shot off during the War. He told me he was married and had been unemployed for seven years. He said,' I have to exist on 23s. 6d. a week. I have been a Conservative all my life; cannot the Government do something for us?118 The comment of the hon. Member for Oxford was:Perhaps because I am a Conservative myself, I find the last sentence the most moving and perhaps the most significant of allIt seems to me that when Members and supporters of the Government are asking the Prime Minister to do something, we are entitled to ask that the unemployed in all parts of the country shall not be forgotten.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Sir George Schuster
I am sure that we have all listened with the very greatest sympathy to the account which the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) has given of conditions in Lancashire. I confess that I feel very keenly on that subject myself, because I happen to have been connected, at the other end, with some of the causes which have led to that depression. When we consider that Lancashire used to export the main quantities of cotton piece goods taken by India, that India used to import something like 3,000,000,000 yards a year, and that India now only imports something like 800,000,000 yards, of which about half is supplied by Japan, it is not difficult to see what has brought about the distress which exists in Lancashire to-day. It is of some value that this particular matter has been raised, because it brings home to us the sort of causes which have contributed to the conditions which prevail in some of our distressed areas. Can it be said that any British Government could possibly have prevented a development of this kind, or could now do anything to counteract the effect of developments of this kind?
We have to face realities in this matter. When I listen to Debates on unemployment in this House I am always impressed with two separate ideas. The first is that it is a most unfortunate thing—and I say this in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) when he opened this Debate—that we should discuss these problems of unemployment in an atmosphere of party politics. We are faced with very great problems, and if we are to solve them and improve the conditions in this country, it requires the cooperation of all interests, of all political parties and of all those who are interested in industry and in protecting the employès in industry. The other thing which I feel when I listen to unemployment De- 119 bates is that we are dealing with a vast and complex problem. In fact there are many different problems, and it is impossible in these Debates to avoid something like a discussion at cross purposes. There are two main classes of problem involved. The distinction was very clearly brought out by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) in his speech. There is first the problem of unemployment and of the conditions which have created unemployment in this country, and there is secondly the human problem of the unemployed.
It would be impossible in a short speech to attempt to deal with the causes of unemployment, and I will say only a few words on the subject. Although they may be discussed in complicated, theoretical, economic language, surely the main causes are quite clear. There are two types of causes. There are, first of all, the dislocations of industry which have been brought about by changes such as that which has happened in the Indian cotton trade to which I have referred. There are other dislocations, partly still resulting from the War, and partly from post-War policies, such as the policies of self-sufficiency in Europe. Let us consider another dislocation parallel in importance to that which has been referred to as regards the cotton trade. We have only to remember the fact that in the five years up to 1928 three countries in Europe—France, Germany and Italy—imported on an average something like 200,000,000 bushels of wheat a year, and that in a few years after 1928, as a result of their policies of agricultural self-sufficiency, they became, in years of normal harvest, not merely self-supporting but able to produce a balance for export. How is it possible to avoid changes of that kind bringing about dislocations in industry which must result in unemployment?
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
Could not the hon. Gentleman include in his list the complete cessation of migration as one of the important contributory factors?
§ Sir G. Schuster
I am not going to attempt to give the Committee an exhaustive list. I am merely trying to give one or two illustrations of the sort of things which have happened in order to support one particular point I want to make. There are these dislocations of the type which I have illustrated, and 120 behind all there lies a second problem, which would be puzzling us to-day even if we had no international disturbance and no lack of confidence. That is the problem of how to distribute purchasing power sufficient to absorb the enormously increased productivity of which industry is now capable. The point I want to make is that, if we are to get any improvement, it is necessary to increase standards of consumption. One of the speakers in the last Debate on unemployment said that the root cause of all this trouble is really poverty. I agree. What we need above all to-day is to wage a war on low standards of living. It is impossible to expect the European countries to depart from the support of their agricultural industries which they have given. It is impossible to say to Germany and to Italy, "Do not grow the wheat which you have been laboriously enabling your agriculture to produce" But if we could get them and other countries to consume more there would be some prospect of bringing prosperity to the wheat-exporting countries.
The point I want to make to-night is this. We know that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is shortly to undertake conversations in Berlin, and I hope that when he enters into trade discussions with Germany he will approach the matter with the idea of trying, somehow or other, in consultation with the German Government, to find out means by which consumption and trade can be increased. Let us get away from mere squabbles about how to divide up the diminished trade which now goes on in the world, and try and put our heads together in an effort to increase trade and to raise the standards of consumption. I believe that that can be done.
Again I should like to see the closer approach which has recently been made to the United States, as signalised by the Trade Agreement, followed up by an approach to the President asking him to join with us in a war against low standards of living. I believe that if we could put our heads together, the British commonwealth and the United States in the first place, and then go on to a discussion with the European countries, always, of course, assuming that we can avoid the dangers of world war, we might find for ourselves a way to better times which 121 would provide a permanent solution of the problem of unemployment. I feel that that is the only way.
But that is a long-range policy, and any real solution of the unemployment problem must take a long time. In the meanwhile we are all oppressed with this human problem of the condition of the unemployed. We have all I am sure listened this evening with great appreciation to the account which my right hon. Friend has given, supplementing what he has said before, of the steps which the Government are taking to deal with this matter. I do not believe that the country realises the full extent of what has been done, and it is very valuable that these matters should be brought forward.
But I want to put certain points to my right hon. Friend. When considering the human side of the problem of the unemployed, it would become much simpler to deal with if we broke it up into its component parts. There is the problem of the older men who have been employed in industry such as the Lancashire cotton industries where the whole foundation has been cut from under their feet and there is no chance of their finding employment in that particular industry, and they are too old to change to other industries. Cannot that class of unemployed be definitely treated as casualties, treated sympathetically and given chances of improving their position by the development of schemes of subsistence employment, such as have been started experimentally in various parts of the country? That is one aspect of the problem.
At the other end of the scale, I would ask for some special consideration of the younger unemployed. That is a very wide problem. We have to consider not only those young men who are now out of work but also those of a still younger age who when they leave school may get into the same condition. Something has been said to-night about the employment of juveniles. It has been suggested that it is a very bad thing for the country that there should be a form of employment for juveniles which is blind-alley employment, which will result in their being thrown into the world at the age of 18 or 20, having learned nothing and being unfit for other work. We are all agreed about that. It is one of the most serious problems, if we look ahead in the interests of the country, that we have to consider. One hon. Member who 122 referred to this question made the suggestion that the juveniles employed in particular industries where juvenile labour is required should be limited to a certain percentage of the total number of persons employed. I disagree with that suggestion. I happen to be the head of a large group of businesses in the distributive trade which employ a very large number of juveniles. In fact, we employ a larger number than we can permanently absorb. We are, therefore, classified sometimes as providing blind-alley employment. As a matter of fact, we do not, speaking for my own companies, consciously discharge any of these young men. A large number of boys come to us, and it seems to suit them to come. They remain with us a short time and then they go to other forms of employment. We pursue no deliberate policy in the matter of turning them out. At the same time, one has to admit that the conditions suit us very well and that it would be difficult to carry on our business unless a large proportion of juveniles were available.
Having regard to the fact that we do make use of juvenile labour in this way, we have been trying seriously to face up to our responsibilities in the matter. We have said to ourselves: "We should like to be able to say to boys who want to join us: 'Come and join us, and if you stay with us, there is a chance of a good career, but if you want to leave us after a short time, we will try to look after you while you are with us in such a way that you will be better citizens when you go'" If that spirit could really be embodied in business practice, it would be the way to deal with juveniles. It is a very difficult thing, however, fully to carry out one's ideal. In our companies we have started the experiment, in cooperation with the education authorities, who have been very helpful in the matter, of giving a form of continued education in our own time. We have recently started and have about 17 classes in different towns, and the experiment is working in a way which is encouraging us greatly to proceed with it. In the competitive conditions which prevail it is, however, very difficult to go far in that direction, unless others follow suit. This is one of the matters closely connected with the problem of unemployment to which the Government might pay attention. Could it not be laid down that those businesses 123 that make much use of juvenile labour would have to satisfy certain conditions in regard to the continuing of education, and giving training, so that the boys going for a couple of years into such forms of work would find that they had been put into a better position to take their place in life when they leave? That I submit is the right way to deal with this problem, rather than trying to limit the number of juveniles in any particular form of business, which would do no good to the juveniles and might create great economic dislocation. If the problem were dealt with in that way, we should be doing something that would benefit the country.
I have dealt with one small aspect of the question of juvenile employment. I am sure my right hon. Friend would admit that in the general problem of the unemployment of the younger men to-day a very large factor is that so many of them have gone into forms of employment which have taught them nothing and have thrown them into the labour market qualified for nothing. Therefore, I hope that what I have said has not been entirely irrelevant.
One last point that I would put to my right hon. Friend is this. Would it not be possible, in view of the great interest which exists in regard to this problem in the country, to carry out the suggestion which has been made in the Press, and which was originally started by Sir Malcolm Stewart, that a special all-party conference with representatives of industrialists and trade union leaders should be called, to consider the problem of the younger unemployed? I do not question that the Government are doing a very great deal in this matter, but there is great public interest in this problem, and I believe that if such a conference led to nothing more than the education of its members, it would have produced a valuable result.
§ 7.37 p.m.
Mr. W. Joseph Stewart
I wish to intervene for only a very short time. I have listened to nearly every speech that has been made to-day, and I listened very intently to the remarks of the Minister of Labour. From the beginning to the end of that speech I was interested to learn whether or not the Minister was going to give us, at long last, some real hope as regards the treatment of unem- 124 ployment in the various areas in which we live. I do not approach this question in any party spirit, but as one who is interested in the people among whom I live and who knows the devastation which has been caused by long-term unemployment.
The hon. Member who has just spoken dwelt on the question of juvenile unemployment. I should like to mention the position of the unemployed man who has reached the age of 50. In my home town at the week-end I am often approached by that class of person, who asks whether the Government have a policy to meet his particular problem. When these men who are over 50 go to a shipyard, a factory or a colliery office and ask for work, they are asked their age, and when they worked last. When the people who have the power to give employment learn their age and the long time they have been out of employment, they invariably answer: "We have no room." The men go back to their homes, and the only conclusion to which they can come is that outside the four walls of their homes nobody wants them. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, in the absence of the Minister of Labour, that in the interests of these people, who have given yeoman service to industry in this country, the Government ought to do something to find them work, so that they may have something to live for in the evening of their days.
Listening to the speeches from the Government benches one would think that so far as unemployment is concerned things generally are going better. I come from Durham, and I should like to put the position of Durham as I see it from the unemployment point of view. In January, 1938, the percentage of unemployment in Durham County amongst insured workers was 19.4, and on the 1st January this year 23.4, a jump of 4 per cent. In the Bishop Auckland area, which has been mentioned in this House scores of times, in January, 1938, the percentage of unemployment was 33.5, and to-day it is 37.8, a jump of 4.3 per cent. In another township, Cockfield, in 1938 the unemployment percentage was 27.2, to-day it is 46.8, a jump of 19.6. In South Shields the figure was 32.6 in 1938, and to-day it stands as it did a year ago, but in Sunderland. which had a percentage of 25.7 a year ago, the figure is 30.4 to-day, a jump of 4.6.
125 Taking Durham as a whole, one out of every four of the insured industrial population is unemployed, while in Sunderland and South Shields the figures are one in three, at a time of national prosperity. In the administrative County of Durham, in October last year, we had 50,040 persons unemployed between the ages of 18 and 64, while in Sunderland the figure was 15,448 and in South Shields 9,138, a total of 74,626. In January this year the figures for Sunderland jumped from 15,448 to 19,160, an increase of 3,712, and for South Shields they had increased to 10,557 as against 9,138 last October; an increase of 1,453. Do the Government intend to do anything worth while on behalf of these areas, which as time goes on are gradually getting worse from an unemployment point of view? We have been told that the trading estates introduced into the County of Durham will be a panacea for all our ills. These estates are set up in one corner of the county and are doing nothing to meet the needs of South-West Durham and the lower reaches of Tyneside and Wearside. I put a question a week or two ago about a township on Wearside called South Hylton, and asked whether the Minister of Labour was prepared to do anything for this township which had practically 80 per cent. of its insured population unemployed. The only answer I got was that the right hon. Gentleman thought the Pallion site would meet the situation.
I wish, in dealing with the question of unemployment, as far as Durham and Lancashire and other counties are concerned, that the Minister would get down to what in my view is the most vital question—the location of industry. Up to now the Government have seemed to take no interest whatever in this question, and consequently there is very little hope for the people in various parts of my county who have been unemployed for a number of years. I went into figures to find out exactly, if I could, what was happening as far as the location of industry and the setting up of new factories were concerned. I find that in 1936 in the Greater London area 256 new factories were set up giving employment to 22,500 people; in 1937, 215 new factories were set up in the Great London area giving employment to 15,850 people; a total of 471 factories, in two years giving employment to 38.350 people. In Durham, Northum- 126 berland and the North Riding of Yorkshire there were 14 new factories set up in 1930 giving employment to 4,800 people, and in 1937 19 new factories were set up giving employment to 1,350 people, or a total of 33 new factories in all these areas as against 471 in the Greater London area, giving employment to 6,150 persons as against 38,350 in the Greater London area. I grant that on the Team Valley Trading Estate upwards of 80 new factories have been established, giving employment up to December last to 1,813 people; but that does not meet the Durham problem. I asked the Minister whether we were not to get something other than the Team Valley Trading Estate and also when we could expect employment to take place in the Team Valley to any appreciable extent. The answer I got was that in 15 or 20 years' time we may have large numbers of people employed on the Team Valley Trading Estate.
I do not want to keep the Committee very long, but there are one or two points more with which I want to deal. One is the question of transference. I do not think there is any policy that has hit the home life of our people to a greater extent than transference. We are taking our boys and girls out of the Special Areas, from the parental roof, at an age when they ought to be under the control of father and mother, and transferring them to other counties. That is not fair to the county which has spent millions of pounds on those social services which are necessary to bring them up from infancy to the age of 14 or 15 plus. Durham as a county has gone through very severe industrial depression and has been hard hit by the Government's transference scheme. From 1932 up to March, 1938, we transferred 20,475 men, 8,106 women, 6,482 boys and 6,544 girls, a total in six years of 41,607 persons. Our plea in Durham is this: Do not take our youth out of the county and impoverish us as an area; give us new industries, bring new industries into the county, do not take our people away.
Travelling up to London this morning I looked at the "Times" and saw that there was a certain area, flourishing at the moment, to which people are going in hundreds and thousands, where the local authority is having to build houses and introduce social services in order to keep 127 pace with the large influx of people to the new industries. This local authority is concerned because it anticipates the time when the Government's rearmament programme will be completed, when the factories will be closed down and this large new population now being brought in will be no longer required. If the Government had been far-seeing they would have recognised this great basic principle, that the proper policy to adopt was to bring industries to the areas where labour is available. They have failed to do that and, therefore, the people are suffering in the process.
I am often interested in listening to the speeches of the Minister of Labour. He addresses this House as though everything is prosperous, as though everything is going well and everyone is more or less satisfied with the progress which is being made by the National Government. Again, I would like to give a few more figures on behalf of my own county. I find that the number of persons per 10,000 of the population in Durham who are in receipt of Poor Law relief is 639 as against an average for England and Wales of 256. Surely, if these figures are correct—and they are correct—it is time that the Government did something on behalf of this great county which has played its part in the past and has been to a great measure responsible for the success which this country has enjoyed in the years that have gone.
In 1937 Durham paid in public assistance£962,788, and during the same year there was paid in unemployment benefit and Unemployment Assistance Board allowances£3,613,233; a total of£4,576,021. In 1938, after seven years of National Government rule and after all these millions have been spent on armaments, we are going to spend by the end of this month£1,619,728 in Poor Law relief and, if the unemployment figures remain the same for this year as for last year, we shall spend in Durham on Poor Law relief and unemployment assistance£5,232,961. Does that suggest prosperity? Does it suggest that the National Government have met the case of the Special Areas? As one who is interested in my fellow men I submit that the Government have failed. They are not doing their work as they ought to do. I would that they would get down to this problem and tell the House whether or not they 128 have a policy to help these areas to rehabilitate themselves.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Trevor Cox
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) gave us this afternoon an interesting and informative speech. He said that the Government were showing consistent complacency in their handling of the unemployment problem. That is hardly the case, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour made this eminently clear in his remarkably effective speech, in which he showed beyond any measure of doubt that the Government have a constructive and far-sighted programme which has done, and is doing, a great deal to assist in the reduction of unemployment.
§ Mr. Cox
Take my own division? Since the National Government have been in office unemployment has been considerably reduced. When hon. Members opposite were in office there were about 11,000 people unemployed in that particular part of Cheshire, but to-day the figures are between 3,000 and 4,000. The hon. Member for Seaham complained that the Government's policy on unemployment was guided by men of safe judgment. Surely, that is an excellent recommendation. The hon. Member has given us due warning as to the character of the policy of hon. Members opposite if ever they get a chance of governing the country. The best way of helping the unemployed is to encourage and foster conditions which facilitate the expansion of industry and trade. That has been the policy of the Government during the last six or seven years, and it has met with a measure of success. Something like 20 trade agreements have been made during those years, and they have considerably assisted the external trade of this country. Reference has been made in the Debate to the Anglo-American Trade Treaty, which is undoubtedly a most important treaty that will bring substantial advantages to many important industries in this country.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Cox
I was pointing out that the Anglo-American Trade Treaty and the Agreement with the Argentine will bring substantial advantages to the cotton industry. In recent times there has been a remarkable expansion in Empire trade. 129 Let us consider the Ottawa Agreements, for instance. The hon. Member for Seaham said that he had no objection to figures, so perhaps he will be interested if I give a few. As a result of the Ottawa Agreements, there has been a considerable expansion in inter-Imperial trade, which has increased by approximately 60 per cent. between 1931 and 1937, while the proportion which this trade represents of the total Empire trade has increased from 25 per cent. in 1931 to 31 per cent, in 1937. That is a substantial advance in the right direction. Imports into the United Kingdom from the Ottawa Agreement countries have increased from£169,000,000 in 1931 to£292,000,000 in 1937, the corresponding figures for exports being£102,000,000 and£167,ooo,ooo respectively. It is also interesting to note that we now derive something like 29 per cent. of our total imports from these countries, as compared with 19½ per cent. in 1931. The Dominion countries purchased 32 per cent. of our exports, as compared with 26 per cent. in 1931. I am sure that hon. Members opposite will agree that that is a substantial advance in the right direction, and that undoubtedly that expansion of inter-Imperial trade has provided work for large numbers of our people. At the same time, it must be remembered that the share of the British Commonwealth in world trade has increased during those years. It has expanded from 26.7 per cent. in 1931 to nearly 30 per cent. in 1937.
§ Mr. Cox
I have shown, on general lines, that the expansion in inter-Imperial trade during recent years has been substantial. Turning now to general schemes of work to help the unemployed, I should like to make one or two observations with regard to the Estimates under Class V, Votes 10, 12 and 13. First of all, I hope that a large amount of work will be provided for young men and others in connection with defence measures and air-raid precautions. I have not the least doubt that a considerable amount of work will be found by those very necessary measures. I am not quite clear about the Minister's reference to camps. Are these centres to be set up as combined school camps, holiday centres and refuges in times of emergency, or will they have these attributes singly? I am 130 certain that these camps will be a complete success, and although they are to be set up on a limited scale, I hope they will be useful by ensuring greater safety in any crisis. I notice that Lord Snell recently stated that if this opportunity of building camps could do something to give young people a renewed interest in life, it would be a great contribution towards the general national well-being. Other leaders of that party have made speeches on those lines, and I think that is to be generally welcomed. There will be considerable capital expenditure on these camps. A large number of ancillary trades will be given work, and they will be capital assets in peace and in war, and the younger unemployed men will be able to help in the construction and upkeep of these centres.
With regard to special air-raid precautions, there is a great deal of work to be done. New trenches have to be dug for something like 3,000,000 persons and there will be much maintenance work to be carried out. All that will provide more work for the younger unemployed persons and for able-bodied elderly unemployed. I think that is to be generally welcomed. I would like to make one or two general observations on the question that was discussed by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) in his very interesting speech. He referred to industrial development and to the various trading estates and new factories that have been set up during the last two years. In the course of the Debate, efforts have been made to disparage the general work of the Special Commissioner for England and Wales, but I think it must be admitted by all impartial Members that the Special Commissioner has done remarkably good work. We must not forget that about£18,000,000 will be spent in regard to these schemes, which cover health schemes, grants to assist industries, and also plans for land settlement. To induce the setting up of factories in the Special Areas, offers of a contribution towards rent, rates and Income Tax were made to something like 75 different industrial undertakings during the period covered by the report.
On the Team Valley Trading Estate, near Gateshead, the number of completed factories is 103, of which 88 are in production, employing about 2,000 people, and tenants have been obtained for 18 others. Factories are also completed in 131 Pallion, near Sunderland; St. Helens; Auckland, Durham; and Tynemouth. On the South Wales trading estate at Treforest, 42 new factories have been established, of which 33 are occupied and giving employment, and a further 16 are under construction; and factories have also been completed or are under construction in several other districts in South Wales and West Cumberland. That advance in industrial development is being encouraged, and certainly it has brought work and regular wages to not inconsiderable numbers of persons. If we turn to the latest report of the Special Commissioner, we find that twice as many new factories have been set up in the Special Areas in 1937 as in 1936. I will not add to the interesting facts and figures that were given by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring with regard to Durham and the Tyneside, but I will say that out of 17 new factories that were set up, 12 were in Durham and the Tyneside area.
I want now to say a few words regarding Government sub-contract work on armament orders. Undoubtedly, this has provided work for large numbers of people. The Commissioner, in his report, is not able to give any estimate of the vast sums spent, but this system of bringing work to the men, and not men to the work, has undoubtedly succeeded. The Commissioner points out that the Government Departments spent no less than£47,000,000 in the Special Areas during the period from April, 1936, to August, 1938. We were recently reminded by the Minister that public works carried out by the Government directly or by local authorities with State grants during the last year for which we have a calculation amounted to no less than£300,000,000.
But the main problem with which we have to deal is that of long-term unemployment. About 280,000 men are involved. This refers to men who have been out of work for a year or more, and who represent 15 per cent, of the total. It must be admitted, however, that there has been, in recent years, a steady reduction in this figure. In May, 1933, it stood at 483,000, and it has been reduced to 280,000—a substantial improvement. I would like to say a few words about the question that was raised by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham 132 White). The hon. Member pointed out that there are about 146,000 men under the age of 35 whose unemployment has been so prolonged that they are no longer entitled to unemployment benefit, but are drawing unemployment allowances. About 80,000 of these men have had either no employment or less than six months employment during the last three years. I should like to make one or two small suggestions with regard to administration which might assist in this matter. Would it not be possible to alter some of the general regulations with regard to land settlement so that these men, if they so wished, could join some of the land settlement schemes? Apparently, under the present regulations, they are debarred from doing so if they are under the age of 35.
On the question of land settlement in general, of course land settlement is no solution of the unemployment problem, but it is a partial remedy. Recently, certain difficulties that had arisen have been met. They were due chiefly to a rise in the prices of feeding stuffs and equipment, and also the high rate of poultry disease. But many of the schemes are now making substantial progress. I am glad that glasshouse cultivation is to be extended to counter some of the difficulties that have arisen in other directions. Numbers of settlers have taken tenancies and ceased to draw unemployment allowances. There have been very few references in the last few unemployment Debates to the general question of land settlement. Some four years ago, the Minister of Agriculture set up a land settlement association to develop a scheme of land settlement for the unemployed and although this scheme is not yet complete there is substantial evidence to show that selected unemployed men can be put on the land and can earn a livelihood as smallholders. The association has some hundreds of tenants, the majority of whom appear to be doing well.
Land settlement for the unemployed must be upon an experimental basis, and the work of the association has been hampered to some extent by one or two narrow restrictions which have complicated the experiment. The first is that the selection of tenants has been almost limited to the Special Areas. There are other parts of the country, of which my 133 own constituency is one, where unemployment is high and where there are numbers of unemployed cotton workers and engineering trade workers who, if given a chance, would like to try the experiment of settling on the land and would probably make a success of it. I hope that the scope of the selection for land settlement schemes will be extended to all those parts of the country where unemployment is severe, but I must not discuss that subject further because it might entail legislation.
Another restriction which is placed on some of these schemes is that only men who have been for a long time out of work are eligible for selection. Everyone agrees that preference should be given to those who have been longest out of work, but it seems to me that those who are anxious to take advantage of these schemes should be allowed to put down their names for land settlement. This applies especially to the younger people, numbers of whom would, if given the chance, make a success in land settlement. Surely at a time like this when unemployment is such an urgent question, both in the Special Areas and elsewhere, men should be given the opportunity of going on to the land if they wish to do so. Nor is it easy to judge of past land settlement schemes, with their vast potentialities for the relief of unemployment, when the selection is restricted to those who, through no fault of their own, have become virtually unemployable. I hope that these restrictions will be removed. I feel that the opportunities for settlement on the land which the association is able to offer should be extended, not only to the unemployed industrial worker but also to the rural unemployed, and especially those who have drifted into the large towns but would willingly go back to the land if the chance were given them. Hon. Members on all sides lament the drift from the countryside. This is one method of arresting that drift which should be employed especially at a time when, as the Minister of Agriculture has recently pointed out, it is essential to increase the food supply of this island.
I also welcome the statement from the Minister of Labour indicating his policy with regard to cottage homesteads. This Continental system has been tried in various countries like Denmark and has brought great advantages to unemployed workers. It has also been initiated in the 134 Special Areas. Among the unemployed there are, unfortunately, some who are never likely to be employed again on account either of age or physical disability and these will continue to draw unemployment allowances for long periods. No scheme has ever been put forward to alleviate their lot or to ensure that their families will be brought up in improved conditions. I think the cottage homestead system, at any rate, offers a healthy occupation to those men who unfortunately must live by State assistance for a considerable period. It would enable them to grow food which they probably could not afford to buy; it would ensure that their families would be brought up in a healthy natural atmosphere, and they would feel that they were playing a useful part among their fellow-men. otherwise, they lose heart and become discouraged. I understand that the programme of cottage homesteads at present envisaged by the Government is on a very limited scale, being virtually restricted to the transfer of families from one part of the country to another where the chances of employment for the children are good. While I would naturally support a scheme which has certainly brought not inconsiderable advantages to many families in the past, I fail to see why it should be limited in this way. A cottage homestead is equally desirable for the unemployed man who has no grown-up children. There is not much point in removing such a man from the area to which he is accustomed.
This country is engaged on the largest programme of rehousing the working class which has even been attempted in its history. Surely it is a sound and reasonable proposition that a proportion of these houses should take the form of cottage homesteads for that section of the community which is now without work. As I say, the experiment has been an unqualified success in Denmark. It would not involve any great expense to the taxpayer. I understand that these homesteads could be erected with no greater subsidies from the Exchequer than those which the Government are prepared to give in any case towards slum clearance and overcrowding schemes. I doubt, however, whether in an operation of this kind which involves planning over a wide area, the local authority is the only body which should be entrusted with the task. 135 There is a strong case for a central body such as the Land Settlement Association being allowed to put up cottage homesteads in any part of the country where there is a demand for them and in conformity with the movement of population which goes on every year, from one part of the country to another. I, personally, would like to see the land settlement organisation constituted in such a way that a comprehensive scheme of this kind could be put into operation.
I have given the Committee a few facts to show that comprehensive and far-sighted measures are being carried out, month by month and year by year, which have brought undoubted advantages to unemployed persons. I do not believe that there is any alternative policy worthy of support. I notice that the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald), who is not now in his place, said in the last Debate on this subject that the only cure for unemployment was Socialism. I presume, therefore, that the doctrine of Socialism is put forward as the only alternative. But I could not help noting that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) made a speech recently at Dundee in which he said that to insist to-day on the pure doctrine of Socialism, and nothing but Socialism, would be a great national disaster, and I think that in making that statement the hon. and learned Member had every right to claim that he spoke for the great mass of British working-class people in these islands.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. C. Brown
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Trevor Cox), who has just resumed his seat, has made a very interesting speech, from the point of view that it is characteristic of a number of speeches that we hear from hon. Members opposite on this question of unemployment. I was rather amazed at some of his arguments, because none of them disproved the fact, which is the major fact to which our attention is being directed to-day, that at present we have on any given day in this country nearly 2,000,000 unemployed, and nothing that the hon. Member said led those of us on this side to believe that by the policies which he outlined there would be, within any reasonable measure of time, any consider- 136 able improvement in that situation. What were the policies which he outlined and to which he pledged his faith? First of all, he told us of the advantages that were to come to us through the American Trade Treaty, then he told us about the advantages that had accrued to his division in connection with the Argentine Agreement, and then he talked about the percentage increase in inter-Imperial trade, and, running over a number of other things, he pledged his faith, so far as any possible improvement of this problem is concerned, to those things.
Later on, he made what I regarded as some amazing statements, especially when talking about land settlement. Surely he knows the rate at which people are leaving the land in this country. Does he not think it would be a good thing if the Government, before talking about land settlement, took, first of all, preventive measures to keep those on the land who are already there? Let us first of all have something done by the Government that will make it possible for those now on the land to get a decent living there, and then we can talk about settling others on the land. The hon. Member's speech was merely interesting for the fact that it represented a typical attitude of mind on the part of many hon. Members opposite when they approach this problem, and indeed it is but an echo of what the Minister of Labour said earlier in this Debate, when he hinted that the Government depended entirely for any improvement in this problem on what he called normal trade improvement.
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech with the usual sentences expressing great sympathy with and consideration for the unemployed and making general remarks with which all of us who are concerned with that aspect of the problem agree, but then the right hon. Gentleman turned to my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) and, just because my hon. Friend had said that the Government were complacent about this problem, he said that it was common form for that to be said from these benches. I retort and say that it is common form for sympathy to be expressed from the Government Benches when little is done in regard to this problem. I think the remark that the right hon. Gentleman made about my hon. Friend was rather unworthy of him, seeing that he himself was expressing mere 137 general sympathy with the unemployed. I was amazed, at a later stage in his speech, when he called our attention to the fact that last year—and this is a statement made also by another hon. Member—the Employment Exchanges throughout the country filled 3,000,000 jobs, and he went on to say that that was only one-third of the jobs which were filled last year. I interposed at that point and asked whether that meant that 9,000,000 people changed their jobs last year, and in some mysterious manner the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that that was not the case. But if that is not the case, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary, when he speaks later, will explain what really does happen in connection with the other two-thirds or 6.000,000 jobs.
I would really like to know, because if (here is any element of truth in the picture which the Minister drew for us by using those figures, surely the outstanding fact in the statement of the Minister is that 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 people have such insecure employment in this country that they change their jobs in the course of a year. That is an appalling statement to make. The Minister used figures to prove that our system was elastic and resilient and, therefore, a good system and that in the long run it worked out all right so long as you had normal trade development and expansion. I entirely refuse to accept that argument. If you know anything about the day-to-day experiences of ordinary working-class life, you cannot for a moment believe that to have to change your job regularly or frequently gives you any sort of satisfaction at all. Surely no one believes that that is the case. Men and women in employment for fairly long periods of time get far more satisfaction out of their jobs than if they have to change them regularly owing to the operation of the present economic organisation.
I want now to make some general observations on this problem, not that I expect to be able to contribute very much new to it. I am going to say things that have been said from these benches in other ways before, and there is no reason why they should not be said again, because hon. Members opposite, during the whole of the 10 years during which I have been in this House, have been saying the same things whenever we have discussed this problem. Therefore, it does 138 not affect me in the slightest degree when they chide us because we are prone perhaps to say similar things to what we have been saying for a considerable time past. I will assume that no hon. Member opposite who supports the Government is really satisfied with the present position. I think that is a fair assumption; at any rate, I hope it is. If they consider what the effects of prolonged unemployment are, both on individuals and on families, they really cannot be satisfied with the existing state of things. I could give specific instances of what I mean, but time does not allow it. Let us confront the naked facts. The Government have been in office—not exactly the same individuals, but the same Government in effect—for the last seven years. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have changed their jobs!"] Well, but we live in a job-changing system, and I am afraid that I did not see the full significance of the Minister's remark earlier to-day in that connection. If I had done so, I would have reminded him of that fact, which must be very familiar to him as a member of this Government, but I notice that he sticks in his job longer than most Ministers, and, therefore, he certainly ought to do something to make it possible for a large number of people in the country to stick in their jobs a great deal longer. The naked fact remains that after seven years of the National Government we still have round about 2,000,000 people unemployed. I know it is said that they are not the same people every day. We had one hon. Member emphasising that point and saying that there are new jobs to be taken up every day and that numbers of people have to fill these new jobs, but he did not complete the story. There are at the same time jobs that people lose every day, and he only put before us one side of the picture. Although there are new jobs created that some fill, others lose their jobs. I suppose this is due to the fluidity of the system and to the necessity to keep it fluid and moving in this way.
I know that over this period the figures have sometimes risen and sometimes fallen, and I know that quite a lot of people, even hon. Members opposite, are not satisfied with the present level of those figures. The indications of relative, if not of complete, failure of the Government to deal with this problem must be admitted by everyone with the figures 139 standing at the level at which they are to-day. One could exercise some degree of patience in regard to the matter if one felt that the Government were really doing anything which would lead to a solution, but they seem to be completely bankrupt of any new idea for solving the problem. No one who listened to the Minister could deny that fact. As far as I have been able to discover, his recital of what has been done shows that in the seven years of the Government's office only one new idea has been put into operation, and that is in regard to the trading estates. That idea was talked about before, but it is a new one so far as the Government are concerned. Everybody knows that that scheme is a relative failure. The Minister has said that it will be one of the great industrial romances of our age, but it will be a long time before it brings very solid benefits to large numbers of people.
May I put in a complaint about some of these trading estates? There are industries which have developed in other parts of the country in which certain standards of life for the workers have been built up over a period of years, and attempts may be made to start those industries on the trading estates. I have in mind a particular industry which concerns my own division. When one of these industries goes to a trading estate there is a tendency for the standards to be undermined and for prices to be undercut, especially where there are piece-work rates. The industry which I have in mind is generally run by the operatives being paid piece-work rates. I would ask the Minister to keep an eye on this matter and to see that the standards are not lowered and the prices are not cut. Hon. Members talk about 1930 and 1931, and I am prepared to listen to all the criticisms that can be brought against the Labour Government of those days. I am prepared also to give to the National Government all the credit which is due to them for what they have done about unemployment. They have done precious little, but we will give them all the credit they deserve.
Hon. Members must face this fact, however. In 1930 and 1931 we had a system of Free Trade. Then the Government introduced the system of Protection, which was held up as a solution of the unemployment problem. There was 140 actually in my constituency in those years a man who challenged me to a debate on Protection versus Free Trade, and undertook that if what he said about Protection curing unemployment was not true he would make a donation of£50 to the local hospital. That view was strongly held among supporters of the party opposite, but in practice it has not turned out to be what was expected. We know that we have the problem of unemployment whether we have Free Trade or Protection. Why then should hon. Members opposite pour scorn on us when we suggest that unemployment is inherent in the existing economic system? I suggest that hon. Members opposite and the big people behind them do not want to cure unemployment.
§ Mr. Pilkington
Can the hon. Member say how many jobs have been filled since the Tariff system was introduced?
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot from memory. I concede the point that a number of jobs have been filled since the tariff system was put into operation, but as jobs were created in some industries because of tariffs, other jobs were lost in other industries for the same reason. The consequence is that we still have the problem as pressing and as urgent as ever it was. In view of this fact, why should hon. Members opposite pour contempt and ridicule on people who say that this problem is inherent in the economic organisation? Why should they complain when some of us suggest that there are people who do not want a solution of the problem? If it were solved wages would rise because there would not be in the background any surplus of labour. Men would be able to demand ever increasing wages. Behind those who are in employment you must have some who are not, because they stand there all the time ready to be put into work and to be given jobs if those who have jobs complain too much about their conditions and demand wages which the employers do not want to pay. Hon. Members opposite want to maintain the existing economic organisation where industry is privately owned and controlled. They want to maintain over the whole range of industrial investment the average rate of profit. They can do that only if there is a surplus reservoir of unemployed people.
I would say to those who are really concerned about this problem that they 141 should not speak so contemptuously of the solutions that are sometimes suggested from this side, but should give them a little more careful examination. The party opposite have had their chance and have not solved the problem. If they fail, as it seems to me they will, we shall still have this standing army of nearly 2,000,000 unemployed. It is suggested in certain circles that the total may increase when the armaments boom comes to an end. I do not see any end to that boom, judging from present conditions. The Minister ascribed unemployment to what he called the general conditions of insecurity that obtained, and said that if we could banish those conditions there would be employment on an ever-increasing scale; confidence would grow up and everybody would find a job. Did not that feeling exist before the present widespread insecurity obtained in the world? Was not that the problem pressing then? If it was, what right has the Minister to say that if we could get greater confidence and security, the problem would be solved? There would be some improvement perhaps, but there would be no solution. Having listened for 10 years to Debates on unemployment in the House, I am driven more and more to the conclusion that this problem is insoluble-inside the present economic organisation. The Government will not solve it by any of the methods which they are pursuing. Here and there and now and then they can find ameliorative measures, but no solution of the problem.
The Minister of Labour must occasionally look back wistfully to the days when he sat upon the Liberal benches on this side of the House, because nowadays, although he is so very buoyant, and sometimes gay, and sometimes provocative, he must feel that in spite of all that has happened in the intervening years we are really no nearer the solution of the problem. He told us that it is not his job to find employment, and quoted something to show that in the days of the Labour Government they took up the same attitude. He said that his job was concerned with the task of administration, but he is a member of the Cabinet, and this question must on occasions be discussed even by that august body; or am I to take it that the question of unemployment is never discussed in the Cabinet? Is it one of those minor matters that Ministers do not concern themselves 142 about? Are they more concerned with foreign policy, subsidies, and things of that sort? Do they not give any attention to unemployment at Cabinet meetings? If they do, surely the right hon. Member does not then concern himself merely with questions of administration. Surely he must then have something to say on the general issue; because behind this figure of 2,000,000 unemployed there must be at least 5,000,000 people who, owing to the insecurity of employment under existing conditions, lead a life of harassment, even of suffering, even of dire need and sometimes of extreme poverty, and I suggest that this problem is worthy of greater and more consistent effort than has been given to it by this National Government during the whole seven years it has been in office.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Pilkington
The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) has given us a long and a vigorous speech in which he made, I think, some constructive suggestions, but in which he also made one or two accusations to which I should like to draw attention. First, he said that suggestions for curing unemployment which came from his side of the Committee were met with ridicule by the Government. I do not think that that is a fair statement. I think that every constructive proposal made from any quarter is given due consideration by the Government. His second accusation was a very serious one. He said there were certain people in this party who did not want to solve the problem of unemployment. I would put one consideration to him—that if the unemployed were completely absorbed that would in itself increase the purchasing power of the nation as a whole, and do not employers generally want to increase that purchasing power, if only for their own sakes?
§ Mr. Pilkington
If it were only a question of making profits for themselves, they would want to increase the purchasing power of the nation. I have every sympathy with the Opposition tonight. They have seized upon this figure of 2,000,000 unemployed, which is, I admit, a very terrible figure, and they are pursuing it vigorously. To hear them talk, one would not think that only a few 143 short years ago, when they themselves were in power, there were not only nearly 1,000,000 more unemployed but 2,500,000 fewer men in jobs, and that is a partial answer to the hon. Member's statement that the tariff system had not done anything towards curing unemployment.
§ Mr. C. Brown
I did not say the tariff system had not done anything at all. I should be the last person in the world to say that. I only said that it has not cured unemployment.
§ Mr. Pilkington
I am very glad that the hon. Member has made that addition to what he said. That 2,500,000 more people should be in employment is not something to be dismissed as "very little" I suggest there are three headings under which the existing unemployment in the country can be absorbed. First, by an increase in the internal trade of the country, and I claim that the Government have given considerable stimulus to that during the last few years. Secondly, there should be an increase in the external trade of the country. In the past the Government have not been so successful in this direction, but I am glad to say that at the present moment they are pursuing that side of our economic life with more vigour than heretofore. Recently we have made a treaty with the United States, and have in prospect the trade visits to both Germany and Russia, and I think the result of those activities will be substantially to increase our export trade and so to reduce unemployment. The third general heading under which unemployment can be absorbed I would describe as public works. By that I mean anything which is necessary or desirable for the country as a whole but which is not immediately a matter of direct gain for the instigator. I mean the extension of undertakings by the Government under existing laws and by local authorities: our road system can be improved, our farm lands improved, the amenities of our towns improved and a big extension of A.R.P. work undertaken. It is sometimes said that even if this method were pursued further than it has been in the past it would not, in actual fact, absorb sufficient men to justify the expenditure needed. The obstacle to this system is, in one word, the cost.
I turn then—and here I am in agreement with some points raised from the 144 other side—to another form of public works, equally necessary, equally desirable but even less directly economically productive than are the public works which I have been suggesting. I refer, of course, to rearmament. Why should it be that money can be found for one and not for the other?
§ Mr. E. Brown
If my hon. Friend will permit me to interrupt him I should like to point out that last year the amount actually spent in public works by the Government was not less than£300,000,000.
§ Mr. Pilkington
I am very glad to have that figure from my right hon. Friend. It would be very desirable if he could give us the corresponding figure showing the number of men put into employment by that expenditure. It is very necessary to have that figure. What is the good of our being the richest country in the world if we cannot use our wealth to absorb these unemployed, either by a system of public works or some better system? It should be made to work so that we do not have this great number of unemployed. If the obstacle is cost, the Government should continue the steps which, to some extent, they have already taken, and control our economic system so that it serves our needs better than it does at the present time. I recognise that steps have already been taken in that direction in connection with the Exchange Equalisation Fund and the Gold Value Bill. A continuation of such steps will put us more into control of our economic system, but we must act quickly. Large numbers of people are now on the employment register, but that number will not increase in the years to come. It will decrease. The problem is therefore immediate, and it should be dealt with immediately, because unemployment is rotting the young generation.
The country would like an assurance from the Government that when rearmament comes to an end, there will not be a great increase in the number of unemployed and that there is a plan prepared to switch over to some other form of public works the men, money and energy now being used on rearmament. The Minister said in his speech that the biggest real cure for unemployment was an increase in national security, but on that point I agree with the hon. Member opposite who pointed out that the slump started when there was a greater 145 degree of international security than there is at the present moment. That in itself is not a sufficient answer to unemployment. The second thing which the country would like from the Government is a plan whereby there could be a sliding scale so that if unemployment increased in this country, owing to causes over which we have no control in Europe and the world, there could then be a corresponding increase in the volume of internal work for employment in this country, in the nature of public works of some sort or another. The feeling of security engendered by it in this country would have a tremendous effect upon the nation as a whole. I cannot believe that finance is an insuperable barrier to some plan of that kind.
I have three comparatively minor points to put to the Minister and the first refers to the employment of Irish in this country. It has already been answered to a large extent by the Minister, and I am glad that he told us as much as he did. It was put forward in no sense as an attack upon the Irish as such, and there is no question of racial persecution. It is only a question of whether our own people come first when there is work to be given or a supporting of them on unemployment payments of various sorts. That is the point which those interested in this question have tried to present. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said that we ought to be responsible for everybody within the Empire, and he asked why what he called a Colony should be excluded from the benefits of this country. I would reply that the first responsibility of a Dominion is to its own people and that our responsibility should likewise be first to our own citizens. I have never been able to discover the number of people who are actually involved and I should be glad if the Minister could give us some idea of the figure. The taxpayers have a right to know the number of people not citizens of this country whom they are supporting in one way or another.
The Minister said that vacancies at rearmament works were in future to be notified at the Employment Exchanges, and that is a very good thing. Surely all labour should go through those exchanges. The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Errington) mentioned accusations which are being made at a very great number of places about armament firms. 146 I understood from another part of the Minister's speech that the Ministry of Transport have made it a rule that all employment shall be obtained from the Employment Exchanges. Would it be possible for that scheme to be extended to all Departments, in general fairness? Secondly I have tried to get from the Ministry, hitherto in vain, the number of people employed in the improvement of our road system. The Minister has given me the amount of money expended under that head but it is essential for us to know the figure of employment and the number of men absorbed as a result of that expenditure. What is the use of launching a great five-year plan if we cannot know the number of people that the plan will absorb? I ask whether it is possible for us to be told the number of people employed generally on roads and bridges.
My third and last point is a partially local one and is to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will do something to help the men employed in docks, particularly in Liverpool. At the present moment men who live in many eases seven or eight miles away have to go into the city and sign on twice a day at the exchanges.
§ Mr. Pilkington
This means very great hardship to those people. I have put down a question to the Minister and I know that he is waiting for the result of an experiment at Hartlepool. I do not know how long we are to go on waiting. It is months, even a year, since I first put the question to him. Letting alone the experiment, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Department could do something to remove the unnecessary hardship from these unemployed men. Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to answer my three specific points. I suppose the other questions are more for the Government as a whole. I suggest that my plan or something better should be pushed forward with courage and persistence. We have to get rid of unemployment, above all now when we are trying to lead the world towards real sanity and peace.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Leonard
I have only one point to put before the Committee, because the details of unemployment in Scotland have on many occasions been portrayed by my 147 Scottish colleagues and must be well fixed in the Minister's mind. The Minister placed before the Committee the problem of unemployment not only in the distressed areas but also in other parts of the country, and I want to deal with the matter from the point of view that Scotland played its part in the well-being of the country as a whole. It cannot be denied that the people of Scotland did apply themselves to the giving of service in directions for which they were especially fitted, and in the pre-war structure of the country shipping and the movement of goods were dominant factors in its prosperity. In that sphere of activity the facilities of the West Coast of Scotland were predominant in Great Britain, and, with the proximity of coal and iron, shipbuilding also played a great part in providing employment in Scotland. The East of Scotland, also, is intimately connected with the export trade. Shipping is prominent there, particularly in the port represented by the Minister himself, and the linen and jute industries have contributed to make that part of Scotland prosperous. Its prosperity, however, as in the case of the West of Scotland has always been determined by the movement of goods.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the position, because the economic structure of the world has completely changed since the War. Now the position appears to be that every country has taken a leaf out of our book, and, instead of trying to get a trade balance, they are all stampeding after what is called a favourable trade balance, that it to say. a little more than they are really entitled to; while we, with other countries, are pursuing the stupid idea that we can sell to everyone, buy from no one, and hope to keep whatever change there is at home. In my opinion that cannot be done. Since 1932, Scotland has suffered more than any other part of Great Britain. It has borne an extremely heavy burden, especially in the West, and, while we have been able to escape from what was looked upon as a temporary trade depression, we are now informed by the economic pundits that we are entering a trade recession. I do not know that a trade recession is going to be any happier than a trade depression. I should like to quote from the report which has been issued on Scotland's industrial future, which in a terse 148 manner puts the position as I see it. On page 19, after some preliminary references, the report says:It has been computed, for instance, that the total sum of£300,000,000 per annum announced by the Government as required for defence purposes during the next five years is approximately only some 8 per cent. of the total annual turnover of British industry, amounting to about£4,000,000,000 a year. Thereafter such percentage may probably be expected to sink to half the amount, referring mainly to expenditure on maintenance and replacements. Further, it is to be remembered that, while rearmament is a national duty, every order for this purpose is strictly speaking unproductive and diverts the industry concerned, pro tanto, from efforts to maintain and expand its foreign markets.That is the picture, as seen by industrialists in Scotland, of the programme of rearmament. The report goes on to say:Meanwhile, and in any case, the increase over a year in the unemployment figures during a time acclaimed in many quarters, and with some justification, as approaching the conditions of a (minor) boom period, is a disquieting symptom. This clearly indicates the need, so far as concerns Scotland, where these conditions have applied mainly to the heavy industries, of a broadened basis of national economy such as would import more stability into the country's economic structure, and enable Scotland to share more fully than at present in supplying the effective demands of the domestic market in consumer goods, so as to escape, pro tanto, from the full effect, to which Scotland has hitherto been exposed, of international difficulties over which no control is possible.Therefore, Scotland is looking to the domestic market as a means of escaping from the conditions we are discussing to-night, and in my opinion the domestic market is not being attended to in detail and with sufficient investigation into its requirements to meet the situation. I remember reading an exhaustive research into the requirements of the home market, which presented some astounding particulars of the domestic requirements in the ordinary homes of the people of this country. It showed that, apart from food, apart from clothing and so on, the ordinary domestic utensils required in the household presented a very great market which is not being attended to at present, and to which, so far as I know, no effort is being made to attend.
It is true that we have trading estates. We have one near Glasgow. As a cabinet maker I was interested to find that a furniture factory had been placed there, with all the subventions that are attached to such a location. But the understand- 149 ing that it would introduce and exploit some new commodity was entirely eroneous. That factory which is receiving all the help that comes to it by virtue of its position, is competing with factories which have been struggling in the past to do their best for their workpeople and for the country at large, and which now have to face this new competition which is actively undercutting them, and that without any reference to its personnel or where they came from. I notice that the report of the Clydesdale Bank—an institution kindly disposed towards the Government—states that among the new factories that have been started in this Special Area is a wood-wool factory. It has been placed in a small township outside Glasgow, which has not had a very heavy burden of unemployment to bear; by a man from another country—I do not like, and do not usually use, the term "foreigner"—who had previously imported the material into this country. He now comes here with his machines and employs three men to make the wood wool, using for the purpose pit-props which come in duty free, and thus immediately jeopardises the employment of 25 men in a Glasgow firm who were engaged in the sale and distribution of this wood wool in the general market of the country. No one can say that that is attending to the problem; indeed, it is making the position worse. We shall have to see to it that the home market is attended to, and that we have a greater share in it than we have had up to the present.
That brings me to the question of the location of industry. We have waited long enough for the report of the Royal Commission, and now we desire that immediate attention should be paid to it. It is a clamant need that the Commission should present its report, and that the Minister should take the guidance he may receive from it. My opinion is that the increasing production of materials by automatic machinery will not meet the problem. Machines do not eat anything, do not wear anything, do not go anywhere for holidays, and their use is involving us in greater difficulties than in the past. The Government should take steps to see that the purchasing power of the people is attended to; all other steps that may be taken are mere nostrums. We have people staggering under a burden of poverty that should make us all feel ashamed. In attending to their needs, 150 there is an opportunity to help home production and the home market. I do not deny that the Government have spent great sums in endeavouring to prime the pump of industry, but they have put their priming water into the wrong channels. If they spent the money on improving the purchasing power of the common people, they would get results. I would press the Minister for some statement with regard to what the Government are doing in connection with the location of industry, and, as a final point, what he is prepared to do to see that Scotland has a fair share of those types of industry which help the market for consumers' goods, instead of being content, as in the past, with capital industries.
§ 9.17 p.m.
I have followed the Debate very closely, and one thing that stands out, in my opinion, is that the Minister has made out of his Department the most capable administrative machine we have seen in a Government office for a long time. I want to pay tribute to the improvement I see in my own constituency, in the courtesy and the general demeanour of those who come under his Department. This is an improvement that has come about as the direct result, I believe, of the personal intervention of our energetic Minister.
I want to say, quite frankly, that while the Labour party were in office we had not nearly the same consideration as we have now. I do not think there is anybody in the country who is not concerned with the problem of unemployment. It is a blot on our whole existence. It is something that will have to be removed. When I hear these Debates on unemployment I feel that it is the President of the Board of Trade, and not the Minister of Labour, that we should be tackling about this. The President of the Board of Trade has a direct responsibility for the employment of the people of this country.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I should like an explanation of a statement which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" on 6th March. The President of the Board of Trade, addressing the North-Western Area Conservative Women's Advisory Committee, was reported by the "Manchester Guardian" as follows: 151Eliminating the number of people on the register who were merely changing their jobs and various specialised types of workers, this meant, he suggested, that for all practical purposes, unemployment in the country was solved
I cannot compete with the "Manchester Guardian" and their opinions, but do not forget that sympathy in this country is not confined to the Labour party. We have just as much practical application to the problem, and probably a little bit more. We have got to apply ourselves in a proper practical manner. The problem is not going to be solved by merely talking about it; something quite definite has to be done. When I analyse these figures of unemployment, I first look at the alarming number who have left the land of England since the War. We have nearly 400,000 fewer employed on the land of England than in 1918. This 400,000 is quite a substantial proportion of the 2,000,000 who are unemployed—and they are not feeding the same number of people either. We have an increased population. We have come to rely too much on other people doing our job for us. We have to secure more markets for ourselves at home. What value these people would be as purchasing units for the people who live in the towns and produce—to the coal trade, to the clothing trade, to the constituents of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown), who make boots and shoes
We have to ask ourselves, where are we going to put people back to work? Are we going to find any great scope in the further building up of the engineering industry? When the armaments industry is slowing down, there will be more unemployment in engineering than there is to-day. Are you going to get any expansion in the shipbuilding industry? It is probably as busy as it has been for a very long time. Take the textile industry. Reference has been made to the situation in Lancashire in connection with cotton. Can we look for expansion there? I do not think we can see a very rapid expansion there. In the present disordered world there must be definite and positive steps taken by the Government to deal with a situation which is quite extraordinary. There is a situation in foreign affairs which has left world trade in a difficult and vulnerable position, and during the interval before nations return to sanity, as one hopes they will, special 152 steps must be taken to deal with this volume of people who are being thrown out of work to-day.
If the hon. Member will allow me to proceed on my own lines I think I shall proceed better. There is this situation which must be handled. Unless some definite steps are taken, the comparative figure of unemployment in the totalitarian countries and the democracies will become a subject of criticism amongst the workers of the world. There is in Germany no unemployment at all. [Interruption.]After all it is a situation that does not exist in other countries, and it needs examination. I do not agree with the way that a number of the German people are employed, but, at any rate, they have not only got no unemployment, but they are asking other countries to send workers. [An HON. MEMBER: "At what rates of pay?"] I do not think we need go into that. It is a question of the system. I do not advocate that system, but, at the same time, in the circumstances in which the world finds itself at this moment it does come up for examination.
How have the Germans done it? It is not entirely due to the fact of their building up a great military machine. They have tackled the problem of the roads in a substantial way; they have tackled the problem of the public services and buildings in a way in which it has never been tackled in any other country in Europe. Whatever it is, they have got something for their money, something which has made their country better equipped to deal with world trade, and we cannot afford to ignore an example that has been set in that way. We may not want to do it in their way, and I hope we shall not, still it does show what can be done by determination and by a definite specific programme planned out beforehand. The programme that we have pursued in this country since the War has been far too spasmodic. There never has been steady driving and planning ahead, with something definite and positive in front of us. And the responsibility for that is not confined to any single party; everybody must take his share. We know that there are many things that are obsolete in this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Government."] I am glad to think that we 153 have got a Government in power with such sound common sense. With some Governments we should have no hope at all.
There is a great deal of work that could be carried out. Why should there be an enormous delay in dealing with the problem of bad housing? This has been going on for 20 years. It ought to be tackled in four or five years and a great army of people put on it. Here is a great problem that has scarcely been touched in London. In the East End practically nothing has been done. Then there is the problem of the roads. Surely, with the modern methods of transportation, we must adapt ourselves to the times by building adequate roads to carry the commerce of this country and be a business asset to us afterwards. Another problem is that of our harbours. This is a matter which has been neglected by every Government since the War. There has not been a reasonable new harbour built in this country since the War, although we are a maritime Power. Opportunities will then be given to our merchant service and fishermen that do not at present exist. I have a suggestion to make that concerns Yorkshire, and my own constituency in particular At Filey we have deep water which will float any ship of the British Fleet We require a harbour there. We have wanted it for a considerable time. Between Hull and Newcastle there is no place where ships can put in in rough weather. A project of that kind would provide substantial employment.
There is, in short, a vast field of public work on which, I hope, the Government will embark now. We do not want to see large numbers of men unemployed for long periods and losing every bit of skill they ever possessed. We want those men to be employed on some work that will help them to keep their self-respect and give them confidence in the country. There are also vast opportunities in the country districts for the further extension of water supplies. In my own division we have been able during the past few years, through the help of the National Government, to provide 50 or 60 villages with water for the first time. And with the problem of water comes the problem of sewage. We want facilities for carrying our sewage schemes in country districts, which would create much employment. I want to say something now about food production. As I have said, this 154 country since the War has seen 400,000 people leave the land. We must take definite steps now to see that the total production of food is increased, and to enable people to go back to the land in sufficient numbers.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Member says the important thing is to get these men back to the land. Will he be in favour of removing the parasitic landlords who are depopulating the land, especially in Scotland?
I understand there is one country which took away everything that anybody possessed, and I think the hon. Member is more familiar with it than I am. But this question of putting people on the land ought not to be a party or political question, and we ought to get away from the cheap food cry in the towns. There is no reason why the towns should be fed on cheap foods at the expense of the rural population, and I do not think anybody on any side of the House wants it. Give our farmers and their workpeople a reasonable opportunity of making a profit on the land and you will find that it will open a reservoir of employment which is at the present time dried up. I am hoping for good results from the appointment of the new Minister of Agriculture when he finally puts his policy before the House, and I hope he will be able to provide opportunities that do not occur now. I would like to ask the Minister of Labour if he will examine the position of the inshore fishermen. He promised some years ago that an opportunity would be given for these men to come within the scope of unemployment insurance. After all, they are working men and they have to rely for a living on their meagre earnings.
I did not realise that that was so. I will leave it at that, because they are a very deserving lot of people, and at the moment they are having a very difficult time. I should like to ask the Minister what he is doing about training domestic servants to take the place of the Germans and Austrians 155 who are leaving this country, in May of this year I understand, in large numbers. I think there are 7,000 of them who are leaving this country and whose jobs, I hope, will be taken and kept by English girls employed under reasonable conditions. I should be glad to learn what the Ministry are doing about that. The question of the location of industry is most important, and we ought to have a report as early as it can be produced. The gravest distress has been caused in many parts of the country because industries have migrated to districts that really did not need further population, and many districts have been deprived not only of rateable value and valuable employment, but have been put into a very serious financial state, whereas, if those industries had been properly located, they would probably have been in a better position from the point of view of the general benefit to the community if that report had been presented and there had been some control over the location of industry in the future.
I want to raise a point in connection with the mining industry, about which I know a little. What has happened to the various promises to deal with the great problem of the extraction of oil from coal which, if developed, would give immense employment to large numbers of unemployed miners? Substantial Government help has been given in various directions with a view to examining the situation to see whether it would reflect on the general body of our mining community. The mining community looks upon this problem with the greatest possible interest, and I hope that the Ministry of Labour will examine in some way the possibilities of further help in that direction, or, at any rate, that they will give us the advantage of the experience which which they have had so far.
Finally, with the problem of unemployment at the high level it is to-day, I wish the Ministry of Labour could take a little more advantage of the British Broadcasting Corporation. I believe that they could, through the B.B.C., do something to bring to the general notice of the people the great difficulties of many districts. If the B.B.C. could make a more general and wider appeal for employment for people from specified districts at different times, I think that we might have better 156 and more far-reaching results. I hope that the Minister will examine that angle of publicity, so that the position may be brought home to many thousands who at the present time take very little interest in this very vital problem, and possibly induce them to give a greater amount of help than they do at the present time.
I want again to say how much the unemployed in my district appreciate the better attention and care that they are having under the existing conditions at the Ministry, and I hope that our problem will, with the concentrated attention of the National Government, become less and less in the future. I sincerely hope that the solution of this problem will be found by a greater employing capacity on the land, without which I cannot see the great structure of industry carrying on in the substantial way that has been the case in the past.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
We have just witnessed a most interesting struggle between a man's conscience and party loyalty. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite) has told us very definitely that the Minister of Labour has done nothing really to face up to the problem of unemployment, and yet he started and finished his speech by congratulating the Minister upon his kindness to his particular constituency. How much more helpful it would be if the speeches we hear, particularly from the younger men on the benches opposite, were backed up by some act in supporting us occasionally when we want to get something done about it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that it required something more than speech, but he could not tell us much more than the speeches we have had from the Government about unemployment.
He touched on one subject upon which, I think, he knows, something, and that is the building of houses, or the brick business. I want to draw the attention of the Minister to the particular problem in my division which has to do with bricks. In one of the earlier reports of the Commissioner for the Special Areas it was pointed out that one way in which we must really deal with the Special Areas problem was for all the municipalities within the areas to buy their goods as far as possible within the Special 157 Areas. A great deal could be done, and yet to-day the Minister of Labour told me, in answer to a question, that he had no authority to interfere with this particular problem. We have brickworks within the Special Area of the North-East Coast and they use a very considerable amount of coal, and yet we are permitting bricks from the South of England and the Midlands to be dumped into that Special Area. They use about one-third of the amount of coal, and they are supplying these bricks at cut prices, assisted by special rates from the railway company. Will the Minister inquire into that matter? Special railway rates are given in prosperous areas where there is very little unemployment in order to assist brick manufacturers to dump bricks upon the Special Area of Northumberland and Durham, thus throwing a good many men out of work. This very important problem requires attention.
I do not know whether the Minister, when he replies, will deny the interesting report from the "Manchester Guardian," in which the President of the Board of Trade told the country that the unemployment problem had been solved. It does not seem very much like it from the Debate we have had to-day. There is a more interesting statement made by the Prime Minister himself, which I am sure will interest the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. The Prime Minister came to my constituency and told us that he had solved the housing problem. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman want to congratulate the Prime Minister on that statement? He said that they had solved the housing problem with the exception of overcrowding and the slums, and yet it is a well known fact that we still require 2,000,000 houses. I have told the House before that 2,000 families in my constituency did not have homes to go to on the night that the Prime Minister told us that.
Now we are told that the unemployment problem has been solved. I want to draw the attention of the Minister to this fact, and I wonder whether he will say a word about it to-night. Several hon. Members have spoken about the trading estates which were started to help to solve the unemployment problem within the distressed areas. Instead of doing that, they have only worsened the conditions. Sixty-one refugee factories have been started on the North-East 158 coast, and not one of them has come to my constituency or Tees-side, for the simple reason that the Government are offering special facilities to people to go to the trading estate. I like the trading estate, and I wish, irrespective of the cost, we could build trading estates all over the country to ensure decent conditions for working people. They are admirable in this respect, but they have not in the slightest degree contributed to solving the unemployment problem within the distressed areas.
A case has come to my notice of a firm which reorganised its business with Government assistance under one of these schemes. The rationalisation of that particular industry resulted in the employment of 300 fewer people. It was an industry which was given assistance in order to help to solve the distressed area and the unemployment problem. A good many of the people who have put down factories, or who have occupied factories so-called within the trading estate, are people that have merely left a distressed area and have transferred their businesses. They are not new businesses at all. I wish the Minister would tell us how many are new industries. Businesses have transferred from Tees-side, and perhaps from Jarrow and South Shields and such places, because better conditions and more agreeable rates are offered to them on trading estates.
It is no good pretending that the trading estates are contributing in the slightest degree to solving the unemployment problem. Who would put down a factory in Jarrow, in Middlesbrough or on either bank of the Tees, in South Shields or elsewhere, when they can get beautiful factories provided, with Government assistance, which practically bribes them? It is not too much to say that they are bribing people to transfer their factories from certain districts and to go to the trading estates. In that way they are putting more people out of work in the existing distressed areas. Much as I like the trading estates, I hope the Minister will tell us what they have contributed towards the solution of the unemployment problem within the Special Areas. I do not think that they have done anything at all.
Reference has been made to the speech of the Prime Minister last week. He 159 told us that 80,000 young people were living in deliberate idleness at the expense of the community.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Edwards
I am sorry if I have misstated them, and if those were not the words; but it seemed to me very much like it when I read them. Deliberate idleness at the expense of the community. How much nicer it would have been if the Prime Minister and other speakers from the Government side had said to these young people: "We are thoroughly ashamed that we have to offer you these conditions, but as we have been unable to provide occupations for you we are determined to spend a considerable amount of money in order to give you decent conditions of life in the future." It is the duty of the Government to these people to- give fair treatment to them as human beings, and not to talk of them as though they were going to penalise them. It is a scandalous thing that 80,000 young people should not have had an opportunity of work, and it is the last thing for a Government responsible for this state of affairs to talk about penalising them.
The last speaker mentioned the report of the Commission on the Location of Industry. We have been asking for that report for a very long time. The Commission has been sitting since July, 1937. and it is about time they presented their report. Will the Minister apply his mind to the report on Political and Economic Planning. That is a report which will be more important than the report, if ever it is produced, of the Royal Commission on the Location of Industry. We have heard a great deal about the energy of the Minister of Labour to-day and of the things he has done for the working people. I wish he would apply his mind to the Political and Economic Planning Report. We are supposed to get pep from the right hon. Gentleman, but pep without purpose is piffle. If all the pep that the Minister and his Department are putting into this work is real and all the congratulations of the 160 last speaker are deserved, how is it that 2,000,000 people have not got jobs?
Why cannot the Minister of Labour, in connection with the question of the location of industries, induce the Minister of Transport to get on with the roads? Surely, there is nothing more important than that. If we had war and bombing took place, and railways were destroyed, it would take a very long time to restore them. Roads would be the best investment that we could make, if we are really in such danger of attack as has been made out by the Government. It would help a great deal if the Government instead of spending so much money buying up land at the side of the existing road would plan an entirely new road from Newcastle to London. We estimate that to build such a road would cost about£32,000,000. That would be less than they would pay for widening the existing road. The new road would bring the Special Areas of the North-East coast within a few hours of London. The only argument put forward against the establishment of industries in the North-East areas is that people must be near the great market of London. Why not bring the Special Areas nearer to this great market by making decent roads. If London could be brought within five hours of Newcastle with decent roads, such as they have in Germany, it would make a vast difference to the manufacturers on the North-East coast. It would be a great inducement for people to put their factories on the North-East coast, instead of building them around London.
The last speaker spoke about the development of ports. It is true that ports which would be essential in time of war are being neglected, yet the Government are allowing the Port of London Authority to spend£10,000,000 on the extension of the docks in London. I do not know of any more inane expenditure than the spending of that money on the extension of the London docks, which are such a target that almost "blind pilots could come here and drop bombs on them. They could not miss the docks. Ten million pounds would build two or three ports and would do a great deal for the essential ports of the North-East coast. I should like the Minister to give us some information with regard to the trading estates, and to say whether they really have assisted the unemployment problem in the Special Areas.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Major Procter
I will not occupy more than a few minutes. The thing that has struck me in this Debate is that the criticism from the Opposition Benches would have been much more effective had they never been in office. Whenever the rate of unemployment rises in this country, the Opposition draw attention to the fact and blame the Government in this House and in the constituencies. How few are the times that they acknowledge any improvement and how meagre is the praise given to the Government when employment increases and unemployment decreases. It is true that during recent months there has been an increase in unemployment. Surely, that is primarily due to the fact that traders have lost confidence in being able to carry on their business, owing to the uncertainty that prevails. I charge two or three important newspapers, such as the "Daily Herald," the "News Chronicle" and the "Manchester Guardian," which, through the scares in their columns, have caused thousands of people to be unemployed. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but unemployment is too serious a matter for laughter. When day after day there are prophecies that next week or the week after there will be some great international crisis that will produce war, you cannot blame people for not going on with housing programmes, or launching new business. The greatest asset of this country is peace, and the best way to reduce unemployment is for the Opposition to encourage the Prime Minister in producing a peaceful state of mind in the nations of the world and stop alarming and disquieting people in the constituencies
. Is it not true that the problem of unemployment in a democratic country, indeed in all countries, is bound up with the human problem of the preservation of liberty? There is no unemployment in Russia to-day and there is no unemployment in Germany, and there is no unemployment in jail. The problem, therefore, is how democracies can cure unemployment and at the same time preserve human liberty and maintain a high standard of life. If you put industry under the control of a dictator, if you make the State the one master, which after all is pure undefiled Socialism, you can solve unemployment, but so long as you give men the right to sack their bosses 162 and the bosses the right to sack their men, so long as we rightly insist on ever increasing wages, just so long will there be a difficulty in solving the problem of unemployment in face of low wages paid in countries which are our competitors.
At this point let me deal with the question of roads, mentioned by the last speaker. I saw the marvellous roads in Germany and I counted the traffic using them. I worked it out that every car passing over the German roads cost the German Government 3d. per car-mile. They are wonderful roads. But they were not built for trade purposes; they were built for war purposes. We have been told that for every million pounds spent there is employment for one year for 4,000 men. I should like a little more information on this point. The Minister this afternoon made a statement which I may have heard wrongly. He said that the Government had spent in public works this year£300,000,000. On this calculation that should have accounted for the employment of 1,200,000 people. Perhaps I heard the right hon. Gentleman wrongly, but I should like further explanation. There are one or two points I want to put concerning my own constituency. The first is that there has been this surprising result owing to the rearmament programme. We have a large factory which has discharged 300 men because they had reached pensionable age. They wished to retain the younger men who were working short time and were attracted southwards by full-time jobs, I want to ask the Minister if he can find some solution of the problem of the elderly unemployed. I understand he is waiting for the report from the Labour Department of the League of Nations at Geneva. Will not the Minister himself find his own remedy and see that men are not put on the scrap-heap when they are 65 years old?
The second point is in regard to the training centres. I am speaking as an engineer and for many years a member of the A.E.U. There are in my division men who are union engineers but are not tool makers. Some of them are not used to precision work; they cannot work to fine limits, but with a little extra training they would be highly skilled and could get and hold better jobs. At the moment they lack the higher form of skill, and that prevents them getting these jobs. Is it not possible for the Minister of 163 Labour to make an arrangement with local authorities in the technical schools so that such men could have the extra training and be turned out as first-class mechanics?
My last point is a very small one but it is a very human one. We have in my division a number of limbless ex-service men. There are not many, but cannot the Minister make some arrangement whereby these men, who are incapacitated, will not need to go to the Employment Exchange in order to draw their benefit? They are so few that the whole thing could be easily done by post. I am certain that the Minister of Labour has given a great many hours of thought to these problems and I wish to record my appreciation of the sympathetic and constructive help he has always given. It is easy for Socialists to criticise. I think it was Mr. Dooley who said:Mr. Hennessy, not being an author I am a great criticI have heard no real constructive suggestion from hon. Members opposite except what they call Socialism, which if they would examine it closely they would find is no solution. They can see it in operation to-day in Germany with all its horror and its loss of liberty. [HON. MEMBERS: ''Time!"] I have often listened to Gentlemen opposite with great patience and in profane silence, and it is very rarely I am given the opportunity to speak. My last word is this: If we try to solve the unemployment problem along the lines of hon. Gentlemen opposite—that is by Socialism—it will be only by the loss of liberty and putting industry under the rule of industrial sergeant-majors. That is what is happening under National Socialism in Germany. Therefore I oppose its application in this country as a solution to the unemployment of free men.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I beg to move, "That a sum, not exceeding£191,579,900, be granted for the said Services."
My hon. Friend the Member for Sea-ham (Mr. Shinwell) in opening the Debate, charged the Minister of Labour and the Government with complacency in face of this immense social malady of unemployment. My hon. Friend made a speech on which I feel bound to congratulate him, knowing that it was made under very great physical difficulties and 164 handicaps. The charge that he made was abundantly justified by the speech that we heard from the Minister of Labour. Subject to anything that the Parliamentary Secretary may say when he speaks—and I do not expect him to go further than his chief did—we shall carry this Amendment to a Division in order to register our profound dissatisfaction with the methods that have been adopted by the Government to deal with this problem and the complete lack of any comprehensive plan to deal with it.
The Minister of Labour is a very lucky man, so far; but there are signs, as I detected in one or two of the speeches that we heard from hon. Members opposite to-night, that the party opposite are beginning to realise that before an election comes, there must be either a new Minister of Labour or a new policy for dealing with unemployment. I hardly think that any other Minister of Labour could have got away with a speech containing an outline of proposals that will barely touch the fringe of the problem of 2,000,000 people unemployed. The Minister of Labour is fortunate that there is not an unemployment figure of 3,500,000. We are spending£580,000,000 on armaments this year. The hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Procter) referred to the fact, which is generally accepted in this country, that for every£1,000,000 that is spent in a year, full-time employment is found for 4,000 persons. Consequently, it is a simple calculation to find out, since we are spending this year more than£400,000,000 above the normal expenditure of armaments, how many men are now at work because of the expenditure of armaments. The Minister spoke about the Government's policy of dealing with unemployment by what he called the normal channels of trade. Were it not for this artificial expenditure, over and above the normal channels of trade, there would be in this country at the present time a figure of unemployed considerably in excess of 3,000,000.
My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham, and other hon. Members on this side, have said that unemployment is a feature of the present economic system that is essential to it, and that there cannot be any remedy unless the economic system is changed. That is a proposition which, on a suitable occasion, we should 165 be prepared to justify, but at the moment I ask hon. Members opposite to recall that for nearly 20 years there has not been a single day on which the number of unemployed has been less than 1,000,000. It is true that we have had different Governments during that time, including for two short periods a Labour Government in office but not in power; but during the whole of those 20 years, we have had one economic system. We have lived under the system of private enterprise, capitalism, and during that time there has never been less than 1,000,000 people for whom the system has had no place. That is a fundamental fact which cannot be denied.
Let me carry the analysis a stage further. For 20 years we have heard a great deal about normal trade and the possibility of restoring prosperity, and giving employment to all the people of the country by restoring normality. During that time, the system of private enterprise has twice run its complete cycle. It works in cycles. There is a period of rising trade leading to a boom, and then a period of declining trade, for which we now have the new word "recession," leading to a slump. Twice in this period of 20 years the cycle has run its course. There was a period of increasing trade leading to a boom in 1929, and then there was a recession to a slump in 1931 and 1932; then there was a period of rising trade leading to a boom in 1937, and now there is a recession. During that period of 20 years we have had boom and slump.; we have seen the economic system at its best and at its worst. At its best, there were never less than 1,000,000 people for whom the system had no room. That is a fundamental fact, and it becomes increasingly so as time goes on.
There is one matter to which I wish to refer for a minute or two; it is a matter to which very little attention has been paid by hon. Members opposite and to which the Minister paid no attention. Since the last slump, particularly during the last five or six years, there has been going on in this country a process of mechanisation, a process of increasing productivity by each employé, which has created a sort of technological unemployment. The Minister did not devote a moment of his speech to that, and the charge of complacency is justified on that 166 ground alone. I would like to quote a figure or two to the Minister. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with this part of the problem. There has recently appeared a most interesting study which I recommend the Minister to read when he has finished reading "Men Without Work," from which he quoted to-day; for it may explain one of the reasons why a book such as "Men Without Work" had to be written. The study to which I am referring has been written by two University students, under the general title of "Output, Employment and Wages in the United Kingdom in the period 1924 to 1935, and more particularly in the period 1930 to 1935" We find that between 1924 and 1935 the productivity of employès in the factories and mines in this country increased by 25 per cent. and that in 1935 every man employed in industry was producing 25 per cent. more wealth than in 1924. Was he getting 25 per cent. more wages? Was the purchasing power of the people increased with that production? Of course, it was not. That is one of the fundamental causes of unemployment—the maladjustment between increased production and consumption in this country. In the engineering industry, between 1930and 1935, the output per operative has risen by 32 per cent., in the textile industry by 37 per cent., and in agriculture by 27 per cent. Between 1924 and 1935 the output per person employed in the coal mines of this country increased by 33 per cent. In the same period the total volume of employment in the coal mines decreased by 33 per cent. so that in 1935 we were producing in this country the same amount of coal with one-third fewer men.
That is the problem which, some day, will have to be dealt with, and nothing has been said from that Box to-night, and nothing is being done by the Government, to deal fundamentally with that problem. It means that we have reached a stage at which unemployment has become a problem of unshared leisure, of undistributed wealth and of failure to utilise the resources which are available to this country, by raising the standard of life of the people. I wish to quote from a newspaper which I know, from experience, may safely be quoted in this House, a newspaper which, at one time, I understand, was held almost in awe in this country, but one which we know now is as much an organ of the Government as 167 some of the others which I will not mention. I quote from the "Times" this comment on those figures. I thought it was so well phrased that it would be suitable to quote it on this occasion:Supposing that the whole of the industrial population of this country were fully employed and the potential capacity to produce was completely exerted, how prodigious the wealth of the nation might be. If we could find means to occupy this increasingly efficient labour power in raising the national output of goods and services, this country might be enormously more wealthy in peace or in warOur charge against the Government, and against the system which they defend, is that they are deliberately organising poverty when they ought to be organising plenty and utilising the resources of the nation to give our people, everyone of them, what is possible now. There was a time when poverty was beyond the control of man. Poverty is now man-made and man-organised, and we say that poverty exists now, because the system of private profit stands between the producer and the consumer. For that reason, we, on this side, shall return to this subject of unemployment and to the charge of complacency. We shall come here time and again to state that charge, because we know, as the country will know some time—and the sooner the better—that there can be no solution of this problem except a complete transformation of the economic system on the lines advocated in the programme of the Labour party.
I wish to use the remainder of my 'time to deal with a problem of administration which I regard as of supreme importance at this time. It is fairly obvious that the Government have given up any thoughts of devoting their energies to finding work for the unemployed, and are beginning the old "racket" of attacking the unemployed. That it what is behind all this talk about labour camps and about the demoralisation of the dole. It is not the dole that demoralises: it is poverty. I have never heard of a royalty-owner being demoralised. It is grinding poverty, it is having no place in life, it is being persecuted and starved—that is what demoralises. If there is demoralisation among the unemployed, there has been far more since the Government set the means test to work than there ever was before. They are once more at this job of persecuting the unemployed.
168 The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour and the Unemployment Assistance Board, for which he is responsible in this House, have now begun a new practice. This House, after an experience which no one who knows what it meant will want again, the experience of the "not genuinely seeking work" test, abolished that test, and the Unemployment Assistance Board, by subtle means and subtle ways, is trying to re-impose it. The Advisory Committees that were set up by the Ministry to advise the Unemployment Assistance Board are now having lists prepared for them, and there are being called before them men who have been unemployed for lengthy periods, single men, married men, the long-term unemployed, the men about whom we have heard so much to-night. They are now being called before these committees and are being interrogated. They are being asked, "What are you doing to find work?" I ask what are the Government doing to find work for them? When they come before these committees, the committees deal with their cases, and they either speak to the men or write to them. Let me quote this letter, sent to a constituent of mine last week by such a committee. The Minister can have it afterwards, if he likes. It reads:Dear Sir, With reference to your appearance before the Welfare Sub-Committee of the local Advisory Committee"—look at the name—the Welfare Sub-Committee, attached to the Unemployment Assistance Board—I have to inform you that the committee recommend that you must intensify your efforts to obtain employment in the near future, or otherwise"—that is a threat—the question of modifying your allowance will have to be seriously consideredWhat right have the Unemployment Assistance Board to write to anybody like that? Under what Statute? What right have they to reimpose the "not-genuinely-seeking-work" test that this House abolished? No right whatever, and yet they are doing it. They tell this man, in the area of Llanelly, that he ought to intensify his efforts to get work. Further, in the Amman Valley, which is my native country, they had several men before them, and they decided in nine cases that those men had not made what they regarded as satisfactory efforts to get work, and therefore they penalised 169 them—a miserable penalty. They decided that in future those men should be paid their allowances partly in cash and partly in kind, that they would issue them vouchers. What an insult to the unemployed man. What an insult to the unemployed man's wife. Is there anyone in an area where there has been acute unemployment who is not filled with pride for the way in which these women have faced their problems? And here is this advisory committee telling these women, "You are not trusted, you are not to be trusted, even with spending the few coppers we give you. We will give you a voucher"
This is pauperising the unemployed, and it ill becomes hon. Members opposite to talk about the demoralisation of the dole and the dragging-down power of the dole. This is the worst form of demoralisation—it is pauperisation at its worst—and I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary what justification there is for that. What is the idea behind it? What is the intention behind it? What are they aiming at? Now that they have failed to find work for the unemployed and are bankrupt of a policy, they begin to attack the unemployed themselves instead of attacking the problem. Let me say a word about the circumstances of the district in which these men live. It happens to be my native district. It is said that these men's unemployment cannot be justified by reference to the district. This is the history of that district industrially since 1925. Fourteen pits employing 2,500 men have been closed. Another pit upon which a village depends is now doomed. That will make 15 pits employing 4,000 persons closed permanently since 1925. In the same period three tinplate works employing 800 workmen have been closed in that area. Two small collieries have been opened employing 200 men. In that area unemployment varies from 38 per cent. to 65 per cent. in Amman, and that is the area where the unemployed are being persecuted in this way. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he proposes to investigate it and stop it?
Much has been said about the efforts of the Government. I heard the right hon. Gentleman give a long catalogue of the things they have done and the measures they have brought forward. I grant him every one of the claims he has made, but when he has had full credit for 170 all of them there are still 2,000,000 unemployed. What sheer waste it means, human wastage; what poverty and degradation it means for this country in this generation. Have the Government any plans at all to deal with this problem? When the Minister came to this part of his reply he talked about the problem of the unemployed youth, and he led us to believe that he had some great scheme of finding work for them. All it amounted to, however, was that they were to be given preference in work on the new evacuation camps. How long will that last and how. many men will be employed? Under what conditions will they be employed? Will they be trade union conditions and trade union wages?
§ Mr. E. Brown indicated assent.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If that is so, how long will the work last? Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that giving preference to the youthful unemployed in erecting these camps will solve the problem of the young unemployed? The only other measure he indicated was that he was, through the Lord Privy Seal, trying to ensure that the young unemployed would be given the opportunity of other A.R.P. work. We have heard so many of these promises before. Let me remind the Minister of a promise about which he has not said a word. In 1937 he toured the whole of the divisions of the Ministry of Labour. He gave interviews to the Press and made speeches. He said, "I am making this tour in order to investigate the problem of the elderly unemployed, the men of 45 and over" There are 50,000 of those men of 45 in South Wales alone, and 250,000 in this country. At 45 years of age they find themselves on the scrap-heap, with' nothing to look forward to but 20 years of unemployment, and to be rewarded by a Christian country with a pension of 10s. a week at 65. The Minister also said that he would produce plans. On nth November, 1937, I asked when those plans were to be produced, and the reply was that he had two more divisions to visit and would then survey the evidence and produce the plans. Is he still surveying the evidence? Is the same thing to happen in regard to all the plans about youths?
We say it is time that a real, bold effort was made to deal with this problem, which lies like a canker at the root of the 171 nation. There has been failure to raise the standard of life, failure to give these men what they want, which is not special treatment, not special schools for the workers' unemployed boys and special training camps for the unemployed. All they want is a niche in life, a place in life, work at trade union wages, an opportunity to share in producing wealth, an opportunity to share in enjoying and consuming the wealth of this nation. Finally, this country will have to realise that the one way of fully utilising the wealth of the nation, of giving every man a place in life, giving every man a share in the wealth of life, is to transform our social system along the lines advocated by the party to which I belong.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I yield to no one, and least of all to the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), in a desire to live into an age when leisure shall be more evenly shared, but I think even the most sympathetic listener to his speech must have been puzzled, and sometimes perhaps distressed, to wonder why a single constructive suggestion had not emerged from a speech the eloquence of which I do not deny and the sincerity of which was obvious for all to hear. But it had not a single constructive suggestion, except one or two references to the coming of that Socialist State which we believe will cause the grass to grow in the streets of those Welsh towns that the hon. Member loves so much, and bring more poverty upon a district which, I would not deny, has suffered grievously in the past. Perhaps the hon. Member has not yet read—most of us have not yet had the opportunity of reading—the report of the Economic Committee of the Trade Union Congress which, we understand, was presented very recently. In that report it was said, so we understand, that merely to attribute unemployment to capitalism is out-of-date and irresponsible. I say to the hon. Member that if he wishes to follow up his moving eloquence on this subject with practical suggestions he should first sink himself deep in the report of that Economic Committee.
The hon. Member referred to the fact that were it not for the prodigious expenditure upon armaments to-day we should have a far greater problem of unemployment. He hinted that, taking the old calculation of£1,000,000 giving direct and 172 indirect work to 4,000 people, the largest possible part of our army of employed must be maintained in work through the£400,000,000 we are spending upon armaments, but if he accused my right hon. Friend of so handling the unemployment figures that he makes unemployment disappear, we are entitled to retort with his method of approaching the problem of the employed. To suggest that all the employment, or the vast share of it, is caused by the rearmament boom is just as likely to give a wrong impression as any misreading of what my right hon. Friend may have said. To suggest that were it not necessary to have this distressing expenditure on armaments there would be that revival of confidence which would bring back normal trade is surely to put a tax on the credulity of Members of this Committee which I do not think they are very likely to bear.
When the hon. Member also said that what it was necessary to do was to increase the purchasing power of the people, does he forget that last year according to the newspaper which supports his own party, a year of great European tension and uncertainty, wages went up by£60,000,000 over the two years before, and in the words of the same paper, "Poverty, the foremost public enemy, was forced to give way "? Can the hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that at a time when the activity of the Government is concentrated on the European situation that is not a remarkable and sobering reflection? The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who opened this Debate, suggested, I thought a little unworthily, that Members on this side of the House are anxious to preserve a vast pool of unemployed in order to maintain a capitalist State. It would be as unfair, and I believe as untrue, to suggest to the hon. Member himself that he would be happy if unemployment should become, say, about 3,000,000, on the eve of a General Election as to suggest we are anxious to maintain a vast body of unemployed in order to maintain the existing order. I am glad that the hon. Member who has just sat down, and who, I think, realises the distress with which some of us regard unemployment, did not make a charge of that kind.
I will now endeavour, if I may, to deal very briefly with the points that have been made in the course of the Debate, merely throwing out the reflection 173 that I am tempted to tear up the notes which I have laboriously made relating to suggestions which have come from various sides of the Committee, and to concentrate entirely upon the speech of the hon. Member. I pay him the tribute of regarding him as one of the outstanding representatives of his party, one who really knows the problem from start to finish. I trust that he will give the Committee and the House the benefit of the mature reflections that I am sure he has reached in his own mind.
The hon. Member for Seaham said that the rates of the Unemployment Assistance Board were related to the lowest paid wage-earners. Without in the least accepting that statement I would point out to him that wages are far higher now than they were when he was a member of the Socialist administration, basing oneself exclusively on figures from trade union sources. He made a suggestion that was reinforced by the hon. Member who has just spoken that, in the year which is now partially under review, the Unemployment Assistance Board and the Ministry had persecuted the unemployed. It has been suggested that the means test worked with even greater harshness and crudity than it has done in the past. I do not believe that the hon. Member can remember that samples have been taken from time to time of the working of this very means test. The last sample was in December, 1937, and was a 5 per cent. sample of some 564,000 men and women. It was found in that sample that 46.8 per cent. of the assessments of the people subjected to unemployment assistance was greater than their appropriate benefit rates. That fact should be borne in mind, as should also the fact that no less than 190,000 out of that self-same 564,000 received discretionary payments in addition to their ordinary payments. quite apart from the fact that one-half of all the applicants received in addition winter allowances from the Board. I believe that these facts will be borne in mind by the country when people read this Debate. They will recollect also that, judged by contributions, payment of benefits or general conditions of employment, last year, as the year before, has seen a marked improvement in the condition of the unemployed.
A reference was made by the hon. Member specifically to what he regards as 174 a sinister attempt to restore by underhand means the not-genuinely-seeking work Clause. I would like to refresh the memory of the hon. Member. He put a question to my right hon. Friend as recently as Thursday last. I am sure that he did not wish to mislead the Committee, but the impression was conveyed that somehow or other instructions had gone out from the Board to divert the public interest in unemployment on to criticism of the methods of the unemployed rather than on to the real problem. It was implied that actual orders had been issued to various committees to tighten up their administration, particularly regarding people under 30. I can only repeat the words of my right hon. Friend that the advisory committees, as part of their normal duties, consider individual cases, and that no instructions in this matter have been issued by the Board, apart from the circular sent to the committees when they were first set up, indicating the nature of their functions.
Therefore, I think it may well be assumed that, if action is taken under Section 40 of the Act, it is due to the fact that the local committee, knowing the existing circumstances, feel that there is a case to be separately investigated; they do not require, nor do they receive, instructions to do so, but act on the merits of the case which they are in the best position to know, if they feel that some inquiry is necessary. I do not suggest for a moment that a considerable fraction of those people who are applicants of the Board have settled down to a state of unemployment and are not taking active steps to find work, but no one can have worked on public assistance committees—and there must be many Members of the House who have done so—without realising that, even in the best societies, there are people who are inclined to take advantage of the situation of unemployment.
The hon. Member asked a question on the working of the advisory committees under Section 40 of the Act, and I think I am right in saying that he suggested that the Minister's explanation and the action of the advisory committees might have been due solely to the poor industrial record of the men concerned. I would refer him to the answer given to the question on 9th March to the effect that, of the some 600,000 people who are getting allowances to-day, only 733 have 175 had assistance in kind. I do not think he can possibly maintain that this represents a sinister" re-introduction of a Clause that was abandoned by mutual consent many years ago. The hon. Member also referred to those long-term and elderly unemployed whose welfare must be a matter of concern to everyone, even though some may feel that the young unemployed represent a graver social evil even than they. But I would remind the hon. Member of what has been said repeatedly, namely, that to-day those who have been out of work for 12 months and more now represent some 290,000 of the unemployed, as opposed to 483,000 six years ago. That fact cannot be too often emphasised, because, in addition to justice being rendered to my right hon. Friend, it shows a very remarkable trend in our recent industrial history.
The hon. Member for Seaham referred to the Government's training centres, and made one or two charges to which I think it is necessary to refer. The Government's training centres last year found places for some 13,900 men, of whom some 12,000 passed into work. Changes in their training were made to meet the changed conditions of industry in the last year, and here I would say that, if the proportion placed is to be increased, and if we are to continue to increase the scope of this system of social justice, we must look to the collaboration, not only of employers, but also of those great trade unions whose part in this system cannot be over-emphasised. In the case, however, of the instructional centres, some 23 in all in this country, while 16,000 people passed through them last year, only some 3,000 found work. That is not a stick with which to beat the Government; it is merely a fact which ought to make us all pause and reflect. If we are to do anything to encourage by voluntary means a greater proportion of our young people to go to these instructional centres, I fully agree that we must offer them something at the end if we want their willing cooperation. Can it be suggested that the Government and my right hon. Friend are the most obvious obstacles in the way of their finding work?
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), whom I do not see in his place now, made an interjection earlier in the discussion which I think shows the point of view with which we have to deal. 176 He expressed the hope that there would be no ridiculous attempt to get local people given preference for local jobs. I am not arguing whether or not it is desirable to do so, but the point I want to make is that any attempt to use the machinery of the Employment Exchanges to give a preference to people who represent a social problem like the young unemployed will always come up against that point of view. It is not confined to this side of the House, but is found even in as good trade-unions as that of the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Seaham said that it is the conditions at the training centres which are the real check on the young men going into them. We do not think that is so at all. We think they represent the best conditions to be found anywhere at such centres—certainly they are better than in some of those European countries which were mentioned on all sides of the Committee. I would stress how much employers can help in giving a chance to young men who have undertaken training in these centres. If the hon. Member suggests that young men are denuded of all their possessions, or, at any rate, given nothing on which to live, I would make clear what the conditions are. The Government training centres are all non-residential; the instruction centres are sometimes non-residential, but more often residential. The young man who goes into a non-residential centre gets his benefit, his daily travelling expenses and a mid-day meal. If he is brought in from a distance he is allowed to keep such an amount as with his benefit will give him 22s. od. a week out of which he has to pay for his lodgings, which usually cost 17s., leaving him 5s. od. If the lodgings are dearer, his allowance is correspondingly raised. In the case of residential centres, the cost of board and lodgings is deducted from their benefit, but they keep a reasonable amount, and their dependants get dependants' benefit. Trainees granted unemployment allowances receive an amount which if living away from home puts them in the same position as adult trainees in receipt of benefit, and the board's allowance in respect of dependants is paid direct to a nominee of the trainee.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Dependants, in the majority of cases, are the wives, who are 177 fully covered by what I have said. The hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) poured scorn, even though it was in rather friendly fashion, on all the work done under the Special Areas Acts, suggesting that there had not been the considerable results which some people had hoped for, and which some people believe there had been. In 1934 the number of registered unemployed in the Special Areas was 441,000. To-day it shows a drop of 115,000. If it is suggested that this has all been done by transference—which hon. Members on that side have, rather foolishly, I think, dismissed as a social evil—I must also point out that the insured population in those areas is at least as good as it was in 1934. My hon Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Pilkington) asked me a specific question, and I have been taking steps to try to get an answer. It related to the balloon barrage works at Fazakerly. He wanted to know why so small a proportion of local men had been engaged. I have been making inquiries about that, and I have made them again this afternoon, but I am not in a position to give a useful answer yet, though I hope to do so very shortly.
The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) also asked one or two questions. He asked what would happen if a man on benefit either failed to get a medical certificate in time to continue to draw his benefit or actually struck a foreman or did something involving dismissal. If he was found to have been dismissed owing to misconduct then the allowance would normally be adjusted at slightly below the benefit rate, but if it could be shown that this would inflict undue hardship on the wife and family, who, of course, have not been guilty of misconduct, then justice would be tempered with mercy. In answer to the other question asked by the hon. Member with regard to artificial teeth, the Ministry of Labour may provide dentures for trainees proceeding to local training centres in the Special Areas but in other cases the Unemployment Assistance Board who have no power to give this aid, would probably refer them to the public assistance authority.
The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) raised once more the question of under-employment, and we all recognise that though this is primarily a matter for the industry involved, it is a con- 178 dition which in many cases is just as grievous as unemployment itself. He made one or two observations about individual cases, and I am sure he will pardon me if I do not deal in detail with those cases, but if he will let my right hon. Friend have the particulars I am sure he will take them up. But I think his general contention that a change in our state of society was necessary in order to cure unemployment has already been answered in the course of the Debate by an hon. Member on this side of the House. I refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Walsall, (Sir G. Schuster) full of elegance and point, which was such as to make those with responsibilities in this matter tackle their task with renewed vigour". We, too, want to wage war against low standards, but it is very difficult to see how Socialism would, for example, have solved the trade difficulties in the Indian market, or would have met the various difficulties of the commodity trades.
I would have liked to have dealt with the question of the training of juveniles, but the Rules of Order prevent me from referring to forthcoming legislation. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Trevor Cox) dealt with land settlement with which, however, it is impossible for me to deal briefly, and the whole problem is now being considered by the Dampier Committee. He asked a question with regard to camps, and suggested that all those engaged in the construction of these camps should be drawn from those who are young and who have been out of work for a long time. That suggestion is already being considered, but I would remind him that the camps themselves were originally intended to be used in war time as a supplement to the evacuation of children, and in peace time for school camps.
The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) referred to the trading estates and hoped that the Government were not going to allow standards of wages in the old established industries of the North and elsewhere to be jeopardised by similar industries being started at the different trading estates. I can assure him that we have no such intention, but it is sometimes a little difficult for us to reconcile the obvious desire of hon. Members to help their own neighbours with the criticisms levelled against the trading estates—criticisms which may operate to prevent people who might otherwise be ready to 179 do so from going to those estates. A great many of these industries in the trading estates are Trade Board industries, and the normal procedure applies. It is not intended that industries on these estates should be run in different conditions from those in factories elsewhere, but while the negotiation of wage rates is a matter for employers and employed, the good offices of my right hon. Friend's Department are always open to both parties should a dispute ever arise. The hon. Member for Widnes referred to the unemployed dockers in his constituency. I am afraid I cannot answer his question, because we still have an experiment going on at Hartlepool. It is not going on so well as some people thought, but it must be continued somewhat longer before we attempt a different procedure elsewhere. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Edwards) referred to the Prime Minister's speech, and he gave a completely inaccurate account quite unintentionally no doubt, of what my right hon. Friend had said. He said nothing about there being 80,000 people who were content to live on public money, but he said:I am disturbed by what I hear, of young men who will not attend instructional centres when they are given the opportunity of doing so and are thus defeating the efforts of those who are trying to help them. It was never our intention when our schemes oi social service and social insurance were framed that they should encourage deliberate idleness at the expense of the communityI am inclined to think that though the problem is small, certainly small in relation to the size of the employed popula-
§ tion, none the less the Socialist party would be even further behind the general opinion of the country than they usually are if they did not recognise that the problem does exist.
§ I think I have dealt with nearly every point that has been raised. I bring my observations to a close, repeating what I said before, that the whole problem of unemployment with which we are concerned to-night, as well as with the administration of our Department, cannot be settled along conventional political and Parliamentary lines. The problem of the workless, said the trade union report, if it has been reported aright, should not become the shuttlecock of politicians. The cure cannot necessarily be found in orthodox, rigid Socialistic theories. We all want to see the great wealth of this country at the service of the people who live in it and opportunities for advancement offered to all our citizens. We believe that in the course of the last few years, despite the overwhelming problems with which the Government have been confronted, a greater measure of advance has been achieved than ever before in history, and encouraged by good will on all sides we shall continue the task of ameliorating that situation until this Government pass away and give place to another, and another National Government is returned.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding£191,579,900, be granted for the said Services."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 135; Noes, 232.181
|Division No. 64.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Daggar, G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Day, H.||Hicks, E. G.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Dobbie, W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Jagger, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Ede, J. C.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Fool, D. M.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Barr, J.||Frankel, D.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Batey, J.||Gallacher, W.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Gardner, B. W.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Lathan, G.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lawson, J. J.|
|Benson, G.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Leach, W.|
|Bevan, A.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Lee, F.|
|Broad, F. A.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Leonard, W.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Grenfell, D. R.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Buchanan, G.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Logan, D. G.|
|Burke, W. A.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Lunn, W.|
|Cape, T.||Groves, T. E.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Chater, D.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hardie, Agnes||MacLaren, A.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Harris, Sir P. A.||MacNeill Weir, L.|
|Cove, W.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Unlv's.)||Marklew, E.|
|Marshall, F,||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Thurtle, E.|
|Master, F.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Milner, Major J.||Rothschild, J. A. de||Tomlinson, G.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Sanders, W. S-||Walkden, A. G.|
|Morrison, Ft. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Seely, Sir H. M.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Muff, G.||Sexton, T. M.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Shinwell, E.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Silkin, L.||Westwood, J.|
|Owen, Major G.||Silverman, S. S.||White, H. Graham|
|Paling, W.||Simpson, F. B.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Parker, J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Parkinson, J. A||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Poole, C. C.||Sorensen, R. W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Price, M. P.||Stephen, C.|
|Pritt, D. N.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Mr. John and Mr. Mathers.|
|Ridley, G.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Duggan, H. J,||Lindsay, K.M|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Duncan, J. A. L.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Eastwood, J. F.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Eckersley, P. T.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's||Emery, J. F.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Apsley, Lord||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Errington, E.||McKie, J. H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Teas)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fildes, Sir H.||Magnay, T.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Fleming, E. L.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Gledhill, G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. O. R.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Markham, S. F.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Goldie, N. B.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cower, Sir R. V.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J|
|Boulton, W. W.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Medlicott, F.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Granville, E. L,||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Holderness)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Broad bridge, Sir G. T.||Grimston. R. V.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Guest, Hon. I. (Breton and Radnor)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hambro, A. V.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hammersley, S. S.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Hannah, I. C.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Harbord, A.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Harvey, Sir G.||Peake, O.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Peat, C U.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Christie, J. A.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Petherick, M.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Holdsworth, H.||Pilkington, R.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Hunter, T.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hutchinson, G. C.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Rayner, Major R. H,|
|Critchley. A.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Reid, W-Allan (Derby)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Ramer, J. R,|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Keeling, E. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lancaster, Captain C. G.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Rowlands, G.|
|Doland, G. F.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Drewe, C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Levy, T.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Liddall, W. S.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Samuel, M. R. A.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Schuster, Sir G. E.||Sutcliffe, H.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Selley, H. R.||Tasker, Sir R. I||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Shakespeare, G. H.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Simmonds, O. E.||Thomas, J. P. L.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Titchfield, Marquess of||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)||Touche, G. C.||Winterton, Rt. Hon.|
|Smithers, Sir W.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Wise, A. R.|
|Snadden, W. McN.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Turton, R. H.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Wakefield, W. W.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Spans. W. P.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stanley, Rt. Han. Oliver (W'm'I'd)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Captain Waterhouse and|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr.|
|Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Warrender, Sir V.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Eleven of the clock, the CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow;
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.184
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.