§ The King's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ LORD SANDERSON
My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. When the Address was moved at the beginning of the first Session of this Parliament, as I see by reference to the OFFICIAL REPORT, some of the noble Lords opposite commented on the emptiness of the Back Benches on this side of the House, and they appeared to suggest that reform might be desirable in that direction. Well, the Back Benches are not now wholly untenanted, and, as far as I know, there is no reason why in the future they should not be more completely filled; it may not be beyond the bounds of possibility that some of the noble Lords opposite may in the course of the coming Session undergo conversion.
I am the youngest Back Bench member on the Government side, and I am at present not wholly familiar with the usages of your Lordships' House. I must therefore ask your Lordships to pardon me if I should, on this very formal occasion, make any departures from the usual customs of the House, and I will ask you to put down any mistakes that I may make to my extreme youth and inexperience. Before I come to the gracious Speech itself I should like to remind your Lordships that this is the first occasion on which His Majesty has opened Parliament for two years, and I am sure that I shall be expressing the feelings of your Lordships' House when I say that we all rejoice to know that His Majesty's presence here to-day was a sign of that complete restoration to health which we and all his subjects throughout the Empire have so ardently desired.
5 I now come to the gracious Speech itself. It begins with references to the Imperial Conference now sitting and to what is known as the Round-Table Conference on India. We shall all hope, I am sure, that the deliberations being carried on by the Imperial Conference will lead to a better understanding on the part of the Empire as a whole of the needs and aspirations of its different members, and the result, we trust, will be to bind together the various parts of the Empire into one united whole, working for the prosperity of all; not, my Lords, an Empire united on the basis of sordid economic motives against the rest of the world, but an Empire united as a great force for righteousness and peace, taking a great part in a league of nations and striving for the good of humanity.
The Indian Round-Table Conference, which we are glad to know is going to be inaugurated by His Majesty himself, will have great issues before it, and it in to be earnestly hoped that the result of the Conference may be to convince the people of India that we do mean to give India responsible self-government at the earliest possible moment. We hope that plans may be devised which may hasten that day and make it possible to work out in harmony and peace measures for the realisation of that goal.
We shall all welcome, I am sure, the reference to the General Disarmament Convention. All who are anxious that everything should be done to prevent future wars will welcome any measure of that kind. I am not one of those who believe that war can be prevented merely by disarmament because it is, unfortunately, in these days so very easy to re-arm. I believe that the prevention of war ultimately depends on permeating the peoples with the will to peace. If this Convention can be the means of persuading nations even to reduce their armaments, will not that, my Lords, be a sign of the growth and extension of that will to peace?
I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the paragraph in the gracious Speech referring to the very grave problem of unemployment. The question of unemployment has, of course, been in the thoughts of the Government continuously all through last Session and they have brought in several measures with the 6 object of finding work for men who are unemployed and also for alleviating the lot of men for whom work could not be found. The problem is still very vast. The Government have done much, but forces have been against us all over the world. But for the measures which have been brought about by the Government the numbers of the unemployed would undoubtedly be much greater than they are now. Unfortunately, they are still greater than they were a year ago. The problem is very serious; but that does not mean that we must adopt quack remedies. Many remedies are being suggested up and down the country on the ground that we must do something. We must do something, but we must try to do the right thing and not rush to remedies which have been tried and found wanting in the past and will not cure but only aggravate the disease.
As to the statement in the gracious Speech where it says that the Government intend to persist in measures for the expansion of home, foreign and Imperial trade and to help in measures for the increase in the efficiency of our industry, I think those two principles are the only two principles on which it is possible to work for the improvement of trade and the diminishing of unemployment—the extension of our markets and the increase of efficiency. I do not believe and the Government do not believe that you can increase trade or diminish the numbers of unemployed by erecting barriers in the way of the exchange of goods and services between the peoples of the earth. Nor can you do these things by measures which so often turn out to be merely the bolstering up of inefficiency in our home industries.
In connection with the unemployment question two proposals are suggested in the gracious Speech. A Land Settlement Bill will be brought forward, by means of which it is hoped that employment may be increased by bringing men on to the land and also that agriculture may be made more efficient. Again, an Agricultural Marketing Bill will be brought forward in the Session, which also should have the effect of increasing the efficiency of agriculture and of filling up the gap which exists between what the farmer gets and what the consumer pays. There is one other measure as regards 7 the land referred to in the Speech; that affects the question of site values. I think the time has come for revaluing the land once more in order that the increase in the value of land, which has come about owing to the growth of the needs of the people and not through the services rendered by its owners, should be taken and spent for public purposes.
In the gracious Speech several measures are mentioned which appeared in the last Speech from the Throne—measures which it was not found possible to carry through in the last Session. I suppose there are very few, or any, Governments which have ever carried through all the measures which they had pledged themselves to carry through in the time allotted for that purpose, and the Government are determined to make good their failures in that direction (due to lack of time) in the coming Session. Of those measures one is the proposal connected with education, a subject which is of great personal interest to myself, and in which I have been engaged for many years. It is proposed to raise the school-leaving age from fourteen to fifteen, and to couple that proposal with maintenance grants. I wish very much that fifteen could have been sixteen. Sixteen is surely young enough for children to go into industry. At the age of sixteen our boys and girls are entering upon what is probably the most receptive period of their lives. It is the age at which the children of the well-to-do classes are beginning to take education seriously, and it is an age at which no well-to-do parents would think of bringing their children's education to an end. However, to raise the school age to fifteen is certainly a step forward in the realisation of the Labour Party's programme of education—namely, free education from the nursery school to the University for every child who is capable of benefiting.
Some of your Lordships opposite may regret that it is proposed to couple the raising of the school age with the maintenance grant, but I do not think any noble Lords opposite will go so far as a leading London journal yesterday morning in referring to these maintenance grants as bribes. I think that, if I may say so, was a monstrous insult to the working people of this country. But it 8 may be thought that at this time we cannot afford maintenance grants. I think that maintenance grants will really, in the long run, turn out to be an economy, for the education obtained even by this extra year will, I am convinced, make a great difference to our future generations of young men and women. After all, what finer asset could a nation have than an educated people? It would not, I think, be fair to ask the parents of these children to provide this asset out of their slender incomes, which, owing to the loss of their children's earnings, will be reduced by the raising of the school age.
The other two measures which it was not found possible to carry through in the last Session were the amendment of the Trade Disputes Act and the setting up of a consumers' council. When the Trade Disputes Act was passed in 1927 the Labour Party said definitely that they would repeal it or amend it at the first opportunity. They gave that pledge to the trade unions—to two and a half million men and women forming, with their families, something like a quarter of the population of the country—and that pledge they are determined to fulfil. The Labour Party have always regarded the Trade Disputes Act as containing a great measure of injustice, and trade unionists throughout the country, or at any rate thinking trade unionists, regard the Act as unjust. They regard the illegality of sympathetic strikes as unjust. They regard the interference with their methods of raising levies as unjust, and 150,000 civil servants regard the limitation of their rights of political and industrial association as unjust. That is the case.
I say that trade unionists regard these things as unjust. I am not saying rightly or wrongly. I am not giving my own opinion. This is not the time to do so, but that is the state of things. Is it wise, my Lords, is it a good thing to have large numbers of men under this sense of rankling injustice? Is it wise to let this sense of injustice smoulder? Would it not be better to remove this cause of discontent, and to trust the good sense and the love of fair play which exist among the working men and women of the country just as much as it exists among 9 other classes? Would it not be wise to trust them to use reasonable freedom wisely?
The Government are intending, as the Speech mentions, to set up a consumers' council with definite powers over prices. If you look at the statistics of wholesale prices and compare them with the statistics of retail prices you will see there is a very considerable gap between the two. If the consumers' council can devise any measures of bridging that gap, and bringing the two sets of prices nearer together, I think they will confer a very great advantage on the community. I must not detain your Lordships by mentioning all the measures which are dealt with in the gracious Speech. I will only conclude by saying that I believe that if the measures that have been put before you in the gracious Speech can become law during this Session, then some very valuable legislation will have been placed on the Statute Book which will add greatly to the happiness and welfare of the whole nation. I beg to move the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign.—We. Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament. (Lord Sanderson.)
§ LORD MARKS
My Lords, the short acquaintance I have had with your Lordships' House has convinced me that no matter from what quarter of the House any noble Lord speaks, he is quite sure of sympathetic attention even though his remarks may challenge the opinion's of some who may be listening to him. My nineteen years' experience in another place has made me welcome the courtesy that is shown on all sides of the House to every member who is speaking, regardless of the subject upon which he may be speaking. It is the tradition of this House to extend consideration and also courtesy to those who have but briefly previously addressed your Lordships. My experience in another place I have found 10 during my apprenticeship here has not served very much to help me in an Assembly where everything is different, where courtesy reigns supreme and where there is a smouldering of criticism but nothing in the way of violent objection. Thus, to-day, I might well wish that someone with greater experience in your Lordships' House and more familiar with your Lordships' observances should have been entrusted with this honourable though very onerous duty of seconding the Address. It is an onerous duty to have to respond to a gracious Speech which has outlined so many subjects that your Lordships hereafter will be engaged in deliberating. It it also a privilege, as my noble friend who has moved this Address has said, to be able in the Reply to convey our great delight that the Sovereign has once more been able to take his place in this Chamber as the head not only of the Chamber but of the people who are rejoicing at his return to health.
§ LORD MARKS
We all of us, therefore, feel in a very special measure gratitude that His Majesty has come through tribulation and trouble closer to us by his presence here to-day. His Majesty expresses at the very outset of his gracious Speech his grave concern, and at the same time his sympathy, with the continued unemployment from which so many of his people are suffering. Unfortunately, unemployment is not concerned with one industry or with one district. It runs throughout the country. The time has gone by for any one industry to consider that it is itself without relation to every other. Industry is like a row of bricks. You disturb the end one, and the others will be disturbed in turn. Throughout the country to-day all industries are depressed. Why? The spending power of the world has been lessened, and if the spending power of the world has been lessened the goods on which the money would have been spent are not required and the produce is not sold. If this were a local matter, if this were a simple industrial matter, it might be possible to allege difficulties in reference to the manner in which that particular industry was conducted. But unfortunately it is not local, it is general.
11 Then His Majesty refers, in the next sentence, to the effect of the international industrial economic disturbance, which is another illustration of the fact that all industries as well as all nations are interrelated. We are so concerned with that which is happening in another nation that distress, unemployment, lack of spending power in another nation will react upon us, the producers of those things that all the world has need of. It is universal, unfortunately. The League of Nations has appointed a Committee to consider this question and those familiar, as I am, with the United States of America, which I have visited regularly for the last thirty-five years and from which I returned only two weeks ago, know that it is a country suffering far more from depression than we are, with far more unemployment than we have, with no system, no methods and no alleviation in sight other than by grants voted by Congress to help over the difficulty and voted by the City of New York to keep off that which is appearing to be winter starvation. Tariffs have not helped them. Other things have hindered them. While there has been mass production and huge quantities of manufactures have been made, if the spending power of other nations and of themselves is lessened, then mass production only adds to stocks which are not required and which are there rusting and being kept for what may be hoped to be better times hereafter.
The next paragraph of the gracious Speech mentions that there should be and that there must be means taken for increasing efficiency in connection with our industries, particularly for the Imperial and export trades. The single unit in manufacture is a mistake to-day. The small manufacturer cannot keep going in face of the better tools and better plant that others may acquire and that he is unable to obtain for his own particular uses. There must be consultation and better marketing, and there must be some kind of counsel, not only among workmen but between masters and workmen, if betterment is to be expected.
In connection with farming, it was my good fortune and honour to represent for nineteen years an agricultural constituency, and I know only too well the difficulties of the farmer. He may be likened to a man running a factory, but while the factory manager can generally control 12 that which is done within the factory, the farmer cannot control the elements which may make or mar all his efforts. It is therefore essential that, as in manufacture so in farming, there should be consultation. Farmers are naturally suspicious one of the other, they have hitherto abhorred co-operation, have dreaded combination and have preferred to market week by week, wasting their time in buying and selling small quantities when greater sales and better marketing would have brought more results to them and cheaper produce to the people purchasing from them. Greater co-operation in farming is therefore essential if betterment is to be expected. The difficulties in connection with farming can be seen by going to Lincolnshire, where there are to-day thousands of tons of potatoes, grown last year, which cannot be sold. This year's crop is coming on and there appears to be no market for the old potatoes at prices that would even pay for transport. Quick transport, cheap handling and not too many handlers are needed if farming is to be improved, and it is the hope of the Government, in the measure that they propose, to remove some of these difficulties and handicaps that are holding the agricultural industry back.
With regard to unemployment insurance, there is no man in your Lordships' House or in the other House who would challenge its necessity. Unfortunately, however, there is no man who has not had personal experience of the fact that there is at present grave abuse in connection with insurance. His Majesty's Government are familiar with the allegations, they know the difficulties and they propose that a Commission shall be immediately set up to enquire into these allegations and to investigate the abuses. While there are undoubtedly shirkers, idlers and wasters, the huge majority of men want work, not "doles," and it is therefore the desire of the Government that the insurance question should be examined root and branch, in order that the difficulties may be removed and the abuses corrected.
There is further mention in the gracious Speech of the land. It is the view of the Government, and indeed of most people except the very fortunate, that where the money of the community has been spent to produce the betterment of land and an unearned increment, then some 13 Of that value and unearned increment should be returned to the people who found the money and who have been taxed or rated to bring about those improvements that have brought about betterment to the advantage of the particular landowners who happened to own the land. It is the desire of the Government that methods should be introduced that will bring to the community as a whole some of these benefits and will return to those who have found the money some interest or compensation for the sacrifices that they have made for the benefit of others.
With regard to the amenities of the country, it is our desire to maintain them, and town planning is to be more rigorously enforced. It is a fearful thing to travel into some pleasant outside district and find it being ruined for all time by hideous structures that are being erected here and there without any care being taken of the amenities of the people who desire to live there. It is the wish of the Government that, in connection with town planning, slums should be prevented by a better re-arrangement of houses and, in connection with the amenities of the country, that beauties should be maintained rather than that the selfishness of individuals should be pandered to. Accordingly there are to be brought to your Lordships' care and attention proposals for dealing with the town and with the country.
Unfortunately, there are a large number of people who have but little time to spend in the country and whose lives, for the greater part, are spent in factories, badly ventilated, improperly cared for and with sanitation abominably out of date. Ill health is fostered by factories that ought to be under supervision and under Government control. It is the desire of the Government that the Factory Acts should be strengthened in ender that the health of the workers and the comfort of all those concerned therein may be preserved.
Many of your Lordships have been familiar with Parliamentary Elections and have had painful experiences. Each can bring forward his own particular delights or miseries to the challenge of keener delights or miseries from those with whom he is engaged as the result of the out of date methods by which the representatives of the people are elected. A Com- 14 mittee has been sitting and all Parties agree that the present system is defective. All Parties have been seeking to find some remedy, but they have failed. The Government propose to bring forward an amendment of the law to deal with Elections, in regard not only to the method by which Members are elected but also, no doubt, to the means that cause their election. At the present time wealth can control, and does hamper, the choice of the people in many districts. While it is illegal to engage any hired vehicle to carry any voter to the poll, it is not illegal for hundreds of vehicles to be brought from outside to do that which the individual or the friends of the individual in the place are unable themselves to do. The Government propose that the whole question of electoral reform shall be the subject of examination.
While the Speech of His Majesty started with a note of grave concern and sympathy, it concludes with a prayer and a hope that our deliberations may under the blessing of God be made to contribute to the happiness and well-being of the people. With the courtesy of this House and with the traditional fairness of this House those recently coming into it have been charmed, and it is because of that courtesy and that fairness, and that method of expressing views without too much criticism of those who fearlessly express their views, that I am sure that the concluding paragraph of the Speech, which prays that the happiness and wellbeing of the people will result from your Lordships' deliberations, will prove to be well founded. I beg to second the Motion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, before I address myself, according to immemorial precedent, to the speeches to which we have just listened, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say one brief word upon the heavy losses which your Lordships' House has sustained since we were last assembled within these walls. The hand of death has been heavy upon the members of this House—on some of its most distinguished members. Lord Birkenhead was, I think it may be conceded, the most brilliant of our comrades. He was not only a most eminent lawyer and Judge, but at his best he was a genius in his skill in debate. He was a hard fighter, but he was a loyal colleague, as 15 I can testify from my own personal experience. I am sure your Lordships will all agree that the House is much poorer by the death of Lord Birkenhead.
Then we have to mourn the loss of a great personal friend of many of us, the Duke of Northumberland. I think it may be said of him that even his distinguished abilities were outshone by his character, the integrity and chivalry of which were acknowledged by men of all classes and of all political complexions. And lastly, there is the gap in the ranks of His Majesty's Government in your Lordships' House. Lord Thomson lost his life in a terrible national tragedy, and that has reacted upon us in that we have lost his valuable services—valued alike by the Government and the House. His was a usefulness which was evident before our eyes, growing both in his Department and in his work in your Lordships' House itself, and we desire, in all parts of the House, to share with his colleagues profound regret for his loss.
I turn now to the business of this evening, and to the speeches we have listened to from the two noble Lords who have addressed us. They have performed their work with the success which we are accustomed to await in this House. To the noble Lord who moved the Address in reply to the gracious Speech we listened with great sympathy. He had evidently every facility for addressing your Lordships. He was full of aspirations after better things. He was full of admiration for His Majesty's Government. We do not quite share, perhaps, his enthusiasm, but he expressed it in very moderate terms and we have no complaint to make. He congratulated the Benches opposite on being a little better filled than they used to be. There is a slight improvement, but I think the noble Lord was too sanguine if he thought he would be able to welcome many of my noble friends who sit around me as converts to Labour policy. The Labour policy of late years has not been such a conspicuous success that it is likely to attract any of us, and indeed, if we are to record changes, I think there is a very serious question whether the noble Lord will not have to abandon some of the Free Trade opinions which he expressed to-day, and with his Party pass 16 gradually over to the anti-Cobdenite phalanx which sits opposite him.
As to the noble Lord who seconded the Address, he recalled your Lordships' attention to the courtesy with which we conduct our debates, and I think he was well justified in doing so. I am certain that nothing which he said would tempt me to fail in that courtesy, for he addressed us in very moderate language. He has, of course, a great knowledge of commercial and industrial life, and what he said to us on that point we listened to with great attention. I think he exaggerated, if I may say so, the condition of our factories. A Factory Act is undoubtedly overdue, but I do not think I share with him the language with which he condemned the present condition of our factories and workshops.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am glad I get that correction from the noble Lord, but if he looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow I think he will see it was not so moderately stated in his original remark. I am quite certain that both these two noble Lords will gratify the House on many occasions by taking part in our debates, and we shall always be very ready to hear them.
Now I turn to the gracious Speech from the Throne. It begins, as Speeches generally do, in very decorous language, and, so far as the foreign references are concerned, I have no adverse comment to make. I shall have a word or two to say upon the phrases which deal with Imperial affairs; but before I do so, I should like to dwell upon what, after all, is the leading topic at this moment, the burden of industrial distress and unemployment. That is the matter which is really before the country, it is that which presents the problems which the Government have to meet. And I say they have utterly failed to meet them. In the gracious Speech of the condition of distress they speak with sympathy. Well, sympathy is a very simple matter. Anybody can speak with sympathy; but when it comes to practical work, what are they going to do? There is, of course, the passage in the Speech which speaks of developing and extending trade. I really do not know what that phrase means. No doubt when the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the 17 House rises to reply, he will tell us what is in the mind of the Government to develop and extend trade. What is really wanted is a totally different attitude on the part of His Majesty's Government.
What does industry want at this moment? It wants, in the first place, confidence; it wants, in the second place, economy of the public funds; it wants, in the third place, a spirit of co-operation between the workers and the employers, between capital and labour; and it wants, in the last place, extended markets. Now, what have the Government done in all those matters? What have they done to restore confidence? Look at the unemployment figures. They are mounting up week after week—day after day almost. All the promises which the Government made on the hustings have vanished into thin air. They have been able to do nothing. Of course, now it is all world causes. But when the late Government were in office, unemployment was all the fault of the Ministers. Of course, there is no restoration of confidence as the country watches the unemployment figures increasing and the Government do nothing to help. We do not know, for example, what their policy on Safeguarding is going to be. We know, of course, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in this connection the most important of His Majesty's Ministers—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Well, does the noble and learned Lord accept everything that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says? If so, I am sorry for him. But what is the policy about Safeguarding? Are the Government going to put an end to the Safeguarding which already exists? Are they, on the top of this very serious industrial position, going to add to unemployment by removing the Safeguarding Duties? I ask the noble and learned Lord, when he gets up to reply, to tell us that.
Then, what else do we find in the gracious Speech? Does the noble and learned Lord think that land valuation, with the legislation which is supposed to follow, is likely to restore confidence? For I can tell him it will not restore confidence. Like the last efforts on the 18 same lines, it will only chill enterprise and stop development both on the land and in industry. Then I turn to economy—the administration of the affairs of this country economically. What about the enormous increase in the Budget? I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for whom the noble and learned Lord has such a great affection, has already added some £26,000,000 to the public burden, and, with his promises and intentions, it will rise to some £40,000,000. For that he will have to provide by taxation. Does anybody see in the Speech from the Throne any indication of an economical frame of mind? I have nothing to say, until I see the detail, against the large-scale farming and the re-conditioning of land. It may be a good thing in itself, but it is certain to be very expensive.
And then education. The noble Lord who moved the Address, and who has devoted a great part of his life to education, spoke with some enthusiasm of the Education Bill which is foreshadowed, and for my part I have nothing to say, so far as the principle of the thing is concerned, against raising the school-leaving age of children where the circumstances are such as to permit it. But I say that to raise the age of the children at the schools at the present moment will throw another burden upon the country which it really is absolutely unable to bear. New buildings will have to be erected, and large additions made to the public grants of money. Then there is this system of maintenance of children while they are at school, of which I cannot speak with any approval whatever. Where is the money to come from? Where is this Rake's Progress in extravagance to stop? My Lords, the Government have utterly failed to show a spirit of economy.
Next I turn to co-operation. Is it not absolutely essential in these days to persuade capital and labour to work as they ought to do, conscious of a common interest, to try as far as possible to eliminate all the spirit of antagonism which in the past, I am sorry to say, has very often characterised these relations? The Government come along, not content to leave things alone. They must raise again all the difficulties, all the anxieties, all the friction of the Trade Disputes Act—the political levy, the General Strike, the intimidation clauses. All the things which we were familiar 19 with a very few months ago are to be brought up again, and all that the late Government did, and most rightly did, to put an end to this industrial strife, is to be scrapped again by a Government who cannot let good things alone. There they show no conception of the obligation which the present crisis in industry throws upon them. Lastly, there is the question of markets. What are they going to do to extend the markets? As far as I know, the commitments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are to put an end to Preference as soon as he can. Is that to be still the policy of the Government? Are they going to stop the Preferences which at present exist? I am sure they are not going to extend them. And there, again, the Government are doing nothing to help us in our distress.
I do not know that I need say very much about the paragraph as to electoral reform. None of us sitting on this side of the House was quite sure what it meant. The noble Lord the seconder of the Motion evidently thinks it means a Bill of very considerable proportions. But, as he only went as far as investigation and did not seem to think it was going to develop into legislation, I do not know that we need trouble very much about it. I wonder whether the noble and learned Marquess (Lord Reading) the Leader of the Liberal Party knows what the paragraph about electoral reform means? I expect he knows much more about it than most noble Lords in the House. No doubt he will speak later in the debate. I do not know what he will say on this head, but I feel a certain confidence at any rate so far as he himself is concerned that he will not allow the interests of this country, or allow an increase in the risks of our industrial position to be bartered for same promise of electoral reform. Surely, the Liberal Party has too great a history for them to sink so low as that!
There is, of course, and this is the truth, a sense of insecurity in this country, a dangerous sense of insecurity, and that extends not merely to our domestic affairs but to our relations with our Dominions beyond the seas. The Government have been very ready, and I do not blame them for this, to take part in great Imperial Conferences. I think they rather like the pomp and circumstance of Imperial Conferences. 20 Indeed, it is very right and proper that these important gatherings should be surrounded with a fitting dignity. This dignity, the meetings in the Royal Gallery and the use of St. James's Palace may be very proper, but they are no substitute for a policy. What the Government want in these things is a policy. As far as I know, when they meet the Round-Table Conference on Indian affairs they will do so with no ideas of their own. So far as they are concerned it will be a mere fishing inquiry. The only thing which they have contributed to the elucidation of the subject has been to snub Sir John Simon. That does not appear to be a policy worthy of the name.
Then there is the Imperial Conference now sitting. I see no signs of a policy belonging to His Majesty's Government at the Imperial Conference. I cannot believe that they will treat the representatives of the Dominions as they have treated Sir John Simon, and snub them. They must face the facts, and I hope they are facing the facts that a distinct offer has been made to them on behalf of the great Dominions of the Crown and that they are hound to make a reply. So far as the Party to which we belong on this side of the House is concerned there can be no doubt. We read the offer of Mr. Bennett, the Prime Minister of Canada, to this country and, without hesitation, the Conservative Party accepted the challenge which he made. To us there was no doubt that the principle of Preference which he offered ought to be approved. It was not difficult for us, for we have contended for this policy for the last thirty years. For the last thirty years we have looked forward with hope to the time when there might be closer economic union between ourselves and the Dominions beyond the seas.
The leaders of the Conservative Party have been criticised because they have gone forward to meet the offer of the Prime Minister of Canada. They have gone a step further forward than they did before in the controversy that has raged. Of course, they have. The offer of the Prime Minister of Canada has made a profound difference in the position. It is no longer a vague question. There is the substantial offer of a closer fiscal union between this country and 21 the Dominions. We, of course, were prepared to respond to it and we shall respond to it if we get the opportunity, as your Lordships know. In the first place, there is no doubt that those who represent the Conservative Party in those days will be prepared to establish a general tariff upon which Preference will be granted to the Dominions. Some people call it an emergency tariff and some people call it a revenue tariff. I prefer the latter name. If there were no fiscal questions between ourselves and our Dominions, a revenue tariff would be essential in the present condition of the public finances. Direct taxation has not only reached its limit, it has passed over its limit so far as the prosperity of this country is concerned. Some other means of revenue must be found, and it can only be found in indirect taxation. Therefore if Conservatives once more come into power that must be the first matter to which they would devote their attention.
But how far would that general tariff go? What would it include? Would it include only manufactured articles or would it go further? That is the matter which is so much a subject of strife at the present moment. For my part, passionately as I have desired and my friends have desired this closer economic union with our Dominions all my life, I am not going to be deterred by any fiscal scruple from embracing the opportunity. We are not afraid to go any length which the interest of this country will allow in order to promote this end. But Mr. Bennett's offer is double. It is not merely that he suggests we should have increased indirect taxation upon which we can grant Preference to the Dominions, but he proposes that he and his colleagues the other Prime Ministers should grant certain conditions in return, and of course the arrangement must depend upon what those conditions may be. These distinguished statesmen must be aware that we can only persuade our countrymen to accept this policy if they are satisfied that it is a fair bargain as between them and the Dominions beyond the seas. But if that condition is fulfilled, for my part I have no fear of meeting the public opinion of my country. After all they have an imperial destiny, and they are proud of their imperial destiny, and we may safely go to them 22 and say: "We have met our brothers beyond the seas; they have made an offer to us, and we ask you to accept that upon conditions fair alike to them and to ourselves and redounding to the future greatness and prosperity of our Empire."
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, will you permit me for a very few moments to express first of all my complete accord and that of those associated with me with the remarks which fell from the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition regarding the great loss which this House has sustained by the death of the three noble Lords to whom he referred. He said at one moment that he believed he was speaking on behalf of all members of this House. We of the Liberal Party in your Lordships' House agree with everything that he said so tersely and so well.
May I be permitted to say one special word with regard to Lord Birkenhead? I do it not as one who occupies for the moment the position of Leader of the Liberal Party in this House, but I do it because I have been associated with him ever since he commenced his career at the Bar. I have known him from his early moments up to the last, differing from him in polities from the first to the last except, of course, during the War, when we were associated in the War Cabinet and in various War measures. I think the noble Marquess selected his language well when he said that this House had lost its most brilliant ornament. Brilliant is a word often misapplied and too lightly used, but it never was better used than in relation to the intellect, the capacity and the fascination of the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead. As a Lord Chancellor, although he occupied that great office for only a short time comparatively, he will live long in memory. The wisdom and the soundness of his judgment, the clarity with which he expressed himself, and the industry which he devoted to the various matters that came before him, entitle him to a very high place among Lord Chancellors in history. May I, in a last word, say that all who knew him intimately, and all who were associated with him as a friend, will think of him as one of the most loyal, courageous and affectionate of friends.
23 I turn now to what has been said during the debate on the gracious Speech from the Throne. I am sure we are all pleased to have had the advantage of listening to the remarks of the noble Lord who moved the Address, and who gave us the benefit of his cultivated mind and of his reflections upon the problems of the day. The noble Lord who followed him was formerly a colleague of mine in another place, and he has now apparently seen the error of his ways. He speaks with authority on matters of business, and I have no wish to controvert anything that he said, but I must make one observation with regard to America. In dealing with the unemployment problem he said that he had just returned from America. He told us the situation was worse there than here, that unemployment was greater there—I suppose he means in proportion to the population—and that conditions altogether were more serious than with us. May I remind the noble Lord, who is a supporter of the Government, that that situation has arisen only within a comparatively few months, and that here we are dealing with a problem which has been with us for a number of years?
The Party that succeeded at the Election and now form the Government of the day obtained their success very largely by criticisms directed upon the outgoing Government for their failure to deal with unemployment, and by promises that they themselves would deal with it adequately. May I respectfully say to the members of the Government and of the Party supporting it that they will now understand better the danger of making promises of which they cannot see the certainty of fulfilment? Apart altogether from the Party question, the disappointment to me in the Speech from the Throne is that unemployment is not treated as it should be, as a grave emergency problem which requires grave emergency measures. On the contrary, so far as I am able to judge from the reference to the measures that are to be introduced, there is nothing in them which can help very much to alleviate unemployment. There are various references to agriculture, and to the other proposals that are to be made, but, of course, everything depends upon the measures introduced and the extent to which the Government intend to go. 24 There is, however, nothing in the Speech to indicate that there is any great remedy for unemployment.
It may be that there will be very little controversy. We cannot tell until we know the details of the measures to be introduced. But I submit to your Lordships in the present grave situation, which is continuing year by year, in which the numbers of unemployed are increasing by leaps and bounds so that in the Recess—that is, within the very few months in which Parliament is not sitting—the numbers of unemployed increased by 138,000, if the Government contrast those figures with the numbers they had to deal with at the Election when they made those promises, they will realise how utterly they have failed to deal with the gravest problem before them and how necessary it is for them to apply their minds to real remedies for dealing with the situation in the manner which is demanded, to tackle it as if we were in the midst of the gravest crisis we have known. I have no wish to be unfair to them. I realise that the economic conditions of the world have increased unemployment and multiplied their difficulties: but I look around and strive to find what the Government are going to do, and I confess I can see nothing in any of the measures promised which will really relieve this situation or which show a true appreciation of its gravity.
It may be, I dare say, that some members of His Majesty's Government think that the remedies which have been discussed with them, which have been handed to them for their consideration, are, as one of the speakers said, quack remedies. I do not know. But if by "quack remedies" is meant something which will cure unemployment, I agree with them. If there is meant something that is not a permanent cure, I differ from them, because in a situation of this character you should meet unemployment as it stands. After all, business is not always going to be in the present depressed condition. The time will come, assuredly—and let us hope soon—when the tide will turn and employment will increase. Meanwhile, in order that there should be at least some improvement, I should have thought it was worth trying to apply some of the 25 remedies suggested. Some of those which have been put before the country may mean a loan for the time being. I would prefer that rather than that the moral fibre of youths and of older men aiso should be sapped by getting accustomed to living on the "dole" instead of having to go out to work.
I turn now for a moment to one of two subjects to which I shall refer very briefly. Reference has been made in the course of the debate to the proposals to amend the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927. I rather wonder, as the noble Marquess did, why this moment is selected for putting that forward in the King's Speech. Here we are faced with these grave difficulties to which reference has been made on all sides of the House, the difficulties not only of unemployment but of the tremendous economic depression, the difficulties we have with the Dominions and the offers made to us. There are great problems in front of us which must depend to a large extent upon co-operation between employer and employed. I fail to understand why at this moment, in this crisis—because it is a crisis—we should have to deal with this question of the Trade Disputes Act. It may be said that it is because promises have been made and have to be carried out, something in the nature of what is often described as a "political promise," which, translated into plain unvarnished English, means a statement made during an Election in order to obtain votes so that the gainer may be one of a Government or at least a supporter of a Government. I am not blaming the Labour Party for that. Unfortunately, it is a thing which happens too often in an Election on all sides. But the question has to be faced, why this measure is to be introduced at this moment. I do not know. To what extent amendment is to be made one cannot judge. There is nothing to indicate. I merely pass on with the observation that very powerful arguments will have to be addressed, I should imagine, to your Lordships' House before you would agree to deal with any of the fundamental propositions which were dealt with in the Trade Disputes Act, 1927.
Then there is a measure proposed for electoral reform. The noble Marquess was good enough to think that I knew more about it than he did. Indeed, he seemed to suggest that I had the secret 26 of it in my pocket and that I probably understood all that it meant. Well, I wish I did. At any rate, if I did I could understand what it was I had to deal with. I could then make up my mind whether it was worth while to accept this offer and whether it would induce me to do certain other things, whether I would respond to the bait. I think I should have to consider not only this measure but other measures which will come up for consideration, to consider the extent of the price to be paid, not in the interests of the Party but in the interests of the nation. All I can say with regard to it is that I am as innocent of knowing what is intended as the noble Marquess. I am not sure—if he will permit me to say so—that the noble and learned Lord who leads the House on the Government side is more familiar with what is proposed than either the noble Marquess or myself. If he is, I would be glad if he would tell us. It would at least throw some light on what is now rather dark and obscure.
What is the measure of electoral reform which is to be introduced? Of course, if the Government have clearly in mind which of various kinds of electoral reform they intend to adopt, it is very easy to say. They will have to make up their minds. If they do not even know whether the proposal is to go beyond dealing with motor cars, as the noble Lord the seconder of the Address seems to think—and I suppose he must know something on the subject—or if it is to relate only to election expenses, as has been also suggested, then perhaps the kind of electoral reform may have been well chosen. In the course of time I suppose we shall be told what is meant and then we can judge. I will say nothing further about it than that it is the duty of the Government to introduce a. Bill just as it would be the duty of any other Government.
The whole of the democratic system is to a certain extent at stake. It cannot be permitted that the present state of things should continue in which, by the mere chance of the vote, more than half the members of the House of Commons are elected by a minority vote, a situation in which one section get one seat for 20,000 or 30,000 votes while another section—as happens to the Liberals—only get one seat for every 90,000 votes. Apply that principle to the test of 27 democracy and find the answer. If the Labour Party wish to deal with this position as custodians of democracy, as in truth trustees for the people of this country, let them put to themselves this question. Suppose they found themselves in the same position as the Liberal Party at this moment, with one member for 90,000 votes as against one member for 20,000 votes in one case or one member for 30,000 votes in another case, would they be satisfied and would they think there was no necessity to introduce any measure to deal with it? Or would they, on the other hand, say, more eloquently than I can, that the whole system is a mockery and a betrayal of what is meant by democratic government?
I have but one other word to say. It hardly touches the terms of the gracious Speech from the Throne, but I cannot address your Lordships without making some reference to the Government's latest statement of policy in regard to Palestine. Letters have been written to the newspapers and observations have been made on the matter. Discussion of it would perhaps be inappropriate in this debate, but I desire to impress upon His Majesty's Government that it is not only a question as between Jews and Arabs, but that British honour is at stake and that it is their duty as a Government to clear up any difficulties there may be and to restore peace, so far as they can, so that it may no longer be open to critics to complain that a British Government passed their word with allied and associated nations, such as the United States, during the War, in order to produce a particular condition of things, and that when, after the War, difficulties and dangers faced them they took a different view and, in effect., resigned from the promises that they had given.
I can hardly conceive that the Government intend this. It may be that the Government have been maladroit in the Observations that they have made and in their statement of policy. I have known such things happen, not only with this Government but with others. I must state, however—though the question cannot be raised in detail now—my view that the Government have made a grave mistake. While they have stated that they must be fair to both sections—which nobody will controvert—and that the civil and religious liberties of the Arabs must be respected as much as those of 28 any other section—which, of course, is just as fundamental as the right, whatever it may be, that may be given to the Jews—yet I feel bound to say that, when the Government have once pledged themselves to the establishment of a Jewish National Home, they should not be at liberty in later years to take action which produces the impression amongst many who are interested all over the world that they are really playing them false. I repeat that I do not believe that the Government can intend this, and I hope that some time during the course of other debates—not at the present moment, for I do not expect the. Leader of the House to deal with the matter now—they may give us a statement of a specific kind and make an answer in very different terms.
My last word is with reference to India. I notice from the beginning of the Speech that His Majesty intends himself to inaugurate the Round-Table Conference. I am sure that everyone will have heard this with the greatest satisfaction. He impresses upon the country the most momentous character of this Conference, and I trust that at the end we may find that some solution has been reached that will make for greater happiness and contentment in India.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I should like to begin my remarks to your Lordships by expressing—although the matter has already been referred to—our gratitude for the speeches of the mover and the seconder of the Resolution that is now before your Lordships' House. The mover is, of course, in a special way an expert on educational topics. He was, as we know, at one time head of Ruskin College at Oxford, and he has an immense amount of educational experience. I certainly welcome his view that, for the good of the country, the time has now come, after a long period of deliberation, for the age of compulsory education to be at last raised from fourteen to fifteen. He, indeed, desired that it should be raised to sixteen, and theoretically I should not disagree with him; but I think that, under existing conditions, such an extension would not really be a possible policy.
As regards the seconder of this Resolution, he has, I suppose, a larger trade experience than almost any member of your Lordships' House. It has fallen to my lot to work with him far beyond the nineteen years that he spent in the 29 other House, and almost, I think, from the very beginning of his professional life and my own. I think we may feel confident that he would not have made the statement that he made—an extremely important statement—as to the conditions in America unless, as he told us, he had visited America year after year—I think for thirty-five years—and knew all the conditions there. He pointed to the present depression, not as an accidental matter of the moment, but as a depression brought about by conditions in a country which, perhaps above all others, has relied upon the doctrine of Protection.
There is one other duty which I have to perform before I come to the proposals of the King's Speech. The tragic accident which caused the death of Lord Thomson and so many of his air comrades touched the finer chords of national consciousness and of human sorrow. There was a wonderful outburst of sympathy and sorrow, both here and in other countries. The brightest gleam that shed its ray over the gloom of the tragedy was the ready sympathy and aid so generously and spontaneously given by the French Government and the French people. This sympathy and aid were doubly appreciated, I am sure, by all members of this House. This outburst of national friendliness at a time of national grief will not be forgotten in the future relationships of the two countries.
On this Bench, as the Leader of the Opposition indicated, we mourn the loss of Lord Thomson as that of a much valued friend and a loyal and faithful colleague. He was ever ready to give to all of us full measure of loyal assistance. He was endowed with a nature and character which responded readily to the unselfish claims of close co-operation, with little thought of the risk that he was running. Personally I shall always cherish a long letter which he wrote to me, I think the last letter before he left on his fatal voyage, with no indication that he thought that he was meeting any special source of danger or difficulty. In this House he was creating for himself a position of much influence, both for his personal qualities and for his innate courtesy when he took part in our debates. He showed himself a man of cultured knowledge, possessing a varied 30 range of wide experience of different countries and a power of expression to be found not only in his speeches but in his all too few published writings. On behalf of my colleagues I thank the noble Marquess opposite for the very kind references that he made to our much beloved colleague.
As to the late Duke of Northumberland, I agree with what the noble Marquess has said as regards his personal qualities of complete uprightness and unselfishness. They were evident to every one who ever worked with him. It fell to my lot to work with him in connection with the New Church Assembly, and of all the colleagues that I ever worked with in Church matters I never found a sounder guide or more capable friend than the late Duke of Northumberland.
We come to a different character in the case of Lord Birkenhead. He was a great figure in the true sense of the term in this House. He was endowed by nature with a splendid mental equipment, and an exuberant vitality, perhaps open at times to the criticism almost of extravagance. Personally, I had experience of the force of Lord Birkenhead's invective, but it left no bitter feeling and aroused no personal resentment. The sword is now sheathed, and the rest has come. Outside your Lordships' House I did not know Lord Birkenhead with out intimacy in his public life. I had the misfortune to lose my seat in the House of Commons at the Election when Lord Birkenhead was first returned, and our views on political subjects grew widely different. In this House his name will he remembered as that of a great Lord Chancellor, worthy to be associated on equal terms with his great Tory predecessors in the last century, such as Lord Lyndhurst and Lord Halsbury. There is no need to emphasise his dominating influence in debate in this House. During his Lord Chancellorship it fell to my lot to be often his colleague, either in this House or as a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. As a jurist and an exponent of legal principles he showed himself a great master craftsman. It is in his judgments that he has left us a record of his power of adapting and clarifying the legal principles of which we are justly proud, and which are accepted throughout a large 31 portion of the civilised world. We on this side like to associate ourselves with all that has been said with regard to the life of Lord Birkenhead by the noble Marquess opposite.
When we come to the King's Speech, there is one passage in it to which little reference has been made but which has a great bearing on the question which the noble Marquess raised, as to the confidence and security in the future of our dear country. Perhaps, before going to that passage, I might remind your Lordships that in the quiet of the Foreign Office, sometime yesterday, the Naval Treaty with America and Japan was ratified, in which the three great naval Powers of the world, in a spirit of peace and co-operation, agreed to reduce to a corresponding extent their Navies and their naval power. If you want confidence that is how you get it. If you want confidence you must have the spirit of international co-operation, and whatever else can be said for or against the present Government, I claim that their international policy has given us a position of confidence and security which, as I shall show presently by a few figures, has enabled us not to fail, as the noble Marquess has suggested, but to carry through out great burden of taxation in a way which is the admiration of other countries—a burden which, after all, has not come from us but is the result of war expenditure and war loss.
Then in the sixth paragraph of His Majesty's gracious Speech appears this:My Government took an active part in the proceedings of the Assembly of the League of Nations in September last.I know from many sources, and not least from a source well known to the noble Marquess opposite, that the position which the Foreign Secretary took in the Assembly at Geneva last September threw into our hands the leadership in all the progressive work in favour of peace and disarmament. Is not that a great merit, when we are considering the confidence and security which this country can afford at the present time? The same paragraph continues:—General agreement was reached upon the Treaty of Financial Assistance to States Victims of Aggression which was recently signed at Geneva. The application of this Treaty is conditional upon the coming into force of a General Disarmament. Convention, which I trust will shortly be concluded.32 We signed the Treaty of Financial Assistance, and it received twenty-eight signatures, but there was one condition—namely, that the application of the Treaty is conditional upon the coming into force of a general disarmament convention which in the Speech His Majesty trusts "will shortly be concluded.' I think every one who studies what passes at Geneva must agree that. the time has come when all countries concerned must do their best to carry out the obligation of disarmament attached to the Covenant of the League itself, and that we cannot expect much progress until that condition is fulfilled. It is a matter of national honour which has not been fulfilled for more than ten years, and I hope that when the present Preparatory Commission is settled this Disarmament Conference may be carried out in connection with the Geneva Assembly.
Those are some of the great factors which in my mind tell against the pessimism of the noble Marquess as regards the conditions in this country. Let me deal with the suggestions which he has made, but perhaps he will not mind my asking him one or two questions before I seek to answer the questions which he put to me. Is he in favour of a Free Trade Empire? If so, it would be in the teeth of the opinion of the Prime Minister of Canada, which he has quoted to us this afternoon. Is he in favour of the taxation of food? I think myself nothing can be more unjust in a country like ours, where 90 per cent. of the population are working industrialists, than to allow any step to be taken which would have the effect of increasing the cost of the food of the poor people of this country. And I say it is unjust in two ways. As a matter of taxation, you are shifting the burden from the well-to-do to the poor; as a matter of wages, you are reducing the real value of wages at the same time as you are pretending to maintain their actual level. It is a cruel suggestion to tax the food of this country, and if there is one thing to which I believe the Government are absolutely opposed it is that we will not assent to any measure which would be in the nature of placing taxation upon food in this country, and particularly upon wheat in this country. Because, as the noble 33 Marquess knows perfectly well, as poverty increases the consumption of wheat and bread among the poorer classes increases. So that you actually take the commodity upon which they are most dependent and put new taxation upon them—you increase their cost of living. And this, as I understand, the noble Marquess is prepared to do, merely on the dictation or suggestion of one or two of the Prime Ministers, putting on one side the consideration of what the fatal effect may be upon this country itself.
Just let us think for one moment what the facts are. Over 90 per cent. of the population in this country are urban workers in factory and suchlike occupations. It is a different position altogether in France, where only 50 per cent. are workers under the conditions in which our workers are employed. In Germany recent statistics show that about 31 per cent. are engaged in rural occupations, whereas in this country only about 7 per cant. are so engaged. I will go into the agricultural question presently; I do not intend to shirk that for a moment. But that is not the question I am asking now. Does the noble Marquess agree to the doctrine of food taxation? Does he believe that food taxation can be other than a great injury to our working classes? If he believes that, I ask him once again to modify his opinion, once again to consider what the conditions are, and what our obligations are. And then perhaps he may revert to an opinion which I think he once held, that, whatever else might be done as regards Imperial Preference, at least there should be no taxation of the food of the people.
What Mr. Snowden has said—and I do not want it to be misinterpreted, because, after all, he is the exponent of the Government on these questions—is not a protest against all Preferences, but a protest against any taxation of food or raw materials, which is an entirely different thing. Where tariffs exist, Preferences may be allowed. I recollect the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Falloden, at one time speaking in this House and drawing a distinction, which is proper and essential, between allowing deductions from tariffs already imposed and imposing duties on such things as food and raw material. Let us see what the statistics are. Though our export trade has recently declined—no one denies that, unfortunately—it 34 is notable that in the second quarter of this year the total production in Great Britain fell only 8 per cent. as compared with the first quarter; whereas in Germany, a protected country, it fell 16 per cent., and in the United States it fell 14 per cent.—and that is a protected country with an enormous home market and home reserves. That is to say, we are keeping the home market, which is taking a larger quantity of goods. That comes from the greater prosperity of the working classes in this country, which is the best market for home produce, and the only one, in my opinion, which will enable us really to increase the effective demand. I would add that the Master Cutler in Sheffield a little while ago called attention to the fact that the output of steel in Sheffield is 50 per cent. more than it was before the War.
It is a misapprehension of the conditions to suppose that this country, which is a Free Trade country, is suffering from the absence of Protection, and that it is Protection that we want and that would give us increased trade. The story of Protection in other countries is easily to be read. It is always the story of raising the height of your protective barrier, hoping that, by excluding the beneficial interchange of goods with other countries, you will get some special advantage for your own. That has always been a failure. In 1914, when the Great War broke out, was any other country enjoying anything like the same prosperity as we were, not only in regard to our total wealth, but in the condition of our labouring and poor classes? And now, after having borne the major part of the expenses of the great world war, we are still better off than countries which are relying upon Protection at the present time. I know that reference is sometimes made to France, but the conditions affecting the working people in France are very much worse than they are in this country, and France has the advantage, which I hope we shall have, of a large resident population of smallholders or small owners who, in the aggregate, contribute enormously to the prosperity of France.
My answer to the noble Marquess's first point, then, is that not only is there no loss of confidence, but confidence in the 35 securities of this country is in many respects higher than ever it was. I do not know how many of your Lordships studied the Speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the City the other night. So far as finance is concerned there is no country in the world where money can be obtained on such easy terms, there is no country in which confidence is such that money can be obtained at so low a rate of interest.
Then the noble Marquess referred in the second place to economy. I admit economy is a very great difficulty at the present time. I believe the only real economy is a drastic reduction in our expenditure on warlike equipment and machinery. We have to do what we did after the Napoleonic wars. After the Napoleonic wars, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out, the depression was worse than it has been after the recent Great War. But at that time we did make a most drastic reduction in all unnecessary expenditure, particularly on war equipment; and it was not for a long time after our recovery that we engaged in warlike expenditure—which I do not grudge in one sense, but which ought not to be allowed as long as the difficulty and evils of unemployment are what they are at the present time.
The next factor to which the noble Marquess referred was co-operation. I agree with him entirely. The difficulty rather comes from human nature as far as I can understand. Why people are not more friendly and more co-operative I cannot very well understand. At any rate, I have this consolation that the whole co-operative movement of this country are supporters of the Labour party on the ground that they are doing what they can to promote co-operation as between the worker on the one side and the employer on the other, or, if you like to put it in another way, to make the two have a common interest without any intermediate bargaining of a third party at all.
The last matter to which he referred was extended markets. There again I entirely agree with him. It is our policy. It is our policy to have what he called an extended market both as regards home conveniences and as regards the organisation particularly of the markets between this country and the various members of our Empire. I think I gathered aright 36 from his expression that he favoured that. I am sure there is nothing more important in our general agricultural industry than a better marketing system. I think that the Imperial Marketing Board has been a great success and that we ought to extend to our own people the same advantages that we are extending to our various Dominions in different parts of the world under that Board.
The other matter that I want to answer the noble Marquess upon is the question of agriculture. I think he has considerable knowledge of agriculture; in fact, I am sure he has. He has not been a farmer for perhaps so many years as I have, but he has been a farmer for a good many years. What we say is that both from the point of view of employment and the utilisation of our land we want a very large increase in small holdings or small farms, which are looked upon as what are called farms of the family unit. I know that in my own district the creation of those farms has been of enormous benefit. During the time of greatest depression there has never been a difficulty in finding capital. Nay, more than that, what those people object to is any taxation of wheat because they are not so much producers as purchasers of wheat for the feeding of their poultry and cattle, which is their chief industry. I do not know whether your Lordships noticed that Mr. Snowden said the other day in his speech that he had had a letter from a majority of a meeting of farmers in Sussex in which they begged him not to assent to the contention that dear wheat was to the advantage of all farmers in this country. They said: "There is nothing we want more than cheap wheat. We depend upon it to feed our cattle and pigs, and every penny you put on in the way of more expensive food is not an advantage to us but a great detriment to our whole farming system."
I can give your Lordships another illustration from my own experience. I happen to know Gloucestershire pretty well. I went to Gloucestershire the other day and a farmer whom I know very well came and said to me: "What do you mean by suggesting any taxation on wheat?" I said: "That is not my suggestion." He replied: "I can tell you that every farmer in the Cotswolds objects to that. What he wants, and I 37 hope you will take notice of it, is protection for his barley." So it goes round, and everyone wants protection for his special interests. Everyone, as Mr. Snowden pointed out, is lobbying that his special interest might be protected; and the loss is mainly borne by the poor consumer to whom cheapness is an interest more essential than any ether as regards our farming conditions. At the same time I entirely sympathise with the troubles of our farmers. They have gone through with great courage the process of the adaptation of their farming conditions to the new conditions in agriculture. They have been slowly eliminating what is called cereal cultivation, which cannot be carried on under economic conditions. Mr. Orwin, a Professor and Director of Agricultural Research at Oxford, said that no worse policy can be adopted than to encourage farmers, under a system of protection, to carry out an unproductive cultural system; whereas, if they were left alone and the policy of adaptation was followed, the difficulty would disappear if you only gave them patience and time.
Indeed, as I dare say the noble Marquis would know from his long experience, the present depression, bad as it is—I quite admit it is very bad indeed and no one is more sorry for the farmers in, that respect that I am—is not, approximately, as bad as the conditions were in the final decade of the last century. Therefore, as I say, I think our policy is right—marketing boards, the encouragement of smaller farms and, on the other side, factory farms. I do not know whether your Lordships have read an account of the experiments of Mr. Bayliss on the Berkshire Downs, whose farming was on what is called the factory system for cereal cultivation only. There was not a single beast of any kind in the 14,000 acres which he farmed, and farmed with great prosperity. I hope that I have answered the questions which the noble Marquess asked me. I am not so hopeful of obtaining a recruit as my noble friend behind me was, but I know that the conditions in the country and the conditions that I have mentioned are well known to the noble Leader of the Opposition and that he is always ready to bring a fair mind to solving, if he can, the difficulties of the present time, particularly that of unemployment.
38 I may say one other word about unemployment. Is there are member of your Lordships' House who does not think that the responsibility lies upon the State and that as regards the able-bodied who are out of employment the State must be responsible either for employment or maintenance? The particular localities affected are already hopelessly involved. What further will he have us do? We have tried every avenue, and I understand in the things that we have actually done we have gone to an extravagant extent in creating, I might almost say, a considerable number of employed persons. What more would you do? Would he spend less on the unemployment question or more? I think he would find it very difficult either to have greater economies or to suggest any better system than that which the Government have pursued.
I would like to say a word or two in answer to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. I am glad he made the statement that he did not expect me on the present occasion to deal with the Palestine question, but I want to say this by way of a general answer to what he has said. I dare say he will raise a discussion upon this point before long, and I want to say that I feel certain that we have made every effort to fulfil all the obligations of our national honour both to the Jews and to the Arabs. It is not an easy question, but I think the allegation that we have not done our best to deal justly with the rights both of the Arabs and of the Jews has no foundation whatever.
I will not go over the unemployment matter again, but I wish to make a reference to the Trade Disputes Act. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, I think made a, mistake in one respect. The trade disputes proposal was not introduced for the first time by the present Government in the King's Speech. It appeared a year ago.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I thought the noble Marquess said this was the first time the Government had brought it forward. He knows that there are difficulties in regard to the Trade Disputes Act—difficulties which bring a sense of rankling injustice to a large number of people. 39 He knows the old cases which are decided. He knows what was recommended by the Royal Commission under Lord Dunedin, and he knows that the recommendations of that Commission were incorporated in an Act of Parliament, and that what at any rate trade unionists desire is that they may be put in the position which they held before the 1927 Act was passed. I am not expecting the noble Marquess to agree with all I say, but I think what I have said will make it quite clear what the position is.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
Will the noble Lord forgive me if I interrupt him before he passes to another subject? That would be true with regard to the political levy, but there are other matters dealt with in the Act. I do not know whether the observations he is making are intended to convey that all of them will be repealed, or whether it is merely the political levy part that is to be repealed. I was anxious to know that.
§ LORD PARMOOR
It is not merely the political levy. There are other matters which are to be repealed, but I do not want to go into the question at the present time. The other matter which the noble Marquess referred to was electoral reform. I cannot say how much I agree with him there. I am afraid I would go too far for some of my friends if I disclosed my whole mind. The present system of representation in this country is in many respects a mockery, just as President Garfield pointed out that in large sections of the American Republic it was a mockery because large minorities were disfranchised in some portions of the electorate. The result at the last Election, as the noble Marquess has told us, was that each elected Liberal Member represented something like 90,000 votes. That is a matter which has got to be dealt with. We boast that ours is a mother of Parliaments on the ground of our representative system. I hope that our representative system will be reformed. I hope that broader representation will he given to minorities, and that every attempt will be made—I cannot say more than that—to meet the obvious injustices which overtook the noble Marquess's Party, at any rate at the last Election.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
When the noble Lord says he hopes this will 40 happen, does he mean the Government intend to legislate on this subject in the present Session?
§ LORD PARMOOR
That is so. When I say the Government intend to legislate upon it in the present Session, perhaps I ought rather to put it in this way, that it is our expectation and hope. The noble Marquess's experience of political life is such that he knows nobody can go beyond that. The Government's desire is to deal with this question as a pressing evil. As to exactly when it can be done I am afraid I cannot say anything more definite and clear at the present time. The noble Marquess knows very well that all Parties in turn, it does not matter which, feel the difficulty of carrying out the policy which they have promised at Election times. But I want to say this. Ours is the greatest democratic Constitution in the world. We have got a solidity and a stability and a competence that you do not find elsewhere. I saw the other day that the Communists in this country had degenerated to a few thousands, and the reason of that is that the working classes of this country have a unique experience, a right judgment and a desire for stability which makes them not on the side of creating no confidence but on the side of bringing into all parties and all classes a spirit and a real sense of stability and liberty combined.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.