§ THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER rose to call attention to the Reports of the Commissioners for the Special Areas; to ask His Majesty's Government what action it is proposed to take on them; and to move for Papers. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, perhaps I ought to apologise for bringing forward at this late hour of the Session a matter of such great importance as the distressed areas, but the Reports of the two Commissioners were only issued two or three weeks ago and a debate on them only took place last week in another place. I do not propose to make a long or comprehensive speech. There are others in this House who have a more intimate knowledge of the problem than I have and I hope that we may hear the noble Lord, Lord Portal, who was the Commissioner for South Wales, one of the original four Commissioners. I hope very much also that the Government may take the opportunity of clearing up a good deal of doubt and uncertainty which was left by the debate last week.
§ I have no doubt whatsoever about the real concern which the Government feel in connection with these districts and their great anxiety to find some solution of the problem. The noble Marquess who is to reply has a most intimate knowledge of one of these distressed areas. I am also perfectly certain that no one who 965 has the remotest knowledge of this problem can fail to realise how impossible it is for the Government to produce any one scheme which once and for all and infallibly will solve all the problems connected with these districts. The problem is most complicated and difficult. There are pitfalls on every side. After all, the causes which have led to the present position are very largely beyond our control. They are largely due to the international slump in shipping and also to the decrease in the export of coal from this country, the amount of which has fallen in a few years from 67,000,000 tons to 47,000,000 tons. The criticism which I would pass on the debate of last week is that, while the Government's spokesmen explained very fully the real difficulties which stand in the way, while they spoke about the various measures which have been taken by the Commissioners, they completely failed to bring out the anxiety and the concern of the Government in this matter; they failed to outline any plans which they propose to introduce for dealing with the situation, and they left an impression, not of determination but of hesitancy and uncertainty.
§ Therefore I am most anxious that the Government, before the Recess and before this matter is debated, as I am afraid it is bound to be, on various platforms in the country, should have an opportunity of expressing in a less controversial atmosphere their mind on this matter. Let me in a sentence or two outline the present position. You have in these areas something like 440,000 persons out of work. I am including, of course, Scotland as well as the English areas. A large number of these persons have been out of work for a considerable period. In England and Wales 51 per cent. of them have been out of work for over a year and in Scotland the proportion is 37 per cent. The Commissioners who were previously appointed found that in Durham and on Tyneside there were no fewer than 40,000 persons who had been out of work for three years and in Wales there were 28,000 men who had been out of work for three years. The effect of this on individuals, on their outlook, on their lives and on their character is simply deplorable.
§ The Commissioner for England and Wales says that he came away with an ineffaceable impression of men suffering through being over-wrought and worn out 966 by anxiety. There is a striking sentence in one of Mr. J. B. Priestley's books, English, Journey, in which he describes the unemployed in some towns as men wearing the drawn masks of prisoners of war. If the position is bad for the men it is worse for the lads. A large number have never done an hour's work in their lives, and they are not likely to have an opportunity of doing any work. The Commissioner for England and Wales says that they are, through enforced idleness, deteriorating in character.
§ It is not only individuals who are suffering. Whole communities are suffering, suffering through want and suffering in morale. Only a day or two ago I had a letter from a friend who worked for many years in South Wales, in which he says that where a majority of the community are in work they are able to keep up the morale of the minority who are unemployed; but he goes on to say that when the majority of the men are unemployed the morale of the whole district suffers alarmingly or just goes by the board. This is the pathetic feature of much of South Wales. And, what is really worst of all, the Commissioner states that there is no prospect at the present time of an effective reduction in, the number of unemployed. There is no hope of a revival of the export of coal, there is no immediate hope of the revival of shipping, there seems to be no immediate hope of any large industry moving into these distressed districts; and there is, of course, the danger that the steel and iron industry may move away from these districts increasingly to the new industries in connection with itself which are being opened in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire.
§ The Commissioners were appointed to deal with this position. Their duty was to initiate, to organise and to assist measures to facilitate the economic development and social improvement of the areas. They have done a great deal towards the social improvement of the areas. In the accounts they have given of their stewardship they tell us what they have been able to do. I am anxious to be short, so I will not detain the House by enumerating the various steps they have been able to take. All I want to say is that I regard what they have done as of very great value and as a real 967 contribution to helping these unemployed in many places to maintain their morale and courage. Things would be worse than they are without their help. But they have not been able really to deal with the core of the matter. The things they have done have been in the nature of palliatives; they have not been able to revive industries or materially to reduce the number of unemployed. It is quite true that they have only been at work for some six months. I am not in any kind of way passing a criticism on them; I am merely repeating in rather different words what the Commissioner for England and Wales says himself in his Report.
This, of course, is due to various reasons, and there is one point, a very important matter, to which I want to draw the attention of the Government. When these. 'Commissioners were appointed, it was understood that they would be freed from a great deal of red tape and that they would have wide discretion to initiate and carry out the schemes which they felt to be necessary. The speeches which were made in the House of Commons in connection with the Bill, and also in this House, all emphasised this. The sum which was voted to them was to be regarded as a kind of token payment, promising larger amounts which were to follow afterwards, and the Minister of Labour at that time said:
They will be enabled to undertake any experiment and work which they think is necessary.
Now the Commissioner for England and Wales points out that this is not the case. He does not blame the Government, nor does he criticise the Departments, but he says that the legal interpretation of the Act has fettered him in many directions. It is quite true that he has, as he states and as the Minister of Labour in another place stated, "freedom to make suggestions." But we all of us have freedom to make proposals, without an Act of Parliament conferring it upon us. What he says he has not got is power to carry these proposals into effect.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY)
Might I ask the right reverend Prelate where I can find this passage?
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
The passage is on page 6 of the Report:Whilst they may not actually hamper the freedom and initiative of the Commissioner so far as making proposals is concerned, they do result in restricting his powers to carry these proposals into effect.The Commissioner recognises that some of these restrictions are perfectly reasonable. He is not making a complaint about all of these restrictions which fetter his freedom, but he does point out that in several directions they make his work more difficult. If I may take one example, which I think is a very important one, the Commissioners are not allowed to offer a grant to any local authority for any service for which a specific grant is payable by any Government Department. The lawyers define "payable "as" that may be paid, "or" that there is power to pay." This, I understand, means that it is impossible for the Commissioners to make a grant if at any time in the future the Department concerned should care to exercise its power. He points out that this does hamper him in various directions. It makes it impossible for him to give special assistance towards the construction of roads, bridges, tunnels, canals or quays, or towards any educational service; though he can, of course, make grants towards smallholdings and allotments. I should therefore like to ask the Government whether they are prepared to give the Commissioners the wider authority which I think they were intended to possess, and especially if they are prepared to take steps to free them from this hampering and, I cannot help feeling, unreasonable interpretation of the word "payable."
Now the Commissioner—I am referring especially to the Commissioner for England and Wales—makes a number of recommendations. These recommendations fall into two groups. There are those which affect the whole nation and the whole of the unemployed proper: suggestions such as shortening the hours of labour, taking boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and sixteen out of industry, and so on. I am not going to dwell on or discuss any of these. I understand, from the reply which the Government made in another place, that it is not reasonable to expect them to make a reply on a matter which requires general 969 legislation to a question relating to certain special localities. But the other recommendations made by the Commission deal directly and exclusively with the areas concerned, and these again fall into two groups.
First of all, there are the recommendations concerning those who are living in districts where there is really no hope of recovery. There are cases in which villages and towns have sprung up round some mine, and now the mine is closed and never likely to be reopened, and those who are living in these places have now lost all purpose in life. It is impossible in these districts to start any new industry, and therefore the only alternative appears to be to transfer them to other districts where work is to be found. Now I recognise, and I am sure we all recognise, how heart-rending it must be for those who have lived for years, all their life-time, in some of these villages in the North and in Wales, to be removed right away from their homes, and it is very difficult also in connection with the younger generation; but it is the only alternative to a, life of enforced idleness. It is therefore important, as both Commissioners point out—of vital importance—that those of the younger generation should be encouraged to move away to places where work can be obtained for them, and it is because of this that both Commissioners are extremely anxious to make contributions towards hostels into which these youths can be placed. It would make it easier for their parents to part with them if they felt that they were going to be among friends, it would make it easier for the young men themselves, and the proposal to open these hostels seems to me most reasonable.
Here again there comes in a, legal interpretation which stands in the way. The Commissioners have no power to make grants to hostels for youths, on the ground that they do not "afford employment or occupation." Both Commissioners—the Commissioner for Scotland as well as the Commissioner for England and Wales—deplore this position. The Commissioner for Scotland writes most strongly about it. He says:I venture to hope that no effort will be spared to remove any difficulties which may detain youths from taking every opportunity of employment which presents itself.Here again I would like to ask the Government a question. Are they prepared 970 to take steps which will remove a restriction which I think was probably as unexpected as it is undoubtedly fatuous?
Then I turn to a much more important group of recommendations—namely, the revival of local industries. The Commissioner for England and Wales believes that it is impossible for industry to revive in these areas unless a start is made in the localities themselves. He says he can see but one way out, and that is to create a local demand for local production. He goes on to say that this is impossible without Government help, and that meanwhile it is essential that all excess burdens of a distressed area should be placed on the broad shoulders of the nation. Here again I ask the Government if they can give any statement of policy on this most important and, I think, fundamental recommendation of the Commissioner.
I hope very much indeed that we shall not be told that the Government are taking these matters under consideration. After all, these proposals which have been made by Mr. Stewart are not new. Nearly all these proposals were made by the original four Commissioners. They have been before the Government for a year, and they have been before the country for a number of months. I think it is significant that The Times, the day after the debate in another place last week, said:The time has certainly come to turn this attention"—it was pointed out that the Prime Minister had focussed the attention of the country upon these districts—into action. Certainly the time has come for more action and less inquiry. A Government policy for the location of industry and for the retrieving of the derelict areas becomes more and more pressing.Of course it is quite possible that the Government may feel that these proposals are impracticable; that they think there are dangers about them which their authors do not realise. If that is the case I hope the Government will themselves produce their own policy, for the longer we delay in the matter of these distressed areas the more difficult the situation becomes. This creeping paralysis of unemployment as it advances renders the hope of speedy recovery more difficult.
There is a. real danger that we may see in our own times repeated what often 971 occurred in medieval days—districts brought to ruin and becoming deserted areas, and towns going out of action through changes in trade or other causes. The shores of the Mediterranean are dotted with the ruins and grass-grown streets of villages which once were large and prosperous towns. Sometimes ruin came upon them through piracy, war or pestilence, but often it occurred through changes in industry and, above all, changes in trade routes. In those days there was not the will to help these distressed towns—local rivalries were too great—and even if there was the will the nation as a whole to which they belonged had neither the knowledge nor resources with which to assist them. There is danger that great towns like Swansea and Jarrow, unless they receive help in the near future, may not at once, but gradually, deteriorate into a position something like that of deserted towns. There is, to-day, present what was not present in the past—the good will to help these distressed areas. Men of all Parties—and I hope this will not become a Party question—and of all sections are eager to see relief and help brought to these towns, and the Government also have the necessary knowledge and resources. I am quite certain that if the Government embark upon an internal policy in this matter they will receive the wholehearted support of all men of good will throughout the country. I beg to move.
§ LORD PORTAL
My Lords, this is the first occasion on which I have had the privilege of addressing your Lordships House, and therefore I hope you will give me your indulgence this afternoon while I make a few remarks upon the question which has been so ably raised by my right reverend friend the Bishop of Winchester. I was appointed A year ago as one of four investigators or Commissioners, to go down to South Wales and report to His Majesty's Government, and I am certain that all members of your Lordships' House, who I know have this question at heart—this question of the distressed areas—must themselves feel somewhat depressed at the speech made last week by the Minister of Labour in another place. I feel certain that my honourable friend the Under-Secretary for the Home Department, who made a most able and exhaustive Report on the County of 972 Durham, must himself have been disappointed at the speech which was then made.
I want your Lordships first of all to bear with me for a few moments when I say that my criticism is not that this Government, or any preceding Government, do not take sufficient interest in this question, but that nothing which will really in the long run count has been done because the Commissioners have not got the power to do it. I hope that the Government will appoint a Minister with plenipotentiary powers, who, with the assistance of the able Commissioners now functioning, can adopt some of the major recommendations made in these Reports. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester said in his speech—I hope in a few moments to compare the recommendations in the Report of the present Commissioners with the recommendations made by the original investigators—there is in the major recommendations hardly any difference from what was proposed a year ago. Therefore all we can say is that exactly a year has gone by without anything being done, and although the Social Services have been helped the major recommendations have not been adopted. That is the point which I wish to make at this time.
As your Lordships will remember, we were appointed in April of last year. My Report was in the hands of the Government in July of last year. The Reports of all four Commissioners were considered by His Majesty's Government, and, after they had been considered, in November yet another Commissioner was appointed to go over the same ground and the same work which we had tried to accomplish on behalf of the Government. If your Lordships read that very able report of Mr. Malcolm Stewart, and read it carefully, as I have, you will gather from it the number of Ministers with whom he had to have contact, and, though I know him only slightly, I realise that when people like Mr. Malcolm Stewart, or even people in a minor position, like myself, go down to South Wales with the idea of getting something done, and have to go into five or six different Government Departments, they naturally feel lost, just as a lot of the reports which are sent to the Government are very often lost in those Departments. I consider it essential to have 973 somebody directly responsible, and I did hope, and I still hope, that one at least of the Ministers without Portfolio appointed to the Government would be made directly responsible for these depressed areas.
If your Lordships will bear with me. I want to point out one or two very important recommendations made by Mr. Malcolm Stewart. The difference between the Report that I attempted to make to His Majesty's Government and that of Mr. Malcolm Stewart and the Under-Secretary for the Home Department was that I considered that the questions of the school age and pensions and holidays were national questions and not open to us to investigate, because they are questions for the country as a whole and would be relevant to the whole country. Therefore, in my Report those questions were not alluded to, except in reference to coal royalties in South Wales. As your Lordships are well aware, and as it was so ably put by the right reverend Prelate, the cause of the position in the depressed areas is patent to all. It is because they are in the unfortunate position of being in an area where there is practically only one trade. In South Wales, which I have to allude to because it is the area that I hope I know fairly well by now, you have a specially hard-hit area owing to the fact that it relied very largely on its export trade, and it is very doubtful, as the present Commissioner says, whether that trade will return to it.
If you will take your minds back to 1914, you will find that South Wales produced 56,000,000 tons of coal in that year, whereas last year, when I was there, the figure had fallen to 36,000,000 tons. There you will see the cause of this cancer of unemployment in South Wales. But it is not only a question of coal. These Welsh valleys are also very largely hit from the fact that the Ebbw Vale and the Dowlais Steel Works are closed down. His Majesty's Government and the noble Marquess who leads the House know a great deal more about the question of coal than I do and they will probably be able to tell us what the effect has been of the new hydrogenation plant which has been put up at Billingham by the Imperial Chemical Industries. When I was down in South Wales the Imperial Chemical Industries were very good and gave me all the information they possibly could, and I 974 believe I am right in saying that it is hoped, and indeed almost certain now, that that plant will be a success. If it is to be a success, as I said in my Report, will not His Majesty's Government say to the people in South Wales: "Provided that it is a success we will see that you in your area have the same process installed"? The reason why I say that that is important is that sooner or later in this country you have to settle whether you are going on with the scientific process of extracting oil from coal, or whether you are going to let this industry go down-hill and gradually decline. I imagine that if you worked it out—I may be contradicted, because I am not quite certain of this fact—you would find that if that hydrogenation plant is a success the continuance of the rebate allowed on petrol or oil produced in this country would be one of the cheapest subsidies that the Government could give.
Having tried to stress the importance of the question of research on that question, I want with due deference to point out a fact which ought to be kept in mind. When I was in South Wales the Industrial Development Council, whose headquarters were in Cardiff, gave me every possible assistance. They were local people and the mayors from the district. They showed me all the papers and figures they had collected relating to these oil-from-coal processes—both hydrogenation and every other process that had ever been thought of—and it is perhaps a great pity to dwell too much on the fact that £12,000 or £13,000 has been promised for the best device for obtaining oil from coal because it gives a feeling of hope in the minds of people which, so to speak, may lead them down the wrong way. The Industrial Development Council have already tried every process of obtaining oil from coal. There is a, Mines Department in London which conducts research on a much greater scale than this local Development Council, and it is all right to expect them to help with the best process of obtaining oil from coal, but are the Government going to adopt any prize competition which the Industrial Development Council care to send up? The reason why I ask that is that in the valleys of South Wales you have got families who have been there for generations, you have local authorities who are burdened more heavily by rates than those in any part 975 of the country except Durham, and you have to be very careful on what lines you are going to bring hope to these people.
Mr. Malcolm Stewart in his Report alludes to the drainage of the coal pits in South Wales, which he says would employ 2,000 people for a period of four years. If your Lordships will be so good as to read the Report which I put in a year ago you will see that the first recommendation I made in my Report was that these pits should be drained, and I alluded to the fact that there were approximately 2,000 men who could thus be put to work again. There you have the identical proposal put forward by another Commissioner. Take the iron and steel trade. Those of your Lordships who know South Wales at all will realise the number of people who are out of work at Ebbw Vale. You will see in my Report that the one thing that I stressed was that somebody should definitely tell those men at Ebbw Vale whether they were going to re-start those steel works or not. If your Lordships read Mr. Malcolm Stewart's Report you will find he again quotes Ebbw Vale. Had your Lordships read that part of my Report which deals with iron and steel you would have said it was merely a skeleton report, because the section which I put in on iron and steel, written after I had seen a lot of people and got a good deal of information of a private character, naturally had to be obliterated from the Report when His Majesty's Government came to publish it.
I know from personal knowledge of Ebbw Vale that these men had the feeling, when tariffs were put on by His Majesty's Government, that the steel works there were: to be reopened. When the tariff was raised their hearts leapt once again with the hope that these steel works would be reopened. When, further, the Government gave stability to these tariffs on iron and steel imports, these men again had hopes. It is not for me to stand here in your Lordships' House this afternoon and say whether this thing is an economic proposition or not, but I think it is only due to people who have been out of work for so long to be told definitely whether the works are to be reopened or not. On the question which Mr. Malcolm Stewart discusses so ably—the transference of iron 976 and steel works to localities where ore can be found—if your Lordships would again turn to my Report of a year or more ago, you will see that in it I allude to the question which was debated in another place only a week ago—namely, the transference of Richard Thomas and Co.'s tinplate works to Lincolnshire. In my Report I said that the great danger that might arise as the result of this transference was that you would have a lot of people left out of work. If your Lordships will spare me a few moments longer, I will quote exactly what I said on this question:We are beginning in this country to plan economically for various trades; new factories are put up in what are considered economic positions, and at the same time there is not sufficient thought given to the economic planning of labour supply, with the result that if this factor is not taken into consideration, distressed areas will be springing up in other places…For instance, Richard Thomas and Co., Ltd., tinplate manufacturers, in conjunction with the Whitehead Iron and Steel Co., Ltd., have erected new steel works in Lincolnshire. The main reason for this move is, I understand, that ore is available on the spot. It has been rumoured also that there is a possibility of tinplates now manufactured in South Wales being produced in Lincolnshire. All this will mean that fresh labour will be recruited in the new area.The point I wish to stress is that if one plans industry one must try to find some means of planning labour supply at the same time.That was my view at that time, and your Lordships will find it practically identical with the view expressed in this Report.
There is one other point to which I should like to allude and which is mentioned in this Report. Mr. Malcolm Stewart goes so far as to say that:Whilst tariffs were designed to increase national prosperity, particular industries, by the granting of special rates, receive differential treatment. It surely would have been reasonable for the State, when conferring these advantages, to have attached conditions designed to protect the workers whose displacement is hastened through the earlier reorganisation of industry aided by the institution of tariffs. Assistance would be afforded if a production licence were required in special industries before a new factory could start operations, this condition to apply particularly to new factories established by industries enjoying the advantages of differential tariffs. The licence should be issued by a specially constituted authority responsible to the Minister of Labour.977 I am not going to bother your Lordships with my conclusions, but they are very nearly identical. In November last year a non-Party political organisation in which I take a leading part brought out a policy in which this object was outlined:To ensure, in the best interests of industry, that, in all industrial reorganisation, no planning or geographical transfer within an established industry shall be allowed except under licence, and it shall be a condition of granting such licence that the interests of any workers adversely affected by the proposed change shall be taken into consideration.Having said these words on the question of iron and steel and coal, there is one other question which, I think, from the South Wales point of view, is most important. That is the question of new industries. When I came back in July of last year, I alluded to the fact that it might be possible, especially from the point of view of defence in this country, that one of the Government factories might be placed in South Wales. His Majesty's Government quite rightly replied that it was not a matter for them at that time, it was a matter for the Committee of Imperial Defence. I do not know if any decision has yet been taken, but that was almost a year ago. I also alluded to the question, which also concerns defence, of aeroplanes and the building of aeroplanes. I do not know whether, with the extensive commitments being made at the present time, it would not be possible to do something to secure that orders are placed in these distressed areas.
I read with interest a question asked in another place about foreign firms establishing factories in this country. One class of factory I have in mind is the clothing factory. I am open to correction, but I think that the Home Secretary in his reply stated that twenty-four factories have been established in this country. Since tariffs have been wisely used by His Majesty's Government for helping industry, I would ask the Leader of the House if it would not be possible for His Majesty's Government, when foreign firms come over to this country, not only to suggest to them, but to make them put down their factories in some of these areas where people are out of work. Your Lordships may be perfectly certain that if a foreigner wants to come 978 and produce in this country he will produce practically wherever you put him. I suggest that as one idea that might be put forward. Further, while the Government themselves have very few factories, there are very large Government contracts placed out with people in this country. If you were able to give a certain firm a contract for ten years rather than a one-year contract, which is placed now, I think you would find that some of them would be willing to produce in these Special Areas.
These are only proposals, they are only ideas, but when His Majesty's Government came into office three or four years ago they tackled a very difficult problem in a most courageous way. They have helped this country back to a great measure of prosperity, and I do suggest to them that if they can do for the country now what they did for it then, it should be possible for them to accomplish something of definite advantage in the way of re-employment of these people in the distressed areas. The right reverend Prelate referred to people who did not like to leave their homes. suggest to your Lordships that if men continue to live in that state of depression for very long the esprit de corps of the younger men will suffer and they will not want to leave their homes at all. In the old days, when people emigrated, they emigrated from families in work, but when you suggest to a man who has been out of work for a long time, and is in a state of depression, that he should go away from home for two or three years, you probably find that he is not so keen to do so.
The question of the movement of these people is more a question of the psychology of the depressed areas. If you go up to those hills and see them you will realise, as I have realised, that they genuinely want work. There is no other country in the world where people in such circumstances would have the prestige which these people have maintained in these difficult times. I am sure if that is realised—and I hope it is realised—His Majesty's Government will at least adopt one suggestion—namely, that a Minister responsible for those areas should be appointed. If that were clone those who act as Commissioners could give him the best of their advice, 979 and, having received that advice, he could put into practice some of the major recommendations. They might not be successful, but anyhow let us show the people that we are actually attempting something.
There is in this country to-day a personal friend of mine with whom I worked in the Ministry of Agriculture, the Minister of Agriculture. His Under-Secretary sits in your Lordships' House. You may not agree sometimes with their policy, but they have under their guardianship about 350,000 agricultural workers and they have done a great deal for agriculture. Some people may not agree with their policy. Some of your Lordships criticise subsidies. But there are 350,000 agricultural workers in this country and, in spite of the millions of pounds spent, the country still goes on. Surely we must take a more magnanimous gesture towards these people in the depressed areas, who number just as many as the agricultural workers in this country? I beg your Lordships to forgive me for having taken up so much time, and I wish to express my gratitude to you for bearing with me so long. My excuse is that I feel deeply on this subject. Now that the Commissioners' Reports have been made, I have great hope that His Majesty's Government will be able to appoint some Minister who will deal with the major aspects of this problem.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I think your Lordships' House might well complain that on this important subject the County of Hampshire has monopolised the first three speeches. I suppose I shall be in order if I say that we were glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Portal, make his maiden speech, and we hope we shall hear many more speeches of the same kind from him. But I do not appear here as a dutiful Lieutenant of the County supporting the Lord Bishop of Winchester. I wish to speak in the capacity of Chairman of National Savings, who for the last eight years has been going about the country, and especially to these distressed areas, and finding himself in the dilemma, in which any Chairman of National Savings must find himself in a distressed area, of announcing and seeing duly recorded in The Times, the Daily Telegraph and all the great newspapers, that the savings of the small investor have risen from £2,000,000,000 to 980 £2,300,000,000, while all the time, in these same areas, the numbers of the unemployed remain almost stationary. The people whom I address at these conferences all know that in other countries less fortunately situated financially than ours the reduction of unemployment in many cases has been far greater than in our own country. I find it difficult to explain why that should be so. I cannot explain it to myself. I know that it is wrong, and that we ought not to allow it to continue.
We are financially more powerful than any nation in the world; not only more powerful, but far more powerful. The conversion of £2,000,000,000 of War Loan proved that. It proved also that the spirit of the people was unanimous and that their confidence in the Government was so great that they could do this extraordinary thing. But what does it all mean? It means that the people of this country want to see the finances of the country employed for the benefit of the country, and especially for the benefit of those who are suffering the most. The right reverend Prelate in his interesting and remarkable speech gave two striking figures. He said that in a particular area in the North of England there were 40,000 persons who had never been employed at all for three years, and in South Wales 28,000 persons who had never done a single job of work for three years. These are the people I meet when I go to my National Savings meetings and say to them: "It is a good thing to go on putting by a bit of money." I will tell your Lordships something which astonished me and which you probably would not know. In these very distressed areas in the neighbourhood of Jarrow, and in South Wales, and in North Wales during the great depression in quarrying, now slightly mitigated but still continuing, the subscriptions to National Savings, especially through the schools, not only did not go down but positively went up.
I was so surprised at these figures, which were brought to me every week, that I made special inquiries through our commissioners and this is what I found. I found that the reason for it was that these people were so determined to give their sons and daughters chances of education that out of their meagre resources they kept on adding pound to pound in 981 their National Savings. This they did so that they might enable their children to pass examinations which would give them a better chance in life. I found this to be the case not in one or two but in very many areas. The remarkable thing is that subscriptions to the small savings of the people for the benefit of the children go up as unemployment increases. That is a fine thing. I can assure your Lordships that our commissioners—I know that the facts are as I have stated—correctly reported that these remarkably sturdy fathers and mothers stinted themselves of almost every necessary of life so that they might have the funds required to pay for that further education of their boys and girls which would enable them to get better jobs.
Surely it is our duty in this matter, as I shall show in a moment—I shall detain your Lordships only for a few moments—to disregard what is ordinarily called "economic law" and not to consider whether we could find employment for these people only in industries that are economically sound, but to do as they have done in other countries and say, when you have got unemployed people whose children will manifestly deteriorate unless you find them a job, that it is economically unsound not to do things that the Treasury say are in themselves economically unsound. The right reverend Prelate stated some of the causes of this terrible depression, of which, like himself, I have seen a good deal. A really distressed area is the most distressing thing I have ever seen in peace or in war. Talk of the horror of war, I have seen nothing more pathetic than the really distressed areas, and the brave way that the people are meeting the situation.
The right reverend Prelate truly said that the causes were beyond the Government's control, but the remedies are not beyond the Government's control. If by some stroke of a fairy wand, to quote the memorable phrase of the late Lord Balfour, the mind of His Majesty's Government could be entirely changed, if they were to appoint. as the noble Lord, Lord Portal, has suggested, a Minister of Reconstruction, or whatever you call him, with plenary powers, and were to say, as they have said in Germany, in Sweden, in Italy and in other countries, "We will not have any more of this unemployment, we can afford to put an 982 end to it," the thing could be done. I am told that in Germany the number of unemployed has been reduced from 7,000,000 to 1,600,000. I have been told that in Italy the reduction of unemployment has been to less than one-third of what it was before this policy of saying "We will not have unemployment" was introduced. There are still more striking figures from Scandinavian countries. But we are just scratching at the problem, feebly wondering what we shall do next. I hope His Majesty's Government will forgive me for speaking with some emphasis on the matter, but I have been urging it now for two or three years and as far as getting at real grips with the problem of unemployment is concerned little has been done.
It is true that the number has been reduced but the figure still stands at 2,000,000. It is a scandal that in 5; country that can convert £2,000,000,000 of War Loan there should be 2,000,000 unemployed when all the time we have the example of other countries just across the Channel who have adopted a more vigorous policy with a consequent greater reduction of unemployment. I would beg His Majesty's Government to ask for the figures from the Board of Trade. They will find that what I have said is undoubtedly true. Of course it may be answered that in other countries you have a more docile people who will submit themselves to the hardships of labour camps both in Scandinavian countries and elsewhere, and that people will not do it here. I do not believe a word of it. I made an appeal through the wireless for a scheme called the Hedingham Scheme, an admirable scheme which provides unemployed people in South Wales and the North with the opportunity of training. A very large sum was subscribed in consequence. But how many people are there in this Hedingham scheme which is approved by everybody, even by the Government? A mere 2,000 to 4,000. Why is that so? It is because we are going about the -problem in a niggling way.
I cannot understand it. I have travelled over Europe to examine this problem and I am completely baffled by seeing my noble friends opposite, who I know are sincere, hardworking, kindly men, submit to this figure of 2,000,000 983 unemployed when they have it in their power to do what has been done in Germany—although there are of course drawbacks, mistakes and failures—and do it easily and well. Of course there are many ways. The noble Lord, Lord Portal, spoke of the hydrogenation of coal. There are also all those industries which new chemical discoveries have made possible. I submit to your Lordships' House with deep respect that His Majesty's Government have not apprehended, or the Treasury at least have not apprehended, that we have it in our power through the new discoveries of science to employ all employable men and at a cost which the Treasury could easily bear. In other countries they have gone great lengths in employing people near their homes in such matters as getting oil from peat where peat happens to be near to the area. They have gone very far and spent vast sums in other countries in making sandy soil fertile by special fertilisers and special treatment.
I have seen some of the things that have been done in Central Europe. We could do far better. We are better equipped. There are a dozen other things which the Government could learn if they took into their confidence the great chemists and said, not "Let us support this admirable scheme by which 3,000 or 4,000 people will get a job "but" What is good for one is good for all. We are determined to cure unemployment. "They could do that without waiting to explore any avenue or doing anything of that kind. They have got the Reports before them. I would beg my noble friend who leads the House, who helps the distressed areas more than any other man, to pay heed to what the headmaster of his rival school used to say, to "clear his mind of all fluff," to look at the problem with new eyes and to say that what other people across the Channel can do, we can do and do better. I ask the Government to say: "We will cure unemployment, we will find work for all men who can work." In the long run it will be cheaper to the State.
Of course I may be told that to stand boldly as I stand before your Lordships to-day, as Chairman of the National Savings movement, and advocate these things, is a dangerous thing to do, that it will damage national credit. I am sure that it will not do so. What would 984 damage national credit would be for the people of this country to believe that the Government do not care for their sufferings. What would damage national credit would be for the people to come to the conclusion that they would be better off by shaking themselves free from the existing order. Heaven knows what might happen then to that fragile thing, the national credit. But if the Government are going to use national resources on wisely-planned schemes to employ older people as near their homes as possible and to give an outlet for younger people to go elsewhere, then I say that the national credit, far from being impaired, will be increased. I beg to support the proposal of the right reverend Prelate, and I respectfully urge His Majesty's Government to adopt an entirely new policy and to do what they can to get rid of this curse of unemployment from which our people have suffered too long.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, it is a well-established custom in your Lordships' House to felicitate a noble Lord who speaks for the first time. This custom dictated by courtesy and good will has become, I think, almost a habit, but in this particular instance I speak I am sure with no fear of contradiction when I say that any words of praise that may be spoken in any quarter of the House mean something more than a mere compliment to the noble Lord, Lord Portal. We have listened to a very remarkable maiden speech, remarkable both for wealth of information and for soundness of judgment, and we are extremely grateful to the noble Lord for making a contribution which will give this debate an exceedingly high value.
The right reverend Prelate need not have apologised for bringing forward this question so shortly before the Recess. He has raised the whole issue of what is to be done about the depressed and derelict areas at a moment that could not be more opportune. The reason why it is so extraordinarily fitting that we should be discussing the question this afternoon is that the Reports of the Commissioners appointed by the Government giving an account of their work during the last six months, and making recommendations as to what might be done in the future, have just appeared and, moreover, last week an exceedingly important debate took place in another place in which His 985 Majesty's Government outlined their attitude towards the Reports. I do not believe that I exaggerate when I say that the great majority of those who read, either in the OFFICIAL REPORT or in the newspapers, an account of the debate on the depressed areas that took place in another place last week felt a shock of consternation and dismay. This acute disappointment at the attitude—the exceedingly negative attitude—outlined by the spokesman for His Majesty's Government has been shared by supporters of the present National Government as well as by its opponents in the Liberal and Labour Parties.
It was exceedingly striking that on Monday last The Times newspaper, which is sometimes mistakenly regarded abroad as the official organ of the Government and which at any rate cannot be accused of undue coldness towards the activities of the Government, produced a leader in which it criticised very vigorously the policy in regard to these depressed areas as outlined by the Minister of Labour and said that a, more active and constructive line ought undoubtedly to be taken. I very much hope that during the week that has expired since this debate took place there may have been a change in the attitude of the Government as the result of the pressure of public opinion, and that we shall hear from the noble Marquess who is answering something very different from that to which in another place they were listening a week ago.
The right honourable gentleman the Minister of Labour expressed a definite view in which, when approaching the constructive recommendations of the Commissioners, he pleaded for delay. He said:It will be obvious that within a week of the publication of this Report it has been impossible for the Government to have given consideration to all these matters.These matters include such questions as the raising of the school-leaving age, earlier retirement from industry, the national ownership of coal-mining royalties, shorter hours of work in big factories—all questions which have been argued throughout the country and which have been discussed and debated on platforms and in Parliament for many years past, and certainly during the whole four years during which the Government have held the reins of power. It is surely 986 fantastic, on the ground that it has been impossible to consider such questions as these, to make a claim for delay, and to postpone giving a definite answer to the House and to the country on a problem of such magnitude.
But some words that fell from the right honourable gentleman later on were still more sinister, because they hint, at any rate, at a determination not to take any further steps beyond what have already been taken during the previous year, and not to pursue a more constructive policy than that embodied in the Special Areas Act of December last. The right honourable gentleman said:In doing this the Government have a firm intention to neglect no methods of assisting the Special Areas which are likely to be effectual. To that end they will give the most earnest consideration to the recommendations in the Report of the Commissioners, especially those recommendations which have a direct bearing upon the areas.As the noble Lord, Lord Portal, has already said, the major recommendations of the Commissioners have no direct bearing on these areas, because they concern the economic system as a whole; and if the utterance of the Minister of Labour means that the Government are not going to consider these major recommendations, we can take it for granted that nothing of any serious value will be done in the near future. We share with all those who have spoken in this debate a belief that the Government can do something if it would. I cannot associate myself with the noble Lord who has just spoken and who believes that by waving a magic wand it would be possible for the Government to provide employment for every single unemployed man in the country.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I did not say that at all. I said that if by the stroke of a fairy wand the heart of the Government could be changed, they might find a way. That is the "fairy wand"!
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his correction, and I should like to say that it only strengthens my argument. If not merely the heart of the Government were changed, but the heart of every person in this country who is not favourable to constructive schemes were altered, nevertheless it would be impossible under 987 present economic conditions to provide permanent and lasting employment for every single Englishman. It must clearly be recognised by every person desirous of attaining the truth in this matter that the sphere of action of any Government is inevitably limited by those economic causes that lie within their control. It is impossible for any Government to restore prosperity to the heavy industries in these derelict areas, because their plight is due principally to the state of international trade, and it is quite out of the question for our Government to wave a magic wand over the whole of the five continents in order that our trade should be restored to the position that it occupied towards the end of the nineteenth century, which was the period when these areas were most flourishing. Nevertheless, we believe, with this important reservation, that there is an enormous sphere within which the Government could take active and beneficial measures.
Working on the lines of the Reports of the new Commissioners, we should say that there were two methods of assisting the inhabitants of these areas. One is by promoting economic development of one kind or another within the areas themselves. That has been done to some small degree, and an account of what has been done is contained, and very ably presented, in the Reports. Even here, however, within this very small sphere, the Commissioners have been severely handicapped. I think that every speaker in this afternoon's debate has made a plea to the Government that, instead of having to work through a number of different Government Departments, there should be a Minister directly responsible for spending public money on, and for developing, these derelict areas. That is a matter which the Government could see to immediately, if they would, and remembering that there are in this country Ministers without Portfolios, they could surely do it without causing themselves inconvenience. It is, however, important to make a reservation. Clearly even were a Minister appointed to become directly responsible for these areas, if he had to administer the Special Areas Act he would not be able to do very much. The Commissioners would be in an improved position from the point of view of getting on with the job, but on the other hand they would still find that they were 988 making very little impression on unemployment and development, unless the major recommendations of the Commissioners—which were stressed very vigorously by the noble Lord, Lord Portal, who must have come to conclusions of this kind as a result of his own prolonged inquiry into conditions in South Wales—or some of them at any rate, are implemented. If they are neglected it will cause the standard of life to remain at its present wretched and depressed level.
I will not mention more than a very few of these constructive proposals, not affecting the areas in question immediately but the national economic system as a whole. I will only mention a few, and those which would appear the most important and most practical. In the first place there is the very old question, which well deserves serious consideration, of the shortening of the working week, and—what, of course, is always the crux—of maintaining the level of wages, by means of Government assistance at any rate for a certain period of time. That is one of the recommendations of the Commissioners to diminish unemployment in these parts of the country. There is also the question of earlier retirement from industry—of the withdrawal of the aged from industry, thus to make places for the young and able-bodied, which is an extraordinarily reasonable proposal. There is, further, what is from the point of view of social welfare still more important—namely, the question of removing from industry children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, who could be developing their minds and bodies in educational institutions.
We sincerely hope that the Government will be able to take a radically different tone, when they answer this afternoon, from the tone which was adopted when replying to the debate in another place. We hope in the first place that they may have something constructive to say. It is rather like piling Pelion on Ossa for the people in these areas to feel that the Government in power have nothing constructive to put forward. We hope in the first place that there will be some constructive proposal. We sincerely hope that they may be able to say that they are not satisfied with the powers and scope of the present Act, and with the steps that have been taken hitherto, and will consider the possibility of further 989 legislation, because none of these major recommendations can be put, into force unless the Government are prepared to introduce another Bill in Parliament. It is with a hope which I think is shared certainly by all those who have spoken in this debate, and which I think is shared by practically everyone outside this House and by all who are aware of the desperate plight of those living in these areas, that we implore the Government to give us a ray of hope such as was denied when the matter was discussed in another place.
My Lords, I claim the indulgence which you are accustomed to accord to one who addresses the House for the first time. I feel compelled to do so as a person who lives in one of these depressed areas, and I feel that your Lordships would appreciate an impression of what the people who live in those districts feel about the Report that has now been presented to us, and what their impression may be of the Government's action so far. We feel in the North-East, as has been said already, that the responsibility for the situation is a national responsibility and that the causes to which it is attributable are beyond our own control, and that no amount of local effort, without the assistance of the Government, can bring the district round to where it ought to be. We are not asking for large charitable schemes involving the expenditure of public money. We do not suggest that any enormous scheme of public work should be undertaken. But we do suggest that the Government should give us a very clear line as to what their policy is to be. We feel that the lead of the Government, to show that they have a bold and long-sighted policy in this direction, can do very much to encourage those who are making efforts in the locality to improve the conditions.
Many problems are involved and one of the most important, as I see it, is to see what can be done to increase the actual industrial enterprises in those areas which are concerned with more modern and more up-to-date industries. We suffer from being over-weighted by coal, shipbuilding and engineering, fine enterprises in their way but now not having enough scope owing to the reduction in the export trade and other world causes. I do not want to make any 990 suggestion of national policy but I do not see why the special measures proposed in this Report cannot be fitted into the Government's existing policy. What has been done so far has been ably done by the Commissioners, but on a very small scale, and under limitations imposed either by the wording of the Act or, it may be, by the intention of the Government. Let us consider what in fact can be done to improve the trade of these distressed areas. We have admittedly lost our pre-eminence in the export market and the engineering trades. Therefore we must do all we can to concentrate on the home market, and do everything possible to encourage manufacturers from abroad and people at home to start enterprises. There are several recommendations in this Report which, if taken together, would make a very admirable experimental policy in that direction. I do not wish to go into details of the larger question, but it is quite clear that apart from any question of major policy, such as raising the school age or early retirement from industry, there is opportunity for vigorous action now by His Majesty's Government.
The people who live in the particular area of which I speak are waiting for a lead from the Government. There are still there numbers of people—people who have made the great industries of the past—who are waiting to come to the help of the Government if they would give such a lead towards reconstruction. That would be a long-term policy, and everything possible should be done to attract different and more varied industries to these districts. As to how it is to be done, it seems to me obvious that no person would go and start a business anywhere unless it paid him to do so. That is one of the things that you realise when you are engaged, as I have been, in local development councils which have been trying to help their own areas. Well, there are ways suggested in this Report by which it can be made worth while to do so. I would go further and say that, even if people were to respond and to take their new industrial enterprises into those districts, we must also provide purchasing power which can be used to encourage people to start manufactures. I think it is essential, at the same time as we initiate a long-term policy, to have a temporary policy of 991 Government expenditure or assistance from the State.
I do not think it is fair to ask people to start factories in an area where the people have no money to buy anything with. Nor is it reasonable to ask people who live in a depressed area to buy only locally-made goods, when they themselves are living on the lowest possible margin and cannot afford to buy except on the basis of the lowest price. The Commissioner's Report points the way to a solution of one of the problems. He refers to the question of the block grant which is paid to the local authorities as a State contribution, and to the fact that in particular cases where transference has been practised the situation is worse than it was before. I suggest to His Majesty's Government that an experiment along the lines of modifying the block grant in favour of the Special Areas might do much to enable the local authorities to continue their reasonable programme of expenditure, which at the moment they cannot possibly undertake owing to the intolerable burden of public assistance which they have to carry.
Another temporary effort in the same direction is connected with the question of naval building policy. I do not know—we have not been told—what the policy of the Government will be on the question of rebuilding, but I feel certain that those who live in the North will be bitterly disappointed if a large proportion of the naval building is not given to the depressed areas. It seems to me that that would provide a very welcome stimulus to the industry of the district and would also bring hope and encouragement to the people. I know it is very easy to find reasons against the adoption of any unconventional experiment. There are always very cogent and powerful arguments to prove that a thing cannot be done. But what we are suggesting now is not so very extreme. We do not ask that everything in the Report should be adopted; we cannot expect the Government to promise that. But we do want them to say that they are going to make a determined effort to push this thing, that they are going to work on the lines indicated in the Report and to increase the powers of the Commissioner.
I think it is remarkable how much the Commissioner has accomplished in the short time he has been at work, considering the restrictions which he himself men- 992 tions in his Report. But from the point of view of the people who live in the depressed areas it is also remarkable that since the time, fifteen months ago, when the four investigating Commissioners were appointed, nothing whatever has been done. There is no appearance whatever in the North-East district of any practical thing being done. I know that schemes have been sanctioned and are on the way, but the time is drawing out and I do feel that there have been enough Reports. There were the excellent Reports of the Investigating Commissioners, and now very able Reports by the Commissioners for Special Areas; and I feel very strongly that it is now up to the Government to make up their minds. They ought to say that they will initiate a forward policy instead of continuing in the old way, which was simply to encourage transference where possible and to say that the export trade would get better one day. That is a policy of misery and despair, and if that is the line to be followed I would rather that nothing at all were done.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I do not like to remain altogether silent when a matter of this kind is being discussed in your Lordships' House, a matter in which I take the deepest and the most constant interest, though I think I have little to add to what has been so admirably said in the speeches which have just been delivered, not least the speech of the noble Viscount whom we must congratulate upon his maiden speech. I only wish to add the expression of my hope that the noble Marquess may be able this afternoon to say something fuller, something more hopeful, something more decisive than has been expressed by the Government in another place.
There is one suggestion about the depressed areas to which I should like to refer, and that is the desire, if possible, not so much to shift the people to industries elsewhere as to build industries in their awn areas. I take only one particular County, that of Durham. When I think of the place which Durham has had in our national life, of the spirit of its people, of the extraordinary way in which they have shown themselves to be a community united together by pride in their County in former days, by pride in their own industries, I should think it would be a grievous loss to the national 993 strength if that community were broken up and numbers even of its younger people were induced to go and work elsewhere. I feel that everything possible should be done to encourage and strengthen that amazing virility and self-respect which have marked in the past the miners in Durham, the shipbuilders in Jarrow and along the coast. That is why I hope very much that the Government may do something more decisive than they have already offered to do in order to preserve and maintain the spirit of the community in Durham and in those other depressed areas. What I say of Durham is, I suppose, equally true of South Wales, about which the noble Lord speaks with far greater authority than I can.
I do not wish to go into the details of specific schemes, but what I feel is that the Government have shown a certain lack both of definiteness and of large planning in this matter. I take as an instance of want of definiteness, and allude to it only in passing, the recommendation in favour of raising the school age, thus preventing the passing into industry of young people between fourteen and sixteen. Here is a matter upon which the evidence in all parts of the country is literally overwhelming. I do not know of a single branch of public life, educational or even industrial, save perhaps in so far as industrial opinion tends to belief in continuation schools connected with the industry, which has not been almost unanimous in saying the time has came when on educational, apart from economic, grounds this change ought to be made. Yet, from time to time, the Government only say that they are considering the matter because it is one that requires careful preparation as to teachers and premises and the like; nothing definite is stated upon which the future may be built. I expect that is true of other aspects of this far-reaching problem.
As to the absence of evidence of large planning, we are accustomed to receive lists of matters which, in one Department or another, are being done by the Government. No doubt it may be true that the cumulative effect of all these items will in the long run tell, but that cumulative effect may take a very long time, and it may never reach the depressed areas. What is wanted is something that will immediately 994 encourage the hope and strengthen the spirit of the people. I do not think a mere list of the various matters with which the Government are concerned is sufficient. I earnestly hope—and indeed I have some expectation that my hope will prove well founded—that the noble Marquess will show that there is a determination on the part of the Government to look at the problem as a whole and lay down certain large plans.
I am afraid I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, in his fervent belief that even if a stroke of the fairy wand could change the heart of the Government, employment would be found for every person in this country. I am afraid I have not the trust that he has shown in what has been done in other countries, but I do not wish to go into any account of the circumstances which have occurred in Germany to give a reduction in unemployment some fictitious aspect. But I do believe something is possible if the matter be considered as a whole. This is where I come round to what has been already urged this afternoon, and hope that the noble Marquess may be able to indicate either that some Minister without Portfolio will be charged with specific attention to this matter, or, if that be impossible, that it will be entrusted to some Committee of the Cabinet with powers and strength akin to the Committee which dealt with matters in the time of War, which will show that the Government believe this matter is one of vital importance and does not brook delay.
I once received excellent advice from one of the shrewdest and wisest of men, the late Master of Balliol, Dr. Jowett, when he said to me about certain work which- he asked me to undertake: "You will not expect too much, neither will you attempt too little." I do not expect too much, although I do not blame the noble Lord opposite for expecting too much, all at once; but neither must the Government attempt too little. What we wish to see is a sign on the part of the Government that they are addressing themselves to this matter in a large, bold, and definite way so that we may feel that nothing is lacking in the determination with which they will lead the country in the endeavour to bring this disastrous state of things nearer to a close.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I hardly think anyone could find 'himself in a more difficult and embarrassing position that I do at the present moment. In those very eloquent speeches to which we have listened this afternoon, I seem to detect a note of censure emerging from practically every speech. I see criticism of the manner in which this subject was dealt with in the House of Commons, and I put that down naturally to the fervent desire of your Lordships, the desire which we all have, to see an amelioration of the conditions in the Special Areas which, on the surface, is unfortunately not apparent at the present moment. I should like to say at the outset that I do not quarrel with anything that has been said, although I think perhaps your Lordships might have been a little more Charitable in recognising the difficulties with which we are faced. Nevertheless I should be the last person to complain of this debate and of the speeches which have been made, because I certainly value all the suggestions which have been put forward. I can assure your Lordships that they will be put forward in the proper quarter, but before I have an opportunity of doing that I hope to be able to tell your Lordships what the situation is as it exists at the present moment, and to try, if I can, to bring your Lordships back to a proper perspective of the whole position.
At the beginning of my speech I said I found myself in a very difficult and embarrassing position. I think your Lordships will understand that when an audience is thirsting for some great statement to be made, if the speech of the unfortunate Minister falls in any degree below what they expected to receive, full condemnation is levelled at his head: he is complacent, he takes no interest in the question, and altogether somebody else ought to take his place! I must say at once that I am not a magician. I have no magic wand such as the noble Lord who sits on the Liberal Benches would like to see in my hand. I cannot go altogether in the direction in which he hopes to see things done, but I certainly hope to be able to bring your Lordships back to a sense of perspective and to a realisation of the difficulties with which we are confronted, and of the fact that these things cannot be done in a moment 996 of time, but that processes are going forward which we feel will result in bringing about a decided amelioration and improvement in the situation.
I would certainly not demur to what the most reverend Primate said. In fact, I feel very diffident indeed in not agreeing with everything he said in the few remarks to which your Lordships were privileged to listen from him, but he made no reference to what the Government have already done. I think that four years ago, if we could have projected our minds so as to see the position which the country occupies to-day, some of us would have been inclined to think that the age of magic and miracles was not altogether past. I think I shall be right in suggesting to your Lordships that what has been done in the past has created a totally different atmosphere in this country, and is having its effect on the problem which we are facing at the present moment, but that, if the Government, with the able backing of the people in this country, had not taken a very courageous line at that time, instead of having Special Areas in a few portions of this country we might have seen the whole country a Special Area. I hope your Lordships will realise that what has been done in the last four years has had a very great influence on the situation as it exists at the present moment.
I would venture to express my thanks to the right reverend Prelate who brought this Motion forward. We all listened to his 'speech with the greatest pleasure, and I should like, if I may, to express my personal thanks to him for having been so good as to postpone his Motion for one day to suit my convenience The right reverend Prelate suggested that nothing really had been done. I would venture to say, if I may use the expression, that that is a fallacy and that, if we look into the matter, we shall find that a great deal has been done in the last four years. He apologised for bringing forward this very important Motion at so late a time in the Session. I am sure your Lordships, like the Government, are pleased beyond measure that this question should be fully ventilated in both Houses of Parliament, and we hope that the debates which take place in both Houses and in the country may bring about a proper appreciation of the situation and an amelioration of conditions.
997 At the same time I would venture to say that the Government cannot be accused of any complacency or of dilatoriness. They are devoting their attention to this question day-in and day-out, and it is not from lack of consideration that many of the results which your Lordships desire have not been brought about. Several noble Lords have suggested that a. Minister should be appointed for the purpose of dealing with this subject alone. May I point out that if you give the title of Minister without Portfolio to any individual that does not necessarily mean that you thereby produce a superman. I am afraid there exists among a large proportion of the population of this country an idea that if you appoint a. Minister without Portfolio he will be a superman. Re will be, I am afraid, a human being like most of us, and what he can do will only be what other human beings of the same capacity and intellectual attainments as himself can do.
The right reverend Prelate drew my attention to paragraph 6 of the Report in which Mr. Malcolm Stewart, referring to the limitations upon the Commissioners, says:Whilst they may not actually hamper the freedom and initiative of the Commissioner so far as making proposals is concerned, they do result in restricting his powers to carry these proposals into effect.While I wish to pay a high tribute to the work that Mr. Malcolm Stewart has done, I would point out that he was in favour of the Act of Parliament which was passed, and if I refer your Lordships to paragraph 22 of the Report it will be found that he said:One of the statutory duties of the Commissioner is to make suggestions to and co-operate with Government Departments. I am more and mere convinced that the major problems of the Special Areas cannot be isolated and left to one small Department; they must be tackled by the Government as a whole and there is hardly a. Government Department which cannot and should not help. It is clearly uneconomical and inefficient for the Commissioner to initiate activities which can better be performed by existing Departments already possessing the necessary machinery and experience.That shows that the allocation of these duties to a special Minister is not really what we want.
The suggestion of a special Minister being appointed to discharge duties of a 998 particular kind raises hopes in the minds of a great many people in this country that a dictator will be appointed who will override all the rules which the Government have been expected to respect and follow, and do something totally different for the sell-being of the people of this country. I think, on reflection, it will be agreed that that really is not what we want. We have seen Reports from the noble Lord, Lord Portal, and his colleagues in other parts of the country, and two Commissioners have been appointed. I do riot think that the Commissioners will complain—in fact I know that they do not—of the treatment which they have received. They may point out certain things in which they think their activities should he greater, but I can assure noble Lords that there is no unwillingness on the part of the Government to support the Commissioners to the fullest extent, and help them along that path which it is hoped will lead to success. I cannot agree with those noble Lords who have suggested that the Commissioner has been hampered in his activities. The duty of the Commissioner is not to be a substitute for those authorities and powers which exist at the present moment, but to be supplementary and to make suggestions. I can assure noble Lords that there will be no backwardness on the part of the Government in implementing those suggestions which have been made, and which are in fact being considered at the present time.
This is not an occasion on which I can make any specific announcement in reference to certain matters mentioned by the right reverend Prelate. As to his suggestion about raising the school age, that is a matter which has been before your Lordships on more occasions than one, and it has been very freely stated in public by my colleagues more than once that this is a matter which has been very carefully considered. I am not in a position as this moment to make any more definite statement than that. The right reverend Prelate, I think, drew a very gloomy picture and he did not at the same time give any credit to the Government for the position in which the country stands at the present time in comparison with its condition four years ago.
999 I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Portal on the speech which he made and to say how gratified we all were to hear him speaking in your Lordships' House upon a subject about which he is so fully qualified to speak, and making a speech so comprehensive and so moving. He brought forward a number of suggestions which, I can assure him, will not fall on deaf ears. I hope the noble Lord will recognise when he speaks of major proposals that new Commissioners have been appointed to consider the Reports which have been made and the major proposals which he mentioned have not, as yet, been put forward by the Commissioners. That does not mean that the proposals are not good proposals, but that at this time they may not be the best proposals for the solution of the problem with which we are faced. The noble Lord also spoke of foreign industries coming to this country. I have no reason to believe that any obstacle will be placed in the way of any individual if he is likely to be of credit and assistance to this country who may wish to introduce an industry into this country and to give employment to men who are unemployed now.
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who speaks to your Lordships with an enthusiasm which we always welcome, has, I think, if I may venture to say so, supported a doctrine of unsound finance which he thinks in the circumstances of the present moment might be a proper one. I was glad that a far higher authority than myself, the most reverend Primate, took him to task and did not altogether agree with the suggestions which he put forward. The noble Lord compared this country with other countries and told us that he was shocked to realise that other countries had reduced their unemployment at a far greater rate than the United Kingdom. But I am glad to say that the noble Lord is entirely misinformed. With the exception of Germany the reduction has been greater in the United Kingdom than in any other European country. In one or two great countries there have been increases rather than reductions, whilst in Germany the figures are subject to many political considerations, as the noble Lord knows quite well. I should not like the statement he made to go to the country uncontradicted.
1000 It is perhaps wrong in your Lordships' House to indulge in reminiscences, but I came into Parliament as an opponent of the noble Lord, who was then an advocate of Free Trade. I did not hear any reference in his speech to that subject, although I was rather wondering whether he would pay a tribute to the fact that tariffs had removed a great deal of unemployment in this country. I have no doubt that with the complete conversion he has undergone he has moved further in the other direction than perhaps is wise at the present moment. My noble friend behind me, Lord Ridley, spoke with experience and knowledge of one of the Special Areas and I am sure your Lordships were glad to hear the manner in which he addressed himself to the subject. I can assure him on your Lordships' behalf that we most sincerely hope that he will often grace these debates with his speeches and will bring to bear on the subjects which he knows so well that ability which he has shown so conspicuously this afternoon.
The debate has ranged over a large area. Some of those who have taken part in it are intimately connected with those areas which have borne the brunt of the storm of depression. They have felt the weight of the depression more than other parts of the country and people who have lived in those districts and are associated with those who have gone through this sorry time are likely to get a somewhat disproportionate view of the whole situation. The charge has been levelled against the Government that they are complacent and have not shown the interest which they should show in the problem. I know that when one is in distress, when one is unemployed, a month or two months may seem a very long time, but it must be realised that a solution of this problem cannot be brought about in a short time and the work that has been done in the last four years has exercised an influence over the Special Areas as well as over other parts of the country. I think it is a year since special investigators were sent out to explore the problem locally, and then the Commissioners for the Special Areas were appointed. Therefore we can claim on behalf of the Government that the question has not been sidetracked but has been in the minds of the Government for a long time, and so far as investigations and examination of the problem are concerned, I think the 1001 Government can stand up to any charge which can be made.
When people go further and complain that the suggestions put forward have not been adopted it is for the Government to defend themselves against that charge and to show that, whereas it is easy for those who do not carry the weight of responsibility of Government to make suggestions which will be carefully considered, it is not possible to carry them all into effect in the way which has been proposed. I would ask your Lordships to carry your minds back to what has happened in the last four years. The measures which have been taken during that time have put us in a position from which we can look back with satisfaction and forward with a certain measure of equanimity as to what we can do. The latest figures of unemployment are nearly 750,000 less than those recorded in June, 1932, the first June after the National Government took office, and 812,000 less than in September, 1931, when the Government took office. The fact that 812,000 of those who were then unemployed are in work at the present moment has an influence which radiates and has repercussions throughout the country. Decreases in unemployment in the neighbourhood of 50 per cent. are recorded in many of the basic industries. The number of persons suffering prolonged unemployment has been reduced, a reduction in the number of such men of over 20 per cent. having occurred in the last two years.
The figures of employment, which give a fuller and truer account of the unemployment situation, are even more favourable. The latest figures show that there are 1,030,000 more insured persons in employment than in June, 1932. This figure exceeds by 60,000 the number recorded in June, 1929, a year of good employment, and by 1,023,000 the number recorded in September, 1931. It is, in fact, the highest figure of employment recorded at any stage of this country's history. The Special Areas have shared in this general improvement. The total decrease in the number of unemployed in the period from June, 1932, to June, 1935, amounted to 378,000, or over half of the decrease in the country as a whole. In the Scheduled Special Areas unemployment decreased by 108,000 between June, 1932, and June, 1935, a reduction of about 20 per cent. These 1002 figures indicate very clearly that the Special Areas have benefited by the policy for which the Government have been responsible.
It is quite obvious that the symptoms of industrial depression lie so deep in the life of the Special Areas that it is only with prolonged and very careful treatment that new vitality can be brought to them. The most reverend Primate referred to Durham. He especially remarked that Durham had been dependent on two great industries for a great number of years and that by the promotion of those two great industries a spirit had been developed amongst that population; and that it would be unfortunate in the extreme if, because of the period through which Durham is passing at the present moment, that spirit were in any degree lost. But I think that the most reverend Primate realises that it presents a very special difficulty where a county is dependent on two great industries which, by the evolution of modern circumstances, have developed a disease which was nonexistent in our younger days—namely, chronic unemployment. That disease has developed to its fullest extent in that County. The drawback to being dependent on two industries, however, not only affects Durham; it also affects another part of the world with which I am connected—that is, Belfast. The whole Province is dependent on shipbuilding and linen, and one realises that these present a problem which requires the greatest ingenuity, the greatest courage and a proper healthy policy throughout the whole country for its solution, to develop these industries and to put them back into the position which they have occupied.
The measures which lead to trade revival either over the country as a whole or in a particular area cannot be put into operation in one moment, and also their results cannot accrue immediately. There has, I think, been a tendency all over the country to expect too much from the Commissioners and too much from the Government in the time that has elapsed since the country's general position has become re-established and our energies have been free to be directed to the particular problem of the Special Areas. I will venture in a moment to enumerate the Government measures which have been undertaken to assist the Special Areas. 1003 I was gratified at having a newspaper cutting handed to me this morning from, I think, one of our North Country papers of yesterday, in which the heading is "Five New Industries in Four Months—Bravo, Tyneside!—More Development Efforts—Board's Fine Work." From the debate to which you have listened this afternoon one would not have imagined that such a headline was possible in any newspaper. Whilst I am not saying that the millennium has arrived and that the Government are to be congratulated on the great efforts which they have put forward, still one does feel that there is a movement in the direction in which we all desire that movement to be made. Although some of your Lordships may have been given the impression that nothing whatever has been done, still one does feel that there is a movement and that that movement is not altogether a natural movement; it is a movement based on artificial measures, which I am sorry to think humanity is coming more to employ as years go by.
Perhaps I may enumerate some of the general measures which have been taken. I have mentioned already the restoration of confidence in the industrial future of the country, and I do feel that it is for those industrialists who, after all, have benefited by the policy which has been in being and who find themselves in a totally different position at this time from that in which they found themselves some years ago, to assist in grappling with the special problems provided by the Special Areas. I would venture to hope that those industrialists, if they are able to do so—and I think some of them might possibly do so—may give very full consideration to the claims of the Special Areas when they are seeking to extend their businesses or to start new enterprises.
There has been a relief of rates by large block grants to maintain a proper standard of local government. That is a question which has been mentioned in this debate. It is a very important one, and one does feel that, in these distressed conditions in which these localities find themselves, it is of the highest importance that burdens should be removed from them when they find themselves in a position in which they are unable to bear them. But those burdens have to be shouldered by someone else, and whilst 1004 there is an idea among a far larger proportion of the community than probably there ought to be, that the State has au unending purse of money from which grants can be made without any detriment to the financial stability of the country, still one does feel and hope that all these neighbourhoods, when they develop and when prosperity comes back to them, as one hopes it will come back, will be able to shoulder these burdens for the promotion and maintenance of the social life of this country on which the whole stability of the country depends. When I spoke of bringing matters back to their proper perspective, I suggested that, while a great deal had been done in relation to relieving these districts of the burden of expenditure which had rested on their shoulders, still, when we were further pressed to go on with this system, it was one which noble Lords would know required very careful examination and that, while it might be correct and right to pursue it in times of emergency, it was not one which one could regard altogether with satisfaction.
There has been the establishment of educational centres, which serve, as we know, to maintain the unemployed in a condition suitable for re-employment; and also the establishment of instructional centres in which the unskilled members of the unemployed may learn trades. There is also the co-operation of voluntary agencies in the performance of other social services for the benefit of the unemployed. I know that when I detail to your Lordships these efforts which have been made, they appear, in relation to the high-sounding suggestions which the noble Lord believes can be carried out at a moment's notice, to be very small. But these all have their effects and their influences on the problem which we are facing, and I hope that noble Lords will realise and study what has been done when they are inclined to suggest that nothing has been done for the purpose of relieving the situation as it has existed during the last few years.
Now I will come to further remedial measures which we have taken and which are of particular importance to the Special Areas. The policy of training centres has been to extend as far as possible the facilities for training unemployed men in the Special Areas for skilled trades. The only limit on the numbers of men who 1005 can be accepted for training is that imposed by the prospects of their successful placing in employment after training. At present—this is a satisfactory figure, which I know your Lordships will appreciate—97 per cent. of the men who go through training for a skilled trade are successfully placed in employment. A year ago there were approximately 2,400 places for skilled trades in nine Government training centres. We have increased these now to 3,200. This means an increase of some 2,000 trained men per annum from the training centres. In addition, two new training centres are now in the course of preparation, which will provide another 700 training places, and a further 800 training places are being provided in the existing training centres. When these places are completed, the output at the Government training centres will be 10,000 or 11,000 men per annum, as compared with 7,000 in 1934. While there is no compulsion to accept training, the great majority of the men accepted for training in skilled occupations come from these Special Areas. In so far as suitable men from the Special Areas can be found to volunteer for training, they will always have the first call on the facilities which are provided.
I come now to the courses of healthy outdoor work provided in the instructional centres which are primarily intended for unskilled men. At, present men are accepted for these centres from a considerable number of areas other than the Special Areas, but in so far as men from the Special Areas volunteer for this type of training and are found to be suitable for it, room will be found for them in the instructional centres. To this end plans are in hand for the extension of the instructional centre facilities to whatever extent may be necessary. We cannot guarantee employment to men who take this type of training, and at present it is not possible to place more than about 20 per cent. of them in employment after that training is completed. We are, however, doing all in our power to increase the numbers of men placed in unskilled employment from the instructional centres, and we shall provide the necessary facilities for all suitable men in the Special Areas who volunteer for this type of training with a view to transfer into unskilled employment in more prosperous areas. So far 1006 as women are concerned, the main outlet is into domestic service. We provide funds through the Ministry of Labour to the Central Committee on Women's Training and Employment, so far as is necessary to give training in domestic service to all the women and girls in the Special Areas who are suitable for this vocation and ready to adopt it.
The policy of industrial transference—that is, of seeking to find openings in other areas for unemployed workpeople in the Special Areas and assisting them to move into new areas—has been actively pursued since 1928. In working out the policy particular regard is paid to the local position, and the employment exchanges do not seek to transfer work-people into areas where considerable numbers of workpeople of the same grade are unemployed. We enable workpeople to travel to take up employment and we assist them with the cost of removal of household effects, etc. The arrangements under the scheme have recently been reviewed, and certain important changes, designed to facilitate and increase the flow of transfer, have been introduced. In particular, arrangements have now been made for assistance to be given in suitable cases to enable the father and mother and other members of a family to join a younger member who has obtained approved employment in an area offering prospects of employment for the rest of the family.
Your Lordships are aware of the difficulties which exist in transference. There are so many cases in which an unemployed young man has been transferred and has returned at once owing to feeling home-sick and desirous of returning to his parents. We feel that if these opportunities can be given for the purpose of the family joining a worker in another district, it goes a long way towards the principle which exists in our minds, of being able to transfer labour and of making the social conditions of those transferred more congenial than those conditions would have been if they had been transplanted like a plant and put down in a cold atmosphere in some locality in which they had no sympathy. Hitherto, assistance towards household removal has been linked on to the transfer of the head of the household only. There are often better opportunities of employment in other areas for 1007 younger members of the family than for the head of the household, and it is therefore hoped that the new development will prove of considerable assistance in promoting the form of transference—family transference—which offers the best prospects of permanent settlement. The total number of persons transferred since the beginning of the scheme is about 125,000. The figures have shown a sharply rising tendency this year, and the number transferred in the first six months is 8,577, compared with 5,246 in the corresponding period of last year, and 11,100 during the whole of 1934. So I think your Lordships will realise that the policy of transference is being actively pursued.
The scheme of juvenile transference has been in operation since February, 1928. We have taken all possible steps to extend the facilities of the scheme, in accordance with the recommendations of the four investigators who reported in the autumn of last year. A weekly maintenance grant is now provided in addition to wages, so that a juvenile living away from home may have a sum of 4s. or 5s. a week for his personal use after paying all necessary expenses. We are also paying grants to meet unexpected difficulties caused by short-time working or illness, when full wages are riot earned. Elaborate arrangements are made to ensure that the employment which a juvenile takes is satisfactory as to wages and working conditions, and that his welfare is properly supervised in the new area. Four hostels are being established in the London area for boys transferred to employment from the Special Areas, and it is hoped to establish a hostel for girls in an expanding industrial area in the Midlands. These hostels will be administered on behalf of the Ministry of Labour by the Y.M.C.A. and the Y.W.C.A. During the six months ended 30th June, 1935, nearly 4,000 juveniles were transferred under the scheme, an increase of over 50 per cent. compared with the corresponding period in 1934. The investigators reported that many boys were unfit for immediate transfer, and centres are being established to which selected boys can be sent for a short course, in order to improve their physical fitness. The first centre was opened in County Durham this month. Apart from these centres, the Government are aiding a 1008 number of training schemes for juveniles, conducted by voluntary bodies. They include training for farm work and various kinds of domestic service.
While the appointment of the Commissioners for the Special Areas has not in any way led to a slacking off of effort by the responsible Government Departments, it has meant that during the last six months their efforts have had the valuable supplement of the Commissioners' activities. I am sure noble Lords will have studied the Reports of the Commissioners which have given rise to this debate. I will not, therefore, go into the details of their activities now, but I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the summary of commitments on the wide range of work undertaken by the Commissioners amounted, at the time of the Reports, to £2,257,000 for England and Wales and £726,422 for Scotland. Moreover, the activities of the Commissioners are still continuing. Since the English Commissioner rendered his Report twenty-two further schemes of public work to a value of £135,000 have been provisionally approved for grant. The movement, as it were, has now got under way. At no stage have the Commissioners been held up for want of public money or for want of sympathy and assistance from the Government and Government Departments in carrying out their work.
The Commissioners have made a series of recommendations. In particular, those of the Commissioner for England and Wales raise questions of general social and economic importance. They could not be—and it is not suggested that they should be—applied exclusively in the areas for which the Commissioners are responsible, the conditions of which they have been intensively studying. They raise a number of questions of broad policy outside the Special Areas, including some which have been engaging the attention of the Government. All are being examined. The repercussions on the country at large must be examined by the Government, who necessarily are in a better position than the Commissioners to appreciate the wider bearing of the recommendations and suggestions. The Government are giving their most earnest consideration to them and the problem will not be out of the minds of His Majesty's Ministers during the Recess. The Government recognise the 1009 truth of Mr. Stewart's observation that the problem of the Special Areas cannot be successfully solved without the application of some unconventional principles, and they will not be afraid of the unconventional if they can be assured that in bringing relief to the Special Areas by such means the rest of the country will continue to increase in prosperity.
I think your Lordships will agree that nothing must be done to shake confidence or to check business development, for only if the rest of the country is in good order can any help be given to the Special Areas. I know that in many parts of the country there are many people who are anxious to put forward schemes which they believe would be beneficial to the Special Areas in particular and probably in the end to the whole country, but I suggest that if these schemes are put into operation without full and proper consideration and if these schemes fail, by so much do they destroy confidence. Therefore, I would venture to ask your Lordships to realise that this is a subject which we are continually studying, and that a great deal has been done of which very little notice has been taken in attempting to solve the problem with which we are confronted.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, I do not remember having listened in your Lordships' House to a more impressive series of speeches than we have heard in the early part of the afternoon, and I have only risen because I think that the reply which the noble Marquess has just given to us is highly unsatisfactory. In fact, I cannot see that there is anything different in it from the speech delivered by Mr. Brown in another place. If we had had Lord Brown here and Mr. Stewart speaking in another place, nobody would have found the difference between the two speeches, and that is very disappointing. I think the noble Marquess really misunderstood the trend of this debate. This was not an attack on the Government for having failed to do what they can to improve the conditions of the country and therefore, incidentally, unemployment. This was not an attack from the Opposition Benches trying to make Party capital out of a Government failure. This was a demand on the part of very careful speakers, particularly well-informed, who ask the Government to tell us what it is that they intend to 1010 do as a result of the important Reports received from the Commissioners. While I was scribbling on my notes so many of the admirable points made by the speakers during the course of this debate, I got a particularly large sheet of paper when the noble Marquess stood up in order that I might register what the Government were going to do, and the only thing I wrote down was that "the suggestions will not fall on deaf ears." Well, that is some comfort, but it is very little comfort. We want to hear a very great deal more than that.
The noble Marquess confined the greater part of his speech to telling us what has been done in the years past, mostly since 1928, about training centres, educational centres, transference. This was a progressive improvement as a result of what has been done over a number of years. We admit that; we are not disputing it. What we are asking this afternoon is what specific proposals as a result of these well-reasoned Reports the Government were by way of undertaking. And really, if the Government are going to be defended by Ministers in your Lordships' House quoting headlines from some obscure provincial newspaper, that really looks as if the Government must be in a very tight place and a very uncomfortable position. No, the refrain of the noble Marquess's speech was that things were progressing in the right direction—things are going on, schemes that have been introduced many years ago are showing that they are having some effect. We will admit that.
The Government are very pleased with their record, and no doubt their supporters would like to commend them for it. But here we have two very valuable Reports full of particular ideas. Some of them undoubtedly would have to be introduced with a view to extending them over the whole country rather than confined to those areas by themselves, because they really are not a separate problem, and some of them are specially pertinent to those Special Areas. I listened to the noble Marquess most carefully, and I could hear of nothing new, no prospect of anything which really would give us hope that something specific was being done. He turned down the idea, which was repeated by the majority of the speakers this afternoon, that there should be a special Minister. The Government are not afraid of appointing special Ministers. 1011 They have appointed four for Foreign Affairs: I do not see why they should not appoint one for this particular job. Because I am sure it is a full-time job; it is a most difficult job.
The noble Marquess is perfectly right in saying that you cannot wave a wand and you cannot work miracles, and nobody expects that you can. It is a very tough problem, with very far-reaching origins. As the remedies which we on this side of the House have always advocated are out of the question under the present Government, we admit that they have a very difficult job before them. But it is not good when the Minister of Labour in another place and the noble Marquess here pronounce at the end of the Session speeches of this sort, eulogising the efforts of the Government, but not holding out any real prospect of a decided well-thought-out plan to deal with this grave evil. My noble friend behind me (Lord Listowel) said that we owe a debt of gratitude to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester for introducing this subject this afternoon. Indeed we do. My noble friend said that it was appropriate because of the debate that there has been in another place and the hope that we should have a better message from the Government here, and because the Reports have come in and it was a good moment to examine them. May I just add, too, that I think it is appropriate because we all of us are going out now for rest and leisure with pleasant prospects. It is only right that we should remember the thousands of our fellow countrymen who are to have rest without enjoyment, leisure without comfort, and dark prospects without hope.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, the noble Marquess said I had not given credit to the Government for what they had done in the past. I did not make any reference to the general state of employment or unemployment throughout the country. I quite deliberately confined myself to the Special Areas, but there I did say I valued greatly the steps which had been taken by the Commissioners, and it was only for reasons of time that I did not enumerate them at length. I believe they have made a very valuable contribution in the remedial and ameliorative measures they have adopted; but I should 1012 like to make my own the words used by The Times on Monday:The total of these ameliorative and restorative measures is very considerable, and the benefit to many individuals is great…But they are not in themselves fundamental remedies. They are palliatives.That is the contention which most of us have made throughout this debate.
Let me try to sum up the situation as I see it in a very few words. We asked the Government what they are proposing to do in this matter. We are told, instead, what they have done in the past. We recognise gladly what they have done, but I think members of all Parties feel that what has been done is insufficient to meet the needs of the Special Areas. I have not the latest figures, and I did not quite catch those given by the noble Marquess, but the Minister of Labour the other day stated that the total number of unemployed in these areas was just under 440,000. We wanted to know whether the Commissioners would be given fuller power to act, fuller powers than they have at the present time, and whether some of the limitations which they pointed out would be removed. We have had no answer to that question. We have asked whether the recommendations which are made by the Commissioner for England and Wales would be acted upon, and to that question again there has been no answer, although the recommendations are not new; they are recommendations made in the main over a year ago. While I am grateful to the noble Marquess for replying, I am bound to say I am disappointed with the substance of his reply. I believe that disappointment will be felt widely, and I can only end by saying that I hope that at some near time in the Recess, before Parliament meets again, it will be possible some way or other for the Government to make a more satisfactory and hopeful statement on what we all admit to be a most difficult and perplexing subject.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, by leave of the House may I say that I regret the right reverend Prelate should have suggested I did not answer the questions he has put? I think I answered the question which he put as to the powers of the Commissioners. I would remind the House that a Commissioner is not in substitution of a Minister or an authority. His duty is 1013 to recommend and advise the authorities on what is required. We know he cannot allocate money in circumstances in which an authority can do so, but there is no limit to the advice a Commissioner can give to the Government. I thought I made it very clear that the recommendations made to the Government by the Commissioner are not likely to be disregarded if they can be reconciled with other considerations of a wider nature which the Government must take into account and which one does not expect private individuals or people with less responsibility to appreciate. I can assure the right reverend Prelate that any recommendations of that kind made by the Commissioners will not be turned down.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I may just explain I am only anxious for the Commissioner to have the powers foreshadowed by members of the Government in both Houses when the Act was passed under which he now has his powers. I may sum those powers up in. the words of the Minister of Labour at the time, that they will be givenenough money to make it quite certain that they will be enabled to undertake any experiment and work which they think is necessary"—and the Commissioner more than once points out he has been unable to undertake work which he regards as necessary.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.