The Debate yesterday ranged, as it was bound to do, over a very large number of factors, which hon. Members thought were relevant when considering this most important question. There is no doubt at all about the gravity of the problem or its widespread nature. Two speeches delivered at the end of yesterday's Debate brought out very clearly two different points of view. The first was delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), and, if he will permit me to say so, it was the best speech, or certainly one of the best speeches, that I have heard him deliver in the House on any topic. It was suffused with a personal knowledge of the question of unemployment, and it was also temperate in tone and not in the least degree threatening. It was in line with the feeling of the whole House, which desires to find some alleviation and ultimately the cure for this great and distressing problem. The other speech was delivered by my hon. Friend who represents one of the Divisions of Lancashire (Mr. Hopkinson).
It was equally sympathetic, but he took almost the diametrically opposite point of view with regard to the duty of the State, He spoke of the calamity which it would be if we were to regard the State as a charitable State. The best thing that could happen, he said, was to let alone the whole question of industry and of unemployment. That is a very interesting point of view, and it was expressed by an hon. Member not at all unsympathetic to the problem with which we are all endeavouring to deal. What is required is not a charitable State at all, but a just State. Justice is far better than any amount of charity. In its proper and right sense justice includes all the elements of charity. You cannot get anything better than justice.
The whole idea of the duty of the community with regard to unemployment has fundamentally shifted from the days even when I entered the House, in 1906. One heard then with great interest the views expressed when a Motion was introduced affirming what is known as the right to work. Such a suggestion as that, it was said, aimed at the very fundamentals of the State. We have, however, gone far beyond the attitude which was adopted by a very large number of Members at that time. I speak for myself, and I say that the idea of industry being dependent upon having a stagnant pool of unemployed to which it can have recourse from time to time for its continued maintenance, is frankly in opposition to decency and the future well-being of the State. It does not make any real difference what people think that the attitude of what we call the working classes and the unemployed ought to be towards this thing. Let us recognise that the manual workers of this country will not put up with the state of affairs which used to obtain with regard to unemployment. We might just as well recognise that fact. Whatever damage might be caused to wealth or capital by the expenditure of large sums of money or by actions of the State in the direction of administration, would be far outweighed by the damage to the State and to industry by contesting that position. The right way to look at it is to recognise that fact. I do not think that I take up a different attitude in this particular from that taken up by my right hon. Friend opposite. To that extent we are on common ground.
Of course, the difficulty is to find suitable work. Everybody agrees that in some way or other these unfortunate fellow citizens of ours must be maintained, and not maintained upon the merest margin of physical existence. We must go beyond that in the interests of the State, because if that be the only line on which we propose to move, these assets of the State will be wasting assets, whereas they ought to be preserved as assets which at the very earliest opportunity can once again be productive. Owing to unemployment an immense charge has fallen upon the community in all sorts of indirect ways such as physical weakness and lack of moral strength. Men and women have got to be made fit again, and it should be the duty of us all to see that they are kept at an economic standard. That is the just way of dealing with this problem. Again, speaking for myself, let me say that the proposal of my right hon. Friend to raise the maintenance allowance from 15s. to 18s. is not enough. An hon. Member says: "Are we willing to pay for it?" I am willing to pay my share of it. We are willing to pay for ventures in foreign countries and to spend scores of millions without bothering at all about it. If any question arises somewhere in Mesopotamia or thousands of miles away or there is some idea of some insult to the British flag, everything gets going, and there is no trouble about it. We ought to deal with this question from the high and lofty and national standpoint the same as we deal with high questions of foreign policy. I say, looking at it in that way, that the 18s. is not enough, but, if the Government are going to keep to that amount, I say that there ought to be differentiation between the married and the single. I am talking backed with some authority, because I have taken the trouble to make some inquiries on this point, and I believe that, administratively, there are no great difficulties in the way of differentiating between married and single.
I agree with what has been said on all sides that you cannot isolate this problem and that it is intimately connected with world conditions. For anyone to say that unemployment is not rampant in other countries, and in the United States of America, which are supposed to be financially in a better position than we are, is to ignore the obvious facts of the situa- tion, but we are dealing with our share of a world problem. It especially affects us because we cannot exist industrially without our export trade. It is quite impossible, and to imagine that we can exist as a commercial community bounded by the sea is ridiculous and futile. We should become at once a third-rate power if we did not realise and act up to the fact that our industry rests upon export. Upon that point, with regard to the question of exchanges, one has heard a great deal about stabilising the exchange. For my own part, I hold the view, without claiming any financial authority at all, that this question of exchanges is quite simple to understand, if we bear in mind the fact that it is fundamentally nothing more than the reflection of the credit of the nation concerned. No amount of faking the exchange or things of that kind is of any avail. We have to do these things in war, I know, but now we have got to go back to the realities of the position of the world I say that rates of exchange are fundamentally the reflection of the credit of the nations concerned, and that is the reason why there is no rate of exchange with some nations, because they are hopelessly bankrupt, and until you can get a nation's financial position sound, no talking about rates of exchange or stabilising them will help you at all. The position must be fundamentally better all round, and then your rates of exchange will adjust themselves to the improved conditions.
Now I come to a definite charge which I desire to make against His Majesty's Government, and it is this, that they have neglected this problem. I heard my right hon. Friend, one of the Members for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts), saying yesterday that when he was at the Ministry of Labour during the War even then the Government of the day was anxiously concerned with regard to the question of coming unemployment. What did the Government do? Financial authorities of the highest standing ever since the Armistice have been predicting that some such crash as this was bound to come, and the longer the seeming prosperity went on the greater the crash when it did come. I think my hon. Friends and myself on this side of the House can claim that there is not much blame attaching to us in the matter, for the very first day that this Parliament opened, in the Debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech
from the Throne, I drew attention to this question, and ever since then we have persistently, by questions and by speeches, directed the attention of His Majesty's Government to the inevitable collapse which must come. What was the duty of the Government? Trade, I know, was booming, but that condition of trade was nothing but the exceedingly high temperature of a pati[...]nt who was very ill as the result of the War. It was obvious that the thing could not go on. What steps did His Majesty's Government take with regard to it? I remember a question which was asked on the 30th June by an hon. Member, who asked my right hon. Friend (Dr. Macnamara) whether he would state the twelve chief trades in which there was an increase in unemployment, and he replied:
I am glad to say that employment in the principal industries of the United Kingdom is still maintained at a high level, and is much better than a year ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1920; col. 432, Vol. 131.]
Then, on the 5th August, a question was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) of the Prime Minister, and he gave much the same hopeful view of the situation, but an hon. Member asked the Leader of the House a written question, and it was this:
Whether his attention has been called to the replies of the various chambers of commerce throughout the country to the circular addressed to them by the Association of Chambers of Commerce; whether the majority of these replies indicate the probability that a period of widespread unemployment is rapidly approaching.
The reply of the Leader of the House was this:
I do not think that the answers…indicate that a period of widespread unemployment is rapidly approaching but they point to some decline in industrial activity generally and some hesitancy in certain trades. But there is also ground for the belief that the world's demand for many classes of commodities is still far from satisfied and that in the larger trades the present slackening is only temporary."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th August, 1920; col. 2679, Vol. 132.]
Then we came to the Prorogation, and the mind of the Government at that day-is found in what my right hon. Friend (Dr. Macnamara) said only yesterday. He said:
In August last, while the barometer was still high and the going firm and the
sky blue overhead, the Cabinet appointed a Committee to consider the question of unemployment and to devise plans which would be in readiness if and when the need arose, as I then ventured to foretell it would arise. The Cabinet and this Committee have been giving unremitting consideration to the problem from that date to the present time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th February, 1921; col. 120; Vol. 138.]
From what date? From last August? Was that the time to start these investigations? The position of His Majesty's Government is entirely different from that of the ordinary Member of this House in these matters. They have at their command the widest range of the highest financial authorities, only too anxious and glad to help them, and they have trained experts on the questions of trade, employment, and unemployment, and statistics going back over many years. All they have to do is to utilise all the massed forces which are at their command. They must have known it was coming. Business men throughout the country were knowing it, and bankers throughout the country said the same thing: "Look out for the disaster; it must come." My right hon. Friend introduced a Bill which at the very last moment of last Session passed through all its stages in less than an hour.
Of course it was. How could anybody object to anything being done when the disaster was on us? The point that I made at the time was that it ought to have been brought in before. I charge His Majesty's Government on this great question of unemployment with serious dereliction of their duty. They ought to have been awake, and they ought to have known that this blue- sky which he saw, this high barometer, were deceptive signs of the real situation. With regard to one or two of the causes of it, one of the chief causes for our own acute position is our own mismanagement of our own affairs, and our huge, ghastly, extravagant expenditure on unproductive ends. I am astounded to find that in the present Parliament in two Budgets the Army, Navy, and Air Force alone have taken £882,000,000. I admit at once that in the first year after the War great expenditure could not be avoided, but what justification could there be in two years to spend nearly £900,000,000 on the military forces of this country? And this unproductive expenditure is going on to-day. Go to any seaport where they send troops away to some of our little wars, and you will see processions of the unemployed with their banners going down the streets, and another procession of troops going away— very largely cause and effect. It is not only actual money expended, but our general policy in Russia, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, is a heavy charge; turn where you will you will find it so. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ireland!"] Yes, and Ireland. Does anyone suggest that that helps business? Everybody knows it is a very heavy charge on the country.
Think of the immense sums which have been raised. We have raised £1,400,000,000 in a single year, taken out of the pockets of the taxpayer, but we have not finished with that. We have got in front of us Supplementary Estimates which are very little short of £35,000,000—this House has practically no control over them—and mainly in connection with unproductive expenditure. What about the ratepayer? He is rated now, £200,000,000, compared with £83,000,000 before the War. I do not hesitate to say that, owing to the policy of His Majesty's Government, hundreds of millions of pounds, which might to-day be in the pockets of the citizens of this country, or used in productive business, minimising unemployment, is scattered the world over in useless, unproductive expenditure. What about the expenditure which has been going on with regard to Government Departments? Unless these Government Departments reproduce, by way of beneficial service or otherwise to the country, money expended on them, it is useless, so far as the country's finances are concerned. The money is lost and gone. What are the Government doing in regard to that? I saw a return recently showing that, with all the efforts of the Government, out of 400,000 Government employés, there is a net reduction of 359. I charge the Government for its share in the responsibility at home with regard to unemployment, and its reckless extravagance and maladministration.
Another point was raised yesterday with regard to our trade with Russia. Somebody said there was nothing in it at all. In the King's Speech, apparently, it is thought otherwise. The Government have come to the conclusion now that it is quite a good thing to trade with Russia. Those who sat in the House in the early days of this Parliament will remember what the attitude of the Government was then—active hostility to having any dealings at all with Russia of any sort or kind. To-day there is a change. But what justifies the change? Are Lenin and Trotsky to-day any more amenable to the conventions of civilised nations according to the standards which have been set up? Not at all. They seem as determined as ever in the conduct of their idea of government. At last His Majesty's Government have been approaching some commonsense in this matter. Those who act with me on this side of the House are very glad to hear of the approaching commencement of business with Russia. But how much unemployment might have been avoided if His Majesty's Government had seen the commonsense of the situation two years ago. I think I am right in saying that it is much more beneficial to us commercially to trade with Russia than with the United States, in view of the financial relations between ourselves and the United States. Russia is a market of boundless possibilities for us. She can take—and if she had encouragement she would take—it will require time to do it— manufactures that we can send her, and she has the raw material of which we are sadly in need. His Majesty's Government, on the side of the trading question, and on the side of unemployment, stand condemned with regard to their policy towards Russia.
This is my last point. I say that the whole foreign policy of His Majesty's Government has not been so managed as to develop what the world wants most for business purposes and the reduction of unemployment, and that is peace throughout Europe and the world. It has stuck to an impossible Treaty, and the results are coming home to us every day in unemployment and all other directions. Unless His Majesty's Government see to it that the policy they now shape is one in accordance with the reality of the situation, and not in accordance with election promises, there will be little or no hope for the re-establishment of trade between ourselves and European countries. We are glad to hear that the President of the Board of Trade is trying to arrange trade credits. Here you come down to the fundamentals You cannot trade in a state of war. You must have peaceful conditions if you are to have beneficial, reproductive, profit-bearing trade. His Majesty's Government must bring their whole energy into co-operation with anybody in and through—I know some hon. Members will laugh—the League of Nations, and all that it means and contains. That is the only way, in the large, high and real sense of the term, that we shall get peaceful, fructifying trade between ourselves and the nations of the -world.
I think the speech to which we have just listened falls into two parts. With the first portion, which dealt with the subject of the Amendment, I find myself, to a very large extent at any rate, in very considerable agreement. The latter portion ranged over a somewhat wide area. It covered functions relative to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Army, the Foreign Office and other Departments. I should like to say a word or two with regard to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because, in respect of that particularly, I find myself very much in sympathy with his attitude of mind, if I may say so, and his outlook. The whole way in which this problem is being regarded, not only by this House, but also by the country, has undergone within the last few years an entire change— almost a revolution. Certainly in the spirit in which the problem is regarded, and the determination to find every possible solution for it, I agree with him, and I also agree with him that the theory of the pool of unemployment is a theory of which we must, if we can, get rid. I think everyone who has dealt practically and theoretically with the problem of unemployment, has accepted that which is involved in that rather clumsy word "decasualisation."
Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that what we want to do is to try to find work. That is, of course, the crux of the whole problem, and I waited anxiously for the next few sentences, but the right hon. Gentleman sheered off to the question of the Unemployment Insurance Act. I would ask all those who raise this issue, and emphasise, quite wisely, the point, not to rest content with that sentiment, but to give us, if they can, some assistance. About that I shall have more to say in a moment. But I should like to take one or two more points which were quite properly raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and answer them quite shortly. The next point to which he came was the question of the proposed modification and amplification of the benefits under the Insurance Act. He said he did not accept the theory that the 18s. was sufficient, and certainly not sufficient in the case of a married man. He is quite right in assuming that that problem has been considered. I notice that the Labour party, in the programme they have put out, a copy of which I have here, and have studied with immense care, they take, as their kernel for dealing with this problem of the difference between the married and the single man, the household. I think there is something to be said for that, if you are going to give up the principle of the same flat rate for everybody, whether married or single. But I would remind my right hon. Friend that insurance is a personal matter. The contribution is paid by the individual. The contribution is not paid by a household, nor, I take it, would a married man be particularly anxious to pay a larger contribution than a single man, and I do not think employers would be anxious to pay on behalf of married men a larger contribution than in the case of single men. At any rate, if they did, it might have a very unfortunate effect in tending to press married men out of industry. The problem, at any rate, has not been left without consideration, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman would apply his mind to the point that you do not insure a family or household, but an individual who pays the contribution.
A further point raised was the question of credit for establishing foreign trade. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment yesterday attached great importance, and I think many of us do attach great importance, to using every effort we can to develop a proper system of credits. I did not quite understand my right hon. Friend, but I rather thought he said he did not think they were any good. But I do agree with him in this —and it is a point which was, I think, forcibly put in one of the leading journals this morning, the "Times"—that credits to countries, unless there is some control over note issue, is probably not a very satisfactory means of developing trade with those countries. Up to that point, I think, the right hon. Gentleman has not made any very severe attack upon the Government. I come to one or two points where the chaff became a little more barbed. He said we had given no consideration in time to this question of unemployment. On that I want to join issue with him frankly at once. First of all, he told us that we had rushed through, at the last minute in December, a Bill to which, apparently, he attached considerable importance. That Bill was a small Bill. It had really nothing to do with the vital issue of unemployment, apart from technicalities. The main Act—the Act to which I have attached the utmost importance from the moment I have had any official dealings with this matter—is the Unemployment Insurance Act, and we are finding more and more, as I always thought would be the case, that it is our sheet-anchor in these troubles. The right hon. Gentleman says: "Oh, you did not begin till August." When was the Unemployment Insurance Act introduced? It was introduced in the spring, ft was pressed, with various Parliamentary viscissitudes; it went through Committee, came to the Floor of this House, and eventually it was passed into law. The Government cannot be charged with inertia in the matter of that measure, for they introduced it long before there seemed any prospect of unemployment being bad. Then came the List part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, where he drifted far afield, and I was a little puzzled, for at one moment he told us that unemployment was a world-problem—it existed in Sweden and America and so on, as we know—I shall have a word to say about that in a moment—then he went on to show that the unemployment in this country was due to what he called the reckless expenditure of His Majesty's Government. Even if it was not said in so many words, emphasis was laid upon the latter to make it at least appear that the view of the right hon. Gentleman was that that was the main cause of it. Surely we have not got to attempt any palliation of inertia if we admit his next ground that this is a world-problem, due to world causes, and that no one Government by itself can find am panacea? As to the question of cutting down Departments and Estimates, the matter of Russia, and so on, I could give answers to these points; and I will give one or two at once. The right hon. Gentleman says we are not cutting down expenditure, but he knows what is being done at the Ministries of Food and Shipping, and soon. I am not certain myself that by some of this cutting down we are not losing a great deal of money. My hon. Friends know the difficulties. There are other sides of the case to ours. With regard to Russia about which he challenged us asking: "When are you going to bring Russia into the picture?" he says further>: "You must surely do so because you are now satisfied that it will materially affect this problem of unemployment." I listened last night with a good deal of interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman for the Gorbals Division (Mr. Barnes). I think he made it obvious, if it was not so before, that at the moment, and immediately, we shall not get, even if we did open up trade with Russia, that immense flow of exports we thought possible, and which we may hope for later.
I should like to say a word or two about the general course of events, and they shall be brief. Various points have been raised and criticisms urged and there has been special emphasis, I think, laid on two points. First of all we—all of us—feel the most intense sympathy for those to whom unemployment brings privations and poignant misery. Of that there is no question. That is common to very Member of the House. The other feeling, which, I think, we all have, is that the problem is a very baffling one. There are some Members who propose specific remedies on specific points. There is, however, I want to say, general agree- merit amongst a large number of Members that whatever remedies are found the Government usually get hold of the wrong one. I was reading the other day an interesting Radical New York weekly called the "New Republic." The writers were referring to the large amount of unemployment in various countries, and in Sweden and South America. These two countries were neutral during the War. In America at this moment, which, after all, had less economic loss during the War than, I suppose, any belligerent—in America, at the present time, the "New Republic" estimates there are something between three millions and four millions of unemployed. The population of America is double that of this country. Therefore it is clear that, with our unemployment in this country round about a million, unemployment in America is considerably more serious than here.
Dealing with the matter of unemployment, this newspaper complains that there is no organised method of dealing with it in America. It goes on to say: "We have not got any organised attempts on the British plan; we have not got an Unemployment Insurance Act; we have not got Labour Exchanges." So there are countries which do envy even in the matter of Labour Exchanges the efforts which have been made here. After all has been said and done, we are practically agreed that the only real remedy for unemployment is to get the wheels of industry going. As to methods, roughly speaking, you may say there are three ideas underlying the observations in this Debate, so far as remedies are concerned. First, there are palliative and remedial measures. They must be proceeded with. I am not despising them. No one has the hardihood to suggest that nothing should be done in the way of remedial measures, though some people say they do not do as much good as one would like. No one suggests we should sit apart like a sort of Buddha with our arms folded in serene contemplation and do nothing. What, however, does surprise me is how few suggestions of any novel character have been made in regard to palliative measures. It is true, perhaps, the Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) in an interesting speech yesterday—he is not present now—referred to silver and the value of the rupee. The variations in the value of the rupee undoubtedly affect very seriously and often the export of British goods to India. If I understand the hon. Member rightly, his proposal was. that we should re-institute free coinage of silver on the old bi-metallic basis of 15½ to 1. I cannot, of course, go into these proposals here: they are questions for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I can say this: the last great European war, 50 years ago, resulted in the break-up of the Latin Union, and in effect to bring about a general demonetisation of silver in Europe. It would be extremely interesting to those who, like myself, have always been an adherent of the theory of bimetallism, if the result of the present War should be to bring forward again prominently for discussion the theory of a free coinage of silver on the basis of 15½ to 1.
There are one or two measures of the Government which have been criticised, and about which I should like to say something. First of all, as to our measures with regard to half-time. I do plead that nothing I shall say in this House on this subject shall be accounted as other than addressed in a spirit of anxiety to secure co-operation, because I believe it is only in this way that we shall ever get any step forward in this problem of unemployment. I honestly ask my hon. Friends opposite—quite honestly—what is their attitude really with regard to half-time? I cannot make it out. My right hon. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. W. Thorne) bitterly criticised the Government in this matter of half-time. He said they were going in for starving everyone. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) told us he was very glad that the Government had been converted, and he supported it strongly.
That is another matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "Part time, you mean!"] Yes, part time, not necessarily half-time. I was using the word compendiously. I do not want to get into any public discussion on that point. Let me now refer to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Clynes), who spoke about the joint Report of the National Industrial Conference. That is, I think, accepted by members of the Labour party.
It is very important—and also difficult to read because of the close print—but in the programme of the Labour party, recently issued, they set it out at length again, and they say this:
Organised short time is already the practice in a large number of trades to meet periods of depression. This method of avoiding displacement of labour, and the consequent risk and inconvenience to the workpeople concerned, has considerable value.
The Government have accepted that position. They have, to the best of their ability, applied that principle, which has received the official endorsement of the the Labour party and the employers in this joint Report.
But this is part of the programme of the Labour party! The Report is signed by Mr. Arthur Henderson, as chairman of the trades union representatives. Surely it is an unreasonable thing, when an authoritative document is put forward in this way with that imprimateur, to attack the Government for applying the principle? Then there is the question of doles. I listened with very great care to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting, when he dealt with the question of doles. What, of course, is wanted, is remunerative and productive work, but if no productive or remunerative work is forthcoming, what are you to do? The proposals of the Labour party are set out on page 20. These proposals put forward suggest maintenance, and amounts to this: the payment of 40s. for each out-of-work householder per week, and 25s. for the single man or woman. I have before asked the question, When is a dole not a dole? Apparently it is a dole, and a more or less improper thing, when it is put forward in the shape of benefit under the Insurance Act, but it is reasonable maintenance and quite a proper thing when put forward by the Labour party. I do not want to put my hon. Friends in any unreasonable dilemma, but I do in all seriousness ask that they should co- operate with us along lines where we can agree, and on the two matters in the Debate upon which we are in substantial agreement, namely, that we all desire to find work for those who have not work. I am sure that is common ground between us. Equally we are all satisfied that if work is not forthcoming, some provision of a monetary character is the only alternative. That being so, we do not really get very much further by making attacks on the ground of doles I was going to say something about the credit system regarding which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting said no action had been taken. I really do not think he can have had his attention directed to the export credits scheme of the Overseas Department. The position is this, and I take this opportunity of mentioning in short outline what the scheme is, because I find so many people are not acquainted with it. The Government ear-marked £26,000,000 of money for a system of export trade with the countries in Eastern Europe, Esthonia, Poland, and so on. The machinery is that a banker in the importing country must be found roughly to guarantee the importer and on that guarantee the exporter can be assured that the bill drawn for payment will be all right. On that he can receive from the British Government up to 100 per cent, of the cost of production minus the profit on the goods being shipped. It is true that not so much has been made of this scheme as might have been done.
There have been applications made and approved up to £2,000,000 and the amount coming forward for expenditure is roughly £300,000. But I find that among the deputations I have to deal with there is increased interest in the scheme, and I still hope that when more knowledge of it exists more will be made of it. At any rate, it cannot be thrown in the teeth of the Government that reasonable provision has not been made in the matter. Just one thing before I sit down, and that is the question of the amending provisions to the Insurance Act.
I am not quite certain what the right hon. Gentleman means. If he means an extension of the existing scheme (which only applies to trade with the Eastern countries), that of course is a particular development which will be matter for discussion. If he means application to private employers within the ambit of the existing scheme, it applies to private employers already.
If he is within the ambit of this scheme, the private employer or the private exporter is already assisted. If it is a question of my right hon. Friend desiring, as I rather gather he does, that export schemes should be extended on much wider lines to assist employers in this country, whether exporters or not, then I think this matter must be raised in another shape. It involves immensely difficult questions of State credit and so on, which would require very careful consideration. Just one point, on the Insurance Act and the amending provisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. W. Thorne), when my right hon. Friend the Minister was explaining the provisions yesterday, said that on the increased rate of payment, amounting to 1s. l¾d., he could provide 20s. benefit. When he says that I am not quite sure of two things. I am not sure whether he was referring to normal times or whether he was referring to the present condition of unemployment running up to 10 per cent., and I am also not quite sure whether he was referring to benefits merely of 15s., 18s., or 20s., or whether he had in mind the immense extension there is in the Government proposals of two periods of 16 weeks given, in fact, gratuitously under the scheme and without contribution. Both for ox-service men and for civilians, the benefits under the Government proposals are really very considerable indeed. In the case of the ex-service man he would run out of donation in the normal way at the end of March. He is not at present in the Insurance Act, but he will be brought into it. He will be entitled to the ordinary benefit of 18s., and, in addition, arrangements have been made to give him 2s. more. That being so, he would be entitled to 16s. from now to 21st October, and to a further 16 weeks from 21st October to June next year without contribution if he does not happen to be employed during that period. The same thing applies co civilians. Their rates are raised to 18s. from 15s. in the case of men, and to 15s. for women instead of 12s. In addition to that, the limit of weeks of benefit is permanently raised for all classes under the Act from fifteen weeks to twenty six weeks.
But, says the Member for Plaistow, or rather he implies it, the benefits still are not high in relation to the increased contributions. No one knows where we shall be in July, 1922. We all assume, we all hope, that by that time employment will be better. It may not. Pray God that this may not happen, but it is conceivable it might be worse. Under these circumstances we have to make provision for at any rate a very considerable amount of unemployment, and in view of that fact what we say is this, the whole situation shall be reviewed by or before July, 1922, and then, if the financial condition of the Fund permits, either the contributions or the benefits, or both, can be re-adjusted in accordance with the condition of the Fund. One word more, and I will conclude. It has been urged by various hon. Members, including the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir Allan Smith) that the proper course to take is for each industry to be responsible for its own unemployment. That is a view with which my right hon. Friend and myself find ourselves cordially in sympathy. There is provision under the main Act, Section 18 and Section 20, for that very procedure, and to schemes put forward under those Sections I know my right hon. Friend will give all the favourable consideration that he possibly can. There are, in addition, schemes already in operation, schemes in the works of such considerate employers as Messrs. Rown-tree and others, which offer very high payments, in the case of unemployment, running up to as much as 90 per cent, of the average wage. If each industry takes upon itself to do its own insurance, it can undoubtedly pay higher benefits than are possible under the State scheme, and pay them with safety. Remember this, you cannot pay high benefits, in my view at any rate, in connection with un- employment unless the hand that pays the benefit and the hand that gives the employment are one and the same hand. That is one of the great arguments for each industry insuring itself. I hope that industries will avail themselves of the machinery under the Act, and that they will take upon themselves the burden of unemployment insurance, because in so doing, not only will they deal with it more effectually than under the scheme of the Act, but I think they will be— masters and men—forging another link in the chain which we all desire to see, the chain of success in British industry.
We have listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has been replying for the Government on this most important question. There are some points of his speech with which we are somewhat in agreement. There are some points with which we are in disagreement, but not points of disagreement that cannot possibly be reconciled. I think that the more we discuss these matters, the more we go into the details of finding remedies for the gravest problem of modern life, unemployment, the better we will be able to evolve some scheme that in due course will meet the needs of the moment. On the last point of maintenance, you will remember that Lord Shaw made a very strong recommendation in his Report on the Dock Inquiry. The first attempt having miserably failed, a second attempt is being made to work out a scheme that will' meet the difficulties of dock labourers, and I say that if a scheme such as I have now in my mind can be successfully managed and worked covering the dock labourers of the whole of the United Kingdom, then a scheme covering the various industries ought to be and should be a very easy matter indeed. Upon this point I think there is absolute agreement—the tragedy of unemployment is one of the bitterest things we have got to experience, and although we may stand in our places here and take our part in this discussion we have no real practical knowledge of the tragedy unless we have been through it, and in voicing our claims in this House we are only voicing something of the great volume of sorrow and misery there is in the world at the present time. I do hope and sincerely trust that the outcome of this two days' Debate will at least meet the needs of the present moment and evolve a far greater and better scheme for dealing with this matter. The present state of unemployment is unprecedented in the history of our nation. [HON. MEMBEKS: "No!"] I hear so many "Noes" that I am wondering where I have been during the last 60 years. I am afraid that we drift into the local position as it affects a particular locality or district. I am speaking of the general condition of the country and of the world, and I say that the present condition of affairs has never been equalled so far as my reading and inquiries and information go. To-day there are industries which up to now have never known a day's stoppage during the last 30 or 40 years which are now completely closed down, although there was no expectation three years ago of them being stopped at all. It has developed in various other ways, and all this proves that it has come like an avalanche and has overwhelmed us. It is not local, but universal, and that makes the tragedy so much the greater for us to deal with.
During the discussion the whole of the Debate up to now has of necessity devoted itself firstly to the causes of unemployment and, secondly, to suggested remedies. Many of the speeches have rather surprised and sometimes alarmed us. In listening to some of those speeches we have wondered whether there was really unemployment existing. Some hon. Members have suggested harder work and more continuous work, but our trouble is that there is no work to do. We have heard that greater production is required. As a matter of fact, we have produced so much that we have now got sufficient to put us all out of work. Therefore, that remedy does not meet the case. We have been told that strikes are the cause of unemployment. I am in the Labour movement as thick as any man can be, and I do not know that we have had so many serious strikes to cause unemployment. Surely the miners' strike has not produced unemployment. Many textile works and woollen factories are now idle. Engineering shops have been closed down, and I have not heard of any strikes there. Docks, wharves and warehouses are lying idle and I have not heard of strikes in that direction. Dockyards are closing down and big Government factories are reducing the number of hands employed continuously, and I have not heard of any strike to cause all that. Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that that argument is a fallacy and cannot be advanced as an argument why we have got unemployment.
We have been told that if we could only get closer co-operation between employers and employés then strikes could not exist. I have been Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and a Member of the Committee that bears your honoured name, Mr. Whitley, and we have spent a great deal of time in trying to produce that good feeling, and it has produced it to a very large extent. But when it comes to the real crux of the position, the question of wages, then you get to a difficulty where there are two sections whose interests are quite opposite. On one side of the table you get people asking for a reduction of wages, and on the other side they say, "We cannot afford to reduce our wages." Under those circumstances there is not that harmony existing which ought to exist. According to what has been said in this Debate, you would almost imagine these two sections taking their seats and saying, "Good morning; glad to meet you. We want a reduction of wages," and the other side saying, "Certainly, we will give it to you." You might imagine the workmen saying, "We are entitled to an advance," and the Chairman of the Council saying, "Certainly, we will be glad to give it to you." That state of things does not exist. The Whitley Councils have brought employers and employed together, and created a better feeling, and I hope they will continue to do so.
One of the difficulties I have found in the system is that the workmen's representatives when they come there are very often treated as if they had a right to be there, but they must not be very inquisitive or ask too many questions, or poke their noses into other people's business, or want to know anything about profits. The idea seems to be, "You are a workman; keep your place and be thankful." That spirit has to be eliminated. We have to meet as joint partners in the concern with joint interests, with the recognition of each other's rights and a recognition of the fact that the workman is as important as the manager in his own sphere of work. It must be recognised that without the workmen the industry could not flourish at all. I am a strong advocate of the continuance of these Boards and I am aware that no new departure can be a success at once. A system of this kind must take time. No doubt there will be many break-aways and disappointments, but we learn by experience, and often failure is the best teacher to teach us exactly where our mistakes lie. The speeches made yesterday referred to a closer co-operation between employer and employed which does not exist, and that suggestion has not contributed to the present condition of unemployment.
What has brought about this great avalanche of unemployment? It is summed up in a very few words. The people who want to buy have not got the money to buy with. The people who want to sell will not take the money, or, rather, they will not take the sort of money the people have got. When I went across Europe into Austria you could get a pocketful of paper money for an English pound; in fact, you could get almost enough to paper a room with, and you could feel as rich as a bloated millionaire with paper money. They are beautifully designed things, but if I brought over here a pocketful of those bills you would not give anything for them, except as curiosities, because they only have a paper value. Consequently, the man who has goods to sell here, and the man abroad who wants to buy them, cannot do business because the seller here will not accept the value offered by the man abroad who wants to buy. The world has gone wrong. The whole commercial system has collapsed. The whole trading business of the world has broken down.
We realise fully that this is and must be the aftermath of the War. The War has brought its terrible destructive elements into the commercial trade of the world. Private enterprise has completely failed, and how it will re-establish itself is another matter entirely. Unemployment in its most aggravated form is here, and we have to concern ourselves with the question how best to deal with it, how best to meet the difficulties that exist at the present time, and how to mitigate the sufferings of the people who are called upon to suffer in consequence of the stoppage of industry. Many views have been expressed and many statements have been made in regard to the reasons, not only for unemployment, but how to deal with it. We have been told that people must work harder. We have heard that there must be a great reduction in wages and that wages must be cut down. We are told that a cutting down of wages will save any further development of this terrible trade slump. I have been in very large industries within the last few weeks. I have been in one very large business which has gone on without a stoppage for many years. I have seen their warehouses full right up to the roof, and I have said to the manager of this business, "What is the remedy? If a reduction in wages takes place, could you give any guarantee that your works would resume operations?" The answer I have always received has been, "No, we cannot." One very large firm said to me, "The fact of the matter is, if the men worked for nothing at all we could not sell our goods even then." That is the real answer to the question.
We heard last night from the hon. Member for the Mossley Division (Mr. Hopkinson) that his factory was working day and night, while neighbouring factories were lying idle. I do not know whether his factory works on home trade or foreign trade. I cannot understand the exact meaning of the illustration he gave, showing the success of his factory in comparison with those round about. He said it was working day and night at full pressure, that he had plenty of orders and plenty of trade. Such a condition of affairs is unique in itself. The hon. Member did not tell us there had been any cut in wages, but he did say there had been an alteration in the method of working that had brought about success. I should like to know, and, probably, shall know later on what is the secret of that success. I am sure if the hon. Member would give to the owners of the other factories, or to the trade organisations, an explanation of his methods, every employer in the country would be glad to have the information. No one wants to be out of work, no man or woman wants to be unemployed. No employer wants his factory to be lying idle. No firm wants to see work stopped. But I am convinced that a cut in wages is no remedy for unemployment at the present time. No doubt there are some who are taking advantage of the present opportunity, and you cannot wonder at it, to reduce wages. Many attempts are being made and likely to be made to do that. But I am convinced of this one fact, and I speak with full knowledge of what I say here to-day, that even if there were a 50 per cent, cut in wages at this very moment it would not reduce the number of unemployed by one per cent, on Monday morning, because it is the condition of trade itself, and the break-down of the trading system of the world, that makes it impossible for industry to continue. The right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division (Mr. Barnes) said that ships were being sent to Antwerp and Hamburg for repair. I have had something to do with ship repairing and I am at a loss to understand how that is to be accounted for unless it is because of the rate of exchange which enables work to be done so much cheaper at Hamburg than it can be done in this country.
It was not a question of wages to which the right hon. Member for Gorbals was referring. It was the industrial disputes and unrest which he suggested were causing this work to be sent abroad.
With the exception of an attempted cut in wages in the shipwrights' industry in the North of England, I have heard of no serious dispute in the ship-repairing industry. There are few bigger ship-repairing centres in the country than those in the North of England, and all I can say is that if shipowners are going to transfer their ships to Hamburg for repair, because it is cheaper to get the work done there, then do not let us hear any more of the patriotic nonsense so much talked about in the past. That Very fact in itself condemns the whole argument which has been advanced. We have got to deal with this Question of unemployment as it presents itself to us now. I am not going to join in any general condemnation of the Department. I think I am right in saying that the heads of the Ministry of Labour are desirous of doing their best. But they are not free agents. Probably they cannot do all that they would like to do. I am not condemning them for any action they have taken. But I join issue with the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman. As far back as 1917 we made representations on behalf of the Labour party, urging the Government to prepare for the very state of things which obtains to-day. We sent our deputations, we made our requests. We did all we could by voicing the wishes of the people through conferences and through the trade union movement, through appeals in every way, and we pointed out the absolute certainty of this terrible time that has now come upon us. We complain that the Government did not give that consideration to this problem which they might have done in the years which have gone by. It is two-and-a-half years since the Armistice was signed, and we have had no practical proposals for meeting the great amount of unemployment that exists to-day. Speaking my own feeling in the matter, I am convinced that the Government never believed it was possible the country would get into the state in which it is to-day. They probably gauged the possibilities of the future by what had occurred in the past, and they never anticipated this overwhelming trouble with which we are now faced.
But we have to deal with the problem, late as it is. While I want to give all credit to the efforts put forth by the representatives of the Department, as far as they have been able to act, we are not at all satisfied with what has taken place. We have been told that money has been voted for the making of main roads. That is all right as far as it goes. It must be remembered, however, that in the great mass of unemployed people in this country there are thousands of men who cannot work on the roads, who cannot dig trenches, who cannot take part in the heavy constructional work which has to be done. Therefore we are only dealing with a very small section of the unemployed when we are proceeding with the construction of the roads outlined in the Government speech. There are one or two things I would like to know, and if the Minister of Labour cannot now answer my questions perhaps he will pass them on to other Ministers who can. I am referring to work of a remunerative character which could have been undertaken, and which still can be undertaken. Eighteen months ago a Committee was appointed by the Board of Trade, a Departmental Committee called the Non-Ferrous Mining Industry Committee, and after something like eight months' hard work it presented a Report which has been quietly and respectfully laid in the pigeon-holes of the Department. I suppose anyone who seeks to disturb its quietude now will be condemned. But there was one Clause in that Report— Clause 47, I believe—which recommended that during the War period under Sir Lionel Phillip's guidance and advice a huge deep sea-level tunnel should be constructed in the Halkin mining district in North Wales, which, according to the evidence submitted, is one of the richest lead-bearing areas in the whole of the United Kingdom. The difficulty was how to get the water away from the mining area. The Government voted money for the construction of this tunnel, and, if my memory serves me aright, £47,000 was spent on the work. The tunnel was carried a considerable distance, but, when the Armistice was signed, the work was stopped. Here, therefore, we have £47,000 of the taxpayers' money lying idle and of no value to anybody. I know there are some little legal difficulties in connection with the matter; but surely they could be dealt with in an amending Act of Parliament. If this tunnel could be proceeded with and completed, the £47,000 would be redeemed, because by the completion you would open up a huge mining district, and the duties paid by the mineowners would more than compensate for any loss entailed in the partial construction. At the present moment the money is a dead loss. But if another £47,000 were expended the whole concern would be saved and employment would be found for many thousands of men.
There is other work which has been abandoned since those days when we were told so much about how the world was to be changed, and how all poverty and suffering wore to be banished. We heard, for instance, a good deal about land reclamation, and considerable work was done in that direction. But it was stopped after the Armistice, and for what reason I do not know. Then we are told about the construction of light railways in agricultural districts as a means of transport in those scattered areas. We have not seen those railways, and do not hear much about them to-day. All this would be work of a remunerative and productive character that would pay for itself in due course, and more than anything else it would meet the needs of the present time. For that reason we say that the Government have not done all that it was possible for them to do, and that all the avenues have not been explored, and all the methods of finding work for the unemployed have not been exhausted. I hope that the hints I have given regarding these two or three items may be productive of some good, so that money may be spent in a way that will repay itself and give employment to the unemployed. The Government must bear its responsibilities. I look upon the Government as the mother of the nation, whose family has to be looked after and maintained. We are face to face to-day with the fact that our great nation is suffering most seriously. The condition of affairs is desperate. If the Government only had to deal with the Members of the Labour party in this House, if you only had to satisfy us, if you only had to come to an agreement with the collective body on these benches, your duties would be light and your work would not be very difficult. It is not, however, with the representatives here, but with the great mass of the people outside, that you have to deal.
The remedy proposed yesterday is really exhausting the funds that have been created by Part II of the Act. The £22,000,000 that the Government are handling to-day is partly the money of the workmen and workwomen; it is the accumulated fund into which the workpeople, the employers and the State have been paying during the year, when there was very little benefit to pay out. You are, therefore, only meeting the needs of the moment with money that belongs to the people. After all, the workpeople are the real producers of the whole of the money. If they did not give their labour, the employers would not have their profits with which to pay, and if they did not have their profits they could not pay the taxes. Consequently, the worker is the creator of the whole of the wealth by which these taxes are paid. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I knew that I would stir you up, but it is true all the same, and if you do not agree with me it does not alter the truth. The fact is there. The worker is the real wealth-producer, and he has to produce the means of paying, so that I point again to the fact that this £22,000,000 belongs to the workers, and it is their money that is being distributed. Let us have no fads or fancies about it. It is not the gift of the Government; the Government is utilising the accumulated funds of the insured people for distribution. I do not want the Government to get swelled head. I do not want them to get credit that does not belong to them, or to go about with some form of appreciation of their own good works. They are simply using money that has been entrusted to them, and they are saying, "Look what good fellows we are; we are giving you this." They are not; they are giving that which belongs to other people. We are not finding fault with their using this money to meet the needs of the nation at the present time, nor are we finding fault with the way in which the benefit has been distributed; but I want to make quite sure that everyone else understands the matter, not only in this House, but outside.
We are not satisfied with the proposals as they stand to-day. You are going to increase the benefit to 18s. a week. It is not enough, and we are not prepared to accept that 18s. as a settlement. We have asked for 40s. We mean exactly what we say, and we make no apology for saying it, because 18s. a week is not sufficient to maintain those that are in need of maintenance. We say, therefore, that that amount must be increased, and I fully expect to hear, before the Debate is ended, that it is going to be increased, but not to 40s. We are not satisfied, however, unless you realise that that 40s. has been put down, not as a maximum, but as a minimum that is required for the maintenance of all. It has been said, and may be said again, that it is encouraging those people who would rather receive doles than work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not know whether those who say "Hear, hear" have ever been out of a job. All I can say is that, if you cannot set up machinery to deal with the malingerers, you should give us a chance and we will deal with them. When the distribution took place after the Armistice was signed, there were, no doubt, a good many who abused this privilege, and if you had allowed the trade unions to make the distribution, we would have saved you a lot of money. We had no power in the matter, and no chance to deal with it, and consequently there were abuses. We are not justifying or defending that; we are not upholding fraud of any kind. A man or woman who would abuse a privilege of that kind deserves the most severe punishment that could be meted out to them. The trade unions are not even suggesting the possibility of encouraging fraud, or defending conduct of that kind. We say that if you will increase that 18s. to 40s. we will accept it. Some hon. Members are smiling at the idea of giving 40s. out of insured benefit, but if some of them had to live on 40s. they would have another tale to tell. If some of you had to meet your wife in the morning and say, "There is 40s. to keep the house going next week," you would hear about it. We know something of it, and we say that if men and women of the nation who are willing and ready to work, and who want work to maintain their homes in a fair standard of comfort, are unable, through no fault of their own, to obtain it, then, if the State cannot provide work for them, maintenance should be provided.
The building up of our manhood and womanhood is the greatest work the State can undertake. To see men hungry through unemployment, and to allow that to continue, is the greatest disgrace to any State. I hope that what I am about to say will not be taken as a threat, because I do not make threats. I make statements which I believe to be correct, but I do not intend them to be threats. Outside we can hear the rumbling of the distant thunder, and we know what it means. Unemployment produces poverty, poverty produces discontent, and discontent produces revolution. The breeding-ground for Bolshevism is poverty and destitution; it is out of the desperation of hungry men and hungry women that foolish acts sometimes arise. The nation to-day is looking to the Government to help it through this time of stress and struggle. The Labour party at the present moment are, figuratively speaking, sitting on the safety valve. We are waiting to know what is going to be done, and if only this meagre provision is made it will not meet the needs of the people to-day. The prevention of crime, bloodshed, and suffering is cheap at any price. When the nation was in danger of the invader, in danger of the enemy outside, money was spent in abundance to fight the foreign foe, and we conquered because our resources were not exhausted. We fought the enemy outside the gate, and drove him back and made our nation safe. We have now an enemy inside the gate. It is a formidable enemy. It is a terrible enemy. It is an enemy that we cannot see at the moment, but he might spring upon us like a hungry, furious tiger before we know what has occurred. You may beat him back, you may cause the streets to run with blood, but it is a big price to pay. To prevent disaster, to prevent disturbances, to prevent uprising, to prevent tumult, sorrow, suffering and bloodshed, any price you pay is cheap in the end. The Labour party is going on constitutional lines and will continue to do so. The Labour party is anxious to prevent any of these things occurring. The Labour party knows the elements which are at work. The Labour party knows exactly where the danger lies. The Labour party realises the growing force and power that is outside, and we ask the Government, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of the people, to meet this question in the most generous way, and until the horrors of unemployment have gone by to meet it in a more generous manner than is recommended in the Report of the Minister of Labour.
This Debate, as far as I have listened to it, puts us in an extremely awkward position. We go to our constituencies and we pledge ourselves that we are going in for a reduction of expenditure and are going to try to get a £900,000,000 Budget, and yet the whole tenour of this Debate so far has been directly calling on the Government enormously to increase expenditure. I cannot imagine for a moment how we are going to give these doles or allowances to the unemployed at anything like the amount the last speaker mentioned without an enormous increase in expenditure and without also adding to unemployment. I listened with great interest to the speech of the new Leader of the Labour party and towards the end of it I interjected the question, what remedy he had to propose for unemployment. He did not give us the slightest idea of what the remedy was, and neither has any speaker on the other side that I have listened to. We have heard of palliatives which they probably think may be more or less of a temporary character, but suppose they are not of a temporary character, where is the money going to come from that is to find this amount of pay for those who are out of employment? May I remind hon. Mem- bers, as a manufacturer and an employer of labour myself, that we can only pay taxes when we make profits. We pay them out of our profits. We cannot pay them in any other way. I should like to hear from the other side where the money is to come from. The majority of people outside seem to think the Government has an inexhaustible source—some huge reservoir that they can put their hands in and bring out millions. They have no such thing. The only money they have is the money paid by the taxpayer. We are the people the pay the taxes and every time you add to taxation we have to pay for it. Yon cannot get over it.
What are the remedies proposed for unemployment? The making of roads. I travel a portion of my time in a motor-car and wherever I go I see thousands of men employed on the repair of roads. Ask any of these men, do they want the unemployed to be sent on to work in competition with them? No. They say there are plenty of men on the roads and they do not want any more. Ask the county councils and borough councils if they want to make any more roads. No, they are making enough. The expenditure upon the roads at present is enormous. They do not want to make any more roads Therefore that is not the remedy. Then we are told the Labour party would like to make docks and harbours. What do you want to make docks and harbours for at present? Only for one purpose, to find accommodation for laid up ships. The docks are crowded with laid up ships. No authority in its senses would propose to spend money at present upon making hew docks or extending docks or harbours. Then we are told local authorities might put up buildings that they were not able to do out of the rates or did not think it expedient to do. Again, that is' going to add to our difficulty, because there are not enough bricklayers to go round. Let me give the House an instance of what happened in regard to the shortage of bricklayers. I, in conjunction with others, started to lay out some very large works. We spent nearly £500,000 upon them, and we have not been able be start a single man upon them because we cannot get any orders to pay expenses. We should have got them if we could have got bricklayers. We had big power houses to put up to accommodate electric motors, and for weeks and months we could only get one bricklayer, and it made me quite ill to see this one man working where there ought to have been twenty or thirty. If we could have got those works finished, if we could have got the necessary labour, we should have been able to employ a very large number of men. We have heard a good deal about the coal trade. An hon. Member has said he never knew the Welsh coal trade in a more pitiable condition. I have known it in a worse condition, but it is bad enough. The reason is that we have driven the coal trade away by the high prices we have to pay for coal. About three months ago the price of steam coal f.o.b. was £7 to £7 10s. a ton. An order came through to my firm from Italy for 5,000 tons. We had to say, "before we can give you an ounce of coal we want £35,000." Italy could not send it. We did not get the order. What happened to Italy happened to other countries. They could not pay £7 a ton and they went to America, and the Americans delivered coal at a much loss price than we did and they are doing it still.
The price is much less than we asked for it. I am talking about what I understand. They have got into our markets, and how we are going to get them out I cannot say. It is no good beating about the bush. The cause to a large extent of unemployment is that the cost of production is too high. In other words, we cannot get the cost price of that which we are making. Let me give a small illustration. Very recently you saw all the drapers' shops crammed with beautiful goods. You saw women looking at them and saying, "I should like to buy those things, but they are too dear." As soon as the annual sales came on and the goods were reduced, you saw queues of people fighting to get into the shops. These foreign countries still want our goods, and if we could provide them cheaper they would buy them, but you cannot supply them cheaper, because the cost of production is too high. I never knew, in all my long experience as a business man, such madness as I have seen during the last two years. We have had the ball at our feet for two years. We had the opportunity of paying good wages, making large profits and general prosperity, but we threw the opportunity away by strikes and threats of strikes. When we were asked could we deliver a ship at a certain price and in a certain time, we said, "No, we cannot. We cannot give you a fixed price. All we can do is to give you an approximate price, and we will put in the contract 'subject to any increase in wages or cost of material,' and we can give you no definite date as to when we are going to deliver the ship. It is subject to strikes and threats of strikes, and we cannot do it." We did not get many of the orders. We got some of them, and what happened with regard to them? The ships which ought to have been delivered twelve or eighteen months ago at a cost of £200,000 are now ready for delivery at a cost of £300,000 to £350,000. These are facts and you cannot get over them. What is the result? The unfortunate people who ordered the ships cannot take them. Many a contract has been cancelled, while if we could have delivered the ships six or twelve months ago they would have been paid for.
The moulders' strike did an enormous amount of harm. It finished last February. Some people seemed to think that the moment the strike finished we could return to where we were. The effect of the moulders' strike is still here. It has delayed everything. The effect of a strike lasts longer than after the strike is finished. Then we had the miners' strike, which drove coal up to an enormous price, and we have had railway strikes. In addition to these, we get sympathetic strikes. At works with which I am connected forty men went out on strike. We were paying £8,000 a week in wages. Others came out in sympathy with them, and we paid only £2,000 a week simply because forty men went out. That is what has ruined trade. We, with all our machinery intact, with all our Empire and our trade connections, directly the Armistice came should have taken advantage while the other countries were demoralised. We did not do so. We threw the opportunity away. I do sincerely hope that the leaders of the Labour party will give some little attention to the facts that I have mentioned, and that when they read the King's Speech they will note one pregnant clause in it:
I earnestly trust "—
speaking of key industries—
that these efforts will be seconded by loyal and frank co-operation between employers and employed, for it is through the cooperation of capital and labour in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence that an early solution of this grave problem is to be found.
Let the House disabuse itself, and let the leaders of the Labour party disabuse themselves of the idea that we employers want to reduce wages. We do not want to reduce wages, but we do not want to see, as we are seeing at the present time, half the people working at higher wages than ever before—the highest in the history of the country—while the other half are out of employment. There you will get dissatisfaction, not against the Government, but against those who are working at these high wages and denying the right to the other half of the people to share them. That is whore trouble may come, and not from threats of revolution referred to by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall). The hon. Member is very eloquent. I do not know whether he is a Welshman, but he comes from near Wales. They are all eloquent there, but they are not always practical. The hon. Member is very eloquent, but he is not practical; neither are many Members on that side of the House. During the last few months they have had innumerable conferences and congresses. Sometimes I have had a difficulty in crossing the road from the Central Hall, because of delegates coming from these conferences and congresses. They have scoured the whole of Europe and abroad, and even India, for their comrades, in order to discuss matters, but they have not prevented unemployment, and they never will. My advice to them is, "Leave your comrades from abroad and look after the people of this country. That is what you need to do. The comrades around whom you have thrown your arms and over whom you have practically wept are manufacturing goods at a considerably less price than we can manufacture them, and they are flooding this country with them." I appeal to the Labour party to pay attention to that portion of the King's Speech where he implores his people for co-operation between capital and labour. I can assure hon. Members that the employers are ready to meet them to discuss these matters from an amicable point of view, and that nothing embitters the feeling between employers and employ½ more
than strikes, rumours of strikes, and continual sympathetic strikes.
I have listened very attentively to the deliberations upon this question of unemployment, and I have been very much surprised at some of the causes of unemployment which have been alleged. I have been rather amused at the arguments introduced by the last speaker. As I am speaking in this House for the first time, I hope I shall be pardoned if I do not make the exact references to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. The cause of unemployment at the present time has been attributed to strikes and to threats of strikes. The hon. Member who has just spoken declared that there is no need for docks or harbours being built, because the docks are already full with ships lying up. Strikes, it is said, have always reduced output. In that case, they have served the purpose of the capitalist, in so far that they have already got more production than they really can get rid of. With regard to the question of miners and the high wages of miners, it is said that the latter have caused unemployment. I would remind the House that the wages of the miner only went up in order to try to catch up with the increase in the cost of living, but they have not done so yet. The history of the miners' movement during the period of the War does not show a single application by the miners for an increase of wages other than a genuine attempt to catch up with the increase in the cost of living. The cost of living was determined by the profiteers of this country, and the higher rate of wages now given to the miners are consequent upon the fabulous profits made by the profiteers during the period of the War. In 1914—to show that my statements are correct—the miners of South Wales offered to the coalowners of South Wales that if the owners would be prepared to endeavour to do everything possible to keep the selling price of coal down, they were equally prepared to cooperate with them to refrain from asking for an increase of wages; but the owners refused that absolutely. They attempted to get us into a knot by saying that they would offer us a 10 per cent, increase in wages on condition that they would have a free hand to do as they liked. Although the miners' wages are high at the present time, the miners' wages are not high in proportion to the cost of living.
It is said that the application for a £2 maintenance grant to keep a worker and his family under present conditions is going to cause unemployment. My reply is that 18s. per week is going to cause more unemployment. Eighteen shillings per week is not sufficient to eke out a miserable existence. Fancy maintaining a family on 18s. a week! Some hon. Members spend more than that on a dinner m a single evening, and yet they say that 18s. a week is adequate for meeting the conditions of life at the present and that if 40s. is given it will cause unemployment. The principle underlying the demand is the right to live, and there is no individual and no body of individuals in this House or in this country who has the power to say to any individual that he has not the right to live. There is an inherent right of humanity to live, but a man cannot live unless he is provided with work. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Renwick) said that we must increase production. The Minister of Labour mentioned last evening that there were over 1,000,000 producers waiting in queues at the doors of our Labour Exchanges begging for an opportunity to produce.
The condition in the South Wales coalfield to-day is consequent upon the fact that the miners have produced too much. The miners agreed to the request of the Government for increased production of1 coal, and when they had complied with the request the result was unemployment. To-morrow there will be 2,400 men bringing up their tools from the collieries of one of the largest combines in the South Wales coalfields. A week last Friday the general manager of the colliery told me that the only solution with regard to getting these men back to work would be upon condition that there will be a reduction in wages. Not only the miners, but the brickyards in Rhondda stop tomorrow, and the bye-products stop to-morrow.
All this work is stopping in an area which sent the largest number of men from the Rhondda Valley to fight for King and country during the War. A large number of these men are cripples. When they went to the War they were promised that they would get a new country, that they were going to get a and fit for heroes to live in, and that they were going to get a new heaven and a new earth. One hon. Member said last evening that that was a wicked lie. Our men were sent out to France on the basis of a wicked lie. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I am quoting from a statement made by an hon. Member last evening. I will read another statement. The Prime Minister in]919, writing to a newspaper, said that the old world was one where unemployment, with the vicissitudes of industry, brought despair upon multitudes of humble homes, and that if we renewed the lease of that world, we should deserve condemnation. Are we renewing the lease of that world? Are we any better oft to-day than we were 100 years ago? Little more than 100 years after the Napoleonic wars there was a discussion upon the same principle that we are discussing this evening, and they absolutely refused to grant the right to work, or even maintenance grants. Today, the only proposal from the Government is one to renew the lease of the old world. We are only progressing from the material standpoint. From the standpoint of humanity we have not progressed one iota. We have not progressed to the extent of saying that humanity has a right to better treatment than is offered in the proposals of the Government at the present time. Our men went out to the War under the impression that they were going to fight for a better country. The spirit and soul of many a father in the trenches soared above his bodily wants because he had the hope and the security that he was fighting for better conditions, for a better land for his sons and the children of posterity, and yet in the streets of London to-day we see unemployed marching about with bands, and with collection boxes, and all they want is an opportunity to work, or even a few coppers, in order to live in a country for which they went out to fight.
Humanity demands better treatment from our hands. To whom are they to look unless to this Government? Who is going to provide them with the necessities of life unless this Government has got jurisdiction to bring about better conditions? We are dealing with the salt of the earth—the British working man—who has got pride in his home, who has striven for every legitimate means to make happy homes, comparatively speaking decent homes for himself, his wife and family, who has attempted to enrich his ideas with noble thoughts and better his conditions and those of his family in the circles in which they remain, and numbers of these people have to sell up their homes to keep body and soul together. The demand put forward by the Labour party is reasonable. The unemployed are not asking for doles. They are only asking for doles in the event of the Government refusing to give what they are justly entitled to, namely, work. If the Government fail to provide that work it is reasonable to expect something. Eighteen shillings is not adequate to meet the requirements. Forty shillings is not adequate, but it will put them in the condition that they will be able to provide sufficient of the bare necessities of life to live until conditions have changed and work is provided for labour. We say that there is a moral obligation on the Government to see that these men at least will get their demands met to the extent which we put forward in the Amendment.
The Minister of Labour in his reply outlined the steps which the Government are taking to meet the existing situation. All those steps involve considerable expenditure and necessarily larger taxation, and I associate myself with the apprehensions expressed as to the taxation necessary to meet this expenditure. I also associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester which dealt with the impossibility of industry maintaining a scale of wages in excess of what the industry can bear and trying to maintain a standard of living in this country which is in excess of the standard of our competitors in identical industries. As the measures outlined by the Minister of Labour are all necessarily expensive, we should consider what means could be taken by the Government to stimulate employment in the way in which workmen are usually employed. What has been done at present in the way of occupying people doing work which is not relief work or is not immediately necessary or is not merely manufacturing stock which cannot be disposed of, as all this simply intensifies the financial difficulty that is our main difficulty at present and ties up funds which may be necessary for other purposes. Speaking as a banker, this is causing us at present great apprehension.
The Government last Session introduced an export credit scheme which was intended to facilitate the disposal of our products in different markets in which it was difficult for buyers to carry out their usual transactions. Experience has proved that the scheme is not effective and cannot be applied to many industries. There is a distinct difference between the categories of commodities which may be exported under that Bill. In the case of agricultural machinery there is a tangible asset which the importer in Roumania can hypothecate with his banker to obtain currency. This is in a different class from a commodity such as wool, which is dispersed immediately on arrival. In the latter case the buyer is entirely unable to get any advance against that commodity because the essence of it is that it goes immediately into consumption. Therefore the scheme as at present outlined does not meet trade requirements in those two different categories. The scheme, so far as its intention is to employ people in their normal trades, is better than paying people to make roads which are not wanted. When a business finds itself in financial difficulties the first thing it does is to cut out work which is not immediately necessary or immediately reproductive. The British Government is doing exactly the opposite in laying out these vast sums of money on work which is not immediately necessary or remunerative. £40,000,000 have been paid to ex-service men and £22,000,000 to civilians for unemployment. There are certain industries in this country in which a complete block has arisen. There is no possibility of prosperity returning in those industries at the initial stage because there is no possibility of moving on the stocks of manufactures which already exist even if the holders were to take replacement cost which in many cases they would be glad to do. But these industries are mostly industries in which 50 per cent, normally goes abroad. Therefore if we are to maintain more than 50 per cent, employment we must have markets abroad.
There are some industries which normally sell to States which are in an advanced state of civilisation, such as Central European States. There are other industries which sell to more backward peoples of the earth. Here again you have distinctions. But in the case of industries which sell to the more ad- vanced States—and within that class I include the distressed countries included in the list covered by the export trade scheme—there are potential consumers of the products of those industries which to-day are unable to give more employment, thereby causing large expenditure to the Government who could employ the people instead of having them demoralised by receiving what are looked upon as unemployment doles. 1 would therefore suggest that the Government should direct more attention to the possibility of facilitating moving off these stocks which are at present holding up employment. I would introduce this caution, that if something is not done the financial strain is so great that the entire machinery of those trades will be wrecked. I speak the view which bankers have at present of the position of accounts of these merchants who normally do an export trade. I appeal to the Government —it is worth while seriously reflecting upon it—to maintain these industries, because if financially they are allowed to go under now apart from disturbance of those industries which will result from difficulties of that kind there would be a difficulty in distributing our products when, as we hope in the future, business will return.
Let us examine the difficulties of the export trade scheme. We all know that under that scheme Government importers shall put up currency to the standard or 100 per cent, of invoice price plus 15 per cent, margin, and also that they shall undertake to put up the difference which is necessary to maintain that margin if the exchange goes the other way. I would put forward a suggestion that m the case of a commodity which goes into consumption if the importer is able to put up his currency then it might be better for him to buy sterling at once. Manifestly the scheme is not working at present because of that difficulty and various other difficulties. But examine what is exactly the difficulty. In these distressed countries, such as Rumania and distant parts of Europe, there are firms which have always taken our products and which have been associated with certain firms in this country for fifty or sixty years, and our firms have the conviction that these people are completely solvent in currency, and they still maintain their confidence. Therefore I throw out this suggestion. There are large firms to-day who have the products and wish to sell them and have confidence in the firms who normally buy them who are unable to trade at present because in the past, even when financial conditions were really stable, those firms were paid by bills of twelve months and eighteen months, but the exporter could draw the bill on the importer and he could melt it in the London market. The trouble at present is that no banker will discount a bill drawn on these countries. Therefore you have a complete block financially. Therefore, coining down to hard facts, is not it worth our consideration, instead of paying these vast sums to demoralise our labour, to pay them to employ our people in their own trades? They want to work at their trades. They do not want doles. They want to De employed, and they are qualified to be employed.
If the exporter dealing with a firm in whom he has confidence is ready to take a portion of the risk it is not unreasonable that the Government should take the remainder of the risk. The question of the bankers and insurance companies has been the subject of long investigation. Efforts have been made by the Board of Trade to deal with it, and yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary gave a most sympathetic hearing to suggestions which were put to him. We have been many months conferring, but surely this is a matter of urgency. There should be a continuous conference until some scheme is hammered out. If we assume that the exporter who knows his business is not going to risk his money unless he has good security and a conviction that his bill is to be met, then the risk cannot be great for the Government. It has repeatedly been said that the Ter Meulen scheme is a good scheme. Undoubtedly it is a good scheme, and would enable industries which are now held up to start work again. But it will take six months to get the scheme into operation. We want to get to work at once. Some scheme is necessary whereby, even if the Government risks money, will permit a more normal resumption of trade so as to give employment and stop the spending of vast sums of money in the demoralising of labour. This same problem of exports is occupying the attention of the United States Congress and the Federal Reserve Board have emphasised the necessity for facilities of the kind I have advocated. There is financial danger in our industries to-day in expending vast sums of money on work that is not necessary, in manufacturing for stock, for thereby overdrafts are increased, and the financial tension becomes greater. I would like an authoritative statement to come from the Government to industry emphasising the importance of lower producing costs, and declaring that unless producing costs are reduced, so as to bring them more in harmony with those in competing countries, we cannot hope to resume that trade activity which will bring about employment.
It has been my privilege to listen to most of the speeches during this Debate. The last speaker and the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Renwick) made what I regard as valuable contributions to our discussion to-day. From the employer's point of view, the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle, although it was essentially frank, deserves serious consideration, coming as it did from a man with the knowledge and practical experience which he possesses. The speech was moderation itself, but when the hon. Member complains about industrial unrest, I would, respectfully, suggest to him that he should take into consideration the circumstances which brought about that unrest. The War upset all our pre-con-ceived notions of economics and the method of conducting, industrial disputes. Influences were at work, and, to be quite frank, those influences are still at work, and they are of such a character as to make it very difficult for responsible trade union officials to prevent strikes. Speaking for myself, and I have no doubt for many of my colleagues, I say that no one is more anxious than we to see this old country on her feet again. To be frank again, I say that some of the disputes could not be justified, and I am not going to attempt to justify them. But we were not alone in that respect. Every other country was affected equally during the period mentioned, and the same influences were at work elsewhere as in this country. There is force in the argument that after the signing of the Armistice the trade of the world was at our door. Officials of trade unions were as anxious as the hon. Member for Newcastle to get our share of that trade.
There is another statement of the hon. Member to which I must draw attention, and that is the statement that there is no desire on the part of employers to reduce wages. I confess I find it very difficult to reconcile that statement with some of the statements he made previously. I do not intend to argue about or to discount the hon. Member's own intention. As has been stated by hon. Members who speak in this House for the mining industry, one of the inducements offered to the miners to produce more was the statement that the greater the output the greater would be their earnings. We now find that as soon as the output has gone up the facilities for increasing it are taken away. Pits are being closed wholesale with the avowed object of forcing down the earnings of the miners in order to reduce the cost of production. The hon. Member for Newcastle confessed that one of the reasons why exports were stopped was that the cost of production was too high. That is not confined to the mining industry; it is going on all over the country and affecting every industry. The hon. Member spoke of the cost of ship building and of the cost of production being less in other countries. That is quite true. The inference is, then, that we must agree to a reduction in wages in order to compete with those countries which are producing at less cost. Let me again be frank. If we based our payment for higher wages on the increased cost of living and the cost of living goes down permanently, we cannot ignore an application for reconsideration of the whole position. Personally, I am not going to ignore it. But is there any guarantee that there will be a permanent decrease in the cost of living? I know that in some particular commodities there is already a decrease in the cost of living, but what is causing that?
After the' War we were told that in order to put this country on her feet again we must increase production. We accepted the advice. I remember vividly that I could not pass a hoarding or go to a railway station without bumping against the portraits of some of my own colleagues who were advocating increased production. The portraits were not very flattering; in fact, the look on the faces of my colleagues suggested that they were sorry they were there. We accepted the advice and increased production, only to find that after all the suggestion was a great fallacy. The result has been that in order to secure money, which the banks would not advance, the manufacturers had to unload their surplus stocks on the market. On the face of it there is a temporary reduction in prices; but is that going to last? This economic factor will have to be faced. A permanent reduction in prices means a decrease in the cost of living, and if there is any guarantee that the purchasing power of the working man can still be retained, a decrease in the cost of living will have to be considered.
I hope the Labour party, or any other party, will not buoy themselves up with the hope that we are ever going to go back to the old economic idea of wages being based on a mere subsistence level. I should never advocate anything of that kind; at least, there must be a margin over and above the subsistence level. If we are to have a nation fit for heroes to live in, it must be a nation living in conditions that will allow the head of the house—in the present state of political equality it is sometimes difficult to know who is the head of the house—I will say the father, to be able to earn sufficient wages to keep his wife and children in decency and comfort, and to give them a better opportunity for starting the industrial race than he himself had. That is the level I would like to see adopted. If the hon. Member for Newcastle, whose speech was really a valuable contribution, and the other hon. Members will only take the same view, and will use their influence with the Government to see that such machinery is put into force, then there is some hope that we may eventually get back, if not to normal conditions, at least to somewhere nearer than where we are to-day.
I want to deal with the programme suggested by the Government. I had an opportunity of listening to the King's Speech, and I heard the discussion yesterday in this House. It was a very interesting discussion, but I wish to say quite respectfully and with all reverence that a more barren production than the policy outlined in that Speech I could not conceive. One sentence struck me as very remarkable, and that was that which said that the problem of unemployment cannot be solved by any legislative effort. I was very much struck by that sentence, and I was rather disagreeably surprised that it should emanate from a Cabinet which has at its head the present Prime Minister. My memory travels back to the time — not very long ago—when I worshipped at his feet. I sat beneath him in the valleys of North Wales, and I heard the mountains re-echo with his eloquent denunciations of the economic conditions which were responsible for unemployment. I have heard him, over and over again, declare that the causes of unemployment were political. I am not one of those who subscribe to the theory that the right hon. Gentleman has burnt his boats. I do not believe that a man who once held those views, even with the atmosphere which surrounds him at present, can ever get away from them. I believe that when he finds out— and I will give him credit for this, that his one object is to bring this old country back as near as possible to normal conditions—the fickleness of the political jade with which he is at present coquetting that he will eventually return to his old love. Knowing him as I did then, I cannot help sighing for the touch of a vanished hand, or for the sound of a voice that is still to-day.
The Government proposals are confined to one solitary suggestion, 18s. a week. I am surprised that it should emanate from such a source, because there are Members of the Cabinet to-day who though perhaps not so well acquainted with the tragedy of unemployment as I am, still have some knowledge of the conditions of unemployment and the effect on unemployed men. The only thing that has been offered, even for temporary relief, is a dole; of 18s. a week. How is that going to affect the situation? For the future there is no hope; we are told that it cannot be solved by legislation. If that is so, what becomes of the responsibility of a Cabinet, which is supposed to be the collective wisdom of the country, and the custodian of the public good? We hear a lot we hoard it from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Norwich, who is an ex-Minister for Labour—about the duty of the Government to take advantage of all sources of production. What greater source of production can there be than the men who are willing and anxious to produce, but who are denied the opportunity of doing so? Is it not the first duty of the Government to take advantage of the natural sources of production? They say, "No, there is no hope for the future; all we can do in the present economic state of the country is to dole out 18s. a week. That is the deplorable confession of absolute incapacity to grapple with a problem that is the result of legislation, say what you like. Legislation arranges our commercial relations, national and international. Commercial relations, national or international, were largely responsible for the War. As a result of the War we are told to-day the cost of paying more than 18s. a week will be enormous, and that 40s. a week will be economically unsound and ruinous. The right hon. Member for Norwich, by inference at least, wished to convey that idea. I do not want to do him an injustice, but I am afraid that either his memory is at fault or his present associations are influencing him in the opposite direction from the opinions he held a very short time ago. I have heard over and over again that the very domestic relations of the people are regulated by laws made and administered in this country. I do not think, under the circumstances, that the Government's programme is creditable, or one of which they should be proud; nor can it be at all justified in existing conditions. During the War the question of unemployment was solved temporarily by the fact that the War was in progress. It is the greatest satire upon the present competitive system one can conceive to say that it requires a war to solve the unemployment problem, even temporarily.
We are told that to increase the 18s. a week dole to 40s., as the Labour party suggests, is economically unsound and ruinous. Might I remind hon. Members that coming events cast their shadows before, and it is possible that very soon the Excess Profits Duty will be taken off? I happened to be one of those who considered that the application of the Excess Profits Duty, particularly to small businesses, would impede those small businesses if it were rigidly enforced. I still entertain that opinion, but it is suggested in the coming Budget that £220,000,000 shall be presented to the employers and manufacturers of this country because of it being economically unsound. If it is economically unsound to take the excess profits of the employers, it is equally economically unsound to take wages off men under existing economic conditions with the present cost of living, and if £220,000,000 can be made a present of to these employers, what becomes of the argument that 40s. a week is too much for the head of a working-class family to keep his family in decency and comfort? The Minister for Labour quoted figures with respect to the volume of unemployment, and I am not going to question them except to say that I think he has rather underrated the amount of unemployment. The figure he gave was one million and some odd thousands, and I take it that that applies only to people who are permanently unemployed, but even more alarming figures could be given of the men who are not permanently unemployed but who are underemployed in consequence of the present slump in trade, men who cannot register, but are simply employed one day or a day and a half a week, and to-day in the industry I represent there are nearly 40 per cent, of the men employed in that industry who are getting only three or four days a week employment. I suggest to the Government that it is false economy to say that, under existing, circumstances, to increase unemployment benefit to 40s. is economically unsound. I suggest that with the present state of unrest and the present growing state of unemployment it would be better for them to accept the programme of the Labour party than to risk the possibilities of what may follow.
The right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division (Mr. Barnes) made a very valuable contribution to the Debate, in the course of which he dealt largely with Russia. He stated that there was plenty of food in Southern Russia, but no transport to get it here. I have been and still am under the impression to some extent that the cutting of trade communications with Central Europe has been the main cause of unemployment. As to whether it is policy to open up that communication, I am not quite sure, but what I am sure of is this, that here we have goods produced in this country—we have surplus stocks—and in Central Europe everybody wants our goods, and we are told that the high cost of production will not allow them to buy these goods. Here, on the one hand, is a supply; there, in Central Europe, is a demand. What is keeping these two elements from coming together? Again I say that it is a great satire on the present competitive system that these two things, supply here and demand there, should be kept apart in this way. Who is responsible for it I cannot say.
One of the statements made by the right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division was that one of the reasons why we should not trade with Russia was the instability of the Russian Government and their want of guarantees, and that the other reason was that they refused to stop their propaganda. I detest Russian Bolshevism. I think it is a fallacy, and when I am accused by the right hon. Member for Norwich with being saturated with class war and the Karl Marx theory, again I question his accuracy and, more than all, his memory. I think I have told this House before that there was a time when I was an ardent advocate of the Karl Marx theory, but that was in the days of my pristine political vigour, when I expected the millennium to come the next day. The first Parliamentary fight I was in was in 1895. I think thirty-five of us were selected and were looked upon as a forlorn hope. I know we thought we had only to call and the multitude would come to us. I fought a constituency myself—Ashton-under-Lyne—in 1895, and I think I got 450 votes out of about 14,000. Undismayed, we went back to the committee room, and we sang "England, arise; the long, long night is o'er." I have a very vivid recollection of that occasion, for I made a speech which lasted from eight o'clock till eleven. I told them that interest was immoral, that banking was usury, that money was the wrong medium of exchange, and that the only solution of economic problems was the interchange of commodities—corn for flour, flour for boots, and so on. At the end of the meeting one of the audience put a question to me in the broad Lancashire dialect, and he said:
Mister, I quite agree with a lot of what you have said, but I cannot agree with
doing away with money and the interchange of commodities. For instance, take my case. I am a tripe seller. If I want to go to London and back, I takes a yard and a half of tripe and I slaps it into the ticket office and asks for a return ticket to London; do ye think I'll get it?
It might have been a crude way of putting it, but there was no answer to it. Every time I attempted to answer it the crowd roared, and from that day to this my enthusiasm for Karl Marx has disappeared entirely. The right hon. Member for Norwich accused me of being saturated with the Karl Marx theory, and made a point of saying that trade union leaders were supporters of it. I am sorry he is not here now, but I want to tell him quite frankly that either his memory is at fault or the present atmosphere he lives in is responsible for his change of opinion. The anxiety of responsible trade union leaders is as great as that of any Member of the Government to get this country back to normal conditions and to recover the ground lost during the War. The right hon. Member for Gorbals told us that the Russians would not stop their propaganda here. The Prime Minister is here now, and I would like to have it from him whether that is one of the conditions laid down for trading with Russia.
If it is, I want to say that in my humble opinion it is a grave mistake to lay down any such conditions. The greatest assistance and encouragement that could be given to Bolshevik propaganda in this country is the unrest and the fear of unemployment. No revolutionary propaganda can take place in any country that is prosperous, and where the men, women, and children are provided with the necessaries of life. It is only when causes contribute to revolutionary propaganda that revolutionary propaganda can take root, and the greatest safety any country can have is by removing the causes of unrest and dissatisfaction, and I would not care two-pence for all the revolutionary propaganda that could be introduced by Bolsheviks or anybody else. For that reason, I regret extremely the very meagre suggestions that are being made by the Government to solve the unemployed problem. The right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division also told us that trade had not been opened up with Russia because of the risk, or because Russia had nothing to give use. I may be wrong, but is it not a fact that Russia is a country of unlimited potential wealth? Is it not a fact that this potential wealth could be tapped if facilities to tap it were given? The right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division himself admits that one of the obstacles in the way is the want of transport—railway facilities.
I am sure my hon. Friend has no desire to misrepresent me. What I said was that, so far as I understood the Draft Agreement, it contained two conditions, either of which would be fatal to trade with Russia. On the one hand, if the Russians sent gold here they ran the risk of having it attached for former debts, and, on the other hand, there was a condition that they should give up their propaganda. I expressed my opinion that they never would, and never could.
I am obliged for that interpretation, but, reading the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in the OFFICIAL REPORT, I took the impression that, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman himself, no trade could be opened with Russia without the condition was recognised that they should stop their propaganda. As I said before, I am not concerned about Bolshevik propaganda. I do not think, under any circumstances, such a policy could take root in this country; at least, hope not.
One of the propositions of the right hon. Member was that, although the Government could not take the responsibility of trading with Russia, private individuals for private enterprise could do so. An hon. Member says they are doing it now They may be doing it in one or two isolated cases, but there does not seem any general desire to do it. Yet here is a country with potential wealth wanting facilities to tap that wealth, and surely the Government and Cabinet ought to be able to discover some means whereby that wealth could be tapped, and so give employment to our idle hands who cannot exist on the miserable dole of 18s. a week Let me speak now as one who knows something about unemployment. The law of the country lays it down that if a man is unemployed and he goes on tramp to seek work, if he sleeps in a ditch, he is a vagrant. If he gets over a hedge and sleeps in a haystack, he is both a vagrant and a trespasser. If he seizes upon anything to satisfy the pangs of hunger, then he is a vagrant, a trespasser and a thief Therefore, the only alternative he has is to keep on walking 24 hours out of the 24, or go into the casual ward of the first workhouse to which he comes. I do not want to boast, but I have been a tramp. I have spent a night in a casual ward, and, in return for the hospitality of the soft side of a deal plank for a bed, and a basinful of skilly for breakfast, I have had to do a task until such time as it was too late to get a job elsewhere. If it had not been, speaking figuratively, for the mercy of Providence, I might have been a chronic tramp to-day, and every time I see one of these poor chaps, who are denounced as undesirables, I say to myself, "But for the grace of God, there goes James Sexton." The present Poor Law to-day is a huge tramp manufactory. The Government have nothing to offer to prevent us going back to that condition after this horrible and terrible War, in which some of these men fought and died.
Just one more reference. The right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) told us that he hoped to see this controversy lifted out of the political arena, and again I express surprise at his memory, because, according to my recollection, this question has always been a purely political question, and I say you cannot take it out of the political arena. The results of unemployment are there because of legislative enactments which govern the conditions of all the people of this country, and when we are told in the King's Speech that this question cannot be solved by legislation, again I am disagreeably surprised. I do not want to be disrespectful to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and I am sure he will not accuse me of being so. While he was absent I happened to refer to my association with him many years ago in a very important dispute in the Penrhyn Quarries, and, without any disrespect, I have still ringing in my ears the eloquent denunciation of the right hon. Gentleman as to the causes of unemployment and labour unrest. I give him this credit, that I am still living in hope that when all this trouble is over, he will return to his old love, if he has ever deserted it. At the same time, I can only express my regret and sorrow at the company he keeps at present, living in hope that when all the trouble is over, when we get anywhere near normal conditions, he will return, and I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and to his Cabinet to do something that will solve this great question.
I think the most hopeful sign of this Debate has been, generally speaking, the moderation of the speeches. It has been an interesting. Debate, but perhaps many of us may feel that it is a little unsatisfactory. We set out to deal with the problem of unemployment. We have touched upon a, great variety of subjects. Hon. Members have roamed somewhat far, and I think, perhaps, in the remarks I should like to make, I will divide my observations into three parts. I should like to say a few words in respect of various speeches that have been made and suggestions that have been put forward. I should like to touch upon specific Government remedies which are now proposed, and I should like to conclude by mentioning a few of the broad remedies which, I think, are essential for dealing with this question. In the first place, there are certain facts which, I am sure, command our deepest and most genuine-sympathy. We shall all agree that, a civilised community cannot possibly look with indifference upon starvation, and that an immense social evil, loaded with danger to the community, calls for urgent redress; and, further, we cannot dream of remaining inactive while the really employable are unemployed. I feel there will be no difference of opinion on either of these grounds, but when I come to listen to the various speeches, it becomes much more doubtful how far the Debate will reach a practical issue.
The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) introduced his Amendment in eloquent language, putting forward cases which appeal to our sympathy, and justly so, but I think he himself was sensible that his Amendment does not really grasp the problem. It is a vague Amendment; it does not specify in what direction he hopes to find remedies. The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) made, if I may say so, a much-more moderate speech yesterday than he usually does. He appears to wish to. nationalise, all property as a remedy, and to spend more both through the State and municipalities. I need not go at this moment into the whole of the arguments against nationalisation. Perhaps it is enough to say that it takes away all incentive from individual enterprise, and that it is inclined to reduce the standard of individual effort to the lowest level. As to spending money, I do not think the hon. Member will find many supporters in this House just now. Spending does not commend itself to the electors; at any rate, does not commend itself to its representatives. I would have liked to point out to the hon. Member that the relief works which he appears to advocate are really mere opiates that lull into a sense of pleasant sleep or security: the moment they vanish the condition of the patient is worse than before. You cannot start wholly unproductive and useless relief works with any advantage to the community. What is the use of putting down roads which are not going to be used, preventing coastal erosion which cannot properly be prevented, or adopting the hundred and one other possible expedients, which, after all, are only make-belief.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton), who has just sat down, seemed to agree that the restriction of output was not desirable as a remedy, but so far as I could follow him he was not at all prepared to increase output. I do not think that will lead us anywhere but to a blind alley. In the production of goods at a high cost no doubt one of the difficulties of the situation was touched by the hon. Gentleman. But how he came immediately afterwards to say what he did about Russia I cannot understand. I fail to follow him altogether. "He says: "Here is supply and there is demand. The two countries ought without difficulty to come together!" Surely he answered that point in his own speech! Because we are producing goods at a price which cannot be paid by a bankrupt world, and more particularly by Russia, it is impossible to hope for an early renewal of trade with her.
We have had in this Debate some Members who have spoken of the right to work. The hon. Member for West Rhondda (Mr. John) in a maiden speech spoke on that, so did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean). I know it is an attractive theory. It is a socialist theory which has held ground for a considerable time. I agree so far with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles that the attitude of the House to-day to it is somewhat different to what it was some 15 years ago. There is, I think, a much greater desire to aid the employable. But certain hard facts still remain perfectly true. You cannot altogether get out of the circumstance that the right to work, put in other words, is the right of one man to seize the job of another man. It does not follow that the redistribution of employment deals with unemployment. It redistributes employment, but it does not diminish unemployment. That is a truth which I do not think can be overcome. To those who attach some weight to history it is worth while looking back to 1848 in France. At that time national workshops were established owing to the great outcry for employment. The Government started workshops. They had serious trouble, vicissitudes at first and dangerous riots later. I do not think I am going too far in saying that the ferment caused by these unsuccessful efforts to start national workshops was one of the chief causes of the downfall of the Second Republic. Surely we must not ignore historical experience. Is it that in these days we live so much in the present that we almost forget what has happened in the past? Perhaps we have hardly time to look it up. If we did, some of our comments, surely, would show greater wisdom than they do. I would commend these things to the careful consideration of those who have made the speeches which I have ventured to criticise.
Lot me now come to the specific remedies proposed by the Government. In the first place I would say that what they propose are, roughly speaking, useful remedies so far as they go. There is no single remedy which will deal with the problem of unemployment, but the Government are endeavouring, by way of palliatives, so far as it is possible, to make some temporary arrangement. They propose, in the first place, to raise the pay in connection with unemployment insurance from 15s. to 18s. per week. That is at best a palliative. Under present circumstances I certainly do not oppose it. I think something of the kind is practically inevitable. Hon. Members have said that 18s. a week'is not enough, that it ought to be 20s. or 40s. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sexton) that if we are to deal with wages or to take the level of wages, wages must be based on more than a bare subsistence level. In that respect we have advanced in the last few decades. But if we are going to increase the unemployment pay to a higher figure I am bound to ask—we ought to face this question— where is it going to stop? Spending money for the relief of unemployment tends to throw other people out of employment. That is a maxim of political economy which I do not think can be gainsaid. If you tax a community more heavily in order to relieve unemployment, because at the time there is a serious trade depression, the consequence will almost inevitably be that you compel manufacturers to discharge some of the hands less required. Therefore you only create unemployment again. We cannot lose sight of that circumstance if we are going to put forward suggestions of the sort, for if 40s., how much higher do they propose to go—to £5 a week or any other similar sum? In South Wales I am not sure whether the sum is not about £4 a week now. If you are going to start palliatives of this kind, taking the South Wales' minimum of wages as a basis, I cannot but think you are heading straight for bankruptcy.
Another suggestion of the Government is to try to bring the building trade unions to a more reasonable frame of mind and for them to consent to the employment of ex-service men. This point has been dilated upon inside and outside of the House very frequently, and I cordially hope that some effort of the Government may lead to greater success in this direction. The Government are anxious to introduce short time so far as it can be remedied. That seems to me to be a wise provision. I know it has been criticised, but, after all, it is a matter of common sense that if there is only a limited amount of work available at one moment it is better that it should be divided amongst a larger number, so employing them, than that some of them should have full employment and others join the ranks of the unemployed. Such a result would produce much greater discontent and unrest, even explosion, in the country, than the proposal of the Government, so that in all these matters I am one of their supporters. I hope they may be able to do something with international credits, but it is not an easy matter. I hope equally that something may be done in regard to international exchange, but again, where there are masses of useless paper currency in many of the European countries it is not such a very simple matter to deal with. There is not one single remedy for the present state of affairs. I recognise that the Government are endeavouring to deal with it. Therefore I do not see that there is adequate cause for the phraseology of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment to the Address.
I want to say just two or three words about the broad general remedies in which I myself believe. I do not feel that any speech on a subject such as this is satisfactory unless one makes some effort to indicate on what broad general principles this terrible curse of unemployment can be dealt with. One broad general principle is certainly that of economy. General economy and thrift seem to me, in many respects, closely connected with this problem. That will tend to revive the prosperity of the country, thus lessening unemployment. Another broad remedy is this: It seems to me that in times of prosperity, and indeed at all time, we might devote much more attention than we do to inducing members of our trades to form reserve and insurance funds. That can be done in times of prosperity with ease. In times of depression it cannot be so easy. To form such funds would be bound to help to alleviate the tide of unemployment in periods of adversity. That rather brings me to support the proposal that each trade should look after its own unemployed. No doubt there are some practical difficulties, but if in every trade employers and employed would meet together and discuss matters with a view to forming reserve, emergency, or insurance funds, I submit that this is a practical suggestion which I hope will be taken advantage of by all those who read this Debate.
The course of argument leads me to another suggestion. I should like to see a more extended use of our Joint Industrial Councils The mere fact of their existence, and still more the occasions of their meeting, do tend to destroy the class war which is alleged to be still somewhat rampant in some quarters. I am more than anxious that this House should set a better example in this respect. If we show a genuine desire among Members representing all kinds of interests throughout the country to come together and discuss matters on friendly terms I have great faith that we shall go far in respect of improving the troubles of unemployment. The hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Renwick) in his speech earlier in the evening put the difficulties from the employers' point of view. Equally I heard the figures in the moderate speeches made by hon. Members opposite from the point of view of the employés. If they meet together and try and grapple with the unpleasant situation I am sure that much good will result. I want to encourage a policy, a course of action, that will rehabilitate, if I may so put it, not debilitate; that will strengthen this spirit of self-reliance and of moral fibre and not sap it away; and that will develop the character of self-sacrifice and a consciousness of duty to one another all round in whatever position of life we may be.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour very truly said, no party can claim a monopoly of sympathy with those who are unemployed. Everyone in the House is in every way sympathetic to those unfortunate men who find themselves without work at the present time, and all of us desire to do everything possible to alleviate their loss and to prevent it in the future. The State has for many years recognised its responsibility to maintain those who could not maintain themselves. For a long time the workhouse and the casual ward were considered to be the only remedy, but during the past few years we have realised that these institutions are degrading to the individual and, from the point of view of the local authority, are expensive. Looking, at it on broad grounds of finance we have discovered that it is cheaper to pay a family a subsistence allowance and enable them to continue in their own homes rather than put them into the workhouse and provide everything for them. Therefore at the present time, having regard to the fact that there are so many men who are without work, the payment of unemployment grant is a necessity and is probably the best method of coping with the State responsibility for maintenance. It is, however, better, as has been said by many speakers to-day, to provide men with work rather than with mere subsistence. Therefore it devolves upon the State, upon local authorities, and upon private individuals to bring forward any schemes of work which they may be intending to do in the future so as to meet the present difficulty. That is the second palliative, but it is economically unsound at the present time. It is imperative that we should both provide grants and provide special work, but at the present time the nation is short of money and every pound of money which is taken from industry for the purpose of special work is robbing some other industry of the money which would be available to it for carrying on in the ordinary way. Still, these things have got to be done for the time being, and I think most Members of the House recognise and assent to it.
What we have to realise is that, while arranging for palliatives at the present time, to endeavour to restore the normal conditions of trade so that in a very short time all willing workers will once more be in profitable and productive industry, probably the best way in which we can discover the methods we should adopt in order to attain that desirable end is to ask ourselves the question, what are the reasons for the present state of unemployment? It has been a matter of amazement to most people. We had great war prosperity, we had an extraordinary buoyancy of trade for eighteen months after the Armistice, and this has suddenly come upon us, and trades which, as the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean told us, had never worked on short time for thirty years now found themselves to-day almost shut down. When we begin to search for the reasons we must come to the one mentioned a moment ago by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. E. Cecil), that of Government expenditure. There is no doubt whatever that the extent of Government expenditure during the past two years has taken away from industrial concerns of the country capital which at the present time, if taxation had not been so heavy, they would have had in their banks and would have been able to pay for raw materials and wages. There can be no question of that at all. Then again the method of taxation, particularly the Excess Profits Duty, has in the first place checked enterprise. It has prevented men from starting new businesses or from extending old ones, which would to-day be available for the employment of workers, and beyond that it has caused great extravagance in the administration of businesses. If these businesses had been conducted economically it would have meant that not so much money would have been spent and more money would have been in the banks and available for the purpose of raw materials and for the payment of wages. In these ways, by depleting industry for the purpose of taxation and by preventing the commencement of new businesses, and by causing businesses to spend more money extravagantly as the result of this taxation, the Government by their expenditure have contributed to the amount of unemployment at the present time.
Further the Government expenditure has caused nearly everyone throughout the nation, of whatever class they may be, to think we were in for a period of prosperity, that we could all go on spending money, that our resources were unlimited, and that there was no need, either in business or in private life, for anyone to be economical. That is the first reason we must bear in mind when we are endeavouring to find our way back in order to get rid of the present unemployment. I am not going to suggest for a moment that if the Government expenditure had been £300,000,000 less a year for the past two years we should not have had great difficulties at the present time, because there is a second reason for the unemployment in this country, and that is the fact that our foreign customers cannot buy. This country of ours, as, I think, the right hon. Member for Peebles said this afternoon, would become a third-rate Power if we ceased to do exporting trade. Our prosperity has been built up in the past and always will be in the future, by buying raw materials all over the world, bringing them in our ships to these shores, turning these raw materials into manufactured goods, and sending them away again all over the world, and selling them at a profit. That will always be the basis of the real prosperity of this country. We find at the moment that foreign customers in nearly every part of the world are unable to buy from us, although we know they want the goods. We know the world is short of goods, and yet it is unable to take them from us. Consequently, our warehouses are full of goods because they cannot dispose of the present stocks, and they are unable to provide money for the wages to continue to make further stocks. That position too has been in part created by Government extravagance, because I think most of us know that a tax like the Excess Profits Duty has been pushed on to the consumer. It has not been actually paid by the manufacturer. He has pushed it on to his price, and very often has put on something for himself at the same time; and the extravagant methods by which business has been conducted have all added to the cost of our goods, so that we have a stock in this country at the present time that we cannot sell, and the difficulty of selling is all the greater because of the high price put upon it.
If it is agreed that the two main causes for the state of unemployment at the present time are, first, the extravagance of the Government during the past two years, and, secondly, the fact that our foreign customers at the present time cannot buy, it follows that in order to work our way soundly back to the even flow of trade in the future we must, in the first place, reduce Government expenditure, and, in the second place, assist our foreign customers, as far as we possibly can, to re-arrange their affairs so that they may be able to buy from us. I had an opportunity in December of speaking in the Economy Debate, and it is not necessary for me to repeat anything I said then with regard to the way in which Government expenditure can be reduced, but I want the House to consider shortly the methods that we might adopt to assist our foreign customers to restore their position. It is vital to us that this should happen. In the first place, I would venture to say that one of the most important things in the world at the present time is that Germany should be put on her feet again commercially. She was a great commercial nation before the War. She was the second best customer we had. Our Allies on the other side of the Channel are desirous that as much as possible of their expenditure in the War should be paid by Germany, and I think most Members of the House will agree that, having regard to all the misery that Germany brought upon the
world as the result of commencing the War in 1914, she should pay as far as she is able. But it is no use the French nation thinking they can on the one hand ask Germany to pay a huge indemnity, and, on the other hand, try to kill her economic life. The two things are a contradiction; and looking at it from our point of view, and not from the point of view of France, if we want to get our own trade back into its own normal flow, if we want to re-open our old industries, the most important thing we can do is to assist Germany to settle the amount of the indemnity, and in such other ways as are possible enable her to get her trade going again. It is equally important for us to assist Belgium, France, and Italy. I know they are not faced with the task of having to pay indemnities, therefore that question does not concern them, but they are faced with other difficulties, one of which is that of exchange. Experts have been talking about the question of exchange for many months. The Labour party, in their manifesto, suggested the stabilisation of exchanges. No member of the Labour party, however, in this Debate has explained how he thinks this can be done, but it is undoubtedly a matter of the greatest importance, and I hope that the experts of this and other countries will be able to find some way of accomplishing this. I was rather disappointed when in Scotland recently I read in the "Scotsman" a speech delivered by the President of the Board of Trade to his constituents: Referring to the Labour party manifesto he said:
It suggested the stabilisation of exchanges. He confessed quite frankly that in the present condition of the world he did not know what the suggestion meant. The rate of exchange was only a symptom of the condition of a country.
That may be perfectly correct, but I want to know, is that the final decision of the Government? Have they came to the conclusion that nothing can be done to solve this question? If that is so, let us be told once and for all. The exchange being against France, Belgium, and Italy, re-ally hits us more than it hits them. If you discuss this matter with a Frenchman he thinks that nearly all the difficulty at the present time is caused because they have to pay 52 francs for £l instead of 25 francs pre-war. As a matter of fact it is quite the opposite in
its effect so far as the stimulation of their trade is concerned. When the rate of exchange is against one country as against another, it stimulates their exports, and the effect is that every time the exchange goes against France or Belgium with us it stimulates them to export and improves their trade. It is against our interests for the exchange to be against us in this way, and it will be a matter of the greatest disappointment to all the business men in the country if they are led to believe that these exchanges will not be put right.
There is one thing which would immediately affect the exchanges between us and our three principal Allies in Europe, and that is the cancellation of the Allied debts. If the debts which France, Belgium and Italy owe to us are going to hang over them for years, and if the interest has to be paid half-yearly, then the exchange will continue against those three countries with us. We read that our Ambassador is now on his way back to New York in order to discuss the question of the cancellation of the Allied debts. I do not want the Government to say anything which might in any way upset any negotiations that have taken place, but it is a matter of very great interest, and if a statement were made it would be very welcome to everyone. It is only by the restoration of our foreign trade that we can really restore the employment market to its ordinary level. It is only in this way that we can explain what is puzzling the minds of many of our workers at the present time, namely, the fact that they have been called upon for more production, they have been told that the only way they can help the country is to produce more, and now we appear to have unemployment as the result of overproduction.
This is the problem which we have all to face in our constituencies within the next few months. The fact is that production is the only thing for this country, and we have to keep that fact in mind. Unfortunately, our markets abroad, although the demand for our goods is there, cannot be reached, because our foreign customers cannot pay. The world is short of goods, and the goods are in our warehouses. There are customers for them, but owing to exchange difficulties, and the absence of money all over the world, and difficulties of arranging credit, it has been impossible to make the exchange. Directly we can arrange for the exchange of our goods for the goods which foreign countries have to send us, this question of over-production will disappear, and the difficulties which now face us will no longer arise.
Once again, I urge the necessity for Government economy. I also want to add that it is no good having Government economy unless we also have individual economy on the part of the nation. I am constrained to say that because of a sentence which appeared in the financial column of the "Times" this month. The "Times" has taken a great part in the anti-waste campaign. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the Excess Profits Duty would be abolished, the; financial editor of the "Times" expressed the hope that something would be done for the Income Tax payers. He said that a reduction of Income Tax would help to stimulate trade, since the purchasing power of practically every individual would be increased, directly or indirectly. If that means that if the Government save money each individual who receives relief from taxation is going to spend it forthwith in the shops, or in any other way, we are no better off. If a man has 10s. saved from Income Tax and goes to a hosier's shop forthwith and buys a pair of braces he is giving employment to one man to make another pair of braces in order to replace those he purchased at the shop, but if instead of buying that one pair of braces for 10s. he and others put their money together to buy a machine for making more braces they will give work day after day to men who make braces—recurrent work, and it will all depend on our finding markets for the article which is manufactured.
The important thing to remember is that all the money we save out of taxation must be used in capital expenditure. The nation has got to save money, and everything saved must be used for capital expenditure in industry. It is no use asking working people to save money unless the Government and those who have considerable wealth do so too. What we want now is a new campaign of personal economy such as we had at a certain time during the War. Soon after there had been great dissatisfaction with regard to women standing outside shops in queues the rationing system was adopted, and the nation felt that we were all sharing alike, sharing the meat, the sugar and the butter. A spirit spread through every class by which people were ashamed to do anything ostentatious or to live in any way luxuriously. It is equally necessary to cultivate that spirit to-day, be cause the only way in which this nation can recover from the effects of the War and from the loss of its property of all kinds, the only way in which we can hope for the future to have even a pre-War standard of comfort and living, is for us to be thrifty and hard-working, with goodwill prevailing amongst all classes. Therefore I venture to say that, while the situation to-day is of the utmost gravity in the industrial world, it is one which can be met if the British people will only face this difficulty with the same heroism as they faced the difficulties of the War. This is not a case of the employers being against the workpeople. It is the United Kingdom against the world, and if all of us will give hard work and display goodwill, if masters and men by joint endeavour in the common cause will do their best, there is to my mind no reason why this country should not win the great trade war of the next few years in as decisive a manner as we and our Allies won the Great War.
In this Debate we are seeking to discover possible causes of unemployment and to get a hint of any possible cure. We can make a good beginning by casting aside any idea that we shall ever escape completely unemployment with the world divided as it is to-day. The most we can ever hope for is to so adjust our industrial system that it will tend to make unemployment less recurrent and enable us to modify the evil effects of unemployment when it does overtake use. Every Member of this House is in the unhappy position that he may be suspected of being either a capitalist or a labourite. It seems to me that the man outside sees more of the game than the combatants engaged inside. There is just a tendency for the trade unionists to blame the capitalists and for the capitalists to blame the trade unionists, and, of course, for most of us to blame the Government. One wonders whether in seeking for the scapegoat we are not trying to escape our own measure of responsibility.
What are the simple facts? So far as the world collapse is concerned there is nothing mysterious about it. The nations of the earth have dissipated their wealth, they have exhausted their possibilities of borrowing, and they are in a state of hopeless bankruptcy. They have to recover the reserves which they have lost, and what is more difficult at times of political crises they have to re-establish their credit which really represents their wealth. There is only one way to do that. It cannot be done by passing an Act of Parliament. It cannot be accomplished by means of another Scrap of Paper. There is only one way by which it can be done, one way by which credit can be reestablished, and that is by hard work and economy. We are in this peculiar position. It is said we are going to have-something like a revolution because of unemployment, despite the fact that you have a world gasping for goods while that world cannot buy the goods because of the cost. That postulates that there must be a diminution of cost which necessarily involves a diminution of profit and of wages. There may be an elimination of profit where you have a manufacture of a scientific kind, for there it may be the employer would agree to eliminate profit in order to keep his works going rather than surfer from their being put out of gear.
May I suggest to Labour Members opposite that the sacrifice asked of wage-earners may be mitigated in another way? We have, each individual has, a very large reserve of unexpended strength. It is all very well in normal times to regulate hours of labour and to encourage a higher standard of social welfare by securing that the individual worker shall not spend too much of his day in hard work. But in abnormal times surely we ought to make a certain use of what I would call our reserve energy, energy which is unexpended to-day because of our social legislation, and which now could be profitably expended. By some expenditure of that reserve energy we could mitigate the burden which otherwise would fall on the worker as a result of falling wages. I think that the House will agree that in yesterday's Debate the interest was enormously increased by the speech of the right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division (Mr. Barnes), who treated the subject in a very spacious way, and showed himself to be well informed and very critical indeed in a right way. But he hardly reached the conclusions one would have expected. He made a very popular remark upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who initiated the Debate when he pointed out that from the start there had been no suggestion from that quarter of means for even the temporary alleviation of the distress created by unemployment and no concrete suggestion as to any specific alteration of our industrial system which would tend towards securing a more or less permanent cure or serious modification of unemployment.
I think that that comment was certainly warranted. One has waited in vain to-day for some such suggestion. Yesterday we listened to an excellent speech by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). It was an attractive speech, and one with which to a certain extent I agreed, but I could not agree entirely with its conclusions. There is no doubt, however, that the hon. Member was right in saying that not a little of our difficulty to-day is due to the tendency of Parliament to confuse the functions of Parliament on the one hand, and of the individual on the other. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals pointed out how absurd it was to seek to perpetuate class traditions particularly in political matters. He pointed out that that attitude of mind was all very well at a time when the franchise was comparatively restricted, but that to-day, in a country where we enjoy equal law, affording equal opportunity for equal gifts, it is absurd. I take it that the function of Parliament is to maintain, that equal law. The hon. Member for Mossley seems to think that it ceases there, but I do not agree. I think that even under an equal law it would be quite possible for a dangerous accumulation of the strength of wealth to be concentrated in the hands of an individual, or of a few favoured individuals, as a result, it might be, of exceptional natural gifts or exceptional opportunities—gifts and opportunities which might, therefore, be abused. Against that possibility the law of this country has made provision, because we have established this equal law, and, beyond that, we have offered facilities for what I might describe as the group system. We have the group system represented on the spending side by the co-operative society, and we have it on what should be the constructive side, re- presented by the trade unions. The prosperity of the co-operative society today is not due to any accident, but to the fact that the movement is entrenched in the soundest economic principles. It encourages thrift, and it is, above all else, a movement which vindicates the function of capital. It preserves the freedom of individuals. In the same way the trade union is intended to act on the constructive side, but the pity of it is that too often the very men who support the co-operative movement, and thereby stand by the principles which that movement represents, are those who deny the recognition of the same principles on the constructive side. They support the virtue of thrift in connection with the co-operative society, but they deny that there is any virtue in thrift when looking at it from the industrial point of view. They vindicate the function of capital in the co-operative societies; they deny it when it comes to industry. They recognise the freedom of the individual in the co-operative movement, but would destroy individual freedom on the constructive side. An hon. Member opposite seems to demur to that, and I quite agree that it is difficult for him to face it.
One of the root difficulties in the industrial situation to-day is that the gospel preached from the platforms of the Labour party outside dare not be maintained by Labour Members in this House. If the trade unions of the country to-morrow denounced with energy and sincerity the communism preached outside by the extremists, obviously those who follow them in the country now would ask, "What is your alternative?" The worker outside believes that it is between communism and the present system of capital. My hon. Friend still shakes his head. That is my view, at any rate. Not a little of our trouble is due to the want of consistency in the Labour party. I speak with a profound regard for, and an intimate acquaintance with, the trade union movement, and an equally intimate acquaintance with the movement on the other or co-operative side. What we have to realise is that the trade union must pursue a much more constructive policy in the future than it has in the past, and it has a very clear indication as to the lines that it should pursue when it studies the co-operative movement. One remembers the story in "David Harum," in which a dog, through the process of scratching, is made to realise that after all it is only a dog. It seems to me that the trade union has too long confined itself to a vindication of the philosophy of David Harum as regards the functions of the fleas. We want to devote our energies to a much more constructive programme. I would ask the Labour Members, why cannot they invest their money in industry, and get the representation which is economically due against that investment? I know that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have played a splendid part in seeking to blend labour and capital more closely together, and we are acquainted with the other efforts which have been made in the same direction. I care not, however, how excellent the efforts may be; until we establish in industry a common objective, until we can discover some system which will impart a growing consciousness to everyone engaged in industry that every man is a capitalist and every man a worker—until you have that common mind, it will never be possible to bring labour and capital properly together. During a boom in trade, it will be an easy matter for me, meeting my workers at the council board, to adjust their difficulties about wages by increasing wages as they ask, correcting my prices and passing the increase on to my customers. The difficulty, however, arises when the market is a falling one. We stimulate false hopes on a rising market, and it is difficult to get the worker to discard them. The master, on the other hand, is seeking to maintain his works, and, even if he eliminated all profit, a slump in wages would always create suspicion in the minds of the workers that somehow or other they were not receiving fair treatment. What is the net result? It is that in very difficult times the worker, threatened with unemployment, may suffer some unjust sacrifice rather than risk his employment. Therefore you never can, because of the absence of the common mind, have a proper attitude on the part of the worker towards the industry of the country. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Barnes) yesterday made it quite clear that our troubles arise from suspicion and from want of information. If you proceed by way of a system whereby in the way I have indicated the information of any concern is not the privilege of any particular section of that concern, but is common to all in the concern, you will at once dissi- pate suspicion and you will give such an assurance and offer such an attraction to capital that the flow of capital to business enterprise becomes greater and greater, and of course it is rudimentary economics to say that the more you increase the flow of capital the cheaper the capital will be. In addition to the energy of your people being released and devoted to creative work, in addition to the wealth resulting from that, the wage fund will benefit still again by the fact that capital being more and more attracted, it will be got more and more cheaply, with a bigger share of the profits earned for the wage-earner. I submit that that is the one and only way. When all is said and done I can conceive of no more ludicrous fiction than the suggestion that any section of individuals in this House has a monopoly of sympathy for the worker. In larger numbers than are represented on the Labour Benches there are men on this side of the House who devote, I hope, just as intelligent an interest to the welfare of the worker as they have done and who, because they do not belong to the Labour party or to any trade union, are even better qualified to give an impartial judgment on the workers' position. Therefore, I demur to the suggestion that our Labour friends, much as 1 respect them, have any monopoly of sympathy such as they occasionally claim.
There are degrees of sympathy. Your sympathy extends to the point of 18s. per week for the purpose of meeting the requirements of men who have suffered and endured during the War. Ours extends to a minimum of 40s. a week. Are you prepared to follow us?
I will develop my views further. Our difficulty at present is the want of elasticity in the industrial system. You have two parties representing capital and labour standing in cast-iron fashion against each other. If, on the other hand, you secure the common objective in industry for which I plead, you will have lent to the industrial system a perfect elasticity. You will then have got rid of the humbug of attempting to treat industrial affairs by way of legislation. You will have given industry a charter which will enable it to handle its own concerns. In days of prosperity a wage fund will be secured in ample measure from which you will be able to make provision for unemployment. You will be able to regulate the employment of your people as you cannot possibly do to-day. Apart from that altogether, after all issaid and done, in a land with a free franchise like ours, in a land in which you have the wide-spread education which we enjoy, there is something more than pounds, shillings and pence in the worker's mind. It would satisfy his sense of pride and dignity if he were merged in an industry, as he might well be. What is the excuse offered by the Labour party for taking up this non possumus attitude? They come here with Acts of Parliament, they impose this restriction and the next in the name of social reform on the worker, but they keep clear of those restrictions themselves, and occasionally to my dismay this restrictive policy ostensibly in the worker's favour is endorsed by Members of the Treasury Bench, not one of whom would have occupied his place had he been within the bonds of a trade union as he wishes to place the worker. I ask the Labour party to give the reason why they cannot discover this common objective. I shall be told if they invested their money they would not be able to withdraw it in the event of a strike. Bless my heart! Is the Alpha and Omega of human existence an industrial strike? We are trying to get rid of strikes, but we shall never get rid of them if you have two parties in opposing camps. You will when you get a common objective in industry. Trades Union money is bound to be invested and in the event of a general strike to-day, much as the incantations of trade unionism can do, they will not prevent the depreciation of a stock or share in the general collapse of industry.
The hon. Member suggests that we should invest our money. What chance does he consider we as trade unionists should have against the British federation of Industry if it came to a question of a fight?
What Labour Members are suffering from is the get-rich-quick mind. I do not suggest a revolution in a day, but it is time to start on the new system. You might begin in a small way but inasmuch as you would have a sound economic basis the growth would not only be steady but very rapid. The cooperative movement started as lats as 1875. Do you know the measure of its importance to-day'? I suppose the early society carried goods in its wheelbarrow in 1875, and yet you see the prosperity that has attended the movement. Do you think that is an accident?
I mean the co-operative movement. A few primitive efforts were made previously, but the Industrial and Provident Societies Act was as recent as 1875, and to-day it has stock amounting to tens of millions. Can the Labour party go to the country and say the worker meantime is to remain a class apart, and that he, unlike his leaders, is to be subject to this and the next restriction, that a man with a wife and family is not to be allowed to earn more than a single man, that a strong man is not to be allowed more than a weak man, or an energetic man to earn more than a lazy man? That is the position of the worker to-day under the methods of our trade union leaders. But it does not apply to the worker's leader. He is in a class apart. He represents the aristocracy of labour in its most blatant form. What I want to do is to secure to the individual worker precisely the same opportunity of progress as is kept by the loader for himself. Speaking as the representative of an industrial constituency which would not have a Labour Member at any price —[HON. MEMBERS: "DO not be too sure."]—at any rate, I offer the challenge—I am entitled to claim for the worker the freedom for which I plead. At the present time you have standardised him in such a way that he is making no progress, and all the time we are talking of social reform and of our anxiety to help the worker's cause. If we are really in earnest about this question of unemployment, let us do something practical now, or let us for ever hold our peace; the Labour party particularly.
With the general trend of my hon. Friend's observations I am completely in agreement, but he will see that the measure of the derisive laughter with which some of his remarks were received by the Labour benches is a measure of the success which his policy is likely to achieve in the immediate future. The success of his policy can only be achieved by the process of gradual education. Although I do thoroughly appreciate his point of view, there is some point in the interruption of one of the hon. Members opposite who pointed out that the real difference between my hon. Friend and himself are that whereas my hon. Friend offers 18s. a week unemployment pay the Labour party are offering 40s. a week. Let me call the House back to practical considerations of the Amendment before us. We have had a number of exceedingly eloquent speeches from the Labour benches. They have been eloquent, and they have even been fiery. Why has that eloquence been expended, and why has that fire been evinced? I have been trying to find out wherein the policy of the Labour party on this question differs generically from the policy of the Government, and I cannot see it. The policy of the Government is to provide for unemployment by relief work, or by doles failing relief work. The policy of the Labour party is to provide for unemployment by relief work, or failing relief work by doles. There is a fundamental fallacy in that common policy, for it is one and the same policy. The fundamental fallacy of that policy is to expect that it can ever be a permanent cure for the unemployment problem. I have risen for the purpose of submitting one or two considerations for the amplification of that policy. I do not think I have any panacea for this evil, but I do desire to offer some palliative amendments of the policy, and to suggest one or two lines on which the Government might act with a view to establishing a more permanent and a sounder basis for the solution of the unemployment problem.
Something has been said about leaving this question of unemployment to be settled by the industries. That is an aspect of the problem which has always been particularly attractive to me, and at the end of last Session I addressed a few observations to the House upon it. May I suggest to the Government, who have already expressed their sympathy with the idea, that they should either use the existing bodies upon which employers and employed meet together, or that they should create in each suitable industry special ad hoc bodies to consider special schemes for unemployment. Let them press these things upon each several industry. It is not good enough, as they have done in the Unemployment Insurance Act, simply to give permissive power to certain industries to do it. It must be a general rather than an exceptional scheme, under which each industry should be asked to formulate a scheme which would make it responsible for its own unemployment. I am ready to admit that there are many industries, notably those in which there is a great deal of casual labour employed, to which my suggestion could not apply. In those cases some other scheme will have to be suggested. There is another point, and I do not think much emphasis has been laid upon it hitherto, and that is that half the problem is the problem of the mobility of labour. If, and only if, you can get a general basis for the solution of your unemployment problem depending upon a solution by industries can you secure sufficient mobility for labour. They have mobility of labour in Canada, and we ought to be able to get it here, if we made it a point of honour for trade unions, on the one hand and employers on the other, to get men to their work in the shortest possible time. That you will never get while you have your present system of employment exchanges. The employment exchanges to-day are ineffective and unpopular, and something that is ineffective and unpopular can never make a success in the solution of a great problem like this.
Where both the Government and the Labour party go wrong is in thinking that the State is a benevolent, omnipotent power which can put all these things right in five minutes. It cannot do it. Take the building trade, for example. An instance was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkin-son) last night in a speech which I was not fortunate enough to hear. What happened when you subsidised the building trade? When you offered a subsidy to the builder of £130 per house, the effect was that that £130 was put on the price of the house. If the State takes to subsidising the private employer, what I am frightened of is that the private employer will be able to use that merely to increase his profits, or, alternatively, the trade unions will use it merely to increase their wages and not to increase the circle of employment in the particular industry. Provided that that danger can be avoided, the truest way to meet this problem is by individual action, where it is possible, rather than by State action.
Let me give one further instance, and in doing so I would suggest to the Government that here is a possibility of extending the palliative measures which they have proposed to the House. Take the question of land settlement. I wish the Prime Minister was here, because land is a subject on which he has an interesting past. The Government have announced their intention of practically abandoning that policy in the near future upon, what seems to me in this case, the foolish cry of economy. They propose to shut down a great and generous policy in order to secure economy. What is the position into which they have got on this question of land settlement? There are a number of men who have been approved as applicants for land and who have been waiting for two years or upwards for land. These men have a certain amount of money, which they had to have as an, essential qualification to entitle them to go upon the land. During the interval, and particularly recently because of the distress caused by unemployment, these men have exhausted their capital. It does not take very long for a man's little capital to disappear if he is out of work for a week or two. The Government say: "We have set up a Department to assist men in these cases. We have set up the Civil Liabilities Department." Under the Regulations of that Department, however, the State cannot assist a man unless it assists him twice. That is to say, they will assist him with a grant if he has a pension, but they will not assist him if he is able-bodied. They cannot assist any except the disabled man who is certified as being unable to follow his pre-War occupation. There is room for a modification of the Regulation so that these men in genuine cases where, through no fault of their own, they have expended the capital which they originally had, should be helped in order to make a start upon the land. That is one of the palliative measures to which I would ask the attention of the Government.
A second fallacy which has appeared in some of the speeches on the other side is that capital wants unemployment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hon. Members opposite say that the State cannot afford to have a single under-paid, overworked or diseased citizen. I say that you have got to show the employer that he cannot afford to have under-paid, overworked or diseased employés. I think that the wisest way to proceed with the problem is by showing the employer that it does not pay to have unemployment and that it does not pay to treat a man badly. That is where I am in agreement with my hon. Friend who has just spoken. If we can only produce that change of spirit—I admit that it will be a change in many cases—then we shall have laid the foundation for a permanent solution of this problem. The whole question is on of the correlation of wages, profits and prices. I may mention to the House a theory which attracts me very strongly which was held many generations before our time. In the middle ages they had the theory of a just price. They said that there was a just price composed of a just wage and a just profit. It seems to me that there is something sound in that theory. If we can only get to it then you would have done a great deal towards solving the question of unemployment. It means altruism on both hands. On the one hand there would be no such thing as voluntary profiteering. On the other hand there would be no such thing as wage profiteering, and in certain industries there has been, as hon. Members know perfectly well. There are profiteers on both sides. It is to the elimination of these two kinds of profiteers that we as a House of Commons ought to direct our energies. Hon. Members opposite have been saying that they are not disciples of Karl Marx, but if they accept the fallacious theory that the only value in the world is the value of manual labour then where is their own value as Members of Parliament.
Giving a rough estimate of opinion, I would say that the just price is probably about the same as it was in 1914, and the just way is considerably, but not abnormally, higher than it was in 1914, and the just profit is considerably, but not abnormally, lower than it was in 1904. That is a rough criterion to go upon, but I think that there are some grounds for using it to come to a conclusion as to what ought to be the general level of price we should aim at to-day. Let us both at this time make up our minds as to what sort of price we want. It is not a conflict between producer and consumer, which are very vague and ineffective terms, because the two categories over lap, but if there is that struggle, hon. Members opposite must decide what is the true value which they want for wages. Employers, on the other hand, must decide what is the true value that they want for their capital. There is no use having high profits if materials cost twice as much as before the War, or having high wages if wages purchase only half the amount which they brought before the War. We have got to get back to the standard of normality, both in wages and profits—
I know that it is generalisation, but we have heard generalisations from a great many hon. Members in this Debate. I will give one example to show how the State does not interfere with success to check profiteering either in wages or profits. Since the War we have had a great many instances of the State trying to control these things, but the one industry in which we have not had any attempt by the State has been the shipping industry. It is true that we had an enormous boom in prices, but then we also had a very sudden drop in freights, so we have now got more ships on the high seas than we want and we shall in the course of time adjust ourselves to normal conditions. I do think on the whole that the less State interference you have with this problem the better, and the more you can get employers and employés to realise the facts of the case the better. That is the quickest way to get back to normal conditions. I have endeavoured to lay before the House one or two considerations which have struck me in connection with this problem. There is no use in indulging in recrimination as to who is responsible for neglecting this problem in the past. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) this afternoon accused the Government, but nearly every pre- vious Parliament has also neglected this problem in a gross fashion, and everybody who was a member of those Parliaments is equally culpable. It is for us to tackle this problem in a new spirit, and with goodwill on both sides I hope we shall lay the foundation for a permanent solution in future.
I do not propose to follow the last speaker in the very interesting speech which he has made. He did not agree with anybody, and he produced several solutions of his own which, I think, were as good as those of any other person But I do not see how he approaches this question of mobility of labour, which is a very difficult thing to-day, in view of the present shortage of houses and the condition of the building trade. But my object is not so much concerned with that technical part of this great question, but rather to speak of it from the point of view of the foreign exchanges, and how, to ray mind, they affect this great problem. It was said yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) that a return to the old system of giving silver a status was worth the consideration of the Government, and the Deputy-Minister for Labour to-day, in his reference to the subject, seemed to have some sympathy with that point of view. If we hope to sell our goods overseas, the first thing we could wish for is that those people who buy them should have some money with which to pay for them. If there is not enough gold in the world to go round, I would suggest that, with the absence of the gold currency, which we all like, silver is much better currency than the worthless paper which is now all over Europe.
Silver is the money of seven or eight hundred millions of our best customers. All over the East it is willingly accepted if they can get it, but how can you have trade in the circumstances we have recently experienced. During the War silver oscillated between 25 pence and 55 pence. Since the War, and during the last twelve months, silver has oscillated between 89 pence and 34 pence, which is its price to-day. What is the result? That all the goods which have lately gone to the East have been affected, and that under present circumstances the natives simply cannot take them up. They are repudiating their contracts in consequence, and we cannot blame them for doing so. In the North of England our warehouses are crammed with goods of which the manufacturers cannot dispose, and the workers are walking the streets in anxiety because of unemployment. Nearer home the broken currencies of Germany and Russia and the Baltic States have produced a very serious condition in the fishing industry of this country. The markets of the North Sea, fishermen have been taken from them. So much so that during the last year or two the Government wisely attempted to meet the difficulty, but they have now on their hands 800,000 barrels of herrings which they are unable to get rid of, and the outlook for our fishermen during the coming season is very bad indeed.
It is manifestly to our interests to do what we can to make available money with which to trade. I would urge that the Government institute an inquiry as to the advisability of going back to our old bi-metallic rate of 15½ to 1, or thereabouts. It would be a wise thing to do. By a simple agreement between the United States and this country the price of silver was stabilised for a whole year. As that was possible, I say that if we widened the basis and brought in other people we could carry out some such scheme for five or ten years, or for a considerable period, during which time violent oscillations of this great medium of exchange would be avoided. Having in mind what the United States did for us in connection with silver, I think we might offer a mead of gratitude to that country. It is a curious turn of the wheel of fortune that under the exigencies of the present position we have been forced to go cap in hand to the United States and ask that that country's accumulations of silver should be sent to India to save her from disaster. We owe the United States a considerable debt of gratitude for that. I have read the speech delivered yesterday by the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones). He said that the present Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), at one time Prime Minister of this country, was a very firm adherent of the theory to which I now venture to draw attention. He said that in endeavouring to meet this difficulty hon. Members had been going into the cemetery of dead dogmas. I assure him that silver is not dead by any means. Fifty years ago Germany was entirely a silver country, and the mark was then worth 1s. Germany has now a paper currency, and the mark is worth 1d. Labour Members may ask, What has this to do with us?
It stands to reason that if you are meeting competition both in Asia and in Europe, and your competitor is paid in paper or depreciated silver, your wages must come down if you sell your products against him. If the workers in the textile mills of India and the East get homegrown cotton, as they do now, and work on the basis of cheap silver, they will cut us out of the market for all the lower counts of yarn. Then, in regard to the coal industry, we have had the experience that the Chinese collier with his low wages has actually deposited Chinese coal in this country within the last few months and sold it in competition with our miners. The lower the price of silver the greater the restriction of markets for our products and the more poorly paid the Eastern workman may be, the more dangerous competitor he is. A very unsteady and oscillating silver market makes for uncertainty, which tends to unemployment. A depreciated price of silver has an adverse influence on steady employment and on the wages of our workers. I do not propose to go into this very deep question further, but I ask the Government not to place themselves under the advice of the India Office altogether. I think that the experience we have had of the India Office in handling this matter is not encouraging. On several occasions they have shelved the question altogether, and although they put their new scheme in operation in 1893 they have had four or five post-mortem examinations on it already. I do not dogmatise. I state my case and ask the Government to give it some consideration in relation to unemployment.
I have been present throughout the Debate both yesterday and to-day. I have heard both the Government side and the Labour side, and it seems to me that each side is blaming the other. What is the fundamental cause of unemployment? It is quite obvious, after all the points which have been made by the Government in Debate, that the Bills they have introduced on this subject are merely palliatives. It is obvious that there is only one permanent way to end this problem, and that is by business and trade expanding instead of shrinking, as they have during the last two months. The reason for business shrinking and trade lessening is that the country is not as prosperous to-day as it was a year ago. The Government are directly responsible for the present state of affairs. There are many other causes, but they are directly responsible. If there had been no Excess Profits Duty placed on industries this year, there would have been unemployment, but not anything like the extent of the unemployment that now exists. Again, on the Labour side, if there had not been those strikes, and if the trade unions had not presented so hard-hearted and flinty an attitude, there would not be the unemployment which now exists.
It is obvious to an onlooker that both sides are to blame for the present position of unemployment. We know that the War is at the back of the whole question in so far as the start of unemployment is concerned. The War is one of the causes we cannot rectify, but we can alter the attitude of the Government, and the Labour party also can change their standpoint with regard to strikes and trade unions. We have had the very welcome news that the Excess Profits Duty is to be withdrawn. That is very welcome news indeed, but is it not possibly too late? Is it not possibly true that all the damage that could have been occasioned by that Duty has already been done? Is it not true that the Government have had to withdraw the Excess Profits Duty because they saw that it would become a liability instead of an asset? Surely all the damage it was possible to do through that taxation has already been done. The War dislocated all trade, and it dislocated another great thing, namely, the international exchange. I have listened to a great deal of talk as to whether the exchanges can be brought back to what they were in 1914. They can never be brought back by any unnatural method. They will go back, as the pulse of an individual falls after an illness, to the normal. No country, or collection of countries can seize the exchanges and put them back at any unnatural level. Whatever country is in ill-health, so it will show it on its exchange. There is not the faintest doubt that the condition of the exchanges is one of the great causes of unemployment in this country, because they are so bad for the conduct of trade. I hope that during this Session the Government will see their way to introduce an Anti-Dumping Bill. It is quite obvious that so long as countries like Germany are able to dump their goods in this country on account of the exchange—and this is bound to increase in the future—there will be unemployment here. That is one of the contributory causes to unemployment, and I urge the Government to introduce the Bill this Session, and to tax all manufactured goods that enter this country in order to protect home industries and to prevent unemployment. This would affect the Labour party as much as anyone else; it would protect home industries, and prevent men being thrown out of work. All goods coming into this country, with the exception of food, should be taxed on their entry.
One of the principal causes of the existing unemployment, and I think it is generally recognised throughout the country, is the present Government taxation. That taxation is caused by expenditure. In the Debate on the Address we are not to be allowed to discuss economy. In so far as it causes unemployment, however, the expenditure in the country during the past year has been so great that it has necessitated this taxation. If the money from that taxation had been used or were being used to pay off the National Debt, it would not have the same effect in hurting our industries as it has at the present time, when it is being used purely to meet current expenditure.
The hon. Member suggests that we should wipe the ^National Debt out completely. He suggests also, no doubt, that we should wipe out capital entirely and completely. In that case labour also would be bound to be wiped out. If there were no capital, there would be no need for labour either. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sack the lot!" "Ask your uncle!"] One way of rectifying this great question of unemployment is to make the industries of this country more prosperous in the future. When the Government frame their next Budget, I hope they will re- duce taxation. I know they are going to do away with the Excess Profits Duty, and I hope, in order to give industry a chance to expand and so that more labour can be employed, that nothing else will take its place. I hope it is not too late, and that industries have not reached so low a level that it will be impossible to revive them. We are passing through a very grave crisis, and I believe we are nearer national bankruptcy at present than is thought to be the case in some quarters. It is because we are passing through such a crisis that it is absolutely necessary for the Government, the Labour party and all concerned to co-operate and help in every way possible. I repeat that I hope that in framing their Budget for the coming year, the Government will bear in mind that one of the gravest causes of unemployment is the heavy taxation levied last year.
The hon. Member who has just sat down complained that much of the unemployment was due to the taxation of the Government, but he did not explain in what respect that taxation could have been reduced without a repudiation of our liabilities for the reduction of Debt and our liabilities to ex-service men. When he has devoted two or three more years to the study of this question we shall be glad to have the fruits of his meditation.
I shall have the greatest pleasure in so doing. On many occasions I have endeavoured to do so, and I shall have the greatest pleasure in publicly or privately stating in what way I should do it.
No doubt it will be very helpful. He will find if he pursues his investigations a little further that trade is equally bad in all other countries, and that it is not merely a national but an international stoppage. Therefore, the proposition that he will have to come to is that all Governments are equally bad and that trade will never revive until all the countries of the world are ruled by the Anti-Waste League. If I may come to the subject which we have been discussing here for the last two days, I should like to say first of all that in so far as I have listened to the Debate it has been fruitful of a very thoughtful examination of the whole situation. The criticism has been varied, and the sug- gestions have been very varied. Before I come to two or three of the practical suggestions which have been made, I think I am bound to deal with one general criticism which I have heard from hon. Members opposite. I heard it last night in the very interesting speech of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), and I have heard it to-night in other speeches—a suggestion that nothing was being done, that we were just, as one Member put it, contemplating this distress with our hands in our pockets and doing nothing. That is not in the least accurate, and I do not think it is fair that it should go forth as the result of a solid Debate in the House of Commons that nothing is being done to relieve the distress of unemployment.
One hon. Member to-day said, "How much better are" you than a hundred years ago? With, all your talk of having done with the old world, are you any better than you were after the Napoleonic wars a hundred years ago?" I think he had better re-read his history. If he just looks at what was done then to relieve unemployment, the horrible distress of those days, without any real effort on the part of the Government to relieve it, leaving it entirely to the working out of the natural laws of political economy, and compare that with the gigantic efforts which are being made at the present moment, I think his sense of fairness will prompt him the next time he speaks to correct that statement. I think it most important from the point of view of the hundreds of thousands of poor people who are suffering distress and anxiety at the present moment to realise that an effort is being made, and such an effort as is possible within the limits of an overburdened community, that we are taxing ourselves to the utmost limit of our resources to avert distress for which they are not responsible and for which we are not responsible.
Let me just put one or two things that have happened. I do not want the House of Commons or my hon. Friends opposite to compare to-day with 100 years ago. Let them compare to-day with the last great wave of unemployment, which passed over this country thirteen years ago. Then there was no unemployment insurance at all none. I make this as a statement, that although there is a great deal of unemployment in this country at the present moment, you never had a great period of unemployment with less distress than now—never. I heard a very able speech from one of the hon. Members for Manchester last night, who gave very harrowing accounts of distress in the City of Manchester. I venture to say that that is an exception, but it was certainly not an exception in the year 1908–9, and it was not an exception in the preceding period of unemployment. There was practically no effort made by the State, except an effort which reached figures of about £300,000, towards relieving the gigantic distress which was the result of that unemployment. T called attention to it in those days, and in 1909 I had the honour at this Table to be the first man to propose that the State should undertake the charge of a system of insurance for unemployment. But in 1908–9 there was none, and even after 1909 you had only 2,000,000. Now you have 12,000,000 of people in this country who, as a result of the efforts of the State, after a great War which has cast upon them a burden of £7,000,000,000 or £8,000,000,000, are insured first for 7s., now for 18s. a week You may say that is inadequate. I am not saying that 18s. is adequate, but at any rate do not let us say it is nothing. It is not fair, and may I respectfully say it is not quite honest, and when my hon. Friends talk about the dangers of people suffering from distress being driven to revolution the real danger is when the facts are misrepresented to them. It is not so much that they are suffering but that they are suffering without any effort being made by what are known as the governing classes of the country to relieve them. If they know that at any rate within our means we are doing our best it creates a very different feeling, and therefore what I do entreat my hon. Friends is that at any rate they should tell the classes that are suffering what the facts are, that whereas 13 years ago there was no provision for unemployment of any kind, to-day there are 12,000,000 of people who are insured for 18s. a week, and however inadequate that may be, it is greater than any provision that has ever been made in the whole history either of this country or of any other country in the world.
That is not all that has been done. I heard language here last night which would lead anyone who came for the first time, and knew nothing of what was happening, to think that we were allowing ex-service men to go about without a penny piece starving in the streets. That is not true. Up to 31st March, £40,000,000 will have been spent in providing unemployment pay for the ex-service men—29s. for the first six months, and 20s. afterwards. I do not say that 20s. is enough, but, taking the difficulties of the country, the heavy taxation, it is a gigantic effort for a country to make. At any rate, do let us recognise that fact. We have done more than that. We have allocated altogether £23,000,000 for the purpose of settling men on the land. That was one of the things talked about last night—"Why do you not put the people on the land?" There has never been a grant of that kind before for settling people on the land. A considerable number have been settled, but it is not a thing which can be done rapidly; in fact, if it goes on too rapidly, it is a failure, and is discredited. But we have enabled men to train for the purpose of being put on the land, and it will, I think, increase the general prosperity and happiness. I hope it is a process which will continue, but it is the first time anything of the kind has been done.
Do not let us say nothing has been done. Take the new arterial roads. I remember very well at this Table hearing my predecessor in a Government, of which I was a member, read an account of what was being done for the unemployed. It came, I believe, to a few hundred thousand pounds. Between the municipalities and the State—and it is mostly the State—£10,500,000 has been provided for new arterial roads in order to give employment for the unemployed. Why is that all ignored? It is not encouraging you to do your best to be told it is nothing. Then there is the sum of £3,000,000 allocated to help the local authorities to go on with municipal work in order to provide employment. I agree with my hon. Friends that it is better to provide employment, if you possibly can, than to give doles. We proceeded upon that principle. The old world, such as it was, has nothing to show which is equal to the effort which has been put forth by a very overburdened new world, and do let us give the benefit to the new world for what it has done, when it is shouldering the gigantic burdens which the old world cast upon it. Those are things which, I think, it is vital, not that the House of Commons should be told, because it knows them, but that the people outside should know. I want them to feel that they are dealing, at any rate, with a House of Commons that is full of sympathy, with a House of Commons that realises that this is a distress for which they, at any rate, are not responsible, that it is an evil which has come upon them, which we shall do our best to avert. But I also want them to bear in mind that all this effort has been undertaken by a country that is bearing gigantic burdens cast upon it by a war for which it was not in the least responsible.
That is the position as regarding what we have done up to the present. But all must help. It is not enough to say that the taxpayer and the ratepayer alone must help—everybody must. They must consider what is best in the interests of the trade of this country. The trade of this country is just as much to the worker as to the employer. What is bad for the trade of the country is bad for the worker. If1 there is a system which is bad, if there are charges upon trade which make it impossible for it to enter markets on equal terms, that is bad for the worker just as much as it is for the employer. You will never solve this problem until the worker comes in frankly, and considers what is best for the industry in which he is concerned. I know perfectly well what is said: "Ah! but there you are simply pleading for cutting down wages." That is not the point. I have heard it put here, and it is obvious, but it has got to be repeated. This is a country which depends more upon exports than any country in the world. It depends more upon international trade than any country in the whole world, and if international trade fails, I do not care what you do in this House by legislation, or by administration outside, or by expenditure of public money, you will have nothing but starvation and ruin.
That does not enable you to sell cotton in China. This is a great trading community, and do not let us be borne away by any other controversy from what really matters for the moment, and that is how we are to secure the trade of the world. That will not be done if we enter the markets of the world with charges which make it impossible for us to compete. The second thing I have to say is this. The workman must be prepared to share his work, where necessary, with the less fortunate worker.
Let me pursue the subject. I know it is one which appeals to my hon. Friends opposite. I have listened to denunciations of the Government, and denunciations of myself by name, and I have listened with great satisfaction. I ask my hon. Friends to listen to something which they will not quite like—but it will be a very useful discipline! My right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Clynes) has got an Amendment upon which I presume we will vote in a very short while. What is his Amendment? It regrets there is no mention of legislation recognising the right of the genuine unemployed to work or to adequate maintenance. The right to work. What does it mean? Does it mean everybody's right to work, or does it mean simply the right to work if the trade unions permit? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]
My right hon. Friend wants legislation recognising the right to work. Are the trade unions to have the right to veto that legislation once it is passed?
Take what is happening in the building trade at the present moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] The subject, I know, is disagreeable to some hon. Members opposite, but I ask them to take note of what is happening in the building trade. The building trade is the one trade of which I know where there is more work than workers. There are 180,000 contracts which have been let. You have enough work to go round. You could absorb 50,000 more workers in the building trade. The money is available. The contracts are there. The material is there. What is lacking? Workers! Why are the workers not there? There are plenty of able-bodied men who served their country well. If anyone has earned the right to work, it is they. There they are. Why are they not working? The State asks for work for them. The municipalities ask for work for them. The employers ask for them. They themselves ask for work. The trade unions are demanding legislation to establish the right to work. They come to the House of Commons with a motion demanding that we should legislate to recognise the right of everybody to work. For the trade unions to decline to allow people to work when work is available and then to put forward this resolution is a sham and a hypocrisy!
These 50,000 men have to be maintained at the present time by the State. We are paying them 20s. a week, some of them 29s., out of the taxes. Yet they are anxious to work. This does not depend upon the employers. The contracts have been let. The Government have a certain number of houses which they are building. I refer to the Government contracts for houses being built through the Office of Works. Supposing we were setting on ex-service men. It makes not the slightest difference to the builders. There is so large a demand for labour, and there is plenty of other work to perform. We are putting it to the builders—I have been engaged on the matter all the afternoon—that they should insist upon a fair proportion of the ex-service men being employed upon these building contracts. If the building trade refuses the Government will stand behind the builders in their action That is in order to carry out practically—not in the Division Lobby—but practically the Resolution which is moved by my right hon. Friend opposite. I am here as a supporter of this Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the million unemployed?"] Well that million will be lessened by 50,000, and the trouble is very largely in respect to unskilled men. These are the men for whom it is most difficult to find work. That is in respect of building. I must deal with another part of this proposition, which is a very important one. I hope I am not taking up too much time of the House.
This is a very important part of the problem of unemployment. We listened to an able speech by the hon. Member for Bradford. There is no doubt, he declared, that it is better you should start trade again than that you should vote money for unemployment. That is very easily said. It is not very easily done. It is a portion of the problem which has engaged us as a Government, which has engaged the Allies in their conferences. We had a very important discussion on the subject in Paris about a fortnight ago. Central Europe, or rather the whole of Europe, are customers. As to Russia my views are fairly well known. I do not want to say anything more. I have been from the beginning a strong advocate of renewing trade with Russia. I have never hesitated at all. But I must say that in my opinion the arguments are by no means only upon one side. Follies unutterable have been committed on the other side. But let me say this: I was astonished to hear my right hon. Friend say that, whatever Russia has suffered from, she has not suffered from unemployment. Of all statements that is one of the most amazing. Of course she has not. If you reduce the population of a city from 2,000,000 to 600,000 there are not many people for whom to provide employment. The workman of this country, if he has followed what has happened in Russia, will have noted the difference between the workman there and himself. They are not artisans like we have in this country, who have been in these trades for generations—the miners, the textile workers; the occupation running down from father to son, and hereditary. They came to the towns in Russia and started in the industries. What has happened to them? They have flocked back to the country. There is no unemployment because there is nobody employed. They have all gone away. It is desolation, misery, hunger! If that is the remedy of my right hon. Friend opposite for unemployment let him try Bolshevism.
I come to Central Europe. There there is stagnation. The people who were buying from us are buying no longer. But they are buying from no one else. They cannot buy. One hon. Friend in a very interesting speech asked why? "There," he said, "is the demand, and here is the supply." He forgets there is something else, and that is you must be able to pay. You may have a starving man in front of a baker's shop. There is the demand, and there is the supply, but you must be able to pay for your goods. It is purely the inevitable consequence of a terrible war. [HON MEMBERS: "It was there before the War, and "Capital."] No, it was not before the War. What is the good of saying that? There was trade going on between Central Europe and this country before the War, £200,000,000 worth, and that stopped. That is not stopped because of capital, because you had capital there before, and it was capital that enabled you to do it at that time. You will never solve it if you do not get at the real causes. Do let us for a moment forget for a moment platform tags, if I may say so. Let us really settle down as the deliberative assembly of the nation to consider what is the best way to solve the problem which is inflicting distress upon a million families, and which may inflict distress upon a good many more before it comes to an end.
Therefore I really invite the House to consider what the difficulties are. These people want the means to pay; they have not got them. They want raw materials; they want that first. The only raw material we can supply is wool. I hope to be able somehow or other to do something to enable them to get the necessary means to secure that wool; but they want machinery, agricultural machinery, textile machinery, and they want clothes. But they cannot pay, and the whole difficulty has been the establishment of credits. Everybody wants the Government to take the whole risk. That is not fair. The risk of the Government is the risk of the taxpayer. I think it is right that the Government should come in and take its share of risk just by way of encouraging private enterprise also to take its risk; but to ask the Government to take the whole of the risk is unfair. Let us see what we have done. We have provided a fund of £26,000,000 to establish credit in European countries. What does the Government say? They say, we will advance the money for the purpose. We will take 80 per cent, of the risk of the cost price of the article. The only risk that is left to the private trader is 20 per cent., and that 20 per cent, is advanced. Up to the present, although advantage has been taken of the scheme to a certain extent, it is comparatively small —5 or 6 per cent, at the outside. We tried to interest the banks in this. The banks are quite willing to come in and advance the money if the Government takes all the risks—all the abnormal risks. That is not fair, and I should feel happier about it if I were sure there were no politics in it. It is very short sighted policy on the part of the banks not to come in, because it is just as much in their interest as in anybody else's to see that trade is revived and that this machine, that somehow or other hap got stuck in the slush of Europe, should be started again; and all I have to say at present is that we have tried to negotiate with the banks but up to the present we have not been able to induce them to take any of their share of the abnormal risks. They want the Government to take it all, I do not think the taxpayers of this country should take the whole burden whilst the profits go entirely to the traders.
I do not think it is fair, when you are considering a problem which is of common interest to us, to introduce two polemical considerations. I am trying to deal with this matter from the point of view of every section and class of the community. I earnestly appeal to the banks to take their fair share of the risks of credit in this respect. It is in the interest of the trade of the country, which is their interest just as much as anybody else's. They are the only people who can really help, and if they do so, I believe it will be possible to get a start. You must enable these people to go on for, at any rate, 12 months. The fact that they are not taking goods now is in itself to a certain extent creditable. They have been good customers, they have been honest customers, they are not going to order goods unless they can pay. They do not see their way to pay unless credit is extended. Credit can be extended if there is co-operation between the Government and private enterprises the exporters, the manufacturers, the banks. If that is done, I believe we shall do more to start commerce and business throughout Europe than any other effort that could possibly be accomplished, and it is so much better to do that than to provide money for unemployment benefit. There are difficulties I know, and very great difficulties, and every allowance has to be made for the impoverishment caused by the War; but their land is there, their natural resources are there, in the main their population is there, an industrious and hard-working population—you have all the demerits for the creation of wealth, and if they get a start they will create wealth, and the creation of wealth in a customer is the first step to the creation of wealth in your own shop.
There is one difficulty which is a great one, it is not merely the impoverishment of the War, but the essential dislocation of the settlement. The granting of liberty to new nations has broken up the industrial and commercial machine of Europe. Nevertheless, Berlin is still the centre for Germany, and from that centre she is working up trade, commerce, and industry, and they will be able to recreate trade. But what has happened in Austria? You have Vienna, which was once the commercial centre, the brain centre for the whole of Austria. There you had great banks and insurance companies and commercial agencies, and everything was worked from that centre. Money used to flow to Vienna from Czecho-Slovakia, Jugo-Slavia, and Transylvania, and that was the centre. This great capital built up around all these great, activities has now become just the capital of a small province, and this is one of the most baffling problems which we have to solve. Here you have 2,000,000 people, and they have no work because they have ceased to be the centre Czecho-Slovakia formerly worked with Vienna, and Transylvania and other adjacent countries which used to work from this centre have all suddenly been cut off, and they have formed little centres of their own supporting their own little financial centres and the machinery is completely shattered.
You have undoubtedly, as a result of the War and the first outburst of liberty, an extravagant, immoderate nationalism which finds expression in all sorts of ways which are obstructing commerce. They are aggressive towards their neighbours, and the moment I mention it there is trouble. Each of these small places sees little bits of property here and there, and they say, "That ought to belong to us, and this 500 years ago was part of our country." This kind of thing is going on. There is an aggressive, immoderate, greedy nationalism which is finding expression in another way. We have it in France and the United States of America. They Bay that you must build great walls all around and never give a cup to your neighbour. Czecho-Slovakia has it and Poland has to a certain extent. They say, "We will look after our own country," forgetting that countries are inter-dependent and that commerce is international. To a certain extent it has operated in America. We bought from America last year 534 millions' worth of goods. We are all interdependent. To love your neighbour is not merely good sound Christianity; it is good business. I say that because I know it is so. That is really one reason why Central Europe is for the moment paralysed. Until you get Central Europe to begin to feel a little more neighbourly, until you get each of these parts which used to act together beginning to act together again it will be difficult to give credit and it will be difficult to trade. These are great considerations. I am sorry to detain the House so long. I said I was going to speak, as I thought, without any polemical considerations at all. These are my views. Here you have the world in a state in which it has never been before. Why? Because you have had a convulsion such as you never experienced before, and you had it at such a time as the world has never seen—at a time when international commerce had been developed to a pitch of perfection such as it had never before reached. I saw that at the moment the War broke out. That was the first problem that came to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Gentlemen came to me with little pieces of paper signed in China, in Japan, in Honolulu, in New Zealand, in Austria, and in Russia—bits of paper signed in every part of the world. What were they? They were only the machinery of international trade—many of them were signed in half a dozen or more countries and passed from one country to another. They had paid for goods first in one country and then in another, and at last they were paid to somebody in Lombard Street. War came in to that delicate and complicated machinery. For the moment it shattered it. We were able to save it from disaster. We knew it would take something to reweave that broken web. For a couple of years there was a. spasmodic demand, and from what little was left in their pockets after the War they bought essentials. That is at an end. We have now come to a time when we have to depend on the ordinary machinery of commerce. It is not there. It is the business of the world, and above all the business of this country, which has led the world in international commerce, which has shown it the way, and which has always had the courage, enterprise, and foresight to see it through—it is the business again of this country to lead the way.
As the right hon. Gentleman resumed his seat I was reminded of a famous occasion when a great statesman, referring to another, said, "We have all been under the wand of the enchanter tonight." I think that, great as have been the oratorical successes of the right hon. Gentleman, they have been exceeded by the magnificent effort that he has made to-night.—[Interruption.]—However much my hon. Friends behind me may disagree with the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "We do not!"]—with a great deal of what he says, we find ourselves in agreement, but I would ask the attention of the House to the term "enchanter," because a good deal of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was rather in the nature of an accusation against himself and his Government. Let us take, the case of those States, broken up and shattered, to which he so eloquently alluded in the latter part of his statement. It was, surely, well known to everybody who gave it the smallest consideration that it was necessary to enable these people to start their life once again. It was, surely, well known when the Treaty of Paris was being signed, and long before, that you could not restore international trade—which, as the right hon. Gentleman says, is the very bed-rock upon which the prosperity of nations rests—unless you restored to them their faculty of purchase and of sale. How could that possibly be done when the German mark, instead of being worth, roughly, a shilling, was worth a good deal less than two-thirds of a penny?
That is quite true. There is no one in this House but must admit that proper reparation must be made; but, if there is any real good in the right hon. Gentleman's statement that loving your enemies is not only good morality but good business, surely we must remember that, while it is very difficult to conceive of any reparation that would be too formidable to ask of them, they must live in order to pay this indemnity, and they must be given an opportunity of international trade once again. The Government must have seen long beforehand how necessary it was to restore something like a reasonable parity of exchange between the various nations. What effort have they ever told this House that they have made to bring that about? We have paid a good deal of attention to it, and there seems to me to be no record at all of any distinct and continuous effort made by the Government in that direction; and this Government occupies the most responsible position among the European nations. We have undertaken a very high obligation. It was the duty of statesmen to see that this economic collapse was bound to occur unless proper measures were taken in the meantime. We are not passing wholesale condemnations upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but this economic collapse ought to have been foreseen, and indeed it was predicted. A similar state of things has occurred consequent and following upon every previous great war. Following upon the Napoleonic wars there was an economic collapse very like this. There was a very similar state of things after the Crimean War. There was an almost exactly similar state of things after 1870. During the few years preceding and the one or two years after 1870, there was a wave of something little better than artificial prosperity in this country. The following ten years were really the most depressed and terrible of that decade, right on to 1879, and more than any other thing was responsible for the downfall of the Conservative Government of that year. All history has taught that this collapse was bound to occur, but no preparations have been made to meet it. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly accurate in saying we are dealing with results on a very much larger scale than has ever before been attempted, but Government should deal with causes as much as results. Under the existing condition of society these crises will recur and with greater frequency than ever. When people say to us, "You must trust to private enterprise" they know perfectly well, and so do right hon. Gentlemen opposit, that in the time of war private enterprise failed lamentably. Not only would Europe not have been saved, not only would civilisation not have been saved, but if private enterprise had been left alone this country would have gone down. The banks themselves would have collapsed. The right hon. Gentleman himself, with a resourcefulness that did him great credit then and has done him great credit since, took hold of the whole position and brought the State into the job. He did not leave it to private enterprise. If we are going to trust to private enterprise in the future we shall have exactly the same kind of thing as we are having now, possibly not on quite so complete a scale because this is almost the most hopeless debâcle the world has ever known, but as true as to-morrow's sun will shine, if this nation keeps on the lines of private enterprise, the praises of which are constantly poured forth in various quarters of the House, we shall have a recurrence of this kind of thing.
In the very first years of the Parliament of 1906, year after year we brought forward a Right to Work Bill. We were not lucky. We were beaten by very large majorities. We contended for the right to work, for a man who was called upon to perform the obligation of citizenship and that if that man found himself denied the means of employment and was still called upon to perform the proper obligation of citizenship the State was under an obligation to provide him with employment, or if that could not be found to give him adequate maintenance. Surely there is nothing wrong in that. That is a moral point which I do not think a single man here would deny. If the State imposes, and properly imposes, upon a man the obligation of discharging his duty to his wife and children and to Society, and if that man finds himself unable to perform his duties in the full sense in which they are demanded, because of lack of opportunity, it is the, duty of the State to provide that opportunity. If the State says to a citizen: "Do this, otherwise penal consequences will follow," it is surely the duty of the State to say: "If you are bereft of work we will provide you with the means of employment, or with sufficient maintenance." The Government does not come along to give us a cut and dried remedy. We do not suggest that, nor have we suggested that nothing has been or is being done.
There may have been, as there often is in Debate, remarks conveying a slighting reference, and a meaning not exactly in the speaker's mind. It would be fatuous, and bordering upon falsehood, to deny that a quite substantial measure of relief is being given, but what we ought to consider is what is being done in the light of the promises that were made. I took a part in making those promises. I believe every hon. and right hon. Gentleman who made promises in the midst of the War made them in the most sincere good faith. I have never swerved from that view. We promised that when the men came back work would be found for them. We promised that we would do our best to turn our back upon the old world and to start a new one and that there should be such a process of re-construction that unemployment should not recur with the same horrible frequency as in the past. We promised a hundred and one things, and now we find that the number of ex-service men out of work has increased by about three times since August last. It is a disgraceful thing. These men fought for their country and saved the State, and they have a right to adequate maintenance because they saved the State. The hon. Member for Newcastle talked about taxation. We did not talk about taxation when the nation was passing through the most trying ordeal that any nation ever en- dured. We said: "If this nation perishes civilisation will perish." We meant it, we believed it, and now, when the men who saved the nation and civilisation have come back we are told that the tole is 20s. for a particular period, and that it is to be reviewed at a later period, about 1922. That is not a really honest carrying out of our promises. It is a repudiation of the honour that inspired us when those promises were made. We did not make those promises light-heartedly, and we ought to redeem them in the most solemn good faith. When we talk about taxation we sometimes are not very clear as to the relative value which we give to terms. Suppose that every one of these people—a very large proposition indeed—were kept for a whole year by the State at £2 a week, it would cost a great deal less than was spent in the first three months of one of the most foolhardy adventures ever undertaken, for we spent £100,000,000 on that quixotic adventure in Russia. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the 50,000 men, and I think there is force in his point, if you do really mean what you say, about withholding the labour of 50,000 people by the particular trade union. If that was a complete condemnation of the policy of trade unions it would be a very serious thing, but I do not think than any right hon. Gentleman has been more emphatic as to the help given by trade unions than the Minister of Labour. I remember a notable incident in Bristol when a man standing high in the councils of the Empire came to speak to trade unionists. I remember the feeling of intense depression which there was as to whether munitions were being manufactured, and I remember a most moving speech delivered by the very same right hon. Gentleman, and the wonderful tribute he paid the trade unions afterwards for the handsome way they had behaved. I remember, also, the magnificent demonstration he received before he left the hall. But I do remember, time after time, how he paid the most feeling tributes to the work trade unions hail done. But because of one decision, which may be a regrettable one—I think it is—let us not, in the excess of anger if you like at the action of one particular union, not forget the immense service that has been rendered by the trade unions of the country. I thought that the rather slighting way in which the right hon. Gentleman referred to the action of the trade unions and the question of the right to work—
If my memory serves me correctly the right hon. Gentleman made the statement, pointing most emphatically to the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), that it was rank hypocrisy to put forward such an Amendment as that we are discussing. Year by year we have brought forward the Eight to Work Bill. It was backed indeed by the right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division (Mr. G. Barnes). I am sorry to see that he has rather gone back on some of his old beliefs and professions, though such mutations are inevitable in politics and we must not blame him. Leave out the question of the 50,000 men. What would he do with the million men remaining? If I understood the Minister of Labour correctly the unemployed are increasing in numbers very rapidly. It was known in August last that unemployment would develop very quickly. It was known then that the state of international currency was such that we could not sell our goods. It is true to say that our international export trade is the pith and marrow of our existence. There was not a single sociologist in this country who did not foresee and predict this collapse. The most experienced employers of labour told the Government many months ago what was inevitable. In 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920 we brought forward our policy, backed unanimously by all sections of labour. Take afforestation. I remember a Royal Commission being set up in 1906. Take coast erosion, land settlement, the making of arterial roads, and so on. Hardly anything has been done in reference to these things. In afforestation what has been done?
We are planting this year every available seedling that is fit for planting, and by the end of the season we shall have planted at least 8,000 acres, which is eight times as many as were ever planted before.
That is certainly a most refreshing statement. What we suggest is that we shall have to move on lines different from those followed by private enterprise. There are, certainly, industries which are essential to the State —not necessarily key or pivotal industries, but industries essential to the maintenance of the State itself. If we are to have a new world, if this awful spectre of unemployment is to be finally laid, if there is to be real hope for the generation to come, it can be done only by turning our backs on the old traditions.
Private enterprise has failed, and failed disgracefully [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Yes. There is not the slightest doubt about that. Only a few weeks ago every shop window was filled with photographs of prominent men in the Labour movement; men for whom I have always had a high regard and respect. We were told that the great thing was to produce, and that the need was for more production. Almost before the ink of those printed words was dry we had the most horrible collapse. Our warehouses were filled with goods, and every mill was packed full with the product of labour. There were great and hungry multitudes in the streets waiting outside the soup kitchens. Go into any big town and you will find the people half starving for these very things. The granaries are full, the mills are packed with goods, yet we cannot reach them. Why? Because some person says, "These goods belong to me." Until we can get a real recognition of the State's obligation to produce—not all at once—for use and not for profit, this will not be put right. I have often felt a little sympathy for myself, but I have never felt more in need of it than to-night when following the magnificent deliverance of the right hon. Gentleman. We believed that we were in the right in 1906 and right until 1910. We believe that ultimately this House will be compelled to adopt the policy constantly enunciated by this party. We hope that obligation will seize on the minds of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues at a very early date, but, in the meantime, to show that we really do believe in that which we have constantly put forward, we intend to press this matter to a Division.
|Division No.1]||AYES.||[10.56 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Robertson, John|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hancock, John George||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Harbison, Thomas James S.||Sexton, James|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hayday, Arthur||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Hayward, Major Evan||Smith, W. B. (Wellingborough)|
|Bottomley, Horatio W.||Hirst, G. H.||Spencer, George A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Spoor, B. G.|
|Briant, Frank||Holmes, J. Stanley||Swan, J. E.|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenyon, Barnet||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Klley, James D.||Tootill, Robert|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lawson, John J.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Lunn, William||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(Midlothian)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Mallalieu, F. W.||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Murray, Or. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Myers, Thomas||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbrdge)|
|Finney, Samuel||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wintringham, T.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Poison, Sir Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Redmond, Captain William Archer||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Rendall, Atheistan||Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. T.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Shaw.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Coats, Sir Stuart||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p I.W. D'by)|
|Agg-Gardner, sir James Tynte||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)|
|Armitage, Robert||Cope, Major Wm.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||He wart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Craig, Capt. C. C. (Antrim, South)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Hinds, John|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hood, Joseph|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n.W.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Denniss. Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Doyle, N. Grattan||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Edgar, Clifford B.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Edge, Captain William||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Elveden, viscount||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Evres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Jephcott. A. R.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Jodrell, Neville Paul|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Johnson, Sir Stanley|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Johnstone, Joseph|
|Bruton, Sir James||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Foreman, Sir Henry||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Burdett-Coutts, Rt. Hon. William||Forrest, Walter||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel A. H.||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Frederick George|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Glyn, Major Ralph||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow. C.)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Gould, James C.||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withtington)||Grant, James A.||Lister, Sir J. Ashton|
|Cautley, Henry S.||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.|
|Chadwick. Sir Robert||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Lonsdale, James Rolston|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm.,W.)||Grelg, Colonel James William||Lorden, John William|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Gretton, Colonel John||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Lynn, R. J.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Guest, Major O. (Lelc, Loughboro')||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||McMicking, Major Gilbert|
|Clough, Robert||Hailwood, Augurtine||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Purchase, H. G.||Taylor, J.|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Rankin, Captain James S.||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Raper, A. Baldwin||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Manville, Edward||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell (Maryhill)|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Reid, D. D.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Mason, Robert||Remer, J. R.||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers|
|Matthews, David||Renwick, George||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Mitchell, William Lane||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)||Waddington, R.|
|Molson, Major John Eisdale||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Wallace, J.|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Morrison, Hugh||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Murchison, C. K.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Neal, Arthur||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||White, Lieut.-Col. G. O. (Southport)|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Nield, Sir Herbert||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Seager, Sir William||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Wilson, Capt. A. S. (Holderness)|
|O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.||Simm, M. T.||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Parker, James||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Parry, Lieut-. Colonel Thomas Henry||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M.(Bethnal Gn.)|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Percy, Charles||Stanler, Captain Sir Beville||Wise, Frederick|
|Perkins, Walter Frank||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Perring, William George||Stanton, Charles B.||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)||Starkey, Captain John R.||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Stewart, Gershom||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Pownall, Lieut-Colonel Assheton||Sturrock, J. Leng||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Preston, W. R.||Sugden, W. H.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Prescott, Major W. H.||Sutherland, Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Sykes, Colonel Sir A. J. (Knutsford)||Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest|