Business of the House.

– in the House of Commons on 24th June 1921.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Colonel Leslie Wilson.]

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

I do not know why my hon. and gallant Friend has moved the adjournment of the House, in view of the fact that there is on the paper the Land Nationalisation Bill, in which some of us are extremely interested, and also the Dogs Protection Bill, which has been on the Order Paper to my certain knowledge for the ten years during which I have been in Parliament. Now that we have three hours of Parliamentary time at our disposal, I am astonished that my hon. and gallant Friend, whose interest in these matters is well known, should attempt to deprive us of the opportunity of continuing the discussion upon them. There is also a third very important Bill, the Declaration of Rights Bill, which deals with the matter, manner, measure and time in respect of which taxes shall be levied, and which raises the large question of the authority of this House over the finances of the nation. While I do not desire personally to occupy the time of the House, I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that he himself was not content with the suggestion we made that we should not need to sit after five o'clock, but went the length of dividing the House in order that we might sit after five. For the moment he was a con-scriptionist, compelling us to sit after five o'clock in order that the Government should get through its work. Does he not think it unfair, now that we have this amount of time, that we cannot proceed with those discussions? I know what may happen if we attempt to proceed. My hon. and gallant Friend, who sent out a two-line Whip to bring down all his followers at twelve o'clock for the purpose of sitting after five, will allow the House to be counted out, and we shall have another exhibition of Coalition tactics inside the Coalition—on the one hand an appeal to us to remain, and on the other an appeal to us to disperse.

I do not know that I want to say anything more, except that while I think I know the House of Commons well enough not to run counter to its spirit, I feel that it is asking a great deal of us when, in the one case, we are asked to sit beyond 5 o'clock—which, on a Friday, may, of course, mean an all-night sitting—and then when, owing to the circumstances of the Debate, we do have a little time, my hon. and gallant Friend does not give those of us who have that time the opportunity of making use of it. I do not know whether anyone interested in the Land Nationalisation Bill or in the Dogs' Protection Bill is present, but some of us are very much interested in the Declaration of Rights Bill, of which the Government themselves are in favour, and which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury ought to be extremely pleased to see receive a Second Reading.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and, 40 Members being present

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

I am indebted to the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Wilson) for realising the importance of my remarks by insisting that the Government whips should maintain a House, in order to listen to what we have to say. Before my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Dr. Murray) desired that I should no longer be heard I was about to say I have practically said all I wanted to say to make the point that on a Friday afternoon, when we had come here for Government business, and we find ourselves in possession of another 2½ hours of Parliamentary time, it is rather hard luck on private Members who have private Orders down that they do not get an opportunity of moving them. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman had allowed Nos. 6, 7 and 8 to be read out before he moved the Adjournment he would have saved time in the long run and have afforded the private Member of the House the privilege he is entitled to.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leslie Wilson Lieut-Colonel Leslie Wilson , Reading

As the hon. Member knows well, and as the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained, there was every likelihood that the Debate on the Finance Bill would run until at least 5 o'clock, but, for the reasons which he has explained, it has not done so. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) says I should not have moved the Adjournment, but gone on with the Orders on the Paper. Only the other day I tried to take some Orders on the Paper of which notice had not been given. I see the hon. Member who put down the Land Nationalisation Bill is not in the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) is not in the House, and the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn), who introduced the Declaration of Rights Bill, is not in the House, and I thought it would be very unfair to take those Bills. As we sat up very late the other night, and lost a good deal of sleep, I suggest that we might go out this afternoon, and enjoy some of the sunshine. Therefore I urge that the House should agree to the Motion for the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr John Swan Mr John Swan , Barnard Castle

We really expected we had a long evening before us, and I am sure if we had had a House, the Land Nationalisation Bill would have given us a wide scope for discussion and we might have been able to hammer some ideas out of real benefit to the nation. The Prime Minister made an eloquent speech nine months ago as to one of the most urgent and pressing needs of the nation, and the large number of men who were out of work, and suggested ways and means whereby they might be usefully employed supplying the nation's needs in food, and so on. He said our land was the most fertile in Europe and if it was employed we should not have to import over £500,000,000 worth of food and be dependent upon other nations for that precarious supply, and in the event of a great national crisis we might be absolutely independent of other nations. Such a Bill as we have here would give us an opportunity of taking over the land and working it for the benefit of the nation. Apart from the fertile land we have all kinds of mineral wealth and we ought to have a full opportunity on an afternoon like this of discussing ways and means whereby the hills which are laden with all kinds of wealth which are so urgently required by the community might be exploited to supply our industrial needs. Men might be earning wages, adding to the nation's wealth and creating a land which would be prosperous and independent of all others in the world, instead of being a charge on taxes and rates. I have made approaches to the Ministry of Transport and the Board of Trade, but we can get no co-ordination with any of these Departments so that these resources might be utilised. We have men out of work, but at our very door are the means whereby we can find them useful employment. We have hills laden with limestone, iron ore, ganister, lead, gold and coal. Why cannot we get our men employed so that they will be producing for the nation's need? Because there is no co-ordination between the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Transport.

When this Parliament was elected grand ideas were put before the community and no acre of land was to be left idle. Instead of having our men overworked, under-paid, ill-fed and ill-housed, all these grandiose schemes were going to be initiated; we were going to have railways constructed, the land exploited, men placed upon it supplying the nation's needs, and also there was to be co-ordina- tion with the Chancellor of the Exchequer so that the money we had been wasting would be usefully spent. The Minister of Transport admitted that there were here opportunities for the development of industries, the employment of men and the cultivation of land, but he said that the Department responsible was the Board of Trade. They would not move. If they had made inquiries they had given no instructions to the Ministry of Transport so that the railways might be made. When we criticised the lack of co-ordination between the departments and their indifference to the waste of national wealth we were told that the money which was at the disposal of the Ministry of Transport, so that we might solve these social, economic and industrial problems, had been taken away from them. The Prime Minister told us that if we were to be an A1 population we must revise our transport system so that the people could get from the slums into the country. Nothing has been done in that direction and towards building up an A1 population. When we discussed this question a Noble Lord said that we could not afford an A1 population. A strange commentary on the statement of the Noble Lord was that in order to save finance we must keep a C3 population. On that same day, a large company decided to increase its capital in London by £1,000,000, and within twenty-four hours £7,000,000 had been contributed, and each post teemed in further offers. Yet we were told that there was no money in the country to initiate schemes of reconstruction and to carry out the pledges which the Government had given.

The Members of the Labour party desire to utilise the resources of wealth which are at our disposal rather than to have Bills brought in giving unemployment grants. We want to initiate schemes which will have the effect of providing work for our people under conditions which will enable them to provide for their families, and when their day's work is done to have leisure and recreation. If the land of the country were developed as it ought to be, we could produce material wealth instead of having to import so many raw materials from abroad, and by producing the material wealth at home we should find work for our people. We have rivers running to waste, and no effort being made to harness them and to provide the nation with heat, light and comfort, or to establish dynamos and transmission lines. Instead of that they are undeveloped, and in my part of the country many people have to rely upon lamps, candles and oil for lighting and heating. At the same time we find men standing in the market place willing to work, but idle because there is no work for them to do. If a Labour Minister was in charge of the Ministry of Labour he would not spend his time bringing in Bills for giving unemployment doles. He would say: "Here is work to be done. Here is a place where men may be usefully employed," and he would adopt means for getting the men to work. We have skilled engineers and electricians standing idle when they might be harnessing the waters and laying down the transmission lines. Developments in these directions, however, are prevented because of private interests in the land. If a Bill such as the Land Nationalisation Bill had been placed upon the Statute Book all the obstacles which stand in the way of development of the resources of the nation would be swept away.

We are told by the Government that we cannot get on with this scheme or that scheme for the national welfare because there are no funds. They would rather have 3,000,000 men out of work than harness the powers at their disposal and utilise our labour power and our trained knowledge. Many of us are interested in education, and we appreciate its value for others because we have not had an opportunity of getting much education ourselves. We want our people to be trained in elementary and technical knowledge so that they can use their knowledge for the benefit of the community. Orders go forth that expenditure upon education must be curtailed, while, on the other hand, we find the Government squandering millions in Ireland or in Russia, suppressing the liberties of the people. They always find the ways and means of getting money for ventures of that kind. Instead of pursuing such a policy, we hope that a new spirit will come to the Government which will create a better atmosphere in the nation and bring into force the spirit which prevailed during the War. When we wanted shells during the War we quickly put up factories. We ought to tackle the problems of peace time in the same determined way. There is a crying need for coal. We are told that there is to be a great shortage of coal, and that we shall need to get coal from France and Germany, although we have unlimited coalfields in the country. We have also great numbers of men who could be set to work if it were not for the difficulties created by landlordism.

We are not out of danger yet. There is as much need to-day as there was at any time during the War to save the nation from perishing. Unless a spirit of this description prevails and the waste of our resources is prevented, and we set ourselves to the work of reconstruction, the whole of our Western civilisation may be swept into oblivion. I hope that a new policy will be initiated by the Government, and that instead of trying to crush the spirit of freedom of the Irish people they will initiate a policy which will win them to us and secure their co-operation. When this policy is applied to Ireland we hope that there will be a restraining influence in the other House. We sent a messenger of peace to Ireland this week, but at the same time in another House a Noble Lord said that the Government had come to the conclusion that the only way to extirpate the evils of Ireland was by force. We must not pursue such a policy. We can win them only by such a spirit as was expressed in the speech of the King, and we cannot extirpate their desire for freedom by coercion. Let our land and our mines be utilised for the benefit of the country. If the mines are mismanaged by a certain section, that section should be eliminated, and land and mines should be used for the benefit of the whole country, and have production for use instead of profit.