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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 13th March 1922.

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Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

I was not going to press the point. Really my object was to draw attention to it in order to show that the lack of the number of houses promised will in itself be an incentive to landowners and house-owners to increase the rents unless this Act of Parliament is continued. I am using the law as it now is as a reason why a greatly increased number of houses should be constructed so as to prevent such a shortage as will enable house-owners to increase rents in the future. I think of all the other difficulties which the Government might be able to escape they cannot escape from this. This is almost solely an internal question. It is, of course, in part a matter of money, but it is also largely a matter of organisation. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what it is costing the country for unemployment benefit alone to keep these 117,000 building operatives who are unemployed? I would ask my right hon. Friend as a man of great business experience and knowledge what ho thinks of the plan of continuing to pay so large a number of men these bigs sums of money for doing nothing at all. Personally I never thought it was a good plan. Prom the beginning, since the end of the War, I have regretted that the unemployed were not organised or permitted to organise themselves in order to perform and carry out some useful productive work—it might be profitable work—in exchange for the money they take. I have said often I would rather pay a man the wage of £4 a week for three days' work and get something from him than pay him £2 a week for doing nothing. There a large number of men, or at any rate of families which collectively are getting £2 a week or more and are rendering no service in exchange. There is no greater waste than that kind of idleness and the Government is encouraging it by the lack of organisation. I do not say that the whole of the unemployed could have been put to productive work, but, at any rate, there are a large number, not brain workers, who go to make up this total of nearly 2,000,000 unemployed who could have been regularly kept on useful service for some part of the week and could have produced some serviceable return for the country which to some extent is providing them with a little of the wherewithal to live. If this Debate serves no other purpose I think it may be useful in enabling us to ascertain what is the further policy and administrative action of the Government in order to keep faith with its numerous pledges both inside and outside this House. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.