I was pointing out that demand creates supply, that if we demand unemployment we shall, to some extent, get unemployment, that, similarly, if we are to increase our needed supply of capital it must be by demanding capital, and the demand for capital can only take the form, in our present organisation, of a demand for capitalists. Capitalists are not necessarily men of great wealth; they are men who can and will save money. The exorbitant rewards, as many of us think, which capital is sometimes able to get at the present day are due to the fact that there are so relatively few people capable of self-denial and saving, and therefore the reward they receive is out of all proportion to the work they do. That reward will remain high as long as capitalists are few, and will diminish as they increase in number. I want to ask—though I fear it is a question nobody can answer—whether as a matter of fact we are now piling up capital as a nation or whether we are wasting it; whether from year to year now that the War is over, we are replacing the vast destruction of capital which the War caused or whether we are still continuing to deplete still further our diminished store. I ask that question because it is the most vital question for the future of the country. It is the one on which unemployment, or rather the diminution of unemployment, depends, and on which the question of the unemployment donation likewise depends. Are we still continuing to spend our capital or are we piling it up?
My hon. Friend who spoke last, the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton), complained of the terrible present state of things, and I think almost hinted that the Government had something to do with it. The condition of the country is as much outside of our possibility of changing as the condition of the weather. We might every bit as well try to pass Acts of Parliament to change the weather as to alter the economic situation of the country. It can only be altered by hard work, by self-denial, saving, thrift, industry, and public spirit. Those ancient virtues have had their value from the very beginning of time, and will maintain their value to the very end. Never will the day come when the health and prosperity of a country will depend upon anything but those. It may be necessary, in the exceptional circumstances in which we live, to act in a manner not strictly according to economic principles, but what we have to aim at is a return to sound finance, economy, and payment one to another for work done according to its value. In proportion as we return to that healthful condition of industry in that proportion will prosperity come back to the country and unemployment cease.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON:
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) referred to the speech of the Mover of the Amendment as one of the most extraordinary he had heard. I venture to suggest that if he had heard the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down he would have said we have had two of the most extraordinary speeches to which he ever listened, because what did the hon. Member say in his opening remarks? If I do not misunderstand him, he put forward a plea that the State must not step in in this most exceptional period to relieve the distress and hardship which is falling upon the country, because if it did it would dry up the wells of charity, and he argued that it was essential that private charity should be maintained. I gather from that that the only conclusion one must draw is that all the suffering for which those who suffer are in no way responsible must be maintained lest the wells of private charity shall be dried up—surely an economic and moral fallacy which I cannot think will find any support in this House. The hon. Gentleman said it was necessary that we should save and get more capital thereby. We shall all agree, but I submit to him and to the House that the scheme he suggests would be a much more expensive scheme than that which the Minister is putting forward.
Reference has been made earlier in the Debate to the fact that by means of the benefit paid under the Unemployment Insurance Act many men otherwise compelled to go to the guardians and to receive that State charity or relief which was so favoured by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who would be drawing from the guardians sums infinitely greater than those they are content to receive in the form of unemployment charity, are not doing so. My hon. Friend the Member for Lady wood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) developed that at some length. He pointed out that many self-respecting men would never receive public aid, and would refuse to go to the guardians so long as there was any means whereby they could be kept from destitution and from this unexampled unemployment. As a matter of fact, last week the unemployment committee in the town I have the honour to represent took out some figures bearing on this question, which showed that in the early days and the middle of last year out of every nine people drawing unemployment benefit only one was supplemented by benefit by going to the guardians. All were entitled to go to the guardians on account of the meagre sum they were receiving, but during that period only one out of every nine took advantage of that right. As, however, their savings were dissipated that number increased until three out of every nine went to the guardians, and inquiries I have made since show that that figure has increased still further. This emphasises what other speakers have said with reference to an unfortunate deterioration and compelling of the worker to seek that Poor assistance which, if any other means were available, he would refuse to take. He would be more content with fifteen, twenty, or twentyfive shillings from the upemployment benefit rather than get 50 shillings from the Poor Law guardians.
I would go one step further in supporting the facts brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood and say that if we could make it possible for these people to refrain from going to the guardians by increasing unemployment benefit, we should, in the end, secure a saving to the public cost. It is immaterial whether it comes out of the public taxes through the Exchequer or from public funds through the ratepayers. It is a charge on the public, and a withdrawal of money from capital in either case. If we can have a lesser sum taken because it is free from the stigma of pauperism, as it comes from the unemployment benefit, then I say that, though you are increasing the charge in one way, you are reducing the net charge by that means. I would suggest that any alteration made in Committee should rather be in the direction of increasing that than that it should be reduced. I put this plea forward, not merely from the point of view of the individuals concerned, but from the point of view of the community and of the industrial area affected, because you find that, in the industrial areas where the greatest number of people are thrown out of work, there is an increasing burden on the local rates.
On a point of Order. We are now engaged in discussing the Unemployment Insurance Bill. An hon. Member on the other side has made a speech, and my hon. Friend is now making a speech, putting forward very important points. We are dealing, too, with a financial Bill involving the expenditure of money. There is no representative of the Treasury present, and there is no one representing the Department immediately concerned. May I ask whether it is not the business of these Ministers to show the House a little courtesy in such a matter?
That is not really a point of Order, but I am with the hon. Member. I think that, especially in a case in which two Ministers are concerned, one or other of them should be present, unless there be some quite exceptional reason.
I am indebted to my hon. Friend for raising this point. It is not that I should consider any remarks that I might make to be worthy of the attention of the Minister, but his presence is due to the House, as a matter of courtesy when we are discussing a question of such great economic importance. The point I was trying to make was that an undue burden was being placed on those very areas which are least able to bear it. At the present time unemployment is bad throughout the country as a whole, but the burden is necessarily falling most heavily on those areas where big industries are normally engaged, and where not only the people engaged in those industries, but also the tradesmen and others, suffer. In addition to that, these very areas are hit more heavily than the rest of the country because they have to carry practically the whole burden of their own unemployment. In support of that contention, I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that you have a system of rating which hits most hardly the large industrial areas. I have some figures which have been taken out for rates during the current year, and I find that in a large industrial area like that of Birmingham the rates are 18s. in the £, to which are added the Poor Law charges caused by insufficiency of unemployment benefit, whereas in Blackpool, which has a small industrial population, they are 9s. In East Ham they are 27s., as against 11s. 6d. in Eastbourne, which is a large residential area. In my own town the rates are 20s., as against 10s. 10d. in the residential area of Bournemouth. In Swansea they are 18s. 8d., and in South-port 10s.; and so on throughout the country. In a greater or lesser degree the big industrial areas, which are hardest hit at the present time, are bearing a much bigger charge than those other parts of the country which are fortunately not hit to the same extent. The point I want to make is that equalisation of the burden should be helped by an increased national charge on the Exchequer, so that the whole community may help to bear that burden, which is a national burden, and in no way due to any defect in the local government of the towns and districts affected. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that he should see whether, by this system of co-ordination which he is considering, some assistance could be given, either by increased benefit or in other ways, so that these large industrial areas, which have to bear such an excessive burden, should not be further penalised. The industries that we desire to see recover are themselves burdened by these extra taxes, which are becoming a greater strain than they can possibly stand.
I should like to support the contention which has been put forward that the Minister should give more sympathetic consideration to the question of the renewal of Section 18 of the 1920 Act, which provides for insurance by industry. I know that there are limitations to what can be done in that direction, but at the present time there seem to be two lines of development—either placing on the industry itself the whole burden, or placing on the community as a whole its responsibility for these charges when they occur. I think it would be better not to rely entirely on the one or on the other, but that, by a combination of the two—by maintaining to a certain extent the charge which the community as a whole should bear in this matter, and at the same time making it in the interests of an industry to reduce by better organisation the amount of its unemployment—you might get an infinitely superior scheme to that which we have at the present time. At present there is no special interest in any industry to reduce the amount, of its unemployment. It knows that, as trade ebbs and flows, it can take on or discharge at will the number of men that may be required. There are always surplus men available for it just as it needs them. But if any particular industry had to bear the burden of that charge, and to carry, as one of its standing charges, its surplus number of unemployed upon which it could claim when industry improved, then, by means of reorganisation and of spreading work over the whole period of the year instead of doing it at certain seasonal times, it would be able in a measure—I do not say entirely—to reduce the amount of unemployment which now exists. At any rate, it would be given an incentive to seek to mitigate the evils with which we are confronted.
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that he saw gleams of hope in the lessened amount of unemployment shown in the annual returns. That may be so in certain districts, but in other districts, unfortunately, the number of unemployed is increasing week by week, and I think we shall all share the gloom and apprehension felt by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) in regard to the picture which is before us. I trust that out of the terrible suffering which is now so prevalent some good may come, in that the State and the community will recognise their responsibility in the matter in a way they have never done before. I am satisfied that we shall not go back, as those who moved and seconded this Amendment desire, to the crude doctrine of laissez faire, leaving each one to look after himself, but rather that the community as a whole, either by an extension of insurance by industry, or by a combined scheme in which the State recognises its collective responsibility, we shall be able, in the years of good trade that will come, to put by a fund upon which we can draw when the lean years follow. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the 1920 Act was suffering because there were no reserves which could be drawn upon in order to meet the period of unemployment that followed in 1920 before the Act got properly under way. That, however, was a matter which might have been foreseen. We had in 1918 a Department of Reconstruction, busy with various schemes in order to protect the country as a whole against that which was bound to follow upon a great world-wide War. The Government might in 1919 have got a scheme under way, and, in that year of abnormally good trade, might have built-up a reserve fund upon which they could have drawn at the present time. Since that was not done, I think the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly justified in asking the House to increase the amount he seeks to borrow in order to get us out of the difficulties which were not provided for on the lines I have suggested.
I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give further consideration to the proposals of the hon. Member for Lady-wood (Mr. N. Chamberlain). The local authorities might be encouraged to utilise the money which the right hon. Gentleman is prepared, in the form of benefit, to give to districts, rather in carrying out reconstruction work and schemes for the improvement of their own localities. We are told that at least £120,000,000 is likely to be spent in unemployment benefit during the next 12 months, for which there is no tangible result in the way of work performed. I think we must all agree that it is infinitely better to find work of a beneficial character, and get some value for our money. In reply to a question which I put to him the other day, the Minister said that in the building trades alone there were about 176,00p unemployed. I would urge that he should take counsel with the Minister of Health, and see whether some of those 176,000 men, to whom he is paying unemployment benefit at the rate of over £100,000 every week for doing nothing, might be set to work in building some of those houses for which the great industrial districts of this country are clamouring, and in providing some of those homes that were promised over and over again from the Government Bench. I suggest that it would be a wise economic policy, instead of spending this money in benefit, to spend it in wages to those who are accustomed by their trade to build the houses which we so much need. It is not merely a question of houses. The Minister of Education said the other day that last year a large number of schemes for increasing our school accommodation, providing open-air schools, and schools for the treatment of mental defectives, had been held up for one reason or another. It would be a wise policy, instead of spending all this money for nothing, that some of it 6hould be spent in encouraging local authorities to put in hand those schemes for social reconstruction which are absolutely necessary now, and which will have to be provided in the course of a few years' time. It would be far better to forestall by two or three years the work that has to be done, and to do it now, thereby providing work rather than merely paying unemployment benefit. I hope that the Minister will be able to persuade his colleagues that it would be really sound economic policy to have something to show for these millions which are bound to be paid away during the coming year.
I should also like to support the point put forward by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) as to whether it is not possible to remove some of those minor inequalities which do affect the working of the present Unemployment Insurance Act, particularly with regard to riverside workers and dockers. I do not want to go into the formula with which we are so well acquainted, but in the working of which hardships are inflicted, but only to suggest that now is the opportunity, when we are revising the machinery of Measures that have been passed, to find some means whereby some of these grievances, which are, possibly, minor grievances, but which cause irritation and a great sense of injustice, may be removed. A further and more important point was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby with regard to the innocent sufferers in an industrial dispute. The right hon. Gentleman made reference to the troublesome times of to-day, and perhaps I may mention, as an illustration, what happened last year in the case of the moulders' dispute. There you had, in the foundry, moulders, skilled tradesmen, who had a dispute with their employers, and who were naturally not entitled to draw benefit. But you had also their labourers, who were in no way connected with the Moulders' Union and were in no way responsible for the dispute, and yet under the ruling of the Act they were disqualified from drawing any benefit. They were members in many cases of the General Workers' Union. In the same works, in a different department, you had other labourers who were thrown out of work because of the dispute in the moulding shop, but the labourers who were working in the steel works department of the same firm, members of the same union, received their unemployment benefit, whereas their comrades who were employed in other departments did not receive it. Surely thawing a most anomalous condition, members of the same trades union, workers employed by the same firm, and yet the one received unemployment benefit and the others did not. It should not pass the wit of man to devise a formula whereby this sense of injustice can be removed, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will seize this opportunity of removing that and re- moving the other to which the hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) referred.
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman that he should learn from the experience of the past and not let things drift in the future. I think this is the fifth Unemployment Benefit Bill which the Government have introduced. Every time it has been brought in at the last minute and rushed through in order to deal with an emergency which has arisen. Cannot we be wise in the future, and cannot the Minister devise some scheme whereby when the next period of good trade comes provision shall be made during that period so that we shall not have to have this haphazard and hasty legislation when the evil is upon us I Hundreds of thousands today are suffering who have never suffered before. Unemployment is not a question of the weary Willie and the tired Tim. It is not a question of offering the workhouse. Does anyone suggest that if the 2,000,000 who are unemployed were cut off from any benefit whatever they could get work? Does anyone suggest that employers could find work whatever the wages were? Work is not forthcoming. Now is the time to put into force some of the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission of 1908, which suggested that a wise Government should plan out in advance a properly conceived scheme for dealing with this problem of unemployment, viewing it in all its aspects, so that for the future if a crisis like this should arise adequate provision should be made and funds should have been built up so that no longer should the worker have staring him in the face that dread fear of unemployment which in the past has followed every cycle of trade which has ebbed and flowed.
I wish to say a few words on the Bill from the point of view of hospital nurses—not only nurses who are in hospital, but nurses who have been fully trained. I think the House was probably not fully aware of the position until a day or two ago when they were circularised. Nurses are rather slow to take up their own case, but once they take it up and circularise hon. Members they get circulars in good numbers and everybody knows all about it. But up to recently I do not think Members of the House of Commons have realised the injustice under which nurses have been suffering by reason of the working of this
Act. A decision was come to by the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman who now sits on that Bench, that nurses, were included under the terms of the recent Act. They have a rooted objection to coming under this Act and the question whether they are really under it is one of law which has not been entirely settled because there is a case pending which will probably be taken right up to the Courts by one of our hospitals because the authorities are advised by a highly competent authority that nurses are really not included under the old Act. At any rate, according to the Minister, nurses are included under the old Act, and most of them pay their contribution. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor took a considerable time to come to a decision on the matter, from which I infer that he and his advisers were rather doubtful whether nurses were really included or not. Certain classes of people were exempt from that Act, why, I do not know—agriculture and domestic service, to mention two cases. Why were not the views of the nurses considered when that Act was drafted? They slipped into it, and now we have to try to see if we cannot slip them out of it, and now is our opportunity. About November of last year I took a deputation to see the right hon. Gentleman on this subject. It was representative of almost all the nursing associations. I should like to express our gratitude to him for the sympathetic way in which he received us. He said that under his ruling nurses were included, and the only thing to do was to bring in an amending Bill. In the present state of legislation there was a very poor chance of getting that carried into effect, but when new legislation was necessary he would consider the matter. I also had a letter from the right hon. Gentleman in which he said:
So long as the liability for unemployment exists I am bound to give very careful consideration to any suggestion for the exclusion of any particular class or person from the provisions of the Act before taking any action. If further legislation be necessary I will of course give due weight to the representations which von have made to me.
I was unable to hear the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I do not think he made any mention of nurses, and he has not told us what was the result of giving due weight to their representations. I should very much like if
he can tell us what is his opinion on the point, because it might save many of us a good deal of trouble if he would give us his decision on the matter.
I do not think there is any doubt about the volume of the opposition on the part of the nurses to be included in this Act. When the various nurses' societies found the opposition so intense to being included under the Act they took a referendum and over 35,500 trained nurses, and nurses in training, have signed a protest, which they sent to the Minister of Labour, asking him to exempt the nursing profession. The reasons for their hostility are not far to seek. The first is that, compared with other callings, there is very little unemployment. We have constantly asked for statistics, but such statistics as we have been able to get have confirmed the fact that there is very little unemployment in the nursing profession. The second point is that the machinery of the Act set up to obtain benefits, namely the Employment Exchanges, have never appealed to nurses. They are not acceptable to professional women. They are not inclined to go to Employment Exchanges and form up in queues and wait for what is called their dole. They do not like it, and rightly or wrongly they are not going for the dole. If they are unemployed they would sooner remain unemployed and not have the dole than go to the Employment Exchange and get it. The third point is that there are a large number of nurses for whom it is impossible to be unemployed. They are working in hospitals, and nurses in training, under a four-years' agreement or something of that sort whereby it is physically impossible for them to be unemployed. If they are unemployed it can only be for misconduct, or for reasons of that sort, which preclude them under the Act from getting benefit. So you have the fact that the unfortunate ladies of the nursing profession have to pay this unemployment toll, and not only that, but every now and again it is increased, and something more is put on to it, and month by month they find more and more is being taken from their slender resources, and most of them do not intend to take any benefit and very many of them cannot be in the position of wanting to take it because they are employed under a contract.
It really comes to this, that the Minister is asking nurses out of their charity to provide for other classes of the community who are unemployed, or at least to help, while they themselves are not subject to unemployment, and are paid so little that it is not possible for them to make provision for their old age and for the days when they can work no longer, which, unfortunately, come all too soon to ladies of the nursing profession. What nurses want is not such a scheme as this, but a superannuation fund. If something of that sort could be given them they would welcome it with open arms. The Minister said at the deputation in November that he was asking a penny more per week from each nurse and each employer during the coming months to help towards the maintenance of the women and children of the unemployed. He promised to survey the whole subject of unemployment insurance and superannuation as it affected nurses and to meet us again later, and he reminded us that no steps could be taken for an amending Act until next Session. There is no class in the world who would sooner help others, as their whole lives prove, but is it fair that nurses, who are, unfortunately, so very insufficiently paid at the present moment, should have money drawn from their slender resources to provide for unemployment, while they themselves do not share in the benefits of this scheme for its relief? I am perfectly certain the Minister for Labour—who has shown himself sympathetic, and I have already thanked him—I am certain he does not want to take advantage of the nurses, but I am not sure that the people who merely look on the figures and advise him on the financial side will have the same feeling, because obviously the very argument I have used will appeal to them. It is good for them that there should be people in the Bill who are paying money and getting no advantage. They will throw up their caps and shout "Hurrah!" because by that means their scheme will be an entirely successful one from the Minister's point of view. However, I am perfectly certain I can appeal to the Minister, and that he will not in this case put nurses in that position.
I have already mentioned the large number of signatures we had objecting to the inclusion of nurses. I do not think there is any doubt about the facts. Very I often nurses are divided on certain sub jects, but in this particular case the great volume of the nursing profession is entirely at one. They want to be exempted, and, if there are any who do not wish to be exempted, surely it is possible to put in a Clause which would make it optional for anyone who wanted to remain in to do so. If it be not possible to grant an option, I do press the Minister to give me a reply and say what his action is to be. He said to our deputation in his letter that he would give due consideration to our representation, and let us know at the proper time, when new legislation was necessary, whether he could help us or not. The time has now come when new legislation is being introduced. There is not a word about the exclusion of nurses in this Bill, and nothing has fallen from the Minister's lips on the subject. I do not know whether that is a bad omen or not.
It is all very well for hon. Members and the Minister to talk about the nursing profession, about the magnificent work that they did, and the national tributes paid to nurses, but here is an opportunity when we can do something for them. If I am wrong in my facts I am willing to be corrected, but I think I am safe in saying that the vast majority of the nurses wish to be out of the Bill. The societies I quoted were not unanimous on every point, but were unanimous on that. There was another society which did not come in, but I think you will not find that they are keen at this moment on stopping out. They would have liked some other scheme, but I do not think you will find any great opposition from that quarter, and if opposition does appear from that quarter I think the Minister should make himself aware of the numbers who are represented by it, because there is a very small minority of people who wish to remain in the Bill. I do not wish to say any more at this stage, but I should like at a future time, on the Committee stage, to move an Amendment excluding nurses from the operation of the Bill. If the Minister will tell us some time shortly that he is prepared to consider such a thing, it will make the matter very simple. We have all talked about our admiration for the nurses, and our desire to do something for them. Here is our opportunity, and I do ask the Minister not to turn a deaf ear to our plea, but to give it as careful consideration as I would like.
I am glad the unemployment question is pressing itself upon Parliament to such an extent that it comes before the House periodically and emerges at last as a question of importance to statesmen. Not many years ago, when the unemployed were clamouring for something to be done, Parliament took very little heed of their requests. I repeat that I am glad the unemployment problem has become one for discussion and one to be translated, I hope, into ameliorative Measures that will help us out of our difficulties. I was astonished to hear some of the arguments used in this House to-day. I trust and hope that the hon. Member who represents the Universities (Sir M. Conway) in this House is not expressing their point of view when he says that charity ought to be sufficient to meet this problem. I wish the hon. Member could come with me to a mining district I visited early this week, where practically the whole of the people are either totally or partially unemployed. When he addressed this House to-day and made the statement that the State should not intervene in an affair of this kind and added that charitable means should be sufficient to meet the case, I wondered what he would have said about that township where practically the whole of the people are in abject poverty. There are no persons living in that township, so far as I know, who are capable in any way of extending charity to their unfortunate friends and neighbours. Unemployment as we know it to-day is the result of a great national calamity. It is the result of the War, and we on these benches claim that the effects of the War ought to be dealt with nationally in exactly the same fashion as we dealt with the War itself. The consequences of the War ought to be a national concern just as the War was a concern of the State. I feel sure that the statement of the Minister of Labour to-day will be received with keen disappointment by the unemployed and organised working people of this country. Last October the Prime Minister came forward in this House and raised the hopes of the people of this country with his unemployment proposals. These were that the Government would set aside £25,000,000 to stimulate trade; that they would make grants amounting to £10,000,000 by way of loans to local authorities to provide work on relief schemes for the unemployed; and that they were willing to spend a sum of £300,000 to help ex-service men to emigrate. His fourth proposal was to the effect that men and women who are in constant employment would be levied a sum of 2d. per week in order to provide 5s. for the wives of the unemployed men and 1s. in respect to each child. Bearing these hopes in mind, the unemployed to-day will be greatly disappointed with the paltry proposal that the Minister of Labour is now bringing forward. What does it mean? It means that the Government have nothing whatsoever to offer to the unemployed people of this country except the continuance of this benefit.
That is the point I am coming to. We are at last down to the one and only proposal, so far as I know, that the Government can make to deal with the unemployment problem. If I understood the reply of the right hon. Gentleman to a question to-day, he stated that the unemployed benefits paid in 1920 amounted to £15,500,000; in 1921 to £62,500,000; and in the first three months of 1922, £16,500,000. I am glad that he has been good enough on more than one occasion to try to destroy the idea which is abroad that this money is in the nature of a dole. It is nothing of the kind. The men in the workshops and factories have paid for this benefit just as they have contributed for the benefits of the State Health Insurance scheme.
I come now to a point made by the hon. Member representing the English Universities when he said that this was other people's money, and that we were very ready in this House to grant away huge sums which belonged to someone else. I hope I may not be misunderstood by hon. Members on the other side of the House when I state that if all the workpeople of this country declined to work for two or three months, there would be no money worth having in this country. When the unemployed are receiving this benefit, partly paid by the employer and partly by the State, they are only receiving a portion of that wealth which they have created in the past, and which ought to have been theirs a long time ago. We have a report from the Government Actuary relative to the proposals contained in this Bill. I am glad to note that this is a report by a Government Actuary; it is not an actuarial report. It is impossible, with regard to unemployment in this or any other country, to make an actuarial report. I think the actuary has done well out of a bad job. I would not criticise the actuary, because I know the valuable work he has done for the State. But I think it was grossly unfair to ask any actuary to give us a report on these proposals. There is no basis whatsoever for an actuarial calculation on unemployment. The trade unions have endeavoured for years to analyse and secure a guide from their statistics regarding unemployment. I dare venture to remind the Minister of his own statements he made on his proposals in October, which he will now find are repudiated. The whole of the report of the actuary has been proved to be incorrect. No actuary, however clever he may be, can at any time forecast unemployment in this or any other country. The Minister of Labour knows that all you can do is to tell the actuary the number of unemployed you think will come on the funds, and then he makes calculations the best way he can.
The present Estimate given by the Minister is too optimistic. I do not want to be pessimistic. I think it is the duty of all leaders of men to press forward, as far as possible, in an optimistic mood. At the same time, I venture to call the attention of the Minister to these calculations; ho states that in June, 1922, there will be 1,900,000 unemployed in this country, and 1,500,000 unemployed afterwards. I would like to ask him by what reasoning he has arrived at these figures? It may be a new doctrine in this House, but I venture to say what a large number of economists are thinking—that the whole system of society under which we are now living is likely to break down. It is well worth while stating what is said by men of intelligence in this country, that the capitalist system, as we know it, has absolutely failed. The Minister of Labour ought, I think, to take account of that in his calculations.
I come now to the question of the charge that is made of malingering. I must here pay a tribute to the Minister of Labour. I have felt delighted on many occasions that he has resisted the charge made of malingering on the part of people drawing benefits. The charge is made by inference in this House that, so long as we continue paying unemployment benefit, men and women who receive it will not week work. As one experienced in administering the distribution of State health benefits I can say that there are more workpeople who return to employment before they are physically fit than there are those who take the reverse course. In fact, we ought to make this as clear as we can on every occasion, that the normal occupation of man is work, and that the vast majority of our people will work if they can get it. If work could be found to-day as we found work during the period of the War, the Minister of Labour would not require to come to this House to ask for the passing of this Bill. I speak from personal experience on another point. In January this year most approved societies paying sickness and disablement benefits to the very persons who are insured for unemployment benefit have had the appalling experience, that they have paid away, on the average, twice the amount of sickness benefit that they paid away in any corresponding period since 1912. Unemployment is not only demoralising our people in the way indicated by some hon. Members, but it is deteriorating their physique. Unless we can find work we shall come to the point when a large number of them will be totally unemployable. I wonder why we cannot emerge with a new philosophy in this connection. It would be a thousand times better for our people if they were employed, even if the balance-sheet of their employment in a commercial way showed a dead loss of £1 a week per man. That would be better than continuing as we are now, paying away huge sums of money without any return whatsoever. That I suggest is a statement which ought to receive careful consideration. The relief schemes now in existence are very unremunerative. Work should be productive, and there is still a great deal to be done in that direction.
In conclusion, I agree with the Minister when he states that we are departing from the ordinary rules of insurance when we are dealing with a Bill such as is now before the House. Insurance, after all, ought to mean that a person who pays contributions is entitled, at any rate, to receive benefits if he is otherwise eligible. But you have persons contributing to this scheme who will never be entitled to them. You have unmarried persons who are not entitled to the 5s. and 1s. allowances. It is not an insurance scheme at all; and I would ask the Minister not to take so much heed of the demand made for in insurance by industry. When you come down to the thousand and one little industries which cannot be regarded in the same category as the mining, railway, or any of the big industries, there, I think, the Minister would find difficulties. Take the dressmaking trade. No industry covering dressmaking could provide an insurance that would give benefit for people because they are unemployed for three or four months every year. I hope the Minister will resist, therefore, any claims made upon him with regard to insurance by industry pure and simple. I feel that a great step in advance has been made and that the State is, after all, accepting some responsibility for unemployment. I believe, of course from an economic point of view, that unemployment is only just as old as capitalism itself, and will die when capitalism dies—when we have a better system of society. But in the interim Parliament does well to consider these schemes, and I am sorry that the Minister of Labour is in the position that he has to provide a scheme at the worst time, probably, in history. I would have preferred that a scheme had been launched when the workpeople were in constant employment; reserves could then have been set aside to meet bad days. What troubles the world is that the War destroyed our means to live decently. Whereas the Minister of Labour may be satisfied, possibly, with this Measure, I trust that in the Cabinet he will do his best to work for peace and goodwill on earth, which is the only means whereby we can do away with unemployment altogether.
Why should well-favoured trades be left out of a national scheme of this sort? There may be some grounds for making an exception in the case of nurses, but the essence of an insurance scheme is the average risk. It will never do to include the worst trades and to exclude the best from the Bill. That brings me to to the point of unemployment insurance by industry. I hope the Minister will not attach too much importance to that argument. In any scheme of insurance it is the average risk that has to be taken, and if you exclude the best trades and keep in the worst, you weaken, if not destroy, the whole scheme. An hon. Member, speaking from the Labour Benches, showed that he was fully alive to the limitations of any scheme of insurance by industry. Our industries are not in what might be called watertight compartments. When the scheme of unemployment insurance was first brought in, I confess that I was opposed to the whole business, but now that it has been in operation, and has been extended, I hold that the right policy is to take full advantage of the scheme, to enlarge it and to make it more comprehensive that it has been hitherto.
Reference has been made to the payment to local authorities of the insurance benefit in order that the money may be employed on relief works. That could not be done. The payment is made to the individual and not to local authorities. Whatever may be done—and much may still be done to provide funds for local authorities to engage in relief work—it is possible for the Minister to do anything of the kind under this scheme.
That brings me to the suggestion that the payment of the benefit is a charity. It is nothing of the kind. Wherever you have a contributory scheme of this nature, with three-quarters of the contributions borne by employers and workmen, and about one-quarter by the State, it is an abuse of words to call the unemployment benefit a charity. If the scheme were non-contributory and the State paid all, it might be argued that it was the same as local Poor Law relief. If we manage to steer through the present abnormal conditions and the oppression that is bearing upon industry—these conditions are greatly alleviated by the proposals of this Bill—and if we get back to normal times, it would be quite possible to build up such a fund in connection with unemployment insurance that in times of abnormal depression it would be able to bear all the burdens cast upon it, and to give benefits even on a larger scale and for a longer period. We should not judge this scheme by the present abnormal conditions. Let us get through these trying times, and we shall then be able to extend and build up the scheme on a national basis, bringing in as many trades as possible.
I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister of Labour the case of unemployed fishermen. I am quite aware of the difficulty of including what are called share fishermen within the Bill, but that does not excuse the Minister or the House from considering the fact that in the fishing industry the conditions are almost as bad as, and in some cases are perhaps worse, in this country than in any other country. The class of men to whose case I draw attention are men who are not fishermen all the year round. Many thousands of them belong to what might be called an amphibious class. They work on land and they work at sea; they draw their living from the land as well as from the sea. They go for a few weeks' fishing, but for most of the year are engaged on land as general labourers. As they are engaged in fishing part of the year they are classified as fishermen. I get scores of complaints from men of that type and I send the Minister of Labour a sample now and then. The reply I receive always is that fishing being their employment they cannot come within this Bill, although as general labourers working on the roads or picking up a job on a farm they pay the unemployment contribution whilst so engaged. These men when discharged from that labouring work and unemployed get no benefit, because technically they are classified as fishermen.
The right hon. Gentleman would do a great service to a deserving class, not only in my own constituency, but all round the coast of Scotland, if, by Regulation or otherwise, these men could be regarded as general labourers. That is really what they are. Thousands of these men did great service in the Royal Naval Reserve and in the Army during the War. An administrative point I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister is, that when these cases are refused the reason for refusal should be given. In that way a great deal of correspondence could be avoided. In addition to the men I have mentioned, there are thousands of women in the same case. They are occasional workers, employed for a few weeks here and a few weeks there, and falling just short of the necessary qualification. Before this Bill becomes law, the Minister should take these cases into consideration and see if he cannot do something to meet them. These people are not so numerous as the workers in the great centres of industry, but the distress to the individual is the same, in both cases. I know the right hon. Gentleman is sympathetic, and I appreciate his difficulty in the matter, but I think a solution could be found for this difficulty, which particularly affects my own part of the country. As I have said, these men are amphibious. They are in such a situation that they may fall between two stools and receive no assistance at all. I hope the Minister will look into their grievance and do something, in connection with this Bill, to remedy it, if it cannot be remedied by means of a Regulation.
Mr. L. MALONE:
The only three Members so far in the Debate to oppose the suggestion of giving relief to the unemployed have shown a sense of complete dissociation from the realities of the evils arising from unemployment. I suggest that those gentlemen should go down to the East End of London, and see the conditions under which the unemployed are living, and the terrible situation in which they are placed to-day. Let these gentlemen go down there, where I have been only recently, and see what it is like. Let them see the small, dank, dark, dripping, unhealthy insanitary hovels of three or four rooms each, containing four or five families, numbering perhaps 25 to 35 individuals. I think if they do so they will not come back here and make such speeches as we have heard this afternoon. They tell us that industry cannot afford to pay this dole. I need only, in reply to that, suggest looking at the figures of the money which industry has been able to find in the last 12 months. It found no less than £389,000,000 worth of new capital, which is greater than the amount raised in 1920, and twice the amount found in the pre-War year of 1913. I do not need to say anything more as to the opponents of the Bill. I suggest, first, that they should look into the question of the lives which these people lead, and, secondly, ascertain the facts of the financial situation before opposing the Measure.
I am not, however, speaking in support of this Measure further than that I realise, as the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) said, that we have got to be thankful it it, but only because half a loaf is better than no bread. This Bill shows the patchwork, tinkering nature of the present Government's legislation. It shows that the Government have no intention of dealing with the root causes of unemployment. What are those root causes? I believe, and an ever-increasing number of people in the country believe, that unemployment will continue while industry is organised, as it is to-day, while industry is run for private profit and not for public benefit. Just so long as industry is maintained on this system, so long will we find a reserve of labour either growing or declining, but always there, in recurring cycles, according to the trade situation. The employers welcome that situation. They approve of an organisation of industry under which they can discharge their men out of the shops, without any responsibility, without any care as to how the men live, but with the knowledge that, whenever the men are wanted, whenever trade increases, they have only to go outside their gates and find half-starving men whom they can call in to work at any wages they like to offer.
If it be really necessary to continue to live under this system of society, then industry ought to provide for its unemployed when it cannot give them work. It is a matter for discussion as to whether each industry should find that wage or whether it should be found by organised groups of industry. I would not offer an opinion on that here, but if industry cannot provide employment for its people it should find them at least a living wage when it cannot give them work. Let us look at the other side of the case. How are shareholders treated in this matter? Every large industrial undertaking in the country, from year to year, builds up a reserve fund, out of which, in lean years such as we are now experiencing, the directors supplement the profits which they give to shareholders. In 1921 the great firm of J. and P. Coats, the cotton thread monopolists in this country, only made profits amounting to £2,000,000 sterling. The directors did not consider that that was enough for their ordinary shareholders so they took out of the reserve fund an extra quarter of a million and paid it to the ordinary shareholders. In this way the ordinary shareholders who contribute nothing to the work of the industry are safeguarded in the lean years. Is the worker safeguarded in the same way? Not at all. Directors who can pay large sums to shareholders in lean years are content to see workers starving at the gates in periods of unemployment.
That can be quite easily ascertained. My point is that unemployment is a feature of our modern industrial system. The unprecedented unemployment with which we are confronted today is due to the international situation. It is due to the Treaty of Versailles. If you isolate Germany, refuse to make peace with Russia, and divide Eastern Europe and the Balkans into unnatural and illogical sections, cutting off the industries of one part from the markets of another, then you break up the whole trade situation in Europe, and unemployment is bound to continue. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence in the Cabinet to see that at the forthcoming International Conference at Genoa the whole of the Peace Treaty is revised.
It only serves to illustrate my point. In my constituency there is a great railway construction works. At present there are thousands unemployed in that area. In Europe there are 19,000,000 people about to die, because they cannot get locomotives and rolling stock to carry them the food supply which they want. In this country there are 2,000,000 out of work and starving, because they are not allowed to make the locomotives which are wanted by the 19,000,000. Why cannot they do so?
It is not the Communist system. It is the capitalist system of the present Coalition Government which is keeping the nations of Europe at war one against the other. The unemployment has been increased by the engineering lock-out. The Minister of Labour, in his speech to-day, shed crocodile tears over the fact that the trade union funds were being seriously depleted. I wonder whether the reason why he did not intervene sooner in this lock-out was any desire on the part of the Government to deplete the election funds of the trade unions I We are told that we cannot afford to pay the unemployed greater doles, but I look to what we are paying the other unemployed helpers of the Government, the unemployed working white officers in a Government camp at Ismailia. We are paying a man £1 1s. 7d. a week, his wife £1 1s. 7d. a week, and each child 14s. 3½d. a week. A family of five, because they are anti-socialists, are being paid £4 6s. 0½d. a week, but in this country a similar family of five is lucky if it gets £1 2s. a week. Why cannot the working classes of this country at least be put on the same footing as these people in Egypt? I have only got to look at Government publications in the Vote Office to see that to-day 90,000 persons are in receipt of incomes exceeding £2,000, that 1,000 are in receipt of incomes over £40,000, and that 600 people have incomes of £50,000, that is to say, they are more or less millionaires, so that, although the country is in this terrible condition, at least we are not very badly off in millionaires. Do you really think we can afford this luxury I suggest that the Minister of Labour should get his axe to bear on some of these millionaires and divert the proceeds to the relief of the unemployed.
I want the Minister of Labour to confer with the Minister of Health in regard to the very serious situation in which many of our boards of guardians are finding themselves to-day. Sooner or later many boards of guardians will be absolutely bankrupt. In the West Ham area the rates are already 26s. 4d. in the £, and if more money has to be borrowed the rates will still go up. You cannot expect these poor industrial areas, where the millionaires are not situated, to go on increasing and piling up their rates. You must deal with the situation nationally. You will find the same problem confronting the boards of guardians in all the other areas in industrial districts. I will not say more on this matter, because it will be raised very soon by a deputation to the Prime Minister, and also on an occasion in this House; but on this Debate it is well to remind the Minister of Labour that he has some responsibility in this matter. The point I make to-night is that unemployment is, firstly, a part of the system of society we live under, and, secondly, it is due to the international situation; but are there no palliatives, no immediate remedies, for dealing with the unemployed in the way of giving them work? It is the most demoralising atmosphere into which millions of men are getting—bad for them, bad for their intellect, bad for their physique. There is work which they can be given, any amount of work waiting to be done, all over the country.
Where are these great housing schemes? In the Minister of Labour's opening remarks he foreshadowed that this unemployment will go on among well over a million for the next 18 months. Would not this be a very good opportunity for dealing with the housing problem? I believe that in a year or two, if it were really tackled in the way in which we tackled the munitions during the War, the whole of the housing troubles would be remedied. I suggest that the Minister of Labour should get some Army huts, erect them on the open spaces near our large industrial towns—in London I would erect them in Epping Forest and in the other surrounding parts—transport your population by streets, by blocks, by sections, put them in these huts, demolish the houses, build proper new houses, sanitary houses, with all the modern conveniences, put your population back into these new houses, deal with the next section, transport them into the huts, demolish that section, rebuild it, and so on, until you obliterated the whole of our slums from the North to the South of the country. There are other kinds of work as well. You have only got to go into the East End of London or in any working class district to see how bad the roads are. In the West End of London you will find highly polished macadam surfaces, in which you can see your face as if in a looking glass, but in the East End or the slum areas you will find great holes, which remind one of the Western Front in France, loose bricks, and other débris. There is any amount of work which can be done if the Minister of Labour would really tackle it.
There is the question of the schools. I do not want to develop all these schemes, but you have only to go into any school in some of the poorer districts of London and you will find them to be antique, out-of-date, unhealthy, insanitary, completely unsuited for the modern systems of education. I should suggest to the Minister of Labour that a good deal of work could be found in these schools. I was in a school this morning in my constituency, a terrible place, like a great barrack. They had to borrow things from a church to be used in this elementary school, containing 300 or 400 boys, and there was no ventilation, no sanitary arrangements, and no lighting. I need not develop these grievances. Where are these great electricity schemes of which we have heard I Where are these nine or ten power stations that were going to be erected all over England? The fact is that to-day I do not believe a single brick has been laid under that scheme, and as long as this Government remains in power I do not suppose that it ever will. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour owes his present position very largely to the work he did when he was a member of the teaching profession, and I regret to say that he has not done all ho might have done in the Cabinet for the teaching profession in regard to the recent cuts in education.
Here is an opportunity wherein the right hon. Gentleman can really regain the confidence of the people of this country. I ask him to try and realise what unemployment means. I ask him to go into some of these slum areas, to go down to the East End of London, only half-an-hour's journey from this House by Underground, or go into his own constituency and see the conditions under which the unemployed live. If he were to live amongst them and mix in their daily life, he would not come to the House with these tinkering, palliative measures which we have before us to-day. I urge him to adopt a more humane attitude towards the unemployed, and to I supplement this Bill, which is a half- measure, by wider, more comprehensive, more vital and far more generous methods.
I should like to explain, if I may, that when I asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House earlier in the evening, because there were no Ministers present representing the Labour Department, I did not in the least intend it as a mark of disrespect to my right hon. Friend, or in the least as a personal criticism of him, because we all realise that he does attend this House whenever there is anything on regarding his Department, and, as a matter of fact, until then he had been in the House the whole time from 4 o'clock. My criticism was directed to the fact that in his absence the Parliamentary Secretary was not here, and there was nobody here representing the Treasury.
I only wanted to make it quite clear that I do not in any way offer a personal criticism of the right hon. Gentleman. Although everybody knows that this is a very important Bill, I think it is even more important than would appear at first sight, because, as I understand, for the first time a Bill on unemployment is being linked up directly with the Poor Law. Look at Clause 12, Sub-section (2), which says:
Section twenty-seven of the principal Act (which relates to out-door relief) shall cease to have effect, and in determining whether outdoor relief shall or shall not be granted to a person in receipt of or entitled to receive benefit, the authority having power to grant the relief shall take into account the amount of the benefit.
That makes unemployment insurance a part of poor relief, and, so far as I know, it has never been put so plainly or at all in any Bill or Act of Parliament, that, practically, unemployment insurance is to be considered in the future as part of poor relief. If that really be the case, it is no use pretending that it is not.
Therefore, in future you are going to have still further duplication of work between Poor Law relief on the one hand, and the unemployment insurance benefit on the other. This Bill also perpetuates the six months' scheme that was to last until May of this year. Sir Alfred Watson, the Government Actuary, in his Report makes it perfectly clear that these benefits and contributions will have to go on, not only until 1923, but until the scheme is solvent. He makes it quite clear that this scheme is not going to become solvent for several years after 1923, and, therefore, we are faced with these heavy contributions for an indefinite number of years. I am very sorry indeed, because I very much hoped by this time my right hon. Friend would have been able to bring forward some scheme of insurance by industry. I also hoped very much that he would have been able to produce by this time some kind of scheme to do away with all the duplication of the two schemes of health insurance on the one side, and unemployment insurance on the other. It is quite clear now that we shall not be able to get any simplification of this business until the present scheme is solvent, in an indefinite number of years' time, and really this duplication, this overlapping of the two schemes, is quite unnecessary. In the Geddes Committee Report there is a report sent by Sir Alfred Watson, the Government Actuary, to the Geddes Committee, in which he says with regard to the duplication of cards and stamps:
It is a striking fact that since the unemployment system was extended, the contribution record of each of 12,000,000 people under compulsory insurance has been practically duplicated, the approved society keeping one account (since practically every worker insured against unemployment is also insured on the Health side) and the Ministry of Labour keeping the other. In my opinion, such administrative arrangements should be attempted, by co-operation, as to secure that one only of these records need be maintained, and with this, one contribution card used, instead of two.
What I want to ask my right hon. Friend is what really is the reason for the terrible delay which has taken place in simplifying this question of double cards and double stamps? Sir Alfred Watson presented his Report to the Geddes Committee on 5th December last year. The Government had the Geddes Committee's Report in their hands before Christmas, but the Committee of Inquiry set up by
my right hon. Friend was not appointed until two months after the Report of the Geddes Committee to the Government, in spite of the Geddes Committee's recommendation that this simplification should be carried out forthwith. After all, the Government actuary, Sir Alfred Watson, must have had the whole process of simplification in his mind before he presented that Report to the Geddes Committee on the 5th December. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend what really has been the reason for the delay? This Committee which has been set up has been sitting for six weeks, and has not issued an Interim Report to the public, at all events.
I do not want to go into all the reasons, but I understand that certain Labour representatives who were on that Committee talked so much, and delayed business so much, that they could not come to a decision at all on it for weeks and weeks. The delay means that if you could have come to a decision about these cards and stamps it could have come into operation on the first Monday in July, whereas the whole thing now is deferred, and nothing whatever can take place regarding this simplification of cards and stamps for another 12 months until July of next year. It also means, incidentally, that for another 12 months beyond what I believe necessary, you are going to have an enormous extra staff at the Ministry of Labour looking after all this duplication. I think also this duplication leads to very unfair claims on the funds. I have got here the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, Sir Malcolm Ramsay. He says:
The benefits granted under the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920, extend to nearly all classes of employment included in the Health Insurance scheme, and the Regulations provide that applicants for unemployment benefit shall certify that they are not in receipt of sickness benefit.
Then he goes on to say:
Although precautions have been taken, a number of cases have been discovered by the Ministry of Labour in which unemployment benefit or out-of-work donation has been issued concurrently with health benefit,
and the increased scope of Unemployment Insurance naturally involves increased risk of concurrent issues.
It is only natural that this should take place. The waiting period for sickness benefit is three days. The waiting period for unemployment benefit is six days. Therefore, if a person who is unemployed gets a doctor's certificate that he is sick, of course he scores to the extent of these extra days. The Journal of the Iron and Steel Trades Federation shows this quite clearly in its pages. It says that the approved societies show that in three months of 1920 while trade was good that the sickness claims were very low, but the journal goes on to show that for the corresponding three months of 1921, when unemployment was rife, trade claims for sickness benefit were very high, and increased by no less than 25 per cent. In the present duplication it sometimes pays a man to claim for unemployment benefit and it sometimes pays him to claim for sickness benefit, so that a tricky person gets as much advantage as he possibly can. My point is this; If you can do something to do away with this duplication and combine the two systems in one, as I believe can quite easily be done, you do away with the whole of these abuses.
I should like to get a little closer to this Bill. Some of its provisions are very unfair, and as probably we are going, I think, to have a very short time in the Committee stage, I should just like to mention three points. The first point is that married insured persons are getting much larger benefits under this Bill than unmarried persons. The normal benefit is 15s., and the married man gets, in addition to that, 5s. for his dependent wife and 1s. extra for each dependent child. [An HON. MEMBER: "As it should be!"] It may be perfectly fair. I do not dispute that aspect, but my point is that you are now making an unmarried person, who gets lower benefit, pay a heavy contribution for the benefit of the married ones. I do not think that is at all fair. This provision was put in force in 1921 under the Unemployed Workers' Dependants Act, and it was only applied for six months. But it is now going to be extended, not only to 1923, but for an indefinite number of years until the fund becomes solvent, so that for an indefinite number of years you are making the un- married person pay a very heavy rate for the benefit of the married man. That is a very unfair proposal.
The second point is this: Under this scheme the person with a low rate of unemployment has to pay for the person with a high rate of unemployment. For instance, clerks and shop assistants have a low rate of unemployment and they pay just the same rate of contribution as the engineer, the dock worker, the transport worker, and a person engaged in the furniture trades, where there is a very high rate of unemployment. In the Actuary's Report, Sir Alfred Watson shows the tremendous difference there is between these various trades in the matter of unemployment. The percentage in shop assistants is 2.8, while that of the trades coming under the 1911 Act, the engineers and so forth, have an unemployment rate of 6.5. The Report shows that the dock trades have a rate of 10, the transport workers and people engaged in the furniture trades of 6, and general labourer 10—an enormous difference.
I agree with that. But to my mind—to pursue my point—the unfairness to the unmarried man is cumulative. You make the unmarried clerk not only pay for the married man's extra benefit, but you also make him pay for a far higher rate of unemployment than his own. Finally, there is in this Bill absolutely no encouragement for the good employer, who, during a period of slack trade, keeps his work together, and his men, it may be, on half time, gives them a certain amount of wages, as against a bad employer, who, when the slightest risk of unemployment appears, sacks the whole of his men and closes down till times get good again. My right hon. Friend will remember that in the 1911 Act a rebate was given to the employer who kept his men in work. That was an admirable bit of finance. It encouraged the employers to keep their men at work as long as possible. That has been abolished, and I think it is a great pity. My right hon. Friend has got a Committee sitting at the present moment to inquire, I believe, into the question of insurance by industry. I should like to suggest to him that he goes much wider. I should like to see a Royal Commission, not with narrow, but with very wide terms of reference to inquire not only into the question of insurance by industry, but into the whole question of overlapping between unemployment and health insurance, and the whole relations existing at the present time between the Poor Law and Unemployment Insurance. I believe until we deal far more fundamentally with the problem than it has really been dealt with up till now, we shall never got the proper value for the enormous sums of money that we spend.
I would not have intervened had it not been that the bulk of my constituents are out of work, and have been for 12 months. One of the things which are very disquieting in these proposals to myself and my constituents is that we see no possibility of the continuation of benefit to these people. I hope I may get something from the right hon. Gentleman which will be some satisfaction to these people who live in Weardale, Teesdale, Barnard Castle, and so on. Their unemployment benefit expires next week. I should like to ask if there is anything in the way of the continuation of benefits to these people? Have they to be left to cold charity, or resort to the workhouse, as suggested by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury)?
I made it clear that for the people whose benefits expired on the 5th April the last payment would be the 7th April. They will not get any payment on the following Friday, but on the 21st, which is the Friday after, they will get the three days as part benefit.
Even that brief period is almost tragic in the case of men who for 12 months have only had the assistance of the unemployment dole, and who have exhausted all their savings. I may be rather old-fashioned, and I have not the international vision possessed by many of my colleagues, but I believe it is possible to do something much better than what is being proposed by the Government. There are many poor people who are not going to benefit by this Measure at all. The proposals put forward by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) are not going to promote the introduction of unemployed measures of this description. They tell us that we have to bring down the cost of production. If that principle were true as far as the mines of this country are concerned, there would have been an abundance of demand for miners; but the very fact of cutting down wages to the minimum instead of increasing work for the miners, has actually diminished employment in the mines. It has destroyed the home markets and this has prevented other work going on because people have not the spending power to buy what they require.
It has been suggested that we must put Central Europe right. That is part of the great problem we have to deal with, but I think something can be done at our own doors. On this question I think the Members of the Labour party ought to have been consulted more than they have been, and their advice should have been taken, and then something more would have been done to mitigate unemployment in this country. There is much useful work which could be found to reduce the large number of men who are out of work, and it is work of a lucrative and productive character. After this Bill has been passed we shall be asked to consider the wisdom of granting loans to East India in order to develop that country, and within a week or two we shall be finding £50,000,000 to develop the resources of India. That may be quite just and proper, but I think it would be much more in the interests of this nation if, instead of paying out doles for unemployment, we could find these men some useful productive work on which the money would be better spent, and which would at the same time add to the dignity and independence of our people, instead of humiliating them by doles.
In the pigeon-holes of our Government Departments there are no end of splendid schemes, which have been arranged by experts and men of special ability, dealing with reconstructive work, and they were framed in order that when the War was finished we should be able to absorb all the men who returned to this country in useful employment. All those schemes have now been relegated to the limbo of lost rubbish. Hon. Members opposite take delight in lecturing Members of the Labour party, but I want to suggest to them what can be done. We want to see them get out those schemes of reconstruction in the possession of the Board of Trade, and apply them in our constituencies. Hon. Members opposite wish to keep all those schemes still-born instead of allowing them to come to life.
There are schemes under which electricity supplies could be undertaken, dynamos could be established, and a large number of men could be found employment by the construction of transmission lines for the supply of electricity which would give heat, light and comfort to people in those particular areas. That could be undertaken, and it would be far more valuable and profitable than spending the money in doles to the unemployed. In the past, when we have made these proposals to the Board of Trade, we have got no response, although there was plenty of energy displayed in these matters during the War. We hear hon. Members speaking a good deal now about what is necessary for economy and to produce initiative and inventions. One wonders where those hon. and learned Gentlemen have been living. It would seem almost as if they had simply stepped out of a picture. We have got the men, we have the ability, but there is no coordination in the Government Departments to utilise that dynamic energy and organised ability which we possessed in 1917 and 1918. That would assist my hon. Friend opposite.
I am not referring to the hon. Member individually; I am referring to the nation, and I say the adoption of this course would also prevent our people continuing in the demoralised state in which they are to-day. It is said that we on these benches can only criticise the Government; that we cannot make reconstruction proposals. I think I have made one such proposal. The next thing I would like done is to see some of the schemes which we are going to be asked within the next week or two to put into force in India and in the Colonies attempted in this country also, for they, too, would assist in reducing the cost of production. We want to see in my constituency light railways which would open up fertile lands and give employment to men on the land. It is true that landlords might pocket the profits, but even then employment would be found for men, the needs of the nation would be supplied, and that would be far better than for the men to continue wasting their time and living on doles. If I were to talk about the taxation of land values no doubt I would be ruled out of order, but here again is another constructive proposal which we have made. We think it would be far better to open up our country. Although we are the most intensely organised country in Europe, yet there are parts of the land immensely rich in coal, limestone, lead, silver, and even gold which have not yet been touched. They have been silent since the days of Adam, yet there are to be found all the minerals that we want to assist us in our industrial concerns. Here, again, it would be possible to reduce the cost of production, for we would be getting minerals from our own land which we now import from foreign lands. At the same time, work would be found for our men, our railway communications could be shortened to a very great extent and vastly improved, and an enormous saving could be effected in the working of our mines. It surely would be far better to employ our men on work of this character than to allow them to remain unemployed, thereby bringing bankruptcy to the boards of guardians.
To-day I received a resolution which shows the exasperation felt by local authorities. They suggest that the Government instead of carrying out their unemployed schemes should assist the local authorities the more effectively to cope with the unemployed problem in their own areas. I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will take some notice of that suggestion. In my I own area, in the county of Durham, the guardians complain that they have to shoulder the bulk of the liabilities due to unemployment, while an enormous amount of wealth is taken out of the area by people who render absolutely no service to the community. They simply take the royalties out of the area and do not contribute a penny for local expenditure. In the last quarter of last year in the county of Durham £234,776 went to the royalty owners and not one penny was paid by them to the local rates. It is I agree with hon. Members around me a shame that that should be so. There ought to be legislation passed by this House to carry out the promise made by the Government 15 years ago whereby royalties could be taken over. If that were done then the local authorities would be better able to deal with their own problems, they would be better able to organise labour in order that their needs might be supplied, and the overburdened ratepayer would as a result be relieved. There is only one other observation I want to make.
I am sorry I am tiring the hon. Member for Newcastle Central (Sir G. Renwick). If he thinks that my proposals are not likely to solve the question, I am sure I will be prepared to listen patiently to any suggestion be may have to make. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City, who seconded the rejection of the Bill, suggested that the Minister of Labour ought to assert himself and to tell the House that the time has come when unemployment doles should cease. I am certain my hon. Friend opposite will say "Hear, hear!" to that. The right hon. Baronet also suggests that working men should be told that the only avenue open to them leads to the workhouse. Some of us have had long experience in the administration of the Poor Law. We know the cost of maintaining families. We know that what is given as unemployment benefit for the maintenance of a family does not represent one-tenth of the sum which it would cost to maintain that same family in the workhouse. Not so many months ago the cost of maintaining paupers per head was not less than 30s. a week and yet we have a financier well known in the City of London coming down to this House and telling us we had better maintain families in the workhouse rather than pay the much smaller unemployment dole. If his policy were adopted the workhouses would soon be filled with the families of men who are out of work through no fault of their own. What will the British public say, men who have worked and are thrown on the market, when they see the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City, and that his only policy, after his experience in this House and his specialised knowledge, is, "Go to the workhouse!"? If there is anything that can fan the flame of revolt in this country, it is recommendations of that description. My hon. Friend said this was bound to fail. It is not going to solve the unemployed problem. We know that. I agree with my hon Friend the Member for East Leyton (Mr. L. Malone), that as long as you have a system of private ownership of the means of life based on wage labour you are bound to have armies of unemployed.
Had the blockade on Russia not been kept on there would not have been an army of unemployed in this country. The more experience we get, and the more speeches we listen to, the more we realise that private ownership of the means of life is a terrible scourge on humanity. We see how the more the workers work the more wealth there is produced, and the sooner are the workers out of work and wages. These learned gentlemen say that what we want is inventions. We get inventions in the mines and factory, and what does the machine do? Instead of adding to the amount of employment, it throws men out of work. That idea of these learned gentlemen is not going to assist a solution of the question. Labour-saving machinery is coming along, we have seen it introduced in the factories and other places, and we find men—not only skilled workmen—thrown out of work and boys and girls doing the work that skilled trained men formerly had to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] It is a shame that these men should be out of work, and that the more wealth produced the greater is their poverty. We have tried, with all our lack of opportunities, to find a solution, and have made proposals whereby the unemployed can be absorbed. It is obvious that private ownership cannot absorb these men. It has failed to do so, and we suggest that, seeing that private ownership has failed to absorb all the men able and willing to work, it is the duty of the Government to provide the wherewithal for these men, who cannot find work through no fault of their own, to secure a grant which will enable them to maintain their families in decency without going to the workhouse or subjecting themselves to the humiliation of accepting charity from people on whom they do not wish to be dependent. I hope we shall have a scheme which will give more consideration to the men out of work. I know of one family where there are nine persons, and because there are two sons who can work, like many more, they have been called up before the Employment Exchange and the officers have told them that they have abundance on which to keep their family—£1 18s. Because there are two sons who can work they are told they are not making legitimate efforts to find work, and therefore cannot get the unemployment dole. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] It is a shame, because they are men willing to work and who want to be directed to where work can be found for them. I hope the Minister of Labour will see that in the administration of this unemployment dole the men who are entitled to it will get further consideration.
I hope the House will forgive my intervention for a few moments. It was not my intention to speak to-night, but I felt I could not allow this opportunity to go by without offering a few observations upon this important question. I have been asked whether this was my maiden speech, and I have been told by other Members of this House that it would not be a maiden speech, as I am an old Member of the House. Having come fresh from a constituency where this unemployed question plays a very prominent part, I ought to offer a few words on the subject. In the division I have the honour to represent in this House we have a large number of unemployed people, and as one walks about the division one wonders what is going to happen in the future. During my absence from this House depression in trade has taken place very, very much indeed, and one reads, even from Cabinet Ministers, of over 2,000,000 unemployed persons and nearly another half-million of persons working on short-time. One reads also, and hears in this House—for the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) practically asserted this afternoon—that these people who are unemployed have no right to take the unemployment dole. I want to say to the hon. Member that these people pay for the benefit they receive. One comes in contact with other people who have the idea that these persons are getting charity by accepting the unemployment dole. I say, nothing of the kind. These people are having to pay for it by having it deducted from their wage each week, and therefore when they are unfortunate enough to be unemployed they are doing the right thing by accepting what, in my opinion, belongs to them. I, personally, should like something other than the unemployment dole meted out to these people. My hon. Friend who has just sat down mentioned that if these people were in the workhouse it would cost much more than they receive with their 15s. and 20s. unemployment pay. If these men took to doing something against the law and were sent to prison it would cost over double the amount that they receive in unemployment pay at the present time to keep them in prison. There are only three ways, in my opinion, in which a person can live at the present time. One is by working and receiving a decent standard wage for that work; another is by stealing, being sent to prison, and in that way becoming well housed and decently kept; and the third is by begging. If he begs he is again breaking the law and is sent to prison, but at the same time he is at least assured of as good a living as he is getting when ho is receiving his unemployment dole. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about his family?"] If he has a family, they will be looked after as they have to be looked after to-day with the unemployment dole. The 15s. a week, with the 5s. for his wife and the 1s. for each child, does not keep them to-day.
In Lancashire alone we have thousands of miners who are working four and five days a week on the surface and down the mine, and who have wives and families to keep, and, when they go home with their wages at the week-end, they have not sufficient to keep them, and have to apply to the Poor Law Union to get their wages augmented so that they can continue during the week. In my opinion, that is a disgraceful way to treat men who have to go down the mine to produce the commodity which we were told, when it was badly wanted, was the key commodity of this country. We were told by the Prime Minister that without that commodity we should not have been able to win the War. It was that commodity which produced shot and shell, and enabled ships to sail, and the Prime Minister told us, at a meeting in London, that Great Britain and her Allies would never forget the miners of this country for what they had done during the War. To-day, I make bold to say, the mining industry is the most sweated industry in this country. We do not want doles; we want work for the men, and the women as well. I remember that in 1905, when I was a member of the Manchester City Council, we had a large army of unemployed in Manchester, and we applied to borrow £50,000. We were successful in getting that, and work was found for a large number of the unemployed—not useless work, but good work; and to-day you can see the results of the work that was done in 1905 in a number of our Manchester parks. Lakes were made and roads were made, and that could be done to-day if the Government were determined that something should be done for these people other than giving them doles.
The hon. Member for Mossley practically told us that the workers of this country would have to work almost for a handful of rice, or for the wage that the German people are receiving to-day. If, after winning the War, we cannot devise something better than this—and I believe we could if we were in earnest about it—if we have brought our people to this state of things, then God help ns! Manchester is asking for 20,000 houses at the present time. I could take hon. Members to places in Manchester where there are 18 and 19 persons living in one house, which is a scandal. If the Government had been in earnest in building the houses originally promised, the unemployment question would have been, I will not say completely solved, but solved to a large extent by finding employment in the building trade alone. Men who have been in the Army come to me asking, is it possible to get a house? They had to give up their homes to join the Army, and, now that they are back again, are unable to get houses, and many of them have had to go and live, as they said, with their mothers-in-law. Some of them detested the Army, but they said that, much as they detested the Army, they detested a great deal more living with their mothers-in-law. These people are pleading for homes, and that state of things, I say, is a disgrace after the speeches that we used to hear from the Prime Minister. I remember being in Manchester when he made his great speech previous to the signing of the Armistice. He told us that a million men had been rejected for the Army in this country on account of their physical disability, on account of having to live in slums all their lives, on account of receiving low wages. And yet, now that there is a time for doing away with slums and finding employment on house building, the Government refuse to take up their scheme.
I hope that something will be done in the direction of getting municipalities to make roads. I know very well that in Manchester alone thousands more men could be put on roadmaking, which would be of benefit to posterity, if the Government would only assist. In that City, as I have said, 20,000 houses are wanted, and work could have been found for some thousands of men in the building trade, had the Government only taken notice of the Labour Members of this House in the last Parliament. The Government were warned constantly in 1915, 1916 and 1917 to make preparations for the evil day which we now see upon us, and, had they taken heed of those warnings, the unemployment question might have been in a different position. I appeal to the Minister of Labour to get his colleagues to do something to do away with the dole, although, when people are out of work, they are entitled to it. I know that nothing would please the hon. Member for Mossley except bringing these people down to the lowest level. I have read from time to time of his getting up in this House and telling the House what a great employer he is. I believe he has made great sacrifices, and I am not going to say anything against that, but at the same time he ought to take a stand for these people, because he knows that close to where he resides at the present time there is a colliery which has gone bankrupt, and there are thousands of men unemployed in that district at the present time who have to appeal for Poor Law relief. I hope that something more will be done for these men in the future than has been done in the past.
The House will welcome the return of the hon. Member who has just addressed us, but he will excuse me from following him in his arguments. The Debate to-day, touching, as it does, the humane and economic interests of the State, has naturally roamed over many subjects, but one or two questions have been raised to which I am anxious to draw the attention of the Minister of Labour. Reference was made to the question of nurses coming under the Bill, and it will be within the recollection of the Minister that, during the Debates on the last Unemployment Bill, several hon. Members drew his attention to the large classes of the community who are not presently under the provisions of the Bill. I would therefore ask him if it would be possible to circulate, at a later stage, information as to the number of people in employment to-day in various trades who are not within the provisions of this Bill. Nurses have been mentioned—
I understood during the last Debate on the subject that there were other classes of the community receiving weekly or monthly wages who were not under the provisions of the Act, and it might be for the convenience of the House as a whole if the Minister would circulate some information on that point, so that we should be in a position to know who were to-day working in trades or professions which were exempt from the Bill. The other point I am anxious to draw attention to has also been referred to. Unemployment exists in some districts, and does not press so severely in others. The burden of Poor Law relief in a residential district is much lighter than in some industrial districts. During the last few months this burden has been increasing to a great degree, and hon. Members in every quarter of the House, I have no doubt, have been pressed by parish councils and public bodies to bring this point before the attention of the Government. The inequality between certain country districts and industrial areas, say on the Clyde or the Tyne, is very great. We hope the Government at a later stage of the Session will endeavour to cope with the inequalities which the present period of unemployment has brought in its train.
I rise to support the Bill. I think the maintenance of our people is the first charge on the revenues of the State. I agree that there may be differences of opinion as to the amount which should be paid, but that some provision should be made is, I think, generally recognised in most quarters of the House. The previous Bills were based on expectations which, unfortunately, have not matured. I have taken some trouble to analyse the Bill introduced during the early months of 1921, and in June of last year the right hon. Gentleman's expectations were based on a million and a quarter being permanently out of work, while we know that that estimate was largely exceeded. Then we come to November. Here, again, his estimates have been largely exceeded. This Bill itself is based on forecasts of the future. I sincerely hope they will not be realised. I will not endeavour to elaborate the causes which have produced this unemployment, but until they are removed I fear that his expectations once again will not be realised. I am anxious to draw attention to one point in connection with this Bill. The Minister is going to increase his borrowing powers. Could he tell us the total deficit that is to be met by borrowing?
And he is going to take provision to borrow up to £30,000,000. Is that a fair thing to do in the interests of the State? Has not the time arrived when borrowing for any purpose should be discontinued? Examination of the book by Gustav Cassel, an economist highly spoken of by the Prime Minister, reveals the interesting point that he condemns borrowing for the purpose of finding money to pay out-of-work grants. I know that Members of the Government pay little attention to criticisms from this quarter of the House on the subject. We have painful recollections of their inability to appreciate the economic arguments which we advance from time to time, but on this occasion I bring to the attention of the Minister a point made by Mr. Gustav Cassel that borrowing for the purpose in view is not justifiable, and that the money which this Bill requires should come out of the annual revenue of the State. The result of this borrowing is inflation. It maintains high prices and creates unemployment.
I agree that the book deals with that particular subject, but if the hon. Member will direct his attention to borrowing for the specific purpose under review this evening—I have not the exact page in the book to direct his attention to, or the exact words—he will find that what I have said is absolutely correct, that this well-known economist condemns borrowing for the purpose of finding money for subsidies of any sort and money for unemployment purposes. I think the money is necessary, but it should come out of the coffers of the State—out of the annual revenue of the State. I was interested to hear before the coming financial year had started that the Minister is going to introduce a Supplementary Estimate.
I know. Two or three weeks ago the Secretary of State for War told the House that Supplementary Estimates in the future would hardly arise. I am anxious to draw attention to the complete diversity of view between Members of the Government on this all-important question. I have made a rough calculation, and I think this new Supplementary Estimate for the coming year will amount to £3,000,000 to £4,000,000. So we start once again the old tale of Supplementary Estimates before the beginning of the financial year. What the end of the financial year will bring us experience and time will only reveal. Whether we shall be forced to find a further £150,000,000 for Supplementary Estimates, as the experience has been this year and in past years, only time will show. But I hope the Minister will carry the Bill through, and in doing BO would it be possible for him to co-ordinate in some degree the work of parish councils in Scotland and the Employment Exchanges? My attention has been drawn by these bodies to overlapping—to the considerable expense which is placed on the shoulders of the ratepayers or the coffers of the State, through two sets of officials administering grants for the same purpose. I agree that the problem is difficult and will not be easily solved, in view of the vital necessity of carrying the parish councils with us in this matter in order to secure the assistance they have so readily granted in the past, while they feel and know that unnecessary expense is being incurred which checks their zeal and ardour in this respect. I have only risen for two minutes to address these questions to the Minister of Labour, and although we shall move Amendments in the Committee stage of this Bill we hope the Bill will become law.
I desire to thank the House sincerely for the reception it has given to this Bill. I am making a very heavy demand on the employer, on the working people, and on the State—demands which, I had to announce, would involve a Supplementary Estimate, and I take the earliest opportunity to say so, being myself a constitutional financial purist. I am very glad to see that the hon. Gentleman's dislike of Supplementary Estimates does not cause him to refuse to support this Bill. I am afraid I am making a grave demand upon him when I ask him to support the Bill which, to some extent, rests upon the first Supplementary Estimate of the year. If I may summarise the Debate, I may say that here we are in a great emergency which has been long protracted and of which we do not see the end. For this you must make provision. We are agreed that provision shall be made, that we must do our best to see that it is properly administered, to conserve it to those who really need it; and as trade improves we shall try to get back once I more to the true principles of insurance against unemployment. That, I think, is a broad summary of the discussion to which I had the pleasure of listening, and I admit it would be the desire of the House that we should carefully note the experience we are now going through
during this long and distressing time, so that, when we get to the period of normality again, we may be able to frame a permanent scheme of insurance which shall find a lasting place amongst our various instruments of social provision and social service. Those are the general observations I have to make and now I take up the Debate in detail. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) took up a point in regard to the trade dispute disqualification which, as I know, has excited so much interest among my hon. and right hon. Friends opposite that I will deal with it first. The trade dispute disqualification rests on Section 8 (1) of the Insurance Act. It owed its origin to the very first Insurance Act of 1911, and it has been a subject of controversy and dispute ever since that time. Let me read the form of the main Act. An insured contributor
who has lost employment by reason of a stoppage of work which was due to a trade dispute at the factory, workshop, or other premises at which he was employed, shall be disqualified for receiving unemployment benefit so long as the stoppage of work continues, except in the case where he has has during the stoppage of work become bonâ fide employed elsewhere in the occupation which he usually follows or has become regularly engaged in some other. Where separate branches of work, which are commonly carried on as separate businesses in separate premises, are in any case carried on in separate departments on the same premises, each of those departments shall, for the purposes of this provision, be deemed to be a separate factory or workshop, or separate premises, as the case may be.
Here we have men who have nothing to do with the dispute. They did not promote it, but because of their association with those who are responsible for it when the strike or lock-out takes place these men have to come out and they are disqualified from receiving benefit. There have been many discussions in order to arrive at the line of equity between the parties in this difficult matter. My last proposal was that representatives of employers and of labour should sit down together and devise something that would be fair to both sides. If I agreed that their proposals were practicable, I should not necessarily put difficulties in the way in that respect. But nothing has emerged and I am afraid I cannot give any undertaking that I could amend this ancient form in the Bill to which I am now asking the House to give a Second Reading. As regards the lock-out now in progress, the men who are actually locked out are disqualified from receiving benefit, and all those working in the same establishment, whether skilled or unskilled, who become unemployed as the result of the lock-out will be disqualified. If any doubt or question arises, there is an appeal to the Court of Referees, and finally, if so desired, and if necessary, to the Umpire. His decision is final, and that ends the matter.
No, I am dealing with the trade disqualification set out in the main permanent Act, Section 8 (1)—the question which was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby. It is a different question entirely. I was going on to say that if there are any works which are quite distinct from those in which the lock-out takes effect and are wholly or partially shut on account of the lock-out, the men thus becoming unemployed will not be in any way disqualified for benefit. There were a number of engineers who were out of work before this because of the lack of employment. If they had been receiving unemployment benefit, and if it is not exhausted, they will go on receiving it.
I say if there were any engineers who were on unemployment benefit before this dispute arose, if they have not exhausted the benefit, they will continue to receive it.
Is it not a fact that a circular has been sent to the Employment Exchanges that men who have been drawing unemployment benefit for six weeks, prior to 16th March, are to receive notice that they are not to receive benefit on the ground that they are affected by the lock-out?
I am dealing with the case of men in the engineering trade who were wholly unemployed before the dispute arose. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby called attention to the conditions under which the last extension of six weeks was granted. One of those conditions was this, the extension of benefit—I said in the Regulation on 22nd February, when the six weeks' benefit was awarded—would not be granted—here is the point—to single men and women who are maintained wholly or mainly by their relatives. That is one of the conditions, but there are others. My right hon. Friend rather dissented. These funds make up a large additional tax, and I am entitled to say, in the case of the young fellow living at home, "I think there are others who need this more than you." Then, said my right hon. Friend, putting the case of a single young fellow or girl at home with the parents, "But the parents themselves may be wholly unemployed. Where are you then?" I say, then, that the answer is plain under the rule, that a single man or woman maintained wholly or mainly by the relatives cannot apply. If there are no means of maintenance in a house, then the rule does not apply. If the parents are unemployed, a young person cannot be wholly or partly maintained at that time. I hope it is clear, therefore, that the contention that a young person so deprived of benefit in that manner is not correct. My right hon. Friend said, "You are taking their money and not giving them the benefit to which they are entitled." I am doing nothing of the sort. There are two classes of benefit in this Bill. There is the permanent covenanted benefit, to which people are entitled by reason of their payment of contribution and other qualifications; there is the emergency benefit, which I have been able to make for a long time past, and which I am continuing because of the emergency. Many of these people who will get that may never have paid a penny, and certainly a great many will not be qualified under previous contributions, under the permanent scheme. What I am dealing with is not the covenanted benefit but the uncovenanted benefit. Therefore I am not taking people's money and refusing to give them what they have paid for. There are two sides to the scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), if I understood him rightly, suggested that the rate of benefit might be increased to relieve local rates. I have strained this Insurance Act pretty considerably, though I will take care that I do not break it. I consider it to be a valuable piece of machinery, but if I were to adopt my hon. Friend's proposal I should like to know where the Insurance Scheme would be. I do not know how you are going to adopt his scheme in an Insurance Act, That I should introduce a series of benefits proportionate to the burdens upon the local rates is, I think, quite impracticable. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) brought up a point about the casual worker. He asks if a man has been unemployed for six days, and he works for four hours after working hours on the sixth day, does the sixth day count as a day of unemployment? Under Section 7 of the 1920 Act the sixth day cannot count as a day of unemployment, but within the existing law I have undertaken to see if we cannot make this continuity rule a little less harsh. I invited, a considerable time ago, the National Joint Council of the Transport Industry to nominate a committee to sit around a table and see whether, within the law, we could not arrange this continuity rule to be a little less onerous. The men represented here have not done so badly from this Insurance Act.
I asked the National Joint Council of the transport industry to nominate a committee, so that we could see if anything could be done to case the situation. I am waiting for those nominations.
I turn next to the remarks of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Locker-Lampson). He referred to the delay in getting to work on one of the first of the Geddes Committee recommendations. He stated that there had been no report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the matter. The second interim report is now before me, and I will send my hon. Friend a copy. We wished to see whether it was necessary to have two cards and two sets of stamps, and to find whether in this way any economy could be effected which would at the same time prevent people having to carry about so many cards. I will read the last two paragraphs of the report. Here are the Committee's findings on that subject:
The problem is a complicated one, and a great many factors have to be taken into account. Certain of the modifications which at present appear to us to be essential for the purpose of enabling a combined card to be adopted could not be made without amending legislation.
In these circumstances we have come to the conclusion that, whatever may be our ultimate recommendation, it is not possible
to bring a combined card into use so soon as next July, and we think it desirable to bring this conclusion to your notice without delay.
That was signed by Sir Alfred Watson, the chairman, and members of the Committee. The hon. Member for Wood Green also made to-day a point which he made the other night on the question of amalgamating unemployment and health insurance machinery. The hon. Member suggested that there was some obstruction being placed in the way by the Ministry of Labour. In the Debate on the Vote on Account on 13th March he said:
I understand that on that Committee the representatives of the Ministry of Labour are doing their utmost to delay a decision."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1922; col. 1862, Vol. 151.]
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour said in reply:
The hon. Gentleman suggested that there was some delay or obstruction on the part of the representative of the Ministry of Labour. I am quite sure that is not a fact, and I must repudiate the suggestion at once. I am sorry the hon. Member for Wood Green is not in his place. If he were, I should be forced to ask him to particularise a little more. So far as the Ministry of Labour is concerned there has been given from the first the most cordial support and co-operation in the examination of the situation to see whether a joint working is possible, and if it is possible, as I hope it may be, I feel certain the suggested savings of the Geddes Report can be effected. I feel it my duty on behalf of the Ministry of Labour to make these two points clear."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1922; cols. 1905–6; Vol. 151.]
I thought that was the explanation. If the Committee will give us any suggestion which will help us to practical economies I shall be the first to take it up. I now come to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Dr. Murray). He called attention to the rather difficult question of the share fishermen and the women engaged for periods of time in the fish-curing industry. He did not state the case quite accurately. He suggested that these men during a long period of time work as labourers, that they are only seasonal fishermen, and that we take their money but do not give them any benefit. That is not correct. They get whatever covenanted, benefit they are entitled to, and nobody can withdraw it from them when they the eligible for it. The uncovenanted benefit, the free benefit, is only to be paid if the applicant is normally in insurable employment. Share fishermen are not in an insurable employment, and therefore cannot get free benefit, but whatever they pay for, during the time they are not engaged in this particular avocation, they will certainly get, and as a matter of fact, they do get such covenanted benefits. My hon. Friend also asked as to the benefits paid to women engaged in the fish curing industry. The cases which he has in mind, I think, are those of women who only work as fish curers during the season. During the rest of the year they are occupied doing house work. It would clearly be wrong to pay unemployment benefit to these women outside the season, and during a time when they are at home engaged in ordinary house work.
As regards the case of the nurses, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Stratford Division (Mr. L. Lyle) and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastern Renfrew (Mr. Johnstone), I may say that nursing for the sick, including mental nursing, is now an insurable employment. Under the existing Act contributions have to be paid and objection is taken to this, because it is stated unemployment practically does not exist. That is a view which has been held by the hospitals and the nurses themselves all along, and I have no doubt that the hospitals, being voluntary organisations, find it very difficult to pay these contributions which are, naturally, now very heavy. They point out, as also do the nurses, that neither should pay because, as has been said, the measure of unemployment is not very great, but the nurses are not unanimous on that. The National Union of Trained Nurses in a letter to me, dated 8th November last, state:
While we consider that the existing arrangements for administering the Insurance Act for nurses are totally unsuitable, yet we do not consider that exemption would be a wise departure.
I daresay there is possibly some exception to having to go to the Exchange and stand at a counter, and all the rest of it, on the part of the nurses. I am afraid the volume of work on our shoulders is so great, that even if our premises lent themselves to it—and they do not, they are
nothing to be proud of, in a good many cases, from the point of view of structure—but even if we had the premises, I do not think we could make special provision for special payments in special circumstances, to a special class, though I am very glad to be as obliging as I can in all directions, because I find it a very good rule. Those who are represented by the Member for Stratford do represent a big body of opinion, but I will look into the question and see what is the volume of opinion on the other side. I recognise that both in the hospitals and the institutes for nurses, and in the National Union of Trained Nurses there is a large volume of opinion asking for exemption from this scheme. At any rate they can administer the scheme themselves and have their own benefits without going to the Exchanges. They can have their own scheme under Section 17, but that would involve an addition to the benefits from their own funds, and I have no doubt these ladies are not so too well paid that they can make this addition from their own funds, so that probably Section 17 is not the way out. When Section 18, the provision for contracting out, once more becomes available, and that door is once more open, that is another way by which they might be met, but that door cannot be opened for a long time yet.
All I can say at the moment is that I will consider with very great care whether the case for the insurance of nurses rests upon so slight a measure of unemployment as not to justify the collection of these contributions from the two sides. I should prefer not to be pressed to give an answer to-night, but it must be obvious to everybody that if I begin to open this door there are lots of others who will come and say, "We are not going to be unemployed; why should we pay?" on both sides of the account. Well, I want their money, but when they represent people who, I agree, are doing a great social service, and to whom it is perhaps not possible to pay a larger salary, I will consider whether I can take that deduction from them, having regard to what is, as I understand from my hon. Friend, the very small measure of unemployment which comes their way. I will carefully look into it, as I say, but I hope I shall not be pressed further than that to-night.
There is one other point, a very considerable point, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. N. Chamberlain) and by other hon. Members. It is shortly this, that work is better than what are called doles—we all agree with that—and here you are providing in this scheme, for 15 months, £60,000,000 of benefits. It is quite true the great bulk of it comes from the employers and the employed persons, but I am paraphrasing and summarising the argument. Is it not a pity, it is argued, that you cannot get some work done for that £60,000,000? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That sounds very commonsense and very reasonable, but let us have a look at the matter a little more closely. My hon. Friends opposite cheered that, but relief works are not very easy to organise. Very often it is not work the locality wants to be taken up, and I have been told to-day that very often it is not very productive work. What my hon. Friends opposite would do would be to start productive factories; they would start manufactures in productive factories in competition with existing industries. That is the broad proposition. All that you would do would be, pro tanto, to put a similar number out of employment.
I have heard that argument. What is quite certain is that your costs of production would be very much higher than under ordinary conditions, and I contend that all that would happen would be that A would be unemployed because you found work for B. I am certain that that would be of no practical good. Then says the hon. Member for Ladywood, "Why do you not take the 15s. unemployment benefit, pay it over to the municipality which is finding relief work, and let that be a contribution towards the wage which the man will ultimately get? The same with the guardians. Why do not they pay over to the municipality for relief work their quota, and then we shall get something for the £60,000,000?" Not only this £60,000,000, but the £60,000,000 which someone has suggested as being likely to be drawn from the guardians in a similar time. I agree that that sounds a perfectly sound, feasible and reasonable proposition. Let us look at it for a moment. If the 15s. is a benefit, the man has paid a contribution for it, and it has got to be paid to him when he is out of a job. It may or may not be a right policy to give the municipality that 15s. towards the payment of wages, but you cannot do it under the Insurance Act. The man is entitled to the 15s.
Then I have heard it said—I am not surprised, because it is an attractive proposition—ever since the subject came upon us, from those who are conducting ordinary industry—I think the first time I heard it was from people who came from Bristol—"Here is an industry which is languishing. You cannot give a full wage and have a margin. If the wage could be abated by 15s., and you put up another 15s., it could get on all right." But does anyone suppose it would stop at that? We should be confronted by similar demands from pretty well all the industries. What does the House suppose would be the charge upon the Exchequer? That is not my hon. Friend's proposition. He puts it in a much narrower form. He does not extend it to ordinary industry. He simply says, relief work. But there, again, I find myself in this difficulty. I quite agree that work is preferable to what is called the dole, and I agree that the vast majority of these poor people would rather have work than doles. But those who know the history of subsidising wages in this country know that that is not a proposition that anyone will take on without careful consideration indeed, and I felt it my duty to say this about the proposition, although I quite realise the value of getting something for £60,000,000. It is like so many things with which we have to deal. It looks so easy and simple when stated, but it is more difficult when you try to carry it out. I have gone, I think, over all the points, and I would ask my hon. Friends opposite to let me now have the Second Beading. We propose to send this Bill upstairs and we must get it before Easter.
May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman would give five minutes to deal with the principles of the Bill? This should have been done on Second Reading, but the right hon. Gentleman has given us instead a very full exposition of all the Committee points. Would he now do as I suggest?
It is very rarely, I think, in this House that a Minister is asked for an encore. If the hon. Gentleman will read the Memorandum, and further do me the honour of reading what I said earlier, I think he will find that I have done my best to follow out his suggestion.
If the right hon. Gentleman had responded to my request I should not have detained the House at this late hour with the few observations I propose to offer. I listened to every word that the right hon. Gentleman uttered in his opening speech this afternoon. I thought I should have heard from him a few words reconciling the proposals contained in this Bill, which is a continuation of unemployment insurance under the abnormal conditions existing to-day. I thought that we should at least have heard a few words commending this Bill to the House by showing how our national needs at this moment in respect to unemployment could be made consistent with financial stability, and that the burdens would not be too great; that he would bring before us what were the real causes of unemployment at the present moment and what was the best way for dealing with what I consider to be a post-War, and only a post-War, problem.
It is not my intention to enter into an explanation of this subject. I simply wish to make a protest at the growing habit of Ministers on Second Reading commending Bills to this House in what are no more or less than Committee speeches. In my view this Measure will only aggravate and continue unemployment. I feel perfectly convinced that we shall only make a perpetual disease of what is now nothing more or less than an incidental distemper. I think we all agree that at the present we are not living in a normal condition in Britain; that trade and commerce are incidentally in the condition they are as a result of the War. This kind of legislation will, I feel convinced, perpetuate the existing condition of things. The distribution of this sum, which may bring up the income of a family to 34s. or 35s. a week, will make it that nobody will accept employment at a wage of £2. I only desire, in taking part for a few moments on this subject to enter, as I have said, a vigorous protest, and to suggest that we are dealing with what are peculiar conditions brought about as the result of the War as distinct from permanent unemployment in this country. It is Statemongering not Statesmanship.
If time had permitted I would have-suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that now was the time to introduce a Measure, a great act of statesmanship, making a small levy on the whole of the people of this country, and putting that money into a fund, and having it ready for distribution amongst the unemployed strictly on a subsistence basis. Where you found that in one family it was necessary to give £2 they would give it, and where 12s. would do they would give that amount, and in that way you would tend to get these people back to the workshops, and in that way you would get industry going. Calculations have been made by the Minister of Labour as to the number of unemployed in June and November of last year, but they were falsified by events, and the calculation given us to-day will also probably be falsified. This is the fifth Unemployment Insurance Bill which has been introduced, and the principle on which this Bill is based is creating unemployment. One of the most potent factors in unemployment to-day is the various Unemployment Insurance Bills introduced in this House. In my desire to do the right thing I yield to no member of the Labour party, and I will go with them if they can convince me that these proposals will produce the results which are claimed for them. The Minister of Labour has never said a word in this direction except to give the arithmetic of this Measure, and he has never attempted to reconcile these proposals with the great fundamental realities of things. The right hon. Gentleman has never shown that this Bill will bring back trade or commerce, and he has not said a word of anything of that kind. Measures of this kind are driving us deeper into unemployment, and it will be a miracle if the total number of unemployed does not go up with Measures being passed like this Bill.
I feel very deeply on this question, and I could not allow this Measure to pass without interrupting the right hon. Gentleman and stating my views. If this Measure succeeds there will be nobody more pleased than myself, but until we get rid of this class of legislation I see little hope of restarting the wheels of industry or a return to a normal state of things in this country.
|Division No. 67.]||AYES.||[10.45 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Glyn, Major Ralph||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Goff, Sir R. Park||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Greer, Sir Harry||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Haslam, Lewis||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Beilairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Hinds, John||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hood, Sir Joseph||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith||Hopkins, John W. W.||Renwick, Sir George|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hurd, Percy A.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bruton, Sir James||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Jameson, John Gordon||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Jephcott, A. R.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Casey, T. W.||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Seddon, J. A.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Kenyon, Barnet||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Clough, Sir Robert||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Lindsay, William Arthur||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Cope, Major William||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Manville, Edward||Waddington, R.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Matthews, David||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Evans, Ernest||Molson, Major John Eisdale||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Fildes, Henry||Murchison, C. K.||Windsor, Viscount|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Winterton, Earl|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Nail, Major Joseph||Wise, Frederick|
|Forrest, Walter||Neal, Arthur||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Gee, Captain Robert||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Oman. Sir Charles William C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Parker, James||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. McCurdy.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hall, F. (York W. R., Normanton)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Halls, Walter|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Hartshorn, Vernon|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Finney, Samuel||Hayday, Arthur|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Foot, Isaac||Hayward, Evan|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Galbraith, Samuel||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Gillis, William||Hirst, G. H.|
|Cairns, John||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Holmes, J. Stanley|
|Cape, Thomas||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Irving, Dan|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Grundy, T. W.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Lawson, John James||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Lunn, William||Robertson, John||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Royce, William Stapleton||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Sexton, James||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Mosley, Oswald||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Myers, Thomas||Spencer, George A.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Sutton, John Edward||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Swan, J. E.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|O'Grady, Captain James||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Tillett, Benjamin||Mr. Neil Maclean and Mr. Mills.|
Question put, and agreed to.