I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
I appeal to this House in my maiden speech as a new and untried Member. I feel rather like a boy who has just gone to school for the first time and who is asked to say a saying. My saying lesson may be inaccurate and may be full of mistakes, but I feel that the masters and the other boys and girls will understand my position, and will give to me that great indulgence which is so characteristic of this great Assembly. I realise that the honour which has been conferred upon me is an honour which really is conferred more upon my constituency than upon myself. Whether my name had any effect upon the poll in Lancashire, I cannot say, but I feel that the division of Clitheroe, which has not been represented by a Conservative Member for over 40 years, will, indeed, be proud to think that its Member has been thus honoured to-day.
It is only on such occasions as these that the rules of the House permit hon. Members to make personal reference to His Gracious Majesty and His Family, and I feel, as a humble and loyal subject, that I cannot let this opportunity go by without expressing that deep admiration and gratitude which we all feel to the present illustrious occupant of the Throne. His great devotion to the welfare of the people of his country has the admiration of the whole world. Xo man, in whatever position in life he may be, could possibly have done more than His Gracious Majesty has in trying to bring about stability in this country after the War. In his most Gracious Speech from the Throne priority is given to Ireland. I am sure that I am voicing the sentiments of every individual in this State when I say that we one and all pray most earnestly that a lasting peace may bless the people of Ireland.
Reference is also made in His Gracious Majesty's Speech to trade and unemployment. The present condition of unemployment is a real tragedy. It is the direct result of the terrible struggle from which we have just emerged. How we can get back to prosperity once again is the greatest problem which all of us have to face. It is an economic problem chiefly, and I venture to think that, until a real and lasting peace is established in the world, a healthy recovery in trade is impossible. A large portion of Europe is in a state of monetary bankruptcy to-day. It is more a monetary bankruptcy than a real bankruptcy, because the potential wealth-producing units are still in existence. The people, the factories, the mineral deposits are still there; but the means through which the ordinary exchange of commodities takes place has been very seriously damaged. A large number of the currencies of Europe are in a state of complete chaos. I venture to think that, until those currencies are once more stabilised, the trade of the world cannot properly recover. I humbly suggest, representing, as I do, a Lancashire division, but not attempting to pose as a Lancashire expert, that, until the countries of Central Europe are once more on their feet again, the great cotton industry, which represents one-third of the total exports of this country, cannot flourish.
It is because of this that I especially welcome the passage in His Majesty's Speech dealing with the guarantee of a loan to Austria through the League of Nations scheme. Austria, before the War, imported a large number of hides from India. Everyone is aware that India is one of the greatest markets for Lancashire goods in the world. If India is unable to sell her goods in the markets of the world, she cannot buy our cotton goods from Lancashire. Before the War, India sent a large amount of tea to Russia. She sent, as I have just said, a large number of hides to Austria. She also sent a large amount of raw cotton to Germany. If she is unable to sell these, owing to the chaotic monetary conditions of Central Europe, she, as a direct result, is unable to buy our goods. Consequently, our looms are idle, our shipping is impaired—and not only our shipping between this country and India, but our shipping between this country and America, because the great bulk of the raw cotton which we get for our cotton goods comes from America. Consequently, our shipping is impaired owing to the Central European States being out of the market. In fact, the whole of our trade is disorganised, and our people are unemployed, because these European States are out of the market.
There is another reason why I welcome that reference to Austria in His Gracious Majesty's Speech. That is because I very humbly suggest that, in the case of the countries where there is an enormous amount of currency depreciation, capital from those countries has to a certain extent been sent abroad. A small loan to those countries will have the effect of stabilising the monetary conditions there, with the result that the capital which had previously been exported from them would flow back into them once again. I realise that the mere granting of a loan to those countries will not make them recover; but, given hard work and the will to recover, I think that the granting of this small loan will have a generally beneficial effect. The trade of the world is rather like the internal mechanism of a clock. As long as all the little wheels are meshed together the clock will go, but if you take some of those little wheels out the clock ceases to function. The whole world is short of goods. We are unemployed in this country and have goods to sell, but the world cannot absorb those goods until the medium through which they are exchanged has been brought back to a stable condition.
I beg to second the Address, in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne, which has been moved in such well-chosen words by my hon. and gallant Friend. It is never easy for a new Member to address the House, and the first working day of a new Parliament adds to the terrors and trials which the new Member has to face. I therefore ask for the indulgence which the House, with its accustomed generosity, always extends to a Member who seeks to gain its ear for the first time. I feel that the compliment of seconding the Address is in no sense personal to myself, but is rather a compliment to the constituency which I have the honour to represent. The Upton Division of West Ham will be proud of the honour conferred upon it.
My hon. and gallant Friend has performed his task so well that there is little left for me to say. The Gracious Speech from the Throne indicates that the work of the present Session will be limited to a few issues, but I am sure that hon. Members will agree that the questions before the House are of exceptional importance. The present Session has been made necessary, as the Gracious Speech reminds us, in order to bring to a conclusion, so far as this Parliament is concerned, the policy in relation to Ireland which was left incomplete by the late Government. Some of us who have now for the first time entered this House may, perhaps, congratulate ourselves that there is no occasion to express any opinion as to the wisdom or otherwise of that policy. It has been publicly acknowledged even by those who most strenuously opposed the Treaty, that there is no longer any course open to this House, consistent with statesmanship and honour, other than to carry out the Treaty which the last Parliament accepted by an Act now on the Statute Book. Our part in the transaction is, in fact, purely formal. We have merely to seal and deliver an instrument already signed on behalf of the English people. We may, however, be permitted to express the desire, shared by all parties, that what we are doing may result in peace and prosperity to Southern Ireland. The conditions still obtaining there make such a hope rather a venture of faith, but it is none the less sincere on that account, and I am confident that there is no Member of this House who does not pray that, when Ireland has been definitely endowed with institutions which she has so long demanded and is now about to receive, she will peacefully settle down, and that the gifts for which her people are renowned will be devoted to the services of the country, to create orderly government to the lasting benefit of the Irish people.
Speaking, as I do, as the representative of a constituency where there is a great deal of unemployment, I feel that the reference in the Gracious Speech to the state of trade is in no way exaggerated. The question of unemployment is the most pressing and important problem of the day. It is, therefore, a great satisfaction to me, as it must be to all hon. Members, to note that the ameliorative measures prepared by the late Government are to be examined afresh, and I most fervently hope that the results of this examination will be to relieve the suffering and distress of those men and women who, through no fault of their own, are unable to find regular employment. But, while it is fully recognised that, during the abnormally depressed state through which our trade is passing, special provisions must be made to tide over these evil days, yet it must be realised that these provisions are only palliatives, and that a permanent and full solution of unemployment lies only in the revival of trade. May I be allowed to express the hope that further investigations will take place into our industrial problems, with the object of securing better relationships between capital and labour. Prosperity in industry is dependent as much upon the contentment of the individual at home as upon the economic stability of countries abroad. Any measures which His Majesty's Government propose to submit to the House for the amelioration of unemployment and the revival of trade will have the sympathetic consideration of all hon. Members who know the anxiety and distress which lie on so many households throughout this country. Unemployment is not a local or a national problem. It is recognised by the best minds of all parties that the problem is international. From the point of view of this country, which bears such a heavy burden of unemployment, the guiding factors which must inspire our activities pre the revival of trade and the reduction of national expenditure to the lowest limits consistent with efficiency, so that capital may be set free for investment and development and thus increase employment and bring prosperity to us all.
The Gracious Speech refers to the difficulties in the Near East. May I express the hope that success will crown the efforts of His Majesty's Government in the onerous tasks which face them at Lausanne. It is my belief that, with continued unity among the Allies, France and Italy—our faithful partners in the great struggle which was crowned with success —a just and lasting peace will be arranged. In watching, planning, and hoping for a future of permanent prosperity and happiness for the people of this country and of the whole world, may I express the belief that the highest endeavours and intelligences are needed from all parties of this House. Constructive criticism must be brought to bear upon the great issues of the day, so that, by maintaining a unity of purpose, in spite of differences of opinion, the progress which all hon. Members of this House, I am sure, join with me in wishing to see effected will be worthy of our country's past record.
I am peculiarly fortunate in the fact that my first duty is a very great pleasure. It is to congratulate the two hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have moved and seconded the Address to His Gracious Majesty. In doing so they have carried out the very best traditions of this House. If I may say so, using a hackneyed word in no hackneyed frame of mind, they have been charming. Their partisanship has lain so lightly upon their shoulders that the most thin-skinned partisan in this House could have no objection to it. I am certain the House will wait for further and perhaps more robust incursions in debate which either of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen may see fit to make in the farther proceedings of this Parliament. In one respect they have followed, modestly and faithfully, the lead given by the Government. The Speech, the Address in answer to which they have moved, is also brief and, if we might take it upon its face value, modest.
The Government is occupying a peculiar position. It is not the old Government and yet what is it? We have been accustomed, in the occasional visits we have made of a playgoing character, to see death on the stage becoming very active life in the green-room immediately after. The late Government died on the stage. It went to the dressing room, changed some of its superficial clothing and its name, and behold, it is in front of us now. I have known a burglar on the stage, meeting his doom by the hidden hand of a policeman, disappearing at the wings as a dead man, and appearing immediately himself as the policeman who has meted to him his deserved doom. Such a transformation scene has taken place, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman in having played, with such distinction, the double part, first, of being one of the most responsible members of the late Government, and then appearing here as the head of a new Government, free to criticise his predecessors.
I understand that this Session is to be a very brief one. The reason we have been called together, before most of us have recovered from the mental and physical excesses of a hotly contested Election, is that we must proceed without delay to legislate upon Ireland. I return to this House after four years' absence. There is a strange familiarity about the, place, even, I am glad to say, in the Front Bench, but I almost pinch myself to assure myself that I am not dreaming. What a strange magical transformation has taken place in the opinions of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. All my Parliamentary life has been summed up in the Irish controversy and its consequences. I can remember the right hon. Gentleman standing where I stand now and my right hon. Friend sitting where he sits now, and I can remember those furious onslaughts. I can remember when the very name of the party was changed in order that they might nail to the mast the flag of Unionism. Hon. Members are there, but where is the party? Where is the name? The right hon. Gentleman has been very inconsistent, but he is not so inconsistent as to say that it is a Unionist party. Ho knows perfectly well that, when the Division takes place on the Irish legislation, if at were only the Unionist party that was to vote, he would be left in a miserable minority. Moreover, he went further. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman from this box threaten the country with civil war.
For 40 years everything has been postponed to this controversy. Our social prestige has been postponed. We have had election after election. We have had great contests here. We had the Parliament Act specially passed for the purpose of dealing with this question. Now the right hon. Gentleman says to the House, "We have been wrong all the time. We have wasted the political life of this country all these precious years." Now they ask the House to pass an Act which only a year or two ago they would have called separatism, and which they would have said should be supplemented by a mutiny in the Army.
The moral I wish to enforce is this. There is a conventional fear that we may go too fast—that our experiments will be too rash, that we will be in too great a hurry. Whoever reads the history of the last 40 years in this country will come to one conclusion only—that the sub- stantial danger is not too much haste, but too little haste. We will do all we can to help to hasten to a close this old bad chapter of Irish relations with this country, and we will do it in the faith that, in closing that chapter, we are opening one which will be happier for Ireland and more honourable to this country. The word that will go from this House to Ireland is that, in doing this act of reparation to Ireland, Ireland, free to give what it likes and to withhold what it likes, may give as a gift the affection to this country that it has always refused to give.
I should like to ask, in connection with that, a question or two about business. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would say what procedure he proposes to adopt regarding the Irish Bills—I understand there are to be two. When are they to be taken? Does he propose to suspend the Standing Orders in order to get them, and what is his idea regarding the technical handling of that part of the business? So far as we are concerned, I can assure him he will find no difficulty. I should also like to ask if he has any idea how long the Debate on the Address is going to last, and what further business does he propose to ask us to do? I note there is a paragraph regarding Estimates. What Estimates? When shall we have the papers in our hands? How and when does he propose to take them? There is a report about—I only mention it because it is of some public importance that a public statement should be made regarding it by the right hon. Gentleman—that the Government propose, before adjourning, to deal with a certain decision given by the House of Lords upon the Rent Act —a decision which applies mainly to Scotland. I should like to ask him if he has any such proposals, and, if so, what form does he propose the legislation should take? Further, could he give us any idea what the length of this Session is going to be? Consistently with our public duty, we wish that Session to be as short as possible. We are very worn out. [Interruption.] I do not think it is a great crime to confess the fact that
All flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof
tends to fade, especially when one gets to a certain time of life. We should like to have some idea how long the Session is going to last, and when it comes to an
end, is it to be by Prorogation? Further —I do not know whether I am heaping too many questions upon my right hon. Friend—has the right hon. Gentleman any idea when we are likely to be called together again to begin the ordinary work of Parliament?
After Ireland an important statement in the Speech refers to unemployment. That statement is to us profoundly unsatisfactory. There is no sense of proportion in it, and there is no real appreciation of a terrible tragedy. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Address, referred to this matter of unemployment in very simple and, so far as I am concerned, in very true and penetrating words. If I may venture a hope, it is that the charm of his name, which has performed such miracles in Clitheroe, will be exercised upon the Government, so that his Free Trade speech may have due weight with the Government in devising the administrative changes and the legislation which we shall expect in pursuance of the pledge made in this paragraph of the Speech. The Speech says:
The ameliorative measures prepared by My late Government are being examined afresh.
We arc not interested in
the ameliorative measures prepared by My late Government.
We are interested in the blunders of the late Government, which created the conditions out of which the unemployment arises. Our interests are concerned not with the ameliorative measures that the late Government prepared. Who cares in the least about them? After all these ameliorative measures have been brought in, after all the millions of pounds that have been spent upon them, your streets to-day witness processions of unemployed, and your official records show that 1,300,000 people are still requiring those ameliorative measures. [HON. MEMBERS: "What would you do?"] The party with which I am associated will very speedily show what it would do, by an Amendment which it proposes to move to the Address. May I appeal to the Prime Minister, apart from the large issues of this Debate, to do something to allay the agitation that is gathering up in connection with his refusal to see the deputation from the unemployed men who are in London now? I know quite well, we all know quite well, that it is
easy to criticise demeanour. So far as I personally am concerned, I wholeheartedly associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman in putting an end to the form of Government which assumes that the Prime Minister is a sort of dictator. Still, there is the situation, and politeness and hunger do not go very well together. We can criticise demeanour with the sort of freedom of almost a dancing master, purely formally correct. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman is going to handle this question and this particular matter in a simple, common-sense sort of way, and show these people that the Government not only has sympathy, but that it has the will, the desire and the determination to carry its sympathy into practical effect, and the best way it can do that is for the right hon. Gentleman to see the deputation, to see their leaders, to talk with them, and to explain exactly what is going to be done.
I urge upon him that it is his duty to give the most tangible and simple proof that he has imagination, that the Government has imagination, that he understands the terribly distressful position in which these people are placed, and the best way to do that is not to take up a merely red-tape attitude, but to deal with the matter in a simple and common-sense sort of way, to see the men and to tell them exactly what his desires and intentions are. So far as the Labour party are concerned, we are here to give constitutional force and political expression to the needs and desires of these men. We are here to persuade these men and to convince them that that is the best way to act, that no other method is going to do them any good, and so long as I occupy the position that I now hold, that is the only attitude for which I shall be responsible.
Passing from unemployment, we come to the paragraph relating to the Near East and the conference which is now taking place at Lausanne. I join heartily in the hope expressed that
at the conference at Lausanne the efforts of His Majesty's Ministers, acting in whole-hearted, co-operation with the representatives of our Allies, may result in the re-establishment of peace.
One of the first proofs of that hope is that the Treaty of Sèvres has been torn up. I congratulate the Prime Minister and his Government on being a party to
the tearing up of that Treaty, which is one of the greatest monuments of human vanity and folly that ever was perpetrated. I should like to ask for Papers upon this matter. I think that the House of Commons—I was not a Member of the House at the time, and I have looked at it as an outsider—has been treated with scant courtesy by the Government in regard to the whole of this Near East matter. I believe policies have been started without discussion in this House. Policies have been inaugurated without this House having any indication as to what lines were to be pursued. So far as I am concerned, I shall object to that very strongly. This House is entitled to have a general statement of policy before any policy is started. Ministers may fill in the details; they may conduct negotiations and make modifications, but we do want to know where we stand, and what they are driving at. We should like to know, for instance, what is our attitude to Russia. Are we going to recognise Russia as a full partner in this discussion or only as a limited partner? What is going to be our attitude to Iraq? Are we going to be prepared to put either the whole of Iraq or part of Iraq into the common melting pot and into the common pool?
Are we going to stand by the obligations we have undertaken to small nationalities like Armenia? Are we going to pursue a complete scheme of peace arrangements in which nations like Armenia, and people like the Armenians, are going to have some corner preserved for themselves, under proper protection, or are we not? What is to be our policy regarding protection for minorities, Christian or not? Are we going to pursue the old-fashioned and, I think, wrong policy of appointing outside officers to watch almost as hostile agents inside a self-governing State and how that State is going to fulfil its legal and human obligations, or are we going to try and explore what seems to me the very much more profitable and wise policy of putting obligations upon a State and seeing that the League of Nations is the minority-protecting authority, and seeing that we give them whatever powers are necessary to supplement that authority? These are matters of the greatest importance, without going into details, which the right hon. Gentleman could quite properly refuse to enter into, in connection with the con- ference at Lausanne. It is not a small conference. There is no one who understands the problems of the Near East who would venture to regard this conference as a small conference. It is a conference of the most extraordinary importance, and the most enormous importance, and this House before it adjourns, before this Session closes, ought to receive from Ministers a very much fuller statement than we have yet had as to what their intentions are, and the general policy which they propose to pursue. I repeat my request that at the very earliest moment we should have Papers giving this House information which will enable us to understand what we are negotiating for, and what line of policy we are pursuing at Lausanne.
The party for which I speak has been represented in some extraordinary lights, especially during the Election which has just finished. I admit, indeed I use a stronger word than admit, I glory in the fact, that we are not out for mere patching and tinkering here and there. We recognise, for instance, that behind the scenes at Lausanne the hidden hand is busy and is very powerful—the hidden hand of the oil interests. The same regarding Russia. Only the other day we saw it openly confessed in the newspapers that one country had come to an agreement with Bulgaria upon a certain policy because its national contractors were to be allowed to build a very important harbour. What is the use of closing our eyes to these facts? These economic interests are rarely disclosed. Nevertheless, there they are, in every lobby, in every hotel, pulling every wire they can lay their hands upon, for the purpose of using national interests in their own behalf.
I am sure, as Parliament goes on, and these questions are dealt with, it will be found that we do not take the same optimistic view that the Seconder of the Address took, in language that was very pleasant, but which, I think, required supplementing. It is perfectly true that we must have good trade in order to benefit the state of the employment market, but I suggest to the hon. and gallant Member that we have actually had good trade before and unemployment has always been with us. When he used the expres- sion, "We require good trade for a permanent and final settlement of the problem," I think he went just a little bit too far in his enthusiasm for the particular idea which he had in his head at the moment he was delivering his very admirable speech. So far as we are concerned, No. We have a system which blocks the Strand with Rolls Royce cars when the right hon. Gentleman becomes leader of his party and which the next week blocks the Strand with processions of unemployed.
That is the simple problem put in one of the most dramatic ways that I have ever known it put, and that is the problem that confronts my hon. Friends behind me. It is because we recognise, quite honestly, that is the problem, and it is because of that recognition of the nature of the problem that we present our cure. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have been calling us Bolshevists. I do not know that it is worth while taking any notice of interjections like that, but, if I do take notice of them, I think nobody with the least intelligible appreciation of what Bolshevism is would mix it up with that. I thought that the colossal and profound ignorance that is shown on election bills was confined to those bills and really did not represent the convictions of those who used them. That, moreover, sort of clouds the idea of our attitude here. I associate myself to the fullest with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and by my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Clynes) when you, Sir, were elected to that Chair, of our attitude to you and to this House. Yes, but why is that pledge or that expression required from us? I was amused when, in my election, a loyal follower of the right hon. Gentleman called me a Bolshevist, and I am still more amused when I am suspected of being the leader of a party that has got any sort of disorderly leanings in the House of Commons. I have memories. There is a genial Member who sits on that bench, a great favourite, if I may say so, on all sides of the House with both political friend and foe. I should like the hon. Member, who is now in charge, so far as this House is concerned, of foreign affairs, to rise and give his testimony of a strange behaviour in this House. I shall go further. As an old, grey constitutionalist, I am a little bit jealous of our reputation
when it is suggested, as it has been suggested to-day, that we have but the least tinge of Bolshevism in us. I hope sincerely that I shall not horrify good Constitutionalists opposite, Parliamentarians who respect this institution, who think that nothing in the world ought to challenge the rights of majorities once those majorities have been obtained in the ballot box; I hope I shall not shock them by the quotation which I am going to read from the OFFICIAL REPORT. Let me remind the follower of the right hon. Gentleman who calls me a Bolshevist of this: On the 16th June, 1914, there was a Debate in this House. The right hon. Gentleman took part in it. He was refer ring to the Irish Constitution, and he said:—
What is the position? As my Noble Friend has pointed out, there is in Ulster a great army, admittedly a powerful army, thoroughly organised and now completely armed, and that army has been formed— openly and avowedly formed—for the express purpose of resisting by arms submission to a Dublin Parliament, which has been, and, I suppose, is to a certain extent still, the professed policy of His Majesty's Government, and it, therefore, has been openly and avowedly formed for the express purpose of resisting by force the Government of the day in this country.
Sir WILLIAM BYLES: With your acquiescence?
Mr. BOKAK LAW: With my acquiescence." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1914; col. 1052, Vol. lxiii.]
The right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, sympathise with me when I feel especially grieved that a loyal follower of his should accuse me of the sin of being in favour of some sort of revolution. It is one of the most deplorable examples that I have ever known of Satan reproving sin. Let us leave that out of the question. Apparently, the thing that has been agitating the minds of so many people is the general conduct of the Labour Party in the House—whether it is going to obey the ordinary decencies of Parliamentary life. There was an occasion—my right hon. Friend upon my left will remember it, I am sure, as a painful memory; I certainly do—when a scene finished Tip by the following statement by Mr.Speaker:
It is quite obvious to the House that it is useless to continue. If hon. Members confine themselves to Parliamentary cries, I have no power to treat them as creating disorder. Therefore, in the circumstances, it is quite obvious that, the Opposition having determined not to allow further business, I am compelled to say that a state of grave dis-
order has arisen, and, under the Standing Order, I must adjourn the House until Tomorrow."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1912; col. 2054, Vol. xliii.]
In some ways, these are matters which one would desire to forget. I hope we will forget them. But it is necessary sometimes to remind hon. Members opposite of their own parentage and of their own past. In those days—one speaks seriously and feels seriously—when I sat opposite and saw the right hon. Gentleman standing or sitting here aiding and abetting that kind of thing, I had visions that those doctrines and that conduct might embarrass the feet of those who would be his successors. The right hon. Gentleman them seemed to me to be snipping, snipping away with the shears at those tender cords of consent, restraint, and good sense that alone keep the complicated fabric of civilised and international relationships together. I shall never be a party to such conduct. [Laughter.] Hon. Members regard it as worthy only of laughter. Well, I have no objection to that being known in the country. But if your authority, Sir, has to be upheld, and I find the right hon. Gentleman and myself standing side by side doing it, and if your eye sees upon the cheek of either of us a blush of embarrassment on account of our tainted past, the blush will not be upon my cheek. We cannot promise the right hon. Gentleman tranquillity. I am sure he does not expect it. We shall do our best to serve this House. We shall do our best to state our case in home affairs, in all their great perplexity, and in foreign affairs in their still greater perplexity; and I ask from you—and I know I will get it—and I ask from the right hon. Gentleman and his followers on the other side of the House that fair play, that generosity of treatment, which no man doing his best has ever been denied by this House.
My first duty is to join in the not only graceful, but most gracious tribute which was paid to my two hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Address. It is traditional in this House that, whatever the Mover or Seconder may say or do, he is bound to receive his reward in praise from the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House. In my early days in this House, when, like so many other Members, partly through the defects of vision of your predecessor, I could have published a large number of unspoken speeches, I never envied the Mover and Seconder of the Address. It seemed to me that the task was extremely difficult, far more so than that of the ordinary speaker, and I can most sincerely congratulate both my hon. Friends who have been asked to discharge this task, on the ground which I have partly indicated, that they have delivered speeches which have shown some of the qualities always appreciated by the House of Commons—vision and humour—which I am sure will make their future utterances welcome.
My next duty is to congratulate my hon. Friend (Mr. MacDonald) on the position which he now occupies. My hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Brass) who Moved the Address spoke of this House reminding him of school. I am sure that I am expressing the feeling of everyone who has ever been a Member of this House when I say that, whenever and wherever we meet anyone who has been in the House with us, we have exactly the feeling which we have towards one who has been at the same school as ourselves. As I looked at the face of the hon. Gentleman the other day, though 1 do not think I have ever agreed with him in anything, I was not sorry to see him back in this House. I would like to say something more, if my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) does not think it impertinent. I read his interview the other day with the greatest pleasure. It showed, in my opinion, the qualities which Englishmen—no, I will not give Englishmen the credit, because it is men of our race who possess it above all others—always display, and that is the sporting spirit.
I think that I may complain that, as Leader of the House, I am at a greater disadvantage than is usually the case with a man in my position, on the first day of the Session at all events. When I rise in this House after the Leader of the Opposition I have two Leaders of the Opposition who are liable to speak after me. My only hope is, and it has been a strong hope, that as time goes on we shall find that these very powerful Oppositions tend to cancel each other and give me a little of that tranquillity which has been praised by the hon. Member opposite. The hon. Member dwelt upon Ireland, and per- haps, before I deal seriously with that question, I might make a reference to the end of his speech in which he depicted me as an enfant terrible. Well, I admired the hon. Gentleman's speech. He was always a good Parliamentary hand, and he has not forgotten his skill during his absence, but I think that there was a little of what we so often find among those who have been absent from the House, a little of the Kip Van Winkle. I thought at the time that I could make a pretty good defence for anything which I did. I am not going to do that now. I am going to make a better use of my grievance. The hon. Member showed me up as an awful example. Well, he knows that in our country, when we were both very young, temperance lecturers sometimes—at least we were told so—used to produce a gentleman who was not temperate as an awful example or warning to others. I am quite agreeable that he should use me as the awful example to himself and if, as I think—and I greatly appreciate the fact—he does believe that reforms needed by the nation can best be got through this Assembly, and he uses me as an example for the public, and if the blush of shame of which he spoke appears only on my cheek I shall be very grateful.
I shall come now to the question of Ireland in its broader aspect. The hon. Member talks about our inconsistency. Times change and people change with them. I am quite sure that if the Irish controversy goes on we shall find party after party claiming that they alone were the people who ought to get all the credit if peace does come, and the hon. Gentleman has begun to make the claim. I would point out to him that others will not long allow him this monopoly. There is no good in making assertions about what might have happened in other conditions. It is quite possible, if we chose to turn our minds back, that if the country had followed Gladstone in 1886 this terrible misfortune, for it is nothing less, would have been cured, at any rate, a generation ago. But it is quite possible —and I would ask hon. Members seriously to consider this—if Gladstone had never raised the question, if it had not become a bone of contention between parties in this country, that just as for three generations there was the same feeling in Scotland against the Union at in Ireland, so in time Ireland, like Scot- land, might have been willing to accept our good and evil fortunes as a full partner. There is no use thinking of that now.
This Session of Parliament has been called for the express purpose of giving adhesion to a Bill to confirm the Irish Treaty. Whatever may be the views of any of us, or whatever may be the responsibility of any of us, in regard to that Treaty there is not any doubt—and that was shown most conclusively in the Election—that the British people are determined to give the Treaty a fair trial in spirit and in letter. How is that to be done? I am quite sure that even those who were most bitterly opposed to it a year ago look forward now with something like horror to its failure. I remember very well in the Debates almost a year ago that, following the example of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who I think was the first to raise the flag of warning, I pointed out that there was no cause of rejoicing in the fact that this Treaty had been signed, that it was a terrific experiment, that no country in the state of demoralisation of all kinds which then existed in Ireland could get back easily to reasonable and stable Government. We find that that was so, but I said this, the ground on which I supported it:
It the Irish Government which is pledged to carry out the Treaty takes its risks in carrying it out, then we have this posssibility of advantage, which in 700 years we have never had, of having Irish opinion behind it.
That is the thing on which I fix all my hopes now. I believe that the Provisional Government is doing that, and so I am rather unwilling, and I think that it is not wise to say anything expressing even sympathy with that Government because it has got to settle it for itself, and any word of sympathy from me might do harm.
The head of the Provisional Government and two of his colleagues came over at the time I undertook my present office, and I thought, and I think that they thought, that we should at least know one another in the case of future discussions. The meeting with the head of the Provisional Government was entirely informal. No record was kept, but I am certain that he will not take it ill of me if I say this. When he went out he said to me:
I can give the British people this assurance that, whatever happens to us, the Irish
people is determined upon securing peace, and peace can only be secured by loyally carrying out the Treaty on both sides.
I am sure that, so far as Great Britain is concerned, we shall do nothing to give any excuse for going back on this Treaty, and we not only say that we wish it success but, in the interests both of Ireland and this country, from our hearts we wish it success. We do so for this reason above all others. Ireland has been an enemy of this country in spirit for I do not know how long, but Irish men and English men when they meet have never been enemies. We have had experience in this House for many years of Irish Members, and I think that, if anything, they were rather better liked than the rest of us, and I certainly can never forget—I referred to this before —the last speech made by Captain Willie Redmond, and it did give me the feeling that there is really nothing to prevent two countries whose interests are the same from living together as friends. That is all I am going to say on that.
The hon. Gentleman asked me several questions, and I shall do my best to answer them. First of all as regards business. Our intention is, with the approval of the House, which I am sure will be given, that the Address shall continue to-day and to-morrow, and that on Monday we shall begin the first of the two Irish Bills, and go on with thorn until they are concluded. I cannot fix a date for their conclusion, but I almost hope that it may be by Wednesday, and we shall then resume the Debate on the Address, and the amount of time required for it will be fairly considered by me with the desire, insofar as I can, to meet the wishes of the House as regards our time. As regards the length of the Session, we have at present very little business down beyond that which I have indicated, but I have never seen a Session, however short, in which something does not turn up which was not expected to happen, but I hope with the good will of the House that we may be able to rise not long after the 6th of December.
The hon. Member asked another question which is very important—what is to happen about the Bent Restrictions Act? As I have said, I have appointed a Committee already to examine the matter. I have not got its recommendations. Whether it will suggest anything which can be done in this Session, I cannot tell, but we shall take care to give plenty of warning. The Estimates are all Estimates for money already spent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That is inevitable. They will be laid on the Table as soon as possible.
They are mainly expenses in connection with Ireland, but I do not wish to bind myself further than that. The next question to which the hon. Gentleman referred was that of unemployment. It is obvious that there must be an Amendment to the Address and a debate on this subject. I do not propose to go into it at any length now. The hon. Gentleman talked about the likenesses between the last Government and the present. There are likenesses, but there are differences also. What was done by the last Government in the relief of unemployment, in the amount spent in the efforts made to find work, however inadequate hon. Gentlemen opposite may think they were, is something that was never approached in any other country.
Some other countries have. America had unemployment greater than ours. The hon. Gentleman raised what is obviously the issue between him and his followers and the rest of the House. He rather scoffed at the idea that the necessary improvement is to come from better trade. That is the real difference between hon. Gentlemen opposite and the rest of the House. I am not going to argue that now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Perhaps it is trying hon. Members opposite too high to give arguments on that subject at this early stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not at all," "Risk it."] I will give them shortly. The real difference between them and us is that they think there is a surplus kept by capitalists, a pool, which will supply all the needs. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, quite wrong."]
That is evidence that I was right. I shall not pursue it, but I am satisfied that, unless I am greatly mistaken, in a month or two hon. Gentlemen opposite will listen to these arguments and think they are worth listening to. The hon. Gentleman made another reference about which I must say a word or two. That was as to my refusing to receive this deputation of unemployed. In that, I think, he was a little illogical. He began by saying that he entirely approved of the line I have taken, that the work must be left to the Departmental heads, and that the Prime Minister could not do it all himself. I am not criticising my predecessor in this. I have said from the beginning, and I think it is the better method, that it is absolutely impossible for me—I could not attempt to try to deal with every difficulty, whenever it-becomes prominent. I could not do it. How is that to be avoided? The hon. Gentleman thinks this is a case where a little common sense would get over the trouble. How could I ever avoid dealing with any ease where there is a sufficient-demand in the same way? There really is no other way, and I really think—I hope he will take this from me—the hon. Gentleman would strengthen his own constitutional position if he would point out in cases of that kind that that is not the way to get the thing done, that there are constitutional Ministers who are not servants of the Prime Minister, that they are responsible Cabinet Ministers, and that it is really essential that people outside should be made to realise that it is under the ordinary method of government that the work has to be done: and, in addition, I would impress this on the hon. Member: I think if it were possible for us to make a special statement about unemployment to-day, it would be wrong to make it to anybody other than the House of Commons. In these circumstances I think I was right, and I intend to adhere to my decision.
While we are discussing that subject, I notice in some newspapers some talk about having doped the Press. I would like to say exactly what took place. It was I who doped the Press, if there was any doping. I got a second letter from the unemployed deputation asking me to see them. I had already refused, but I have never thought it a sign of strength to refuse to go back at any time on what I save said before. I went into it all again. I looked over half-a-dozen speeches made by those who professed to represent these unemployed. I looked at the records given to me by the police of a large number of those who were the leaders. I said, "I am not going to receive them, but ours is a country that is governed by public opinion and it is right that the public should know what I know." What I did was to send to every London newspaper, I think not merely to those which took my view, exactly the same information, and I left them to make whatever use of it they liked. Does anyone think that the Government gained anything by giving this information to the Press? We certainly do not. I was not in the least afraid that the police would not be able to deal with the riot. There is not a Gentleman on the Labour Benches who has any experience of politics who does not know that a riot of that kind would have damaged them. Then why did I want to stop it? I did not want bloodshed, and I did not want, above all, that these poor people, many of them coming from all over the country, should be exploited into a position of that kind.
The next point raised by the hon. Member was that of foreign affairs. I am very sorry to say that 1 cannot give the House any information about them. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in saying that it is not a small conference which is being held at Lausanne. Up till now very little information has gone out to any of the Cabinets in Europe. It is a very delicate negotiation, and it really is not secret diplomacy or anything of that kind. But it is wise to allow people while negotiating to negotiate in freedom, without any interference by the Press or Parliament, so long as you have it in this way. The hon. Gentleman asked me what our aim is. I will tell him. Our one aim is peace. Up to the moment I am thankful to say that there seems to be every prospect of our getting it by the only means by which it is possible to get it, and that is by agreement with our Allies who are interested in the matter. The hon. Gentleman spoke about Mesopotamia and Mosul, and all the rest. That is an obsession with his party—"The Hidden Hand." I can assure the whole House—and here I am certain that I am speaking for my predecessor as well as myself—that we do not want to stop in Mesopotamia for any oil that is in Mesopotamia. What is more, our system of government does not lend itself to getting advantages for ourselves in countries which are in that way under our control. If I was speaking as one representing the trading interests of this country I would be just as confident of our getting our share of any oil development if it were in the hands of another country as if it were in our own. There is nothing of that kind. We are trying to get peace. We have certain obligations which we cannot evade. We are considering them, and I would like to say to my hon. Friend that to put to me that kind of question rather surprised me, coming from so experienced a Parliamentarian as he is. He said, "Why cannot you get rid of Mesopotamia and the rest by a League of Nations decision?"
I am sure it was my fault. What I said, with reference to the question of the rights of minorities, was this. I suggested that the policy to pursue, in securing the rights of minorities under the new Turkish Government, whatever it might be, would be not to appoint foreign gendarmerie, but hand it over to the League of Nations.
The hon. Gentleman's idea is that we can give this protection to minorities by getting the Turks to agree to League of Nations control. But up till now the Turks have refused to have anything to do with the League of Nations. How then are you going to do it 1 The hon. Gentleman said something more, something which to my mind is really vital. He talked about our protection of the Armenians. There is not a man in this House who would not like to do it, but we must have regard to our condition. We have suffered, in my judgment, as much from the War almost as some of the countries whose financial position is not nearly so good, because of the efforts we have made to make our central financial position sound, to make new capital available for trade. We have suffered as much as anyone. Our powers are limited if we are to have fair play for our own people. I for one say, and I will put it that so far as I am concerned, this is a fundamental matter —we cannot be the Don Quixotes of the world. We want to help the world, but we cannot, and, so far as I am concerned, we will not do it alone.
As regards the new Session, I think we arc all rather tired after the Election.
I do not think we want to continue this Session a day longer than is necessary. My own impression is that whenever this pitched battle, to which we are all looking forward, comes, it cannot be this Session, and we may as well get the Session finished as soon as possible.
I do not want to disturb the harmony which has hitherto prevailed. It is a tradition of this House on the first night of the Debate on the Address that we always keep our gloves on and our foils well buttoned, and that tradition has been very well maintained so far this evening. We are witnessing to-night an affair of debutants. As to the two hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Address, I desire to associate myself to the full with the well-merited compliments paid to them for their able discharge of a very delicate duty. If I may specially single out for commendation, among many excellent Parliamentary qualities which they both displayed, I would put first their excellent sense of brevity. They are not the only persons who are making their debut to-night. There is my hon. Friend here who sits beside me, the Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald)—a very old Parliamentarian with whom in days gone by I have sometimes crossed swords. I am sure he is welcomed back, not only to the House, but to the position of authority to which he has attained. Some people seem to think that he and I cannot peaceably sit side by side on the same bench. So far, we are getting on very well. I am bound to confess to the House—if hon. Members will allow me to indulge for a moment in an egotistical strain— that having now for 30 years never spoken in this House from that side or from this, except from that Box or from this, I believe I should be reduced to impotence and silence if I were banished from the Front Bench.
As to my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, I suppose there are no two men in politics who have said more disagreeable things of one another than he and I, in days gone by. But I am speaking, as he knows, in all sincerity and truth, when I say that I congratulate him, as do we all, in whatever quarter of the House we may sit, and whatever our opinions may be, on the position which he has attained by his most conspicuous Parliamentary qualities and by the universal confidence which exists in his honesty and good faith. I presume that my right hon. Friend, in his enforced and much-regretted retirement, must, among other things, have devoted some time to reading again the immortal poem of Lucretius. I say so for a special reason, that he has come back here and re-entered the Parliamentary and electoral arena, having brought back with him from his retirement what I think was much needed —a new watchword for the Unionist party. Unionism is dead and buried, and something has got to take its place, and he has brought back with him from his seclusion a great Epicurean ideal—tranquillity. It is a hard task which he has set his party in this Parliament, for in these days, wherever you cast your vision, whether you survey the domestic or the international situation, tranquillity is not an easy virtue to practise. It is certainly not possible for the Prime Minister of this country and his following to sit in shelter, on sunlit cliffs, and watch the storm-tossed mariners battling with the waves and winds below. They have got to go down themselves and take a prominent and responsible part in navigating the ship of State.
The Gracious Speech, which we are considering to-night, is more attenuated in dimensions, and I must add, more free from embarrassing commitments and promises, than any King's Speech I have ever known in the whole of my Parliamentary experience. It only deals with three topics—Ireland, unemployment and the Near East. There is not one of these which is not fraught with present and future anxiety With regard to Ireland, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon has made some pertinent quotations from declarations and utterances in days gone by, of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister himself, and his more prominent supporters. I remember those declarations well, but I am not disposed myself, to-night, to go back on them. To all of us, certainly to those who, like myself, have now for the best part of 40 years, done what they could to find in self-government for Ireland the real and only possible solution of the secular quarrel between the two countries—to those who have that experience behind them, there is no ground here for recrimination, or for the raking up of ashes, which ought by this time, to have lost even any power to glow, but only for unabated and unqualified thankfulness. Now, whatever happens in Ireland—and I am far from saying that there are not a good many things going on there at the moment which one must deplore—one must feel unqualified satisfaction that Ireland is now responsible, and solely responsible, for the conduct of her own affairs. While I am certain that we will all express the strongest and most confident hope that the genius and national sense of the Irish people will carry them through their present and what may be their future troubles, yet in the Treaty which was concluded—and which I am glad to think, in an Act embodying and ratifying the Irish Constitution, we are now invited to consider —I am perfectly certain you have found, and found for the first time, the basis of a real and enduring union between these two islands. I will say nothing more about that except to ask a question. I understand that Monday, Tuesday, and subsequent days, if necessary, will be devoted to the Irish Bills. I hope the Prime Minister will be able to assure us that we shall get the Bills not later than to-morrow.
There are a number of points—I do not think they will give rise to very much debate—in regard to which it is desirable that we should have time for perusal and reflection. I will not detain the House more than a minute or two with regard to the other topics contained in the King's Speech. Unemployment we shall have a full opportunity of discussing in the Debate on the Amendment to the Address. I do not like to enter upon the question of whether or not my right hon. Friend was well advised in refusing to see this deputation. I entirely agree with the general principle which he laid down, that it is desirable that the Departmental Ministers responsible for the conduct of their offices should be those to whom should go, as a general rule, in the first instance, persons professing to have grievances or having grievances which fall within the scope of the administrative action of those Departments. I think that is a very good general rule. It is perhaps unfortunate that the first case in its application should be this particular case, but beyond that I have no remarks to offer. With regard to what is going on at Lausanne, I subscribe entirely to what the Prime Minister has said, with one reservation. I subscribe entirely to what he said, that nothing ought to be done, and that nothing can be done fruitfully, without the assent and cordial co-operation of our Allies. But, at the same time, it is right to observe that in this Conference at Lausanne, there are around the council table —and I am very glad—representatives of States which were not technically our Allies during the time of the War, and the larger you can make the area of discussion and acquiescence among all those who have interests, direct or indirect, in the future settlement of Europe, the more likely it is that that settlement will be upon a broad foundation and will endure. Personally, I should like to see all the Powers, great or small, which have any interests, direct or indirect, in this great settlement brought into council together, so that either through the machinery of the League of Nations or otherwise, the consentient decision should be a decision which represents not merely the old Allies in the War, but all the European States, and if possible America also. It is in that way, and in that way only, and upon those lines, and those lines only, that I believe we can find a way of escape from the entanglements and embarrassments of the existing international situation. I believe the Government will not dissent from that view. I hope they will not. If they not only accept and adopt that view, but pursue it in practice, I believe I can promise them the whole-hearted support of every section of opinion in this House. [Interruption.] I think it is very desirable that the Front Benches should be economical of the time at the disposal of the House, and doubtless there are new Members who are straining at the leash and longing to give tongue, and they will now have their opportunity.
Before we lose the opportunity to-day, I desire to put a query, which I will make as brief as possible. Can the Prime Minister give us some assurance on this point? Since the last Parliament rose this country has been within an ace of war, and we have been placed at the very gravest risk in the Near East. It is quite possible that this conference at Lausanne may break up without coming to any conclusion. Can the Prime Minister give us an assurance that at the earliest possible moment a statement will be made by the Government on our policy in the Near East? I do not ask for anything that will embarrass our negotiations at Lausanne, but we ought to be told at the earliest possible moment what exactly we are going to do. It is all very well to say we want peace. The Government of which the Prime Minister was such an ornament for so long, and which came to an inglorious end a short time ago, was always talking about peace. It is no good merely talking about peace. Everybody talks about peace conferences, but very often the diplomacy employed has exactly the opposite effect. Are we going to cease treating the Turks as moral outlaws, or are we going to receive them in this conference as, what in fact they are, a rejuvenated nation fresh from a great victory? Are we going to recognise that they are victory-proud as we were in 1918, and that if we try and browbeat them and treat them in any way that they can interpret as lacking in justice, we are likely to have the most terrible trouble throughout the Near East?
I read the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his principal colleagues during the General Election with the attention they deserved, and, with the exception of one speech by the Marquess Curzon at a public function in London, there was no definite statement of any sort on foreign affairs. The only statement that the Marquess Curzon made was to the effect, as far as I could make it out, that he proposed to tell the British public nothing whatever. He talked of peace, and said he wished to bring it about, but he did not tell us in what way he was going to do it. The Conference at Lausanne is sitting this week, and carefully drawn up communiqués are being given to the Press, but we know nothing at all. We know we have spent many millions on demonstrations of force, on partial mobilisation, on acts really of war, but we have had no authoritative statement at all— except what I may call perhaps the back chat of the prominent members of the late Government who are no longer in this Government, and the present Secretary of State—as to how we propose to get out of the present trouble or what our policy is.
We have had remarks made by right hon. Members on the Front Benches about what is in the King's Speech, but I want to make a remark or two about what is not in the King's Speech. There is not one word about any proposed policy for dealing with the situation arising out of the Treaty of Versailles My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) rejoiced in the fact that the Treaty of Sevres has been torn up. It ought to have been torn up the moment it was signed, but the Treaty of Versailles is a greater danger to the peace of the world to-day than the Treaty of Sevres ever was, and unless something is done we are going to have a complete collapse in Germany. I have been there since the House rose, and I have seen things at first hand, and the position is absolutely appalling, yet in the utterances of no Member on the Front Bench opposite during the General Election was there one sentence showing that they understood the gravity of the state of affairs in Germany. Since the last Parliament dissolved you have had the mark decreasing in value at an ever greater speed, you have got the people of Germany driven more and more desperate, and you have food riots almost daily in the great German cities. It cannot go on, and yet we have not had one statement during the Election from any member of the Government showing that they intend to change the policy that has brought about this appalling state of affairs. The King's Speech does not contain one word of any realisation of the problem or any attempt to meet it, by conference or by a change of policy or any other means. It is most disheartening and disappointing. You can talk about unemployment till the next morning arrives, but you will never come to a solution until you have got Europe restored, and that will not happen until the Treaty of Versailles has been ripped up.
Further, there is no hint at all, either in the King's Speech or in the Election speeches of the Prime Minister, of any renewal of the policy attempted by the right hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) of trying to bring Russia into the trading comity, if not the diplomatic comity, of nations.
There is no attempt at a continuance of the policy of Genoa, and The Hague. Are we going to have any statement as to our policy in regard to Russia and as to any continuation of The Hague and Genoa policies before this House disperses?
The only other matter I want to mention is rather a painful and delicate one. Soma years ago I had the friendship of a man who is now on trial for his life. I refer to Erskine Childers. He was an officer of the Royal Navy during the War and performed very gallant service indeed for this country. Afterwards, as we know, he joined the advanced party of Sum Fein in Ireland, and he has recently been one of the leaders of the Republican remnant there. I do not want to say one word at all as to the rights Or wrongs of the present dispute in Ireland or the tragical things that arc occurring there, but he has been tried in secret and is apparently going to be shot. The question of habeas corpus has been raised. Might I ask the Prime Minister whether, before we, pass the Rill to give effect to the Irish Treaty, we have any jurisdiction at all over the case of Erskine Childers? At any rate, he was and is an idealist, and he is a man who has committed no crime which can he called sordid. He has committed grave acts of violence in pursuit of a policy which he thought was best for his adopted country. I have not seen anything of Childers for some years, and I have had no communication with him at all, but I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether we cannot make now a gesture, whether we cannot say that perhaps the time has not yet passed when we can use our influence in the direction of clemency, and whether the Government does not think it would be a wise policy, as I think it would be, to be generous and to try and rave this man. He is, I believe, technically an Englishman.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—Whatever you say about, him, at any rate he is a man who has been inspired by high ideals, and he is as much a patriot, according to his own ideals, as any hon. Member in this House. I have mentioned these several grave omissions from the Kind's Speech, and I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether, before we disperse, these questions cannot be dealt with by the Government for the information of the public of this country and of other countries in Europe.
The right hon Gentleman shakes his head, but he also told us when speaking that he was never afraid to change if reasons were given him for so doing. Apparently there are two reasons which have operated to prevent this deputation being received. One is that under the new Government Ministers are to be responsible for their own Departments, and the other appears to be that the right hon. Gentleman has been convinced that the men who are leading these unemployed men are more or less of a criminal class. I want emphatically to contradict that statement. That there are some men unemployed who belong to what are called the ordinary criminal classes everybody will admit, but everybody will admit also that there is no section of society which can claim immunity from the criminal classes, and I think the right hon. Gentleman took a very bad line indeed in sending out to the Press the record of all these men. I hold it in my hand. The overwhelming majority of them are guilty of no greater crime than that of which the present Prime Minister himself was guilty when I was late a Member of this House. He and his friends, especially the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. R McNeill), were responsible not merely for making speeches, but for raising an army and arming that army; they also brought guns and ammunition from across the sea. The greatest crime that any one of these unemployed men has committed, apart from those who are definitely criminals—and they are a tiny fraction of the number given—is that they have made speeches. Rut if you are going to dub these men as criminals, what is to be said of Lord Carson and of the Prime Minister, and of those others on those benches who not merely made speeches but raised an army? You would have shot the unemployed if they had raised armies and done a tithe of what your people did in Ulster before the War. It seems to mo to be very low-down indeed that the Government of the day should send out a statement like this and that the public should be told in headlines, through the Press devoted to the Government, that these men belong to the criminal classes. There is not a man on those benches but knows perfectly well that these men are not members of the criminal classes in the ordinary sense.
Personally, I am very proud to have gone to prison twice in my life, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burns), who was President of the Local Government Board under the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), was also sent to prison for doing exactly the same things as these men who are dubbed as criminals and unworthy to be received at No. 10, Downing Street. I want the House to know first hand what these men are, and I will read out some of the cases, and I should like to say that this is the first time, to my knowledge, that a Government has taken this line against people who are really political opponents. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite had been written down as criminals when they were occupied in their malicious conspiracy against the Government of this country, they would have "raised Cain" in this House, there would have been no tranquillity here. I notice the Home Secretary is on the Treasury Bench, and be probably knows something about this. There is a man named Ernest Harry'Brad-ford, who was bound over last month on a charge of being a disturber of the peace and an inciter of others to commit crime. The Prime Minister ought to be alongside him. There is no Statute of Limitations about this business, and hon. Members opposite owe their seats to what they did in the Ulster business. To publish this man's name as that of a criminal is despicably mean.
Then there is a man named Garrett, who "took a prominent part in the Art Gallery riot in Liverpool, and was charged in company with other Communists." I am dubbed a Communist. I hope I am much worse. I hope I am—I try to be—a Christian, which is much worse. He was charged with riotous assembly. What about the riotous assembly when the late senior Member for Dundee went to Belfast and had to be guarded by the British Army? Why was not the right hon. Gentleman opposite put in prison then? Simply because there is class government in this country. That is the real class war. You charge us with being the class people, but you are the class people every time. Wal Hannington was charged at Coventry last April with creating a disturbance, and was sentenced to 28 days' imprisonment. After two days he was released. I, personally, think again the right hon. Gentleman opposite ought to have been in the dock side by side with him. Harry Homer was sentenced for making false statements to obtain relief. That is very bad, but hunger makes you do a lot of things you otherwise would not do. Men, when they are in financial straits, do very nasty things. I never will be found sitting in judgment on people, but what right have the Government to drag out this man's case and brand him in the eyes of his fellow-men I He has served his term, and I believe there is some law that ought to prevent throwing this up in his face, after he has suffered his punishment. There is the case of John McMahon. He was up for using threatening language. Is that criminal? If it is, then the right hon. Gentleman should be alongside of him. William Thompson, Salford, was sentenced for breaking a window—that is much better than breaking a head— because he was refused benefit to which he was entitled. There, again, the man was burning with a sense of indignation at not being able to get anything for his wife and children, and that man is treated as a criminal who must not come within the precincts of No. 10, Downing Street, George Wheeler, Newcastle, made seditious speeches in Sunderland, and another man, Gordon Currie, was "an indefatigable revolutionary propagandist, and formerly a member of the Scottish Divisional Council of the Communist Party of Great Britain." So far as inciting people to revolution and to violence, could anyone here charge him with being more violent than the right hon. Gentleman and his own friends during the Ulster dispute' Therefore, I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman that in doping the Press with unfair and absolutely untrue statements that these men are criminals, is not merely a tactical blunder, but a disgrace, both to himself and his Government.
I hope my Friends here are not going to allow, so far as they can help it, a very early Adjournment. I know hon. Members are all tired. There is nobody more tired than I am. I shall be more tired before you have done with me, anyhow. I come from a district where people have been living on the dole for months and, in some cases, years, and who are on the border line of subsistence. I asked myself, as I went round my Division on polling day, "Why should these people vote at all? Why should they bother about politics?" When Sir Eric Geddes left the North-Eastern Railway, he got away with £50,000, and yet we are told there is no money. Somebody asked something about money this afternoon. When you want it, you can lay your hands on it all right. It is only when we want it for unemployment that it is not there. Sir Eric Geddes got his £50,000 in order that he might draw a pension. He is a superannuated railway man, we are told by the Chairman of the Railway Commission, at about £11,000 a year. I am sorry I do not see the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) here, but just now a nice round sum was plumped down for directors who are going to be displaced on the Great Northern Railway. The London and South Western Railway Company and the London Brighton and South Coast Railway Company have all ladled out money for men who are going to be displaced because of the amalgamation of the railways. There are thousands of railwaymen who are being displaced today in order that you may have more efficient organisation of the railways. Who is paying them a farthing of compensation because they are being displaced? You are throwing them on to the labour market. When I go round Hackney Wick—and I would like to take the right hon. Gentleman round, and let him see men who fought in the country— I did not ask them to fight, because I only wanted to stop the War the whole time—but I go amongst these men and their women who have to stew in these filthy slums, merely existing, and think that you say, "We must not be in a hurry; we must think this thing out!" You have been thinking about it for two solid years. My first speech in this House was about unemployment, and if I live another twenty years, unless someone or other moves, I shall still be talking about unemployment.
It is easy for you to say that you can put down a riot. Of course you can. Personally, I would never put unarmed men against armed men, or even armed men against armed men. But that is not the thing that pulls a nation down. What pulls a nation down is the mental, moral and physical degeneracy of tens and tens of thousands of young people. No one who stands outside a Labour Exchange can help but be appalled by the number of young people who have been trained absolutely to do nothing, who exist on the lowest standard of subsistence. There is no one who thinks in East London but is appalled about that, and to say we will go away from this House and meet again in January or February is no use at all. We ought to stay here day by day, and night by night if necessary. I would rather meet in the morning and settle what we can do. An hon. Member on the other side asked, "What would you do?" We will tell the House more about that when our Amendment comes on. All this talk about foreign markets is right up to a certain point, but to-day somehow you have got to discover how to create a home market here in England. The idea that any nation can exist that forsakes the land all history proves to be a sheer fallacy. During the War you did not mind organising in order to defeat the Germans. You did not mind having a system by which everyone was ticketed and docketed so that everyone knew what he was doing. Is it not worth while trying nationally to get rid of poverty? It is no use saying that it is a product of the War. The War only accentuated it. Is it not worth our while, instead of talking about this question, to got down and try to settle it, because if you do not do it, either the nation goes to economic ruin, or there will be a violent revolution. Why not sit down here and say, "We will give the necessary time to hammer out the necessary remedies?"
Meanwhile, you are accustoming the young virile men and women to live on a mean standard of life, got without work, which, I think, is a monstrous thing to be doing. You are ruining their whole morale. You are taking the heart out of them, because they are hardly able to exist. Districts like mine are ruined by high rates, crushed by a burden they ought never to bear. But we are not going to let our people starve; we would rather go down with them. But we can only just keep them alive. I am going to appeal once more to the right hon. Gentleman to receive that deputation, and to remember that they are no worse than he has been and that they are in the same boat as he was. But they are suffering from a personal grievance from which he was not suffering. They are suffering from hunger. Further, I would ask him not to have any idea of adjourning this House until we have made some attempt, at least to find temporary measures to deal with this terrible problem.
I represent in this House an area in which there are 13,000 men at the bureau—an area which has been devastated by unemployment on a scale without parallel in its history. I am here as the representative of the working men and working women in my constituency, and of nobody else, for the purpose of bringing the grievances of the subject to the foot of the Throne, or whatever you like to call it. We are not satisfied with the attitude the Government are taking up, but the party to which I belong cannot help being almost, grateful for the way the unemployed are being dealt with, because my party do not believe you will ever enable us to carry our point constitutionally and legally. We do not take the same point of view exactly as the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) or the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). We have not got the same patience or the same confidence in it. We believe that when the time comes we shall have to deal with your class as the hon. Member who once sat, for Huntingdon dealt with your predecessors. There have been precedents in this country for revolution. There have been many precedents for revolution. There is no country in the world where there are as many precedents for civil war as this country, and, if you wish to challenge us again, then we shall be compelled to take up the challenge, and I say, with all the gravity I possibly can, that we do not desire to take up that challenge if we can help it. We hope, just as much as our colleagues in the Labour party, to be able to establish this system constitutionally and legally, but we do not think that you have given us much evidence during the course of the last week that you are going to deal with it in the spirit in which we might have ex- pected that the gentlemen of England, the gentlemen of Scotland, and the gentlemen of Wales would have dealt with the poor men and poor women of this country. We wish to know something much more satisfactory than that which you have given to us so far. We are not going to sit down with the scale laid down by the Ministry of Health in the last Parliament. We are demanding the scale of the National Unemployed Workers' Committee. We are demanding 36s. per week for man and wife. We are demanding also an amount of rent up to 15s. per week, if necessary, and we are going to get it. If we do not get it inside this Chamber, we shall get it outside this Chamber. [Laughter.] You may laugh to-day, gentlemen of England. You may laugh to-day, gentlemen of Scotland. You may laugh to-day, but we shall laugh best who laugh last.
I was very pleased to hear His Most Gracious Majesty the King. It is the first time I have had the pleasure of being in the High Court of Parliament. It is also the first time that an elected representative of the Communist International has had the chance of standing at the foot of the Throne. It is not the last— not the last by a long chalk! I was glad to hear that the King was interested in unemployment. I was glad to know that his Ministers are interested in unemployment; but it would have been a lot better if they had spent a little less money upon that tomfool show of theirs—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]
If they do not like it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I withdraw; but I need not, however, change my opinion as a Communist. That spectacle is a challenge. It is the challenge of Marie Antoinette: If they cannot get bread, why do they not eat cake? If they cannot wear shawls, why cannot they wear diamonds and pearls? If they cannot get ordinary broadcloth, why cannot they dress themselves in ermine? Why cannot they dress themselves in purple and fine linen? These Christian gentlemen! They that do these things are in King's houses. Yes, we have something to say about that. We have to remember that this is the result of private enterprise for 160 years or more: of capitalistic private enterprise. This is what you have brought us to. You have been lamenting to-day the condition of your currency. Your currencies are finished, Gentlemen. You know it. You wish for tranquillity! Yes, you wish for tranquillity because Your Master's voice says "tranquillity." Your master's voice in Wall Street; your master's voice in the United States of America. Tranquillity! We are told by the Prime Minister that you can get as much as merchants by putting these matters into the hands of somebody else as in the hands of your own countrymen. Of course you can; your class can. Your mercantile class can. Your banking class can. Not so the people who follow the lead of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George). Not so the members of the National Liberal party. They are the great industrialists. Why are there so few of them in this Chamber? Why so few following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith)? Because there is no economic power there.
Why are you not going to withdraw from Mesopotamia? Let the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister ask his constituents whether he should withdraw from Mesopotamia. Let him ask his constituents—four-fifths of the shareholders of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. That is why he will not give an answer. That is why he is not going to do it. There is not tranquillity, but the arrangement of a nice little deal with the Shell Oil Company and the Standard Oil Company. That is how you are going to do it, Gentlemen. We know your little game. I heard the most Gracious Speech from the Throne, and the reference that was made in it to Austria. I could have prophesied that you would have mentioned Austria in that Speech. That was the voice of your master, the Bank of England. That was the voice of Baring Brothers. That was the voice of the Rothschilds. You have to have it this time, Gentlemen. That was the voice of Glyn, Mills, Currie, and Company. His master's voice! With what a delicate air you skirted around the subject of Russia. I am proud that I belong to the same army, and that I am rallied under the same flag as Oulianow Lenin, and—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you not go then?"]—
I have been in a riotous House before. I am glad, Gentlemen, that you are proving the contention of the Communist party. You are proving that there is a class struggle. Go on doing it. That is what we want. These people near me do not want it. I want it. His master's voice! Then you come to the question of Russia. Do not forget that when you speak of Russia you are speaking of the oldest Government in Europe. Do not forget that the Russian Government is standing despite all that you have done, despite all that has been done by you and by your Allies, and by the so-called bankrupt neutrals or the mortgaged neutrals, if they are not bankrupt. Do not forget that in the banner of Soviet Russia—[Interruption]. Yes, you have not got that banner down yet. It stands erect against the whole world, the whole capitalist world. Sooner or later you have got to recognise the Soviet Government of Russia. The sooner you do it the better for you, because if you do not do it, there are firms—and I can name them—that are going into the Bankruptcy Court. Their workers are out on the streets. You and I know how close you are to ruin. When that ruin comes; when there is no food because your export system is finished, what is going to happen to you? You will have to produce. You say you work to-day. Oh, yes, you work to-day, but you will have to work at useful work. [An HON. MEMBER: "So will you!"] It is useful work I am doing. I beg you pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. When you find that there are no exports and no wheat coming in, no exports going out, and no something else coming in, that is going to be very uncomfortable for you. Of course, we shall use the rationing system, and those that then do the most useful work will get the most, and those that stand in the way will be sorry that they do stand in the way. I also want to know from the Prime Minister what is going to be his reply on the question of the back-rent.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite perhaps do not know what back-rent means.
I refer in back-rent to that money which has been taken illegally—to money that has been taken by your class. If you try by this assembly or the other to take and keep that which you have taken wrongfully, I shall be sorry for you. You will then only the more inflame the people. What has sent me to Parliament? What has doubled my vote in four years? The discontent of the masses. Unemployment. Vile housing. The topic of back-rent. It is not mere propaganda. It is not this or that propaganda. Propaganda does not make revolution. Conditions make revolution. That is why you are so desperately afraid to-day. [Laughter.] Oh, but you are. You will get it before very long. We also want houses. I want houses for my people. Eighty per cent, of my constituents live in houses of not more than two rooms for each family. Great numbers of them live in not more than one room. I was accused at the election of a design to break up the family. I was accused then of all kinds of immoral opinions. I will tell you one thing. We found during the election—and it was reported by the medical officer of health—that in one room there was a family living and a corpse was lying in one bed, while a man and two grown up daughters were in the adjoining bed. That is not communism. That is capitalism. That is under capitalism. It is in the name of the men, women, and children that live in Motherwell that I am here. I am here in the name of my people. I am demanding justice. I am going to get justice. If not at this Table, then we will get it.
We have listened to an interesting address from the hon. Gentleman opposite, but I do not propose to follow him beyond saying this, that we on this side of the House differ fundamentally from everything he says. While we yield to no one in our sympathy in the difficulties of the situation, we think we have remedies which we believe iii the long run prove far more efficacious—[HON. MEMBERS: "How long?" and an HON. MEMBER: "Make it a short run!"]—than the more rapid way advocated by some hon. Members; remedies which will meet the situation better than any policy advocated by hon. Gentlemen on the other side can possibly do. I want, however, to turn very briefly to a subject not mentioned in the Gracious Speech of His Majesty. Otherwise I should not have mentioned it, because of the shortness of this Session. At the same time, however, it is a subject of great importance, and I hope the Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture, whom I see here, will give, as I think they will, most serious attention to it. I refer to the question of agriculture. The state of agriculture today is deplorable. The result of that state must mean this, that the food supply of this country must suffer, the home supply must suffer, and not only must it suffer, but a large number of people employed in the production of that food supply must also suffer.
Briefly, the position is this. Last year was a very bad year on account of the decrease in prices, which I think was. unprecedented in the memory of any hon. Member of this House, with the result that the Corn Production Act of 1920–which I did not support in any way, and consequently I am free from any blame in regard to it—had to be repealed with regard to Part I. Ever since that was done agriculture has been left to try and find its own salvation. Following on the bad year last year, the bulk of the profits earned by most farmers during the years of the War were used up, and we have had another disaster since then as far as corn growing is concerned. The bulk of the corn grown this year in England has been produced at a considerable loss, and unless something is done to help the ordinary farmer and those engaged in corn growing and stock breeding, there is not the slightest doubt that a large number of bankruptcies will ensue, with the inevitable result that a large number of agricultural labourers will be thrown out of work, and the state of agriculture will become such as I do not like to contemplate.
I think we have a Minister of Agriculture now who knows the needs of the agricultural community, and that is why I take the first opportunity I can of rising in order to put the case very briefly before him, and in order to urge upon him the necessity of doing something in regard to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman can probably arrange that the whole question of the rating of agricultural land should be overhauled. I know that is a very complicated subject and it will take some time. I would point out, however, that in the meantime the agricultural industry is suffering very severely, and that is why I ask him to take immediate steps to relieve the situation The problem which the farmer now has to face is how he can produce more cheaply than he did in the past, and at the same time provide a living wage for the men he employs. While an improvement in trade may bring prosperity to the people in the towns, who will benefit by the importation of cheap food and the opening up of foreign markets, the farmer has to face the effect of cheaper food coming into this country and keener competition. Consequently the farmer, unlike the public, does not benefit to the same extent by a revival in trade.
The existing state of affairs in this industry needs immediate attention, and I ask the Minister of Agriculture to consider whether he cannot do something immediately to lighten existing burdens on the land in order that the men who to-day through rates and other charges have to contribute considerable sums of money to meet local and Imperial needs may have some relief in order that they may spend more money on the development of their farms and holdings. I understand that the Minister of Agriculture is considering the question of giving credit facilities to farmers. If something can be done to grant loans on easy terms to farmers, I think that will be doing something in the right direction, but it should be done very soon. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will also consider the removal of some of the burdens on the local rates where they are becoming matters almost of an Imperial character. Great alterations have been made in the way our main trunk roads have been kept up. We know that the county councils have been demanding more money from the localities and counties, and we have to confess at the same time that in many localities the main trunk roads are still very dangerous on the surface under the improved methods which have been adopted.
There is a considerable feeling that something should be done in the way of increased grants from the money raised by motor taxation or other sources in order to relieve the burdens now charged to localities, all of which increase the burdens on the land which have to be met by the small farmers and the landowners, and all this takes away from the funds which they otherwise would have for the cultivation of their farms. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give some consideration to these matters, which brook no delay. If the right hon. Gentleman will examine into the banking account of most farmers he will find that, whatever sum they saved during the War up to the year before last, has practically gone now, and consequently farm wages have come down to a deplorable extent. Unless money comes in from the produce of the farm, it is patent to everybody that the farmer cannot have the money necessary to pay wages, and that is why I take this opportunity of asking the Minister of Agriculture to bring forward some immediate remedies. Unless something is done immediately, not only will agriculture go rapidly down, but the farmers and the men employed by him will suffer seriously. I urge that special attention should be paid to this question of credit facilities in order that farmers may be able to tide over an extremely difficult time.
As a new Member of this House, I have been very deeply impressed, first of all, by the earnest appeal that has been made from the Benches on this side of the House by the hon. Member for Bow (Mr. Lansbury). He has in various ways appealed to many in this country on those great issues. I speak as one representing a most important industrial constituency, in which there has been a very decisive change in its parliamentary representation. I do not mean any personal allusion, but there has been a very decisive change in the feeling that has been expressed in regard to the views of the former representative of my constituency in this House. I want to say that there is a growing conviction amongst the vast body of the people of this country, and by that I mean the workers, that this House has unfortunately, altogether, irrespective of what Government is in power, been trifling with these gigantic issues.
I know the views of the hon. Member for Motherwell and I have a decisive objection to them.
I had as an opponent at the last Election one who represents the same party as the hon. Member for Motherwell, and I felt that it was my bounden duty as a believer in constitutional action to point out very clearly the dangerous lines on which those who belong to the Communist party are proceeding. I have had considerable experience in different parts of the country, more especially among the miners of Scotland, and I know there are forces growing among them which are absolutely convinced in regard to aggressive ideas and arguments which have been driven home in public debates by one whose name will be familiar to all those in this House, I mean Mr. Guy Aldred. Mr. Aldred is a very able man and he is desperately in earnest in every point which he drives home, and he was cheered to the echo when he denounced any belief in religion and when he was committing himself to the most drastic line of action he was cheered by men and women on every point. I want hon. Members to realise what that means.
I wish to emphasise that this House has not been grappling with those issues in the way that earnest working men and women feel they ought to be grappled with. With all due respect to those who officially represent the Labour party, I have pointed out from my independent platform that there has been a growing-feeling amongst the workers that the Labour party has not been so aggressive or determined in carrying out their professions, and as the outcome of this there has been a growing feeling in favour of the communist movement. My anxiety is that we should have some clear line of action laid down on this question in order to give proof to the workers that we mean business. I was very much struck by some other references made by the hon. Member for Motherwell. I would like to mention an instance I read about in the papers last night. It is the case of a man who, seeing a child who had been provided by its mother with some little
eatables, stole them from the child's mouth because hunger had gripped the man. On this question I do not want to make any strong statements. I am going to accept those statements on their face value and we all claim to be interested in the progress of our country. We all claim to be loyal to the best interests of the country and we all desire to secure the support of the electors in our constituencies. This morning as usual we heard quoted from the Old Book on which I place my trust, the words:
Let the nations be glad and rejoice.
How can our nation really and truthfully rejoice when, as the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon pointed out, there are 1,375,000 people unable to find employment? I know the usual story told about the street corner man—that he does not want work. There is no one in this House, I am sure, who will for one moment dispute that the great body of those who have been spoken of to-day as the unemployed are really seriously and earnestly anxious to find a chance to work. They are appealing to you, they are appealing to every one of us to try and find a way out for them. There is no one who has entered any of those domiciles, those terrible haunts with which some of us have become familiar in parts of our great cities, who does not realise that the lads who, before the war, found it difficult to get work, were got hold of by recruiting agencies, direct and indirect, in order to fight for the defence of our homes. They gave of their flesh, their blood, and their sinews for that purpose, but now to-day they find their homes are defenceless, not because of any want of ability on their part. I would give credit to every Member of this House, in whatever part he may sit, for possessing a desire to contribute something towards grappling with these things. I am prepared to admit that each of you have expressed sympathy, but I maintain that with the formidable forces by which we are confronted, and by which every man and woman here is in some degree encircled, we find that the conditions which the hon. Member for Motherwell has touched upon are almost overwhelming.
I want Members of this House to keep to the central point. Each and all of us are human. Those who are unemployed are human. For goodness sake, let the Leader of the House receive the men who are unemployed. Why not? Why not welcome them at the Bar of this House? Why should anyone hesitate to do that? Surely we are all willing when a man comes to ask our help to do our best for him, and why should not the Leader of this House receive these men, who, it is admitted, did their part in saving our country from our enemies? Are we now going to allow them to be defeated by enemies at home? Are we going to see some of the best of our men go down under these conditions? Are we not going to save them from the agencies which are dragging them down to their doom? I earnestly hope we are going to help them. These people are suffering, and we ought not to adjourn until we have done our duty by them.
I have listened with considerable interest to the eloquent address which has just been delivered by a fellow-countryman of mine, but I do not think that he does quite justice to Members on this side of the House when he suggests that we really do not appreciate and are not very much exercised by the difficulties experienced by large classes of our countrymen to-day. I have the honour to represent a constituency, North Edinburgh, which is very largely a working-class constituency, and the success I had in asking for support was based on the voters' recognition that I and the Government whose Policy I interpreted to them were fully aware of the difficulties with which they are faced. It is not a question of want of heart. It is a much more difficult question. It is a question of balancing the conflicting interests of small business men and of the employés, and of men out of work on the one side with those ranged on the other side, realising that in taking too much from the general fund in order to relieve those out of employment you would be putting taxation up to such an extent that it will inevitably drive away capital, trade, industry, and employment. I know some hon. Members opposite say they are tired of hearing that argument. I venture to assert that the working men and working women of this country have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that, on the whole, they believe that in these difficult times His Majesty's Government, as at present constituted, is not only well equipped but has the heart and the determination to solve the problem, not by any dramatic coup such as has been suggested by some hon. Members opposite, but by adopting a far more permanent and efficacious role by weighing the difficulties as they exist and by taking the legislation that has been passed and examining it and putting it into effect in a manner that will be of greater advantage to the beneficiaries. These are more tedious and less dramatic ways, but I maintain the bulk of the working men and women have shown that they believe the Government which is prepared to pursue them is entitled to their support.
I appeal not to party but to all Members of this House to show their goodwill in this matter and not to press their party interests too far at this present moment, when we are suffering from the exhaustion of a great War. Let us go hand in hand; let our criticisms be just and firm, not in general terms, and certainly never in abusive terms. Let us remember this sole fact that the great bulk of the Members, of this House can only secure election if they have the confidence of the working classes in their constituencies. The working classes of this country are not fools. We claim we have the confidence of the country behind us. Although we admit it will require the greatest patience, still we are confident that the measures the Government have outlined will meet the case if we work together in a spirit of fair criticism and not of wholesale condemnation, and if we do not embark on the application of panaceas which in no country have ever met with success, and which have inevitably led to disaster. Let us go on in the old beaten track of steadfast purpose, working together. There will never be a revolution in this country. The people of the country are too sound, and too steady for that. Members on these benches at any rate will admit that not by revolution, but by working together in the interest of all for the improvement of the common lot shall we attain that end. I have never interpreted the policy of tranquillity as a policy of doing nothing. In the strenuous times through which we have passed, times of unexpected crises, legislation was passed which now needs to be codified. We want to take the best out of it and to extend it, and we want to see it administered more efficiently, so that the beneficiaries of that legislation shall reap the benefit, and not the bureaucracy or any part of it. Coming as I do from what is very largely a working-class constituency in Scotland, I make an appeal to my brother Scotsmen opposite to let us sink our differences, and not to be too hasty in criticism of each other. Then we shall be able to give relief to those unfortunates whose position is so disastrous, and we can bring the country back to normal times in which the world's prosperity will mean the prosperity of the workers of this country.
I was unfortunately absent during part of the speech of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Newbold), but I should like to tell him, seeing that he referred to the question of housing, that there are many people who are just as much interested in housing as the Communist party. The hon. Member spoke about the immorality caused by bad housing. He referred also to Russia, but I do not think he realised the immorality which exists in Russia among young children, an immorality so appalling that Lenin and the Commissioners have had to hold a special inquiry into it. I would ask the hon. Member to bear that in mind if he wants this to be a moral nation. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was under the Czar."] No, I am referring to what exists under the Communist regime. [Interruption.] I do not want to fight hon. Members about that. It is easy enough to fight, and if I desired I could give a good answer to their interruptions. I am tired of the Labour party assuming that they are the only people interested in progress. I have much sympathy with them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Keep your sympathy to yourself."] I will suggest to hon. Members to keep civil tongues in their heads until I have finished. [An HON. MEMBER: "Keep a civil tongue in your head."]
One more thing I should like to say. We who are interested in social reform would not seek to keep our capitalist system going unless we thought that under that system we should get what hon. Members opposite are trying to get under another system. We have just come through an election, and we all must know the bitter lies that have been told on all sides. We have all had to stand it. I have fought in this House for better housing. I fought against the last Government, and will fight against this Government unless they have a progressive housing programme; and it is a little hard that we who have given so much time and thought to the problem should be held up as the capitalist party who do not care how the working classes are housed. It is not true. As regards unemployment, I am certain that there is not a Member on this side of the House who would not stay here and talk for 10 years if he thought it would settle the matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, talk!"] That is all that you can do. I appeal to hon. Members who are attacking us to remember that some of us do, like the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) take the Good Book as our guide. We find there that Our Lord's teaching was to change the heart of man; and He knew that when that was done the economic system would soon get in order.
I want to call the attention of the House to one or two matters, which I think are matters of omission, in connection with the speech to which we have just listened. I did not notice that there was any mention of economy. We have had a great deal of talk about economy up and down this country, and we have had a great deal of talk about waste. But there is one particular waste that is never mentioned, and that is the waste of the man-power of this nation. When I throw my mind back to the War period, I remember how we were told that every man in this country was valuable, how we were told that every man was wanted either in munitions or in the trenches—men of every character, men of every capability. I heard of men who usually would not be considered sufficiently good to do any work, but who were sent to us in the trenches, because they were said to be serviceable for fighting. At that time— I think the only time in 500 years of English history—we were practically without any unemployment at all. In the district from which I come, the borough of Stepney, we always have unemployment. You may have a Free Trade system, or such a system as we have at the present time under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, which practically amounts to high Protection; but you will still have unemployment in East London. In East London we stand at the gate of England. Wealth flows through our borough up to London, but precious little stays there. We always have unemployment. The only time when unemployment was practically non-existent was the time of the War; and, despite all the rationing, despite all the food substitutes, on the whole the living conditions of our people were actually better during the War period.
I am speaking of waste from the point of view of the waste that is going on to-day of our man-power and woman-power, and of the children who are going to be the men and women of the future. In my district every day men are coming to me whom I have known years ago, and I see how they have fallen off through unemployment. You see men who were fit to be sergeant-majors in the Army —fine, upstanding men—reduced to dragging along the streets with their hands out for anything they can get. That is an enormous waste. It is not only waste, but absolute folly. We are told, and I believe it, that there is sympathy on the other side with the unemployed. I do not suppose that anyone on the benches opposite is going to get up and say that he is prepared to put the unemployed men, and their wives and families, into a lethal chamber and kill them. I think that everyone on all sides is agreed that they are to be kept alive, and the only question we have to face is whether they are going to be kept alive in fine and fit condition, or upon a dole which means that they are going steadily downhill.
The true wealth of this country is its citizens, and the finest of them, the very cells that build up our community, are the families that have a certain standard of life. Such a man, with his wife and family, with their home, represent, after all, the basis of our society, which is based upon the family. If that man falls out of work, if he comes down to a miserable wage, it means that his home is broken up, and his whole standard of life goes down and down. What you are doing with our industrial machine is allowing the spare parts to be absolutely wasted and rusted. I daresay there are hon. Members opposite who have motor cars. Perhaps they keep spare parts for them, and I expect that they look after and care for them, or their chauffeur does. The Stepney wheel is cared for as much as that which is on the car. I represent, so to speak, the Stepney wheel, the wheel which is temporarily unemployed, but which you will require in the future. My claim is that we have got to see that that reserve of labour is kept fit. When we were in the Army during the War we did not have our rations docked because we went into the supports or reserves. Our rations were the same whether we were in the front line or in the supports.
That is the first item of waste. The second great item is the loss of the services of these 1,300,000 men who are unemployed to-day. These men are capable of productive work, and there is productive work that wants doing. In my borough, which is a borough of 250,000 inhabitants, we had a very close inspection of the houses. We endeavoured to get our housing conditions bettered, and we were told that over two-thirds of our houses were not repairable in any true sense of the word. Under such powers as we had we insisted that every landlord should put his house in repair, but those houses are so utterly worn out that they cannot be repaired, but must be replaced. At the present time the country is supporting out of public funds, either national funds or local funds or funds provided by the contributions of employers and employed—I care not which you say it is; it is all coming out of the productive powers of the nation—some 100,000 men in the building trade who are not allowed to build, who are actually being paid not to build. We are almost following the bad example of the London County Council, who got out a housing scheme and then paid the contractors a sum of money in respect of every house which they did not build. We are keeping these people, though not in a state of efficiency, when we have this urgent need of housing.
The hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) quite properly stressed that point of housing and the intimate way in which housing is bound up with morality. We know it very well down our way. We know, too, the results of the census, which showed that in the London area alone there are 600,000 persons who are living in one-room tenements. You are not going to get an A1 nation under those conditions: you are not going to get a moral nation under those conditions; you are not going to get a sober nation under those conditions. I quite realise why the hon. Member for Dundee made the speech that he did, because, with his heart bound up with the temperance question, he knows, as we do, that we have to deal with these causes. You may produce a case here and there of abuse of the dole: you may produce an occasional man who marches with the unemployed and has a bad record; but every Member of this House who has been in a contested election and has come into personal contact with the unemployed knows that the great mass of unemployed men are those same men who saved us during the War. They are the same men who stood side by side in the trenches. They are the heroes of 1914 and 1918, though they may be pointed out as the Bolshevists of to-day.
Why was it that in the War we were able to find employment for everyone? It was simply that the Government controlled the purchasing power of the nation. They said what things should be produced; they said, "We must have munitions of war. We must have rifles; we must have machine-guns; we must have shells; we must have ammunition; we must have uniforms; we must have saddles." They took, by means of taxation and by methods of loan, control of the purchasing power of the nation, and directed that purchasing power into making those things that were necessary for winning the War. To-day the distribution of purchasing power in this nation is enormously unequal. I recall a speech by the present Prime Minister, in which he said that one of the greatest reforms in our national life would be a better distribution of wealth among the individuals composing this nation. I entirely agree with him. While the purchasing power of this nation is concentrated in the hands of a few, there will be production of luxuries and not of necessaries. It was found necessary during the War for the Government to take hold of the purchasing power—which, after all, determines what goods shall be made—and deliberately to say that certain things were essential because we were at war, and that those things and no others should be made. They said to those who were running industry that their factories must be turned away from producing luxuries and must produce those sheer necessities. That is what we are demanding shall be done in time of peace. It is possible for the Government, by methods of taxation and by other methods, to take hold of that purchasing power, and to say that, exactly as they told manufacturers and workers that they must turn out shells and munitions of all sorts to support the fighting men, so they must turn out houses and necessities for those who are making this country a country of peace.
As the nation was organised for war and death, so it can be organised for peace and life if we have the will for it. That is why we reject all these facile assumptions that you can wait until trade is a little better. You cannot wait. The waste is going on all the time. You have only to look at the state of the children in our streets to see how that waste is going on; and if, as I hope may never happen, we should have another war in 20 years' time, and if the Government should begin, as they did, by calling up for various years, when you come to these last three years and look at the classes of 1920, 1921 and 1922, you will not be surprised to find that a very large proportion of them are C.3. But it will be too late for yon then to complain; it will have been by your policy of tranquillity that these classes have been produced. I am not, however, concerned with producing men for war; I am concerned with producing citizens for life. I stand for no more war, and for development in peace; and I say that you are to-day in this country ruining future generations as you have ruined the present generation. It is not the fact that character is formed by unmerited suffering and privation. It simply means what I have seen for 17 years in the borough of Stepney—the boy or the man getting unemployed and sinking, sinking, sinking right down to the unemployable. We do want an economy campaign, but it must be a true economy campaign—economy in mankind, economy in flesh and blood, economy in the true wealth of the State and of the community, namely, its citizens. That can only be brought about by deliberately taking hold of the purchasing power of the nation, by directing the energies of the nation into the production of necessities for life, and not merely into the production of luxuries or necessities for profit.
One thing which has occurred to me during the past half hour is that the discussion, at any rate, has assumed an air of reality. In the earlier stages of the Debate I was rather pleased, as one who does not believe in a bloody revolution, that the working classes of this country were not witnesses. During the past half-dozen speeches we have got away from Turkey, from Mesopotamia, and even from the Western Isles, which was the nearest the Liberal party could bring us to reality, and we have got down to the conditions of Stepney. Two remarks made by speakers on the other side I should like to make the subject of what I have to say. One was an appeal by an hon. Member to those of us who come from Scotland to remember that our opponents opposite have very good hearts, that they may not see eye to eye with us in our remedy for social evils, but that their intentions are of the best, and he said the working men and women of this country believed that the Government had a good heart. I am one of the representatives of a city in which the working men and women believe nothing of the kind. We have not the proud distinction claimed by the senior Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) of having rid Scotland of one of the notorious representatives of the principles of the other side, but we did our level best, and we came very near to success. I think, like the man who just missed the train by not starting in time, had we got in a few days earlier, one of the Members opposite would have had to show his loyalty to his party by making a place for the Prime Minister. If we had not time to do that, we had, at any rate, time to do this. Our citizens had time to send two-thirds of their total representation to tell the Prime Minister they did not want him to occupy that position, and if on Wednesday last the citizens of Glasgow had had an opportunity they would have voted themselves entirely and immediately and completely outside the capitalist system of society, of which the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) is a defender. During that little lecture to us on good manners she told us that she is very anxious to bring about the condition of society of which we claimed a monopoly as the propagandists. I do not deny the good intentions of the hon. Member. It is not her intentions which are at fault. It is the principles of which she is a defender. She said she would not defend capitalism for five minutes if she could be satisfied that capitalism was wrong. That is a challenge to this side of the House. We have demonstrated to the satisfaction of two-thirds of the citizens of the second city in the Empire that it is wrong. They have sent us here to tell you that in their opinion it is a complete failure. They do not regard the collapse of the late Government as being due to any imperfections in its personnel. They do not attribute unemployment to the fact that you have had a Coalition Government, or that you have a Conservative Government. They believe that if those Benches were occupied by angels from Heaven and they defended the capitalist system of society, you would still have the present deplorable conditions. I can demonstrate that, I hope, to the satisfaction of the Noble lady.
Two questions have been mentioned. There is first the question of unemployment. You talk about solving unemployment by improving trade with Europe. We hear a great deal about getting into commercial connection with Russia, but that is not the cause of unemployment at all. If your poverty and your unemployment were due to the fact that you could not get certain goods from Russia, or that you could not bring certain goods from Central Europe, you ought to be able to show us that at present there is a shortage of these, goods in this country, but there is no shortage of the goods. Where is there a shortage? Your unemployment is due to an embarrassment of riches. Shipbuilders on the Clyde are idle because you have too many ships. The miners in Lanarkshire are idle because you have too much coal. Your clothing manufacturers in Leeds are idle because their markets, warehouses and shops are glutted with the goods that they produce. There is a shortage of only one thing in this country, and that is housing accommodation, and you do not import that from Russia, nor from Central Europe, nor even from Mesopotamia, nor any of those places in which you appear to be more interested than you are in the industrial districts of Great Britain. What is the cause, then, of this unemployment? It is due to the fact that your capitalist system cannot distribute goods as rapidly as it can produce them. During recent years, particularly during the War, you have been increasing the productive power of your industrial population. You have been improving machinery, improving workshop organisation, and improving transport, and during the War you were able, with a reduced industrial population, to meet all the requirements of the people. And then you brought back into industry 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of your best working men. Does it not appeal to your common sense that if you are going to put double the number of men and apply them to this improved machinery they are going to produce double the quantity of goods, and if you are going to keep your industry from becoming stagnant you must get an outlet of double the capacity that you formerly had for these goods?
You are looking for markets in Russia, in Germany and elsewhere. Has it ever occurred to you that you have reduced wages in this country by £500,000,000 a year—by £10,000,000 per week—and that thereby you have cut off purchasing power to the extent of £500,000,000? Having done that, you have cut off a greater-market than the whole of the European market was, not only prior to the War, but in 1920. You have cut off at home a greater market than the one you are trying to set on its feet abroad. As people who pretend to be loyal citizens, should you not have more interest in putting Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and London on their feet than Central Europe? The hon. Member who moved the Address spoke about granting credits to Europe, I suppose in order that you might give them goods on tick, to use the common phraseology of my country, and that they should take the goods away and allow you to employ your idle working classes. Why not give credit to the people at home? Why not give credit to the 50,000 who are on the banks of the Thames to-day demanding employment? Why not put them on their feet? Why not put Glasgow on its feet? Why not put the 1,500,000 unemployed in this country on their feet? Why not put on their feet the millions of women and children who are helpless and who are the innocent victims of the society of which you are defenders? You may talk about the character of the leaders of these unemployed. You cannot turn to the little infant in its cradle and say, "My dear little child, but for your Bolshevism Society would be all right." To the hon. Member for the Sutton Division I would say, if for no higher reason than that of her sex, "Put aside these flimsy objections and come to the defence of these common people." You ask how under the capitalist system of society that can be remedied. It cannot be remedied under the capitalist system, because under that system when an employer finds that he has more goods than the people can purchase with the money at their disposal, he has to stop the production of the goods, and to suspend the employment of his men. That, in turn, in its very nature leads to a reduction of wages, which, in turn, leads to reduced purchasing power and further and further unemployment, until to-day our people stand actually in a state of starvation in the midst of plenty of goods.
Turn to the other question in which the hon. Member is interested, the question of housing. She says she wants to get good houses. You cannot get houses under the capitalist system. What happened? In Glasgow we wanted 57,000 new houses. Other cities wanted a proportionately large number. The Government agreed that we wanted them, after making investigation, and they proceeded to erect them. You are defenders of private enterprise. Private enterprise means going into business to make as much as possible in the way of profit out of the commodities you handle. Immediately the Government scheme proceeded, they found that all the materials necessary for the building of houses were controlled by trusts and combines, and, as the, demand for the materials grew, the prices of these things went higher and higher. The Government could do nothing to prevent that taking place, for the simple reason that, they were elected to defend private enterprise, and that was private enterprise. Private enterprise is private robbery, and they were here to defend the robbers. The ultimate effect was that houses which originally cost £300 went up to £1,300. What could a poor Government do? They could not stop the boosting of prices by private enterprise. They stopped building altogether. That was all that capitalism could do. Then, of course, there was a change. Down came the prices again to £400 and £350. But that was not private enterprise at all. I hope you will find some satisfaction in the results, which I will show you. The object of your building industry is neither to put prices up nor to bring them down, but to build houses. The putting up of the prices stopped the building, and the bringing of them down has not given you the houses, because the trusts and combines are still there, and if you started to produce houses to-morrow for the people who are to-day actually living, in many cases, in what are little better than lethal chambers, the trusts and combines, private enterprise, of which you are the glorious defenders, would be waiting, and when you attempt to obtain materials up will go the prices again. You have private enterprise, represented by groups, trusts and combines, having the nation by the throat, and you are there as the helpless defenders of an obsolete system of society. Whether you be there long or short depends upon the intelligence of the people outside. It will depend on when other parts of the country become an intelligent as Glasgow at the recent Election. I must apologise for having addressed so many of my remarks to one particular Member, but the challenge was thrown out to this side to explain to a particular Member how the system of society of which she is a defender cannot possibly deal with the present conditions. I submit that it stands a hopeless failure, with defunct machinery which can no longer operate, and that the longer you defend it, the more oppression and the more misery, poverty, degradation and death you will impose on the British people.
I agree with one thing said by the hon. Member who has just spoken, and that was in regard to the opening up of the markets in Russia and in Central Europe. There is a good deal too much made of the opening up of these markets. Even if the markets in Russia and Central Europe were opened up to-morrow to the same extent as before the War, there would be very little difference in the numbers of unemployed who are walking our streets at the present time. In reference to the King's Speech, I was much alarmed with respect to the loan which we are to be asked to guarantee to Austria. Austria, as she exists to-day, is an economic impossibility. The great city of Vienna, which used to be the gay centre of a great and nourishing empire, is now the centre of a tiny tin-pot State which finds it impossible to exist under present economic conditions. The exchange between Austria and the other countries of the world has sunk to such an extent that any money which we put into Austria, any loan which we may make to it, or which our Allies may make to Austria, will be like the sinking of money into a pond. The probability is that in two or three years' time we shall be asked to guarantee a further loan, and we shall have no possibility of seeing our money back in this country. At another time, were this country in a state of prosperity and wore there no unemployed walking our streets, I should not object, but at a time like the present, when there is not a surplus of money in the country and when we want every penny that we can get to help our unemployed, it is not right that we should be guaranteeing loans to such countries as Austria, when we have no real guarantee that they will over be able to pay back the money.
From the Debate this afternoon it seems that the question of unemployment is concerned with the difference between private enterprise and nationalisation. In the brief speech that one makes on the Address, it is impossible to go into all the arguments about nationalisation; but we who uphold private enterprise believe it to be the most efficient form of enterprise in the economic conditions of this country. We believe that it is on private enterprise that this country has been built up, and that it is private enterprise that has enabled the country to achieve its present greatness in the world. We believe that by private enterprise and competition you get cheaper goods for the community than you could possibly get by any form of nationalisation, however efficient it might be, when it is managed, as it must be, by Government Departments. The Labour party's way of settling the problem of unemployment is by capital levy and nationalisation. A capital levy is nationalisation, because if you take the wealth that belongs to a person, even to some Members of this House who are connected with various businesses, you take the business. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, you take their business, and if you take their business you are nationalising their business. The State would have to run that business, and I submit that in every country where the various industries are nationalised those industries give a worse public service than under private enterprise and the community has been the sufferer.
There is only one way in which we can possibly hope to end unemployment, and that is by reduction of taxation. Private enterprise at the present time is groaning under the burdens of taxation. A great deal of taxation has been caused by the War. A great deal of the expenditure that we have to vote in this House—as hon. Members who have recently entered the House will soon find out—has been caused by the War, but there is a great deal of expenditure that we have to vote which is not caused by the War, which is continuing, and is caused by the cost of the overgrown staffs of Government Departments and the various commitments that have been made. In the Labour party manifesto many promises are made. They promise old age pensions for all people over 60 and pensions for widows of whatever age. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not!"] I would remind hon. Members that they promise all these things, which are going to cost a great deal of money, and they promise in the end that they will reduce taxation. That is an impossibility. All these schemes and suggestions may be good, and to certain classes of the community they are good; but at the present time, if hon. Members have any feeling for the unemployed outside, they must reduce taxation in order to get industries going again, so that they can give work for the unemployed. The unemployed do not want doles; they want work, and it is work that this House must try to give to them. You can only give them work under existing conditions by encouraging enterprise in every direction. Let us do our best to encourage it.
We have a new Government in power, and we are looking to it with considerable interest. We are looking to it first of all to reduce the taxation in this country. Ever since I have been in this House I have been opposed to our remaining in Iraq and Palestine. In the ordinary course of events, if this country had been in as prosperous a condition as in pre-War days, I would not have been opposed to our being in Iraq or Palestine; but conditions are against it to-day. I do not know how we can address meetings of the unemployed to-day when we are spending hundreds of millions in Iraq and Palestine. At the present time we are spending many millions a year in these two countries. Although in this country we need money for trade and industry, we are being burdened with taxation in order to keep Iraq and Palestine going. I have always urged that we should evacuate those two countries. If they can be made self supporting, well and good, but it is not right that the British taxpayer, the employers and the employed, should be taxed for the upkeep of those countries. Those who are employed and those who employ them should not be made to pay for Iraq and Palestine, especially when we have masses of unemployed in the streets.
It does not matter to what party we belong, we are all anxious to end the problem of unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] That is an absolutely wrong idea. It is a wrong idea that the majority of the industrialists in this country want to keep unemployment going. They want to see the unemployed absorbed into industry. They want to see every man employed and getting a decent wage. No one wants to see marches of unemployed such as we saw yesterday through the streets of London. Many of those men who fought in the War should be given work, but we cannot provide it by palliatives. Palliatives will find a certain amount of work for a certain time, but there is only one solution, and that is to encourage private enterprise. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has a very-grave problem in front of him. He has to cut down the expenditure of his Government, and we are looking to him to do that. At last we have a business man of experience at the Treasury, and we are looking to him, when he is presenting his Estimates at the beginning of his term of office, to see that the expenditure is cut-down. The country is looking to see reduction in taxation. We have to see that the Government reduces expenditure and taxation. That is the only possible way with which we can do away with unemployment. Irrespective of party we are all anxious for a reduction of taxation, because we all want to see an end to unemployment outside this House.
I will not allow myself to be drawn into the vortex of discussing ultimate ends, but I will try to address my remarks to the business men on the other side of the House and prove to them that under their own system of society the proposals in His Majesty's Speech are quite insufficient to meet the case. Let me place before the House what I consider to be the case. We have 1,300,000 unemployed. If you take the capitalistic argument that international trade depends absolutely on confidence, can any hon. or right hon. Member tell me of any nation in the world that has high confidence and admiration at the present moment for our own? In 1918 we finished the War the most venerated nation on the face of the earth. Now we have fallen so low in the international scale that one of the new members of the Cabinet openly acknowledges that he has gone into the Government in order to restore the credit of Britain. One hon. Member shakes his head. What I am saying is a plain fact. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] The Earl of Derby. That is the fact that now confronts us.
One hon. Member said that the true solution of our difficulty is to go on the old and tested lines. I suggest to him that unless we have an absolute reversal of the policy of the last four years we can never hope for a solution of unemployment in any system of society that one can comprehend. This nation does not produce its own food. It can only get its own food by developing agriculture to an extent which for many years cannot be accomplished, because the industrial population would starve in the process. It can only keep its people by producing more food or by selling its finished products for the food that our people need. That is an elementary economic fact. What is the position of affairs in the world to-day? We are an industrial nation, and we find that in other parts of the world people who could produce food and raw materials for us are unemployed, while our skilled artisans who could produce the goods that the agriculturists need are also idle. The Government that cannot adopt a policy that will bring these two sets of willing hands together, that will bring together the people who produce the food and the people who produce the machines, can never hope to get anywhere near solving the problem of unemployment.
The speech of the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Ford) with re- gard to going on in the old lines is quite wrong. The old lines have given the result we now see. The old lines threw £100,000,000 into Russia, for the purpose of making the Russians accept a Government which some Members of the Treasury Bench wanted them to have. Not only was that £100,000,000 thrown away—there is the money that would have built your houses—but it was thrown away in a manner which disturbed the trade of the East of Europe and prevented our commerce from becoming what it ought to have been. The £137,000,000 spent in Iraq would have paid your old age pensions. There is where your money has gone. It has not gone in any unknown way; we can trace hundreds of millions of pounds. It has not only been thrown away, but thrown away in a manner which has not helped our trade and commerce and to keep our people employed. Take the case of India. For the moment I will deal with the largest export trade in this country. The largest export trade before the War was the cotton trade. Eighty per cent, of its products went to India alone, and a large proportion of the remaining 20 per cent, went to the Near and Middle East. On that industry, as such, depended countless engineers, miners, transport and other workers. When that industry is not working properly, hundreds of thousands of workers are thrown out of work. Let us see what has been made of this great market. Everyone knows what has transpired in India. During the War the Moslems heard of the speech delivered by the then Prime Minister, in which he said that the War was not being fought in order to take away from Turkey her capital, nor Thrace, nor the renowned lands in Asia Minor which were definitely Turkish in race. The declaration of the late Leader of the House, however, showed that the Cabinet knew of and were responsible for sending Greece to do things which the late Prime Minister had said were not going to be done. It showed that the present Prime Minister knew Greece was being sent to take away land from Turkey.
The Hindus believe they have been tricked. They were promised a liberal measure of self-government, but the vote was given to the smallest fringe of the population. So you have in India—the great market of the cotton trade—Hindu and Mahommedan combining together for the first time in history against us. Why? Because both sections believe that they have been tricked, and the result is that, instead of Lancashire goods being welcomed in India, they have been burned in the market place.
Yes, and the Indians are unquestionably against not only Lancashire but the rest of our country. They are against us because they feel that they have been tricked and duped, and unless we reverse our policy there can be no hope of our great market in India being restored. Both sections of the people are suffering, and the Labour party say that if you ever want to make our trade what it ought to be you have got to restore confidence. You can restore confidence by accepting the very simple principle that India is not ours because we hold it by force, but because we have encouraged the people to try to govern themselves and have made them our friends and not our enemies. In Turkey it is the same—I have already described what the late Prime Minister said and what the action was. Therefore, we cannot expect our markets in Turkey to come to us as they would have come from a people friendly towards us and who really trusted our words. We are holding Egypt, after all, in the same way. The Egyptians have a right to the independence of their own country. We set up a puppet Government and deported the only man who really had the bulk of the Egyptians behind him. That was our method of conciliating Egypt. So we have Russia, India, Turkey, Egypt, and the Near, the Middle, and the Ear East all against us, when they might have been our friends by the application of that simple principle and if our word had been really accepted as our bond and carried out as our bond.
That is the position of affairs in which we arc, and I ask the level-headed business men on the opposite side of the House whether it is not better to tell the truth to the nations and to make friends of them than to act in a way which has made enemies of the whole of the Near, the Middle and the Far East? If they want, even under a capitalist system—I am not going to argue for the moment about systems—to restore confidence there, the only way to do so is by an absolute reversal of the policy of the last four years and by the introduction of a policy under which the various parts of the Empire will be encouraged to govern themselves, under which friendly relationships will be entered into between all peoples, and under which opportunity will be given for our making friends with the peoples instead of enemies. It is no wonder we have not the confidence of the world, for not only have we duped the people of India, but we have deceived the people with whom we dealt at Washington. At Washington we entered into a Conference, and our solemn signature was put to the Covenant of the League of Nations. We went to Washington and agreed with the other nations to certain proposals. The other nations came back —Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, France—and carried out their obligations. Never has an attempt been made by this Government to carry out our obligations. How can we expect the word of Britain to be revered in the world when not a country which has dealt with us during the last four years can trust our word?
An absolute reversal of our methods is essential if we are to regain the confidence of the world. The best way to get the wheels of industry turning in this country is to endeavour, at the earliest possible moment, to make friends with all the Eastern peoples, including India, and to give this country a real chance of dealing with friendly peoples in a friendly way, getting from them the things which they can produce and we cannot, and sending to them the things which we can produce better than they can. That is one of the best methods of combating unemployment, for the present. The talk about systems for the moment leaves me absolutely cold. I believe in a change of society eventually coming, when the nation will determine what it will produce, but for the moment my anxiety is to see something on the cupboard shelves of the people whom I represent. I know what their condition has been during the last four years. I want them to get something to eat. You can argue with a person who has had a meal, but there is no contentment nor peace possible when you have people who have had nothing to eat. Every hon. Member of the House hears from the country of this state of things. Three eases have come to me from the country to-day of men who were wrecked in the War and who have been in hospital. They had no insurance stamps on because they were in hospital, they have no pension and they cannot get unemployment pay. That is the state of things which exists. We cannot sit quietly while that is happening. Tranquillity may be nice as a word, but in the present condition of things it is one of the worst things you can have in the country, and I hope that no Member of the House will consent to it.
As one of the new Members of this House, I would like to address you, Mr. Speaker, in preference to the Leader of the House. The right hon. Gentleman expressed intention not to receive a deputation of the unemployed. I think he made a great mistake in doing so. As one who has had 20 years' experience on public bodies, I would say that in any large town or city that the Mayor of that city, the civic head, would be quite ready to meet a deputation of that kind. He would not supersede the acting authority on any relief or unemployed committee; he would rather lend his countenance, and would listen and if necessary respectfully urge the responsible heads immediately to deal with and alleviate the distress. In that position of responsibility the Leader of a Government which unfortunately is open to a suspicion of being, by the very nature of the composition of its Ministry, a class Government, lends himself to the suspicion that he is wanting in practical sympathy. I venture to say this, with no intention of giving offence; but it is my honest conviction. I think that the Government, and especially the late Government, have never evinced the slightest desire to meet the wishes of responsible authorities throughout the country. This question of unemployment has been a national one. It should have been dealt with by the Government on more satisfactory lines than has hitherto been the case, or is likely to be the case in view of the speech of the Prime Minister. One-thing that would be very helpful as a solution of this problem would be to allow the local governing authorities the power to take the dole where they put men on works, perhaps of public utility. They should take that money and then, by means of rates and also grants from the Government, the work could be made of a larger magnitude and would last a little time longer. Coming fresh from the contest, may I say that I have mixed with the people all my life and have taken an intense interest in this question. It is not because I have money to spend to corrupt them, but simply because of the time I have spent in their service that I venture to make these few remarks.
With regard to something which has been said on the opposite side of the House, I believe the State would be richer in many ways, and that it would be real economy if Old Age Pensions were granted at 65 years of age or earlier than is the case at the present time. I say that for this reason that, much as I pity the younger men with families, the lot of the men of 60 and over is terrible indeed to one who lives amongst them and sees their distress, when they do not know from whence to-morrow's food is coming for their children and wives. What would be saved on the out-of-work pension would largely recompense the State for any extra expenditure on Old Age Pensions. I speak from knowledge spread over many years, as Chairman of a large Board of Guardians. I was chairman of the unemployed committee, and I believe that the measure I have suggested would carry sunshine and happiness into the last years of many of these unfortunate people I urge those responsible for dealing with the question of unemployment to give this matter their very serious attention. Such a measure would do something towards dealing with a number of unfortunate people who are unemployed. The House should always remember this, that these people seem to be nobody's child. They are too old to be active members of a union; they are the last people to be employed; no one wants them while there is this vast army of younger men. They do not want the old people, and their lot seems to be particularly hard. If in that sense I have appealed to the House and those responsible for the Government of this country to think of those people and to do something to alleviate their lot, then I think these few words of mine will have an effect.
The hon. Member who introduced the Motion thanking His Majesty for his Gracious Message said that as a newcomer he felt like a schoolboy. In a similar manner, and perhaps in a higher degree, I shall offer my apologies to you, Sir, as well as to the House, not only for to-night, but I am afraid, for all the nights that I shall be here. I am afraid that I may be misunderstood if I do not acquire what is known as the traditional manner of the House of Commons We, the 142 who have come here, and I who was but yesterday with the people of Battersea, know the voice and the minds of the people, and we, who have talked outside upon politics and governmental affairs, wish now that the genuine bonâ fide human voice be talked inside, and I would therefore appeal to you, Sir, to realise that if we are found especially wanting in certain mannerisms or if our phraseology is not up to the standard, it is not for want of respect or want of love for any of you, but simply because we of the people shall now require that the people's matters shall be talked in the people's voice.
His Majesty's Gracious Message referred to the question of unemployment. Unemployment prevails largely in the constituency which I represent. The first immediate thing, that is perhaps not of so great consequence from a strictly political point of view, but is of very great consequence from the immediately psychological point of view, is the unfortunate attitude, at the beginning, of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister says that he believes in the division of labour, and also in assigning responsibility to Ministers. All that may be true. But it is sometimes welcome to the heart of the British people to be heard by the Prime Minister. If they want a deputation is the Prime Minister to be the judge concerning whether a matter is an appropriate matter for the Prime Minister to hear or not, when the people who may be unemployed, who may be hungry, may have a special desire to see the Prime Minister himself? I make one last appeal to the Prime Minister. I agree with the Prime Minister, perhaps with a different viewpoint, that it would have been equally futile for the unemployed to have an interview with the Prime Minister or any other Minister. But it is just as well that they should see each other, for though no useful result could have been produced by an interview with the Prime Minister himself there is something in human life which is satisfying if not satisfactory, and if the Prime Minister would only have realised that it was a most satisfying measure, if not a satisfactory measure, to have seen a deputation of the unemployed, I believe that he would have spared the country a lot of unpleasant thoughts, and I think that even now it may not be too late.
Coming to the larger problem of unemployment, the Mover and Seconder of the Address pointed out in their speeches what was wanting in the Message. One of our hon. Members referred to the position in Central Europe. Somebody referred to the collapse of the exchanges, and reference was made to the high taxation. All that may be true, but are we to sit in this House and keep on analysing to-day the condition of yesterday, and going on analysing to-morrow the condition of to-day? Are we not determined once for all to analyse the root causes of it all and to apply the remedy which would remove the real evil? It is perhaps an easy thing to-day to talk of the collapse of the exchanges on the Continent of Europe. Have we no right to ask those who have been ruling this country since 1906 until to-day as to what it was which brought about the conditions that produced the collapse of the exchanges of Europe? Have we no right to ask in a similar manner our friends and the Government that is responsible to-day and the Government which was responsible during all these strenuous years of trial throughout the world as to how and why those conditions were produced? It is not satisfactory for us to say to-day that we are suffering because of these conditions. How are the lower exchanges to be set right?
One of our speakers said that the continent of Europe had been impoverished because capital had gone abroad. Who took it abroad? Is it a sign of disservice to the country for enterprising men to take their capital abroad? If that is so, what can be said of private enterprise in Britain itself, and those British citizens who are taking abroad British capital produced by British working men, day after day and year after year? May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman, who to-day deplores the condition into which Europe has been brought by these greedy private enterprisers taking capital abroad, and ask him why over 74 jute mills have been erected in Bengal by British millers and capitalists who had got the capital produced with the hard toil of the workers of Dundee, with the result that to-day we have shut up shop in Dundee and our workers in Bengal are working at from 14s. to 38s. a month and producing for the owners dividends of from 150 per cent, to 400 per cent.? Out of the 124 coal companies in my country, India, I know that 102 have been opened out by British capitalists who have taken capital abroad for these enterprises. If these are the root causes of private enterprise, may we ask our friends not to sit down and not to wait until the great calamity overtakes this country altogether, but to learn lessons from what has happened on the continent, and remove the causes which brought about the conditions which all of us agree are not worthy of any intelligent and civilised human race?
One of my colleagues referred to the position of the trade with India, especially the textile trade, and I understood the Seconder of the Motion to refer to it in passing, showing how it had become impracticable for the Austrians to buy Indian hides and the Germans to buy any Indian cotton, and so forth. I want the House to note, carefully that the loss of trade with India is due to two separate reasons. One has been the desire of the, Government in this country, who have always prided themselves as a constitutional nation and Government, to try in the outside world the most unconstitutional method, namely, of dictating Government to peoples in various parts of the world from outside. No Britisher would for a moment tolerate a constitution for Great Britain if it were written outside of Great Britain by people who are not British. In a similar way the constitutions for Ireland and India and Egypt and Mesopotamia should be constitutions written by the men of those countries, in those countries, without interference from outside. But there is another great cause, and I wish the House to understand it clearly. That cause is private enterprise. The story of private enterprise, with all its glamour and its seductive tale, has gone out from these shores to India, and it is the rivalry due to the spirit of private enterprise which is responsible now, and will be responsible in the future, for one country depriving the workers of another country of their legitimate livelihood. It is the growth of this private enterprise, of these large corporations and trusts, these huge industrial concerns in India, which is beginning to tell its tale upon the workers of this country. I wish to make no secret of it. The cotton industry of this country is bound to suffer from this two-fold evil, namely, the political sulking of the people of India with the people of Great Britain, and the spread of private enterprise and of the so-called legitimate privileges of the private enterprisers. The Indian private enterprisers have learned to ask for protective duties, for high dividends, for low wages, long hours, and all kinds of privileges which private enterprise in this country has claimed for 150 years. It is this combination and the spread of the cult of private enterprise by the political bosses in this country which is working the ruin of the workers of this land.
In reference to the Near East there was a passing reference in the Address. I would not like to embarrass either the Government or this House in dealing with the problem of the Near East or the Far East in a thoroughly different manner from that of the past if it be intended so to do. If the Government merely intend to deliver different forms of speeches from those of the past Government they will fail as the last Government failed. I remember the time when a British Prime Minister had to stop a Catholic procession from forming in the streets of Westminster because the Protestants would not allow it. If that happened in the streets of London not many years ago under a Liberal Government, I think that the less the Britisher talks of taking care of the minorities in Armenia or Mesopotamia or Ulster or Southern Ireland or anywhere else, the better it will be for him. There is quite enough for him to take care of in the minorities here. There are many minorities. This morning we heard of the Prime Minister's letter to the Press relating to the unemployed who are now a minority in this country. The right hon. Gentleman exposes them as so many criminals. One reference in that correspondence was to the fact that these men had been dubbed criminals by a legal process in this country, because they dared to belong to political organisations which at present happen to be in a minority. The way in which that minority has been protected has been by bringing into operation legislative machinery, and by bringing the men for trial before judges or magistrates whose chief capital in the past has been party politics and party bitterness, which have made them incapable of dealing out justice. With this one-sided political machinery men have been tried and have been put into gaol. Then the Prime Minister says, "This is a set of criminals." That is the way in which the minority in this country is protected by the majority on the question of the right to express political opinion. I think the Prime Minister knows very well that had it not been for several of these prosecutions and persecutions he would not to-day have had at his back the number of supporters that he has.
In reference to Ireland, I am afraid that I shall strike a jarring note in the hitherto harmonious music of this House. I am well disciplined and trained in the general principle of the Labour movement, namely, that the happiness of the world depends on international peace, and that international peace is possible only when the self-determined will of the people of each country prevails in each country. I deplore greatly those elements still existing in the Irish Treaty that are not compatible with that great and wholesome principle. It is no use denying the fact, for we shall not in that way create peace in Ireland. As a House we say that we are giving this Irish Treaty with a view of bringing peace to Ireland, but we know that it is not bringing peace. Either we are actuated by the motive of restoring thorough peace in Ireland or we are doing it as partial conquerors in Ireland. Everyone knows that the Treaty has unfortunately gone forth as the only alternative to a new invasion of Ireland by British troops. As long as that element exists the people of Ireland have a right to say that the very narrow majority which in Ireland accepted the Treaty at the time, accepted it also on this understanding—that if they did not accept it the alternative was an invasion by the Black-and-Tans of this country. The Irish Treaty all along continues to suffer in Ireland from the fact that it is not a Treaty acceptable to the people as a whole.
If it were possible in some way in the preamble of the Treaty or by an Act of this House to allow the people of Ireland to understand that their country's constitution is to be framed by them as a majority may decide, and that the alternative would not be an invasion from this country, but that this, country would shake hands with Ireland as a neighbour, whatever shape or form that Government took, it would be quite a different story. Otherwise, whatever we may do, however many treaties we may pass, however unanimous the British may be in their behaviour towards Ireland, Ireland will not be made a peaceful country. As in 1801 England gave them a forced Union, so in 1922 England is giving them a forced freedom. We must remove that factor. Unless we do so we shall not be giving to the Irish the Treaty of freedom which we have all decided mentally that we are doing. When I say so, I put forward not my personal views but the views of 90 per cent, of those Irishmen who are my electors. They have pointed out to me that, whereas under the threat of renewed invasion the Dail only passed the Treaty by a majority of barely half a dozen votes, Irishmen who are not under that threat—Irishmen who are living in Great Britain—have, by a tremendous majority, voted against it. As long as those factors continue to exist, the Irish Treaty is not going to be what we—in a sort of silent conspiracy—have decided to name it. The reality will not be there. The reality is not there.
Before I conclude I wish to refer to one point which is conspicuous by its absence from the King's Speech. If in the Empire, this House and this Government is going to take the glory of the good, they will also have to take the ignominy of anything disgraceful which happens outside this country. This Government may not be responsible. This House may not be responsible. The people of this country may not be responsible. Yet there is something like a public voice and public prejudice, and if this Government and this House are proud of their association with the Colonies and the Empire, this Government and this House will also have to satisfy this country as well as outside countries, why the policy of the South African Government, in hanging and shooting workers, was permitted and was kept quiet. We are still calling Ireland a part of this Empire, and it is only last week that four young working-class lads, without an open trial and without even fair notice to their families, were shot dead. Even on the night before, their families were told that everything was all right, but on the following morning, when the mother of one of them went to convey a bundle of laundry to her son, she was informed that the poor boys had been executed. These acts might be described as the acts of independent governments. Either these governments are independent or they are part of this Empire. If they are part of this Empire, then the Government in the centre of the Empire must see to it that a policy of this kind does not go without challenge and without, at least, protest from this House, if nothing else can be done.
Our relationship with Russia is also a subject conspicuous by the absence of any mention. We hear of the revolution in Italy; we hear of Mussolini, the leader of it, and we have seen Mussolini's manifesto. He does not care for the Italian Parliament, nor for the majority in it. He is going to rule the country by 300,000 most obedient and faithful followers who are fully armed. Here is a revolutionary. But our Foreign Secretary is sitting in consultation with him. Our Foreign Secretary is shaking hands with him. We do not object on the ground that the Italian Government is a revolutionary Government. Why? Because the revolution in this case belongs to another class. We have the case of the King of Serbia. His Majesty King Edward for two years and more refused to have any dealings with him because he had slain the monarch who sat on the throne of Serbia before him. Yet we are friends of Serbia. We honour King Peter; we respect him; we call Serbia our Ally; we co-operate with the Serbians, yet if the monarch in Russia has been assassinated, or something had happened, we refuse to join hands with the people of Russia on that account. Why? Because in the Serbian Revolution class interest was topmost. In the Russian Revolution the mass interest came topmost. I do not for a, moment suggest that any of us in this House are purposely and consciously behaving in a dishonest manner. But the unfortunate part of every human life is that we are unconsciously the victims of many suppressed prejudices which are inborn in us and are traditional. Now we are face to face with a situation in this world in which, if we are not determined to burst out of these time-worn prejudices and boldly take a new place, if we are not prepared to push forward not only the good but the rights—even the sentimental rights—of the masses of humanity, into the forefront, and if the traditions, the family interests, the class privileges, the profits and dividends of private enterprise, are not set in the background, then neither this Ministry nor any other Ministry will cure the, evil, though they may deliver as many speeches as they please, upon it.
Although the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T Shaw) showed considerable restraint in refusing to be led into the temptation of a Debate with the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth), I must confess I am hardly proof against such a temptation. I regard the reasoning of the hon. Member for the. Isle of Thanet as most fallacious and his argument as not being productive of information nor of satisfaction of any kind. The hon. Member was good enough to tell the House that the remedy for unemployment was to reduce taxation. But he failed to inform the House in what manner taxation was to be reduced. I presume the omission was an oversight on his part. Probably a further perusal of—shall I say—the Rothermere Press, will enable him to ascertain whether or not it is possible to provide any solution of that kind at all. The hon. Member was also good enough to tell the House, firstly, that in this country there is no surplus of wealth, and, secondly, that it is impossible to stimulate the productive capacity of our people. I beg to differ from the hon. Member, and I suggest to him that this country is very much wealthier than it was prior to 1914, that the deposits in the banks and the wealth of his own friends are much more ample than they were prior to the War. And if this country is by no means poor, but very rich, his argument, or alleged argument, falls to the ground and must be rejected. I suggest to the hon. Member and those who agree with his anti-waste views that they should be good enough to tell this House how they propose to economise. Do they propose to economise on War pensions? I think we ought to know exactly what is in their minds, and it would be interesting indeed to know whether those who agree with the hon. Member would make such a suggestion to the Government. I am rather inclined to offer the view that, however much they feel inclined to reduce ex- penditure on War pensions, they will feel the effect of the recent election, and at all events will stay their hands for some time. They may depend on it that hon. Members on this side will do all they can to prevent the Government doing anything of that kind.
May I ask this further question—because young Members are very anxious to obtain information—whether you would reduce expenditure on Mesopotamia? It seems to have been overlooked that the new Government is equally responsible with the late Government for the reckless and unnecessary expenditure on Mesopotamia. Members who belong to the Anti-Waste party, who have some slight connection with the Government on some occasions and a very deep-rooted affection for them on others, which altogether depends on whether there is any opposition coming from this side of the House, must accept responsibility for all that has been done in connection with Mesopotamia and for all the crimes of the late Coalition Government. They cannot escape from the guilt which lies on the shoulders of the Coalition. Do they propose to reduce expenditure on old age pensions? The hon. Member was good enough to say that the Labour party were very prolific in their promises, but the Labour party were never so prolific in their promises during the recent Elections as were the hon. Member's friends in 1918. The Labour party have sometimes been described as a revolutionary party, but they were never so revolutionary as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George), who suggested that we might proceed to the construction of a new world, which was a very revolutionary proposal. The Labour party did certainly make one promise at this Election, and it was this, that in opposition we would bring every kind of pressure—constitutional pressure, I may say—to bear on the Government in order to compel the Government to implement the pledges they gave when they formed part of the Coalition in 1918.
I suggest to the hon. Member and to those who may agree with him that it is possible to reduce taxation, not only for the hon. Member's friends, but for the friends of the Labour party, some of whom are also constituents of hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Ford) was good enough to say that working people were not all fools. I entirely agree. Some of them in his own constituency were perhaps less intelligent than those in others, but working people, while not foois, are determined to bring pressure on the Government in a constitutional way to do the kind of things which are absolutely essential for national and individual well-being. We propose that taxation should be reduced, but we suggest that if there be any reduction of taxation, the Government might well start with the indirect taxation on foodstuffs. I am not at all sure whether the hon. Member meant such a reduction. I presume he must have referred to the Super-tax on the incomes of his own friends. Perhaps it might some day be possible to confer even that blessing on those friends if they are prepared to accept the financial proposals of the Labour party, but if they are not, they will never solve the problem for their friends.
I should like to say a word or two with regard to an observation made by the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Ply-month (Viscountess Astor), who, I am sorry, is not now present. A suggestion was made to this House which, in my judgment, was unworthy of the hon. Member. It is untrue to say that there is more immorality amongst the child life of Russia than there is in any other part of the world, but even if it were true, we are not without blame in this country for many things that have transpired in Russia. We are responsible for much more than immorality in Russia, if it exists. We are responsible for starving little children in Russia. What of the immorality in our own country? What of the immorality amongst the smart set? I sometimes, perhaps in a thoughtless moment, read the Sunday Press, and I have heard of the doings of friends of hon. Members on the opposite benches. Their morals are not beyond reproach, in so far as they possess any morals. I am not speaking of hon. Members opposite, but their friends. I have no wish to transgress the rules of this House, and I suggest that before hon. Members opposite attack those in Russia, they should try and clean up the somewhat dirty stable at home. I think it would be a rather ticklish job.
Something was also said in the course of the Debate in regard to the difficulty of solving the unemployment problem on the lines indicated by Members on this side of the House. We suggest quite seriously to the Government that private enterprise has miserably failed. We suggest that there are evidences of that in every direction. Private enterprise has provided us with the system which now obtains, and if there are more than a million unemployed, who is to blame? Not national ownership. If there are houseless people, if there is overcrowding and congestion, it is private enterprise that is responsible, and nine-tenths of our social evils are due entirely to the system which the hon. Gentlemen opposite are supporting and advocating. I submit to this House that the proposals made from this side of the House are worthy of serious consideration, in the absence of which the problems of unemployment and poverty will remain unsolved.
What has struck me in the discussion which has taken place up to now from Members on the opposite side of the House is the way in which they treat these problems of dire distress, unemployment and poverty. The hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. E. Harmsworth) was congratulating himself a moment or two ago on the presence at the Chancellorship on the Exchequer of a business man, who would deal with the finances of the country and with the business of the country in a businesslike way. Does the hon. Member really suggest that there have, not been business men in the Government that has just gone out, and of which his party formed a part? I suggest that in the previous House of Commons that were fir more business men than there are in the present House of Commons, that big business predominated to a far greater degree than it does at the present day. I am satisfied, further, that big business is responsible largely for the condition in which the country finds itself. I am suggesting that big business was entirely behind the fatal Versailles Treaty to which many hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side gave their assent in the years immediately following 1918. Is it suggested by supporters of the Government that from 1918 onwards big business men have not supported the Government's foreign policy? Did big business men in 1918 utter one word of protest as to what would be the inevitable result of the fatal policies they were pursuing? Did anyone by word or pen during the election of 1918, and while the Treaty was in process of gestation, warn the people of what the result was bound to be upon the industry and finance of this country? What is the use of talking about a business man as Chancellor of the Exchequer? We have had business men. They have always been there, and if you have not had actual business men there themselves, they have been supported by business men and advised by business men. Therefore, to assume that the new business man will suddenly find and begin to plough fresh fields is entirely too optimistic to gain my support for a single moment. I charge big business in this country with being directly responsible for- the condition in which our people find themselves at the present moment.
Supporters of the other side prove my case conclusively. It is not very long ago —I believe it was the 1st August—when we had published to the world the Balfour Note. In that Note to our Allies and the rest of the world, Lord Balfour made this marvellous admission. It was an admission of the blankest ignorance and the most colossal incompetence that has occurred in our political history for the last generation. He was dealing with the question directly of reparations and the effect, of reparations upon our country, and in the concluding paragraph Lord Balfour made the admission that, speaking for His Majesty's Government and for no one else—I am quoting entirely from memory—we could content ourselves with declaring once again that so deeply were we convinced of the ruin and the havoc brought by this policy, that we did not want a penny of reparations. If that be not an admission of blank ignorance in 1918, I should like the hon. Member to show me where I can find a bigger admission. As a matter of fact, it was an admission that they failed completely in 1918 to estimate the effects of the policy they themselves pursued. Then the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Ford) tells us that there is no fear of revolution in this country, as our people are too hard-headed. I remember the time, many years ago, when we were told that the people of this country were so hard-headed that they would never admit a party like ourselves to the House of Commons. We on these Benches constitute a revolution. We are a revolution in ourselves. May I say that the people of no country yet, so far as my knowledge goes, have made a revolution. Every revolution on historical record has been brought about by the stupidity and incapacity of the governing class. It was the stupidity of the aristocracy that brought a revolution in this House and country in the time of Charles I. It was the stupidity of the great seigneurs of 1790 that preceded the Revolution then. The revolution in Russia has proceeded directly out of the sheer incompetence, the stupidity, the tyranny and the cruelty of the governing classes under successive Czars and their supporters. Just as surely will you get the same thing here. I like to hear the smug way in which hon. Gentlemen tank of dealing with unemployment. I am master of my craft, and when I was a young man here in London 31 years ago, with no other ambition than to earn sufficient by my labour and my skill to feed my body and clothe my back, I walked the streets of your London till my feet were bleeding in my boots, and no one would find me employment because it did not pay them. I learnt my lesson, and I have never forgotten it. The hon. Member for Thanet talks of unemployment, and tells us that private enterprise can deal with unemployment. Let him go to his own economists, and they will tell him that they cannot solve unemployment. His own economists, his own business men, will tell him that they must have a margin of unemployment, otherwise they cannot conduct their business successfully. The Engineering Federation demand a margin of unemployed men if their business is to be conducted successfully, and provision made for the fluctuations of trade. Go to your economists, and they will tell you with precision in normal periods when your periods of unemployment will come, and why they come. Any of your orthodox economists will tell you that periods of unemployment come because of glut in the market. And yet you talk of producing more, and all your economists tell you that increased production has brought unemployment in its train naturally as the outcome of the system you support. What is the use of talking that kind of stuff? That is not the way to deal with the matter at all. You have got to get down to other questions.
Let me point out one or two things that are happening now. Here is one of the most tragic. As far as I know, the proposals of the late Education Minister for dealing with adolescent labour are not in operation. The education authorities in various parts of the country are being compelled to scrap the continuation school machinery, with the result that young boys between 13 and 14 years of age are leaving school, but they cannot find employment. That is to say, at a time when the mind is being formed, they are compelled to spend their youthful time in idleness, instead of having useful occupation either in school or some other form of employment. That is a very tragic side to the unemployed question. It is one that is bound in the future to have dire results, not only from the industrial point of view, but also from the intellectual, cultural, and moral points of view, because we are now forming wreckage that will in the future form a class with which we may find it almost impossible to deal.
I will touch upon a matter that is mentioned in the Speech of His Majesty. I refer to the question of the Lausanne Conference. I deplore the fact that we have received so little information as to the plan of the proceedings at Lausanne. I want to know a little more of what is being done there in our name. When the Carlton Club talked about its revolution there was immediately a crash in the exchanges on the Continent. The German mark went from 10.000 to 32,000 inside of about 13 days. The French franc dropped to 72. The Italian lire also dropped and, as a consequence of all this, orders were cancelled in Cardiff for coal supplies, and thus unemployment was added to. The reason the exchange dropped in the way it did was that the Tory revolt was regarded by the French Imperialists as backing for their policy. It was so regarded in Berlin, and that brought about the depression of the mark, followed by the depression of the franc and the lire. I want to know what is the quid pro quo that France is getting for her support of our policy in the Near East, because if we are. selling our support to France for French support in the Near East, and we are supporting French policy on the Rhine, then we are going to have nothing but disaster so far as the people of this country are concerned, and we on these benches will light that policy for all we are worth.
We are not so ignorant of international relationships as not to know the direct outcome of policies of this description. It is, I know, assumed that we who sit on these benches lack the capacity and the ability for discussion of this sort, that we lack the capacity for understanding the nice technicalities of foreign policy; but, believe me, we are not so dense that we do not understand a little bit the kind of effect of these policies. I should like to know—in this respect I am like Rosa Dartle—I should really like to know what the policy is that is being exchanged for the French support of our policy in the Near East. I know that behind all policies you have got a material basis. When I am told there are no strings being pulled—well, I hope I know enough of what went on at Genoa to understand that wires are pulled. One can readily understand from where they are pulled. I do not propose to speak any longer at this moment, but I do suggest that it is no use looking to private enterprise and to the business men for a way out of our difficulties. They are bankrupt of ideas. They have no programme except that of revolt on our part, but they are not going to get it. You could not get it while the country is in such a state as it is at present.
May I crave the indulgence given to a new Member of the House while I put in a plea for some immediate action on the part of the Government. I cannot forget that some eight years ago I and others took part in demonstrations, with bands of music and so on, at the station seeing men off that we had helped to enlist to fight for their country. I remember the men were called heroes in those days. I seem to remember a titled lady coming up the platform of the Hall with a farm labourer on each arm. In those days nothing was too good for the men who were fighting for their country. These men came home. What did they find? On the one hand, they found more millionaires than ever before: on the other hand, they find some 1,500,000 men out of work. The plea I want to put forward is this: I want us to try and put ourselves in the place of these men. I should like hon. and right hon. Members on the other side just to try to put themselves in the place of the other man. May I say at once that in my opinion the working man would not be worth his salt if he was satisfied with his wife and children short of food, and badly clothed, or badly housed. While I differ from some hon. Members above the Gangway, I account it a good sign that the working men are dissatisfied. If I may say so, I think that it is a good sign with regard to his moral condition when a man is dissatisfied. I should like, therefore, hon. Members on both sides of the House to try and put themselves in the place of these men.
If I know anything of the working man, what he wants is not charity but work. He looked around and found that the late Government, in whom were many Members of the present Government, seemed to have money for almost every purpose of spending abroad recklessly and wastefully, and apparently having no regard to the promises or pledges for the heroes who fought for them. It is not unnatural that this should cause dissatisfaction. Yet when the working man to-day expresses his dissatisfaction instead of being called a hero he is termed a Bolshevist. The duty of the Government to these men is to find them work. The Government could spend 6200.000,000 or £300,000,000 abroad. I wonder whether it has ever entered into the minds of hon. Members what that £200,000,000 or £300,000,000 would have done to promote industry in this country and how productive and fruitful it would be over even a wider area. In that case houses would have been built, and the soldiers could have been placed on the land at economic rents. If the Government had only carried out the pledges they gave in the past, instead of having tens and hundreds of thousands parading the streets to-day we might have tided over the bad times which are bound to come after such a gigantic waste of money which has been squandered abroad. In these circumstances, surely it is the first duty of the new Government to take immediate steps to provide work which is economically sound until such times as we can place the industries of the country upon a sound footing.
I want to call attention to one particular aspect of the serious effect which the foreign policy of the Government has had on the industrial situation at home. The House is probably aware of the new demands which are being made upon the working classes of Central Europe. In Germany a now Government has just been formed, and it so happens that the predominant power in that Government is the power of the so-called people's party, which represents the great capitalist interests in Germany. The fact of this Government being formed is extremely significant, and it shows that the policy of the British Government has had the effect of gradually forcing down the working classes of Germany in relation to the capitalist class of Germany.
The working people reached the high water mark of their power at the time of the revolution, and immediately after the revolution. Since then they have been steadily going down, and at last we see a Government formed in which the Social Democratic party, representing the workers of Germany, no longer has any place at all and the Government is dominated entirely by the capitalist interest. What are they demanding? Docs the House realise and appreciate the meaning and significance of the speech which has just been made by the great leader of the capitalist party in Germany (Herr Stinnes) in which he demands that certain new concessions shall be made by the working classes in order to meet the reparation demands? I will give his words, because they are extremely significant. He says:
I do not hesitate to declare that, in my opinion, the German people must work two hours a day extra for a number of years, say for 10 or la years to come, so as to produce enough for their own vital needs and have something over for reparations.
Herr Stinnes tells you exactly the position. Germany has to live and also to pay reparations, and to-day with the standard of living already ground down to an intolerable extent for the working classes, it has to be ground down lower still and it has to take this particular form of working for an extra two hours. I will not take up the time of the House pointing out what that means for the working classes of Germany. The eight-hour day was the -one solid gain which remained to the workers of Germany after the progress they made in the course of the revolution, but they are to have
that taken away from them; there is to be another turn of the screw put on, and they are to be ground down still further.
The point I wish to bring to the attention of the House is the effect this will have on our industrial situation at homo. What is the object of this increase of hours? It is to enable the German capitalist to export more in order to create a bigger trade balance to enable the Government to discharge the debt of reparations. That means that they have to export more, and by grinding down the standard of living and lengthening the hours of labour they think they can succeed in doing much better than they are doing to-day. If they succeed and more wealth is exported what will be the effect? It will mean a further lowering of their standard of living which will be used as an excuse by the employing class here for a further extension of hours of labour in this country.
This kind of thing takes one form at one time and other form at another time. At the present time the threat of increased hours is prominent in the minds of the workers, and I know it is prominent in my own constituency. It has recently been very clearly foreshadowed. At an International Conference held in connection with the cotton industry it was pointed out that the consequence of this policy would be that they would be "forced" to increase the workers' hours. This means forced by Germany and other countries in Central Europe. There are threats of a similar character in other industries, but I do not wish to enlarge upon that point. I only quote this as a particular instance of the disastrous effects of the reparations policy for which the Government is responsible, and for which it has as great a share of responsibility as the previous Government, who carried that policy into effect. This is a most serious question, not only for the cotton industry, but for many other industries as well. The extension of hours of labour is not a matter of more academic interest to my constituents. The very thought of going back to the old 53, 54 or 55-hours week is one which sends a shiver through people. Many of them know, instead of getting up at 6 o'clock in the morning, it means getting up at 5 o'clock or 4.30. It means going out through the grey and grizzly morning earlier still in order to lake the children out who have to be nursed during the day.
One of the most pathetic things I have seen is a copy of an illuminated address in the office of the Weavers' Union, presented to those who succeeded in securing for them one hour off the working day on Saturdays. That does not seem a very revolutionary concession, but after much lobbying and agitating for years this concession was gained, and it was considered to be of so much significance that the workers of that town held torchlight processions in order to celebrate it. I only draw attention to this instance in order to show the significance of this question of hours in the lives of so many workpeople. I draw attention to it to show by one illuminating illustration the disastrous effects of the policy being carried out by the present Government and the effect it is having, not merely upon the health and the lives of the people in Europe, but equally upon the health and the welfare of the people in our own country.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON:
I am afraid when the Gracious Speech from the Throne comes to be read in the industrial quarters of our country there will be great disappointment at the very indefinite and colourless references to trade and unemployment. I do not want to deal in detail with the general question of unemployment, because I understand that that is to be the subject of an Amendment later on. But I do want to enter a plea to the Government, when they say in the Speech they are considering the measures of the late Government dealing with trade and unemployment, that they should devote their consideration to the question whether they can in any way ease the burden which is failing with undue hardship upon our large industrial centres. The Seconder of the Address, in the very able speech which he made, referred to the question of unemployment as not being local or even national but international, and it does seem to me unfair that this burden should fall with undue severity on those very districts which are the least able to bear it. In making this appeal to the Government, I am the more encouraged to do so because the Postmaster-General was a member of a deputation that went last June to Downing Street on this very question. He was the spokesman of the necessitous areas which were claiming that some special consideration should be given to them on account of the difficulties in which they were placed. Those difficulties are infinitely greater to-day than they were in June last. If I may be allowed to do so, I would like to refresh the minds of the Government as to some of the facts brought out by that deputation from boards of guardians and local authorities right throughout the length and breadth of the land.
In passing, may I stress this point? According to a return of the Ministry of Labour—the, latest return available—the amount of unemployment in the North-East Coast district in the shipbuilding industry last month was no less than 425 per -cent., and in the engineering trade in the same district the amount of unemployment was 26.7 per cent. Contrast that with the average, for the whole country at the same time, which was only 12 per cent. That, I admit, is bad enough. It was 12 per cent, in insured trades and 14 per cent, according to Trade Union returns. You have, therefore, a burden thrown on the shipbuilding and engineering districts which is more than threefold that falling on the rest of the country. The figures given by that deputation to Downing Street show that in many industrial area the rates for general purposes, including Poor Law purposes, was more than double that which obtained in other parts of the country. The deputation reminded the Government that in the Metropolitan area there was an Act passed at the end of the preceding Session equalising in a measure the burden of poor rate due to unemployment. That was the result of a special deputation sent by the Metropolitan boroughs to the Highlands of Scotland where the Prime Minister of the day had gone during the Recess. I hope the measure of justice thus meted out to the Metropolitan Poor Law areas will be equally meted out to other industrial areas in the rest of the country who claim that some special action should be taken to enable them to meet this extra burden. At that time, too, a return was issued showing the rate of relief necessitated by unemployment in various districts. In Liverpool, in June last, the rate of unemployment was 131 per thousand of the population who had to be relieved. In my own district, Middles-bro, the rate was 109 per thousand, and last month that figure had grown to 128 per thousand, whereas at the same time in other industrial districts not so badly hit the rate was as low as from 5 to 10 per thousand, and in 34 industrial districts it averaged only 14 per thousand. That shows the unequal way in which the burden of unemployment is falling on different parts of the country. It is not the fault of the employers on the North-East Coast that trade is bad, nor is it the fault of the workers in those districts. They are as keen and as zealous as the workers in the rest of the country. This is one of the aftermaths of war, and I want to put in a special plea that these districts badly hit should be relieved in so far as the burden is due to national or international causes. It is not suggested that the ordinary rating charges should be spread over the rest of the country; it is only asked that so far as these rates are abnormal relief should be given.
May I give the Government one or two more figures taken from the district which I have the honour to represent? In 1914 the average weekly cost of out relief in Middlesbro Union was £377. That has increased this month to no less a sum than £6,500, and it means that we have there a burden which is crippling industry. We are told that our hope is in the revival of industry. But what chance is there of industry reviving when you are placing upon that industry a burden of this tremendous size? Figures taken out in one of the works in the Middlesbro Union showed that, whereas in 1914 the local rates were equivalent to a charge of 8d. per ton of steel produced, in the same works in June last the local rates had increased these outstanding charges from 8d. per ton to 5s. 4d. per ton. What hope is there of our competing in the markets of the world when we are subjected to a burden which is strangling the very industry we want to revive? I hope the Government will tackle this problem. It is not a new one. The question of the unequal incidence of rating has been before the House for many years. It was calling for redress and reform long before the War. The evils we knew then are aggravated tenfold by the unequal burden of unemployment. The Government last year in their Budget reduced the amount which they were making in grants for the feeding of necessitous school children. They cut down by over half a million the grants made for the feeding of these children. But the children still have to be fed. Unemployment is worse than it was, but instead of the charge being national, as it was a year ago, now it is placed on the local rates, again adding to the burden which unemployment is causing. I appeal with confidence to the Government now that the Postmaster-General, who so very ably stated this case to them in June last, has joined its side and I hope that he and others will use their influence. While it is impossible to remodel the whole of society within the next few months, it is possible ro make some immediate grant to these necessitous local areas, so that their industry shall not be strangled and so that the burden which is increasing at the present time shall be relieved. Our Middlesbro rates, which were 8s. 4d. Hi the £, are now 20s. in the £. and in addition to that we have loans of over £400,000. which have to be paid off, in some eases within six months and in other cases within five years. That means that the rates will increase up to 30s. in the £. Those are rates which it is impossible for the district to carry. I again appeal for justice to those who are bearing a bigger share of the burden than they ought to bear, and I ask the Government, in their reconsideration of the Measures passed by the late Government, to give special consideration to the needs of those necessitous districts.
Coming from the Clyde, what has gone on here since we arrived has struck me as very strange. In the House of Lords the other day, I witnessed a scene that made my blood boil. I saw all the pomp and splendour, and I had just come fresh from standing in the Law Courts in Glasgow, trying to defend working men and women and their little children against being ejected from their homes, not through any fault on their part, not through their having committed any crime, but because of unemployment. It does seem strange to me, realising the awful conditions under which the people who won this great War —the working people of our country—are at the moment in destitution, not by thousands but by tens of thousands. In my own constituency on the banks of that notable river—the greatest shipbuilding and engineering centre in the world— there are about 15,000 unemployed. It is not a matter of being unemployed for a day or two or a week or two. The women of the working class, our wives, our mothers, know how to pinch. They know how to economise; they are the greatest Chancellors of the Exchequer the world ever saw. They have changed with the changing conditions, but those conditions have continued so long that the Government of to-day is responsible for breaking the hearts of tens of thousands of those mothers.
The Government of to-day is responsible —I £.m now speaking as a Clyde engineer —for gradually crushing the finest type of manhood that Britain ever produced, by keeping those men unemployed week in, week out, month in, month out—yea, year in and year out; destroying the finest characteristic of the Scottish race— destroying the Scottish independent character by sending them to the Labour Exchange, sending them to the parish council, sending them to accept doles, to Set something for nothing. Those who usually occupy those empty benches opposite are in the habit of getting something for nothing. It is no new thing for hon. Gentlemen who at the moment are away feasting, while my class are outside starving, to draw tens of thousands a year for doing absolutely nothing. Their very form, their very walk, as they traverse the Floor of this House, denotes that they never worked in their lives, and if they had to do so they could not. On the Clyde, people are beginning to think that there is something rotten, not in the state of Denmark, but in Britain, and that is the reason that they have sent us down here, in order that we might create a new atmosphere in this building. As far as it is humanly possible, with all due respect to my leader, MacDonald—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]—I will smash that atmosphere. Here you have all the glittering show of tinsel representing millions, when Bonar Law, the Prime Minister—
I beg pardon Sir— the right hon. Member for the Central Division of Glasgow. If he thinks that there is going to be tranquillity here, or if anyone else thinks there is going to be tranquillity in this House, they never made a bigger mistake in their lives. There will be no tranquillity as long as there are children in Scotland starving, as long as there are children in Britain starving. No child ought to starve. It should be utterly impossible in this land of the brave and the free. Do you think that we, who come from Scotland, and who claim to be descended from that hardy and intelligent race whom the Romans could never defeat, are going to allow those nincompoops who sit on those benches to efface us? That will not take place. We have come through the fiery test. Some of us have been in prison several times. Some of us have been more than in prison—we have been deported. The last Prime Minister deported me for 16 months. But you can see whether all that they have done has in any way crushed our spirit. Hon. Gentlemen may take it from me that the spirit which is propelling me at the moment—[Interruption]—I have never taken alcoholic spirits in my life. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] Never mind about withdrawing. I shall probably be told to withdraw, and I shall never withdraw. It is a very serious matter for us when I tell you that for months past I have been defending the poor in Glasgow from being ejected, and I am not a lawyer. I got the privilege of the Bar in order to defend those who were not able to defend themselves. I hold in my hand a letter which I should like to read because I notice that the Prime Minister stated that they were likely to do something regarding the decision of the Lords in connection with the Rent Restrictions Act. I hope they will not interfere with that decision.
I had a friend visiting me to-day and he has informed me that my factor (Brown & Sons, Bath Street) called at my house and removed part of my furniture as part payment of arrears of rent. * I would be obliged if you would let me know by return if this is legal under the recent decision in the Court of Session. I may say that had I been at home this would not have happened, but I am here waiting to go through a serious operation—
and I cannot move in the matter, but if it is legal for him to take my furniture and turn me out, I suppose my wife and five of a family will have to go into the workhouse, but I have never heard about the rent case being settled yet. You might let me know as soon as possible. I enclose stamped addressed envelope. Excuse pencil writing.
That is evidence of the entire failure of the present system. Here in London you have extreme wealth exemplified and set forth as in no other city that I know of. On the one hand, wealth and rioting in luxury, and, on the other, poverty and the poor dying of starvation, and yet we are appealed to to respect this House, to respect the atmosphere, to allow this state of affairs to continue, to kow-tow and bow down to all the symbols of this awful cursed system that is murdering tens of thousands of the finest youths that Britain ever produced. Further I want to draw attention to the fact that in Glasgow, as declared by our Chief of the Health Department, we have 13,000 houses unfit for human habitation. All that is going on before our eyes. Do you think it is possible that we who live amongst that can remain here quietly in our seats and submit to it going on? No. We have been sent here on the distinct understanding that we have to do everything that lies in our power to overthrow this system. In our opinion there is absolutely no way out of it other than a complete surrender. That is our object, and that is the goal we shall work for.
Then you have these men on the Clyde. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) came to the Clyde, when he was Minister of Munitions, when our country was right up against it, when you needed the men on the Clyde. There were no unemployed then. We were the men who produced the munitions. The right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) did not agree. One made a statement at Newcastle -and the other contradicted it. That is true to fact, and
Facts are duels, that winna ding, and daurna be disputed.
He came to see your humble servant at Parkhead Works. We discussed the situation at that time, just as the unemployed deputation are
now desirous of discussing the situation with the Prime Minister. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, then the Minister of Munitions—I wish the right hon. Gentleman were here now, for I have promised him this for years, and I am not lashing out because he is a dead dog: on the contrary, I believe he is the most sinister influence in British politics—promised me that if I would use my influence with the Clyde engineers in order that they would produce all the munitions to drive the Germans over the Rhine, he would use his influence with his class in order to ensure that when the War was over justice would be done. Tie said: "Never again, Kirkwood, will you be able to move a Scottish audience with the words of Burns.
'See yonder poor o'er-laboured wight, so abject, mean and vile,
Who begs a brother of the earth to give him leave to toil,
And see the lordly fellow-worm, the poor petition spurn,
Unmindful, though a weeping wife and helpless offspring mourn.'
Did they keep their word? No. They never kept their word. The ruling classes of this country never kept their word to the working people of this country. The writing is on the wall. Their doom is written. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I would ask them to remember what Shakespeare said that
One may smile and smile, and be a villain.
The Government did not keep its pledges with us then. When "The Forward," our Scottish newspaper, published the debate which took place between the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and myself, the Government sent into every house in Scotland to search for copies of "The Forward." They did not get them all. Not only that, but because that paper had the hardihood to tell the truth and to print what actually took place, and the "Glasgow Herald" printed a speech that never was delivered, the Government were not satisfied with taking all the copies of "The Forward" that had been published, or that they could get hold of, but they stopped Johnston, the editor of the paper, and now the hon. Member for Stirling, from printing any more "Forward." I want to warn the Government and to tell them how stupid they are. I warn the Government to be careful how they act now, and to bear in mind practical experience. Immediately the ban was lifted off "The Forward," we printed ten thousand more copies than would have been sold had "Forward" been allowed to continue in its first issue. It is impossible, it is not given to men, that you can crush the spirit of liberty. I warn you to take care of what you do. Ours is too great a country to be crushed and suppressed by any body of men or women. Remember that the race which we represent—I mean you all now, I embrace you all—is the race which, when roused by the German menace, could face the greatest military machine the world ever saw and smash it. Do you think that that same race is going to allow itself to walk the streets of London unemployed? Do you think that that same race is going to allow its children to deteriorate and is going to see its wives and families starving? Why did the Government come to the Labour Benches for assistance? They had to come to the working classes, and to admit labour into the administration of the affairs of this country in a manner in which they had never admitted them before. Where was all your blue blood when we were up against the Germans? Did any of the Dukes or the Earls or the Lordn produce an outstanding man to withstand that menace? No, but the working-class did. It was the working-class, that same class, which the Prime Minister refuses to interview, the same men that are walking the streets unemployed: and I hope that the Government will see to it and take warning. Now is the day and now is the hour. If they do not, there will be no peace, no tranquillity, and no rest for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Central Division of Glasgow, unless it be in the graveyard.
May I point out what has happened this afternoon? During most of the afternoon and evening the Government Benches have been practically untenanted. There are now on the Treasury Bench three Ministers, two of whom have just come in, and one of whom is, I believe, Treasurer of the Household. There has been no attempt to reply to my speech or to any of the other speeches that have been made. Apart from myself, hon. Members have come here with large majorities, and this is supposed to be a democratic Assembly; but there has been no attempt to answer the speeches at all. It is treating the House of Commons with effrontery. During the whole evening we have had no speeches from that great party, the National Liberal Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Great?"] Well, I wish to be complimentary. We have had a few speeches from the Labour Benches. Let me point out to my hon. Friends above the Gangway, who have not room for me to sit there now, that here they have a day in which they can raise any question under the sun. They can raise the age-long grievances of the people of Scotland or of any other part of these islands. They can raise any subject they like, and heaven knows there are enough subjects that need ventilation and exposure in this House.
Here we are at ten minutes past nine o'clock, and we have come to a complete stop. The Adjournment was moved because nobody rose. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Nobody rose at all. My hon. Friend the Member for North Camber-well (Mr. Ammon) rose to move the Adjournment, and no did my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. 0. Roberts). In the last Parliament, we had a third of the present numbers in opposition, and my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) and myself often kept the House going all night. If an impression is going to be made against the silent indifference and apathy and contempt for Parliament, hon. Members will have to keep it going much longer than this. I have exhausted my right to speak, but I am taking the opportunity of the Adjournment to give my hon. Friends on my right another chance to raise questions, in the hope that perhaps we shall then get a reply. We can speak, I think, for an hour, and I do hope hon. Gentlemen will support me in insisting on getting some reply from the Government benches. We have had the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary here, and there is an hon. and gallant Gentleman whose office in the Government I have not yet grasped. I think it is the India Office—no, it is the Colonial Office. He has taken the place of the late Member for Dundee, Mr. Churchill. I do hope that hon. Gentlemen will support me in getting some reply. It is treating the House of Commons, and, what is more, the Opposition, with contempt, and we shall have to stand up to them. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen who, like my hon. Friend opposite, are usually inarticulate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The hon. Gentleman never makes a speech; he is always inarticulate. We were a small opposition in the last House of Commons and had to put up with it. I do hope that we are not going to put up with it now. Never let us have the Motion for Adjournment passed without raising some of the crying scandals in the land. That is the only way we will got anything done.
I regret very much that anyone should have moved the Adjournment of the Debate at a time such as this, and I also regret very much indeed to have heard the burst of laughter from the benches opposite when the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) entered his protest against the Adjournment. We have been gathered together in this House for specific purposes. One of those purposes is to pass the Irish Free State Bill. A second purpose is to consider the conditions in the country from which so many of our population are suffering. Yet we are asked to leave this House with at least one and three-quarter hours to go, during which time some Member of the Government might at least have had the common decency, if not the courtesy, to reply to some of the things that have been said. Instead of that, we are to leave the House when there are thousands of people here in London demonstrating their starving condition, and hon. Members laugh in this House. I hope that hon. Members opposite, whatever their politics may be, and however much they may differ from Members on this side of the House, will at least show some decency and interest in what is happening to so many of the people for whom they are expecting to pass laws on a special occasion when Parliament is called to deal with their particularly hard lot. If some of the hon. Members facing me had had to undergo any of the privations that many of those who are unemployed and that some of us who have been unemployed have had to undergo, the question—
The remarks of the hon. Member would be quite relevant and in order on the Motion for the Address, but now we are on a much narrower question—simply whether the Debate be adjourned—and I must ask the lion. Member to confine himself to that question.
There is a great distinction between a Motion for the adjournment of the Debate and a Motion for the adjournment of the House. On a Motion for the adjournment of the Debate it is only in order to give reasons why the Debate should or should not be adjourned. It is quite otherwise in the case of a Motion for the adjournment of the House.
I moved the adjournment of the Debate thinking that it was the general desire of the House that it should be adjourned, but one of my hon. Friends thinks that the Debate should not be concluded, in order to give the Government an opportunity to reply, and I think that some hon. Members had an idea that there was some promise or understanding that the Motion for Adjournment should be moved in another quarter. If there was any such understanding, I do not want to do anything which conflicts with that, and on those two grounds I wrould ask leave, if it is in order, to withdraw my Motion.
Are we to understand that the protests against the adjournment of this important topic are not protests against the adjournment of the House but protests against the failure to discuss this important topic? We understand now that there was indig- nation because the adjournment was moved by the new party. In these circumstances inasmuch as we do desire—
I wish to make the point quite clear. We suggest that the Debate should be adjourned because of the complaints which have come from Scotland. We are in the unfortunate position that the Secretary for Scotland is not in this House, and that the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General for Scotland do not, I believe, possess seats in this House and are very unlikely to get then), and it is therefore impossible to expect to get any answer from the Scottish Office on the vital question whether the decision of the Court of Session on the arrears of rent is to be abolished or maintained?
A Motion was made for the adjournment of the Debate. That was withdrawn. Thereupon the Main Question, upon which topics of general interest may be discussed, comes up again, and in referring to such topics any hon. Member will be in order, but I cannot now take another Motion for the adjournment of the Debate. The. Main Question is now before the House.
I would direct the attention of the House to a phase of the situation that seems to have escaped hon. Members who spoke to-night on the opposite benches. One hon. Member, who evidently leads a small party of alleged economists, declared that in his opinion, and it is an opinion well supported in a group of newspapers with which I understand he is associated, the only solution for unemployment was further economy, which means further cuts in wages, and a lower purchasing power for the common people. That reduction of the purchasing power of the common people in this country will intensify unemployment, will lessen the demand upon our operatives, and will add to the numbers of those who are at present unemployed because there is no demand for their labour. The facts are undoubted. We ended the War with a huge debt of between £7,000,000,000 and £8,000,000,000. The annual interest on that debt is about £350,000,000 a year, or £1,000,000 a day. That taxation has to come from somewhere, and the only class who have paid so far have been the working classes. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members laugh. Is it not the case that there has been a reduction of £10,000,000 per week in the wages of the working classes in this country? Are these figures not issued by your own Ministry of Labour? And that reduction is a reduction of £500,000,000 per annum in the purchasing power of the working classes, which is a destruction of your home markets, to an extent exceeding the whole of your European trade last year. What is the use of pretending that the rehabilitation of your Austrian trade will solve the question of unemployment, or that the discharge of a few hundred civil servants or the wiping out of two Departments in Whitehall is going suddenly to create a demand for the products of the British Empire?
We are faced with the fact that the workers have not now got the purchasing power necessary to enable them to buy back in the home markets the goods that labour has produced. If all the economists from Land's End to John o'Groats wrote articles and made speeches for the next five years they cannot alter that fundamental situation. The workers have had their capital levy. Their homes are broken. Their furniture is in the pawnshop, so that you have pawnbrokers refusing now to take any more working class furniture. The life, the social happiness of the people, has been destroyed, and, in addition to the £500,000,000 a year cut in their wages, the Government of this country has levied another £180,000,000 of indirect taxation upon the working classes. They have levied on their tea, sugar and tobacco, and also on the beer of those who drink beer, and these taxes are another method of getting the people to pay the interest charge upon the War. On the same day on which they increased the tax on beer they reduced taxation upon sparkling wines and champagne. We did not expect anything else. Is there any answer forthcoming from the Government Benches to the statement that the workers have had their capital levy, that the workers have had to bear, in addition to reduction of wages, short time employment or unemployment, a huge extra increase in indirect taxa- tion? Is there any answer to the fact that while the nation is broken, while the workers have no purchasing power, they are refused the right to produce for themselves, for their own use, and that unless they can produce for the profit and aggrandisement of the trusts and combines and monopolies, they must starve?
What are we told? That we shall get 15s. a week for a man and 5s. a week extra if he has a wife, with Is. for a child. None of you can keep a child for a week for Is. It is a dole for doing nothing. The State gets no work in return, no roads made, no slums destroyed, no new-houses built, no waste lands afforested, no lands re-colonised. But there is this demoralising, skinflint dole, that barely keeps life in the bodies of our common people. You must not be surprised if, until there is a radical change in the attitude of the governing class of this country towards the problem of unemployment, towards the question of how the people of this country are to live—you must not be surprised if from, the Labour benches, night after night, there rises a chorus of indignant protest. We are here representing thousands of men and women who have been tried almost beyond the bounds of endurance. We have pleaded with the Government to-night to do something immediately to relieve the agonies, the slow-torture and starvation in hundreds and thousands of homes in this country. We are met by laughter, mockery and jeers. Some of our speakers, perhaps, have not addressed the House in the polished accents of Oxford or Cambridge. We do not pretend to come here to throw about Latin maxims, to utter any pleasantries, Or to offer meaningless courtesies, for most of them are meaningless. We have come here to ask reasonably and courteously that the Government should face the fact that the common people of our native land are in a state of starvation. You are in a majority. You refuse our remedies. What are you going to do?
The workers have suffered a capital levy. You refuse one. You conscripted the lives and limbs of the working classes. You took the son from his mother and the father from his children. You sent them away to the trenches of France and Flanders, to be blown up, in the expressive phrase of the late Member for Dundee, into bundles of bloody rags at 1s. a day. You have broken their homes, and you have conscripted life. When we ask you to conscript the surplus hoards of the super rich to relieve the burdens of the nation and to mitigate taxation upon the people, to give our trade and industry a chance, to set the people at work on socially useful and necessary things, we get the stale old formulas about private enterprise. A Member of the late Government, the right hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. MeCurdy) in this House reported it to be a fact within his official knowledge that 80 per cent, of the big business of this country was not run by private enterprise—private enterprise had been crushed out—but was run by combines and trusts and monopolies. We come along and ask that the slums be destroyed, that- new- houses be built, that the social life of the people be sweetened, in so far as it lies within the power of this House to sweeten it, and we have the same old meaningless gibes about the virtues of private enterprise.
What has private enterprise done in housing? Every town bears witness to the fact that it has bred disease. You had a Minister of Health in the last Government, a man who took £5,000 a year for being a Minister of Disease. The greatest producer of disease that this country ever kept in the House of Commons took £5,000 a year for calling himself Minister of Health. We must tackle the slums: we must build houses. I ask somebody on the opposite benches to stand up in this House and attempt to justify a position which at one and the same time permits sickening, disease-ridden, tuberculosis-breeding slums, and allows 100,000 builders to be out of work, drawing doles for doing nothing. The average intelligent man and woman in this country regards the governing class as a collection of fools. We ask you, we ask the governing class here, to face the realities of the situation, and not to throw-about empty platitudes in justification of a continuance of the present condition of affairs, or else to make way for a Government which we on these benches will be prepared to supply at- any time—a Government which could not possibly under any-set of circumstances do worse than you have done.
I had the privilege during the General Election of standing against a Labour candidate, so that the Debate to-day has been a singularly instructive one to myself. Summed up in a few words, it seems to me that what is advocated is a very big fundamental change in our constitution, namely, the abolition of private enterprise. Although I shall not deal with that subject extensively, it is of interest to notice that what Glasgow thinks to-day, Moscow thought yesterday and does not think to-day. However, it was not on that point that I rose to speak. I wish to refer to the question of the loan to Austria. A loan to Austria cannot be a purely altruistic affair. To my mind it is evidently based upon some sound business-like proposition. I ask the Government have, they really considered whether, if we can afford to loan anybody anything, we are loaning it to the right country? The time has come now, when the term "pro-German" docs not necessarily mean anti-English, and there is a great deal to be said for two lines of policy which this country can take up, either to be pro-German or pro-French — neither of these two necessarily being anti-English. What led the late Government to such failure in their foreign policy was that one day they were pro-French and two days afterwards they were pro-German. There was no continuity in their ideas with regard to the re-building of Europe. I would ask the Government when they come to reply, whether they can tell the country what is to be their line, whether it is to be pro-German or pro-French? If it is to be pro-French, then I hope we shall not associate ourselves with any vindictive policy against Germany, along which path I cannot see any prosperity or any real re-building of Europe in which we hope to contribute towards the re-establishment of our own industry.
I wish to congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down not only on the subject-matter of his speech, but on his intervention. During the greater part of to-day the House has been treated to a totally one-sided Debate. There has been no effort on the part of anybody on the other side to reply to the long series of speeches which have been made from these benches. Not only have Ministers treated the speeches of hon. Members sent here by large majorities with contempt, but those who flatter themselves that by argument they attained victory on behalf of the Government during the late General Election have equally suppressed themselves. In my view the speeches made particularly by my fellow-countrymen from Scotland do not deserve to be treated in this way. If I may be allowed personally I should like to offer a word of congratulation both to the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and the hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston). The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs referred to certain episodes during the War in which he came into conflict with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), incidents in which also the hon. Member for West Stirling bore a part. I am sorry the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is not here tonight. One of the main reasons why the hon. Members for Dumbarton Burghs and West Stirling are here to-night was the policy and the arbitrary and tyrannical action then taken by the Minister of Munitions in reference to those two hon. Gentlemen. There is another reason. There is at the present moment a situation in the West of Scotland which hardly exists in any ether area in this country, a situation which I believe has not existed in any other area in this country at any time before. Hon. Members to whom I have spoken say that in order to deal with that situation a total change of our present system is required. That argument has held the field in the West of Scotland. I think it is safe to say that in the Glasgow area, in Lanarkshire, Dumbartonshire and Renfrewshire—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Stirlingshire!"]—with only few exceptions, that argument for a change of system has received the support of overwhelming majorities of the electors. That is a portent, and it is necessary for those who do not believe in a change of system to see what can be done, and to see what can be done immediately.
I am not one of those who believe in the change of system which these hon. Members recommend, otherwise I should be sitting with them. It is solely because I do not believe that by means of that change of system we shall improve the lot of the great majority of our people in this country that I stand here. I do not. believe if you have industry in this country in what is equivalent to a bankrupt condition, nationalisation will cure it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Try it!"] They have tried it in some other countries. [HON. MEMBERS: "And succeeded!"] Where has it succeeded? I do not think that any of the illustrations which hon. Members beside me and behind me have quoted bear out the contention that experiments in general nationalisation have been a success. Hon. Members tell us that if Moscow has gone badly, that has been due to the conditions there —in other words, because it has been nationalisation in a bankrupt country. Well, our conditions are not so bad, but nevertheless there is a downward tendency in the most important industries in this country, and under these conditions, whatsoever may be said on grounds of expediency from time to time for nationalisation of particular industries, I doubt whether at the present moment it would operate otherwise than seriously to depress conditions and make the lot of the workers worse than it is to-day.
I am not concerned with any far-away change of system. It is not our duty to consider the system which may be created in this country in the year 2022. We are here to-night to consider what can be done to improve conditions in the year 1922. We are face to face with a position of appalling gravity in this country. The situation to-day is described as a crisis of unemployment. We talk of the grave unemployment as if we were dealing with a situation similar in kind and in degree to those brought about by fluctuations in trade in pre-War days. There could be no greater delusion. The present situation is far more serious, both in regard to its acuteness and duration. If we examine the statistics of unemployment in pre-War days, we will see we have never had anything comparable to the present situation. Take the 10 years before 1914. The average unemployment during those years did not reach 5 per cent.—the average unemployment for 10 years in the skilled trades, in the trade unions which then made returns—and if you take the worst year of these 10 years, 190S, it did not exceed 8 per cent. Let us take the position now. The present depression, as we call it, set in in August, 1920. It has now lasted, therefore, for more than two years, and if you take the average unemployment during that period, that is, from August, 1920, up to November, 1922, you will find that the average is something like 15 per cent., so that for two years now this country has had to face an average amount of unemployment nearly double the unemployment during the worst of the 10 years before the War, and then for only a single year.
We are now face to face with something we have never been up against before. The problem before this country to-day is not the solution of the old problem of unemployment. It is the question whether this country is going to be able in future to support its population. Why are we face to face with that problem? There are two reasons, and only two. The first is the War, and the second is the peace. The War was certain to bring about serious conditions in this country. I am not going to recall the glowing promises of the election of 1918, but those promises were simply evidences and symptoms of the delusions that prevailed everywhere in the public mind at that time. Everybody believed we would be better off, that we were going to be more prosperous, and that our industries were going to succeed as they never had succeeded before. Everybody believed that wages were going to be better and hours shorter, and that this was going to be a land fit for heroes to live in. I do not dissociate the Labour party from these promises, because I recall a certain programme issued by the Labour party at the late General Election which was quite as glowing, if not so picturesque, as anything issued by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. [An HON. MEMBER: "We had not the power! "] It is not a question of power, and these hon. Members, if they will be patient, will find that in certain conditions it does not matter who is in power. If you have bad conditions, if you have shrinking trade, dwindling or vanishing profits, a falling revenue, I say that, no matter who is in power, it is impossible to produce the New Jerusalem. The idea that the New' Jerusalem could be produced after the War could only be described as the product of an abnormal psychology. I have said before, and I am repeating it here, that the Apostle John saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven, that during the War for four years the whole world had been in Hell, and that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was the first man who ever saw the New Jerusalem rising out of the nether regions.
It is because of the War, the burdens of the War, to which the hon. Member for West Stirling referred, the £7,800,000,000 of debt, the interest amounting to £1,000,000 a day, and the war pensions superadded—that is a burden which was bound to hamper the industry of this country, to handicap all its activities and to impose sacrifices on all classes. I believe, with him, that the heaviest sacrifices have fallen on the working classes. They have had to pay, not only in unemployment, and low wages, but in high prices. It is not only the direct taxes which fall upon them which they are paying: they are paying also the taxes on their food. Take any article you like, and compare the price now with that in pre-War days, and you will find that the difference in price is very largely explained by the difference in taxation and the power of certain people to transfer their taxes on to the prices of the articles which they sell. Take the 4-lb. loaf. Weave, told that at the present time the price of wheat is 39s. a quarter, and of the 4-lb. loaf 9d., and that in 1913 the price of wheat was 33s. a quarter, and of the 4-lb. loaf only 4½d. That was a mystery which baffled one of the new Ministers, a colleague of mine in Yorkshire. It may be due to the fact that in Lord Birkenhead's view he only possessed a second-class brain, but he was puzzled. It is, however, quite simple, if you analyse how these things work. You have here a difference of 6s. only in the price of wheat, while the price of the 4-lb. loaf is double. It means that every man who has handled the wheat between the farmer and consumer has transferred his extra rates and charges on to the price of the article. The farmer could not do it. He had the world price. He cannot transfer his rates and taxes on to his wheat. He is forced, therefore, to turn his land out of cultivation, the, agricultural labourer is thrown out of work, and his wages are now reduced to starvation rates. There you have inevitably the burden of taxation which has really been passed on to the shoulder; of the working classes.
These burdens of the War are the first cause of this trouble, but the effects of the War have been aggravated by all the failures and follies and blunders of the peace. I am not going to deal with the case of Russia, or the Near East, or Austria. Important as these are, they are as dust in the balance, compared with the mistakes and errors that have been committed in the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles is really the key problem both of Europe and Great Britain. If the Treaty of Versailles in respect of reparation is not fundamentally revised, there will be no economic recovery of Europe, there will be no revival of trade in this country, and there will be no diminution of unemployment. The hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) put what, to my mind, was a very foolish question to the Government. He asked the Government whether they were pro-French or pro-German. No Government of this country has the right to be either the one or the other. The only duty, and the first duty, of every British Government is to be pro-British. The implication is that it is the duty of the Government which represents the people of this country to look after the interests of the people of this country, and to do it consistently with a fair respect for the rights of other nations. I say that in the Treaty of Versailles the late Government may have boon pro-French—they were certainly not pro-British. We all know that. It is admitted by the most out-and-out supporters of the Coalition that a large part of the depression now existing in this country is due to the Treaty of Versailles. I will cite a witness as to whose impartiality on this matter there can be no dispute—Lord Aberconway, formerly a Liberal Member of this House, and since he went to the other place a strong supporter of the late Government. Speaking in Glasgow on the 21st October, at Clydebank, where the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs comes from, he said that the largest part of the present depreciation in British shipbuilding h due to the Treaty of Versailles. I said it in Glasgow in 1918, but they would not believe me.
That is only one case. If you take the mining industry, you will see the same thing actually operating. If you take the ultimate, the real, cause of the coal stoppage of last year, and the present bankrupt state of the mining industry, you find the same thing at work. Why was it that the Government decontrolled four months before the time fixed by Statute? It was because the mines had ceased to be a paying proposition— because, instead of paying money into the Treasury, they had become a charge upon the Treasury. Why had that change taken place? During 1918, 1919 and 1920 the mines had been yielding profits to the owners. They were able to pay Excess Profits Duty. They were also able to contribute a further 15 per cent, to a fund, the Coal Mines Excess Payments, under the Coal Mines Agreement. They could do all that. Suddenly it came to an end, and there was a loss. So great was the loss that the Government had to break faith with the industry. It was because there was a slump in the export market. Under the Spa Agreement, Germany was compelled to deliver 2,000.000 tons of coal, a month to our Continental Allies. If they get 2,000,000 tons of coal a month from Germany, they do not require to buy from this country, and thereby you are depriving British miners of work and lowering their wages. The same thing has been in operation in every industry so far as the reparation provisions of the Treaty have been put into operation. So I say that it is both the War and the Peace that have produced this situation, and, so long as these reparation provisions are m operation, they will not only affect us directly in the way I have mentioned, but they will affect us indirectly. There can be no recovery of Europe, and if there is no recovery of Europe, there can be no recovery of our export trade. It is not simply that we are cut off from those markets and cease to sell to them direct, but we are also affected indirectly. There are many manufacturers in this country, who, in pre-War days, exported to China and India, who to-day have not an order in their books, simply and solely because Germany and Russia are unable- to purchase from China and India, and consequently China and India have not the means now to purchase from us.
I want to put a specific question to the Government on this point. I think it is a vital question, and I am sorry that there are only one Law Officer, two Under-Secretaries, and one subordinate Minister present to deal with it. I think it is treating the House of Commons with contempt. The late Government could treat the late House of Commons in that way but the new Government will not be able to treat the new House of Commons in this way. I think it is positively shameful that we should have such a situation. I wish to put a very direct and vital question, and I think some important Cabinet Minister should be here to answer it. In the old days of Parliament this would have been unheard of. In pre-Coalition days no sight like this would have been seen in the House of Commons. When an important Debate is going on, dealing with most urgent, vital issues, there is no Minister who can answer a question. I will put the question. The late Government, in the month of July, made a proposal which was embodied in the Balfour Note. That set out the policy of the lata Government on this question of reparation and inter-Allied debts. It was, first of all, an intimation that we could not deal with the revision of reparation and the cancellation of inter-Allied debts, unless America also acted in the same way, and it was an intimation to our Allies that we could only release them from the debts which they owed us to the extent to which America did the same towards us. What I want to know from the Government is this: Is the Balfour Note now the policy of the present Government? That Balfour Note was a complete barrier to any step being taken towards the economic recovery of Europe. It made the London Conference a failure from the beginning. They could do nothing at the London Conference, because the whole discussion was barred. It was well known that the French Prime Minister was willing to put forward a proposal regarding cancellation. It would have been a good thing if the first proposal for cancellation had come from France, and not from us, because nobody could suggest a proposal for cancellation was a matter dictated solely for France's interests. What the late Government did was to issue this Note and bar this discussion, and, at the same time, they gave a set-back to the consideration of the problem in America. Instead of leading the people of the United States to entertain this proposal in a friendly and sympathetic way, it had precisely the opposite effect. It led the people of the United States to regard this suggestion as a proposal made by the British Government solely in British interests. They said: "It is a proposal put forward by Great Britain. Why I To cancel all debts which they could never collect, on condition that Great Britain is released from paying a good debt which she is able to pay." That was the attitude of America, and, in view of that attitude, the ultimate settlement of this most important problem was retarded. I am very glad the Prime Minister has returned. I am delighted to see him once more. I have no doubt, as he said of others this afternoon, he is equally delighted to see me. I was putting to the Government what, I believe, is a very important question in regard to the subject of reparation and inter-Allied debts. The question briefly is this: Is the policy of the present Government to adhere to the Balfour Note? I believe that that is an urgent question for decision, because upon it depends any immediate and fruitful action for the economic recovery of Europe.
I am sorry my hon. and gallant Friend should have interrupted, because I remember he was a supporter of the Balfour Note under a misguided impulse, and he is a creature of misguided impulses. He actually supported the Government when that Note was issued, and I can therefore not understand why at this moment he dissents. I am glad to believe that that isolated expression of opinion on his part does not express the considered opinion of the Labour party—at least I hope it does not. As I said, this is the chief problem for the economic recovery of Europe. So long as this problem is unsettled, you will have a sullen and discontented Germany in the midst of Europe—a great country with a grievance. Under these conditions she will be a centre round which the other countries with their grievances will be grouped. You will set up a new confederation against the Western Powers, and the result of this will inevitably mean another war. There is no use uttering pleasant platitudes about the League of Nations in the face of the present situation. If you are going to have a League of Nations which is a reality it must include all the nations. You must not have any reservations in international conferences; you must have them all in. Among the Cen- tral countries, from this point of view, the country which will decide whether the League of Nations can be made a reality is Germany. If you deal sensibly with this problem of reparation and with the question of the inter-Allied debts you have a basis upon which Germany can be brought into the League. If Germany is brought in the other countries will follow, and you will then have a real international organisation for the promotion of peace and the maintenance of international understanding, an organisation in which the representatives of all the countries together can meet, discuss their common interests, compose their mutual quarrels, and promote disarmament and so remove the causes of future wars.
My first day in the House of Commons, I must confess, is a disappointment to me. I thought hon. Members opposite, with the opportunities of education which they have had, would have been able to have shown the common people on these benches something which might have been supposed to be superior as a result of those early educational advantages. To-night from these benches have gone forth arguments. They have been received with what? With a biased mentality. To begin with the hon. Gentleman who moved the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, what was the kernel of his speech I He pointed out to grown-up men that if you took a clock and took a wheel out of it that clock would stop. What a marvellous piece of information! Hon. Members opposite have tried during the recent Election to make the voters of this country believe that they were so superior mentally that there was no possibility of the human mind conceiving that men of the type on these benches were able to govern the country. I bring the charge now against hon. Members opposite that the industry of the country to-day, with its half-time in some case and with its standing still in other cases, is not so much the effect of what some have been trying to show to-night in regard to our foreign trade as that it shows the incapacity on the part of our so-called captains of industry.
It was my duty before I came to this House to go to public works in the capacity of advisory engineer. What did I find? I found throughout industry that the science that ought to be applied was not applied, and why? Because you find that the men in control of industries in this country are those whose fathers or grand fathers started the business with know-ledge of it, but that the present generation have no such knowledge of the business, being content with such knowledge as enables there to take the profits, and considering it derogatory to their dignity to take that interest that their ancesters did. Mention has been made as to how we are suffering from the huge debts that grew during the War. The Prime Minister, speaking in this House, told us the source of the growth of that debt. By his own statement ho suggested that it was right to take advantage, by profiteering, while men were being killed in France. His own words were that he had invested himself £8.100, which at a profit of five per cent, would give him £405. In 1915 he received as interest no less a sum than £3,624, and that was said without a sense of shame when men were being blown to pieces in France—
Yes, but my statement is absolutely true. If the right hon. Gentleman had wanted to carry that argument further he should have handed back those profits. [An HON. MEMBER: "Answer that!"] I want to make this quite clear. It might be said to me that the reason the right hon. Gentleman did not hand back the profits was that he was a Scotchman. But I perhaps need not explain that he was born in Canada. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) has been travelling over a lot of ground. For instance, he referred to the miners, and his reference shows that he knows nothing about mines or miners. If he had, he would have known that the coal that came from Germany could not be used industrially in this country any more than American coal that was brought here—
We speak of what we know in this matter. Take, for instance, the Glasgow gasworks, and in this matter I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Sir A. Mond) is not present, for I should have liked him to hear what I had to say. In order to crush the miners, Glasgow had to purchase American coal, which could not be used successfully and had to be removed as waste —[An HON MEMBER: "Gasworks!"] There are two kinds of gas in this House. There is the gas from this side that illuminates, and the gas from the other side that smells. It was not then a few tons of coal from Germany that beat the miner, but it was the British capitalist who beat the miner down on his knees. I was speaking the ether clay to the manager of one of the largest railways in Scotland, and even he had to admit that the state of things was not what it ought to be. He admitted that when men were scarce during the War the Government allowed the railway companies of the United Kingdom to accumulate the money that should have been spent upon the upkeep of the railways amounting to about £8,000,000, and that money should have been put aside to absorb unemployment later on. I was told that none of that money has been spent in that way. These railway owners were great patriots when men were going to be blown to pieces in the War, and why should we not have this £8,000,000 put into circulation now in order to absorb the unemployed?
We are told now that we must wait until the price of goods comes down, but that shows the whole tendency of the capitalist system in this country. One would have thought, from the remarks made by an hon. Member representing agriculture, that because we were not doing much trade with foreign countries that the farmer here should not plough or sow, and that we should not make boots or clothes here because we are not sending them abroad. If that is the mental calibre of the Government, then I think half of us had better go home. We have been talking about the building of more houses, but from what we have heard on the other side of the House one would think that you build houses with money instead of with stone and lime.
We have any amount of building materials in Glasgow and the only thing that prevents them being utilised is the system which you support in this Hou6e. There is an abundance of power and skill in the men, but it is your inhuman system that prevents these things being brought together because you say, "No man shall have work unless I have a share of what he is producing, and no man shall work unless I get a profit out of him." What are the captains of industry doing? They are responsible for this state of things. If they had desired to show their capacity for governing they would have said, "It is wrong to spend money to encourage idleness. It is bad economically, and it is bad for the men.'" So far from the Labour party being unfit to govern, what I have seen here convinces me that if hon. Members opposite are fit to govern it is an easy job for anybody else.
I have been watching the occupants of the Government Benches very closely to-day, and I am in a dilemma to know whether it is callousness that causes the grin to appear on their faces, or whether it is lack of understanding. There has been jokes passed here; there has been occasion for laughter both for ourselves and for those opposite, but it seems to me there has been both a lack of understanding and sheer brutal callousness on the Government side. No one who understands the condition of the country to-day, who can feel and appreciate the hardships and privations of the common people, could allow a flippant mood to overcome him, yet I have seen on one or two faces opposite a continual grin. I want to put it to the House that the question of unemployment is not one which solely affects the unemployed man and his dependants. The. man who is. well-to-do to-day, the man who is comfortably off, and who has at his disposal the best of life, will have to face the effects of this period of unemployment. One of the Labour Members has to-day told the House of the effect of not having put the Education Act fully into operation. The 1918 Education Act was probably one of the best Education Acts we ever had in Great Britain. Had it been passed in its entirety it might have done great things But at the time there was need of economy. There was a fear of increasing expenditure, and the operation of certain Sections of the Act was consequently postponed for a period of three years. That period of three years expired last year, but the Sections are not yet operating. Had those Sections been operating, you would have prevented one of the tragedies of the present crisis, one of the tragedies on the rising generation. You would have made it possible to keep boys and girls at school till they were 15; you would have made it possible for boys and girls to get their education continued in day continuation schools. But it was going to cost money, and you were more concerned about economy and the saving of money. I see the grin appears on one face again. One can understand a grinning ape, but one cannot understand a grinning human when there is poverty and destitution and hardship. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I am not withdrawing anything. Had those Sections been put into operation you would have kept at school those boys and girls who to-day are running the streets wild, learning bad habits at the most impressionable period of their lives, when their characters are being formed. It is all on the plea of economy, on the plea of keeping down expenditure.
Again, consider the numbers of boys and girls who have been deprived of opportunity. There are in Glasgow-to-day between 7.000 and 8,000 boys and girls over 14 years.of age who left school at the last leaving period, and there are due to leave at the next leaving period another 7,000 or 8,000 boys and girls. There is no employment for them. The Glasgow education authority are appealing to the parents not to allow those boys and girls to leave school, because no employment can be found for them. We are prepared to back up the education authority in that appeal. We are prepared to back up the Government in it. But we are going to demand that the education authorities and the Government shall do something to give facilities for maintaining those boys and girls at school. If those facilities wore given, these children would be learning something; they would be getting training; you would get them through the secondary schools and through the technical colleges and universities, and, when we come through the crisis, even if we have a physically impoverished working class, at least we should have an educated and a brain-working class, which we have not to-day.
Then consider the young men who have served their apprenticeship to trades, and have never yet worked as journeymen with the tools they were trained to use. Has not their training been a wastage of human life and effort? Can you not see the effect that it is going to have? On the other hand, you have young men who have not served any apprenticeship and who have been unemployed for two years, again at an impressionable period in life, running the streets wild, learning bad habits. And you wonder at police court cases increasing; yon wonder at the increase of crime; you wonder at the cases of theft that are cropping up in very part of the country There is no reason to wonder at it. These young men who have had no opportunity of servivg any apprenticeship have had their lives absolutely wasted. The young men who have served their apprenticeship have thrown away from five to seven years of their life. Many of them are working now as casual labourers, many are working on tramways throughout the country, and at different occupations, and tens of thousands of them will never go back to the trades to which they served their apprenticeship. Is not that a waste of human effort and of human life? It is a sheer, brutal scandal, and there is no room for smiling at it.
Then take the case of the middle-aged man. His case, perhaps, is not the worst tragedy of all, because, after all, he has lived the greater part of his life. The greatest tragedy is in the case of the children, the boys and girls of 14 or 15: but consider the tragedy of the man who has worked steadily for 30, 40, or 45 years. There are many of them that I know personally in Glasgow who have never been out of the one employment for 25 and 30 years, and now they have been out of employment for two years without a break. It cannot be said that they have been indifferent to their work, indifferent to their employers' interests, or they would not have been in employment for 25 or 30 years under the one management. These men have been out of employment now, many of them for two years, and others for 18 months. Do you think that these men will be able to go back to their employment and put into it the same skill that they previously possessed? No.
If there is going to be any revival of trade we know what to expect. We know the pace is going to be more killing than it ever was before. The competition in the world's markets is so bitterly keen to-day that the demand for increased production and output will be greater and stronger and more irresistible than ever it has been, and the struggle for these men to keep the pace and the fear of being thrown out of employment will send tens of thousands of them to early graves. Is there no tragedy in all that I Then consider the revival in trade. We are asked to consider a loan to Austria. There is no question of a loan for the revival of Britain. In the case of the home situation, it has been a ease of cutting down expenditure on all hands. If you can revive trade the revival can only be for a very brief period. It cannot be a permanent improvement or of any lengthy duration, because the elements that create unemployment are permanent in the system and cannot be eliminated within the limits of the present system. Any revival which may come is going to put us in this position, that the false economy which has been practised, the cutting down of facilities for education, and all the other economies which have been practised, mean that the British people will come out of this crisis physically impoverished, mentally depressed, and without training and skill to fit them for any task which may face them in the revival of trade. Our late enemies, the people who were represented to U6 as Huns, were not so foolish as the British Government were. They did not cut down their educational facilities. They have always prided themselves that they had a high standard of education, and in spite of all the oppressive burdens which have been placed on them by the Treaty of Versailles, they have still maintained their standard of education, with the result that they will come out of the crisis better fitted for the competition in the world's markets than we are. And then we claim to be the greatest nation in the world. We claim to be blessed with the best possible Government of any nation in the world. We claim to be represented in the Mother of Parliaments by the only people capable of governing, and then this sort of thing happens.
It has been stated that the War and the peace are responsible for the present situation. I am only prepared to agree to that in the matter of time. It is true that in the matter of time the War and the peace are responsible for the two million unemployed that we have to-day, but had there been no war, 10, 12 or 15 years hence we should have had exactly the crisis that is facing us to-day, and ill that the War and the peace have done is to accelerate the speed at which our powers of production were increasing until we have reached the point now that the world's needs can be supplied in such a short space of time that there is no possibility of any permanent revival of trade. There is no possible hope of any prosperity for the common people of Britain again on the old lines—absolutely none. We have reached a point now where, instead of the markets of the world broadening out for us, they are narrowing. All these people we previously had the advantage of supplying with manufactured products are today in the position not only of supplying their own needs, but of creating a surplus which is placed on the world's markets in competition with ours, and that is a fact we have to face. Had the War not come at all we should have had, perhaps not in our generation, but in the time of those children who are coming after us, this crisis to face unless we scrapped the present system. An hon. Member opposite to-day stated that what we proposed was a huge fundamental change, and it is perfectly true. Nobody on these benches thinks that we are going to turn the Government out to-morrow and to rebuild a new social order the following day. What we do claim is that, if hon. and right hon. Members opposite are sincere in their sympathy for the unemployed and the oppressed of the world, they have to start laying the foundations of that new social order now. We have the programme on which it can be done.
In our Election programme we of the Labour party did not give any promises, because we knew that we could not fulfil the promises as we are not in power. We can, however, bring pressure to bear upon the Government and we are outlining measures and methods by which we can lay the foundations of a new social order. That is the reply to the hon. Member who stated to-day that we were out for great fundamental changes which could not be tackled, and that we had to consider ameliorative measures. We are prepared to consider ameliorative measures, but they must be ameliorative measures. We are not satisfied with the unemployment benefit that is being paid to-day. We are not satisfied that men should be allowed to go about receiving money for no work performed. We insist that service should be given for the payment that is made and we insist on it not for our own class only but for the others. On the question of not having the wherewithal to provide all the necessary work, it is not, as the Prime Minister suggested, that we have in our minds any surplus which forms a pool from which we can draw. Our objection to the wealthy of to-day, our objection to private ownership and control of the means of life to-day, is not that they lap up too much themselves. They do that, and we object to it, but it is not our sole objection. It is not what they take, but it is what they prevent from being produced and distributed through that ownership, and that unless it is going to accrue to them they are not going to allow any further production. That is what we are out to put an end to.
Our programme does not mean that we have promised the electorate that we are going to carry all this through. With 140 men compared with all those who are opposed to us we cannot do that, but we have outlined a scheme whereby we can deal with the question of unemployment. If the markets of the world instead of widening out to our manufacturers and to the labour of our workpeople have narrowed, it means that Britain is never again going to be in the prosperous position that she previously occupied. Therefore, perhaps I may be allowed to support what I am stating, and what I have said for years, by the words of Mr. J. M. Keynes, a gentleman known by most of the Government representatives. He has stated that Britain is a decaying society to-day, and he is no more optimistic in the matter than I am. He states that the unemployment figures of to day are almost equivalent, so far as he can see, to the surplus population over the census figures of 1911. Do hon. Members know what that means? It means that there are 2,000,000 men and their dependants who are surplus to-day under existing condi- tions, and under such conditions there can be no steady employment for those two millions. They must become permanent casual labourers, some in to-day, out tomorrow. It means a change in the personnel of the unemployed army, but the extent of it always about the same. I am more optimistic than Mr. Keynes. His suggestion is that the remedy is to stabilise the standard of comfort where it is. What does that mean for the unemployed man? What does it mean for those who are working for wages at the 1914 level? It means stabilising their standard of life where it is now, and leaving the gentlemen of the Government and the class they represent with their Rolls Royces and all their condition of wealth.
We are not going to tolerate it. If the markets of the world cannot be stimulated and our trade revived by exports, we have a market at home of 45,000,000 of people that we must cater for. There is no reason in the world why this country should not be able from its own resources to supply the essential foodstuffs for the population. There is the land. We might tackle the land question. There is the fishing industry which we could develop. With both of those, we could make Britain practically self-supporting in the matter of the essential foodstuffs of the nation. Then we could tinker with the export trade and get all the things that we cannot produce ourselves in return for the comparatively small measure of manufactured goods that we require to export. It might not mean a high standard of living for hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it would mean an immeasurably higher standard for the common people of the country. If you ignore the unemployment problem, if you do not tackle it; if you do not realise all that tragedy of which I have spoken and which I have tried to show, do not imagine that it is merely going to affect the unemployed and the common workers; it is going to react upon all If the only hope of improving conditions is by economy at home, it means that in nine cases out of ten it will react on the working classes; it means the depression of the working classes. If you have made up your minds that the only way in which you can tackle the question is by still further forcing down the standard of living of the common workers, let me warn you—I am not threatening—that you are going to be dragged down with them into a holocaust in which all will be overcome.
I want to speak just a word or two with reference to the first paragraph of His Majesty's Gracious Speech which refers to the Bill for conferring a Constitution upon Ireland, and I wish to express an opinion upon a matter presently coming before the Irish Government for decision, namely, the fate of the rebels who are in their hands. I realise very fully the difficulties that face the Irish Government, and I realise also that it is not for me or for any hon. Member of this House to dictate to the Irish Government what-they should do; but, at the same time, I can at least claim that in this House we are entitled to express our opinion. So far as I am personally concerned, I have been associated with my friends in desiring that such a settlement should be made, and I have also been associated in protests against courses pursued by the British Government in Ireland. There are men in the hands of the Irish Government, rebels against the Administration about to be set up, lying under sentence of death. I do not agree either with their aim or with their methods. I think their aim is mistaken and that their methods have been detestable: but I am going to plead that they should be treated with mercy. There are now, I believe, eight men whose names we do not know, and one, Mr. Childers, whose name we all know, under sentence. I do not single him out in particular, except that he happens to be a friend of mine, and has been a friend of many Members, and has rendered distinguished service to us in the War. Though a middle-aged man he risked his life in the air for the sake of this country, and it would be ungrateful if we forgot that. If gratitude means anything, it means power to forgive offences, and I would feel ashamed of myself if I did not remember a man who was a comrade of mine in the War. I do not base this appeal purely on the grounds of private friendship towards him or any of his fellow-prisoners, but on the general policy. The history of Ireland for the last century-has been cycle after cycle of re- pression, rebellion, and executions. Every time these methods have been tried they have simply sent the cycle whizzing along at an increased speed. Is it not time to stop this curse which has been going on for over a hundred years, and which has always led to -evil results? I venture publicly to say that it is not wise to take extreme courses. In fact, there is no limit to the wisdom of clemency, and I would appeal to the Government of Ireland in this matter.
I am like the schoolboy who has been referred to before, with this exception, that I happen to be a Board School boy, and have sat here most of the afternoon, and have heard various reflections cast upon my party. Unfortunately, there were not as many of my party present as I should have liked. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] But I do object to some of the remarks that have been made. I do not think it fair for any hon. Member to refer to any other ns a monkey. We have heard some Scottish humour this afternoon that might make Sir Harry Lauder look to lus laurels. I have seen many grins on the other side. I was born in Glasgow, and served with a Scottish regiment, and naturally I do not like the remarks of those people who are here as representatives of the views of the people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Minority representation!"] I know better than some of these so-called leaders of Labour what it is to suffer. I have been unemployed, and I know what it is to tighten my belt for a meal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come over here."] It is you who are on the wrong side. Reference has been made to the attitude of my leader, the Prime Minister, in not meeting this unemployment deputation. To my mind one of the great mistakes of the late Government was it was a one man show. This is not going to be such a thing.
I listened all the afternoon and did not interrupt, but when I had a grin on my face I had something to grin about. I appreciated very much hearing the Scottish brogue. Possibly I do not speak as much Scotch as my hon. Friend opposite. On the other hand, perhaps, I do not drink as much. I hope that all sections of the House will unite on this question of unemployment and try to do everything possible to relieve the deplorable amount that exists to-day. If we do that, whatever happens to this Government or to this House, we shall have done well. This is a question into which politics should not enter; it is a question of human nature. I appeal to everyone who has any suggestions or schemes to put forward. I feel certain that my leader, the Prime Minister, will appreciate any suggestions that are put into concrete form from whatever section of the House they may come. But something should be done at once, seeing that winter is coming.